During the two weeks that followed, Weyman found much to add to the material of his book. Not a day passed that somewhere along Henri’s trap-line they did not see the trails of the two wolves, and Weyman observed that—as Henri had told him—the footprints were always two by two, and never one by one. On the third day they came to a trap that had held a lynx, and at sight of what remained Henri cursed in both French and English until he was purple in the face. The lynx had been torn until its pelt was practically worthless.
Weyman saw where the smaller wolf had waited on its haunches, while its companion had killed the lynx. He did not tell Henri all he thought. But the days that followed convinced him more and more that he had found the most dramatic exemplification of his theory. Back of this mysterious tragedy of the trap-line there was a reason.
Why did the two wolves not destroy the fisher-cat, the ermine and the marten? Why was their feud with the lynx alone?
Weyman was strangely thrilled. He was a lover of wild things, and for that reason he never carried a gun. And when he saw Henri placing poison-baits for the two marauders, he shuddered, and when, day after day, he saw that these poison-baits were untouched, he rejoiced. Something in his own nature went out in sympathy to the heroic outlaw of the trap-line who never failed to give battle to the lynx. Nights in the cabin he wrote down his thoughts and discoveries of the day. One night he turned suddenly on Henri.
“Henri, doesn’t it ever make you sorry to kill so many wild things?” he asked.
Henri stared and shook his head.
“I kill t’ousand an’ t’ousand,” he said. “I kill t’ousand more.”
“And there are twenty thousand others just like you in this northern quarter of the continent—all killing, killing for hundreds of years back, and yet you can’t kill out wild life. The war of Man and the Beast, you might call it. And, if you could return five hundred years from now, Henri, you’d still find wild life here. Nearly all the rest of the world is changing, but you can’t change these almost impenetrable thousands of square miles of ridges and swamps and forests. The railroads won’t come here, and I, for one, thank God for that. Take all the great prairies to the west, for instance. Why, the old buffalo trails are still there, plain as day—and yet, towns and cities are growing up everywhere. Did you ever hear of North Battleford?”
“Is she near Montreal or Quebec?” Henri asked.
Weyman smiled, and drew a photograph from his pocket. It was the picture of a girl.
“No. It’s far to the west, in Saskatchewan. Seven years ago I used to go up there every year, to shoot prairie chickens, coyotes and elk. There wasn’t any North Battleford then—just the glorious prairie, hundreds and hundreds of square miles of it. There was a single shack on the Saskatchewan River, where North Battleford now stands, and I used to stay there. In that shack there was a little girl, twelve years old. We used to go out hunting together—for I used to kill things in those days. And the little girl would cry sometimes when I killed, and I’d laugh at her.