Came then the afternoon when Ba-ree went on his longest hunt. Half a mile away he killed his first rabbit. He remained beside it until dusk. The moon rose, big and golden, flooding the forests and plains and ridges with a light almost like that of day. It was a glorious night. And Ba-ree found the moon, and left his kill. And the direction in which he traveled was away from the windfall.
All that night Gray Wolf watched and waited. And when at last the moon was sinking into the south and west she settled back on her haunches, turned her blind face to the sky and sent forth her first howl since the day Ba-ree was born. Nature had come into her own. Far away Ba-ree heard, but he did not answer. A new world was his. He had said good-by to the windfall—and home.
It was that glorious season between spring and summer, when the northern nights were brilliant with moon and stars, that Kazan and Gray Wolf set up the valley between the two ridges on a long hunt. It was the beginning of that wanderlust which always comes to the furred and padded creatures of the wilderness immediately after the young-born of early spring have left their mothers to find their own way in the big world. They struck west from their winter home under the windfall in the swamp. They hunted mostly at night and behind them they left a trail marked by the partly eaten carcasses of rabbits and partridges. It was the season of slaughter and not of hunger. Ten miles west of the swamp they killed a fawn. This, too, they left after a single meal. Their appetites became satiated with warm flesh and blood. They grew sleek and fat and each day they basked longer in the warm sunshine. They had few rivals. The lynxes were in the heavier timber to the south. There were no wolves. Fisher-cat, marten and mink were numerous along the creek, but these were neither swift-hunting nor long-fanged. One day they came upon an old otter. He was a giant of his kind, turning a whitish gray with the approach of summer. Kazan, grown fat and lazy, watched him idly. Blind Gray Wolf sniffed at the fishy smell of him in the air. To them he was no more than a floating stick, a creature out of their element, along with the fish, and they continued on their way not knowing that this uncanny creature with the coal-like flappers was soon to become their ally in one of the strange and deadly feuds of the wilderness, which are as sanguinary to animal life as the deadliest feuds of men are to human life.
The day following their meeting with the otter Gray Wolf and Kazan continued three miles farther westward, still following the stream. Here they encountered the interruption to their progress which turned them over the northward ridge. The obstacle was a huge beaver dam. The dam was two hundred yards in width and flooded a mile of swamp and timber above it. Neither Gray Wolf nor Kazan was deeply interested in beavers. They also moved out of their element, along with the fish and the otter and swift-winged birds.