All that night and until noon the next day Baree lay without moving. The fever burned in his blood. It flamed high and swift toward death; then it ebbed slowly, and life conquered. At noon he came forth. He was weak, and he wobbled on his legs. His hind leg still dragged, and he was racked with pain. But it was a splendid day. The sun was warm; the snow was thawing; the sky was like a great blue sea; and the floods of life coursed warmly again through Baree’s veins. But now, for all time, his desires were changed, and his great quest at an end.
A red ferocity grew in Baree’s eyes as he snarled in the direction of last night’s fight with the wolves. They were no longer his people. They were no longer of his blood. Never again could the hunt call lure him or the voice of the pack rouse the old longing. In him there was a thing newborn, an undying hatred for the wolf, a hatred that was to grow in him until it became like a disease in his vitals, a thing ever present and insistent, demanding vengeance on their kind. Last night he had gone to them a comrade. Today he was an outcast. Cut and maimed, bearing with him scars for all time, he had learned his lesson of the wilderness. Tomorrow, and the next day, and for days after that without number, he would remember the lesson well.
At the cabin on the Gray Loon, on the fourth night of Baree’s absence, Pierrot was smoking his pipe after a great supper of caribou tenderloin he had brought in from the trail, and Nepeese was listening to his tale of the remarkable shot he had made, when a sound at the door interrupted them. Nepeese opened it, and Baree came in. The cry of welcome that was on the girl’s lips died there instantly, and Pierrot stared as if he could not quite believe this creature that had returned was the wolf dog. Three days and nights of hunger in which he could not hunt because of the leg that dragged had put on him the marks of starvation. Battle-scarred and covered with dried blood clots that still clung tenaciously to his long hair, he was a sight that drew at last a long despairing breath from Nepeese. A queer smile was growing in Pierrot’s face as he leaned forward in his chair. Then slowly rising to his feet and looking closer, he said to Nepeese:
“Ventre Saint Gris! Oui, he has been to the pack, Nepeese, and the pack turned on him. It was not a two-wolf fight—non! It was the pack. He is cut and torn in fifty places. And—mon Dieu, he is alive!”
In Pierrot’s voice there was growing wonder and amazement. He was incredulous, and yet he could not disbelieve what his eyes told him. What had happened was nothing short of a miracle, and for a time he uttered not a word more but remained staring in silence while Nepeese recovered from her astonishment to give Baree doctoring and food. After he had eaten ravenously of cold boiled mush she began bathing his wounds in warm water, and after that she soothed them with bear grease, talking to him all the time in her soft Cree. After the pain and hunger and treachery of his adventure, it was a wonderful homecoming for Baree. He slept that night at the foot of the Willow’s bed. The next morning it was the cool caress of his tongue on her hand that awakened her.