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Author:James Oliver Curwood


Kazan lay mute and motionless, his gray nose between his forepaws, his eyes half closed. A rock could have appeared scarcely less lifeless than he; not a muscle twitched; not a hair moved; not an eyelid quivered. Yet every drop of the wild blood in his...
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  Kazan lay mute and motionless, his gray nose between his forepaws, hiseyes half closed. A rock could have appeared scarcely less lifeless thanhe; not a muscle twitched; not a hair moved; not an eyelid quivered. Yetevery drop of the wild blood in his splendid body was racing in aferment of excitement that Kazan had never before experienced; everynerve and fiber of his wonderful muscles was tense as steel wire.Quarter-strain wolf, three-quarters "husky," he had lived the four yearsof his life in the wilderness. He had felt the pangs of starvation. Heknew what it meant to freeze. He had listened to the wailing winds ofthe long Arctic night over the barrens. He had heard the thunder of thetorrent and the cataract, and had cowered under the mighty crash of thestorm. His throat and sides were scarred by battle, and his eyes werered with the blister of the snows. He was called Kazan, the Wild Dog,because he was a giant among his kind and as fearless, even, as the menwho drove him through the perils of a frozen world.

  He had never known fear--until now. He had never felt in him before thedesire to _run_--not even on that terrible day in the forest when he hadfought and killed the big gray lynx. He did not know what it was thatfrightened him, but he knew that he was in another world, and that manythings in it startled and alarmed him. It was his first glimpse ofcivilization. He wished that his master would come back into the strangeroom where he had left him. It was a room filled with hideous things.There were great human faces on the wall, but they did not move orspeak, but stared at him in a way he had never seen people look before.He remembered having looked on a master who lay very quiet and very coldin the snow, and he had sat back on his haunches and wailed forth thedeath song; but these people on the walls looked alive, and yet seemeddead.

  Suddenly Kazan lifted his ears a little. He heard steps, then lowvoices. One of them was his master's voice. But the other--it sent alittle tremor through him! Once, so long ago that it must have been inhis puppyhood days, he seemed to have had a dream of a laugh that waslike the girl's laugh--a laugh that was all at once filled with awonderful happiness, the thrill of a wonderful love, and a sweetnessthat made Kazan lift his head as they came in. He looked straight atthem, his red eyes gleaming. At once he knew that she must be dear tohis master, for his master's arm was about her. In the glow of the lighthe saw that her hair was very bright, and that there was the color ofthe crimson _bakneesh_ vine in her face and the blue of the _bakneesh_flower in her shining eyes. Suddenly she saw him, and with a little crydarted toward him.

  "Stop!" shouted the man. "He's dangerous! Kazan--"

  She was on her knees beside him, all fluffy and sweet and beautiful, hereyes shining wonderfully, her hands about to touch him. Should he cringeback? Should he snap? Was she one of the things on the wall, and hisenemy? Should he leap at her white throat? He saw the man runningforward, pale as death. Then her hand fell upon his head and the touchsent a thrill through him that quivered in every nerve of his body. Withboth hands she turned up his head. Her face was very close, and he heardher say, almost sobbingly:

  "And you are Kazan--dear old Kazan, my Kazan, my hero dog--who broughthim home to me when all the others had died! My Kazan--my hero!"

  And then, miracle of miracles, her face was crushed down against him,and he felt her sweet warm touch.

  In those moments Kazan did not move. He scarcely breathed. It seemed along time before the girl lifted her face from him. And when she did,there were tears in her blue eyes, and the man was standing above them,his hands gripped tight, his jaws set.

  "I never knew him to let any one touch him--with their naked hand," hesaid in a tense wondering voice. "Move back quietly, Isobel. Goodheaven--look at that!"

  Kazan whined softly, his bloodshot eyes on the girl's face. He wanted tofeel her hand again; he wanted to touch her face. Would they beat himwith a club, he wondered, if he _dared_! He meant no harm now. He wouldkill for her. He cringed toward her, inch by inch, his eyes neverfaltering. He heard what the man said--"Good heaven! Look at that!"--andhe shuddered. But no blow fell to drive him back. His cold muzzletouched her filmy dress, and she looked at him, without moving, her weteyes blazing like stars.

  "See!" she whispered. "See!"

  Half an inch more--an inch, two inches, and he gave his big gray body ahunch toward her. Now his muzzle traveled slowly upward--over her foot,to her lap, and at last touched the warm little hand that lay there. Hiseyes were still on her face: he saw a queer throbbing in her bare whitethroat, and then a trembling of her lips as she looked up at the manwith a wonderful look. He, too, knelt down beside them, and put his armabout the girl again, and patted the dog on his head. Kazan did not likethe man's touch. He mistrusted it, as nature had taught him to mistrustthe touch of all men's hands, but he permitted it because he saw that itin some way pleased the girl.

  "Kazan, old boy, you wouldn't hurt her, would you?" said his mastersoftly. "We both love her, don't we, boy? Can't help it, can we? Andshe's ours, Kazan, all _ours_! She belongs to you and to me, and we'regoing to take care of her all our lives, and if we ever have to we'llfight for her like hell--won't we? Eh, Kazan, old boy?"

  For a long time after they left him where he was lying on the rug,Kazan's eyes did not leave the girl. He watched and listened--and allthe time there grew more and more in him the craving to creep up to themand touch the girl's hand, or her dress, or her foot. After a time hismaster said something, and with a little laugh the girl jumped up andran to a big, square, shining thing that stood crosswise in a corner,and which had a row of white teeth longer than his own body. He hadwondered what those teeth were for. The girl's fingers touched them now,and all the whispering of winds that he had ever heard, all the music ofthe waterfalls and the rapids and the trilling of birds in spring-time,could not equal the sounds they made. It was his first music. For amoment it startled and frightened him, and then he felt the fright passaway and a strange tingling in his body. He wanted to sit back on hishaunches and howl, as he had howled at the billion stars in the skies oncold winter nights. But something kept him from doing that. It was thegirl. Slowly he began slinking toward her. He felt the eyes of the manupon him, and stopped. Then a little more--inches at a time, with histhroat and jaw straight out along the floor! He was half-way toher--half-way across the room--when the wonderful sounds grew very softand very low.

  "Go on!" he heard the man urge in a low quick voice. "Go on! Don'tstop!"

  The girl turned her head, saw Kazan cringing there on the floor, andcontinued to play. The man was still looking, but his eyes could notkeep Kazan back now. He went nearer, still nearer, until at last hisoutreaching muzzle touched her dress where it lay piled on the floor.And then--he lay trembling, for she had begun to sing. He had heard aCree woman crooning in front of her tepee; he had heard the wild chantof the caribou song--but he had never heard anything like thiswonderful sweetness that fell from the lips of the girl. He forgot hismaster's presence now. Quietly, cringingly, so that she would not know,he lifted his head. He saw her looking at him; there was something inher wonderful eyes that gave him confidence, and he laid his head in herlap. For the second time he felt the touch of a woman's hand, and heclosed his eyes with a long sighing breath. The music stopped. Therecame a little fluttering sound above him, like a laugh and a sob in one.He heard his master cough.

  "I've always loved the old rascal--but I never thought he'd do that," hesaid; and his voice sounded queer to Kazan.