It took him a long time to make the first twenty yards. Then he came to a log worn smooth by the feet of Gray Wolf and Kazan, and stopping every few feet to send out a whimpering call for his mother, he made his way farther and farther along it. As he went, there grew slowly a curious change in this world of his. He had known nothing but blackness. And now this blackness seemed breaking itself up into strange shapes and shadows. Once he caught the flash of a fiery streak above him—a gleam of sunshine—and it startled him so that he flattened himself down upon the log and did not move for half a minute. Then he went on. An ermine squeaked under him. He heard the swift rustling of a squirrel’s feet, and a curious whut-whut-whut that was not at all like any sound his mother had ever made. He was off the trail.
The log was no longer smooth, and it was leading him upward higher and higher into the tangle of the windfall, and was growing narrower every foot he progressed. He whined. His soft little nose sought vainly for the warm scent of his mother. The end came suddenly when he lost his balance and fell. He let out a piercing cry of terror as he felt himself slipping, and then plunged downward. He must have been high up in the windfall, for to Baree it seemed a tremendous fall. His soft little body thumped from log to log as he shot this way and that, and when at last he stopped, there was scarcely a breath left in him. But he stood up quickly on his four trembling legs—and blinked.
A new terror held Baree rooted there. In an instant the whole world had changed. It was a flood of sunlight. Everywhere he looked he could see strange things. But it was the sun that frightened him most. It was his first impression of fire, and it made his eyes smart. He would have slunk back into the friendly gloom of the windfall, but at this moment Gray Wolf came around the end of a great log, followed by Kazan. She muzzled Baree joyously, and Kazan in a most doglike fashion wagged his tail. This mark of the dog was to be a part of Baree. Half wolf, he would always wag his tail. He tried to wag it now. Perhaps Kazan saw the effort, for he emitted a muffled yelp of approbation as he sat back on his haunches.
Or he might have been saying to Gray Wolf:
“Well, we’ve got the little rascal out of that windfall at last, haven’t we?”
For Baree it had been a great day. He had discovered his father—and the world.
And it was a wonderful world—a world of vast silence, empty of everything but the creatures of the wild. The nearest Hudson’s Bay post was a hundred miles away, and the first town of civilization was a straight three hundred to the south. Two years before, Tusoo, the Cree trapper, had called this his domain. It had come down to him, as was the law of the forests, through generations of forefathers.