The third day McTaggart did not return to Lac Bain, but began a cautious hunt for Baree. An inch or two of fresh snow had fallen, and as if to take even greater measure of vengeance from his man enemy Baree had left his footprints freely within a radius of a hundred yards of the cabin. It was half an hour before McTaggart could pick out the straight trail, and he followed it for two hours into a thick banksian swamp. Baree kept with the wind. Now and then he caught the scent of his pursuer. A dozen times he waited until the other was so close he could hear the snap of brush, or the metallic click of twigs against his rifle barrel. And then, with a sudden inspiration that brought the curses afresh to McTaggart’s lips, he swung in a wide circle and cut straight back for the trap line. When the factor reached the line, along toward noon, Baree had already begun his work. He had killed and eaten a rabbit. He had robbed three traps within the distance of a mile, and he was headed again straight over the trap line for Post Lac Bain.
It was the fifth day that Bush McTaggart returned to his post. He was in an ugly mood. Only Valence of the four Frenchmen was there, and it was Valence who heard his story, and afterward heard him cursing Marie. She came into the store a little later, big-eyed and frightened, one of her cheeks flaming red where McTaggart had struck her. While the storekeeper was getting her the canned salmon McTaggart wanted for his dinner Valence found the opportunity to whisper softly in her ear:
“M’sieu Lerue has trapped a silver fox,” he said with low triumph. “He loves you, cherie, and he will have a splendid catch by spring—and sends you this message from his cabin up on The Little Black Bear with No Tail: Be ready to fly when the soft snows come!”
Marie did not look at him, but she heard, and her eyes shone so like stars when the young storekeeper gave her the salmon that he said to Valence, when she had gone:
“Blue Death, but she is still beautiful at times. Valence!”
To which Valence nodded with an odd smile.
By the middle of January the war between Baree and Bush McTaggart had become more than an incident—more than a passing adventure to the beast, and more than an irritating happening to the man. It was, for the time, the elemental raison d’etre of their lives. Baree hung to the trap line. He haunted it like a devastating specter, and each time that he sniffed afresh the scent of the factor from Lac Bain he was impressed still more strongly with the instinct that he was avenging himself upon a deadly enemy. Again and again he outwitted McTaggart. He continued to strip his traps of their bait and the humor grew in him more strongly to destroy the fur he came across. His greatest pleasure came to be—not in eating—but in destroying.