Part 1 out of 4
Etext prepared by Dianne Bean, Prescott Valley, Arizona.
Baree, Son of Kazan.
James Oliver Curwood.
Since the publication of my two animal books, "Kazan, the Wolf Dog" and
"The Grizzly King," I have received so many hundreds of letters from
friends of wild animal life, all of which were more or less of an
inquiring nature, that I have been encouraged to incorporate in this
preface of the third of my series--"Baree, Son of Kazan"--something
more of my desire and hope in writing of wild life, and something of
the foundation of fact whereupon this and its companion books have been
I have always disliked the preaching of sermons in the pages of
romance. It is like placing a halter about an unsuspecting reader's
neck and dragging him into paths for which he may have no liking. But
if fact and truth produce in the reader's mind a message for himself,
then a work has been done. That is what I hope for in my nature books.
The American people are not and never have been lovers of wild life. As
a nation we have gone after Nature with a gun.
And what right, you may ask, has a confessed slaughterer of wild life
such as I have been to complain? None at all, I assure you. I have
twenty-seven guns--and I have used them all. I stand condemned as
having done more than my share toward extermination. But that does not
lessen the fact that I have learned; and in learning I have come to
believe that if boys and girls and men and women could be brought into
the homes and lives of wild birds and animals as their homes are made
and their lives are lived we would all understand at last that wherever
a heart beats it is very much like our own in the final analysis of
things. To see a bird singing on a twig means but little; but to live a
season with that bird, to be with it in courting days, in matehood and
motherhood, to understand its griefs as well as its gladness means a
great deal. And in my books it is my desire to tell of the lives of the
wild things which I know as they are actually lived. It is not my
desire to humanize them. If we are to love wild animals so much that we
do not want to kill them we MUST KNOW THEM AS THEY ACTUALLY LIVE. And
in their lives, in the facts of their lives, there is so much of real
and honest romance and tragedy, so much that makes them akin to
ourselves that the animal biographer need not step aside from the paths
of actuality to hold one's interest.
Perhaps rather tediously I have come to the few words I want to say
about Baree, the hero of this book. Baree, after all, is only another
Kazan. For it was Kazan I found in the way I have described--a bad dog,
a killer about to be shot to death by his master when chance, and my
own faith in him, gave him to me.
We traveled together for many thousands of miles through the
northland--on trails to the Barren Lands, to Hudson's Bay and to the
Arctic. Kazan--the bad dog, the half-wolf, the killer--was the best
four-legged friend I ever had. He died near Fort MacPherson, on the
Peel River, and is buried there. And Kazan was the father of Baree;
Gray Wolf, the full-blooded wolf, was his mother. Nepeese, the Willow,
still lives near God's Lake; and it was in the country of Nepeese and
her father that for three lazy months I watched the doings at Beaver
Town, and went on fishing trips with Wakayoo, the bear. Sometimes I
have wondered if old Beaver Tooth himself did not in some way
understand that I had made his colony safe for his people. It was
Pierrot's trapping ground; and to Pierrot--father of Nepeese-I gave my
best rifle on his word that he would not harm my beaver friends for two
years. And the people of Pierrot's breed keep their word. Wakayoo,
Baree's big bear friend, is dead. He was killed as I have described, in
that "pocket" among the ridges, while I was on a jaunt to Beaver Town.
We were becoming good friends and I missed him a great deal. The story
of Pierrot and of his princess wife, Wyola, is true; they are buried
side by side under the tall spruce that stood near their cabin.
Pierrot's murderer, instead of dying as I have told it, was killed in
his attempt to escape the Royal Mounted farther west. When I last saw
Baree he was at Lac Seul House, where I was the guest of Mr. William
Patterson, the factor; and the last word I heard from him was through
my good friend Frank Aldous, factor at White Dog Post, who wrote me
only a few weeks ago that he had recently seen Nepeese and Baree and
the husband of Nepeese, and that the happiness he found in their far
wilderness home made him regret that he was a bachelor. I feel sorry
for Aldous. He is a splendid young Englishman, unattached, and some day
I am going to try and marry him off. I have in mind someone at the
present moment--a fox-trapper's daughter up near the Barren, very
pretty, and educated at a missioner's school; and as Aldous is going
with me on my next trip I may have something to say about them in the
book that is to follow "Baree, Son of Kazan."
James Oliver Curwood
To Baree, for many days after he was born, the world was a vast gloomy
During these first days of his life his home was in the heart of a
great windfall where Gray Wolf, his blind mother, had found a safe nest
for his babyhood, and to which Kazan, her mate, came only now and then,
his eyes gleaming like strange balls of greenish fire in the darkness.
It was Kazan's eyes that gave to Baree his first impression of
something existing away from his mother's side, and they brought to him
also his discovery of vision. He could feel, he could smell, he could
hear--but in that black pit under the fallen timber he had never seen
until the eyes came. At first they frightened him; then they puzzled
him, and his fear changed to an immense curiosity. He would be looking
straight at them, when all at once they would disappear. This was when
Kazan turned his head. And then they would flash back at him again out
of the darkness with such startling suddenness that Baree would
involuntarily shrink closer to his mother, who always trembled and
shivered in a strange sort of way when Kazan came in.
Baree, of course, would never know their story. He would never know
that Gray Wolf, his mother, was a full-blooded wolf, and that Kazan,
his father, was a dog. In him nature was already beginning its
wonderful work, but it would never go beyond certain limitations. It
would tell him, in time, that his beautiful wolf mother was blind, but
he would never know of that terrible battle between Gray Wolf and the
lynx in which his mother's sight had been destroyed. Nature could tell
him nothing of Kazan's merciless vengeance, of the wonderful years of
their matehood, of their loyalty, their strange adventures in the great
Canadian wilderness--it could make him only a son of Kazan.
But at first, and for many days, it was all mother. Even after his eyes
had opened wide and he had found his legs so that he could stumble
about a little in the darkness, nothing existed for Baree but his
mother. When he was old enough to be playing with sticks and moss out
in the sunlight, he still did not know what she looked like. But to him
she was big and soft and warm, and she licked his face with her tongue,
and talked to him in a gentle, whimpering way that at last made him
find his own voice in a faint, squeaky yap.
And then came that wonderful day when the greenish balls of fire that
were Kazan's eyes came nearer and nearer, a little at a time, and very
cautiously. Heretofore Gray Wolf had warned him back. To be alone was
the first law of her wild breed during mothering time. A low snarl from
her throat, and Kazan had always stopped. But on this day the snarl did
not come. In Gray Wolf's throat it died away in a low, whimpering
sound. A note of loneliness, of gladness, of a great yearning. "It is
all right now," she was saying to Kazan; and Kazan--pausing for a
moment to make sure--replied with an answering note deep in his throat.
Still slowly, as if not quite sure of what he would find, Kazan came to
them, and Baree snuggled closer to his mother. He heard Kazan as he
dropped down heavily on his belly close to Gray Wolf. He was
unafraid--and mightily curious. And Kazan, too, was curious. He
sniffed. In the gloom his ears were alert. After a little Baree began
to move. An inch at a time he dragged himself away from Gray Wolf's
side. Every muscle in her lithe body tensed. Again her wolf blood was
warning her. There was danger for Baree. Her lips drew back, baring her
fangs. Her throat trembled, but the note in it never came. Out of the
darkness two yards away came a soft, puppyish whine, and the caressing
sound of Kazan's tongue.
Baree had felt the thrill of his first great adventure. He had
discovered his father.
This all happened in the third week of Baree's life. He was just
eighteen days old when Gray Wolf allowed Kazan to make the acquaintance
of his son. If it had not been for Gray Wolf's blindness and the memory
of that day on the Sun Rock when the lynx had destroyed her eyes, she
would have given birth to Baree in the open, and his legs would have
been quite strong. He would have known the sun and the moon and the
stars; he would have realized what the thunder meant, and would have
seen the lightning flashing in the sky. But as it was, there had been
nothing for him to do in that black cavern under the windfall but
stumble about a little in the darkness, and lick with his tiny red
tongue the raw bones that were strewn about them. Many times he had
been left alone. He had heard his mother come and go, and nearly always
it had been in response to a yelp from Kazan that came to them like a
distant echo. He had never felt a very strong desire to follow until
this day when Kazan's big, cool tongue caressed his face. In those
wonderful seconds nature was at work. His instinct was not quite born
until then. And when Kazan went away, leaving them alone in darkness,
Baree whimpered for him to come back, just as he had cried for his
mother when now and then she had left him in response to her mate's
The sun was straight above the forest when, an hour or two after
Kazan's visit, Gray Wolf slipped away. Between Baree's nest and the top
of the windfall were forty feet of jammed and broken timber through
which not a ray of light could break. This blackness did not frighten
him, for he had yet to learn the meaning of light. Day, and not night,
was to fill him with his first great terror. So quite fearlessly, with
a yelp for his mother to wait for him, he began to follow. If Gray Wolf
heard him, she paid no attention to his call, and the sound of the
scraping of her claws on the dead timber died swiftly away.
This time Baree did not stop at the eight-inch log which had always
shut in his world in that particular direction. He clambered to the top
of it and rolled over on the other side. Beyond this was vast
adventure, and he plunged into it courageously.
It took him a long time to make the first twenty yards. Then he came to
a log worn smooth by the feet of Gray Wolf and Kazan, and stopping
every few feet to send out a whimpering call for his mother, he made
his way farther and farther along it. As he went, there grew slowly a
curious change in this world of his. He had known nothing but
blackness. And now this blackness seemed breaking itself up into
strange shapes and shadows. Once he caught the flash of a fiery streak
above him--a gleam of sunshine--and it startled him so that he
flattened himself down upon the log and did not move for half a minute.
Then he went on. An ermine squeaked under him. He heard the swift
rustling of a squirrel's feet, and a curious whut-whut-whut that was
not at all like any sound his mother had ever made. He was off the
The log was no longer smooth, and it was leading him upward higher and
higher into the tangle of the windfall, and was growing narrower every
foot he progressed. He whined. His soft little nose sought vainly for
the warm scent of his mother. The end came suddenly when he lost his
balance and fell. He let out a piercing cry of terror as he felt
himself slipping, and then plunged downward. He must have been high up
in the windfall, for to Baree it seemed a tremendous fall. His soft
little body thumped from log to log as he shot this way and that, and
when at last he stopped, there was scarcely a breath left in him. But
he stood up quickly on his four trembling legs--and blinked.
A new terror held Baree rooted there. In an instant the whole world had
changed. It was a flood of sunlight. Everywhere he looked he could see
strange things. But it was the sun that frightened him most. It was his
first impression of fire, and it made his eyes smart. He would have
slunk back into the friendly gloom of the windfall, but at this moment
Gray Wolf came around the end of a great log, followed by Kazan. She
muzzled Baree joyously, and Kazan in a most doglike fashion wagged his
tail. This mark of the dog was to be a part of Baree. Half wolf, he
would always wag his tail. He tried to wag it now. Perhaps Kazan saw
the effort, for he emitted a muffled yelp of approbation as he sat back
on his haunches.
Or he might have been saying to Gray Wolf:
"Well, we've got the little rascal out of that windfall at last,
For Baree it had been a great day. He had discovered his father--and
And it was a wonderful world--a world of vast silence, empty of
everything but the creatures of the wild. The nearest Hudson's Bay post
was a hundred miles away, and the first town of civilization was a
straight three hundred to the south. Two years before, Tusoo, the Cree
trapper, had called this his domain. It had come down to him, as was
the law of the forests, through generations of forefathers. But Tusoo
had been the last of his worn-out family; he had died of smallpox, and
his wife and his children had died with him. Since then no human foot
had taken up his trails. The lynx had multiplied. The moose and caribou
had gone unhunted by man. The beaver had built their
homes--undisturbed. The tracks of the black bear were as thick as the
tracks of the deer farther south. And where once the deadfalls and
poison baits of Tusoo had kept the wolves thinned down, there was no
longer a menace for these mohekuns of the wilderness.
Following the sun of this first wonderful day came the moon and the
stars of Baree's first real night. It was a splendid night, and with it
a full red moon sailed up over the forests, flooding the earth with a
new kind of light, softer and more beautiful to Baree. The wolf was
strong in him, and he was restless. He had slept that day in the warmth
of the sun, but he could not sleep in this glow of the moon. He nosed
uneasily about Gray Wolf, who lay flat on her belly, her beautiful head
alert, listening yearningly to the night sounds, and for the tonguing
of Kazan, who had slunk away like a shadow to hunt.
Half a dozen times, as Baree wandered about near the windfall, he heard
a soft whir over his head, and once or twice he saw gray shadows
floating swiftly through the air. They were the big northern owls
swooping down to investigate him, and if he had been a rabbit instead
of a wolf dog whelp, his first night under the moon and stars would
have been his last; for unlike Wapoos, the rabbit, he was not cautious.
Gray Wolf did not watch him closely. Instinct told her that in these
forests there was no great danger for Baree except at the hands of man.
In his veins ran the blood of the wolf. He was a hunter of all other
wild creatures, but no other creature, either winged or fanged, hunted
In a way Baree sensed this. He was not afraid of the owls. He was not
afraid of the strange bloodcurdling cries they made in the black spruce
tops. But once fear entered into him, and he scurried back to his
mother. It was when one of the winged hunters of the air swooped down
on a snowshoe rabbit, and the squealing agony of the doomed creature
set his heart thumping like a little hammer. He felt in those cries the
nearness of that one ever-present tragedy of the wild--death. He felt
it again that night when, snuggled close to Gray Wolf, he listened to
the fierce outcry of a wolf pack that was close on the heels of a young
caribou bull. And the meaning of it all, and the wild thrill of it all,
came home to him early in the gray dawn when Kazan returned, holding
between his jaws a huge rabbit that was still kicking and squirming
This rabbit was the climax in the first chapter of Baree's education.
It was as if Gray Wolf and Kazan had planned it all out, so that he
might receive his first instruction in the art of killing. When Kazan
had dropped it, Baree approached the big hare cautiously. The back of
Wapoos, the rabbit, was broken. His round eyes were glazed, and he had
ceased to feel pain. But to Baree, as he dug his tiny teeth into the
heavy fur under Wapoos's throat, the hare was very much alive. The
teeth did not go through into the flesh. With puppyish fierceness Baree
hung on. He thought that he was killing. He could feel the dying
convulsions of Wapoos. He could hear the last gasping breaths leaving
the warm body, and he snarled and tugged until finally he fell back
with a mouthful of fur. When he returned to the attack, Wapoos was
quite dead, and Baree continued to bite and snarl until Gray Wolf came
with her sharp fangs and tore the rabbit to pieces. After that followed
So Baree came to understand that to eat meant to kill, and as other
days and nights passed, there grew in him swiftly the hunger for flesh.
In this he was the true wolf. From Kazan he had taken other and
stronger inheritances of the dog. He was magnificently black, which in
later days gave him the name of Kusketa Mohekun--the black wolf. On his
breast was a white star. His right ear was tipped with white. His tail,
at six weeks, was bushy and hung low. It was a wolf's tail. His ears
were Gray Wolf's ears--sharp, short, pointed, always alert. His
foreshoulders gave promise of being splendidly like Kazan's, and when
he stood up he was like the trace dog, except that he always stood
sidewise to the point or object he was watching. This, again, was the
wolf, for a dog faces the direction in which he is looking intently.
One brilliant night, when Baree was two months old, and when the sky
was filled with stars and a June moon so bright that it seemed scarcely
higher than the tall spruce tops, Baree settled back on his haunches
and howled. It was a first effort. But there was no mistake in the note
of it. It was the wolf howl. But a moment later when Baree slunk up to
Kazan, as if deeply ashamed of his effort, he was wagging his tail in
an unmistakably apologetic manner. And this again was the dog. If
Tusoo, the dead Indian trapper, could have seen him then, he would have
judged him by that wagging of his tail. It revealed the fact that deep
in his heart--and in his soul, if we can concede that he had one--Baree
was a dog.
In another way Tusoo would have found judgment of him. At two months
the wolf whelp has forgotten how to play. He is a slinking part of the
wilderness, already at work preying on creatures smaller and more
helpless than himself. Baree still played. In his excursions away from
the windfall he had never gone farther than the creek, a hundred yards
from where his mother lay. He had helped to tear many dead and dying
rabbits into pieces. He believed, if he thought upon the matter at all,
that he was exceedingly fierce and courageous. But it was his ninth
week before he felt his spurs and fought his terrible battle with the
young owl in the edge of the thick forest.
The fact that Oohoomisew, the big snow owl, had made her nest in a
broken stub not far from the windfall was destined to change the whole
course of Baree's life, just as the blinding of Gray Wolf had changed
hers, and a man's club had changed Kazan's. The creek ran close past
the stub, which had been shriven by lightning; and this stub stood in a
still, dark place in the forest, surrounded by tall, black spruce and
enveloped in gloom even in broad day. Many times Baree had gone to the
edge of this mysterious part of the forest and had peered in curiously,
and with a growing desire.
On this day of his great battle its lure was overpowering. Little by
little he entered into it, his eyes shining brightly and his ears alert
for the slightest sounds that might come out of it. His heart beat
faster. The gloom enveloped him more. He forgot the windfall and Kazan
and Gray Wolf. Here before him lay the thrill of adventure. He heard
strange sounds, but very soft sounds, as if made by padded feet and
downy wings, and they filled him with a thrilling expectancy. Under his
feet there were no grass or weeds or flowers, but a wonderful brown
carpet of soft evergreen needles. They felt good to his feet, and were
so velvety that he could not hear his own movement.
He was fully three hundred yards from the windfall when he passed
Oohoomisew's stub and into a thick growth of young balsams. And
there--directly in his path--crouched the monster!
Papayuchisew [Young Owl] was not more than a third as large as Baree.
But he was a terrifying-looking object. To Baree he seemed all head and
eyes. He could see no body at all. Kazan had never brought in anything
like this, and for a full half-minute he remained very quiet, eying it
speculatively. Papayuchisew did not move a feather. But as Baree
advanced, a cautious step at a time, the bird's eyes grew bigger and
the feathers about his head ruffled up as if stirred by a puff of wind.
He came of a fighting family, this little Papayuchisew--a savage,
fearless, and killing family--and even Kazan would have taken note of
those ruffling feathers.
With a space of two feet between them, the pup and the owlet eyed each
other. In that moment, if Gray Wolf could have been there, she might
have said to Baree: "Use your legs--and run!" And Oohoomisew, the old
owl, might have said to Papayuchisew: "You little fool--use your wings
They did neither--and the fight began.
Papayuchisew started it, and with a single wild yelp Baree went back in
a heap, the owlet's beak fastened like a red-hot vise in the soft flesh
at the end of his nose. That one yelp of surprise and pain was Baree's
first and last cry in the fight. The wolf surged in him; rage and the
desire to kill possessed him. As Papayuchisew hung on, he made a
curious hissing sound; and as Baree rolled and gnashed his teeth and
fought to free himself from that amazing grip on his nose, fierce
little snarls rose out of his throat.
For fully a minute Baree had no use of his jaws. Then, by accident, he
wedged Papayuchisew in a crotch of a low ground shrub, and a bit of his
nose gave way. He might have run then, but instead of that he was back
at the owlet like a flash. Flop went Papayuchisew on his back, and
Baree buried his needlelike teeth in the bird's breast. It was like
trying to bite through a pillow, the feathers fangs, and just as they
were beginning to prick the owlet's skin, Papayuchisew--jabbing a
little blindly with a beak that snapped sharply every time it
closed--got him by the ear.
The pain of that hold was excruciating to Baree, and he made a more
desperate effort to get his teeth through his enemy's thick armor of
feathers. In the struggle they rolled under the low balsams to the edge
of the ravine through which ran the creek. Over the steep edge they
plunged, and as they rolled and bumped to the bottom, Baree loosed his
hold. Papayuchisew hung valiantly on, and when they reached the bottom
he still had his grip on Baree's ear.
Baree's nose was bleeding. His ear felt as if it were being pulled from
his head; and in this uncomfortable moment a newly awakened instinct
made Baby Papayuchisew discover his wings as a fighting asset. An owl
has never really begun to fight until he uses his wings, and with a
joyous hissing, Papayuchisew began beating his antagonist so fast and
so viciously that Baree was dazed. He was compelled to close his eyes,
and he snapped blindly. For the first time since the battle began he
felt a strong inclination to get away. He tried to tear himself free
with his forepaws, but Papayuchisew--slow to reason but of firm
conviction--hung to Baree's ear like grim fate.
At this critical point, when the understanding of defeat was forming
itself swiftly in Baree's mind, chance saved him. His fangs closed on
one of the owlet's tender feet. Papayuchisew gave a sudden squeak. The
ear was free at last--and with a snarl of triumph Baree gave a vicious
tug at Papayuchisew's leg.
In the excitement of battle he had not heard the rushing tumult of the
creek close under them, and over the edge of a rock Papayuchisew and he
went together, the chill water of the rain-swollen stream muffling a
final snarl and a final hiss of the two little fighters.
To Papayuchisew, after his first mouthful of water, the stream was
almost as safe as the air, for he went sailing down it with the
lightness of a gull, wondering in his slow-thinking big head why he was
moving so swiftly and so pleasantly without any effort of his own.
To Baree it was a different matter. He went down almost like a stone. A
mighty roaring filled his ears; it was dark, suffocating, terrible. In
the swift current he was twisted over and over. For a distance of
twenty feet he was under water. Then he rose to the surface and
desperately began using his legs. It was of little use. He had only
time to blink once or twice and catch a lungful of air when he shot
into a current that was running like a millrace between the butts of
two fallen trees, and for another twenty feet the sharpest eyes could
not have seen hair or hide of him. He came up again at the edge of a
shallow riffle over which the water ran like the rapids at Niagara in
miniature, and for fifty or sixty yards he was flung along like a hairy
ball. From this he was hurled into a deep, cold pool. And then--half
dead--he found himself crawling out on a gravelly bar.
For a long time Baree lay there in a pool of sunlight without moving.
His ear hurt him; his nose was raw, and burned as if he had thrust it
into fire. His legs and body were sore, and as he began to wander along
the gravel bar, he was quite probably the most wretched pup in the
world. He was also completely turned around. In vain he looked about
him for some familiar mark--something that might guide him back to his
windfall home. Everything was strange. He did not know that the water
had flung him out on the wrong side of the stream, and that to reach
the windfall he would have to cross it again. He whined, but that was
as loud as his voice rose. Gray Wolf could have heard his barking, for
the windfall was not more than two hundred and fifty yards up the
stream. But the wolf in Baree held him silent, except for his low
Striking the main shore, Baree began going downstream. This was away
from the windfall, and each step that he took carried him farther and
farther from home. Every little while he stopped and listened. The
forest was deeper. It was growing blacker and more mysterious. Its
silence was frightening. At the end of half an hour Baree would even
have welcomed Papayuchisew. And he would not have fought him--he would
have inquired, if possible, the way back home.
Baree was fully three-quarters of a mile from the windfall when he came
to a point where the creek split itself into two channels. He had but
one choice to follow--the stream that flowed a little south and east.
This stream did not run swiftly. It was not filled with shimmering
riffles, and rocks about which the water sang and foamed. It grew
black, like the forest. It was still and deep. Without knowing it,
Baree was burying himself deeper and deeper into Tusoo's old trapping
grounds. Since Tusoo had died, they had lain undisturbed except for the
wolves, for Gray Wolf and Kazan had not hunted on this side of the
waterway--and the wolves themselves preferred the more open country for
Suddenly Baree found himself at the edge of a deep, dark pool in which
the water lay still as oil, and his heart nearly jumped out of his body
when a great, sleek, shining creature sprang out from almost under his
nose and landed with a tremendous splash in the center of it. It was
Nekik, the otter.
The otter had not heard Baree, and in another moment Napanekik, his
wife, came sailing out of a patch of gloom, and behind her came three
little otters, leaving behind them four shimmering wakes in the
oily-looking water. What happened after that made Baree forget for a
few minutes that he was lost. Nekik had disappeared under the surface,
and now he came up directly under his unsuspecting mate with a force
that lifted her half out of the water. Instantly he was gone again, and
Napanekik took after him fiercely. To Baree it did not look like play.
Two of the baby otters had pitched on the third, which seemed to be
fighting desperately. The chill and ache went out of Baree's body. His
blood ran excitedly. He forgot himself, and let out a bark. In a flash
the otters disappeared. For several minutes the water in the pool
continued to rock and heave--and that was all. After a little, Baree
drew himself back into the bushes and went on.
It was about three o'clock in the afternoon, and the sun should still
have been well up in the sky. But it was growing darker steadily, and
the strangeness and fear of it all lent greater speed to Baree's legs.
He stopped every little while to listen, and at one of these intervals
he heard a sound that drew from him a responsive and joyous whine. It
was a distant howl--a wolf's howl--straight ahead of him. Baree was not
thinking of wolves but of Kazan, and he ran through the gloom of the
forest until he was winded. Then he stopped and listened a long time.
The wolf howl did not come again. Instead of it there rolled up from
the west a deep and thunderous rumble. Through the tree-tops there
flashed a vivid streak of lightning. A moaning whisper of wind rode in
advance of the storm. The thunder sounded nearer; and a second flash of
lightning seemed searching Baree out where he stood shivering under a
canopy of great spruce.
This was his second storm. The first had frightened him terribly, and
he had crawled far back into the shelter of the windfall. The best he
could find now was a hollow under a big root, and into this he slunk,
crying softly. It was a babyish cry, a cry for his mother, for home,
for warmth, for something soft and protecting to nestle up to. And as
he cried, the storm burst over the forest.
Baree had never before heard so much noise, and he had never seen the
lightning play in such sheets of fire as when this June deluge fell. It
seemed at times as though the whole world were aflame, and the earth
seemed to shake and roll under the crashes of the thunder. He ceased
his crying and made himself as small as he could under the root, which
protected him partly from the terrific beat of the rain which came down
through the treetops in a flood. It was now so black that except when
the lightning ripped great holes in the gloom he could not see the
spruce trunks twenty feet away. Twice that distance from Baree there
was a huge dead stub that stood out like a ghost each time the fires
swept the sky, as if defying the flaming hands up there to strike--and
strike, at last, one of them did! A bluish tongue of snapping flame ran
down the old stub; and as it touched the earth, there came a tremendous
explosion above the treetops. The massive stub shivered, and then it
broke asunder as if cloven by a gigantic ax. It crashed down so close
to Baree that earth and sticks flew about him, and he let out a wild
yelp of terror as he tried to crowd himself deeper into the shallow
hole under the root.
With the destruction of the old stub the thunder and lightning seemed
to have vented their malevolence. The thunder passed on into the south
and east like the rolling of ten thousand heavy cart wheels over the
roofs of the forest, and the lightning went with it. The rain fell
steadily. The hole in which he had taken shelter was partly filled with
water. He was drenched. His teeth chattered as he waited for the next
thing to happen.
It was a long wait. When the rain finally stopped, and the sky cleared,
it was night. Through the tops of the trees Baree could have seen the
stars if he had poked out his head and looked upward. But he clung to
his hole. Hour after hour passed. Exhausted, half drowned, footsore,
and hungry, he did not move. At last he fell into a troubled sleep, a
sleep in which every now and then he cried softly and forlornly for his
mother. When he ventured out from under the root it was morning, and
the sun was shining.
At first Baree could hardly stand. His legs were cramped. Every bone in
his body seemed out of joint. His ear was stiff where the blood had
oozed out of it and hardened, and when he tried to wrinkle his wounded
nose, he gave a sharp little yap of pain. If such a thing were
possible, he looked even worse than he felt. His hair had dried in
muddy patches; he was dirt-stained from end to end; and where yesterday
he had been plump and shiny, he was now as thin and wretched as
misfortune could possibly make him. And he was hungry. He had never
before known what it meant to be really hungry.
When he went on, continuing in the direction he had been following
yesterday, he slunk along in a disheartened sort of way. His head and
ears were no longer alert, and his curiosity was gone. He was not only
stomach hungry: mother hunger rose above his physical yearning for
something to eat. He wanted his mother as he had never wanted her
before in his life. He wanted to snuggle his shivering little body
close up to her and feel the warm caressing of her tongue and listen to
the mothering whine of her voice. And he wanted Kazan, and the old
windfall, and that big blue spot that was in the sky right over it. As
he followed again along the edge of the creek, he whimpered for them as
a child might grieve.
The forest grew more open after a time, and this cheered him up a
little. Also the warmth of the sun was taking the ache out of his body.
But he grew hungrier and hungrier. He always had depended entirely on
Kazan and Gray Wolf for food. His parents had, in some ways, made a
great baby of him. Gray Wolf's blindness accounted for this, for since
his birth she had not taken up her hunting with Kazan, and it was quite
natural that Baree should sack close to her, though more than once he
had been filled with a great yearning to follow his father. Nature was
hard at work trying to overcome its handicap now. It was struggling to
impress on Baree that the time had now come when he must seek his own
food. The fact impinged itself upon him slowly but steadily, and he
began to think of the three or four shellfish he had caught and
devoured on the stony creek bar near the windfall. He also remembered
the open clamshell he had found, and the lusciousness of the tender
morsel inside it. A new excitement began to possess him. He became, all
at once, a hunter.
With the thinning out of the forest the creek grew more shallow. It ran
again over bars of sand and stones, and Baree began to nose along the
edge of the shallows. For a long time he had no success. The few
crayfish that he saw were exceedingly lively and elusive, and all the
clamshells were shut so tight that even Kazan's powerful jaws would
have had difficulty in smashing them. It was almost noon when he caught
his first crayfish, about as big as a man's forefinger. He devoured it
ravenously. The taste of food gave him fresh courage. He caught two
more crayfish during the afternoon. It was almost dusk when he stirred
a young rabbit out from under a cover of grass. If he had been a month
older, he could have caught it. He was still very hungry, for three
crayfish--scattered through the day--had not done much to fill the
emptiness that was growing steadily in him.
With the approach of night Baree's fears and great loneliness returned.
Before the day had quite gone he found soft bed of sand. Since his
fight with Papayuchisew, he had traveled a long distance, and the rock
under which he made his bed this night was at least eight or nine miles
from the windfall. It was in the open of the creek bottom, with and
when the moon rose, and the stars filled the sky, Baree could look out
and see the water of the stream shimmering in a glow almost as bright
as day. Directly in front of him, running to the water's edge, was a
broad carpet of white sand. Across this sand, half an hour later, came
a huge black bear.
Until Baree had seen the otters at play in the creek, his conceptions
of the forests had not gone beyond his own kind, and such creatures as
owls and rabbits and small feathered things. The otters had not
frightened him, because he still measured things by size, and Nekik was
not half as big as Kazan. But the bear was a monster beside which Kazan
would have stood a mere pygmy. He was big. If nature was taking this
way of introducing Baree to the fact that there were more important
creatures in the forests than dogs and wolves and owls and crayfish,
she was driving the point home with a little more than necessary
emphasis. For Wakayoo, the bear, weighed six hundred pounds if he
weighed an ounce. He was fat and sleek from a month's feasting on fish.
His shiny coat was like black velvet in the moonlight, and he walked
with a curious rolling motion with his head hung low. The horror grew
when he stopped broadside in the carpet of sand not more than ten feet
from the rock under which Baree was shivering.
It was quite evident that Wakayoo had caught scent of him in the air.
Baree could hear him sniff--could hear his breathing--caught the
starlight flashing in his reddish-brown eyes as they swung suspiciously
toward the big boulder. If Baree could have known then that he--his
insignificant little self--was making that monster actually nervous and
uneasy, he would have given a yelp of joy. For Wakayoo, in spite of his
size, was somewhat of a coward when it came to wolves. And Baree
carried the wolf scent. It grew stronger in Wakayoo's nose; and just
then, as if to increase whatever nervousness was growing in him, there
came from out of the forest behind him a long and wailing howl.
With an audible grunt, Wakayoo moved on. Wolves were pests, he argued.
They wouldn't stand up and fight. They'd snap and yap at one's heels
for hours at a time, and were always out of the way quicker than a wink
when one turned on them. What was the use of hanging around where there
were wolves, on a beautiful night like this? He lumbered on decisively.
Baree could hear him splashing heavily through the water of the creek.
Not until then did the wolf dog draw a full breath. It was almost a
But the excitement was not over for the night. Baree had chosen his bed
at a place where the animals came down to drink, and where they crossed
from one of the creek forests to the other. Not long after the bear had
disappeared he heard a heavy crunching in the sand, and hoofs rattling
against stones, and a bull moose with a huge sweep of antlers passed
through the open space in the moonlight. Baree stared with popping
eyes, for if Wakayoo had weighed six hundred pounds, this gigantic
creature whose legs were so long that it seemed to be walking on stilts
weighed at least twice as much. A cow moose followed, and then a calf.
The calf seemed all legs. It was too much for Baree, and he shoved
himself farther and farther back under the rock until he lay wedged in
like a sardine in a box. And there he lay until morning.
When Baree ventured forth from under his rock at the beginning of the
next day, he was a much older puppy than when he met Papayuchisew, the
young owl, in his path near the old windfall. If experience can be made
to take the place of age, he had aged a great deal in the last
forty-eight hours. In fact, he had passed almost out of puppyhood. He
awoke with a new and much broader conception of the world. It was a big
place. It was filled with many things, of which Kazan and Gray Wolf
were not the most important. The monsters he had seen on the moonlit
plot of sand had roused in him a new kind of caution, and the one
greatest instinct of beasts--the primal understanding that it is the
strong that prey upon the weak--was wakening swiftly in him. As yet he
quite naturally measured brute force and the menace of things by size
alone. Thus the bear was more terrible than Kazan, and the moose was
more terrible than the bear.
It was quite fortunate for Baree that this instinct did not go to the
limit in the beginning and make him understand that his own breed--the
wolf--was most feared of all the creatures, claw, hoof, and wing, of
the forests. Otherwise, like the small boy who thinks he can swim
before he has mastered a stroke, he might somewhere have jumped in
beyond his depth and had his head chewed off.
Very much alert, with the hair standing up along his spine, and a
little growl in his throat, Baree smelled of the big footprints made by
the bear and the moose. It was the bear scent that made him growl. He
followed the tracks to the edge of the creek. After that he resumed his
wandering, and also his hunt for food.
For two hours he did not find a crayfish. Then he came out of the green
timber into the edge of a burned-over country. Here everything was
black. The stumps of the trees stood up like huge charred canes. It was
a comparatively fresh "burn" of last autumn, and the ash was still soft
under Baree's feet. Straight through this black region ran the creek,
and over it hung a blue sky in which the sun was shining. It was quite
inviting to Baree. The fox, the wolf, the moose, and the caribou would
have turned back from the edge of this dead country. In another year it
would be good hunting ground, but now it was lifeless. Even the owls
would have found nothing to eat out there.
It was the blue sky and the sun and the softness of the earth under his
feet that lured Baree. It was pleasant to travel in after his painful
experiences in the forest. He continued to follow the stream, though
there was now little possibility of his finding anything to eat. The
water had become sluggish and dark. The channel was choked with charred
debris that had fallen into it when the forest had burned, and its
shores were soft and muddy. After a time, when Baree stopped and looked
about him, he could no longer see the green timber he had left. He was
alone in that desolate wilderness of charred tree corpses. It was as
still as death, too. Not the chirp of a bird broke the silence. In the
soft ash he could not hear the fall of his own feet. But he was not
frightened. There was the assurance of safety here.
If he could only find something to eat! That was the master thought
that possessed Baree. Instinct had not yet impressed upon him that this
which he saw all about him was starvation. He went on, seeking
hopefully for food. But at last, as the hours passed, hope began to die
in him. The sun sank westward. The sky grew less blue; a low wind began
to ride over the tops of the stubs, and now and then one of them fell
with a startling crash.
Baree could go no farther. An hour before dusk he lay down in the open,
weak and starved. The sun disappeared behind the forest. The moon
rolled up from the east. The sky glittered with stars--and all through
the night Baree lay as if dead. When morning came, he dragged himself
to the stream for a drink. With his last strength he went on. It was
the wolf urging him--compelling him to struggle to the last for his
life. The dog in him wanted to lie down and die. But the wolf spark in
him burned stronger. In the end it won. Half a mile farther on he came
again to the green timber.
In the forests as well as in the great cities fate plays its changing
and whimsical hand. If Baree had dragged himself into the timber half
an hour later he would have died. He was too far gone now to hunt for
crayfish or kill the weakest bird. But he came just as Sekoosew, the
ermine, the most bloodthirsty little pirate of all the wild--was making
That was fully a hundred yards from where Baree lay stretched out under
a spruce, almost ready to give up the ghost. Sekoosew was a mighty
hunter of his kind. His body was about seven inches long, with a tiny
black-tipped tail appended to it, and he weighed perhaps five ounces. A
baby's fingers could have encircled him anywhere between his four legs,
and his little sharp-pointed head with its beady red eyes could slip
easily through a hole an inch in diameter. For several centuries
Sekoosew had helped to make history. It was he--when his pelt was worth
a hundred dollars in king's gold--that lured the first shipload of
gentlemen adventurers over the sea, with Prince Rupert at their head.
It was little Sekoosew who was responsible for the forming of the great
Hudson's Bay Company and the discovery of half a continent. For almost
three centuries he had fought his fight for existence with the trapper.
And now, though he was no longer worth his weight in yellow gold, he
was the cleverest, the fiercest, and the most merciless of all the
creatures that made up his world.
As Baree lay under his tree, Sekoosew was creeping on his prey. His
game was a big fat spruce hen standing under a thicket of black currant
bushes. The ear of no living thing could have heard Sekoosew's
movement. He was like a shadow--a gray dot here, a flash there, now
hidden behind a stick no larger than a man's wrist, appearing for a
moment, the next instant gone as completely as if he had not existed.
Thus he approached from fifty feet to within three feet of the spruce
hen. That was his favorite striking distance. Unerringly he launched
himself at the drowsy partridge's throat, and his needlelike teeth sank
through feathers into flesh.
Sekoosew was prepared for what happened then. It always happened when
he attacked Napanao, the wood partridge. Her wings were powerful, and
her first instinct when he struck was always that of flight. She rose
straight up now with a great thunder of wings. Sekoosew hung tight, his
teeth buried deep in her throat, and his tiny, sharp claws clinging to
her like hands. Through the air he whizzed with her, biting deeper and
deeper, until a hundred yards from where that terrible death thing had
fastened to her throat, Napanao crashed again to earth.
Where she fell was not ten feet from Baree. For a few moments he looked
at the struggling mass of feathers in a daze, not quite comprehending
that at last food was almost within his reach. Napanao was dying, but
she still struggled convulsively with her wings. Baree rose stealthily,
and after a moment in which he gathered all his remaining strength, he
made a rush for her. His teeth sank into her breast--and not until then
did he see Sekoosew. The ermine had raised his head from the death grip
at the partridge's throat, and his savage little red eyes glared for a
single instant into Baree's. Here was something too big to kill, and
with an angry squeak the ermine was gone. Napanao's wings relaxed, and
the throb went out of her body. She was dead. Baree hung on until he
was sure. Then he began his feast.
With murder in his heart, Sekoosew novered near, whisking here and
there but never coming nearer than half a dozen feet from Baree. His
eyes were redder than ever. Now and then he emitted a sharp little
squeak of rage. Never had he been so angry in all his life! To have a
fat partridge stolen from him like this was an imposition he had never
suffered before. He wanted to dart in and fasten his teeth in Baree's
jugular. But he was too good a general to make the attempt, too good a
Napoleon to jump deliberately to his Waterloo. An owl he would have
fought. He might even have given battle to his big brother--and his
deadliest enemy--the mink. But in Baree he recognized the wolf breed,
and he vented his spite at a distance. After a time his good sense
returned, and he went off on another hunt.
Baree ate a third of the partridge, and the remaining two thirds he
cached very carefully at the foot of the big spruce. Then he hurried
down to the creek for a drink. The world looked very different to him
now. After all, one's capacity for happiness depends largely on how
deeply one has suffered. One's hard luck and misfortune form the
measuring stick for future good luck and fortune. So it was with Baree.
Forty-eight hours ago a full stomach would not have made him a tenth
part as happy as he was now. Then his greatest longing was for his
mother. Since then a still greater yearning had come into his life--for
food. In a way it was fortunate for him that he had almost died of
exhaustion and starvation, for his experience had helped to make a man
of him--or a wolf dog, just as you are of a mind to put it. He would
miss his mother for a long time. But he would never miss her again as
he had missed her yesterday and the day before.
That afternoon Baree took a long nap close to his cache. Then he
uncovered the partridge and ate his supper. When his fourth night alone
came, he did not hide himself as he had done on the three preceding
nights. He was strangely and curiously alert. Under the moon and the
stars he prowled in the edge of the forest and out on the burn. He
listened with a new kind of thrill to the faraway cry of a wolf pack on
the hunt. He listened to the ghostly whoo-whoo-whoo of the owls without
shivering. Sounds and silences were beginning to hold a new and
significant note for him.
For another day and night Baree remained in the vicinity of his cache.
When the last bone was picked, he moved on. He now entered a country
where subsistence was no longer a perilous problem for him. It was a
lynx country, and where there are lynx, there are also a great many
rabbits. When the rabbits thin out, the lynx emigrate to better hunting
grounds. As the snowshoe rabbit breeds all the summer through, Baree
found himself in a land of plenty. It was not difficult for him to
catch and kill the young rabbits. For a week he prospered and grew
bigger and stronger each day. But all the time, stirred by that
seeking, wanderlust spirit--still hoping to find the old home and his
mother--he traveled into the north and east.
And this was straight into the trapping country of Pierrot, the
Pierrot, until two years ago, had believed himself to be one of the
most fortunate men in the big wilderness. That was before La Mort
Rouge--the Red Death--came. He was half French, and he had married a
Cree chief's daughter, and in their log cabin on the Gray Loon they had
lived for many years in great prosperity and happiness. Pierrot was
proud of three things in this wild world of his. He was immensely proud
of Wyola, his royal-blooded wife. He was proud of his daughter; and he
was proud of his reputation as a hunter. Until the Red Death came, life
was quite complete for him. It was then--two years ago--that the
smallpox killed his princess wife. He still lived in the little cabin
on the Gray Loon, but he was a different Pierrot. The heart was sick in
him. It would have died, had it not been for Nepeese, his daughter. His
wife had named her Nepeese, which means the Willow.
Nepeese had grown up like the willow, slender as a reed, with all her
mother's wild beauty, and with a little of the French thrown in. She
was sixteen, with great, dark, wonderful eyes, and hair so beautiful
that an agent from Montreal passing that way had once tried to buy it.
It fell in two shining braids, each as big as a man's wrist, almost to
her knees. "Non, M'sieu," Pierrot had said, a cold glitter in his eyes
as he saw what was in the agent's face. "It is not for barter."
Two days after Baree had entered his trapping ground, Pierrot came in
from the forests with a troubled look in his face.
"Something is killing off the young beavers," he explained to Nepeese,
speaking to her in French. "It is a lynx or a wolf. Tomorrow--" He
shrugged his thin shoulders, and smiled at her.
"We will go on the hunt," laughed Nepeese happily, in her soft Cree.
When Pierrot smiled at her like that, and began with "Tomorrow," it
always meant that she might go with him on the adventure he was
Still another day later, at the end of the afternoon, Baree crossed the
Gray Loon on a bridge of driftwood that had wedged between two trees.
This was to the north. Just beyond the driftwood bridge there was a
small clearing, and on the edge of it Baree paused to enjoy the last of
the setting sun. As he stood motionless and listening, his tail
drooping low, his ears alert, his sharp-pointed nose sniffing the new
country to the north, there was not a pair of eyes in the forest that
would not have taken him for a young wolf.
From behind a clump of young balsams, a hundred yards away, Pierrot and
Nepeese had watched him come over the driftwood bridge. Now was the
time, and Pierrot leveled his rifle. It was not until then that Nepeese
touched his arm softly. Her breath came a little excitedly as she
"Nootawe, let me shoot. I can kill him!"
With a low chuckle Pierrot gave the gun to her. He counted the whelp as
already dead. For Nepeese, at that distance, could send a bullet into
an inch square nine times out of ten. And Nepeese, aiming carefully at
Baree, pressed steadily with her brown forefinger upon the trigger.
As the Willow pulled the trigger of her rifle, Baree sprang into the
air. He felt the force of the bullet before he heard the report of the
gun. It lifted him off his feet, and then sent him rolling over and
over as if he had been struck a hideous blow with a club. For a flash
he did not feel pain. Then it ran through him like a knife of fire, and
with that pain the dog in him rose above the wolf, and he let out a
wild outcry of puppyish yapping as he rolled and twisted on the ground.
Pierrot and Nepeese had stepped from behind the balsams, the Willow's
beautiful eyes shining with pride at the accuracy of her shot.
Instantly she caught her breath. Her brown fingers clutched at the
barrel of her rifle. The chuckle of satisfaction died on Pierrot's lips
as Baree's cries of pain filled the forest.
"Uchi moosis!" gasped Nepeese, in her Cree.
Pierrot caught the rifle from her.
"Diable! A dog--a puppy!" he cried.
He started on a run for Baree. But in their amazement they had lost a
few seconds and Baree's dazed senses were returning. He saw them
clearly as they came across the open--a new kind of monster of the
forests! With a final wail he darted back into the deep shadows of the
trees. It was almost sunset, and he ran for the thick gloom of the
heavy spruce near the creek. He had shivered at sight of the bear and
the moose, but for the first time he now sensed the real meaning of
danger. And it was close after him. He could hear the crashing of the
two-legged beasts in pursuit; strange cries were almost at his
heels--and then suddenly he plunged without warning into a hole.
It was a shock to have the earth go out from under his feet like that,
but Baree did not yelp. The wolf was dominant in him again. It urged
him to remain where he was, making no move, no sound--scarcely
breathing. The voices were over him; the strange feet almost stumbled
in the hole where he lay. Looking out of his dark hiding place, he
could see one of his enemies. It was Nepeese, the Willow. She was
standing so that a last glow of the day fell upon her face. Baree did
not take his eyes from her.
Above his pain there rose in him a strange and thrilling fascination.
The girl put her two hands to her mouth and in a voice that was soft
and plaintive and amazingly comforting to his terrified little heart,
And then he heard another voice; and this voice, too, was far less
terrible than many sounds he had listened to in the forests.
"We cannot find him, Nepeese," the voice was saying. "He has crawled
off to die. It is too bad. Come."
Where Baree had stood in the edge of the open Pierrot paused and
pointed to a birch sapling that had been cut dean off by the Willow's
bullet. Nepeese understood. The sapling, no larger than her thumb, had
turned her shot a trifle and had saved Baree from instant death. She
turned again, and called:
Her eyes were no longer filled with the thrill of slaughter.
"He would not understand that," said Pierrot, leading the way across
the open. "He is wild--born of the wolves. Perhaps he was of Koomo's
lead bitch, who ran away to hunt with the packs last winter."
"And he will die--"
"Ayetun--yes, he will die."
But Baree had no idea of dying. He was too tough a youngster to be
shocked to death by a bullet passing through the soft flesh of his
foreleg. That was what had happened. His leg was torn to the bone, but
the bone itself was untouched. He waited until the moon had risen
before he crawled out of his hole.
His leg had grown stiff, but it had stopped bleeding, though his whole
body was racked by a terrible pain. A dozen Papayuchisews, all holding
right to his ears and nose, could not have hurt him more. Every time he
moved, a sharp twinge shot through him; and yet he persisted in moving.
Instinctively he felt that by traveling away from the hole he would get
away from danger. This was the best thing that could have happened to
him, for a little later a porcupine came wandering along, chattering to
itself in its foolish, good-humored way, and fell with a fat thud into
the hole. Had Baree remained, he would have been so full of quills that
he must surely have died.
In another way the exercise of travel was good for Baree. It gave his
wound no opportunity to "set," as Pierrot would have said, for in
reality his hurt was more painful than serious. For the first hundred
yards he hobbled along on three legs, and after that he found that he
could use his fourth by humoring it a great deal. He followed the creek
for a half mile. Whenever a bit of brush touched his wound, he would
snap at it viciously, and instead of whimpering when he felt one of the
sharp twinges shooting through him, an angry little growl gathered in
his throat, and his teeth clicked. Now that he was out of the hole, the
effect of the Willow's shot was stirring every drop of wolf blood in
his body. In him there was a growing animosity--a feeling of rage not
against any one thing in particular, but against all things. It was not
the feeling with which he had fought Papayuchisew, the young owl. On
this night the dog in him had disappeared. An accumulation of
misfortunes had descended upon him, and out of these misfortunes--and
his present hurt--the wolf had risen savage and vengeful.
This was the first time Baree had traveled at night. He was, for the
time, unafraid of anything that might creep up on him out of the
darkness. The blackest shadows had lost their terror. It was the first
big fight between the two natures that were born in him--the wolf and
the dog--and the dog was vanquished. Now and then he stopped to lick
his wound, and as he licked it he growled, as though for the hurt
itself he held a personal antagonism. If Pierrot
could have seen and heard, he would have understood very quickly, and
he would have said: "Let him die. The club will never take that devil
out of him."
In this humor Baree came, an hour later, out of the heavy timber of the
creek bottom into the more open spaces of a small plain that ran along
the foot of a ridge. It was in this plain that Oohoomisew hunted.
Oohoomisew was a huge snow owl. He was the patriarch among all the owls
of Pierrot's trapping domain. He was so old that he was almost blind,
and therefore he never hunted as other owls hunted. He did not hide
himself in the black cover of spruce and balsam tops, or float softly
through the night, ready in an instant to swoop down upon his prey. His
eyesight was so poor that from a spruce top he could not have seen a
rabbit at all, and he might have mistaken a fox for a mouse.
So old Oohoomisew, learning wisdom from experience, hunted from ambush.
He would squat on the ground, and for hours at a time he would remain
there without making a sound and scarcely moving a feather, waiting
with the patience of Job for something to eat to come his way. Now and
then he had made mistakes. Twice he had mistaken a lynx for a rabbit,
and in the second attack he had lost a foot, so that when he slumbered
aloft during the day he clung to his perch with one claw. Crippled,
nearly blind, and so old that he had long ago lost the tufts of
feathers over his ears, he was still a giant in strength, and when he
was angry, one could hear the snap of his beak twenty yards away.
For three nights he had been unlucky, and tonight he had been
particularly unfortunate. Two rabbits had come his way, and he had
lunged at each of them from his cover. The first he had missed
entirely; the second had left with him a mouthful of fur--and that was
all. He was ravenously hungry, and he was gritting his bill in his bad
temper when he heard Baree approaching.
Even if Baree could have seen under the dark bush ahead, and had
discovered Oohoomisew ready to dart from his ambush, it is not likely
that he would have gone very far aside. His own fighting blood was up.
He, too, was ready for war.
Very indistinctly Oohoomisew saw him at last, coming across the little
open space which he was watching. He squatted down. His feathers
ruffled up until he was like a ball. His almost sightless eyes glowed
like two bluish pools of fire. Ten feet away, Baree stopped for a
moment and licked his wound. Oohoomisew waited cautiously. Again Baree
advanced, passing within six feet of the bush. With a swift hop and a
sudden thunder of his powerful wings the great owl was upon him.
This time Baree let out no cry of pain or of fright. The wolf is
kipichi-mao, as the Indians say. No hunter ever heard a trapped wolf
whine for mercy at the sting of a bullet or the beat of a club. He dies
with his fangs bared. Tonight it was a wolf whelp that Oohoomisew was
attacking, and not a dog pup. The owl's first rush keeled Baree over,
and for a moment he was smothered under the huge, outspread wings,
while Oohoomisew--pinioning him down--hopped for a claw hold with his
one good foot, and struck fiercely with his beak.
One blow of that beak anywhere about the head would have settled for a
rabbit, but at the first thrust Oohoomisew discovered that it was not a
rabbit he was holding under his wings. A bloodcurdling snarl answered
the blow, and Oohoomisew remembered the lynx, his lost foot, and his
narrow escape with his life. The old pirate might have beaten a
retreat, but Baree was no longer the puppyish Baree of that hour in
which he had fought young Papayuchisew. Experience and hardship had
aged and strengthened him. His jaws had passed quickly from the
bone-licking to the bone-cracking age--and before Oohoomisew could get
away, if he was thinking of flight at all, Baree's fangs closed with a
vicious snap on his one good leg.
In the stillness of night there rose a still greater thunder of wings,
and for a few moments Baree closed his eyes to keep from being blinded
by Oohoomisew's furious blows. But he hung on grimly, and as his teeth
met through the flesh of the old night-pirate's leg, his angry snarl
carried defiance to Oohoomisew's ears. Rare good fortune had given him
that grip on the leg, and Baree knew that triumph or defeat depended on
his ability to hold it. The old owl had no other claw to sink into him,
and it was impossible--caught as he was--for him to tear at Baree with
his beak. So he continued to beat that thunder of blows with his
The wings made a great tumult about Baree, but they did not hurt him.
He buried his fangs deeper. His snarls rose more fiercely as he got the
taste of Oohoomisew's blood, and through him there surged more hotly
the desire to kill this monster of the night, as though in the death of
this creature he had the opportunity of avenging himself for all the
hurts and hardships that had befallen him since he had lost his mother.
Oohoomisew had never felt a great fear until now. The lynx had snapped
at him but once--and was gone, leaving him crippled. But the lynx had
not snarled in that wolfish way, and it had not hung on. A thousand and
one nights Oohoomisew had listened to the wolf howl. Instinct had told
him what it meant. He had seen the packs pass swiftly through the
night, and always when they passed he had kept in the deepest shadows.
To him, as for all other wild things, the wolf howl stood for death.
But until now, with Baree's fangs buried in his leg, he had never
sensed fully the wolf fear. It had taken it years to enter into his
slow, stupid head--but now that it was there, it possessed him as no
other thing had ever possessed him in all his life.
Suddenly Oohoomisew ceased his beating and launched himself upward.
Like huge fans his powerful wings churned the air, and Baree felt
himself lifted suddenly from the earth. Still he held on--and in a
moment both bird and beast fell back with a thud.
Oohoomisew tried again. This time he was more successful, and he rose
fully six feet into the air with Baree. They fell again. A third time
the old outlaw fought to wing himself free of Baree's grip; and then,
exhausted, he lay with his giant wings outspread, hissing and cracking
Under those wings Baree's mind worked with the swift instincts of the
killer. Suddenly he changed his hold, burying his fangs into the under
part of Oohoomisew's body. They sank into three inches of feathers.
Swift as Baree had been, Oohoomisew was equally swift to take advantage
of his opportunity. In an instant he had swooped upward. There was a
jerk, a rending of feathers from flesh--and Baree was alone on the
field of battle.
Baree had not killed, but he had conquered. His first great day--or
night--had come. The world was filled with a new promise for him, as
vast as the night itself. And after a moment he sat back on his
haunches, sniffing the air for his beaten enemy. Then, as if defying
the feathered monster to come back and fight to the end, he pointed his
sharp little muzzle up to the stars and sent forth his first babyish
wolf howl into the night.
Baree's fight with Oohoomisew was good medicine for him. It not only
gave him great confidence in himself, but it also cleared the fever of
ugliness from his blood. He no longer snapped and snarled at things as
he went on through the night.
It was a wonderful night. The moon was straight overhead, and the sky
was filled with stars, so that in the open spaces the light was almost
like that of day, except that it was softer and more beautiful. It was
very still. There was no wind in the treetops, and it seemed to Baree
that the howl he had given must have echoed to the end of the world.
Now and then Baree heard a sound--and always he stopped, attentive and
listening. Far away he heard the long, soft mooing of a cow moose. He
heard a great splashing in the water of a small lake that he came to,
and once there came to him the sharp cracking of horn against horn--two
bucks settling a little difference of opinion a quarter of a mile away.
But it was always the wolf howl that made him sit and listen longest,
his heart beating with a strange impulse which he did not as yet
understand. It was the call of his breed, growing in him slowly but
He was still a wanderer--pupamootao, the Indians call it. It is this
"wander spirit" that inspires for a time nearly every creature of the
wild as soon as it is able to care for itself--nature's scheme,
perhaps, for doing away with too close family relations and possibly
dangerous interbreeding. Baree, like the young wolf seeking new hunting
grounds, or the young fox discovering a new world, had no reason or
method in his wandering. He was simply "traveling"--going on. He wanted
something which he could not find. The wolf call brought it to him.
The stars and the moon filled Baree with a yearning for this something.
The distant sounds impinged upon him his great aloneness. And instinct
told him that only by questing could he find. It was not so much Kazan
and Gray Wolf that he missed now--not so much motherhood and home as it
was companionship. Now that he had fought the wolfish rage out of him
in his battle with Oohoomisew, the dog part of him had come into its
own again--the lovable half of him, the part that wanted to snuggle up
near something that was alive and friendly, small odds whether it wore
feathers or fur, was clawed or hoofed.
He was sore from the Willow's bullet, and he was sore from battle, and
toward dawn he lay down under a shelter of some alders at the edge of a
second small lake and rested until midday. Then he began questing in
the reeds and close to the pond lilies for food. He found a dead
jackfish, partly eaten by a mink, and finished it.
His wound was much less painful this afternoon, and by nightfall he
scarcely noticed it at all. Since his almost tragic end at the hands of
Nepeese, he had been traveling in a general northeasterly direction,
following instinctively the run of the waterways. But his progress had
been slow, and when darkness came again he was not more than eight or
ten miles from the hole into which he had fallen after the Willow had
Baree did not travel far this night. The fact that his wound had come
with dusk, and his fight with Oohoomisew still later, filled him with
caution. Experience had taught him that the dark shadows and the black
pits in the forest were possible ambuscades of danger. He was no longer
afraid, as he had once been, but he had had fighting enough for a time,
and so he accepted circumspection as the better part of valor and held
himself aloof from the perils of darkness. It was a strange instinct
that made him seek his bed on the top of a huge rock up which he had
some difficulty in climbing. Perhaps it was a harkening back to the
days of long ago when Gray Wolf, in her first motherhood, sought refuge
at the summit of the Sun Rock which towered high above the forest world
of which she and Kazan were a part, and where later she was blinded in
her battle with the lynx.
Baree's rock, instead of rising for a hundred feet or more straight up,
was possibly as high as a man's head. It was in the edge of the creek
bottom, with the spruce forest close at his back. For many hours he did
not sleep, but lay keenly alert, his ears tuned to catch every sound
that came out of the dark world about him. There was more than
curiosity in his alertness tonight. His education had broadened
immensely in one way: he had learned that he was a very small part of
all this wonderful earth that lay under the stars and the moon, and he
was keenly alive with the desire to become better acquainted with it
without any more fighting or hurt. Tonight he knew what it meant when
he saw now and then gray shadows float silently out of the forest into
the moonlight--the owls, monsters of the breed with which he had
fought. He heard the crackling of hoofed feet and the smashing of heavy
bodies in the underbrush. He heard again the mooing of the moose.
Voices came to him that he had not heard before--the sharp yap-yap-yap
of a fox, the unearthly, laughing cry of a great Northern loon on a
lake half a mile away, the scream of a lynx that came floating through
miles of forest, the low, soft croaks of the nighthawks between himself
and the stars. He heard strange whisperings in the
treetops--whisperings of the wind. And once, in the heart of a dead
stillness, a buck whistled shrilly close behind his rock--and at the
wolf scent in the air shot away in a terror-stricken gray streak.
All these sounds held their new meaning for Baree. Swiftly he was
coming into his knowledge of the wilderness. His eyes gleamed; his
blood thrilled. Often for many minutes at a time he scarcely moved. But
of all the sounds that came to him, the wolf cry thrilled him most.
Again and again he listened to it. At times it was far away, so far
that it was like a whisper, dying away almost before it reached him.
Then again it would come to him full-throated, hot with the breath of
the chase, calling him to the red thrill of the hunt, to the wild orgy
of torn flesh and running blood--calling, calling, calling. That was
it, calling him to his own kin, to the bone of his bone and the flesh
of his flesh--to the wild, fierce hunting packs of his mother's tribe!
It was Gray Wolf's voice seeking for him in the night--Gray Wolf's
blood inviting him to the Brotherhood of the Pack.
Baree trembled as he listened. In his throat he whined softly. He edged
to the sheer face of the rock. He wanted to go; nature was urging him
to go. But the call of the wild was struggling against odds. For in him
was the dog, with its generations of subdued and sleeping
instincts--and all that night the dog in him kept Baree to the top of
Next morning Baree found many crayfish along the creek, and he feasted
on their succulent flesh until he felt that he would never be hungry
again. Nothing had tasted quite so good since he had eaten the
partridge of which he had robbed Sekoosew the ermine.
In the middle of the afternoon Baree came into a part of the forest
that was very quiet and very peaceful. The creek had deepened. In
places its banks swept out until they formed small ponds. Twice he made
considerable detours to get around these ponds. He traveled very
quietly, listening and watching. Not since the ill-fated day he had
left the old windfall had he felt quite so much at home as now. It
seemed to him that at last he was treading country which he knew, and
where he would find friends. Perhaps this was another miracle mystery
of instinct--of nature. For he was in old Beaver Tooth's domain. It was
here that his father and mother had hunted in the days before he was
born. It was not far from here that Kazan and Beaver Tooth had fought
that mighty duel under water, from which Kazan had escaped with his
life without another breath to lose.
Baree would never know these things. He would never know that he was
traveling over old trails. But something deep in him gripped him
strangely. He sniffed the air, as if in it he found the scent of
familiar things. It was only a faint breath--an indefinable promise
that brought him to the point of a mysterious anticipation.
The forest grew deeper. It was wonderful virgin forest. There was no
undergrowth, and traveling under the trees was like being in a vast,
mystery-filled cavern through the roof of which the light of day broke
softly, brightened here and there by golden splashes of the sun. For a
mile Baree made his way quietly through this forest. He saw nothing but
a few winged flirtings of birds; there was almost no sound. Then he
came to a still larger pond. Around this pond there was a thick growth
of alders and willows where the larger trees had thinned out. He saw
the glimmer of afternoon sunlight on the water--and then, all at once,
he heard life.
There had been few changes in Beaver Tooth's colony since the days of
his feud with Kazan and the otters. Old Beaver Tooth was somewhat
older. He was fatter. He slept a great deal, and perhaps he was less
cautious. He was dozing on the great mud-and-brushwood dam of which he
had been engineer-in-chief, when Baree came out softly on a high bank
thirty or forty feet away. So noiseless had Baree been that none of the
beavers had seen or heard him. He squatted himself flat on his belly,
hidden behind a tuft of grass, and with eager interest watched every
movement. Beaver Tooth was rousing himself. He stood on his short legs
for a moment; then he tilted himself up on his broad, flat tail like a
soldier at attention, and with a sudden whistle dived into the pond
with a great splash.
In another moment it seemed to Baree that the pond was alive with
beavers. Heads and bodies appeared and disappeared, rushing this way
and that through the water in a manner that amazed and puzzled him. It
was the colony's evening frolic. Tails hit the water like flat boards.
Odd whistlings rose above the splashing--and then as suddenly as it had
begun, the play came to an end. There were probably twenty beavers, not
counting the young, and as if guided by a common signal--something
which Baree had not heard--they became so quiet that hardly a sound
could be heard in the pond. A few of them sank under the water and
disappeared entirely, but most of them Baree could watch as they drew
themselves out on shore.
The beavers lost no time in getting at their labor, and Baree watched
and listened without so much as rustling a blade of the grass in which
he was concealed. He was trying to understand. He was striving to place
these curious and comfortable-looking creatures in his knowledge of
things. They did not alarm him; he felt no uneasiness at their number
or size. His stillness was not the quiet of discretion, but rather of a
strange and growing desire to get better acquainted with this curious
four-legged brotherhood of the pond. Already they had begun to make the
big forest less lonely for him. And then, close under him--not more
than ten feet from where he lay--he saw something that almost gave
voice to the puppyish longing for companionship that was in him.
Down there, on a clean strip of the shore that rose out of the soft mud
of the pond, waddled fat little Umisk and three of his playmates. Umisk
was just about Baree's age, perhaps a week or two younger. But he was
fully as heavy, and almost as wide as he was long. Nature can produce
no four-footed creature that is more lovable than a baby beaver, unless
it is a baby bear; and Umisk would have taken first prize at any beaver
baby show in the world. His three companions were a bit smaller. They
came waddling from behind a low willow, making queer little chuckling
noises, their little flat tails dragging like tiny sledges behind them.
They were fat and furry, and mighty friendly looking to Baree, and his
heart beat a sudden swift-pit-a-pat of joy.
But Baree did not move. He scarcely breathed. And then, suddenly, Umisk
turned on one of his playmates and bowled him over. Instantly the other
two were on Umisk, and the four little beavers rolled over and over,
kicking with their short feet and spatting with their tails, and all
the time emitting soft little squeaking cries. Baree knew that it was
not fight but frolic. He rose up on his feet. He forgot where he
was--forgot everything in the world but those playing, furry balls. For
the moment all the hard training nature had been giving him was lost.
He was no longer a fighter, no longer a hunter, no longer a seeker
after food. He was a puppy, and in him there rose a desire that was
greater than hunger. He wanted to go down there with Umisk and his
little chums and roll and play. He wanted to tell them, if such a thing
were possible, that he had lost his mother and his home, and that he
had been having a mighty hard time of it, and that he would like to
stay with them and their mothers and fathers if they didn't mind.
In his throat there came the least bit of a whine. It was so low that
Umisk and his playmates did not hear it. They were tremendously busy.
Softly Baree took his first step toward them, and then another--and at
last he stood on the narrow strip of shore within half a dozen feet of
them. His sharp little ears were pitched forward, and he was wiggling
his tail as fast as he could, and every muscle in his body was
trembling in anticipation.
It was then that Umisk saw him, and his fat little body became suddenly
as motionless as a stone.
"Hello!" said Baree, wiggling his whole body and talking as plainly as
a human tongue could talk. "Do you care if I play with you?"
Umisk made no response. His three playmates now had their eyes on
Baree. They didn't make a move. They looked stunned. Four pairs of
staring, wondering eyes were fixed on the stranger.
Baree made another effort. He groveled on his forelegs, while his tail
and hind legs continued to wiggle, and with a sniff he grabbed a bit of
stick between his teeth.
"Come on--let me in," he urged. "I know how to play!"
He tossed the stick in the air as if to prove what he was saying, and
gave a little yap.
Umisk and his brothers were like dummies.
And then, of a sudden, someone saw Baree. It was a big beaver swimming
down the pond with a sapling timber for the new dam that was under way.
Instantly he loosed his hold and faced the shore. And then, like the
report of a rifle, there came the crack of his big flat tail on the
water--the beaver's signal of danger that on a quiet night can be heard
half a mile away.
"DANGER," it warned. "DANGER--DANGER-- DANGER!"
Scarcely had the signal gone forth when tails were cracking in all
directions--in the pond, in the hidden canals, in the thick willows and
alders. To Umisk and his companions they said:
"RUN FOR YOUR LIVES!"
Baree stood rigid and motionless now. In amazement he watched the four
little beavers plunge into the pond and disappear. He heard the sounds
of other and heavier bodies striking the water. And then there followed
a strange and disquieting silence. Softly Baree whined, and his whine
was almost a sobbing cry. Why had Umisk and his little mates run away
from him? What had he done that they didn't want to make friends with
him? A great loneliness swept over him--a loneliness greater even than
that of his first night away from his mother. The last of the sun faded
out of the sky as he stood there. Darker shadows crept over the pond.
He looked into the forest, where night was gathering--and with another
whining cry he slunk back into it. He had not found friendship. He had
not found comradeship. And his heart was very sad.
For two or three days Baree's excursions after food took him farther
and farther away from the pond. But each afternoon he returned to
it--until the third day, when he discovered a new creek, and Wakayoo.
The creek was fully two miles back in the forest. This was a different
sort of stream. It sang merrily over a gravelly bed and between chasm
walls of split rock. It formed deep pools and foaming eddies, and where
Baree first struck it, the air trembled with the distant thunder of a
waterfall. It was much pleasanter than the dark and silent beaver
stream. It seemed possessed of life, and the rush and tumult of it--the
song and thunder of the water--gave to Baree entirely new sensations.
He made his way along it slowly and cautiously, and it was because of
this slowness and caution that he came suddenly and unobserved upon
Wakayoo, the big black bear, hard at work fishing.
Wakayoo stood knee-deep in a pool that had formed behind a sand bar,
and he was having tremendously good luck. Even as Baree shrank back,
his eyes popping at sight of this monster he had seen but once before,
in the gloom of night, one of Wakayoo's big paws sent a great splash of
water high in the air, and a fish landed on the pebbly shore. A little
while before, the suckers had run up the creek in thousands to spawn,
and the rapid lowering of the water had caught many of them in these
prison pools. Wakayoo's fat, sleek body was evidence of the prosperity
this circumstance had brought him. Although it was a little past the
"prime" season for bearskins, Wakayoo's coat was splendidly thick and
For a quarter of an hour Baree watched him while he knocked fish out of
the pool. When at last he stopped, there were twenty or thirty fish
among the stones, some of them dead and others still flopping. From
where he lay flattened out between two rocks, Baree could hear the
crunching of flesh and bone as the bear devoured his dinner. It sounded
good, and the fresh smell of fish filled him with a craving that had
never been roused by crayfish or even partridge.
In spite of his fat and his size, Wakayoo was not a glutton, and after
he had eaten his fourth fish he pawed all the others together in a
pile, partly covered them by raking up sand and stones with his long
claws, and finished his work of caching by breaking down a small balsam
sapling so that the fish were entirely concealed. Then he lumbered
slowly away in the direction of the rumbling waterfall.
Twenty seconds after the last of Wakayoo had disappeared in a turn of
the creek, Baree was under the broken balsam. He dragged out a fish
that was still alive. He ate the whole of it, and it tasted delicious.
Baree now found that Wakayoo had solved the food problem for him, and
this day he did not return to the beaver pond, nor the next. The big
bear was incessantly fishing up and down the creek, and day after day
Baree continued his feasts. It was not difficult for him to find
Wakayoo's caches. All he had to do was to follow along the shore of the
stream, sniffing carefully. Some of the caches were getting old, and
their perfume was anything but pleasant to Baree. These he avoided--but
he never missed a meal or two out of a fresh one.
For a week life continued to be exceedingly pleasant. And then came the
break--the change that was destined to meant for Kazan, his father,
when he killed the man-brute at the edge of the wilderness.
This change came or the day when, in trotting around a great rock near
the waterfall, Baree found himself face to face with Pierrot the hunter
and Nepeese, the star-eyed girl who had shot him in the edge of the
It was Nepeese whom he saw first. If it had been Pierrot, he would have
turned back quickly. But again the blood of his forebear was rousing
strange tremblings within him. Was it like this that the first woman
had looked to Kazan?
Baree stood still. Nepeese was not more than twenty feet from him. She
sat on a rock, full in the early morning sun, and was brushing out her
wonderful hair. Her lips parted. Her eyes shone in an instant like
stars. One hand remained poised, weighted with the jet tresses. She
recognized him. She saw the white star on his breast and the white tip
on his ear, and under her breath she whispered "Uchi moosis!"--"The dog
pup!" It was the wild dog she had shot--and thought had died!
The evening before Pierrot and Nepeese had built a shelter of balsams
behind the big rock, and on a small white plot of sand Pierrot was
kneeling over a fire preparing breakfast while the Willow arranged her
hair. He raised his head to speak to her, and saw Baree. In that
instant the spell was broken. Baree saw the man-beast as he rose to his
feet. Like a shot he was gone.
Scarcely swifter was he than Nepeese.
"Depechez vous, mon pere!" she cried. "It is the dog pup! Quick--"
In the floating cloud of her hair she sped after Baree like the wind.
Pierrot followed, and in going he caught up his rifle. It was difficult
for him to catch up with the Willow. She was like a wild spirit, her
little moccasined feet scarcely touching the sand as she ran up the
long bar. It was wonderful to see the lithe swiftness of her, and that
glorious hair streaming out in the sun. Even now, in this moment's
excitement, it made Pierrot think of McTaggart, the Hudson's Bay
Company's factor over at Lac Bain, and what he had said yesterday. Half
the night Pierrot had lain awake, gritting his teeth at thought of it.
And this morning, before Baree ran upon them, he had looked at Nepeese
more closely than ever before in his life. She was beautiful. She was
lovelier even than Wyola, her princess mother, who was dead. That
hair--which made men stare as if they could not believe! Those
eyes--like pools filled with wonderful starlight! Her slimness, that
was like a flower! And McTaggart had said--
Floating back to him there came an excited cry.
"Hurry, Nootawe! He has turned into the blind canyon. He cannot escape
She was panting when he came up to her. The French blood in her glowed
a vivid crimson in her cheeks and lips. Her white teeth gleamed like
"In there!" And she pointed.
They went in.
Ahead of them Baree was running for his life. He sensed instinctively
the fact that these wonderful two-legged beings he had looked upon were
all-powerful. And they were after him! He could hear them. Nepeese was
following almost as swiftly as he could run. Suddenly he turned into a
cleft between two great rocks. Twenty feet in, his way was barred, and
he ran back. When he darted out, straight up the canyon, Nepeese was
not a dozen yards behind him, and he saw Pierrot almost at her side.
The Willow gave a cry.
"Mana--mana--there he is!"
She caught her breath, and darted into a copse of young balsams where
Baree had disappeared. Like a great entangling web her loose hair
impeded her in the brush, and with an encouraging cry to Pierrot she
stopped to gather it over her shoulder as he ran past her. She lost
only a moment or two, and then once again was after him. Fifty yards
ahead of her Pierrot gave a warning shout. Baree had turned. Almost in
the same breath he was tearing over his back trail, directly toward the
Willow. He did not see her in time to stop or swerve aside, and Nepeese
flung herself down in his path. For an instant or two they were
together. Baree felt the smother of her hair, and the clutch of her
hands. Then he squirmed away and darted again toward the blind end of
Nepeese sprang to her feet. She was panting--and laughing. Pierrot came
back wildly, and the Willow pointed beyond him.
"I had him--and he didn't bite!" she said, breathing swiftly. She still
pointed to the end of the canyon, and she said again: "I had him--and
he didn't bite me, Nootawe!"
That was the wonder of it. She had been reckless--and Baree had not
bitten her! It was then, with her eyes shining at Pierrot, and the
smile fading slowly from her lips, that she spoke softly the word
"Baree," which in her tongue meant "the wild dog"--a little brother of
"Come," cried Pierrot, "or we will lose him!"
Pierrot was confident. The canyon had narrowed. Baree could not get
past them unseen. Three minutes later Baree came to the blind end of
the canyon--a wall of rock that rose straight up like the curve of a
dish. Feasting on fish and long hours of sleep had fattened him, and he
was half winded as he sought vainly for an exit. He was at the far end
of the dishlike curve of rock, without a bush or a clump of grass to
hide him, when Pierrot and Nepeese saw him again. Nepeese made straight
toward him. Pierrot, foreseeing what Baree would do, hurried to the
left, at right angles to the end of the canyon.
In and out among the rocks Baree sought swiftly for a way of escape. In
a moment more he had come to the "box," or cup of the canyon. This was
a break in the wall, fifty or sixty feet wide, which opened into a
natural prison about an acre in extent. It was a beautiful spot. On all
sides but that leading into the coulee it was shut in by walls of rock.
At the far end a waterfall broke down in a series of rippling cascades.
The grass was thick underfoot and strewn with flowers. In this trap
Pierrot had got more than one fine haunch of venison. From it there was
no escape, except in the face of his rifle. He called to Nepeese as he
saw Baree entering it, and together they climbed the slope.
Baree had almost reached the edge of the little prison meadow when
suddenly he stopped himself so quickly that he fell back on his
haunches and his heart jumped up into his throat.
Full in his path stood Wakayoo, the huge black bear!
For perhaps a half-minute Baree hesitated between the two perils. He
heard the voices of Nepeese and Pierrot. He caught the rattle of stones
under their feet. And he was filled with a great dread. Then he looked
at Wakayoo. The big bear had not moved an inch. He, too, was listening.
But to him there was a thing more disturbing than the sounds he heard.
It was the scent which he caught in the air--the man scent.
Baree, watching him, saw his head swing slowly even as the footsteps of
Nepeese and Pierrot became more and more distinct. It was the first
time Baree had ever stood face to face with the big bear. He had
watched him fish; he had fattened on Wakayoo's prowess; he had held him
in splendid awe. Now there was something about the bear that took away
his fear and gave him in its place a new and thrilling confidence.
Wakayoo, big and powerful as he was, would not run from the two-legged
creatures who pursued him! If Baree could only get past Wakayoo he was
Baree darted to one side and ran for the open meadow. Wakayoo did not
stir as Baree sped past him--no more than if he had been a bird or a
rabbit. Then came another breath of air, heavy with the scent of man.
This, at last, put life into him. He turned and began lumbering after
Baree into the meadow trap. Baree, looking back, saw him coming--and
thought it was pursuit. Nepeese and Pierrot came over the slope, and at
the same instant they saw both Wakayoo and Baree.
Where they entered into the grassy dip under the rock walls, Baree
turned sharply to the right. Here was a great boulder, one end of it
tilted up off the earth. It looked like a splendid hiding place, and
Baree crawled under it.
But Wakayoo kept straight ahead into the meadow.
From where he lay Baree could see what happened. Scarcely had he
crawled under the rock when Nepeese and Pierrot appeared through the
break in the dip, and stopped. The fact that they stopped thrilled
Baree. They were afraid of Wakayoo! The big bear was two thirds of the
way across the meadow. The sun fell on him, so that his coat shone like
black satin. Pierrot stared at him for a moment. Pierrot did not kill
for the love of killing. Necessity made him a conservationist. But he
saw that in spite of the lateness of the season, Wakayoo's coat was
splendid--and he raised his rifle.
Baree saw this action. He saw, a moment later, something spit from the
end of the gun, and then he heard that deafening crash that had come
with his own hurt, when the Willow's bullet had burned through his
flesh. He turned his eyes swiftly to Wakayoo. The big bear had
stumbled; he was on his knees. And then he struggled to his feet and
The roar of the rifle came again, and a second time Wakayoo went down.
Pierrot could not miss at that distance. Wakayoo made a splendid mark.
It was slaughter. Yet for Pierrot and Nepeese it was business--the
business of life.
Baree was shivering. It was more from excitement than fear, for he had
lost his own fear in the tragedy of these moments. A low whine rose in
his throat as he looked at Wakayoo, who had risen again and faced his
enemies--his jaws gaping, his head swinging slowly, his legs weakening
under him as the blood poured through his torn lungs. Baree
whined--because Wakayoo had fished for him, because he had come to look
on him as a friend, and because he knew it was death that Wakayoo was
facing now. There was a third shot--the last. Wakayoo sank down in his
tracks. His big head dropped between his forepaws. A racking cough or
two came to Baree's ears. And then there was silence. It was
A minute later, standing over Wakayoo, Pierrot said to Nepeese:
"Mon dieu, but it is a fine skin, Sakahet! It is worth twenty dollars
over at Lac Bain!"
He drew forth his knife and began whetting it on a stone which he
carried in his pocket. In these minutes Baree might have crawled out
from under his rock and escaped down the canyon; for a space he was
forgotten. Then Nepeese thought of him, and in that same strange,
wondering voice she spoke again the word "Baree." Pierrot, who was
kneeling, looked up at her.
"Oui, Sakahet. He was born of the wild. And now he is gone--"
The Willow shook her head.
"Non, he is not gone," she said, and her dark eyes searched the sunlit
As Nepeese gazed about the rock-walled end of the canyon, the prison
into which they had driven Wakayoo and Baree, Pierrot looked up again
from his skinning of the big black bear, and he muttered something that
no one but himself could have heard. "Non, it is not possible," he had
said a moment before; but to Nepeese it was possible--the thought that
was in her mind. It was a wonderful thought. It thrilled her to the
depth of her wild, young soul. It sent a glow into her eyes and a
deeper flush of excitement into her cheeks and lips.
As she searched the ragged edges of the little meadow for signs of the
dog pup, her thoughts flashed back swiftly. Two years ago they had
buried her princess mother under the tall spruce near their cabin. That
day Pierrot's sun had set for all time, and her own life became filled
with a vast loneliness. There had been three at the graveside that
afternoon as the sun went down--Pierrot, herself, and a dog, a great,
powerful husky with a white star on his breast and a white-tipped ear.
He had been her dead mother's pet from puppyhood--her bodyguard, with
her always, even with his head resting on the side of her bed as she
died. And that night, the night of the day they buried her, the dog had
disappeared. He had gone as quietly and as completely as her spirit. No
one ever saw him after that. It was strange, and to Pierrot it was a
miracle. Deep in his heart he was filled with the wonderful conviction
that the dog had gone with his beloved Wyola into heaven.
But Nepeese had spent three winters at the missioner's school at Nelson
House. She had learned a great deal about white people and the real
God, and she knew that Pierrot's idea was impossible. She believed that
her mother's husky was either dead or had joined the wolves. Probably
he had gone to the wolves. So--was it not possible that this youngster
she and her father had pursued was of the flesh and blood of her
mother's pet? It was more than possible. The white star on his breast,
the white-tipped ear--the fact that he had not bitten her when he might
easily have buried his fangs in the soft flesh of her arms! She was
convinced. While Pierrot skinned the bear, she began hunting for Baree.
Baree had not moved an inch from under his rock. He lay like a thing
stunned, his eyes fixed steadily on the scene of the tragedy out in the
meadow. He had seen something that he would never forget--even as he
would never quite forget his mother and Kazan and the old windfall. He
had witnessed the death of the creature he had thought all-powerful.
Wakayoo, the big bear, had not even put up a fight. Pierrot and Nepeese
had killed him WITHOUT TOUCHING HIM. Now Pierrot was cutting him with a
knife which shot silvery flashes in the sun; and Wakayoo made no
movement. It made Baree shiver, and he drew himself an inch farther
back under the rock, where he was already wedged as if he had been
shoved there by a strong hand.
He could see Nepeese. She came straight back to the break through which
his flight had taken him, and stood at last not more than twenty feet
from where he was hidden. Now that she stood where he could not escape,
she began weaving her shining hair into two thick braids. Baree had
taken his eyes from Pierrot, and he watched her curiously. He was not
afraid now. His nerves tingled. In him a strange and growing force was
struggling to solve a great mystery--the reason for his desire to creep
out from under his rock and approach that wonderful creature with the
shining eyes and the beautiful hair.
Baree wanted to approach. It was like an invisible string tugging at
his very heart. It was Kazan, and not Gray Wolf, calling to him back
through the centuries, a "call" that was as old as the Egyptian
pyramids and perhaps ten thousand years older. But against that desire
Gray Wolf was pulling from out the black ages of the forests. The wolf
held him quiet and motionless. Nepeese was looking about her. She was
smiling. For a moment her face was turned toward him, and he saw the
white shine of her teeth, and her beautiful eyes seemed glowing
straight at him.
And then, suddenly, she dropped on her knees and peered under the rock.
Their eyes met. For at least half a minute there was not a sound.
Nepeese did not move, and her breath came so softly that Baree could
not hear it.
Then she said, almost in a whisper:
"Baree! Baree! Upi Baree!"
It was the first time Baree had heard his name, and there was something
so soft and assuring in the sound of it that in spite of himself the
dog in him responded to it in a whimper that just reached the Willow's
ears. Slowly she stretched in an arm. It was bare and round and soft.
He might have darted forward the length of his body and buried his
fangs in it easily. But something held him back. He knew that it was
not an enemy. He knew that the dark eyes shining at him so wonderfully
were not filled with the desire to harm--and the voice that came to him
softly was like a strange and thrilling music.
"Baree! Baree! Upi Baree!"
Over and over again the Willow called to him like that, while on her
face she tried to draw herself a few inches farther under the rock. She
could not reach him. There was still a foot between her hand and Baree,
and she could not wedge herself forward an inch more. And then she saw
where on the other side of the rock there was a hollow, shut in by a
stone. If she had removed the stone, and come in that way--
She drew herself out and stood once more in the sunshine. Her heart
thrilled. Pierrot was busy over his bear--and she would not call him.
She made an effort to move the stone which closed in the hollow under
the big boulder, but it was wedged in tightly. Then she began digging
with a stick. If Pierrot had been there, his sharp eyes would have
discovered the significance of that stone, which was not larger than a
water pall. Possibly for centuries it had lain there, its support
keeping the huge rock from toppling down, just as an ounce weight may
swing the balance of a wheel that weighs a ton.
Five minutes--and Nepeese could move the stone. She tugged at it. Inch
by inch she dragged it out until at last it lay at her feet and the
opening was ready for her body. She looked again toward Pierrot. He was
still busy, and she laughed softly as she untied a big red-and-white
Bay handkerchief from about her shoulders. With this she would secure
Baree. She dropped on her hands and knees and then lowered herself flat
on the ground and began crawling into the hollow under the boulder.
Baree had moved. With the back of his head flattened against the rock,
he had heard something which Nepeese had not heard. He had felt a slow
and growing pressure, and from this pressure he had dragged himself
slowly--and the pressure still followed. The mass of rock was settling!
Nepeese did not see or hear or understand. She was calling to him more
and more pleadingly:
Her head and shoulders and both arms were under the rock now. The glow
of her eyes was very close to Baree. He whined. The thrill of a great
and impending danger stirred in his blood. And then--
In that moment Nepeese felt the pressure of the rock on her shoulder,
and into the eyes that had been glowing softly at Baree there shot a
sudden wild look of horror. And then there came from her lips a cry
that was not like any other sound Baree had ever heard in the
wilderness--wild, piercing, filled with agonized fear. Pierrot did not
hear that first cry. But he heard the second and the third--and then
scream after scream as the Willow's tender body was slowly crushed
under the settling mass. He ran toward it with the speed of the wind.
The cries were now weaker--dying away. He saw Baree as he came out from
under the rock and ran into the canyon, and in the same instant he saw
a part of the Willow's dress and her moccasined feet. The rest of her
was hidden under the deathtrap. Like a madman Pierrot began digging.
When a few moments later he drew Nepeese out from under the boulder she
was white and deathly still. Her eyes were closed. His hand could not
feel that she was living, and a great moan of anguish rose out of his
soul. But he knew how to fight for a life. He tore open her dress and
found that she was not crushed as he had feared. Then he ran for water.
When he returned, the Willow's eyes were open and she was gasping for
"The blessed saints be praised!" sobbed Pierrot, falling on his knees
at her side. "Nepeese, ma Nepeese!"
She smiled at him, and Pierrot drew her up to him, forgetting the water
he had run so hard to get.
Still later, when he got down on his knees and peered under the rock,
his face turned white and he said:
"Mon Dieu, if it had not been for that little hollow in the earth,
He shuddered, and said no more. But Nepeese, happy in her salvation,
made a movement with her hand and said, smiling at him:
"I would have been like--THAT." And she held her thumb and forefinger
"But where did Baree go, mon pere?" Nepeese cried.
Impelled by the wild alarm of the Willow's terrible cries and the sight
of Pierrot dashing madly toward him from the dead body of Wakayoo,
Baree did not stop running until it seemed as though his lungs could
not draw another breath. When he stopped, he was well out of the canyon
and headed for the beaver pond. For almost a week Baree had not been
near the pond. He had not forgotten Beaver Tooth and Umisk and the
other little beavers, but Wakayoo and his daily catch of fresh fish had
been too big a temptation for him. Now Wakayoo was gone. He sensed the
fact that the big black bear would never fish again in the quiet pools
and shimmering eddies, and that where for many days there had been
peace and plenty, there was now great danger. And just as in another
country he would have fled for safety to the old windfall, he now fled
desperately for the beaver pond.
Exactly wherein lay Baree's fears it would be difficult to say--but
surely it was not because of Nepeese. The Willow had chased him hard.
She had flung herself upon him. He had felt the clutch of her hands and
the smother of her soft hair, and yet of her he was not afraid! If he
stopped now and then in his flight and looked back, it was to see if
Nepeese was following. He would not have run hard from her--alone. Her
eyes and voice and hands had set something stirring in him; he was
filled with a greater yearning and a greater loneliness now. And that
night he dreamed troubled dreams.
He found himself a bed under a spruce root not far from the beaver
pond, and all through the night his sleep was filled with that restless
dreaming--dreams of his mother, of Kazan, the old windfall, of
Umlsk--and of Nepeese. Once, when he awoke, he thought the spruce root
was Gray Wolf; and when he found that she was not there, Pierrot and
the Willow could have told what his crying meant if they had heard it.
Again and again he had visions of the thrilling happenings of that day.
He saw the flight of Wakayoo over the little meadow--he saw him die
again. He saw the glow of the Willow's eyes close to his own, heard her
voice--so sweet and low that it seemed like strange music to him--and
again he heard her terrible screams.
Baree was glad when the dawn came. He did not seek for food, but went
down to the pond. There was little hope and anticipation in his manner
now. He remembered that, as plainly as animal ways could talk, Umisk
and his playmates had told him they wanted nothing to do with him. And
yet the fact that they were there took away some of his loneliness. It
was more than loneliness. The wolf in him was submerged. The dog was
master. And in these passing moments, when the blood of the wild was
almost dormant in him, he was depressed by the instinctive and growing
feeling that he was not of that wild, but a fugitive in it, menaced on
all sides by strange dangers.
Deep in the northern forests the beaver does not work and play in
darkness only, but uses day even more than night, and many of Beaver
Tooth's people were awake when Baree began disconsolately to
investigate the shores of the pond. The little beavers were still with
their mothers in the big houses that looked like great domes of sticks
and mud out in the middle of the lake. There were three of these
houses, one of them at least twenty feet in diameter. Baree had some
difficulty in following his side of the pond. When he got back among
the willows and alders and birch, dozens of little canals crossed and
crisscrossed in his path. Some of these canals were a foot wide, and
others three or four feet, and all were filled with water. No country
in the world ever had a better system of traffic than this domain of
the beavers, down which they brought their working materials and food
into the main reservoir--the pond.
In one of the larger canals Baree surprised a big beaver towing a
four-foot cutting of birch as thick through as a man's leg--half a
dozen breakfasts and dinners and suppers in that one cargo. The four or
five inner barks of the birch are what might be called the bread and
butter and potatoes of the beaver menu, while the more highly prized
barks of the willow and young alder take the place of meat and pie.
Baree smelled curiously of the birch cutting after the old beaver had
abandoned it in flight, and then went on. He did not try to conceal
himself now, and at least half a dozen beavers had a good look at him
before he came to the point where the pond narrowed down to the width
of the stream, almost half a mile from the dam. Then he wandered back.
All that morning he hovered about the pond, showing himself openly.
In their big mud-and-stick strongholds the beavers held a council of
war. They were distinctly puzzled. There were four enemies which they
dreaded above all others: the otter, who destroyed their dams in the
wintertime and brought death to them from cold and by lowering the
water so they could not get to their food supplies; the lynx, who
preyed on them all, young and old alike; and the fox and wolf, who
would lie in ambush for hours in order to pounce on the very young,
like Umisk and his playmates. If Baree had been any one of these four,
wily Beaver Tooth and his people would have known what to do. But Baree
was surely not an otter, and if he was a fox or a wolf or a lynx, his
actions were very strange, to say the least. Half a dozen times he had
had the opportunity to pounce on his prey, if he had been seeking prey.
But at no time had he shown the least desire to harm them.
It may be that the beavers discussed the matter fully among themselves.
It is possible that Umisk and his playmates told their parents of their
adventure, and of how Baree had made no move to harm them when he could
quite easily have caught them. It is also more than likely that the
older beavers who had fled from Baree that morning gave an account of
their adventures, again emphasizing the fact that the stranger, while
frightening them, had shown no disposition to attack them. All this is
quite possible, for if beavers can make a large part of a continent's
history, and can perform engineering feats that nothing less than
dynamite can destroy, it is only reasonable to suppose that they have
some way of making one another understand.
However this may be, courageous old Beaver Tooth took it upon himself
to end the suspense.