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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Grizzly King: A Romance Of The Wild - Chapter 19
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The Grizzly King: A Romance Of The Wild - Chapter 19 Post by :sbeard Category :Long Stories Author :James Oliver Curwood Date :May 2012 Read :2284

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The Grizzly King: A Romance Of The Wild - Chapter 19

CHAPTER NINETEEN

That night Langdon and Bruce made their new plans, while Metoosin sat aloof, smoking in stolid silence, and gazing now and then at Langdon as if he could not yet bring himself to the point of believing what had happened that afternoon. Thereafter through many moons Metoosin would never forget to relate to his children and his grandchildren and his friends of the tepee tribes how he had once hunted with a white man who had shot his own dogs to save the life of a grizzly bear. Langdon was no longer the same old Langdon to him, and after this hunt Metoosin knew that he would never hunt with him again. For Langdon was _keskwao now. Something had gone wrong in his head. The Great Spirit had taken away his heart and had given it to a grizzly bear, and over his pipe Metoosin watched him cautiously. This suspicion was confirmed when he saw Bruce and Langdon making a cage out of a cowhide pannier and realized that the cub was to accompany them on their long journey. There was no doubt in his mind now. Langdon was "queer," and to an Indian that sort of queerness boded no good to man.

The next morning at sunrise the outfit was ready for its long trail into the northland. Bruce and Langdon led the way up the slope and over the divide into the valley where they had first encountered Thor, the train filing picturesquely behind them, with Metoosin bringing up the rear. In his cowhide pannier rode Muskwa.

Langdon was satisfied and happy.

"It was the best hunt of my life," he said to Bruce. "I'll never be sorry we let him live."

"You're the doctor," said Bruce rather irreverently. "If I had my way about it his hide would be back there on Dishpan. Almost any tourist down on the line of rail would jump for it at a hundred dollars."

"He's worth several thousand to me alive," replied Langdon, with which enigmatic retort he dropped behind to see how Muskwa was riding.

The cub was rolling and pitching about in his pannier like a raw amateur in a howdab on an elephant's back, and after contemplating him for a few moments Langdon caught up with Bruce again.

Half a dozen times during the next two or three hours he visited Muskwa, and each time that he returned to Bruce he was quieter, as if debating something with himself.

It was nine o'clock when they came to what was undoubtedly the end of Thor's valley. A mountain rose up squarely in the face of it, and the stream they were following swung sharply to the westward into a narrow canyon. On the east rose a green and undulating slope up which the horses could easily travel, and which would take the outfit into a new valley in the direction of the Driftwood. This course Bruce decided to pursue.

Halfway up the slope they stopped to give the horses a breathing spell. In his cowhide prison Muskwa whimpered pleadingly. Langdon heard, but he seemed to pay no attention. He was looking steadily back into the valley. It was glorious in the morning sun. He could see the peaks under which lay the cool, dark lake in which Thor had fished; for miles the slopes were like green velvet and there came to him as he looked the last droning music of Thor's world. It struck him in a curious way as a sort of anthem, a hymnal rejoicing that he was going, and that he was leaving things as they were before he came. And yet, _was he leaving things as they had been? Did his ears not catch in that music of the mountains something of sadness, of grief, of plaintive prayer?

And again, close to him, Muskwa whimpered softly.

Then Langdon turned to Bruce.

"It's settled," he said, and his words had a decisive ring in them. "I've been trying to make up my mind all the morning, and it's made up now. You and Metoosin go on when the horses get their wind. I'm going to ride down there a mile or so and free the cub where he'll find his way back home!"

He did not wait for arguments or remarks, and Bruce made none. He took Muskwa in his arms and rode back into the south.

A mile up the valley Langdon came to a wide, open meadow dotted with clumps of spruce and willows and sweet with the perfume of flowers. Here he dismounted, and for ten minutes sat on the ground with Muskwa. From his pocket he drew forth a small paper bag and fed the cub its last sugar. A thick lump grew in his throat as Muskwa's soft little nose muzzled the palm of his hand, and when at last he jumped up and sprang into his saddle there was a mist in his eyes. He tried to laugh. Perhaps he was weak. But he loved Muskwa, and he knew that he was leaving more than a human friend in this mountain valley.

"Good-bye, old fellow," he said, and his voice was choking. "Good-bye, little Spitfire! Mebby some day I'll come back and see you, and you'll be a big, fierce bear--but I won't shoot--never--never--"

He rode fast into the north. Three hundred yards away he turned his head and looked back. Muskwa was following, but losing ground. Langdon waved his hand.

"Good-bye!" he called through the lump in his throat. "Good-bye!"

Half an hour later he looked down from the top of the slope through his glasses. He saw Muskwa, a black dot. The cub had stopped, and was waiting confidently for him to return.

And trying to laugh again, but failing dismally, Langdon rode over the divide and out of Muskwa's life.

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CHAPTER TWENTYFor a good half-mile Muskwa followed over the trail of Langdon. He ran at first; then he walked; finally he stopped entirely and sat down like a dog, facing the distant slope. Had Langdon been afoot he would not have halted until he was tired. But the cub had not liked his pannier prison. He had been tremendously jostled and bounced about, and twice the horse that carried him had shaken himself, and those shakings had been like earthquakes to Muskwa. He knew that the cage as well as Langdon was ahead of him. He sat for a time and
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CHAPTER EIGHTEENThor heard the dogs when they were a mile away. There were two reasons why he was even less in a mood to run from them now than a few days before. Of the dogs alone he had no more fear than if they had been so many badgers, or so many whistlers piping at him from the rocks. He had found them all mouth and little fang, and easy to kill. It was what followed close after them that disturbed him. But to-day he had stood face to face with the thing that had brought the strange scent into
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