Part 2 out of 4
from the cot on which the man had placed her. After that Kazan heard her
sobbing; and then the man made her eat, and for a time they talked. Then
the stranger hung up a big blanket in front of the bunk, and sat down
close to the stove. Quietly Kazan slipped along the wall, and crept
under the bunk. For a long time he could hear the sobbing breath of the
girl. Then all was still.
The next morning he slipped out through the door when the man opened it,
and sped swiftly into the forest. Half a mile away he found the trail of
Gray Wolf, and called to her. From the frozen river came her reply, and
he went to her.
Vainly Gray Wolf tried to lure him back into their old haunts--away from
the cabin and the scent of man. Late that morning the man harnessed his
dogs, and from the fringe of the forest Kazan saw him tuck Joan and the
baby among the furs on the sledge, as old Pierre had done. All that day
he followed in the trail of the team, with Gray Wolf slinking behind
him. They traveled until dark; and then, under the stars and the moon
that had followed the storm, the man still urged on his team. It was
deep in the night when they came to another cabin, and the man beat upon
the door. A light, the opening of the door, the joyous welcome of a
man's voice, Joan's sobbing cry--Kazan heard these from the shadows in
which he was hidden, and then slipped back to Gray Wolf.
In the days and weeks that followed Joan's home-coming the lure of the
cabin and of the woman's hand held Kazan. As he had tolerated Pierre, so
now he tolerated the younger man who lived with Joan and the baby. He
knew that the man was very dear to Joan, and that the baby was very dear
to him, as it was to the girl. It was not until the third day that Joan
succeeded in coaxing him into the cabin--and that was the day on which
the man returned with the dead and frozen body of Pierre. It was Joan's
husband who first found the name on the collar he wore, and they began
calling him Kazan.
Half a mile away, at the summit of a huge mass of rock which the Indians
called the Sun Rock, he and Gray Wolf had found a home; and from here
they went down to their hunts on the plain, and often the girl's voice
reached up to them, calling, "_Kazan! Kazan! Kazan_!"
Through all the long winter Kazan hovered thus between the lure of Joan
and the cabin--and Gray Wolf.
Then came Spring--and the Great Change.
THE GREAT CHANGE
The rocks, the ridges and the valleys were taking on a warmer glow. The
poplar buds were ready to burst. The scent of balsam and of spruce grew
heavier in the air each day, and all through the wilderness, in plain
and forest, there was the rippling murmur of the spring floods finding
their way to Hudson's Bay. In that great bay there was the rumble and
crash of the ice fields thundering down in the early break-up through
the Roes Welcome--the doorway to the Arctic, and for that reason there
still came with the April wind an occasional sharp breath of winter.
Kazan had sheltered himself against that wind. Not a breath of air
stirred in the sunny spot the wolf-dog had chosen for himself. He was
more comfortable than he had been at any time during the six months of
terrible winter--and as he slept he dreamed.
Gray Wolf, his wild mate, lay near him, flat on her belly, her forepaws
reaching out, her eyes and nostrils as keen and alert as the smell of
man could make them. For there was that smell of man, as well as of
balsam and spruce, in the warm spring air. She gazed anxiously and
sometimes steadily, at Kazan as he slept. Her own gray spine stiffened
when she saw the tawny hair along Kazan's back bristle at some dream
vision. She whined softly as his upper lip snarled back, showing his
long white fangs. But for the most part Kazan lay quiet, save for the
muscular twitchings of legs, shoulders and muzzle, which always tell
when a dog is dreaming; and as he dreamed there came to the door of the
cabin out on the plain a blue-eyed girl-woman, with a big brown braid
over her shoulder, who called through the cup of her hands, "Kazan,
The voice reached faintly to the top of the Sun Rock, and Gray Wolf
flattened her ears. Kazan stirred, and in another instant he was awake
and on his feet. He leaped to an outcropping ledge, sniffing the air and
looking far out over the plain that lay below them.
Over the plain the woman's voice came to them again, and Kazan ran to
the edge of the rock and whined. Gray Wolf stepped softly to his side
and laid her muzzle on his shoulder. She had grown to know what the
Voice meant. Day and night she feared it, more than she feared the scent
or sound of man.
Since she had given up the pack and her old life for Kazan, the Voice
had become Gray Wolf's greatest enemy, and she hated it. It took Kazan
from her. And wherever it went, Kazan followed.
Night after night it robbed her of her mate, and left her to wander
alone under the stars and the moon, keeping faithfully to her
loneliness, and never once responding with her own tongue to the
hunt-calls of her wild brothers and sisters in the forests and out on
the plains. Usually she would snarl at the Voice, and sometimes nip
Kazan lightly to show her displeasure. But to-day, as the Voice came a
third time, she slunk back into the darkness of a fissure between two
rocks, and Kazan saw only the fiery glow of her eyes.
Kazan ran nervously to the trail their feet had worn up to the top of
the Sun Rock, and stood undecided. All day, and yesterday, he had been
uneasy and disturbed. Whatever it was that stirred him seemed to be in
the air, for he could not see it or hear it or scent it. But he could
_feel_ it. He went to the fissure and sniffed at Gray Wolf. Usually she
whined coaxingly. But her response to-day was to draw back her lips
until he could see her white fangs.
A fourth tune the Voice came to them faintly, and she snapped fiercely
at some unseen thing in the darkness between the two rocks. Kazan went
again to the trail, still hesitating. Then he began to go down. It was a
narrow winding trail, worn only by the pads and claws of animals, for
the Sun Rock was a huge crag that rose almost sheer up for a hundred
feet above the tops of the spruce and balsam, its bald crest catching
the first gleams of the sun in the morning and the last glow of it in
the evening. Gray Wolf had first led Kazan to the security of the
retreat at the top of the rock.
When he reached the bottom he no longer hesitated, but darted swiftly in
the direction of the cabin. Because of that instinct of the wild that
was still in him, he always approached the cabin with caution. He never
gave warning, and for a moment Joan was startled when she looked up from
her baby and saw Kazan's shaggy head and shoulders in the open door. The
baby struggled and kicked in her delight, and held out her two hands
with cooing cries to Kazan. Joan, too, held out a hand.
"Kazan!" she cried softly. "Come in, Kazan!"
Slowly the wild red light in Kazan's eyes softened. He put a forefoot on
the sill, and stood there, while the girl urged him again. Suddenly his
legs seemed to sink a little under him, his tail drooped and he slunk in
with that doggish air of having committed a crime. The creatures he
loved were in the cabin, but the cabin itself he hated. He hated all
cabins, for they all breathed of the club and the whip and bondage. Like
all sledge-dogs he preferred the open snow for a bed, and the
spruce-tops for shelter.
Joan dropped her hand to his head, and at its touch there thrilled
through him that strange joy that was his reward for leaving Gray Wolf
and the wild. Slowly he raised his head until his black muzzle rested on
her lap, and he closed his eyes while that wonderful little creature
that mystified him so--the baby--prodded him with her tiny feet, and
pulled his tawny hair. He loved these baby-maulings even more than the
touch of Joan's hand.
Motionless, sphinx-like, undemonstrative in every muscle of his body,
Kazan stood, scarcely breathing. More than once this lack of
demonstration had urged Joan's husband to warn her. But the wolf that
was in Kazan, his wild aloofness, even his mating with Gray Wolf had
made her love him more. She understood, and had faith in him.
In the days of the last snow Kazan had proved himself. A neighboring
trapper had run over with his team, and the baby Joan had toddled up to
one of the big huskies. There was a fierce snap of jaws, a scream of
horror from Joan, a shout from the men as they leaped toward the pack.
But Kazan was ahead of them all. In a gray streak that traveled with the
speed of a bullet he was at the big husky's throat. When they pulled him
off, the husky was dead. Joan thought of that now, as the baby kicked
and tousled Kazan's head.
"Good old Kazan," she cried softly, putting her face down close to him.
"We're glad you came, Kazan, for we're going to be alone to-night--baby
and I. Daddy's gone to the post, and you must care for us while he's
She tickled his nose with the end of her long shining braid. This always
delighted the baby, for in spite of his stoicism Kazan had to sniff and
sometimes to sneeze, and twig his ears. And it pleased him, too. He
loved the sweet scent of Joan's hair.
"And you'd fight for us, if you had to, wouldn't you?" she went on. Then
she rose quietly. "I must close the door," she said. "I don't want you
to go away again to-day, Kazan. You must stay with us."
Kazan went off to his corner, and lay down. Just as there had been some
strange thing at the top of the Sun Rock to disturb him that day, so now
there was a mystery that disturbed him in the cabin. He sniffed the air,
trying to fathom its secret. Whatever it was, it seemed to make his
mistress different, too. And she was digging out all sorts of odds and
ends of things about the cabin, and doing them up in packages. Late that
night, before she went to bed, Joan came and snuggled her hand close
down beside him for a few moments.
"We're going away," she whispered, and there was a curious tremble that
was almost a sob in her voice. "We're going home, Kazan. We're going
away down where his people live--where they have churches, and cities,
and music, and all the beautiful things in the world. And we're going to
take _you_, Kazan!"
Kazan didn't understand. But he was happy at having the woman so near to
him, and talking to him. At these times he forgot Gray Wolf. The dog
that was in him surged over his quarter-strain of wildness, and the
woman and the baby alone filled his world. But after Joan had gone to
her bed, and all was quiet in the cabin, his old uneasiness returned. He
rose to his feet and moved stealthily about the cabin, sniffing at the
walls, the door and the things his mistress had done into packages. A
low whine rose in his throat. Joan, half asleep, heard it, and murmured:
"Be quiet, Kazan. Go to sleep--go to sleep--"
Long after that, Kazan stood rigid in the center of the room, listening,
trembling. And faintly he heard, far away, the wailing cry of, Gray
Wolf. But to-night it was not the cry of loneliness. It sent a thrill
through him. He ran to the door, and whined, but Joan was deep in
slumber and did not hear him. Once more he heard the cry, and only once.
Then the night grew still. He crouched down near the door.
Joan found him there, still watchful, still listening, when she awoke in
the early morning. She came to open the door for him, and in a moment he
was gone. His feet seemed scarcely to touch the earth as he sped in the
direction of the Sun Rock. Across the plain he could see the cap of it
already painted with a golden glow.
He came to the narrow winding trail, and wormed his way up it swiftly.
Gray Wolf was not at the top to greet him. But he could smell her, and
the scent of that other thing was strong in the air. His muscles
tightened; his legs grew tense. Deep down in his chest there began the
low rumble of a growl. He knew now what that strange thing was that had
haunted him, and made him uneasy. It was _life_. Something that lived
and breathed had invaded the home which he and Gray Wolf had chosen. He
bared his long fangs, and a snarl of defiance drew back his lips.
Stiff-legged, prepared to spring, his neck and head reaching out, he
approached the two rocks between which Gray Wolf had crept the night
before. She was still there. And with her was _something else_. After a
moment the tenseness left Kazan's body. His bristling crest drooped
until it lay flat. His ears shot forward, and he put his head and
shoulders between the two rocks, and whined softly. And Gray Wolf
whined. Slowly Kazan backed out, and faced the rising sun. Then he lay
down, so that his body shielded I the entrance to the chamber between
Gray Wolf was a mother.
THE TRAGEDY ON SUN ROCK
All that day Kazan guarded the top of the Sun Rock. Fate, and the fear
and brutality of masters, had heretofore kept him from fatherhood, and
he was puzzled. Something told him now that he belonged to the Sun Rock,
and not to the cabin. The call that came to him from over the plain was
not so strong. At dusk Gray Wolf came out from her retreat, and slunk to
his side, whimpering, and nipped gently at his shaggy neck. It was the
old instinct of his fathers that made him respond by caressing Gray
Wolf's face with his tongue. Then Gray Wolf's jaws opened, and she
laughed in short panting breaths, as if she had been hard run. She was
happy, and as they heard a little snuffling sound from between the
rocks, Kazan wagged his tail, and Gray Wolf darted back to her young.
The babyish cry and its effect upon Gray Wolf taught Kazan his first
lesson in fatherhood. Instinct again told him that Gray Wolf could not
go down to the hunt with him now--that she must stay at the top of the
Sun Rock. So when the moon rose he went down alone, and toward dawn
returned with a big white rabbit between his jaws. It was the wild in
him that made him do this, and Gray Wolf ate ravenously. Then he knew
that each night hereafter he must hunt for Gray Wolf--and the little
whimpering creatures hidden between the two rocks.
The next day, and still the next, he did not go to the cabin, though he
heard the voices of both the man and the woman calling him. On the fifth
he went down, and Joan and the baby were so glad that the woman hugged
him, and the baby kicked and laughed and screamed at him, while the man
stood by cautiously, watching their demonstrations with a gleam of
disapprobation in his eyes.
"I'm afraid of him," he told Joan for the hundredth time. "That's the
wolf-gleam in his eyes. He's of a treacherous breed. Sometimes I wish
we'd never brought him home."
"If we hadn't--where would the baby--have gone?" Joan reminded him, a
little catch in her voice.
"I had almost forgotten that," said her husband. "Kazan, you old devil,
I guess I love you, too." He laid his hand caressingly on Kazan's head.
"Wonder how he'll take to life down there?" he asked. "He has always
been used to the forests. It'll seem mighty strange."
"And so--have I--always been used to the forests," whispered Joan. "I
guess that's why I love Kazan--next to you and the baby. Kazan--dear old
This time Kazan felt and scented more of that mysterious change in the
cabin. Joan and her husband talked incessantly of their plans when they
were together; and when the man was away Joan talked to the baby, and to
him. And each time that he came down to the cabin during the week that
followed, he grew more and more restless, until at last the man noticed
the change in him.
"I believe he knows," he said to Joan one evening. "I believe he knows
we're preparing to leave." Then he added: "The river was rising again
to-day. It will be another week before we can start, perhaps longer."
That same night the moon flooded the top of the Sun Rock with a golden
light, and out into the glow of it came Gray Wolf, with her three little
whelps toddling behind her. There was much about these soft little balls
that tumbled about him and snuggled in his tawny coat that reminded
Kazan of the baby. At times they made the same queer, soft little
sounds, and they staggered about on their four little legs just as
helplessly as baby Joan made her way about on two. He did not fondle
them, as Gray Wolf did, but the touch of them, and their babyish
whimperings, filled him with a kind of pleasure that he had never
The moon was straight above them, and the night was almost as bright as
day, when he went down again to hunt for Gray Wolf. At the foot of the
rock a big white rabbit popped up ahead of him, and he gave chase. For
half a mile he pursued, until the wolf instinct in him rose over the
dog, and he gave up the futile race. A deer he might have overtaken, but
small game the wolf must hunt as the fox hunts it, and he began to slip
through the thickets slowly and as quietly as a shadow. He was a mile
from the Sun Rock when two quick leaps put Gray Wolf's supper between
his jaws. He trotted back slowly, dropping the big seven-pound snow-shoe
hare now and then to rest.
When he came to the narrow trail that led to the top of the Sun Rock he
stopped. In that trail was the warm scent of strange feet. The rabbit
fell from his jaws. Every hair in his body was suddenly electrified into
life. What he scented was not the scent of a rabbit, a marten or a
porcupine. Fang and claw had climbed the path ahead of him. And then,
coming faintly to him from the top of the rock, he heard sounds which
sent him up with a terrible whining cry. When he reached the summit he
saw in the white moonlight a scene that stopped him for a single moment.
Close to the edge of the sheer fall to the rocks, fifty feet below, Gray
Wolf was engaged in a death-struggle with a huge gray lynx. She was
down--and under, and from her there came a sudden sharp terrible cry of
Kazan flew across the rock. His attack was the swift silent assault of
the wolf, combined with the greater courage, the fury and the strategy
of the husky. Another husky would have died in that first attack. But
the lynx was not a dog or a wolf. It was "Mow-lee, the swift," as the
Sarcees had named it--the quickest creature in the wilderness. Kazan's
inch-long fangs should have sunk deep in its jugular. But in a
fractional part of a second the lynx had thrown itself back like a huge
soft ball, and Kazan's teeth buried themselves in the flesh of its neck
instead of the jugular. And Kazan was not now fighting the fangs of a
wolf in the pack, or of another husky. He was fighting claws--claws that
ripped like twenty razor-edged knives, and which even a jugular hold
could not stop.
Once he had fought a lynx in a trap, and he had not forgotten the lesson
the battle had taught him. He fought to pull the lynx _down_, instead of
forcing it on its back, as he would have done with another dog or a
wolf. He knew that when on its back the fierce cat was most dangerous.
One rip of its powerful hindfeet could disembowel him.
Behind him he heard Gray Wolf sobbing and crying, and he knew that she
was terribly hurt. He was filled with the rage and strength of two dogs,
and his teeth met through the flesh and hide of the cat's throat. But
the big lynx escaped death by half an inch. It would take a fresh grip
to reach the jugular, and suddenly Kazan made the deadly lunge. There
was an instant's freedom for the lynx, and in that moment it flung
itself back, and Kazan gripped at its throat--_on top_.
The cat's claws ripped through his flesh, cutting open his side--a
little too high to kill. Another stroke and they would have cut to his
vitals. But they had struggled close to the edge of the rock wall, and
suddenly, without a snarl or a cry, they rolled over. It was fifty or
sixty feet to the rocks of the ledge below, and even as they pitched
over and over in the fall, Kazan's teeth sank deeper. They struck with
terrific force, Kazan uppermost. The shock sent him half a dozen feet
from his enemy. He was up like a flash, dizzy, snarling, on the
defensive. The lynx lay limp and motionless where it had fallen. Kazan
came nearer, still prepared, and sniffed cautiously. Something told him
that the fight was over. He turned and dragged himself slowly along the
ledge to the trail, and returned to Gray Wolf.
Gray Wolf was no longer in the moonlight. Close to the two rocks lay the
limp and lifeless little bodies of the three pups. The lynx had torn
them to pieces. With a whine of grief Kazan approached the two boulders
and thrust his head between them. Gray Wolf was there, crying to herself
in that terrible sobbing way. He went in, and began to lick her bleeding
shoulders and head. All the rest of that night she whimpered with pain.
With dawn she dragged herself out to the lifeless little bodies on the
And then Kazan saw the terrible work of the lynx. For Gray Wolf was
blind--not for a day or a night, but blind for all time. A gloom that no
sun could break had become her shroud. And perhaps again it was that
instinct of animal creation, which often is more wonderful than man's
reason, that told Kazan what had happened. For he knew now that she was
helpless--more helpless than the little creatures that had gamboled in
the moonlight a few hours before. He remained close beside her all
[Illustration: Kazan gripped at its throat]
Vainly that day did Joan call for Kazan. Her voice rose to the Sun Rock,
and Gray Wolf's head snuggled closer to Kazan, and Kazan's ears dropped
back, and he licked her wounds. Late in the afternoon Kazan left Gray
Wolf long enough to run to the bottom of the trail and bring up the
snow-shoe rabbit. Gray Wolf muzzled the fur and flesh, but would not
eat. Still a little later Kazan urged her to follow him to the trail. He
no longer wanted to stay at the top of the Sun Rock, and he no longer
wanted Gray Wolf to stay there. Step by step he drew her down the
winding path away from her dead puppies. She would move only when he was
very near her--so near that she could touch his scarred flank with her
They came at last to the point in the trail where they had to leap down
a distance of three or four feet from the edge of a rock, and here Kazan
saw how utterly helpless Gray Wolf had become. She whined, and crouched
twenty times before she dared make the spring, and then she jumped
stiff-legged, and fell in a heap at Kazan's feet. After this Kazan did
not have to urge her so hard, for the fall impinged on her the fact that
she was safe only when her muzzle touched her mate's flank. She followed
him obediently when they reached the plain, trotting with her
foreshoulder to his hip.
Kazan was heading for a thicket in the creek bottom half a mile away,
and a dozen times in that short distance Gray Wolf stumbled and fell.
And each time that she fell Kazan learned a little more of the
limitations of blindness. Once he sprang off in pursuit of a rabbit, but
he had not taken twenty leaps when he stopped and looked back. Gray Wolf
had not moved an inch. She stood motionless, sniffing the air--waiting
for him! For a full minute Kazan stood, also waiting. Then he returned
to her. Ever after this he returned to the point where he had left Gray
Wolf, knowing that he would find her there.
All that day they remained in the thicket. In the afternoon he visited
the cabin. Joan and her husband were there, and both saw at once
Kazan's torn side and his lacerated head and shoulders.
"Pretty near a finish fight for him," said the man, after he had
examined him. "It was either a lynx or a bear. Another wolf could not do
For half an hour Joan worked over him, talking to him all the time, and
fondling him with her soft hands. She bathed his wounds in warm water,
and then covered them with a healing salve, and Kazan was filled again
with that old restful desire to remain with her always, and never to go
back into the forests. For an hour she let him lie on the edge of her
dress, with his nose touching her foot, while she worked on baby things.
Then she rose to prepare supper, and Kazan got up--a little wearily--and
went to the door. Gray Wolf and the gloom of the night were calling him,
and he answered that call with a slouch of his shoulders and a drooping
head. Its old thrill was gone. He watched his chance, and went out
through the door. The moon had risen when he rejoined Gray Wolf. She
greeted his return with a low whine of joy, and muzzled him with her
blind face. In her helplessness she looked happier than Kazan in all his
From now on, during the days that followed, it was a last great fight
between blind and faithful Gray Wolf and the woman. If Joan had known of
what lay in the thicket, if she could once have seen the poor creature
to whom Kazan was now all life--the sun, the stars, the moon, and
food--she would have helped Gray Wolf. But as it was she tried to lure
Kazan more and more to the cabin, and slowly she won.
At last the great day came, eight days after the fight on the Sun Rock.
Kazan had taken Gray Wolf to a wooded point on the river two days
before, and there he had left her the preceding night when he went to
the cabin. This time a stout babiche thong was tied to the collar round
his neck, and he was fastened to a staple in the log wall. Joan and her
husband were up before it was light next day. The sun was just rising
when they all went out, the man carrying the baby, and Joan leading him.
Joan turned and locked the cabin door, and Kazan heard a sob in her
throat as they followed the man down to the river. The big canoe was
packed and waiting. Joan got in first, with the baby. Then, still
holding the babiche thong, she drew Kazan up close to her, so that he
lay with his weight against her.
The sun fell warmly on Kazan's back as they shoved off, and he closed
his eyes, and rested his head on Joan's lap. Her hand fell softly on his
shoulder. He heard again that sound which the man could not hear, the
broken sob in her throat, as the canoe moved slowly down to the wooded
Joan waved her hand back at the cabin, just disappearing behind the
"Good-by!" she cried sadly. "Good-by--" And then she buried her face
close down to Kazan and the baby, and sobbed.
The man stopped paddling.
"You're not sorry--Joan?" he asked.
They were drifting past the point now, and the scent of Gray Wolf came
to Kazan's nostrils, rousing him, and bringing a low whine from his
"You're not sorry--we're going?" Joan shook her head.
"No," she replied. "Only I've--always lived here--in the forests--and
The point with its white finger of sand, was behind them now. And Kazan
was standing rigid, facing it. The man called to him, and Joan lifted
her head. She, too, saw the point, and suddenly the babiche leash
slipped from her fingers, and a strange light leaped into her blue eyes
as she saw what stood at the end of that white tip of sand. It was Gray
Wolf. Her blind eyes were turned toward Kazan. At last Gray Wolf, the
faithful, understood. Scent told her what her eyes could not see. Kazan
and the man-smell were together. And they were going--going--going--
"Look!" whispered Joan.
The man turned. Gray Wolf's forefeet were in the water. And now, as the
canoe drifted farther and farther away, she settled back on her
haunches, raised her head to the sun which she could not see and gave
her last long wailing cry for Kazan.
The canoe lurched. A tawny body shot through the air--and Kazan was
The man reached forward for his rifle. Joan's hand stopped him. Her
face was white.
"Let him go back to her! Let him go--let him go!" she cried. "It is his
And Kazan reaching the shore, shook the water from his shaggy hair, and
looked for the last time toward the woman. The canoe was drifting slowly
around the first bend. A moment more and it had disappeared. Gray Wolf
THE DAYS OF FIRE
From the night of the terrible fight with the big gray lynx on the top
of the Sun Rock, Kazan remembered less and less vividly the old days
when he had been a sledge-dog, and the leader of a pack. He would never
quite forget them, and always there would stand out certain memories
from among the rest, like fires cutting the blackness of night. But as
man dates events from his birth, his marriage, his freedom from a
bondage, or some foundation-step in his career, so all things seemed to
Kazan to begin with two tragedies which had followed one fast upon the
other after the birth of Gray Wolf's pups.
The first was the fight on the Sun Rock, when the big gray lynx had
blinded his beautiful wolf mate for all time, and had torn her pups into
pieces. He in turn had killed the lynx. But Gray Wolf was still blind.
Vengeance had not been able to give her sight. She could no longer hunt
with him, as they had hunted with the wild wolf-packs out on the plain,
and in the dark forests. So at thought of that night he always snarled,
and his lips curled back to reveal his inch-long fangs.
The other tragedy was the going of Joan, her baby and her husband.
Something more infallible than reason told Kazan that they would not
come back. Brightest of all the pictures that remained with him was that
of the sunny morning when the woman and the baby he loved, and the man
he endured because of them, had gone away in the canoe, and often he
would go to the point, and gaze longingly down-stream, where he had
leaped from the canoe to return to his blind mate.
So Kazan's life seemed now to be made up chiefly of three things: his
hatred of everything that bore the scent or mark of the lynx, his
grieving for Joan and the baby, and Gray Wolf. It was natural that the
strongest passion in him should be his hatred of the lynx, for not only
Gray Wolf's blindness and the death of the pups, but even the loss of
the woman and the baby he laid to that fatal struggle on the Sun Rock.
From that hour he became the deadliest enemy of the lynx tribe. Wherever
he struck the scent of the big gray cat he was turned into a snarling
demon, and his hatred grew day by day, as he became more completely a
part of the wild.
He found that Gray Wolf was more necessary to him now than she had ever
been since the day she had left the wolf-pack for him. He was
three-quarters dog, and the dog-part of him demanded companionship.
There was only Gray Wolf to give him that now. They were alone.
Civilization was four hundred miles south of them. The nearest Hudson's
Bay post was sixty miles to the west. Often, in the days of the woman
and the baby, Gray Wolf had spent her nights alone out in the forest,
waiting and calling for Kazan. Now it was Kazan who was lonely and
uneasy when he was away from her side.
In her blindness Gray Wolf could no longer hunt with her mate. But
gradually a new code of understanding grew up between them, and through
her blindness they learned many things that they had not known before.
By early summer Gray Wolf could travel with Kazan, if he did not move
too swiftly. She ran at his flank, with her shoulder or muzzle touching
him, and Kazan learned not to leap, but to trot. Very quickly he found
that he must choose the easiest trails for Gray Wolf's feet. When they
came to a space to be bridged by a leap, he would muzzle Gray Wolf and
whine, and she would stand with ears alert--listening. Then Kazan would
take the leap, and she understood the distance she had to cover. She
always over-leaped, which was a good fault.
In another way, and one that was destined to serve them many times in
the future, she became of greater help than ever to Kazan. Scent and
hearing entirely took the place of sight. Each day developed these
senses more and more, and at the same time there developed between them
the dumb language whereby she could impress upon Kazan what she had
discovered by scent or sound. It became a curious habit of Kazan's
always to look at Gray Wolf when they stopped to listen, or to scent the
After the fight on the Sun Rock, Kazan had taken his blind mate to a
thick clump of spruce and balsam in the river-bottom, where they
remained until early summer. Every day for weeks Kazan went to the cabin
where Joan and the baby--and the man--had been. For a long time he went
hopefully, looking each day or night to see some sign of life there. But
the door was never open. The boards and saplings at the windows always
remained. Never a spiral of smoke rose from the clay chimney. Grass and
vines began to grow in the path. And fainter and fainter grew that scent
which Kazan could still find about it--the scent of man, of the woman,
One day he found a little baby moccasin under one of the closed windows.
It was old, and worn out, and blackened by snow and rain, but he lay
down beside it, and remained there for a long time, while the baby
Joan--a thousand miles away--was playing with the strange toys of
civilization. Then he returned to Gray Wolf among the spruce and balsam.
The cabin was the one place to which Gray Wolf would not follow him. At
all other times she was at his side. Now that she had become accustomed
to blindness, she even accompanied him on his hunts, until he struck
game, and began the chase. Then she would wait for him. Kazan usually
hunted the big snow-shoe rabbits. But one night he ran down and killed a
young doe. The kill was too heavy to drag to Gray Wolf, so he returned
to where she was waiting for him and guided her to the feast. In many
ways they became more and more inseparable as the summer lengthened,
until at last, through all the wilderness, their footprints were always
two by two and never one by one.
Then came the great fire.
Gray Wolf caught the scent of it when it was still two days to the west.
The sun that night went down in a lurid cloud. The moon, drifting into
the west, became blood red. When it dropped behind the wilderness in
this manner, the Indians called it the Bleeding Moon, and the air was
filled with omens.
All the next day Gray Wolf was nervous, and toward noon Kazan caught in
the air the warning that she had sensed many hours ahead of him.
Steadily the scent grew stronger, and by the middle of the afternoon the
sun was veiled by a film of smoke.
The flight of the wild things from the triangle of forest between the
junctions of the Pipestone and Cree Rivers would have begun then, but
the wind shifted. It was a fatal shift. The fire was raging from the
west and south. Then the wind swept straight eastward, carrying the
smoke with it, and during this breathing spell all the wild creatures in
the triangle between the two rivers waited. This gave the fire time to
sweep completely, across the base of the forest triangle, cutting off
the last trails of escape.
Then the wind shifted again, and the fire swept north. The head of the
triangle became a death-trap. All through the night the southern sky was
filled with a lurid glow, and by morning the heat and smoke and ash were
Panic-striken, Kazan searched vainly for a means of escape. Not for an
instant did he leave Gray Wolf. It would have been easy for him to swim
across either of the two streams, for he was three-quarters dog. But at
the first touch of water on her paws, Gray Wolf drew back, shrinking.
Like all her breed, she would face fire and death before water. Kazan
urged. A dozen times he leaped in, and swam out into the stream. But
Gray Wolf would come no farther than she could wade.
They could hear the distant murmuring roar of the fire now. Ahead of it
came the wild things. Moose, caribou and deer plunged into the water of
the streams and swam to the safety of the opposite side. Out upon a
white finger of sand lumbered a big black bear with two cubs, and even
the cubs took to the water, and swam across easily. Kazan watched them,
and whined to Gray Wolf.
And then out upon that white finger of sand came other things that
dreaded the water as Gray Wolf dreaded it: a big fat porcupine, a sleek
little marten, a fisher-cat that sniffed the air and wailed like a
child. Those things that could not or would not swim outnumbered the
others three to one. Hundreds of little ermine scurried along the shore
like rats, their squeaking little voices sounding incessantly; foxes ran
swiftly along the banks, seeking a tree or a windfall that might bridge
the water for them; the lynx snarled and faced the fire; and Gray
Wolf's own tribe--the wolves--dared take no deeper step than she.
Dripping and panting, and half choked by heat and smoke, Kazan came to
Gray Wolf's side. There was but one refuge left near them, and that was
the sand-bar. It reached out for fifty feet into the stream. Quickly he
led his blind mate toward it. As they came through the low bush to the
river-bed, something stopped them both. To their nostrils had come the
scent of a deadlier enemy than fire. A lynx had taken possession of the
sand-bar, and was crouching at the end of it. Three porcupines had
dragged themselves into the edge of the water, and lay there like balls,
their quills alert and quivering. A fisher-cat was snarling at the lynx.
And the lynx, with ears laid back, watched Kazan and Gray Wolf as they
began the invasion of the sand-bar.
Faithful Gray Wolf was full of fight, and she sprang shoulder to
shoulder with Kazan, her fangs bared. With an angry snap, Kazan drove
her back, and she stood quivering and whining while he advanced.
Light-footed, his pointed ears forward, no menace or threat in his
attitude, he advanced. It was the deadly advance of the husky trained
in battle, skilled in the art of killing. A man from civilization would
have said that the dog was approaching the lynx with friendly
intentions. But the lynx understood. It was the old feud of many
generations--made deadlier now by Kazan's memory of that night at the
top of the Sun Rock.
Instinct told the fisher-cat what was coming, and it crouched low and
flat; the porcupines, scolding like little children at the presence of
enemies and the thickening clouds of smoke, thrust their quills still
more erect. The lynx lay on its belly, like a cat, its hindquarters
twitching, and gathered for the spring. Kazan's feet seemed scarcely to
touch the sand as he circled lightly around it. The lynx pivoted as he
circled, and then it shot in a round snarling ball over the eight feet
of space that separated them.
Kazan did not leap aside. He made no effort to escape the attack, but
met it fairly with the full force of his shoulders, as sledge-dog meets
sledge-dog. He was ten pounds heavier than the lynx, and for a moment
the big loose-jointed cat with its twenty knife-like claws was thrown
on its side. Like a flash Kazan took advantage of the moment, and drove
for the back of the cat's neck.
In that same moment blind Gray Wolf leaped in with a snarling cry, and
fighting under Kazan's belly, she fastened her jaws in one of the cat's
hindlegs. The bone snapped. The lynx, twice outweighed, leaped backward,
dragging both Kazan and Gray Wolf. It fell back down on one of the
porcupines, and a hundred quills drove into its body. Another leap and
it was free--fleeing into the face of the smoke. Kazan did not pursue.
Gray Wolf came to his side and licked his neck, where fresh blood was
crimsoning his tawny hide. The fisher-cat lay as if dead, watching them
with fierce little black eyes. The porcupines continued to chatter, as
if begging for mercy. And then a thick black suffocating pall of smoke
drove low over the sand-bar and with it came air that was furnace-hot.
At the uttermost end of the sand-bar Kazan and Gray Wolf rolled
themselves into balls and thrust their heads under their bodies. The
fire was very near now. The roar of it was like that of a great
cataract, with now and then a louder crash of falling trees. The air
was filled with ash and burning sparks, and twice Kazan drew forth his
head to snap at blazing embers that fell upon and seared him like hot
Close along the edge of the stream grew thick green bush, and when the
fire reached this, it burned more slowly, and the heat grew less. Still,
it was a long time before Kazan and Gray Wolf could draw forth their
heads and breathe more freely. Then they found that the finger of sand
reaching out into the river had saved them. Everywhere in that triangle
between the two rivers the world had turned black, and was hot
The smoke cleared away. The wind changed again, and swung down cool and
fresh from the west and north. The fisher-cat was the first to move
cautiously back to the forests that had been, but the porcupines were
still rolled into balls when Gray Wolf and Kazan left the sand-bar. They
began to travel up-stream, and before night came, their feet were sore
from hot ash and burning embers.
The moon was strange and foreboding that night, like a spatter of blood
in the sky, and through the long silent hours there was not even the
hoot of an owl to give a sign that life still existed where yesterday
had been a paradise of wild things. Kazan knew that there was nothing to
hunt, and they continued to travel all that night. With dawn they struck
a narrow swamp along the edge of the stream. Here beavers had built a
dam, and they were able to cross over into the green country on the
opposite side. For another day and another night they traveled westward,
and this brought them into the thick country of swamp and timber along
And as Kazan and Gray Wolf came from the west, there came from the
Hudson's Bay post to the east a slim dark-faced French half-breed by the
name of Henri Loti, the most famous lynx hunter in all the Hudson's Bay
country. He was prospecting for "signs," and he found them in abundance
along the Waterfound. It was a game paradise, and the snow-shoe rabbit
abounded in thousands. As a consequence, the lynxes were thick, and
Henri built his trapping shack, and then returned to the post to wait
until the first snows fell, when he would come back with his team,
supplies and traps.
And up from the south, at this same time, there was slowly working his
way by canoe and trail a young university zoologist who was gathering
material for a book on _The Reasoning of the Wild_. His name was Paul
Weyman, and he had made arrangements to spend a part of the winter with
Henri Loti, the half-breed. He brought with him plenty of paper, a
camera and the photograph of a girl. His only weapon was a pocket-knife.
And meanwhile Kazan and Gray Wolf found the home they were seeking in a
thick swamp five or six miles from the cabin that Henri Loti had built.
ALWAYS TWO BY TWO
It was January when a guide from the post brought Paul Weyman to Henri
Loti's cabin on the Waterfound. He was a man of thirty-two or three,
full of the red-blooded life that made Henri like him at once. If this
had not been the case, the first few days in the cabin might have been
unpleasant, for Henri was in bad humor. He told Weyman about it their
first night, as they were smoking pipes alongside the redly glowing box
"It is damn strange," said Henri. "I have lost seven lynx in the traps,
torn to pieces like they were no more than rabbits that the foxes had
killed. No thing--not even bear--have ever tackled lynx in a trap
before. It is the first time I ever see it. And they are torn up so bad
they are not worth one half dollar at the post. Seven!--that is over two
hundred dollar I have lost! There are two wolves who do it. Two--I know
it by the tracks--always two--an'--never one. They follow my trap-line
an' eat the rabbits I catch. They leave the fisher-cat, an' the mink,
an' the ermine, an' the marten; but the lynx--_sacre_ an' damn!--they
jump on him an' pull the fur from him like you pull the wild cotton
balls from the burn-bush! I have tried strychnine in deer fat, an' I
have set traps and deadfalls, but I can not catch them. They will drive
me out unless I get them, for I have taken only five good lynx, an' they
have destroyed seven."
This roused Weyman. He was one of that growing number of thoughtful men
who believe that man's egoism, as a race, blinds him to many of the more
wonderful facts of creation. He had thrown down the gantlet, and with a
logic that had gained him a nation-wide hearing, to those who believed
that man was the only living creature who could reason, and that common
sense and cleverness when displayed by any other breathing thing were
merely instinct. The facts behind Henri's tale of woe struck him as
important, and until midnight they talked about the two strange wolves.
"There is one big wolf an' one smaller," said Henri. "An' it is always
the big wolf who goes in an' fights the lynx. I see that by the snow.
While he's fighting, the smaller wolf makes many tracks in the snow just
out of reach, an' then when the lynx is down, or dead, it jumps in an'
helps tear it into pieces. All that I know by the snow. Only once have I
seen where the smaller one went in an' fought with the other, an' then
there was blood all about that was not lynx blood; I trailed the devils
a mile by the dripping."
During the two weeks that followed, Weyman found much to add to the
material of his book. Not a day passed that somewhere along Henri's
trap-line they did not see the trails of the two wolves, and Weyman
observed that--as Henri had told him--the footprints were always two by
two, and never one by one. On the third day they came to a trap that had
held a lynx, and at sight of what remained Henri cursed in both French
and English until he was purple in the face. The lynx had been torn
until its pelt was practically worthless.
Weyman saw where the smaller wolf had waited on its haunches, while its
companion had killed the lynx. He did not tell Henri all he thought. But
the days that followed convinced him more and more that he had found the
most dramatic exemplification of his theory. Back of this mysterious
tragedy of the trap-line there was a _reason_.
Why did the two wolves not destroy the fisher-cat, the ermine and the
marten? Why was their feud with the lynx alone?
Weyman was strangely thrilled. He was a lover of wild things, and for
that reason he never carried a gun. And when he saw Henri placing
poison-baits for the two marauders, he shuddered, and when, day after
day, he saw that these poison-baits were untouched, he rejoiced.
Something in his own nature went out in sympathy to the heroic outlaw of
the trap-line who never failed to give battle to the lynx. Nights in the
cabin he wrote down his thoughts and discoveries of the day. One night
he turned suddenly on Henri.
"Henri, doesn't it ever make you sorry to kill so many wild things?" he
Henri stared and shook his head.
"I kill t'ousand an' t'ousand," he said. "I kill t'ousand more."
"And there are twenty thousand others just like you in this northern
quarter of the continent--all killing, killing for hundreds of years
back, and yet you can't kill out wild life. The war of Man and the
Beast, you might call it. And, if you could return five hundred years
from now, Henri, you'd still find wild life here. Nearly all the rest of
the world is changing, but you can't change these almost impenetrable
thousands of square miles of ridges and swamps and forests. The
railroads won't come here, and I, for one, thank God for that. Take all
the great prairies to the west, for instance. Why, the old buffalo
trails are still there, plain as day--and yet, towns and cities are
growing up everywhere. Did you ever hear of North Battleford?"
"Is she near Montreal or Quebec?" Henri asked.
Weyman smiled, and drew a photograph from his pocket. It was the picture
of a girl.
"No. It's far to the west, in Saskatchewan. Seven years ago I used to
go up there every year, to shoot prairie chickens, coyotes and elk.
There wasn't any North Battleford then--just the glorious prairie,
hundreds and hundreds of square miles of it. There was a single shack on
the Saskatchewan River, where North Battleford now stands, and I used to
stay there. In that shack there was a little girl, twelve years old. We
used to go out hunting together--for I used to kill things in those
days. And the little girl would cry sometimes when I killed, and I'd
laugh at her.
"Then a railroad came, and then another, and they joined near the shack,
and all at once a town sprang up. Seven years ago there was only the
shack there, Henri. Two years ago there were eighteen hundred people.
This year, when I came through, there were five thousand, and two years
from now there'll be ten thousand.
"On the ground where that shack stood are three banks, with a capital of
forty million dollars; you can see the glow of the electric lights of
the city twenty miles away. It has a hundred-thousand dollar college, a
high school, the provincial asylum, a fire department, two clubs, a
board of trade, and it's going to have a street-car line within two
years. Think of that--all where the coyotes howled a few years ago!
"People are coming in so fast that they can't keep a census. Five years
from now there'll be a city of twenty thousand where the old shack
stood. And the little girl in that shack, Henri--she's a young lady now,
and her people are--well, rich. I don't care about that. The chief thing
is that she is going to marry me in the spring. Because of her I stopped
killing things when she was only sixteen. The last thing I killed was a
prairie wolf, and it had young. Eileen kept the little puppy. She's got
it now--tamed. That's why above all other wild things I love the wolves.
And I hope these two leave your trap-line safe."
Henri was staring at him. Weyman gave him the picture. It was of a
sweet-faced girl, with deep pure eyes, and there came a twitch at the
corners of Henri's mouth as he looked at it.
"My Iowaka died t'ree year ago," he said. "She too loved the wild
thing. But them wolf--damn! They drive me out if I can not kill them!"
He put fresh fuel into the stove, and prepared for bed.
One day the big idea came to Henri.
Weyman was with him when they struck fresh signs of lynx. There was a
great windfall ten or fifteen feet high, and in one place the logs had
formed a sort of cavern, with almost solid walls on three sides. The
snow was beaten down by tracks, and the fur of rabbit was scattered
about. Henri was jubilant.
"We got heem--sure!" he said.
He built the bait-house, set a trap and looked about him shrewdly. Then
he explained his scheme to Weyman. If the lynx was caught, and the two
wolves came to destroy it, the fight would take place in that shelter
under the windfall, and the marauders would have to pass through the
opening. So Henri set five smaller traps, concealing them skilfully
under leaves and moss and snow, and all were far enough away from the
bait-house so that the trapped lynx could not spring them in his
"When they fight, wolf jump this way an' that--an' sure get in," said
Henri. "He miss one, two, t'ree--but he sure get in trap somewhere."
That same morning a light snow fell, making the work more complete, for
it covered up all footprints and buried the telltale scent of man. That
night Kazan and Gray Wolf passed within a hundred feet of the windfall,
and Gray Wolf's keen scent detected something strange and disquieting in
the air. She informed Kazan by pressing her shoulder against his, and
they swung off at right angles, keeping to windward of the trap-line.
For two days and three cold starlit nights nothing happened at the
windfall. Henri understood, and explained to Weyman. The lynx was a
hunter, like himself, and also had its hunt-line, which it covered about
once a week. On the fifth night the lynx returned, went to the windfall,
was lured straight to the bait, and the sharp-toothed steel trap closed
relentlessly over its right hindfoot. Kazan and Gray Wolf were traveling
a quarter of a mile deeper in the forest when they heard the clanking of
the steel chain as the lynx fought; to free itself. Ten minutes later
they stood in the door of the windfall cavern.
It was a white clear night, so filled with brilliant stars that Henri
himself could have hunted by the light of them. The lynx had exhausted
itself, and lay crouching on its belly as Kazan and Gray Wolf appeared.
As usual, Gray Wolf held back while Kazan began the battle. In the first
or second of these fights on the trap-line, Kazan would probably have
been disemboweled or had his jugular vein cut open, had the fierce cats
been free. They were more than his match in open fight, though the
biggest of them fell ten pounds under his weight. Chance had saved him
on the Sun Rock. Gray Wolf and the porcupine had both added to the
defeat of the lynx on the sand-bar. And along Henri's hunting line it
was the trap that was his ally. Even with his enemy thus shackled he
took big chances. And he took bigger chances than ever with the lynx
under the windfall.
The cat was an old warrior, six or seven years old. His claws were an
inch and a quarter long, and curved like simitars. His forefeet and his
left hindfoot were free, and as Kazan advanced, he drew back, so that
the trap-chain was slack under his body. Here Kazan could not follow his
old tactics of circling about his trapped foe, until it had become
tangled in the chain, or had so shortened and twisted it that there was
no chance for a leap. He had to attack face to face, and suddenly he
lunged in. They met shoulder to shoulder. Kazan's fangs snapped at the
other's throat, and missed. Before he could strike again, the lynx flung
out its free hindfoot, and even Gray Wolf heard the ripping sound that
it made. With a snarl Kazan was flung back, his shoulder torn to the
Then it was that one of Henri's hidden traps saved him from a second
attack--and death. Steel jaws snapped over one of his forefeet, and when
he leaped, the chain stopped him. Once or twice before, blind Gray Wolf
had leaped in, when she knew that Kazan was in great danger. For an
instant she forgot her caution now, and as she heard Kazan's snarl of
pain, she sprang in under the windfall. Five traps Henri had hidden in
the space in front of the bait-house, and Gray Wolf's feet found two of
these. She fell on her side, snapping and snarling. In his struggles
Kazan sprung the remaining two traps. One of them missed. The fifth, and
last, caught him by a hindfoot.
This was a little past midnight. From then until morning the earth and
snow under the windfall were torn up by the struggles of the wolf, the
dog and the lynx to regain their freedom. And when morning came, all
three were exhausted, and lay on their sides, panting and with bleeding
jaws, waiting for the coming of man--and death.
Henri and Weyman were out early. When they struck off the main line
toward the windfall, Henri pointed to the tracks of Kazan and Gray Wolf,
and his dark face lighted up with pleasure and excitement. When they
reached the shelter under the mass of fallen timber, both stood
speechless for a moment, astounded by what they saw. Even Henri had seen
nothing like this before--two wolves and a lynx, all in traps, and
almost within reach of one another's fangs. But surprise could not long
delay the business of Henri's hunter's instinct. The wolves lay first in
his path, and he was raising his rifle to put a steel-capped bullet
through the base of Kazan's brain, when Weyman caught him eagerly by the
arm. Weyman was staring. His fingers dug into Henri's flesh. His eyes
had caught a glimpse of the steel-studded collar about Kazan's neck.
"Wait!" he cried. "It's not a wolf. It's a dog!"
Henri lowered his rifle, staring at the collar. Weyman's eyes shot to
Gray Wolf. She was facing them, snarling, her white fangs bared to the
foes she could not see. Her blind eyes were closed. Where there should
have been eyes there was only hair, and an exclamation broke from
"Look!" he commanded of Henri. "What in the name of heaven--"
"One is dog--wild dog that has run to the wolves," said Henri. "And the
"And _blind_!" gasped Weyman.
"_Oui_, blind, m'sieur," added Henri, falling partly into French in his
amazement. He was raising his rifle again. Weyman seized it firmly.
[Illustration: "Wait! it's not a wolf!"]
"Don't kill them, Henri," he said. "Give them to me--alive. Figure up
the value of the lynx they have destroyed, and add to that the wolf
bounty, and I will pay. Alive, they are worth to me a great deal. My
God, a dog--and a blind wolf--_mates_!"
He still held Henri's rifle, and Henri was staring at him, as if he did
not yet quite understand.
Weyman continued speaking, his eyes and face blazing.
"A dog--and a blind wolf--_mates_!" he repeated. "It is wonderful,
Henri. Down there, they will say I have gone beyond _reason_, when my
book comes out. But I shall have proof. I shall take twenty photographs
here, before you kill the lynx. I shall keep the dog and the wolf alive.
And I shall pay you, Henri, a hundred dollars apiece for the two. May I
Henri nodded. He held his rifle in readiness, while Weyman unpacked his
camera and got to work. Snarling fangs greeted the click of the
camera-shutter--the fangs of wolf and lynx. But Kazan lay cringing, not
through fear, but because he still recognized the mastery of man. And
when he had finished with his pictures, Weyman approached almost within
reach of him, and spoke even more kindly to him than the man who had
lived back in the deserted cabin.
Henri shot the lynx, and when Kazan understood this, he tore at the end
of his trap-chains and snarled at the writhing body of his forest enemy.
By means of a pole and a babiche noose, Kazan was brought out from under
the windfall and taken to Henri's cabin. The two men then returned with
a thick sack and more babiche, and blind Gray Wolf, still fettered by
the traps, was made prisoner. All the rest of that day Weyman and Henri
worked to build a stout cage of saplings, and when it was finished, the
two prisoners were placed in it.
Before the dog was put in with Gray Wolf, Weyman closely examined the
worn and tooth-marked collar about his neck.
On the brass plate he found engraved the one word, "Kazan," and with a
strange thrill made note of it in his diary.
After this Weyman often remained at the cabin when Henri went out on the
trap-line. After the second day he dared to put his hand between the
sapling bars and touch Kazan, and the next day Kazan accepted a piece of
raw moose meat from his hand. But at his approach, Gray Wolf would
always hide under the pile of balsam in the corner of their prison. The
instinct of generations and perhaps of centuries had taught her that man
was her deadliest enemy. And yet, this man did not hurt her, and Kazan
was not afraid of him. She was frightened at first; then puzzled, and a
growing curiosity followed that. Occasionally, after the third day, she
would thrust her blind face out of the balsam and sniff the air when
Weyman was at the cage, making friends with Kazan. But she would not
eat. Weyman noted that, and each day he tempted her with the choicest
morsels of deer and moose fat. Five days--six--seven passed, and she had
not taken a mouthful. Weyman could count her ribs.
"She die," Henri told him on the seventh night. "She starve before she
eat in that cage. She want the forest, the wild kill, the fresh blood.
She two--t'ree year old--too old to make civilize."
Henri went to bed at the usual hour, but Weyman was troubled, and sat
up late. He wrote a long letter to the sweet-faced girl at North
Battleford, and then he turned out the light, and painted visions of her
in the red glow of the fire. He saw her again for that first time when
he camped in the little shack where the fifth city of Saskatchewan now
stood--with her blue eyes, the big shining braid, and the fresh glow of
the prairies in her cheeks. She had hated him--yes, actually hated him,
because he loved to kill. He laughed softly as he thought of that. She
had changed him--wonderfully.
He rose, opened the door, softly, and went out. Instinctively his eyes
turned westward. The sky was a blaze of stars. In their light he could
see the cage, and he stood, watching and listening. A sound came to him.
It was Gray Wolf gnawing at the sapling bars of her prison. A moment
later there came a low sobbing whine, and he knew that it was Kazan
crying for his freedom.
Leaning against the side of the cabin was an ax. Weyman seized it, and
his lips smiled silently. He was thrilled by a strange happiness, and a
thousand miles away in that city on the Saskatchewan he could feel
another spirit rejoicing with him. He moved toward the cage. A dozen
blows, and two of the sapling bars were knocked out. Then Weyman drew
back. Gray Wolf found the opening first, and she slipped out into the
starlight like a shadow. But she did not flee. Out in the open space she
waited for Kazan, and for a moment the two stood there, looking at the
cabin. Then they set off into freedom, Gray Wolf's shoulder at Kazan's
Weyman breathed deeply.
"Two by two--always two by two, until death finds one of them," he
THE RED DEATH
Kazan and Gray Wolf wandered northward into the Fond du Lac country, and
were there when Jacques, a Hudson Bay Company's runner, came up to the
post from the south with the first authentic news of the dread
plague--the smallpox. For weeks there had been rumors on all sides. And
rumor grew into rumor. From the east, the south and the west they
multiplied, until on all sides the Paul Reveres of the wilderness were
carrying word that _La Mort Rouge_--the Red Death--was at their heels,
and the chill of a great fear swept like a shivering wind from the edge
of civilization to the bay. Nineteen years before these same rumors had
come up from the south, and the Red Terror had followed. The horror of
it still remained with the forest people, for a thousand unmarked
graves, shunned like a pestilence, and scattered from the lower waters
of James Bay to the lake country of the Athabasca, gave evidence of the
toll it demanded.
Now and then in their wanderings Kazan and Gray Wolf had come upon the
little mounds that covered the dead. Instinct--something that was
infinitely beyond the comprehension of man--made them _feel_ the
presence of death about them, perhaps smell it in the air. Gray Wolf's
wild blood and her blindness gave her an immense advantage over Kazan
when it came to detecting those mysteries of the air and the earth which
the eyes were not made to see. Each day that had followed that terrible
moonlit night on the Sun Rock, when the lynx had blinded her, had added
to the infallibility of her two chief senses--hearing and scent. And it
was she who discovered the presence of the plague first, just as she had
scented the great forest fire hours before Kazan had found it in the
Kazan had lured her back to a trap-line. The trail they found was old.
It had not been traveled for many days. In a trap they found a rabbit,
but it had been dead a long time. In another there was the carcass of a
fox, torn into bits by the owls. Most of the traps were sprung. Others
were covered with snow. Kazan, with his three-quarters strain of dog,
ran over the trail from trap to trap, intent only on something
alive--meat to devour. Gray Wolf, in her blindness, scented _death_. It
shivered in the tree-tops above her. She found it in every trap-house
they came to--death--_man death_. It grew stronger and stronger, and
she whined, and nipped Kazan's flank. And Kazan went on. Gray Wolf
followed him to the edge of the clearing in which Loti's cabin stood,
and then she sat back on her haunches, raised her blind face to the gray
sky, and gave a long and wailing cry. In that moment the bristles began
to stand up along Kazan's spine. Once, long ago, he had howled before
the tepee of a master who was newly dead, and he settled back on his
haunches, and gave the death-cry with Gray Wolf. He, too, scented it
now. Death was in the cabin, and over the cabin there stood a sapling
pole, and at the end of the pole there fluttered a strip of red cotton
rag--the warning flag of the plague from Athabasca to the bay. This man,
like a hundred other heroes of the North, had run up the warning before
he laid himself down to die. And that same night, in the cold light of
the moon, Kazan and Gray Wolf swung northward into the country of the
Fond du Lac.
There preceded them a messenger from the post on Reindeer Lake, who was
passing up the warning that had come from Nelson House and the country
to the southeast.
"There's smallpox on the Nelson," the messenger informed Williams, at
Fond du Lac, "and it has struck the Crees on Wollaston Lake. God only
knows what it is doing to the Bay Indians, but we hear it is wiping out
the Chippewas between the Albany and the Churchill." He left the same
day with his winded dogs. "I'm off to carry word to the Reveillon people
to the west," he explained.
Three days later, word came from Churchill that all of the company's
servants and his majesty's subjects west of the bay should prepare
themselves for the coming of the Red Terror. Williams' thin face turned
as white as the paper he held, as he read the words of the Churchill
"It means dig graves," he said. "That's the only preparation we can
He read the paper aloud to the men at Fond du Lac, and every available
man was detailed to spread the warning throughout the post's territory.
There was a quick harnessing of dogs, and on each sledge that went out
was a roll of red cotton cloth--rolls that were ominous of death, lurid
signals of pestilence and horror, whose touch sent shuddering chills
through the men who were about to scatter them among the forest people.
Kazan and Gray Wolf struck the trail of one of these sledges on the Gray
Beaver, and followed it for half a mile. The next day, farther to the
west, they struck another, and on the fourth day still a third. The last
trail was fresh, and Gray Wolf drew back from it as if stung, her fangs
snarling. On the wind there came to them the pungent odor of smoke. They
cut at right angles to the trail, Gray Wolf leaping clear of the marks
in the snow, and climbed to the cap of a ridge. To windward of them, and
down in the plain, a cabin was burning. A team of huskies and a man were
disappearing in the spruce forest. Deep down in his throat Kazan gave a
rumbling whine. Gray Wolf stood as rigid as a rock. In the cabin a
plague-dead man was burning. It was the law of the North. And the
mystery of the funeral pyre came again to Kazan and Gray Wolf. This time
they did not howl, but slunk down into the farther plain, and did not
stop that day until they had buried themselves deep in a dry and
sheltered swamp ten miles to the north.
After this they followed the days and weeks which marked the winter of
nineteen hundred and ten as one of the most terrible in all the history
of the Northland--a single month in which wild life as well as human
hung in the balance, and when cold, starvation and plague wrote a
chapter in the lives of the forest people which will not be forgotten
for generations to come.
In the swamp Kazan and Gray Wolf found a home under a windfall. It was a
small comfortable nest, shut in entirely from the snow and wind. Gray
Wolf took possession of it immediately. She flattened herself out on her
belly, and panted to show Kazan her contentment and satisfaction. Nature
again kept Kazan close at her side. A vision came to him, unreal and
dream-like, of that wonderful night under the stars--ages and ages ago,
it seemed--when he had fought the leader of the wolf-pack, and young
Gray Wolf had crept to his side after his victory and had given herself
to him for mate. But this mating season there was no running after the
doe or the caribou, or mingling with the wild pack. They lived chiefly
on rabbit and spruce partridge, because of Gray Wolf's blindness. Kazan
could hunt those alone. The hair had now grown over Gray Wolf's
sightless eyes. She had ceased to grieve, to rub her eyes with her paws,
to whine for the sunlight, the golden moon and the stars. Slowly she
began to forget that she had ever seen those things. She could now run
more swiftly at Kazan's flank. Scent and hearing had become wonderfully
keen. She could wind a caribou two miles distant, and the presence of
man she could pick up at an even greater distance. On a still night she
had heard the splash of a trout half a mile away. And as these two
things--scent and hearing--became more and more developed in her, those
same senses became less active in Kazan.
He began to depend upon Gray Wolf. She would point out the hiding-place
of a partridge fifty yards from their trail. In their hunts she became
the leader--until game was found. And as Kazan learned to trust to her
in the hunt, so he began just as instinctively to heed her warnings. If
Gray Wolf reasoned, it was to the effect that without Kazan she would
die. She had tried hard now and then to catch a partridge, or a rabbit,
but she had always failed. Kazan meant life to her. And--if she
reasoned--it was to make herself indispensable to her mate. Blindness
had made her different than she would otherwise have been. Again nature
promised motherhood to her. But she did not--as she would have done in
the open, and with sight--hold more and more aloof from Kazan as the
days passed. It was her habit, spring, summer and winter, to snuggle
close to Kazan and lie with her beautiful head resting on his neck or
back. If Kazan snarled at her she did not snap back, but slunk down as
though struck a blow. With her warm tongue she would lick away the ice
that froze to the long hair between Kazan's toes. For days after he had
run a sliver in his paw she nursed his foot. Blindness had made Kazan
absolutely necessary to her existence--and now, in a different way, she
became more and more necessary to Kazan. They were happy in their swamp
home. There was plenty of small game about them, and it was warm under
the windfall. Rarely did they go beyond the limits of the swamp to hunt.
Out on the more distant plains and the barren ridges they occasionally
heard the cry of the wolf-pack on the trail of meat, but it no longer
thrilled them with a desire to join in the chase.
One day they struck farther than usual to the west. They left the swamp,
crossed a plain over which a fire had swept the preceding year, climbed
a ridge, and descended into a second plain. At the bottom Gray Wolf
stopped and sniffed the air. At these times Kazan always watched her,
waiting eagerly and nervously if the scent was too faint for him to
catch. But to-day he caught the edge of it, and he knew why Gray Wolf's
ears flattened, and her hindquarters drooped. The scent of game would
have made her rigid and alert. But it was not the game smell. It was
human, and Gray Wolf slunk behind Kazan and whined. For several minutes
they stood without moving or making a sound, and then Kazan led the way
on. Less than three hundred yards away they came to a thick clump of
scrub spruce, and almost ran into a snow-smothered tepee. It was
abandoned. Life and fire had not been there for a long time. But from
the tepee had come the man-smell. With legs rigid and his spine
quivering Kazan approached the opening to the tepee. He looked in. In
the middle of the tepee, lying on the charred embers of a fire, lay a
ragged blanket--and in the blanket was wrapped the body of a little
Indian child. Kazan could see the tiny moccasined feet. But so long had
death been there that he could scarcely smell the presence of it. He
drew back, and saw Gray Wolf cautiously nosing about a long and
peculiarly shaped hummock in the snow. She had traveled about it three
times, but never approaching nearer than a man could have reached with a
rifle barrel. At the end of her third circle she sat down on her
haunches, and Kazan went close to the hummock and sniffed. Under that
bulge in the snow, as well as in the tepee, there was death. They slunk
away, their ears flattened and their tails drooping until they trailed
the snow, and did not stop until they reached their swamp home. Even
there Gray Wolf still sniffed the horror of the plague, and her muscles
twitched and shivered as she lay close at Kazan's side.
That night the big white moon had around its edge a crimson rim. It
meant cold--intense cold. Always the plague came in the days of greatest
cold--the lower the temperature the more terrible its havoc. It grew
steadily colder that night, and the increased chill penetrated to the
heart of the windfall, and drew Kazan and Gray Wolf closer together.
With dawn, which came at about eight o'clock, Kazan and his blind mate
sallied forth into the day. It was fifty degrees below zero. About them
the trees cracked with reports like pistol-shots. In the thickest spruce
the partridges were humped into round balls of feathers. The snow-shoe
rabbits had burrowed deep under the snow or to the heart of the heaviest
windfalls. Kazan and Gray Wolf found few fresh trails, and after an
hour of fruitless hunting they returned to their lair. Kazan, dog-like,
had buried the half of a rabbit two or three days before, and they dug
this out of the snow and ate the frozen flesh.
All that day it grew colder--steadily colder. The night that followed
was cloudless, with a white moon and brilliant stars. The temperature
had fallen another ten degrees, and nothing was moving. Traps were never
sprung on such nights, for even the furred things--the mink, and the
ermine, and the lynx--lay snug in the holes and the nests they had found
for themselves. An increasing hunger was not strong enough to drive
Kazan and Gray Wolf from their windfall. The next day there was no break
in the terrible cold, and toward noon Kazan set out on a hunt for meat,
leaving Gray Wolf in the windfall. Being three-quarters dog, food was
more necessary to Kazan than to his mate. Nature has fitted the
wolf-breed for famine, and in ordinary temperature Gray Wolf could have
lived for a fortnight without food. At sixty degrees below zero she
could exist a week, perhaps ten days. Only thirty hours had passed
sinee they had devoured the last of the frozen rabbit, and she was quite
satisfied to remain in their snug retreat.
But Kazan was hungry. He began to hunt in the face of the wind,
traveling toward the burned plain. He nosed about every windfall that he
came to, and investigated the thickets. A thin shot-like snow had
fallen, and in this--from the windfall to the burn--he found but a
single trail, and that was the trail of an ermine. Under a windfall he
caught the warm scent of a rabbit, but the rabbit was as safe from him
there as were the partridges in the trees, and after an hour of futile
digging and gnawing he gave up his effort to reach it. For three hours
he had hunted when he returned to Gray Wolf. He was exhausted. While
Gray Wolf, with the instinct of the wild, had saved her own strength and
energy, Kazan had been burning up his reserve forces, and was hungrier
The moon rose clear and brilliant in the sky again that night, and Kazan
set out once more on the hunt. He urged Gray Wolf to accompany him,
whining for her outside the windfall--returning for her twice--but
Gray Wolf laid her ears aslant and refused to move. The temperature had
now fallen to sixty-five or seventy degrees below zero, and with it
there came from the north an increasing wind, making the night one in
which human life could not have existed for an hour. By midnight Kazan
was back under the windfall. The wind grew stronger. It began to wail in
mournful dirges over the swamp, and then it burst in fierce shrieking
volleys, with intervals of quiet between. These were the first warnings
from the great barrens that lay between the last lines of timber and the
Arctic. With morning the storm burst in all its fury from out of the
north, and Gray Wolf and Kazan lay close together and shivered as they
listened to the roar of it over the windfall. Once Kazan thrust his head
and shoulders out from the shelter of the fallen trees, but the storm
drove him back. Everything that possessed life had sought shelter,
according to its way and instinct. The furred creatures like the mink
and the ermine were safest, for during the warmer hunting days they were
of the kind that cached meat. The wolves and the foxes had sought out
the windfalls, and the rocks. Winged things, with the exception of the
owls, who were a tenth part body and nine-tenths feathers, burrowed
under snow-drifts or found shelter in thick spruce. To the hoofed and
horned animals the storm meant greatest havoc. The deer, the caribou and
the moose could not crawl under windfalls or creep between rocks. The
best they could do was to lie down in the lee of a drift, and allow
themselves to be covered deep with the protecting snow. Even then they
could not keep their shelter long, for they had to _eat_. For eighteen
hours out of the twenty-four the moose had to feed to keep himself alive
during the winter. His big stomach demanded quantity, and it took him
most of his time to nibble from the tops of bushes the two or three
bushels he needed a day. The caribou required almost as much--the deer
least of the three.
And the storm kept up that day, and the next, and still a third--three
days and three nights--and the third day and night there came with it a
stinging, shot-like snow that fell two feet deep on the level, and in
drifts of eight and ten. It was the "heavy snow" of the Indians--the
snow that lay like lead on the earth, and under which partridges and
rabbits were smothered in thousands.
On the fourth day after the beginning of the storm Kazan and Gray Wolf
issued forth from the windfall. There was no longer a wind--no more
falling snow. The whole world lay under a blanket of unbroken white, and
it was intensely cold.
The plague had worked its havoc with men. Now had come the days of
famine and death for the wild things.
THE TRAIL OF HUNGER
Kazan and Gray Wolf had been a hundred and forty hours without food. To
Gray Wolf this meant acute discomfort, a growing weakness. To Kazan it
was starvation. Six days and six nights of fasting had drawn in their
ribs and put deep hollows in front of their hindquarters. Kazan's eyes
were red, and they narrowed to slits as he looked forth into the day.
Gray Wolf followed him this time when he went out on the hard snow.
Eagerly and hopefully they began the hunt in the bitter cold. They swung
around the edge of the windfall, where there had always been rabbits.
There were no tracks now, and no scent. They continued in a horseshoe
circle through the swamp, and the only scent they caught was that of a
snow-owl perched up in a spruce. They came to the burn and turned back,
hunting the opposite side of the swamp. On this side there was a ridge.
They climbed the ridge, and from the cap of it looked out over a world
that was barren of life. Ceaselessly Gray Wolf sniffed the air, but she
gave no signal to Kazan. On the top of the ridge Kazan stood panting.
His endurance was gone. On their return through the swamp he stumbled
over an obstacle which he tried to clear with a jump. Hungrier and
weaker, they returned to the windfall. The night that followed was
clear, and brilliant with stars. They hunted the swamp again. Nothing
was moving--save one other creature, and that was a fox. Instinct told
them that it was futile to follow him.
It was then that the old thought of the cabin returned to Kazan. Two
things the cabin had always meant to him--warmth and food. And far
beyond the ridge was the cabin, where he and Gray Wolf had howled at the
scent of death. He did not think of man--or of that mystery which he had
howled at. He thought only of the cabin, and the cabin had always meant
food. He set off in a straight line for the ridge, and Gray Wolf
followed. They crossed the ridge and the burn beyond, and entered the
edge of a second swamp. Kazan was hunting listlessly now. His head hung
low. His bushy tail dragged in the snow. He was intent on the
cabin--only the cabin. It was his last hope. But Gray Wolf was still
alert, taking in the wind, and lifting her head whenever Kazan stopped
to snuffle his chilled nose in the snow. At last it came--the scent!
Kazan had moved on, but he stopped when he found that Gray Wolf was not
following. All the strength that was in his starved body revealed itself
in a sudden rigid tenseness as he looked at his mate. Her forefeet were
planted firmly to the east; her slim gray head was reaching out for the
scent; her body trembled.
Then--suddenly--they heard a sound, and with a whining cry Kazan set out
in its direction, with Gray Wolf at his flank. The scent grew stronger
and stronger in Gray Wolf's nostrils, and soon it came to Kazan. It was
not the scent of a rabbit or a partridge. It was big game. They
approached cautiously, keeping full in the wind. The swamp grew
thicker, the spruce more dense, and now--from a hundred yards ahead of
them--there came a crashing of locked and battling horns. Ten seconds
more they climbed over a snowdrift, and Kazan stopped and dropped flat
on his belly. Gray Wolf crouched close at his side, her blind eyes
turned to what she could smell but could not see.
Fifty yards from them a number of moose had gathered for shelter in the
thick spruce. They had eaten clear a space an acre in extent. The trees
were cropped bare as high as they could reach, and the snow was beaten
hard under their feet. There were six animals in the acre, two of them
bulls--and these bulls were fighting, while three cows and a yearling
were huddled in a group watching the mighty duel. Just before the storm
a young bull, sleek, three-quarters grown, and with the small compact
antlers of a four-year-old, had led the three cows and the yearling to
this sheltered spot among the spruce. Until last night he had been
master of the herd. During the night the older bull had invaded his
dominion. The invader was four times as old as the young bull. He was
half again as heavy. His huge palmate horns, knotted and irregular--but
massive--spoke of age. A warrior of a hundred fights, he had not
hesitated to give battle in his effort to rob the younger bull of his
home and family. Three times they had fought since dawn, and the
hard-trodden snow was red with blood. The smell of it came to Kazan's
and Gray Wolf's nostrils. Kazan sniffed hungrily. Queer sounds rolled up
and down in Gray Wolf's throat, and she licked her jaws.
For a moment the two fighters drew a few yards apart, and stood with
lowered heads. The old bull had not yet won victory. The younger bull
represented youth and endurance; in the older bull those things were
pitted against craft, greater weight, maturer strength--and a head and
horns that were like a battering ram. But in that great hulk of the
older bull there was one other thing--age. His huge sides were panting.
His nostrils were as wide as bells. Then, as if some invisible spirit of
the arena had given the signal, the animals came together again. The
crash of their horns could have been heard half a mile away, and under
twelve hundred pounds of flesh and bone the younger hull went plunging
back upon his haunches. Then was when youth displayed itself. In an
instant he was up, and locking horns with his adversary. Twenty times he
had done this, and each attack had seemed filled with increasing
strength. And now, as if realizing that the last moments of the last
fight had come, he twisted the old bull's neck and fought as he had
never fought before. Kazan and Gray Wolf both heard the sharp crack that
followed--as if a dry stick had been stepped upon and broken. It was
February, and the hoofed animals were already beginning to shed their
horns--especially the older bulls, whose palmate growths drop first.
This fact gave victory to the younger bull in the blood-stained arena a
few yards from Gray Wolf and Kazan. From its socket in the old bull's
skull one of his huge antlers broke with that sharp snapping sound, and
in another moment four inches of stiletto-like horn buried itself back
of his foreleg. In an instant all hope and courage left him, and he
swung backward yard by yard, with the younger bull prodding his neck and
shoulders until blood dripped from him in little streams. At the edge
of the clearing he flung himself free and crashed off into the forest.
The younger bull did not pursue. He tossed his head, and stood for a few
moments with heaving sides and dilated nostrils, facing in the direction
his vanquished foe had taken. Then he turned, and trotted back to the
still motionless cows and yearling.
Kazan and Gray Wolf were quivering. Gray Wolf slunk back from the edge
of the clearing, and Kazan followed. No longer were they interested in
the cows and the young bull. From that clearing they had seen meat
driven forth--meat that was beaten in fight, and bleeding. Every
instinct of the wild pack returned to Gray Wolf now--and in Kazan the
mad desire to taste the blood he smelled. Swiftly they turned toward the
blood-stained trail of the old bull, and when they came to it they found
it spattered red. Kazan's jaws dripped as the hot scent drove the blood
like veins of fire through his weakened body. His eyes were reddened by
starvation, and in them there was a light now that they had never known
even in the days of the wolf-pack.
He set off swiftly, almost forgetful of Gray Wolf. But his mate no
longer required his flank for guidance. With her nose close to the trail
she ran--ran as she had run in the long and thrilling hunts before
blindness came. Half a mile from the spruce thicket they came upon the
old bull. He had sought shelter behind a clump of balsam, and he stood
over a growing pool of blood in the snow. He was still breathing hard.
His massive head, grotesque now with its one antler, was drooping.
Flecks of blood dropped from his distended nostrils. Even then, with the
old bull weakened by starvation, exhaustion and loss of blood, a
wolf-pack would have hung back before attacking. Where they would have
hesitated, Kazan leaped in with a snarling cry. For an instant his fangs
sunk into the thick hide of the bull's throat. Then he was flung
back--twenty feet. Hunger gnawing at his vitals robbed him of all
caution, and he sprang to the attack again--full at the bull's
front--while Gray Wolf crept up unseen behind, seeking in her blindness
the vulnerable part which nature had not taught Kazan to find.
This time Kazan was caught fairly on the broad palmate leaf of the
bull's antler, and he was flung back again, half stunned. In that same
moment Gray Wolf's long white teeth cut like knives through one of the
bull's rope-like hamstrings. For thirty seconds she kept the hold, while
the bull plunged wildly in his efforts to trample her underfoot. Kazan
was quick to learn, still quicker to be guided by Gray Wolf, and he
leaped in again, snapping for a hold on the bulging cord just above the
knee. He missed, and as he lunged forward on his shoulders Gray Wolf was
flung off. But she had accomplished her purpose. Beaten in open battle
with one of his kind, and now attacked by a still deadlier foe, the old
bull began to retreat. As he went, one hip sank under him at every step.
The tendon of his left leg was bitten half through.
Without being able to see, Gray Wolf seemed to realize what had
happened. Again she was the pack-wolf--with all the old wolf strategy.
Twice flung back by the old bull's horn, Kazan knew better than to
attack openly again. Gray Wolf trotted after the bull, but he remained
behind for a moment to lick up hungrily mouthfuls of the blood-soaked
snow. Then he followed, and ran close against Gray Wolf's side, fifty
yards behind the bull. There was more blood in the trail now--a thin red
ribbon of it. Fifteen minutes later the bull stopped again, and faced
about, his great head lowered. His eyes were red. There was a droop to
his neck and shoulders that spoke no longer of the unconquerable
fighting spirit that had been a part of him for nearly a score of years.
No longer was he lord of the wilderness about him; no longer was there
defiance in the poise of his splendid head, or the flash of eager fire
in his bloodshot eyes. His breath came with a gasping sound that was
growing more and more distinct. A hunter would have known what it meant.
The stiletto-point of the younger bull's antler had gone home, and the
old bull's lungs were failing him. More than once Gray Wolf had heard
that sound in the early days of her hunting with the pack, and she
understood. Slowly she began to circle about the wounded monarch at a
distance of about twenty yards. Kazan kept at her side.
Once--twice--twenty times they made that slow circle, and with each turn
they made the old bull turned, and his breath grew heavier and his head
drooped lower. Noon came, and was followed by the more intense cold of
the last half of the day. Twenty circles became a hundred--two
hundred--and more. Under Gray Wolf's and Kazan's feet the snow grew hard
in the path they made. Under the old bull's widespread hoofs the snow
was no longer white--but red. A thousand times before this unseen
tragedy of the wilderness had been enacted. It was an epoch of that life
where life itself means the survival of the fittest, where to live means
to kill, and to die means to perpetuate life. At last, in that steady
and deadly circling of Gray Wolf and Kazan, there came a time when the
old bull did not turn--then a second, a third and a fourth time, and
Gray Wolf seemed to know. With Kazan she drew back from the hard-beaten
trail, and they flattened themselves on their bellies under a dwarf
spruce--and waited. For many minutes the bull stood motionless, his
hamstrung quarter sinking lower and lower. And then with a deep
blood-choked gasp he sank down.
For a long time Kazan and Gray Wolf did not move, and when at last they
returned to the beaten trail the bull's heavy head was resting on the
snow. Again they began to circle, and now the circle narrowed foot by
foot, until only ten yards--then nine--then eight--separated them from
their prey. The bull attempted to rise, and failed. Gray Wolf heard the
effort. She heard him sink back and suddenly she leaped in swiftly and
silently from behind. Her sharp fangs buried themselves in the bull's
nostrils, and with the first instinct of the husky, Kazan sprang for a
throat hold. This time he was not flung off. It was Gray Wolf's terrible
hold that gave him time to tear through the half-inch hide, and to bury
his teeth deeper and deeper, until at last they reached the jugular. A
gush of warm blood spurted into his face. But he did not let go. Just as
he had held to the jugular of his first buck on that moonlight night a
long time ago, so he held to the old bull now. It was Gray Wolf who
unclamped his jaws. She drew back, sniffing the air, listening. Then,
slowly, she raised her head, and through the frozen and starving
wilderness there went her wailing triumphant cry--the call to meat.
For them the days of famine had passed.
THE RIGHT OF FANG
After the fight Kazan lay down exhausted in the blood-stained snow,
while faithful Gray Wolf, still filled with the endurance of her wild
wolf breed, tore fiercely at the thick skin on the bull's neck to lay
open the red flesh. When she had done this she did not eat, but ran to
Kazan's side and whined softly as she muzzled him with her nose. After
that they feasted, crouching side by side at the bull's neck and tearing
at the warm sweet flesh.
The last pale light of the northern day was fading swiftly into night
when they drew back, gorged until there were no longer hollows in their
sides. The faint wind died away. The clouds that had hung in the sky
during the day drifted eastward, and the moon shone brilliant and clear.
For an hour the night continued to grow lighter. To the brilliance of
the moon and the stars there was added now the pale fires of the aurora
borealis, shivering and flashing over the Pole.
Its hissing crackling monotone, like the creaking of steel
sledge-runners on frost-filled snow, came faintly to the ears of Kazan
and Gray Wolf.
As yet they had not gone a hundred yards from the dead bull, and at the
first sound of that strange mystery in the northern skies they stopped
and listened to it, alert and suspicious. Then they laid their ears
aslant and trotted slowly back to the meat they had killed. Instinct
told them that it was theirs only by right of fang. They had fought to
kill it. And it was in the law of the wild that they would have to fight
to keep it. In good hunting days they would have gone on and wandered
under the moon and the stars. But long days and nights of starvation had
taught them something different now.
On that clear and stormless night following the days of plague and
famine, a hundred thousand hungry creatures came out from their retreats
to hunt for food. For eighteen hundred miles east and west and a
thousand miles north and south, slim gaunt-bellied creatures hunted
under the moon and the stars. Something told Kazan and Gray Wolf that
this hunt was on, and never for an instant did they cease their
vigilance. At last they lay down at the edge of the spruce thicket, and
waited. Gray Wolf muzzled Kazan gently with her blind face. The uneasy
whine in her throat was a warning to him. Then she sniffed the air, and
listened--sniffed and listened.
Suddenly every muscle in their bodies grew rigid. Something living had
passed near them, something that they could not see or hear, and
scarcely scent. It came again, as mysterious as a shadow, and then out
of the air there floated down as silently as a huge snowflake a great
white owl. Kazan saw the hungry winged creature settle on the bull's
shoulder. Like a flash he was out from his cover, Gray Wolf a yard
behind him. With an angry snarl he lunged at the white robber, and his
jaws snapped on empty air. His leap carried him clean over the bull. He
turned, but the owl was gone.
Nearly all of his old strength had returned to him now. He trotted about
the bull, the hair along his spine bristling like a brush, his eyes
wide and menacing. He snarled at the still air. His jaws clicked, and he
sat back on his haunches and faced the blood-stained trail that the
moose had left before he died. Again that instinct as infallible as
reason told him that danger would come from there.
Like a red ribbon the trail ran back through the wilderness. The little
swift-moving ermine were everywhere this night, looking like white rats
as they dodged about in the moonlight. They were first to find the
trail, and with all the ferocity of their blood-eating nature followed
it with quick exciting leaps. A fox caught the scent of it a quarter of
a mile to windward, and came nearer. From out of a deep windfall a
beady-eyed, thin-bellied fisher-cat came forth, and stopped with his
feet in the crimson ribbon.
It was the fisher-cat that brought Kazan out; from under his cover of
spruce again. In the moonlight there was a sharp quick fight, a snarling
and scratching, a cat-like yowl of pain, and the fisher forgot his
hunger in flight. Kazan returned to Gray Wolf with a lacerated and
bleeding nose. Gray Wolf licked it sympathetically, while Kazan stood
rigid and listening.
The fox swung swiftly away with the wind, warned by the sounds of
conflict. He was not a fighter, but a murderer who killed from behind,
and a little later he leaped upon an owl and tore it into bits for the
half-pound of flesh within the mass of feathers.
But nothing could drive back those little white outlaws of the
wilderness--the ermine. They would have stolen between the feet of man
to get at the warm flesh and blood of the freshly killed bull. Kazan
hunted them savagely. They were too quick for him, more like elusive
flashes in the moonlight than things of life. They burrowed under the
old bull's body and fed while he raved and filled his mouth with snow.
Gray Wolf sat placidly on her haunches. The little ermine did not
trouble her, and after a time Kazan realized this, and flung himself
down beside her, panting and exhausted.
For a long time after that the night was almost unbroken by sound. Once
in the far distance there came the cry of a wolf, and now and then, to
punctuate the deathly silence, the snow owl hooted in blood-curdling
protest from his home in the spruce-tops. The moon was straight above
the old bull when Gray Wolf scented the first real danger. Instantly she
gave the warning to Kazan and faced the bloody trail, her lithe body
quivering, her fangs gleaming in the starlight, a snarling whine in her
throat. Only in the face of their deadliest enemy, the lynx--the
terrible fighter who had blinded her long ago in that battle on the Sun
Rock!--did she give such warning as this to Kazan. He sprang ahead of
her, ready for battle even before he caught the scent of the gray
beautiful creature of death stealing over the trail.
Then came the interruption. From a mile away there burst forth a single
fierce long-drawn howl.
After all, that was the cry of the true master of the wilderness--the
wolf. It was the cry of hunger. It was the cry that sent men's blood
running more swiftly through their veins, that brought the moose and the
deer to their feet shivering in every limb--the cry that wailed like a
note of death through swamp and forest and over the snow-smothered
ridges until its faintest echoes reached for miles into the starlit
There was silence, and in that awesome stillness Kazan and Gray Wolf
stood shoulder to shoulder facing the cry, and in response to that cry
there worked within them a strange and mystic change, for what they had
heard was not a warning or a menace but the call of Brotherhood. Away
off there--beyond the lynx and the fox and the fisher-cat, were the
creatures of their kind, the wild-wolf pack, to which the right to all
flesh and blood was common--in which existed that savage socialism of
the wilderness, the Brotherhood of the Wolf. And Gray Wolf, setting back
on her haunches, sent forth the response to that cry--a wailing
triumphant note that told her hungry brethren there was feasting at the
end of the trail.
And the lynx, between those two cries, sneaked off into the wide and
moonlit spaces of the forest.
A FIGHT UNDER THE STARS
On their haunches Kazan and Gray Wolf waited. Five minutes passed,
ten--fifteen--and Gray Wolf became uneasy. No response had followed her
call. Again she howled, with Kazan quivering and listening beside her,
and again there followed that dead stillness of the night. This was not
the way of the pack. She knew that it had not gone beyond the reach of
her voice and its silence puzzled her. And then in a flash it came to
them both that the pack, or the single wolf whose cry they had heard,
was very near them. The scent was warm. A few moments later Kazan saw a
moving object in the moonlight. It was followed by another, and still
another, until there were five slouching in a half-circle about them,
seventy yards away. Then they laid themselves flat in the snow and were
A snarl turned Kazan's eyes to Gray Wolf. His blind mate had drawn
back. Her white fangs gleamed menacingly in the starlight. Her ears were
flat. Kazan was puzzled. Why was she signaling danger to him when it was
the wolf, and not the lynx, out there in the snow? And why did the
wolves not come in and feast? Slowly he moved toward them, and Gray Wolf
called to him with her whine. He paid no attention to her, but went on,
stepping lightly, his head high in the air, his spine bristling.
In the scent of the strangers, Kazan was catching something now that was
strangely familiar. It drew him toward them more swiftly and when at
last he stopped twenty yards from where the little group lay flattened
in the snow, his thick brush waved slightly. One of the animals sprang
up and approached. The others followed and in another moment Kazan was
in the midst of them, smelling and smelled, and wagging his tail. They
were dogs, and not wolves.
In some lonely cabin in the wilderness their master had died, and they
had taken to the forests. They still bore signs of the sledge-traces.
About their necks were moose-hide collars. The hair was worn short at
their flanks, and one still dragged after him three feet of corded
babiche trace. Their eyes gleamed red and hungry in the glow of the moon
and the stars. They were thin, and gaunt and starved, and Kazan suddenly
turned and trotted ahead of them to the side of the dead bull. Then he
fell back and sat proudly on his haunches beside Gray Wolf, listening to
the snapping of jaws and the rending of flesh as the starved pack
Gray Wolf slunk closer to Kazan. She muzzled his neck and Kazan gave her
a swift dog-like caress of his tongue, assuring her that all was well.
She flattened herself in the snow when the dogs had finished and came up
in their dog way to sniff at her, and make closer acquaintance with
Kazan. Kazan towered over her, guarding her. One huge red-eyed dog who
still dragged the bit of babiche trace muzzled Gray Wolf's soft neck for
a fraction of a second too long, and Kazan uttered a savage snarl of
warning. The dog drew back, and for a moment their fangs gleamed over
Gray Wolf's blind face. It was the Challenge of the Breed.
The big husky was the leader of the pack, and if one of the other dogs
had snarled at him, as Kazan snarled he would have leaped at his throat.
But in Kazan, standing fierce and half wild over Gray Wolf, he
recognized none of the serfdom of the sledge-dogs. It was master facing
master; in Kazan it was more than that for he was Gray Wolf's mate. In
an instant more he would have leaped over her body to have fought for
her, more than for the right of leadership. But the big husky turned
away sullenly, growling, still snarling, and vented his rage by nipping
fiercely at the flank of one of his sledge-mates.
Gray Wolf understood what had happened, though she could not see. She
shrank closer to Kazan. She knew that the moon and the stars had looked
down on that thing that always meant death--the challenge to the right
of mate. With her luring coyness, whining and softly muzzling his
shoulder and neck, she tried to draw Kazan away from the pad-beaten
circle in which the bull lay. Kazan's answer was an ominous rolling of
smothered thunder deep down in his throat. He lay down beside her,
licked her blind face swiftly, and faced the stranger dogs.
The moon sank lower and lower and at last dropped behind the western
forests. The stars grew paler. One by one they faded from the sky and
after a time there followed the cold gray dawn of the North. In that
dawn the big husky leader rose from the hole he had made in the snow and
returned to the bull. Kazan, alert, was on his feet in an instant and
stood also close to the bull. The two circled ominously, their heads
lowered, their crests bristling. The husky drew away, and Kazan crouched
at the bull's neck and began tearing at the frozen flesh. He was not
hungry. But in this way he showed his right to the flesh, his defiance
of the right of the big husky.
For a few seconds he forgot Gray Wolf. The husky had slipped back like a
shadow and now he stood again over Gray Wolf, sniffing her neck and
body. Then he whined. In that whine were the passion, the invitation,
the demand of the Wild. So quickly that the eye could scarcely follow
her movement faithful Gray Wolf sank her gleaming fangs in the husky's
A gray streak--nothing more tangible than a streak of gray, silent and
terrible, shot through the dawn-gloom. It was Kazan. He came without a
snarl, without a cry, and in a moment he and the husky were in the
throes of terrific battle.
The four other huskies ran in quickly and stood waiting a dozen paces
from the combatants. Gray Wolf lay crouched on her belly. The giant
husky and the quarter-strain wolf-dog were not fighting like sledge-dog
or wolf. For a few moments rage and hatred made them fight like
mongrels. Both had holds. Now one was down, and now the other, and so
swiftly did they change their positions that the four waiting
sledge-dogs were puzzled and stood motionless. Under other conditions
they would have leaped upon the first of the fighters to be thrown upon
his back and torn him to pieces. That was the way of the wolf and the
wolf-dog. But now they stood back, hesitating and fearful.
The big husky had never been beaten in battle. Great Dane ancestors had
given him a huge bulk and a jaw that could crush an ordinary dog's head.
But in Kazan he was meeting not only the dog and the wolf, but all that
was best in the two. And Kazan had the advantage of a few hours of rest
and a full stomach. More than that, he was fighting for Gray Wolf. His
fangs had sunk deep in the husky's shoulder, and the husky's long teeth
met through the hide and flesh of his neck. An inch deeper, and they
would have pierced his jugular. Kazan knew this, as he crunched his
enemy's shoulder-bone, and every instant--even in their fiercest
struggling--he was guarding against a second and more successful lunge
of those powerful jaws.
At last the lunge came, and quicker than the wolf itself Kazan freed
himself and leaped back. His chest dripped blood, but he did not feel
the hurt. They began slowly to circle, and now the watching sledge-dogs
drew a step or two nearer, and their jaws drooled nervously and their
red eyes glared as they waited for the fatal moment. Their eyes were on
the big husky. He became the pivot of Kazan's wider circle now, and he
limped as he turned. His shoulder was broken. His ears were flattened
as he watched Kazan.
Kazan's ears were erect, and his feet touched the snow lightly. All his
fighting cleverness and all his caution had returned to him. The blind
rage of a few moments was gone and he fought now as he had fought his
deadliest enemy, the long-clawed lynx. Five times he circled around the
husky, and then like a shot he was in, sending his whole weight against
the husky's shoulder, with the momentum of a ten-foot leap behind it.
This time he did not try for a hold, but slashed at the husky's jaws. It
was the deadliest of all attacks when that merciless tribunal of death
stood waiting for the first fall of the vanquished. The huge dog was
thrown from his feet. For a fatal moment he rolled upon his side and in
the moment his four sledge-mates were upon him. All of their hatred of
the weeks and months in which the long-fanged leader had bullied them in
the traces was concentrated upon him now and he was literally torn into
Kazan pranced to Gray Wolf's side and with a joyful whine she laid her
head over his neck. Twice he had fought the Fight of Death for her.
Twice he had won. And in her blindness Gray Wolf's soul--if soul she
had--rose in exultation to the cold gray sky, and her breast panted
against Kazan's shoulder as she listened to the crunching of fangs in
the flesh and bone of the foe her lord and master had overthrown.
Followed days of feasting on the frozen flesh of the old bull. In vain
Gray Wolf tried to lure Kazan off into the forests and the swamps. Day
by day the temperature rose. There was hunting now. And Gray Wolf wanted
to be alone--with Kazan. But with Kazan, as with most men, leadership
and power roused new sensations. And he was the leader of the dog-pack,
as he had once been a leader among the wolves. Not only Gray Wolf
followed at his flank now, but the four huskies trailed behind him. Once
more he was experiencing that triumph and strange thrill that he had
almost forgotten and only Gray Wolf, in that eternal night of her
blindness, felt with dread foreboding the danger into which his newly
achieved czarship might lead him.
For three days and three nights they remained in the neighborhood of the
dead moose, ready to defend it against others, and yet each day and
each night growing less vigilant in their guard. Then came the fourth
night, on which they killed a young doe. Kazan led in that chase and for
the first time, in the excitement of having the pack at his back, he
left his blind mate behind. When they came to the kill he was the first
to leap at its soft throat. And not until he had begun to tear at the
doe's flesh did the others dare to eat. He was master. He could send
them back with a snarl. At the gleam of his fangs they crouched
quivering on their bellies in the snow.
Kazan's blood was fomented with brute exultation, and the excitement and
fascination that came in the possession of new power took the place of
Gray Wolf each day a little more. She came in half an hour after the
kill, and there was no longer the lithesome alertness to her slender
legs, or gladness in the tilt of her ears or the poise of her head. She
did not eat much of the doe. Her blind face was turned always in Kazan's
direction. Wherever he moved she followed with her unseeing eyes, as if
expecting each moment his old signal to her--that low throat-note that
had called to her so often when they were alone in the wilderness.
In Kazan, as leader of the pack, there was working a curious change. If
his mates had been wolves it would not have been difficult for Gray Wolf
to have lured him away. But Kazan was among his own kind. He was a dog.
And they were dogs. Fires that had burned down and ceased to warm him
flamed up in him anew. In his life with Gray Wolf one thing had
oppressed him as it could not oppress her, and that thing was
loneliness. Nature had created him of that kind which requires
companionship--not of one but of many. It had given him birth that he
might listen to and obey the commands of the voice of man. He had grown
to hate men, but of the dogs--his kind--he was a part. He had been happy
with Gray Wolf, happier than he had ever been in the companionship of
men and his blood-brothers. But he had been a long time separated from
the life that had once been his and the call of blood made him for a
time forget. And only Gray Wolf, with that wonderful super-instinct
which nature was giving her in place of her lost sight, foresaw the end
to which it was leading him.
Each day the temperature continued to rise until when the sun was
warmest the snow began to thaw a little. This was two weeks after the
fight near the bull. Gradually the pack had swung eastward, until it was
now fifty miles east and twenty miles south of the old home under the
windfall. More than ever Gray Wolf began to long for their old nest
under the fallen trees. Again with those first promises of spring in
sunshine and air, there was coming also for the second time in her life
the promise of approaching motherhood.
But her efforts to draw Kazan back were unavailing, and in spite of her
protest he wandered each day a little farther east and south at the head
of his pack.
Instinct impelled the four huskies to move in that direction. They had
not yet been long enough a part of the wild to forget the necessity of
man and in that direction there was man. In that direction, and not far
from them now, was the Hudson Bay Company's post to which they and their
dead master owed their allegiance. Kazan did not know this, but one day
something happened to bring back visions and desires that widened still
more the gulf between him and Gray Wolf.
They had come to the cap of a ridge when something stopped them. It was
a man's voice crying shrilly that word of long ago that had so often
stirred the blood in Kazan's own veins--"_m'hoosh! m'hoosh!
m'hoosh!"_--and from the ridge they looked down upon the open space of
the plain, where a team of six dogs was trotting ahead of a sledge, with
a man running behind them, urging them on at every other step with that