Kazan had lured her back to a trap-line. The trail they found was old. It had not been traveled for many days. In a trap they found a rabbit, but it had been dead a long time. In another there was the carcass of a fox, torn into bits by the owls. Most of the traps were sprung. Others were covered with snow. Kazan, with his three-quarters strain of dog, ran over the trail from trap to trap, intent only on something alive—meat to devour. Gray Wolf, in her blindness, scented death. It shivered in the tree-tops above her. She found it in every trap-house they came to—death—man death. It grew stronger and stronger, and she whined, and nipped Kazan’s flank. And Kazan went on. Gray Wolf followed him to the edge of the clearing in which Loti’s cabin stood, and then she sat back on her haunches, raised her blind face to the gray sky, and gave a long and wailing cry. In that moment the bristles began to stand up along Kazan’s spine. Once, long ago, he had howled before the tepee of a master who was newly dead, and he settled back on his haunches, and gave the death-cry with Gray Wolf. He, too, scented it now. Death was in the cabin, and over the cabin there stood a sapling pole, and at the end of the pole there fluttered a strip of red cotton rag—the warning flag of the plague from Athabasca to the bay. This man, like a hundred other heroes of the North, had run up the warning before he laid himself down to die. And that same night, in the cold light of the moon, Kazan and Gray Wolf swung northward into the country of the Fond du Lac.
There preceded them a messenger from the post on Reindeer Lake, who was passing up the warning that had come from Nelson House and the country to the southeast.
“There’s smallpox on the Nelson,” the messenger informed Williams, at Fond du Lac, “and it has struck the Crees on Wollaston Lake. God only knows what it is doing to the Bay Indians, but we hear it is wiping out the Chippewas between the Albany and the Churchill.” He left the same day with his winded dogs. “I’m off to carry word to the Reveillon people to the west,” he explained.
Three days later, word came from Churchill that all of the company’s servants and his majesty’s subjects west of the bay should prepare themselves for the coming of the Red Terror. Williams’ thin face turned as white as the paper he held, as he read the words of the Churchill factor.
“It means dig graves,” he said. “That’s the only preparation we can make.”
He read the paper aloud to the men at Fond du Lac, and every available man was detailed to spread the warning throughout the post’s territory. There was a quick harnessing of dogs, and on each sledge that went out was a roll of red cotton cloth—rolls that were ominous of death, lurid signals of pestilence and horror, whose touch sent shuddering chills through the men who were about to scatter them among the forest people. Kazan and Gray Wolf struck the trail