Then the grayish crest along his back stiffened and he advanced. The wounded jay remained motionless until Ba-ree was within three feet of it. In short quick hops it began to retreat. Instantly Ba-ree’s indecision had flown to the four winds. With one sharp excited yelp he flew at the defiant bird. For a few moments there was a thrilling race, and Ba-ree’s sharp little teeth buried themselves in the jay’s feathers. Swift as a flash the bird’s beak began to strike. The jay was the king of the smaller birds. In nesting season it killed the brush sparrows, the mild-eyed moose-birds, and the tree-sappers. Again and again it struck Ba-ree with its powerful beak, but the son of Kazan had now reached the age of battle and the pain of the blows only made his own teeth sink deeper. At last he found the flesh; and a puppyish snarl rose in his throat. Fortunately he had gained a hold under the wing and after the first dozen blows the jay’s resistance grew weaker. Five minutes later Ba-ree loosened his teeth and drew back a step to look at the crumpled and motionless creature before him. The jay was dead. He had won his first battle. And with victory came the wonderful dawning of that greatest instinct of all, which told him that no longer was he a drone in the marvelous mechanism of wilderness life—but a part of it from this time forth. For he had killed.
Half an hour later Gray Wolf came down over his trail. The jay was torn into bits. Its feathers were scattered about and Ba-ree’s little nose was bloody. Ba-ree was lying in triumph beside his victim. Swiftly Gray Wolf understood and caressed him joyously. When they returned to the windfall Ba-ree carried in his jaws what was left of the jay.
From that hour of his first kill hunting became the chief passion of Ba-ree’s life. When he was not sleeping in the sun, or under the windfall at night, he was seeking life that he could destroy. He slaughtered an entire family of wood-mice. Moose-birds were at first the easiest for him to stalk, and he killed three. Then he encountered an ermine and the fierce little white outlaw of the forests gave him his first defeat. Defeat cooled his ardor for a few days, but taught him the great lesson that there were other fanged and flesh-eating animals besides himself and that nature had so schemed things that fang must not prey upon fang—for food. Many things had been born in him. Instinctively he shunned the porcupine without experiencing the torture of its quills. He came face to face with a fisher-cat one day, a fortnight after his fight with the ermine. Both were seeking food, and as there was no food between them to fight over, each went his own way.
Farther and farther Ba-ree ventured from the windfall, always following the creek. Sometimes he was gone for hours. At first Gray Wolf was restless when he was away, but she seldom went with him and after a time her restlessness left her. Nature was working swiftly. It was Kazan who was restless now. Moonlight nights had come and the wanderlust was growing more and more insistent in his veins. And Gray Wolf, too, was filled with the strange longing to roam at large out into the big world.