The Maupin times. (Maupin, Or.) 1914-1930, December 29, 1921, Image 2

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    ! The Voice of the Pack
CHAPTER I Continued. .
When tlie Ice made a over the
now, he learned to walk on snow
hoes. At first there were pained
ankles and endless floundering In the
drifts, nut between the fall of fresh
now and the thaws that softened the
crust, he slowly mastered the art.
Bnowhlrd and Dan never reullzed the
full significance of her name until he
saw her flying with Incredible grace
over the snow laughed at liltn nt first
and ran him races that would usually
end In his fulling headfirst Into a ten
foot snowbank. She taught him how
to ski and more than once she would
top In the middle of an earnest bit
of pedagogy to find that he wasn't lis
tening at all. He would seem to be
fairly devouring her with bis eyes, de
lighting In the play of soft pinks and
reds In her cheeks, and drinking, as a
man drinks wine, the amazing change
of light and shadow In her eyes.
She seemed to blossom under his
gaze. Not one of those short winter
days went by without the discovery
of some new trait or little vanity to
astonish or delight hlrn sometimes
an unlooked-for tenderness toward the
weak, often a sweet, untnlned philos
ophy of life, or perhaps Just a lower
ing of her eyelids In which her eyes
would show lustrous through the
lashes, or some sweeping, exuberant
gesture startllngly graceful.
Lennox wakened one morning with
the realization that this was one of
the hardest winters of his experience.
He began to be very glad of the abun
dant stores of provisions that over
crowded his pantry savory hums and
bacons, dried venison, sacks of pota
toes and evaporated vegetables, and,
of courRe, canned goods past count
ing. With the high fire roaring In the
grate, the season held no Ills for them.
But sometimes, when the bitter cold
came down nt twilight, and the moon
looked like a thing of Ice Itself over the
now, he begun to wonder how the
wild creatures who wintered on the
Divide were faring. Of course most
of them were gone. Woof, long since,
had grunted and mumbled his way
Into a winter lair. But the wolves re
mained, strange gray shadows on the
snow, and possibly a few of the
hardier smaller creatures.
More than once In those long win
ter nights their talk was chopped oft
short by the song of the pack on some
distant ridge. Sometime, when the
world Is old, possibly a man will be
born that can continue to talk and
keep his mind on his words while the
wolf pack alngs. Hut he Is certainly
an unknown quantity today. The cry
sets In vibration curious memory
chords, and for a moment the listener
sees In his mind's eye his ancient
home In an ancient world Darkness
and Fear and Eyes Bhlnlng about the
cave. It carries him buck, and he
knows the wilderness as It really Is;
and to have such knowledge dries up
nil Inclination to talk, as a sponge
dries water. Of course the picture
Isn't entirely plain. It Is more a thing
guessed at, a photograph In some dark
part of an undor-consclousness that
has constantly grown more dim as the
centuries have passed. Possibly some
time It will fade out altogether; and
then a man may continue to discuss
the weather while the Song from the
ridge shudders In at the windows. But
the world will be quite cold by then,
and no longer particularly Interesting.
And possibly even the wolves them
selves will then be tamed to play dead
and speak pieces which means the
wilderness Itself will be tamed. For
ns long as the wild lasts, the pack will
run through It In the winter. They
were her In the beginning, and In
spite of constant war and constant
hatred on the part of men, they will
be here In the end. The reason Is Just
that they are the symbol of the wil
derness Itself, and the Idea of tt con
tinuing to exist without them Is
stranger than that of a nation without
a flag.
It wasn't quite the same song Hint
Pan had listened to In the first days
of fall, tt had been triumphant then,
and proud with the wilderness pride.
Of course tt had been sad then, too.
but It was more and now. Anil It was
stranger, too, and crept farther Into
the souls of Its listeners. It was the
song of strength that couldn't avail
against the snow, possibly of cold and
the despair and courage of starvation.
These three that heard It 'jere Inured
to the wilderness; but a moment was
always needed after Its last note bad
died to regain their gayety.
"They're getting lean and they're
getting savage," Lennox said one
night, stretched on his divan before
the fireplace. He was still unable to
walk; but the fractures were knitting
slowly and the doctor had promised
that the summer would find him well.
"If we had a dog. I wouldn't offer
much for his life. One of these day
we'll find 'em In a big circle around
the house and then we'll hav to
open up with the rifles."
But thle picture appalled neither of
his two young listeners. No wolf pack
can stand against three marksmen,
armed with rifles and behind oaken
Chrtatmai cam and passed, and
January brought clear days and an
Ineffective sun shining on the snow.
These were the best days of nil. Every
afternoon Dan and Snowbird would
go out on their skis or on snowshoes,
unarmed except for the pistol that
Snowbird carried In the deep pocket
of her macklnaw. "But why not?" Dan
replied to Lennox's objection. "She
could kill five wolves with five shots,
or pretty near It, and you know well
enough that that would hold 'em till
we got home. They'd stop to eat the
five. I have hard enough time keep
ing up with her as It Is, without carry
ing a rifle." And Lennox was content.
Dan had told the truth when he said
that live deaths or even fewer, would
repel the attack of any wolf pack he
had ever seen. There was Just one
troubling thought. He had heard, long
ago, and he had forgotten who had
told him, that In the most severe win
ters the wolves gather In particularly
large packs; and a quality In the song
that they had heard at night seemed
to bear It out. The chorus hnd been
exceptionally loud and strong, and he
had been unable to pick out Individual
The snow was perfect for skiing.
Previously their sport had been many
times Interrupted either by the fall of
fresh snow or a thaw that had soft
ened the snow crust; but now every
afternoon was too perfect to remain
Indoors. They shouted and romped In
the silences, and they did not dream
but that they hnd the wilderness all to
themselves. The fact that one night
Lennox's keen eyes had seen what
looked like the glow of a camp fire
In the distance didn't affect this belief
of theirs at all. It was evidently Just
the phosphorus glowing In a rotten log
from which the winds had blown the
Once or twice they caught glimpses
of wild life: once a grouse that had
burled In the snow flushed from their
path and blew the snow-dust from Its
wings; and once or twice they saw
snowshoe rabbits bounding away on
flat feet over the drifts. But Just one
day they caught sight of a wolf. They
were on snowshoes on a particularly
brilliant afternoon lute In Janunry.
He was a lone male, evidently a
straggler from the pack, and he leaped
from the top of a tall thicket that had
remained above the snow. The man
and the girl had entirely different re
actions. Dan's first Impression was
amazement at the animal's condition.
It seemed to be In the last stages of
starvation; unbelievably gaunt, with
rib bones showing plainly even through
the furry hide. Ordinarily the heavily
furred animals do not show signs of
famine; but even an Inexperienced eye
could not make a mistake In this case.
The eyes were red, and they carried
Dan back to his first adventure In the
Oregon forest the day he had shot
the mad coyote. Snowbird thought of
the beast only as an enemy. The wolves
killed her father's stock ; they were
brigands of the worst order; and she
shared the hatred of them that Is a
common trnlt of all primitive peoples.
Her hand whipped back, seized her pis
tol, and she tired twice at the fleeing
The second shot was a hit: both of
them saw the wolf go to Its side, then
spring up and race on. Shouting, both
of them sped after him.
In a few moments he was out of
sight among the distant trees, but they
found the binod-trall and mushed over
the ridge. They expected at any mo
ment to find him lying dead; hut the
track led them on clear down the next
canyon. And now they cared not at
all whether they found hlra: It was
simply a tramp in the out-of doors ;
and both of them were young with red
blood In their veins.
But all at once Dan stopped In his
tracks. The girl sped on for six paces
before she missed the sound of his
snowshoes; then she turned to find
him standing, wholly motionless, with
eyes fixed upon her.
It startled her, and she didn't know
why. A companion abruptly freezing
In his path, his muscles Inert, and his
eyes filling with speculation, Is always
startling. When this occurs It means
simply that a thought so compelling
and engrossing that even the half
unconsclous physical functions, such
as walking, cannot continue, has come
Into his mind. And It la part of the
old creed of self-preservation to dislike
greatly to be left out on any such
thought as this. If danger Is present,
the sooner It Is identified the better.
"What Is It?" she demanded.
He turned to her curiously Intent.
"How mauy shells have you In that
She took one breath and answered
hlra. "It holds five, and I shot twice.
I haven't any others."
"And I don't suppose It ever oc
curred to you to carry extra ones In
your pocket?"
"Father Is always telling me to and
several times I have. But I'd shoot
them away at target practice and for
get to take any more. There was never
any danger except that night with a
cougar. I did Intend to but what doea
It matter now?"
"We're a couple of wise ones, going
after that wolf with only three shots
to our name. Of course by himself
Copyright, WD, by Little, Brown & Co.
he' harmless but he'a likely enough
to lead us straight toward the pack.
And Snowbird I didn't like his looks,
lie's too gaunt and he' too hungry
and I haven't a bit of doubt he waited
In that brush for us to come, Intend
ing to attack us and lost his nerve
(he last thing, That shows he's des
perate. I don't like him, and I wouldn't
like his pack, And a whole pack might
not lose Its nerve."
"Then you think we'd better turn
"Yes, I do, and not come out any
more without a whole pocket of shells.
I'm going to carry a rifle, too, Just as
Lennox has always. He's got only a
flesh-wound. Tou saw what you did
with two cartridges got In one flesh
wound. Three of 'em against a pack
wouldn't be a great deal of aid. I
don't mean to say you can't shoot, but
a Jumping, lively wolf Is worse than
a bird In the air. We've gone over
three miles; and he'd lead us ten miles
farther even If he didn't go to the
pack. Let's go back."
"If you say so. But I don't think
there's the least bit of danger. We
can always climb a tree."
"And have 'em make a beautiful
circle under It I They've got more pa
tience than we have and we'd have
to come down some time. Your father
can't come to our help, you know. It's
the sign of the tenderfoot not to think
there's any danger and I'm not going
to think that way any more."
They turned back and mushed In
silence a long time.
"I suppose you'll think I'm a cow
ard," Dan asked her humbly.
"Only prudent, Dan," she answered,
smiling. Whether she meant It he did
not know. "I'm Just beginning to un
derstand that you living here only a
few months really know and under
stand all this better than I do." She
stretched her arms wide to the wilder
ness. "I guess It's vour Instinct."
"And I do understand," he told her
earnestly. "I sensed danger back
there Just as sure as I can see your
face. That pack and It's a big one
Is close; and It's terribly hungry. And
you know you can't help but know
that the wolves are not to be trusted
In famine times."
"I know It only too well," she said.
Then she paused and asked him
about a strange grayness, like snow
blown by the wind, on the sky over
the ridge.
Bert Cranston waifed in a clump of
exposed thicket on the hillside until
he saw two black dots, that he knew
were Dan and Snowbird, leave the
Lennox home. He lay very still ai
they circled up the ridge, noticing
that except for the pistol that he
knew Snowbird always carried, they
were unarmed. There was no par
ticular reason why he should be Inter
ested In that nolnt. It was lost the
mountain way always to look foJ
weapons, and It Is rather difficult to
trace the mental processes behind this
Impulse. Perhaps It can be laid to
the fact that many mountain families
are often at feud with one another,
and anything in the way of violence
may happen before the morning.
The two passed out of his sight,
and after a long time he heard the
crack of Snowbird's pistol. He
guessed that she had either shot at
some wild creature, or else was mere
ly at target practice rather a com
mon proceeding for the two when
they were on the hills together. Thus
It Is to be seen that Cranston knew
their habits fairly well. And since be
had kept a close watch upon them for
several days, tht was to be expected.
He had no Intention of being Inter
rupted In this work he was about to
do. He had planned It all very well.
The elder Lennox was still helpless.
Cranston had noticed that when Dan
and Snowbird went out, they were
usually gone from two to four hours;
and that gave him plenty of time for
his undertaking. The moment had
come at last to make a thorough
search of Lennox's house for those In
criminating documents that Dan had
found near the body of Landy HU
dieth. The only nally dangerous part ef
his undertaking was his approach. If
by any chance Lennox were looking
out of the window, he might be found
waiting with a rifle across his arms.
It would be quite like the old moun
taineer to have his gun beside him,
and to shoot tt quick and exceptional
ly straight, without asking questions,
nt any stealing figure In the snow. Yet
Cranston felt fairly sure that Lennox
was still too helpless to raise a gun
to a shooting position.
He had observed that the moun
taineer spent hli time either on the
fireplace divan or on his own bed.
Neither of these places was available
to the rear windows of the house. So,
ery wisely, he made his attack from
the rear.
Life and Art
Td like to meet that man. He
plays Monte Crtsto with such under
"I'll introduce you, but h' tight
wad. Won't spend a nickel." Lottl
Till Courier-Journal. - vW,
fflJL of Tim Ml
copvtffso'. '
CHAPTER I Continued.
ne came stealing across the snow
a musher of the first degree. Very
silently and swiftly he slipped off his
snowshoes at the door. The door It
self was unlocked, Just as he had sup
posed. In an Instant more he was tip
toeing, a dark, silent figure, through
the corridors of the house. He held
bis rifle ready In his hands.
He peered Into Lennox's bedroom
first. The room was unoccupied.
Then the floor of the corridor creaked
beneath his step; and he knew noth
ing further was to be gained by wait
ing. If Lennox suspected his pres
ence, he might be waiting with aimed
rifle as he opened the door of the liv
ing room.
He glided faster. He halted once
more a moment at the living-room
door to see If Lennox had been dis
turbed. He was lying still, however,
so Cranston pushed through.
Lennox glanced up from his mnga
lne to find that unmistakable thing,
the barrel of a rifle, pointed at his
breast. Cranston was one of those
rare marksmen who shoot with both
eyes open and that meant that he
kept his full visual powers to the last
Instant before the hammer fell.
"I can't raise my arms," Lennox
said simply. "One of 'em won't work
at all besides, against the doctor's
Cranston stole over toward htm,
looking closely for weapons. He pulled
aside the woolen blanket that Lennox
had drawn up over his body, and he
pushed his hand Into the cushions of
the couch. A few deft pats, holding
his rifle through the fork of his arm,
finger colled Into the trigger guard,
assured him that Lennox was not
"heeled" at all. Then he laughed and
went to work.
"I thought I told you once," Len
nox began with perfect coldness, "that
the doors of my house were no longer
opn to you."
"You did say that," was Cranston'
guttural reply. "But you see I'm here
just the same, don't you? And what
are you going to do about It?"
"I probably felt that sooner or later
you would come to steal Just as you
and your crowd stole the supplies
from the forest station last winter
and that probably Influenced me to
give the orders. I didn't want thieves
around -my house, and I don't want
them now. I don't want coyotes,
"And I don't want any such remarks
out of you, either," Cranston an
swered him. "You He still and shut
up, and I suspect that sissy boarder
of your will come back, after he's
through embracing your daughter In
the snow, and find you In one piece.
Otherwise not."
"If I were in one piece," Lennox an
swered him very quietly, "Instead of
a bundle of broken bones that can't
"I Can't Rale My Arms," Lennox Said
lift Its arms, I'd get up off this couch,
unarmed as I am, and stamp on your
lying Hps."
But Cranston only laughed and tied
Lennox's feet with a cord from the
window shade.
He went to work very systematical
ly. First he rifled Lennox's desk In
the living room. Then be looked on
all the mantels and ransacked the
cupboards and the drawers. He was
taunting and calm at first But as the
momenta passed, his passion grew up
on him. He no longer smiled. The
rodent features became Intent; the
j-es narrowed to curious, bright tilt
under the dark lashes. He went to
Dan' room, searched his bureau
drawer and all the pockets of the
clothes hanging In his closet. He up
set his trunk and pawed among old
letters In the suitcase. Then, stealing
like some creature of the wilderness,
be came back to the living room.
Lennox was not on the divan where
he had left him. He lay Instead on
the floor near the fireplace; and he
met the passion-drawn face with entire
calmness. His motives were perfectly
plain. He had Just made a desperate
effort to procure Dun's rifle that hung
on two sets of deer horns over the fire
place, and was entirely exhausted
from It He had succeeded In getting
down from the couch, though wracked
by agony, but had been unable to lift
himself up in reach of the gun.
Cranston read his Intention In one
glance. Lennox knew It but he sim
ply didn't care. He had passed the
point, where anything seemed to mat
ter. "Tell me where It Is," Cranston or
dered him. Again he pointed his rifle
at Lennox's wasted breast.
"Tell you where what is? My
"You know what I want and It
Isn't money. I mean those letters that
Falling found on the ridge. I'm
through fooling, Lennox. Dan learned
that long ago, and It's time you learned
It now."
"Dan learned It because he was sick.
He Isn't sick now. Don't presume too
much on that."
Cranston laughed with harsh scorn.
"But that Isn't the question. I said
I've wasted all the time I'm going to.
You are an old man and helpless; but
I'm not going to let that stand In the
way of getting what I came to get.
They're hidden somewhere around this
house. I've watched, and he's had no
chance to take them Into town. I'll
give you Just five seconds to tell me
where they're hidden."
"And I give you," Lennox replied,
"one second less than that to go to
h 11 1"
Both of them breathed hard In the
quiet room. Cranston was trembling
now, shivering Just a little In his arms
and shoulders. "Don't get me wrong,
Lennox," he warned.
"And don't have any delusions In re
gard to me, either," Lennox replied.
"I've stood worse pain from this acci
dent than any man can give me while
I yet live, no matter what he does. If
you want to get on me and hammer
me In the approved Cranston way, I
can't defend myselfbut you won't
get a civil answer out of me. I'm used
to pain, and I can stand It I'm not
used to fawning to a coyote like you,
and I can't stand It."
But Cranston hardly heard. An Idea
had flamed In his mind and cast a red
glamor over all the scene about him.
It was instilling a poison in his nerves
and a madness in his blood, and It was
searing him, like Are, in his dark
brain. Nothing seemed real. He sud
denly bent forward, tense.
"That's all right about you," he said.
"But you'd be a little more polite If It
was Snowbird and Dan that would
have to pay."
Perhaps the color faded slightly In
Lennox's face; but his voice did not
"They'll see your footprint before
they come In and be ready," Lsnnox
replied evenly. "They always come In
by the back way. And even with a
pistol, Snowbird's a match for you."
"Did you think that was what I
meant?" Cranston scorned. "I know a
way t destroy those letters, and I'll
do It In the four seconds that I said,
unless you tell. I'm not even sure I'm
goin' to give you a chance to tell now ;
It's too good a scheme. There won't
be any witnesses then to yell around
In the courts. What If I choose to set
fire to this house?"
"It wouldn't surprise me a great
deal. It' your own trade." Lennox
shuddered once on his place on the
"I wouldn't have to -worry about
those letters then, would I? They are
somewhere In the bouse, and they'd be
burned to ashes. But that Isn't all
that would be burned. You could may
be crawl out but you couldn't carry
the guns, and you couldn't carry the
pantry full of food. You're nearly
eighty miles up here from the nearest
occupied house, with two pair of
snowshoes for the three of you and
one dinky pistol. And you can't walk
at all. It would be a nice pickle,
wouldn't It? Wouldn't you have a fat
chance of getting down to civiliza
tion r
The voice no longer helJ steady. It
trembled with passion. This was no
idle threat The brain had already
aeized upon the scheme with every In
tention of carrying it out The wil
derness lay stark and bare, stripped of
all delusion not only In the snow
world outside but In the hearts of
these two men, Its sons.
"I hav only on hope," Lennox re
plied. "I hope, unknown to me, Wat
Dan has already dispatched those let
ters. The arm of the law Is long,
Cranston. It's ensy to forget that fact
up here. It will reach you la me
Cranston turned through the door,
inin the kitchen. He was gone a long
time. Lennox henrd him at work;
the crinkle of puper and then a pour
ing sound around the walls. Then he
heard the sharp crack of a match. Au
Instant later the first wisp of smoke
came curling, pungent with burning
oil, through the corridor.
"You crawled from your couch to
reach that gun," Cranston told him
when he came In. "Let's see you crawl
out now."
Lennox's answer was a curse th
last, dread outpouring of an unbroken
will. He didn't look again at the glit
tering eyes. He scarcely watched
Cranston's further preparations: th
oil poured on the rugs and furnishings,
the kindling placed at the base of the
curtains. Cranston was trained in this
work. He was tuklng no chances on
the fire being extinguished. And Len
nox began to crawl toward the door.
He managed to grasp the corner of
the blunket on the divan as he went,
and he drugged It behind him. Pain
wracked him, and smoke half-blinded
him. But he made It at last. And by
the time he had crawled one hundred
feet o-er the snow crust the whole
structure was In flames. The red
tongues spoke with a roar.
Cranston, the fire-madness on his
face, hurried to the outbuildings.
There he repeated the work. He
touched a mutch to the hay In the
He Called Once to the Prone Body of
barn, and the wind flung the flame
through It In an Instant The sheds
and other outbuildings were treated
with oil. And seeing that his work
was done, he called once to the prone
body of Lennox on the snow and
mushed away Into the silences.
Lennox's answer was not a curse
this time. Bather it was a prayer, un
uttered, and In his long years Lennox
had not prayed often. When h
prayed at all, the words were burning
fire. His prayer was that of Samson
that fbr a moment bis strength
might come back to him.
Two miles across the ridges, Dan
and Snowbird saw a faint mist blow
Ing between the trees. They didn't
recognize It at first. It might be fin
snow, blown by the wind, or even one
of those mysterious fogs that some
times sweep over the snow.
"But It looks like smoke," Snowbird
"But It couldn't be. The trees are
too wet to burn."
But then a sound that at first was
Just the faintest whisper In which
neither of them would let theraselve
believe, became distinct past all deny
ing. It was that menacing crackle of
a great fire, that In the whole world of
sounds Is perhnps the most terrible.
"It's our house," Snowbird told him.
"And father can't get out."
She spoke very quietly. Perhap
the most terrible truths of life are al
ways spoken in that same quiet voice.
Then both of them started across the
snow as fast as their unwieldy snow
Bhoes would permit
"He can crawl a little," Dan called
to her. "Don't give up, Snowbird
mine. I think he'll be safe."
They mounted to the top of the
ridge; and the long sweep of the for
est was revealed to them. The nous
was a singular tall pillar of flame, al
ready glowing that dreadful red from
which firemen, despairing, turn away.
Then the girl seized hi hands and
danced about him In a mad circle.
"He's alive I" she cried. "You can
see him Just a dot on the snow. Ha
crawled out to safety."
She turned and sped at breakneck
pace down the ridge. Dan had to race
to keep up with her. But It wasn't en
tirely wise to try to mush co fast A
dead log lay beneath the snow with a
broken limb stretched almost to It
surface, und It caught her snowshoe.
The wood cracked sharply, and she fU
forward In the snow. But the wasn't
hurt and the snowshoe Itself, In spite
of a small crack In the wood, was stlil
"Haste makes waste," he told her.
"Keep your feet on the ground, Snow
bird; the house 1 gone already and
your father Is safe. Remember what
lies before us."
If truth Is stranger than fiction. It
I because fact outrun imagination.