The wings made a great tumult about Baree, but they did not hurt him. He buried his fangs deeper. His snarls rose more fiercely as he got the taste of Oohoomisew’s blood, and through him there surged more hotly the desire to kill this monster of the night, as though in the death of this creature he had the opportunity of avenging himself for all the hurts and hardships that had befallen him since he had lost his mother.
Oohoomisew had never felt a great fear until now. The lynx had snapped at him but once—and was gone, leaving him crippled. But the lynx had not snarled in that wolfish way, and it had not hung on. A thousand and one nights Oohoomisew had listened to the wolf howl. Instinct had told him what it meant. He had seen the packs pass swiftly through the night, and always when they passed he had kept in the deepest shadows. To him, as for all other wild things, the wolf howl stood for death. But until now, with Baree’s fangs buried in his leg, he had never sensed fully the wolf fear. It had taken it years to enter into his slow, stupid head—but now that it was there, it possessed him as no other thing had ever possessed him in all his life.
Suddenly Oohoomisew ceased his beating and launched himself upward. Like huge fans his powerful wings churned the air, and Baree felt himself lifted suddenly from the earth. Still he held on—and in a moment both bird and beast fell back with a thud.
Oohoomisew tried again. This time he was more successful, and he rose fully six feet into the air with Baree. They fell again. A third time the old outlaw fought to wing himself free of Baree’s grip; and then, exhausted, he lay with his giant wings outspread, hissing and cracking his bill.
Under those wings Baree’s mind worked with the swift instincts of the killer. Suddenly he changed his hold, burying his fangs into the under part of Oohoomisew’s body. They sank into three inches of feathers. Swift as Baree had been, Oohoomisew was equally swift to take advantage of his opportunity. In an instant he had swooped upward. There was a jerk, a rending of feathers from flesh—and Baree was alone on the field of battle.
Baree had not killed, but he had conquered. His first great day—or night—had come. The world was filled with a new promise for him, as vast as the night itself. And after a moment he sat back on his haunches, sniffing the air for his beaten enemy. Then, as if defying the feathered monster to come back and fight to the end, he pointed his sharp little muzzle up to the stars and sent forth his first babyish wolf howl into the night.
Baree’s fight with Oohoomisew was good medicine for him. It not only gave him great confidence in himself, but it also cleared the fever of ugliness from his blood. He no longer snapped and snarled at things as he went on through the night.