Part 1 out of 4
Produced by Kevin Handy, Dave Maddock, and the Online Distributed
[Illustration: He heard Joan's voice]
BY JAMES OLIVER CURWOOD
The Danger Trail, Etc.
Gayle Hoskins and Frank Hoffman
I. THE MIRACLE
II. INTO THE NORTH
III. McCREADY PAYS THE DEBT
IV. FREE FROM BONDS
V. THE FIGHT IN THE SNOW
VII. OUT OF THE BLIZZARD
VIII. THE GREAT CHANGE
IX. THE TRAGEDY ON SUN ROCK
X. THE DAYS OF FIRE
XI. ALWAYS TWO BY TWO
XII. THE RED DEATH
XIII. THE TRAIL OF HUNGER
XIV. THE RIGHT OF FANG
XV. A FIGHT UNDER THE STARS
XVI. THE CALL
XVII. HIS SON
XVIII. THE EDUCATION OF BA-REE
XIX. THE USURPERS
XX. A FEUD IN THE WILDERNESS
XXI. A SHOT ON THE SAND-BAR
XXII. SANDY'S METHOD
XXIII. PROFESSOR McGILL
XXIV. ALONE IN DARKNESS
XXV. THE LAST OF McTRIGGER
XXVI. AN EMPTY WORLD
XXVII. THE CALL OF SUN ROCK
Kazan lay mute and motionless, his gray nose between his forepaws, his
eyes half closed. A rock could have appeared scarcely less lifeless than
he; not a muscle twitched; not a hair moved; not an eyelid quivered. Yet
every drop of the wild blood in his splendid body was racing in a
ferment of excitement that Kazan had never before experienced; every
nerve and fiber of his wonderful muscles was tense as steel wire.
Quarter-strain wolf, three-quarters "husky," he had lived the four years
of his life in the wilderness. He had felt the pangs of starvation. He
knew what it meant to freeze. He had listened to the wailing winds of
the long Arctic night over the barrens. He had heard the thunder of the
torrent and the cataract, and had cowered under the mighty crash of the
storm. His throat and sides were scarred by battle, and his eyes were
red with the blister of the snows. He was called Kazan, the Wild Dog,
because he was a giant among his kind and as fearless, even, as the men
who drove him through the perils of a frozen world.
He had never known fear--until now. He had never felt in him before the
desire to _run_--not even on that terrible day in the forest when he had
fought and killed the big gray lynx. He did not know what it was that
frightened him, but he knew that he was in another world, and that many
things in it startled and alarmed him. It was his first glimpse of
civilization. He wished that his master would come back into the strange
room where he had left him. It was a room filled with hideous things.
There were great human faces on the wall, but they did not move or
speak, but stared at him in a way he had never seen people look before.
He remembered having looked on a master who lay very quiet and very cold
in the snow, and he had sat back on his haunches and wailed forth the
death song; but these people on the walls looked alive, and yet seemed
Suddenly Kazan lifted his ears a little. He heard steps, then low
voices. One of them was his master's voice. But the other--it sent a
little tremor through him! Once, so long ago that it must have been in
his puppyhood days, he seemed to have had a dream of a laugh that was
like the girl's laugh--a laugh that was all at once filled with a
wonderful happiness, the thrill of a wonderful love, and a sweetness
that made Kazan lift his head as they came in. He looked straight at
them, his red eyes gleaming. At once he knew that she must be dear to
his master, for his master's arm was about her. In the glow of the light
he saw that her hair was very bright, and that there was the color of
the crimson _bakneesh_ vine in her face and the blue of the _bakneesh_
flower in her shining eyes. Suddenly she saw him, and with a little cry
darted toward him.
"Stop!" shouted the man. "He's dangerous! Kazan--"
She was on her knees beside him, all fluffy and sweet and beautiful, her
eyes shining wonderfully, her hands about to touch him. Should he cringe
back? Should he snap? Was she one of the things on the wall, and his
enemy? Should he leap at her white throat? He saw the man running
forward, pale as death. Then her hand fell upon his head and the touch
sent a thrill through him that quivered in every nerve of his body. With
both hands she turned up his head. Her face was very close, and he heard
her say, almost sobbingly:
"And you are Kazan--dear old Kazan, my Kazan, my hero dog--who brought
him home to me when all the others had died! My Kazan--my hero!"
And then, miracle of miracles, her face was crushed down against him,
and he felt her sweet warm touch.
In those moments Kazan did not move. He scarcely breathed. It seemed a
long time before the girl lifted her face from him. And when she did,
there were tears in her blue eyes, and the man was standing above them,
his hands gripped tight, his jaws set.
"I never knew him to let any one touch him--with their naked hand," he
said in a tense wondering voice. "Move back quietly, Isobel. Good
heaven--look at that!"
Kazan whined softly, his bloodshot eyes on the girl's face. He wanted to
feel her hand again; he wanted to touch her face. Would they beat him
with a club, he wondered, if he _dared_! He meant no harm now. He would
kill for her. He cringed toward her, inch by inch, his eyes never
faltering. He heard what the man said--"Good heaven! Look at that!"--and
he shuddered. But no blow fell to drive him back. His cold muzzle
touched her filmy dress, and she looked at him, without moving, her wet
eyes blazing like stars.
"See!" she whispered. "See!"
Half an inch more--an inch, two inches, and he gave his big gray body a
hunch toward her. Now his muzzle traveled slowly upward--over her foot,
to her lap, and at last touched the warm little hand that lay there. His
eyes were still on her face: he saw a queer throbbing in her bare white
throat, and then a trembling of her lips as she looked up at the man
with a wonderful look. He, too, knelt down beside them, and put his arm
about the girl again, and patted the dog on his head. Kazan did not like
the man's touch. He mistrusted it, as nature had taught him to mistrust
the touch of all men's hands, but he permitted it because he saw that it
in some way pleased the girl.
"Kazan, old boy, you wouldn't hurt her, would you?" said his master
softly. "We both love her, don't we, boy? Can't help it, can we? And
she's ours, Kazan, all _ours_! She belongs to you and to me, and we're
going to take care of her all our lives, and if we ever have to we'll
fight for her like hell--won't we? Eh, Kazan, old boy?"
For a long time after they left him where he was lying on the rug,
Kazan's eyes did not leave the girl. He watched and listened--and all
the time there grew more and more in him the craving to creep up to them
and touch the girl's hand, or her dress, or her foot. After a time his
master said something, and with a little laugh the girl jumped up and
ran to a big, square, shining thing that stood crosswise in a corner,
and which had a row of white teeth longer than his own body. He had
wondered what those teeth were for. The girl's fingers touched them now,
and all the whispering of winds that he had ever heard, all the music of
the waterfalls and the rapids and the trilling of birds in spring-time,
could not equal the sounds they made. It was his first music. For a
moment it startled and frightened him, and then he felt the fright pass
away and a strange tingling in his body. He wanted to sit back on his
haunches and howl, as he had howled at the billion stars in the skies on
cold winter nights. But something kept him from doing that. It was the
girl. Slowly he began slinking toward her. He felt the eyes of the man
upon him, and stopped. Then a little more--inches at a time, with his
throat and jaw straight out along the floor! He was half-way to
her--half-way across the room--when the wonderful sounds grew very soft
and very low.
"Go on!" he heard the man urge in a low quick voice. "Go on! Don't
The girl turned her head, saw Kazan cringing there on the floor, and
continued to play. The man was still looking, but his eyes could not
keep Kazan back now. He went nearer, still nearer, until at last his
outreaching muzzle touched her dress where it lay piled on the floor.
And then--he lay trembling, for she had begun to sing. He had heard a
Cree woman crooning in front of her tepee; he had heard the wild chant
of the caribou song--but he had never heard anything like this
wonderful sweetness that fell from the lips of the girl. He forgot his
master's presence now. Quietly, cringingly, so that she would not know,
he lifted his head. He saw her looking at him; there was something in
her wonderful eyes that gave him confidence, and he laid his head in her
lap. For the second time he felt the touch of a woman's hand, and he
closed his eyes with a long sighing breath. The music stopped. There
came a little fluttering sound above him, like a laugh and a sob in one.
He heard his master cough.
"I've always loved the old rascal--but I never thought he'd do that," he
said; and his voice sounded queer to Kazan.
INTO THE NORTH
Wonderful days followed for Kazan. He missed the forests and deep snows.
He missed the daily strife of keeping his team-mates in trace, the
yapping at his heels, the straight long pull over the open spaces and
the barrens. He missed the "Koosh--koosh--Hoo-yah!" of the driver, the
spiteful snap of his twenty-foot caribou-gut whip, and that yelping and
straining behind him that told him he had his followers in line. But
something had come to take the place of that which he missed. It was in
the room, in the air all about him, even when the girl or his master was
not near. Wherever she had been, he found the presence of that strange
thing that took away his loneliness. It was the woman scent, and
sometimes it made him whine softly when the girl herself was actually
with him. He was not lonely, nights, when he should have been out
howling at the stars. He was not lonely, because one night he prowled
about until he found a certain door, and when the girl opened that door
in the morning she found him curled up tight against it. She had reached
down and hugged him, the thick smother of her long hair falling all over
him in a delightful perfume; thereafter she placed a rug before the door
for him to sleep on. All through the long nights he knew that she was
just beyond the door, and he was content. Each day he thought less and
less of the wild places, and more of her.
Then there came the beginning of the change. There was a strange hurry
and excitement around him, and the girl paid less attention to him. He
grew uneasy. He sniffed the change in the air, and he began to study his
master's face. Then there came the morning, very early, when the babiche
collar and the iron chain were fastened to him again. Not until he had
followed his master out through the door and into the street did he
begin to understand. They were sending him away! He sat suddenly back on
his haunches and refused to budge.
"Come, Kazan," coaxed the man. "Come on, boy."
He hung back and showed his white fangs. He expected the lash of a whip
or the blow of a club, but neither came. His master laughed and took him
back to the house. When they left it again, the girl was with them and
walked with her hand touching his head. It was she who persuaded him to
leap up through a big dark hole into the still darker interior of a car,
and it was she who lured him to the darkest corner of all, where his
master fastened his chain. Then they went out, laughing like two
children. For hours after that, Kazan lay still and tense, listening to
the queer rumble of wheels under him. Several times those wheels
stopped, and he heard voices outside. At last he was sure that he heard
a familiar voice, and he strained at his chain and whined. The closed
door slid back. A man with a lantern climbed in, followed by his master.
He paid no attention to them, but glared out through the opening into
the gloom of night. He almost broke loose when he leaped down upon the
white snow, but when he saw no one there, he stood rigid, sniffing the
air. Over him were the stars he had howled at all his life, and about
him were the forests, black and silent, shutting them in like a wall.
Vainly he sought for that one scent that was missing, and Thorpe heard
the low note of grief in his shaggy throat. He took the lantern and held
it above his head, at the same time loosening his hold on the leash. At
that signal there came a voice from out of the night. It came from
behind them, and Kazan whirled so suddenly that the loosely held chain
slipped from the man's hand. He saw the glow of other lanterns. And
then, once more, the voice--
He was off like a bolt. Thorpe laughed to himself as he followed.
"The old pirate!" he chuckled.
When he came to the lantern-lighted space back of the caboose, Thorpe
found Kazan crouching down at a woman's feet. It was Thorpe's wife. She
smiled triumphantly at him as he came up out of the gloom.
"You've won!" he laughed, not unhappily. "I'd have wagered my last
dollar he wouldn't do that for any voice on earth. You've won! Kazan,
you brute, I've lost you!"
His face suddenly sobered as Isobel stooped to pick up the end of the
"He's yours, Issy," he added quickly, "but you must let me care for him
until--we _know_. Give me the chain. I won't trust him even now. He's a
wolf. I've seen him take an Indian's hand off at a single snap. I've
seen him tear out another dog's jugular in one leap. He's an outlaw--a
bad dog--in spite of the fact that he hung to me like a hero and brought
me out alive. I can't trust him. Give me the chain--"
He did not finish. With the snarl of a wild beast Kazan had leaped to
his feet. His lips drew up and bared his long fangs. His spine
stiffened, and with a sudden cry of warning, Thorpe dropped a hand to
the revolver at his belt.
Kazan paid no attention to him. Another form had approached out of the
night, and stood now in the circle of illumination made by the lanterns.
It was McCready, who was to accompany Thorpe and his young wife back to
the Red River camp, where Thorpe was in charge of the building of the
new Trans-continental. The man was straight, powerfully built and clean
shaven. His jaw was so square that it was brutal, and there was a glow
in his eyes that was almost like the passion in Kazan's as he looked at
Her red and white stocking-cap had slipped free of her head and was
hanging over her shoulder. The dull blaze of the lanterns shone in the
warm glow of her hair. Her cheeks were flushed, and her eyes, suddenly
turned to him, were as blue as the bluest _bakneesh_ flower and glowed
like diamonds. McCready shifted his gaze, and instantly her hand fell on
Kazan's head. For the first time the dog did not seem to feel her touch.
He still snarled at McCready, the rumbling menace in his throat growing
deeper. Thorpe's wife tugged at the chain.
"Down, Kazan--down!" she commanded.
At the sound of her voice he relaxed.
"Down!" she repeated, and her free hand fell on his head again. He slunk
to her feet. But his lips were still drawn back. Thorpe was watching
him. He wondered at the deadly venom that shot from the wolfish eyes,
and looked at McCready. The big guide had uncoiled his long dog-whip. A
strange look had come into his face. He was staring hard at Kazan.
Suddenly he leaned forward, with both hands on his knees, and for a
tense moment or two he seemed to forget that Isobel Thorpe's wonderful
blue eyes were looking at him.
That one word--_charge_--was taught only to the dogs in the service of
the Northwest Mounted Police. Kazan did not move. McCready straightened,
and quick as a shot sent the long lash of his whip curling out into the
night with a crack like a pistol report.
The rumble in Kazan's throat deepened to a snarling growl, but not a
muscle of his body moved. McCready turned to Thorpe.
"I could have sworn that I knew that dog," he said. "If it's Pedro, he's
Thorpe was taking the chain. Only the girl saw the look that came for an
instant into McCready's face. It made her shiver. A few minutes before,
when the train had first stopped at Les Pas, she had offered her hand
to this man and she had seen the same thing then. But even as she
shuddered she recalled the many things her husband had told her of the
forest people. She had grown to love them, to admire their big rough
manhood and loyal hearts, before he had brought her among them; and
suddenly she smiled at McCready, struggling to overcome that thrill of
fear and dislike.
"He doesn't like you," she laughed at him softly. "Won't you make
friends with him?"
She drew Kazan toward him, with Thorpe holding the end of the chain.
McCready came to her side as she bent over the dog. His back was to
Thorpe as he hunched down. Isobel's bowed head was within a foot of his
face. He could see the glow in her cheek and the pouting curve of her
mouth as she quieted the low rumbling in Kazan's throat. Thorpe stood
ready to pull back on the chain, but for a moment McCready was between
him and his wife, and he could not see McCready's face. The man's eyes
were not on Kazan. He was staring at the girl.
"You're brave," he said. "I don't dare do that. He would take off my
He took the lantern from Thorpe and led the way to a narrow snow-path
branching off, from the track. Hidden back in the thick spruce was the
camp that Thorpe had left a fortnight before. There were two tents there
now in place of the one that he and his guide had used. A big fire was
burning in front of them. Close to the fire was a long sledge, and
fastened to trees just within the outer circle of firelight Kazan saw
the shadowy forms and gleaming eyes of his team-mates. He stood stiff
and motionless while Thorpe fastened him to a sledge. Once more he was
back in his forests--and in command. His mistress was laughing and
clapping her hands delightedly in the excitement of the strange and
wonderful life of which she had now become a part. Thorpe had thrown
back the flap of their tent, and she was entering ahead of him. She did
not look back. She spoke no word to him. He whined, and turned his red
eyes on McCready.
In the tent Thorpe was saying:
"I'm sorry old Jackpine wouldn't go back with us, Issy. He drove me
down, but for love or money I couldn't get him to return. He's a Mission
Indian, and I'd give a month's salary to have you see him handle the
dogs. I'm not sure about this man McCready. He's a queer chap, the
Company's agent here tells me, and knows the woods like a book. But dogs
don't like a stranger. Kazan isn't going to take to him worth a cent!"
Kazan heard the girl's voice, and stood rigid and motionless listening
to it. He did not hear or see McCready when he came up stealthily behind
him. The man's voice came as suddenly as a shot at his heels.
In an instant Kazan cringed as if touched by a lash.
"Got you that time--didn't I, you old devil!" whispered McCready, his
face strangely pale in the firelight. "Changed your name, eh? But I
_got_ you--didn't I?"
McCREADY PAYS THE DEBT
For a long time after he had uttered those words McCready sat in silence
beside the fire. Only for a moment or two at a time did his eyes leave
Kazan. After a little, when he was sure that Thorpe and Isobel had
retired for the night, he went into his own tent and returned with a
flask of whisky. During the next half-hour he drank frequently. Then he
went over and sat on the end of the sledge, just beyond the reach of
"Got you, didn't I?" he repeated, the effect of the liquor beginning to
show in the glitter of his eyes. "Wonder who changed your name, Pedro.
And how the devil did _he_ come by you? Ho, ho, if you could only
They heard Thorpe's voice inside the tent. It was followed by a low
girlish peal of laughter, and McCready jerked himself erect. His face
blazed suddenly red, and he rose to his feet, dropping the flask in his
coat pocket. Walking around the fire, he tiptoed cautiously to the
shadow of a tree close to the tent and stood there for many minutes
listening. His eyes burned with a fiery madness when he returned to the
sledge and Kazan. It was midnight before he went into his own tent.
In the warmth of the fire, Kazan's eyes slowly closed. He slumbered
uneasily, and his brain was filled with troubled pictures. At times he
was fighting, and his jaws snapped. At others he was straining at the
end of his chain, with McCready or his mistress just out of reach. He
felt the gentle touch of the girl's hand again and heard the wonderful
sweetness of her voice as she sang to him and his master, and his body
trembled and twitched with the thrills that had filled him that night.
And then the picture changed. He was running at the head of a splendid
team--six dogs of the Royal Northwest Mounted Police--and his master was
calling him Pedro! The scene shifted. They were in camp. His master was
young and smooth-faced and he helped from the sledge another man whose
hands were fastened in front of him by curious black rings. Again it was
later--and he was lying before a great fire. His master was sitting
opposite him, with his back to a tent, and as he looked, there came out
of the tent the man with the black rings--only now the rings were gone
and his hands were free, and in one of them he carried a heavy club. He
heard the terrible blow of the club as it fell on his master's head--and
the sound of it aroused him from his restless sleep.
He sprang to his feet, his spine stiffening and a snarl in his throat.
The fire had died down and the camp was in the darker gloom that
precedes dawn. Through that gloom Kazan saw McCready. Again he was
standing close to the tent of his mistress, and he knew now that this
was the man who had worn the black iron rings, and that it was he who
had beaten him with whip and club for many long days after he had killed
his master. McCready heard the menace in his throat and came back
quickly to the fire. He began to whistle and draw the half-burned logs
together, and as the fire blazed up afresh he shouted to awaken Thorp
and Isobel. In a few minutes Thorpe appeared at the tent-flap and his
wife followed him out. Her loose hair rippled in billows of gold about
her shoulders and she sat down on the sledge, close to Kazan, and began
brushing it. McCready came up behind her and fumbled among the packages
on the sledge. As if by accident one of his hands buried itself for an
instant in the rich tresses that flowed down her back. She did not at
first feel the caressing touch of his fingers, and Thorpe's back was
Only Kazan saw the stealthy movement of the hand, the fondling clutch of
the fingers in her hair, and the mad passion burning in the eyes of the
man. Quicker than a lynx, the dog had leaped the length of his chain
across the sledge. McCready sprang back just in time, and as Kazan
reached the end of his chain he was jerked back so that his body struck
sidewise against the girl. Thorpe had turned in time to see the end of
the leap. He believed that Kazan had sprung at Isobel, and in his horror
no word or cry escaped his lips as he dragged her from where she had
half fallen over the sledge. He saw that she was not hurt, and he
reached for his revolver. It was in his holster in the tent. At his feet
was McCready's whip, and in the passion of the moment he seized it and
sprang upon Kazan. The dog crouched in the snow. He made no move to
escape or to attack. Only once in his life could he remember having
received a beating like that which Thorpe inflicted upon him now. But
not a whimper or a growl escaped him.
[Illustration: "Not another blow!"]
And then, suddenly, his mistress ran forward and caught the whip poised
above Thorpe's head.
"Not another blow!" she cried, and something in her voice held him from
striking. McCready did not hear what she said then, but a strange look
came into Thorpe's eyes, and without a word he followed his wife into
"Kazan did not leap at me," she whispered, and she was trembling with a
sudden excitement. Her face was deathly white. "That man was behind me,"
she went on, clutching her husband by the arm. "I felt him touch me--and
then Kazan sprang. He wouldn't bite _me_. It's the _man_! There's
She was almost sobbing, and Thorpe drew her close in his arms.
"I hadn't thought before--but it's strange," he said. "Didn't McCready
say something about knowing the dog? It's possible. Perhaps he's had
Kazan before and abused him in a way that the dog has not forgotten.
To-morrow I'll find out. But until I know--will you promise to keep away
Isobel gave the promise. When they came out from the tent Kazan lifted
his great head. The stinging lash had closed one of his eyes and his
mouth was dripping blood. Isobel gave a low sob, but did not go near
him. Half blinded, he knew that his mistress had stopped his punishment,
and he whined softly, and wagged his thick tail in the snow.
Never had he felt so miserable as through the long hard hours of the day
that followed, when he broke the trail for his team-mates into the
North. One of his eyes was closed and filled with stinging fire, and his
body was sore from the blows of the caribou lash. But it was not
physical pain that gave the sullen droop to his head and robbed his body
of that keen quick alertness of the lead-dog--the commander of his
mates. It was his spirit. For the first time in his life, it was broken.
McCready had beaten him--long ago; his master had beaten him; and
during all this day their voices were fierce and vengeful in his ears.
But it was his mistress who hurt him most. She held aloof from him,
always beyond they reach of his leash; and when they stopped to rest,
and again in camp, she looked at him with strange and wondering eyes,
and did not speak. She, too, was ready to beat him. He believed that,
and so slunk away from her and crouched on his belly in the snow. With
him, a broken spirit meant a broken heart, and that night he lurked in
one of the deepest shadows about the camp-fire and grieved alone. None
knew that it was grief--unless it was the girl. She did not move toward
him. She did not speak to him. But she watched him closely--and studied
him hardest when he was looking at McCready.
Later, after Thorpe and his wife had gone into their tent, it began to
snow, and the effect of the snow upon McCready puzzled Kazan. The man
was restless, and he drank frequently from the flask that he had used
the night before. In the firelight his face grew redder and redder, and
Kazan could see the strange gleam of his teeth as he gazed at the tent
in which his mistress was sleeping. Again and again he went close to
that tent, and listened. Twice he heard movement. The last time, it was
the sound of Thorpe's deep breathing. McCready hurried back to the fire
and turned his face straight up to the sky. The snow was falling so
thickly that when he lowered his face he blinked and wiped his eyes.
Then he went out into the gloom and bent low over the trail they had
made a few hours before. It was almost obliterated by the falling snow.
Another hour and there would be no trail--nothing the next day to tell
whoever might pass that they had come this way. By morning it would
cover everything, even the fire, if he allowed it to die down. McCready
drank again, out in the darkness. Low words of an insane joy burst from
his lips. His head was hot with a drunken fire. His heart beat madly,
but scarcely more furiously than did Kazan's when the dog saw that
McCready was returning _with a club_! The club he placed on end against
a tree. Then he took a lantern from the sledge and lighted it. He
approached Thorpe's tent-flap, the lantern in his hand.
"Ho, Thorpe--Thorpe!" he called.
There was no answer. He could hear Thorpe breathing. He drew the flap
aside a little, and raised his voice.
Still there was no movement inside, and he untied the flap strings and
thrust in his lantern. The light flashed on Isobel's golden head, and
McCready stared at it, his eyes burning like red coals, until he saw
that Thorpe was awakening. Quickly he dropped the flap and rustled it
from the outside.
"Ho, Thorpe!--Thorpe!" he called again.
This time Thorpe replied.
"Hello, McCready--is that you?"
McCready drew the flap back a little, and spoke in a low voice.
"Yes. Can you come out a minute? Something's happening out in the woods.
Don't wake up your wife!"
He drew back and waited. A minute later Thorpe came quietly out of the
tent. McCready pointed into the thick spruce.
"I'll swear there's some one nosing around the camp," he said. "I'm
certain that I saw a man out there a few minutes ago, when I went for a
log. It's a good night for stealing dogs. Here--you take the lantern! If
I wasn't clean fooled, we'll find a trail in the snow."
He gave Thorpe the lantern and picked up the heavy club. A growl rose in
Kazan's throat, but he choked it back. He wanted to snarl forth his
warning, to leap at the end of his leash, but he knew that if he did
that, they would return and beat him. So he lay still, trembling and
shivering, and whining softly. He watched them until they
disappeared--and then waited--listened. At last he heard the crunch of
snow. He was not surprised to see McCready come back alone. He had
expected him to return alone. For he knew what a club meant!
McCready's face was terrible now. It was like a beast's. He was hatless.
Kazan slunk deeper in his shadow at the low horrible laugh that fell
from his lips--for the man still held the club. In a moment he dropped
that, and approached the tent. He drew back the flap and peered in.
Thorpe's wife was sleeping, and as quietly as a cat he entered and hung
the lantern on a nail in the tent-pole. His movement did not awaken her,
and for a few moments he stood there, staring--staring.
Outside, crouching in the deep shadow, Kazan tried to fathom the meaning
of these strange things that were happening. Why had his master and
McCready gone out into the forest? Why had not his master returned? It
was his master, and not McCready, who belonged in that tent. Then why
was McCready there? He watched McCready as he entered, and suddenly the
dog was on his feet, his back tense and bristling, his limbs rigid. He
saw McCready's huge shadow on the canvas, and a moment later there came
a strange piercing cry. In the wild terror of that cry he recognized
_her_ voice--and he leaped toward the tent. The leash stopped him,
choking the snarl in his throat. He saw the shadows struggling now, and
there came cry after cry. She was calling to his master, and with his
master's name she was calling _him_!
He leaped again, and was thrown upon his back. A second and a third
time he sprang the length of the leash into the night, and the babiche
cord about his neck cut into his flesh like a knife. He stopped for an
instant, gasping for breath. The shadows were still fighting. Now they
were upright! Now they were crumpling down! With a fierce snarl he flung
his whole weight once more at the end of the chain. There was a snap, as
the thong about his neck gave way.
In half a dozen bounds Kazan made the tent and rushed under the flap.
With a snarl he was at McCready's throat. The first snap of his powerful
jaws was death, but he did not know that. He knew only that his mistress
was there, and that he was fighting for her. There came one choking
gasping cry that ended with a terrible sob; it was McCready. The man
sank from his knees upon his back, and Kazan thrust his fangs deeper
into his enemy's throat; he felt the warm blood.
The dog's mistress was calling to him now. She was pulling at his shaggy
neck. But he would not loose his hold--not for a long time. When he did,
his mistress looked down once upon the man and covered her face with
her hands. Then she sank down upon the blankets. She was very still. Her
face and hands were cold, and Kazan muzzled them tenderly. Her eyes were
closed. He snuggled up close against her, with his ready jaws turned
toward the dead man. Why was she so still, he wondered?
A long time passed, and then she moved. Her eyes opened. Her hand
Then he heard a step outside.
It was his master, and with that old thrill of fear--fear of the
club--he went swiftly to the door. Yes, there was his master in the
firelight--and in his hand he held the club. He was coming slowly,
almost falling at each step, and his face was red with blood. But he had
_the club_! He would beat him again--beat him terribly for hurting
McCready; so Kazan slipped quietly under the tent-flap and stole off
into the shadows. From out the gloom of the thick spruce he looked back,
and a low whine of love and grief rose and died softly in his throat.
They would beat him always now--after _that_. Even _she_ would beat him.
They would hunt him down, and beat him when they found him.
From out of the glow of the fire he turned his wolfish head to the
depths of the forest. There were no clubs or stinging lashes out in that
gloom. They would never find him there.
For another moment he wavered. And then, as silently as one of the wild
creatures whose blood was partly his, he stole away into the blackness
of the night.
FREE FROM BONDS
There was a low moaning of the wind in the spruce-tops as Kazan slunk
off into the blackness and mystery of the forest. For hours he lay near
the camp, his red and blistered eyes gazing steadily at the tent wherein
the terrible thing had happened a little while before.
He knew now what death was. He could tell it farther than man. He could
smell it in the air. And he knew that there was death all about him, and
that he was the cause of it. He lay on his belly in the deep snow and
shivered, and the three-quarters of him that was dog whined in a
grief-stricken way, while the quarter that was wolf still revealed
itself menacingly in his fangs, and in the vengeful glare of his eyes.
Three times the man--his master--came out of the tent, and shouted
Three times the woman came with him. In the firelight Kazan could see
her shining hair streaming about her, as he had seen it in the tent,
when he had leaped up and killed the other man. In her blue eyes there
was the same wild terror, and her face was white as the snow. And the
second and third time, she too called, "Kazan--Kazan--Kazan!"--and all
that part of him that was dog, and not wolf, trembled joyously at the
sound of her voice, and he almost crept in to take his beating. But fear
of the club was the greater, and he held back, hour after hour, until
now it was silent again in the tent, and he could no longer see their
shadows, and the fire was dying down.
Cautiously he crept out from the thick gloom, working his way on his
belly toward the packed sledge, and what remained of the burned logs.
Beyond that sledge, hidden in the darkness of the trees, was the body of
the man he had killed, covered with a blanket. Thorpe, his master, had
dragged it there.
He lay down, with his nose to the warm coals and his eyes leveled
between his forepaws, straight at the closed tent-flap. He meant to
keep awake, to watch, to be ready to slink off into the forest at the
first movement there. But a warmth was rising from out of the gray ash
of the fire-bed, and his eyes closed. Twice--three times--he fought
himself back into watchfulness; but the last time his eyes came only
half open, and closed heavily again.
And now, in his sleep, he whined softly, and the splendid muscles of his
legs and shoulders twitched, and sudden shuddering ripples ran along his
tawny spine. Thorpe, who was in the tent, if he had seen him, would have
known that he was dreaming. And Thorpe's wife, whose golden head lay
close against his breast, and who shuddered and trembled now and then
even as Kazan was doing, would have known what he was dreaming about.
In his sleep he was leaping again at the end of his chain. His jaws
snapped like castanets of steel,--and the sound awakened him, and he
sprang to his feet, his spine as stiff as a brush, and his snarling
fangs bared like ivory knives. He had awakened just in time. There was
movement in the tent. His master was awake, and if he did not escape--
He sped swiftly into the thick spruce, and paused, flat and hidden, with
only his head showing from behind a tree. He knew that his master would
not spare him. Three times Thorpe had beaten him for snapping at
McCready. The last time he would have shot him if the girl had not saved
him. And now he had torn McCready's throat. He had taken the life from
him, and his master would not spare him. Even the woman could not save
Kazan was sorry that his master had returned, dazed and bleeding, after
he had torn McCready's jugular. Then he would have had her always. She
would have loved him. She did love him. And he would have followed her,
and fought for her always, and died for her when the time came. But
Thorpe had come in from the forest again, and Kazan had slunk away
quickly--for Thorpe meant to him what all men meant to him now: the
club, the whip and the strange things that spat fire and death. And
Thorpe had come out from the tent. It was approaching dawn, and in his
hand he held a rifle. A moment later the girl came out, and her hand
caught the man's arm. They looked toward the thing covered by the
blanket. Then she spoke to Thorpe and he suddenly straightened and
threw back his head.
"H-o-o-o-o--Kazan--Kazan--Kazan!" he called.
A shiver ran through Kazan. The man was trying to inveigle him back. He
had in his hand the thing that killed.
"Kazan--Kazan--Ka-a-a-a-zan!" he shouted again.
Kazan sneaked cautiously back from the tree. He knew that distance meant
nothing to the cold thing of death that Thorpe held in his hand. He
turned his head once, and whined softly, and for an instant a great
longing filled his reddened eyes as he saw the last of the girl.
He knew, now, that he was leaving her forever, and there was an ache in
his heart that had never been there before, a pain that was not of the
club or whip, of cold or hunger, but which was greater than them all,
and which filled him with a desire to throw back his head and cry out
his loneliness to the gray emptiness of the sky.
Back in the camp the girl's voice quivered.
"He is gone."
The man's strong voice choked a little.
"Yes, he is gone. _He knew_--and I didn't. I'd give--a year of my
life--if I hadn't whipped him yesterday and last night. He won't come
Isobel Thorpe's hand tightened on his arm.
"He will!" she cried. "He won't leave me. He loved me, if he was savage
and terrible. And he knows that I love him. He'll come back--"
From deep in the forest there came a long wailing howl, filled with a
plaintive sadness. It was Kazan's farewell to the woman.
After that cry Kazan sat for a long time on his haunches, sniffing the
new freedom of the air, and watching the deep black pits in the forest
about him, as they faded away before dawn. 'Now and then, since the day
the traders had first bought him and put him into sledge-traces away
over on the Mackenzie, he had often thought of this freedom longingly,
the wolf blood in him urging him to take it. But he had never quite
dared. It thrilled him now. There were no clubs here, no whips, none of
the man-beasts whom he had first learned to distrust, and then to hate.
It was his misfortune--that quarter-strain of wolf; and the clubs,
instead of subduing him, had added to the savagery that was born in him.
Men had been his worst enemies. They had beaten him time and again until
he was almost dead. They called him "bad," and stepped wide of him, and
never missed the chance to snap a whip over his back. His body was
covered with scars they had given him.
He had never felt kindness, or love, until the first night the woman had
put her warm little hand on his head, and had snuggled her face close
down to his, while Thorpe--her husband--had cried out in horror. He had
almost buried his fangs in her white flesh, but in an instant her gentle
touch, and her sweet voice, had sent through him that wonderful thrill
that was his first knowledge of love. And now it was a man who was
driving him from her, away from the hand that had never held a club or a
whip, and he growled as he trotted deeper into the forest.
He came to the edge of a swamp as day broke. For a time he had been
filled with a strange uneasiness, and light did not quite dispel it. At
last he was free of men. He could detect nothing that reminded him of
their hated presence in the air. But neither could he smell the presence
of other dogs, of the sledge, the fire, of companionship and food, and
so far back as he could remember they had always been a part of his
Here it was very quiet. The swamp lay in a hollow between two
ridge-mountains, and the spruce and cedar grew low and thick--so thick
that there was almost no snow under them, and day was like twilight. Two
things he began to miss more than all others--food and company. Both the
wolf and the dog that was in him demanded the first, and that part of
him that was dog longed for the latter. To both desires the wolf blood
that was strong in him rose responsively. It told him that somewhere in
this silent world between the two ridges there was companionship, and
that all he had to do to find it was to sit back on his haunches, and
cry out his loneliness. More than once something trembled in his deep
chest, rose in his throat, and ended there in a whine. It was the wolf
howl, not yet quite born.
Food came more easily than voice. Toward midday he cornered a big white
rabbit under a log, and killed it. The warm flesh and blood was better
than frozen fish, or tallow and bran, and the feast he had gave him
confidence. That afternoon he chased many rabbits, and killed two more.
Until now, he had never known the delight of pursuing and killing at
will, even though he did not eat all he killed.
But there was no fight in the rabbits. They died too easily. They were
very sweet and tender to eat, when he was hungry, but the first thrill
of killing them passed away after a time. He wanted something bigger. He
no longer slunk along as if he were afraid, or as if he wanted to remain
hidden. He held his head up. His back bristled. His tail swung free and
bushy, like a wolf's. Every hair in his body quivered with the electric
energy of life and action. He traveled north and west. It was the call
of early days--the days away up on the Mackenzie. The Mackenzie was a
thousand miles away.
He came upon many trails in the snow that day, and sniffed the scents
left by the hoofs of moose and caribou, and the fur-padded feet of a
lynx. He followed a fox, and the trail led him to a place shut in by
tall spruce, where the snow was beaten down and reddened with blood.
There was an owl's head, feathers, wings and entrails lying here, and he
knew that there were other hunters abroad besides himself.
Toward evening he came upon tracks in the snow that were very much like
his own. They were quite fresh, and there was a warm scent about them
that made him whine, and filled him again with that desire to fall back
upon his haunches and send forth the wolf-cry. This desire grew stronger
in him as the shadows of night deepened in the forest. He had traveled
all day, but he was not tired. There was something about night, now that
there were no men near, that exhilarated him strangely. The wolf blood
in him ran swifter and swifter. To-night it was clear. The sky was
filled with stars. The moon rose. And at last he settled back in the
snow and turned his head straight up to the spruce-tops, and the wolf
came out of him in a long mournful cry which quivered through the still
night for miles.
For a long time he sat and listened after that howl. He had found
voice--a voice with a strange new note in it, and it gave him still
greater confidence. He had expected an answer, but none came. He had
traveled in the face of the wind, and as he howled, a bull moose crashed
through the scrub timber ahead of him, his horns rattling against the
trees like the tattoo of a clear birch club as he put distance between
himself and that cry.
Twice Kazan howled before he went on, and he found joy in the practise
of that new note. He came then to the foot of a rough ridge, and turned
up out of the swamp to the top of it. The stars and the moon were nearer
to him there, and on the other side of the ridge he looked down upon a
great sweeping plain, with a frozen lake glistening in the moonlight,
and a white river leading from it off into timber that was neither so
thick nor so black as that in the swamp.
And then every muscle in his body grew tense, and his blood leaped. From
far off in the plain there came a cry. It was _his_ cry--the wolf-cry.
His jaws snapped. His white fangs gleamed, and he growled deep in his
throat. He wanted to reply, but some strange instinct urged him not to.
That instinct of the wild was already becoming master of him. In the
air, in the whispering of the spruce-tops, in the moon and the stars
themselves, there breathed a spirit which told him that what he had
heard was the wolf-cry, but that it was not the wolf _call_.
The other came an hour later, clear and distinct, that same wailing howl
at the beginning--but ending in a staccato of quick sharp yelps that
stirred his blood at once into a fiery excitement that it had never
known before. The same instinct told him that this was the call--the
hunt-cry. It urged him to come quickly. A few moments later it came
again, and this time there was a reply from close down along the foot of
the ridge, and another from so far away that Kazan could scarcely hear
it. The hunt-pack was gathering for the night chase; but Kazan sat quiet
He was not afraid, but he was not ready to go. The ridge seemed to split
the world for him. Down there it was new, and strange, and without men.
From the other side something seemed pulling him back, and suddenly he
turned his head and gazed back through the moonlit space behind him, and
whined. It was the dog-whine now. The woman was back there. He could
hear her voice. He could feel the touch of her soft hand. He could see
the laughter in her face and eyes, the laughter that had made him warm
and happy. She was calling to him through the forests, and he was torn
between desire to answer that call, and desire to go down into the
plain. For he could also see many men waiting for him with clubs, and he
could hear the cracking of whips, and feel the sting of their lashes.
For a long time he remained on the top of the ridge that divided his
world. And then, at last, he turned and went down into the plain.
All that night he kept close to the hunt-pack, but never quite
approached it. This was fortunate for him. He still bore the scent of
traces, and of man. The pack would have torn him into pieces. The first
instinct of the wild is that of self-preservation. It may have been
this, a whisper back through the years of savage forebears, that made
Kazan roll in the snow now and then where the feet of the pack had trod
That night the pack killed a caribou on the edge of the lake, and
feasted until nearly dawn. Kazan hung in the face of the wind. The smell
of blood and of warm flesh tickled his nostrils, and his sharp ears
could catch the cracking of bones. But the instinct was stronger than
Not until broad day, when the pack had scattered far and wide over the
plain, did he go boldly to the scene of the kill. He found nothing but
an area of blood-reddened snow, covered with bones, entrails and torn
bits of tough hide. But it was enough, and he rolled in it, and buried
his nose in what was left, and remained all that day close to it,
saturating himself with the scent of it.
That night, when the moon and the stars came out again, he sat back with
fear and hesitation no longer in him, and announced himself to his new
comrades of the great plain.
The pack hunted again that night, or else it was a new pack that started
miles to the south, and came up with a doe caribou to the big frozen
lake. The night was almost as clear as day, and from the edge of the
forest Kazan first saw the caribou run out on the lake a third of a mile
away. The pack was about a dozen strong, and had already split into the
fatal horseshoe formation, the two leaders running almost abreast of the
kill, and slowly closing in.
With a sharp yelp Kazan darted out into the moonlight. He was directly
in the path of the fleeing doe, and bore down upon her with lightning
speed. Two hundred yards away the doe saw him, and swerved to the right,
and the leader on that side met her with open jaws. Kazan was in with
the second leader, and leaped at the doe's soft throat. In a snarling
mass the pack closed in from behind, and the doe went down, with Kazan
half under her body, his fangs sunk deep in her jugular. She lay heavily
on him, but he did not lose his hold. It was his first big kill. His
blood ran like fire. He snarled between his clamped teeth.
Not until the last quiver had left the body over him did he pull himself
out from under her chest and forelegs. He had killed a rabbit that day
and was not hungry. So he sat back in the snow and waited, while the
ravenous pack tore at the dead doe. After a little he came nearer, nosed
in between two of them, and was nipped for his intrusion.
As Kazan drew back, still hesitating to mix with his wild brothers, a
big gray form leaped out of the pack and drove straight for his throat.
He had just time to throw his shoulder to the attack, and for a moment
the two rolled over and over in the snow. They were up before the
excitement of sudden battle had drawn the pack from the feast. Slowly
they circled about each other, their white fangs bare, their yellowish
backs bristling like brushes. The fatal ring of wolves drew about the
It was not new to Kazan. A dozen times he had sat in rings like this,
waiting for the final moment. More than once he had fought for his life
within the circle. It was the sledge-dog way of fighting. Unless man
interrupted with a club or a whip it always ended in death. Only one
fighter could come out alive. Sometimes both died. And there was no man
here--only that fatal cordon of waiting white-fanged demons, ready to
leap upon and tear to pieces the first of the fighters who was thrown
upon his side or back. Kazan was a stranger, but he did not fear those
that hemmed him in. The one great law of the pack would compel them to
He kept his eyes only on the big gray leader who had challenged him.
Shoulder to shoulder they continued to circle. Where a few moments
before there had been the snapping of jaws and the rending of flesh
there was now silence. Soft-footed and soft-throated mongrel dogs from
the South would have snarled and growled, but Kazan and the wolf were
still, their ears laid forward instead of back, their tails free and
Suddenly the wolf struck in with the swiftness of lightning, and his
jaws came together with the sharpness of steel striking steel. They
missed by an inch. In that same instant Kazan darted in to the side, and
like knives his teeth gashed the wolf's flank.
They circled again, their eyes growing redder, their lips drawn back
until they seemed to have disappeared. And then Kazan leaped for that
death-grip at the throat--and missed. It was only by an inch again, and
the wolf came back, as he had done, and laid open Kazan's flank so that
the blood ran down his leg and reddened the snow. The burn of that
flank-wound told Kazan that his enemy was old in the game of fighting.
He crouched low, his head straight out, and his throat close to the
snow. It was a trick Kazan had learned in puppyhood--to shield his
throat, and wait.
Twice the wolf circled about him, and Kazan pivoted slowly, his eyes
half closed. A second time the wolf leaped, and Kazan threw up his
terrible jaws, sure of that fatal grip just in front of the forelegs.
His teeth snapped on empty air. With the nimbleness of a cat the wolf
had gone completely over his back.
The trick had failed, and with a rumble of the dog-snarl in his throat,
Kazan reached the wolf in a single bound. They met breast to breast.
Their fangs clashed and with the whole weight of his body, Kazan flung
himself against the wolf's shoulders, cleared his jaws, and struck again
for the throat hold. It was another miss--by a hair's breadth--and
before he could recover, the wolf's teeth were buried in the back of
For the first time in his life Kazan felt the terror and the pain of the
death-grip, and with a mighty effort he flung his head a little forward
and snapped blindly. His powerful jaws closed on the wolf's foreleg,
close to the body. There was a cracking of bone and a crunching of
flesh, and the circle of waiting wolves grew tense and alert. One or the
other of the fighters was sure to go down before the holds were broken,
and they but awaited that fatal fall as a signal to leap in to the
Only the thickness of hair and hide on the back of Kazan's neck, and the
toughness of his muscles, saved him from that terrible fate of the
vanquished. The wolf's teeth sank deep, but not deep enough to reach the
vital spot, and suddenly Kazan put every ounce of strength in his limbs
to the effort, and flung himself up bodily from under his antagonist.
The grip on his neck relaxed, and with another rearing leap he tore
As swift as a whip-lash he whirled on the broken-legged leader of the
pack and with the full rush and weight of his shoulders struck him
fairly in the side. More deadly than the throat-grip had Kazan sometimes
found the lunge when delivered at the right moment. It was deadly now.
The big gray wolf lost his feet, rolled upon his back for an instant,
and the pack rushed in, eager to rend the last of life from the leader
whose power had ceased to exist.
From out of that gray, snarling, bloody-lipped mass, Kazan drew back,
panting and bleeding. He was weak. There was a curious sickness in his
head. He wanted to lie down in the snow. But the old and infallible
instinct warned him not to betray that weakness. From out of the pack a
slim, lithe, gray she-wolf came up to him, and lay down in the snow
before him, and then rose swiftly and sniffed at his wounds.
She was young and strong and beautiful, but Kazan did not look at her.
Where the fight had been he was looking, at what little remained of the
old leader. The pack had returned to the feast. He heard again the
cracking of bones and the rending of flesh, and something told him that
hereafter all the wilderness would hear and recognize his voice, and
that when he sat back on his haunches and called to the moon and the
stars, those swift-footed hunters of the big plain would respond to it.
He circled twice about the caribou and the pack, and then trotted off to
the edge of the black spruce forest.
When he reached the shadows he looked back. Gray Wolf was following him.
She was only a few yards behind. And now she came up to him, a little
timidly, and she, too, looked back to the dark blotch of life out on the
lake. And as she stood there close beside him, Kazan sniffed at
something in the air that was not the scent of blood, nor the perfume of
the balsam and spruce. It was a thing that seemed to come to him from
the clear stars, the cloudless moon, the strange and beautiful quiet of
the night itself. And its presence seemed to be a part of Gray Wolf.
He looked at her, and he found Gray Wolf's eyes alert and questioning.
She was young--so young that she seemed scarcely to have passed out of
puppyhood. Her body was strong and slim and beautifully shaped. In the
moonlight the hair under her throat and along her back shone sleek and
soft. She whined at the red staring light in Kazan's eyes, and it was
not a puppy's whimper. Kazan moved toward her, and stood with his head
over her back, facing the pack. He felt her trembling against his chest.
He looked at the moon and the stars again, the mystery of Gray Wolf and
of the night throbbing in his blood.
Not much of his life had been spent at the posts. Most of it had been on
the trail--in the traces--and the spirit of the mating season had only
stirred him from afar. But it was very near now. Gray Wolf lifted her
head. Her soft muzzle touched the wound on his neck, and in the
gentleness of that touch, in the low sound in her throat, Kazan felt and
heard again that wonderful something that had come with the caress of
the woman's hand and the sound of her voice.
He turned, whining, his back bristling, his head high and defiant of the
wilderness which he faced. Gray Wolf trotted close at his side as they
entered into the gloom of the forest.
THE FIGHT IN THE SNOW
They found shelter that night under thick balsam, and when they lay down
on the soft carpet of needles which the snow had not covered, Gray Wolf
snuggled her warm body close to Kazan and licked his wounds. The day
broke with a velvety fall of snow, so white and thick that they could
not see a dozen leaps ahead of them in the open. It was quite warm, and
so still that the whole world seemed filled with only the flutter and
whisper of the snowflakes. Through this day Kazan and Gray Wolf traveled
side by side. Time and again he turned his head back to the ridge over
which he had come, and Gray Wolf could not understand the strange note
that trembled in his throat.
In the afternoon they returned to what was left of the caribou doe on
the lake. In the edge of the forest Gray Wolf hung back. She did not yet
know the meaning of poison-baits, deadfalls and traps, but the instinct
of numberless generations was in her veins, and it told her there was
danger in visiting a second time a thing that had grown cold in death.
Kazan had seen masters work about carcasses that the wolves had left. He
had seen them conceal traps cleverly, and roll little capsules of
strychnine in the fat of the entrails, and once he had put a foreleg in
a trap, and had experienced its sting and pain and deadly grip. But he
did not have Gray Wolf's fear. He urged her to accompany him to the
white hummocks on the ice, and at last she went with him and sank back
restlessly on her haunches, while he dug out the bones and pieces of
flesh that the snow had kept from freezing. But she would not eat, and
at last Kazan went and sat on his haunches at her side, and with her
looked at what he had dug out from under the snow. He sniffed the air.
He could not smell danger, but Gray Wolf told him that it might be
She told him many other things in the days and nights that followed. The
third night Kazan himself gathered the hunt-pack and led in the chase.
Three times that month, before the moon left the skies, he led the
chase, and each time there was a kill. But as the snows began to grow
softer under his feet he found a greater and greater companionship in
Gray Wolf, and they hunted alone, living on the big white rabbits. In
all the world he had loved but two things, the girl with the shining
hair and the hands that had caressed him--and Gray Wolf.
He did not leave the big plain, and often He took his mate to the top of
the ridge, and he would try to tell her what he had left back there.
With the dark nights the call of the woman became so strong upon him
that he was filled with a longing to go back, and take Gray Wolf with
Something happened very soon after that. They were crossing the open
plain one day when up on the face of the ridge Kazan saw something that
made his heart stand still. A man, with a dog-sledge and team, was
coming down into their world. The wind had not warned them, and suddenly
Kazan saw something glisten in the man's hands. He knew what it was. It
was the thing that spat fire and thunder, and killed.
He gave his warning to Gray Wolf, and they were off like the wind, side
by side. And then came the _sound_--and Kazan's hatred of men burst
forth in a snarl as he leaped. There was a queer humming over their
heads. The sound from behind came again, and this time Gray Wolf gave a
yelp of pain, and rolled over and over in the snow. She was on her feet
again in an instant, and Kazan dropped behind her, and ran there until
they reached the shelter of the timber. Gray Wolf lay down, and began
licking the wound in her shoulder. Kazan faced the ridge. The man was
taking up their trail. He stopped where Gray Wolf had fallen, and
examined the snow. Then he came on.
Kazan urged Gray Wolf to her feet, and they made for the thick swamp
close to the lake. All that day they kept in the face of the wind, and
when Gray Wolf lay down Kazan stole back over their trail, watching and
sniffing the air.
For days after that Gray Wolf ran lame, and when once they came upon the
remains of an old camp, Kazan's teeth were bared in snarling hatred of
the man-scent that had been left behind. Growing in him there was a
desire for vengeance--vengeance for his own hurts, and for Gray Wolf's.
He tried to nose out the man-trail under the cover of fresh snow, and
Gray Wolf circled around him anxiously, and tried to lure him deeper
into the forest. At last he followed her sullenly. There was a savage
redness in his eyes.
Three days later the new moon came. And on the fifth night Kazan struck
a trail. It was fresh--so fresh that he stopped as suddenly as though
struck by a bullet when he ran upon it, and stood with every muscle in
his body quivering, and his hair on end. It was a man-trail. There were
the marks of the sledge, the dogs' feet, and the snow-shoeprints of his
Then he threw up his head to the stars, and from his throat there rolled
out over the wide plains the hunt-cry--the wild and savage call for the
pack. Never had he put the savagery in it that was there to-night. Again
and again he sent forth that call, and then there came an answer and
another and still another, until Gray Wolf herself sat back on her
haunches and added her voice to Kazan's, and far out on the plain a
white and haggard-faced man halted his exhausted dogs to listen, while a
voice said faintly from the sledge:
"The wolves, father. Are they coming--after us?"
The man was silent. He was not young. The moon shone in his long white
beard, and added grotesquely to the height of his tall gaunt figure. A
girl had raised her head from a bearskin pillow on the sleigh. Her dark
eyes were filled beautifully with the starlight. She was pale. Her hair
fell in a thick shining braid over her shoulder, and she was hugging
something tightly to her breast.
"They're on the trail of something--probably a deer," said the man,
looking at the breech of his rifle. "Don't worry, Jo. We'll stop at the
next bit of scrub and see if we can't find enough dry stuff for a
fire.--Wee-ah-h-h-h, boys! Koosh--koosh--" and he snapped his whip over
the backs of his team.
From the bundle at the girl's breast there came a small wailing cry. And
far back in the plain there answered it the scattered voice of the pack.
At last Kazan was on the trail of vengeance. He ran slowly at first,
with Gray Wolf close beside him, pausing every three or four hundred
yards to send forth the cry. A gray leaping form joined them from
behind. Another followed. Two came in from the side, and Kazan's
solitary howl gave place to the wild tongue of the pack. Numbers
grew, and with increasing number the pace became swifter.
Four--six--seven--ten--fourteen, by the time the more open and
wind-swept part of the plain was reached.
It was a strong pack, filled with old and fearless hunters. Gray Wolf
was the youngest, and she kept close to Kazan's shoulders. She could see
nothing of his red-shot eyes and dripping jaws, and would not have
understood if she had seen. But she could _feel_ and she was thrilled by
the spirit of that strange and mysterious savagery that had made Kazan
forget all things but hurt and death.
The pack made no sound. There was only the panting of breath and the
soft fall of many feet. They ran swiftly and close. And always Kazan was
a leap ahead, with Gray Wolf nosing his shoulder.
Never had he wanted to kill as he felt the desire in him to kill now.
For the first time he had no fear of man, no fear of the club, of the
whip, or of the thing that blazed forth fire and death. He ran more
swiftly, in order to overtake them and give them battle sooner. All of
the pent-up madness of four years of slavery and abuse at the hands of
men broke loose in thin red streams of fire in his veins, and when at
last he saw a moving blotch far out on the plain ahead of him, the cry
that came out of his throat was one that Gray Wolf did not understand.
Three hundred yards beyond that moving blotch was the thin line of
timber, and Kazan and his followers bore down swiftly. Half-way to the
timber they were almost upon it, and suddenly it stopped and became a
black and motionless shadow on the snow. From out of it there leaped
that lightning tongue of flame that Kazan had always dreaded, and he
heard the hissing song of the death-bee over his head. He did not mind
it now. He yelped sharply, and the wolves raced in until four of them
were neck-and-neck with him.
A second flash--and the death-bee drove from breast to tail of a huge
gray fighter close to Gray Wolf. A third--a fourth--a fifth spurt of
that fire from the black shadow, and Kazan himself felt a sudden swift
passing of a red-hot thing along his shoulder, where the man's last
bullet shaved off the hair and stung his flesh.
Three of the pack had gone down under the fire of the rifle, and half of
the others were swinging to the right and the left. But Kazan drove
straight ahead. Faithfully Gray Wolf followed him.
The sledge-dogs had been freed from their traces, and before he could
reach the man, whom he saw with his rifle held like a club in his hands,
Kazan was met by the fighting mass of them. He fought like a fiend, and
there was the strength and the fierceness of two mates in the mad
gnashing of Gray Wolf's fangs. Two of the wolves rushed in, and Kazan
heard the terrific, back-breaking thud of the rifle. To him it was the
_club_. He wanted to reach it. He wanted to reach the man who held it,
and he freed himself from the fighting mass of the dogs and sprang to
the sledge. For the first time he saw that there was something human on
the sledge, and in an instant he was upon it. He buried his jaws deep.
They sank in something soft and hairy, and he opened them for another
lunge. And then he heard the voice! It was _her voice_! Every muscle in
his body stood still. He became suddenly like flesh turned to lifeless
_Her voice_! The bear rug was thrown back and what had been hidden under
it he saw clearly now in the light of the moon and the stars. In him
instinct worked more swiftly than human brain could have given birth to
reason. It was not _she_. But the voice was the same, and the white
girlish face so close to his own blood-reddened eyes held in it that
same mystery that he had learned to love. And he saw now that which she
was clutching to her breast, and there came from it a strange thrilling
cry--and he knew that here on the sledge he had found not enmity and
death, but that from which he had been driven away in the other world
beyond the ridge.
In a flash he turned. He snapped at Gray Wolf's flank, and she dropped
away with a startled yelp. It had all happened in a moment, but the man
was almost down. Kazan leaped under his clubbed rifle and drove into the
face of what was left of the pack. His fangs cut like knives. If he had
fought like a demon against the dogs, he fought like ten demons now, and
the man--bleeding and ready to fall--staggered back to the sledge,
marveling at what was happening. For in Gray Wolf there was now the
instinct of matehood, and seeing Kazan tearing and righting the pack she
joined him in the struggle which she could not understand.
When it was over, Kazan and Gray Wolf were alone out on the plain. The
pack had slunk away into the night, and the same moon and stars that had
given to Kazan the first knowledge of his birthright told him now that
no longer would those wild brothers of the plains respond to his call
when he howled into the sky.
He was hurt. And Gray Wolf was hurt, but not so badly as Kazan. He was
torn and bleeding. One of his legs was terribly bitten. After a time he
saw a fire in the edge of the forest. The old call was strong upon him.
He wanted to crawl in to it, and feel the girl's hand on his head, as
he had felt that other hand in the world beyond the ridge. He would have
gone--and would have urged Gray Wolf to go with him--but the man was
there. He whined, and Gray Wolf thrust her warm muzzle against his neck.
Something told them both that they were outcasts, that the plains, and
the moon, and the stars were against them now, and they slunk into the
shelter and the gloom of the forest.
Kazan could not go far. He could still smell the camp when he lay down.
Gray Wolf snuggled close to him. Gently she soothed with her soft tongue
Kazan's bleeding wounds. And Kazan, lifting his head, whined softly to
On the edge of the cedar and spruce forest old Pierre Radisson built the
fire. He was bleeding from a dozen wounds, where the fangs of the wolves
had reached to his flesh, and he felt in his breast that old and
terrible pain, of which no one knew the meaning but himself. He dragged
in log after log, piled them on the fire until the flames leaped tip to
the crisping needles of the limbs above, and heaped a supply close at
hand for use later in the night.
From the sledge Joan watched him, still wild-eyed and fearful, still
trembling. She was holding her baby close to her breast. Her long heavy
hair smothered her shoulders and arms in a dark lustrous veil that
glistened and rippled in the firelight when she moved. Her young face
was scarcely a woman's to-night, though she was a mother. She looked
like a child.
Old Pierre laughed as he threw down the last armful of fuel, and stood
"It was close, _ma cheri_" he panted through his white beard. "We were
nearer to death out there on the plain than we will ever be again, I
hope. But we are comfortable now, and warm. Eh? You are no longer
He sat down beside his daughter, and gently pulled back the soft fur
that enveloped the bundle she held in her arms. He could see one pink
cheek of baby Joan. The eyes of Joan, the mother, were like stars.
"It was the baby who saved us," she whispered. "The dogs were being torn
to pieces by the wolves, and I saw them leaping upon you, when one of
them sprang to the sledge. At first I thought it was one of the dogs.
But it was a wolf. He tore once at us, and the bearskin saved us. He was
almost at my throat when baby cried, and then he stood there, his red
eyes a foot from us, and I could have sworn again that he was a dog. In
an instant he turned, and was fighting the wolves. I saw him leap upon
one that was almost at your throat."
"He _was_ a dog," said old Pierre, holding out his hands to the warmth.
"They often wander away from the posts, and join the wolves. I have had
dogs do that. _Ma cheri_, a dog is a dog all his life. Kicks, abuse,
even the wolves can not change him--for long. He was one of the pack. He
came with them--to kill. But when he found _us_--"
"He fought for us," breathed the girl. She gave him the bundle, and
stood up, straight and tall and slim in the firelight. "He fought for
us--and he was terribly hurt," she said. "I saw him drag himself away.
Father, if he is out there--dying--"
Pierre Radisson stood up. He coughed in a shuddering way, trying to
stifle the sound under his beard. The fleck of crimson that came to his
lips with the cough Joan did not see. She had seen nothing of it during
the six days they had been traveling up from the edge of civilization.
Because of that cough, and the stain that came with it, Pierre had made
more than ordinary haste.
"I have been thinking of that," he said. "He was badly hurt, and I do
not think he went far. Here--take little Joan and sit close to the fire
until I come back."
The moon and the stars were brilliant in the sky when he went out in the
plain. A short distance from the edge of the timber-line he stood for a
moment upon the spot where the wolves had overtaken them an hour before.
Not one of his four dogs had lived. The snow was red with their blood,
and their bodies lay stiff where they had fallen under the pack. Pierre
shuddered as he looked at them. If the wolves had not turned their first
mad attack upon the dogs, what would have become of himself, Joan and
the baby? He turned away, with another of those hollow coughs that
brought the blood to his lips.
A few yards to one side he found in the snow the trail of the strange
dog that had come with the wolves, and had turned against them in that
moment when all seemed lost. It was not a clean running trail. It was
more of a furrow in the snow, and Pierre Radisson followed it, expecting
to find the dog dead at the end of it.
In the sheltered spot to which he had dragged himself in the edge of the
forest Kazan lay for a long time after the fight, alert and watchful.
He felt no very great pain. But he had lost the power to stand upon his
legs. His flanks seemed paralyzed. Gray Wolf crouched close at his side,
sniffing the air. They could smell the camp, and Kazan could detect the
two things that were there--_man_ and _woman_. He knew that the girl was
there, where he could see the glow of the firelight through the spruce
and the cedars. He wanted to go to her. He wanted to drag himself close
in to the fire, and take Gray Wolf with him, and listen to her voice,
and feel the touch of her hand. But the man was there, and to him man
had always meant the club, the whip, pain, death.
Gray Wolf crouched close to his side, and whined softly as she urged
Kazan to flee deeper with her into the forest. At last she understood
that he could not move, and she ran nervously out into the plain, and
back again, until her footprints were thick in the trail she made. The
instincts of matehood were strong in her. It was she who first saw
Pierre Radisson coming over their trail, and she ran swiftly back to
Kazan and gave the warning.
Then Kazan caught the scent, and he saw the shadowy figure coming
through the starlight. He tried to drag himself back, but he could move
only by inches. The man came rapidly nearer. Kazan caught the glisten of
the rifle in his hand. He heard his hollow cough, and the tread of his
feet in the snow. Gray Wolf crouched shoulder to shoulder with him,
trembling and showing her teeth. When Pierre had approached within fifty
feet of them she slunk back into the deeper shadows of the spruce.
Kazan's fangs were bared menacingly when Pierre stopped and looked down
at him. With an effort he dragged himself to his feet, but fell back
into the snow again. The man leaned his rifle against a sapling and bent
over him fearlessly. With a fierce growl Kazan snapped at his extended
hands. To his surprise the man did not pick up a stick or a club. He
held out his hand again--cautiously--and spoke in a voice new to Kazan.
The dog snapped again, and growled.
The man persisted, talking to him all the time, and once his mittened
hand touched Kazan's head, and escaped before the jaws could reach it.
Again and again the man reached out his hand, and three times Kazan felt
the touch of it, and there was neither threat nor hurt in it. At last
Pierre turned away and went back over the trail.
When he was out of sight and hearing, Kazan whined, and the crest along
his spine flattened. He looked wistfully toward the glow of the fire.
The man had not hurt him, and the three-quarters of him that was dog
wanted to follow.
Gray Wolf came back, and stood with stiffly planted forefeet at his
side. She had never been this near to man before, except when the pack
had overtaken the sledge out on the plain. She could not understand.
Every instinct that was in her warned her that he was the most dangerous
of all things, more to be feared than the strongest beasts, the storms,
the floods, cold and starvation. And yet this man had not harmed her
mate. She sniffed at Kazan's back and head, where the mittened hand had
touched. Then she trotted back into the darkness again, for beyond the
edge of the forest she once more saw moving life.
The man was returning, and with him was the girl. Her voice was soft
and sweet, and there was about her the breath and sweetness of woman.
The man stood prepared, but not threatening.
"Be careful, Joan," he warned.
She dropped on her knees in the snow, just out of reach.
"Come, boy--come!" she said gently. She held out her hand. Kazan's
muscles twitched. He moved an inch--two inches toward her. There was the
old light in her eyes and face now, the love and gentleness he had known
once before, when another woman with shining hair and eyes had come into
his life. "Come!" she whispered as she saw him move, and she bent a
little, reached a little farther with her hand, and at last touched his
Pierre knelt beside her. He was proffering something, and Kazan smelled
meat. But it was the girl's hand that made him tremble and shiver, and
when she drew back, urging him to follow her, he dragged himself
painfully a foot or two through the snow. Not until then did the girl
see his mangled leg. In an instant she had forgotten all caution, and
was down close at his side.
"He can't walk," she cried, a sudden tremble in her voice. "Look, _mon
pere!_ Here is a terrible cut. We must carry him."
"I guessed that much," replied Radisson. "For that reason I brought the
blanket. _Mon Dieu_, listen to that!"
From the darkness of the forest there came a low wailing cry.
Kazan lifted his head and a trembling whine answered in his throat. It
was Gray Wolf calling to him.
It was a miracle that Pierre Radisson should put the blanket about
Kazan, and carry him in to the camp, without scratch or bite. It was
this miracle that he achieved, with Joan's arm resting on Kazan's shaggy
neck as she held one end of the blanket. They laid him down close to the
fire, and after a little it was the man again who brought warm water and
washed away the blood from the torn leg, and then put something on it
that was soft and warm and soothing, and finally bound a cloth about it.
All this Was strange and new to Kazan. Pierre's hand, as well as the
girl's, stroked his head. It was the man who brought him a gruel of meal
and tallow, and urged him to eat, while Joan sat with her chin in her
two hands, looking at the dog, and talking to him. After this, when he
was quite comfortable, and no longer afraid, he heard a strange small
cry from the furry bundle on the sledge that brought his head up with a
Joan saw the movement, and heard the low answering whimper in his
throat. She turned quickly to the bundle, talking and cooing to it as
she took it in her arms, and then she pulled back the bearskin so that
Kazan could see. He had never seen a baby before, and Joan held it out
before him, so that he could look straight at it and see what a
wonderful creature it was. Its little pink face stared steadily at
Kazan. Its tiny fists reached out, and it made queer little sounds at
him, and then suddenly it kicked and screamed with delight and laughed.
At those sounds Kazan's whole body relaxed, and he dragged himself to
the girl's feet.
"See, he likes the baby!" she cried. "_Mon pere_, we must give him a
name. What shall it be?"
"Wait till morning for that," replied the father. "It is late, Joan. Go
into the tent, and sleep. We have no dogs now, and will travel slowly.
So we must start early."
With her hand on the tent-flap, Joan, turned.
"He came with the wolves," she said. "Let us call him Wolf." With one
arm she was holding the little Joan. The other she stretched out to
Kazan. "Wolf! Wolf!" she called softly.
Kazan's eyes were on her. He knew that she was speaking to him, and he
drew himself a foot toward her.
"He knows it already!" she cried. "Good night, _mon pere_."
For a long time after she had gone into the tent, old Pierre Radisson
sat on the edge of the sledge, facing the fire, with Kazan at his feet.
Suddenly the silence was broken again by Gray Wolf's lonely howl deep in
the forest. Kazan lifted his head and whined.
"She's calling for you, boy," said Pierre understandingly.
He coughed, and clutched a hand to his breast, where the pain seemed
"Frost-bitten lung," he said, speaking straight at Kazan. "Got it early
in the winter, up at Fond du Lac. Hope we'll get home--in time--with the
In the loneliness and emptiness of the big northern wilderness one falls
into the habit of talking to one's self. But Kazan's head was alert, and
his eyes watchful, so Pierre spoke to him.
"We've got to get them home, and there's only you and me to do it," he
said, twisting his beard. Suddenly he clenched his fists.
His hollow racking cough convulsed him again.
"Home!" he panted, clutching his chest. "It's eighty miles straight
north--to the Churchill--and I pray to God we'll get there--with the
kids--before my lungs give out."
He rose to his feet, and staggered a little as he walked. There was a
collar about Kazan's neck, and he chained him to the sledge. After that
he dragged three or four small logs upon the fire, and went quietly into
the tent where Joan and the baby were already asleep. Several times
that night Kazan heard the distant voice of Gray Wolf calling for him,
but something told him that he must not answer it now. Toward dawn Gray
Wolf came close in to the camp, and for the first time Kazan replied to
His howl awakened the man. He came out of the tent, peered for a few
moments up at the sky, built up the fire, and began to prepare
breakfast. He patted Kazan on the head, and gave him a chunk of meat.
Joan came out a few moments later, leaving the baby asleep in the tent.
She ran up and kissed Pierre, and then dropped down on her knees beside
Kazan, and talked to him almost as he had heard her talk to the baby.
When she jumped up to help her father, Kazan followed her, and when Joan
saw him standing firmly upon his legs she gave a cry of pleasure.
It was a strange journey that began into the North that day. Pierre
Radisson emptied the sledge of everything but the tent, blankets, food
and the furry nest for baby Joan. Then he harnessed himself in the
traces and dragged the sledge over the snow. He coughed incessantly.
"It's a cough I've had half the winter," lied Pierre, careful that Joan
saw no sign of blood on his lips or beard. "I'll keep in the cabin for a
week when we get home."
Even Kazan, with that strange beast knowledge which man, unable to
explain, calls instinct, knew that what he said was not the truth.
Perhaps it was largely because he had heard other men cough like this,
and that for generations his sledge-dog ancestors had heard men cough as
Radisson coughed--and had learned what followed it.
More than once he had scented death in tepees and cabins, which he had
not entered, and more than once he had sniffed at the mystery of death
that was not quite present, but near--just as he had caught at a
distance the subtle warning of storm and of fire. And that strange thing
seemed to be very near to him now, as he followed at the end of his
chain behind the sledge. It made him restless, and half a dozen times,
when the sledge stopped, he sniffed at the bit of humanity buried in the
bearskin. Each time that he did this Joan was quickly at his side, and
twice she patted his scarred and grizzled head until every drop of
blood in his body leaped riotously with a joy which his body did not
This day the chief thing that he came to understand was that the little
creature on the sledge was very precious to the girl who stroked his
head and talked to him, and that it was very helpless. He learned, too,
that Joan was most delighted, and that her voice was softer and thrilled
him more deeply, when he paid attention to that little, warm, living
thing in the bearskin.
For a long time after they made camp Pierre Radisson sat beside the
fire. To-night he did not smoke. He stared straight into the flames.
When at last he rose to go into the tent with the girl and the baby, he
bent over Kazan and examined his hurt.
"You've got to work in the traces to-morrow, boy," he said. "We must
make the river by to-morrow night. If we don't--"
He did not finish. He was choking back one of those tearing coughs when
the tent-flap dropped behind him. Kazan lay stiff and alert, his eyes
filled with a strange anxiety. He did not like to see Radisson enter the
tent, for stronger than ever there hung that oppressive mystery in the
air about him, and it seemed to be a part of Pierre.
Three times that night he heard faithful Gray Wolf calling for him deep
in the forest, and each time he answered her. Toward dawn she came in
close to camp. Once he caught the scent of her when she circled around
in the wind, and he tugged and whined at the end of his chain, hoping
that she would come in and lie down at his side. But no sooner had
Radisson moved in the tent than Gray Wolf was gone. The man's face was
thinner, and his eyes were redder this morning. His cough was not so
loud or so rending. It was like a wheeze, as if something had given way
inside, and before the girl came out he clutched his hands often at his
throat. Joan's face whitened when she saw him. Anxiety gave way to fear
in her eyes. Pierre Radisson laughed when she flung her arms about him,
and coughed to prove that what he said was true.
"You see the cough is not so bad, my Joan," he said. "It is breaking up.
You can not have forgotten, _ma cheri_? It always leaves one red-eyed
It was a cold bleak dark day that followed, and through it Kazan and
the man tugged at the fore of the sledge, with Joan following in the
trail behind. Kazan's wound no longer hurt him. He pulled steadily with
all his splendid strength, and the man never lashed him once, but patted
him with his mittened hand on head and back. The day grew steadily
darker and in the tops of the trees there was the low moaning of a
Darkness and the coming of the storm did not drive Pierre Radisson into
camp. "We must reach the river," he said to himself over and over again.
"We must reach the river--we must reach the river--" And he steadily
urged Kazan on to greater effort, while his own strength at the end of
the traces grew less.
It had begun to storm when Pierre stopped to build a fire at noon. The
snow fell straight down in a white deluge so thick that it hid the tree
trunks fifty yards away. Pierre laughed when Joan shivered and snuggled
close up to him with the baby in her arms. He waited only an hour, and
then fastened Kazan in the traces again, and buckled the straps once
more about his own waist. In the silent gloom that was almost night
Pierre carried his compass in his hand, and at last, late in the
afternoon, they came to a break in the timber-line, and ahead of them
lay a plain, across which Radisson pointed an exultant hand.
"There's the river, Joan," he said, his voice faint and husky. "We can
camp here now and wait for the storm to pass."
Under a thick clump of spruce he put up the tent, and then began
gathering fire-wood. Joan helped him. As soon as they had boiled coffee
and eaten a supper of meat and toasted biscuits, Joan went into the tent
and dropped exhausted on her thick bed of balsam boughs, wrapping
herself and the baby up close in the skins and blankets. To-night she
had no word for Kazan. And Pierre was glad that she was too tired to sit
beside the fire and talk. And yet--
Kazan's alert eyes saw Pierre start suddenly. He rose from his seat on
the sledge and went to the tent. He drew back the flap and thrust in his
head and shoulders.
"Asleep, Joan?" he asked.
"Almost, father. Won't you please come--soon?"
"After I smoke," he said. "Are you comfortable?"
"Yes, I'm so tired--and--sleepy--"
Pierre laughed softly. In the darkness he was gripping at his throat.
"We're almost home, Joan. That is our river out there--the Little
Beaver. If I should run away and leave you to-night you could follow it
right to our cabin. It's only forty miles. Do you hear?"
"Forty miles--straight down the river. You couldn't lose yourself, Joan.
Only you'd have to be careful of air-holes in the ice."
"Won't you come to bed, father? You're tired--and almost sick."
"Yes--after I smoke," he repeated. "Joan, will you keep reminding me
to-morrow of the air-holes? I might forget. You can always tell them,
for the snow and the crust over them are whiter than that on the rest of
the ice, and like a sponge. Will you remember--the airholes--"
Pierre dropped the tent-flap and returned to the fire. He staggered as
"Good night, boy," he said. "Guess I'd better go in with the kids. Two
days more--forty miles--two days--"
Kazan watched him as he entered the tent. He laid his weight against the
end of his chain until the collar shut off his wind. His legs and back
twitched. In that tent where Radisson had gone were Joan and the baby.
He knew that Pierre would not hurt them, but he knew also that with
Pierre Radisson something terrible and impending was hovering very near
to them. He wanted the man outside--by the fire--where he could lie
still, and watch him.
In the tent there was silence. Nearer to him than before came Gray
Wolf's cry. Each night she was calling earlier, and coming closer to the
camp. He wanted her very near to him to-night, but he did not even whine
in response. He dared not break that strange silence in the tent. He lay
still for a long time, tired and lame from the day's journey, but
sleepless. The fire burned lower; the wind in the tree-tops died away;
and the thick gray clouds rolled like a massive curtain from under the
skies. The stars began to glow white and metallic, and from far in the
North there came faintly a crisping moaning sound, like steel
sleigh-runners running over frosty snow--the mysterious monotone of the
Northern Lights. After that it grew steadily and swiftly colder.
To-night Gray Wolf did not compass herself by the direction of the wind.
She followed like a sneaking shadow over the trail Pierre Radisson had
made, and when Kazan heard her again, long after midnight, he lay with,
his head erect, and his body rigid, save for a curious twitching of his
muscles. There was a new note in Gray Wolf's voice, a wailing note in
which there was more than the mate-call. It was The Message. And at the
sound of it Kazan rose from out of his silence and his fear, and with
his head turned straight up to the sky he howled as the wild dogs of the
North howl before the tepees of masters who are newly dead.
Pierre Radisson was dead.
OUT OF THE BLIZZARD
It was dawn when the baby snuggled close to Joan's warm breast and
awakened her with its cry of hunger. She opened her eyes, brushed back
the thick hair from her face, and could see where the shadowy form of
her father was lying at the other side of the tent. He was very quiet,
and she was pleased that he was still sleeping. She knew that the day
before he had been very near to exhaustion, and so for half an hour
longer she lay quiet, cooing softly to the baby Joan. Then she arose
cautiously, tucked the baby in the warm blankets and furs, put on her
heavier garments, and went outside.
By this time it was broad day, and she breathed a sigh of relief when
she saw that the storm had passed. It was bitterly cold. It seemed to
her that she had never known it to be so cold in all her life. The fire
was completely out. Kazan was huddled in a round ball, his nose tucked
under his body. He raised his head, shivering, as Joan came out. With
her heavily moccasined foot Joan scattered the ashes and charred sticks
where the fire had been. There was not a spark left. In returning to the
tent she stopped for a moment beside Kazan, and patted his shaggy head.
"Poor Wolf!" she said. "I wish I had given you one of the bearskins!"
She threw back the tent-flap and entered. For the first time she saw her
father's face in the light--and outside, Kazan heard the terrible
moaning cry that broke from her lips. No one could have looked at Pierre
Radisson's face once--and not have understood.
After that one agonizing cry, Joan flung herself upon her father's
breast, sobbing so softly that even Kazan's sharp ears heard no sound.
She remained there in her grief until every vital energy of womanhood
and motherhood in her girlish body was roused to action by the wailing
cry of baby Joan. Then she sprang to her feet and ran out through the
tent opening. Kazan tugged at the end of his chain to meet her, but she
saw nothing of him now. The terror of the wilderness is greater than
that of death, and in an instant it had fallen upon Joan. It was not
because of fear for herself. It was the baby. The wailing cries from the
tent pierced her like knife-thrusts.
And then, all at once, there came to her what old Pierre had said the
night before--his words about the river, the air-holes, the home forty
miles away. "_You couldn't lose yourself, Joan_" He had guessed what
She bundled the baby deep in the furs and returned to the fire-bed. Her
one thought now was that they must have fire. She made a little pile of
birch-bark, covered it with half-burned bits of wood, and went into the
tent for the matches. Pierre Radisson carried them in a water-proof box
in a pocket of his bearskin coat. She sobbed as she kneeled beside him
again, and obtained the box. As the fire flared up she added other bits
of wood, and then some of the larger pieces that Pierre had dragged into
camp. The fire gave her courage. Forty miles--and the river led to their
home! She must make that, with the baby and Wolf. For the first time
she turned to him, and spoke his name as she put her hand on his head.
After that she gave him a chunk of meat which she thawed out over the
fire, and melted the snow for tea. She was not hungry, but she recalled
how her father had made her eat four or five times a day, so she forced
herself to make a breakfast of a biscuit, a shred of meat and as much
hot tea as she could drink.
The terrible hour she dreaded followed that. She wrapped blankets
closely about her father's body, and tied them with babiche cord. After
that she piled all the furs and blankets that remained on the sledge
close to the fire, and snuggled baby Joan deep down in them. Pulling
down the tent was a task. The ropes were stiff and frozen, and when she
had finished, one of her hands was bleeding. She piled the tent on the
sledge, and then, half, covering her face, turned and looked back.
Pierre Radisson lay on his balsam bed, with nothing over him now but the
gray sky and the spruce-tops. Kazan stood stiff-legged and sniffed the
air. His spine bristled when Joan went back slowly and kneeled beside
the blanket-wrapped object. When she returned to him her face was white
and tense, and now there was a strange and terrible look in her eyes as
she stared out across the barren. She put him in the traces, and
fastened about her slender waist the strap that Pierre had used. Thus
they struck out for the river, floundering knee-deep in the freshly
fallen and drifted snow. Half-way Joan stumbled in a drift and fell, her
loose hair flying in a shimmering veil over the snow. With a mighty pull
Kazan was at her side, and his cold muzzle touched her face as she drew
herself to her feet. For a moment Joan took his shaggy head between her
"Wolf!" she moaned. "Oh, Wolf!"
She went on, her breath coming pantingly now, even from her brief
exertion. The snow was not so deep on the ice of the river. But a wind
was rising. It came from the north and east, straight in her face, and
Joan bowed her head as she pulled with Kazan. Half a mile down the river
she stopped, and no longer could she repress the hopelessness that rose
to her lips in a sobbing choking cry. Forty miles! She clutched her
hands at her breast, and stood breathing like one who had been beaten,
her back to the wind. The baby was quiet. Joan went back and peered down
under the furs, and what she saw there spurred her on again almost
fiercely. Twice she stumbled to her knees in the drifts during the next
quarter of a mile.
After that there was a stretch of wind-swept ice, and Kazan pulled the
sledge alone. Joan walked at his side. There was a pain in her chest. A
thousand needles seemed pricking her face, and suddenly she remembered
the thermometer. She exposed it for a time on the top of the tent. When
she looked at it a few minutes later it was thirty degrees below zero.
Forty miles! And her father had told her that she could make it--and
could not lose herself! But she did not know that even her father would
have been afraid to face the north that day, with the temperature at
thirty below, and a moaning wind bringing the first warning of a
The timber was far behind her now. Ahead there was nothing but the
pitiless barren, and the timber beyond that was hidden by the gray gloom
of the day. If there had been trees, Joan's heart would not have choked
so with terror. But there was nothing--nothing but that gray ghostly
gloom, with the rim of the sky touching the earth a mile away.
The snow grew heavy under her feet again. Always she was watching for
those treacherous, frost-coated traps in the ice her father had spoken
of. But she found now that all the ice and snow looked alike to her, and
that there was a growing pain back of her eyes. It was the intense cold.
The river widened into a small lake, and here the wind struck her in the
face with such force that her weight was taken from the strap, and Kazan
dragged the sledge alone. A few inches of snow impeded her as much as a
foot had done before. Little by little she dropped back. Kazan forged to
her side, every ounce of his magnificent strength in the traces. By the
time they were on the river channel again, Joan was at the back of the
sledge, following in the trail made by Kazan. She was powerless to help
him. She felt more and more the leaden weight of her legs. There was but
one hope--and that was the forest. If they did not reach it soon, within
half an hour, she would be able to go no farther. Over and over again
she moaned a prayer for her baby as she struggled on. She fell in the
snow-drifts. Kazan and the sledge became only a dark blotch to her. And
then, all at once, she saw that they were leaving her. They were not
more than twenty feet ahead of her--but the blotch seemed to be a vast
distance away. Every bit of life and strength in her body was now bent
upon reaching the sledge--and baby Joan.
It seemed an interminable time before she gained. With the sledge only
six feet ahead of her she struggled for what seemed to her to be an hour
before she could reach out and touch it. With a moan she flung herself
forward, and fell upon it. She no longer heard the wailing of the storm.
She no longer felt discomfort. With her face in the furs under which
baby Joan was buried, there came to her with swiftness and joy a vision
of warmth and home. And then the vision faded away, and was followed by
Kazan stopped in the trail. He came back then and sat down upon his
haunches beside her, waiting for her to move and speak. But she was
very still. He thrust his nose into her loose hair. A whine rose in his
throat, and suddenly he raised his head and sniffed in the face of the
wind. Something came to him with that wind. He muzzled Joan again, hut
she did not stir. Then he went forward, and stood in his traces, ready
for the pull, and looked hack at her. Still she did not move or speak,
and Kazan's whine gave place to a sharp excited bark.
The strange thing in the wind came to him stronger for a moment. He
began to pull. The sledge-runners had frozen to the snow, and it took
every ounce of his strength to free them. Twice during the next five
minutes he stopped and sniffed the air. The third time that he halted,
in a drift of snow, he returned to Joan's side again, and whined to
awaken her. Then he tugged again at the end of his traces, and foot by
foot he dragged the sledge through the drift. Beyond the drift there was
a stretch of clear ice, and here Kazan rested. During a lull in the wind
the scent came to him stronger than before.
At the end of the clear ice was a narrow break in the shore, where a
creek ran into the main stream. If Joan had been conscious she would
have urged him straight ahead. But Kazan turned into the break, and for
ten minutes he struggled through the snow without a rest, whining more
and more frequently, until at last the whine broke into a joyous bark.
Ahead of him, close to the creek, was a small cabin. Smoke was rising
out of the chimney. It was the scent of smoke that had come to him in
the wind. A hard level slope reached to the cabin door, and with the
last strength that was in him Kazan dragged his burden up that. Then he
settled himself back beside Joan, lifted his shaggy head to the dark sky
A moment later the door opened. A man came out. Kazan's reddened,
snow-shot eyes followed him watchfully as he ran to the sledge. He heard
his startled exclamation as he bent over Joan. In another lull of the
wind there came from out of the mass of furs on the sledge the wailing,
half-smothered voice of baby Joan.
A deep sigh of relief heaved up from Kazan's chest. He was exhausted.
His strength was gone. His feet were torn and bleeding. But the voice
of baby Joan filled him with a strange happiness, and he lay down in his
traces, while the man carried Joan and the baby into the life and warmth
of the cabin.
A few minutes later the man reappeared. He was not old, like Pierre
Radisson. He came close to Kazan, and looked down at him.
"My God," he said. "And you did that--_alone!_"
He bent down fearlessly, unfastened him from the traces, and led him
toward the cabin door. Kazan hesitated but once--almost on the
threshold. He turned his head, swift and alert. From out of the moaning
and wailing of the storm it seemed to him that for a moment he had heard
the voice of Gray Wolf.
Then the cabin door closed behind him.
Back in a shadowy corner of the cabin he lay, while the man prepared
something over a hot stove for Joan. It was a long time before Joan rose