McTaggart had heard no sound, for the snare into which Wapoos had run his head was the one set farthest from his camp. Beside the smoldering coals of his fire he sat with his back to a tree, smoking his black pipe and dreaming covetously of Nepeese, while Baree continued his night wandering. Baree no longer had the desire to hunt. He was too full. But he nosed in and out of the starlit spaces, enjoying immensely the stillness and the golden glow of the night. He was following a rabbit-run when he came to a place where two fallen logs left a trail no wider than his body. He squeezed through; something tightened about his neck. There was a sudden snap—a swish as the sapling was released from its “trigger”—and Baree was jerked off his feet so suddenly that he had no time to conjecture as to what was happening.
The yelp in his throat died in a gurgle, and the next moment he was going through the pantomimic actions of Wapoos, who was having his vengeance inside him. For the life of him Baree could not keep from dancing about, while the wire grew tighter and tighter about his neck. When he snapped at the wire and flung the weight of his body to the ground, the sapling would bend obligingly, and then—in its rebound—would yank him for an instant completely off the earth. Furiously he struggled. It was a miracle that the fine wire held him. In a few moments more it must have broken—but McTaggart had heard him! The factor caught up his blanket and a heavy stick as he hurried toward the snare. It was not a rabbit making those sounds—he knew that. Perhaps a fishercat—a lynx, a fox, a young wolf—
It was the wolf he thought of first when he saw Baree at the end of the wire. He dropped the blanket and raised the club. If there had been clouds overhead, or the stars had been less brilliant, Baree would have died as surely as Wapoos had died. With the club raised over his head McTaggart saw in time the white star, the white-tipped ear, and the jet black of Baree’s coat.
With a swift movement he exchanged the club for the blanket.
In that hour, could McTaggart have looked ahead to the days that were to come, he would have used the club. Could he have foreseen the great tragedy in which Baree was to play a vital part, wrecking his hopes and destroying his world, he would have beaten him to a pulp there under the light of the stars. And Baree, could he have foreseen what was to happen between this brute with a white skin and the most beautiful thing in the forests, would have fought even more bitterly before he surrendered himself to the smothering embrace of the factor’s blanket. On this night Fate had played a strange hand for them both, and only that Fate, and perhaps the stars above, held a knowledge of what its outcome was to be.