The Magic Makers
A Story of Mystery and Adventure in Northern Canada
Author of “The Inner Door,” “Blantyrc-AUen," etc.
SLOWLY passed the winking hours till, ere morning, a sudden change came into the atmosphere and the intensity of the cold lessened. Simultaneously from the east drifted a few flakes of snow, till, gradually increasing, these dancing atoms obscured the sea and even the summits of nearby ridges. Jock, on guard even while he slept, awoke with the first touch of these minute but icy fingers and peered into the murky obscurity around him.
Presently, with an instinctive movement. his hand shot out and he gripped his rifle, while his brows tightened into a heavy line. Thus tense, he waited immovably while the leaden moments passed. From the wilderness there had drifted to him some mysterious signal that, curiously enough, he could not distinguish by either sound or vision. It seemed rather the exchange of one kind of silence for another, which carried with it a vague and unnamable suggestion of danger. There was no cry or bark of animal, no tread of flat or pointed paw, but for all of this the giant reckoned that somewhere and somehow just beyond the range of sight there was peril voiceless and insistent.
One hour passed, and another, till over the desolate waste stole the first faint and crepitant messengers of dawn. Far in the north the shimmering aurora trembled, paled and faded, while slowly and in ghostlike perspective there swam into view the long successive ridges that spread westward like a turbulent and suddenly solidified sea. It was not till day had actually arrived that the tension slackened and his great body leaned back with a sigh of relief. Half an hour later he stretched out a hand and gently pushed his still slumbering companion. “Bill.” he said quietly. “Bill, wake up!” For an instant there was silence, then, as though in his very ears there sounded a voice. It was not the voice of the still unconscious skipper, but it came apparently from close at hand. Starting violently, Jock felt the hair rise prickling on his head while, with infinite slowness, his grey eyes came round to a point not fifty feet from where he lay and immediately in front.
There, showing now in barely visible proportion, was a low snow' wall that, backed against the southerlv rising ground, was almost indistinguishable. It was, perhaps, twenty feet long and three high. Even while Jock gaped at it, there lifted slowdy from behind its crystalline battlement, the head and shoulders of a man who, with rifle levelled at Jock’s broad breast, laughed hoarsely over the steady sights of his gleaming weapon. The laugh was the laugh of Nanook.
It might have been moments later before, to right and left of the brownfaced hunter, there appeared two others similarly armed. These, at a signal came
Synopsis.—Sergeant MacTier, of the North-West Mounted Police, accepts a private commission from a wealthy family in Scotland to search in the far Canadian north for Henry Kintoul, who has disappeared. The only clue is an imperfect map which came through the mails which indicates that Kintoul is held a prisoner on an island in the walrus country. MacTier charters the ship “Siren" and its crew, with Salty Bill, its owner, in charge, and sets sail for Hudson's Bay. As they approach the northern end of Labrador the crew, led by Black Matt, the mate, shows mutinous symptoms. .41 Chimo Trading Post they pick up an Esquimo named Nanook, who mysteriously offers to guide them to the country from which the map came. Early in the voyage MacTier finds Nanook plotting with Black Matt to secure control of the ship. The ship is landed on a strange island in Hudson’s Bay. MacTier and Salty Bill go ashore, taking Nanook with them. He gives them the slip during the night spent on shore and in the morning they find the ship
round either end of the barrier and advanced deliberately.
“Your guns!” barked Nanook. "Give them your guns!”
Jock groaned in spirit and, his hands went up in token of surrender. Fight, yes he might fight, but with no hope of winning. His brain set swiftly at work even while he capitulated.
“Bill!” he said roughly, his arms yet upheld. “Bill, wake up!”
Now into the sensations of those who drag themselves wearily back to consciousness only to find that they are in the grip of a traitor inconceivably crafty, no man can enter save he who has been thus aroused. But, after a few tortured moments, during which Salty Bill swore with all the decorative effect mastered by those who have sailed the seven seas, the expedition that had set forth to find and rescue Henry Rintoul found itself disarmed and captive in a land which, so far as they knew, was tenanted only by white bears and wolves and a humanity more menacing than the very wolves themselves. But, be it known, that even as danger thickened and the future seemed more hopeless than he had ever conceived, the quiet brain of Sergeant MacTier, acclimatizing itself to new conditions, cast away the things of yesterday and braced itself for this new and poignant contest.
Nanook motioned to his companions, who, stepping swiftly forward, snatched up the two rifles. A grin of triumph spread over the hunter’s face. “It is more safe for you if you cannot shoot. Now, when you have eaten, we will go
“Where?” demanded Jock in a voice of deadly calmness.
For answer the Husky waved his arm
to the north. “There is much that is not marked on any white man’s map. Alieady you have seen some of it, and if you are wise you will live to see more. Once again I say, eat”
At that the two captives settled silently to the strangest meal they had ever attacked, while Nanook sat cross-legged on the snow, his rifle across his knees, watching them with sleek and undisguised satisfaction. Salty Bill champed viciously, breaking out into strange and startling oaths, as he stared with utter hatred at the man who had compassed the theft of the Siren. Jock alone seemed unmoved, so unmoved that his composure amounted almost to indifference. In a quarter of an hour he rose and looked placidly into Nanook's crafty eyes.
“We are ready,” he said evenly.
The hunter nodded, and, turning, motioned to something apparently invisible beyond a nearby ridge. On the instant, there followed the sharp crack of a whip. From between the heaped snowbanks raced out a team of five Husky dogs behind which lurched a narrow sledge. Hard on the tail of the sledge a fleetfooted Husky sent his four-fathom lash whistling over the tawny backs of the yelping team as, in a whirl, they sped down hill at the master’s summons.
“You will not be hurt. There are many reasons why, and of these perhaps you may learn. You will travel on tbe sledge and the other will walk. It may be,” he added with a baffling smile, “that there will be many questions.”
A FEW moments later, after MacTier •**-had been tucked carefully into the bearskins which were piled high on the stiff framework of the sledge, this strange caravan turned northward. Ahead marched one Husky, the straining dogs hard at the tail of bis shoes. Followed Salty Bill, and Nanook close behind. Last of all the third and fourth Huskies swung silently along. It was strange for Jock to sit effortless while the naked landscape slid slowly by: strange to watch the swavine back of the mysterious man who piloted this voiceless procession, and fascinating to note the extraordinary strength and wisdom of the five dogs that, tugging each at his single trace, spread out fanlike before the creaking sledge. There was no fear in Jock’s valiant spirit but only a mute and quenchless amazement.
Half an hour later Nanook lifted his hands and pointed toward the northwest. “Big lake,” he said shortly. “There is a big lake marked on the map the lost man sent you. Perhaps it is the same.” His intonation carried with it the faintest trace of derision.
In tbe breasts of the captives there set up, as they stared, an unwonted commotion. Here, almost on the very edge of this mysterious land, was the third
definite confirmation of Henry Rintoul’s half legible scrawl. It was a lake, and it stretched north, its flat and glistening expanse carrying unbroken into the horizon. From where they stood it had the shape of a gigantic sausage. Jock moistened his lips and leaned forward.
Now it was not the habit of Sergeant MacTier to plunge bull-headed where he desired information, and so it came that another mile of crunching snow was covered ere he spoke. And from the manner of his speech one might have inferred that his destination was a matter of complete indifference.
“The country north of here?” he hazarded carelessly, “what’s that like, Nanook?”
“It is what you shall see,” grunted his captor, suavely.
“Aye, I reckoned as much, but how far does it go?”
“It may be three days’ journey, it may be six. One cannot tell what weather is coming.”
“Just so,” continued Jock imperturbably, “but travelling as we are now?”
“On the third night you will sleep in comfort in a fine igloo and have fresh seal meat for dinner.”
Three days’ journey, thought Jock to himself, meant perhaps forty-five miles, for the going was heavy. “And beyond that,” he hazarded, “there is the sea?”
“Yes, after another day’s journey,” said Nanook almost carelessly.
“And there one finds many walrus?” Jock’s voice had taken on a pitch that was almost genial.
“So it is marked on the map of the lost white man. He has put down the lake and the lake you have already seen, and there are many walrus in Hudson Bay, so no doubt he was right to put them down too. My friend is thirsty for much knowledge.”
“Is it strange,” hazarded MacTier carelessly, “since we are the first white men who have ever been here except one?” Except one,” echoed the Husky satirically. “How is it you know that?” By the map, of course, that came from here.
“Perhaps the map came from here and perhaps it was made by a man who was here at one time but has since been taken away or else is dead. What promise have Í given to find any man?” The tones lifted coldly.
I HE heart of Salty Bill sank within him. It was true that Nanook had promised nothing except to guide them to the tribe of whose prisoner he had been told, the tribe for whom magic had been made to their soul’s delight. And just as he began to yield to a dumb despair, Jock’s voice came in again with a ring like steel.
, ”It may be that Nanook knows more than he is saying, and that for his own purpose he has taken our rifles and made us prisoners, and it may be that Nanook is foolish enough to think that a little glory among his own people is great enough to make the punishment that will come seem of small account. But if Nanook is wise, and I think he is wise, he will understand that many white men with their ship cannot be lost without the knowledge of many other white men and that there is no place in the North in which he can hide and escape that which will surely follow. I have spoken.”
There followed for an instant only the creaking of the Husky’s shoes as he ploughed stolidly on till, with undisguised contempt, his throaty tones sounded
again. “I have not said that I am wise, and my friend does not know what else there is that I have not said. Much wealth, even the wealth of five black foxskins, has been offered me, and—” Suddenly Salty Bill broke in with a frightful oath. “Five black foxskins, you copper-colored traitor. Who’s fool enough now to give you that? You’ll do damned well if you save your own skin.”
“I have often wondered,” went on Nanook, apparently undisturbed, “how it is that in the Husky tongue we cannot speak like the captain of a whaling ship. It must be hard wofk to talk like that and in the North one does not do that which need not be done.”
“Oh, go on, Nanook, go on!” snarled the skipper, with bitter irony. “You’re holding all the cards now.”
“And Nanook does not care for wealth?” Jock’s voice was as level as
“Perhaps there is something which is worth more than wealth. You thought that to get what you wanted you only needed to promise me much. It will surprise you, it may be, to find in a few days that even five black foxskins do not count for everything.”
AT that Jock relapsed into silence during which his grey eyes scanned the far-flung country in profound thought till, glancing unconsciously at .the muffled form of the leading Husky, he realized the significance of that at which he had been staring for hours. This man, too, was clad in the sewn skins of eider
“Caribou,” he said suddenly. “Are there no caribou on this island?”
Nanook shook his head. “It is told that many years ago the ground was covered with moss and there were many caribou, and, being an island, they could not go south for the winter. But it came that one year at the time when the nights were longest and the weather most cold there was a south wind that got lost and visited this land. With it came a great rain, even in the middle of the winter, and after this much cold, so that the snow which covered the moss was turned into hard ice and the caribou could not break it away to get food. Then they starved and died, big and little, and to-day there is not one left. So that the people of the island looked to the sea for food and clothing.”
“Then there is no caribou hide on the island?” said Jock, after a breathless pause.
“There is not enough to make a capote for a child.”
Jock mentally chalked up another point in favor of his gradually strengthening surmise that they had indeed landed on the very desert where Henry Rintoul was cabined, for the map which had come so mysteriously home to Dunkeld was traced on the tanned hide of a bear, and not. as in the case of hundreds of others of just such drawings, on the softer skin of the omnipresent caribou.
O OUNDING the southern end of the •T'great lake Nanook swung to the west and, after a few miles’ detour, struck once more straight north, and it was noon next day when, far ahead there loomed up a black mound whose ragged outlines projected starkly above the gleaming snow. Just before they reached it Nanook pointed complacently and, with a curious light in his eyes, remarked, “Much iron,” after which he grinned meaningly.
Thus was added further evidence. It
was plain that not only was the map of Henry Rintoul imprinted unforgettably on the mind of the crafty Husky but he was also leading his captives deliberately by just such a route as would most quickly confirm their growing belief that they were nearing the end of their quest. For all of Nanook’s equivocation, Sergeant MacTier still refused to believe that the hunter could deliberately set aside the chance of the untold riches which he knew were his for the winning. But why, he marvelled, had they been disarmed, and for what reason was he treated with a care that amounted at times almost to tenderness? If Rintoul were indeed at the end of their journey, would it not have been simpler that Nanook should lead him southward to the cabin and freedom. The more Jock puzzled over this the more involved it seemed till in his brain the riddle became mysteriously connected with that magic of which Nanook swore he had heard and which had been so unexpectedly recreated on the plunging deck of the Siren. That Nanook was shrewd he had no cause to doubt, but there filtered into his mind the more discomforting suggestion that there lurked in his baffling intelligence something more dangerous, because more elusive, than shrewdness or even fraud.
It came on the end of the third day that, passing the northern extremity of the great lake which MacTier now reckoned as not less than thirty miles in length, Nanook swung seaward and, paralleling the shore at a little distance, hastened on with increasing speed. Once, far on the western horizon, Jock saw silhouetted in miniature distinction, a gaunt outline and there came down on the wind the long-drawn howl at which the team yelped angrily and thrust forward with redoubled vigor. Just as darkness crept in from the sea, Nanook lifted his hands and pointed.
There, clustered irregularly, where the packed snow was plastered close o'n the flanks of a low ridge, stretched a group of igloos, their rounded domes showing ivory white against a rise of naked rocks that thrust up betwèen them and the north. Simultaneously from this solitary outpost of humanity came a sharp barking of dogs while, from the mouths of the igloos, there crawled out a series of broad squat forms seemingly half animal, so grotesque was their clumsy exit. After that a mingled stream of shouting men and yelping dogs flowed up hill till the travellers were surrounded by an excited group that babbled in curious high-pitched voices and stared intently at the two white men. But, noted Jock, most of all did they stare at himself.
Gradually, out of this babel the giant grasped at certain nebulous deductions. No immediate harm was intended, for Nanook, it appeared, had brought into camp those for whom its inhabitants had been anxiously waiting. There was triumph in the brown faces, but no menace. They seemed rather those of men from whose shoulders had been lifted anxiety and fear, and who regarded with supreme satisfaction this settlement of some mysterious question. They were big men, observed Jock, bigger than most of the Huskies he had seen. The dogs, too, seemed better bred and stronger. That food was abundant their condition left no doubt, for even without caribou all were sleek and fat. Automatically his mind turned to the thought of escape, but that, he instantly concluded, must stand. For the present he had other work to do.
At a sign from Nanook, the medley of
voices was quieted. “Come,” he said. His voice carried a touch of mastery.
IN the middle of the group of igloos stood one larger than the rest. Its neatly fitted blocks had been chopped out with extraordinary care, and its smooth and polished dome rose to double the height of those around it. Compared to them its proportions seemed almost ceremonial. Leading into it was a short tunnel, this in turn also more generous and roomy. Nanook’s eyes rested on it triumphantly.
“It is yours,” he said quietly to MacTier. “It was built for you, and this one who makes such angry talk. Three days ago it was finished, and, knowing that, I brought you here. Do not think,” he went on, “that many eyes have not rested on you since the wooden house was made from pieces of your ship, but the wind will blow through a white man's house while it can only jump over the home of
the Husky.” He stooped, disappearing with a wriggle of short strong legs.
For a moment Jock stood uncertainly and shot an anxious glance at his companion. Into his spirit had crept that which for a moment submerged it in a sea of uncertainty. What there might be of peril inside these glittering walls he could not even remotely hazard, just as he had failed to interpret the almost fawning care which for the last three days Nanook had lavished on his own person. He began to feel as if he were something sacrificial that was being guarded strenuously against the appointed time. For an instant he wavered, till, his valiant soul stirring within him, he, too, stooped and crawled in.
The interior of the igloo was, perhaps, eighteen feet in clear diameter and the inner curve of its slowly rounded dome rose nine feet above the tightly packed and trampled snow. Across a third of it, in the form of a long segment, there was
raised a low platform, and this, too, had been carefully rammed. Over it were spread layers of skins, bear, fox and wolf, a profusion of fur that spelled abundance in these freezing latitudes. From either wall projected a curved strip of whalebone, and, skewered on these, two great masses of fat dripped slowly into flat stone lamps, where a roughly twisted wick burned sluggishly in the bath of oil that was constantly renewed from above. With surprise Jock noted that not only the sleeping bench but the floor itself was covered with skins. He was marvelling at this when, in utter amazement, he saw through the murky atmosphere three wooden boxes piled one over the
“They are yours,” said Nanook genially. “I sent for them because perhaps a man who makes magic will have no place in his stomach for raw meat. As for the one who makes strong words, it does not matter.”
“And to-morrow?” said Jock quietly as ever.
Nanook smiled coldly. “Why does my friend ask? There will be so many to-morrows that one does not make any difference. But I will tell you now that tomorrow night the men of the tribe will come to this igloo and you will make magic for their pleasure.”
It was on the tip of Bill’s tongue to speak out when Jock glanced at him warningly. “The magic is then dead in this tribe?” he said to Nanook.
The hunter nodded. “I do not say whether it is dead or not, but when I came here many days ago they told me that since last summer it had been growing sick and weak, so that a child could take it without moving even its eyelids. There is now much need for new magic and it will be well to make it strong.”
“Does Nanook think that it is born in my stomach and flows out of my arms?” asked MacTier coolly.
“It is not many nights ago,” answered the hunter blandly, “when he who makes hot words was sleeping soundly that I went to the ship. Among many things I did understand I found one thing I did not understand, and once when I touched it there was a very little magic and after that not any more. So I brought it. It is well,” he added with a veiled threat in his voice, “that once more you waken the spirit in this box.” And with that he lifted a robe and revealed the shining lid of the battery.
Salty Bill breathed sharply, but Jock stood silent and motionless while a grim humor slowly found birth within him. Nanook wanted magic and he should get it.
THE minute the hunter’s heels vanished into % ■ the tunnel, the seaman
stepped forward and picked up his precious toy. Testing it he found that all was in order, and his big fingers lingered lovingly
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on plugs and contacts while he regarded MacTier with contemplative eyes.
“As I get it,” he said slowly, “you’re the boss magic-maker for this outfit and it’s up to you. I don’t know that I reckoned on anything just like this when I chartered the Siren, but seems to me now that it’s your job to fill this blamed tribe so full of juice that they’ll go as crazy as the rest of us, and then we’ll all break even. If this was Rintoul’s game, it just means that his generator wore out pumping current into this pack of thieves, and then they turned on him. So I reckon you’d better handle this contraption mighty carefully. There’s just one thing more,” he added, “that might help some. You can give about five times the shock if you make the people who are holding hands dip their fingers in water first. I tried that on some of the crew last year and it most lifted them off the deck.”
Jock laughed grimly, after which in this chill and smoky igloo might have been observed a curious scene which had the result of settling for all time any doubt that may have lurked in his mind as to the efficacy of this diminutive box with its twisted wires and smooth metal cylinders.
Late that night the big man lay for hours staring into the darkness, while, for almost the very first time in his life, he wondered whether the burden he had assumed was not too great for his powers. He had a curious sensation that their northward journey was ended, and that whatever area of this mysterious land still lay unexplored, would remain so as far as concerned this hazardous expedition. Without arms, life in this desolation would be insupportable and Nanook had seen to it that they were utterly weaponless. It appeared now that from the very first the brown-faced hunter had had in view a mysterious aim, quickened into ruthless decision by the magical powers so casually revealed to him, and that from the moment when these were exhibited he had forged, steadily and inflexibly, toward the gratification of his ambition. Here, the expedition which was to rescue Henry Rintoul was marooned in an unknown corner on the roof of the world, surrounded by those who might yield neither to pity nor persuasion, who were too strong to overcome, and to whom the re-birth of the magic which had once amazed them was evidently of tremendous import. What escape was there, Jock demanded of himself, while that magic still lived? What escape, he grimly wondered, when it once more vanished. And just as the horizon seemed darker than ever there came faintly to him, through
the curving walls, the long drawn howl of a wolf.
A moment later there was a shuffling at the mouth of the tunnel and Nanook lurched in. “You may hear strange things to-night,” he said hurriedly, “and of these I have come to tell you and also to say that you need have no fear if you stay inside the igloo. But there is death outside.”
Into Jock’s mind shot the vision of the mangled and feather-clad Husky whose torn body they had found after just such a night as this. “It is the wolves?” he hazarded.
OUT of the darkness came the noise of Nanook striking hard with his flint against the fragment of steel, then a steady stream of tiny red sparks which, directed on a pinch of tinder that lay beside the stone lamp, gradually wakened the latter into a glow. In another moment the oily wick broke into a dull yellow flame under the steady blast of his round and puffing cheeks. Beside it the hunter loomed, an indistinct and shapeless mass.
“They are not only wolves but evil spirits, for in them are the souls of the bad men who have died or been killed on Hudson Bay for many years. And lest their souls run free over the whole of the land the Great Spirit gathered them together and sent them to this island.” Nanook broke off, his eyes flashing, his lips compressed.
“Go on,” said MacTier evenly. An amazing thought was stirring within
“It is a strange thing to tell, but the tribe that lives here has seen, and therefore knows. For many winters the wolves ran wild and there was no war between them and the Huskies, but not long ago there was a man here in this very place who went mad, and, taking no arms with him, ran shouting into the North, and because his spirit was wild like their own, the wolves came to him and made him their master.”
“Who was that man?” demanded Jock, interrupting suddenly.
“I do not know, but only know that he was mad. Sometimes he has been seen a long way off and always the wolves are with him. Him they obey like dogs that have been whipped. Together they hunt and kill and together they eat, and it is death for the dog or the man that meets them when it is dark.”
SALTY BILL rolled over in his robes and sat up straight. “Then why in blazes don’t you kill him? Mean to tell me there’s a whole darned tribe held up by a few underfed wolves that travel with a fool?”
Nanook shifted ever so slightly. “Perhaps to-night he will run through the village, and then if my friend likes to take him and kill him he will get much thanks, and it may be,” added the hunter with a touch of satire, “the wealth of five black foxskins. More than this I cannot tell you, but it would be well that if you hear the madman hunting you stay inside.”
And with that Nanook disappeared and behind him there remained silence till Salty Bill, after peering uncertainly into the face of Sergeant MacTier, broke into a stream of oaths. “Mad!” he exclaimed viciously. “Of course the wolves are mad, and the man that drives them, and you, too, MacTier, and myself, and Nanook, and the whole damned outfit. We’re all mad or we’d never be here.
And what’s more we’ll stay here till we rot, or freeze to death.”
But Sergeant MacTier had plunged into profound contemplation. In the glimmering light of the oil lamp his eyes had turned to a cold steel grey. Bill looked at him wonderingly. However arduous or perilous circumstances might be, this man seemed invariably to be able to bring to bear upon them some new phase of courage and resource. Presently the sergeant’s voice came in.
“Bill,” he said with extreme deliberation, “I’m thinking that we’re in the middle of a Chinese puzzle and the answer to it may not be far off. Cast back to yon wolf that saved the day a little while ago. Where did he come from, why did he come? Man, man, but we’re on the edge of strange things.”
“Seeing as I never kept no menagerie,” hazarded the skipper, “I ain’t much of an authority on the habits of wolves, tame, wild or mad, but I reckon he ain’t no cross-tempered bachelor that picked out this God-forsaken island to live on, and that where there’s one there’s more.”
BUT just then MacTier stretched forth a mighty arm, and his fingers sank vise-like into the skipper’s shoulders, for in that instant there drifted again from the wilderness a weird and heart-stilling sound. This time it was not one wolf but many. Strung along the horizon they seemed to catch up the wild defiant note and fling it one to the other along an interminable line that grew steadily nearer. Finally these individual howls blended themselves into one mocking cascade that mounted to the very stars and set the whole-night thrilling with a vague and suggestive horror. Over the clyster of igloos there spread a silence like death while the very domes themselves fappeared to shrink closer to earth in preparation for the onslaught. Salty Bill turned purple in the face and sat stiffly, slowly clasping and unclasping his knotted and sinewy hands, while Jock, (whose face had become grimmer than ever, blocked the mouth of the tunnel with boxes and bundles; and, sauatting behind this barricade, extended his massive arms as though prepared to destroy by main force whatever might thyust itself between the rough walls that led into the darkness.
Nearer and nearer swept that wild and yelping chorus, till, through its insensate crescendo could be caught the baying of individual wolves whose voices, hoarse and deep-throated, rose crashing above the sweeping maelstrom. By this time the wave had reached the outskirts of the clustered igloos and, dividing itself into rivulets of gaunt and leaping forms, streamed round and enveloped each individual dome as the mouths of great rivers widen to encircle individual islets ere they reach the sea. Closer it came, till, through the two-foot snow wall, the captives could almost catch the sound of panting bodies and the quick pad-pad of pointed feet. And just the river moved on it encountered one lone sleigh dog that had failed to find shelter in time. Instantly on its cringing carcase there was piled a yapping mound. In the still air a mingled and awful cry sounded more fiercely, and there came sharply the vicious snap of long and locking jaws, the pitiable and muffled scream of terror, and finally a dull snarling and ravening, as, for an instant, the deluge paused to satisfy the hunger of its grey battalion. But only for an instant this lasted, and on it swept, till, striking the shore line,
it swerved northward and tore headlong up the broad fringe of ice that lay flat and gleaming under a misty moon. Then, just as the chorus dwindled there was flung back to the cowering village a shout of human laughter wild and thrilling.
Jock felt the hair rise slowly on his head and instinctively he moved over and put his hand on Bill’s shoulder. “That’s done with for to-night,” said the big man even, “but, God knows, it was bad enough. Nanook may be a liar, and I don’t doubt that he is, generally speaking. But he gave us the truth about this business, and it’s as well we were inside. Now get to sleep if you can.”
After which he sat motionless for hours with that peal of laughter ringing shrill in his ears. Death he had seen, of man and beast, anguish he had known and witnessed, for to those who love the North does the North bring strange offerings that tax the soul of her worshippers. But, thinking of all he had seen and heard, these was not anything upon which his wandering mind could fasten that had in it the inhuman and elemental horror, the demoniacal and unearthly significance of that far-flung
Thus, hour after hour, and long after his companion had dropped into a restless slumber, sat Sergeant MacTier, till, once again, the ghostly heralds of dawn stole up the white streets of that lonely and shining village.
THE Nanook who pushed his way into the igloo next morning was confident but unusually subdued. To Bill’s impetuous questionings he seemed at first unwilling to reply, till, having been assured by Jock that that very night strong magic would be made for the hunters of the tribe, he became slowly more communicative. “There was no harm done by the evil spirits, except that one dog, being foolish, was eaten alive, but he was not a large dog and he could not pull much so it does not matter.”
“But where do these wolves come from?” persisted the skipper. “Where do they hang out and why can’t you round up your hunters and make a job of it?”
“It is easy to talk,” answered Nanook bluntly. “There was one man not long ago set out to kill them and he has not yet returned, and we know that he will never return. We cannot leave the women and children without guard and, what is more, when the madman laughs he turns all our bones to water and we cannot shoot straight.”
Jock nodded with a touch of sympathy. “I can understand that myself, we heard
“But it is worse, much worse!” said Nanook grimly. “When he stands in the middle of the village and laughs and asks if there is no one who will come out and talk with him! We know that all aiound him wait the wolves who do not speak while the master is speaking, and that there would be much death but little talk.” He paused for a moment and shot a quick glance. “I have told the men of the tribe that to-night they will come here and there will be much feasting and after that there will be strong magic. It will be well for you,” he added significantly, “that the magic be very strong.”
To be continued.