They had been shooting all day; the weather had been
perfect and the powder straight, so that when they
assembled in the smoking-room after dinner they were
well pleased with themselves. From discussing the day’s
sport and the weather outlook, the conversation drifted
to other, though still cognate, fields. Lawson, the crack
shot of the party, mentioned the instinctive recognition
all animals feel for their natural enemies, and gave several
instances in which he had tested it—tame rats with a
ferret, birds with a snake, and so forth.
“Even after being domesticated for generations,” he
said, “they recognize their natural enemy at once by instinct,
an enemy they can never even have seen before.
It’s infallible. They know instantly.”
“Undoubtedly,” said a voice from the corner chair;
“and so do we.”
The speaker was Ericssen, their host, a great hunter
before the Lord, generally uncommunicative but a good
listener, leaving the talk to others. For this latter reason,
as well as for a certain note of challenge in his voice, his
abrupt statement gained attention.
“What do you mean exactly by ‘so do we’?” asked
three men together, after waiting some seconds to see
whether he meant to elaborate, which he evidently did not.
“We belong to the animal kingdom, of course,” put
in a fourth, for behind the challenge there obviously lay
a story, though a story that might be difficult to drag out
of him. It was.
Ericssen, who had leaned forward a moment so that
his strong, humorous face was in clear light, now sank
back again into his chair, his expression concealed by
the red lampshade at his side. The light played tricks,
obliterating the humorous, almost tender lines, while
emphasizing the strength of the jaw and nose. The red
glare lent to the whole a rather grim expression.
Lawson, man of authority among them, broke the little
“You’re dead right,” he observed, “but how do you
know it?”—for John Ericssen never made a positive statement
without a good reason for it. That good reason,
he felt sure, involved a personal proof, but a story Ericssen
would never tell before a general audience. He would
tell it later, however, when the others had left. “There’s
such a thing as instinctive antipathy, of course,” he added,
with a laugh, looking around him. “That’s what you mean
“I meant exactly what I said,” replied the host bluntly.
“There’s first love. There’s first hate, too.”
“Hate’s a strong word,” remarked Lawson.
“So is love,” put in another.
“Hate’s strongest,” said Ericssen grimly. “In the animal
kingdom, at least,” he added suggestively, and then
kept his lips closed, except to sip his liquor, for the rest
of the evening—until the party at length broke up, leaving
Lawson and one other man, both old trusted friends of
many years’ standing.
“It’s not a tale I’d tell to everybody,” he began, when
they were alone. “It’s true, for one thing; for another,
you see, some of those good fellows”—he indicated the
empty chairs with an expressive nod of his great head—“some
of ’em knew him. You both knew him too, probably.”
“The man you hated,” said the understanding Lawson.
“And who hated me,” came the quiet confirmation.
“My other reason,” he went on, “for keeping quiet was
that the tale involves my wife.”
The two listeners said nothing, but each remembered
the curiously long courtship that had been the prelude
to his marriage. No engagement had been announced,
the pair were devoted to one another, there was no known
rival on either side; yet the courtship continued without
coming to its expected conclusion. Many stories were
afloat in consequence. It was a social mystery that
intrigued the gossips.
“I may tell you two,” Ericssen continued, “the reason
my wife refused for so long to marry me. It is hard to
believe, perhaps, but it is true. Another man wished to
make her his wife, and she would not consent to marry
me until that other man was dead. Quixotic, absurd, unreasonable?
If you like. I’ll tell you what she said.”
He looked up with a significant expression in his face
which proved that he, at least, did not now judge her
reason foolish. “‘Because it would be murder,’ she told
me. ‘Another man who wants to marry me would kill
“She had some proof for the assertion, no doubt?”
“None whatever,” was the reply. “Merely her woman’s
instinct. Moreover, I did not know who the other man
was, nor would she ever tell me.”
“Otherwise you might have murdered him instead?”
said Baynes, the second listener.
“I did,” said Ericssen grimly. “But without knowing
he was the man.” He sipped his whisky and relit his pipe.
The others waited.
“Our marriage took place two months later—just after
“Hazel?” exclaimed Lawson and Baynes in a single
breath. “Hazel! Member of the Hunters!” His mysterious
disappearance had been a nine days’ wonder some ten
years ago. It had never been explained. They had all
been members of the Hunters’ Club together.
“That’s the chap,” Ericssen said. “Now I’ll tell you
the tale, if you care to hear it.” They settled back in
their chairs to listen, and Ericssen, who had evidently
never told the affair to another living soul except his own
wife, doubtless, seemed glad this time to tell it to two
“It began some dozen years ago when my brother Jack
and I came home from a shooting trip in China. I’ve
often told you about our adventures there, and you see
the heads hanging up here in the smoking-room—some of
’em.” He glanced round proudly at the walls. “We were
glad to be in town again after two years’ roughing it,
and we looked forward to our first good dinner at the
club, to make up for the rotten cooking we had endured
so long. We had ordered that dinner in anticipatory detail
many a time together. Well, we had it and enjoyed it up
to a point—the point of the entrée, to be exact.
“Up to that point it was delicious, and we let ourselves
go, I can tell you. We had ordered the very wine we
had planned months before when we were snow-bound and
half starving in the mountains.” He smacked his lips as
he mentioned it. “I was just starting on a beautifully
cooked grouse,” he went on, “when a figure went by our
table, and Jack looked up and nodded. The two exchanged
a brief word of greeting and explanation, and the other
man passed on. Evidently they knew each other just
enough to make a word or two necessary, but enough.
“‘Who’s that?’ I asked.
“‘A new member, named Hazel,’ Jack told me. ‘A
great shot.’ He knew him slightly, he explained; he had
once been a client of his—Jack was a barrister, you remember—and
had defended him in some financial case or
other. Rather an unpleasant case, he added. Jack did
not ‘care about’ the fellow, he told me, as he went on
with his tender wing of grouse.”
Ericssen paused to relight his pipe a moment.
“Not care about him!” he continued. “It didn’t surprise
me, for my own feeling, the instant I set eyes on
the fellow, was one of violent, instinctive dislike that
amounted to loathing. Loathing! No. I’ll give it the
right word—hatred. I simply couldn’t help myself; I
hated the man from the very first go off. A wave of
repulsion swept over me as I followed him down the room
a moment with my eyes, till he took his seat at a distant
table and was out of sight. Ugh! He was a big, fat-faced
man, with an eyeglass glued into one of his pale-blue
cod-like eyes—out of condition, ugly as a toad, with
a smug expression of intense self-satisfaction on his jowl
that made me long to——
“I leave it to you to guess what I would have liked
to do to him. But the instinctive loathing he inspired
in me had another aspect, too. Jack had not introduced
us during the momentary pause beside our table, but as
I looked up I caught the fellow’s eye on mine—he was
glaring at me instead of at Jack, to whom he was talking—with
an expression of malignant dislike, as keen evidently
as my own. That’s the other aspect I meant. He
hated me as violently as I hated him. We were instinctive
enemies, just as the rat and ferret are instinctive enemies.
Each recognized a mortal foe. It was a case—I swear it—of
whoever got first chance.”
“Bad as that!” exclaimed Baynes. “I knew him by
sight. He wasn’t pretty, I’ll admit.”
“I knew him to nod to,” Lawson mentioned. “I never
heard anything particular against him.” He shrugged
Ericssen went on. “It was not his character or qualities
I hated,” he said. “I didn’t even know them. That’s
the whole point. There’s no reason you fellows should
have disliked him. My hatred—our mutual hatred—was
instinctive, as instinctive as first love. A man knows his
natural mate; also he knows his natural enemy. I did,
at any rate, both with him and with my wife. Given the
chance, Hazel would have done me in; just as surely,
given the chance, I would have done him in. No blame
to either of us, what’s more, in my opinion.”
“I’ve felt dislike, but never hatred like that,” Baynes
mentioned. “I came across it in a book once, though.
The writer did not mention the instinctive fear of the
human animal for its natural enemy, or anything of that
sort. He thought it was a continuance of a bitter feud
begun in an earlier existence. He called it memory.”
“Possibly,” said Ericssen briefly. “My mind is not
speculative. But I’m glad you spoke of fear. I left that
out. The truth is, I feared the fellow, too, in a way;
and had we ever met face to face in some wild country
without witnesses I should have felt justified in drawing
on him at sight, and he would have felt the same. Murder?
If you like. I should call it self-defence. Anyhow, the
fellow polluted the room for me. He spoilt the enjoyment
of that dinner we had ordered months before in
“But you saw him again, of course, later?”
“Lots of times. Not that night, because we went on
to a theatre. But in the club we were always running
across one another—in the houses of friends at lunch or
dinner; at race meetings; all over the place; in fact, I
even had some trouble to avoid being introduced to him.
And every time we met our eyes betrayed us. He felt in
his heart what I felt in mine. Ugh! He was as loathsome
to me as leprosy, and as dangerous. Odd, isn’t it?
The most intense feeling, except love, I’ve ever known.
I remember”—he laughed gruffly—“I used to feel quite
sorry for him. If he felt what I felt, and I’m convinced
he did, he must have suffered. His one object—to get
me out of the way for good—was so impossible. Then
Fate played a hand in the game. I’ll tell you how.
“My brother died a year or two later, and I went
abroad to try and forget it. I went salmon fishing in
Canada. But, though the sport was good, it was not
like the old times with Jack. The camp never felt the
same without him. I missed him badly. But I forgot
Hazel for the time; hating did not seem worth while,
“When the best of the fishing was over on the Atlantic
side, I took a run back to Vancouver and fished there for
a bit. I went up the Campbell River, which was not so
crowded then as it is now, and had some rattling sport.
Then I grew tired of the rod and decided to go after
wapiti for a change. I came back to Victoria and learned
what I could about the best places, and decided finally to
go up the west coast of the island. By luck I happened
to pick up a good guide, who was in the town at the
moment on business, and we started off together in one
of the little Canadian Pacific Railway boats that ply along
“Outfitting two days later at a small place the steamer
stopped at, the guide said we needed another man to help
pack our kit over portages, and so forth, but the only
fellow available was a Siwash of whom he disapproved.
My guide would not have him at any price; he was lazy,
a drunkard, a liar, and even worse, for on one occasion
he came back without the sportsman he had taken up
country on a shooting trip, and his story was not convincing,
to say the least. These disappearances are always
awkward, of course, as you both know. We preferred,
anyhow, to go without the Siwash, and off we started.
“At first our luck was bad. I saw many wapiti, but
no good heads; only after a fortnight’s hunting did I
manage to get a decent head, though even that was not so
good as I should have liked.
“We were then near the head waters of a little river
that ran down into the Inlet; heavy rains had made the
river rise; running downstream was a risky job, what
with old log-jams shifting and new ones forming; and,
after many narrow escapes, we upset one afternoon and
had the misfortune to lose a lot of our kit, amongst it
most of our cartridges. We could only muster a few between
us. The guide had a dozen; I had two—just
enough, we considered, to take us out all right. Still, it
was an infernal nuisance. We camped at once to dry out
our soaked things in front of a big fire, and while this
laundry work was going on, the guide suggested my filling
in the time by taking a look at the next little valley, which
ran parallel to ours. He had seen some good heads over
there a few weeks ago. Possibly I might come upon the
herd. I started at once, taking my two cartridges with
“It was the devil of a job getting over the divide, for
it was a badly bushed-up place, and where there were no
bushes there were boulders and fallen trees, and the going
was slow and tiring. But I got across at last and came
out upon another stream at the bottom of the new valley.
Signs of wapiti were plentiful, though I never came up
with a single beast all the afternoon. Blacktail deer were
everywhere, but the wapiti remained invisible. Providence,
or whatever you like to call that which there is
no escaping in our lives, made me save my two cartridges.”
Ericssen stopped a minute then. It was not to light
his pipe or sip his whisky. Nor was it because the remainder
of his story failed in the recollection of any vivid
detail. He paused a moment to think.
“Tell us the lot,” pleaded Lawson. “Don’t leave out
Ericssen looked up. His friend’s remark had helped
him to make up his mind apparently. He had hesitated
about something or other, but the hesitation passed. He
glanced at both his listeners.
“Right,” he said. “I’ll tell you everything. I’m not
imaginative, as you know, and my amount of superstition,
I should judge, is microscopic.” He took a longer breath,
then lowered his voice a trifle. “Anyhow,” he went on,
“it’s true, so I don’t see why I should feel shy about
admitting it—but as I stood there in that lonely valley,
where only the noises of wind and water were audible,
and no human being, except my guide, some miles away,
was within reach, a curious feeling came over me I find
difficult to describe. I felt”—obviously he made an effort
to get the word out—“I felt creepy.”
“You,” murmured Lawson, with an incredulous smile—“you
creepy?” he repeated under his breath.
“I felt creepy and afraid,” continued the other, with
conviction. “I had the sensation of being seen by someone—as
if someone, I mean, was watching me. It was
so unlikely that anyone was near me in that God-forsaken
bit of wilderness, that I simply couldn’t believe it at first.
But the feeling persisted. I felt absolutely positive somebody
was not far away among the red maples, behind a
boulder, across the little stream, perhaps, somewhere, at
any rate, so near that I was plainly visible to him. It was
not an animal. It was human. Also, it was hostile.
“I was in danger.
“You may laugh, both of you, but I assure you the
feeling was so positive that I crouched down instinctively
to hide myself behind a rock. My first thought, that the
guide had followed me for some reason or other, I at
once discarded. It was not the guide. It was an enemy.
“No, no, I thought of no one in particular. No name,
no face occurred to me. Merely that an enemy was on my
trail, that he saw me, and I did not see him, and that he
was near enough to me to—well, to take instant action.
This deep instinctive feeling of danger, of fear, of anything
you like to call it, was simply overwhelming.
“Another curious detail I must also mention. About
half an hour before, having given up all hope of seeing
wapiti, I had decided to kill a blacktail deer for meat.
A good shot offered itself, not thirty yards away. I aimed.
But just as I was going to pull the trigger a queer emotion
touched me, and I lowered the rifle. It was exactly
as though a voice said, ‘Don’t!’ I heard no voice, mind
you; it was an emotion only, a feeling, a sudden inexplicable
change of mind—a warning, if you like. I didn’t fire,
“But now, as I crouched behind that rock, I remembered
this curious little incident, and was glad I had not
used up my last two cartridges. More than that I cannot
tell you. Things of that kind are new to me. They’re
difficult enough to tell, let alone to explain. But they were
“I crouched there, wondering what on earth was happening
to me, and, feeling a bit of a fool, if you want to
know, when suddenly, over the top of the boulder, I saw
something moving. It was a man’s hat. I peered cautiously.
Some sixty yards away the bushes parted, and
two men came out on to the river’s bank, and I knew
them both. One was the Siwash I had seen at the store.
The other was Hazel. Before I had time to think I cocked
“Hazel. Good Lord!” exclaimed the listeners.
“For a moment I was too surprised to do anything but
cock that rifle. I waited, for what puzzled me was that,
after all, Hazel had not seen me. It was only the feeling
of his beastly proximity that had made me feel I was seen
and watched by him. There was something else, too, that
made me pause before—er—doing anything. Two other
things, in fact. One was that I was so intensely interested
in watching the fellow’s actions. Obviously he had
the same uneasy sensation that I had. He shared with
me the nasty feeling that danger was about. His rifle,
I saw, was cocked and ready; he kept looking behind
him, over his shoulder, peering this way and that, and
sometimes addressing a remark to the Siwash at his side.
I caught the laughter of the latter. The Siwash evidently
did not think there was danger anywhere. It was, of
course, unlikely enough——”
“And the other thing that stopped you?” urged Lawson,
Ericssen turned with a look of grim humour on his
“Some confounded or perverted sense of chivalry in
me, I suppose,” he said, “that made it impossible to shoot
him down in cold blood, or, rather, without letting him
have a chance. For my blood, as a matter of fact, was
far from cold at the moment. Perhaps, too, I wanted the
added satisfaction of letting him know who fired the shot
that was to end his vile existence.”
He laughed again. “It was rat and ferret in the
human kingdom,” he went on, “but I wanted my rat to
have a chance, I suppose. Anyhow, though I had a perfect
shot in front of me at easy distance, I did not fire.
Instead I got up, holding my cocked rifle ready, finger
on trigger, and came out of my hiding place. I called to
him. ‘Hazel, you beast! So there you are—at last!’
“He turned, but turned away from me, offering his
horrid back. The direction of the voice he misjudged.
He pointed down stream, and the Siwash turned to look.
Neither of them had seen me yet. There was a big log-jam
below them. The roar of the water in their ears
concealed my footsteps. I was, perhaps, twenty paces
from them when Hazel, with a jerk of his whole body,
abruptly turned clean round and faced me. We stared
into each other’s eyes.
“The amazement on his face changed instantly to
hatred and resolve. He acted with incredible rapidity.
I think the unexpected suddenness of his turn made me
lose a precious second or two. Anyhow he was ahead of
me. He flung his rifle to his shoulder. ‘You devil!’ I
heard his voice. ‘I’ve got you at last!’ His rifle cracked,
for he let drive the same instant. The hair stirred just
above my ear.
“He had missed!
“Before he could draw back his bolt for another shot
I had acted.
“‘You’re not fit to live!’ I shouted, as my bullet
crashed into his temple. I had the satisfaction, too, of
knowing that he heard my words. I saw the swift expression
of frustrated loathing in his eyes.
“He fell like an ox, his face splashing in the stream.
I shoved the body out. I saw it sucked beneath the log-jam
instantly. It disappeared. There could be no inquest
on him, I reflected comfortably. Hazel was gone—gone
from this earth, from my life, our mutual hatred over at
The speaker paused a moment. “Odd,” he continued
presently—“very odd indeed.” He turned to the others.
“I felt quite sorry for him suddenly. I suppose,” he
added, “the philosophers are right when they gas about
hate being very close to love.”
His friends contributed no remark.
“Then I came away,” he resumed shortly. “My wife—well,
you know the rest, don’t you? I told her the whole
thing. She—she said nothing. But she married me, you
There was a moment’s silence. Baynes was the first
to break it. “But—the Siwash?” he asked. “The
Lawson turned upon him with something of contemptuous
“He told you he had two cartridges.”
Ericssen, smiling grimly, said nothing at all.