This friendship, even though it outwardly appeared to be quite one-sided, was decidedly fortunate for Umisk. When Baree was at the pond, he always kept as near to Umisk as possible, when he could find him. One day he was lying in a patch of grass, half asleep, while Umisk busied himself in a clump of alder shoots a few yards away. It was the warning crack of a beaver tail that fully roused Baree; and then another and another, like pistol shots. He jumped up. Everywhere beavers were scurrying for the pond.
Just then Umisk came out of the alders and hurried as fast as his short, fat legs would carry him toward the water. He had almost reached the mud when a lightning flash of red passed before Baree’s eyes in the afternoon sun, and in another instant Napakasew—the he-fox—had fastened his sharp fangs in Umisk’s throat. Baree heard his little friend’s agonized cry; he heard the frenzied flap-flap-flap of many tails—and his blood pounded suddenly with the thrill of excitement and rage.
As swiftly as the red fox himself, Baree darted to the rescue. He was as big and as heavy as the fox, and when he struck Napakasew, it was with a ferocious snarl that Pierrot might have heard on the farther side of the pond, and his teeth sank like knives into the shoulder of Umisk’s assailant. The fox was of a breed of forest highwaymen which kills from behind. He was not a fighter when it came fang-to-fang, unless cornered—and so fierce and sudden was Baree’s assault that Napakasew took to flight almost as quickly as he had begun his attack on Umisk.
Baree did not follow him, but went to Umisk, who lay half in the mud, whimpering and snuffling in a curious sort of way. Gently Baree nosed him, and after a moment or two Umisk got up on his webbed feet, while fully twenty or thirty beavers were making a tremendous fuss in the water near the shore.
After this the beaver pond seemed more than ever like home to Baree.
While lovely Nepeese was still shuddering over her thrilling experience under the rock—while Pierrot still offered grateful thanks in his prayers for her deliverance and Baree was becoming more and more a fixture at the beaver pond—Bush McTaggart was perfecting a little scheme of his own up at Post Lac Bain, about forty miles north and west. McTaggart had been factor at Lac Bain for seven years. In the company’s books down in Winnipeg he was counted a remarkably successful man. The expense of his post was below the average, and his semiannual report of furs always ranked among the first. After his name, kept on file in the main office, was one notation which said: “Gets more out of a dollar than any other man north of God’s Lake.”