The Red Book Magazine/Volume 31/Number 4/Fighting it Through
The joyful saga of a bear-cub and a pup adventuring through the Northland—just the sort of reading we all need these days. It is the fourth of Mr. Curwood's stories of
of the NORTH
HAD Makoki, the leather-faced old Cree runner between God's Lake and Fort Churchill, known the history of Brimstone and Neewa up to the point where they came to feast on the fat and partly devoured carcass of the young caribou bull, he would have said that Iskoo Wapoo, the Good Spirit of the beasts, was watching over them most carefully. For Makoki had great faith in the forest gods as well as in those of his own tepee. He would have given the story his own picturesque version, and would have told it to the little children of his sons; and his son's children would have kept it in their memory for their own children later on.
It was not in the ordained nature of things that a black-bear cub and a Mackenzie hound pup with a dash of Airedale and Spitz in him should “chum up” as Neewa and Brimstone had. Therefore, he would have said, the Beneficent Spirit who watched over the affairs of four-legged beasts must have had an eye on them from the beginning. It was she—Iskoo Wapoo was a goddess and not a god—who had made Challoner, the white man, kill Neewa's mother, the big black bear; and it was she who had induced him to tie the pup and the cub together on the same piece of rope, so that when they fell out of the white man's canoe into the rapids they would not die, but would be company and salvation for each other. Neswa-Pawuk—“two little brothers”—Makoki would have called them; and had it come to the test, he would have cut off a finger before harming either of them.
But Makoki knew nothing of their adventures, and on this morning when they came down to the feast, he was a hundred miles away, haggling with a white man who wanted a guide. He would never know that Iskoo Wapoo was at his side that very moment, planning the thing that was to mean so much in the lives of Neewa the cub, and Brimstone the pup.
Meanwhile Neewa and Brimstone went at their breakfast as if starved. Th ey were immensely practical. They did not look back on what had happened, but for the moment submerged themselves completely in the present. The few days of thrill and adventure through which they had gone seemed like a year. Neewa's yearning for his mother had grown less and less insistent, and Brimstone's master counted for nothing now, as things were going with him. Last night was the big, vivid thing in their memories—their fight for life with the monster owls, their flight, the killing of the young caribou bull by the wolves—and with Brimstone the short, bitter experience with Maheegun, the renegade she-wolf. His shoulder burned where she had torn at him with her teeth, but this did not lessen his appetite. Growling as he ate, he filled himself until. he could hold no more.
Then he sat back on his haunches and looked in the direction the she-wolf had gone. This was eastward, toward Hudson Bay, over a great plain that lay between two ridges that were like forest-walls, yellow and gold in the morning sun. He had never seen the world as it looked to him now. The wolves had overtaken the caribou on a scarp of the high ground that thrust itself out like a short, fat thumb from the black and owl-infested forest, and the carcass lay in a meadowy dip that overhung the plain. From the edge of this dip Brimstone could look down—and so far away that the wonder of what he saw dissolved itself at last into the shimmer of the sun and the blue of the sky. Within his vision lay a paradise of marvelous promise—wide stretches of soft, green meadow; clumps of timber, parklike until they merged into the deeper forest that began with the farther ridge; great patches of bush radiant with the coloring of June; here and there the gleam of water; and half a mile away a lake that was like a giant mirror set in a purplish-green frame of balsam and spruce.
INTO these things Maheegun, the she-wolf, had gone. The pup wondered if she would come back. He sniffed the air for her. But there was no longer the mother-yearning in his heart. Something had already begun to tell him of the vast difference between the dog and the wolf. For a few moments, still hopeful that the world held a mother for him, he had mistaken her for the one he had lost. But he understood—now. A little more, and Maheegun's teeth would have snapped his shoulder or slashed his throat to the jugular. Tebah-Gone-Gawin—the One Great Law—was impinging itself upon him, the implacable law of the survival of the fittest. To live was to fight, to kill—to beat everything that had feet or wings. The earth and the air held menace for him. Nowhere since he had lost Challoner had he found friendship, except in the heart of Neewa, the motherless cub. And he turned toward Neewa now, growling at a gay-plumaged moose-bird that was hovering about for a morsel of meat.
A few minutes ago Neewa had weighed a dozen pounds; now he weighed fourteen or fifteen. His stomach was puffed out like the sides of an overfilled bag, and he sat humped up in a pool of warm sunshine, licking his chops and vastly contented with himself and the world. Brimstone rubbed up to him, and Neewa gave a chummy grunt. Then he rolled over on his fat back and invited the pup to play. It was the first time—and with a joyous yelp Brimstone jumped into him. Scratching and biting and kicking, and interjecting their friendly scrimmage with ferocious growling on Brimstone's part and piglike grunts and squeals on Neewa's, they rolled to the edge of the dip. It was a good hundred feet to the bottom—a steep slope that ran to the plain, and like two balls they catapulted the length of it.
FOR Neewa it was not so bad; he was round and fat, and went easily. With Brimstone it was different; he was all legs and skin and angular bone, and he went down twisting and somersaulting and tying himself into knots, until by the time he struck the hard strip of shale at the edge of the plain he was drunk with dizziness and the breath was out of his body.
He staggered to his feet with a gasp. For a space the world was whirling round and round in a sickening circle. Then he pulled himself together, and made out Neewa a dozen feet away. Neewa was just awakening to the truth of an exhilarating discovery. Next to a boy on a sled or a beaver on his tail, no one enjoys a “slide” more than a black-bear cub, and as Brimstone rearranged his scattered wits, Neewa climbed twenty or thirty feet up the slope and deliberately rolled down again! Brimstone's jaws fell apart in amazement. Again Neewa climbed up and rolled down—and Brimstone ceased to breathe altogether. Five times he watched the cub go that twenty or thirty feet up the grassy slope and tumble down. The fifth time he waded into Neewa and gave him a rough-and-tumble that almost ended in a fight. After that Brimstone began exploring along the foot of the slope, and for a scant hundred yards Neewa humored him by following.
Beyond that point the cub flatly refused to go. In the fourth month of his exciting young life he was satisfied that nature had given him birth that he might have the endless pleasure of filling his stomach. For him eating was the one and only excuse for existing. In the next few months he had a big job on his hands if he kept up the record of his family, and the fact that Brimstone was apparently abandoning the fat and juicy carcass of the young bull filled him with alarm and rebellion. Straightway he forgot all thought of play and started back up the slope on a mission that was one hundred per cent business.
Observing this, Brimstone gave up his idea of exploration and joined him. They reached the shelf of the dip twenty yards from the carcass of the bull, and from a clutter of big stones looked forth upon their meat. In that moment they stood dumb and paralyzed. Two gigantic owls were tearing at the carcass. To Brimstone and Neewa they were the monsters of the black forest out of which they had escaped so narrowly with their lives. But as a matter of fact, they were not of Oohoomisew's breed of night-seeing pirates. They were snow owls, unlike all others of their kind in that their vision was as keen as a hawk's in the light of broad day. Mispoon, the big male, was immaculately white. His mate, a size or two larger, was barred with brownish slate-color—and their heads were round and. terrible-looking because they had no ear-tufts. Mispoon, with his splendid wings spread half over the carcass of Ahtik, the dead bull, was rending flesh so ravenously with his powerful beak that Neewa and Brimstone could hear the sound of it. Newish, his mate, had her head almost buried in Ahtik's bowels. The sight of them, and the sound of their eating, was enough to disturb the nerves of an older bear than Neewa, and he hid himself behind a stone, with just his head sticking out.
In Brimstone's throat was a sullen growl, but he held it back, and flattened himself on the ground. The blood of Hela, the giant hunter who was his father, rose like hot fire in him again. The carcass was his meat, and he was ready to fight for it. Besides, had he not whipped the owl in the forest? But here there were two. The fact held him flattened on his belly a moment or two longer and in that brief space the unexpected happened.
Slinking up out of the low growth of bush at the far edge of the dip he saw Maheegun, the renegade she-wolf. Hollow-backed, red-eyed, her bushy tail hanging with the sneaky droop of the murderess, she advanced over the bit of open, a gray and vengeful shadow. Bad as she was, she at least was not a coward. Straight at Mispoon she launched herself with a snarl and a snap of fangs that made Brimstone hug the ground still closer.
Deep into Mispoon's four-inch armor of feathers Maheegun buried her fangs. Taken at a disadvantage, Mispoon's head would have been torn from his body before he could have gathered himself for battle had it not been for Newish. Pulling her blood-stained head from Ahtik's flesh, she drove at Maheegun with a throaty, wheezing scream—a cry that was like the cry of no other thing that lived. Into the she-wolf's back she sank her beak and talons, and Maheegun gave up her grip on Mispoon and tore ferociously at her new assailant. For a space Mispoon was saved, but it was at a terrible sacrifice to Newish. With a single lucky slash of her long-fanged jaws Maheegun literally tore one of Newish's great wings from her body. The croak of agony that came out of her may have held the death-note for Mispoon, her mate; for he rose on his wings, poised himself for an instant, and launched himself then at the she-wolf's back with a force that drove Maheegun off her feet.
Deep into her loins the great owl sank his talons, gripping at the renegade's vitals with an avenging and ferocious tenacity. In that hold Maheegun felt the sting of death. She flung herself on her back; she rolled over and over, snarling and snapping and clawing the air in her efforts to free herself of the burning knives that were sinking still deeper into her bowels. Mispoon hung on, rolling as rolled, beating with his giant wings, fastening his talons in that clutch that death could not shake loose. On the ground his mate was dying. Her life's blood was pouring out of the hole in her side, but with the dimming vision of death she made a last effort to help Mispoon. And Mispoon, a hero to the last, kept his grip until he was dead.
Into the edge of the bush Maheegun dragged herself. There she freed herself of the big owl. But the deep wounds were still in her sides. The blood dripped from her belly as she made her way down into the thicker cover, leaving a red trail behind her. A quarter of a mile she lay down under a clump of dwarf spruce; and there, a little later, she died.
TO Neewa and Brimstone—and especially to the the son of Hela—the grim combat had widened even more that subtle and growing comprehension of the world as it existed for them. It was the unforgettable wisdom of experience backed by an age-old instinct and the heredity of breed. They had killed small things, Neewa his bugs or his frogs and his bumblebees, and Brimstone his rabbits; they had fought for their lives; they had passed through experiences that from the beginning had been a gamble with death—but it needed the climax of a struggle such as they had seen with their own eyes to open up the doors that gave them a new viewpoint of life.
It was many minutes before Brimstone went forth and smelled of Newish, the dead owl. He had no desire to tear at her feathers in the excitement of an infantile triumph and ferocity. Along with greater understanding a new craft and a new cunning were born in him. The fate of Mispoon and his mate had taught him the priceless value of silence and of caution, for he knew now that in the world there were many things that were not afraid of him, and many things that would not run away from him. He had lost his fearless and blatant contempt for winged creatures—he had learned that the earth was not made for him alone, and that to hold his small place on it he must fight as Maheegun and the owls had fought.
This was because in Brimstone's veins there was the red fighting-blood of a long line of ancestors that reached back to the wolves. In Neewa the process of deduction was vastly different. His breed was not a fighting breed, except as it fought among its own kind. It did not make a habit of preying upon other beasts, and no other beast preyed upon it. This was purely an accident of birth—the fact that no other creature in all his wide domain was powerful enough, either alone or in groups, to defeat a grown black bear in open battle. Therefore Neewa learned nothing of fighting in the tragedy of Maheegun and the owls. His profit, if any, was in a greater caution. And his chief interest was in the fact that Maheegun and the two owls had not devoured the young bull. His supper was still safe.
With his little round eyes on the alert for fresh trouble, the cub kept himself safely hidden while he watched Brimstone investigating the scene of battle. From the body of the owl, the pup went to Ahtik, and from Ahtik he sniffed slowly over the trail which Maheegun had taken into the bush. In the edge of the cover he found Mispoon. He did not go farther, but returned to Neewa, who by this time had made up his mind that he could safely come out into the open.
Fifty times that day Brimstone rushed to the defense of their meat. The big-eyed, clucking moose-birds were most annoying. Next to them the Canada jays were most persistent. Twice a little gray-coated ermine, with eyes as red as garnets, came in to get his fill of blood. Brimstone was at him so fiercely that he did not return a third time. By noon the crows had got scent or sight of the carcass and were circling overhead, waiting for Neewa and Brimstone to disappear. Later they set up a raucous protest from the tops of the trees in the edge of the forest.
That night the wolves did not return to the dip. Meat was too plentiful, and those of them who were over their gorge were off on a fresh kill far to the west. Once or twice Neewa and Brimstone heard their distant cry. Again through a star-filled, radiant night they watched and listened, and slept at times. In the soft gray dawn they went forth once more to their feast.
And here is where Makoki, the old Cree runner, would have emphasized the presence of the Beneficent Spirit. For day followed day, and night followed night, and Ahtik's flesh and blood put into Neewa and Brimstone a strength and growth that developed marvelously. By the fourth day Neewa had become so fat and sleek that he was half again as big as the day he fell out of the canoe. Brimstone began to fill out. His ribs could no longer be counted at a distance. His chest was broadening, and his legs were losing some of their angular clumsiness. Practice on Ahtik's bones had strengthened his jaws. With his development he felt less and less the old puppyish desire to play, and the restlessness of the hunter. The fourth night he heard again the wailing hunt-cry of the wolves, and it held a wild and thrilling note for him.
With Neewa, fat and good humor and contentment were all synonymous. As long as the meat held out, there was no very great temptation for him beyond the dip and the slope. Two or three times a day he went down to the creek; and every morning and afternoon, and especially about sunset, he had his fun rolling downhill. In addition to this he began taking his afternoon naps in the crotch of a small sapling. As Brimstone could see neither sense nor sport in tobogganing, and as he could not climb a tree, he began to spend more and more time in adventuring up and down the foot of the ridge. He wanted Neewa to go with him on these expeditions. He never set out until he had entreated Neewa to come down out of his tree, or until he had made an effort to coax him away from the single trail the cub had made to the creek and back. Neewa's obstinacy would never have brought about any real unpleasantness between them; Brimstone thought too much of him for that—and if it had come to a final test, and Neewa had thought that the pup would not return, undoubtedly he would have followed him.
It was another and more potent thing than an ordinary quarrel that placed the first great barrier between them, Now, it happened that Brimstone was of the breed which preferred its meat fresh, while Neewa liked his “well hung.” And from the fourth day on, what was left of Ahtik's carcass was beginning to ripen. The fifth day Brimstone found the flesh difficult to eat; the sixth, impossible. To Neewa it became increasingly delectable as the flavor grew and the perfume thickened. On this sixth day, in sheer delight, he rolled in it. That night, for the first time, Brimstone could not sleep with him.
The seventh day brought the climax. Ahtik now fairly smelled to heaven. The perfume of him drifted up and away on the soft June wind until all the crows in the country were gathering. It drove Brimstone, slinking like a whipped cur, down into the creek bottom. When Neewa came down for a drink after his morning feast, Brimstone sniffed him over for a moment and then slunk away from him again. As a matter of fact, there was small difference between Ahtik and Neewa now, except that one lay still and the other moved. Both smelled dead. Both were decidedly “well hung.” Even the crows circled over Neewa, wondering why it was that he walked about like a living thing.
That night Brimstone slept alone under a clump of bush in the creek-bottom. He was hungry and lonely, and for the first time in many days he felt the bigness and emptiness of the world. He wanted Neewa. He whined for him in the starry silence of the long hours between darkness and dawn. The sun was well up before Neewa came down the hill. He had finished his breakfast and his morning roll, and he was worse than ever. Again Brimstone tried to coax him away, but Neewa was disgustingly fixed in his determination to remain in his present glory. And this morning he was more than usually anxious to return to the dip. All of yesterday he had found it necessary to frighten the crows away from his meat, and today they were doubly persistent in their efforts to rob him. With a grunt and a squeal to the pup, he hustled back up the hill after he had taken his drink.
His trail entered the dip through the pile of rocks from which Brimstone and he had watched the battle between Maheegun and the two owls, and as a matter of caution he always paused for a few moments among these rocks to make sure that all was well in the open. This morning he received a decided shock. Ahtik's carcass was literally black with crows. Kakakew and his Ethiopic horde of scavengers had descended in a cloud, and they were tearing and fighting and beating their wings about Ahtik as if all of them had gone mad. Another cloud was hovering in the air; every bush and sapling near by was bending under the weight of them, and in the sun their jet-black plumage glistened as if they had just come out of the bath of a tinker's pot. Neewa stood astounded. He was not frightened, because he had driven the cowardly robbers away many times. But never had there been so many of them. He could see no trace of his meat. Even the ground was black.
He rushed out from the rocks with his lips drawn back, just as he had rushed a dozen or more times before. There was a mighty roar of wings. The air was darkened by them, and the ravenish screaming that followed could have been heard a mile away. This time Kakakew and his mighty crew did not fly back to the forest. Their number gave them courage. The taste of Ahtik's flesh and the flavor of it in their nostrils drunkened them to the point of madness with desire.
Neewa was dazed. Over him, behind him, on all sides cf him they swept and circled, croaking and screaming at him, the boldest of them swooping down to beat at him with their wings. Thicker grew the menacing cloud, and then suddenly it descended like an avalanche. It covered Ahtik again. In it Neewa was fairly smothered. He felt himself buried under a mass of wings and bodies, and he began fighting, as he had fought the owls. A score of pincerlike black beaks fought to get at Neewa's hair and hide; others stabbed at his eyes; he felt his ears being pulled from his head, and the end of his nose was a bloody cushion within a dozen seconds. The breath was beaten out of him; he was blinded and dazed, and every square inch of him was aquiver with its own excruciating pain. He forgot Ahtik. The one thing in the world he wanted most was a large open space in which to run.
Putting all his strength into the effort, he struggled to his feet and charged through the mass of living things about him. At this sign of defeat many of the crows left him to join in the feast. By the time he was halfway to the cover into which Maheegun had gone, all had left him but one. That one may have been Kakakew himself. He had fastened himself like a rat-trap to Neewa's stubby tail, and there he hung on like grim death while Neewa ran. He kept his hold until his victim was well into the cover. Then he flopped himself into the air and rejoined his brethren at the putrefied carcass of the bull.
If ever Neewa had wanted Brimstone, he wanted him now. Again his entire viewpoint of the world was changed. He was stabbed in a hundred places. He burned as if afire. Even the bottoms of his feet hurt him when he stepped on them, and for half an hour he hid himself under a bush, licking his wounds and sniffing the air for Brimstone.
Then he went down the slope into the creek-bottom and hurried to the foot of the trail he had made to and from the dip. Vainly he quested about him for his comrade. He grunted and squealed and tried to catch the scent of him in the air. He ran up the creek a distance, and back again. Ahtik counted nothing now.
And Brimstone was gone.
A QUARTER of a mile away Brimstone had heard the clamor of the crows. But he was in no humor to turn back, even had he guessed that Neewa was in need of his help. He was hungry from long fasting, and for the present his disposition had taken a decided turn. He was in a mood to tackle anything in the eating line, no matter how big, but he was a good mile from the dip in the side of the ridge before he found even a crawfish, He crunched this down, shell and all. It helped to take the bad taste out of his mouth.
The day was destined to hold for him an unforgettable event. Now that he was alone, the memory of his master was not so vague as it had been yesterday and the days before. Brain-pictures came back to him more vividly as the morning lengthened into afternoon, bridging slowly but surely the gulf that Neewa's comradeship had wrought. For a time the exciting thrill of his adventure was gone. Half a dozen times he hesitated on the point of turning back to Neewa. It was hunger that always drove him on a little farther. He found two more crawfish. Then the creek deepened, and its water ran slowly and was darker. Twice he chased old rabbits, who got away from him easily. Once he came within an ace of catching a young one. Frequently a partridge rose with a thunder of wings. He saw moose-birds and jays and many squirrels. All about him was meat which it was impossible for him to catch. Then fortune turned his way. Poking his head into the end of a hollow log, he cornered a rabbit so completely there was no escape. During the next few minutes he indulged in the first square meal he had eaten for three days.
So absorbed was he in his feast that he was unconscious of a new arrival on the scene. He did not hear the coming of Oochak, the fisher-cat; nor for a few moments did he smell him. It was not in Oochak's nature to make a disturbance. He was by birth and instinct a valiant hunter and a gentleman, and when he saw Brimstone, whom he took to be a young wolf, feeding on a fresh kill, he made no move to demand a share for himself. Neither did he run away. Undoubtedly he would have continued on his way very soon if the pup had not finally sensed his presence and faced him.
Oochak had come from the other side of the log and stood not more than six feet distant. To one who knew as little of his history as Brimstone, there was nothing at all ferocious about him. He was shaped like his cousins the weasel, the mink and the skunk. He was about half as high as Brimstone, and fully as long, so that his two pairs of short legs seemed somewhat out of place, like those of a dachshund. He probably weighed between eight and ten pounds, had a bullet head, almost no ears, and atrocious whiskers. Also he had a bushy tail and snapping little eyes that seemed to bore clean through whatever he looked at. To Brimstone his accidental presence was a threat and a challenge. Besides, Oochak looked like an easy victim if it came to a fight. So Brimstone pulled back his lips and snarled.
Mr. Curwood in camp in the Far North.
It's a great advantage to a writer to know his subject at first hand. That is one reason James Oliver Curwood's stories of the Great Outdoors are so much better than other writers. Curwood knows. Not only has he hunted and fished and explored through practically all the Northland; he has had the time and the patience to study the people and the animals.
These stories of “The Baby Nomads of the North” could not have been written without his knowledge. They do the thing no other writer has attempted: they show us the humor of life in the wild. The romance and the adventure of the life, too, of course; but it's the good humor in these stories that “got” us so strongly. We think they are the most enjoyable short stories appearing this year. There will be six more of them—one in each issue for the next six months.
Oochak accepted this as an invitation for him to move on, and being a gentleman who respected other people's preserves, he made his apologies by beginning a velvet-footed exit. This was too much for the pup. Oochak was afraid of him. He was running away—and with a triumphant yelp Brimstone took after the fisher-cat.
After all, it was simply a mistake in judgment. Many two-footed animals, with bigger brains than Brimstone's had made it. For Oochak was for his size and weight the greatest fighter in North America. Just what happened in the one minute that followed his assault Brimstone would never be able quite to understand. It was not in reality a fight. It was considered immolation, a massacre. His first impression was that he had tackled a dozen Oochaks instead of one. Beyond that first impression his mind did not work or his eyes visualize. He was whipped as he would never be whipped again in his life. He was cut and bruised and bitten, he was strangled and stabbed; he was so utterly mauled that for a space after Oochak had gone Brimstone continued to rake the air with his paws, unconscious of the fact that the affair was over. When he opened his eyes, and found himself alone, he slunk into the hollow where he had cornered the rabbit.
In there he lay a good half-hour trying hard to comprehend just what had happened. The sun was setting when he dragged himself out. He limped. His one good ear was bitten clean through. There were bare spots on his hide where Oochak had scraped the hair off. His bones ached; his throat was sore, and there was a lump in one eye. He looked longingly back over the “home” trail. Up there was Neewa. With the lengthening shadows of the day's great loneliness crept upon him, and a desire to turn back to his comrade. But Oochak had gone that way—and Brimstone did not want to meet Oochak again.
He wandered a little further south and east, perhaps a quarter of a mile before the sun disappeared entirely. At dusk he struck the Big Rock portage between the Beaver and the Loon.
It was not a trail. Only at rare intervals did voyageurs coming down from the north make use of it in their passage from one waterway to the other. Three or four times a year a wolf might have caught the scent of man in it. It was there to-night. For a space Brimstone was turned into the rigidity of rock by a single overwhelming emotion. All other things were forgotten in the fact that he had struck the trail of man—and therefore the trail of Challoner, his master. He began to follow it. Darkness came, and he was still following it. In the light of the stars he persisted, all else crowded from him but the homing instinct of the dog and the desire for a master.
At last he came almost to the shore of the Loon, and there he saw the campfire of Makoki and the white man.
He did not rush in. He did not bark or yelp. The hard schooling of the wilderness had already set its mark upon him, and he slunk in cautiously—and then stopped, flat on his belly, just outside the rim of firelight. Then he saw that neither of the men was Challoner. But both were smoking, as Challoner had smoked. He could hear their voices, and they were like Challoner's voice. And the camp was the same—a fire, a pot hanging over it, a tent, and the odors of recently cooked things in the air.
Another moment or two, and he would have gone into the firelight. But the white man rose to his feet, stretched himself as Brimstone had often seen Challoner stretch, and picked up a stick of wood as big as his arm. He came within ten feet of Brimstone—and Brimstone wormed himself just a little toward him and stood up on his feet. It brought him into a half-light. His eyes were aglow with the reflection of the fire.
And the man saw him.
In a flash the club he held was over his head; it swung through the air with the power of a giant arm behind it, and was launched straight at Brimstone. Had it struck squarely, it would have killed him. The big end of it missed him; the smaller end landed against his neck and shoulder, driving him back into the gloom with such force and suddenness that the man thought he had done for him. He called out loudly to Makoki that he had killed a young wolf or a fox, and dashed out into the darkness where the pup had disappeared.
The club had knocked Brimstone fairly into the heart of a thick ground-spruce. There he lay, making no sound, with a terrible pain in his shoulder. Between himself and the fire he saw the man bend over and pick up the club. He saw Makoki hurrying toward him with another club, and under his shelter he made himself as small as he could. He was filled with a great dread, for now he understood the truth. These men were not Challoner. They were hunting for him—with clubs in their hands. He knew what the clubs meant. His shoulder was almost broken.
He lay very still while the men searched about him. The Indian even poked his stick into the thick ground-spruce. The white man kept saying that he was sure he had made a hit, and once he stood so near that Brimstone's nose almost touched his boot. He went back and added fresh birch to the fire, so that the light of it illumined a greater space about them. Brimstone's heart stood still. But the men searched farther on and at last went back to the fire.
For an hour Brimstone did not move. The fire burned itself low. The old Cree wrapped himself in a blanket and the white man went into his tent. Not until then did the pup dare to crawl out from under the spruce. With his bruised shoulder making him limp at every step, he hurried back over the trail which he had followed so hopefully a little while before. The man-scent no longer made his heart beat swiftly with joy. It was a menace now, a warning, a thing from which he wanted to get away. He would sooner have faced Oochak again, or the owls, than the white man with his club.
The night was very still when he dragged himself back to the hollow log in which he had killed the rabbit. He crawled into it and nursed his wounds through all the rest of the hours of darkness. In the early morning he came out and ate the rest of the rabbit.
After that he faced the north and west—where Neewa was. There was no hesitation now. He wanted Neewa again. He wanted to nuzzle him with his nose and lick his face even though he did smell to heaven. He wanted to hear him grunt and squeal in his funny, companionable way; he wanted to hunt with him again, and play with him, and lie down beside him in a sunny spot and sleep.
He set out. And Neewa, far up the creek, still followed hopefully and yearningly over the trail of Brimstone.
Halfway to the dip, in a small open meadow that was a glory of sun, they met. There was no very great demonstration. They stopped and looked at each other for a moment, as if to make sure there was no mistake. Neewa grunted. Brimstone wagged his tail, and they smelled noses. Neewa replied with a squeal; Brimstone whined.
It was as if they had said:
And then Neewa lay down in the sun, and Brimstone sprawled himself out beside him. After all, it was a funny world. It went to pieces now and then, but always came together again.
And to-day their world had thoroughly adjusted itself.
Once more they were chums—and they were happy:
“The Long Sleep,” another delightful story of “The Baby Nomads of the North,” appears in our next issue.
This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1928.
The longest-living author of this work died in 1927, so this work is in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 95 years or less. This work may be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.