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´╗┐Title: Baree, Son of Kazan
Author: Curwood, James Oliver, 1878-1927
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Baree, Son of Kazan" ***

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Baree, Son of Kazan.

James Oliver Curwood.

JTABLE 10 31 1


Preface

Since the publication of my two animal books, "Kazan, the Wolf Dog" and
"The Grizzly King," I have received so many hundreds of letters from
friends of wild animal life, all of which were more or less of an
inquiring nature, that I have been encouraged to incorporate in this
preface of the third of my series--"Baree, Son of Kazan"--something
more of my desire and hope in writing of wild life, and something of
the foundation of fact whereupon this and its companion books have been
written.

I have always disliked the preaching of sermons in the pages of
romance. It is like placing a halter about an unsuspecting reader's
neck and dragging him into paths for which he may have no liking. But
if fact and truth produce in the reader's mind a message for himself,
then a work has been done. That is what I hope for in my nature books.
The American people are not and never have been lovers of wild life. As
a nation we have gone after Nature with a gun.

And what right, you may ask, has a confessed slaughterer of wild life
such as I have been to complain? None at all, I assure you. I have
twenty-seven guns--and I have used them all. I stand condemned as
having done more than my share toward extermination. But that does not
lessen the fact that I have learned; and in learning I have come to
believe that if boys and girls and men and women could be brought into
the homes and lives of wild birds and animals as their homes are made
and their lives are lived we would all understand at last that wherever
a heart beats it is very much like our own in the final analysis of
things. To see a bird singing on a twig means but little; but to live a
season with that bird, to be with it in courting days, in matehood and
motherhood, to understand its griefs as well as its gladness means a
great deal. And in my books it is my desire to tell of the lives of the
wild things which I know as they are actually lived. It is not my
desire to humanize them. If we are to love wild animals so much that we
do not want to kill them we MUST KNOW THEM AS THEY ACTUALLY LIVE. And
in their lives, in the facts of their lives, there is so much of real
and honest romance and tragedy, so much that makes them akin to
ourselves that the animal biographer need not step aside from the paths
of actuality to hold one's interest.

Perhaps rather tediously I have come to the few words I want to say
about Baree, the hero of this book. Baree, after all, is only another
Kazan. For it was Kazan I found in the way I have described--a bad dog,
a killer about to be shot to death by his master when chance, and my
own faith in him, gave him to me.

We traveled together for many thousands of miles through the
northland--on trails to the Barren Lands, to Hudson's Bay and to the
Arctic. Kazan--the bad dog, the half-wolf, the killer--was the best
four-legged friend I ever had. He died near Fort MacPherson, on the
Peel River, and is buried there. And Kazan was the father of Baree;
Gray Wolf, the full-blooded wolf, was his mother. Nepeese, the Willow,
still lives near God's Lake; and it was in the country of Nepeese and
her father that for three lazy months I watched the doings at Beaver
Town, and went on fishing trips with Wakayoo, the bear. Sometimes I
have wondered if old Beaver Tooth himself did not in some way
understand that I had made his colony safe for his people. It was
Pierrot's trapping ground; and to Pierrot--father of Nepeese--I gave my
best rifle on his word that he would not harm my beaver friends for two
years. And the people of Pierrot's breed keep their word. Wakayoo,
Baree's big bear friend, is dead. He was killed as I have described, in
that "pocket" among the ridges, while I was on a jaunt to Beaver Town.
We were becoming good friends and I missed him a great deal. The story
of Pierrot and of his princess wife, Wyola, is true; they are buried
side by side under the tall spruce that stood near their cabin.
Pierrot's murderer, instead of dying as I have told it, was killed in
his attempt to escape the Royal Mounted farther west. When I last saw
Baree he was at Lac Seul House, where I was the guest of Mr. William
Patterson, the factor; and the last word I heard from him was through
my good friend Frank Aldous, factor at White Dog Post, who wrote me
only a few weeks ago that he had recently seen Nepeese and Baree and
the husband of Nepeese, and that the happiness he found in their far
wilderness home made him regret that he was a bachelor. I feel sorry
for Aldous. He is a splendid young Englishman, unattached, and some day
I am going to try and marry him off. I have in mind someone at the
present moment--a fox-trapper's daughter up near the Barren, very
pretty, and educated at a missioner's school; and as Aldous is going
with me on my next trip I may have something to say about them in the
book that is to follow "Baree, Son of Kazan."

James Oliver Curwood

Owosso, Michigan



CHAPTER 1

To Baree, for many days after he was born, the world was a vast gloomy
cavern.

During these first days of his life his home was in the heart of a
great windfall where Gray Wolf, his blind mother, had found a safe nest
for his babyhood, and to which Kazan, her mate, came only now and then,
his eyes gleaming like strange balls of greenish fire in the darkness.
It was Kazan's eyes that gave to Baree his first impression of
something existing away from his mother's side, and they brought to him
also his discovery of vision. He could feel, he could smell, he could
hear--but in that black pit under the fallen timber he had never seen
until the eyes came. At first they frightened him; then they puzzled
him, and his fear changed to an immense curiosity. He would be looking
straight at them, when all at once they would disappear. This was when
Kazan turned his head. And then they would flash back at him again out
of the darkness with such startling suddenness that Baree would
involuntarily shrink closer to his mother, who always trembled and
shivered in a strange sort of way when Kazan came in.

Baree, of course, would never know their story. He would never know
that Gray Wolf, his mother, was a full-blooded wolf, and that Kazan,
his father, was a dog. In him nature was already beginning its
wonderful work, but it would never go beyond certain limitations. It
would tell him, in time, that his beautiful wolf mother was blind, but
he would never know of that terrible battle between Gray Wolf and the
lynx in which his mother's sight had been destroyed. Nature could tell
him nothing of Kazan's merciless vengeance, of the wonderful years of
their matehood, of their loyalty, their strange adventures in the great
Canadian wilderness--it could make him only a son of Kazan.

But at first, and for many days, it was all mother. Even after his eyes
had opened wide and he had found his legs so that he could stumble
about a little in the darkness, nothing existed for Baree but his
mother. When he was old enough to be playing with sticks and moss out
in the sunlight, he still did not know what she looked like. But to him
she was big and soft and warm, and she licked his face with her tongue,
and talked to him in a gentle, whimpering way that at last made him
find his own voice in a faint, squeaky yap.

And then came that wonderful day when the greenish balls of fire that
were Kazan's eyes came nearer and nearer, a little at a time, and very
cautiously. Heretofore Gray Wolf had warned him back. To be alone was
the first law of her wild breed during mothering time. A low snarl from
her throat, and Kazan had always stopped. But on this day the snarl did
not come. In Gray Wolf's throat it died away in a low, whimpering
sound. A note of loneliness, of gladness, of a great yearning. "It is
all right now," she was saying to Kazan; and Kazan--pausing for a
moment to make sure--replied with an answering note deep in his throat.

Still slowly, as if not quite sure of what he would find, Kazan came to
them, and Baree snuggled closer to his mother. He heard Kazan as he
dropped down heavily on his belly close to Gray Wolf. He was
unafraid--and mightily curious. And Kazan, too, was curious. He
sniffed. In the gloom his ears were alert. After a little Baree began
to move. An inch at a time he dragged himself away from Gray Wolf's
side. Every muscle in her lithe body tensed. Again her wolf blood was
warning her. There was danger for Baree. Her lips drew back, baring her
fangs. Her throat trembled, but the note in it never came. Out of the
darkness two yards away came a soft, puppyish whine, and the caressing
sound of Kazan's tongue.

Baree had felt the thrill of his first great adventure. He had
discovered his father.

This all happened in the third week of Baree's life. He was just
eighteen days old when Gray Wolf allowed Kazan to make the acquaintance
of his son. If it had not been for Gray Wolf's blindness and the memory
of that day on the Sun Rock when the lynx had destroyed her eyes, she
would have given birth to Baree in the open, and his legs would have
been quite strong. He would have known the sun and the moon and the
stars; he would have realized what the thunder meant, and would have
seen the lightning flashing in the sky. But as it was, there had been
nothing for him to do in that black cavern under the windfall but
stumble about a little in the darkness, and lick with his tiny red
tongue the raw bones that were strewn about them. Many times he had
been left alone. He had heard his mother come and go, and nearly always
it had been in response to a yelp from Kazan that came to them like a
distant echo. He had never felt a very strong desire to follow until
this day when Kazan's big, cool tongue caressed his face. In those
wonderful seconds nature was at work. His instinct was not quite born
until then. And when Kazan went away, leaving them alone in darkness,
Baree whimpered for him to come back, just as he had cried for his
mother when now and then she had left him in response to her mate's
call.

The sun was straight above the forest when, an hour or two after
Kazan's visit, Gray Wolf slipped away. Between Baree's nest and the top
of the windfall were forty feet of jammed and broken timber through
which not a ray of light could break. This blackness did not frighten
him, for he had yet to learn the meaning of light. Day, and not night,
was to fill him with his first great terror. So quite fearlessly, with
a yelp for his mother to wait for him, he began to follow. If Gray Wolf
heard him, she paid no attention to his call, and the sound of the
scraping of her claws on the dead timber died swiftly away.

This time Baree did not stop at the eight-inch log which had always
shut in his world in that particular direction. He clambered to the top
of it and rolled over on the other side. Beyond this was vast
adventure, and he plunged into it courageously.

It took him a long time to make the first twenty yards. Then he came to
a log worn smooth by the feet of Gray Wolf and Kazan, and stopping
every few feet to send out a whimpering call for his mother, he made
his way farther and farther along it. As he went, there grew slowly a
curious change in this world of his. He had known nothing but
blackness. And now this blackness seemed breaking itself up into
strange shapes and shadows. Once he caught the flash of a fiery streak
above him--a gleam of sunshine--and it startled him so that he
flattened himself down upon the log and did not move for half a minute.
Then he went on. An ermine squeaked under him. He heard the swift
rustling of a squirrel's feet, and a curious whut-whut-whut that was
not at all like any sound his mother had ever made. He was off the
trail.

The log was no longer smooth, and it was leading him upward higher and
higher into the tangle of the windfall, and was growing narrower every
foot he progressed. He whined. His soft little nose sought vainly for
the warm scent of his mother. The end came suddenly when he lost his
balance and fell. He let out a piercing cry of terror as he felt
himself slipping, and then plunged downward. He must have been high up
in the windfall, for to Baree it seemed a tremendous fall. His soft
little body thumped from log to log as he shot this way and that, and
when at last he stopped, there was scarcely a breath left in him. But
he stood up quickly on his four trembling legs--and blinked.

A new terror held Baree rooted there. In an instant the whole world had
changed. It was a flood of sunlight. Everywhere he looked he could see
strange things. But it was the sun that frightened him most. It was his
first impression of fire, and it made his eyes smart. He would have
slunk back into the friendly gloom of the windfall, but at this moment
Gray Wolf came around the end of a great log, followed by Kazan. She
muzzled Baree joyously, and Kazan in a most doglike fashion wagged his
tail. This mark of the dog was to be a part of Baree. Half wolf, he
would always wag his tail. He tried to wag it now. Perhaps Kazan saw
the effort, for he emitted a muffled yelp of approbation as he sat back
on his haunches.

Or he might have been saying to Gray Wolf:

"Well, we've got the little rascal out of that windfall at last,
haven't we?"

For Baree it had been a great day. He had discovered his father--and
the world.



CHAPTER 2

And it was a wonderful world--a world of vast silence, empty of
everything but the creatures of the wild. The nearest Hudson's Bay post
was a hundred miles away, and the first town of civilization was a
straight three hundred to the south. Two years before, Tusoo, the Cree
trapper, had called this his domain. It had come down to him, as was
the law of the forests, through generations of forefathers. But Tusoo
had been the last of his worn-out family; he had died of smallpox, and
his wife and his children had died with him. Since then no human foot
had taken up his trails. The lynx had multiplied. The moose and caribou
had gone unhunted by man. The beaver had built their
homes--undisturbed. The tracks of the black bear were as thick as the
tracks of the deer farther south. And where once the deadfalls and
poison baits of Tusoo had kept the wolves thinned down, there was no
longer a menace for these mohekuns of the wilderness.

Following the sun of this first wonderful day came the moon and the
stars of Baree's first real night. It was a splendid night, and with it
a full red moon sailed up over the forests, flooding the earth with a
new kind of light, softer and more beautiful to Baree. The wolf was
strong in him, and he was restless. He had slept that day in the warmth
of the sun, but he could not sleep in this glow of the moon. He nosed
uneasily about Gray Wolf, who lay flat on her belly, her beautiful head
alert, listening yearningly to the night sounds, and for the tonguing
of Kazan, who had slunk away like a shadow to hunt.

Half a dozen times, as Baree wandered about near the windfall, he heard
a soft whir over his head, and once or twice he saw gray shadows
floating swiftly through the air. They were the big northern owls
swooping down to investigate him, and if he had been a rabbit instead
of a wolf dog whelp, his first night under the moon and stars would
have been his last; for unlike Wapoos, the rabbit, he was not cautious.
Gray Wolf did not watch him closely. Instinct told her that in these
forests there was no great danger for Baree except at the hands of man.
In his veins ran the blood of the wolf. He was a hunter of all other
wild creatures, but no other creature, either winged or fanged, hunted
him.

In a way Baree sensed this. He was not afraid of the owls. He was not
afraid of the strange bloodcurdling cries they made in the black spruce
tops. But once fear entered into him, and he scurried back to his
mother. It was when one of the winged hunters of the air swooped down
on a snowshoe rabbit, and the squealing agony of the doomed creature
set his heart thumping like a little hammer. He felt in those cries the
nearness of that one ever-present tragedy of the wild--death. He felt
it again that night when, snuggled close to Gray Wolf, he listened to
the fierce outcry of a wolf pack that was close on the heels of a young
caribou bull. And the meaning of it all, and the wild thrill of it all,
came home to him early in the gray dawn when Kazan returned, holding
between his jaws a huge rabbit that was still kicking and squirming
with life.

This rabbit was the climax in the first chapter of Baree's education.
It was as if Gray Wolf and Kazan had planned it all out, so that he
might receive his first instruction in the art of killing. When Kazan
had dropped it, Baree approached the big hare cautiously. The back of
Wapoos, the rabbit, was broken. His round eyes were glazed, and he had
ceased to feel pain. But to Baree, as he dug his tiny teeth into the
heavy fur under Wapoos's throat, the hare was very much alive. The
teeth did not go through into the flesh. With puppyish fierceness Baree
hung on. He thought that he was killing. He could feel the dying
convulsions of Wapoos. He could hear the last gasping breaths leaving
the warm body, and he snarled and tugged until finally he fell back
with a mouthful of fur. When he returned to the attack, Wapoos was
quite dead, and Baree continued to bite and snarl until Gray Wolf came
with her sharp fangs and tore the rabbit to pieces. After that followed
the feast.

So Baree came to understand that to eat meant to kill, and as other
days and nights passed, there grew in him swiftly the hunger for flesh.
In this he was the true wolf. From Kazan he had taken other and
stronger inheritances of the dog. He was magnificently black, which in
later days gave him the name of Kusketa Mohekun--the black wolf. On his
breast was a white star. His right ear was tipped with white. His tail,
at six weeks, was bushy and hung low. It was a wolf's tail. His ears
were Gray Wolf's ears--sharp, short, pointed, always alert. His
foreshoulders gave promise of being splendidly like Kazan's, and when
he stood up he was like the trace dog, except that he always stood
sidewise to the point or object he was watching. This, again, was the
wolf, for a dog faces the direction in which he is looking intently.

One brilliant night, when Baree was two months old, and when the sky
was filled with stars and a June moon so bright that it seemed scarcely
higher than the tall spruce tops, Baree settled back on his haunches
and howled. It was a first effort. But there was no mistake in the note
of it. It was the wolf howl. But a moment later when Baree slunk up to
Kazan, as if deeply ashamed of his effort, he was wagging his tail in
an unmistakably apologetic manner. And this again was the dog. If
Tusoo, the dead Indian trapper, could have seen him then, he would have
judged him by that wagging of his tail. It revealed the fact that deep
in his heart--and in his soul, if we can concede that he had one--Baree
was a dog.

In another way Tusoo would have found judgment of him. At two months
the wolf whelp has forgotten how to play. He is a slinking part of the
wilderness, already at work preying on creatures smaller and more
helpless than himself. Baree still played. In his excursions away from
the windfall he had never gone farther than the creek, a hundred yards
from where his mother lay. He had helped to tear many dead and dying
rabbits into pieces. He believed, if he thought upon the matter at all,
that he was exceedingly fierce and courageous. But it was his ninth
week before he felt his spurs and fought his terrible battle with the
young owl in the edge of the thick forest.

The fact that Oohoomisew, the big snow owl, had made her nest in a
broken stub not far from the windfall was destined to change the whole
course of Baree's life, just as the blinding of Gray Wolf had changed
hers, and a man's club had changed Kazan's. The creek ran close past
the stub, which had been shriven by lightning; and this stub stood in a
still, dark place in the forest, surrounded by tall, black spruce and
enveloped in gloom even in broad day. Many times Baree had gone to the
edge of this mysterious part of the forest and had peered in curiously,
and with a growing desire.

On this day of his great battle its lure was overpowering. Little by
little he entered into it, his eyes shining brightly and his ears alert
for the slightest sounds that might come out of it. His heart beat
faster. The gloom enveloped him more. He forgot the windfall and Kazan
and Gray Wolf. Here before him lay the thrill of adventure. He heard
strange sounds, but very soft sounds, as if made by padded feet and
downy wings, and they filled him with a thrilling expectancy. Under his
feet there were no grass or weeds or flowers, but a wonderful brown
carpet of soft evergreen needles. They felt good to his feet, and were
so velvety that he could not hear his own movement.

He was fully three hundred yards from the windfall when he passed
Oohoomisew's stub and into a thick growth of young balsams. And
there--directly in his path--crouched the monster!

Papayuchisew [Young Owl] was not more than a third as large as Baree.
But he was a terrifying-looking object. To Baree he seemed all head and
eyes. He could see no body at all. Kazan had never brought in anything
like this, and for a full half-minute he remained very quiet, eying it
speculatively. Papayuchisew did not move a feather. But as Baree
advanced, a cautious step at a time, the bird's eyes grew bigger and
the feathers about his head ruffled up as if stirred by a puff of wind.
He came of a fighting family, this little Papayuchisew--a savage,
fearless, and killing family--and even Kazan would have taken note of
those ruffling feathers.

With a space of two feet between them, the pup and the owlet eyed each
other. In that moment, if Gray Wolf could have been there, she might
have said to Baree: "Use your legs--and run!" And Oohoomisew, the old
owl, might have said to Papayuchisew: "You little fool--use your wings
and fly!"

They did neither--and the fight began.

Papayuchisew started it, and with a single wild yelp Baree went back in
a heap, the owlet's beak fastened like a red-hot vise in the soft flesh
at the end of his nose. That one yelp of surprise and pain was Baree's
first and last cry in the fight. The wolf surged in him; rage and the
desire to kill possessed him. As Papayuchisew hung on, he made a
curious hissing sound; and as Baree rolled and gnashed his teeth and
fought to free himself from that amazing grip on his nose, fierce
little snarls rose out of his throat.

For fully a minute Baree had no use of his jaws. Then, by accident, he
wedged Papayuchisew in a crotch of a low ground shrub, and a bit of his
nose gave way. He might have run then, but instead of that he was back
at the owlet like a flash. Flop went Papayuchisew on his back, and
Baree buried his needlelike teeth in the bird's breast. It was like
trying to bite through a pillow, the feathers fangs, and just as they
were beginning to prick the owlet's skin, Papayuchisew--jabbing a
little blindly with a beak that snapped sharply every time it
closed--got him by the ear.

The pain of that hold was excruciating to Baree, and he made a more
desperate effort to get his teeth through his enemy's thick armor of
feathers. In the struggle they rolled under the low balsams to the edge
of the ravine through which ran the creek. Over the steep edge they
plunged, and as they rolled and bumped to the bottom, Baree loosed his
hold. Papayuchisew hung valiantly on, and when they reached the bottom
he still had his grip on Baree's ear.

Baree's nose was bleeding. His ear felt as if it were being pulled from
his head; and in this uncomfortable moment a newly awakened instinct
made Baby Papayuchisew discover his wings as a fighting asset. An owl
has never really begun to fight until he uses his wings, and with a
joyous hissing, Papayuchisew began beating his antagonist so fast and
so viciously that Baree was dazed. He was compelled to close his eyes,
and he snapped blindly. For the first time since the battle began he
felt a strong inclination to get away. He tried to tear himself free
with his forepaws, but Papayuchisew--slow to reason but of firm
conviction--hung to Baree's ear like grim fate.

At this critical point, when the understanding of defeat was forming
itself swiftly in Baree's mind, chance saved him. His fangs closed on
one of the owlet's tender feet. Papayuchisew gave a sudden squeak. The
ear was free at last--and with a snarl of triumph Baree gave a vicious
tug at Papayuchisew's leg.

In the excitement of battle he had not heard the rushing tumult of the
creek close under them, and over the edge of a rock Papayuchisew and he
went together, the chill water of the rain-swollen stream muffling a
final snarl and a final hiss of the two little fighters.



CHAPTER 3

To Papayuchisew, after his first mouthful of water, the stream was
almost as safe as the air, for he went sailing down it with the
lightness of a gull, wondering in his slow-thinking big head why he was
moving so swiftly and so pleasantly without any effort of his own.

To Baree it was a different matter. He went down almost like a stone. A
mighty roaring filled his ears; it was dark, suffocating, terrible. In
the swift current he was twisted over and over. For a distance of
twenty feet he was under water. Then he rose to the surface and
desperately began using his legs. It was of little use. He had only
time to blink once or twice and catch a lungful of air when he shot
into a current that was running like a millrace between the butts of
two fallen trees, and for another twenty feet the sharpest eyes could
not have seen hair or hide of him. He came up again at the edge of a
shallow riffle over which the water ran like the rapids at Niagara in
miniature, and for fifty or sixty yards he was flung along like a hairy
ball. From this he was hurled into a deep, cold pool. And then--half
dead--he found himself crawling out on a gravelly bar.

For a long time Baree lay there in a pool of sunlight without moving.
His ear hurt him; his nose was raw, and burned as if he had thrust it
into fire. His legs and body were sore, and as he began to wander along
the gravel bar, he was quite probably the most wretched pup in the
world. He was also completely turned around. In vain he looked about
him for some familiar mark--something that might guide him back to his
windfall home. Everything was strange. He did not know that the water
had flung him out on the wrong side of the stream, and that to reach
the windfall he would have to cross it again. He whined, but that was
as loud as his voice rose. Gray Wolf could have heard his barking, for
the windfall was not more than two hundred and fifty yards up the
stream. But the wolf in Baree held him silent, except for his low
whining.

Striking the main shore, Baree began going downstream. This was away
from the windfall, and each step that he took carried him farther and
farther from home. Every little while he stopped and listened. The
forest was deeper. It was growing blacker and more mysterious. Its
silence was frightening. At the end of half an hour Baree would even
have welcomed Papayuchisew. And he would not have fought him--he would
have inquired, if possible, the way back home.

Baree was fully three-quarters of a mile from the windfall when he came
to a point where the creek split itself into two channels. He had but
one choice to follow--the stream that flowed a little south and east.
This stream did not run swiftly. It was not filled with shimmering
riffles, and rocks about which the water sang and foamed. It grew
black, like the forest. It was still and deep. Without knowing it,
Baree was burying himself deeper and deeper into Tusoo's old trapping
grounds. Since Tusoo had died, they had lain undisturbed except for the
wolves, for Gray Wolf and Kazan had not hunted on this side of the
waterway--and the wolves themselves preferred the more open country for
the chase.

Suddenly Baree found himself at the edge of a deep, dark pool in which
the water lay still as oil, and his heart nearly jumped out of his body
when a great, sleek, shining creature sprang out from almost under his
nose and landed with a tremendous splash in the center of it. It was
Nekik, the otter.

The otter had not heard Baree, and in another moment Napanekik, his
wife, came sailing out of a patch of gloom, and behind her came three
little otters, leaving behind them four shimmering wakes in the
oily-looking water. What happened after that made Baree forget for a
few minutes that he was lost. Nekik had disappeared under the surface,
and now he came up directly under his unsuspecting mate with a force
that lifted her half out of the water. Instantly he was gone again, and
Napanekik took after him fiercely. To Baree it did not look like play.
Two of the baby otters had pitched on the third, which seemed to be
fighting desperately. The chill and ache went out of Baree's body. His
blood ran excitedly. He forgot himself, and let out a bark. In a flash
the otters disappeared. For several minutes the water in the pool
continued to rock and heave--and that was all. After a little, Baree
drew himself back into the bushes and went on.

It was about three o'clock in the afternoon, and the sun should still
have been well up in the sky. But it was growing darker steadily, and
the strangeness and fear of it all lent greater speed to Baree's legs.
He stopped every little while to listen, and at one of these intervals
he heard a sound that drew from him a responsive and joyous whine. It
was a distant howl--a wolf's howl--straight ahead of him. Baree was not
thinking of wolves but of Kazan, and he ran through the gloom of the
forest until he was winded. Then he stopped and listened a long time.
The wolf howl did not come again. Instead of it there rolled up from
the west a deep and thunderous rumble. Through the tree-tops there
flashed a vivid streak of lightning. A moaning whisper of wind rode in
advance of the storm. The thunder sounded nearer; and a second flash of
lightning seemed searching Baree out where he stood shivering under a
canopy of great spruce.

This was his second storm. The first had frightened him terribly, and
he had crawled far back into the shelter of the windfall. The best he
could find now was a hollow under a big root, and into this he slunk,
crying softly. It was a babyish cry, a cry for his mother, for home,
for warmth, for something soft and protecting to nestle up to. And as
he cried, the storm burst over the forest.

Baree had never before heard so much noise, and he had never seen the
lightning play in such sheets of fire as when this June deluge fell. It
seemed at times as though the whole world were aflame, and the earth
seemed to shake and roll under the crashes of the thunder. He ceased
his crying and made himself as small as he could under the root, which
protected him partly from the terrific beat of the rain which came down
through the treetops in a flood. It was now so black that except when
the lightning ripped great holes in the gloom he could not see the
spruce trunks twenty feet away. Twice that distance from Baree there
was a huge dead stub that stood out like a ghost each time the fires
swept the sky, as if defying the flaming hands up there to strike--and
strike, at last, one of them did! A bluish tongue of snapping flame ran
down the old stub; and as it touched the earth, there came a tremendous
explosion above the treetops. The massive stub shivered, and then it
broke asunder as if cloven by a gigantic ax. It crashed down so close
to Baree that earth and sticks flew about him, and he let out a wild
yelp of terror as he tried to crowd himself deeper into the shallow
hole under the root.

With the destruction of the old stub the thunder and lightning seemed
to have vented their malevolence. The thunder passed on into the south
and east like the rolling of ten thousand heavy cart wheels over the
roofs of the forest, and the lightning went with it. The rain fell
steadily. The hole in which he had taken shelter was partly filled with
water. He was drenched. His teeth chattered as he waited for the next
thing to happen.

It was a long wait. When the rain finally stopped, and the sky cleared,
it was night. Through the tops of the trees Baree could have seen the
stars if he had poked out his head and looked upward. But he clung to
his hole. Hour after hour passed. Exhausted, half drowned, footsore,
and hungry, he did not move. At last he fell into a troubled sleep, a
sleep in which every now and then he cried softly and forlornly for his
mother. When he ventured out from under the root it was morning, and
the sun was shining.

At first Baree could hardly stand. His legs were cramped. Every bone in
his body seemed out of joint. His ear was stiff where the blood had
oozed out of it and hardened, and when he tried to wrinkle his wounded
nose, he gave a sharp little yap of pain. If such a thing were
possible, he looked even worse than he felt. His hair had dried in
muddy patches; he was dirt-stained from end to end; and where yesterday
he had been plump and shiny, he was now as thin and wretched as
misfortune could possibly make him. And he was hungry. He had never
before known what it meant to be really hungry.

When he went on, continuing in the direction he had been following
yesterday, he slunk along in a disheartened sort of way. His head and
ears were no longer alert, and his curiosity was gone. He was not only
stomach hungry: mother hunger rose above his physical yearning for
something to eat. He wanted his mother as he had never wanted her
before in his life. He wanted to snuggle his shivering little body
close up to her and feel the warm caressing of her tongue and listen to
the mothering whine of her voice. And he wanted Kazan, and the old
windfall, and that big blue spot that was in the sky right over it. As
he followed again along the edge of the creek, he whimpered for them as
a child might grieve.

The forest grew more open after a time, and this cheered him up a
little. Also the warmth of the sun was taking the ache out of his body.
But he grew hungrier and hungrier. He always had depended entirely on
Kazan and Gray Wolf for food. His parents had, in some ways, made a
great baby of him. Gray Wolf's blindness accounted for this, for since
his birth she had not taken up her hunting with Kazan, and it was quite
natural that Baree should stick close to her, though more than once he
had been filled with a great yearning to follow his father. Nature was
hard at work trying to overcome its handicap now. It was struggling to
impress on Baree that the time had now come when he must seek his own
food. The fact impinged itself upon him slowly but steadily, and he
began to think of the three or four shellfish he had caught and
devoured on the stony creek bar near the windfall. He also remembered
the open clamshell he had found, and the lusciousness of the tender
morsel inside it. A new excitement began to possess him. He became, all
at once, a hunter.

With the thinning out of the forest the creek grew more shallow. It ran
again over bars of sand and stones, and Baree began to nose along the
edge of the shallows. For a long time he had no success. The few
crayfish that he saw were exceedingly lively and elusive, and all the
clamshells were shut so tight that even Kazan's powerful jaws would
have had difficulty in smashing them. It was almost noon when he caught
his first crayfish, about as big as a man's forefinger. He devoured it
ravenously. The taste of food gave him fresh courage. He caught two
more crayfish during the afternoon. It was almost dusk when he stirred
a young rabbit out from under a cover of grass. If he had been a month
older, he could have caught it. He was still very hungry, for three
crayfish--scattered through the day--had not done much to fill the
emptiness that was growing steadily in him.

With the approach of night Baree's fears and great loneliness returned.
Before the day had quite gone he found soft bed of sand. Since his
fight with Papayuchisew, he had traveled a long distance, and the rock
under which he made his bed this night was at least eight or nine miles
from the windfall. It was in the open of the creek bottom, with and
when the moon rose, and the stars filled the sky, Baree could look out
and see the water of the stream shimmering in a glow almost as bright
as day. Directly in front of him, running to the water's edge, was a
broad carpet of white sand. Across this sand, half an hour later, came
a huge black bear.

Until Baree had seen the otters at play in the creek, his conceptions
of the forests had not gone beyond his own kind, and such creatures as
owls and rabbits and small feathered things. The otters had not
frightened him, because he still measured things by size, and Nekik was
not half as big as Kazan. But the bear was a monster beside which Kazan
would have stood a mere pygmy. He was big. If nature was taking this
way of introducing Baree to the fact that there were more important
creatures in the forests than dogs and wolves and owls and crayfish,
she was driving the point home with a little more than necessary
emphasis. For Wakayoo, the bear, weighed six hundred pounds if he
weighed an ounce. He was fat and sleek from a month's feasting on fish.
His shiny coat was like black velvet in the moonlight, and he walked
with a curious rolling motion with his head hung low. The horror grew
when he stopped broadside in the carpet of sand not more than ten feet
from the rock under which Baree was shivering.

It was quite evident that Wakayoo had caught scent of him in the air.
Baree could hear him sniff--could hear his breathing--caught the
starlight flashing in his reddish-brown eyes as they swung suspiciously
toward the big boulder. If Baree could have known then that he--his
insignificant little self--was making that monster actually nervous and
uneasy, he would have given a yelp of joy. For Wakayoo, in spite of his
size, was somewhat of a coward when it came to wolves. And Baree
carried the wolf scent. It grew stronger in Wakayoo's nose; and just
then, as if to increase whatever nervousness was growing in him, there
came from out of the forest behind him a long and wailing howl.

With an audible grunt, Wakayoo moved on. Wolves were pests, he argued.
They wouldn't stand up and fight. They'd snap and yap at one's heels
for hours at a time, and were always out of the way quicker than a wink
when one turned on them. What was the use of hanging around where there
were wolves, on a beautiful night like this? He lumbered on decisively.
Baree could hear him splashing heavily through the water of the creek.
Not until then did the wolf dog draw a full breath. It was almost a
gasp.

But the excitement was not over for the night. Baree had chosen his bed
at a place where the animals came down to drink, and where they crossed
from one of the creek forests to the other. Not long after the bear had
disappeared he heard a heavy crunching in the sand, and hoofs rattling
against stones, and a bull moose with a huge sweep of antlers passed
through the open space in the moonlight. Baree stared with popping
eyes, for if Wakayoo had weighed six hundred pounds, this gigantic
creature whose legs were so long that it seemed to be walking on stilts
weighed at least twice as much. A cow moose followed, and then a calf.

The calf seemed all legs. It was too much for Baree, and he shoved
himself farther and farther back under the rock until he lay wedged in
like a sardine in a box. And there he lay until morning.



CHAPTER 4

When Baree ventured forth from under his rock at the beginning of the
next day, he was a much older puppy than when he met Papayuchisew, the
young owl, in his path near the old windfall. If experience can be made
to take the place of age, he had aged a great deal in the last
forty-eight hours. In fact, he had passed almost out of puppyhood. He
awoke with a new and much broader conception of the world. It was a big
place. It was filled with many things, of which Kazan and Gray Wolf
were not the most important. The monsters he had seen on the moonlit
plot of sand had roused in him a new kind of caution, and the one
greatest instinct of beasts--the primal understanding that it is the
strong that prey upon the weak--was wakening swiftly in him. As yet he
quite naturally measured brute force and the menace of things by size
alone. Thus the bear was more terrible than Kazan, and the moose was
more terrible than the bear.

It was quite fortunate for Baree that this instinct did not go to the
limit in the beginning and make him understand that his own breed--the
wolf--was most feared of all the creatures, claw, hoof, and wing, of
the forests. Otherwise, like the small boy who thinks he can swim
before he has mastered a stroke, he might somewhere have jumped in
beyond his depth and had his head chewed off.

Very much alert, with the hair standing up along his spine, and a
little growl in his throat, Baree smelled of the big footprints made by
the bear and the moose. It was the bear scent that made him growl. He
followed the tracks to the edge of the creek. After that he resumed his
wandering, and also his hunt for food.

For two hours he did not find a crayfish. Then he came out of the green
timber into the edge of a burned-over country. Here everything was
black. The stumps of the trees stood up like huge charred canes. It was
a comparatively fresh "burn" of last autumn, and the ash was still soft
under Baree's feet. Straight through this black region ran the creek,
and over it hung a blue sky in which the sun was shining. It was quite
inviting to Baree. The fox, the wolf, the moose, and the caribou would
have turned back from the edge of this dead country. In another year it
would be good hunting ground, but now it was lifeless. Even the owls
would have found nothing to eat out there.

It was the blue sky and the sun and the softness of the earth under his
feet that lured Baree. It was pleasant to travel in after his painful
experiences in the forest. He continued to follow the stream, though
there was now little possibility of his finding anything to eat. The
water had become sluggish and dark. The channel was choked with charred
debris that had fallen into it when the forest had burned, and its
shores were soft and muddy. After a time, when Baree stopped and looked
about him, he could no longer see the green timber he had left. He was
alone in that desolate wilderness of charred tree corpses. It was as
still as death, too. Not the chirp of a bird broke the silence. In the
soft ash he could not hear the fall of his own feet. But he was not
frightened. There was the assurance of safety here.

If he could only find something to eat! That was the master thought
that possessed Baree. Instinct had not yet impressed upon him that this
which he saw all about him was starvation. He went on, seeking
hopefully for food. But at last, as the hours passed, hope began to die
in him. The sun sank westward. The sky grew less blue; a low wind began
to ride over the tops of the stubs, and now and then one of them fell
with a startling crash.

Baree could go no farther. An hour before dusk he lay down in the open,
weak and starved. The sun disappeared behind the forest. The moon
rolled up from the east. The sky glittered with stars--and all through
the night Baree lay as if dead. When morning came, he dragged himself
to the stream for a drink. With his last strength he went on. It was
the wolf urging him--compelling him to struggle to the last for his
life. The dog in him wanted to lie down and die. But the wolf spark in
him burned stronger. In the end it won. Half a mile farther on he came
again to the green timber.

In the forests as well as in the great cities fate plays its changing
and whimsical hand. If Baree had dragged himself into the timber half
an hour later he would have died. He was too far gone now to hunt for
crayfish or kill the weakest bird. But he came just as Sekoosew, the
ermine, the most bloodthirsty little pirate of all the wild--was making
a kill.

That was fully a hundred yards from where Baree lay stretched out under
a spruce, almost ready to give up the ghost. Sekoosew was a mighty
hunter of his kind. His body was about seven inches long, with a tiny
black-tipped tail appended to it, and he weighed perhaps five ounces. A
baby's fingers could have encircled him anywhere between his four legs,
and his little sharp-pointed head with its beady red eyes could slip
easily through a hole an inch in diameter. For several centuries
Sekoosew had helped to make history. It was he--when his pelt was worth
a hundred dollars in king's gold--that lured the first shipload of
gentlemen adventurers over the sea, with Prince Rupert at their head.
It was little Sekoosew who was responsible for the forming of the great
Hudson's Bay Company and the discovery of half a continent. For almost
three centuries he had fought his fight for existence with the trapper.
And now, though he was no longer worth his weight in yellow gold, he
was the cleverest, the fiercest, and the most merciless of all the
creatures that made up his world.

As Baree lay under his tree, Sekoosew was creeping on his prey. His
game was a big fat spruce hen standing under a thicket of black currant
bushes. The ear of no living thing could have heard Sekoosew's
movement. He was like a shadow--a gray dot here, a flash there, now
hidden behind a stick no larger than a man's wrist, appearing for a
moment, the next instant gone as completely as if he had not existed.
Thus he approached from fifty feet to within three feet of the spruce
hen. That was his favorite striking distance. Unerringly he launched
himself at the drowsy partridge's throat, and his needlelike teeth sank
through feathers into flesh.

Sekoosew was prepared for what happened then. It always happened when
he attacked Napanao, the wood partridge. Her wings were powerful, and
her first instinct when he struck was always that of flight. She rose
straight up now with a great thunder of wings. Sekoosew hung tight, his
teeth buried deep in her throat, and his tiny, sharp claws clinging to
her like hands. Through the air he whizzed with her, biting deeper and
deeper, until a hundred yards from where that terrible death thing had
fastened to her throat, Napanao crashed again to earth.

Where she fell was not ten feet from Baree. For a few moments he looked
at the struggling mass of feathers in a daze, not quite comprehending
that at last food was almost within his reach. Napanao was dying, but
she still struggled convulsively with her wings. Baree rose stealthily,
and after a moment in which he gathered all his remaining strength, he
made a rush for her. His teeth sank into her breast--and not until then
did he see Sekoosew. The ermine had raised his head from the death grip
at the partridge's throat, and his savage little red eyes glared for a
single instant into Baree's. Here was something too big to kill, and
with an angry squeak the ermine was gone. Napanao's wings relaxed, and
the throb went out of her body. She was dead. Baree hung on until he
was sure. Then he began his feast.

With murder in his heart, Sekoosew hovered near, whisking here and
there but never coming nearer than half a dozen feet from Baree. His
eyes were redder than ever. Now and then he emitted a sharp little
squeak of rage. Never had he been so angry in all his life! To have a
fat partridge stolen from him like this was an imposition he had never
suffered before. He wanted to dart in and fasten his teeth in Baree's
jugular. But he was too good a general to make the attempt, too good a
Napoleon to jump deliberately to his Waterloo. An owl he would have
fought. He might even have given battle to his big brother--and his
deadliest enemy--the mink. But in Baree he recognized the wolf breed,
and he vented his spite at a distance. After a time his good sense
returned, and he went off on another hunt.

Baree ate a third of the partridge, and the remaining two thirds he
cached very carefully at the foot of the big spruce. Then he hurried
down to the creek for a drink. The world looked very different to him
now. After all, one's capacity for happiness depends largely on how
deeply one has suffered. One's hard luck and misfortune form the
measuring stick for future good luck and fortune. So it was with Baree.
Forty-eight hours ago a full stomach would not have made him a tenth
part as happy as he was now. Then his greatest longing was for his
mother. Since then a still greater yearning had come into his life--for
food. In a way it was fortunate for him that he had almost died of
exhaustion and starvation, for his experience had helped to make a man
of him--or a wolf dog, just as you are of a mind to put it. He would
miss his mother for a long time. But he would never miss her again as
he had missed her yesterday and the day before.

That afternoon Baree took a long nap close to his cache. Then he
uncovered the partridge and ate his supper. When his fourth night alone
came, he did not hide himself as he had done on the three preceding
nights. He was strangely and curiously alert. Under the moon and the
stars he prowled in the edge of the forest and out on the burn. He
listened with a new kind of thrill to the faraway cry of a wolf pack on
the hunt. He listened to the ghostly whoo-whoo-whoo of the owls without
shivering. Sounds and silences were beginning to hold a new and
significant note for him.

For another day and night Baree remained in the vicinity of his cache.
When the last bone was picked, he moved on. He now entered a country
where subsistence was no longer a perilous problem for him. It was a
lynx country, and where there are lynx, there are also a great many
rabbits. When the rabbits thin out, the lynx emigrate to better hunting
grounds. As the snowshoe rabbit breeds all the summer through, Baree
found himself in a land of plenty. It was not difficult for him to
catch and kill the young rabbits. For a week he prospered and grew
bigger and stronger each day. But all the time, stirred by that
seeking, wanderlust spirit--still hoping to find the old home and his
mother--he traveled into the north and east.

And this was straight into the trapping country of Pierrot, the
half-breed.

Pierrot, until two years ago, had believed himself to be one of the
most fortunate men in the big wilderness. That was before La Mort
Rouge--the Red Death--came. He was half French, and he had married a
Cree chief's daughter, and in their log cabin on the Gray Loon they had
lived for many years in great prosperity and happiness. Pierrot was
proud of three things in this wild world of his. He was immensely proud
of Wyola, his royal-blooded wife. He was proud of his daughter; and he
was proud of his reputation as a hunter. Until the Red Death came, life
was quite complete for him. It was then--two years ago--that the
smallpox killed his princess wife. He still lived in the little cabin
on the Gray Loon, but he was a different Pierrot. The heart was sick in
him. It would have died, had it not been for Nepeese, his daughter. His
wife had named her Nepeese, which means the Willow.

Nepeese had grown up like the willow, slender as a reed, with all her
mother's wild beauty, and with a little of the French thrown in. She
was sixteen, with great, dark, wonderful eyes, and hair so beautiful
that an agent from Montreal passing that way had once tried to buy it.
It fell in two shining braids, each as big as a man's wrist, almost to
her knees. "Non, M'sieu," Pierrot had said, a cold glitter in his eyes
as he saw what was in the agent's face. "It is not for barter."

Two days after Baree had entered his trapping ground, Pierrot came in
from the forests with a troubled look in his face.

"Something is killing off the young beavers," he explained to Nepeese,
speaking to her in French. "It is a lynx or a wolf. Tomorrow--" He
shrugged his thin shoulders, and smiled at her.

"We will go on the hunt," laughed Nepeese happily, in her soft Cree.

When Pierrot smiled at her like that, and began with "Tomorrow," it
always meant that she might go with him on the adventure he was
contemplating.


Still another day later, at the end of the afternoon, Baree crossed the
Gray Loon on a bridge of driftwood that had wedged between two trees.
This was to the north. Just beyond the driftwood bridge there was a
small clearing, and on the edge of it Baree paused to enjoy the last of
the setting sun. As he stood motionless and listening, his tail
drooping low, his ears alert, his sharp-pointed nose sniffing the new
country to the north, there was not a pair of eyes in the forest that
would not have taken him for a young wolf.

From behind a clump of young balsams, a hundred yards away, Pierrot and
Nepeese had watched him come over the driftwood bridge. Now was the
time, and Pierrot leveled his rifle. It was not until then that Nepeese
touched his arm softly. Her breath came a little excitedly as she
whispered:

"Nootawe, let me shoot. I can kill him!"

With a low chuckle Pierrot gave the gun to her. He counted the whelp as
already dead. For Nepeese, at that distance, could send a bullet into
an inch square nine times out of ten. And Nepeese, aiming carefully at
Baree, pressed steadily with her brown forefinger upon the trigger.



CHAPTER 5

As the Willow pulled the trigger of her rifle, Baree sprang into the
air. He felt the force of the bullet before he heard the report of the
gun. It lifted him off his feet, and then sent him rolling over and
over as if he had been struck a hideous blow with a club. For a flash
he did not feel pain. Then it ran through him like a knife of fire, and
with that pain the dog in him rose above the wolf, and he let out a
wild outcry of puppyish yapping as he rolled and twisted on the ground.

Pierrot and Nepeese had stepped from behind the balsams, the Willow's
beautiful eyes shining with pride at the accuracy of her shot.
Instantly she caught her breath. Her brown fingers clutched at the
barrel of her rifle. The chuckle of satisfaction died on Pierrot's lips
as Baree's cries of pain filled the forest.

"Uchi moosis!" gasped Nepeese, in her Cree.

Pierrot caught the rifle from her.

"Diable! A dog--a puppy!" he cried.

He started on a run for Baree. But in their amazement they had lost a
few seconds and Baree's dazed senses were returning. He saw them
clearly as they came across the open--a new kind of monster of the
forests! With a final wail he darted back into the deep shadows of the
trees. It was almost sunset, and he ran for the thick gloom of the
heavy spruce near the creek. He had shivered at sight of the bear and
the moose, but for the first time he now sensed the real meaning of
danger. And it was close after him. He could hear the crashing of the
two-legged beasts in pursuit; strange cries were almost at his
heels--and then suddenly he plunged without warning into a hole.

It was a shock to have the earth go out from under his feet like that,
but Baree did not yelp. The wolf was dominant in him again. It urged
him to remain where he was, making no move, no sound--scarcely
breathing. The voices were over him; the strange feet almost stumbled
in the hole where he lay. Looking out of his dark hiding place, he
could see one of his enemies. It was Nepeese, the Willow. She was
standing so that a last glow of the day fell upon her face. Baree did
not take his eyes from her.

Above his pain there rose in him a strange and thrilling fascination.
The girl put her two hands to her mouth and in a voice that was soft
and plaintive and amazingly comforting to his terrified little heart,
cried:

"Uchimoo--Uchimoo--Uchimoo!"

And then he heard another voice; and this voice, too, was far less
terrible than many sounds he had listened to in the forests.

"We cannot find him, Nepeese," the voice was saying. "He has crawled
off to die. It is too bad. Come."

Where Baree had stood in the edge of the open Pierrot paused and
pointed to a birch sapling that had been cut clean off by the Willow's
bullet. Nepeese understood. The sapling, no larger than her thumb, had
turned her shot a trifle and had saved Baree from instant death. She
turned again, and called:

"Uchimoo--Uchimoo--Uchimoo!"

Her eyes were no longer filled with the thrill of slaughter.

"He would not understand that," said Pierrot, leading the way across
the open. "He is wild--born of the wolves. Perhaps he was of Koomo's
lead bitch, who ran away to hunt with the packs last winter."

"And he will die--"

"Ayetun--yes, he will die."

But Baree had no idea of dying. He was too tough a youngster to be
shocked to death by a bullet passing through the soft flesh of his
foreleg. That was what had happened. His leg was torn to the bone, but
the bone itself was untouched. He waited until the moon had risen
before he crawled out of his hole.

His leg had grown stiff, but it had stopped bleeding, though his whole
body was racked by a terrible pain. A dozen Papayuchisews, all holding
right to his ears and nose, could not have hurt him more. Every time he
moved, a sharp twinge shot through him; and yet he persisted in moving.
Instinctively he felt that by traveling away from the hole he would get
away from danger. This was the best thing that could have happened to
him, for a little later a porcupine came wandering along, chattering to
itself in its foolish, good-humored way, and fell with a fat thud into
the hole. Had Baree remained, he would have been so full of quills that
he must surely have died.

In another way the exercise of travel was good for Baree. It gave his
wound no opportunity to "set," as Pierrot would have said, for in
reality his hurt was more painful than serious. For the first hundred
yards he hobbled along on three legs, and after that he found that he
could use his fourth by humoring it a great deal. He followed the creek
for a half mile. Whenever a bit of brush touched his wound, he would
snap at it viciously, and instead of whimpering when he felt one of the
sharp twinges shooting through him, an angry little growl gathered in
his throat, and his teeth clicked. Now that he was out of the hole, the
effect of the Willow's shot was stirring every drop of wolf blood in
his body. In him there was a growing animosity--a feeling of rage not
against any one thing in particular, but against all things. It was not
the feeling with which he had fought Papayuchisew, the young owl. On
this night the dog in him had disappeared. An accumulation of
misfortunes had descended upon him, and out of these misfortunes--and
his present hurt--the wolf had risen savage and vengeful.

This was the first time Baree had traveled at night. He was, for the
time, unafraid of anything that might creep up on him out of the
darkness. The blackest shadows had lost their terror. It was the first
big fight between the two natures that were born in him--the wolf and
the dog--and the dog was vanquished. Now and then he stopped to lick
his wound, and as he licked it he growled, as though for the hurt
itself he held a personal antagonism. If Pierrot could have seen and
heard, he would have understood very quickly, and he would have said:
"Let him die. The club will never take that devil out of him."

In this humor Baree came, an hour later, out of the heavy timber of the
creek bottom into the more open spaces of a small plain that ran along
the foot of a ridge. It was in this plain that Oohoomisew hunted.
Oohoomisew was a huge snow owl. He was the patriarch among all the owls
of Pierrot's trapping domain. He was so old that he was almost blind,
and therefore he never hunted as other owls hunted. He did not hide
himself in the black cover of spruce and balsam tops, or float softly
through the night, ready in an instant to swoop down upon his prey. His
eyesight was so poor that from a spruce top he could not have seen a
rabbit at all, and he might have mistaken a fox for a mouse.

So old Oohoomisew, learning wisdom from experience, hunted from ambush.
He would squat on the ground, and for hours at a time he would remain
there without making a sound and scarcely moving a feather, waiting
with the patience of Job for something to eat to come his way. Now and
then he had made mistakes. Twice he had mistaken a lynx for a rabbit,
and in the second attack he had lost a foot, so that when he slumbered
aloft during the day he clung to his perch with one claw. Crippled,
nearly blind, and so old that he had long ago lost the tufts of
feathers over his ears, he was still a giant in strength, and when he
was angry, one could hear the snap of his beak twenty yards away.

For three nights he had been unlucky, and tonight he had been
particularly unfortunate. Two rabbits had come his way, and he had
lunged at each of them from his cover. The first he had missed
entirely; the second had left with him a mouthful of fur--and that was
all. He was ravenously hungry, and he was gritting his bill in his bad
temper when he heard Baree approaching.

Even if Baree could have seen under the dark bush ahead, and had
discovered Oohoomisew ready to dart from his ambush, it is not likely
that he would have gone very far aside. His own fighting blood was up.
He, too, was ready for war.

Very indistinctly Oohoomisew saw him at last, coming across the little
open space which he was watching. He squatted down. His feathers
ruffled up until he was like a ball. His almost sightless eyes glowed
like two bluish pools of fire. Ten feet away, Baree stopped for a
moment and licked his wound. Oohoomisew waited cautiously. Again Baree
advanced, passing within six feet of the bush. With a swift hop and a
sudden thunder of his powerful wings the great owl was upon him.

This time Baree let out no cry of pain or of fright. The wolf is
kipichi-mao, as the Indians say. No hunter ever heard a trapped wolf
whine for mercy at the sting of a bullet or the beat of a club. He dies
with his fangs bared. Tonight it was a wolf whelp that Oohoomisew was
attacking, and not a dog pup. The owl's first rush keeled Baree over,
and for a moment he was smothered under the huge, outspread wings,
while Oohoomisew--pinioning him down--hopped for a claw hold with his
one good foot, and struck fiercely with his beak.

One blow of that beak anywhere about the head would have settled for a
rabbit, but at the first thrust Oohoomisew discovered that it was not a
rabbit he was holding under his wings. A bloodcurdling snarl answered
the blow, and Oohoomisew remembered the lynx, his lost foot, and his
narrow escape with his life. The old pirate might have beaten a
retreat, but Baree was no longer the puppyish Baree of that hour in
which he had fought young Papayuchisew. Experience and hardship had
aged and strengthened him. His jaws had passed quickly from the
bone-licking to the bone-cracking age--and before Oohoomisew could get
away, if he was thinking of flight at all, Baree's fangs closed with a
vicious snap on his one good leg.

In the stillness of night there rose a still greater thunder of wings,
and for a few moments Baree closed his eyes to keep from being blinded
by Oohoomisew's furious blows. But he hung on grimly, and as his teeth
met through the flesh of the old night-pirate's leg, his angry snarl
carried defiance to Oohoomisew's ears. Rare good fortune had given him
that grip on the leg, and Baree knew that triumph or defeat depended on
his ability to hold it. The old owl had no other claw to sink into him,
and it was impossible--caught as he was--for him to tear at Baree with
his beak. So he continued to beat that thunder of blows with his
four-foot wings.

The wings made a great tumult about Baree, but they did not hurt him.
He buried his fangs deeper. His snarls rose more fiercely as he got the
taste of Oohoomisew's blood, and through him there surged more hotly
the desire to kill this monster of the night, as though in the death of
this creature he had the opportunity of avenging himself for all the
hurts and hardships that had befallen him since he had lost his mother.

Oohoomisew had never felt a great fear until now. The lynx had snapped
at him but once--and was gone, leaving him crippled. But the lynx had
not snarled in that wolfish way, and it had not hung on. A thousand and
one nights Oohoomisew had listened to the wolf howl. Instinct had told
him what it meant. He had seen the packs pass swiftly through the
night, and always when they passed he had kept in the deepest shadows.
To him, as for all other wild things, the wolf howl stood for death.
But until now, with Baree's fangs buried in his leg, he had never
sensed fully the wolf fear. It had taken it years to enter into his
slow, stupid head--but now that it was there, it possessed him as no
other thing had ever possessed him in all his life.

Suddenly Oohoomisew ceased his beating and launched himself upward.
Like huge fans his powerful wings churned the air, and Baree felt
himself lifted suddenly from the earth. Still he held on--and in a
moment both bird and beast fell back with a thud.

Oohoomisew tried again. This time he was more successful, and he rose
fully six feet into the air with Baree. They fell again. A third time
the old outlaw fought to wing himself free of Baree's grip; and then,
exhausted, he lay with his giant wings outspread, hissing and cracking
his bill.

Under those wings Baree's mind worked with the swift instincts of the
killer. Suddenly he changed his hold, burying his fangs into the under
part of Oohoomisew's body. They sank into three inches of feathers.
Swift as Baree had been, Oohoomisew was equally swift to take advantage
of his opportunity. In an instant he had swooped upward. There was a
jerk, a rending of feathers from flesh--and Baree was alone on the
field of battle.

Baree had not killed, but he had conquered. His first great day--or
night--had come. The world was filled with a new promise for him, as
vast as the night itself. And after a moment he sat back on his
haunches, sniffing the air for his beaten enemy. Then, as if defying
the feathered monster to come back and fight to the end, he pointed his
sharp little muzzle up to the stars and sent forth his first babyish
wolf howl into the night.



CHAPTER 6

Baree's fight with Oohoomisew was good medicine for him. It not only
gave him great confidence in himself, but it also cleared the fever of
ugliness from his blood. He no longer snapped and snarled at things as
he went on through the night.

It was a wonderful night. The moon was straight overhead, and the sky
was filled with stars, so that in the open spaces the light was almost
like that of day, except that it was softer and more beautiful. It was
very still. There was no wind in the treetops, and it seemed to Baree
that the howl he had given must have echoed to the end of the world.

Now and then Baree heard a sound--and always he stopped, attentive and
listening. Far away he heard the long, soft mooing of a cow moose. He
heard a great splashing in the water of a small lake that he came to,
and once there came to him the sharp cracking of horn against horn--two
bucks settling a little difference of opinion a quarter of a mile away.
But it was always the wolf howl that made him sit and listen longest,
his heart beating with a strange impulse which he did not as yet
understand. It was the call of his breed, growing in him slowly but
insistently.

He was still a wanderer--pupamootao, the Indians call it. It is this
"wander spirit" that inspires for a time nearly every creature of the
wild as soon as it is able to care for itself--nature's scheme,
perhaps, for doing away with too close family relations and possibly
dangerous interbreeding. Baree, like the young wolf seeking new hunting
grounds, or the young fox discovering a new world, had no reason or
method in his wandering. He was simply "traveling"--going on. He wanted
something which he could not find. The wolf call brought it to him.

The stars and the moon filled Baree with a yearning for this something.
The distant sounds impinged upon him his great aloneness. And instinct
told him that only by questing could he find. It was not so much Kazan
and Gray Wolf that he missed now--not so much motherhood and home as it
was companionship. Now that he had fought the wolfish rage out of him
in his battle with Oohoomisew, the dog part of him had come into its
own again--the lovable half of him, the part that wanted to snuggle up
near something that was alive and friendly, small odds whether it wore
feathers or fur, was clawed or hoofed.

He was sore from the Willow's bullet, and he was sore from battle, and
toward dawn he lay down under a shelter of some alders at the edge of a
second small lake and rested until midday. Then he began questing in
the reeds and close to the pond lilies for food. He found a dead
jackfish, partly eaten by a mink, and finished it.

His wound was much less painful this afternoon, and by nightfall he
scarcely noticed it at all. Since his almost tragic end at the hands of
Nepeese, he had been traveling in a general northeasterly direction,
following instinctively the run of the waterways. But his progress had
been slow, and when darkness came again he was not more than eight or
ten miles from the hole into which he had fallen after the Willow had
shot him.

Baree did not travel far this night. The fact that his wound had come
with dusk, and his fight with Oohoomisew still later, filled him with
caution. Experience had taught him that the dark shadows and the black
pits in the forest were possible ambuscades of danger. He was no longer
afraid, as he had once been, but he had had fighting enough for a time,
and so he accepted circumspection as the better part of valor and held
himself aloof from the perils of darkness. It was a strange instinct
that made him seek his bed on the top of a huge rock up which he had
some difficulty in climbing. Perhaps it was a harkening back to the
days of long ago when Gray Wolf, in her first motherhood, sought refuge
at the summit of the Sun Rock which towered high above the forest world
of which she and Kazan were a part, and where later she was blinded in
her battle with the lynx.

Baree's rock, instead of rising for a hundred feet or more straight up,
was possibly as high as a man's head. It was in the edge of the creek
bottom, with the spruce forest close at his back. For many hours he did
not sleep, but lay keenly alert, his ears tuned to catch every sound
that came out of the dark world about him. There was more than
curiosity in his alertness tonight. His education had broadened
immensely in one way: he had learned that he was a very small part of
all this wonderful earth that lay under the stars and the moon, and he
was keenly alive with the desire to become better acquainted with it
without any more fighting or hurt. Tonight he knew what it meant when
he saw now and then gray shadows float silently out of the forest into
the moonlight--the owls, monsters of the breed with which he had
fought. He heard the crackling of hoofed feet and the smashing of heavy
bodies in the underbrush. He heard again the mooing of the moose.
Voices came to him that he had not heard before--the sharp yap-yap-yap
of a fox, the unearthly, laughing cry of a great Northern loon on a
lake half a mile away, the scream of a lynx that came floating through
miles of forest, the low, soft croaks of the nighthawks between himself
and the stars. He heard strange whisperings in the
treetops--whisperings of the wind. And once, in the heart of a dead
stillness, a buck whistled shrilly close behind his rock--and at the
wolf scent in the air shot away in a terror-stricken gray streak.

All these sounds held their new meaning for Baree. Swiftly he was
coming into his knowledge of the wilderness. His eyes gleamed; his
blood thrilled. Often for many minutes at a time he scarcely moved. But
of all the sounds that came to him, the wolf cry thrilled him most.
Again and again he listened to it. At times it was far away, so far
that it was like a whisper, dying away almost before it reached him.
Then again it would come to him full-throated, hot with the breath of
the chase, calling him to the red thrill of the hunt, to the wild orgy
of torn flesh and running blood--calling, calling, calling. That was
it, calling him to his own kin, to the bone of his bone and the flesh
of his flesh--to the wild, fierce hunting packs of his mother's tribe!
It was Gray Wolf's voice seeking for him in the night--Gray Wolf's
blood inviting him to the Brotherhood of the Pack.

Baree trembled as he listened. In his throat he whined softly. He edged
to the sheer face of the rock. He wanted to go; nature was urging him
to go. But the call of the wild was struggling against odds. For in him
was the dog, with its generations of subdued and sleeping
instincts--and all that night the dog in him kept Baree to the top of
his rock.

Next morning Baree found many crayfish along the creek, and he feasted
on their succulent flesh until he felt that he would never be hungry
again. Nothing had tasted quite so good since he had eaten the
partridge of which he had robbed Sekoosew the ermine.

In the middle of the afternoon Baree came into a part of the forest
that was very quiet and very peaceful. The creek had deepened. In
places its banks swept out until they formed small ponds. Twice he made
considerable detours to get around these ponds. He traveled very
quietly, listening and watching. Not since the ill-fated day he had
left the old windfall had he felt quite so much at home as now. It
seemed to him that at last he was treading country which he knew, and
where he would find friends. Perhaps this was another miracle mystery
of instinct--of nature. For he was in old Beaver Tooth's domain. It was
here that his father and mother had hunted in the days before he was
born. It was not far from here that Kazan and Beaver Tooth had fought
that mighty duel under water, from which Kazan had escaped with his
life without another breath to lose.

Baree would never know these things. He would never know that he was
traveling over old trails. But something deep in him gripped him
strangely. He sniffed the air, as if in it he found the scent of
familiar things. It was only a faint breath--an indefinable promise
that brought him to the point of a mysterious anticipation.

The forest grew deeper. It was wonderful virgin forest. There was no
undergrowth, and traveling under the trees was like being in a vast,
mystery-filled cavern through the roof of which the light of day broke
softly, brightened here and there by golden splashes of the sun. For a
mile Baree made his way quietly through this forest. He saw nothing but
a few winged flirtings of birds; there was almost no sound. Then he
came to a still larger pond. Around this pond there was a thick growth
of alders and willows where the larger trees had thinned out. He saw
the glimmer of afternoon sunlight on the water--and then, all at once,
he heard life.

There had been few changes in Beaver Tooth's colony since the days of
his feud with Kazan and the otters. Old Beaver Tooth was somewhat
older. He was fatter. He slept a great deal, and perhaps he was less
cautious. He was dozing on the great mud-and-brushwood dam of which he
had been engineer-in-chief, when Baree came out softly on a high bank
thirty or forty feet away. So noiseless had Baree been that none of the
beavers had seen or heard him. He squatted himself flat on his belly,
hidden behind a tuft of grass, and with eager interest watched every
movement. Beaver Tooth was rousing himself. He stood on his short legs
for a moment; then he tilted himself up on his broad, flat tail like a
soldier at attention, and with a sudden whistle dived into the pond
with a great splash.

In another moment it seemed to Baree that the pond was alive with
beavers. Heads and bodies appeared and disappeared, rushing this way
and that through the water in a manner that amazed and puzzled him. It
was the colony's evening frolic. Tails hit the water like flat boards.
Odd whistlings rose above the splashing--and then as suddenly as it had
begun, the play came to an end. There were probably twenty beavers, not
counting the young, and as if guided by a common signal--something
which Baree had not heard--they became so quiet that hardly a sound
could be heard in the pond. A few of them sank under the water and
disappeared entirely, but most of them Baree could watch as they drew
themselves out on shore.

The beavers lost no time in getting at their labor, and Baree watched
and listened without so much as rustling a blade of the grass in which
he was concealed. He was trying to understand. He was striving to place
these curious and comfortable-looking creatures in his knowledge of
things. They did not alarm him; he felt no uneasiness at their number
or size. His stillness was not the quiet of discretion, but rather of a
strange and growing desire to get better acquainted with this curious
four-legged brotherhood of the pond. Already they had begun to make the
big forest less lonely for him. And then, close under him--not more
than ten feet from where he lay--he saw something that almost gave
voice to the puppyish longing for companionship that was in him.

Down there, on a clean strip of the shore that rose out of the soft mud
of the pond, waddled fat little Umisk and three of his playmates. Umisk
was just about Baree's age, perhaps a week or two younger. But he was
fully as heavy, and almost as wide as he was long. Nature can produce
no four-footed creature that is more lovable than a baby beaver, unless
it is a baby bear; and Umisk would have taken first prize at any beaver
baby show in the world. His three companions were a bit smaller. They
came waddling from behind a low willow, making queer little chuckling
noises, their little flat tails dragging like tiny sledges behind them.
They were fat and furry, and mighty friendly looking to Baree, and his
heart beat a sudden swift-pit-a-pat of joy.

But Baree did not move. He scarcely breathed. And then, suddenly, Umisk
turned on one of his playmates and bowled him over. Instantly the other
two were on Umisk, and the four little beavers rolled over and over,
kicking with their short feet and spatting with their tails, and all
the time emitting soft little squeaking cries. Baree knew that it was
not fight but frolic. He rose up on his feet. He forgot where he
was--forgot everything in the world but those playing, furry balls. For
the moment all the hard training nature had been giving him was lost.
He was no longer a fighter, no longer a hunter, no longer a seeker
after food. He was a puppy, and in him there rose a desire that was
greater than hunger. He wanted to go down there with Umisk and his
little chums and roll and play. He wanted to tell them, if such a thing
were possible, that he had lost his mother and his home, and that he
had been having a mighty hard time of it, and that he would like to
stay with them and their mothers and fathers if they didn't mind.

In his throat there came the least bit of a whine. It was so low that
Umisk and his playmates did not hear it. They were tremendously busy.

Softly Baree took his first step toward them, and then another--and at
last he stood on the narrow strip of shore within half a dozen feet of
them. His sharp little ears were pitched forward, and he was wiggling
his tail as fast as he could, and every muscle in his body was
trembling in anticipation.

It was then that Umisk saw him, and his fat little body became suddenly
as motionless as a stone.

"Hello!" said Baree, wiggling his whole body and talking as plainly as
a human tongue could talk. "Do you care if I play with you?"

Umisk made no response. His three playmates now had their eyes on
Baree. They didn't make a move. They looked stunned. Four pairs of
staring, wondering eyes were fixed on the stranger.

Baree made another effort. He groveled on his forelegs, while his tail
and hind legs continued to wiggle, and with a sniff he grabbed a bit of
stick between his teeth.

"Come on--let me in," he urged. "I know how to play!"

He tossed the stick in the air as if to prove what he was saying, and
gave a little yap.

Umisk and his brothers were like dummies.

And then, of a sudden, someone saw Baree. It was a big beaver swimming
down the pond with a sapling timber for the new dam that was under way.
Instantly he loosed his hold and faced the shore. And then, like the
report of a rifle, there came the crack of his big flat tail on the
water--the beaver's signal of danger that on a quiet night can be heard
half a mile away.

"DANGER," it warned. "DANGER--DANGER--DANGER!"

Scarcely had the signal gone forth when tails were cracking in all
directions--in the pond, in the hidden canals, in the thick willows and
alders. To Umisk and his companions they said:

"RUN FOR YOUR LIVES!"

Baree stood rigid and motionless now. In amazement he watched the four
little beavers plunge into the pond and disappear. He heard the sounds
of other and heavier bodies striking the water. And then there followed
a strange and disquieting silence. Softly Baree whined, and his whine
was almost a sobbing cry. Why had Umisk and his little mates run away
from him? What had he done that they didn't want to make friends with
him? A great loneliness swept over him--a loneliness greater even than
that of his first night away from his mother. The last of the sun faded
out of the sky as he stood there. Darker shadows crept over the pond.
He looked into the forest, where night was gathering--and with another
whining cry he slunk back into it. He had not found friendship. He had
not found comradeship. And his heart was very sad.



CHAPTER 7

For two or three days Baree's excursions after food took him farther
and farther away from the pond. But each afternoon he returned to
it--until the third day, when he discovered a new creek, and Wakayoo.
The creek was fully two miles back in the forest. This was a different
sort of stream. It sang merrily over a gravelly bed and between chasm
walls of split rock. It formed deep pools and foaming eddies, and where
Baree first struck it, the air trembled with the distant thunder of a
waterfall. It was much pleasanter than the dark and silent beaver
stream. It seemed possessed of life, and the rush and tumult of it--the
song and thunder of the water--gave to Baree entirely new sensations.
He made his way along it slowly and cautiously, and it was because of
this slowness and caution that he came suddenly and unobserved upon
Wakayoo, the big black bear, hard at work fishing.

Wakayoo stood knee-deep in a pool that had formed behind a sand bar,
and he was having tremendously good luck. Even as Baree shrank back,
his eyes popping at sight of this monster he had seen but once before,
in the gloom of night, one of Wakayoo's big paws sent a great splash of
water high in the air, and a fish landed on the pebbly shore. A little
while before, the suckers had run up the creek in thousands to spawn,
and the rapid lowering of the water had caught many of them in these
prison pools. Wakayoo's fat, sleek body was evidence of the prosperity
this circumstance had brought him. Although it was a little past the
"prime" season for bearskins, Wakayoo's coat was splendidly thick and
black.

For a quarter of an hour Baree watched him while he knocked fish out of
the pool. When at last he stopped, there were twenty or thirty fish
among the stones, some of them dead and others still flopping. From
where he lay flattened out between two rocks, Baree could hear the
crunching of flesh and bone as the bear devoured his dinner. It sounded
good, and the fresh smell of fish filled him with a craving that had
never been roused by crayfish or even partridge.

In spite of his fat and his size, Wakayoo was not a glutton, and after
he had eaten his fourth fish he pawed all the others together in a
pile, partly covered them by raking up sand and stones with his long
claws, and finished his work of caching by breaking down a small balsam
sapling so that the fish were entirely concealed. Then he lumbered
slowly away in the direction of the rumbling waterfall.

Twenty seconds after the last of Wakayoo had disappeared in a turn of
the creek, Baree was under the broken balsam. He dragged out a fish
that was still alive. He ate the whole of it, and it tasted delicious.

Baree now found that Wakayoo had solved the food problem for him, and
this day he did not return to the beaver pond, nor the next. The big
bear was incessantly fishing up and down the creek, and day after day
Baree continued his feasts. It was not difficult for him to find
Wakayoo's caches. All he had to do was to follow along the shore of the
stream, sniffing carefully. Some of the caches were getting old, and
their perfume was anything but pleasant to Baree. These he avoided--but
he never missed a meal or two out of a fresh one.

For a week life continued to be exceedingly pleasant. And then came the
break--the change that was destined to meant for Kazan, his father,
when he killed the man-brute at the edge of the wilderness.

This change came or the day when, in trotting around a great rock near
the waterfall, Baree found himself face to face with Pierrot the hunter
and Nepeese, the star-eyed girl who had shot him in the edge of the
clearing.

It was Nepeese whom he saw first. If it had been Pierrot, he would have
turned back quickly. But again the blood of his forebear was rousing
strange tremblings within him. Was it like this that the first woman
had looked to Kazan?

Baree stood still. Nepeese was not more than twenty feet from him. She
sat on a rock, full in the early morning sun, and was brushing out her
wonderful hair. Her lips parted. Her eyes shone in an instant like
stars. One hand remained poised, weighted with the jet tresses. She
recognized him. She saw the white star on his breast and the white tip
on his ear, and under her breath she whispered "Uchi moosis!"--"The dog
pup!" It was the wild dog she had shot--and thought had died!

The evening before Pierrot and Nepeese had built a shelter of balsams
behind the big rock, and on a small white plot of sand Pierrot was
kneeling over a fire preparing breakfast while the Willow arranged her
hair. He raised his head to speak to her, and saw Baree. In that
instant the spell was broken. Baree saw the man-beast as he rose to his
feet. Like a shot he was gone.

Scarcely swifter was he than Nepeese.

"Depechez vous, mon pere!" she cried. "It is the dog pup! Quick--"

In the floating cloud of her hair she sped after Baree like the wind.
Pierrot followed, and in going he caught up his rifle. It was difficult
for him to catch up with the Willow. She was like a wild spirit, her
little moccasined feet scarcely touching the sand as she ran up the
long bar. It was wonderful to see the lithe swiftness of her, and that
glorious hair streaming out in the sun. Even now, in this moment's
excitement, it made Pierrot think of McTaggart, the Hudson's Bay
Company's factor over at Lac Bain, and what he had said yesterday. Half
the night Pierrot had lain awake, gritting his teeth at thought of it.
And this morning, before Baree ran upon them, he had looked at Nepeese
more closely than ever before in his life. She was beautiful. She was
lovelier even than Wyola, her princess mother, who was dead. That
hair--which made men stare as if they could not believe! Those
eyes--like pools filled with wonderful starlight! Her slimness, that
was like a flower! And McTaggart had said--

Floating back to him there came an excited cry.

"Hurry, Nootawe! He has turned into the blind canyon. He cannot escape
us now."

She was panting when he came up to her. The French blood in her glowed
a vivid crimson in her cheeks and lips. Her white teeth gleamed like
pearls.

"In there!" And she pointed.

They went in.

Ahead of them Baree was running for his life. He sensed instinctively
the fact that these wonderful two-legged beings he had looked upon were
all-powerful. And they were after him! He could hear them. Nepeese was
following almost as swiftly as he could run. Suddenly he turned into a
cleft between two great rocks. Twenty feet in, his way was barred, and
he ran back. When he darted out, straight up the canyon, Nepeese was
not a dozen yards behind him, and he saw Pierrot almost at her side.
The Willow gave a cry.

"Mana--mana--there he is!"

She caught her breath, and darted into a copse of young balsams where
Baree had disappeared. Like a great entangling web her loose hair
impeded her in the brush, and with an encouraging cry to Pierrot she
stopped to gather it over her shoulder as he ran past her. She lost
only a moment or two, and then once again was after him. Fifty yards
ahead of her Pierrot gave a warning shout. Baree had turned. Almost in
the same breath he was tearing over his back trail, directly toward the
Willow. He did not see her in time to stop or swerve aside, and Nepeese
flung herself down in his path. For an instant or two they were
together. Baree felt the smother of her hair, and the clutch of her
hands. Then he squirmed away and darted again toward the blind end of
the canyon.

Nepeese sprang to her feet. She was panting--and laughing. Pierrot came
back wildly, and the Willow pointed beyond him.

"I had him--and he didn't bite!" she said, breathing swiftly. She still
pointed to the end of the canyon, and she said again: "I had him--and
he didn't bite me, Nootawe!"

That was the wonder of it. She had been reckless--and Baree had not
bitten her! It was then, with her eyes shining at Pierrot, and the
smile fading slowly from her lips, that she spoke softly the word
"Baree," which in her tongue meant "the wild dog"--a little brother of
the wolf.

"Come," cried Pierrot, "or we will lose him!"

Pierrot was confident. The canyon had narrowed. Baree could not get
past them unseen. Three minutes later Baree came to the blind end of
the canyon--a wall of rock that rose straight up like the curve of a
dish. Feasting on fish and long hours of sleep had fattened him, and he
was half winded as he sought vainly for an exit. He was at the far end
of the dishlike curve of rock, without a bush or a clump of grass to
hide him, when Pierrot and Nepeese saw him again. Nepeese made straight
toward him. Pierrot, foreseeing what Baree would do, hurried to the
left, at right angles to the end of the canyon.

In and out among the rocks Baree sought swiftly for a way of escape. In
a moment more he had come to the "box," or cup of the canyon. This was
a break in the wall, fifty or sixty feet wide, which opened into a
natural prison about an acre in extent. It was a beautiful spot. On all
sides but that leading into the coulee it was shut in by walls of rock.
At the far end a waterfall broke down in a series of rippling cascades.
The grass was thick underfoot and strewn with flowers. In this trap
Pierrot had got more than one fine haunch of venison. From it there was
no escape, except in the face of his rifle. He called to Nepeese as he
saw Baree entering it, and together they climbed the slope.

Baree had almost reached the edge of the little prison meadow when
suddenly he stopped himself so quickly that he fell back on his
haunches and his heart jumped up into his throat.

Full in his path stood Wakayoo, the huge black bear!

For perhaps a half-minute Baree hesitated between the two perils. He
heard the voices of Nepeese and Pierrot. He caught the rattle of stones
under their feet. And he was filled with a great dread. Then he looked
at Wakayoo. The big bear had not moved an inch. He, too, was listening.
But to him there was a thing more disturbing than the sounds he heard.
It was the scent which he caught in the air--the man scent.

Baree, watching him, saw his head swing slowly even as the footsteps of
Nepeese and Pierrot became more and more distinct. It was the first
time Baree had ever stood face to face with the big bear. He had
watched him fish; he had fattened on Wakayoo's prowess; he had held him
in splendid awe. Now there was something about the bear that took away
his fear and gave him in its place a new and thrilling confidence.
Wakayoo, big and powerful as he was, would not run from the two-legged
creatures who pursued him! If Baree could only get past Wakayoo he was
safe!

Baree darted to one side and ran for the open meadow. Wakayoo did not
stir as Baree sped past him--no more than if he had been a bird or a
rabbit. Then came another breath of air, heavy with the scent of man.
This, at last, put life into him. He turned and began lumbering after
Baree into the meadow trap. Baree, looking back, saw him coming--and
thought it was pursuit. Nepeese and Pierrot came over the slope, and at
the same instant they saw both Wakayoo and Baree.

Where they entered into the grassy dip under the rock walls, Baree
turned sharply to the right. Here was a great boulder, one end of it
tilted up off the earth. It looked like a splendid hiding place, and
Baree crawled under it.

But Wakayoo kept straight ahead into the meadow.

From where he lay Baree could see what happened. Scarcely had he
crawled under the rock when Nepeese and Pierrot appeared through the
break in the dip, and stopped. The fact that they stopped thrilled
Baree. They were afraid of Wakayoo! The big bear was two thirds of the
way across the meadow. The sun fell on him, so that his coat shone like
black satin. Pierrot stared at him for a moment. Pierrot did not kill
for the love of killing. Necessity made him a conservationist. But he
saw that in spite of the lateness of the season, Wakayoo's coat was
splendid--and he raised his rifle.

Baree saw this action. He saw, a moment later, something spit from the
end of the gun, and then he heard that deafening crash that had come
with his own hurt, when the Willow's bullet had burned through his
flesh. He turned his eyes swiftly to Wakayoo. The big bear had
stumbled; he was on his knees. And then he struggled to his feet and
lumbered on.

The roar of the rifle came again, and a second time Wakayoo went down.
Pierrot could not miss at that distance. Wakayoo made a splendid mark.
It was slaughter. Yet for Pierrot and Nepeese it was business--the
business of life.

Baree was shivering. It was more from excitement than fear, for he had
lost his own fear in the tragedy of these moments. A low whine rose in
his throat as he looked at Wakayoo, who had risen again and faced his
enemies--his jaws gaping, his head swinging slowly, his legs weakening
under him as the blood poured through his torn lungs. Baree
whined--because Wakayoo had fished for him, because he had come to look
on him as a friend, and because he knew it was death that Wakayoo was
facing now. There was a third shot--the last. Wakayoo sank down in his
tracks. His big head dropped between his forepaws. A racking cough or
two came to Baree's ears. And then there was silence. It was
slaughter--but business.

A minute later, standing over Wakayoo, Pierrot said to Nepeese:

"Mon dieu, but it is a fine skin, Sakahet! It is worth twenty dollars
over at Lac Bain!"

He drew forth his knife and began whetting it on a stone which he
carried in his pocket. In these minutes Baree might have crawled out
from under his rock and escaped down the canyon; for a space he was
forgotten. Then Nepeese thought of him, and in that same strange,
wondering voice she spoke again the word "Baree." Pierrot, who was
kneeling, looked up at her.

"Oui, Sakahet. He was born of the wild. And now he is gone--"

The Willow shook her head.

"Non, he is not gone," she said, and her dark eyes searched the sunlit
meadow.



CHAPTER 8

As Nepeese gazed about the rock-walled end of the canyon, the prison
into which they had driven Wakayoo and Baree, Pierrot looked up again
from his skinning of the big black bear, and he muttered something that
no one but himself could have heard. "Non, it is not possible," he had
said a moment before; but to Nepeese it was possible--the thought that
was in her mind. It was a wonderful thought. It thrilled her to the
depth of her wild, young soul. It sent a glow into her eyes and a
deeper flush of excitement into her cheeks and lips.

As she searched the ragged edges of the little meadow for signs of the
dog pup, her thoughts flashed back swiftly. Two years ago they had
buried her princess mother under the tall spruce near their cabin. That
day Pierrot's sun had set for all time, and her own life became filled
with a vast loneliness. There had been three at the graveside that
afternoon as the sun went down--Pierrot, herself, and a dog, a great,
powerful husky with a white star on his breast and a white-tipped ear.
He had been her dead mother's pet from puppyhood--her bodyguard, with
her always, even with his head resting on the side of her bed as she
died. And that night, the night of the day they buried her, the dog had
disappeared. He had gone as quietly and as completely as her spirit. No
one ever saw him after that. It was strange, and to Pierrot it was a
miracle. Deep in his heart he was filled with the wonderful conviction
that the dog had gone with his beloved Wyola into heaven.

But Nepeese had spent three winters at the missioner's school at Nelson
House. She had learned a great deal about white people and the real
God, and she knew that Pierrot's idea was impossible. She believed that
her mother's husky was either dead or had joined the wolves. Probably
he had gone to the wolves. So--was it not possible that this youngster
she and her father had pursued was of the flesh and blood of her
mother's pet? It was more than possible. The white star on his breast,
the white-tipped ear--the fact that he had not bitten her when he might
easily have buried his fangs in the soft flesh of her arms! She was
convinced. While Pierrot skinned the bear, she began hunting for Baree.

Baree had not moved an inch from under his rock. He lay like a thing
stunned, his eyes fixed steadily on the scene of the tragedy out in the
meadow. He had seen something that he would never forget--even as he
would never quite forget his mother and Kazan and the old windfall. He
had witnessed the death of the creature he had thought all-powerful.
Wakayoo, the big bear, had not even put up a fight. Pierrot and Nepeese
had killed him WITHOUT TOUCHING HIM. Now Pierrot was cutting him with a
knife which shot silvery flashes in the sun; and Wakayoo made no
movement. It made Baree shiver, and he drew himself an inch farther
back under the rock, where he was already wedged as if he had been
shoved there by a strong hand.

He could see Nepeese. She came straight back to the break through which
his flight had taken him, and stood at last not more than twenty feet
from where he was hidden. Now that she stood where he could not escape,
she began weaving her shining hair into two thick braids. Baree had
taken his eyes from Pierrot, and he watched her curiously. He was not
afraid now. His nerves tingled. In him a strange and growing force was
struggling to solve a great mystery--the reason for his desire to creep
out from under his rock and approach that wonderful creature with the
shining eyes and the beautiful hair.

Baree wanted to approach. It was like an invisible string tugging at
his very heart. It was Kazan, and not Gray Wolf, calling to him back
through the centuries, a "call" that was as old as the Egyptian
pyramids and perhaps ten thousand years older. But against that desire
Gray Wolf was pulling from out the black ages of the forests. The wolf
held him quiet and motionless. Nepeese was looking about her. She was
smiling. For a moment her face was turned toward him, and he saw the
white shine of her teeth, and her beautiful eyes seemed glowing
straight at him.

And then, suddenly, she dropped on her knees and peered under the rock.

Their eyes met. For at least half a minute there was not a sound.
Nepeese did not move, and her breath came so softly that Baree could
not hear it.

Then she said, almost in a whisper:

"Baree! Baree! Upi Baree!"

It was the first time Baree had heard his name, and there was something
so soft and assuring in the sound of it that in spite of himself the
dog in him responded to it in a whimper that just reached the Willow's
ears. Slowly she stretched in an arm. It was bare and round and soft.
He might have darted forward the length of his body and buried his
fangs in it easily. But something held him back. He knew that it was
not an enemy. He knew that the dark eyes shining at him so wonderfully
were not filled with the desire to harm--and the voice that came to him
softly was like a strange and thrilling music.

"Baree! Baree! Upi Baree!"

Over and over again the Willow called to him like that, while on her
face she tried to draw herself a few inches farther under the rock. She
could not reach him. There was still a foot between her hand and Baree,
and she could not wedge herself forward an inch more. And then she saw
where on the other side of the rock there was a hollow, shut in by a
stone. If she had removed the stone, and come in that way--

She drew herself out and stood once more in the sunshine. Her heart
thrilled. Pierrot was busy over his bear--and she would not call him.
She made an effort to move the stone which closed in the hollow under
the big boulder, but it was wedged in tightly. Then she began digging
with a stick. If Pierrot had been there, his sharp eyes would have
discovered the significance of that stone, which was not larger than a
water pail. Possibly for centuries it had lain there, its support
keeping the huge rock from toppling down, just as an ounce weight may
swing the balance of a wheel that weighs a ton.

Five minutes--and Nepeese could move the stone. She tugged at it. Inch
by inch she dragged it out until at last it lay at her feet and the
opening was ready for her body. She looked again toward Pierrot. He was
still busy, and she laughed softly as she untied a big red-and-white
Bay handkerchief from about her shoulders. With this she would secure
Baree. She dropped on her hands and knees and then lowered herself flat
on the ground and began crawling into the hollow under the boulder.

Baree had moved. With the back of his head flattened against the rock,
he had heard something which Nepeese had not heard. He had felt a slow
and growing pressure, and from this pressure he had dragged himself
slowly--and the pressure still followed. The mass of rock was settling!
Nepeese did not see or hear or understand. She was calling to him more
and more pleadingly:

"Baree--Baree--Baree--"

Her head and shoulders and both arms were under the rock now. The glow
of her eyes was very close to Baree. He whined. The thrill of a great
and impending danger stirred in his blood. And then--

In that moment Nepeese felt the pressure of the rock on her shoulder,
and into the eyes that had been glowing softly at Baree there shot a
sudden wild look of horror. And then there came from her lips a cry
that was not like any other sound Baree had ever heard in the
wilderness--wild, piercing, filled with agonized fear. Pierrot did not
hear that first cry. But he heard the second and the third--and then
scream after scream as the Willow's tender body was slowly crushed
under the settling mass. He ran toward it with the speed of the wind.
The cries were now weaker--dying away. He saw Baree as he came out from
under the rock and ran into the canyon, and in the same instant he saw
a part of the Willow's dress and her moccasined feet. The rest of her
was hidden under the deathtrap. Like a madman Pierrot began digging.

When a few moments later he drew Nepeese out from under the boulder she
was white and deathly still. Her eyes were closed. His hand could not
feel that she was living, and a great moan of anguish rose out of his
soul. But he knew how to fight for a life. He tore open her dress and
found that she was not crushed as he had feared. Then he ran for water.
When he returned, the Willow's eyes were open and she was gasping for
breath.

"The blessed saints be praised!" sobbed Pierrot, falling on his knees
at her side. "Nepeese, ma Nepeese!"

She smiled at him, and Pierrot drew her up to him, forgetting the water
he had run so hard to get.

Still later, when he got down on his knees and peered under the rock,
his face turned white and he said:

"Mon Dieu, if it had not been for that little hollow in the earth,
Nepeese--"

He shuddered, and said no more. But Nepeese, happy in her salvation,
made a movement with her hand and said, smiling at him:

"I would have been like--THAT." And she held her thumb and forefinger
close together.

"But where did Baree go, mon pere?" Nepeese cried.



CHAPTER 9

Impelled by the wild alarm of the Willow's terrible cries and the sight
of Pierrot dashing madly toward him from the dead body of Wakayoo,
Baree did not stop running until it seemed as though his lungs could
not draw another breath. When he stopped, he was well out of the canyon
and headed for the beaver pond. For almost a week Baree had not been
near the pond. He had not forgotten Beaver Tooth and Umisk and the
other little beavers, but Wakayoo and his daily catch of fresh fish had
been too big a temptation for him. Now Wakayoo was gone. He sensed the
fact that the big black bear would never fish again in the quiet pools
and shimmering eddies, and that where for many days there had been
peace and plenty, there was now great danger. And just as in another
country he would have fled for safety to the old windfall, he now fled
desperately for the beaver pond.

Exactly wherein lay Baree's fears it would be difficult to say--but
surely it was not because of Nepeese. The Willow had chased him hard.
She had flung herself upon him. He had felt the clutch of her hands and
the smother of her soft hair, and yet of her he was not afraid! If he
stopped now and then in his flight and looked back, it was to see if
Nepeese was following. He would not have run hard from her--alone. Her
eyes and voice and hands had set something stirring in him; he was
filled with a greater yearning and a greater loneliness now. And that
night he dreamed troubled dreams.

He found himself a bed under a spruce root not far from the beaver
pond, and all through the night his sleep was filled with that restless
dreaming--dreams of his mother, of Kazan, the old windfall, of
Umlsk--and of Nepeese. Once, when he awoke, he thought the spruce root
was Gray Wolf; and when he found that she was not there, Pierrot and
the Willow could have told what his crying meant if they had heard it.
Again and again he had visions of the thrilling happenings of that day.
He saw the flight of Wakayoo over the little meadow--he saw him die
again. He saw the glow of the Willow's eyes close to his own, heard her
voice--so sweet and low that it seemed like strange music to him--and
again he heard her terrible screams.

Baree was glad when the dawn came. He did not seek for food, but went
down to the pond. There was little hope and anticipation in his manner
now. He remembered that, as plainly as animal ways could talk, Umisk
and his playmates had told him they wanted nothing to do with him. And
yet the fact that they were there took away some of his loneliness. It
was more than loneliness. The wolf in him was submerged. The dog was
master. And in these passing moments, when the blood of the wild was
almost dormant in him, he was depressed by the instinctive and growing
feeling that he was not of that wild, but a fugitive in it, menaced on
all sides by strange dangers.

Deep in the northern forests the beaver does not work and play in
darkness only, but uses day even more than night, and many of Beaver
Tooth's people were awake when Baree began disconsolately to
investigate the shores of the pond. The little beavers were still with
their mothers in the big houses that looked like great domes of sticks
and mud out in the middle of the lake. There were three of these
houses, one of them at least twenty feet in diameter. Baree had some
difficulty in following his side of the pond. When he got back among
the willows and alders and birch, dozens of little canals crossed and
crisscrossed in his path. Some of these canals were a foot wide, and
others three or four feet, and all were filled with water. No country
in the world ever had a better system of traffic than this domain of
the beavers, down which they brought their working materials and food
into the main reservoir--the pond.

In one of the larger canals Baree surprised a big beaver towing a
four-foot cutting of birch as thick through as a man's leg--half a
dozen breakfasts and dinners and suppers in that one cargo. The four or
five inner barks of the birch are what might be called the bread and
butter and potatoes of the beaver menu, while the more highly prized
barks of the willow and young alder take the place of meat and pie.
Baree smelled curiously of the birch cutting after the old beaver had
abandoned it in flight, and then went on. He did not try to conceal
himself now, and at least half a dozen beavers had a good look at him
before he came to the point where the pond narrowed down to the width
of the stream, almost half a mile from the dam. Then he wandered back.
All that morning he hovered about the pond, showing himself openly.

In their big mud-and-stick strongholds the beavers held a council of
war. They were distinctly puzzled. There were four enemies which they
dreaded above all others: the otter, who destroyed their dams in the
wintertime and brought death to them from cold and by lowering the
water so they could not get to their food supplies; the lynx, who
preyed on them all, young and old alike; and the fox and wolf, who
would lie in ambush for hours in order to pounce on the very young,
like Umisk and his playmates. If Baree had been any one of these four,
wily Beaver Tooth and his people would have known what to do. But Baree
was surely not an otter, and if he was a fox or a wolf or a lynx, his
actions were very strange, to say the least. Half a dozen times he had
had the opportunity to pounce on his prey, if he had been seeking prey.
But at no time had he shown the least desire to harm them.

It may be that the beavers discussed the matter fully among themselves.
It is possible that Umisk and his playmates told their parents of their
adventure, and of how Baree had made no move to harm them when he could
quite easily have caught them. It is also more than likely that the
older beavers who had fled from Baree that morning gave an account of
their adventures, again emphasizing the fact that the stranger, while
frightening them, had shown no disposition to attack them. All this is
quite possible, for if beavers can make a large part of a continent's
history, and can perform engineering feats that nothing less than
dynamite can destroy, it is only reasonable to suppose that they have
some way of making one another understand.

However this may be, courageous old Beaver Tooth took it upon himself
to end the suspense.

It was early in the afternoon that for the third or fourth time Baree
walked out on the dam. This dam was fully two hundred feet in length,
but at no point did the water run over it, the overflow finding its way
through narrow sluices. A week or two ago Baree could have crossed to
the opposite side of the pond on this dam, but now--at the far
end--Beaver Tooth and his engineers were adding a new section of dam,
and in order to accomplish their work more easily, they had flooded
fully fifty yards of the low ground on which they were working.

The main dam held a strange fascination for Baree. It was strong with
the smell of beaver. The top of it was high and dry, and there were
dozens of smoothly worn little hollows in which the beavers had taken
their sun baths. In one of these hollows Baree stretched himself out,
with his eyes on the pond. Not a ripple stirred its velvety smoothness.
Not a sound broke the drowsy stillness of the afternoon. The beavers
might have been dead or asleep, for all the stir they made. And yet
they knew that Baree was on the dam. Where he lay, the sun fell in a
warm flood, and it was so comfortable that after a time he had
difficulty in keeping his eyes open to watch the pond. Then he fell
asleep.

Just how Beaver Tooth sensed this fact is a mystery. Five minutes later
he came up quietly, without a splash or a sound, within fifty yards of
Baree. For a few moments he scarcely moved in the water. Then he swam
very slowly parallel with the dam across the pond. At the other side he
drew himself ashore, and for another minute sat as motionless as a
stone, with his eyes on that part of the dam where Baree was lying. Not
another beaver was moving, and it was very soon apparent that Beaver
Tooth had but one object in mind--getting a closer observation of
Baree. When he entered the water again, he swam along close to the dam.
Ten feet beyond Baree he began to climb out. He did this with great
slowness and caution. At last he reached the top of the dam.

A few yards away Baree was almost hidden in his hollow, only the top of
his shiny black body appearing to Beaver Tooth's scrutiny. To get a
better look, the old beaver spread his flat tail out beyond him and
rose to a sitting posture on his hindquarters, his two front paws held
squirrel-like over his breast. In this pose he was fully three feet
tall. He probably weighed forty pounds, and in some ways he resembled
one of those fat, good-natured, silly-looking dogs that go largely to
stomach. But his brain was working with amazing celerity. Suddenly he
gave the hard mud of the dam a single slap with his tail--and Baree sat
up. Instantly he saw Beaver Tooth, and stared. Beaver Tooth stared. For
a full half-minute neither moved the thousandth part of an inch. Then
Baree stood up and wagged his tail.

That was enough. Dropping to his forefeet. Beaver Tooth waddled
leisurely to the edge of the dam and dived over. He was neither
cautious nor in very great haste now. He made a great commotion in the
water and swam boldly back and forth under Baree. When he had done this
several times, he cut straight up the pond to the largest of the three
houses and disappeared. Five minutes after Beaver Tooth's exploit word
was passing quickly among the colony. The stranger--Baree--was not a
lynx. He was not a fox. He was not a wolf. Moreover, he was very
young--and harmless. Work could be resumed. Play could be resumed.
There was no danger. Such was Beaver Tooth's verdict.

If someone had shouted these facts in beaver language through a
megaphone, the response could not have been quicker. All at once it
seemed to Baree, who was still standing on the edge of the dam, that
the pond was alive with beavers. He had never seen so many at one time
before. They were popping up everywhere, and some of them swam up
within a dozen feet of him and looked him over in a leisurely and
curious way. For perhaps five minutes the beavers seemed to have no
particular object in view. Then Beaver Tooth himself struck straight
for the shore and climbed out. Others followed him. Half a dozen
workers disappeared in the canals. As many more waddled out among the
alders and willows. Eagerly Baree watched for Umisk and his chums. At
last he saw them, swimming forth from one of the smaller houses. They
climbed out on their playground--the smooth bar above the shore of mud.
Baree wagged his tail so hard that his whole body shook, and hurried
along the dam.

When he came out on the level strip of shore, Umisk was there alone,
nibbling his supper from a long, freshly cut willow. The other little
beavers had gone into a thick clump of young alders.

This time Umisk did not run. He looked up from his stick. Baree
squatted himself, wiggling in a most friendly and ingratiating manner.
For a few seconds Umisk regarded him.

Then, very coolly, he resumed his supper.



CHAPTER 10

Just as in the life of every man there is one big, controlling
influence, either for good or bad, so in the life of Baree the beaver
pond was largely an arbiter of destiny. Where he might have gone if he
had not discovered it, and what might have happened to him, are matters
of conjecture. But it held him. It began to take the place of the old
windfall, and in the beavers themselves he found a companionship which
made up, in a way, for his loss of the protection and friendship of
Kazan and Gray Wolf.

This companionship, if it could be called that, went just so far and no
farther. With each day that passed the older beavers became more
accustomed to seeing Baree. At the end of two weeks, if Baree had gone
away, they would have missed him--but not in the same way that Baree
would have missed the beavers. It was a matter of good-natured
toleration on their part. With Baree it was different. He was still
uskahis, as Nepeese would have said. He still wanted mothering; he was
still moved by the puppyish yearnings which he had not yet had the time
to outgrow; and when night came--to speak that yearning quite
plainly--he had the desire to go into the big beaver house with Umisk
and his chums and sleep.

During this fortnight that followed Beaver Tooth's exploit on the dam
Baree ate his meals a mile up the creek, where there were plenty of
crayfish. But the pond was home. Night always found him there, and a
large part of his day. He slept at the end of the dam, or on top of it
on particularly clear nights, and the beavers accepted him as a
permanent guest. They worked in his presence as if he did not exist.

Baree was fascinated by this work, and he never grew tired of watching
it. It puzzled and bewildered him. Day after day he saw them float
timber and brush through the water for the new dam. He saw this dam
growing steadily under their efforts. One day he lay within a dozen
feet of an old beaver who was cutting down a tree six inches through.
When the tree fell, and the old beaver scurried away, Baree scurried,
too. Then he came back and smelled of the cutting, wondering what it
was all about, and why Umisk's uncle or grandfather or aunt had gone to
all that trouble.

He still could not induce Umisk and the other young beavers to join him
in play, and after the first week or so he gave up his efforts. In
fact, their play puzzled him almost as much as the dam-building
operations of the older beavers. Umisk, for instance, was fond of
playing in the mud at the edge of the pond. He was like a very small
boy. Where his elders floated timbers from three inches to a foot in
diameter to the big dam, Umisk brought small sticks and twigs no larger
around than a lead pencil to his playground, and built a make-believe
dam of his own.

Umisk would work an hour at a time on this play dam as industriously as
his father and mother were working on the big dam, and Baree would lie
flat on his belly a few feet away, watching him and wondering mightily.
And through this half-dry mud Umisk would also dig his miniature
canals, just as a small boy might have dug his Mississippi River and
pirate-infested oceans in the outflow of some back-lot spring. With his
sharp little teeth he cut down his big timber--willow sprouts never
more than an inch in diameter; and when one of these four or five-foot
sprouts toppled down, he undoubtedly felt as great a satisfaction as
Beaver Tooth felt when he sent a seventy-foot birch crashing into the
edge of the pond. Baree could not understand the fun of all this. He
could see some reason for nibbling at sticks--he liked to sharpen his
teeth on sticks himself; but it puzzled him to explain why Umisk so
painstakingly stripped the bark from the sticks and swallowed it.

Another method of play still further discouraged Baree's advances. A
short distance from the spot where he had first seen Umisk there was a
shelving bank that rose ten or twelve feet from the water, and this
bank was used by the young beavers as a slide. It was worn smooth and
hard. Umisk would climb up the bank at a point where it was not so
steep. At the top of the slide he would put his tail out flat behind
him and give himself a shove, shooting down the toboggan and landing in
the water with a big splash. At times there were from six to ten young
beavers engaged in this sport, and now and then one of the older
beavers would waddle to the top of the slide and take a turn with the
youngsters.

One afternoon, when the toboggan was particularly wet and slippery from
recent use, Baree went up the beaver path to the top of the bank, and
began investigating. Nowhere had he found the beaver smell so strong as
on the slide. He began sniffing and incautiously went too far. In an
instant his feet shot out from under him, and with a single wild yelp
he went shooting down the toboggan. For the second time in his life he
found himself struggling under water, and when a minute or two later he
dragged himself up through the soft mud to the firmer footing of the
shore, he had at last a very well-defined opinion of beaver play.

It may be that Umisk saw him. It may be that very soon the story of his
adventure was known by all the inhabitants of Beaver Town. For when
Baree came upon Umisk eating his supper of alder bark that evening,
Umisk stood his ground to the last inch, and for the first time they
smelled noses. At least Baree sniffed audibly, and plucky little Umisk
sat like a rolled-up sphinx. That was the final cementing of their
friendship--on Baree's part. He capered about extravagantly for a few
moments, telling Umisk how much he liked him, and that they'd be great
chums. Umisk didn't talk. He didn't make a move until he resumed his
supper. But he was a companionable-looking little fellow, for all that,
and Baree was happier than he had been since the day he left the old
windfall.

This friendship, even though it outwardly appeared to be quite
one-sided, was decidedly fortunate for Umisk. When Baree was at the
pond, he always kept as near to Umisk as possible, when he could find
him. One day he was lying in a patch of grass, half asleep, while Umisk
busied himself in a clump of alder shoots a few yards away. It was the
warning crack of a beaver tail that fully roused Baree; and then
another and another, like pistol shots. He jumped up. Everywhere
beavers were scurrying for the pond.

Just then Umisk came out of the alders and hurried as fast as his
short, fat legs would carry him toward the water. He had almost reached
the mud when a lightning flash of red passed before Baree's eyes in the
afternoon sun, and in another instant Napakasew--the he-fox--had
fastened his sharp fangs in Umisk's throat. Baree heard his little
friend's agonized cry; he heard the frenzied flap-flap-flap of many
tails--and his blood pounded suddenly with the thrill of excitement and
rage.

As swiftly as the red fox himself, Baree darted to the rescue. He was
as big and as heavy as the fox, and when he struck Napakasew, it was
with a ferocious snarl that Pierrot might have heard on the farther
side of the pond, and his teeth sank like knives into the shoulder of
Umisk's assailant. The fox was of a breed of forest highwaymen which
kills from behind. He was not a fighter when it came fang-to-fang,
unless cornered--and so fierce and sudden was Baree's assault that
Napakasew took to flight almost as quickly as he had begun his attack
on Umisk.

Baree did not follow him, but went to Umisk, who lay half in the mud,
whimpering and snuffling in a curious sort of way. Gently Baree nosed
him, and after a moment or two Umisk got up on his webbed feet, while
fully twenty or thirty beavers were making a tremendous fuss in the
water near the shore.

After this the beaver pond seemed more than ever like home to Baree.



CHAPTER 11

While lovely Nepeese was still shuddering over her thrilling experience
under the rock--while Pierrot still offered grateful thanks in his
prayers for her deliverance and Baree was becoming more and more a
fixture at the beaver pond--Bush McTaggart was perfecting a little
scheme of his own up at Post Lac Bain, about forty miles north and
west. McTaggart had been factor at Lac Bain for seven years. In the
company's books down in Winnipeg he was counted a remarkably successful
man. The expense of his post was below the average, and his semiannual
report of furs always ranked among the first. After his name, kept on
file in the main office, was one notation which said: "Gets more out of
a dollar than any other man north of God's Lake."

The Indians knew why this was so. They called him Napao Wetikoo--the
man-devil. This was under their breath--a name whispered sinisterly in
the glow of tepee fires, or spoken softly where not even the winds
might carry it to the ears of Bush McTaggart. They feared him; they
hated him. They died of starvation and sickness, and the tighter Bush
McTaggart clenched the fingers of his iron rule, the more meekly, it
seemed to him, did they respond to his mastery. His was a small soul,
hidden in the hulk of a brute, which rejoiced in power. And here--with
the raw wilderness on four sides of him--his power knew no end. The big
company was behind him. It had made him king of a domain in which there
was little law except his own. And in return he gave back to the
company bales and bundles of furs beyond their expectation. It was not
for them to have suspicions. They were a thousand or more miles
away--and dollars were what counted.

Gregson might have told. Gregson was the investigating agent of that
district, who visited McTaggart once each year. He might have reported
that the Indians called McTaggart Napao Wetikoo because he gave them
only half price for their furs. He might have told the company quite
plainly that he kept the people of the trap lines at the edge of
starvation through every month of the winter, that he had them on their
knees with his hands at their throats--putting the truth in a mild and
pretty way--and that he always had a woman or a girl, Indian or
half-breed, living with him at the Post. But Gregson enjoyed his visits
too much at Lac Bain. Always he could count on two weeks of coarse
pleasures. And in addition to that, his own womenfolk at home wore a
rich treasure of fur that came to them from McTaggart.

One evening, a week after the adventure of Nepeese and Baree under the
rock, McTaggart sat under the glow of an oil lamp in his "store." He
had sent his little pippin-faced English clerk to bed, and he was
alone. For six weeks there had been in him a great unrest. It was just
six weeks ago that Pierrot had brought Nepeese on her first visit to
Lac Bain since McTaggart had been factor there. She had taken his
breath away. Since then he had been able to think of nothing but her.
Twice in that six weeks he had gone down to Pierrot's cabin. Tomorrow
he was going again. Marie, the slim Cree girl over in his cabin, he had
forgotten--just as a dozen others before Marie had slipped out of his
memory. It was Nepeese now. He had never seen anything quite so
beautiful as Pierrot's girl.

Audibly he cursed Pierrot as he looked at a sheet of paper under his
hand, on which for an hour or more he had been making notes out of worn
and dusty company ledgers. It was Pierrot who stood in his way.
Pierrot's father, according to those notes, had been a full-blooded
Frenchman. Therefore Pierrot was half French, and Nepeese was quarter
French--though she was so beautiful he could have sworn there was not
more than a drop or two of Indian blood in her veins. If they had been
all Indian--Chipewyan, Cree, Ojibway, Dog Rib--anything--there would
have been no trouble at all in the matter. He would have bent them to
his power, and Nepeese would have come to his cabin, as Marie had come
six months ago. But there was the accursed French of it! Pierrot and
Nepeese were different. And yet--

He smiled grimly, and his hands clenched tighter. After all, was not
his power sufficient? Would even Pierrot dare stand up against that? If
Pierrot objected, he would drive him from the country--from the
trapping regions that had come down to him as heritage from father and
grandfather, and even before their day. He would make of Pierrot a
wanderer and an outcast, as he had made wanderers and outcasts of a
score of others who had lost his favor. No other Post would sell to or
buy from Pierrot if Le Bete--the black cross--was put after his name.
That was his power--a law of the factors that had come down through the
centuries. It was a tremendous power for evil. It had brought him
Marie, the slim, dark-eyed Cree girl, who hated him--and who in spite
of her hatred "kept house for him."

That was the polite way of explaining her presence if explanations were
ever necessary. McTaggart looked again at the notes he had made on the
sheet of paper. Pierrot's trapping country, his own property according
to the common law of the wilderness, was very valuable. During the last
seven years he had received an average of a thousand dollars a year for
his furs, for McTaggart had been unable to cheat Pierrot quite as
completely as he had cheated the Indians. A thousand dollars a year!
Pierrot would think twice before he gave that up. McTaggart chuckled as
he crumpled the paper in his hand and prepared to put out the light.
Under his close-cropped beard his reddish face blazed with the fire
that was in his blood. It was an unpleasant face--like iron, merciless,
filled with the look that gave him his name of Napao Wetikoo. His eyes
gleamed, and he drew a quick breath as he put out the light.

He chuckled again as he made his way through the darkness to the door.
Nepeese as good as belonged to him. He, would have her if it
cost--PIERROT'S LIFE. And--WHY NOT? It was all so easy. A shot on a
lonely trap line, a single knife thrust--and who would know? Who would
guess where Pierrot had gone? And it would all be Pierrot's fault. For
the last time he had seen Pierrot, he had made an honest proposition:
he would marry Nepeese. Yes, even that. He had told Pierrot so. He had
told Pierrot that when the latter was his father-in-law, he would pay
him double price for furs.

And Pierrot had stared--had stared with that strange, stunned look in
his face, like a man dazed by a blow from a club. And so if he did not
get Nepeese without trouble it would all be Pierrot's fault. Tomorrow
McTaggart would start again for the half-breed's country. And the next
day Pierrot would have an answer for him. Bush McTaggart chuckled again
as he went to bed.

Until the next to the last day Pierrot said nothing to Nepeese about
what had passed between him and the factor at Lac Bain. Then he told
her.

"He is a beast--a man-devil," he said, when he had finished. "I would
rather see you out there--with her--dead." And he pointed to the tall
spruce under which the princess mother lay.

Nepeese had not uttered a sound. But her eyes had grown bigger and
darker, and there was a flush in her cheeks which Pierrot had never
seen there before. She stood up when he had finished, and she seemed
taller to him. Never had she looked quite so much like a woman, and
Pierrot's eyes were deep-shadowed with fear and uneasiness as he
watched her while she gazed off into the northwest--toward Lac Bain.

She was wonderful, this slip of a girl-woman. Her beauty troubled him.
He had seen the look in Bush McTaggart's eyes. He had heard the thrill
in McTaggart's voice. He had caught the desire of a beast in
McTaggart's face. It had frightened him at first. But now--he was not
frightened. He was uneasy, but his hands were clenched. In his heart
there was a smoldering fire. At last Nepeese turned and came and sat
down beside him again, at his feet.

"He is coming tomorrow, ma cherie," he said. "What shall I tell him?"

The Willow's lips were red. Her eyes shone. But she did not look up at
her father.

"Nothing, Nootawe--except that you are to say to him that I am the one
to whom he must come--for what he seeks."

Pierrot bent over and caught her smiling. The sun went down. His heart
sank with it, like cold lead.


From Lac Bain to Pierrot's cabin the trail cut within half a mile of
the beaver pond, a dozen miles from where Pierrot lived. And it was
here, on a twist of the creek in which Wakayoo had caught fish for
Baree, that Bush McTaggart made his camp for the night. Only twenty
miles of the journey could be made by canoe, and as McTaggart was
traveling the last stretch afoot, his camp was a simple affair--a few
cut balsams, a light blanket, a small fire. Before he prepared his
supper, the factor drew a number of copper wire snares from his small
pack and spent half an hour in setting them in rabbit runways. This
method of securing meat was far less arduous than carrying a gun in hot
weather, and it was certain. Half a dozen snares were good for at least
three rabbits, and one of these three was sure to be young and tender
enough for the frying pan. After he had placed his snares McTaggart set
a skillet of bacon over the coals and boiled his coffee.

Of all the odors of a camp, the smell of bacon reaches farthest in the
forest. It needs no wind. It drifts on its own wings. On a still night
a fox will sniff it a mile away--twice that far if the air is moving in
the right direction. It was this smell of bacon that came to Baree
where he lay in his hollow on top of the beaver dam.

Since his experience in the canyon and the death of Wakayoo, he had not
fared particularly well. Caution had kept him near the pond, and he had
lived almost entirely on crayfish. This new aroma that came with the
night wind roused his hunger. But it was elusive: now he could smell
it--the next instant it was gone. He left the dam and began questing
for the source of it in the forest, until after a time he lost it
altogether. McTaggart had finished frying his bacon and was eating it.

It was a splendid night that followed. Perhaps Baree would have slept
through it in his nest on the top of the dam if the bacon smell had not
stirred the new hunger in him. Since his adventure in the canyon, the
deeper forest had held a dread for him, especially at night. But this
night was like a pale, golden day. It was moonless; but the stars shone
like a billion distant lamps, flooding the world in a soft and billowy
sea of light. A gentle whisper of wind made pleasant sounds in the
treetops. Beyond that it was very quiet, for it was Puskowepesim--the
Molting Moon--and the wolves were not hunting, the owls had lost their
voice, the foxes slunk with the silence of shadows, and even the
beavers had begun to cease their labors. The horns of the moose, the
deer, and the caribou were in tender velvet, and they moved but little
and fought not at all. It was late July, Molting Moon of the Cree, Moon
of Silence for the Chipewyan.

In this silence Baree began to hunt. He stirred up a family of
half-grown partridges, but they escaped him. He pursued a rabbit that
was swifter than he. For an hour he had no luck. Then he heard a sound
that made every drop of blood in him thrill. He was close to
McTaggart's camp, and what he had heard was a rabbit in one of
McTaggart's snares. He came out into a little starlit open and there he
saw the rabbit going through a most marvelous pantomime. It amazed him
for a moment, and he stopped in his tracks.

Wapoos, the rabbit, had run his furry head into the snare, and his
first frightened jump had "shot" the sapling to which the copper wire
was attached so that he was now hung half in mid-air, with only his
hind feet touching the ground. And there he was dancing madly while the
noose about his neck slowly choked him to death.

Baree gave a sort of gasp. He could understand nothing of the part that
the wire and the sapling were playing in this curious game. All he
could see was that Wapoos was hopping and dancing about on his hind
legs in a most puzzling and unrabbitlike fashion. It may be that he
thought it some sort of play. In this instance, however, he did not
regard Wapoos as he had looked on Umisk the beaver. He knew that Wapoos
made mighty fine eating, and after another moment or two of hesitation
he darted upon his prey.

Wapoos, half gone already, made almost no struggle, and in the glow of
the stars Baree finished him, and for half an hour afterward he feasted.

McTaggart had heard no sound, for the snare into which Wapoos had run
his head was the one set farthest from his camp. Beside the smoldering
coals of his fire he sat with his back to a tree, smoking his black
pipe and dreaming covetously of Nepeese, while Baree continued his
night wandering. Baree no longer had the desire to hunt. He was too
full. But he nosed in and out of the starlit spaces, enjoying immensely
the stillness and the golden glow of the night. He was following a
rabbit-run when he came to a place where two fallen logs left a trail
no wider than his body. He squeezed through; something tightened about
his neck. There was a sudden snap--a swish as the sapling was released
from its "trigger"--and Baree was jerked off his feet so suddenly that
he had no time to conjecture as to what was happening.

The yelp in his throat died in a gurgle, and the next moment he was
going through the pantomimic actions of Wapoos, who was having his
vengeance inside him. For the life of him Baree could not keep from
dancing about, while the wire grew tighter and tighter about his neck.
When he snapped at the wire and flung the weight of his body to the
ground, the sapling would bend obligingly, and then--in its
rebound--would yank him for an instant completely off the earth.
Furiously he struggled. It was a miracle that the fine wire held him.
In a few moments more it must have broken--but McTaggart had heard him!
The factor caught up his blanket and a heavy stick as he hurried toward
the snare. It was not a rabbit making those sounds--he knew that.
Perhaps a fishercat--a lynx, a fox, a young wolf--

It was the wolf he thought of first when he saw Baree at the end of the
wire. He dropped the blanket and raised the club. If there had been
clouds overhead, or the stars had been less brilliant, Baree would have
died as surely as Wapoos had died. With the club raised over his head
McTaggart saw in time the white star, the white-tipped ear, and the jet
black of Baree's coat.

With a swift movement he exchanged the club for the blanket.

In that hour, could McTaggart have looked ahead to the days that were
to come, he would have used the club. Could he have foreseen the great
tragedy in which Baree was to play a vital part, wrecking his hopes and
destroying his world, he would have beaten him to a pulp there under
the light of the stars. And Baree, could he have foreseen what was to
happen between this brute with a white skin and the most beautiful
thing in the forests, would have fought even more bitterly before he
surrendered himself to the smothering embrace of the factor's blanket.
On this night Fate had played a strange hand for them both, and only
that Fate, and perhaps the stars above, held a knowledge of what its
outcome was to be.



CHAPTER 12

Half an hour later Bush McTaggart's fire was burning brightly again. In
the glow of it Baree lay trussed up like an Indian papoose, tied into a
balloon-shaped ball with babiche thong, his head alone showing where
his captor had cut a hole for it in the blanket. He was hopelessly
caught--so closely imprisoned in the blanket that he could scarcely
move a muscle of his body. A few feet away from him McTaggart was
bathing a bleeding hand in a basin of water. There was also a red
streak down the side of McTaggart's bullish neck.

"You little devil!" he snarled at Baree. "You little devil!"

He reached over suddenly and gave Baree's head a vicious blow with his
heavy hand.

"I ought to beat your brains out, and--I believe I will!"

Baree watched him as he picked up a stick close at his side--a bit of
firewood. Pierrot had chased him, but this was the first time he had
been near enough to the man-monster to see the red glow in his eyes.
They were not like the eyes of the wonderful creature who had almost
caught him in the web of her hair, and who had crawled after him under
the rock. They were the eyes of a beast. They made him shrink and try
to draw his head back into the blanket as the stick was raised. At the
same time he snarled. His white fangs gleamed in the firelight. His
ears were flat. He wanted to sink his teeth in the red throat where he
had already drawn blood.

The stick fell. It fell again and again, and when McTaggart was done,
Baree lay half stunned, his eyes partly closed by the blows, and his
mouth bleeding.

"That's the way we take the devil out of a wild dog," snarled
McTaggart. "I guess you won't try the biting game again, eh, youngster?
A thousand devils--but you went almost to the bone of this hand!"

He began washing the wound again. Baree's teeth had sunk deep, and
there was a troubled look in the factor's face. It was July--a bad
month for bites. From his kit he got a small flask of whisky and turned
a bit of the raw liquor on the wound, cursing Baree as it burned into
his flesh.

Baree's half-shut eyes were fixed on him steadily. He knew that at last
he had met the deadliest of all his enemies. And yet he was not afraid.
The club in Bush McTaggart's hand had not killed his spirit. It had
killed his fear. It had roused in him a hatred such as he had never
known--not even when he was fighting Oohoomisew, the outlaw owl. The
vengeful animosity of the wolf was burning in him now, along with the
savage courage of the dog. He did not flinch when McTaggart approached
him again. He made an effort to raise himself, that he might spring at
this man-monster. In the effort, swaddled as he was in the blanket, he
rolled over in a helpless and ludicrous heap.

The sight of it touched McTaggart's risibilities, and he laughed. He
sat down with his back to the tree again and filled his pipe.

Baree did not take his eyes from McTaggart as he smoked. He watched the
man when the latter stretched himself out on the bare ground and went
to sleep. He listened, still later, to the man-monster's heinous
snoring. Again and again during the long night he struggled to free
himself. He would never forget that night. It was terrible. In the
thick, hot folds of the blanket his limbs and body were suffocated
until the blood almost stood still in his veins. Yet he did not whine.

They began to journey before the sun was up, for if Baree's blood was
almost dead within him, Bush McTaggart's was scorching his body. He
made his last plans as he walked swiftly through the forest with Baree
under his arm. He would send Pierrot at once for Father Grotin at his
mission seventy miles to the west. He would marry Nepeese--yes, marry
her! That would tickle Pierrot. And he would be alone with Nepeese
while Pierrot was gone for the missioner.

This thought flamed McTaggart's blood like strong whisky. There was no
thought in his hot and unreasoning brain of what Nepeese might say--of
what she might think. His hand clenched, and he laughed harshly as
there flashed on him for an instant the thought that perhaps Pierrot
would not want to give her up. Pierrot! Bah! It would not be the first
time he had killed a man--or the second.

McTaggart laughed again, and he walked still faster. There was no
chance of his losing--no chance for Nepeese to get away from him.
He--Bush McTaggart--was lord of this wilderness, master of its people,
arbiter of their destinies. He was power--and the law.

The sun was well up when Pierrot, standing in front of his cabin with
Nepeese, pointed to a rise in the trail three or four hundred yards
away, over which McTaggart had just appeared.

"He is coming."

With a face which had aged since last night he looked at Nepeese. Again
he saw the dark glow in her eyes and the deepening red of her parted
lips, and his heart was sick again with dread. Was it possible--

She turned on him, her eyes shining, her voice trembling.

"Remember, Nootawe--you must send him to me for his answer," she cried
quickly, and she darted into the cabin. With a cold, gray face Pierrot
faced Bush McTaggart.



CHAPTER 13

From the window, her face screened by the folds of the curtain which
she had made for it, the Willow could see what happened outside. She
was not smiling now. She was breathing quickly, and her body was tense.
Bush McTaggart paused not a dozen feet from the window and shook hands
with Pierrot, her father. She heard McTaggart's coarse voice, his
boisterous greeting, and then she saw him showing Pierrot what he
carried under his arm. There came to her distinctly his explanation of
how he had caught his captive in a rabbit snare. He unwrapped the
blanket. Nepeese gave a cry of amazement. In an instant she was out
beside them. She did not look at McTaggart's red face, blazing in its
joy and exultation.

"It is Baree!" she cried.

She took the bundle from McTaggart and turned to Pierrot.

"Tell him that Baree belongs to me," she said.

She hurried into the cabin. McTaggart looked after her, stunned and
amazed. Then he looked at Pierrot. A man half blind could have seen
that Pierrot was as amazed as he.

Nepeese had not spoken to him--the factor of Lac Bain! She had not
LOOKED at him! And she had taken the dog from him with as little
concern as though he had been a wooden man. The red in his face
deepened as he stared from Pierrot to the door through which she had
gone, and which she had closed behind her.

On the floor of the cabin Nepeese dropped on her knees and finished
unwrapping the blanket. She was not afraid of Baree. She had forgotten
McTaggart. And then, as Baree rolled in a limp heap on the floor, she
saw his half-closed eyes and the dry blood on his jaws, and the light
left her face as swiftly as the sun is shadowed by a cloud. "Baree,"
she cried softly. "Baree--Baree!"

She partly lifted him in her two hands. Baree's head sagged. His body
was numbed until he was powerless to move. His legs were without
feeling. He could scarcely see. But he heard her voice! It was the same
voice that had come to him that day he had felt the sting of the
bullet, the voice that had pleaded with him under the rock!

The voice of the Willow thrilled Baree. It seemed to stir the sluggish
blood in his veins, and he opened his eyes wider and saw again the
wonderful stars that had glowed at him so softly the day of Wakayoo's
death. One of the Willow's long braids fell over her shoulder, and he
smelled again the sweet scent of her hair as her hand caressed him and
her voice talked to him. Then she got up suddenly and left him, and he
did not move while he waited for her. In a moment she was back with a
basin of water and a cloth. Gently she washed the blood from his eyes
and mouth. And still Baree made no move. He scarcely breathed. But
Nepeese saw the little quivers that shot through his body when her hand
touched him, like electric shocks.

"He beat you with a club," she was saying, her dark eyes within a foot
of Baree's. "He beat you! That man-beast!"

There came an interruption. The door opened, and the man-beast stood
looking down on them, a grin on his red face. Instantly Baree showed
that he was alive. He sprang back from under the Willow's hand with a
sudden snarl and faced McTaggart. The hair of his spine stood up like a
brush; his fangs gleamed menacingly, and his eyes burned like living
coals.

"There is a devil in him," said McTaggart. "He is wild--born of the
wolf. You must be careful or he will take off a hand, kit sakahet." It
was the first time he had called her that lover's name in
Cree--SWEETHEART! Her heart pounded. She bent her head for a moment
over her clenched hands, and McTaggart--looking down on what he thought
was her confusion--laid his hand caressingly on her hair. From the door
Pierrot had heard the word, and now he saw the caress, and he raised a
hand as if to shut out the sight of a sacrilege.

"Mon Dieu!" he breathed.

In the next instant he had given a sharp cry of wonder that mingled
with a sudden yell of pain from McTaggart. Like a flash Baree had
darted across the floor and fastened his teeth in the factor's leg.
They had bitten deep before McTaggart freed himself with a powerful
kick. With an oath he snatched his revolver from its holster. The
Willow was ahead of him. With a little cry she darted to Baree and
caught him in her arms. As she looked up at McTaggart, her soft, bare
throat was within a few inches of Baree's naked fangs. Her eyes blazed.

"You beat him!" she cried. "He hates you--hates you--"

"Let him go!" called Pierrot in an agony of fear.

"Mon Dieu! I say let him go, or he will tear the life from you!"

"He hates you--hates you--hates you--" the Willow was repeating over
and over again into McTaggart's startled face. Then suddenly she turned
to her father. "No, he will not tear the life from me," she cried.
"See! It is Baree. Did I not tell you that? It is Baree! Is it not
proof that he defended me--"

"From me!" gasped McTaggart, his face darkening.

Pierrot advanced and laid a hand on McTaggart's arm. He was smiling.

"Let us leave them to fight it out between themselves, m'sieu," he
said. "They are two little firebrands, and we are not safe. If she is
bitten--"

He shrugged his shoulders. A great load had been lifted from them
suddenly. His voice was soft and persuasive. And now the anger had gone
out of the Willow's face. A coquettish uplift of her eyes caught
McTaggart, and she looked straight at him half smiling, as she spoke to
her father:

"I will join you soon, mon pere--you and M'sieu the Factor from Lac
Bain!"

There were undeniable little devils in her eyes, McTaggart
thought--little devils laughing full at him as she spoke, setting his
brain afire and his blood to throbbing wildly. Those eyes--full of
dancing witches! How he would take pleasure in taming them--very soon
now! He followed Pierrot outside. In his exultation he no longer felt
the smart of Baree's teeth.

"I will show you my new cariole that I have made for winter, m'sieu,"
said Pierrot as the door closed behind them.


Half an hour later Nepeese came out of the cabin. She could see that
Pierrot and the factor had been talking about something that had not
been pleasant to her father. His face was strained. She caught in his
eyes the smolder of fire which he was trying to smother, as one might
smother flames under a blanket. McTaggart's jaws were set, but his eyes
lighted up with pleasure when he saw her. She knew what it was about.
The factor from Lac Bain had been demanding his answer of Pierrot, and
Pierrot had been telling him what she had insisted upon--that he must
come to her. And he was coming! She turned with a quick beating of the
heart and hurried down a little path. She heard McTaggart's footsteps
behind her, and threw the flash of a smile over her shoulder. But her
teeth were set tight. The nails of her fingers were cutting into the
palms of her hands.

Pierrot stood without moving. He watched them as they disappeared into
the edge of the forest, Nepeese still a few steps ahead of McTaggart.
Out of his breast rose a sharp breath.

"Par les milles cornes du diable!" he swore softly. "Is it
possible--that she smiles from her heart at that beast? Non! It is
impossible. And yet--if it is so--"

One of his brown hands tightened convulsively about the handle of the
knife in his belt, and slowly he began to follow them.

McTaggart did not hurry to overtake Nepeese. She was following the
narrow path deeper into the forest, and he was glad of that. They would
be alone--away from Pierrot. He was ten steps behind her, and again the
Willow smiled at him over her shoulder. Her body moved sinuously and
swiftly. She was keeping accurate measurement of the distance between
them--but McTaggart did not guess that this was why she looked back
every now and then. He was satisfied to let her go on. When she turned
from the narrow trail into a side path that scarcely bore the mark of
travel, his heart gave an exultant jump. If she kept on, he would very
soon have her alone--a good distance from the cabin. The blood ran hot
in his face. He did not speak to her, through fear that she would stop.
Ahead of them he heard the rumble of water. It was the creek running
through the chasm.

Nepeese was making straight for that sound. With a little laugh she
started to run, and when she stood at the edge of the chasm, McTaggart
was fully fifty yards behind her. Twenty feet sheer down there was a
deep pool between the rock walls, a pool so deep that the water was the
color of blue ink. She turned to face the factor from Lac Bain. He had
never looked more like a red beast to her. Until this moment she had
been unafraid. But now--in an instant--he terrified her. Before she
could speak what she had planned to say, he was at her side, and had
taken her face between his two great hands, his coarse fingers twining
in the silken strands of her thick braids where they fell over her
shoulders at the neck.

"Ka sakahet!" he cried passionately. "Pierrot said you would have an
answer for me. But I need no answer now. You are mine! Mine!"

She gave a cry. It was a gasping, broken cry. His arms were about her
like bands of iron, crushing her slender body, shutting off her breath,
turning the world almost black before her eyes. She could neither
struggle nor cry out. She felt the hot passion of his lips on her face,
heard his voice--and then came a moment's freedom, and air into her
strangled lungs. Pierrot was calling! He had come to the fork in the
trail, and he was calling the Willow's name!

McTaggart's hot hand came over her mouth.

"Don't answer," she heard him say.

Strength--anger--hatred flared up in her, and fiercely she struck the
hand down. Something in her wonderful eyes held McTaggart. They blazed
into his very soul.

"Bete noir!" she panted at him, freeing herself from the last touch of
his hands. "Beast--black beast!" Her voice trembled, and her face
flamed. "See--I came to show you my pool--and tell you what you wanted
to hear--and you--you--have crushed me like a beast--like a great
rock-- See! down there--it is my pool!"

She had not planned it like this. She had intended to be smiling, even
laughing, in this moment. But McTaggart had spoiled them--her carefully
made plans! And yet, as she pointed, the factor from Lac Bain looked
for an instant over the edge of the chasm. And then she
laughed--laughed as she gave him a sudden shove from behind.

"And that is my answer, M'sieu le Facteur from Lac Bain!" she cried
tauntingly as he plunged headlong into the deep pool between the rock
walls.



CHAPTER 14

From the edge of the open Pierrot saw what had happened, and he gave a
great gasp of horror. He drew back among the balsams. This was not a
moment for him to show himself. While his heart drummed like a hammer,
his face was filled with joy.

On her hands and knees the Willow was peering over the edge. Bush
McTaggart had disappeared. He had gone down like the great clod he was.
The water of her pool had closed over him with a dull splash that was
like a chuckle of triumph. He appeared now, beating out with his arms
and legs to keep himself afloat, while the Willow's voice came to him
in taunting cries.

"Bete noir! Bete noir! Beast! Beast--"

Savagely she flung small sticks and tufts of earth down at him; and
McTaggart, looking up as he gained his equilibrium, saw her leaning so
far over that she seemed almost about to fall. Her long braids hung
down into the chasm, gleaming in the sun. Her eyes were laughing while
her lips taunted him. He could see the flash of her white teeth.

"Beast! Beast!"

He began swimming, still looking up at her. It was a hundred yards down
the slow-going current to the beach of shale where he could climb out,
and a half of that distance she followed him, laughing and taunting
him, and flinging down sticks and pebbles. He noted that none of the
sticks or stones was large enough to hurt him. When at last his feet
touched bottom, she was gone.

Swiftly Nepeese ran back over the trail, and almost into Pierrot's
arms. She was panting and laughing when for a moment she stopped.

"I have given him the answer, Nootawe! He is in the pool!"

Into the balsams she disappeared like a bird. Pierrot made no effort to
stop her or to follow.

"Tonnerre de Dieu," he chuckled--and cut straight across for the other
trail.


Nepeese was out of breath when she reached the cabin. Baree, fastened
to a table leg by a babiche thong, heard her pause for a moment at the
door. Then she entered and came straight to him. During the half-hour
of her absence Baree had scarcely moved. That half-hour, and the few
minutes that had preceded it, had made tremendous impressions upon him.
Nature, heredity, and instinct were at work, clashing and readjusting,
impinging on him a new intelligence--the beginning of a new
understanding. A swift and savage impulse had made him leap at Bush
McTaggart when the factor put his hand on the Willow's head. It was not
reason. It was a hearkening back of the dog to that day long ago when
Kazan, his father, had lulled the man-brute in the tent, the man-brute
who had dared to molest Thorpe's wife, whom Kazan worshiped. Then it
had been the dog--and the woman.

And here again it was the woman. She had appealed to the great hidden
passion that was in Baree and that had come to him from Kazan. Of all
the living things in the world, he knew that he must not hurt this
creature that appeared to him through the door. He trembled as she
knelt before him again, and up through the years came the wild and
glorious surge of Kazan's blood, overwhelming the wolf, submerging the
savagery of his birth--and with his head flat on the floor he whined
softly, and WAGGED HIS TAIL.

Nepeese gave a cry of joy.

"Baree!" she whispered, taking his head in her hands. "Baree!"

Her touch thrilled him. It sent little throbs through his body, a
tremulous quivering which she could feel and which deepened the glow in
her eyes. Gently her hand stroked his head and his back. It seemed to
Nepeese that he did not breathe. Under the caress of her hand his eyes
closed. In another moment she was talking to him, and at the sound of
her voice his eyes shot open.

"He will come here--that beast--and he will kill us," she was saying.
"He will kill you because you bit him, Baree. Ugh, I wish you were
bigger, and stronger, so that you could take off his head for me!"

She was untying the babiche from about the table leg, and under her
breath she laughed. She was not frightened. It was a tremendous
adventure--and she throbbed with exultation at the thought of having
beaten the man-beast in her own way. She could see him in the pool
struggling and beating about like a great fish. He was just about
crawling out of the chasm now--and she laughed again as she caught
Baree up under her arm.

"Oh--oopi-nao--but you are heavy!" she gasped, "And yet I must carry
you--because I am going to run!"

She hurried outside. Pierrot had not come, and she darted swiftly into
the balsams back of the cabin, with Baree hung in the crook of her arm,
like a sack filled at both ends and tied in the middle. He felt like
that, too. But he still had no inclination to wriggle himself free.
Nepeese ran with him until her arm ached. Then she stopped and put him
down on his feet, holding to the end of the caribou-skin thong that was
tied about his neck. She was prepared for any lunge he might make to
escape. She expected that he would make an attempt, and for a few
moments she watched him closely, while Baree, with his feet on earth
once more, looked about him. And then the Willow spoke to him softly.

"You are not going to run away, Baree. Non, you are going to stay with
me, and we will kill that man-beast if he dares do to me again what he
did back there." She flung back the loose hair from about her flushed
face, and for a moment she forgot Baree as she thought of that
half-minute at the edge of the chasm. He was looking straight up at her
when her glance fell on him again. "Non, you are not going to run
away--you are going to follow me," she whispered. "Come."

The babiche string tightened about Baree's neck as she urged him to
follow. It was like another rabbit snare, and he braced his forefeet
and bared his fangs just a little. The Willow did not pull. Fearlessly
she put her hand on his head again. From the direction of the cabin
came a shout, and at the sound of it she took Baree up under her arm
once more.

"Bete noir--bete noir!" she called back tauntingly, but only loud
enough to be heard a few yards away. "Go back to Lac Bain--owases--you
wild beast!"

Nepeese began to make her way swiftly through the forest. It grew
deeper and darker, and there were no trails. Three times in the next
half-hour she stopped to put Baree down and rest her arm. Each time she
pleaded with him coaxingly to follow her. The second and third times
Baree wriggled and wagged his tail, but beyond those demonstrations of
his satisfaction with the turn his affairs had taken he would not go.
When the string tightened around his neck, he braced himself; once he
growled--again he snapped viciously at the babiche. So Nepeese
continued to carry him.

They came at last into a clearing. It was a tiny meadow in the heart of
the forest, not more than three or four times as big as the cabin.
Underfoot the grass was soft and green, and thickly strewn with
flowers. Straight through the heart of this little oasis trickled a
streamlet across which the Willow jumped with Baree under her arm, and
on the edge of the rill was a small wigwam made of freshly cut spruce
and balsam boughs. Into her diminutive mekewap the Willow thrust her
head to see that things were as she had left them yesterday. Then, with
a long breath of relief, she put down her four-legged burden and
fastened the end of the babiche to one of the cut spruce limbs.

Baree burrowed himself back into the wall of the wigwam, and with head
alert--and eyes wide open--watched his companion attentively. Not a
movement of the Willow escaped him. She was radiant--and happy. Her
laugh, sweet and wild as a bird's trill, set Baree's heart throbbing
with a desire to jump about with her among the flowers.

For a time Nepeese seemed to forget Baree. Her wild blood raced with
the joy of her triumph over the factor from Lac Bain. She saw him
again, floundering about in the pool--pictured him at the cabin now,
soaked and angry, demanding of mon pere where she had gone. And mon
pere, with a shrug of his shoulders, was telling him that he didn't
know--that probably she had run off into the forest. It did not enter
into her head that in tricking Bush McTaggart in that way she was
playing with dynamite. She did not foresee the peril that in an instant
would have stamped the wild flush from her face and curdled the blood
in her veins--she did not guess that McTaggart had become for her a
deadlier menace than ever.

Nepeese knew that he must be angry. But what had she to fear? Mon pere
would be angry, too, if she told him what had happened at the edge of
the chasm. But she would not tell him. He might kill the man from Lac
Bain. A factor was great. But Pierrot, her father, was greater. It was
an unlimited faith in her, born of her mother. Perhaps even now Pierrot
was sending him back to Lac Bain, telling him that his business was
there. But she would not return to the cabin to see. She would wait
here. Mon pere would understand--and he knew where to find her when the
man was gone. But it would have been such fun to throw sticks at him as
he went!

After a little Nepeese returned to Baree. She brought him water and
gave him a piece of raw fish. For hours they were alone, and with each
hour there grew stronger in Baree the desire to follow the girl in
every movement she made, to crawl close to her when she sat down, to
feel the touch of her dress, of her hand--and to hear her voice. But he
did not show this desire. He was still a little savage of the
forests--a four-footed barbarian born half of a wolf and half of a dog;
and he lay still. With Umisk he would have played. With Oohoomisew he
would have fought. At Bush McTaggart he would have bared his fangs, and
buried them deep when the chance came. But the girl was different. Like
the Kazan of old, he had begun to worship. If the Willow had freed
Baree, he would not have run away. If she had left him, he would
possibly have followed her--at a distance. His eyes were never away
from her. He watched her build a small fire and cook a piece of the
fish. He watched her eat her dinner.

It was quite late in the afternoon when she came and sat down close to
him, with her lap full of flowers which she twined in the long, shining
braids of her hair. Then, playfully, she began beating Baree with the
end of one of these braids. He shrank under the soft blows, and with
that low, birdlike laughter in her throat, Nepeese drew his head into
her lap where the scatter of flowers lay. She talked to him. Her hand
stroked his head. Then it remained still, so near that he wanted to
thrust out his warm red tongue and caress it. He breathed in the
flower-scented perfume of it--and lay as if dead. It was a glorious
moment. Nepeese, looking down on him, could not see that he was
breathing.

There came an interruption. It was the snapping of a dry stick. Through
the forest Pierrot had come with the stealth of a cat, and when they
looked up, he stood at the edge of the open. Baree knew that it was not
Bush McTaggart. But it was a man-beast! Instantly his body stiffened
under the Willow's hand. He drew back slowly and cautiously from her
lap, and as Pierrot advanced, Baree snarled. The next instant Nepeese
had risen and had run to Pierrot. The look in her father's face alarmed
her.

"What has happened, mon pere?" she cried.

Pierrot shrugged his shoulders.

"Nothing, ma Nepeese--except that you have roused a thousand devils in
the heart of the factor from Lac Barn, and that--"

He stopped as he saw Baree, and pointed at him.

"Last night when M'sieu the Factor caught him in a snare, he bit
m'sieu's hand. M'sieu's hand is swollen twice its size, and I can see
his blood turning black. It is pechipoo."

"Pechipoo!" gasped Nepeese.

She looked into Pierrot's eyes. They were dark, and filled with a
sinister gleam--a flash of exultation, she thought.

"Yes, it is the blood poison," said Pierrot. A gleam of cunning shot
into his eyes as he looked over his shoulder, and nodded. "I have
hidden the medicine--and told him there is no time to lose in getting
back to Lac Bain. And he is afraid--that devil! He is waiting. With
that blackening hand, he is afraid to start back alone--and so I go
with him. And--listen, ma Nepeese. We will be away by sundown, and
there is something you must know before I go."

Baree saw them there, close together in the shadows thrown by the tall
spruce trees. He heard the low murmur of their voices--chiefly of
Pierrot's, and at last he saw Nepeese put her two arms up around the
man-beast's neck, and then Pierrot went away again into the forest. He
thought that the Willow would never turn her face toward him after
that. For a long time she stood looking in the direction which Pierrot
had taken. And when after a time she turned and came back to Baree, she
did not look like the Nepeese who had been twining flowers in her hair.
The laughter was gone from her face and eyes. She knelt down beside him
and with sudden fierceness she cried:

"It is pechipoo, Baree! It was you--you--who put the poison in his
blood. And I hope he dies! For I am afraid--afraid!"

She shivered.

Perhaps it was in this moment that the Great Spirit of things meant
Baree to understand--that at last it was given him to comprehend that
his day had dawned, that the rising and the setting of his sun no
longer existed in the sky but in this girl whose hand rested on his
head. He whined softly, and inch by inch he dragged himself nearer to
her until again his head rested in the hollow of her lap.



CHAPTER 15

For a long time after Pierrot left them the Willow did not move from
the spot where she had seated herself beside Baree. It was at last the
deepening shadows and a low rumble in the sky that roused her from the
fear of the things Pierrot had told her. When she looked up, black
clouds were massing slowly over the open space above the spruce tops.
Darkness was falling. In the whisper of the wind and the dead stillness
of the thickening gloom there was the sullen brewing of storm. Tonight
there would be no glorious sunset. There would be no twilight hour in
which to follow the trail, no moon, no stars--and unless Pierrot and
the factor were already on their way, they would not start in the face
of the pitch blackness that would soon shroud the forest.

Nepeese shivered and rose to her feet. For the first time Baree got up,
and he stood close at her side. Above them a flash of lightning cut the
clouds like a knife of fire, followed in an instant by a terrific crash
of thunder. Baree shrank back as if struck a blow. He would have slunk
into the shelter of the brush wall of the wigwam, but there was
something about the Willow as he looked at her which gave him
confidence. The thunder crashed again. But he retreated no farther. His
eyes were fixed on Nepeese.

She stood straight and slim in that gathering gloom riven by the
lightning, her beautiful head thrown back, her lips parted, and her
eyes glowing with an almost eager anticipation--a sculptured goddess
welcoming with bated breath the onrushing forces of the heavens.
Perhaps it was because she was born during a night of storm. Many times
Pierrot and the dead princess mother had told her that--how on the
night she had come into the world the crash of thunder and the flare of
lightning had made the hours an inferno, how the streams had burst over
their banks and the stems of ten thousand forest trees had snapped in
its fury--and the beat of the deluge on their cabin roof had drowned
the sound of her mother's pain, and of her own first babyish cries.

On that night, it may be, the Spirit of Storm was born in Nepeese. She
loved to face it, as she was facing it now. It made her forget all
things but the splendid might of nature. Her half-wild soul thrilled to
the crash and fire of it. Often she had reached up her bare arms and
laughed with joy as the deluge burst about her. Even now she might have
stood there in the little open until the rain fell, if a whine from
Baree had not caused her to turn. As the first big drops struck with
the dull thud of leaden bullets about them, she went with him into the
balsam shelter.

Once before Baree had passed through a night of terrible storm--the
night he had hidden himself under a root and had seen the tree riven by
lightning; but now he had company, and the warmth and soft pressure of
the Willow's hand on his head and neck filled him with a strange
courage. He growled softly at the crashing thunder. He wanted to snap
at the lightning flashes. Under her hand Nepeese felt the stiffening of
his body, and in a moment of uncanny stillness she heard the sharp,
uneasy click of his teeth. Then the rain fell.

It was not like other rains Baree had known. It was an inundation
sweeping down out of the blackness of the skies. Within five minutes
the interior of the balsam shelter was a shower bath. After half an
hour of that torrential downpour, Nepeese was soaked to the skin. The
water ran in little rivulets down her body. It trickled in tiny streams
from her drenched braids and dropped from her long lashes, and the
blanket under her became wet as a mop. To Baree it was almost as bad as
his near-drowning in the stream after his fight with Papayuchisew, and
he snuggled closer and closer under the sheltering arm of the Willow.
It seemed an interminable time before the thunder rolled far to the
east, and the lightning died away into distant and intermittent
flashings. Even after that the rain fell for another hour. Then it
stopped as suddenly as it had begun.

With a laughing gasp Nepeese rose to her feet. The water gurgled in her
moccasins as she walked out into the open. She paid no attention to
Baree--and he followed her. Across the open in the treetops the last of
the storm clouds were drifting away. A star shone--then another; and
the Willow stood watching them as they appeared until there were so
many she could not count. It was no longer black. A wonderful starlight
flooded the open after the inky gloom of the storm.

Nepeese looked down and saw Baree. He was standing quietly and
unleashed, with freedom on all sides of him. Yet he did not run. He was
waiting, wet as a water rat, with his eyes fixed on her expectantly.
Nepeese made a movement toward him, and hesitated.

"No, you will not run away, Baree. I will leave you free. And now we
must have a fire!"

A fire! Anyone but Pierrot might have said that she was crazy. Not a
stem or twig in the forest that was not dripping! They could hear the
trickle of running water all about them.

"A fire," she said again. "Let us hunt for the wuskisi, Baree."

With her wet clothes clinging to her lightly, she was like a slim
shadow as she crossed the soggy clearing and lost herself among the
forest trees. Baree still followed. She went straight to a birch tree
that she had located that day and began tearing off the loose bark. An
armful of this bark she carried close to the wigwam, and on it she
heaped load after load of wet wood until she had a great pile. From a
bottle in the wigwam she secured a dry match, and at the first touch of
its tiny flame the birch bark flared up like paper soaked in oil. Half
an hour later the Willow's fire--if there had been no forest walls to
hide it--could have been seen at the cabin a mile away. Not until it
was blazing a dozen feet into the air did she cease piling wood on it.
Then she drove sticks into the soft ground and over these sticks she
stretched the blanket out to dry.

So their first night passed--storm, the cool, deep pool, the big fire;
and later, when the Willow's clothes and the blanket had dried, a few
hours' sleep. At dawn they returned to the cabin. It was a cautious
approach. There was no smoke coming from the chimney. The door was
closed. Pierrot and Bush McTaggart were gone.



CHAPTER 16

It was the beginning of August--the Flying-up Moon--when Pierrot
returned from Lac Bain, and in three days more it would be the Willow's
seventeenth birthday. He brought back with him many things for
Nepeese--ribbons for her hair, real shoes, which she wore at times like
the two Englishwomen at Nelson House, and chief glory of all, some
wonderful red cloth for a dress. In the three winters she had spent at
the mission these women had made much of Nepeese. They had taught her
to sew as well as to spell and read and pray, and at times there came
to the Willow a compelling desire to do as they did.

So for three days Nepeese worked hard on her new dress and on her
birthday she stood before Pierrot in a fashion that took his breath
away. She had piled her hair in great coils on the crown of her head,
as Yvonne, the younger of the Englishwomen, had taught her, and in the
rich jet of it had half buried a vivid sprig of the crimson fireflower.
Under this, and the glow in her eyes, and the red flush of her lips and
cheeks came the wonderful red dress, fitted to the slim and sinuous
beauty of her form--as the style had been two winters ago at Nelson
House. And below the dress, which reached just below the knees--Nepeese
had quite forgotten the proper length, or else her material had run
out--came the coup de maitre of her toilet, real stockings and the gay
shoes with high heels! She was a vision before which the gods of the
forests might have felt their hearts stop beating. Pierrot turned her
round and round without a word, but smiling. When she left him,
however, followed by Baree, and limping a little because of the
tightness of her shoes, the smile faded from his face, leaving it cold
and bleak.

"Mon Dieu," he whispered to himself in French, with a thought that was
like a sharp stab at his heart, "she is not of her mother's blood--non.
It is French. She is--yes--like an angel."

A change had come over Pierrot. During the three days she had been
engaged in her dressmaking, Nepeese had been quite too excited to
notice this change, and Pierrot had tried to keep it from her. He had
been away ten days on the trip to Lac Bain, and he brought back to
Nepeese the joyous news that M'sieu McTaggart was very sick with
pechipoo--the blood poison--news that made the Willow clap her hands
and laugh happily. But he knew that the factor would get well, and that
he would come again to their cabin on the Gray Loon. And when next time
he came--

It was while he was thinking of this that his face grew cold and hard,
and his eyes burned. And he was thinking of it on this her birthday,
even as her laughter floated to him like a song. Dieu, in spite of her
seventeen years, she was nothing but a child--a baby! She could not
guess his horrible visions. And the dread of awakening her for all time
from that beautiful childhood kept him from telling her the whole truth
so that she might have understood fully and completely. Non, it should
not be that. His soul beat with a great and gentle love. He, Pierrot Du
Quesne, would do the watching. And she should laugh and sing and
play--and have no share in the black forebodings that had come to spoil
his life.

On this day there came up from the south MacDonald, the government map
maker. He was gray and grizzled, with a great, free laugh and a clean
heart. Two days he remained with Pierrot. He told Nepeese of his
daughters at home, of their mother, whom he worshiped more than
anything else on earth--and before he went on in his quest of the last
timber line of Banksian pine, he took pictures of the Willow as he had
first seen her on her birthday: her hair piled in glossy coils, her red
dress, the high-heeled shoes. He carried the negatives on with him,
promising Pierrot that he would get a picture back in some way. Thus
fate works in its strange and apparently innocent ways as it spins its
webs of tragedy.


For many weeks after MacDonald's visit there followed tranquil days on
the Gray Loon. They were wonderful days for Baree. At first he was
suspicious of Pierrot. After a little he tolerated him, and at last
accepted him as a part of the cabin--and Nepeese. It was the Willow
whose shadow he became. Pierrot noted the attachment with the deepest
satisfaction.

"Ah, in a few months more, if he should leap at the throat of M'sieu
the Factor," he said to himself one day.

In September, when he was six months old, Baree was almost as large as
Gray Wolf--big-boned, long-fanged, with a deep chest, and jaws that
could already crack a bone as if it were a stick. He was with Nepeese
whenever and wherever she moved. They swam together in the two
pools--the pool in the forest and the pool between the chasm walls. At
first it alarmed Baree to see Nepeese dive from the rock wall over
which she had pushed McTaggart, but at the end of a month she had
taught him to plunge after her through that twenty feet of space.

It was late in August when Baree saw the first of his kind outside of
Kazan and Gray Wolf. During the summer Pierrot allowed his dogs to run
at large on a small island in the center of a lake two or three miles
away, and twice a week he netted fish for them. On one of these trips
Nepeese accompanied him and took Baree with her. Pierrot carried his
long caribou-gut whip. He expected a fight. But there was none. Baree
joined the pack in their rush for fish, and ate with them. This pleased
Pierrot more than ever.

"He will make a great sledge dog," he chuckled. "It is best to leave
him for a week with the pack, ma Nepeese."

Reluctantly Nepeese gave her consent. While the dogs were still at
their fish, they started homeward. Their canoe had slipped away before
Baree discovered the trick they had played on him. Instantly he leaped
into the water and swam after them--and the Willow helped him into his
canoe.

Early in September a passing Indian brought Pierrot word of Bush
McTaggart. The factor had been very sick. He had almost died from the
blood poison, but he was well now. With the first exhilarating tang of
autumn in the air a new dread oppressed Pierrot. But at present he said
nothing of what was in his mind to Nepeese. The Willow had almost
forgotten the factor from Lac Bain, for the glory and thrill of
wilderness autumn was in her blood. She went on long trips with
Pierrot, helping him to blaze out the new trap lines that would be used
when the first snows came, and on these journeys she was always
accompanied by Baree.

Most of Nepeese's spare hours she spent in training him for the sledge.
She began with a babiche string and a stick. It was a whole day before
she could induce Baree to drag this stick without turning at every
other step to snap and growl at it. Then she fastened another length of
babiche to him, and made him drag two sticks. Thus little by little she
trained him to the sledge harness, until at the end of a fortnight he
was tugging heroically at anything she had a mind to fasten him to.
Pierrot brought home two of the dogs from the island, and Baree was put
into training with these, and helped to drag the empty sledge. Nepeese
was delighted. On the day the first light snow fell she clapped her
hands and cried to Pierrot:

"By midwinter I will have him the finest dog in the pack, mon pere!"

This was the time for Pierrot to say what was in his mind. He smiled.
Diantre--would not that beast the factor fall into the very devil of a
rage when he found how he had been cheated! And yet--

He tried to make his voice quiet and commonplace.

"I am going to send you down to the school at Nelson House again this
winter, ma cherie," he said. "Baree will help draw you down on the
first good snow."

The Willow was tying a knot in Baree's babiche, and she rose slowly to
her feet and looked at Pierrot. Her eyes were big and dark and steady.

"I am not going, mon pere!"

It was the first time Nepeese had ever said that to Pierrot--in just
that way. It thrilled him. And he could scarcely face the look in her
eyes. He was not good at bluffing. She saw what was in his face; it
seemed to him that she was reading what was in his mind, and that she
grew a little taller as she stood there. Certainly her breath came
quicker, and he could see the throb of her breast. Nepeese did not wait
for him to gather speech.

"I am not going!" she repeated with even greater finality, and bent
again over Baree.

With a shrug of his shoulders Pierrot watched her. After all, was he
not glad? Would his heart not have turned sick if she had been happy at
the thought of leaving him? He moved to her side and with great
gentleness laid a hand on her glossy head. Up from under it the Willow
smiled at him. Between them they heard the click of Baree's jaws as he
rested his muzzle on the Willow's arm. For the first time in weeks the
world seemed suddenly filled with sunshine for Pierrot. When he went
back to the cabin he held his head higher. Nepeese would not leave him!
He laughed softly. He rubbed his hands together. His fear of the factor
from Lac Bain was gone. From the cabin door he looked back at Nepeese
and Baree.

"The Saints be blessed!" he murmured. "Now--now--it is Pierrot Du
Quesne who knows what to do!"



CHAPTER 17

Back to Lac Bain, late in September, came MacDonald the map maker. For
ten days Gregson, the investigating agent, had been Bush McTaggart's
guest at the Post, and twice in that time it had come into Marie's mind
to creep upon him while he slept and kill him. The factor himself paid
little attention to her now, a fact which would have made her happy if
it had not been for Gregson. He was enraptured with the wild, sinuous
beauty of the Cree girl, and McTaggart, without jealousy, encouraged
him. He was tired of Marie.

McTaggart told Gregson this. He wanted to get rid of her, and if
he--Gregson--could possibly take her along with him it would be a great
favor. He explained why. A little later, when the deep snows came, he
was going to bring the daughter of Pierrot Du Quesne to the Post. In
the rottenness of their brotherhood he told of his visit, of the manner
of his reception, and of the incident at the chasm. In spite of all
this, he assured Gregson, Pierrot's girl would soon be at Lac Bain.

It was at this time that MacDonald came. He remained only one night,
and without knowing that he was adding fuel to a fire already
dangerously blazing, he gave the photograph he had taken of Nepeese to
the factor. It was a splendid picture.

"If you can get it down to that girl some day I'll be mightily
obliged," he said to McTaggart. "I promised her one. Her father's name
is Du Quesne--Pierrot Du Quesne. You probably know them. And the girl--"

His blood warmed as he described to McTaggart how beautiful she was
that day in her red dress, which appeared black in the photograph. He
did not guess how near McTaggart's blood was to the boiling point.

The next day MacDonald started for Norway House. McTaggart did not show
Gregson the picture. He kept it to himself and at night, under the glow
of his lamp, he looked at it with thoughts that filled him with a
growing resolution. There was but one way. The scheme had been in his
mind for weeks--and the picture determined him. He dared not whisper
his secret even to Gregson. But it was the one way. It would give him
Nepeese. Only--he must wait for the deep snows, the midwinter snows.
They buried their tragedies deepest.

McTaggart was glad when Gregson followed the map maker to Norway House.
Out of courtesy he accompanied him a day's journey on his way. When he
returned to the Post, Marie was gone. He was glad. He sent off a runner
with a load of presents for her people, and the message: "Don't beat
her. Keep her. She is free."

Along with the bustle and stir of the beginning of the trapping season
McTaggart began to prepare his house for the coming of Nepeese. He knew
what she liked in the way of cleanliness and a few other things. He had
the log walls painted white with the lead and oil that were intended
for his York boats. Certain partitions were torn down, and new ones
were built. The Indian wife of his chief runner made curtains for the
windows, and he confiscated a small phonograph that should have gone on
to Lac la Biche. He had no doubts, and he counted the days as they
passed.

Down on the Gray Loon Pierrot and Nepeese were busy at many things, so
busy that at times Pierrot's fears of the factor at Lac Bain were
almost forgotten, and they slipped out of the Willow's mind entirely.
It was the Red Moon, and both thrilled with the anticipation and
excitement of the winter hunt. Nepeese carefully dipped a hundred traps
in boiling caribou fat mixed with beaver grease, while Pierrot made
fresh deadfalls ready for setting on his trails. When he was gone more
than a day from the cabin, she was always with him.

But at the cabin there was much to do, for Pierrot, like all his
Northern brotherhood, did not begin to prepare until the keen tang of
autumn was in the air. There were snowshoes to be rewebbed with new
babiche; there was wood to be cut in readiness for the winter storms.
The cabin had to be banked, a new harness made, skinning knives
sharpened and winter moccasins to be manufactured--a hundred and one
affairs to be attended to, even to the repairing of the meat rack at
the back of the cabin, where, from the beginning of cold weather until
the end, would hang the haunches of deer, caribou, and moose for the
family larder and, when fish were scarce, the dogs' rations.

In the bustle of all these preparations Nepeese was compelled to give
less attention to Baree than she had during the preceding weeks. They
did not play so much; they no longer swam, for with the mornings there
was deep frost on the ground, and the water was turning icy cold. They
no longer wandered deep in the forest after flowers and berries. For
hours at a time Baree would now lie at the Willow's feet, watching her
slender fingers as they weaved swiftly in and out with her snowshoe
babiche. And now and then Nepeese would pause to lean over and put her
hand on his head, and talk to him for a moment--sometimes in her soft
Cree, sometimes in English or her father's French.

It was the Willow's voice which Baree had learned to understand, and
the movement of her lips, her gestures, the poise of her body, the
changing moods which brought shadow or sunlight into her face. He knew
what it meant when she smiled. He would shake himself, and often jump
about her in sympathetic rejoicing, when she laughed. Her happiness was
such a part of him that a stern word from her was worse than a blow.
Twice Pierrot had struck him, and twice Baree had leaped back and faced
him with bared fangs and an angry snarl, the crest along his back
standing up like a brush. Had one of the other dogs done this, Pierrot
would have half-killed him. It would have been mutiny, and the man must
be master. But Baree was always safe. A touch of the Willow's hand, a
word from her lips, and the crest slowly settled and the snarl went out
of his throat.

Pierrot was not at all displeased.

"Dieu. I will never go so far as to try and whip that out of him," he
told himself. "He is a barbarian--a wild beast--and her slave. For her
he would kill!"

So it turned out, through Pierrot himself--and without telling his
reason for it--that Baree did not become a sledge dog. He was allowed
his freedom, and was never tied, like the others. Nepeese was glad, but
did not guess the thought that was in Pierrot's mind. To himself
Pierrot chuckled. She would never know why he kept Baree always
suspicious of him, even to the point of hating him.

It required considerable skill and cunning on his part. With himself he
reasoned:

"If I make him hate me, he will hate all men. Mey-oo! That is good."

So he looked into the future--for Nepeese.

Now the tonic-filled days and cold, frosty nights of the Red Moon
brought about the big change in Baree. It was inevitable. Pierrot knew
that it would come, and the first night that Baree settled back on his
haunches and howled up at the Red Moon, Pierrot prepared Nepeese for it.

"He is a wild dog, ma Nepeese," he said to her. "He is half wolf, and
the Call will come to him strong. He will go into the forests. He will
disappear at times. But we must not fasten him. He will come back. Ka,
he will come back!" And he rubbed his hands in the moonglow until his
knuckles cracked.

The Call came to Baree like a thief entering slowly and cautiously into
a forbidden place. He did not understand it at first. It made him
nervous and uneasy, so restless that Nepeese frequently heard him whine
softly in his sleep. He was waiting for something. What was it? Pierrot
knew, and smiled in his inscrutable way.

And then it came. It was night, a glorious night filled with moon and
stars, under which the earth was whitening with a film of frost, when
they heard the first hunt call of the wolves. Now and then during the
summer there had come the lone wolf howl, but this was the tonguing of
the pack; and as it floated through the vast silence and mystery of the
night, a song of savagery that had come with each Red Moon down through
unending ages, Pierrot knew that at last had come that for which Baree
had been waiting.

In an instant Baree had sensed it. His muscles grew taut as pieces of
stretched rope as he stood up in the moonlight, facing the direction
from which floated the mystery and thrill of the sound. They could hear
him whining softly; and Pierrot, bending down so that he caught the
light of the night properly, could see him trembling.

"It is Mee-Koo!" he said in a whisper to Nepeese.

That was it, the call of the blood that was running swift in Baree's
veins--not alone the call of his species, but the call of Kazan and
Gray Wolf and of his forbears for generations unnumbered. It was the
voice of his people. So Pierrot had whispered, and he was right. In the
golden night the Willow was waiting, for it was she who had gambled
most, and it was she who must lose or win. She uttered no sound,
replied not to the low voice of Pierrot, but held her breath and
watched Baree as he slowly faded away, step by step, into the shadows.
In a few moments more he was gone. It was then that she stood straight,
and flung back her head, with eyes that glowed in rivalry with the
stars.

"Baree!" she called. "Baree! Baree! Baree!"

He must have been near the edge of the forest, for she had drawn a
slow, waiting breath or two before he was and he whined up into her
face. Nepeese put her hands to his head.

"You are right, mon pere," she said. "He will go to the wolves, but he
will come back. He will never leave me for long." With one hand still
on Baree's head, she pointed with the other into the pitlike blackness
of the forest. "Go to them, Baree!" she whispered. "But you must come
back. You must. Cheamao!"

With Pierrot she went into the cabin; the door closed silence. In it he
could hear the soft night sounds: the clinking of the chains to which
the dogs were fastened, the restless movement of their bodies, the
throbbing whir of a pair of wings, the breath of the night itself. For
to him this night, even in its stillness, seemed alive. Again he went
into it, and close to the forest once more he stopped to listen. The
wind had turned, and on it rode the wailing, blood-thrilling cry of the
pack. Far off to the west a lone wolf turned his muzzle to the sky and
answered that gathering call of his clan. And then out of the east came
a voice, so far beyond the cabin that it was like an echo dying away in
the vastness of the night.

A choking note gathered in Baree's throat. He threw up his head.
Straight above him was the Red Moon, inviting him to the thrill and
mystery of the open world.

The sound grew in his throat, and slowly it rose in volume until his
answer was rising to the stars. In their cabin Pierrot and the Willow
heard it. Pierrot shrugged his shoulders.

"He is gone," he said.

"Oui, he is gone, mon pere" replied Nepeese, peering through the window.



CHAPTER 18

No longer, as in the days of old, did the darkness of the forests hold
a fear for Baree. This night his hunt cry had risen to the stars and
the moon, and in that cry he had, for the first time, sent forth his
defiance of night and space, his warning to all the wild, and his
acceptance of the Brotherhood. In that cry, and the answers that came
back to him, he sensed a new power--the final triumph of nature in
telling him that the forests and the creatures they held were no longer
to be feared, but that all things feared him. Off there, beyond the
pale of the cabin and the influence of Nepeese, were all the things
that the wolf blood in him found now most desirable: companionship of
his kind, the lure of adventure, the red, sweet blood of the chase--and
matehood. This last, after all, was the dominant mystery that was
urging him, and yet least of all did he understand it.

He ran straight into the darkness to the north and west, slinking low
under the bushes, his tail drooping, his ears aslant--the wolf as the
wolf runs on the night trail. The pack had swung due north, and was
traveling faster than he, so that at the end of half an hour he could
no longer hear it. But the lone wolf howl to the west was nearer, and
three times Baree gave answer to it.

At the end of an hour he heard the pack again, swinging southward.
Pierrot would easily have understood. Their quarry had found safety
beyond water, or in a lake, and the muhekuns were on a fresh trail. By
this time not more than a quarter of a mile of the forest separated
Baree from the lone wolf, but the lone wolf was also an old wolf, and
with the directness and precision of long experience, he swerved in the
direction of the hunters, compassing his trail so that he was heading
for a point half or three-quarters of a mile in advance of the pack.

This was a trick of the Brotherhood which Baree had yet to learn; and
the result of his ignorance, and lack of skill, was that twice within
the next half-hour he found himself near to the pack without being able
to join it. Then came a long and final silence. The pack had pulled
down its kill, and in their feasting they made no sound.

The rest of the night Baree wandered alone, or at least until the moon
was well on the wane. He was a long way from the cabin, and his trail
had been an uncertain and twisting one, but he was no longer possessed
with the discomforting sensation of being lost. The last two or three
months had been developing strongly in him the sense of orientation,
that "sixth sense" which guides the pigeon unerringly on its way and
takes a bear straight as a bird might fly to its last year's denning
place.

Baree had not forgotten Nepeese. A dozen times he turned his head back
and whined, and always he picked out accurately the direction in which
the cabin lay. But he did not turn back. As the night lengthened, his
search for that mysterious something which he had not found continued.
His hunger, even with the fading-out of the moon and the coming of the
gray dawn, was not sufficiently keen to make him hunt for food.

It was cold, and it seemed colder when the glow of the moon and stars
died out. Under his padded feet, especially in the open spaces, was a
thick white frost in which he left clearly at times the imprint of his
toes and claws. He had traveled steadily for hours, a great many miles
in all, and he was tired when the first light of the day came. And then
there came the time when, with a sudden sharp click of his jaws, he
stopped like a shot in his tracks.

At last it had come--the meeting with that for which he had been
seeking. It was in a clearing, lighted by the cold dawn--a tiny
amphitheater that lay on the side of a ridge, facing the east. With her
head toward him, and waiting for him as he came out of the shadows, his
scent strong in her keen nose, stood Maheegun, the young wolf. Baree
had not smelled her, but he saw her directly he came out of the rim of
young balsams that fringed the clearing. It was then that he stopped,
and for a full minute neither of them moved a muscle or seemed to
breathe.

There was not a fortnight's difference in their age and yet Maheegun
was much the smaller of the two. Her body was as long, but she was
slimmer; she stood on slender legs that were almost like the legs of a
fox, and the curve of her back was that of a slightly bent bow, a sign
of swiftness almost equal to the wind. She stood poised for flight even
as Baree advanced his first step toward her, and then very slowly her
body relaxed, and in a direct ratio as he drew nearer her ears lost
their alertness and dropped aslant.

Baree whined. His own ears were up, his head alert, his tail aloft and
bushy. Cleverness, if not strategy, had already become a part of his
masculine superiority, and he did not immediately press the affair. He
was within five feet of Maheegun when he casually turned away from her
and faced the east, where a faint penciling of red and gold was
heralding the day. For a few moments he sniffed and looked around and
pointed the wind with much seriousness, as though impressing on his
fair acquaintance--as many a two-legged animal has done before him--his
tremendous importance in the world at large.

And Maheegun was properly impressed. Baree's bluff worked as
beautifully as the bluffs of the two-legged animals. He sniffed the air
with such thrilling and suspicious zeal that Maheegun's ears sprang
alert, and she sniffed it with him. He turned his head from point to
point so sharply and alertly that her feminine curiosity, if not
anxiety, made her turn her own head in questioning conjunction. And
when he whined, as though in the air he had caught a mystery which she
could not possibly understand, a responsive note gathered in her
throat, but smothered and low as a woman's exclamation when she is not
quite sure whether she should interrupt her lord or not. At this sound,
which Baree's sharp ears caught, he swung up to her with a light and
mincing step, and in another moment they were smelling noses.

When the sun rose, half an hour later, it found them still in the small
clearing on the side of the ridge, with a deep fringe of forest under
them, and beyond that a wide, timbered plain which looked like a
ghostly shroud in its mantle of frost. Up over this came the first red
glow of the day, filling the clearing with a warmth that grew more and
more comfortable as the sun crept higher.

Neither Baree nor Maheegun were inclined to move for a while, and for
an hour or two they lay basking in a cup of the slope, looking down
with questing and wide-awake eyes upon the wooded plain that stretched
away under them like a great sea.

Maheegun, too, had sought the hunt pack, and like Baree had failed to
catch it. They were tired, a little discouraged for the time, and
hungry--but still alive with the fine thrill of anticipation, and
restlessly sensitive to the new and mysterious consciousness of
companionship. Half a dozen times Baree got up and nosed about Maheegun
as she lay in the sun, whining to her softly and touching her soft coat
with his muzzle, but for a long time she paid little attention to him.
At last she followed him. All that day they wandered and rested
together. Once more the night came.

It was without moon or stars. Gray masses of clouds swept slowly down
out of the north and east, and in the treetops there was scarcely a
whisper of wind as night gathered in. The snow began to fall at dusk,
thickly, heavily, without a breath of sound. It was not cold, but it
was still--so still that Baree and Maheegun traveled only a few yards
at a time, and then stopped to listen. In this way all the night
prowlers of the forest were traveling, if they were moving at all. It
was the first of the Big Snow.

To the flesh-eating wild things of the forests, clawed and winged, the
Big Snow was the beginning of the winter carnival of slaughter and
feasting, of wild adventure in the long nights, of merciless warfare on
the frozen trails. The days of breeding, of motherhood--the peace of
spring and summer--were over. Out of the sky came the wakening of the
Northland, the call of all flesh-eating creatures to the long hunt, and
in the first thrill of it living things were moving but little this
night, and that watchfully and with suspicion. Youth made it all new to
Baree and Maheegun. Their blood ran swiftly; their feet fell softly;
their ears were attuned to catch the slightest sounds.

In this first of the Big Snow they felt the exciting pulse of a new
life. It lured them on. It invited them to adventure into the white
mystery of the silent storm; and inspired by that restlessness of youth
and its desires, they went on.

The snow grew deeper under their feet. In the open spaces they waded
through it to their knees, and it continued to fall in a vast white
cloud that descended steadily out of the sky. It was near midnight when
it stopped. The clouds drifted away from under the stars and the moon,
and for a long time Baree and Maheegun stood without moving, looking
down from the bald crest of a ridge upon a wonderful world.

Never had they been able to see so far, except in the light of day.
Under them was a plain. They could make out forests, lone trees that
stood up like shadows out of the snow, a stream--still
unfrozen--shimmering like glass with the flicker of firelight on it.
Toward this stream Baree led the way. He no longer thought of Nepeese,
and he whined with pent-up happiness as he stopped halfway down and
turned to muzzle Maheegun. He wanted to roll in the snow and frisk
about with his companion; he wanted to bark, to put up his head and
howl as he had howled at the Red Moon back at the cabin.

Something held him from doing any of these things. Perhaps it was
Maheegun's demeanor. She accepted his attentions rigidly. Once or twice
she had seemed almost frightened; twice Baree had heard the sharp
clicking of her teeth. The previous night, and all through tonight's
storm, their companionship had grown more intimate, but now there was
taking its place a mysterious aloofness on the part of Maheegun.
Pierrot could have explained. With moon and stars above him, Baree,
like the night, had undergone a transformation which even the sunlight
of day had not made in him before. His coat was like polished jet.
Every hair in his body glistened black. BLACK! That was it. And Nature
was trying to tell Maheegun that of all the creatures hated by her
kind, the creature which they feared and hated most was black. With her
it was not experience, but instinct--telling her of the age-old feud
between the gray wolf and the black bear. And Baree's coat, in the
moonlight and the snow, was blacker than Wakayoo's had ever been in the
fish-fattening days of May. Until they struck the broad openings of the
plain, the young she-wolf had followed Baree without hesitation; now
there was a gathering strangeness and indecision in her manner, and
twice she stopped and would have let Baree go on without her.

An hour after they entered the plain there came suddenly out of the
west the tonguing of the wolf pack. It was not far distant, probably
not more than a mile along the foot of the ridge, and the sharp, quick
yapping that followed the first outburst was evidence that the
long-fanged hunters had put up sudden game, a caribou or young moose,
and were close at its heels. At the voice of her own people Maheegun
laid her ears close to her head and was off like an arrow from a bow.

The unexpectedness of her movement and the swiftness of her flight put
Baree well behind her in the race over the plain. She was running
blindly, favored by luck. For an interval of perhaps five minutes the
pack were so near to their game that they made no sound, and the chase
swung full into the face of Maheegun and Baree. The latter was not half
a dozen lengths behind the young wolf when a crashing in the brush
directly ahead stopped them so sharply that they tore up the snow with
their braced forefeet and squat haunches. Ten seconds later a caribou
burst through and flashed across a clearing not more than twenty yards
from where they stood. They could hear its swift panting as it
disappeared. And then came the pack.

At sight of those swiftly moving gray bodies Baree's heart leaped for
an instant into his throat. He forgot Maheegun, and that she had run
away from him. The moon and the stars went out of existence for him. He
no longer sensed the chill of the snow under his feet. He was wolf--all
wolf. With the warm scent of the caribou in his nostrils, and the
passion to kill sweeping through him like fire, he darted after the
pack.

Even at that, Maheegun was a bit ahead of him. He did not miss her. In
the excitement of his first chase he no longer felt the desire to have
her at his side. Very soon he found himself close to the flanks of one
of the gray monsters of the pack. Half a minute later a new hunter
swept in from the bush behind him, and then a second, and after that a
third. At times he was running shoulder to shoulder with his new
companions. He heard the whining excitement in their throats; the snap
of their jaws as they ran--and in the golden moonlight ahead of him the
sound of a caribou as it plunged through thickets and over windfalls in
its race for life.

It was as if Baree had belonged to the pack always. He had joined it
naturally, as other stray wolves had joined it from out of the bush.
There had been no ostentation, no welcome such as Maheegun had given
him in the open, and no hostility. He belonged with these slim,
swift-footed outlaws of the old forests, and his own jaws snapped and
his blood ran hot as the smell of the caribou grew heavier, and the
sound of its crashing body nearer.

It seemed to him they were almost at its heels when they swept into an
open plain, a stretch of barren without a tree or a shrub, brilliant in
the light of the stars and moon. Across its unbroken carpet of snow
sped the caribou a spare hundred yards ahead of the pack. Now the two
leading hunters no longer followed directly in the trail, but shot out
at an angle, one to the right and the other to the left of the pursued,
and like well-trained soldiers the pack split in halves and spread out
fan shape in the final charge.

The two ends of the fan forged ahead and closed in, until the leaders
were running almost abreast of the caribou, with fifty or sixty feet
separating them from the pursued. Thus, adroitly and swiftly, with
deadly precision, the pack had formed a horseshoe cordon of fangs from
which there was but one course of flight--straight ahead. For the
caribou to swerve half a degree to the right or left meant death. It
was the duty of the leaders to draw in the ends of the horseshoe now,
until one or both of them could make the fatal lunge for the
hamstrings. After that it would be a simple matter. The pack would
close in over the caribou like an inundation.

Baree had found his place in the lower rim of the horseshoe, so that he
was fairly well in the rear when the climax came. The plain made a
sudden dip. Straight ahead was the gleam of water--water shimmering
softly in the starglow, and the sight of it sent a final great spurt of
blood through the caribou's bursting heart. Forty seconds would tell
the story--forty seconds of a last spurt for life, of a final
tremendous effort to escape death. Baree felt the sudden thrill of
these moments, and he forged ahead with the others in that lower rim of
the horseshoe as one of the leading wolves made a lunge for the young
bull's hamstring. It was a clean miss. A second wolf darted in. And
this one also missed.

There was no time for others to take their place. From the broken end
of the horseshoe Baree heard the caribou's heavy plunge into water.
When Baree joined the pack, a maddened, mouth-frothing, snarling horde,
Napamoos, the young bull, was well out in the river and swimming
steadily for the opposite shore.

It was then that Baree found himself at the side of Maheegun. She was
panting; her red tongue hung from her open jaws. But at his presence
she brought her fangs together with a snap and slunk from him into the
heart of the wind-run and disappointed pack. The wolves were in an ugly
temper, but Baree did not sense the fact. Nepeese had trained him to
take to water like an otter, and he did not understand why this narrow
river should stop them as it had. He ran down to the water and stood
belly deep in it, facing for an instant the horde of savage beasts
above him, wondering why they did not follow. And he was black--BLACK.
He came among them again, and for the first time they noticed him.

The restless movements of the waters ceased now. A new and wondering
interest held them rigid. Fangs closed sharply. A little in the open
Baree saw Maheegun, with a big gray wolf standing near her. He went to
her again, and this time she remained with flattened ears until he was
sniffing her neck. And then, with a vicious snarl, she snapped at him.
Her teeth sank deep in the soft flesh of his shoulder, and at the
unexpectedness and pain of her attack, he let out a yelp. The next
instant the big gray wolf was at him.

Again caught unexpectedly, Baree went down with the wolf's fangs at his
throat. But in him was the blood of Kazan, the flesh and bone and sinew
of Kazan, and for the first time in his life he fought as Kazan fought
on that terrible day at the top of the Sun Rock. He was young; he had
yet to learn the cleverness and the strategy of the veteran. But his
jaws were like the iron clamps with which Pierrot set his bear traps,
and in his heart was sudden and blinding rage, a desire to kill that
rose above all sense of pain or fear.

That fight, if it had been fair, would have been a victory for Baree,
even in his youth and inexperience. In fairness the pack should have
waited. It was a law of the pack to wait--until one was done for. But
Baree was black. He was a stranger, an interloper, a creature whom they
noticed now in a moment when their blood was hot with the rage and
disappointment of killers who had missed their prey. A second wolf
sprang in, striking Baree treacherously from the flank. And while he
was in the snow, his jaws crushing the foreleg of his first foe, the
pack was on him en masse.

Such an attack on the young caribou bull would have meant death in less
than a minute. Every fang would have found its hold. Baree, by the
fortunate circumstance that he was under his first two assailants and
protected by their bodies, was saved from being torn instantly into
pieces. He knew that he was fighting for his life. Over him the horde
of beasts rolled and twisted and snarled. He felt the burning pain of
teeth sinking into his flesh. He was smothered; a hundred knives seemed
cutting him into pieces; yet no sound--not a whimper or a cry--came
from him now in the horror and hopelessness of it all.

It would have ended in another half-minute had the struggle not been at
the very edge of the bank. Undermined by the erosion of the spring
floods, a section of this bank suddenly gave way, and with it went
Baree and half the pack. In a flash Baree thought of the water and the
escaping caribou. For a bare instant the cave-in had set him free of
the pack, and in that space he gave a single leap over the gray backs
of his enemies into the deep water of the stream. Close behind him half
a dozen jaws snapped shut on empty air. As it had saved the caribou, so
this strip of water shimmering in the glow of the moon and stars had
saved Baree.

The stream was not more than a hundred feet in width, but it cost Baree
close to a losing struggle to get across it. Until he dragged himself
out on the opposite shore, the extent of his injuries was not impressed
upon him fully. One hind leg, for the time, was useless. His forward
left shoulder was laid open to the bone. His head and body were torn
and cut; and as he dragged himself slowly away from the stream, the
trail he left in the snow was a red path of blood. It trickled from his
panting jaws, between which his tongue was bleeding. It ran down his
legs and flanks and belly, and it dripped from his ears, one of which
was slit clean for two inches as though cut with a knife. His instincts
were dazed, his perception of things clouded as if by a veil drawn
close over his eyes. He did not hear, a few minutes later, the howling
of the disappointed wolf horde on the other side of the river, and he
no longer sensed the existence of moon or stars. Half dead, he dragged
himself on until by chance he came to a clump of dwarf spruce. Into
this he struggled, and then he dropped exhausted.

All that night and until noon the next day Baree lay without moving.
The fever burned in his blood. It flamed high and swift toward death;
then it ebbed slowly, and life conquered. At noon he came forth. He was
weak, and he wobbled on his legs. His hind leg still dragged, and he
was racked with pain. But it was a splendid day. The sun was warm; the
snow was thawing; the sky was like a great blue sea; and the floods of
life coursed warmly again through Baree's veins. But now, for all time,
his desires were changed, and his great quest at an end.

A red ferocity grew in Baree's eyes as he snarled in the direction of
last night's fight with the wolves. They were no longer his people.
They were no longer of his blood. Never again could the hunt call lure
him or the voice of the pack rouse the old longing. In him there was a
thing newborn, an undying hatred for the wolf, a hatred that was to
grow in him until it became like a disease in his vitals, a thing ever
present and insistent, demanding vengeance on their kind. Last night he
had gone to them a comrade. Today he was an outcast. Cut and maimed,
bearing with him scars for all time, he had learned his lesson of the
wilderness. Tomorrow, and the next day, and for days after that without
number, he would remember the lesson well.



CHAPTER 19

At the cabin on the Gray Loon, on the fourth night of Baree's absence,
Pierrot was smoking his pipe after a great supper of caribou tenderloin
he had brought in from the trail, and Nepeese was listening to his tale
of the remarkable shot he had made, when a sound at the door
interrupted them. Nepeese opened it, and Baree came in. The cry of
welcome that was on the girl's lips died there instantly, and Pierrot
stared as if he could not quite believe this creature that had returned
was the wolf dog. Three days and nights of hunger in which he could not
hunt because of the leg that dragged had put on him the marks of
starvation. Battle-scarred and covered with dried blood clots that
still clung tenaciously to his long hair, he was a sight that drew at
last a long despairing breath from Nepeese. A queer smile was growing
in Pierrot's face as he leaned forward in his chair. Then slowly rising
to his feet and looking closer, he said to Nepeese:

"Ventre Saint Gris! Oui, he has been to the pack, Nepeese, and the pack
turned on him. It was not a two-wolf fight--non! It was the pack. He is
cut and torn in fifty places. And--mon Dieu, he is alive!"

In Pierrot's voice there was growing wonder and amazement. He was
incredulous, and yet he could not disbelieve what his eyes told him.
What had happened was nothing short of a miracle, and for a time he
uttered not a word more but remained staring in silence while Nepeese
recovered from her astonishment to give Baree doctoring and food. After
he had eaten ravenously of cold boiled mush she began bathing his
wounds in warm water, and after that she soothed them with bear grease,
talking to him all the time in her soft Cree. After the pain and hunger
and treachery of his adventure, it was a wonderful homecoming for
Baree. He slept that night at the foot of the Willow's bed. The next
morning it was the cool caress of his tongue on her hand that awakened
her.

With this day they resumed the comradeship interrupted by Baree's
temporary desertion. The attachment was greater than ever on Baree's
part. It was he who had run away from the Willow, who had deserted her
at the call of the pack, and it seemed at times as though he sensed the
depths of his perfidy and was striving to make amends. There was
indubitably a very great change in him. He clung to Nepeese like a
shadow. Instead of sleeping at night in the spruce shelter Pierrot made
for him, he made himself a little hollow in the earth close to the
cabin door. Pierrot thought that he understood, and Nepeese thought
that she understood even more; but in reality the key to the mystery
remained with Baree himself. He no longer played as he had played
before he went off alone into the forest. He did not chase sticks, or
run until he was winded, for the pure joy of running. His puppyishness
was gone. In its place was a great worship and a rankling bitterness, a
love for the girl and a hatred for the pack and all that it stood for.
Whenever he heard the wolf howl, it brought an angry snarl into his
throat, and he would bare his fangs until even Pierrot would draw a
little away from him. But a touch of the girl's hand would quiet him.

In a week or two the heavier snows came, and Pierrot began making his
trips over the trap lines. Nepeese had entered into an exciting bargain
with him this winter. Pierrot had taken her into partnership. Every
fifth trap, every fifth deadfall, and every fifth poison bait was to be
her own, and what they caught or killed was to bring a bit nearer to
realization a wonderful dream that was growing in the Willow's heart.
Pierrot had promised. If they had great luck that winter, they would go
down together on the last snows to Nelson House and buy the little old
organ that was for sale there. And if the organ was sold, they would
work another winter, and get a new one.

This plan gave Nepeese an enthusiastic and tireless interest in the
trap line. With Pierrot it was more or less a fine bit of strategy. He
would have sold his hand to give Nepeese the organ. He was determined
that she should have it, whether the fifth traps and the fifth
deadfalls and fifth poison baits caught the fur or not. The partnership
meant nothing so far as the actual returns were concerned. But in
another way it meant to Nepeese a business interest, the thrill of
personal achievement. Pierrot impressed on her that it made a comrade
and coworker of her on the trail. His scheme was to keep her with him
when he was away from the cabin. He knew that Bush McTaggart would come
again to the Gray Loon, probably more than once during the winter. He
had swift dogs, and it was a short journey. And when McTaggart came,
Nepeese must not be at the cabin--alone.

Pierrot's trap line swung into the north and west, covering in all a
matter of fifty miles, with an average of two traps, one deadfall, and
a poison bait to each mile. It was a twisting line blazed along streams
for mink, otter, and marten, piercing the deepest forests for fishercat
and lynx and crossing lakes and storm-swept strips of barrens where
poison baits could be set for fox and wolf. Halfway over this line
Pierrot had built a small log cabin, and at the end of it another, so
that a day's work meant twenty-five miles. This was easy for Pierrot,
and not hard on Nepeese after the first few days.

All through October and November they made the trips regularly, making
the round every six days, which gave one day of rest at the cabin on
the Gray Loon and another day in the cabin at the end of the trail. To
Pierrot the winter's work was business, the labor of his people for
many generations back. To Nepeese and Baree it was a wild and joyous
adventure that never for a day grew tiresome. Even Pierrot could not
quite immunize himself against their enthusiasm. It was infectious, and
he was happier than he had been since his sun had set that evening the
princess mother died.

They were glorious months. Fur was thick, and it was steadily cold
without any bad storms. Nepeese not only carried a small pack on her
shoulders in order that Pierrot's load might be lighter, but she
trained Baree to bear tiny shoulder panniers which she manufactured. In
these panniers Baree carried the bait. In at least a third of the total
number of traps set there was always what Pierrot called
trash--rabbits, owls, whisky jacks, jays, and squirrels. These, with
the skin or feathers stripped off, made up the bulk of the bait for the
traps ahead.

One afternoon early in December, as they were returning to the Gray
Loon, Pierrot stopped suddenly a dozen paces ahead of Nepeese and
stared at the snow. A strange snowshoe trail had joined their own and
was heading toward the cabin. For half a minute Pierrot was silent and
scarcely moved a muscle as he stared. The trail came straight out of
the north--and off there was Lac Bain.

Also they were the marks of large snowshoes, and the stride indicated
was that of a tall man. Before Pierrot had spoken, Nepeese had guessed
what they meant. "M'sieu the Factor from Lac Bain!" she said.

Baree was sniffing suspiciously at the strange trail. They heard the
low growl in his throat, and Pierrot's shoulders stiffened.

"Yes, the m'sieu," he said.

The Willow's heart beat more swiftly as they went on. She was not
afraid of McTaggart, not physically afraid. And yet something rose up
in her breast and choked her at the thought of his presence on the Gray
Loon. Why was he there? It was not necessary for Pierrot to answer the
question, even had she given voice to it. She knew. The factor from Lac
Bain had no business there--except to see her. The blood burned red in
her cheeks as she thought again of that minute on the edge of the chasm
when he had almost crushed her in his arms. Would he try that again?

Pierrot, deep in his own somber thoughts, scarcely heard the strange
laugh that came suddenly from her lips. Nepeese was listening to the
growl that was again in Baree's throat. It was a low but terrible
sound. When half a mile from the cabin, she unslung the panniers from
his shoulders and carried them herself. Ten minutes later they saw a
man advancing to meet them.

It was not McTaggart. Pierrot recognized him, and with an audible
breath of relief waved his hand. It was DeBar, who trapped in the
Barren Country north of Lac Bain. Pierrot knew him well. They had
exchanged fox poison. They were friends, and there was pleasure in the
grip of their hands. DeBar stared then at Nepeese.

"Tonnerre, she has grown into a woman!" he cried, and like a woman
Nepeese looked at him straight, with the color deepening in her cheeks,
as he bowed low with a courtesy that dated back a couple of centuries
beyond the trap line.

DeBar lost no time in explaining his mission, and before they reached
the cabin Pierrot and Nepeese knew why he had come. M'sieu, the factor
at Lac Bain, was leaving on a journey in five days, and he had sent
DeBar as a special messenger to request Pierrot to come up to assist
the clerk and the half-breed storekeeper in his absence. Pierrot made
no comment at first. But he was thinking. Why had Bush McTaggart sent
for HIM? Why had he not chosen some one nearer? Not until a fire was
crackling in the sheet-iron stove in the cabin, and Nepeese was busily
engaged getting supper, did he voice these questions to the fox hunter.

DeBar shrugged his shoulders.

"He asked me, at first, if I could stay. But I have a wife with a bad
lung, Pierrot. It was caught by frost last winter, and I dare not leave
her long alone. He has great faith in you. Besides, you know all the
trappers on the company's books at Lac Bain. So he sent for you, and
begs you not to worry about your fur lines, as he will pay you double
what you would catch in the time you are at the Post."

"And--Nepeese?" said Pierrot. "M'sieu expects me to bring her?"

From the stove the Willow bent her head to listen, and her heart leaped
free again at DeBar's answer.

"He said nothing about that. But surely--it will be a great change for
li'le m'selle."

Pierrot nodded.

"Possibly, Netootam."

They discussed the matter no more that night. But for hours Pierrot was
still, thinking, and a hundred times he asked himself that same
question: Why had McTaggart sent for him? He was not the only man well
known to the trappers on the company's books. There was Wassoon, for
instance, the half-breed Scandinavian whose cabin was less than four
hours' journey from the Post--or Baroche, the white-bearded old
Frenchman who lived yet nearer and whose word was as good as the Bible.
It must be, he told himself finally, that M'sieu had sent for HIM
because he wanted to win over the father of Nepeese and gain the
friendship of Nepeese herself. For this was undoubtedly a very great
honor that the factor was conferring on him.

And yet, deep down in his heart, he was filled with suspicion. When
DeBar was about to leave the next morning, Pierrot said:

"Tell m'sieu that I will leave for Lac Bain the day after tomorrow."

After DeBar had gone, he said to Nepeese:

"And you shall remain here, ma cherie. I will not take you to Lac Bain.
I have had a dream that m'sieu will not go on a journey, but that he
has lied, and that he will be SICK when I arrive at the Post. And yet,
if it should happen that you care to go--"

Nepeese straightened suddenly, like a reed that has been caught by the
wind.

"Non!" she cried, so fiercely that Pierrot laughed, and rubbed his
hands.

So it happened that on the second day after the fox hunter's visit
Pierrot left for Lac Bain, with Nepeese in the door waving him good-bye
until he was out of sight.


On the morning of this same day Bush McTaggart rose from his bed while
it was still dark. The time had come. He had hesitated at murder--at
the killing of Pierrot; and in his hesitation he had found a better
way. There could be no escape for Nepeese.

It was a wonderful scheme, so easy of accomplishment, so inevitable in
its outcome. And all the time Pierrot would think he was away to the
east on a mission!

He ate his breakfast before dawn, and was on the trail before it was
yet light. Purposely he struck due east, so that in coming up from the
south and west Pierrot would not strike his sledge tracks. For he had
made up his mind now that Pierrot must never know and must never have a
suspicion, even though it cost him so many more miles to travel that he
would not reach the Gray Loon until the second day. It was better to be
a day late, after all, as it was possible that something might have
delayed Pierrot. So he made no effort to travel fast.

McTaggart took a vast amount of brutal satisfaction in anticipating
what was about to happen, and he reveled in it to the full. There was
no chance for disappointment. He was positive that Nepeese would not
accompany her father to Lac Bain. She would be at the cabin on the Gray
Loon--alone.

This aloneness to Nepeese was burdened with no thought of danger. There
were times, now, when the thought of being alone was pleasant to her,
when she wanted to dream by herself, when she visioned things into the
mysteries of which she would not admit even Pierrot. She was growing
into womanhood--just the sweet, closed bud of womanhood as yet--still a
girl with the soft velvet of girlhood in her eyes, yet with the mystery
of woman stirring gently in her soul, as if the Great Hand were
hesitating between awakening her and letting her sleep a little longer.
At these times, when the opportunity came to steal hours by herself,
she would put on the red dress and do up her wonderful hair as she saw
it in the pictures of the magazines Pierrot had sent up twice a year
from Nelson House.

On the second day of Pierrot's absence Nepeese dressed herself like
this, but today she let her hair cascade in a shining glory about her,
and about her forehead bound a circlet of red ribbon. She was not yet
done. Today she had marvelous designs. On the wall close to her mirror
she had tacked a large page from a woman's magazine, and on this page
was a lovely vision of curls. Fifteen hundred miles north of the sunny
California studio in which the picture had been taken, Nepeese, with
pouted red lips and puckered forehead, was struggling to master the
mystery of the other girl's curls!

She was looking into her mirror, her face flushed and her eyes aglow in
the excitement of the struggle to fashion one of the coveted ringlets
from a tress that fell away below her hips, when the door opened behind
her, and Bush McTaggart walked in.



CHAPTER 20

The Willow's back was toward the door when the factor from Lac Bain
entered the cabin, and for a few startled seconds she did not turn. Her
first thought was of Pierrot--for some reason he had returned. But even
as this thought came to her, she heard in Baree's throat a snarl that
brought her suddenly to her feet, facing the door.

McTaggart had not entered unprepared. He had left his pack, his gun,
and his heavy coat outside. He was standing with his back against the
door; and at Nepeese--in her wonderful dress and flowing hair--he was
staring as if stunned for a space at what he saw. Fate, or accident,
was playing against the Willow now. If there had been a spark of
slumbering chivalry, of mercy, even, in Bush McTaggart's soul, it was
extinguished by what he saw. Never had Nepeese looked more beautiful,
not even on that day when MacDonald the map maker had taken her
picture. The sun, flooding through the window, lighted up her marvelous
hair. Her flushed face was framed in its lustrous darkness like a
tinted cameo. He had dreamed, but he had pictured nothing like this
woman who stood before him now, her eyes widening with fear and the
flush leaving her face even as he looked at her.

It was not a long interval in which their eyes met in that terrible
silence. Words were unnecessary. At last she understood--understood
what her peril had been that day at the edge of the chasm and in the
forest, when fearlessly she had played with the menace that was
confronting her now.

A breath that was like a sob broke from her lips.

"M'sieu!" she tried to say. But it was only a gasp--an effort.

Plainly she heard the click of the iron bolt as it locked the door.
McTaggart advanced a step.

Only a single step McTaggart advanced. On the floor Baree had remained
like something carved out of stone. He had not moved. He had not made a
sound but that one warning snarl--until McTaggart took the step. And
then, like a flash, he was up and in front of Nepeese, every hair of
his body on end; and at the fury in his growl McTaggart lunged back
against the barred door. A word from Nepeese in that moment, and it
would have been over. But an instant was lost--an instant before her
cry came. In that moment man's hand and brain worked swifter than brute
understanding; and as Baree launched himself at the factor's throat,
there came a flash and a deafening explosion almost in the Willow's
eyes.

It was a chance shot, a shot from the hip with McTaggart's automatic.
Baree fell short. He struck the floor with a thud and rolled against
the log wall. There was not a kick or a quiver left in his body.
McTaggart laughed nervously as he shoved his pistol back in its
holster. He knew that only a brain shot could have done that.

With her back against the farther wall, Nepeese was waiting. McTaggart
could hear her panting breath. He advanced halfway to her.

"Nepeese, I have come to make you my wife," he said.

She did not answer. He could see that her breath was choking her. She
raised a hand to her throat. He took two more steps, and stopped. He
had never seen such eyes.

"I have come to make you my wife, Nepeese. Tomorrow you will go on to
Nelson House with me, and then back to Lac Bain--forever." He added the
last word as an afterthought. "Forever," he repeated.

He did not mince words. His courage and his determination rose as he
saw her body droop a little against the wall. She was powerless. There
was no escape. Pierrot was gone. Baree was dead.

He had thought that no living creature could move as swiftly as the
Willow when his arms reached out for her. She made no sound as she
darted under one of his outstretched arms. He made a lunge, a savage
grab, and his fingers caught a bit of hair. He heard the snap of it as
she tore herself free and flew to the door. She had thrown back the
bolt when he caught her and his arms closed about her. He dragged her
back, and now she cried out--cried out in her despair for Pierrot, for
Baree, for some miracle of God that might save her.

And Nepeese fought. She twisted in his arms until she was facing him.
She could no longer see. She was smothered in her own hair. It covered
her face and breast and body, suffocating her, entangling her hands and
arms--and still she fought. In the struggle McTaggart stumbled over the
body of Baree, and they went down. Nepeese was up fully five seconds
ahead of the man. She could have reached the door. But again it was her
hair. She paused to fling back the thick masses of it so that she could
see, and McTaggart was at the door ahead of her.

He did not lock it again, but stood facing her. His face was scratched
and bleeding. He was no longer a man but a devil. Nepeese was broken,
panting--a low sobbing came with every breath. She bent down, and
picked up a piece of firewood. McTaggart could see that her strength
was almost gone.

She clutched the stick as he approached her again. But McTaggart had
lost all thought of fear or caution. He sprang upon her like an animal.
The stick of firewood fell. And again fate played against the girl. In
her terror and hopelessness she had caught up the first stick her hand
had touched--a light one. With her last strength she hurled it at
McTaggart, and as it struck his head, he staggered back. But it did not
make him loose his hold.

Vainly she was fighting now, not to strike him or to escape, but to get
her breath. She tried to cry out again, but this time no sound came
from between her gasping lips.

Again he laughed, and as he laughed, he heard the door open. Was it the
wind? He turned, still holding her in his arms.

In the open door stood Pierrot.



CHAPTER 21

During that terrible interval which followed an eternity of time passed
slowly through the little cabin on the Gray Loon--that eternity which
lies somewhere between life and death and which is sometimes meted out
to a human life in seconds instead of years.

In those seconds Pierrot did not move from where he stood in the
doorway. McTaggart, encumbered with the weight in his arms, and staring
at Pierrot, did not move. But the Willow's eyes were opening. And at
the same moment a convulsive quiver ran through the body of Baree,
where he lay near the wall. There was not the sound of a breath. And
then, in that silence, a great gasping sob came from Nepeese.

Then Pierrot stirred to life. Like McTaggart, he had left his coat and
mittens outside. He spoke, and his voice was not like Pierrot's. It was
a strange voice.

"The great God has sent me back in time, m'sieu," he said. "I, too,
traveled by way of the east, and saw your trail where it turned this
way."

No, that was not like Pierrot's voice! A chill ran through McTaggart
now, and slowly he let go of Nepeese. She fell to the floor. Slowly he
straightened.

"Is it not true, m'sieu?" said Pierrot again. "I have come in time?"

What power was it--what great fear, perhaps, that made McTaggart nod
his head, that made his thick lips form huskily the words, "Yes--in
time." And yet it was not fear. It was something greater, something
more all-powerful than that. And Pierrot said, in that same strange
voice:

"I thank the great God!"

The eyes of madman met the eyes of madman now. Between them was death.
Both saw it. Both thought that they saw the direction in which its bony
finger pointed. Both were certain. McTaggart's hand did not go to the
pistol in his holster, and Pierrot did not touch the knife in his belt.
When they came together, it was throat to throat--two beasts now,
instead of one, for Pierrot had in him the fury and strength of the
wolf, the cat, and the panther.

McTaggart was the bigger and heavier man, a giant in strength; yet in
the face of Pierrot's fury he lurched back over the table and went down
with a crash. Many times in his life he had fought, but he had never
felt a grip at his throat like the grip of Pierrot's hands. They almost
crushed the life from him at once. His neck snapped--a little more, and
it would have broken. He struck out blindly, and twisted himself to
throw off the weight of the half-breed's body. But Pierrot was fastened
there, as Sekoosew the ermine had fastened itself at the jugular of the
partridge, and Bush McTaggart's jaws slowly swung open, and his face
began to turn from red to purple.

Cold air rushing through the door, Pierrot's voice and the sound of
battle roused Nepeese quickly to consciousness and the power to raise
herself from the floor. She had fallen near Baree, and as she lifted
her head, her eyes rested for a moment on the dog before they went to
the fighting men. Baree was alive! His body was twitching; his eyes
were open. He made an effort to raise his head as she was looking at
him.

Then she dragged herself to her knees and turned to the men, and
Pierrot, even in the blood-red fury of his desire to kill, must have
heard the sharp cry of joy that came from her when she saw that it was
the factor from Lac Bain who was underneath. With a tremendous effort
she staggered to her feet, and for a few moments she stood swaying
unsteadily as her brain and her body readjusted themselves. Even as she
looked down upon the blackening face from which Pierrot's fingers were
choking the life, Bush McTaggart's hand was groping blindly for his
pistol. He found it. Unseen by Pierrot, he dragged it from its holster.
It was one of the black devils of chance that favored him again, for in
his excitement he had not snapped the safety shut after shooting Baree.
Now he had only strength left to pull the trigger. Twice his forefinger
closed. Twice there came deadened explosion close to Pierrot's body.

In Pierrot's face Nepeese saw what had happened. Her heart died in her
breast as she looked upon the swift and terrible change wrought by
sudden death. Slowly Pierrot straightened. His eyes were wide for a
moment--wide and staring. He made no sound. She could not see his lips
move. And then he fell toward her, so that McTaggart's body was free.
Blindly and with an agony that gave no evidence in cry or word she
flung herself down beside her father. He was dead.

How long Nepeese lay there, how long she waited for Pierrot to move, to
open his eyes, to breathe, she would never know. In that time McTaggart
rose to his feet and stood leaning against the wall, the pistol in his
hand, his brain clearing itself as he saw his final triumph. His work
did not frighten him. Even in that tragic moment as he stood against
the wall, his defense--if it ever came to a defense--framed itself in
his mind. Pierrot had murderously assaulted him--without cause. In
self-defense he had killed him. Was he not the Factor of Lac Bain?
Would not the company and the law believe his word before that of this
girl? His brain leaped with the old exultation. It would never come to
that--to a betrayal of this struggle and death in the cabin--after he
had finished with her! She would not be known for all time as La Bete
Noir. No, they would bury Pierrot, and she would return to Lac Bain
with him. If she had been helpless before, she was ten times more
helpless now. She would never tell of what had happened in the cabin.

He forgot the presence of death as he looked at her, bowed over her
father so that her hair covered him like a silken-shroud. He replaced
the pistol in its holster and drew a deep breath into his lungs. He was
still a little unsteady on his feet, but his face was again the face of
a devil. He took a step, and it was then there came a sound to rouse
the girl. In the shadow of the farther wall Baree had struggled to his
haunches, and now he growled.

Slowly Nepeese lifted her head. A power which she could not resist drew
her eyes up until she was looking into the face of Bush McTaggart. She
had almost lost consciousness of his presence. Her senses were cold and
deadened--it was as if her own heart had stopped beating along with
Pierrot's. What she saw in the factor's face dragged her out of the
numbness of her grief back into the shadow of her own peril. He was
standing over her. In his face there was no pity, nothing of horror at
what he had done--only an insane exultation as he looked--not at
Pierrot's dead body, but at her. He put out a hand, and it rested on
her head. She felt his thick fingers crumpling her hair, and his eyes
blazed like embers of fire behind watery films. She struggled to rise,
but with his hands at her hair he held her down.

"Great God!" she breathed.

She uttered no other words, no plea for mercy, no other sound but a
dry, hopeless sob. In that moment neither of them heard or saw Baree.
Twice in crossing the cabin his hindquarters had sagged to the floor.
Now he was close to McTaggart. He wanted to give a single lunge to the
man-brute's back and snap his thick neck as he would have broken a
caribou bone. But he had no strength. He was still partially paralyzed
from his foreshoulder back. But his jaws were like iron, and they
closed savagely on McTaggart's leg.

With a yell of pain the factor released his hold on the Willow, and she
staggered to her feet. For a precious half-minute she was free, and as
the factor kicked and struck to loose Baree's hold, she ran to the
cabin door and out into the day. The cold air struck her face. It
filled her lungs with new strength; and without thought of where hope
might lie she ran through the snow into the forest.

McTaggart appeared at the door just in time to see her disappear. His
leg was torn where Baree had fastened his fangs, but he felt no pain as
he ran in pursuit of the girl. She could not go far. An exultant cry,
inhuman as the cry of a beast, came in a great breath from his gaping
mouth as he saw that she was staggering weakly as she fled. He was
halfway to the edge of the forest when Baree dragged himself over the
threshold. His jaws were bleeding where McTaggart had kicked him again
and again before his fangs gave way. Halfway between his ears was a
seared spot, as if a red-hot poker had been laid there for an instant.
This was where McTaggart's bullet had gone. A quarter of an inch
deeper, and it would have meant death. As it was, it had been like the
blow of a heavy club, paralyzing his senses and sending him limp and
unconscious against the wall. He could move on his feet now without
falling, and slowly he followed in the tracks of the man and the girl.

As she ran, Nepeese's mind became all at once clear and reasoning. She
turned into the narrow trail over which McTaggart had followed her once
before, but just before reaching the chasm, she swung sharply to the
right. She could see McTaggart. He was not running fast, but was
gaining steadily, as if enjoying the sight of her helplessness, as he
had enjoyed it in another way on that other day. Two hundred yards
below the deep pool into which she had pushed the factor--just beyond
the shallows out of which he had dragged himself to safety--was the
beginning of Blue Feather's Gorge. An appalling thing was shaping
itself in her mind as she ran to it--a thing that with each gasping
breath she drew became more and more a great and glorious hope. At last
she reached it and looked down. And as she looked, there whispered up
out of her soul and trembled on her lips the swan song of her mother's
people.

Our fathers--come! Come from out of the valley. Guide us--for today we
die, And the winds whisper of death!

She had raised her arms. Against the white wilderness beyond the chasm
she stood tall and slim. Fifty yards behind her the factor from Lac
Bain stopped suddenly in his tracks. "Ah," he mumbled. "Is she not
wonderful!" And behind McTaggart, coming faster and faster, was Baree.

Again the Willow looked down. She was at the edge, for she had no fear
in this hour. Many times she had clung to Pierrot's hand as she looked
over. Down there no one could fall and live. Fifty feet below her the
water which never froze was smashing itself into froth among the rocks.
It was deep and black and terrible, for between the narrow rock walls
the sun did not reach it. The roar of it filled the Willow's ears.

She turned and faced McTaggart.

Even then he did not guess, but came toward her again, his arms
stretched out ahead of him. Fifty yards! It was not much, and
shortening swiftly.

Once more the Willow's lips moved. After all, it is the mother soul
that gives us faith to meet eternity--and it was to the spirit of her
mother that the Willow called in the hour of death. With the call on
her lips she plunged into the abyss, her wind-whipped hair clinging to
her in a glistening shroud.



CHAPTER 22

A moment later the factor from Lac Bain stood at the edge of the chasm.
His voice had called out in a hoarse bellow--a wild cry of disbelief
and horror that had formed the Willow's name as she disappeared. He
looked down, clutching his huge red hands and staring in ghastly
suspense at the boiling water and black rocks far below. There was
nothing there now--no sign of her, no last flash of her pale face and
streaming hair in the white foam. And she had done THAT--to save
herself from him!

The soul of the man-beast turned sick within him, so sick that he
staggered back, his vision blinded and his legs tottering under him. He
had killed Pierrot, and it had been a triumph. All his life he had
played the part of the brute with a stoicism and cruelty that had known
no shock--nothing like this that overwhelmed him now, numbing him to
the marrow of his bones until he stood like one paralyzed. He did not
see Baree. He did not hear the dog's whining cries at the edge of the
chasm. For a few moments the world turned black for him. And then,
dragging himself out of his stupor, he ran frantically along the edge
of the gorge, looking down wherever his eyes could see the water,
striving for a glimpse of her. At last it grew too deep. There was no
hope. She was gone--and she had faced that to escape him!

He mumbled that fact over and over again, stupidly, thickly, as though
his brain could grasp nothing beyond it. She was dead. And Pierrot was
dead. And he, in a few minutes, had accomplished it all.

He turned back toward the cabin--not by the trail over which he had
pursued Nepeese, but straight through the thick bush. Great flakes of
snow had begun to fall. He looked at the sky, where banks of dark
clouds were rolling up from the south and east. The sun disappeared.
Soon there would be a storm--a heavy snowstorm. The big flakes falling
on his naked hands and face set his mind to work. It was lucky for him,
this storm. It would cover everything--the fresh trails, even the grave
he would dig for Pierrot.

It does not take such a man as the factor long to recover from a moral
concussion. By the time he came in sight of the cabin his mind was
again at work on physical things--on the necessities of the situation.
The appalling thing, after all, was not that both Pierrot and Nepeese
were dead, but that his dream was shattered. It was not that Nepeese
was dead, but that he had lost her. This was his vital disappointment.
The other thing--his crime--it was easy to destroy all traces of that.

It was not sentiment that made him dig Pierrot's grave close to the
princess mother's under the tall spruce. It was not sentiment that made
him dig the grave at all, but caution. He buried Pierrot decently. Then
he poured Pierrot's stock of kerosene where it would be most effective
and touched a match to it. He stood in the edge of the forest until the
cabin was a mass of flames. The snow was falling thickly. The freshly
made grave was a white mound, and the trails were filling up with new
snow. For the physical things he had done there was no fear in Bush
McTaggart's heart as he turned back toward Lac Bain. No one would ever
look into the grave of Pierrot Du Quesne. And there was no one to
betray him if such a miracle happened. But of one thing his black soul
would never be able to free itself. Always he would see the pale,
triumphant face of the Willow as she stood facing him in that moment of
her glory when, even as she was choosing death rather than him, he had
cried to himself: "Ah! Is she not wonderful!"

As Bush McTaggart had forgotten Baree, so Baree had forgotten the
factor from Lac Bain. When McTaggart had run along the edge of the
chasm, Baree had squatted himself in the trodden plot of snow where
Nepeese had last stood, his body stiffened and his forefeet braced as
he looked down. He had seen her take the leap. Many times that summer
he had followed her in her daring dives into the deep, quiet water of
the pool. But this was a tremendous distance. She had never dived into
a place like that before. He could see the black shapes of the rocks,
appearing and disappearing in the whirling foam like the heads of
monsters at play. The roar of the water filled him with dread. His eyes
caught the swift rush of crumbled ice between the rock walls. And she
had gone down there!

He had a great desire to follow her, to jump in, as he had always
jumped in after her in previous times. She was surely down there, even
though he could not see her. Probably she was playing among the rocks
and hiding herself in the white froth and wondering why he didn't come.
But he hesitated--hesitated with his head and neck over the abyss, and
his forefeet giving way a little in the snow. With an effort he dragged
himself back and whined. He caught the fresh scent of McTaggart's
moccasins in the snow, and the whine changed slowly into a long snarl.
He looked over again. Still he could not see her. He barked--the short,
sharp signal with which he always called her. There was no answer.
Again and again he barked, and always there was nothing but the roar of
the water that came back to him. Then for a few moments he stood back,
silent and listening, his body shivering with the strange dread that
was possessing him.

The snow was falling now, and McTaggart had returned to the cabin.
After a little Baree followed in the trail he had made along the edge
of the chasm, and wherever McTaggart had stopped to peer over, Baree
paused also. For a space his hatred of the man was lost in his desire
to join the Willow, and he continued along the gorge until, a quarter
of a mile beyond where the factor had last looked into it, he came to
the narrow trail down which he and Nepeese had many time adventured in
quest of rock violets. The twisting path that led down the face of the
cliff was filled with snow now, but Baree made his way through it until
at last he stood at the edge of the unfrozen torrent. Nepeese was not
here. He whined, and barked again, but this time there was in his
signal to her an uneasy repression, a whimpering note which told that
he did not expect a reply. For five minutes after that he sat on his
haunches in the snow, stolid as a rock. What it was that came down out
of the dark mystery and tumult of the chasm to him, what spirit
whispers of nature that told him the truth, it is beyond the power of
reason to explain. But he listened, and he looked; and his muscles
twitched as the truth grew in him. And at last he raised his head
slowly until his black muzzle pointed to the white storm in the sky,
and out of his throat there went forth the quavering, long-drawn howl
of the husky who mourns outside the tepee of a master who is newly dead.

On the trail, heading for Lac Bain, Bush McTaggart heard that cry and
shivered.

It was the smell of smoke, thickening in the air until it stung his
nostrils, that drew Baree at last away from the chasm and back to the
cabin. There was not much left when he came to the clearing. Where the
cabin had been was a red-hot, smoldering mass. For a long time he sat
watching it, still waiting and still listening. He no longer felt the
effect of the bullet that had stunned him, but his senses were
undergoing another change now, as strange and unreal as their struggle
against that darkness of near death in the cabin. In a space that had
not covered more than an hour the world had twisted itself grotesquely
for Baree. That long ago the Willow was sitting before her little
mirror in the cabin, talking to him and laughing in her happiness,
while he lay in vast contentment on the floor. And now there was no
cabin, no Nepeese, no Pierrot. Quietly he struggled to comprehend. It
was some time before he moved from under the thick balsams, for already
a deep and growing suspicion began to guide his movements. He did not
go nearer to the smoldering mass of the cabin, but slinking low, made
his way about the circle of the clearing to the dog corral. This took
him under the tall spruce. For a full minute he paused here, sniffing
at the freshly made mound under its white mantle of snow. When he went
on, he slunk still lower, and his ears were flat against his head.

The dog corral was open and empty. McTaggart had seen to that. Again
Baree squatted back on his haunches and sent forth the death howl. This
time it was for Pierrot. In it there was a different note from that of
the howl he had sent forth from the chasm: it was positive, certain. In
the chasm his cry had been tempered with doubt--a questioning hope,
something that was so almost human that McTaggart had shivered on the
trail. But Baree knew what lay in that freshly dug snow-covered grave.
A scant three feet of earth could not hide its secret from him. There
was death--definite and unequivocal. But for Nepeese he was still
hoping and seeking.

Until noon he did not go far from the site of the cabin, but only once
did he actually approach and sniff about the black pile of steaming
timbers. Again and again he circled the edge of the clearing, keeping
just within the bush and timber, sniffing the air and listening. Twice
he went hack to the chasm. Late in the afternoon there came to him a
sudden impulse that carried him swiftly through the forest. He did not
run openly now. Caution, suspicion, and fear had roused in him afresh
the instincts of the wolf. With his ears flattened against the side of
his head, his tail drooping until the tip of it dragged the snow and
his back sagging in the curious, evasive gait of the wolf, he scarcely
made himself distinguishable from the shadows of the spruce and balsams.

There was no faltering in the trail Baree made; it was straight as a
rope might have been drawn through the forest, and it brought him,
early in the dusk, to the open spot where Nepeese had fled with him
that day she had pushed McTaggart over the edge of the precipice into
the pool. In the place of the balsam shelter of that day there was now
a watertight birchbark tepee which Pierrot had helped the Willow to
make during the summer. Baree went straight to it and thrust in his
head with a low and expectant whine.

There was no answer. It was dark and cold in the tepee. He could make
out indistinctly the two blankets that were always in it, the row of
big tin boxes in which Nepeese kept their stores, and the stove which
Pierrot had improvised out of scraps of iron and heavy tin. But Nepeese
was not there. And there was no sign of her outside. The snow was
unbroken except by his own trail. It was dark when he returned to the
burned cabin. All that night he hung about the deserted dog corral, and
all through the night the snow fell steadily, so that by dawn he sank
into it to his shoulders when he moved out into the clearing.

But with day the sky had cleared. The sun came up, and the world was
almost too dazzling for the eyes. It warmed Baree's blood with new hope
and expectation. His brain struggled even more eagerly than yesterday
to comprehend. Surely the Willow would be returning soon! He would hear
her voice. She would appear suddenly out of the forest. He would
receive some signal from her. One of these things, or all of them, must
happen. He stopped sharply in his tracks at every sound, and sniffed
the air from every point of the wind. He was traveling ceaselessly. His
body made deep trails in the snow around and over the huge white mound
where the cabin had stood. His tracks led from the corral to the tall
spruce, and they were as numerous as the footprints of a wolf pack for
half a mile up and down the chasm.

On the afternoon of this day the second strong impulse came to him. It
was not reason, and neither was it instinct alone. It was the struggle
halfway between, the brute mind righting at its best with the mystery
of an intangible thing--something that could not be seen by the eye or
heard by the ear. Nepeese was not in the cabin, because there was no
cabin. She was not at the tepee. He could find no trace of her in the
chasm. She was not with Pierrot under the big spruce.

Therefore, unreasoning but sure, he began to follow the old trap line
into the north and west.



CHAPTER 23

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was there, in the north, waiting for him--and into the north he went.



CHAPTER 24

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lerue shrugged his shoulders.

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

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

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

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

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

"It is good," said Lerue.

"Yes, it is good," said Roget.

"A wide fox country," said Mons Roule.

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



CHAPTER 25

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"The black wolf!"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To which Valence nodded with an odd smile.



CHAPTER 26

By the middle of January the war between Baree and Bush McTaggart had
become more than an incident--more than a passing adventure to the
beast, and more than an irritating happening to the man. It was, for
the time, the elemental raison d'etre of their lives. Baree hung to the
trap line. He haunted it like a devastating specter, and each time that
he sniffed afresh the scent of the factor from Lac Bain he was
impressed still more strongly with the instinct that he was avenging
himself upon a deadly enemy. Again and again he outwitted McTaggart. He
continued to strip his traps of their bait and the humor grew in him
more strongly to destroy the fur he came across. His greatest pleasure
came to be--not in eating--but in destroying.

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

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

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

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

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

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

He hurried back to Post Lac Bain.

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

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

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

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



CHAPTER 27

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

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

But even now, after all his hours of agony, neither his spirit nor his
courage was broken. When he saw McTaggart he made a lunge to his feet,
almost instantly crumpling down into the snow again. But his forefeet
were braced. His head and chest remained up, and the snarl that came
from his throat was tigerish in its ferocity. Here, at last--not more
than a dozen feet from him--was the one thing in all the world that he
hated more than he hated the wolf breed. And again he was helpless, as
he had been helpless that other time in the rabbit snare.

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

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

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

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

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

"A trap robber," he said.

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

"God save us again--a dog!" he exclaimed.

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

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

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

"You poor devil!" he said sympathetically. "So you're a trap robber,
eh? An outlaw? And--the police have got you! And--God save us once
more--they haven't played you a very square game!"

He rose and faced McTaggart.

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

"A few miles. I'm bound upcountry--beyond the Barrens."

McTaggart felt again the strange thrill.

"Government?" he asked.

The stranger nodded.

"The--police, perhaps," persisted McTaggart.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



CHAPTER 28

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

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

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

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

"You poor devil!" he repeated.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Coming, Boy?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

After a moment Carvel said:

"Relatives of yours, old chap. Wolves."

He went into the tent for his rifle and cartridges.



CHAPTER 29

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All that night he did not sleep, but watched.


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

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

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

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

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

Then Carvel found the first of the early blue flowers.

That night he packed up.

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



CHAPTER 30

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Boy, I guess you're home."

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

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

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

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

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


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



CHAPTER 31

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

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

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

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

"Tomorrow I will go to Lac Bain."

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

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

"A messenger?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

"Ookimow Jeem--Oo-oo, Ookimow Jeem--"

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

"Ookimow Jeem--it is the man-beast--in there! It is the man-beast from
Lac Bain--and Baree--"

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

"Ooo-oo, OOKIMOW JEEM--"

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

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

"He is dead, Nepeese."

"Dead, Ookimow Jeem?"

"Yes. Baree killed him."

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

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

"OM'--yes--Ookimow Jeem--I love you--"

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





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