And the storm kept up that day, and the next, and still a third—three days and three nights—and the third day and night there came with it a stinging, shot-like snow that fell two feet deep on the level, and in drifts of eight and ten. It was the “heavy snow” of the Indians—the snow that lay like lead on the earth, and under which partridges and rabbits were smothered in thousands.
On the fourth day after the beginning of the storm Kazan and Gray Wolf issued forth from the windfall. There was no longer a wind—no more falling snow. The whole world lay under a blanket of unbroken white, and it was intensely cold.
The plague had worked its havoc with men. Now had come the days of famine and death for the wild things.
THE TRAIL OF HUNGER
Kazan and Gray Wolf had been a hundred and forty hours without food. To Gray Wolf this meant acute discomfort, a growing weakness. To Kazan it was starvation. Six days and six nights of fasting had drawn in their ribs and put deep hollows in front of their hindquarters. Kazan’s eyes were red, and they narrowed to slits as he looked forth into the day. Gray Wolf followed him this time when he went out on the hard snow. Eagerly and hopefully they began the hunt in the bitter cold. They swung around the edge of the windfall, where there had always been rabbits. There were no tracks now, and no scent. They continued in a horseshoe circle through the swamp, and the only scent they caught was that of a snow-owl perched up in a spruce. They came to the burn and turned back, hunting the opposite side of the swamp. On this side there was a ridge. They climbed the ridge, and from the cap of it looked out over a world that was barren of life. Ceaselessly Gray Wolf sniffed the air, but she gave no signal to Kazan. On the top of the ridge Kazan stood panting. His endurance was gone. On their return through the swamp he stumbled over an obstacle which he tried to clear with a jump. Hungrier and weaker, they returned to the windfall. The night that followed was clear, and brilliant with stars. They hunted the swamp again. Nothing was moving—save one other creature, and that was a fox. Instinct told them that it was futile to follow him.
It was then that the old thought of the cabin returned to Kazan. Two things the cabin had always meant to him—warmth and food. And far beyond the ridge was the cabin, where he and Gray Wolf had howled at the scent of death. He did not think of man—or of that mystery which he had howled at. He thought only of the cabin, and the cabin had always meant food. He set off in a straight line for the ridge, and Gray Wolf followed. They crossed the ridge and the burn beyond, and entered the edge of a second swamp. Kazan was hunting listlessly now. His head hung low. His bushy tail dragged in the snow. He was intent on the cabin—only the cabin. It was his last