French Louey's Delay
French Louey's Delay
by RAYMOND S. SPEARS
FRENCH LOUEY grew restless with the approach of frosty nights. He jingled his rawhide bag of gold from wolf bounties and hides, listening absently to the tune it rang. His throat half formed the moose call as he pawed the ground with his moccasins, a longing for the wild in his blood.
"By Gar!" he grunted. "Time for me to ru-un for de green timber!"
Keen frost lays the gloss on guard hair of mink and otter; it starts the fur of marten, fox pekan, and all the land animals to coming prime. The hardwoods let their gay colored leaves flutter to earth, while the spruce and balsam glaze with bright reflections from the evergreen of their needle leaves.
"Time for me to smoke meat, jerk venison!" the old trapper grinned, the scattering bristles on his leathery cheeks standing out like silver wires. "Firstest I know, zat sou 'west wind lay me by gull rocks maybe till I freeze up! No chance it— Come, now, you lazy scoundrel! Come— hi-i! Hi-i!"
French Louey complained in bitter words, but with twinkling eyes, of the fate that dragged him each autumn from Talking Birches, a buxom breed at St. Ignac, and from another friend, Mrs. Wustane, both of whom he had courted in vain, but amusingly from age to age.
Then he dropped in on Captain Argyle, of the fish tug Little St. Ignac; ran in to see the Dampier boys, lying at Black River mouth. He danced ashore on limber, springy legs, and he was pitched about and tossed in his wonderful old sailboat, between squalls as he scurried in and out, down the coast of the North Superior shore, paying his respects.
"By Gar!" he grumbled. "I don' lak de looks, not a beet, of dat blue cloud down by the sou'west! Ba-a—hi-i!"
On some days, with a sweep and a swish, the blue-cloud would make a grab, but he would duck around a point, or under the lee of something or other, cackling at the squall that he just felt in the hair on the back of his neck. The blow gone by, he would go slipping out laughing and jeering the vanity of squalls, and from the horizon the dark swells of the "windy mists" would reach up and draw back—for he knew them; knew their nature; read their will to engulf him, as he knew the North Shore, East End, and the Green Timber.
Thus he arrived at Blue Jay Harbor. He sailed in with his red canvas spread to the western zephyrs and a slant of a golden, setting sun casting his long pointed shadow in purple ahead of him. He sang the mad joy of his heart, holding his tiller with one hand, shaking his jingle-gold at the stone along the water's edge and toward the tall, slim spruces, firs, and graceful silver birches.
"I come-e!" he cried. "French Louey come-e! Hi-i! Sons o' groons! Wolfs look out—an' dis tam, ol' boy, I bet I jerk yo' into sevum hunder pound of venison! I bet-t! Dis tam I do eet!"
Wolves he detested, hated, and delighted in. Toward moose he had a different feeling, which he regarded with amusement and exultation. The moment he heard the keel scrape on the gritting sand of the landing, he pranced ashore with a kind of spidery jump, making fast with a line, but stopping in a blank amazement as six or eight gorgeous bluejays, puffed out in their winter plumage, swarmed into overhanging branches, and began to scold.
They screamed, jeered, chirruped, whistled, and spread the alarm of his arrival until the chickerees back in the evergreens began to call, and two or three ruffed grouse took up the alarm, nervously, and flew away with the subdued roar of their kind.
"Dar yo' go!" French Louey cried in anguish. "Tam plue jays, scare all de game, all de meat anywhere, an' now where I shoot my jerk, eh? What I live on dis wintaire if I don't jerk de moose?"
He turned a gaze of malignant joy and delighted indignation at the flock of birds. He walked along the sand, peering and stretching his neck. Sure enough, a few rods distant he came upon a track on the loose grit. Some great brute had trampled there, taking long steps, and plowing heavily amid the scattering fall of autumnal leaves.
"Dat's heem. all right!" French Louey shook his head. "The son of a goon! He mak' sevum hunder pound of jerk! I keel heem, an' look, I get fat on my ribs like a—oh, like a bull moose, mebby! Mebby, too I grow me a pair of yellow horns so beeg, by Gar, I have a stiff neck! Here he is yet! An' you blue scoundrels! W'at de t'un'er yo' tell heem I come for? Hi-! By Gar! I feex yo' sons o' goons!
He went rushing back to his boat. He scrambled aboard. He dashed into the cabin. He snatched up a .22 caliber repeater, emerged with it gesticulating and began to flash the muzzle up and down He made so many strange motions that the flock of blue jays lowered their voices and withdrew a yard into the fringe of the bristling green timber.
"Now look 't!" French Louey sighed. "W'en I pull down on 'em, dey am' no more in sight! By Gar! I feex 'em!"
He laid the little rifle to one side, and began to prance ashore and about. He was a most absurd figure. He threw himself, spread himself, preened and posed, perked up and strutted about—he seized now an ax; tossed next a bundle; manhandled his supplies; fairly danced to tunes that he whispered or whistled under his breath.
He paused to receive upon his finger a bumpy, tubby, soft-eyed chickadee as an old friend, and presto, out of the ruins rose a beautiful tiny log cabin; out of the raw wilderness appeared a trapper's camp; and back under the wilderness canopy was a flash of bright yellow as large as the man's small hand, the fresh blaze that marked the line French Louey followed into the green timber, with three or four steel traps to the mile, each one laid for marten, or fisher, mink or lynx, otter or whatever was at the crossings.
In four days the old man had landed his outfit; in a week he was all snug, his boat hauled out, and safe on its pole ways. He scurried into the wilderness, clearing his line of its impeding windfalls, dropping traps at the cubby sites, keeping keen watch for sign and tale of the wilderness, reading the news of his quarry and his peltry.
For one thing, Old Hang-Nose was around yet. Toward that bull moose the trapper bore a particular, personal, instinctive resentment. French Louey knew the old boy's hoofprints, whether in beach sand, in caribou moss, or under the spruces in deeps of dark purple, dead-fallen green needles.
"You wait, yo' ol' scoundrel!" He shook his dark finger at the heavy gloom beneath the tree tops. "Come de time yet w'en I feex yo', a 30-30 in de lungs, maybe, or worse yet, in the throat or haid: Yah! Put a good bullet in you an' den w'at, ol' Hang- Nose? Will you roar at me—eh—sh-h-h!"
As if answering his challenge he heard the call of a moose. It did not seem so loud. It was not even exactly a heavy sound. Yet it made the woods quiver, stirring the timber, and it seemed as though the masses of the cliffs and rubbed-down granite mountains trembled to that grand and rumbling wilderness music.
French Louey rolled his eyes, blinked and sucked in his breath; he stood by one of his white birch bark wigwams, cone-shaped, and a beautiful salmon color with patches of pure white, which he had just built anew on an ancient camp site. He saw on a topmost twig over his head a buck blue jay, a fine fellow, in whose feathers shone the light of day. The instant the man's black eyes discovered the bird, the jay dived from its perch and darted from view among the evergreen thickets.
"Yeh! Yeh! Go tell dat ol' feller I'm here!" the trapper shrieked after the bird, shaking his fist. "Some day I lose my temper, you tellin' heem my business so mooch! Yeh! I feex you—den heem! Sevum hunder poun' of jerk—dat's w'at I get! Sh-h! French Louey, yo' keep yo' mout' shut—don' say nottin'! To-morrow —to-morrow!"
That night the big moose roared his challenge and uttered his love call. French Louey listened to the sound. He knew that voice. He had heard it during other autumns. He knew that as yet the old bull was lonely, and that there had been no answer to soothe the wild longings, to assuage the terrible loneliness that made for misery, while attaining to the heights of love-lorn ecstasy. The trapper, too, had sung songs: bad uttered challenges; had memories of successes long ago before there had come the slow but sure passing of his own day.
"Shut up!" he whispered from his balsam boughs, as he was wrapped in—rabbit-skin blanket. "Shut up! When I hear you I think of me. You wait to-morrow! I feex you to-morrow!"
He meant it. Before dawn he was cooking a pair of grouse over a green birch fire. He had his cup of tea. He warmed his carbine over the fire and drew on his gloves, as at false dawn he issued into the frosty glow of stars about to fade.
He had in mind the killing of a great moose, to jerk the meat, to convert the skin into snowshoes and thongs, and perhaps to sell the horns and head for a hundred dollars at Port Arthur for the next fall rush of hunters seeking trophies.
He left his trap line blazed through the wilderness, swung south into a burning and skirted the tangle of briers to follow along a bog of moss with half-drowned trees, looking at the tracks there which told how truly he had found his way to the scene of the lonely bull's stamping ground. French Louey held his forefinger in his mouth for a minute, and when the tip was well wet and warmed, he held it in the air over his head. It grew cool toward the west first.
"Hi-i!" the hunter grimaced. "W'ere dat ol' boy go? Le's see!"
He found where browse had been nibbled, moss had been torn away in wads, brush broken by huge horns wrestling with it, ground pawed by big hoofs. He read the signs and tracks, found the heavy footsteps which showed the direction of the moose when he took his departure, and saw on the trees where massive horns had bumped the bark, rubbing it; with his rifle grasped in both hands, thumb on hammer, stepping with still moccasins, the hunter gave chase.
"I catch de ol' scoundrel asleep!" he whispered exultingly to himself. "Den, by Gar, in two secon's he wake up—an' I don' care—hi-i!"
Sunrise was now at hand. The golden lights tipped the bare knobs of stony mountains, and made the tops of the evergreens gleam with silver and emerald. Waves of relief from the black night frost came in warmth across the landscape. A chickadee uttered a tentative chirp, a wren made reply, and a chickarre whispered low, with nerves on edge. Then squarely over French Louey's head there was a shake of a branch. A voice broke with rasping shrillness on the quiet.
French Louey froze in his tracks. Cold chills ran down his back. His mouth opened, his eves bulged, his ears worked, and his boney hands closed down on his stock and barrel.
"Sacré!" he gasped. "Dat tamn plue scoundrel! Blue jay—I feex—"
He threw his rifle up. As he did so the blue jay flitted a rod into the mass of evergreens and began to scream, call, whisper, and jeer. The cry of alarm was taken up far and wide by red squirrels and other jay, and a flock of chickadees, in the jovial innocence of their companionable hearts, came to join the excitement: one of them came plumping down onto the brim of French Louey's hat and tipped over to look upside down into his eyes.
The man heard a taint crash: he heard a rattle of horns on standing timber; he heard a branch break; he heard, not a hundred yards distant, the moose racing through the close-growing trunks.
"Der he goes!" French Louey gasped. "In two minutes I catch heem, by Gar! Old Hang-Nose gone—I t'ank you, Meestaire Plue Jay! Oh, yeh! I t'ank you!"
He turned to storm homeward to his trap line camp, and, arriving there, he sat morosely for hours by the stick-fed fire in his wigwam. When at last he bobbed out to fell some white birch and block them off for winter firewood, he muttered and cursed under his breath while he slammed the splitting blade in deep, or sent the cutting edge into the soft, white wood. He glowered at the visiting chickadees, and threw chips at the impudent red squirrels. He sighed with angry appreciation at the blue jays and whisky jacks which came bobbing and pirouetting around.
"Dat ol' Hang-Nose!" the trapper gasped. "Nex' tam, by Gar!"
He had his trap line to lay down for his business of life. He scurried through the woods, dropping a trap at each old cubby, or stopping to build a new one where instinct or memory bade him pause for sake of a fisher, mink, or marten. He returned to the range of old Hang-Nose, his cached traps all taken up and distributed, his old lines cut out, and his new loops run and blazed. Light of pack, grim of visage savage of intentions, he went ransacking the valley of boiling springs for the big moose.
"I need dat meat!" he said, reckless of the rabbits, grouse, and fish which he had hung up. "Nothing lak bull moose to mak' a man strong!"
He found and followed the big fellow's tracks. They led through open burning, across springy swamps of caribou moss, through ridge gaps and into windfall where the down timber was laid in heaps—top on top. French Louey paused at the thicket, which covered acres. He sat down to scratch his chin; he whispered to himself; then he heard a crackle of dead sticks, a crash of breasted timber; he sprang to his feet, sprang to a sloping spruce trunk, and ran agilely to see the better.
He saw a great, black figure, with bright yellow antlers of enormous spread, with tawny legs plowing through the tumbledown tops. With a cackling shriek he threw up his carbine, but even that slight weight cost him his balance. He tipped, tilted, wavered with both hands, and a foot sprawling in the air against the sky line. Then he fell ignominiously into the bent limbs of an underlying balsam twelve or fifteen feet beneath.
"Sacré! Sacré!" he squealed. "Parbleau—hi-i! By Gar!"
Barked shins, insulted dignity, and sidelong embarrassment settled upon French Louey in equal proportions. Old Hang-Nose was a devil; he was a wizard; he was malignant, like a carcajou; and he was in league with the laughing jays. No use trying to bother with such a scalawag as that! The trapper slunk away back to his own line and quietly shot a yearling bull, dressed out the meat, slit it into foot-long ropes and salted them in layers on the inside of the short-haired skin.
After two days, in which the meat took up the salt, he washed the alkali from the strips, piece by piece. He swung the meat on long, slender sticks, which in turn he laid on a stout frame work. Under the sticks he spread a depth of six inches of white birch and maple green body wood. The heat cooked the meat. As the fat dripped, and the coals ashed over, French Louey laid on strips of green wood as large as his finger, which burned without smoke. After four hours the meat stopped dripping. It was cooked.
"Dar!" the trapper grimaced. "I got my jerk! I ask no odds of dat ol' son of a un! Hang-Nose don't starve me to death—not this winter! I fool heem, dataway."
The trapper strode over the big hoofprints with high disdain—ignoring them. When he heard the old boy romping through the timber, hitting the trees with his huge horns, the trapper sniffed indifferently. When he saw a strange cow moose come into the range, a strong brute with a bell of her own, the old trapper put his hand up beside his face to look away again.
"So dat's eet, eh? To-night I'll listen, eh?"
That night he listened, but only for a while. He stared into the fire of the bark wigwam, full of thoughts of his own. He heard the old bull's call; he heard the cow's answer—the first and only one to reply to old Hang-Nose that fall, as the trapper felt sure. For weeks the old fellow had been raising his voice to the sky, had lowered his mouth to the ground—and now his call was answered; now his longings were reciprocated.
"So!" French Louey said. "By Gar—hi-i!"
Politely he rolled up in his blanket, pulled the rabbit fur about his ears, and went to sleep. A week later he saw the two a quarter of a mile away across a lake whose shores were fringed with ice. He was in a cluster of balsam where he was swinging a lynx snare. For minutes he watched the two magnificent brutes as they grazed along side by side.
"Too tam bad!" he grumbled. "Now I have all dat young bull jerk—I am not to waste heem—huh! Mebby by and by!"
Snow fell. The evergreens were burdened; the opens were spread with the soft blanket: the briers, ferns, and light weeds flattened to the ground. The tracks of all wild life led hither and yon upon the white page. The great moose and his maid laid their tracks with those of the others.
Pekan ran bounding, otter leaped and slid lynx walked with dignity, and foxes paced about, step by step. Nervous snow shoe rabbits bounded and jerked back and forth, and on their multitude great snowy owls, the weasel tribes, the foxes and big cats fed, as on the up-starting, noisily flying grouse as well.
French Louey caught them with his bullets, shooting five, whose misfortune he jeered while he cursed the weights of their beautiful black and heavy hides. He caught mink, and marten, sneering at their fierce unintelligent ways; he called otter particularly silly and insignificant, though they were the hardest of all to catch, except wolves. Toward the tracks of wolves he crossed he carried himself with vociferous mockery of respect—and shot two while they were sleeping on the sunny side of tiny balsams where they had pawed beds through the snow to green, deep moss.
"Wolves! Wolves!" he chuckled, shaking his bag of gold at the limp, dangling gray hides. "Dar-r! Fool wolves!"
The snow was only a few inches deep, but he carried snowshoes wherever he went. Any day the dark leaden clouds might fluff down in deep waste of heavy snowfall. He made the most of the frisking life that spread its record in the trackings whose footprints he read with such instinctive understanding.
A wraith of the green timber, he flitted hither and yon, tending to his terribly efficient steel traps; choking lynx who did not know what was strangling them; picking up tracks of furs that he knew—here a certain black-tailed fox—there an otter with a snaky slide, and always when he came to it, turning to follow it for a few rods, however tired he might be, along the trail of old Hang-Nose or of the big cow who now ranged his range.
French Louey wondered about that bull moose. He would drop on his hands and knees, making sure that the old fellow was eating a caribou moss and not taking goatberry leaves. He would reach with a long stick to examine the twigs of slender birches where the moose had stood on his hind legs to chank the sweet, tasty, young bark.
Now that the urge of need no longer drove the trapper's trigger finger to the carbine guard, French Louey noted that he saw the big moose.
"Every tam I look aroun', by Gar, w'en I don' need to see 'm," the trapper whispered under his breath when he saw the black giant stalking along in the gloom of heavy umber, or out in the thin footing over open moss.
Sometimes the two looked each other in the darkling eye, each uncertain of the other's intentions-yet the moose decided to mind his own business, turning to vanish without haste in whatever cover was convenient. The cow, more shy, more reticent, kept clear, and seldom loomed in the foreground.
Snow followed snow. What had been convenient tracking, showing whither the pekans ran, where the mink crossed from stream to stream, was now a deep, fluffy mass against which the broad chest of the bull moose plowed, and in which French Louey lifted high his long raquettes, complaining bitterly that he was too old for such nonsense; pausing, however, to bandy words with a flock of blue jays, or talk soothingly to some still-living victim in his pretty cubby, ere it had jerked the well-sweep clear to lift it by a caught paw to swing hopeless and helpless—a bit of living fur in its doom.
Until New Years, French Louey was all enwrapped in the best of the year's trapping. After the sleety thaw of January he took the leavings of the fag end of the season. Working harder, he caught less; bitter cold, meaner snows to combat, desperate storms to weather—he grew weary with his sustained endurance; he saw his quarry growing gaunt as food grew scarce.
When he met the old moose Hang-Nose he saw in the shaggy coat a certain leanness, and in the lowering eyes a certain heaviness of experience. The huge antlers had disappeared, having fallen from the bull's brow, leaving odd scars. Without them old Hang-Nose was even a more imposing brute, with his enormous head, his short neck, his high shoulders, and his sloping back and comical little tail. The [cow] remained near, too. When French Looey happened by the pair, he saw the female drawing away, while the old bull interposed himself in a casual way on his retreat.
"Hi-i!" the trapper whispered. "So they go—together!"
Late in february sleet and freeze gripped the wilderness in crush and misery. For four days French Louey was held in one camp, because the snow would not even support him on his raquettes. The freeze covered the snow with a crust which, when it broke, showed edges as sharp and points as cutting as soft glass.
On his snowshoes he could skip about, skating whither he would. He found his traps catching the wandering meat-eaters. He snared lynx. He looked eagerly, hoping for bears to come out from their dens. He listened at night for the wandering wolves whose hunting cry was worst in the time of crusted snow. He carried his rifle, plenty of ammunition, and wasted no hours of light of the lengthening days. Dread of the bitter cold, of the fanged wilderness affected even the taunting and buoyant spirits of the old trapper.
He was glad to come back to Blue Jay harbor now. The background of the grim old lake, with its floating fields of ice, its splash of blue gray waters, and its impassible barrier, was less menacing than the covert of the green timber where the dead cold oppressed even the habituated toughness of French Louey himself.
He was unafraid. He merely wondered at the voices he heard; he merely shrank when he saw a moving shape out of the corner of his eye; he merely shuddered when in the sparkling, starlit night he heard the voice of an owl, and the far-yelping cry of the hunting packs.
Old Hang-Nose and the cow had retreated from some miles inland to the heavy balsam fir and spruce knoll flats just within the lake's walls of red stone. When French Louey came down to his log cabin, in from the snow-covered hulk of his little sailboat as it lay drawn out on the beach, he found that the two moose were yarded at his very door.
"Dat ol' scoundrel!" he gasped. "De impudence of heem! Wen I don' want heem, hyar he is! Wen I want heem, w'are is he?"
The two had tramped up and down through the swamp thicket making deep, narrow paths in the snow. They had walked astride tall, slender birch saplings, and, having borne down the tops, had eaten the long switch branches. They had not waxed fat, but they had lived well, compared to some of the gaunt yarded beasts he had seen in other parts of his trapping land.
There, within a few acres, French Louey and the two moose occupied a common shelter of forest canopy. The two brutes did not welcome him. Far from it! They plowed away with snorts and heavy blowings; but the trapper knew their tracks, and did not need to see the moose to recognize them.
He sat that night by his little stove, with its chunks of good body-wood, warming his hands while the white frost lining of the cabin slowly blackened as the heat melted the tiny crystals, leaving instead drips of water which dried, and the wonder of a warm room in the terrific cold was enjoyed by the old bones of the man. He had at last so hot a fire that his red stove drove him to the near wall, and when he tried his breath, for the first time in weeks he could not see it.
"Hi-i!" he chirred, like a red squirrel. "Hi-i!"
When he turned in on his bunk, which he had covered a foot deep with shingled balsam boughs, he enjoyed the luxury of an open blanket, with full warmth. Three times, at intervals of a bit more than an hour, he filled his stove. When he awakened the next time it was with a start and a bound that brought him suddenly to an erect position.
He listened, cocking his head. He shivered as he drew on his heavy shirt before sticking an ear through an open doorway. When he heard clearly, he reached to pick up his carbine.
"By Gar!" he gasped. "Wolves! Wolves running—wolves hongry!"
Starved, gaunt wraiths of the arctic cold, driven by famine need of their shrunken flanks, wolves had ceased sneaking and slinking through the green timber and they were packed together now while racing in the open, the voices of their hunger whining as they howled in the star-lit night.
"Der!" he whispered. "Behin de black streak ridge—through the gap, now Garry—dey're comin'! Now down to boiling-water creek—up—up! Shu-u!"
He knew the ledges from which the voices echoed; he knew the deeps of the valley gorges where the pack's course was muffled; he stiffened as he heard the full-throated yelling when on a height the pack gave wide voice to open range.
"Dey go by!" French Louey assured himself. "Dey go on down, maybe, to Pukaso, to Pilot Harbor, prob'ly to Dog River! Dey go off der!"
That was his wish, his hope. But suddenly he heard them utter an outburst of lust of blood in eager discovery.
"W'at? W'at?" the trapper gasped. "W'at dat?"
For a minute he could not guess the answer. The pack had found a trail, full of promise, which made them thirst the noisier with famine hope. At first he tried to believe he was mistaken; then he thought it was his own trail—but he knew his trail was somewhere north of east of the starved chorus.
"By Gar!" he muttered. "Old Hang-Nose—hees femme, eh? Parbleau!"
French Louey stepped into the open, all clear, listening the harder. He heard the fearsome thing of that dread wilderness. He heard the wolf pack, a numerous and hungry one, coming squealing and yapping along the track of some victim—French Louey rose on his tiptoes as he saw in his imagination the thing that was soon to take place.
Old Hang-Nose was coming, plowing through the snow, the sharp crust cutting him. The belled cow was coming, too, heavy and slow in that deep tanglefoot. Driven by such hunger the wolves could not easily be held off by even the quick blows of the long, slender legs of the big bull. The cow, his mate, was in dire need. The trapper blinked, staring at the snow beyond the shadows of his cabin in the starlight He was used to tragic aspects in the wilderness. He was himself—though he did not say so—one of the most tragic of all.
"Sacré!" he grumbled, shrugging his shoulders. "Dat's too bad!"
He could do nothing. He stood listening while he heard the wolves in thirsty pursuit They came nearer. Their voices grew louder. He heard them sight their prey in the starlight. He heard their wild cries of lust and eagerness. Then he heard the snarling as the pack closed in. He heard them tumble back, yelping and dismayed. He heard them whining and mustering their courage again—heard them race on and then heard another baying; heard another closing in, as hunger drove arrant cowardice to assault in which some must endure hurts and breaks.
French Louey was jumping up and down. He was uttering short cries and making gesticulations. He was beside himself with Gallic excitement as he heard that terrific but losing fight for life coming nearer. The woods were in an uproar. The dark timber quaking with thunder from the heavy freeze that split frozen trunks, echoed to the squeals and mouthings of the pack.
Then the man could hear the crash of breaking snow crust; he heard frozen branches as heavy brutes surged through the dead tops of fallen timber; he heard the heavy breathing, the explosive gasps as the two moose struggled against the swarming pack of agile, grabbing, blood-thirsted wolves.
The moose came plunging nearer. The old bull whipped back the increasing pack for a minute, and suddenly, right fairly at hand, the cow broke cover. Then the bull staggered out, broadside, striking at the shadowy things swarming around.
"Hi-i! Hi-i!" French Louey screamed and cackled, and jumping high, reckless of consequences, he dashed the few yards along the hard path to his smoking little spring, to plunge into the mêlée.
He threw up his carbine, shooting as he glanced along the side of the short barrel. He saw with satisfaction the red flash of powder: he heard a loud snarl turn into a howl of frantic grief and agony. He threw seven bullets into the [??] leaping [??]. He thrust more [madly] into the [??] to empty it again into the gray devils, as they would have conquered.
For half a minute the wolves would not believe what was happening. They tasted warm blood in their mouths; but the most frantic could not withstand gunfire, or the shrieking triumphant, battle-loving human prancing at them.
The pack vanished in the timber—those that could go. Silence fell upon the wilderness with a kind of crash. The howls, yelps, the very whines disappeared. French Louey himself grew still. He heard gasps and sighs on the ice of Blue Jay Bay. He saw the two black figures, one of which stood on wind-swept ice beside the other, as she lay sprawled where she had slipped.
"Huh!" French Louey blinked at the two. "Well, by Gar-r-r-r!"
He returned to his cabin, softly closing the door. He stirred the fire, put on some chunks of wood, and shivered with cold that succeeded the perspiration of his rapid violence.
In the morning, just after dawn, he slipped craftily out. He saw old Hang-Nose and the big cow, with crimson icicles down their breasts and legs, walking stiffly up into the swamp cover again.
The bull turned a pair of small, darkly suspicious eyes in the direction of French Louey, who stopped short, water pail in hand. The two stared malignantly, steadfastly, full of mutual defiance, snorting softly and even with challenge; then the moose walked with deliberation as suited the gait of his weary but safe mate with her burden. When they were in the woods the trapper filled his pail, set it in the snow, and then viewed the grisly wretches of the night hunt as they sprawled in the stained snow.
"One—two—five—six!" he counted, on his fingers, and raising his blackened hands fistwise at the victims of his natural aiming, he swore. "I teach you something, trying to rob me of my jerk next fall! I teach you. you bet! Damn gray scoundrels! Hi-i! Now I shook my wolf-gold at you. an' put some more een dat ol' rawhide, eh? Hi-i! By Gar!"