“I’m a bad one, old chap,” he chuckled. “You haven’t got it on me—not a bit. Want to know what happened?” He waited a moment, and Baree looked at him steadily. Then Carvel went on, as if speaking to a human, “Let’s see—it was five years ago, five years this December, just before Christmas time. Had a Dad. Fine old chap, my dad was. No Mother—just the Dad, an’ when you added us up we made just One. Understand? And along came a white-striped skunk named Hardy and shot him one day because Dad had worked against him in politics. Out an’ out murder. An’ they didn’t hang that skunk! No, sir, they didn’t hang him. He had too much money, an’ too many friends in politics, an’ they let ’im off with two years in the penitentiary. But he didn’t get there. No—s’elp me God, he didn’t get there!”
Carvel was twisting his hands until his knuckles cracked. An exultant smile lighted up his face, and his eyes flashed back the firelight. Baree drew a deep breath—a mere coincidence; but it was a tense moment for all that.
“No, he didn’t get to the penitentiary,” went on Carvel, looking straight at Baree again. “Yours truly knew what that meant, old chap. He’d have been pardoned inside a year. An’ there was my dad, the biggest half of me, in his grave. So I just went up to that white-striped skunk right there before the judge’s eyes, an’ the lawyers’ eyes, an’ the eyes of all his dear relatives an’ friends—and I killed him! And I got away. Was out through a window before they woke up, hit for the bush country, and have been eating up the trails ever since. An’ I guess God was with me, Boy. For He did a queer thing to help me out summer before last, just when the Mounties were after me hardest an’ it looked pretty black. Man was found drowned down in the Reindeer Country, right where they thought I was cornered. An’ the good Lord made that man look so much like me that he was buried under my name. So I’m officially dead, old chap. I don’t need to be afraid any more so long as I don’t get too familiar with people for a year or so longer, and ’way down inside me I’ve liked to believe God fixed it up in that way to help me out of a bad hole. What’s your opinion? Eh?”
He leaned forward for an answer. Baree had listened. Perhaps, in a way, he had understood. But it was another sound than Carvel’s voice that came to his ears now. With his head close to the ground he heard it quite distinctly. He whined, and the whine ended in a snarl so low that Carvel just caught the warning note in it. He straightened. He stood up then, and faced the south. Baree stood beside him, his legs tense and his spine bristling.
After a moment Carvel said:
“Relatives of yours, old chap. Wolves.”
He went into the tent for his rifle and cartridges.