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Baree, Son of Kazan
James Oliver Curwood
Illustrator: Frank B. Hoffman
Baree had not killed, but he had conquered. His first great day—or night—had come. The world was filled with a new promise for him, as vast as the night itself.
Since the publication of my two animal books, “Kazan” and “The Grizzly King,” I have received so many hundreds of letters from friends of wild animal life, all of which were more or less of an enquiring nature, that I have been encouraged to incorporate in this preface of the third of my series—“Baree, Son of Kazan”—something more of my desire and hope in writing of wild life, and something of the foundation of fact whereupon this and its companion books have been written.
I have always disliked the preaching of sermons in the pages of romance. It is like placing a halter about an unsuspecting reader’s neck and dragging him into paths for which he may have no liking. But if fact and truth produce in the reader’s mind a message for himself, then a work has been done. That is what I hope for in my nature books. The American people are not and never have been lovers of wild life. As a nation we have gone after Nature with a gun.
And what right, you may ask, has a confessed slaughterer of wild life such as I have been to complain? None at all, I assure you. I have twenty-seven guns—and I have used them all. I stand condemned as having done more than my share toward extermination. But that does not lessen the fact that I have learned; and in learning I have come to believe that if boys and girls and men and women could be brought into the homes and lives of wild birds and animals as their homes are made and their lives are lived we would all understand at last that wherever a heart beats it is very much like our own in the final analysis of things. To see a bird singing on a twig means but little; but to live a season with that bird, to be with it in courting days, in matehood and motherhood, to understand its griefs as well as its gladness means a great deal. And in my books it is my desire to tell of the lives of the wild things which I know as they are actually lived. It is not my desire to humanize them. If we are to love wild animals so much that we do not want to kill them we must know them as they actually live. And in their lives, in the facts of their lives, there is so much of real and honest romance and tragedy, so much that makes them akin to ourselves that the animal biographer need not step aside from the paths of actuality to hold one’s interest.
Perhaps rather tediously I have come to the few words I want to say about Baree, the hero of this book. Baree, after all, is only another Kazan. For it was Kazan I found in the way I have described—a bad dog, a killer about to be shot to death by his master when chance, and my own faith in him, gave him to me.
We travelled together for many thousands of miles through the northland—on trails to the Barren Lands, to Hudson’s Bay and to the Arctic. Kazan, the bad dog, the half-wolf, the killer—was the best four-legged friend I ever had. He died near Fort MacPherson, on the Peel River, and is buried there. And Kazan was the father of Baree; Gray Wolf, the full-blooded wolf was his mother. Nepeese, The Willow, still lives near God’s Lake; and it was in the country of Nepeese and her father that for three lazy months I watched the doings at Beaver Town, and went on fishing trips with Wakayoo, the bear. Sometimes I have wondered if old Beaver Tooth himself did not in some way understand that I had made his colony safe for his people. It was Pierrot’s trapping ground; and to Pierrot—father of Nepeese—I gave my best rifle on his word that he would not harm my beaver friends for two years. And the people of Pierrot’s breed keep their word. Wakayoo, Baree’s big bear friend is dead. He was killed as I have described, in that “pocket” among the ridges, while I was on a jaunt to Beaver Town. We were becoming good friends and I missed him a great deal. The story of Pierrot and of his princess wife, Wyola, is true; they are buried side by side under the tall spruce that stood near their cabin. Pierrot’s murderer, instead of dying as I have told it, was killed in his attempt to escape the Royal Mounted farther west. When I last saw Baree he was at Lac Seul House, where I was the guest of Mr. William Patterson, the factor; and the last word I heard from him was through my good friend Frank Aldous, factor at White Dog Post, who wrote me only a few weeks ago that he had recently seen Nepeese and Baree and the husband of Nepeese, and that the happiness he found in their far wilderness home made him regret that he was a bachelor. I feel sorry for Aldous. He is a splendid young Englishman, unattached, and someday I am going to try and marry him off. I have in mind someone at the present moment—a fox-trapper’s daughter up near the Barren, very pretty, and educated at a Missioner’s school; and as Aldous is going with me on my next trip I may have something to say about them in the book that is to follow “Baree, Son of Kazan.”
James Oliver Curwood.
June 12, 1917.
To Baree, for many days after he was born, the world was a vast gloomy cavern.
During these first days of his life his home was in the heart of a great windfall where Gray Wolf, his blind mother, had found a safe nest for his babyhood, and to which Kazan, her mate, came only now and then, his eyes gleaming like strange balls of greenish fire in the darkness. It was Kazan’s eyes that gave to Baree his first impression of something existing away from his mother’s side, and they brought to him also his discovery of vision. He could feel, he could smell, he could hear—but in that black pit under the fallen timber he had never seen until the eyes came. At first they frightened him; then they puzzled him, and his fear changed to an immense curiosity. He would be looking straight at them, when all at once they would disappear. This was when Kazan turned his head. And then they would flash back at him again out of the darkness with such startling suddenness that Baree would involuntarily shrink closer to his mother, who always trembled and shivered in a strange sort of way when Kazan came in.
Baree, of course, would never know their story. He would never know that Gray Wolf, his mother, was a full-blooded wolf, and that Kazan, his father, was a dog. In him nature was already beginning its wonderful work, but it would never go beyond certain limitations. It would tell him, in time, that his beautiful wolf-mother was blind, but he would never know of that terrible battle between Gray Wolf and the lynx in which his mother’s sight had been destroyed. Nature could tell him nothing of Kazan’s merciless vengeance, of the wonderful years of their matehood, of their loyalty, their strange adventures in the great Canadian wilderness—it could make him only a son of Kazan.
But at first, and for many days, it was all mother. Even after his eyes had opened wide and he had found his legs so that he could stumble about a little in the darkness, nothing existed for Baree but his mother. When he was old enough to be playing with sticks and moss out in the sunlight, he still did not know what she looked like. But to him she was big and soft and warm, and she licked his face with her tongue, and talked to him in a gentle, whimpering way that at last made him find his own voice in a faint, squeaky yap.
And then came that wonderful day when the greenish balls of fire that were Kazan’s eyes came nearer and nearer, a little at a time, and very cautiously. Heretofore Gray Wolf had warned him back. To be alone was the first law of her wild breed during mothering-time. A low snarl from her throat, and Kazan had always stopped. But on this day the snarl did not come. In Gray Wolf’s throat it died away in a low, whimpering sound. A note of loneliness, of gladness, of a great yearning. “It is all right now,” she was saying to Kazan; and Kazan—pausing for a moment to make sure—replied with an answering note deep in his throat.
Still slowly, as if not quite sure of what he would find, Kazan came to them, and Baree snuggled closer to his mother. He heard Kazan as he dropped down heavily on his belly close to Gray Wolf. He was unafraid—and mightily curious. And Kazan, too, was curious. He sniffed. In the gloom his ears were alert. After a little Baree began to move. An inch at a time he dragged himself away from Gray Wolf’s side. Every muscle in her lithe body tensed. Again her wolf blood was warning her. There was danger for Baree. Her lips drew back, baring her fangs. Her throat trembled, but the note in it never came. Out of the darkness two yards away came a soft, puppyish whine, and the caressing sound of Kazan’s tongue.
Baree had felt the thrill of his first great adventure. He had discovered his father.
This all happened in the third week of Baree’s life. He was just eighteen days old when Gray Wolf allowed Kazan to make the acquaintance of his son. If it had not been for Gray Wolf’s blindness and the memory of that day on the Sun Rock when the lynx had destroyed her eyes, she would have given birth to Baree in the open, and his legs would have been quite strong. He would have known the sun and the moon and the stars; he would have realized what the thunder meant, and would have seen the lightning flashing in the sky. But as it was, there had been nothing for him to do in that black cavern under the windfall but stumble about a little in the darkness, and lick with his tiny red tongue the raw bones that were strewn about them. Many times he had been left alone. He had heard his mother come and go, and nearly always it had been in response to a yelp from Kazan that came to them like a distant echo. He had never felt a very strong desire to follow until this day when Kazan’s big, cool tongue caressed his face. In those wonderful seconds nature was at work. His instinct was not quite born until then. And when Kazan went away, leaving them alone in darkness, Baree whimpered for him to come back, just as he had cried for his mother when now and then she had left him in response to her mate’s call.
The sun was straight above the forest when, an hour or two after Kazan’s visit, Gray Wolf slipped away. Between Baree’s nest and the top of the windfall were forty feet of jammed and broken timber through which not a ray of light could break. This blackness did not frighten him, for he had yet to learn the meaning of light. Day, and not night, was to fill him with his first great terror. So quite fearlessly, with a yelp for his mother to wait for him, he began to follow. If Gray Wolf heard him, she paid no attention to his call, and the scrape of her claws on the dead timber died swiftly away.
This time Baree did not stop at the eight-inch log which had always shut in his world in that particular direction. He clambered to the top of it and rolled over on the other side. Beyond this was vast adventure, and he plunged into it courageously.
It took him a long time to make the first twenty yards. Then he came to a log worn smooth by the feet of Gray Wolf and Kazan, and stopping every few feet to send out a whimpering call for his mother, he made his way farther and farther along it. As he went, there grew slowly a curious change in this world of his. He had known nothing but blackness. And now this blackness seemed breaking itself up into strange shapes and shadows. Once he caught the flash of a fiery streak above him—a gleam of sunshine—and it startled him so that he flattened himself down upon the log and did not move for half a minute. Then he went on. An ermine squeaked under him. He heard the swift rustling of a squirrel’s feet, and a curious whut-whut-whut that was not at all like any sound his mother had ever made. He was off the trail.
The log was no longer smooth, and it was leading him upward higher and higher into the tangle of the windfall, and was growing narrower every foot he progressed. He whined. His soft little nose sought vainly for the warm scent of his mother. The end came suddenly when he lost his balance and fell. He let out a piercing cry of terror as he felt himself slipping, and then plunged downward. He must have been high up in the windfall, for to Baree it was a tremendous fall. His soft little body thumped from log to log as he shot this way and that, and when at last he stopped, there was scarcely a breath left in him. But he stood up quickly on his four trembling legs—and blinked.
A new terror held Baree rooted there. In an instant the whole world had changed. It was a flood of sunlight. Everywhere he looked he could see strange things. But it was the sun that frightened him most. It was his first impression of fire, and it made his eyes smart. He would have slunk back into the friendly gloom of the windfall, but at this moment Gray Wolf came around the end of a great log, followed by Kazan. She muzzled Baree joyously, and Kazan in a most doglike fashion wagged his tail. This mark of the dog was to be a part of Baree. Half wolf, he would always wag his tail. He tried to wag it now. Perhaps Kazan saw the effort, for he emitted a muffled yelp of approbation as he sat back on his haunches.
Or he might have been saying to Gray Wolf:
“Well, we’ve got the little rascal out of that windfall at last, haven’t we?”
For Baree it had been a great day. He had discovered his father—and the world.
And it was a wonderful world—a world of vast silence, empty of everything but the creatures of the wild. The nearest Hudson’s Bay post was a hundred miles away, and the first town of civilization was a straight three hundred to the south. Two years before, Tusoo, the Cree trapper, had called this his domain. It had come down to him, as was the law of the forests, through generations of forefathers; but Tusoo had been the last of his worn-out family; he had died of smallpox, and his wife and his children had died with him. Since then no human foot had taken up his trails. The lynx had multiplied. The moose and caribou had gone unhunted by man. The beaver had built their homes undisturbed. The tracks of the black bear were as thick as the tracks of the deer farther south. And where once the deadfalls and poison-baits of Tusoo had kept the wolves thinned down, there was no longer a menace for these mohekuns of the wilderness.
Following the sun of this first wonderful day came the moon and the stars of Baree’s first real night. It was a splendid night, and with it a full red moon sailed up over the forests, flooding the earth with a new kind of light, softer and more beautiful to Baree. The wolf was strong in him, and he was restless. He had slept that day in the warmth of the sun, but he could not sleep in this glow of the moon. He nosed uneasily about Gray Wolf, who lay flat on her belly, her beautiful head alert, listening yearningly to the night sounds, and for the tonguing of Kazan, who had slunk away like a shadow to hunt.
Half a dozen times, as Baree wandered about near the windfall, he heard a soft whir over his head, and once or twice he saw gray shadows floating swiftly through the air. They were the big northern owls swooping down to investigate him, and if he had been a rabbit instead of a wolf-dog whelp, his first night under the moon and stars would have been his last; for unlike Wapoos, the rabbit, he was not cautious. Gray Wolf did not watch him closely. Instinct told her that in these forests there was no great danger for Baree except at the hands of man. In his veins ran the blood of the wolf. He was a hunter of all other wild creatures, but no other creature, either winged or fanged, hunted him.
In a way Baree sensed this. He was not afraid of the owls. He was not afraid of the strange blood-curdling cries they made in the black spruce-tops. But once fear entered into him, and he scurried back to his mother. It was when one of the winged hunters of the air swooped down on a snowshoe rabbit, and the squealing agony of the doomed creature set his heart thumping like a little hammer. He felt in those cries the nearness of that one ever-present tragedy of the wild—death. He felt it again that night when, snuggled close to Gray Wolf, he listened to the fierce outcry of a wolf-pack that was close on the heels of a young caribou bull. And the meaning of it all, and the wild thrill of it all, came home to him early in the gray dawn when Kazan returned, holding between his jaws a huge rabbit that was still kicking and squirming with life.
This rabbit was the climax in the first chapter of Baree’s education. It was as if Gray Wolf and Kazan had planned it all out, so that he might receive his first instruction in the art of killing. When Kazan had dropped it, Baree approached the big hare cautiously. The back of Wapoos, the rabbit, was broken. His round eyes were glazed, and he had ceased to feel pain. But to Baree, as he dug his tiny teeth into the heavy fur under Wapoos’s throat, the hare was very much alive. The teeth did not go through into the flesh. With puppyish fierceness Baree hung on. He thought that he was killing. He could feel the dying convulsions of Wapoos. He could hear the last gasping breaths leaving the warm body, and he snarled and tugged until finally he fell back with a mouthful of fur. When he returned to the attack, Wapoos was quite dead, and Baree continued to bite and snarl until Gray Wolf came with her sharp fangs and tore the rabbit to pieces. After that followed the feast.
So Baree came to understand that to eat meant to kill, and as other days and nights passed, there grew in him swiftly the hunger for flesh. In this he was the true wolf. From Kazan he had taken other and stronger inheritances of the dog. He was magnificently black, which in later days gave him the name of Kusketa Mohekun—the black wolf. On his breast was a white star. His right ear was tipped with white. His tail, at six weeks, was bushy and hung low. It was a wolf’s tail. His ears were Gray Wolf’s ears—sharp, short, pointed, always alert. His fore-shoulders gave promise of being splendidly like Kazan’s, and when he stood up he was like the trace dog, except that he always stood sidewise to the point or object he was watching. This, again, was the wolf, for a dog faces the direction in which he is looking intently.
One brilliant night, when Baree was two months old, and when the sky was filled with stars and a June moon so bright that it seemed scarcely higher than the tall spruce-tops, Baree settled back on his haunches and howled. It was a first effort. But there was no mistake in the note of it. It was the wolf-howl. But a moment later when Baree slunk up to Kazan, as if deeply ashamed of his effort, he was wagging his tail in an unmistakably apologetic manner. And this again was the dog. If Tusoo, the dead Indian trapper, could have seen him then, he would have judged him by that wagging of his tail. It revealed the fact that deep in his heart—and in his soul, if we can concede that he had one—Baree was dog.
In another way Tusoo would have found judgment of him. At two months the wolf whelp has forgotten how to play. He is a slinking part of the wilderness, already at work preying on creatures smaller and more helpless than himself. Baree still played. In his excursions away from the windfall he had never gone farther than the creek, a hundred yards from where his mother lay. He had helped to tear many dead and dying rabbits into pieces; he believed, if he thought upon the matter at all, that he was exceedingly fierce and courageous. But it was his ninth week before he felt his spurs and fought his terrible battle with the young owl in the edge of the thick forest.
The fact that Oohoomisew, the big snow-owl, had made her nest in a broken stub not far from the windfall was destined to change the whole course of Baree’s life, just as the blinding of Gray Wolf had changed hers, and a man’s club had changed Kazan’s. The creek ran close past the stub, which had been shriven by lightning; and this stub stood in a still, dark place in the forest, surrounded by tall, black spruce and enveloped in gloom even in broad day. Many times Baree had gone to the edge of this mysterious bit of forest and had peered in curiously, and with a growing desire.
On this day of his great battle its lure was over-powering. Little by little he entered into it, his eyes shining brightly and his ears alert for the slightest sounds that might come out of it. His heart beat faster. The gloom enveloped him more. He forgot the windfall and Kazan and Gray Wolf. Here before him lay the thrill of adventure. He heard stranger sounds, but very soft sounds, as if made by padded feet and downy wings, and they filled him with a thrilling expectancy. Under his feet there were no grass or weeds or flowers, but a wonderful brown carpet of soft evergreen needles. They felt good to his feet, and were so velvety that he could not hear his own movement.
He was fully three hundred yards from the windfall when he passed Oohoomisew’s stub and into a thick growth of young balsams. And there—directly in his path—crouched the monster!
Papayuchisew (Young Owl) was not more than a third as large as Baree. But he was a terrifying looking object. To Baree he seemed all head and eyes. He could see nobody at all. Kazan had never brought in anything like this, and for a full half-minute he remained very quiet, eyeing it speculatively. Papayuchisew did not move a feather. But as Baree advanced, a cautious step at a time, the bird’s eyes grew bigger and the feathers about his head ruffled up as if stirred by a bit of wind. He came of a fighting family, this little Papayuchisew—a savage, fearless, and killing family—and even Kazan would have taken note of those ruffling feathers.
With a space of two feet between them, the pup and the owlet eyed each other. In that moment, if Gray Wolf could have seen, she might have said to Baree: “Use your legs—and run!” And Oohoomisew, the old owl, might have said to Papayuchisew: “You little fool—use your wings and fly!”
They did neither—and the fight began.
Papayuchisew started it, and with a single wild yelp Baree went back in a heap, the owlet’s beak fastened like a red-hot vise in the soft flesh at the end of his nose. That one yelp of surprise and pain was Baree’s first and last cry in the fight. The wolf surged in him; rage and the desire to kill possessed him. As Papayuchisew hung on, he made a curious hissing sound; and as Baree rolled and gnashed his teeth and fought to free himself from that amazing grip on his nose, fierce little snarls rose out of his throat.
For fully a minute Baree had no use of his jaws. Then, by accident, he wedged Papayuchisew in a crotch of a low ground-shrub, and a bit of his nose gave way. He might have run then, but instead of that he was back at the owlet like a flash. Flop went Papayuchisew on his back, and Baree buried his needle-like teeth in the bird’s breast. It was like trying to bite through a pillow, the feathers were so close and thick. Deeper and deeper Baree sank his fangs, and just as they were beginning to prick the owlet’s skin, Papayuchisew—jabbing a little blindly with a beak that snapped sharply every time it closed—got him by the ear.
The pain of that hold was excruciating to Baree, and he made a more desperate effort to get his teeth through his enemy’s thick armour of feathers. In the struggle they rolled under the low balsams to the edge of the ravine through which ran the creek. Over the steep edge they plunged, and as they rolled and bumped to the bottom, Baree loosed his hold. Papayuchisew hung valiantly on, and when they reached the bottom he still had his grip on Baree’s ear.
Baree’s nose was bleeding; his ear felt as if it were being pulled from his head; and in this uncomfortable moment a newly awakened instinct made Baby Papayuchisew discover his wings as a fighting asset. An owl has never really begun to fight until he uses his wings, and with a joyous hissing, Papayuchisew began beating his antagonist so fast and so viciously that Baree was dazed. He was compelled to close his eyes, and he snapped blindly. For the first time since the battle began he felt a strong inclination to get away. He tried to tear himself free with his forepaws, but Papayuchisew—slow to reason but of firm conviction—hung to Baree’s ear like grim fate.
At this critical point, when the understanding of defeat was forming itself swiftly in Baree’s mind, chance saved him. His fangs closed on one of the owlet’s tender feet. Papayuchisew gave a sudden squeak. The ear was free at last—and with a snarl of triumph Baree gave a vicious tug at Papayuchisew’s leg.
In the excitement of battle he had not heard the rushing tumult of the creek close under them, and over the edge of a rock Papayuchisew and he went together, the chill water of the rain-swollen stream muffling a final snarl and a final hiss of the two little fighters.
To Papayuchisew, after his first mouthful of water, the stream was almost as safe as the air, for he went sailing down it with the lightness of a gull, wondering in his slow-thinking big head why he was moving so swiftly and so pleasantly without any effort of his own.
To Baree it was a different matter. He went down almost like a stone. A mighty roaring filled his ears; it was dark, suffocating, terrible. In the swift current he was twisted over and over. For twenty feet he was under water. Then he rose to the surface and desperately began using his legs. It was of little use. He had only time to blink once or twice and catch a lungful of air when he shot into a current that was running like a millrace between the butts of two fallen trees, and for another twenty feet the sharpest eyes could not have seen hair or hide of him. He came up again at the edge of a shallow riffle over which the water ran like the rapids at Niagara in miniature, and for fifty or sixty yards he was flung along like a hairy ball. From this he was hurled into a deep, cold pool; and then—half dead—he found himself crawling out on a gravelly bar.
For a long time Baree lay there in a pool of sunlight without moving. His ear hurt him; his nose was raw, and burned as if he had thrust it into fire. His legs and body were sore, and as he began to wander along the gravel bar, he was the most wretched pup in the world. He was also completely turned around. In vain he looked about him for some familiar mark—something that might guide him back to his windfall home. Everything was strange. He did not know that the water had flung him out on the wrong side of the stream, and that to reach the windfall he would have to cross it again. He whined, but that was as loud as his voice rose. Gray Wolf could have heard his barking, for the windfall was not more than two hundred and fifty yards up the stream. But the wolf in Baree held him silent, except for his low whining.
Striking the main shore, Baree began going downstream. This was away from the windfall, and each step that he took carried him farther and farther from home. Every little while he stopped and listened. The forest was deeper. It was growing blacker and more mysterious. Its silence was frightening. At the end of half an hour Baree would even have welcomed Papayuchisew. And he would not have fought him—he would have inquired, if possible, the way back home.
Baree was fully three quarters of a mile from the windfall when he came to a point where the creek split itself into two channels. He had but one choice to follow—the stream that flowed a little south and east. This stream did not run swiftly. It was not filled with shimmering riffles, and rocks about which the water sang and foamed. It grew black, like the forest. It was still and deep. Without knowing it, Baree was burying himself deeper and deeper into Tusoo’s old trapping-grounds. Since Tusoo had died, they had lain undisturbed except for the wolves, for Gray Wolf and Kazan had not hunted on this side of the waterway—and the wolves themselves preferred the more open country for the chase.
Suddenly Baree found himself at the edge of a deep, dark pool in which the water lay still as oil, and his heart nearly jumped out of his body when a great, sleek, shining creature sprang out from almost under his nose and landed with a tremendous splash in the centre of it. It was Nekik, the otter.
The otter had not heard Baree, and in another moment Napanekik, his wife, came sailing out of a patch of gloom, and behind her came three little otters, leaving behind them four shimmering wakes in the oily-looking water. What happened after that made Baree forget for a few minutes that he was lost. Nekik had disappeared under the surface, and now he came up directly under his unsuspecting mate with a force that lifted her half out of the water. Instantly he was gone again, and Napanekik took after him fiercely. To Baree it did not look like play. Two of the baby otters had pitched on the third, which seemed to be fighting desperately. The chill and ache went out of Baree’s body. His blood ran excitedly; he forgot himself, and let out a bark. In a flash the otters disappeared. For several minutes the water in the pool continued to rock and heave—and that was all. After a little, Baree drew himself back into the bushes and went on.
It was about three o’clock in the afternoon, and the sun should still have been well up in the sky. But it was growing darker steadily, and the strangeness and fear of it all lent greater speed to Baree’s legs. He stopped every little while to listen, and at one of these intervals he heard a sound that drew from him a responsive and joyous whine. It was a distant howl—a wolf’s howl—straight ahead of him. Baree was not thinking of wolves but of Kazan, and he ran through the gloom of the forest until he was winded. Then he stopped and listened a long time. The wolf-howl did not come again. Instead of it there rolled up from the west a deep and thunderous rumble. Through the treetops there flashed a vivid streak of lightning. A moaning whisper of wind rode in advance of the storm; the thunder grew nearer; and a second flash of lightning seemed searching Baree out where he stood shivering under a canopy of great spruce. This was his second storm. The first had frightened him terribly, and he had crawled far back into the shelter of the windfall. The best he could find now was a hollow under a big root, and into this he slunk, crying softly. It was a babyish cry, a cry for his mother, for home, for warmth, for something soft and protecting to nestle up to; and as he cried, the storm burst over the forest.
Baree had never before heard so much noise, and he had never seen the lightning play in such sheets of fire as when this June deluge fell. It seemed at times as though the whole world were aflame, and the earth seemed to shake and roll under the crashes of the thunder. He ceased his crying and made himself as small as he could under the root, which protected him partly from the terrific beat of the rain which came down through the treetops in a flood. It was now so black that except when the lightning ripped great holes in the gloom he could not see the spruce-trunks twenty feet away. Twice that distance from Baree there was a huge dead stub that stood out like a ghost each time the fires swept the sky, as if defying the flaming hands up there to strike—and strike, at last, one of them did! A bluish tongue of snapping flame ran down the old stub; and as it touched the earth, there came a tremendous explosion above the treetops. The massive stub shivered, and then it broke asunder as if cloven by a gigantic axe. It crashed down so close to Baree that earth and sticks flew about him, and he let out a wild yelp of terror as he tried to crowd himself deeper into the shallow hole under the root.
With the destruction of the old stub the thunder and lightning seemed to have vented their malevolence. The thunder passed on into the south and east like the rolling of ten thousand heavy cart-wheels over the roofs of the forest, and the lightning went with it. The rain fell steadily. The hole in which he had taken shelter was soppy. He was drenched; his teeth chattered as he waited for the next thing to happen.
It was a long wait. When the rain stopped, and the sky cleared, it was night. Through the tops of the trees Baree could have seen the stars if he had poked out his head and looked upward. But he clung to his hole. Hour after hour passed. Exhausted, half drowned, footsore, and hungry, he did not move. At last he fell into a troubled sleep, a sleep in which every now and then he cried softly and forlornly for his mother. When he ventured out from under the root it was morning, and the sun was shining.
At first Baree could hardly stand. His legs were cramped; every bone in his body seemed out of joint; his ear was stiff where the blood had oozed out of it and hardened, and when he tried to wrinkle his wounded nose, he gave a sharp little yap of pain. If such a thing were possible, he looked even worse than he felt. His hair had dried in muddy patches; he was dirt-stained from end to end; and where yesterday he had been plump and shiny, he was now as thin and wretched as misfortune could possibly make him. And he was hungry. He had never before known what it meant to be really hungry.
When he went on, continuing in the direction he had been following yesterday, he slunk along in a disheartened sort of way. His head and ears were no longer alert, and his curiosity was gone. He was not only stomach-hungry: mother-hunger rose above his physical yearning for something to eat. He wanted his mother as he had never wanted her before in his life. He wanted to snuggle his shivering little body close up to her and feel the warm caressing of her tongue and listen to the mothering whine of her voice. And he wanted Kazan, and the old windfall, and that big blue spot that was in the sky right over it. While he followed again along the edge of the creek, he whimpered for them as a child might grieve.
The forest grew more open after a time, and this cheered him up a little. Also the warmth of the sun was taking the ache out of his body. He grew hungrier and hungrier. He had depended entirely on Kazan and Gray Wolf for food. His parents had, in some ways, made a great baby of him. Gray Wolf’s blindness accounted for this, for since his birth she had not taken up her hunting with Kazan, and it was quite natural that Baree should stick close to her, though more than once he had been filled with a great yearning to follow his father. Nature was hard at work trying to overcome its handicap now. It was struggling to impress on Baree that the time had now come when he must seek his own food. The fact impinged itself upon him slowly but steadily, and he began to think of the three or four shellfish he had caught and devoured on the stony creek-bar near the windfall. He also remembered the open clam-shell he had found, and the lusciousness of the tender morsel inside it. A new excitement began to possess him. He became, all at once, a hunter.