It was the black patch over his left eye that made all the trouble. In reality he was of a disposition most peaceful and propitiating, a friend of justice and fair dealing, strongly inclined to a domestic life, and capable of extreme devotion. He had a vivid sense of righteousness, it is true, and any violation of it was apt to heat his indignation to the boiling-point. When this occurred he was strong in the back, stiff in the neck, and fearless of consequences. But he was always open to friendly overtures and ready to make peace with honour.
Singularly responsive to every touch of kindness, desirous of affection, secretly hungry for caresses, he had a heart framed for love and tranquillity. But nature saw fit to put a black patch over his left eye; wherefore his days were passed in the midst of conflict and he lived the strenuous life.
How this sinister mark came to him, he never knew. Indeed it is not likely that he had any idea of the part that it played in his career. The attitude that the world took toward him from the beginning, an attitude of aggressive mistrust,--the role that he was expected and practically forced to assume in the drama of existence, the role of a hero of interminable strife,--must have seemed to him altogether mysterious and somewhat absurd. But his part was fixed by the black patch. It gave him an aspect so truculent and forbidding that all the elements of warfare gathered around him as hornets around a sugar barrel, and his appearance in public was like the raising of a flag for battle.
"You see that Pichou," said MacIntosh, the Hudson's Bay agent at Mingan, "you see yon big black-eye deevil? The savages call him Pichou because he's ugly as a lynx--'LAID COMME UN PICHOU.' Best sledge-dog and the gurliest tyke on the North Shore. Only two years old and he can lead a team already. But, man, he's just daft for the fighting. Fought his mother when he was a pup and lamed her for life. Fought two of his brothers and nigh killed 'em both. Every dog in the place has a grudge at him, and hell's loose as oft as he takes a walk. I'm loath to part with him, but I'll be selling him gladly for fifty dollars to any man that wants a good sledge-dog, eh?--and a bit collie-shangie every week."
Pichou had heard his name, and came trotting up to the corner of the store where MacIntosh was talking with old Grant the chief factor, who was on a tour of inspection along the North Shore, and Dan Scott, the agent from Seven Islands, who had brought the chief down in his chaloupe. Pichou did not understand what his master had been saying about him: but he thought he was called, and he had a sense of duty; and besides, he was wishful to show proper courtesy to well-dressed and respectable strangers. He was a great dog, thirty inches high at the shoulder; broad-chested, with straight, sinewy legs; and covered with thick, wavy, cream-coloured hair from the tips of his short ears to the end of his bushy tail--all except the left side of his face. That was black from ear to nose--coal-black; and in the centre of this storm-cloud his eye gleamed like fire.
What did Pichou know about that ominous sign? No one had ever told him. He had no looking-glass. He ran up to the porch where the men were sitting, as innocent as a Sunday-school scholar coming to the superintendent's desk to receive a prize. But when old Grant, who had grown pursy and nervous from long living on the fat of the land at Ottawa, saw the black patch and the gleaming eye, he anticipated evil; so he hitched one foot up on the porch, crying "Get out!" and with the other foot he planted a kick on the side of the dog's head.
Pichou's nerve-centres had not been shaken by high living. They acted with absolute precision and without a tremor. His sense of justice was automatic, and his teeth were fixed through the leg of the chief factor's boot, just below the calf.
For two minutes there was a small chaos in the post of the Honourable Hudson's Bay Company at Mingan. Grant howled bloody murder; MacIntosh swore in three languages and yelled for his dog- whip; three Indians and two French-Canadians wielded sticks and fence-pickets. But order did not arrive until Dan Scott knocked the burning embers from his big pipe on the end of the dog's nose. Pichou gasped, let go his grip, shook his head, and loped back to his quarters behind the barn, bruised, blistered, and intolerably perplexed by the mystery of life.
As he lay on the sand, licking his wounds, he remembered many strange things. First of all, there was the trouble with his mother
She was a Labrador Husky, dirty yellowish gray, with bristling neck, sharp fangs, and green eyes, like a wolf. Her name was Babette. She had a fiendish temper, but no courage. His father was supposed to be a huge black and white Newfoundland that came over in a schooner from Miquelon. Perhaps it was from him that the black patch was inherited. And perhaps there were other things in the inheritance, too, which came from this nobler strain of blood Pichon's unwillingness to howl with the other dogs when they made night hideous; his silent, dignified ways; his sense of fair play; his love of the water; his longing for human society and friendship.
But all this was beyond Pichou's horizon, though it was within his nature. He remembered only that Babette had taken a hate for him, almost from the first, and had always treated him worse than his all-yellow brothers. She would have starved him if she could. Once when he was half grown, she fell upon him for some small offence and tried to throttle him. The rest of the pack looked on snarling and slavering. He caught Babette by the fore-leg and broke the bone. She hobbled away, shrieking. What else could he do? Must a dog let himself be killed by his mother?
As for his brothers--was it fair that two of them should fall foul of him about the rabbit which he had tracked and caught and killed? He would have shared it with them, if they had asked him, for they ran behind him on the trail. But when they both set their teeth in his neck, there was nothing to do but to lay them both out: which he did. Afterward he was willing enough to make friends, but they bristled and cursed whenever he came near them.
It was the same with everybody. If he went out for a walk on the beach, Vigneau's dogs or Simard's dogs regarded it as an insult, and there was a fight. Men picked up sticks, or showed him the butt-end of their dog-whips, when he made friendly approaches. With the children it was different; they seemed to like him a little; but never did he follow one of them that a mother did not call from the house-door: "Pierre! Marie! come away quick! That bad dog will bite you!" Once when he ran down to the shore to watch the boat coming in from the mail-steamer, the purser had refused to let the boat go to land, and called out, "M'sieu' MacIntosh, you git no malle dis trip, eef you not call avay dat dam' dog."
True, the Minganites seemed to take a certain kind of pride in his reputation. They had brought Chouart's big brown dog, Gripette, down from the Sheldrake to meet him; and after the meeting was over and Gripette had been revived with a bucket of water, everybody, except Chouart, appeared to be in good humour. The purser of the steamer had gone to the trouble of introducing a famous BOULE-DOGGE from Quebec, on the trip after that on which he had given such a hostile opinion of Pichon. The bulldog's intentions were unmistakable; he expressed them the moment he touched the beach; and when they carried him back to the boat on a fish-barrow many flattering words were spoken about Pichou. He was not insensible to them. But these tributes to his prowess were not what he really wanted. His secret desire was for tokens of affection. His position was honourable, but it was intolerably lonely and full of trouble. He sought peace and he found fights.
While he meditated dimly on these things, patiently trying to get the ashes of Dan Scott's pipe out of his nose, his heart was cast down and his spirit was disquieted within him. Was ever a decent dog so mishandled before? Kicked for nothing by a fat stranger, and then beaten by his own master!
In the dining-room of the Post, Grant was slowly and reluctantly allowing himself to be convinced that his injuries were not fatal. During this process considerable Scotch whiskey was consumed and there was much conversation about the viciousness of dogs. Grant insisted that Pichou was mad and had a devil. MacIntosh admitted the devil, but firmly denied the madness. The question was, whether the dog should be killed or not; and over this point there was like to be more bloodshed, until Dan Scott made his contribution to the argument: "If you shoot him, how can you tell whether he is mad or not? I'll give thirty dollars for him and take him home."
"If you do," said Grant, "you'll sail alone, and I'll wait for the steamer. Never a step will I go in the boat with the crazy brute that bit me."
"Suit yourself," said Dan Scott. "You kicked before he bit."
At daybreak he whistled the dog down to the chaloupe, hoisted sail, and bore away for Seven Islands. There was a secret bond of sympathy between the two companions on that hundred-mile voyage in an open boat. Neither of them realized what it was, but still it was there.
Dan Scott knew what it meant to stand alone, to face a small hostile world, to have a surfeit of fighting. The station of Seven Islands was the hardest in all the district of the ancient POSTES DU ROI. The Indians were surly and crafty. They knew all the tricks of the fur-trade. They killed out of season, and understood how to make a rusty pelt look black. The former agent had accommodated himself to his customers. He had no objection to shutting one of his eyes, so long as the other could see a chance of doing a stroke of business for himself. He also had a convenient weakness in the sense of smell, when there was an old stock of pork to work off on the savages. But all of Dan Scott's senses were strong, especially his sense of justice, and he came into the Post resolved to play a straight game with both hands, toward the Indians and toward the Honourable H. B. Company. The immediate results were reproofs from Ottawa and revilings from Seven Islands. Furthermore the free traders were against him because he objected to their selling rum to the savages.
It must be confessed that Dan Scott had a way with him that looked pugnacious. He was quick in his motions and carried his shoulders well thrown back. His voice was heavy. He used short words and few of them. His eyebrow's were thick and they met over his nose. Then there was a broad white scar at one corner of his mouth. His appearance was not prepossessing, but at heart he was a philanthropist and a sentimentalist. He thirsted for gratitude and affection on a just basis. He had studied for eighteen months in the medical school at Montreal, and his chief delight was to practise gratuitously among the sick and wounded of the neighbourhood. His ambition for Seven Islands was to make it a northern suburb of Paradise, and for himself to become a full- fledged physician. Up to this time it seemed as if he would have to break more bones than he could set; and the closest connection of Seven Islands appeared to be with Purgatory.
First, there had been a question of suzerainty between Dan Scott and the local representative of the Astor family, a big half-breed descendant of a fur-trader, who was the virtual chief of the Indians hunting on the Ste. Marguerite: settled by knock-down arguments. Then there was a controversy with Napoleon Bouchard about the right to put a fish-house on a certain part of the beach: settled with a stick, after Napoleon had drawn a knife. Then there was a running warfare with Virgile and Ovide Boulianne, the free traders, who were his rivals in dealing with the Indians for their peltry: still unsettled. After this fashion the record of his relations with his fellow-citizens at Seven Islands was made up. He had their respect, but not their affection. He was the only Protestant, the only English-speaker, the most intelligent man, as well as the hardest hitter in the place, and he was very lonely. Perhaps it was this that made him take a fancy to Pichou. Their positions in the world were not unlike. He was not the first man who has wanted sympathy and found it in a dog.
Alone together, in the same boat, they made friends with each other easily. At first the remembrance of the hot pipe left a little suspicion in Pichou's mind; but this was removed by a handsome apology in the shape of a chunk of bread and a slice of meat from Dan Scott's lunch. After this they got on together finely. It was the first time in his life that Pichou had ever spent twenty-four hours away from other dogs; it was also the first time he had ever been treated like a gentleman. All that was best in him responded to the treatment. He could not have been more quiet and steady in the boat if he had been brought up to a seafaring life. When Dan Scott called him and patted him on the head, the dog looked up in the man's face as if he had found his God. And the man, looking down into the eye that was not disfigured by the black patch, saw something that he had been seeking for a long time.
All day the wind was fair and strong from the southeast. The chaloupe ran swiftly along the coast past the broad mouth of the River Saint-Jean, with its cluster of white cottages past the hill- encircled bay of the River Magpie, with its big fish-houses past the fire-swept cliffs of Riviere-au-Tonnerre, and the turbulent, rocky shores of the Sheldrake: past the silver cascade of the Riviere-aux- Graines, and the mist of the hidden fall of the Riviere Manitou: past the long, desolate ridges of Cap Cormorant, where, at sunset, the wind began to droop away, and the tide was contrary So the chaloupe felt its way cautiously toward the corner of the coast where the little Riviere-a-la-Truite comes tumbling in among the brown rocks, and found a haven for the night in the mouth of the river.
There was only one human dwelling-place in sight As far as the eye could sweep, range after range of uninhabitable hills covered with the skeletons of dead forests; ledge after ledge of ice-worn granite thrust out like fangs into the foaming waves of the gulf. Nature, with her teeth bare and her lips scarred: this was the landscape. And in the midst of it, on a low hill above the murmuring river, surrounded by the blanched trunks of fallen trees, and the blackened debris of wood and moss, a small, square, weather-beaten palisade of rough-hewn spruce, and a patch of the bright green leaves and white flowers of the dwarf cornel lavishing their beauty on a lonely grave. This was the only habitation in sight--the last home of the Englishman, Jack Chisholm, whose story has yet to be told.
In the shelter of this hill Dan Scott cooked his supper and shared it with Pichou. When night was dark he rolled himself in his blanket, and slept in the stern of the boat, with the dog at his side. Their friendship was sealed.
The next morning the weather was squally and full of sudden anger. They crept out with difficulty through the long rollers that barred the tiny harbour, and beat their way along the coast. At Moisie they must run far out into the gulf to avoid the treacherous shoals, and to pass beyond the furious race of white-capped billows that poured from the great river for miles into the sea. Then they turned and made for the group of half-submerged mountains and scattered rocks that Nature, in some freak of fury, had thrown into the throat of Seven Islands Bay. That was a difficult passage. The black shores were swept by headlong tides. Tusks of granite tore the waves. Baffled and perplexed, the wind flapped and whirled among the cliffs. Through all this the little boat buffeted bravely on till she reached the point of the Gran Boule. Then a strange thing happened.
The water was lumpy; the evening was growing thick; a swirl of the tide and a shift of the wind caught the chaloupe and swung her suddenly around. The mainsail jibed, and before he knew how it happened Dan Scott was overboard. He could swim but clumsily. The water blinded him, choked him, dragged him down. Then he felt Pichou gripping him by the shoulder, buoying him up, swimming mightily toward the chaloupe which hung trembling in the wind a few yards away. At last they reached it and the man climbed over the stern and pulled the dog after him. Dan Scott lay in the bottom of the boat, shivering, dazed, until he felt the dog's cold nose and warm breath against his cheek. He flung his arm around Pichon's neck.
"They said you were mad! God, if more men were mad like you!"
Pichou's work at Seven Islands was cut out for him on a generous scale. It is true that at first he had no regular canine labour to perform, for it was summer. Seven months of the year, on the North Shore, a sledge-dog's occupation is gone. He is the idlest creature in the universe.
But Pichou, being a new-comer, had to win his footing in the community; and that was no light task. With the humans it was comparatively easy. At the outset they mistrusted him on account of his looks. Virgile Boulianne asked: "Why did you buy such an ugly dog?" Ovide, who was the wit of the family, said: "I suppose M'sieu' Scott got a present for taking him."
"It's a good dog," said Dan Scott. "Treat him well and he'll treat you well. Kick him and I kick you."
Then he told what had happened off the point of Gran' Boule. The village decided to accept Pichou at his master's valuation. Moderate friendliness, with precautions, was shown toward him by everybody, except Napoleon Bouchard, whose distrust was permanent and took the form of a stick. He was a fat, fussy man; fat people seemed to have no affinity for Pichou.
But while the relations with the humans of Seven Islands were soon established on a fair footing, with the canines Pichou had a very different affair. They were not willing to accept any recommendations as to character. They judged for themselves; and they judged by appearances; and their judgment was utterly hostile to Pichou.
They decided that he was a proud dog, a fierce dog, a bad dog, a fighter. He must do one of two things: stay at home in the yard of the Honourable H. B. Company, which is a thing that no self- respecting dog would do in the summer-time, when cod-fish heads are strewn along the beach; or fight his way from one end of the village to the other, which Pichou promptly did, leaving enemies behind every fence. Huskies never forget a grudge. They are malignant to the core. Hatred is the wine of cowardly hearts. This is as true of dogs as it is of men.
Then Pichou, having settled his foreign relations, turned his attention to matters at home. There were four other dogs in Dan Scott's team. They did not want Pichou for a leader, and he knew it. They were bitter with jealousy. The black patch was loathsome to them. They treated him disrespectfully, insultingly, grossly. Affairs came to a head when Pecan, a rusty gray dog who had great ambitions and little sense, disputed Pichou's tenure of a certain ham-bone. Dan Scott looked on placidly while the dispute was terminated. Then he washed the blood and sand from the gashes on Pecan's shoulder, and patted Pichou on the head.
"Good dog," he said. "You're the boss."
There was no further question about Pichou's leadership of the team. But the obedience of his followers was unwilling and sullen. There was no love in it. Imagine an English captain, with a Boer company, campaigning in the Ashantee country, and you will have a fair idea of Pichou's position at Seven Islands.
He did not shrink from its responsibilities. There were certain reforms in the community which seemed to him of vital importance, and he put them through.
First of all, he made up his mind that there ought to be peace and order on the village street. In the yards of the houses that were strung along it there should be home rule, and every dog should deal with trespassers as he saw fit. Also on the beach, and around the fish-shanties, and under the racks where the cod were drying, the right of the strong jaw should prevail, and differences of opinion should be adjusted in the old-fashioned way. But on the sandy road, bordered with a broken board-walk, which ran between the houses and the beach, courtesy and propriety must be observed. Visitors walked there. Children played there. It was the general promenade. It must be kept peaceful and decent. This was the First Law of the Dogs of Seven Islands. If two dogs quarrel on the street they must go elsewhere to settle it. It was highly unpopular, but Pichou enforced it with his teeth.
The Second Law was equally unpopular: No stealing from the Honourable H. B. Company. If a man bought bacon or corned-beef or any other delicacy, and stored it an insecure place, or if he left fish on the beach over night, his dogs might act according to their inclination. Though Pichou did not understand how honest dogs could steal from their own master, he was willing to admit that this was their affair. His affair was that nobody should steal anything from the Post. It cost him many night watches, and some large battles to carry it out, but he did it. In the course of time it came to pass that the other dogs kept away from the Post altogether, to avoid temptations; and his own team spent most of their free time wandering about to escape discipline.
The Third Law was this. Strange dogs must be decently treated as long as they behave decently. This was contrary to all tradition, but Pichou insisted upon it. If a strange dog wanted to fight he should be accommodated with an antagonist of his own size. If he did not want to fight he should be politely smelled and allowed to pass through.
This Law originated on a day when a miserable, long-legged, black cur, a cross between a greyhound and a water-spaniel, strayed into Seven Islands from heaven knows where--weary, desolate, and bedraggled. All the dogs in the place attacked the homeless beggar. There was a howling fracas on the beach; and when Pichou arrived, the trembling cur was standing up to the neck in the water, facing a semicircle of snarling, snapping bullies who dared not venture out any farther. Pichou had no fear of the water. He swam out to the stranger, paid the smelling salute as well as possible under the circumstances, encouraged the poor creature to come ashore, warned off the other dogs, and trotted by the wanderer's side for miles down the beach until they disappeared around the point. What reward Pichou got for this polite escort, I do not know. But I saw him do the gallant deed; and I suppose this was the origin of the well- known and much-resisted Law of Strangers' Rights in Seven Islands.
The most recalcitrant subjects with whom Pichou had to deal in all these matters were the team of Ovide Boulianne. There were five of them, and up to this time they had been the best team in the village. They had one virtue: under the whip they could whirl a sledge over the snow farther and faster than a horse could trot in a day. But they had innumerable vices. Their leader, Carcajou, had a fleece like a merino ram. But under this coat of innocence he carried a heart so black that he would bite while he was wagging his tail. This smooth devil, and his four followers like unto himself, had sworn relentless hatred to Pichou, and they made his life difficult.
But his great and sufficient consolation for all toils and troubles was the friendship with his master. In the long summer evenings, when Dan Scott was making up his accounts in the store, or studying his pocket cyclopaedia of medicine in the living-room of the Post, with its low beams and mysterious green-painted cupboards, Pichou would lie contentedly at his feet. In the frosty autumnal mornings, when the brant were flocking in the marshes at the head of the bay, they would go out hunting together in a skiff. And who could lie so still as Pichou when the game was approaching? Or who could spring so quickly and joyously to retrieve a wounded bird? But best of all were the long walks on Sunday afternoons, on the yellow beach that stretched away toward the Moisie, or through the fir-forest behind the Pointe des Chasseurs. Then master and dog had fellowship together in silence. To the dumb companion it was like walking with his God in the garden in the cool of the day.
When winter came, and snow fell, and waters froze, Pichou's serious duties began. The long, slim COMETIQUE, with its curving prow, and its runners of whalebone, was put in order. The harness of caribou- hide was repaired and strengthened. The dogs, even the most vicious of them, rejoiced at the prospect of doing the one thing that they could do best. Each one strained at his trace as if he would drag the sledge alone. Then the long tandem was straightened out, Dan Scott took his place on the low seat, cracked his whip, shouted "POUITTE! POUITTE!" and the equipage darted along the snowy track like a fifty-foot arrow.
Pichou was in the lead, and he showed his metal from the start. No need of the terrible FOUET to lash him forward or to guide his course. A word was enough. "Hoc! Hoc! Hoc!" and he swung to the right, avoiding an air-hole. "Re-re! Re-re!" and he veered to the left, dodging a heap of broken ice. Past the mouth of the Ste. Marguerite, twelve miles; past Les Jambons, twelve miles more; past the River of Rocks and La Pentecote, fifteen miles more; into the little hamlet of Dead Men's Point, behind the Isle of the Wise Virgin, whither the amateur doctor had been summoned by telegraph to attend a patient with a broken arm--forty-three miles for the first day's run! Not bad. Then the dogs got their food for the day, one dried fish apiece; and at noon the next day, reckless of bleeding feet, they flew back over the same track, and broke their fast at Seven Islands before eight o'clock. The ration was the same, a single fish; always the same, except when it was varied by a cube of ancient, evil-smelling, potent whale's flesh, which a dog can swallow at a single gulp. Yet the dogs of the North Shore are never so full of vigour, courage, and joy of life as when the sledges are running. It is in summer, when food is plenty and work slack, that they sicken and die.
Pichou's leadership of his team became famous. Under his discipline the other dogs developed speed and steadiness. One day they made the distance to the Godbout in a single journey, a wonderful run of over eighty miles. But they loved their leader no better, though they followed him faster. And as for the other teams, especially Carcajou's, they were still firm in their deadly hatred for the dog with the black patch.
It was in the second winter after Pichou's coming to Seven Islands that the great trial of his courage arrived. Late in February an Indian runner on snowshoes staggered into the village. He brought news from the hunting-parties that were wintering far up on the Ste. Marguerite--good news and bad. First, they had already made a good hunting: for the pelletrie, that is to say. They had killed many otter, some fisher and beaver, and four silver foxes--a marvel of fortune. But then, for the food, the chase was bad, very bad--no caribou, no hare, no ptarmigan, nothing for many days. Provisions were very low. There were six families together. Then la grippe had taken hold of them. They were sick, starving. They would probably die, at least most of the women and children. It was a bad job.
Dan Scott had peculiar ideas of his duty toward the savages. He was not romantic, but he liked to do the square thing. Besides, he had been reading up on la grippe, and he had some new medicine for it, capsules from Montreal, very powerful--quinine, phenacetine, and morphine. He was as eager to try this new medicine as a boy is to fire off a new gun. He loaded the Cometique with provisions and the medicine-chest with capsules, harnessed his team, and started up the river. Thermometer thirty degrees below zero; air like crystal; snow six feet deep on the level.
The first day's journey was slow, for the going was soft, and the track, at places, had to be broken out with snow-shoes. Camp was made at the foot of the big fall--a hole in snow, a bed of boughs, a hot fire and a blanket stretched on a couple of sticks to reflect the heat, the dogs on the other side of the fire, and Pichou close to his master.
In the morning there was the steep hill beside the fall to climb, alternately soft and slippery, now a slope of glass and now a treacherous drift of yielding feathers; it was a road set on end. But Pichou flattened his back and strained his loins and dug his toes into the snow and would not give back an inch. When the rest of the team balked the long whip slashed across their backs and recalled them to their duty. At last their leader topped the ridge, and the others struggled after him. Before them stretched the great dead-water of the river, a straight white path to No-man's-land. The snow was smooth and level, and the crust was hard enough to bear. Pichou settled down to his work at a glorious pace. He seemed to know that he must do his best, and that something important depended on the quickness of his legs. On through the glittering solitude, on through the death-like silence, sped the COMETIQUE, between the interminable walls of the forest, past the mouths of nameless rivers, under the shadow of grim mountains. At noon Dan Scott boiled the kettle, and ate his bread and bacon. But there was nothing for the dogs, not even for Pichou; for discipline is discipline, and the best of sledge-dogs will not run well after he has been fed.
Then forward again, along the lifeless road, slowly over rapids, where the ice was rough and broken, swiftly over still waters, where the way was level, until they came to the foot of the last lake, and camped for the night. The Indians were but a few miles away, at the head of the lake, and it would be easy to reach them in the morning.
But there was another camp on the Ste. Marguerite that night, and it was nearer to Dan Scott than the Indians were. Ovide Boulianne had followed him up the river, close on his track, which made the going easier.
"Does that sacre bourgeois suppose that I allow him all that pelletrie to himself and the Compagnie? Four silver fox, besides otter and beaver? NON, MERCI! I take some provision, and some whiskey. I go to make trade also." Thus spoke the shrewd Ovide, proving that commerce is no less daring, no less resolute, than philanthropy. The only difference is in the motive, and that is not always visible. Ovide camped the second night at a bend of the river, a mile below the foot of the lake. Between him and Dan Scott there was a hill covered with a dense thicket of spruce.
By what magic did Carcajou know that Pichou, his old enemy, was so near him in that vast wilderness of white death? By what mysterious language did he communicate his knowledge to his companions and stir the sleeping hatred in their hearts and mature the conspiracy of revenge?
Pichou, sleeping by the fire, was awakened by the fall of a lump of snow from the branch of a shaken evergreen. That was nothing. But there were other sounds in the forest, faint, stealthy, inaudible to an ear less keen than his. He crept out of the shelter and looked into the wood. He could see shadowy forms, stealing among the trees, gliding down the hill. Five of them. Wolves, doubtless! He must guard the provisions. By this time the rest of his team were awake. Their eyes glittered. They stirred uneasily. But they did not move from the dying fire. It was no concern of theirs what their leader chose to do out of hours. In the traces they would follow him, but there was no loyalty in their hearts. Pichou stood alone by the sledge, waiting for the wolves.
But these were no wolves. They were assassins. Like a company of soldiers, they lined up together and rushed silently down the slope. Like lightning they leaped upon the solitary dog and struck him down. In an instant, before Dan Scott could throw off his blanket and seize the loaded butt of his whip, Pichou's throat and breast were torn to rags, his life-blood poured upon the snow, and his murderers were slinking away, slavering and muttering through the forest.
Dan Scott knelt beside his best friend. At a glance he saw that the injury was fatal. "Well done, Pichou!" he murmured, "you fought a good fight."
And the dog, by a brave effort, lifted the head with the black patch on it, for the last time, licked his master', hand, and then dropped back upon the snow--contented, happy, dead.
There is but one drawback to a dog's friendship. It does not last long enough.
End of the story? Well, if you care for the other people in it, you shall hear what became of them. Dan Scott went on to the head of the lake and found the Indians, and fed them and gave them his medicine, and all of them got well except two, and they continued to hunt along the Ste. Marguerite every winter and trade with the Honourable H. B. Company. Not with Dan Scott, however, for before that year was ended he resigned his post, and went to Montreal to finish his course in medicine; and now he is a respected physician in Ontario. Married; three children; useful; prosperous. But before he left Seven Islands he went up the Ste. Marguerite in the summer, by canoe, and made a grave for Pichou's bones, under a blossoming ash tree, among the ferns and wild flowers. He put a cross over it.
"Being French," said he, "I suppose he was a Catholic. But I'll swear he was a Christian."