Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: Hoof and Claw
Author: Roberts, Charles George Douglas, Sir, 1860-1943
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 "Hoof and Claw" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



HOOF AND CLAW


[Illustration: Logo]

THE MACMILLAN COMPANY
NEW YORK · BOSTON · CHICAGO
DALLAS · ATLANTA · SAN FRANCISCO

MACMILLAN & CO., LIMITED
LONDON · BOMBAY · CALCUTTA
MELBOURNE

THE MACMILLAN CO. OF CANADA, LTD.
TORONTO


[Illustration: "He saw Jeff with one lynx down, slashing at its throat."
_Frontispiece_]



HOOF AND CLAW

BY
CHARLES G. D. ROBERTS

AUTHOR OF "KINGS IN EXILE," "NEIGHBORS UNKNOWN,"
"THE FEET OF THE FURTIVE," ETC.

New York
THE MACMILLAN COMPANY
1917

_All rights reserved_


Copyright, 1913, by The Illustrated Sunday Magazine and by The Cosmopolitan
Magazine.

Copyright, 1914, by The Pictorial Review Company, by The Illustrated Sunday
Magazine, by The National Sunday Magazine, by the Cosmopolitan Magazine,
and by John Adams Thayer Corporation.

COPYRIGHT, 1914
BY THE MACMILLAN COMPANY

Set up and electrotyped. Published September, 1914
Reprinted April, 1917.



CONTENTS

                                     PAGE

THE BEAR THAT THOUGHT HE WAS A DOG      1

THE TRAIL OF THE VANISHING HERDS       26

A MASTER OF SUPPLY                     49

THE WHITE WOLF                         66

UP A TREE                              90

THE EYES IN THE BUSH                  108

THE RUNNERS OF THE HIGH PEAKS         123

THE POOL                              145

THE SHADOWS AND JOHN HATCH            160

THE FISHER IN THE CHUTES              186

THE ASSAULT OF WINGS                  200

THE CABIN DOOR                        223

A BASKET OF FISH                      243

BRANNIGAN'S MARY                      259



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS


"He Saw Jeff with One Lynx down, Slashing at Its Throat"  _Frontispiece_

                                                        FACING PAGE
"For a Day He Wandered Disconsolately over and about the Ruins"  14

"The Shambles of the Plain"      46

"He Found the Wolverine Head Downward in His Choicest Cellar"    62

"The Gaunt, Tirelessly Patrolling Shape of His White Sentinel"   78

"His Pronged Antlers Ripped it Wide Open"                       100

"And the Fiery Light in His Brain Went Out"                     116

"He Took No Pains to Choose an Easy Path"                       128



The Bear that thought he was a Dog


The gaunt, black mother lifted her head from nuzzling happily at the
velvet fur of her little one. The cub was but twenty-four hours old, and
engrossed every emotion of her savage heart; but her ear had caught the
sound of heavy footsteps coming up the mountain. They were confident,
fearless footsteps, taking no care whatever to disguise themselves, so
she knew at once that they were the steps of the only creature that
presumed to go so noisily through the great silences. Her heart pounded
with anxious suspicion. She gave the cub a reassuring lick, deftly set
it aside with her great paws, and thrust her head forth cautiously from
the door of the den.

She saw a man--a woodsman in brownish-grey homespuns and heavy
leg-boots, and with a gun over his shoulder--slouching up along the
faintly marked trail which led close past her doorway. Her own great
tracks on the trail had been obliterated that morning by a soft and
thawing fall of belated spring snow--"the robin snow," as it is called
in New Brunswick--and the man, absorbed in picking his way by this
unfamiliar route over the mountain, had no suspicion that he was in
danger of trespassing. But the bear, with that tiny black form at the
bottom of the den filling her whole horizon, could not conceive that the
man's approach had any other purpose than to rob her of her treasure.
She ran back to the little one, nosed it gently into a corner, and
anxiously pawed some dry leaves half over it. Then, her eyes aflame with
rage and fear, she betook herself once more to the entrance, and
crouched there motionless to await the coming of the enemy.

The man swung up the hill noisily, grunting now and again as his
foothold slipped on the slushy, moss-covered stones. He fetched a huge
breath of satisfaction as he gained a little strip of level ledge,
perhaps a dozen feet in length, with a scrubby spruce bush growing at
the other end of it. Behind the bush he made out what looked as if it
might be the entrance to a little cave. Interested at once, he strode
forward to examine it. At the first stride a towering black form, jaws
agape and claws outstretched, crashed past the fir bush and hurled
itself upon him.

A man brought up in the backwoods learns to think quickly, or, rather,
to think and act in the same instant. Even as the great beast sprang,
the man's gun leaped to its place and he fired. His charge was nothing
more than heavy duck-shot, intended for some low-flying flock of migrant
geese or brant. But at this close range, some seven or eight feet only,
it tore through its target like a heavy mushroom bullet, and with a
stopping force that halted the animal's charge in mid-air like the blow
of a steam hammer. She fell in her tracks, a heap of huddled fur and
grinning teeth:

"Gee," remarked the man, "that was a close call!" He ejected the empty
shell and slipped in a fresh cartridge. Then he examined critically the
warm heap of fur and teeth.

Perceiving that his victim was a mother, and also that her fur was rusty
and ragged after, the winter's sleep, sentiment and the sound
utilitarianism of the backwoods stirred within him in a fine blend.

"Poor old beggar!" he muttered. "She must hev' a baby in yonder hole.
That accounts fer her kind of hasty ways. 'Most a pity I had to shoot
her jest now, when she's out o' season an' her pelt not worth the job of
strippin' it!"

Entering the half darkness of the cave, he quickly discovered the cub in
its ineffectual hiding-place. Young as it was, when he picked it up, it
whimpered with terror and struck out with its baby paws, recognizing the
smell of an enemy. The man grinned indulgently at this display of
spirit.

"Gee, but ye're chock-full o' ginger!" said he. And then, being of an
understanding heart and an experimental turn of mind, he laid the cub
down and returned to the body of the mother. With his knife he cut off
several big handfuls of the shaggy fur and stuffed it into his pockets.
Then he rubbed his hands, his sleeves, and the breast of his coat on the
warm body.

"There, now," said he, returning to the cave and once more picking up
the little one, "I've made ye an orphant, to be sure, but I'm goin' to
soothe yer feelin's all I kin. Ye must make believe as how I'm yer mammy
till I kin find ye a better one."

Pillowed in the crook of his captor's arm, and with his nose snuggled
into a bunch of his mother's fur, the cub ceased to wonder at a problem
too hard for him, and dozed off into an uneasy sleep. And the man,
pleased with his new plaything, went gently that he might not disturb
the slumber.

Now, it chanced that at Jabe Smith's farm, on the other side of the
mountain, there had just been a humble tragedy. Jabe Smith's dog, a
long-haired brown retriever, had been bereaved of her new-born puppies.
Six of them she had borne, but five had been straightway taken from her
and drowned; for Jabe, though compassionate of heart, had wisely decided
that compassion would be too costly at the price of having his little
clearing quite overrun with dogs. For two days, in her box in a corner
of the dusky stable, the brown mother had wistfully poured out her
tenderness upon the one remaining puppy; and then, when she had run
into the house for a moment to snatch a bite of breakfast, one of
Smith's big red oxen had strolled into the stable and blundered a great
splay hoof into the box. That had happened in the morning; and all day
the brown mother had moped, whimpering and whining, about the stable,
casting long distraught glances at the box in the corner, which she was
unwilling either to approach or to quite forsake.

When her master returned, and came and looked in hesitatingly at the
stable door, the brown mother saw the small furry shape in the crook of
his arm. Her heart yearned to it at once. She fawned upon the man
coaxingly, lifted herself with her forepaws upon his coat, and reached
up till she could lick the sleeping cub. Somewhat puzzled, Jabe Smith
went and looked into the box. Then he understood.

"If you want the cub, Jinny, he's your'n all right. An' it saves me a
heap o' bother."


II

Driven by his hunger, and reassured by the smell of the handful of fur
which the woodsman left with him, the cub promptly accepted his
adoption. She seemed very small, this new mother, and she had a
disquieting odor; but the supreme thing, in the cub's eyes, was the fact
she had something that assuaged his appetite. The flavor, to be sure,
was something new, and novelty is a poor recommendation to babes of
whatever kindred; but all the cub really asked of milk was that it
should be warm and abundant. And soon, being assiduously licked and
fondled, and nursed till his little belly was round as a melon, he
forgot the cave on the mountainside and accepted Jabe Smith's barn as a
quite normal abode for small bears.

Jinny was natively a good mother. Had her own pups been left to her, she
would have lavished every care and tenderness upon them during the
allotted span of weeks, and then, with inexorable decision, she would
have weaned and put them away for their souls' good. But somewhere in
her sturdy doggish make-up there was a touch of temperament, of
something almost approaching imagination, to which this strange
foster-child of hers appealed as no ordinary puppy could ever have
done. She loved the cub with a certain extravagance, and gave herself up
to it utterly. Even her beloved master fell into a secondary place, and
his household, of which she had hitherto held herself the guardian, now
seemed to her to exist merely for the benefit of this black prodigy
which she imagined herself to have produced. The little one's astounding
growth--for the cubs of the bear are born very small, and so must lose
no time in making up arrears of stature--was an affair for which she
took all credit to herself; and she never thought of weaning him till he
himself decided the matter by preferring the solid dainties of the
kitchen. When she could no longer nurse him, however, she remained his
devoted comrade, playmate, satellite; and the cub, who was a roguish but
amiable soul, repaid her devotion by imitating her in all ways possible.
The bear being by nature a very silent animal, her noisy barking seemed
always to stir his curiosity and admiration; but his attempts to imitate
it resulted in nothing more than an occasional grunting _woof_. This
throaty syllable, his only utterance besides the whimper which signalled
the frequent demands of his appetite, came to be accepted as his name;
and he speedily learned to respond to it.

Jabe Smith, as has been already pointed out, was a man of sympathetic
discernment. In the course of no long time his discernment told him that
Woof was growing up under the delusion that he was a dog. It was perhaps
a convenience, in some ways, that he should not know he was a bear--he
might be the more secure from troublesome ancestral suggestions. But as
he appeared to claim all the privileges of his foster-mother, Jabe
Smith's foreseeing eye considered the time, not far distant, when the
sturdy and demonstrative little animal would grow to a giant of six or
seven hundred pounds in weight, and still, no doubt, continue to think
he was a dog. Jabe Smith began to discourage the demonstrativeness of
Jinny, trusting her example would have the desired effect upon the cub.
In particular, he set himself to remove from her mind any lingering
notion that she would do for a lap-dog. He did not want any such notion
as that to get itself established in Woof's young brain. Also, he broke
poor Jinny at once of her affectionate habit of springing up and
planting her forepaws upon his breast. That seemed to him a
demonstration of ardor which, if practiced by a seven-hundred-pound
bear, might be a little overwhelming.

Jabe Smith had no children to complicate the situation. His family
consisted merely of Mrs. Smith, a small but varying number of cats and
kittens, Jinny, and Woof. Upon Mrs. Smith and the cats Woof's delusion
came to have such effect that they, too, regarded him as a dog. The cats
scratched him when he was little, and with equal confidence they
scratched him when he was big. Mrs. Smith, as long as she was in a good
humor, allowed him the freedom of the house, coddled him with kitchen
tit-bits, and laughed when his affectionate but awkward bulk got in the
way of her outbursts of mopping or her paroxysms of sweeping. But when
storm was in the air, she regarded him no more than a black poodle. At
the heels of the more nimble Jinny, he would be chased in ignominy from
the kitchen door, with Mrs. Jabe's angry broom thwacking at the spot
where Nature had forgotten to give him a tail. At such time Jabe Smith
was usually to be seen smoking contemplatively on the woodpile, and
regarding the abashed fugitives with sympathy.

This matter of a tail was one of the obstacles which Woof had to
encounter in playing the part of a dog. He was indefatigable in his
efforts to wag his tail. Finding no tail to wag, he did the best he
could with his whole massive hindquarters, to the discomfiture of all
that got in the way. Yet, for all his clumsiness, his good-will was so
unchanging that none of the farmyard kindreds had any dread of him,
saving only the pig in his sty. The pig, being an incurable sceptic by
nature, and, moreover, possessed of a keen and discriminating nose,
persisted in believing him to be a bear and a lover of pork, and would
squeal nervously at the sight of him. The rest of the farmyard folk
accepted him at his own illusion, and appeared to regard him as a
gigantic species of dog. And so, with nothing to mar his content but the
occasional paroxysms of Mrs. Jabe's broom, Woof led the sheltered life
and was glad to be a dog.


III

It was not until the autumn of his third year that Woof began to
experience any discontent. Then, without knowing why, it seemed to him
that there was something lacking in Jabe Smith's farmyard--even in Jabe
Smith himself and in Jinny, his foster-mother. The smell of the deep
woods beyond the pasture fields drew him strangely. He grew restless.
Something called to him; something stirred in his blood and would not
let him be still. And one morning, when Jabe Smith came out in the first
pink and amber of daybreak to fodder the horses, he found that Woof had
disappeared. He was sorry, but he was not surprised. He tried to explain
to the dejected Jinny that they would probably have the truant back
again before long. But he was no adept in the language of dogs, and
Jinny, failing for once to understand, remained disconsolate.

Once clear of the outermost stump pastures and burnt lands, Woof pushed
on feverishly. The urge that drove him forward directed him toward the
half-barren, rounded shoulders of old Sugar Loaf, where the
blue-berries at this season were ripe and bursting with juice. Here in
the gold-green, windy open, belly-deep in the low, blue-jeweled bushes,
Woof feasted greedily; but he felt it was not berries that he had come
for.

When, however, he came upon a glossy young she-bear, her fine black
muzzle bedaubed with berry juice, his eyes were opened to the object of
his quest. Perhaps he thought she, too, was a dog; but, if so, she was
in his eyes a dog of incomparable charm, more dear to him, though a new
acquaintance, than even little brown Jinny, his kind mother, had ever
been. The stranger, though at first somewhat puzzled by Woof's violent
efforts to wag a non-existent tail, apparently found her big wooer
sympathetic. For the next few weeks, all through the golden, dreamy
autumn of the New Brunswick woods, the two roamed together; and for the
time Woof forgot the farm, his master, Jinny, and even Mrs. Jabe's
impetuous broom.

But about the time of the first sharp frosts, when the ground was crisp
with the new-fallen leaves, Woof and his mate began to lose interest in
each other. She amiably forgot him and wandered off by herself, intent
on nothing so much as satisfying her appetite, which had increased
amazingly. It was necessary that she should load her ribs with fat to
last her through her long winter's sleep in some cave or hollow tree.
And as for Woof, once more he thought of Jabe Smith and Jinny, and the
kind, familiar farmyard, and the delectable scraps from the kitchen, and
the comforting smell of fried pancakes. What was the chill and lonely
wilderness to him, a dog? He turned from grubbing up an ant stump and
headed straight back for home.

When he got there, he found but a chimney standing naked and blackened
over a tangle of charred ruins. A forest fire, some ten days back, had
swept past that way, cutting a mile-wide swath through the woods and
clean wiping out Jabe Smith's little homestead. It being too late in the
year to begin rebuilding, the woodsman had betaken himself to the
Settlements for the winter, trusting to begin, in the spring, the slow
repair of his fortunes.

[Illustration: "For a day he wandered disconsolately over and about the
ruins."]

Woof could not understand it at all. For a day he wandered
disconsolately over and about the ruins, whining and sniffing, and
filled with a sense of injury at being thus deserted. How glad he would
have been to hear even the squeal of his enemy, the pig, or to feel the
impetuous broom of Mrs. Jabe harassing his haunches! But even such poor
consolation seemed to have passed beyond his ken. On the second day,
being very hungry, he gave up all hope of bacon scraps, and set off to
the woods to forage once more for himself.

As long as the actual winter held off, there was no great difficulty in
this foraging. There were roots to be grubbed up, grubs, worms, and
beetles, already sluggish with the cold, to be found under stones and
logs, and ant-hills to be ravished. There were also the nests of bees
and wasps, pungent but savory. He was an expert in hunting the shy
wood-mice, lying patiently in wait for them beside their holes and
obliterating them, as they came out, with a lightning stroke of his
great paw. But when the hard frosts came, sealing up the moist turf
under a crust of steel, and the snows, burying the mouse-holes under
three or four feet of white fluff, then he was hard put to it for a
living. Every day or two, in his distress, he would revisit the clearing
and wander sorrowfully among the snow-clad ruins, hoping against hope
that his vanished friends would presently return.

It was in one of the earliest of these melancholy visits that Woof first
encountered a male of his own species, and showed how far he was from
any consciousness of kinship. A yearling heifer of Jabe Smith's, which
had escaped from the fire and fled far into the wilderness, chanced to
find her way back. For several weeks she had managed to keep alive on
such dead grass as she could paw down to through the snow, and on such
twigs of birch and poplar as she could manage to chew. Now, a mere
ragged bag of bones, she stood in the snow behind the ruins, her eyes
wild with hunger and despair.

Her piteous mooings caught the ear of a hungry old he-bear which was
hunting in the woods near by. He came at once, hopefully. One stroke of
his armed paw on the unhappy heifer's neck put a period to her pains,
and the savage old prowler fell to his meal.

But, as it chanced, Woof also had heard, from a little further off,
that lowing of the disconsolate heifer. To him it had come as a voice
from the good old days of friendliness and plenty and impetuous brooms,
and he had hastened toward the sound with new hope in his heart. He came
just in time to see, from the edge of the clearing, the victim stricken
down.

One lesson Woof had well learned from his foster-mother, and that was
the obligation resting upon every honest dog to protect his master's
property. The unfortunate heifer was undoubtedly the property of Jabe
Smith. In fact, Woof knew her as a young beast who had often shaken her
budding horns at him. Filled with righteous wrath, he rushed forward and
hurled himself upon the slayer.

The latter was one of those morose old males, who, having forgotten or
outgrown the comfortable custom of hibernation, are doomed to range the
wilderness all winter. His temper, therefore, was raw enough in any
case. At this flagrant interference with his own lawful kill, it flared
to fury. His assailant was bigger than he, better nourished, and far
stronger; but for some minutes he put up a fight which, for swift
ferocity, almost daunted the hitherto unawakened spirit of Woof. A
glancing blow of the stranger's, however, on the side of Woof's
snout--only the remnant of a spent stroke, but enough to produce an
effect on that most sensitive center of a bear's dignity--and there was
a sudden change in the conditions of the duel. Woof, for the first time
in his life, saw red. It was a veritable berserk rage, this virgin
outburst of his. His adversary simply went down like a rag baby before
it, and was mauled to abject submission, in the smother of the snow,
inside of half a minute. Feigning death, which, indeed, was no great
feigning for him at that moment, he succeeded in deceiving the
unsophisticated Woof, who drew back upon his haunches to consider his
triumph. In that second the vanquished one writhed nimbly to his feet
and slipped off apologetically through the snow. And Woof, placated by
his victory, made no attempt to follow. The ignominies of Mrs. Jabe's
broom were wiped out.

When Woof's elation had somewhat subsided, he laid himself down beside
the carcass of the dead heifer. As the wind blew on that day, this
corner of the ruins was a nook of shelter. Moreover, the body of the red
heifer, dead and dilapidated though it was, formed in his mind a link
with the happy past. It was Jabe Smith's property, and he got a certain
comfort from lying beside it and guarding it for his master. As the day
wore on, and his appetite grew more and more insistent, in an
absent-minded way he began to gnaw at the good red meat beside him. At
first, to be sure, this gave him a guilty conscience, and from time to
time he would glance up nervously, as if apprehending the broom. But
soon immunity brought confidence, his conscience ceased to trouble him,
and the comfort derived from the nearness of the red heifer was
increased exceedingly.

As long as the heifer lasted, Woof stuck faithfully to his post as
guardian, and longer, indeed. For nearly two days after the remains had
quite disappeared--save for horns and hoofs and such bones as his jaws
could not crush--he lingered. Then at last, urged by a ruthless hunger,
and sorrowfully convinced that there was nothing more he could do for
Jabe or Jabe for him, he set off again on his wanderings.

About three weeks later, forlorn of heart and exigent of belly, Woof
found himself in a part of the forest where he had never been before.
But some one else had been there; before him was a broad trail, just
such as Jabe Smith and his wood sled used to make. Here were the prints
of horses' hooves. Woof's heart bounded hopefully. He hurried along down
the trail. Then a faint, delectable savor, drawn across the sharp, still
air, met his nostrils. Pork and beans--oh, assuredly! He paused for a
second to sniff the fragrance again, and then lurched onwards at a
rolling gallop. He rounded a turn of the trail, and there before him
stood a logging camp.

To Woof a human habitation stood for friendliness and food and shelter.
He approached, therefore, without hesitation.

There was no sign of life about the place, except for the smoke rising
liberally from the stove-pipe chimney. The door was shut, but Woof knew
that doors frequently opened if one scratched at them and whined
persuasively. He tried it, then stopped to listen for an answer. The
answer came--a heavy, comfortable snore from within the cabin. It was
mid-morning, and the camp cook, having got his work done up, was
sleeping in his bunk the while the dinner was boiling.

Woof scratched and whined again. Then, growing impatient, he reared
himself on his haunches in order to scratch with both paws at once. His
luck favored him, for he happened to scratch on the latch. It lifted,
the door swung open suddenly, and he half fell across the threshold. He
had not intended so abrupt an entrance, and he paused, peering with
diffidence and hope into the homely gloom.

The snoring had stopped suddenly. At the rear of the cabin Woof made out
a large, round, startled face, fringed with scanty red whiskers and a
mop of red hair, staring at him from over the edge of an upper bunk.
Woof had hoped to find Jabe Smith there. But this was a stranger, so he
suppressed his impulse to rush in and wallow delightedly before the
bunk. Instead of that, he came only half-way over the threshold, and
stood there making those violent contortions which he believed to be
wagging his tail.

To a cool observer of even the most limited intelligence it would have
been clear that these contortions were intended to be conciliatory. But
the cook of Conroy's Camp was taken by surprise, and he was not a cool
observer--in fact, he was frightened. A gun was leaning against the wall
below the bunk. A large, hairy hand stole forth, reached down and
clutched the gun.

Woof wagged his haunches more coaxingly than ever, and took another
hopeful step forward. Up went the gun. There was a blue-white spurt, and
the report clashed deafeningly within the narrow quarters.

The cook was a poor shot at any time, and at this moment he was at a
special disadvantage. The bullet went close over the top of Woof's head
and sang waspishly across the clearing. Woof turned and looked over his
shoulder to see what the man had fired at. If anything was hit, he
wanted to go and get it and fetch it for the man, as Jabe and Jinny had
taught him to do. But he could see no result of the shot. He whined
deprecatingly and ventured all the way into the cabin.

The cook felt desperately for another cartridge. There was none to be
found. He remembered that they were all in the chest by the door. He
crouched back in the bunk, making himself as small as possible, and
hoping that a certain hunk of bacon on the bench by the stove might
divert the terrible stranger's attention and give him a chance to make a
bolt for the door.

But Woof had not forgotten either the good example of Jinny or the
discipline of Mrs. Jabe's broom. Far be it from him to help himself
without leave. But he was very hungry. Something must be done to win the
favor of the strangely unresponsive round-faced man in the bunk. Looking
about him anxiously, he espied a pair of greasy cowhide "larrigans"
lying on the floor near the door. Picking one up in his mouth, after the
manner of his retriever foster-mother, he carried it over and laid it
down, as a humble offering, beside the bunk.

Now, the cook, though he had been undeniably frightened, was by no means
a fool. This touching gift of one of his own larrigans opened his eyes
and his heart. Such a bear, he was assured, could harbor no evil
intentions. He sat up in his bunk.

"Hullo!" said he. "What ye doin' here, sonny? What d'ye want o' me,
anyhow?"

The huge black beast wagged his hindquarters frantically and wallowed on
the floor in his fawning delight at the sound of a human voice.

"Seems to think he's a kind of a dawg," muttered the cook thoughtfully.
And then the light of certain remembered rumors broke upon his memory.

"I'll be jiggered," said he, "ef 'tain't that there tame b'ar Jabe
Smith, over to East Fork, used to have afore he was burnt out!"

Climbing confidently from the bunk, he proceeded to pour a generous
portion of molasses over the contents of the scrap pail, because he knew
that bears had a sweet tooth. When the choppers and drivers came
trooping in for dinner, they were somewhat taken aback to find a huge
bear sleeping beside the stove. As the dangerous-looking slumberer
seemed to be in the way--none of the men caring to sit too close to
him--to their amazement the cook smacked the mighty hindquarters with
the flat of his hand, and bundled him unceremoniously into a corner.
"'Pears to think he's some kind of a dawg," explained the cook, "so I
let him come along in for company. He'll fetch yer larrigans an' socks
an' things fer ye. An' it makes the camp a sight homier, havin'
somethin' like a cat or a dawg about."

"Right you are!" agreed the boss. "But what was that noise we heard,
along about an hour back? Did you shoot anything?"

"Oh, that was jest a little misunderstandin', before him an' me got
acquainted," explained the cook, with a trace of embarrassment. "We made
it up all right."



The Trail of the Vanishing Herds


Once again, but sluggishly, as if oppressed by apprehensions which they
could not understand, the humped and lion-fronted herds of the bison
began to gather for the immemorial southward drift. Harassed of late
years by new and terrible enemies, their herds had been so thinned and
scattered that even to the heavy brains of the fiercer old bulls a vague
idea of caution was beginning to penetrate. Hitherto it had been the
wont of the colossal hordes to deal with their adversaries in a very
direct and simple fashion--to charge and thunder down upon them, to roll
over them in an irresistible flood of angry hooves, and trample them out
of existence. Against the ancient enemies this straightforward method of
warfare had been efficacious enough, and the herds had multiplied till
the plains were black with their marching myriads. But against the new
foe--the white man, with his guns and his cunning, his cool courage and
his insatiable greed--it had been a destructive failure. The mightier
their myriads, the more irresistible the invitation to this relentless
slaughterer; and they had melted before him. At last a new instinct had
begun to stir in their crude intelligences, an instinct to scatter, to
shun the old, well-worn trails of migration, to seek pasturage in the
remoter valleys and by small streams where the white man's foot had not
yet trespassed. But as yet it was no more than the suggestion of an
instinct, too feeble and fumbling to sway the obstinate hordes. It had
come to birth too late. Here and there a little troop--perhaps half a
dozen cows under the lordship of some shaggy bull more alert and
supple-witted than his fellows--resisted the summons to assemble, and
slipped off among the wooded glades. But the rest, uneasy, yet
uncomprehending, obeyed the ancestral impulse and gathered till the
northern plains were black with them.

Then the great march began, the fateful southward drift.

The horde of the giant migrants was not a homogeneous mass, as it would
have seemed to one viewing it from a distance and a height. It was made
up of innumerable small herds, from a dozen to thirty or forty bison in
each. Each of these little groups hung together tenaciously, under the
dominance of two or three old bulls, and kept at a certain distance,
narrow but appreciable, from the herds immediately neighboring it. But
all the herds drifted southward together in full accord, now journeying,
now halting, now moving again, as if organized and ordered by some one
central and inflexible control. Rival bulls roared their challenges,
pawed the earth, fought savage duels with their battering fronts and
short, ripping horns, as they went; but always onward they pressed, the
south with its sun-steeped pastures drawing them, the north with its
menace of storm driving them before it. And the sound of their
bellowings and their tramplings rose in a heavy thunder above their
march, till the wide plain seemed to rock with it.

Countless as was their array, however, they seemed dimly conscious, with
a sort of vague, communal, unindividual sort of perception, that their
numbers and their power were as nothing in comparison with the
migrations of preceding autumns. The arrogance of irresistible might had
passed from them. They went sullenly, as if under a cloud of dark
expectation. And the separate herds hung closer to their neighbors than
had hitherto been the custom in the horde, as if seeking reassurance
against an unknown threat.

All around the far-flung outskirts of the host ran, skulking and
dodging, its accustomed, hereditary foes--the little slim, yellow-gray
coyotes and the gaunt timber wolves. The coyotes, dangerous only to the
dying or to very young calves separated from their mothers, were
practically ignored, save for an occasional angry rush on the part of
some nervous cow; and, trusting to their amazing speed, they frequently
ran far in among the herds, in the hope of spotting some sick animal and
keeping it in view till the host should pass on and leave it to its
fate. The great gray timber wolves, however, were honored with more
attention. Powerful enough alone to pull down a yearling calf, they were
always watched with savage and apprehensive eyes by the cows, and forced
to keep their distance. The stragglers, old and young, were their prey,
or sometimes a wounded bull, worsted in battle and driven from his herd,
and weak from loss of blood. In twos and threes they prowled, silent and
grimly watchful, hanging on the flanks of the host or picking their way
in its vast, betrampled, desolated trail.

On the outermost edge of the right or western wing of the bellowing host
went a compact little herd, which hung together with marked obstinacy.
It consisted of a dozen cows with their calves and yearlings, and two
adult bulls, one of which, the younger and less heavily maned, kept
diffidently at the rear and seemed to occupy the busy but subordinate
post of a sort of staff-sergeant. The other was an immense bull, with
splendid leonine front and with a watchful, suspicious look in his eyes
which contrasted sharply with the sullen stare of his fellows. He had
the wisdom learned in many eventful migrations, and he captained his
herd imperiously, being sure, in the main, as to what was best for them.
But of just one thing he seemed somewhat unsure. He appeared irresolute
as to the southward march or else as to the companionship of the host.
By hanging upon the skirts of it, he held himself ready to detach his
little herd from its company and make off among the foothills in case of
need. At the same time, by thus keeping on the outskirts of the host he
secured for his little knot of satellites the freshest and sweetest
pasturage.

However disquieting the brown bull's apprehensions, they were too vague
to let him know what it was he feared. For the accustomed perils of the
march he entertained just so much dread as befitted a sagacious
leader--no more. The skulking coyotes he disdained to notice. They might
skulk or dart about like lean shadows, as near the herd as the jealous
cows would permit, and he would never trouble to shake the polished
scimitars of his horns at them. The great gray wolves he scorned; but,
with perhaps a dim prevision of the day when he should be old and
feeble, and driven out from the herd, he could not ignore them. He
chased them off angrily if they ventured within the range of his
attention. But against an enemy whom he had learned to respect, the
Indian hunters, he kept an untiring watch, and the few white hunters,
who had already so thinned the bison host, he remembered with a fear
which was mingled with vengeful resentment. Nevertheless, even his
well-grounded fear of those human foes was not enough to account for his
almost panicky forebodings. These enemies, as he had known them, struck
always on the flanks of the host; and he had tactics to elude even the
dreadful thunder and spurted lightning of their guns. His fear was of he
knew not what and therefore it ground remorselessly upon his nerves.

For the present, however, there were none of these human enemies near,
and the host rolled on southward, with its bellowings and its
tramplings, unmolested. Neither Indians nor white men approached this
stage of the migration. The autumn days were sunny, beneath a sky bathed
in dream. The autumn nights were crisp with tonic frost, and in the pink
freshness of the dawn a wide-flung mist arose from the countless puffing
nostrils and the frost-rimed, streaming manes. Pasturage was abundant,
the tempers of the great bulls were bold and pugnacious, and nothing
seemed less likely than that any disaster could menace so mighty and
invincible a host. Yet Brown Bull was uneasy. From time to time he would
lift his red-rimmed nostrils, sniff the air in every direction, and scan
the summits of the foothills far on the right, as if the unknown peril
which he apprehended was likely to come from that direction.

As day by day passed on without event, the diffused anxiety of the host
quite died away. But Brown Bull, with his wider sagacity or more
sensitive intuition, seemed to grow only the more apprehensive and the
more vigilant. His temper did not improve under the strain, and his
little troop of followers was herded with a severity which must have
taxed, for the moment, their faith in its beneficence.

The host lived, fought, fed, as it went, halting only for sleep and the
hours of rest. In this inexorable southward drift the right flank passed
one morning over a steep little knoll, the crest of which chanced to be
occupied by Brown Bull and his herd just at the moment when the moving
ranks came to a halt for the forenoon siesta. It was such a post of
vantage as Brown Bull loved. He stood there sniffing with wide, wet
nostrils, and searching the horizon for danger. The search was vain, as
ever; but just behind him, and closer in toward the main body of the
host, he saw something that made his stretched nerves thrill with anger.
An old bull had just been driven out from a neighboring herd, deposed
from his lordship and hideously gored by a younger and stronger rival.
Staggering from his wounds, and overwhelmed with a sudden terror of
isolation, he tried to edge his way into the herd next behind him. He
was ejected mercilessly. From herd to herd he staggered, met always by a
circle of lowered horns and angry eyes, and so went stumbling back to
that lonely doom which, without concern, he had seen meted out to so
many of his fellows, but had never thought of as possible to himself.
This pitiful sight, of course, was nothing to Brown Bull. It hardly even
caught his eye, still less his interest. Had he been capable of
formulating his indifferent thoughts upon the matter, they would have
taken some such form as: "Serve him right for being licked!" But when at
last the wounded outcast was set upon by four big timber wolves and
pulled, bellowing, to his knees, that was another affair. Brown Bull
could not tolerate the sight of the gray wolves triumphing. With a roar
of rage he charged down the knoll. His herd, astonished but obedient,
lowered their massive heads and charged at his heels. The wolves snarled
venomously, forsook their prize, and vanished. Brown Bull led the charge
straight on and over the body of the dying outcast, trampling it into
dreadful shapelessness. Then, halting abruptly, he looked about him in
surprise. The wolves were gone. His rage passed from him. He led his
followers tranquilly back to their place on the knoll, to the
accompaniment of puzzled snortings from the neighbor herds.

The herd fell to feeding at once, as if nothing in the least unusual had
happened. But Brown Bull, after cropping the sweet, tufted grass for a
few minutes, was seized with one of his pangs of apprehension, and
raised his head for a fresh survey of the distance. This time he did not
resume his feeding, but stood for several minutes shifting his feet
uneasily until he had quite satisfied himself that the ponies which he
saw emerging from a cleft in the foothills were not a harmless wild
troop, but carried each a red rider. He had reached the Indian country,
and his place on the flank of the host, as his craft and experience told
him, was no longer a safe one.

For a little, Brown Bull stood irresolute, half inclined to lead his
followers away from the host and slip back into the wooded foothills
whence they had come. Then, either moved by a remembrance of the harsh
winter of the north, or drawn by the pull of the host upon his
gregarious heart, he lost the impulse. Instead of forsaking the host, he
led his herd down the knoll and insinuated it into a gap in the ranks.

Here Brown Bull was undoubtedly a trespasser. But instead of forcing a
combat or, rather, a succession of combats, he contented himself with
holding his straitened ground firmly rather than provocatively. His
towering bulk and savage, resolute bearing made the nearest bulls
unwilling to challenge his intrusion. Little by little the herds yielded
way, half unconsciously, seeking merely their own convenience. Little by
little, also, Brown Bull continued his crafty encroachments, till at
length, after perhaps a couple of hours of maneuvering, he had his
charges some four or five hundred yards in from the exposed flank and
well placed near the front of the march, where the pasturage was still
sweet and untrampled.

The Indians, sweeping up on their mad ponies, rode close to the flank of
the host and chose their victims at leisure. Killing for meat and not
for sport, they selected only young cows in good condition, and were too
sparing of their powder to shoot more than they needed. They clung to
the host for some hours, throwing the outer fringe of it into confusion,
but attracting little attention from the herds beyond their reach. Once
in a while some bull, more fiery than his fellows, would charge with
blind, uncalculating valor upon these nimble assailants, only to be at
once shot down for his hide. But for the most part, none but those herds
actually assailed paid much attention to what was going on. They
instinctively crowded away from the flying horsemen, the flames and
thunder of the guns. But their numbers and the nearness of their
companions seemed to give them a stolid sense of security even when the
swift death was almost upon them. As for Brown Bull, all this was just
what he had expected and made provision against. The assault came
nowhere near his own charges, so he treated it as none of his affair.

The Indians withdrew long before nightfall; but the following day
brought others, and for a week or more there was never a day without
this harassing attack upon one flank or another of the host, or
sometimes upon both flanks at once. Again and again, as the outer ranks
dwindled, Brown Bull found himself nearing the danger zone, and
discreetly on each occasion he worked his herd in a few hundred yards
nearer the center.

Then, for a space of some days, the attacks of the Indians ceased, and
the wolves and coyotes came back to dog the trail of the diminished
host. But Brown Bull was not unduly elated by this respite. He held his
followers to their place near the center of the march, and maintained
his firm and apprehensive vigilance untiringly. The days were now hot
and cloudless, and so dry that the host seemed literally to drink up
every brook or pond it passed, and an irritating dust-cloud overhung
the rear of the trampling hoofs.

But these few days of peace were but prelude to harsher trial. From
somewhere far to the left came now a band of white hunters, who rode
around the host and attacked it on both flanks at once. They killed more
heedlessly and brutally than the Indians, for the sake of the hides
rather than for meat, each man hurriedly marking his own kill and then
dashing on to seek more victims. Each night they camped, and in the cool
of the morning overtook the slow-moving host on their tireless mustangs.
The trail of stripped red carcasses which they left behind them glutted
all the wolves, coyotes, and carrion crows for leagues about, and
affronted the wholesome daylight of the plains. This visitation lasted
for five or six days, and the terror it created spread inwards to the
very heart of the host. Gradually the host quickened its march, leaving
itself little time for feeding and only enough rest for the vitally
essential process of rumination. At last the white marauders, satiated
with slaughter, dropped behind, and immediately the host, now shrunken
by nearly a third, slackened its pace and seemed to forget its
punishment. Phlegmatic and short of memory, the herds were restored to
content by a day of heavy rain, which laid the dust, and freshened their
hides, and instilled new sweetness into the coarse plains grasses. But
Brown Bull's apprehensions redoubled, and he grew lean with watching.

The path of migration--the old path, known to the ancestors of this host
for many generations--now led for many days along the right bank of a
wide and turbulent but usually shallow river. The flat roar of the
yellow flood upon its reefs and sand banks, mixed with the bellowings
and tramplings of the host to form a thunder which could be heard in the
far-off foothills, transmuted there to a murmur like the sea.

There came now a day of intense and heavy heat, with something in the
air which made the whole host uneasy. They stopped pasturing, and the
older bulls and cows sniffed the dead air as if they detected some
strange menace upon it. Toward the middle of the afternoon a mysterious
haze, of a lovely rosy saffron hue, appeared in the southeast beyond
the river. It spread up the hot, turquoise-blue sky with a terrifying
rapidity, blotting out the empty plain as it approached. Soon all the
eyes of the host were turned upon it. Suddenly, at the heart of the rosy
haze, a gigantic yellow-black column took shape, broad at the base and
spreading wide at the summit, till it lost itself in a swooping canopy
of blackish cloud. It drew near at frightful speed, spinning as it came,
and licking up the surface of the plain beneath.

Brown Bull, whose herd was just now in the front rank of the host, stood
motionless for some seconds, till he had judged the exact direction of
the spinning column. Then, with a wild bellow, he lunged forward at a
gallop, apparently to meet the oncoming doom. His herd charged close at
his heels, none questioning his leadership, and the whole host followed,
heads down, blind with panic.

Two or three minutes more, and the sky overhead was darkened. An
appalling hum, as of giant wires, drowned the thunder of the galloping
host. The hum shrilled to a monstrous and rending screech, and the
spinning column swept across the river, wiping it up to the bottom of
the channel as it passed. Brown Bull's herd felt a sickening emptiness
in their lungs, and then a wind which almost lifted them from their
feet; and their knees failed them in their terror. But their leader had
calculated cunningly, and they were well past the track of doom. The
cyclone caught the hinder section of the host diagonally, whirled it
into the air like so many brown leaves, and bore it onward to be strewn
in hideous fragments over the plain behind. Immediately the sky cleared.
There was no more wind, but a chilly, throbbing breath. The yelling of
the cyclone sank away, and the river could be heard once more brawling
over its reefs and bars. A full third of the host had been blotted from
existence. The survivors, still trembling, remembered that they were
hungry, and fell to cropping the gritty and littered grass.

On the following day the shrunken host forded the river, which at this
point turned sharply westward across the path of the migration. The
river had risen suddenly owing to a cloudburst further up its course,
and many of the weaklings and youngsters of the host were swept away in
the passage. But Brown Bull's herd, well guarded and disciplined, got
over without loss; and for the next few days, there being no peril in
sight, its wary captain suffered it to lead the march.

And now they came into a green and fertile and well-watered land, where
it would have been comforting to linger and recover their strength. But
here, once more, the white man came against them.

At the first signs of these most dreaded foes, Brown Bull had discreetly
edged his herd back a little way into the host, so that it no longer
formed the vanguard. The white men killed savagely and insatiably all
along both flanks, as if not the need of hides and meat, but the sheer
lust of killing possessed them. One hunter, whose pony had stepped into
a badger-hole and fallen with him, was gored and trampled by a wounded
bull. This fired his comrades to a more implacable savagery. They
noticed that the host was a scanty one compared with the countless
myriads of preceding years. "Them redskins up north have been robbing
us!" they shouted, with fine logic. Then they remembered that the
migrating herds were anxiously awaited by other tribes of Indians
further south, who largely depended upon the bison for their living. An
inspiration seized them. "Let's fix the red varmints! If we jest wipe
these 'ere buffalo clean out, right now, the redskins'll starve, an'
this country'll be well quit o' them!"

But strive as they might to carry out this humane intention, for all
their slaughter on the flanks, the solid nucleus of the host remained
unshaken, and kept drifting steadily southward. It began to look as if,
in spite of Fate, a mighty remnant would yet make good its way into the
broken country, dangerous with hostile Indians, whither the white
hunters would hesitate to pursue. It was decided, therefore, to check
the southward march of the host by splitting it up into sections and
scattering it to this side and that, thus depriving it of the united
migrant impulse, and leaving its destruction to be completed at more
leisure.

These men knew the bison and his deep-rooted habits. In knots of three
and four they stationed themselves, on their ponies, directly in the
path of the advancing host.

On the flanks they attracted small attention. But directly in front,
the sight of them aroused the leaders of the march to fury. They pawed
the ground, snorted noisily, and then charged with their massive heads
low down. And the whole host, with sudden rising rage, charged with
them. It looked as if those little knots of waiting men and ponies must
be annihilated.

But when that dark, awful torrent of rolling manes, wild eyes, keen
horns, and shattering hoofs drew close upon the waiting groups of men,
these lifted their guns and fired, one after the other, straight in the
faces of the nearest bulls.

The result was instantaneous, as usual. Whether, as in most cases, the
leaders fell, or, as in other instances, they escaped, the rolling
torrent split and parted at once to either side as if the flame and roar
from the muzzles of the guns had been so many shoulders of rock. Once
divided, and panic-stricken by finding their foes at the heart of their
array, the herds went to pieces hopelessly, and were easily driven off
toward all points of the compass.

But in one instance--just one--the plan of the slaughterers did not
work out quite as anticipated.

Three of the hunters had taken station exactly opposite the center of
the host. Brown Bull and his herd were immediately behind the front rank
at this point. When the great charge was met by the roar and the
spirting flames, the leading bull went down, and the front rank split,
as a matter of course, to pass on either side of this terrifying
obstacle. But Brown Bull seemed to feel that here and now, straight
before him, was the unknown peril which had been shaking his heart
throughout the whole long march. In this moment his heart was no more
shaken, and the tradition of his ancestors, which bade him follow his
leaders like a sheep, was torn up by the roots. He did not swerve, but
swept down straight upon the astonished knot of horsemen; his trusting
herd came with him; and all behind, as usual, followed blindly.

[Illustration: "The shambles of the plain."]

The three white men turned to flee before the torrent of death. But
Brown Bull caught the leader's pony in the flank, ripped it and bore it
down, passing straight on over the bodies, which, in a dozen seconds,
were hardly to be distinguished from the earth to which they had so
suddenly and so awfully been rendered back. Of the other two, one made
good his escape, because his pony had taken alarm more quickly than its
master and turned in time. The third was overtaken because a cow which
he had wounded stumbled in his way, and he and his pony went out along
with her beneath the hoofs of Brown Bull's herd.

Brown Bull gave no heed to his triumph, if, indeed, he realized it at
all.

What he realized was that the apprehended doom had fallen upon the host,
and the host was no more. He kept on with his long, lumbering gallop,
till he had his herd well clear of all the struggling remnants of the
host, which he saw running aimlessly this way and that, the slaughterers
hanging to them like wolves. The sight did not interest him, but, as it
covered the whole plain behind him, he could not escape it if he looked
back. Forward the way was clear. Far forward and to the right, he saw
woods and ridgy uplands, and purple-blue beyond the uplands a range of
ragged hills. Thither he led his herd, allowing them not a moment to
rest or pasture so long as the shambles of the plain remained in view.
But that night, the tiny, lonely remnant of the vanished myriads of
their kin, they fed and slept securely in a well-grassed glade among the
hills.



A Master of Supply


Unlike his reserved and supercilious red cousin of kindlier latitudes,
Blue Fox was no lover of solitude; and seeing that the only solitude he
knew was the immeasurable desolation of the Arctic barrens, this was not
strange. The loneliness of these unending and unbroken plains, rolled
out flat beneath the low-hung sky to a horizon of white haze, might have
weighed down even so dauntless a spirit as his had he not taken care to
fortify himself against it. This he did, very sagaciously, by
cultivating the companionship of his kind. His snug burrow beneath the
stunted bush-growth of the plains was surrounded by the burrows of
perhaps a score of his race.

During the brief but brilliant Arctic summer, which flared across the
lonely wastes with a fervor which strove to compensate for the weary
duration of its absence, the life of Blue Fox was not arduous. But
during the long, sunless winters, with their wild snows, their yelling
gales, their interminable night, and their sudden descents of still,
intense frost, so bitter that it seemed as if the incalculable cold of
outer space were invading this undefended outpost of the world, then
Blue Fox and his fellows would have had a sorry time of it but for two
considerations. They had their cheer of association in the snug burrows
deep beneath the covering of the snows; and they had their food
supplies, laid by with wise forethought in the season when food was
abundant.

Therefore, when the old bear, grown too restless and savage to
hibernate, had often to roam the darkness hungry, and when the wolf-pack
was forced to range the frozen leagues for hardly meat enough to keep
their gaunt flanks from falling in, the provident foxes had little to
fear from either cold or famine.

The burrow of Blue Fox was dug in a patch of dry, sandy soil that formed
a sort of island half a dozen acres broad in the vast surrounding sea of
the swampy tundra. The island was not high enough or defined enough to
be called a knoll. To the eye it was nothing more than an almost
imperceptible bulge in the enormous monotony of the levels. But its
elevation was enough to secure it good drainage and a growth of more
varied herb and bush than that of the moss-covered tundra, with here and
there a little open space of turf and real grass which afforded its
tenants room to bask deliciously in the glow of the precipitate summer.

Hot and melting as the Arctic summer might be, it could never reach with
its ardent fingers the foundations of eternal frost which underlay all
that land at a depth of a very few feet. So Blue Fox dug his burrow not
too deep, but rather on a gentle slant, and formed his chamber at a
depth of not much more than two feet below the roots of the bushes.
Abundantly lined with fine, dry grasses, which he and his family kept
scrupulously clean, it was always warm and dry and sweet.

It was an afternoon in the first of the summer, one of those long,
unclouded, glowing, warm afternoons of the Arctic, when the young shoots
of herb and bush seem to lengthen visibly under the eye of the watcher,
and the flower-buds open impetuously as if in haste for the caresses of
the eager moths and flies. For the moment the vast expanses of the
barren were not lonely. The nesting juncos and snow-buntings twittered
cheerfully among the busy growths. The mating ducks clamored harshly
along the bright coils of the sluggish stream which wound its way
through the marshes. On an islet in the middle of a reedy mere, some
half-mile to the east, a pair of great white trumpeter swans had their
nest, scornful of concealment. A mile or more off to the west a herd of
caribou browsed the young green shoots of the tundra growth, moving
slowly northward. The windless air was faintly musical with the hum of
insects and with the occasional squeaks and scurryings of unseen lemming
mice in their secret roadways under the dense green sphagnum. Blue Fox
sat up, not far from the entrance to his tunnel, blinking lazily in the
glow and watching the play of his fuzzy cubs and their slim, young,
blue-gray mother in and out their doorway. Scattered here and there over
their naked little domain he saw the families of his kindred, similarly
care-free and content with life.

But care-free as he was, Blue Fox never forgot that the price of freedom
from care was eternal vigilance. Between his eyes and the pallid horizon
he detected a wide-winged bird swinging low over the marshes. He knew at
once what it was that with slow-moving, deliberate wings came up,
nevertheless, so swiftly. It was no goose, or brant, or fish-loving
merganser, or inland wandering saddleback gull that flew in such a
fashion. He gave a shrill yelp of warning, answered at once from all
over the colony; and at once the playing cubs whisked into their burrows
or drew close to their mothers, and sat up to stare with bright,
suspicious eyes at the strong-winged flier.

Blue Fox himself, like most of his full-grown fellows, never stirred.
But his eyes never swerved for a second from the approach of that
ominous, winnowing shape. It was a great Arctic hawk-owl, white mottled
with chocolate; and it seemed to be hunting in a leisurely fashion, as
if well fed and seeking excitement rather than a meal. It came straight
on toward the colony of the foxes, flying lower and lower, till Blue Fox
began to gather his steel-like muscles to be ready for a spring at its
throat if it should come within reach. It passed straight over his head,
its terrible hooked beak half open, its wide, implacable eyes,
jewel-bright and hard as glass, glaring downward with still menace. But,
with all its courage, it did not dare attack any one of the calmly
watchful foxes. It made a sweeping half-circuit of the colony, and then
sailed on toward the mere of the white swans. Just at the edge of the
mere it dropped suddenly into a patch of reeds, to flap up again, a
second later, with a limp form trailing from its talons--the form of a
luckless mother-duck surprised in brooding her eggs. A great hubbub of
startled and screaming water-fowl pursued the marauder; but the swans
from their islet, as the foxes from their colony, looked on with silent
indifference.

Blue Fox, basking in the sun, was by and by seized with a restlessness,
a sense of some duty left undone. He was not hungry, for the wastes were
just now so alive with nesting birds and swarming lemmings, and their
fat little cousins, the lemming mice, that his hunting was a swift and
easy matter. He did not even have to help his mate, occupied though she
was, in a leisurely way, with the care of her cubs. But across his mind
came an insistent memory of the long and bitter Arctic night, when the
world would seem to snap under the deadly intensity of the cold, and
there would be no birds but a few ptarmigan in the snow, and the fat
lemmings would be safe beneath the frozen roofs of their tunnels, and
his cleverest hunting would hardly serve him to keep the keen edge off
his hunger. In the first sweet indolence of spring he had put far from
him the remembrance of the famine season. But now it was borne in upon
him that he must make provision against it. Shaking off his nonchalance,
he got up, stretched himself elaborately, and trotted down briskly into
the tundra.

He picked his way daintily over the wide beds of moist sphagnum, making
no more sound as he went than if his feet had been of thistledown. At
some distance from the skirts of the colony the moss was full of
scurrying and squeaking noises. Presently he crouched and crept forward
like a cat. The next instant he pounced with an indescribable speed and
lightness, his head and forepaws disappearing into the moss. He had
penetrated into one of the screened runways of the little people of the
sphagnum. The next moment he lifted his head with a fat lemming dangling
from either side of his fine jaws. He laid down the prize and inspected
it with satisfaction--a round-bodied creature some six inches long, of a
gray color mottled with rusty red, with a mere apology for a tail, and
with the toes of its forepaws exaggeratedly developed, for use, perhaps,
in constructing its mossy tunnels. For a few seconds Blue Fox pawed his
prey playfully, as one of his cubs would have done. Then, bethinking
himself of the serious business which he had in hand, he picked it up
and trotted off to a dry spot which he knew of, just on the fringe of
the island.

Now, of one thing Blue Fox was well aware, it having been borne in upon
him by experience--viz., that a kill not soon eaten would speedily spoil
in this weather. But he knew something else, which he could only have
arrived at by the strictly rational process of putting two and two
together--he understood the efficacy of cold storage.

Burrowing down through the light soil, he dug himself a little cellar,
the floor of which was the stratum of perpetual frost. Here, in this
preservative temperature, he deposited the body of the fat lemming, and
covered the place from prying eyes with herbage and bush drawn lightly
over it. Hunting easily and when the mood was upon him, he brought three
more lemmings to the storehouse that same day. On the next day and the
next an Arctic tempest swept over the plain, an icy rain drove level in
whipping sheets, the low sky was crowded with hurrying ranks of torn
black vapor, and the wise foxes kept to their holes. Then the sun came
back to the waste places, and Blue Fox returned to his hunting.

Without in any way pushing himself, without stinting his own repasts or
curtailing his hours of indolence or of play, Blue Fox attended to his
problem of supply so efficiently that in the course of a couple of weeks
he had perhaps two score plump carcasses, lemmings and mice, laid out in
this cold storage cellar of his. Then he filled it in right to the top
with grass roots, turf, and other dry stuff that would not freeze into
armor-plate, covered it over with light soil and bushes, and left it to
await the hour of need.

In the course of the summer, Blue Fox, like all his fellows, established
a number of these lemming _caches_, till by the time when the southward
bird-flight proclaimed the summer at an end, the question of supply was
one to give him no further anxiety. When the days were shrunken to an
hour or two of sunlight, and the tundra was frozen to stone, and the
winds drove the fine snow before them in blinding drifts, then Blue Fox
dismissed his stores from his mind and devoted himself merrily to the
hunting of his daily rations. The Arctic hares were still abundant, and
not yet overwild from ceaseless harrying; and though the chase of these
long-legged and nimble leapers was no facile affair, it was by no means
too arduous for the tastes of an enterprising and active forager like
Blue Fox.

In the meantime the household of Blue Fox, like all the other households
in the little colony, had been substantially reduced in numbers. All
the cubs, by this time grown nearly to full stature, if not to full
wisdom, had migrated. There was neither room nor supply for them now in
the home burrows, and they had not yet arrived at the sense of
responsibility and forethought that would lead them to dig burrows for
themselves. Gently enough, perhaps, but with a firmness which left no
room for argument, the youngsters had all been turned out of doors.
There seemed but one thing for them to do--to follow the southward
migration of the game; and lightly they had done it. They had a hard
winter before them, but with good hunting, and fair luck in dodging the
traps and other perils that were bound to dog their inexperienced feet,
they would return next spring, ripe with wisdom and experience, dig
burrows of their own, and settle down to the responsibilities of Arctic
family life.

To Blue Fox, sleeping warm in his dry burrow when he would, and secure
in the knowledge of his deep-stored supplies, the gathering menace of
the cold brought no terrors. By the time the sun had disappeared
altogether, and the often brilliant but always terrible and mysterious
Arctic night had settled firmly upon the barrens, game had grown so
scarce and shy that even so shrewd a hunter as Blue Fox might often
range a whole day without the luck to capture a ptarmigan or a hare. The
hare, of course, like the ptarmigan, was at this season snowy-white; and
Blue Fox would have had small fortune, indeed, in the chase had he
himself remained in summer livery. With the setting in of the snow, he
had quickly changed his coat to a like color; and therefore, with his
wariness, his unerring nose, and his marvelous lightness of tread, he
was sometimes able to surprise the swift hare asleep. In this fashion,
too, he would often capture a ptarmigan, pouncing upon it just as the
startled bird was spreading its wings for flight. When he failed in
either venture--which was often enough the case--he felt himself in no
way cast down. He had the excitement of the chase, the satisfaction of
stretching his strong, lithe muscles in the race across the hard snow.
And then, when the storm clouds were down close upon the levels, and all
the world was black, and the great winds from the Pole, bitterer than
death, raved southward with their sheeted ghosts of fine drift--then
Blue Fox, with his furry mate beside him, lay blinking contentedly in
the deep of his burrow, with food and to spare close at hand.

But happy as he was in the main, Blue Fox was not without his cares. Two
enemies he had, so strong and cunning that the menace of them was never
very far from his consciousness. The wolf, his master in strength,
though not in craft, was always ready to hunt him with a bitter
combination of hunger and of hate. And the wolverine, cunning beyond all
the other kindreds of the wild, and of a sullen ferocity which few would
dare to cross, was forever on the search for the stored supplies of the
foxes.

The wolverine, solitary and morose, slow of movement, and defiant even
toward the Polar storm, prowled in all weathers. One day chance led him
upon one of Blue Fox's storage cellars. The snow had been recently pawed
away, and the wolverine, quick to take the hint, began instantly to dig.
It was astonishingly easy work. His short, powerful forepaws made the
dry turf and light earth fly, and speedily he came to the store of
frozen lemmings. But before he had quite glutted his great appetite, he
was interrupted.

Though the storm was raging over the outer world, to Blue Fox in his
burrow had come a monition of evil. He had whisked out to inspect his
stores. He found the wolverine head downward in his choicest cellar.

Hot as was his rage, it did not burn up his discretion. This was a peril
to be dealt with drastically. He knew that, if the robber was merely
driven off, he would return and haunt the purlieus of the colony, and
end by finding and rifling every storehouse in the neighborhood.

Blue Fox stole back and roused the occupants of the nearest burrows. In
two minutes a dozen angry foxes were out and creeping through the storm.
In vengeful silence they fell upon the thief as he feasted carelessly;
and in spite of the savage fight he put up, they tore him literally to
pieces.

[Illustration: "He found the wolverine head downward in his choicest
cellar."]

The danger of the wolves was more terrible and more daunting. All
through the first half of the winter there had been no sign of a wolf in
the neighborhood, the trail of the wandering caribou having lured them
far to the eastward. Then it chanced, when Blue Fox was chasing a hare
over the snow, beneath the green, rose, and violet dancing flames of the
aurora, that a thin, quavering howl came to his ears. He stopped short.
He lost all interest in the hare. Glancing over his shoulder, he saw a
grayish patch moving swiftly under the shifting radiance. It was on his
trail, that patch of death. He lengthened himself out, belly to earth,
and sped for the burrows. And the dancing lights, shifting from color to
color as they clustered and hurtled across the arch of sky, seemed to
stoop in cold laughter over his lonely and desperate flight.

Blue Fox could run fast, but his best speed was slow in comparison with
that of his gaunt and long-limbed foes. He knew that, had the race
before him been a long one, it could have but one result. A glance over
his shoulder, as he ran, showed him that the gray shapes were
overhauling him; and, knowing that the distance to his burrow was not
long, he felt that he had a chance. A sporting chance, however small,
was enough for his courageous spirit, and he raced on with good heart
at a pace which soon stretched his lungs near to bursting. But he spared
breath for a sharp yelp of warning, which carried far in the stillness
and signaled to his fellows the peril that approached.

As the wolves came up, the fugitive could hear the strong, relentless
padding of their feet, and then, half a minute later, the measured hiss
of their breathing, the occasional hard click of their fangs. But he did
not look back. His ears gave him all the information he required, and he
could not afford to risk the loss of the slenderest fraction of a
second. As he reached the nearest burrow--it was not his own--it seemed
as if the dreadful sounds were already overwhelming him. He dived into
the burrow, and jaws of steel clashed at his tail as he vanished.

With a chorus of snarls, the disappointed pack brought up abruptly,
checking themselves back upon their haunches. The leaders fell to
digging at the burrow, while others scattered off to try the same
experiment at the other burrows of the colony. But Blue Fox, breathless
and triumphant, only showed his teeth derisively. He knew that no
wolf-claws could make any impression on the hard-frozen earth
surrounding the inner portals of the colony. The wolves discovered by
chance one of the supply cellars, and quarreled for a moment over the
dozen or so of tit-bits which it contained. And then, realizing that it
was no use hanging about in the expectation that any fox would come out
to be eaten, the wise old pack-leader swung the pack into ranks and
swept them off to hunt other quarry. When the thudding rhythm of their
footsteps died into silence, the foxes all came out and sat under the
dancing lights, and stared after the terrible receding shapes with a
calm and supercilious scorn.



The White Wolf


On the night when he was born, in the smoke-smelling wigwam beside the
lone Michikamaw, there had come a strange, long howling of the wind amid
the cleft granite heights which overhung the water. At the sound the
fainting girl on the pile of deerskins opened eyes which grew suddenly
wild and dark. She listened intently for a moment, and then groped for
the little form which had been laid at her breast.

"That is his name," she muttered. "He shall be called
Wind-in-the-Night."

The old squaw, her husband's mother, who was attending upon her, shook
her head.

"Hush, my daughter!" she said soothingly. "That is not the wind. That is
the old white wolf howling on the mountain. Let us call him White Wolf,
since he is of the totem of the wolf. And perhaps the old white
wanderer, who disdains to hunt with the pack, will befriend him and
bring him good fortune."

"His name is Wind in-the-Night," said the young mother, in a voice
suddenly loud and piercing. Then she turned her head toward the wall of
the wigwam wearily, and, with a sharp sigh, her spirit passed from her
lips, hurrying out over the black spruce ridges and barren hills to seek
the happy hunting grounds of her fathers.

The old woman snatched up the child, lest the mother's spirit in passing
should lure it away with her.

"Yes," she cried hastily, hiding the little one in a fold of her blanket
and glancing over her shoulder, "his name _is_ Wind-in-the-Night."

It would never have done--as the father afterward agreed--to gainsay the
child's mother at that moment of supreme authority, but the old woman
had her misgivings; for she believed it was the white wolf, not the
wind, who had spoken in that hour, and she trembled lest the child
should come under his ban.

As the years passed, however, it began to appear that the old squaw's
fears were groundless. Among the lodges beside the bleak Michikamaw the
child grew up without misadventure; and when he was big enough to begin
his boyish hunting and to follow the trails among the dark spruce
forests, it began to be rumored that he was in some special favor with
the wolf folk. It was said--and, though he could not be persuaded to
talk of it, he was never known to deny it--that the old white wolf,
whose howling was like the wind in the mountain clefts, had been seen
again and again following the boy, not obtrusively, but at a little
distance and with an air of watching over him. Certain it was that the
boy was without fear to go alone in the forest, and went always as if
with a sense of being safeguarded by some unseen influence. Moreover,
whenever the wind howled in the night, or the voice of the solitary wolf
came quavering down, like the wind, from the granite heights, the boy
would be seized with a restlessness and a craving to go forth into the
darkness. This impulse was quelled sternly by his father until the lad
was old enough and wise enough to restrain it of his own accord; but it
was not held, among the tribe, to be any unaccountable or dreadful
thing that the boy should be thus compassed about with mystery, for this
was the tribe of the Nasquapees, the "Wizards," who were all mystics and
credited with secret powers.

As Wind-in-the-Night grew to manhood, the white wolf grew less and less
conspicuous in his affairs, till he came to be little more than a
tradition. But at any time of crisis there was sure to be some
suggestion of him, some reminder, whether in a far-off windy howl that
might be wolf or might be wind, or else in a gaunt, white shadow
flitting half-seen across the youth's trail. Whether, as all the tribe
took for granted, it was always the same wolf, a magic beast forever
young and vigorous, or whether the grim warder who had presided over the
child's birth had bequeathed his mysterious office to a descendant like
himself, is a point that need not be decided. Suffice to say that when,
at the age of eighteen, Wind-in-the-Night underwent his initiation into
the status of full manhood, a great white wolf played an unbidden but
not unlooked-for part in it. When, during that long and solitary fasting
on the hilltop, the young man's fainting eyes saw visions of awe and
unknown portent, and strange, phantasmal shapes of beast and bird came
floating up about him with eyes of menace, always at the last moment
would come that pallid, prowling warder and drive the ghosts away.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was a bad winter. In the gray fishing village at the mouth of the
Natashquouan came word to Wind-in-the-Night that certain of the
scattered bands of his tribe in the interior were near to starving. He
had been now some six months absent from home, guiding a party of
prospectors, and his heart was troubled with desire for the little,
lonely cluster of lodges on the shore of the Michikamaw. He thought of
his own spacious wigwam of birch bark, with the crossed poles projecting
above the roof. With a pang of solicitude, he thought of the comely and
kindly young squaw, his wife, and of that straight-limbed,
copper-colored little five-year-old, his son, whose dark eyes danced
like the sunlight on the ripples, and who would always run laughing to
meet him and clutch him by the knees so sturdily.

Wind-in-the-Night wondered if they were hungry. Was it possible that
there could be fear and famine in that far-off wigwam deep in the snows,
while he, here under the white man's roof, was warm and well fed? With
smoldering eyes and no explanations, he resigned his profitable post and
started inland, on his snowshoes, with a toboggan load of pemmican and
flour. The men of the village, pipe in hand, and weary-eyed with their
winter inactivity, looked after him from their doorways and shook their
heads.

"He'll never make the Michikamaw with that there load," muttered one.

"It's the wolves'll be gittin' the load an' him too!" growled another.

Another spat tobacco juice into the snow in a sort of resigned derision.
Then all closed their doors tight against the deathly cold, huddled up
to their stoves, and dreamed grumblingly of spring. The solitary figure
bending to the straps of his toboggan never looked back. His thoughts
were all on the distant wigwam of birch bark and the woman and child
within it, who might be hungry.

Once across the bleak ridge which overlooked the settlement,
Wind-in-the-Night was swallowed up in the untamed, untouched Labrador
wilderness--everywhere a confusion of low hills, bowl-like valleys, and
spruce forests up-thrusting their dark, pointed tops above the enormous
overlay of the snow. Wind-in-the-Night swung on with a long, loping,
bent-kneed, straight-footed stride, his immense, racquet-like snowshoes
settling into the snow at each step with a curious muffled sigh that had
small resemblance to any other sound on earth.

He chose his path unhesitatingly, picking up his landmarks without
conscious effort among hill-tops and valleys and ravines which to the
uninitiated eye must have all looked alike. Just before noon he halted,
lit a fire, made himself a kettle of tea after the comforting fashion he
had learned from the white men, and chewed a rocky morsel of pemmican
without taking time to cook it. Then he pushed on eagerly.

The shadows began to fall early in that latitude; and as they began to
fall, Wind-in-the-Night began glancing from time to time over his
shoulder. He did it half-unconsciously, so absorbed was he in his
thoughts. At last he caught himself at it, as it were, and for a moment
wondered what he did it for. The next instant, with a little tingling at
the nape of his neck--just where, on a dog or a moose, the hair stiffens
at such moments--he understood.

He felt that he was being followed.

His path was the open, snow-sheeted channel of a little river, with the
fir woods crowding down to its brink on either side. Wind-in-the-Night
halted and peered into the thickets with eyes trained and penetrating,
but he could distinguish nothing. He listened, but there was not a sound
in all that lifeless world, save a ghostly settling of the snow
somewhere behind him. He sniffed the air, but his nostrils could detect
no taint upon it. He pushed on again, and immediately he felt in his
spine, in his hair, that the depths of the forest, to right and to left,
were full of moving life.

Then he knew that he was being trailed by many wolves.

It was the thought of the woman and the boy, hungry in their wigwam on
the Michikamaw, that made his heart sink. He knew that for the moment he
was safe, but, when the night came, it would be another matter. He was
not afraid physically, for his muscles and his nerves stretched to the
thought of the great fight he would make before the gray beasts should
pull him down. But that the food, the succor he was bringing, should
never reach the wigwam--this thought turned his heart cold. He increased
his pace, hoping to find a spot where he might encamp to advantage and
fortify himself for the night.

In that broken country of wide-sown boulders and fantastic outcrop,
Wind-in-the-Night had reason to hope for a post of better advantage than
the open trail. And after a half-mile's further traveling, while yet
there was daylight enough to discourage the wolves from showing
themselves, he found it. About halfway up a sparsely wooded hillside to
his right he marked a steep-faced boulder, at the foot of which he
resolved to make his stand.

On his way up the slope he passed a small dead fir tree and a stunted
birch, both of which he hastily chopped down and flung across his
toboggan for firewood. Arriving at the rock, he thrust the loaded
toboggan close against its foot, and then, at a distance of about ten
feet before it, he hastened to start his fire. It was a little fire, a
true Indian's fire, economical of fuel; for there was no more wood in
sight except green spruce, which made but poor and precarious burning
unless with plenty of dry stuff to urge it on. He thought for a moment
of venturing some little way into the woods in search of fuel; but, even
as he was weighing the chances of it, the dusk gathered, and the wolves
began to show themselves along the skirts of the timber. Some prowled
forth and slipped back again at once into the gloom, while others came
out and stood eyeing him steadily.

But more fuel, of some sort, Wind-in-the-Night knew he must have. About
halfway between the rock and the skirts of the close growth stood a
single small spruce. He knew that its sappy wood would burn with
difficulty, but it would do to make the rest of the fuel last
longer--possibly, with the most parsimonious care, even till sunrise.
Stirring his fire to a brisker blaze--at which, for a moment or two,
the wolves drew back into their covert--he strode forth and felled the
spruce in half a dozen skilful strokes. Then he dragged it back toward
the rock.

To the watchers in the shadow, however, this looked like a retreat.
Their hesitation vanished. As if at a signal, they shot from covert and
launched themselves, a torrent of shadowy, flame-eyed, leaping shapes,
upon the man. He, catching sight of the dreadful onslaught over his
shoulder, dropped the tree he was dragging, and sprang desperately for
the doubtful shelter of his fire.

He felt in his heart, however, that he was too late, that he would never
reach the fire. Well, he would not die pulled down like a fleeing doe
from behind. He faced about and swung up his axe, his lean, dark jaw set
grimly.

The hordes of his assailants were within a dozen paces of him, when
suddenly they stopped, thrusting out their forefeet with violence and
going back upon their haunches with low snarls. An immense white wolf
had sprung in between the hordes and their quarry, and stood there
rigid, confronting his fellows with bared fangs, flattened ears, and
every hair erect along his back. His authority seemed to be
unquestionable, for not a wolf ventured to pass him. Reluctantly,
sullenly, they drew back to within a few paces of the edge of the wood;
and there they halted, some crouching, some sitting, some moving
restlessly to and fro, and all eyeing their inexorable chief
expectantly, as if looking for him to withdraw his inhibition at any
moment and let them at their prey.

Wind-in-the-Night gave one long look at his strange protector, then
calmly turned and strode back to his fire. Calmly he proceeded to chop
his wood into small billets, for the more frugal use. Then he moved the
fire closer in toward the foot of the rock, in order that a smaller
blaze might suffice to warm him through the night. Seating himself with
his back to the loaded toboggan, he prepared his supper. His appetite
craved a thick, hot soup of pemmican, but he had a feeling that the
enticing smell of such a meal on the icy air might make the wolves
forget their deference to his protector. He contented himself with a
sticky and unpalatable gruel made by stirring a couple of handfuls of
flour into the boiling tea, and he felt a reasonable confidence that the
smell of such fare would prove no irresistible temptation to wolfish
nostrils. The thought occurred to him that perhaps he ought, in
courtesy, to throw a chunk of pemmican to his protector, who was now
pacing slowly and methodically to and fro before him like a sentinel,
with eyes fixed ever on those waiting hordes. But to Wind-in-the-Night
the great white beast was no mortal wolf, and he feared to affront him
by the offer of white man's food.

[Illustration: "The gaunt, tirelessly patrolling shape of his white
sentinel."]

The brief meal done, Wind-in-the-Night lighted his pipe and smoked
stolidly, crouching over the small fire. In spite of the terrific cold,
he was warm enough here, with the rock close at his back, the snow
banked up at either side, and his blankets about him. From time to time
he fed the fire frugally, and calculated that at this rate he could make
his fuel last the whole night through. But sleep was not to be thought
of. His small, unflinching eyes looked out across the meager flames,
through the thin reek of the smoke, and met calmly the scores of cruel,
narrowed eyes glaring upon him grimly from the edges of the timber. But
the eyes of the tireless sentinel he did not meet, for they were kept
always turned away from him. How long, he wondered, would the sentinel
remain tireless? Or how long would those ravening watchers remain
obedient to the authority that denied their hunger relief? No, decidedly
he must not sleep.

Smoking endlessly, feeding the little fire and crouching over it,
thinking of the wigwam on the lone white shore of the Michikamaw, and
watching ever that dread half-circle of hungry eyes, and the gaunt,
tirelessly patrolling shape of his white sentinel, he began to see
strange visions. The waiting wolves vanished. In their place, emerging
like mists from the forest and taking form in the firelight, came the
spirits of the totems of his ancestors--white bears and black with eyes
of men, eagles that walked stridingly, gray lynxes with a stare that
seemed to pierce him through the bone, and towering black moose bulls
with the storm-drift whirling in their antlers. They filled him with awe
and wonder, but he had no fear of them, for he knew that he had done no
trespass against the traditions. Then, without surprise, he saw his
white guardian, the living presentment of his own totem, grow at once to
the stature of a caribou, and come and sit down opposite him just across
the fire, and look meaningly into his eyes. Wind-in-the-Night strove
desperately to interpret that grave meaning. As his brain groped after
it, suddenly a long, thin howling filled his ears, whether the voice of
the wind or the voice of a wolf he could not tell.

The sound grew louder, louder, more penetrating and insistent, and then
he came out of his vision with a start. He lifted his head, which had
fallen on his breast. A late and aged moon hung distorted just over the
line of the treetops before him. He was deadly cold, and the fire had
burned down to a little heap of red embers. The dreadful waiting hordes
had all vanished from the skirts of the timber, whirling off, doubtless,
on the trail of some unprohibited quarry. Only the white sentinel
remained, and he had shrunk back to his former stature, which was beyond
that of his fellows, indeed, but not altogether incredible. He was
sitting on his haunches just the other side of the dying fire. His long
muzzle was lifted straight in the air, and he was howling to the
decrepit moon.

As Wind-in-the-Night lifted his head the white wolf stopped howling,
dropped his nose, and stared earnestly into the man's eyes. Hurriedly
but carefully, the man thrust some dry sticks into the embers and fanned
them into flame. Then he stood up. He knew that the white wolf's howling
had awakened him and saved him from being frozen to death.

"Thank you, white brother," he said simply, with firm confidence that
the mystical beast could understand human speech in the tongue of the
Nasquapees.

The great wolf cocked his ears at the sound, and gazed at the man
inquiringly for a second or two. Then he arose slowly and sauntered off
into the forest.

Wind-in-the-Night knew that the peril had passed. He heaped wood on the
fire with what was, for an Indian, lavish recklessness. When he was well
warmed he went and dragged up the tree which he had felled, then he
cooked himself a liberal meal--a strong stew of pemmican and
flour--and, having eaten it, felt mightily refreshed. Having no more
inclination for sleep, he resumed his journey, resolving to snatch at
the midday halt what sleep he should find himself needing.

Now, it had chanced, some days earlier than this, that in one of the
lodges by the Michikamaw a child had fallen sick. There was bitter
famine in the lodges, but that was plainly not what ailed the little
one. None of the wise men of the tribe could diagnose the sickness, and
the child was near to death. Then an old brave, the child's uncle, who
had been much about the posts of the Hudson Bay Company, which are
scattered over Labrador, said that the white man's medicine was a magic
to cure all disease, and that, if the little one could but come to one
of the posts, his life would surely be saved. The old brave was himself
hungering for an excuse to get away to the warmth which was to be found
in the dwellings of the white man, and he said that he would take the
little one out to North West River to be healed. And the mother,
dry-eyed, but with despair at her heart, had let him go. It was only a
chance, but it seemed the only chance; and she greatly feared to meet
the child's father if it should die in his absence.

Wind-in-the-Night had made good going, and was eating up the long miles
of his journey. At noon, in a deep trough dug with his snowshoes in the
snow, and with a good fire at his feet, he had slept soundly for two
hours. In that pure and tonic air but little sleep was needed. That
night there was no more sign of wolves, and he felt assured that his
strange protector had led them off to other hunting.

The trail from the Natashquouan was leading him almost due north. Late
in the afternoon of the fourth day of his journey, he crossed the fresh
trail of a wolf-pack running east. He thought little of it, but, from
the habit of the trained hunter and trapper, he gave it a searching
scrutiny as he went. Then he stopped short. He had marked another trail
underlying that of the wolf-pack.

It was the trail of a man on snowshoes, drawing a loaded sledge and
traveling eastward.

Wind-in-the-Night concluded at once, from his direction, that the
traveler came from the lodges on the Michikamaw. It must be one of his
own people. He examined the tracks minutely, and presently made out that
the traveler was going unsteadily, with an occasional stumble, as if
from weariness or weakness. And the wolf-pack was hunting him.

The trails being fresh, it was plain that the hunt could not be far
ahead. Acting on the first impulse of his courageous spirit,
Wind-in-the-Night started instantly in pursuit, hunting the hunters.
Then came the memory of his errand, the thought of the woman and the boy
in the wigwam of birch bark, hungry and needing him; and he stopped,
half-turning to go back.

For some seconds he stood there in an agony of irresolution, his heart
dragging him both ways. If he went to the help of the hunted man, he
might, more than probably, himself be pulled down and devoured by the
ravening pack. He must think of his own first, and save his life for
them. Then he thought of his fellow-tribesman, worn out with flight,
making his last fight alone in the silence and the snow. His wife and
boy, at least, were sheltered and with their people about them, and
would not be left utterly to starve so long as there was a shred of meat
to be shared in the tribe. He tried to turn back to them, but the
picture of the spent and stumbling fugitive was too much for him. He
snatched up his rifle, a repeating Winchester, from the toboggan, and
with a groan raced onward in the trail of the wolves.

It was not yet sunset, and he felt reasonably assured that the pack
would not dare to close in upon their prey before dusk began to fall, so
he continued to drag his loaded toboggan along, knowing that, if he
should leave it behind him, its precious cargo would fall a prey to the
lynxes and the foxes. He calculated to overtake the chase at any moment.
As he ran, sweating in his harness in spite of the intense cold, he
studied the trail of the wolves, and saw that the pack was not a large
one--perhaps not much beyond a score in number. If the fugitive should
prove to have any fight left in him, they two would stand back to back
and perhaps be able to pull the desperate venture through.

Before he had gone half a mile, Wind-in-the-Night saw the trail of the
pack divide and seek the coverts on either side of the track of the
lonely snowshoer. That track grew more and more irresolute and uneven,
and he knew that the fugitive could not be far ahead. He pictured him
even now turning wearily at bay, his back to some rock or steep hillock,
his loaded sledge uptilted before him as a barricade, and the wolves
crowding the thickets on either side, waiting for the moment to rush in
upon him.

He pushed on furiously, expecting this picture to greet his eyes at
every turn of the trail. But still it delayed, and the tension of his
suspense grew almost unbearable. The dusk began to gather among the
white-shrouded fir thickets. Why did not the fugitive stop and make
ready some defense? Then he rounded a corner, and there, fifty paces
ahead of him, was what he was looking for.

But there was a difference in the picture. There were the wolves, no
longer in hiding, but stalking forth from the thickets. There was the
upthrust of rock. There was the man, at bay, with his back to it. But
the loaded sledge was not before him as a barrier. Instead of that, it
was thrust behind him, as something precious to be guarded with his
life. The tall figure, at first bent with fatigue, straightened itself
up defiantly, lifted a musket, and fired at a bunch of wolves just
springing from the woods on his left. Flinging down the weapon--an old
muzzle-loader, which there was no time to recharge--he reached back to
the sledge for his axe.

At that moment Wind-in-the-Night recognized the old brave's face. With a
gasp, he twisted himself clear of his harness and sprang forward. In the
same instant the wolves closed in.

In the front of the attack was a great white beast, so swift in his leap
that the man had no time to swing up his weapon in defense.

A hoarse cry, whether of grief or horror, burst from the lips of
Wind-in-the-Night as the mystic white shape of his protector sprang at
the old brave's throat. But he did not hesitate. He whipped up his rifle
and fired, and the white wolf dropped sprawling over the front of the
sledge.

In a sort of frenzy at the sacrilege of which, in his own eyes, he had
just been guilty, Wind-in-the-Night fired shot after shot, dropping a
wolf to every bullet. But the fate of their great leader seemed to have
abashed the whole pack; and before half a dozen shots were fired they
had slunk off, stricken with panic.

Without a glance at the man whom he had saved, Wind-in-the-Night stalked
forward and flung himself down upon the body of the white wolf,
imploring it to pardon what he had done. As he poured out his guttural
pleading, a feeble child's voice came to his ears, and he lifted his
head with a sudden tightening at his heart.

"I _thought_ you would come pretty quick, father," said the small voice
tremblingly, "for I'd been calling you ever so long."

A little face, meager and burning-eyed, was gazing at him trustfully
from among the furs in the sledge. Wind-in-the-Night forgot the slain
wolf. He bent over the sledge and clutched the frail figure to his
breast, too amazed to ask any questions. He shook in every nerve to
think how nearly he had refused to come to that unheard call.

The old brave was starting to light a fire.

"The boy was very sick," said he calmly, unjarred by the dreadful
ordeal which he had just passed through. "I was taking him to North West
River to be cured by the white man's medicine. But already he recovers,
so we will go back to the Michikamaw with the food."

"Good," said Wind-in-the-Night. He stood up and stared long at the body
of the great beast whom he had slain.

"We will take him with us," he said at last, "and give him the burial of
a chief. It would be ill work if we should leave him to be eaten by
foxes."



Up a Tree


McLaggan stopped short in the middle of the trail and peered sharply
into the thick undergrowth on his right. At odd moments during the past
half-hour he had experienced a fleeting sensation of being followed;
but, absorbed in his own thoughts, he had paid no attention to it. Now,
however, he was on the sudden quite convinced of it. Yet he could have
sworn he had heard nothing, seen nothing, smelt nothing, to justify the
conviction. For nearly half a mile the trail stretched away behind him
between the giant trunks and fringing bush-growth--narrow, perfectly
straight, completely shadowed from sun and sky, but visible all the way
in that curiously transparent, glassy gloom of the under-forest world.
There was nothing behind him on the trail--at least, within a half-mile
of him. And the Presence of which he had been warned was very near. As
is so often the case with the men who dwell in the great silences, he
was conscious at times of possessing something like a sixth sense--a
kind of inexplicable and erratic power of perception which frequently
neglected to exercise itself when most needed, but which, when it did
consent to work, was never guilty of giving a false alarm. Peering with
trained eyes, wise in all woodcraft, through the tangle of the
undergrowth, he waited absolutely motionless for several minutes. A
little black-and-white woodpecker, which had been watching him, ran
nimbly up the mast of a giant pine. Nothing else stirred, and there was
no other living creature to be discerned. Yet McLaggan knew his
intuition had not fooled him. He knew now to a certainty that he was
being observed and trailed. He pondered on the fact for a little, and
then, muttering to himself, "It's a painter, sure!" he resumed his
journey.

McLaggan was not nervous, although for this journey he had left his
rifle behind him in camp, and he was aware that a panther, if it meant
mischief, was not an adversary to be scorned. But, skilled as he was in
all the lore of the wilderness folk, he knew that no panther, unless
with some bitter wrong to avenge, would willingly seek a quarrel with a
man. That powerful and crafty cat, not from cowardice but from sagacity,
recognized man for its master, and was wont to give him a wide berth
whenever possible. Another thing that McLaggan knew was that the panther
has occasionally a strange taste for following a man in secret, with
excessive caution but remarkable persistence, as if to study him and
perhaps find out the causes of his supremacy.

But McLaggan's knowledge of the wild creatures went even further than an
acquaintance with their special habits and characteristics. He knew that
it was impossible for man to know them thoroughly, because there was
always the incalculable element of individuality to make allowance
for--an element that delights in confounding the dogmatic assertions of
the naturalists. He was sure that the chances were a hundred to one
against this unseen pursuer daring to make an attack upon him or even
contemplating such a piece of rashness. But, on the other hand, he
recognized that remote hundred-and-first chance. He adjusted the straps
of his heavy pack--the cause of his leaving his rifle behind--so that he
could rid himself of it on the instant, if necessary, and he carried
loose a very effective weapon, the new axe which he had just bought at
the Settlement. It was a light, hickory-handled, general-utility axe,
such as any expert backwoodsman knows how to use with swift and deadly
effect, whether as a hand-to-hand weapon or as a missile. He was not
nervous, as we have seen, but he was annoyed that he, the old trailer of
many beasts, should thus be trailed in his turn, from whatever motive.
He kept an indignantly watchful eye on all the coverts he passed, and he
scrutinized suspiciously every considerable bough that stretched across
the trail. He had bethought him that the panther's favorite method of
attack was to drop upon his quarry's neck from above; and, in spite of
himself, the little hairs on the back of his own neck crawled at the
idea.

The trail running in from the Settlement to McLaggan's camp among the
foothills was a matter of some fifteen miles, and uphill all the way.
But in that bracing autumn air, amid those crisp shadows flecked with
October's gold, McLaggan was little conscious of the weight of his pack,
and his corded muscles felt no fatigue. Under the influence of that
unseen and unwelcome companionship behind the veil of the leafage, he
quickened his pace gradually, growing ever more and more eager to reach
his rifle and take vengeance for the troubling of his journey.

Suddenly, from far ahead, the silence was broken by the high, resonant
bugling of a bull elk. It was a poignantly musical sound, but full of
menace and defiance, and it carried a long way on that still, resilient
air. Again McLaggan regretted his rifle, for the virile fulness of that
bugling suggested an unusually fine bull and a splendid pair of antlers.
McLaggan wanted meat, to be dried for his winter larder, and he wanted
the antlers, for a really good elk head was by this time become a thing
of price. It was a possession which enthusiastic members of the
Brotherhood of the Elks were always ready to pay well for.

The bugling was several times repeated at brief intervals, and then it
was answered defiantly from far on the left. The sonorous challenges
answered each other abruptly and approached each other swiftly. McLaggan
still further hastened his pace. His gray eyes, under their shaggy
brows, blazed with excitement. He forgot all about his unseen, stealthy
pursuer. His sixth sense stopped working. He thought only of being in
time to see the duel between the two bull elks, the battle for the
lordship of the herd of indifferent cows.

To his impatience, it seemed no time at all ere the rival buglings came
together and ceased. Then his straining ears caught--very faintly and
elusively, as the imperceptible airs of the forest drew this way and
that--the dry clash of opposing antlers. It was evident that the battle
was nearer at hand than he had imagined. He broke into a noiseless trot,
hoping yet to be in time.

Presently he was so near that he could catch, amid the clash of antlers,
occasional great windy snortings and explosive, groaning grunts. All at
once these noises of battle stopped, changed, passed into a confused
scuffling mixed with groans, and then into a wild crashing of flight and
pursuit. The fight was over, but McLaggan perceived with a thrill that
the flight was coming his way.

Half a minute later the fugitive broke out into the trail and came
dashing down it, wild-eyed, nostrils blowing bloody foam and flanks
streaming crimson. McLaggan stepped politely aside to let him pass, and
he passed unheeding. He had no eyes even for the arch-foe man in this
moment of his defeat and humiliation.

But not so the victor! The most splendid specimen of a bull elk that
McLaggan's eyes had ever rested upon, he stopped short in his pursuit at
sight of the gray, erect figure standing there motionless beside the
trail. McLaggan expected him to turn and flee back to his cows and
hasten to shepherd them away from danger. But the great beast, now in
the hour of his triumph and his most arrogant ferocity, had far other
intention. He stood staring at McLaggan for several seconds, but
McLaggan saw that there was nothing like fear in that insolent and
flaming regard. The bull stamped sharply on the sod with one knife-edged
fore-hoof; and McLaggan, knowing what that meant, glanced around
discreetly for the easiest tree to climb. He was now furious at the
lack of his rifle, and vowed never again to go without it.

Fortunately for McLaggan, the great bull was no mere blind and brutal
ruffian of a fighter. Like all his aristocratic breed, he had a certain
punctilio to observe in such affairs. He had first to stamp his
challenge several times, snort vehemently, and advance his antlers in
fair warning. Then he came on, at first daintily and mincingly, and only
after that formal preliminary did he break into his furious rush.

But already McLaggan had swung himself into the tree, just out of reach,
leaving his pack at the foot.

For a little McLaggan was engrossed in wondering if he really _was_
quite out of reach, so vigorous were the rearings and thrustings of his
enemy, so agile the high strokes of those fine, destructive hoofs. Then
out of the tail of his eye he caught sight of several elk cows--the herd
stealing warily down the trail to see how it was faring with their
victorious lord. They halted, noses in air and ears pricked forward
anxiously, wondering at their lord's strange antics under the tree.
Then, all together, they wheeled about sharply, as if worked on a single
spring, and fled off in enormous bounds over and through the thickets.
McLaggan stared after them in surprise, wondering at their abrupt
flight. A moment later it was explained to him, as he saw the tawny head
and shoulders of an immense panther emerge for just the fraction of a
second into the trail.

McLaggan was gratified at this confirmation of his woodcraft, but he was
now a little anxious as to what was going to happen next. He realized
that in traveling without his rifle he had fairly coaxed the unexpected
to happen; and it seemed to him that this particular panther was not
going to play by the accepted rules of the game, or he would never have
been so audacious as to reveal himself even for that instant in the open
trail. He looked down upon his magnificent adversary raging below him,
and felt a generous impulse to give him warning of the peril lurking in
the undergrowth. As between the elk and the panther, his sympathies were
all with the elk, in spite of that misguided beast's extremely
inconvenient hostility.

"Instead of stretchin' yer fool neck that way, tryin' to get at _me_,"
he expostulated, leaning from his branch, "ye'd a sight better be
keepin' yer eyes peeled fer yer own hide. There's a durn big painter
hidin' somewheres in them bushes yonder, an' while ye're a-claw-in'
after me--which ain't no use at all--he'll be getting his claws inter
_you_, first thing ye know!"

But it was plain that the bull did not understand English, or, at least,
McLaggan's primitive variation on English. He seemed to grow more
pugnacious than ever at the sound of these mild exhortations. He made
the most extravagant efforts to reach McLaggan's refuge with horn or
hoof. Convincing himself at last that this was impossible, he glared
about him wrathfully till his eyes fell on McLaggan's pack lying near
by.

Appearing to regard it as part of McLaggan, he fell upon it
triumphantly. His edged hoofs slashed it and smashed it, his pronged
antlers ripped it wide open, and in a dozen seconds he had sent the
contents flying in every direction. The contents were miscellaneous, as
McLaggan had been in to the Settlement for the purpose of replenishing
his stores. They included, among other items, a two-gallon tin of
molasses, a little tin of pepper enveloped in a flaring scarlet label, a
white cotton bag of flour, a paper bag of beans, and another of sugar.
The beans and the sugar went all abroad at the first attack, the big and
the little tin rolled away, and the bull devoted his attention for a
moment to the bag of flour. He ripped it wide open with his antlers,
then blew into it scornfully so that the flour puffed up into his face.
Having accomplished all this with such surprising ease, he seemed to
think he might now succeed in getting at McLaggan himself. He came under
the branch once more and glared upwards through what looked like a pair
of white goggles, so thickly were his eye-sockets rimmed with flour. He
snorted fresh defiance through wide red nostrils nicely fringed with
white.

[Illustration: "His pronged antlers ripped it wide open."]

McLaggan was now too angry to appreciate the extraordinary appearance of
his foe. At the scattering of his precious supplies, his sympathies had
gone over completely to the panther. He spat down upon his adversary in
impotent indignation.

"I hope the painter'll git ye, after all!" he cried, with a bunch of
expletives too virile for the cold exposure of the printed page.

In reply, the bull made another earnest effort to reach him. Then, once
more disappointed, he returned to the pack to see what further
satisfaction he could get out of it.

Finding that there was no resistance left in the beans, the sugar, or
the bag of flour, he went after the little scarlet tin of pepper which
had been thrown some distance and lay under a neighboring tree. He
slashed it open with a stroke of the hoof, then jabbed it with a prong
of his antlers and flung it into the air. It fell on his shoulders,
emptying most of its contents into the long hair on the ridge of his
neck. Startled at this attack, he jumped around sharply, and was just in
the middle of pounding the impertinent thing viciously under foot, when,
to his annoyance, he began to sneeze. It was such sneezing as he had
never experienced before. He spread his legs wide and devoted himself
to it with all his energies.

This was too much for McLaggan's wrath. He forgot it in an ecstasy of
delight. He was just on the point of explosion, when he saw something
which made him check himself with a choked expletive.

The panther was creeping out upon a great branch almost over the
sneezing bull's head. The next moment it dropped from the branch and
fastened teeth and claws in the bull's neck.

The bull was just in the middle of a terrific paroxysm, but the cruel
shock of this assault brought him to. With a grunt he bounded into the
air, coming down upon all four feet again, stiff-legged like a bucking
horse, as if thinking the jar might shake his assailant off. Failing in
this, he sprang violently sideways, and at the same time, being a beast
of resource, he struck back with the prongs of his antlers by jerking
his muzzle sharply upward.

In the meantime the panther was clawing and biting savagely, and seemed
likely to maintain his hold in spite of the clever tactics of his
adversary. But just at this point the pepper in the bull's mane began to
take irresistible effect, both in eyes and nostrils. The amazed panther
let out a screech of protest which ended in a convulsive sneeze. In the
midst of this convulsion, the bull side-stepped again with distressing
energy, and the panther, half-blinded and wholly bewildered, was thrown
to the ground. The maneuver was almost equally disastrous to McLaggan,
who, rocking with laughter, all but fell out of his tree.

The moment he had shaken himself clear, the bull, undaunted, whirled and
struck like lightning with his formidable fore-hoofs. With equal
alertness the panther succeeded in eluding the stroke. He doubled
lithely aside and sprang again, seeking to recover his former advantage.
But, being half-blinded, he fell short and only got a grip with his
front claws. As he struggled savagely to make good his hold against the
plunging and the thrashing antlers of his antagonist, once more the
pepper in his nostrils began to work with power. In spite of his
passionate refusal of the gigantic titillation, his head went up in the
air, his spine straightened itself out, his jaws and his claws opened,
and the huge sneeze ripped stridently from his lungs. It ended in a
screech of rage and disappointment as he found himself once more rolling
on the ground, striking out blindly with futile claws.

As he recovered himself, he warily bounced aside, lightly as a loosed
spring. But he was not quite quick enough. One of those battering hoofs
that were playing for him so nimbly caught him on the haunch. It caught
him aslant, or it would have shattered the great joint beyond hope of
recovery. But it was enough for his catship. With a scream, he darted
off beneath a low-branched thicket, ran lamely up another tree, and
crept away from the place of his discomfiture by the path of the
interlacing branches. He wanted no elk-meat which tasted like that.

The victor stood glaring after him for half a minute, snorting and
shaking his triumphant antlers. Then he came and glared up at McLaggan,
as much as to say: "Did you see that? That's the way I'd fix you, too,
if only you'd come down here and stand up to me!"

As for his cruel wounds on flank and neck, he seemed quite unaware of
them. But he was evidently a little tired, for he made no further
attempts to reach McLaggan's refuge.

"You're sure some punkins!" declared McLaggan admiringly, wiping his
eyes on his sleeve. "Who'd ever 'a' thought any bull elk could lick a
painter _that_ quick?"

Scorning to be conciliated by compliment, the bull turned away to see if
there was any further damage he could inflict on McLaggan's belongings.

Ah, yes, to be sure, there was the bright, unsullied tin of molasses
just where he had hurled it. He pranced over and slashed at it, in spite
of McLaggan's appeals, and opened a generous gash, through which the
amber-brown stickiness came bulging forth phlegmatically. The bull eyed
this phenomenon, and then, scornful of what he could not understand,
prodded the can with an eviscerating antler. He prodded it so hard that
not only one prong but a tiny projecting fork also went clean through
the tin. Then he threw up his head sharply, expecting to toss the wreck
into the air.

To his surprise, it refused to be tossed. It just clung where it was,
and began to pour its contents down in a sticky, deliberate stream all
over his head and ears and face. He shook his antlers indignantly, and
the can thereupon threw wider its suave coils of richness, till they
laced his neck and his gashed flank. Finding that the insignificant but
obstinate thing would not let go, he lowered his antlers and struck at
it indignantly with one of his hinder hoofs. When this attempt proved
futile, he fell to rooting and prodding the ground, till the stickiness
had gathered a copious tribute of leaves and twigs and dirt. This
process not accomplishing his purpose, he lifted his head and glanced
about him with a worried air, his faith in his own prowess apparently
for the first time shaken.

McLaggan shrieked. He flung both arms and legs about his branch to keep
from falling, and clung there, gurgling.

At the strange sound of his laughter, the bull returned beneath the
branch and gazed up at him, no longer, as it seemed to McLaggan,
insolently, but reproachfully.

"Go 'way, durn ye, or ye'll be the death o' me yet!" gasped McLaggan.

Once more the bull's eyes blazed, and again he shook his antlers in
defiance. But, as he did so, the can, now quite empty and resonant,
gave forth a hollow clatter. The fire faded from the bull's eyes, and he
jumped aside nervously. The can clattered again, still in the same
place. The bull jumped yet again and shook his head more violently. The
can gave voice more clamorously. At that the courage of the valiant
fighter, whom neither rival bull nor panther nor man himself could
daunt, melted to skim milk. He broke into panic flight through the
bushes, and the hollow protestings of the can kept time to the madness
of his going.

McLaggan, with aching ribs, climbed down from his refuge and stood
surveying the wreckage of his supplies. There was nothing left worth
picking up, except his axe.

"I'm obleeged to ye for leavin' me the axe," said he. "But ye might 'a'
took it, an' welcome. The show was worth the price!"



The Eyes in the Bush


Low over the wide, pallid, almost unruffled expanse of tide a great
ghost-gray bird came flapping shoreward heavily. The shore, drowsing
under the June sun, was as flat and seemingly as limitless as the sea,
except to the right, where the unfenced levels of the grass foamed
golden-green along the fringe of the wooded hills. Between the waveless
pallor of the water and the windless warm glow of the grass was drawn a
narrow riband of copper red--the smooth mud flats left naked by the
tide. Just at the edge of the grass the bleached ribs of an ancient
fishing-smack, borne thither years ago in some tempestuous conspiracy of
wind and tide, stood up nakedly from the dry red mud, and seemed to beg
the leaning grass to cover them. Upon one of these gray ribs the great
gray bird alighted, balancing himself unsteadily for a moment, as if in
the last stage of exhaustion, and then settling to an immobility that
seemed to make him a portion of the wreck itself.

For the better part of an hour the Gray Visitor never stirred, never
ruffled a feather--not even when a gorgeous black-and-red butterfly
alighted, with softly fanning wings, within a foot of him; not even when
a desperate mouse, chased by a weasel, squeaked loudly in the
grass-roots behind him. The bees and flies kept up a soft hum, the very
voice of sleep, among the clover blossoms scattered through the grass,
and the hot scents of the wild parsnip steamed up over the levels like
an unseen incense. The still air quivered, glassy clear. Along the other
side of the strip of red began a soft, frothy hiss, as the first of the
flood-tide came seething back across the flats. A heavy black-and-yellow
bumble bee, with a loud, inquiring boom, swung in headlong circles over
the wreck, more than once almost brushing the feathers of the motionless
stranger. A sudden flock of sand-pipers puffed down along the shore,
alighted, piping mellowly, on the mud just beyond the wreck, and
flickered gray and white as they bobbed their stiff little tails up and
down in their feeding.

But the great gray owl never moved a feather. For an hour he sat there
with fast-shut eyes in the broad blaze of the sunshine, while life crept
slowly back along his indomitable but exhausted nerves. An estray from
the Polar North, he had been blown far out to sea in a hurricane. Taking
refuge on a small iceberg, he had been carried south till the berg,
suddenly disintegrating, had forced him to dare the long landward
flight. The last of his strength had barely sufficed him to gain the
shore and the refuge of this perch upon the ribs of the ancient wreck.

At last he opened his immense round yellow eyes--discs of flaming yellow
glass with the pupils contracted to mere pinheads in the glare of the
unshadowed light. Revolving his round, catlike head very slowly upon his
shoulders, as if it were moved by clockwork, he surveyed his strange
surroundings. The conspicuousness of his perch and the intensity of the
sunlight were distasteful to him. Lifting his wide wings, he hopped down
into the interior of the wreck, which was half-filled with mud and
_débris_. Here, though the side-planking was all fallen away so that
prying eyes could see through and through the ribs in every direction,
there was yet a sort of seclusion, with some shadow to ease his dazzled
eyes.

Having recovered somewhat from his numbing exhaustion, the Gray Visitor
became conscious of the pangs of his famine. He sat motionless as
before, but now with all his senses on the alert. His ears--so sensitive
that he could hear innumerable and tell-tale sounds where a human ear
would have perceived nought but a drowsy silence--caught a chorus of
rustlings, squeaks, and rushes, which told him that the neighboring
depths of the grass were populous with the mouse folk and their kindred.
At one point the grass-fringe came so close to the wreck that its spears
were thrusting in between the ribs. The Gray Visitor hopped over to this
point, and waited hopefully, like a cat at a frequented mouse-hole.

He had been but a few moments settled in his ambush when a fat,
sly-faced water-rat came ambling into the wreck at the other end of the
keel, nosing this way and that among the _débris_ for sleepy beetles.
Keen as were the rat's eyes, they did not notice the ghost-gray erect
figure sitting up like a post beside the grass-fringe. The Visitor
waited till the rat should come within reach of an unerring pounce. His
sinews stiffened themselves in tense readiness. Then something like a
brown wedge dropped out of the sky. There was a choked squeal, and the
rat lay motionless under the talons of a mottle brown marsh-hawk, which
fell instantly to tearing its victim, as if obliged to lunch in a hurry.

The downy wings of the Gray Visitor lifted. His swoop was as soft,
soundless and effortless as if he had been but a wisp of feathers blown
on a sudden puff of wind. His mighty talons closed on the neck and back
of the feasting hawk. There was a moment's convulsive flapping of the
mottled brown wings beneath the overshadowing gray ones. Then the
stranger set himself voraciously to the first square meal which had come
his way for days. When he had finished, there was little left of either
the hawk or the water-rat.

The Visitor wiped the black sickle of his beak on a block of driftwood,
glared about him, and then rose softly into the air. He wanted a darker
and more secluded place than the ribs of the wreck for his siesta. Along
the foot of the uplands to the right he marked a patch of swamp, sown
with sedgy pools and clumps of dense bushes. Just at its edge towered a
group of three immense water-poplars, whose tops he decided would serve
him as a post of outlook for his night hunting. For the moment, however,
it was close covert which he wanted, where he could escape the glare of
the sun and sleep off his great meal. Flying low over the grass-tops,
and ignoring the hushed rustle of unseen scurriers beneath, he winnowed
down the shore to the swamp and plunged into the heart of the leafiest
thicket. A half-rotted stump, close to the ground, offered him an
inviting perch, and in half a minute he was the soundest-sleeping gray
owl on this side the Arctic Circle.

Some little time after, a fussy red-winged blackbird came bustling into
the thicket, perhaps to hunt for drowsy night-moths asleep on the under
sides of the twigs. He alighted on a branch about two feet from the
Gray Visitor's head, and stared impertinently at the spectral,
motionless shape. As he stared, a pair of immense round eyes, brass
yellow and terrible, opened wide upon him. For one petrified second he
stared straight into them. Then, recovering the use of his wits, he fell
backward off his branch with a protesting squeak, and fluttered out from
the bush that held such horrors. The Gray Visitor turned his head
slowly, to see if there were any more such intruders upon his solitude,
then tranquilly went to sleep again.

It was perhaps a half-hour later when a big black mink came poking his
pointed nose into the thicket. His malicious eyes, set close together in
his cruel, triangular face, detected at once the sleeping form of the
Gray Visitor, and glowed deeply as if all at once transformed to drops
of garnet. His first impulse was to hurl himself straight upon the
slumberer's throat. But, fearless and joyous slaughterer though he was,
there was something in this gray shape that made him hesitate. He had
never before seen an owl of this ghostly color, or of even half this
size. His long, low, sinuous body gliding almost like a snake's, he
slipped up to within a couple of feet of the sleeper, and paused
irresolute.

To the mink's own ear, keen as it was, his motion was as soundless as a
moving shadow. But the ear of the owl is a miracle of sensitiveness. In
the deep of his sleep the Gray Visitor heard some warning of danger.
Just as the mink was gathering his lithe muscles for a spring, a pair of
immense, palely blazing discs opened before his face with a light so
sudden, so bright, and so hard that he recoiled in spite of himself.

The Gray Visitor had no need of thought to tell him that the long black
creature before him, with the narrow snarling mouth and venomous eyes
was dangerous. His instinct worked quicker than thought. His wings
spread, and he rose as if lifted by a breath from beneath. Then he
dipped instantly and struck downward with his knifelike, clutching
talons. In the same moment the mink sprang to meet the attack,
lengthening out his elastic body prodigiously and reaching for his
adversary's throat.

But what the mink did not know was his undoing. He did not know that
the deep covering on the Gray Visitor's throat and breast--firm,
close-lying feathers and a lavish padding of down--was an armor too
thick and resistant for even his keen teeth. He got a choking mouthful
of feathers. He even achieved to scratch the skin beneath and draw
blood. Then his savage jaws stretched wide in a choking screech as the
steel talons closed inexorably on his throat and his slim loins, and the
fiery light in his brain went out in a flame of indignation, amazed that
it in turn should suffer the fate which it had so continually and so
implacably inflicted.

The Gray Visitor was already hungry again by this time, for an owl's
digestion is astonishingly swift. He made a good meal, therefore, upon
the flesh of the mink, though that flesh is so tough, so stringy, and so
rank that few other flesh-eaters will deign to touch it unless in the
extremity of famine. Then he went to sleep again, for he had long
arrears to make up, and the hot glow of afternoon was still heavy on the
reaches of sea and grass.

[Illustration: "And the fiery light in his brain went out."]

But just after sunset, when the glow had faded, and the first thin wave
of lilac and amber came washing coolly over the wide landscape, and the
blossoms gave out new scents at the touch of the dew, and the
night-hawks twanged in the pale green upper heaven, then the Gray
Visitor awoke to eager activity. He floated upward from out his covert
like a ghost from a pool, circled over it twice, and flew off to those
high and lonely treetops which he had marked in the earlier part of the
day.

In the nearest tree, not far from the top, was what looked like an
immense accumulation of dead sticks. To the Gray Visitor, coming from a
region so far north that there were no tall treetops, this dark mass had
no significance. In his world of the Arctic barrens nothing of the
nature of a nest would ever be built in such an exposed position, where
the first icy hurricane screaming down from the Pole would rip it to
shreds. Therefore it never occurred to him that the clumsy platform of
dead sticks was the nest of a pair of blue herons. In fact, he had no
idea that any such creature as a blue heron existed. He flew noiselessly
to the very top of the tree and perched there some ten or a dozen feet
above the dusky platform of sticks.

All the wide, glimmering twilight world beneath him was very still and
quiet. Nothing seemed astir but the two or three night-hawks swooping
and twanging high up in the hollow heaven, and he had no thought of
hunting any such elusive quarry as the night-hawks. With a view to
startling some wary hiders into activity, he opened his beak and gave
utterance to an unearthly screeching hoot. As he did so, there was a
sharp movement on the platform of sticks, and a keen, defiant eye looked
up at him. He discerned instantly that the platform of sticks was a
nest, and that an immense bird, with an astonishingly long head and
bill, was sitting upon it.

In his own desolate north the great gray owl knew that no creature on
wings could rival him. He was the undisputed tyrant of the Polar air,
even the dashing, white chocolate-mottled hawk-owl flying precipitately
before him. It never occurred to him that this straight-billed nester
could be in any way dangerous. He dropped down upon her quite casually,
as upon a sure and easy victim.

But, before he was within striking distance, the narrow head of the
heron was drawn far back between her shoulders, and the long straight
javelin of her bill presented its point directly toward the attack.

The Gray Visitor noted what a weapon confronted him, and paused warily.
In the next instant the snaky neck of the heron uncoiled itself and the
javelin bill darted up at him like lightning. It was a false stroke on
the heron's part, for her assailant was not quite within reach. But the
Gray Visitor took note of the deadly possibilities of that darting bill,
and promptly sailed a little further out of its range.

But he was only warned, not daunted. For several minutes he circled
slowly just above the nest, now approaching, now retiring, while he
pondered the unaccustomed problem. And all the time the heron, her head
drawn back between her hunched shoulders, watched his flight
unwinkingly, and kept her menacing point at guard. On the flexible coil
of her neck her head pivoted perfectly, and from whichever quarter the
enemy approached, there was that fiery yellow point always confronting
him, waiting to dart upward and meet him full in the breast.

Suddenly he swooped again. Up came that darting stroke to meet him. But
he did not meet it. Swerving craftily, he caught the stroke in his wing
feathers and smothered it, buffeting it down. With a harsh _quah-ah_ of
despair, the heron strove to regain her position for another stroke. But
already her adversary had his clutch upon her throat. A moment more and
the long neck straightened out, and the narrow head hung limply over the
edge of the nest. The eggs, crushed in the struggle, oozed slowly down
through the loose foundations of the platform, and the great gray owl
began to tear greedily at the most lavish banquet his hunting had ever
won him.

But Nature is apt to deal remorselessly with the unprepared. And the
Gray Visitor, not being at home with his surroundings, had neglected to
prepare for the return of the dead mother's mate. Busy at his feasting,
he failed to notice at first the flapping of heavy wings. When he did
notice it he looked up sharply, his beak dripping, his round, pallid
face dappled with blood. The tall cock-heron was just settling upon the
edge of the platform. His head was drawn back between his shoulders,
behind the long yellow lance of his bill, and his eyes, hard as jewels,
met those of the murderer without any expression of rage or fear or
hate. They were as unchanging as the gemmed eyes of an idol.

The Gray Visitor sprang into the air, in order to give battle on more
advantageous terms. But this time he sprang a little too slowly. The
heron's head darted downward at him, as if spearing a frog. The stroke
caught him full in the wing-elbow, splitting it and totally disabling
him for flight. With a hiss of fury, he pounced at his stilt-legged
antagonist, striking out frantically with his terrific, clutching
talons. But his trailing wing jerked him sideways, so that he utterly
missed his aim and sprawled at the heron's feet. Before he could recover
himself, the avenger struck again with the full drive of his powerful
neck, and the stroke went home. The Gray Visitor dropped in a heap, with
the javelin bill clean through his throat. His round yellow eyes opened
and shut several times, and his beak snapped like a pair of castanets.
Then he lay quite still, while the heron, standing at full height on the
edge of the outraged nest, stabbed repeatedly and with slow deliberation
at the unresisting mass of shadowy feathers.



The Runners of the High Peaks


Motionless upon his knife-edged pinnacle, the great brown ram stood
poised, his gray, uplifted muzzle out-thrust toward the sunrise as if he
would sniff in its rose-red glories as they flamed across the ice peaks
of the jagged horizon. The enormous corrugated spirals of his horns lay
back over his neck and shoulders as he stood, and his arrogant eyes of
black and gold appeared half-shut as they searched the jumble of peaks,
ravines, and lake-dotted valleys outspread in still confusion beneath
him. The silence in his ears was absolute, save for the occasional throb
of thunder from a waterfall leaping out into the light of dawn a
thousand feet below, and heard only when some wandering eddy of air
pulsed upward from the depths. There was no enemy to be descried, either
in the still shadowed valleys or on the brightening slopes and steeps;
but the stately watcher kept his station, immovable, staring as if
physically hypnotized by the immensity of the vision that filled his
eyes. Then at last a white-headed eagle, passing low overhead, yelped at
him defiantly. He paid no attention to the challenge, but the harsh,
thin cry seemed to break his trance. He dropped his head and glanced
down at the narrow table-like ledge just below his pinnacle, where
another ram, smaller and less splendidly horned than himself, with six
little spike-horned ewes, cropped the short sweet grasses which grew in
the clefts of the rock.

Far down in the shadow beneath the wild ram's peak a white tent
glimmered beside the misty coils of the stream which threaded the
valley. It was quite too far off to give the ram any concern. Even his
sagacious and penetrating vision could barely make out that a man had
stepped forth from under the tent-flap and now stood motionless beside
it. His confidence would have gone to pieces in uncomprehended terror
had he known that the man, with a pair of powerful glams to his eyes,
was studying him minutely, and could see him as clearly as if he were
not more than a couple of hundred yards away.

Pete Allen was prospecting. Smitten with the wanderlust, he had struck
clear across the continent from the spruce woods and rich river meadows
of New Brunswick to the gigantic mountain chaos of the Rockies in
British Columbia. In New Brunswick he had been a hunter and guide. Now
he had forsaken the trails of moose and bear and caribou to seek the
elusive "color" in the sands of the mountain streams, or the unobtrusive
outcrop of the quartz that carries gold. But the old instincts were
still strong in him. He felt the lure of a splendid and unknown quarry.
He coveted the magnificent head of that calm watcher on the peak; and,
having heard that the wild mountain ram of the Rockies was an
extraordinarily difficult quarry to bring down, he itched to try his old
eastern woodcraft in this new chase and win the prize unaided. He had
two Indians with him as carriers, but he was determined that they should
have no part in this hunting. After he had well studied, through his
glasses, the lay of the ridges and ravines about the peak where the ram
was standing, he reëntered the tent for his rifle. He stuffed some cold
meat and hard tack into his pockets, told his Indians they need not
expect him back before night, and started up the course of a small
stream which seemed to come from the shoulder of the mountain. As soon
as he plunged into the thickets he lost sight of the watcher on the
peak; but he had laid his course, and he pushed on confidently, working
around the mountain so that he might come upon the quarry with the sun
at his back. When, after an hour's hard work, pushing through matted
thickets and crossing jagged gullies, he came out upon a knoll which
commanded a view of the peak, he saw that the great ram had disappeared.
But this did not trouble him, as he felt sure he would pick up the trail
in course of time.

Up on the high ledge below the peak the spring grass was sweet, but
there was little of it. The mountain sheep, cropping hungrily with their
short, eager bites, soon exhausted their high pasturage. They lifted
their heads discontentedly, whereupon the old ram, whose supercilious
eyes nevertheless missed little of what concerned him, stepped mincingly
down from his pinnacle. Between the edged summit and the ledge where
his flock pastured was an all but perpendicular drop of smooth-faced
rock. Smooth as it looked, however, his dainty and discriminating hoofs
were able to find some unevennesses upon it, for he took it in two
effortless leaps, and landed among his followers with a shake of his
splendid horns. Then he led the way down the naked steep, now flooded
with the level radiance of the three-fourths risen sun, toward the fresh
spring pasturage along the upper limits of the timber-belt.

He took no pains to choose an easy path, this light-foot runner of the
aërial peaks. Along dizzy ledges that looked no more than a track for
lizards or a clinging place for swallows, he led the way without pause
or hesitation, the flock in single file at his heels. From ledge to
ledge he dropped, over hair-raising deeps of transparent air, with a
precision and ease that made it seem as if his sturdy frame was as
imponderable as the air itself. He ploughed down chutes and funnels of
loose stone, the _débris_ of the rock walls above. He sprang carelessly
over crevices whose bottoms were lost in blackness, till at last the
young-leaved birch and the somber pointed fir lay just below him,
skirted by the steep ribands and intersected by the narrow glens of
greening turf.

At this point the wise old ram began to go warily. In this remote corner
of the Rockies the hunter's rifle was as yet practically unknown. On the
ultimate heights, therefore, where none could follow him but the eagles
and the falcons, he had no enemies to keep watch against. For the eagles
he had small concern, except just at lambing-time, and even then each
ewe mother, with her short, spiky horns and nimble, razor-edged hoofs,
was quick and able to protect her own little one. But down here, along
the edge of the timber, were the dreaded enemies--the wolves, the
mountain lions, the black bears, and the grizzlies. The temptation of
the new grass was one not to be resisted, but the price of it was an
unsleeping watchfulness of eye and ear and wits.

[Illustration: "He took no pains to choose an easy path."]

The uppermost fringe of grass, where it thinned away into the broken
rock, was scanty and stunted; but here the great horned leader elected
to do his own pasturing, while the younger ram stood guard. The spot was
a safe one, being several hundred yards from the timber, and bounded
along its upper edge by a broken steep, which offered no obstacle
whatever to these light-footed peak-runners, but was all but impassable,
except at a crawl, to the most agile of their foes. If the gaunt gray
timber wolf should come darting, belly to earth, from the woods, for all
his swiftness the flock would be bounding lightly far up the steep, as
if lifted on a sudden wind, before he could come anywhere within reach
of them.

When he had quite satisfied his own hunger, and with lifted nostrils
sniffed suspiciously every air that drew upward from the woods, the old
ram led his flock further down into one of those steep glens where the
grass was more abundant. Or, rather, instead of leading them, he
shepherded them before him, keeping them all under his eye, and himself
guarding the rear, while the oldest and wariest of the ewes, prick-eared
and all a-quiver with suspicion, led the way, questioning every bush and
every shadow. But there was no hint of danger anywhere to be discerned;
and presently the flock was pasturing greedily on such sweet herbage as
they had not tasted since the previous year, while on a hummock near the
bottom of the glade, at the post of danger, the ram kept watch, turning
his head continually.

But enthusiasm over young pasturage may make even a mountain sheep
absent-minded. From time to time the flock straggled. Straightway it
would close up again, drawing away from the thickets. Then, in a minute
or two more, it would open out fan-wise, as each impatient feeder
followed up some vein of especially luscious herbage. Just at the point
where the slope of grass was intersected by another and narrower glade,
almost at right angles to the first, a heedless young ewe had branched
off a score or so of paces to one side, up the cross-glade. Lifting her
head suddenly, she realized her isolation, and started to rejoin her
fellows.

At that same instant a lean, gray shape shot noiselessly from the
underbrush straight in her path, and leaped at her with wide jaws. With
a bleat of terror she sprang back up the cross-glade; and then, frantic
at the prospect of being cut off from the flock, she wheeled again and
tried to dodge past her assailant. The wolf, understanding her tactics,
and absolutely sure that she could not escape him, headed her off
without too violently exerting himself. He knew that here, away from her
steeps and pinnacles, she was no match for him in speed, and he knew,
too, that once she saw herself deserted by the flock her powers would
fail her in sheer panic. For a few seconds he almost played with her.
Then, getting her fairly cornered in a bend of the thickets, he sprang
savagely for her throat.

Behind him, meanwhile, the flock went bounding by, headed for their high
refuge. Last came the great ram, snorting with wrath and fear. Just as
he was passing he saw that final rush of the wolf. He saw the young ewe
penned in her corner. He heard her shrill, despairing bleat. The look of
fear faded from his yellow eyes, leaving the rage only. It was not his
wont to pit himself against the mighty timber wolf, because he had no
morbid taste for suicide, but this young ewe was a favorite. Just as the
gnashing jaws were about to snap upon the victim's neck something not
unlike the stroke of a pile-driver caught the wolf fairly on the
crupper. Aided by his own spring, it lifted him clean over the
struggling ewe's back, doubled him together, and dashed him with
stunning effect against a tree. Slowly he picked himself up, to see his
quarry and the great ram just vanishing up the glade, far beyond any
such pursuit as he was at the moment equal to. With a shamefaced air he
glanced about him. There, across the glade, stood a tawny puma, eyeing
his discomfiture through narrowed lids. This was too much. Tucking his
tail between his legs, he slunk off into the underbrush.

Having gained what he considered a safe height among the rocks, the ram
halted his followers upon a jutting buttress, where they stood huddled
about him, and stared down resentfully upon the grassy glades. Such was
their confidence in their lord, and in their own powers of flight, that
they were none of them particularly frightened, except the young ewe who
had had such a narrow escape. She, trembling and with panting sides,
crowded close against her rescuer, who, for his part, kept scrutinizing
the edges of the timber to see if the enemy were going to follow up the
attack. He saw no more of that enemy, but he caught a glimpse of the
tawny form of the puma gliding into a tree. Thereupon he decided that
this part of the mountain was no place for his flock.

He turned and made off straight up the steep, till he had put a good
mile between himself and the point of danger. Then, dropping into a
ravine till their course was quite hidden from all hostile eyes in the
timber, he led the way around the mountainside for several miles. On a
high ledge, secure from any unseen approach, the flock rested for an
hour or two, chewing the cud in peace in the vast silence of the bare
and sun-bathed peaks. When once more they descended to the timber belt
and its seductive pasturage there were three or four miles of tangled
ridge and ravine between them and the scene of their morning's
adventure.

In the meantime, Pete Allen, weary with climbing, sore with
disappointment, tormented with as many flies as his own New Brunswick
backwoods would have let loose upon him at the worst of the season, was
beginning to wonder if the hunt of the mountain sheep was as simple an
affair as he had fancied it. After climbing all the morning he had
failed to gain another glimpse of the great brown ram. At last, however,
about noon, he came upon their trail, leading down to the grass. With a
long breath of relief, he stopped, drank at a bubbling icy spring, ate
his cold bacon and crackers, and smoked a pipe. The trail was none too
fresh, so he knew there was nothing to be gained by rash haste. After
his pipe, he followed the trail down to the glades. His trained eyes
soon told him what had happened. The encounter with the wolf was an open
page to him. Having satisfied himself that there was nothing of interest
left in that patch of timber--though all the while the puma was eyeing
him with curious interest from a great branch not far overhead--he took
up the trail of the flock's flight, and started once more up the
mountain. Sweating heavily, and angrily brushing the flies from his eyes
and nose and ears, he managed to distinguish the trail for a couple of
miles along the difficult ravines, but at last, at the root of a
precipice which, in his eastern judgment, was quite impassable to
anything without wings, he lost it irretrievably.

Arguing that the flock must sooner or later return to their pasturage,
he picked his way on a long diagonal down the mountainside, traversed a
succession of grass patches, which showed never a trace of hoof print,
and at length found himself in a bewildering maze of low, abrupt ridges,
dense thickets, and narrow strips of green glade.

From all that Allen had been able to gather as to the habits of mountain
sheep he concluded that this was about the last place in the world where
he would be likely to find them. He began, after long self-restraint, to
curse softly under his breath, as he glared about him for the most
practical exit from the maze. All at once his face changed. The anger
faded out from his shrewd light-blue eyes. There was the trail of the
flock leading straight down the steepest and most uninviting of the
glens. It was a fresh trail, too--so absolutely fresh that some of the
trodden blades were still lifting their heads slowly from the hoof
prints.

"Gee!" muttered Allen. "Seems I don't know's much about these here
critters as I thought I did!" And he slipped noiselessly back into the
cover of a thicket.

His problem now was to keep the trail in sight while himself remaining
under cover. It was the hardest piece of tracking he had ever tackled.
The cover was dense, the slope steep and tormentedly broken. He had to
be noiseless as a mink, because he knew by hearsay that the ears of the
mountain ram were almost as keen as an owl's. And he had to keep himself
perfectly out of sight, which forced him to take the most difficult part
of the underbrush for his path. But, for all this, he was no longer
angry; he no longer heeded the flies or the heat, and when the sweat
streamed down into his eyes he merely wiped them cheerfully on his
sleeve. He felt sure now of winning the longed-for trophy of that
magnificent head, and of winning it, moreover, by his own unaided
woodcraft. Presently, through an opening in the leafy screen, he caught
a glimpse of a tranquilly pasturing ewe, not much more than two hundred
yards away. She moved slowly across his narrow line of vision and
vanished. Keyed now to the highest pitch of anticipation, with every
faculty concentrated on his purpose, he worked his silent way onward,
expecting momently to gain a view of the great ram.

But there was an element in the situation which, had he known it, would
have interfered with Allen's concentration of purpose. He was not the
only hunter of mountain sheep in that particular corner of the
mountains.

A shaggy and sly old "silver-tip," as it chanced, had had his eye for
some time on that flock. He loved mutton, and he knew it was very hard
to get, especially for a bear. He was making his approaches, therefore,
with a stealthy craft surpassing that of Pete Allen himself. So it came
about quite naturally that he saw Allen first. Thereupon he took every
precaution that Allen should not see him.

In this remote district the grizzlies had not yet learned the vital
lesson that man is by far the most formidable of all the animals. Yet a
rumor had come to him, somehow, that the insignificant creature was not
to be trifled with. There was something masterful in his bearing--as
the grizzly had observed from safe ambush on several occasions--which
suggested unknown powers, and hitherto the old silver-tip, being well
fed and having no special grudge against man, had refrained from
courting a quarrel. Now, however, he was angry. This was his own game
which the man was stalking. This was a trespass upon his own
preserves--a point in regard to which the grizzly is apt to be
sensitive. His first impulse was to rush upon the intruder at once. Then
a mixture of prudence and curiosity held him back, or, rather, delayed
his purpose. He changed his course, and began to stalk Pete Allen even
as Pete Allen was stalking the sheep. And high overhead, in the
unclouded blue, a soaring eagle, catching brief glimpses of the drama
through the openings in the leafage, gazed down upon it with unwinking,
scornful eyes.

Huge and apparently clumsy as was the bulk of the bear, he nevertheless
made his way through the tangle as soundlessly as the man, and more
swiftly. He drew gradually nearer, and, as he approached, he began to
forget the other game in a savage interest in this new and dangerous
quarry. He was not directly behind the man, but now drawing nearly
abreast of him, on the other side of the narrow steep of grass. He was
just beginning, indeed, to stiffen his sinews instinctively for the
final rush which should avenge the intrusion upon his range, when he saw
the man stop abruptly and raise something that looked like a long brown
stick to his shoulder. At this sight the bear stopped also, his wrath
not being yet quite hot enough to consume his curiosity.

Pete Allen at last had caught a clear view of the great brown ram
standing at guard not a hundred yards away. It was a beautiful, easy
shot, the target isolated and framed in green. He raised his rifle
steadily, bracing himself with knees and feet in a precarious position.
Before he could draw a bead, however, to his amazement he saw the ram
bound into the air and vanish from his narrow field of vision. Puzzled,
he lowered the rifle from his shoulder. As he did so that unknown and
quite incalculable sense which seems to have its seat in the fine hairs
on the back of one's neck and in the skin of the cheeks commanded him
to turn his head. He was just in time to see the giant form of the
grizzly burst from the underbrush and come lunging across the strip of
open.

Confronted by such an emergency the New Brunswicker fired on the
instant, and, being quite sure of himself and the bear above him, he
took a difficult shot. He aimed at the middle of the beast's throat,
trusting to sever the spinal column, for he had heard that a shot
straight through the heart often fails to stop the rush of a grizzly.

There was nothing the matter with Pete Allen's shooting or with his
nerve. But at the very fraction of a second when his finger started to
pull the trigger the whimsical Fates of the wilderness took a hand in
the game. They undermined Pete Allen's footing. As he fired he fell, and
the long, soft-nosed, deadly bullet, instead of piercing the grizzly's
spine, merely smashed through his right shoulder.

Pete Allen fell sprawling some eight or ten feet down the slope, losing
hold of his rifle in the effort to stop himself. To his anxious
indignation he saw the rifle strike a branch and bounce perversely a
dozen feet away. He scrambled for it furiously; but, before he could
quite get his grip upon it, it slipped through the branches and dropped
another dozen feet or so. At the same time, with something more near
cold terror than he had ever before experienced, he saw the dark bulk of
the grizzly wallowing down upon him, huge as a mountain. Staggered for a
few seconds by the shock of the bullet, the beast had hesitated and
turned around on his tracks, biting at the wound. Then, on three legs,
and grunting with rage, he had launched himself upon his adversary.

In the course of the next three seconds, as he struggled toward his gun,
Pete Allen thought of a thousand things, mostly unimportant. But at the
back of his brain was the cool conviction that this was the time when he
was going to pass in his checks. Those brute paws would smash him before
he could reach his rifle. But he was wrong, for again the whimsical
Fates interfered, perceiving a chance for such a trick as they had
probably never played before.

The great brown ram, his eyes nearly starting from his head, came
leaping madly up the narrow incline, his flock at his heels, blind with
fright. In the glade below one of the flock had just been pounced upon
by a puma, and another puma had sprung out at them, but missed his kill.
The ram saw the bear straight in his path, plunging across it. There was
no time to change his direction, and in his panic the peril in front was
nothing to compare with the peril behind. Had the bear been a mastodon
or a megatherium it would have been all the same to the panic-stricken
ram. With the madness of utter terror he lowered his mighty head and
charged this dark mass that barred his flight.

The bear, blazing with vengeance, had no eyes in that moment for sheep.
Suddenly something like a falling boulder crashed into his ribs,
catching him with his forefeet off the ground and almost rolling him
over. The breath belched out of his astonished lungs with a loud,
coughing grunt, and the ram went over him, spurning him with sharp
hoofs. The next moment the whole flock was passing over him, a
bewildering bombardment of small, keen, battering hoofs and woolly
bodies. Recovering from his amazement, he struck out with his unwounded
forepaw, caught the last unhappy ewe as she went over him, and hurled
her carcass, mangled and quivering, far down the slope. Then, a little
dazed, but undeterred from his vengeance, he glared about him for his
original antagonist.

Interesting and, indeed, unparalleled as the intervention of the brown
ram had been, Pete Allen had not taken time to observe it with the
minute care which so novel an incident was entitled to. He had been busy
getting his gun. Now he had it he did not hurry. With this shot he was
taking no chances. Just as the bear caught sight of him, and started at
him open-mouthed, he fired, and the animal sprawled forward, a huge
furry heap, with a ball through the base of his brain.

Back in New Brunswick Pete Allen had had the name of being a cool hand
in a corner. In that land of tried woodsmen and daring stream-drivers he
would not have gained that name without deserving it. Even as the
grizzly was in the act of falling forward Allen raised his rifle again.
He covered accurately the form of the brown ram leaping up the slope a
hundred yards away. There was his trophy, the splendid horns which he
had striven so hard to win, within his grasp at last. But something
seemed to tug suddenly at his arm--or was it at his heart? Pete Allen
had always prided himself on playing fair, in the spirit as well as in
the letter. He dropped his rifle with a growl of vexation.

"It'd be a dirty trick to put a ball into yeh," he muttered, "seein'
what a hell of a hole you've just pulled me out of!"



The Pool


The current that went circling through its depths, keeping them always
crystal pure and sweet, was so leisurely that the clear brown mirror of
the surface was never broken, unless by some slow-wandering foam-cluster
eddied in from the frothy little falls outside, or by the dropping of a
leaf, or by the sluggish rise of a trout to some unwary skimming fly.

To the fish that dwelt in it the pool was an abiding place of
perfection. It was deep; but the entrance to it was narrow and shoal,
just spacious enough for the slow interchange of waters with the
vivifying outer current. At the same time this entrance was so set that
innumerable choice morsels, fly and beetle, grub and berry, having been
battered down over the falls, were then persuasively swept into it. It
was darkly overhung by great-limbed water-ash and maple; but when the
sun was some two or three hours past noon its downpour reached and
flooded the surface and made very wholesome basking. The bottom,
moreover, offered a judicious variety of attraction. For some way in
from the entrance it was of a clean bright sand, more or less broken
with stones. While the inner portion, right up to the perpendicular
banks and the jutting tree-roots, was floored with silted mud, fruitful
in the small, ephemeral water-growths of herb and insect.

The fish inhabiting the delectable pool were all big ones, except for a
few scattered young fry which dwelt precariously in the extremest
shallows where the big ones could not come at them. And the fish were of
just two kinds, the trout and the suckers. The suckers, lazy, pig-like,
inoffensive beings, congregated over the stretch of mud, from whose fat
surface their small, round, defenseless, downward-opening mouths sucked
up their sustenance incessantly. Their bulk, and the power of their
sinewy tails, alone protected them from the trout, whose wide, rapacious
jaws and insatiable appetite were effective in keeping the size of all
the pool-dwellers up to standard.

The trout, as a rule, had none of the reposefulness of the suckers.
They ranged restlessly, now over the mud reaches, now over the sand and
rocks, wherever quarry, large or small, might perhaps be encountered.
Frequently one or another would flash out through the narrow exit, to
hunt and test its strength in the bright turmoil of the rapids. And from
time to time one would return lazily, perhaps with the tail of a smaller
relation sticking out of its mouth, and settle down under the bank to
digest its heavy meal.

To the pair of great fish-hawks, whose huge, untidy nest, like a
cart-load of sticks and rubbish, filled the top of a tall dead pine-tree
half a mile above the falls, the pool was a ceaseless aggravation. In
the continual flight up and downstream their keen eyes were wont to
search the pool enviously. But the big fish swimming so calmly in its
depths were safe from them, because it was so overhung that they were
unable to swoop down upon it with any effective speed. In the clear open
they could drop like a wedge of steel, and flick up a darting trout from
the very lip of the fall. But the pool they could reach only by a
deliberate, flapping approach which gave even the drowsiest basker
ample time to seek refuge in the safe depths.

But there was one wild fisherman whom the pool suited exactly. A big
half-submerged root, jutting out for about three feet directly over that
section of the pool where the suckers congregated, afforded the great
lynx just the post of vantage which he loved. Here he would lie in wait
for an hour at a time, patient and immobile as the root on which he
crouched. His round, black, savage moon-face, with its pale eyes bright
and hard, its stiff whiskers, and its tufted ears, would be held down so
close to the glassy surface that the confused reflections of the
overhanging branches were unable to interfere with his vision, and he
could see with perfect clearness every detail of the transparent depths.
He would stare with endless craving at the massive suckers which lay
placidly mouthing the mud; but nothing could ever bring them near the
surface, so he knew nothing of them but that they were fat and looked
very desirable.

But it was the trout that chiefly concerned him. They had none of the
fat placidity of the suckers. One or another of them, with his gold and
silver and vermilion glinting up through the pellucid gloom, would be
forever on the move, quartering the bottom for caddis and beetle, and
now and then sailing up toward the surface to investigate some floating
atom that may chance to be a fly. Sometimes it _was_ a fly, or a moth,
or a caterpillar or some edible berry. And sometimes, too, the slow
circling of the current in the pool would bring it close to that still
watcher on the root before it caught the eye of the feeding fish. Then
the sinews of the watcher would grow rigid, his claws protrude from
their sheaths, a little green flame flicker spectrally in his eyes. As
the trout came slanting up on scarlet fin, shouldered the surface apart,
and sucked down the morsel, out from the root above him would flash a
wide-taloned paw, unerring, inescapable, scooping him from his element,
and in half a second he would be flopping convulsively among the
wintergreen leaves, far up the bank. In the next half of that fatal
second the lynx would be upon him with an exultant pounce, holding down
his slippery struggles with both forepaws, and biting through the back
of his massive neck.

The lynx being so silent and discreet a fisherman, his fishing never
disturbed the pool at all, or cast any shadow of doubt upon its
reputation as a haven of security and repose. The victim simply
vanished, without any fuss. Of the other dwellers in the pool not one
knew how he had vanished; not one cared; not one was troubled with
apprehension.

One hot morning as the great cat lay on the root, staring down into the
depths with his fierce moon eyes, he was disappointed to observe that on
this particular day even the trout were too indolent to stir. The heat
seemed to have taken away their appetites. As motionless and indifferent
as the suckers themselves, they hung on softly fanning fins, and took no
notice when even the most tempting morsels traversed the glassy surface.
They did not mingle with the suckers, but poised themselves
superciliously a foot or so above them, or lurked singly under the
shelter of the scattered rocks on the bottom. In vain did fly or moth,
or the most seductive squirmer of a fat grub, come circling slowly over
the surface above them. They would not so much as cock a scornful eye up
at it. They were not feeding. And when a trout won't feed he just
won't, and there's an end of it. Though just when the pangs of appetite
may come back upon him with a rush no fisherman can say with certainty.
It is such uncertainty that has taught fishermen the virtues of patience
and hope. It has also taught them unveracity, by giving them abundant
time for the weaving of tales wherewith to amuse the credulous.

The lynx, as a fisherman, was both hopeful and patient. But this morning
his patience was being sorely tried; for he was hungrier than usual, and
his hunger was particularly bent on fish. His ridiculous stump of a
tail, which was quite hidden from the sight of the pool-dwellers, began
to twitch angrily. He was almost on the point of giving up, and stealing
away to hunt rabbits, when from the corner of his eye he caught sight of
something which made his ruff bristle and every hair stand up in jealous
wrath. An intruder, a stranger, a rival whose skill as a fisherman made
his own attempts seem nothing worth, had arrived at the entrance of the
pool and was peering down into it with keen eyes.

The lynx moved, for the first time in a half hour. He turned his head
full round, and fixed his green, implacable stare upon the intruder.

The new arrival had come by way of the river, and, from his bearing, the
pool was evidently new to him. His long, sinuous, dark body lay crouched
in the middle of the entrance, hinder half in the water and head and
shoulders out of it. Sleek and glistening, with his low-set supple form,
heavy-jawed and almost dog-like face, inconspicuous ears, dark eyes, and
long, powerful tail, he presented the sharpest possible contrast in type
to the great, shadowy, moon-eyed cat, though in actual weight and bulk
the two were not greatly dissimilar.

But it was not at the silent watcher on the tree-root across the pool
that the other was looking. He was peering down, with exultant eyes,
into the peopled depths. Hunting had been bad, and he was hungry. A
moment more and he plunged downward with a heavy swirl, but smoothly, as
if oiled. The eyes of the lynx followed, with savage intentness, his
swift and fishlike dartings beneath the water.

The drowsing pool-dwellers awoke and scattered in a panic, even the
dull suckers displaying a miraculous agility. But it was not the
coarse-fleshed suckers that this discriminating fisherman was after.

As the frantic fugitives dashed this way and that, weaving strange
patterns over the bottom, and half forgetful, in their terror, of the
narrow way out to safety, the otter slashed at such as came in his way,
biting through their backbones, so that they presently rolled to the
surface, belly upward. But it was the biggest trout of the pool that he
wanted.

And one great fish there was who was fatally supreme. His supremacy had
been fatal to many smaller fish before. Now it was fatal to himself. Him
the otter chose out for his prize. Feeling himself so chosen, he flashed
frantically from side to side, and up and down, ever missing the
exit--or cleverly headed off from it--but also, for some minutes,
evading the inexorable pursuit. The otter, though a four-footed
land-dweller, was really more swift and agile in the water than any
trout; but over and over again he was balked or delayed by other
maddened fugitives getting in his way, or tempting him to delay for a
slashing bite.

Through all the lashed turmoil the lynx never stirred, save to follow
with his hard, bright stare the lightning evolutions of the flight and
the pursuit. At last the doomed trout flashed up beneath the point of
the root, and doubled just at the surface. In that fraction of a second
when he seemed to pause for the turn, down swept the furry paw; and the
trout was hurled far up the bank. From the spot at which the trout had
so surprisingly vanished up shot the head of the otter. For one instant
the otter's dark and furious eyes blazed into the pale eyes of the lynx,
at a distance of not more than a dozen or eighteen inches. Then the lynx
was gone up the bank at a bound, to pin down and finish off the victim.

Now, there were plenty more trout in the pool to be caught, and three
dead or dying fish floating there to be picked up. But this fact to the
otter was of no account whatever. He had been robbed of his kill. His
prize had been impudently snatched from his teeth. There was room in his
soul for no emotion but the rage of the avenger. He scrambled out on to
the root and glided noiselessly up the bank.

From the point of view of the lynx, on the other hand, it was he who had
all the grievance. The pool was his own private preëmption, long held
without a challenge. The otter was an insolent trespasser. As a rule,
two wild beasts of different species, if so nearly matched that the
event of a combat might be doubtful, will avoid each other discreetly.
The plain uncertainty is apt to daunt them both. They do not understand
each other's methods of fighting. And each has too much at stake. But
here, in each case, was a question of the honor of the wilds. It was a
great quarrel which neither would shirk. Having killed the writhing
fish, the lynx turned sharp about, crouched with one paw on the prize,
and eyed the approaching otter warily.

At first the otter came on with a steady rush, as if disdaining all
fence and all precaution. At a distance of half-a-dozen feet, however,
he paused, as if that pale, menacing stare of his crouching adversary
had disconcerted him. He met it fairly, however, and steadily, and it
was plain that he was in no way daunted. A moment more and he began to
creep slowly forward, very slowly, inch by inch.

To the lynx, with his more fiery but less tenacious temperament, this
very deliberate and long-drawn-out approach was more trying than a
savage rush would have been. His courage was sound, but his nerves were
jumpy. He opened his jaws wide and hissed harshly, and followed this
demonstration by a strident yowl. Neither of these appearing to impress
the creeping foe, he felt it impossible to keep still any longer. With a
sudden bounce he shot into the air, to come down, as he calculated,
square on the otter's back. But when he came down the otter's back was
no longer where he had expected it to be. It had been discreetly
removed. The next instant the otter's teeth snapped at his throat, but
missed hold by a hair's breadth. For some seconds the two gnashed
snarling in each other's faces; then, as if by common consent, they
sprang apart, and began a slow, wary circling, each impressed with a
sense of the other's prowess. That moment's clash of snarling jaw on
jaw had seemed to let in a flash of understanding upon their hot
hearts.

As they circled, each sparring for a chance to catch the other at a
disadvantage, the dead trout lay gleaming and bleeding on the turf
between them. Presently the otter made a little rush in, as if to seize
it. But at this the lynx pounced in also, with a startling growl. The
otter shrank back a little. The lynx checked his spring. In another
moment the two were once more circling and sparring for vantage as
before.

The longer the otter studied that gray, prowling, shadowy shape, with
the wide eyes, the powerful hunched hind-quarters, the long and ripping
claws, the less certain he felt of his ability to handle it, the more
surely did his fighting lust cool down. He began to think of his other
prizes in the pool, to be gathered without an effort; and, but for his
pride, he would willingly have withdrawn from the doubtful venture which
now involved him. But he was of dogged temper, and he showed no outward
sign of his irresolution. The lynx, on the other hand, being less
obstinate and of more variable mood, began to think of rabbits and such
like easy enterprises. The more he studied that low, sinewy, dark figure
with its keen teeth and punishing jaw, the less he liked it, and the
more indifferent he grew to the attractions of trout as a diet. The
radius of his menacing prowl grew gradually wider. In response the otter
discreetly drew back a few feet. The lynx paused, and glanced up into a
tree, as if suddenly interested in the flittings of a black-and-white
woodpecker. The otter sniffed inquiringly at the ground, as if
discovering a new scent there. The trout seemed to be forgotten. It lay
glistening in a patch of sun; and a large blue-bottle alighted upon it.

Half a minute later the lynx strolled away, very deliberately. At the
edge of a bush some thirty or forty paces distant he sat down on his
tail, and looked around with elaborate carelessness to see what his
rival was going to do. At the slightest provocation he was ready to
return and fight the matter out. But the otter was no longer
provocative. He swung about, glided back to the pool, slid into it, and
snatched up one of the fish which he had already slain. Dragging it out
upon the further bank, he fell to his meal with relish, in full view of
his late antagonist. Thereupon the lynx came prowling back. He put his
paw on the prize, and glared across the water with a defiant growl.
There was no response, his rival being apparently too busy to heed him.
He snatched up the fish in his teeth, and growled again. Still no reply
from the otter. Then, with his stub tail stiff in the air, and stepping
haughtily, he marched off into the silent green shades to make his meal.



The Shadows and John Hatch


When John Hatch found the lynx kittens in their shallow den on the
bright and windy shoulder of Old Sugar Loaf, he stood for some minutes
looking down upon them with a whimsical mixture of compassion and
hostility. In his eyes all lynxes were vermin of the worst kind. They
had killed three of his sheep. An old male had clawed his dog so
severely that the dog had lost its nerve and all value as a hunting
partner. They were great destroyers of the young deer, the grouse, and
the hares, and so interfered with the supply of John Hatch's larder. In
a word, they were his enemies, and therefore, according to his code, to
be destroyed without compunction. But these were the first kittens of
the hated breed that Hatch had ever seen. Unlike the full-grown lynx,
whose fur is of a tawny, shadowy gray, these youngsters had sleek,
brilliant coats adorned with stripes like a tiger's. They were so young
that their eyes were not yet open, and they lay huddled cosily and
trustingly together, in their bed of brown leaves, like so many
exaggerated kittens of the hearthside tabby. But this was no extenuation
of their crime, in John Hatch's eyes. It pleaded for them not at all,
for he had his established custom in dealing with superfluous kittens.

Presently he stooped down and stroked the huddle of shining fur. Blind
babies though they were, the youngsters knew the touch for an alien one,
the unknown smell for the smell of an enemy. Their tails and the ruffs
of their necks bristled instantly, and, with a feeble spitting, they
turned and clawed savagely at the intruding hand. The little claws drew
blood, and John Hatch withdrew his hand with a laugh that had a touch of
admiration in it.

"Gosh, but ye're spunky little devils!" he muttered. "But ye ain't
a-goin' to grow up to use them claws on my sheep nur my dawg, an' don't
ye fergit it!" For a moment he thought of wringing their necks, as the
simplest way of getting the matter off his hands. But his kindly
disposition shrank from the barbarity of the process; and, after all, to
his mind they were kittens of a kind, and therefore entitled to a more
gracious form of taking off. For all their spitting and clawing, he
picked them up by the scruffs of their necks, stuffed two of them into
his capacious pockets, carried the other two in his fist, and made his
way hastily down the mountain, keeping a watchful eye over his shoulder,
lest the mother-lynx should happen back from her hunting and attempt a
rescue. He made his way to a little well-like pool, a sort of pocket of
black water in a cleft of the granite, which he had passed and noted
curiously on his upward climb. Into this icy oblivion he dropped the
baby lynxes in a bunch, with a stone tied to them, as he was wont to do
with the superfluous kittens at home. "Good riddance to that rubbish!"
he muttered, as he strode on down the mountain.

But, underestimating the strength of these wild kittens, he had tied the
string carelessly. In their drowning struggles, the string had come
undone, and the victims, freed from the stone, had risen to the surface.
But by this time they were too weak for any effectual effort at escape,
and in their blindness they could not find the shore. Two, by chance,
drifted upon a lip of rock, where they sprawled half-awash and were
presently dead of the chill. The other two sank again into the black
depths.

Their puny struggles had not long been stilled--five minutes, perhaps,
or ten--when the mother-lynx arrived at the edge of the pool. Returning
to her den and finding her little ones gone, the footprints and the
trail of the woodsman had told her the story. Crouching flat, with ears
back and teeth bared to the sockets, she had glared about her with
terrible eyes, as if thinking that the ravisher might yet be within
reach. Then, after one long, agonized sniff at the spot where her young
had lain, she had sped away noiselessly down the steep, running with
nose to the blatant trail and wild eyes peering ahead through the tangle
of the brush.

At the edge of the pool she stopped. Though Hatch's trail went on, she
saw at once, from his halt at the edge, that something had happened
here. In a moment or two her piercing eyes detected those two little
limp bodies lying awash on the lip of granite at the other side of the
pool.

Eagerly she called to them, with a harsh but poignant mew, and in two
prodigious leaps she was leaning over them. With tender, mothering lips
she lifted them from the water by their necks, curled herself about them
for warmth, and fell to licking them passionately with soft murmurs of
caress. She did not notice, apparently, the absence of the other two, or
perhaps her sense of numbers was defective, and she could not count.
However that may be, she devoted herself with concentrated fervor for
some minutes to the two limp and bedraggled little forms striving
passionately to stir them back to life. Then, as if realizing on the
sudden that they were dead, she almost spurned them from her, sprang to
her feet with a long yowl, and ran around the pool till she again picked
up John Hatch's trail.

It was about four in the afternoon when John Hatch crossed the last of
the half-bare slopes, with their scant growth of poplar and sapling
birch, which fringed the foot of Old Sugar Loaf, and plunged into the
dark spruce woods which separated him from his lonely farm on the banks
of Burnt Brook. His trail was now an easy one, an old and moss-grown
"tote-road" of the lumbermen. It was some ten or a dozen years since
this region had been lumbered over, and by this time the young timber
which had then been left, as below the legal diameter for cutting, had
grown to the full and stately stature of the spruce. The great trees,
however, had not yet had time to kill out the bushy undergrowth which
had sprung up luxuriantly in the wake of the choppers, and consequently
the forest on either side of the trail was a dense riot of jungle to the
height of six or eight feet.

John Hatch knew that the mother-lynx, had he caught her at home, would
have put up a valiant fight in defense of her babies. He thought that
she might even have attacked him in the open if she had come up with him
while he had the kittens on him. He despised all lynxes as cordially as
he hated them; but he knew that a mother, of almost any breed, may do
desperate things for her young. Having his axe with him, however, and
the nicest of woodsman's skill in using it, he had had no misgivings at
any moment, and, now that the kittens were at the bottom of the pool, he
dismissed the whole matter from his mind. There remained of it nothing
at all but a dim satisfaction that four dangerous enemies to his sheep
had been thus easily disposed of.

Suddenly, without knowing why, John Hatch stopped in his stride, gripped
his axe instinctively, and glanced over his shoulder. The skin of his
cheeks, beneath the grizzled stubble, crept curiously. He felt that he
was being followed. But there was nothing on the trail behind him, which
was clear and straight to his view for a good two hundred yards back. He
peered deep into the undergrowth, first on one side, then on the other.
No living thing was to be seen, except a little black-and-white
woodpecker, which slipped behind a hemlock trunk and peered around at
him with bright, inquiring eyes.

"Guess I've got the creeps," growled Hatch, with certain unprintable
expletives, which seemed to indicate annoyance and surprise. Whirling
angrily on his heel, he resumed his long, loose-kneed woodsman's stride.

But he could not get rid of that sensation of being followed. For a
long time he resolutely ignored it. There was nothing in the woods that
he had need to fear. He knew there was no wild beast, not even the
biggest bear between Old Sugar Loaf and the Miramichi, that would be so
rash as to seek a quarrel with him. As for the mother-lynx, she had
passed out of his mind, so ingrained and deep was his scorn of all such
"varmin." But presently the insistence of that unseen presence on his
trail became too strong for him, and, with a curse, he turned his head.
There was nothing there. He bounded into the wood on the left of the
track, parting the undergrowth furiously with both arms outstretched
before his face. To his eyes, still full of the sunlight, the
brown-green gloom was almost blackness, for the moment. But he seemed to
see, or imagined he saw, a flitting shadow--whether darker or lighter
than its surroundings he could not have told--fade into the obscurity
around it.

Hatch swore softly and turned back into the homeward trail. "It's
nawthin' but that lynx!" he muttered. "An' I'm a fool, an' no mistake!"

The mystery thus satisfactorily solved, he swung on contentedly for the
next mile or so. Then once more that uncanny impression of being trailed
began to tingle in his cheeks and stir the roots of the hair on his
neck. He laughed impatiently, and gave no further heed to it. But, in
spite of himself, a peculiar picture began to burn itself into his
consciousness. He realized a pair of round, pale, baleful eyes, piercing
with pain and vengeful fury, fixed upon him as they floated along, close
to the ground, in the midst of a gliding shape of shadow. Knowing well
that the beast would never dare to spring upon him, he spat upon the
ground in irritated contempt. At the same time he was nettled at its
presumption in thus dogging his trail. He could see no object in it. The
futile menace of it angered him keenly.

"I'll bring my gun along next time I'm over to Sugar Loaf," he murmured,
"an' I'll put a ball through her guts if she don't keep off my trail!"

His vexation was not mollified by the fact that, when he came out from
the spruce woods into the open pastures of his clearing, and saw his
farmyard below him basking in the sun, he felt a distinct sense of
relief. This was an indignity that he could never have dreamed of. That
a lynx should be able to cause him a moment's apprehension! It was
inconceivable. Yet--he was glad of the open. He resolved to get out all
his traps and snares at once, and settle scores with the beast without
delay.

That night, however, he dismissed the idea of traps from his mind as
making too much of the matter. As he sat by his kitchen fire, smoking
comfortably, his chores all done up, the battle-scarred dog asleep
beside his chair, and forgiving tabby curled up on his knee, and the
twang of night-hawks in a clear sky coming in through the open window
with the fresh smell of the dew, he chuckled at his own folly.

"I sure _did_ have the creeps," he explained to the cat, which opened
one eye at him and shut it again noncommittally. "But I ain't a-goin' to
have 'em ag'in. No, sir-ee!"

But the scarred dog, a lean black-and-tan mongrel, with some collie
strain revealed in his feathering and in his long, narrow jaw, stirred
uneasily in his sleep and whimpered.

John Hatch had two cows and a yoke of red steers. At this kindly time of
year they all stayed out at pasture, day and night, with the sheep, in
the upper burnt lot--a ragged field of hillocks and short, sweet grass,
and fire-blackened stumps slowly rotting. Along the left of the field
the dark spruce woods came down close to the zigzag snake fence of split
rails which bounded Hatch's clearing. At this point were the pasture
bars, which served the purpose of a gate; and here, about sundown, the
two cows stood lowing softly, waiting for Hatch to come with his tin
milk pails and ease their heavy udders of the day's burden.

On the evening following Hatch's trip up Old Sugar Loaf, he was a little
later than usual at his milking, and the pasture was all afloat in
violet dusk as he dropped the two upper bars at one end and swung his
long legs over with a clatter of his two tin pails. He picked up his
three-legged stool, hitched himself under the flank of the nearest cow,
gripped a pail between his knees, and in a moment began the soft, frothy
thunder of the two white streams pulsating down alternately into the tin
under the rhythmic persuasion of his skilled fingers. The dog, who was
not _persona grata_ to the cows, because he had at times to rebuke them
for trespassing on the oat field or the turnip patch, sat up on his
haunches at the other side of the fence and watched the milking
indifferently.

The first cow was milked and had wandered off to feed, and Hatch was
almost through with the second, when through the bars he saw the dog get
up quickly and go trotting off homeward with an air of having been
kicked. Mildly wondering, he muttered to himself: "Got more whims 'n a
mare colt, that Jeff!"

A moment later the cow snorted and gave a jump which would have upset a
less wary milker than John Hatch. She ran away down the field, tossing
her horns, to join her companion and the steers. And Hatch was left
sitting there with the pail between his legs, staring fixedly into the
dark woods. For the fraction of a second he half fancied that a shadow
flitted across them. Then he knew it was an illusion of his eyes,
straining suddenly in that illusive light.

Very angry--too angry to find expression in even the most
unparliamentary of speech--he rose to his feet, set the pail of milk
beside its fellow, grabbed the sturdy milking-stool by one leg, vaulted
the fence, and plunged into the woods. It was not a particularly handy
weapon, the stool, but John Hatch was not a particularly prudent man. If
there _was_ anything there in the woods, prying on his steps and
frightening his "critters," he wanted to come to grips with it at once.

But there was nothing there, as far as he could see. Once more the fine
hairs crept and tingled up and down the back of his neck. He stalked
indignantly back to the fence, vaulted it, flung down the milking-stool,
grabbed up the milk pails so roughly that the contents slopped over on
to his homespun breeches, and set off for home. Not once did he allow
himself to look back, though, to his impatient wrath, he felt sure all
the way down the lane that malevolent eyes were watching him through the
fence.

On the following day John Hatch spent most of the time in the woods
with his gun, hunting the coverts for miles about the clearing. He
hunted stealthily now, as noiseless and furtive as any of the wild
kindred themselves. He saw nothing more formidable than a couple of
indifferent skunks and a surly old porcupine which rattled its quills at
him. He wanted to shoot the skunks as "varmin," inimical to his
chickens; but he refrained, lest he should give the alarm to the unknown
enemy whom he was hunting. He searched assiduously for anything like a
hostile trail; but there had been no rain lately, and the ground was
hard, and the dead-brown spruce needles formed a carpet which took
little impression from wary paws, and he gained no clue whatever. He
turned homeward, somewhat relieved, toward milking time. But, before he
reached the edge of the woods, once more came that warning and uncanny
creep at the roots of his hair.

In a flash of fury he wheeled and fired into the thickets just behind
him. He could have sworn that a gray shadow flitted away behind the gray
trunks. But his most minute search could discover no trail save here
and there a light disturbance of the spruce needles. It was easy for him
to infer, however, with his instinct and his woodcraft, that these
disturbances were due to the great, softly padded paws of a lynx.

He bared his teeth in scorn, and on the following day he fairly sowed
that section of the forest with snares and traps. Within a week he had
taken a weasel, three woodchucks, half a dozen skunks, and thirteen
rabbits. Then, feeling that the game was carried on under a surveillance
which he could neither locate nor evade, he suddenly quitted it, and
fell back upon an attitude of contemptuous indifference. But he cleared
away all the undergrowth in the woods within fifty yards of the pasture
bars, because he would not have the cows scared at milking.

As long as Hatch kept out of the woods, or the very immediate
neighborhood of them, he was quite untroubled by the sense of the
haunting shadow and the unseen, watching eyes. For a time now he did
keep out of them, being fully occupied with his tasks in the little
farm. Then came a day when he found that he wanted poles. The best
poles, as he knew, grew on the shores of a little lake some miles away,
near the foot of Sugar Loaf. But he thought he would make shift to do
with the very inferior poles which grew along the edge of the wild
meadow at the other side of the farm. At first he persuaded himself that
his object in this was merely to save time. Then he realized that he was
shrinking from the journey through the woods. Flushing with shame, he
consigned his folly and all lynxes to the place of eternal torment,
hitched his old sorrel mare to the drag, and set out after those
superior poles which grew below Sugar Loaf. But he took his gun along
with him, which had not been hitherto by any means his invariable
custom.

On the way out there occurred nothing unusual. The green summer woods
seemed once more to John Hatch the old, friendly woods, with neither
menace nor mystery to his rather unimaginative spirit. He whistled gaily
over his chopping, while the old sorrel pastured comfortably in a patch
of wild meadow by the lake, troubled by nothing but the flies, whose
attention kept her long tail ceaselessly busy. Well along in the
afternoon he started homeward with a light heart, as many trimmed poles
on his drag as the sorrel could comfortably haul.

The journey was uneventful. After a time, indeed, Hatch felt himself
once more so completely at home in his familiar wilderness that the
tension of his nerves relaxed, and the exasperating experiences of the
past weeks were forgotten. He reached a turn of the wood road, where it
crested a rise about half a mile from his clearing, and saw his homely
cabin, with its farmyard and its fields basking in the low afternoon
sunshine, straight before him.

It was a comfortable picture, framed as in a narrow panel by the dark
uprights of the spruce on either side of the mossy road. Hatch framed
his lips to whistle in his satisfaction at the picture.

But the whistle wavered out in a thin breath, as he felt once more that
hated creeping of the skin, that crawling at the back of his neck. He
dropped the reins and snatched up his gun from where it lay on top of
the load of poles. At the same moment the sedate old sorrel shied
violently, almost knocking him over, and then started on a wild gallop
down the road, spilling the poles in every direction as she went.

With a crisp oath, Hatch burst through the undergrowth which fringed the
road. He fancied that he saw a gray shadow fading off among the gray
trunks, and he fired at once.

Hatch was a good shot, and he felt sure that he had scored a hit. In
keen exultation he ran forward, expecting to find his enemy stretched on
the spruce needles. But there was nothing there. He turned on his heel
in deep disgust, and caught sight of another shadowy shape flickering
off in another direction. Up went his gun again to the shoulder. But he
did not fire, for there was no longer anything to fire at. He lowered
his gun and rubbed his chin thoughtfully, feeling even his old
lumber-camp vocabulary inadequate.

Outwardly cold, but boiling within, Hatch stalked slowly homeward,
ignoring the scattered poles along the way. He felt no more of the
presence of the dogging shadows, presumably because they had withdrawn
themselves at the sound of the gunshot. Arrived at home, he found the
old sorrel, with the empty drag, waiting at the gate to be let in, and
Jeff, who always stayed at home to guard the house, wagging his tail
interrogatively beside her, puzzled to know why she had come home
without her master or her load.

John Hatch looked at the dog musingly.

"Jeff," said he, "if ye warn't so blankety blank _blank_ afeerd o'
lynxes, ye'd help me a sight in runnin' them varmin down. But ye ain't
got no nerve left. Reckon I'll have to take ye into the woods now an'
ag'in, kind of fur discipline, an' help ye to git it back. Ye ain't much
account now, Jeff."

And the dog, feeling the reproach in Hatch's quaint speech, dropped his
tail and pretended he had business behind the barn.

After this, when Hatch's affairs took him into the woods, Jeff went with
him. But he went unhappily, crowding at his master's heels, with head
and ears and tail one unanimous protest. To Hatch these expeditions
sometimes proved uneventful, for sometimes the hostile shadows seemed to
be off somewhere else, and too occupied to follow Hatch's trail. On such
occasions Hatch knew that the unseen surveillance was withdrawn,
because he had none of those warning "creeps" at the nape of his neck.
But to Jeff every covert or thicket within a radius of fifty yards was
an ambush for lynxes, and only at his master's heels did he feel secure
from their swift and eviscerating claws. When he saw John Hatch stop
abruptly, glare about him, and plunge into the underbush, then Jeff
would try to get between his legs, an effort not helpful to Hatch's
marksmanship or to his temper. And the shadows--for there seemed to John
Hatch to be two of them haunting him now--would fade off elusively into
the environing and soundless shade.

All through the summer and the autumn this mysterious trailing went on,
till Hatch, disgusted by the futility of his attempts to shake it off,
assumed indifference and pretended to himself that he rather liked being
haunted. He remarked to Jeff--with whom he could allow himself to speak
more frankly than to most--that an occasional creepy feeling about the
roots of one's hair might be good for the scalp, a preventive of
baldness even. But in the depths of his heart he grew more and more
uneasy. Such vigilant and untiring vindictiveness on the part of
creatures which are wont to shun all human neighborhood with an
incorrigible savagery of shyness was unnatural. It seemed to him to
suggest a very madness of hate, an obsession which might culminate in
some deed of desperation unheard of among lynxes.

When, however, the winter had once settled in with full rigor, Hatch
found that he was being shadowed with less and less insistence. He
inferred at once that this was because his foes were now forced to spend
most of their time in foraging for their own livelihood, and he drew a
wry face of self-disgust as he realized the depth of his relief. As the
winter advanced, and the cold bit fiercer, and the snow gathered as if
to bury the wilderness world away from sight forever, it came at last to
seem as if the unknown purpose of the avengers was forgotten. No more,
upon his tramps on snowshoes through the muffled woods, did John Hatch
feel those admonitory creepings of his flesh, and presently he forgot
all about the haunting shadows and their menace.

John Hatch's chief occupation, during the winter months, was the
chopping and hauling of cord wood for the settlements. On a certain day
he was enjoying himself greatly in the felling of a huge birch. The
crisp, still air was like wine in his veins. The axe was keen, and under
the bite of its rhythmic strokes the big white chips flew off keenly.
Sitting on the wood sled at a safe distance, Jeff watched the chopping
with alert interest, while the old sorrel dreamed with drooping head and
steamed in the dry frost. The tree, cut nearly through, was just
beginning to lean, just tottering to its fall, when once more John Hatch
was conscious of that hated crawling in the skin of his cheeks, the
lifting of the hairs on his neck. With a savage curse, he wheeled about,
swinging up his axe. With a soft, swishing, crackling roar, down came
the tree. It fell true, as he had chopped it, so he did not have to
spring out of its path or even to glance at it. But, as it fell, it
crashed heavily upon a dead branch in a neighboring tree. The dead
branch flew hurtling through the air and smote John Hatch violently on
the back of the head. He dropped like a log and lay quite still in the
chip-strewn snow.

There was a clatter of chains and harness, as the old sorrel, sniffing
the enemy, started at a gallop for home. Jeff, seeing that his master
was down, sprang to his side, whining, and fell to licking frantically
at his unconscious face. Getting no response, he suddenly remembered the
taint in the air, which was already making his back bristle. Bestriding
Hatch's body, he turned his head with a savage snarl. He could not see
the enemy, but he smelled them all too clearly. With ears laid flat to
the skull, lips curled up from his long white teeth, and half-open eyes
flaming green, he glared at the spruce thicket whence that menacing
scent came to his nostrils. With the responsibility for his master's
care thus suddenly thrust upon him, his fear of lynxes vanished.

The noise of the old sorrel's flight died away down the white wood road,
and for several minutes nothing stirred. The lynxes had long practiced
patience, and, for all their hate, they were prudent. They could not
make out at first why their enemy, who was always so vehemently active,
should now be lying so still there in the snow. But wild animals are
usually quick to realize it when an enemy or a quarry has been
disabled. They presently concluded that here at last was the opportunity
which they had been waiting for. For the dog they had nothing but scorn.
They had mauled and beaten him once before. They had grown accustomed to
his frank terror of them. Now he did not enter into their calculations.

One from each side of the spruce thicket, they crept stealthily forth,
crouching low, their ears laid back, their round, pale eyes glaring
boldly from their round, gray, cruel faces. Their big padded paws went
lightly over the snow. Very gradually they crept up, half expecting that
John Hatch might spring to his feet any moment and rush at them with a
roar. They had no great fear of his roars, however, having never known
much hurt to come of them.

And all the time Jeff was tugging madly at John Hatch's arm, adjuring
him to wake and meet the peril.

Apparently satisfied at length that there was no trap laid for them in
John Hatch's quiescence, the two lynxes ran forward swiftly and sprang
at his neck. To their surprise, they were met by Jeff's teeth. With that
lightning side-snap which he had inherited from his collie ancestors,
the dog managed to slash both his opponents severely in the space of
half a second. In a blaze of fury, they fell upon him, both at once. A
yellow tangle of claws and teeth and legs and fur surged and bounced
upon John Hatch's body.

John Hatch slowly came to. The pandemonium of snarls and screeches that
filled his ears bewildered him. He thought he was having a nightmare.
His legs were held down, it seemed, by battling mountains. With a mighty
effort he sat up. Then in a flash his wits came back to him. He saw Jeff
with one lynx down, slashing at its throat, while the other clung upon
his back and ripped him with its claws.

Bouncing to his feet, he clutched this latter combatant with both hands
by the scruff of the neck, whirled it around his head and dashed it,
yowling wildly, against a tree. Then he turned his attention to the
other, which, though at a terrific disadvantage, was still raking Jeff
murderously with its hinder claws.

Hatch grabbed up his axe. But he could find no chance to strike, lest
he should injure the dog. At last, in desperation at seeing how Jeff was
getting punished by those raking claws, he dropped the axe again and
seized the beast by the hind legs. Dragging it out from under the
astonished Jeff, he swung it several times about his head, and then
launched it sprawling and screeching, high through the air. As it landed
he was upon it again, this time with the axe, and a straight short-arm
blow ended the matter. The other lynx, which was recovering from its
contact with the tree, saw that its mate was slain, and sped off among
the trees, just escaping the axe which Hatch hurled after it.

Jeff was lying down in the snow, licking his outrageous wounds, and
content to leave the finishing of the affair in his master's hands.

"I was mistaken in yeh, Jeff," said John Hatch, "an' I apologize
handsome. Ye're sure some dawg. I reckon there'll be no more shadders
come sneakin' along _our_ trail after this, an' thanks to you!"



The Fisher in the Chutes


He was plainly a duck. The most casual and uninitiated of observers
would have said so at a glance. Yet not the most stupidly casual could
have taken him for any ordinary duck. He was too imposing in appearance,
too gorgeous in apparel, too bold and vigilant in demeanor to be so
misunderstood. Moreover, he was not in the situation or the surroundings
which one is wont to associate with ducks.

In fact, after the fashion of a cormorant or a kingfisher, he was
perched motionless on a big dead stub of a branch. This branch was
thrust out very obligingly in just the place where this most singular of
ducks would have desired it if it had been consulted in the matter. It
directly overhung a transparent amber-brown chute of unbroken water in
the midst of the loud turmoil of North Fork Rapids. The strange-mannered
duck had no proper talons wherewith to grasp his perch, but his
strong-clawed webs held him steadily, none the less, as he peered
downward into the clear rush of the torrent.

The duck was a handsome male of the red-breasted merganser family, and
the absorbing interest of his life was fish. It was not in the quiet
pools and long, deep reaches of dark water that he loved to seek his
prey, but rather to snatch it from the grasp of the loud chutes and the
roaring rips. Here, where the North Fork stream fell into the
Ottanoonsis, was a resort exactly to his liking. And most of the
fish--trout, salmon, grilse or parr--which journeyed up and down either
the Fork or the parent river chose to pass through that sluice of swift
but unbroken flow immediately beneath the overhanging branch on which he
perched.

For all the splendor of his plumage, the merganser was not conspicuous
where he sat. All about him was a tumult of bright and broken color,
scattered in broad splashes. The rapids were foam-white, or
golden-ruddy, or deep, shining green-brown under the sharp and patchy
sunlight, and they were sown thickly with wet black rocks, here and
there glinting with purple. The merganser had a crested head of
iridescent green-black, a broad collar of lustrous white, black back,
black-and-white wings, white belly, sides finely pencilled in black and
white, and a breast of rich chestnut red, streaked with black. His feet
were red, his long narrow beak, with its saw-toothed edges and sharp
hooked tip, was bright red. In every line and hue he was unmistakably an
aristocrat among ducks, and an arrogant one at that.

His fierce red eyes, staring down fixedly into the flowing amber of the
current, marked piercingly every fish that passed up and down. Most of
them were much too big, not for his appetite, but for his powers. His
beak, with its keen-toothed edges, was a formidable weapon, by means of
which he could doubtless have captured, disabled, and dragged to shore
even a fish of a pound or so in weight. But here he was at a terrible
disadvantage as compared with the owls, hawks, and eagles. He had no
rending claws. Had he taken such a prize, he could not have profited by
it, having no means of tearing it to pieces. He had no use for fish too
big to be swallowed whole; so he was obliged to watch greedily and
savagely the great salmon, the grilse, and the larger trout, as they
darted through the sliding glow beneath his perch.

But suddenly, straight and swift as a diving cormorant, he shot down
into the torrent and disappeared beneath the surface. A watcher directly
overhead, escaping the baffling reflections, might have seen him
swimming, head outstretched, mastering the tremendous rush of the stream
with mighty strokes, fairly out-speeding the fish in their own element.
Near the limit of the clear water he overtook and seized the quarry
which he had marked--a trout not far from seven inches in length. The
saw-toothed edges of his beak gripped it securely, and he rose with it
to the surface just where the chute was breaking into a smother of
trampled foam.

With a furious flapping of wings, he lifted himself almost clear of the
flood, and beat along the tossed surface, dragging tail and feet for
perhaps a dozen yards before he could get into full flight. Once fairly
a-wing, however, he wheeled and made back hurriedly for his perch. Here
he proceeded to swallow his prize head first. It was a long, difficult,
choking process, for the fish was one of the stoutest he had ever
attempted. But a little choking was of small consequence in view of his
heroic appetite, and, after many an undignified paroxysm, he
accomplished the task. It might have seemed that a trout of this size
was a fairly substantial meal. But such was his keenness that, even
while the wide flukes of his engorged victim were still sticking out at
the corners of his beak, his fierce red eyes were once more peering
downward into the torrent in search of fresh prey.

Just about this time, in the clear blue overhead, a green-winged teal
was beating his way above the treetops, making for the stream with the
fear of death at his heart. A mighty flier, his short, muscular wings
drove him through the air at a speed not much less than ninety or a
hundred miles an hour. But behind him, overtaking him inexorably, came
the shape that stood for doom itself in the eyes of all his tribe--the
dreadful blue falcon, or duck-hawk. The teal knew that his only chance
of escape from this long-winged pursuer was to reach the water, plunge
beneath it, and swim for some hiding-place under the fringing weeds.

The teal's wings, throbbing with a swift, short vibration, whistled
shrilly in the still air, so that a prowling wildcat by the waterside
heard the sound even above the dull roar of the rapids, and glared
upward alertly. The long wings of the hawk, bent sharply at the elbows,
worked more slowly, but with a nervous, terrific thrust which urged him
through the air like a projectile. For all its appalling speed, the
sound of his flight was nothing more than a strong pulsating hiss.

Close ahead of him now the teal saw refuge--the flashing line of the
rapids. But the hawk was already close upon him. In despair he hurled
himself downward too soon. The pursuer also shot downward and struck.
But the lofty top of a water ash, just missed by the short wings of the
fugitive, forced the long pinion of the hawk to swerve a little, so that
he partly missed his stroke. Instead of clutching the victim's neck and
holding it securely, he dealt merely a glancing blow upon the back
behind the wings. It was enough, however, and the unhappy teal was
hurled earthward, flapping through the tips of the branches. The great
hawk followed hurriedly, to retrieve his prey from the ground.

As it chanced, however, the victim came down with a thud almost beneath
the whiskered nose of the wildcat. A pounce, and the great cat had her
paw upon it, and crouched snarling up at the hawk. In a fury the hawk
swooped and struck downward. But wisdom came to him just in time, and he
did not strike home. His swoop became a demonstration merely, an
expression of his rage at having his prey thus snatched from his beak.
With one short, shrill cry of anger, he swerved off and sailed upward
over the river. The cat growled softly, picked up the prize in her jaws
and trotted into the bushes to devour it.

The spot where all this happened was perhaps a hundred yards below that
dead tree upon whose outthrust naked branch the splendid merganser drake
was making his meal. In fact, he had just finished it--the last of the
trout's tail had just vanished with a spasm down his strained
gullet--when the baffled hawk caught sight of him and swooped. Happily
for him, he on his part caught sight of the hawk, and dropped like lead
into the torrent. The hawk alighted on the dead branch, and sat upright,
motionless, as if surprised. The change was so sudden that it almost
seemed as if the duck had been metamorphosed into a hawk on the instant,
by the stroke of an invisible enchanter's wand.

The fisher of the chutes, meanwhile, was swimming straight downstream
for the broken water. Like his unfortunate little cousin, the teal, he,
too, had felt the fear of death smitten into his heart, and was heading
desperately for the refuge of some dark overhanging bank, deep-fringed
with weeds, where the dreadful eye of the hawk should not discern him.

The hawk sat upon the branch and watched his quarry swimming beneath the
surface. At last the swimmer came to the broken water and plunged into
it. Almost instantly he was forced to the top. With only head and wings
above the mad smother, he flapped onward frantically, beating down the
foam about him. Straightway the hawk glided from his perch and darted
after him.

The drake sank again instantly. But at this point in the rapids it was
impossible for him to stay down. As long as his body was completely
submerged, it was at the mercy of the twisting and tortured currents,
which rolled him over and over, in spite of his swimming craft. He would
have been drowned, the breath battered clean out of him, in half a
minute more, had he maintained the hopelessly unequal struggle. Once
more he half emerged, filled his gasping lungs, and pounded onward
desperately, half flying and half swimming. It was a mongrel method of
progression, in which he was singularly expert.

Immediately over his outstretched gleaming head flew the hawk. But this
frequenter of the heights of air, for all his savage valor, was troubled
at the leaping waves and the tossing foam of these mad rapids. He did
not understand them. They seemed to jump up at him, and he dare not let
his sweeping wing-tips touch them, lest they should seize and drag him
down. As he flew, his down-reaching, clutching talons were not half a
yard above the fugitive's head. Where the waves for an instant sank,
they came closer,--but not quite within grasping reach. The marauder
from the upper air was waiting till his quarry should reach less
turbulent waters.

A few yards further on, the torrent fell seething over a long ledge into
a pool of brief quiet. Immediately beyond the lip of the ledge the hawk
lifted his wings high over his back and struck downward, so that his
talons went deep into the water. But water was all they clutched. The
wily drake had plunged with the plunge of the fall itself, and was now
darting onward at a safe depth. The hawk followed, his wing-tips now
almost brushing the water. The pool was, perhaps, a hundred yards in
length. Then the combined flow of the North Fork and the Ottanoonsis
broke once more into turbulence, and once more the desperate swimmer was
forced to the surface. But, as before, the leaping waves of the rapids
were too much for his pursuer, and he was able to flap his way onward in
a cloud of foam, while doom hung low above his head, yet hesitated to
strike.

The odds, however, were now laid heavily against the fugitive. The hawk,
embittered by the loss of his first quarry, had become as dogged in
pursuit as a weasel, not to be shaken off or evaded or deceived. The
rapids would presently come to an end. Then, in the still water, unless
he should chance upon a hiding-place, the drake would soon be forced to
come to the top for breath, and those throttling talons would instantly
close upon his neck. But the antic forest Fates, wearied of the simple
routine of the wilderness, had decreed an altogether novel intervention,
and were giggling in their cloaks of ancient moss.

Beside the pool at the foot of the rapids stood a fisherman, casting for
trout amid the whirling foam-clusters. He had three flies on his cast,
and, because in these waters there was always the chance of hooking a
grilse, he was using heavy tackle. His flies, as befitted these
amber-brown, tumultuous northern streams, were large and conspicuous--a
Parmacheenie Belle for the tail fly, with a Montreal and a Red Hackle
for the drops.

Far across the pool, where an eddy sucked sullenly at the froth-patches
as they swung by, the fisherman had just had a heavy rise. He had struck
too quickly, deceived by the swirl of the current, and missed his fish.
He had a lot of line out, and the place was none too free for a long
cast; but he was impatient to drop his flies again on the spot where the
big fish was feeding.

Just as he made his cast, he saw the fleeing drake and the pursuing hawk
come round the bend. He saw the frantic fugitive dive over the ledge and
disappear. He saw the great hawk swoop savagely. He tried to check his
cast, but it was too late. A remark unsuitable to the printed page
exploded upon his lips, and he saw his leader settle deliberately over
the long beating wings, the tail-fly coiling about them like a
whip-lash.

The last drop-fly, as luck would have it, caught just in the corner of
the hawk's angrily open beak, hooking itself firmly. At the sudden sharp
sting of it, the great bird turned his head and noticed, for the first
time, the fisherman standing on the bank. At the same moment he felt the
light restraint of the almost invisible leader upon his wings, where the
other two flies had affixed themselves. He shot up into the air, and
heard a sharp, disconcerting rattle as the taut line raced from the
reel. The drag upon his beak and the light check upon his wings were
inexplicable to him, and appalling. Drake, teal, hunger and wrath were
all alike forgotten, and he beat upwards with a rush that made the reel
fairly screech its indignant protest. For a moment the fisherman,
bewildered, tried to play him like a salmon. Then the leader parted from
the line. The fisherman reeled in the limp coils, and the worried hawk
flew off with the flies.

The drake, unrealizing that the dreadful chase was done, sped onward
beneath the surface till he could go without breath no longer. Then he
came up among some arrowweeds, lifted his head beneath the shelter of
one of the broad-barbed leaves, and floated there quivering. For a good
ten minutes he waited, moveless, with the patience of the wild things.
Then his terror faded, appetite once more began to invite his attention,
and he took note of a minnow flickering slowly over the sun-flecked mud
below him. He dived and caught it, came to the surface and swallowed it.
Much refreshed, he looked about him. There was no such thing as a hawk
in sight. Some way up the shore there was a man at the water's edge,
fishing. The drake was suspicious of men, though he did not greatly fear
them, as he and his rank-fleshed tribe were not interesting to the
hunters. He rose noisily into the air, made a detour over the tree-tops
to avoid the fisherman, and flew back to his dead branch overhanging the
amber rush of the chutes.



The Assault of Wings


In his high place in the unclouded blue, a thousand feet above the
topmost pinnacle of Bald Face, the great white-headed eagle stared
downward toward the far-off reek and roofs of the busy town by the sea.
It was not often that his eyes troubled themselves to turn in that
direction, for all his concern was with the inland lakes and
watercourses which linked themselves tranquilly about the spreading
bases of Old Bald Face, and he hated the acrid smokeclouds which rose
from the chimneys of the town. But this morning his gaze--that
miraculous vision which could scrutinize a rabbit or an ailing lamb at a
distance when our best eyes would hardly discern an elephant--had been
caught by an apparition which amazed and disconcerted him.

Flying in wide circles above a green field on the outskirts of the city
was a gigantic bird, in form and stature quite unlike any other bird
that the great eagle had ever seen. As it passed over a red brick
cottage at one corner of the field, quite blotting it from view for an
instant, he got an impression of its incredible size, and felt, with a
pang of angry dread, that his own stately dimensions would have seemed
little better than a sparrow's beside it. Its vast white wings were
square at the tip, and of the same width from tip to base--an
inexplicable innovation in wings--and he noted with apprehension that
they flew without any motion at all.

He himself, soaring in the blue heights as he was, flew _almost_ without
motion of the wings, riding by subtle poise and balance on the thrust of
the light aerial draught. But even now, the breeze failing, he had to
recover his impetus by a rushing descent. He tipped his snowy head and
shoulders forward, and the air hissed sharply in the tense web of the
hinder edges of his wings as he swept down the viewless slopes of air,
turning upwards again after a swoop of a hundred yards or so, which was
as nothing at that height. A slow stroke or two restored him to his
former level, with impetus to spare for his splendid effortless
soaring. But, meanwhile, he had not taken his eyes for a moment from
that portentous shape circling so mysteriously above the green field on
the outskirts of the town, and he had not seen it either swoop or mount
or once flap its flat-spread wings.

Moved from his accustomed arrogant indifference, the eagle flew over
toward the town to get a better look at this disquieting phenomenon. On
nearer approach he made out that the monstrous square-winged bird was
ridden by one of those man-creatures whom he so hated and
despised--ridden as he had seen, with wonder and scorn, that horses
permitted themselves to be. The man sat in a hollow in the strange
bird's back, between its wings, and seemed to master and guide it even
as he would master and guide a horse.

The eagle hated man, because man was the only creature that had ever
given him, hitherto, the loathed sensation of fear. He despised man
because he saw the proud and cunning creature chained to earth,
compelled to crawl upon earth's surface even as a sheep or a woodchuck.
But now, if man were able to ride the dwellers of the air, there would
be no escaping his tyranny.

The eagle had been conscious for some moments of a curious humming roar
in his ears, the source of which was not at once obvious to him.
Suddenly he realized that it was the noise of the blunt-winged monster's
flight. The realization daunted him. How was it possible that such an
awful sound should come from those unmoving wings? He was inclined to
turn and fly back to the shelter of Old Bald Face, but, after a moment's
irresolution, his stout heart arose to the magnitude of the peril. He
flew onward, till soon he was directly over the field, but so high that
to the spectators around the edges of the field he was a scarcely
visible speck against the blue.

At this moment the aeroplane began to mount skyward. It scaled the air
swiftly in a steep spiral. The eagle was almost panic-stricken to
observe that even now, when mounting so directly, it did not flap its
wings, although there was no wind on which to rise. At the curious blunt
beak of the monster he discerned a sort of circle of faint haze, a
bluish blur, but this was something which did not seem to concern him,
and he made no effort to understand it. What did concern him was the
fact that the monster, with its human rider, was apparently coming up
after him. His courage and his curiosity gave way together, and he fled
back in a panic to his ledge in the recesses of Old Bald Face.

The extreme summit of Bald Face was a level plateau of granite some
dozen of acres in extent, with a needle-like pinnacle of splintered
granite at its eastern or seaward end. The broad southeastern face of
the summit was of naked granite, whitened by the storm and frost of
ages, whence the name of Old Bald Face. But between this bleak,
wind-harried front and the rich plain country by the sea were many
lesser pinnacles and ridges, with deep ravines between, all clothed with
dark spruce woods and tangled undergrowth. Around to full south and west
and north lay an infertile region, thin-soiled and rocky, producing
little timber but hemlock and stunted paper birch, and therefore not
worth the attention of either the lumberman or the squatter. The whole
of this district was interlaced with watercourses and sown with lakes
having their ultimate outlet in the tidal estuary which washed the
wharves of the town.

If the land in this region skirting Old Bald Face was barren, its waters
were not. They swarmed with fish--lake-trout, white fish, and huge
suckers, as well as the ordinary brook-trout. They supplied
hunting-ground, therefore, for not only a number of fish-hawks, but also
for no less than three pairs of the fish-hawks' dreaded tyrants, the
white-headed eagles. These three pairs of eagles had their nests in the
uppermost and most inaccessible ledges of Bald Face; and the wild
country below was divided among them into six ranges, each great bird
having his or her own hunting ground, upon which not even their own
mates could poach with impunity.

The nests of the three royal pairs were all within a distance of perhaps
half a mile of each other, but each was austerely secluded and jealously
hidden from its neighbors. Each pair regarded its neighbors with a
coldly tolerant aversion, and kept an aloof but vigilant watch upon them
as possible poachers.

When the first eagle, smitten with fear by the vision of the swiftly
mounting aeroplane, fled back to his eyrie to warn his fierce-eyed mate
of this portentous monster of the air, his perturbation was detected by
the female of the next pair, who chanced to be homing at that moment
with a fish for her hungry nestlings. Fear seems to travel by some
uncomprehended but very efficient wireless, and fear in the lords of the
air was a thing too unusual to be ignored. Hastily depositing her
burden, the newcomer flapped upward and around to the east, till she,
too, caught sight of the mounting monoplane. It was far off, indeed, but
already so high above earth that to her eyes it stood out dark and
sinister against the pale expanse of sea beyond the town. She flapped
over for a nearer view, flew close enough to hear the mysterious roar of
the motor and to detect the man-creature riding the monster's neck, and
fled back to her nestlings with rage and terror at her heart. No longer
could she feel secure on the dizziest and remotest ledges of the peaks,
no longer were even the soundless deeps of sky inaccessible to man!
Within an hour every eagle of Bald Face knew of this dreadful invasion
of their hitherto impregnable domain. It was the time of year when
their nestlings were most helpless, and that is the time of year when
the white-headed eagles will face all odds with an incomparable ferocity
of valor at the hint of menace to their skyey homes.

       *       *       *       *       *

The airman at the town of X---- was one Rob MacCreedy, who had recently
been making a name for himself at the aviation grounds some hundred
miles down the coast. He had come up to X---- primarily to turn a needed
penny by exhibition flights and passenger-carrying over the spacious and
level fields behind the town. But his secondary object was to experiment
with the dangerous eddies and wind-holes that were likely to be met with
above the profound ravines of Bald Face and its buttressing hills. His
purpose was to go to Europe and win fame by some sensational flights
over the Alps or the Pyrenees; and having a very practical Canadian
ambition to survive for the enjoyment of the fame he planned to win, he
was determined to prepare himself effectively for the perils that would
confront him.

But MacCreedy had another object in view, which he did not talk about
lest matter-of-fact folk should call him childish. He wanted to see what
there was on top of Old Bald Face. That gaunt gray summit was regarded
as practically unscalable. It had indeed been scaled, men said, some
thirty or forty years ago, after desperate effort and altogether
hair-raising adventure, by a greatly daring trapper, who had barely
survived to tell of his exploit. Since then, the men of X---- not being
wholehearted or skilled mountain-climbers, all such attempts had ended
in failure. Among the legends which had gathered about the austere
summit, there was none to suggest that gold might be found thereon, else
the cloudy sanctuary had doubtless been violated without unnecessary
delay. But the traditions handed down from the adventure of that old
trapper were as stimulating to MacCreedy's imagination as any myth of
quartz vein or nugget could have been. They told of a remarkable level
plateau, like a table for the gods, with a little lake of black crystal
set in the center of it, ice cold and of unfathomable depth. It was, in
effect, according to tradition, bottomless.

To MacCreedy's eager and boyish imagination this lofty plateau and this
mysterious uninvestigated lake were irresistible. He was determined to
know more about them both; and as the top of Bald Face, for all its
inaccessibility, was less than five thousand feet above sea-level, his
monoplane seemed to offer him an easy way to it.

The third day after MacCreedy's arrival at X---- was windless and
without a cloud in the blue. The air almost sparkled with its clarity,
and there was an unspringlike tang in it which made MacCreedy's nerves
tingle for adventure. After he had given the crowd their money's worth
in swift mountings and breath-taking _vols-planés_, he started off, at a
height of some two thousand feet, toward the mountain, standing pallid
and grim against the intense blue. He mounted swiftly as he went, and
the spectators stared after him doubtfully, till they grasped his
purpose.

"He's going to visit the top of Old Bald Face!" went the murmur round
the crowded edges of the field. And a feeling that he might bring back
some interesting information made them content to wait, without
grumbling, for his return.

Since their first sight of the giant-winged monster soaring and humming
over X----, the eagles of Bald Face had not dared to venture far from
home in their foragings. Their nerves were raw with angry anxiety for
their nests. MacCreedy, as he came within a mile or two of the mountain,
took note of an eagle not far ahead, circling at a higher level than
himself.

"The old bird thinks he can fly some," mused MacCreedy, "but I bet I'm
going to give him the surprise of his life!"

A few moments more, and he was himself surprised, as the solitary
sentinel was joined by another, and another, and another, till presently
there were six of the great birds flapping and whirling between him and
Bald Face, about at the level of the edge of the plateau.

"Seem to be as interested in aeroplanes as any of us humans," thought
MacCreedy, and gave his planes a lift that should carry him over the
plateau at a height of not much over a hundred feet. He would make a
hasty observation first, then circle around and effect a landing, if
the surface looked smooth enough for him to attempt it without too much
risk. He was surprised somewhat by the attitude of the eagles, who were
now circling nearer, and seemed to be more angry than curious or
terrified at his approach. Then his attention was abruptly withdrawn
from their threatening evolutions. It was all required, and that
urgently, by the aeroplane.

Having arrived over the deeply cleft and ridged outworks of Bald Face,
the aeroplane had plunged into a viewless turmoil of air-currents and
vortices. It dropped with startling suddenness into a "pocket," and fell
as if a vacuum had opened beneath it. MacCreedy saw a vicious granite
ridge, whiskered with fir trees, lurch up at him insanely from a
thousand feet below. He was almost upon it before his planes bit upon
solid air again and glided off from the peril, slanting upward rockingly
over a gaping abyss. Yelping with triumph, the eagles had swooped down
after him; but he could not hear their cries, of course, through the
roar of the Gnome; and of eagles, at that moment, he was thinking not at
all.

Realizing the imminence of his danger from these vortices, MacCreedy
changed his course and swept back again as fast as he could toward the
open, his machine careering wickedly in the eddies and upthrusts of air.
He decided that he must get far above this area of disturbance, and then
spiral down directly over the plateau, where, as he calculated, the
currents would be less tumultuous.

The eagles, imagining that the loud monster had been put to flight by
their threats, came following in its wake, determined to see it safely
off their premises and give it no time to recover from what they
conceived to be its panic. But they were far too sagacious to attack and
force a more than doubtful conflict. They were filled with awe of this
gigantic being which flew with rigid wings and such appalling roar, yet
allowed itself to be ridden by the man between its shoulders. They were
perplexed, too, by the fierce wind which streamed out behind its level
wings. Their amazement was heightened by the fact that their own long
and powerful wings, which were able to overtake so easily the flight of
the agile fish-hawk, were forced to beat furiously in order to keep up
with this incomprehensible stranger, who was apparently making no effort
at all.

A swift motor-car, which had followed MacCreedy's flight at top speed
across the plain, had halted at the point where the highway passed
nearest to the broken and impassable region surrounding the mountain.
Its occupants, watching MacCreedy's movements through their
field-glasses, and noting the great birds crowding behind him, thought
at first that the eagles had put him to flight and forced him to give up
his venture. They were undeceived, however. Then they saw him turn--at
such a height that, even to their powerful glasses, the pursuing eagles
were no more than specks--and soar back till he was directly over the
summit.

At the height which he had now gained the air was icy cold, but still as
a dream. The world below looked like a vast, shallow bowl, the sides
concaving upwards around him to the horizon. Two-thirds of this horizon
rim were of dark green woods, threaded with the gleaming silver of
water-courses. The remaining third was of sea, which looked as if it
overhung the town of X----, and were withheld only by a miracle from
flowing in and filling the bowl. Directly beneath him, two to three
thousand feet down, the mighty summit of Old Bald Face looked
insignificant. It lay outspread quite flat and shelterless in the sun,
its secrets clean revealed, and there, sure enough, at its center, was
the pool of tradition, gleaming upward, glassy still. At the same time
he saw, though without much interest, the eagles. They were very far
below him now, hardly above the level of the plateau, flying in
occasionally over its edges, but for the most part circling out above
the surrounding gulfs. In a casual way MacCreedy inferred that they must
have nests in the ledges of the precipices.

In a somewhat narrow spiral he now began his descent, gradually and
under power, that he might be in full readiness to grapple with the
treacherous gusts which came leaping up at him from under the brink of
the plateau. He was surprised to see that, as he descended, the eagles
rose hurriedly to meet him; but at first he paid no attention to them,
being intent upon the search for a good landing-place, and upon the
mystery of that sky-inhabiting pool. A minute or two more, however, and
it was no longer possible for him to ignore the approaching birds, who
were rising at him with unmistakable manifestations of rage. For the
first time it occurred to him that they might be thinking he had come to
rob their nests. "Plucky beggars!" he said to himself admiringly, "to
think of showing fight to a grown-up aeroplane!"

The next moment, as he noted the spread of those flapping wings, the
shining, snowy, outstretched heads and necks, the firm and formidable
half-opened beaks, a sweat of apprehension broke out all over him. What
if one of the misguided birds should foul his propeller or come
blundering aboard and snap a stay or a control wire? The idea of being
dashed to pieces in that skyey solitude was somehow more daunting to his
spirit than the prospect which he faced indifferently every day--that of
being hurled down upon familiar earth.

For a few seconds MacCreedy was tempted to drive his planes heavenward
again and withdraw from the situation, to return another day with a
passenger and a shot-gun for his defense. Then he grew angry and
obstinate. He had come to explore the summit of Bald Face, and he was
not going to be balked by a flock of birds. He was low enough now to
satisfy himself that the plateau afforded a good landing, so he dipped
his descent to a steeper angle, making haste to get through the
suspense.

Immediately the eagles were all about him. To his relief, they seemed
afraid to fly directly in front of him, as if apprehending that this
monstrous bird of his might carry some terrible weapon in its
blunt-faced beak. Mounting swiftly, they passed the descending aeroplane
on either side, and then gathered in above it, swooping and yelping.
Through the roar of his motor MacCreedy caught the strident shrillness
of their cries. He felt that at any moment one might pluck up courage to
pounce upon the plane or upon his head. He wondered if his leather cap
would be stout enough to resist the clutch of those edged talons which
he saw opening and shutting viciously above him. He wished himself
safely landed.

He was low enough now to choose his landing-place. He was just about to
shut off the engine for the final glide, when one of the female eagles,
growing desperate, swooped and struck the right wing of the plane not
far from its tip. The extended talons went right through the cloth,
tearing a long gash, and, before the bird could recover herself, she was
caught by one of the strong wires that braced the wing. The aeroplane
rocked under her struggles, but in the next moment she was thrown clear,
so badly crumpled that she fell topsy-turvy through the air for some
little distance before she could pull her wits together and right
herself. Then, dishevelled and cowed, she flew off to one side, with no
more stomach left for another assault.

MacCreedy had brought his plane to a level keel, the better to withstand
the attack. Now he laughed grimly and resumed his descent. Almost in the
same instant he realized that an immense eagle was swooping straight at
his head. He ducked--the only way to save his face. The grasping claws
sunk deep into his shoulders. With a yell he straightened himself
backward violently. His assailant, unable for a moment to free his
claws from the tough tweed of the jacket, and swept backward by the rush
of the plane, plunged down among the supporting stays, where he
struggled and flapped wildly to extricate himself.

Smarting with pain and wrath, and with his heart in his mouth lest the
stays should snap and the planes collapse, MacCreedy cut off the power
and slid sharply downward. The eagle behind him got free, and flapped
off, much daunted by the encounter. The remaining four birds hung
immediately over the swiftly dropping plane, but hesitated to attack
after the rough experience of their fellows.

MacCreedy touched ground at somewhat higher speed than he had calculated
upon, and found the level stone, swept by the storm of ages, so smooth
that his wheels ran along it much too easily. Thus he found himself
confronted by a new peril. Could he check himself before reaching the
brink? He steered a long curve around the edge of the shining pool,
gathered his legs under him so that he might jump clear, if necessary,
and came to a stop with his vacillating propeller almost peering over
the abyss. Just before him was a drop of a cool thousand feet. He
sprang out, hauled the machine back a dozen yards or so, and drew the
longest breath of relief that had been forced from his lungs since his
first ventures in aeroplaning.

Then he snatched the heaviest wrench from his tool kit and turned in a
rage to settle accounts with his tormentors. But the eagles were now in
a less militant frame of mind. Two of their number had had more than
enough, and were already flapping back dejectedly toward their nests.
The others seemed to realize that the monster, now that its rider had
dismounted, was merely another of the man-creature's tools, such as a
boat or a canoe, inanimate and harmless except when its dreaded master
chose to animate it. Moreover, now that MacCreedy was out of the
machine, erect upon his feet, glaring up at them with masterful eyes,
and shouting at them in those human tones which all the wild kindreds
find so disconcerting, they were much more afraid of him than before.
Their anger began to die away into a mere nervous dread and aversion. It
seemed to occur to them that perhaps, after all, the man did not want
their nests. He was nowhere near them. They yelped indignantly at him,
and flew off to perch on their eyries and brood over the problem.

MacCreedy watched them go, and dropped his weapon back into the kit.
Then he went over his precious machine minutely, to assure himself that
it had sustained no damage except that slit in one wing, which was not
enough to give serious trouble. Then, with a rush of exultation, he ran
over to examine the mysterious pool. He found it beautiful enough, in
its crystal-clear austerity; but, alas, its utter clearness was all that
was needed to shatter its chief mystery. It was deep, indeed, but it was
certainly not bottomless, for he could discern its bottom, from one
shore or the other, in every part. He contented himself, however, with
the thought that there was mystery enough for the most exacting in the
mere existence of this deep and brimming tarn on the crest of a granite
peak. As far as he could judge from his reading, which was extensive,
this smooth flat granite top of Bald Face, with its little pinnacle at
one end and its deep transparent tarn in the center, was unlike any
other known summit in the world. He was contented with his explorations,
and ready now to return and tell about them.

But if content with his explorations, he was far from content on the
score of his adventure with the eagles. He felt that it had been rather
more of a close call than it appeared; and there was nothing he desired
less than an immediate repetition of it. What he dreaded was that the
starting of the motor might revive the fears of the great birds in
regard to their nests, and bring them once more swooping upon him. He
traversed the circuit of the plateau, peering downward anxiously, and at
last managed roughly to locate the three nests. They were all on the
south and southeast faces of the summit. He decided that he would get
off as directly and swiftly as possible, and by way of the northwest
front; and by this self-effacing attitude he trusted to convince the
touchy birds that he had no wish to trespass upon their domesticity.

He allowed himself all too brief a run, and the plane got into the air
but a few feet before reaching the brink. So narrow a margin was it,
indeed, that he caught his breath with a gasp before she lifted. It
looked as if he were going to dive into space. But he rose instead, and
as he sailed out triumphantly across the abyss, the eagles came flapping
up over the rim of the plateau behind. They saw that he was departing,
so they sank again to their eyries, and congratulated themselves on
having driven him away. A few minutes later, at an unprovocative height,
he swept around and headed for home. As he came into view once more to
the anxious watchers in the automobile, who had been worried over his
long disappearance, the car turned and raced back over the plain to
X----, ambitious to arrive before him and herald his triumph. But the
fact that that triumph was not altogether an unqualified one remained a
secret between MacCreedy and the eagles.



The Cabin Door


What was known as the County Line Road, though in winter a highway of
some importance for the sleds and sleighs of the lumbermen, was in
summer little more than a broad, straight trail, with grass and wild
flowers growing undisturbed between the ruts. Just now, in the late and
sodden northern spring, it was a disheartening stretch of hummocks and
bog-holes, the bog-holes emphasized by a leg-breaking array of half
rotten poles laid crossways. It was beautiful, however, in its lonesome,
pallid, wistful fashion, for its hummocks, where dry enough, were
already bluing tenderly with the first violets, its fringes were
sparsely adorned with the shy blooms of wind-flower, dog-tooth, and
hepatica, and scattered through the dark ranks of the fir trees on
either side were little colonies of white birch or silver poplar, just
filming with the first ineffable green.

To the slim girl who, bundle in hand and with skirts tucked up half-way
to the knee, was picking her steps along this exasperating path, the
wildness of the scene--its mingled harshness and delicacy--brought a
pang which she could but dimly understand. The pale purpling of the
violets, the aerial greening of the birch tops against the misty sky,
the solemnity of the dark, massed fir trees--it was all beautiful in her
eyes beyond anything words could suggest, but it made her heart ache
with something like an intolerable homesickness. This was
incomprehensible to her, since she was already, in a sense, at home.
This was her native wilderness, this was the kind of chill, ethereal,
lonesome spring which thrilled through the memories of her childhood.
And she was nearing--she could not now be more than twelve miles
from--the actual home of her childhood, that gray cabin on the outskirts
of the remote and wind-swept settlement of Stony Brook.

For the past three years--going on for four now, indeed--Sissy Bembridge
had been away from this wild home, working hard, and saving her wages,
in the big shoe factory at K----, down by the sea. Called home suddenly
by word that her mother was ill, she had come by train to the end of the
branch, and tried to get a rig to take her around by the main road to
Stony Brook. There was no rig to be had for love or money. Too anxious
to wait, and confident in her young vigor, she had left her luggage,
tied up a few necessaries and eatables in a handy bundle, and set out by
the short cut of the old Line Road. Deaf to all dissuasions, she had
counted on making Stony Brook before nightfall. Moreover--though she
would never have acknowledged to herself that such a consideration could
count for anything when all her thoughts were on her mother's
illness--she was aware of the fact that Connor's gang was stream-driving
on the Ottanoonsis, and would be by now just about the point where the
Line Road touches the river. Mike Farrell would be on the drive, and if
she should chance to pass the time o' day with him, and let him know she
was at home--why, there'd be no harm done to anybody.

For hours the girl trudged on, picking her way laboriously from side to
side of the trail, and often compelled to stop and mend a bit of the
corduroy roadway before she could get across some particularly bad
stretch of bog. Her stout shoes and heavy woolen stockings were drenched
with the icy water, but she was strong and full of abounding health, and
she felt neither cold nor fatigue. In spite of her anxiety about her
mother, her attention was absorbed by the old familiar atmosphere of the
wilderness, the haunting colors, the chill, elusive, poignant smells. It
was not till fairly well along in the afternoon, therefore, that she
awoke to the fact that she had not covered more than half the distance
which she had to travel. The heavy going, the abominable state of the
road, had utterly upset her calculations. The knowledge came to her with
such a shock that she stopped short in consternation, almost dropping
her bundle. At this rate she would be in the forest all night, for it
would be impossible to traverse the bog-holes in the dark. Child of the
backwoods though she was, she had never slept out alone with the great
trees and the mysterious night stillness. For the first time she cast a
look of dread into the vistaed shadows of the fir trees. Forgetting the
violets, the greening birches, the delicate spring smells, she hurried
on at a reckless pace which soon forced her to stop and recover her
breath. The best she could hope was to reach the river-shore before
dark, and perhaps find the camp of the stream-drivers. She felt cold,
and tired, and small, and terribly alone.

Yet, as a matter of fact, she was by no means so alone as she imagined.
For the past half hour or more she had been strangely companioned.

Keeping parallel with the road, but at a distance, and hidden in the
shadows, went an immense and gaunt black bear. For all his bulk, he went
as noiselessly as a wild-cat, skirting the open spaces, and stopping
from time to time to sit up, motionless as a stump, and listen intently,
and sniff the air with sensitive nostrils. But his little, red-rimmed,
savage eyes never lost sight of the figure of the girl for more than a
few seconds at a time.

For bears this was the hungry season, the season of few roots and no
fruits, few grubs and little honey. The black bear loves sweets and
berries far better than any flesh food, however dainty. And human flesh
he either fears or dislikes so heartily that only under special stress
can he bring himself to contemplate it as a possible article of diet.
But this bear considered himself under special stress. His lean flanks
were fairly clinging together from emptiness. To his eyes, thus
prejudiced, the fresh young form of Sissy Bembridge, picking its way
down the trail, looked appetizing. Girl was something he had never
tried, and it _might_ be edible. At the same time, this inoffensive and
defenseless-looking creature undoubtedly belonged to the species Man, as
his nostrils well assured him. Therefore, small as she was, she was apt
to be very dangerous, even to go off at times with flame and a
terrifying noise. He was afraid to show himself to her, but his hunger,
coupled with curiosity, led him to track her, perhaps in the hope that
she might fall dead in the trail and so make it safe for him to approach
and taste.

The girl, meanwhile, under the influence of her uncertainty and fatigue,
was growing more and more apprehensive. She assured herself that there
was nothing to fear, that none of the wild inhabitants of these New
Brunswick woods would dare to interfere with a human being. At the same
time she found herself glancing nervously over her shoulder, as the
shadows lengthened and deepened, and all the wilderness turned to dusky
violet. From the wet pools began the cold and melancholy fluting of the
frogs, the voice of solitude, and under the plangency of it she found
the tears running down her cheeks. At this she shook herself
indignantly, squared her shoulders, stamped her foot, and plunged ahead
with a firm resolution that the approach of dark should _not_ make her a
fool. And away in the shadows of the firs the bear drew a little nearer,
encouraged by the fading of daylight.

Just as it was growing so dark that she found it hard to choose her path
between the pools and the bog-holes, to her infinite relief she caught
sight of a cabin roof crowning a little rise of ground by the roadside.
She broke into a run in her eagerness, reached the door, and pounced
upon it breathlessly. But there was no light in the window. With a
sinking heart she realized that it was empty--that it was nothing more
than a deserted lumber-camp. Then, as if in answer to her vehement
knocking, the door swung slowly open, showing the black darkness
within. It had been merely closed, not latched. With a startled cry she
sprang back, her skin creeping at the emptiness. Her first impulse was
to turn and run. But she recovered herself, remembering that, after all,
here was shelter and security for the night, infinitely preferable to a
wet bivouac beneath some dripping fir tree.

She could not bring herself, however, to grope her way into the thick
darkness of the interior. Stepping some paces back from the threshold,
she nervously untied her bundle and got out a box of matches. Lighting
one, she shaded it with her hand, crept forward, and cautiously peered
inside. In the spurt of light the place looked warm and snug. She
returned for her bundle, went in and shut the door. Then she drew a long
breath and felt better. The camp was small, but dry and in good repair.
It was quite empty, except for the tier of bunks along one wall, a
rough-hewn log bench, a broken stove before the rude chimney, and
several lengths of rust-eaten stove-pipe scattered on the floor.
Lighting match after match, she hunted about for something to serve as
fuel, for she craved the comfort, as well as the warmth of a fire.

There was nothing, however, but a few handfuls of dry, fine spruce tips,
left in one of the bunks. This stuff, she knew, would flare up at once
and die in a couple of minutes. She made up her mind to go out and grope
about in the wet gloom for a supply of dead branches, though she was now
conscious of a childish reluctance to face again the outer solitude.
Almost furtively she lifted the heavy latch and opened the door
half-way. Instantly, with a gasp, she slammed it to again and leaned
against it with quaking knees. Straight in front of her, not twenty feet
away, black and huge against the gray glimmer of the open, she had seen
the prowling bear.

Recovering herself after a few seconds, she felt her way stealthily to
the bench and sat down upon it so as to face the two windows. The
windows were small--so small that she was sure no monster such as the
one which had just confronted her could by any possibility force its way
through them. But she waited in a sort of horror, expecting momently
that a dreadful shadowy face would darken one or the other of them and
glare in upon her. She felt that the eyes of it would be visible by
their own light, and she summoned up all her resolution that she might
not scream when it appeared. For the time, however, nothing of the sort
took place, and the two little squares continued to glimmer palely.

After what seemed to her an hour of breathless waiting, she heard a
sound as of something rubbing softly along the logs of the back wall.
She swung around on her seat to stare with straining eyes at the spot
where the sound came from. But, of course, all was blackness there. And
she could not keep her eyes for more than a few seconds from the baleful
fascination of the window-squares.

The door of the camp was a heavy one and sturdily put together, but
along its bottom was a crack some half an inch in width. Presently there
came a loud sniffing at this crack, and then the door creaked, as if a
heavy body were leaning against it. She shuddered and gathered herself
together for a desperate spring, expecting the latch or the hinges to
give way. But the honest New Brunswick workmanship held, and she took
breath again with a sob.

After this respite, a thousand fantastic schemes of defense began to
chase themselves through her brain. Out of them all she clung to just
one, as possibly offering some hope in the last emergency. Noiselessly
she gathered those few handfuls of withered spruce twigs and heaped them
upon the top of the stove. If the bear should succeed in squeezing
through the window or breaking down the door, she would light the dry
stuff, and perhaps the sudden blaze and smoke might frighten him away.
That it would daunt him for a moment, she felt sure, but she was equally
sure that its efficacy would not last very long.

As she was working up the details of this scheme--more for the sake of
keeping her terror in check than for any great faith she had in it--the
thing she had been expecting happened. One of the glimmering gray-blue
squares grew suddenly dark. She gave a burst of shrill, hysterical
laughter and ran at it, as a trapped rat will jump at a hand approaching
the wires. As she did so, she scratched a bunch of four or five matches
and threw them, spluttering and hissing, in the face of the apparition.
She had a glimpse of small, savage eyes and an open, white-fanged mouth.
Then the great face withdrew itself.

Somewhat reassured to find that the monster could be disconcerted by the
spurt of a match, she groped back to her seat, and fell to counting, by
touch, the number of these feeble weapons still left in the box. She had
only six more, and she began to repent of having used the others so
recklessly. After all, as she told herself, _that_ bear could not
possibly squeeze himself through the window, so why should he not amuse
himself by looking in at her if he wanted to? It might keep him
occupied. It occurred to her that she ought to be glad that the bear was
such a big one. His face alone had fairly filled the window. She would
save the remaining matches.

For a good ten minutes nothing more happened, though from time to time
her intent ears caught the sound of cautious sniffing on the other side
of the log walls, as if the enemy were reconnoitering to find a weak
point in her fortress. She smiled scornfully there in the dark, knowing
well the strength of those log walls. Then, all at once her face
stiffened and she sat rigid, clutching the edge of the bench with both
hands. The door had once more begun to creak and groan under the weight
of a heavy body surging against it.

There was a sound of scratching, a rattle of iron claws, which told her
that the beast was rearing itself upright against the door. The massive
paws seemed to fumble inquisitively. Then her blood froze. She heard the
heavy latch lift with a click.

The door swung open.

She felt as if she were struggling in a nightmare. With a choked scream
she leapt straight at the door. She had a mad impulse to slam it in the
monster's face and brace herself, however impotently, against it. As she
sprang, however, her foot caught in one of the pieces of stove-pipe. She
fell headlong, and the pipe flew half-way across the floor, clattering
over its fellows as it went, and raising a prodigious noise.

Through a long, long moment of horror she lay flat on her face,
expecting a gigantic paw to fall upon her neck as a cat's paw falls upon
a mouse. Nothing happened. She ventured to raise her head. The door was
wide open and the doorway quite clear. A dozen feet away from it, at
the edge of the road, stood the bear, staring irresolutely. He had been
rather taken aback by the suddenness with which the door had flown open,
and had hesitated to enter, fearing a trap. The wild clatter of the
stove-pipes had further disturbed him, and he had withdrawn to consider
the situation. In one bound the girl was at the door and had shut it
with a bang.

The problem was now to fix the latch so that it could not again be
lifted from the outside. She lit one more precious match, examined the
mechanism, and hunted frantically for a splinter of wood with which to
jam it down. There was nothing in sight that would serve. She tried to
tear off a strip of her petticoat to bind it down with, but all her
underwear was of a most serviceable sturdiness, and would not tear. She
heard the bear moving again outside. She heard his breathing close to
the door. Desperately she thrust a couple of fingers into the space
above the latch, so that it would not lift. Then with the other hand she
whipped off one shoe and stocking. The stocking was just the thing, and
in a minute she had the latch secure.

It was no more than secure, however, before the weight of the bear once
more came against the door. From the heavy, scratchy fumblings the girl
could perceive that her enemy was trying to repeat his former maneuver.
On this point, at least, she had no anxiety. She knew the door could not
now be unlatched from the outside. She could almost afford to laugh in
her satisfaction as she groped her way back to her seat.

But her satisfaction was of brief life. The door began to creak more and
more violently. It was evident that the bear, having once learned that
this was a possible way in, was determined to test it to the utmost. The
girl sprang up. She heard the screws of a hinge begin to draw with an
ominous grating sound. Now at last the crisis was truly and inevitably
upon her. And, to her amazement, she was less terrified than before. The
panic horror had all gone. She had small hope of escape, but her brain
worked calmly and clearly. She moved over beside the broken stove, and
stood, match in hand, ready to set fire to the pile of dry spruce tips.

The door groaned and creaked. Then the upper hinge gave way, and the
door leaned inward, admitting a wide streak of glimmer. For some
moments, thereafter, all sounds ceased, as if the bear had drawn back
cautiously to consider the result of his efforts. Then he came on again
with more confidence. Under his weight the door came crashing down, but
slowly, with the noise of yielding latch and snapping iron. As it fell,
the girl scratched the match and set it to the dry stuff.

In the doorway the bear paused, eyeing suspiciously the tiny blue spurt
of the struggling match. After a second or two, however, he came forward
with a savage rush, furious at having been so long balked. The girl
slipped around the stove. And just as the bear reached the place where
she had been standing, the spruce tips sparked sharply and flared up in
his face. With a loud _woo-oof_ of indignation and alarm, he recoiled,
turned tail, scurried out into the road, and disappeared.

In a couple of minutes the cabin was full of sparks and smoky light. The
girl ran to the door and peered out. Her heart sank once more. There
was the bear, a few paces up the road, calmly sitting on his haunches,
waiting. He had seen camp fires before, and he was waiting for this one
to die down.

Sissy Bembridge knew that it would die down at once, and then--well, her
last card would have been played. She wrung her hands, but in the new
self-possession which had come to her, she could not believe that the
end had really arrived. It was unbelievable that within some half a
dozen minutes she should become a lifeless, hideous, shapeless thing
beneath those mangling claws. No, there must be--there was--something to
do, if she could only think of it.

And then it came to her.

At first thought the idea was so audacious, so startling, so fantastic,
that she shrank from it as absurd. But on second thoughts she convinced
herself not only that it was the one thing to be done, but also that it
was practical and would almost certainly prove effective. But there was
not a moment to be lost.

Snatching up one of the fragments of stove-pipe, she used the edge as a
shovel, and carried a portion of the blazing stuff to the open doorway.
Here she deliberately set fire to the dry woodwork, nursing with hand
and breath the tiny uplicking flames. She fed them with a few more
scraps of spruce scraped up from another bunk, till she saw that they
would surely catch. Then, with her stove-pipe shovel, she started
another fire in the further corner of the camp, and yet another in the
uppermost bunk. When satisfied that all were fairly going, she retrieved
her stocking from the broken latch, reclothed her naked foot and set her
bundle safely outside. Then she looked at the bear, still sitting on his
haunches a little way up the road, and she laughed at him. At last she
had him worsted. She darted in through the doorway--now blazing
cheerfully all up one side--and dragged forth the heavy bench, that she
might have something dry to sit on while she watched the approaching
conflagration.

Her calculation--and she knew it was a sound one--was that the cabin, a
solid structure of logs, would burn vigorously the whole night through,
and terrify the bear to final flight. If it should by any chance die
down before full daylight, she would be able to build a circle of small
fires with the burning remnants. And she felt sure that in daylight her
enemy would not dare to renew the attack.

In another ten minutes the roof was ablaze, and soon the flames were
shooting up riotously. The woods were lighted redly for hundreds of
yards around, the pools in the road were like polished copper, and the
bear was nowhere to be seen. Sissy dragged her bench and bundle still
further away, and sat philosophically warming her wet feet. The reaction
from her terror, and her sense of triumph, made her so excited that
fatigue and anxiety were all forgotten. She grew warm and comfortable,
and finally, opening her bundle, she got out a package of neglected
sandwiches and made a contented meal.

As she was shaking the crumbs from her lap, she heard voices and
pounding, splashing hoofs from up the trail. She sprang to her feet.
Three lumbermen came riding into the circle of light, and drew rein
before her in astonishment. "Sissy--Bembridge--_you_!" cried the
foremost, springing from his saddleless mount.

The girl ran to him. "Oh, Mike," she exclaimed, crying and laughing all
at the same time, and clutching him by the arm, "I _had_ to do it! The
bear nigh got me! Take me to mother, quick. I'm _that_ tired."



A Basket of Fish


Fresh and tender, the light of the mild spring afternoon caressed the
little abandoned clearing in the wilderness. At the back of the
clearing, beneath a solitary white birch tree just bursting into green,
stood a squatter's log cabin, long deserted, its door and window gone,
its roof of poles and bark half fallen in. Past the foot of the
clearing, with dancing sparkle and a crisp, musical clamor, ran a
shallow stream some dozen yards in width, its clear waters amber-tawny
from the far-off cedar-swamps in which it took its rise. Along one side
came the deeply rutted backwoods road, skirting the clearing and making
its precarious way across the stream by a rude bridge not lightly to be
ventured after dark. Over all the face of the lonely backwoods world was
washed the high, thin green of the New Brunswick May-time, under a sky
of crystal cobalt dotted with dense white fleeces.

Before the ruined cabin stood a light wagon, its wheels and polished
body bespattered with mud. In the open back of the wagon, thrust well
under the seat to be in the shade, lay a large wicker fishing-basket,
with a tuft of grass sticking out through the square hole in the cover.
Some ten or a dozen paces distant, tethered beneath the birch tree, a
sorrel horse munched the last remnants of a bundle of hay, and whisked
his long tail industriously to keep off the flies.

From behind a corner of the ruined cabin peered craftily a red fox. He
eyed the wagon, he eyed the horse beneath the birch tree, he scrutinized
the whole clearing, the road, and the open stretch of the stream. Then
his narrowed, searching gaze returned to the wagon and to the fat basket
in the back of the wagon. At length he stepped forth mincingly into full
view, trotted up, and sniffed inquisitively. As if in doubt, he raised
himself on his hind legs, with his fore-paws on the tire of the nearest
wheel, and took a long, satisfying sniff. Yes, undoubtedly there were
fish in the basket, fresh fish--trout, in fact.

He wanted those fish exceedingly. It seemed easy enough to get them. He
shifted his fore-paws to the back of the wagon, and studied the
situation. Why should he not climb up and help himself? The sorrel
horse, catching a whiff of his pungent scent, looked around at him
suddenly and snorted. But what did he care for the disapproval of the
sorrel horse? All horses, submissive and enslaved, he held in
profoundest scorn. He would have those trout, whether the horse liked it
or not. And, anyhow, he saw that the horse was tethered to the tree. He
settled himself back upon his haunches to spring into the wagon.

Then a new idea flashed into his cunning red head. No one who valued
fresh-caught trout at their full worth would leave them thus unguarded
unless for a sinister purpose. They were surely left there as a trap.
The fox wrinkled his nose with mingled regret and disdain. He knew
something of traps. He had once been nipped. He was not to be caught
again, not he. What fools these men were, after all! His satisfaction at
having seen through their schemes almost compensated him for the loss of
the expected meal. He drew back, sat down on his tail, and eyed the
wagon minutely for a while. Then he trotted away into the forest again
to hunt wood-mice.

But it was just here that the red prowler's cunning overreached itself.
The basket in the wagon was full of trout, and there was no trap to be
feared. He might have feasted to his heart's content, and incurred no
penalty more serious than the disapproval of the tethered horse, had he
not been quite so amazingly clever. For even among the wild kindreds the
prize is not always to him of nimble wit.

The trout were there in the basket simply because the fishing had been
so good. The two fishermen who had driven out from town, in the gray of
dawn, over those fifteen miles of bad backwoods road, had fished the
stream upward from the bridge throughout the morning. At this season the
trout--fine, vivid fish, of good pan size--were lying in the open,
dancing runs and about the tails of the rapids; and they were rising
freely to almost any bright fly, though with a preference for a red
hackle. Toward noon the fishermen had returned to the clearing to lunch
beneath the birch tree and to feed and water the horse. They had
emptied all their catch into one basket, stowed the basket under the
wagon seat, then started off again to fish the finer reaches of the
stream, with its wide pools and long, sunlit rapids, below the bridge.
Good fishermen, but not expert woodsmen, they had no idea that, here in
the solitude, they ran any risk of being robbed of their morning's
spoils.

       *       *       *       *       *

Soon after the departure of the over-crafty fox, a backwoods tramp came
by, with a ragged little bundle slung from the stick on his shoulder.
His eyes lighted up at sight of the unguarded wagon from town, and he
understood the situation at a glance. In the front of the wagon, by the
dash-board, he found a lunch-basket, still half full, as the fishermen
had provided themselves for another substantial meal. He hurriedly
devoured about half the contents of the lunch-basket, transferred the
rest to his dirty bundle, and with huge satisfaction lighted a
half-burned cigar which one of the fishermen had left lying on a log.
Next he investigated the fishing-basket. Half a dozen of the finest
fish he took out and strung upon a forked twig. This he did not regard
as stealing, but merely as the exaction of a small and reasonable
tribute from a Society which had of late neglected to feed him any too
well. Puffing his cigar butt in high good humor, he went over and made
friends with the horse, feeding it with a few handfuls of fresh grass.
Then, with the string of fish dangling beside his bundle and flapping
against it as he walked, he resumed his solitary journey, picked his way
over the dilapidated bridge, and vanished into the fir forest beyond.
The horse, feeling rather lonely, neighed after him as he disappeared.

An abandoned clearing or a deserted log cabin, something to which man
has set his hand and then withdrawn it, seems always a place of peculiar
fascination to the creatures of the wilderness. They have some sense,
perhaps, of having regained a lost dominion. Or possibly they think,
from these his leavings, to learn something significant of man's
mysterious over-lordship. In any case, the attraction seldom fails.

The tramp had not been long gone, when a new visitor arrived. Up from
the fringing bushes along the stream's edge came furtively a little,
low, long-bodied beast, in shape much like an exaggerated weasel, but
almost black in color. Its head was almost triangular; its eyes, set
near together, were bright and cruel. It came half-way across the
meadow, then stopped, and eyed for some time the tethered horse and the
deserted wagon. Seeing nothing to take alarm at, it made a wide circuit,
ran behind the cabin, and reappeared, as the fox had done, at the corner
nearest the wagon. From this point of vantage it surveyed the situation
anew, a little spark of blood-red fire alternately glowing and fading in
its eyes as its keen nostrils caught the scent of the fish.

Satisfied at length that there was no danger within range, the mink
glided up to the wagon. The horse it paid no heed to. It circled the
wagon a couple of times in a nervous, jerky run, its head darting this
way and that, till its nose assured it beyond question that the fish it
scented were in the wagon itself. Thereupon--for the mink lacks the
fox's hair-splitting astuteness, and does not take long to make up its
mind--it clambered nimbly up through one of the wheels and fell
straightway upon the fish-basket.

Now, the tramp, courteous in his depredations, had taken thought to
refasten the basket. The mink was puzzled. The hole in the top of the
basket, though he might have squeezed his head through it, was not large
enough to let him reach the fish. He began jerking the basket and
pulling it about savagely. The back of the wagon consisted of a hinged
flap, and the fishermen had left it hanging down. The basket, dragged
this way and that, came presently to the edge, toppled over, and fell
heavily to the ground on its bulging side. The fastening came undone,
and the cover flopped half open. The mink dropped down beside it, flung
himself upon it furiously, and began jerking forth and scattering the
contents, tearing mouthfuls out of one fish after another in a paroxysm
of greed, as if he feared they were still alive and might get away from
him.

The basket emptied and his first rage glutted, the mink now fell to the
business of making a serious meal. Selecting a fish to his taste, he ate
it at great leisure, leaving the head and the tail upon the grass. Then
he picked out a larger one, as if he regarded the first as merely an
appetizer.

As he gnawed luxuriously at the silver-and-buff, vermilion-spotted
tit-bit, an immense shadow floated between him and the sun. He did not
take time to look up and see what it was. It was as if the touch of that
shadow had loosed a powerful spring. He simply shot from his place, at
such speed that the eye could not distinguish how he did it, and in the
minutest fraction of a second was curled within the empty
fishing-basket, which still lay on its side, half open. A pair of long,
black, sickle-curved talons, surmounted by thickly feathered gray
shanks, clutched at the place where he had stood.

Furious at having missed her strike, the great horned owl, that tigress
of the air, flapped up again on her soundless, downy wings, and swooped
suddenly at the basket, as if trying to turn it over. As her talons
clawed at the wickerwork, feeling for a hold, the head of the mink, on
its long, snaky neck, darted forth, reached up, and struck its fine
white fangs into her thigh.

But the great owl's armor of feathers, though it looked so soft and
fluffy, was in fact amazingly resistant. The mink's long teeth reached
the flesh and drew blood, but he gained no grip. That steel-muscled
thigh was wrenched from his jaws, leaving him with an embarrassing
mouthful of down. He jerked his head into cover again, just as the bird
made another lightning clutch at him.

For all his rage, the mink kept his wits about him. He knew the owl for
one of his most dangerous rivals and adversaries. He knew that he could
kill her if once he could reach her throat or get his grip fixed on one
of her mighty wings close to the base. But that _if_ kept him prudent.
He was too well aware that in an open combat he was more than likely to
get his neck or his back into the clutch of those inexorable talons, and
that would be the end of him. Discreetly, therefore, he kept himself
well within the basket, which was large enough to hold him comfortably.
He snarled shrilly through the little square hole in the cover, while
his assailant, balked of her prey and furious with the smart of her
wound, pounced once more upon the basket and strove to claw an entrance.
A chance blow of one of her pounding wings drove the lid--the basket
being still on its side--completely to. The sorrel horse under the
birch-tree swung round on his tether and rolled his eyes and snorted,
deeply scandalized at such goings-on about his familiar wagon.

It was just at this point in the mink's adventure that the fox returned
to the clearing. He had had rather poor luck with the wood-mice, and his
chaps watered with the memory of those trout in the wagon. Something of
an expert in dealing with traps, he made up his mind that he would try
to circumvent this one.

The sight that met his shrewd eyes, as he emerged warily from the cover
of the fir woods, amazed him. He halted to take it in thoroughly. He saw
the basket lying on the ground, and the angry owl clawing at it. The
fish he did not see. He concluded that they were still in the basket,
and that the owl was trying to get at them. This particular kind of owl,
as he knew, was a most formidable antagonist; but with his substantial
weight and his long, punishing jaws, he felt himself much more than a
match for her. His eyes flamed green with indignation as he watched her
trying to steal the prize which he had already marked down for his own.
He darted forward on tip-toe--noiselessly, as he thought--and made a
long leap at the flapping, dusky wings.

But the ears of an owl are a very miracle of sensitiveness. They can
catch the squeak of a mouse at a distance which, for ordinary ears,
would make the sharp clucking of a chipmunk inaudible. To the bird on
the basket the coming of those velvet footsteps were like the scamper of
a frightened sheep. She sprang into the air without an effort, hung for
a moment to glare down upon the fox with her hard, round, moon-pale
eyes, and then sailed off without a sound, having no mind to try
conclusions with the long-jawed red stranger.

The fox was surprised to find the trout lying scattered about the grass,
some of them bitten and mangled. What, then, was in the basket? What was
the great owl trying to get at, when the precious fish were all spread
out before her? Curiosity dominating his hunger, he stepped up to the
basket and sniffed at the hole in the lid. Instantly there was a
shrill, vicious snarl from within, and a wide-open, triangular mouth,
set with white teeth, darted at his nose. He drew back hastily and sat
down on his tail, ears cocked and head tilted to one side, to consider.

It puzzled him greatly that there should be a mink in the basket.
Tip-toeing cautiously around it, he saw that the lid was slightly open,
so that the mink could come out if he wished. But the fox did not want
him to come out. What the fox wanted was fish, not a fight with an
adversary who would give him a lot of trouble. By all means, let the
mink stay in there.

Keeping a sharp watch on the lid of the basket, the fox backed away
cautiously several feet, lay down, and fell to devouring the trout. But
never for an instant did he take his eyes off that slightly moving lid.
He lay with his feet gathered under him, every muscle ready for action,
expecting each moment to find himself involved in a desperate battle for
the prize he was enjoying. He could not imagine a fiery-tempered
personage like the mink tamely submitting to the rape of his banquet. He
felt sure that in the next second or two a snaky black shape, all teeth
and springs and venom, would dart from the basket and be at his throat.
He was ready for it, but he was not hankering after it.

Meanwhile, there behind the basket lid, the mink was raging
irresolutely. It galled him to the marrow to watch his big, arrogant,
bush-tailed rival complacently gulping down those fine fat trout.
But--well, he had himself already eaten one of the trout and a good part
of another. His hunger was blunted. He could rage within reason, and his
reason admonished him to keep out of this fight if it could be managed.
He knew the whipcord muscle underlying that soft red fur, the deadly
grip of those long, narrow jaws. There is no peace counsellor like a
contented belly. So he snarled softly to himself and waited.

The fox, having swallowed as much as he could hold, stood up, stretched
himself, and licked his chaps. The look which he kept upon the basket
was no less vigilant than before, but there was now a tinge of scorn in
it. There were still some trout left, but he wanted to get away. He
snatched up the two biggest fish in his jaws and trotted off with them
to the woods, glancing back over his shoulder as he went.

Before he had gained the cover of the fir trees, the mink glided forth,
planted his forepaws on the remaining fish, and stood staring after him
in an attitude of challenge. Had the fox returned, the mink would now
have fought. But the fox had no thought of returning. There was nothing
to fight about. He had got what he wanted. He had no rooted objection to
the mink having what was left. He trotted away nonchalantly toward his
burrow under the roots of an old birch tree on the hill.

The mink stuffed himself till he could not get another mouthful down.
There were still a couple of trout untouched. He eyed them regretfully,
but he had not the fox's wit or providence to carry them off and hide
them for future use. He left them, therefore, with a collection of
neatly severed heads and tails, to mock the fishermen when they should
return at sunset. He was feeling very drowsy. At a deliberate pace,
quite unlike his usual eager and darting movements, he made off down the
clearing toward the water. Beneath the bank was an old musquash hole
which he was well acquainted with. Only the other day, indeed, he had
cleared out its inhabitants, devouring their litter of young. He crawled
into the hole, curled up on the soft, dead grass of the devastated nest,
and cosily went to sleep.



Brannigan's Mary


Brannigan was wanting fresh meat, red meat. Both he and his partner,
Long Jackson, were sick to death of trout, stewed apples, and tea. Even
fat bacon, that faithful stand-by, was beginning to lose its charm, and
to sizzle at them with an unsympathetic note when the trout were frying
in it. And when a backwoodsman gets at odds with his bacon, then
something has got to be done.

Going noiselessly as a cat in his cowhide larrigans, Brannigan made his
way down the narrow trail between the stiff dark ranks of the spruce
timber toward the lake. As the trail dipped to the shore he caught a
sound of splashing, and stopped abruptly, motionless as a stump, to
listen. His trained ears interpreted the sound at once.

"Moose pullin' up water-lily roots!" he muttered to himself with
satisfaction. Edging in among the trunks beside the trail to be the
better hidden, he crept forward with redoubled caution.

A few moments more and a sparkle of sunlight flashed into his eyes, and
through the screening spruce branches he caught sight of the quiet
water. There, straight before him, was a dark young moose cow, with a
two-months calf at her side, wading ashore through the shadows.

Brannigan raised his rifle and waited till the pair should come within
easier range. Cartridges are precious when one lives a five-days' tramp
from the nearest settlement; and he was not going to risk the wasting of
a single shot. The game was coming his way, and it was the pot, not
sport, that he was considering.

Now, no one knew better than Brannigan that it was against the law of
New Brunswick to shoot a moose at this season, or a cow moose at any
season. He knew, also, that to shoot a cow moose was not only illegal,
but apt to be extremely expensive. For New Brunswick enforces her game
laws with a brusque and uncompromising rigor; and she values a cow moose
at something like five hundred dollars. Brannigan had no stomach for a
steak at such price. But he had every reason to believe that at this
moment there was not a game-warden within at least a hundred miles of
this unimportant and lonely lake at the head of the Ottanoonsis. He was
prepared to gamble on this supposition. Without any serious misgivings,
he drew a bead on the ungainly animal, as she emerged with streaming
flanks from the water and strode up toward the thickets which fringed
the white beach. But the calf by her side kept getting in the way, and
Brannigan's finger lingered on the trigger, awaiting a clearer shot.

Suddenly a dense thicket, half-a-dozen yards or so distant from the
leisurely cow, burst open as with an explosion, and a towering black
form shot out from the heart of it. It seemed to overhang the cow for a
fraction of a second, and then fell forward as if to crush her to the
earth. Brannigan lowered his gun, a look of humorous satisfaction
flitting over his craggy features.

"Thank you, kindly, Mr. B'ar," he muttered. "Ther ain't no game-warden
on 'arth as kin blame me for that!"

But the matter was not yet as near conclusion as he imagined. The cow,
apparently so heedless, had been wideawake enough, and had caught sight
of her assailant from the tail of her eye, just in time to avoid the
full force of the attack. She leapt aside, and the blow of those armed
paws, instead of breaking her back, merely ripped a long scarlet furrow
down her flank.

At the same instant she wheeled and struck out savagely with one
razor-edged fore-hoof. The stroke caught the bear glancingly on the
shoulder, laying it open to the bone.

Had the bear been a young one, the battle thus inauspiciously begun
might have gone against him, and those lightning hooves, with their
far-reaching stroke, might have drawn him in blood and ignominy to
refuge in a tree. But this bear was old and of ripe experience. As if
daunted by the terrific buffet he drew back, upon his haunches, seeming
to shrink to half his size.

The outraged cow came on again furious and triumphant, thinking to end
the matter with a rush. The bear, a wily boxer, parried her next stroke
with a blow that broke her leg at the hock. Then his long body shot out
again and upward, to its full height, and crashed down upon her neck,
with a sick twist that snapped the vertebræ like chalk. She collapsed
like a sack of shavings, her long dark muzzle, with red tongue
protruding, turned upward and backward, as if she stared in horror at
her doom.

The bear set his teeth into her throat with a windy grunt of
satisfaction.

At that moment Brannigan fired. The heavy soft-nosed bullet crashed
home. The bear lifted himself straight up on his hind legs, convulsively
pawing at the air, then dropped on all fours, ran round in a circle with
his head bent inwards, and fell over on his side. The calf, which had
stood watching the fight in petrified amazement, had recovered the use
of its legs with a bound at the shock of the report, and shambled off
into the woods with a hoarse bleat of terror.

Hugely satisfied with himself, Brannigan strode forth from his hiding
and examined his double prize. The bear being an old one, he had no use
for it as food, now that he was assured of a supply of choice
moose-venison; for he knew by experience the coarseness and rankness of
bear-meat, except when taken young.

Touching up the edge of his hunting knife on the sole of his larrigan,
he skinned the bear deftly, rolled up the heavy pelt, and tied it with
osier-withes for convenience in the lugging. Then, after a wash in the
lake, he turned back to fetch his partner and the drag, that they might
haul the dead moose to the camp and cut it up conveniently at home.
Glancing back as he vanished up the trail, he saw the orphaned calf
stick its head out from behind a bush and stare after him pathetically.

"Mebbe I'd oughter shoot the little beggar too," he mused, "or the bears
'll jest get it!" But being rather tender-hearted where all young things
were concerned, he decided that it might be big enough to look after
itself, and so should have its chance.

A half hour later, when Brannigan and his partner, hauling the drag
behind them briskly, got back to the lake, they found the calf standing
with drooped head beside the body of its mother. At their approach it
backed off a dozen yards or so to the edge of the bushes, and stood
gazing at them with soft, anxious eyes.

"Best knock the ca'f on the head, too, while we're about it," said Long
Jackson practically. "It looks fat an' juicy."

But Brannigan, his own first impulse in regard to the poor youngster now
quite forgotten, protested with fervor.

"Hell!" he grunted, good-naturedly. "Ain't yer got enough fresh meat in
this 'ere cow I've foraged fer ye? I've kinder promised that there
unfortunate orphant she shouldn't be bothered none."

"She's too young yet to fend fer herself. The b'ars 'll git her, if we
don't," argued Long Jackson.

But Brannigan's sympathies, warm if illogical, had begun to assert
themselves with emphasis.

"This 'ere's _my_ shindy, Long," he answered doggedly. "An' I say the
poor little critter 'd oughter have her chance. She _may_ pull through.
An' good luck to her, ses I! We got all the fresh meat we want."

"Oh, if ye're feeling _that_ way about the orphant, Tom, I ain't kickin'
none," answered Jackson, spitting accurate tobacco-juice upon a small
white boulder some ten or twelve feet distant. "I was only thinkin' we'd
save the youngster a heap of trouble if we'd jest help her go the way of
her ma right now."

"You ax her fer _her_ opinion on that p'int!" grunted Brannigan, tugging
the carcass of the moose on to the drag.

Long Jackson turned gravely to the calf.

"Do ye want to be left to the b'ars and the h'a'nts, in the big black
woods, all by yer lonesome?" he demanded.

The calf, thus pointedly addressed, backed further into the bush and
stared in mournful bewilderment.

"Or would ye rather be et, good an' decent, an' save ye a heap o'
frettin'?" continued Long Jackson persuasively.

A bar-winged moose-fly, that vicious biter, chancing to alight at that
moment on the calf's ear, she shook her lank head vehemently.

"What did I tell ye?" demanded Brannigan dryly. "She knows what she
wants!"

"Kinder guess that settles it," agreed Long Jackson with a grin,
spitting once more on the inviting white boulder. Then the two men set
the rope traces of the drag over the homespun shoulders, and, grunting
at the first tug, started up the trail with their load.

The calf took several steps forward from the thicket, and stared in
distraction after them. She could not understand this strange departure
of her mother. She bleated several times, hoarsely, appealingly; but all
to no effect. Then, just as the drag, with its dark, pathetic burden,
was disappearing around a turn of the trail, she started after it, and
quickly overtook it with her ungainly, shambling run. All the way to the
cabin she followed closely, nosing from time to time at the unresponsive
figure on the drag.

Brannigan, glancing back over his shoulder from time to time, concluded
that the calf was hungry. Unconsciously, he had come to accept the
responsibility for its orphaned helplessness, though he might easily
have put all the blame upon the bear. But Brannigan was no shirker. He
would have scorned any such sophistry. He was worrying now over the
question of what he could give the inconveniently confiding little
animal to eat. He decided, at length, upon a thin, lukewarm gruel of
corn-meal, slightly salted, and trusted that the sturdiness of the moose
stomach might survive such a violent change of diet. His shaggy eyebrows
knitted themselves over the problem till Long Jackson, trudging at his
side, demanded to know if he'd "got the bellyache."

This being just the affliction which he was dreading for the calf,
Brannigan felt a pang of guilt and vouchsafed no reply.

Arriving at the cabin, Jackson got out his knife, and was for setting to
work at once on the skinning and cutting up. But Brannigan intervened
with prompt decision.

"Don't ye be so brash, Long," said he. "This 'ere's _Mary_. Hain't yer
got no consideration for Mary's feelings? She's comin' to stop with us;
an' it wouldn't be decent to go cuttin' up her ma right afore her eyes!
You wait till I git her tied up 'round behind the camp. Then I'll go an'
fix her some corn-meal gruel, seein's we haven't got no proper milk for
her." And he proceeded to unhitch the rope from the drag.

Jackson heaved a sigh of resignation, seated himself on the body of the
slain cow, and fished up his stumpy black clay pipe from the depths of
his breeches pocket.

"So ye're goin' to be Mary's ma, eh?" he drawled, with amiable sarcasm.
"If ye'd jest shave that long Irish lip o' yourn, Tom, she'd take ye fer
one o' family right enough."

He ducked his head and hoisted an elbow to ward off the expected retort;
but Brannigan was too busy just then for any fooling. Having rubbed his
hands and sleeves across the hide of the dead mother, he was gently
approaching the calf, with soft words of caress and reassurance. It is
improbable that the calf had any clear comprehension of the English
tongue, or even of Brannigan's backwoods variant of it. But she seemed
to feel that his tones, at least, were not hostile. She slightly backed
away, shrinking and snorting, but at length allowed Brannigan's
outstretched fingers to approach her dewy muzzle. The smell of her
mother on those fingers reassured her mightily. Being very hungry, she
seized them in her mouth and fell to sucking them as hard as she could.

"Pore little eejut," said Brannigan, much moved by this mark of
confidence, "ye shall have some gruel quick as I kin make it." With two
fingers between her greedy lips and a firm hand on the back of her neck,
he had no difficulty in leading her around behind the cabin, where he
tied her up securely, out of sight of the work of Long Jackson's
industrious knife.

       *       *       *       *       *

On Brannigan's gruel Mary made shift to survive, and even to grow, and
soon she was able to discard it in favor of her natural forage of leaves
and twigs. From the first she took Brannigan _in loco parentis_, and,
except when tied up, was ever dutifully at his heels. But she had a
friendly spirit toward all the world, and met Long Jackson's advances
graciously. By the end of autumn she was amazingly long-legged, and
lank, and awkward, with an unmatched talent for getting in the way and
knocking things over. But she was on a secure footing as member of the
household, petted extravagantly by Brannigan and cordially accepted by
Long Jackson as an all-round good partner. As Jackson was wont to say,
she was not beautiful, but she had a great head when it came to
choosing her friends.

As would naturally be supposed, Mary, being a member of the firm, had
the free run of the cabin, and spent much of her time therein,
especially at meals or in bad weather. But she was not allowed to sleep
indoors, because Brannigan was convinced that such a practice would not
be good for her health. At the same time she could not be left outdoors
at night, the night air of the wilderness being sometimes infected with
bears, lynxes, and wild-cats. A strong pen, therefore, was built for her
against the end wall of the cabin, very open and airy, but roofed
against the rain and impervious to predatory claws. In this pen she was
safe, but not always quite happy; for sometimes in the still dark of the
night, when Brannigan and Long Jackson were snoring in their hot bunks
within the cabin, she would see an obscure black shape prowling
stealthily around the pen, and hungry eyes would glare in upon her
through the bars. Then she would bawl frantically in her terror.
Brannigan would tumble from his bunk and rush out to the rescue. And
the dread black shadow would fade away into the gloom.

When winter settled down upon the wilderness, it did so with a rigor
intended to make up for several mild seasons.

The snow came down, and drove, and drifted, till Mary's pen was buried
so deep that a tunnel had to be dug to her doorway. Then set in the
long, steady, dry cold, tonic and sparkling, but so intense that the
great trees would crack under it with reports like pistol shots upon the
death-like stillness of the night. But all was warmth and plenty at the
snow-draped cabin; and Mary, though she had no means of knowing it, was
without doubt the most comfortable and contented young moose in all
Eastern Canada. She was sometimes a bit lonely, to be sure, when
Brannigan and Jackson were away on their snow-shoes, tending their wide
circuit of traps, and she was shut up in her pen. At such times,
doubtless, her inherited instincts hankered after the companionship of
the trodden mazes of the "moose yard." But when her partners were at
home, and she was admitted to the cabin with them, such faint stirrings
of ancestral memory were clean forgotten. There was no companionship for
Mary like that of Brannigan and Long Jackson, who knew so consummately
how to scratch her long, waggling ears.

But Fate, the hag, growing jealous, no doubt, of Mary's popularity, now
turned without so much as a snarl of warning and clawed the happy little
household to the bone. In some inexplicable, underhanded way, she
managed to set fire to the cabin in the night, when Brannigan and
Jackson were snoring heavily. They slept, of course, well clad. They
awoke choking, from a nightmare. With unprintable remarks, they leapt
from their bunks into a scorching smother of smoke, snatched up
instinctively their thick coats and well-greased larrigans, fumbled
frantically for the latch, and burst out into the icy, blessed air. Mary
was bawling with terror, and bouncing about in her pen as if all the
furies were after her.

Brannigan snatched her door open, and she lumbered out with a rush,
knocking him into the snow, and went floundering off toward the woods.
But in a couple of minutes she was back again and stood trembling
behind Long Jackson.

At first both woodsmen had toiled like demons, dashing the snow in
armfuls upon the blazing camp; but the fire, now well established,
seemed actually to regard the fluffy snow as so much more congenial
fuel. Knowing themselves beaten, they drew back with scorched faces and
smarting eyes and stood watching disconsolately the ruin of their home.
Mary thrust her long-muzzled head around from behind her partners, and
wagged her ears, and stared.

In the face of real catastrophe the New Brunswick backwoodsman does not
rave and tear his hair. He sets his teeth and he does a good deal of
thinking. Presently Brannigan spoke.

"I noticed ye come away in a hurry, Long!" he remarked drily. "Did ye
think to bring anything to eat with ye?"

"Nary bite!" responded Jackson. "I've brung along me belt--it was kind
of tangled up wi' the coat--an' me knife's in it, all right." He felt in
the pockets of his coat. "Here's baccy, an' me pipe, an' a bit o'
string, an' a crooked nail! Wish't I'd know'd enough to eat a bigger
supper last night! I hadn't no sort of an appetite."

"I've got me old _dudheen_," said Brannigan, holding up his stubby black
clay. "An' I've got two matches, _jest two_, mind yer! An' that's all I
_hev_ got."

They filled their pipes thoughtfully and lit them frugally with a
blazing splinter from the wood pile.

"Which is nearest," queried Jackson, "Conroy's Upper Camp, or
Gillespie's, over to Red Brook?"

"Conroy's, sure," said Brannigan.

"How fur, would ye say?" insisted Jackson, who really knew quite as much
about it as his partner.

"In four foot o' soft snow, an' no snowshoes, about ten thousan' mile!"
replied Brannigan consolingly.

"Then we'd better git a move on," said Jackson.

"I'm _thinkin'_ we ain't got no time to waste starin' at bonfires,"
agreed Brannigan.

They turned their backs resolutely and headed off through the night and
the snow toward Conroy's Camp, many frozen leagues to the
south-eastward. Mary, bewildered and daunted, followed close at
Brannigan's heels. And they left their blazing home to roar and fume and
vomit sparks and flare itself out in the unheeding solitude.

Accustomed as they were to moving everywhere on snowshoes in the winter,
the two woodsmen found it infinitely laborious and exhausting to
flounder their way through a four-foot depth of light snow. They took
half-mile turns, as near as they could guess, at going ahead to break
the way.

Once they thought of putting this job upon Mary. But it was not a
success. Mary didn't want to go ahead. Only with assiduous propulsion
could they induce her to lead; and then her idea of the direction of
Conroy's Camp seemed quite unformed. Sometimes she would insist upon
being propelled sideways. So they soon gave up the plan, and let her
take her place in the rear, which her humility seemed to demand.

Both men were in good condition, powerful and enduring. But in that
savage cold their toil ate up their vitality with amazing speed. With
plenty of food to supply the drain, they might have fought on almost
indefinitely, defying frost and fatigue in the soundness of their
physique. But the very efficiency of their bodily machinery made the
demand for fuel come all the sooner. They smoked incessantly to fool
their craving stomachs, till their pipes chanced to go out at the same
time. Much too provident to use one of their two matches, which might,
later on, mean life or death to them, they chewed tobacco till their
emptiness revolted at it.

Then, envious of Mary, who browsed with satisfaction on such twigs and
saplings as came in her way, they cut young fir branches, peeled them,
scraped the white inner bark, and chewed mouthfuls of the shavings. But
it was too early for the sap to be working up, and the stuff was no more
eatable than sawdust. They speedily dropped this unprofitable foraging,
pulled their belts tighter, and pushed on with the calm stoicism of
their breed.

Long Jackson was first to call for a halt. The pallid midwinter dawn was
spreading up a sky of icy opal when he stopped and muttered abruptly--

"If we can't eat, we must rest a spell."

Brannigan was for pushing on, but a glance at Jackson's face persuaded
him.

"Give us one o' them two matches o' yourn, Long," said he. "If we don't
hev' a fire, we'll freeze, with nothin' in our stommicks."

"Nary match, yet," said Jackson doggedly. "We'll need 'em worse later
on."

"Then we'll have to warm ourselves huggin' Mary," laughed Brannigan. It
was a sound proposition. They scooped and burrowed a deep pit, made Mary
lie down, and snuggled close against her warm flanks, embracing her
firmly. Mary had been for some time hankering after a chance to rest her
long legs and chew her cud, so she was in no way loath. With head
uplifted above her reclining partners, she lay there very contentedly,
ears alert and eyes half closed. The only sound on the intense stillness
was the slow grind of her ruminating jaws and the deep breathing of the
two exhausted men.

Both men slept. But, though Mary's vital warmth was abounding and
inexhaustible, the still ferocity of the cold made it perilous for them
to sleep long. In a half-hour Brannigan's vigilant subconsciousness woke
him up with a start. He roused Jackson with some difficulty. They shook
themselves and started on again, considerably refreshed, but ravenously
hungry.

"Whatever would we have done without Mary?" commented Brannigan.

"Ay, ay!" agreed Jackson.

All the interminable day they pushed on stoically through the soft,
implacable snow-depths, but stopping ever more and more frequently to
rest, as the cold and the toil together devoured their forces.

At night they decided that one of the precious matches must be used.
They _must_ have a real fire and a real sleep, if they were to have any
chance of winning through to Conroy's Camp. They made their preparations
with meticulous care, taking no risk. After the deep trench was dug,
they made a sound foundation for their fire at one end of it. They
gathered birch bark and withered pine shavings and kindlings of dead
wood, and gathered a store of branches, cursing grimly over their lack
of an axe. Then Jackson scratched one match cautiously. It lit: the dry
bark curled, cracked, caught; the clear young flame climbed lithely
through the shavings and twigs. Just then an owl, astonished, flew
hurriedly through the branches far overhead. He stirred a branch heavily
snow-laden. With a soft swish a tiny avalanche slid down, fell upon the
fire, and blotted it out. Indignantly the two men pounced upon it and
cleared it off, hoping to find a few sparks still surviving. But it was
as dead as a last year's mullein stalk.

Comment was superfluous, discussion unnecessary. Fire, that night, they
must have. They scooped a new trench, clear in the open. They used the
last match, and they built a fire so generous that for a while they
could hardly endure its company in the trench. Mary, indeed, could not
endure it, so she stayed outside. They smoked and they talked a little,
not of their chances of making Conroy's Camp, but of baked pork and
beans, fried steak and onions, and enormous boiled puddings smothered in
butter and brown sugar. Then they slept for some hours. When the fire
died down Mary came floundering in and lay down, beside them, so they
did not feel the growing cold as soon as they should.

When they woke, they were half frozen and savage with hunger. There were
still red coals under the ashes, so they revived the fire, smoked, and
got themselves thoroughly warm. Then, with belts deeply drawn in, they
resumed their journey in dogged silence. According to the silent
calculation of each, the camp was still so far ahead that the odds were
all against their gaining it. But they did not trouble to compare their
calculations or their hopes. Toward evening Long Jackson began to go to
pieces badly. He had a great frame, and immense muscular power, but,
being gaunt and stringy, he had no reserves of fat in his hard tissues
to draw upon in such an emergency as this. In warm weather his endurance
would have been, no doubt, equal to Brannigan's. Now the need of fuel
for the inner fire was destroying him. The enforced rests became more
and more frequent. At last he grunted--

"I'm the lame duck o' this here outfit, Tom. Ye'd better push on, bein'
so much fresher'n me, an' git the boys from the camp to come back for
me."

Brannigan laughed derisively.

"An' find ye in cold storage, Long! Ye'd be no manner o' use to yer
friends _that_ way. Ye wouldn't be worth comin' back fer." Jackson
chuckled feebly and dropped the subject, knowing he was a fool to have
raised it. He felt it was good of Brannigan not to have resented the
suggestion as an insult.

"Reach me a bunch o' them birch twigs o' Mary's," he said. Having chewed
a few mouthfuls and spat them out, he got up out of the snow and plunged
on with a burst of new determination.

"That's where Mary's got the bulge on us," remarked Brannigan. "Ef we
could live on birch-browse, now, I'd be so proud I wouldn't call the
King my uncle."

"If Mary wasn't our pard, now," said Jackson, "we'd be all right. I'm
that hungry I'd eat her as she stands, hair an' all."

Responding to a certain yearning note in Jackson's voice, Mary rubbed
her long muzzle against him affectionately and nibbled softly at his
sleeve.

Brannigan flushed. He was angry because his partner had voiced a
thought which he had been at pains to banish from his own consciousness.

"Ef it hadn't a' been fer Mary, we wouldn't be alive now," said he
sternly. "She's kep' us from freezin'."

"Oh, ye needn't git crusty over what I've said, Tom," replied Jackson,
rubbing the long brown ears tenderly. "Mary's jest as much my pardner as
she is yourn, an' I ain't no cannibal. We'll see this thing through with
Mary, on the square, you bet. _But_--ef 'twasn't _Mary_--that's all _I_
say!"

"Right ye are, Long," said Brannigan, quite mollified. But later in the
day, as he glanced at his partner's drawn, sallow-white face,
Brannigan's heart misgave him. He loved the confiding Mary quite
absurdly; but, after all, as he reminded himself, she was only a little
cow moose, while Long Jackson was a Christian and his partner. His
perspective straightened itself out.

At last, with a heavy heart, he returned to the subject.

"Ye was right, Long," said he. "Ef we don't make Conroy's Camp purty
soon, we'll hev to--well, it'll be up to Mary! Poor Mary! But, after
all, she's only a little moose cow. An' I'm sure she'd be proud, ef she
could understand!"

But Jackson was indignant, as he went laboring on, leaning upon Mary's
powerful shoulder.

"Not much," he snorted feebly. "Ther' ain't goin' to be no killin' of
Mary on my account, an' don't ye forgit it! 'Twouldn't do good, fer I
wouldn't tech a sliver of her, not ef I was dyin'. An' it would jest be
on-pleasant fer Mary."

Brannigan drew a breath of relief, for this meant at least a
postponement of the unhappy hour. "Jest as ye like, Long!" he grunted.
But he clenched his teeth on the resolution that, the moment his partner
should become too weak for effective protest, Mary should come promptly
to the rescue. After all, whatever Mary's own opinion on the subject, it
would be an end altogether worthy of her. He drove a whole rabble of
whimsical fancies through his mind, as he labored resolutely onward
through the snow. But his mittened hand went out continuously to caress
Mary's ears, pleading pardon for the treason which it planned.

The midwinter dark fell early, and fell with peculiar blackness on
Jackson's half-fainting eyes. He was leaning now on Mary's shoulders
with a heaviness which that young person began to find irksome. She
grunted complainingly at times, and made good-natured attempts to shake
him off. But she had been well trained, and Brannigan's voice from time
to time kept her from revolt. Brannigan was now watching his partner
narrowly in the gloom, noting his movements and the droop of his head,
since he could no longer make much of his face. He was beginning to
feel, with a heavy heart, that the end of poor Mary's simple and
blameless career was very close at hand.

He was busily hardening his heart with forced frivolities. He felt his
long knife. He slipped his mittens into his pocket that his stroke might
be sure, swift, and painless, but his fingers shook a little with strong
distaste. Then his eyes, glancing ahead, caught a gleam of yellow light
through the tree-trunks. He looked again, to assure himself, and calmly
pulled on his mittens.

"Mary," said he, "you've lost the chance o' yer life. Ye ain't goin' to
be no hero, after all!"

"What're ye gruntin' about, Tom?" demanded Jackson dully, aroused by the
ring in his partner's voice.

"There's Conroy's Camp right ahead!" cried Brannigan. Then he fell to
shouting and yelling for help. Jackson straightened himself, opened his
eyes wide, saw the light, and the sudden increase of it as the camp door
was flung open, heard answering shouts, and collapsed sprawling on
Mary's back. He had kept going for the last few hours on his naked
nerve.

It was food Long Jackson wanted--food and sleep. And on the following
day he was himself again. At dinner, beside the long plank table built
down the middle of the Camp, he and Brannigan devoured boiled beans and
salt pork and stewed dried apples, gulped down tins of black tea, and
jointly narrated their experience to the interested choppers and
teamsters, while Mary, shut up in the stables, munched hay comfortably
and wondered what had become of her partners. They were big-boned,
big-hearted children, these men of the New Brunswick lumber camps, quick
in quarrel, quick in sentiment, but cool and close-lipped in the face of
emergency. The "boss" of the camp, however, was of a different type--a
driving, hard-eyed Westerner, accustomed to the control of lumber gangs
of mixed races, and his heart was as rough as his tongue. In a lull in
the talk he said suddenly to the visitors--

"We're about sick o' salt pork in this camp, mates, an' the fresh beef
ain't been sent out from the Settlement yit. Coin's been too heavy. That
fat young moose critter o' yourn'll come in mighty handy jest now. What
d'ye want fer her as she stands?"

Long Jackson set down his tin of tea with a bump and looked at the
speaker curiously. But Brannigan thought it was a joke, and laughed.

"Cow-moose comes high in New Brunswick, Mr. Clancy," said he pleasantly,
"as ye must a' been here long enough to know."

"Oh, that's all right," answered the boss; "but there ain't a
game-warden within a hundred miles o' this camp, an' I'd risk it if
there was. What'll ye take?"

Brannigan saw that the proposal was a serious one, and his face
stiffened.

"Where Mary's concerned," said he, speaking with slow precision, "I
guess me an' my pardner here's all the game-wardens that's required.
It's close season all year round fer Mary, an' she ain't fer sale at any
price."

There was a moment's silence, broken only by a shuffle of tin plates on
the table. Then Long Jackson said--

"An' that's a fact, Mr. Clancy."

The boss made a noise of impatience between his teeth. He was not used
to being opposed, but he could not instantly forget that these visitors
were his guests.

"Well," said he, "there ain't no property right in a moose, anyhow!"

"_We_ think ther' be," replied Brannigan, "an' we know that there little
moose-cow's our'n an' _not_ fer sale at no price, what-_so-ever_!"

The boss was beginning to get angry at this incomprehensible attitude of
his guests.

"Ther' ain't _no_ property rights, I tell ye, in any wild critter o'
these here woods. This critter's in my stables, an' I could jest _take_
her, seein' as my hands needs her, without no talk o' payin' fer the
privilege. But you two boys has been burnt out an' in hard luck, so I'll
give ye the price o' good beef for the critter. Ye kin take it or leave
it. But I'm going to kinder requisition the critter."

As he spoke he rose from his seat, as if to go and carry out his purpose
on the instant. There had been already growls of protest from the men of
the camp, who understood, as he could not, the sentiment of their
guests; but he gave no heed to it. His seat was furthest from the door.
But before he had taken two strides, Long Jackson was at the door, and
had snatched up a heavy steel-shod "peevy." Having not yet quite
recovered, he was still a bit excitable for a woodsman.

"Damn you, Jim Clancy, none o' yer butcherin'!" he shouted. Clancy
sprang forward with an oath, but right in his path rose Brannigan, quiet
and cold.

"Ye better hold on, Mr. Clancy," said he, "an' think it over. It's that
little moose-critter what's jest seen us through, an' I guess we'll see
her through, too, Jackson an' me!"

His tone and manner were civility itself, but his big lean fist was
clenched till the knuckles went white.

Clancy paused. He was entirely fearless, whether it were in a fight or a
log-jam. But he was no fool, and his vocation forced him to think
quickly. He realized suddenly that in the temper of his visitors was a
resolution which would balk at nothing. It would do him no good to have
killing in the camp, even if he were not himself the victim. All this he
saw at one thought, in the fraction of a flash. He saw also that his men
would be against him. He choked back his wrath and cast about for words
to save his face. And here one of his choppers came tactfully to his
aid.

"We ain't wantin' fresh meat so bad as all that, Mr. Clancy," he
suggested, with a grin. "Guess we'd rather wait for the beef."

"Aye, aye!" chimed in several voices pacifically.

Clancy pulled himself together and spoke lightly. "I s'pose ye're right,
lads, an' it was yer own feed I was thinking of. If ye're satisfied, I
must be. An' I was wrong, o' course, to treat our visitors so rough, an'
try force _any_ kind o' a bargain on them. I ax their pardon."

Taking the pardon for granted, he went back to his seat.

Brannigan, who had never lost grip of himself for a moment, sat down
again with a good-natured grin. A murmur of satisfaction went round the
table, and knives once more clattered on tin plates.

Long Jackson, by the door, hesitated and glared piercingly at the boss,
who refrained from noticing.

At length he set down his weapon and came back to the table. In a minute
or two his appetite returned, and he could resume his meal.

Out in the barn, in the smell of hay and horses, Mary lay tranquilly
waving her ears, staring at her unfamiliar company, and chewing her
comfortable cud, untroubled with any intuitions of the fate which had
twice within the last few hours so narrowly passed her by.


Printed in the United States of America.

       *       *       *       *       *

The following pages contain advertisements of Macmillan books by the
same author


BY CHARLES G. D. ROBERTS

The Backwoodsmen

Illustrated. Cloth. 12mo, $1.50 net

"'The Backwoodsmen' shows that the writer knows the backwoods as the
sailor knows the sea. Indeed, his various studies of wild life in
general, whether cast in the world of short sketch or story or
full-length narrative, have always secured an interested public.... Mr.
Roberts possesses a keen artistic sense which is especially marked when
he is rounding some story to its end. There is never a word too much,
and he invariably stops when the stop should be made.... Few writers
exhibit such entire sympathy with the nature of beasts and birds as
he."--_Boston Herald._

"When placed by the side of the popular novel, the strength of these
stories causes them to stand out like a huge primitive giant by the side
of a simpering society miss, and while the grace and beauty of the girl
may please the eye for a moment, it is to the rugged strength of the
primitive man your eyes will turn to glory in his power and simplicity.
In simple, forceful style Mr. Roberts takes the reader with him out into
the cold, dark woods, through blizzards, stalking game, encountering all
the dangers of the backwoodsmen's life, and enjoying the close contact
with Nature in all her moods. His descriptions are so vivid that you can
almost feel the tang of the frosty air, the biting sting of the snowy
sleet beating on your face, you can hear the crunch of the snow beneath
your feet, and when, after heartlessly exposing you to the elements, he
lets you wander into camp with the characters of the story, you stretch
out and bask in the warmth and cheer of the fire."--_Western Review._


Kings in Exile (The Macmillan Fiction Library)

Illustrated. Cloth. 12mo, 50c. net

"More wonderful animal tales such as only Mr. Roberts can relate. With
accurate knowledge of the exiled beasts and a vivid imagination, the
author writes stories that are even more than usually interesting. The
antagonistic feelings that exist beneath the shaggy coats, and the
methods of stealthy warfare of wild beasts, are all minutely described
and the enemies illustrated."--_Book News Monthly._

"It is surprising how much of the wilderness his wistful eye discovers
in a Central Park buffalo yard. For this gift of vision the book will be
read, a vision with its reminder of the scent of dark forests of fir,
the awful and majestic loneliness of sky-towering peaks, the roar of the
breakers and salty smell of the sea, the whispering silences of the
forests. We rise from its pages with the breath of the open spaces in
our lungs."--_Boston Transcript._


PUBLISHED BY

THE MACMILLAN COMPANY

64-66 Fifth Avenue New York


BY CHARLES G. D. ROBERTS

Neighbors Unknown

Decorated cloth, Illustrated, 12mo, $1.50 net

"Mr. Roberts has a wonderful knowledge of wild animals, and we are
thrilled by his vivid scenes."--_Boston Times._

"The stories are thrilling and hold one interested
throughout."--_Indianapolis News._

"Mr. Roberts knows his animals intimately and writes about them with
understanding and reality."--_The Continent._

"Whether viewed as stories, as natural history, or as literature, young
and old should lose no time in making the acquaintance of 'Neighbors
Unknown.'"--_N. Y. Times._

"Few stories about animals have as strong a power to interest and
entertain or carry as deep a conviction of their truth and
reasonableness as those by Charles G. D. Roberts, which comprise the
volume 'Neighbors Unknown.'"--_Chicago Tribune._

"What observation, what power of description is displayed in Charles G.
D. Roberts's latest volume of stories!"--_Bellman._

"The drawings of Paul Bransom add much to the interest of the volume and
are full of action and meaning."--_Boston Globe._


PUBLISHED BY

THE MACMILLAN COMPANY

64-66 Fifth Avenue New York


BY CHARLES G. D. ROBERTS

AUTHOR OF "KINGS IN EXILE," "THE BACKWOODSMEN," ETC.

Children of The Wild

_With illustrations, cloth, 12mo, $1.35_

As might be inferred from the title of Charles G. D. Roberts' new book,
"Children of the Wild," the reader is brought very close to nature. Mr.
Roberts has written many stories about the wild, all of which have the
atmosphere which few writers are able to breathe into their books--the
atmosphere of outdoor life told with the sure touch of a recognized
authority. Here he writes for boys particularly, still of the creatures
of the forests and streams, but with a boy as the central human figure.
Babe and his Uncle Andy and Bill, the guide, are camping in the
wilderness. What they see and hear there suggest stories about young
animals, the "children of the wild." These tales are recounted by Uncle
Andy. In them Mr. Roberts shows that he knows his fellowmen fully as
well as he knows the lore of the woods and the haunts and habits of the
animals of the forest. Into his stories creep snatches of humor,
glimpses of tragedy, and the poignant touch of pathos, all of which make
his work natural. The present work should prove a most acceptable
remembrance to every boy who cares, and what boy does not, for a hearty
book of outdoor life.


The Feet of the Furtive

_Decorated cloth, 12mo, $1.35_

Illustrated by Paul Bransom

It is to be doubted whether there is a more popular animal writer to-day
than Charles G. D. Roberts, whose stories of forests and streams are
read with pleasure by young and old alike. In his present book are tales
of the bear, the bat, the seal, the moose, rabbit and other animals
written in his usual vivid style.

"A great book for boys of all ages, and one that could have been written
only by Charles G. D. Roberts."--_Boston Times._


THE MACMILLAN COMPANY

Publishers 64-66 Fifth Avenue New York





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Hoof and Claw" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



Home