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Title: Mooswa & Others of the Boundaries
Author: Fraser, William Alexander, 1859-1933
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 "Mooswa & Others of the Boundaries" ***

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

BOUNDARIES ***



[Illustration: Cover]



[Illustration: "WELL, LET ME SEE," CONTINUED BLACK FOX, "HERE YE HAVE
ALL ASSEMBLED; FOR FORM’S SAKE I WILL CALL YOUR NAMES."]



                            MOOSWA & OTHERS
                           OF THE BOUNDARIES


                           _By_ W. A. FRASER


                     _Illustrated by_ ARTHUR HEMING



                        CHARLES SCRIBNER’S SONS
                               _NEW YORK_
                                 MDCCCC



                         _Copyright, 1900, by_
                        CHARLES SCRIBNER’S SONS
                          ALL RIGHTS RESERVED



                    UNIVERSITY PRESS -- JOHN WILSON
                      AND SON -- CAMBRIDGE, U.S.A.



                                Contents


Introduction
The Dwellers of the Boundaries
Choosing the King
The Value of their Fur
The Law of the Boundaries
The Building of the Shack
The Exploration of Carcajou
The Setting Out of the Traps
The Otter Slide
The Trapping of Wolverine
The Coming of the Train Dogs
The Trapping of Black Fox
The Run of the Wolves
Carcajou’s Revenge
Pisew Steals The Boy’s Food
The Punishing of Pisew
The Caring for The Boy
François at The Landing
Mooswa brings Help to The Boy



                             Illustrations


                    _From drawings by Arthur Heming_


"Well, let me see," continued Black Fox, "here Ye have all assembled;
for form’s sake I will call your names" . . . Frontispiece

"So I lay still, pretending to be asleep"

"The ball struck me in the shoulder, and made me furious with rage"

"Wuf!" sniffed Muskwa, gently.  "Our Man burns the stink-weed in his
mouth"

"Cat," answered François; "dat’s Mister Lynk"

Rof was going with so much speed, ... that he couldn’t gather for a
spring

They were a funny-looking party

"Holy Mudder, dis time sabe François"

"I go for pull out now, Boy"

"It’s terrible!" Mooswa blurted out

"Poor old Chap!"

In three days they arrived at The Landing



                              Introduction


This simple romance of a simple people, the furred dwellers of the
Northern forests, came to me from time to time during the six seasons I
spent on the Athabasca and Saskatchewan Rivers in the far North-West of
Canada.

Long evenings have passed pleasantly, swiftly, as sitting over a
smouldering camp-fire I have listened to famous Trappers as they spoke
with enthusiastic vividness of the most fascinating life in the
world,--the fur-winner’s calling.

If the incidents and tales in this book fail of interest the fault is
mine, for, coming from their lips, they pleased as did the song of the
Minstrel in the heroic past.

Several of the little tales are absolutely true. Black Fox was trapped
as here described, by a Half-breed, Johnnie Groat, who was with me for a
season.

Carcajou has raided, not one, but many shacks through the chimney, as
fifty Trappers in the North-West could be brought to testify.  The
trapping of this clever little animal by means of a hollow stump, all
other schemes having failed, was an actual occurrence.  It is a well
known fact that many a Trapper has had to abandon his "marten road" and
move to another locality when Carcajou has set up to drive him out.

Mooswa is still plentiful in the forests of the Athabasca, and is the
embodiment of dignity among animals.

There is no living thing more characteristic of the Northern land than
Whisky-Jack, the Jay. Wherever a traveller stops, on plain or in forest,
and uncovers food, there will be one or two of these saucy, thieving
birds.  Where they nest, or how, is much of a mystery.  I never met but
one man who claimed to have found Jack’s nest, and this man, a Trapper,
was of rather an imaginative turn of mind.

The Rabbit of that land is really a hare, never burrowing, but living
quite in the open.  As told in the story they go on multiplying at a
tremendous rate for six years; the seventh, a plague carries a great
number of them off, and very few are seen for the next couple of years.
The supply of fur depends almost entirely upon the rabbit--he is the
food reserve for the other forest dwellers.

Blue Wolf is also an actuality.  Once in a while one of the gray wolves
grows larger than his fellows, and wears a rich blue-gray coat.  I have
one of these pelts in my house now--they are very rare, and are known to
the Traders and Trappers as Blue Wolf.

Perhaps this story is too simple, too light, too prolific of natural
history, too something or other--I don’t know; I have but tried to tell
the things that appeared very fascinating to me under the giant spruce
and the white-barked poplars, with the dark-faced Indians and
open-handed white Trappers sitting about a spirit-soothing camp-fire.



                   THE DWELLERS OF THE BOUNDARIES AND
                        THEIR NAMES IN THE CREE
                            INDIAN LANGUAGE


MOOSWA, _the Moose_.  Protector of The Boy.

MUSKWA, _the Bear_.

BLACK FOX, _King of the Boundaries_.

THE RED WIDOW, _Black Fox’s Mother_.

CROSS-STRIPES, _Black Fox’s Baby Brother_.

ROF, _the Blue Wolf_.  Leader of the Gray Wolf Pack.

CARCAJOU, _the Wolverine_.  Lieutenant to Black King, and known as the
"Devil of the Woods."

PISEW, _the Lynx_.  Possessed of a cat-like treachery.

UMISK, _the Beaver_.  Known for his honest industry.

WAPOOS, _the Rabbit_ (really a Hare).  The meat food for Man and Beast
in the Boundaries.

WAPISTAN, _the Marten_.  With fur like the Sable.

NEKIK, _the Otter_.  An eater of Fish.

SAKWASEW, _the Mink_.  Would sell his Mother for a Fish.

WUCHUSK, _the Muskrat_.  A houseless vagabond who admired Umisk, the
Beaver.

SIKAK, _the Skunk_.  A chap to be avoided, and who broke up the party at
Nekik’s slide.

WENUSK, _the Badger_.

WUCHAK, _the Fisher_.

WHISKY-JACK, _the Canada Jay_.  A sharp-tongued Gossip.

COUGAR, EAGLE, BUFFALO, ANT, and CARIBOU.

WIE-SAH-KE-CHACK.  Legendary God of the Indians, who could change
himself into an animal at will.

FRANÇOIS, _French Half-breed Trapper_.

NICHEMOUS, _Half-breed hunter who tried to kill Muskwa_.

TRAPPERS, HALF-BREEDS, and TRAIN DOGS.

ROD, _The Boy_.  Son of Donald MacGregor, formerly Factor to Hudson’s
Bay Company at Fort Resolution.

When Rod was a little chap, Mooswa had been brought into Fort Resolution
as a calf, his mother having been killed, and they became playmates.
Then MacGregor was moved to Edmonton, and Rod was brought up in
civilization until he was fourteen, when he got permission to go back to
the Athabasca for a Winter’s trapping with François, who was an old
servant of the Factor’s. This story is of that Winter.  Mooswa had been
turned loose in the forest by Factor MacGregor when leaving the Fort.

THE BOUNDARIES.  The great Spruce forests and Muskeg lands lying between
the Saskatchewan River, the Arctic Ocean, and the Rocky Mountains--being
the home of the fur-bearing animals.



                                 Mooswa

                      And Others of the Boundaries



                           CHOOSING THE KING


The short, hot Summer, with its long-drawn-out days full of coaxing
sunshine, had ripened Nature’s harvest of purple-belled pea-vine, and
yellow-blossomed gaillardia, and tall straight-growing moose weed; had
turned the heart-shaped leaves of the poplars into new sovereigns that
fell with softened clink from the branches to earth, waiting for its
brilliant mantle--a fairy mantle all splashed blood-red by crimson maple
woven in a woof of tawny bunch-grass and lace-fronded fern.

Oh, but it was beautiful! that land of the Boundaries, where Black Fox
was King; and which stretched from the Saskatchewan to where the Peace
first bounded in splashing leaps from the boulder-lined foothills of the
Rockies; all beautiful, spruce-forested, and muskeg-dotted--the soft
muskegs knee deep under a moss carpet of silver and green.

The Saskatoons, big brother to the Huckleberry, were drying on the bush
where they had ripened; the Raspberries had grown red in their time and
gladdened the heart of Muskwa, the Bear; the Currants clustered like
strings of black pearls in the cool beds of lazy streams, where
pin-tailed Grouse, and Pheasant in big, red cravat, strutted and crouked
in this glorious feeding-ground so like a miniature vineyard; the
Cranberries nestled shyly in the moss; and the Wolf and Willow-berries
gleamed like tiny white stars along the banks of the swift-running,
emerald-green Saskatchewan and Athabasca.  All this was in the heritage
land of Black Fox, and Muskwa, and Mooswa.

It was at this time, in the full Autumn, that Whisky-Jack flew North and
South, and East and West, and called to a meeting the Dwellers that were
in the Boundaries.  This was for the choosing of their King, a yearly
observance, and for the settling of other matters.

When they had gathered, Black Fox greeted the Animals:--

"Good Year to you, Subjects, and much eating, each unto his own way of
life!"

Whisky-Jack preened his mischievous head, ruffled his blue-gray
feathers, broke into the harsh, cackling laugh of the Jay, and sneered,
"Eating! always of eating; and never a more beautiful song to you, or--"

"Less thieving to you, eh, Mister Jay," growled Muskwa.  "You who come
by your eating easily have it not so heavily on your mind as we
Toilers."

"Well, let me see," continued Black Fox, with reflective dignity, "here
Ye have all assembled; for form’s sake I will call your names."

From Mooswa to Wapoos each one of the Dwellers as his name was spoken
stepped forward in the circle and saluted the King.

"Jack has been a faithful messenger," said Black King; "but where are
Cougar, and Buffalo, and Eagle?"

"They had notice, thank you, Majesty, for your praise.  Cougar says the
mountain is his King, and that he wouldn’t trust himself among a lot of
Plain Dwellers."

"He’s a Highway Robber and an Outlaw, anyway, so it doesn’t matter,"
asserted Carcajou.

"You wouldn’t talk that way if he were at your throat, my fat little
Friend," lisped Whisky-Jack.  "Buffalo is afraid of Man, and won’t come;
nearly all his brothers have been killed off, and he is hiding in the
Spruce woods near Athabasca Lake."

"I saw a herd of them last Summer," declared Mooswa; "fine big fellows
they have grown to be, too.  Their hair is longer, and blacker, and
curlier than it was when they were on the Plains. There’s no more than
fifty of them left alive in all the North woods; it’s awful to think of
how they were slaughtered.  That’s why I stick to the Timber
Boundaries."

"Eagle won’t come, Your Majesty, because Jay’s chatter makes his head
ache," declared Carcajou.

"Blame me," cried Whisky-Jack, "if anybody doesn’t turn up at the
meeting--say it’s my fault; I don’t mind."

"You know why we meet as usual?" queried Black Fox, placing his big
white-tipped brush affectedly about his feet.

"That they do," piped Whisky-Jack; "it’s because they’re afraid of
losing their hides.  I’m not--nobody tries to rob me."

"Worthless Gabbler!" growled Muskwa.

"Jack is right," declared Black Fox; "if we do not help each other with
the things we have learned, our warm coats will soon be on the shoulders
of the White Men’s Wives."

"Is that why the Men are always chasing us?" asked Beaver, turning his
sharp-pointed head with the little bead eyes toward the King.

"Not in your case," snapped Whisky-Jack, "for they eat you, old Fat
Tail.  I heard the two White Men who camped on our river last Winter say
that your Brother, whom they caught when they raided your little round
lodge, tasted like beefsteak, whatever that is.--He, he!  And François
the Guide ate his tail and said it was equal to fat bacon."

"Unthinking Wretch!" cried Umisk angrily, bringing his broad tail down
on a stone like the crack of a pistol.

"I picked his bones," taunted the Jay; "he was dead, and cooked too, so
it didn’t matter."

"Cannibal!" grunted Bear.

"They eat you also, Muskwa; only when they’re very hungry though,--they
say your flesh is like bad pork, strong and tough."

Black Fox interrupted the discord.  "Comrades," he pleaded, "don’t mind
Jack; he’s only a Jay, and you know what chatterers they are.  He means
well--does he not tell us when the Trappers are coming, and where the
Traps are?"

"Yes, and steal the Bait so you won’t get caught," added Jay.  "Oh, I am
good--I help you.  You’re a lot of crawling fools--all but the King.
You can run, and fight, but you don’t know things.  That’s because you
don’t associate with Man, and sit in his camp as I do."

"I’ve been in his camp," asserted Carcajou, picking up a small stone
slyly to shy at Jack.

"Not when he was home," retorted the Jay; "you sneaked in to steal when
he was away."

"Stop!" commanded the King, angrily.  "Your chatter spoils everything,
do stop!"

Whisky-Jack spread his feathers till he looked like a woollen ball, and
subsided.

"This is the end of the year," continued Black Fox, "and the great
question is, are you satisfied with the rule--is it good?"

Wolverine spoke: "I have been Lieutenant to the Black King for four
years--I am satisfied.  When our enemies, the Trappers, have tried to
catch us by new wiles His Majesty has told us how to escape."

"Did he, always?" demanded the Bird. "Who knew of the little White
Powder that François put in the Meat--the White Medicine Powder he had
in a bottle?  Neither you, Carcajou, nor Black King, nor any one tasted
that--did you?  Even now you do not know the name of it; but I can tell
you--it’s strychnine.  Ha, ha! but that was funny.  They put it out, and
I, Whisky-Jack, whom you call a Tramp, told you.  I, Jack the Gabbler,
flew till my wings were tired warning you to beware."

"You might have saved yourself the trouble," retorted Wolverine; "Black
King would have found it with his nose.  Can he not tell even if any Man
has touched the Meat that is always a Bait?"

"Stupid!" exclaimed Jack; "do you think the Men are such fools?  They
handle not the Bait which is put in the Traps--they know that all the
brains you chaps have are in your noses. Catch François, the Half-breed,
doing that; he’s too clever.  He cuts it with a long knife, and handles
it with a stick.  The little White Powder that is the essence of death
is put in a hole in the Meat.  I know; I’ve seen them at it. Haven’t
their Train-Dogs noses also--and didn’t two of them that time eat the
Bait, and die before they had travelled the length of a Rabbit-run.  I
saw them--they grew stiff and quiet, like the White Man who fell in the
snow last Winter when he was lost.  But I’m satisfied with Black Fox;
and you can be his Lieutenant--I don’t care."

"Yes," continued Carcajou, "who among us is more fitted to be King?
Muskwa is strong, and big, and brave; but soon he will go into his
house, and sleep until Spring.  What would become of us with no King for
months?"

"Yes, I’m sleepy," answered Bear--"and tired.  I’ve tramped up and down
the banks of the river eating white Buffalo-berries and red Cranberries
until I’m weary.  They are so small, and I am so big; it keeps me busy
all day."

"You’ve got stout on it," chuckled Jack. "I wish I could get fat."

"You talk too much, and fret yourself to death over other people’s
business," growled Bear. "You’re a meddling Tramp."

"Muskwa," said Mink, "there are bushels and bushels of big, juicy, Black
Currants up in the Muskeg, near the creek I fish in--I wish I could eat
them.  Swimming, swimming all day after little frightened Fish, that are
getting so cunning.  Why, they hide under sticks, and get up in shallow
water among the stones, so that I can hardly see them.  It must be
pleasant to sit up on your quarters, nice and dry, pull down the bushes
and eat great, juicy Berries.  I wish I lived on fruit."

"No you don’t," snarled Jay; "you’d sell your Mother for a fish."

"If you’re quite through wrangling," interrupted Wolverine, "I’ll go on
talking about the King.  Who is better suited than Black Fox?  Is it
Mooswa?  He would make a very magnificent-looking King.  See his great
horns. He would protect us--just now; but do you not know that in the
Spring they will drop off, and our Comrade will be like a Man without
hands all Summer.  Why, even his own Wife won’t look at him while he is
in that condition. Then the young horns come out soft and pulpy, all
covered with velvet, and until they get hard again are tender, and he’s
afraid to strike anything with them.  You see, we must have somebody
that is King all the year round.  Why, Mooswa couldn’t tell us about the
Bait; he can’t put his nose to the ground; he can’t even eat grass,
because of his short neck."

"I wish I could," sighed the Moose.  "I get tired of the purple-headed
Moose-weed, and the leaves and twigs.  The young grass looks so sweet
and fresh.  But Carcajou is right; I was made this way--I don’t know
why, though."

"No, you weren’t!" objected Whisky-Jack; "you’re such a lordly chap when
you get your horns in good order, and have gone around so much with that
big nose stuck up in the air, that you’ve just got into that shape--He,
he!  I’ve seen Men like you.  The Hudson’s Bay Factor, at Slave Lake, is
just your sort.  Bah!  I don’t want you for a King."

The Bull Moose waved his tasselled beard back and forth angrily, and
stamped a sharp, powerful fore-foot on the ground like a trip-hammer.

Black Fox interfered again.  "Why do you make everybody angry, you silly
Bird?" he said to the Jay.  "Do you learn this bitter talk from
listening to your Men friends while you are waiting for their scraps?"

"Perhaps so; I learn many things from them, and you learn from me.  But
go on, Bully Carcajou.  Tell us all why we’re not fit to be Kings.
Perhaps Rof, there, would like to hear of his failings."

"I don’t want to be King," growled Rof, the big Blue Wolf, surlily.

"No, your manners are against you," sneered Jack; "you’d do better as
executioner."

"Well," commenced Carcajou, taking up the challenge, "to tell you the
truth, we’re all just a little afraid of Rof.  We don’t want a despotic
Ruler if we can help it.  I don’t wish to hurt his feelings, but when
Blue Wolf got hungry his subjects might suffer."

"I don’t want him for King," piped Mink; "his jaws are too strong and
his legs too long."

"Oh, I couldn’t stay here," declared Blue Wolf, "and manage things for
you fellows. Next month I’m going away down below Grand Rapids.  My
Brother has been hunting there with a Pack of twenty good fellows, and
says the Rabbits are so thick that he’s actually getting fat;" and Wolf
licked his steel jaws with a hungry movement that made them all shudder.
His big lolling tongue looked like a firebrand.

"You needn’t fret," squeaked Jay; "we don’t want you.  We don’t want a
rowdy Ruler.  I saw you fighting with the Train Dogs over at Wapiscaw
last Winter.  You’re as disgraceful as any domestic cur."

"Now, Pisew--" began Carcajou.

As he mentioned the Lynx’s name, a smile went round the meeting.
Whisky-Jack took a fit of chuckling laughter, until he fell off his
perch.  This made him cranky in an instant. "Of all the silly Sneaks!"
he exclaimed scornfully, as he fluttered up on a small Jack-pine, and
stuck out his ruffled breast.  "That Spear-eared Creature for King!  Oh,
my!  Oh, my! that’s too rich!  He’d have you all catching Rabbits for
him to eat.  Kings are great gourmands, I know, but they don’t eat Field
Mice, and Frogs, and Snails, and trash of that sort--not raw, anyway."

Carcajou proceeded more gravely with his objection.  "As I said before,
this is purely a matter of business with us; and anything I say must not
be taken as a personal affront."

"Of course not, of course not," interrupted Jack.  "Go on with your
candid observations, Hump-back."

"We all know our Friend’s weakness for perfume," continued Wolverine.

"Do you call Castoreum a perfume?" questioned Whisky-Jack.  "It’s a
vile, diabolical stink--that’s what it is.  Why, the Trappers won’t keep
it in their Shacks--it smells so bad; they bury it outside.  Nobody but
a gaunt, brainless creature, like the Cat there, would risk his neck for
a whiff of that horrible-smelling stuff."

"Order!" commanded Black King; "you get so personal, Jack.  You know
that our Comrade, Beaver, furnishes the Castoreum, don’t you?"

"Yes, I know; and he ought to be ashamed of it."

"It’s not my fault," declared Umisk; "your friends, the cruel Trappers,
don’t get it from us till we’re dead."

"Well, never mind about that," objected Carcajou.  "We know, and the
Trappers know, that Lynx is the easiest caught of all our fellows; if he
were our King they’d snare him in a week--then we’d be without a Ruler.
We must have some one that not only can take care of us, but of himself
too."

"Pisew can’t do that--he can’t take care of his own family," twittered
Jay.  "His big furry feet make a trail in the snow like Panther’s, and
then when you come up to him, he’s just a great starved Cat, with less
brains than a Tadpole."

Carcajou suddenly reared on his hind quarters and let fly the stone with
his short, strong, right arm at the Bird.  "Evil Chatterer!" he
exclaimed angrily, "you are always making mischief."

Jack hopped nimbly to one side, cocked his saucy silvered head downward,
and piped: "Proceed with the meeting; the Prince of all Mischief-makers,
Carcajou, the Devil of the Woods, lectures us on morality."

"Yes, let us proceed with the discussion," commanded Black Fox.

"Brothers," said the Moose, in a voice that was strangely plaintive,
coming from such a big, deep throat, "I am satisfied with Black Fox for
King; but if anything were to happen requiring us to choose another, one
of almost equal wisdom, I should like to nominate Beaver.  We know that
when the world was destroyed by the great flood, and there was nothing
but water, that Umisk took a little mud, made it into a ball with his
handy tail, and the ball grew, and they built it up until it became dry
land again.  Wiesahkechack has told us all about that.  I have travelled
from the Athabasca across Peace River, and up to the foothills of the
big mountains, to the head-waters of the Smoky, and have seen much of
Brother Umisk’s clever work, and careful, cautious way of life.  I never
heard any one say a word against his honesty."

"That’s something," interrupted Jay; "that’s more than can be said for
many of us."

The big melancholy eyes of the Moose simply blinked solemnly, and he
proceeded: "Brother Umisk has constructed dams across streams, and
turned miles of forest into rich, moist Muskeg, where the loveliest long
grasses grow--most delicious eating.  These dams are like the great hard
roads you have seen the White Men cut through our country to pull their
stupid carts over; I can cross the softest Muskeg on one and my sharp
hoofs hardly bury to the fetlock.  Is that not work worthy of an Animal
King?  And he has more forethought, more care for the Winter, than any
of us.  Some of you have seen his stock of food."

"I have," eagerly interrupted Nekik, the Otter.

"And I," said Fisher.

"I too, Mooswa," cried Mink.

"I have seen it," quoth Muskrat; "it’s just beautiful!"

"You tell them about Umisk’s food supply, Brother Muskrat," commanded
the Moose.  "I can’t dive under the water like you and see it ready
stored, but I have observed the trees cut down by his chisel-teeth."

"You make me blush," remonstrated Beaver, modestly.

"Beautiful White Poplar trees," went on Mooswa; "and always cut so they
fall just on the edge of the stream.  Is that not clever for one of us?
Man can’t do it every time."

"Trowel Tail only cuts the leaning trees--that’s why!" explained
Whisky-Jack.

Mooswa was too haughty to notice the interruption, but continued his
laudation of Beaver’s cunning work.

"Then our Brother Umisk cuts the Poplar into pieces the length of my
leg; and, while I think of it, I’d like to ask him why he leaves on the
end of each stick a piece like the handle of a rolling-pin."

"What’s a rolling-pin?" gasped Jay.

"Something the Cook throws at your head when you’re trying to steal his
dinner," interjected Carcajou.

Lynx laughed maliciously at this thrust.  "Isn’t Wolverine a witty
chap?" he said, fawningly, to Blue Wolf.

"I know what that cunning little end is for," declared Muskrat; "I’ll
tell you what Beaver does with the sticks under water, and then you’ll
understand."

Black King yawned as though all this bored him.  "He doesn’t like to
hear his rival praised," sneered Whisky-Jack; "it makes him sleepy."

"Well," continued Wuchusk, "Beaver floats the Poplar down to his pond,
to a little place just up stream from his lodge, with a nice, soft
bottom. There he dives swiftly with each piece, and the small round end
you speak of, Mooswa, sticks in the mud, see?  Oh, it is clever; I wish
I could do it,--but I can’t.  I have to rummage around all Winter for my
dinner.  All the sticks stand there close together on end; the ice forms
on top of the water, and nobody can see them.  When Umisk wants his
dinner, he swims up the pond, selects a nice, fat, juicy Poplar, pulls
it out of the mud, floats it in the front door of his pretty,
round-roofed lodge, strips off the rough covering, and eats the white,
mealy inner-bark.  It’s delicious!  No wonder Beaver is fat."

"I should think it would be indigestible," said Lynx.  "But isn’t Umisk
kind to his family--dear little Chap!"

"Must be hard on the teeth," remarked Mink. "I find fishbones tough
enough."

"Oh, it’s just lovely!" sighed Beaver.  "I like it."

"What do you do with the logs after you’ve eaten the crust?" asked Black
King, pretending to be interested.

"Float them down against the dam," answered Beaver.  "They come in handy
for repairing breaks."

"What breaks the dam?" mumbled Blue Wolf, gruffly.

"I know," screamed Jay; "the Trappers.  I saw François knock a hole in
one last Winter. That’s how he caught your cousins, Umisk, when they
rushed to fix the break."

"How do you know when it’s damaged, Beaver?" queried Mooswa.  "Supposing
it was done when you were asleep--you don’t make your bed in the water,
I suppose."

"No, we have a nice, dry shelf all around on the inside of the lodge,
just above--we call it the second-story; but we keep our tails in the
water always, so as soon as it commences to lower we feel it, you know."

"That is wise," gravely assented Mooswa. "Have I not said that Umisk is
almost as clever as our King?"

"He may be," chirruped Jay; "but François never caught the Black King,
and he catches many Beaver.  Last winter he took out a Pack of their
thick, brown coats, and I heard him say there were fifty pelts in it."

"That’s just it," concurred Carcajou.  "I admire Umisk as much as
anybody.  He’s an honest, hard-working little chap, and looks after his
family and relations better than any of us; but if there was any trouble
on we couldn’t consult him, for at the first crack of a Firestick, or
bark of a Train Dog, he’s down under the water, and either hidden away
in his lodge, or in one of the many hiding-holes he has dug in the banks
for just such emergencies.  We must have some one who can get about and
warn us all."

"I object to him because he’s got Fleas," declared Jay, solemnly.

"Fleas!" a chorus of voices exclaimed in indignant protest.

The Coyote, who had been digging viciously at the back of his ear with a
sharp-clawed foot, dropped his leg, got up, and stretched himself, with
a yawn, hoping that nobody had observed his petulant scratching.

"That’s silly!" declared Mooswa.  "A chap that lives under the water
have Fleas?"

"Is it?" piped Whisky-Jack.  "What’s his thick fur coat, with the
strong, black guard-hairs for?  Do you suppose that doesn’t keep his
hide dry?  If one of you land-dwellers were out in a stiff shower you’d
be wet to the skin; but he won’t, though he stay under water a month.
If he hasn’t got Fleas, what is that double nail on his left hind-foot
for?"

"Perhaps he hasn’t got a split-nail," ventured Fisher--"I haven’t."

"Nor I!" declared Mink.

"My nails are all single!" asserted Muskrat.

"Look for yourselves if you don’t believe me," commanded Jack.  "If he
hasn’t got it, I’ll take back what I said, and you can make him King if
you wish."

This made Black Fox nervous.  "Will you show our Comrades your toes,
please?" he commanded Beaver, with great politeness.

Umisk held up his foot deprecatingly.  There sure enough, on the second
toe, was a long, black, double claw, like a tiny pincers.  "What did I
tell you?" shrieked Jack.  "He can pin a Flea with that as easily as
Mink seizes a wriggling Trout.  He’s got half-a-dozen different kinds of
Fleas, has Umisk.  I won’t have a King who is little better than a
bug-nursery.  A King must be above that sort of thing."

"This is all nonsense," exclaimed Carcajou angrily, for he had fleas
himself; "it’s got nothing to do with the matter.  Umisk has to live
under the ice nearly all Winter, and would be of no more service to us
than Muskwa--that’s the real objection."

"My!" cried Beaver, patting the ground irritably with his trowel-tail,
"one really never knows just how vile he is till he gets running for
office.  Besides, I don’t want to be King--I’m too busy.  Perhaps
sometime when I was here governing the Council, François, or another
enemy, would break my dam and murder the whole family; besides, it’s too
dusty out here--I like the nice, clean water.  My feet get sore walking
on the land."

"Oh, he doesn’t want to be King!" declared Jay, ironically.  "Next!
next!  Who else is there, Frog-legged Carcajou?"

"Well, there’s Muskrat," suggested Lynx; "I like him."

"Yes, to eat!" interrupted Whisky-Jack. "If Wuchusk were King, we’d come
home some day and find that he’d been eaten by one of his own
subjects--by the sneaking Lynx--’Slink’ it should be."

"You shouldn’t say that," declared Black Fox; "because you’re our Mail
Carrier you shouldn’t take so many liberties."

"I’m only telling the truth.  It has always been the custom at these
meetings for each one to speak just what he thought, and no hard
feelings afterward."

Carcajou pulled his long, curved claws through his whiskers
reflectively.  "What’s the use of wrangling like this--we’re as silly as
a lot of Men.  Last Winter when I was down at Grand Rapids I sat up on
the roof of a Shack listening to those two-legged creatures squabbling.
They were all arguing fiercely about the different ways of getting to
Heaven.  According to each one he was on the right road, and the rest
were all wrong.  Fresh Meat! but it was stupid; for I gathered from what
they said that the one way to get there was to be good; only each had a
different way."

"What place did you say?" queried the Jay.

"Grand Rapids."

"No, no! the place they all wanted to go to."

"Heaven."

"Where’s that?"

"I don’t know, and you needn’t bother; for the Men said it was a place
for the good, only."

Beaver’s fat sides fairly shook as he chuckled delightedly over the snub
Carcajou had given Jack.

"Ha, ha!" roared Bear; "Sweet Berries! but Humpback is too many for you,
Birdie," and the woods echoed with his laughter.

"Rats!" screamed the Jay; "that’s the subject under discussion.  Our
friend wanders from his theme trying to be personal."

"Oh, nobody’s personal here," sighed Lynx. "I’m a ’Slink,’ but that
doesn’t count."

"Yes, talking of Rats," recommenced Carcajou, "like Lynx, I admire our
busy little Brother, Beaver, though I never ate one in my life--"

"Pisew did!" chirruped the bird-voice from over their heads.

"Though I never ate one," solemnly repeated Wolverine; "but if Umisk
won’t do for King, there is no use discussing Wuchusk’s chances. He has
all Trowel Tail’s failings, without his great wisdom, and even can’t
build a decent house, though he lives in one.  Half the time he hasn’t
anything to eat for his family; you’ll see him skirmishing about Winter
or Summer, eating Roots, or, like our friends Mink and Otter, chasing
Fish.  Anyway, I get tired of that horrible odour of musk always.  His
house smells as bad as a Trapper’s Shack with piles of fur in it--I hate
people who use musk, it shows bad taste; and to carry a little bag of it
around with one all the time--it’s detestable!"

"You should take a trip to the Barren Lands, my fastidious friend, as I
did once," interposed Mooswa, "and get a whiff of the Musk Ox. Much
Fodder! it turned my stomach."

"You took too much of it, old Blubbernose," yelled Jay, fiendishly;
"Wolverine hasn’t got a nose like the head of a Sturgeon Fish. Anyway,
you’re out of it, Mister Rat; if the Lieutenant says you’re not fit for
King, why you’re not--I must say I’m glad of it."

"There are still the two cousins, Otter, and Mink," said Carcajou.

"Fish Thieves--both of them," declared Whisky-Jack.  "So is Fisher, only
he hasn’t nerve to go in the water after Fish; he waits till Man catches
and dries them, then robs the cache. That’s why they call him
Fisher--they should name him Fish-stealer."

"Look here, Jack," retorted Wolverine, "last Winter I heard François say
that you stole even his soap."

"I thought it was butter," chuckled Jay--"it made me horribly sick.  But
their butter was so bad, I thought the soap was an extra good pat of
it."

"I may say," continued Carcajou, "that these two cousins, Otter and
Mink, like Muskrat, have too limited a knowledge for either to be Chief
of the Boundaries.  While they know all about streams and water powers,
they’d be lost on land.  Why, in deep snow, Nekik with his short, little
legs makes a track as though somebody had pulled a log along--that
wouldn’t do."

"I don’t want to be King!" declared Otter.

"Nor I!" added Mink.

"And we don’t want you--so that settles it; all agreed!" cried
Whisky-Jack, gleefully. "Nothing like having peace and harmony in the
meeting.  It always comes to the same thing: people’s names are put up,
they’re blackguarded and abused, and in the end nobody’s fit for the
billet but Black Fox; and Carcajou, of course, is his Lieutenant."

"We have now considered everybody’s claims," began Carcajou--

"You’ve modestly forgotten yourself," interrupted Whisky-Jack.  "You’d
make a fine, fat, portly Ruler."

"No, I withdraw in favour of Black Fox, and we won’t even mention your
name.  Black Fox has been a good King; he has saved many of us from a
Trap; besides, he wears the Royal Robe.  Look at him! his Mother and all
his Brothers and Sisters are red, except Stripes, the Baby, who is a
Cross; does that not show that he has been selected for royal honours?
Among ourselves each one is like his Brother--there is little
difference.  The Minks are alike, the Otter are alike, the Wolves are
alike--all are alike; except, of course, that one may be a little larger
or a little darker than the other.  Look at the King’s magnificent
Robe--blacker than Fisher’s coat; and the silver tip of the white
guard-hairs make it more beautiful than any of our jackets."

"It’s just lovely!" purred Pisew, with a fine sycophantic touch.

"I’m glad I haven’t a coat like that," sang out Jay; "His Majesty will
be assassinated some day for it.  Do you fellows know what he’s worth to
the Trappers--do any of you know your market value?  I thought not--let
me tell you."

"For the sake of a mild Winter, don’t--not just now," pleaded Carcajou.
"Let us settle this business of the King first, then you can all spin
yarns."

"Yes, we’re wasting time," declared Umisk. "I’ve got work to do on my
house, so let us select a Chief, by all means.  There’s Coyote, and
Wapoos, and Sikak the Skunk, who have not yet been mentioned."  But each
of these, dreading Jack’s sharp tongue, hastily asserted they were not
in the campaign as candidates.

"Well, then," asked Carcajou, "are you all agreed to have Black Fox as
Leader until the fulness of another year?"

"I’m satisfied!" said Bear, gruffly.

"It’s an honour to have him," ventured Pisew the Lynx.

"He’s a good enough King," declared Nekik the Otter.

"I’m agreed!" exclaimed Beaver; "I want to get home to my work."

"Long live the King!" barked Blue Wolf.

"Long live the King!" repeated Mink, and Fisher, and the rest of them in
chorus.

"Now that’s settled," announced Wolverine.

"Thank you, Comrades," said Black Fox; "you honour me.  I will try to be
just, and look after you carefully.  May I have Wolverine as Lieutenant
again?"

They all agreed to this.



                         THE VALUE OF THEIR FUR


"Now that’s serious business enough for one day," declared the King;
"Jack, you may tell us about the fur, and perhaps some of the others
also have interesting tales to relate."

Whisky-Jack hopped down from his perch, and strutted proudly about in
the circle.

"Mink," he began, snapping his beak to clear his throat, "you can chase
a silly, addle-headed Fish into the mud and eat him, but you don’t know
the price of your own coat.  Listen!  The Black King’s jacket is worth
more than your fur and all the others put together.  I heard the Factor
at Wapiscaw tell his clerk about it last Winter when I dined with him."

"You mean when you dined with the Train Dogs," sneered Pisew.

"You’ll dine with them some day, and their stomachs will be fuller than
yours," retorted the Bird.  "Mink, your pelt is worth a dollar and a
half--’three skins,’ as the Company Men say when they are trading with
the Indians, for a skin means fifty cents.  You wood-dwellers didn’t
know that, I suppose."

"What do they sell my coat for?" queried Beaver.

"Six dollars--twelve skins, for a prime, dark one.  Kit-Beaver, that’s
one of your Babies, old Trowel Tail, sells for fifty cents--or is given
away.  You, Fisher, and you, Otter, are nip and tuck--eight or ten
dollars, according to whether your fur is black or of a dirty coffee
colour.  But there’s Pisew; he’s got a hide as big as a blanket, and it
sells for only two dollars. Do you know what they do with your skin,
Slink?  They line long cloaks for the White Wives with it; because it’s
soft and warm,--also cheap and nasty.  He, he! old Feather-bed Fur.

"Now, Wapistan, the Marten, they call a little gentleman.  It’s
wonderful how he has grown in their affections, though.  Why, I
remember, five years ago the Company was paying only three skins for
prime Marten; and what do you suppose your hide sells for now, wee
Brother?"

"Please don’t," pleaded Marten, "it’s a painful subject; I wish they
couldn’t sell it at all. I’m almost afraid to touch anything to
eat--there’s sure to be a Trap underneath.  The other day I saw a nice,
fat White Fish head, and thought Mink had left a bite for me; but when I
reached for it, bang! went a pair of steel jaws, scraping my very nose.
Fat Fish! it was a close shave--I’m trembling yet; the jagged teeth
looked so viciously cruel.  If my leg had got in them I know what I
should have had to do."

"So do I," asserted Jack.

"What would he have done, Babbler--you who know all things?" asked Lynx.

"Died!" solemnly croaked Jay.

"I should have had to cut off my leg, as a cousin of mine did," declared
Wapistan.  "He’s still alive, but we all help him get a living now. I
wish my skin was as cheap as Muskrat’s."

"Oh, bless us! he’s only worth fifteen cents," remonstrated Jack.  "His
wool is but used for lining--put on the inside of Men’s big coats where
it won’t show.  But your fur, dear Pussy Marten, is worth eight dollars;
think of that! Of course that’s for a prime pelt.  That Brother of
yours, sitting over there with the faded yellow jacket, wouldn’t fetch
more than three or four at the outside; but I’ll give you seven for
yours now, and chance it--shouldn’t wonder if you’d fetch twelve when
they skin you, for your coat is nice and black."

"I suppose there’s no price on your hide," whined Lynx; "it’s nice to be
of no value in the world--isn’t it?"

"There’s always a price on brains; but that doesn’t interest you, Silly,
does it?  You’re not in the market.  Your understanding runs to a fine
discrimination in perfumes--prominent odours, like Castoreum, or dead
Fish.  If you were a Man you’d have been a hair-dresser.

"Muskwa, your pelt’s a useful one; still it doesn’t sell for a very
great figure.  Last year at Wapiscaw I saw pictures on the Factor’s
walls of men they call Soldiers, and they had the queerest, great, tall
head-covers, made from the skins of cousins of yours.  And the Factor
also had a Bear pelt on the floor, which he said was a good one, worth
twenty dollars--that’s your value dead, twenty dollars.

"Mooswa’s shaggy shirt is good; but they scrape the hair off and make
moccasins of the leather.  Think of that, Weed-eater; perhaps next year
the Trappers will be walking around in your hide, killing your Brother,
or your Daddy, or some other big-nosed, spindle-legged member of your
family.  The homeliest man in the whole Chippewa tribe they have named
’The Moose,’ and he’s the ugliest creature I ever saw; you’d be ashamed
of him--he’s even ashamed of himself."

"What’s the hide worth?" asked Carcajou.

"Seven dollars the Factor pays in trade, which is another name for
robbery; but I think it’s dear at that price, with no hair on, for it is
tanned, of course--the Squaws make the skin into leather.  You wouldn’t
believe, though, that they’d ever be able to skin Bushy-tail, would
you?"

"What! the Skunk?" cried Lynx.  "Haven’t the Men any noses?"

"Not like yours, Slink; but they take his pelt right enough; and the
white stripes down his back that he’s so proud of are dyed, and these
Men, who are full of lies, sell it as some kind of Sable.  And Marten,
too, they sell him as Sable--Canadian Sable."

"I’m sure we are all enjoying this," suggested Black King,
sarcastically.

"Yes, Brothers," assented Whisky-Jack, "Black Fox’s silver hide is worth
more than all the rest put together.  Sometimes it fetches _Five Hundred
Dollars_!"

"Oh!" exclaimed Otter, enviously; "is that true, Jack?"

"It is, Bandy-legs--I always speak the truth; but it is only a fad.  A
tribe of Men called Russians buy Silver Fox; it is said they have a lot
of money, but, like Pisew, little brains.  For my part, I’d rather have
feathers; they don’t rub off, and are nicer in every way.  Do you know
who likes your coat, Carcajou?"

"The Russians!" piped Mink, like a little school-boy.

"Stupid Fish-eater!  Bigger fools than the Russians buy Wolverine--the
Eskimo, who live away down at the mouth of the big river that runs to
the icebergs."

"What are icebergs, Brother?" asked Mink.

"Pieces of ice," answered Jack.  "Now you know everything, go and catch
a Goldeye for your supper."

"Goldeye don’t come up the creeks, you ignorant Bird," retorted
Sakwasew.  "I wish they did, though; one can see their big, yellow eyes
so far in the water--they’re easily caught."

"Suckers are more useful," chimed in Fisher; "when they crowd the river
banks in Autumn, eating those black water-bugs, I get fat, and hardly
wet a foot; I hate the water, but I do like a plump, juicy Sucker."

"Not to be compared to a Goldeye or Doré," objected Mink; "they’re too
soft and flabby."

"Fish, Fish, Fish! always about Fish, or something to eat, with you
Water-Rats," interrupted Carcajou, disgustedly.  "Do let us get back to
the subject.  Do you know what the Men say of our Black King, Comrades?"

"They call him The Devil!" declared Jay.

"No they don’t," objected Carcajou; "they aver he’s Wiesahkechack, the
great Indian God, who could change himself into Animals--that’s what
they think.  You all know François, the French Half-breed, who trapped
at Hay River last Winter."

"He killed my First Cousin," sighed Marten.

"I lost a Son by him--poisoned," moaned Black King’s Mother, the Red
Widow, who had been sitting quietly during the meeting watching with
maternal pride the form of her son.

"Yes, he tried to catch me," boasted Carcajou, "but I outwitted him, and
threw a Number Four Steel Trap in the river.  He had a fight with a
Chippewa Indian over it--blamed him for the theft.  Oh, I enjoyed that.
I was hidden under a Spruce log, and watched François pummel the Indian
until he ran away.  I don’t understand much French, but the Half-breed
used awful language.  I wish they’d always fight amongst themselves."

"Why didn’t the Chippewa squeeze François till he was dead?--that’s what
I should have done," growled Muskwa.  "Do you remember Nichemous, the
Cree Half-breed, who always keeps his hat tied on with a handkerchief?"

"I saw him once," declared Black Fox.

"Well, he tried to shoot me--crept up close to a log I was lying behind,
and poked his Ironstick over it, thinking I was asleep.  That was in the
Winter--I think it was the Second of February: but do you know,
sometimes I get my dates mixed.  One year I forgot in my sleep, and came
out on the First to see what the weather was like.  Ha, ha! fancy that;
coming out on the First and thought it was the Second."

"What has that got to do with Nichemous, old Garrulity?" squeaked
Whisky-Jack.

Muskwa licked his gray nose apologetically for having wandered from the
subject.  "Well, as I have said, it was the Second of February; I had
been lying up all Winter in a tremendously snug nest in a little coulee
that runs off Pembina River.  Hunger! but I was weak when I came out
that day."

"I should think you would have been," sympathized the Bird, mockingly.

"I had pains, too; the hard Red-willow Berries that I always eat before
I lay up were griping me horribly--they always do that--they’re my
medicine, you know."

"Muskwa is getting old," interrupted Jay. "He’s garrulous--it’s his
pains and aches now."

Bear took no notice of the Bird.  "I was tired and cross; the sun was
nice and warm, and I lay down behind a log to rest a little.  Suddenly
there was a sound of the crisp hide of the snow cracking, and at first I
thought it was something to eat coming,--something for my hunger.  I
looked cautiously over the tree, and there was Nichemous trailing me;
his snow-shoe had cut through the crust; but it was too late to run, for
that Ironstick of his would have reached; so I lay still, pretending to
be asleep.  Nichemous crept up, oh, so cunningly.  He didn’t want to
wake poor old Muskwa, you see--not until he woke me with the bark of his
Ironstick.  Talk about smells, Mister Lynx.  Wifh! the breath of that
when it coughs is worse than the smell of Coyote--it’s fairly blue in
the air, it’s so bad."

[Illustration: "SO I LAY STILL, PRETENDING TO BE ASLEEP."]

"Where was Nichemous all this time?" cried Jack, mockingly.

"Have patience, little shaganappi (cheap) Bird. Nichemous saw my trail
leading up to the log, but could not see it going away on the other
side. I had just one eye cocked up where I could watch his face.
Wheeze! it was a study.  He’d raise one foot, shove it forward gently,
put that big gut-woven shoe down slowly on the snow, and carry his body
forward; then the other foot the same way, so as not to disturb me.
Good, kind Nichemous!  What a queer scent he gave to the air.  Have any
of you ever stepped on hot coals, and burned your foot?"

"I have!" cried Blue Wolf; "I had a fight with three Train Dogs once, at
Wapiscaw, when their Masters were asleep.  It was all over a miserable
frozen White Fish that even the Dogs wouldn’t eat.  They were husky
fighters. Wur-r-r! we rolled over and over, and finally I fetched up in
the camp-fire."

"Then you know what your paw smelled like when the coals scorched it;
and that is just the nasty scent that came down the air from
Nichemous--like burnt skin.  I could have nosed him a mile away had he
been up wind, but he wasn’t at first.  When Nichemous got to the big
log, he reached his yellow face over, with the Ironstick in line with
his nose, and I saw murder in his eyes, so I just took one swipe at the
top of his head with my right paw and scalped him clean.
Whu-u-o-o-f-f-! but he yelled.  The Ironstick barked as he went head
first into the snow, and its hot breath scorched my arm--underneath
where there’s little hair; but the round iron thing it spits out didn’t
touch me.  I gave Nichemous a squeeze, threw him down, and went away.  I
was mad enough to have slain him, but I’m glad I didn’t.  It’s not good
to kill a Man. You see I was cross," he added, apologetically, "and my
head ached from living in that stuffy hole all Winter."

"Didn’t it hurt your paw?" queried Jack. "I should have thought your
fingers would have been tender from sucking them so much while you were
sleeping in the nest."

"That’s what saved Nichemous’s life," answered Muskwa.  "My fist was
swollen up like a moss-bag, else the blow would have crushed his skull.
But I knocked the fur all off the top; and his wife, who is a great
medicine woman, couldn’t make it grow again; though she patched the skin
up some way or other.  That is why you’ll see Nichemous’s hat tied on
with a red handkerchief always."

"I also know of this Man," wheezed Otter. "Nichemous stepped on my slide
once when he was poaching my preserve--I had it all nice and smooth, and
slippery, and the silly creature, without a claw to his foot, tried to
walk on it."

"What happened, Long-Back?" asked Jack, eagerly.

"Well, he went down the slide faster than ever I did, head first; but,
would you believe it, on his back."

"Into the water?" queried Muskrat.  "That wouldn’t hurt him."

"He was nearly drowned," laughed Nekik. "The current carried him under
some logs, but he got out, I’m sorry to say.  That’s the worst of it, we
never manage to kill these Men."

"I killed one once," proclaimed Mooswa--"stamped him with my front feet,
and his friends never found him; but I wouldn’t do it again, the look in
his eyes was awful--no, I’ll never do it again."

"They’ll kill you some day, Marrow-Bones," declared Jay, blithely.

"That’s what this Man tried to do."

"Tell us about it, Comrade," cried Carcajou, "for I like to hear of the
tables being turned once in a while.  Why, Mistress Carcajou frightens
the babies to sleep by telling them that François, or Nichemous, or some
other Trapper will catch them if they don’t close their eyes and stop
crying--it’s just awful to live in continual dread of Man."

"He was an Indian named Grasshead," began Mooswa, lying down to tell the
little tale comfortably.  "I had just crossed the Athabasca on the ice;
he’d been watching, no doubt, and as I went up the bank his Firestick
coughed, and the ball struck me in the neck.  Of course I cleared off
into the woods at a great rate."

"Didn’t stop to thank the Man, eh, old Pretty Legs?" questioned Jack,
ironically.

"There was a treacherous crust on the snow; sometimes it would bear me
up, and sometimes I would go through up to my chest, for it was deep.
Grasshead wore those big shoes that Muskwa speaks of, and glided along
the top; but my feet are small and hard, you know, and cut the crust."

"See!" piped Jay, "there’s where pride comes in.  All of you horned
creatures are so proud of your little feet, and unless the ground is
hard you soon get done up."

"Well," continued Mooswa, "sometimes I’d draw away many miles from the
Indian.  Once I circled wide, went back close to my trail, laid down in
a thicket, and watched for him.  He passed quite close, trailing along
easily on top of the snow, chewing a piece of dried moose-meat--think of
that, Brothers! stuck in his loose shirt was dried-meat, cut from the
bodies of some of my relatives; even the shirt itself was made from one
of their hides.  His little eyes were vicious and cruel; and several
times I heard him give the call of our wives, which is,
’Wh-e-a-u-h-h-h!’  That was that I might come back, thinking it was one
of my tribe calling.  All day he trailed me that way, and twice I rested
as I speak of. Then Grasshead got cunning.  He travelled wide of my
trail, off to one side, meaning to come upon me lying down or circling.
The second day of his pursuit I was very tired, and the Indian was
always coming closer and closer.

"Getting desperate, I laid a trap for him.  It was the Firestick I
feared really; for without that he was no match for me.  With our
natural strength, he with his arms and teeth, and I with my hoofs and
horns, I could kill him easily. Why, once I slew three Wolves, nearly as
large as Rof; they were murderous chaps who tackled me in the night.  It
wouldn’t do to fight Grasshead where the crust was bad on the deep snow,
so I made for a Jack-pine bluff."

"I know," interrupted Black Fox, nodding his head; "nice open ground
with no underbrush to bother--just the place for a rush when you’ve
marked down your Bird.  Many a Partridge I’ve pinned in one of those
bluffs."

"Yes," went on Mooswa, "the pine needles kill out everything but the
silver-green moss. The snow wasn’t very deep there; it was an ideal
place for a charge--nothing to catch one’s horns, or trip a fellow.  As
Grasshead came up he saw me leaning wearily against a tree, and thought
I was ready to drop.  I was tired, but not quite that badly used up.
You all know, Comrades, how careful an Indian is not to waste the breath
of his Ironstick; he will creep, and creep, and sneak, just like--"

"Lynx," suggested Whisky-Jack.

"Well, Grasshead, seeing that I couldn’t get away, as he thought, came
cautiously to within about five lengths, meaning to make sure of my
death, you know, Brothers; and just as he raised his Ironstick I
charged.  He didn’t expect that--it frightened him.  The ball struck me
in the shoulder, and made me furious with rage.  The Indian turned to
run; but I cut him down, and trampled him to death--I ground him into
the frozen earth with my antlers.  He gave the queer Man-cry that is of
fear and pain--it’s awful! I wish he hadn’t followed me--I wish I hadn’t
killed him."

[Illustration: "THE BALL STRUCK ME IN THE SHOULDER, AND MADE ME FURIOUS
WITH RAGE."]

"You were justified, Mooswa," said Black King; "there is no blame--that
is the Law of the Forest:--

    "’First we run for our lives,
    Then we fight for our lives:
    And we turn at bay when the killer drives."


"Bravo, bravo!" applauded Whisky-Jack. "Don’t fret about the Indian, old
Jelly-Nose. I’m glad you killed him.  I’ve heard the White Trappers say
that the only good Indians are the dead ones."

"My own opinion is that Indians are a fat-meat sight better than the
Whites," declared Carcajou; "they don’t tell as many lies, and they
won’t steal.  They never lock a door here, but they do in the Whiteman’s
land.  An Indian just puts his food down any place, or up on a cache,
and nobody touches it; only, of course, the White Men who were here in
the Boundaries last year looking for the yellow-sand--they stole from
the caches."

"Nobody?" screamed Jay.  "Nobody? What do you call yourself, Carcajou?
How many bags of flour have you ripped open that didn’t belong to you?
How many pounds of bacon have melted away because of your hot mouth?  I
know.  I’ve heard Ambrose, and François, and every other Trapper from
the Landing to Fort Simpson swear you’re the biggest thief since the
time of Wiesahkechack. Why, you’re as bad as a White Man by your own
showing."

"Gently, Brother, gently.  Didst ever hear your Men Friends tell the
story of the pot and the kettle?  Besides, is it unfair that I, or any
of us, take a little from those who come here to steal the coats off our
backs, and the lives from our hearts?"

"Indeed thou art the pot, Carcajou," retorted Jack; "but what do I
steal?  True, I took the piece of soap thinking it was butter; but that
was a trifle, not the size of a Trap Bait; and if I take the Meat out of
their Traps I do so that my Comrades may not be caught?"

"It is written in the Law of the Forest that is not stealing," said
Black King, solemnly.  "The Bait that is put in the Trap is for those of
the Forest, so come it they be not caught; and even though the Trappers
say otherwise, there is no wrong in taking it."

"I also take the Bait-meat," cried Wolverine, "for the good of my
Brothers; but I spring the Trap too, lest by accident they put their
foot in it."

"I also know Nichemous," broke in Umisk, the Beaver.  "He cut a hole in
the roof of my house one day, first blocking up the front door thinking
we were inside, and meaning to catch us; he had his trouble for nothing,
for I got the whole family out just in the nick of time; but I’d like to
make him pay for repairs to the roof.  I don’t know any animal so bad as
a Man, unless it’s a Hermit Beaver."

"What’s a Hermit Beaver, you of the little fore-feet?" asked Jay.

Umisk sighed wearily.  "For a Bird that has travelled as much as you
have, Jack, you are wondrous devoid of knowledge.  Have you never seen
Red Jack, the Hermit?"

"I have," declared Pisew, "he has a piece out of the side of his tail."

"Perhaps you have, perhaps you have; but all hermits are marked that
way--that’s the sign.  You see, once in a while a Beaver is born
lazy--won’t work--will do nothing but steal other people’s Poplar and
eat it.  First we reason with him, and try to encourage him to work; if
that fails we bite a piece out of his tail as a brand, and turn him out
of the community. I marked Red Jack that way myself; I boarded him for a
whole Winter, though, first."

"Served him right," concurred Whisky-Jack.

"Yes, Nichemous is a bad lot," said Carcajou, reflectively; "but he’s no
worse than François."

Black Fox rose, stretched himself, yawned, and said: "The Meeting is
over for to-day; three spaces of darkness from this we meet here again;
there is some business of the Hunting Boundaries to do, and Wapoos has a
complaint to make."

"I’m off," whistled Whisky-Jack.  "Good-bye, Your Majesty.  You fellows
have got to hunt your dinner, I’m going to dine with some Men--I like my
food cooked."

Each of the Animals slipped away, leaving Black Fox and his Mother, the
Red Widow.

"I’m proud of you, my Son," said the Fox Mother.  "Come home with me,
I’ve got something rare for dinner."

"What is it, Dame?"

"A nice, fat Wavey" (kind of goose).

"What!  Wawao, who nests in the Athabasca Lake?  You make my mouth
water, Mother. These Mossberry-fed Partridge are so dry they give me
indigestion; besides, I never saw them so scarce as they are this year."

"It was the great fire the river Boatmen started in the Summer which
burnt up all their eggs that makes them so scarce, Son.  Do you not
remember how we had to fly to the river, and lie for days with our noses
just above water to escape the heat?"

"It’s an ill wind, Mother, that blows nobody good, for it nearly cured
me of fleas.  My fur is not like Beaver’s.  But the Wavies fly high, and
do not nest hereabout--how came you by the Fat Bird?"

"A Hunter hurt it with his Firestick, and it fell in the water with a
broken wing.  I was watching.  I think he is still looking down the
river for his Wavey."



                       THE LAW OF THE BOUNDARIES


Three days later, as had been spoken in the Council, Black King,
accompanied by three Fox Brothers, and his Mother the Red Widow, crept
cautiously into the open space that was fringed by a tangle of Red and
Gray Willows, inside of which grew a second frieze of Raspberry Bushes,
sat on his haunches and peered discontentedly, furtively about. There
was nobody, nothing in sight--nothing but the dilapidated old Hudson’s
Bay Company’s Log Shack that had been a Trading Post, and against which
Time had leaned so heavily that the rotted logs were sent sprawling in a
disconsolate heap.

"This does not look overmuch like our Council Court, does it, Dame?" he
asked of the Red Widow.  "I, the King, am first to arrive--ah, here is
Rof!" as Blue Wolf slouched into the open, his froth-lined jaws swinging
low in suspicious watchfulness.

"I’m late," he growled, sniffing at each bush and stump as he made the
circuit of the Court. "What! only Your Majesty and the Red Widow here as
yet.  It’s bad form for our Comrades to keep the King waiting."

While Blue Wolf was still speaking the Willows were thrust open as
though a tree had crashed through them, and Mooswa’s massive head
protruded, just for all the world as if hanging from a wall in the hall
of some great house.  His Chinese-shaped eyes blinked at the light.
"May I be knock-kneed," he wheezed plaintively, "if it didn’t take me
longer to do those thirty miles this morning than I thought it
would--the going was so soft.  I should have been here on time, though,
if I hadn’t struck just the loveliest patch of my favourite weed at
Little Rapids--where the fire swept last year, you know."

"That’s what the Men call Fire-weed," cried Carcajou, pushing his strong
body through the fringe of berry bushes.

"That’s because they don’t know," retorted Mooswa; "and because it
always grows in good soil after the Fire has passed, I suppose."

"Where does the seed come from, Mooswa?" asked Lynx, who had come up
while they were talking.  "Does the Fire bring it?"

"I don’t know," answered the Bull Moose.

"It is not written in Man’s books, either," affirmed Carcajou.

"Can the King, who is so wise, tell us?" pleaded Fisher, who had
arrived.

"Manitou sends it!" Black Fox asserted decisively.

"The King answers worthily," declared Wolverine. "If Mooswa can stand in
the Fire-flower until it tops his back, and eat of the juice-filled
stalk without straining his short neck until his belly is like the gorge
of a Sturgeon, what matters how it has come.  Let the Men, who are silly
creatures, bother over that.  Manitou has sent it, and it is good; that
is enough for Mooswa."

"You are late, Nekik," said the King, severely; "and you, too, Sakwasu."

"I am lame!" pleaded Otter.

"My ear is bleeding!" said Mink.

"Who got the Fish?" queried Carcajou. They both tried to look very
innocent.

"What Fish?" asked Black Fox.

"My Fish," replied Mink.

"Mine!" claimed Otter, in the same breath.

Wolverine winked solemnly at the Red Widow.

"Yap! that won’t do--been fighting!" came from the King.

"It was a Doré, Your Majesty," pleaded Sakwasu, "and I caught him
first."

"Just as I dove for him," declared Otter, "Sakwasu followed after and
tried to take him from me--a great big Fish it was.  I’ve been fishing
for four years, but this was the biggest Doré I ever saw--why, he was
the length of Pisew."

"A Fisherman’s lie," quoth the Red Widow.

"Who got the Doré?  That’s the main question," demanded Carcajou.

"He escaped," replied Nekik, sorrowfully; "and we have come to the
Meeting without any breakfast."

"Bah!  Bah!  Bah!" laughed Blue Wolf; "that’s rich!  Hey, Muskwa, you
heard the end of the story--isn’t it good?"

"I, too, have had no breakfast," declared Muskwa, "so I don’t see the
point--it’s not a bit funny.  Seven hard-baked Ant Hills have I torn up
in the grass-flat down by the river, and not a single dweller in one of
them.  My arms ache, for the clay was hard; and the dust has choked up
my lungs.  Wuf-f-f!  I could hardly get my breath coming up the hill,
and I have more mortar in my lungs than Ants in my stomach."

"Are there no Berries to be had, then, Muskwa?" asked Wapistan.

"Oh, yes; there are Berries hereabouts, but they’re all hard and bitter.
The white Dogberries, and the pink Buffalo-berries, and the Wolf-willow
berries--what are they?  Perhaps not to be despised in this Year of
Famine, for they pucker up one’s stomach until a Cub’s ration fills it;
but the Saskatoons are now dry on the Bush, and I miss them sorely.
Gluck! they’re the berries--full of oil, not vinegar; a feed of them is
like eating a little Sucking Pig."

"What’s a Sucking Pig?" queried Lynx; "I never saw one growing."

"I know," declared Carcajou.  "The Priest over at Wapiscaw had six
little white fellows in a small corral.  They had voices like Pallas,
the Black Eagle.  I could always tell when they were being fed, their
wondrous song reached a good three miles."

"That’s where I got mine," remarked Muskwa, looking cautiously about to
see that there were no eavesdroppers; "I had three, and the Priest keeps
three.  But talking of food, one Summer I crossed the great up-hills
that Men call Rockies, and along the rivers of that land grows just the
loveliest Berry any poor Bear ever ate."

"Saskatoons?" queried Carcajou.

"No, the Salmon Berry--great, yellow, juicy chaps, the size of Mooswa’s
nose."

"Fat Birds! what a sized Berry!" ejaculated the Widow, dubiously.

"Well, almost as big," modified Muskwa; "and sweet and nippy.  Ugh! ugh!
It was like eating a handful of the fattest black Ants you ever tasted."

"I don’t eat Ants," declared the Red Widow.

"Neither did I this morning, I’m sorry to say," added Bear, hungrily.

"Weren’t they hairy little Beggars, Muskwa?" asked Blue Wolf, harking
back longingly to the meat food.

"What, the Salmon Berries?"

"No; the Padre’s little Pigs at Wapiscaw."

"Yes, somewhat; I had bristles in my teeth for a week--awfully coarse
fur they wore.  But they were noisy little rats--the screeching gave me
an earache.  Huf, huf, huh!  You should have seen the Factor, who is a
fat, pot-bellied little Chap, built like Carcajou, come running with his
short Otter-shaped legs when he heard me among the Pigs."

"What did you do, Muskwa--weren’t you afraid?" asked the Red Widow.

"I threw a little Pig out of the corral and he took to the Forest.  The
Factor in his excitement ran after him, and I laughed so much to see
this that I really couldn’t eat a fourth Pig."

"But you did well," cried Black King; "there’s nothing like a good laugh
at meal-time to aid digestion."

"I thought they would eat like that, Muskwa," continued Blue Wolf.  "You
remember the thick, white-furred animals they once brought to the
Mission at Lac La Biche?"

"Sheep," interposed Mooswa, "I remember them; stupid creatures they
were--always frightened by something; and always bunching up together
like the Plain Buffalo, so that a Killer had more slaying than running
to do amongst them."

"That was the worst of it," declared Blue Wolf. "My Pack acted as
foolishly as Man did with the Buffalo--killed them all off in a single
season, for that very reason."

"And for that trick Man put the blood-bounty on your scalp," cried
Carcajou.

"Oh, the bounty doesn’t matter so long as I keep the scalp on my own
head.  But, as I was going to say, the queer fur they had got into my
teeth, and made me fair furious.  Where one Sheep would have sufficed
for my supper, I killed three--though I’m generally of an even temper.
The Priest did much good in this country--"

"Bringing in the Sheep, eh?" interrupted Carcajou.

"Perhaps, perhaps; each one according as his interests are affected."

"The Priests are a benefit," asserted Marten. "The Father at Little
Slave Lake had a corral full of the loveliest tame Grouse--Chickens,
they called them.  They were like the Sheep, silly enough to please the
laziest Hunter."

"Did you join the Mission, Brother?" asked Carcajou, licking his chops
hungrily.

"For three nights," answered Wapistan, "then I left it, carrying a scar
on my hip from the snap of a white bob-tailed Dog they call a
Fox-terrier. A busy, meddlesome, yelping little cur, lacking the
composure of a Dweller in the Boundaries. I became disgusted at his
clatter and cleared out."

"A Fox _what_?" asked the Red Widow. "He was not of our tribe to
interfere with a Comrade’s Kill."

"It must have been great hunting," remarked Black King, his mouth
watering at the idea of a corral full of Chickens.

"It was!" asserted Wapistan.  "All in a row they sat, shoulder to
shoulder--it was night, you know.  They simply blinked at me with their
glassy eyes, and exclaimed, ’Peek!  Peek!’ until I cut their throats.
Yes, the Mission is a good thing."

"It is," concurred Black King--"they should establish more of them.  But
where in the world is Chatterbox, the Jay?"

"Gabbler the Fool must have trailed in with a party of Men going down
the river," suggested Carcajou.  "Nothing but eating would keep him away
from a party of talkers."

"Well, Comrades," said Black King, "shall the Boundaries be the same as
last year?  Are there any changes to be made?"

"I roam everywhere; is that not so, King?" asked Muskwa.

"Yes; but not eat everywhere.  There is truce for the young Beaver,
because workmen are not free to the Kill."

"I have not eaten of Trowel Tail’s Children," declared Muskwa, proudly.
"I have kept the Law of the Boundaries."

"And yet he has lost two sons," said Black Fox, looking sternly about.

A tear trickled down the sandy beard of Beaver and glistened on his
black nose.

"Two sturdy Sons, Your Majesty, a year old. Next year, or the year
after, they would have gone out and built lodges of their own.  Such
plasterers I never saw in my life.  Why, their work was as smooth as the
inner bark of the Poplar; and no two Beavers on the whole length of
Pelican River could cut down a tree with them."

"Oh, never mind their virtues, Trowel Tail," interrupted Carcajou,
heartlessly; "they are dead--that is the main thing; and who killed
them, the question.  Who broke the Boundary Law is what we want to
know."

"Whisky-Jack should be here during the inquiry," grumbled the King.
"He’s our detective--Jack sees everything, tells everything, and finds
out everything.  Shouldn’t wonder but he knows--strange that he’s not
with us."

"Must have struck some Men friends, Your Majesty," said the Bull Moose.
"As I drank at the river, twenty miles up, one of those floating houses
the Traders use passed with two Men in it.  There was the smell of hot
Meat came to me, and if Jack was within a Bird’s scent of the river,
which is a long distance, he also would know of the food."

"Very likely, Mooswa," rejoined Black King. "A cooked pork rind would
coax Jay from his duty any time.  We must go on with the enquiry without
him.  Who broke the Law of the Boundaries and killed Umisk’s two Sons?"
he demanded sternly.

"I didn’t," wheezed Mooswa, rubbing his big, soft nose caressingly down
Beaver’s back, as the latter sat on one of the old stumps.  "I have kept
the law.  Like Muskwa I roam from lake to lake, and from river to river;
but I kill no one--that is, with one exception."

"That was within the law," asserted the King, "for we kill in our own
defence."

"I think it was Pisew," whispered the Red Widow.  "See the Sneak’s eye.
Call him up, O Son, and command him to look straight into your Royal
Face and say if he has kept the law."

"Pisew," commanded Black Fox, "come closer!"

Lynx started guiltily at the call of his name. There was something soft
and unpleasant in the slipping sound of his big muffled feet as he
walked toward the King.

"Has Pisew kept the Law of the Boundaries?" asked Black King, sternly,
looking full in the mustached face of the slim-bodied cat.

Lynx turned his head sideways, and his eyes sought to avoid those of the
questioner.

"Your Majesty, I roam from the Pelican on one side, to Fish Creek on the
other; and the law is that therein I, who eat flesh, may kill Wapoos the
Rabbit.  This year it has been hard living, Your Majesty--hard living.
Because of the fire, Wapoos fled beyond the waters of the creeks, and I
have eaten of the things that could not fly the Boundaries--Mice, and
Frogs, and Slugs: a diet that is horrible to think of.  Look, Your
Majesty, at my gaunt sides--am I not like one that is already skinned by
the Trappers?"

"He is making much talk," whispered the Red Widow, "to the end that you
forget the murder of Trowel Tail’s Sons."

"Didst like Beaver Meat?" queried Black King, abruptly.

"I am not the slayer of Umisk’s children," denied Lynx.  "It was Wapoos,
or Whisky-Jack; they are mischief makers, and ready for any evil."

"Oh, you silly liar!" cried Carcajou, in derision.  "Wapoos the Rabbit
kill a Beaver? Why not say the Moon came down and ate them up.  Thou
hast a sharp nose and a full appetite, but little brain."

"He is a poor liar!" remarked the Red Widow.

"I have kept the law," whined Lynx.  "I have eaten so little that I am
starved."

"What shall we do, Brothers, about the murdered Sons of Umisk?  Beaver
is the worker of our lands.  But for him, and the dams he builds, the
Muskegs would soon dry up, the fires would burn the Forests, and we
should have no place to live.  If we kill the Sons, presently there will
be no workers--nobody but ourselves who are Killers."  Black Fox thus
put the case wisely to the others.

"Gr-a-a-h-wuh! let me speak," cried Blue Wolf.  "Pisew has done this
thing.  If any in my Pack make a kill and I come to speak of it, do I
not know from their eyes that grow tired, which it is?"

Said the Lieutenant, Carcajou: "I think you are right, Rof; but you
can’t hang a Comrade because he has weak eyes.  No one has seen Pisew
make the kill.  We must have a new law, Your Majesty.  That if again
Kit-Beaver, or Cub-Fox, or Babe-Wapoos, or Young-Anyone is slain for
eating, we shall all, sitting in Council, decide who is to pay the
penalty.  I think that will stop this murderous poaching."

"It will," whispered the Red Widow.  "Lynx will never touch one of them
again.  He knows what Carcajou means."

"That is a new law, then," cried the King. "If any of Umisk’s children
are killed by one of us, sitting in Council we shall decide who is to be
executed for the crime."

"Please, Your Majesty," squeaked Rabbit, "I keep the Boundary Law, but
others do not. From Beaver’s dam to the Pelican, straighter than a Man’s
trail, are my three Run-ways.  My Cousin’s family has three more; and in
the Muskeg our streets run clear to view.  Beyond our Run-ways we do not
go.  Nor do we build houses in violation of the law--only roads are we
allowed, and these we have made.  In the Muskeg parks, the nice open
places Beaver has formed by damming back the waters, we labor.

"When the young Spruce are growing, and would choke up the park, we
strip the bark off and they die, and the open is still with us. Neither
do we kill any Animal, nor make trouble for them--keeping well within
the law.  Are we not ourselves food for all the Animal Kingdom?  Lynx
lives off us, and Marten lives off us, and Fox lives off us, and Wolf
and Bear sometimes.  Neither I nor my Tribe complains, because that law
is older than the laws we make ourselves.

"But have we not certain rights which are known to the Council?  For one
hour in the morning, and one hour in the evening, just when the Sun and
the Stars change their season of toil, are we not to be free from the
Hunting?"

"Yes, it is written," replied Black King, "that no one shall kill Wapoos
at the hour of dusk and the hour of dawn.  Has anyone done so?"

"If they have, it’s a shame!" cried Carcajou. "I do not eat Wapoos; but
if everything else fails--if the Fish fail, if there are no Berries, if
the Nuts and the Seeds are dried in the heart before they ripen, we
still have Wapoos to carry us over.  The Indians know this--it is of
their history; and many a time has Wapoos, the Rabbit, our Little
Brother, saved them from starvation."

"Who has slain Wapoos at the forbidden hour?" thundered Black King.

Again there was denial all around the circle; and again everybody felt
convinced that Lynx was the breaker of the law.  Said Black Fox: "It is
well because of the new ruling we have passed, I think.  If again Wapoos
is killed or hunted at the forbidden hours, we shall decide in Council
who must die."

"Also, O King," still pleaded Rabbit, "for all time have we claimed
another protection.  You know our way of life.  For seven years we go on
peopling the streets of our Muskeg Cities, growing more plentiful all
the time, until there is a great population.  Then comes the sickness on
The Seventh Year, and we die off like Flies."

"It has been so for sixty years," assented Mooswa.  "My father, who is
sixty, has always known of this thing."

"For a hundred times sixty, Brother," quoth Carcajou; "it is so written
in the legends of the Indians."

"It is a queer sickness," continued Wapoos. "The lumps come in our
throats, and under our arms, and it kills.  Your Majesty knows the Law
of the Seventh Season."

"Yes, it is that no one shall eat Wapoos that year, or next."

"Most wise ruling!" concurred Carcajou. "The Rabbits with the lumps in
their necks are poisonous.  Besides, when there are so few of them, if
they were eaten, the food supply of the Boundaries would be forever
gone.  A most wise rule."

"Has any one violated this protection-right?" asked the King.

"Yes, Your Majesty.  This is the Seventh Year, is it not?" said Rabbit.

"Bless me! so it is," exclaimed Mooswa, thoughtfully.  "I, who do not
eat Rabbits, have paid no attention to the calendar.  I wondered what
made the woods so silent and dreary; that’s just it.  No pudgy little
Wapooses darting across one’s path.  Why, now I remember, last year, The
Year of the Plenty, when I laid down for a rest they’d be all about me.
Actually sat up on my side many a time."

"Yes, it’s the Seventh Year," whined Lynx; "look how thin I am.  Perhaps
miles and miles of river bank, and not even a Frog to be had."

"Alas! it’s the Plague-year," declared Wapoos; "and my whole family were
stricken with the sickness.  They died off one--by--one--"  Here he
stopped, and covered his big, sympathetic eyes with soft, fur-ruffed
hands.  His tender heart choked.

Mooswa sniffed through his big nose, and browsed absent-mindedly off the
Gray-willows. My! but they were bitter--he never ate them at any time;
but one must do something when a Father is talking about his dead
Children.

"Did they all die, Wapoos?" asked Otter; and in his black snake-like
eyes there actually glistened a tear of sympathy.

"Yes; and our whole city was almost depopulated."

"Dreadful!" cried Carcajou.

"The nearest neighbor left me was a Widow on the third main Run-way--two
cross-paths from my lane.  All her family died off, even the Husband.
We were a great help to each other in the way of consolation, and became
fast friends. Yesterday morning, when I called to talk over our
affliction, there was nothing left of her but a beautiful, white, fluffy
tail."

"Horrible! oh, the Wretch!" screamed Black Fox’s Mother; "to treat a
Widow that way--eat her!"

"If I knew who did it," growled Muskwa, savagely, "I would break his
neck with one stroke of my fist.  Poor little Wapoos! come over here.
Eat these Black Currants that I’ve just picked--I don’t want them."

"That is a most criminal breach of the law," said the King, with
emphasis.  "If Wapoos can prove who did it, we’ll give the culprit quick
justice."

"Flif--fluf, flif--fluf," came the sound of wings at this juncture, and
with an erratic swoop Whisky-Jack shot into the circle.

He was trembling with excitement--something of tremendous importance had
occurred; every blue-gray feather of his coat vibrated with it.  He
strutted about to catch his breath, and his walk was the walk of one who
feels his superiority.

"Good-morning, Glib-tongue!" greeted Carcajou.

"Welcome, Clerk!" said the King, graciously.

"Hop up on my antler," murmured Mooswa, condescendingly; "you’ll get
your throat full of dust down there."

Whisky-Jack swished up on the big platter-like leaf that was the first
spread of Mooswa’s lordly crown.  He picked a remnant of meat food from
his beak with his big toe, coughed three times impressively, and
commenced:--

"Comrades, who do you suppose has come within our Boundaries?"

"Is it Cougar, the Slayer?" asked Black King, apprehensively.

"Is it Death Song, the Rattler, he who glides?" cried Marten, his little
legs trembling with fear.

"Has my cousin, Ookistutoowan the Grizzly, come down from his home in
the up-hills to dispute with me the way of the road?" queried Black
Bear, Muskwa.  "I am ready for him!" he declared, shaking his back like
a huge St. Bernard.

"Didst see Train Dogs, bearer of ill news?" demanded Wolf.  "Ur-r-r!  I
fear not!" and he bared his great yellow fangs viciously.

"Worse, worse still!" piped Whisky-Jack, spreading his wings out, and
sloping his small round head down toward them.  "Worse than any you have
mentioned--some one to make you all tremble."

"Tell us, tell us!" cried Carcajou.  "One would think Wiesahkechack had
come back from his Spirit Home where the Northern Lights grow."

"_François has come!_" declared the Jay, in an even, dramatic voice.

The silence of consternation settled over the group.

"François and _The Boy!_" added Jack.

"What’s a Boy?" asked Lynx.

"I know," asserted Mooswa.  "When I was a calf in the Company’s corral
at Fort Resolution, I played with a Boy, the Factor’s Man-Cub. Great
Horns! he was nice.  Many a time he gave me to eat the queer grass
things that grew in the Factor’s garden."

"Where is François?" queried the King.

"At Red Stone Brook--he and The Boy. I had breakfast with them."

"Renegade!" sneered Carcajou.

"And François says they will stay here all Winter and kill fur.  There
are three big Bear Traps in the outfit--I saw them, Muskwa; what think
you?  Great steel jaws to them, with hungry teeth.  They would crack the
leg of a Moose, even a Buffalo; and there are Number Four Traps for
Umisk and Nekik; and smaller ones for you, Mister Marten--many of them.
Oh, my! but it’s nice to have an eight-dollar coat.  All the
Thief-trappers in the land covet it.

"And François has an Ironstick, and The Boy has an Ironstick, and there
will be great sport here all Winter.  That’s what François said, and I
think it is true--not that a Half-breed sticks to the truth over-close."

The Hunt-fear settled over the gathering. No one had heart even to check
the spiteful gibes of their feathered Clerk.  The Law of the Boundaries,
and the suspicious evidence of its violation that pointed to Lynx, were
forgotten--which was, perhaps, a good thing for that unprincipled
poacher.

Black King was first to break the fear-silence.

"Subjects, draw close, for already it has come to us that we have need
of all our wisdom, and all our loyalty one to another, and the full
strength of our laws."

Silently they bunched up; then he proceeded:--

"François is a great Hunter.  He has the cunning of Wolverine, the
strength of Muskwa, the speed of mine own people, and the endurance of
Mooswa.  Besides, there are the Traps, and the Ironstick; and Snares
made from Deer-sinew and Cod-line.  The soft strong cord which Man
weaves. Also will this Evil Slayer, who is but a vile Half-breed, have
the White Powder of Death in a tiny bottle--such a small bottle, and yet
holding enough Devil-medicine to slay every Dweller in the Boundaries."

"That it will, Your Majesty," confirmed Jack; "and it kills while you
breathe thrice--so, If-f-h, if-f-h, if-f-h! and you fall--your legs kick
out stiff, and you are dead.  I’ve seen it do its terrible work."

"Just so," assented Black King.  "The use of that is against Man’s law,
even; but François cares not, so be it the Red-coats know not of its
use.  Now must we take an oath to help one the other, if we prefer not
to have our coats nailed on the Hunt-Man’s Shack walls, or stretched on
the wedge-boards he uses for the hides of Otter, and Mink, and Fisher,
and myself.  Even Muskrat and Pisew go on a wedge-board when they are
skinned.  You, Beaver, and Muskwa, and Mooswa have your skins stretched
by iron thorns on the side of a Shack.

"Now take we the oath?" he asked, looking from one to the other.

A murmur of eager assent started with the deep bass of Blue Wolf and
died away in the plaintive treble of Wapoos.

"Then, listen and repeat with me," he commanded.


                      THE OATH OF THE BOUNDARIES.


"’We, Dwellers within the Boundaries, swear by the Spirit of
Wiesahkechack, who is God of the Indians and all Animals, that, come
Trap, come Ironstick, come White-powdered Bait, come Snare, come Arrow,
come what soe’er may, we will help each other, and warn each other, and
keep ward for each other; in the Star-time and the Sun-time, in the
Flower-time and the Snow-time; that the call of one for help shall be
the call of all; and the fight of one shall be the fight of all; and the
enemy of one shall be the enemy of all.

"’By the Mark that is on the tail of each of us, we swear this.  By the
White Tip that is on the tail of Fox; by the Black Gloss that is on the
tail of Marten; by the Perfume that is on the tail of Sikak; by the
great, bushy tail of Blue Wolf, and the short tail of Bear; the broad,
hairless tail of Beaver, and the strong tapered tail of Otter; by the
Kink that is in the tail of Mink; by the much-haired tail of Fisher; the
white Cotton-tail of Rabbit, the fawn-coloured tail of Mooswa, and the
Bob-tail of Lynx; by the feathered tail of Whisky-Jack: and all others
according to their Tail-mark, we swear it.’"


"Now," said Black King, "François will have his work cut out, for we are
many against one."

"You forget The Boy, Your Majesty," interrupted Carcajou.

"Oh, he doesn’t count," cried Jack, disdainfully.  "He’s a Moneas--which
means a greenhorn.  He’s new to the Forest--has lived where the paths of
Man are more plentiful than the Run-ways in Wapoos’s Muskeg.

"Of course, personally, I don’t mind their coming--like it; it means
free food without far flying.  Oh, but The Boy is a wasteful greenhorn.
When he fried the white fat-meat, which is from the animal that dwells
with Man, the Hog, he poured the juice out on the leaves, and the cold
turned it into food like butter--white butter.  Such rich living will
make my voice soft.  The Man-cub has a voice like mine--full of rich,
sweet notes.  Did any of you ever hear a Man or Man-cub sing ’Down upon
the Suwanee River’?  That’s what The Boy sang this morning.  But I don’t
know that river--it’s not about here; and in my time I have flown far
and wide over more broad streams than I have toes to my feet."

"Be still, empty-head!" cried the King, angrily.  "You chatter as though
the saving of our lives were good fun.  Brother Carcajou, François needs
no help.  For five years he has followed me for my Black Coat--for five
Winters I have eluded his Traps, and his Baits, and the cough of his
Ironstick.  But one never knows when the evil day is to come.  Last
Winter François trapped on Hay River.  I was there; as you know, it is a
great place for Black Currants."

"Do you eat the bitter, sour Berries, Your Majesty?" queried Marten.

"No, Silly; except for the flavour of them that is in the flesh of Gay
Cock, the Pheasant.  But it is in every child’s book of the Fox tribe,
that where Berries are thick, the Birds are many."

"How comes François here to the Pelican this year, then?" growled Blue
Wolf.

"Because of the thing Men call Fate," answered Black King, learnedly;
"though they do not understand the shape of it.  We call it the Whisper
of Wiesahkechack.  Wiesahke whispered to me that because of the fire
there were no Berries at Hay River, that the Birds had all come to the
Pelican; and I have no doubt that He, who is the King of evil Mischief
Makers, has also talked in thought-words to François, that here is much
fur to be had for the killing."

"I should like to see François," exclaimed Nekik, the Otter.

"And The Boy!" suggested Mooswa.  "It’s years since I saw a Man-cub."

"W-h-e-u-f-f-!" ejaculated Muskwa.  "I saw a Man once--Nichemous.  Did I
tell you about--"

"Save me from Owls!" interrupted Whisky-Jack; "that’s your stock-story,
old Squeaky Nose.  I’ve heard it fifty times in the last two years."

The Bear stood rocking his big body back and forth while the saucy bird
chattered.

"But I should like to see more of Man," he continued, when Jay had
finished.  "Tell me, Jack, do they always walk on their hind-legs--or
only when they are going to kill or fight--as I do?  I think we must be
cousins," he went on, meditatively.

"You ought to be ashamed of it, then!" snapped the Bird.

"They leave a trail just like mine," proceeded Muskwa, paying no
attention to the Jay.  "I once saw a Man’s track on the mud bank of the
river; I could have sworn it was one of my family had passed--a long
foot-print with a heel."

"Perhaps it was your own track--you are so terribly stupid at times,"
suggested Jack.

"You might have made that mistake," retorted Muskwa, "for you can’t
scent; but when I investigated with my nose, I knew that it was Man.
There was the same horrible smell that came to me once as two of these
creatures passed down the river in a canoe, whilst I was eating Berries
by the water’s edge.  But you spend most of your time begging a living
from these Men, Jack--tell me if they generally walk as I do, on all
fours?"

"Long ago they did, Muskwa; when their brains were small, like yours.
Then they developed, and got more sense, and learned to balance
themselves on their hind-legs."

"What’s the use of having four legs and only using two?" grunted Bear,
with a dissatisfied air.

"You’ll find out, my Fat Friend, if you come within range of the
Ironstick--what did Nichemous try to do?  After that you won’t ask silly
questions, for François will take your skin, dry it in the sun, and put
your brainless head on a tree as a Medicine Offering to the Hunt Spirit;
and he’ll take your big carcass home, and The Boy will help him eat it.
Don’t bother me about Man--if you want to know his ways, come and see
for yourself."

"I’d like to, Clerk," answered Bear, humbly.

"They’re going to build a house," asserted Whisky-Jack.

"A lodge!" exclaimed Beaver.  "Oh, I must see that."

"What say you, Black King?" queried Carcajou. "May we all go to-morrow,
and see this Trapper and The Boy--think you it’s safe?"

"Better now than when the Traps are set and Firestick loaded."

So they arranged amongst themselves to go at dawn the next day, and
watch from the bush François and Roderick.

Then the meeting broke up.



                       THE BUILDING OF THE SHACK


Next morning, just as the gray oncoming Day was rolling back into the
Forest depths the Night curtain, Muskwa, who was swinging along
leisurely, with a walk like a Blue-Jacket, towards the Trapper’s Camp,
discovered Wapoos sitting in his path.

"A snareless runway to you, Little Brother! Are you heading for the
Shack?"

"Yes," bleated Wapoos; "I’m still weak from the Seventh Year sickness,
and hop badly, I fear."

"Jump up, Afflicted One, your furry stomach will feel warm on my
back,--Huh! huh! this beastly fog that comes up from the waters of the
Athabasca to battle with the sunlight gets into my lungs.  I shall soon
have to creep into a warm nest for my long sleep."

"Hast seen any of our Comrades?" queried Wapoos, as he lay in the velvet
cushion of black fur that was a good four inches deep on Bear’s back.

"I heard Rof’s hoarse bay as he called across the Pelican to some one.
Here is Nekik’s trail, where his belly has scraped all the mud spots."

"Aren’t we a funny lot?" giggled Wapoos. "Mooswa’s legs are like the
posts of Man’s cache--so long; and Otter’s are like the knots on a
tree--too short.  See! there goes Black King and his red-headed Mother."

"That is the queerest outfit in the Boundaries," chuckled Muskwa.  "The
Widow is red, and three of the Sons; the Babe, Stripes, is brown, with a
dark cross on his back; while the King is as black as my Daddy was.
Sweet Honey! but his coat was beautiful--like the inside of a hole on a
pitch-dark night.  There is a family of Half-breeds up at The Landing
just like the Widow’s lot.  Some are red-haired, some are brown, and
some are black.  I saw them once Fishing at Duck Lake."

"Did they see you, Muskwa?"

"Am I not here, Little Brother--therefore their eyes were busy with the
Fish.  Wu-u-f-f! I catch the scent of Man.  Jump down, Wapoos; push
through the Willows and tell me what thou seest."

Bear sat on his haunches and waited.

"There’s a white lodge," reported Rabbit, as he hopped back, "and inside
is a throat-call that is not of our Comrades."

"That’s Man’s tepee; most like it was The Boy’s song your big ears
heard."

They went forward gingerly, Wapoos acting as pilot.  In a little open
space where Red Stone Brook emptied into the Athabasca was a small "A"
tent.  The two comrades lay down in the willows to watch.  Soon they
were joined by Black King; Otter was already there.  Then came Blue Wolf
and Mooswa.  As Carcajou joined them, Whisky-Jack fluttered into the
centre of the party.

"That’s a Tent," he said, with the air of a courier explaining sights to
a party of tourists. "The Boy is putting on his fur.  Do you hear his
song-cry?"

"He hath a full stomach," growled Rof, "for his voice is rich in
content.  What is the cry, Bird of Knowledge?"

"It’s a song of my Crow Cousins.  I’ll repeat a line for your fur-filled
ears:--

    "’There were three crows sat on a tree,
    And they were black as crows could be;
    Said one of them unto his mate,
    Let’s catch old Carcajou to ate!’"


"All of a kind flock together," retorted Wolverine; "Birds, and Boys,
and Fools!"

Jack chuckled.  To have roused Carcajou’s anger was something to start
the day with.

"Plenty of Water to you all, Comrades," greeted Beaver pleasantly,
patting a smooth seat for himself with his tail, as he joined the
others.

"Where is the Man?" queried Black King.

"Sleeping!" answered Jack.  "He makes a noise with his nose like fat
Muskwa does when he runs from Grizzly."

"That’s a pretty lodge," remarked Beaver, critically.  "When will they
flood it?"

"Stupid! they don’t live in water," reproved Jay.  "If it is wet they
make a little hollow path and run the water off."

"Is that a Dead-fall, Jack?" asked Muskwa, pointing his gray nozzle at a
small square building that was three logs high.

"It’s their Shack; they started it yesterday."

"A poor Lodge!" declared Umisk.  "The first flood will undermine the
corners, and down it will come.  Have they no trowel-tails to round it
up with good blue-clay?"

"Umisk, you should travel.  Your ideas are limited.  Have they not built
their Shack on high ground where there will be no flood?"

"But they’ll freeze in the Winter," persisted Beaver.  "The water would
keep them warm if they flooded it."

"They’ve got a stove," the Courier answered.

"What’s a stove?" asked Lynx.

"You’ll find out, Mister Cat, when they make bouillon of your ribs.
It’s that iron-thing with one long ear."

"Is that their breakfast--that pile of wood-meat?" queried Beaver.

"Yes, meat for the stove," piped Jack.  "Do you think they have teeth
like a wood-axe and eat bark because you do?"

"They have queer teeth, sure enough," retorted Trowel Tail.  "See this
tree stump, cut flat from two sides, all full of notches, as though a
Kit-Beaver who didn’t know his business had nibbled it down.  How in the
name of Good Dams they can fell trees into a stream that way I can’t
make out.  This tree fell on land and they had to carry the logs.
They’re silly creatures and have much to learn."

"There’s The Boy!" whispered Jack, nudging Muskwa in the ribs with his
wing.

They all peered eagerly at the door of the tent, for a white-skinned
hand was unlacing it. Then a fair face, with rosy cheeks, topped by a
mass of yellow hair, was thrust through the opening, and presently a lad
of fourteen stepped out, stretched his arms upward, and commenced
whistling like a bird.

"That’s the Boy-call," said Black King, in a soft voice.  "Listen,
Comrades, so that we may know it.  François gives voice to the Man-call:
’Hi, yi! hi, yi!  E-e-e-g-o-o-o-!’ which means, in their talk, ’Hear!
hear! it is I--I--A Man!’  That is because they claim to be Lords of all
the Animal Kingdom, even as I am Ruler in our own Boundaries."

"What a lovely Pup!" cried the Red Widow, enthusiastically; "he’s got
yellow hair just like my Babe--look, Stripes!  Plump Birds! but I wish I
had him in my litter."

"’Pup,’ indeed!" exclaimed Whisky-Jack, indignantly.  "A Man-Boy called
’Pup,’ by a frowsy old Fox Widow."

"Clerk!" interrupted Black King, angrily.

"François!  François!" called The Boy, putting his face inside the tent;
"the sun is up, the fog is gone, and I’m as hungry as a Wolf."

Rof started.  "Gur-r-r-! how does the Cub know my stomach is lean
because of the Seventh Year famine?"

A pair of sharp, black eyes gleamed from the tent flap.  They belonged
to the Half-breed Trapper, François.

"Move back, Brothers, a little into the Willows," whispered Black King;
"he has Devil-eyes, like Wolverine."

"His Majesty flatters you, Carcajou," sneered Whisky-Jack.

François came out, took his axe, and made some shavings from a Jack-pine
stick.

"Will they eat that?" asked Beaver.

The Breed stepped over to a Birch tree, peeled from its side a handful
of silver, ribbon-like bark, and lighted it with a match; it blazed and
crackled like oil-soaked shavings.  Then he shoved it into the stove,
put chips and three sticks of wood in, shut the door, and thick black
smoke curled up from the stove pipe.  The animals stared with
extraordinary interest.

Whisky-Jack craned his head, and watched the effect of this magic on his
Comrades.

"That’s the Devil-thing that destroyed all the Birds and their Eggs,"
said the Red Widow. "It’s the Man-fire."

Blue Wolf was trembling.  "E-u-h!  E-u-h!" he whined; "Man’s
Fire-medicine.  It grows like the wind, and destroys like the Rabbit
plague.  Once seven Brothers of mine stalked a Man and he started this
Fire-medicine."

"What happened, Rof?" asked Carcajou.

"The Man escaped."

"And your Seven Brothers?"

"This red-poison ate them as Otter devours a Fish--bones and all."

"I think the stove is a good thing," decided Black King.  "The Man-fire
is in a Trap."

"Yes, the Fire-trap is a good thing," concurred his Mother, "if we wish
to save the Birds."

"And the Rabbits!" added Lynx.

"And the Berries!" grunted Muskwa.

"The purple Moose-weed grows after fire has eaten the Forest," mused
Mooswa; "and if it glows hot and red on one river bank I swim to the
other."

"It’s all right for you, Long-legs, Pudding-nose, Bob-tail," gibed
Whisky-Jack; "but the Law of the Boundaries is for the good of all, and
this Fire-trap is a fine thing.  I hate to have hot coals falling on my
feathers, when the Forest is on fire."

The smoke curled lazily riverward, away from the animals.  Suddenly it
veered about and the pungent perfume of burning Birch-bark came toward
them.

Mooswa straightened his massive head, spread the nostrils of his great
cushion-shaped nose, cocked his thick ears forward intently, and
discriminated between the different scents that came floating on the
sleepy morning air.

"The fire breath--Wh-e-e!"  It tickled a cough in his throat.  "The
odour of the Half-breed," ugh! he knew that--it was the Man-smell.  "But
stop!  What?"  A something out of the long ago crept into his sensitive
nostrils and touched his memory.  Surely once it had been familiar.

The Boy crossed directly in the wind’s path, and Mooswa got it stronger.
Then he knew. His big eyes glistened softly, eagerly; it was the scent
of the Lad he had played with in his youth.

"Comrades," he gurgled, for something was in his throat, "have I not
told you of the Boy who was the Factor’s Young?"

"Whenever you got a chance!" snapped Whisky-Jack.

Mooswa sighed wearily.  Jack’s frivolity was tiring to his sedate mind.

"Well, that’s my Boy there.  I’d like to rub my nose against his
rose-flowered cheek."

"While François tickled your lean ribs with the Firestick!" jeered the
Bird.

"Bring a pot of water," said François to his comrade, "while I cut up
the fish."

"Great Suckers!" exclaimed Nekik; "Fish! and a beauty, too.  It’s a
Tulabie.  I know them; they’re first cousin to White-fish.  These men
have fine taste--a fish diet makes one clever."

"It does!" declared Mink.

"It’s better than roots!" concurred Muskrat.

"Slow Birds! it makes me hungry," sighed the Red Widow.

"So it does me, Good Dame," piped Whisky-Jack. "You chaps had better
slip away home now; I’m going to breakfast with the Men.  It isn’t safe
to remain, for I can’t stop to look after you."

"Go and clear the plates, Feather-front," cried Carcajou, malignantly.

Jack sawed the air energetically with his wings and lighted on the wire
guy with which François had steadied the stove pipe.

"Shall we move, Comrades?" asked Black King.

"Wait and see how Jack gets on with The Boy," pleaded Mooswa.

"I could sit here and smell that Fish all day," declared Nekik.

"So could I," added Mink.  "It’s just lovely.  I’ve never tasted Fish
dried in the fire-pot.  Once I stole one from a Trapper which he had
dried in the sun--there was no juice in it."

"Pe-e-p!  Peep!" squeaked Whisky-Jack. The Boy looked up at him.

"What a frowsy-headed old bird!" he exclaimed, shying a stick at Jay.

Muskwa dug Mooswa in the ribs with his big paw.  "We’ll see fun yet if
we wait," he chuckled thickly.

"Don’t bodder ’bout dat fell’," remonstrated François; "dat’s only
Whisky-Jack."

"Only what?" asked the lad.

"What dey call Canadienne Jay--Whisky-Jack."

"Shall I shoot him?"

"No; dat fell’ no good, but he’s not wort’ de powder an’ s’ot."

Jack heard a faint giggle come up from the gray willows, for Wolverine
had his big-clawed fist half-way down his throat to choke the sound of
laughter.

"Our Clerk’s Men Friends are complimentary," remarked Black King.

The Boy cut a small piece of fat pork, stuck it on a sharp stick, and
busied himself somewhat at the stove front; but the watchers could not
quite see what he was doing.

"I think I’ll give Jay some breakfast," he said suddenly; "the bird
seems hungry:" and straightening his back, threw towards him the lump of
pork.

With a pleased chuckle Jack swooped down and drove his beak into the
white mass like a lance.  Then he went through a rare set of gymnastic
contortions, for the wicked Boy had heated the pork scalding hot.  Jack
clawed at it with his feet and burnt his toes--his tongue was blistered.

"What’s that noise?" exclaimed Rod, for a distinct muffled laugh had
escaped from the band of animals.

"It’s de float-ice groundin’ on de ribber-banks, I tink me," answered
François, cocking his head sideways to listen.

As the animals slipped away in alarm, Jack came fluffing after them, and
perched himself indignantly on Mooswa’s great antlers.

"O my Giant Brother!" he cried furiously, "come and kill that debased
Man-Cub, I beg you."

The Moose’s shaggy sides were heaving with suppressed laughter.  "What
has he done, Sweet Bird?" he moaned.

"Taken the skin off my toes, and blistered my tongue with his accursed
fat pork."

"Why don’t you wear boots as I do, and not knock around barefooted?  I
should be always jamming my toes if I hadn’t these thick boots. Why,
last year when the big fire was on, I went through miles of burning
country, and except a little hardening up of the soles, there was no
harm done."

"But you don’t wear them on your tongue, do you?" asked the Bird,
crossly.

"No, Silent One, I don’t--neither do you; but if you’ll just wrap it up
for a few days and give it a rest, I’m sure it will be all right."

"Do," cried Carcajou; "we sha’n’t mind.  I suppose that’s what The Boy
calls his Tongue Trap--he knew whom to set it for, too."

"Come and trample him with your sharp hoofs, dear Mooswa," pleaded
Whisky-Jack, the lack of sympathy and the chaff making him furious.

"Oh, sit still, if you’re going to ride on my horns," exclaimed the
Bull.  "You’re jigging about--"

"As though he had corns," interrupted Carcajou.

"It was so nice of you, Whisky-Jack," said Lynx, in an oily tone, "to
take care of us all while we were there--wasn’t it?  Some of us might
have burned our tongues but for you destroying the hot Bait."

When the animals got back to their meeting-place, which was known as the
Boundary Centre, they stopped for a time to compare notes.

"Comrades," said Mooswa, "little have I claimed from you.  I kill not
anything; neither the Fox Cubs, nor the Sons of Umisk, nor the
red-tailed Birds that beat their wings like drums, nor anything.  But
this new law I ask of you all in the face of the King; for the Boy that
was my Man-brother, the safeguard of the Boundaries."

"You have not had the hot-meat thrust in your throat, friend of the
rascally Cub," objected Jack, angrily.

"Hush, Chatterer!" growled Bear; "let Mooswa speak."

"The horn-crowned Lord of the Forest gives expression to a noble
sentiment," declared Pisew. "By all means let the Kit-Man grow free of
the Boundary Fear, until his claws are long and his bone-cracking teeth
are strong."

"He must have a Mother also," said the Red-Widow softly.  "You have all
forsworn malice to my Babe, Stripes, until he is of full strength--let
the Man-Cub have the same guard."

"What about François?" objected Whisky-Jack. "By my Stone-crop I’ll
wager he taught that Chick the trick of the hot pork."

"For him," continued Mooswa, gravely, "in defence of our rights and our
lives the full law of the Forest; by night, the lone road and the cry of
Blue Wolf and his Brothers; by day, the strong clasp of Muskwa; at close
quarters, the stamp of my hoofs; and for his Traps and their Bait, the
cunning of Carcajou and Black King."

"This is fair--it is a good Law," said Black Fox.

"It is!" they all cried in chorus.

"I am satisfied!" added the Moose.

"I think it would be well, Subjects," said Black King, thoughtfully, "to
watch this Man and Man-Cub until the setting out of the Traps; after
that we can regulate our lives in accordance. How long will it take them
to build their Shack, Clerk?"

"Four days, François told The Boy last evening, as he smoked the
scent-flower."

"Then on the fourth day, three or four of us who are quick travellers
had better go and watch the evil ways of this Slayer.  What say you
all?"

"Most wise King," exclaimed Pisew, "select thou the Strong Runners."

"Very well: Mooswa, Muskwa, Rof, and myself--also Carcajou, for he has
great knowledge of Man the Killer’s ways."

"I should like to see the lodge when it is finished," whined Beaver,
"but my short little fore-legs travel not overfast on land."

"So you shall, Comrade," growled Muskwa; "You may ride on my back."

"Or on my antlers," suggested Mooswa; "their bowl will be like a cradle
for you."

"That’s settled, then," declared Black Fox. "On the fourth round of the
Sun we meet at François’s Shack, in the safety time of the Forest, dawn
hour; either that or dusk hour.  What say you Brothers--which shall it
be?"

"It would suit me better on account of my work," ventured Umisk, "to go
at dusk hour. I have lost much time lately, and I’m building new lodges
for my three-year-old Sons who are starting out for themselves this
Fall."

"Don’t be late, then--I go to bed at dusk," lisped Whisky-Jack,
mincingly, for his tongue was wondrous sore.  "I will take note of what
the Men do in the meantime."

"And take care of us, O Wise Bird," sneered Pisew.

"Big-feet!  Spear-ear!  Herring-waist!" fairly screamed Jay, forgetting
the sore tongue in his rage.  "Before Winter is over, you’ll be glad of
Jack’s advice, or I don’t know François."

"The white of a Partridge egg is good for a burn," retorted Lynx.  "Find
one and cool your fevered tongue."

"Are not these wranglers just like Men, Carcajou?" remarked Mooswa.  "If
you all spent more time in lawful hunt for food you would be fatter.  It
will profit me more to browse in the Forest than listen to your
frost-singed wit, so I leave you, Comrades."

"And I prefer even fat Frogs to hot fat Pork," said Pisew, maliciously,
slinking like a shadow into the woods.

"’Fat Frogs,’" sneered Carcajou; "good enough for that smooth-faced
Sneak--I hardly know what I’m going to have for dinner, though."

"Fat Birds are the thing to tickle my appetite," declared Black King.
"It is coming the time of day for them to shove their heads under wing,
too.  I’m off--remember we meet on the Fourth day."



                      THE EXPLORATION OF CARCAJOU


At sunset on the Fourth day Black King and his party once more crouched
in the willows at Red Stone Brook.  François and his young friend were
just putting some finishing touches to the Shack roof--placing the last
earth sods on top of the poles, for it was a mud covering.

"It’s nearly finished," whispered Jay.

"Strong Teeth! but that is funny," laughed Beaver.

"What is funny, Eater of Wood?" queried Jack.

"Why, the Man carries his trowel-tail in his front paws.  I wish I could
do that.  I have to turn around to look when I’m doing a nice bit of
plastering."

It was the Half-breed’s spade that had drawn forth this remark.

"Yes," declared Whisky-Jack wisely, "one time the Men were like
you--walked on four legs and used a trowel-tail for their building; now
they stand upright, and have shed the trowel which they use in their
hands."

"Wonderful!" soliloquized Umisk; "still they can’t do as good work.  Fat
Poplar! but it’s a poor Lodge.  The only sensible thing about it is the
mud roof."

François struck the clod sharply with his spade, settling it into place.
"How clumsily the Man works," cried Beaver; "I’m glad my tail is where
it is.  What’s that mud thing sticking up out of the corner, Jay?  Is it
a little lodge for the Kit-Man?"

"That’s a chimney--part of the fire-trap," answered Jack.

"I know what that’s like," asserted Carcajou. "I went down one once.
The Trapper locked his door, thinking to keep me out while he rounded up
his Traps.  It’s a splendid trail for getting in and out of a Shack.
Why, I can carry a side of bacon up that hole--did it."

"Isn’t The Boy lovely?" muttered Mooswa. "Isn’t his call sweet?  What
does François name him, Jack--Man-Cub or Kit-Man?"

Just then the Half-breed sang out: "Rod, I t’ink me it’s grub
time--knock off.  De ole s’ack s’e’s finis’."

"Rod?" mused the Moose.  "Yes, that is what the Factor used to call him.
’Rod!  Rod!’ he would shout, and The Boy would run with his little fat
legs."

Rod and the Half-breed went inside, closed the door and lighted a
candle, for it was growing dark, put a fire in the stove and cooked
their supper.

The watchers, eager to see everything, edged cautiously up to the log
walls.  Space for a small window had been left by the builders, but the
sash was not yet in place.

"I should like to see that mud-work the Man did with his hand-trowel,"
whispered Umisk.

"Climb on my horns, Little Brother," said Mooswa, softly, "and I will
lift you up."

Beaver slipped around gently on the roof inspecting François’s
handicraft, while the others listened at the window.

"By Goss!  Rod," said the Breed, "I put me leetle fire in de fire-place
for dry dat c’imney, s’e’s sof.  De fros’ spoil him when s’e’s no dry."

"I believe they have made the chimney too small," muttered Carcajou.
"I’m going up to have a look."

"To-mor’ we put out dat Traps," remarked the Half-breed.  "What you
t’ink, Boy--I see me dat Black Fox yesterday."

"The Black Fox!" exclaimed his young companion, eagerly.  "The beauty
you spoke of as being in this part of the country?"

The King trembled.  Already this terrible Trapper was on his trail.

"Yes; I know me where he have hes hole.  I put dat number t’ree Otter
Trap close by, cover him wit’ leaves, an’ put de fis’-head bait on top.
Den we see.  We keel plenty fur here dis Winter. Dere’s big moose track
too--mus’ be bull."

Black King scratched Mooswa’s fore-leg with a paw to draw his attention,
but the latter had heard.

"I make some snare to-night, an’ put him out wit’ Castoreum.  Dere’s
plenty Cat here."

Lynx shuddered.

"We must help each other," he whined, in a frightened voice.

Mooswa felt a little pat on his lofty horn, and looked up.  "Lift me
down, Brother," whispered Beaver.

"Where’s Carcajou?" queried the King.

"Poking around the chimney--he made me nervous.

"Wuf!" sniffed Muskwa, gently.  "Our Man burns the stink-weed in his
mouth--it’s horrible!"  François was smoking.

[Illustration: "WUF!" SNIFFED MUSKWA, GENTLY. "OUR MAN BURNS THE
STINK-WEED IN HIS MOUTH."]

Carcajou was busy examining the mud-and-stick wall of the chimney, which
stuck up three feet above the roof.  "I’m sure they’ve made it too
small," he muttered; "I’ll never be able to get down.  That will be too
bad.  By my Cunning! but I’d like to know for sure--I will!"  For
nothing on earth will satisfy a Wolverine’s curiosity but complete
investigation.

He gave a spring, grabbed the top of the chimney with his strong
fore-legs, and pulled himself up.  As he did so the soft mud collapsed
and sank with a tremendous crash through the hole in the roof, carrying
the reckless animal with it.

"Run for it!" commanded Black King, sharply; "that mischievous Devil has
made a mess of the business."

"Whif!  Wuf!  Whiff!" grunted Bear, plunging through the thicket.

Black Fox melted silently into the Forest darkness as swiftly as a
cloud-shadow crosses a sunlit plain.

Lynx gathered his sinewy legs and fairly spurned the earth in
far-reaching bounds.

Beaver had been sitting curled up in the bowl of Mooswa’s antlers,
peeping in the window at the time of Carcajou’s mishap.  His quick brain
took in the situation.  Grasping the two strong front points, he
squeaked, "Fly, Mooswa!"

"Sit tight, Little Brother!" admonished the Moose, putting his nose
straight out and laying the horn-crown back over his withers, as he
rushed with a peculiar side-wheel action, like a pacing-horse, from the
clearing.

When the crash came François jumped to his feet in amazement.  Before he
could investigate the mass of mud upheaved, a small dark-brown body
scuttled across the floor, clattered up the wall, and vanished through
the open window.

The Breed jumped for the door, grabbing a gun as he went.  Throwing it
open he rushed out, but of course there was nothing in sight. Wolverine
was busily engaged in working his short legs to their full capacity in
an earnest endeavour to place considerable territory between himself and
the treacherous Shack.

François came back grunting his dissatisfaction.

Rod stood in speechless amazement while his companion examined the pile
of soft mud débris critically by the aid of a candle.

"I t’ought me dat!" he remarked, with satisfied conviction,
straightening his back and setting the candle down on the rude plank
table.  "It’s dat Debil of de Woods, Carcajou.  Wait you, Mister
Wolverine; François s’ow you some treek."

"What was he after?" queried The Boy.

"After for raise Ole Nick," declared the Half-breed, dejectedly.  "You
know what we mus’ do?  We mus’ ketc’ dat debil firs’, or we keel no fur
here.  He steal de bait, an’ cac’e de Trap; s’pose we go out from de
S’ack, dat Carcajou come down de c’imney, tear up de clo’es, spill de
farina--de flour, t’row de pot in de ribber, an’ do ever’ fool t’ing
what you can t’ink.  Never mind, I ketc’ him, an’ I keel him;" and
François fairly danced a Red River jig in his rage.

Whisky-Jack had perched on the end of a roof-plate log when the trouble
materialized, so he heard this tirade against Wolverine.  The Bird could
hardly go to sleep for chuckling. What a sweet revenge he would have
next day; how he would revile Wolverine.  Surely the unfortunate
Carcajou had scorched his feet, and mayhap his back, when he fell in the
fire-place. "I wonder whose toes are sore to-night," the Jay thought.
"I hope he got a good singeing--meddling beast!  Nice Lieutenant to
upset everything just when we were having such a lovely time.  Oh, but
I’ll rub it into him to-morrow."



                      THE SETTING OUT OF THE TRAPS


"Royal Son," said the Red Widow next morning, "what is the Burrow of the
Men-Kind like?"

"Ask Carcajou when he comes, Mother," replied Black Fox; and he related
the incident of the night before.

"Art sure, Son, that the Kit-Man’s Mother is not with him?"

"No, Dame, she is not."

"Then he will get into trouble--that is certain.  I have looked after
you all--a big family, too, nine of you--and know what it means. Pisew,
with his cannibal taste for Fox-cubs--and mark this, Son, even Carcajou
has a weakness the same way, my Mother taught me to understand.  And
Rof, who seems such a big, gruff, kind-hearted fellow, would crack one
of your backs with his great jaws quick enough in the Hunger-year, were
no one looking.  Mooswa is honest, but the others bear him no love,
surely.  And François is to set out the Traps to-day, and he has
discovered our home here in this cut-bank, you say.  Well, Son, thou art
the King, because of thy Wisdom; but together we must advise against
this Slayer, who has the cunning of Carcajou and the Man-knowledge of
Wiesahkechack."

"What shall we do, Dame?"

"Now, thy red Brother, Speed, must take the message to the strong
runners of our Comrades, Mooswa and the others, as has been arranged, to
meet; and when François has passed with the Traps, go you five after
this Man, and gain knowledge of where they are placed, and do all things
necessary for safety in the Boundaries. The Watcher over Animals has
sent soft snow last night, the first of this Cold-time, so your task
will be easy.  Just the length of a brisk run, higher up the Pelican, is
a cut-bank with a hole as good as this.  Before you were born, with your
beautiful silver coat, I lived there.

"Now, François, even as he told the Man-Cub, will trap here, and who
knows but he may put his Fire-medicine with its poison breath in the
door of our Burrow, and seek to drive us out to be killed."

"That is true, Most Wise Mother; the sight of the twisting red-poison is
more dreadful than anything; for it smothers and eats up, and is swift
as the wind, and spreads like the flood in the river, and fears neither
Man nor Beast, and obeys not even the Spirit God of the Animals when it
is angered."

"Well, Son, while you follow the trail of this evil Trapper, I, with all
your Brothers, will go to the other Burrow."

"Be sure the Cubs step all in one track, Mother--your track, so this
Breed Man, with his sharp eyes, shall not suspect."

"Do you hear, Cubs?" asked the Widow. "Remember what your Brother has
said.  Also each day one of us will make a fresh trail here, so that the
Man may think we still live in this house."

So while Speed glided swiftly through the Boundaries uttering his
whimper call to Mooswa, Muskwa, Rof, and Carcajou, François and Rod
shouldered each a bag of Traps and started to lay out the Marten Road,
as was called a big circle of Traps extending perhaps thirty miles, for
the Winter’s hunt.

The Boy was filled with eager, joyous anticipation.  During his school
days in town he had thought and dreamed of the adventurous free life of
a Fur Trapper in the great Spruce Forests of the North.  That was
chiefly because it was bred in the bone with him.  He threw back to the
forty years of his father’s Factor-life as truly as an Indian retains
the wild instinct of his forefathers, though he delve for half a
lifetime in the civilization of the White Man.

"Here is de Marten tracks," cried François, stopping suddenly; and with
precise celerity he built a little converging stockade by placing in the
ground sharp-pointed sticks.  In this he set a small steel Trap, covered
it with leaves, and beyond placed the head of a fish.

"What’s that track?" asked The Boy, as his companion stopped and looked
at the trail of some big-footed creature.

"Cat," answered François; "dat’s Mister Lynk.  He like for smell some
t’ing, so I give him Castoreum me for rub on hes nose--perhaps some
necktie too."

[Illustration: "CAT," ANSWERED FRANÇOIS; "DAT’S MISTER LYNK."]

He cut a stick four feet long and four inches thick, and to the middle
of it fastened a running noose made from cod-line.  Then building a
stockade similar to the last, and placing a fish-head smeared with
Castoreum inside, he bent down a small Poplar and from it suspended the
noose covering the entrance to the stockade.

"Now, Mister Lynk he go for smell dat," explained François.  "He put hes
fat head t’rough dat noose; perhaps he don’t get him out no more.  By
Goss! he silly; when dat string get tight he fight wid de stick, an’
jump, and play de fool.  De stick don’t say not’ing, but jump too, of
course, cause it loose, you see.  If de stick be fas’ den de Lynk break
de string; but dis way dey fight, an’ by an’ by dat Lynk he dead for
soor, I t’ink me."

"He has queer taste," said The Boy, "to risk his neck for that
stuff--it’s worse than a Skunk."

They moved on, and behind, quite out of sight, but examining each
contrivance of the Trapper, came Black Fox, Muskwa, Blue Wolf, Mooswa,
and Carcajou.  Whisky-Jack was with them; now flying ahead to discover
where the enemy were, now fluttering back with a dismal "Pee weep!  Pee
weep!" to report and rail at things generally.

Carcajou at times travelled on three legs. "Got a thorn in your foot?"
queried the Jay? solicitously.

"Toes are cold," answered Wolverine, shortly.

"He-a-weep!" laughed Whisky-Jack, sneeringly; "they were hot enough last
night, when you called on François through the chimney. Whose toes are
sore to-day, Mister Carcajou? And the fur is burnt off your back--excuse
me while I laugh;" and the Bird gave vent to a harsh, cackling chuckle.

"Hello!" Carcajou exclaimed, suddenly.  "I smell Castoreum; or is it
Sikak the Skunk?"

When they came to the Lynx Snare, almost immediately, he circled around
gingerly in the snow, examining every bush, and stick, and semblance of
track; then he peered into the little stockade.  "It’s all right!" he
declared; "that François is a double-dealing Breed.  I have known him
set a Snare like this for Pisew, and a little to one side put a Number
Four Steel Trap, nicely covered up, to catch an unsuspicious,
simple-minded Wolverine."

"Why don’t you also say _honest, modest_, Wolverine?" derided
Whisky-Jack.

"But that’s a Snare for Pisew, right enough," continued Carcajou.

"It is!" added Black Fox.

"Watch me spring it!" commanded Carcajou, tearing with his strong jaws
and stronger feet at the fastening which held down the bent poplar.
Swish!  And the freed sapling shot into the air, dangling the cord like
a hangman’s noose invitingly before their eyes.  "Now if any one wants
the Fish-head, he may have it," he added.

"Not with Castoreum Sauce," said Black Fox. Even Blue Wolf turned his
nose up at it.

"Well, I’ll eat it myself," bravely remarked Wolverine, "for I’m
hungry."

"You always are, ’Gulo the Glutton,’ as Men call you," twittered Jay.

"I don’t care for hot pork, though," retorted the other, making a
grimace at the Bird.

"I believe they are heading for your house, Black Fox," remarked Rof, as
they trudged on again.

"François is setting a Trap in the King’s Palace--in the Court Yard,"
cried Whisky-Jack, fluttering back to meet them.  Sure enough, as the
friends crouched in a little coulee they could see the Half-breed
covering up a "No. 3" directly in front of Fox’s hole.  Near the Trap
François deposited two pieces of meat.

"If the Old Lady comes out she’ll get her toes pinched," remarked
Carcajou.

Black Fox laughed.  "When François catches Mother, we all shall be very
dead."

When the Trapper had gone, the Comrades drew close, and gingerly
reconnoitred.  "Only one Trap!" cried Carcajou; "this is too easy."
Cautiously fishing about in the snow he found a chain; pulling the Trap
out, he gave it a yank--something touched the centre-plate, and it went
off with a vicious snap that made their hearts jump.

"Is the Bait all right, Whisky-Jack," asked Black King.  "Was there any
talk of White Powder?"

"There’s nothing in it," replied the Bird; "I saw them cut the Meat."

"Well, Jack and I will eat one piece; there’s a piece for you, Rof.  In
this year of scarce food even the Death Bait is acceptable--though it’s
but a tooth-full.  Are you hungry, Muskwa?"

"No; I am sleepy.  I think I’ll go to bed to-morrow for all Winter.  You
fellows have kept me up too late now."

"Give me a paw to break the ice in the stream, Muskwa--I’m going to
cache this Trap," said Carcajou.

"All right," yawned Bear; "I can hardly keep my eyes open.  I’m afraid
my liver is out of order."

"Shouldn’t eat so much," piped Whisky-Jack.

Muskwa slouched down to the river; Wolverine grabbed up the Trap in his
strong jaws and followed.  Bruin scraped the snow to one side deftly,
uncovering a patch of the young ice, and two or three powerful blows
from his mighty paw soon shivered a hole in it.  Carcajou dropped the
Trap through, saying, "It will close over to-night, and to-morrow
perhaps the wind will cover it with snow."

The King looked on admiringly.

"Bra-vo! br-a-a-vo!" growled Blue Wolf. "I might have put my foot in
that when I came to visit the Widow."

And so all day the conspirators followed François and The Boy, undoing
their work.

To Muskwa’s horror, near the nest he had prepared for his long Winter’s
rest they found a huge Bear Trap.  At sight of its yawning jaws drops of
perspiration dripped from Bruin’s tongue. "Sweet Sleep! what should I do
if I were to put a leg in that awful thing--it would crack the bone, I
believe.  Who in the name of Forest Fools told François where my house
was?"

"Whisky-Jack, likely," snapped Carcajou, malignantly.

"Not I," declared Jay--"I swear it!  I keep the Law.  What evil I’ve got
to say of any one, I say to his face; I’m no traitor.  You’re a thief,
Carcajou--your ears were cut off for stealing!  Your head’s as smooth as
a Bird’s egg, and you’re a quarrelsome Blackguard--but did I ever accuse
you of betraying our Comrades?"

"Never mind, Sweet Singer," answered Wolverine, apologetically, "I
didn’t mean it. Nobody told François; it was your own big feet, Muskwa.
If you weren’t half asleep you’d know that you left a trail like the
passing of Train Dogs."

"How shall we spring the Trap?" asked Bear.

"Don’t touch it," commanded Carcajou.  "Just leave it, and François will
spend many days waiting for your thick fur."

"But if I ’hole-up’ here the Man will break into my house and kill me
while I sleep."

"How can he find you?" asked Jack, incredulously. "It’s going to snow
again, you’ll be all covered up deep and he’ll never know where you
are."

"Won’t he, Little Brother?  Man is not so stupid.  How do you suppose I
breathe? There’ll be a little hole right up through the snow, all yellow
about the edges, and François will find that; also, if there’s frost in
the air, see my breath.  No; I’ve got to make another nest now.  I
should have turned in before the snow fell, then I’d have been all
right."

"We’ll help you fix a new house," said Black King; "but you had better
wait--perhaps this snow will go away; then there will be no tracks to
lead Trappers to your nest.  It is really too bad to keep you up when
you are so sleepy, but it’s the only way."

"And to think how I worked over it," lamented Muskwa.  "For a week I
carried sticks until my arms ached; and scraped up leaves, and spruce
boughs, and soft moss, until my hands were sore.  It would have been the
finest ’hole-up’ of any Bear within the Boundaries.  Umisk boasts about
his old Mud Lodge, with the lower floor all flooded with water--it’s
enough to give one rheumatism.  New Ant Hills!  I shouldn’t like to live
in a cold, cheerless place like that.  If I had just pulled all that
nice warm covering over me before the snow fell, I should have been as
comfortable as little Gopher in his hole.  It’s too bad!"

"I’ll tell you what we will do, Muskwa," said Black King; "we’ll ask the
Old Lady about this thing.  You wouldn’t mind a nice dry hole in a
cut-bank somewhere, would you--if the snow lasts and you can’t make
another nest?  She knows all the empty houses from Athabasca to Peel
River.  I am in the same fix myself, for the family are moving
to-day--though we have lived in our present quarters for a matter of
four years."

"That’s a King for you!" cried Whisky-Jack. "He’s like a Father to us,"
concurred Blue Wolf.

"Now we’ll go back," ordered Black Fox; "the Man has set all his Traps.
See! here’s the mark of an empty bag on the snow.  If you discover
anything new, come to the big dead Cottonwood--the one that was struck
by storm-fire--at Two Rapids, and give the Boundary Call.  I don’t want
you making a trail up to our new house for François to follow."



                            THE OTTER SLIDE


For the next few days François was busy completing his Marten Road,
quite unconscious of the undoing that followed him. Fifteen miles out he
constructed a small rest-house that would do for a night’s camping; thus
he could go the round of his Traps nicely in two days.  The People of
the Boundaries watched him, and where they found a Trap, sprang it and
stole the Bait.  He fixed up the chimney that had suffered from
Carcajou’s diabolical curiosity. Winter had properly set in; streams
were frozen up, the ground covered with snow, and the days were of
scarce more length than a long drawn out forenoon.  Affairs were in this
state when one morning the Red Widow heard Beaver’s plaintive whistle
from the Cottonwood.

"Son," she cried to Black Fox, "Umisk calls; something has gone wrong in
the Forest."  The King turned over, stretched his sinewy legs, and
yawned; the sharp-pointed, blood-red tongue curled against the roof of
his mouth, and the strong teeth gleamed white against the background of
his lacquer coat.  It was a full-drawn, lazy protest against being
roused from slumber, for a brace of Pin-tail Grouse lying in the corner
of his cave gave evidence of much energy during the previous night.

"Bother this being King!" he yapped crabbedly. "To take care of one’s
own relatives is trouble enough.  By the Howl of a Hungry Wolf!  I saved
Stripes from a Trap yesterday--just in the nick of time to keep him from
grabbing the Bait.  Now Trowel Tail is after me. This place was bad
enough when there were only Animals here--I mean Animals of our own
knowing, Mother; now that this other kind of Animal, Man, has come, it’s
simply awful.  They must be a bad lot, these Men.  We fear Wolf when he
is hungry, and Muskwa when there are no Berries, but Man is always
crying, ’E-go, Kil-l--Kil-l!’"

Again Umisk’s shrill little treble cut the keen frosty air.  "Hurry,
Lad!" cried the Widow; "likely his family is in trouble."

Black Fox stuck his head cautiously from the entrance to their Burrow,
and peered through the massive drapery of Birch-tree roots which
completely veiled that part of the cut-bank. "Mother," he said, "make
the Boys use the log-path when they’re coming home, or François will
hole us up one of these fine days."

"I have told them, Son; your two Brothers were cross-hatching the trail
all yesterday afternoon.  There are three blind holes within five miles
up the stream, and to each one they have made a nice little false trail
to amuse this Stealer of Skins."

"That’s all right, Mother; we can’t be too careful."

He stretched each hind-leg far out, throwing his head high to loosen the
neck-muscles and expand his chest, shook the folds of his heavy, black
cloak and yawned again.  Then stooping low in the cave-mouth, with a
powerful spring he alighted upon a log which crossed from one cut-bank
to another of the stream.  Umisk was whistling a quarter of a mile away
down the left bank, but Black Fox started off up the right. As he
trotted along he sang:--

    "The trail that leads from nowhere to nowhere,
    Is the track of the King of the Tribe of Beware."


Suddenly he stopped, crept under a big log, and then emerged, tail
first, backing up cautiously and putting his feet down carefully in the
tracks he had made.  "They’ll find me asleep in there," he chuckled; and
hummed, softly:--

    "Under the log the King is asleep;
    Creep gently, Brother, creep;
    Under the log is the old Fox nest;
    Creep, Brother--mind his rest."


Suddenly jumping sideways over a great Spruce lying prone on the ground,
he started off again, singing merrily:--

    "The track that breaks
    Is a new track made;
    For eyes are sharp
    Where the nose is dead."


Down the stream, below where Umisk was waiting, Black King crossed,
saying to himself: "Now, François, when I go home the trail will be
complete, with no little break at my front door--dear François, sweet
François."

With Umisk was Carcajou waiting for the King.

"What’s up?" asked Black Fox.

"The Man has found us out," squeaked Umisk, despairingly.

"Too bad, too bad!" cried the King, with deep sympathy in his voice.
"Anything happened--any one caught?"

"Nothing serious at present.  One of the Babes lost a toe--mighty close
shave."

"How did the Breed work it?  The old game of breaking in your house--the
Burglar?"

"No; that’s too stupid for François. Muskegs! but he is clever.  The
thing must have been done last night.  He cut a hole in the ice of my
pond near the dam, then shoved a nice, beautiful piece of Poplar, with a
steel Trap attached, down into the water--one end in the mud, you know,
and the other up in the ice. Of course it froze solid there.  First-Kit,
that’s my eldest Son, saw it in the morning, and, thinking one of our
bread-sticks had got away, went down to bring it back.  Mind you, I
didn’t know anything about this; he is an ambitious little Chap and
wanted to do it all himself.  Of course the Poplar was fast--he couldn’t
budge it; so climbed up to cut it off at the ice, with the result that
he sprang the Trap and incidentally lost a toe."

"It’s great schooling for the Children, though, isn’t it?" remarked
Black King, trying to put a good face on affairs.

"It’s mighty hard on their toes," whined Beaver.  "Hope it wasn’t his
nippers--forgot to look into that."

"Nothing like bringing them up to take care of themselves," declared
Carcajou.  "All the same, my Wood-chopper Friend, you just cut off that
stick and float it, with the Trap, to one of your air-holes; I’ll cache
it for François."

"I was thinking of keeping it," added Umisk, "to teach the Youngsters
what a Trap is like."

"Well, just as you wish; only I’ll go and make a little trail from the
spot off into the woods, so our busy Friend will think I’ve taken it.
Hello, Nekik!" he continued, as Otter came sliding through the snow on
his belly; "has François been visiting you too?"

"I don’t know; there is something the matter with my Slide.  It isn’t as
I left it yesterday."

"Birds of a Feather!  Birds of a Feather!" screamed Whisky-Jack,
fluttering to a limb over their heads.  "What’s the caucus about this
morning--discussing chances of a breakfast this year of starvation and
scarcity of Wapoos?  Mild Winter! but I had a big feed.  The Boy no more
knows the value of food than he knows the depravity of Carcajou’s mind."

"Great hand for throwing away hot pork, isn’t he, Jack?" asked
Wolverine, innocently.

The Jay blinked his round bead-eyes, snapped his beak, and retorted:
"They put in their evenings laughing over the roasting you got when you
dropped into the fire."

"Where’s François, Babbler?" asked the King.

"Gone out to bring in Deer Meat."

"Did he make a Kill?"

"U-h-huh! my crop is full."

"You horrid Beast!" cried Carcajou, disgustedly.  "Where is it cached?"

"Not Mooswa?" broke in Black King, with a frightened voice.

"No--Caribou.  Such a big shovel to his horn too--must have been of the
Knowledge Age.  Ugh! should have known better than to let a Man get near
him.  Of course François stuck the head on a tree to make peace with
Manitou, and I’m fixed for a month."

"Cannibal!" again exclaimed Carcajou. "Where did you say your friend,
Murderer, had cached the quarters?"

"’Cannibal,’ eh?  Go and find out, Glutton. Be careful, though--I saw
some one handling the White Medicine last night."

"The White Medicine!" ejaculated Black Fox, turning with dismay to the
speaker.

"Uh, huh! but I never steal the Bait, like Carcajou, so I don’t care.  I
eat what the Men eat."

"What they leave, you mean, Scavenger--what they throw to the Dogs!"
retorted the Lieutenant.

"You’ll get enough of Dogs, First-Cousin-to-Ground Hog--François says he
is going to have a train of them.  They will squeeze your fat back if
you come prowling about the Shack to steal food."

"Dogs," growled Blue Wolf, coming into the circle,--"who’s got Dogs?"

"You’ll have them--on your back, presently," snapped the Jay.  "Saw you
sniffing around there last night.  If your jaws were as long as your
scent you would have had that leg off the roof, eh, Rof?  Burnt
Feathers! but I smell something," he continued; "has any one found a
Castoreum Bait, and got it in his pocket?  I don’t mean you, Beaver, you
don’t smell very bad.  Oh! here you are, Sikak; it’s you--I might have
known what sweet Forest Flower had cut loose from its stalk.  Have you
been rolling in the dead Rose leaves this morning, my lover of Perfume?"

The white-striped Skunk pattered with quick, mincing little steps into
the group, his back humped up and his terrible tail carried high, ready
to resent any insult.

"Smothered anybody this morning, Sikak?" asked the Bird.

A laugh went round the circle at this sally of Jack’s; for Skunk’s
method of fighting did not meet with universal approval.  Blue Wolf
thought Sikak was a good piece of meat clean thrown away. When hungry he
could manage Badger, or even Porcupine; but Skunk!  "Ur-r-r, agh!" it
turned his stomach to think of the dose he had received once when he
tried it.

"Good-morning, Your Majesty!" said Lynx, as he arrived shortly after
Skunk.

"How is everybody up your way?" queried Jack.  "How are all the young
Wapooses?"

Lynx grinned deprecatingly.

"Pisew is not likely to forget the Law of the Seventh Year," remarked
Carcajou, with a sinister expression, "so he is not so deeply interested
in young Wapoos as he used to be."

"What is the meeting for?" asked Lynx.

"François has been visiting the pond of our little Comrade, Umisk,"
replied Black King.

"And has been at my Slide, too," declared Otter.

"Well, Comrades, we had better go with Nekik and examine into this
thing," commanded the King.

"Oh, of course!" cried Jack; "every community must have Fishery Laws,
and have its Fisheries protected."

The Otter slide was exactly like a boy’s coasting chute on a hill.  A
smooth, iced trough ran down the snow-covered bank, a matter of fifteen
feet, to the stream’s edge, ending in an ice hole that Otter managed to
keep open all Winter. Generally speaking, it was Nekik’s entrance to his
river-home, and in the event of danger demanding a quick disappearance,
he could shoot down it into the water like a bullet.  It was also a
play-ground for Otter’s family; their favourite pastime being to glide
helter-skelter down the chute and splash into the stream.

"What’s wrong with it?" asked Black Fox. "There’s a nasty odour of Man
about, I admit, but your Slide seems all clear and smooth."

"Something’s been changed.  I had a little drop put in the centre for
the Youngsters, and they liked it--thought it was like falling off a
bank, you know; now that part is filled up nearly level, you see.  I
don’t know what is in it--was afraid to look; but expect François has
set a Trap there."

"I’ll find out," said Carcajou.  "These Traps all work from the
top--I’ve discovered that much.  If you keep walking about, you’re
pretty sure to get into one of them; but if you sit down and think, and
scrape sideways a bit, you’ll get hold of something that won’t go off."
Talking thus, he dug with his strong claws at the edge of the Slide.  "I
thought so!" he exclaimed suddenly.  "Here’s a ring around a stake--I
know what that means!"

Feeling cautiously for the chain, he presently pulled out a No. 3 steel
Trap.  With notched jaws wide open, and tip-plate holding its flat
surface up inviting the loosening pressure, it was a vicious-looking
affair.

"Let me spring it," said Wolf; "I’m used to them."  Grabbing the chain
end in his teeth, he threw the Trap over his head as a dog does a bone
in play, and when it came down the sides clanged together with hurried
fondness.

"Hurrah! hurrah!" whistled Otter.  "Something told me not to go down
that Slide.  I felt it in my bones."

"You’d have felt it on your bones," piped Jay, ironically, "if you had
slid your fat belly over that Trap."

"Oh, I’m just dying for a slide and a bath," continued Nekik--"here
goes!"

"Wait a bit!" commanded Carcajou, grabbing him by the shoulder, "don’t
be too eager.  That isn’t François’s Lucky Trap.  If he has discovered
your front stream, you can just depend upon it his Lucky Trap is laid
away somewhere for you--it’s got two red bands painted on the springs."

As these words of wisdom fell from Carcajou’s lips his Comrades gathered
their feet more closely under them, and searched the surrounding
territory apprehensively with their eyes.

"Where will it be?" cried Nekik, distressedly.

"In the water!" answered Carcajou, with brief decision.

"Dreadful!" whimpered Otter.

"François is a heartless wretch!" declared Beaver.  "He tried to play
that trick on me once."

"Where was that, Paddle-tail?" queried Jack, who was always eager for a
bit of gossip.

"It was when I lived up on Pembina River. You know the way with us
Beavers--we always take a month or two of holiday every Summer, and
visit our Friends.  It was in June--I remember; I opened the Lodge to
let it air, and started down stream with my whole family.  Of course we
passed many Beaver-roads running to the river, and when we thought they
belonged to friends we’d pull out and go up on the bank. Carcajou, you
know the little round bowl of mud we Beaver leave on our river-roads for
visitors’ cards?"

"Yes," replied Wolverine; "they’re a rather good idea.  You always know
just who has passed, don’t you?"

"Yes, we can tell, generally.  Well, as I was saying, we went up the
bank in one of these Roads, and by the odour of the little clay mound I
knew that Red Jowl, a cousin of mine, was just inside the Wood--or had
been.  So the family went among the Poplars to have a bite of bread; and
just as we were felling a tree whom should I see but François drifting
down the river in his canoe; we kept pretty close, you had better
believe."

"Didn’t call out to him, Umisk, eh?" asked Jay--"didn’t clap each other
on the back with your tails and say, ’Here comes a Chum.’"

Umisk proceeded, paying no attention to the flippant Bird.  "When the
Breed came opposite our Road he stopped his canoe, let it drift gently
up to the bank, pulled out a Trap and set it in muddy water just at the
foot of the path. He was clever enough not to touch the land even with
his paddle, so there was no scent--nothing to warn a poor Beaver of the
danger. Then he floated on down.  If I had not seen the whole thing this
depraved taker of our lives would have caught me sure; for you know how
we go into the water, Nekik, just as you do--head and hands first."

"That’s an old trick of François’s," exclaimed Carcajou; "and you’ll
find that is just what he has done here.  If Mister Nekik will feel
cautiously at the foot of his Slide he will find something hard and
smooth, not at all like a stick or a stone."

"Fat Fish! but I’m afraid of my fingers," whistled Otter.

"Sure, if you work from the top," retorted Carcajou.  "Sideways is the
game with the Trap always--or upward."

"You forgot that, Mister Carcajou, when you tackled the Chimney,"
twittered Jay.

"I didn’t burn my tongue, anyway."

"Is Nekik afraid to safeguard his own Slide," sneered Whisky-Jack.

"Shut up, Quarrel Maker!" interposed the King, "you know Otter is one of
the pluckiest fighters inside the Boundaries.  It’s only brainless
Animals who tackle things they know nothing about."

"Dive their beaks into hot Pork, your Most Wise Majesty," echoed Lynx,
with a fawning smile.

"Here’s Sakwasew, he’ll find the Trap, he’s a water dweller," exclaimed
Carcajou, as Mink, attracted by their chatter, came wandering down the
stream.  "Here, little Black-tail," he continued, "just dip down the
hole there and look for evidence of François’s deviltry."

"It’s against the Law of the Boundaries," pleaded Mink, "for me to use
Otter’s ice hole. By the Kink in my Tail, I’m not like some of my
Comrades, always breaking the laws."

"Aren’t you, Mink?  Who cut the throats of Gray Hen, the Grouse’s,
Children, last July, when they were still in their pin-feathers?  But I
suppose that isn’t breaking the Law of the Boundaries," cried Lynx,
taking Mink’s observation to himself.

"Oh, no," chipped in Whisky-Jack; "certain of you Animals think keeping
the Law is not getting caught.  My own opinion is, you’re as bad as Men.
When François puts out the White Death-powder, he thinks he is keeping
Man’s law if the Red Coats do not catch him; and Sakwasew cuts the
throat of Chick-Grouse, and you, Pisew, eat Kit Beaver, and it’s all
within the Law if there be no witnesses.  I don’t know what we are
coming to."

"Stop wrangling, you Subjects!" commanded Black King; and the silvered
fur on his back stood straight up in anger.  "I’ll order Rof to thrash
you soundly, if you don’t stop this."

Pisew slunk tremblingly behind a tree, and Carcajou, humping his back,
exclaimed: "Brother Nekik, I’ll fish out that Trap for you; I’m sure
it’s there--my good nose lines the track of a Man straight to the hole."
In less than two minutes he triumphantly swung a steel-jawed thing up on
the bank.  "There, what did I tell you!" he boasted proudly.  "But the
ring is on a stout root or stick--cut it off, Umisk, with your strong
chisel-teeth, and Fisher will carry it up that big hollow Poplar and
cache it in a hole."

"I will, if you spring the jaws first," agreed Fisher.

Otter was overjoyed.  "This is fine!" he cried; "I’ll be back in a
minute!" and he darted down the Slide as an Indian throws the
snake-stick over the snow.

"What fine sport!" remarked Carcajou, when Nekik came up again, shaking
the water from his strong, bristled mustache.

"Shall we have some games?" suggested the King.  "I’ll give a fat
Pheasant to the one who slides down Nekik’s chute best--that is, of
course, barring Nekik himself."

"But the water, Your Majesty!" interposed Pisew.

"I don’t want to wet my feet," pleaded Wapistan, the Marten; "if you’ll
make the race up a tree I will willingly join."

"So will I!" concurred Fisher.

"Or three miles straight over the hill," suggested Blue Wolf.

"Make it a wrestling match!" said Carcajou.

"No, no," declared Black King.  "No one need go in the hole, of course.
When you come to the bottom, spring over to the ice--that will be part
of the game."

After much wrangling and discussion they all agreed to try it.  Mink
went first, being more familiar with slides, for he had a little one of
his own.  He did it rather nicely, but forgetting to jump at the bottom,
dove into the water.

"That rules you out!" decided the King. "You left the course, you see.
Go on, Rof!"

Blue Wolf fixed himself gingerly at the upper end of the Slide, and, at
the last minute, decided to take it sitting, riding down on his great
haunches.  This worked first-rate, until the ice was reached.  Rof was
going with so much speed by this time, that he couldn’t gather for a
spring; his hind quarters slipped through the hole, which, being just
about his size, caused him to wedge tight.  He gave a roar of surprise
that made the woods ring, for the stream was icy cold. "Keep your nose
above water or you’ll drown, old Bow-wow," piped Jay.

[Illustration: ROF WAS GOING WITH SO MUCH SPEED, ... THAT HE COULDN’T
GATHER FOR A SPRING.]

It took the combined strength of Beaver and Carcajou to pull the
grumbling animal out.  "By the White Spot on my Tail," laughed Black
King, "but I thought for a time you were going to win.  Your turn,
Pisew."  Lynx made a grimace of dislike, for his cat nature revolted at
the thought of water, but he crept on to the slide with nervous steps.

"You won’t get in the hole," jeered Jack; "your feet are too big."

Pisew tried it standing up, with arched back, just for all the world
like a cat on a garden fence. As he neared the bottom at lightning
speed, confusion seized him; he tried to spring, but only succeeded in
throwing a half somersault, and plunged head first into the water.  The
Jay fairly screamed with delight, and hopped about on his perch overhead
in a perfect ecstasy of fiendish enjoyment.  "Didn’t scorch his tongue a
bit!" he cried.  "Give him the tail feathers of the Pheasant to dry his
face with, oh, Your Majesty!  Ha, ha, ha!  Pe-he-e-e!"  Pisew scrambled
out filled with morose anger.

"That’s another failure," adjudged the King. "Who is next?"

"Carcajou’s turn!" instigated Whisky-Jack. "He knows all about sliding
up and down chimneys--he’ll win, sure!"

"I will try it," grunted the fat, little Chap; "but if you make fun of
me, Jack, I’ll wring your neck first chance I get."

Wolverine shuffled clumsily to the starting post, studied the Slide
critically for a minute with his little snake-like eyes, then
deliberately turned over on his back, and prepared for the descent.

"Tuck in your ears!" shouted Whisky Jack. Now this was an insult.
Carcajou’s ears were so very short that they were generally supposed to
have been cut off for stealing.  However, Wolverine started, tail first,
holding his head up between his fore-paws to judge distances.  When he
struck the bottom, his powerful hind-feet jammed into the snow, and the
speed of his going threw him safely over on the ice, landing him right
side up on all-fours.

"Capital!  Capital!" yapped Black King, patting his furred hands
together in approval. "That will be pretty hard to beat.  Skunk, you’re
a clever little Fellow, see if you can make a tie of it with Carcajou."
Sikak moved up to the Slide with a peculiar rocking-horse-like gallop.
Taking his cue from Carcajou he decided to go down the same way.  Now,
in the excitement of the thing the animals had gathered close to the
Slide, lining it on both sides.

"Cranky little White-streak!" exclaimed Whisky-Jack; "why don’t you make
a speech before you start."

Skunk had never travelled in this shape before, and was nervous.  During
his delay over getting a straight start, Carcajou and Mink, half-way
down, got into an altercation about a good seat that each claimed.

"Keep it, then, Glutton!" whined Sakwasew, starting across the chute.
As he did so, Skunk got away rather prematurely, coming down with the
speed of a snow-slide off a roof.  He struck Mink full amidship, and
thinking it was a diabolical trick on the part of the others, developed
an angry odour that would have put a Lyddite shell to shame.

A wild scramble took place.

"Fat Hens!" shrieked Black King, as he fled through the Forest, his long
brush trailing in the snow.

"I’m choking!" screamed Carcajou.  "By the power of all Forest Smells,
was there ever such a disgraceful Chap on the face of the Earth;" and he
scurried away with his short legs, just for all the world like a Bear
Cub.

Fisher climbed a tree in hot haste, as did Marten.  Mink dove in the
Otter’s hole and disappeared; but with him he carried the evil thing,
for he was full of the blue halo that vibrated from his skunk-smirched
coat.  "I shall never be able to go home any more," he moaned; "my
relatives will kill me."

Even Jay clasped one claw over his nose and flew wildly through the
forest, almost knocking out his brains against branches.  In ten seconds
there was nobody left on the ground but Otter and poor little
white-striped Skunk.  The collision had sent him rolling over and over
down to the ice bottom of the stream.  He got up, shook himself, used
some very bad animal language, and slunk away to his family, to tell
them of the trick Carcajou and Mink had played him.

"That Glutton was afraid I’d win the Pheasant," he confided to Mrs.
Sikak; "but I broke up the party, anyway."

Otter was wandering about disconsolately through the woods, declaiming
to the trees that his Slide was ruined for all time to come, and he
really wished the Trap had ended his days.



                       THE TRAPPING OF WOLVERINE


When François missed the Beaver trap that had been placed in the dam,
and that Umisk had taken for his sons to study, also the two set on
Otter’s slide, it made him furious.  He knew Wolverine must have cached
them.  Once before he had been forced to give up a good Marten Road
because of the relentless ingenuity of this almost human-brained animal;
but it would be different this time, the Half-breed declared--he would
make a fight of it.

"I keel me dat Carcajou!" he exclaimed emphatically over and over again
to The Boy. "Dat Debil ob de Wood he eat my bait, an’ cac’e de Trap, an’
come an’ sit dere by de door an’ listen what we talk.  I see de track
dis mornin’."

The very night François made this boast, Wolverine came and entirely
appropriated the remaining hind-quarter of his Caribou from the roof.
When the Half-breed discovered this fresh mark of his enemy’s energetic
attention he became inarticulate with ire.

"Why don’t you try the strychnine on him?" asked Roderick.

"Dat no use," declared the enraged Trapper; "when I put poison in de
bait, Carcajou come, smell him, den he do some dirty trick on it for
make me swear.  But I catc’ him soor--I put de gun wid pull-string."

He spent the greater part of the next day arranging a muzzle-loading
shot gun, with a trade ball in it, for the destruction of the animal who
had stolen his venison.  François had seen Wolverine’s own private
little path for coming up the bank of the Pelican, and on this he staked
down the gun and put some pine logs on either side, so that Carcajou
must take the bait from in front. The gun was left cocked, with a string
attached to the trigger; on the string, just at the muzzle, was tied a
piece of Caribou meat.

Wolverine chuckled when he saw the arrangement. "Poor old François!" he
muttered ironically: "this is really too bad; it’s actual robbery to
take that Bait--it’s so easy."

Now this little wood-dweller had a most decided streak of vanity in his
make-up.  Like many really smart men, he liked to show off his
cunning--that was his weakness.  "This is a good chance to give some of
the others an object lesson," he said to himself, sitting down to wait
for an audience.  Presently Blue Wolf and Lynx came in sight, jogging
along together.  "Eur-r-r-r!" said Wolf, hoarsely; "had any Eating this
day, Gulo?"

"No appetite," declared Carcajou, getting up so the half-starved Lynx
might see his well-rounded stomach.

"Most wise Lieutenant," smirked Pisew, "what wisdom hast thou originated
this day?"

"That’s a queer thing, isn’t it?" remarked Carcajou, nodding his broad
forehead towards the baited gun.

Blue Wolf looked, took a wide detour, and approached it from the side.
The others followed in his footsteps.

"Years have given you sagacity, Mister Rof," commended Wolverine.  "From
the side always, eh?  Danger sits on top, and Death waits in front."

"My nose finds a Bait!" answered Wolf.

"It’s Meat!" added Pisew, working his mustached upper lip like a cat.

"I smell powder!" declared Carcajou, quietly.

"The evil breath of the Ironstick?" queried Blue Wolf.  "Perhaps the
White Death-powder makes that peculiar odour," he hazarded.

"No," asserted Carcajou; "François knows better than that: to smell that
Bait costs nothing; to bite it makes a heavier price than either of us
cares to pay.  François knows that we smell first, and bite last; and if
our noses detected aught amiss would we pull the string with our teeth?"

"Wise Lieutenant!" murmured Lynx.

"Cunning old Thief!" mused Wolf to himself.

"Do either of you food-hunters want it?" asked Carcajou.

"I’m not very hungry this morning," answered Blue Wolf.

"I discovered seven Deer Mice under a log not two hours ago," lied
Pisew; "sweet, long-eared little Chaps they were, and quite fat from
eating the seeds of the yellow-lipped Sunflower--most delicious flavour
it gives to their flesh. My stomach is at peace for the first time in
many days."

"Keep your eye open for the Breed-Man, then," commanded Wolverine; "I
think I’d relish that Caribou steak--your Deer-Mice have given me an
appetite."  He tore the pine logs away from one side of the gun,
examined the string critically, cut it with his sharp teeth just behind
the bait, and devoured the fresh meat with great gusto, smacking his
lips with a tantalizing suggestiveness of good fare.

"In case of accidents I think I’d better break up this Ironstick," he
said.  Seizing the hammer in his strong jaws, and placing his paws on
the barrel and stock, he tore it off and completely demolished the old
muzzle-loader.

"Well," yawned Wolf, stretching himself, "you’re a match for the Man, I
believe.  I’m off, for I’ve got a long run ahead of me--the Pack gathers
to-night at Deep Creek."

"What’s the run--Stag?" asked Pisew, insinuatingly.

"Whatever it may be it will be all eaten," answered Rof; "so you needn’t
trail.  Good-bye, Lieutenant," he barked, loping with powerful strides
through the woods out of sight.

"I’ll go with you, most wise Lieutenant," declared Pisew.

"Well, trot along in front," grunted Carcajou; "I want to fix the trail
a bit."  After they had walked for half an hour Wolverine stopped, and,
cocking his eye up a slim pole which seemed to grow from the centre of a
high Spruce stump, exclaimed, "Great-Eating! what in the name of
Wiesahkechack is that?"

"Meat!" answered Pisew, looking at something which dangled from the top
of the pole.

"It’s François again," said Carcajou, sniffing at the stump.

"What a splendid cache," cried Lynx, admiringly; "nobody but Squirrel
could climb that pole."

"But they might knock it down," declared Carcajou.  "I have a notion to
try."

"Better leave it alone," advised Pisew.  "If it’s François, there’s
something wrong."

"Carcajou doesn’t take advice from a cotton-headed Cat," sneered the
other.  "Easy Killing! but I’m going up to see what it’s like.  I know
that stump--it’s hollow; there is no chance for a Trap there."  It was
about three feet high. Wolverine made a running jump, grabbing the top
edge to pull himself up; as he did so something snapped.  A howl of
enraged surprise came from the little animal as he dangled with hind
toes just touching the ground, and his fore-paws in a steel Trap which
he had pulled over the side. The cunning Breed had blocked up his Trap
on the inside of the hollow shell, where it was invisible from the
ground.

"For the Sake of Security! don’t make such a noise," pleaded Pisew.

"Fool-talker!" retorted Carcajou; "come and help me out of this fix."

"I can’t open the Trap," objected Lynx; "why, it would take the strength
of Muskwa to flatten its springs."

"Run to the King and ask for help, as is the law of the Boundaries,"
ordered Wolverine.

"Gently, Mister Lieutenant, gently; don’t get so excited--keep cool."

"Wait till I get out of this," screamed Carcajou; "I’ll warm your
jacket."

"There, there," returned Lynx, "don’t threaten me--don’t abuse me, and
I’ll help you--"

"That’s a good Pisew--hurry, please--François may come--"

"On one condition," added Lynx, sitting down on his haunches with
deliberate self-possession.

"Hang the conditions!" blustered Carcajou--"talk of conditions with a
Fellow’s fingers in a steel Trap!"

"All the same, I’ll only do it on one condition--when they talked the
other day of making me King--"

"’_They_ talked,’" interrupted Carcajou; "nobody talked of making you
King."

"_You_ didn’t, I know, Lieutenant; but that’s just what I want you to
promise now, before I help you."

"I’ll see you Snared first!" grunted Wolverine, snapping at the Trap
chain which was fastened to the pole, until he screamed with pain.

"All right--I’m off!  François will soon find you," declared Pisew.

"Come back!" cried the entrapped Animal. "What do you wish?"

"Well, if anything happens Black King, we’ll need another ruler--anyway,
next year there’ll be an election, and I want you to stick up for me as
you did for Black Fox.  You’re so wise and eloquent, dear Carcajou, that
the others will do just as you advise.  I could make it worth while,
too, if there were any charges against you; suppose some one accused you
unjustly of having eaten a Cub or a Kit under the Killing Age, why, I
could see that nothing happened, you know."

"Sneak!  Thief!  Murderer!" ejaculated Carcajou disdainfully.  "If I
could but get out of this fix, I’d eat you."

"What’s the row, you Fellows?" piped a bird-voice, as Whisky-Jack
swooped down to a small Poplar, and craned his neck in amazement at the
sight he beheld.  "By my Lonely Life!" he chuckled, "if here isn’t the
King of all Knaves sitting with his hands in the stocks.  Great Rations!
but you’re a wise one; whose toes hurt now, Mister Mocker?  Why doesn’t
that cat-faced Lynx help you out?"

"I offered to," declared Pisew, "but his temper is so vile I dare not
touch him.  He threatened to kill me--I’m afraid to go near him."

"Why don’t you run to Black King for help, you stupid--you can’t open
that Trap."

"Wise Bird," almost sobbed Carcajou, in his gratitude, "this scheming
rascal took advantage of my misfortune, and tried to make me promise to
do something for him, or he would let François catch me."

"Pisew is not to be trusted--he is too much like a Man," asserted Jack.
Turning to the Lynx, he exclaimed, angrily: "You go on the back-trail
there, and if François comes, lead him off slowly; just keep in his
sight--he’ll follow you.  I will get the Lieutenant out of this.  Mind,
if you play any tricks, or break the Oath of the Boundaries, the King
will command Blue Wolf to break your back--he’ll do it too.  I’m off for
help," he said to the prisoner; "just keep your courage up, old Carey;"
and working his fan-like wings with exceeding diligence, he dove through
the woods at a great rate toward the King’s Burrow.

"I was only joking, dear friend Carcajou," said Lynx, fawningly, for he
dreaded the anger of the other animals.  "Don’t say a word about it to
the King; he might think I was in earnest."

"Traitor!" snarled Wolverine; "go back and watch for François."

"Don’t say any more about it," pleaded Pisew, "and I’ll watch, oh, so
carefully, most loyal, true Lieutenant."

Whisky-Jack’s shrill call from a tree startled the family of the Red
Widow.

"Quick, Royal Son," she cried, "there’s a danger signal.  Listen:
’Hee-e-e-p, hee-e-ep, he-e-e-ep!’  That means some one caught. Where are
my Sons?  All here but Stripes, Goodness!"  She wrung her paws
miserably, and in her eagerness rushed to the door.  "What is it,
Bringer of Evil News?  Who’s caught--not my Baby Cub?" she asked of
Whisky-Jack.

"No, Good Dame.  Would you believe it, the cleverest one in all the
Boundaries, excepting your Son, is now keeping the jaws of a Trap apart
with his own soft paws--it’s Carcajou."

"What’s to do?" cried Black Fox, joining his Mother.

"Carcajou is caught!" she answered, heaving a sigh of relief that it
wasn’t Cross-stripes.

Jay Bird explained the situation.

"Nobody but Muskwa can spring a Number Four Trap," asserted the King;
"and he is holed up these two days--isn’t he, Mother?"

"Yes," she assented.  "And asleep by now. You will find him at the big
Burrow that is in the fourth cut-bank from here up stream."

"The old Chap must get up, then," cried Black Fox, with emphasis, "for
he is not in the deep frost-sleep yet.  Here, Jack, run and bring Beaver
to cut off the pole Carcajou’s Trap is ringed to, and I’ll go for
Muskwa; if you see Rof, tell him to meet me at Bear’s Burrow."

The King had a tremendous time with Muskwa. Bruin was sleepy and cranky.
"Quick! wake up, Brother!" Black Fox shouted in his ear.  The Bear never
moved--simply snored.

The energetic visitor turned tail on, and proceeded to rake Bruin’s ribs
with his strong hind feet as a dog makes the gravel fly.  Muskwa grunted
and simply flicked his short, woolly ears. The King jumped on him, set
up the long howl of the Kill in his very face, put his sharp teeth
through one of the nerveless ears, and generally held a small riot over
the sleeper.  He never would have managed to wake Bear had not Blue Wolf
arrived to help him.

Muskwa was for all the world like a maudlin, drunken old sailor.  "All
right, you Fellows," he said groggily, his eyes still closed, "I don’t
want any more Berries--eat ’em yourself."

"Not Berries!" howled Wolf; "Carcajou is in a Trap."

"Go ’way--don’t believe it.  Carcajou’s an old Sweep!"

Blue Wolf’s powerful voice rang the Chase Note in Muskwa’s ear.  It woke
the big fellow sufficiently to enable him to take a side-hook sweep at
the offender with his disengaged paw. The blow was a sleepy one, else it
had cracked his tormentor’s skull.

"He’s coming all right," remarked the King, critically.

"By the Flavour of Meat, he is!" ejaculated Rof.

In the end they got Muskwa on his feet, with a little understanding in
his stupor-clogged brain, and half-pushing, half-leading, conducted him
to where Carcajou was sitting in the stocks.  In his flight Whisky-Jack
had met Mooswa, and he was there also.  Beaver was chiselling away at
the pole; for once loosened, even if they could not spring the Trap
sufficiently to get Carcajou’s paws out, between them they might manage
to get him away and cached somewhere; anything was better than letting
him fall into the Trapper’s hands.

"Of all the wood I ever cut this is the worst," panted Umisk, resting
for a minute.  "It cramps my neck cutting down so close sideways.  It is
dry Tamarack, the slivers are all sticking in my tongue."

As Black Fox and Rof withdrew their paws from under Muskwa’s arms, he
keeled over lazily and went sound asleep in two seconds.  "Give him a
good lift with your hind-foot, Mooswa," commanded the King, sharply.
"Of all the heavy-brained Animals I ever saw!"

"If we but had some of Man’s fire," opined Jack, "we could wake him up
quick enough by singeing a couple of my feathers under his nose."

Mooswa planted both hind-feet, bang! in Bear’s ribs; Rof gave a deep bay
in his face; Black King once more put his saw-like teeth through an ear;
and by these gentle, persuasive methods Muskwa was wakened sufficiently
to get on his feet.  He swayed drunkenly.  "Stop fighting, Cubs!" he
growled, under the impression that he was being bothered by some of his
own children.

"Get up and squeeze the springs of the Trap--Carcajou is caught!  Here
they are--put a paw on each--there! squeeze!" yelled Black Fox.

Just then Beaver finished cutting the pole, and it fell with a
crash--the noise helped waken Muskwa.

"Slip the ring off the stub, Umisk, that’s a good Chap," cried
Wolverine.  This done, he and the Trap clattered to the ground.

"Come on!" screamed Black Fox to Muskwa, as he and Rof shouldered him to
the Trap.  "Squeeze now!" the Fox shouted again, placing Bear’s powerful
paws on the springs.

"I’ll squeeze," answered Bruin, petulantly; "but why don’t you speak
louder--say what you mean.  You Fellows have all got colds--I can’t hear
you."

"Dead Eagles! but François will," remarked Jay.

"There, now, a little harder--use your strength, Muskwa!"

The Bear pressed his great weight on the springs; they slipped down, and
the jaws slowly opened like the sides of a travelling-bag.  With a cry
of delight Carcajou pulled his bruised fingers out, and in gratitude
rubbed his short little Coon-like head against Bruin’s great cheek.
"Good old Muskwa!" he cried joyfully; "I’ll never forget this."

"Your fingers will be a long time sore, then," sneered Jay.

"Never--mind--little friend.  It’s all right; let me go--to sleep now,
don’t--don’t bother;" and he flopped over like a bag of potatoes, sighed
wearily once or twice, and started off with a monotonous, bubbling
snore.  "He’s hopeless," moaned the King.  "We’ll never get him home."

"I saw François just like that once," chirped Whisky-Jack; "he had some
medicine in a bottle, and the more of it he took the sleepier he got."

"How in the name of Many Birds shall we ever get him back to his hole?"
asked Black Fox, perplexedly.

"I’ll carry him," declared the Moose. "Here, you Fellows, roll him up on
my horns;" and dropping to his knees Mooswa put the great, chair-like
spread of his antlers down to the snow.

"Come, Pisew, give us a hand," commanded the King.  Beaver, and Lynx,
and Rof, and Black Fox shouldered and pushed at the huge black ball, and
Mooswa kept edging his horn-cradle in under the mass, until finally
Muskwa lay snugly in the hollow.

"Now all give a mighty push, and help me up!" snuffed the Moose.  "All
right," he added, staggering to his feet, and pointing his nose skyward,
allowing the burdened antlers to lie along his withers.

"Ride with Muskwa, Jack," commanded the King, "and show Mooswa the old
Sleeper’s house. Branch out, the rest of you, and make the Many-trail;
for many trails make few catches."  Carcajou was sitting on his
haunches, licking his aching paws.  "How are you going to get home,
Little Comrade?" he asked.

"I’ll give him a lift," interposed Blue Wolf. "Clamber up, old
Curiosity."  They were a funny-looking party--quite like an ambulance
train; Muskwa asleep on Mooswa’s horns, and Carcajou astraddle of Wolf’s
strong back.

[Illustration: THEY WERE A FUNNY-LOOKING PARTY.]

"Walk in Rof’s tracks, Pisew, till you strike a muskeg," ordered the
King; "François won’t fancy the fun of following a traveller like you
through a big swamp."

"I should like to hide that Trap," lamented Carcajou.

"Oh, never mind," interrupted Black Fox. "Get away home, everybody."

"I’ll hear some choice French to-night," declared Jack.  "When François
discovers that somebody has robbed his Trap, he’ll jabber himself
asleep."

All the way to his home Carcajou swore vengeance on the Man who had made
his paws so sore.  "You’ll do it, Brother," said Rof, "and I don’t blame
you.  Of course we must remember our oath about The Boy."



                      THE COMING OF THE TRAIN DOGS


For three days nothing unusual happened. Hunger commenced to nip at
every one, for, as we know, it was the Seventh Year of the Rabbit cycle,
and they were scarce.  All the others envied old Muskwa, slumbering
peacefully, nourished by the fat of his Summer’s pillage.

The narrow body of Lynx was getting narrower, the gaunt sides of Blue
Wolf gaunter. Fisher and Marten were living on Deer Mice, Squirrels, and
small game; and the Red Widow’s family were depending almost entirely
upon Spruce Partridge--the flesh of these birds had become particularly
astringent, too.  The gray-mottled, pin-tail Grouse had entirely
disappeared--better eating they were, the Widow contended; but in the
Seventh Year it was not a matter of selection at all, and each Animal
was poaching on the other’s preserve--all because of the scarcity of
Wapoos.  But in spite of the general starvation, every one left a small
dole of his food for Carcajou, whose paws were too sore to prowl about.
He felt the restricted diet more than any of them, being a perfect
gourmand,--"Gulo the Glutton," that was his name; and he liked good
living.

On the fourth day Whisky-Jack startled his comrades with the
announcement that François had acquired a train of four dogs from
Nichemous, who was passing down the ice-road of the river with a
Free-Trader.  Blue Wolf snuffed discontentedly at the news; they were
his enemies, and many a scar he carried as souvenir of combats with
these domesticated cousins. Family instinct, however, led him to skulk
close to François’s Shack one evening hoping to see the dogs.  He went
often after the first visit, though advised by Carcajou that it would
end in his getting a destroying blast from the Firestick.

"They haven’t got one," Rof assured him. "You destroyed the only
Ironstick they had."

"That was an old Trade Musket," retorted Wolverine.  "François is too
clever to put his good Ironstick out in the wet.  You’ll find that he
has another, if you don’t keep away.  What’s the attraction, anyway?" he
asked.  "There can’t be anything to eat there, with those yelping
Huskies about."

It was Whisky-Jack who gave the secret away.  "Blue Wolf’s in love," he
said, solemnly; "three of the Train are of the sister kind, and Rof’s
got his eye on one.  François calls her ’Marsh Maid,’ but the
Train-leader is a big Huskie Dog, and he’ll chew Growler the Wolf into
little bits--I sha’n’t mind, Rof’s too surly for me."

Blue Wolf became a great dandy; brushed his coat--scraped the snow away
from a moss patch in the Jack-Pines, and rubbed his shaggy fur till it
became quite presentable.

The big fight that Jack anticipated so eagerly materialized, but,
contrary to Jay’s forecast, Rof trounced the Huskie soundly.  After that
he came and went pretty much as he desired--growled his admiration of
Marsh Maid, and took forcible possession of Huskie’s White Fish.

All this nearly brought sorrow to the Red Widow’s family, for Stripes,
the Kit-Fox, having his curiosity roused by Jack’s recital of Blue
Wolf’s doings, incautiously ventured close to the Shack one day to have
a look at the Train. With an angry howl Huskie swooped down upon him,
and but for Rod, who, hearing Stripes’s plaintive squeal, rushed out and
drove the Dog off, he would have been most effectually eaten up.  The
young Fox fled for his life, and his tale of this adventure filled the
Red Widow’s heart with gratitude toward The Boy.

Within the Boundaries the food fever was strong on the Animals, and
François’s baits became an almost irresistible temptation.  Trap after
Trap Black King and his family robbed, leaving the Meat with the White
Powder in, and taking it when it was clear of this, until François was
in despair.

"By Goss!" he confided to The Boy, "I t’ink me we goin’ keel no fur
here.  Dat Carcajou he de Debil, but mos’ all de odder Animal is Debil
too.  S’pose I put out de Trap, dey take de bait, cac’e de Trap, and
s’pose me dey laugh by deyselves.  I see dat Black Fox two, t’ree time,
an’ I know me his track now; ev’ry day I see dat tracks.  But we must
catc’ him.  What fur we keel now?  Not enough to pay fer de grub stake."



                       THE TRAPPING OF BLACK FOX


So far all the plans of the Half-breed for capturing Black Fox had
failed; but one day conditions were favourable for his master-stroke--a
rare trick known only to himself. He smiled grimly when in the early
morning he discovered that the snow bore a tender young crust just
sufficient to bear a fair-sized animal. His preparations were elaborate.

"To-day we catc’ dat black fell’," he said, gleefully, to Rod.  "You
wait here till I s’oot Mister Mus’rat firs’ for bait, den I s’ow you
some treek."

Soon François returned with a freshly killed Muskrat, which he promptly
skinned, taking great care not to touch the meat with his hands. Putting
the hindquarters in a pouch formed from the blood-stained skin, he next
made a long-handled scraper.  "Now I fix dis tea-dance where de fox
alway go for sit in one place ever’ day--I know me dat place," he
chuckled as, gathering up the outfit, he started for the Forest.

Arrived there François pulled the snow from under the gentle crust with
his scraper for a space of six or eight feet, leaving a miniature cave
under the frozen shell.  Into this he shoved two strong steel Traps, and
using a long stick emptied the Muskrat pouch of its meat just above.

"Now, Mister S’arp-nose," muttered the Breed, "I t’ink me you no smell
not’ing but Meat.  You don’t like smell François, eh?  For dat I give me
de Mus’rat smell for you’ nose."

Backing away from his work the Half-breed carefully smoothed down the
snow into his tracks for a long distance, then filling his pipe, lighted
it, and trudged back to the Shack to await the success of this ruse.
When Black King came up the wind, winding up the meat-scent like a ball
of yarn, he struck a new combination.  There were no evidences of Man’s
handicraft; no Trap insight--no baited gun; no Marten stockade; no bent
sapling with a hungry noose dangling to it; but there were undoubtedly
two nice, juicy, appetizing pieces of meat lying on top of the
undisturbed snow-crust.

Black Fox sat down and surveyed the surrounding territory critically;
cocked his sharp eyes and sharper nose toward all points of the compass.
The Forest was like a graveyard--as silent; no hidden enemy lurked near
with ready Firestick--his nose assured him on that point.

Then he walked gingerly in a big circle all about the glamourous
centre-piece of sweet-smelling meat, his nose prospecting every inch of
the ground.  Something had evidently disturbed the snow where François
had smoothed it down. Three circles he completed like this; each one
smaller and closer to the Bait.  Three lengths of himself from the
covered-danger he sat down again, and tried to think it out.

"It can’t be a Trap," he mused; "nothing has walked where the eating is,
that much is certain.  François can smooth the white ground-cover down,
but can’t put a crust on it. Starvation Year! but that Meat smells
good--I haven’t eaten for two days.  I wish it were a Trap--then I
should know what I was about. It looks mighty suspicious--must be the
White Powder; think I had better leave it alone.  If there were only a
Trap in sight I would tackle it quick enough; it’s easy to spring one of
those things and get the Bait."

He trotted away twenty yards, meaning to go home and not risk it.
Suddenly he stopped, sat down once more and thought it all over again,
his determination weakened by appetite. His lean stomach clamoured for
the Meat--it was full of nothing but the great pain of hunger.

"Forest Devils!" muttered the hesitating Fox; "I believe I’m losing my
nerve--am afraid because there isn’t anything in sight but the Meat. I’d
never hear the last of it if Carcajou, or Pisew, or any of them came
along, saw my trail, and then, having more pluck than I’ve got, went and
ate that free eating.  I wonder what it is?  Smells like a cut of
Muskrat, or a piece of Caribou; it’s not Fish."

He walked back cautiously, irresolutely, and took a look from the
opposite side.  "I have a notion to try it; I can tell if there’s White
Medicine about when I get it at the end of my nose," he said, peering
all about carefully; there was nobody in sight--nothing!  "Women Foxes!"
but he was nervous.  His big "brush" was simply trembling with the fear
of some unknown danger.  He laughed hysterically at the idea.  It was
the unusualness of Meat lying on the snow and no evidence of why it
should be there: there was no appearance of a Kill near the spot.  How
in the world had it come there?  There was no track leading up to nor
away from it; perhaps Hawk, or Whisky-Jack, or some other bird had
dropped it.  It was the most wonderful problem he had ever run up
against.

But thinking it over brought no solution; also his stomach clamoured
louder and louder for the appetizing morsel.  Rising up, Black King
crept cautiously towards the fascinating object. His foot went through
the snow crust.  "This wouldn’t bear up a Baby Lynx," he thought.
"Neither François nor any other Man can have been near that Meat."

He took another step--and another, eyes and nose inspecting every inch
of the snow. He could almost reach it; another step, and as his paw sank
through the crust it touched something smooth and slippery.  There was a
clang of iron, and the bone of his left fore-leg was clamped tight in
the cruel jaws of a Fox Trap.

Poor old Black King!  Despair and pain stretched him, sobbing queer
little whimpering cries of anguish in the snow.  Only for an instant;
then he realized that unless help came from his Comrades his peerless
coat would soon be stretched skin-side out on a wedge-shaped board in
François’s shack.  Shrill and plaintive his trembling whistle,
"Wh-e-e-he-e-e-, Wh-e-e-he-e-e!" went vibrating through the still Forest
in a supplicating call to his companions for succour.

Then an hour of despairing anguish, without one single glint of hope.
Every crack of tree-bark, as the frost stretched it, was the snapping of
a twig under François’s feet; every rustle of bare branches overhead was
the shuffling rasp of his snow-shoes on the yielding crust.

Excruciating pains shot up the Fox’s leg and suggested grim tortures in
store when François had taken him from the Trap--perhaps he would skin
him alive; the Indians and Half-breeds were so frightfully cruel to
Animals.  If only Carcajou, or Whisky-Jack, or dear old Mooswa could
hear his whistle--surely they would help him out.  Suddenly he heard the
rustle of Jack’s wings, and turned eagerly.  A big, brown, belated leaf
fluttered idly from a Cottonwood and fell in the snow.  There was no
Whisky-Jack in sight--nothing but the helpless, shrivelled leaf
scurrying away before the wind.

At intervals he barked a call, then listened. How deadly silent the
Forest was; his heart thumping against his ribs sounded like the beat of
Partridge’s wing-drums at the time of mating.

Strange fancies for an animal flitted through his mind--something like a
man’s thoughts when he drifts close to death.  Why had Wiesahkechack,
who was God of Man and Animals, arranged it this way.  During all his
life Black King had killed only when hunger forced him to it; but here
was François, a Man, killing, killing always---killing everything.  And
for what?  Not to eat; for the Breed had flour in plenty, and meat that
was already killed.  It was not because of hunger; but simply to steal
their coats, that he or some other Man or Woman might look fine in
fur-clothes stolen from the Boundary Dwellers--at the sacrifice of their
lives.

Again Black Fox heard a leaf sawing its whispering way down through the
willow wands: he even did not turn his head.  But it was wings this
time; and a cheery, astonished voice sang out: "Hello, Your Majesty,
what are you doing there with your hands in the snow--feeling for a
Mole’s nest?"

"Praise to Wiesahkechack!" cried the King; "is that you, Jay?  I’m
trapped at last," he continued, "and you must fly like the wind and get
some of our Comrades to help me out."

"There’s a poor chance," said the Bird, despondently; "as you know, none
of us can spring that big Trap but Muskwa, and we’ll never get him out
now--he is dead to the world."

"What am I to do?" moaned the King--"we must try something."

"Oh, we shall get you out of here.  I’ll call Beaver to cut the stake
that holds the chain, and you’ll just have to carry the Trap home with
you.  Carcajou might be strong enough to press down the spring, but his
hands are so puffed up from the squeeze they got, he can’t do a thing
with them.  Don’t fret; I will soon get them all here, and we’ll see
what can be done."

In a wonderfully short time Jack had summoned Beaver, Mooswa, Blue Wolf,
and Lynx. Mooswa’s great heart was touched at the sight of their
Sovereign’s misery.  "My services are of little use here," he said.  "I
will go back on the trail, close to the Shack, and watch for François."

"Sparrow Hawks!" exclaimed Jay; "I quite forgot about that.  Our Friend
was getting ready to come out on his Marten Road when I left. Somebody
will feel the foul breath of his Ironstick if we don’t keep a sharp
lookout."

"All the better if he brings it," answered Mooswa; "for then he’ll
follow me, and I’ll lead him away so far that you’ll have plenty of time
to get our King home."

"Noble Comrade!" smirked Lynx; "such self-sacrifice!  But don’t you know
that the Hunter will never give up your trail until you are dead?  The
snow is deep, the crust won’t hold against your beautiful, sharp hoofs,
and the Killer will run you down before the Sun sets twice."

"Most considerate _Traitor_!" snapped Whisky-Jack. "You would rather
Black King fell into François’s hands--wouldn’t you?"  For the Jay knew
what Pisew had said to Carcajou when the latter was in the Trap.

"All right, Mooswa," growled Rof, admiringly; "you are a noble fellow.
Go and lead François away--don’t get within burning distance of his
Firestick, though; I and my Pack will take care that the Man-enemy
doesn’t follow your trail after the closing of the light of day."

"I killed a Man once," answered Bull Moose; "but I’ll never do it again,
nor must you, Comrade.  That is a thing to be settled amongst
themselves--the Man-kill is not for us."

"I talk not of killing!" snarled Blue Wolf, surlily; "when our cry goes
up, François will take the back-trail, and keep it till he is safe
within the walls of his own Shack--that’s what I mean."

"It is well!" affirmed the King, approvingly; "act thus, Comrades.  We
are not like Man, who slays for the sake of slaying, and calls it
sport."

"Most generous Black King!" exclaimed Pisew, with an evil smirk.

Mooswa and Blue Wolf started off together. Umisk was driving his ivory
chisels through the hard, dry Birch-stake that held the Trap.  It was a
slow job--almost like cutting metal.

Suddenly a thought struck Black Fox.  "How am I to get home with this
clumsy iron on my leg?" he asked.  "Mooswa has gone, and there is no one
to carry me."

"I could help you with the Trap," answered Umisk.

"And leave a trail to the house like a Rabbit-run? The Breed would find
it, and murder the whole family; I’m not going to risk my Mother’s skin
in that manner."

"Thoughtful King!" lisped Pisew.

"True, true," confirmed Beaver.  "François would surely find the trail.
There is no other way, unless--unless--"

"Unless what, faithful Little Friend?"

"Unless you take the way of our People."

"And that way--Friend?"

"Cut off the leg!"

"Horrible!" ejaculated Lynx.

"Horrible for you, Frog-heart," interposed Jack.  "The King is
different--he’s got pluck."

"Your Majesty will never get the Trap off," continued Beaver, "until
Muskwa the Strong comes out in the Spring.  Even if you did carry it
home, your leg would go bad before that time."

Black Fox pondered for a minute, weighing carefully the terrible
alternative.  On one hand was the risk of leading the Trapper to his
carefully concealed home, and months of tortured idleness with the Trap
on his leg; on the other the permanent crippling of himself by
amputation.

"Can you cut the leg off, wise Umisk?" he asked.

"I did it once for my own Brother, who was caught," Beaver answered,
simply.

"Take off mine, then!" commanded the King, decisively; "it is the only
way."

"You’ll bleed to death," said Lynx, solicitously.

"Oh, that would be lovely!" sneered Jack; "for then we’d all choose
Pisew as his successor--’Le Roi est mort, vive le Roi!’  Excuse me,
Comrades, that’s an expression François uses sometimes when he drinks
Fire-water; it means, a live Slink is better than a dead Hero."

When Black Fox gave the command to amputate his limb, Beaver ceased
cutting the stake, scuttled over to a White Poplar, girdled the tree
close to the ground, then, standing on his strong hind-legs, cut the
bark again higher up.  Next he peeled a strip, brought it over beside
the Fox, and chiselled some of the white inner bark, chewing it to a
pulp.  "Hold this in your mouth, Pisew, and keep it warm," Beaver
commanded, passing it to Lynx.  "We shall manage to stop the blood, I
think."

"You will poison our King," said Jack, "if you put that stuff on the
wound after Slink has held it in his mouth."

Beaver paid no attention, but stripped three little threads from the
cloth-like tree-lining, and drew the fibre through his teeth to soften
it. Then he spoke to the Bird: "Come down here, Jack, and hold these
threads--your beak should be as good as a needle at this job.  Now for
it, Your Majesty!" Umisk continued, and one might have fancied he was a
celebrated surgeon rolling up his sleeves before going at a difficult
amputation.

"This is horribly bitter stuff," muttered Pisew--"it tastes like the
Wolf-willow berry."

"Good for the wound--will dry up the bleeding!" affirmed the little
Doctor curtly.

"Is there anything the matter with this Bait, King--any White
Death-powder?" he asked. "If not, stick it in your mouth--it will brace
you up, and take your mind off the leg."

"There is no White Powder in it--I can guarantee that," snickered Jay.
"I flew in the door yesterday when François and The Boy were out, stole
the bottle off its roost, and dropped it through their water-hole in the
river ice; just to save your life, Pisew, you know--you’re such a silly
Glutton you would eat anything."

"Jack," said the King, looking up gratefully, "your tongue is the worst
part of you--your heart is all right."

"Even his tongue is all right now since he got over the fat Pork,"
sneered Pisew.

"Bird of Torture!" ejaculated Black King, "but that hurts, Umisk;" for
Beaver had girdled the skin of the leg even as he had the bark of the
tree.

"Think of the Meat in your mouth, King," advised Umisk.  "Hold up this
skin with your claw, Jack," he commanded.  "There! pull it a little
higher.  I’ll cut the bone here, you see; then we’ll cover it with the
skin-flap."

"Full-crop! but you have a great head, Umisk," cried Jack, admiringly.

"Wh-e-e!  Wh-e-e-e-e!" squealed the Fox, crunching his sharp, white
teeth to hold back the cries of pain.

"Quick, Pisew, hand out the Poplar-bread--it’s off!" commanded Beaver.
"Now, Jack, the thread.  Hold one end in your beak, while I wrap it.
There--let go! put a hole through the skin here!"  Black King’s tongue
was lolling out with the pain, but with Jack’s strong, sharp beak,
Beaver’s teeth-scalpel and deft fingers, the whole operation was
completed in half an hour.

"What’s that?" queried Black Fox suddenly, cocking his ears; "I heard
the cough of François’s Firestick--listen!"

"I heard it too," asserted Jack; "the Breed is after poor old Mooswa.
If he kills our Comrade, Blue Wolf and his Pack will make short work of
him."

"Now we are ready to take Your Majesty home.  I think I’ve made a
fairish job of it," said Umisk, holding up the shortened limb with great
professional pride.  "Bring the foot, Jack,--it must be buried.  Pisew,
you can carry the King, now that he is not loaded down with iron. There
will be only your big-footed track to see; for I’ll circle wide, double
a few times, cross Long Lake under the ice, and our enemy will never
know where I’ve gone."

"Leave the foot here," advised Jay; "the Breed will find it, see blood
on the snow, discover Pisew’s track leading away, and think Lynx has
eaten Black Fox out of the Trap; knowing our friend’s cannibal
instincts, he’ll believe this. That will give our Chief a chance to get
well; for François, thinking he’s dead, will not try again to catch
him."

"I don’t want my reputation ruined this way," whined Pisew.

"Ruin your reputation!" sneered the Bird. "That is rich!  It’s like
Skunk complaining of a bad odour when you’re about."

"You go with Pisew and Black King, Jack," ordered Umisk, who had taken
full management of the arrangements; "better be off now before the
cold-sting gets into the wound."  He helped Black Fox on Lynx’s back,
and started them off; then struck out in a different direction himself.

The Red Widow’s first intimation of this great calamity was Jack’s thin
voice calling for help to get Black Fox up into the Burrow.  How the old
lady wept.  "First it was little Cross-stripes, my Babe," she moaned,
caressing the King with her soft cheek; "now it’s you, my beautiful Son.
Poor Lad! you’ll never be able to run again."

"Oh, yes I shall, Mother," replied Black Fox. "The leg will soon heal
up, and I’ll manage all right.  I’m only too thankful to be out of that
horrible Trap."

"Bless Umisk’s clever little heart!" cried the Widow in her gratitude,
as she stroked the black head with her paw.

"Not forgetting a word for his sharp teeth, eh, good Dame?" remarked
Jack.

"I’ll get food for the family," added Black King’s younger Brother,
proudly assuming the responsibility.

The Red Widow thanked Lynx and Whisky-Jack for bringing her wounded son
home, and begged Pisew to walk back in his tracks a distance, and use
every endeavour to cover up the trail leading to their burrow.



                         THE RUN OF THE WOLVES


After Mooswa left the others he walked to within two hundred yards of
the Shack.

"Brother Rof," he said to his Comrade, "wait for me to-night at Pelican
Portage--you and your Pack.  If the Man follows me that far, I shall be
tired by then, and need your help."

"You’ll get it, old Friend--we’ll sing the Song of the Kill for this
slayer of the Boundary People.  There will be great sport to-night--rare
sport.  Ur-r-r-a-ah! but the Pups will learn somewhat of the Chase--by
my love of a Long Run, they shall!  Drink not, Mooswa, while you trail,
for a water-logged stomach makes a dry throat!"

Just as Blue Wolf disappeared on his Pack-gathering errand, the
Half-breed came out of his Shack.  On his feet were snow-shoes; over his
shoulder a bag, and in his hand a .45-75 Winchester rifle--he was ready
for the Marten Road. Mooswa started off through the Forest at a racking
pace.

"By Goss!" exclaimed the Trapper, catching sight of the Bull Moose, "I
miss me dat good c’ance for s’oot."

Throwing down his bag he started in pursuit, picking up Mooswa’s big
trail.  The hoof-prints were like those of a five-year-old steer.

Out of sight the Moose stopped, turned sideways, and cocking his big
heavy ears forward, listened intently.  Yes, François was following; the
shuffle of his snow-shoes over the snow was soft and low, like
whispering wind through the harp branches of a dead Tamarack; but Mooswa
could hear it--all his life he had been listening for just such music.

Wily as the Breed was, sometimes a twig would crack, sometimes the
snow-crust crunch as he stepped over the white mound of a buried log. He
had never seen a Moose act as this one did. Usually they raced at full
speed for miles at first, tiring themselves out in the deep snow; while
behind, never halting, never hesitating, followed the grim Hunter,
skimming easily over the surface with his light-travelling
snow-shoes--and the certainty that in the end he would overtake his
victim.  But this chase was on altogether new lines; something the
Half-breed had never experienced.  Mooswa kept just beyond range of his
gun.  A dozen times inside of the first hour François caught sight of
the magnificent antlers.  Once, exasperated by the tantalizing view of
the giant Bull, he took a long-range chance-shot.  That was the report
Black King had heard.

When François came to the spot in which Mooswa had been standing, he
examined the snow--there was no blood.  "By Goss!" he muttered, "I t’ink
some one put bad Medicine on me.  P’raps dat Moose, he Debil Moose."

Hour after hour the hunter followed the Bull’s trail; hour after hour
Mooswa trotted, and walked, and rested, and doubled, and circled, just
as it suited the game he was playing.  François, like all Indians or
Breeds, had no love for a long shot--ammunition was too precious to be
wasted. He could wear the Moose down in two days, surely; then at twenty
or thirty yards his gun would do the rest.

In the afternoon he tightened the loin-belt one hole--his stomach was
getting empty; but that did not matter--he could travel better.  If the
fast lasted for three days it was of no moment; for when the Moose was
slain and brought to the Shack by dog-train, the pot would boil night
and day, and he would feast as long as he had fasted. The thought of the
fat, butter-like nose of this misshapen Animal brought moisture to the
parched lips of the long-striding Half-breed--that delicacy would soon
be his.  He travelled faster at the thought of it; also he must push his
quarry to tire him, so the Moose would lie down and rest all night.

The dusk was beginning to settle down as Mooswa struck straight for
Pelican Portage, though it was only four o’clock in the afternoon. Would
Blue Wolf be there to turn back the pursuer?  If by any chance his
comrade missed, what a weary struggle he would have next day with the
blood-thirsty Breed ever on his trail. As Mooswa neared the Portage, a
low, whimpering note caught his ear.  Then another answered close by;
and another, and another joined in, until the woods rang with a fierce
chorus--it was the Wolf-pack’s Call of the Killing:--

"Wh-i-m-m-p!  Wh-i-i-m-m-p! buh-h! bu-h-h! buh-h-h! O-o-o-o-h-h!
O-o-o-o-h-h! Bl-o-o-d!  Bl-o-o-d!!  Bl-o-o-o-o-d!!!"  That was the
Wolf-cry, sounding like silvery music in the ears of the tired Moose.

"Hungry, every one of them!" he muttered. "If François stumbles, or
sleeps, or forgets the Man-look for a minute, Rof’s Pack will slay him."
Then he coughed asthmatically, and Blue Wolf bounded into the open,
shaking his shaggy coat.

"Safe passage, Brothers, for Mooswa," he growled, with authority; "also
no killing for the Hunt-man, for the hunt is of our doing."

François heard the Wolf-call too, and a chill struck his heart.  Night
was coming on, he was alone in the woods, and in front of him a Pack of
hungry Wolves.  Turning, he glided swiftly over the back-trail.

"The Kill-Call, Brothers," cried Rof, his sharp eyes seeing this
movement of the fleeing Breed.  Once again the death-bells of the
forest, the Blood Song of Blue Wolf, rang out: "W-a-h-h-h!  W-a-h-h-h!
Gur-h-h-h! Yap! yap!! yap!!!" which is the snarl-fastening of teeth in
flesh, the gurring choke of blood in the throat, and the satisfied note
of victory.

The Hunter became the hunted, and into his throat crept the wild,
unreasoning terror that Mooswa and every other living animal had known
because of his desire for their lives.  What would avail a rifle in the
night against Blue Wolf’s hungry Brethren?  True, he could climb a
tree--but only to freeze; the starlit sky would send down a
steel-pointed frost that would soon bring on a death-sleep, and tumble
him to the yellow fangs of the gray watchers.

Mile on mile the Half-breed fled, nursing his strength with a woodman’s
instinct.  How useless, too, seemed the flight; those swift-rushing,
merciless Wolves would overtake him as soon as the shadows had deepened
into night.  He had his Buffalo knife, and when they pressed too close,
could build a fire; that might save him--it was a bare possibility.

With the thirst for Mooswa’s blood upon him, his eager straining after
the fleeing animal had been exhilaration; desire had nourished his
stomach, and anticipated victory kept his throat moist: now the
Death-fear turned the night-wind to a hot fire-blast; his lungs pumped
and hammered for a cooling lotion; his heart pounded at the bone-ribs
with a warning note for rest.  The thews that had snapped with strong
elasticity in the morning, now tugged and pulled with the ache of
depression; going, he had chosen his path over the white carpet, coolly
measuring the lie of each twig, and brush, and stump; now he travelled
as one in a thicket.  Small skeleton Spruce-shoots, stripped of their
bark by hungry Wapoos, and dried till every twig was like a lance,
reached out and caught at his snow-shoes; drooping Spruce-boughs, low
swinging with their weight of snow, caused him to double under or circle
in his race against Blue Wolf’s Pack.

All nature, animate and inanimate, was fighting for his life--eager for
his blood.  Even a sharp half-dead limb, sticking out from a Tamarack,
cut him in the face, and sucked a few drops of the hot fluid.  Startled
into ejaculation, François panted huskily: "Holy Mudder, sabe me dis
time.  I give to de good Père Lacombe de big offerin’ for de Mission."
And all the time swinging along with far-reaching strides.

Memory-pictures of animals that had stood helplessly at bay before his
merciless gun flashed through his mind.  Once a Moose-mother had fronted
him to defend her two calves--the big almond eyes of the heroic beast
had pleaded for their lives.  He had not understood it then; now, some
way or another, it came back to him--they glared from the forest like
avenging spirit eyes, as he toiled to leave that Wolf-call behind.

The Shack was still many miles away, for he had travelled far in the
fulness of his seasoned strength in the Hunt-race of the daytime.

"I got me one c’ance," he muttered hoarsely. "S’pose I get too weak make
fire, I dead, soor."  A big Birch, in its heavy frieze-coat of white
cloth, seemed to whisper, "_Just one chance!_"

Eagerly François tore its resin-oiled blanket from the tree, took a
match from his firebag, snapped the sulphur end with his thumb-nail, for
his clothes were saturated with fear-damp perspiration, and lighted the
quick-blazing Birch.  A clump of dead Red Willows furnished eager
timber.  How his sinewy arms wrenched them from their rotted roots.
High he piled the defence beacon; the blaze shot up, and red-tinted the
ghost forms of the silent trees.

Gray shadows circled the outer rim of blazing light--the Wolves were
forming a living stockade about him.  Blue Wolf placed the sentinels
strategically.  "Not too close, silly pups," he called warningly to two
yearling grandsons; "the Firestick will scorch your sprouting mustaches
if you poke your noses within reach. Remember, Comrades," he said to the
older Wolves, "there is no Kill--only the Blood-fear for this Man."

The sparks fluttered waveringly skyward, like fire-flies at play; the
Willows snapped and crackled like ice on a river when the water is
falling.  When the light blazed high the Wolves slunk back; when there
was only a huge red glow of embers, they closed in again.

All night François toiled, never letting the rifle from his grasp.  With
one hand and his strong moccasined feet he crushed the dry, brittle Red
Willows, and threw them on his life-guarding fire.  No sleeping; a
short-paced beat round and round the safety-light, and almost
incessantly on his trembling lips a crude, pleading prayer: "Holy
Mudder, dis time sabe François.  I give de offerin’ plenty--also what de
good Pries’ say, I hear me."

[Illustration: "HOLY MUDDER, DIS TIME SABE FRANÇOIS."]

"Look at his face, Brothers," growled Blue Wolf.  "Now thou hast seen
the Man-fear.  Is it not more terrible than the Death-look in the eyes
of Buck?  It is not well to kill Man, is it, Comrades?"

"No!" they admitted surlily--for they were hungry.

"Come," said Rof, when the bitter cold dawn hour--colder than any of the
others--warned them that the light was on its way, "trot we back on
Mooswa’s trail, and if the Man continues to his Burrow, then go we our
path."

When the light had grown stronger François peered about carefully.

"Blessed Virgin!  Mos’ Holy ob Mudders!  I t’ink me dat prayer you hear;
dat wolves is gone soor.  To de good Père Lacombe I give me big presen’
for de Mission.  I keep me dat promise soor," crossing himself
fervently, in confirmation.

Blue Wolf was saying to the Pack as he trotted along at their head:
"Only for the promise to Mooswa the Hunt-man would have made a good meal
for us, Brothers."

"What are promises in the Hunger Year--the Seventh Year of the Wapoos?"
cried a gaunt companion, stopping.  "Let us go back, and--"

Blue Wolf turned in a passion.  "First we fight!" he yelped, baring his
huge fangs.  "I, who am leader here, and also am in the Council of the
Boundaries, say the Man goes unharmed."

The other dropped his bushy tail, moved sideways a few paces, and sat
down meekly; swaying his head furtively from side to side, avoiding the
battle-look in Blue Wolf’s eyes.  Rof turned disdainfully, and trotted
off on their back track; the Pack followed.

"I’ve saved this Man for Mooswa’s sake," thought Blue Wolf.

"De prayer turn’ back dat wolves soor," muttered the Breed, as hurrying
on he reiterated his generous offering to the Mission.  It was noon when
he swung into the little log Shack, with something in his face which was
not there before--something new that had come in one night.  He did not
want to talk about it; even to cease thinking of it were better;
besides, what was the use of frightening The Boy.

"I no get dat Moose," he said curtly, as he pulled his wet moccasins
off, cut some tobacco, mixed it with the Red Willow kinnikinick, filled
his wooden pipe, and lying down in front of the fire-place smoked
moodily.

The Boy busied himself getting a meal ready for his companion.

"By Goss! he big Moose," continued the Half-breed, after a time, when he
had emptied the bowl of his pipe; "but I lose de trail las’ night.
S’pose he goin’ too far t’ro de muskeg, I can’ find him."

"Never mind, François," cried The Boy, "you’ll get another chance at him
before Winter’s over.  Come and eat, you must be hungry--the hot tea
will make you forget."

"I s’pose somebody put bad medicine for me," grumbled the Breed, in a
depressed monotone; "mus’ be de ole Nokum at Lac La Bic’e. She’s mad for
me, but I don’ do not’ing bad for her."  But still nothing of his
terrible experience with the Wolves.  Why speak of it? Perhaps next day
they would be fifty miles away.

After François had rested he said: "I mus’ go see dat Trap for de Silver
Fox; I t’ink me I catc’ him dis time."

"Don’t go out again to-day--you’re too tired," pleaded Rod.

"Mus’ go," replied the other.  "S’pose dat Fox in de Trap, dat Debil
Carcajou, or de Lynk, or some odder Animal, eat him; dere’s no Rabbit
now, an’ dey’s all starve."

"I’ll go with you, then," exclaimed The Boy.

When they came to the Trap, François stared in amazement.  It had been
sprung.

The Breed examined the snow carefully.

"Jus’ what I t’ink me.  He’s been catc’, an’ dat Lynk eat him all up.
Only one foot lef’; see!" and he held up the amputated black paw.
"Here’s de big trail of de Lynk, too."

Dejectedly they went back to the Shack.

"Now I know it’s de bad medicine," asserted François.  "De Debil come in
dat Moose for lead me away, an’ I lose de Silver Fox what wort’ two,
t’ree hun’red dollar."

"The Lynx has had rather an extravagant blowout," remarked The Boy.
"One could go to England, dine there in great shape, and back again for
the price of his dinner."  François did not answer.  He was certainly
running in bad luck.

"I t’ink me we pull out from dis S’ack," he said; "give up de Marten
Road, an’ move down to my ol’ place at Hay Riber.  Before, I keel plenty
fur dere; here I get me not’ing, only plenty bad medicine."

"All right, François, I’m willing--anything you say," answered Rod.

"I got my ol’ S’ack down dere," continued the Trapper, "an’ we go for
dat place. To-morrow we pick up de Trap.  De Black Fox he’s die, so I
s’pose me we don’t want stop here. I got give little Père Lacombe some
presen’ for de Mission, an’ mus’ keel de fur for dat, soor."



                           CARCAJOU’S REVENGE


In the morning François and Roderick started with their dog-train to
pick up Traps from the Marten Road.

"S’pose it’s better w’at I go to de Lan’ing firs’," François remarked
reflectively, as they plodded along behind the dogs and carry-all; "we
don’ got plenty Trap now, an’ I can’ find dat poison bottle.  Yesterday
I look, but he’s gone soor; I put him on de s’elf, but he’s not dere
now.  P’r’aps dat Whisky-Jack steal him, for he take de spoon some time;
but anyway can’ trap proper wit’out de poison."

After they had left the Shack Whisky-Jack cleaned up the scraps that had
been thrown out from breakfast, and having his crop full, started
through the woods looking for a chance of gossip.  He observed Carcajou
scuttling awkwardly along through the deep snow; this was the first time
Jack had seen him since he had been liberated from the Trap.

"Hello!" cried the Jay; "able to be about again?"

"Who’s at the Man-shack?" queried the other in answer, entirely ignoring
Jack’s personal gibe.

"Nobody," piped the Bird; "left me in charge and went out on their
Marten Road."

"And the Dogs, O One-in-charge?" asked Carcajou.

"Gone too; are you out for a scrap with the Huskies, my bad-tempered
Friend?"

"Were you sweet-tempered, gentle Bird, when you burnt your toes, and
scorched your gizzard with the Man-Cub’s fat pork?"

"Well, sore toes are enough to ruffle one, aren’t they,
Hunchback,--Crop-eared Stealer of Things?"

"And your Men Friends took the leg off our King," continued Wolverine,
ignoring the other’s taunt.  "The Red Widow is close to an attack of
rabies with all this worry."

"You’re full of stale news," retorted Jay.

"If they are all away," declared Carcajou, "I’m going to have another
peep at that chimney.  Also there are three debts to be paid."

The Bird chuckled.  "Generous Little Lieutenant! leave my account out.
But if you must go to the Shack, I’ll keep watch and give you a call if
I see them coming back."

"Fat-eating! but I hate climbing," grunted Wolverine, as he struggled up
the over-reaching log-ends at one corner of the Shack.  "If they had
only left the door open--I never close the door of my Burrow."

He went down the chimney as though it were a ladder, his back braced
against one side, and his strong curved claws holding in the dry mud of
the other.  Inside of the Shack he worked with exceeding diligence,
deporting himself much after the manner of soldiers looting a King’s
palace.

Three bags of flour stood in a corner.  "That’s queer stuff," muttered
Carcajou, ripping open the canvas.  "Dry Eating!" and he scattered it
with malignant fury.  He pattered up and down in it, rolled in it, and
generally had a pleasing, dusty time.  The white stuff got in his throat
and made him cough; the tickling developed a proper inebriate’s thirst.
Two zinc pails, full of water, sat on a wooden bench; the choking Animal
perched on the edge of one, and tried to drink; but as he stooped over
the spreading top his centre of gravity was disarranged somewhat, and
his venture ended disastrously. The floor was clay, smooth-ironed by
Francis’s feet, so it held the fluid like a pot, and, incidentally, much
batter of Wolverine’s mixing was originated.  He was still thirsty, and
tried the other pail.  That even did not last so long, for, as he was
pulling himself up, somewhat out of temper, it tumbled heedlessly from
the bench, and converted the Shack-floor into a white, alkaline-looking
lake.

Then he puddled around in batter which clung to his short legs, and
stuck to his toe-hairs, trying to get a drink from little pools, but
only succeeding in getting something like liquid pancakes.

The stuff worked into his coat, and completely put to flight any
feelings of restraint he might have had.  A cyclone and an earthquake
working arm in arm could not have more effectually disarranged the
internal economy of François’s residence.

Like most Half-breeds François played a concertina; and like most of his
fellow tribesmen he hung up his things on the bed or floor.  It was
under the bed that Carcajou discovered the instrument, and when he had
finished with it, it might have been put in paper boxes and sold as
matches.  Two feather pillows provided him with enthusiastic occupation
for a time; mixed with batter the feathers entirely lost their
elasticity, and refused to float about in the air.  This puzzled the
marauder--he couldn’t understand it; for you see he knew nothing of
specific gravity.

A jug of molasses was more rational--but it added to his thirst, also
turned the white coat he had evolved from the flour-mixture into a
dismal coffee colour.

Great Animals! but he was having a time. Whisky-Jack, from his post
outside, kept encouraging him from time to time, as the din of things
moving rapidly in the interior came to his delighted ears.  "Bravo!
What’s broken?" he screamed, when the pail met with its downfall. The
blankets dried the floor a bit after industrious little Wolverine had
hauled them up and down a few times.  This evidently gave him
satisfaction, for he worked most energetically.

Two sides of fat bacon reclined sleepily under the bed--a mouthful
filled Carcajou with joy. Great Eating! but if he had that much food in
his Burrow he needn’t do a stroke of work all Winter.  He tried to carry
a side up the chimney; and got started with it all right, for an iron
bar had been built across the mud fire-place to hang pots on, which gave
him a foothold; a little higher up he slipped, and clattered down, bacon
and all, burning his feet in coals that lingered from the morning’s
fire.  The sight of disturbed cinders floating from the chimney-top
intimated to Jack what had happened, and he whistled with joy.

This was an excuse for another round of demolition.  "If I could only
open the Shack," thought Wolverine.  Though a dweller in caves, yet he
knew which was the door, for over its ill-fitting threshold came a
strong glint of light; also up and down its length ran two cracks
through which came more light.  Most certainly it was the door, he
decided, sniffing at the fresh air that whistled through the openings.

Close by stood a box on end, holding a wash-bowl.  Carcajou climbed up
on this, and examined a little iron thing that seemed to bear on the
subject.  It was somewhat like a Trap; if he could spring this thing,
perhaps it had something to do with opening the door.  As he fumbled at
it, suddenly the wind blew a big square hole in the Shack’s side; he had
lifted the latch, only he didn’t know it was a latch, of course--it was
like a Trap, something to be sprung, that was all.

"By all the Loons!" screamed Jay; "now you’re all right--what’s inside?
You have had your revenge, Carey, old Boy," he added, as he caught sight
of his coffee-coloured friend.

Carcajou paid no attention to his volatile Comrade, for he was busily
engaged in gutting the place.  "My fingers are still sore from the Man’s
Trap," he muttered, "but I think I can cache this Fat-eating."

"François will trail you," declared the Bird.

"He may do that," admitted Wolverine, "but he’ll not find the Eating.
Has he a scent-nose of the Woods to see it through many covers of snow?"

"This is just lovely!" piped Jack, hopping about in the dough; "it’s
like the mud at White Clay River.  Butter!" he screamed in delight,
perching on the edge of a wooden firkin, off which his friend had
knocked the top.  "I just love this stuff--it puts a gloss on one’s
feathers. We are having our revenge, aren’t we, old Plaster-coat?"

"I am--Whe-e-e-cugh!" cried the fat little desperado, coughing much
flour from his clogged lungs.

"I say, Hunchback, wouldn’t you like to be a Man, and have all these
things to eat, without the eternal worry of stealing them?  I
should--I’d be eating butter all the time;" and Jack drove his beak with
great rapidity into the firkin’s yellow contents.

"I’ll return in a minute after I’ve cached this," said Wolverine, as he
backed out of the Shack dragging a big piece of bacon.

"Oh, my strong Friend of much Brain, please cache this wooden-thing of
Yellow-eating for me," pleaded Jay, when Carcajou reappeared. "By the
Year of Famine! but it’s delicious--it must be great for a Singer’s
throat.  Did I ever tell you how I was sold once at Wapiscaw over a bit
of butter?"

"No, my guzzling Friend--nor would you now, if you didn’t want me to do
a favour," grunted the industrious toiler, rolling Whisky-Jack’s tub of
butter off into the Forest.

"Well, it was this way--I saw a cake of this Yellow-eating in the
Factor’s Shack; you know the square holes they leave for light--it was
in one of those.  I swooped down and tried to drive my beak into it--"

"Like the hot pork," interrupted the tub-roller.

"Never mind, Carey, old Boy,--let by-gones be by-gones--I dove my beak
fair at the Yellow Thing, and, would you believe it, nearly broke my
neck against something hard which was between me and the Eating--I
couldn’t see it, though."

"Ha, ha, he-e-e-e-!" laughed Carcajou.  "You bone-headed Bird--that was
glass--Man’s glass--they put it in those holes to keep the frost,
Whisky-Jacks, and other evil things out--I know what it is.  There! now
your Yellow-eating is safe--François won’t find it," he added, pushing
snow against the log under which lay the hidden firkin.  "I wish you
would fly and bring Rof and some of the other Fellows--tell them I’m
giving a Feast-dance; make them hurry up, for the Men will be back
before long."

"Oh, Carey, they’ll guzzle my butter," replied the Bird.

"They won’t find it.  Tell the Red Widow to come and get a piece of this
Fat-eating for the King.  Fly like the wind.  I’ll have everything out
of the Shack, and you must tell Blue Wolf and the others to come and
help me carry it to the Meeting Place."

"Look here, Giver-of-the-Feast," said Jack, struck by a new thought,
"what about The Boy? If you take all the food, he’ll starve before they
get to the Landing for more.  We must remember our promise to Mooswa."

"That’s so," replied Carcajou; "I’ll leave enough Fish and Dry-eating to
carry them out of the Boundaries; strange, though, that _you_ should
have thought of The Boy--hast forgotten the hot pork?"

"Neither have I forgotten my word to Mooswa," said the Bird, as he flew
swiftly to summon the others to the feast.

Wolverine rounded up his day’s work by caching the granite-ware dishes
and rolling an iron pot down the bank, and into the water hole. At
Carcajou’s pot-latch there was rare hilarity.

"I’m proud of you, old Cunning," Blue Wolf said, patronizingly, as he
sat with distended stomach licking the fat from his wire-haired
mustache.  "If anything should happen Black King, which Wiesahkechack
forbid! we could not do better than make you our next Ruler.  I have
made a few good steals in my time, but never anything like this.  To be
able to give a Tea Dance of this sort!  Ghur-r-r!" he gurgled in
satisfaction, and rubbed his head and neck along Wolverine’s plump side
affectionately, as a dog caresses a man’s leg.

"Not only wise, but so generous!" Lynx said, oilily, for he too had
eaten of the salted fat. "To remember one’s Friends in the Day of Plenty
is truly noble; I shall never forget this kind invitation."

"Cheek!" muttered Jack, for he had not invited Pisew at all--had
purposely left him out of the general call; but Lynx, always craftily
suspicious, seeing a movement on among some of the Animals, had followed
up and discovered the barbecue.

"I haven’t eaten a meal like this since the year before the Big Fire,"
murmured the Red Widow, reminiscently.  "Easy Catching! but the Birds
were thick that year--and fat and lazy. ’Crouk, Crouk!’ they’d say, when
one walked politely with gentle tread amongst them, stretch their heads
up, and patter a little out of the way with their short, feathered
legs--actually not attempt to fly.  But I never expect to see a year
like that again," she sighed, regretfully.  "Excuse me for mentioning
it; but this fulness in my stomach has suggested the general condition
of that time. The King will be delighted to have this nice, fat
back-piece that I’m taking home to him.  He did well to make you
Lieutenant, Carcajou--you are a brainy Boundary Dweller.  By my family
crest, the White Spot at the end of my Tail, I’ll never forget this
kindness."

"Hear, hear!" cried Whisky-Jack; "you make the snub-nosed Robber blush.
I had no idea how popular you were, Crop-ear.  I’ve a notion to bring
out the--Goodness!" he muttered to himself; "I nearly gave it away.
Friendship is friendship, but butter is butter, and harder to get."

"Bring out what?" asked Pisew.

"The Castoreum, Prying-Cat," glibly answered Jay, cocking his head down
and sticking out his tongue at Lynx.

"I remember the year you speak of, Good Widow; I also was fat that
Fall," said Marten.

"So was I," declared Wuchak, the Fisher--"never had to climb a tree to
get my dinner for months."

"It was the Fifth Year of the Wapoos," enjoined Pisew, "and we Animal
Eaters were all fat.  Why, my paw was the size of Panther’s--I took
great pride in the trail I left."

"Extraordinary taste!" remarked Jack, "to feel proud of your big feet.
Now, if in the Year of Plenty you had run a little to brain--"

"Never mind, Jack," interrupted Blue Wolf, good-humouredly, for the
feast-fulness made him well disposed toward all creatures, "we can’t all
be as smart as you are, you know.  Tired jaws! I believe I don’t care
for any dessert," he continued, sniffing superciliously at a rib-bone
Wolverine pushed toward him.  But he picked it up, broke it in two with
one clamp of his vise-like teeth, and swallowed the knuckle end. "Even
if one is full," he remarked, giving a little gulp as it hitched in his
throat, "a morsel of bone or something at the finish of the meal seems
to top it off, and aids digestion."

"I take mine just as it comes, bone and meat together," declared Otter.

"So do I," affirmed Mink, for they had been given a great ration of Fish
as their share of the banquet.  Carcajou had purloined it from the Shack
with his other loot.

"I must say that I like fresh Fish better than dried," declared Nekik to
his companion, Mink; "but with the streams almost frozen to the bottom,
and the stupid Tail-swimmers buried in the mud, one cannot be too
thankful for anything in the way of Eating.  The wealthiest one in all
the Boundaries is old Umisk, the Beaver; he’s got miles on miles of food
that can’t run away from him."

"Oh, I never could stand a vegetarian diet," grunted Carcajou.  "I do
eat Berries and Roots when Meat is scarce, but, taking it all round,
you’ll find that the brainiest, cleverest, most active Fellows in the
Boundaries are the Flesh-eaters.  Look at old Mooswa--good enough Chap;
big and strong, too, in a way, but Safe-trails! what can he do?  Nothing
but trot, trot, trot, and try to rustle that big head-gear of his
through the bush.  Did you ever see a Flesh-eater have to run around
with a small horn-forest on his head in the way of protection?  Never!
they don’t run to horns--they run to brains."

"And teeth," added Blue Wolf, curling his upper lip and baring ivory
fangs the length of a man’s finger to the admiring gaze of his friends.

"I eat Meat," chirped Whisky-Jack, "and I don’t run to horns or teeth
either, so it must all go to brains, I suppose.  Lucky for you fellows,
too."

"No, Wise Bird," began Lynx, "you don’t need horns or teeth to defend
yourself; your tongue, like Sikak’s tail, keeps everybody away."

"Let’s go home," grunted Wolverine; "I’m so full I can hardly walk."

"I’ll give you a ride on my back, generous Benefactor," smirked Pisew.

"He thinks you have cached some of the bacon," sneered Jack; "he’ll be
full of gratitude while the pork lasts."

Soon the Boundaries were silent, for full-stomached animals sleep well.

While there was feasting in the Boundaries there was much desolation in
the Shack.  François and The Boy had returned late to their wrecked
home, and the Trapper’s speech when he saw the débris, was something of
wondrous entanglement, for an excited French Half-breed has a vocabulary
all his own, and our friend was excited in the superlative degree.  He
knew it was Carcajou who had robbed him, for there were plaster casts of
his brazen foot all over the mortar-like floor.

"We can’t go to de new trap-place dis way," the Half-breed said; "we
don’ got no grub, de dis’ he’s gone, an’ de poison, an’ it jes’ look
like de Debil he’s put bad Medicine on us himself. You stay here one
week alone if I go me de Lan’ing?" he asked Rod.  "I mus’ get de flour,
more bacon, some trap, an’ de strykeen. I take me de dog-train for bring
de grub stake. You jes’ stop on de S’ack, an’ when I come back we go
down to Hay Riber."

It was late enough when François fell into a fitful troubled slumber,
for the occasion demanded much recrimination against animals in general,
and Carcajou in particular.

Whatever chance François might have had of discovering Carcajou’s cache
next morning, was that night utterly destroyed by a fall of snow.



                      PISEW STEALS THE BOY’S FOOD


In the morning, François, taking his loaded snake-whip, hammered the
Huskie dogs into a submission sufficient to permit of their being
harnessed; put a meagre ration for four days in the carryall, tied on
his snow-shoes, and said to Roderick: "I go for pull out now, Boy; I
s’pose t’ree day I make me de Lan’ing.  I stop dere one day, hit de
back-trail den, an’ come de S’ack here wid de grub stake in fo’r more.
You got grub lef for dat long, soor.  Bes’ not go far from de S’ack; de
Blue Wolf he migh’ come roun’ dis side wit’ hes Pack--bes’ stick close
de S’ack."

[Illustration: "I GO FOR PULL OUT NOW, BOY."]

Then he slipped down the long-terraced river-bank with his train, and
started up the avenue of its broad bosom toward The Landing.

With rather a dreary feeling of lonesomeness Rod watched him disappear
around the first long, Spruce-covered point, then went back into the
Shack and whistled to keep the mercury of his spirits from congealing.

Other eyes had seen François wind around the first turn that shut him
out from Rod’s vision: Blue Wolf’s eyes; the little bead eyes of
Carcajou; the shifting, treacherous, cat-like orbs of Pisew, the Lynx.
Mooswa’s big almond eyes blinked solemnly from a thicket of willow that
lined the river bank.

"I wonder if he’ll bring the same Huskies back in his train?" said Blue
Wolf, as they returned through the Boundaries together.

"I should think he would," ventured Mooswa.

"Don’t know about that," continued Rof, "these Breeds have no affection
for their Dogs, nor anything else but their own Man-Cubs. They do like
them, I must say.  Why, I’ve heard one of them, a big, rough Man he was
too, cry every night for Moons because of the death of his Cub.  He was
as savage as any Wolf, though, for he killed another Man in a fight just
at that time, and thought no more of it than I did over killing a Sheep
at Lac La Biche.  But every night he howled, and moaned, and whimpered
for his lost Cub, just as a Mother Wolf might when her young are
trapped, or stricken with the breath of the Firestick, or killed in a
Pack-riot.  Yes, they’re queer, the Men," he mused in a low growl.
"When François goes to The Landing, if one of the other Breeds stumps
him for a trade, he’ll swap off the whole Train."

"I’m sure he’ll stick to Marsh Maid," declared Pisew; "she’ll be back
again all right, Brother Rof."  Blue Wolf looked sheepishly at Mooswa.
What a devil this Lynx was to read his thoughts like that.

"I hope nothing will happen François, for the sake of The Boy," wheezed
Mooswa.  "These Breed Men also forget everything when the fire-water,
that makes them like mad Bulls, is in camp; it is always at The Landing
too," he muttered, despondently.  "When I was a Calf at the Fort, I
heard the old Factor say--I think I’ve told you about that time--"

"Yes, yes," interrupted Carcajou impatiently, for he was a
quick-thinking little Animal, "what did the Factor say about these Breed
Men?"

"I’m coming to that," asserted Mooswa, ponderously.  "It was at the time
I was a Calf in the Fort Corral, and the Factor, who was my Boy’s
father, said that a Breed would sell his Soul for a gallon of this
Devil-water that puts madness in their blood."

"What’s a Soul?" asked Carcajou.  "I wonder if I smashed François’s in
the Shack."

"I don’t know," answered Mooswa; "it’s something Man has, but which we
haven’t--it’s the thing that looks out of their eyes and makes us all
turn our heads away.  Even Rof there, who stands up against Cougar
without flinching, drops his head when Man looks at him--is that not so,
brave Comrade?"

"It is," answered Blue Wolf, dragging his tail a little.

"And a Breed will trade this thing for fire-water?" queried Carcajou.

"So the Factor said," answered the Moose.

"I wouldn’t if I had it," declared Wolverine--"not even for the
Fat-eating, and that is good for one.  Was it that which made
Wiesahkechack King of Men and Animals, and everything, when he was
here--this Soul thing?" he asked pantingly, for the easy stride of his
long-legged comrades made his lungs pump fast.

"I suppose so," replied Mooswa; "but if François gets fire-water at The
Landing, I’m afraid it will be ill with The Boy.  But, Comrades, you all
remember your oath to me and the King, that for the Man-Cub shall be our
help, and our care, and not the blood-feud that is against Man, because
of his killing."

"I remember," cried Blue Wolf.

"And I," answered Pisew.

"I never forget anything," declared Carcajou. "When my paws ached
because of François, I laid up hate against him; and when Black King’s
leg was lost because of this evil Man’s Trap the hate grew stronger; but
by the Bars on my Flanks do I bear not hate against The Boy, and bear
the promise given to you, Mooswa."

"I’ll carry you for a short trail, Lieutenant," said Blue Wolf, stopping
beside Wolverine; "the Fat-eating has put new strength in my bones--jump
up on my back.  Your brains are nimbler than ours, but your short legs
can’t get over the deep snow so fast."

"Been to see him off, eh?" piped Whisky-Jack cheerily, fluttering up.
"I heard him tell The Boy they’d go down to Hay River when he comes back
from The Landing; but how did you Fellows know he was leaving this
morning?"

"Rof got it from his Huskie sweetheart," said Lynx.  "The Dogs were tied
up last night, and the carryall outfit was lying ready at the door--that
meant hitting the trail early this morning."

"Has the Man-Cub got Eating enough to last against François’s return,
Jack?" asked Bull Moose, solicitously.

"A dozen White Fish, a little flour, and some tea."

"That will keep the stomach-ache away, if the Breed comes back quickly,"
affirmed Mooswa.

Pisew cocked his Hair-plumed ears hungrily at the mention of Fish; and
the thief-thought that was always in his heart kept whispering, "Fish!
Fish!  Fish that is in the Shack--The Boy’s Fish!"  The woods were so
bare, too.  It was the Seventh Year, the Famine Year, and a chance of
eating came only at long intervals.  Carcajou had robbed the Shack, and
it had been accounted clever--all the Flesh Eaters had feasted merrily
off the loot.  Why should he not also steal the twelve Fish?  But he was
not like Carcajou, a feast-giver, an Animal to make himself popular by
great gifts; if he stole the Fish he would cache them, and the eating
would round up his lean stomach.

"Carrier of Messages," began Mooswa, addressing Whisky-Jack, "thy part
of the Oath Promise is watching over The Boy.  If aught goes wrong,
bring thou the news."

"Very well, old Sober-sides," answered Jay, saucily.  "I’ll come and sit
on your horns that have so many beautiful roosts for me, and whisper
each day into your ear, that is big enough to hold my nest, all that
happens at the Shack!"

"He’ll keep you busy, Mooswa," smirked Pisew.

"Mooswa has time to spare for his Friends," answered Jack, "because he
eats an honest dinner. You, Bob-tail, are so busy with your thieving and
lying-in-wait for somebody’s children to eat, that you have no time for
honest talk."

"Here’s your path, Carcajou," cried Blue Wolf, stopping while Wolverine
jumped down. "I’m going on to see how Black King is."

"Last night a strong wind laid many acres of Birch Trees on their backs,
two hours’ swift trot from here--I’m going there for my dinner,"
declared the Moose; "it will be fine feeding.  It is a pity you Chaps
aren’t vegetarians; the Blood Fever must be awful--killing, killing,
killing,--it’s dreadful!" he wheezed, turning to the left and striding
away through the forest.

"I’ll go and see Black King too," exclaimed Whisky-Jack.

"I’m off to the muskeg to hunt Mice," announced Pisew; "the Famine Year
brings one pretty low."

"Your Father must have been born in a Famine Year," suggested Jack, "and
you inherited the depravity from him."

Lynx snarled disagreeably, and as he slunk cat-like through the woods,
spat in contemptuous anger.  "Jack has gone to the King’s Burrow," he
muttered; "I’ll have a look at The Boy’s Shack. I wonder where he keeps
that Fish, and if he leaves the door open at all.  Perhaps when he goes
down to the river for water--ah, yes, Cubs and Kittens are all
careless--even the Man-Cub will not be wise, I think.  Now, so soon, the
pittance of food I had from that thief, Carcajou, has melted in my
stomach, and the walls are collapsing again.  I wonder where the
hump-backed Lieutenant cached the rest of his stolen Fat-eating."

Thus treacherously planning, Lynx stealthily circled to the Shack, lay
down behind a Cottonwood log fifty feet away, and watched with a
ravenous look in his big round eyes.  Presently he saw Rod open the
door, look across the waste of snow, stretch his arms over his head
wearily, turn back into the Shack, reappear with two metal pails in one
hand and an axe in the other, and pass from view over the steep river
bank.

With a swift, noiseless rush the yellow-gray thief darted into the
building.  His keen nose pointed out the dried White Fish lying on a box
in the corner.  Stretching his jaws to their utmost width, he seized
four or five and bounded into the thick bush with them.  Two hundred
paces from the clearing Pisew dropped his booty behind a fallen tree.
"I’ll have time for the others," he snarled, pulling a white covering
over the fish with his huge paw.

As he stole back again, a sound of ice-chopping came to his ears.
"Plenty of time," he muttered, and once more his jaws were laden with
The Boy’s provision.  In his eagerness to take them all, two fish
slipped to the floor; Pisew became frightened, and bolted with those he
had in his mouth.  "I can’t go back any more," he thought, as he rushed
away; "but I’ve done well, I’ve done very well."

The Boy returned with the water, took his axe and cut some wood.  He did
not miss the fish. Pisew carried his stolen goods away and cached them.

That night Whisky-Jack, sitting on his perch under the extended end of
the roof, heard something that gave him a start.  Rod had discovered the
loss of his Fish.

"My God! this is serious," the Bird heard him say.  "Two fish and a
handful of flour for ten days’ food--perhaps longer.  This is terrible.
It’s that Devil of the Woods, Carcajou, who has robbed me, I suppose--he
stole the bacon before.  If I only could get a chance at him with a
rifle, I’d settle his thieving life."

The misery in The Boy’s voice touched Whisky-Jack.

"Pisew has done this evil thing," he chirped to himself.  "If he has, he
has broken his oath of the Boy-care."



                         THE PUNISHING OF PISEW


In the morning Whisky-Jack flew early to the home of Black King, and
told him of the fish-stealing.

"Yes," affirmed the Red Widow, "it was Pisew.  His father before him was
a Traitor and a Thief; they were always a mean, low lot.  And wasn’t
this Man-Cub good and kind to my Babe, Stripes, when that brute of a
Huskie Dog attacked him?"

"Yes, Good Dame," affirmed the Bird; "but for this Man-Cub your Pup
would have lined the stomach of a Train Dog--now he may live to line the
cloak of some Man-woman--that is, if François catches him.  But what
shall be done to this breaker of Boundary Laws and Sneak-thief, Pisew,
Your Majesty?"

"Summon Carcajou, Mooswa, Blue Wolf, and others of the Council, my good
Messenger," commanded the King.  "There is no fear of the trail now, for
François is gone, and The Boy hunts not."

When they had gathered, Whisky-Jack again told of what had been done.

"It is Pisew, of a certainty," cried Carcajou.

"Yes, it is that Traitor," concurred Rof, with a growl.

"I could hardly believe any Animal capable of such meanness," sighed
Bull Moose; "we must investigate.  If it be true--"

"Yes, if it prove true!" snapped Carcajou.

"Uhr-r-r, if this thing be true--!" growled Blue Wolf, and there was a
perceptible gleam of white as his lip curled with terrible emphasis.

"Go and look!" commanded Black King; "the snow tells no false tales; the
Thief will have written with his feet that which his tongue will lie to
conceal."

The vigilants proceeded to the scene of Pisew’s greedy outrage.  "I
thought so," said Carcajou, examining the ground minutely.

"Here he hid the stuff," cried Rof, from behind a fallen tree.  "That
odour is Dried Fish; and this--bah! it’s worse--it’s the foul smell of
our Castoreum-loving Friend, Pisew;" and he curled his nose disdainfully
in the half-muffled tracks of the detested Cat.

"I can see his big foot-prints plainly," added Mooswa.  "There is no
question as to who is the thief.  Let us go back and summon the Council
of the Boundaries, and decide what is to be done with this Breaker of
Oaths."

When they had returned to the King’s burrow, he commanded that Umisk,
Nekik, Wapistan, Mink, Skunk, Wapoos, and all others, should be
gathered, so that judgment might be passed upon the traitor.  "Also
summon Pisew," he said to Jay.

When the Council members had arrived, Whisky-Jack came back with a
report that Lynx could not be found.

"Guilt and a full stomach have caused him to travel far; it is easier to
keep out of the way than to answer eyes that are asking questions,"
declared Blue Wolf, in a thick voice.

"Then we shall decide without him," cried Black King, angrily.

The evidence was put clearly before the Council by Rof, Carcajou, and
Mooswa; besides, each of the animals swore solemnly by their different
tail-marks, which is an oath not to be broken, that they had not done
this thing.

"Well," said Black Fox, "we arranged before that, in case of a serious
breach of the Law, the Council should decide by numbers whether any one
must die because of the Law breaking.  Is that not so?"

"It is," they all answered.

"Then what of Pisew, who has undoubtedly broken the Oath-promise that
was made unto Mooswa?"

"He must die!" snarled Blue Wolf.

"He must cease to be!" echoed Carcajou.

"Yes, it is not right that he live!" declared Mooswa.  And from Bull
Moose down to Wapistan, all agreed that Pisew deserved death for his
traitorous conduct.

"But how?" asked the King.

Nobody answered for a time.  Killing, except because of hunger, was a
new thing to them; no one wanted to have the slaying of Lynx upon his
conscience--the role of executioner was undesirable.

"He shall die after the manner of his Father,--by the Snare, and by the
means of Man, which is just," announced Carcajou, presently.

"But François has gone, and the Man-Cub traps not," objected the Red
Widow.

"He did not trouble to take up the Snares, though, Good Dame," affirmed
Wolverine; "I know of three."

"You know of three, and didn’t spring them?" queried Jack,
incredulously.

"There was no Bait--only the vile smelling Castoreum," answered
Carcajou, disdainfully. "And there was also a chance that Pisew might
poke his traitorous head through one--I guard not for that Sneak."

"But how will you induce Pisew to thrust his worthless neck into the
Snare?" asked Black King.

"There is some of the Fat-eating still left, Your Majesty," returned
Carcajou, "and I’ll forfeit a piece as Bait."

"That should tempt him," asserted the King.

"But he may be a long time discovering it," ventured Umisk, pointing out
a seeming difficulty.

"Leave that to me," pleaded Whisky-Jack; "you provide the Bait, and I’ll
provide the Thief who’ll try to steal it."

It being settled that way, the Council adjourned, Carcajou and
Whisky-Jack being selected as a Committee of Execution.  Wolverine
showed Jay where the snare was placed, and while he cleverly arranged
the bacon beyond its quick-slipping noose, the latter scoured the
Forests and muskegs for Pisew until he found him.

"Hello, Feather-Feet!" he hailed the Lynx with.

"Good-day, Gossip!" retorted Pisew.

"You’re looking well fed for this Year of Famine, my carnivorous
Friend," said Whisky-Jack, pleasantly.

"Yes, I’m fat because of much fasting," answered Lynx.  "The memory of
Carcajou’s Fat-eating alone keeps me alive; I’m starved--I’m as thin as
a snow-shoe.  It’s days since my form would even cast a shadow--can you
not see right through me, Eagle-eyed Bird?"

"I think I can," declared the Jay, meaning Lynx’s methods, more than his
thick-woolled body.

"I’m starving!" reasserted the Cat.  "If Carcajou were half so generous
as he pretends, he should give me another piece of that Fat-eating; it
would save my life--really it would."  He was pleading poverty with an
exaggerated flourish, lest he be suspected of the ill-gotten wealth of
Fish.

"Yes, Carcajou is a miser," affirmed Whisky-Jack. "He still has some of
the Man’s bacon cached."

"I wish I knew where," panted Lynx.  "There is no wrong in stealing from
a thief--is there, wise Bird?"

"I know where some of it is hidden," declared Jay, with an air of great
satisfaction.

"Tell me," pleaded the other.

At first Jack refused utterly; then by diplomatic weakenings he
succumbed to Pisew’s eager solicitation, and veered around, consenting
to point out some of Wolverine’s stolen treasure.

"You are a true friend, Jack," asserted Pisew, encouragingly.

"To whom?" asked the Bird, pointedly.

"Oh, to me, of course; for Carcajou is a friend to nobody.  But, Jack,"
he said suddenly, "you are fond of Yellow-eating, aren’t you?"

"Yes, I like butter."

"Well, I’ll tell you where you can get rare good picking--it’s a good
joke on Carcajou, too, though it was so badly covered up that I thought
it more like a Man’s cache."

The Jay started.  Had this wily thief stolen his butter also--the butter
that Carcajou had hidden for him at the Shack looting?

"You see," continued Lynx, "I stumbled upon it quite by accident as I
was digging for Grubs, Beetles, and poor food of that sort--hardly
enough to fill one’s teeth.  Oh, this Seventh Year is terrible!  I was
starving, Friend--really I was; the gaunt gnawing which never comes to
you, and of which you know nothing, for you are always with the Men who
have plenty, was in my stomach.  I was thinking of the hunger-hardship,
and of the great store of Fat-eating Carcajou must have cached, when I
came upon this wooden-holder of stuff that is like yellow marrow."

"Butter," interrupted the Bird.

"I suppose so," whined Lynx.

"And you ate it?" queried Jack sharply, experiencing a sick feeling of
desolation.

"There was only a little of it, only a little," iterated Pisew,
deprecatingly; "hardly worth one’s trouble in tearing the cover from the
wooden-thing."

"The tub," advised Jack.

"Probably; I’m not familiar with the names of Man’s things.  But I just
tasted it--that was all; just a little to oil my throat, and soothe the
pain that was in my stomach.  It is still there, really--under a big
rotten log, where the water falls for the length of Panther’s spring
over high rocks in Summer."

"What’s there,--the tub?" queried Jack, incredulously.

"Also the yellow marrow--the butter," affirmed Pisew.

"Oh!" exclaimed Whisky-Jack, drily.  He knew the other was lying; if
Pisew had found the tub he would have licked it clean as a washed
platter.  But the revenge he had in hand for this Prince of all Thieves
was so complete that it was not worth while reviling him.

"Still I think you had better not touch Carcajou’s Fat-eating," he
advised.

Lynx laughed at this.  Why shouldn’t he--he was so very hungry?

"Well," said the Bird, "mind I don’t wish to lead you to it--don’t ask
you to go--in fact, I think you had better keep away; but Dumpty’s
Fat-eating is hidden under the roots of that big up-turned Spruce, just
where Mooswa’s trail crosses the Pelican on its way to his Moose-yard."

"Do you really think it was hidden there by Carcajou?" asked Lynx.  "Is
it not François’s cache--or some last year’s cache of another Man?  They
are always wandering about through the Boundaries, looking for the
yellow dust that is washed down by running waters, or for the white
metal that sleeps in rocks."

"No, the white Meat belongs to our hump-backed Comrade--at least he
rustled it from the Breed’s Shack," answered Jay.

"Perhaps after all it would not be fair to take it, then," whined Lynx.
"I am hungry--oh, so hungry, but to steal from one of our Comrades, even
to save one’s life--I would rather die, I believe."

"Prince of deceitful wretches!" muttered Jay to himself.  "Oh, the cant
of it! now he means to steal it sure, but is afraid that I may inform
against him."

"I’ll not touch the Fat-eating," continued Pisew.  "True, the Little
Lieutenant stole it from François; but that is different, is it not,
wise Brother--you who are learned in the Law of the Boundaries?  To take
from them who would rob us of our clothes is not wrong, is it?"

"No; that is understood by all of us," answered Jack, aloud; to himself
he said, "the prating hypocrite!"

"So Carcajou is entitled by our law to half of the spoil, and I suppose
that is the Fat-eating he has cached; the other half went in the love
feast."

"Yes."

"Then I’ll not touch it--I will starve to death first," and Pisew sat
meekly on his haunches and rolled his eyes sanctimoniously.

"I had no idea there was so much honourable observance of the law in
your nature," sneered Jack.  "In the Plenty Year we are all honest; but
in this, the Season of Starvation, to be honourable and regardful of
each other’s Eating is indeed noble.  Will he swallow that?" queried the
Jay to himself.

"Thank you, sayer-of-wise-words," murmured Pisew.  "I always have been
misunderstood--accused of the vilest things--even to the eating of
Lodge-Builder’s Children."

"Disgusting!" exclaimed Jack, smartly.  "They must be horrible eating,
those young wearers of Castoreum."

"No--they’re delicious!" interrupted Pisew, unwarily,--"I mean--I
mean--they’re delightful little creatures," he added, lamely.

"Well, I must be off, you-who-keep-the-fast," declared Jack.  "I’m glad
you have resisted the temptation, for I must admit that I was only
trying you."

"I thought so--I thought so!" snickered Lynx; "and at first I joked to
draw you on--pretended that I would do this disgraceful thing--take our
most worthy Lieutenant’s store of Eating."

"Now I must warn the Council," thought Jack, as he flew swiftly through
the forest, "for Pisew will make straight for Carcajou’s bacon.
Deceitful wretch! he deserves to be hanged. His death will save many a
Fox-Cub, many a Kit-Beaver, and many a Bird’s egg."

"Wise Bird, indeed!" sneered Lynx.  "I’ve deceived him.  I’ll soon have
Gulo the Glutton’s Fat-eating; and Whisky-Jack will bear witness to my
honesty.  They are all so wise; but Pisew, the despised, fares better
than any one. No; nobody will know if I take it--not even the Devil-eyes
of Carcajou will discover whose trail it is, for I will drag the
Fat-eating, walking backwards, so it will look more like the
trough-trail of Nekik, who slides on his belly through the deep snow.
And Blue Wolf’s nose will discover only the scent of smoke-tainted meat,
for it will come last over my tracks.  Ha, ha!" he laughed disagreeably;
"we’ll see who lives through the Year of Distress by the aid of his
brains."

And while Pisew chuckled and made straight for the big Spruce where was
hidden the bacon, Jack flew to the Council.  To them the Bird said,
"Keep you all well hid in the bush close to the Bait; I will hide in the
big tree which has a hollow, and when Pisew’s neck is in the noose will
signal."

                     *      *      *      *      *

With long springing lopes Lynx bounded close to where Mooswa’s road
crossed the ice-bridge of the Pelican.  Nearing it he walked steadily,
making as little trail as possible.

"Yes, it is cached in there," he muttered, spreading his broad nostrils,
and filling them with the tantalizing perfume of bacon.  "Carcajou has
also been to look at it this morning, for here are his tracks."

He wasted little time investigating--there was no fear of a Trap, for it
was not Man’s work; also he must not leave tell-tale tracks about;
besides, it would not do to remain long in the vicinity for fear of
being seen.  Swiftly, stealthily, he slunk to the very spot, and pushed
his round head through a little bush-opening that seemed designed by
Carcajou to conceal his stolen Meat. Yes, it was there.  Pisew seized
the bacon hungrily and started to back out with his booty.  As he did so
there was the swishing rush of a straightening-up Birch-sapling, and
something gripped him by the throat, carrying him off his feet. The
startled Cat screamed, and wrenched violently at the snare as he scooted
skyward. His contortions caused the strong cod-line which was about his
neck to carry away from the swaying Birch, and he dropped back to earth,
only to find himself fighting with a heavy stick which dangled at the
other end of the line.

What a fiendish thing the snare-stick seemed to Pisew.  It fought
back--it jumped, and reeled, and struck him in the ribs, and tugged at
the snare which was strangling him, and ran away from him, pulling the
hot-cord tight about his throat with the strength of Muskwa; it was a
Devil-stick surely--also would it kill him if no help came.  The bacon
fell from his mouth, and he tried to call for assistance, but only a
queer, guzzling, half-choked gasp came from his clogged throat.

As if in answer to his muffled call he heard, faintly, a Bird-voice--it
was Jack’s--would he help him?  Lynx felt that he would not.

"He-e-e-p, he-e-e-p! qu-e-e-k, que-e-e-e-k! come one, come all," cried
Whisky-Jack.

Violently Lynx struggled.  Tighter and tighter gathered the cord-noose,
his own efforts drawing the death-circle closer.  His fast-glazing eyes
could just make out, in a shadowy way, the forms of gathering Comrades.
He had been trapped--they were in at the death to witness the execution
by his own hand.  It did not last long.  That merciless noose, ever
tightening, ever closing in on the air pipes, was doing its work--drying
up the lungs.

"It’s terrible!" Mooswa blurted out.  "He’s dead now--I’m glad of it."

[Illustration: "IT’S TERRIBLE!" MOOSWA BLURTED OUT.]

"Yes, he’s dead," declared Carcajou, putting his short-eared head down
to Pisew’s side, for well he knew the old Forest trick of shamming death
to escape its reality.

"What of the carcass?" asked Mooswa; "shall I carry it far in the bowl
of my horns? One of our Comrades, though he die the just death as
declared by Law should not fall into the hands of the Hunt-men."

"Leave him," muttered Blue Wolf; "the Pack pass this trail to-night."

"How fares The Boy, Swift-flyer?" Mooswa asked of the Jay.

"Badly, great Bull, badly.  One time he takes the two Fish this dead
thief left,--unwillingly enough no doubt,--in his hand, and looks at
them pitiably; takes the white Dry-eating--Flour, Men call it,--and
decides of its weight: then with the little stick which makes a black
mark he lines cross-trails on a board, and mutters about so many pounds
of Eating for so many days, and always ends by saying: ’It can’t be
done--I shall starve.’  Then he comes to the door and looks over the
river trail which way went François, as though he too would pull out for
The Landing."

"That he must not attempt," cried Mooswa, decidedly.  "Turn your noses,
Brothers, to the wind which comes from the big West-hills--moisten them
first, so!" and a bluish-gray tongue damped the cushion bulk of his
nostrils.  All the Council pointed their heads up wind, and it smote raw
in their questioning faces.

"Gh-u-r-r!" growled Blue Wolf, "I know; when comes this wind-wrath of
the Mountains, Mooswa?"

"To-night, or to-morrow," answered the Bull.

"Then lie we close from the time the light fails this day until it is
all over; each to his Burrow, each to his hollow tree, each to his thick
bush," continued Rof.  "François will not have reached The Landing yet,
either.  Dogs are not like Wolves--perhaps the blizzard will smother
them."

"The Breed-man has the cunning of all Animals together," asserted
Carcajou.  "He will choose a good shelter under a cut-bank, even perhaps
put the fire-medicine to the dry-wood, then all together, as Brothers,
he and the Dogs will lie huddled like a Fox Pack, and though the wrath
howl for three days none of their lives will go out."  The deep-thinking
little Wolverine knew that Rof was fretting, not for François, but
because of Marsh Maid.

"But the Man-Cub is not like that," declared Bull Moose, "and if he
starts, good Jay, do thou fly quickly and bring us tidings.  Rof, thou
and thy Pack must turn him in the trail."

"We will," assented Blue Wolf.  "All this trouble because of that
carrion!" and he threw snow over the dead body of Lynx disdainfully with
his powerful hind-feet.



                         THE CARING FOR THE BOY


Whatever Rod’s intentions might have been about following on after
François, their carrying out was utterly destroyed by the terrific
blizzard which started that night.  All the next day, and the night
after, no living thing stirred from its nest or burrow.

Whisky-Jack cowered in the lee-side shelter of the roof; and inside,
Roderick listened to the howling and sobbing of the storm-demons that
rocked the rude Shack like a cradle.  Even through the moss-chinked,
mud-plastered log-cracks the fine steel-dust of the ice-hard snow drove.
It was like emery in its minute fierceness.

Spirit voices called to Rod from the moaning Forest; his imagination
pictured the weird storm-sounds as the voice of his friend pleading for
help.  Many times he threw the big wooden door-bar from its place, and
peered out into the dark as the angry wind pushed against him with
fretful swing.  Each time he was sure he heard his Comrade’s voice, or
the howl of train-dogs; but there was nothing; only the blinding,
driving, frozen hail--fine and sharp-cutting as the grit of a sandstone.
Once he thought the call of a rifle struck on his ear--it was the crash
of an uprooted tree, almost deadened by the torturing wind-noises.

The cold crept into his marrow.  All night he kept the fire going, and
by dawn his supply of wood had dwindled to nothing; he must have more,
or perish.  Just outside in the yard François had left a pile of dry
Poplar.  Almost choked by the snow-powdered air, Rod laboured with his
axe to cut enough for the day.  At intervals he worked, from time to
time thawing out his numbed muscles by the fire-place.  "One trip more,"
he muttered, throwing down an armful in the Shack, "and I’ll have enough
to last until to-morrow--by that time the storm will have ceased, I
hope."

But on that last short journey a terrible thing happened.  Blinded by
the white-veil of blizzard Rod swayed as he brought the axe down, and
the sharp steel buried in his moccasined foot. "O God!" The Boy cried,
in despairing agony. He hobbled into the Shack, threw the wooden bar
into place, tore up a cotton shirt, and from the crude medicine
knowledge he had acquired from François, soaked a plug of tobacco,
separated the leaves, and putting them next the cut, bound the torn
cloth tightly about his foot.

That night the storm still raged, and his wound brought a delirium pain
which made his fancies even more realistic.  Whisky-Jack heard him
moaning and talking to strange people.

Next morning a cold sun came up on a still, tired atmosphere.  The
fierce blizzard had sucked all life out of the air: the Spruces’ long
arms, worn out with swaying and battling, hung asleep in the dead calm:
a whisper might have been heard a mile away.

At the first glint of light Jack spread his wings, and, travelling fast
to the home of Black Fox, told of Rod’s helpless condition.  "Before it
was the hunger-death that threatened; now the frost-sleep will come
surely, for he cannot walk, only crawl on his hands and knees like a
Bear-Cub," said Jay Bird, with a world of pity in his voice.

"Call Mooswa and Carcajou," cried the Red Widow, "The Boy is in their
keeping."

When Wolverine had come he said: "There is still a piece of Fat-eating
cached, if I can find it under this mountain of white-fur that covers
the breast of The Boundaries."

"That is well, good Comrade," declared Black King; "but how shall we get
it to the hands of our Man-Cub?"

"Place it in the bowl of my horns," said Mooswa, "and I will lay it at
his door."

"Yet the Fat-eating may be on one side of the wooden gate, and The Boy
starve on the other," remarked Whisky-Jack, thoughtfully.

"I will knock with my horns, and The Boy will open the gate thinking it
is François."

"Even with a full stomach he may perish from the frost-death," continued
Jack; "for now he cannot cut wood for his chimney--though the fire still
lives, for I saw its blue breath above the roof as I came away."

"Call Umisk," ordered Black King; "he is a wood-cutter."

"Excellent, excellent!" sneezed Carcajou, in a wheezy voice, for the
blizzard had set a cold on his lungs.  "If Chisel-tooth will cut
fire-wood I’ll drop it down the chimney, and The Boy may yet be kept
alive until François returns. Come with me, Daddy Long-legs," he
continued, addressing Mooswa, "and we’ll have a look for that cached
Fat-eating in this wilderness of white-frosted water."

After a tiresome search they found the bacon that had been hidden by the
little hunchback. Mooswa carried it to the Shack, dropping it at the
door, against which there was a great drifted snow-bank; then he rubbed
his horns gently up and down the boards.

"Is that you, François?" cried a voice that trembled with gladness, from
inside the Shack. There was a fumbling at the door, and the next instant
it was pulled open.

Mooswa almost cried at sight of the pain-pinched, ghost-like face that
confronted him, and The Boy recoiled with a look of dismay--the huge
head frightened him.  Then catching sight of the bacon, he looked from
it to the Bull-Moose questioningly; all at once an idea came to him.

"You are hungry too, Mr. Moose, are you?" for he remembered stories of
severe storms having driven deer and other wild animals to the haunts of
Man for food.  Evidently the smell of bacon had attracted the Moose; but
where in the world had it come from?  Had it been left by some chance on
the roof, and knocked off by the strong blizzard wind?  That seemed a
likely solution. The Moose was so unafraid, too--it was curious! He
reached out and pulled in the bacon--it was like the manna shower.

"Poor old Chap!" he said, stretching out a hand and patting the big fat
nose timidly; "you’ve come to a bad place for food.  There’s nothing
here you can eat."

[Illustration: "POOR OLD CHAP!"]

Mooswa stuck out his rough tongue, and caressed the wrist.  Rod
scratched the Bull’s forehead in return, and they were friends.

The big eyes of Mooswa wandered about the bare pathetic interior.  It
was a poor enough place for a crippled Boy--but what could be done.  "I
wish I could speak to him," he thought, rubbing his massive face against
the flannel shirt reassuringly.  Then he turned and walked solemnly
through the little clearing, and disappeared in the thick wood.

The bacon put new heart in Roderick.

A rational explanation of this advent of the pork appeared to be that it
had fallen from the roof; but all through that night of distress The Boy
had muttered broken little prayers, just as he had done for years at his
mother’s knee, and whether it had actually fallen from the roof or from
the skies was not the real issue, for he was convinced that it had come
in answer to his prayers.

The pain crept up his leg, up his back, and, as the hours dragged on,
the dreary, lonesome hours, it mounted to his brain, and the queer
fancies of approaching delirium carried him to a fairy land peopled by
unreal things.  He had just sanity enough to keep the chimney fire
going, but his little pile of wood dwindled until the last stick was
placed on the coals.  When in the afternoon Carcajou dropped three
billets that Umisk had cut down the chimney, Roderick laughed.  He was a
King in delirium-land, and when he wanted anything all he had to do was
pray, and the angels would send it.

Sometimes the sticks of wood rolled out on the floor as they clattered
down--these The Boy put to one side.

"I suppose the angels won’t come in the night," he whispered; then
laughed.  It was a grotesque idea, but the fire was kept blazing.

He had no rational thought of eating; when he felt hunger-pains he fried
a little of the bacon and ate it.  Sometimes he made a batter of flour
and water, cooking the mixture in a frying-pan over the fire--turning
out an almost impossible kind of pancake.

"He acts like Wapoos in the early Spring," Whisky-Jack told Mooswa:
"laughs, and whistles, and cries, and sobs; but he eats, which is a good
thing, and is also warm.  I never thought that crop-eared Hunchback,
Carcajou, had goodness enough in him to do anything for anybody."

"He’s like yourself, Whisky-Jack, a bit of a th--sharp-tongued fellow, I
mean" (thief, he was going to say, but checked himself just in time),
"and full of queer tricks, but good-hearted enough when a Comrade is in
trouble.  How long will the Fat-eating, which is the food of you
Meat-eaters, last The Boy?" Mooswa asked.

"Perhaps three days."

"Also, is it good food for the sick--is it not too strong?  When I am
not well there are certain plants that agree with me, and others I
cannot touch."

"Fish would be better," declared Jack, with the air of a consulting
physician.

"I thought so," said Mooswa.  "The smell of that bacon at the door
almost turned my stomach.  If the Man-Cub could only eat sweet
Birch-tips, or dried Moose-flower--it’s delicious when well preserved
under deep snow.  Even unrotted moss would be better for him than that
evil-scented Meat."

The Bird laughed, "He, he, he! fancy the Man-Cub chewing a great cud of
mushy grass. Now Fish, as I have said, would be just the thing; there’s
nothing lies so sweet on one’s stomach, unless it’s Butter.  Warm
Roostings! but I wish that cat-faced Pisew had been hanged before he
found my cache."

"Jack," continued Moose, "you might ask Nekik or Sakwasew to catch a
Fish for The Boy; they are all bound by the promise to help take care of
him."

"All right," said Jay.  "Otter might do it, for he’s a generous Chap,
but Sakwasew is a greedy little snip, I think.  I never knew a Mink yet
that wasn’t selfish."

"I don’t know how long we shall have to look after this Man-Cub," Mooswa
said, when he, and Rof, and Black King talked the matter over that
evening.  "François is a good Trapper, we all know that to our sorrow,
and he likes The Boy, for he was years with his Father, the Factor, as
servant to the Company, but still he’s a Breed, and if there’s any
fire-water at The Landing it is hard to say when he may get back;
besides, the breath of the mountain that shrivelled us all for two days
may have got into his heart."

"My Pack hunts for three days in the far Boundaries," muttered Blue
Wolf.

"Why?" asked the King, sharply.

"In three days I will tell Your Majesty," answered Rof, shutting his
jaws with a snap.

"Well, well," exclaimed Black Fox, "in the Year of Starvation there is
no preserve.  We hunt where we find, and eat where we catch; and only
the Kit-law and the Cub-law, and the Seventh Year Law of the Wapoos is
binding."

Blue Wolf disappeared for three days; and for three days Umisk cut wood
for The Boy, and Carcajou dropped it down the chimney.  Mooswa went
every day and rubbed his horns against the door.  The coming of his
Moose friend was also a part of the angel care the wounded boy had
dreamed into his life.  His eager joy at even this companionship was
pitiable; but it was something to look forward to--something to pull him
back out of the deeper levels of delirium-world.

Nekik, the Otter, caught a fish, at Mooswa’s request, and Carcajou
dropped it down the chimney.

"It will burn," objected Umisk, who was cutting wood.

"Then The Boy will find it with his nose," answered Carcajou.

After that Roderick asked the angels to bring him fish--it was better
than bacon.  They were queer angels, Nekik and Carcajou, but the sick
lad got a fish every day.

On the third day Blue Wolf returned.  "I found one of the Men-kind down
the river," he announced to Mooswa and Black Fox; "he is trapping alone,
I think."

"Well," queried Black King, "what of that?" for he did not quite
understand.

"If we could get him to The Boy I thought it might be well," answered
Blue Wolf.

"Ah!  I see," cried the King.  "That’s why the Pack hunted for three
days in the far Boundaries."

Wolf growled a deprecating objection.

"How far away is he?" asked Mooswa.

"Six hours of the Chase-lope," answered Blue Wolf.

"I could bring him, even as I led François away when you were not
desirous of his company, Your Majesty," said the Moose.

"It’s a dangerous game," muttered Black Fox.  "I don’t like it--one
can’t judge the strike of their Firesticks; and you’re such a big
mark--like the side of a Man’s Shack."

"I saw The Boy’s leg to-day," continued Mooswa, "and it’s bigger, with
this wound-poison, than my nose.  Unless he gets help soon, he will
die."

"François should be back in a day or two," declared the King.

"François is a Breed," asserted Mooswa; "and days are like the little
sticks the Breed-men use when they play cards--something to gamble
with."

"The Pack could be ready if the Man pressed too close as you led him to
our Man-Cub," suggested Rof.

"I do not fear him the first day," continued Mooswa; "Man’s speed is
always the same and I can judge of it; it is the second day, when I am
tired from the deep snow, that a little rest, too long drawn out, or a
misjudged circle with one of the followers travelling wide of my trail,
that may cause me to come within reach of their Firestick."

"Well, you might not reach Red Stone Brook in one day," asserted Blue
Wolf; "so perchance you may need help the second.  You’ll find the Man
just below Big Rapids."

"I’ll start to-night," said Mooswa, "for The Boy must get help from his
own kind soon.  He is sick of the wounded leg--also of a half-filled
stomach; but then there is another illness that neither I nor any of us
can understand.  Perhaps it is of that thing the Factor said Men had and
would sell for the evil fire-water--the soul. One time the eyes of The
Boy are all right, even as yours, Rof, or mine, seeing the things that
are; and then a look comes in them that is like the darkening of a
purple Moose-flower when the sunlight is suddenly chased away by a
cloud. Then this Boy, that is a Man-Cub, talks to his Mother, and his
Sister, and calls to the things he names Angels, up on the roof; though
I know not what they may be, because it is only little humpbacked
Carcajou dropping wood down the chimney.  Yes, that’s what it must be,"
Mooswa continued, reflectively, "the sickness of this Soul-thing the
Men-kind have, for The Boy laughs, and cries, and his eyes blaze, and
look soft like one’s young, and flood with tears, and glare hot and dry.
Yes, he must have help from his own kind, for we know not of this thing.

"With good fortune I may lead this Man to him by the coming of darkness
the first day; if not, then Blue Wolf will stand guard on my trail the
second."

"Yes, even the first day, also, will I be near," asserted Rof.



                        FRANÇOIS AT THE LANDING


As Mooswa tramped down the wide roadbed of frozen river, François, up at
The Landing, was doing very much as the Bull Moose had feared.

He had weathered the blizzard, lying huddled up with his dogs in the
shelter of a cut-bank, not daring to stir even for food till the fury of
the icy blast had passed.  He had even come to The Landing with a full
resolve to go back immediately after he had secured his outfit; alas!
for the carrying out of it, he was but an easily influenced Half-breed.
At The Landing were several of his own kind down from Little Slave Lake
with the first kill of Winter fur.  With these the possession of money
or goods always meant an opportunity for gambling.

François had a "debt credit" at the Hudson’s Bay Company’s store equal
to the value of his needs; any Trapper who has kept his slate clean in
the Company’s accounts can usually get credit for a small outfit.

When the Half-breed had completed his purchase, the Factor tossed him a
large plug of smoking tobacco, which was the usual terminal act of a
deal in goods in any of the Company’s posts.

François filled his pipe, sat down by the hot box-stove with its roaring
fire of dry Poplar-wood, and smoked, and spat, and dilated upon the
severity of the blizzard, and regaled the other occupants of the Trading
Post with stories of Wolverine’s depredations.  Suddenly he ceased
speaking, held the pipe in his hand hesitatingly, and straightened his
head up in a listening attitude.  The deep, sonorous, monotonous
"tum-tum, tum-tum, tum-tum" of a gambling outfit’s drum-music came
sleepily to his acute listening ear.  It was like a blast from the
huntsman’s horn to a fox-hound; it tingled in his blood, and sent a
longing creeping through his veins.

"There goes that Nichie outfit from Slave Lake again," cried the Factor,
angrily.  "They’ve gambled for three nights; if the police were here I’d
have a stop put to it."

François tried to close his ears to the coaxing, throbbing, skin-covered
tambourine the gambling party’s music-maker was hammering that still,
frosty night; but his hearing only became acuter, for it centred more
and more on the thing he was trying to keep from his mind.  Even the
"Huh, huh!--huh, huh!--huh, huh!--huh, huh!" of the half-dozen Indians
who sat about a blazing camp-fire, and rocked their bodies and swayed
their arms in rhythmic time, came to him with malevolent fascination.

"I t’ink me I go sleep," François said, knocking the ashes from his
pipe, and putting it in his bead-worked deerskin fire-bag.

"You’d better pull out sharp in the morning," commanded the Factor;
"young McGregor will be running short of grub before you get back."

"I roun’ up ever’ t’ing to-night," returned François, "an’ hit de trail
firs’ t’ing in de mornin’, soor.  I make me de S’ack in t’ree day."

Outside, the "Tum-tum" called to him; the "Huh, huh!" pleaded with him
like the voice of a siren.  He would go and sit by their fire just for a
little, the Breed reasoned--not play! for more than once he had been
stripped to his very shirt when luck set against him.  True, other times
he had accumulated furs, and dogs, and guns, even the caribou-skin
coats, and Cow-boy hats--fine valuable hats worth ten dollars a
piece,--when fortune smiled and he had guessed unerringly in which hand
his opponent-player had hidden the cartridge shell, or whatever other
token they used.

"Huh-huh!  François!  Huh, Boy--Welcome!" went round the circle of
squatting figures when the Half-breed stood amongst them.  The musician
stopped beating his instrument; solemnly each player and onlooker held
out a hand and gave François one sharp jerk of greeting. Two rows of men
sat facing each other, a big blanket over their knees; room was made for
the new arrival.

"S’pose I not gamble to-night me," said François, hesitatingly.

They laughed in astonishment--doubtingly.

"S’pose you ’fraid you lose, Man-who-saves-his-money," cried a Saltaux
Indian, disdainfully.

Now a Breed or an Indian must not be accused of being afraid of
anything; if he be, and submit to it, he is undone for all time.  Half
their bravery is due to this same moral cowardice.  François hesitated,
and the others, ignoring him, drew the blanket over their knees; the
player secreted the tokens, and drawing forth his hands crossed his
arms, always waving them in rhythmic time to the tum-tum.  Then the
Man-who-guesses in the opposite party indicated with his fingers where
he thought the tokens were hidden.

It wasn’t in human blood to stand out against this thing--not
generations of gambler blood, and François cried, half fiercely: "Make
room, Brothers!  We’ll see who’s afraid."

That was the beginning.  In the end, which came toward daylight,
François had neither grub-stake, nor rifle, nor train-dogs.  Time after
time he took in exchange for some asset a little bundle of Red-willow
counter sticks; time after time the little sticks, some long and some
short, dwindled until they were all gone.  The evil fate that had been
his down at the trapping stuck to him in gambling.

Broken, and half numbed by loss of sleep and a sense of impending
disaster, brought on by his despoiled condition, François crawled off to
a friend’s tepee, laid down like a train-dog, and fell asleep.



                     MOOSWA BRINGS HELP TO THE BOY


Mile after mile Mooswa cut from the head-trail with his easy-swinging
rack, the strong crust of frozen snow giving his great limbs free play.

The open bed of the river held just such a run as he liked: no tree
branches to catch his huge horns, no fallen tree giving cover to a
stalking Panther or strange Wolf Pack; and, as if to make his trip
perfect, he was running up a North Wind.  He was like a telegraph
operator sitting at his clicking instrument with the wires telling him
everything.

"A brother Moose crossed here, just a hundred yards ahead," the Wind
whispered one time. "Wh-f-f-f-! it was a Bull, too," the scent-wind told
his delicate nostrils.  "Ugh-wh-e-e-e-f-f-! Sikak has crossed the trail
here, and killed the strongest scent left by any other--disgusting
little brute!"  This message Mooswa took from the wind, and repeated to
himself.  For a mile his nostrils were simply stricken dumb by the foul
odour; his nose told him nothing of other affairs.

Then for a matter of ten miles there was but the sweet breath of Spruce
as the wind filtered through a long point covered with it. "Line clear,"
the frosty air signalled, as Mooswa, taking a straight course for the
merging of dark green and river-white, raced eagerly.

At the "Second Rapid," where the float-ice had grounded on rock-boulders
in the Autumn closing-time, the river bosom humped like a corduroy road.
"I must remember this spot on my coming back," Mooswa muttered, as he
picked his way more slowly over the troubled ice-road.  "Here I can make
a big run if enemies are close," he added as a stretch of many miles
reached away, level as a mill pond.

"Wolves! the Gray Hunters! the Murder Brothers who go in packs!" he
said, as his quick-feeling nose picked their presence from the North
Wind.  "Not Rof’s Pack," he continued, sampling the scent a little
finer--"Strangers!" and he watched warily, cocking his ears forward for
a warning whimper.

"Huh! they’re busy!" for as he flashed over their cross-trail there
arose the fainter odour of Caribou.  "Safe journey, cousin," he
muttered, "and confusion to the Throat-cutters.  It’s the Meat-eating,
the Blood-drinking," he philosophized, "that breeds all the enmity in
the Boundaries.  There are Grasses, and Leaves, and Flowers enough for
all, and no encroachment, if we’d only stick to it; but eating one’s
Comrades is what makes the trouble."

Just before daylight Mooswa stopped, climbed up a sloping bank warily,
and ate a light breakfast; then slipped back to the river-bed, huddled
up in the lee of a clay-cut, and after resting for two hours pushed on
again.  Another ten miles and he stopped like a flash, holding his head
straight up wind, the coarse, strong-growing hairs over his withers
vibrating with intensity. "Sniff! sniff!  Dogs!  Man!  Rof said nothing
of Dogs.  This makes it more complicated.  It is the scent of White Men,
and the Dog-smell is not that of Huskies.  These Whites sometimes bring
the long-legged creatures that follow us like Wolves."

He worked cautiously down the river till his eyes caught sight of a blue
smoke-feather floating lazily upward.

Five or six short steps at a time, three or four yards he moved,--then
stopped and watched with eyes, ears, nose, and all his full sensibility.
He knew the Man-trick of a flank movement--he must get them out on the
river behind him; besides, there was now the stronger, more certain
odour of Dogs.

He was perhaps a matter of half a mile from the little Shack above which
twisted the spiral curl of smoke, when a fierce, strong-throated "Yap!
yap!  Whe-e-e, yap!" cut the frosty air.

"I thought so," Mooswa muttered.  "I know that breed--the fierce-fanged
ones the Scotch Factor had at Fort Resolution--from his own Boundaries
across the sea they came.  They are like the Men themselves--on, on,
rush and hold. Deep-chested, small-gutted as Caribou; with long legs
that carry them over the snow like those of my own family; gray-haired
and strong-jawed, like Blue Wolf: but weak in the feet--small-footed,
with hair between their toes which balls up in the snow and makes them
go lame."  Then Mooswa considered the task he had undertaken.

"If the Man slips the Dogs, and the snow keeps hard and dry, there will
be more fighting than running," he said to himself, "for these brutes
will come faster than I care to go.  But there is a strong crust, strong
enough to bear me, and if the sun warms the snow so that it will ball in
the haired toes, then I’ll have a chance in the run.  The Man moves," he
continued, whiffing at the air.  "Two of them!" he muttered, as their
forms outlined against the morning sky; "Rof brought tidings of but one.
Now for it! I’m coming, Boy!"

He turned and walked slowly back on his track, breaking into a shuffling
trot farther on.

In a few minutes the two men, snow-shoe clad, rifle in hand, and
cartridge-belted, reappeared circling through the woods on the bank.
With one of them were four Scotch Stag-hounds in leash.  Mooswa’s eyes
took in the situation as he trotted, carrying his head a little to one
side. "The flank movement," he muttered, "and a stolen shot at the next
bend--they’ll not slip the Dogs while they have hope of a shot."

When the first river-bank point hid him from their sight he raced.
"They’re running now," he thought, for he was down wind from them, and
the telegraph was working.

When the two hunters reached the belly of the next bend they saw a big
Bull Moose quietly browsing at the point beyond.  He was walking slowly,
snipping at the tree branches as he moved.

"Keep the dogs back," one hunter said; "we are sure to get a quiet shot
at him, for he’s on the feed."

Point after point, bend succeeding bend, Mooswa played this game; mile
after mile they toiled, the tantalizing expectation of a stolen shot
leading them an amazing distance on the Moose trail.

"It’s the Stag-hounds that keep him moving," remarked the man who had
spoken before; "he’s down wind, and gets them in his big, fat nose--if I
could rustle a shot into his carcass, I’d slip them quick enough; but if
we let them go now it will be a play of twenty or thirty miles before we
get another sight of him.  I’m not struck on following a Bull Moose
under full trot with a pack of dogs behind him."

"We’ll get a shot on the quiet soon," remarked his comrade.  "He is a
bit on edge just now, but will settle down after he has seen us a few
times."  They had given up travelling in the bush, and were following
straight on the hoof-marks in the river-bed.

"Hello!" sang out one, pointing to a depression in the snow, "he’s been
lying down resting here--he’s getting fagged.  Somebody else must have
been running him before we struck his trail--he’s nearly beat."

As they crossed the Wolf trail Mooswa had found on his way down, the
Trapper in the lead said, significantly, "It’s the Gray Hunters have
done the Bull up; they’ve been after him, and he’s dead beat."

The big Stag-hounds sniffed the Wolf trail, dropped their long, bony
tails in sullen fear, raised their heads, and bayed a howling note of
defiance.

"Shut up, Bruce!" exclaimed one of the men, pulling at the raw-hide
leash, "you’ll be better up against a Moose than tackling that gang."

Now the mark in the snow had been made by Mooswa just to draw the
hunters on; he wasn’t tired, for the hard crust held him up, and he
could have kept that gait for two days.

They had travelled probably thirty miles when the leader said, "Better
slip the dogs, Mac, this Moose is putting up a game on us; he’s as
cunning as an old fox, and we’ll lose him to-night, I’m afraid."

When the straps were unbuckled the Scotch hounds broke into a chorus of
delight: "Yi, yi, yi, yi! yap! yap! yi, yi!  Bah-h-h!  Bah-h-h!"
stretched their long limbs and raced on the Bull Moose’s trail.  That
showed a strain of Collie blood in their veins, for if they had been
pure bred they would have run silent, and by sight only.

"Pleasant greeting that," muttered Mooswa, as his flanks lengthened out
in a terrific pacing gait.

"We’re coming--we’re coming! yi, yi!" sang the Stag-hounds, their heads
low to the snow; their lean flanks stretching out until they seemed like
something shot from a catapult. But swift as they were, Mooswa was
swifter. They were running at high pressure, straining every nerve,
using every ounce of speed that was in their wire-haired bodies; the
Bull was running with a little in hand--something in reserve. "They will
upset everything," he thought. "Those blood thirsters will chase me on
past the Shack, and the Men may never see it."

At the Second Rapid, with its tortuous ice-humps, the Bull lost a little
ground--he had to go slower.  The dogs, quicker of foot, and able to
turn sharper, gained on him.  Each time they caught sight of their prey
they gave a savage yelp of eager exultation, and ran with heads
high--ran by the eye.

"Sing, gaunt Brothers!" said Mooswa; "on the level you’ll have to run
with your bellies closer to the trail to keep your advantage."

Well clear of the Rapid ice, the Bull again swung his awkward-looking
body forward with increased pace.  Suddenly a hoof crashed through the
crust almost bringing him on his nose; before he had gone a hundred
yards this happened again.  Fringed by giant Spruce, tall banks on
either side had stood as barrier between the fierce biting frost-wind
and snow crust; also the day’s hot sun was beginning to rot its brittle
shell. Oftener and oftener it broke under the racing Moose; the lighter
dogs ran freely over its treacherous surface.  The Bull looked over his
shoulder at his pursuers; they were gaining--he could see that.  "Six
points more to the Shack," he muttered, as he rounded a low-reaching
headland that turned the river wide in its snake-like course.  Animals
count river distances as do the Indians, so many land points from one
place to another; Mooswa’s six points were a good ten miles.

Each time he floundered in the deep Snow his swift-running enemies
gained at least a dozen yards.

"I wish Blue Wolf were here," thought Mooswa; "I’ll never make the
Shack.  I’ll try a Boundary Call."  He stretched his throat, and called,
"Wha-a-a--i-i-n-g," which is not unlike the cry of a Rook.  The hounds
answered with an ironical yell; but another sound struck the runner’s
ear, very faint, and very far ahead; it was the Help-call of The
Boundaries--Blue Wolf’s voice.

"Good old Rof!" cried the Moose, as he shot forward with revived
strength.

The hounds were now running by sight, head up all the time.  Every few
minutes Mooswa repeated his signal--each time it was answered ahead,
stronger and closer; and behind him the eager yap! of the pursuers was
drawing nearer. "There’ll be more fighting than running presently," he
thought; "it’s just as well--if Rof has the Pack, it won’t take long to
settle these hungry Hunters."

Rounding the next bend a clear stretch of two miles lay straight away,
and at the farther end of it his trained eye discovered three moving
specks. Behind him, not thirty yards back, raced the dogs.

"It will be a battle," he muttered; "four against four--four of the
Boundaries in the Starvation Year, against four Fish-fed Dwellers in
Man’s camp."

Another mile and the foremost dog was snapping at the Bull’s hocks, just
falling short each jump; but Blue Wolf and his comrades were only a
stone’s-throw off.

As Mooswa and his pursuers neared the great, gaunt, blue-coated Wolf,
the latter crouched--chest, and neck, and jaw flat on the snow; behind,
well spread in rigid leverage, were the strong, gnarled legs.  A length
off two younger wolves waited ready for battle, flat-lying as their
leader. Mooswa understood.  As he slashed by Blue Wolf, almost touching
him, the close-following Stag-hound sprang for his quarters, all but
dragging him to earth; but the fangs failed to hold, tearing a gash down
Moose’s thigh, and as the Dog fell sideways a pair of jaws, strong as a
bear-trap, closed on his lean throat.

"Hold fast, Brother!" wheezed Mooswa, swinging around in his own length,
and making a vicious sword-cut at the hound’s back with his iron hoof.
A second dog sprang at the Bull’s throat, only to strike the big antlers
quickly lowered to guard it.

Rof’s two sons had closed with the other hounds, and a battle to the
death raged.  There was not much noise, only a snarling sucking from
where Blue Wolf’s fangs were fastened in the throat of the hound he had
pinned down.

Once Mooswa got a clean slash at his fighting dog with a fore-foot that
laid the brute’s shoulder open; once the dog fastened in Mooswa’s throat
as the treacherous crust gave way and threw him off his guard.  It
seemed anybody’s battle.  Blue Wolf knew better than to let go the first
hold he had taken.  It was said in the Boundaries that long ago, two or
three generations back, a Bull-dog had mated with one of his ancestors,
and the strong strain had more than held its own--the way of the
Bull-dog, which is to catch and hold, against the way of the Wolf, which
is to cut and jump, cut and jump.  Certain it is that Rof fought as no
other Wolf ever did--except his two Sons, holding and sucking, and
working his jaws saw-like, as an Otter-hound does, more and more into
the grip.  But the Stag-hound had a well-fed strength which stood him in
good stead.  Over and over the two rolled; the hound’s jaws fastened on
one of Blue Wolf’s fore-legs, close to the paw.  The bone had been
broken long ago--chewed into splinters, and the pain was terrific; but
if Blue Wolf had the tenacity of the Bull-dog strain, he also had the
wild wisdom of the Wolf brain, and he knew that to let go meant death.

Once something swept the hound sideways with terrific force from over
the top of Rof, almost breaking the dog’s back; that was a little side
help from the shovel-horns of Bull Moose. Up to that time it had been
all hoarse growls from the strong-fighting animals, for the advantage
had lain not much on either side.  Suddenly a "Wh-u-f-f!
ki-yi-yi-yi--wh-e-e-e, yi-i-i," dying into a piercing treble, went up.
Mooswa was grinding his dog into the snow-crust with his hundred-pound
antlers.  A lucky pass with a fore-foot had brought the hound down, and
before he could recover, Mooswa had thrown the weight of his fighting
charge upon him, and was cutting his steel-gray body into fragments.

There was still hot work to be done, for one of the young Wolves had
been overcome, stretched out with a broken neck, and the released dog
was helping his comrade pull down the other. They were both at him when
Mooswa charged. Once, twice, three times, as a trip-hammer hits hot
iron, the heart-shaped hoofs, knife-like on the edges, smote the dogs,
for they were taken unawares; then, as before, his horns made the work
complete.

As Mooswa straightened himself a little staggeringly, for his throat was
badly torn, there were only two left fighting; all the rest were
dead--the two sons of Blue Wolf, and the three Stag-hounds.

"Thanks, Brother," said Blue Wolf, rising on weak legs, as a deft,
dragging blow from Moose’s right arm laid open the hound’s stomach, and
finished the work Rof’s fast-tiring strength was hardly equal to.  "Very
neatly done--I could almost fancy it was a rip from Muskwa’s paw.  My
two Lads are done for," he whined piteously, looking at the gaunt, gray
bodies stretched out on the white snow, all splashed crimson with red
wine from their veins.  "Wolf-blood and Dog-blood--it scents much
alike," he said, turning his head away, as he sat on his haunches
holding up a broken leg.  Drip, drip-drip, drip, little red drops ate
their hot way into the snow from Bull-Moose’s neck.

"That is a nasty slash, Mooswa," sympathized Blue Wolf, looking at his
companion’s wound.

"We twig-feeders have strong gullets," answered the Bull, "else it had
been worse. There’s nothing torn, for I still breathe through my nose;
but for many a day you’ll hunt on three legs because of me, Comrade."

"I suppose so," moaned Blue Wolf, regretfully, licking nervously at his
crushed paw.  "I’ll mate well with Black King.  But it is all in the
life of the Pack, and not your fault; no one takes blame to himself who
calls when his life is at bay.  Where go you, Brother--how far back are
the Hunters?"

Mooswa straightened his head sharp into the wind--it still held steady
from the North. "Their scent comes from the second point, and we must
trail again; the Firestick is not like a Dog--it bites beyond reach.
Get in my horns, Rof, and I’ll carry you."

"No," said Blue Wolf, decidedly; "each takes his own hurt to his
Burrow--that is the way of the Pack; each to himself in the fight--one
down is all on top.  Besides, Comrade, your long legs are knocking
together in weariness; the snow drinks much of your red blood."

"Come," called Mooswa, "the Man-scent turns the first point."

Blue Wolf, whining piteously, was rubbing his red-stained jowl up the
neck of one of his dead Sons.  He turned, balanced himself unsteadily,
and tried to kick snow over their dead bodies. Bull-Moose, seeing this,
lowered his head, gave three or four mighty scrapes with his wide horns,
and piled great white mounds over Blue Wolf’s dead children.

"Come away now," he commanded again; "the Hunt-men sight us--they are
racing."

"They’ll have a fair trail to follow for a little," answered Wolf; "then
it will be dark, and we’ll lose them.  I go to the Pack for safety; had
I known of the Dogs and this other Man I should have brought more than
two Cub-wolves."

"I go to the Shack," said Mooswa, shortening his steps to keep pace with
Wolf.

"To be killed by the Hunt-men?"

"I don’t know; I go to The Boy."

As they climbed the bank, "Bang! pin-g-g-g!" sang a leaden messenger,
fairly whistling through the crotches of Mooswa’s horns.

"The Firestick!" he grunted; "sight of his dead Train-dogs has angered
the Hunt-man. Slip off to your Pack now," he continued, as they trailed
through the little clearing surrounding the Shack.  "Get Umisk to fix up
your foot as he did Black King’s."

"And you?" queried Blue Wolf.

"I stop here!" the other answered, swaying as he stood in his tracks for
a second.

"Come with me," pleaded Rof; "my Pack shall turn back the Hunters."

"Here they come--off to the Woods!" Mooswa answered, going himself to
the Shack door and rattling his horns against the boards. The noise
wakened Whisky-Jack, who had curled up for his night’s sleep under the
eave.

"Thieves!--Hello, Mooswa!" he piped, craning his neck around the corner,
and seeing the big horned head.

Inside a faint querulous voice asked impatiently, "Is that you,
François, or is it the angels with wood?  If it is, throw it down the
chimney, please--I’m too sick to get up."

Mooswa "whuffed," blowing the wind through his blood-coated nostrils
with a sound The Boy knew, and scraped his horn up and down the door
again.  There was a muffled, slipping noise of some one crawling to the
door.  The bar dropped, Mooswa pushed it gently open, staggered in, and
plumped down exhausted on the floor.

Carcajou had heaped the fire-place well with wood for the night--dry
Tamarack to make it blaze, and green Poplar to make it last; the bright
light shone on Mooswa’s blood-matted body and revealed to Roderick his
terrible condition.

"Mooswa, Mooswa!" he cried, dragging himself close and putting his arm
around the big nose, "who has done this?  You are wounded."  Just then
two men, with the blood-thirst of the chase hot in their hearts, glided
to the door on snow-shoes.  One had thrust forward a rifle, but his
companion knocked it up with his arm. "What would you shoot?" he asked.

"I don’t know," answered the other, his Winchester almost falling from
shaking fingers, as he caught sight of a small boy-figure huddled
against the animal’s head.  "Is it a banshee, Donald?" he continued, in
a frightened, husky whisper.

"Is that you, François?" cried Rod, sitting up in his eagerness, as the
voices came to him from the outer dusk.

"Great Powers!" exclaimed the man Donald, stepping through the door,
"that’s Factor McGregor’s kid, Rod.  I heard he was down here somewhere
trapping with that Breed, François. What’s the matter, Laddie?" the
thick Scotch voice burred.

"Well, I’m hanged if I ever outspanned anything like this," said the
other man; "it’s like that thing we used to read, ’Babes in the Woods.’"

"Where’s your mate--François?" asked Donald again.  "And what’s the
matter with you--scurvy?"

"François," answered the Boy hesitatingly, for days of wound-fever had
clouded his young brain,--"François? oh, yes, I remember--he went to The
Landing long ago."

"And left a kid like that here alone!" cried Donald’s companion.

"What’s the matter with your leg--scurvy?" asked the leader again.

"My leg? yes, it’s sore--awfully sore. Sometimes I dream that it’s
another person, and I talk to it."

"What’s the matter with it?" the man reiterated huskily, pulling the
roll of a fur cap down over his eyes to hide something, for the little,
pale, pinched face, backed by a mass of yellow knotted hair, made him
feel queer.

"My leg? oh, yes--yes, there was so much snow, and I slipped, and the
axe cut it."

"Better get in the blankets, Laddie;" and standing his rifle against the
wall Donald reached down with his strong arms to lift up Roderick.

The little fellow shrank away, and clasped the Moose’s head closer.
Mooswa’s big ears were flipping back and forth nervously; he knew that
something was being settled, and lay still, waiting.

"Come, Laddie," said the big man again, coaxingly, "don’t be afraid;
don’t you remember me?--I worked for your daddy, old Factor McGregor, at
Fort Resolution--Donald Bain is my name."

The small pinched face looked up at him. "I’m not afraid, but you’ll
hurt Mooswa; you’ve shot him now--see the blood.  He’s been taking care
of me."

Donald Bain straightened himself up and looked at his comrade.  His
companion understood, and nodded encouragingly.

"No, Laddie, I’ll give you the word of a Scotchman that we’ll not harm
him.  God’s truth! in the old land if one’s enemy came hard pressed to
the house for shelter it would be a blackguard that would injure him, or
give him away.  Get in the blankets, now, Laddie, and we’ll take care of
both you and the Moose."

The presence of friends, and a cup of hot tea which they brewed him,
soothed The Boy, and he became quite rational.

"This is the queerest thing I ever saw in my life," said Donald Bain.
"I’ve heard of a hunted fox, close run, taking refuge in a house, but
this Moose staggering into the Shack is very extraordinary.  Who kept
the fire going and fed you, McGregor?" he asked.

"Oh, I prayed every night, and in the day too, and the Angels came and
dropped wood down the chimney, and fish, and bacon."

Donald’s companion tapped his forehead significantly, and, turning his
face away, stalked over to the fire and poked it vigorously.

"Mooswa came every day," added The Boy. "He’s the Moose Father used to
have at the Fort--I didn’t know him at first, and was afraid."

"Oh, ho-o-o!" exclaimed the big man, ending with a distinct whistle.  "I
remember him. He took to the bush when he was a two-year-old. That
accounts for his coming to the Shack--he couldn’t quite shake off the
civilization he got. Here, Dave," he continued, addressing the other
man, "get a pail of water, and give the wounded beast a drink."

"He’s killed four of the best hounds ever came to the North-west," Dave
remonstrated, looking at Mooswa.

"So would you, man, if you could, when they tried to pull you down.  It
was a fair fight, and not of his seeking either."

The Boy also pleaded for Mooswa.

"Now, we’ve got to get young McGregor to The Landing just as quick as we
can," declared Donald Bain, as he examined The Boy’s limb. "Look at the
size of it--it’ll be a case of blood-poisoning, I’m afeerd."

"How will you manage it?" queried Dave, sullenly.  "This brute has
killed our dogs--will you carry him on your shoulders?"

"That’s so," mused Donald, taking off his cap, and scratching the thick
grizzled hair; "I suppose we’ll have to rig up a carryall, and pull him
ourselves."

"You want to go to The Landing?" asked Roderick.

"We don’t want to--" commenced Donald, but checked himself, and added,
"yes, me and Dave must go up for more dogs, and some baccy," fabricating
with chivalrous ingenuity, to reassure the sick boy.  "We was thinking
you’d better go along too; there’s no dog-train, but me and Dave could
track you up on a small jumper--does there happen to be one about?"

"I think Mooswa would drag the sleigh--he used to at the Fort,"
suggested Rod.

"By the Great Wallace!" exclaimed Bain, slapping his thigh, "that he
will--if he’s not grown too wild.  Hitched to a sled, he could run clean
away from a dog-train, in the old days."

"He’s been harnessed right enough, some time or another," declared Dave.
"Here are two white-haired spots on his back--that means saddle-galls.
Gracious! he’s as quiet as an old horse."

They put in a busy evening, the two men, bathing The Boy’s leg, and with
a sailor’s needle they found in his outfit sealing up the torn wounds in
Mooswa’s neck.  He never moved, just looked on stolidly.  He knew they
meant him no harm.  Any animal can tell from the touch of a man’s
finger, or the look in his eye, whether it’s war or kindness.

Whisky-Jack had been intensely interested in all this--the clatter and
noise kept even his bird eyes open.  "Wonderful doings!" he exclaimed;
"the Boundaries are being turned into a regular Sun-dance--but I’m glad
I saw it all. The Boy will be all right now--_Good old Mooswa!_"  He
flopped about drunkenly outside, for his eyes were not quite like Owl’s,
and the different lights bothered him.

Then he fired a word of encouragement at Mooswa.  "Stick to The Boy, old
Dainty-head-gear; you’re Big Buck of the Boundaries--I’ll tell Black
King and all the fellows so.  Stupid light this--fancy they’ll get on
without me now," and scrambling up to the eave he stuck his head under
wing and went fast asleep.

In the morning a carryall was made, a rude harness constructed from
shaganappi, Trap-chains, and straps, and before noon they were on their
way to The Landing; Mooswa submitting to be hitched up with patient
gentleness.

Whisky-Jack grinned when he saw the Moose decked out in these trappings.
"Now you’re a dandy, my fine fellow," he said, patronizingly. "We’ll
never see you again.  Remember me to François when you see him, and tell
him not to hurry back--Good-bye, good old Mooswa."

"I guess our Shack and things will be all right till we get back," said
Donald.  "At any rate, Factor McGregor’s kid has first call, I reckon.
I’d like to put a bullet through that Breed, though."

"What if the Moose bolts?" asked Dave. "Here’s a tracking-line they used
on their canoe,--suppose we take a hitch on his horns or his nose with
it; we could stop him if he tried to get away."

"Yes," answered Donald, "and if we can’t, if the worst comes to the
worst, we can drop him with a bullet before any harm’s done."

But they need not have bothered their heads about the line, for Mooswa
knew just what was being done; he was taking his Boy to the land of good
care.  Like an old cart-horse, he plodded along.  The snow was
frost-hardened again, and the going was good.

In three days they arrived at The Landing. François was just ready to
start with a new outfit the Factor had given him debt for.  Then for
days he had to hide from Donald Bain, for there was sheer murder in the
big Scotchman’s heart.

[Illustration: IN THREE DAYS THEY ARRIVED AT THE LANDING]

The day after their arrival Mooswa disappeared. When he got back to his
comrades he found that Whisky-Jack had told them everything, and next to
Black King he was the greatest hero in the Boundaries.

The Factor sent Roderick in to Edmonton with his own team, and nursing
soon put him right.

When he told about the angels feeding him, and keeping his fire going,
the people listened a little awe-stricken, for they saw that he believed
it firmly.  Also the two Hunters asserted that the fire was burning
brightly when they came. Perhaps after all it was the angels.



           *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *



                            By John B. Grant


                            OUR COMMON BIRDS
                          AND HOW TO KNOW THEM

BY JOHN B. GRANT.  With 64 full-page plates.  Oblong 12mo, $1.50 net.

PARTIAL LIST OF PLATES: HOOT OWL, BELTED KINGFISHER, WHIP-POOR-WILL,
KINGBIRD, PHOEBE, BLUE JAY, BOBOLINK, MEADOWLARK, ORCHARD ORIOLE, PURPLE
FINCH, RED CROSSBILL, SNOWFLAKE, SNOWBIRD, SONG SPARROW, CARDINAL,
SUMMER REDBIRD, CEDARBIRD, MAGNOLIA WARBLER, BROWN THRUSH, WINTER WREN,
WOOD THRUSH, ROBIN, and 42 Others.

The author of this attractive volume dwells upon some ninety specimens
of our common birds, and between the remarkably lifelike illustrations
and the straightforward, easily intelligible descriptions, no one need
be at a loss for the name or habits of any bird an outdoor ramble
reveals.  A calendar of the times of arrival and departure of the
various species in the latitude of New York enables the student to know
what to look for at any given date, and the fine literary quality of the
book adds a charm to its use quite dispelling any unpleasant "textbook"
associations.

"The book is learned, but not too much so for common use, and, if
carefully studied, it will introduce the student into that interesting
world of bird life where a few favored mortals, such as the author,
Bradford Torrey, Olive Thorne Miller and a small handful more, have won
their way and brought back so much of delight. The book has more than
sixty plates of the commoner American birds, with descriptions, and a
very enjoyable and instructive introductory essay."--_The
Congregationalist_.

"It gives plain, practical illustration regarding birds and how best to
study them in their haunts and homes in the woods and fields.  The
plates adorn the pages and give value to the concise, clearly written
text."--_Chicago Inter-Ocean_.

"With the fine illustrations and the simple and comprehensive text,
there is no excuse for the lover of birds to remain in ignorance of all
the information he needs to enable him to recognize at sight, and to
name unerringly, any bird he is likely to see in his walks in wood and
field,"--_Boston Saturday Gazette_.



                        By Ernest Seton-Thompson

                       WILD ANIMALS I HAVE KNOWN

Being the Personal Histories of Lobo the Wolf, Silverspot the Crow,
Raggylug the Rabbit, Bingo my Dog, The Springfield Fox, The Pacing
Mustang, Wully the Yaller Dog, and Redruff the Partridge.  With 200
illustrations from drawings by the author. Fifty-first Thousand.  Square
12mo, $2.00.


                            CRITICAL NOTICES

"It should be put with Kipling and Hans Christian Andersen as a
classic."--_The Athenaeum_.

"Mr. Thompson is now drawing the best mammals of any American artist.. .
. This is artistic fidelity to nature in high degree.... Nothing of
equal simplicity could be more effective than these little marginal
oddities and whimsies.  The book is thoroughly good, both in purpose and
execution."--_New York Evening Post_.

"This book is unique in conception and illustration.... One of the most
valuable contributions to animal psychology and biography that has yet
appeared.  Mr. Seton-Thompson is not only a naturalist and an animal
artist of very high attainments, but is master of a literary style that
is at once graphic and fascinating.... The author of ’Wild Animals I
Have Known’ is a keen woodsman, as well as an accomplished artist and
writer, and has given us a book that opens a new field to our
vision."--_J. A. Allen in The American Naturalist_.

"In its mechanical make-up the book is a great success. The
illustrations by the author are among the best of modern
book-making."--_Boston Universalist Leader_.

"Nothing apart from ’The Jungle Book’ has ever approached these tales in
interest, and the 200 illustrations add greatly to their charm."--_New
York World_.

"The originality and freshness of these stories is irresistible....  In
everything he does, Mr. Thompson has a way peculiarly his own.... Even
if naked and unadorned, the facts he tells us would be very interesting;
but when we have the facts and the factors fairly dancing before us,
clothed in all the quaint quips and droll persiflage of an accomplished
humorist and born story-teller, they are--as I have
said--irresistible."--_Mr. William T. Hornaday, Director N. Y.
Zoölogical Park, in Recreation_.



                        By Ernest Seton-Thompson

                            THE TRAIL OF THE
                             SANDHILL STAG

Written and illustrated with 60 drawings, by ERNEST SETON-THOMPSON.
Square 12mo, $1.50.

                            CRITICAL NOTICES

"One of the most thoroughly attractive of the autumn books....  The
story is almost too perfect a whole to lend itself readily to
quotation.... A story to be read and re-read, finding fresh beauty at
each reading, and a book well worth the owning.... It is impossible to
write too highly of the illustrations.  Pictures which really illustrate
are all too rare, and the combination of author-artist is usually a
fascinating one."--_New York Times_.

"It is difficult to determine which gives one the most pleasure in a
book by Mr. Ernest Seton-Thompson--the author-artist’s narrative or the
artist-author’s pictures.  The two together certainly, as in the case of
’The Trail of the Sandhill Stag,’ unite to produce a singularly
harmonious result. Mr. Seton-Thompson can read the heart of the hunted
animal as well as count the pulse-beats of the huntsman himself, and in
this tale is condensed the whole tragic story of the chase. This double
point of view is unique with this writer."--"Droch" in _Life_.

"Bliss Carman, speaking of ’The Trail of the Sandhill Stag,’ says: ’I
had fancied that no one could touch ’The Jungle Book’ for a generation
at least, but Mr. Thompson has done it. We must give him place among the
young masters at once.’  And we agree with Mr. Carman."--_The Bookman_.

"Nothing more beautiful in a dainty way has been brought out in
Canada."--_Toronto World_.

"It gives us again glimpses of the life of animals that are astonishing
for their delicacy of perception, and charming by the deftness of their
literary form."--_New York Mail and Express_.

"A breezy little narrative of outdoor life.... The author has celebrated
the steadfast hunt and its interesting end with art and emotion"--_New
York Tribune_.

"Is a truly poetic bit of impressionistic prose."--_Chicago Tribune_.



                By Frances Theodora Parsons (Mrs. Dana)

                         HOW TO KNOW THE FERNS

A Guide to the Names, Haunts, and Habits of our Native Ferns.  By
FRANCES THEODORA PARSONS (Mrs. Dana). With 144 full-page illustrations,
and 6 full-page illustrations from photographs.  Crown 8vo, $1.50 net.

"Since the publication, six years ago, of ’How to Know the Wild
Flowers,’ I have received such convincing testimony of the eagerness of
nature-lovers of all ages and conditions to familiarize themselves with
the inhabitants of our woods and fields, and so many assurances of the
joy which such a familiarity affords, that I have prepared this
companion volume on ’How to Know the Ferns.’  It has been my experience
that the world of delight which opens before us when we are admitted
into some sort of intimacy with our companions other than human, is
enlarged with each new society into which we win our way."--_From the
Author’s Preface_.

"Of the ferns, as the flowers, she writes as one who not only knows but
loves them.  The charm of her fern-book is as irresistible and pervading
as is the charm of nature itself. This gifted and enthusiastic
naturalist knows the ferns literally ’like a book,’ and her book makes
the first lesson of the novice in the lore of fern-life an easy and a
delightful task."--_New York Mail and Express_.

"This is a notably thorough little volume. The text is not voluminous,
and even with its many full-page illustrations the book is small; but
brevity, as we are glad to see so many writers on nature learning, is
the first of virtues in this field....  The author of ’How to Know the
Ferns’ has mastered her subject, and she treats of it with
authority."--_New York Tribune_.

"The inspiration that entered into and made ’How to Know the Wild
Flowers’ so deservedly popular has not been lost in ’How to Know the
Ferns.’"--_New York Times_.


                          ACCORDING TO SEASON

Talks about the Flowers in the Order of their Appearance in the Woods
and Fields.  16mo, 75 cents.

"Whoever shall start out for a country walk with this little book will
add greatly to present enjoyments, and will be continually acquiring a
fund of useful and agreeable knowledge."--_Public Opinion_.


                      A SELECTION OF FIFTY PLATES

From "How to Know the Wild Flowers."  Printed on Special Paper suitable
for Coloring by Hand, The set, in a portfolio, $1.00 net.



                       Books for Lovers of Nature

                     On Flowers, Animals and Birds

                  CHARLES SCRIBNER’S SONS, Publishers

                      HOW TO KNOW THE WILD FLOWERS

                       By MRS. WILLIAM STARR DANA

With 48 Colored Plates and New Black and White Drawings, Enlarged,
Rewritten and Entirely Reset

A Guide to the Names, Haunts, and Habits of our Native Wild Flowers.
With 48 full-page colored plates by ELSIE LOUISE SHAW, and no full-page
illustrations by MARION SATTERLEE.  60th Thousand.  Crown 8vo, $2.00
net.

This new edition has been enlarged, revised, and entirely reset, the
illustrations have been remade, and it has in addition 48 full-page
colored plates from drawings by Miss ELSIE LOUISE SHAW, made especially
for this edition. _The Nation_ says: "Every flower-lover who has spent
weary hours puzzling over a botanical key in the efforts to name unknown
plants, will welcome this satisfactory book, which stands ready to lead
him to the desired knowledge by a royal road.  The book is well fitted
to the need of many who have no botanical knowledge and yet are
interested in wild flowers."

"I am delighted with it.... It is so exactly the kind of work needed for
outdoor folks who live in the country but know little of systematic
botany, that it is a wonder no one has written it before."--_Hon.
Theodore Roosevelt_.

"It is not often that a book so suggestive of pleasure, pure and simple,
comes our way.  So far as we recall books on flowers, it is the first
that makes country walks an intelligent joy for those who know nothing
of botany but who have eyes to see and minds to question."--_The New
York Times_.



                           By H. E. Parkhurst

                         HOW TO NAME THE BIRDS

                Illustrated.  16mo, leather, $1.00 net.

"Mr. Parkhurst has compiled a convenient pocket guide to the birds of
the New England States, New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.  He has
greatly simplified the common system of bird classification for the
beginner by omitting such details as are invisible at field-range, and
by emphasizing such characteristics as color, size, and time of
appearance."--_Review of Reviews_.

"He has given to his book every advantage essential to a plain,
straight-forward account of honest observation."--_N. Y. Tribune_.

"The advantage of H. E. Parkhurst’s ’How to Name the Birds’ is not
merely in its concise and careful descriptive matter, but in its form.
It is the only book of the sort that one can put into the pocket of an
ordinary coat and carry into the woods and fields when he is away on his
country rambles."--_Brooklyn Eagle_.


                       SONG BIRDS AND WATER FOWL

                     Illustrated.  12mo, $1.50 net.

"This most entertainingly as well as carefully written volume has for
one of its best values the attention it gives to that most untrampled,
and yet peculiarly alluring domain of bird lore--the stream and the
lake, the sea-beach and the wave.  With this book Mr. Parkhurst must
receive full confirmation as one of the most companionable and beguiling
writers on birds."--_G. W. Cable_.

"It will be welcome to the many friends his former book made.  The
illustrations are the finest that have ever been printed in this country
in black and white, with exception of another series by the same
artist."--_The Nation_.


                          THE BIRDS’ CALENDAR

                     Illustrated.  12mo, $1.50 net.

"A charming book.  It contains a year’s individual experience of study
and observation, the birds for each month being enumerated and
described, with comments on their characteristics and habits, and with
very useful and beautifully printed illustrations."--_The Outlook_.


                  CHARLES SCRIBNER’S SONS, Publishers
                     153-157 Fifth Avenue, New York



                          By Harriet L. Keeler

                            OUR NATIVE TREES

                        AND HOW TO IDENTIFY THEM

With 178 full-page plates from photographs, and 162 text-drawings.
Crown 8vo, $2.00 net.

CONTENTS: GENERA AND SPECIES; ILLUSTRATIONS; GUIDE TO THE TREES;
DESCRIPTIONS OF THE TREES; FORM AND STRUCTURE OF ROOTS, STEMS, LEAVES,
FLOWERS AND FRUITS; THE TREE-STEM OR TRUNK; SPECIES AND GENUS; GLOSSARY
OF BOTANICAL TERMS; INDEX OF LATIN NAMES; INDEX OF COMMON NAMES.


                           CRITICAL OPINIONS

C. S. SARGENT, _Professor of Arboriculture in Harvard University_: "Of
such popular books the latest and by far the most interesting is by Miss
Harriet L. Keeler....  Miss Keeler’s descriptions are clear, compact,
and well arranged, and the technical matter is supplemented by much
interesting and reliable information concerning the economical uses, the
history and the origin of the trees which she describes. Outline
drawings of the flowers and of the fruits of many of the species, and
beautifully reproduced full-page photographic plates of the leaves or of
branches of the principal trees, facilitate their determination."

"The value of a book of this character is not only enhanced by its
numerous illustrations, but positively dependent upon them; those in the
present volume being of unusual interest; and the book ... is one which
should add new interest to the coming Summer for many to whom nature is
practically a sealed book, as well as heighten the pleasure of others to
whom she has long been dear."--_N. Y. Times Saturday Review_.

"The plan of the book must be heartily commended. No admirer of trees
should be without it, and if you go away into the country for even a
short stay, and care to know--as you should care--anything about our
native trees you will find this volume an invaluable guide. One could
bring home from a walk a collection of leaves and then, with the aid of
the illustrations in this book, identify them all. Then you will know
those trees the next time you encounter them, and they will take on a
new interest and meaning to your eyes."--_Brooklyn Eagle_.

"The book is altogether an admirable specimen of book-making, alike to
eye and touch.  The illustrations, over 300 in number, include almost
every tree mentioned, and are rarely beautiful. Especially satisfactory
are the plates of the varying foliage and cones of the conifers."--_N.
Y. Commercial Advertiser_.





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