The Grizzly King_ A Romance of the Wild
The Project Gutenberg eBook, The Grizzly King, by James Oliver Curwood,Illustrated by Frank B. Hoffman
This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and withalmost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away orre-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License includedwith this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.net
Title: The Grizzly King
Author: James Oliver Curwood
Release Date: February 7, 2004 [eBook #10977]
Character set encoding: iso-8859-1
***START OF THE PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK THE GRIZZLY KING***
Project Gutenberg Beginners Projects, Andrea Ball,
and the Project Gutenberg Online Distributed Proofreading Team
THE GRIZZLY KING
A ROMANCE OF THE WILD
JAMES OLIVER CURWOOD
FRANK B. HOFFMAN
It is with something like a confession that I offer this second of my nature books to the public—a confession, and a hope; the confession of one who for years hunted and killed before he learned that the wild offered a more thrilling sport than slaughter—and the hope that what I have written may make others feel and understand that the greatest thrill of the hunt is not in killing, but in letting live. It is true that in the great open spaces one must kill to live; one must have meat, and meat is life. But killing for food is not the lust of slaughter; it is not the lust which always recalls to me that day in the British Columbia mountains when, in less than two hours, I killed four grizzlies on a mountain slide—a destruction of possibly a hundred and twenty years of life in a hundred and twenty minutes. And that is only one instance of many in which I now regard myself as having been almost a criminal—for killing for the excitement of killing can be little less than murder. In their small way my animal books are the reparation I am now striving to make, and it has been my earnest desire to make them not only of romantic interest, but reliable in their fact. As in human life, there are tragedy, and humour, and pathos in the life of the wild; there are facts of tremendous interest, real happenings and real lives to be written about, and very small necessity for one to draw on imagination. In "Kazan" I tried to give the reader a picture of my years of experience among the wild sledge dogs of the North. In "The Grizzly" I have scrupulously adhered to facts as I have found them in the lives of the wild creatures of which I have written. Little Muskwa was with me all that summer and autumn in the Canadian Rockies. Pipoonaskoos is buried in the Firepan Range country, with a slab over his head, just like a white man. The two grizzly cubs we dug out on the Athabasca are dead. And Thor still lives, for his range is in a country where no hunters go—and when at last the opportunity came we did not kill him. This year (in July of 1916) I am going back into the country of Thor and Muskwa. I think I would know Thor if I saw him again, for he was a monster full-grown. But in two years Muskwa had grown from cubhood into full bearhood. And yet I believe that Muskwa would know me should we chance to meet again. I like to think that he has not forgotten the sugar, and the scores of times he cuddled up close to me at night, and the hunts we had together after roots and berries, and the sham fights with which we amused ourselves so often in camp. But, after all, perhaps he would not forgive me for that last day when we ran away from him so hard—leaving him alone to his freedom in the mountains.JAMES OLIVER CURWOOD.
May 5, 1916.
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
"Like the wind Thor bore down on the flank of the caribou, swung a little to one side, and then without any apparent effort—still like a huge ball—he bounded in and upward, and the short race was done."
"They headed up the creek-bottom, bending over from their saddles to look at every strip of sand they passed for tracks. They had not gone a quarter of a mile when Bruce gave a sudden exclamation and stopped."
THE GRIZZLY KING
With the silence and immobility of a great reddish-tinted rock, Thor stood for many minutes looking out over his domain. He could not see far, for, like all grizzlies, his eyes were small and far apart, and his vision was bad. At a distance of a third or a half a mile he could make out a goat or a mountain sheep, but beyond that his world was a vast sun-filled or night-darkened mystery through which he ranged mostly by the guidance of sound and smell.
It was the sense of smell that held him still and motionless now. Up out of the valley a scent had come to his nostrils that he had never smelled before. It was something that did not belong there, and it stirred him strangely. Vainly his slow-working brute mind struggled to comprehend it. It was not caribou, for he had killed many caribou; it was not goat; it was not sheep; and it was not the smell of the fat and lazy whistlers sunning themselves on the rocks, for he had eaten hundreds of whistlers. It was a scent that did not enrage him, and neither did it frighten him. He was curious, and yet he did not go down to seek it out. Caution held him back.
If Thor could have seen distinctly for a mile, or two miles, his eyes would have discovered even less than the wind brought to him from down the valley. He stood at the edge of a little plain, with the valley an eighth of a mile below him, and the break over which he had come that afternoon an eighth of a mile above him. The plain was very much like a cup, perhaps an acre in extent, in the green slope of the mountain. It was covered with rich, soft grass and June flowers, mountain violets and patches of forget-me-nots, and wild asters and hyacinths, and in the centre of it was a fifty-foot spatter of soft mud which Thor visited frequently when his feet became rock-sore.
To the east and the west and the north of him spread out the wonderful panorama of the Canadian Rockies, softened in the golden sunshine of a June afternoon.
From up and down the valley, from the breaks between the peaks, and from the little gullies cleft in shale and rock that crept up to the snow-lines came a soft and droning murmur. It was the music of running water. That music was always in the air, for the rivers, the creeks, and the tiny streams gushing down from the snow that lay eternally up near the clouds were never still.
There were sweet perfumes as well as music in the air. June and July—the last of spring and the first of summer in the northern mountains—were commingling. The earth was bursting with green; the early flowers were turning the sunny slopes into coloured splashes of red and white and purple, and everything that had life was singing—the fat whistlers on their rocks, the pompous little gophers on their mounds, the big bumblebees that buzzed from flower to flower, the hawks in the valley, and the eagles over the peaks. Even Thor was singing in his way, for as he had paddled through the soft mud a few minutes before he had rumbled curiously deep down in his great chest. It was not a growl or a roar or a snarl; it was the noise he made when he was contented. It was his song.
And now, for some mysterious reason, there had suddenly come a change in this wonderful day for him. Motionless he still sniffed the wind. It puzzled him. It disquieted him without alarming him. To the new and strange smell that was in the air he was as keenly sensitive as a child's tongue to the first sharp touch of a drop of brandy. And then, at last, a low and sullen growl came like a distant roll of thunder from out of his chest. He was overlord of these domains, and slowly his brain told him that there should be no smell which he could not comprehend, and of which he was not the master.
Thor reared up slowly, until the whole nine feet of him rested on his haunches, and he sat like a trained dog, with his great forefeet, heavy with mud, drooping in front of his chest. For ten years he had lived in these mountains and never had he smelled that smell. He defied it. He waited for it, while it came stronger and nearer. He did not hide himself. Clean-cut and unafraid, he stood up.