[Frontispiece: "Jaws, monstrous
and wet, grabbing at him in enraged
THE WAY OF THE WILD
F. ST. MARS
WITH TWELVE ILLUSTRATIONS BY HARRY ROUNTREE
FREDERICK A. STOKES COMPANY
COPYRIGHT, 1919, BY FREDERICK A. STOKES COMPANY
PUBLISHED IN ENGLAND UNDER THE TITLE "PINION AND PAW"
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
I GULO THE INDOMITABLE
II BLACKIE AND CO.
III UNDER THE YELLOW FLAG
IV NINE POINTS OF THE LAW
VI THE CRIPPLE
VII "SET A THIEF"----
VIII THE WHERE IS IT?
IX LAWLESS LITTLE LOVE
X THE KING'S SON
XI THE HIGHWAYMAN OF THE MARSH
XII THE FURTIVE FEUD
XIII THE STORM PIRATE
XIV WHEN NIGHTS WERE COLD
XV FATE AND THE FEARFUL
XVI THE EAGLES OF LOCH ROYAL
XVII RATEL, V.C.
XVIII THE DAY
and wet, grabbing at him in enraged confusion" . . .
"The owl had lost a foot on the turn
"A shrew-mouse, thirsting for blood, but who got poison
"This one had simply streaked out of the night from nowhere"
"Landed full upon the dumbfounded water-vole--splash!"
"A 'silver tabby' floated among the twigs, looking for him"
"An angry eagle-owl"
"Turning over and over, in one long, sickening
dive back to earth"
"That little black-headed fellow doing the stalking act upon that
python was great"
"Shooting straight upwards
on the top of what appeared to have been a
submarine mine in a mild form"
"He clutched, and tore, and gulped, and gorged"
"All allowed that he was the pluckiest beast on earth"
THE WAY OF THE WILD
GULO THE INDOMITABLE
If his father had been a brown bear and his mother a badger, the result
appearance would have been Gulo, or something very much like
him. But not all the crossing in the world could have accounted for
his character; that came straight from the Devil, his master. Gulo,
however, was not a cross. He was himself, Gulo, the wolverine, _alias_
glutton, _alias_ carcajou, _alias_ quick-hatch, _alias_ fjeldfras in
the vernacular, or, officially, _Gulo luscus_. But, by whatever
you called him, he did not smell sweet; and his character, too, was of
a bad odor. A great man once said that he was like a bear cub with a
superadded tail; but that great man cannot have seen his face. If he
had, he would have looked for his double among the fiends on the top of
Notre Dame. There was, in fact, nothing like him on this earth, only
in a very hot place not on the earth.
He was, in short, a beast with brains that only man, and no beast,
ought to be trusted with; and he had no soul. God alone knows if love,
which softens most creatures, had ever come to Gulo; his behavior
seemed to show that it had not. Perhaps love was afraid of him. And,
upon my soul, I don't wonder.
It was not, however, a hot, but a very cold, place in the pine-forest
where Gulo stood, and the unpitying moon cast a dainty
the tasseled roof upon the new and glistening snow around him--the snow
that comes early to those parts--and the north-east wind cut like
several razors. But Gulo did not seem to care. Wrapped up in his
ragged, long, untidy, uncleanly-looking, brown-black cloak--just his
gray-sided, black fiend's face poking out--he seemed warm enough. When
he lifted one paw to scratch, one saw that the murderous, scraping,
long claws of him were nearly white; and as he set his lips in a
devilish grin, his fangs glistened white in the moonlight, too.
Verily, this was no beast--he would have taped four feet and a quarter
from tip to tip, if you had worn chain-mail and dared to measure
him--no beast, I say, to handle with white-kid ball gloves. Things
were possible from him, one felt, that were not possible of any other
living creature--awful things.
Suddenly he looked up. The branches above him had stirred uneasily, as
if an army were asleep there. And an army was--of wood-pigeons.
Thousands upon thousands of wood-pigeons were asleep above his head,
come from Heaven knows where, going to--who could tell in the end?
All at once one fell. Without apparent
reason or cause, it fell. And
the wolverine, with his quick, intelligent
eyes, watched it fall, from
branch to branch, turning over and over--oh! so softly--to the ground.
When he had poked his way to it--walking flat-footed, like a bear or a
railway porter--it was dead. Slain in a breath! Without a flutter,
killed! By what? By disease--diphtheria. But not here would the
terrible drama be worked out. This was but an isolated victim, first
of the thousands that would presently
succumb to the fell disease far,
far over there, to the westward, hundreds of miles away, in England and
Wales, perhaps, whither they were probably bound.
But the poor starved corpse, choked to death in the end maybe, was of
no use to the wolverine. As he sniffed it he found that out. The
thing was wasted to the bones even. And turning away from it--he
suddenly "froze" in his tracks where he stood.
One of those little wandering eddies which seem to meander about a
forest in an aimless
sort of way, coming from and going now hither, as
if the breeze
itself were lost among the still aisles, had touched his
wet muzzle; and its touch spelt--"Man!"
If it had been the taint of ten thousand deaths it could not have
affected him more. He became a beast cast in old, old bronze, and as
hard as bronze; and when he moved, it was stiffly, and all bristly, and
Animals have no counting of time. In the wild, things happen as
swiftly as a flash of light; or, perhaps, nothing happens at all for a
night, or a day, or half a week. Therefore I do not know exactly how
long that wolverine was encircling that scent, and pinning it down to a
certain spot--himself unseen. All animals, almost, can do that, but
none, not even the lynx or the wild cat, so well as the wolverine. He
is the one mammal
that, in the wild, is a name only--a name to conjure
He found, in the end, that there was no man; but there _had_ been. He
found--showing himself again now--that a man--a hunter, a trapper, one
after fur--had made himself here a _cache_, a store under the earth;
and--well, the wolverine's great, bear-like claws seemed made for
He dug--and, be sure, if there had been any danger there he would have
known it. He dug like a North-Country miner, with swiftness
precision, stopping every now and again to sit back on his haunches,
and, with humped shoulders, stare--scowl, I mean--round in his
lowering, low-browed fashion.
Once a bull-elk, nearly a six-footer, but he loomed large as an
elephant, came clacking past between the ranked tree-boles, stopping a
moment to straddle a sapling
and browse; while the wolverine, sitting
motionless and wide-legged, watched him. Once a lynx, with its
eternal, set grin, floated by, half-seen, half-guessed, as if a wisp of
wood mist had broken loose and was floating about. Once a fox,
somewhere in the utter silence of the forest depths, barked a hoarse,
sound; and once, hoarser still and very hollowly, a
great horned owl hooted with disconcerting suddenness. (The scream
followed these two, but whether fox or owl had been in at that
killing the wolverine never knew.) Twice a wood-hare turning now to
match the whiteness of its surroundings, finicked up one of the still,
silent forest lanes towards him, stopped, faced half-round, sat
"frozen" for a fraction, and vanished as if it were a puff of
wind-caught snow. (And, really, one had no idea till now that the
forest could have been so full of life in
the dark hours.)
But all these things made no difference to the wolverine, to Gulo,
though he "froze" with habitual
care to watch them--for your wild
takes chances. Details must never be overlooked in the
wild. He dug on, and in digging came right to the _cache_, roofed and
anchored all down, safe beyond any invasion, with tree-trunks.
And--and, mark you, not being able to pull tree-trunks out of the
ground, and being too large to squeeze
between them, he gnawed through
one! Gnawed through it, he did, and came down to the bazaar below.
So far, he had been only beast. Now we see why I said he had more
brains than were good for any animal except man.
He bit through the canvas, or whatever
it was that protected the
_cached_ articles. He got his head inside. He felt about
purposefully, and backed out, dragging a trap with him. With it he
removed into the inky shadows, and it was never found again.
He returned. He thrust
his head in a second time, got hold of
something, and backed out. It was another trap, and with it he
vanished also; and it, too, was never found. He returned, and went,
and a third trap went with him.
The fourth investigation
revealed an ax. It he partly
fifth yielded a bag of flour, which he tore up and scattered all over
the place. The sixth inroad produced a haunch of venison, off which he
dined. The seventh showed another haunch, and this he buried somewhere
unseen in the shades. The eighth overhaul gave up some rope, in which
he nearly got himself entangled, and which he finally carried away,
bitten and frayed past use. The ninth search rewarded him with tea,
which he scattered, and bacon, which he buried.
What he could not drag out, he scattered. What he failed to remove, he
defiled. And, at last, when he had made of the place, not an orderly
_cache_, but a third-rate _debacle_, he sauntered, always slouching,
always grossly untidy, hump-backed, stooping, low-headed, and
droop-tailed, shabbily unrespectable, out into the night, and the
darkness of the night, under the trees.
By the time day dawned he was as if he never had been--a memory, no
more. Heaven knows where he was!
Gulo appeared quite suddenly and very early, for him, next afternoon,
beside some tangled brush on the edge of a clearing. He was sitting
up, almost bolt-upright, and he was shading his eyes with his forepaws.
A man could not have done more. And, in fact, he did not look like an
animal at all, but like some diabolically uncouth
dwarf of the woods.
was telling him, from a branch near by, just what everybody
thought of his disgraceful
appearance; and two willow-grouse were
clucking at him from some hazel-tops; whilst
a raven, black as coal
against the white of the woods, jabbed in gruff and very rude remarks
from time to time.
But Gulo was taking
no notice of them. He was used to attentions of
that kind; it was a little compliment--of hate--they all paid him. He
was looking persistently down the ranked, narrowing perspective
buttressed forest glade to where it faded in the blue-gray mist,
southward, as if he expected something to come from there. Something
was coming from there now; and there had been a faint, uneasy
whisper in that direction for some time. Now it was unmistakable.
A cow-elk, first of the wary ones to move on alarm, came trotting by,
her Roman nose held well out; a red-deer hind, galloping lightly
hare, her big ears turned astern; a wolf, head up,
hackles alift, alternately
loping and pivoting, to listen and look
back, a wild reindeer, trotting heavily, but far more quickly than he
seemed to be--all these passed, now on one side, now on the other,
often only glimpses between the tree-boles, while the wolverine sat up
and shaded his eyes with his paws. Something was moving those beasts,
those haunters of the forest, and no little thing either. Something?
down the glade runs a waiting, watching shade,
And the whisper
spreads and widens far and near;
And the sweat is on thy brow, for he passes even now--
He is Fear, O Little Hunter, he is Fear.
Down came Gulo in that grim silence which was, except for his domestic
of the beast, and trotted to a pool hard by.
The pool was spring-fed, and covered, as to every dead leaf and stone,
with fine green moss of incomparable
softness. He drank swiftly
long, then flung about with a half-insolent, half-aggressive wave of
his tail, and set off at a rolling, clumsy, shuffling shamble.
At ordinary times that deceiving gait would have left nearly everything
behind, but this afternoon it was different. Gulo had barely
shelter of the dotted thickets before he realized, and one saw, the
fact. He broke his trot. He began to plunge. Nevertheless, he got
along. There was pace, of a sort. Certainly there was much effort.
He would have outdistanced you or me easily in no time, but it was not
you or I that came, and who could tell how fast that something might
The trouble was the snow--that was the rub, and a very big and serious
rub, too, for him. Now, if the snow had been a little less it would
not have mattered--a little more, and he could have run easily along
the hard crust of it; but it was as it was, only about two feet, just
enough to retard
him, and no more. And it is then, when the snow is
like that, just above a couple of feet deep, that man can overtake
friend wolverine--if he knows the way. Most men don't. On that he
trusted. At any other time--but this was not any other time.
Sound carries a long way in those still parts, and as he hurried
heard, far, far behind in the forest, the faint, distant whir of a
giant of the woods--rising. It was
only a whisper, almost indistinguishable to our ears, but enough, quite
enough, for him. Taken in conjunction
with the mysterious
the elk and the red deer and the reindeer
and the wolf, it was more
than enough. He increased his pace, and for the first time fear shone
in his eyes--it was for the first time, too, in his life, I think.
A lynx passed him, bounding along on enormous, furry legs. It looked
all legs, and as it turned its grinning countenance
to look at him he
cursed it fluently, with a sudden savage
growl, envious, perhaps, of
its long, springing hindlegs. Something, too--the same something--must
have moved the lynx, and Gulo shifted the faster for the knowledge.
Half-an-hour passed, an hour slid by, and all the time Gulo kicked the
miles behind him, with that dogged persistency that was part of his
character. Nothing had passed him for quite a while, and he was all
alone in the utterly still, silent forest and the snow, pad-pad-padding
along like a moving, squat machine rather than a beast.