On the afternoon of this day the second strong impulse came to him. It was not reason, and neither was it instinct alone. It was the struggle halfway between, the brute mind righting at its best with the mystery of an intangible thing—something that could not be seen by the eye or heard by the ear. Nepeese was not in the cabin, because there was no cabin. She was not at the tepee. He could find no trace of her in the chasm. She was not with Pierrot under the big spruce.
Therefore, unreasoning but sure, he began to follow the old trap line into the north and west.
No man has ever looked clearly into the mystery of death as it is impressed upon the senses of the northern dog. It comes to him, sometimes, with the wind. Most frequently it must come with the wind, and yet there are ten thousand masters in the northland who will swear that their dogs have given warning of death hours before it actually came; and there are many of these thousands who know from experience that their teams will stop a quarter or half a mile from a strange cabin in which there lies unburied dead.
Yesterday Baree had smelled death, and he knew without process of reasoning that the dead was Pierrot. How he knew this, and why he accepted the fact as inevitable, is one of the mysteries which at times seems to give the direct challenge to those who concede nothing more than instinct to the brute mind. He knew that Pierrot was dead without exactly knowing what death was. But of one thing he was sure: he would never see Pierrot again. He would never hear his voice again; he would never hear again the swish-swish-swish of his snowshoes in the trail ahead, and so on the trap line he did not look for Pierrot. Pierrot was gone forever. But Baree had not yet associated death with Nepeese. He was filled with a great uneasiness. What came to him from out of the chasm had made him tremble with fear and suspense. He sensed the thrill of something strange, of something impending, and yet even as he had given the death howl in the chasm, it must have been for Pierrot. For he believed that Nepeese was alive, and he was now just as sure that he would overtake her on the trap line as he was positive yesterday that he would find her at the birchbark tepee.