This page contains affiliate links. As Amazon Associates we earn from qualifying purchases.
Language:
Form:
Genre:
Published:
  • 1914
Collection:
Buy it on Amazon Listen via Audible FREE Audible 30 days

cry of “_m’hoosh! m’hoosh! m’hoosh!”_

Trembling and undecided, the four huskies and the wolf-dog stood on the ridge with Gray Wolf cringing behind them. Not until man and dogs and sledge had disappeared did they move, and then they trotted down to the trail and sniffed at it whiningly and excitedly. For a mile or two they followed it, Kazan and his mates going fearlessly in the trail. Gray Wolf hung back, traveling twenty yards to the right of them, with the hot man-scent driving the blood feverishly through her brain. Only her love for Kazan–and the faith she still had in him–kept her that near.

At the edge of a swamp Kazan halted and turned away from the trail. With the desire that was growing in him there was still that old suspicion which nothing could quite wipe out–the suspicion that was an inheritance of his quarter-strain of wolf. Gray Wolf whined joyfully when he turned into the forest, and drew so close to him that her shoulder rubbed against Kazan’s as they traveled side by side.

The “slush” snows followed fast after this. And the “slush” snows meant spring–and the emptying of the wilderness of human life. Kazan and his mates soon began to scent the presence and the movement of this life. They were now within thirty miles of the post. For a hundred miles on all sides of them the trappers were moving in with their late winter’s catch of furs. From east and west, south and north, all trails led to the post. The pack was caught in the mesh of them. For a week not a day passed that they did not cross a fresh trail, and sometimes two or three.

Gray Wolf was haunted by constant fear. In her blindness she knew that they were surrounded by the menace of men. To Kazan what was coming to pass had more and more ceased to fill him with fear and caution. Three times that week he heard the shouts of men–and once he heard a white man’s laughter and the barking of dogs as their master tossed them their daily feed of fish. In the air he caught the pungent scent of camp-fires and one night, in the far distance, he heard a wild snatch of song, followed by the yelping and barking of a dog-pack.

Slowly and surely the lure of man drew him nearer to the post–a mile to-night, two miles to-morrow, but always nearer. And Gray Wolf, fighting her losing fight to the end, sensed in the danger-filled air the nearness of that hour when he would respond to the final call and she would be left alone.

These were days of activity and excitement at the fur company’s post, the days of accounting, of profit and of pleasure;–the days when the wilderness poured in its treasure of fur, to be sent a little later to London and Paris and the capitals of Europe. And this year there was more than the usual interest in the foregathering of the forest people. The plague had wrought its terrible havoc, and not until the fur-hunters had come to answer to the spring roll-call would it be known accurately who had lived and who had died.

The Chippewans and half-breeds from the south began to arrive first, with their teams of mongrel curs, picked up along the borders of civilization. Close after them came the hunters from the western barren lands, bringing with them loads of white fox and caribou skins, and an army of big-footed, long-legged Mackenzie hounds that pulled like horses and wailed like whipped puppies when the huskies and Eskimo dogs set upon them. Packs of fierce Labrador dogs, never vanquished except by death, came from close to Hudson’s Bay. Team after team of little yellow and gray Eskimo dogs, as quick with their fangs as were their black and swift-running masters with their hands and feet, met the much larger and dark-colored Malemutes from the Athabasca. Enemies of all these packs of fierce huskies trailed in from all sides, fighting, snapping and snarling, with the lust of killing deep born in them from their wolf progenitors.

There was no cessation in the battle of the fangs. It began with the first brute arrivals. It continued from dawn through the day and around the camp-fires at night. There was never an end to the strife between the dogs, and between the men and the dogs. The snow was trailed and stained with blood and the scent of it added greater fierceness to the wolf-breeds.

Half a dozen battles were fought to the death each day and night. Those that died were chiefly the south-bred curs–mixtures of mastiff, Great Dane, and sheep-dog–and the fatally slow Mackenzie hounds. About the post rose the smoke of a hundred camp-fires, and about these fires gathered the women and the children of the hunters. When the snow was no longer fit for sledging, Williams, the factor, noted that there were many who had not come, and the accounts of these he later scratched out of his ledgers knowing that they were victims of the plague.

At last came the night of the Big Carnival, For weeks and months women and children and men had been looking forward to this. In scores of forest cabins, in smoke-blackened tepees, and even in the frozen homes of the little Eskimos, anticipation of this wild night of pleasure had given an added zest to life. It was the Big Circus–the good time given twice each year by the company to its people.

This year, to offset the memory of plague and death, the factor had put forth unusual exertions. His hunters had killed four fat caribou. In the clearing there were great piles of dry logs, and in the center of all there rose eight ten-foot tree-butts crotched at the top; and from crotch to crotch there rested a stout sapling stripped of bark, and on each sapling was spitted the carcass of a caribou, to be roasted whole by the heat of the fire beneath. The fires were lighted at dusk, and Williams himself started the first of those wild songs of the Northland–the song of the caribou, as the flames leaped up into the dark night.

“Oh, ze cariboo-oo-oo, ze cariboo-oo-oo, He roas’ on high,
Jes’ under ze sky.
air-holes beeg white cariboo-oo-oo!”

“Now!” he yelled. “Now–all together!” And carried away by his enthusiasm, the forest people awakened from their silence of months, and the song burst forth in a savage frenzy that reached to the skies.

* * * * *

Two miles to the south and west that first thunder of human voice reached the ears of Kazan and Gray Wolf and the masterless huskies. And with the voices of men they heard now the excited howlings of dogs. The huskies faced the direction of the sounds, moving restlessly and whining. For a few moments Kazan stood as though carven of rock. Then he turned his head, and his first look was to Gray Wolf. She had slunk back a dozen feet and lay crouched under the thick cover of a balsam shrub. Her body, legs and neck were flattened in the snow. She made no sound, but her lips were drawn back and her teeth shone white.

Kazan trotted back to her, sniffed at her blind face and whined. Gray Wolf still did not move. He returned to the dogs and his jaws opened and closed with a snap. Still more clearly came the wild voice of the carnival, and no longer to be held back by Kazan’s leadership, the four huskies dropped their heads and slunk like shadows in its direction. Kazan hesitated, urging Gray Wolf. But not a muscle of Gray Wolf’s body moved. She would have followed him in face of fire but not in face of man. Not a sound escaped her ears. She heard the quick fall of Kazan’s feet as he left her. In another moment she knew that he was gone. Then–and not until then–did she lift her head, and from her soft throat there broke a whimpering cry.

It was her last call to Kazan. But stronger than that there was running through Kazan’s excited blood the call of man and of dog. The huskies were far in advance of him now and for a few moments he raced madly to overtake them. Then he slowed down until he was trotting, and a hundred yards farther on he stopped. Less than a mile away he could see where the flames of the great fires were reddening the sky. He gazed back to see if Gray Wolf was following and then went on until he struck an open and hard traveled trail. It was beaten with the footprints of men and dogs, and over it two of the caribou had been dragged a day or two before.

At last he came to the thinned out strip of timber that surrounded the clearing and the flare of the flames was in his eyes. The bedlam of sound that came to him now was like fire in his brain. He heard the song and the laughter of men, the shrill cries of women and children, the barking and snarling and fighting of a hundred dogs. He wanted to rush out and join them, to become again a part of what he had once been. Yard by yard he sneaked through the thin timber until he reached the edge of the clearing. There he stood in the shadow of a spruce and looked out upon life as he had once lived it, trembling, wistful and yet hesitating in that final moment.

A hundred yards away was the savage circle of men and dogs and fire. His nostrils were filled with the rich aroma of the roasting caribou, and as he crouched down, still with that wolfish caution that Gray Wolf had taught him, men with long poles brought the huge carcasses crashing down upon the melting snow about the fires. In one great rush the horde of wild revelers crowded in with bared knives, and a snarling mass of dogs closed in behind them. In another moment he had forgotten Gray Wolf, had forgotten all that man and the wild had taught him, and like a gray streak was across the open.

The dogs were surging back when he reached them, with half a dozen of the factor’s men lashing them in the faces with long caribou-gut whips. The sting of a lash fell in a fierce cut over an Eskimo dog’s shoulder, and in snapping at the lash his fangs struck Kazan’s rump. With lightning swiftness Kazan returned the cut, and in an instant the jaws of the dogs had met. In another instant they were down and Kazan had the Eskimo dog by the throat.

With shouts the men rushed in. Again and again their whips cut like knives through the air. Their blows fell on Kazan, who was uppermost, and as he felt the burning pain of the scourging whips there flooded through him all at once the fierce memory of the days of old–the days of the Club and the Lash. He snarled. Slowly he loosened his hold of the Eskimo dog’s throat. And then, out of the melee of dogs and men, there sprang another man–_with a club_! It fell on Kazan’s back and the force of it sent him flat into the snow. It was raised again. Behind the club there was a face–a brutal, fire-reddened face. It was such a face that had driven Kazan into the wild, and as the club fell again he evaded the full weight of its blow and his fangs gleamed like ivory knives. A third time the club was raised, and this time Kazan met it in mid-air, and his teeth ripped the length of the man’s forearm.

“Good God!” shrieked the man in pain, and Kazan caught the gleam of a rifle barrel as he sped toward the forest. A shot followed. Something like a red-hot coal ran the length of Kazan’s hip, and deep in the forest he stopped to lick at the burning furrow where the bullet had gone just deep enough to take the skin and hair from his flesh.

* * * * *

Gray Wolf was still waiting under the balsam shrub when Kazan returned to her. Joyously she sprang forth to meet him. Once more the man had sent back the old Kazan to her. He muzzled her neck and face, and stood for a few moments with his head resting across her back, listening to the distant sound.

Then, with ears laid flat, he set out straight into the north and west. And now Gray Wolf ran shoulder to shoulder with him like the Gray Wolf of the days before the dog-pack came; for that wonderful thing that lay beyond the realm of reason told her that once more she was comrade and mate, and that their trail that night was leading to their old home under the windfall.

CHAPTER XVII

HIS SON

It happened that Kazan was to remember three things above all others. He could never quite forget his old days in the traces, though they were growing more shadowy and indistinct in his memory as the summers and the winters passed. Like a dream there came to him a memory of the time he had gone down to Civilization. Like dreams were the visions that rose before him now and then of the face of the First Woman, and of the faces of masters who–to him–had lived ages ago. And never would he quite forget the Fire, and his fights with man and beast, and his long chases in the moonlight. But two things were always with him as if they had been but yesterday, rising clear and unforgetable above all others, like the two stars in the North that never lost their brilliance. One was Woman. The other was the terrible fight of that night on the top of the Sun Rock, when the lynx had blinded forever his wild mate, Gray Wolf. Certain events remain indelibly fixed in the minds of men; and so, in a not very different way, they remain in the minds of beasts. It takes neither brain nor reason to measure the depths of sorrow or of happiness. And Kazan in his unreasoning way knew that contentment and peace, a full stomach, and caresses and kind words instead of blows had come to him through Woman, and that comradeship in the wilderness–faith, loyalty and devotion–were a part of Gray Wolf. The third unforgetable thing was about to occur in the home they had found for themselves under the swamp windfall during the days of cold and famine.

They had left the swamp over a month before when it was smothered deep in snow. On the day they returned to it the sun was shining warmly in the first glorious days of spring warmth. Everywhere, big and small, there were the rushing torrents of melting snows and the crackle of crumbling ice, the dying cries of thawing rock and earth and tree, and each night for many nights past the cold pale glow of the aurora borealis had crept farther and farther toward the Pole in fading glory. So early as this the poplar buds had begun to swell and the air was filled with the sweet odor of balsam, spruce and cedar. Where there had been famine and death and stillness six weeks before, Kazan and Gray Wolf now stood at the edge of the swamp and breathed the earthy smells of spring, and listened to the sounds of life. Over their heads a pair of newly-mated moose-birds fluttered and scolded at them. A big jay sat pluming himself in the sunshine. Farther in they heard the crack of a stick broken under a heavy hoof. From the ridge behind them they caught the raw scent of a mother bear, busy pulling down the tender poplar buds for her six-weeks-old cubs, born while she was still deep in her winter sleep.

In the warmth of the sun and the sweetness of the air there breathed to Gray Wolf the mystery of matehood and of motherhood. She whined softly and rubbed her blind face against Kazan. For days, in her way, she tried to tell him. More than ever she wanted to curl herself up in that warm dry nest under the windfall. She had no desire to hunt. The crack of the dry stick under a cloven hoof and the warm scent of the she-bear and her cubs roused none of the old instincts in her. She wanted to curl herself up in the old windfall–and wait. And she tried hard to make Kazan understand her desire.

Now that the snow was gone they found that a narrow creek lay between them and the knoll on which the windfall was situated. Gray Wolf picked up her ears at the tumult of the little torrent. Since the day of the Fire, when Kazan and she had saved themselves on the sand-bar, she had ceased to have the inherent wolf horror of water. She followed fearlessly, even eagerly, behind Kazan as he sought a place where they could ford the rushing little stream. On the other side Kazan could see the big windfall. Gray Wolf could _smell_ it and she whined joyously, with her blind face turned toward it. A hundred yards up the stream a big cedar had fallen over it and Kazan began to cross. For a moment Gray Wolf hesitated, and then followed. Side by side they trotted to the windfall. With their heads and shoulders in the dark opening to their nest they scented the air long and cautiously. Then they entered. Kazan heard Gray Wolf as she flung herself down on the dry floor of the snug cavern. She was panting, not from exhaustion, but because she was filled with a sensation of contentment and happiness. In the darkness Kazan’s own jaws fell apart. He, too, was glad to get back to their old home. He went to Gray Wolf and, panting still harder, she licked his face. It had but one meaning. And Kazan understood.

For a moment he lay down beside her, listening, and eyeing the opening to their nest. Then he began to sniff about the log walls. He was close to the opening when a sudden fresh scent came to him, and he grew rigid, and his bristles stood up. The scent was followed by a whimpering, babyish chatter. A porcupine entered the opening and proceeded to advance in its foolish fashion, still chattering in that babyish way that has made its life inviolable at the hands of man. Kazan had heard that sound before, and like all other beasts had learned to ignore the presence of the innocuous creature that made it. But just now he did not stop to consider that what he saw was a porcupine and that at his first snarl the good-humored little creature would waddle away as fast as it could, still chattering baby talk to itself. His first reasoning was that it was a live thing invading the home to which Gray Wolf and he had just returned. A day later, or perhaps an hour later, he would have driven it back with a growl. Now he leaped upon it.

A wild chattering, intermingled with pig-like squeaks, and then a rising staccato of howls followed the attack. Gray Wolf sprang to the opening. The porcupine was rolled up in a thousand-spiked ball a dozen feet away, and she could hear Kazan tearing about in the throes of the direst agony that can befall a beast of the forests. His face and nose were a mat of quills. For a few moments he rolled and dug in the wet mold and earth, pawing madly at the things that pierced his flesh. Then he set off like all dogs will who have come into contact with the friendly porcupine, and raced again and again around the windfall, howling at every jump. Gray Wolf took the matter coolly. It is possible that at times there are moments of humor in the lives of animals. If so, she saw this one. She scented the porcupine and she knew that Kazan was full of quills. As there was nothing to do and nothing to fight she sat back on her haunches and waited, pricking up her ears every time Kazan passed her in his mad circuit around the windfall. At his fourth or fifth heat the porcupine smoothed itself down a little, and continuing the interrupted thread of its chatter waddled to a near-by poplar, climbed it and began to gnaw the tender bark from a limb.

At last Kazan halted before Gray Wolf. The first agony of a hundred little needles piercing his flesh had deadened into a steady burning pain. Gray Wolf went over to him and investigated him cautiously. With her teeth she seized the ends of two or three of the quills and pulled them out. Kazan was very much dog now. He gave a yelp, and whimpered as Gray Wolf jerked out a second bunch of quills. Then he flattened himself on his belly, stretched out his forelegs, closed his eyes, and without any other sound except an occasional yelp of pain allowed Gray Wolf to go on with the operation. Fortunately he had escaped getting any of the quills in his mouth and tongue. But his nose and jaws were soon red with blood. For an hour Gray Wolf kept faithfully at her task and by the end of that time had succeeded in pulling out most of the quills. A few still remained, too short and too deeply inbedded for her to extract with her teeth.

After this Kazan went down to the creek and buried his burning muzzle in the cold water. This gave him some relief, but only for a short time. The quills that remained worked their way deeper and deeper into his flesh, like living things. Nose and lips began to swell. Blood and saliva dripped from his mouth and his eyes grew red. Two hours after Gray Wolf had retired to her nest under the windfall a quill had completely pierced his lip and began to prick his tongue. In desperation Kazan chewed viciously upon a piece of wood. This broke and crumpled the quill, and destroyed its power to do further harm. Nature had told him the one thing to do to save himself. Most of that day he spent in gnawing at wood and crunching mouthfuls of earth and mold between his jaws. In this way the barb-toothed points of the quills were dulled and broken as they came through. At dusk he crawled under the windfall, and Gray Wolf gently licked his muzzle with her soft cool tongue. Frequently during the night Kazan went to the creek and found relief in its ice-cold water.

The next day he had what the forest people call “porcupine mumps.” His face was swollen until Gray Wolf would have laughed if she had been human, and not blind. His chops bulged like cushions. His eyes were mere slits. When he went out into the day he blinked, for he could see scarcely better than his sightless mate. But the pain was mostly gone. The night that followed he began to think of hunting, and the next morning before it was yet dawn he brought a rabbit into their den. A few hours later he would have brought a spruce partridge to Gray Wolf, but just as he was about to spring upon his feathered prey the soft chatter of a porcupine a few yards away brought him to a sudden stop. Few things could make Kazan drop his tail. But that inane and incoherent prattle of the little spiked beast sent him off at double-quick with his tail between his legs. As man abhors and evades the creeping serpent, so Kazan would hereafter evade this little creature of the forests that never in animal history has been known to lose its good-humor or pick a quarrel.

Two weeks of lengthening days, of increasing warmth, of sunshine and hunting, followed Kazan’s adventure with the porcupine. The last of the snow went rapidly. Out of the earth began to spring tips of green. The _bakneesh_ vine glistened redder each day, the poplar buds began to split, and in the sunniest spots, between the rocks of the ridges the little white snow-flowers began to give a final proof that spring had come. For the first of those two weeks Gray Wolf hunted frequently with Kazan. They did not go far. The swamp was alive with small game and each day or night they killed fresh meat. After the first week Gray Wolf hunted less. Then came the soft and balmy night, glorious in the radiance of a full spring moon when she refused to leave the windfall. Kazan did not urge her. Instinct made him understand, and he did not go far from the windfall that night in his hunt. When he returned he brought a rabbit.

Came then the night when from the darkest corner of the windfall Gray Wolf warned him back with a low snarl. He stood in the opening, a rabbit between his jaws. He took no offense at the snarl, but stood for a moment, gazing into the gloom where Gray Wolf had hidden herself. Then he dropped the rabbit and lay down squarely in the opening. After a little he rose restlessly and went outside. But he did not leave the windfall. It was day when he reentered. He sniffed, as he had sniffed once before a long time ago, between the boulders at the top of the Sun Rock. That which was in the air was no longer a mystery to him. He came nearer and Gray Wolf did not snarl. She whined coaxingly as he touched her. Then his muzzle found something else. It was soft and warm and made a queer little sniffling sound. There was a responsive whine in his throat, and in the darkness came the quick soft caress of Gray Wolf’s tongue. Kazan returned to the sunshine and stretched himself out before the door of the windfall. His jaws dropped open, for he was filled with a strange contentment.

CHAPTER XVIII

THE EDUCATION OF BA-REE

Robbed once of the joys of parenthood by the murder on the Sun Rock, both Gray Wolf and Kazan were different from what they would have been had the big gray lynx not come into their lives at that time. As if it were but yesterday they remembered the moonlit night when the lynx brought blindness to Gray Wolf and destroyed her young, and when Kazan had avenged himself and his mate in his terrible fight to the death with their enemy. And now, with that soft little handful of life snuggling close up against her, Gray Wolf saw through her blind eyes the tragic picture of that night more vividly than ever and she quivered at every sound, ready to leap in the face of an unseen foe, to rend all flesh that was not the flesh of Kazan. And ceaselessly, the slightest sound bringing him to his feet, Kazan watched and guarded. He mistrusted the moving shadows. The snapping of a twig drew back his upper lip. His fangs gleamed menacingly when the soft air brought a strange scent. In him, too, the memory of the Sun Rock, the death of their first young and the blinding of Gray Wolf, had given birth to a new instinct. Not for an instant was he off his guard. As surely as one expects the sun to rise so did he expect that sooner or later their deadly enemy would creep on them from out of the forest. In another hour such as this the lynx had brought death. The lynx had brought blindness. And so day and night he waited and watched for the lynx to come again. And woe unto any other creature of flesh and blood that dared approach the windfall in these first days of Gray Wolf’s motherhood!

But peace had spread its wings of sunshine and plenty over the swamp. There were no intruders, unless the noisy whisky-jacks, the big-eyed moose-birds, the chattering bush sparrows, and the wood-mice and ermine could be called such. After the first day or two Kazan went more frequently into the windfall, and though more than once he nosed searchingly about Gray Wolf he could find only the one little pup. A little farther west the Dog-Ribs would have called the pup Ba-ree for two reasons–because he had no brothers or sisters, and because he was a mixture of dog and wolf. He was a sleek and lively little fellow from the beginning, for there was no division of mother strength and attention. He developed with the true swiftness of the wolf-whelp, and not with the slowness of the dog-pup.

For three days he was satisfied to cuddle close against his mother, feeding when he was hungry, sleeping a great deal and preened and laundered almost constantly by Gray Wolf’s affectionate tongue. From the fourth day he grew busier and more inquisitive with every hour. He found his mother’s blind face, with tremendous effort he tumbled over her paws, and once he lost himself completely and sniffled for help when he rolled fifteen or eighteen inches away from her. It was not long after this that he began to recognize Kazan as a part of his mother, and he was scarcely more than a week old when he rolled himself up contentedly between Kazan’s forelegs and went to sleep. Kazan was puzzled. Then with a deep sigh Gray Wolf laid her head across one of her mate’s forelegs, with her nose touching her runaway baby, and seemed vastly contented. For half an hour Kazan did not move.

When he was ten days old Ba-ree discovered there was great sport in tussling with a bit of rabbit fur. It was a little later when he made his second exciting discovery–light and sunshine. The sun had now reached a point where in the middle of the afternoon a bright gleam of it found its way through an overhead opening in the windfall. At first Ba-ree would only stare at the golden streak. Then came the time when he tried to play with it as he played with the rabbit fur. Each day thereafter he went a little nearer the opening through which Kazan passed from the windfall into the big world outside. Finally came the time when he reached the opening and crouched there, blinking and frightened at what he saw, and now Gray Wolf no longer tried to hold him back but went out into the sunshine and tried to call him to her. It was three days before his weak eyes had grown strong enough to permit his following her, and very quickly after that Ba-ree learned to love the sun, the warm air, and the sweetness of life, and to dread the darkness of the closed-in den where he had been born.

That this world was not altogether so nice as it at first appeared he was very soon to learn. At the darkening signs of an approaching storm one day Gray Wolf tried to lure him back under the windfall. It was her first warning to Ba-ree and he did not understand. Where Gray Wolf failed, nature came to teach a first lesson. Ba-ree was caught in a sudden deluge of rain. It flattened him out in pure terror and he was drenched and half drowned before Gray Wolf caught him between her jaws and carried him into shelter. One by one after this the first strange experiences of life came to him, and one by one his instincts received their birth. Greatest for him of the days to follow was that on which his inquisitive nose touched the raw flesh of a freshly killed and bleeding rabbit. It was his first taste of blood. It was sweet. It filled him with a strange excitement and thereafter he knew what it meant when Kazan brought in something between his jaws. He soon began to battle with sticks in place of the soft fur and his teeth grew as hard and as sharp as little needles.

The Great Mystery was bared to him at last when Kazan brought in between his jaws, a big rabbit that was still alive but so badly crushed that it could not run when dropped to the ground. Ba-ree had learned to know what rabbits and partridges meant–the sweet warm blood that he loved better even than he had ever loved his mother’s milk. But they had come to him dead. He had never seen one of the monsters alive. And now the rabbit that Kazan dropped to the ground, kicking and struggling with a broken back, sent Ba-ree back appalled. For a few moments he wonderingly watched the dying throes of Kazan’s prey. Both Kazan and Gray Wolf seemed to understand that this was to be Ba-ree’s first lesson in his education as a slaying and flesh-eating creature, and they stood close over the rabbit, making no effort to end its struggles. Half a dozen times Gray Wolf sniffed at the rabbit and then turned her blind face toward Ba-ree. After the third or fourth time Kazan stretched himself out on his belly a few feet away and watched the proceedings attentively. Each time that Gray Wolf lowered her head to muzzle the rabbit Ba-ree’s little ears shot up expectantly. When he saw that nothing happened and that his mother was not hurt he came a little nearer. Soon he could reach out, stiff-legged and cautious, and touch the furry thing that was not yet dead.

In a last spasmodic convulsion the big rabbit doubled up its rear legs and gave a kick that sent Ba-ree sprawling back, yelping in terror. He regained his feet and then, for the first time, anger and the desire to retaliate took possession of him. The kick had completed his first education. He came back with less caution, but stiffer-legged, and a moment later had dug his tiny teeth in the rabbit’s neck. He could feel the throb of life in the soft body, the muscles of the dying rabbit twitched convulsively under him, and he hung with his teeth until there was no longer a tremor of life in his first kill. Gray Wolf was delighted. She caressed Ba-ree with her tongue, and even Kazan condescended to sniff approvingly of his son when he returned to the rabbit. And never before had warm sweet blood tasted so good to Ba-ree as it did to-day.

Swiftly Ba-ree developed from a blood-tasting into a flesh-eating animal. One by one the mysteries of life were unfolded to him–the mating-night chortle of the gray owl, the crash of a falling tree, the roll of thunder, the rush of running water, the scream of a fisher-cat, the mooing of the cow moose, and the distant call of his tribe. But chief of all these mysteries that were already becoming a part of his instinct was the mystery of scent. One day he wandered fifty yards away from the windfall and his little nose touched the warm scent of a rabbit. Instantly, without reasoning or further process of education, he knew that to get at the sweet flesh and blood which he loved he must follow the scent. He wriggled slowly along the trail until he came to a big log, over which the rabbit had vaulted in a long leap, and from this log he turned back. Each day after this he went on adventures of his own. At first he was like an explorer without a compass in a vast and unknown world. Each day he encountered something new, always wonderful, frequently terrifying. But his terrors grew less and less and his confidence correspondingly greater. As he found that none of the things he feared did him any harm he became more and more bold in his investigations. And his appearance was changing, as well as his view of things. His round roly-poly body was taking a different form. He became lithe and quick. The yellow of his coat darkened, and there was a whitish-gray streak along his back like that along Kazan’s. He had his mother’s under-throat and her beautiful grace of head. Otherwise he was a true son of Kazan. His limbs gave signs of future strength and massiveness. He was broad across the chest. His eyes were wide apart, with a little red in the lower corners. The forest people know what to expect of husky pups who early develop that drop of red. It is a warning that they are born of the wild and that their mothers, or fathers, are of the savage hunt-packs. In Ba-ree that tinge of red was so pronounced that it could mean but one thing. While he was almost half dog, the wild had claimed him forever.

Not until the day of his first real battle with a living creature did Ba-ree come fully into his inheritance. He had gone farther than usual from the windfall–fully a hundred yards. Here he found a new wonder. It was the creek. He had heard it before and he had looked down on it from afar–from a distance of fifty yards at least. But to-day he ventured going to the edge of it, and there he stood for a long time, with the water rippling and singing at his feet, gazing across it into the new world that he saw. Then he moved cautiously along the stream. He had not gone a dozen steps when there was a furious fluttering close to him, and one of the fierce big-eyed jays of the Northland was directly in his path. It could not fly. One of its wings dragged, probably broken in a struggle with some one of the smaller preying beasts. But for an instant it was a most startling and defiant bit of life to Ba-ree.

Then the grayish crest along his back stiffened and he advanced. The wounded jay remained motionless until Ba-ree was within three feet of it. In short quick hops it began to retreat. Instantly Ba-ree’s indecision had flown to the four winds. With one sharp excited yelp he flew at the defiant bird. For a few moments there was a thrilling race, and Ba-ree’s sharp little teeth buried themselves in the jay’s feathers. Swift as a flash the bird’s beak began to strike. The jay was the king of the smaller birds. In nesting season it killed the brush sparrows, the mild-eyed moose-birds, and the tree-sappers. Again and again it struck Ba-ree with its powerful beak, but the son of Kazan had now reached the age of battle and the pain of the blows only made his own teeth sink deeper. At last he found the flesh; and a puppyish snarl rose in his throat. Fortunately he had gained a hold under the wing and after the first dozen blows the jay’s resistance grew weaker. Five minutes later Ba-ree loosened his teeth and drew back a step to look at the crumpled and motionless creature before him. The jay was dead. He had won his first battle. And with victory came the wonderful dawning of that greatest instinct of all, which told him that no longer was he a drone in the marvelous mechanism of wilderness life–but a part of it from this time forth. _For he had killed_.

Half an hour later Gray Wolf came down over his trail. The jay was torn into bits. Its feathers were scattered about and Ba-ree’s little nose was bloody. Ba-ree was lying in triumph beside his victim. Swiftly Gray Wolf understood and caressed him joyously. When they returned to the windfall Ba-ree carried in his jaws what was left of the jay.

From that hour of his first kill hunting became the chief passion of Ba-ree’s life. When he was not sleeping in the sun, or under the windfall at night, he was seeking life that he could destroy. He slaughtered an entire family of wood-mice. Moose-birds were at first the easiest for him to stalk, and he killed three. Then he encountered an ermine and the fierce little white outlaw of the forests gave him his first defeat. Defeat cooled his ardor for a few days, but taught him the great lesson that there were other fanged and flesh-eating animals besides himself and that nature had so schemed things that fang must not prey upon fang–_for food_. Many things had been born in him. Instinctively he shunned the porcupine without experiencing the torture of its quills. He came face to face with a fisher-cat one day, a fortnight after his fight with the ermine. Both were seeking food, and as there was no food between them to fight over, each went his own way.

Farther and farther Ba-ree ventured from the windfall, always following the creek. Sometimes he was gone for hours. At first Gray Wolf was restless when he was away, but she seldom went with him and after a time her restlessness left her. Nature was working swiftly. It was Kazan who was restless now. Moonlight nights had come and the wanderlust was growing more and more insistent in his veins. And Gray Wolf, too, was filled with the strange longing to roam at large out into the big world.

Came then the afternoon when Ba-ree went on his longest hunt. Half a mile away he killed his first rabbit. He remained beside it until dusk. The moon rose, big and golden, flooding the forests and plains and ridges with a light almost like that of day. It was a glorious night. And Ba-ree found the moon, and left his kill. And the direction in which he traveled _was away from the windfall_.

All that night Gray Wolf watched and waited. And when at last the moon was sinking into the south and west she settled back on her haunches, turned her blind face to the sky and sent forth her first howl since the day Ba-ree was born. Nature had come into her own. Far away Ba-ree heard, but he did not answer. A new world was his. He had said good-by to the windfall–and home.

CHAPTER XIX

THE USURPERS

It was that glorious season between spring and summer, when the northern nights were brilliant with moon and stars, that Kazan and Gray Wolf set up the valley between the two ridges on a long hunt. It was the beginning of that _wanderlust_ which always comes to the furred and padded creatures of the wilderness immediately after the young-born of early spring have left their mothers to find their own way in the big world. They struck west from their winter home under the windfall in the swamp. They hunted mostly at night and behind them they left a trail marked by the partly eaten carcasses of rabbits and partridges. It was the season of slaughter and not of hunger. Ten miles west of the swamp they killed a fawn. This, too, they left after a single meal. Their appetites became satiated with warm flesh and blood. They grew sleek and fat and each day they basked longer in the warm sunshine. They had few rivals. The lynxes were in the heavier timber to the south. There were no wolves. Fisher-cat, marten and mink were numerous along the creek, but these were neither swift-hunting nor long-fanged. One day they came upon an old otter. He was a giant of his kind, turning a whitish gray with the approach of summer. Kazan, grown fat and lazy, watched him idly. Blind Gray Wolf sniffed at the fishy smell of him in the air. To them he was no more than a floating stick, a creature out of their element, along with the fish, and they continued on their way not knowing that this uncanny creature with the coal-like flappers was soon to become their ally in one of the strange and deadly feuds of the wilderness, which are as sanguinary to animal life as the deadliest feuds of men are to human life.

The day following their meeting with the otter Gray Wolf and Kazan continued three miles farther westward, still following the stream. Here they encountered the interruption to their progress which turned them over the northward ridge. The obstacle was a huge beaver dam. The dam was two hundred yards in width and flooded a mile of swamp and timber above it. Neither Gray Wolf nor Kazan was deeply interested in beavers. They also moved out of their element, along with the fish and the otter and swift-winged birds.

So they turned into the north, not knowing that nature had already schemed that they four–the dog, wolf, otter and beaver–should soon be engaged in one of those merciless struggles of the wild which keep animal life down to the survival of the fittest, and whose tragic histories are kept secret under the stars and the moon and the winds that tell no tales.

For many years no man had come into this valley between the two ridges to molest the beaver. If a Sarcee trapper had followed down the nameless creek and had caught the patriarch and chief of the colony, he would at once have judged him to be very old and his Indian tongue would have given him a name. He would have called him Broken Tooth, because one of the four long teeth with which he felled trees and built dams was broken off. Six years before Broken Tooth had led a few beavers of his own age down the stream, and they had built their first small dam and their first lodge. The following April Broken Tooth’s mate had four little baby beavers, and each of the other mothers in the colony increased the population by two or three or four. At the end of the fourth year this first generation of children, had they followed the usual law of nature, would have mated and left the colony to build a dam and lodges of their own. They mated, but did not emigrate.

The next year the second generation of children, now four years old, mated but did not leave, so that in this early summer of the sixth year the colony was very much like a great city that had been long besieged by an enemy. It numbered fifteen lodges and over a hundred beavers, not counting the fourth babies which had been born during March and April. The dam had been lengthened until it was fully two hundred yards in length. Water had been made to flood large areas of birch and poplar and tangled swamps of tender willow and elder. Even with this food was growing scarce and the lodges were overcrowded. This was because beavers are almost human in their love for home. Broken Tooth’s lodge was fully nine feet long by seven wide inside, and there were now living in it children and grandchildren to the number of twenty-seven. For this reason Broken Tooth was preparing to break the precedent of his tribe. When Kazan and Gray Wolf sniffed carelessly at the strong scents of the beaver city, Broken Tooth was marshaling his family, and two of his sons and their families, for the exodus.

As yet Broken Tooth was the recognized leader in the colony. No other beaver had grown to his size and strength. His thick body was fully three feet long. He weighed at least sixty pounds. His tail was fourteen inches in length and five in width, and on a still night he could strike the water a blow that could be heard a quarter of a mile away. His webbed hindfeet were twice as large as his mate’s and he was easily the swiftest swimmer in the colony.

Following the afternoon when Gray Wolf and Kazan struck into the north came the clear still night when Broken Tooth climbed to the top of the dam, shook himself, and looked down to see that his army was behind him. The starlit water of the big pond rippled and flashed with the movement of many bodies. A few of the older beavers clambered up after Broken Tooth and the old patriarch plunged down into the narrow stream on the other side of the dam. Now the shining silken bodies of the emigrants followed him in the starlight. In ones and twos and threes they climbed over the dam and with them went a dozen children born three months before. Easily and swiftly they began the journey down-stream, the youngsters swimming furiously to keep up with their parents. In all they numbered forty. Broken Tooth swam well in the lead, with his older workers and battlers behind him. In the rear followed mothers and children.

All of that night the journey continued. The otter, their deadliest enemy–deadlier even than man–hid himself in a thick clump of willows as they passed. Nature, which sometimes sees beyond the vision of man, had made him the enemy of these creatures that were passing his hiding-place in the night. A fish-feeder, he was born to be a conserver as well as a destroyer of the creatures on which he fed. Perhaps nature told him that too many beaver dams stopped the run of spawning fish and that where there were many beavers there were always few fish. Maybe he reasoned as to why fish-hunting was poor and he went hungry. So, unable to cope singly with whole tribes of his enemies, he worked to destroy their dams. How this, in turn, destroyed the beavers will be seen in the feud in which nature had already schemed that he should play a part with Kazan and Gray Wolf.

A dozen times during this night Broken Tooth halted to investigate the food supplies along the banks. But in the two or three places where he found plenty of the bark on which they lived it would have been difficult to have constructed a dam. His wonderful engineering instincts rose even above food instincts. And when each time he moved onward, no beaver questioned his judgment by remaining behind. In the early dawn they crossed the burn and came to the edge of the swamp domain of Kazan and Gray Wolf. By right of discovery and possession that swamp belonged to the dog and the wolf. In every part of it they had left their mark of ownership. But Broken Tooth was a creature of the water and the scent of his tribe was not keen. He led on, traveling more slowly when they entered the timber. Just below the windfall home of Kazan and Gray Wolf he halted, and clambering ashore balanced himself upright on his webbed hindfeet and broad four-pound tail. Here he had found ideal conditions. A dam could be constructed easily across the narrow stream, and the water could be made to flood a big supply of poplar, birch, willow and alder. Also the place was sheltered by heavy timber, so that the winters would be warm. Broken Tooth quickly gave his followers to understand that this was to be their new home. On both sides of the stream they swarmed into the near-by timber. The babies began at once to nibble hungrily at the tender bark of willow and alder. The older ones, every one of them now a working engineer, investigated excitedly, breakfasting by nibbling off a mouthful of bark now and then.

That day the work of home-building began. Broken Tooth himself selected a big birch that leaned over the stream, and began the work of cutting through the ten-inch butt with his three long teeth. Though the old patriarch had lost one tooth, the three that remained had not deteriorated with age. The outer edge of them was formed of the hardest enamel; the inner side was of soft ivory. They were like the finest steel chisels, the enamel never wearing away and the softer ivory replacing itself year by year as it was consumed. Sitting on his hindlegs, with his forepaws resting against the tree and with his heavy tail giving him a firm balance, Broken Tooth began gnawing a narrow ring entirely around the tree. He worked tirelessly for several hours, and when at last he stopped to rest another workman took up the task. Meanwhile a dozen beavers were hard at work cutting timber. Long before Broken Tooth’s tree was ready to fall across the stream, a smaller poplar crashed into the water. The cutting on the big birch was in the shape of an hour-glass. In twenty hours it fell straight across the creek. While the beaver prefers to do most of his work at night he is a day-laborer as well, and Broken Tooth gave his tribe but little rest during the days that followed. With almost human intelligence the little engineers kept at their task. Smaller trees were felled, and these were cut into four or five foot lengths. One by one these lengths were rolled to the stream, the beavers pushing them with their heads and forepaws, and by means of brush and small limbs they were fastened securely against the birch. When the framework was completed the wonderful cement construction was begun. In this the beavers were the masters of men. Dynamite was the only force that could hereafter break up what they were building now. Under their cup-like chins the beavers brought from the banks a mixture of mud and fine twigs, carrying from half a pound to a pound at a load and began filling up the framework with it. Their task seemed tremendous, and yet Broken Tooth’s engineers could carry a ton of this mud and twig mixture during a day and night. In three days the water was beginning to back, until it rose about the butts of a dozen or more trees and was flooding a small area of brush. This made work easier. From now on materials could be cut in the water and easily floated. While a part of the beaver colony was taking advantage of the water, others were felling trees end to end with the birch, laying the working frame of a dam a hundred feet in width.

They had nearly accomplished this work when one morning Kazan and Gray Wolf returned to the swamp.

CHAPTER XX

A FEUD IN THE WILDERNESS

A soft wind blowing from the south and east brought the scent of the invaders to Gray Wolf’s nose when they were still half a mile away. She gave the warning to Kazan and he, too, found the strange scent in the air. It grew stronger as they advanced. When two hundred yards from the windfall they heard the sudden crash of a falling tree, and stopped. For a full minute they stood tense and listening. Then the silence was broken by a squeaking cry, followed by a splash. Gray Wolf’s alert ears fell back and she turned her blind face understandingly toward Kazan. They trotted ahead slowly, approaching the windfall from behind. Not until they had reached the top of the knoll on which it was situated did Kazan begin to see the wonderful change that had taken place during their absence. Astounded, they stood while he stared. There was no longer a little creek below them. Where it had been was a pond that reached almost to the foot of the knoll. It was fully a hundred feet in width and the backwater had flooded the trees and bush for five or six times that distance toward the burn. They had come up quietly and Broken Tooth’s dull-scented workers were unaware of their presence. Not fifty feet away Broken Tooth himself was gnawing at the butt of a tree. An equal distance to the right of him four or five of the baby beavers were at play building a miniature dam of mud and tiny twigs. On the opposite side of the pond was a steep bank six or seven feet high, and here a few of the older children–two years old, but still not workmen–were having great fun climbing the bank and using it as a toboggan-slide. It was their splashing that Kazan and Gray Wolf had heard. In a dozen different places the older beavers were at work.

A few weeks before Kazan had looked upon a similar scene when he had returned into the north from Broken Tooth’s old home. It had not interested him then. But a quick and thrilling change swept through him now. The beavers had ceased to be mere water animals, uneatable and with an odor that displeased him. They were invaders–and enemies. His fangs bared silently. His crest stiffened like the hair of a brush, and the muscles of his forelegs and shoulders stood out like whipcords. Not a sound came from him as he rushed down upon Broken Tooth. The old beaver was oblivious of danger until Kazan was within twenty feet of him. Naturally slow of movement on land, he stood for an instant stupefied. Then he swung down from the tree as Kazan leaped upon him. Over and over they rolled to the edge of the bank, carried on by the dog’s momentum. In another moment the thick heavy body of the beaver had slipped like oil from under Kazan and Broken Tooth was safe in his element, two holes bitten clean through his fleshy tail. Baffled in his effort to get a death-hold on Broken Tooth, Kazan swung like a flash to the right. The young beavers had not moved. Astonished and frightened at what they had seen, they stood as if stupefied. Not until they saw Kazan tearing toward them did they awaken to action. Three of them reached the water. The fourth and fifth–baby beavers not more than three months old–were too late. With a single snap of his jaw Kazan broke the hack of one. The other he pinned down by the throat and shook as a terrier shakes a rat. When Gray Wolf trotted down to him both of the little beavers were dead. She sniffed at their soft little bodies and whined. Perhaps the baby creatures reminded her of runaway Ba-ree, her own baby, for there was a note of longing in her whine as she nosed them. It was the mother whine.

But if Gray Wolf had visions of her own Kazan understood nothing of them. He had killed two of the creatures that had dared to invade their home. To the little beavers he had been as merciless as the gray lynx that had murdered Gray Wolf’s first children on the top of the Sun Rock. Now that he had sunk his teeth into the flesh of his enemies his blood was filled with a frenzied desire to kill. He raved along the edge of the pond, snarling at the uneasy water under which Broken Tooth had disappeared. All of the beavers had taken refuge in the pond, and its surface was heaving with the passing of many bodies beneath. Kazan came to the end of the dam. This was new. Instinctively he knew that it was the work of Broken Tooth and his tribe and for a few moments he tore fiercely at the matted sticks and limbs. Suddenly there was an upheaval of water close to the dam, fifty feet out from the bank, and Broken Tooth’s big gray head appeared. For a tense half minute Broken Tooth and Kazan measured each other at that distance. Then Broken Tooth drew his wet shining body out of the water to the top of the dam, and squatted flat, facing Kazan. The old patriarch was alone. Not another beaver had shown himself.

The surface of the pond had now become quiet. Vainly Kazan tried to discover a footing that would allow him to reach the watchful invader. But between the solid wall of the dam and the bank there was a tangled framework through which the water rushed with some violence. Three times Kazan fought to work his way through that tangle, and three times his efforts ended in sudden plunges into the water. All this time Broken Tooth did not move. When at last Kazan gave up the attack the old engineer slipped over the edge of the dam and disappeared under the water. He had learned that Kazan, like the lynx, could not fight water and he spread the news among the members of his colony.

Gray Wolf and Kazan returned to the windfall and lay down in the warm sun. Half an hour later Broken Tooth drew himself out on the opposite shore of the pond. He was followed by other beavers. Across the water they resumed their work as if nothing had happened. The tree-cutters returned to their trees. Half a dozen worked in the water, carrying loads of cement and twigs. The middle of the pond was their dead-line. Across this not one of them passed. A dozen times during the hour that followed one of the beavers swam up to the dead-line, and rested there, looking at the shining little bodies of the babies that Kazan had killed. Perhaps it was the mother, and perhaps some finer instinct unknown to Kazan told this to Gray Wolf. For Gray Wolf went down twice to sniff at the dead bodies, and each time–without seeing–she went when the mother beaver had come to the dead-line.

The first fierce animus had worn itself from Kazan’s blood, and he now watched the beavers closely. He had learned that they were not fighters. They were many to one and yet they ran from him like a lot of rabbits. Broken Tooth had not even struck at him, and slowly it grew upon him that these invading creatures that used both the water and land would have to be hunted as he stalked the rabbit and the partridge. Early in the afternoon he slipped off into the bush, followed by Gray Wolf. He had often begun the stalking of a rabbit by moving _away_ from it and he employed this wolf trick now with the beavers. Beyond the windfall he turned and began trotting up the creek, with the wind. For a quarter of a mile the creek was deeper than it had ever been. One of their old fording places was completely submerged, and at last Kazan plunged in and swam across, leaving Gray Wolf to wait for him on the windfall side of the stream.

Alone he made his way quickly in the direction of the dam, traveling two hundred yards back from the creek. Twenty yards below the dam a dense thicket of alder and willow grew close to the creek and Kazan took advantage of this. He approached within a leap or two of the dam without being seen and crouched close to the ground, ready to spring forth when the opportunity came. Most of the beavers were now working in the water. The four or five still on shore were close to the water and some distance up-stream. After a wait of several minutes Kazan was almost on the point of staking everything on a wild rush upon his enemies when a movement on the dam attracted his attention. Half-way out two or three beavers were at work strengthening the central structure with cement. Swift as a flash Kazan darted from his cover to the shelter behind the dam. Here the water was very shallow, the main portion of the stream finding a passage close to the opposite shore. Nowhere did it reach to his belly as he waded out. He was completely hidden from the beavers, and the wind was in his favor. The noise of running water drowned what little sound he made. Soon he heard the beaver workmen over him. The branches of the fallen birch gave him a footing, and he clambered up.

A moment later his head and shoulders appeared above the top of the dam. Scarce an arm’s length away Broken Tooth was forcing into place a three-foot length of poplar as big around as a man’s arm. He was so busy that he did not hear or see Kazan. Another beaver gave the warning as he plunged into the pond. Broken Tooth looked up, and his eyes met Kazan’s bared fangs. There was no time to turn. He threw himself back, but it was a moment too late. Kazan was upon him. His long fangs sank deep into Broken Tooth’s neck. But the old beaver had thrown himself enough back to make Kazan lose his footing. At the same moment his chisel-like teeth got a firm hold of the loose skin at Kazan’s throat. Thus clinched, with Kazan’s long teeth buried almost to the beaver’s jugular, they plunged down into the deep water of the pond.

Broken Tooth weighed sixty pounds. The instant he struck the water he was in his element, and holding tenaciously to the grip he had obtained on Kazan’s neck he sank like a chunk of iron. Kazan was pulled completely under. The water rushed into his mouth, his ears, eyes and nose. He was blinded, and his senses were a roaring tumult. But instead of struggling to free himself he held his breath and buried his teeth deeper. They touched the soft bottom and for a moment floundered in the mud. Then Kazan loosened his hold. He was fighting for his own life now–and not for Broken Tooth’s. With all of the strength of his powerful limbs he struggled to break loose–to rise to the surface, to fresh air, to life. He clamped his jaws shut, knowing that to breathe was to die. On land he could have freed himself from Broken Tooth’s hold without an effort. But under water the old beaver’s grip was more deadly than would have been the fangs of a lynx ashore. There was a sudden swirl of water as a second beaver circled close about the struggling pair. Had he closed in with Broken Tooth, Kazan’s struggles would quickly have ceased.

But nature had not foreseen the day when Broken Tooth would be fighting with fang. The old patriarch had no particular reason now for holding Kazan down. He was not vengeful. He did not thirst for blood or death. Finding that he was free, and that this strange enemy that had twice leaped upon him could do him no harm, he loosed his hold. It was not a moment too soon for Kazan. He was struggling weakly when he rose to the surface of the water. Three-quarters drowned, he succeeded in raising his forepaws over a slender branch that projected from the dam. This gave him time to fill his lungs with air, and to cough forth the water that had almost ended his existence. For ten minutes he clung to the branch before he dared attempt the short swim ashore. When he reached the bank he dragged himself up weakly. All the strength was gone from his body. His limbs shook. His jaws hung loose. He was beaten–completely beaten. And a creature without a fang had worsted him. He felt the abasement of it. Drenched and slinking, he went to the windfall, lay down in the sun, and waited for Gray Wolf.

Days followed in which Kazan’s desire to destroy his beaver enemies became the consuming passion of his life. Each day the dam became more formidable. Cement work in the water was carried on by the beavers swiftly and safely. The water in the pond rose higher each twenty-four hours, and the pond grew steadily wider. The water had now been turned into the depression that encircled the windfall, and in another week or two, if the beavers continued their work, Kazan’s and Gray Wolf’s home would be nothing more than a small island in the center of a wide area of submerged swamp.

Kazan hunted only for food now, and not for pleasure. Ceaselessly he watched his opportunity to leap upon incautious members of Broken Tooth’s tribe. The third day after the struggle under the water he killed a big beaver that approached too close to the willow thicket. The fifth day two of the young beavers wandered into the flooded depression back of the windfall and Kazan caught them in shallow water and tore them into pieces. After these successful assaults the beavers began to work mostly at night. This was to Kazan’s advantage, for he was a night-hunter. On each of two consecutive nights he killed a beaver. Counting the young, he had killed seven when the otter came.

Never had Broken Tooth been placed between two deadlier or more ferocious enemies than the two that now assailed him. On shore Kazan was his master because of his swiftness, keener scent, and fighting trickery. In the water the otter was a still greater menace. He was swifter than the fish that he caught for food. His teeth were like steel needles. He was so sleek and slippery that it would have been impossible for them to hold him with their chisel-like teeth could they have caught him. The otter, like the beaver, possessed no hunger for blood. Yet in all the Northland he was the greatest destroyer of their kind–an even greater destroyer than man. He came and passed like a plague, and it was in the coldest days of winter that greatest destruction came with him. In those days he did not assault the beavers in their snug houses. He did what man could do only with dynamite–made an embrasure through their dam. Swiftly the water would fall, the surface ice would crash down, and the beaver houses would be left out of water. Then followed death for the beavers–starvation and cold. With the protecting water gone from about their houses, the drained pond a chaotic mass of broken ice, and the temperature forty or fifty degrees below zero, they would die within a few hours. For the beaver, with his thick coat of fur, can stand less cold than man. Through all the long winter the water about his home is as necessary to him as fire to a child.

But it was summer now and Broken Tooth and his colony had no very great fear of the otter. It would cost them some labor to repair the damage he did, but there was plenty of food and it was warm. For two days the otter frisked about the dam and the deep water of the pond. Kazan took him for a beaver, and tried vainly to stalk him. The otter regarded Kazan suspiciously and kept well out of his way. Neither knew that the other was an ally. Meanwhile the beavers continued their work with greater caution. The water in the pond had now risen to a point where the engineers had begun the construction of three lodges. On the third day the destructive instinct of the otter began its work. He began to examine the dam, close down to the foundation. It was not long before he found a weak spot to begin work on, and with his sharp teeth and small bullet-like head he commenced his drilling operations. Inch by inch he worked his way through the dam, burrowing and gnawing over and under the timbers, and always through the cement. The round hole he made was fully seven inches in diameter. In six hours he had cut it through the five-foot base of the dam.

A torrent of water began to rush from the pond as if forced out by a hydraulic pump. Kazan and Gray Wolf were hiding in the willows on the south side of the pond when this happened. They heard the roar of the stream tearing through the embrasure and Kazan saw the otter crawl up to the top of the dam and shake himself like a huge water-rat. Within thirty minutes the water in the pond had fallen perceptibly, and the force of the water pouring through the hole was constantly increasing the outlet. In another half hour the foundations of the three lodges, which had been laid in about ten inches of water, stood on mud. Not until Broken Tooth discovered that the water was receding from the houses did he take alarm. He was thrown into a panic, and very soon every beaver in the colony tearing excitedly about the pond. They swam swiftly from shore to shore, paying no attention to the dead-line now. Broken Tooth and the older workmen made for the dam, and with a snarling cry the otter plunged down among them and out like a flash for the creek above the pond. Swiftly the water continued to fall and as it fell the excitement of the beavers increased. They forgot Kazan and Gray Wolf.

Several of the younger members of the colony drew themselves ashore on the windfall side of the pond, and whining softly Kazan was about to slip back through the willows when one of the older beavers waddled up through the deepening mud close on his ambush. In two leaps Kazan was upon him, with Gray Wolf a leap behind him. The short fierce struggle in the mud was seen by the other beavers and they crossed swiftly to the opposite side of the pond. The water had receded to a half of its greatest width before Broken Tooth and his workmen discovered the breach in the wall of the dam. The work of repair was begun at once. For this work sticks and brush of considerable size were necessary, and to reach this material the beavers were compelled to drag their heavy bodies through the ten or fifteen yards of soft mud left by the falling water. Peril of fang no longer kept them back. Instinct told them that they were fighting for their existence–that if the embrasure were not filled up and the water kept in the pond they would very soon be completely exposed to their enemies. It was a day of slaughter for Gray Wolf and Kazan. They killed two more beavers in the mud close to the willows. Then they crossed the creek below the dam and cut off three beavers in the depression behind the windfall. There was no escape for these three. They were torn into pieces. Farther up the creek Kazan caught a young beaver and killed it.

Late in the afternoon the slaughter ended. Broken Tooth and his courageous engineers had at last repaired the breach, and the water in the pond began to rise.

Half a mile up the creek the big otter was squatted on a log basking in the last glow of the setting sun. To-morrow he would go and do over again his work of destruction. That was his method. For him it was play.

But that strange and unseen arbiter of the forests called O-ee-ki, “the Spirit,” by those who speak the wild tongue, looked down at last with mercy upon Broken Tooth and his death-stricken tribe. For in that last glow of sunset Kazan and Gray Wolf slipped stealthily up the creek–to find the otter basking half asleep on the log.

The day’s work, a full stomach, and the pool of warm sunlight in which he lay had all combined to make the otter sleepy. He was as motionless as the log on which he had stretched himself. He was big and gray and old. For ten years he had lived to prove his cunning superior to that of man. Vainly traps had been set for him. Wily trappers had built narrow sluice-ways of rock and tree in small streams for him, but the old otter had foiled their cunning and escaped the steel jaws waiting at the lower end of each sluice. The trail he left in soft mud told of his size. A few trappers had seen him. His soft pelt would long ago have found its way to London, Paris or Berlin had it not been for his cunning. He was fit for a princess, a duke or an emperor. For ten years he had lived and escaped the demands of the rich.

But this was summer. No trapper would have killed him now, for his pelt was worthless. Nature and instinct both told him this. At this season he did not dread man, for there was no man to dread. So he lay asleep on the log, oblivious to everything but the comfort of sleep and the warmth of the sun.

Soft-footed, searching still for signs of the furry enemies who had invaded their domain, Kazan slipped along the creek. Gray Wolf ran close at his shoulder. They made no sound, and the wind was in their favor–bringing scents toward them. It brought the otter smell. To Kazan and Gray Wolf it was the scent of a water animal, rank and fishy, and they took it for the beaver. They advanced still more cautiously. Then Kazan saw the big otter asleep on the log and he gave the warning to Gray Wolf. She stopped, standing with her head thrown up, while Kazan made his stealthy advance. The otter stirred uneasily. It was growing dusk. The golden pool of sunlight had faded away. Back in the darkening timber an owl greeted night with its first-low call. The otter breathed deeply. His whiskered muzzle twitched. He was awakening–stirring–when Kazan leaped upon him. Face to face, in fair fight, the old otter could have given a good account of himself. But there was no chance now. The wild itself had for the first time in his life become his deadliest enemy. It was not man now–but O-ee-ki, “the Spirit,” that had laid its hand upon him. And from the Spirit there was no escape. Kazan’s fangs sank into his soft jugular. Perhaps he died without knowing what it was that had leaped upon him. For he died–quickly, and Kazan and Gray Wolf went on their way, hunting still for enemies to slaughter, and not knowing that in the otter they had killed the one ally who would have driven the beavers from their swamp home.

The days that followed grew more and more hopeless for Kazan and Gray Wolf. With the otter gone Broken Tooth and his tribe held the winning hand. Each day the water backed a little farther into the depression surrounding the windfall. By the middle of July only a narrow strip of land connected the windfall hummock with the dry land of the swamp. In deep water the beavers now worked unmolested. Inch by inch the water rose, until there came the day when it began to overflow the connecting strip. For the last time Kazan and Gray Wolf passed from their windfall home and traveled up the stream between the two ridges. The creek held a new meaning for them now and as they traveled they sniffed its odors and listened to its sounds with an interest they had never known before. It was an interest mingled a little with fear, for something in the manner in which the beavers had beaten them reminded Kazan and Gray Wolf of _man_. And that night, when in the radiance of the big white moon they came within scent of the beaver colony that Broken Tooth had left, they turned quickly northward into the plains. Thus had brave old Broken Tooth taught them to respect the flesh and blood and handiwork of his tribe.

CHAPTER XXI

A SHOT ON THE SAND-BAR

July and August of 1911 were months of great fires in the Northland. The swamp home of Kazan and Gray Wolf, and the green valley between the two ridges, had escaped the seas of devastating flame; but now, as they set forth on their wandering adventures again, it was not long before their padded feet came in contact with the seared and blackened desolation that had followed so closely after the plague and starvation of the preceding winter. In his humiliation and defeat, after being driven from his swamp home by the beavers, Kazan led his blind mate first into the south. Twenty miles beyond the ridge they struck the fire-killed forests. Winds from Hudson’s Bay had driven the flames in an unbroken sea into the west, and they had left not a vestige of life or a patch of green. Blind Gray Wolf could not see the blackened world, but she _sensed_ it. It recalled to her memory of that other fire, after the battle on the Sun Rock; and all of her wonderful instincts, sharpened and developed by her blindness, told her that to the north–and not south–lay the hunting-grounds they were seeking. The strain of dog that was in Kazan still pulled him south. It was not because he sought man, for to man he had now become as deadly an enemy as Gray Wolf herself. It was simply dog instinct to travel southward; in the face of fire it was wolf instinct to travel northward. At the end of the third day Gray Wolf won. They recrossed the little valley between the two ridges, and swung north and west into the Athabasca country, striking a course that would ultimately bring them to the headwaters of the McFarlane River.

Late in the preceding autumn a prospector had come up to Fort Smith, on the Slave River, with a pickle bottle filled with gold dust and nuggets. He had made the find on the McFarlane. The first mails had taken the news to the outside world, and by midwinter the earliest members of a treasure-hunting horde were rushing into the country by snow-shoe and dog-sledge. Other finds came thick and fast. The McFarlane was rich in free gold, and miners by the score staked out their claims along it and began work. Latecomers swung to new fields farther north and east, and to Fort Smith came rumors of “finds” richer than those of the Yukon. A score of men at first–then a hundred, five hundred, a thousand–rushed into the new country. Most of these were from the prairie countries to the south, and from the placer beds of the Saskatchewan and the Frazer. From the far North, traveling by way of the Mackenzie and the Liard, came a smaller number of seasoned prospectors and adventurers from the Yukon–men who knew what it meant to starve and freeze and die by inches.

One of these late comers was Sandy McTrigger. There were several reasons why Sandy had left the Yukon. He was “in bad” with the police who patrolled the country west of Dawson, and he was “broke.” In spite of these facts he was one of the best prospectors that had ever followed the shores of the Klondike. He had made discoveries running up to a million or two, and had promptly lost them through gambling and drink. He had no conscience, and little fear. Brutality was the chief thing written in his face. His undershot jaw, his wide eyes, low forehead and grizzly mop of red hair proclaimed him at once as a man not to be trusted beyond one’s own vision or the reach of a bullet. It was suspected that he had killed a couple of men, and robbed others, but as yet the police had failed to get anything “on” him. But along with this bad side of him, Sandy McTrigger possessed a coolness and a courage which even his worst enemies could not but admire, and also certain mental depths which his unpleasant features did not proclaim.

Inside of six months Red Gold City had sprung up on the McFarlane, a hundred and fifty miles from Fort Smith, and Fort Smith was five hundred miles from civilization. When Sandy came he looked over the crude collection of shacks, gambling houses and saloons in the new town, and made up his mind that the time was not ripe for any of his “inside” schemes just yet. He gambled a little, and won sufficient to buy himself grub and half an outfit. A feature of this outfit was an old muzzle-loading rifle. Sandy, who always carried the latest Savage on the market, laughed at it. But it was the best his finances would allow of. He started south–up the McFarlane. Beyond a certain point on the river prospectors had found no gold. Sandy pushed confidently _beyond_ this point. Not until he was in new country did he begin his search. Slowly he worked his way up a small tributary whose headwaters were fifty or sixty miles to the south and east. Here and there he found fairly good placer gold. He might have panned six or eight dollars’ worth a day. With this much he was disgusted. Week after week he continued to work his way up-stream, and the farther he went the poorer his pans became. At last only occasionally did he find colors. After such disgusting weeks as these Sandy was dangerous–when in the company of others. Alone he was harmless.

One afternoon he ran his canoe ashore on a white strip of sand. This was at a bend, where the stream had widened, and gave promise of at least a few colors. He had bent down close to the edge of the water when something caught his attention on the wet sand. What he saw were the footprints of animals. Two had come down to drink. They had stood side by side. And the footprints were fresh–made not more than an hour or two before. A gleam of interest shot into Sandy’s eyes. He looked behind him, and up and down the stream.

“Wolves,” he grunted. “Wish I could ‘a’ shot at ’em with that old minute-gun back there. Gawd–listen to that! And in broad daylight, too!”

He jumped to his feet, staring off into the bush.

A quarter of a mile away Gray Wolf had caught the dreaded scent of man in the wind, and was giving voice to her warning. It was a long wailing howl, and not until its last echoes had died away did Sandy McTrigger move. Then he returned to the canoe, took out his old gun, put a fresh cap on the nipple and disappeared quickly over the edge of the bank.

For a week Kazan and Gray Wolf had been wandering about the headwaters of the McFarlane and this was the first time since the preceding winter that Gray Wolf had caught the scent of man in the air. When the wind brought the danger-signal to her she was alone. Two or three minutes before the scent came to her Kazan had left her side in swift pursuit of a snow-shoe rabbit, and she lay flat on her belly under a bush, waiting for him. In these moments when she was alone Gray Wolf was constantly sniffing the air. Blindness had developed her scent and hearing until they were next to infallible. First she had heard the rattle of Sandy McTrigger’s paddle against the side of his canoe a quarter of a mile away. Scent had followed swiftly. Five minutes after her warning howl Kazan stood at her side, his head flung up, his jaws open and panting. Sandy had hunted Arctic foxes, and he was using the Eskimo tactics now, swinging in a half-circle until he should come up in the face of the wind. Kazan caught a single whiff of the man-tainted air and his spine grew stiff. But blind Gray Wolf was keener than the little red-eyed fox of the North. Her pointed nose slowly followed Sandy’s progress. She heard a dry stick crack under his feet three hundred yards away. She caught the metallic click of his gun-barrel as it struck a birch sapling. The moment she lost Sandy in the wind she whined and rubbed herself against Kazan and trotted a few steps to the southwest.

At times such as this Kazan seldom refused to take guidance from her. They trotted away side by side and by the time Sandy was creeping up snake-like with the wind in his face, Kazan was peering from the fringe of river brush down upon the canoe on the white strip of sand. When Sandy returned, after an hour of futile stalking, two fresh tracks led straight down to the canoe. He looked at them in amazement and then a sinister grin wrinkled his ugly face. He chuckled as he went to his kit and dug out a small rubber bag. From this he drew a tightly corked bottle, filled with gelatine capsules. In each little capsule were five grains of strychnine. There were dark hints that once upon a time Sandy McTrigger had tried one of these capsules by dropping it in a cup of coffee and giving it to a man, but the police had never proved it. He was expert in the use of poison. Probably he had killed a thousand foxes in his time, and he chuckled again as he counted out a dozen of the capsules and thought how easy it would be to get this inquisitive pair of wolves. Two or three days before he had killed a caribou, and each of the capsules he now rolled up in a little ball of deer fat, doing the work with short sticks in place of his fingers, so that there would be no man-smell clinging to the death-baits. Before sundown Sandy set out at right-angles over the plain, planting the baits. Most of them he hung to low bushes. Others he dropped in worn rabbit and caribou trails. Then he returned to the creek and cooked his supper.

Then next morning he was up early, and off to the poison baits. The first bait was untouched. The second was as he had planted it. The third was gone. A thrill shot through Sandy as he looked about him. Somewhere within a radius of two or three hundred yards he would find his game. Then his glance fell to the ground under the bush where he had hung the poison capsule and an oath broke from his lips. The bait had not been eaten. The caribou fat lay scattered under the bush and still imbedded in the largest portion of it was the little white capsule–unbroken. It was Sandy’s first experience with a wild creature whose instincts were sharpened by blindness, and he was puzzled. He had never known this to happen before. If a fox or a wolf could be lured to the point of touching a bait, it followed that the bait was eaten. Sandy went on to the fourth and the fifth baits. They were untouched. The sixth was torn to pieces, like the third. In this instance the capsule was broken and the white powder scattered. Two more poison baits Sandy found pulled down in this manner. He knew that Kazan and Gray Wolf had done the work, for he found the marks of their feet in a dozen different places. The accumulated bad humor of weeks of futile labor found vent in his disappointment and anger. At last he had found something tangible to curse. The failure of his poison baits he accepted as a sort of climax to his general bad luck. Everything was against him, he believed, and he made up his mind to return to Red Gold City. Early in the afternoon he launched his canoe and drifted down-stream with the current. He was content to let the current do all of the work to-day, and he used his paddle just enough to keep his slender craft head on. He leaned back comfortably and smoked his pipe, with the old rifle between his knees. The wind was in his face and he kept a sharp watch for game.

It was late in the afternoon when Kazan and Gray Wolf came out on a sand-bar five or six miles down-stream. Kazan was lapping up the cool water when Sandy drifted quietly around a bend a hundred yards above them. If the wind had been right, or if Sandy had been using his paddle, Gray Wolf would have detected danger. It was the metallic click-click of the old-fashioned lock of Sandy’s rifle that awakened her to a sense of peril. Instantly she was thrilled by the nearness of it. Kazan heard the sound and stopped drinking to face it. In that moment Sandy pressed the trigger. A belch of smoke, a roar of gunpowder, and Kazan felt a red-hot stream of fire pass with the swiftness of a lightning-flash through his brain. He stumbled back, his legs gave way under him, and he crumpled down in a limp heap. Gray Wolf darted like a streak off into the bush. Blind, she had not seen Kazan wilt down upon the white sand. Not until she was a quarter of a mile away from the terrifying thunder of the white man’s rifle did she stop and wait for him.

Sandy McTrigger grounded his canoe on the sand-bar with an exultant yell.

“Got you, you old devil, didn’t I?” he cried. “I’d ‘a’ got the other, too, if I’d ‘a’ had something besides this damned old relic!”

He turned Kazan’s head over with the butt of his gun, and the leer of satisfaction in his face gave place to a sudden look of amazement. For the first time he saw the collar about Kazan’s neck.

“My Gawd, it ain’t a wolf,” he gasped. “It’s a dog, Sandy McTrigger–_a dog!”_

CHAPTER XXII

SANDY’S METHOD

McTrigger dropped on his knees in the sand. The look of exultation was gone from his face. He twisted the collar about the dog’s limp neck until he came to the worn plate, on which he could make out the faintly engraved letters _K-a-z-a-n_. He spelled the letters out one by one, and the look in his face was of one who still disbelieved what he had seen and heard.

“A dog!” he exclaimed again. “A dog, Sandy McTrigger an’ a–a beauty!”

He rose to his feet and looked down on his victim. A pool of blood lay in the white sand at the end of Kazan’s nose. After a moment Sandy bent over to see where his bullet had struck. His inspection filled him with a new and greater interest. The heavy ball from the muzzle-loader had struck Kazan fairly on top of the head. It was a glancing blow that had not even broken the skull, and like a flash Sandy understood the quivering and twitching of Kazan’s shoulders and legs. He had thought that they were the last muscular throes of death. But Kazan was not dying. He was only stunned, and would be on his feet again in a few minutes. Sandy was a connoisseur of dogs–of dogs that had worn sledge traces. He had lived among them two-thirds of his life. He could tell their age, their value, and a part of their history at a glance. In the snow he could tell the trail of a Mackenzie hound from that of a Malemute, and the track of an Eskimo dog from that of a Yukon husky. He looked at Kazan’s feet. They were wolf feet, and he chuckled. Kazan was part wild. He was big and powerful, and Sandy thought of the coming winter, and of the high prices that dogs would bring at Red Gold City. He went to the canoe and returned with a roll of stout moose-hide babiche. Then he sat down cross-legged in front of Kazan and began making a muzzle. He did this by plaiting babiche thongs in the same manner that one does in making the web of a snow-shoe. In ten minutes he had the muzzle over Kazan’s nose and fastened securely about his neck. To the dog’s collar he then fastened a ten-foot rope of babiche. After that he sat back and waited for Kazan to come to life.

When Kazan first lifted his head he could not see. There was a red film before his eyes. But this passed away swiftly and he saw the man. His first instinct was to rise to his feet. Three times he fell back before he could stand up. Sandy was squatted six feet from him, holding the end of the babiche, and grinning. Kazan’s fangs gleamed back. He growled, and the crest along his spine rose menacingly. Sandy jumped to his feet.

“Guess I know what you’re figgering on,” he said. “I’ve had _your_ kind before. The dam’ wolves have turned you bad, an’ you’ll need a whole lot of club before you’re right again. Now, look here.”

Sandy had taken the precaution of bringing a thick club along with the babiche. He picked it up from where he had dropped it in the sand. Kazan’s strength had fairly returned to him now. He was no longer dizzy. The mist had cleared away from his eyes. Before him he saw once more his old enemy, man–man and the club. All of the wild ferocity of his nature was roused in an instant. Without reasoning he knew that Gray Wolf was gone, and that this man was accountable for her going. He knew that this man had also brought him his own hurt, and what he ascribed to the man he also attributed to the club. In his newer undertaking of things, born of freedom and Gray Wolf, Man and Club were one and inseparable. With a snarl he leaped at Sandy. The man was not expecting a direct assault, and before he could raise his club or spring aside Kazan had landed full on his chest. The muzzle about Kazan’s jaws saved him. Fangs that would have torn his throat open snapped harmlessly. Under the weight of the dog’s body he fell back, as if struck down by a catapult.

As quick as a cat he was on his feet again, with the end of the babiche twisted several times about his hand. Kazan leaped again, and this time he was met by a furious swing of the club. It smashed against his shoulder, and sent him down in the sand. Before he could recover Sandy was upon him, with all the fury of a man gone mad. He shortened the babiche by twisting it again and again about his hand, and the club rose and fell with the skill and strength of one long accustomed to its use. The first blows served only to add to Kazan’s hatred of man, and the ferocity and fearlessness of his attacks. Again and again he leaped in, and each time the club fell upon him with a force that threatened to break his bones. There was a tense hard look about Sandy’s cruel mouth. He had never known a dog like this before, and he was a bit nervous, even with Kazan muzzled. Three times Kazan’s fangs would have sunk deep in his flesh had it not been for the babiche. And if the thongs about his jaws should slip, or break–.

Sandy followed up the thought with a smashing blow that landed on Kazan’s head, and once more the old battler fell limp upon the sand. McTrigger’s breath was coming in quick gasps. He was almost winded. Not until the club slipped from his hand did he realize how desperate the fight had been. Before Kazan recovered from the blow that had stunned him Sandy examined the muzzle and strengthened it by adding another babiche thong. Then he dragged Kazan to a log that high water had thrown up on the shore a few yards away and made the end of the babiche rope fast to a dead snag. After that he pulled his canoe higher up on the sand, and began to prepare camp for the night.

For some minutes after Kazan’s stunned senses had become normal he lay motionless, watching Sandy McTrigger. Every bone in his body gave him pain. His jaws were sore and bleeding. His upper lip was smashed where the club had fallen. One eye was almost closed. Several times Sandy came near, much pleased at what he regarded as the good results of the beating. Each time he brought the club. The third time he prodded Kazan with it, and the dog snarled and snapped savagely at the end of it. That was what Sandy wanted–it was an old trick of the dog-slaver. Instantly he was using the club again, until with a whining cry Kazan slunk under the protection of the snag to which he was fastened. He could scarcely drag himself. His right forepaw was smashed. His hindquarters sank under him. For a time after this second beating he could not have escaped had he been free.

Sandy was in unusually good humor.

“I’ll take the devil out of you all right,” he told Kazan for the twentieth time. “There’s nothin’ like beatin’s to make dogs an’ wimmin live up to the mark. A month from now you’ll be worth two hundred dollars or I’ll skin you alive!”

Three or four times before dusk Sandy worked to rouse Kazan’s animosity. But there was no longer any desire left in Kazan to fight. His two terrific beatings, and the crushing blow of the bullet against his skull, had made him sick. He lay with his head between his forepaws, his eyes closed, and did not see McTrigger. He paid no attention to the meat that was thrown under his nose. He did not know when the last of the sun sank behind the western forests, or when the darkness came. But at last something roused him from his stupor. To his dazed and sickened brain it came like a call from out of the far past, and he raised his head and listened. Out on the sand McTrigger had built a fire, and the man stood in the red glow of it now, facing the dark shadows beyond the shoreline. He, too, was listening. What had roused Kazan came again now–the lost mourning cry of Gray Wolf far out on the plain.

With a whine Kazan was on his feet, tugging at the babiche. Sandy snatched up his club, and leaped toward him.

“Down, you brute!” he commanded.

In the firelight the club rose and fell with ferocious quickness. When McTrigger returned to the fire he was breathing hard again. He tossed his club beside the blankets he had spread out for a bed. It was a different looking club now. It was covered with blood and hair.

“Guess that’ll take the spirit out of him,” he chuckled. “It’ll do that–or kill ‘im!”

Several times that night Kazan heard Gray Wolf’s call. He whined softly in response, fearing the club. He watched the fire until the last embers of it died out, and then cautiously dragged himself from under the snag. Two or three times he tried to stand on his feet, but fell back each time. His legs were not broken, but the pain of standing on them was excruciating. He was hot and feverish. All that night he had craved a drink of water. When Sandy crawled out from between his blankets in the early dawn he gave him both meat and water. Kazan drank the water, but would not touch the meat. Sandy regarded the change in him with satisfaction. By the time the sun was up he had finished his breakfast and was ready to leave. He approached Kazan fearlessly now, without the club. Untying the babiche he dragged the dog to the canoe. Kazan slunk in the sand while his captor fastened the end of the hide rope to the stern of the canoe. Sandy grinned. What was about to happen would be fun for him. In the Yukon he had learned how to take the spirit out of dogs.

He pushed off, bow foremost. Bracing himself with his paddle he then began to pull Kazan toward the water. In a few moments Kazan stood with his forefeet planted in the damp sand at the edge of the stream. For a brief interval Sandy allowed the babiche to fall slack. Then with a sudden powerful pull he jerked Kazan out into the water. Instantly he sent the canoe into midstream, swung it quickly down with the current, and began to paddle enough to keep the babiche taut about his victim’s neck. In spite of his sickness and injuries Kazan was now compelled to swim to keep his head above water. In the wash of the canoe, and with Sandy’s strokes growing steadily stronger, his position became each moment one of increasing torture. At times his shaggy head was pulled completely under water. At others Sandy would wait until he had drifted alongside, and then thrust him under with the end of his paddle. He grew weaker. At the end of a half-mile he was drowning. Not until then did Sandy pull him alongside and drag him into the canoe. The dog fell limp and gasping in the bottom. Brutal though Sandy’s methods had been, they had worked his purpose. In Kazan there was no longer a desire to fight. He no longer struggled for freedom. He knew that this man was his master, and for the time his spirit was gone. All he desired now was to be allowed to lie in the bottom of the canoe, out of reach of the club, and safe from the water. The club lay between him and the man. The end of it was within a foot or two of his nose, and what he smelled was his own blood.

For five days and five nights the journey down-stream continued, and McTrigger’s process of civilizing Kazan was continued in three more beatings with the club, and another resort to the water torture. On the morning of the sixth day they reached Red Gold City, and McTrigger put up his tent close to the river. Somewhere he obtained a chain for Kazan, and after fastening the dog securely back of the tent he cut off the babiche muzzle.

“You can’t put on meat in a muzzle,” he told his prisoner. “An’ I want you to git strong–an’ fierce as hell. I’ve got an idee. It’s an idee you can lick your weight in wildcats. We’ll pull off a stunt pretty soon that’ll fill our pockets with dust. I’ve done it afore, and we can do it _here_. Wolf an’ dog–s’elp me Gawd but it’ll be a drawin’ card!”

Twice a day after this he brought fresh raw meat to Kazan. Quickly Kazan’s spirit and courage returned to him. The soreness left his limbs. His battered jaws healed. And after the fourth day each time that Sandy came with meat he greeted him with the challenge of his snarling fangs. McTrigger did not beat him now. He gave him no fish, no tallow and meal–nothing but raw meat. He traveled five miles up the river to bring in the fresh entrail of a caribou that had been killed. One day Sandy brought another man with him and when the stranger came a step too near Kazan made a sudden swift lunge at him. The man jumped back with a startled oath.

“He’ll do,” he growled. “He’s lighter by ten or fifteen pounds than the Dane, but he’s got the teeth, an’ the quickness, an’ he’ll give a good show before he goes under.”

“I’ll make you a bet of twenty-five per cent. of my share that he don’t go under,” offered Sandy.

“Done!” said the other. “How long before he’ll be ready?”

Sandy thought a moment.

“Another week,” he said. “He won’t have his weight before then. A week from to-day, we’ll say. Next Tuesday night. Does that suit you, Harker?”

Harker nodded.

“Next Tuesday night,” he agreed. Then he added, “I’ll make it a _half_ of my share that the Dane kills your wolf-dog.”

Sandy took a long look at Kazan.

“I’ll just take you on that,” he said. Then, as he shook Harker’s hand, “I don’t believe there’s a dog between here and the Yukon that can kill the wolf!”

CHAPTER XXIII

PROFESSOR McGILL

Red Gold City was ripe for a night of relaxation. There had been some gambling, a few fights and enough liquor to create excitement now and then, but the presence of the mounted police had served to keep things unusually tame compared with events a few hundred miles farther north, in the Dawson country. The entertainment proposed by Sandy McTrigger and Jan Harker met with excited favor. The news spread for twenty miles about Red Gold City and there had never been greater excitement in the town than on the afternoon and night of the big fight. This was largely because Kazan and the huge Dane had been placed on exhibition, each dog in a specially made cage of his own, and a fever of betting began. Three hundred men, each of whom was paying five dollars to see the battle, viewed the gladiators through the bars of their cages. Harker’s dog was a combination of Great Dane and mastiff, born in the North, and bred to the traces. Betting favored him by the odds of two to one. Occasionally it ran three to one. At these odds there was plenty of Kazan money. Those who were risking their money on him were the older wilderness men–men who had spent their lives among dogs, and who knew what the red glint in Kazan’s eyes meant. An old Kootenay miner spoke low in another’s ear:

“I’d bet on ‘im even. I’d give odds if I had to. He’ll fight all around the Dane. The Dane won’t have no method.”

“But he’s got the weight,” said the other dubiously. “Look at his jaws, an’ his shoulders–“

“An’ his big feet, an’ his soft throat, an’ the clumsy thickness of his belly,” interrupted the Kootenay man. “For Gawd’s sake, man, take my word for it, an’ don’t put your money on the Dane!”

Others thrust themselves between them. At first Kazan had snarled at all these faces about him. But now he lay back against the boarded side of the cage and eyed them sullenly from between his forepaws.

The fight was to be pulled off in Barker’s place, a combination of saloon and cafe. The benches and tables had been cleared out and in the center of the one big room a cage ten feet square rested on a platform three and a half feet from the floor. Seats for the three hundred spectators were drawn closely around this. Suspended just above the open top of the cage were two big oil lamps with glass reflectors.

It was eight o’clock when Harker, McTrigger and two other men bore Kazan to the arena by means of the wooden bars that projected from the bottom of his cage. The big Dane was already in the fighting cage. He stood blinking his eyes in the brilliant light of the reflecting lamps. He pricked up his ears when he saw Kazan. Kazan did not show his fangs. Neither revealed the expected animosity. It was the first they had seen of each other, and a murmur of disappointment swept the ranks of the three hundred men. The Dane remained as motionless as a rock when Kazan was prodded from his own cage into the fighting cage. He did not leap or snarl. He regarded Kazan with a dubious questioning poise to his splendid head, and then looked again to the expectant and excited faces of the waiting men. For a few moments Kazan stood stiff-legged, facing the Dane. Then his shoulders dropped, and he, too, coolly faced the crowd that had expected a fight to the death. A laugh of derision swept through the closely seated rows. Catcalls, jeering taunts flung at McTrigger and Harker, and angry voices demanding their money back mingled with a tumult of growing discontent. Sandy’s face was red with mortification and rage. The blue veins in Barker’s forehead had swollen twice their normal size. He shook his fist in the face of the crowd, and shouted:

“Wait! Give ’em a chance, you dam’ fools!”

At his words every voice was stilled. Kazan had turned. He was facing the huge Dane. And the Dane had turned his eyes to Kazan. Cautiously, prepared for a lunge or a sidestep, Kazan advanced a little. The Dane’s shoulders bristled. He, too, advanced upon Kazan. Four feet apart they stood rigid. One could have heard a whisper in the room now. Sandy and Harker, standing close to the cage, scarcely breathed. Splendid in every limb and muscle, warriors of a hundred fights, and fearless to the point of death, the two half-wolf victims of man stood facing each other. None could see the questioning look in their brute eyes. None knew that in this thrilling moment the unseen hand of the wonderful Spirit God of the wilderness hovered between them, and that one of its miracles was descending upon them. It was _understanding_. Meeting in the open–rivals in the traces–they would have been rolling in the throes of terrific battle. But _here_ came that mute appeal of brotherhood. In the final moment, when only a step separated them, and when men expected to see the first mad lunge, the splendid Dane slowly raised his head and looked over Kazan’s back through the glare of the lights. Harker trembled, and under his breath he cursed. The Dane’s throat was open to Kazan. But between the beasts had passed the voiceless pledge of peace. Kazan did not leap. He turned. And shoulder to shoulder–splendid in their contempt of man–they stood and looked through the bars of their prison into the one of human faces.

A roar burst from the crowd–a roar of anger, of demand, of threat. In his rage Harker drew a revolver and leveled it at the Dane. Above the tumult of the crowd a single voice stopped him.

“Hold!” it demanded. “Hold–in the name of the law!”

For a moment there was silence. Every face turned in the direction of the voice. Two men stood on chairs behind the last row. One was Sergeant Brokaw, of the Royal Northwest Mounted. It was he who had spoken. He was holding up a hand, commanding silence and attention. On the chair beside him stood another man. He was thin, with drooping shoulders, and a pale smooth face–a little man, whose physique and hollow cheeks told nothing of the years he had spent close up along the raw edge of the Arctic. It was he who spoke now, while the sergeant held up his hand. His voice was low and quiet:

“I’ll give the owners five hundred dollars for those dogs,” he said.

Every man in the room heard the offer. Harker looked at Sandy. For an instant their heads were close together.

“They won’t fight, and they’ll make good team-mates,” the little man went on. “I’ll give the owners five hundred dollars.”

Harker raised a hand.

“Make it six,” he said. “Make it six and they’re yours.”

The little man hesitated. Then he nodded.

“I’ll give you six hundred,” he agreed.

Murmurs of discontent rose throughout the crowd. Harker climbed to the edge of the platform.

“We ain’t to blame because they wouldn’t fight,” he shouted, “but if there’s any of you small enough to want your money back you can git it as you go out. The dogs laid down on us, that’s all. We ain’t to blame.”

The little man was edging his way between the chairs, accompanied by the sergeant of police. With his pale face close to the sapling bars of the cage he looked at Kazan and the big Dane.

“I guess we’ll be good friends,” he said, and he spoke so low that only the dogs heard his voice. “It’s a big price, but we’ll charge it to the Smithsonian, lads. I’m going to need a couple of four-footed friends of your moral caliber.”

And no one knew why Kazan and the Dane drew nearer to the little scientist’s side of the cage as he pulled out a big roll of bills and counted out six hundred dollars for Harker and Sandy McTrigger.

CHAPTER XXIV

ALONE IN DARKNESS

Never had the terror and loneliness of blindness fallen upon Gray Wolf as in the days that followed the shooting of Kazan and his capture by Sandy McTrigger. For hours after the shot she crouched in the bush back from the river, waiting for him to come to her. She had faith that he would come, as he had come a thousand times before, and she lay close on her belly, sniffing the air, and whining when it brought no scent of her mate. Day and night were alike an endless chaos of darkness to her now, but she knew when the sun went down. She sensed the first deepening shadows of evening, and she knew that the stars were out, and that the river lay in moonlight. It was a night to roam, and after a time she moved restlessly about in a small circle on the plain, and sent out her first inquiring call for Kazan. Up from the river came the pungent odor of smoke, and instinctively she knew that it was this smoke, and the nearness of man, that was keeping Kazan from her. But she went no nearer than that first circle made by her padded feet. Blindness had taught her to wait. Since the day of the battle on the Sun Rock, when the lynx had destroyed her eyes, Kazan had never failed her. Three times she called for him in the early night. Then she made herself a nest under a _banskian_ shrub, and waited until dawn.

Just how she knew when night blotted out the last glow of the sun, so without seeing she knew when day came. Not until she felt the warmth of the sun on her back did her anxiety overcome her caution. Slowly she moved toward the river, sniffing the air and whining. There was no longer the smell of smoke in the air, and she could not catch the scent of man. She followed her own trail back to the sand-bar, and in the fringe of thick bush overhanging the white shore of the stream she stopped and listened. After a little she scrambled down and went straight to the spot where she and Kazan were drinking when the shot came. And there her nose struck the sand still wet and thick with Kazan’s blood. She knew it was the blood of her mate, for the scent of him was all about her in the sand, mingled with the man-smell of Sandy McTrigger. She sniffed the trail of his body to the edge of the stream, where Sandy had dragged him to the canoe. She found the fallen tree to which he had been tied. And then she came upon one of the two clubs that Sandy had used to beat wounded Kazan into submissiveness. It was covered with blood and hair, and all at once Gray Wolf lay back on her haunches and turned her blind face to the sky, and there rose from her throat a cry for Kazan that drifted for miles on the wings of the south wind. Never had Gray Wolf given quite that cry before. It was not the “call” that comes with the moonlit nights, and neither was it the hunt-cry, nor the she-wolf’s yearning for matehood. It carried with it the lament of death. And after that one cry Gray Wolf slunk back to the fringe of bush over the river, and lay with her face turned to the stream.

A strange terror fell upon her. She had grown accustomed to darkness, but never before had she been _alone_ in that darkness. Always there had been the guardianship of Kazan’s presence. She heard the clucking sound of a spruce hen in the bush a few yards away, and now that sound came to her as if from out of another world. A ground-mouse rustled through the grass close to her forepaws, and she snapped at it, and closed her teeth on a rock. The muscles of her shoulders twitched tremulously and she shivered as if stricken by intense cold. She was terrified by the darkness that shut out the world from her, and she pawed at her closed eyes, as if she might open them to light. Early in the afternoon she wandered back on the plain. It was different. It frightened her, and soon she returned to the beach, and snuggled down under the tree where Kazan had lain. She was not so frightened here. The smell of Kazan was strong about her. For an hour she lay motionless, with her head resting on the club clotted with his hair and blood. Night found her still there. And when the moon and the stars came out she crawled back into the pit in the white sand that Kazan’s body had made under the tree.

With dawn she went down to the edge of the stream to drink. She could not see that the day was almost as dark as night, and that the gray-black sky was a chaos of slumbering storm. But she could smell the presence of it in the thick air, and could _feel_ the forked flashes of lightning that rolled up with the dense pall from the south and west. The distant rumbling of thunder grew louder, and she huddled herself again under the tree. For hours the storm crashed over her, and the rain fell in a deluge. When it had finished she slunk out from her shelter like a thing beaten. Vainly she sought for one last scent of Kazan. The club was washed clean. Again the sand was white where Kazan’s blood had reddened it. Even under the tree there was no sign of him left.

Until now only the terror of being alone in the pit of darkness that enveloped her had oppressed Gray Wolf. With afternoon came hunger. It was this hunger that drew her from the sand-bar, and she wandered back into the plain. A dozen times she scented game, and each time it evaded her. Even a ground-mouse that she cornered under a root, and dug out with her paws, escaped her fangs.

Thirty-six hours before this Kazan and Gray Wolf had left a half of their last kill a mile of two farther back on the plain. The kill was one of the big barren rabbits, and Gray Wolf turned in its direction. She did not require sight to find it. In her was developed to its finest point that sixth sense of the animal kingdom, the sense of orientation, and as straight as a pigeon might have winged its flight she cut through the bush to the spot where they had cached the rabbit. A white fox had been there ahead of her, and she found only scattered bits of hair and fur. What the fox had left the moose-birds and bush-jays had carried away. Hungrily Gray Wolf turned back to the river.

That night she slept again where Kazan had lain, and three times she called for him without answer. A heavy dew fell, and it drenched the last vestige of her mate’s scent out of the sand. But still through the day that followed, and the day that followed that, blind Gray Wolf clung to the narrow rim of white sand. On the fourth day her hunger reached a point where she gnawed the bark from willow bushes. It was on this day that she made a discovery. She was drinking, when her sensitive nose touched something in the water’s edge that was smooth, and bore a faint odor of flesh. It was one of the big northern river clams. She pawed it ashore, sniffing at the hard shell. Then she crunched it between her teeth. She had never tasted sweeter meat than that which she found inside, and she began hunting for other clams. She found many of them, and ate until she was no longer hungry. For three days more she remained on the bar.

And then, one night, the call came to her. It set her quivering with a strange new excitement–something that may have been a new hope, and in the moonlight she trotted nervously up and down the shining strip of sand, facing now the north, and now the south, and then the east and the west–her head flung up, listening, as if in the soft wind of the night she was trying to locate the whispering lure of a wonderful voice. And whatever it was that came to her came from out of the south and east. Off there–across the barren, far beyond the outer edge of the northern timber-line–was _home_. And off there, in her brute way, she reasoned that she must find Kazan. The call did not come from their old windfall home in the swamp. It came from beyond that, and in a flashing vision there rose through her blindness a picture of the towering Sun Rock, of the winding trail that led to it, and the cabin on the plain. It was there that blindness had come to her. It was there that day had ended, and eternal night had begun. And it was there that she had mothered her first-born. Nature had registered these things so that they could never be wiped out of her memory, and when the call came it was from the sunlit world where she had last known light and life and had last seen the moon and the stars in the blue night of the skies.

And to that call she responded, leaving the river and its food behind her–straight out into the face of darkness and starvation, no longer fearing death or the emptiness of the world she could not see; for ahead of her, two hundred miles away, she could see the Sun Rock, the winding trail, the nest of her first-born between the two big rocks–_and Kazan_!

CHAPTER XXV

THE LAST OF McTRIGGER

Sixty miles farther north Kazan lay at the end of his fine steel chain, watching little Professor McGill mixing a pail of tallow and bran. A dozen yards from him lay the big Dane, his huge jaws drooling in anticipation of the unusual feast which McGill was preparing. He showed signs of pleasure when McGill approached him with a quart of the mixture, and he gulped it between his huge jaws. The little man with the cold blue eyes and the gray-blond hair stroked his back without fear. His attitude was different when he turned to Kazan. His movements were filled with caution, and yet his eyes and his lips were smiling, and he gave the wolf-dog no evidence of his fear, if it could be called fear.

The little professor, who was up in the north country for the Smithsonian Institution, had spent a third of his life among dogs. He loved them, and understood them. He had written a number of magazine articles on dog intellect that had attracted wide attention among naturalists. It was largely because he loved dogs, and understood them more than most men, that he had bought Kazan and the big Dane on the night when Sandy McTrigger and his partner had tried to get them to fight to the death in the Red Gold City saloon. The refusal of the two splendid beasts to kill each other for the pleasure of the three hundred men who had assembled to witness the fight delighted him. He had already planned a paper on the incident. Sandy had told him the story of Kazan’s capture, and of his wild mate, Gray Wolf, and the professor had asked him a thousand questions. But each day Kazan puzzled him more. No amount of kindness on his part could bring a responsive gleam in Kazan’s eyes. Not once did Kazan signify a willingness to become friends. And yet he did not snarl at McGill, or snap at his hands when they came within reach. Quite frequently Sandy McTrigger came over to the little cabin where McGill was staying, and three times Kazan leaped at the end of his chain to get at him, and his white fangs gleamed as long as Sandy was in sight. Alone with McGill he became quiet. Something told him that McGill had come as a friend that night when he and the big Dane stood shoulder to shoulder in the cage that had been built for a slaughter pen. Away down in his brute heart he held McGill apart from other men. He had no desire to harm him. He tolerated him, but showed none of the growing affection of the huge Dane. It was this fact that puzzled McGill. He had never before known a dog that he could not make love him.

To-day he placed the tallow and bran before Kazan, and the smile in his face gave way to a look of perplexity. Kazan’s lips had drawn suddenly back. A fierce snarl rolled deep in his throat. The hair along his spine stood up. His muscles twitched. Instinctively the professor turned. Sandy McTrigger had come up quietly behind him. His brutal face wore a grin as he looked at Kazan.

“It’s a fool job–tryin’ to make friends with _him_” he said. Then he added, with a sudden interested gleam in his eyes, “When you startin’?”

“With first frost,” replied McGill. “It ought to come soon. I’m going to join Sergeant Conroy and his party at Fond du Lac by the first of October.”

“And you’re going up to Fond du Lac–alone?” queried Sandy. “Why don’t you take a man?”

The little professor laughed softly.

“Why?” he asked. “I’ve been through the Athabasca waterways a dozen times, and know the trail as well as I know Broadway. Besides, I like to be alone. And the work isn’t too hard, with the currents all flowing to the north and east.”

Sandy was looking at the Dane, with his back to McGill. An exultant gleam shot for an instant into his eyes.

“You’re taking the dogs?”