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Kazan by James Oliver Curwood

Part 4 out of 4

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Sandy lighted his pipe, and spoke like one strangely curious.

"Must cost a heap to take these trips o' yourn, don't it?"

"My last cost about seven thousand dollars. This will cost five," said

"Gawd!" breathed Sandy. "An' you carry all that along with you! Ain't
you afraid--something might happen--?"

The little professor was looking the other way now. The carelessness in
his face and manner changed. His blue eyes grew a shade darker. A hard
smile which Sandy did not see hovered about his lips for an instant.
Then he turned, laughing.

"I'm a very light sleeper," he said. "A footstep at night rouses me.
Even a man's breathing awakes me, when I make up my mind that I must be
on my guard. And, besides"--he drew from his pocket a blue-steeled
Savage automatic--"I know how to use _this_." He pointed to a knot in
the wall of the cabin. "Observe," he said. Five times he fired at twenty
paces, and when Sandy went up to look at the knot he gave a gasp. There
was one jagged hole where the knot had been.

"Pretty good," he grinned. "Most men couldn't do better'n that with a

When Sandy left, McGill followed him with a suspicious gleam in his
eyes, and a curious smile on his lips. Then he turned to Kazan.

"Guess you've got him figgered out about right, old man," he laughed
softly. "I don't blame you very much for wanting to get him by the
throat. Perhaps--"

He shoved his hands deep in his pockets, and went into the cabin. Kazan
dropped his head between his forepaws, and lay still, with wide-open
eyes. It was late afternoon, early in September, and each night brought
now the first chill breaths of autumn. Kazan watched the last glow of
the sun as it faded out of the southern skies. Darkness always followed
swiftly after that, and with darkness came more fiercely his wild
longing for freedom. Night after night he had gnawed at his steel chain.
Night after night he had watched the stars, and the moon, and had
listened for Gray Wolf's call, while the big Dane lay sleeping. To-night
it was colder than usual, and the keen tang of the wind that came fresh
from the west stirred him strangely. It set his blood afire with what
the Indians call the Frost Hunger. Lethargic summer was gone and the
days and nights of hunting were at hand. He wanted to leap out into
freedom and run until he was exhausted, with Gray Wolf at his side. He
knew that Gray Wolf was off there--where the stars hung low in the clear
sky, and that she was waiting. He strained at the end of his chain, and
whined. All that night he was restless--more restless than he had been
at any time before. Once, in the far distance, he heard a cry that he
thought was the cry of Gray Wolf, and his answer roused McGill from deep
sleep. It was dawn, and the little professor dressed himself and came
out of the cabin. With satisfaction he noted the exhilarating snap in
the air. He wet his fingers and held them above his head, chuckling when
he found the wind had swung into the north. He went to Kazan, and talked
to him. Among other things he said, "This'll put the black flies to
sleep, Kazan. A day or two more of it and we'll start."

Five days later McGill led first the Dane, and then Kazan, to a packed
canoe. Sandy McTrigger saw them off, and Kazan watched for a chance to
leap at him. Sandy kept his distance, and McGill watched the two with a
thought that set the blood running swiftly behind the mask of his
careless smile. They had slipped a mile down-stream when he leaned over
and laid a fearless hand on Kazan's head. Something in the touch of that
hand, and in the professor's voice, kept Kazan from a desire to snap at
him. He tolerated the friendship with expressionless eyes and a
motionless body.

"I was beginning to fear I wouldn't have much sleep, old boy," chuckled
McGill ambiguously, "but I guess I can take a nap now and then with
_you_ along!"

He made camp that night fifteen miles up the lake shore. The big Dane he
fastened to a sapling twenty yards from his small silk tent, but Kazan's
chain he made fast to the butt of a stunted birch that held down the
tent-flap. Before he went into the tent for the night McGill pulled out
his automatic and examined it with care.

For three days the journey continued without a mishap along the shore of
Lake Athabasca. On the fourth night McGill pitched his tent in a clump
of _banskian_ pine a hundred yards back from the water. All that day the
wind had come steadily from behind them, and for at least a half of the
day the professor had been watching Kazan closely. From the west there
had now and then come a scent that stirred him uneasily. Since noon he
had sniffed that wind. Twice McGill had heard him growling deep in his
throat, and once, when the scent had come stronger than usual, he had
bared his fangs, and the bristles stood up along his spine. For an hour
after striking camp the little professor did not build a fire, but sat
looking up the shore of the lake through his hunting glass. It was dusk
when he returned to where he had put up his tent and chained the dogs.
For a few moments he stood unobserved, looking at the wolf-dog. Kazan
was still uneasy. He lay _facing_ the west. McGill made note of this,
for the big Dane lay behind Kazan--to the east. Under ordinary
conditions Kazan would have faced him. He was sure now that there was
something in the west wind. A little shiver ran up his back as he
thought of what it might be.

Behind a rock he built a very small fire, and prepared supper. After
this he went into the tent, and when he came out he carried a blanket
under his arm. He chuckled as he stood for a moment over Kazan.

"We're not going to sleep in there to-night, old hoy," he said. "I don't
like what you've found in the west wind. It may he a--_thunder-storm!_"
He laughed at his joke, and buried himself in a clump of stunted
_banskians_ thirty paces from the tent. Here he rolled himself in his
blanket, and went to sleep.

It was a quiet starlit night, and hours afterward Kazan dropped his nose
between his forepaws and drowsed. It was the snap of a twig that roused
him. The sound did not awaken the sluggish Dane but instantly Kazan's
head was alert, his keen nostrils sniffing the air. What he had smelled
all day was heavy about him now. He lay still and quivering. Slowly,
from out of the _banskians_ behind the tent, there came a figure. It was
not the little professor. It approached cautiously, with lowered head
and hunched shoulders, and the starlight revealed the murderous face of
Sandy McTrigger. Kazan crouched low. He laid his head flat between his
forepaws. His long fangs gleamed. But he made no sound that betrayed his
concealment under a thick _banskian_ shrub. Step by step Sandy
approached, and at last he reached the flap of the tent. He did not
carry a club or a whip in his hand now. In the place of either of those
was the glitter of steel. At the door to the tent he paused, and peered
in, his back to Kazan.

Silently, swiftly--the wolf now in every movement, Kazan came to his
feet. He forgot the chain that held him. Ten feet away stood the enemy
he hated above all others he had ever known. Every ounce of strength in
his splendid body gathered itself for the spring. And then he leaped.
This time the chain did not pull him back, almost neck-broken. Age and
the elements had weakened the leather collar he had worn since the days
of his slavery in the traces, and it gave way with a snap. Sandy turned,
and in a second leap Kazan's fangs sank into the flesh of his arm. With
a startled cry the man fell, and as they rolled over on the ground the
big Dane's deep voice rolled out in thunderous alarm as he tugged at his
leash. In the fall Kazan's hold was broken. In an instant he was on his
feet, ready for another attack. And then the change came. He was
_free_. The collar was gone from his neck. The forest, the stars, the
whispering wind were all about him. _Here_ were men, and off there
was--Gray Wolf! His ears dropped, and he turned swiftly, and slipped
like a shadow back into the glorious freedom of his world.

A hundred yards away something stopped him for an instant. It was not
the big Dane's voice, but the sharp _crack--crack--crack_, of the little
professor's automatic. And above that sound there rose the voice of
Sandy McTrigger in a weird and terrible cry.



Mile after mile Kazan went on. For a time he was oppressed by the
shivering note of death that had come to him in Sandy McTrigger's cry,
and he slipped through the _banskians_ like a shadow, his ears
flattened, his tail trailing, his hindquarters betraying that curious
slinking quality of the wolf and dog stealing away from danger. Then he
came out upon a plain, and the stillness, the billion stars in the clear
vault of the sky, and the keen air that carried with it a breath of the
Arctic barrens made him alert and questioning. He faced the direction of
the wind. Somewhere off there, far to the south and west, was Gray Wolf.
For the first time in many weeks he sat back on his haunches and gave
the deep and vibrant call that echoed weirdly for miles about him. Back
in the _banskians_ the big Dane heard it, and whined. From over the
still body of Sandy McTrigger the little professor looked up with a
white tense face, and listened for a second cry. But instinct told Kazan
that to that first call there would be no answer, and now he struck out
swiftly, galloping mile after mile, as a dog follows the trail of its
master home. He did not turn hack to the lake, nor was his direction
toward Red Gold City. As straight as he might have followed a road
blazed by the hand of man he cut across the forty miles of plain and
swamp and forest and rocky ridge that lay between him and the McFarlane.
All that night he did not call again for Gray Wolf. With him reasoning
was a process brought about by habit--by precedent--and as Gray Wolf had
waited for him many times before he knew that she would be waiting for
him now near the sand-bar.

By dawn he had reached the river, within three miles of the sand-bar.
Scarcely was the sun up when he stood on the white strip of sand where
he and Gray Wolf had come down to drink. Expectantly and confidently he
looked about him for Gray Wolf, whining softly, and wagging his tail. He
began to search for her scent, but rains had washed even her footprints
from the clean sand. All that day he searched for her along the river
and out on the plain. He went to where they had killed their last
rabbit. He sniffed at the bushes where the poison baits had hung. Again
and again he sat back on his haunches and sent out his mating cry to
her. And slowly, as he did these things, nature was working in him that
miracle of the wild which the Crees have named the "spirit call." As it
had worked in Gray Wolf, so now it stirred the blood of Kazan. With the
going of the sun, and the sweeping about him of shadowy night, he turned
more and more to the south and east. His whole world was made up of the
trails over which he had hunted. Beyond those places he did not know
that there was such a thing as existence. And in that world, small in
his understanding of things, was Gray Wolf. He could not miss her. That
world, in his comprehension of it, ran from the McFarlane in a narrow
trail through the forests and over the plains to the little valley from
which the beavers had driven them. If Gray Wolf was not here--she was
there, and tirelessly he resumed his quest of her.

Not until the stars were fading out of the sky again, and gray day was
giving place to night, did exhaustion and hunger stop him. He killed a
rabbit, and for hours after he had feasted he lay close to his kill, and
slept. Then he went on.

The fourth night he came to the little valley between the two ridges,
and under the stars, more brilliant now in the chill clearness of the
early autumn nights, he followed the creek down into their old swamp
home. It was broad day when he reached the edge of the great beaver pond
that now completely surrounded the windfall under which Gray-Wolf's
second-born had come into the world. Broken Tooth and the other beavers
had wrought a big change in what had once been his home and Gray Wolf's,
and for many minutes Kazan stood silent and motionless at the edge of
the pond, sniffing the air heavy with the unpleasant odor of the
usurpers. Until now his spirit had remained unbroken. Footsore, with
thinned sides and gaunt head, he circled slowly through the swamp. All
that day he searched. And his crest lay flat now, and there was a hunted
look in the droop of his shoulders and in the shifting look of his
eyes. Gray Wolf was gone.

Slowly nature was impinging that fact upon him. She had passed out of
his world and out of his life, and he was filled with a loneliness and a
grief so great that the forest seemed strange, and the stillness of the
wild a thing that now oppressed and frightened him. Once more the dog in
him was mastering the wolf. With Gray Wolf he had possessed the world of
freedom. Without her, that world was so big and strange and empty that
it appalled him. Late in the afternoon he came upon a little pile of
crushed clamshells on the shore of the stream. He sniffed at
them--turned away--went back, and sniffed again. It was where Gray Wolf
had made a last feast in the swamp before continuing south. But the
scent she had left behind was not strong enough to tell Kazan, and for a
second time he turned away. That night he slunk under a log, and cried
himself to sleep. Deep in the night he grieved in his uneasy slumber,
like a child. And day after day, and night after night, Kazan remained a
slinking creature of the big swamp, mourning for the one creature that
had brought him out of chaos into light, who had filled his world for
him, and who, in going from him, had taken from this world even the
things that Gray Wolf had lost in her blindness.



In the golden glow of the autumn sun there came up the stream overlooked
by the Sun Rock one day a man, a woman and a child in a canoe.
Civilization had done for lovely Joan what it had done for many another
wild flower transplanted from the depths of the wilderness. Her cheeks
were thin. Her blue eyes had lost their luster. She coughed, and when
she coughed the man looked at her with love and fear in his eyes. But
now, slowly, the man had begun to see the transformation, and on the day
their canoe pointed up the stream and into the wonderful valley that had
been their home before the call of the distant city came to them, he
noted the flush gathering once more in her cheeks, the fuller redness of
her lips, and the gathering glow of happiness and content in her eyes.
He laughed softly as he saw these things, and he blessed the forests. In
the canoe she had leaned back, with her head almost against his
shoulder, and he stopped paddling to draw her to him, and run his
fingers through the soft golden masses of her hair.

"You are happy again, Joan," he laughed joyously. "The doctors were
right. You are a part of the forests."

"Yes, I am happy," she whispered, and suddenly there came a little
thrill into her voice, and she pointed to a white finger of sand running
out into the stream. "Do you remember--years and years ago, it
seems--that Kazan left us here? _She_ was on the sand over there,
calling to him. Do you remember?" There was a little tremble about her
mouth, and she added, "I wonder--where they--have gone."

The cabin was as they had left it. Only the crimson _bakneesh_ had grown
up about it, and shrubs and tall grass had sprung up near its walls.
Once more it took on life, and day by day the color came deeper into
Joan's cheeks, and her voice was filled with its old wild sweetness of
song. Joan's husband cleared the trails over his old trap-lines, and
Joan and the little Joan, who romped and talked now, transformed the
cabin into _home_. One night the man returned to the cabin late, and
when he came in there was a glow of excitement in Joan's blue eyes, and
a tremble in her voice when she greeted him.

"Did you hear it?" she asked. "Did you hear--_the call_?"

He nodded, stroking her soft hair.

"I was a mile back in the creek swamp," he said. "I heard it!"

Joan's hands clutched his arms.

"It wasn't Kazan," she said. "I would recognize _his_ voice. But it
seemed to me it was like the other--the call that came that morning from
the sand-bar, his _mate_?"

The man was thinking. Joan's fingers tightened. She was breathing a
little quickly.

"Will you promise me this?" she asked, "Will you promise me that you
will never hunt or trap for wolves?"

"I had thought of that," he replied. "I thought of it--after I heard the
call. Yes, I will promise."

Joan's arms stole up about his neck.

"We loved Kazan," she whispered. "And you might kill him--or _her_"

Suddenly she stopped. Both listened. The door was a little ajar, and to
them there came again the wailing mate-call of the wolf. Joan ran to the
door. Her husband followed. Together they stood silent, and with tense
breath Joan pointed over the starlit plain.

"Listen! Listen!" she commanded. "It's her cry, _and it came from the
Sun Rock_!"

She ran out into the night, forgetting that the man was close behind her
now, forgetting that little Joan was alone in her bed. And to them, from
miles and miles across the plain, there came a wailing cry in answer--a
cry that seemed a part of the wind, and that thrilled Joan until her
breath broke in a strange sob.

Farther out on the plain she went and then stopped, with the golden glow
of the autumn moon and the stars shimmering in her hair and eyes. It was
many minutes before the cry came again, and then it was so near that
Joan put her hands to her mouth, and her cry rang out over the plain as
in the days of old.

"_Kazan! Kazan! Kazan_!"

At the top of the Sun Rock, Gray Wolf--gaunt and thinned by
starvation--heard the woman's cry, and the call that was in her throat
died away in a whine. And to the north a swiftly moving shadow stopped
for a moment, and stood like a thing of rock under the starlight. It was
Kazan. A strange fire leaped through his body. Every fiber of his brute
understanding was afire with the knowledge that here was _home_. It was
here, long ago, that he had lived, and loved, and fought--and all at
once the dreams that had grown faded and indistinct in his memory came
back to him as real living things. For, coming to him faintly over the
plain, _he heard Joan's voice!_

In the starlight Joan stood, tense and white, when from out of the pale
mists of the moon-glow he came to her, cringing on his belly, panting
and wind-run, and with a strange whining note in his throat. And as Joan
went to him, her arms reaching out, her lips sobbing his name over and
over again, the man stood and looked down upon them with the wonder of a
new and greater understanding in his face. He had no fear of the
wolf-dog now. And as Joan's arms hugged Kazan's great shaggy head up to
her he heard the whining gasping joy of the beast and the sobbing
whispering voice of the girl, and with tensely gripped hands he faced
the Sun Rock.

"My Gawd," he breathed. "I believe--it's so--"

As if in response to the thought in his mind, there came once more
across the plain Gray Wolf's mate-seeking cry of grief and of
loneliness. Swiftly as though struck by a lash Kazan was on his
feet--oblivious of Joan's touch, of her voice, of the presence of the
man. In another instant he was gone, and Joan flung herself against her
husband's breast, and almost fiercely took his face between her two

"_Now_ do you believe?" she cried pantingly. "_Now_ do you believe in
the God of my world--the God I have lived with, the God that gives souls
to the wild things, the God that--that has brought--us,
all--together--once more--_home_!"

His arms closed gently about her.

"I believe, my Joan," he whispered.

"And you understand--now--what it means, 'Thou shalt not kill'?"

"Except that it brings us life--yes, I understand," he replied.

Her warm soft hands stroked his face. Her blue eyes, filled with the
glory of the stars, looked up into his.

"Kazan and _she_--you and I--and the baby! Are you sorry--that we came
back?" she asked.

So close he drew her against his breast that she did not hear the words
he whispered in the soft warmth of her hair. And after that, for many
hours, they sat in the starlight in front of the cabin door. But they
did not hear again that lonely cry from the Sun Rock. Joan and her
husband understood.

"He'll visit us again to-morrow," the man said at last. "Come, Joan, let
us go to bed."

Together they entered the cabin.

And that night, side by side, Kazan and Gray Wolf hunted again in the
moonlit plain.

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