Kings in Exile - Part 12

Part 12

For several minutes this waiting game went on. Then, with easy nonchalance, Lone Wolf lifted one huge hind paw and vigorously scratched his ear. This very simple action was a profound relief to Timmins.

"Sartain," he thought, "the crittur must be in an easy mood, or he'd never think to scratch his ear like that. Or mebbe he thinks I'm so well buried I kin wait, like an old bone!"

Just then Lone Wolf got up, stretched himself, yawned prodigiously, came a couple of steps nearer, and sat down again, with his head c.o.c.ked to one side, and a polite air of asking, "Do I intrude?"

"Sartain sure, I'll never ketch him in a better humor!" thought Timmins. "I'll try the human voice on him."

"Git to H---- out of that!" he commanded in a sharp voice.

Lone Wolf c.o.c.ked his head to the other side interrogatively. He had been spoken to by Toomey in that voice of authority, but the words were new to him. He felt that he was expected to do something, but he knew not what. He liked the voice--it was something like Toomey's. He liked the smell of Timmins' homespun shirt--it, too, was something like Toomey's. He became suddenly anxious to please this stranger. But what was wanted of him? He half arose to his feet, and glanced around to see if, perchance, the inexplicable order had been addressed to some one else. As he turned, Timmins saw, half hidden in the heavy fur of the neck, a stout leather collar.

"I swear!" he muttered, "if tain't a _tame_ wolf what's got away!"

With that he sat up; and pulling his legs, without any very serious hurt, from their covering of earth and sticks he got stiffly to his feet. For a moment the bright landscape reeled and swam before him, and he had a vague sense of having been hammered all over his body.

Then he steadied himself. He saw that the wolf was watching him with the expression of a diffident but friendly dog who would like to make acquaintance. As he stood puzzling his wits, he remembered having read about the great fire which had recently done such damage to Sillaby and Hopkins' Circus, and he concluded that the stranger was one of the fugitives from that disaster.

"Come here, sir! Come here, big wolf!" said he, holding out a confident hand.

"Wolf"--that was a familiar sound to Lone Wolf's ears! it was at least a part of his name! And the command was one he well understood.

Wagging his tail gravely, he came at once, and thrust his great head under Timmins' hand for a caress. He had enjoyed his liberty, to be sure, but he was beginning to find it lonely.

Timmins understood animals. His voice, as he talked to the redoubtable brute beside him, was full of kindness, but at the same time vibrant with authority. His touch was gentle, but very firm and unhesitating.

Both touch and voice conveyed very clearly to Lone Wolf's disciplined instinct the impression that this man, like Toomey, was a being who had to be obeyed, whose mastery was inevitable and beyond the reach of question. When Timmins told him to lie down, he did so at once, and stayed there obediently while Timmins gathered himself together, shook the dirt out of his hair and boots, recovered his cap, wiped his bleeding hand with leaves, and hunted up his scattered traps and rifle. At last Timmins took two bedraggled but ma.s.sive pork sandwiches, wrapped in newspaper, from his pocket, and offered one to his strange a.s.sociate. Lone Wolf was not hungry, being full of perfectly good mutton, but being too polite to refuse, he gulped down the sandwich. Timmins took out the steel chain, snapped it on to Lone Wolf's collar, said, "Come on!" and started homeward. And Lone Wolf, trained to a short leash, followed close at his heels.

Timmins' breast swelled with exultation. What was the loss of one dog and half a dozen no-account sheep to the possession of this magnificent captive and the prestige of such a naked-handed capture?

He easily inferred, of course, that his triumph must be due, in part at least, to some resemblance to the wolf's former master, whose dominance had plainly been supreme. His only anxiety was as to how the great wolf might conduct himself toward Settlement Society in general.

a.s.suredly nothing could be more lamb-like than the animal's present demeanor, but Timmins remembered the fate of Joe Anderson's powerful dog, and had his doubts. He examined Lone Wolf's collar, and congratulated himself that both collar and chain were strong.

It was getting well along in the afternoon when Timmins and Lone Wolf emerged from the thick woods into the stumpy pastures and rough burnt lands that spread back irregularly from the outlying farms. And here, while crossing a wide pasture known as Smith's Lots, an amazing thing befell. Of course Timmins was not particularly surprised, because his backwoods philosophizing had long ago led him to the conclusion that when things get started happening, they have a way of keeping it up.

Days, weeks, months, glide by without event enough to ripple the most sensitive memory. Then the whimsical Fates do something different, find it interesting, and proceed to do something else. So, though Timmins had been accustomed all his life to managing bulls, good-tempered and bad-tempered alike, and had never had the ugliest of them presume to turn upon him, he was not astonished now by the apparition of Smith's bull, a wide-horned, carrot-red, white-faced Hereford, charging down upon him in thunderous fury from behind a poplar thicket. In a flash he remembered that the bull, which was notoriously murderous in temper, had been turned out into that pasture to act as guardian to Smith's flocks. There was not a tree near big enough for refuge. There was not a stick big enough for a weapon. And he could not bring himself to shoot so valuable a beast as this fine thoroughbred. "Shucks!" he muttered in deep disgust. "I might 'a'

knowed it!" Dropping Lone Wolf's chain, he ran forward, waving his arms and shouting angrily. But that red onrushing bulk was quite too dull-witted to understand that it ought to obey. It was in the mood to charge an avalanche. Deeply humiliated, Timmins hopped aside, and reluctantly ran for the woods, trusting to elude his pursuer by timely dodging.

Hitherto Lone Wolf had left all cattle severely alone, having got it somehow into his head that they were more peculiarly under man's protection than the sheep. Now, however, he saw his duty, and duty is often a very well-developed concept in the brain of dog and wolf. His ears flattened, his eyes narrowed to flaming green slits, his lips wrinkled back till his long white fangs were clean bared, and without a sound he hurled himself upon the red bull's flank. Looking back over his shoulder, Timmins saw it all. It was as if all his life Lone Wolf had been killing bulls, so unerring was that terrible chopping snap at the great beast's throat. Far forward, just behind the bull's jaws, the slashing fangs caught. And Timmins was astounded to see the bull, checked in mid-rush, plunge staggering forward upon his knees. From this position he abruptly rolled over upon his side, thrown by his own impetus combined with a dexterous twist of his opponent's body.

Then Lone Wolf bounded backward, and stood expectant, ready to repeat the attack if necessary. But it was not necessary. Slowly the great red bull arose to his feet, and stared about him stupidly, the blood gushing from his throat. Then he swayed and collapsed. And Lone Wolf, wagging his tail like a dog, went back to Timmins' side for congratulations.

The woodsman gazed ruefully at his slain foe. Then he patted his defender's head, recovered the chain with a secure grip, and said slowly:--

"I reckon, partner, ye did yer dooty as ye seen it, an' mebbe I'm beholden to ye fer a hul' skin, fer that there crittur was sartinly amazin' ugly an' spry on his pins. But ye're goin' to be a responsibility some. Ye ain't no suckin' lamb to hev aroun' the house, I'm thinkin'."

To these remarks, which he judged from their tone to be approving, Lone Wolf wagged a.s.sent, and the homeward journey was continued.

Timmins went with his head down, buried in thought. All at once, coming to a convenient log, he seated himself, and made Lone Wolf lie down at his feet. Then he took out the remaining sandwich,--which he himself, still shaken from his fall, had no desire to eat,--and contemplatively, in small fragments, he fed it to the wolf's great blood-stained jaws. At last he spoke, with the finality of one whose mind is quite made up.

"Partner," said he, "there ain't no help for it. Bill Smith's a-goin'

to hold _me_ responsible for the killin' o' that there crittur o'

his'n, an' that means a pretty penny, it bein' a thoroughbred, an'

imported at that. He ain't never a-goin' to believe but what I let you loose on to him a purpose, jest to save _my_ hide! Shucks! Moreover, ye may's well realize y'ain't _popular_ 'round these parts; an' first thing, when I wasn't lookin', somebody'd be a-puttin' somethin'

onhealthy into yer vittles, partner! We've kind o' took to each other, you an' me; an' I reckon _we'd_ git on together _fine_, me always havin' me own way, of course. But there ain't no help fer it. Ye're too hefty a proposition, by long odds, fer a community like Lost Mountain Settlement. I'm a-goin' to write right off to Sillaby an'

Hopkins, an' let them have ye back, partner. An' I reckon the price they'll pay'll be enough to let me square myself with Bill Smith."

And thus it came about that, within a couple of weeks, Lone Wolf and Toomey were once more entertaining delighted audiences, while the settlement of Lost Mountain, with Timmins' prestige established beyond a.s.sault, relapsed into its uneventful quiet.




"There ain't no denying but what you give us a great show, Job," said the barkeeper, with that air of patronage which befits the man who presides over and autocratically controls the varied activities of a saloon in a Canadian lumber town.

"It _is_ a good show!" a.s.sented Job Toomey, modestly. He leaned up against the bar in orthodox fashion, just as if his order had been "whiskey fer mine!" but being a really great animal trainer, whose eye must be always clear and his nerve always steady as a rock, his gla.s.s contained nothing stronger than milk and Vichy.

Fifteen years before, Job Toomey had gone away with a little travelling menagerie because he loved wild animals. He had come back famous, and the town of Grantham Mills, metropolis of his native county, was proud of him. He was head of the menagerie of the Sillaby and Hopkins' Circus, and trainer of one of the finest troupes of performing beasts in all America. It was a great thing for Grantham Mills to have had a visit from the Sillaby and Hopkins' Circus on its way from one important centre to another. There had been two great performances, afternoon and evening. And now, after the last performance, some of Toomey's old-time acquaintances were making things pleasant for him in the bar of the Continental.

"I don't see how ye do it, Job!" said Sanderson, an old river-man who had formerly trapped and hunted with Toomey. "I mind ye was always kind o' slick an' understandin' with the wild critters; but the way them lions an' painters an' bears an' wolves jest folly yer eye an'

yer nod, willin' as so many poodle dogs, beats me. They seem to like it, too."

"They _do_," said Toomey. "Secret of it is, _I_ like _them_; so by an'

by they learn to like me well enough, an' try to please me. I make it worth their while, too. Also, they know I'll stand no fooling. Fear an' love, rightly mixed, boys--plenty of love, an' jest enough fear to keep it from spilin'--that's a mixture'll carry a man far--leastways with animals!"

The barkeeper smiled, and was about to say the obvious thing, but he was interrupted by a long, lean-jawed, leather-faced man, captain of one of the river tugs, whose eyes had grown sharp as gimlets with looking out for snags and sandbanks.

"The finest beast in the whole menagerie, that big grizzly," said he, spitting accurately into a s.p.a.cious box of sawdust, "I noticed as how ye didn't have _him_ in your performance, Mr. Toomey. Now, I kind o'

thought as how I'd like to see you put _him_ through his stunts."

Toomey was silent for a moment. Then, with a certain reserve in his voice, he answered--

"Oh, he ain't exactly strong on stunts."

The leather-faced captain grinned quizzically.

"Which does he go shy on, Mr. Toomey, the love or the fear?" he asked.

"Both," said Toomey, shortly. Then his stern face relaxed, and he laughed good-humoredly. "Fact is, I think we'll have to be sellin'

that there grizzly to some zoological park. He's kind of bad fer my prestige."

"How's that, Job?" asked Sanderson, expectant of a story.

"Well," replied Toomey, "to tell you the truth, boys,--an' I only say it because I'm here at home, among friends,--it's _me_ that's afraid of _him_! An' he knows it. He's the only beast that's ever been able to make me feel fear--the real, deep-down fear. An' I've never been able to git quit of that ugly notion. I go an' stand in front o' his cage; an' he jest puts that great face of his up agin the bars an'

stares at me. An' I look straight into his eyes, an' remember what has pa.s.sed between us, an' I feel afraid still. Yes, it wouldn't be much use me tryin' to train _that_ bear, boys, an' I'm free to acknowledge it to you all."

"Tell us about it, Job!" suggested the barkeeper, settling his large frame precariously on the top of a small, high stool.

An urgent chorus of approval came from all about the bar. Toomey took out his watch and considered.