He sat for a long time beside the fire trying to bring back the old comradeship of the days of Miki's puppyhood. But he only partly succeeded. Miki was restive. Every nerve in his body seemed on edge. Again and again he faced the west, and always when he sniffed the air in that direction there came a low whine in his throat.
In that gloom the dark face of Durant appeared at the bars of Miki's prison. Instinctively Miki had hated this foxhunter from the edge of the Barrens, just as he had hated Le Beau, for in their brutish faces as well as in their hearts they were like brothers. Yet he did not growl at Durant as he peered through. He did not even move. "UGH! LE DIABLE!" shuddered Durant. Then he laughed.
"And since then you've killed a man," added Challoner, as if he still could not quite believe. "And I'm to take you back to the woman. That's the funny thing about it. You're going back to HER, and if she says kill you " He dropped Miki's forefeet and went on to the cabin. At the threshold a low growl rose in Miki's throat. Challoner laughed, and opened the door.
It was a chunk of frozen caribou flesh transfixed on a stick, and without questioning the manner of its presence he gnawed at it ravenously. Only Jacques Le Beau, who lived eight or ten miles to the east, could have explained the situation. Miki had rolled into one of his trap-houses, and it was the bait he was eating. There was not much of it, but it fired Miki's blood with new life.
With his warning he turned to Miki and dragged him out of the cabin to a cage made of saplings in which the winter before he had kept two live foxes. A small chain ten feet in length he fastened around Miki's neck and then to one of the sapling bars before he thrust his prisoner inside the door of the prison and freed him by cutting the BABICHE thongs with a knife.
Whenever Miki wanted to end a bout, however, all he had to do was to give Neewa a sharp nip with his long fangs and the bear would uncoil himself and hop to his feet like a spring. He had a most serious respect for Miki's teeth. But Miki's greatest moments of joy were where Neewa stood up man-fashion. Then was a real tussle.
So this spring I had a hunch it was about time for Neewa to get the cobwebs out of his fool head, and came back. And here we are! But tell me this: WHAT MAKES NEEWA SO BIG?" It was at least that thought the bigness of Neewa that was filling Miki's head at the present moment.
The Indian even poked his stick into the thick ground spruce. The white man kept saying that he was sure he had made a hit, and once he stood so near that Miki's nose almost touched his boot. He went back and added fresh birch to the fire, so that the light of it illumined a greater space about them. Miki's heart stood still. But the men searched farther on, and at last went back to the fire.
The howling of the pack was very distinct after that, and in Miki's brain nebulous visions and almost unintelligible memories were swiftly wakening into life.
He was about to gasp his last gasp when the force of the current, as it swung out of the whirlpool, flung Neewa upon a bit of partly submerged driftage, and in a wild and strenuous effort to make himself safe Neewa dragged Miki's head out of water so that the pup hung at the edge of the driftage like a hangman's victim at the end of his rope.