Part 2 out of 4
rigidly set between the bony shoulders that already gave evidence
of gigantic strength to come. About him he knew was the Big
Adventure. The world was no longer a world of play and of
snuggling under the hands of a master. Something vastly more
thrilling had come into it now.
After a time he dropped on his belly close to the opening under
the windfall and began chewing at the end of rope which dragged
from about his neck. The sun sank lower. It disappeared. Still he
waited for Neewa to come out and lie with him in the open. As the
twilight thickened into deeper gloom he drew himself into the edge
of the door under the windfall and found Neewa there. Together
they peered forth into the mysterious night.
For a time there was the utter stillness of the first hour of
darkness in the northland. Up in the clear sky the stars came out
in twos and then in glowing constellations. There was an early
moon. It was already over the edge of the forests, flooding the
world with a golden glow, and in that glow the night was filled
with grotesque black shadows that had neither movement nor sound.
Then the silence was broken. From out of the owl-infested pits
came a strange and hollow sound. Miki had heard the shrill
screeching and the TU-WHO-O-O, TU-WHO-O-O, TU-WHO-O-O of the
little owls, the trap-pirates, but never this voice of the strong-
winged Jezebels and Frankensteins of the deeper forests--the real
butchers of the night. It was a hollow, throaty sound--more a moan
than a cry; a moan so short and low that it seemed born of
caution, or of fear that it would frighten possible prey. For a
few minutes pit after pit gave forth each its signal of life, and
then there was a silence of voice, broken at intervals by the
faint, crashing sweep of great wings in the spruce and balsam tops
as the hunters launched themselves up and over them in the
direction of the plain.
The going forth of the owls was only the beginning of the night
carnival for Neewa and Miki. For a long time they lay side by
side, sleepless, and listening. Past the windfall went the padded
feet of a fisher-cat, and they caught the scent of it; to them
came the far cry of a loon, the yapping of a restless fox, and the
MOOING of a cow moose feeding in the edge of a lake on the farther
side of the plain. And then, at last, came the thing that made
their blood run faster and sent a deeper thrill into their hearts.
It seemed a vast distance away at first--the hot throated cry of
wolves on the trail of meat. It was swinging northward into the
plain, and this shortly brought the cry with the wind, which was
out of the north and the west. The howling of the pack was very
distinct after that, and in Miki's brain nebulous visions and
almost unintelligible memories were swiftly wakening into life. It
was not Challoner's voice that he heard, but it was A VOICE THAT
HE KNEW. It was the voice of Hela, his giant father; the voice of
Numa, his mother; the voice of his kind for a hundred and a
thousand generations before him, and it was the instinct of those
generations and the hazy memory of his earliest puppyhood that
were impinging the thing upon him. A little later it would take
both intelligence and experience to make him discriminate the
hair-breadth difference between wolf and dog. And this voice of
his blood was COMING! It bore down upon them swiftly, fierce and
filled with the blood-lust of hunger. He forgot Neewa. He did not
observe the cub when he slunk back deeper under the windfall. He
rose up on his feet and stood stiff and tense, unconscious of all
things but that thrilling tongue of the hunt-pack.
Wind-broken, his strength failing him, and his eyes wildly
searching the night ahead for the gleam of water that might save
him, Ahtik, the young caribou bull, raced for his life a hundred
yards ahead of the wolves. The pack had already flung itself out
in the form of a horse-shoe, and the two ends were beginning to
creep up abreast of Ahtik, ready to close in for the hamstring--
and the kill. In these last minutes every throat was silent, and
the young bull sensed the beginning of the end. Desperately he
turned to the right and plunged into the forest.
Miki heard the crash of his body and he hugged close to the
windfall. Ten seconds later Ahtik passed within fifty feet of him,
a huge and grotesque form in the moonlight, his coughing breath
filled with the agony and hopelessness of approaching death. As
swiftly as he had come he was gone, and in his place followed half
a score of noiseless shadows passing so quickly that to Miki they
were like the coming and the going of the wind.
For many minutes after that he stood and listened but again
silence had fallen upon the night. After a little he went back
into the windfall and lay down beside Neewa.
Hours that followed he passed in restless snatches of slumber. He
dreamed of things that he had forgotten. He dreamed of Challoner.
He dreamed of chill nights and the big fires; he heard his
master's voice and he felt again the touch of his hand; but over
it all and through it all ran that wild hunting voice of his own
In the early dawn he came out from under the windfall and smelled
of the trail where the wolves and the caribou had passed.
Heretofore it was Neewa who had led in their wandering; now it was
Neewa that followed. His nostrils filled with the heavy scent of
the pack, Miki travelled steadily in the direction of the plain.
It took him half an hour to reach the edge of it. After that he
came to a wide and stony out-cropping of the earth over which he
nosed the spoor to a low and abrupt descent into the wider range
of the valley.
Here he stopped.
Twenty feet under him and fifty feet away lay the partly devoured
carcass of the young bull. It was not this fact that thrilled him
until his heart stood still. From out of the bushy plain had come
Maheegun, a renegade she-wolf, to fill herself of the meat which
she had not helped to kill. She was a slinking, hollow-backed,
quick-fanged creature, still rib-thin from the sickness that had
come of eating a poison-bait; a beast shunned by her own kind--a
coward, a murderess even of her own whelps. But she was none of
these things to Miki. In her he saw in living flesh and bone what
his memory and his instinct recalled to him of his mother. And his
mother had come before Challoner, his master.
For a minute or two he lay trembling, and then he went down, as he
would have gone to Challoner; with great caution, with a wilder
suspense, but with a strange yearning within him that the man's
presence would have failed to rouse. He was very close to Maheegun
before she was conscious that he was near. The Mother-smell was
warm in his nose now; it filled him with a great joy; and yet--he
was afraid. But it was not a physical fear. Flattened on the
ground, with his head between his fore-paws, he whined.
Like a flash the she-wolf turned, her fangs bared the length of
her jaws and her bloodshot eyes aglow with menace and suspicion.
Miki had no time to make a move or another sound. With the
suddenness of a cat the outcast creature was upon him. Her fangs
slashed him just once--and she was gone. Her teeth had drawn blood
from his shoulder, but it was not the smart of the wound that held
him for many moments as still as if dead. The Mother-smell was
still where Maheegun had been. But his dreams had crumbled. The
thing that had been Memory died away at last in a deep breath that
was broken by a whimper of pain. For him, even as for Neewa, there
was no more a Challoner, and no longer a mother. But there
remained--the world! In it the sun was rising. Out of it came the
thrill and the perfume of life. And close to him--very close--was
the rich, sweet smell of meat.
He sniffed hungrily. Then he turned, and saw Neewa's black and
pudgy body tumbling down the slope of the dip to join him in the
Had Makoki, the leather-faced old Cree runner between God's Lake
and Fort Churchill, known the history of Miki and Neewa up to the
point where they came to feast on the fat and partly devoured
carcass of the young caribou bull, he would have said that Iskoo
Wapoo, the Good Spirit of the beasts, was watching over them most
carefully. For Makoki had great faith in the forest gods as well
as in those of his own tepee. He would have given the story his
own picturesque version, and would have told it to the little
children of his son's children; and his son's children would have
kept it in their memory for their own children later on.
It was not in the ordained nature of things that a black bear cub
and a Mackenzie hound pup with a dash of Airedale and Spitz in him
should "chum up" together as Neewa and Miki had done. Therefore,
he would have said, the Beneficent Spirit who watched over the
affairs of four-legged beasts must have had an eye on them from
the beginning. It was she--Iskoo Wapoo was a goddess and not a god
--who had made Challoner kill Neewa's mother, the big black bear;
and it was she who had induced him to tie the pup and the cub
together on the same piece of rope, so that when they fell out of
the white man's canoe into the rapids they would not die, but
would be company and salvation for each other. NESWA-PAWUK ("two
little brothers") Makoki would have called them; and had it come
to the test he would have cut off a finger before harming either
of them. But Makoki knew nothing of their adventures, and on this
morning when they came down to the feast he was a hundred miles
away, haggling with a white man who wanted a guide. He would never
know that Iskoo Wapoo was at his side that very moment, planning
the thing that was to mean so much in the lives of Neewa and Miki.
Meanwhile Neewa and Miki went at their breakfast as if starved.
They were immensely practical. They did not look back on what had
happened, but for the moment submerged themselves completely in
the present. The few days of thrill and adventure through which
they had gone seemed like a year. Neewa's yearning for his mother
had grown less and less insistent, and Miki's lost master counted
for nothing now, as things were going with him. Last night was the
big, vivid thing in their memories--their fight for life with the
monster owls, their flight, the killing of the young caribou bull
by the wolves, and (with Miki) the short, bitter experience with
Maheegun, the renegade she-wolf. His shoulder burned where she had
torn at him with her teeth. But this did not lessen his appetite.
Growling as he ate, he filled himself until he could hold no more.
Then he sat back on his haunches and looked in the direction
Maheegun had taken.
It was eastward, toward Hudson Bay, over a great plain that lay
between two ridges that were like forest walls, yellow and gold in
the morning sun. He had never seen the world as it looked to him
now. The wolves had overtaken the caribou on a scarp on the high
ground that thrust itself out like a short fat thumb from the
black and owl-infested forest, and the carcass lay in a meadowy
dip that overhung the plain. From the edge of this dip Miki could
look down--and so far away that the wonder of what he saw
dissolved itself at last into the shimmer of the sun and the blue
of the sky. Within his vision lay a paradise of marvellous
promise; wide stretches of soft, green meadow; clumps of timber,
park-like until they merged into the deeper forest that began with
the farther ridge; great patches of bush radiant with the
colouring of June; here and there the gleam of water, and half a
mile away a lake that was like a giant mirror set in a purplish-
green frame of balsam and spruce.
Into these things Maheegun, the she-wolf, had gone. He wondered
whether she would come back. He sniffed the air for her. But there
was no longer the mother-yearning in his heart. Something had
already begun to tell him of the vast difference between the dog
and the wolf. For a few moments, still hopeful that the world held
a mother for him, he had mistaken her for the one he had lost. But
he understood now. A little more and Maheegun's teeth would have
snapped his shoulder, or slashed his throat to the jugular. TEBAH-
GONE-GAWIN (the One Great Law) was impinging itself upon him, the
implacable law of the survival of the fittest. To live was to
fight--to kill; to beat everything that had feet or wings. The
earth and the air held menace for him. Nowhere, since he had lost
Challoner, had he found friendship except in the heart of Neewa,
the motherless cub. And he turned toward Neewa now, growling at a
gay-plumaged moose-bird that was hovering about for a morsel of
A few minutes before, Neewa had weighed a dozen pounds; now he
weighed fourteen or fifteen. His stomach was puffed out like the
sides of an overfilled bag, and he sat humped up in a pool of warm
sunshine licking his chops and vastly contented with himself and
the world. Miki rubbed up to him, and Neewa gave a chummy grunt.
Then he rolled over on his fat back and invited Miki to play. It
was the first time; and with a joyous yelp Miki jumped into him.
Scratching and biting and kicking, and interjecting their friendly
scrimmage with ferocious growling on Miki's part and pig-like
grunts and squeals on Neewa's, they rolled to the edge of the dip.
It was a good hundred feet to the bottom--a steep, grassy slope
that ran to the plain--and like two balls they catapulted the
length of it. For Neewa it was not so bad. He was round and fat,
and went easily.
With Miki it was different. He was all legs and skin and angular
bone, and he went down twisting and somersaulting and tying
himself into knots until by the time he struck the hard strip of
shale at the edge of the plain he was drunk with dizziness and the
breath was out of his body. He staggered to his feet with a gasp.
For a space the world was whirling round and round in a sickening
circle. Then he pulled himself together, and made out Neewa a
dozen feet away.
Neewa was just awakening to the truth of an exhilarating
discovery. Next to a boy on a sled, or a beaver on its tail, no
one enjoys a "slide" more than a black bear cub, and as Miki
rearranged his scattered wits Neewa climbed twenty or thirty feet
up the slope and deliberately rolled down again! Miki's jaws fell
apart in amazement. Again Neewa climbed up and rolled down--and
Miki ceased to breathe altogether. Five times he watched Neewa go
that twenty or thirty feet up the grassy slope and tumble down.
The fifth time he waded into Neewa and gave him a rough-and-tumble
that almost ended in a fight.
After that Miki began exploring along the foot of the slope, and
for a scant hundred yards Neewa humoured him by following, but
beyond that point he flatly refused to go. In the fourth month of
his exciting young life Neewa was satisfied that Nature had given
him birth that he might have the endless pleasure of filling his
stomach. For him, eating was the one and only excuse for existing.
In the next few months he had a big job on his hands if he kept up
the record of his family, and the fact that Miki was apparently
abandoning the fat and juicy carcass of the young bull filled him
with alarm and rebellion. Straightway he forgot all thought of
play and started back up the slope on a mission that was 100 per
Observing this, Miki gave up his idea of exploration and joined
him. They reached the shelf of the dip twenty yards from the
carcass of the bull, and from a clutter of big stones looked forth
upon their meat. In that moment they stood dumb and paralyzed. Two
gigantic owls were tearing at the carcass. To Miki and Neewa these
were the monsters of the black forest out of which they had
escaped so narrowly with their lives. But as a matter of fact they
were not of Oohoomisew's breed of night-seeing pirates. They were
Snowy Owls, unlike all others of their kind in that their vision
was as keen as a hawk's in the light of broad day. Mispoon, the
big male, was immaculately white. His mate, a size or two smaller,
was barred with brownish-slate colour--and their heads were round
and terrible looking because they had no ear-tufts. Mispoon, with
his splendid wings spread half over the carcass of Ahtik, the dead
bull, was rending flesh so ravenously with his powerful beak that
Neewa and Miki could hear the sound of it. Newish, his mate, had
her head almost buried in Ahtik's bowels. The sight of them and
the sound of their eating were enough to disturb the nerves of an
older bear than Neewa, and he crouched behind a stone, with just
his head sticking out.
In Miki's throat was a sullen growl. But he held it back, and
flattened himself on the ground. The blood of the giant hunter
that was his father rose in him again like fire. The carcass was
his meat, and he was ready to fight for it. Besides, had he not
whipped the big owl in the forest? But here there were two. The
fact held him flattened on his belly a moment or two longer, and
in that brief space the unexpected happened.
Slinking up out of the low growth of bush at the far edge of the
dip lie saw Maheegun, the renegade she-wolf. Hollow-backed, red-
eyed, her bushy tail hanging with the sneaky droop of the
murderess, she advanced over the bit of open, a gray and vengeful
shadow. Furtive as she was, she at least acted with great
swiftness. Straight at Mispoon she launched herself with a snarl
and snap of fangs that made Miki hug the ground still closer.
Deep into Mispoon's four-inch armour of feathers Maheegun buried
her fangs. Taken at a disadvantage Mispoon's head would have been
torn from his body before he could have gathered himself for
battle had it not been for Newish. Pulling her blood stained head
from Ahtik's flesh and blood she drove at Maheegun with a throaty,
wheezing scream--a cry that was like the cry of no other thing
that lived. Into the she-wolf's back she sank her beak and talons
and Maheegun gave up her grip on Mispoon and tore ferociously at
her new assailant. For a space Mispoon was saved, but it was at a
terrible sacrifice to Newish. With a single lucky slash of her
long-fanged jaws, Maheegun literally tore one of Newish's great
wings from her body. The croak of agony that came out of her may
have held the death-note for Mispoon, her mate; for he rose on his
wings, poised himself for an instant, and launched himself at the
she-wolf's back with a force that drove Maheegun off her feet.
Deep into her loins the great owl sank his talons, gripping at the
renegade's vitals with an avenging and ferocious tenacity. In that
hold Maheegun felt the sting of death. She flung herself on her
back; she rolled over and over, snarling and snapping and clawing
the air in her efforts to free herself of the burning knives that
were sinking still deeper into her bowels. Mispoon hung on,
rolling as she rolled, beating with his giant wings, fastening his
talons in that clutch that death could not shake loose. On the
ground his mate was dying. Her life's blood was pouring out of the
hole in her side, but with the dimming vision of death she made a
last effort to help Mispoon. And Mispoon, a hero to the last, kept
his grip until he was dead.
Into the edge of the bush Maheegun dragged herself. There she
freed herself of the big owl. But the deep wounds were still in
her sides. The blood dripped from her belly as she made her way
down into the thicker cover, leaving a red trail behind her. A
quarter of a mile away she lay down under a clump of dwarf spruce;
and there, a little later, she died.
To Neewa and Miki--and especially to the son of Hela--the grim
combat had widened even more that subtle and growing comprehension
of the world as it existed for them. It was the unforgettable
wisdom of experience backed by an age-old instinct and the
heredity of breed. They had killed small things--Neewa, his bugs
and his frogs and his bumble-bees; Miki, his rabbit--they had
fought for their lives; they had passed through experiences that,
from the beginning, had been a gamble with death; but it had
needed the climax of a struggle such as they had seen with their
own eyes to open up the doors that gave them a new viewpoint of
It was many minutes before Miki went forth and smelled of Newish,
the dead owl. He had no desire now to tear at her feathers in the
excitement of an infantile triumph and ferocity. Along with
greater understanding a new craft and a new cunning were born in
him. The fate of Mispoon and his mate had taught him the priceless
value of silence and of caution, for he knew now that in the world
there were many things that were not afraid of him, and many
things that would not run away from him. He had lost his fearless
and blatant contempt for winged creatures; he had learned that the
earth was not made for him alone, and that to hold his small place
on it he must fight as Maheegun and the owls had fought. This was
because in Miki's veins was the red fighting blood of a long line
of ancestors that reached back to the wolves.
In Neewa the process of deduction was vastly different. His breed
was not the fighting breed, except as it fought among its own
kind. It did not make a habit of preying upon other beasts, and no
other beast preyed upon it. This was purely an accident of birth--
the fact that no other creature in all his wide domain was
powerful enough, either alone or in groups, to defeat a grown
black bear in open battle. Therefore Neewa learned nothing of
fighting in the tragedy of Maheegun and the owls. His profit, if
any, was in a greater caution. And his chief interest was in the
fact that Maheegun and the two owls had not devoured the young
bull. His supper was still safe.
With his little round eyes on the alert for fresh trouble he kept
himself safely hidden while he watched Miki investigating the
scene of battle. From the body of the owl Miki went to Ahtik, and
from Ahtik he sniffed slowly over the trail which Maheegun had
taken into the bush. In the edge of the cover he found Mispoon. He
did not go farther, but returned to Neewa, who by this time had
made up his mind that he could safely come out into the open.
Fifty times that day Miki rushed to the defense of their meat. The
big-eyed, clucking moose-birds were most annoying. Next to them
the Canada jays were most persistent. Twice a little gray-coated
ermine, with eyes as red as garnets, came in to get his fill of
blood. Miki was at him so fiercely that he did not return a third
time. By noon the crows had got scent or sight of the carcass and
were circling overhead, waiting for Neewa and Miki to disappear.
Later, they set up a raucous protest from the tops of the trees in
the edge of the forest.
That night the wolves did not return to the dip. Meat was too
plentiful, and those that were over their gorge were off on a
fresh kill far to the west. Once or twice Neewa and Miki heard
their distant cry.
Again through a star-filled radiant night they watched and
listened, and slept at times. In the soft gray dawn they went
forth once more to their feast.
And here is where Makoki, the old Cree runner, would have
emphasized the presence of the Beneficent Spirit. For day followed
day, and night followed night, and Ahtik's flesh and blood put
into Neewa and Miki a strength and growth that developed
marvellously. By the fourth day Neewa had become so fat and sleek
that he was half again as big as on the day he fell out of the
canoe. Miki had begun to fill out. His ribs could no longer be
counted from a distance. His chest was broadening and his legs
were losing some of their angular clumsiness. Practice on Ahtik's
bones had strengthened his jaws. With his development he felt less
and less the old puppyish desire to play--more and more the
restlessness of the hunter. The fourth night he heard again the
wailing hunt-cry of the wolves, and it held a wild and thrilling
note for him.
With Neewa, fat and good humour and contentment were all
synonymous. As long as the meat held out there was no very great
temptation for him beyond the dip and the slope. Two or three
times a day he went down to the creek; and every morning and
afternoon--especially about sunset--he had his fun rolling
downhill. In addition to this he began taking his afternoon naps
in the crotch of a small sapling. As Miki could see neither sense
nor sport in tobogganing, and as he could not climb a tree, he
began to spend more and more time in venturing up and down the
foot of the ridge. He wanted Neewa to go with him on these
expeditions. He never set out until he had entreated Neewa to come
down out of his tree, or until he had made an effort to coax him
away from the single trail he had made to the creek and back.
Neewa's obstinacy would never have brought about any real
unpleasantness between them. Miki thought too much of him for
that; and if it had come to a final test, and Neewa had thought
that Miki would not return, he would undoubtedly have followed
It was another and a more potent thing than an ordinary quarrel
that placed the first great barrier between them. Now it happened
that Miki was of the breed which preferred its meat fresh, while
Neewa liked his "well hung." And from the fourth day onward, what
was left of Ahtik's carcass was ripening. On the fifth day Miki
found the flesh difficult to eat; on the sixth, impossible. To
Neewa it became increasingly delectable as the flavour grew and
the perfume thickened. On the sixth day, in sheer delight, he
rolled in it. That night, for the first time, Miki could not sleep
The seventh day brought the climax. Ahtik now fairly smelled to
heaven. The odour of him drifted up and away on the soft June wind
until all the crows in the country were gathering. It drove Miki,
slinking like a whipped cur, down into the creek bottom. When
Neewa came down for a drink after his morning feast Miki sniffed
him over for a moment and then slunk away from him again. As a
matter of fact, there was small difference between Ahtik and Neewa
now, except that one lay still and the other moved. Both smelled
dead; both were decidedly "well hung." Even the crows circled over
Neewa, wondering why it was that he walked about like a living
That night Miki slept alone under a clump of bush in the creek
bottom. He was hungry and lonely, and for the first time in many
days he felt the bigness and emptiness of the world. He wanted
Neewa. He whined for him in the starry silence of the long hours
between sunset and dawn. The sun was well up before Neewa came
down the hill. He had finished his breakfast and his morning roll,
and he was worse than ever. Again Miki tried to coax him away but
Neewa was disgustingly fixed in his determination to remain in his
present glory. And this morning he was more than usually anxious
to return to the dip. All of yesterday he had found it necessary
to frighten the crows away from his meat, and to-day they were
doubly persistent in their efforts to rob him. With a grunt and a
squeal to Miki he hustled back up the hill after he had taken his
His trail entered the dip through the pile of rocks from which
Miki and he had watched the battle between Maheegun and the two
owls, and as a matter of caution he always paused for a few
moments among these rocks to make sure that all was well in the
open. This morning he received a decided shock. Ahtik's carcass
was literally black with crows. Kakakew and his Ethiopic horde of
scavengers had descended in a cloud, and they were tearing and
fighting and beating their wings about Ahtik as if all of them had
gone mad. Another cloud was hovering in air; every bush and near-
by sapling was bending under the weight of them, and in the sun
their jet-black plumage glistened as if they had just come out of
the bath of a tinker's pot. Neewa stood astounded. He was not
frightened; he had driven the cowardly robbers away many times.
But never had there been so many of them. He could see no trace of
his meat. Even the ground about it was black.
He rushed out from the rocks with his lips drawn back, just as he
had rushed a dozen or more times before. There was a mighty roar
of wings. The air was darkened by them, and the ravenish screaming
that followed could have been heard a mile away. This time Kakakew
and his mighty crew did not fly back to the forest. Their number
gave them courage. The taste of Ahtik's flesh and the flavour of
it in their nostrils intoxicated them, to the point of madness,
with desire. Neewa was dazed. Over him, behind him, on all sides
of him they swept and circled, croaking and screaming at him, the
boldest of them swooping down to beat at him with their wings.
Thicker grew the menacing cloud, and then suddenly it descended
like an avalanche. It covered Ahtik again. In it Neewa was fairly
smothered. He felt himself buried under a mass of wings and
bodies, and he began fighting, as he had fought the owls. A score
of pincer-like black beaks fought to get at his hair and hide;
others stabbed at his eyes; he felt his ears being pulled from his
head, and the end of his nose was a bloody cushion within a dozen
seconds. The breath was beaten out of him; he was blinded, and
dazed, and every square inch of him was aquiver with its own
excruciating pain. He forgot Ahtik. The one thing in the world he
wanted most was a large open space in which to run.
Putting all his strength into the effort he struggled to his feet
and charged through the mass of living things about him. At this
sign of defeat many of the crows left him to join in the feast. By
the time he was half way to the cover into which Maheegun had gone
all but one had left him. That one may have been Kakakew himself.
He had fastened himself like a rat-trap to Neewa's stubby tail,
and there he hung on like grim death while Neewa ran. He kept his
hold until his victim was well into the cover. Then he flopped
himself into the air and rejoined his brethren at the putrified
carcass of the bull.
If ever Neewa had wanted Miki he wanted him now. Again his entire
viewpoint of the world was changed. He was stabbed in a hundred
places. He burned as if afire. Even the bottoms of his feet hurt
him when he stepped on them, and for half an hour he hid himself
under a bush, licking his wounds and sniffing the air for Miki.
Then he went down the slope into the creek bottom, and hurried to
the foot of the trail he had made to and from the dip. Vainly he
quested about him for his comrade. He grunted and squealed, and
tried to catch the scent of him in the air. He ran up the creek a
distance, and back again. Ahtik counted as nothing now.
Miki was gone.
A quarter of a mile away Miki had heard the clamour of the crows.
But he was in no humour to turn back, even had he guessed that
Neewa was in need of his help. He was hungry from long fasting
and, for the present, his disposition had taken a decided turn. He
was in a mood to tackle anything in the eating line, no matter how
big, but he was a good mile from the dip in the side of the ridge
before he found even a crawfish. He crunched this down, shell and
all. It helped to take the bad taste out of his mouth.
The day was destined to hold for him still another unforgettable
event in his life. Now that he was alone the memory of his master
was not so vague as it had been yesterday, and the days before.
Brain-pictures came back to him more vividly as the morning
lengthened into afternoon, bridging slowly but surely the gulf
that Neewa's comradeship had wrought. For a time the exciting
thrill of his adventure was gone. Half a dozen times he hesitated
on the point of turning back to Neewa. It was hunger that always
drove him on a little farther. He found two more crawfish. Then
the creek deepened and its water ran slowly, and was darker. Twice
he chased old rabbits, that got away from him easily. Once he came
within an ace of catching a young one. Frequently a partridge rose
with a thunder of wings. He saw moose-birds, and jays, and many
squirrels. All about him was meat which it was impossible for him
to catch. Then fortune turned his way. Poking his head into the
end of a hollow log he cornered a rabbit so completely that there
was no escape. During the next few minutes he indulged in the
first square meal he had eaten for three days.
So absorbed was he in his feast that he was unconscious of a new
arrival on the scene. He did not hear the coming of Oochak, the
fisher-cat; nor, for a few moments, did he smell him. It was not
in Oochak's nature to make a disturbance. He was by birth and
instinct a valiant hunter and a gentleman, and when he saw Miki
(whom he took to be a young wolf) feeding on a fresh kill, he made
no move to demand a share for himself. Nor did he run away. He
would undoubtedly have continued on his way very soon if Miki had
not finally sensed his presence, and faced him.
Oochak had come from the other side of the log, and stood not more
than six feet distant. To one who knew as little of his history as
Miki there was nothing at all ferocious about him. He was shaped
like his cousins, the weazel, the mink, and the skunk. He was
about half as high as Miki, and fully as long, so that his two
pairs of short legs seemed somewhat out of place, as on a
dachshund. He probably weighed between eight and ten pounds, had a
bullet head, almost no ears, and atrocious whiskers. Also he had a
bushy tail and snapping little eyes that seemed to bore clean
through whatever he looked at. To Miki his accidental presence was
a threat and a challenge. Besides, Oochak looked like an easy
victim if it came to a fight. So he pulled back his lips and
Oochak accepted this as an invitation for him to move on, and
being a gentleman who respected other people's preserves he made
his apologies by beginning a velvet-footed exit. This was too much
for Miki, who had yet to learn the etiquette of the forest trails.
Oochak was afraid of him. He was running away! With a triumphant
yelp Miki took after him. After all, it was simply a mistake in
judgment. (Many two-footed animals with bigger brains than Miki's
had made similar mistakes.) For Oochak, attending always to his
own business, was, for his size and weight, the greatest little
fighter in North America.
Just what happened in the one minute that followed his assault
Miki would never be able quite to understand. It was not in
reality a fight; it was a one-sided immolation, a massacre. His
first impression was that he had tackled a dozen Oochaks instead
of one. Beyond that first impression his mind did not work, nor
did his eyes visualize. He was whipped as he would never be
whipped again in his life. He was cut and bruised and bitten; he
was strangled and stabbed; he was so utterly mauled that for a
space after Oochak had gone he continued to rake the air with his
paws, unconscious of the fact that the affair was over. When he
opened his eyes, and found himself alone, he slunk into the hollow
log where he had cornered the rabbit.
In there he lay a good half hour, trying hard to comprehend just
what had happened. The sun was setting when he dragged himself
out. He limped. His one good ear was bitten clean through. There
were bare spots on his hide where Oochak had scraped the hair off.
His bones ached, his throat was sore, and there was a lump over
one eye. He looked longingly back over the "home" trail. Up there
was Neewa. With the lengthening shadows of the day's end a great
loneliness crept upon him and a desire to turn back to his
comrade. But Oochak had gone that way--and he did not want to meet
He wandered a little farther south and east, perhaps a quarter of
a mile, before the sun disappeared entirely. In the thickening
gloom of twilight he struck the Big Rock portage between the
Beaver and the Loon.
It was not a trail. Only at rare intervals did wandering voyageurs
coming down from the north make use of it in their passage from
one waterway to the other. Three or four times a year at the most
would a wolf have caught the scent of man in it. It was there
tonight, so fresh that Miki stopped when he came to it as if
another Oochak had risen before him. For a space he was turned
into the rigidity of rock by a single overwhelming emotion. All
other things were forgotten in the fact that he had struck the
trail of a man--AND, THEREFORE, THE TRAIL OF CHALLONER, HIS
MASTER. He began to follow it--slowly at first, as if fearing that
it might get away from him. Darkness came, and he was still
following it. In the light of the stars he persisted, all else
crowded from him but the homing instinct of the dog and the desire
for a master.
At last he came almost to the shore of the Loon, and there he saw
the campfire of Makoki and the white man.
He did not rush in. He did not bark or yelp; the hard schooling of
the wilderness had already set its mark upon him. He slunk in
cautiously--then stopped, flat on his belly, just outside the rim
of firelight. Then he saw that neither of the men was Challoner.
But both were smoking, as Challoner had smoked. He could hear
their voices, and they were like Challoner's voice. And the camp
was the same--a fire, a pot hanging over it, a tent, and in the
air the odours of recently cooked things.
Another moment or two and he would have gone into the firelight.
But the white man rose to his feet, stretched himself as he had
often seen Challoner stretch, and picked up a stick of wood as big
as his arm. He came within ten feet of Miki, and Miki wormed
himself just a little toward him, and stood up on his feet. It
brought him into a half light. His eyes were aglow with the
reflection of the fire. And the man saw him.
In a flash the club he held was over his head; it swung through
the air with the power of a giant arm behind it and was launched
straight at Miki. Had it struck squarely it would have killed him.
The big end of it missed him; the smaller end landed against his
neck and shoulder, driving him back into the gloom with such force
and suddenness that the man thought he had done for him. He called
out loudly to Makoki that he had killed a young wolf or a fox, and
dashed out into the darkness.
The club had knocked Miki fairly into the heart of a thick ground
spruce. There he lay, making no sound, with a terrible pain in his
shoulder. Between himself and the fire he saw the man bend over
and pick up the club. He saw Makoki hurrying toward him with
ANOTHER club, and under his shelter he made himself as small as he
could. He was filled with a great dread, for now he understood the
truth. THESE men were not Challoner. They were hunting for him--
with clubs in their hands. He knew what the clubs meant. His
shoulder was almost broken.
He lay very still while the men searched about him. The Indian
even poked his stick into the thick ground spruce. The white man
kept saying that he was sure he had made a hit, and once he stood
so near that Miki's nose almost touched his boot. He went back and
added fresh birch to the fire, so that the light of it illumined a
greater space about them. Miki's heart stood still. But the men
searched farther on, and at last went back to the fire.
For an hour Miki did not move. The fire burned itself low. The old
Cree wrapped himself in a blanket, and the white man went into his
tent. Not until then did Miki dare to crawl out from under the
spruce. With his bruised shoulder making him limp at every step he
hurried back over the trail which he had followed so hopefully a
little while before. The man-scent no longer made his heart beat
swiftly with joy. It was a menace now. A warning. A thing from
which he wanted to get away. He would sooner have faced Oochak
again, or the owls, than the white man with his club. With the
owls he could fight, but in the club he sensed an overwhelming
The night was very still when he dragged himself back to the
hollow log in which he had killed the rabbit. He crawled into it,
and nursed his wounds through all the rest of the hours of
darkness. In the early morning he came out and ate the rest of the
After that he faced the north and west--where Neewa was. There was
no hesitation now. He wanted Neewa again. He wanted to muzzle him
with his nose and lick his face even though he did smell to
heaven. He wanted to hear him grunt and squeal in his funny,
companionable way; he wanted to hunt with him again, and play with
him, and lie down beside him in a sunny spot and sleep. Neewa, at
last, was a necessary part of his world.
He set out.
And Neewa, far up the creek, still followed hopefully and
yearningly over the trail of Miki.
Half way to the dip, in a small open meadow that was a glory of
sun, they met. There was no very great demonstration. They stopped
and looked at each other for a moment, as if to make sure that
there was no mistake. Neewa grunted. Miki wagged his tail. They
smelled noses. Neewa responded with a little squeal, and Miki
whined. It was as if they had said,
And then Neewa lay down in the sun and Miki sprawled himself out
beside him. After all, it was a funny world. It went to pieces now
and then, but it always came together again. And to-day their
world had thoroughly adjusted itself. Once more they were chums--
and they were happy.
It was the Flying-Up Moon--deep and slumbering midsummer--in all
the land of Keewatin. From Hudson Bay to the Athabasca and from
the Hight of Land to the edge of the Great Barrens, forest, plain,
and swamp lay in peace and forgetfulness under the sun-glowing
days and the star-filled nights of the August MUKOO-SAWIN. It was
the breeding moon, the growing moon, the moon when all wild life
came into its own once more. For the trails of this wilderness
world--so vast that it reached a thousand miles east and west and
as far north and south--were empty of human life. At the Hudson
Bay Company's posts--scattered here and there over the illimitable
domain of fang and claw--had gathered the thousands of hunters and
trappers, with their wives and children, to sleep and gossip and
play through the few weeks of warmth and plenty until the strife
and tragedy of another winter began. For these people of the
forests it was MUKOO-SAWIN--the great Play Day of the year; the
weeks in which they ran up new debts and established new credits
at the Posts; the weeks in which they foregathered at every Post
as at a great fair--playing, and making love, and marrying, and
fattening up for the many days of hunger and gloom to come.
It was because of this that the wild things had come fully into
the possession of their world for a space. There was no longer the
scent of man in all the wilderness. They were not hunted. There
were no traps laid for their feet, no poison-baits placed
temptingly where they might pass. In the fens and on the lakes the
wildfowl squawked and honked unfearing to their young, just
learning the power of wing; the lynx played with her kittens
without sniffing the air for the menace of man; the cow moose went
openly into the cool water of the lakes with their calves; the
wolverine and the marten ran playfully over the roofs of deserted
shacks and cabins; the beaver and the otter tumbled and frolicked
in their dark pools; the birds sang, and through all the
wilderness there was the drone and song of Nature as some Great
Power must at first have meant that Nature should be. A new
generation of wild things had been born. It was a season of Youth,
with tens of thousands and hundreds of thousands of little
children of the wild playing their first play, learning their
first lessons, growing up swiftly to face the menace and doom of
their first winter. And the Beneficent Spirit of the forests,
anticipating what was to come, had prepared well for them.
Everywhere there was plenty. The blueberries, the blackberries,
the mountain-ash and the saskatoons were ripe; tree and vine were
bent low with their burden of fruit. The grass was green and
tender from the summer rains. Bulbous roots were fairly popping
out of the earth; the fens and the edges of the lakes were rich
with things to eat, overhead and underfoot the horn of plenty was
emptying itself without stint.
In this world Neewa and Miki found a vast and unending
contentment. They lay, on this August afternoon, on a sun-bathed
shelf of rock that overlooked a wonderful valley. Neewa, stuffed
with luscious blueberries, was asleep. Miki's eyes were only
partly closed as he looked down into the soft haze of the valley.
Up to him came the rippling music of the stream running between
the rocks and over the pebbly bars below, and with it the soft and
languorous drone of the valley itself. He napped uneasily for half
an hour, and then his eyes opened and he was wide awake. He took a
sharp look over the valley. Then he looked at Neewa, who, fat and
lazy, would have slept until dark. It was always Miki who kept him
on the move. And now Miki barked at him gruffly two or three
times, and nipped at one of his ears.
"Wake up!" he might have said. "What's the sense of sleeping on a
day like this? Let's go down along the creek and hunt something."
Neewa roused himself, stretched his fat body, and yawned. Sleepily
his little eyes took in the valley. Miki got up and gave the low
and anxious whine which always told his companion that he wanted
to be on the move. Neewa responded, and they began making their
way down the green slope into the rich bottom between the two
They were now almost six months of age, and in the matter of size
had nearly ceased to be a cub and a pup. They were almost a dog
and a bear. Miki's angular legs were getting their shape; his
chest had filled out; his neck had grown until it no longer seemed
too small for his big head and jaws, and his body had increased in
girth and length until he was twice as big as most ordinary dogs
of his age.
Neewa had lost his round, ball-like cubbishness, though he still
betrayed far more than Miki the fact that he was not many months
lost from his mother. But he was no longer filled with that
wholesome love of peace that had filled his earlier cubhood. The
blood of Soominitik was at last beginning to assert itself, and he
no longer sought a place of safety in time of battle--unless the
grimness of utter necessity made it unavoidable. In fact, unlike
most bears, he loved a fight. If there were a stronger term at
hand it might be applied to Miki, the true son of Hela. Youthful
as they were, they were already covered with scars that would have
made a veteran proud. Crows and owls, wolf-fang and fisher-claw
had all left their marks, and on Miki's side was a bare space
eight inches long left as a souvenir by a wolverine.
In Neewa's funny round head there had grown, during the course of
events, an ambition to have it out some day with a citizen of his
own kind; but the two opportunities that had come his way were
spoiled by the fact that the other cubs' mothers were with them.
So now, when Miki led off on his trips of adventure, Neewa always
followed with another thrill than that of getting something to
eat, which so long had been his one ambition. Which is not to say
that Neewa had lost his appetite. He could eat more in one day
than Miki could eat in three, mainly because Miki was satisfied
with two or three meals a day while Neewa preferred one--a
continuous one lasting from dawn until dark. On the trail he was
always eating something.
A quarter of a mile along the foot of the ridge, in a stony coulee
down which a tiny rivulet trickled, there grew the finest wild
currants in all the Shamattawa country. Big as cherries, black as
ink, and swelling almost to the bursting point with luscious
juice, they hung in clusters so thick that Neewa could gather them
by the mouthful. Nothing in all the wilderness is quite so good as
one of these dead-ripe black currants, and this coulee wherein
they grew so richly Neewa had preempted as his own personal
property. Miki, too, had learned to eat the currants; so to the
coulee they went this afternoon, for such currants as these one
can eat even when one is already full. Besides, the coulee was
fruitful for Miki in other ways. There were many young partridges
and rabbits in it--"fool hens" of tender flesh and delicious
flavour which he caught quite easily, and any number of gophers
To-day they had scarcely taken their first mouthful of the big
juicy currants when an unmistakable sound came to them.
Unmistakable because each recognized instantly what it meant. It
was the tearing down of currant bushes twenty or thirty yards
higher up the coulee. Some robber had invaded their treasure-
house, and instantly Miki bared his fangs while Neewa wrinkled up
his nose in an ominous snarl. Soft-footed they advanced toward the
sound until they came to the edge of a small open space which was
as flat as a table. In the centre of this space was a clump of
currant bushes not more than a yard in girth, and black with
fruit; and squatted on his haunches there, gathering the laden
bushes in his arms, was a young black bear about four sizes larger
In that moment of consternation and rage Neewa did not take size
into consideration. He was much in the frame of mind of a man
returning home to discover his domicile, and all it contained, in
full possession of another. At the same time here was his ambition
easily to be achieved--his ambition to lick the daylight out of a
member of his own kind. Miki seemed to sense this fact. Under
ordinary conditions he would have led in the fray, and before
Neewa had fairly got started, would have been at the impudent
interloper's throat. But now something held him back, and it was
Neewa who first shot out--like a black bolt--landing squarely in
the ribs of his unsuspecting enemy.
(Old Makoki, the Cree runner, had he seen that attack, would
instantly have found a name for the other bear--"Petoot-a-wapis-
kum," which means, literally: "Kicked-off-his-Feet." Perhaps he
would have called him "Pete" for short. For the Cree believes in
fitting names to fact, and Petoot-a-wapis-kum certainly fitted the
unknown bear like a glove.)
Taken utterly by surprise, with his mouth full of berries, he was
bowled over like an overfilled bag under the force of Neewa's
charge. So complete was his discomfiture for the moment that Miki,
watching the affair with a yearning interest, could not keep back
an excited yap of approbation. Before Pete could understand what
had happened, and while the berries were still oozing from his
mouth, Neewa was at his throat--and the fun began.
Now bears, and especially young bears, have a way of fighting that
is all their own. It reminds one of a hair-pulling contest between
two well-matched ladies. There are no rules to the game--
absolutely none. As Pete and Neewa clinched, their hind legs began
to do the fighting, and the fur began to fly. Pete, being already
on his back--a first-class battling position for a bear--would
have possessed an advantage had it not been for Neewa's ferocious
hold at his throat. As it was, Neewa sank his fangs in to their
full length, and scrubbed away for dear life with his sharp hind
claws. Miki drew nearer at sight of the flying fur, his soul
filled with joy. Then Pete got one leg into action, and then the
other, and Miki's jaws came together with a sudden click. Over and
over the two fighters rolled, Neewa holding to his throat-grip,
and not a squeal or a grunt came from either of them. Pebbles and
dirt flew along with hair and fur. Stones rolled with a clatter
down the coulee. The very air trembled with the thrill of combat.
In Miki's attitude of tense waiting there was something now of
suspicious anxiety. With eight furry legs scratching and tearing
furiously, and the two fighters rolling and twisting and
contorting themselves like a pair of windmills gone mad, it was
almost impossible for Miki to tell who was getting the worst of
it--Neewa or Pete; at least he was in doubt for a matter of three
or four minutes.
Then he recognized Neewa's voice. It was very faint, but for all
that it was an unmistakable bawl of pain.
Smothered under Pete's heavier body Neewa began to realize, at the
end of those three or four minutes, that he had tackled more than
was good for him. It was altogether Pete's size and not his
fighting qualities, for Neewa had him outpointed there. But he
fought on, hoping for some good turn of luck, until at last Pete
got him just where he wanted him and began raking him up and down
his sides until in another three minutes he would have been half
skinned if Miki hadn't judged the moment ripe for intervention.
Even then Neewa was taking his punishment without a howl.
In another instant Miki had Pete by the ear. It was a grim and
terrible hold. Old Soominitik himself would have bawled lustily in
the circumstances. Pete raised his voice in a howl of agony. He
forgot everything else but the terror and the pain of this new
SOMETHING that had him by the ear, and he rent the air with his
outcry. His lamentation poured in an unbroken spasm of sound from
his throat. Neewa knew that Miki was in action.
He pulled himself from under the young interloper's body--and not
a second too soon. Down the coulee, charging like a mad bull, came
Pete's mother. Neewa was off like a shot just as she made a
powerful swing at him. The blow missed, and the old bear turned
excitedly to her bawling offspring. Miki, hanging joyously to his
victim, was oblivious of his danger until Pete's mother was almost
upon him. He caught sight of her just as her long arm shot out
like a wooden beam. He dodged; and the blow intended for him
landed full against the side of the unfortunate Pete's head with a
force that took him clean off his feet and sent him flying like a
football twenty yards down the coulee.
Miki did not wait for further results. Quick as a flash he was in
a currant thicket tearing down the little gulch after Neewa. They
came out on the plain together, and for a good ten minutes they
did not halt in their flight long enough to look back. When they
did, the coulee was a mile away. They sat down, panting. Neewa's
red tongue was hanging out in his exhaustion. He was scratched and
bleeding; loose hair hung all over him. As he looked at Miki there
was something in the dolorous expression of Neewa's face which was
a confession of the fact that he realized Pete had licked him.
After the fight in the coulee there was no longer a thought on the
part of Neewa and Miki of returning to the Garden of Eden in which
the black currants grew so lusciously. From the tip of his tail to
the end of his nose Miki was an adventurer, and like the nomadic
rovers of old he was happiest when on the move. The wilderness had
claimed him now, body and soul, and it is probable that he would
have shunned a human camp at this stage of his life, even as Neewa
would have shunned it. But in the lives of beasts, as well as in
the lives of men, Fate plays her pranks and tricks, and even as
they turned into the vast and mystery-filled spaces of the great
lake and waterway-country, to the west, events were slowly shaping
themselves into what was to be perhaps the darkest hour of gloom
in the life of Miki, son of Hela.
Through six glorious and sun-filled weeks of late summer and early
autumn--until the middle of September--Miki and Neewa ranged the
country westward, always heading toward the setting sun, the
country of Jackson's Knee, of the Touchwood and the Clearwater,
and God's Lake. In this country they saw many things. It was a
region a hundred miles square which the handiwork of Nature had
made into a veritable kingdom of the wild. They came upon great
beaver colonies in the dark and silent places; they watched the
otter at play; they came upon moose and caribou so frequently that
they no longer feared or evaded them, but walked out openly into
the meadows or down to the edge of the swamps where they were
feeding. It was here that Miki learned the great lesson that claw
and fang were made to prey upon cloven hoof and horn, for the
wolves were thick, and a dozen times they came upon their kills,
and even more frequently heard the wild tongue of the hunting-
packs. Since his experience with Maheegun he no longer had the
desire to join them. And now Neewa no longer insisted on remaining
near meat when they found it. It was the beginning of the KWASKA-
HAO in Neewa--the instinctive sensing of the Big Change.
Until early in October Miki could see but little of this change in
his comrade. It was then that Neewa became more and more restless,
and this restlessness grew as the chill nights came, and autumn
breathed more heavily in the air. It was Neewa who took the lead
in their peregrinations now, and he seemed always to be questing
for something--a mysterious something which Miki could neither
smell nor see. He no longer slept for hours at a time. By mid-
October he slept scarcely at all, but roved through most of the
hours of night as well as day, eating, eating, eating, and always
smelling the wind for that elusive thing which Nature was
commanding him to seek and find. Ceaselessly he was nosing under
windfalls and among the rocks, and Miki was always near him,
always on the QUI VIVE for battle with the thing that Neewa was
hunting out. And it seemed to be never found.
Then Neewa turned back to the east, drawn by the instinct of his
forefathers; back toward the country of Noozak, his mother, and of
Soominitik, his father; and Miki followed. The nights grew more
and more chill. The stars seemed farther away, and no longer was
the forest moon red like blood. The cry of the loon had a moaning
note in it, a note of grief and lamentation. And in their shacks
and tepees the forest people sniffed the air of frosty mornings,
and soaked their traps in fish-oil and beaver-grease, and made
their moccasins, and mended snow-shoe and sledge, for the cry of
the loon said that winter was creeping down out of the North. And
the swamps grew silent. The cow moose no longer mooed to her
young. In place of it, from the open plain and "burn" rose the
defiant challenge of bull to bull and the deadly clash of horn
against horn under the stars of night. The wolf no longer howled
to hear his voice. In the travel of padded feet there came to be a
slinking, hunting caution. In all the forest world blood was
running red again.
Perhaps Miki would never forget that first day when the snow came.
At first he thought all the winged things in the world were
shedding their white feathers. Then he felt the fine, soft touch
of it under his feet, and the chill. It sent the blood rushing
like a new kind of fire through his body; a wild and thrilling
joy--the exultation that leaps through the veins of the wolf when
the winter comes.
With Neewa its effect was different--so different that even Miki
felt the oppression of it, and waited vaguely and anxiously for
what was to come. And then, on this day of the first snow, he saw
his comrade do a strange and unaccountable thing. He began to eat
things that he had never touched as food before. He lapped up soft
pine needles, and swallowed them. He ate of the dry, pulpy
substance of rotted logs. And then he went into a great cleft
broken into the heart of a rocky ridge, and found at last the
thing for which he had been seeking. It was a cavern--deep, and
dark, and warm.
Nature works in strange ways. She gives to the birds of the air
eyes which men may never have, and she gives to the beasts of the
earth an instinct which men may never know. For Neewa had come
back to sleep his first Long Sleep in the place of his birth--the
cavern in which Noozak, his mother, had brought him into the
His old bed was still there, the wallow in the soft sand, the
blanket of hair Noozak had shed; but the smell of his mother was
gone. In the nest where he was born Neewa lay down, and for the
last time he grunted softly to Miki. It was as if he felt upon him
the touch of a hand, gentle but inevitable, which he could no
longer refuse to obey, and to Miki was saying, for the last time:
That night the PIPOO KESTIN--the first storm of
winter--came like an avalanche from out of the North. With it came
a wind that was like the roaring of a thousand bulls, and over all
the land of the wild there was nothing that moved. Even in the
depth of the cavern Miki heard the beat and the wail of it and the
swishing of the shot-like snow beyond the door through which they
had come, and he snuggled close to Neewa, content that they had
With the day he went to the slit in the face of the rock, and in
his astonishment he made no sound, but stared forth upon a world
that was no longer the world he had left last night. Everywhere it
was white--a dazzling, eye-blinding white. The sun had risen. It
shot a thousand flashing shafts of radiant light into Miki's eyes.
So far as his vision could reach the earth was as if covered with
a robe of diamonds. From rock and tree and shrub blazed the fire
of the sun; it quivered in the tree-tops, bent low with their
burden of snow; it was like a sea in the valley, so vivid that the
unfrozen stream running through the heart of it was black. Never
had Miki seen a day so magnificent. Never had his heart pounded at
the sight of the sun as it pounded now, and never had his blood
burned with a wilder exultation. He whined, and ran back to Neewa.
He barked in the gloom of the cavern and gave his comrade a nudge
with his nose. Neewa grunted sleepily. He stretched himself,
raised his head for an instant, and then curled himself into a
ball again. Vainly Miki protested that it was day, and time for
them to be moving. Neewa made no response, and after a while Miki
returned to the mouth of the cavern, and looked back to see if
Neewa was following him. Then, disappointed, he went out into the
snow. For an hour he did not move farther than ten feet away from
the den. Three times he returned to Neewa and urged him to get up
and come out where it was light. In that far corner of the cavern
it was dark, and it was as if he were trying to tell Neewa that he
was a dunce to lie there still thinking it was night when the sun
was up outside. But he failed. Neewa was in the edge of his Long
Sleep--the beginning of USKE-POW-A-MEW, the dream land of the
Annoyance, the desire almost to sink his teeth in Neewa's ear,
gave place slowly to another thing in Miki. The instinct that
between beasts is like the spoken reason of men stirred in a
strange and disquieting way within him. He became more and more
uneasy. There was almost distress in his restlessness as he
hovered about the mouth of the cavern. A last time he went to
Neewa, and then he started alone down into the valley.
He was hungry, but on this first day after the storm there was
small chance of him finding anything to eat. The snowshoe rabbits
were completely buried under their windfalls and shelters, and lay
quietly in their warm nests. Nothing had moved during the hours of
the storm. There were no trails of living things for him to
follow, and in places he sank to his shoulders in the soft snow.
He made his way to the creek. It was no longer the creek he had
known. It was edged with ice. There was something dark and
brooding about it now. The sound it made was no longer the
rippling song of summer and golden autumn. There was a threat in
its gurgling monotone--a new voice, as if a black and forbidding
spirit had taken possession of it and was warning him that the
times had changed, and that new laws and a new force had come to
claim sovereignty in the land of his birth.
He drank of the water cautiously. It was cold--ice-cold. Slowly it
was being impinged upon him that in the beauty of this new world
that was his there was no longer the warm and pulsing beat of the
heart that was life. He was alone. ALONE! Everything else was
covered up; everything else seemed dead.
He went back to Neewa and lay close to him all through the day.
And through the night that followed he did not move again from the
cavern. He went only as far as the door and saw celestial spaces
ablaze with stars and a moon that rode up into the heavens like a
white sun. They, too, seemed no longer like the moon and stars he
had known. They were terribly still and cold. And under them the
earth was terribly white and silent.
With the coming of dawn he tried once more to awaken Neewa. But
this time he was not so insistent. Nor did he have the desire to
nip Neewa with his teeth. Something had happened--something which
he could not understand. He sensed the thing, but he could not
reason it. And he was filled with a strange and foreboding fear.
He went down again to hunt. Under the glory of the moon and stars
it had been a wild night of carnival for the rabbits, and in the
edge of the timber Miki found the snow beaten hard in places with
their tracks. It was not difficult for him to stalk his breakfast
this morning. He made his kill, and feasted. He killed again after
that, and still again. He could have gone on killing, for now that
the snow betrayed them, the hiding-places of the rabbits were so
many traps for them. Miki's courage returned. He was fired again
with the joy of life. Never had he known such hunting, never had
he found such a treasure-house before--not even in the coulee
where the currants grew. He ate until he could eat no more, and
then he went back to Neewa, carrying with him one of the rabbits
he had slain. He dropped it in front of his comrade, and whined.
Even then Neewa did not respond, except to draw a deeper breath,
and change his position a little.
That afternoon, for the first time in many hours, Neewa rose to
his feet, stretched himself, and sniffed of the dead rabbit. But
he did not eat. To Miki's consternation he rolled himself round
and round in his nest of sand and went to sleep again.
The next day, at about the same time, Neewa roused himself once
more. This time he went as far as the mouth of the den, and lapped
up a few mouthfuls of snow. But he still refused to eat the
rabbit. Again it was Nature telling him that he must not disturb
the pine needles and dry bark with which he had padded his stomach
and intestines. And he went to sleep again. He did not get up
Day followed day, and, growing lonelier as the winter deepened,
Miki hunted alone. All through November he came back each night
and slept with Neewa. And Neewa was as if dead, except that his
body was warm, and he breathed, and made little sounds now and
then in his throat. But this did not satisfy the great yearning
that was becoming more and more insistent in Miki's soul, the
overwhelming desire for company, for a brotherhood on the trail.
He loved Neewa. Through the first long weeks of winter he returned
to him faithfully; he brought him meat. He was filled with a
strange grief--even greater than if Neewa had been dead. For Miki
knew that he was alive, and he could not account for the thing
that had happened. Death he would have understood, and FROM death
he would have gone away--for good.
So it came that one night, having hunted far, Miki remained away
from the den for the first time, and slept under a deep windfall.
After that it was still harder for him to resist the CALL. A
second and a third night he went away; and then came the time--
inevitable as the coming and going of the moon and stars--when
understanding at last broke its way through his hope and his fear,
and something told him that Neewa would never again travel with
him as through those glorious days of old, when shoulder to
shoulder they had faced together the comedies and tragedies of
life in a world that was no longer soft and green and warm with a
golden sun, but white, and still, and filled with death.
Neewa did not know when Miki went away from the den for the last
time. And yet it may be that even in his slumber the Beneficent
Spirit may have whispered that Miki was going, for there were
restlessness and disquiet in Neewa's dreamland for many days
"Be quiet--and sleep!" the Spirit may have whispered. "The Winter
is long. The rivers are black and chill, the lakes are covered
with floors of ice, and the waterfalls are frozen like great white
giants. Sleep! For Miki must go his way, just as the waters of the
streams must go their way to the sea. For he is Dog. And you are
In many years there had not been such a storm in all the Northland
as that which followed swiftly in the trail of the first snows
that had driven Neewa into his den--the late November storm of
that year which will long be remembered as KUSKETA PIPPOON (the
Black Year), the year of great and sudden cold, of starvation and
It came a week after Miki had left the cavern wherein Neewa was
sleeping so soundly. Preceding that, when all the forest world lay
under its mantle of white, the sun shone day after day, and the
moon and stars were as clear as golden fires in the night skies.
The wind was out of the west. The rabbits were so numerous they
made hard floors of the snow in thicket and swamp. Caribou and
moose were plentiful, and the early cry of wolves on the hunt was
like music in the ears of a thousand trappers in shack and teepee.
With appalling suddenness came the unexpected. There was no
warning. The day had dawned with a clear sky, and a bright sun
followed the dawn. Then the world darkened so swiftly that men on
their traplines paused in amazement. With the deepening gloom came
a strange moaning, and there was something in that sound that
seemed like the rolling of a great drum--the knell of an impending
doom. It was THUNDER. The warning was too late. Before men could
turn back to safety, or build themselves shelters, the Big Storm
was upon them. For three days and three nights it raged like a mad
bull from out of the north. In the open barrens no living creature
could stand upon its feet. The forests were broken, and all the
earth was smothered. All things that breathed buried themselves--
or died; for the snow that piled itself up in windrows and
mountains was round and hard as leaden shot, and with it came an
On the third day it was sixty degrees below zero in the country
between the Shamattawa and Jackson's Knee. Not until the fourth
day did living things begin to move. Moose and caribou heaved
themselves up out of the thick covering of snow that had been
their protection; smaller animals dug their way out of the heart
of deep drifts and mounds; a half of the rabbits and birds were
dead. But the most terrible toll was of men. Many of those who
were caught out succeeded in keeping the life within their bodies,
and dragged themselves back to teepee and shack. But there were
also many who did not return--five hundred who died between Hudson
Bay and the Athabasca in those three terrible days of the KUSKETA
In the beginning of the Big Storm Miki found himself in the
"burnt" country of Jackson's Knee, and instinct sent him quickly
into deeper timber. Here he crawled into a windfall of tangled
trunks and tree-tops, and during the three days he did not move.
Buried in the heart of the storm, there came upon him an
overwhelming desire to return to Neewa's den, and to snuggle up to
him once more, even though Neewa lay as if dead. The strange
comradeship that had grown up between the two--their wanderings
together all through the summer, the joys and hardships of the
days and months in which they had fought and feasted like
brothers--were memories as vivid in his brain as if it had all
happened yesterday. And in the dark wind-fall, buried deeper and
deeper under the snow, he dreamed.
He dreamed of Challoner, who had been his master in the days of
his joyous puppyhood; he dreamed of the time when Neewa, the
motherless cub, was brought into camp, and of the happenings that
had come to them afterward; the loss of his master, of their
strange and thrilling adventures in the wilderness, and last of
all of Neewa's denning-up. He could not understand that. Awake,
and listening to the storm, he wondered why it was that Neewa no
longer hunted with him, but had curled himself up into a round
ball, and slept a sleep from which he could not rouse him. Through
the long hours of the three days and nights of storm it was
loneliness more than hunger that ate at his vitals. When on the
morning of the fourth day he came out from under the windfall his
ribs were showing and there was a reddish film over his eyes.
First of all he looked south and east, and whined.
Through twenty miles of snow he travelled back that day to the
ridge where he had left Neewa. On this fourth day the sun shone
like a dazzling fire. It was so bright that the glare of the snow
pricked his eyes, and the reddish film grew redder. There was only
a cold glow in the west when he came to the end of his journey.
Dusk had already begun to settle over the roofs of the forests
when he reached the ridge where Neewa had found the cavern. It was
no longer a ridge. The wind had piled the snow up over it in
grotesque and monstrous shapes. Rocks and bushes were obliterated.
Where the mouth of the cavern should have been was a drift ten
feet deep. Cold and hungry, thinned by his days and nights of
fasting, and with his last hope of comradeship shattered by the
pitiless mountains of snow, Miki turned back over his trail. There
was nothing left for him now but the old windfall, and his heart
was no longer the heart of the joyous comrade and brother of
Neewa, the bear. His feet were sore and bleeding, but still he
went on. The stars came out; the night was ghostly white in their
pale fire; and it was cold--terribly cold. The trees began to
snap. Now and then there came a report like a pistol-shot as the
frost snapped at the heart of timber. It was thirty degrees below
zero. And it was growing colder. With the windfall as his only
inspiration Miki drove himself on. Never had he tested his
strength or his endurance as he strained them now. Older dogs
would have fallen in the trail or have sought shelter or rest. But
Miki was the true son of Hela, his giant Mackenzie hound father,
and he would have continued until he triumphed--or died.
But a strange thing happened. He had travelled twenty miles to the
ridge, and fifteen of the twenty miles back, when a shelf of snow
gave way under his feet and he was pitched suddenly downward. When
he gathered his dazed wits and stood up on his half frozen legs he
found himself in a curious place. He had rolled completely into a
wigwam-shaped shelter of spruce boughs and sticks, and strong in
his nostrils was the SMELL OF MEAT. He found the meat not more
than a foot from the end of his nose. It was a chunk of frozen
caribou flesh transfixed on a stick, and without questioning the
manner of its presence he gnawed at it ravenously. Only Jacques Le
Beau, who lived eight or ten miles to the east, could have
explained the situation. Miki had rolled into one of his trap-
houses, and it was the bait he was eating.
There was not much of it, but it fired Miki's blood with new life.
There was smell in his nostrils now, and he began clawing in the
snow. After a little his teeth struck something hard and cold. It
was steel--a fisher trap. He dragged it up from under a foot of
snow, and with it came a huge rabbit. The snow had so protected
the rabbit that, although several days dead, it was not frozen
stiff. Not until the last bone of it was gone did Miki's feast
end. He even devoured the head. Then he went on to the windfall,
and in his warm nest slept until another day.
That day Jacques Le Beau--whom the Indians called "Muchet-ta-aao"
(the One with an Evil Heart)--went over his trapline and rebuilt
his snow-smothered "houses" and re-set his traps.
It was in the afternoon that Miki, who was hunting, struck his
trail in a swamp several miles from the windfall. No longer was
his soul stirred by the wild yearning for a master. He sniffed,
suspiciously, of Le Beau's snowshoe tracks and the crest along his
spine trembled as he caught the wind, and listened. He followed
cautiously, and a hundred yards farther on came to one of Le
Beau's KEKEKS or trap-shelters. Here too, there was meat--fixed on
a peg. Miki reached in. From under his fore-paw came a vicious
snap and the steel jaws of a trap flung sticks and snow into his
face. He snarled, and for a few moments he waited, with his eyes
on the trap. Then he stretched himself until he reached the meat,
without advancing his feet. Thus he had discovered the hidden
menace of the steel jaws, and instinct told him how to evade them.
For another third of a mile he followed Le Beau's tracks. He
sensed the presence of a new and thrilling danger, and yet he did
not turn off the trail. An impulse which he was powerless to
resist drew him on. He came to a second trap, and this time he
robbed the bait-peg without springing the thing which he knew was
concealed close under it. His long fangs clicked as he went on. He
was eager for a glimpse of the man-beast. But he did not hurry. A
third, a fourth, and a fifth trap he robbed of their meat.
Then, as the day ended, he swung westward and covered quickly the
five miles between the swamp and his windfall.
Half an hour later Le Beau came back over the line. He saw the
first empty KEKEK, and the tracks in the snow.
"TONNERRE!--a wolf!" he exclaimed. "And in broad day!"
Then a slow look of amazement crept into his face, and he fell
upon his knees in the snow and examined the tracks.
"NON!" he gasped. "It is a dog! A devil of a wild dog--robbing my
He rose to his feet, cursing. From the pocket of his coat he drew
a small tin box, and from this box he took a round ball of fat. In
the heart of the fat was a strychnine capsule. It was a poison-
bait, to be set for wolves and foxes.
Le Beau chuckled exultantly as he stuck the deadly lure on the end
of the bait-peg.
"OW, a wild dog," he growled. "I will teach him. To-morrow he will
On each of the five ravished bait-pegs he placed a strychnine
capsule rolled in its inviting little ball of fat.
The next morning Miki set out again for the trapline of Jacques Le
Beau. It was not the thought of food easily secured that tempted
him. There would have been a greater thrill in killing for
himself. It was the trail, with its smell of the man-beast, that
drew him like a magnet. Where that smell was very strong he wanted
to lie down, and wait. Yet with his desire there was also fear,
and a steadily growing caution. He did not tamper with the first
KEKEK, nor with the second. At the third Le Beau had fumbled in
the placing of his bait, and for that reason the little ball of
fat was strong with the scent of his hands. A fox would have
turned away from it quickly. Miki, however, drew it from the peg
and dropped it in the snow between his forefeet. Then he looked
about him, and listened for a full minute. After that he licked
the ball of fat with his tongue. The scent of Le Beau's hands kept
him from swallowing it as he had swallowed the caribou meat. A
little suspiciously he crushed it slowly between his jaws. The fat
was sweet. He was about to gulp it down when he detected another
and less pleasant taste, and what remained in his mouth he spat
out upon the snow. But the acrid bite of the poison remained upon
his tongue and in his throat. It crept deeper--and he caught up a
mouthful of snow and swallowed it to put out the burning sensation
that was crawling nearer to his vitals.
Had he devoured the ball of fat as he had eaten the other baits he
would have been dead within a quarter of an hour, and Le Beau
would not have gone far to find his body. As it was, he was
beginning to turn sick at the end of the fifteen minutes. A
premonition of the evil that was upon him drew him off the trail
and in the direction of the windfall. He had gone only a short
distance when suddenly his legs gave way under him, and he fell.
He began to shiver. Every muscle in his body trembled. His teeth
clicked. His eyes grew wide, and it was impossible for him to
move. And then, like a hand throttling him, there came a strange
stiffness in the back of his neck, and his breath hissed chokingly
out of his throat. The stiffness passed like a wave of fire
through his body. Where his muscles had trembled and shivered a
moment before they now became rigid and lifeless. The throttling
grip of the poison at the base of his brain drew his head back
until his muzzle was pointed straight up to the sky. Still he made
no cry. For a space every nerve in his body was at the point of
Then came the change. As though a string had snapped, the horrible
grip left the back of his neck; the stiffness shot out of his body
in a flood of shivering cold, and in another moment he was
twisting and tearing up the snow in mad convulsions. The spasm
lasted for perhaps a minute. When it was over Miki was panting.
Streams of saliva dripped from his jaws into the snow. But he was
alive. Death had missed him by a hair, and after a little he
staggered to his feet and continued on his way to the windfall.
Thereafter Jacques Le Beau might place a million poison capsules
in his way and he would not touch them. Never again would he steal
the meat from a bait-peg.
Two days later Le Beau saw where Miki had fought his fight with
death in the snow and his heart was black with rage and
disappointment. He began to follow the footprints of the dog. It
was noon when he came to the windfall and saw the beaten path
where Miki entered it. On his knees he peered into the cavernous
depths--and saw nothing. But Miki, lying watchfully, saw the man,
and he was like the black, bearded monster who had almost killed
him with a club a long time ago. And in his heart, too, there was
disappointment, for away back in his memory of things there was
always the thought of Challoner--the master he had lost; and it
was never Challoner whom he found when he came upon the man smell.
Le Beau heard his growl, and the man's blood leapt excitedly as he
rose to his feet. He could not go in after the wild dog, and he
could not lure him out. But there was another way. He would drive
him out with fire!
Deep back in his fortress, Miki heard the crunch of Le Beau's feet
in the snow. A few minutes later he saw the man-beast again
peering into his lair.
"BETE, BETE," he called half tauntingly, and again Miki growled.
Jacques was satisfied. The windfall was not more than thirty or
forty feet in diameter, and about it the forest was open and clear
of undergrowth. It would be impossible for the wild dog to get
away from his rifle.
A second time he went around the piled-up mass of fallen timber.
On three sides it was completely smothered under the deep snow.
Only where Miki's trail entered was it open.
Getting the wind behind him Le Beau made his ISKOO of birch-bark
and dry wood at the far end of the windfall. The seasoned logs and
tree-tops caught the fire like tinder, and within a few minutes
the flames began to crackle and roar in a manner that made Miki
wonder what was happening. For a space the smoke did not reach
him. Le Beau, watching, with his rifle in his bare hands, did not
for an instant let his eyes leave the spot where the wild dog must
Suddenly a pungent whiff of smoke filled Miki's nostrils, and a
thin white cloud crept in a ghostly veil between him and the
opening. A crawling, snake-like rope of it began to pour between
two logs within a yard of him, and with it the strange roaring
grew nearer and more menacing. Then, for the first time, he saw
lightning flashes of yellow flame through the tangled debris as
the fire ate into the heart of a mass of pitch-filled spruce. In
another ten seconds the flames leapt twenty feet into the air, and
Jacques Le Beau stood with his rifle half to his shoulder, ready
Appalled by the danger that was upon him, Miki did not forget Le
Beau. With an instinct sharpened to fox-like keenness his mind
leapt instantly to the truth of the matter. It was the man-beast
who had set this new enemy upon him; and out there, just beyond
the opening, the man-beast was waiting. So, like the fox, he did
what Le Beau least expected. He crawled back swiftly through the
tangled tops until he came to the wall of snow that shut the
windfall in, and through this he burrowed his way almost as
quickly as the fox himself would have done it. With his jaws he
tore through the half-inch outer crust, and a moment later stood
in the open, with the fire between him and Le Beau.
The windfall was a blazing furnace, and suddenly Le Beau ran back
a dozen steps so that he could see on the farther side. A hundred
yards away he saw Miki making for the deeper forest.
It was a clear shot. At that distance Le Beau would have staked
his life that it was impossible for him to miss. He did not hurry.
One shot, and it would be over. He raised his rifle, and in that
instant a wisp of smoke came like the lash of a whip with the wind
and caught him fairly in the eyes, and his bullet passed three
inches over Miki's head. The whining snarl of it was a new thing
to Miki. But he recognized the thunder of the gun--and he knew
what a gun could do. To Le Beau, still firing at him through the
merciful cloud of smoke, he was like a gray streak flashing to the
thick timber. Three times more Le Beau fired. From the edge of a
dense clump of spruce Miki flung back a defiant howl. He
disappeared as Le Beau's last shot shovelled up the snow at his
The narrowness of his escape from the man-beast did not frighten
Miki out of the Jackson's Knee country. If anything, it held him
more closely to it. It gave him something to think about besides
Neewa and his aloneness. As the fox returns to peer stealthily
upon the deadfall that has almost caught him, so the trapline was
possessed now of a new thrill for Miki. Heretofore the man-smell
had held for him only a vague significance; now it marked the
presence of a real and concrete danger. And he welcomed it. His
wits were sharpened. The fascination of the trapline was deadlier
From the burned windfall he made a wide detour to a point where Le
Beau's snowshoe trail entered the edge of the swamp; and here,
hidden in a thick clump of bushes, he watched him as he travelled
homeward half an hour later.
From that day he hung like a grim, gray ghost to the trapline.
Silent-footed, cautious, always on the alert for the danger which
threatened him, he haunted Jacques Le Beau's thoughts and
footsteps with the elusive persistence of a were-wolf--a loup-
garou of the Black Forest. Twice in the next week Le Beau caught a
flash of him. Three times he heard him howl. And twice he followed
his trail until, in despair and exhaustion, he turned back. Never
was Miki caught unaware. He ate no more baits in the trap-houses.
Even when Le Beau lured him with the whole carcass of a rabbit he
would not touch it, nor would he touch a rabbit frozen dead in a
snare. From Le Beau's traps he took only the living things,
chiefly birds and squirrels and the big web-footed snowshoe
rabbits. And because a mink jumped at him once, and tore open his
nose, he destroyed a number of minks so utterly that their pelts
were spoiled. He found himself another windfall, but instinct
taught him now never to go to it directly, but to approach it, and
leave it, in a roundabout way.
Day and night Le Beau, the man-brute, plotted against him. He set
many poison-baits. He killed a doe, and scattered strychnine in
its entrails. He built deadfalls, and baited them with meat soaked
in boiling fat. He made himself a "blind" of spruce and cedar
boughs, and sat for long hours, watching with his rifle. And still
Miki was the victor.
One day Miki found a huge fisher-cat in one of the traps. He had
not forgotten the battle of long ago with Oochak, the other
fisher-cat, or the whipping he had received. But there was no
thought of vengeance in his heart on the early evening he became
acquainted with Oochak the Second. Usually he was in his windfall
at dusk, but this afternoon a great and devouring loneliness had
held him on the trail. The spirit of Kuskayetum--the hand of the
mating-god--was pressing heavily upon him; the consuming desire of
flesh and blood for the companionship of other flesh and blood. It
burned in his veins like a fever. It took away from him all
thought of hunger or of the hunt. In his soul was a vast, unfilled
It was then that he came upon Oochak. Perhaps it was the same
Oochak of months ago. If so, he had grown even as Miki had grown.
He was splendid, with his long silken fur and his sleek body, and
he was not struggling, but sat awaiting his fate without
excitement. To Miki he looked warm and soft and comfortable. It
made him think of Neewa, and the hundred and one nights they had
slept together. His desire leapt out to Oochak. He whined softly
as he advanced. He would make friends. Even with Oochak, his old
enemy, he would lie down in peace and happiness, so great was the
gnawing emptiness in his heart.
Oochak made no response, nor did he move, but sat furred up like a
huge soft ball, watching Miki as he crept nearer on his belly.
Something of the old puppishness came back into the dog. He
wriggled and thumped his tail, and as he whined again he seemed to
"Let's forget the old trouble, Oochak. Let's be friends. I've got
a fine windfall--and I'll kill you a rabbit."
And still Oochak did not move or make a sound. At last Miki could
almost reach out with his forepaws and touch him. He dragged
himself still nearer, and his tail thumped harder.
"And I'll get you out of the trap," he may have been saying. "It's
the man-beast's trap--and I hate him."
And then, so suddenly that Miki had no chance to guard himself,
Oochak sprang the length of the trap-chain and was at him. With
teeth and razor-edged claws he tore deep gashes in Miki's nose.
Even then the blood of battle rose slowly in him, and he might
have retreated had not Oochak's teeth got a hold in his shoulder.
With a roar he tried to shake himself free, but Oochak held on.
Then his jaws snapped at the back of the fisher-cat's neck. When
he was done Oochak was dead.
He slunk away, but in him there was no more the thrill of the
victor. He had killed, but in killing he had found no joy. Upon
him--the four-footed beast--had fallen at last the oppression of
the thing that drives men mad. He stood in the heart of a vast
world, and for him that world was empty. He was an outcast. His
heart crying out for comradeship, he found that all things feared
him or hated him. He was a pariah; a wanderer without a friend or
a home. He did not reason these things but the gloom of them
settled upon him like black night.
He did not return to his windfall. In a little open he sat on his
haunches, listening to the night sounds, and watching the stars as
they came out. There was an early moon, and as it came up over the
forest, a great throbbing red disc that seemed filled with life,
he howled mournfully in the face of it. He wandered out into a big
burn a little later, and there the night was like day, so clear
that his shadow followed him and all other things about him cast
shadows, And then, all at once, he caught in the night wind a
sound which he had heard many times before.
It came from far away, and it was like a whisper at first, an echo
of strange voices riding on the wind, A hundred times he had heard
that cry of the wolves. Since Maheegun, the she-wolf, had gashed
his shoulder so fiercely away back in the days of his puppyhood
he had evaded the path of that cry. He had learned, in a way, to
hate it. But he could not wipe out entirely the thrill that came
with that call of the blood. And to-night it rode over all his
fear and hatred. Out there was COMPANY. Whence the cry came the
wild brethren were running two by two, and three by three, and
there was COMRADESHIP. His body quivered. An answering cry rose in
his throat, dying away in a whine, and for an hour after that he
heard no more of the wolf-cry in the wind. The pack had swung to
the west--so far away that their voices were lost. And it passed--
with the moon straight over them--close to the shack of Pierrot,
In Pierrot's cabin was a white man, on his way to Fort O' God. He
saw that Pierrot crossed himself, and muttered.
"It is the mad pack," explained Pierrot then. "M'sieu, they have
been KESKWAO since the beginning of the new moon. In them are the
spirits of devils."
He opened the cabin door a little, so that the mad cry of the
beasts came to them plainly. When he closed it there was in his
eyes a look of strange fear.
"Now and then wolves go like that--KESKWAO (stark mad)--in the
dead of winter," he shuddered. "Three days ago there were twenty
of them, m'sieu, for I saw them with my own eyes, and counted
their tracks in the snow. Since then they been murdered and torn
into strings by the others of the pack. Listen to them ravin'! Can
you tell me why, m'sieu? Can you tell me why wolves sometimes go
mad in the heart of winter when there is no heat or rotten meat to
turn them sick? NON? But I can tell you. They are the loups-
garous; in their bodies ride the spirits of devils, and there they
will ride until the bodies die. For the wolves that go mad in the
deep snows always die, m'sieu. That is the strange part of it.
And then it was, swinging eastward from the cabin of Pierrot, that
the mad wolves of Jackson's Knee came into the country of the big
swamp wherein trees bore the Double-X blaze of Jacques Le Beau's
axe. There were fourteen of them running in the moonlight. What it
is that now and then drives a wolf-pack mad in the dead of winter
no man yet has wholly learned. Possibly it begins with a "bad"
wolf; just as a "bad" sledge-dog, nipping and biting his fellows,
will spread his distemper among them until the team becomes an
ugly, quarrelsome horde. Such a dog the wise driver kills--or
The wolves that bore down upon Le Beau's country were red-eyed and
thin. Their bodies were covered with gashes, and the mouths of
some frothed blood. They did not run as wolves run for meat. They
were a sinister and suspicious lot, with a sneaking droop to their
haunches, and their cry was not the deep-throated cry of the hunt-
pack but a ravening clamour that seemed to have no leadership or
cause. Scarcely was the sound of their tongues gone beyond the
hearing of Pierrot's ears than one of the thin gray beasts rubbed
against the shoulder of another, and the second turned with the
swiftness of a snake, like the "bad" dog of the traces, and struck
his fangs deep into the first wolf's flesh. Could Pierrot have
seen, he would have understood then how the four he had found had
come to their end.
Swift as the snap of a whip-lash the fight between the two was on.
The other twelve of the pack stopped. They came back, circling in
cautiously and grimly silent about their fighting comrades. They
ranged themselves in a ring, as men gather about a fistic battle;
and there they waited, their jaws drooling, their fangs clicking,
a low and eager whining smothered in their throats. And then the
thing happened. One of the fighting wolves went down. He was on
his back--and the end came. The twelve wolves were upon him as
one, and, like those Pierrot had seen, he was torn to pieces, and
his flesh devoured. After that the thirteen went on deeper into Le
Miki heard them again, after that hour's interval of silence.
Farther and farther he had wandered from the forest. He had
crossed the "burn," and was in the open plain, with the rough
ridges cutting through and the big river at the edge of it. It was
not so gloomy out here, and his loneliness weighed upon him less
heavily than in the deep timber.
And across this plain came the voice of the wolves.
He did not move away from it to-night. He waited, silhouetted
against the vivid starlight at the crest of a rocky knoll, and the
top of this knoll was so small that another could not have stood
beside him without their shoulders touching. On all sides of him
the plain swept away in the white light of the stars and moon;
never had the desire to respond to the wild brethren urged itself
upon him more fiercely than now. He flung back his head, until his
black-tipped muzzle pointed up to the stars, and the voice rolled
out of his throat. But it was only half a howl. Even then,
oppressed by his great loneliness, there gripped him that
something instinctive which warned him against betrayal. After
that he remained quiet, and as the wolves drew nearer his body
grew tense, his muscles hardened, and in his throat there was the
low whispering of a snarl instead of a howl. He sensed danger. He
had caught, in the voice of the wolves, the ravening note that had
made Pierrot cross himself and mutter of the loups-garous, and he
crouched down on his belly at the top of the rocky mound.
Then he saw them. They were sweeping like dark and swiftly moving
shadows between him and the forest. Suddenly they stopped, and for
a few moments no sound came from them as they packed themselves
closely on the scent of his fresh trail in the snow. And then they
surged in his direction; this time there was a still fiercer
madness in the wild cry that rose from their throats. In a dozen
seconds they were at the mound. They swept around it and past it,
all save one--a huge gray brute who shot up the hillock straight
at the prey the others had not yet seen. There was a snarl in
Miki's throat as he came. Once more he was facing the thrill of a
great fight. Once more the blood ran suddenly hot in his veins,
and fear was driven from him as the wind drives smoke from a fire.
If Neewa were only there now, to fend at his back while he fought
in front! He stood up on his feet. He met the up-rushing pack-
brute head to head. Their jaws clashed, and the wild wolf found
jaws at last that crunched through his own as if they had been
whelp's bone, and he rolled and twisted back to the plain in a
dying agony. But not until another gray form had come to fill his
place. Into the throat of this second Miki drove his fangs as the
wolf came over the crest. It was the slashing, sabre-like stroke
of the north-dog, and the throat of the wolf was torn open and the
blood poured out as if emptied by the blade of a knife. Down he
plunged to join the first, and in that instant the pack swept up
and over Miki, and he was smothered under the mass of their
bodies. Had two or three attacked him at once he would have died
as quickly as the first two of his enemies had come to their end.
Numbers saved him in the first rush. On the level of the plain he
would have been torn into pieces like a bit of cloth, but on the
space at the top of the KOPJE, no larger than the top of a table,
he was lost for a few seconds under the snarling and rending horde
of his enemies. Fangs intended for him sank into other wolf-flesh;
the madness of the pack became a blind rage, and the assault upon
Miki turned into a slaughter of the wolves themselves. On his
back, held down by the weight of bodies, Miki drove his fangs
again and again into flesh. A pair of jaws seized him in the
groin, and a shock of agony swept through him. It was a death-
grip, sinking steadily into his vitals. Just in time another pair
of jaws seized the wolf who held him, and the hold in his groin
gave way. In that moment Miki felt himself plunging down the steep
side of the knoll, and after him came a half of what was left
alive of the pack.
The fighting devils in Miki's brain gave way all at once to that
cunning of the fox which had served him even more than claw and
fang in times of great danger. Scarcely had he reached the plain
before he was on his feet, and no sooner had he touched his feet
than he was off like the wind in direction of the river. He had
gained a fifty-yard start before the first of the wolves
discovered his flight. There were only eight that followed him
now. Of the thirteen mad beasts five were dead or dying at the
foot of the hillock. Of these Miki had slain two. The others had
fallen at the fangs of their own brethren.
Half a mile away were the steep cliffs of the river, and at the
edge of these cliffs was a great cairn of rocks in which for one
night Miki had sought shelter. He had not forgotten the tunnel
into the tumbled mass of rock debris, nor how easily it could be
defended from within. Once in that tunnel he would turn in the
door of it and slaughter his enemies one by one, for only one by
one could they attack him. But he had not reckoned with that huge
gray form behind him that might have been named Lightning, the
fiercest and swiftest of all the mad wolves of the pack. He sped
ahead of his slower-footed companions like a streak of light, and
Miki had made but half the distance to the cairn when he heard the
panting breath of Lightning behind him. Even Hela, his father,
could not have run more swiftly than Miki, but great as was Miki's
speed, Lightning ran more swiftly. Two thirds of the distance to
the cliff and the huge wolf's muzzle was at Miki's flank. With a
burst of speed Miki gained a little. Then steadily Lightning drew
abreast of him, a grim and merciless shadow of doom.
A hundred yards farther on and a little to the right was the
cairn. But Miki could not run to the right without turning into
Lightning's jaws, and he realized now that if he reached the cairn
his enemy would be upon him before he could dive into the tunnel
and face about. To stop and fight would be death, for behind he
could hear the other wolves. Ten seconds more and the chasm of the
river yawned ahead of them.
At its very brink Miki swung and struck at Lightning. He sensed
death now, and in the face of death all his hatred turned upon the
one beast that had run at his side. In an instant they were down.
Two yards from the edge of the cliff, and Miki's jaws were at
Lightning's throat when the pack rushed upon them. They were swept
onward. The earth flew out from under their feet, and they were in
space. Grimly Miki held to the throat of his foe. Over and over
they twisted in mid-air, and then came a terrific shock. Lightning
was under. Yet so great was the shock, that, even though the
wolf's huge body was under him like a cushion, Miki was stunned
and dazed. A minute passed before he staggered to his feet.
Lightning lay still, the life smashed out of him. A little beyond
him lay the bodies of two other wolves that in their wild rush had
swept over the cliff.
Miki looked up. Between him and the stars he could see the top of
the cliff, a vast distance above him. One after the other he
smelled at the bodies of the three dead wolves. Then he limped
slowly along the base of the cliff until he came to a fissure
between two huge rocks. Into this he crept and lay down, licking
his wounds. After all there were worse things in the world than Le
Beau's trapline. Perhaps there were even worse things than men.
After a time he stretched his great head out between his fore-
paws, and slowly the starlight grew dimmer, and the snow less
white, and he slept.
In a twist of Three Jackpine River, buried in the deep of the
forest between the Shamattawa country and Hudson Bay, was the
cabin in which lived Jacques Le Beau, the trapper. There was not
another man in all that wilderness who was the equal of Le Beau in
wickedness--unless it was Durant, who hunted foxes a hundred miles
north, and who was Jacques's rival in several things. A giant in
size, with a heavy, sullen face and eyes which seemed but half-
hidden greenish loopholes for the pitiless soul within him--if he
had a soul at all--Le Beau was a "throw-back" of the worst sort.
In their shacks and teepees the Indians whispered softly that all
the devils of his forebears had gathered in him.
It was a grim kind of fate that had given to Le Beau a wife. Had
she been a witch, an evil-doer and an evil-thinker like himself,
the thing would not have been such an abortion of what should have
been. But she was not that. Sweet-faced, with something of unusual
beauty still in her pale cheeks and starving eyes--trembling at
his approach and a slave in his presence--she was, like his dogs,
the PROPERTY of The Brute. And the woman had a baby. One had
already died; and it was the thought that this one might die, as
the other had died, that brought at times the new flash of fire
into her dark eyes.
"Le bon Dieu--I pray to the Blessed Angels--I swear you SHALL
live!" she would cry to it at times, hugging it close to her
breast. And it was at these times that the fire came into her
eyes, and her pale cheeks flushed with a smouldering bit of the
flame that had once been her beauty. "Some day--SOME DAY--"
But she never finished, even to the child, what was in her mind.
Sometimes her dreams were filled with visions. The world was still
young, and SHE was not old. She was thinking of that as she stood
before the cracked bit of mirror in the cabin, brushing out her
hair, that was black and shining and so long that it fell to her
hips. Of her beauty her hair had remained. It was defiant of The
Brute. And deep back in her eyes, and in her face, there were
still the living, hidden traces of her girlhood heritage ready to
bloom again if Fate, mending its error at last, would only take
away forever the crushing presence of the Master. She stood a
little longer before the bit of glass when she heard the crunching
of footsteps in the snow outside.
Swiftly what had been in her face was gone. Le Beau had been away
on his trapline since yesterday, and his return filled her with
the old dread. Twice he had caught her before the mirror and had
called her vile names for wasting her time in admiring herself
when she might have been scraping the fat from his pelts. The
second time he had sent her reeling back against the wall, and had
broken the mirror until the bit she treasured now was not much
larger than her two slim hands. She would not be caught again. She
ran with the glass to the place where she kept it in hiding, and
then quickly she wove the heavy strands of her hair into a braid.
The strange, dead look of fear and foreboding closed like a veil
over the secrets her eyes had disclosed to herself. She turned, as
she always turned in her woman's hope and yearning, to greet him
when he entered.
The Brute entered, a dark and surly monster. He was in a wicked
humour. His freshly caught furs he flung to the floor. He pointed
to them, and his eyes were narrowed to menacing slits as they fell
"He was there again--that devil!" he growled. "See, he has spoiled
the fisher, and he has cleaned out my baits and knocked down the
trap-houses. Par les mille cornes du diable, but I will kill him!
I have sworn to cut him into bits with a knife when I catch him--
and catch him I will, to-morrow. See to it there--the skins--when
you have got me something to eat. Mend the fisher where he is torn
in two, and cover the seam well with fat so that the agent over at
the post will not discover it is bad. Tonnerre de Dieu!--that
brat! Why do you always keep his squalling until I come in? Answer
Such was his greeting. He flung his snowshoes into a corner,
stamped the snow off his feet, and got himself a fresh plug of
black tobacco from a shelf over the stove. Then he went out again,
leaving the woman with a cold tremble in her heart and the wan
desolation of hopelessness in her face as she set about getting
From the cabin Le Beau went to his dog-pit, a corral of saplings
with a shelter-shack in the centre of it. It was The Brute's boast
that he had the fiercest pack of sledge-dogs between Hudson Bay