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´╗┐Title: Shasta of the Wolves
Author: Baker, Olaf
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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[Illustration: Cover art]



  SHASTA OF THE WOLVES


  BY

  OLAF BAKER



  ILLUSTRATIONS BY
  CHARLES LIVINGSTON BULL



  NEW YORK
  DODD, MEAD AND COMPANY
  1952



  COPYRIGHT, 1919
  BY DODD, MEAD AND COMPANY, INC.


  PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
  AMERICAN BOOK-STRATFORD PRESS, INC., NEW YORK



  CONTENTS

  CHAPTER

  I  The Wolf-Child
  II  The Coming of Shoomoo
  III  Shasta Comes Very Near Being Eaten by a Bear
  IV  The End of the Fight
  V  Gomposh, the Wise One
  VI  Shasta Sings the Wolf Chorus
  VII  Shasta Joins the Wolf Pack
  VIII  The Voice that Was Goohooperay
  IX  The Coming of Kennebec
  X  How Shasta Hid in Time
  XI  Shasta's Restlessness and What Came of It
  XII  Shasta Sees His Redskin Kindred
  XIII  The Bull Moose
  XIV  Shasta Leaves His Wolf Kin
  XV  How Shasta Fought Musha-Wunk
  XVI  The Danger From the South
  XVII  Shasta Goes Scouting
  XVIII  The Wolves Avenge



SHASTA OF THE WOLVES



CHAPTER I

THE WOLF-CHILD

It was the old she-wolf Nitka that came running lightly along the
dusk.  Though she had a great and powerful body, with a weight heavy
enough to bear down a grown man, her feet made no sound as they came
padding through the trees.  She had been a long way, travelling for a
kill, because at home the wolf-babies were very hungry and gave her
no peace.  They were not well-behaved babies at all.  Whatever
mischief there was in the world seemed to be packed tight into their
little furry bodies.  They played and fought and worried each other
till they grew hungry again, and then they fell upon their mother
like the little ravening monsters that they were.  But Nitka bore it
all patiently, as a kind old mother should, and only gave them a
smack occasionally, when their behaviour was beyond everything for
naughtiness.

Now, as she came running through the trees she drank in the air
thirstily through her long nose.  For it was her nose that brought
her news of the forest, telling her what creatures were abroad, and
whether there was a chance of a kill.  This evening the air was full
of smells, and heavy with the heat of the long summer day; but many
of them were wood smells, tree smells, green smells; not the scent of
the warm fur and the warm flesh and the good blood that ran in the
warm bodies and made them spill the secret of themselves along the
air.  And it was this warm, red, running smell for which Nitka was so
thirsty, and of which there was so little spilt upon the creeping
dusk.  Yet now and then a delicate whiff of it would come, and Nitka
would sniff harder, swinging her head into the wind.  And sometimes
it grew stronger and sometimes weaker, and sometimes would cease
altogether, swallowed up in the scent of the things that were green.
And then, all of a sudden, the smell came thick and strong, flowing
like a stream along the drift of the air.

In the wild, your scent is yourself.  What you smell like, that you
are.  And so, accordingly as the wind blows, you spill yourself, even
against your will, either backwards or forwards, on the currents of
the air.

Nitka increased her pace, and as she ran the smell grew sweeter and
stronger, and made her mad for the kill.  It was not long before her
sharp eyes gave her sight of a deer feeding in an open glade.  Nitka
stooped her long body to the earth, and began to stalk her prey.  All
about her the forest seemed to hold back its breath.

It was no noise which Nitka made which betrayed her presence.  She
herself came stooping nearer like a shadow on four feet.  And as it
was up-wind that she came, she spilt herself upon the air backwards,
not forwards, to the deer.  Yet something there was which seemed to
give it warning beyond sound, or sight, or smell.

It stopped feeding, and lifted its head.  For a moment or two it
stood as still as an image carved in stone; yet, as Nitka knew well,
it was the stillness of warm flesh that paused before it fled.  She
gathered her legs under her for the deadly spring.  The deer turned
its head quickly, and saw a long grey shadow launch itself through
the dusk.  It was the last leaping shadow the deer would ever see.
For the law of the forest is a stern and unpitying one--the law of
Hunger, and the law of Desire.

When Nitka had finished her kill, and satisfied her hunger, she
thought of the babies at home.  They were too small yet for flesh
food, so it was no use carrying any back to them.  Nevertheless they
would be wanting their supper badly, and she must go and give it to
them if she would have any quiet in her mind.  So she trotted through
the forest, having first buried some pieces of the deer where she
would know where to find them.

The cave in which her cubs were waiting was far away, for she had
travelled many miles, but her instinct told her how to find it easily
again, and she made a straight line for it, loping along towards the
hills.  She was going down-wind now, and did not catch a scent of the
things in front.  But as she had had her kill, that did not matter.
There was one thought in her old wise head, and that thought was home.

But before she reached it, she lit upon a strange thing.  It lay
right in her path--a small brown bundle that now and then set up a
thin wail.  Nitka observed it carefully, then ran round to the
leeward of it to pick up its scent the better.  With strange things
she always did this.  You never knew what a strange thing might do
before your nose could give you warning.  As she circled, she came
upon another smell which she had smelled before--the scent of man, of
which she was afraid.  But it was a trail several hours old, and was
growing a little stale.  Nitka crept up to the peculiar bundle.  She
sniffed at it hard, then turned it over gently with her paw.  As she
did so, it stirred a little and whimpered.  The smell was the smell
of man, but the whimper was that of a cub.  Nitka distrusted the
smell, but the whimper was good.  She was not hungry now, but there
were the hungry babies at home.  She must not delay any longer.  She
caught up the bundle by the loose skin that covered it, and started
off again.  She had to go more slowly now, because of the bundle, and
when at last she reached the cave upon the mountain-side, the night
had fallen.  Dark though it was, the baby wolves were awake, and
ready for a famous meal; but in the odd bundle which their mother
dropped inside the mouth of the den they were not interested enough
to find out what it was.  When they had had their supper they fell
fast asleep, and when the rising moon cast a glimmer into the cave,
you might have seen an old mother wolf and a family of cubs all
snuggled up together and very fast asleep.

But in the morning, when they woke up, there was another cub, a cub
whose clothes were not of fur, but of a strange covering which they
would have called Indian blanket if they had had any word for such a
thing in their furry language.  However, they speedily took to
worrying this odd blanket; and presently off it came and was found to
be no skin at all, but only a loose cover that tore to pieces
beautifully, and made you cough when you tried to swallow it.
Inside, the baby had another skin that was of a reddish brown and
very soft.  They began to worry that also, hoping it might come off
too, but it stuck fast to what was underneath, as is the way with
such skins, being specially prepared to stick, and the baby inside it
began to squeal like mad.

For some reason or other, the baby did not bite back again.  It just
lay on its back, and waved fat arms and legs in the air.  That hurt
nobody, so the little wolves rolled it over and over, and tried to
take pieces out of its arms and legs, and thought it was quite the
biggest joke they had had in all their lives.  Only the new baby did
not have a sense of humour, and refused to enter into the fun.  It
only squealed louder and louder, and actually squeezed water out of
its little eyes!

Then, all at once, without any warning whatever, Nitka put a stop to
the fun by cuffing her babies right and left; and so the new baby did
not have to cry alone, but was joined by all the little wolves,
yelping with fear and pain.  So from that time onward they learned
slowly that the new baby was not to be bitten just for fun, but was
somehow or other a little naked brother who had left his coat behind
him in the outside world.

If you had asked Nitka why she had taken the baby's part, I don't
believe she could have told you.  All she knew was that there was a
feeling inside her that this odd thing she had found in the forest
was to be protected from harm.

That was in the early days of little Shasta's life.  He was so tiny
that he soon grew used to the difference between living among the
wolves and living among his own kind.  And soon he forgot even the
dim thing he once remembered, and thought there was no life but the
life of the cave where always it was shadowy and cool even in the
hottest summer day.  And he learned to play with the little wolves,
his brothers, and wrestle and box with them, and go tumbling all over
the cave floor with never a squeal.  Only sometimes when the play
seemed to grow too rough, and old Nitka thought he was having a bad
time of it, she would rescue him from his playmates, and give
everybody a general smacking all round: and then there would be peace
for a little time.

So that is how it came to pass that Shasta learnt the language of the
wolves, and of the other animals--and indeed for a time knew no
other--and understood what they said and thought, and even felt, when
there was no need of any words.

And all this knowledge was of great use afterwards, and was the
saving of his life, as you shall presently be told.



CHAPTER II

THE COMING OF SHOOMOO

Now the first great day in little Shasta's wolf life was the day when
he left the cave for the first time and came out into the open world.
He didn't know why he was to go out, nor what going out really meant.
All he knew was that, suddenly, there was a movement of all the cubs
towards the place where the light came from, and that it seemed
natural for him to follow the movement.

When he crawled outside, the sunlight hit him smack in the face like
a hot white hand, and then, when he got over that, the world swam in
upon his little brain in the way of a coloured dream.  It was a very
splendid dream, in which everything was new and strange and beautiful
beyond all words to describe.  The baby wolf-brothers sat in a row
and blinked out at the dream, sniffing at it with their puppy noses
because of the instinct within them that even dreams must be smelt if
you would find out what they are.  And it seemed to them to be a very
good dream, smelling of grass and flowers, and of hot rocks, and of
the sharp scent which the pine trees loose on the summer air.  And
there, on a rising piece of ground, sat the old wolf-mother, also
smelling the good world, only that, besides the smell of the trees
and rocks, she could distinguish those other odours of living
creatures which drift idly down the wind.

[Illustration: THE BABY WOLF-BROTHERS SAT IN A ROW ... SNIFFING WITH
THEIR PUPPY NOSES]

Shasta, a little way behind his wolf-brothers, sat down too.  When a
large curious dream comes it is better to sit and watch what it will
do; otherwise, if you begin to walk about in it, you may fall over
something, and come to a bad end!  So Shasta sat and blinked at the
thing, and waggled his fingers and his toes.  He smelt at the thing
also, and to him, as to the others, it seemed a good and pleasant
smell, and he gurgled with delight.  The sound he made was so funny
that the cubs turned round to see what was happening.  But when they
saw that it was only the foster-brother being odd as usual, they
turned away again and went on smelling at the world.

High up above his head, Shasta saw something very white and hot.  It
was so dazzling that he couldn't look up at it for more than a moment
at a time, and because the thing hurt his eyes, and set queer round
plates dancing in front of them when he looked away, he gave up
looking at it.  Yet always he was conscious that it was there--the
hot white centre to this curious dream.  And once he lifted a little
hairy hand to give it a cuff for being so hot and silly; only,
somehow, the hand didn't quite reach, and when he tried a little
higher, he overbalanced and fell over on his back.

This was a signal for the cubs to rush at him and have a game.  So
for a long time, Shasta cuffed at them and wrestled with them, and
sometimes got the better of them, and sometimes was badly beaten and
worried like a rat.  Of course neither he nor they had any idea that
this delightful scuffling and cuffing was really the beginning of
their education, and that their muscles were being trained and their
limbs strengthened for their battle with the world when they should
be grown up, and babies no longer.

Suddenly, as if by magic, the play stopped dead, with Shasta and the
cubs locked in a fierce embrace.  Old Nitka never made a sound, nor
any outward sign, which ordered the play to cease.  Yet in a
twinkling the cubs were back into the den, while Nitka had risen from
her point of observation, with her eyes set hard to the north.
Shasta sat up and stared.  The last wolf-brother was wobbling his fat
body into the cave's mouth.  Shasta felt, in some odd unexplained
way, that he ought to follow, and that it was because Nitka had
willed it, that the cubs had gone in.  Yet because he was a man-baby,
and not a wolf-cub, he stayed where he was and stared at his
foster-mother with large and wondering eyes.  But Nitka did not look
at him.  Her eyes were far away over the tops of the spruces and
pines--far away to a certain spot where a level rock jutted out from
the great "barren" that stretched like a roof along the windy top of
the world.  If Shasta had followed the direction of Nitka's eyes, he
would have seen what looked like the form of a large timber-wolf
lying crouched upon the rock, with his nose well into the wind.  Only
Shasta had no eyes for anything but Nitka.  He had never seen her
look so fierce before.  All her great body was stiffened as if with
steel springs.  Just above her tail her hair was raised, as is the
way when a wolf or dog is roused for fight; and in her gleaming eyes,
burning like dull coals, there was a green, unpleasant light.  Shasta
could not tell what ailed his foster-mother.  Only, in a dim way, he
felt that something was amiss.  And the feeling made him
uncomfortable, as when a grown-up person says nothing to you, but has
a slap ready in the hands.

Presently Nitka saw the other wolf slip off the rock and disappear in
the spruce scrub at its base.  And then, as before, she let herself
down, and the bristles flattened above her tail.  She seemed to rest
in her body, and to give up all her bones to the warmth of the summer
afternoon.  Near by, the stream fell down the hill-side with a sleepy
murmur, and the grasshoppers chirruped in the grass.  There was
nothing to be seen except, high up in the air, a sweep of slow wings
that bore Kennebec, the great eagle, in his solemn circles above the
canyon at the foot of the mountain.  Kennebec was a mighty person in
his own world, as many a wolf and mountain sheep knew to their cost.
Many and many a lamb and wolf-cub had gone to the feeding of
Kennebec's children in their dizzy eyrie built among the steeples of
the rocks.  But as long as Kennebec kept to his own canyon, and did
not cast a wicked eye upon her babies, Nitka did not worry about him,
and had all her senses on the watch for danger nearer at hand.  For
in spite of all her look of outward laziness, every nerve that she
had, every muscle of her strong body, was ready at a moment's notice
to send her flying at any creature which dared to venture within
striking distance of the den.

For a long time nothing happened.  Then Nitka growled softly, looking
at Shasta as she did so.  Now Shasta knew perfectly well that the
growl was meant for him.  Up to the present he had been disobedient,
though he didn't quite know how.  Nitka wished him to return to the
cave with the cubs, and Shasta, though he felt some instinct telling
him to go, could not understand what it meant, and so remained
exactly where he was.  And so far Nitka had been very patient.  She
had simply gone on wanting him to get back into safety, but she had
not looked or spoken.  The soft growl, rumbling down there in her
deep throat, was not a pleasant thing to hear.  It sent a thrill down
Shasta's little spine.  He began to feel dreadfully uncomfortable,
and to wish that he was safe inside the cave.  Yet still he did not
move, because the man-cub inside his heart was not inclined to bow
down before the wolves.

Again Nitka growled, this time louder than before.  And to make it
more pointed, she looked at Shasta as she growled.  He had never seen
her look at him like that before.  The light in her eyes was not at
all agreeable.  There was a threat in it, as to what she might do if
Shasta did not obey.  He began to edge away towards the cave.  After
he had gone two or three yards he stopped.  This behaviour of Nitka
was so curious that he wanted to find out what it meant.  Something
was going to happen.  Without in the least knowing what it might be,
Shasta felt that something was in the air.  But there was no
resisting that look in Nitka's eyes.  With a whimpering cry, Shasta
scrambled to the entrance of the cave.  Once inside the den's mouth,
however, his courage came to him again, and he turned to look back.

As he peeped, he saw the form of a huge grey wolf glide into the open
space.  Nitka herself was large, but this other wolf was nearly half
as big again and much more formidable.  His great limbs and deep
chest were wonderful to see.  Between his shoulders was a dark patch
of hair which was thicker than the rest of his coat, and, when the
winter came, would become a sort of mane.  He stood nearly three feet
high at the shoulders--a giant of his breed.

As to Nitka herself, she was plainly in a rage.  The hackles on her
back were raised; her body was crouched low as if to leap, her limbs
were bent under her like powerful springs to send the whole weight of
her great body hurling through the air; while, if her eyes had shone
threateningly before when she looked at the disobedient Shasta, now
they gleamed with a green light that seemed like living flame.

So the two wolves stood facing each other, the huge stranger not
seeming to like the look of things, with Nitka snarling defiance at
him, and prepared to give her very life in the defence of her cubs.

Shasta, peeping timidly out from the mouth of the cave, felt certain
that some terrible thing was about to happen.  He was terrified by
two things: first, by the mysterious coming of the stranger wolf,
then by the awful anger of Nitka, which, if once let loose, must
surely tear the new world to pieces, hot white centre and all!
Behind him, in the cave, the cubs were motionless and made no sound.
They huddled closely together as if they knew, though they could not
see it, that, out there in the sunlight, a strange thing was
happening with which it would be fatal to interfere.  So there they
huddled, and pressed their fat furry bodies against each other, and
tried to be comforted by each other's fat and fur.

Then Shasta, looking out boldly, saw a very odd thing.  He saw the
he-wolf make a step towards Nitka with a sort of friendly whine in
his throat, and Nitka, instead of springing at him, remained crouched
where she was.  And although she kept on growling, and saying the
most dreadful things as before, somehow or other she seemed less
vicious, and the green glare was softening in her eyes.  Seeing this,
the other wolf grew bolder, and drew closer step by step.

It was a very slow approach, as if the giant he-wolf was fully aware
that any sudden action of his would bring Nitka on him like a fury,
with those long fangs of hers bared to strike.  And then at last the
two wolves were so close together that their noses touched.  And in
this touch of their noses, and the silent conversation which
followed, everything was explained and understood, and made clear for
the future.

So that was how Shasta saw the return of Shoomoo, the father of his
foster-brothers, and Nitka's lawful mate.  After that Shoomoo became
a recognized person in the world who came and went mysteriously,
never saying when he was going, nor telling you where when he had
come back.  Only that did not matter in the least.  The really big
thing was that when father Shoomoo did come back, he seldom returned
empty-handed, or I should say empty-mouthed, since a wolf uses his
mouth as a carry-all, instead of his paws.



CHAPTER III

SHASTA COMES VERY NEAR BEING EATEN BY A BEAR

The weeks and the months went by.  Only Shasta did not know anything
about time, and if the months ticked themselves off into years, he
took no account of them.  Each month he became more and more
wolf-like, and less and less like a human child.  And because he wore
no clothes, hair began to grow over his naked body, so that soon
there was a soft brown silky covering all over him, and the hair of
his head fell upon his shoulders like a mane.  And as he grew older
much knowledge came to him, which is hidden from human folk, or which
perhaps they have forgotten in their building of the world.  He
learnt not only how to see things very far off, and clearly, as if
they were near, but he learnt also to bring them close by smelling,
to know what manner of meat they were.  And if his nose or his eyes
brought him no message, then his ears gave him warning, and he caught
the footsteps that creep stealthily along the edges of the night.
And he learnt the difference between the three hunting calls of the
wolf: the howl that is long and deep, and which dies among the
spruces, or is echoed dismally among the lonely crags; the high and
ringing voice of the united pack, on a burning scent; and that last
terrible bark that is half a howl, when the killing is at hand.

Yet it was not only of the wolves that Shasta learnt the speech of
the Wild.  He knew the things the bears rumbled to each other as they
went pad-padding on enormous feet.  Of the black bears he had no
fear, but for the grizzlies he had a feeling that warned him it was
wiser to keep out of their way.  The feeling was not there in the
beginning, but it grew after a thing that happened one
never-to-be-forgotten day.

He had been sleeping in the cave during the hot hours, and woke up as
the light began to yellow in the waning of the afternoon.  He
stretched his little hairy arms and legs with a great feeling of rest
and of happiness.  He felt so well and strong in every part of him
that the joyful life inside him seemed bubbling up and spilling over.
He was alone in the cave, for his wolf-brothers were now grown up and
were gone out into the world.  Sometimes, at sundown or dawn, he
heard them sing the strange wolf-song--the song that is as old as the
world itself--or a familiar scent would drift to him, as he sat in
the entrance of the cave, and he would know it for the sweet good
smell of some wolf-brother as he passed across the world.  And
sometimes Shasta would lift his child's voice into that wild,
unearthly wolf-song that is so very old.

This afternoon, something seemed to call Shasta to go out into the
sun.  Nitka had made him understand that it was not safe for him to
go far from the cave when she was away.  Now she was out hunting, and
Shoomoo was off on one of his mysterious journeys, nobody knew where,
so there was all the more need for Shasta to stay close at home.
Shasta did not see why he should remain in the dull den all the time
that his foster-parents were away.  Besides, were not his
wolf-brothers all far out in the world?  Perhaps he might fall in
with one of them, and sniff noses together for the sake of old times.
He determined to go out and try.

As he passed out, he heard the Blue Jays scolding in the trees.

Now there is a rule which all wise forest folk observe.  It is this:
When the Blue Jay scolds, look out!

Sometimes, of course, the Blue Jays simply scold at each other,
because somebody has taken somebody else's grub, or just because they
have a falling-out for fun; but the wise wild folk pay no attention
to this, knowing it to be what it is.  And when the Blue Jays scold
in a peculiar manner, then the wise ones now that there is danger
afoot, and that you must keep a sharp look out.

Now, although Shasta was so young, he was quite old enough to
understand the difference in the sounds.  Unfortunately, this
afternoon he was in a mad mood, and he just didn't care!  He saw the
autumn sun bright on the rocks at the den's mouth; he saw the glimmer
of the blue over the tall tops of the pines.  High above the canyon,
a dark blob circled slowly against the sky.  Far off though it was,
Shasta saw that it was Kennebec, the great eagle, who was lord of all
the eagles between the mountains and the sea.  Shasta watched him for
a little while making wide circles on his mighty sweep of wing.  Then
he ran up the mountainside, and, as he ran, the Blue Jays scolded
more and more.

If Shasta had not been in so mad a mood, he would have known by the
chatter of the Jays that the danger was coming up-hill.  Also, if he
himself had not been running down-wind, he would have smelt what the
danger was creeping up behind.  But the something that had seemed to
call him in the cave was calling to him now from the high rocks.  So
on he climbed, careless of what might be going on below.  He climbed
higher and higher.  Close by one of the big rocks a birch-tree hung
itself out into the air.  When he reached it he stopped to look back.

Down at the edge of the forest he saw a thing that made him shiver.
From between the shadowy trunks of the pine-trees, the shape of a
huge Grizzly swung out into the sun.  It came on steadily up the
mountain, its nose well into the wind.  Shasta knew that he himself
was doing the fatal thing; he was spilling himself into the wind, and
even now the Grizzly was eating him through his nose!

By this time Shasta was very frightened.  He looked this way and
that, to see how to escape.  He knew that he could not get back to
the cave in time, for it lay close to the Grizzly's upward path, and
already the bear was half-way there.  The moving of his great limbs
sent all his fur robe into ripples that were silver in the sun.  He
was coming at a steady pace.  And, if he wanted to quicken it, Shasta
knew with what a terrible quickness those furry limbs could move.  As
for himself, his wolf-training had taught him to run very swiftly,
but he ran in a stooping way, using his hands as well as his feet.
Only he doubted whether his swiftness could save him from the Grizzly
over the broken ground.  And far away over the canyon Kennebec swept
his vast circles as calmly as though nothing was happening, because
all went so very well in the blue lagoons of the air.  Nothing was
happening up there; but here upon the Bargloosh everything was
happening, and poor little Shasta felt that everything was happening
wrong.

In his terrible fear Shasta started to run up the mountain.  As he
ran, he looked back.  He saw to his horror that the Grizzly had seen
him and had also started to run.  Up the rocky slopes came the
terrible pad-pad of those cruel paws.  And Shasta knew well that the
paws had teeth in them; many cruel teeth to each paw.  And still
Shasta went darting upward, running swiftly like a mountain-fox.

As he ran, a thought came into his head.  If he could circle down the
mountain, he might hide behind the rocks till the Grizzly had passed,
and so reach the cave in time.  For he had the sense to know that
although a Grizzly is more than a match for wolves in the open, it
thinks many times before it will attack them in their den.

Again Shasta looked back.  He saw that the Grizzly was gaining upon
him.  He turned swiftly among the boulders to the left, dodging as he
went so as to be out of sight of his enemy.  The longer he could keep
up the flight the more chance there was that either Nitka or Shoomoo
might return.  He ran on wildly, the terror in him, like the Grizzly
behind, gaining ground.

He saw the long mountainside stretching out far and far before him to
the northwest.  He looked eagerly to see if any grey shadows should
be moving eastwards along it--the long, gliding shadows that would be
his wolf-parents coming home.  But nothing broke the lines of grey
boulders that lay so still along the slopes.  All the great mountains
seemed dead or asleep.  Nothing living moved.  Shasta ran on and on,
looking fearfully backwards now and then, and expecting every moment
to see the form of the great Grizzly come bounding over the rocks.
Far below him in the timber he heard the screaming of the Jays.
There was a fresh tone in the cry.  Before, it had been a scolding of
the bear: now it was a cry to Shasta:

"Run, little brother, run!"

It did not need the crying of the Blue Jays to make Shasta run.  He
was covering the ground almost with the speed of the wolves
themselves.

Now he began to slant down towards the timber, darting down the
mountain, leaping from boulder to boulder in the manner of the
mountain-sheep.  Yet behind him, faster and faster, as the rush of
his great body gathered force, the Grizzly launched himself
downwards, an avalanche of fur!

Shasta knew only too well that, unless something happened, the chase
could not go on much longer.  It might be a little sooner or a little
later, but the Grizzly must have him at the last unless he could
reach the trees in time.  The trees were his only hope.  If he could
reach them, he could escape.  For among the many things he had learnt
of the ways of the forest folk, he had learnt this also: a Grizzly
does not climb.  And it was in this one thing only that he could
outdo his wolf-brothers: he could climb into the trees!

He looked back.  The thing was hurling itself nearer--the fearful
avalanche of fur!  Now he began to fear that he could not reach the
timber in time.  The Grizzly was gaining at a terrible pace.  And
then a thing happened.

Down aslant the mountain-side there came leaping in tremendous bounds
the form of a big she-wolf.  On it came at a furious speed, every
spring of the powerful haunches sending the long grey body forward
like an arrow loosed from a bow.  And as she came, there rose from
deep in her throat a long-drawn howl--the mustering cry of the wolves
when the prey is too heavy for one to pull down alone.

The Grizzly saw her coming but could not stop.  He was going too fast
to turn so as to avoid the first onslaught.  With a snarl of fury
Nitka sprang.

Her long fangs snatched horribly.  There was a gash behind the bear's
left ear.  He snorted with rage, and tried to pull up.  Before he
could do so, Nitka had snapped at his flank and leaped away.  Then at
last, by a supreme effort, the Grizzly pulled himself up, and turned
upon his unexpected foe.

By this time Shasta was well within reach of the trees.  But some
instinct made him suddenly alter his course and turn towards the
cave.  The Grizzly, seeing this, started again in pursuit of his
prey.  Once more Nitka leaped, and the long fangs did their deadly
work; but this time the bear, turning with remarkable quickness,
hurled her off, and did so with such force that Nitka almost lost her
balance.  A wolf, however, is not easily thrown off its legs, and
again Nitka attacked.  Each time she sprang, the bear stopped to meet
her.  Nitka knew full well what she would have to expect if she came
within striking distance of those terrible paws and not once did she
allow the Grizzly to get his chance to strike.  And every time the
bear turned, Shasta was making good his escape, farther and farther
up the slope.  Yet still the bear continued the chase, as if
determined, in spite of all Nitka's fierce defence, to have his kill
at last.

But he did not reckon upon two enemies at once, and he did not know
that a second one, even more to be dreaded than Nitka, would have to
be faced before he could seize his prey.

Shasta had almost reached the cave now.  He saw the shadowy mouth of
it just beyond the clump of bushes where the great cliff broke down.

Yet if the Grizzly should follow him into the cave!  At close
quarters Nitka would be no match for the Grizzly.  Those terrible
paws would have the wolf within striking distance, and then, no
matter how bravely Nitka fought, she must sooner or later be killed.
Yet, just at the moment, the instinct for home was the strongest
thing in Shasta's little mind, and so he made blindly for the cave.

As he darted into it, something shot past it in the opposite
direction--something that leaped in the air with a noise that would
have sounded more like the snarl of a mad dog--if Shasta had ever
heard a mad dog--than any voice of wolf!

Far away in the lonely places of the great barren, Shoomoo had caught
the long-drawn hunting cry of Nitka, and had answered it on feet that
swept the distance like the wind.  With every hair on end, with eyes
that shone like green fires, with his chops wrinkled to show the
gleaming fangs, Shoomoo hurled himself downwards full in the path of
the advancing bear.

The Grizzly saw his coming just in time, and raised himself suddenly
to give the wolf the blow which would have been his certain death.
Swift as a streak of light, Shoomoo swerved as if he actually turned
himself in the air.  The Grizzly missed his stroke by a hair's
breadth.  Before he could strike again, both wolves were upon him.
They sprang as with one accord, slashing mercilessly; then, in the
wolf fashion, leaping away before the enemy could close.

The fight now became a sort of game.  As far as mere strength went
the Grizzly was far more than a match for the wolves; but their
marvellous quickness put him at a disadvantage.  Directly he turned
to meet the onset of one, the other sprang at him from the opposite
direction.  They kept circling round him in a ring.  It was a ring
that flew and snarled and gleamed and bristled; a ring of wild
wolf-bodies that seemed never to pause for a single second.
Sometimes it widened, sometimes it narrowed, hemming the great bear
in; but always it was a live, quivering, flying ring of shadowy
bodies and gleaming teeth.

More and more the bear felt that he was no match for his opponents.
Hitherto he had had no fear of wolves: he had held them almost in
contempt.  But these things that leaped and snapped and leaped again
seemed scarcely wolves.  They were wolfish Furies to which you could
not give a name.

Slowly, step by step, he retreated down the slope.  He had given up
all thought of the strange wolf-cub now.  His one idea was to defend
himself from these terrible foes, the like of which he had never
encountered before.  Deep in his grizzly heart he knew that he was
being beaten.  It was a new feeling, and he did not relish it.  Till
now he had been monarch of his range, and other animals had respected
his undisputed right.  Now the tables were being turned, and a couple
of wolves larger than he had even seen were driving him steadily
back.  Yet he would not turn and run.  Something in his little
pig-like eyes told the wolves that, whatever happened, he would never
take safety in flight.  That is one of the ideas belonging to a king.
When his back is up against a wall, he must fight to the last.  And
that is exactly what the bear was looking for--something against
which he could place his back.  To the left, about fifty yards away,
a great spur of rock broke from the mountainside.  If he could once
reach that, he knew that he could keep his foes at bay.  He knew
also, that in order to reach it, he would have to fight every yard of
the way.

And up above on the slope, a little wild face peered out from the
shelter of the rocks, and watched and watched with shining eyes.



CHAPTER IV

THE END OF THE FIGHT

It was a running fight that went on as the great grizzly retreated.
The one object of the wolves was to keep him on the move.  The bear
made furious rushes this way and that whenever he thought he had one
of his enemies within striking distance.  But as sure as ever he
attacked one wolf, it leapt clear with marvellous agility, while the
other, like a flash of grey lightning, had snatched at his flank and
was off before he could turn.  Yet in spite of Shoomoo's greater
bulk, it was the onset of Nitka which punished the bear most
severely.  For the time, Nitka was like a thing gone mad.  Her eyes
blazed like green jewels, her teeth flashed in a grin of rage.  The
long suppleness that was her body, bent, twisted, turned and doubled
on itself, in a series of acrobatic leaps which bewildered her foe,
and baffled even Shasta's eyes to see how it was done.  She was not
fighting for any mere purpose of hatred or revenge; it was not that
she, as Nitka, wanted to conquer the bear.  The thing that was in
her, the fierce unutterable thing that flamed in her eyes and stabbed
nakedly in her teeth, was her wild, strange love for the man-cub she
had so curiously made her own.  She did not know why she loved him.
How should she, since the Great Spirit of the Wild had not told her?
It was enough that the Spirit had put the thing into her heart and
made it to remain.  Her own wolf-cubs would come, and would as
certainly go out into the wolf world that is so wide beneath the
stars.  But the little man-cub stayed, winter and summer, autumn and
spring, only growing larger very slowly, because it is the habit of
men-cubs and other gods to grow slowly, and you cannot build them
quickly with never so much rabbit's flesh nor caribou meat, swallowed
and pre-digested, and brought up again as food.  So Nitka waged this
desperate battle for the life of something she held very dear, and in
her blind devotion would have sacrificed even her own life sooner
than that one morsel of Shasta's hairy little body should suffer harm.

With Shoomoo it was different.  He had many reasons for fighting, and
they were all good ones.  First, he fought for Nitka because he loved
her, and had mated with her for life.  It was that which, when her
long hunting cry for help had reached him, had sent him sweeping
along the mountain slopes at such a headlong speed.  Bound up with
that, the man-cub was her own special property, and therefore partly
his.  He did not understand the man-cub.  Shoomoo never pretended to
understand.  Left to his own instincts he would not have loved the
man-cub.  But since the thing belonged to Nitka, and was what she
loved, therefore it was for him to be good to it whether he would or
no.  His second reason for fighting was just as good, and was that,
naturally, the grizzlies and the wolves are enemies, and have nothing
in common except the desire to kill, when the bloodthirst is on them.
But there was even a third reason as good as either of the others,
and this was that Shoomoo dearly loved a fight.  It was not that he
was a disagreeable person, always ready to pick a quarrel, for he was
anything but that, and quite contented to go his own way peacefully
so long as no one disputed it with him.  But when a fight was forced
upon him, or there was anything to be gained by being fierce, then he
wrinkled back his chops in a most threatening manner, and made ready
for his deadly spring.

So all these reasons combined made Shoomoo a very dangerous foe, and
were the causes which forced the grizzly, who might have coped with
Nitka alone, to retreat towards the rock.

It took the bear some time to do this; but once he felt the rock
against his back, he reared himself up on his haunches, with his
little pig-like eyes red with rage, and towered above the wolves like
the giant that he was.

Neither Nitka nor Shoomoo, savage though they might be, were so angry
as to be fools.  They knew perfectly well that to attack a grizzly in
such a position would be the extreme of madness.  One blow from one
of those terrible steel-tipped paws, striking with the force of a
sledge-hammer, and the wolf that met it would be knocked clean out of
the fight.  So they contented themselves with crouching at a safe
distance, and waiting to attack again the moment the bear should
leave the rock.  But if the bear ever had such an idea in his huge
head he thought better of it, and stayed where he was.  And so the
time passed, the wolves not daring to attack the bear, the bear not
daring to quit the protection of the rock.  And it was not until the
afternoon had waned into evening, and the sunset gold had melted
behind the deep forests, that the wolves drew back towards the den
and the grizzly slipped away into the dusk.

It was many weeks before Shasta recovered from the effects of his
fright and was ready to carry his explorations any distance from the
cave.  And though Nitka did not punish him, and Shoomoo said nothing,
going about his business silently in the same old way, Shasta knew
quite well that he was in disgrace and that he had better behave
accordingly.  So he contented himself by sitting a good deal in the
doorway of the den and watching the happenings of the world from that
safe position.  It was not what you would call a very tidy doorway,
and there was no mat on which to wipe your paws if you got them muddy
with creeping after young geese along the boggy borders of the ponds
on the barren.  There was a fine litter of feathers, fur and bones,
and the little odds and ends of what had once been game.  Shasta,
squatting humpily in the middle of the mess, looked out with large
eyes to snap up the happenings in the world as they fell out through
the hours.

Not that very much happened that you could call important.  Sometimes
a lynx or a fox would steal softly by, sniffing the air suspiciously,
and keeping at a safe distance, with sidelong glances at the den.  Or
sometimes a shadow would appear and disappear between the stems of
the pine trees with bewildering swiftness, and a marten would vanish
upon his bloodthirsty way.  And then, if larger game kept out of
sight and smell, there were always the grasshoppers and woodmice
chirruping and scurrying in the tall and feathery grass.  But after a
time Shasta grew tired of this do-nothing life at the door of the
den, and began to take little walks here and there, though he kept a
sharp look-out, and was always ready to go scampering back to the den
at the first hint of danger.  And one thing he learnt from his
adventure with the grizzly was, always to attend to the warning of
the blue jays.  Whenever their harsh voices rose from the ordinary
gossipy chatter to a warning scream, Shasta would make off at once
without waiting to discover what it was that had caused them to sound
the alarm.



CHAPTER V

GOMPOSH, THE WISE ONE

The moons went by and the moons went by.  The slow moons slipped into
each other and were tied into bundles, a summer and a winter to each
bundle, and so made up the years.

Shasta did not know anything about that measuring of time, nor that
people talked of growing older out there in the world.  All he knew
was that there were day and night, and that the great lights came and
went in the heavens, stepping very slowly upon gold and silver feet.
But he knew when the loon, the great northern diver, cried forlornly
in the night, that the long cold was at hand, and that he would have
to stay in the cave to keep himself from freezing to death.  And then
it was that Nitka and Shoomoo exerted all their arts to keep the
man-cub alive; and when the small game grew scarce, and the caribou
hunting began, many and many a chunk of venison the little Shasta
devoured, and throve marvellously upon the uncooked meat.  The meat
made him warm, and kept the rich blood at full beat in his veins; and
that he might be the warmer when he slept, he scooped a hole in the
side of the cave, filling it with dry grass and leaves and a lining
of fur and feathers torn from the outside of his meat.  He learnt
this nest-making from the homes of the wild creatures he discovered
in his ramblings in the early spring and summer; for everything you
learnt then seemed somehow to be in preparation for the grim time of
the winter, when the blizzard howled from the north, and even the
wolves, and the caribou they hunted, had to flee before the blast.

It was after many summers and winters had been tied together in
bundles that one bright September morning Shasta left the cave and
made for a tall rock, overlooking the gorge of the stream.  When he
reached it, he squatted down and watched what might happen below.  No
one saw him there--the little brown thing on the rock; and no one
minded him, which was even more important, because he perched above
the level of the run-ways, and of the creatures whose noses are
always asking questions of the lower air.

But some one whom Shasta did not know, and who was wiser than all the
other wise folk of the forest, was also out for a walk that wonderful
autumn morning, and on soft and padded feet came softly down the
mountain slopes above Shasta's airy perch.  And this was Gomposh, the
old black bear.

Gomposh was very old and of a wonderful blackness.  When he walked
out in the sun the light upon his fur rippled in silver waves.  As
for his years, not even Goohooperay, the white owl, could tell you
how many they were, much less Gomposh himself.

It was not any sound Gomposh made that told Shasta of his presence,
but suddenly, without any warning to his eyes, or ears, or nose,
Shasta _knew_.  And this was owing to that unexplained sixth sense
which the wild animals possess, and which Shasta, after his long
dwelling among them, shared to a remarkable degree.  He turned round
all of a sudden, and there, not fifty feet away, stood Gomposh the
Old in all the wonder of his black, black fur.

For the first moment Shasta felt afraid.  Here was another
bear--smaller, indeed, than the grizzly, but none the less a bear!
And now, if the black bear meant mischief, escape was impossible
because the rock was too steep for any foothold on the outer face of
it, and between its inner side and the open mountain stood the bear.
Then, in some odd way which he did not understand, the fear passed,
and he knew that this time he was in no danger at all, and that the
newcomer with the black robe would do him no harm.

Gomposh waited for a while, observing Shasta with his little wise
eyes and making notes of him inside his big wise head.  Then, very
deliberately and slowly, he came down the slope towards Shasta and
sat down on his haunches before him on the rock.  For a minute or two
neither of them spoke, except in that secret language of eye and nose
which makes unnecessary so much of the jabber that we humans call
speech.  But presently Shasta began to ask questions in wolf-language
and Gomposh made answers in the same.  And the sense of what they
said was as follows, though the actual words were not our human words
at all, but deeper and sweeter in the meaning of them, and much
nearer to the truth.

[Illustration: VERY DELIBERATELY AND SLOWLY, HE CAME DOWN THE SLOPE
TOWARDS SHASTA AND SAT DOWN ON HIS HAUNCHES]

"Shall we be brothers, you and I?" Shasta asked, a little timidly,
for he was feeling shy.  Gomposh looked at him kindly out of his
little pig-like eyes.

"We _are_ brothers," he said.  "I am old Gomposh, brother to all the
forest folk."

"_I_ am brother to the wolves," Shasta replied.

"You will find yourself brother to many strange folk before you are
much older," Gomposh said, and when he had finished he gave a slow
wag with his head.

"Who are the folk?" Shasta asked wonderingly.

"Ah!" Gomposh said, looking even wiser than before.  He looked so
tremendously full of knowledge that Shasta felt very small and
ignorant indeed.

"There are the lynxes and the foxes to begin with," Gomposh said
after a pause.  But Shasta shook his head.

"No," he said.  "They are not brothers.  We have no kinship with
them, we of the wolves."

Gomposh looked at him for a minute or two without speaking, and
Shasta felt uncomfortable.

"It is not for you to say who are not brothers," Gomposh said
gravely.  "You are not a wolf!"

Shasta blinked his eyes at that.  It was the first time any one had
told him that he was not a wolf.

"But I am!" he said.  "Nitka and Shoomoo and the brothers--we are all
of the wolf blood.  I have many brothers," he added, as if to make
the matter clearer.  "They are all out in the world."

"I am aware of that," Gomposh said; "but many brothers do not make
you different from what you are."

Shasta could not think of an answer to that, so he was silent for a
little time, while something which began to be a question grew big
within his head.

"If I am not a wolf, what am I?" he asked at last.

"You will find that out later on," Gomposh said with aggravating
calmness.  "At present it is enough for you to know what you are not."

"But I don't know it," Shasta said bravely, because he was not going
to give way weakly before a bear, if he were never so old, and never
so wise.  "How do you know that I am not a wolf?"

Gomposh blinked and did not answer for a moment or two.  He was taken
by surprise, and was just a little shocked.  In all his long
experience, reaching over many years, no one had ever questioned his
wisdom before, nor asked him how he knew.  The man-cub was very
impudent.  It would have been the easiest thing in the world, with
one cuff of his big black paw, to teach the man-cub manners, and send
him spinning from the rock.  But although Gomposh had a great idea of
his own importance, he had also a kind heart, and there was something
in him which went out tenderly towards the little naked cub, impudent
though he was.  So he contented himself with being very stiff and
stand-offish when he spoke again.

"I have eyes," he said.  "I have also a nose.  You are not wolf to my
eyes, and you are only half wolf to my nose."

This was a knock-down blow to Shasta, and he didn't know what to say.

"I am sorry if I don't smell nice," he said lamely after a while.

"I didn't remark that you didn't smell nice," Gomposh said.  "Smell
is a thing for everybody to decide on for himself.

"What is the smell in me that isn't wolf?" Shasta asked.

"That you will know later," Gomposh replied.

"But when?" Shasta asked.  "Today, or tomorrow, or when the moon is
full?"

"That I do not tell you," Gomposh said.  "When the time comes, you
will know."

And that was all Shasta could get out of him.  Gomposh either
couldn't or wouldn't say more, and when he had sat for a little while
longer he got up and slowly walked away.

Shasta watched him disappear into the chaparral thicket to the left,
and heard him for some time afterwards as he knocked the rotten logs
to pieces in his search for grubs.

For a long, long while Shasta sat where he was and gazed down the
gorge.  An odd feeling that was almost unhappiness was in his head
and his stomach, and the feeling went rolling over and over inside
him and knocking itself against the corners of his brain.  "Not a
wolf!  Not a wolf!" the feeling kept rapping out.  Then, if he was
not a wolf, what was he? he asked himself.  His memory, groping
backwards into the dim beginnings of his life, worked hard to uncover
the secret of what he really was; but, try as he would, he could
remember nothing but the den and the wolf life that had its centre
there, and the happenings of the mountain and of the forest, and the
ways of their folk.

There was nothing else--no shapes of tall beings that carried bows in
their fore-paws and walked always on their hind legs--nothing that
told him of his Indian birth.

The morning slipped into the afternoon, and still Shasta sat
motionless, humped upon the rock.  His eyes were down the gorge, or
on the opposite ridge where the tops of the spruces were jagged
against the sky.  Down below him, on the old run-ways that had
threaded the thickets since the beginning of the world, the creatures
came and went.  Shasta knew them each by sight.  He had known them
all his life.  Yet now, as their familiar forms came noiselessly like
shadows over the grass, he had a peculiar feeling of being separated
from them by the new knowledge that, somehow, he was of another
world.  When the thin smell of the twilight came drifting through the
trees, then, and not till then, Shasta slipped down noiselessly from
his rock and stole homewards to the den.

But in the dark the odd feeling was still questioning: "If I am not a
wolf, what am I?"



CHAPTER VI

SHASTA SINGS THE WOLF CHORUS

It was one night not long after his conversation with Gomposh that
Nitka made it plain to Shasta that he was to accompany her and
Shoomoo for some unknown purpose.  Shasta had grown used to the
appearing and disappearing of foster-brothers every year, and so the
four half-grown wolves that trotted by his side on the eventful night
were quite familiar to him, and did not perplex him in the least.

It was a very clear night, with the stars shining down through the
tall tops of the pines and a faint glimmer low down in the north-east
where presently the moon would lift her mighty bowl of silver and
water the world with light.  Now and then a little waft of wind would
send a shiver through the trees, and when it died away the stillness
of the forest was deeper than before.  It was very dark under the
trees.  Unless you had Indian's or wolf's eyes you would not have
been able to see your hand in front of your face.  But the eyes that
were in Shasta's head were Indian with a wolf's training and were
almost equal to the wolves'.  He saw many things which no child born
of white people has ever seen since America was discovered nor ever
will as long as the world shall last, because the dwellers in the
forest are very wise and wary and are a part of the Great Secret that
is hidden amongst the trees; and many of them are never seen at all
except by the wild animals themselves, and you will not find their
names in any work on zoology (which is the polite word for Natural
History), because zoology, after all, is only the science which
divides things into classes according to their teeth.

Yet although Shasta's eyesight was nearly as keen as the wolves', his
speed was not as fast as theirs, and so the going was slower than it
would have been if the pack had been alone.  For all that, Shasta's
pace was only slow compared with the wolves, and if you had seen him
running on all fours you would have thought that his speed was very
quick indeed.

The order of their going was in this manner: Shoomoo went first (as
became the leader of the pack); after him, in single file, came two
of the cubs; Shasta followed next, with a wolf brother on each side
of him, but slightly behind, so as to guard him if any danger
threatened; last of all, with her keen eyes glowing like coals, came
old Nitka, bringing up the rear.  It would have been a fearless
animal indeed which would have attacked such a pack travelling in
this wary way.  Even a grizzly, or a bull caribou, would have thought
twice before encountering the combined force, and would have wisely
turned aside without disputing right of way.

Where they were going--what it all meant--Shasta could not guess.  He
had never travelled at night like this before.  The most he had done
after dark was to go short distances from the cave and back again,
and that never alone, but always with either Nitka or Shoomoo
somewhere close at hand.  But this long journey was unlike anything
he had ever done before.  It was strangely exciting: it made the
blood dance in his veins.  He felt that something big was going to
happen, and that now at last he would learn the secret of the wolves.
For although he had lived the life of a wolf all these years, there
was a feeling in his heart that there was something else, something
he had yet to learn, before he should be one with the wolves, as of
their very blood.  And the feeling, reaching upward from his heart,
tugged at his brain with tiny fingers that groped always in the dark.

After some time they left the trees behind them and came out upon the
open mountain.  Then it was a long climb upwards, going aslant the
mountainside towards the east.  There was more light now, for the
time of moonrise was close at hand.  Shasta could see the vast
shoulder of the mountain hump itself up against the stars.  That was
ahead.  Behind, and to the right, the canyon plunged down into a
hollow of darkness that seemed bottomless.  His ears caught the sound
of a dull roar.  He knew it would be a stream beating against the
boulders and complaining huskily as it went.  The going was faster
now, for the land was open, and Shasta increased his pace.  Soon they
reached a bench, or terrace, along the side of a gorge.  Running
lightly along this, Shasta heard another sound.  It was long and
mournful, sliding up and down a minor scale of unutterable grief.  It
came drifting over the mountains as if the wind carried it, dropping
it at times, and then taking hold of it again.  Though it was so
faint it was not like the voice of a single wolf, but of many wolves
singing in chorus together by the silver edges of the moon.  He
expected his companions to stop and answer it.  He had often heard
them sing that same song at moonrise, or just before dawn, but, to
his surprise, the pack swept on as if they had never heard that
sorrowful voice sobbing along the air.

The terrace came to an end abruptly in a spur of rock, but Shoomoo,
with a great bound, leaped to a higher ledge and the pack followed.
Shasta could not leap in the wolf manner.  He climbed instead, using
his feet and hands with wonderful agility.

The upper ledge brought them to the summit of the mountain.  Here a
wide caribou barren stretched away in an unbroken extent to the north
and east.  There was good hunting here, as the wolves knew.  Many and
many a fat caribou cow might be cut out of the herd and pulled down
when the right season came, but they were not for hunting now.
Something quite as strong as the hunting cry was calling to them, and
they would obey it in spite of everything else.

On the summit of the mountain the cry Shasta had heard before came
again.  Only this time it was loud and clear, filling all the spaces
of the night with echoes that sounded hollowly from far away.  And
now Shasta was aware that the wolves were not alone.  Other dusky
forms were flitting silently on ahead, and to the right and left.  As
they went on the number of these shadowy forms increased.  They were
all going in the same direction, and evidently with the same purpose,
whatever that might be.

Soon Shasta saw the great rocks rise up ahead.  They had passed over
the summit of the mountain now, and were descending the brow.  The
rocks, jagged and torn into all sorts of peculiar shapes, formed a
fringe to the downward slope.  Beyond, the country fell away sheer to
the prairies below.  As Shasta approached the rocks he saw that they
were alive.  On all their ledges and pinnacles wolves were crowded.
There were many hundreds of them.  He could not have believed that
there were so many wolves in all the world!  And they were all
howling together in a wild, uncanny chorus that, to Shasta's ears,
was like a swinging song, very beautiful to hear.  Only it was
terrible also, and sent shivers down his back.  And his heart beat
wildly, and he felt as if he had not eaten food for many days.

He could not tell how or why, but suddenly he found himself sitting
upon a rock, surrounded by the wolves.  And then, as he watched them
with their heads thrown back, and their long noses pointed to the
stars, he felt something which he could not understand taking hold of
him.  He could see the wolves plainly now, for the moon was rising.
She was behind the mountain yet, but the light of her coming was
abroad in the sky.

Shasta looked round to see if Nitka or Shoomoo was close to him.  At
first he could not distinguish them among the number of the other
wolves.  Then he caught sight of the great bulk of Shoomoo at the
summit of a rock, cut out blackly, like granite, against the rising
of the moon.  There were many other big wolves there, for it was a
gathering of all the packs, but none was as mighty as Shoomoo,
towering there, like a king, upon his rock.  Once he had found
Shoomoo he did not search for Nitka or the foster-brothers.  He was
simply content to know that they were there.  It was upon Shoomoo
that his eyes were fixed, for he felt dimly as if, somehow or other,
he was the centre of the mystery and the wild heart of the song.  And
then, immediately behind Shoomoo's giant form, a disc of silver
showed suddenly, and the first gleam of the moon-rising shone down
upon the wolves.

The singing had been wild before, but now in the moonlight it grew
wilder still.  It was enough to make even an Indian's flesh creep to
hear this uncanny chorus from hundreds of wolfish throats, rising and
falling in the stillness of the night.  And for miles and miles,
through the endless spruce forests, down the black-throated canyons,
along the dreary barrens of the caribou, the wild song went sobbing
in a passion of despair.  Not an animal, winged or four-footed, in
all that savage region but was awake and shivering to the sobbing of
the wolves.  Kennebec, the mighty eagle, caught it, dreaming far away
upon his midnight crags.  Gomposh, the old wise one, heard it,
sitting in the mouth of his cave on the blue pine hill; and, as he
listened, he rumbled a reply--a low, deep growl that seemed to roll
about inside him and never got farther than his chest.  And far away
over the prairies, on the lonely ridges where the Indians bury their
dead, the coyotes caught the chorus and, howling dismally, flung it
back.  Now and then, on the outskirts of the wolf-ring, a fox would
appear from nowhere, sit down on his tail, and lift his snout and
sing.  For though, in the usual course of things, the wolves and
foxes are sworn enemies, on the nights when the great chorus is sung
the foxes are allowed to give themselves to music, and have no cause
to fear.

But it was not alone the creatures of the wild who responded to the
cry.  Far down at the foot of the mountain where the country of the
plains began, Shasta heard an answering chorus in the pauses when the
wolves seemed to listen for the echoes of their song.  And the
chorus, too, was wolfish and utterly despairing, as if the prairie
wolves were gathering down below.  Yet, though Shasta did not know
it, the answer was not a wolf one, but belonged to the Indian
huskies, those gaunt starved creatures, part wolf, part dog, which
the Indians have bred for long years, and of which the camps are full.

In every pause between the challenge of the wolves, the answer of the
huskies was still wilder and fuller of despair.  As the moon rose,
and the light became stronger, Shasta could see more and more plainly
what was going on down there at the mountain's foot.  He saw peculiar
pointed things different from anything he had ever seen before.  They
were arranged in a circle round something which was very red and
bright.  He did not know, because there was nobody to tell him, that
this bright red thing was an Indian camp fire, and that the pointed
things about it were the wigwams of the braves.  Beyond the wigwams
he could see a row of dark objects.  These were the huskies sitting
on their tails, and sobbing out their sorrow to the wolves.
Sometimes the row would break and the huskies would rush wildly
about, yelping and snapping at each other as if they had suddenly
gone mad.  And then they would gather together again, and sit in a
long row, and lift their sorrow to the moon.

Presently Shasta saw something else.  He saw forms leave the wigwams
and come out into the circle between them and the fire.  They were
like wolves, but seemed to be clothed with loose skins that covered
their bodies and fore-legs.  The thing which he noticed most
particularly was that they did not go on all fours in the true wolf
fashion, but walked upon their hind legs only, with their bodies
straight in the air.  As far as he could tell, they had come out of
the wigwams to listen to the wolves.  Yet they made no sound, and
continued to listen silently, not letting any voice which might be in
them wail forth into the night.

The sight of these dumb creatures on their hind legs made Shasta
strangely restless.  He wanted to lift his arms and loose his heart
out in a cry.  And as he watched the figures, the feeling grew.  He
could not tell--poor little wild soul that he was--that these odd and
silent forms were those of his own people; that he belonged to them
in his blood and in his brain; and that here, in the wolf-world, he
was an outcast from his kin.  And the Indians, gazing up at those
black wolf-shapes cut out against the stars, little guessed that,
among that dusky throng, crouched one of their own tribe, kidnapped
long ago by an enemy and left in the forest to die of starvation or
be torn in pieces by the beasts.

There was a long pause, broken by neither wolves nor huskies.  The
silence was so deep that you could almost hear the shadows as they
shortened under the moon.

All at once Shasta threw back his head and howled.  It was the true
wolf howl, long, vibrating, desolate.  The desire to do so came on
him suddenly, unexpectedly; a thing wholly strange and not to be
explained.  The note sang out sharply into the air.  It seemed to
rip, like a wolf's fangs, the silver throat of the moon.

The wolves cocked their ears and listened intently.  Here was a new
voice which they had never heard before; a wolf voice truly, yet with
some fine difference which set it apart from all others and made it
impossible to forget.

When Shasta had ended, and the last dim echo of his howl had faded
from the rocks, he sat silent, shivering with fear.  For now he had
done what only a leader of a pack had the right to do--he had broken
in upon the silence of the wolves.

What would they do?  Would they punish him for his impertinence?
Suppose some leader gave the signal for the entire pack to sweep down
upon him and tear him limb from limb?  Nitka and the foster-brothers
would not be strong enough to save him.  Even Shoomoo's giant bulk
would be of no avail against the fury of the united pack.  Always
before when he had known fear, he had taken to his legs, and either
he had escaped to the cave in time or else Nitka or Shoomoo had been
at hand to save him; but he knew that his legs would be useless now.
The great fear seemed to take from them the power of running, and to
freeze him to the rock.

He did not move a muscle.  He did not even dare to turn his eyes.
Yet he saw everything with astonishing clearness down to the smallest
detail.  There was Shoomoo, motionless on his pinnacle, his ears
erect, his hair bristling, the moonlight falling silverly on his dark
coat and casting his shadow blackly down below.  And there were the
countless members of that vast pack equally motionless, equally
alert, all their heads turned in one direction, all their gleaming
eyes turned one way.  And Shasta, seeing all those terrible eyes
fixed upon him, not only saw them, but felt them--felt the fierce
wolfish thought behind that united all the pack into one wolf-mind.

The silence was terrible.  No arrow-headed flight of wild geese came
honking from the north to break it.  Not even the solitary song of
the white-throated sparrow on his fir branch slipped softly out to
show that he was awake and that there was a sweetness in the night;
and if nothing sounded, so also nothing stirred, nothing except the
wolfish shadows that shortened invisibly under the moon.



CHAPTER VII

SHASTA JOINS THE WOLF PACK

In that terrible silence when Shasta trembled with the fear that was
in him, and did not dare to move, the great thing happened.

The stillness of the wolves, which was in itself so horrible a thing,
as if the whole pack was only waiting for some signal to hurl itself
upon him--began to show signs of breaking up.  Here and there a head
would wag, and a lolling tongue show between white fangs.  A she-wolf
would snap at her neighbour.  A half-grown cub would lick his chops,
growling softly in his throat.  A stir, a restless movement, set the
pack heaving.  Teeth were bared and hackles rose.  A thousand eyes
glimmered in the shadows of the moon.  The restlessness increased,
growing moment by moment.  The pack swayed, bristled, became one
wolf-throat with a growl like the rumble of an avalanche.

There came a supreme moment before the pack began its dreadful work.
If nothing happened before the moment passed, then Shasta would be
doomed.  It was then that the thing happened and that Shasta breathed
again.

Like an arrow from the bow, like the avalanche itself, with a roar
like a mountain lion, the giant Shoomoo loosed himself from his rock!
Down he came, over the heads of the startled wolves, with a leap that
made the eyes blink.  He brought himself up suddenly, right over
Shasta's body.  The boy made no attempt at resistance, and was
knocked down by the blow.

But even in that instant, while his head struck the rock, and he felt
a stab of pain, he knew that Shoomoo would not hurt him, that
underneath Shoomoo's protection he would be safe.

He lay flat on his back, with the big wolf's body above him, blotting
out the night.  A sweet feeling of warmth and tenderness ran in his
blood.  Some sure thing whispered at his heart that Shoomoo would
tear the pack to pieces, or be himself torn, before he would allow it
to touch a hair of the little body that lay so confidingly there.

The astonished wolves gazed at this extraordinary thing.  At first it
looked as if Shoomoo had given the signal to attack, and, to the
younger wolves, it seemed as if the moment of the kill had arrived.
These half-grown wolves surged forward, leaping over the backs of the
older wolves, who, with more wisdom, hesitated, gazing warily at
Shoomoo.  But these rash younger ones, in the face of Shoomoo's bared
fangs, realized their mistake before it was too late and drew back.
One, however, paid the penalty of his rashness.  He was a trifle
duller-witted than the others.  He failed to catch, as they did, that
swift message from mind to mind, which, among the forest creatures,
is like an electric current, warning them, in the tenth part of a
second, what to seek and what to shun.  Even as they rushed forward
the other wolves had caught the message, and had held themselves back
just in the nick of time.  The duller cub had blundered, and he had
blundered to his fate.

Snarling with rage, Shoomoo met him in his leap, and with one slash
of his fangs, ripped his throat.  Then, breaking his neck, he flung
him clean over his shoulders down the precipice behind.

After that, not a single wolf dared to approach.  The renown of
Shoomoo's powers as a fighter had spread through the wolf-world far
and wide.  It was by reason of this that he was not known merely as
one of the great pack leaders, but held a position which made him a
sort of king over the combined packs.

And now it was plain, even to the dullest, that Shoomoo had taken the
man-cub under his special care.  If Shoomoo befriended the man-cub
any wolf who dared to dispute his right must run the risk of death.
Moreover, what was even more important, Shoomoo's claiming Shasta as
his, proved beyond any argument that, henceforward, Shasta would have
to be regarded as a member of the pack.

The wolves, old and young, wise and foolish, looked on at this
astonishing thing, said nothing, and licked their chops.

When Shoomoo had satisfied himself that the pack had learnt its
lesson and that Shasta's life was in danger no longer, he moved
aside, lifting his large paws delicately, so that he should not touch
the child.  And then Shasta sat up, a little dazed because of the
blow he had received, and rubbed the sore place on his head, and
smiled at the wolves.

And when Shoomoo, walking very deliberately and stiff-legged, his
tail arched with pride, moved toward his rock, Shasta went with him,
and took up his position at his foster-father's side.

When they were seated together on the rock Shoomoo threw up his long
snout, and sent a deep howl shuddering to the moon.  Shasta took it
up, and sent his own voice spinning after it.  Then, as with one
voice, the whole pack replied.  And then again that wild wolf-chorus
rose and fell, chanting, sobbing, wailing its unearthly dirge out
into the silent hollows of the night.

And down below, the tall shapes of the Indians went back to their
tepees, where sleep came to them, in spite of the "medicine" of the
wolves, because sleep is the greater medicine.

When the last wailing sob had died away, and the last lonely echo
came shivering from the peaks, the wolves began to go.  There was no
signal for a general move.  They went singly, or in little companies.
Shasta, looking down from his rock, saw the pack thinning by slow
degrees.  As a single wolf, or several, departed, they seemed to
detach themselves from the edges of the pack softly, as vapours do
from the blown edges of a cloud.  And these vapour-like forms drifted
across the open ground without any sound till they were lost along
the barren, or in the shadow of the trees.  Soon, out of all that
vast pack, not fifty wolves were left.  Then there were only
twenty-five.  At last there remained but Shoomoo, Nitka, the
foster-brothers and Shasta himself.

The moon was still high overhead, intensely bright and the shadows of
the rocks had a marvellous blackness.  The vast and solemn woods hung
like folded nightmares, along the mountainsides.  The silence seemed
like a solid thing which you could strike with a stone and set
humming.

Shasta, breathing deeply after his howling song, looked down
curiously on the Indian village far below.  The bright redness in the
middle of it still glowed, but less brightly than before because the
fire was dying.  All round it the tepees stood in a motionless ring.
Shasta did not know that they were tepees, nor even that they were
not alive.  They seemed to be waiting there and listening.  Now that
the wolf-chorus was over he half expected them to move.  No sound
came up from the huskies, which, like the wolves, had disappeared.
They had slunk back to the tepees and were now fast asleep.  No
sound; no movement.  Shasta wondered what it all could mean, and
where those strange wolves were hidden that could go upright on their
hind feet.  It was a mystery which his little brain could not solve.
He wanted to ask Shoomoo, but something seemed to tell him that it
would be useless, and that Shoomoo would not be able to explain.

Presently Shoomoo stretched himself, laid back his ears, and yawned.
Then he leaped down from the rock and trotted off.  Shasta followed
at once, because he knew that the moment Shoomoo went the rest of the
family would move, and he had no wish to be left alone in that
unearthly place which seemed to lie somewhere between the gorges and
the moon.

They went back in the same order as they had come--Shoomoo leading,
Shasta in the middle, Nitka bringing up the rear.  Down the mountain
slopes, along the ravines, through the endless leagues of forest,
they passed in silence like a procession of grey ghosts.  It was the
same trail also.  Never for a yard's space did they quit that long
back trail.  And they were the same wolves, not altered in the least
degree from what they were before.  Yet to Shasta all was different
in an odd way which he did not understand.  He seemed to be closer to
his wolf kindred than ever before--to have a finer sense for all they
did and were.  Up to the present he had lived with them, played with
them, eaten and slept with them; but now he seemed to be one with
them as he had never been before.  And this, though he did not know
it, was because of the singing of the wolf-chorus; because he had
sung himself, as it were, into the very heart of the Wild.



CHAPTER VIII

THE VOICE THAT WAS GOOHOOPERAY

Two days after the chorus night Shasta was out for a prowl by
himself.  The prowling instinct was strong within him now.  He loved
to creep into the forest alone and climb a tree above some run-way to
see who was abroad.  The deer drifted past like dreams, lifting their
feet delicately and wrinkling their noses upwind; or a fox would
sneak along, ears, eyes, and nose on the alert, but never seeing
Shasta above him on his perch.  And sometimes the wolves would come,
two or three in single file, and Shasta would make cub noises at
them, and take a huge delight in watching their astonishment as they
looked up into the trees.

On this particular night he had not perched long in his chosen tree
when he heard the dreary wail of Goohooperay come sobbing down the
dusk.  Shasta only knew Goohooperay as a voice, a dark unhappy voice
that wailed along the twilight and climbed up and down the night.
Goohooperay's body lived in a hollow hemlock, and slept there all the
day.  It was a brown body and downy withal, and beautiful with fat
sleep.  But when the sun had set behind the Bargloosh, and the
gloaming was beginning to gloam, then Goohooperay squeezed his body
out of the hemlock, and the fun began.

It began by his sitting just outside his front door and ruffling his
feathers and stretching his great wings.  That was to get the sleep
out of him and think what a nice bird he was and set his wits to
work.  And when everything was in proper working order he opened his
hooded head and loosed out his voice; and then it was that, near and
far away, the forest People gave heed to the whooping cry and
answered in their hearts.  Those who had been asleep in the thickets
during the drowsy afternoon stretched themselves and yawned.  The cry
seemed to say "Good hunting!" and that now they must bestir
themselves and get abroad.  To some it boded well, and would mean a
fat kill; but to others ill, and being killed themselves, for
Goohooperay himself was a killer, and very far from being a
vegetarian.  But that is the way with owls; it is not a pleasant way
or a sugary way.  If you are an owl, you do owlishly; and Goohooperay
was very much an owl.

When he had sent his voice far along the dusky trails Goohooperay
would spread his wings and go sailing after his voice.  And as he
glided through the tops of the spruces, or went swooping down the
gorge, he did not make the faintest sound to tell you he was there;
only a great winged shape would come slanting through the tree
and--_swoop!_--some rat or leveret would wish it hadn't been there!

It was some time before Shasta learnt that Goohooperay had a body as
well as a voice.  Often and often when that melancholy sound went
drearily past, Shasta would shiver with something that was almost
fear, and would wait for it to come again.  And sometimes other
voices would answer Goohooperay's, and the echoes would be mocking in
the hollow gorges, but always there was something peculiar about his,
which set it apart from the others, so that you could recognize it
again.

Goohooperay was feeling particularly cheerful this evening, and
whenever he felt like that he always put an extra miserable wobble
into his voice.  It was very misleading of him, though he didn't mean
to deceive.  As a matter of fact, he was a most contented soul, and
had never had an unhappy night in his life.  As for the "Hump" or the
"Dump" or anything silly like that, Goohooperay would have _sobbed_
with amusement if you had suggested anything of the sort.  But he
loved pretending to be sad.  To sit on a dead limb and hoot and hoot,
till his heart seemed to be breaking, gave him an exquisite delight.

When Shasta heard the long, haunting cry which he had heard so often
before, he had a sudden desire to find out if there was a body which
sat behind the voice.  So, without any hesitation, he slid down from
his tree and travelled towards the sound.  Twice before he reached
the hemlock Goohooperay wailed his melancholy pleasure-note, and
unwittingly guided Shasta to the spot.

At first Shasta could not see plainly what manner of person
Goohooperay might be, for the shade of the hemlock was very black,
and Goohooperay's front door was well within it.  But when Shasta
stole up to the very foot of the tree and gazed up into the enormous
eyes above him, he realized that the voice had, indeed, a body behind
it.

For a long time the bird and the boy observed each other in silence.
Goohooperay felt that it wasn't his place to begin a conversation,
and Shasta didn't like to; but at last he plucked up courage and
began.  But the beginning, the middle, and the end of his
conversation were only odd little wolf-noises that he gurgled in his
throat.  They were not in the least like words, but that didn't
matter, for behind each gurgle there was a thought which, by some
secret means which human folks couldn't understand, spilled itself
out of Shasta's head into Goohooperay's, and made the meaning plain.

It would be impossible to tell exactly what they said to each other
in the shadow of the hemlock, for owl language is not translatable
like Arabic or Greek.  If it were, there would be a Brown Owl Grammar
and a Brown Owl spelling-book, and some other pieces of monstrous
literature which we are mercifully spared.  For the Brown Owl's
library is not bound in calf--though you can sometimes catch the
flutter of its leaves in the flowing of the air--and the letterpress
of the twilight is too dim for human eyes.

Suddenly Goohooperay's great yellow eyes stopped gazing at Shasta,
and glanced outwards into the dusk.  There was such an intense and
solemn look in them that Shasta looked, too.  Just beyond the shade
of the tree he thought he saw something that went slowly past, but he
couldn't be sure.  It had no shape.  It was as if a piece of the
twilight had broken adrift from the rest.  A little waft of air
accompanied it with a whispering sound.  Then, whatever it was, it
had gone by, and everything was as before.

Shasta was startled.  He turned quickly to Goohooperay and asked him
what it was.  But Goohooperay only swelled out his feathers hugely,
and was dumb.  Then he hooted his long cry, listened intently to
catch the effect, and, spreading his wings, floated away.

And that was how Shasta learnt that Goohooperay was a body as well as
a voice, and how he saw, for the first time in his life, the passing
of the Spirit of the Wild.  For, indeed, that Spirit is little spoken
of in these our times, and I think seldom seen, for our eyes are not
accustomed to the old beautiful shadows that are for ever going by.
It is only the animals who see them, or those who walk continually in
the great spaces or have their dwelling within sound of the trees.



CHAPTER IX

THE COMING OF KENNEBEC

The wolf-brothers were playing in the sun.  There were four little
brown cubs, very fat and puppy-like, and full of fun.  They chased
each other up and down, and had wrestling matches and biting
competitions, and all sorts of rough-and-tumble games.  Shasta sat in
the mouth of the cave watching them and laughing softly to himself.
He had known many a lot of wolf-brothers, and they were always the
same funny, fat, frolicsome little rascals until they grew too old to
frolic, and began to get their fighting fangs and be ready for the
fierce work of the grown-up world.  Shasta loved all his
foster-brothers and never forgot them, even after they had gone out
into the world.  And not a single wolf-brother ever forgot him, or
would have refused to fight for him to the death if he were in
danger.  Every year Shasta looked forward to the appearing of the
fresh lot of cubs, and loved them with all his heart as soon as they
were born.  Only he had an instinct which warned him that when they
were very new babies they were not to be touched; for although Nitka
remained devoted to her man-cub, she would not allow him to meddle
with the babies while they were very new, and partly out of respect
for her wishes, and partly for fear of what she might do if he
disobeyed, Shasta never touched a cub until it was a moon old; while
Nitka, though she would never allow anything to approach the
cave--not even Shoomoo himself--while the cubs were small, would let
Shasta come in and go out as he chose, so long as he kept to his own
end of the cave and did not interfere with her while she mothered the
new family.

This morning she had gone down to the stream to drink, and lie awhile
by the runway to see what might come by.  She only intended to be a
short time away, and had left Shasta on guard while she was gone.
Shasta liked to feel that Nitka trusted him, and that he was doing an
important thing.  It was a very warm morning, and everything seemed
at peace.  A sweet, clean air blew along the trails, and those who
used them scented it delicately and went springily, because of the
pent-up life that was in them, and the goodness of the world.

High up on the opposite ridge a lynx was sunning herself and her
kittens outside her den.  With her keen eyes she swept the landscape
near and distant in a glance that noted everything and lost nothing.
Though Shasta could not see _her_, she saw _him_ and the cubs
perfectly.  She was no friend of the wolves, as they knew full well,
but this morning the historic enmity between them seemed to lie low,
and she stared at the little group calmly with no blazing hate in her
green eyes.

A big red fox came down to the edge of the lake.  He stood with one
forefoot up, all ears and nose, scenting and listening for any hint
that should come from the trail; and, as he listened he wrinkled his
nose, wobbling it quaintly to catch whatever faint smell might come
drifting his way.

In the shallows the buffalo-fish were basking on the bottom with the
water flowing softly over their gills, and the sunlight shining on
their scales.  Up in the high blue a pair of fish-hawks sailed airily
on the look-out for food.  But the buffalo-fish were so busy doing
nothing that they escaped observation.  They guessed the hawks were
somewhere about, but they just lay low and didn't say a word; and it
is surprising how much mischief may be avoided simply by doing
nothing!  Old Gomposh was having a good rub against his favourite
tree.  It was plastered with mud and hair, and was quite as plain to
read as a book, if you only knew how to read the "rub."  He set his
back against the rough bark, and rubbed and rubbed till the most
exquisite sensations went thrilling down his spine.

But all these quiet little happenings were really of no consequence
to the wolves.  What did matter was--although they didn't know
it--that, high up on the tall crags, Kennebec, the great eagle, was
thinking wickedly.

When Kennebec thought wickedly some one was sure to suffer.  He would
sit on the pointed summit of a crag, which was now worn smooth with
the constant gripping of his great claws, and his wonderful eyes
would shine with a strong light.  Down below him, for a thousand
feet, the tops of the spruces made the forest look like a green
carpet worn into holes.  And beyond that, to the south, the lake
glimmered and shone, and the Sakuska showed in loops of silver.  Over
the lake Kennebec could see the fish-hawks at their fishing.  He
looked at them in his lordly way, watching them, ready to swoop at
the first sign of a fish.  He could not catch fish himself, but that
made no difference to his diet.  When he felt like fish, he waited
till one of the hawks swooped and rose with a fish in its claws.
Then Kennebec would sail out majestically from his crag and bully the
hawk till it dropped his prey.  Before the fish touched the water
Kennebec, falling in a dizzy rush, would seize it in his talons and
bear it off in triumph.  But this morning he was for bigger game, and
the glare that came and went in his eyes was a danger-light to any
who should be so unfortunate as to see it.  About fifty yards to the
left of where he sat a cleft rock held his nest.  It was a huge mass
of sticks, filling the cleft from side to side.  In the middle of it
two young eaglets sat and _gawped_ for food.  Their mother would
bring it to them presently.  Kennebec was not in a mood to worry
about that!  They could gawp and gawp till she came!  And if they
thought their gawping would have any effect upon him, they might gawp
their silly heads off without upsetting _him_!

Suddenly he lifted his great wings, loosed the pinnacle with his
horny feet, and plunged into space.

Below him the world seemed scooped out into a vast abyss.  He rose
higher and higher till he was nothing but a speck in the surrounding
blue.

* * * * * * *

Shasta, watching the foster-brothers lazily, saw the speck appear in
the high blue.  At first it was no larger than a fly.  Then it grew
and grew till it was the size of a grasshopper, then of a fish-hawk.
And then the blue jays began to scold.

Shasta had never forgotten the lesson of the blue jays.  When they
scolded he knew that something was happening, and that you had better
watch out.  He looked quickly about him on every side, throwing the
keen glance of his piercing eyes down into the forest and up among
the rocks.  So far as he could see, nothing stirred.  If any enemy
was approaching, it was coming unseen, unheard, along the mossy ways.
Yet there was no sign of any living creature upon the Bargloosh, nor
in all the wide world beside, except that solitary fishhawk circling
overhead.

Yet, although he couldn't see anything, Shasta had a sort of feeling
that he ought to drive the cubs back into the den.  They would be
safe there whether anything happened or whether it didn't.  And the
blue jays went on scolding all the time.  But surely Nitka must hear
them and know what was going on!  If she didn't take the warning and
come racing back, then it was because nothing _was_ going to happen.

Moment after moment went by, and still she did not appear.  Shasta
was growing more and more uneasy.  In spite of not seeing anything,
there was a vague feeling that something was wrong.  That strange
warning which comes to the wild creatures, no man can tell how, came
to him now.  The screaming of the blue jays had aroused him, but the
warning had come independently of them.  It was so clear, so
unmistakable, that he made a wolf-noise in his throat to attract the
attention of the cubs.  Then suddenly he was aware of something
overhead.

He looked up quickly.  The fish-hawk had disappeared.  Instead, a
winged thunderbolt was dropping out of the sky.  It fell from a dizzy
height with a rush so swift that it seemed as if it must dash itself
to pieces on the earth before it could stop.

Shasta was spellbound.  He could not stir.  Then, before he had time
to understand, the thunderbolt had spread wide wings, and Kennebec
was hovering overhead.

Shasta heard the rustle of those tremendous wings, and a swift fear
shot into his heart.  But his courage did not forsake him, and, with
a howl, he sprang to protect the cubs.

It was too late.  Before he could reach them Kennebec had swooped,
and, when he rose again, he bore a wolf-cub in his claws.

Just as he did so, however, and while he was still beating his wings
for the ascent, a few feet from the ground, Nitka, her hair on end
with fury, came leaping up the slope.

As she reached the spot she made a mighty bound in the air, springing
at the eagle with a snarl.  But Kennebec was already under way.
Nitka's bared fangs clicked together six inches short of his tail,
and she fell back to the earth with a moan of grief and rage.

Shasta, looking on, felt his body shivering like a maple leaf in the
wind.  He was terrified of what Nitka might do in the present state
of her mind.  As Kennebec, flying heavily, passed slowly over the
tree-tops in his gradual ascent, the she-wolf's eyeballs, riveted
upon him, blazed with fury.  As long as he remained in sight, growing
gradually smaller in the distance, she raged up and down, with the
saliva dropping from her jaws.  She had been roused by the screaming
of the jays, and had come racing back as soon as she realized that
something was wrong.  But she was too late to prevent the tragedy.
And now the horrible thing had happened, and she would never see her
cub again!

As soon as her straining eyes could no longer follow the flight of
the robber, she hustled the other cubs back into the cave.  But that
was all.  She did not turn on Shasta, nor even so much as growl at
him as he sat shivering in the sun.  He waited miserably at the mouth
of the cave, wondering if Nitka would come out and comfort him; but
she remained inside for the rest of the afternoon, trying to console
herself for her loss by fondling the three remaining cubs.  And after
a while Shasta crept away to his look-out above the valley, where he
had met Gomposh for the first time.

He had not been there very long before he heard a sound of rustling
and tearing to the left.  Then the great form of Gomposh himself
pushed itself into the glare of the golden afternoon.  He had been
refreshing himself in his clumsy way among the wild raspberry bushes,
and as he came out was licking the juice from his mouth.  He came
along slowly, his little eyes glancing right and left for any sign of
food.  There was a hollow log lying full in his path.  He gave it a
heavy blow with his paw, and then put his ear close to listen to the
insects in its crevices which he had disturbed.  Evidently what he
had heard satisfied him, for he ripped open the log with one slash of
his paw, and then proceeded to lick up the grubs and scurrying
insects.  When he had finished, he caught sight of Shasta and came
lumbering towards him.

As before, they sat together on the rock, and said nothing in a very
wise way.  But presently Shasta unladed himself of his heavy heart,
and told Gomposh all his grief.

And old Gomposh wagged his head slowly, and let Shasta understand
that that was only what had happened many, many times before in his
memory, and was likely to happen as many times again.  Eagles would
be eagles, he said, as long as feathers were feathers and fur was
fur.  And if wolf-cubs would also be fat and juicy and lollop in the
sun, then what were you to expect if Kennebec came by, and admired
the fat rolls at the back of their absurd little necks?

But besides that, he gave Shasta to understand that Kennebec was
worse than other eagles, and had worked more destruction in his time
than any other person with wings.

Shasta's talk with Gomposh was a very long one, for the thoughts that
were in them oozed out slowly, and trickled drop by drop into each
other's minds.  Yet though the dripping was slow, the thoughts were
clear as crystal, and plain to understand!  That is the difference
between animals' talk and ours.  The beasts speak seldom and with
perfect understanding; while we humans stir up our thick brains with
a stick that we call an idea, and pour out floods of muddy talk!

At sunset Gomposh lumbered back into the woods, and Shasta took
himself home.  He crept very softly into the den, because he felt
that he was in disgrace.  But Nitka was off hunting and the cubs were
fast asleep.

Very early in the morning Shasta stole out again.  He went along
swiftly, following a caribou trail that trended south.  It was one of
the old forest trails which had been used for centuries by the
journeying caribou in their autumn and spring migrations.  He went on
steadily, following the directions which Gomposh had given him the
evening before.  Gomposh knew all the trails of the forest; where
they came from and where they led to; also what sort of company you
were likely to meet on the way.

Shasta met but few travellers in that pale time just before dawn, and
of those he met he had no fear.  One was a big timber wolf travelling
slowly after a kill.  His eyes flashed when he saw Shasta; but Shasta
spoke to him in the wolf language, and in a moment they were friends.
And although Shasta did not recognize the wolf, the wolf remembered
Shasta, for he was one of those who had taken part in the great wolf
chorus on the memorable night.

Then, when they had spoken a little and rubbed noses together, to
show that they were members of the wolf family, they parted, each
going on his separate way.

It was late that evening before Shasta reached the end of his
journey.  It was a place monstrously tall, and everything there shot
up to an immense growth as if it had been sucked upwards by the white
lips of the moon in the tremendous nights.  Right before him a
precipice glimmered vast, and built itself up and up towards the
stars.

He lost no time, but curled himself up at the foot and fell asleep;
and all night long his dreams were of Kennebec, whose eyrie was at
the top.

With dawn he was up, and began to climb.  Though the precipice looked
one huge unbroken wall, it had many crannies and crevices where you
might get a foothold if you knew how to climb; and that is just what
Shasta could do beyond everything else.  He could climb a tree like a
marten, and among the rocks his foothold was as sure as that of a
mountain sheep.

He went up and up steadily; sometimes he had to wait while he
searched for a sure foothold in the gigantic wall.  Here and there a
shrub or tree would grow out of a crevice, and with the aid of these
he pulled himself up, hand over hand, while half his body hung in
air; and then the muscles of his back stood out like whipcord and
rippled along his arms.

As he climbed, the depth under him deepened.  He had long passed
above the summits of the loftiest pines.  Now the forest was far
below him, and he was hanging between earth and sky in the middle
air.  He was climbing from the wolf-world, with its old familiar
trails, to the world of the eagles, where the earth trails cease for
ever in the trackless wastes of air.  What had Shoomoo or Nitka, or
the wolf-brothers, to do with this upper world where, surely, if you
went on climbing, you must come at last to the sheep-walks of the
stars where the pastures are steep about the moon?

_And the world yawned under!_

A false footing, or the breaking of a shrub, and down he would go to
certain death and be dashed to pieces.  Yet, in spite of the awful
spaces about him and that yawning gulf below, there was no fear in
him, nor any dizziness when he looked down.  As he rested for a
moment, and let his eyes wander, he gazed down five hundred feet as
calmly as if he sat by the side of a quiet pool and watched the
mirrored world.

If Kennebec had known what was approaching his eyrie on the
impossible crags, he would have launched himself out at the intruder
with fury and dashed him down the precipice; but he and his mate were
far away, having left before dawn for a long journey, and had not
come back.  Up in the nest in the cloven rock, the eaglets sat and
wondered why neither of their parents returned with food.

After a while Shasta could see the eyrie rock and the ends of sticks
which stuck out from the side.  It was above him--right over the edge
of the precipice.  He had just reached it and was holding on to the
branch of a stunted spruce which grew below the rock, when the branch
cracked.  Without it the foothold was not sufficient, his feet were
only clinging to the roughness of the rock; and suddenly that great
chasm below seemed to suck him back.

For one brief moment fear clutched at Shasta's heart, and he seemed
to feel himself falling--falling down the steep face of the world.
Then the muscles of his feet braced themselves, clinging to the rock;
before they relaxed, his whole body became a steel spring, and, when
the branch broke, his arms were round the stem of the tree.  Once his
hands found firm hold there was no more danger; even with half his
body hanging in air it was a simple thing for him to lift himself
into the tree.  In a few moments more he had scaled the rock and was
looking down into the eagle's nest.

As soon as his eyes fell on the eaglets his fingers began to twitch.
They were horrible-looking things, scraggy in their bodies and
covered with dark down, with short, stubby quills sticking out here
and there.

Shasta hated these quillish young monsters with all his heart.  They
gawped up at him in their ridiculous way with their beaks open.  The
thing he wanted to do was to grab them at once by their ugly necks
and send them spinning down the precipice; yet they looked so stupid,
squatting there, that it seemed a silly thing to do.  If they could
have fought, and there could have been a struggle, he would not have
hesitated.

The nest was surrounded by a litter of bones and odds and ends of
feathers and fur.  If the eaglets were hungry it was not for want of
gorging themselves in the past; the whole place spoke of Kennebec's
ravages, and his constant desire to kill.  Much of the food was only
half-eaten, showing that there was no need for all this slaughter.
It was left there to rot in the sun and to poison the sweet air.

Shasta was still hesitating what to do, when his eye fell on
something which set his blood throbbing.  It Was the remains of the
wolf-cub which Kennebec had carried off.

At the sight of it Shasta became a different being; there was wolfish
rage in his brain and a strange wolfish glitter in his eyes.  He saw,
in the ugly forms of the eaglets before him, the hateful offspring of
the hated Kennebec, the destroyer of his wolf-brother and the enemy
Of his race.

The note of anguish in Nitka's voice when she beheld her cub carried
away before her eyes had not haunted his ears in vain.  A wild desire
to avenge his wolf-kindred swept over him; and now the chance to do
so lay within his power--a chance which, in the countless moons that
followed, might never come again!

The thing was big; it was tremendous.  If the eaglets were destroyed
it would strike at the heart of Kennebec--nay, at the heart of the
whole eagle world!

Shasta stooped.  He seized an eaglet fiercely by the neck, lifted it,
swung it, sent it spinning dizzily out into the void.  He watched it
fall, tumbling over and over, down the immense depth, and then strike
the summits of the trees.  The second followed the fate of the first.
Shasta looked down savagely upon an empty nest.

But what was that driving furiously up the long steeps of the dawn?
It was coming swiftly, terribly, a blazing fire in its yellow eyes;
and as the great wings thrashed the air the whistling roar of the
approach filled all the hollow space.

[Illustration: WHAT WAS THAT DRIVING FURIOUSLY UP THE LONG STEEPS OF
THE DAWN?]

Shasta needed only to look once to realize what was upon him; and
that now, if ever, he was face to face with death.

Kennebec had _seen!  He was coming back!_



CHAPTER X

HOW SHASTA HID IN TIME

That fierce approach of Kennebec, sweeping up as from the remote ends
of the hollow world, was a terrible thing to see.  Also, when the
sound of it reached Shasta's ears, it was terrible to hear.  He knew
that there was only one thing to do, and that he must do it without
an instant's delay--to find some hiding-place where he would be safe
from those awful claws and beak; for Kennebec's anger would have no
bounds when he discovered that the eaglets had been destroyed.

To descend the cliff as he had come up would be impossible for
Shasta, as he was fully aware.  Once exposed upon that naked face of
rock, Kennebec would attack him with fury, and, ripping him from his
foothold, dash him down below.  He took in his surroundings with a
swift glance.  The place was composed entirely of rocks.  They were
jagged and splintered by the frosts and tempests of a million years.
They wore a fierce and hungry look, like Kennehec himself.  It was
the raw edge of the world.

Shasta lost not a moment.  He fled along the tumbled rocks, as the
mountain sheep flee when they are pursued by wolves.  He could not
tell where he was going nor where the rocks would end.  The instinct
in him was to seek refuge among the trees.  Surely upon the other
side of the precipice he would find that the forest climbed!  The
forest was his friend, if he could reach it in time.  Under the
shelter of the spruces he would be safe.  The great eagle could not
reach him there.

But as he fled he heard the whistling rush of those fearful wings.
They were close behind him now--closer and closer!  He did not dare
to look.  He heard; he felt: that was enough.

Now the storming wings were over him.  Beating the air Kennebec
hovered, waiting for the swift downward rush, which, if it reached
Shasta, would be the end.  For the moment the air seemed darkened
with the shadow of those wings!  Then Kennebec swooped.  But even as
he did so Shasta darted suddenly to the left.  He had seen an opening
between the rocks, and, with the quickness which only wild animals
possess, had bolted in.

By the tenth part of a second and the tenth part of an inch Kennebec
missed his aim.  Instead of the soft body of Shasta, those terrible
claws of his met the hard rock.

For an hour or more he hovered, raging over the spot where Shasta had
disappeared.  But if he hoped that the boy would come out, he was
disappointed.  Shasta might be half-wolf in his mind, but that did
not make him a fool.  On the contrary, his wolf-like instincts taught
him to stay where he was, and to lie low as long as that winged fury
raged overhead.

The place into which he had crept was little more than a crevice
between two enormous rocks, and could certainly not be called a cave.
But, narrow as it was, there was ample room for Shasta's little body;
and settling himself into as comfortable a position as possible, he
was presently asleep.  That was part of his wolf-wisdom, learnt he
didn't know how: "When there's nothing else to be done, sleep!"

After a time Kennebec grew tired of hovering over the crevice, so he
settled down on a near pinnacle to watch.  Noon came and went.  A
burning heat scorched the rocks.  It would have been far cooler up in
the high levels of the air.  Nevertheless Kennebec chose to sit
stewing on his rock, with the glare of his great eyes fixed on the
spot where Shasta had disappeared.  And the glare had a fierce
intensity which seemed as if it were fiercer than even the sun's.
For the hard and cruel light in it meant death to whatever should
come within Kennebec's power to kill.

Late in the afternoon Shasta woke, and peeped out to see if there
were any signs of Kennebec.  But the pinnacle upon which the eagle
had taken up his watch was just out of sight, and Shasta could not
see him.  In spite of the shade it was very stuffy in the crevice,
and the thirst began to dry Shasta's tongue.  He thought of the cool
green trails of the forest, and water sliding under the moss with a
hollow trickle.  Now that Kennebec seemed to have gone, it was a
great temptation to slip out and make a bolt for the nearest trees.
Although they were not in sight, he was sure they must be there, just
over the other side of the rocks.  Yet, in spite of the temptation,
something told him that it was not safe to go.  He could not see
Kennebec, it is true, yet a feeling--the sense that seldom fails to
warn the wild creatures when danger is at hand--told him to remain
where he was.  And this obedience to his instinct saved his life.
For though Kennebec was out of sight, he was not gone.  There he sat,
on the burning rock, sultry with heat, but even sultrier with anger,
watching and watching with the patience that is born of hate.

It was not until the dusk fell, and the tawny light of sunset faded
from the peaks, that he rose from his perch and flapped heavily away.

When it was quite dark Shasta crept out from his hiding-place and
made his way softly over the rocks.  He went slowly, setting his feet
with the utmost care, for he knew that the least sound might betray
his presence, and bring Kennebec's terrible talons upon him, even in
the dark.  At last, to his joy, he saw the summits of the spruces
glowing against the stars, and in a few minutes more he was safe
beneath the trees.



CHAPTER XI

SHASTA'S RESTLESSNESS AND WHAT CAME OF IT

After Shasta's exploit against Kennebec, he became doubly marked as a
person among the forest folk.  Along the Wild news flies quickly.  It
is carried not only by swift feet and keen noses: it seems to travel
as well by mysterious carriers, who spread it through the length and
breadth of the land.  What these carriers are, and what is the manner
and meaning of their coming and going, only the wild creatures know.
_They_ see them with their large eyes which deepen with the dusk!
_They_ hear the soft whisper of their going on the wind-trails of the
air!  We should not see them, you or I, because our eyes are too
accustomed to the artificial lights, and because around our minds are
built the brick walls of the world.  But the wild creatures, whose
eyes have never been dulled by electricity, nor their ears stunned by
the roar of the motors, see and hear the spirit faces and the flowing
shapes which go by under the trees.

So not many hours had passed before the great news of Shasta's coming
had spread through the wilderness.  And particularly the wolves took
hold of it, and regarded Shasta as a sort of little god.  No one had
ever dared to dispute Kennebec's mastery before.  Kennebec was so
high and mighty that whatever he did must be suffered, even though
you raged against it in your heart.  But now the strange cub had done
the unthinkable deed.  He had done it and escaped.  All those who had
lost their young through Kennebec's evil claws rejoiced that now at
last the tyrant was punished, and felt their wrongs avenged.  Never
more would Kennebec feel safe upon his precipice that climbed up to
the stars.  Feet and hands that had scaled it before might do so
again.  The fear of it would haunt him through the burning days and
the breathless nights.

Yet, in spite of Shasta's growing importance among his wild kindred,
a strange restlessness began to stir within him, and to move along
his blood.  And when the mood was strongest, his thoughts turned
continually towards the place of the rocks where he had joined the
wolf chorus and sung himself into the heart of the pack.  It was the
memory of the music which haunted him most, and when, from afar off,
he would hear some wild wolf-note come sobbing through the night, the
sound would set him thrilling till every hair on his body seemed to
be alive.  Yet always, following hard upon the remembrance of the
chorus, would come that other memory of tall wolfish shapes, that
moved on their hind legs, and of that red glow in the circle of
things that did not move: all of it down there, at the foot of the
precipice, as if one looked down through the canyon of sleep to the
low lair of a dream.

One day when the thing was strong upon him, he met Gomposh, and asked
him what it was.  Gomposh said little, but thought much.  He knew
that at certain seasons all things follow a craving within them, and
that it made them follow far trails, leading to distant ranges from
which they did not always return.  The geese went north, honking
their mysterious cry.  The caribou made long journeys, and deepened
the ancient trails.  The mountain sheep left their high pastures,
guided by an instinct, which never failed, to the salt-lick in the
lowlands to the south.  And now it was plain to Gomposh that the
strange cub had a craving within him also.  It was not to find a lair
in the north, nor a salt-lick in the south.  It was not to change
pasture for pasture, in the way of the caribou.  Gomposh knew
certainly that it was none of those things; but that it was the call
of the blood that was in him, the secret Indian call, that penetrated
even through the deep forests, far into the inmost heart of the
wilderness where he lay outcast from his kind.  But though Gomposh
thought the thing clearly enough in his deep mind, he did not worry
it into actual words.

"It is a good restlessness," he said.  "It is of the other part of
you that is not wolf.  Follow the restlessness of your blood."

That, in the sense of it, was what Gomposh gave Shasta to understand,
though he said it in his own peculiar way.

After that Shasta's mind was very busy with the new thing that had
come to him, and before long he let it have its way, and started on
his journey by himself.  The wolves watched him go, but did not
attempt to stop him.  The growing unrest that had been in him had not
escaped them.  For, apart from the feeling which it produced,
Shasta's outward behaviour was different from before.  He came and
went continually, restless and ill at ease.  The very air about the
cave seemed to breathe unrest, and the wolves themselves became
restless, though they could not tell the reason why.  Yet, although
they did nothing to hinder him in his final departing, Nitka's eyes
watched him regretfully as his little body disappeared among the
trees.

He travelled on without stopping until he reached the spot where the
great chorus had taken place.  As he approached the neighbourhood, he
grew more and more excited.  The memories of that wonderful singing
night came crowding back upon him.  It was broad daylight now, for it
was at the middle of the afternoon; and when he reached the high
rocks, he could see far and wide over the foothills and the prairies
beyond.  He marvelled at the bigness of the world, and at the vast
sunny spaces, shadowless in the heat.  Out there in the immense
sunlight there were no forests to break the glare.  The heat
glimmered and swam.  It was as if the sunlight were a beating pulse.
From where he crouched first the Indian camp was hidden; but his
curiosity was too strong to allow him to remain where he was; so,
very cautiously, he crept to the extreme edge of the rocks and looked
over.

There it was, the same strange circle of things which he could not
understand.  Also the upright wolves were there, walking about
singly, or standing in little groups.  Shasta watched them intently
with shining eyes.  And as he looked, the confused murmur of an
Indian camp rose to his ears--voices of men and women, the barking of
dogs, and the crying of children; also a slow and measured sound,
which seemed to the boy to be even more disquieting than the other
unaccustomed noises--the beating of an Indian tom-tom for a sacred
dance.  He was so intent upon watching the camp below that it was
only a slight noise behind which made him aware that danger was
approaching.  He turned his head quickly and then remained spellbound.

Not a dozen paces away stood a tall form, motionless as a rock.  Its
hair was long, falling to its shoulders.  A single eagle's feather
stood up straight behind the head.  It was dressed in tanned
buckskin, and carried a bow of sarvis-berry wood.  The quiver, from
which the ends of the long feathered arrows appeared, was of the
yellow skin of a buffalo calf.  Shasta gazed at this strange
apparition with awe.  Somehow or other, he felt that it had to do
with the camp down below.  He was afraid of it.  He wanted to run.
Yet an overmastering desire to look his fill at the thing left him
where he was.  For a minute or two the Indian and the boy looked at
each other without making a sound.  Then the Indian made a step
forward, and Shasta growled low in his throat.

If Shasta was astonished at the Indian, the Indian was equally
astonished at Shasta.  The boy's appearance was extraordinarily wild.
His matted hair fell straggling over his face.  In order to see
clearly, he had to shake it out of his eyes continually.  It was more
like an animal's mane than human hair, and gave him a ferocious look.
His constant exposure to the sun and air, unprotected by any clothes,
had thickened the short hair upon his body till it was covered
completely with a fine downy growth.

When the Indian heard the wolfish snarl he paused.  Through the thick
mane of Shasta's head he saw the gleam of intensely black eyes.  Then
he advanced again.

Shasta looked sharply to left and right, measuring distances.  Then
he leapt to his feet and began to run.  But he ran in wolf fashion,
on all fours.  Fast though he went, the Indian was faster.  He heard
the quiet pad of moccasined feet behind him.  Terror seized him.  His
one thought was to gain the shelter of the friendly trees.  Before he
could reach them, however, the Indian was upon him.  Shasta felt
something seize his hair behind.  His first instinct was that of a
wild animal trapped, and he turned in fury upon his assailant.  But
before he could do any damage, the Indian threw him down, and
fastened his arms with a throng.  It was in vain that Shasta
struggled with all his strength to free himself.  The Indian was too
powerful and the deerskin throng held fast.  When he was finally
secured, his captor lifted him under his arm and carried him down
towards the camp.

After struggling fiercely for some time, Shasta became still.  It was
not only that he felt that further resistance would be useless.
Something seemed to tell him that, as long as he remained quiet, the
Indian would do him no harm.  For the first time since he was a tiny
papoose, the smell that clings about all things Indian came to his
nose.  It was an unfamiliar smell, yet, somehow, it was not new.  His
eyes and his ears had brought with him no memories of his forgotten
infancy: his nose was faithful to the past.  What faint, glimmering
memories of the Indian lodges it brought; of the camp fire, and the
cooking; of the buckskin clothes and untanned hides; all the clinging
odours of that old Indian life--who shall say?  Now, as he was
carried captive to his own people, quite unconscious though he was
that he belonged to them, the Indian scent was a pleasant thing, so
that he was soothed by it, and even, for the moment, subdued.

It took some time to gain the camp, for the downward way was steep,
and there was no trail.  Moreover Shasta, lying limp as he did, was a
dead weight, and not easy to carry.  At last the descent was made,
and the camp reached.  The Indian put his burden down.



CHAPTER XII

SHASTA SEES HIS REDSKIN KINDRED

Not more than a couple of minutes had passed before the news of the
capture had gone through the camp.  The Indians, old and young, men,
women and children, came crowding round to see this strange monster
which Looking-All-Ways had found.  Shasta, sitting hunched upon his
calves, glared round at the company with his beady eyes shining
through the masses of his hair.  The Indians, seeing the glitter of
them, thought it wiser not to come too close, and every time Shasta
threw back his head to shake the hair out of his eyes, a murmur went
through the crowd.

Looking-All-Ways told his tale.  He had been hunting on the caribou
barren, behind the high rocks.  On his return, he had come upon the
little monster crouching on the rocks where the wolves had gathered,
and looking down upon the camp.

Poor little Shasta gazed at the strange beings around him with wonder
and awe.  He did not feel a monster.  It was they who were the
monsters--these tall, smooth-faced creatures with skins that seemed
to be loose, and not belonging to their bodies at all!  No wonder his
eyes glittered as he turned them quickly this way and that, taking in
all the details of his surroundings with marvellous rapidity.  The
thing excited him beyond measure.  He felt a growing desire to throw
back his head and howl.

For a time nothing happened.  The Indians were content to stare at
him in astonishment, while Shasta glared back.  Then the chief, Big
Eagle, gave orders that his arms should be untied.  Looking-All-Ways
stepped forward and unloosened the deer-skin thong.  Shasta submitted
quietly, for he had a strong feeling within him that it was the best
thing to do.  Only he wanted to howl so very badly!  Yet he kept the
howl down in his throat, and crouched, humped up, with his hands upon
the ground.

Suddenly one of the Indians, bolder than the rest, touched Shasta's
back, running his hand down his spine.  Like a flash, Shasta,
whirling round, with a wolfish snarl, seized the offending hand.
With a cry of fear and pain the Indian sprang back, snatching his
hand away.  After that, the Indians gave Shasta more room, for now
they had a wholesome dread of his temper.  If they had not touched
him, Shasta would not have turned on them.  But the touch of that
strange hand maddened him, and set his pulses throbbing.  It was the
wild blood in him that rebelled.  In common with all really wild
creatures, he could not bear to be touched by a human hand.  And all
his life afterwards he was the same.  He never overcame the shrinking
from being touched by his fellows.

After a while the Indians began to move off, and soon Shasta was left
to himself with only Looking-All-Ways to watch him.  For some time
Shasta stayed where he was without stirring.  He wanted to take in
his new surroundings fully, before deciding what to do.  The only
thing about him that he moved was his head and his eyes.  He kept
moving his head rapidly this way and that, as some unfamiliar sound
caught his ear.  He observed the shapes of things, and their colour
and movements, with a piercing gaze which saw everything and lost
nothing.  And because he was so true to his wolf training, he sniffed
at them hard, to make them more understandable through his nose.  It
was all so utterly new and unexpected that it was like being popped
down into the middle of another world.  Next to the Indians
themselves, the things that astonished him most were their lodges.
He watched with a feeling of awe the owners going in and out.  Some
of the lodges were closed.  Over the entrances flaps of buffalo-skin
were laced, and no one entered or came out.  Shasta had a feeling
that behind the laced flaps mysterious things were lurking--he could
not tell what.  Or perhaps they were the dens where the she-Indians
hid their cubs.  If so, they were strangely silent and gave no sign
of life.  Many of the tepees were ornamented with painted circles and
figures of animals and birds that ran round the hides.  At the top,
under the ends of the lodge-poles, the circles represented the sun,
moon and planets.  Below, where the tepee was widest and touched the
ground, the circles were what the Indians call "Dusty Stars," and
were imitations of the prairie puff-balls, which, when you touch
them, fall swiftly into dust.  The tepee against which Shasta
crouched was ringed by these dusty stars, but he did not know what
they were meant for.  He only saw in them round daubs of yellow
paint.  And because he knew nothing about painting, or that one thing
could be laid on another, he thought that the tepees and their
decorations had _grown_ as they were, like tall mushrooms, bitten
small in their tops by the white teeth of the moon.  But wherever his
gaze wandered, it always returned to Looking-All-Ways, who sat a few
paces away towards the sun, and smoked a pipe of polished stone.  And
there was this peculiarity about Looking-All-Ways, that, although his
name suggested a swift and prairie-wide glance, which made it
impossible for one to take him by surprise, he had a habit of sitting
in a sleepy attitude, staring dreamily straight in front of him, as
if he noticed nothing that was going on around.  Shasta, of course,
did not yet know his name.  All he knew was that if Looking-All-Ways
had a slow eye, he was extremely swift as to his feet.  And as he
watched him, he measured distances with his own cunning eyes behind
his heavy hair.  This distance, and that!  So far from the last
porcupine quill on Looking-All-Ways' leggings to the nearest toe-nail
on Shasta's naked foot!  So far again from the toe-nail to the dusty
stars at the edge of the tepee; and from the tepee itself to that
lump of rising ground toward the northwest!  Shasta began to lay his
plans cunningly.

If he made straight for the knoll, Looking-All-Ways might catch him
before he could reach it, but if he darted behind the tepee, he might
be able to dodge and double, and make lightning twists in the air,
and so baffle the Indian until he could reach the trees.  As always,
when in danger, Shasta's instincts turned toward the trees.  It was
not until long afterwards that he learnt the ancient medicine song
and sung:

  "The trees are my medicine.
  When I am among them,
  I walk around my own medicine."


Shasta was nervous of the tepee--he did not know what might be
immediately behind it.  That was one reason which kept him so long
where he was.  If he could see what was on the other side he would
feel better, and more inclined to run.  Another reason was the sense
of being surrounded on all sides by strange creatures whose behaviour
was so utterly unlike the wolves that there was no saying what they
would do the moment he started to run.  Yet, whenever he looked away
from the lodges, there were the high bluffs and the precipices, and
the summits of the spruces and the pines, like the ragged edges of
the wolf-world.  That way lay freedom, and the life that had no
terror for him, and in which he was at home.

The more he looked at the tree-tops over the summits of the rising
ground to the northwest, the more he felt the desire growing in him
to be up and away.

At last the moment came when he could bear it no longer.  He glanced
warily at his captor before making the dash.  The time seemed
favourable.  Looking-All-Ways had his eyes upon the remote horizon.
There was a dull look in them as if they were glazed with dreams.
Suddenly, without the slightest warning, Shasta leapt and disappeared
behind the tepee.

The thing was done with the quickness of a wolf.  In spite of that,
the slumberous-looking mass of the Indian uncoiled itself like a
spring.  The dream-glaze over his eyeballs vanished in a flash.
Instantly they became the eyes of an eagle when he swoops.

Shasta had scarcely reached the back of the tepee when the Indian was
on his feet and had started in pursuit.  This time Shasta did not
make the mistake of running a straight course.  He made a zigzag line
through the outermost tepees, turning and twisting with bewildering
quickness.  Even when he darted out into the open, he did not run
straight.  It was a marvel to see how he turned and doubled.  And
every time when Looking-All-Ways, with his greater speed, was almost
upon him, Shasta would draw his muscles together and leap sideways
like a wolf.  And every time he leaped, he was nearer to freedom than
before.

Suddenly something happened which he could not understand.
Looking-All-Ways was not near him.  He was farther behind than he had
been at the beginning of the chase.  Yet Shasta felt something slip
over his head, tighten round his body with a terrible grip, and bring
him to the ground with a jerk.  When he looked round in astonishment
and terror, there was his pursuer fifty paces away, at the other end
of a raw-hide lariat!

Shasta struggled and tore at the hateful thing which was biting into
his naked body.  But the thing held.  The more he struggled the
tighter it became.  It was dragging him back to the camp.  In a very
few minutes he was among the lodges again and knew that escape was
hopeless.

After this attempt, the Indians secured him firmly with thongs, one
of which was fastened to a stake driven in the ground.  They were
fond of making pets of wild animals.  And now they felt they had in
their midst a creature so wonderful that it was more than half human,
and which might prove to be a powerful "Medicine" to the tribe.  Once
more they crowded round the strange boy, and jabbered to each other
in their throats.  Shasta had never heard such odd sounds.  The
strange eyes in their hairless faces troubled him, but the noises
that came out of their mouths made him tingle all over.  It was not
until near sunset that the crowd separated, the Indians going back to
their evening meal.

Shasta looked wistfully at the sun as it dipped to the mountains,
rested for a moment or two upon their summits and then disappeared.
The sun was going to his tepee, and the stars which decorated it were
not dusty.  But they would not bind him with deer-thongs, the people
in those lodges; for nothing is bound there, where the sun and moon
go upon the ancient trails.  And of those trails only the
"wolf-trail" is visible, worn across the heavens by the moccasins of
the Indian dead.

The smell of the cooking came to Shasta's nose, and tickled it
pleasantly.  Not far off, a group of squaws were cooking buffalo
tongues.  Seeing his eyes upon them, one of them took a tongue from
the pot and threw it to him with a laugh.  Shasta drew back, eyeing
it suspiciously--this steaming, smelling thing which lay upon the
ground.  But by degrees the pleasant smell of it overcame him, and he
began to eat.  It was his first taste of cooked food.  When he had
finished, he licked his lips with satisfaction, and wished for more.
But though the squaws laughed at him, they did not offer him another,
for buffalo tongues are a delicacy and not to be lightly given away.
The smoke of many fires was now rising from the lodges.  Besides the
cooking, Shasta could smell the sweet smell of burning cottonwood.
As the dusk fell and twilight deepened into night, the lodges shone
out more and more plainly, lit by inside fires.  And in the rising
and falling of the flames the painted animals upon the hides seemed
to quiver into life, and to chase each other continually round the
circles of the tepees.  Then, one by one, the fires died down, and
the lodges ceased to shine.  They became dark and silent, hiding the
sleepers within.  Only one here and there would give out a ghostly
glimmer like a sentinel who watched.

As long as the lodges glimmered Shasta did not dare to move.  He felt
as if the dusty stars of them were eyes upon him.  But when the last
glimmer died, and all the tepees were dark, he began to move
stealthily backwards and forwards, tugging at the thongs.

But, try as he would, he could not loosen them.  They were too
cunningly arranged for his unskilled fingers to undo, and when he
tried his strong white teeth upon them he had no better success.

The camp was very still.  Presently the wind rose and made the lodge
ears flap gently.  Shasta did not know what it was, and the sound
made him uneasy.  All at once there was another sound which set his
pulses throbbing.

It was a long, sobbing cry, coming down from the mountains.  In the
midst of his strange surroundings it was like a voice from home.  He
knew it for the voice of a wolf-brother walking along the high roof
of the world.  He waited for it to come again.  In the pause, nothing
broke the stillness, except the gentle flap, flap of the lodge-ears
at the top of the tepees.

Again the cry came.  This time it sounded less clear, as if the wolf
were farther away.  Shasta felt a desperate sense of loneliness.  He
was being left to his fate.  If the wolf-brother went away and did
not know that he was there, how would he carry a message to the rest
of the pack?  For if Nitka only knew that he was taken captive by
these strange man-wolves, surely she would come and rescue him, if
any power of rescue lay in her feet and paws.

Shasta did not wait any longer.  He threw his head backwards and let
out a long, howling cry.  It was the genuine wolf-cry.  Any wolf
hearing it would recognize it at once, and answer it in his mind even
if he did not give tongue.

The noise aroused the Indian huskies, but before they yelped a reply
the wolf on the mountains howled again, and Shasta knew that his call
had been answered.  He howled back louder and more desperately than
before.  The mournful singing note went with a throb and a quiver far
into the night, and the wind, catching it, sped it farther on its
way.  Again the answering cry came back from the mountains.  It came
singing down the canyon like a live and quivering thing.

Now the huskies could bear it no longer.  They broke out into a loud
clamour, rushing about wildly, and yelping at the top of their
voices.  In a moment, the whole camp was astir.  The Indians rushed
out of their lodges to see what was the matter, shouting to each
other and bidding the women and children stay where they were.
Looking-All-Ways came running to Shasta, fearing lest he should have
escaped.  But Shasta, the cause of it all, sat there quietly crouched
in front of the tepee, and making no outward sign, though every nerve
in his body was tingling with excitement.

It was some time before the camp settled down again and peace was
restored.  Every now and again a husky would whine uneasily, or give
the ghost-bark which Indians say the dogs give when spirits are
abroad.  But by decrees even these uneasy ones dropped off to sleep,
and no sound broke the intense stillness which brooded over the camp.

Shasta, however, had no thought of sleep.  His mind and body were
both wide awake.  To him the silence was only a cloak, which muffled,
but did not kill, all sorts of fine sounds that trembled on the air.

The wind had dropped now, and the flapping of the lodge-ears had
ceased.  He listened intently, waiting, always waiting, for what he
knew would come.

It was in the strange hour just before dawn that two grey wolf-shapes
came loping down the mountainside.  They approached the camp warily,
bellies close to the ground, and eyes a-glimmer in the dark.

It was Nitka and Shoomoo.

The huskies were fast asleep and did not hear them.  On they came,
moving as soundlessly as the shadows which they seemed.

They crept in among the ring of tepees.  On all sides lay the
sleeping Indians, unconscious that, in their very midst, two great
wolves were creeping towards their goal.  If Shasta had been on the
leeward side, he would have scented their approach, but he sat
crouched to the windward of the wolves and was not aware of their
coming until they had actually entered the camp.  Then his wolf-sense
warned him that something not Indian was moving between the lodges.
So that when, suddenly, Nitka's long body glided into view, he was
not astonished, and not in the least alarmed.  Her cold nose against
his arm, and then the warm caress of her tongue, told him all she
wanted him to know.  Close behind her stood Shoomoo.  But he did not
caress Shasta.  As usual, he kept his feelings to himself, and waited
for Nitka to take the lead.

Nitka had never seen deer-thongs before, nor how they could bind you
so that you could not move.  But her keen brain soon took in the
problem, and once her brain grasped the thing she was ready to act.
Holding down with one paw the thong which bound Shasta to the stake,
she set her gleaming teeth to work.  Shoomoo followed her example,
and in a very few minutes the thing was cut, and Shasta was once more
free.

Directly Shasta felt that he was free, a wild joy took possession of
him.  It was not the Indians themselves that terrified him so much as
the feeling of being a prisoner in their hands.  To be bound, to be
helpless, not to be able to run when you wished--that was the
terrible thing.  The creatures themselves--the smooth-faced
hind-leg-walking wolves--seemed harmless enough.  At least, they had
not yet shown any signs of wanting to hurt him.  And something almost
drew him to them with a drawing which he could not understand.
Still, the thing which made it impossible to feel they were really
friends was this being bound in their midst, with this horrible
rawhide thong.  Directly Nitka's teeth had done the work, and he felt
that he could move from the stake, his own thought was to make sure
of his freedom by leaving the camp without a moment's delay.

So far, nothing seemed to have warned the Indians what was going on.
The camp was wonderfully still.  In a few minutes more the dawn would
break.  When it did, danger would begin for all wild things within or
near the circle of the camp.  Above, the stars still shone brightly
between the slow drift of the clouds.  The tall shapes of the lodges
loomed black and threatening, like creatures that watched.  Now that
the work for which they had come was finished, both Nitka and Shoomoo
were uneasy and anxious to be gone.  The smells of the camp did not
please them as they had pleased Shasta.  To their noses, they were
the danger scents of something which they did not understand.  And
_fear_ was in their hearts.  It was not the fear that wild animals
have of each other; it was deeper down.  It was the instinctive fear
of man.

As soon as she had gnawed through the thong, and nosed at Shasta to
satisfy herself that he was not only free but able to make use of his
legs, Nitka gave the sign to Shoomoo.  What sign it was, no one not
born of wolf blood could have told you.  Even Shasta could not have
done so, though he was aware that the sign was given, for the
unspoken sign-language of the animals is not to be cramped into the
narrow shapes of human speech.  Whatever the sign was, Shoomoo
obeyed.  He slid round the nearest tepee as noiselessly as if his
great body floated on the air.  Shasta followed, with Nitka close
behind.  She had led the way into the camp, because of her greater
cunning, but now it was for Shoomoo to find the way out.  Her place
now was close to her strange cub, so that she could protect him on
the instant from any danger that might threaten.

Two grey shadows had drifted into camp.  Now three were stealing out,
under the stars, and no human eye watched their stealthy departure.
All would have been well, if an unlucky husky dog had not happened to
wake as the three shadows glided past.

There was a short bark, a rush, and a worrying snarl.  Then one
piercing yelp rent the silence, and the husky lay a bleeding form,
thrown by Shoomoo's jaws three yards away.  With that the whole husky
pack was on its feet, roused from its slumbers in an instant.  At
least twenty furious dogs hurled themselves at the wolves.  Never had
Nitka and Shoomoo a finer chance to show their fighting power.  From
two large grey timber-wolves they seemed to transform themselves into
leaping whirlwinds that snatched and tore, and flung husky dogs like
chaff into the air.  At first Shasta was in the centre of the fight.
He could not, of course, help his foster parents, for his teeth and
hands were useless at such a time; all he could do was to save
himself as much as possible from the brunt of the attack.  This he
did by crouching, leaping and running when the right moment came.
Beyond everything else, he kept his throat protected with his arms,
for his wolf-knowledge and training taught him that this was the
danger spot, which if you did not guard, meant the losing of your
life.

Once or twice he felt a stinging pain, as a husky snatched at him and
the sharp teeth scored his flesh; but each time the dog paid dearly
for his rashness, and was not for biting any more.  It was only when
Nitka or Shoomoo was busy finishing a dog that the thing happened.
Otherwise, they kept close to Shasta, one on each side, guarding him
from attack.  Each time Shasta was touched, Nitka's anger passed all
bounds.  She not only punished the offender with death, but she tore
at the other dogs with redoubled fury.

So the fight rolled towards the forest--a yapping, snarling mass of
leaping bodies and snatching teeth.  In its track the bodies of dead
and dying huskies lay bleeding on the dark ground.

The thing that Shasta dreaded most was lest the Indians should come
to the rescue of their dogs.  But having had one false alarm, they
did not trouble to rouse themselves again, and even Looking-All-Ways
remained on his bed of buffalo robes and said evil things of the
huskies for disturbing his repose.

It was not many minutes before the fight was over.  The huskies,
finding themselves outmatched by the superior strength and fury of
the wolves, began to lose heart.  When the moment came that they had
had enough of it, the wolves seemed to know it by instinct They
passed in a flash, from defence to attack, and, covering Shasta's
retreat towards the trees, they charged the pack with unequalled
fury.  Such an onset was irresistible.  The huskies gave way before
it, completely routed.  Their only care was how to save their skins,
as they fled, yelping into the night.  Of the twenty dogs which had
attacked the wolves, only ten found their way back to camp; and of
these many had ugly wounds which they carried as scars to the end of
their days.  It had been so great a fight that the Indians marvelled
when the morning light showed them the blood-stained ground and the
bodies of the dogs that had died in the fray.

All the way back through the dark woods Shasta felt a great joy
within him.  And the gloom seemed alive with things that gave him
greeting as he ran.  He could not see them clearly--those things.
Yet now and then something shadowy stirred, and swayed towards him,
or drifted softly by.  And though they were so faint and shadowy, he
knew them for the good, secret things of the forest, which none but
the wild creatures know.  His wounds were a little sore, but, even as
he ran, Nitka found time to doctor them with her tongue.  She paid no
heed to her own.  There would be time enough to attend to them when
they had reached the den.  Neither she nor Shoomoo had really
dangerous wounds, although they were bleeding in many places.  A day
or two's rest and licking would make them all right, and as long as
their man-cub was safe they did not care.

It was bright morning before they reached the den.  The sun had risen
and was pouring down upon the Bargloosh all the freshness of his
early beams.  From the tip of a fir branch, a clear little song
slipped into the morning air.  It was Killooleet, the white-throated
sparrow, trilling his morning tune.  He had his nest somewhere near
the den, only the wolves never found out where.  All they knew him by
was his song, and the flicker of his flight as he darted daintily
past.  The very fanning of his wings seemed to sweeten the air.  As
for his song--he spilt it out at them in little trickling tunes all
through the day, or whenever he happened to wake up in the night.
The old wolves didn't mind him much, one way or the other, but Shasta
was fond of him, and used to make a gurgle in his throat whenever
Killooleet spilt his voice.  And now, as he approached the cave, the
song of Killooleet seemed a welcome home, and when he looked up into
the tree there was Killooleet perched on the fir-tip, with the
sunlight shining full on his little wobbling throat!



CHAPTER XIII

THE BULL MOOSE

Gomposh's lair was in the black heart of the cedar swamp.  Old though
the cedars were, Gomposh had the feeling of being even older.  He
liked the ancientness of the place; its dankness and darkness, and,
above all, its silence--the silence of green decaying things.  It was
so silent that he could almost _hear_ himself thinking, and his
thoughts seemed to make more noise even than his great padded feet.
Under the grey twisted trunks, the ground oozed with moisture, which
fed the pits of black water that never went dry even in the summer
drought.  Whatever life stirred in those black pits, occasionally
disturbing their stagnant surfaces with oily ripples, it did not
greatly affect Gomposh.  He preferred not to bother about them, and
to devote his mind instead to the clumps of fat fungus--white, red,
pink and orange--which, glowed like dull lamps in the heart of the
gloom.  The taste of their flabby fatness pleased his palate.  It was
not exactly an exciting form of food; but it grew on your doorstep,
so to speak, and saved a lot of trouble.  And when you wanted to vary
your diet, there were the skunk cabbages and other damp vegetables.

Another thing that recommended the place to the old bear was its
comparative freedom from other animals.  Goohooperay, it is true,
inhabited the hollow hemlock on the farther side of the swamp, but he
seldom came near Gomposh's lair, since his activities took him
generally to the open slopes of the Bargloosh where the hunting was
fair to medium, and sometimes even good.  His voice, of course, was a
thing to be regretted, and when, on first getting out of bed, he
would perch at the top of his tree and send the loudest parts of
himself shrilling lamentably far out into the twilight, Gomposh's
little eyes would shine with disapproval, and he would make remarks
to himself deep down in his throat.  But a voice cannot be cuffed
into silence, when it has wings that carry it out of the reach of
your paw, and so Gomposh had to content himself with a little
wholesome grumbling which, after all, kept him from becoming all
fungus and fat, and made him change his feeding-ground from place to
place.  The only other bird that ever intruded upon his privacy was
the nuthatch.  But as this little bird, being one of the quietest of
all the feathered folk, spent its time mainly in sliding up and down
the cedar trunks like a shadow without feet, only now and then giving
forth a tiny faint note in long silences, as if it were apologizing
to itself for being there at all--Gomposh couldn't find it in his
heart to lodge a complaint.  He would lie in his lair for hours and
hours, listening contentedly to the fat, oozy silence, and observing
the solemn gloom in which the colours of the red and orange
toadstools seemed loud enough to make a noise, and wish that the
nuthatch needn't go on apologizing.

The lair was in a deep hollow, between the humpy roots of a large old
cedar.  It was dry enough, except when the rains were very heavy, as
it was tunnelled out on the edge of one of the Hardwood knolls which
rose up from the swamp here and there, like the last remaining
hill-tops of a drowned world.  To make this hole still more
rainproof, and at the same time warmer, Gomposh had covered the cedar
roots with boughs which he had contrived cunningly into a roof!  Oh,
he was a wise, wary old person, was Gomposh! and the experience of
unnumbered winters had taught him that when the blizzards come
swirling over the Bargloosh from the northeast, it is a grand and
comforting thing to have a good roof over you, thatched thick and
warm with snow.  So to this deep cave in the roots of the cedar when
the wind moaned in the draughty tops of the spruce woods and the
frost bit with invisible teeth, Gomposh, bulging with berries and
fat, would retire for the winter, and sleep, and sleep, and sleep!

Toadstools and various sorts of berries made up the principal part of
his diet; but as berries did not grow in the swamp, and after a time
he had eaten all the best toadstools in the neighbourhood of his den,
he occasionally found it pleasant to leave the swamp and ascend to
the blueberry barrens high up on the slopes of the Bargloosh.

One morning, not many days after Shasta's return to his wolf kin,
Gomposh got up with the berry feeling in him very bad.  It was a
little early for blueberries, but there were other things he might
find--perhaps an Indian pear with its sweet though tasteless fruit,
ripened early in some sunny spot.  And anyhow there were always
confiding beetles under stones, and whole families of insects that
live in rotten logs.

He left his lair, picking his way carefully between the humpy roots
that made the ground lift itself into such strange shapes, and
setting his great padded feet on the thick moss as delicately as a
fox, so that, in case some mouse or water-rat should be out of its
hole, he might catch it unawares with one of the lightning movements
of his immense paw.  At the edge of the swamp he pushed his way
stealthily through a thicket of Indian willows and then paused to
sniff the air with that old sensitive nose of his which brought him
tidings of the trails as to what was abroad, with a fine certainty
that could not err.  But, sniff as he would, nothing came to his
questing nostrils except the smell that was as old as the
centuries--the raw, keen sweetness of the wet spruce and fir forests,
mixed with the homely scent of the cedar swamp.  Yet in spite of
this, he did not move without the utmost caution, and, for all his
apparent clumsiness, his vast furry bulk seemed to drift in among the
spruces with the quietness of smoke.

Far away on the other side of the lake, a great bull moose was making
his way angrily through the woods, looking for the cow he had heard
calling to him at dawn, and thrashing the bushes with his mighty
antlers as a challenge to any one who should be rash enough to
dispute his title of Lord of the Wilderness.  But as he was
travelling up-wind, and was, moreover, too far away for the sound of
his temper to carry, Gomposh's unerring nose did not receive the
warning as he ascended the Bargloosh with the berry want in his
inside.

He was half-way up the mountain, when, all at once, he stopped, and
swung his nose into the wind.  Something was abroad now--something
with a warmer, thicker scent than the sharp tang of the spruces.
What was it?  There was a smell of wolf in it, and yet again
something which was not wolf.  It was a mixture of scents so finely
jumbled together that only a nose like Gomposh's could have
disentangled them.  In spite of his immense knowledge of the thousand
ways in which the wilderness kindreds spill themselves upon the air,
the old bear was puzzled.  So, in order to give his mind perfect
leisure to attend to his nose, Gomposh sank back on his haunches, and
then sat bolt upright with his paws hanging idly in the air.

The scent came more and more plainly.  And as it grew, Gomposh's
brain worked faster and faster.  The smell was half strange and half
familiar.  Where had he smelt it before?  And then, suddenly, he
_knew_.

Shasta, stealing through the spruces as noiselessly as any of the
wild brotherhood, thought he had done an extremely clever thing.  He
fully believed he had caught an old black bear unawares, sitting up
on the trail and sniffing at nothing, with his paws dangling
foolishly before him.  It was not until the boy was close upon him
that Gomposh quickly turned his head, and pretended to be surprised.
Shasta, recognizing his old friend, came slowly forward with shining
eyes.

At first Gomposh did not speak, but that was not surprising.  Gomposh
was not one to rush into speech when you could express so much by
saying nothing.  To be able to express a good deal, and yet not to
put it into the shape of words--to say things with your whole body
and mind without making noises with your mouth and throat--is a
wonderful faculty.  Few people know anything about it; because half
the business of people's lives is carried on in the mouth, and they
are not happy or wise enough to be quiet; but the beasts use it
continually; because they are very happy and very wise.

So Gomposh looked at Shasta, and Shasta looked at Gomposh, and for a
long time neither of them made a sound.  But the mind that was in
Gomposh's big body, and the body that was outside Gomposh's big mind,
went on quietly making all sorts of observations which Shasta easily
understood.  So he knew, just as well as if Gomposh had said it, that
the bear was telling him he had been on his travels; also that things
were different in him; that he was another sort of person, because
many things had happened to him in the meantime.  Exactly what those
things were, Gomposh did not know; but he knew what the effect was
which they had produced in Shasta.  He knew that the part of Shasta
that was not wolf had mingled with that part of the world which also
is not wolf, and that therefore he was a little less wolfish than
before.

At first Shasta felt a little uncomfortable at the way Gomposh looked
him calmly through and through.  It was as if Gomposh said: "We are a
long way off, little Brother.  We have travelled far apart.  But I
catch you with the mind."

And Shasta couldn't help feeling as if he had done something of which
he was ashamed.  He had left the wild kindred--the wolf-father, the
wolf-mother, all that swift, stealthy, fierce wolf-world that had its
going among the trees.  He had gone out to search for another
kindred, almost as swift, stealthy and fierce as the wolves
themselves, yet of a strange, unnamable cunning, and of a smell
stranger still.  And yet with all this strangeness, the new kindred
had fastened itself upon him with a hold which Shasta could not shake
off, as of something which his half-wolf nature could neither resist
nor deny.  And the more Gomposh looked at him out of his little
piercing eyes, the more keenly he felt that the old bear was
realizing this hold upon him of the new kindred, far off beyond the
trees.

When at last Gomposh spoke--that is, when he allowed the wisdom that
was in him to ooze out in bear language--what he remarked amounted to
this:

"You have found the new kindred.  You have learnt the new knowledge.
You are less wolf than you were."

Shasta did not like being told that he had grown less a wolf.  It was
just as if Gomposh had accused him of having lost something which was
not to be recovered.

"I am just the same as I was," he replied stoutly; but he knew it was
not true.

"The moons have gone by, and the moons have gone by," Gomposh said.
"The runways have been filled with folk.  But you have not come along
them.  You have not watched them.  You have missed everything that
has gone by."

Shasta made it clear that one could not be everywhere at the same
time, and that, anyhow, he had not missed the moons.

"No one misses the moons," Gomposh remarked gravely, "except those of
us who go to sleep.  It is a pleasant sleep in the winter when we go
sleeping through the moons."

"Nitka and Shoomoo do not sleep," Shasta said boastfully.  "We do not
sleep the winter sleep--we of the wolves!"

"And so you do not find the world beautifully new when you wake up in
the spring," Gomposh said.

That was a fresh idea to Shasta.  He knew what a wonderful thing it
was to find the world new every day, but it must seem terribly new
indeed to you after the winter sleep.  The thought of hunger came to
his rescue.

"You must be very hungry," he said triumphantly.

"It is better to be very hungry once and get it over," Gomposh said
composedly, "than to go on being hungry all the winter when they tell
me food is scarce."

Another fresh thought for Shasta!  If Gomposh kept on putting new
ideas into him at this rate, he felt as if something unpleasant must
happen in his head.  If he had been rather more of a boy, and rather
less of a wolf, he might have been inclined to argue with Gomposh,
just for the sake of arguing.  As it was, he was wise enough to
realize that Gomposh knew more than he did; and that however new or
uncomfortable the things were that Gomposh said, they were most
likely true.  So he said nothing more for some time, but kept turning
over in his head the fresh ideas about newness and hunger, and the
being less a wolf.

"You will not stay among us," Gomposh said after a long pause.  "You
will go back to the new kindred, and the new smell."

Shasta felt frightened at that--so frightened as to be indignant.  He
was afraid lest the old bear might be saying what was true.  And the
memory of the hide thong that had cut into his flesh and of the
horrible captivity when he had been forced to stay in one small
space, whether he liked it or not, made him feel more and more
strongly that he would not go back whatever happened.

As Gomposh did not seem inclined to talk any more, Shasta thought he
would continue his walk.  It was good to be out on the trails again,
passing where the wild feet passed that had never known what it was
to be held prisoners in one place.  And as he went, all his senses
were on the watch to see and hear and smell everything that was going
on.  Softly he went, without the slightest sound, putting his hands
and feet so delicately to the ground that not a leaf rustled, not a
twig snapped.

But wary though he was, other things were even warier.  Gleaming eyes
he did not see watched him out of sight.  Keen noses winded
him--noses of creatures that kept their bodies a secret almost from
themselves!  And so when Shasta suddenly found himself face to face
with a big bull moose he nearly jumped out of himself with
astonishment.

It was not the first time that he had seen moose.  In the early
summer, down in the alder thicket at the edge of the lake, Shasta,
watching motionless between the leaves, had seen a big cow and her
lanky calf come down into the lake.  The cow began to busy herself by
pulling water-lily roots, and the calf nosed along the bank in an
inquisitive manner as if it still found the world a most bewildering
place.  They did not seem animals to be frightened at; and even the
big cow looked a harmless sort of being whose mind, what there was of
it, was in her mouth and ears.  But the huge bull now in front of
Shasta was a very different sort of beast.  From the ground to the
ridge of the immense fore shoulders, he measured a good six feet.
That great humped ridge covered with thick black hair seemed to mound
itself over some enormous strength which lay solid and compact ready
to hurl itself forth at an instant's notice in one terrifying blow
which would smash any object that dared to challenge it.  But what
impressed Shasta more than anything else was the great spread of
polished antlers on each side of his head.  Antlers like those he had
never seen.  It was like wearing a forest on your forehead: it made
you uncomfortable to look at: it was like being an animal and a tree
at the same time.

The moose was equally surprised at Shasta.  With all the creatures of
the forest--lynxes, catamounts, raccoons, wolves, deer, foxes, bears
and chipmunks--he was familiar.  But this smooth, hornless,
round-headed thing was Like none of them.  It had a shape and a
character extraordinarily different; and the big moose was not
pleased.  There was another thing that he did not like, and that was
Shasta's smell.  Not that this was so unfamiliar as his shape.
Indeed, something like it the moose had often smelt before.
Moreover, it was a smell that always made him angry.  It was that of
the wolves.  And yet, mingled with it in a curious and bewildering
way, there was another odour, not so pungent as the wolf scent, but
hardly less objectionable to the moose, and that was the smell of
man.  What this might mean, the moose did not know.  Along all the
lonely trails of his wild and adventurous life, he had never yet come
within sight or scent of the creature that went always upon its hind
legs, with cunning in its hornless head, and death that it shot out
with its hands.

With his great over-hanging muzzle lifted up, and his nostrils
quivering, he looked at Shasta viciously out of his little gleaming
eyes.

It was the wolf in Shasta that made the creature angry.  From the
endless generations behind him--grandfathers and grandfathers'
grandfathers that reached back beyond the flood--there had come down
to him, through the uncounted ages, this hatred, born of fear, of the
wolves.  It was not that he feared any single wolf.  Few wolves in
all that immense North Land would have dared to attack him singly, or
dispute his lordship of the world.  But when the snows lay heavy on
the hemlocks, and the nights were keen with a bitter air from the
white heart of the Pole, those long shadow-like shapes that came
floating over the barrens in packs, with the hunting note in their
throats, were not things to be treated contemptuously by even the
lordliest moose, at home in his winter "Yard."

Shasta, on his side, felt no enmity towards the moose.  He was not
wolf enough to have the moose-hatred--handed down, pack after pack,
since the beginning of the world--running in his blood.  What he
inherited from his grandfathers' grandfathers were Indian instincts,
though, in his utter ignorance of his nature, he did not know them
for what they were.  So he just stared at the moose with a great
astonishment, and wondered what would be the right thing to do.

In spite of himself, he felt a little uneasy.  Something--he didn't
know what--warned him that the moose did not like him, and therefore
was not going to be his friend.  Left to himself, Shasta was willing
to be friends--if they would let him--with all the forest folk.  And
as he never frightened them, or attempted to do them any hurt, most
of the creatures came to regard him as a harmless sort of person.
Those that did not, respected him too much to molest him because of
his strange man-smell, which was so dangerously mixed with that of
wolf.  But now, here was a beast which, he felt sure, was so far from
being his friend that it would take only some very little thing to
turn him into a dangerous enemy.  A movement, a look, a puff of air
to make scent stronger--and some terrible thing might happen: you
could never tell.

Now Shasta knew several ways of making himself a bigger person, as it
were, and so more to be respected.  One was to keep as still as a
stone, and to put all of himself into his eyes, staring and staring
till it seemed as if they must suddenly become mouths and bite; which
made the creatures so uneasy that very few could stand it for long,
and would politely melt away among the trees.  Another was to make
some sudden, violent movement, and to give the hunting cry of the
wolves with his full throat.  That struck fear into most animals; and
they would flee in panic, never stopping till they had put long
lengths of trail between them and the little naked Terror that had
the wolf-cry in its throat.  But now, though Shasta put everything
that was in him into his eyes, the big bull bore the stare in an
unflinching manner, and stared back defiantly.  He did more.  He
began to paw the ground impatiently with one of his hoofs, as if to
show that he was tired of this duel with the eyes, and wanted to try
some more complete trial of strength.  If Shasta had looked
particularly at the pawing hoof, he would have noticed how deeply
cleft it was, and what sharp cutting edges it had.  A terrible
instrument that, when it descended like a sledge-hammer with all the
weight of the huge seven-hundred-pound body behind it to give it
driving force!  But Shasta was too much occupied in attending to the
expression in the animal's eyes, and in fearful admiration of the
huge spreading antlers that made so grand an ornament to the mighty
head.

And then, because the Spirit of the wild things did not tell him what
to do, or because, if it did, his attention was too much taken up to
give heed to its warning, he did the wrong thing instead of the right
one.  With a sudden spring in the air, he loosed the wolf-cry from
his throat.

If anything was needed to make the moose furious this action of
Shasta's was sufficient, At the boy's unexpected movement and cry he
bounded to one side.  Then he stood snorting and stamping the ground
viciously.  But he did not turn tail.  Instead, he began to thrash
the underwood furiously with his antlers.

Shasta was no coward.  Yet what could he do, naked and utterly
defenceless against this enormous animal, armed with those dreadful
antlers and those pitiless hatchets on his feet?  He looked quickly
round, measuring the distance between himself and the nearest tree.
To dart to it and climb into safety would be done in less time than
it would take to tell it.  But quick though he was, he knew, by
experience, that some of the wild things were even quicker.  What the
moose could do in the way of quickness he had just seen.  The whole
of that great body was a mass of sinews and muscles that could hurl
it this way or that like a flash of lightning before you had time to
blink.  And the moose, like the wolves and the bears, could make up
his mind in less than a thousandth part of a minute, and be somewhere
else almost before he had started, and finish a thing completely
almost before it was begun!

If only Nitka or Shoomoo, or one of the wolf-brothers, could know the
danger he was in, and come to the rescue!  Big though he might be, it
would be a bold moose who would lightly tackle Shoomoo, or any of his
terrible brood, when once their blood was roused.  But though Shasta
looked wildly on every side, hoping that the call he had given might
have attracted attention, not a dead leaf rustled in response under
swiftly padding feet!

He turned his gaze again upon his enemy--for enemy he had now
undoubtedly become--to catch the first sign of what he might be about
to do.  The moose was still thrashing the thicket as if to lash
himself into increasing fury, and glaring at Shasta passionately out
of his shining eyes.  Because he did not know what was best to be
done, Shasta threw back his head, and once again sent out the long
ringing wolf-cry that was a summons to the pack.  But as luck would
have it, not one of all the wolf kindred was within ear-shot, and the
Bargloosh was as empty of wolves as the sky of clouds.

At the second cry, the moose stopped thrashing the bushes, and stood
still.  But along his neck and shoulders the coarse black hair rose
threateningly.  A red light burned dangerously in his eyes.
Suddenly, without warning, he sprang.  Quick as a wolf, Shasta leaped
aside.  If he had been the fraction of a second later he would have
been trampled to death.  The murderous hoof of the moose missed its
mark by a quarter of an inch.  Snorting with rage, he raised himself
on his hind legs to strike again.

And then the wonderful thing happened.  Even as the moose rose, a
huge black form hurled itself through the air, descending upon him
like a thunderbolt.  Before he could deliver the blow intended for
Shasta, even before he could change his position in order to protect
himself, a huge paw, armed with claws like curved daggers, had ripped
his shoulder half-way to the bone.

So great was the force of the blow, with the whole weight of
Gomposh's body behind it, that the moose was hurled to the ground.
He had hardly touched it, however, before he was on his feet,
quivering with pain and fury.  Seeing that his assailant was one of
the hated bears, his fury redoubled.  In spite of his wounds, now
streaming with blood, he rushed savagely at the bear, striking again
with his hoofs.  But Gomposh, though now old, was no novice at
boxing.  He simply gathered his great hind quarters under him and sat
well back upon them, with his forepaws lifted.  Each time the moose
struck, Gomposh parried the blow with a lightning sweep of his
gigantic paw; and each time the paw swept, the moose bled afresh.
Only once did he do Gomposh any injury, and that was when, with a
sudden charge of his left-hand antler, he caught the bear in the
ribs.  But he paid dearly for the action.  Gomposh, though nearly
losing his balance, brought his right paw down with such
sledge-hammer force on his opponent's shoulder, that the moose
staggered, and almost fell.  The blow was so tremendous that the
great bull did not care to receive another.  With a harsh bellow of
rage and anguish he turned, plunged into the underwood, and
disappeared.

[Illustration: WITH A HARSH BELLOW OF RAGE AND ANGUISH HE PLUNGED
INTO THE UNDERWOOD]

The whole forest seemed to quake as he went.

While all this was happening, Shasta, crouched behind his tree, had
watched with intense excitement the progress of the fight.  Now that
Gomposh had proved himself conqueror, and that the moose had
disappeared, he came out from his refuge.

He wanted to thank Gomposh, to make him feel how glad he was that he
had beaten the moose.  But for some reason peculiar to himself,
Gomposh evidently did not want to be thanked.  And when Shasta went
up to lay his hand on his thick black coat, he rumbled something rude
in his chest and moved sulkily away.  As he went he turned once to
look back at the boy, and then, like the moose, disappeared among the
trees.

Left alone on the spot where the great battle had been fought, and
where he had come so near losing his life, Shasta looked about him
carefully.  The ground was torn up and trampled, the grass and leaves
blotched with dark stains.  A faint smell of newly-spilt blood filled
the air.  And all round crowded the trees, dark, solemn, full of
unnamable things.

As Shasta watched, a feeling of dread came over him.  He could not
have explained the feeling.  All he knew was that it was a bad place
where bad things could happen, and where even Gomposh had not cared
to remain.  Without lingering another moment, he fled away on
noiseless naked feet.

And down in the cedar swamp, among the skunk cabbage and the bad
black pools, old Gomposh sat in his lair and licked his wound.  It
did not heal for several days; but the big slavery tongue kept busily
at work, and Nature, the old unfailing nurse, attended to her job.  A
good deal of grumbling accompanied the licking, and acted like a
tongue on Gomposh's mind.  So it was not long before he went about as
usual, and the nuthatches perceived that Gomposh was so very much
Gomposh again that the toadstools were being punished for having
grown so fat!



CHAPTER XIV

SHASTA LEAVES HIS WOLF KIN

The days and weeks went by.  By the time the dark blue flower of the
camass had faded, and the yellow wild parsley had begun to look
tired, Shasta began to feel again the same strange restlessness
creeping over him which he had felt before.  And whenever he turned
his face towards the southeast, the remembrance of the Indian village
would sit down thickly upon him, and he would stop to think.  When he
remembered the raw-hide lariat and the husky dogs, he hated the camp;
but when he remembered with his nose-memory, the pleasant odour of
the burning cottonwood and of the dried sweet-grass came to him and
made a stirring in his heart.  Moreover, the Indian smell was
there--the smell that does not come from cottonwood nor sweet-grass,
or parfleches filled with buffalo meat, but clings about even the
Indian names and is an odour of the old, forgotten times.

And as he went along the trails, somehow or other everything was
different.  The birds were there just the same.  The blue jays were
full of jabbering talk.  The crows followed each other from tree to
tree, always crying to those ahead to go farther on, and fasten their
food-bags to another bough.  And the woodpecker hammered hollowly at
the hidden heart of the woods.  As with the birds, so with the
beasts.  Nitka and Shoomoo went and came on the hunting trails, and
the wolf-brothers howled in the night.  Gomposh slapped the dead logs
for grubs, and was a silly old bear when nobody was watching.  But
when he met any one he would sit down heavily at once and look
dreadfully wise.  And the weasels went on their wicked ways, killing
and killing, not because of hunger, but the blood-lust to kill.  And
the red squirrels and the grey squirrels ran along the tree-tops for
miles, without ever coming to ground; and the fussy little chipmunks
fussed.

Yet in spite of all this, Shasta felt that something had changed, and
that nothing could ever be quite the same again.  And although the
wolves brought him just as much meat as before, so that he never went
hungry, he kept longing for the taste of the buffalo tongue which the
Indian woman had thrown to him out of the smoking pot.  The wolves
never brought him anything so good as that.  It made his mouth water
whenever he thought of that delicious thing.

So he wandered up and down, up and down, more and more restless, and
difficult to satisfy.  It was not that he was unhappy.  Sometimes,
even, he was wildly happy, running and leaping in the sun, or
swinging on a fir branch, and talking wolf-talk to himself.  At such
times the sunlight and the sweet mountain air seemed to have got into
his blood, and the blue sky did not seem blue enough or the moss
green enough, or the Bargloosh big enough, to be equal to his joy.
It was the life that was in him which could not contain itself in his
body, and kept overflowing the high brim of his heart!

Yet the creatures and their ways did not wholly satisfy him.  That
was the mischief of it.  There were other creatures and other ways.
He had seen those other creatures and he could not forget.  He did
not know that they were his own people, and that the drawing which he
felt towards them was blood, and not cooked buffalo tongue.  When his
thoughts ran that way, it was the remembrance of the _smell_ and the
_taste_ of the new life that was strongest.  Even the memory of the
lariat and the huskies could not overcome that.  And as Meeko, the
red squirrel, was always running along the green roof of the world,
chickering and making mischief, and egging folks on to fight, so
along the roof of Shasta's mind the new restlessness ran, and
chickered, and would not let him be.

The morning came at last when he bowed his head and obeyed.  He stood
a long time at the mouth of the cave, looking over the familiar world
of forest and mountain, and the distant shining peaks.  Far away to
the south he saw a speck against the blue.  It moved slowly as he
watched.  Something told him that it was Kennebec, sitting in the
wind.  Kennebec had been very quiet of late.  Now that there were no
eaglets to feed, there was not so much need to go cub and lamb
snatching on the mountain slopes.  Besides which, he avoided the
Bargloosh.  It was there that the creature lived who had dared to
scale his rocks.  Henceforth the Bargloosh became for Kennebec a
place of danger, and he gave it a wide berth.

Now, as Shasta gazed over the wide spaces below him, and up at the
rocks above, he looked at them wistfully, as if he were saying
good-bye.  He didn't know anything about good-bye really, because the
animals never consciously say farewell.  They separate from each
other because their feet take them, but it is mercifully hidden from
them that sometimes they will not return.  Something in him begged
him to stay: to remain where he was and not mix himself up with the
new, unexplained life that was busy among the foothills where there
were lariats and husky dogs, and where the creatures walked on their
hind legs.  Here he knew the world and the ways of all its folk.
From the shadowy inside of the cave to the glare of the sunlight on
the shimmering peaks, he was familiar with it all; it was built about
his heart in a bigness that was home.  But now, for some unexplained
and mysterious reason he was leaving it and going to this other
utterly different thing which had bound him and bitten him and had
given new smells to his nose and a new taste to his tongue.  And he
knew perfectly well that neither Nitka nor Shoomoo, nor any of the
wolf-brothers would wish him to go; just as clearly as if they all
sat on their haunches in a row in front of him and implored him to
remain.  They were all away now, and he was alone at the den's mouth.
But if they should come back before he started, he knew that he could
not keep the thing a secret from their sharp understandings.  They
would lick him, and rub noses, and look at him out of their wild
wonderful eyes, and say, "_We_ know, Little Person!" and then the
thing would be impossible, and he would not be able to go.

In a moment he had run swiftly down the slope and was lost among the
trees.

The sun was setting when he reached the end of the canyon towards the
Indian camp.  He did not go by way of the wolf-rocks this time.  It
was there that Looking-All-Ways had seized him, and he did not want
to be caught like that again.  So he had climbed down the steep sides
of the gorge which the Indians call Big Wolf Canyon, and crept out
among the high clumps of bunch-grass beside the stream.  He could not
see the village from here.  It was hidden by a swell of the ground;
but though he could not see it, he caught the sounds and the smells
of it as they drifted down-wind.  Presently he plucked up his courage
and climbed to the top of the rising ground.  Here the village was
full in view.  Soft blue trails of smoke were rising from the tops of
the lodges, for the squaws were preparing the evening meal.  The camp
looked very peaceful, and not at all a thing to fill you with dread.
Nevertheless, Shasta eyed it suspiciously, as a thing full of
unexpected dangers which yelped and had sharp teeth.

Slowly he crept forward, crawling from tuft to tuft of grass, and
taking advantage of every bit of rising ground, so that he might
approach as close as possible without being seen.  The things he was
particularly on his guard against were the huskies; but as luck would
have it there was not a single dog on this side of the camp, so that
he crept right up to the outer circle of lodges without any mishap.
It was not till he had reached the inner circle of lodges and was
crouching at the back of one of them that he was discovered.

The one who made the discovery was no less a person than
Running-Laughing, the ten-year-old daughter of the chief.  She was
carrying a buffalo bag to fetch water from the stream, and passed so
close behind the tepee that she almost trod on Shasta before she saw
him.  She stood still in amazement, looking down at the strange thing
at her feet.  Shasta gazed at her in equal astonishment, but also
with fear.  By reason of his position on the ground Running-Laughing
looked taller to him than she really was.  He marvelled at her
appearance, and the things she seemed to have stuck on to her skin.
It is true she only wore a soft-tanned buckskin dress, trimmed with
porcupine quills and deer-bones, and had small white shells in her
ears; but to Shasta's unaccustomed eyes it was a wonderful and very
dreadful gear.  As for him, he was just as he was and was neatly
dressed in his own skin, which was a reddish-brown under the fine
hair.  For some time they looked at each other without a sound or a
movement.  Then Running-Laughing behaved like her name, and told her
father, Big Eagle, what she had found.

Big Eagle was preparing for a religious service in the lodge of the
Yellow Buffalo.  When he heard that the wolf-child was again in the
camp, he sent for Looking-All-Ways to tell him that his captive had
returned.

Looking-All-Ways went at once with Running-Laughing to where Shasta
crouched beside the tepee.  When he came there, he did not attempt to
touch Shasta, but he carried the raw-hide lariat with him in case of
need.  He did something even wiser.  He sent Running-Laughing to find
Shoshawnee, the medicine-man, and tell him to come.  So
Running-Laughing fetched Shoshawnee, and when he came he began to
"make medicine" with his voice.

Now, to "make medicine" with your voice is not an easy thing to do,
and is only to be done by those who know forest-lore, and
prairie-lore, and the secrets of the beasts.  And Shoshawnee could do
this, because he was crammed full of lore, and his head was bulging
with buffalo wisdom and a knowledge of the beasts.  As regards the
beasts, he did not, of course, know as much as Shasta did, but he
knew quite enough to make him wiser than the other Indians, and
directly he began to talk, Shasta _knew_ that he knew!

It was a wonderful and strange "medicine" which Shoshawnee made; and
if you understood the Indian tongue you would have heard many
beautiful and far-away things.  For in the Indian medicine-talk there
are many and many words which come a long way from the North and a
long way from the South, and very far indeed from the East and West.
From the North they fall, as the feathers drop from the wings of wild
geese, when they come honk-honking in the deep nights.  From the
South they are of the buffalo where they wallow by the great lake
whose waters never rest.  From the East they are of the coyotes, and
from the West of the wolves.  And many other sounds there are, too,
and words which make you think of the wind along the scarped edges of
rocks, and of the rumble of avalanches as they fall thunderously, and
of the whisper of the junipers when the air creeps.  All the great
wilderness seemed to give itself in echoes along Shoshawnee's tongue.

As Shasta listened, a peculiar feeling came upon him.  The sound of
Shoshawnee's speaking affected him as nothing had done before.  It
seemed to rub him gently all over with a soothing touch.  Deep within
him something answered to it, and was pleased.  His fear and distrust
of the Indians melted away under the influence of the voice.  The
look of the wild animal in his eyes began to soften into something
that was almost human.  Shoshawnee saw the effect which the medicine
was producing, and went on.

Gradually he began to move away from the tepee.  As he did so, he
walked backwards, keeping his eyes always fixed upon Shasta, and
holding him with his gaze.  Shasta looked straight into Shoshawnee's
eyes.  The eyes were like the voice.  They drew him, whether he
wanted them to or no.  Slowly, step by step, he left the tepee and
began to follow the medicine-man in his slow backward walk.  Where he
was going and why he was doing this he had no idea.  Only the voice
called him, and the eyes drew.  He must follow those eyes and that
voice wherever they chose to go.

By degrees Shoshawnee moved into the centre of the camp, Shasta
following him a few feet away.  Not many paces off, the lodge of the
Yellow Buffalo was pitched.  Inside sat Big Eagle and his braves,
collected for the sacred ceremony.  The ceremony had not yet begun,
because they were waiting for the medicine-man to sing the opening
words, without which the "medicine" of the buffaloes would not be
complete.

At last Shoshawnee entered the lodge, still walking backwards.  In a
moment or two Shasta followed.  He saw the braves sitting on the
ground with Big Eagle in the centre.  For the moment they were not
saying or doing anything.  There seemed to be a great number, for the
tepee was full.  Just in front of Big Eagle there burnt a small fire.
After Shoshawnee and Shasta had entered and Shoshawnee had sat down,
Big Eagle took an ember from the fire with a forked stick.  He then
put some dried sweet-grass on it, to burn.  Soon the smoke of the
burning grass filled the lodge with a pleasant smell.  Shasta sniffed
this new smell up his nose with delight.  He watched the grey threads
of smoke with wonder.  He thought they must be the wings of the ember
which it waved in the air.  Presently Big Eagle put his hands in the
smoke and rubbed them over his body.  Shasta looked on in
astonishment.  To him, hands were forepaws.  He had never seen
fore-paws do so much, or do it in so odd a way.

When Big Eagle had rubbed himself all over with sweet smoke, he took
another ember and with it lit a large pipe.  The pipe was of polished
stone, and red in colour.

Then Shasta saw what to him was the most surprising thing of all.
When Big Eagle had put the red thing to his mouth, a wing came out
and waved itself in the air!  The pipe went from mouth to mouth, as
the braves passed it round the lodge, and from every mouth, as it
went, grey wings sprouted, and went wandering through the air.

After the smoking was over, the ceremony began.  Shasta heard
Shoshawnee make many strange noises, and let his voice run up and
down as if he wanted to howl.  It made Shasta want to howl also, but
he remembered that he was not among the wolves now, and so he kept
the feeling down.

When Shoshawnee had finished, the other braves went on.  They seemed
to want to howl badly too!  Shasta could not understand how they
could make so many odd noises in their throats, and yet never throw
their heads back for the long sobbing note.  On each side of Big
Eagle were the squaws Lillooeet and Sarvis, his two wives.  They had
rattles in their hands, and they beat them on a buffalo hide
stretched upon the floor.  The beating was in time to the chanting,
and Shasta watched in wonderment the rise and fall of the rattles,
which, every time they touched the hide, gave out a sharp noise.

Presently, at a signal from Big Eagle, the rattling ceased.
Shoshawnee rose.  He advanced three paces towards Shasta.  Then he
stretched out his hand and laid it on his head.  When Shasta felt the
hand of Shoshawnee upon his head the tingling feeling ran in his
blood and made his flesh creep.  Then Shoshawnee spoke.  What he said
Shasta could not understand, yet it seemed to him that, as he had
once been admitted to the wolf-pack as of its blood, now he was being
received into the Indian pack as one of themselves.  And he was right
in his guess, for this is what Shoshawnee said:

"This is Shasta, the wolf-child.  I have tamed him, because I
understand the wolf-medicine.  But he _is_ the wolf-medicine!
Because of that, he is stronger than I."

There was a pause here, while the whole company gathered together in
the tepee gazed at Shasta with awe.  Presently Shoshawnee went on:

"Many moons ago, the Assiniboines, as you know, attacked us when we
were moving to the Sakuska river to pitch our summer camp.  A squaw
was killed, and her papoose carried off.  The brave who did this was
not an Assiniboine.  He was Red Fox, who stole the Eagle medicine,
and is a traitor to our tribe.  Red Fox went to the Assiniboines with
lies upon his tongue.  But the papoose which Red Fox carried off was
the grandson of Fighting Bull, our old chief, who died soon
afterwards.  And his name was Shasta, which is one of our oldest
names.  Nothing was afterwards seen of the papoose in the lodges of
the Assiniboines.  Why?  I will tell you.  Because its father had
been his deadly enemy, Red Fox gave it to the wolves!"

Shoshawnee suddenly ceased speaking; but his eyes glowed, and the
echo of his voice seemed to run in the ears of the braves, as if his
thought, which was fierce and strong, made itself a voice out of the
silence.



CHAPTER XV

HOW SHASTA FOUGHT MUSHA-WUNK

So that was how it came to pass that Shasta was received by the
Indians into their tribe, and was called by his own name, which he
had never known.  The moons went by, and by degrees he left off his
wolf-ways and took on Indian ways instead.  He learnt to walk
upright, to eat cooked food and to talk the Indian tongue.  To learn
the last took him a long time.  At first he could only make wolf
noises, and would growl when he was angry, bark when he was excited,
and howl when it was necessary to say things to the moon.  But he had
Shoshawnee for teacher, and Shoshawnee's patience had no end.  At
first he was shy of the Indian hoys, because they teased him when
they had opportunity, and their elders' backs were turned; but by
degrees his shyness wore away, and he began to take part in their
racing and riding.  Soon he could ride and run races with the best of
them.  Also, when it came to wrestling, they soon found that he was
more than their match; for his life among the wolves had given an
extraordinary strength to his muscles and suppleness to his body.

It was in a fight with Musha-Wunk that this quality of Shasta's body
first made itself known.  Musha-Wunk was a bully, and one of the
leaders of those who enjoyed teasing Shasta whenever they had a
chance.  So one day Musha-Wunk and his companions came upon Shasta
when he was sitting by himself amongst the bunch-grass of the creek.

At first, when Musha-Wunk began to tease and probe him with a stick,
Shasta pretended not to mind, and got up and walked away.

Even when Musha-Wunk followed and stabbed him again, he took it all
in good part, and caught hold of the stick with a laugh.  But
Musha-Wunk snatched the stick away with a vicious pull and struck
Shasta with it across the face.

What followed came so quickly that those who watched held their
breath in astonishment.  The leap of a wolf is so swift that it must
be seen to be believed.  When Shasta leaped on the bully, the other
boys saw something that seemed to hurl itself through the air, strike
savagely, and bound away.  Musha-Wunk, taken utterly by surprise,
went down under the blow.  He was on his feet in an instant, but
almost before he was up, Shasta had hurled himself on him again.
This time Musha-Wunk seized him before he could leap away, and both
boys rolled over together.  Musha-Wunk was the heavier of the two.
He had bigger bones and a more powerful body.  If he could have held
Shasta down, he would certainly have had the best of it.  But to hold
Shasta down was like sitting on a small volcano.  There was a violent
eruption of arms and legs, and Musha-Wunk was lifted into the air!
While he was still struggling to his feet, Shasta was on him again.

It was the wolf in Shasta which urged him to these lightning attacks
and counter-attacks which made the eyes blink.  Once the wild-beast
spirit in him was fully roused, nothing could stand against it.  The
wolf-blood raced in his veins; the wolf-light flashed in his eyes.
There broke out of his throat fierce sounds which certainly were not
human.  As he fought, he seemed to himself to be a wolf again, with
the uncontrollable wolf-fury raging in his heart.  Yet it was not
merely wild rage that was in him.  At the back of his mind, he knew
that he was fighting for his freedom, for his self-respect.  Once he
allowed himself to be beaten by Musha-Wunk, he knew that the other
boys would have no mercy upon him.

The time for gentleness and forbearance was gone by.  The fight was
none of his making.  Musha-Wunk had forced it upon him, because he
was a bully, and because he had judged Shasta to be a coward.  The
other boys stood round in a silent ring, watching the fight with
glittering eyes.  Their very silence showed how deeply they were
moved; though, Indian-like, they gave no vent to their feeling by any
outward sign.  They were like a circle of animals, watching, with a
fierce animal joy, a combat waged to the death.  And presently a
terror, as of death itself, came to Musha-Wunk, the bully, as he
fought.  He had thought that to conquer Shasta would be a very easy
thing.  He wanted to give him a good thrashing, see the blood flow,
and leave the wolf-boy half dead at the finish.  But now he knew,
when too late, that he had roused something which it was not in his
power to subdue.  By his own folly and cruelty, he had drawn upon
himself a vengeance which was not of men, but of the wolves.  He
ceased to take the offensive.  All he wanted now was to defend
himself as best he could against Shasta's lightning attacks.  It was
when he tried to hold Shasta that the marvellous elasticity of the
wolf-boy's body showed itself.  No matter how Musha-Wunk bent it this
way and that, straining every muscle till the veins stood out on his
throat, Shasta's firm flesh and wonderful sinews resisted every
effort to break him into submission.  He twirled himself into the
most astonishing positions, upsetting Musha-Wunk every time the bully
seemed for a moment to have gained the upper hand.

The fight finished as suddenly as it had begun.  Musha-Wunk had
received so severe a punishing that at last he could bear it no
longer.  It was not his body alone that suffered.  In his mind the
terror was growing.  It was a horrible feeling that what he fought
was a boy outwardly only, and was in reality more than half a wolf!
The sudden leap, the break away, the deadly leap again--this was how
the wolves fought.  It was not to be met in any familiar human way.
Taking advantage of a moment when Shasta seemed to pause, Musha-Wunk
turned and fled towards the camp.

The other Indian boys looked on in astonishment at this ending to the
fight.  They would hardly believe their eyes that the big and
masterful Musha-Wunk should be defeated so utterly by the little
wolf-boy that at last he should flee in terror.  They gazed at
Shasta, the victor, in awe, keeping a respectful distance for fear
lest the wolf in him might turn suddenly upon them.  It did not need
Shasta's quick eyes to perceive this fear upon them; his mind caught
it as it oozed, in spite of themselves, into the air.  Swift, as
always, to act when his mind had once clearly seen a thing, he made a
quick step forward, crouching as if to spring.  To the alarmed Indian
boys it seemed as if his whole body quivered with rage.  In its
crouching position it seemed to take on itself mysteriously the
actual outlines of a wolf.  Certainly the eyes between the long and
shaggy locks of hair shot out a light that was not human, but of that
deep brute world, old and savage, in the thick lair of the trees.

It was enough.  Without waiting an instant longer, the whole band
broke asunder and took to their heels in flight.

Shasta watched their departure with a joyful triumph.  Now at last he
had proved that the wolf-spirit in him was not to be broken, and that
those who provoked or insulted it did so at their own peril.  It was
the upright, free spirit of the wild.  And as such it was a good
spirit, and belonged to the early freshness of the world.  In Shasta,
it would not attack or injure things as long as they left him alone.
But once his freedom or peace were threatened, then he would resist
with all the strength in his power.

When the last flying form had disappeared behind the rising ground,
Shasta turned towards the trees.  The excitement that was in him
danced and bubbled in his blood.  He was tired and sore in his body,
but his heart was high--high as the tops of the spruces and the
pines.  He felt that he must go and tell his heart to the trees.

He went far into the forest, and then sat down.  The trees were all
about him--close on every side.  It was as if they were crowding up
to him to hear what he had to say.  The big silence of them did not
make him lonely or afraid.  They were solemn and yet companionable,
and full of wise "medicine"--which he understood, but could not put
into speech.

The Indian camp was very far away now.  Musha-Wunk and the others
were little things that did not matter.  It was the trees that
mattered now--the trees and the wolves.

Only his fine ear could have detected that soft footfall coming down
the trail!  And when he turned his eyes, it did not surprise him that
he looked straight into those of a big grey wolf.

What Shasta said to the wolf and what the wolf said to Shasta cannot
be set down in words.  Though it was neither Nitka nor Shoomoo, it
was a wolf-brother of three seasons back, and the two recognized each
other in some mysterious way.  And so Shasta was able to learn all he
wanted to know about the den upon the Bargloosh, and how his
foster-parents fared.  It was over nine months now since he had seen
them, but, according to the wolf-brother, nothing was amiss.  Upon
the Bargloosh everything went much as it had gone in the old days
when Shasta was a little naked man-cub, and had no notion of wearing
clothes.  The wolf-brother did not approve of the clothing Shasta
wore, though it was only a little tanned buckskin tunic falling to
the knee.  For that was one of Shasta's peculiarities, that though he
suffered the upper part of his body to be clad, he would not allow
them to interfere with the freedom of his legs.  Moccasins he would
only wear in winter, when the frost bit hard, or in the summer when
he had a fit upon him to decorate his feet.  Running-Laughing had
made him the summer moccasins, and had embroidered them most
cunningly with elk-teeth and porcupine quills.  Shasta walked
stiffly, with a sense of grandeur, when he wore the summer moccasins,
looking down at his feet as if they belonged to some great
medicine-man or important chief.

The wolf-brother sniffed at the tunic disapprovingly.  The Indian
smell of it upset him, and made his hackles rise.  So Shasta, to
please him, took it off, and let him see that it was only a loose
skin that did not matter, and could easily be thrown away.  After
that things went more smoothly, and they talked companionably
together in the shadow of the trees.  And when the evening light
began to be golden about the tops of the spruces, and the forest to
stir, and shake off the drowsy weight of the afternoon, the
wolf-brother departed as suddenly and softly as he had come, and
Shasta, having watched him go regretfully, turned homewards to the
camp.



CHAPTER XVI

THE DANGER FROM THE SOUTH

It was the old medicine-man, Shoshawnee, and he was making medicine
to himself on the high lookout butte that commanded the prairies to
the south.  The sunset was beginning to be crimson in the west.  It
struck full in Shoshawnee's face, turning it blood-red.  But
Shoshawnee had no thought for the colour of his face.  He had another
thought inside him--a thought of such tremendous importance that
there was no room for anything besides.  And this was that a danger
lay there ambushed in the south.  No one else but Shoshawnee knew of
the danger; but that was because he had a medicine which never told
him lies, and which whispered things to him before they had arrived.
And already it had whispered to him that danger was near, and he had
heard the huskies give the ghost-bark when they saw the wind go by.

When he had finished the medicine-song he sat silent, gazing on the
prairies.  They looked very peaceful, lying abroad there under the
sinking sun.  Shoshawnee's eyes, travelling over the immense levels,
saw nothing that served to increase the unquiet of his mind.  Far to
the south there stretched, from the Saska River westwards, a dusky
band that was like a shadow cast by the sunset.  Shoshawnee knew that
it was a herd of buffalo--one of those vast herds which in those old
Indian days roamed over the wilderness for a thousand miles; coming
always from the lake of mystery in the south; going no man knew
whither; which no man had ever counted, or would count till the
Palefaces came from the East, and the Red man's day was done.
Shoshawnee watched the buffaloes keenly.  So long as they continued
their tranquil feeding, he knew that, whatever danger was afoot, it
had not yet approached the outskirts of the herd.  For the buffalo
are very wary and are always ready to stampede.  Yet, although his
eyes were fixed intently out there so many miles away, his ears were
alert for anything that might happen close about.  So, although he
did not turn his head, he heard the faint whisper of the dried
bent-grass as Shasta in his summer moccasins came lightly up the hill.

When he reached Shoshawnee, Shasta did not speak.  It is the
Palefaces who rush at each other with their tongues.  The Red man is
never in a hurry with his speech.  Why should you hasten your words
when the prairies are so broad beside you, and there are no clocks to
tick off for you the timeless drift of the summer air?  It is only in
the cities that men have learnt to waste the hours by counting them;
and on the high buttes facing the sunset there is no time.

So the sun had dipped below the prairie before at last Shoshawnee
spoke.

"The buffalo go west," he said slowly, as if the thing was of the
utmost importance.

Shasta did not put a question actually into words, but he looked it.
Shoshawnee understood.

"There is much pasture to the west.  The buffalo eat the prairie to
the setting sun."

"Do they eat the edge of the sunset also?" Shasta asked.

Shoshawnee shook his head.

"The edge of the sunset is the end of the world," he said.  "At the
end of all things there is no more grass."

Shasta was silent at that.  It was so unbelievable.  The thought
stunned him.  No more grass!

"But _beyond_ the sunset," Shoshawnee went on, "when you come to the
Happy Hunting-grounds, the grass is always green.  And there the blue
flower of the camass never fades, and the sarvis berries never decay."

"The Happy Hunting-grounds!" Shasta murmured in his low, husky voice.
"Where?"

Shoshawnee lifted his hand.

"Up there, presently," he said, "you will see the Wolf-trail.  It is
along the Wolf-trail that you travel to reach them.  The Wolf-trail
is worn across the heavens by the moccasins of the dead."

"Is the hunting better there than it is here?" Shasta asked.  "Is
there more game?"

"It is not _better_ hunting," Shoshawnee said, correcting him.  "It
is happier.  The dead are full of happiness as they follow along the
trail."

After that there was a long silence, as Shasta kept looking at the
sky to watch for the beginning of the Wolf-trail, when the stars
should appear.  But before that happened Shoshawnee spoke again.
This time he spoke quickly, using many words.  He spoke so rapidly,
and the words followed each other so fast, that at first Shasta could
not understand.  All he gathered was that danger was in the air, some
great danger which as yet you could not see, but which was
approaching, always drawing steadily nearer out there on the
prairies, and which might arrive before you knew.  Then, as
Shoshawnee went on, the danger took a shape.  It was the shape of
Indians on the warpath--Assiniboines that came with deadly cunning
and purpose, travelling like wolves along the prairie hollows.

Shasta sent his eyes far across the darkening plains, where all
things were becoming shadowy and remote, and where even the great
herd of buffalo beyond the Saska was no longer visible.  How far away
the Assiniboines might be he could not guess.  Nor could Shoshawnee
tell him, when he asked.  All Shoshawnee knew was that they were
coming, and that when he had finished his medicine-making he would go
and warn the tribe.  Of one thing only was he certain, and that was,
that however near they might be they would not attack at night.  The
Assiniboines were fierce and cruel but they dreaded the darkness,
because they declared that the ghosts of their enemies and many evil
spirits were abroad.  Their favourite hour of attack was just at
daybreak when the first glimmer of dawn was mingling with the mist.

When the last light of sunset had faded from the sky, and the
prairies were wholly dark, Shasta and Shoshawnee returned to the camp.

Shasta lay awake long that night, listening and wondering.  The words
of the old medicine-man kept walking in his head.  Sometimes it was
of the buffaloes he thought, with their pasture that lay out into the
sunset and was a-shimmer with the long lights of the west; and
sometimes of that mysterious danger that crept nearer and nearer, and
gave no sign of its approach.  And then the butterfly, the
sleep-bringer, flitted across his eyelids and he slept.

It was the western lark-sparrow that woke him in the morning, singing
loud and clear upon the lodge-pole over his head.  And when he saw
the sunlight clear through the painted wall of the tepee, and heard
the cheerful morning stir of the camp, it seemed impossible that
danger should be afoot in that tremendous peace.  Yet, as the day
wore on and evening drew near, he felt the same foreboding at his
heart as when Shoshawnee had spoken to him of danger when they sat on
the lookout bluff.

As for Shoshawnee, he sat there all day, without food or drink,
gazing steadily across the prairies and chanting the old medicine
chants of the tribe.  When evening fell Shoshawnee returned.  He had
already warned the tribe of what he feared, and Big Eagle had given
orders that all was to be in readiness in case of an attack.  Scouts
had been sent out, but had returned at sundown, saying that no signs
of hostile Indians had been seen.

When Shasta went to bed that night the buffalo robe held no sleep for
him; and wherever the butterfly flitted, it did not enter his tepee.
All night long he lay awake, restless and uneasy.  Often and often he
left his couch and looked out.  The camp was very still and the stars
in their high places glittered bright in a cloudless sky.  Now and
then the small grey owl hooted dismally from the alder thickets
beside the creek, or a coyote would bark fitfully somewhere far off
in the night.  Shasta had not yet grown used to the prairie.  It was
so vast, so unenclosed!  The forest with its crowding trees, and the
immense gloom of a hundred miles of shade, was the thing that made
him feel at home.  But now the camp of his people was pitched far out
on the prairie, and the forest only existed in his dreams.  As for
Nitka and Shoomoo and the wolf-brothers, they seemed even farther
off, and to move in some old life lost among the trees.  Three times
already since his first coming to the camp, it had been moved.  The
ends of the new lodge-poles, cut in spring among the foot-hills and
dragged by the ponies for enormous distances, now showed signs of
wear.  The camp at present lay in a wide hollow surrounded by
swelling ridges, and hidden from sight until you were close upon it.
The lookout bluff upon which Shoshawnee had kept his watch lay a good
half-mile to the south, and commanded an immense sweep of prairie on
every hand.

The last time Shasta had crept out of the tepee he had looked towards
the bluff.  It humped itself, a black mass against the stars, like a
huge bull-buffalo couched in sleep.  When he crept noiselessly back,
it seemed to follow him, and when at last sleep overtook him, it was
humped among his dreams.

Suddenly he was wide awake, his heart throbbing.  Something--he did
not know what--had called to him, and roused him from his rest.  The
tepee was still dark, but a faint glimmer--so faint as to be scarcely
seen--showed that daybreak was at hand.  Shasta sat up, his eyes
straining in the dimness, and his ears listening as only wild animals
listen when they are startled.

For a little while he heard nothing but the stillness, which itself
was so deep that it seemed as if it were a sort of sound.  Then,
clear and strikingly distinct, he heard repeated the sound which had
broken his sleep.

It was a wolf-howl, long-drawn and wailing, and it was answered
directly afterwards by another, and yet another.  The cries were some
distance off--how far Shasta could not tell.  The third came from
some spot on the prairie beyond the lookout bluff.

Every pulse in Shasta's body beat in answer to the cries.  A wild
excitement swept through him.  His mind seemed, for the moment, to
throw off its Indian teaching and swing back into the wild.  Yet,
wolf-like though the cries were--so alike that only the wolves
themselves would have detected the difference--Shasta's perfect sense
of hearing told him that these wailing notes came from no
wolf-throats, but from those of Indians who imitated with marvellous
closeness the familiar cry.  Shoshawnee was right.  The danger was at
hand.  It was within speaking distance: it sang a death-note in the
dawn.

Shasta lost no time.  He ran swiftly to Big Eagle's tepee.  Without
waiting for any ceremony, he snatched aside the flap and stepped
inside.  Rousing the chief he told him what he had heard.
Immediately Big Eagle sprang from his buffalo robes, and, seizing his
arms, rushed out into the centre of the camp, uttering the gathering
cry.  Instantly the whole camp was aroused.  The braves came running
out of the tepees, their bows in their hands and their long quivers
slung over their backs.  In less than five minutes the sleeping
village was turned into an armed camp, with every man it contained
prepared for the fight.  In the midst of the excitement Shasta
disappeared.  When Big Eagle commanded the presence of the "medicine"
wolf-boy, no one could say what had become of him.  Some were
inclined to think that he had played a trick upon them, and that
there was no danger at all.  But Shoshawnee, the old medicine-man,
waved his arms excitedly, and declared over and over again that
Shasta had been warned by the spirits, and that the Assiniboines were
now close at hand.



CHAPTER XVII

SHASTA GOES SCOUTING

When Shasta had given the warning and knew that the tribe was fully
roused, he crept out of camp.  He went so secretly that no one saw
him go.  Why he went he could hardly have told himself in the shape
of a thought.  If the cries had not been wolf-cries, it is probable
he would not have gone.  He was certain that they were not the
genuine wolf-calls, yet they came so very close to them that an
uneasy feeling inside him made him want to find out what sort of
throat could make so exact an imitation.

The direction of his going was towards the lookout butte, from beyond
which the last cry had come.  If danger was gathering in the prairie
hollows it would be from the summit of the butte that you could tell
the nature of it, and whether it was widespread or closely drawn.  As
he approached the butte, his eyes and ears were open at their widest.
Things were indistinct and shadowy in the faint glimmer of the dawn.
Yet shadowy though they were, Shasta's piercing eyes stabbed them
through and through.  Every bush, every clump of grass, every rise or
fall of the ground--nothing escaped this piercing gaze.  He saw the
buck-rabbit leap into the thicket.  He saw the coyote drift, like a
trail of grey smoke, over the ridge.  And while his eyes and cars
were busy, he did not forget his nose.  With the true wolf-instinct
he travelled up-wind.  Whatever scents were abroad in the keen air,
he would catch them surely, and sift them in his cunning nose.  In
the early freshness of the dawn, the smell of the ground was sweet
with dew.  There was not so much a breeze as a soft moving of the
air.  Along it the whole vast body of the prairie seemed to breathe
to the tip of Shasta's nose.  By this time the broad sweet prairie
smell was familiar to him.  By contrast with it the old smells of the
forest seemed to be sharp and thin, like arrow-heads piercing the
brain.  But, as Shasta knew, this broader prairie smell was made up
of a countless multitude of tiny odours that mixed themselves so
confusedly that only the stronger ones could be disentangled from the
rest.

For some time he did not get any smell which told him of danger, and
he had reached the foot of the butte before he met anything
suspicious.  Suddenly he stopped.  As far as you could see or hear,
except that the light was a little stronger, everything was exactly
as it had been.  And yet, to Shasta's quick sense, something had
happened, and he knew that he was warned.  It was not that he saw or
heard anything first.  It was his nose which had caught something
that was not a prairie smell.  It was not of a thing that was there
now.  The thing had gone by, but the scent of its passing clung still
to the grass-blades, and Shasta seemed to see the Indian body which
had left that faint message of itself in smell.  Then he found the
trail--the dim thing that only wild eyes would see as it lay in the
morning twilight.

At first he wondered what to do, whether to follow the track or to go
up the butte.  He knew that whatever he did must be done at once, or
he might be too late.  He went swiftly up the butte.

When he reached the top he lay at full length, gazing intently over
the prairies.  In the pale light of the creeping dawn, they looked
wider than ever.  They seemed to stretch away and away endlessly, as
if the world did not cease at the horizon, but stooped down under the
sky.  Shasta's eyes swept that huge greyness with a lightning glance.
The hollows lay roughly from northeast to southwest.  It was only
here and there that it was possible to see their bottoms or what
might be concealed along the borders of the streams.

For some minutes Shasta saw nothing suspicious.  Then, about two
hundred yards to the west, he saw a creeping shape move across the
top of a ridge and disappear.  It was followed by another and then
another.  They slid very quickly over the open summit of the ridge.
At the very first glance he knew they were not wolves.

He watched a great number pass over in that peculiar sliding way.
When there was a pause, and no more seemed to be coming, Shasta
turned to leave the butte.  What he saw as he did so made his heart
leap.

There, not twenty yards away from the foot of the butte, stood an
Indian, with his bow in his hand, ready to shoot.

At once Shasta realized that it was a stranger, one of the hostile
tribe about to attack the camp.  While his mind worked swiftly,
deciding what to do, his body never moved a muscle.  There he was,
crouched upon the butte, as motionless as if he had been suddenly
turned to stone.

If he attempted to escape the Indian by running east or west, he knew
by the way the brave held his bow that a terrible winged shaft would
come singing through the air.  The Indians had evidently seen him on
the butte, and one of them had been told off to watch that he did not
return to camp to carry a warning before the attack was made.  By
creeping to the top of the butte in order to reconnoitre the outer
prairies, Shasta saw that he had exposed himself to a hidden danger
behind.  He saw himself cut off from the camp, utterly alone.  He had
already given warning, it is true.  But his people might not know
that the enemy were so close upon them, nor how many were gathering
for the attack.  And whatever happened, he would be utterly powerless
to help them in the fight with their relentless foes.  A feeling of
desperation, of anger, swept over him.  It was like the anger which
had wrapped its flames about him when he had turned on Musha-Wunk,
the bully.

Suddenly, in a flash, he turned and darted over the brow of the hill.
Instantly the Indian shot, but Shasta had been too quick for him, and
the arrow buried itself in the hillside.  Shasta was hidden now by
the hill, and the Indian could not tell which way he had gone.  The
boy went down the hill at a tremendous pace in a series of flying
bounds.  When he reached the bottom he turned sharp to the left.
There was broken ground here, and a number of thickets.  Threading
his way cautiously through these, Shasta worked eastwards, meaning to
approach the camp from the far northeastern side.  He had not gone
very far when he heard a series of war-whoops, followed by savage
yells, and he knew that the battle had begun.  He regretted now that
he had not brought his bow and arrows with him.  His only weapon was
the flint tomahawk in his belt.

There was much more light now.  He could see everything clearly.  But
the camp was not in sight, because it was hidden in its hollow to the
west.  The sounds of the fight came to him plainly in the clear
morning air.

There was a knoll in front of him.  He ran towards it, stooping low
as in his wolf days.  He had only just reached it, and had thrown
himself flat on his stomach, when all at once he heard the running of
many feet.  The sound was coming in his direction.  He lay where he
was, absolutely still.  All at once he was surrounded by Indians.
Something struck him sharply at the back of his head, and he
remembered nothing more.

When he came to himself, he found himself lying across the back of an
Indian pony, with a horrible aching in his head.  The pony was at the
gallop.  He felt that he was held in his place by the rider.  He
could not see the rider.  He saw nothing but a blur of grass that
seemed as if it billowed under him in flowing waves.  The blood in
his head made a singing like grasshoppers.  There was a tightness
there as if it were going to burst.  He tried to think, but thoughts
would not come.  He could not tell why he was on the pony's back.
Only the sharp smell of its sweating flanks entered his brain as one
smells things in a dream.  Then the seas of grass billowed away into
nothingness, and it was a blackness where lightnings flashed.

That was all he remembered of that long ride over the prairies, as he
was carried by the Assiniboines back to their hunting grounds in the
far northwest.  It was not till many moons afterwards that he learnt
that, owing to his warning, their attack had only partially
succeeded, and that his tribe had beaten them off after a fierce
encounter in which both sides had lost heavily.

When the Assiniboines reached their camp, Shasta was thrown into a
tepee and left to come to himself as best he might.  It was not long
before he was forced to realize what had happened, and knew that he
was a prisoner in the hands of the enemies of his tribe.  What he did
not know was that they had carried him off to kill him at their great
sun-dance as a religious offering.  Quite unknown to himself, his
fame as a medicine-man had travelled far and wide over the prairies,
and had even reached the mountains in the west.  This was the
wolf-medicine which had made his tribe so powerful since his coming
to them.  Once he could be killed, the medicine power would be
destroyed also, but, as their own medicine-men assured them, it could
be destroyed only by fire.

The weeks went by.  He was allowed out of the tepee by day, but bound
with thongs every night, so that he could not move.  He was given
much food in order to make him fat and pleasant for the ceremony.

As the time of the great dance grew near, the Indians redoubled their
watch upon him.  He was not even allowed to come out of the tepee
during the day.  The heat and the lack of exercise made him suffer in
body and in mind.  All he knew of the outside world came to him
through the hides of the tepee.  He would lie awake in the night,
listening to the sounds that stirred abroad, and longing unspeakably
to be out in the cool air under the star-glimmer and the sky.  And
then the moon would rise and the interior of the tepee would appear
in a silver gloom.

It was at the moon-rising that Shasta's restlessness increased till
it was like a flame that licked along his bones.  His brain was on
fire.  All the pulses of his body beat in the burning of the flames.
Then he would crouch, staring with bloodshot eyes that seemed as if
they burnt holes in the tepee and pierced into the night.  Now and
then he would moan a little, or make low wolf-noises in his dry
throat, but for the most part he was silent, suffering dumbly, as
animals suffer, feeling the old free wolf-life tugging at his heart.
Then there would come a moment when it was impossible to bear the
torture in silence, and he would throw back his head and vent his
misery in howl after howl.

It was small wonder if the Indians beat him for that.  Those dismal
notes, ringing out in the deep silence of the night, were enough to
make the toughest "brave" uneasy in his heart.  So each night that
Shasta howled, he was beaten; and still the feeling was too strong to
be overcome, and he was beaten again.  Then, when it was over, and he
lay panting and bruised, he would fall upon his thongs in a blind
rage, striving to tear them with his teeth.  But his teeth were not
the fangs of Nitka, and the raw-hide thongs resisted his utmost
efforts.  So when dawn broke he would lie exhausted, and fall into an
aching sort of slumber till they came to unbind him for the day.

Once or twice during these nightly howlings he fancied he heard an
answering cry far off among the bills; and once there had been a
scratching outside the tepee, and he was certain that a wolf was
there.  But before he could come to conversation with it an Indian
had arrived to beat him, and it had slipped away.

At last the night came before the great dance that was to take place
next morning at the rising of the sun.  It was in the beginning of
the dance that a great fire would be lighted, and that Shasta would
be burned, bound fast to a stake driven into the ground.  No one told
him that this was his last night, and that it was on the morrow that
he would be killed.  Yet for all that, some instinct warned him that
some terrible thing was afoot, and that the end was close at hand.

It was in vain that he had waited all these weeks for his tribe to
follow and rescue him.  Either they had been too severely punished by
the Assiniboines to dare to follow till they had increased their
strength, or else they had delayed too long and now had lost the
trail.  So long he had looked for that rescue from the southeast; and
the sun had risen and set and the moon had waxed and waned, and waxed
again, and still there had sounded through the foot-hills no thunder
of ponies' hoofs, nor ringing war-cry as the avenging braves swept on.

The night was very still.  Moon-rise was at hand.  For two nights in
succession something had stolen to the outside of Shasta's tepee.  It
had stayed only a short time, sniffing and scratching, and then had
melted into the shadowy masses of the hills.  Shasta had spoken to
it.  He had said very little, but then, being wolf-taught, he knew
just what to say.  And so the mysterious visitor had departed wiser
than it came.  No one saw this creature, either when it entered the
camp or departed.  Even the husky dogs did not detect it in their
sleep.  On softly-cushioned feet it glided noiselessly straight to
the spot it sought; and when it had paid its visit, it seemed to
float along the ground mountainwards like a trail of black mist.

And now, in a terrible suspense, Shasta was waiting, wondering if the
thing would come on this, the last night, and whether its coming
would bring a message of hope.

Suddenly his eyes shone and a thrill passed through him.  Outside,
close against the bottom of the tepee, he heard a sniff.  It was the
sound a wolf makes when it takes the air deeply into its lungs and
then sends it out quickly.  Shasta began to talk wolf-talk close to
the edge of the tepee.  The creature outside answered.  Then in a few
moments, it melted into the night.  When it was gone, Shasta felt
more utterly alone than before.  He was restless, excited, nervous to
a high degree.  It was little wonder if he gave voice to the pent-up
wretchedness within him in howl after piercing howl.  They let him
howl that night without beating him, because they thought it was the
last time the "medicine"-boy would lift his wolf-voice to the moon,
and it was his death-song that he sang.


Shasta did not howl for long at a time.  He contented himself by
howling at intervals, that were longer or shorter, as his feelings
mastered him.  But presently his reason for howling changed.

Down the long throats of the canyons between the hills there came,
now in solo, now in concert, a series of calls that set Shasta's
blood ablaze.  He answered the calls time after time.  He knew every
variation of them, from the deep-throated note that was almost a
bellow, to the thin sharp call of the half-grown cub yearning for a
kill.  And as Shasta sent out his desperate messages in reply, he
used every note of the wolf-language that he knew.  Up and down the
hills, wailing along the ridges, sobbing in the hollows, went the
wild cries for help, and the answering cries that help was at hand.

At daybreak the howling ceased.  Over all the wilderness stole the
grey silence--the silence of the dawn.  Shasta, lying bound in his
tepee, watched the cold light as it slowly grew.  All at once,
directly above his head, a clear song trilled forth.  It was a
lark-sparrow perched upon the top of a lodge-pole, and welcoming the
day.  Often and often he had listened to that song before and loved
it for its gladsome sound.  But then he had been safe among his own
people, and free to go in and out as he chose.  Now the song brought
home to him afresh the sense of his loneliness and utter
helplessness, bound by the cruel thongs.

The song ceased as suddenly as it had begun, and almost immediately
afterwards the tepee was entered by two Indians.  Without unbinding
Shasta, they lifted him up and carried him outside.  There he found
an old white war-horse attached to a travois, or Indian carriage.
Shasta had seen a travois before, but had never ridden in one.  It
was a sort of seat, or basket, fastened to poles, the thin ends of
which crossed in front of the horse, while the thick ends trailed
along the ground.  The Indians placed him on the travois and then
stood beside him, waiting for the signal to start.  On all sides
Shasta saw that the camp was in movement.  All the braves were in
their war paint, and wore their big war bonnets stiff with feathers.
It was plain to be seen that it was a very great occasion, and that
no pains would be spared to make it a success.



CHAPTER XVIII

THE WOLVES AVENGE

Presently, at a given sign, the procession started.  It was led by an
old medicine-man, who moved slowly forward, singing a medicine-chant
as he walked.  He was extremely old and shrivelled and was smothered
in paint and feathers.  And he had a husky voice that cut the air
like a saw.  Behind him rode the chief on horseback, a splendid
figure of a man, upright as a dart, and magnificently dressed.
Immediately after him came Shasta on the travois.  The braves
followed in a long line.

Shasta's heart was heavy with fear.  No one told him what was going
to be done with him, yet a terrible foreboding made him shiver now
and then.  And yet the birds twittered, and the air was fragrant with
the scent of the dew-drenched grass, and the sky blue between the
trails of mist.  All the world seemed full of life, and free, except
himself only, bound and aching on the travois.

When the procession reached the top of a high ridge, the travois was
stopped.  The Indians lifted Shasta out and bound him to a stake
driven into the ground.  Around the stake they piled fagots of wood.
When this was finished, the medicine-man sprinkled dried sweet grass
over the pile so that when the flames rose up there might be a
pleasant smell.  During the preparations the braves arranged
themselves in a large circle about the stake.  As soon as the
arrangements were completed, they waited for the medicine-man to
light the fire, and sing the words which would be the signal for the
opening of the dance.  There was a pause.  For a few moments nothing
happened.  It was one of those strange pieces of silence which drop
sometimes even into the centre of civilized life, and people become
uneasy--they could not tell you why.  Only the mist went on, trailing
over the ridge, swaying weirdly as the air pushed.  It was still cold
with the freshness left by the dawn.  And although the sun had
already risen, his beams were not strong enough as yet to dispel the
dense masses of mist that kept rising from all the lower grounds.
Near or distant, so far as Shasta's keen ears could detect, nothing
stirred.  The fat blue grouse which had been feeding on the
blueberries had fled at the Indians' approach.  The old coyote who
had made her den on the south side of the hill was out hunting with
her young ones and had not yet returned.  For any sight or sound that
declared itself, the lonely ridge at the edge of the prairies was a
dead lump of burnt-up summer grass where not a living creature
stirred.  In that tremendous pause when all the world seemed to be
waiting, Shasta threw back his head and gave the long gathering-cry
of the wolves.

That call for help went ringing out far from the summit of the ridge.
The hollow places sucked it in, and gave back sobbing echoes of its
desperate need.  One long cry that was not an echo, came from the
hills in answer.  That was all.  Then the silence of the Wild closed
down, and you could hear your heart beat in your side.  From the
prairies, from the hills, from the mountains beyond, no sound came.
The familiar shapes of things were there as before; but they were
dumb, blind, motionless, strangled in the mist.  Close by a small
fire already burning, the medicine-man stood with a forked stick in
his hand, ready to take the live coal which should light the fagots
about the stake.  And as he stood, he kept repeating to himself now
and again the strange words of a world-old medicine-chant, so strange
and old that even for him the original meaning of the words had
departed, leaving crooked shapes and sounds behind.  The eyes of all
the assembled Indians were fastened intently upon him.  When he
should have finished the chant, he would take the live coal from the
fire, and the great death dance would begin.  It was the dance by
which they would celebrate the burning of the evil spirit or
"medicine" which they believed Shasta embodied, and which, once
destroyed, would enable them to vanquish all their foes.  And then,
when the dance began, and became wilder and wilder as the flames
mounted higher at the stake, the whole hill-top would be alive with
Indian shapes that swayed madly in the mist.

But what shapes were those coming down from the foothills--those
long, flowing shapes with tongues that lolled and eyes that shone?
There was no warning sound that told of their coming.  They flowed
down the hillsides in a grey flood that rippled but did not break.

Down the hills, past the Indian camp, through the valley bottom, out
on the prairie, it flowed uninterruptedly till it reached the foot of
the ridge.  And still, to all outward seeming, the world appeared
exactly as it was before, as if the sun himself, with all the vast
lonely spaces of sky and earth, and all the creatures they contained,
were waiting for that terrible moment when the medicine-chant should
cease.

As for Shasta himself, after that first despairing cry, he had not
moved a muscle of his body.  He felt that the end was near at hand;
that nothing but a miracle could save him now.

The medicine-chant was drawing to a close.  The medicine-man moved a
pace or two nearer to the fire.  Round the great circle of expectant
braves there passed a thrill that went through them like swift flame.
For a second or two Shasta felt as if his heart had stopped.  At that
instant, a short, deep-throated bellow came up from the mist below.
It was the signal for the attack.  And there was no other warning.
Yet there they all were--Nitka, Shoomoo, the foster-brothers who
remembered Shasta, and the other brothers who did not, and many
others besides, belonging to widely-sundered packs, hundreds and
hundreds of them, all united under the leadership of the giant
Shoomoo for the one great purpose of rescuing Shasta from the hands
of his cruel foes.

Up the sides of the ridge they bounded--those long, grey bodies that
seemed buoyant like the mist.

When they reached the summit, there was not an instant's pause.  In
one ringing wolf-voice, the whole of the united packs gave tongue.

Already the medicine-man had taken the live coal on the stick and was
just about to set it to the dried grass round the stake when he was
hurled to the earth by the leaping form of a tremendous wolf--none
other than Shoomoo himself!

As he fell, an Indian darted forward, intending to bury his tomahawk
in the wolf.  But before he could do so, Shoomoo had leaped away from
the prostrate figure, and in an instant had thrown himself on his
assailant.  There was a gleam as the raised tomahawk caught the
light.  Yet though it descended it inflicted no fatal wound, and the
Indian was borne helplessly to the ground, from which he never rose
again.

The Indians fought desperately, but they were hopelessly outnumbered
from the first.  There were wolves everywhere.  If one was killed or
disabled, half-a-dozen more instantly filled his place.  They came
from all quarters, surging up from the lower ground in waves that
seemed as if they would never end.  On every hand the fight raged
furiously.  On all sides it was the same mass of dark, leaping
bodies, gleaming eyes, and white fangs that tore and slashed.  And
everywhere it was Shoomoo, Nitka, and the wolf-brothers that did the
deadliest work.  Shoomoo, himself, seemed to be everywhere at once.
Over and over again, Shasta, shivering, and frenzied with excitement
as he watched the progress of the fight, saw the giant form of the
great father wolf hurl itself through the air, and strike some
struggling Indian to the ground.

Would the wolves win?  Would the wolves win?--That was the agonizing
thought that made Shasta shake from head to foot.  If they did, he
was saved.  If not--then all was lost.  He would be doomed to die the
terrible death by fire.  He wrenched and strained in a vain attempt
to loose his bonds.  His utmost efforts were of no avail.  Whatever
was the result of the contest, he knew that he must remain helpless
to the end.

Once or twice a wild despair seized him.  There came a pause in the
fight, as if the wolves wavered.  Suppose, after all, the Indians
were able to hold their own?  In spite of their terrible losses, they
had killed many of their wolfish foes.  Numbers of them lay dead or
dying.  It would be small wonder if, after all, the rest should grow
intimidated, and slink off.  Yet after each temporary lull, there
would be a fresh attack led by Shoomoo or Nitka, and again the air
would ring with the terrible gathering cry of the packs.

At last the Indians could hold out no longer.  Utterly unprepared as
they were for this fearful horde of undreamed-of enemies; feeling,
too, that their "medicine" had deserted them and that the Great
Spirit, being offended, had abandoned them to their fate,--the
survivors lost their presence of mind and fled shrieking down the
hill.

Few, very few, ever found their way back to camp.  It was the wolf
triumph, the wolf revenge.  The ridge, from end to end, was strewn
with Indian dead.

It was Nitka herself who released Shasta, and her famous teeth which
tore the thongs from his arms and legs, and, after long and patient
work, at last set him free.  And when he lay on the ground, almost
too dazed to understand, with his whole body feeling like one big
bruise, it was her loving tongue that comforted him, caressing him
back to life.

The sun was already high in the heavens before Shasta was strong
enough to move.  Then, with Nitka on one side and Shoomoo on the
other, and the wolf-brothers all about on every hand, Shasta started
for home.  But it was not the home of his Indian kin.  It was the
cave upon the Bargloosh, far away from the tread of human feet; the
old strange home whose rocky walls seemed to him to hold the
beginnings of his life.

* * * * * * *

Did he go back to his people later?  Did he say good-bye to the
wolf-folk for ever, and forget the ways of the Wild?  Perhaps.  Who
can say?

Perhaps Gomposh could tell you, or even Goohooperay.  Or you might
entice it out of Shoshawnee when his face goes red on the lookout
butte towards the setting sun.

But _if_ he went back, which is possible, I do not think he would
ever forget.  For the Wild, and the ways of its folk, are too great
to be forgotten.  And then, you see, he was Shasta of the _Wolves_!



THE END





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