Bob MacNair lost his fight. He arose once more, his great frame trembling in the grip of a new thrill. He stretched his great arms to the southward in a silent sign of surrender. He sought not to dodge the issue, strange and wonderful as it seemed to him. He loved this woman—loved her as he knew he could love no other—as he had never dreamed it was in the heart of man to love.
And then, with the force of a blow, came the realization that this woman—his woman—was at that very instant, in all probability, at the mercy of a fiend who would stop at nothing to gain his own ends.
He leaped to the door.
“By God, I’ll tear his heart out!” he roared as he wrenched at the latch. And the next instant the shores of Snare Lake echoed to the wild weird sound of the wolf-cry—the call of MacNair to his clan! Other calls and other summons might be ignored upon provocation, but when the terrible wolf-cry shattered the silence of the forest MacNair’s Indians rushed to his side.
Only death itself could deter them from fore-gathering at the sound of the wolf-cry. Before the echoes of MacNair’s voice had died away dark forms were speeding through the moonlight. From all directions they came; from the cabins that yet remained standing, from the tents pitched close against the unburned walls of the stockade, from rude wickiups of skins and of brushwood.
Old men and young men they answered the call, and each in his hand bore a rifle. MacNair snapped a few quick orders. Men rushed to harness the dog-teams while others provisioned the sleds for the trail.
With one arm MacNair swung the Louchoux girl from the floor, and, picking up his rifle, dashed out into the night.
Wee Johnnie Tamarack, just in from a twenty-four-hour trail, stood at the head of MacNair’s own dogs—the seven great Athabasca River dogs that had carried him into the North. With a cry to his Indians to follow and to bring the Louchoux girl, MacNair threw himself belly-wise onto his sled, gave voice to a weird cry as his dogs shot out across the white snow-level of Snare Lake, and headed south-ward toward the Yellow Knife.
He laughed aloud as he glanced over the back-trail and noted that half of his Indians were already following. He had chosen that last cry well. Never before had the Indians heard it from the white man’s lips, and they thrilled at the sound to the marrow. The blood surged through the veins of the wild men as it had not surged in long decades. It was the war-cry of the Yellow Knives!
Bob MacNair’s sled seemed scarcely to touch the hard surface of the snow. The great malemutes ran low and true over the well-defined trail. He had selected the dogs with an eye to speed and endurance at the time he had headed northward with Corporal Ripley after his release from the Fort Saskatchewan jail.