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´╗┐Title: Dusty Star
Author: Baker, Olaf
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
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.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Dusty Star" ***

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                              DUSTY STAR

                             BY OLAF BAKER

                   Author of "SHASTA OF THE WOLVES."

                      ILLUSTRATED BY PAUL BRANSOM


NEW YORK
DODD, MEAD AND COMPANY
1936

COPYRIGHT, 1922.
By DODD, MEAD AND COMPANY, Inc.

PRINTED IN U. S. A.



[Illustration: FIVE TIMES MORE THE MOTHER MADE THE LONG DOUBLE JOURNEY]



CONTENTS


       I CARBOONA'S SECRET

      II WHY "DUSTY STAR" WAS

     III RUNNING WOLF MOVES

      IV KIOPO FINDS AN ENEMY

       V "SITTING-ALWAYS"

      VI THE MEDICINE-MAKING

     VII HOW THE WOLVES SANG

    VIII HOW KIOPO CAME BACK

      IX SITTING-ALWAYS SPEAKS HER MIND

       X "BALTOOK" THE SILVER FOX

      XI WHY THE FOXES TRUSTED DUSTY STAR

     XII GOSHMEELEE

    XIII "NEW BED-FELLOWS"

     XIV THE "YELLOW DOGS"

      XV THE TAKING OF DUSTY STAR

     XVI "THE GRIZZLY"

    XVII THE SWIMMING OF KIOPO

   XVIII HOW KIOPO FOUGHT THE LYNX

     XIX THE PURSUIT

      XX THE TERROR OF THE CARBOONA

     XXI HOW DUSTY STAR MET THE TERROR

    XXII THE MOON WHEN THINGS WALK

   XXIII LONE CHIEF GOES WEST

    XXIV EVIL DAYS

     XXV HOW DUSTY STAR DANCED WITH THE WOLVES

    XXVI HOW THE WOLVES CLOSED IN

   XXVII CARBOONA'S CALL



ILLUSTRATIONS


Five times more the mother made the long double journey

The arrival of Kiopo was now known to every husky in the camp, and each
husky hated him from the bottom of his husky heart

Her look said as plainly as possible, "What are you going to do?"

On came the big grey stranger, walking stiffly, his tail waving slowly
from side to side



DUSTY STAR



PART I



CHAPTER I

CARBOONA'S SECRET


In an old badger-hole among a maze of bramble-brakes and ancient
thickets of thorn and juniper covering the foot of one of Carboona's
eastern spurs, one morning very early, as Little-Sweet-Voice, the
white-throated sparrow, was singing his earliest song, a great event
took place.

It was twilight in the badger-hole, and only persons accustomed to odds
and ends of day-light could have seen what was going on. Not that it
mattered. The only person to whom it could have mattered was a grey
mother-wolf, and she did not need the light.

The badger-hole had been enlarged, and specially arranged for the event,
without the badgers having been consulted. This wasn't as rude as it
sounds, for the simple reason that there hadn't been any badgers to
consult. Long before the mother-wolf and her mate had gone
apartment-hunting, the badgers had moved deeper into Carboona, leaving
no address. Now that it was more roomy and better aired, it was a
pleasant place enough so long as you didn't stub your nose against a
jagged stump of pine root that pierced the northern wall. True it was a
little damp in places, and got noticeably stuffier as you went further
in; but it was a good wolf stuffiness, and helped to give the true home
smell that warned strangers that all interfering noses had best keep out
of the way.

Before Little-Sweet-Voice, at the tip of his fir-branch high over the
hole, had come to the end of his song, seven baby wolves had got
themselves born.

       *       *       *       *       *

Seven little blind, hairless, helpless things that hadn't an inch of
beauty between them; seven little flabby uglinesses that could do
nothing but wriggle and suck. But such as they were, the old wolf loved
her ugly babies with all her wolfish heart. For a long time no one--not
even the father wolf--saw them but herself. A better place for being
secret than the hole among the bramble-brakes she could not have chosen.
The great old thorn-trees, with their twisty stems and thorny branches
which had been growing twistier and thornier through countless moons,
stretched their gnarled limbs high above the den and guarded endless
secrecies as countless as the moons. And the brambles reached their
twisted tangles this way and that in a bewildering labyrinth of thorns.
While, dotting all the upper slopes, the junipers, large and little,
stood up in dusk battalions above the lonely land. None but the wild
furred feet of the wilderness ever went that way. In all its mazy length
the print of human moccasins had never slurred the undergrowth trails.
Even the wild creatures themselves did not greatly frequent it, by
reason of its mighty growth of thorns, so that even among the long
solitudes of Carboona, it was a loneliness apart.

It was some time before the little wolves got any idea of the outside
thorniness and brambleness which hid them from the public gaze. All they
knew of the world was the good smell and the good gloom of the
badger-hole, where, as soon as their eyes were opened after the nine
days, they could make out the immense grey mass of their mother, who
came and went mysteriously, a mountain of warmth and food. And here, in
the perpetual twilight, they slept and sucked, and sprawled and tumbled,
and occasionally went tremendous expeditions, and stubbed their noses
against the pine root that struck like a savage promontory into the
abyss.

Not until they were several weeks old, and were really getting very
troublesome in the den, did the patient old mother allow them their
first glimpse of the world; and then only after she had taken every
possible precaution to safeguard against anything, bird, beast and
human, being on the watch.

The first coming out of the cubs into the sunlight was a wonderful
affair. The old mother, having first scoured the country on all sides to
see that no danger was lurking near, put her nose into the mouth of the
den, and made a low noise in her throat. Instantly there was a hollow
thumping and scurrying and scrambling and yelping, and then the
badger-hole became a miniature volcano that shot seven small wolf-bodies
into the light.

Out they tumbled, seven little furry fatnesses, with pointed noses, and
pricked ears, and tiny black eyes that blinked nervously in the sun. And
there they sat for a while in unspeakable amazement, and stared and
blinked, and blinked and stared, and wondered where they were.

The first to move was a cub the merest trifle larger than the rest. He
ran a few steps in an uncertain wobbling manner, stubbed his nose
against a stone, yelped, backed almost as fast as he had gone forward,
lost his balance on an old mole-hill, and rolled over on his back. And
this was his first experience of the unevenness of the world. After that
he lay and kicked, struggling with all his baby might to get right side
up again. And his six brothers and sisters observed him from their
superior elevation of six inches, and never offered to help; till, all
of a sudden, it occurred to them what a glorious opportunity his
upside-downness presented to them, and rolled down upon him in a body.
During the scuffle which followed, the old mother sat and watched with
admiring love. When the babies rolled over on their backs, or came to
mimic disaster with roots or stones, she let them recover themselves as
best they could, and learn by experience what were the hard things in
the world and what the soft. And when she considered they had been long
enough out of doors, she packed them back to bed again, and went off to
hunt.

The cubs had played out of doors many times, and had grown quite used to
the look of the bramble-brakes and the great thorns, and that immense
hot roundness that went dazzling down behind the western peaks, when,
one evening, the wolf-mother came upon a strange trail. Of all the
creatures upon Carboona there was not one with whose body-scent and
foot-scent she was not familiar. When the merest ghosts of scent came
wafting along the tides of the summer air, her nose disentangled them
delicately and never gave the right smell to the wrong owner. But the
smell of the strange trail puzzled her. It belonged to neither bear,
badger, fox, wolf, lynx nor caribou. It was buckskin, and yet not wholly
buckskin; it was buckskin with something inside it which certainly was
not buck.

The strange trail did not cross the brakes. That was fortunate, but it
came dangerously near their northern extremity, and then turned east.
The wolf followed it for a long distance till it passed out of her home
range, and then slowly retraced it through the darkening spruce woods,
sniffing suspiciously as she went. A week later she hit upon the trail
again. This time the smell was fainter, but the trail itself was more
disturbing: it actually touched the upper slopes where the junipers went
black against the moon.

Three nights later Carboona's watching eyes saw an unaccustomed sight.
They saw a gaunt grey shape pass silently and swiftly between the
junipers in the light of the setting moon. From the jaws of the shape, a
wolf-cub hung, very limp--swaying a little as its bearer trotted.

Past the junipers, past the beds of wild raspberries, over the
granite-covered shoulder of the hill, deep into the black heart of the
spruce woods, the old wolf went. She knew her way, though her eyes saw
no trail. She had passed that way before, during the days and nights
when her heart misgave her, because of the strange trail, and the
knowledge that a new presence had come into the woods. She had no fear
of the forest, so long as it lay far from the trail, and the thing she
distrusted. For all that, the great secrecy that was upon her made her
shun the open places where the moonlight glared, and keep rather to the
good grey glooms where her body melted among the shadows, and seemed
itself a shade. And the little furry fatness hanging helpless from her
jaws gave itself up limply to its mother's will, and to the vast
movement of the night.

The new den she had chosen as a refuge for her cubs lay among the
innermost recesses of Carboona, below the granite peaks. No brakes here,
no watching junipers: a waste of rock and scrub, scored by deep ravines
and dried beds of water-courses that thundered in the thaw.

But black and inhospitable though the region was, it possessed the one
thing dear to uneasy motherhood--absolute loneliness. She had dug the
den herself, enlarging a natural hollow beside an enormous rock. Not
even the father wolf himself knew as yet where the new den was; for by
the unwritten law of wolf-life he was banished from the home during the
infancy of the cubs.

Here the old wolf deposited her baby, leaving it in shivering loneliness
to grow used to the new home as best it might till its brothers and
sisters were brought to join it. Five times more the mother made the
long double journey, each time carrying a cub. As she returned to the
old den on the sixth and last time, the sun was already high above the
eastern hills.

The last cub was not in a happy frame of mind. One by one, its brothers
and sisters had been taken away from it, which meant that, as each hairy
little bundle of warmth went out under the moon, the warmth in the den
was that much the less. And when the fifth had followed the way of the
others, the remaining cub felt solitary indeed.

At first he lay perfectly still, for that was his mother's command,
though she had not put it into words. The deep mother-wisdom that warms
the wits of the wild creatures has its own mysterious ways of conveying
its meaning. "Lie still!" is one of the very first lessons a mother
teaches her young. "Run home!" follows close upon it. To disobey either
may mean death.

It grew colder in the den and lonelier. The last cub didn't want to
disobey and he really did try to go to sleep; but cold and loneliness
are uneasy bed-fellows, and he had a sort of feeling that perhaps if he
went to the den door, he might find out where the rest of the family
were. The little fat body lay curled up close, and, in spite of the
warmth the family had left behind, tiny shivers shook it every now and
then.

It was no use any longer pretending to go to sleep. The small bright
eyes opened wide, and stared into the shadow that glimmered with the
moon. And suddenly, out of the shadow, Fear came, and the cub shivered
with something worse than cold. He had never been frightened before. It
was a new and terrible experience. It was in his head; it was in his
stomach; the thing was all over him; the very den was full.

He lay for a long time, trembling, and whimpering in a small smothered
way. He hoped his mother might hear him, and come back; yet he did not
dare to cry too loud lest other ears might catch the sound and lead some
prowling enemy to the den. Dawn was just beginning to break when at
length he could bear it no longer, and, in spite of his mother's strict
command, he crawled to the mouth of the den.

With wide-open, frightened eyes, he stared out into the world. On the
bramble-sprays the dew lay thickly. Dew was grey on the grass round the
trodden doorway of the den. It was a damp world that glimmered in the
yellow gleam of the dawn. Beyond the brambles lay the trees, beyond the
trees, the rocky peaks; beyond the utmost peak, the blue vastness where
the eagles have their trails. It all made the cub feel dreadfully small,
dreadfully alone.

Yet somewhere out there, in the wet grey world of the dawn, his mother
and the family were to be found. He put his baby nose to the ground and
sniffed. The family smell was plain all about the doorway. A faint trail
of it seemed to lead off towards the junipers, but when he took a step
or two in that direction the trail was drowned in dew. He went back to
the den-door, paused to sniff again, and set off in the opposite
direction.

Why he went that way, he could not tell. Once he had started, he did not
think of turning back. To return meant the den again. He had a distrust
of the den. It was in the den that he had first known fear.

He went on for what seemed to him an endless distance among enormous
jungles of bramble and fern. No sign of his mother, or the other cubs,
nor any faintest whiff of the heavy family smell! Once a rabbit, leaping
past, scared him out of his wits; and once--how his heart thumped with
terror as he pressed himself close to the ground!--a great dog-fox went
slinking to windward, spilling the musk of his murderous self into the
telltale air.

For some time after the fox had disappeared, the cub crouched where he
was, too terrified to stir. Then, bit by bit, his courage came to him
again, and he went cautiously on his way.

He had just reached the end of the thickets, where the forest proper
began, and was plucking up heart to enter the shade of the giant trees,
when a new terror presented itself, and he crouched low as before. But
this time it was no fox, lynx, or other four-footed enemy that
threatened him. It was a creature that stood on two hind feet, with its
fore-paws by its side, and an eagle feather in its hair.

The cub narrowed his eyes till they were as good as shut, with only the
tiniest slit between their lids through which it could see the strange
adornments the creature wore on its feet. He hoped, if he lay as
motionless as a stone, that the creature would not notice him. When
hunting was afoot, absolute stillness would often serve to hide you as
effectually as a cover of leaves. In his utter ignorance of the world,
he could have no idea of an Indian's piercing sight.

There was a swift movement, noiseless as the swoop of an owl's wing, and
before he could open his eyes, he felt himself seized by the back of the
neck and swung into the air.

When the mother-wolf reached the den for the sixth and last time, her
fine sense told her in an instant that something was wrong. She entered
the den with misgiving. As she feared, it was empty. Her nose found the
trail immediately; but it was growing a little stale, for the sun was
high now, and it had been made in the dawn dew. Nevertheless, the
mother-passion within her sharpened the keenness of her scent, and off
she went at a swift trot. Every time the cub had stopped, she sniffed
eagerly, as if to drink his very body through her nose. When she took up
the fainter trail of his movement, an uneasy light glittered in her
eyes. Woe to the creature, whatever it was, which had dared to harm him,
if she should find a second trail!

Where the maze of the thickets ended and the forest began she stopped
dead, her hair bristling, her eyes alight. Here was the spot of the
cub's capture! Here was the second trail! As she sniffed, and learnt the
record told in smell, her anger rose. But with the anger went misgiving,
and the uneasiness of fear; for here she recognized again the trail of
the new presence upon Carboona, the dread of which had caused her to
seek another den. The trail went straight into the forest, in a
south-easterly direction. With the utmost caution the mother-wolf took
it up, in a swift, noiseless lope, passing deeper and deeper into the
vast wilderness of spruce and pine that went descending, always
descending, towards the basin of the world. But long before it reached
the lowest levels, the trail turned due east through the mighty gorge
that sucks the prairie wind into Carboona's bosom like an enormous
throat. Through the gorge went the old wolf, sniffing, peering,
listening--every sense strained to the utmost, for now the buckskin
scent was strong upon the ground, and the trail was very new.

Just where the gorge began to deepen at its western extremity, the wolf
caught sight of a creature moving, the like of which she had never seen
before. It was like a wolf that went upon its hind legs, and yet it was
certainly not a wolf. Its gait was slow, yet certain, with a free,
elastic movement that seemed to drink the wind.

The wolf slackened her pace, crouching so low as she went that the
longer hairs on her belly swept the ground. Nearer and nearer she drew
in her soundless progress, and as the distance lessened between her and
her mysterious foe, the green fire in her eyes glittered more
dangerously, for now her senses told her what her heart and brain had
already guessed. _She saw the little shape that lay in the Indian's
arm!_

And in spite of the unseen danger slowly but surely drawing upon him
down the dark throat of the gorge, the Indian's elastic stride never
faltered, as he proceeded towards the spot where he had hobbled his pony
beside the camp of the evening before. And yet, before it was too late,
the warning came.

He heard nothing; he saw nothing. That strange sense which seems to
belong to the wild creatures, and the wild people, only, woke in the
dark places of his brain. He turned his head quickly over his shoulder,
sweeping the gorge with a piercing glance. He saw the fir-trees bracing
themselves in the clefts of the precipice; he saw the tangled curtains
of clematis and vine; he saw the ancient tree-trunks that went on
dropping to decay through a thousand moons. One thing only he
missed--the gaunt grey shadow where two points of light smouldered dully
in the shelter of a rock.

Having satisfied himself that nothing living was in sight, he continued
on his way.

As for the wolf-cub, he had long given up all attempts to escape. The
continuous movement, together with the warmth of his captor's body,
produced a soothing effect upon him, and he made no fresh effort to
regain his freedom.

Suddenly, part of a rock on the Indian's right seemed to split and
launch itself into the air, with a rasping, tearing noise between a
growl and a snarl. Quick as a weazel, the Indian leaped aside. The long
fangs, intended for his throat, missed their mark by half an inch, but
struck his shoulder with a clash of meeting bone. Instantly he whipped
out his knife, and stabbed fiercely at his foe. As he did so, the wolf
leaped away. She, in her turn, was the fraction of a second too late.
She snarled as she felt the blade. At the sound of his mother's
unexpected voice, the cub gave a bleating cry. The noise seemed to send
a wave of fury through her. Once more she sprang with eyeballs that
blazed.

But this time the Indian was prepared. He met her savage leap with an
equally savage blow. And as he struck, he let loose the ringing war cry
of his tribe. With a yelp of pain and baffled fury, the she-wolf bounded
aside. The knife had done its deadly work. The searching man-cry had
completed it. Bewildered, terrified, utterly cowed, the great wolf went
bounding up the gorge, bedabbling the ground with blood.

Not till late the following day, weakened with loss of blood and moving
heavily, did she drag herself back to the cubs in the new den. But the
fibres of the mother-heart were firmly-knit within her, and the fibres
of the wolf-race tough. Day by day her strength came back to her; and
day by day the father-wolf, having discovered the new home and seeming
to realize what had happened, brought freshly-killed game to the door of
the den. He did not dare to enter. But the grand old mother dragged her
body painfully to the meat, and the cubs never wanted for a meal.

And within earshot of the new den, as of the old, Little-Sweet-Voice,
the white-throated sparrow, sang his heart out into the sun.



CHAPTER II

WHY "DUSTY STAR" WAS


They called him "Dusty Star" because he happened in the night. All over
the prairies of the immense West you might find here and there, in the
old buffalo times before the White men ploughed, those little circles of
puff-balls that weren't there yesterday and which began under the stars.
"Dusty Stars" the red men called them, in their strange prairie tongue.
The name, like other Indian names, was very ancient. It was a word that
went walking in the beginning of the world.

Dusty Star, unlike his name, was very young. But he was big--very big
for his nine years. Even in the star-time he must have done a lot of
growing, for when the morning light crept into the tepee, he was seen to
be a considerable-sized baby--extra large for a papoose. And the
thoughts in his head were like the bones in his body--big, very big! He
soon grew tired of lying in his little beaver-skin hammock, slung so
cunningly from one lodge pole to another, and listening to the prairie
larks as they sang in the blue morning. He did such tremendous things
with his fat arms that the lodge-poles creaked. And he screamed with the
sheer force of being alive. When he fell out of the hammock and all but
broke his neck, his mother thought he would be safer if she let him
crawl. Even in his crawling days, he learnt a lot about the world. He
learnt how grasshoppers jump and prairie mice run. He wanted to crawl
right out along the prairie into the middle west. His mother caught him
just in time. After that, she fastened a deer-thong round his middle. It
wasn't fair, and stopped him being one of the greatest explorers--for
his age--which the world has ever seen. But it probably saved his life.

After that he grew up as all prairie children grow, with a great deal of
play by day, and a huge deal of sleep by night. And the sun and the wind
were great companions, and meant very much to him; and the sun baked him
to a fine redness, and the wind searched him, and seemed somehow to send
gusts along his blood. And often and often he would fall asleep,
listening to the eerie whisper and whack of it, when the poles creaked
and the lodge-ears tapped; or to the long sobbing chorus of the coyotes,
far out where the prairie humped itself to blackness against an
orange-coloured sky, and the east began to be hollow for the rising of
the moon. And where the wind ran, and the moon walked, and the coyotes
chorused, was to him a magical country, with edges as sharp as the
prairie ridges, that girdled all his dreams.

On the day that he was nine years old, Dusty Star sat outside the tepee,
blinking in the sun. From where he sat he could look far across the
prairies, and so observe anything that might be moving over its immense
expanse. For a long time he saw nothing at all. That was not strange,
since in that vast apparent flatness there were thousands of hollows
where all manner of four-footed Cunningnesses could go about their
business and never show so much as the tip of an ear to any human eye.

It was the middle of the afternoon, and many of the prairie people were
not yet risen from their noon-day sleep. Presently, over the high butte
to the north, he saw a buzzard on wide motionless wings, "sitting" in
the blue. The circles he made were so immensely wide and slow that he
scarcely seemed to move in that high watch-tower of the air where he
scanned the world for carrion. Next, a pair of hawks came into sight,
skimming above the clumps of sage and bunch-grass. And now Dusty Star
knew by their busy flight that the smaller prairie folk had begun to
follow the runways in their eager search for food. Then, as he watched,
came a flash between the sage bushes, as a jack-rabbit dashed to feed on
the juicy leaves that grew under the alder thicket by the stream.

After that, nothing happened for some time, until suddenly he saw
something very far off that was like the figure of a horseman riding
over a swell. It was only visible, for a moment or two before it
disappeared, but Dusty Star's piercing eyes had seen it long enough to
make him sure that it was Running Wolf, his father, returning from the
chase. The boy looked eagerly for his father's reappearance. He had been
gone for some time. Whenever Running Wolf returned from good hunting he
always brought much game with him, and there was feasting many days.
When Running Wolf came into sight again, he was so close home that Dusty
Star could make out quite clearly the form of a buck lying across the
pony's shoulders. Also, his father carried something small and dark that
cuddled against his left side. When Running Wolf had reached the tepee
and Dusty Star had seen what it was that he had brought home, and when
he had finally realized that the little wolf-cub was to be his very own,
there were no bounds to his delight. To be the owner of a cub that would
one day be a grown-up wolf--_this_ was a thing beyond his wildest
dreams!

Henceforward the cub was the centre of his little world. He called it
Kiopo, because that was a name that meant for him all sorts of wolfish
things, which he could not otherwise express and which he could never
have explained to anyone grown-up; which, indeed, he could not explain
even to Kiopo himself. He talked to Kiopo a good deal, and when he was
not telling him of matters of the highest importance, he was plying him
with questions. It did not discourage him in the least that Kiopo
received the information with the utmost unconcern, and never answered
one of the questions. Dusty Star concluded that baby wolves were like
that. They might indeed be full of wisdom, but they expressed it solely
by means of their teeth.

Kiopo left the marks of his teeth upon everything that he could bite.
When Dusty Star's mother, Nikana, found them upon one of her best bead
moccasins, so that many of the beads were missing, she gave him a tap
with the moccasin that made him yelp with pain. But when Blue Wings,
Dusty Star's baby sister, was, one fine day, found lying carelessly
about on the floor of the tepee, to Kiopo's intense delight, and began
to be treated like the beads, Nikana, roused by her screaming, gave
Kiopo such a shaking, and such a cuffing between the shakes, that he
really thought his last hour had come, and yelled as piercingly as Blue
Wings herself. Not that he wanted to hurt things for the sake of
hurting. He merely wanted to worry them, and to bite and bite, and bite.

It was all very strange after the old life in the Carboona, where the
blue jays made such loud remarks to each other from thicket to thicket,
and whoever hadn't got wings, went upon four feet. But here the tall,
human creatures went always upon two only, and it was only the little
Dusty Star that understood stomach-walking on all fours, and making
companionable noises in the throat. As for Blue Wings--the cub that
yelled when you bit her--she was a poor imitation of a human, though
possibly with a high food value, if only they would let you try.

One of the hardest things to get used to was the tepee itself, with its
peculiar Indian smells, so utterly different to the badger-hole where
the only scent was the good home smell of the family, or perhaps of some
fine old bone that had had many teeth at work upon it, and was trying
hard to be dead. It was some time before Kiopo grew accustomed to the
new smells, so as to be able to sort them out as belonging to the
various objects which gave them. And when night had fallen, it was a
dismal experience to wake up and see the inside of the tepee full of
unfamiliar shapes in the glimmer of the moon. And then a great fear
would take him, and he would lift the thin pipe of his cub voice and
yelp aloud, because he wanted his mother, and because there lay at the
back of his head a dim idea that there were ears upon Carboona that
would catch the sound, and send a gaunt hairy body loping to the rescue.
But the listeners upon Carboona were too remote to catch that wailing
cry, and those that were close at hand were not disposed to be
sympathetic. When Running Wolf shouted at him, he was all the more
terrified, and yelped the louder, and when the angry Indian seized him
and shook him into silence, his little heart was fit to break.

Under cover of the darkness, Dusty Star stole across to where the
wolf-cub lay cowering, and gathered the little shivering body into his
arms. And then he made him a lair in the buffalo robe that covered his
own bed. And when Kiopo felt the warmth and good neighbourhood of the
human brother's body, he cuddled himself against it with a sigh and
whimpered himself to sleep.

In the day-time it was not so lonely because there were many things to
sniff at and to watch. Besides there was always the big brother ready to
play with him, and to come down on all fours from the great heights of
the hind-leg-walking world, or to tickle him in the ribs when he rolled
over on his back and exposed the round bulge that was his stomach to the
public. It was wonderful how much Kiopo managed to cram into that bulge,
and how his body grew in proportion to the bulge. His appetite never
seemed to be satisfied. Bits of buffalo meat, old bones, odds and ends
of waste, shreds of pemmican, or gollops of stew--the bulge took them
all and still had room for more.

By the end of the second moon after his arrival, he was already far
advanced in cub-hood, and showed signs of extraordinary development when
he should be fully grown. And always he was learning new things. With
Dusty Star for his constant companion and teacher he was learning very
fast. And what he learnt, he never forgot, so that his knowledge was of
the utmost service to him afterwards when the time came to fight his own
battles far out along the world. His love and reverence for the little
man-brother were unbounded. What the man-brother said and did were for
him the great, important, splendid things. In a surprisingly short time,
he had forgotten to think about his wolf-kindred, far away upon
Carboona. Yet though he did not know it, the wisdom of his
wolf-ancestors lay deep down within him in the secret lair of memory
where the wild things never forget.

He was immensely curious about the outer world. There was the
willow-copse by the stream where the brown water talked with a wet
tongue. It was crossed by tiny trails of wood and water folk that had
furtive scurrying movements and were very hard to catch. Kiopo's small
wolf-eyes had the keenest possible sight, and what his eyes did not tell
him about the little furtive folk, he found out by experiments with his
paws, mouth and nose. Sometimes his curiosity got him into trouble, as
upon the day when, pouncing upon an immense green grasshopper close to
the water's edge, he lost his balance, and rolled head-over-heels into
the stream. Fortunately the water was shallow, but the scrambling and
spluttering and yelping were so tremendous that the commotion brought
the big brother racing to the rescue. After that experience Kiopo learnt
the lesson that however tempting game may be, it is best to look beyond
it before you make your spring.

It was not long before he became a mighty hunter of mice. Between the
grass bents and the stalks of the prairie plants, their runways ran like
little roads down which they scurried in the early morning or late
afternoon, doing a hundred miles of mouse geography to their
watering-places at the stream. No cunning wolf-mother taught Kiopo to
nose these narrow water-trails, and lie down beside them very craftily,
with his head between his paws. Yet the ancient hunting-craft of wolf
ancestors who had made their kills years beyond memory in the grey
backwards of the moons, woke in his blood when the time arrived and
showed him what to do. And Dusty Star, observing how, after countless
failures, his cub gained mastery over the mice, admired his tireless
perseverance, and loved the little hunter with all his Indian heart.



CHAPTER III

RUNNING WOLF MOVES


Running Wolf was like his name. He was always on the move. Ever since
Dusty Star could remember anything at all, his father had been going and
coming, disappearing without warning, and re-appearing unexpectedly, as
if the feet of many wolves went hunting in his blood.

It was in the Red Moon, the moon of the harvest, that he now made up his
mind to pay a visit to his tribe, and see how the world wagged itself
where great Chiefs and Medicine-men smoked the medicine-pipe together in
the wonderful painted lodges very far south. But as the journey was a
long one, and the cold weather would follow the geese, before he could
return, he decided that the whole family should travel with him, and
take up their winter quarters with the tribe.

Once Running Wolf had made up his mind, there was not a moment to lose.
Almost before you could have believed it possible, Osikomix, the piebald
pony, had the lodge-poles fastened to his back, and the entire
family--Nikana, Dusty Star, Blue Wings and Kiopo--were on
their way, following the direction the wild geese would take when they
left the vast northern waters when the call came from the south.

Their way lay at first through the meadows of high bunch-grass that lay
beside the stream, where the alders were tinged with faint purple, and
all the willow thickets shone a fine clear red. Kiopo badly wanted to
stop and hunt mice, but Dusty Star made him clearly understand that no
loitering by the runways was possible now, and that he must keep in his
place in the procession behind Osikomix and Running Wolf.

After a while they came to the country of the cottonwoods, where the
trees were turning yellow, and where the sarvis berries were scarlet
like flame. And they reached the borders of the great southern prairies
where the low roll of the ridges seemed to have no end.

Dusty Star was very excited. He had never travelled so far on the
prairies before, nor imagined that the world could be so tremendously
big. And he knew that somewhere out in that always increasing bigness
lay the great camp for which they were bound. He had never seen such a
camp, but his mother had told him stories. He knew it was full of
people--braves, squaws, papooses--very many papooses, like
the baby-sister which Nikana was now carrying on her back. And there was
feasting and dancing, and pony-racing, and being religious, though the
last was not at all tiresome, being full of buffalo dances, and wolf
songs, and generally ending in a sarvis-berry stew. What Nikana omitted
to mention, were the huskies: so Dusty Star did not know that every
Indian camp swarmed with huskies--dogs that were half-wolves, always
hungry, always quarrelling, always ready for a fight; and--what was even
more important--_Kiopo did not know_.

At sundown, Running Wolf made his camp. The spot he had chosen was at
the foot of a low cliff, under which ran a river, which would have to be
forded before they could proceed on their journey. Running Wolf attended
to Osikomix. Dusty Star helped his mother to collect brushwood for a
fire. Kiopo went hunting along the river bank to get an evening meal.
Blue Wings was the only person who remained idle. Yet even she sucked
her thumb with unceasing perseverance, and made soft glug-glugging
noises in her little Indian throat.

That night when Dusty Star had lain down in his buffalo-robe bed, with
Kiopo curled at his feet, he stayed awake a long time. He listened to
the voices that seem born of the darkness--the hoot of the little grey
owl from the swamp across the river, the evening call of coyotes among
the prairie bluffs and those other small mysterious sounds that creep
about the silence without paws or walking feet. And overhead was the
night--the enormous Indian night, with all its glittering
fires--stretched like a huge tepee from horizon to horizon, though
the stars upon its sides were anything but dusty, and if the Great
Spirit walked there, he was careful that his moccasins should not crush
the tiny stars. And when at length Dusty Star fell asleep, he dreamed of
a great hunting across the windy places of the sky, where the buffaloes
clashed their horns against the cliffs of Heaven, and the wolf-pack woke
the echoes in the hollows of the moon.

The fording of the river next morning was a great delight. Dusty Star
rode on his father's back, and Blue Wings went on her mother's.
Osikomix, splashed grandly across, taking the water up to his belly. But
when the party had reached the opposite shore, Dusty Star found that
Kiopo was left behind. There he stood looking anxiously at the water,
and enquiringly at his owners, as if asking which of them was coming
back to fetch him. But as it was soon made plain to him that no one
intended to do so, and that the party was preparing to continue on its
way, he put his courage into all his paws and plunged into the stream.
It was the very first time he had taken to the water, but his instinct
taught him what to do, and he swam bravely across, dragging himself up
the opposite bank, a little half-drowned caricature of a wolf, panting
with excitement and pride.

After that, there were no more adventures for the day. At night, they
camped as before, and again Dusty Star dreamed of the great hunting that
swept between the stars.

It was in the afternoon of the nineteenth day's travel that they came at
last within sight of the camp. When Dusty Star saw the great number of
tepees crowded together, his eyes grew big with amazement. He had not
thought there could have been so many lodges in all the world. To him it
was a huge prairie city, whose houses were built of buffalo, with doors
of buckskin at which no one ever knocked.

If Dusty Star's eyes were filled with wonder at the sight of so many
tepees, Kiopo's nose was tickled with amazement at the quantity of
smells. Every bush, every stone, every clump of grass he came to, told
him of a dog. It might have been expected that fresh scents would greet
him in a land of many trails. But so much smell (in, other words, so
much _dog_) at once, was overpowering, and disturbed his peace of mind.

Nothing could have been quieter or more orderly than the manner in which
the travellers approached the camp. It is true that Kiopo was a little
in advance, and that his hair was bristling uneasily between his
shoulders, but that was only to be expected with so much smell in the
air. Suddenly, without a moment's warning, a large hairy body sprang
with a snarl from a clump of bunch-grass, and rushed savagely upon him.
Now for all his dog training with his Indian friends, Kiopo was, in the
mind of him, as well as in the muscle, a genuine wolf. So, when the
husky rushed, Kiopo leaped aside, as the wolves leap. Before his enemy
charged again, the long wolf fangs glittered; there was a lighting
plunge of the whole body, and down the husky's haunch went a long clean
rip. The husky turned in fury, and his teeth shut like a trap. They
closed--but not on the little wolf. They clashed on an inch of
clear atmosphere which lay to the west of Kiopo's hairy neck. And in
almost the same moment, the husky got a second slash.

But alas for Kiopo! Wolf-like though his tactics were, he was not yet
old or powerful enough to fight with more than one foe at once. His
enemy's attack was a signal to all the huskies on that side of the camp.
The moment before, hardly another husky was to be seen. Now they seemed
to spring from every tepee and clump of grass. At least a dozen bore
down on the combatants in a yelping, snarling pack. In an instant, and
before Dusty Star could do anything to save him, Kiopo had disappeared
from sight under a mass of writhing bodies, legs, and tails. Dusty Star
was desperate, and cried wildly to his father and mother to save his
little wolf. Fortunately it was not the first time that Running Wolf and
Nikana had had to disperse a mob of Indian dogs. With loud yells and
violent kicks they charged the rolling heap. Several Indians, hearing
the commotion, came running to their aid. Dusty Star himself was
foremost in the attack, yelling, kicking, pulling, pounding with all his
might, utterly regardless as to whether he might be bitten or not. Wild
with fury against the huskies, and his deadly fear lest Kiopo should be
killed, he hurled himself on the pack like a little demon.

Mercifully for Kiopo, the very number of his enemies saved him from
serious harm, for he was so completely covered by them that only a few
could reach him with their teeth, and many of the bites that should have
been for him fell to the share of a husky; so that, while half the pack
appeared to be worrying Kiopo, they were in reality falling foul of each
other to his decided advantage. Kiopo, on the other hand, never ceased
for an instant to use his powerful teeth. No need for _him_ to watch for
a chance to bite. He had simply to work his jaws like a piece of perfect
machinery. He fought with all the desperation of an animal caught in a
trap. What roused him to fury was not so much the combined attack, as
the being pinned down by numbers so that he was powerless to escape.
Every muscle in his strong young body was contracted to the utmost. Not
even a fully-grown wolf could have fought with more determination and
pluck.

At last the huskies, beaten and kicked on all sides lost heart and were
driven off. What was left on the ground was an extremely mauled and
tumbled specimen of what less than five minutes before had been a very
trim little wolf.

Instantly Dusty Star was on his knees beside his pet. Kiopo was bleeding
in various places, and panting hard. Dusty Star put his arms round him,
and besought him not to die. To die, however, was one of the last things
Kiopo intended to do. Exhausted he might be, and wanting to get his
breath, but his body was sound and his spirit unbroken. In the eyes that
looked up gratefully into those of his big brother, there shone a clear,
unconquerable light. Very soon he was able to get up and shake himself.
Then, keeping a wary eye on all sides, he walked forward with his party,
and so entered the camp.

Although his reappearance alive, when, according to all husky
calculations, he ought to have been dead, was the occasion for many
growls, and a threatening show of teeth, his enemies did not venture to
attack him again. Unwelcome though he was, it was plain that he had come
among them under the protection of powerful friends. An unprotected
stranger would have indeed led "a dog's life," and sooner or later, died
a dog's death, unpitied to the last. But into their hard husky
intelligence, this fact had embedded itself like a stone: What the
lord-humans protect, it is dangerous to attack.



CHAPTER IV

KIOPO FINDS AN ENEMY


After this stormy introduction to the camp, the family settled down
quietly enough. Running Wolf's long absence from the tribe had made no
difference to his membership or position in it. Half-an-hour after his
arrival, his tepee was set up in the place appointed for it by the head
chief, and in two days' time the family were living the life of the camp
as if they had never left it. To be quite truthful, Running Wolf,
Nikana, and Blue Wings were living it. With Dusty Star it was different.
The number of people of all ages, from newly-born papooses, up to braves
and old squaws--some of them so wrinkled and bony that it almost seemed
as if they had forgotten to be dead; the constant coming and going, the
pony-racing, the chanting of medicine songs and the beating of
drums;--all these things were so utterly strange and bewildering that,
after the long day's experiences, he was almost too excited to sleep.

As for Kiopo, if an animal could have spent the whole of its puppyhood
in the moon, and then, one slippery night, have all at once fallen off
into the middle of the earth, it could not possibly have felt more an
unwelcome intruder than Kiopo in his new surroundings. The fact of his
arrival was now known to every husky in the camp, and each husky hated
him from the bottom of his husky heart. For the most part they lived on
the worst possible terms with each other. This individual dislike did
not stand in the way of a combined attack upon a common enemy when
opportunity offered. Left to themselves to arrange matters, Kiopo would
not have had the ghost of a grasshopper's chance. There were two great
obstacles to his immediate destruction. One was his owner, Dusty Star,
who kept a pile of stones and a heavy stick, always ready for instant
use; and the other was Kiopo himself.

[Illustration: THE ARRIVAL OF KIOPO WAS NOW KNOWN TO EVERY HUSKY IN THE
CAMP, AND EACH HUSKY HATED HIM FROM THE BOTTOM OF HIS HUSKY HEART]

Kiopo was now three parts grown, and was considerably larger than the
ordinary wolf of his age. For the average full-grown dog, he was more
than a match. The few that had ventured to fight him singly had learnt
that to their cost. But against a combined attack of the whole husky
rabble, he was naturally powerless. And owing to the peculiar make-up of
the general husky mind, you never could tell from one moment to another
when the rabble would unite. He knew himself surrounded by enemies. Go
where he would, hackles were raised, lips curled back, and glaring eyes
were fastened upon him. It was small wonder if, as week after week went
by, he became nervous, irritable, and depressed.

Among all his foes, the one of whom he stood most in dread, was a big
dog called Stickchi. He was a surly, sour-tempered, evil-eyed brute whom
none of the other huskies dared to face, but whom they nevertheless
regarded as one of the leaders of the pack. Stealing, fighting, and
bullying were accomplishments which had earned for Stickchi this
position of authority, and he took a constant delight in showing his
power. It was he who had led the attack on Kiopo's arrival in the camp,
and now he hated him with a murderous hatred. Kiopo returned the hate in
full, though he stood too much in awe of the great bully to venture to
attack him when they met. The principal thing that enraged Stickchi was
that, while the other huskies at once got out of his way as their
acknowledged master, Kiopo only avoided him at the last possible moment
after he had fully expressed his feelings by drawing back his lips from
his dangerous teeth in a defiant snarl. Then, when infuriated beyond
measure by this open defiance of his authority, the bully charged his
foe, Kiopo, leaping lightly aside, would seem to send his supple body
floating through the air, and land a dozen feet away, only to crouch for
a new spring, and bare those evil-looking teeth as before.

Yet in spite of his defiance, Kiopo harboured a great uneasiness at the
back of his mind, for his keen wolf-intelligence told him that sooner or
later, the day must come when the contest for mastery could be no longer
postponed, and that the struggle would be a fight to the death.

Dusty Star, for all his vigilance, did not fully understand. He could
not think why it was that Kiopo generally kept so close to the tepee,
and rarely ventured any distance away unless he went with him. This was
because Stickchi was as cunning as he was cowardly. Whenever he saw
Kiopo with any one of the family he did not attempt to attack him, but
contented himself with growling deep in his hairy chest, and looking
very ugly. Like many other bullies, he was easily frightened, and he
never forgot one particular experience when Kiopo had been busily
gnawing an elkbone behind the tepee. Stickchi had made up his mind to
have the bone. Believing that no one saw him, he had crouched on his
stomach in his most cunning manner, and had begun a stealthy game of
stalking. If Kiopo had not been so engrossed in his bone no amount of
Stickchi's artfulness could have caught him unawares. But the treasure
had such flavoury bits of very high meat attaching to it that, for once,
he was completely off his guard. So, bit by bit, Kiopo blissfully
gnawed, and, bit by bit, Stickchi's stomach drew nearer.

There is nothing much more exciting than to stalk something that is
already stalking something else. And so, when Dusty Star, returning from
the other side of the camp, came up quietly and saw the game that was
being played, he joined in with delight. Inch by inch the artful
Stickchi's stomach trailed elaborately over the ground, and, inch by
inch, Dusty Star gained upon him.

At last there was only a tuft of wild turnip between Stickchi and his
prey, and then open country for at least six feet.

Hardly daring to breathe, Dusty Star gathered his body together very
tightly. In his right hand was a heavy stick. Stickchi also was making
himself very tight, preparing for the final rush. He wriggled his body
slightly, bracing his hind feet firmly against the ground. There was a
second's pause before he uncoiled the powerful spring that was himself,
and hurled his body on his unprepared victim. In that momentary pause a
human whirlwind loosed itself on him from behind, and a heavy blow
descended on his head.

With a yelp of fear and pain he bounded aside, twisting half round as he
did so, to see what had attacked him. Quick as lightning, Dusty Star
struck again, this time in the very middle of the husky's back.

The bully did not wait for another blow. Yelping with terror, he turned
with his tail between his legs, and fled across the camp for his life.

After this lesson he observed Running Wolf's tepee from a respectful
distance. But it only served to increase his enmity towards Kiopo, and
he nursed black revenge at the bottom of his evil heart.



CHAPTER V

"SITTING-ALWAYS"


Among the many odd and unexpected things which Dusty Star found in the
new life in the camp, one of the most peculiar and unaccountable was a
grandmother, whose name was Sitting-Always.

Up to the present, a grandmother had been entirely wanting in the
arrangement he called the World. That there was a great Spirit called
the Sun, he knew. He also knew that there was another less great one
called the Moon. And there were the stars. These also were spirits. They
sat about in the sky and generally had a good time. If you watched them
carefully against the tops of the lodge-poles, you could see that they
gradually did their sitting a little higher up, or a little lower down;
and sometimes, especially in the Mad Moon, they actually _ran_. To watch
a star run swiftly down a steep place in the sky and disappear, made
your heart jump. When the running stars which did not fall off into the
dark reached the prairie, they turned into the puff-balls the Indians
called "dusty-stars."

But a grandmother, it appeared, though neither a spirit nor a star, was
a Great Power to be reckoned with. There were days when she painted her
face bright yellow. These were solemn occasions. If you made a noise or
got in her way, she would wrinkle her skin till the paint cracked. If
you continued the annoyance, she would smack. As a painted curiosity
Dusty Star observed her with awe.

His first introduction to her was not on one of her painted days.
Without wanting to be rude he thought her face looked more like raw
buffalo hide than anything else he had yet met. Her hands also seemed of
that material, and did not feel pleasant when they felt his arms and
legs. Dusty Star objected to being mauled, even by a Great Power; but he
bore it as well as he could, because his mother told him to stand still;
only from that day onwards his grandmother's hands were the part of her
body he most thoroughly distrusted.

The second time he saw her was when she came to the tepee on her way to
take part in a medicine-bundle ceremony. She was very grandly dressed in
a beaded buckskin robe, and her face was thickly coated with the famous
yellow paint. Dusty Star was squatting with Kiopo at the back of the
tepee, watching his mother making pemmican, when this yellow vision
peered in upon them through the opening. He stared at it with
astonishment. He was not afraid, but it made him feel uncomfortable. It
was as if his grandmother's face, like the maple leaves, had gone yellow
with the Fall. And from the middle of the yellow, her sunken eyes glared
blackly in the hollows of her head.

Kiopo also disapproved of the vision. That was very plain by the way his
hair bristled along his back, and his upper lip curled back to show his
fangs while he snarled.

The yellow face of Sitting-Always scowled between the eyes, and made the
paint crack. She declared she would not enter the tepee unless the husky
was first driven out. When Nikana explained that Kiopo was not a husky
but a true wild wolf, and that when he snarled through his teeth it was
best to let him be, Sitting-Always was more displeased than ever. Like
most old Indians she firmly believed that the wolves had a "medicine,"
and by a "medicine" she meant a power that was stronger than either
wolves or men. She herself was a great believer in "medicine." Half the
things with which her tepee was stuffed were supposed to possess a
medicine of one kind or another. Only she infinitely preferred tame
medicine--the sort you stored in painted parfleches--to the wild kind on
four legs that bared its fangs and snarled. So when she had shot out a
few biting remarks about beasts and boys in general, she took her yellow
face out of the opening and stalked angrily away.

After that Dusty Star saw her quite often when Nikana took him with her
on visits to her tepee, and the yellow maple-leaf face had given way to
the buffalo-hide one, and her teeth were the only yellow things she had
in her head. By degrees, his awe of her wore away, till one day when she
presented him with a rich plateful of sarvis-berry stew, he arrived at
the conclusion that, after all, a grandmother, like the buffalo, could
have her uses, and be very nearly pleasant when she did not paint her
face.

Kiopo, however, never changed his mind. Not even the richest stew could
have made any difference. With or without her paint, his deep wolf
wisdom taught him that here was an enemy, and whenever she came near
him, he always showed his teeth.


It was in the moon that the Indians call the Mad Moon, or, as we call
it, November, that Kiopo began to take on strange ways, and to stay
away, for days together. When he returned from these mysterious
absences, he was in the habit of sneaking back into camp under cover of
the darkness. In the morning, when Dusty Star spoke to him very plainly,
and asked him where he had been, Kiopo would turn his head away with an
uncomfortable expression in his eyes. Dusty Star began to watch the
wolf's movements, growing more and more anxious to find out where he
went. And the closer the human brother watched, the deeper grew the
wolf-brother's cunning day by day. Neither going, nor returning, did
Kiopo let himself be seen.

Dusty Star grew afraid lest he should disappear once for all, and never
return. His fear was so torturing that he tied him with a raw-hide
thong, and fastened it to one of the lodge-poles. There was a high wind
that night, and the poles strained and creaked; but it was not entirely
owing to the wind; and, in the morning, Kiopo had gone.

Those were the evenings when Dusty Star, lying awake in the tepee, could
hear the coyotes raise that eerie song of theirs which they love to sing
after sunset on the high buttes. It always began in the same way, with a
succession of short barks, growing gradually louder and higher, and
always ending with a long-drawn, squalling howl. And as the boy caught
the high-pitched, yowling cries ringing out in the dusky air, he knew
that God's Dog, as the Indians called him, was at his medicine-making
again, making medicine with his voice. Through enormous spaces of the
twilight, these uncanny cries set his brain spinning. The cries ceased
to be mere coyote notes; they became voices crying the names of
unfamiliar, yet unforgettable things; until at last, when the unearthly
chorus became too piercing to be borne, he pulled the buffalo robe over
his head, to deaden the terrible sound.

If the coyote cries affected Dusty Star so powerfully, they affected
Kiopo equally, though in a different way. At times they made him angry,
at others, wholly miserable. When Kiopo felt upset, he always wanted to
get hold of something to worry with his teeth. So the raw-hide thong
came in very useful, and after gnawing for half the night, Kiopo was
free. Once his own master again, he did not waste valuable time sitting
down to think. Softly as a trail of mist, he drifted out of camp, and
not a husky of them all winded him or saw him go.

The very morning after Kiopo's departure, Sitting-Always was taken ill.
She lay on her couch of antelope skins and moaned with pain. While
Nikana went to summon the medicine-man, Little Fish, Dusty Star was left
to watch his grandmother. He had never seen any one ill before, and the
noises she uttered made him feel uncomfortable. When he asked her if the
pain was in her chest, she said it was lower down. Dusty Star nodded his
head wisely. He had suffered pain in that part himself. It was the place
that made you wish you had not eaten berries before they were ripe. He
observed his grandmother gravely for some time. Suddenly without
warning, he doubled up his fist and thumped her on the spot where she
complained of the pain. This he did, because he knew that if you hit
things, they sometimes went away. He hoped that if he could hit his
grandmother's pain right in the middle, it might drive it out.

Sitting-Always uttered a loud cry. Mistaking it for a shout of triumph,
Dusty Star struck her again. This was more than she could bear, and she
uttered such a piercing scream that the boy was startled. Still it
seemed to prove that the thumping was taking effect. He was preparing to
smite her for the third time when his mother came hurrying into the
tepee.

With groans of pain and anger, Sitting-Always explained what had
happened. Naturally Nikana was very angry. She could hardly believe that
the boy could have dared to take advantage of his grandmother's
helplessness to play her so evil a trick. Without waiting to hear his
own account of the matter, she gave him a sound cuff or two, and ordered
him to go at once and fetch Lone Chief, the medicine-man, since Little
Fish had said he could not come.

Only too glad to escape, Dusty Star rushed indignantly out of the tepee.

Lone Chief's tepee lay at some distance from the camp, round the
north-west corner of Eagle Bluff. He was understood to be a great
medicine-man. His medicine, or Supernatural Power, was very strong,
though it was not always that he could be prevailed upon to put it to
the test. Among the many mysterious things about Lone Chief was that no
one could ever say with certainty where he was to be found. Wandering
across vast spaces or journeying to the edge of the world, had got into
his feet. Hunters from the far west would bring tidings of his camp on
the shore of the mighty lake that washes the feet of the Rockies for
half-a-hundred miles. Deep in the North, on the lonely barrens where the
wolves howled at sundown, and the red-fringed pools were a-glimmer in an
unearthly light, his slightly drooping figure might be seen moving
soundlessly in the windy twilight along the deep-worn trails of the
caribou. Or in the torrid south lands where the salt lakes were caked
with brine, and the antelopes, startled by the solitary figure, floated
across the desert like vapours carried by the air, Lone Chief travelled
till he filled his head with the roar of the gulf of Mexico.

To the tepee of this extraordinary, and much-travelled person, Dusty
Star went with a reluctant tread, and a feeling, which, if it was not
exactly fear, was certainly one of awe. When he came at last within
sight of the camp, he saw that Lone Chief was at home, smoking his pipe
in the doorway of his tepee.

Dusty Star advanced slowly. When he reached the tepee he sat down in
front of the medicine-man. Neither of them spoke for some time, although
no one had told the boy that this was the politest way of beginning a
conversation, when it is not necessary to talk about the weather. So
Lone Chief gazed politely beyond Dusty Star's head, and Dusty Star
stared politely at Lone Chief's moccasins, while now and then a maple
leaf drifted down beside them.

When the fourth leaf had fallen, Dusty Star explained the reason of his
visit.

Lone Chief waited a little before he replied, because of his habit of
being very sure about his thoughts before he made words to fit them.

And while Lone Chief made his words, his gaze struck into his visitor's
face with the edge of a tomahawk. Dusty Star returned the look without
flinching and noted the way in which Lone Chief painted his face. And
indeed it was something to observe, for across his forehead and down his
cheeks went bars of black and yellow and red, as if his face were a cage
to keep his eyes from rushing out.

"My grandmother has a pain here," Dusty Star began abruptly, indicating
the place.

He did not say any more then, knowing that Lone Chief would know quite
well why he had come, so that any further explanation would be merely
throwing words away.

"When did it begin?" the medicine man asked.

"She made many noises this morning," Dusty Star answered. "She is making
them all the time when she does not like herself inside."

Lone Chief remained silent.

"Have they made any medicine for her?" he asked presently, with a shade
of suspicion in his voice.

It was an awkward question. Dusty Star wished to be quite truthful. At
the same time, he did not want to confess what he had done. He had
intended the thumping for medicine, though it was hardly the same thing
as the grown-up people made, particularly as he had performed it without
saying any medicine-words with it. It was his grandmother who had said
the words, and they differed considerably from what the medicine-men
used.

"No," he said at last. "They have not used any medicine." He could not
find courage to add. "But I thumped."

After which nothing was said by either of them for a long time. And the
maple leaves went on falling.

At length Dusty Star thought it was time that Lone Chief should begin to
make preparations to start, if he intended to visit his grandmother. So
he looked into the painted face and said.

"The shadows grow longer."

Lone Chief understood.

"Yes," he answered solemnly. "When the sun goes towards his lodge, it is
what the shadows are accustomed to do."

It was not the words themselves which told Dusty Star what was going on
in the medicine-man's mind, but that unspoken knowledge which flashes,
none knows how, from one prairie-dweller to another along the invisible
trail. In an instant he realized that Lone Chief did not intend to come.
Slowly rising to his feet, he gazed straight into the medicine-man's
face. Then with a clear, ringing tone, he spoke in a voice that was
almost a cry.

"I am sent to bid you to come to my grandmother Sitting-Always, who is
not happy with herself inside. If you do not come, the pain will drive
her along the wolf-trail; but she does not wish to go."

He ended abruptly, his body held very stiff, like a young larch-tree
when there is no wind. And in his eyes, fixed upon the medicine-man's
face with an unblinking stare, a spark glimmered as if his mind were set
ablaze.

Lone Chief looked at him in astonishment. In the many thousand leagues
his moccasins had travelled, he had never met anything like this. That a
mere boy--hardly more than a child--should find the daring to address
_him_, Lone Chief, the famous medicine-man, words which were like a
command uttered by a full-grown man, was an astounding thing. In spite
of himself, he felt uneasy. What was it, he asked himself, which made
this boy so strangely different from other boys? The cunning eyes,
practised to read the faintest signs on all faces and all trails,
employed their utmost skill now to read the secret hidden in the boy.
But that strange glitter in the boy's eyes baffled him; and when, after
a long gaze, he looked away into the distance, he had a curious feeling
that he had been questioning the eyeballs of a wolf.

He moved his hand in the direction of the sun, now almost touching the
rim of the western hills, saying as he did so:

"When the sun has entered his lodge, I will come."

With a glow of triumph, Dusty Star knew that he had won. He also knew
that Lone Chief would waste no more words. He simply bowed, to
acknowledge his gratitude; then turned, and ran swiftly towards the
trees. As he ran, the lithe movements of his body caught the
medicine-man's eye.

"That way the wolves run, with their whole body," he murmured
approvingly. "There is medicine in his feet."



CHAPTER VI

THE MEDICINE-MAKING


When Lone Chief arrived that evening, an hour after sundown,
Sitting-Always was worse. In spite of that, her spirit was not
sufficiently broken to be pleased that Lone Chief should attend her.
However, as Little Fish had refused to come, and Lone Chief was too
great a person to offend, she had to disguise her dislike and fear of
the medicine-man as well as she could.

The tepee was so crowded with people that any one not acquainted with
Indian customs might have thought that Sitting-Always had fallen ill in
order to give a party. Dusty Star was there, of course, because his
grandmother's sickness was a very splendid entertainment, not to be
missed; but he had taken care to keep well hidden behind a couple of
parfleches, so that the sight of him might not exasperate the patient.

Lone Chief's arrival made Nikana very nervous. She wished she had not
invited three other medicine-men to attend, without first waiting to see
if Lone Chief would come. It would be so extremely awkward if they
arrived in the very middle of his medicine-making. He might not mind. On
the other hand, he might object, and be very angry. She devoutly hoped
they would not come.

Hardly taking any notice of his patient, Lone Chief began his
preparations immediately. First he placed four round stones in the fire
to get hot. While they were heating, he remained seated, looking at
nobody, with his eyes half closed. When he considered the stones were
hot enough, he uncovered his medicine drum, and held it over the fire.
Dusty Star, craning his neck round the parfleches, gazed at the drum
with wonder. It was painted yellow to represent a cloudless sky. In the
middle, a bright red ball indicated the sun. He wondered if Lone Chief
intended to put it on his grandmother's head, for a hat. When the drum
was sufficiently warmed, Lone Chief looked round on the company and
declared that he could not begin his medicine till every one except
Nikana went out. There was no use in arguing about it, because a great
medicine-man's word is law. One by one, the visitors reluctantly
withdrew. Dusty Star, in the deep shadow behind the parfleches, made
himself as small as possible, humped upon the ground.

As soon as Lone Chief had seen the last visitor, as he believed, depart,
he raised the drum, and began to sing a medicine-song, beating time, as
he sang, upon the drum. It was a very peculiar song about buffaloes,
wolves, and thunder, and at the end of every verse, Lone Chief barked
like a coyote. When he had finished the song, he took an ember from the
fire, and placed some dried sweet pine upon it. As the smoke rose, he
held his hands in it, and prayed to the Spirits of the sun, and of the
buffalo, that he might have power to find out with his hands the spot
where Sitting-Always was ill. He then rose, and went across to the
patient. Dusty Star watched his movements with such excitement, that it
seemed as if his eyes would fall out of his head.

It was when Lone Chief was in the very middle of his examination that
the event which Nikana dreaded took place. No fewer than four other
medicine men stalked into the tepee. All were heavily painted, beaded
and feathered, and each carried a drum. Dusty Star shrank, if possible
into a smaller space than before.

Without uttering a word, the four sat down in a half-circle about the
fire, and began to smoke their medicine pipes. Lone Chief continued to
move his hands over his patient's body as if nothing extraordinary had
taken place. He was annoyed at the intrusion of his rivals, but was too
dignified to show it. He fully believed his power to be far greater than
theirs, and was prepared to treat them with contempt.

Sitting-Always was relieved in her mind now that the other medicine-men
had come. If it annoyed Lone Chief, so much the better. It would make
him exert his medicine to the utmost.

When Lone Chief had finished his examination, he lifted his drum again,
and re-commenced his song, sitting with his back to the newcomers, as if
they were not there. As each one of them enjoyed great importance in his
own eyes, Lone Chief's action made them determined to perform their
medicine as loudly as possible. First one and then another drew his pipe
from his mouth, and lifted his drum.

The first to do so was Kattowa-iski. His doctoring power came from the
beaver.

Kokopotamix followed him. His medicine was from the grizzly bear.

Apotumenee came third. He took his medicine from the buffalo, and had
two buffalo horns fastened to his head.

The last to begin drumming was Ohisiksim. The Thunder-bird had given him
his medicine, which was very much sought after when the tribe was short
of rain.

At first the drumming was slow and soft, growing louder by degrees. Then
Kattowa-iski got up and began to dance, striking his drum in imitation
of the beavers when they hit the water with their tails. Kokopotamix
then rose and imitated a grizzly bear when he walks on his hind legs.
Apotumenee and Ohisiksim began their performances at the same time.
Apotumenee crouched with his head lowered, and dug his horns into the
ground to imitate buffaloes digging wallows in the Fall, while Ohisiksim
blew out a spray of water from his mouth to suggest a thunder shower.

All this time Lone Chief went on drumming as if nothing else was going
on.

And now the noise of the drums, louder than ever, made the tepee throb
with sound. It maddened Sitting-Always who screamed out again and again
that it was driving the pain into her head; but as no one paid the
slightest heed to her cries, she put her hands over her ears, and moaned
in despair.

And now the medicine-men, as if excited by their own drumming, grew
wilder in their movements. Kokopotamix's walk became a dance in which he
clawed the air like a grizzly sharpening his claws upon a tree.
Kattowa-iski banged his drum like a beaver with a hundred tails.
Apomumenee made terrible roarings and bellowings in his throat, like a
bull buffalo; while Ohisiksim sprayed his thunder-showers so far from
his mouth that they moistened Sitting-Always in her bed.

Dusty Star, looking out upon it all from his hiding-place, felt a
strange excitement growing within him. To him, the antics of the
medicine-men became so life-like that, more and more, they seemed to
grow like the things they represented; and in the flicker of the fire,
on which, from time to time, Nikana put more fuel, the shadows on the
sides of the tepee danced and balanced, as if they also were alive. He
did not understand the new feeling; only it seemed to have to do with
Kiopo; almost as if Kiopo himself were crouching by his side. And the
wolf that was in Kiopo seemed to urge the wolf that was in Dusty Star so
that he felt that he must shoot his body in amongst the dancers, and
make, with Kiopo, the medicine of the wolves.

The movements became wilder, and the drumming louder. The figures
swaying round the fire, appeared to have lost themselves in the medicine
and to feel nothing but the dance. It was not Kokopotamix only who was
there, or Kattowa-iski, or Apotumenee, or Ohisiksim; nor even a Grizzly
bear, a Beaver, a Buffalo, or a Thunder Bird; but all the spirits, and
the beasts, and the birds, of the lonely places, and the great silences
of the enormous West. Either it was the tepee which had expanded into
the prairie, or the prairie which had crowded into the tepee. Dusty Star
crouching behind the parfleches could not tell which. All he knew was
that the wild dance of the prairie was tingling in his feet, and the
voices of the prairie calling in his head.

Suddenly, with a ringing cry, he leaped from his hiding-place, and
landed on hands and knees in the middle of the tepee. Then, with head
thrown back, and eyes glittering, he gave the hunting-call of the
wolves.

If the Thunder-bird itself had suddenly alit with flapping wings in
their midst, the medicine-men could not have been more utterly taken by
surprise. The dance came to an abrupt stand-still. Even Lone Chief
stopped his drumming, and stared in astonishment. Sitting-Always, not
being able to see clearly, because of her position, thought a wolf had
entered the tepee, and screamed aloud with fear.

Before any one could move, Dusty Star, now barking like a coyote, began
to run on hands and feet round the fire. Quicker and quicker he went,
barking and leaping up and down as if all the madness of the Mad Moon
were in his blood, and he were forgetting to be Indian, and remembering
to be wolf.

If Lone Chief had given the order, Nikana would have seized her son; but
Lone Chief was disturbed. Dusty Star as the grandson of his patient was
one thing, but Dusty Star as this leaping madness crying like a wolf,
was totally another. He did not approve; yet he did not dare to
interfere. What he had felt vaguely in the afternoon, he knew for a
certainty now. There was medicine in the boy. It was the true
medicine--the medicine of the lonely barrens; of the lairs in the glooms
of the spruce forest; and of the wolfish crags where the air throbbed
with the thunder of the streams. Great Medicine-man though he was, it
was a power he would have given many buffalo robes to possess. He knew
himself to be in the presence of a medicine more mighty than his own.
And because he knew it, he did not dare to answer the expectancy of his
companions by ordering that Dusty Star should be turned out of the
tepee.

As for Dusty Star himself, he knew nothing at all about possessing
"medicine." All he knew was that he felt very splendidly mad, with an
uncontrollable desire to throw his body in the air, and cry wolf calls
with his throat. And the fact that none of these important medicine-men,
nor even his mother, made any effort to stop him, encouraged him to an
adventure of great antics which he would not have believed possible in
his most tremendous dreams.

Moment by moment, a wilder spirit of mischief seemed to enter into him.
The occupants of the tepee looked on in amazement, as the lithe crazy
shape, leaped and crouched, howled, barked and sang.

Rising suddenly to his full height, he took a flying jump and landed
close beside his grandmother's couch. Sitting-Always terrified, out of
her wits, uttered a piercing cry.

Up to the present, Nikana had sat rigidly still as if mesmerised by her
son's madness. But her mother's cry of fear broke the spell, and she
darted forward to seize him. But Dusty Star was too quick for her.
Springing back across the fire, he gave, with a full throat, the hunting
cry of the wolves. Then, before any one could stop him, he tore back the
door-flap and fled laughing from the tepee.



CHAPTER VII

HOW THE WOLVES SANG


Next day, Sitting-Always had recovered. The awkward part of it was that
no one could tell which of the medicine-makers had brought about the
cure. Dusty Star went about with an uncomfortable sense that, sooner or
later, he would be punished for his share in the performance. It had
been a splendid piece of frolic; and when you had enjoyed yourself in an
extra special way, it generally happened that the grown-up people would
come down heavily upon you. Yet as the day went on and nothing happened,
he felt more and more bewildered. He had often been punished for
naughtiness far less daring. Now, when he had set everybody at defiance,
no one said a word. But there were eyes. He could not hide the fact that
people looked at him in a strange way as he went about the camp. Even in
the home tepee his father and mother observed him curiously, and he felt
their eyes upon him even when he pretended not to know.

Gradually, as the days went by, the impression faded. There was a more
important thing that haunted his mind continually. _Kiopo did not come
back._

The weather grew colder. There was much business in the upper sky. By
day it took the form of a great arrow-head of wings, driving from the
north; by night it was a voice. And as the harsh honking cry fell from
the roof of the world, Dusty Star knew that the vast waters of the North
were giving up their geese.

And when the last arrow-head had winged, and the last _honk_ fallen, the
night-breeze that came sighing along a thousand miles of prairie was
barbed with early frost.

One night, the strange restlessness that was in the hearts of the
coyotes, making the prairie ridges clamorous with their choruses,
disturbed Dusty Star so strongly that it brought him trouble in his
dreams. He woke with a sense that something was calling him. As he
listened, he recognized the familiar and yet always uncanny way in which
the coyotes arrange their evening chorus--the short barks of the opening
bars, which grow louder and more acute, till they change to the final
howl. They were singing to-night as coyotes had chorused it a million
times before. Yet to-night there seemed to Dusty Star to be something
special in the cry, as if it were an invitation to him from the prairie
folk to go out and do something, or be something, which he had neither
done nor been before. Without waiting to question what the thing might
be, he got up softly, and crept out of the tepee. Outside, the camp lay
very still. Most of the inhabitants had gone to bed. Only here and there
a lodge glimmered with the light of an inside fire which had not yet
died down.

Dusty Star looked carefully round on every side to see if anything
moved, and then glided away into the darkness.

The coyote calls had died away now, but he fancied that they had come
from the direction of Look-out Bluff. The bluff was known to be a bad
place. The Thunder-bird (so they said) visited it in the moon when the
grass is green, and darkened it with his wings. Old Ahitopee, moreover,
who had gone upon the Wolf Trail many moons ago, was reported to make
evil medicine there, and to hob-a-nob with the prairie wolves.
Nevertheless, Dusty Star took his courage in both hands, and went
towards the bluff.

He was about half-way there, when he caught, far out upon the prairies,
a faint, but carrying note. He stopped, listening intently, but it did
not come again. For all that, Dusty Star was certain that he had heard
the hunting call of a wolf.

He went on. Overhead, in the black sky, the stars glittered like
arrow-heads of white fire. But, under his moccasins, the prairie seemed
blacker than the sky. It was dead, dark, motionless. Yet the darkness
seemed to have movement in it, as of a furtive travelling which you
could not see. _Things walked!_

At the foot of the bluff, Dusty Star stopped. If old Ahitopee were
making medicine, it might be as well to avoid that side of the bluff.
Those who went upon the Wolf Trail did not like to be disturbed. He
listened very carefully. The huge quiet of the prairies seemed filled
with thread-like sounds as from that stealthy travelling which you could
not see. Only the medicine of Ahitopee was not audible. It seemed safe
to go on.

But now he had the fancy that, towards the north, a shadowy shape kept
pace with him as he advanced. When he stopped there was no shadow, but
when he moved, it was there.

At the summit of the bluff, he sat down to wait. He did not know what he
was waiting for. That did not matter. The prairies knew. They had the
Great Wisdom; the Wisdom of the Wolves.

Suddenly, to the north, he saw a pair of glowing eyes that watched him
less than a dozen yards away, as motionless as if suspended in the air.

Dusty Star did not move an eyelid. He was not frightened. But he knew
now that things were beginning to happen, and it made him feel a little
strange. And beyond the eyes, further to the east, a pale light
glimmered, which he knew would be the twilight that goes before the
moon.

By degrees, as the glimmer grew, Dusty Star saw a shape that gathered
about the eyes. It crouched a little, like a coyote. It looked bigger
than a fox. And then he became gradually aware as the light increased,
that he and the eyes were not alone. He counted one, two, three, four
more pairs of eyes with shadows darkening about them east, west, and
south. And beyond them there was an outer circle of similar shadows in
the likeness of prairie wolves.

The light grew stronger. The moon rose. Dusty Star found himself the
centre of a circle of coyotes who sat motionless on their haunches as if
waiting for some signal.

Then, from a neighbouring ridge, there broke, clear and ringing, the
long voice of a wolf.

The coyotes stiffened with attention. Then, first one, and then another,
lifted its head and began to bark. The barking became louder. By
degrees, the separate voices began to blend together in a wild, unequal
chorus. And now and then some hunched shape; upon an outer ring would
become a voice to swell the clamour till it rang echoing from ridge to
ridge.

More and more, as the sound drove in upon him, Dusty Star felt a strange
sense take hold of him; and as each separate set of barks changed to the
combined roar of the final squawl, his entire body shivered to the
thrill.

He felt the creatures all about him now. And yet they were not strange.
The coyote world, the fox world, the world of the wolves and of the
other prairie folk, was closing in upon him in narrower and narrower
circles, hemming him in with a roar of sound.

He did not know what the chorus meant, nor what wild impulse urged the
coyotes to sing. Nor could he tell why he himself should feel so
strangely a part of it all. In the moonlight everything was very clear.
For prairie eyes, it was not likely to make mistakes as to what one saw.
Yet suddenly Dusty Star stared as if his eyes were starting out of his
head.

Right in front of him, with its back to the moon, a great form, larger
than a coyote, seemed to have risen out of the ground. As he looked, the
creature, lifting its head, let out a long melancholy howl.

Dusty Star held his breath. _Could_ it be?--was it _possible_?--_Kiopo
at last?_

He was too excited to wait in order to be sure. Springing to his feet,
he darted forward with a cry.

The wolf leaped swiftly aside, and was gone.

The creature's disappearance seemed a signal. There was a general
movement on the butte. The next moment dusky bodies melted soundlessly
down its furrows into the grey vastness of the prairies, and Dusty Star
found himself alone.

He was bitterly disappointed. Now, when it was too late, he knew that he
done the wrong thing. All his wisdom of prairie-craft and wood-craft had
left him in one fatal moment: he had moved at the very instant when he
should have remained still. Now he would never know if he had been face
to face with Kiopo or not. A sob rose in his throat; a mist swam over
the moon: he could hardly see for tears, as he went recklessly down the
hill.



CHAPTER VIII

HOW KIOPO CAME BACK


One night, when all the camp was in deep sleep, and nothing could be
heard but the gentle flapping of the lodge-ears in the breeze, or the
occasional bark of a hunting coyote, Dusty Star woke suddenly.

What was it? He raised himself on his elbow, and peered about in the
glimmer of the dying fire. The tepee was full of shapes of things that
were somehow stranger than the things themselves. There were dark,
heaped-up objects which made companionable sounds in their noses, and
could be explained. But there were others which did not explain
themselves, that made no sound at all. Dusty Star looked at them
suspiciously in case they might have moved.

As he looked, and listened, there came from the direction of Look-out
Bluff a long-drawn, ringing, call. It was no coyote voice. It was
deeper, more resonant in tone. Some peculiar quality in it thrilled
Dusty Star to the very marrow of his bones. It was the very soul of a
wolf that went walking through the wandering spaces of the night: one of
the thirsty prairie voices that go hunting down the wind.

Again the cry came. This time it was louder, as if the creature were
drawing nearer. The boy's pulses began to beat more wildly. Then there
came a long silence, in which the lodge-ears ceased to flap and the wind
itself seemed to have died away. Was it going to be nothing at all,
Dusty Star asked himself--nothing but a bodiless voice that went by on a
windy trail?

Hark, what was that? There was a breathing snuffing sound, as of some
creature sniffing at the bottom of the tepee. Then, something scratched.

As Dusty Star left the buffalo-robes, and crept stealthily across the
tepee in dreadful fear lest either of his parents should wake, his body
burned like a flame.

With the utmost care he unfastened the calf-skin flap and passed out.

There was no moon, but the sky was deep with stars. In their
clear-shining, he saw a wolf crouching on the ground.

Dusty Star did not take any risk by rashly stepping forward. He stood
absolutely still, yet so anxious lest his wild hope should be vain, that
he hardly dared to breathe.

He saw the wolf rise, depress its body slightly and then leap upon him.
He felt the weight of the heavy body against his chest, struggled to
keep his balance, and fell without a sound.

And then the night and the stars, and the whole world were blotted out
by a great hairy wolf-body, and a tongue that licked and slobbered, and
slobbered and licked.

_Kiopo at last!_

Dusty Star did not struggle. He knew if he attempted to rise, Kiopo
would only knock him down again, at the risk of rousing the sleepers in
the tepee. Even as it was, he dreaded lest his father might hear, and
come out to see what was going on; for Kiopo, in his wild delight, could
not content himself with action only, but must keep up a continual
whining and growling, broken every now and then by smothered barks.

It was some time before Kiopo's excitement had cooled enough for him to
let Dusty Star get up. Every time the boy seemed inclined to rise, the
wolf, planting a fore-paw firmly upon his chest, bared his shining
teeth, and growled. It was as much as if he said:

"I ran away from you once, little brother, because it was necessary, but
now I am going to see that you don't escape from _me_!"

When Kiopo was calm enough to behave more reasonably, Dusty Star sat up.
He put his arms round his neck, and began to talk to him in a low,
gurgling flow of quaint Indian words. And indeed the words seemed to be
sweet with the juice of sarvis berries and wild pears, and to have the
wind in them over a thousand miles of prairie, and the wet sound of
great waters, and syllables borrowed from beasts and birds since the
beginning of the earth. If Kiopo did not understand the words in the
very exact shape of them as they ran from Dusty Star's mouth, he had a
sense of what he was trying to tell him, because he understood the great
nature-language that is deeper than the dictionaries, and lies broad
along the world.

Beyond a low whine occasionally, or a gurgle in his throat, Kiopo did
not reply. Yet his very silence was an answer. His whole body gave it.
_His silence bulged with Himself._



CHAPTER IX

SITTING-ALWAYS SPEAKS HER MIND


The news of Kiopo's return ran swiftly through the camp. They spoke of
it in the tepees as something to be reckoned with. It might mean evil,
or it might mean good. Whether good or evil, it was very strange. As for
the huskies, they had but one feeling about it: the wolf's return was
bad. All that day, and the days that followed, Stickchi's eyes had a
wicked glitter; and not a husky of them all but knew that mischief was
brewing.

But what the huskies felt did not cause Kiopo any serious discomfort. He
was a half-grown cub no longer. The long winter had made a wolf of him.
His chest had deepened, his limbs lengthened. He was a creature to be
feared. When Dusty Star went through the camp, Kiopo close at his heels,
he had reason to be proud of his wolf. The boy held his head high,
because of the great pride and gladness that was in his heart. Now that
he had Kiopo once more, his heart soared like a hawk. The joy that was
in him shone clear in his eyes. He gave a bold look into the faces of
every one he met. But when he and Kiopo passed out on to the prairie,
suspicious glances followed them, and watched keenly where they went.

Nothing happened that day, or the next; but upon the third day after
Kiopo's return, Dusty Star became uneasy. He could not have definitely
said what was the matter. But things were in the air. Something new was
in the camp. It had not declared itself, but it was none the less there.
Beneath the painted coverings of the tepees, he felt that the secret
grew.

On the evening of the third day, just after sundown, he was returning
from the prairie, after driving his father's ponies in for the night.
The camp fires were burning brightly and in the deepening twilight dusky
figures were passing to and fro. He noticed that round the tepee of
Spotted Owl a small group of people had collected. Inside, a drum was
beating softly and very slowly, as if some medicine ceremony were
beginning. Dusty Star lingered a little to watch, and then passed on.
When he reached the home tepee he found his supper ready. But after he
had finished, he did not go immediately to bed as usual. Instead, he
went out again into the camp.

The night had fallen now. It was cloudy and very dark. But the glow of
the camp fires made a sort of twilight in the camp itself; a twilight
that wandered as the fires rose or fell. While he stood intently on the
watch, he saw a figure come out from the doorway of his grandmother's
tepee. The figure stood quite still, as if it, too, were on the watch.
It was muffled in a robe, from head to foot, so that its actual shape
was hidden. Dusty Star was surprised. It was not his grandmother's habit
to stir abroad after nightfall. She had grave misgivings in the dark.
But if it were a late visitor why then was it so carefully covered?

The figure moved and glided away into the darkness. Dusty Star, keeping
well within the deepest shadows, followed swiftly in the figure's track.
It did not stop till it reached Little Owl's tepee. Dusty Star watched
it enter, and then crept close to the back of the lodge. The soft
beating of the drum was still audible, but soon after the entrance of
the newcomer it ceased. Then a voice spoke.

Dusty Star, crouching close against the bottom of the tepee could hear
every word distinctly. The speaker was Spotted Owl.

"The wolf has returned to Running Wolf's lodge," he said. "It is five
moons now since he went away. He may have brought back much medicine
with him. It may be good medicine. Lone Chief thinks it is a strong
medicine--very good, perhaps, if we sent a war party against the Yellow
Dogs. But he must be watched."

The voice ceased. Apparently, for the moment, Spotted Owl had nothing
more to say.

Then another voice spoke.

"The wolf is always with the boy. They go out upon the prairies
together. If the wolf has medicine, he shares it with the boy. The boy
knows many things about the wolves."

Several other speakers expressed an opinion that it would be wise to
advise Running Wolf to send the wolf away. It was clear that the general
feeling of the meeting was that Kiopo should not be injured, and that if
he were driven away, no one must attempt it but Running Wolf.

At this point another voice broke in which Dusty Star recognized only
too well. The person was no other than Sitting-Always herself. She spoke
quickly and with great earnestness.

"The wolf is bad," she said. "Nothing has gone well since he came to the
camp. The boy also is bad. He and the wolf are always making medicine.
That is why they go alone upon the prairies that they may make medicine
together out of sight of the tepees. It will not be sufficient to drive
the wolf away. As long as the boy is here, the wolf will come back. He
is teaching the boy the wolf medicine. When the boy has learnt it fully,
it will be a madness to send war parties against the Gros Ventres. If
you destroy the wolf, you will destroy the medicine, and the boy will
lose his power. He is Indian now, but there is something in him that is
wolf. Either he will carry his medicine to our enemies, the Gros
Ventres, or he will go back to the wolves. You must kill the wolf, even
if you do not touch the boy. You must kill, kill, _kill_!"

As Sitting-Always finished her speech, her voice rose to a shrillness
that was almost a shout. In the yellow desert of her face her sunken
eyes glittered with passion. It was plain to all who saw her that she
was very greatly moved. To the one person who heard, but did not see
her, it was as if a poisoned arrow had plunged into his heart.

After she had ceased speaking, a low murmur of voices filled the tepee.
The passionate words of the old squaw had roused the Indians to a
feeling that something must be done. Spotted Owl's next speech showed
this very clearly. He did not commit himself so far as to say that the
wolf must be killed; but he allowed his hearers to draw their own
conclusions. Once the wolf was out of the way, the boy could be dealt
with as the tribe should decide. When Sitting-Always heard the
concluding words of the speech, a look of evil triumph glimmered in her
face.

Dusty Star did not wait to hear any more. Whatever plan his enemies
might adopt, there was no time to lose. The secret was out now--the
dark, unspoken thing which his sense had warned him was walking in the
camp. As he crept away from the tepee, hatred, fear, and anger made his
heart feel as if it would burst. Yet it was not so much for himself, as
for Kiopo, that his passions were fully roused. He did not doubt that
his father and mother would devise some means to protect him from any
serious harm, as soon as they realized the threatened danger. But if
Kiopo were the cause of that danger, his instinct warned him that
neither of them would hesitate a moment to sacrifice the wolf. In all
the vast world, he knew that the only friend Kiopo could rely on was
himself.

When he got back to the tepee, he saw with alarm that Kiopo was not
there. His mother scolded him for staying out so late. His father,
already under his buffalo robe, muttered drowsily of a beating in the
morning. Dusty Star had his own ideas connected with the morning. His
brain was thick with the dust of a great plan. His mother's angry words
were like fireflies that darted but did not sting.

Dusty Star went immediately to bed. His mother, having eased her mind,
did likewise. Blue Wings and the father were already fast asleep. Very
soon the only person still awake in the tepee was Dusty Star himself.

And the night deepened. Out there, in the awful hush of the prairies,
you could almost hear the deepening of it from the roots of the camass
flowers right up to the very roots of the stars!

In the camp itself only one sound was audible--the low persistent
throbbing of a drum.

As the boy listened, the beating of his heart became another drumming;
for his instinct told him that it was the medicine-making that would
surely send Kiopo to his death.

It was impossible to stay longer in bed. Out there, in the night, things
were happening. The evil thing that Sitting-Always had planned, was
hatching. When it was fully hatched, Kiopo would be doomed. Dusty Star
felt there was not any time to lose. If Kiopo did not return
immediately, he might not come back till the dawn. And if he delayed
till then, it might be too late to warn him. His enemies might wait for
him in ambush and kill him as he returned.

Dusty Star made up his mind. If Kiopo did not come back to him, he must
go out to find Kiopo; there was no other way.

He got up softly, took his bow and arrows, and a strip of pemmican that
was handy, and passed stealthily out of the tepee.

The night was starlight. Dusty Star saw the world in a vast glimmer. It
was the twilight of the stars. He paused a moment, embracing the camp in
one swift, sweeping glance that missed out nothing that was important to
be seen. All was one deep shadow in which the tepees were lesser shadows
that stood up gaunt and black. Dusty Star was not afraid of the shadows.
What he dreaded were eyes. You could see the shadows, but the eyes that
might lurk in them you could not see. And the eyes you did not see might
watch you as you went. He was very anxious. Why of all nights should
Kiopo have chosen this one to be out? If they were to escape, it must be
to-night. To-morrow it might be too late. Ah! What was that? Surely it
was a man's form, black against the glimmer of the prairies! And it
moved! It was coming nearer! To his horror Dusty Star saw another form,
and then another, moving the direction of the tepee. He cast a fearful
glance behind him. Again he distinguished moving figures. There was no
mistaking it. A ring of Indians was closing in upon the tepee. He crept
to the back of it, in the hope that he might not be seen, for a time, at
least, till there was an opportunity to make a dash for freedom. As he
crouched on the ground behind the tepee, a cold nose was thrust against
his face. Kiopo!... Unknown to him, the wolf had returned after the
tepee had been secured for the night, and had lain down to sleep against
it.

Dusty Star shivered in an agony of fear. If they were discovered it
seemed as if some terrible fate had ordered that Kiopo should return
just when he had. The one lucky thing was that they were not inside the
tepee. Yet even so, the chances of escape were small indeed with that
ring of pitiless enemies steadily closing in.

Kiopo saw them too. More than that, his unfailing instinct warned him
what the danger was. He gave a low, rumbling growl. Dusty Star, with his
arm tightly about him, whispered to him to keep still. As he looked up,
he could see the heads of the approaching Indians black against the
stars. They were terribly close now.

Then he heard a slight noise at the front of the tepee, and knew that
some one was trying to unfasten the calf-skin flap. He held his breath,
dreading from moment to moment that they would be discovered. Kiopo had
ceased to growl, because he had realized that absolute silence was
necessary for their safety; but Dusty Star could feel how the wolf's
heart was throbbing, while his whole body shivered as if ready to spring
upon his foes at the slightest hint.

Suddenly it seemed to Dusty Star as if one of the nearer Indians bent
forward to look more closely at the back of the tepee. If that were
indeed so, they were discovered.

There was no time to make sure. An instant's delay might be fatal. He
leapt to his feet and made a blind rush, calling to Kiopo as he did so.

The Indians were taken by surprise. Before they realized what had
happened, both boy and wolf were clear of the enclosing ring.

The prairie! To reach that was Dusty Star's one hope. Once out upon that
he would trust to his speed and the darkness of the night. He shot
forward at a headlong pace, urged by a frenzied fear. Behind him he
heard the swish and thud of racing moccasins. Also there were cries. The
cries struck terror into him as much as the feet. And they were terribly
close.

On he sped, Kiopo running at his side. The fact that they were together
seemed to lend him extra speed. He knew without a doubt that they were
running for their lives. Had not Sitting-Always cried "_Kill! Kill!_"?

It was fortunate that his constant going to and fro upon the prairie had
made him completely familiar with the lie of the land. If he continued
in the same direction as he was going, he knew that he would reach
broken ground where it would be impossible to keep up the pace, and not
risk a fall. He swerved to the north. To swerve was to lose ground, but
he dared not take the risk.

The sound of moccasins drew nearer. It seemed plain that some, at least,
of his pursuers had discovered the alteration in his course. With every
muscle and nerve strained to the utmost, Dusty Star fled desperately on.

From the sound behind, he judged that the Indian who was gaining was in
advance of his companions. Kiopo made the same judgment with even
greater exactitude as to actual distance. For a moment or two, the wolf
dropped a little behind. Before Dusty Star had grasped what was
happening, there was a snarling growl, a noise as of a falling body, and
the sound of the moccasins ceased. A second or two afterwards, Kiopo was
again running at his side.

After that the sounds of pursuit died gradually away. But for a long
time Dusty Star continued his flight. When he felt that he could run no
further, he let himself sink to the ground, and lay for a long time,
grasping for breath.

When at last his breathing became regular, he felt the dewy vastness of
the prairie night cover him as with a robe. The darkness, the quiet,
above all, the sense of immense relief after the danger escaped, lulled
him, and he slept.

As dawn broke, he was on his feet, for he dared not risk remaining in
the open during the day.

By that mysterious means through which the wild creatures convey ideas
to each other, Dusty Star made it plain to Kiopo that they must go and
hide. Kiopo understood hiding. Half his life long he had either been
going into hiding, or coming out. Directly they came upon a deep gully
with a thicket at the head of it, both the boy and the wolf knew they
had found the place to lie in till the dark.

It did not take Kiopo long to make himself a lair in the centre of the
thicket. It was a thorny covert, not too comfortable, but it was safe
from prying eyes. As the sun rose higher, the air grew warm. The air was
full of a drowsy silence in which tiny noises hummed. First the wolf,
and then the boy, settled themselves to sleep.

Towards the middle of the afternoon, Kiopo began to be restless. In
other words, his stomach reminded him that it was time to stop feeling
empty. He crept cautiously to the edge of the thicket and looked out.
Down the gully on one side, far over the prairies on the other, there
was nothing moving to be seen. Either the Indians had not started on
their search, or else they had not come in this direction. True to his
lifelong training, Kiopo examined the country carefully on every quarter
before venturing to leave the thicket in search of game. Apparently his
observations satisfied him that nothing dangerous was afoot, for Dusty
Star, who was now awake, watched him quit the shelter of the bushes and
drop over the edge of the gully as quietly as a cloud-shadow floats.

About half-way down the gully a large buck rabbit was washing itself in
the sun. The instant Kiopo sighted it, he flattened himself to the
ground, and never blinked an eye.

The rabbit, utterly unconscious of the threatened danger, went on
licking its paws and drawing them down its face, as if the only
important thing in life was to be sure of being clean. And, as it did
so, inch by inch and foot by foot, the grey flatness that was Kiopo
moved very slowly towards it, and hardly seemed to breathe.

While Dusty Star watched the lithe wolf-body working its way down the
gully, creeping nearer and nearer to its kill, he became aware of
another similar shape approaching the same spot, but from a different
direction and much higher up the further side. The wolfishness of its
appearance was made all the greater by the fact that, like Kiopo, it
kept very close to the ground in its stealthy onward movement, taking
advantage of every bush, and rock, to screen its advance. As Dusty Star
watched the two animals approaching the same point from different
directions, it seemed almost impossible that neither of them should be
conscious of the other's presence. Yet it only needed a few moments'
observation to convince him of the fact. He grew more and more excited.
Which of the two stalking animals would be the first to catch sight of
the other? And what would happen when it did?

Nearer to the prey crept Kiopo; and still nearer to Kiopo crept the
other wolf.

_Was_ it a wolf? As it glided over an open piece of ground from bush to
bush, Dusty Star started. In the animal's shape and movements there was
something strangely familiar. The next moment, he knew in a flash that
the supposed wolf was a big husky, and that, moreover, the husky was
none other but Stickchi himself.

If he had been excited before, he was doubly excited now. When the
moment came that Kiopo found himself face to face with his hated enemy,
Dusty Star knew that it must be a fight to the finish.

By this time Stickchi had reached the point where he must come into open
view of the lower part of the gully along which Kiopo was travelling.
All at once, Dusty Star saw him stop dead, and stiffen into attention.
He was too far off to note the sudden rising of the hackles between his
massive shoulders or to catch the smothered growl that was rumbling in
his throat. But, even at that distance, he could read perfectly what had
happened. _Stickchi had seen!_

And still Kiopo kept moving on, utterly unconscious of the danger in his
rear.

Instantly Stickchi altered his tactics. Hitherto he had only watched the
game. Now he had a more absorbing interest--Kiopo himself! Dusty Star
watched him slightly change his course, and then move forward again with
redoubled caution. From this onward, the advantage, what ever might
happen afterwards, lay entirely with the husky. Dusty Star's heart began
to beat wildly. A lump rose in his throat. Suppose Kiopo should be taken
unawares? A wild desire to warn his friend surged through him. But how
to convey that warning? If he shouted, his voice might reach other ears
than those for whom it was intended, and bring some Indian to the spot.
He ran the same risk if he ventured out into the open and tried to warn
Kiopo by signs. There seemed nothing to be done but to wait, and let
things take their course.

All this time the rabbit had continued washing itself in total unconcern
of the two deadly foes advancing upon it from different points, and it
was not until Kiopo was close up to it that it realized its danger. In
an instant the white tail flashed in the sunlight as it turned to run.
It was an instant too late. In two tremendous bounds, the wolf was upon
it, and the great jaws snapped.

If Kiopo had started upon his meal at once, it is probable that his
enemy might have been able to stalk him to a closer point before he made
his rush; but in Kiopo's mind there was a clear idea that the kill must
be shared with Dusty Star. If the Little Brother disdained the raw meat,
it could not be helped. Kiopo would have behaved in the brotherly
manner, and he could not be expected to do any more. He turned therefore
with the rabbit in his mouth, to retrace his steps to the thicket. As he
did so, the bush to his left opened in its middle and seemed to
_explode_ upon him in a hairy mass, with a snarl that was like a roar.

It was not easy to stalk Kiopo, but Stickchi's tactics had been so
carefully performed that, for once, the wolf was taken off his guard.
Dusty Star, from his look-out, watched the husky leap clean on Kiopo's
back, and then saw both animals roll over together. There was a couple
of moments of furious struggle and then Kiopo tore himself free.

The sudden attack, the rolling over, the taste of the husky's teeth, had
done Kiopo good; it had aroused his fighting instincts to their utmost
pitch. Besides, he had been attacked while in possession of his
just-killed meat--an unpardonable offence in the law of the wilderness,
in which to kill is to possess, and to possess is to make your kill a
part of yourself by devouring it!

The instant he had wrenched himself free, he launched his counter
attack; that is, he launched the entire weight of his hundred and
forty-pound body through the air straight at the husky. Stickchi tried
to evade the onset, but he was not quite so nimble as the wolf. Kiopo's
charge struck him full on the shoulder, and carried him off his legs.
But a husky down is not by any means a husky beaten, and Stickchi showed
that, although a bully and sometimes a coward, he could, when necessary,
show a fighting spirit that was not easily cowed.

From the point at which Dusty Star stood it was not very easy to follow
each movement of the struggle, partly because of the distance, partly
owing to the fact that now and then the fighters were so mixed up with
each other that it seemed hardly so much like a dog and a wolf fighting
with two separate bodies, and sets of legs, as of one wildly-whirling,
tumbling mass of bodies, legs, and tails. The excitement was too great
to be borne, so throwing all caution to the winds, he ran down into the
gully till he was within half-a-dozen yards of the fight.

By this time both animals were bleeding freely, but they fought on in
apparent unconsciousness of their wounds. At a glance it was easy to see
that their methods of fighting were plainly different; for while the
husky's main object seemed to be to close with the wolf and, if
possible, to hold him down by sheer force, Kiopo fought in true wolf
fashion, springing away after each lashing stroke of his deadly fangs,
and returning to the charge in a series of leaps that bewildered his foe
by their lightning rapidity.

The end of the fight came more quickly than might have been expected,
considering how powerful both animals were. In the most furious
whirlwind of struggle, Kiopo's mind had never lost sight of one
possibility. He knew, as all wolves know, that the hamstring, or tendon
at the back of the leg, is one of the most vital spots in the whole
fighting machine. If once that can be cut the result of the fight is
only a question of time. At last, the opportunity, so long looked-for,
came. There was a tremendous snap of Kiopo's terrible jaws, and Stickchi
was disabled. After that, the husky's powers of resistance were speedily
exhausted, and the bully Stickchi would bully no more.

After this second kill, Kiopo retired to the thicket to lick his wounds,
and Dusty Star went with him.



PART II



CHAPTER X

"BALTOOK" THE SILVER FOX


News upon the prairie travels fast and far. That of the disappearance of
Dusty Star and his wolf into the West, was no exception. After
travelling many leagues, it reached at last the people of the Yellow
Dogs, whose hunting-grounds extend from the Comanache Country to the
great lakes in the north.

It was the famous spy Double Runner who carried the news. Double Runner
was a true Yellow Dog; very fast and cunning. Also like all other true
Yellow Dogs he hated the Comanaches with a bitter hatred. The Comanaches
and the Yellow Dogs had been enemies so long that nobody knew what the
original quarrel had been about. However, that didn't matter in the
least so long as the hatred, which was older than history, wasn't
allowed to die down.

When the Yellow Dogs heard Double Runner's news, they put their heads
together in a great Pow-wow. If it were true what rumour and Double
Runner said, that Dusty Star and his wolf had a strong medicine, it
would be a splendid thing if they could capture or kill them, and get
the medicine for themselves. And even if they failed in that, at least
Dusty Star belonged to their ancient enemies, and it would be one more
Comanache out of the way.

Now many moons before, a band of Yellow Dogs had gone into the West, and
settled down by the river that flowed out of the Chetawa lake. If Double
Runner could find their camp and carry his news, it might happen that
they could put him in the way of finding a trail. And if Double Runner
found a trail, many buffalo robes and ponies would be his on his return.

So that was how it came about that, one shining morning, in the Moon of
Roses, Double Runner disappeared into the West.

At the foot of a great boulder, high up on Carboona, Baltook, the Silver
Fox, had his den. It was a wonderful look-out place from which to
observe the world, and Baltook was a first-class observer. What his
piercing eyes didn't see, or his sharp ears detect, was caught by the
amazing keenness of his nose. When the forest people glided softly from
the good green gloom of the trees, Baltook marked them the moment they
appeared. Below the level of his den went the runways of half the lower
world. Deer, badger, mink, hare, opossum, took their ways delicately
along the trails, and, all unconsciously to themselves, were instantly
noted by Baltook's gleaming eyes. But whatever fine housings of hair or
fur they wore, they paled before the splendour of Baltook in his
wonderful black robe powdered with silver hairs.

No other fox on all Carboona had such a coat as he. Even in shadow it
was beautiful; and when the fine machinery of his muscles moved beneath
it in the sun, it rippled silver lights. And Baltook was as splendid as
his coat. Certainly, his mate, Boola; the Cunning One, was convinced
that he was lord of all the foxes; and as for the cubs, _they_ would
have been equally convinced, if it had not been for a drawback which
they couldn't help, and that was, they were too young to have any views
about it at all. Besides, up to the present, they had had to do chiefly
with their mother, and it was only recently that their father had
appeared to be a person of great importance as the bringer of choice
food, which they were allowed to worry and chew and swallow like the
shameless little Greedinesses they were. And when they had finished a
meal, they simply went to sleep, and slept and slept and slept, till
they seemed to be furry lumps of warm fat sleep, all neatly rolled up
with their noses under their tails.

One day, Baltook was sitting on his favourite look-out place on Carboona
about a dozen yards from his den, gazing down into the green and golden
depths of the drowsy afternoon.

To all outward appearances, the world looked pretty much as it had done
for the last ten thousand years. So had the hemlocks looked, so had the
spruces, ever since the first fox had made his earth upon Carboona, and
the world of the foxes had clashed with, that of the lynxes, and the old
hatred began. But Baltook was not thinking of lynxes today, not indeed
of anything else in particular. He had just feasted off a very plump
rabbit, and inside the den, the family was busy wrangling over the
bones. So the possibilities of other game did not tickle his brain,
although his nose kept up a series of fine wrinklings, just from force
of habit, to find what sort of folk might be walking down the wind.

Yet in spite of everything looking so thousands-of-years-the-same,
something very important _was_ happening, after which Carboona would be
never quite the same.

_There were strangers walking in the wind!_

If Baltook did not scent them, that was no fault of his nose. If you sit
very high up you cannot expect your nose to tell you what is happening
very far down. It is along the level of the runways that the nose does
its business; and Baltook's nose forgot to be very busy, even where he
sat.

Down, down, down, through the vast forests of spruce and fir, with here
and there a sycamore, or some huge hemlock that seemed to have hugged
five hundred winters to its old black heart, the strange folk came
journeying on scarcely-sounding feet. The forest was so thick, and the
ground so springy with fir-needles, that Baltook's eyes and ears gave
him no more warning than his nose. Yet a vague murmur of softly-padding
feet was audible,--to ears near enough to catch it--the ears of the
little peoples that live close along the ground.

At the doorways of little underground dwellings between the twisted
fir-roots, small furry bodies, with long tails, and eyes like sparkles
of black dew, crouched quivering with expectancy, as the murmuring sound
went by. To them, it was like the boom of walking thunder, far away, but
drawing nearer. And the tiny eyes brightened, and the tiny whiskers
twitched as two enormous shapes went glimmering past their doors. And
for a long, long time afterwards, the little under-root dwellings were
stuffy with uneasy people who comforted themselves together in the good
grey gloom.

Immediately below the spot where Baltook sat, the lowest fringe of
forest ended in a dried stream-course, filled with boulders. From a
spring on the nearer bank, a narrow thread of water trickled into a
pool. Above the spring the ground was rocky and clear of trees; and
between the rocks the grass was short and fine, showing that deer and
rabbits found it good grazing ground. (Baltook could have told you all
about the rabbits, but he did not dare to meddle with the deer.) Within
this open space, as the silver fox looked dreamily down, there appeared,
to his utter amazement, two unexpected shapes.

The one, though unexpected, was not altogether strange, being that of a
large timber wolf; and in his life on Carboona, Baltook knew all about
wolves. But the other shape was as unfamiliar as it was unexpected--that
of a human being.

To say that Baltook sat up on seeing this unusual sight would not give
the right impression, for the single reason that Baltook was already
sitting up. But if you were to say that inside his springy body every
sense he had sat up so violently that he almost jumped, you would be
very nearly correct.

These astonishing visitors being so very far down in the world below him
did not make much difference to Baltook's cunning sight. But it did make
a difference to his nose. Before he could make up his mind about them
fully, he must get them put into _smell_; so when, presently the
strangers disappeared from view, Baltook got up softly and melted down
the hill.

That evening a great news began to travel in Carboona. Newcomers had
arrived. There was a strange wolf of enormous size: there was a human
creature, stranger than the wolf. They were aliens, interlopers,
interferers with the ancient habits of Carboona which people had got
used to since the beginning of the world. The human creature had broken
trees and made itself a lair of boughs. The wolf guarded it, spending
his time in going up and down the valley as if he were its lord. If once
he made that the centre of his range, things would happen upon Carboona:
nothing would ever be the same.

Not content with bringing themselves into the borders of Carboona, the
intruders had brought a third thing with them--Fire! The human creature
had collected sticks and made a pile. And out of the pile had come
strong-smelling mist that stung your nose; and, presently, an awful
shining, like the sun and moon gone mad!

The great news travelled far and wide. It penetrated even into the damp
dullness of the tamarack swamp where old Goshmeelee, the black bear,
lived with her precious cubs. The little peoples of fur and feather
caught the scatterings of it in the air and went uneasy in their minds.

But the person who could have given you more information than anybody
else, was one who started the news travelling--Baltook, the Silver Fox.



CHAPTER XI

WHY THE FOXES TRUSTED DUSTY STAR


When Dusty Star and Kiopo, after many long days of journeying came into
the valley below the den of the Silver Fox, they saw that there was
water, and a good place for rest. They did not waste any time in
discussing its advantages or drawbacks. They simply decided at once that
here was the goal of their wandering and that here they would make their
camp. That is to say, Dusty Star would make it. Kiopo would look on and,
if he approved, would consent to making it his temporary home. If he did
_not_ approve, he would show his dislike and uneasiness in so many plain
ways that Dusty Star had no peace until they moved elsewhere. Even if
the wolf was satisfied that no hidden danger lurked in the
neighbourhood, and that they might safely settle down for a time, he
could never take kindly to a sitting-down existence. For the great life
that he had was always in his feet, so that he must be continually on
the move, or going long journeys or short ones, as the case might be,
but sooner or later, always coming back. So while Dusty Star built the
tepee, Kiopo went exploring up and down the valley, getting every point
of it well into his eyes, and every drifting smell it had well up his
nose. And more than once, when he tried the wind suspiciously, he caught
a faint yet unmistakedly musky odour that suggested a fox.

That night they slept soundly; Dusty Star in the bough-built tepee,
Kiopo stretched full length across its entrance. And all night long,
Carboona, the old savage home of countless lives, gloomed darkly above
them, though they did not even know its name. Still less had either of
them the least idea that they had chosen their resting-place within the
borders of that very region where Kiopo had first drawn breath.

Next morning Dusty Star woke up well pleased with his new home. The day
passed quietly, and the inhabitants of the neighbourhood kept well out
of the way. Kiopo did his hunting at a distance, and supplied the camp
with food. Besides that, there was nothing particular to do. That was
the joy of living where the world forgot to get civilized. After you had
caught your meat and cooked it, the days and nights were very wide,
because there were no clocks to make them narrow, and to chop them up
into little bits called Time.

So because there really was nothing particular to do, Dusty Star on the
fourth day after settling down in the new home, thought he would climb
up Carboona in the climbing afternoon.

Now the same idea, almost at the same moment happened to come to another
dweller upon Carboona, and that was the Catamount, or great wild cat,
which had its lair in a hollow tree less than half-a-mile from the camp,
and carried the dull green fire in his cruel eyes to make the leafy
shadows a terror to all lesser forest folk.

He had slept most of the day in his tree after a good kill the night
before, and was not feeling especially hungry. Still, to a blood-loving
creature like the Catamount, there was always a pleasure in tracking
fresh meat even if it was not needed. So the great cat set out for a
leisurely stroll across Carboona to find if any new smells had been
spilt along the world since he had gone to sleep.

For some time he got nothing that particularly interested his nose.
There were smells of course. But some were old, and some were
unpleasant, and one or two were really dangerous. Among these last, was
one of the big wolf which had recently come to harry Carboona, as if he
were its rightful lord. The Catamount's eyes gleamed with an ugly light
as he recognised Kiopo's hated scent, and went a little more warily on
his way. Unlike Dusty Star, he did not immediately seek the upper sunny
slopes. The green glooms of the evening shadows pleased him more. As he
slunk along, lifting and setting his cushioned feet so delicately that
his coming was like that of a piece of drifting thistledown, he looked
as evil a presence as could be found abroad in the ending of the day.

When he reached the last ravine, above the further side of which the
foxes had their den, he paused. A faint, unusual sound reached his ears
at irregular intervals. At first it sounded like some small creature in
distress. That was the very sort of prey the Catamount enjoyed. He
began, very cautiously, to make his way across the ravine. When he was
half-way up the opposite side, the sound came again. This time he heard
not one voice, but several--and the notes were not those of creatures in
distress. He was plainly puzzled. He had reached the sunlight now, and
partly because of that, partly because every step brought him nearer to
possible danger, he went with even greater caution than before. All at
once the meaning of the commotion became clear to him. He heard; he
smelt; he saw!

All this time, Dusty Star had gone on steadily climbing till he had
caught up, as it were, with the very middle of the afternoon. But for
all he knew, he mounted alone, and never once got a glimpse of that
other stealthy climber who stole up like a furry shadow of the evening
itself into the golden places of the afternoon. And the Catamount was
equally unaware of the neighbourhood of the boy.

Suddenly Dusty Star came upon one of the surprises which Carboona keeps
in its most secret spots. In an open space between a mass of thickets he
found a family of fox-cubs playing in the sun. Five, fat, funny little
bodies, tumbled and sprawled and tussled and rolled in a frenzied frolic
which, if you looked closely, was really a furious battle over the
leg-bone of a grouse. Sometimes they bit the bone; sometimes each other.
It really didn't seem to matter, so long as somebody bit _something_. It
was the triumphant glory of being able to bite! The fight raged first to
one side, then to the other. There were little yelps and squeals, and
miniature growls, like fairy thunder. Once the tide of battle rolled
almost to Dusty Star's feet. The excitement was so great, and Dusty Star
so still, that the cubs saw nothing and smelt nothing.

But for all their seeming unconsciousness, their little ears were keenly
alive to sound. For when the mother fox suddenly gave the sharp warning
bark which is the signal of approaching danger, four out of the five
cubs scurried instantly back to the den.

The fifth cub, either because he was more stupid than the others, or
more daring, stayed where he was, sitting up on his little haunches and
moving his head from side to side as if to assure himself there was no
need to hurry home when there was such an unexpected chance of having
the grouse-bone all to himself.

And Dusty Star was not the only watcher of the disobedient cub.

Between him and that other watcher was less than a dozen paces, but as
the boy had arrived on the spot a little earlier, and was now as
motionless as the tree behind which he peeped, the Catamount was still
unaware of his presence. Screened by a thick bush and a tangle of
creepers, the great cat watched its opportunity with a mouth that
quivered.

His first instinct on seeing the cubs was to retreat immediately with
the same caution as he had approached. Various unpleasant experiences
had already taught him the danger of interfering with young animals
whose parents are likely to be within springing distance. But although
he looked from side to side with the utmost care, not the merest
whisker-tip of any parent was visible.

It was precisely at this moment that the mother-fox had uttered her cry
of warning. What had startled her neither Dusty Star nor Catamount knew.

Over the trackless barrens, along the runways of hare, mink, and fisher,
down the world-old trails of the journeying caribou, there have always
travelled--there still travel--mysterious warnings that convey
themselves to the hunted creature neither by sight, sound nor smell. And
when the warning comes, all wise creatures seek the cunning of their
feet.

At the cry, the startled Catamount crouched back into the bush; and if
the fifth cub had followed the example of his brothers and sisters, the
great cat would have retreated as he came; but the sight of that plump,
furry little Disobedience, that sat there on its little tail impudently
defying the world, almost within reach, was too great a temptation to
resist.

The Catamount threw another piercing glance all round the locality. The
mother fox gave no sign of her presence. If he wanted the furry
Disobedience, it was now, or never. He crept forward half a pace and
gathered his legs under him for a spring.

The movement he made was very slight; but it was sufficient to betray
him to Dusty Star. Instantly the boy realized the danger threatening the
cub, but before he could do anything, a lightning streak of fur flashed
out of the bush, and hurled itself on the cub.

No sooner had the Catamount made good his hold on its squirming prey,
than it turned to flee. To its intense astonishment, it found itself
face to face with Dusty Star!

Never in its life before had the great cat set eyes on a human being.
For one brief moment, it was paralysed with fear. And that moment cost
it dear. Quick as a hawk, Dusty Star stooped and struck. The keen blade
of his hunting knife flickered in the sun, and then buried itself in the
Catamount's fur.

With a scream of rage and terror, the animal dropped the cub, and turned
savagely on its foe. But at that very instant there was a rush and a
hoarse squall, and it was knocked clean head over heels by the furious
charge of the mother fox.

This totally unexpected attack completed the great cat's discomfiture.
Spitting and squawling, it bounded into the underwood and was instantly
out of sight.

It might have been expected that the fox, having routed one enemy of her
little one, would have turned at once on what she might have well
supposed was another. But just as she had quitted the den to look for
the missing cub, she had seen Dusty Star attack the Catamount, and her
quick senses told her that the action had not meant any injury to her
cub.

For all that, he was a new experience; and the wisdom of the wilderness
is that new experiences had better not be trusted. So while she nosed
the cub tenderly, turning it over with her paw, to see if it had been
injured, she kept one eye jealously on Dusty Star to watch his slightest
movement.

And now that wonderful knowledge of the feelings of wild animals partly
taught him by Kiopo, which he had been gradually gathering all his life,
came to his aid and told him what to do. For while his body remained so
absolutely motionless that he hardly seemed to breathe, his mind made
itself a finer body, and went out towards the fox; and the fox,
receiving the message, learnt that she had nothing to fear. For all
that, she was not easy that the cub should be left in the open, so far
from the den's mouth. Dusty Star she had ceased to mistrust; but her
instinct told her that, although the Catamount had disappeared, he was
still in the neighbourhood. So before she allowed herself to find out
any more about Dusty Star, she picked up the cub by the loose skin at
the back of its fat little neck, and carried it back to the den. As a
matter of fact, the Catamount was further than she knew, and now sat in
the fork of a red-cedar tree, licking the wound inflicted by Dusty
Star's knife, and making up his mind that if this new monster, with a
paw that struck so fiercely was a protector of the foxes, it would be
wiser to leave the entire gang severely alone.

When Baltook returned from his hunting with a plump partridge in his
mouth, he was confronted by a strange sight. At the very entrance of
their den he saw his mate sitting wholly at her ease, with a _human
being_ by her side.

In all his life of surprises, Baltook had never come upon anything so
surprising as that. Boola must be crazy--gone clean mad before the time
of the Mad Moon when the wolves and foxes sing. Yet Boola had no
appearance of madness. She just sat and gazed at the human being with
extreme calmness as if she had known him all her life. For a moment or
two, Baltook stood observing this astonishing sight, with one fore foot
raised, as if uncertain what to do. Then he laid the partridge down
quietly in order to get clear of the smell of the kill and so be able to
scent the stranger. Screened by the bushes, he wrinkled his fine nose,
and sniffed, and wrinkled, and wrinkled and sniffed, and still was
unable to make up his mind. And there Boola sat all the time, as calm as
a toadstool and seemed to have neither eyes nor ears except for her new
friend.

At last Baltook could bear the suspense no longer. With his brush held
high, and his eyes shining, he stepped warily out into the open.

When Boola saw her mate approaching, she rose to her feet with a low
growl. But the growl was not meant as a sign of anger: it was merely her
way of saying "Now, here we've got a visitor. Mind how you behave." Yet
behind these words, if she had used them (which she didn't!) her mind
was disturbed. A strange creature was close beside her, whom, though he
had proved himself friendly, Baltook did not know.

It was extremely difficult to explain anything at all. Because it really
was an unheard of thing that an Indian boy should sit neighbourly at
your front door, and spill his mind out at you in a way you couldn't
smell! Yet when Dusty Star did it, it didn't seem odd at all, but as if
it were the most natural thing in the world. Yet now Baltook came, and
made it seem all odd again, because he carried with him the _foxiness of
things_ which had always remained foxy since the beginning of the world!

In this embarrassing situation, there was only one thing to be done, and
Boola did it. She advanced six paces toward her mate, and touched his
nose with hers. Among the wild peoples the nose is a most important
organ for conveying information. Because great persons like the
President of the United States and the King of England do not use it for
conversational purposes, does not alter the fact. Just exactly what
Boola told Baltook by this means, I do not know. Whatever it was,
Baltook was reassured, and came slowly up to the mouth of the den. Dusty
Star never stirred. But again--as he had done with Boola--he moved his
mind towards Baltook, while he kept his body still.

And so, while the afternoon climbed still higher, and the evening came
softly after it, on its soundless shadow-feet, the three sat on silently
together and learnt to know each other, without anything being said. It
is like that in the forest-life. You sit in silence, with your mind
open; and so you learn to understand.

When at last Baltook and then Boola began to show signs of restlessness,
Dusty Star knew it was time to go. He never said good-bye. There was no
need. He just rose to his feet quietly and walked down into the trees.
The two foxes carefully smelt the place where he had sat, and then,
while Boola went back to her cubs, Baltook followed the trail.

It was very dark when Dusty Star reached the camp. Kiopo, who was out
hunting, had not returned. Dusty Star made a fire by rubbing two sticks
together in the Indian way, in order to be ready to cook anything which
Kiopo might bring back.

In the gloom of the dark woods, a black shadow having a wrinkling nose
sat up and smelt the fire with wonder, and violent disapproval; and when
a little later, the figure of an enormous wolf holding a hare in his
jaws, glided into the open, the shadow with the wrinkling nose followed
the best fox-wisdom and melted back into the trees.

Although Dusty Star did not actually tell Kiopo where he had been
visiting, Kiopo smelt foxiness, and learnt a good deal. Foxes he did not
mind, so long as they behaved themselves. If Dusty Star had been with
them, Kiopo was not going to make a fuss. So, Dusty Star cooked and ate
his hare supper, and thought of the little foxes, and wished they had
the bones.



CHAPTER XII

GOSHMEELEE


In the deep, damp silence of the ancient forest you could not hear a
sound. Through the swampy thickets, sodden with old rain, and floored
with slime, nothing stirred. The very trees--cedar, tamarack, waterash,
and black poplar--seemed to do their growing by stealth, as if afraid of
its being found out. Even the skunk cabbage--that robust
vegetable--spread its broad leaves craftily, as if it covered a world of
secrecy, and might at any moment be forced to confess. If any life were
gnawing at the roots of this damp silence, or paddling among the slime,
its teeth and toes were muffled. The world just here was dreadfully
damp, dreadfully secret, and dreadfully old.

Not a nice nursery for babies, you might imagine. In such a place, if
ever a baby were rash enough to get born there, you would think it must
be born old, and be damp for the rest of its days. Which only shows how
deceptive things may be. For--in the very heart of the dampness, and
where the ancientness was so old as to have begun falling to pieces--two
perfectly new, and (what is perhaps even more surprising) perfectly dry
babies were curled up in a hollow scooped out between the roots of a
couple of hemlocks growing together on a knoll! Neither the dampness,
nor the ancientness, nor the silence, nor the gloom, nor any of the
other things which would have made ordinary civilized people
uncomfortable, had the least effect upon the babies. To be quite
truthful, I must here remark that it was partly because they were fast
asleep. If you curl yourself up very tight, and sleep very sound, and
if, when you wake, you spend a good deal of your spare time in taking in
food, it is quite surprising what a snug place the old, damp world may
seem; and it would be quite ridiculous to sit up and worry.

Except very rarely the babies did not sit up. Their usual position when
awake was a sprawling one on their stomachs, while they pushed their
little fore paws into their mother's and sucked and sucked and sucked.
And most certainly they never worried; worrying being a disease which
grown people seem to catch from each other in places where the sky
scrapers go up and scratch the stars.

The babies in the tamarack swamp knew nothing about civilization. Their
umbrella was the hemlock and their mother's body was the stove. And if a
raving wind moaned gustily in the poplars, and twisted the tamaracks
till they creaked, the umbrella never closed and the stove never burned
out.

Perhaps I ought to be a little more accurate about the stove. It did not
burn out, but it sometimes _went_ out. Occasionally when the babies woke
up, they found that the stove had gone out walking, taking care,
however, to leave part of its warmth behind.

One day Dusty Star, on his way across to the opposite side of the valley
to dig roots, passed through the spruce wood which skirted the swamp on
its eastern side. On the brown, elastic carpet of dead fir needles, he
went without paying any special heed to his footsteps, because the
travelling was so good. Suddenly round the end of a hollow tree, he
found himself face to face with a large black she-bear.

Now Dusty Star knew nothing about the babies in the tamarack swamp, nor
that this great furry blackness was their blessed heating apparatus gone
out for a walk. But he knew that a bear as a bear can be an extremely
dangerous animal if there is any reason for its being cross. Also he
knew that, of all the wild creatures, a bear is the most human, and is
prepared, at a moment's notice, to do all sorts of unexpected things.

Goshmeelee gazed at Dusty Star with disapproval out of her little
shining eyes. She had no desire to have people hanging about the borders
of the tamarack swamp, whether they had business there or not. They
might mean no harm to her babies, even if they found them, which was
very unlikely; but she wasn't going to take any risks. What sort of
creature this new animal was, she couldn't directly decide. Its going on
its hind legs was bear-like, but, except on the top of its head, it was
very deficient in fur.

Dusty Star remembered that Lone-Chief once presented to him a piece of
very old Indian wisdom: "Bear won't bother you, if you don't bother
bear." But in case you _did_ meet a bear that seemed determined to be
bothered, another piece ran: "If Bear is angry, make medicine with your
mouth."

Now although Dusty Star was sure he hadn't done anything to make
Goshmeelee angry, he was quick enough to see by the glint in her eyes
that she was uneasy in her mind. So, he thought it could do no harm if
he followed Lone-Chief's second piece of advice.

The "medicine" he made with his mouth was very curious. It consisted of
all sorts of Indian words the like of which Goshmeelee had never heard
in all her life before. The sound was very strange, yet she did not find
it altogether unpleasant. A creature that could make a noise like this
was certainly to be studied. So, in order to study more at her ease
Goshmeelee sat down in front of Dusty Star, with her big black paws
hanging in front of her, while she held her head first on one side and
then on the other, in a comical kind of way.

Translated into our own language, this is the "medicine" which Dusty
Star made:

    "I am the Little Brother.
    I am the Little Brother to all the Forest Folk.
    But I am the Little Brother to Kiopo first of all.
    The forest is very big, and has many ranges.
    If it is big enough for me, it is big enough for you.
    If I have got into your range, there's no occasion for you to fuss.
    The Bears are a wise folk.    They have a strong medicine.
    When they are among the trees, they are in the middle of their
      medicine.
    My folk live a long way back east, where the sun comes up out of
      the prairies.
    They have a medicine which they make among the Lodges.
    It is a strong medicine, and many birds and beasts have given it
      their power.
    Our medicine-men make it in the moon when the Thunder-bird claps his
      wings in Heaven.
    You cannot harm me, even if you wished it.
    My medicine is stronger than your medicine of the Bears."

Dusty Star paused. All the time he had been making his "medicine,"
Goshmeelee, except for turning her head from one side to another in her
droll way, had never moved. It is true that she did not understand a
single word of what Dusty Star had said. In spite of that she was
impressed. Somehow, or other, the power of the "medicine" had spelled
itself out of the words and trickled into her head. She knew that this
creature that owned the strange medicine was something she must not
hurt. She also knew that he would not hurt _her_. But the babies! In her
fierce mother-love, they mattered more than herself. On their account
she was not quite satisfied.

How Dusty Star became aware that Goshmeelee had cubs, is one of the many
mysteries. The forest is a place of hidden secrets. Yet sometimes the
secrets get carried, like thistledown, on fine currents, and are passed
from brain to brain. So, gradually, a light dawned on Dusty Star; and he
_knew_. And in the same secret way, Goshmeelee knew that he knew, and
also was aware that she need have no fear. As her mind was at rest, she
allowed her body to be also. And in order to be completely at her ease,
she sat down where she was widest, and looked at her new acquaintance
with a humorous expression in her little gleaming eyes.

"It is a good place for them." Dusty Star remarked, after he had looked
at Goshmeelee silently for some time.

By "Them" he referred, of course, to the cubs.

Goshmeelee simply blinked. But the blink was as good as if she had said:

"I, Goshmeelee, am a person of much wisdom. If I choose a place, I know
what I am about. My children have everything which they require."

Naturally Dusty Star wasn't going to argue as to whether Goshmeelee was
a suitable parent for her own children.

"Wolves not wanted," she suddenly remarked.

Dusty Star, looking at her, saw that the humour had gone out of her
eyes. She looked almost fierce. Kiopo had not been mentioned. But he saw
that Goshmeelee knew.

"I shall tell my wolf," he said quietly. "He will not harm them!"

A look shot out of Goshmeelee's eyes which there was no mistaking. It
said, as plainly as words, that if any wolf was so ill-advised as to
attempt to harm any babies he might happen to find in that swamp, she
had a claw or two, in a paw or two, which that wolf would devoutly wish
had been pulled out when she was born!

After that, the conversation, which had never been very fluent, dragged
a little, and though Goshmeelee didn't cease to be friendly, Dusty Star
felt that perhaps it was time that the interview came to an end. So,
letting her understand how glad he was to have made her acquaintance,
and again assuring her that neither he nor his wolf were persons to be
uneasy about, he moved quietly away.

Goshmeelee watched him carefully till he was out of sight, and then
remarked to herself, that the forest was becoming dreadfully
overcrowded, and that she hoped the new Carboona neighbours would know
how to behave.

If she had happened to be at the other end of the swamp, and had seen
another human figure working its way stealthily through the underbrush,
as if it wished to avoid observation, her feeling about over-crowding
would have been even stronger than it was. But fortunately for her peace
of mind, she did not see it, and so went back to the lair between the
hemlock roots totally unconscious of the fact that a far more
objectionable intruder than Dusty Star had crossed the borders of the
forbidden land which swampily surrounded the treasures of her heart.

As he returned home, Dusty Star also was equally unaware of the intruder
picking a cautious way through the shadowy stillness on moccasins that
seemed to avoid by instinct every fallen twig. He, too, by force of
habit, moved silently through the woods. But by this time he had ceased
to feel that he was in a strange land, and followed the trail with the
certainty of one who knows he is going home.

Very different, indeed, the passage of that other figure, which seemed
to be seeking for something which kept itself in hiding behind the
forest screen.

And although in his own evil heart, Double Runner knew full well the
object of his search, to the eyes of the wilderness he was a suspicious
mystery that followed an unknown quest along an invisible trail.

And so along that trail, nearer and nearer to the Yellow Dog camp by the
Chetawa river, and little guessing that less than half-a-league divided
him at the moment from his unsuspecting prey, Double Runner, the artful
mischief-maker, took his noiseless path.



CHAPTER XIII

"NEW BED-FELLOWS"


The days in the new home slipped quietly one after the other without
anything particular happening, till once again Dusty Star found himself
in the neighbourhood of the Tamarack Swamp. He was not thinking of
Goshmeelee; and as the point at which he approached it was a long
distance from the spot where they had met, he had not the least idea
that he was anywhere near her lair. The thing which occupied his mind
was how he could get across the swamp without sticking in the slime. Of
course he could have avoided it altogether by going round; but that
would have meant a long tramp, and he wanted to reach the camp before
the evening fell.

It was just the hour before the coming-on of dusk when the swamp
appeared at its worst for damp, draughtiness and general dismalness. On
the surface of its stagnant pools nothing stirred, but if you waited
long enough, peering close into the black depths, bubbles would rise
slowly, telling you that things lived oozily far down in the fat slime.
And for all it was so terribly still, the air, when you stopped to
consider it, was full of low breathings, tickings, and watery whispers,
that seemed to come from hidden pockets, and tangles in the weeds. Every
tree, branch and stone had its covering of moss, or lichen. The lichen
was grey like very old hair. The moss was green with the greenness of
things that are very damp.

But here and there in this waste of watery bog, there were knolls of
dryness, like islands, where hemlocks or hardwoods lifted their twisted
boughs. And it was possible, if you knew the geography of the place, to
work your way from one island to another without getting bogged in
between. Dusty Star had reached one of these islands, sheltered by two
hemlock trees, when he noticed a deep hollow scooped out between their
roots. He stooped down and saw to his astonishment two baby bears curled
up together and fast asleep. They looked so beautiful with their little
bulgy bodies cuddled close against each other, that he loved them at
first sight. He was so much taken up with admiring them that he did not
notice a large black body moving quietly but surely along a well-worn
trail across the swamp. And it was only when he heard a quick rush and a
snort of rage that he realized his danger.

It was the mother bear!

There was no time to tell her that he was doing no harm to her cubs.
There was no time to escape. Three tremendous leaps, and she was upon
him--almost! Then, in the very last fraction of a second, an
extraordinary thing happened. It was as if the bear's great body almost
twisted itself in the very middle of its spring. Even then, it only
missed Dusty Star's body by an inch.

"Nearly finished you _that_ time!" would have been Goshmeelee's comment,
if she had put her mind into words.

The very instant she landed she knew that Dusty Star had not touched her
cubs. It was because she recognised in a flash that it _was_ Dusty Star
she was attacking, which had made her last fatal spring fall short of
its mark. Even then, it was a moment or two before she fully recovered
from the effect upon her nerves.

"Don't do it again!" she seemed to say, looking at the boy out of her
little glittering eyes.

Dusty Star gave her to understand that far from doing it again, he had
never meant to do it once. Bear babies he regarded as absolutely
untouchable, beautiful and bulgy though they were. Somehow or other,
Goshmeelee believed him. She thrust her great head and shoulders into
the hollow, and began to lick the cubs with her enormous tongue. This
was not so much for cleaning perhaps, as to comfort herself after her
anxiety. The cubs hated being cleaned. One sweep of that great tongue
was warranted to spring-clean a cub down all one side from throat to
tail. And if the cub objected, a huge paw would deftly turn him over and
clean the other side with aggravating thoroughness. It was an added
annoyance to the cubs to be washed so late in the day. What they wanted
at that hour was food, not washing--extra nourishment, not extra tongue.
They squealed and wriggled and gave miniature growls and tried to bite
their mother's paw. Their behavior was very wicked indeed. Goshmeelee,
being used to their wickedness, calmly went on cleaning.

When she had finished, she backed out of the hollow and sat down to look
at Dusty Star; and her look said as plainly as possible, "What are you
going to do?"

[Illustration: HER LOOK SAID AS PLAINLY AS POSSIBLE, "WHAT ARE YOU GOING
TO DO?"]

Dusty Star had not decided upon doing anything, and he let Goshmeelee
understand that his mind was open to any fresh ideas. As Goshmeelee
didn't happen to have any fresh ones at the moment, she hadn't any to
pass on. Dusty Star looked away across the swamp. It was growing dark,
and the black pools were even blacker than before. Unless you knew a
path, it would be impossible to find your way across, now that the dusk
had fallen. Goshmeelee, could have done it, of course, but then she was
at home. Goshmeelee, however, had no intention of doing any such thing.
If persons chose to visit at awkward times, she really couldn't be
expected to see them safely home.

Blackness was in the swamp now: all its pools and bogs and rotting logs
seemed breathing out a damp dusk of their own, heavy with decay.

Dusty Star looked at Goshmeelee and shivered. _She_ looked dark enough
in her black fur, but also warm and _dry_. There was an air of large
comfortableness about Goshmeelee which was very pleasant to contemplate
on a damp night. Dusty Star contemplated, and had an idea. When the bear
turned into her lair, he had made up his mind. He gave her time to
settle herself comfortably, and arrange the cubs to her liking, and then
boldly crept in after her.

To say that Goshmeelee was surprised, is putting it very mildly.
Goshmeelee was thunderstruck. In all her great experience, extending
over many moons, such an utterly amazing happening had never before
taken place. If any other creature--beast, bird or human-being--had
attempted to approach her precious cubs, Goshmeelee would have barely
given it time to wish it had never been born. But when this small Indian
boy fearlessly did the quite impossibly monstrous thing--actually
pushing himself in beside her as if he were another cub--she had every
claw and tooth ready to tear him into little strips, but--she hadn't
_the heart_!

What it was in Dusty Star that made him different from every other
creature she had ever come across, she didn't in the least know. Only
she felt that the difference was there. Also, she felt quite certain,
that, whatever he was, or did, he wouldn't damage the cubs.

It was very cosy in the lair, not to say stuffy. Also, there was very
little room. If you wanted to be thoroughly comfortable, you hadn't to
be backward about pushing. The cubs weren't troubled with a feeling of
backwardness. First one gave a good shove, and then the other. Dusty
Star, nestling close against Goshmeelee's furry side, felt distinctly
jostled.

When the cubs discovered that a third cub had pushed its way into their
proper bed, they grumbled and shoved all the harder. Dusty Star soon
found that there were two sides to his share of the den: one was the
soft one against Goshmeelee: the other was the hard one against a piece
of hemlock root. The more the cubs shoved, the more he felt the root. It
was no good saying "Don't!" The cubs didn't understand "Don't." Even
when their mother growled at them, they kept on pushing and grumbling
and making a fuss, so that _no_ one could be comfortable, or pretend to
go to sleep. Dusty Star made medicine with his voice--much medicine. He
also pushed and shoved. He was not very polite; but then when people are
sleepy they are not always polite, and the cubs really were very
inhospitable. Goshmeelee was at her wits end to know what to do. Short
of cuffing everybody all round, there seemed nothing to be done but
growl. So growl she did, till all her body seemed a big thunder-box,
with a lid that was always on the point of bursting open.

But by degrees the cubs got sleepier and sleepier, and at last forgot to
push. And the rumbling in the thunder-box died away. And Dusty Star,
pressed close against the great old thundermaker, slept his first sleep
among the bears.

When the early morning twilight was stealing into the black places of
the swamp, he crept softly out of the warm furry darkness of the lair,
and picked his way across the bog.

And when he finally reached home, he found that Kiopo had not yet
returned from his night's hunting, and so would not ask him any awkward
questions about his very beary smell. For though you might hide things
from Kiopo's eyes, and ears, it was dreadfully difficult to conceal them
from his nose.



CHAPTER XIV

THE "YELLOW DOGS"


One day about a week after Dusty Star's night in the swamp, he was
returning with Kiopo from a long excursion in the forest, which they had
been exploring to the east, when suddenly a large fox came leaping down
a run-way straight in front of them.

He stopped dead the moment he caught sight of them. Kiopo, who was in
front, growled.

Dusty Star expected to see the fox instantly turn tail, and was
surprised to see that it stood its ground, though it held one paw
suspended, as if for immediate escape. Still growling in a threatening
manner, Kiopo advanced. His hackles were raised, and Dusty Star saw that
he lowered his body slightly in preparation for attack. Then, in a
flash, he recognised his new acquaintance, the Silver Fox.

At once he grabbed Kiopo by the thick mane on his neck, and gave him
clearly to understand that this was a friend whom he must not attack.
Kiopo stopped growling, and stood still, while Dusty Star stepped
quietly forward towards the fox.

Whatever it was that had startled Baltook, it was quite plain that he
was in flight, and that the danger behind alarmed him more than that in
front. He allowed Dusty Star to approach to within a few feet, though
his wary gaze was fixed upon the wolf, who now came up slowly to Dusty
Star's side.

Baltook, watching warily, never winked an eyelid; but his unwinking eyes
spoke. "Danger!" they said, as clearly as if he had put the warning into
words.

"There is danger coming behind me--coming quickly. There are strangers
in the forest. The trees hide them. But they are coming quickly along
the trail."

And then, as noiselessly as he had come, Baltook leaped lightly into the
underwood, and disappeared.

In spite of the warning the silver fox had given, Dusty Star was at a
loss as to what was best to be done. Both the danger, and its direction,
were equally vague. In what part of the forest Baltook had met it, he
had not said. Dusty Star's senses were keen, but he knew that Kiopo's
were keener. It was for Kiopo to decide. So he contented himself by
watching the wolf to see what he would do.

At first Kiopo did nothing, except to throw his nose into the wind;
After waiting a little, Dusty Star moved forward. A low growl from Kiopo
checked him. He turned in the opposite direction. Kiopo growled again.

By this time, the sympathy between them was so close that the slightest
hint was enough to say what they wanted. So that whenever Kiopo went so
far as to growl, Dusty Star always knew that something was seriously
amiss and never failed to take the warning.

And now, Kiopo began to move in the same direction as that which the fox
had taken. Moreover he went quickly, as if there was no time to lose.
Dusty Star realized that they were travelling rapidly westward, but not
towards the camp.

The forest was intensely still. There was no sound save that of their
own going, as they brushed against the undergrowth where it was too
thick to avoid. Yet the further they went, Dusty Star was aware of an
increasing sense of fear. Kiopo, too, was plainly growing more and more
uneasy. In spite of his anxiety to cover the ground, he went with
extreme caution. If it had not been for Dusty Star, he would have
travelled much more quickly. As it was, he kept looking behind,
impatiently waiting for the boy to catch up. Yet the speed at which they
travelled did not seem to carry them out of reach of that mysterious
danger threatening them behind.

For a long time Dusty Star had observed that they were travelling
uphill; so that when, at last, they reached more open ground and came
out on the top of a cliff, at the edge of a deep ravine, he was not
surprised. The place was utterly unknown to him; yet Kiopo appeared to
be on familiar ground. He trotted on down a shelving ledge dividing the
upper from the lower part of the cliff, and Dusty Star followed. At a
point where the ledge turned abruptly round an angle of the cliff, Kiopo
suddenly looked back, stopped, and showed his teeth. Dusty Star saw an
Indian come out from the forest almost at the same point at which they
themselves had left it, and then turn towards the ledge. A moment
afterwards he was followed by several more.

Without waiting to see if a still larger band now followed, Dusty Star
ran quickly on, with Kiopo closely at his heels. As they proceeded, the
gorge grew narrower.

Suddenly the ledge came to an end, so that it was impossible for them to
continue any further. Above them, rose a precipitous wall of rock.
Below, the precipice plunged sheer to the bed of the ravine. To return
by the way they had come, was to run straight into the arms of their
pursuers. One chance only remained: to leap the chasm before them.

It was not more than could be cleared by a vigorous jump; but down below
was a terrifying depth where the shrunken stream sent up a hollow sound
among the stones. If, after jumping you failed to make good foothold,
you would go down to almost certain destruction in the black throat of
the gorge.

Dusty Star was fully alive to the danger. But he knew that a still
greater danger was coming on behind. He pressed himself against the rock
at his back, in order to make the most of the few steps possible for a
run, drew a deep breath, and then took a flying leap over the chasm. He
heard the dull roar of the water, he saw the yawning blackness below,
and then found himself clinging for dear life to the roots of a stone
pine on the opposite bank.

He pulled himself into safety, and looked back, expecting to see Kiopo
follow him at once; but Kiopo did not move.

"Kiopo!" he called. "Kiopo!"

The wolf never turned his head. Dusty Star looked nervously back along
the gorge. A few moments afterwards the figure of an Indian came quickly
around the turn. Rigid as the rock against which he crouched, Kiopo
never stirred. Dusty Star watched with breathless excitement. He knew
that the wolf's stillness meant deadly danger to the unconscious Indian.
The latter came quickly on. In the intense silence the soft padding of
his deer-skin moccasins was plainly audible.

From where Dusty Star crouched, he was invisible to the Indian. So also
was Kiopo hidden by the rock. The boy saw at a glance that the man was
not of his own people, but belonged to the dreaded Yellow Dogs. Now the
Indian had almost reached the rocks. Dusty Star saw Kiopo's powerful
haunches quiver, and held his breath.

The next instant he saw the wolf's great body hurl itself through the
air.

Quick as lightning, the Indian leaped aside. Kiopo's terrible fangs
missed his throat by a finger's breadth. In a flash, the Indian's
tomahawk was out. Kiopo did not wait, and cleared the chasm with a
bound.

And now Dusty Star could see that several more Indians were coming down
the ledge. When they reached the spot where Kiopo had launched his
attack they stopped and examined the opposite bank carefully. Like Dusty
Star, Kiopo had drawn himself out of sight, among the thick mass of
brambles, and creepers.

The Indian who had been attacked could be seen pointing out to his
companions the exact point at which the wolf had disappeared. Dusty Star
watched them with a terrible fear growing moment by moment. If their
pursuers succeeded in making the crossing, he and Kiopo were only two
against five. At present, they were in a sort of rude cave formed by the
roots of the pine and screened by the hanging foliage; but in order to
continue their flight, it would be necessary to come out full in view of
their enemies and risk exposure to their deadly arrows.

They had not long to wait in suspense. They saw one of the Indians
prepare to take the leap.

Close against his side, Dusty Star could feel Kiopo's body shivering
with excitement.

Through the opening in the leaves, he saw an Indian lean back against
the rock as he himself had done in preparation for the spring. The next
instant Kiopo dashed through the opening with a snarl of fury.

Dusty Star saw him meet the Indian at the moment his feet touched the
rock. The body of the wolf and the man seemed to sway together for one
agonized moment on the very brink of the precipice. Then there was a
ringing scream, and both disappeared from view over the edge of the
abyss.



CHAPTER XV

THE TAKING OF DUSTY STAR


For the first few moments after this awful event, Dusty Star was too
terrified to do anything but crouch where he was. Through the opening he
could see the Indians gesticulating wildly on the other side of the
chasm, as they gazed down into the gorge. Then they disappeared, and
peering out from behind the foliage, he saw that they were retreating
rapidly along the ledge.

He waited a little to allow them to get out of sight; then cautiously
climbed down from his hiding place, and, lowering himself by the
pine-tree's roots till he hung over the very edge of the precipice,
looked down, dreading what he might see.

What he saw, was only a mass of shadowy boulders, far below, with the
wreck of a pine-tree fallen across the creek. Not a sign of Kiopo, or of
his victim! He listened intently. He heard the hollow wash of waters,
rising and falling in a muffled roar, as the flow of the air rushed
through the neck of the gorge. There was no other sound.

It was not possible to climb down at this point. Even if it had been, he
dreaded lest the Indians might be there before him. Nevertheless he
could not bear to remain in uncertainty as to what had been the fate of
Kiopo, who had so nobly defended his life at the risk of his own. He
felt that, at all costs, he must find his way down to the depths of that
terrible gorge.

To do this, owing to the necessity of travelling back along the ravine,
took him so long that darkness had fallen before he would reach a place
where the descent would be possible. After wandering about for some
time, he became completely lost, and it was not till the morning of the
following day that he was at length able to make his way back to the
camp.

During all his wanderings, he was comforted by a vague hope that Kiopo
might, after all, have miraculously escaped with his life, and have
reached the camp before him. But when he came in sight of the familiar
landmarks, and arrived at last to find the place wholly deserted, a
terrible loneliness settled down upon him. The night passed, and the
following day. Still there was no sign of Kiopo. Dusty Star did not like
to leave the camp, in case the wolf should return in his absence and not
find him there to welcome him. He kept hoping against hope that the
worst had not happened. The thought that Kiopo was killed, that he had
seen his faithful companion for the last time, was unthinkable. Kiopo
_must_ come back! He had told himself that he had been injured in the
fall from the precipice, and was in hiding somewhere till his wounds
should heal; Or that he had lost his way, and was wandering in the
forest; Or, being hungry, that he had followed the trail of some
far-travelling buck, and would not return till he had gorged himself
with his kill! Any of these things! But not that other unthinkable
thing, in the black throat of the gorge!

And all round the little valley that now seemed so deserted, the forest
stood gigantically silent, as if it _knew_.

Not far from the camp, grew an immense hemlock. Over its dusky summit a
thousand moons had waxed and waned. The shadow of its boughs was the
darkness that had followed the dead moons. Several times, Dusty Star had
seen Kiopo re-appear from its gloomy shade after he had been away on
some of his long hunting expeditions. Now, he found himself continually
turning his anxious gaze in its direction.

Suddenly, as he looked, he thought he saw something move. He was not
sure. The space under the tree was very dark. Anything might crouch
there and be invisible, even at high noon. What was it?--animal or
human? He could not tell. The great old tree looked as if it had known
no motion within the circle of its shade for a thousand years. Yet Dusty
Star was not to be deceived. He _knew_ that he had seen!

Yet for all his looking at the tree, he saw nothing more. The movement,
whatever had made it, had been very slight. He would have thought
nothing was there if it had not been for the instinct which continual
dwelling among the wild creatures had developed in him: _he felt he was
being watched_.

For some time, he could not make up his mind what to do. He knew that
his smallest movement would not escape the unseen watcher. As the time
went on, the suspense became unbearable. He felt he must do something
definite. Gathering all his courage, he advanced deliberately towards
the tree.

Except his hunting knife, he carried no weapon. But Dusty Star was no
coward. Even though his heart was pounding, and his body tingling, he
did not falter. Without pausing for an instant, he stooped beneath the
sweepings boughs, gripping his knife.

To his astonishment, there was nothing to be seen. He went round the
trunk to the farther side and gazed up into the overhanging gloom.
Still, nothing! He examined the ground all about with the minutest care.
Whatever had lurked there a minute before had left small trace of its
presence yet slight though the traces were, he detected them. _Something
had been there._

He remained where he was for a long time. He preferred to be the eyes
under the tree rather than allow the tree to get eyes again so that it
might keep watch on _him_!

He was so very still that a couple of wood-mice went running over his
moccasins, and a little black-and-white woodpecker ran up and down the
trunk, searching for insects almost within reach of his hand. But these
things belonged to the ordinary happenings of the forest. There was
neither sight nor sound which gave him any reason to think that the
thing which had watched under the hemlock was still lurking in the
neighbourhood.

After a while he felt he could not stay any longer in the gloom. As he
stepped out into the warm current of air, he had a sense of intense
relief. Yet he did not wish to continue his watch from the camp, because
of its nearness to the hemlock, lest there should steal back into its
blind gloom the eyes that made it see.

So he climbed through the scrub up the mountain-side till he came out
upon a grassy slope, two hundred feet above the camp.

He was above the tops of the sombre spruce woods now. The slanting
sunbeams touched their summits into bronze and ruddy gold. Yet always,
beneath the gold,--as Dusty Star well knew--lay the heavy green silence
that never stirred even at noon, where the furtive feet padded softly
over the brown fir-needles, and the furtive eyes glimmered in the gloom.

In the valley beneath nothing moved. From a thousand miles of forest and
mountain the silence seemed to be oozing into it, filling it to the
brim. And at his back, rose Carboona. From all its gorges, precipices
and barrens there came not a single sound. The vast world of the
afternoon seemed heavily asleep. Worn out with all his watching, Dusty
Star also slept.

When he awoke, the last ray of sunlight had left the eastern peaks. At
his feet the camp lay in deep shadow.

Ah, why did not the Spirit of the Wild Places come to him now, and tell
him not to go down? At various times already during the life the Spirit
had warned him, he didn't know how. There had been no distinct shape,
nor any sound. But the same mysterious warning, that tells moose and
caribou when danger threatens, had come to him also, and he had turned
aside, or taken another trail. And so, whatever the unknown peril was,
it had been escaped. Yet now, even though he needed it as never before,
the warning did not come. But perhaps the Spirit had gone upon a long
trail, and had not yet returned? Or perhaps it had considered the
experience of the hemlock sufficient. Whatever was the reason, nothing
warned him now as he went into the shadow of the trees.

Dusty Star's mind was filled with one thought--the wild hope that Kiopo
might have returned: but when he reached the camp the place was empty,
and everything desolate as before.

He gave a long look up and down the valley into the fast-falling night,
and his heart sank. The forest was very dark now. The hemlock was inky
black. He went to bed with a heavy heart.

He slept uneasily, waking from time to time; but it was only to hear the
solemn cry of a horned owl sitting on some dead limb, or rampike; or the
long, wailing laughter of a loon from the water-meadows to the south.

And once, far off in Carboona, he heard the hunting-call of a wolf. Even
at that remote distance he knew it was not Kiopo's deep-toned, vibrating
bellow.

He was fast asleep when the wolf-call came again. As it rang faintly
out, a shadowy form, gliding from under the hemlock, paused to listen.
When, receiving no answer, it had died away, the form moved stealthily
on.

Dusty Star woke with a start. He knew that something had disturbed him,
but could not tell what it was. He listened intently. Over the valley he
heard the notes of a pair of night-hawks swooping down from the hill;
and between the stones, the stream went with a wandering murmur. That
was all.

He lifted himself on his elbow, and looked towards the doorway. A
silvery glimmer showed that the moon had not yet set. As he looked out;
a man's shape darkened the entrance of the hut.

Dusty Star held his breath. In the absolute stillness, he could hear his
heart thump against his ribs.

The man entered the hut. Instantly Dusty Star sprang for the opening. As
he did so, he felt arms thrown round him. He struggled frantically, but,
in that strong Indian grasp, he was powerless, and the next moment he
was dragged mercilessly outside the hut.

Half-a-dozen Indians immediately surrounded him; but not a word was
spoken. While two of them held him, a third passed a deer-skin thong
round his chest, fastening it securely under his arms.

The thing had been done so rapidly, that from the moment when the
Indian's shape darkened the doorway till that when the whole party moved
noiselessly down the valley with their captive in their midst, the thin
shadow of a rampike falling on the moonlit space in front of the tepee
had scarcely shifted its black finger an inch towards the east.

In spite of the fact that it was night, the Indians travelled quickly,
owing to the moonlight. It was only under the trees, or in the shadow of
some great rock, that the darkness made it necessary to slacken the
pace. As they went, Dusty Star kept listening backward along the trail.
Suppose, at the last moment, Kiopo should have returned? Finding the hut
empty, Dusty Star knew that he would start instantly in pursuit. But
suppose he did not come back in time to get the scent before it faded
from the trail? Even _his_ fine nose would not serve him on a cold
trail. Once only, when they were nearing the end of the valley, Dusty
Star caught a faint wolf-howl very far behind; but whether this was
Kiopo's voice or not, it was impossible to say.

It was evident that the Indians had some idea that the wolf might follow
them, for it was plain, by the speed with which they were travelling,
that they were anxious to push on with the least possible delay. They
were among the spruce woods now, and the air was full of the
unmistakable smell of the trees, with that peculiar tang one could never
forget. They travelled in single file. Even when it was so dark that
Dusty Star could scarcely see his captors before, or behind, the
deer-skin thong about his chest was always there to prove their presence
as it tightened or slackened according to the pace, or the unevenness of
the ground.

At dawn, they reached the thin edges of the forest. Dusty Star's heart
sank. If Kiopo had caught them up in the thick woods, there would have
been some chance of escape under cover of his whirlwind method of attack
which would have suggested a pack of wolves rather than one. But now, in
the more open country and the growing light, this would not be possible.

The Indians quickened their pace. In the day-light, Dusty Star
recognised them as belonging to the same tribe as those who had followed
him and Kiopo a few days earlier; Yellow Dogs every man of them, under
the leadership of Double Runner.

It was near noon before they reached the head of a long lake. Dusty Star
could see the water glimmering far away to the south over the tops of
the red Indian willows. Without pausing for an instant, the Indians
pushed their way through the thicket, their moccasins sinking deeply in
the spongy ground between the willow roots. Then they pulled out a
slender canoe of birch-bark concealed among the reeds.

Dusty Star had never seen a canoe before. It struck him with
astonishment; and when his captors forced him to get in, and he found
himself floating on the water, his astonishment was mingled with fear,
especially when, urged by the vigorous strokes of the Indian paddles,
the canoe shot out into the open. Once out upon the lake he was utterly
amazed. Prairie-bred, he had never imagined it possible that so much
water could exist. And it was deep, very deep! When you looked down, you
could not see any bottom. And the thin sides of the canoe seemed a poor
protection from the rippling vastness of that inland sea. The waves
struck the bows with a husky noise. Dusty Star dreaded that at any
moment, the canoe might be engulfed. Already the willow-thicket where
they had embarked seemed a long distance away. A feeling of despair took
hold of him. The thicket was the last place where Kiopo could find the
trail; for, as Dusty Star knew too well, all trails die out upon the
running watery smell.

When at last the Indians reached the end of their journey, Dusty Star
found himself in a large camp near a stream which flowed into the river
down which they had come from the lake.

Their arrival caused a great deal of excitement among the inhabitants,
who came crowding round to examine the captive. It was evident to Dusty
Star that they had already received the news of Kiopo's attack upon the
Indian who had jumped the gorge. As he looked at the hostile faces
crowded about him, as if he were some strange wild animal, his heart
sank. In spite of his youth, he knew only too well what Indian vengeance
meant. After he had been sufficiently examined, the deer-skin thong with
which he was bound was fastened to one of the lodge-poles, and he knew
that, unless a miracle happened, he was a prisoner whose chance of
escape was small indeed.

When night came on, he was ordered to enter the lodge, which he found he
was to share with Double Runner, and another Indian; and, after they
were all inside, the door-flap was securely fastened.

Notwithstanding his long journey and the anxiety of the last few days,
he found it difficult to sleep. All night long he kept waking up with a
start, and then dropping off again into uneasy slumbers, in which the
dread of the uncertain fate in store for him oppressed him with terrible
dreams.

Next morning he was let out again, and the day passed without any sign
as to what his enemies intended to do with him. And at night he was
imprisoned as before. Food was given to him as often as was necessary,
and, although he was kept a close prisoner, carefully guarded day and
night, he was not subjected to any ill-treatment.

Day after day passed, and it became evident that the Yellow Dogs were
preparing for some great ceremony. Plentiful game of all sorts was
brought into camp, and there was much boiling of tongues and other
Indian dainties, filling the air with a juicy smell. The forest people
wrinkled their noses in the tainted breeze, and the word travelled.



CHAPTER XVI

"THE GRIZZLY"


It was old Kitsomax, the mother of the Chief, Spotted Calf, who first
brought the alarming news which spread terror through the camp.

Among all the inhabitants she was the one person who had showed any
kindness towards Dusty Star. His friendlessness and helplessness had
appealed to the old woman's heart. A son of hers had died when he was
just Dusty Star's age, and in the little lonely captive she fancied she
saw a resemblance to her own boy. Only dread of what the tribe might do,
if she were discovered, prevented her from contriving his escape. Yet
she bided her time. If circumstances should favour her, she knew what
she would do.

On the day before the ceremony she had gone down late in the evening to
bring water from the stream. As she was dipping her bucket, stooping
very low, she heard a twig snap. Looking up quickly she saw an enormous
grizzly come out between the alder bushes on the other side of the
stream. She was so terrified, she said, that, for the moment, she could
not rise, but kept crouching on the bank hoping the bear had not seen
her. But when she heard him growl softly and deeply, she knew that he
had scented her. Without daring to draw up the bucket, she had sprung to
her feet and fled.

That same night, Dusty Star was wakened by a loud breathing sound close
to his head, so near that it sounded as if it were in the lodge itself.
He was very much frightened, but lay absolutely still. Something seemed
to brush the outside of the elk-skin covering of the lodge, and then
moved heavily away. Almost directly afterwards, a great clamour arose
among the huskies. It continued some time before all was quiet. But as
the huskies were continually making disturbances in the night for very
little reason, the Indians did not come out.

Next day, unmistakable signs showed that a large bear had visited the
camp. Two huskies had been killed, and a third carried off into the
woods.

It was plain to Dusty Star that the Indians were very much alarmed. This
was partly accounted for (as he gathered from their talk) by the fact
that there existed a legend in the tribe of a great medicine grizzly
which haunted the lower slopes of the mountains, and which was supposed
to be the spirit of Catawa, a famous chief who had been murdered
treacherously many moons ago during one of the tribal feasts. The year
before, at the same time of the year, a grizzly had visited their camp
on the Potamac, and had destroyed one of the tepees. And hunters, coming
over the mountains had brought disquieting accounts of a huge grizzly,
of ferocious habits, whose range extended from the western slopes of
Mount Hunting-Wolf to the northern bank of Potamac. This, they firmly
believed, was the dreaded Catawa. And now, Catawa was come again.

Some said that it would be wise to have a special grizzly-bear dance in
the festival in order to make a strong medicine that should drive Catawa
away; but others were firmly of the opinion, that the bear dance would
only infuriate the grizzly, and that it would be wiser to postpone the
festival until he had left the neighbourhood.

They were still discussing the question, when Double Runner rushed
breathlessly into camp. He said he had gone up the mountains to cut
lodge-poles when he had come upon an enormous grizzly feeding among the
raspberry bushes on a hill to the northward of the camp. The bear had
seen him, and had immediately given chase, and it was only by putting
forth his utmost speed that he had been able to escape.

This alarming news settled the disputed matter of the festival; and it
was decided that it could not be held until the grizzly had either been
killed, or driven far away from the neighbourhood of the camp.

To do this; it would be necessary that all the able-bodied men, young
and old, should form themselves into a strong war-party, and go out to
attack the grizzly wherever he might be found.

This plan was immediately carried out, and in a very short time, the
camp was empty except for the squaws and children and a few of the very
oldest men. As usual, Dusty Star was left fastened surely by the
deer-skin thong.

The day was very warm, and so he sat just outside the tepee observing
the sleepy life of the camp as it went leisurely on through the long
passing of the drowsy afternoon. Kitsomax sat a few feet away, busily
softening a tanned buckskin, which she worked skilfully with her skinny
hands. Several times, Dusty Star noticed that her eyes were upon him
instead of the buckskin, and that then her gaze wandered uneasily round
the camp, as if to see whether any one were watching her. The air was
very still. Apart from the camp, nothing living could be seen, except a
pair of buzzards circling high up in the eastern blue.

Suddenly Kitsomax, after a swift glance all round, leant towards him,
speaking rapidly.

"They will hold the festival after Catawa is driven away. And then they
will kill you, because your wolf killed Little Owl; and because Double
Runner says you belong to the wolves. But I, Kitsomax, do not believe
you intended to harm us. If they had not followed you, your wolf would
not have attacked. If you do as I tell you, you may yet escape before
the festival begins. You must ..."

Here the old squaw broke off suddenly, and bent over her work. Turning
his head, Dusty Star saw that a woman had come out from a neighbouring
tepee, and was looking in their direction.

After that, Kitsomax did not say any more, and Dusty Star went on
staring into the forest, where the shadows looked so cool under the
trees. The words the squaw had said kept on running in his head. "They
will kill you, because your wolf killed Little Owl." The thing of which
the great fear had haunted him since his captivity was true then! The
thing Kiopo had done was to be avenged by his own death. He shuddered as
he thought of the terrible fate in store for him. He knew that Indian
vengeance could be more cruel than the wolves. He longed to ask Kitsomax
if she had heard what had happened to the wolf; but whenever he turned
to do so, it seemed to him that some one was looking their way.

And the thing she had told him was a terror which grew. And although he
looked straight into the forest, he saw it merely as a dense green mass.
What he saw was the terror--the thing that should happen when the
Indians returned.

But all at once the vacancy of his gaze vanished. From the shadow of the
trees, he saw a large form slowly detach itself. It made a few paces
towards the camp, and then turned back into the forest.

He looked round the camp. No one else seemed to have noticed. The squaws
continued their occupations just as before. Dusty Star kept his eyes
continually moving along the line of trees, always returning to the spot
where the thing had disappeared. And although he saw nothing more, he
was convinced he had not been mistaken. The shape had been that of a
bear.

A long time had passed when one of the squaws suddenly screamed. Looking
in the direction of the cry, Dusty Star saw an enormous grizzly walking
slowly towards the tepees.

Instantly the whole camp was in wild confusion. Squaws ran in every
direction, snatching up their babies, and screaming at the tops of their
voices. Several of the more courageous old men advanced towards the
grizzly, waving their arms and trying to frighten him back; but when,
growling fiercely, he broke into a run towards them, they turned and
joined the women in their flight. It was in vain that the huskies
circled round him in a snarling, furious ring. He broke the neck of one
which had rashly ventured within the range of his deadly fore paw, and
wounded another. As he charged the pack, it broke before his murderous
onset and fled yelling into the woods.

Dusty Star ran quickly into the tepee and began feverishly to try to
unfasten the thong which bound him, while the screaming of the women,
and the yelping of the huskies continued. Presently, a sharp, rending
noise told him that the grizzly had attacked either a tepee, or one of
the parfleches in it. The tearing noise continued for some time and then
ceased. After that there was silence in the camp, the inhabitants having
by this time taken refuge in the woods. And still the thong resisted his
utmost efforts to unfasten it. Then, just as he was about to peep out to
see what was happening, he heard something approaching.

Instantly he crawled under a buffalo robe, and lay there, shaking from
head to foot. Something entered the tepee. Dusty Star did not dare to
look. He felt the thong that bound him violently tugged: he heard, or
thought he heard, a muffled growl. The next moment, the robe was
snatched from his head, and he saw--not the grizzly--but old Kitsomax
with a hunting knife in her hand.

"Quick! Quick!" she cried. "I have cut the thong. He is coming! He is
coming!"

Dusty Star leaped from the couch. As he did so, Kitsomax gave a scream.

The entrance of the tepee was filled by a huge form. The little red eyes
of the grizzly were glaring at them in fury.

For a moment the bear seemed to hesitate. Then he turned towards
Kitsomax. Instantly Dusty Star stepped forward, and gave a short bark
like a coyote. The grizzly turned savagely in his direction. With a
marvelous quickness in one so old, Kitsomax darted out of the tepee.

In thus turning the bear's attention from the old squaw to himself he
was well aware that he had risked his own life. Yet he felt he could not
have done otherwise, since she had willingly taken the same risk in
coming to set him free, instead of escaping with the other squaws while
there was yet time.

Seeing itself balked of one prey, the bear now concentrated his rage
upon the other. He made a furious rush.

If Dusty Star had been a fraction of a second too late, the delay would
have cost him his life; but even as the furry Terror hurled itself upon
him, he made one of his swift wolf-leaps to the other side of a pile of
skins. The grizzly turned like a flash. It was amazing that so huge a
body could move with such terrible ease and quickness. But quick though
the bear was, the boy was quicker. He knew that death was hard upon him.
A false, or undecided movement, and nothing could save him from those
murderous claws. All the muscles of his lithe body were contracted in
preparation for the final rush for life. Before the grizzly could cut
him off, Dusty Star seemed not so much to run, as to _shoot_ himself out
from the lodge.

The big paw missed its mark by a hair's breath--no more. Only one of the
frightful hooked claws touched with its tip the spot where Dusty Star's
buckskin shirt bulged slightly from his back. It rent it as clean as the
slash of a tomahawk, but failed to reach the skin. Dusty Star felt the
slash, and bounded for his life. He could see Kitsomax's stooping form
already half-way towards the forest.

If he had made a straight run now, it was probable that the bear would
have caught him, owing to the extraordinary speed with which a bear can
move over the ground, but as Dusty Star took a zig-zag course all across
the camp, doubling right and left as he darted round the tepees, the
grizzly lost ground.

From the last tepee to the edge of the forest was less than a dozen
yards. Dusty Star took them at a wild run, hearing the snarling growl of
the grizzly as it came wheeling furiously round the last tepee. He swung
himself desperately into the nearest tree. With a roar of disappointed
rage, the grizzly flung himself against it, tearing savagely at the
bark, and stripping it into splinters. Then, clasping the trunk with his
mighty fore-arms, he hugged it with all his might, wrenching it this way
and that in an attempt to break it down.

Dusty Star, on his perch, felt the whole tree shiver beneath him. A tree
of smaller growth must have given way at last to the enormous strain,
whereas a sapling would have yielded like matchwood.

As Dusty Star was aware, a full-grown grizzly rarely climbs. Still, in
the present enraged condition of the brute's feelings, there was no
telling what he might not attempt to do. So, when he saw that the bear,
finding he could not break the tree down by main force, was beginning to
climb it, he was more alarmed than surprised. Yet even then, as he felt
the tree vibrate to the movement of the great body as it came slowly up,
he kept his presence of mind. He threw a quick look round him that took
in all the details at a glance. In an instant he knew what he must do.
When the bear was a third of the way up the trunk, Dusty Star climbed
out along a branch and dropped quickly to the ground. By the time the
grizzly had laboriously climbed down backwards, Dusty Star was out of
sight among the trees.

When the Indians returned that evening, they found the camp a total
wreck; for the bear, disappointed in his attempt to seize Dusty Star,
had turned back to vent his rage upon the tepees. Here, one was
completely torn down; there, another showed wide rents between its
lodge-poles. And where one had apparently escaped, it was found, when
entered, to have its contents torn and thrown about in all directions.

Of Dusty Star himself, they could not see a sign. And the only person
who could have thrown a light upon his disappearance, took the wise
course of holding her tongue. Even the thong which had bound him had
likewise disappeared. For when the terrified squaws had crept back one
by one to the ruined camp, Kitsomax had taken the precaution to bury it
under a bush.



CHAPTER XVII

THE SWIMMING OF KIOPO


When Kiopo had leaped upon the Indian, and had fallen with him over the
precipice edge, he had, like his foe, crashed down to almost certain
death. The Indian, indeed, had been killed instantly, with a broken
neck; but the wolf, instead of falling straight upon the boulders at the
bottom of the gorge, had turned a somersault in mid-air, and had landed
in a thick clump of junipers growing on a slope some thirty feet above
the creek bed.

Probably it was the passionate instinct of self-preservation, when all
hope seemed gone, which had made him give his body that violent
contortion. Apart from that, he owed his life to a miracle which must
always remain a mystery unexplained.

In spite of the break in his fall, he lay half-stunned among the bushes
for some time. And when at length his senses came to him again, he felt
sore in every limb.

There is an unfailing law among the wild peoples that, when an
individual is injured, it creeps into the most secret place it can find,
and there rests till it recovers sufficiently to face the world. Kiopo
had no need to look for a place more secret than the one he had fallen
into, so he stayed where he was, and let nature do the rest. For fully
two days, he remained in hiding. On the third, he crawled out into the
open; on the fourth, was sufficiently recovered to make a kill in the
shape of a fat buck rabbit; and, on the evening of the fifth, made his
way back to camp.

Instantly he returned, he knew that something was wrong. He ran
anxiously this way and that, scenting and looking. Eyes and nose told
him the same story. Dusty Star had gone, and he had not gone alone.
Kiopo soon found the trail, and immediately started off. The scent was
getting a little stale, but, faint though it was, it was sufficient for
the wolf's unerring nose. It was the well known Indian smell that he had
learned to distrust, and as he ran, his hackles rose. He ran on swiftly,
growing angrier as he ran, and eating up the distance with his long,
loping stride. Here the scent was a little fainter, there a little
stronger; but always the trail kept going on in the same direction to
the south. Kiopo knew that he was getting beyond his usual range. He had
never penetrated so far into the southern forest country before. He was
uneasy, as well as angry. There was a bad smell in the trail. It meant
mischief. And mischief towards his beloved little brother was the thing
in all the world which Kiopo would not stand.

Under the solemn shadow of the trees the great wolf sped on soundless
pads that carried his body like a phantom through the silence of the
woods. Now and then he would come to a cross trail, where some other
animal had lately passed, or the trail itself would be obscured. But
Kiopo had far too serious a business on hand to waste time upon the
cross trails, and when the double trail divided, he followed the
fainter, and the human one, as before. Of other hunters who, like
himself, were abroad in the woods, he saw little, for his eyes rarely
wandered from the ground under his nose. And those of the
forest-dwellers who caught sight of the great grey shape that went
floating through the trees, gave it a wide berth, with that curious
forest etiquette which is deeper than politeness, and is close in touch
with death.

When he emerged from the forest into the open country, Kiopo paused to
reconnoitre. His eyes became of the utmost importance now, because the
world was widening. In the forest you could only see where the trees
permitted, but now its place was taken by long grassy swells that
rippled under the wind. Into it, Kiopo swung his nose. It came in a
series of soft surges from the south. Many faint odours were travelling
down it now; scents that were the body of the wilderness lifted into the
air. They were subtly mixed, it would take the very finest nose to
disentangle them. With his eyes narrowed, and his head raised, Kiopo
searched the wind. His sensitive nostrils gave little quivers and rapid
twists that were like a play of fingers that dabbled delicately in the
air. The scents that came were chiefly those of the growing things,
grass, flowers and trees. But running through them, in fine streams of
odours, there were other scents that were like the flowing souls of
birds and beasts, spilt, in spite of themselves, into the wandering
world.

Was some tiny drop of Dusty Star's body-scent mixed among them--sending
out its wordless message through the enormous space? For all the keen
searching of Kiopo's nostrils, the drop, if it were there, escaped them.
But if the trails of the air were lost in the wilderness of the wind,
the trails of the earth remained, and still the one he had hitherto
followed went plainly through the grass. Once again Kiopo took it up,
following it steadily till at length he came to the spot where the
Indians had taken to the canoe. In the marshy ground under the willows,
he lost it completely. It was as if it was sucked into the marsh. In
vain he searched the whole neighbourhood, and ran backwards and forwards
in a desperate effort to find some vestige of the broken trail, always
returning with the same result to the roots of the willows among the
black ooze.

Now Kiopo's faultless wood-craft taught him, without the slightest
uncertainty, that there had been no back trail. If, therefore, the trail
ended at the water, those who had made it must have gone _through_ the
water. There was no other way. Once he had made up his mind, Kiopo did
not hesitate. He plunged into the lake.

When once in the water, Kiopo, like all wolves, was a powerful swimmer;
but he had never before had any experience of such an immense expanse of
it. The further he went out, the wider it seemed to become. He swam on
and on. As he swam, the shores receded further and further on either
side. He found himself out in that whispering vastness, alone in a world
of waters, with no sign of any human being, nor the faintest trace of a
trail. After a while, he grew disheartened. The great water gave him a
sense of loneliness and fear which he had never felt before. In the dark
silences of the woods, you could smell the good smells of the travelling
folk, hunting or being hunted, which you could not even see. But here
there was no hunting, nor good smells; only a wet, uneasy movement, and
a watery smell which his growing fear made hateful to his nose. And the
sound of its wetness beat unceasingly on his ears like a din of
unintelligible voices bewildering his brain. The only living things that
he could see were two fish-hawks sailing overhead. In their annoyance at
his appearance, they gave piercing cries of disapproval; for they knew
well that no fish was likely to come to the surface while this great
hulk of wolfishness went churning up the water in that unwieldy way. And
if they had only dared, they would have swooped down to strike at him
savagely with the terrible talons which made their feet such formidable
weapons.

At last Kiopo grew tired of battling against that vast wetness, with its
loneliness, and voices that rang against his head; and so he turned and
swam straight towards the shore.

The distance was much further than he expected. He found himself
swimming more and more slowly. In spite of all his efforts the shore
seemed still very far away, while always that great weight of water
seemed to push itself continually in between him and the trees, as if it
were a living thing which had determined that he should never land. His
strength and power of endurance were enormous, even after they had been
weakened by his recent injuries; yet for the most powerful wild creature
there is a limit to its strength. And now Kiopo knew that his capacity
was being taxed to the utmost. Gradually, but surely, his great strength
was ebbing. But he also knew that, unless he could reach the shore
before his force gave out, all hope of once more joining the little
brother would be for ever lost. His strong fore paws worked valiantly,
beating down the water which seemed rising and rising in spite of all
his efforts. The trees were nearer now. He could see that, even though
his eyes were dimmed by the splashing of the ripples. And yet they
seemed so terribly far away for the effort he knew he must put forth, if
he were to reach them before his strength was done. He swam more and
more slowly, his breath coming in short gasping sobs that quivered
through him from head to tail. The fish-hawks, circling above him, came
sloping down, with triumph in their shining eyes. They needed no
explanation of the tragedy that was taking place beneath them. They knew
that the hated intruder was slowly but surely being dragged down to a
watery death, and their wild hawk-hearts approved.

Slowly, and still more slowly! Kiopo felt now as if the heavy wetness of
the water had developed long tentacles that seized him and sucked him
down. His head was becoming too heavy to hold above the water. There
were moments of terror when it swirled about his nose, and when the
fish-hawks, screaming with excitement, would hover, as if about to
swoop. And then, once again, the big head would force itself up and,
choking, spluttering, gasping, the struggle would continue.

When at length, Kiopo, beating his last desperate strokes, felt his feet
touch ground, he could scarcely stand. Fortunately for him, a sandy spit
of land at this very point thrust itself out for some distance into the
lake. The sensation of ground under his feet gave him courage. With a
last supreme effort, he dragged himself above the water-line, and sank
exhausted on the sand.

If any watchful enemy had attacked him now, the big wolf would have
offered an all but resistless prey. Even the fish-hawks, in their
exultation might have safely swooped upon him and threatened his eyes;
but now that the detested intruder had shown sufficient strength to drag
himself out of the lake, they became more wary, and as they knew that a
wolf ashore was a far more formidable foe than a wolf afloat, they
thought better of their rashness, and once more climbed up the steep
afternoon to sit again in the wind.

Other eyes besides the fish-hawks' noted the dark shape that lay on the
sand-spit, motionless as a log. Log-like though it appeared, there was
something about its dusky bulk that, to their wary gaze, looked
remarkably like a wolf asleep, or possibly even dead. But even a dead
wolf is not beloved by the wilderness folk; and a buck who had pushed
his way warily through the willow shoots to drink, when he saw the
sinister form on the sand-spit, stopped, threw up his head suspiciously,
and blew his breath angrily from his nostrils. The wolf never stirred.
The buck looked longingly at the water, looked again at the shape on the
sand-spit, drew back softly into the shelter of the willows, and went to
quench his thirst elsewhere.

The buck had scarcely disappeared, when a fox, also thirsty, came down
the trail, placing his slender feet delicately one after the other so as
not to disturb the slumber of the afternoon. When he caught sight of the
sand-spit, he stopped instantly, and wrinkled his nose to feel the wind.
As the wind did not help him, he advanced a few steps further with
extreme caution, ready at the slightest warning to leap back upon his
trail. He observed that the great body was stretched out flat as if
lifeless; the head resting between the paws. But there is flatness _and_
flatness. The fox noted with disapproval that this particular flatness
_breathed_! Drawing back his lips, he disclosed his teeth in a low snarl
of hatred against the hereditary foe of his tribe. Then he doubled his
flexible body till his nose nearly touched his brush, and slunk back
into the woods.

Totally unconscious of all these happenings, Kiopo took his rest. The
forest-folk might come and go as they pleased. Hour after hour he slept
that heavy sleep of sheer exhaustion through which no messages pass from
the outer world. The sun blazed down upon the sand-spit, drying his
coat; and sleep, that marvellous medicine to which all the wild things
turn, brought his strength slowly back to him in the waning afternoon.



CHAPTER XVIII

HOW KIOPO FOUGHT THE LYNX


When at length he opened his eyes, the sun had sunk below the hills. He
rose slowly to his feet. He was so stiff that, when he stretched and
shook himself, he gave a little yelp of pain. Then he sat down on his
haunches and considered. On three sides of him stretched the lake; on
the fourth, the forest, darkening in the evening gloom. Somewhere far
out in the lake, a fish leaped with a splash. Kiopo turned his head
uneasily towards the sound. It seemed to make the immense water more
vast and lovely than before. He dreaded the lake now: it was a horror he
would never forget. And because he sat there, still surrounded by the
horror, and because the loneliness and longing that was in his heart for
the little brother, swept over him all at once, he suddenly lifted his
nose to the sky, and poured forth a wild, despairing howl, followed by
another, and yet another.

Those desolate notes sent a message and a thrill far through the
neighbourhood, till they died among the whispering reeds on the furthest
shore. In the secret gloom of the forest, the startled creatures paused
upon the trails. If Kiopo had wanted a good hunting, it was the worst
mistake he could have made; for now every lesser animal within earshot
would have warning of his presence, and know that a strange wolf was in
a dangerous condition of unhappiness in the neighbourhood of the lake.
Those who had intended feeding there, moved uneasily to safer pasture,
and those who were hunters sought out more distant trails. So it
happened that when, at last, Kiopo had finished his sorrow-making, and
had entered the forest, he found it, to all appearances, emptied of its
life.

He walked a little stiffly at first, but, by degrees, as his muscles
worked, his body regained its suppleness, and very soon he was moving
with the free swing which is particularly a wolf's.

The thought still uppermost in his mind was that of Dusty Star; but now
he was utterly at a loss to know in which direction the Little Brother
had gone. His long swim in those cold waters where he had so nearly met
his death, seemed to have confused his wits. He roamed up and down, now
along the lake shore, now back into the woods with a vague hope that
somewhere or other he would come upon something that should set him on
the trail. Yet although his nose worked incessantly, he smelt nothing
but the darkness filled with vague scents of invisible things, and the
old smell of the trees. As he wandered about, his forces came slowly
back to him, and, with his strength, his anger. If he had now recovered
the trail of those who had stolen the Little Brother from him, he would
have followed it furiously to the death. The anger that was in him
burned like a dull fire. It needed only a very small thing to fan it to
a blaze.

Nosing the ground as he went, he came suddenly upon a plain scent. It
was one which he detested. It roused old memories, and an old slumbering
hate. The trail led on below the spruces, and was fresh enough to be
easily followed. And now Kiopo's whole being seemed to change. He no
longer slouched along with a sulky and dejected air. His body stiffened
and became alive. He carried himself as if on compressed springs. His
eyes glowed with a dangerous fire. As he went on, the scent freshened
with the odour he detested. The hair between his shoulders rose like a
threat.

By the side of a big hemlock, the trail bent sharply to the right,
leading over some rocky ground at the foot of a small hill. Upon the
granite boulders covered with grey and orange lichen, the reflected
light from the sunset sky lingered in a warm glow, as if they themselves
were luminous. Kiopo moved with the utmost caution. He hardly seemed to
walk so much as to _slide_ over the uneven surface, with his belly close
to the ground. Instinct, as much as sense, told him that the object of
his hatred was now extremely near. In another moment, his eyes saw what
hitherto he had only gathered with his nose.

Not twenty yards away lay the dead body of a deer; and, busily at work
upon the carcass, crouched the form of a big, hunched-up animal with
sharp, tufted ears. Those humped hind quarters, those hair-tufted ears
surmounting the round, short-nosed head were familiar enough to Kiopo to
tell him, apart even from the scent, that the humped ferocity before him
was one of those ancient enemies of wolf and fox--the lynx.

The creature was so deeply engrossed in its occupation of feeding on the
deer that at first it was totally unconscious of the wolf's presence.
Tearing and biting at the freshly-killed and still-warm meat, it was
enjoying its horrible feast without any fear of interruption. Kiopo drew
his long body noiselessly nearer, foot by foot. He had almost reached a
leaping distance, and was gathering his hind legs under him for a
spring, when the lynx suddenly turned its head.

In an instant the great cat had realized the approaching danger and had
snatched his whole body round so as to face the foe.

A more violent image of hate and defiance could not possibly be
imagined. Its round, widely-spaced green eyes shone with a cold glitter
that was terrifying in its unwinking glare. The tufted ears, laid back
close along the head, gave the face an extraordinary evil look. Its
entire body clung to the carcass of the deer, as if to proclaim its
ownership of the kill, while the upper lip, curled back, uncovered the
long fangs, clear white in the furry dusk of its face.

As the lynx crouched defiant on its prey, measuring its foe with its
furious eyes, it gave a harsh, rasping snarl. But if the sound was
intended to frighten Kiopo, it failed completely. Instead, this rasping
challenge merely served to exasperate him still further. Without an
instant's warning, his eyes blazing with fury, he leaped.

This swift attack took the big cat utterly by surprise. It set at
defiance all lynx etiquette of warfare, which consisted in a good deal
of growling, snarling, and hissing, coupled with stealthy crouchings and
crawlings, and appalling stillness during which you glared at your enemy
with bottled fury in your green eyes. But to observe none of these
niceties of passion, and begin a fight without even a spit, was a thing
utterly abominable to every well-bred cat.

Taken off its guard, the lynx sprang half a second too late. He gave a
savage sweep with wicked claws, which scored Kiopo's flank; but the
force of the wolf's spring, with 150 lbs of sheer weight behind it,
fairly knocked him off his feet; while, at the very instant that he
struck, the merciless steel trap that was Kiopo's jaw closed upon his
neck. It was then that Kiopo showed his wisdom. If he had attempted to
hold his enemy down, as he easily might have done by his weight alone,
the lynx would have been able to bring into play his formidable hind
feet, armed with their fearful claws, and have inflicted an awful
punishment upon the wolf's stomach. It would have been like trying to
subdue a furry mass of springs that spat, tore, slashed and bit in a
humped bundle of madness. So, instead of running such a risk, Kiopo,
exerted all the strength of his powerful neck, shoulders and jaws, and
shook the lynx as the latter might have shaken a raccoon, and then flung
him violently backwards.

The force of the jerk was so tremendous that the big cat was wrenched
from his hold upon the deer, and turned upside down in the air; but he
had barely touched the ground when, using the strong springs of his hind
quarters, he rebounded like a ball. His object was to descend, cat-like,
on the wolfs neck, and to claw out his eyes. But, swift as sight, Kiopo
leaped again. Once more the trap snapped-to, and the lynx felt the
wolf's teeth buried in his neck; while, as before, the skirmish ended in
his being tossed violently backwards into the air.

The lynx was bewildered. He had fought wolves before, and with success,
leaving the marks of his claws deep in their torn and bleeding flesh;
but Kiopo's tactics were something fresh in his experience. Not only was
there more cunning, but the strength and ferocity of half-a-dozen wolves
seemed to unite in his foe's mighty frame.

On his second descent to earth, the lynx again made use of his strong
hind-quarter springs. The only difference was that on this occasion he
took care to re-bound into the air _away_ from his antagonist instead of
_upon_ him! A clear five feet he bounded from the ground, landing on the
side of a granite boulder. He was not allowed to remain. With a snarl
that was more like a roar, Kiopo hurled himself at the rock.

As the lynx pulled himself up the boulder, the wolf reached his right
flank, and inflicted a ripping wound. Screeching in rage and terror, the
defeated lynx sprang over the boulder and disappeared into the trees.

And now Kiopo, triumphant, but by no means pacified, was able to glut
his hunger upon the deer. It was the first full meal he had enjoyed for
a long time, and he was not slow to make the most of it. Usually, after
such a meal, he would have been inclined to settle himself down for a
long sleep; but in his present enraged state of mind, sleep was
impossible.

All the evening, and through the night, he traveled maddened, and
raging, devoured with the lust to kill. Woe to any living creature that
should fall across his path! Fortunately for themselves, the forest
dwellers seemed to receive mysterious signals that madness was abroad.
That night, the Spirit of the Wild Creatures did much business on the
trails. East, west, south and north, the warnings travelled. Along the
lake shore, through the decaying silence of the cedar swamps, into the
whispering glooms of the spruce woods, the voiceless tidings went.

Hunting was understood--the plain, pitiless killing for food. It meant
death, and terror, but at least it followed the ancient law of the
wilderness that one killed in order to live. But this other thing that
recognized no law, and hounded to death merely because of the madness in
its heart--this nameless Terror that seemed, in the haunted darkness, to
be everywhere at once--_this_ they shrank from, trembling, as from
something more deadly than even death itself. And so, realizing that it
was Madness and not Hunger that went hunting down the trails, the
forest-folk took heed to the tidings, and slunk into their lairs.



CHAPTER XIX

THE PURSUIT


After Dusty Star had dropped from his tree to escape the grizzly, his
one thought was to put as much distance as possible between himself and
his terrible foe. He ran on and on, listening fearfully for any sounds
which should tell him that the bear was in pursuit. Yet the fear of what
was behind was not all. There was an equally great danger in front lest
he should find himself face to face with the returning Indians who had
gone out to seek the bear. His dread was all the greater because he knew
that it was the same direction in which he was now travelling which they
had taken on leaving the camp, and that it was extremely probable that,
not having come upon the grizzly, they would now be on the homeward
trail. At the slightest sound, he would stop, and listen, nervously
scanning the trees ahead lest he should catch sight of a red-skin figure
standing motionless in the shade. And behind, he would listen for the
pad, pad of great bear feet, or the rustling of leaves in the pursuit.
Yet in spite of all alarms, the sun was sloping a long way to the west
when Dusty Star found himself still undiscovered and working his way
along the side of a great hill many miles to the northward of the camp.

He continued to travel swiftly, yet still with the utmost silence.
Although he saw little of any wild creatures, he was aware of their
presence, though most of them kept well out of sight as they crouched in
hiding, or drifted soundlessly as driven smoke along the ancient
deer-paths that had been worn by the feet of the wilderness, age after
countless age.

As the day wore on, it grew darker under the trees, and presently he
noted the on-coming of that swift northern twilight which so soon
deepens into night. So far, he had not struck any trail which could
cause him uneasiness; and although a few moons earlier he might have
stood in fear of some of the larger and fiercer of the forest beasts,
his intimacy with Kiopo had taught him many things which kept the fear
at bay. And yet, as he glided softly along, stepping as warily as one of
the deer themselves, his fear of the greater beasts seemed to have
passed into an awe of the forest itself. Often and often, in the deep
stillness there had come to him a sense of something behind the beasts,
elder to the oldest of them, more wise than the most cunning, which ran
when they ran, stalked you with their stalking, and watched you with
their eyes; something which, in the old darkness of the world, had spilt
itself into fur and feathers, and moved with wings or feet. It was
perhaps not exactly a comfortable thought; yet for all that, it need not
necessarily be a bad Thing. On the contrary, it might even do you good,
if you could get close enough to it, and learn not to be afraid.

Darker and darker under the trees! At last, so dark that you could not
tell them by their shape. Yet to Dusty Star the shape did not matter,
since he could feel them by their smell. Now it was hemlock; now balsam
fir. And now he caught black poplar; and again the scent was birch. And
so he went his way less by sight than feeling,--_seeing_ things by their
smell.

At length he came to a part of the forest so thick with undergrowth and
creepers, that further progress in that direction was impossible in the
dark. He decided to camp here for the night. So when he had found a
suitable spot in which to make his couch, he lay down and almost
immediately fell fast asleep.

When he awoke, dawn had already began to break, and he could distinguish
the shapes of the trees. He sat up and looked about him. He felt that
none of his enemies would track him here. Only keen noses of beasts
might scent him, and they, as likely as not, would give him a wide
berth. He lay quiet in the intense morning stillness, feeling full of
thankfulness that he was once more free. If only he could make his way
home in safety, and find Kiopo there to meet him, happiness would come
to him again. He could not believe that Kiopo had been killed. He
remembered what Kitsomax had said. If the wolf had met his death as well
as the Indian, surely she would have mentioned both? The recollection
comforted him, as he got up and once more started on his way.

Though the country he was passing through was utterly strange to him, he
knew that the river must be somewhere to the north-east, and that if he
wished to strike the shores of the great lake, he must keep to the
neighbourhood of the river for a guide. He pushed on rapidly, and, when
the sun was half-way towards noon, saw with relief the light on the
water between the trees. But now, owing to the swampy nature of the
ground, the going was not so good, and he found it necessary to go back
continually into the woods in order to travel on firmer ground. Evening
was already drawing on before he heard the roar of the rapids in the
distance, and knew that the lake was not far off. But he also knew that
it was necessary now to travel with extreme caution, owing to the fact
that there had been plenty of time for his enemies to have learnt of his
escape, and have sent out a party to re-capture him. In spite of all his
efforts, it was night before he reached the rapids, and could see in the
darkness the glimmer of the foam.

All that night, the roar of a great water mingled with his dreams.
Whatever noises sounded in the forest, they were drowned by the rapids.
If any enemy had crept towards him now, he would have received no
warning. But he trusted to the darkness, and slept soundly.

On leaving the rapids at early dawn, Dusty Star travelled as quickly as
he could along the eastern shore. It was still thickly covered with
mist, which, although it prevented him from seeing what danger might be
ahead, also kept his own movements from being observed. As he went on,
he crossed many trails to the water's edge, but as they were only those
of thirsty animals going down to drink, he knew he had nothing to fear.

Suddenly he heard a sound that made him stop and listen intently. It was
a splashing noise, repeated at irregular intervals, and was not far
ahead. He approached the spot with the utmost care, straining his eyes
in the mist. Suddenly a large shape loomed out directly in front of him.

The creature's fore quarters were humped to a ridge on the powerful
shoulders, covered with thick, glistening hair of a dark shade that was
almost black on the upper parts. The under parts were a tawny yellow.
The ridge along the back sloped to the hind quarters which, compared
with the fore quarters, were small. A little tail with a thin tuft of
hair finished off the animal in that direction. A much smaller animal of
a similar shape was browsing along the lake shore a little distance
away. Dusty Star did not know that this odd-shaped creature was a moose,
but he did know that, whatever the creature was called, she was a cow
with her calf. As he looked, he saw the moose lift one of her large fore
hoofs and paw the water among the water-lily leaves on which she had
evidently been feeding.

He was so intent on watching these animals that he set his foot on a
twig which cracked. It was only a slight sound but it startled the
moose. Instantly she wheeled round in order to face the possible danger
which threatened from the shore. She paused for a moment or two, while
her big ears turned towards every side, and her wide nostrils scented
the air. Then she gave a harsh and peculiar cry, as a summons to her
calf, which immediately came blundering and splashing up to her.

Dusty Star remained absolutely still, not daring to flick an eyelid. He
would not have been afraid of the odd beast if she had been alone; but
he knew that a cow with her calf beside her was a totally different
matter; and that an alarmed and angry mother is one of the most deadly
perils of the wilderness.

For a few seconds, owing to his complete stillness, the cow did not see
him, and neither ears nor nose helped her, partly because the light air
which was blowing did not carry his scent towards her. In spite of this,
the moose suspected that something she had not yet seen was within the
range of her eyes, if only it would betray itself by some motion,
however slight. Giving her calf a push with her long nose to make it get
behind her, she advanced cautiously a step or two in-shore. And still
what she was looking for remained indistinguishable. She stopped, pawed
the water angrily with her hoof and again advanced.

Dusty Star began to feel uncomfortable. He know that if the cow came
within very short range, she might discover him in spite of that
absolute motionlessness which often deceives the eyes of the wild
creatures.

As if she had heard a fresh sound somewhere down the lake, she turned
her head in that direction. Dusty Star unwisely took the opportunity to
step softly back. Instantly the cow swung her head round. Dusty Star
froze to stillness as before. And yet it was as if the movement he had
just made still vibrated about his stillness, like a quivering of the
air. The great eyes of the cow fastened upon him, and she _saw_!

Without a second's hesitation, and snorting with anger and defiance, she
charged.

In the forest things usually happen very quickly or they do not happen
at all. The moose had been so intent in searching for Dusty Star that
she had not perceived a much greater danger stalking her unawares. At
the very moment the boy leaped aside to escape her furious onset, a long
dark body shot itself through the air, and all but landed on her back.
All but, yet not quite!

The panther had calculated his spring to a nicety, but he had not
forseen the sudden leap with which the moose swerved as the danger
launched itself upon her. Swift though her movement was, she did not
receive the warning soon enough to jump entirely clear; and although the
panther had not succeeded in landing on her neck as he had intended, he
caught her shoulder with a raking sweep of his paw. Two long gashes,
from which the blood sprang freely, showed the track of those murderous
claws. Yet the blow was not a disabling one, and only served to rouse
the moose to fury. Rearing on her hind legs, she brought her
hatchet-edged fore hoofs down with all her force. Where she aimed, she
struck--the panther's neck. The blow from these terrible weapons, of
which every wild animal stands rightly in awe, with all the force of her
great weight behind them, was tremendous. With a howl of pain the
panther went down; but as he sank, he buried his fangs deep in the cow's
neck. His weight pulled her to one side. She lost her footing, and
plunged into the lake.

Dusty Star saw a fountain of spray and a welter of bloody foam. Then,
out of the seething whirlpool, the panther's dark body emerged and
staggered to the bank. The cow meantime had struggled to her feet, and
gave a defiant bellow of rage. Dusty Star fully expected to see the
battle begin again. But the panther, evidently not relishing the sight
of the Mother Fury, thought better of it, and slunk off into the bushes.
Dusty Star followed his example, and while the moose was busy in nosing
her terrified calf to assure herself that it had come to no harm, he
made quickly off into the woods, so that when the cow once more turned
her blazing eyes to the shore in search of her enemies, Dusty Star, like
the panther, was lost among the trees.

After his adventure with the moose, nothing disturbed the still monotony
of the sultry day. The mist had lifted now, and a grey haze veiled the
distance. He travelled as rapidly as possible, avoiding the swampy
ground. Every time he reached a point where he could look back along the
lake, he gazed anxiously for the shape of a canoe. Yet nothing broke the
glimmering levels of its vast expanse. For all that, he grew more and
more uneasy as the day wore on. He could not rid himself of the sense of
a danger already on its way. The fact that it gave no outward sign of
its approach only served to increase his anxiety. He went on steadily,
hoping that every fresh point he reached would show the end of the lake.
At length, from a narrow spit of sand (the very same in which Kiopo had
recovered himself) he saw it. Beyond in a dusky background, the forest
lay for leagues; and after the forest, the valley: and--in the
valley--home! He turned to look behind him, down the lake. As he did so,
his heart bounded. Far away in the hazy distance, he saw the shadowy
outline of a canoe.

They were coming then! The warning had spoken truly. He had not been
deceived. Without an instant's delay, he darted from the sand-spit and
plunged into the woods.

Owing to the extent and thickness of the willow swamps, it was some time
before he reached the head of the lake. Beyond that, as he knew, the
forest was more open, and he would be able to travel much more rapidly.
But what would be good for him, would also help his pursuers. All he
could hope was that he would be able to get a long enough start of them
to keep well ahead--till he could find a sufficiently safe hiding-place.
He found an old deer-path, and followed it for a long distance, though
it trended rather too much to the south. Behind him he heard the harsh
calling of a couple of jays, and now and then he came across a chipmunk
which chattered indignantly at his presence. Otherwise he neither saw
nor heard anything to cause him alarm. As the time went on, he began to
hope that he had out-distanced his pursuers. And yet he could not rid
himself of the feeling that he was being followed.

In front of him the forest climbed the slope of a small hill. Here and
there the trees gave way to rocky spaces where enormous rocks towered
between them. At a glance, Dusty Star could see that it would be a good
place to hide in. He stood for a moment or two and looked carefully
along the back trail. He saw only the endless tree-trunks, grey-green in
the shadows. Nothing stirred.... Ah, what was that? His eyes fastened on
the spot where for the fraction of a second something seemed to have
flickered. He could not say that he had _seen_ an Indian flit from one
tree-trunk to another. Yet the sense that something was there made him
almost sure. If he had obeyed his first instinct to continue his flight
he would, most probably, have fallen at once into his enemies' hands.
Instead, he climbed quickly up among the rocks.

There was no time to lose in searching for the best hiding-place; yet he
stumbled by chance upon one which might have been made for the very
purpose. It was a narrow opening that led into a passage running into
the very centre of a pile of flat-topped rocks which enclosed it on all
sides, and which was so curiously formed that they looked exactly as if
deliberately placed one on top of another in the form of a building. To
all appearances, the passage had only one entrance, and it was not until
Dusty Star had crept to the extreme end that he found another opening so
thickly covered with ferns and brambles that it could not be seen by any
one on the outer side. He parted the undergrowth with the utmost care
and looked out. Almost immediately afterwards he saw what made his heart
beat with renewed fear. He saw an Indian leave the cover of the trees
and advance quickly towards the rocks. He was followed by another, and
yet another. Dusty Star counted five in all. Before he could tell
exactly what part of the rocks they were making for, they disappeared.

After that, he lay perfectly still trembling at the lightest sound.

All at once he was conscious of a shadow which darkened the passage. He
looked up and saw, through the fern, an Indian apparently gazing
straight down at him.

Dusty Star knew only too well what an Indian's eye can see, in spite of
leafy coverings; and because he could observe every detail of the tall
figure towering above him in the light, it seemed almost impossible that
he himself could escape detection. He lay stiff with fear, scarcely
daring to take breath, while those moments of terrible suspense passed
slowly one by one and he dreaded that the next would bring his doom.

He closed his eyes, lest even the flicker of an eyelid should betray
him, and waited helplessly for the worst. When at length he found
courage to open them again, the Indian had gone.

The shadow of the wilderness had saved him; the ancient darkness that is
darker than men's cunning in a shadow-casting land.

For a long time he did not dare to move. When at last he crept from his
hiding-place, the afternoon was well advanced. He moved from point to
point with the utmost caution, but could see no trace of his enemies.
That, however, as he well knew, did not mean that they were gone. That
things were out of sight only too often meant that they were very close
at hand. Yet, in spite of the danger of continuing his flight, Dusty
Star decided to take the risk, in case the Indians should return and
make a more thorough search among the rocks. He travelled on as swiftly
as he dared, keeping his eyes to the utmost on the alert.

It was only the merest motion of a fir-branch well to the right, such as
might have been caused by the weight of a perching bird, or the movement
of the breeze; but Dusty Star saw it and took the alarm. When, an
instant later, an Indian broke cover and came bounding towards him like
a buck, Dusty Star was already on the run.

One swift glance behind, showed him that his foe was coming at full
speed. As he came, he uttered a shrill whoop as a signal to his
companions that their quarry was in sight. The cry sent a thrill of
terror through the boy's veins. From the start, he felt that unless he
put forth his utmost strength, he was doomed.

And now he fled between the trees as if his moccasins were wings. His
running power was marvellous. The prairies and the wolves between them,
had given him that. If the antelopes went like the wind, Dusty Star went
like the antelopes. Even his pursuers, as relentless and almost as
tireless as the wolves themselves, and who passed their lives among
winged and footed swiftnesses, were astonished at such running, the like
of which they had never seen. To their amazed eyes he seemed less to be
running than _floating_ out of their sight. There was "medicine" in his
feet!

What his own running looked like, Dusty Star did not know. But he knew
what the forest looked like. It ceased to stand still. The trees raced
to meet him, in a hurry to be past! And as they came, he seemed to cast
them behind him, tree by breathless tree; hemlock and fir, sycamore and
maple--it was as if he flung the whole rushing forest in the teeth of
the pursuit!

After the first terrified glances to measure the distance, he did not
dare to look behind. All his sight was needed for the ground immediately
ahead. To fall--even to stumble--might cost him his life. Yet he knew
that, so far, he was keeping ahead. The knowledge gave him courage. If
only his strength would hold out! The pace was killing. He knew he could
not keep it up for very much longer. Even now he fancied he was running
less quickly. He was beginning to realize that he got his breath with
more and more effort. And to lose his breath was the beginning of the
end. For a considerable distance, his greater speed would enable him to
out-distance all pursuit; but in a long race, it is endurance which
counts; and while his pursuers were full-grown men, he was, after all,
only yet a boy. Yet with breath going, and courage failing, Dusty Star
fled on.

If there is a Good Spirit which carries its mysterious warning to the
children of the wilderness when danger threatens, it would seem
sometimes as if there were an evil one which lures them to their doom.
Else why should Dusty Star swerve suddenly to the right along a new
trail, and in doing so turn to look behind? The next moment, he had
caught his foot against a projecting root, and was down.

He was on his feet in an instant; but the fall had lessened his
breathing power, and when he started to run again, it was plain that he
was losing ground.

With savage whoops of triumph, his pursuers came bounding on.

With a feeling of wild despair. Dusty Star gathered himself together for
a final effort. As he made it, he cried aloud. It was a strange sort of
bark, half-human, half-wolf. If any wolf-ear happened to catch it, the
hearer would recognize it as a call for help. But although Dusty Star
threw all his voice into that last despairing cry, it seemed to be
muffled by the forest till it died in the throat of its glooms.

The Indians were very close upon him now. Only the humming of the blood
in his ears deadened the soft padding sound of their moccasins as they
ran.

But now, at the very last, there swims into Dusty Star's sight a
confused vision. It comes at a tremendous pace. Its running is that of a
wolf at full speed, the body low along the ground. The strong,
deeply-padded feet spurn the ground from under them with bounds that are
like blows. The eyes burn like green fires. There is a wild glare in
them, of rage goaded to madness. All the fury of the forest is in that
grey running with the eyes that burn.

Dusty Star, dazed with exhaustion did not immediately realize what the
creature was, until it leaped upon him, and he fell.

The Indians saw a huge grey wolf which seemed to be pulling their prey
down before they could reach it. They gave tongue to a savage yell, and
bore down upon the wolf.

However terrifying an Indian war-whoop is to human ears, it produced a
contrary effect on the animal mounting guard over Dusty Star. Before the
foremost red-skin was within half-a-dozen yards of the spot, the
crouching, snarling Fury unbent like mighty springs of its hind
quarters. Like a battering-ram, all the 150-lb weight of Kiopo's body
drove against the Indian's chest. He went down with a cry. The Indian
immediately behind him, realizing the danger when too late, sprang
aside. But Kiopo was too quick for him. There was a leap, a flash of
fangs, and he shared the fate of the leader.

What followed took place almost more quickly than it can be described.
The Indians, finding themselves attacked by so dangerous an enemy,
separated at once, but not before another of their number had gone down
before the terrific onslaught of the wolf. One or two hurled their
tomahawks, but Kiopo's movements were so bafflingly swift that it was
like trying to wound the wind.

All round Dusty Star's body, the Madness that was Kiopo swept a magic
circle which no Indian dared to cross. Those who had rashly attempted to
do so payed dearly for their rashness. The wolf's fangs were splashed
with blood. His eyeballs glittered with that ominous green light, which
seemed the very glare of madness.

It was indeed a question whether Kiopo was not really partly mad. His
passionate attachment to Dusty Star, his grief in losing him, his fury
against his captors, his joy at recovering him and fear of losing him
again--all united to turn him into this wolfish Terror against which
nothing could stand. The Indians grew more and more alarmed. The manner
in which Kiopo kept them at bay while avoiding any injury which they
tried to inflict, impressed their superstitious minds with the belief
that this was no ordinary wolf. And if, as they began to believe, he
were a "medicine-wolf," an animal gifted with supernatural powers, then
it was only inviting death to provoke him. It was plain to them now that
this boy they were trying to kill was under the protection of the
beasts. And the medicine of the beasts was very strong. The Great Spirit
ran with the beasts. There were times when it was better not to hunt,
lest you should hunt the Great Spirit and be destroyed.

It was this feeling of uncertainty, and growing awe, which weakened
their attack and made them waver. And Kiopo, realizing that his enemies
were giving way, became more daring. Not content with continuing to keep
them at bay, he passed suddenly from defence to attack. Nothing could
withstand the fury of his onset. The great body hurled itself on all
sides; the deadly fangs never missed their mark; the wolf launched
himself terrifically, like a thunderbolt with teeth!

In utter panic, the Indians broke and fled. Those who were fortunate
enough to escape the raging madness at their heels, scattered far into
the woods, and sought refuge at last by climbing into the trees.

It was not till the last Indian had disappeared, that Kiopo, glutted
with vengeance, returned to the spot where he had left Dusty Star. The
boy had risen to his feet, and was looking round fearfully lest one or
other of his enemies might take advantage of Kiopo's absence to return
to the attack; but when he saw the wolf come bounding back through the
trees, he knew that he was safe. He was overcome with joy at Kiopo's
reappearance. As for Kiopo himself, he was utterly at a loss how to
express his wild delight; but though he gave vent to it in strange
wolfish ways, Dusty Star understood. And when they each had expressed
their happiness after their own fashion, they turned their faces
westward, and took the homeward trail.

It was sunset when they reached the valley. As the familiar landmarks
rose to view, Dusty Star felt a great joy surge up in his heart. Once
more back out of the world! Once more to be hidden out of sight and mind
in the vast shadowy silences that were older than the beasts; older even
than the ancient footways of the cariboo, which, as everybody knows,
began before geography, because the Cariboo have gone on walking since
the beginning of the world.

After this wonderful re-union the two settled down again to the old life
in the valley, and the moons went quickly by. Summer passed into Fall,
Fall into Winter, and Dusty Star for the first time learned the real
meaning of cold. If it had not been for Kiopo and Kiopo's constant
activities, he must surely have perished. But Kiopo was food and warmth
and protection rolled into one. It was a great hunting which Kiopo had
in the nights when even the moon seemed to break her way through a
frozen sky, and the trees cracked in the black frost. But though the
hunting was great, the game was often small; and as the season advanced,
the wild kin took the trails with less and less flesh upon its bones.
With the last geese and the first snow, Dusty Star piled fresh branches
round the tepee, so that it swelled visibly to double its outer size.
And for reasons of warmth, the doorway became nothing but a hole in and
out of which he, like Kiopo, went on all fours. When the snow came and
buried them, Kiopo dug themselves out. And in the blizzard that lasted
three days and nights, Kiopo's body was a central-heating arrangement
that kept the Little Brother from freezing to death.

In the snow darkness, and snow silence, Dusty Star listened to the
muffled roar of a giant wind that wrenched the forest till it seemed as
if not a tree would be left to stand. And he wondered How Baltook and
Boola did, and wished he could have persuaded Goshmeelee to take up her
winter quarters with them in the snowed-up tepee. But Goshmeelee was
extremely occupied--that is, she was extremely busy with being fast
asleep, and she wasn't going to wake up for anybody till it was time to
be Spring.

And so the winter passed, and Dusty Star followed Kiopo's example in
learning to be lean. Very lean and scraggy they both were when the snow
melted and the geese took a thought to go North. But the scragginess did
not injure their health, and as the grass grew, and the hunting
improved, the meat began to come once more upon their bones.

And so the moon of roses came once more, followed by the Thunder Moon,
and the Moon-when-the-leaves-turn-yellow; and there was not a sign of a
Yellow Dog, or of any other enemy to trouble their peace. And Winter
came again; as before. And when the spring came for the second time, it
seemed almost as if Carboona had always been their home. And nothing
seemed to change except that Baltook and Boola got a new litter of cubs
each year, and that after Goshmeelee had licked one or two babies into
cleanliness one season, it was the same tongue, but a new Baby, the
next! As for Mr. Goshmeelee, he was so very shy and retiring that it was
only once in a blue moon that you ever saw him at all. And as Goshmeelee
didn't bother to mention him, Dusty Star didn't like to press her with
questions, and pretended he wasn't there.

But the one real change was just the one about which Dusty Star knew the
least and did not fuss himself about at all. For the winter and the
summer, and the heat and the cold, and the meat coming on his bones, and
going off again, and the great life he lived with Kiopo beyond Human
ken, were slowly but surely working upon him.

_He was growing up!_



CHAPTER XX

THE TERROR OF THE CARBOONA


In the inmost heart of the Carboona, among a wilderness of boulders, old
pine stumps, and dense thickets of juniper and thorn there was a spot to
which all wise Carboona dwellers gave a wide berth. Apart from its
bareness and lack of pasture, the place bore an ill name. Its evil
reputation came from very ancient times. It was shunned equally by
catamount, fox, bear, wolf and moose. And the lesser creatures, which
haunted the neighbouring thickets, kept well within their shelter and
rarely ventured out. Even the Cariboo, with the travelling restlessness
strong within them, turned aside after much uneasy pawing of the ground,
and suspicious blasts of breath, and fetched a semi-circle to the north
or south. Yet not one of these suspicious folk could have given any
plain reason for their avoidance of the spot. It was enough for them
that the wisdom of the ages informed them it was bad.

But now, in addition to the vague influence of the place, its evil
reputation had been strengthened by an added terror which was by no
means vague: it was known as the lair of a new resident--the Great Lone
Wolf.

Where the Lone Wolf had come from, nobody could tell. One Fall, when the
air was full of the honking of the geese, he had arrived mysteriously
with the first cold, and seemed to bring the winter with him. And from
that day, the soundless word went throughout Carboona's inmost recesses:
"Beware of the Terror of the eastern thickets. Beware of the Lone Wolf."
And those who were foolish enough to disregard the warning, escaped a
hard winter by falling to prey to the wolf.

One morning, Lone Wolf slept later than was his habit. During his sleep
he did not dream; yet warm scents, drifting in the shimmering tide of
the heat, lapped against his nose in ripples so fine that they did not
disturb his brain.

When at length he awoke, he yawned. The yawn was like a huge gash in his
lower face. After the yawn, he rose, and shook himself. Then he sat down
on his haunches and looked abroad into the world. He had slept well, and
was not aware of being hungry; so there was no need to bother himself
about hunting. For all that, he was not contented. He wanted something,
but he didn't know what. He felt he might find it, if he went for a
walk. So he walked. When he came to the angle of a certain stone, he
stopped dead, sniffed, set his hair bristling between his shoulders, and
growled in the very black places of his throat.

He had found a rival's mark!

The sudden change in Lone Wolf was remarkable. From being an apparently
lazy hump of dark grey wolfishness with an air of nothing to do, he
turned into an alert, cunning Ferocity whose every nerve and faculty
were tightened up for the performance of something very particular
indeed. As he moved over the sun-scorched surface of the rocky ground,
his body carried low on the great springs of his legs, he seemed to
gather all the ancient floating evil of the locality to himself and give
it a wolf's shape.

If the Carboona peoples had known that the Terror was once more upon the
prowl, a thrill of fear would have shot along the mountain, like an
electric current. But at this drowsy hour of the day, most of them were
resting from their hunting of the previous night and early morning, and
were sleeping in their lairs. Boola and her family were curled up in the
cool chamber at the end of the hole. Baltook was taking a light nap in a
shady spot he knew of among a cluster of shumacks a quarter of a mile
from the den. Goshmeelee sat in huge contentment in the edges of the
swamp--sitting up commodiously on the well-cushioned and very wide
sitting-down part of her, and rocking herself slowly to and fro with a
pleasant sense of the damp and slimy cosiness to be had in the swampy
parts of the world. While the squirrels, chipmunks, and blue jays, and
all other small watchers and warners of danger coming, or to come,
perched on shady look-out points, and blinked their eyes a little in the
drowsy warmth.

As soon as Lone Wolf left the open mountain side and entered the
out-lying edges of the spruce woods, he was fully aware that he was
being watched by many pairs of eyes. And he had not gone very far before
he had annoying proof of this in the defiant chatter of a chipmunk which
was taking noon-tide observation on a hollow log. Above all things, Lone
Wolf wanted to go secretly. As he passed the log, he shot a murderous
look at its occupier out of his cruel grey-green eyes; but he knew
better than to waste his energy by making a leap at that alert bundle of
fur-covered springs, and so went softly on his way, while the chipmunk
sent its angry warning out to all forest-folks within earshot that
murder was on the trail.

He had reached a spot about a mile from the camp when he came to an
abrupt stand. There not fifty paces away, he saw a big wolf, with
another creature beside it which was certainly not a wolf. Both were
travelling quickly eastward. He remained motionless till they had
disappeared and then took up the fresh trail. Its mingled beast and
human smell disturbed him. He had met Red men before, and detested them.
He still carried the mark and the memory of an Indian tomahawk which had
slashed him in the neck, when, running one hard winter with a
desperately hungry pack, he had attacked a solitary Indian travelling
across the frost-bound levels of the lakes. Now, as the mixed smell of
the wolf-breed, and hated man-breed, rose to his nostrils, the old
enmity slumbering within him leaped again to life.

For the rest of that day, he dogged the footsteps of the pair; and when
they separated at twilight, Kiopo going to hunt, and Dusty Star
returning to camp, it was the boy he followed, not the wolf. And little
did Dusty Star suspect, as he went alone through the darkening woods,
that every step of his homeward way was shadowed by the Terror of the
Carboona on delicately-stepping feet.

Over and over again the wolf wanted to leap upon the boy and destroy him
then and there, yet the vague fear of the human being, which disturbs
wild animals, haunted his nerves, and he could not throw it off before
Dusty Star reached the camp.

All that night, he watched in the edges of the forest, roaming to and
fro uneasily, and did not finally leave the neighbourhood till just
before dawn.



CHAPTER XXI

HOW DUSTY STAR MET THE TERROR


Midsummer--the Moon of Roses--had melted into the Thunder Moon, and the
Moon when the blueberries ripen drew nigh. Now if there was one thing
above another which Goshmeelee loved in all the world, it was a good
feed of berries. So that when the early tang of the Fall began to tickle
her nose, the blueberry feeling made itself felt also, and she made up
her mind to appease it. By this time, the cubs had long passed out of
babyhood, and were growing into good-sized little bears, quite able to
take care of themselves. But as it was a long climb to the berry
patches, and Goshmeelee couldn't be sure that they would be ripe, even
if she found them, she decided not to cumber herself with the family,
but to leave it at home. So, making her wishes more than clear by a
good-natured cuff apiece when the little bears wanted to follow her, she
lumbered contentedly off upon her quest.

Now on the very morning on which Goshmeelee started to find her berries,
Dusty Star was also climbing up Carboona, after having waited until he
had seen Kiopo trot off in the opposite direction after game. Of late,
Kiopo had developed a strange uneasiness. He was continually leaving the
camp and returning to it at short intervals. When in the camp he was
always on the alert, watching the forest with a wary eye. By his
behaviour, Dusty Star was convinced that his finer wolf-sense had
detected some threatening danger which he himself could not perceive.
Kiopo told him nothing directly, but the two were by this time in such
complete sympathy that the boy learned half the danger, merely by
feeling as the wolf felt. He also watched the forest, wondering from
what quarter the danger threatened. Yet never had the great woods
appeared to hold themselves in such deep untroubled peace. Nothing broke
their stillness save the occasional sharp chirr of a chipmunk, or the
tapp, tapp of the little black-and-white wood-peckers on some hollow
limb. Night came, and the stillness only deepened,--night--and the
soundless glitter of the stars.

Once only Dusty Star saw, or fancied he saw, a wolf stand in a clear
space in the glimmer of the coming dawn. And at first, thinking it was
Kiopo, he had not moved. But when at last, he had gone forward to see,
he found the place where it had stood empty.

Slowly, day by day, the sense of danger passed. Kiopo went off hunting
for longer and longer distances. But he avoided the upper slopes of the
Carboona, and followed trails that led him well away. And not again,
either in late twilight, or early dawn, did Dusty Star catch the shadows
at their old illusive game. Only one thing remained, and that was the
very plain objection which Kiopo had to Dusty Star going up into
Carboona at any time of the day. Now when Kiopo objected to anything
strongly, his ways of expressing himself were perfectly clear. Not only
his eyes, his ears and his mouth, but his whole body said _No_ in the
plainest possible way. Dusty Star had no excuse for not understanding
that Kiopo objected to his going up Carboona. Yet the more definitely
Kiopo objected, the more Dusty Star wanted to go.

He was moving very quickly now, because he was anxious to get as far as
possible, in case Kiopo discovered where he had gone, and came to fetch
him back. Kiopo was doubtless very wise, and knew the forest better than
any one else; yet Dusty Star was quite sure that he had a wisdom of his
own, and he liked sometimes to set the Indian "Yes" against the wolf
"No." Now, as he mounted higher and higher into an unexplored world, he
enjoyed the feeling of having asserted his right to decide things for
himself. And every time he stopped to look back, he could see a vaster
tract of forest and hills, lying out and out to a distance that had no
end.

He was above the forest now, and had entered the borders of the great
barren where the waterfowl had their homes along the solitary pools. He
pushed on rapidly. Except the flocks of wildfowl, he saw no other life.
Here and there, in patches on the rising grounds, he came upon the
blueberries, beginning to be ripe. But the bears had not visited them
yet, and there were no signs of other large game. It was a little lonely
here on the high barren. He wondered, all at once, what he should do if
he came upon a grizzly. It was a long, long way from camp, and Kiopo's
protection. He began to be conscious that he was very much alone.
Something made him look suddenly behind.

Not fifty paces away he saw an enormous wolf.

It stood stock-still, as if caught in the act of stealthy movement, and
Dusty Star noticed with uneasiness that between them there was no
obstacle or cover of any kind. A couple of swift bounds and the creature
could be upon him. Instinctively he realized that it had been stalking
him for some time, and was now preparing for the final rush.

For a moment his heart failed him. Then he rallied. Face to face with
the Terror of the Carboona, Dusty Star did not flinch. The fine Indian
breed of him, descending through long generations, rose magnificently to
the test.

He took in his surroundings with a glance. On one hand lay a pool; on
the other, a tangle of bushes. Behind him, the ground rose. He waited
for the wolf to make the first movement.

For a moment or two, Lone Wolf remained in the half crouching attitude
in which he had been surprised. Then, snarling threateningly he began to
move slowly forward.

Dusty Star drew his hunting-knife in readiness, and stood his ground.
The wolf continued to advance. When not more than a dozen paces
separated them, he stopped again. Dusty Star noted the cruel light in
his eyes, and knew that he paused for the first spring of the attack.
Yet his own gaze did not falter. He held the wolf boldly with his eyes.
Never before had Lone Wolf borne the direct stare of the human eye face
to face, and the experience made him uneasy. He felt the presence of a
mysterious power out of all proportion to the body which contained it.
His own eyes glittering with evil as they were, lacked this power. He
was fully conscious of his own importance--a great wolf, lord of a wide
range; yet some unexplained feeling within him told him that he was now
in the presence of a creature greater than himself. For all that, he
knew that this new enemy must be attacked, and his right to enter
Carboona challenged. For he felt that here, though he could not
understand it, was a challenge from the wolves.

Without further warning, he sprang. In the same instant, Dusty Star
leaped aside, escaping by a hair's breath the slash of the wolf's fangs
at his throat. But he had not been able to leap quite far enough, and,
though he tried to save himself he fell. As he did so, he drove his
hunting-knife with all his force into the wolf's side.

What happened next was like a thunderbolt from a blue sky.

As the keen blade went home, Lone Wolf yelped and turned furiously on
his fallen foe; but before he could slash a second time, a huge black
body bounded through the air from the tangle of bushes on the right. The
thing was so utterly unexpected that the wolf was completely taken off
his guard. The great body, descending full upon him, bore him to the
ground.

If his assailant could have kept its hold, the reign of the Lone Wolf,
mightily sinewed though he was, would have been over for ever; but the
force of the creature's landing had been so great that it slightly lost
its balance. That slight loss saved the wolf's life. With a snarl of
mingled rage and pain, he tore himself from his enemy's clutch with a
tremendous wrench; then, not daring to face those terrible claws again,
he bounded off across the barren, leaving a trail of blood.

In the first moment of astonishment, Dusty Star had not recognised his
deliverer. Yet Goshmeelee it was, and no other, who now stood before
him, gazing at him reprovingly out of her little pig-like eyes.

It was exactly as if she had said:

"You are out of bounds. You have no business to be here. If I hadn't
happened to come in the nick of time you'd never have escaped to tell
the tale!"

Dusty Star was well aware that all this was perfectly true, even though
Goshmeelee didn't put it into plain Indian speech. Also he could see
that her rescue of him had been at the cost of some damage to herself.
In the brief moment of her grapple with the wolf, his long fangs had
seized. It was not a serious wound, but it bled. Goshmeelee, with her
immense practicalness, instantly produced from her mouth the washing
apparatus dreaded by her cubs, and began to lick the injured spot. Dusty
Star looked at her very solemnly with his big brown eyes.

"I never meant you to get hurt," he said in his throaty Indian voice. He
kept repeating the words over and over again.

If Goshmeelee had ever been examined in the tongues spoken at
Washington, London, Paris, and the other great centres of civilized
gabble, by the learned gentlemen so high up in the educational world
that it must make them dizzy to look down the precipices of their own
minds, she would have been regarded as a perfect "dreadnought" of a
dunce. But if they and she had to compete in the tongues used by the
forest-folk, not to mention the running language of the water-voices and
the wind, I should have been greatly surprised if she had not left them
very far behind indeed! So, although she did not know a single word of
Dusty Star's Indian talk, she grasped the meaning of it at once, and
knew that he was being sorry with his mouth.

When she had licked as much as necessary, she looked pleasantly at Dusty
Star with every bit of her good-natured face. That her wound was better,
and that she was still ready for blueberries, was what she wanted him to
understand.

And Dusty Star fortunately remembered the spot on the barren where the
blueberries were on the point of being very nearly ripe. If Goshmeelee
had not passed that way, Dusty Star was delighted to think that
(although it was nothing in comparison with what she had done for him)
he could nevertheless put her in the way of filling with berries that
part of her which was wanting to be filled.

He grabbed her by the fur, and gave her a tug.

"You come with me, and _I'll_ show you!" he said.

And Goshmeelee went.



CHAPTER XXII

THE MOON WHEN THINGS WALK


By signs that were unmistakable, Dusty Star knew that a new, strange
restlessness had invaded Kiopo's bones. It was not that he watched the
forest borders with suspicion, as before, for an invisible foe. That
uneasiness might be there, but it seemed for the present to be swallowed
up in a deeper restlessness which preyed upon him day and night. After
Dusty Star's return from his Carboona excursion, Kiopo had regarded him
with a reproving eye. It was useless for Dusty Star to pretend that
nothing had happened. Kiopo never met the Lone Wolf; and Goshmeelee
bulging with berries did not blab. Nevertheless, Kiopo knew that the
Little Brother had taken the law into his own hand, and that trouble was
on the way.

Kiopo could not rest. The Fall had come, and, with the Fall, its
wandering impulses. An unquiet itch had got into the skin of things, and
into the heart of things a strange desire. Every wild creature felt it,
each in its own degree. The Cariboo were off on their vague journeyings
that took them half across the world. It was the moon when things
appeared and vanished; the moon when travelling voices came out of the
north, when a thin sleep covered the earth by day, and when things went
out walking at the falling of the night.

Kiopo also walked.

Where he went Dusty Star could not tell. He watched and watched; but
Kiopo always eluded him at the coming-on of dusk. Mere hunting did not
account for it. The kills he made were not numerous. Often he brought
back what barely sufficed for their needs. It was only too clear that
something beyond mere hunting occupied his mind.

What made the thing still more peculiar was that, wherever it was Kiopo
went, there he also howled. Night after night, about an hour after
sundown, Dusty Star would hear the familiar voice raised in melancholy
wailing in the distance, as if it resounded from the sides of a gorge.

And as he lay awake, listening to the woeful sound, he would hear, ever
and anon, dark voices out of the north, that came clanging above the
hollow woods, and making the silence quake. And though he told himself
that it was only the first flights of the geese, he could not get rid of
the feeling that other voices went along the middle sky, and that the
dark was haunted with wings.

At last he determined to discover where it was that Kiopo went to do his
howling, and what happened when he howled. So, one evening, when the
wolf, as was his custom, slunk into the shadow of the woods, Dusty Star,
on noiseless moccasins, disappeared also. He kept Kiopo in sight for
some time without his knowledge. Then, when at last his form became
indistinguishable in the gloom, he followed as best he could the
direction he believed he had taken.

Due south-west from the camp, a high spur of rock jutted from the
mountain at the side of an immense gorge. It struck boldly out like an
ocean promontory; and on nights when the wind was high, it would have
been easy to imagine that the deepening roar which rose from the
straining spruce woods beneath was the welter and crash of a rising sea.

Dusty Star had seen the place several times in the day-time, and it
struck him now that it would be a likely spot for Kiopo to choose for
his nightly performance. The trail thither lay through thick forest and
was not an easy one to follow. But the boy had a strong sense of
direction, and every time he reached an open space between the trees, he
took his bearings from the stars. As he went, he listened intently for
the first notes of Kiopo's singing, and before he had travelled half the
distance, they came. In the deep stillness of the night, the call
sounded comparatively close. There could be little mistake as to its
direction, which was either that of the promontory, or some spot very
near it.

Seven times he heard the cry, each time clearer than before: then there
was a long silence, disturbed by not a single sound. Through the
breathless stillness, Dusty Star continued his secret advance. By the
last howl he guessed that he must be drawing very near to his goal; yet
that very nearness made it necessary for him to use the greatest caution
in order not to give Kiopo the alarm. Soon he saw a huge mass of rocks
loom blackly between him and the rising moon.

He did not dare to attempt to climb its almost perpendicular sides; but,
skirting the base of it, worked his way up the mountain slope so that he
might reach it from above. He arrived at last at the beginning of the
promontory, and, lying flat on his stomach, looked about him. On all
sides, the rocks took strange appearances, like humped beasts, crouched,
and watching. Yet nothing stirred, nothing breathed. Of Kiopo there was
not a sign. In front of him, a large boulder hid the end of the
promontory from sight. Dusty Star worked himself slowly round it, foot
by foot. When he was half-way round, he stopped; for there, at the
extreme end of the rocks, with his back towards him, he saw Kiopo
sitting motionless, as he gazed out into the enormous night. Then, he
saw him throw up his head; and again the long, throbbing howl made the
gorges ring.

Dusty Star had heard howling many times before. Since his earliest
infancy, the throats of wolf, fox and coyote had haunted his ears like
nursery song-books with ancient, terrible tunes. But to-night, the tune
seemed to gather a new terror, and made his pulses throb. His first
impulse was to call to Kiopo so that he might not do it again. Only this
was one of those times when, in spite of the intimate comradeship which
bound them together, he stood a little in awe of that mysterious
wolf-mind which was in Kiopo, and which seemed to understand the stars.
In the breathless stillness which followed the cry, Dusty Star listened
to the quickened beating of his own heart.

Once again, Kiopo howled. This time, he was answered. From the hollow
gloom of the forest below there came a deep-toned "woof" that was half a
roar.

Dusty Star saw Kiopo immediately stiffen into attention, as he turned
his head in the direction of the threatening sound. Owing to his
position he could not see what the wolf saw, but Kiopo's attitude told
him that he was watching something that had come into sight from among
the trees. His whole body was tingling with excitement. He cast all
further secrecy aside, and ran towards Kiopo. The wolf turned quickly,
and growled. As Dusty Star fully understood, the growl was one of
disapproval, not of anger. It said plainly: "You are not wanted. You are
very much in the way."

Dusty Star knew, when too late, that this was true. Yet he was glad he
had come. Kiopo could not keep _this_ thing secret, as he had kept
others. He would see what was to be seen: whatever the danger was, Kiopo
and he would meet it together.

Again Kiopo lifted his voice; but this time it was no weary howl, making
melancholy echoes: it was a short, deep bark, like an explosion.

Another "woof," rather higher pitched than the first, rose angrily from
below. The enemy had accepted Kiopo's challenge for the fight. A few
minutes afterwards, a great, grey timber wolf came stalking down the
promontory with the battle-light in his eyes.

As soon as he appeared, Dusty Star realized in a flash that they had met
before, and that he was once again face to face with the giant wolf from
whose murderous attack Goshmeelee had rescued him. For the Terror of the
Carboona, Goshmeelee had been more than a match. But Kiopo, mighty
fighter as he was, was not Goshmeelee. As he watched, an awful dread
began to creep into Dusty Star's heart.

And now Kiopo prepared for what he knew must come. The first thing he
did was to give Dusty Star a butt with his head, which said clearly
enough: "Get well out of the way."

Dusty Star was not so foolish as to disobey, knowing well that he could
be of little use to Kiopo as soon as the fight began. So he scrambled
hastily to the top of a high rock where he could watch what happened
without being in danger.

On came the big grey stranger, walking stiffly, his tail waving slowly
from side to side. As he advanced, he growled deeply. Kiopo awaited him
without moving, every muscle tense, while he measured his enemy's points
and probable strength. The Lone Wolf came to a stand, and for a few
moments the wolves stood facing each other at the distance of a spring.

[Illustration: ON CAME THE BIG GREY STRANGER, WALKING STIFFLY, HIS TAIL
WAVING SLOWLY FROM SIDE TO SIDE]

Both animals were splendid specimens of their class. What Kiopo wanted
in height, little though that was, he made up for in breadth and depth
of shoulder and chest. An onlooker would have said that in actual
fighting powers, the creatures were almost equally matched, though the
chances lay on the side of the stranger. It would be only a close
observer of beasts who would have marked not merely the depth of Kiopo's
chest, but the greater width of his skull between the eyes.

It was plain that Lone Wolf was in an ugly mood. The hairs along his
back stood stiffly, and his eyes gleamed like smouldering brands. In
Kiopo he saw the hated rival whose hunting lay so close to the borders
of his own range, and whose howling was a nightly challenge to the
lordship of Carboona. He was well aware that Kiopo was not a foe to be
slighted; but his repeated victories had made him insolent, and in the
present instance he was confident of success.

Kiopo too, was in a rage; partly because his right to exist had been
challenged by a powerful foe, partly because of the presence of Dusty
Star. The mere idea that any harm threatened the Little Brother was more
than enough to rouse him to a fury of fighting pitch. Rather than that a
hair of the Little Brother should be injured, he would fight to the
death. Yet in spite of his anger, he was wary. He had not fought
Stickchi in vain. His strong limbs gathered well beneath him, he bided
his time.

Suddenly, the Lone Wolf sprang.

Dusty Star caught his breath, and gripped his rock more tightly. The
fight had begun!

Kiopo was not caught napping. In a flash he jerked his body sideways, so
that Lone Wolf, instead of bearing him down as he had intended, and so
gaining the advantage, landed close on his left flank. And although his
fangs raked Kiopo's ribs, Kiopo replied at the same instant by a counter
slash that ripped his antagonist's shoulder.

The fight had started now in real earnest. It was a wolfish whirlwind of
motion. The two enraged animals bounded, slashed, gripped together, tore
themselves apart, in a series of movements so lightning-swift as to
baffle the eyes. When locked together, sometimes one would be on top,
sometimes the other; but their immense strength, and amazing agility,
made it impossible for either of them to hold the other down for any
length of time. And Lone Wolf soon learnt that, when Kiopo was on his
back, his methods were even more to be feared than when he was on his
feet; for it was then that his hind quarters came most successfully into
play. Those powerful quarters, fully armed with claws, were formidable
engines of war when directed against Lone Wolf's stomach. More than once
Lone Wolf was forced to loosen his grip upon his foe and tear himself
away with a yelp of pain. And each time, like a relentless fury, Kiopo
had leaped upon him in a fresh onslaught. Soon, both animals were
streaming with blood; yet their many wounds, far from lessening their
rage, seemed to make them more madly determined to fight on to the
death.

Perched upon his rock, Dusty Star watched the appalling struggle going
on immediately below him, with an excitement and a dread that passed all
bounds. His close intimacy with wild animals, had taught him that a
fight of this sort could only be ended by the death of one or other of
the fighters, and his terror naturally was lest Kiopo should not be able
to hold his own. He had never known him to fail before; but then never
before had he encountered a foe so nearly matched with him in strength.
So far, it would not have been possible to say that either wolf had
gained any decided advantage over the other, but now Dusty Star observed
something which filled him with a new fear. Either by chance or design,
the wolves were very much nearer to the edge of the precipice than at
the beginning of the fight. Surely, he thought, Kiopo, the always wary
one, must have realized _that_? In his frantic anxiety to make sure that
he realized, Dusty Star clapped his hands and shouted.

Whether Kiopo understood the warning or not, the sound of Dusty Star's
voice seemed to goad him to fresh efforts. The Little Brother had cried.
He was fighting for the Little Brother as much as for himself. For a
while it seemed as if the Lone Wolf must succumb to the fresh fury of
his onslaught. In spite of this, Dusty Star saw with horror that the
fight had rolled closer than ever to the edge.

And now it seemed that Kiopo had begun to lose his temporary advantage.
Soon it became all too plain that he was steadily losing ground, and was
being pushed nearer and nearer to the fatal edge. At last he reached it.
In the final struggle for mastery, the wolves, still tearing furiously
at each other, seemed poised on the very brink. In another moment, one
or other, if not both, must surely be dashed to destruction. Again, in a
fever of suspense, Dusty Star held his breath.

And then the thing happened-the amazing thing which, to the latest day
of his life, he would never forget!

Just as Kiopo appeared to be pushed to his last foothold, with his hind
quarters doubled under him beneath the fatal pressure of his all-but
victorious foe, he gathered himself together for a last supreme effort,
and the powerful sinews of those compressed hind legs did the work he
relied on them to do.

In spite of appearances to the contrary, he had deliberately allowed
himself to be pushed to the precipice. There was cunning in him, as well
as courage. The breadth between the eyes was beginning to tell. If Dusty
Star had been able to guess this, he might have been spared some, at
least, of the terror of the last few eventful moments. What he actually
saw was _this_--a violent movement throughout the whole of Kiopo's body;
a mighty upward urge that lifted his enemy clean off his feet; then, a
swift sideways wrench of his powerful neck and shoulders; and the heave
of a dark body over the precipice edge.

With a thrill of unutterable relief, Dusty Star realized that the body
which went crashing to its doom was not Kiopo's!

He sprang down from his rock, wild with exultant joy, Kiopo was safe!
Kiopo had won! The great fight was over, and Kiopo was the victor.

He rushed to the wolf, but in the very moment of throwing his arms about
him, stopped. For, in spite of his overwhelming delight, his wilderness
wisdom did not forsake him. He realized that Kiopo was too badly wounded
to be touched.

The wolf lay on his side, bleeding from a dozen wounds. He took his
breath in panting gasps that were almost sobs. It went to the boy's
heart to hear the struggle for air, for life itself; yet for the moment
he was helpless. If he had had a wound himself, he possessed sufficient
Indian medical knowledge to treat it with healing herbs and bind it up.
But with the wolf it was altogether different. Kiopo could not have
borne bandages, even if Dusty Star had had them to apply. The only
remedies possible were three: rest, Nature, and his own wolfish tongue.
This Dusty Star knew quite well. All he dared to do was to kneel on the
ground beside Kiopo while he gazed into his eyes, and made a murmuring
medicine-talk with his mouth. And it needed no explanation to tell the
wolf that all the love in the Little Brother's heart was flooding out
through his eyes and mouth. He could not have borne the Little Brother's
hand just then, tender though its touch would have been. But he was
grateful for the medicine-talk of the Little Brother's Mouth; and the
Little Brother's eyes comforted him: they seemed to lick him like
soothing tongues.

For the rest of that night, and far into the next morning Kiopo lay
where he was, licking his wounds. When the sun began to beat down upon
the promontory, he dragged himself painfully into the shadows of the
rocks, and remained there for the rest of the day. Dusty Star went in
search of water and found a spring half-way down the gorge. By making a
cup of a broad leaf of skunk cabbage, he was able to carry back a little
water, which Kiopo eagerly drank. He had to make the journey many times,
because no matter how cunningly he twisted the leaf, the pitcher would
find a way of leaking; and although he always started with it as full as
it would hold, it was more than half empty by the time it reached
Kiopo's parched tongue.

There was another thing which Dusty Star found besides the spring. Down
at the precipice foot, not far from the spot where the skunk cabbage
grew, he came upon a large grey body which had broken its neck upon the
rocks. And he knew for a certainty that the Terror of the Carboona would
hunt on his range no more.

Nature, the great Mother of Healing, did her work. With her help, two
nights and a day of rest and licking, and the cool water the Little
Brother brought, enabled Kiopo gradually to regain his strength. Great
was Dusty Star's joy, when, on the second morning after the fight, he
saw Kiopo struggle to his feet and move slowly towards the forest.

They travelled slowly, but, in spite of that, reached home before
sundown, while high over their heads, the tall tops of the spruces
loitered in the golden light. Never had the valley looked more peaceful
than on this still evening of early Fall. The restlessness which had
waxed with the waxing of the moon, seemed to have departed from it on
furtive feet beyond Carboona to the great Shuswap lake where the heavy
waters rest. Yet the valley was not so deserted as it looked. For just
as they came in sight of the camp, a large body was seen to move slowly
away. Kiopo saw it, but did not growl. He recognized it as that of the
old she-bear.

When Goshmeelee became aware of the travellers, she did not quicken her
steps. Why should she? She never hurried unless folks worried her. She
made a special point of living very slowly. It suited her digestion, and
she usually had a great deal to digest. So instead of departing in a
fluster, she sat down heavily in order to contemplate them at her ease.

"Been fighting," she said to herself, as soon as she had taken note of
Kiopo, but she was too polite, or too lazy, to put it into speech.

Kiopo observed her out of the corner of his eye, walking past with great
dignity, as much as to say that she needn't pity _him_. She was a very
feminine bear, and he was a very masculine wolf. She took up more room
in the world than he did, and had a wider way when she sat down. If it
had not been for the Little Brother, he could do without her in a world
where the bear-folk and the wolf-folk do not mix. But the Little Brother
carried confusion with him. He seemed brother to half the forest. He
made acquaintances right and left. If you made a kill, you could never
be sure that the Little Brother would not make a fuss because you had
killed one of his folk!

If the Little Brother's way got general, all the world would become
brothers, and there would be nothing left to kill.

Dusty Star went up to the old bear joyfully, and gave her a playful
push.

"We've come back," he said.

Goshmeelee grunted, as much as to say that she had already perceived the
fact.

"Say you're glad!" Dusty Star said, shaking her thick coat.

Goshmeelee gave a second grunt, which might mean anything, or nothing.
She did not feel she had any cause for special thankfulness. But she
looked at her tormentor with such a grave expression that he felt
uncomfortable. Goshmeelee's way was to make you feel she had things to
say before she said them.

"I am very glad to be back," Dusty Star said, pretending he hadn't
noticed anything odd in Goshmeelee's manner.

There was a pause. Then Goshmeelee asked him suddenly:

"Will you be glad to go?"

"Go? But we have only just come back!" he exclaimed.

"In Carboona there are many comings and goings," Goshmeelee said
vaguely. "One does not always remain."

"But why should I go?" Dusty Star asked earnestly; for his curiosity was
now fully roused.

Goshmeelee swayed a little, and grunted, which meant that the _reason_
for his going was hidden from _her_.

"But we have come back to stay always," Dusty Star said uneasily. "Has
anything happened since we have been away?"

"Strange feet are walking," the bear replied darkly. "In the forest
there is a new trail."

What the trail told, where, by whom made, Goshmeelee would not say. All
Dusty Star's utmost efforts were useless to induce her to throw any
further light on her mysterious remarks. When she had stared at him for
a little longer, in an aggravating dumbness, she dropped down on her
front feet, and lumbered gently away.



CHAPTER XXIII

LONE CHIEF GOES WEST


Many moons had come and gone since Dusty Star and Kiopo disappeared into
the West. To those who asked questions, none made answer. That was
partly because the folk who knew were not asked. The folk who knew, not
being asked, kept that knowledge to themselves. Baltook could have told;
Boola also. Goshmeelee herself was a storehouse of information. But none
of these were likely to travel hundreds of miles east to carry news to
those who did not come to them. Even Lone Chief himself, popularly
supposed to know all things, if only he could be persuaded to tell them,
did not know.

One evening, in late summer, an Indian came riding into camp. He had
ridden fast and far, and his pony was exhausted. He brought disquieting
news. The Yellow Dogs, their deadly enemies, were gathering in the
North. The Sarcees, allies of the Yellow Dogs, were also on the
war-path. Trouble would come from the north, even before the wild geese.

Hastily the old Chief, Spotted Eagle, summoned a gathering of the
braves. But first he sent an urgent message to Lone Chief. And Lone
Chief, already knowing of the threatening danger, came. So when Spotted
Eagle made a solemn speech of few words but very packed with
information, Lone Chief was not surprised. How did he know?... In the
vast solitudes of the North West, long before Telegraph wires were
invented, news travelled in peculiarly wireless ways along the fine
waves of the air for those whose minds were the right sort of receivers.
And Lone Chief had that sort of mind which was always receiving. But
though he came, he sat in silence at the meeting, and let other people
talk. And not till every one else had spoken, some suggesting one thing,
and some another, did Lone Chief open the outside of his mouth and
astonish his hearers with the inside of his mind.

"You will never be able to defeat the Yellow Dogs without the strong
medicine," he said. "The strong medicine departed from you, when you
drove Dusty Star's wolf into the west. Dusty Star and his wolf are a
powerful medicine. You have none left to you which is as strong as
theirs. Unless they bring it back to you, you will lose your scalps to
the Yellow Dogs."

After Lone Chief had ceased speaking, great astonishment filled his
audience; yet because it was Lone Chief who had said the marvellous
thing, they were forced to believe it, even against their will.

But when Spotted Eagle and the rest of the company had discussed the
matter very gravely, and had solemnly asked him on behalf of the whole
tribe, to find Dusty Star, and beg him to come back, Lone Chief shook
his head, and swept his hand towards the West.

"Out there," he said, "is the land of the buffalo; and beyond the land
of the buffalo, is the land of the timber-wolves, and the country of the
Cariboo. Dusty Star might have stayed with the buffalo; but the wolf
would seek his own kindred; and the wolf-kindred make long journeys on
the trails of the Cariboo. How do I know that they have not taken a
trail--Dusty Star and the Wolf? And the journeying Cariboo have a
thousand trails to the great Lake of the sunset where all trails have an
end."

Yet though Lone Chief spoke so discouragingly, throwing whole prairies
along his tongue, to show the difficulty of finding what had once
disappeared into them, he knew in his heart that the Chief would still
believe him capable of finding Dusty Star. And so when Spotted Eagle
again urged him earnestly to go out into the West to recover the lost
medicine, Lone Chief shook his head despondingly, but nevertheless
promised to go.

The next morning, very early, anxiously watching eyes saw the famous
medicine man issue from his tepee, and travel steadily westward, till
the enormous distances of the prairie swallowed him up.

Fortunately for Lone Chief, he was accustomed to long journeys. But
whereas, in the journeys he was used to making, he went for no
particular reason except that the great distances had made a nest in his
brain and kept chirping there like birds, the present journey he was
taking for a very big reason, firmly believing that unless he could find
Dusty Star a terrible fate must fall upon his tribe.

Day after day, he travelled west, on and on towards the sunset-place,
deeper and deeper into the heart of the old buffalo land. And he saw the
great herds of buffalo, thousands and thousands of them, more than man
could count; because it was a time long and long ago before the White
Man had become Lord of the prairie, and the freight cars had thundered
their cotton-goods and kerosene along the iron trails of the Middle
West.

But Lone Chief did not waste his time among the buffalo, because he knew
that Dusty Star would not be there, that it was only in the timber-wolf
country that he would have a chance to come upon him, if he had not
already started for the land of the Cariboo. But if you think that Lone
Chief went wandering into the foothills all by chance, you are mistaken,
for he had a way of doing things quite his own. And his way was this: To
listen out for the news that is always passing through the wilderness
though it is never printed, nor do they shout it from the tops of the
trees. For if anything strange or dangerous has lately gone along the
trails, word of it goes abroad, and the wild creatures flash the message
to each other without a sound.

For a long time, Lone Chief did not get any news. Then one day, towards
sunset, he caught a thin strand of a message as it drifted through the
trees. Thin though it was, Lone Chief read it. It told him that
Something had happened lately--for all he knew, might be _still_
happening--along the secret trails.

For a long time after receiving the message. Lone Chief stood perfectly
still. His eyes and his ears were not the only parts of him working: he
used his nose, too, like the animals, in case the thing might have
spilled a little of itself into the wind. Yet though he looked and
listened and smelt, he got no certain information as to what the thing
was. He was now less than half-a-day's journey from Carboona, and might
reasonably be supposed to be within hail of some of its folk; but
darkness closed down before he could get sight or wind of them, and
because it was night, he lay down, sensibly, and went to sleep.

He was awake very early in the morning, at the hour when forest people
smell the dawn before they see it. For a time, he lay still flat on his
back, gazing up into the old darkness of the trees where the twilight
was beginning. That was his way of learning the things that come to you
if you do not walk about. And as he lay, it came to him clearer and
clearer that he was near the end of his journey. And out of sight, with
faint rustlings and fine foot-falls, the hunting-beasts came back along
the trails. Yet Lone Chief never moved. As he lay there, wrapped in his
elk-skin-robe, he might had been a log. And no eyes saw him, and only
one nose smelt him, and that belonged to Baltook, the silver fox.

Now Baltook's acquaintance with Dusty Star had taught him the human
smell. It had also taught him another thing: that things which smell
like that are not necessarily enemies, and may possibly be friends. So
instead of turning tail immediately, Baltook drew cautiously nearer, so
that his eyes might complete the information which had been given to him
by his nose. Nearer and nearer he came, setting each paw delicately down
on the fir needles, so that not a whisper of sound gave warning of his
approach. As for _seeing_ him, one would have needed sharp eyes for
that, as the black robe with the frosted surface made itself part of the
darkness of the trees.

And yet for all Baltook's cunning, and delicately treading, Lone Chief
knew that something was stealthily drawing near. In spite of that, he
made no movement. Was not his hunting knife at his belt; and his bow and
arrows within reach of his arm? And was he not prepared for whatever
might happen? So he simply obeyed the law of the forest: Lie still!

When the silver-powdered robe was within a dozen feet of him, Lone Chief
slowly turned his head. The movement was so quiet that Baltook was not
startled. Only with eyes, ears and nose, he drank in everything that was
to be known of Lone Chief by that method. And Lone Chief looked straight
into the shining eyes of the fox. And though he asked no questions, and
got no answers in the ordinary sense, he learned something that told him
what he most wanted to know. And when at last Baltook, having gratified
his curiosity, turned on his tracks and disappeared softly through the
trees, Lone Chief noted the way he went, and followed in the same
direction.

He had not gone very far before he came upon a big black body sitting in
an open place, rocking itself gently to and fro. Lone Chief waited a
little, and then came up-wind very slowly. And because he came up-wind,
Goshmeelee did not smell his coming, but went on rocking peacefully, as
if that was the only common-sense way of being happy in the world. In
these early Fall days, Goshmeelee often amused herself in this way. The
rocking helped her to feel the comfort of her large body all the
better--to get closer to herself, as it were, and feel good and pleasant
down to her very toes. Lone Chief watched her for some time, without
moving, and then came slowly forward till he stood within six feet of
the old bear's nose.

Goshmeelee stopped rocking, and fixed her little black eyes upon him in
amazement. She had grown used to Dusty Star, whose comings and goings
did not upset her in the least; but to be suddenly confronted by the
same sort of animal in a larger size was distinctly disturbing when one
wasn't expecting it.

Lone Chief and Goshmeelee went on looking at each other for some time,
and never said a word. But Lone Chief knew by the look in her eyes that
she had seen something like him before, and _she_ knew perfectly well,
by the look in _his_, that this wasn't the first time he had come upon a
bear. And another thing was, that they each of them knew they had
nothing to fear from the other. So, after a little time, Lone Chief
turned away quietly and Goshmeelee watched him vanish among the trees.

And now Lone Chief felt that he was not far away from the thing that
Baltook knew, and the thing which Goshmeelee knew likewise; and the
further he went, the nearer he came to it, though as yet it was out of
sight behind the spruces and the pines. Suddenly, upon the very edge of
Carboona, he came upon it and his journey was at an end.

Two days after Goshmeelee's strange warning, Dusty Star had gone down to
the spring to drink. As he raised his head, he caught a glimpse of the
tall figure coming through the trees. His heart gave a jump, lest it
should be one of the dreaded Yellow Dogs; but when, almost directly
afterwards he recognized the famous medicine-man, he went boldly forward
to meet him.

They looked at each other silently for a little, and then in a very few
words, Lone Chief explained why he had come. When he had finished, Dusty
Star shook his head.

"I cannot come," he said. "And if I did, what could I do? Besides, I
would not come without Kiopo. And they wished to kill Kiopo. That is why
we left my people--so that Kiopo should not die."

"But that is many moons ago," Lone Chief said. "They do not want to kill
Kiopo now. I have told them that he is the Medicine Wolf, and that those
who would destroy him are the enemies of the tribe."

"They hated us!" Dusty Star replied quickly. "They would hate us still,
only that you have told them we can be of use!"

As he spoke, his eyes shone. It was not a good shining. He, too, had
learnt to hate.

In vain Lone Chief explained, argued, protested. Dusty Star stood his
ground. In spite of all the Medicine-man could say, he refused
absolutely to come. Lone Chief was annoyed at the boy's firmness, but he
was also surprised. In the interval since he had last seen him, it was
only too plain that the boy had learnt many things; among others, he had
learnt to be a man.

It was a long time before Lone Chief gave up the attempt to bring the
boy to a more reasonable frame of mind. He stayed all day. At nightfall
he made his camp beside Dusty Star's. At dawn he was still there, ready,
with an Indian's doggedness to begin the argument all over again. But in
the morning, something happened. Kiopo came back.

He had been out hunting, and as soon as he set his eyes on Lone Chief,
he showed his teeth in a threatening snarl.

By this time the wolf had every reason to distrust human beings. Dusty
Star was the one great exception. In the Indian before him, Kiopo saw an
enemy. If Dusty Star had not held him back, he would have flown at him.

And the wolf's return seemed to make the boy all the firmer in his
refusal. Faced by the pair of them, Lone Chief realized at last that he
was powerless. He knew that he would be forced to return to the tribe,
and confess the failure of his mission. Whatever the coveted
wolf-medicine might perform, it was not for them. They had lost it in
the moons. And in spite of his great wisdom, and his ancient cunning, he
was uneasy. He felt that he was in the presence of a great and peculiar
power. In all of his wide experience he had never come across anything
like it before. There was something about the wolf that seemed more than
the mere animal. There was something in Dusty Star that seemed uncannily
related to the wolves. He was relieved when at length he turned from the
camp, and found himself out of sight of it once more, among the endless
ranks of the trees.



CHAPTER XXIV

EVIL DAYS


The Maple leaves were yellowing in the Fall. The hollow seed-cups of the
wild parsley were turning old and grey. Up the slopes of the northern
buttes, the shumack flared like a shout of flame. Over a thousand
leagues of prairie the days carried the warmth and stillness of that
mysterious season called the Indian Summer; but the nights had cold in
them, and the middle sky had voices. For the geese were coming
now--driving out of the north in great arrow-heads of flight--and the
nightwind passed with a dry whisper, like the running of antelope
through dead grasses, over a thousand leagues.

The camp of Dusty Star's people was feverishly astir. The air was filled
with rumours. Scouts coming from the north-east brought disquieting
tidings. There was a great movement among the Yellow Dogs. Scattered
bands were coming in daily to join the main body. It could mean only one
thing--the gathering for the final attack.

And still Lone Chief did not come back.

Day after day, scouts watched from the summit of Look-out Bluff,
scanning the western prairie eagerly for signs of the returning
Medicine-man. Day after day, they returned with heavy faces to the
anxiously waiting tribe.

And as the days passed, the rumours grew more black. The Senakals were
in movement now. They were allies of the Yellow Dogs, related to them by
ties of blood. The Senakals were a powerful tribe. If they joined forces
with the Yellow Dogs, the strength of the enemy would be enormously
increased.

It was late October now, or, as the Indians named the season,
When-the-Geese-fly-South. In the rich meadows along the Wide-Water
river, the bunch-grass was very long, and on the slopes of the eastern
hills the huckleberries were large and ripe. But no Indian ponies grazed
in the meadows now, having been brought closer into camp: for fear of a
hostile raid; nor, in the early morning or late evening, were any
parties of squaws to be seen out on the prairies, going to the hills, or
returning with baskets full of fruit.

Among all the families in the camp, that of Dusty Star was the most
disturbed. His parents had always hoped that, sooner or later, he would
come back. His mother, especially, had grieved for his absence, and had
looked anxiously for his return. It was a pity, she said, they had not
taken his part about Kiopo. Only then, who could possibly have foreseen
that all this medicine power which Lone Chief made so much of would be
discovered in the wolf? But, even so, she thought, they might have been
kinder to Dusty Star himself, and have tried more fully to understand
his feelings for the wolf. And after all, was it not his father who had
presented him with the creature in the beginning, when it was nothing
but a little compact bundle of fat and fur, not yet very steady on its
legs? She was now quite clear in her own mind that they had been
decidedly to blame. Day after day, she waited anxiously for tidings of
Lone Chief, and, as night after night brought no news of his
whereabouts, her anxiety grew.

The only person who clung stubbornly to her old opinions was
Sitting-Always. But that was only to be expected, since she was so very
like her name. Once the mind of the old squaw had laid an opinion, she
would sit on it like a broody hen, till it went addled in her head. She
had never really liked Dusty Star, and she had always hated the wolf. If
the wolf _had_ a medicine (which, for her part, she very much doubted)
as everybody said, she had made up her mind that it was a bad medicine,
and could not help the tribe. As a protest against all this nonsense
about the wolf, she painted her face with an extra coat of yellow, and
sat in a bad temper at the door of her tepee.

Things were in this state, when, one morning early, a scout came into
camp. He brought alarming tidings. He had rashly crossed the border of
the Yellow Dog country, and had been seen and chased. Fortunately his
pony was a very swift one, and he had reached the Wide-Water river in
time to swim across, and so escape. All day he had lain hidden in the
willow thickets of the southern bank, and had only dared to leave them
after dark. He said that his pursuers were in advance of a large body of
Indians who were camped to the north-west of the Sokomix hills.

Instantly Spotted Eagle ordered a strong war-party to start off, in
order to meet the advance guard of the enemy, and, if possible, drive
them back. Dusty Star's father, Running Wolf, as one of the leading
braves, was a member of the party.

At sundown, a solitary Indian came galloping into camp. He was the
bearer of terrible news. The war-party had encountered the enemy, and
had given battle shortly after noon; but, owing to the fact that the
Yellow Dogs greatly outnumbered them, they had been defeated and finally
put to flight. But in spite of their victory he did not know whether
they would continue their advance immediately or not. It was best to be
prepared for the worst.

When the news became known, panic seized the camp. Terrified squaws ran
from tepee to tepee, uttering shrill screams and tearing their hair. To
their cries were added the neighing of ponies driven into camp, the
barking of huskies, and the beating of drums.

During the evening, the remainder of the defeated war-party returned.
Fully a third of its members were missing. Among the missing was Running
Wolf.

Nikana did not run, nor scream. She walked restlessly up and down in
front of her tepee, holding Blue Wings closely in her arms, and filled
with a horrible fear.

The night which followed the defeat was one of terrible anxiety. With
the exception of the children and the animals, hardly any one slept.
From moment to moment no one could say what might happen. If their
enemies were already in the neighbourhood, they might attack at any
instant. People wandered aimlessly about, or squatted at the entrances
of the tepees, listening uneasily to the slightest sound, even if it
were nothing more than the howling of some distant coyote far off upon
the prairie that set every ear straining lest it should be an Indian
signal for the gathering to attack. And when, at long intervals, a flock
of wild geese would approach with shrill, honking call out of the vast
darkness of the North, the cry seemed to carry evil tidings of their
approaching doom. When the first streaks of dawn brightened above the
Eastern hills, a feeling of relief passed through the camp that, if the
dreaded attack were indeed preparing, at least it would not be launched
under cover of the dark.

And with the dawn, came a sudden ray of hope. From Look-out butte a
scout came galloping into camp. Far to the south-west several Indians
had been sighted. It was almost certain that Lone Chief was one of them.

The news ran through the camp like wild-fire. But was Dusty Star coming
too? Or, if not of the party, would it be found that he was following
with the wolf? The excitement and suspense were tremendous. People
crowded to the western side of the camp, some even going out to wards
Look-out butte in order to be the earliest to receive the fateful news.

They had not long to wait. Soon the little party was seen rounding the
southern slope of the hill. And Lone Chief was indeed one of the party.
He had fallen in with them on his homeward route, a day's journey from
the camp. But he came without either Dusty Star or the wolf. And when at
last he had arrived, and in a few short words had announced the failure
of his mission, a feeling of gloom that was almost despair spread over
the whole tribe.

In vain Spotted Eagle, and some of the other chiefs, attempted to give
them fresh courage. The deep superstition of the Indian mind had settled
darkly upon them. If the wolf-medicine did not come, they said, it
showed clearly that the Great Spirit had refused to give them
protection.

After that, things went from bad to worse. And although the day went by
without any fresh signs of the enemy's approach, the camp was filled
with disquieting rumours, and gave itself up more and more to the
despondency of fear.

Another night of suspense passed, and still there were no signs. Hope
began to rise that the Yellow Dogs, in spite of their victory, had
suffered so severely that they would not dare to attack the main camp.
It was possible that some of their allies had failed at the last moment.
And then, just as the feeling began to be general, the new hope was
dashed to the ground by the news that the enemy was again in motion and
was moving rapidly south in force.

If it had not been for the courage and coolness of Spotted Eagle and
Lone Chief, the tribe would have been thrown into a state of more
hopeless desperation than before; but they summoned all the chiefs
together and gave them the command of strong parties which should post
themselves on the outskirts of the camp, in order to show the enemy that
they were fully prepared to do battle without waiting for the attack
upon the camp itself. Orders were also given that no fires were to be
lighted if the enemy did not appear before nightfall. Scouting parties
were then to be sent far out on the northern prairie so as to prevent
all possibility of a surprise attack.

The afternoon passed into evening. The short-lived northern twilight
darkened swiftly down the prairies, and it was night. And above, in the
enormous hollow of the sky, the stars glittered like many camp-fires,
and ever and again the flocks of travelling voices came honking out of
the north, and filled the silence with a wandering cry.



CHAPTER XXV

HOW DUSTY STAR DANCED WITH THE WOLVES


After Lone Chief had left him in order to carry his refusal back to the
tribe, Dusty Star was not happy in his mind. Wherever he went, whatever
he did, the vague unhappiness went with him. The forest was the same;
the creatures were the same, and yet, somehow nothing was quite as it
had been before. Even Carboona, that colossal Sameness, seemed to hold
something uneasy sitting in its heart. In vain he went and sat on his
favorite look-out places above the runways, and secretly observed the
coming and going of stealthy feet. Equally in vain was the long
conversation he had with Goshmeelee, who gave him her views about the
increasing difficulty of finding grubs in the cedar swamp, and the other
important matters.

And the growing unhappiness of the boy was shared by the wolf, who now
ceased to make long expeditions and did his hunting nearer camp.

When once Dusty Star had convinced himself that he had done wrong in
refusing to help his people, he did not waste any time in making up his
mind. He would go back. He would follow Lone Chief along the vast
distances that lay out there to the east. But he would not go alone.
Where he went, Kiopo should go too. They would carry the medicine
between them that should bring deliverance to his tribe. But first he
must say good-bye to his friends, whom he might not see for a very long
time, if indeed he ever saw them again. Out there in the east many
things might happen. And Baltook and Goshmeelee would not be there to
understand.

It was with a heavy heart that he climbed up to the den of the Silver
Fox. To his great disappointment, he found that Baltook was not at home.
Boola was, however, and the family. Without saying a word to her, he
made Boola understand. She gazed at him with a look in her eyes which
said as plainly as any expression could: "Don't do it!"

Dusty Star stroked her glossy fur affectionately, and felt the heaviness
sit heavier in his heart. And then, because the shadows were
lengthening, he went slowly down the hill. And far above him, in the
golden silences, Boola lifted her voice and howled.

With Goshmeele the case was different. _She_ did not content herself
with merely looking. She told him very plainly that he was a fool to go.
Even if grubs were scarce, she said, there were fat frogs by the stream
borders, and the berries were not yet over, if you were energetic enough
to search for them, and knew where to look. Dusty Star explained that it
was not a question of food, but of feeling. To which Goshmeelee replied
that food _was_ feeling, and that a stomach without plenty of berries in
it was a feeling that could keep you from going to sleep. She either
couldn't or wouldn't understand that there was such a thing as duty. But
she _did_ understand that what Dusty Star had in his mind meant a deal
of exercise; and that a lot of walking walked the meat clean off your
bones. "Stay here and get fat," was her unalterable opinion as to the
best thing to do. And when she found that Dusty Star was obstinate, she
growled at him in affectionate remonstrance, and let him dig his hands
into the deep places of her fur. And the good healthy smell of her warm
bearishness tickled his nose, and made him feel at home, and inclined to
keep hidden in Carboona from all the worry and tongue-wagging of the
stormy Indian world.

But then the memory of Lone Chief, and of the strong things he had said,
came to him, and teased his brain even more than the smell of Goshmeelee
tickled his nose.

So, without any more argument with her, he got up, and ran away quickly
till he was hidden among the trees. And after he was gone, Goshmeelee
watched the way he had disappeared, and then began solemnly to lick the
places where he had disarranged her fur.

After leaving her, Dusty Star did not return to camp. Once he had
started to say good-bye, meant with him that the departure had already
begun. There was no need to go back for Kiopo. Before leaving he had
made the wolf clearly understand that they were going upon a long
journey; also, that although he expected him to remain near at hand, he
did not wish him to be too close while he paid his good-bye visits to
the foxes and the bear. And Kiopo did what was expected of him, and kept
discreetly out of sight.

So now, Dusty Star went on swiftly through the forest, not in the least
doubting that, although Kiopo was out of sight, he was within earshot in
case of need, and that the great pads of his feet carried him softly
along the trail.

When the last glimmer of twilight departed, Dusty Star camped for the
night. The camping was very simple. It only meant finding a sheltered
place among the tree-roots, eating some of the food he had brought with
him, and settling himself for sleep. And as he settled down, he felt
rather than saw the big wolf-shape that stole softly into camp and lay
down within reach of his arm.

In spite of their journey having begun, the travellers lay still within
the edges of Carboona--the strange and lonely land. Voices out of
Carboona travelled to them darkly, at long intervals, like voices of
departing and farewell. There was the far-off bark of a fox, signalling
to its mate; or the dreary hooting of an owl. But Dusty Star slept
soundly, and if the voices reached him, it was only in his dreams. Once
only he woke, and that was not because of a sound, but of a touch. A
cold nose touched his cheek. Instantly he was wide-awake, thinking it
was Kiopo warning him of some danger. But the wolf was sleeping where he
had lain down, and had not stirred. Dusty Star waited expectantly. But
though he kept absolutely still, his mysterious visitor made no other
sign. Once only a twig cracked faintly under the pressure of a stealthy
foot; but the darkness was too dense for Dusty Star to detect the secret
movement of the black robe with the silver tips, as it drifted softly
away. But long, long afterwards, when countless moons had come and gone,
Dusty Star, remembering, was sure that it was Baltook who had brought
his cold nose to him as a token of farewell.

The morning song of little Kilooleet, the white-throated sparrow, was
already trickling through the maple leaves, when the travellers started
again upon their way. As on their first coming into the region, so now,
at their departing, the small grey people in the underground doorways
watched the great shapes furtively, and made disturbed noises at each
other after they were gone. And in the little damp corridors, where the
darkness was twisty because of many roots, the tiny feet pattered
nervously, and the tiny whiskers twitched.

From the summit of a bare-topped hill, up which they had been mounting
slowly from the lower forest levels, Dusty Star paused for the first
time to look back. There, in the distance, with the morning mists lying
in white streaks along its sides, rose the great heights of Carboona
against the autumn sky. Would he ever see it again--or was he gazing at
its shining peaks and precipices for the last time? A dim fear of the
unknown crept into him--of the unseen things that lay in wait behind him
in the world. And Carboona had become, in a strange manner, his
home--his wolf-home, where, with Kiopo, he had learned those forgotten
secrets which are the medicine of the wolves. And now they were looking
at it together perhaps for the last time! As he turned away, to continue
his journey, his eyes were troubled as if they were seeking an
unfamiliar trail.

Between the forest and the prairies lay a tract of broken country full
of ravines and rocky hills. It was a barren, treeless region, where the
water-courses dried up in the summer, or shrank to muddy pools. With the
exception of a few rabbits and prairie dogs, game was scarce. Now and
then a wolf or coyote would wander across its barren buttes, scenting
the hungry air; but usually retreating with stomachs as light as when
they entered it. During the greater part of the year, the larger animals
gave it a wide berth. Indians avoided it also. They called it the Bad
Lands. But in spite of its reputation among the human kind, the beasts
had their uses for it at certain times of the year. It had seen many a
fierce battle when the wolves and coyotes followed the mating call. The
Wild Kin made their marriages there, but mostly settled their breeding
haunts far enough away. It was not a good place to be born in. But
animals hunted to the death, or those whose limbs were stiffened with
old age, knew in some mysterious way that they could crawl there to die.

But a use that was neither for mating nor dying, was one of which even
the Indians knew very little, and the reason for which even the Wild Kin
itself was in the dark.

Hunters crossing the borders of the Bad Lands in the late Summer or the
Fall, would sometimes stop to listen to a sound that rose, and died, and
swelled again, in strange discords that set Indian pulses throbbing in
an uncomfortable way. Sometimes the sound would seem to be a series of
single notes, from a solitary voice. At others, the notes crowded
thickly together as if from a multitude of throats. Indians who were
deeply religious declared that it was the wolves making medicine, when
the Great Spirit walked across the Bad Lands at the falling of the year.

Dusty Star and Kiopo reached this haunted region just at sundown. The
great bare buttes stood up redly in the sunset light. The deep stillness
was unbroken by the slightest sound. As far as the eye could reach there
was not a sign of a living thing. They had travelled steadily all day
since early dawn, and Dusty Star was glad to rest. He still had some
food left over from the previous day, the fruits of Kiopo's hunting, so
he had only to look out for a convenient spot for camping, and settle
down for the night. As soon as he had found one near a small spring,
Kiopo went off. That was nothing extraordinary, Dusty Star watched him
lift his nose to try the air, and then trot quietly down the creek bed
to the south. He knew by his movements that he was off to hunt.

After he had finished his supper, Dusty Star lay down in the place he
had chosen, and dropped instantly to sleep. He seemed to have been
asleep a long time when he woke suddenly to find Kiopo standing over him
in the moonlight. The wolf was plainly uneasy. He was making the
half-whining, half-growling sound which was always a sign that something
unusual was taking place.

Dusty Star sat up, and looked about him. In the intense clearness of the
cloudless night every object was distinctly visible. The buttes stood
out in huge silver masses, washed by the light of the moon. Their
hollows and ravines were deep in shadow; but neither in light nor shadow
was there anything which gave sign of life. Yet Dusty Star felt as if,
in spite of the apparent stillness, sound had lately travelled through
the air. The silence was not empty.

As he listened, he heard a long wolf-howl rise and fall in the distance.
It had scarcely died away when it was followed by another, and then
another. Then a whole chorus of howls filled the night with a loud and
desolate clamour. At once he knew what he was listening to. It was the
singing of the Wolves.

He listened for some time, shivering a little in spite of himself. He
was not afraid. But he was deeply stirred. Something in him answered to
the wolf voices. Kiopo's uneasiness had communicated itself to him also.
He could not explain it. He felt as if he were inside Kiopo's mind;
rather, that they shared one mind, and that the soul of the wolf-world
was calling to it.

With one accord, they set off in the direction of the cries.

The sound came from the eastward. But, owing to the broken nature of the
country, it seemed sometimes to come from every side at once. In that
hollow land, full of echoes, the ears were not always the safest guides.
But Kiopo did not travel by ear alone. His nose quested the distances.
It met the things that went walking in the wind. And surer even than his
nose was the Wisdom of the Wild Things, which was an extra sense to him,
and which mankind has put to sleep with its making of machines. So he
trotted steadily east without being bewildered by the echoes, and Dusty
Star followed, confident in his lead.

They came at last to the foot of a big butte, which Kiopo immediately
began to ascend. The cries were very clear now. The moonlit air was
filled with a chorus of high-pitched, vibrating sounds. As they climbed,
Dusty Star noticed that they did not mount alone. He counted no fewer
than four other wolves, besides Kiopo, moving swiftly up the hill. If he
saw them, Kiopo paid no attention. Even when one of them drew a little
closer than the others, he did not attempt to drive it off. And the low
growl that rumbled in his throat seemed a recognition rather than a
threat.

At the top of the hill, they came upon a wide, open space. Dusty Star
saw to his wonder that it was crowded with wolves. They formed a wide,
irregular circle, composed of single animals, and of little groups of
five or six. In the centre of the circle sat a large wolf by himself.
The remarkable thing about him was not his size, but his colour, which
was pure white. With the moonlight full upon him, it almost seemed as if
his coat itself gave out light.

As soon as Dusty Star and Kiopo joined the circle, the howling suddenly
ceased. The wolves were uneasy. It was plain that they regarded the
newcomers with suspicion, if not with enmity. Kiopo would have passed
muster, but his companion was certainly anything but a wolf. One or two
of the nearer wolves raised their hackles and growled. The rest
maintained a grim silence. And the silence was not re-assuring. Dusty
Star had the uncomfortable feeling that the pack were merely waiting for
some signal, which, whenever it was given, would be an order to attack.
In such a case he knew he must leave Kiopo to take whatever course was
wisest. They were in the wolf-world now. The law of the man-world did
not hold. The part that was so strangely wolf within him, knew that it
must submit to the law of the pack, or pay the penalty of death. He
watched Kiopo anxiously. Whatever Kiopo did within the next few moments
would decide their fate. The silence grew terrible in its stillness.
After their first restless movements the wolves were motionless, waiting
for the sign.

It was then that Kiopo acted on the sudden impulse of an instinct that
told him what to do. Very slowly and deliberately he made his way
through the ring of wolves towards the place where the white wolf sat.

As his great body detached itself from the ring, and emerged to full
view into the open space, the waiting wolves realized at once that they
had before them a born leader, one of the Great Ones of the packs.
Hitherto, the big white wolf had had no rival. His sway was recognized
over a range of wide extent to the north-west. None had ever dared to
dispute his overlordship. Far and near his fame had travelled as the
white wolf-king of the north.

Yet here was an animal, who, in point of mere size stood even higher at
the shoulders than the white giant. A hundred pairs of gleaming eyes
glared at the intruder with a hostile light.

With his own eyes shining, and every hair on his body bristling, so as
to make him seem even larger than he was, Kiopo advanced steadily
towards the leader. The White wolf rose from his haunches, growling low.
He, too, bristled, as if in resentment at the intrusion. With a common
impulse, the pack edged nearer, waiting expectantly for the coming
fight.

Dusty Star, meanwhile, remained where he was on the outer circle of the
ring, motionless as a stone, for he had received a sign from Kiopo,
warning him to stay behind.

Fear clutched at his heart, and made his pulses throb, but it was not
fear for himself. The dread was for Kiopo, lest he should do something
rash. In single combat he was not afraid of the result, even with the
white wolf for an adversary. But with the pack in their present temper,
Dusty Star knew that a single fight would not long be possible. With the
fine sense that felt the wolfish mind about him, he knew that, at the
first smell of blood, all control would vanish, and that even though
Kiopo was the most magnificent fighter in the world, his fate would be
sealed.

Hardly daring to breathe, he watched the two wolves draw closer in the
centre of the ring. Now they were within a few feet of each other.

He prepared himself for the sudden leap, the lightning slash, the jagged
rip, the manoeuvering for the deadly ham-stringing which meant the
beginning of the end.

It was one of those great moments in which anything might happen, and
when the merest accident might decide. Dusty Star was fully aware that
the lives of Kiopo and himself hung trembling in the balance.

Bristling with excitement, the wolves drew nearer in. And still, rigid
and motionless, Kiopo and the White Wolf faced each other with defiance
in their eyes.

Suddenly there was a sound, half-howl, half-cry, and in the tense moment
something seemed to snap. Partly running, partly leaping, with his body
crouched, Dusty Star, as he gave tongue, flung himself into the centre
of the ring.

The White Wolf bared his teeth and snarled with his eyes upon him. Kiopo
also started in astonishment. Was the Little Brother gone mad?

If what followed was madness, it was the most amazing madness the wolves
had ever seen. Leaping, bending, running, turning his body in every
direction, Dusty Star danced a wolf-dance the like of which the Bad
Lands had never known. What mysterious impulse at the very last moment,
and in the nick of time, had suddenly come upon him, and taught him what
to do, he could have told no more than the wild creatures themselves.
And as he danced, he barked short sharp wolf-notes that stabbed the air
like knives.

They watched him. He wanted them to watch. They had never seen a human
being dance the wolf-dance before; nor were they likely to again. It was
the wolf-dance, and yet it was not the wolf-dance. It was something
more. What the something more was, Dusty Star himself could not have
explained. But he knew that the power that was secretly hidden within
him was coming out. It was that strange thing which had been with him as
a child, and which, during the long days and nights in the Carboona, had
grown stronger moon by moon.

He danced now, as he had danced once before in his grandmother's tepee
when she had been ill. There were the same wild antics; the same cunning
movements of his feet and hands. Only then he had danced as a splendid
joke. Now, he did it seriously, as a thing that mattered enormously: he
danced with his very soul.

And as he danced, apparently oblivious of everything except his own
movements, he felt the wolf-mind surge towards him, like waters under
the wind.

They were coming! They were coming! The wolf-tide was rising within him,
without him. The moon drew it, the dance, the wild notes that sobbed and
gasped in his throat! They could not help themselves any more than he
could help himself. They were driven by a power stronger than
themselves. As he danced he saw the great ring of dusky bodies, and
glimmering eyes--the white wolf and Kiopo in the centre--saw them as one
sees things in a dream.

The wolves watched him as if spellbound. Then one on the outside of the
circle threw back his head and howled. Another answered him from the
opposite side. A third took up the call. Soon the whole pack was giving
tongue; and one of the big wolf choruses went thundering out for leagues
along the hollow land.

But to give tongue was not enough. The madness that was in Dusty Star's
body seemed to bite into the bodies of the wolves. Some strange power
moved them. The mysterious restlessness that had stirred the
wolf-kindred since the beginning of the world came upon them now with an
irresistible force. First one, and then another, began to run about and
bark. The movement spread. It was not long before the entire pack was in
violent motion, running and leaping in continuous circles, narrower and
wider as the impulse came.

It was like a storm of wolf bodies, the centre of which was Kiopo and
the White Wolf.

All this time neither Kiopo nor the White Wolf had moved. But upon them
also the mysterious power grew. All at once, as if by a swift agreement,
they sprang into the air, and joined Dusty Star in his Dance.

And now, as if a barrier had been suddenly withdrawn, like surging
waters breaking over a dam, the wolves poured from all sides into the
ring.

There was no thought now of attacking either Dusty Star or his wolf. The
boy's sudden action had certainly saved their lives; for the wolves had
recognized in him a mysterious power which, unfamiliar as it was,
claimed kinship with the pack.

If any human eyes had been watching from a neighbouring butte they would
have seen an unaccountable sight. In the haunted stillness of the Bad
Lands, beneath the white glare of an enormous prairie moon, the wolves
danced a stormy movement about the young Indian brother who made
medicine with his feet.

Circling about him, leaping over him, chasing each other in bewildering
circles, snarling, snapping, barking, howling, the united packs swept
round the plateau in a roaring, rushing storm.

In that tumultuous sea of wolf-bodies, Dusty Star was engulfed. He
scarcely knew what was happening. He had been in a dream before. Now he
was swept far out of himself into an even wilder dream--into places
where the moon herself danced the wolf-dance and the stars yelped at her
heels.

How long the dance continued he did not know. He saw the writhing
wolf-forms on every hand. He was dimly conscious that Kiopo was
continually at his side. What he knew was, that now, at last, he had
entered the great mystery; he was making the medicine of the wolves.

And so, in the white moon-glare, among the lonely buttes, the fierce
wild creatures gave their leaping bodies to the dance that had been seen
by no man since the beginning of the world.



CHAPTER XXVI

HOW THE WOLVES CLOSED IN


How the dance came to an end, and what happened when it did, Dusty Star
never fully remembered. All he could recollect was that he found himself
lying on the flat of his back, with Kiopo standing over him licking his
face and hands with his large tongue. His wandering senses came back to
him, and he sat up. All around, the wolves sat or lay with their tongues
hanging out, panting after their exertions. In the centre, the white
wolf sat as before, as if he had never moved. And the moon was there,
and the stars, which also seemed to be panting, only they were too far
off to see what they did with their tongues.

After that, Dusty Star did the only wise thing to do in his state of
exhaustion. He gave himself up to the stillness, and let himself fall
asleep. When he awoke, the moon had set, and dawn had risen over the
buttes. Kiopo lay facing him with his head between his paws, watching
till he should wake. Dusty Star looked for the pack. Not a single wolf
was in sight. They had melted away into the barren gullies of the Bad
Lands, as if they had been a dream. But the Bad Lands remained, and
Kiopo, and an odd feeling in his bones; and Dusty Star knew that now the
great journey must continue that could only end where the prairies were
yellow with the East.

When the sun had lifted himself above the horizon, the travellers had
already reached the last buttes of the Bad Lands, and saw the prairies
stretching at their feet. As Dusty Star's eyes travelled over the
enormous expanse, a sense of trouble came to him. Out there, concealed
in the vast distances that hid it like a buffalo-robe, lay the home of
his people. And he was going to return to them. As sure as the
wolf-trail ran across the heavens, he was going back. But what would
happen then? He would not see them as he had seen them before. The free
life with Kiopo; the friendships with the wild kin that were not of his
blood, yet seemed to be half his heart; the great mountain-world of
Carboona, the mystery-land of the West:--all these had come between him
and his people with their life in the tepees.... And Kiopo?... He
belonged to Kiopo now, as Kiopo to him. He had danced himself into the
wolf-world with the medicine of his feet. His body might remain Indian;
but the wolf-dance was in his veins: his moccasins had touched the
wolf-trail: his mind was half a wolf's.

As they crossed into the prairies, he kept looking out for any signs of
the white wolf's pack; but not a vestige of them was to be seen. Yet
although they were invisible to the eye, there were signs that they had
not left the neighbourhood. Kiopo's manner alone was sufficient to show
that the country was not so empty of life as it appeared. He was
evidently on the alert, keeping on the watch in every direction.

Just before noon he disappeared. When towards the middle of the
afternoon he caught up with Dusty Star, who had continued his journey,
it was certain that he had been running with other wolves.

That night, just before sundown, a great idea flashed upon Dusty Star.
Kiopo must find the white wolf, and bring the packs to camp. When they
were all assembled, Dusty Star would tell his mind to the white wolf,
and he, in his turn, would communicate it to the packs. He made the
message clear to Kiopo, and the wolf immediately departed.

As the twilight fell, Dusty Star became aware that here and there it
seemed to thicken into a wolf-shape, till at last it darkened to a pack.
When the pack finally closed in upon the camp, he knew that he was
imprisoned by a wolf-ring that shut out the world. And when the last
wolf had taken its place, Dusty Star found that the white wolf, with
Kiopo, was by his side.

With the pack about him, Dusty Star sent his mind out to their leader,
and communicated the great idea.

And in words which he did not use, even in the Indian tongue, the Idea
shaped itself thus:

"Far out along the prairies to the sun-rising is the camp of my people.
My people are very many. They outnumber the wolves. As the foxes and
lynxes are enemies to the wolves; so my people have enemies who are
thirsting for their blood. The enemies of my people are now gathering to
attack. They are numerous and very strong. If I do not carry help to my
people, they will be pulled down and killed, as the wolves pull down the
moose when he is yarded for the winter, and food is scarce. By myself I
can do little, though my people say I own the wolf-medicine. But the
wolf-medicine that is in me is only strong enough when I am running with
a wolf. Kiopo and I are very strong together. With you, we should be
stronger still. With the pack, nothing could stand against us. The
medicine then would be on many feet. If you will lead the pack, and
follow us, we shall save my people from their death."

To get all this meaning into the white wolf's mind, took some time. But
the white wolf's mind was like his jaws. Once it took firm hold, it tore
the meaning of an idea like meat from off a bone. And when he had
snatched the idea and swallowed it, he brought it up again for
distribution, as a mother-wolf does for her cubs, in the form of
pre-digested meat.

So the white wolf, having carefully digested the idea, disgorged it for
the pack's benefit, and fed them bit by bit. And when the pack had
swallowed it again, they liked the taste of it, and were ready for
anything in the way of a fight. Long after the night had settled down,
Dusty Star's excitement kept him awake planning the carrying out of the
great idea.

On the evening of the third day, a Scout belonging to the Yellow Dogs
took a strange tale back to the tribe. Out on the prairies to the west,
he said, he had come upon a great pack of wolves. They were led by a
white wolf of enormous size, and were travelling eastwards. As he was
uncertain what such a large body of wolves might do, he had not waited
to watch their further movements, and had given them a wide berth. The
Yellow Dogs did not treat the news seriously. At this time of the year,
the wolves, even in large numbers, were not dangerous. Now that hunting
was good, they would not attack human beings. It was only in winter,
when the moose yarded and game grew scarce, that men watched the gaunt
grey bodies that hung about the thickets, and listened uneasily to the
eerie cry far off over the frozen levels, as it rang from the throats of
a famished pack which had found a promising trail. Besides, the Yellow
Dogs had more important matters to consider. Now or never the attack
upon Dusty Star's people must be made. The moon was favourable now. She
did not rise until a sufficiently long time after sunset to enable them
to approach the enemy's camp under cover of the dark, so as to be able
to deliver the long-planned attack in the growing light of her beams.
Without waiting for any further delay, small scouting parties were
ordered to go on ahead; and the advance began.

But there were other scouts abroad, of which neither the Yellow Dogs nor
their intended victims were aware. Every thicket, and matted tangle of
prairie grass, seemed to conceal one. There was hardly a hollow that did
not harbour some crouching form; and the prairie buttes had eyes. As the
great Yellow Dog war party moved stealthily forwards, it was shadowed by
another company more numerous and more stealthy still. This second
company was roughly divided into three main bodies, with small
intermediate bands which seemed to move independently, but which were in
reality in touch with one or other of the larger groups.

The night was windless and very still, the few vagrant wafts of air
which occasionally stirred the prairie grasses, flowing softly from the
west. The older and more experienced of the Yellow Dog warriors could
not understand the night. From time to time they seemed to catch a faint
wolf smell from the west. And the stillness seemed full of some
invisible motion as if the very prairies moved. Moreover it was very
plain that the ponies were unusually restless. Now one, now another,
would snort and whinney, or shy at some vague shadow which melted into
the dark.

In the Comanache camp, things were much as they had been for many days
past. A careful watch was still kept towards the north. But the general
opinion was that the Yellow Dogs had delayed their threatened attack so
long that they had at length given up the intention. Spotted Eagle was
in his tepee consulting with one or two other chiefs, when suddenly the
door flap was raised, and Dusty Star stood before them.

The suddenness of his arrival, and the change wrought in his appearance
during his long absence, prevented Spotted Eagle from recognizing in the
tall, imposing-looking youth who now stood before him, the wild boy with
the wolfish ways who had disappeared mysteriously many moons ago.

There was a pause of typical Indian silence, while the piercing eyes in
the tepee looked him through and through, before Spotted Eagle asked him
his business.

"I am Dusty Star," the boy said quietly.

If the Thunder-bird itself had pronounced the words under cover of its
deafening wings, they could not have produced a more startling effect.

Spotted Eagle and his companions rose instantly to their feet. Although
the old chief's face did not betray his feelings, his action, together
with that of his followers showed how deeply he was moved.

"You have come?" he asked incredulously. "Lone Chief brought us your
message that you would not come."

"Lone Chief spoke truly," Dusty Star answered, "but there was something
within me which was stronger than my words. I have come to help my
people against the Yellow Dogs."

The old chief bowed his head as an expression of gratitude, but said
nothing.

"The Yellow Dogs are even now approaching," Dusty Star continued. "Yet
the camp is unguarded. I came in from the south. No one challenged me."

"The Yellow Dogs do not come from the south," Spotted Eagle answered.
"Their camp is far to the north. We watch the north. Also our scouts
have been out to the east and west. Only a wolf could steal upon us from
the south."

Dusty Star was not slow to catch the double meaning of the old chief's
remark. His eyes flashed as he answered quickly.

"Your only help comes with the wolf."

"It is you who must help us," the Chief replied earnestly. "You will
lead our braves, as if you were my own son. See, I will order them to
get ready. If the Yellow Dogs are indeed approaching we must surprise
them by an attack."

He was about to give the order, when Dusty Star interrupted him.

"You must not go out to attack," he said hurriedly. "See that the braves
are fully prepared, but do not allow them to leave the camp. If I am to
help you, you must do as I say. I have made my plans. Do not attack
until you have heard the signal of the wolves."

Then, without another word, he lifted the door flap, and was gone.

The news that the Yellow Dogs were upon them, threw the camp into a
state of terrible fear. Even the news of Dusty Star's miraculous
reappearance was not sufficient to reassure them. Their nerves were
over-strained with the watching of long days and nights. And now, when
they had believed the danger to be past, its sudden revival filled them
with an unreasoning dread. It was in vain that Spotted Eagle did his
utmost to inspire them with confidence, by quoting Dusty Star's words.
What did his speeches mean, they asked. What signal was that which would
come for them from the wolves? The camp was in confusion, some advising
one thing, some another. It was only Spotted Eagle's express orders
which prevented a large party going out to meet the enemy and offering
battle.

The time went on, and nothing happened. There was no sign of the enemy.
Spotted Eagle, listening anxiously, caught no sound that might be the
signal of which Dusty Star had spoken. He grew more and more uneasy as
the time passed.

       *       *       *       *       *

On leaving the chief's tepee, Dusty Star had left the camp immediately,
not even waiting to show himself to his parents. He dared not risk any
delay, realizing that upon him and his wolves their fates, as well as
that of the whole tribe, rested.

Over the dark surface of the prairie he passed with a swift step,
knowing where his waiting wolves were to be found. In a very short time
he was among them. A third of the pack--that upon the west--was about
him. He knew that Kiopo, and the wolves under his charge would be lying
somewhere to the east. To the north, dogging the heels of the advancing
Yellow Dogs, the White Wolf and his company closed stealthily in.

Totally unprepared for the fate awaiting them, the Yellow Dogs came on.
When they were about half-a-mile from the camp, they stopped; for it was
understood that the attack was not to be delivered until the moon had
risen.

In the north-east, an increasing brightness showed that her appearance
was very near. About them the prairies began to take on a pallid
glimmer, in which objects wore mysterious shapes. As the light
increased, the ponies became more and more restless. Their riders
dreaded lest the sounds of their growing uneasiness should be carried to
some sharply-listening ear in the camp which they were waiting to
surprise. They began to be certain that animals of some sort, wolves, or
bison, must be somewhere in the locality. The nervousness of the ponies
communicated itself to their masters. A whisper ran that it would be
better to move at once, without waiting for the moon. Only that their
chiefs remained firm, they would have advanced to the attack.

At length, the edge of the moon's disc rose into sight above the eastern
hills. Instantly there was a movement of expectation in the Indian's
ranks. They only waited now for the signal from their leader to launch
the long-delayed attack. But before that signal came, another was heard.

The moon had barely raised herself clear of the hills when a deep,
long-drawn howl broke the intense stillness to the west. The waiting
Indians recognized it as the mustering call of the hunting wolf when he
summons the pack. The note carried for an infinite distance. Hardly had
it died away, when it was answered from the east. Then, silence as
before. And the moon began to cast long shadows--shadows that seemed to
move!

Out from the thickets, up from the hollows, down the dark slopes of the
bluffs, the shadows crept.

The wolves were closing in!

       *       *       *       *       *

In the camp, Spotted Eagle stood uncertain what to do. He had distinctly
heard the wolf-calls, but could not be sure whether they were signals
from Dusty Star or not. The camp, hushed with suspense, was very still.
A subdued murmur, rising here and there at intervals, was all that could
be heard. Now and then a woman's figure would step softly from one tepee
to another, or a husky would slink across a moonlit space. There was no
other movement.

Suddenly, a dull sound like distant thunder came from the north. It grew
louder moment by moment. As all listening ears knew well, it was the
beat of galloping hoofs. A series of savage shouts now broke into
it--the mingled war-cries of the Yellow Dogs, and their Allies.

There was no time now to wait for the promised signal from Dusty Star.
In an instant, Spotted Eagle's heart was black with rage and fear. There
would be no sign from the wolves. The wolf-boy had betrayed them. His
promise, like his name, was a puff-ball after all!

The Chief was just about to give the order to advance, when another
sound caught his ear. It was a chorus of sharp barks mingled with howls
that seemed to come from all sides at once. It swelled onward in a
deafening clamour that filled the prairies to the horizon. It was a
sound to which all old Indian hunters responded with a thrill--that last
terrible rallying cry of wolves when their chase is ended, and the prey
about to be pulled down; the pitiless summons, "Close in!"

Instantly, Spotted Eagle gave the command, and lifting their shrill
war-cry, the Comanaches rushed out to meet their foes.

They were hardly clear of the camp, when they stopped, bewildered by the
extraordinary sight before them.

In the clear light of the now fully risen moon, they saw a dense mass of
Indians in violent commotion, with their ponies rearing and kicking in
the wildest confusion. On the outskirts of the mass, and completely
encircling it, was an enormous pack of wolves, which leaped and dashed
against its edges like the waves of a living sea.

Here and there a small company of Indians would thrust itself from the
main body, forcing their assailants to give way. But before they could
gain sufficient headway to get through, and make their escape, it seemed
as if a rising tide of wolves overwhelmed them and drove them back.
Again and again the Indians made a desperate effort to break through;
and each time the waves of the billowing pack surged over them, broke,
and surged again.

Amid all the bewildering confusion of the struggle, two objects showed
themselves distinctly again and again. One was a huge white wolf whose
body, gleaming in the moon, was continually hurling itself against the
Indians in the thickest of the fight and goading the packs on. It was in
ceaseless movement, first on one side, then on the other. Now it would
be lost to view among the dark bodies of its mates; now it would flash
into sight at some other point, like a beam of leaping light.

The other object was the figure of a tall Indian boy, who was also
perpetually changing his position as he mingled with the wolves, and
which the thunderstruck Comanaches realized could be no other than that
of Dusty Star himself.

Like the white wolf, his efforts seemed directed to urging the wolves
forward at any point where they were in danger of giving way. Now and
again as he flung up his arms, he would utter a wild cry, half-human,
half-wolf, which, piercing the general uproar, rang like a note of doom.

At length, the Yellow Dogs, driven to a frenzy of desperation, forced a
passage through the ring of wolves at a point where it had grown thin.
As they burst forth towards the open prairie, it was plain that they had
abandoned all intention of attacking the camp, and that their one idea
was that of escape.

And now Dusty Star's figure was seen to break away from the wolves and
to come running towards his people. As he ran, he shouted loudly, waving
his arms excitedly in the direction of their fleeing foes.

Without a moment's further delay, Spotted Eagle gave the signal, and the
Comanaches leaped to their ponies.

Out upon the moonlit prairie the pursuit swept with savage cries, Dusty
Star leading it upon the pony Spotted Eagle had hastily given him.

Never before in the longest Indian memory, had there been such a flight,
or such a pursuit. As it swept tumultuously northwards, men and beasts
mingled strangely under the pale glare of the moon. Across the quiet
spaces of the night it sped on its ghastly way, till the thunder of the
beating hoofs roused the echoes in the hills.

Dusty Star, galloping onward, with Kiopo running by his side, was filled
with a wild feeling of exultation. The wolves had conquered. The enemy
was in the full flight of utmost panic. Never again could any one doubt
the power that had been given to him through Kiopo--the Medicine of the
Wolves. Never again could it be urged by those who hated them both that,
when his people were in danger of destruction, he had refused to help
them in their need. And as the last overtaken Yellow Dog was struck
down, with the exception of the small number who managed to escape their
merciless pursuers, he knew that his work was ended, and that Kiopo need
fear his enemies no longer.



CHAPTER XXVII

CARBOONA'S CALL


It was a triumphal entry which Dusty Star with Kiopo at his side, made
into the camp. In the absence of the men, the squaws had built large
outside fires partly to celebrate their victorious return, partly for
the purpose of extensive cooking.

As Dusty Star and his wolf came within the circle of the light, a great
shout went up. The entire camp stormed forward to meet them, Spotted
Eagle and the other chiefs forming a guard of honour. Naturally Dusty
Star's father, who had returned at last in safety, and his mother were
the first to greet him. Nikana's delight in having her now famous son
safe and sound once more was unbounded. Running Wolf made little outward
sign of joy; but it was not the blaze of the fires alone which made his
dusky features take that unaccustomed glow, or the light glitter in his
black eyes, as he gazed with pride upon his son.

And though half the camp seemed pressing forward to do him honour, and
the other half to hang back respectfully in awe of his terrible wolf,
Dusty Star's memory did not sleep. There were other scenes, little less
vivid, in which he and Kiopo had played very different parts, and when
the eyes which now gazed upon them with gratitude and awe had watched
them with suspicion and hate. Within him the human mind, and the wolf's
instinct, were fighting; and neither would allow him to forget.

There were two other persons who also had a long memory, and who
remained at the outside of the crowd. Dusty Star's sharp eyes caught
sight of a tall, slightly stooping figure, standing alone in solitary
contemplation, and he immediately made his way towards it.

As he saw the youth approaching him, Lone Chief never moved. Something
that might almost have been taken for a smile flickered in his face.

Dusty Star was the first to speak.

"I said I would not come," he said, and stopped.

Lone Chief understood. He was remembering an occasion when a boy had
come to him with an urgent appeal for help which he had refused; and
which because the boy had brought a strange influence with him, he had
given it after all.

"I also said I would not come," he replied, while the thing that might
have been a smile flickered and went out. "The medicine has strange
ways. Though the words go west, the heart may take the eastern trail."

Dusty Star's mind flashed to Sitting-Alway's sickness, and he also
understood.

They said nothing more, but each felt that, whatever happened in the
future, there was a sympathy between them which would always hold them
friends.

The other person with the backward-reaching memory remained even further
in the background than Lone Chief. As the reflections of the dancing
flames lit up the old yellow-painted face, its sunken eyes glared out
upon the scene with an expression of uneasiness that was almost fear.

"The wolves are bad medicine," the painted mouth muttered. "No good will
come of it, if the wolf stays."

Nikana found her mother crouching in the shadows on her way back to the
tepee, and did her utmost to persuade her to come and join in welcoming
her grandson back; but the old squaw's obstinate refusal was not to be
overcome, and she gave up the attempt.

So, half in shadow, half in flickering light, the old painted mouth went
on muttering from time to time: "Bad medicine! Bad medicine," till at
last Sitting-Always took herself off uneasily to bed.

       *       *       *       *       *

For three days the feasting and rejoicing were continued. Dusty Star,
was, of course, the central figure. In spite of his extreme youth, the
treatment he received was that of a great chief and famous medicine-man
combined. He was loaded with honours and marks of distinction. Presents
of all kinds were showered upon him. He became rich--as the Indian mind
counts riches--in a day. Even those who had been most hostile to him in
the past, were now the foremost in courting his favour, as the hero of
the hour. Beside him, Spotted Eagle himself took a second place.

Even Sitting-Always changed her behaviour, and seemed to wish to stand
in the good graces of her famous grandson. So that when he visited her
tepee, leaving Kiopo behind, she showed her broken yellow teeth at him
in a smile that was like a wound across her face. And her words were
sweet as sarvis-berries that have been well stewed. Only, as Dusty Star
listened to them, he heard behind their juiciness, the old false, yellow
voice that had cried passionately: "Kill! Kill!"

Yet in spite of all his overwhelming good-fortune, he was not happy. If
Kiopo had shown himself content, it might have been different. But the
honours heaped upon the Little Brother left Kiopo untouched. To all
friendly advances from any person outside the immediate family circle,
he showed an indifference which occasionally gave dangerous signs of
changing into enmity. People became chary of visiting the tepee when it
was observed that the wolf was on guard.... He might be, and doubtless
was, a marvellous animal--a mighty "medicine." But like other great
Powers, his jaws could close with a snap. From the rabble of the
huskies, he naturally held aloof with the utmost scorn. And they in
their turn, hating him whole-heartedly, but, fearing him with equal
measure, gave him the widest possible berth.

Day by day, his dislike and distrust of camp-life became more and more
apparent. Even when his body was still, and he lay motionless as a log,
with his great head laid between his out-stretched paws, his eyes,
turning constantly from Dusty Star to the prairies, and back again to
Dusty Star, had the haunted look of a creature in a trap. And Dusty
Star, reading their expression, felt a heavy foreboding settle upon his
heart. He was not surprised when, on the fourth day after their return,
Kiopo disappeared.

Since the defeat of the Yellow Dogs, nothing had been seen of the White
Wolf and his pack. But by sounds heard at sundown, and during the night,
and by the unusual restlessness of the ponies, it was believed that a
large body of wolves was still hanging about the neighbourhood. If Dusty
Star had not heard the night calls, he could have learnt the truth of
the thing by reading Kiopo's eyes.

On the morning of the fifth day, he was wakened early by the continual
howling of a wolf, which seemed to come from a point not far off in the
prairie. Listening intently, he was sure that Kiopo was calling him, and
that, for some reason or other, he would not enter the camp.

He rose softly from his couch, so as not to disturb his parents, and
went out upon the prairie. He expected every minute to find Kiopo at his
side; but Kiopo's voice, like a will-o-the-wisp, was always on ahead,
leading him further and further away.

At last he came to the foot of Look-out-Bluff and, in the dim light of
the dawn, saw Kiopo standing before him. After a rapid licking of the
Little Brother's hand, Kiopo turned at once and began to ascend the
bluff. Dusty Star followed him without hesitation.

After they had reached the summit, Kiopo sat down and gave three, short
howling barks. They were answered immediately from a spot to the north.
Then there was silence, while he and Dusty Star waited.

Presently, a large white wolf appeared over the top of the bluff. He was
followed by a line of wolves. In the twilight the line appeared endless.
And still they came. It seemed as if, for leagues around, the entire
prairie was giving up its wolves.

Dusty Star and Kiopo stood in the centre, with the White Wolf a little
to one side. Here and there a wolf would sit or lie down, and begin to
lick or scratch his coat, but for the most part the animals remained
standing, their heads turned towards the group in the centre, as if
waiting for some sign.

For a considerable time nothing happened. In the windless air, the deep
stillness of the dawn seemed to surround the bluff with a ring of
silence, cutting it off from the rest of the earth. Within that ring,
Dusty Star felt himself in a world, in which, every moment, the
wolfishness of things grew more enormous, excluding everything besides.
As never before, he felt the soul that was in him answer to the wolves.

He knew not why he was here. The wolves were claiming him. They were
waiting for something which had not yet happened. When it happened, they
would take him with them across the prairies into that tremendous
endlessness of the West; to the places beyond the sunset, where the
black lakes glimmer to the wolf-trail of the stars. And he knew also,
that, if he went, he would not come back; for the moccasins that follow
the wolves far enough, find at last the wolf-trail that is worn across
the heavens, and never more return.

All at once, the White Wolf got up and advanced slowly towards Kiopo.
The two wolves touched noses. The White Wolf then turned towards Dusty
Star, looking him full in the face, as much as to say: "Are you ready?"

After a moment's pause, he trotted away across the bluff and
disappeared. The rest of the pack, followed him in a body. When the last
wolf had disappeared, Dusty Star found himself alone with Kiopo. The
wolf stood straight in front of him, gazing at him intently.

Dusty Star, looking right into his eyes, read the message there, all too
plainly: "It is time for us to go."

And deep, deep in the West, over a thousand leagues of soundless
prairie, he heard Carboona call.

He wanted to go. All the part of him that was wolf cried out to go. Yet
something held him back. If Carboona sent a voice from the West, so also
the camp of his people called him in the East. The human in him, the
deep, loving, human thing, which had been born with him, and which he
could not understand, refused to let him go.

Yet Kiopo! How could he part with Kiopo--the one creature in the world
which he fully understood? He felt that he would give all he
possessed--his new-found honours, his wealth, his power over his
tribe--if only Kiopo would return with him to the camp. Yet he knew it
could not be. It would be asking Kiopo to come back to a life which,
sooner or later, would prove his doom.

Yes; whether he himself went or stayed, he knew Kiopo must go. That wild
heart, faithful as it was, could never more cabin itself in the cramped
circle of an Indian camp. It, too, had heard Carboona's call.
Carboona--the grim foster-mother had summoned it--and the wolf-heart
obeyed.

In Dusty Star's own heart the fight was terrible. It seemed as if the
Wolf and Human, in a final struggle for victory, were rending it apart.
And yet, in spite of the Wolf within him, tearing him to pieces, the old
mystery of of his race, true to its age-long, world-deep roots, held. He
knew, at last, that Kiopo must return _alone_.

       *       *       *       *       *

In the clear light of the rising sun, there might have been seen, drawn
sharply against the morning sky on the ridge of Look-out-Bluff, the
figures of an Indian and a wolf. Then the wolf's disappeared, and the
human figure was left standing alone. But although, in the long
clearness of the prairies, sound sometimes carries further than sight,
no listening ears caught the despairing cry, "Kiopo! Kiopo!" which
sobbed itself westward into a silence that gave no answering voice.

       *       *       *       *       *

And now, as to all things, there comes an end, even to the
endless-seeming journeys of the wandering cariboo, so also we have
reached the the end of the history of Dusty Star.

Did he stay with his people always, you ask? Or did he one day disappear
into Carboona to find Kiopo? Or did Kiopo, after long wanderings, return
once more to seek the Little Brother along the eastern trail?

I cannot say. Only in the West, strange things may happen. But this I
know. Of the final parting between the boy and the wolf there was no
witness, beast or human. And exactly what took place then, no white
man's tongue may tell.

The big things happen like that. Out there, in the enormous spaces, the
Great Spirit hides them in the shadow of His robe.


FINIS





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