Part 2 out of 3
Then suddenly the black was flung upon his side as though his neck had been
broken, and Thor was at his throat. Still the black fought, his gaping and
bleeding jaws powerless now as the grizzly closed his own huge jaws on the
Muskwa stood up. He was shivering still, but with a new and strange
emotion. This was not play, as he and his mother had played. For the first
time he was looking upon _battle_, and the thrill of it sent the blood hot
and fast through his little body. With a faint, puppyish snarl he darted
in. His teeth sank futilely into the thick hair and tough hide of the
black's rump. He pulled and he snarled; he braced himself with his forefeet
and tugged at his mouthful of hair, filled with a blind and unaccountable
The black twisted himself upon his back, and one of his hind feet raked
Thor from chest to vent. That stroke would have disembowelled a caribou or
a deer; it left a red, open, bleeding wound three feet long on Thor.
Before it could be repeated, the grizzly swung himself sidewise, and the
second blow caught Muskwa. The flat of the black's foot struck him, and for
twenty feet he was sent like a stone out of a sling-shot. He was not cut,
but he was stunned.
In that same moment Thor released his hold on his enemy's throat, and
swung two or three feet to one side. He was dripping blood. The black's
shoulders, chest, and neck were saturated with it; huge chunks had been
torn from his body. He made an effort to rise, and Thor was on him again.
This time Thor got his deadliest of all holds. His great jaws clamped in a
death-grip over the upper part of the black's nose. One terrific grinding
crunch, and the fight was over. The black could not have lived after that.
But this fact Thor did not know. It was now easy for him to rip with those
knifelike claws on his hind feet. He continued to maul and tear for ten
minutes after the black was dead.
When Thor finally quit the scene of battle was terrible to look upon. The
ground was torn up and red; it was covered with great strips of black hide
and pieces of flesh; and the black, on the under side, was torn open from
end to end.
Two miles away, tense and white and scarcely breathing as they looked
through their glasses, Langdon and Bruce crouched beside a rock on the
mountainside. At that distance they had witnessed the terrific spectacle,
but they could not see the cub. As Thor stood panting and bleeding over
his lifeless enemy, Langdon lowered his glass.
"My God!" he breathed.
Bruce sprang to his feet.
"Come on!" he cried. "The black's dead! If we hustle we can get our
And down in the meadow Muskwa ran to Thor with a bit of warm black hide in
his mouth, and Thor lowered his great bleeding head, and just once his red
tongue shot out and caressed Muskwa's face. For the little tan-faced cub
had proved himself; and it may be that Thor had seen and understood.
Neither Thor nor Muskwa went near the caribou meat after the big fight.
Thor was in no condition to eat, and Muskwa was so filled with excitement
and trembling that he could not swallow a mouthful. He continued to worry a
strip of black hide, snarling and growling in his puny way, as though
finishing what the other had begun.
For many minutes the grizzly stood with his big head drooping, and the
blood gathered in splashes under him. He was facing down the valley. There
was almost no wind--so little that it was scarcely possible to tell from
which direction it came. Eddies of it were caught in the coulees, and
higher up about the shoulders and peaks it blew stronger. Now and then one
of these higher movements of air would sweep gently downward and flow
through the valley for a few moments in a great noiseless breath that
barely stirred the tops of the balsams and spruce.
One of these mountain-breaths came as Thor faced the east. And with it,
faint and terrible, came the _man-smell_!
Thor roused himself with a sudden growl from the lethargy into which he had
momentarily allowed himself to sink. His relaxed muscles hardened. He
raised his head and sniffed the wind.
Muskwa ceased his futile fight with the bit of hide and also sniffed the
air. It was warm with the man-scent, for Langdon and Bruce were running and
sweating, and the odour of man-sweat drifts heavy and far. It filled Thor
with a fresh rage. For a second time it came when he was hurt and bleeding.
He had already associated the man-smell with hurt, and now it was doubly
impressed upon him. He turned his head and snarled at the mutilated body of
the big black. Then he snarled menacingly in the face of the wind. He was
in no humour to run away. In these moments, if Bruce and Langdon had
appeared over the rise, Thor would have charged with that deadly ferocity
which lead can scarcely stop, and which has given to his kind their
But the breath of air passed, and there followed a peaceful calm. The
valley was filled with the purr of running water; from their rocks the
whistlers called forth their soft notes; up on the green plain the
ptarmigan were fluting, and rising in white-winged flocks. These things
soothed Thor, as a woman's gentle hand quiets an angry man. For five
minutes he continued to rumble and growl as he tried vainly to catch the
scent again; but the rumbling and growling grew steadily less, and finally
he turned and walked slowly toward the coulee down which he and Muskwa had
come a little while before. Muskwa followed.
[Illustration: "'Come on!' he cried. 'The black's dead! If we hustle we can
get our grizzly!'"]
The coulee, or ravine, hid them from the valley as they ascended. Its
bottom was covered with rock and shale. The wounds Thor had received in the
fight, unlike bullet wounds, had stopped bleeding after the first few
minutes, and he left no telltale red spots behind. The ravine took them to
the first chaotic upheaval of rock halfway up the mountain, and here they
were still more lost to view from below.
They stopped and drank at a pool formed by the melting snow on the peaks,
and then went on. Thor did not stop when they reached the ledge on which
they had slept the previous night. And this time Muskwa was not tired when
they reached the ledge. Two days had made a big change in the little
tan-faced cub. He was not so round and puffy. And he was stronger--a great
deal stronger; he was becoming hardened, and under Thor's strenuous
tutelage he was swiftly graduating from cubhood to young bearhood.
It was evident that Thor had followed this ledge at some previous time. He
knew where he was going. It continued up and up, and finally seemed to end
in the face of a precipitous wall of rock. Thor's trail led him directly to
a great crevice, hardly wider than his body, and through this he went,
emerging at the edge of the wildest and roughest slide of rock that Muskwa
had ever seen. It looked like a huge quarry, and it broke through the
timber far below them, and reached almost to the top of the mountain above.
For Muskwa to make his way over the thousand pitfalls of that chaotic
upheaval was an impossibility, and as Thor began to climb over the first
rocks the cub stopped and whined. It was the first time he had given up,
and when he saw that Thor gave no attention to his whine, terror seized
upon him and he cried for help as loudly as he could while he hunted
frantically for a path up through the rocks.
Utterly oblivious of Muskwa's predicament, Thor continued until he was
fully thirty yards away. Then he stopped, faced about deliberately, and
This gave Muskwa courage, and he scratched and clawed and even used his
chin and teeth in his efforts to follow. It took him ten minutes to reach
Thor, and he was completely winded. Then, all at once, his terror vanished.
For Thor stood on a white, narrow path that was as solid as a floor.
The path was perhaps eighteen inches wide. It was unusual--and
mysterious-looking, and strangely out of place where it was. It looked as
though an army of workmen had come along with hammers and had broken up
tons of sandstone and slate, and then filled in between the boulders with
rubble, making a smooth and narrow road that in places was ground to the
fineness of powder and the hardness of cement. But instead of hammers, the
hoofs of a hundred or perhaps a thousand generations of mountain sheep had
made the trail. It was the sheep-path over the range. The first band of
bighorn may have blazed the way before Columbus discovered America; surely
it had taken a great many years for hoofs to make that smooth road among
Thor used the path as one of his highways from valley to valley, and there
were other creatures of the mountains who used it as well as he, and more
frequently. As he stood waiting for Muskwa to get his wind they both heard
an odd chuckling sound approaching them from above. Forty or fifty feet up
the slide the path twisted and descended a little depression behind a huge
boulder, and out from behind this boulder came a big porcupine.
There is a law throughout the North that a man shall not kill a porcupine.
He is the "lost man's friend," for the wandering and starving prospector or
hunter can nearly always find a porcupine, if nothing else; and a child can
kill him. He is the humourist of the wilderness--the happiest, the
best-natured, and altogether the mildest-mannered beast that ever drew
breath. He talks and chatters and chuckles incessantly, and when he travels
he walks like a huge animated pincushion; he is oblivious of everything
about him as though asleep.
As this particular "porky" advanced upon Muskwa and Thor, he was communing
happily with himself, the chuckling notes he made sounding very much like a
baby's cooing. He was enormously fat, and as he waddled slowly along his
side and tail quills clicked on the stones. His eyes were on the path at
his feet. He was deeply absorbed in nothing at all, and he was within five
feet of Thor before he saw the grizzly. Then, in a wink, he humped himself
into a ball. For a few seconds he scolded vociferously. After that he was
as silent as a sphinx, his little red eyes watching the big bear.
Thor did not want to kill him, but the path was narrow, and he was ready to
go on. He advanced a foot or two, and Porky turned his back toward Thor and
made ready to deliver a swipe with his powerful tail. In that tail were
several hundred quills. As Thor had more than once come into contact with
porcupine quills, he hesitated.
Muskwa was looking on curiously. He still had his lesson to learn, for the
quill he had once picked up in his foot had been a loose quill. But since
the porcupine seemed to puzzle Thor, the cub turned and made ready to go
back along the slide if it became necessary. Thor advanced another foot,
and with a sudden _chuck, chuck, chuck_--the most vicious sound he was
capable of making--Porky advanced backward and his broad, thick tail
whipped through the air with a force that would have driven quills a
quarter of an inch into the butt of a tree. Having missed, he humped
himself again, and Thor stepped out on the boulder and circled around him.
There he waited for Muskwa.
Porky was immensely satisfied with his triumph. He unlimbered himself; his
quills settled a bit; and he advanced toward Muskwa, at the same time
resuming his good-natured chuckling. Instinctively the cub hugged the edge
of the path, and in doing so slipped over the edge. By the time he had
scrambled up again Porky was four or five feet beyond him and totally
absorbed in his travel.
The adventure of the sheep-trail was not yet quite over, for scarcely had
Porky maneuvered himself to safety when around the edge of the big boulder
above appeared a badger, hot on the fresh and luscious scent of his
favourite dinner, a porcupine. This worthless outlaw of the mountains was
three times as large as Muskwa, and every ounce of him was fighting muscle
and bone and claw and sharp teeth. He had a white mark on his nose and
forehead; his legs were short and thick; his tail was bushy, and the claws
on his front feet were almost as long as a bear's. Thor greeted him with an
immediate growl of warning, and the badger scooted back up the trail in
fear of his life.
Meanwhile Porky lumbered slowly along in quest of new feeding-grounds,
talking and singing to himself, forgetting entirely what had happened a
minute or two before, and unconscious of the fact that Thor had saved him
from a death as certain as though he had fallen over a thousand-foot
For nearly a mile Thor and Muskwa followed the Bighorn Highway before its
winding course brought them at last to the very top of the range. They were
fully three-quarters of a mile above the creek-bottom, and so narrow in
places was the crest of the mountain along which the sheep-trail led that
they could look down into both valleys.
To Muskwa it was all a greenish golden haze below him; the depths seemed
illimitable; the forest along the stream was only a black streak, and the
parklike clumps of balsams and cedars on the farther slopes looked like
very small bosks of thorn or buffalo willow.
Up here the wind was blowing, too. It whipped him with a strange
fierceness, and half a dozen times he felt the mysterious and very
unpleasant chill of snow under his feet. Twice a great bird swooped near
him. It was the biggest bird he had ever seen--an eagle. The second time it
came so near that he heard the _beat_ of it, and saw its great, fierce head
and lowering talons.
Thor whirled toward the eagle and growled. If Muskwa had been alone, the
cub would have gone sailing off in those murderous talons. As it was, the
third time the eagle circled it was down the slope from them. It was after
other game. The scent of the game came to Thor and Muskwa, and they
Perhaps a hundred yards below them was a shelving slide of soft shale, and
on this shale, basking in the warm sun after their morning's feed lower
down, was a band of sheep. There were twenty or thirty of them, mostly ewes
and their lambs. Three huge old rams were lying on a patch of snow farther
to the east.
With his six-foot wings spread out like twin fans, the eagle continued to
circle. He was as silent as a feather floating with the wind. The ewes and
even the old bighorns were unconscious of his presence over them. Most of
the lambs were lying close to their mothers, but two or three of a livelier
turn of mind were wandering over the shale and occasionally hopping about
in playful frolic.
The eagle's fierce eyes were upon these youngsters. Suddenly he drifted
farther away--a full rifle-shot distance straight in the face of the wind;
then he swung gracefully, and came back with the wind. And as he came, his
wings apparently motionless, he gathered greater and greater speed, and
shot like a rocket straight for the lambs. He seemed to have come and gone
like a great shadow, and just one plaintive, agonized bleat marked his
passing-and two little lambs were left where there had been three.
There was instant commotion on the slide. The ewes began to run back and
forth and bleat excitedly. The three rams sprang up and stood like rocks,
their huge battlemented heads held high as they scanned the depths below
them and the peaks above for new danger.
One of them saw Thor, and the deep, grating bleat of warning that rattled
out of his throat a hunter could have heard a mile away. As he gave his
danger signal he started down the slide, and in another moment an avalanche
of hoofs was clattering down the steep shale slope, loosening small stones
and boulders that went tumbling and crashing down the mountain with a din
that steadily increased as they set others in motion on the way. This was
all mighty interesting to Muskwa, and he would have stood for a long time
looking down for other things to happen if Thor had not led him on.
After a time the Bighorn Highway began to descend into the valley from the
upper end of which Thor had been driven by Langdon's first shots. They were
now six or eight miles north of the timber in which the hunters had made
their permanent camp, and headed for the lower tributaries of the Skeena.
Another hour of travel, and the bare shale and gray crags were above them
again, and they were on the green slopes. After the rocks, and the cold
winds, and the terrible glare he had seen in the eagle's eyes, the warm and
lovely valley into which they were descending lower and lower was a
paradise to Muskwa.
It was evident that Thor had something in his mind. He was not rambling
now. He cut off the ends and the bulges of the slopes. With his head
hunched low he travelled steadily northward, and a compass could not have
marked out a straighter line for the lower waters of the Skeena. He was
tremendously businesslike, and Muskwa, tagging bravely along behind,
wondered if he were never going to stop; if there could be anything in the
whole wide world finer for a big grizzly and a little tan-faced cub than
these wonderful sunlit slopes which Thor seemed in such great haste to
If it had not been for Langdon, this day of the fight between the two bears
would have held still greater excitement and another and deadlier peril for
Thor and Muskwa. Three minutes after the hunters had arrived breathless and
sweating upon the scene of the sanguinary conflict Bruce was ready and
anxious to continue the pursuit of Thor. He knew the big grizzly could not
be far away; he was certain that Thor had gone up the mountain. He found
signs of the grizzly's feet in the gravel of the coulee at just about the
time Thor and the tan-faced cub struck the Bighorn Highway.
His arguments failed to move Langdon. Stirred to the depth of his soul by
what he had seen, and what he saw about him now, the hunter-naturalist
refused to leave the blood-stained and torn-up arena in which the grizzly
and the black had fought their duel.
"If I knew that I was not going to fire a single shot, I would travel five
thousand miles to see this," he said. "It's worth thinking about, and
looking over, Bruce. The grizzly won't spoil. This will--in a few hours. If
there's a story here we can dig out I want it."
Again and again Langdon went over the battlefield, noting the ripped-up
ground, the big spots of dark-red stain, the strips of flayed skin, and the
terrible wounds on the body of the dead black. For half an hour Bruce paid
less attention to these things than he did to the carcass of the caribou.
At the end of that time he called Langdon to the edge of the clump of
"You wanted the story," he said, "an' I've got it for you, Jimmy."
He entered the balsams and Langdon followed him. A few steps under the
cover Bruce halted and pointed to the hollow in which Thor had cached his
meat. The hollow was stained with blood.
"You was right in your guess, Jimmy," he said. "Our grizzly is a
meat-eater. Last night he killed a caribou out there in the meadow. I know
it was the grizzly that killed 'im an' not the black, because the tracks
along the edge of the timber are grizzly tracks. Come on. I'll show you
where 'e jumped the caribou!"
He led the way back into the meadow, and pointed out where Thor had dragged
down the young bull. There were bits of flesh and a great deal of stain
where he and Muskwa had feasted.
"He hid the carcass in the balsams after he had filled himself," went on
Bruce. "This morning the black came along, smelled the meat, an' robbed the
cache. Then back come the grizzly after his morning feed, an' that's what
happened! There's yo'r story, Jimmy."
"And--he may come back again?" asked Langdon.
"Not on your life, he won't!" cried Bruce. "He wouldn't touch that carcass
ag'in if he was starving. Just now this place is like poison to him."
After that Bruce left Langdon to meditate alone on the field of battle
while he began trailing Thor. In the shade of the balsams Langdon wrote for
a steady hour, frequently rising to establish new facts or verify others
already discovered. Meanwhile the mountaineer made his way foot by foot up
the coulee. Thor had left no blood, but where others would have seen
nothing Bruce detected the signs of his passing. When he returned to where
Langdon was completing his notes, his face wore a look of satisfaction.
"He went over the mount'in," he said briefly.
It was noon before they climbed over the volcanic quarry of rock and
followed the Bighorn Highway to the point where Thor and Muskwa had watched
the eagle and the sheep. They ate their lunch here, and scanned the valley
through their glasses. Bruce was silent for a long time. Then he lowered
his telescope, and turned to Langdon.
"I guess I've got his range pretty well figgered out," he said. "He runs
these two valleys, an' we've got our camp too far south. See that timber
down there? That's where our camp should be. What do you say to goin' back
over the divide with our horses an' moving up here?"
"And leave our grizzly until to-morrow?"
"We can't go after 'im and leave our horses tied up in the creek-bottom
Langdon boxed his glasses and rose to his feet. Suddenly he grew rigid.
"What was that?"
"I didn't hear anything," said Bruce.
For a moment they stood side by side, listening. A gust of wind whistled
about their ears. It died away.
"Hear it!" whispered Langdon, and his voice was filled with a sudden
"The dogs!" cried Bruce.
"Yes, the dogs!"
They leaned forward, their ears turned to the south, and faintly there came
to them the distant, thrilling tongue of the Airedales!
Metoosin had come, and he was seeking them in the valley!
Thor was on what the Indians call a _pimootao_. His brute mind had all at
once added two and two together, and while perhaps he did not make four of
it, his mental arithmetic was accurate enough to convince him that straight
north was the road to travel.
By the time Langdon and Bruce had reached the summit of the Bighorn
Highway, and were listening to the distant tongueing of the dogs, little
Muskwa was in abject despair. Following Thor had been like a game of tag
with never a moment's rest.
An hour after they left the sheep trail they came to the rise in the valley
where the waters separated. From this point one creek flowed southward into
the Tacla Lake country and the other northward into the Babine, which was a
tributary of the Skeena. They descended very quickly into a much lower
country, and for the first time Muskwa encountered marshland, and travelled
at times through grass so rank and thick that he could not see but could
only hear Thor forging on ahead of him.
The stream grew wider and deeper, and in places they skirted the edges of
dark, quiet pools that Muskwa thought must have been of immeasurable depth.
These pools gave Muskwa his first breathing-spells. Now and then Thor would
stop and sniff over the edge of them. He was hunting for something, and yet
he never seemed to find it; and each time that he started on afresh Muskwa
was so much nearer to the end of his endurance.
They were fully seven miles north of the point from which Bruce and Langdon
were scanning the valley through their glasses when they came to a lake. It
was a dark and unfriendly looking lake to Muskwa, who had never seen
anything but sunlit pools in the dips. The forest grew close down to its
shore. In places it was almost black. Queer birds squawked in the thick
reeds. It was heavy with a strange odour--a fragrance of something that
made the cub lick his little chops, and filled him with hunger.
For a minute or two Thor stood sniffing this scent that filled the air. It
was the smell of fish.
Slowly the big grizzly began picking his way along the edge of the lake.
He soon came to the mouth of a small creek. It was not more than twenty
feet wide, but it was dark and quiet and deep, like the lake itself. For a
hundred yards Thor made his way up this creek, until he came to where a
number of trees had fallen across it, forming a jam. Close to this jam the
water was covered with a green scum. Thor knew what lay under that scum,
and very quietly he crept out on the logs.
Midway in the stream he paused, and with his right paw gently brushed back
the scum so that an open pool of clear water lay directly under him.
Muskwa's bright little eyes watched him from the shore. He knew that Thor
was after something to eat, but how he was going to get it out of that pool
of water puzzled and interested him in spite of his weariness.
Thor stretched himself out on his belly, his head and right paw well over
the jam. He now put his paw a foot into the water and held it there very
quietly. He could see clearly to the bottom of the stream. For a few
moments he saw only this bottom, a few sticks, and the protruding end of a
limb. Then a long slim shadow moved slowly under him--a fifteen-inch
trout. It was too deep for him, and Thor did not make an excited plunge.
Patiently he waited, and very soon this patience was rewarded. A beautiful
red-spotted trout floated out from under the scum, and so suddenly that
Muskwa gave a yelp of terror, Thor's huge paw sent a shower of water a
dozen feet into the air, and the fish landed with a thump within three feet
of the cub. Instantly Muskwa was upon it. His sharp teeth dug into it as it
flopped and struggled.
Thor rose on the logs, but when he saw that Muskwa had taken possession of
the fish, he resumed his former position. Muskwa was just finishing his
first real kill when a second spout of water shot upward and another trout
pirouetted shoreward through the air. This time Thor followed quickly, for
he was hungry.
It was a glorious feast they had that early afternoon beside the shaded
creek. Five times Thor knocked fish out from under the scum, but for the
life of him Muskwa could not eat more than his first trout.
For several hours after their dinner they lay in a cool, hidden spot close
to the log-jam. Muskwa did not sleep soundly. He was beginning to
understand that life was now largely a matter of personal responsibility
with him, and his ears had begun to attune themselves to sound. Whenever
Thor moved or heaved a deep sigh, Muskwa knew it. After that day's Marathon
with the grizzly he was filled with uneasiness--a fear that he might lose
his big friend and food-killer, and he was determined that the parent he
had adopted should have no opportunity of slipping away from him unheard
and unseen. But Thor had no intention of deserting his little comrade. In
fact, he was becoming quite fond of Muskwa.
It was not alone his hunger for fish or fear of his enemies that was
bringing Thor into the lower country of the Babine waterways. For a week
past there had been in him a steadily growing unrest, and it had reached
its climax in these last two or three days of battle and flight. He was
filled with a strange and unsatisfied yearning, and as Muskwa napped in his
little bed among the bushes Thor's ears were keenly alert for certain
sounds and his nose frequently sniffed the air. He wanted a mate. It was
_puskoowepesim_--the "moulting moon"--and always in this moon, or the end
of the "egg-laying moon," which was June, he hunted for the female that
came to him from the western ranges. He was almost entirely a creature of
habit, and always he made this particular detour, entering the other valley
again far down toward the Babine. He never failed to feed on fish along the
way, and the more fish he ate the stronger was the odour of him. It is
barely possible Thor had discovered that this perfume of golden-spotted
trout made him more attractive to his lady-love. Anyway, he ate fish, and
he smelled abundantly.
Thor rose and stretched himself two hours before sunset, and he knocked
three more fish out of the water. Muskwa ate the head of one and Thor
finished the rest. Then they continued their pilgrimage.
It was a new world that Muskwa entered now. In it there were none of the
old familiar sounds. The purring drone of the upper valley was gone. There
were no whistlers, and no ptarmigan, and no fat little gophers running
about. The water of the lake lay still, and dark, and deep, with black and
sunless pools hiding themselves under the roots of trees, so close did the
forest cling to it. There were no rocks to climb over, but dank, soft logs,
thick windfalls, and litters of brush. The air was different, too. It was
very still. Under their feet at times was a wonderful carpet of soft moss
in which Thor sank nearly to his armpits. And the forest was filled with a
strange gloom and many mysterious shadows, and there hung heavily in it the
pungent smells of decaying vegetation.
Thor did not travel so swiftly here. The silence and the gloom and the
oppressively scented air seemed to rouse his caution. He stepped quietly;
frequently he stopped and looked about him, and listened; he smelled at the
edges of pools hidden under the roots; every new sound brought him to a
stop, his head hung low and his ears alert.
Several times Muskwa saw shadowy things floating through the gloom. They
were the big gray owls that turned snow white in winter. And once, when it
was almost dark, they came upon a pop-eyed, loose-jointed, fierce-looking
creature in the trail who scurried away like a ball at sight of Thor. It
was a lynx.
It was not yet quite dark when Thor came out very quietly into a clearing,
and Muskwa found himself first on the shore of a creek, and then close to a
big pond. The air was full of the breath and warmth of a new kind of life.
It was not fish, and yet it seemed to come from the pond, in the centre of
which were three or four circular masses that looked like great brush-heaps
plastered with a coating of mud.
Whenever he came into this end of the valley Thor always paid a visit to
the beaver colony, and occasionally he helped himself to a fat young beaver
for supper or breakfast. This evening he was not hungry, and he was in a
hurry. In spite of these two facts he stood for some minutes in the shadows
near the pond.
The beavers had already begun their night's work. Muskwa soon understood
the significance of the shimmering streaks that ran swiftly over the
surface of the water. At the end of each streak was always a dark, flat
head, and now he saw that most of these streaks began at the farther edge
of the pond and made directly for a long, low barrier that shut in the
water a hundred yards to the east.
This particular barrier was strange to Thor, and with his maturer
knowledge of beaver ways he knew that his engineering friends--whom he ate
only occasionally--were broadening their domain by building a new dam. As
they watched, two fat workmen shoved a four-foot length of log into the
pond with a big splash, and one of them began piloting it toward the scene
of building operations, while his companion returned to other work. A
little later there was a crash in the timber on the opposite side of the
pond, where another workman had succeeded in felling a tree. Then Thor made
his way toward the dam.
Almost instantly there was a terrific crack out in the middle of the pond,
followed by a tremendous splash. An old beaver had seen Thor and with the
flat side of his broad tail had given the surface of the water a warning
slap that cut the still air like a rifle-shot. All at once there were
splashings and divings in every direction, and a moment later the pond was
ruffled and heaving as a score of interrupted workers dove excitedly under
the surface to the safety of their brush-ribbed and mud-plastered
strongholds, and Muskwa was so absorbed in the general excitement that he
almost forgot to follow Thor.
He overtook the grizzly at the dam. For a few moments Thor inspected the
new work, and then tested it with his weight. It was solid, and over this
bridge ready built for them they crossed to the higher ground on the
opposite side. A few hundred yards farther on Thor struck a fairly
well-beaten caribou trail which in the course of half an hour led them
around the end of the lake to the outlet stream flowing north.
Every minute Muskwa was hoping that Thor would stop. His afternoon's nap
had not taken the lameness out of his legs nor the soreness from the tender
pads of his feet. He had had enough, and more than enough, of travel, and
could he have regulated the world according to his own wishes he would not
have walked another mile for a whole month. Mere walking would not have
been so bad, but to keep up with Thor's ambling gait he was compelled to
trot, like a stubby four-year-old child hanging desperately to the thumb of
a big and fast-walking man. Muskwa had not even a thumb to hang to. The
bottoms of his feet were like boils; his tender nose was raw from contact
with brush and the knife-edged marsh grass, and his little back felt all
caved in. Still he hung on desperately, until the creek-bottom was again
sand and gravel, and travelling was easier.
The stars were up now, millions of them, clear and brilliant; and it was
quite evident that Thor had set his mind on an "all-night hike," a
_kuppatipsk pimootao_ as a Cree tracker would have called it. Just how it
would have ended for Muskwa is a matter of conjecture had not the spirits
of thunder and rain and lightning put their heads together to give him a
For perhaps an hour the stars were undimmed, and Thor kept on like a
heathen without a soul, while Muskwa limped on all four feet. Then a low
rumbling gathered in the west. It grew louder and louder, and approached
swiftly--straight from the warm Pacific. Thor grew uneasy, and sniffed in
the face of it. Livid streaks began to criss-cross a huge pall of black
that was closing in on them like a vast curtain. The stars began to go out.
A moaning wind came. And then the rain.
Thor had found a huge rock that shelved inward, like a lean-to, and he
crept back under this with Muskwa before the deluge descended. For many
minutes it was more like a flood than a rain. It seemed as though a part of
the Pacific Ocean had been scooped up and dropped on them, and in half an
hour the creek was a swollen torrent.
The lightning and the crash of thunder terrified Muskwa. Now he could see
Thor in great blinding flashes of fire, and the next instant it was as
black as pitch; the tops of the mountains seemed falling down into the
valley; the earth trembled and shook--and he snuggled closer and closer to
Thor until at last he lay between his two forearms, half buried in the long
hair of the big grizzly's shaggy chest. Thor himself was not much concerned
in these noisy convulsions of nature, except to keep himself dry. When he
took a bath he wanted the sun to be shining and a nice warm rock close at
hand on which to stretch himself.
For a long time after its first fierce outbreak the rain continued to fall
in a gentle shower. Muskwa liked this, and under the sheltering rock,
snuggled against Thor, he felt very comfortable and easily fell asleep.
Through long hours Thor kept his vigil alone, drowsing now and then, but
kept from sound slumber by the restlessness that was in him.
It stopped raining soon after midnight, but it was very dark, the stream
was flooding over its bars, and Thor remained under the rock. Muskwa had a
Day had come when Thor's stirring roused Muskwa. He followed the grizzly
out into the open, feeling tremendously better than last night, though his
feet were still sore and his body was stiff.
Thor began to follow the creek again. Along this stream there were low
flats and many small bayous where grew luxuriantly the tender grass and
roots, and especially the slim long-stemmed lilies on which Thor was fond
of feeding. But for a thousand-pound grizzly to fill up on such vegetarian
dainties as these consumed many hours, if not one's whole time, and Thor
considered that he had no time to lose. Thor was a most ardent lover when
he loved at all, which was only a few days out of the year; and during
these days he twisted his mode of living around so that while the spirit
possessed him he no longer existed for the sole purpose of eating and
growing fat. For a short time he put aside his habit of living to eat, and
ate to live; and poor Muskwa was almost famished before another dinner was
But at last, early in the afternoon, Thor came to a pool which he could not
pass. It was not a dozen feet in width, and it was alive with trout. The
fish had not been able to reach the lake above, and they had waited too
long after the flood-season to descend into the deeper waters of the Babine
and the Skeena. They had taken refuge in this pool, which was now about to
become a death-trap.
At one end the water was two feet deep; at the other end only a few inches.
After pondering over this fact for a few moments, the grizzly waded openly
into the deepest part, and from the bank above Muskwa saw the shimmering
trout darting into the shallower water. Thor advanced slowly, and now, when
he stood in less than eight inches of water, the panic-stricken fish one
after another tried to escape back into the deeper part of the pool.
Again and again Thor's big right paw swept up great showers of water. The
first inundation knocked Muskwa off his feet. But with it came a two-pound
trout which the cub quickly dragged out of range and began eating. So
agitated became the pool because of the mighty strokes of Thor's paw that
the trout completely lost their heads, and no sooner did they reach one end
than they turned about and darted for the other. They kept this up until
the grizzly had thrown fully a dozen of their number ashore.
So absorbed was Muskwa in his fish, and Thor in his fishing, that neither
had noticed a visitor. Both saw him at about the same time, and for fully
thirty seconds they stood and stared, Thor in his pool and the cub over his
fish, utter amazement robbing them of the power of movement. The visitor
was another grizzly, and as coolly as though he had done the fishing
himself he began eating the fish which Thor had thrown out! A worse insult
or a deadlier challenge could not have been known in the land of Beardom.
Even Muskwa sensed that fact. He looked expectantly at Thor. There was
going to be another fight, and he licked his little chops in anticipation.
Thor came up out of the pool slowly. On the bank he paused. The grizzlies
gazed at each other, the newcomer crunching a fish as he looked. Neither
growled. Muskwa perceived no signs of enmity, and then to his increased
astonishment Thor began eating a fish within three feet of the interloper!
Perhaps man is the finest of all God's creations, but when it comes to his
respect for old age he is no better, and sometimes not as good, as a
grizzly bear; for Thor would not rob an old bear, he would not fight an old
bear, and he would not drive an old bear from his own meat--which is more
than can be said of some humans. And the visitor was an old bear, and a
sick bear as well. He stood almost as high as Thor, but he was so old that
he was only half as broad across the chest, and his neck and head were
grotesquely thin. The Indians have a name for him. _Kuyas Wapusk_ they call
him--the bear so old he is about to die. They let him go unharmed; other
bears tolerate him and let him eat their meat if he chances along; the
white man kills him.
This old bear was famished. His claws were gone; his hair was thin, and in
some places his skin was naked, and he had barely more than red, hard gums
to chew with. If he lived until autumn he would den up--for the last time.
Perhaps death would come even sooner than that. If so, _Kuyas Wapusk_
would know in time, and he would crawl off into some hidden cave or deep
crevice in the rocks to breathe his last. For in all the Rocky Mountains,
so far as Bruce or Langdon knew, there was not a man who had found the
bones or body of a grizzly that had died a natural death!
And big, hunted Thor, torn by wound and pursued by man, seemed to
understand that this would be the last real feast on earth for _Kuyas
Wapusk_--too old to fish for himself, too old to hunt, too old even to dig
out the tender lily roots; and so he let him eat until the last fish was
gone, and then went on, with Muskwa tagging at his heels.
For still another two hours Thor led Muskwa on that tiresome jaunt into the
north. They had travelled a good twenty miles since leaving the Bighorn
Highway, and to the little tan-faced cub those twenty miles were like a
journey around the world. Ordinarily he would not have gone that far away
from his birthplace until his second year, and very possibly his third.
Not once in this hike down the valley had Thor wasted time on the mountain
slopes. He had picked out the easiest trails along the creek. Three or four
miles below the pool where they had left the old bear he suddenly changed
this procedure by swinging due westward, and a little later they were once
more climbing a mountain. They went up a long green slide for a quarter of
a mile, and luckily for Muskwa's legs this brought them to the smooth
plainlike floor of a break which took them without much more effort out on
the slopes of the other valley. This was the valley in which Thor had
killed the black bear twenty miles to the southward.
From the moment Thor looked out over the northern limits of his range a
change took possession of him. All at once he lost his eagerness to hurry.
For fifteen minutes he stood looking down into the valley, sniffing the
air. He descended slowly, and when he reached the green meadows and the
creek-bottom he _mooshed_ along straight in the face of the wind, which was
coming from the south and west. It did not bring him the scent he
wanted--the smell of his mate. Yet an instinct that was more infallible
than reason told him that she was near, or should be near. He did not take
accident or sickness or the possibility of hunters having killed her into
consideration. This was where he had always started in to hunt for her, and
sooner or later he had found her. He knew her smell. And he crossed and
recrossed the bottoms so that it could not escape him.
When Thor was love-sick he was more or less like a man: that is to say, he
was an idiot. The importance of all other things dwindled into nothingness.
His habits, which were as fixed as the stars at other times, took a
complete vacation. He even forgot hunger, and the whistlers and gophers
were quite safe. He was tireless. He rambled during the night as well as
the day in quest of his lady-love.
It was quite natural that in these exciting hours he should forget Muskwa
almost entirely. At least ten times before sunset he crossed and recrossed
the creek, and the disgusted and almost ready-to-quit cub waded and swam
and floundered after him until he was nearly drowned. The tenth or dozenth
time Thor forded the stream Muskwa revolted and followed along on his own
side. It was not long before the grizzly returned.
It was soon after this, just as the sun was setting, that the unexpected
happened. What little wind there was suddenly swung straight into the east,
and from the western slopes half a mile away it brought a scent that held
Thor motionless in his tracks for perhaps half a minute, and then set him
off on that ambling run which is the ungainliest gait of all four-footed
Muskwa rolled after him like a ball, pegging away for dear life, but losing
ground at every jump. In that half-mile stretch he would have lost Thor
altogether if the grizzly had not stopped near the bottom of the first
slope to take fresh reckonings. When he started up the slope Muskwa could
see him, and with a yelping cry for him to wait a minute set after him
Two or three hundred yards up the mountainside the slope shelved downward
into a hollow, or dip, and nosing about in this dip, questing the air as
Thor had quested it, was the beautiful she-grizzly from over the range.
With her was one of her last year's cubs. Thor was within fifty yards of
her when he came over the crest. He stopped. He looked at her. And Iskwao,
"the female," looked at him.
Then followed true bear courtship. All haste, all eagerness, all desire for
his mate seemed to have left Thor; and if Iskwao had been eager and
yearning she was profoundly indifferent now. For two or three minutes Thor
stood looking casually about, and this gave Muskwa time to come up and
perch himself beside him, expecting another fight.
As though Thor was a thousand miles or so from her thoughts, Iskwao turned
over a flat rock and began hunting for grubs and ants, and not to be
outdone in this stoic unconcern Thor pulled up a bunch of grass and
swallowed it. Iskwao moved a step or two, and Thor moved a step or two, and
as if purely by accident their steps were toward each other.
Muskwa was puzzled. The older cub was puzzled. They sat on their haunches
like two dogs, one three times as big as the other, and wondered what was
going to happen.
It took Thor and Iskwao five minutes to arrive within five feet of each
other, and then very decorously they smelled noses.
The year-old cub joined the family circle. He was of just the right age to
have an exceedingly long name, for the Indians called him Pipoonaskoos--
"the yearling." He came boldly up to Thor and his mother. For a moment
Thor did not seem to notice him. Then his long right arm shot out in a
sudden swinging upper-cut that lifted Pipoonaskoos clean off the ground
and sent him spinning two-thirds of the distance up to Muskwa.
The mother paid no attention to this elimination of her offspring, and
still lovingly smelled noses with Thor. Muskwa, however, thought this was
the preliminary of another tremendous fight, and with a yelp of defiance
he darted down the slope and set upon Pipoonaskoos with all his might.
Pipoonaskoos was "mother's boy." That is, he was one of those cubs who
persist in following their mothers through a second season, instead of
striking out for themselves. He had nursed until he was five months old;
his parent had continued to hunt tidbits for him; he was fat, and sleek,
and soft; he was, in fact, a "Willie" of the mountains.
On the other hand, a few days had put a lot of real mettle into Muskwa, and
though he was only a third as large as Pipoonaskoos, and his feet were
sore, and his back ached, he landed on the other cub like a shot out of a
Still dazed by the blow of Thor's paw, Pipoonaskoos gave a yelping call to
his mother for help at this sudden onslaught. He had never been in a fight,
and he rolled over on his back and side, kicking and scratching and yelping
as Muskwa's needle-like teeth sank again and again into his tender hide.
Luckily Muskwa got him once by the nose, and bit deep, and if there was any
sand at all in Willie Pipoonaskoos this took it out of him, and while
Muskwa held on for dear life he let out a steady stream of yelps,
informing his mother that he was being murdered. To these cries Iskwao paid
no attention at all, but continued to smell noses with Thor.
Finally freeing his bleeding nose, Pipoonaskoos shook Muskwa off by sheer
force of superior weight and took to flight on a dead run. Muskwa pegged
valiantly after him. Twice they made the circle of the basin, and in
spite of his shorter legs, Muskwa was a close second in the race when
Pipoonaskoos, turning an affrighted glance sidewise for an instant, hit
against a rock and went sprawling. In another moment Muskwa was at him
again, and he would have continued biting and snarling until there was no
more strength left in him had he not happened to see Thor and Iskwao
disappearing slowly over the edge of the slope toward the valley.
Almost immediately Muskwa forgot fighting. He was amazed to find that
Thor, instead of tearing up the other bear, was walking off with her.
Pipoonaskoos also pulled himself together and looked. Then Muskwa looked at
Pipoonaskoos, and Pipoonaskoos looked at Muskwa. The tan-faced cub licked
his chops just once, as if torn between the prospective delight of mauling
Pipoonaskoos and the more imperative duty of following Thor. The other gave
him no choice. With a whimpering yelp he set off after his mother.
Exciting times followed for the two cubs. All that night Thor and Iskwao
kept by themselves in the buffalo willow thickets and the balsams of the
creek-bottom. Early in the evening Pipoonaskoos sneaked up to his mother
again, and Thor lifted him into the middle of the creek. The second visual
proof of Thor's displeasure impinged upon Muskwa the fact that the older
bears were not in a mood to tolerate the companionship of cubs, and the
result was a wary and suspicious truce between him and Pipoonaskoos.
All the next day Thor and Iskwao kept to themselves. Early in the morning
Muskwa began adventuring about a little in quest of food. He liked tender
grass, but it was not very filling. Several times he saw Pipoonaskoos
digging in the soft bottom close to the creek, and finally he drove the
other cub away from a partly digged hole and investigated for himself.
After a little more excavating he pulled out a white, bulbous, tender root
that he thought was the sweetest and nicest thing he had ever eaten, not
even excepting fish. It was the one _bonne bouche_ of all the good things
he would eventually learn to eat--the spring beauty. One other thing alone
was at all comparable with it, and that was the dog-tooth violet. Spring
beauties were growing about him abundantly, and he continued to dig until
his feet were grievously tender. But he had the satisfaction of being
Thor was again responsible for a fight between Muskwa and Pipoonaskoos.
Late in the afternoon the older bears were lying down side by side in a
thicket when, without any apparent reason at all, Thor opened his huge jaws
and emitted a low, steady, growling roar that sounded very much like the
sound he had made when tearing the life out of the big black. Iskwao raised
her head and joined him in the tumult, both of them perfectly good-natured
and quite happy during the operation. Why mating bears indulge in this
blood-curdling duet is a mystery which only the bears themselves can
explain. It lasts for about a minute, and during this particular minute
Muskwa, who lay outside the thicket, thought that surely the glorious hour
had come when Thor was beating up the parent of Pipoonaskoos. And instantly
he looked for Pipoonaskoos.
Unfortunately the Willie-bear came sneaking round the edge of the brush
just then, and Muskwa gave him no chance to ask questions. He shot at him
in a black streak and Pipoonaskoos bowled over like a fat baby. For several
minutes they bit and dug and clawed, most of the biting and digging and
clawing being done by Muskwa, while Pipoonaskoos devoted his time and
energy to yelping.
Finally the larger cub got away and again took to flight. Muskwa pursued
him, into the brush and out, down to the creek and back, halfway up the
slope and down again, until he was so tired he had to drop on his belly for
At this juncture Thor emerged from the thicket. He was alone. For the first
time since last night he seemed to notice Muskwa. Then he sniffed the wind
up the valley and down the valley, and after that turned and walked
straight toward the distant slopes down which they had come the preceding
afternoon. Muskwa was both pleased and perplexed. He wanted to go into the
thicket and snarl and pull at the hide of the dead bear that must be in
there, and he also wanted to finish Pipoonaskoos. After a moment or two of
hesitation he ran after Thor and again followed close at his heels.
After a little Iskwao came from the thicket and nosed the wind as Thor had
felt it. Then she turned in the opposite direction, and with Pipoonaskoos
close behind her, went up the slope and continued slowly and steadily in
the face of the setting sun.
So ended Thor's love-making and Muskwa's first fighting; and together they
trailed eastward again, to face the most terrible peril that had ever come
into the mountains for four-footed beast-a peril that was merciless, a
peril from which there was no escape, a peril that was fraught with death.
The first night after leaving Iskwao and Pipoonaskoos the big grizzly and
the tan-faced cub wandered without sleep under the brilliant stars. Thor
did not hunt for meat. He climbed a steep slope, then went down the shale
side of a dip, and in a small basin hidden at the foot of a mountain came
to a soft green meadow where the dog-tooth violet, with its slender stem,
its two lily-like leaves, its single cluster of five-petalled flowers, and
its luscious, bulbous root grew in great profusion. And here all through
the night he dug and ate.
Muskwa, who had filled himself on spring beauty roots, was not hungry, and
as the day had been a restful one for him, outside of his fighting, he
found this night filled with its brilliant stars quite enjoyable. The moon
came up about ten o'clock, and it was the biggest, and the reddest, and the
most beautiful moon Muskwa had seen in his short life. It rolled up over
the peaks like a forest fire, and filled all the Rocky Mountains with a
wonderful glow. The basin, in which there were perhaps ten acres of meadow,
was lighted up almost like day. The little lake at the foot of the mountain
glimmered softly, and the tiny stream that fed it from the melting snows a
thousand feet above shot down in glistening cascades that caught the
moonlight like rivulets of dull polished diamonds.
About the meadow were scattered little clumps of bushes and a few balsams
and spruce, as if set there for ornamental purposes; and on one side there
was a narrow, verdure-covered slide that sloped upward for a third of a
mile, and at the top of which, unseen by Muskwa and Thor, a band of sheep
Muskwa wandered about, always near Thor, investigating the clumps of
bushes, the dark shadows of the balsams and spruce, and the edge of the
lake. Here he found a plashet of soft mud which was a great solace to his
sore feet. Twenty times during the night he waded in the mud.
Even when the dawn came Thor seemed to be in no great haste to leave the
basin. Until the sun was well up he continued to wander about the meadow
and the edge of the lake, digging up occasional roots, and eating tender
grass. This did not displease Muskwa, who made his breakfast of the
dog-tooth violet bulbs. The one matter that puzzled him was why Thor did
not go into the lake and throw out trout, for he yet had to learn that all
water did not contain fish. At last he went fishing for himself, and
succeeded in getting a black hard-shelled water beetle that nipped his nose
with a pair of needle-like pincers and brought a yelp from him.
It was perhaps ten o'clock, and the sun-filled basin was like a warm oven
to a thick-coated bear, when Thor searched up among the rocks near the
waterfall until he found a place that was as cool as an old-fashioned
cellar. It was a miniature cavern. All about it the slate and sandstone was
of a dark and clammy wet from a hundred little trickles of snow water that
ran down from the peaks.
It was just the sort of a place Thor loved on a July day, but to Muskwa it
was dark and gloomy and not a thousandth part as pleasant as the sun. So
after an hour or two he left Thor in his frigidarium and began to
investigate the treacherous ledges.
For a few minutes all went well--then he stepped on a green-tinted slope of
slate over which a very shallow dribble of water was running. The water had
been running over it in just that way for some centuries, and the shelving
slate was worn as smooth as the surface of a polished pearl, and it was as
slippery as a greased pole. Muskwa's feet went out from under him so
quickly that he hardly knew what had happened. The next moment he was on
his way to the lake a hundred feet below. He rolled over and over. He
plashed into shallow pools. He bounced over miniature waterfalls like a
rubber ball. The wind was knocked out of him. He was blinded and dazed by
water and shock, and he gathered fresh speed with every yard he made. He
had succeeded in letting out half a dozen terrified yelps at the start, and
these roused Thor.
Where the water from the peaks fell into the lake there was a precipitous
drop of ten feet, and over this Muskwa shot with a momentum that carried
him twice as far out into the pond. He hit with a big splash, and
disappeared. Down and down he went, where everything was black and cold and
suffocating; then the life-preserver with which nature had endowed him in
the form of his fat brought him to the surface. He began to paddle with all
four feet. It was his first swim, and when he finally dragged himself
ashore he was limp and exhausted.
While he still lay panting and very much frightened, Thor came down from
the rocks. Muskwa's mother had given him a sound cuffing when he got the
porcupine quill in his foot. She had cuffed him for every accident he had
had, because she believed that cuffing was good medicine. Education is
largely cuffed into a bear cub, and she would have given him a fine cuffing
now. But Thor only smelled of him, saw that he was all right, and began to
dig up a dog-tooth violet.
He had not finished the violet when suddenly he stopped. For a half-minute
he stood like a statue. Muskwa jumped and shook himself. Then he listened.
A sound came to both of them. In one slow, graceful movement the grizzly
reared himself to his full height. He faced the north, his ears thrust
forward, the sensitive muscles of his nostrils twitching. He could smell
nothing, but he _heard_!
Over the slopes which they had climbed there had come to him faintly a
sound that was new to him, a sound that had never before been a part of his
life. It was the barking of dogs.
For two minutes Thor sat on his haunches without moving a muscle of his
great body except those twitching thews in his nose.
Deep down in this cup under the mountain it was difficult even for sound to
reach him. Quickly he swung down on all fours and made for the green slope
to the southward, at the top of which the band of sheep had slept during
the preceding night. Muskwa hurried after.
A hundred yards up the slope Thor stopped and turned. Again he reared
himself. Now Muskwa also faced to the north. A sudden downward drift of the
wind brought the barking of the dogs to them clearly.
Less than half a mile away Langdon's pack of trained Airedales were hot on
the scent. Their baying was filled with the fierce excitement which told
Bruce and Langdon, a quarter of a mile behind them, that they were close
upon their prey.
And even more than it thrilled them did the tongueing of the dogs thrill
Thor. Again it was instinct that told him a new enemy had come into his
world. He was not afraid. But that instinct urged him to retreat, and he
went higher until he came to a part of the mountain that was rough and
broken, where once more he halted.
This time he waited. Whatever the menace was it was drawing nearer with the
swiftness of the wind. He could hear it coming up the slope that sheltered
the basin from the valley.
The crest of that slope was just about on a level with Thor's eyes, and as
he looked the leader of the pack came up over the edge of it and stood for
a moment outlined against the sky. The others followed quickly, and for
perhaps thirty seconds they stood rigid on the cap of the hill, looking
down into the basin at their feet and sniffing the heavy scent with which
it was filled.
During those thirty seconds Thor watched his enemies without moving, while
in his deep chest there gathered slowly a low and terrible growl. Not until
the pack swept down into the cup of the mountain, giving full tongue again,
did he continue his retreat. But it was not flight. He was not afraid. He
was going on--because to go on was his business. He was not seeking
trouble; he had no desire even to defend his possession of the meadow and
the little lake under the mountain. There were other meadows and other
lakes, and he was not naturally a lover of fighting. But he was ready to
He continued to rumble ominously, and in him there was burning a slow and
sullen anger. He buried himself among the rocks; he followed a ledge with
Muskwa slinking close at his heels; he climbed over a huge scarp of rock,
and twisted among boulders half as big as houses. But not once did he go
where Muskwa could not easily follow. Once, when he drew himself from a
ledge to a projecting seam of sandstone higher up, and found that Muskwa
could not climb it, he came down and went another way.
The baying of the dogs was now deep down in the basin. Then it began to
rise swiftly, as if on wings, and Thor knew that the pack was coming up the
green slide. He stopped again, and this time the wind brought their scent
to him full and strong.
It was a scent that tightened every muscle in his great body and set
strange fires burning in him like raging furnaces. With the dogs came also
He travelled upward a little faster now, and the fierce and joyous yelping
of the dogs seemed scarcely a hundred yards away when he entered a small
open space in the wild upheaval of rock. On the mountainside was a wall
that rose perpendicularly. Twenty feet on the other side was a sheer fall
of a hundred feet, and the way ahead was closed with the exception of a
trail scarcely wider than Thor's body by a huge crag of rock that had
fallen from the shoulder of the mountain. The big grizzly led Muskwa close
up to this crag and the break that opened through it, and then turned
suddenly back, so that Muskwa was behind him. In the face of the peril that
was almost upon them a mother-bear would have driven Muskwa into the safety
of a crevice in the rock wall. Thor did not do this. He fronted the danger
that was coming, and reared himself up on his hind quarters.
Twenty feet away the trail he had followed swung sharply around a
projecting bulge in the perpendicular wall, and with eyes that were now
red and terrible Thor watched the trap he had set.
The pack was coming full tongue. Fifty yards beyond the bulge the dogs were
running shoulder to shoulder, and a moment later the first of them rushed
into the arena which Thor had chosen for himself. The bulk of the horde
followed so closely that the first dogs were flung under him as they strove
frantically to stop themselves in time.
With a roar Thor launched himself among them. His great right arm swept out
and inward, and it seemed to Muskwa that he had gathered a half of the pack
under his huge body. With a single crunch of his jaws he broke the back of
the foremost hunter. From a second he tore the head so that the windpipe
trailed out like a red rope.
He rolled himself forward, and before the remaining dogs could recover from
their panic he had caught one a blow that sent him flying over the edge of
the precipice to the rocks a hundred feet below. It had all happened in
half a minute, and in that half-minute the remaining nine dogs had
But Langdon's Airedales were fighters. To the last dog they had come of
fighting stock, and Bruce and Metoosin had trained them until they could be
hung up by their ears without whimpering. The tragic fate of three of their
number frightened them no more than their own pursuit had frightened Thor.
Swift as lightning they circled about the grizzly, spreading themselves on
their forefeet, ready to spring aside or backward to avoid sudden rushes,
and giving voice now to that quick, fierce yapping which tells hunters
their quarry is at bay. This was their business--to harass and torment, to
retard flight, to stop their prey again and again until their masters came
to finish the kill. It was a quite fair and thrilling sport for the bear
and the dogs. The man who comes up with the rifle ends it in murder.
But if the dogs had their tricks, Thor also had his. After three or four
vain rushes, in which the Airedales eluded him by their superior quickness,
he backed slowly toward the huge rock beside which Muskwa was crouching,
and as he retreated the dogs advanced.
Their increased barking and Thor's evident inability to drive them away or
tear them to pieces terrified Muskwa more than ever. Suddenly he turned
tail and darted into a crevice in the rock behind him.
Thor continued to back until his great hips touched the stone. Then he
swung his head side wise and looked for the cub. Not a hair of Muskwa was
to be seen. Twice Thor turned his head. After that, seeing that Muskwa was
gone, he continued to retreat until he blocked the narrow passage that was
his back door to safety.
The dogs were now barking like mad. They were drooling at their mouths,
their wiry crests stood up like brushes, and their snarling fangs were
bared to their red gums.
Nearer and nearer they came to him, challenging him to stay, to rush them,
to catch them if he could--and in their excitement they put ten yards of
open space behind them. Thor measured this space, as he had measured the
distance between him and the young bull caribou a few days before. And
then, without so much as a snarl of warning, he darted out upon his enemies
with a suddenness that sent them flying wildly for their lives.
Thor did not stop. He kept on. Where the rock wall bulged out the trail
narrowed to five feet, and he had measured this fact as well as the
distance. He caught the last dog, and drove it down under his paw. As it
was torn to pieces the Airedale emitted piercing cries of agony that
reached Bruce and Langdon as they hurried panting and wind-broken up the
slide that led from the basin.
Thor dropped on his belly in the narrowed trail, and as the pack broke
loose with fresh voice he continued to tear at his victim until the rock
was smeared with blood and hair and entrails. Then he rose to his feet and
looked again for Muskwa. The cub was curled up in a shivering ball two feet
in the crevice. It may be that Thor thought he had gone on up the mountain,
for he lost no time now in retreating from the scene of battle. He had
caught the wind again. Bruce and Langdon were sweating, and their smell
came to him strongly.
For ten minutes Thor paid no attention to the eight dogs yapping at his
heels, except to pause now and then and swing his head about. As he
continued in his retreat the Airedales became bolder, until finally one of
them sprang ahead of the rest and buried his fangs in the grizzly's leg.
This accomplished what barking had failed to do. With another roar Thor
turned and pursued the pack headlong for fifty yards over the back-trail,
and five precious minutes were lost before he continued upward toward the
shoulder of the mountain.
Had the wind been in another direction the pack would have triumphed, but
each time that Langdon and Bruce gained ground the wind warned Thor by
bringing to him the warm odour of their bodies. And the grizzly was careful
to keep that wind from the right quarter. He could have gained the top of
the mountain more easily and quickly by quartering the face of it on a
back-trail, but this would have thrown the wind too far under him. As long
as he held the wind he was safe, unless the hunters made an effort to
checkmate his method of escape by detouring and cutting him off.
It took him half an hour to reach the topmost ridge of rock, from which
point he would have to break cover and reveal himself as he made the last
two or three hundred yards up the shale side of the mountain to the
backbone of the range.
When Thor made this break he put on a sudden spurt of speed that left the
dogs thirty or forty yards behind him. For two or three minutes he was
clearly outlined on the face of the mountain, and during the last minute of
those three he was splendidly profiled against a carpet of pure-white snow,
without a shrub or a rock to conceal him from the eyes below.
Bruce and Langdon saw him at five hundred yards, and began firing. Close
over his head Thor heard the curious ripping wail of the first bullet, and
an instant later came the crack of the rifle.
A second shot sent up a spurt of snow five yards ahead of him. He swung
sharply to the right. This put him broadside to the marksmen. Thor heard a
third shot--and that was all.
While the reports were still echoing among the crags and peaks something
struck Thor a terrific blow on the flat of his skull, five inches back of
his right ear. It was as if a club had descended upon him from out of the
sky. He went down like a log.
It was a glancing shot. It scarcely drew blood, but for a moment it stunned
the grizzly, as a man is dazed by a blow on the end of the chin.
Before he could rise from where he had fallen the dogs were upon him,
tearing at his throat and neck and body. With a roar Thor sprang to his
feet and shook them off. He struck out savagely, and Langdon and Bruce
could hear his bellowing as they stood with fingers on the triggers of
their rifles waiting for the dogs to draw away far enough to give them the
Yard by yard Thor worked his way upward, snarling at the frantic pack,
defying the man-smell, the strange thunder, the burning lightning--even
death itself, and five hundred yards below Langdon cursed despairingly as
the dogs hung so close he could not fire.
Up to the very sky-line the blood-thirsting pack shielded Thor. He
disappeared over the summit. The dogs followed. And after that their baying
came fainter and fainter as the big grizzly led them swiftly away from the
menace of man in a long and thrilling race from which more than one was
doomed not to return.
In his hiding-place Muskwa heard the last sounds of the battle on the
ledge. The crevice was a V-shaped crack in the rock, and he had wedged
himself as far back in this as he could. He saw Thor pass the opening of
his refuge after he had killed the fourth dog; he heard the click, click,
click of his claws as he retreated up the trail; and at last he knew that
the grizzly was gone, and that the enemy had followed him.
Still he was afraid to come out. These strange pursuers that had come up
out of the valley had filled him with a deadly terror. Pipoonaskoos had not
made him afraid. Even the big black bear that Thor killed had not terrified
him as these red-lipped, white-fanged strangers had frightened him. So he
remained in his crevice, crowded as far back as he could get, like a wad
shoved in a gun-barrel.
He could still hear the tongueing of the dogs when other and nearer sounds
alarmed him. Langdon and Bruce came rushing around the bulge in the
mountain wall, and at sight of the dead dogs they stopped. Langdon cried
out in horror.
He was not more than twenty feet from Muskwa. For the first time the cub
heard human voices; for the first time the sweaty odour of men filled his
nostrils, and he scarcely breathed in his new fear. Then one of the hunters
stood directly in front of the crack in which he was hidden, and he saw his
first man. A moment later the men, too, were gone.
Later Muskwa heard the shots. After that the barking of the dogs grew more
and more distant until finally he could not hear them at all. It was about
three o'clock--the siesta hour in the mountains, and it was very quiet.
For a long time Muskwa did not move. He listened. And he heard nothing.
Another fear was growing in him now--the fear of losing Thor. With every
breath he drew he was hoping that Thor would return. For an hour he
remained wedged in the rock. Then he heard a _cheep, cheep, cheep_,
and a tiny striped rock-rabbit came out on the ledge where Muskwa could see
him and began cautiously investigating one of the slain Airedales. This
gave Muskwa courage. He pricked up his ears a bit. He whimpered softly, as
if beseeching recognition and friendship of the one tiny creature that was
near him in this dreadful hour of loneliness and fear.
Inch by inch he crawled out of his hiding-place. At last his little round,
furry head was out, and he looked about him. The trail was clear, and he
advanced toward the rock-rabbit. With a shrill chatter the striped mite
darted for its own stronghold, and Muskwa was alone again.
For a few moments he stood undecided, sniffing the air that was heavy with
the scent of blood, of man, and of Thor; then he turned up the mountain.
He knew Thor had gone in that direction, and if little Muskwa possessed a
mind and a soul they were filled with but one desire now--to overtake his
big friend and protector. Even fear of dogs and men, unknown quantities in
his life until to-day, was now overshadowed by the fear that he had lost
He did not need eyes to follow the trail. It was warm under his nose, and
he started in the zigzag ascent of the mountain as fast as he could go.
There were places where progress was difficult for his short legs, but he
kept on valiantly and hopefully, encouraged by Thor's fresh scent.
It took him a good hour to reach the beginning of the naked shale that
reached up to the belt of snow and the sky-line, and it was four o'clock
when he started up those last three hundred yards between him and the
mountain-top. Up there he believed he would find Thor. But he was afraid,
and he continued to whimper softly to himself as he dug his little claws
bravely into the shale.
Muskwa did not look up to the crest of the peak again after he had started.
To have done that it would have been necessary for him to stop and turn
sidewise, for the ascent was steep. And so, when Muskwa was halfway to the
top, it happened that he did not see Langdon and Bruce as they came over
the sky-line; and he could not smell them, for the wind was blowing up
instead of down. Oblivious of their presence he came to the snow-belt.
Joyously he smelled of Thor's huge footprints, and followed them. And above
him Bruce and Langdon waited, crouched low, their guns on the ground, and
each with his thick flannel shirt stripped off and held ready in his
hands. When Muskwa was less than twenty yards from them they came tearing
down upon him like an avalanche.
Not until Bruce was upon him did Muskwa recover himself sufficiently to
move. He saw and realized danger in the last fifth of a second, and as
Bruce flung himself forward, his shirt outspread like a net, Muskwa darted
to one side. Sprawling on his face, Bruce gathered up a shirtful of snow
and clutched it to his breast, believing for a moment that he had the cub,
and at this same instant Langdon made a drive that entangled him with his
friend's long legs and sent him turning somersaults down the snow-slide.
Muskwa bolted down the mountain as fast as his short legs could carry him.
In another second Bruce was after him, and Langdon joined in ten feet
Suddenly Muskwa made a sharp turn, and the momentum with which Bruce was
coming carried him thirty or forty feet below him, where the lanky
mountaineer stopped himself only by doubling up like a jack-knife and
digging toes, hands, elbows, and even his shoulders in the soft shale.
Langdon had switched, and was hot after Muskwa. He flung himself face
downward, shirt outspread, just as the cub made another turn, and when he
rose to his feet his face was scratched and he spat half a handful of dirt
and shale out of his mouth.
Unfortunately for Muskwa his second turn brought him straight down to
Bruce, and before he could turn again he was enveloped in sudden darkness
and suffocation, and over him there rang out a fiendish and triumphant
"I got 'im!" shouted Bruce.
Inside the shirt Muskwa scratched and bit and snarled, and Bruce was having
his hands full when Langdon ran down with the second shirt. Very shortly
Muskwa was trussed up like a papoose. His legs and his body were swathed so
tightly that he could not move them. His head was not covered. It was the
only part of him that showed, and the only part of him that he could move,
and it looked so round and frightened and funny that for a minute or two
Langdon and Bruce forgot their disappointments and losses of the day and
Then Langdon sat down on one side of Muskwa, and Bruce on the other, and
they filled and lighted their pipes. Muskwa could not even kick an
"A couple of husky hunters we are," said Langdon then. "Come out for a
grizzly and end up with that!"
He looked at the cub. Muskwa was eying him so earnestly that Langdon sat in
mute wonder for a moment, and then slowly took his pipe from his mouth and
stretched out a hand.
"Cubby, cubby, nice cubby," he cajoled softly.
Muskwa's tiny ears were perked forward. His bright eyes were like glass.
Bruce, unobserved by Langdon, was grinning expectantly.
"Cubby won't bite--no--no--nice little cubby--we won't hurt cubby--"
The next instant a wild yell startled the mountain-tops as Muskwa's
needle-like teeth sank into one of Langdon's fingers. Bruce's howls of joy
would have frightened game a mile away.
"You little devil!" gasped Langdon, and then, as he sucked his wounded
finger, he laughed with Bruce. "He's a sport--a dead game sport," he added.
"We'll call him Spitfire, Bruce. By George, I've wanted a cub like that
ever since I first came into the mountains. I'm going to take him home
with me! Ain't he a funny looking little cuss?"
Muskwa shifted his head, the only part of him that was not as stiffly
immovable as a mummy, and scrutinized Bruce. Langdon rose to his feet and
looked back to the sky-line. His face was set and hard.
"Four dogs!" he said, as if speaking to himself. "Three down below--and one
up there!" He was silent for a moment, and then said: "I can't understand
it, Bruce. They've cornered fifty bears for us, and until to-day we've
never lost a dog."
Bruce was looping a buckskin thong about Muskwa's middle, making of it a
sort of handle by which he could carry the cub as he would have conveyed a
pail of water or a slab of bacon. He stood up, and Muskwa dangled at the
end of his string.
"We've run up against a killer," he said. "An' a meat-killin' grizzly is
the worst animal on the face of the earth when it comes to a fight or a
hunt. The dogs'll never hold 'im, Jimmy, an' if it don't get dark pretty
soon there won't none of the bunch come back. They'll quit at dark--if
there's any left. The old fellow's got our wind, an' you can bet he knows
what knocked him down up there on the snow. He's hikin'--an' hikin' fast.
When we see 'im ag'in it'll be twenty miles from here."
Langdon went up for the guns. When he returned Bruce led the way down the
mountain, carrying Muskwa by the buckskin thong. For a few moments they
paused on the blood-stained ledge of rock where Thor had wreaked his
vengeance upon his tormentors. Langdon bent over the dog the grizzly had
"This is Biscuits," he said. "And we always thought she was the one coward
of the bunch. The other two are Jane and Tober; old Fritz is up on the
summit. Three of the best dogs we had, Bruce!"
Bruce was looking over the ledge. He pointed downward.
"There's another--pitched clean off the face o' the mount'in!" he gasped.
"Jimmy, that's five!"
Langdon's fists were clenched tightly as he stared over the edge of the
precipice. A choking sound came from his throat. Bruce understood its
meaning. From where they stood they could see a black patch on the
upturned breast of the dog a hundred feet under them. Only one of the pack
was marked like that. It was Langdon's favourite. He had made her a camp
"It's Dixie," he said. For the first time he felt a surge of anger sweep
through him, and his face was white as he turned back to the trail. "I've
got more than one reason for getting that grizzly now, Bruce," he added.
"Wild horses can't tear me away from these mountains until I kill him. I'll
stick until winter if I have to. I swear I'm going to kill him--if he
doesn't run away."
"He won't do that," said Bruce tersely, as he once more swung down the
trail with Muskwa.
Until now Muskwa had been stunned into submissiveness by what must have
appeared to him to be an utterly hopeless situation. He had strained every
muscle in his body to move a leg or a paw, but he was swathed as tightly as
Rameses had ever been. But now, however, it slowly dawned upon him that as
he dangled back and forth his face frequently brushed his enemy's leg, and
he still had the use of his teeth. He watched his opportunity, and this
came when Bruce took a long step down from a rock, thus allowing Muskwa's
body to rest for the fraction of a second on the surface of the stone from
which he was descending.
Quicker than a wink Muskwa took a bite. It was a good deep bite, and if
Langdon's howl had stirred the silences a mile away the yell which now
came from Bruce beat him by at least a half. It was the wildest, most
blood-curdling sound Muskwa had ever heard, even more terrible than the
barking of the dogs, and it frightened him so that he released his hold at
Then, again, he was amazed. These queer bipeds made no effort to
retaliate. The one he had bitten hopped up and down on one foot in a most
unaccountable manner for a minute or so, while the other sat down on a
boulder and rocked back and forth, with his hands on his stomach, and
made a queer, uproarious noise with his mouth wide open. Then the other
stopped his hopping and also made that queer noise.
It was anything but laughter to Muskwa. But it impinged upon him the truth
of one of two things: either these grotesque looking monsters did not dare
to fight him, or they were very peaceful and had no intention of harming
him. But they were more cautious thereafter, and as soon as they reached
the valley they carried him between them, strung on a rifle-barrel.
It was almost dark when they approached a clump of balsams red with the
glow of a fire. It was Muskwa's first fire. Also he saw his first horses,
terrific looking monsters even larger than Thor.
A third man--Metoosin, the Indian--came out to meet the hunters, and into
this creature's hands Muskwa found himself transferred. He was laid on his
side with the glare of the fire in his eyes, and while one of his captors
held him by both ears, and so tightly that it hurt, another fastened a
hobble-strap around his neck for a collar. A heavy halter rope was then
tied to the ring on this strap, and the end of the rope was fastened to a
During these operations Muskwa snarled and snapped as much as he could. In
another half-minute he was free of the shirts, and as he staggered on four
wobbly legs, from which all power of flight had temporarily gone, he bared
his tiny fangs and snarled as fiercely as he could.
To his further amazement this had no effect upon his strange company at
all, except that the three of them--even the Indian--opened their mouths
and joined in that loud and incomprehensible din, to which one of them
had given voice when he sank his teeth into his captor's leg on the
mountainside. It was all tremendously puzzling to Muskwa.
Greatly to Muskwa's relief the three men soon turned away from him and
began to busy themselves about the fire. This gave him a chance to escape,
and he pulled and tugged at the end of the rope until he nearly choked
himself to death. Finally he gave up in despair, and crumpling himself up
against the foot of the balsam he began to watch the camp.
He was not more than thirty feet from the fire. Bruce was washing his hands
in a canvas basin. Langdon was mopping his face with a towel. Close to the
fire Metoosin was kneeling, and from the big black skittle he was holding
over the coals came the hissing and sputtering of fat caribou steaks, and
about the pleasantest smell that had ever come Muskwa's way. The air all
about him was heavy with the aroma of good things.
When Langdon had finished drying his face he opened a can of something. It
was sweetened condensed milk. He poured the white fluid into a basin, and
came with it toward Muskwa. The cub had unsuccessfully attempted flight on
the ground until his neck was sore; now he climbed the tree. He went up so
quickly that Langdon was astonished, and he snarled and spat at the man as
the basin of milk was placed where he would almost fall into it when he
Muskwa remained at the end of his rope up the tree, and for a long time the
hunters paid no more attention to him. He could see them eating and he
could hear them talking as they planned a new campaign against Thor.
"We've got to trick him after what happened to-day," declared Bruce. "No
more tracking 'im after this, Jimmy. We can track until doomsday an' he'll
always know where we are." He paused for a moment and listened. "Funny the
dogs don't come," he said. "I wonder--"
He looked at Langdon.
"Impossible!" exclaimed the latter, as he read the significance of his
companion's look. "Bruce, you don't mean to say that bear might kill them
"I've hunted a good many grizzlies," replied the mountaineer quietly, "but
I ain't never hunted a trickier one than this. Jimmy, he trapped them dogs
on the ledge, an' he tricked the dog he killed up on the peak. He's liable
to get 'em all into a corner, an' if that happens--"
He shrugged his shoulders suggestively.
Again Langdon listened.
"If there were any alive at dark they should be here pretty soon," he said.
"I'm sorry, now--sorry we didn't leave the dogs at home."
Bruce laughed a little grimly.
"Fortunes o' war, Jimmy," he said. "You don't go hunting grizzlies with a
pack of lapdogs, an' you've got to expect to lose some of them sooner or
later. We've tackled the wrong bear, that's all. He's beat us."
"I mean he's beat us in a square game, an' we dealt a raw hand at that in
using dogs at all. Do you want that bear bad enough to go after him my
"What's your scheme?"
"You've got to drop pretty idees when you go grizzly hunting," began
Bruce. "And especially when you run up against a 'killer.' There won't be
any hour between now an' denning-up time that this grizzly doesn't get the
wind from all directions. How? He'll make detours. I'll bet if there was
snow on the ground you'd find him back-tracking two miles out of every six,
so he can get the wind of anything that's following him. An' he'll travel
mostly nights, layin' high up in the rocks an' shale during the day. If you
want any more shootin', there's just two things to do, an' the best of them
two things is to move on and find other bears."
"Which I won't do, Bruce. What's your scheme for getting this one?"
Bruce was silent for several moments before he replied.
"We've got his range mapped out to a mile," he said then. "It begins up at
the first break we crossed, an' it ends down here where we came into this
valley. It's about twenty-five miles up an' down. He don't touch the
mount'ins west of this valley nor the mount'ins east of the other valleys
an' he's dead certain to keep on makin' circles so long as we're after
him. He's hikin' southward now on the other side of the range.
"We'll lay here for a few days an' not move. Then we'll start Metoosin
through the valley over there with the dogs, if there's any left, and we'll
start south through this valley at the same time. One of us will keep to
the slopes an' the other to the bottom, an' we'll travel slow. Get the
"That grizzly won't leave his country, an' Metoosin is pretty near bound to
drive him around to us. We'll let him do the open hunting an' we'll skulk.
The bear can't get past us both without giving one of us shooting."
"It sounds good," agreed Langdon. "And I've got a lame knee that I'm not
unwilling to nurse for a few days."
Scarcely were the words out of Langdon's mouth when a sudden rattle of
hobble-chains and the startled snort of a grazing horse out in the meadow
brought them both to their feet.
"Utim!" whispered Metoosin, his dark face aglow in the firelight.
"You're right--the dogs," said Bruce, and he whistled softly.
They heard a movement in the brush near them, and a moment later two of
the dogs came into the firelight. They slunk in, half on their bellies, and
as they prostrated themselves at the hunters' feet a third and a fourth
They were not like the pack that had gone out that morning. There were deep
hollows in their sides; their wiry crests were flat; they were hard run,
and they knew that they were beaten. Their aggressiveness was gone, and
they had the appearance of whipped curs.
A fifth came in out of the night. He was limping, and dragging a torn
foreleg. The head and throat of one of the others was red with blood. They
all lay flat on their bellies, as if expecting condemnation.
"We have failed," their attitude said; "we are beaten, and this is all of
us that are left."
Mutely Bruce and Langdon stared at them. They listened--waited. No other
came. And then they looked at each other.
"Two more of them gone," said Langdon.
Bruce turned to a pile of panniers and canvases and pulled out the
dog-leashes. Up in his tree Muskwa was all atremble. Within a few yards of
him he saw again the white-fanged horde that had chased Thor and had
driven him into the rock-crevice. Of the men he was no longer greatly
afraid. They had attempted him no harm, and he had ceased to quake and
snarl when one of them passed near. But the dogs were monsters. They had
given battle to Thor. They must have beaten him, for Thor had run away.
The tree to which Muskwa was fastened was not much more than a sapling, and
he lay in the saddle of a crotch five feet from the ground when Metoosin
led one of the dogs past him. The Airedale saw him and made a sudden spring
that tore the leash from the Indian's hand. His leap carried him almost up
to Muskwa. He was about to make another spring when Langdon rushed forward
with a fierce cry, caught the dog by his collar, and with the end of the
leash gave him a sound beating. Then he led him away.
This act puzzled Muskwa more than ever. The man had saved him. He had
beaten the monster with the red mouth and the white fangs, and all of those
monsters were now being taken away at the end of ropes.
When Langdon returned he stopped close to Muskwa's tree and talked to him.
Muskwa allowed Langdon's hand to approach within six inches of him, and did
not snap at it. Then a strange and sudden thrill shot through him. While
his head was turned a little Langdon had boldly put his hand on his furry
back. And in the touch there was not hurt! His mother had never put her paw
on him as gently as that!
Half a dozen times in the next ten minutes Langdon touched him. For the
first three or four times Muskwa bared his two rows of shining teeth, but
he made no sound. Gradually he ceased even to bare his teeth.
Langdon left him then, and in a few moments he returned with a chunk of raw
caribou meat. He held this close to Muskwa's nose. Muskwa could smell it,
but he backed away from it, and at last Langdon placed it beside the basin
at the foot of the tree and returned to where Bruce was smoking.
"Inside of two days he'll be eating out of my hand," he said.
It was not long before the camp became very quiet. Langdon, Bruce, and the
Indian rolled themselves in their blankets and were soon asleep. The fire
burned lower and lower. Soon there was only a single smouldering log. An
owl hooted a little deeper in the timber. The drone of the valley and the
mountains filled the peaceful night. The stars grew brighter. Far away
Muskwa heard the rumbling of a boulder rolling down the side of a mountain.
There was nothing to fear now. Everything was still and asleep but himself,
and very cautiously he began to back down the tree. He reached the foot of
it, loosed his hold, and half fell into the basin of condensed milk, a part
of it slopping up over his face. Involuntarily he shot out his tongue and
licked his chops, and the sweet, sticky stuff that it gathered filled him
with a sudden and entirely unexpected pleasure. For a quarter of an hour he
licked himself. And then, as if the secret of this delightful ambrosia had
just dawned upon him, his bright little eyes fixed themselves covetously
upon the tin basin. He approached it with commendable strategy and caution,
circling first on one side of it and then on the other, every muscle in his
body prepared for a quick spring backward if it should make a jump for
him. At last his nose touched the thick, luscious feast in the basin, and
he did not raise his head again until the last drop of it was gone.
The condensed milk was the one biggest factor in the civilizing of Muskwa.
It was the missing link that connected certain things in his lively little
mind. He knew that the same hand that had touched him so gently had also
placed this strange and wonderful feast at the foot of his tree, and that
same hand had also offered him meat. He did not eat the meat, but he licked
the interior of the basin until it shone like a mirror in the starlight.
In spite of the milk, he was still filled with a desire to escape, though
his efforts were not as frantic and unreasoning as they had been.
Experience had taught him that it was futile to jump and tug at the end of
his leash, and now he fell to chewing at the rope. Had he gnawed in one
place he would probably have won freedom before morning, but when his jaws
became tired he rested, and when he resumed his work it was usually at a
fresh place in the rope. By midnight his gums were sore, and he gave up his
Humped close to the tree, ready to climb up it at the first sign of
danger, the cub waited for morning. Not a wink did he sleep. Even though he
was less afraid than he had been, he was terribly lonesome. He missed Thor,
and he whimpered so softly that the men a few yards away could not have
heard him had they been awake. If Pipoonaskoos had come into the camp then
he would have welcomed him joyfully.
Morning came, and Metoosin was the first out of his blankets. He built a
fire, and this roused Bruce and Langdon. The latter, after he had dressed
himself, paid a visit to Muskwa, and when he found the basin licked clean
he showed his pleasure by calling the others' attention to what had
Muskwa had climbed to his crotch in the tree, and again he tolerated the
stroking touch of Langdon's hand. Then Langdon brought forth another can
from a cowhide pannier and opened it directly under Muskwa, so that he
could see the creamy white fluid as it was turned into the basin. He held
the basin up to Muskwa, so close that the milk touched the cub's nose, and
for the life of him Muskwa could not keep his tongue in his mouth. Inside
of five minutes he was eating from the basin in Langdon's hand! But when
Bruce came up to watch the proceedings the cub bared all his teeth and
"Bears make better pets than dogs," affirmed Bruce a little later, when
they were eating breakfast. "He'll be following you around like a puppy in
a few days, Jimmy."
"I'm getting fond of the little cuss already," replied Langdon. "What was
that you were telling me about Jameson's bears, Bruce?"
"Jameson lived up in the Kootenay country," said Bruce. "Reg'lar hermit, I
guess you'd call him. Came out of the mountains only twice a year to get
grub. He made pets of grizzlies. For years he had one as big as this fellow
we're chasing. He got 'im when a cub, an 'when I saw him he weighed a
thousand pounds an' followed Jameson wherever he went like a dog. Even went
on his hunts with him, an 'they slept beside the same campfire. Jameson
loved bears, an' he'd never kill one."
Langdon was silent. After a moment he said: "And I'm beginning to love
them, Bruce. I don't know just why, but there's something about bears that
makes you love them. I'm not going to shoot many more--perhaps none after
we get this dog-killer we're after. I almost believe he will be my last
bear." Suddenly he clenched his hands, and added angrily: "And to think
there isn't a province in the Dominion or a state south of the Border that
has a 'closed season' for bear! It's an outrage, Bruce. They're classed
with vermin, and can be exterminated at all seasons. They can even be dug
out of their dens with their young--and--so help me Heaven!--I've helped to
dig them out! We're beasts, Bruce. Sometimes I almost think it's a crime
for a man to carry a gun. And yet--I go on killing."
"It's in our blood," laughed Bruce, unmoved. "Did you ever know a man,
Jimmy, that didn't like to see things die? Wouldn't every mother's soul of
'em go to a hanging if they had the chance? Won't they crowd like buzzards
round a dead horse to get a look at a man crushed to a pulp under a rock or
a locomotive engine? Why, Jimmie, if there weren't no law to be afraid of,
we humans'd be killing one another for the fun of it! We would. It's born
in us to want to kill."
"And we take it all out on brute creation," mused Langdon. "After all, we
can't have much sympathy for ourselves if a generation or two of us are
killed in war, can we? Mebby you're right, Bruce. Inasmuch as we can't kill
our neighbours legally whenever we have the inclination, it's possible the
Chief Arbiter of things sends us a war now and then to relieve us
temporarily of our blood-thirstiness. Hello, what in thunder is the cub up
Muskwa had fallen the wrong way out of his crotch and was dangling like the
victim at the end of a hangman's rope. Langdon ran to him, caught him
boldly in his bare hands, lifted him up over the limb and placed him on the
ground. Muskwa did not snap at him or even growl.
Bruce and Metoosin were away from camp all of that day, spying over the
range to the westward, and Langdon was left to doctor a knee which he had
battered against a rock the previous day. He spent most of his time in
company with Muskwa. He opened a can of their griddle-cake syrup and by
noon he had the cub following him about the tree and straining to reach the
dish which he held temptingly just out of reach. Then he would sit down,
and Muskwa would climb half over his lap to reach the syrup.
At his present age Muskwa's affection and confidence were easily won. A
baby black bear is very much like a human baby: he likes milk, he loves
sweet things, and he wants to cuddle up close to any living thing that is
good to him. He is the most lovable creature on four legs--round and soft
and fluffy, and so funny that he is sure to keep every one about him in
good humour. More than once that day Langdon laughed until the tears came,
and especially when Muskwa made determined efforts to climb up his leg to
reach the dish of syrup.
As for Muskwa, he had gone syrup mad. He could not remember that his mother
had ever given him anything like it, and Thor had produced nothing better
Late in the afternoon Langdon untied Muskwa's rope and led him for a stroll
down toward the creek. He carried the syrup dish and every few yards he
would pause and let the cub have a taste of its contents. After half an
hour of this manoeuvring he dropped his end of the leash entirely, and
walked campward. And Muskwa followed! It was a triumph, and in Langdon's
veins there pulsed a pleasurable thrill which his life in the open had
never brought to him before.
It was late when Metoosin returned, and he was quite surprised that Bruce
had not shown up. Darkness came, and they built up the fire. They were
finishing supper an hour later when Bruce came in, carrying something swung
over his shoulders. He tossed it close to where Muskwa was hidden behind
"A skin like velvet, and some meat for the dogs," he said. "I shot it with
He sat down and began eating. After a little Muskwa cautiously approached
the carcass that lay doubled up three or four feet from him. He smelled of
it, and a curious thrill shot through him. Then he whimpered softly as he
muzzled the soft fur, still warm with life. And for a time after that he
was very still.
For the thing that Bruce had brought into camp and flung at the foot of his
tree was the dead body of little Pipoonaskoos!
That night the big loneliness returned to Muskwa. Bruce and Metoosin were
so tired after their hard climb over the range that they went to bed early,
and Langdon followed them, leaving Pipoonaskoos where Bruce had first
Scarcely a move had Muskwa made after the discovery that had set his heart
beating a little faster. He did not know what death was, or what it meant,
and as Pipoonaskoos was so warm and soft he was sure that he would move
after a little. He had no inclination to fight him now.
Again it grew very, very still, and the stars filled the sky, and the fire
burned low. But Pipoonaskoos did not move. Gently at first, Muskwa began
nosing him and pulling at his silken hair, and as he did this he whimpered
softly, as if saying, "I don't want to fight you any more, Pipoonaskoos!
Wake up, and let's be friends!"
But still Pipoonaskoos did not stir, and at last Muskwa gave up all hope
of waking him. And still whimpering to his fat little enemy of the green
meadow how sorry he was that he had chased him, he snuggled close up to
Pipoonaskoos and in time went to sleep.
Langdon was first up in the morning, and when he came over to see how
Muskwa had fared during the night he suddenly stopped, and for a full
minute he stood without moving, and then a low, strange cry broke from his
lips. For Muskwa and Pipoonaskoos were snuggled as closely as they could
have snuggled had both been living, and in some way Muskwa had arranged it
so that one of the dead cub's little paws was embracing him.
Quietly Langdon returned to where Bruce was sleeping, and in a minute or
two Bruce returned with him, rubbing his eyes. And then he, too, stared,
and the men looked at each other.
"Dog meat," breathed Langdon. "You brought it home for dog meat, Bruce!"
Bruce did not answer, Langdon said nothing more, and neither talked very
much for a full hour after that. During that hour Metoosin came and dragged
Pipoonaskoos away, and instead of being skinned and fed to the dogs he was
put into a hole down in the creek-bottom and covered with sand and stones.
That much, at least, Bruce and Langdon did for Pipoonaskoos.
This day Metoosin and Bruce again went over the range. The mountaineer had
brought back with him bits of quartz in which were unmistakable signs of
gold, and they returned with an outfit for panning.
Langdon continued his education of Muskwa. Several times he took the cub
near the dogs, and when they snarled and strained at the ends of their
leashes he whipped them, until with quick understanding they gripped the
fact that Muskwa, although a bear, must not be harmed.
In the afternoon of this second day he freed the cub entirely from the
rope, and he had no difficulty in recapturing it when he wanted to tie it
up again. The third and fourth days Bruce and the Indian explored the
valley west of the range and convinced themselves finally that the
"colours" they found were only a part of the flood-drifts, and would not
lead to fortune.
On this fourth night, which happened to be thick with clouds, and chilly,
Langdon experimented by taking Muskwa to bed with him. He expected trouble.
But Muskwa was as quiet as a kitten, and once he found a proper nest for
himself he scarcely made a move until morning. A part of the night Langdon
slept with one of his hands resting on the cub's soft, warm body.
According to Bruce it was now time to continue the hunt for Thor, but a
change for the worse in Langdon's knee broke in upon their plans. It was
impossible for Langdon to walk more than a quarter of a mile at a time, and
the position he was compelled to take in the saddle caused him so much pain
that to prosecute the hunt even on horseback was out of the question.
"A few more days won't hurt any," consoled Bruce. "If we give the old
fellow a longer rest he may get a bit careless."
The three days that followed were not without profit and pleasure for
Langdon. Muskwa was teaching him more than he had ever known about bears,
and especially bear cubs, and he made notes voluminously.
The dogs were now confined to a clump of trees fully three hundred yards
from the camp, and gradually the cub was given his freedom. He made no
effort to run away, and he soon discovered that Bruce and Metoosin were
also his friends. But Langdon was the only one he would follow.
On the morning of the eighth day after their pursuit of Thor, Bruce and
Metoosin rode over into the eastward valley with the dogs. Metoosin was to
have a day's start, and Bruce planned to return to camp that afternoon so
that he and Langdon could begin their hunt up the valley the next day.
It was a glorious morning. A cool breeze came from the north and west, and
about nine o'clock Langdon fastened Muskwa to his tree, saddled a horse,
and rode down the valley. He had no intention of hunting. It was a joy
merely to ride and breathe in the face of that wind and gaze upon the
wonders of the mountains.
He travelled northward for three or four miles, until he came to a broad,
low slope that broke through the range to the westward. A desire seized
upon him to look over into the other valley, and as his knee was giving him
no trouble he cut a zigzag course upward that in half an hour brought him
almost to the top.
Here he came to a short, steep slide that compelled him to dismount and
continue on foot. At the summit he found himself on a level sweep of
meadow, shut in on each side of him by the bare rock walls of the split
mountains, and a quarter of a mile ahead he could see where the meadow
broke suddenly into the slope that shelved downward into the valley he was
Halfway over this quarter of a mile of meadow there was a dip into which he
could not see, and as he came to the edge of this he flung himself suddenly
upon his face and for a minute or two lay as motionless as a rock. Then he
slowly raised his head.
A hundred yards from him, gathered about a small water-hole in the hollow,
was a herd of goats. There were thirty or more, most of them Nannies with
young kids. Langdon could make out only two Billies in the lot. For half an
hour he lay still and watched them. Then one of the Nannies struck out with
her two kids for the side of the mountain; another followed, and seeing
that the whole band was about to move, Langdon rose quickly to his feet and
ran as fast as he could toward them.
For a moment Nannies, Billies, and little kids were paralyzed by his
sudden appearance. They faced half about and stood as if without the power
of flight until he had covered half the distance between t hem. Then their
wits seemed to return all at once, and they broke in a wild panic for the
side of the nearest mountain. Their hoofs soon began to clatter on boulder
and shale, and for another half-hour Langdon heard the hollow booming of
the rocks loosened by their feet high up among the crags and peaks. At the
end of that time they were infinitesimal white dots on the sky-line.
He went on, and a few minutes later looked down into the other valley.
Southward this valley was shut out from his vision by a huge shoulder of
rock. It was not very high, and he began to climb it. He had almost reached
the top when his toe caught in a piece of slate, and in falling he brought
his rifle down with tremendous force on a boulder.
He was not hurt, except for a slight twinge in his lame knee. But his gun
was a wreck. The stock was shattered close to the breech and a twist of his
hand broke it off entirely.
As he carried two extra rifles in his outfit the mishap did not disturb
Langdon as much as it might otherwise have done, and he continued to climb
over the rocks until he came to what appeared to be a broad, smooth ledge
leading around the sandstone spur of the mountain. A hundred feet farther
on he found that the ledge ended in a perpendicular wall of rock. From this
point, however, he had a splendid view of the broad sweep of country
between the two ranges to the south. He sat down, pulled out his pipe, and
prepared to enjoy the magnificent panorama under him while he was getting
Through his glasses he could see for miles, and what he looked upon was an
unhunted country. Scarcely half a mile away a band of caribou was filing
slowly across the bottom toward the green slopes to the west. He caught the
glint of many ptarmigan wings in the sunlight below. After a time, fully
two miles away, he saw sheep grazing on a thinly verdured slide.
He wondered how many valleys there were like this in the vast reaches of