Baree saw this action. He saw, a moment later, something spit from the end of the gun, and then he heard that deafening crash that had come with his own hurt, when the Willow’s bullet had burned through his flesh. He turned his eyes swiftly to Wakayoo. The big bear had stumbled; he was on his knees. And then he struggled to his feet and lumbered on.
The roar of the rifle came again, and a second time Wakayoo went down. Pierrot could not miss at that distance. Wakayoo made a splendid mark. It was slaughter. Yet for Pierrot and Nepeese it was business—the business of life.
Baree was shivering. It was more from excitement than fear, for he had lost his own fear in the tragedy of these moments. A low whine rose in his throat as he looked at Wakayoo, who had risen again and faced his enemies—his jaws gaping, his head swinging slowly, his legs weakening under him as the blood poured through his torn lungs. Baree whined—because Wakayoo had fished for him, because he had come to look on him as a friend, and because he knew it was death that Wakayoo was facing now. There was a third shot—the last. Wakayoo sank down in his tracks. His big head dropped between his forepaws. A racking cough or two came to Baree’s ears. And then there was silence. It was slaughter—but business.
A minute later, standing over Wakayoo, Pierrot said to Nepeese:
“Mon dieu, but it is a fine skin, Sakahet! It is worth twenty dollars over at Lac Bain!”
He drew forth his knife and began whetting it on a stone which he carried in his pocket. In these minutes Baree might have crawled out from under his rock and escaped down the canyon; for a space he was forgotten. Then Nepeese thought of him, and in that same strange, wondering voice she spoke again the word “Baree.” Pierrot, who was kneeling, looked up at her.
“Oui, Sakahet. He was born of the wild. And now he is gone—”
The Willow shook her head.
“Non, he is not gone,” she said, and her dark eyes searched the sunlit meadow.
As Nepeese gazed about the rock-walled end of the canyon, the prison into which they had driven Wakayoo and Baree, Pierrot looked up again from his skinning of the big black bear, and he muttered something that no one but himself could have heard. “Non, it is not possible,” he had said a moment before; but to Nepeese it was possible—the thought that was in her mind. It was a wonderful thought. It thrilled her to the depth of her wild, young soul. It sent a glow into her eyes and a deeper flush of excitement into her cheeks and lips.