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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesKazan, The Wolf Dog - Chapter 26. An Empty World
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Kazan, The Wolf Dog - Chapter 26. An Empty World Post by :cclittle Category :Long Stories Author :James Oliver Curwood Date :May 2012 Read :3588

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Kazan, The Wolf Dog - Chapter 26. An Empty World

CHAPTER XXVI. AN EMPTY WORLD

Mile after mile Kazan went on. For a time he was oppressed by the shivering note of death that had come to him in Sandy McTrigger's cry, and he slipped through the _banskians like a shadow, his ears flattened, his tail trailing, his hindquarters betraying that curious slinking quality of the wolf and dog stealing away from danger. Then he came out upon a plain, and the stillness, the billion stars in the clear vault of the sky, and the keen air that carried with it a breath of the Arctic barrens made him alert and questioning. He faced the direction of the wind. Somewhere off there, far to the south and west, was Gray Wolf. For the first time in many weeks he sat back on his haunches and gave the deep and vibrant call that echoed weirdly for miles about him. Back in the _banskians the big Dane heard it, and whined. From over the still body of Sandy McTrigger the little professor looked up with a white tense face, and listened for a second cry. But instinct told Kazan that to that first call there would be no answer, and now he struck out swiftly, galloping mile after mile, as a dog follows the trail of its master home. He did not turn hack to the lake, nor was his direction toward Red Gold City. As straight as he might have followed a road blazed by the hand of man he cut across the forty miles of plain and swamp and forest and rocky ridge that lay between him and the McFarlane. All that night he did not call again for Gray Wolf. With him reasoning was a process brought about by habit--by precedent--and as Gray Wolf had waited for him many times before he knew that she would be waiting for him now near the sand-bar.

By dawn he had reached the river, within three miles of the sand-bar. Scarcely was the sun up when he stood on the white strip of sand where he and Gray Wolf had come down to drink. Expectantly and confidently he looked about him for Gray Wolf, whining softly, and wagging his tail. He began to search for her scent, but rains had washed even her footprints from the clean sand. All that day he searched for her along the river and out on the plain. He went to where they had killed their last rabbit. He sniffed at the bushes where the poison baits had hung. Again and again he sat back on his haunches and sent out his mating cry to her. And slowly, as he did these things, nature was working in him that miracle of the wild which the Crees have named the "spirit call." As it had worked in Gray Wolf, so now it stirred the blood of Kazan. With the going of the sun, and the sweeping about him of shadowy night, he turned more and more to the south and east. His whole world was made up of the trails over which he had hunted. Beyond those places he did not know that there was such a thing as existence. And in that world, small in his understanding of things, was Gray Wolf. He could not miss her. That world, in his comprehension of it, ran from the McFarlane in a narrow trail through the forests and over the plains to the little valley from which the beavers had driven them. If Gray Wolf was not here--she was there, and tirelessly he resumed his quest of her.

Not until the stars were fading out of the sky again, and gray day was giving place to night, did exhaustion and hunger stop him. He killed a rabbit, and for hours after he had feasted he lay close to his kill, and slept. Then he went on.

The fourth night he came to the little valley between the two ridges, and under the stars, more brilliant now in the chill clearness of the early autumn nights, he followed the creek down into their old swamp home. It was broad day when he reached the edge of the great beaver pond that now completely surrounded the windfall under which Gray-Wolf's second-born had come into the world. Broken Tooth and the other beavers had wrought a big change in what had once been his home and Gray Wolf's, and for many minutes Kazan stood silent and motionless at the edge of the pond, sniffing the air heavy with the unpleasant odor of the usurpers. Until now his spirit had remained unbroken. Footsore, with thinned sides and gaunt head, he circled slowly through the swamp. All that day he searched. And his crest lay flat now, and there was a hunted look in the droop of his shoulders and in the shifting look of his eyes. Gray Wolf was gone.

Slowly nature was impinging that fact upon him. She had passed out of his world and out of his life, and he was filled with a loneliness and a grief so great that the forest seemed strange, and the stillness of the wild a thing that now oppressed and frightened him. Once more the dog in him was mastering the wolf. With Gray Wolf he had possessed the world of freedom. Without her, that world was so big and strange and empty that it appalled him. Late in the afternoon he came upon a little pile of crushed clamshells on the shore of the stream. He sniffed at them--turned away--went back, and sniffed again. It was where Gray Wolf had made a last feast in the swamp before continuing south. But the scent she had left behind was not strong enough to tell Kazan, and for a second time he turned away. That night he slunk under a log, and cried himself to sleep. Deep in the night he grieved in his uneasy slumber, like a child. And day after day, and night after night, Kazan remained a slinking creature of the big swamp, mourning for the one creature that had brought him out of chaos into light, who had filled his world for him, and who, in going from him, had taken from this world even the things that Gray Wolf had lost in her blindness.

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