The next morning Bush McTaggart heard the clanking of a chain when he was still a good quarter of a mile from the “nest.” Was it a lynx? Was it a fishercat? Was it a wolf or a fox? Or was it baree? He half ran the rest of the distance, and it last he came to where he could see, and his heart leaped into his throat when he saw that he had caught his enemy. He approached, holding his rifle ready to fire if by any chance the dog should free himself.
Baree lay on his side, panting from exhaustion and quivering with pain. A hoarse cry of exultation burst from McTaggart’s lips as he drew nearer and looked at the snow. It was packed hard for many feet about the trap house, where Baree had struggled, and it was red with blood. The blood had come mostly from Baree’s jaws. They were dripping now as he glared at his enemy. The steel jaws hidden under the snow had done their merciless work well. One of his forefeet was caught well up toward the first joint; both hind feet were caught. A fourth trap had closed on his flank, and in tearing the jaws loose he had pulled off a patch of skin half as big as McTaggart’s hand. The snow told the story of his desperate fight all through the night. His bleeding jaws showed how vainly he had tried to break the imprisoning steel with his teeth. He was panting. His eyes were bloodshot.
But even now, after all his hours of agony, neither his spirit nor his courage was broken. When he saw McTaggart he made a lunge to his feet, almost instantly crumpling down into the snow again. But his forefeet were braced. His head and chest remained up, and the snarl that came from his throat was tigerish in its ferocity. Here, at last—not more than a dozen feet from him—was the one thing in all the world that he hated more than he hated the wolf breed. And again he was helpless, as he had been helpless that other time in the rabbit snare.
The fierceness of his snarl did not disturb Bush McTaggart now. He saw how utterly the other was at his mercy, and with an exultant laugh he leaned his rifle against a tree, pulled oft his mittens, and began loading his pipe. This was the triumph he had looked forward to, the torture he had waited for. In his soul there was a hatred as deadly as Baree’s, the hatred that a man might have for a man. He had expected to send a bullet through the dog. But this was better—to watch him dying by inches, to taunt him as he would have taunted a human, to walk about him so that he could hear the clank of the traps and see the fresh blood drip as Baree twisted his tortured legs and body to keep facing him. It was a splendid vengeance. He was so engrossed in it that he did not hear the approach of snowshoes behind him. It was a voice—a man’s voice—that turned him round in his tracks.