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Baree, Son of Kazan

Baree, Son of Kazan

Author:James Oliver Curwood


To Baree, for many days after he was born, the world was a vast gloomy cavern. During these first days of his life his home was in the heart of a great windfall where Gray Wolf, his blind mother, had found a safe nest for his babyhood, and to which Kazan, her mate, came only now and then, his eyes gleaming like strange balls of...
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  To Baree, for many days after he was born, the world was a vast gloomycavern.

  During these first days of his life his home was in the heart of a greatwindfall where Gray Wolf, his blind mother, had found a safe nest forhis babyhood, and to which Kazan, her mate, came only now and then, hiseyes gleaming like strange balls of greenish fire in the darkness. Itwas Kazan’s eyes that gave to Baree his first impression of somethingexisting away from his mother’s side, and they brought to him also hisdiscovery of vision. He could feel, he could smell, he could hear—but inthat black pit under the fallen timber he had never _seen_ until theeyes came. At first they frightened him; then they puzzled him, and hisfear changed to an immense curiosity. He would be looking straight atthem, when all at once they would disappear. This was when Kazan turnedhis head. And then they would flash back at him again out of thedarkness with such startling suddenness that Baree would involuntarilyshrink closer to his mother, who always trembled and shivered in astrange sort of way when Kazan came in.

  Baree, of course, would never know their story. He would never know thatGray Wolf, his mother, was a full-blooded wolf, and that Kazan, hisfather, was a dog. In him nature was already beginning its wonderfulwork, but it would never go beyond certain limitations. It would tellhim, in time, that his beautiful wolf-mother was blind, but he wouldnever know of that terrible battle between Gray Wolf and the lynx inwhich his mother’s sight had been destroyed. Nature could tell himnothing of Kazan’s merciless vengeance, of the wonderful years of theirmatehood, of their loyalty, their strange adventures in the greatCanadian wilderness—it could make him only a son of Kazan.

  But at first, and for many days, it was all mother. Even after his eyeshad opened wide and he had found his legs so that he could stumble abouta little in the darkness, nothing existed for Baree but his mother. Whenhe was old enough to be playing with sticks and moss out in thesunlight, he still did not know what she looked like. But to him she wasbig and soft and warm, and she licked his face with her tongue, andtalked to him in a gentle, whimpering way that at last made him find hisown voice in a faint, squeaky yap.

  And then came that wonderful day when the greenish balls of fire thatwere Kazan’s eyes came nearer and nearer, a little at a time, and verycautiously. Heretofore Gray Wolf had warned him back. To be alone wasthe first law of her wild breed during mothering-time. A low snarl fromher throat, and Kazan had always stopped. But on this day the snarl didnot come. In Gray Wolf’s throat it died away in a low, whimpering sound.A note of loneliness, of gladness, of a great yearning. “It is all rightnow,” she was saying to Kazan; and Kazan—pausing for a moment to makesure—replied with an answering note deep in his throat.

  Still slowly, as if not quite sure of what he would find, Kazan came tothem, and Baree snuggled closer to his mother. He heard Kazan as hedropped down heavily on his belly close to Gray Wolf. He wasunafraid—and mightily curious. And Kazan, too, was curious. He sniffed.In the gloom his ears were alert. After a little Baree began to move. Aninch at a time he dragged himself away from Gray Wolf’s side. Everymuscle in her lithe body tensed. Again her wolf blood was warning her.There was danger for Baree. Her lips drew back, baring her fangs. Herthroat trembled, but the note in it never came. Out of the darkness twoyards away came a soft, puppyish whine, and the caressing sound ofKazan’s tongue.

  Baree had felt the thrill of his first great adventure. He haddiscovered his father.

  This all happened in the third week of Baree’s life. He was justeighteen days old when Gray Wolf allowed Kazan to make the acquaintanceof his son. If it had not been for Gray Wolf’s blindness and the memoryof that day on the Sun Rock when the lynx had destroyed her eyes, shewould have given birth to Baree in the open, and his legs would havebeen quite strong. He would have known the sun and the moon and thestars; he would have realized what the thunder meant, and would haveseen the lightning flashing in the sky. But as it was, there had beennothing for him to do in that black cavern under the windfall butstumble about a little in the darkness, and lick with his tiny redtongue the raw bones that were strewn about them. Many times he had beenleft alone. He had heard his mother come and go, and nearly always ithad been in response to a yelp from Kazan that came to them like adistant echo. He had never felt a very strong desire to follow untilthis day when Kazan’s big, cool tongue caressed his face. In thosewonderful seconds nature was at work. His instinct was not quite bornuntil then. And when Kazan went away, leaving them alone in darkness,Baree whimpered for him to come back, just as he had cried for hismother when now and then she had left him in response to her mate’scall.

  The sun was straight above the forest when, an hour or two after Kazan’svisit, Gray Wolf slipped away. Between Baree’s nest and the top of thewindfall were forty feet of jammed and broken timber through which not aray of light could break. This blackness did not frighten him, for hehad yet to learn the meaning of light. Day, and not night, was to fillhim with his first great terror. So quite fearlessly, with a yelp forhis mother to wait for him, he began to follow. If Gray Wolf heard him,she paid no attention to his call, and the scrape of her claws on thedead timber died swiftly away.

  This time Baree did not stop at the eight-inch log which had always shutin his world in that particular direction. He clambered to the top of itand rolled over on the other side. Beyond this was vast adventure, andhe plunged into it courageously.

  It took him a long time to make the first twenty yards. Then he came toa log worn smooth by the feet of Gray Wolf and Kazan, and stopping everyfew feet to send out a whimpering call for his mother, he made his wayfarther and farther along it. As he went, there grew slowly a curiouschange in this world of his. He had known nothing but blackness. And nowthis blackness seemed breaking itself up into strange shapes andshadows. Once he caught the flash of a fiery streak above him—a gleam ofsunshine—and it startled him so that he flattened himself down upon thelog and did not move for half a minute. Then he went on. An erminesqueaked 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 hismother had ever made. He was off the trail.

  The log was no longer smooth, and it was leading him upward higher andhigher into the tangle of the windfall, and was growing narrower everyfoot he progressed. He whined. His soft little nose sought vainly forthe warm scent of his mother. The end came suddenly when he lost hisbalance and fell. He let out a piercing cry of terror as he felt himselfslipping, and then plunged downward. He must have been high up in thewindfall, for to Baree it was a tremendous fall. His soft little bodythumped from log to log as he shot this way and that, and when at lasthe stopped, there was scarcely a breath left in him. But he stood upquickly on his four trembling legs—and blinked.

  A new terror held Baree rooted there. In an instant the whole world hadchanged. It was a flood of sunlight. Everywhere he looked he could seestrange things. But it was the sun that frightened him most. It was hisfirst impression of fire, and it made his eyes smart. He would haveslunk back into the friendly gloom of the windfall, but at this momentGray Wolf came around the end of a great log, followed by Kazan. Shemuzzled Baree joyously, and Kazan in a most doglike fashion wagged histail. This mark of the dog was to be a part of Baree. Half wolf, hewould always wag his tail. He tried to wag it now. Perhaps Kazan saw theeffort, for he emitted a muffled yelp of approbation as he sat back onhis haunches.

  Or he might have been saying to Gray Wolf:

  “Well, we’ve got the little rascal out of that windfall at last, haven’twe?”

  For Baree it had been a great day. He had discovered his father—and theworld.