Late in the afternoon the slaughter ended. Broken Tooth and his courageous engineers had at last repaired the breach, and the water in the pond began to rise.
Half a mile up the creek the big otter was squatted on a log basking in the last glow of the setting sun. To-morrow he would go and do over again his work of destruction. That was his method. For him it was play.
But that strange and unseen arbiter of the forests called O-ee-ki, “the Spirit,” by those who speak the wild tongue, looked down at last with mercy upon Broken Tooth and his death-stricken tribe. For in that last glow of sunset Kazan and Gray Wolf slipped stealthily up the creek—to find the otter basking half asleep on the log.
The day’s work, a full stomach, and the pool of warm sunlight in which he lay had all combined to make the otter sleepy. He was as motionless as the log on which he had stretched himself. He was big and gray and old. For ten years he had lived to prove his cunning superior to that of man. Vainly traps had been set for him. Wily trappers had built narrow sluice-ways of rock and tree in small streams for him, but the old otter had foiled their cunning and escaped the steel jaws waiting at the lower end of each sluice. The trail he left in soft mud told of his size. A few trappers had seen him. His soft pelt would long ago have found its way to London, Paris or Berlin had it not been for his cunning. He was fit for a princess, a duke or an emperor. For ten years he had lived and escaped the demands of the rich.
But this was summer. No trapper would have killed him now, for his pelt was worthless. Nature and instinct both told him this. At this season he did not dread man, for there was no man to dread. So he lay asleep on the log, oblivious to everything but the comfort of sleep and the warmth of the sun.