Night had fallen when he reached the wigwam and Sishetakushin and Mookoomahn had already arrived after their day’s hunt. It was a proud moment for Bob when he entered the lodge and threw down the bear skin for their inspection. They spread it out and examined it, and a great deal of talking ensued. Bob, in the best Indian he could command, explained where he had found the “mushku” and how he had killed it, and his story was listened to with intense interest. When he was through Sishetakushin said that the “Snow Brother,” as they called Bob, was a great hunter, and should be an Indian; for only an Indian would have the courage to attack a bear in its den single handed. Bob had risen very perceptibly in their estimation. All doubt of his skill and prowess as a hunter had been removed. He had won a new place, and was now to be considered as their equal in the chase.
The following morning the two Indians assisted Bob to haul the bear’s meat to camp. No part of it was allowed to waste. In the wigwam it was thawed and then the flesh stripped from the bones, and that not required for immediate use was permitted to freeze again that it might keep sweet until needed. The skull was thoroughly cleaned and fastened to a high branch of a tree as an offering to the Manitou. Sishetakushin explained to Bob that unless this was done the Great Spirit would punish them by driving all other bears beyond the reach of their guns and traps in future.
For several days a storm had been threatening, and that night it broke with all the terrifying fury of the north. The wind shrieked through the forest and shook the wigwam as though it would tear it away. The air was filled with a swirling, blinding mass of snow and any one venturing a dozen paces from the lodge could hardly have found his way back to it again. For three days the storm lasted, and the Indians turned these three days into a period of feasting. A big kettle of bear’s meat always hung over the fire, and surrounding it pieces of the meat were impaled upon sticks to roast. It seemed to Bob as though the Indians would never have enough to eat.
Finally the storm cleared, and then it was discovered that the ptarmigans and rabbits, which had been so plentiful and constituted their chief source of food supply, had disappeared as if by magic. Not a ptarmigan fluttered before the hunter, and no rabbit tracks broke the smooth white snow beneath the bushes.
The jerked venison was gone and the only food remaining was the bear meat. A hurried consultation was held, and it was decided to push on still farther to the northward in the hope of meeting the invisible herds of caribou that somewhere in those limitless, frozen barrens were wandering unmolested.
ONE OF THE TRIBE
If Bob Gray had held any secret hope that the Indians would eventually listen to his plea to guide him back to the Big Hill trail it was mercilessly swept away by the next move, for again they faced steadily towards the north. Whenever he thought of home a lump came into his throat, but he always swallowed it bravely and said to himself: