He waited, almost squarely in the trail. There was no longer the slinking, club-driven attitude of a creature at bay in the manner in which he stood in the path of his enemies. He had risen out of his serfdom. The stinging slash of the whip and his dread of it were gone. Standing there in the starlight with his magnificent head thrown up and the muscles of his huge body like corded steel, the passing spirit of Shan Tung would have taken him for Tao, the Great Dane. He was not excited–and yet he was filled with a mighty desire–more than that, a tremendous purpose. The yelping excitement of the oncoming Eskimo dogs no longer urged him to turn aside to avoid their insolent bluster, as he would have turned aside yesterday or the day before. The voices of his old masters no longer sent him slinking out of their way, a growl in his throat and his body sagging with humiliation and the rage of his slavery. He stood like a rock, his broad chest facing them squarely, and when he saw the shadows of them racing up out of the star-mist an eighth of a mile away, it was not a growl but a whine that rose in his throat, a whine of low and repressed eagerness, of a great yearning about to be fulfilled. Two hundred yards–a hundred–eighty–not until the dogs were less than fifty from him did he move. And then, like a rock hurled by a mighty force, he was at them.
He met the onrushing weight of the pack breast to breast. There was no warning. Neither men nor dogs had seen the waiting shadow. The crash sent the lead-dog back with Wapi’s great fangs in his throat, and in an instant the fourteen dogs behind had piled over them, tangled in their traces, yelping and snarling and biting, while over them round-faced, hooded men shouted shrilly and struck with their whips, and from the sledge a white man sprang with a rifle in his hands. It was Rydal. Under the mass of dogs Wapi, the Walrus, heard nothing of the shouts of men. He was fighting. He was fighting as he had never fought before in all the days of his life. The fierce little Eskimo dogs had smelled him, and they knew their enemy. The lead-dog was dead. A second Wapi had disemboweled with a single slash of his inch-long fangs. He was buried now. But his jaws met flesh and bone, and out of the squirming mass there rose fearful cries of agony that mingled hideously with the bawling of men and the snarling and yelping of beasts that had not yet felt Wapi’s fangs. Three and four at a time they were at him. He felt the wolfish slash of their teeth in his flesh. In him the sense of pain was gone. His jaws closed on a foreleg, and it snapped like a stick. His teeth sank like ivory knives into the groin of a brute that had torn a hole in his side, and a smothered death-howl rose out of the heap. A fang pierced his eye. Even then no cry came from Wapi, the Walrus. He heaved upward with his giant body. He found another throat, and it was then that he rose above the pack, shaking the life from his victim as a terrier would have shaken a rat. For the first time the Eskimos saw him, and out of their superstitious souls strange cries found utterance as they sprang back and shrieked out to Rydal that it was a devil and not a beast that had waited for them in the trail. Rydal threw up his rifle. The shot came. It burned a crease in Wapi’s shoulder and tore a hole as big as a man’s fist in the breast of a dog about to spring upon him f rom behind. Again he was down, and Rydal dropped his rifle, and snatched a whip from the hand of an Eskimo. Shouting and cursing, he lashed the pack, and in a moment he saw a huge, open-jawed shadow rise up on the far side and start off into the open starlight. He sprang back to his rifle. Twice he fired at the retreating shadow before it disappeared. And the Eskimo dogs made no movement to follow. Five of the fifteen were dead. The remaining ten, torn and bleeding–three of them with legs that dragged in the bloody snow–gathered in a whipped and whimpering group. And the Eskimos, shivering in their fear of this devil that had entered into the body of Wapi, the Walrus, failed to respond to Rydal’s command when he pointed to the red trail that ran out under the stars.
At Fort Confidence, one hundred and fifty miles to the south, there was day–day that was like cold, gray dawn, the day one finds just beyond the edge of the Arctic night, in which the sun hangs like a pale lantern over the far southern horizon. In a log-built room that faced this bit of glorious red glow lay Peter, bolstered up in his bed so that he could see it until it faded from the sky. There was a new light in his face, and there was something of the old Peter back in his eyes. Watching the final glow with him was Dolores. It was their second day.
Into this world, in the twilight that was falling swiftly as they watched the setting of the sun, came Wapi, the Walrus. Blinded in the eye, gaunt with hunger and exhaustion, covered with wounds, and with his great heart almost ready to die, he came at last to the river across which lay the barracks. His vision was nearly gone, but under his nose he could still smell faintly the trail he was following until the last. It led him across the river. And in darkness it brought him to a door.
After a little the door opened, and with its opening came at last the fulfilment of the promise of his dreams–hope, happiness, things to live for in a new, a white-man’s world. For Wapi, the Walrus, forty years removed from Tao of Vancouver, had at last come home.