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Full text of "Call of the wild"




^rasp^ 



THE CALL OF THE WILD 




THE WORKS OF 



JACK LONDON 



THE GALL 
OF THE WILD 




THE REVIEW OF REVIEWS COMPANY 
NEW YORK 





UiRAKT 



COPYRIGHT, 1903, 
BY JACK LONDON. 

Set up and electrotyped. Published July, 1903. Re 
printed July, August, September, December. 1903; 
January, March, September, November, 1904; Febru 
ary, April, July, 1905; January, April, November, 
1906; June, 1907: May, June, 1908; April, 1909; 
February, 1910; September, December, 1911: April, 
September, October, 1912. 

New edition May, September, 1910. October, 1913. 
May, 1915. 



> 

I 

CONTENTS 



Chapter Page 

I. INTO THE PRIMITIVE 9 

II. THE LAW OF CLUB AND FANG ... 33 

III. THE DOMINANT PRIMORDIAL, BEAST . . 53 

IV. WHO HAS WON TO MASTERSHIP ... 83 
V. THE TOIL OF TRACE AND TRAIL . . .103 

VI. FOR THE LOVE. OF A MAN . . . .135 

VII. THE SOUNDING OF THE CALL . 165 



17743820 



I 

MTO THE PRIMITIVE 



THE 
CALL OF THE WILD 



Into the Primitive 

" Old longings nomadic leap, 

Chafing at custom s chain; 

Again from its brumal sleep 

Wakens the ferine strain." 

BUCK did not read the newspapers, or 
he would have known that trouble 
was brewing, not alone for himself, 
but for every tide-water dog, strong of muscle 
and with warm, long hair, from Puget Sound 
to San Diego. Because men, groping in the 
Arctic darkness, had found a yellow metal, and 
because steamship and transportation com 
panies were booming the find, thousands of men 
were rushing into the Northland. These men 
wanted dogs, and the dogs they wanted were 

9 



io THE CALL OF THE WILD 

heavy dogs, with strong muscles by which to 
toil, and furry coats to protect them from the 
frost. 

Buck lived at a big house in the sun-kissed 
Santa Clara Valley. Judge Miller s place, it 
was called. It stood back from the road, half 
hidden among the trees, through which glimpses 
could be caught of the wide cool veranda that 
ran around its four sides. The house was ap 
proached by gravelled driveways which wound 
about through wide-spreading lawns and under 
the interlacing boughs of tall poplars. At the 
rear things were on even a more spacious scale 
than at the front. There were great stables, 
where a dozen grooms and boys held forth, 
rows of vine-clad servants cottages, an endless 
and orderly array of outhouses, long grape ar 
bors, green pastures, orchards, and berry 
patches. Then there was the pumping plant 
for the artesian well, and the big cement tank 
where Judge Miller s boys took their morning 
plunge and kept cool in the hot afternoon. 

And over this great demesne Buck ruled. 
Here he was born, and here he had lived the 



INTO THE PRIMITIVE n 

four years of his life. It was true, there were 
other dogs. There could not but be other dogs 
on so vast a place, but they did not count. 
They came and went, resided in the populous 
kennels, or lived obscurely in the recesses of the 
house after the fashion of Toots, the Japanese 
pug, or Ysabl, the Mexican hairless, strange 
creatures that rarely put nose out of doors or 
set foot to ground. On the other hand, there 
were the fox terriers, a score of them at least, 
who yelped fearful promises at Toots and 
Ysabel looking out of the windows at them and 
protected by a legion of housemaids armed with 
brooms and mops. 

But Buck was neither house-dog nor kennel 
dog. The whole realm was his. He plunged 
into the swimming tank or went hunting with 
the Judge s sons; he escorted Mollie and Alice, 
the Judge s daughters, on long twilight or early 
morning rambles; on wintry nights he lay at 
the Judge s feet before the roaring library fire; 
he carried the Judge s grandsons on his back, or 
rolled them in the grass, and guarded their foot 
steps through wild adventures down to the 



12 THE CALL OF THE WILD 

fountain in the stable yard, and even beyond, 
where the paddocks were, and the berry patches. 
Among the terriers he stalked imperiously, and 
Toots and Ysabel he utterly ignored, for he 
was king, king over all creeping, crawling, 
flying things of Judge Miller s place, humans 
included. 

His father, Elmo, a huge St. Bernard, had 
been the Judge s inseparable companion, and 
Buck bid fair to follow in the way of his father. 
He was not so large, he weighed only one 
hundred and forty pounds, for his mother, 
Shep, had been a Scotch shepherd dog. ! Never 
theless, one hundred and forty pounds, to which 
was added the dignity that comes of good living 
and universal respect, enabled him to carry him 
self in right royal fashion. During the four 
years since his puppyhood he had lived the life 
of a sated aristocrat; he had a fine pride in him 
self, was ever a trifle egotistical, as country 
gentlemen sometimes become because of their 
insular situation. But he had saved himself by 
not becoming a mere pampered house-dog. 
Hunting and kindred outdoor delights had 



INTO THE PRIMITIVE 13 

kept down the fat and hardened his muscles; 
and to him, as to the cold-tubbing races, the 
love of water had been a tonic and a health 
preserver. 

And this was the manner of dog Buck was 
in the fall of 1897, when the Klondike strike 
dragged men from all the world into the frozen 
North. But Buck did not read the newspapers, 
and he did not know that Manuel, one of the 
gardener s helpers, was an undesirable acquaint 
ance. Manuel had one besetting sin. He 
loved to play Chinese lottery. Also, in his 
gambling, he had one besetting weakness 
faith in a system; and this made his damnation 
certain. For to play a system requires money, 
while the wages of a gardener s helper do not 
lap over the needs of a wife and numerous 
progeny. 

The Judge was at a meeting of the Raisin 
Growers Association, and the boys were busy 
organizing an athletic ( club, on the memorable 
night of Manuel s treachery. No one saw him 
and Buck go off through the orchard on what 
Buck imagined was merely a stroll. And with 



I 4 THE CALL OF THE WILD 

the exception of a solitary man, no one saw 
them arrive at the little flag station known as 
College Park. This man talked with Manuel, 
and money chinked betweei them. 

" You might wrap up the goods before you 
deliver m," the stranger said gruffly, and 
Manuel doubled a piece of stout rope around 
Buck s neck under the collar. 

" Twist it, an you ll choke m plentee," said 
Manuel, and the stranger grunted a ready af 
firmative. 

Buck had accepted the rope with quiet dig 
nity. To be sure, it was an unwonted perform 
ance: but he had learned to trust in men he 
knew, and to give them credit for a wisdom 
that outreached his own. But when the ends 
of the rope were placed in the stranger s hands, 
he growled menacingly. He had merely inti 
mated his displeasure, in his pride believing 
that to intimate was to command. But to his 
surprise the rope tightened around his neck, 
shutting off his breath. In quick rage he 
sprang at the -man, who met him halfway, 
grappled him close by the throat, and with a 



INTO THE PRIMITIVE 15 

deft twist threw him over on his back. Then 
the rope tightened mercilessly, while Buck 
struggled in a fury, his tongue lolling out of 
his mouth and his great chest panting futilely. 
Never in all his life had he been so vilely 
treated, and never in all his life had he been 
so angry. But his strength ebbed, his eyes 
glazed, and he knew nothing when the train 
was flagged and the two men thiew him into the 
baggage car. 

The next he knew, he was dimly aware that 
his tongue was hurting and that he was being 
jolted along in some kind of a conveyance. 
The hoarse shriek of a locomotive whistling 
a crossing told him where he was. He had 
travelled too often with the Judge not to know 
the sensation of riding in a baggage car. He 
opened his eyes, and into them came the 
unbridled anger of a kidnapped king. The 
man sprang for his throat, but Buck was too 
quick for him. His jaws closed on the hand, 
nor did they relax till his senses were choked 
out of him once more. 

** Yep, has fits," the man said, hiding his 



1 6 THE CALL OF THE WILD 

mangled hand from the baggageman, who had 
been attracted by the sounds of struggle. 
" I m takin m up for the boss to Frisco. 
A crack dog-doctor there thinks that he can 



cure m." 



Concerning that night s ride, the man spoke 
most eloquently for himself, in a little shed 
back of a saloon on the San Francisco water 
front. 

"All I get is fifty for it," he grumbled; 
" an I wouldn t do it over for a thousand, cold 
cash." 

His hand was wrapped in a bloody hand 
kerchief, and the right trouser leg was ripped 
from knee to ankle. 

" How much did the other mug get?" the 
saloon-keeper demanded. 

"A hundred," was the reply. " Wouldn t 
take a sou less, so help me." 

" That makes a hundred and fifty," the 
saloon-keeper calculated; " and he s worth it, 
or I m a squarehead." 

The kidnapper undid the bloody wrappings 



INTO THE PRIMITIVE 17 

and looked at his lacerated hand. " If I don t 
get the hydrophoby " 

" It ll be because you was born to hang," 
laughed the saloon-keeper. " Here, lend me a 
hand before you pull your freight," he added. 

Dazed, suffering intolerable pain from 
throat and tongue, with the life half throttled 
out of him, Buck attempted to face his tor 
mentors. But he was thrown down and 
choked repeatedly, till they succeeded in filing 
the heavy brass collar from off his neck. Then 
the robe was removed, and he was flung into a 
cagelike crate. 

There he lay for the remainder of the weary 
night, nursing his wrath and wounded pride. 
He could not understand what it all meant. 
What did they want with him, these strange 
men? Why were they keeping him pent up 
in this narrow crate? He did not know why, J 
but he felt oppressed by the vague sense of 
impending calamity. Several times during the 
night he sprang to his feet when the shed door 
rattled open, expecting to see the Judge, or the 



1 8 THE CALL OF THE WILD 

boys at least. But each time it was the bulg 
ing face of the saloon-keeper that peered in 
at him by the sickly light of a tallow candle. 
And each time the joyful bark that trembled 
in Buck s throat was twisted into a savage growl. 
But the saloon-keeper let him alone, and in 
the morning four men entered and picked up 
the crate. More tormentors, Buck decided, 
for they were evil-looking creatures, ragged 
and unkempt; and he stormed and raged at 
them through the bars. They only laughed 
and poked sticks at him, which he promptly 
assailed with his teeth till he realized that that 
was what they wanted. Whereupon he lay 
down sullenly and allowed the crate to be 
lifted into a wagon. Then he, and the crate 
in which he was imprisoned, began a passage 
through many lands. Clerks in the express 
office took charge of him; he was carted about 
in another wagon; a truck carried him, with an ; 
assortment of boxes and parcels, upon a ferry 
steamer; he was trucked off the steamer into 
a great railway depot, and finally he was de 
posited in an express car. 



INTO THE PRIMITIVE 19 

For two days and nights this express car 
was dragged along at the tail of shrieking loco 
motives; and for two days and nights Buck 
neither ate nor drank. In his anger he had 
met the first advances of the express mes 
sengers with growls, and they had retaliated by 
teasing him. When he flung himself against 
the bars, quivering and frothing, they laughed 
at him and taunted him. They growled and 
barked like detestable dogs, mewed, and 
flapped their arms and crowed. It was all very 
silly, helcnew; but therefore the more outrage 
to his dignity, and his anger waxed and waxed. 
He did not mind the hunger so much, but 
the lack of water caused him severe suffering 
and fanned his wrath to fever-pitch. For that 
matter, high-strung and finely sensitive, the ill 
treatment had flung him into a fever, which 
was fed by the inflammation of his parched and 
swollen throat and tongue. 

He was glad for one thing: the rope was 
off his neck. That had given them an unfair 
advantage; but now that it was off, he would 
show them. They would never get another 



20 THE CALL OF THE WILD 

rope around his neck. Upon that he was re 
solved. For two days and nights he neither 
ate nor drank, and during those two days and 
nights of torment, he accumulated a fund of 
wrath that boded ill for whoever first fell foul 
of him. His eyes turned blood-shot, and he 
was metamorphosed into a raging fiend. So 
changed was he that the Judge himself would 
/not jiayc recognized him ; and the express 
messengers breathed with relief when they bun 
dled him off the train at Seattle. 

Four men gingerly carried the crate from 
the wagon into a small, high-walled back yard. 
A stout man, with a red sweater that sagged 
generously at the neck, came out and signed 
the book for the driver. That was the man, 
Buck divined, the next tormentor, and he 
hurled himself savagely against the bars. The 
man smiled grimly, and brought a hatchet and 
a club. 

"You ain t going to take him out now? 1 
the driver asked. 

" Sure," the man replied, driving the hatchet 
into the crate for a pry. 



INTO THE PRIMITIVE 21 

There was an instantaneous scattering of 
the four men who had carried it in, and from 
safe perches on top the wall they prepared to 
watch the performance. 

Buck rushed at the splintering wood, sink 
ing his teeth into it, surging and wrestling with 
it. Wherever the hatchet fell on the outside, 
he was there on the inside, snarling and growl 
ing, as furiously anxious to get out as the man 
in the red sweater was calmly intent on getting 
him out. 

" Now, you red-eyed devil," he said, when 
he had made an opening sufficient for the pas 
sage of Buck s body. At the same time he 
dropped the hatchet and shifted the club to 
his right hand. 

And Buck was truly a red-eyed devil, as he 
drew himself together for the spring, hair bris 
tling, mouth foaming, a mad glitter in his blood 
shot eyes. Straight at the man he launched 
his one hundred and forty pounds of fury, sur 
charged with the pent passion of two days and 
nights. In mid air, just as his jaws were about 
to close on the man, he received a shock that 



22 THE CALL OF THE WILD 

checked his body and brought his teeth together 
with an agonizing clip. He whirled over, 
fetching the ground on his back and side. He 
had never been struck by a club in his life, and 
did not understand. With a snarl that was part 
bark and more scream he was again on his feet 
and launched into the air. And again the 
shock came and he was brought crushingly to 
the ground. This time he was aware that it 
was the club, but his madness knew no caution. 
A dozen times he charged, and as often the 
club broke the charge and smashed him down. 
After a particularly fierce blow he crawled 
to his feet, too dazed to rush. He staggered 
limply about, the blood flowing from nose and 
mouth and ears, his beautiful coat sprayed and 
flecked with bloody slaver. Then the man ad 
vanced and deliberately dealt him a frightful 
blow on the nose. All the pain he had endured 
was as nothing compared with the exquisite 
agony of this. With a roar that was almost 
lionlike in its ferocity, he again hurled himself 
at the man. But the man, shifting the club 
from right to left, coolly caught him by the 



INTO THE PRIMITIVE 23 

under jaw, at the same time wrenching down 
ward and backward. Buck described a com 
plete circle in the air, and half of another, then 
crashed to the ground on his head and chest. 

For the last time he rushed. The man 
struck the shrewd blow he had purposely with 
held for so long, and Buck crumpled up and 
went down, knocked utterly senseless. 

" He s no slouch at dog-breakin , that s wot 
I say," one of the men on the wall cried en 
thusiastically. 

" Druther break cayuses any day, and twice 
on Sundays," was the reply of the driver, as he 
climbed on the wagon and started the horses. 

Buck s senses came back to him, but not his 
strength. He lay where he had fallen, and 
from there he watched the man in the red 
sweater. 

Answers to the name of Buck, " the man 
soliloquized, quoting from the saloon-keeper s 
letter which had announced the consignment 
of the crate and contents. " Well, Buck, my 
boy," he went on in a genial voice, " we ve had 
our little ruction, and the best thing we can do 



24 THE CALL OF THE WILD 

is to let it go at that. You ve learned your 
place, and I know mine. Be a good dog and 
all 11 go well and the goose hang high. Be a 
bad dog, and I ll whale the stuffin outa you. 
Understand?" 

As he spoke he fearlessly patted the head he 
had so mercilessly pounded, and though Buck s 
hair involuntarily bristled at touch of the hand, 
he endured it without protest. When the man 
brought him water he drank eagerly, and later 
bolted a generous meal of raw meat, chunk by 
chunk, from the man s hand. 

He was beaten (he knew that) ; but he was 
not broken. He saw, once for all, that he 
stood no chance against a man with a club. He 
had learned the lesson, and in all his after 
life he never forgot it. That club was a reve 
lation. It was his introduction to the reign of 
primitive law, and he met the introduction half 
way. The facts of life took on a fiercer as 
pect; and while he faced that aspect uncowed, 
he faced it with all the latent cunning of his 
nature aroused. As the days went by, other 
dogs came, in crates and at the ends of ropes, 



INTO THE PRIMITIVE 25 

some docilely, and some raging and roaring as 
he had come; and, one and all, he watched them 
pass under the dominion of the man in the red 
sweater. Again and again, as he looked at 
each brutal performance, the lesson was driven 
home to Buck; a man with a club was a law 
giver, a master to be obeyed, though not neces 
sarily conciliated. Of this last Buck was never 
guilty, though he did see beaten dogs that 
fawned upon the man, and wagged their tails, 
and licked his hand. Also he saw one dog, that 
would neither conciliate nor obey, finally killed 
in the struggle for mastery. 

Now and again men came, strangers, who 
talked excitedly, wheedlingly, and in all kinds 
of fashions to the man in the red sweater. And 
at such times that money passed between them 
the strangers took one or more of the dogs 
away with them. Buck wondered where they 
went, for they never came back; but the fear 
of the future was strong upon him, and he was 
glad each time when he was not selected. 

Yet his time came, in the end, in the form 
of a little weazened man who spat broken 



26 THE CALL OF THE WILD 

English and many strange and uncouth excla 
mations which Buck could not understand. 

" Sacredam ! " he cried, when his eyes lit 
upon Buck. " Dat one dam bully dog! Eh? 
How moch? " 

" Three hundred, and a present at that," 
was the prompt reply of the man in the red 
sweater. " And seein it s government money, 
you ain t got no kick coming, eh, Perrault? " 

Perrault grinned. Considering that the 
price of dogs had been boomed skyward by the 
unwonted demand, it was not an unfair sum for 
so fine an animal. The Canadian Government 
would be no loser, nor would its despatches 
travel the slower. Perrault knew dogs, and 
when he looked at Buck he knew that he was 
one in a thousand " One in ten t ousand," 
he commented mentally. 

Buck saw money pass between them, and 
was not surprised when Curly, a good-natured 
Newfoundland, and he were led away by the 
little weazened man. That was the last he saw 
of the man in the red sweater, and as Curly 
and he looked at receding Seattle from the 



INTO THE PRIMITIVE 27 

deck of the Narwhal, it was the last he saw of 
the warm Southland. Curly and he were taken 
below by Perrault and turned over to a black- 
faced giant called Francois. Perrault was a 
French-Canadian, and swarthy; but Frangois 
was a French-Canadian half-breed, and twice as 
swarthy. They were a new kind of men to 
Buck (of which he was destined to see many 
more), and while he developed no affection for 
them, he none the less grew honestly to re 
spect them. He speedily learned that Perrault 
and Francois were fair men, calm and impartial 
in administering justice, and too wise in the 
way of dogs to be fooled by dogs. 

In the tween-decks of the Narwhal, Buck 
and Curly joined two other dogs. One of 
them was a big, snow-white fellow from 
Spitzbergen who had been brought away by a 
whaling captain, and who had later accom 
panied a Geological Survey into the Barrens. 

He was friendly, in a treacherous sort of way, 
smiling into one s face the while he meditated 
some underhand trick, as, for instance, when 
he stole from Buck s food at the first meal. 



28 THE CALL OF THE WILD 

As Buck sprang to punish him, the lash of 
Francois s whip sang through the air, reaching 
the culprit first; and nothing remained to 
Buck but to recover the bone. That was fair 
of Francois, he decided, and the half-breed 
began his rise in Buck s estimation. 

The other dog made no advances, nor re 
ceived any; also, he did not attempt to steal 
from the newcomers. He was a gloomy, 
morose fellow, and he showed Curly plainly 
that all he desired was to be left alone, and 
further, that there would be trouble if he were 
not left alone. " Dave " he was called, and 
he ate and slept, or yawned between times, 
and took interest in nothing, not even when 
the Narwhal crossed Queen Charlotte Sound 
and rolled and pitched and bucked like a 
thing possessed. When Buck and Curly grew 
excited, half wild with fear, he raised his head 
as though annoyed, favored them with an in 
curious glance, yawned, and went to sleep 
again. 

Day and night the ship throbbed to the tire 
less pulse of the propeller, and though one 



INTO THE PRIMITIVE 29 

day was very like another, it was apparent to 
Buck that the weather was steadily growing 
colder. At last, one morning, the propeller 
was quiet, and the Narwhal was pervaded with 
an atmosphere of excitement. He felt it, as 
did the other dogs, and knew that a change 
was at hand. Francois leashed them and 
brought them on deck. At the first step 
upon the cold surface, Buck s feet sank into a 
white mushy something very like mud. He 
sprang back with a snort. More of this white 
stuff was falling through the air. He shook 
himself, but more of it fell upon him. He 
sniffed it curiously, then licked some up on his 
tongue. It bit like fire, and the next instant 
was gone. This puzzled him. He tried it 
again, with the same result. The onlookers 
laughed uproariously, and he felt ashamed, he 
knew not why, for it was his first snow. 



II 

THE LAW OF CLUB AND FANG 




II 

The Law of Club and Fang 

UCK S first day on the Dyea beach 
was like a nightmare. Every hour 
was filled with shock and surprise. He 
had been suddenly jerked from the heart of 
civilization and flung into the heart of things 
primordial. No lazy, sun-kissed life was this, 
with nothing to do but loaf and be bored. 
Here was neither peace, nor rest, nor a mo 
ment s safety. All was confusion and action, 
and every moment life and limb were in peril. 
There was imperative need to be constantly 
alert; for these dogs and men were not town 
dogs and men. They were savages, all of 
them, who knew no law but the law of club 
and fang. 

He had never seen dogs fight as these 
wolfish creatures fought, and his first experi- 

33 



34 THE CALL OF THE WILD 

cnce taught him an unforgetable lesson. It is 
true, it was a vicarious experience, else he would 
not have lived to profit by it. Curly was the 
victim. They were camped near the log store, 
where she, in her friendly way, made advances 
to a husky dog the size of a full-grown wolf, 
though not half so large as she. There was 
no warning, only a leap in like a flash, a metallic 
clip of teeth, a leap out equally swift, and 
Curly s face was ripped open from eye to jaw. 
It was the wolf manner of fighting, to 
strike and leap away; but there was more to it 
than this. Thirty or forty huskies ran to the 
spot and surrounded the combatants in an in 
tent and silent circle. Buck did not compre 
hend that silent intentness, nor the eager way 
with which they were licking their chops. 
Curly rushed her antagonist, who struck again 
and leaped aside. He met her next rush with 
his chest, in a peculiar fashion that tumbled 
her off her feet. She never regained them. 
This was what the onlooking huskies had waited 
for. They closed in upon her, snarling and 
yelping, and she was buried, screaming with 



THE LAW OF CLUB AND FANG 35 

agony, beneath the bristling mass of bodies. 

So sudden was it, and so unexpected, that 
Buck was taken aback. He saw Spitz run 
out his scarlet tongue in a way he had of laugh 
ing; and he saw Francois, swinging an axe, 
spring into the mess of dogs. Three men with 
clubs were helping him to scatter them. Tt did 
not take long. Two minutes from the time 
. Curly went down, the last of her assailants were 
clubbed off. But she lay there limp and lifeless 
in the bloody, trampled snow, almost literally 
torn to pieces, the swart half-breed standing 
over her and cursing horribly. The scene often 
came back to Buck to trouble him in his sleep. 
So that was the way. No fairplay. Once 
down, that was the end of you. Well, he would 
see to it that he never went down. Spitz ran 
out his tongue and laughed again, and from 
that moment Buck hated him with a bitter and 
deathless hatred. 

Before he had recovered from the shock 
caused by the tragic passing of Curly, he 
received another shock. Franqois fastened 
upon him an arrangement of straps and 



36 THE CALL OF THE WILD 

buckles. It was a harness, such as he had 
seen the grooms put on the horses at home. 
And as he had seen horses work, so he was 
set to work, hauling Francois on a sled to the 
forest that fringed the valley, and returning 
with a load of firewood. Though his dignity 
was sorely hurt by thus being made a draught 
animal, he was too wise to rebel. He buckled 
down with a will and did his best, though it was 
all new and strange. Francois was stern, de 
manding instant obedience, and by virtue of his 
whip receiving instant obedience; while Dave, 
who was an experienced wheeler, nipped Buck s 
hind quarters whenever he was in error. Spitz 
was the leader, likewise experienced, and while 
he could not always get at Buck, he growled 
sharp reproof now and again, or cunningly 
threw his weight in the traces to jerk Buck 
into the way he should go. Buck learned 
easily, and under the combined tuition of his 
two mates and Francois made remarkable 
progress. Ere they returned to camp he 
knew enough to stop at " ho," to go ahead 
at " mush," to swing wide on the bends, and 



THE LAW OF CLUB AND FANG 37 

to keep clear of the wheeler when the loaded 
sled shot downhill at their heels. 

* T ree vair good dogs," Francois told Per- 
rault. " Dat Buck, heem pool lak hell. I 
tich heem queek as anyt ing." 

By afternoon, Perrault, who was in a hurry 
to be on the trail with his despatches, returned 
with two more dogs. " Billee " and " Joe " 
he called them, two brothers, and true huskies 
both. Sons of the one mother though they 
were, they were as different as day and night. 
Billee s one fault was his excessive good nature, 
while Joe was the very opposite, sour and in 
trospective, with a perpetual snarl and a malig 
nant eye. Buck received them in comradely 
fashion, Dave ignored them, while Spitz pro 
ceeded to thrash first one and then the other. 
Billee wagged his tail appeasingly, turned to 
run when he saw that appeasement was of no 
avail, and cried (still appeasingly) when Spitz s 
sharp teeth scored his flank. But no matter 
how Spitz circled, Joe whirled around on his 
heels to face him, mane bristling, ears laid back, 
Hps writhing and snarling, jaws clipping to- 



3 8 THE CALL OF THE WILD 

gether as fast as he could snap, and eyes dia 
bolically gleaming the incarnation of bellig 
erent fear. So terrible was his appearance 
that Spitz was forced to forego disciplining 
him ; but to cover his own discomfiture he turned 
upon the inoffensive and wailing Billee and 
drove him to the confines of the camp. 

By evening Perrault secured another dog, an 
old husky, long and lean and gaunt, with a 
battle-scarred face and" a single eye which 
flashed a warning of prowess that commanded 
respect. He was called Sol-leks, which means 
the Angry One. Like Dave, he asked 
nothing, gave nothing, expected nothing, and 
when he marched slowly and deliberately into 
their midst, even Spitz left him alone. He had 
one peculiarity which Buck was unlucky enough 
to discover. He did not like to be approached 
on his blind side. Of this offence Buck was 
unwittingly guilty, and the first knowledge he 
had of his indiscretion was when Sol-leks 
whirled upon him and slashed his shoulder to 
the bone for three inches up and down. For 
ever after Buck avoided his blind side, and to 



THE LAW OF CLUB AND FANG 39 

the last of their comradeship had no more 
trouble. His only apparent ambition, like 
Dave s, was to be left alone; though, as Buck 
was afterward to learn, each of them possessed 
one other and even more vital ambition. 

That night Buck faced the great problem of 
sleeping. The tent, illumined by a candle, 
glowed warmly in the midst of the white 
plain; and when he, as a matter of course, 
entered it, both Perrault and Francois bom 
barded him with curses and cooking utensils, 
till he recovered from his consternation and 
fled ignominiously into the outer cold. A chill 
wind was blowing that nipped him sharply and 
bit with especial venom into his wounded 
shoulder. He lay down on the snow and at 
tempted to sleep, but the frost soon drove him 
shivering to his feet. Miserable and disconso 
late, he wandered about among the many tents, 
only to find that one place was as cold as an 
other. Here and there savage dogs rushed 
upon him, but he bristled his neck-hair and 
snarled (for he was learning fast), and they 
let him go his way unmolested. 



40 THE CALL OF THE WILD 

Finally an idea came to him. He would 
return and see how his own team-mates were 
making out. To his astonishment, they had 
disappeared. Again he wandered about 
through the great camp, looking for them, and 
again he returned. Were they in the tent? 
No, that could not be, else he would not have 
been driven out. Then where could they pos 
sibly be? With drooping tail and shivering 
body, very forlorn indeed, he aimlessly circled 
the tent. Suddenly the snow gave way beneath 
his fore legs and he sank down. Some 
thing wriggled under his feet. He sprang 
back, bristling and snarling, fearful of the un 
seen and unknown. But a friendly little yelp 
reassured him, and he went back to investigate. 
A whiff of warm air ascended to his nostrils, and 
there, curled up under the snow in a snug ball, 
lay Billee. He whined placatingly, squirmed 
and wriggled to show his good will and inten 
tions, and even ventured, as a bribe for peace, 
to lick Buck s face with his warm wet tongue. 

Another lesson. So that was the way they 
did it, eh? Buck confidently selected a spot, 



THE LAW OF CLUB AND FANG 41 

and with much fuss and waste effort proceeded 
to dig a hole for himself. In a trice the heat 
from his body filled the confined space and 
he was asleep. The day had been long and 
arduous, and he slept soundly and comfortably, 
though he growled and barked and wrestled 
with bad dreams. 

Nor did he open his eyes till roused by the 
noises of the waking camp. At first he did 
not know where he was. It had snowed dur 
ing the night and he was completely buried. 
The snow walls pressed him on every side, and 
a great surge of fear swept through him the 
fear of the wild thing for the trap. It was a 
token that he was harking back through his own 
life to the lives of his forbears; for he was a 
civilized dog, an unduly civilized dog and of 
his own experience knew no trap and so could 
not of himself fear it. The muscles of his 
whole body contracted spasmodically and in 
stinctively, the hair on his neck and shoulders 
stood on end, and with a ferocious snarl he 
bounded straight up into the blinding day, the 
snow flying about him in a flashing cloud. Ere 



42 k THE CALL OF THE WILD 

he landed on his feet, he saw the white camp 
spread out before him and knew where he was 
and remembered all that had passed from the 
time he went for a stroll with Manuel to the 
hole he had dug for himself the night before. 

A shout from Francois hailed his appear 
ance. " Wot I say? " the dog-driver cried to 
Perrault. " Dat Buck for sure learn queek as 
anyt ing." 

Perrault nodded gravely. As courier for 
the Canadian Government, bearing important 
despatches, he was anxious to secure the best 
dogs, and he was particularly gladdened by the 
possession of Buck. 

Three more huskies were added to the team 
inside an hour, making a total of nine, and 
before another quarter of an hour had passed 
they were in harness and swinging up the trail 
toward the Dyea Canon. Buck was glad to be 
gone, and though the work was hard he found 
he did not particularly despise it. He was sur 
prised at the eagerness which animated the 
whole team and which was communicated to 
him; but still more surprising was the change 



THE LAW OF CLUB AND FANG 43 

wrought-in Dave and Sol-leks. They were new 
dogs, utterly transformed by the harness. All 
passiveness and unconcern had dropped from 
them. They were alert and active, anxious that 
the work should go well, and fiercely irritable 
with whatever, by delay or confusion, retarded 
that work. The toil of the traces seemed the 
supreme expression of their being, and all that 
they lived for and the only thing in which they 
took delight. 

Dave was wheeler or sled dog, pulling in 
front of him was Buck, then came Sol-leks; 
the rest of the team was strung out ahead, 
single file, to the leader, which position was 
filled by Spitz. 

Buck had been purposely placed between 
Dave and Sol-leks so that he might receive in 
struction. Apt scholar that he was, they were 
equally apt teachers, never allowing him to 
linger long in error, and enforcing their teach 
ing with their sharp teeth. Dave was fair and 
very wise. He never nipped Buck without 
cause, and he never failed to nip him when 
he stood in need of it. As Francois s whip 



44 THE CALL OF THE WILD 

backed him up, Buck found it to be cheaper to 
mend his ways than to retaliate. Once, during 
a brief halt, when he got tangled in the traces 
and delayed the start, both Dave and Sol-leks 
flew at him and administered a sound trounc 
ing. The resulting tangle was even worse, but 
Buck took good care to keep the traces clear 
thereafter; and ere the day was done, so well 
had he mastered his work, his mates about 
ceased nagging him. Francois s whip snapped 
less frequently, and Perrault even honored Buck 
by lifting up his feet and carefully examining 
them. 

It was a hard day s run, up the Canon, 
through Sheep Camp, past the Scales and the 
timber line, across glaciers and snowdrifts hun 
dreds of feet deep, and over the great Chilcoot 
Divide, which stands between the salt water and 
the fresh and guards forbiddingly the sad and 
lonely North. They made good time down the 
chain of lakes which fills the craters of extinct 
volcanoes, and late that night pulled into the 
huge camp at the head of Lake Bennett, where 
thousands of goldseekers were building boats 



THE LAW OF CLUB AND FANG 45 

against the break-up of the ice in the spring. 
Buck made his hole in the snow and slept the 
sleep of the exhausted just, but all too early was 
routed out in the cold darkness and harnessed 
with his mates to the sled. 

That day they made forty miles, the trail 
being packed; but the next day, and for many 
days to follow, they broke their own trail, 
worked harder, and made poorer time. As a 
rule, Perrault travelled ahead of the team, pack 
ing the snow with webbed shoes to make it 
easier for them. Francois, guiding the sled at 
the gee-pole, sometimes exchanged places with 
him, but not often. Perrault was in a hurry, 
and he prided himself on his knowledge of ice, 
which knowledge was indispensable, for the fall 
ice was very thin, and where there was swift 
water, there was no ice at all. 

Day after day, for days unending, Buck 
toiled in the traces. Always, they broke camp 
in the dark, and the first gray of dawn found 
them hitting the trail with fresh miles reeled 
off behind them. And always they pitched 
camp after dark, eating their bit of fish, and 



46 THE CALL OF THE WILD 

crawling to sleep into the snow. Buck was 
ravenous. The pound and a half of sun- 
dried salmon, which was his ration for each 
day, seemed to go nowhere. He never had 
enough, and suffered from perpetual hunger 
pangs. Yet the other dogs, because they 
weighed less and were born to the life, re 
ceived a pound only of the fish and managed 
to keep in good condition. 

He swiftly lost the fastidiousness which had 
characterized his old life. A dainty eater, he 
found that his mates, finishing first, robbed him 
of his unfinished ration. There was no defend 
ing it. While he was fighting off two or three, 
it was disappearing down the throats of the 
others. To remedy this, he ate as fast as they, 
and, so greatly did hunger compel him, he was 
not above taking what did not belong to him. 
He watched and learned. When he saw Pike, 
one of the new dogs, a clever malingerer and 
thief, slyly steal a slice of bacon when Per- 
rault s back was turned, he duplicated the per 
formance the following day, getting away with 
the whole chunk. A great uproar was raised, 



THE LAW OF CLUB AND FANG 47 

but he was unsuspected, while Dub, an awkward 
blunderer who was always getting caught, was 
punished for Buck s misdeed. 

This first theft marked Buck as fit to sur 
vive in the hostile Northland environment. It 
marked his adaptability, his capacity to adjust 
himself to changing conditions, the lack of 
which would have meant swift and terrible 
death. It marked, further, the decay or going 
to pieces of his moral nature, a vain thing and 
a handicap in the ruthless struggle for existence. 
It was all well enough in the Southland, under 
the law of love and fellowship, to respect pri 
vate property and personal feelings; but in the 
Northland, under the law of club and fang, 
whoso took such things into account was a fool, 
and in so far as he observed them he would fail 
to prosper. 

Not that Buck reasoned it out. He was 
fit, that was all, and unconsciously he accom 
modated himself to the new mode of life. All 
his days, no matter what the odds, he had 
never run from a fight. But the club of the 
man in the red sweater had beaten into him 



48 THE CALL OF THE WILD 

a more fundamental and primitive code. Civil 
ized, he could have died for a moral considera 
tion, say the defence of Judge Miller s riding- 
whip, but the completeness of his decivilization 
was now evidenced by his ability to flee from 
the defence of a moral consideration and so 
save his hide. He did not steal for joy of it, 
but because of the clamor of his stomach. He 
did not rob openly, but stole secretly and cun 
ningly, out of respect for club and fang. In 
short, the things he did were done because it 
was easier to do them than not to do them. 

His development (or retrogression) was 
rapid. His muscles became hard as iron, and 
he grew callous to all ordinary pain. He 
achieved an internal as well as external econ 
omy. He could eat anything, no matter how 
loathsome or indigestible, and, once eaten, the 
juices of his stomach extracted the last least 
particle of nutriment; and his blood carried it 
to the farthest reaches of his body building it 
into the toughest and stoutest of tissues. Sight 
and scent became remarkably keen, while his 
hearing developed such acuteness that in his 



THE LAW OF CLUB AND FANG 49 

sleep he heard the faintest sound and knew 
whether it heralded peace or peril. He learned 
to bite the ice out with his teeth when it col 
lected between his toes; and when he was thirsty 
and there was a thick scum of ice over the water 
hole, he would break it by rearing and striking 
it with stiff fore legs. His most conspicuous 
trait was an ability to scent the wind and fore 
cast it a night in advance. No matter how 
breathless the air when he dug his nest by tree 
or bank, the wind that later blew inevitably 
found him to leeward, sheltered and snug. 

And not only did he learn by experience, but 
instincts long dead became alive again. The 
domesticated generations fell from him. In 
vague ways he remembered back to the youth 
of the breed, to the time the wild dogs ranged 
in packs through the primeval forest and killed 
their meat as they ran it down. It was no task 
for him to learn to fight with cut and slash 
and the quick wolf snap. In this manner had 
fought forgotten ancestors. They quickened 
the old life within him, and the old tricks which 
they had stamped into the heredity of the breed 



50 THE CALL OF THE WILD 

were his tricks. They came to him without 
effort or discovery, as though they had been his 
always. And when, on the still cold nights, he 
pointed his nose at a star and howled long and 
wolflike, it was his ancestors, dead and dust, 
pointing nose at star and howling down 
through the centuries and through him. And 
his cadences were their cadences, the cadences 
which voiced their woe and what to them was 
the ^meaning of the stillness, and the cold, and 
dark. 

Thus, as token of what a puppet thing life is, 
the ancient song surged through him and he 
came into his own again; and he came because 
men had found a yellow metal in the North, 
and because Manuel was a gardener s helper 
whose wages did not lap over the needs of his 
wife and divers small copies of himself. 



Ill 



THE DOMINANT PRIMORDIAL 
BEAST 



Ill 

The Dominant Primordial Beast 

THE dominant primordial beast was 
strong in Buck, and under the fierce 
conditions of trail life it grew and 
grew. Yet it was a secret growth. His new 
born cunning gave him poise and control. He 
was too busy adjusting himself to the new life 
to feel at ease, and not only did he not pick 
fights, but he avoided them whenever possible. 
A certain deliberateness characterized his atti 
tude. He was not prone to rashness and pre 
cipitate action; and in the bitter hatred between 
him and Spitz he betrayed no impatience, 
shunned all offensive acts. 

On the other hand, possibly because he 
divined in Buck a dangerous rival, Spitz, never 
lost an opportunity of showing his teeth. He 

53 



54 THE CALL OF THE WILD 

even went out of his way to bully Buck, striv 
ing constantly to start the fight which could end 
only in the death of one or the other. 

Early in the trip this might have taken place 
had it not been for an unwonted accident. At 
the end of this day they made a bleak and 
miserable camp on the shore of Lake Le Barge. 
Driving snow, a wind that cut like a white-hot 
knife, and darkness, had forced them to grope 
for a camping place. They could hardly have 
fared worse. At their backs rose a perpen 
dicular wall of rock, and Perrault and Fran- 
c.ois were compelled to make their fire and 
spread their sleeping robes on the ice of the 
lake itself. The tent they had discarded at 
Dyea in order to travel light. A few sticks of 
driftwood furnished them with a fire that 
thawed down through the ice and left them to 
eat supper in the dark. 

Close in under the sheltering rock Buck made 
his nest. So snug and warm was it, that he 
was loath to leave it when Francois distributed 
the fish which he had first thawed over the fire. 
But when Buck finished his ration and returned, 



DOMINANT PRIMORDIAL BEAST 55 

he found his nest occupied. A warning snarl 
told him that the trespasser was Spitz. Till 
now Buck had avoided trouble with his enemy, 
but this was too much. The beast in him 
roared. He sprang upon Spitz with a fury 
which surprised them both, and Spitz particu 
larly, for his whole experience with Buck had 
gone to teach him that his rival was an unusu 
ally timid dog, who managed to hold his own 
only because of his great weight and size. 

Frangois was surprised, too, when they shot 
out in a tangle from the disrupted nest and he 
divined the cause of the trouble. " A-a-ah ! " 
he cried to Buck. " Gif it to heem, by Gar! 
Gif it to heem, the dirty t eef ! " 

Spitz was equally willing. He was crying 
with sheer rage and eagerness as he circled back 
and forth for a chance to spring in. Buck was 
no less eager, and no less cautious as he like 
wise circled back and forth for the advantage. 
But it was then that the unexpected happened, 
the thing which projected their struggle for su 
premacy far into the future, past many a weary 
mile of trail and toil. 



56 THE CALL OF THE WILD 

An oath from Perrault, the resounding im 
pact of a club upon a bony frame, and a shrill 
yelp of pain, heralded the breaking forth of 
pandemonium. The camp was suddenly dis 
covered to be alive with skulking furry forms, 
starving huskies, four or five score of them, 
who had scented the camp from some Indian 
village. They had crept in while Buck and 
Spitz were fighting, and when the two men 
sprang among them with stout clubs they 
showed their teeth and fought back. They 
were crazed by the smell of the food. Per 
rault found one with head buried in the grub- 
box. His club landed heavily on the gaunt ribs, 
and the grub-box was capsized on the ground. 
On the instant a score of the famished brutes 
were scrambling for the bread and bacon. The 
clubs fell upon them unheeded. They yelped 
and howled under the rain of blows, but strug 
gled none the less madly till the last crumb had 
been devoured. 

In the meantime the astonished team-dogs 
had burst out of their nests only to be set upon 
by the fierce invaders. Never had Buck seen 



DOMINANT PRIMORDIAL BEAST 57 

such dogs. It seemed as though their bones 
would burst through their skins. They were 
mere skeletons, draped loosely in draggled 
hides, with blazing eyes and slavered fangs. 
But the hunger-madness made them terrifying, 
irresistible. There was no opposing them. 
The team-dogs were swept back against the cliff 
at the first onset. Buck was beset by three 
huskies, and in a trice his head and shoulders 
were ripped and slashed. The din was fright 
ful. Billee was crying as usual. Dave and 
Sol-leks, dripping blood from a score of wounds, 
were fighting bravely side by side. Joe was 
snapping like a demon. Once, his teeth closed 
on the fore leg of a husky, and he crunched 
down through the bone. Pike, the malingerer, 
leaped upon the crippled animal, breaking its 
neck with a quick flash of teeth and a jerk. 
Buck got a frothing adversary by the throat, 
and was sprayed with blood when his teeth sank 
through the jugular. The warm taste of it in 
his mouth goaded him to greater fierceness. 
He flung himself upon another, and at the same 
time felt teeth sink into his own throat. It 



5 8 THE CALL OF THE WILD 

was Spitz, treacherously attacking from the 
side. 

Perrault and Frangois, having cleaned out 
their part of the camp, hurried to save their 
sled-dogs. The wild wave of famished beasts 
rolled back before them, and Buck shook him 
self free. But it was only for a moment. The 
two men were compelled to run back to save the 
grub upon which the huskies returned to the 
attack on the team. Billee, terrified into 
bravery, sprang through the savage circle and 
fled away over the ice. Pike and Dub followed 
on his heels, with the rest of the team behind. 
As Buck drew himself together to spring after 
them, out of the tail of his eye he saw Spitz 
rush upon him with the evident intention of 
overthrowing him. Once off his feet and un 
der that mass of huskies, there was no hope for 
him. But he braced himself to the shock of 
Spitz s charge, then joined the flight out on the 
lake. 

Later, ;he nine team-dogs gathered together 
and sought shelter in the forest. Though 
unpursued, they \vere in a sorry plight. There 



DOMINANT PRIMORDIAL BEAST 59 

was not one who was not wounded in four or 
five places, while some were wounded griev 
ously. Dub was badly injured in a hind leg; 
Dolly, the last husky added to the team at 
Dyea, had a badly torn throat; Joe had lost 
an eye; while Billee, the good-natured, with 
an ear chewed and rent to ribbons, cried and 
whimpered throughout the night. At day 
break they limped warily back to camp, to find 
the marauders gone and the two men in bad 
tempers. Fully half their grub supply was 
gone. The huskies had chewed through the 
sled lashings and canvas coverings. In fact, 
nothing, no matter how remotely eatable, had 
escaped them. They had eaten a pair of Per- 
rault s moose-hide moccasins, chunks out of the 
leather traces, and even two feet of lash from 
the end of Francois s whip. He broke from 
a mournful contemplation of it to look over 
his wounded dogs. 

" Ah, my frien s," he said softly, " mebbe it 
mek you mad dog, dose many bites. Mebbe 
all mad dog, sacredam! Wot you t ink, eh, 
Perrault?" 



60 THE CALL OF THE WILD 

The courier shook his head dubiously. With 
four hundred miles of trail still between him 
and Dawson, he could ill afford to have mad 
ness break out among his dogs. Two hours of 
cursing and exertion got the harnesses into 
shape, and the wound-stiffened team was under 
way, struggling painfully over the hardest part 
of the trail they had yet encountered, and for 
that matter, the hardest between them and 
Dawson. 

The Thirty Mile River was wide open. Its 
wild water defied the frost, and it was in the 
eddies only and in the quiet places that the 
ice held at all. Six days of exhausting toil 
were required to cover those thirty terrible 
miles. And terrible they were, for every foot 
of them was accomplished at the risk of life 
to dog and man. A dozen times, Perrault, 
nosing the way, broke through the ice bridges, 
being saved by the long pole he carried, which 
he so held that it fell each time across the hole 
made by his body. But a cold snap was on, 
the thermometer registering fifty below zero, 
and each time he broke through he was com- 



DOMINANT PRIMORDIAL BEAST 61 

pelled for very life to build a fire and dry his 
garments. 

Nothing daunted him. It was because 
nothing daunted him that he had been chosen 
for government courier. He took all manner 
of risks, resolutely thrusting his little weazened 
face into the frost and struggling on from dim 
dawn to dark. He skirted the frowning shores 
on rim ice that bent and crackled under foot 
and upon which they dared not halt. Once, the 
sled broke through, with Dave and Buck, and 
they were half-frozen and all but drowned by 
the time they were dragged out. The usual 
fire was necessary to save them. They were 
coated solidly with ice, and the two men kept 
them on the run around the fire, sweating and 
thawing, so close that they were singed by the 
flames. 

At another time Spitz went through, drag 
ging the whole team after him up to Buck, 
who strained backward with all his strength, 
his fore paws on the slippery edge and the ice 
quivering and snapping all around. But behind 
him was Dave, likewise straining backward, 



62 THE CALL OF THE WILD 

and behind the sled was Francois, pulling till 
his tendons cracked. 

Again, the rim ice broke away before and 
behind, and there was no escape except up the 
cliff. Perrault scaled it by a miracle, while 
Francois prayed for just that miracle; and with 
every thong and sled lashing and the last bit 
of harness rove into a long rope, the dogs 
were hoisted, one by one, to the cliff crest. 
Francois came up last, after the sled and load. 
Then came the search for a place to descend, 
which descent was ultimately made by the aid of 
the rope, and night found them back on the 
river with a quarter of a mile to the day s credit. 

By the time they made the Hootalinqua and 
good ice, Buck was played out. The rest of 
the dogs were in like condition; but Perrault, 
to make up lost time, pushed them late and 
early. The first day they covered thirty-five 
miles to ^he Big Salmon ; the next day thirty-five 
more to the Little Salmon; the third day forty 
miles, which brought them well up toward the 
Five Fingers. 

Buck s feet were not so compact and hard 



DOMINANT PRIMORDIAL BEAST 63 

as the feet of the huskies. His had softened 
during the many generations since the day his 
last wild ancestor was tamed by a cave-dweller 
or river man. All day long he limped in agony, 
and camp once made, lay down like a dead dog. 
Hungry as he was, he would not move to receive 
his ration of fish, which Francois had to bring 
to him. Also, the dog-driver rubbed Buck s 
feet for half an hour each night after supper, 
and sacrificed the tops of his own moccasins 
to make four moccasins for Buck. This was a 
great relief, and Buck caused even the weazened 
face of Perrault to twist itself into a grin one 
morning, when Francois forgot the moccasins 
and Buck lay on his back, his four feet waving 
appealingly in the air, and refused to budge 
without them. Later his feet grew hard to the 
trail, and the worn-out foot-gear was thrown 
away. 

At the Pelly one morning, as they were har 
nessing up, Dolly, who had never been con 
spicuous for anything, went suddenly mad. 
She announced her condition by a long, heart- 
breaking wolf howl that sent every dog bris- 



64 THE CALL OF THE WILD 

tling with fear, then sprang straight for Buck. 
He had never seen a dog go mad, nor did he 
have any reason to fear madness; yet he knew 
that here was horror, and fled away from it in a 
panic. Straight away he raced, with Dolly, 
panting and frothing, one leap behind; nor 
could she gain on him, so great was his terror, 
nor could he leave her, so great was her mad 
ness. He plunged through the wooded breast 
of the island, flew down to the lower end, 
crossed a back channel filled with rough ice 
to another island, gained a third island, curbed 
back to the main river, and in desperation 
started to cross it. And all the time, though 
he did not look, he could hear her snarling 
just one leap behind. Francois called to him 
a quarter of a mile away and he doubled back, 
still one leap ahead, gasping painfully for air 
and putting all his faith in that Francois would 
save him. The dog-driver held the axe poised 
in his hand, and as Buck shot past him the axe 
crashed down upon mad Dolly s head. 

Buck staggered over against the sled, ex 
hausted, sobbing for breath, helpless. This 



DOMINANT PRIMORDIAL BEAST 65 

was Spitz s opportunity. He sprang upon 
Buck, and twice his teeth sank into his unre 
sisting foe and ripped and tore the flesh to the 
bone. Then Francois lash descended, and 
Buck had the satisfaction of watching Spitz 
receive the worst whipping as yet administered 
to any of the team. 

" One devil, dat Spitz," remarked Perrault. 
" Some dam day heem keel dat Buck." 

;i Dat Buck two devils," was Francois s re 
joinder. " All de tarn I watch dat Buck I know 
for sure. Lissen : some dam fine day heem get 
mad lak hell an den heem chew dat Spitz all 
up an spit heem out on de snow. Sure. I 
know." 

From then on it was war between them. 
Spitz, as lead-dog and acknowledged master o 
the team, felt his supremacy threatened* ^y this 
strange Southland dog. And strange Buck was 
co him, for of the many Southland dogs he 
had known, not one had shown up worthily in 
camp and on trail. They were all too soft, 
dying under the toil, the frost, and starvation. 
Buck was the exception. He alone endured 



66 THE CALL OF THE WILD 

and prospered, matching the husky in strength, 
savagery, and cunning. Then he was a mas 
terful dog, and what made him dangerous was 
the fact that the club of the man in the red 
sweater had knocked all blind pluck and rash 
ness out of his desire for mastery. He was 
preeminently cunning, and could bide his time 
with a patience that was nothing less than 
primitive. 

It was inevitable that the clash for lead 
ership should come. Buck wanted it. He 
wanted it because it was his nature, because 
he had been gripped tight by that nameless, 
incomprehensible pride of the trail and trace 
that pride which holds dogs in the toil to the 
last gasp, which lures them to die joyfully in 
the harness, and breaks their hearts if they are 
cut out of the harness. This was the pride of 
Dave as wheel-dog, of Sol-leks as he pulled 
with all his strength; the pride that laid hold 
of them at break of camp, transforming them 
from sour and sullen brutes into straining, 
eager, ambitious creatures; the pride that 
spurred them on all day and dropped them at 



DOMINANT PRIMORDIAL BEAST 67 

pitch of camp at night, letting them fall back 
into gloomy unrest and uncontent. This was 
the pride that bore up Spitz and made him 
thrash the sled-dogs who blundered and shirked 
in the traces or hid away at harness-up time in 
the morning. Likewise it was this pride that 
made him fear Buck as a possible lead-dog. 
And this was Buck s pride, too. 

He openly threatened the other s leadership. 
He came between him and the shirks he should 
have punished. And he did it deliberately. 
One night there was a heavy snowfall, and in 
the morning Pike, the malingerer, did not ap 
pear. He was securely hidden in his nest under 
a foot of snow. Franqois called him and 
sought him in vain. Spitz was wild with wrath. 
He raged through the camp, smelling and dig 
ging in every likely place, snarling so fright 
fully that Pike heard and shivered in his hiding- 
place. 

But when he was at last unearthed, and Spitz 
flew at him to punish him, Buck flew with equal 
rage, in between. So unexpected was it, and so 
shrewdly managed, that Spitz was hurled back- 



68 THE CALL OF THE WILD 

ward and off his feet. Pike, who had been 
trembling abjectly, took heart at this open mu 
tiny, and sprang upon his overthrown leader. 
Buck, to whom fairplay was a forgotten code, 
likewise sprang upon Spitz. But Francois, 
chuckling at the incident while unswerving in 
the administration of justice, brought his lash 
down upon Buck with all his might. This 
failed to drive Buck from his prostrate rival, 
and the butt of the whip was brought into play. 
Half-stunned by the blow, Buck was knocked 
backward and the lash laid upon him again and 
again, while Spitz soundly punished the many 
times offending Pike. 

In the days that followed, as Dawson grew 
closer and closer, Buck still continued to inter 
fere between Spitz and the culprits; but he did 
it craftily, when Francois was not around. 
With the covert mutiny of Buck, a general in 
subordination sprang up and increased. Dave 
and Sol-leks were unaffected, but the rest of the 
team went from bad to worse. Things no 
longer went right. There was continual bick 
ering and jangling. Trouble was always afoot, 



DOMINANT PRIMORDIAL BEAST 69 

and at the bottom of it was Buck. He kept 
Francois busy, for the dog-driver was in con 
stant apprehension of the life-and-death strug 
gle between the two which he knew must take 
place sooner or later; and on more than one 
night the sounds of quarrelling and strife among 
the other dogs turned him out of his sleeping 
robe, fearful that Bucks and Spitz were at 
it. 

But the opportunity did not present itself, 
and they pulled into Dawson one dreary after 
noon with the great fight still to come. Here 
were many men, and countless dogs, and Buck 
found them all at work. It seemed the or 
dained order of things that dogs should work. 
All day they swung up and down the main 
street in long teams, and in the night their 
jingling bells still went by. They hauled cabin 
logs and firewood, freighted up to the mines, 
and did all manner of work that horses did in 
the Santa Clara Valley. Here and there Buck 
met Southland dogs, but in the main they were 
the wild wolf husky breed. Every night, regu 
larly, at nine, at twelve, at three, they lifted a 



70 THE CALL OF THE WILD 

nocturnal song, a weird and eerie chant, in 
which it was Buck s delight to join. 

With the aurora borealis flaming coldly over 
head, or the stars leaping in the frost dance, 
and the land numb and frozen under its pall of 
snow, this song of the huskies might have been 
the defiance of life, only it was pitched in minor 
key, with long-drawn wailings and half-sobs, 
and was more the pleading of life, the articu 
late travail of existence. It was on old song, 
old as the breed itself one of the first songs 
of the younger world in a day when songs 
were sad. It was invested with the woe of un 
numbered generations, this plaint by which Buck 
was so strangely stirred. When he moaned 
and sobbed, it was with the pain of living that 
was of old the pain of his wild fathers, and the 
fear and mystery of the cold and dark that was 
to them fear and mystery. And that he should 
be stirred by it marked the completeness with 
which he harked back through the ages of fire 
and roof to the raw beginnings of life in the 
howling ages. 

Seven days from the time they pulled into 



DOMINANT PRIMORDIAL BEAST 71 

Dawson, they dropped down the steep bank by 
the Barracks to the Yukon Trail, and pulled 
for Dyea and Salt Water. Perrault was car 
rying despatches if anything more urgent than 
those he had brought in ; also, the travel pride 
had gripped him, and he purposed to make the 
record trip of the year. Several things favored 
him in this. The week s rest had recuperated 
the dogs and put them in thorough trim. The 
trail they had broken into the country was 
packed hard by later journeyers. And fur 
ther, the police had arranged in two or three 
places deposits of grub for dog and man, and 
he was travelling light. 

They made Sixty Mile, which is a fifty-mile 
run, on the first day; and the second day saw 
them booming up the Yukon well on their way 
to Pelly. But such splendid running was 
achieved not without great trouble and vexa 
tion on the part of Francois. The insidious 
revolt led by Buck had destroyed the solidarity 
of the team. It no longer was as one dog 
leaping in the traces. The encouragement 
Buck gave the rebels led them into all kinds of 



72 THE CALL OF THE WILD 

petty misdemeanors. No more was Spitz a 
leader greatly to be feared. The old awe de 
parted, and they grew equal to challenging his 
authority. Pike robbed him of half a fish one 
night, and gulped it down under the protection 
of Buck. Another night Dub and Joe fought 
Spitz and made him forego the punishment they 
deserved. And even Billee, the good-natured, 
was less good-natured, and whined not half so 
placatingly as in former days. Buck never 
came near Spitz without snarling and bristling 
menacingly. In fact, his conduct approached 
that of a bully, and he was given to swaggering 
up and down before Spitz s very nose. 

The breaking down of discipline likewise 
affected the dogs in their relations with one 
another. They quarrelled and bickered more 
than ever among themselves, till at times the 
camp was a howling bedlam. Dave and Sol- 
leks alone were unaltered, though they were 
made irritable by the unending squabbling. 
Francois swore strange barbarous oaths, and 
stamped the snow in futile rage, and tore his 
- hair. His lash was always singing among the 



DOMINANT PRIMORDIAL BEAST 73 

dogs, but it was of small avail. Directly his 
back was turned they were at it again. He 
backe k d up Spitz with his whip, while Buck 
backed up the remainder of the team. Fran- 
c,ois knew he was behind all the trouble, and 
Buck knew he knew; but Buck was too clever 
ever again to be caught red-handed. He 
worked faithfully in the harness, for the toil 
had become a delight to him; yet it was a 
greater delight slyly to precipitate a fight 
amongst his mates and tangle the traces. 

At the mouth of the Tahkeena, one night 
after supper, Dub turned up a snowshoe rab 
bit, blundered it, and missed. In a second the 
whole team was in full cry. A hundred yards 
away was a camp of the Northwest Police, with 
fifty dogs, huskies all, who joined the chase. 
The rabbit sped down the river, turned off into 
a small creek, up the frozen bed of which it 
held steadily. It ran lightly on the surface of 
the snow, while the dogs ploughed through by 
main strength. Buck led the pack, sixty strong, 
around bend after bend, but he could not gain. 
He lay down low to the race, whining eagerly, 



74 THE CALL OF THE WILD 

his splendid body flashing forward, leap by leap, 
in the wan white moonlight. And leap by leap, 
like some pale frost wraith, the snowshoe rab 
bit flashed on ahead. 

All that stirring of old instincts which at 
stated periods drives men out from the sound 
ing cities to forest and plain to kill things by 
chemically propelled leaden pellets, the blood 
lust, the joy to kill all this was Buck s, only 
it was infinitely more intimate. He was rang 
ing at the head of the pack, running the wild 
thing down, the living meat, to kill with his own 
teeth and wash his muzzle to the eyes in warm 
blood. 

There is an ecstasy that marks the summit of 
life, and beyond which life cannot rise. And 
such is the paradox of living, this ecstasy comes 
when one is most alive, and it comes as a com 
plete forgetfulness that one is alive. This ec 
stasy, this forgetfulness of living, comes to the 
artist, caught up and out of himself in a sheet 
of flame; it comes to the soldier, war-mad on a 
stricken field and refusing quarter; and it came 
to Buck, leading the pack, sounding the old 



DOMINANT PRIMORDIAL BEAST 75 

wolf-cry, straining after the food that was alive 
and that fled swiftly before him through the 
rrtoonlight. He was sounding the deeps of his 
nature, and of the parts of his nature that were 
deeper than he, going back into the womb of 
Time. He was mastered by the sheer surging 
of life, the tidal wave of being, the perfect joy 
of each separate muscle, joint, and sinew in that 
it was everything that was not death, that it was 
aglow and rampant, expressing itself in move 
ment, flying exultantly under the stars and over 
the face of dead matter that did not move. 

But Spitz, cold and calculating even in his 
supreme moods, left the pack and cut across a 
narrow neck of land where the creek made a 
long bend around. Buck did not know of this, 
and as he rounded the bend, the frost wraith 
of a rabbit still flitting before him, he saw an 
other and larger frost wraith leap from the 
overhanging bank into the immediate path of 
the rabbit. It was Spitz. The rabbit could 
not turn, and as the white teeth broke its back 
in mid air it shrieked as loudly as a stricken 
man may shriek. At sound of this, the cry of 



76 THE CALL OF THE WILD 

Life plunging down from Life s apex in the grip 
of Death, the full pack at Buck s heels raised 
a hell s chorus of delight. 

Buck did not cry out. He did not check him 
self, but drove in upon Spitz, shoulder to 
shoulder, so hard that he missed the throat. 
They rolled over and over in the powdery snow. 
Spitz gained his feet almost as though he had 
not been overthrown, slashing Buck down the 
shoulder and leaping clear. Twice his teeth 
clipped together, like the steel jaws of a trap, 
as he backed away for better footing, with lean 
and lifting lips that writhed and snarled. 

In a flash Buck knew it. The time had 
come. It was to the death. As they circled 
about, snarling, ears laid back, keenly watchful 
for the advantage, the scene came back to Buck 
with a sense of familiarity. He seemed to re 
member it all, the white woods, and earth, 
and moonlight, and the thrill of battle. Over 
the whiteness and silence brooded a ghostly 
calm. There was "not the faintest whisper of 
air nothing moved, not a leaf quivered, the 
visible breaths of the, dogs rising slowly and 



DOMINANT PRIMORDIAL BEAST 77 

lingering in the frosty air. They had made 
short work of the snowshoe rabbit, these dogs 
that were ill-tamed wolves; and they were now 
drawn up in an expectant circle. They, too, 
were silent, their eyes only gleaming and their 
breaths drifting slowly upward. To Buck it 
was nothing new or strange, this scene of old 
time. It was as though it had always been, 
the wonted way of things. 

Spitz was a practised fighter. From Spitz- 
bergen through the Arctic, and across Canada 
and the Barrens, he had held his own with all 
manner of dogs and achieved to mastery over 
them. Bitter rage was his, but never blind 
rage. In passion to rend and destroy, he never 
forgot that his enemy was in like passion to 
rend and destroy. He never rushed till he was 
prepared to receive a rush ; never attacked till 
he had first defended that attack. 

In vain Buck strove to sink his teeth in the 
neck of the big white dog. Wherever his fangs 
struck for the softer flesh, they were countered 
by the fangs of Spitz. Fang clashed fang, and 
lips were cut and bleeding, but Buck could not 



78 THE CALL OF THE WILD 

penetrate his enemy s guard. Then he warmed 
up and enveloped Spitz in a whirlwind of rushes. 
Time and time again he tried for the snow- 
white throat, where life bubbled near to the 
surface, and each time and every time Spitz 
slashed him and got away. Then Buck took to 
rushing, as though for the throat, when, sud 
denly drawing back his head and curving in from 
the side, he would drive his shoulder at the 
shoulder of Spitz, as a ram by which to over 
throw him. But instead, Buck s shoulder was 
slashed down each time as Spitz leaped lightly 
away. 

Spitz was untouched, while Buck was 
streaming with blood and panting hard. The 
fight was growing desperate. And all the while 
the silent and wolfish circle waited to finish off 
whichever dog went down. As Buck grew 
winded, Spitz took to rushing, and he kept him 
staggering for footing. Once Buck went over, 
and the whole circle of sixty dogs started up; 
but he recovered himself, almost in mid air, and 
the circle sank down again and waited. 

But Buck possessed a quality that made for 



DOMINANT PRIMORDIAL BEAST 79 

greatness imagination. He fought by in 
stinct, but he could fight by head as well. He 
rushed, as though attempting the old shoulder 
trick, but at the last instant swept low to the 
snow and in. His teeth closed on Spitz s left 
fore leg. There was a crunch of breaking 
bone, and the white dog faced him on three 
legs. Thrice he tried to knock him over, then 
repeated the trick and broke the right fore leg. 
Despite the pain and helplessness, Spitz strug 
gled madly to keep up. He saw the silent 
circle, with gleaming eyes, lolling tongues, and 
silvery breaths drifting upward, closing in upon 
him as he had seen similar circles close in upon 
beaten antagonists in the past. Only this time 
he was the one who was beaten. 

There was no hope for him. Buck was in 
exorable. Mercy was a thing reserved for 
gentler climes. He manoeuvred for the final 
rush. This circle had tightened till he could 
feel the breaths of the huskies on his flanks. 
He could see them, beyond Spitz and to either 
side, half crouching for the spring, their eyes 
fixed upon him. A pause seemed to fall. 



80 THE CALL OF THE WILD 

Every animal was motionless as though turned 
to stone. Only Spitz quivered and bristled as 
he staggered back and forth, snarling with hor 
rible menace, as though to frighten off impend 
ing death. Then Buck sprang in and out; but 
while he was in, shoulder had at last squarely 
met shoulder. The dark circle became a dot 
on the moon-flooded snow as Spitz disappeared 
from view. Buck stood and looked on, the 
successful champion, the dominant primordial 
beast who had made his kill and found it good. 



IV 
WHO HAS WON TO MASTERSHIP 



IV 
Who Has Won to Mastership 

"" "VH? Wot I say? I spik true w en I 
i say dat Buck two devils." 

This was Francois s speech next 
morning when he discovered Spitz missing and 
Buck covered with wounds. He drew him to 
the fire and by its light pointed them out. 

" Dat Spitz fight lak hell," said Perrauit, as 
he surveyed the gaping rips and cuts. 

"An dat Buck fight lak two hells," was 
Francois s answer. " An now we make good 
time. No more Spitz, no more trouble, sure." 

While Perrauit packed the camp outfit and 
loaded the sled, the dog-driver proceeded to 
harness the dogs. Buck trotted up to the place 
Spitz would have occupied as leader; but Fran 
ks, not noticing him, brought Sol-leks to the 
83 



84 THE CALL OF THE WILD 

coveted position. In his judgment, Sol-leks was 
the best lead-dog left. Buck sprang upon Sol- 
leks in a fury, driving him back and standing 
in his place. 

"Eh? eh?" Francois cried, slapping his 
thighs gleefully. " Look at dat Buck. Heem 
keel dat Spitz, heem fink to take de job." 

" Go way, Chook! " he cried, but Buck re 
fused to budge. 

He took Buck by the scruff of the neck, and 
though the dog growled threateningly, dragged 
him to one side and replaced Sol-leks. The 
old dog did not like it, and showed plainly that 
he was afraid of Buck. Francois was obdurate, 
but when he turned his back Buck again dis 
placed Sol-leks, who was not at all unwilling to 
go. 

. Francois was angry. " Now, by Gar, I feex 
you! " he cried, coming back with a heavy club 
in his hand. 

Buck remembered the man in the red 
sweater, and retreated slowly: nor did he at 
tempt to charge in when Sol-leks was once more 
brought forward. But he circled just beyond 



WHO HAS WON TO MASTERSHIP 85 

the range of the club, snarling with bitterness 
and rage; and while he circled he watched the 
club so as to dodge it if thrown by Franqois, for 
he was become wise in the way of clubs. 

The driver went about his work, and he 
called to Buck when he was ready to put him in 
his old place in front of Dave. Buck retreated 
two or three steps. Francois followed him up, 
whereupon he again retreated. After some 
time of this, Francois threw down the club, 
thinking that Buck feared a thrashing. But 
Buck was in open revolt. He wanted, not to 
escape a clubbing, but to have the leadership. 
It was his by right. He had earned it, and he 
would not be content with less. 

Perrault took a hand. Between them they 
ran him about for the better part of an hour 
They threw clubs at him. He dodged. They 
cursed him, and his fathers and mothers before 
him, and all his seed to come after him down 
to the remotest generation, and every hair on 
his body and drop of blood in his veins; and 
he answered curse with snarl and kept out of 
their reach. He did not try to run away, but 



86 THE CALL OF THE WILD 

retreated around and around the camp, adver 
tising plainly that when his desire was met, he 
would come in and be good. 

Frangois sat down and scratched his head. 
Perrault looked at his watch and swore. Time 
was flying, and they should have been on the 
trail an hour gone. Francois scratched his 
head again. He shook it and grinned sheep 
ishly at the courier, who shrugged his shoul 
ders in sign that they were beaten. Then 
Francois went up to where Sol-leks stood and 
called to Buck. Buck laughed, as dogs laugh, 
yet kept his distance. Francois unfastened 
Sol-lek s traces and put him back in his old 
place. The team stood harnessed to the sled 
in an unbroken line, ready for the trail. 
There was no place for Buck save at the front. 
Once more Francois called, and once more 
Buck laughed and kept away. 

" T row down de club," Perrault commanded. 

Francois complied, whereupon Buck trotted 
in, laughing triumphantly, and swung around 
into position at the head of the team. His 
traces were fastened, the sled broken out, and 



WHO HAS WON TO MASTERSHIP 87 

with both men running they dashed out on to 
the river trail. 

Highly as the dog-driver had forevalued 
Buck, with his two devils, he found, while the 
day was yet young, that he had undervalued. 
At a bound Buck took up the duties of leader 
ship; and where judgment was required, and 
quick thinking and quick acting, he showed 
himself the superior even of Spitz, of whom 
Francois had never seen an equal. 

But it was in giving the law and making his 
mates live up to it, that Buck excelled. Dave 
and Sol-leks did not mind the change in leader 
ship. It was none of their business. Their 
business was to toil, and toil mightily, in the 
traces. So long as that were not interfered 
with, they did not care what happened. Billee, 
the good-natured, could lead for all they cared, 
so long as he kept order. The rest of the team, 
however, had grown unruly during the last 
days of Spitz, and their surprise was great now 
that Buck proceeded to lick them into shape. 

Pike, who pulled at Buck s heels, and who 
never put an ounce more of his weight against 



88 THE CALL OF THE WILD 

the breast-band than he was compelled to do, 
was swiftly and repeatedly shaken for loafing; 
and ere the first day was done he was pulling 
more than ever before in his life. The first 
night in camp, Joe, the sour one, was punished 
roundly a thing that Spitz had never suc 
ceeded in doing. Buck simply smothered him 
by virtue of superior weight, and cut him up 
till he ceased snapping and began to whine for 
mercy. 

The general tone of the team picked up 
immediately. It recovered its old-time soli 
darity, and once more the dogs leaped as one 
dog in the traces. At the Rink Rapids two 
native huskies, Teek and Koona, were added; 
and the celerity with which Buck broke them 
in took away Francois s breath. 

" Nevaire such a dog as dat Buck!" he 
cried. ci No, nevaire ! Heem worth one 
t ousan dollair, by Gar! Eh? Wot you 
say, Perrault? " 

And Perrault nodded. He was ahead of 
the record then, and gaining day by day. 
The trail was in excellent condition, well 



WHO HAS WON TO MASTERSHIP 89 

packed and hard, and there was no new-fallen 
snow with which to contend. It was not too 
cold. The temperature dropped to fifty below 
zero and remained there on the whole trip. 
The men rode and ran by turn, and the dogs 
were kept on the jump, with but infrequent 
stoppages. 

The Thirty Mile River was comparatively 
coated with ice, and they covered in one day 
going out what had taken them ten days 
coming in. In one run they made a sixty- 
mile dash from the foot of Lake Le Barge 
to the White Horse Rapids. Across Marsh, 
Tagish, and Bennett (seventy miles of lakes), 
they flew so fast that the man whose turn it 
was to run towed behind the sled at the end of 
a rope. And on the last night of the second 
week they topped White Pass and dropped 
down the sea slope with the lights of Skaguay 
and of the shipping at their feet. 

It was a record run. Each day for fourteen 
days they had averaged forty miles. For three 
days Perrault and Franqots threw chests up 
and down the main street of Skaguay and were 



90 THE CALL OF THE WILD 

deluged with invitations to drink, while the 
team was the constant centre of a worshipful 
crowd of dog-busters and mushers. Then 
three or four western bad men aspired to 
clean out the town, were riddled like pepper 
boxes for their pains, and public interest 
turned to other idols. Next came official 
orders. Francois called Buck to him, threw 
his arms around him, wept over him. And 
that was the last of Franqois and Perrault. 
Like other men, they passed out of Buck s 
life for good. 

A Scotch half-breed took charge of him and 
his mates, and in company with a dozen other 
dog-teams he started back over the weary trail 
to Dawson. It was no light running now, nor 
record time, but heavy toil each day, with a 
heavy load behind ; for this was the mail train, 
carrying word from the world to the men who 
sought gold under the shadow of the Pole. 

Buck did not like it, but he bore up well to 
the work, taking pride in it after the manner 
of Dave and Sol-leks, and seeing that his 
mates, whether they prided in it or not, did 



WHO HAS WON TO MASTERSHIP 91 

their fair share. It was a monotonous life, 
operating with machine-like regularity. One 
day was very like another. At a certain time 
each morning the cooks turned out, fires were 
built, and breakfast was eaten. Then, while 
some broke camp, others harnessed the dogs, 
and they were under way an hour or so before 
the darkness fell which gave warning of dawn. 
At night, camp was made. Some pitched the 
flies, others cut firewood and pine boughs for 
the beds, and still others carried water or ice 
for the cooks. Also, the dogs were fed. To 
them, this was the one feature of the day, 
though it was good to loaf around, after the 
fish was eaten, for an hour or so with the other 
dogs, of which there were fivescore and odd. 
There were fierce fighters among them, but 
three battles with the fiercest brought Buck 
to mastery, so that when he bristled and 
showed his teeth they got out of his way. 

Best of all, perhaps, he loved to lie near the 
fire, hind legs crouched under him, fore legs 
stretched out in front, head raised, and eyes 
blinking dreamily at the flames. Sometimes 



92 THE CALL OF THE WILD 

he thought of Judge Miller s big house in the 
sun-kissed Santa Clara Valley, and of the 
cement swimming-tank, and Ysabel, the Mexi 
can hairless, and Toots, the Japanese pug; 
but oftener he remembered the man in the 
red sweater, the death of Curly, the great fight 
with Spitz, and the good things he had eaten 
or would like to eat. He was not homesick. 
The Sunland was very dim and distant, and such 
memories had no power over him. Far more 
potent were the memories of his heredity that 
gave things he had never seen before a seeming 
familiarity; the instincts (which were but the 
memories of his ancestors become habits) 
which had lapsed in later days, and still later, 
in him, quickened and became alive again. 

Sometimes as he crouched there, blinking 
dreamily at the flames, it seemed that the 
flames were of another fire, and that as he 
crouched by this other fire he saw another and 
different man from the half-breed cook before 
him. This other man was shorter of leg and 
longer of arm, with muscles that were stringy 
and knotty rather than rounded and swelling. 



WHO HAS WON TO MASTERSHIP 93 

The hair of this man was long and matted, 
and his head slanted back under it from the 
eyes. He uttered strange sounds, and seemed 
very much afraid of the darkness, into which 
he peered continually, clutching in his hand, 
which hung midway between knee and foot, a 
stick with a heavy stone made fast to the end. 
He was all but naked, a ragged and fire- 
scorched skin hanging part way down his back, 
but on his body there was much hair. In some 
places, across the chest and shoulders and 
down the outside of the arms and thighs, it 
was matted into almost a thick fur. He did 
not stand erect, but with trunk inclined for 
ward from the hips, on legs that bent at the 
knees. About his body there was a peculiar 
springiness, or resiliency, almost catlike, and a 
quick alertness as of one who lived in perpetual 
fear of things seen and unseen. 

At other times this hairy man squatted by 
the fire with head between his legs and slept. 
On such occasions his elbows were on his 
knees, his hands clasped above his head as 
though to shed rain by the hairy arms. And 



94 THE CALL OF THE WILD 

beyond that fire, in the circling darkness, Buck 
could see many gleaming coals, two by two, 
always two by two, which he knew to be the 
eye s of great beasts of prey. And he could 
hear the crashing of their bodies through the 
undergrowth, and the noises they made in the 
night. And dreaming there by the Yukon 
bank, with laxy eyes blinking at the fire, these 
sounds and sights of another world would 
make the hair to rise along his back and stand 
on end across his shoulders and up his neck, till 
he whimpered low and suppressedly, or growled 
softly, and the half-breed cook shouted at him, 
" Hey, you Buck, wake up !" Whereupon the 
other world would vanish and the real world 
come into his eyes, and he would get up and 
yawn and stretch as though he had been asleep. 
It was a hard trip, with the mail behind 
them, and the heavy work wore them down. 
They were short of weight and in poor condi 
tion when they made Dawson, and should have 
had had a ten days or a week s rest at least. 
But in two days time they dropped down the 
Yukon bank from the Barracks, loaded with 



WHO HAS WON TO MASTERSHIP 95 

letters for the outside. The dogs were tired, 
the drivers grumbling, and to make matters 
worse, it snowed every day. This meant a 
soft trail, greater friction on the runners, and 
heavier pulling for the dogs, yet the drivers 
were fair through it all, and did their best for 
the animals. 

Each night the dogs were attended to first. 
They ate before the drivers ate, and no man 
sought his sleeping-robe till he had seen to the 
feet of the dogs he drove. Still, their strength 
went down. Since the beginning of the winter 
they had travelled eighteen hundred miles, 
dragging sleds the whole weary distance; and 
eighteen hundred miles will tell upon life of 
the toughest. Buck stood it, keeping his 
mates up to their work and maintaining dis 
cipline, though he too was very tired. Billee 
cried and whimpered regularly in his sleep each 
night. Joe was sourer than ever, and Sol-leks 
was unapproachable, blind side or other side. 

But it was Dave who suffered most of all. 
Something had gone wrong with him. He 
became more morose and irritable, and when 



96 THE CALL OF THE WILD 

camp was pitched at once made his nest, where 
his driver fed him. Once out of the harness 
and down, he did not get on his feet again till 
harness-up time in the morning. Sometimes, 
in the traces, when jerked by a sudden stop 
page of the sled, or by straining to start it, he 
would cry out with pain. The driver examined 
him, but could find nothing. All the drivers 
became interested in his case. They talked it 
over at meal-time, and over their last pipes 
before going to bed, and one night they held a 
consultation. He was brought from his nest 
to the fire and was pressed and prodded till he 
cried out many times. Something was wrong 
inside, but they could locate no broken bones, 
could not make it out. 

By the time Cassiar Bar was reached, he 
was so weak that he was falling repeatedly in 
the traces. The Scotch half-breed called a halt 
and took him out of the team, making the next 
dog, Sol-leks, fast to the sled. His intention 
was to rest Dave, letting him run free behind 
the sled. Sick as he was, Dave resented being 
taken out, grunting and growling while the 



WHO HAS WON TO MASTERSHIP 97 

traces were unfastened, and whimpering broken- 
heartedly when he saw Sol-leks in the position 
he had held and served so long. For the pride 
of trace and trail was his, and, sick unto death, 
he could not bear that another dog should do 
his work. 

When the sled started, he floundered in the 
soft snow alongside the beaten trail, attacking 
Sol-leks with his teeth, rushing against him and 
trying to thrust him off into the soft snow on 
the other side, striving to leap inside his trace* 
and get between him and the sled, and all the 
while whining and yelping and crying with grief 
and pain. The half-breed tried to drive him 
away with the whip, but he paid no heed to the 
stinging lash, and the man had not the heart 
to strike harder. Dave refused to run quietly 
on the trail behind the sled, where the going 
was easy, but continued to flounder alongside in 
the soft snow, where the going was most diffi 
cult, till exhausted. Then he fell, and lay 
where he fell, howling lugubriously as the long 
train of sleds churned by. 

With the last remnant of his strength he 



9 8 THE CALL OF THE WILD 

managed to stagger along behind till the train 
made another stop, when he floundered past 
the sleds to his own, where he stood alongside 
Sol-leks. His driver lingered a moment to get 
a light for his pipe from the man behind. 
Then he returned and started his dogs. They 
swung out on the trail with remarkable lack 
of exertion, turned their heads uneasily, and 
stopped in surprise. The driver was surprised, 
too; the sled had not moved. He called his 
comrades to witness the sight. Dave had bit 
ten through both of Sol-leks s traces, and was 
standing directly in front of the sled in his 
proper place. 

He pleaded with his eyes to remain there. 
The driver was perplexed. His comrades 
talked of how a dog could break its heart 
through being denied the work that killed it, 
and recalled instances they had known, where 
dogs, too old for the toil, or injured, had died 
because they were cut out of the traces. Also, 
they held it a mercy, since Dave was to die 
anyway, that he should die in the traces, heart- 
easy and content. So he was harnessed in 



WHO HAS WON TO MASTERSHIP 99 

again, and proudly he pulled as of old, though 
more than once he cried out involuntarily from 
the bite of his inward hurt. Several times he 
fell down and was dragged in the traces, and 
once the sled ran upon him so that he limped 
thereafter in one of his hind legs. 

But he held out till camp was reached, when 
his driver made a place for him by the fire. 
Morning found him too weak to travel. At 
harness-up time he tried to crawl to his driver. 
By convulsive efforts he got on his feet, stag 
gered, and fell. Then he wormed his way 
forward slowly toward where the harnesses 
were being put on his mates. He would ad 
vance his fore legs and drag up his body with 
a sort of hitching movement, when he would 
advance his fore legs and hitch ahead again for 
a few more inches. His strength left him, and 
the last his mates saw of him he lay gasping 
in th^ snow and yearning toward them. But 
they could hear him mournfully howling till 
they passed out of sight behind a belt of river 
timber. 

Here the train was halted. The Scotch half- 



100 THE CALL OF THE WILD 

breed slowly retraced his steps to the camp 
they had left. The men ceased talking. A 
revolver-shot rang out. The man came back 
hurriedly. The whips snapped, the bells tin 
kled merrily, the sleds churned along the trail ; 
but Buck knew, and every dog knew, what had 
taken place behind the belt of river trees. 



V 

THE TOIL OF TRACE AND TRAIL 



The Toil of Trace and Trail 

THIRTY days from the time it left 
Dawson, the Salt Water Mail, with 
Buck and his mates at the fore, ar 
rived at Skaguay. They were in a wretched 
state, worn out and worn down. Buck s one 
hundred and forty pounds had dwindled to 
one hundred and fifteen. The rest of his 
mates, though lighter dogs, had relatively lost 
more weight than he. Pike, the malingerer, 
who, in his lifetime of deceit, had often suc 
cessfully feigned a hurt leg, was now limping 
in earnest. Sol-leks was limping, and Duh was 
suffering from a wrenched shoulder-blade. 

They were all terribly footsore. No spring 
or rebound was left in them. Their feet fell 
heavily on the trail, jarring their bodies and 
doubling the fatigue of a day s travel. There 
was nothing the matter with them except that 

103 



104 THE CALL OF THE WILD 

they were dead tired. It was not the dead- 
tiredness that comes through brief and exces 
sive effort, from which recovery is a matter of 
hours; but it was the dead-tiredness that comes 
through the slow and prolonged strength drain 
age of months of toil. There was no power of 
recuperation left, no reserve strength to call 
upon. It had been all used, the last least bit of 
it. Every muscle, every fibre, every cell, was 
tired, dead tired. And there was reason for it. 
In less than five months they had travelled 
twenty-five hundred miles, during the last 
eighteen hundred of which they had had but five 
days rest. When they arrived at Skaguay they 
were apparently on their last legs. They could 
barely keep the traces taut, and on the down 
grades just managed to keep out of the way 
of the sled. 

" Mush on, poor sore feets," the driver en 
couraged them as they tottered down the main 
street of Skaguay. " Dis is de las . Den we 
get one long res . Eh? For sure. One bully 
long res ." 

The drivers confidently expected a long stop- 



THE TOIL OF TRACE AND TRAIL 105 

over. Themselves, they had covered twelve 
hundred miles with two days rest, and in the 
nature of reason and common justice they de 
served an interval of loafing. But so many 
were the men who had rushed into the Klon 
dike, and so many were the sweethearts, wives, 
and kin that had not rushed in, that the con 
gested mail was taking on Alpine proportions; 
also, there were official orders. Fresh batches 
of Hudson Bay dogs were to take the places of 
those worthless for the trail. The worthless 
ones were to be got rid of, and, since dogs count 
for little against dollars, they were to be sold. 
Three days passed, by which time Buck and 
his mates found how really tired and weak they 
were. Then, on the morning of the fourth 
day, two men from the States came along and 
bought them, harness and all, for a song. The 
men addressed each other as " Hal " and 
" Charles." Charles was a middle-aged, light 
ish-colored man, with weak and watery eyes 
and a mustache that twisted fiercely and vigor 
ously up, giving the lie to the limply drooping 
lip it concealed. Hal was a youngster of nine- 



io6 THE CALL OF THE WILD 

teen or twenty, with a big Colt s revolver and 
a hunting-knife strapped about him on a belt 
that fairly bristled with cartridges. This belt 
was the most salient thing about him. It ad 
vertised his callowness a callowness sheer 
and unutterable. Both men were manifestly 
out of place, and why such as they should ad 
venture the North is part of the mystery of 
things that passes understanding. 

Buck heard the chaffering, saw the money 
pass between the man and the Government 
agent, and knew that the Scotch half-breed and 
the mail-train drivers were passing out of his 
life on the heels of Perrault and Francois and 
the others who had gone before. When driven 
with his mates to the new owners camp. Buck 
saw a slipshod and slovenly affair, tent half 
stretched, dishes unwashed, everything in dis 
order; also, he saw a woman. u Mercedes " 
the men called her. She was Charles s wife 
and Hal s sister a nice family party. 

Buck watched them apprehensively as they 
proceeded to take down the tent and load the 
sled. There was a great deal of effort about 



THE TOIL OF TRACE AND TRAIL 107 

their manner, but no businesslike method. The 
tent was rolled into an awkward bundle three 
times as large as it should have been. The tin 
dishes were packed away unwashed. Mercedes 
continually fluttered in the way of her men and * 
kept up an unbroken chattering of remonstrance 
and advice. When they put a clothes-sack on 
the front of the sled, she suggested it should 
go on the back; and when they had it put on the 
back, and covered it over with a couple of other 
bundles, she discovered overlooked articles 
which could abide nowhere else but in that very 
sack, and they unloaded again. 

Three men from a neighboring tent came 
out and looked on, grinning and winking at one 
another. 

" YouVe got a right smart load as it is," 
said one of them; " and it s not me should tell 
you your business, but I wouldn t tote that tent 
along if I was you." 

" Undreamed of!" cried Mercedes, throw 
ing up her hands in dainty dismay. " How 
ever in the world could I manage without a 
tent?" 



io8 THE CALL OF THE WILD 

" It s springtime, and you won t get any more 
cold weather," the man replied. 

She shook her head decidedly, and Charles 
and Hal put the last odds and ends on top the 
mountainous load. 

" Think it ll ride? " one of the men asked. 

"Why shouldn t it?" Charles demanded 
rather shortly. 

" Oh, that s all right, that s all right," the 
man hastened meekly to say. " I was just 
a-wonderin , that is all. It seemed a mite top- 
heavy." 

Charles turned his back and drew the lash 
ings down as well as he could, which was not 
in the least well. 

" An of course the dogs can hike along all 
day with that contraption behind them," af 
firmed a second of the men. 

" Certainly," said Hal, with freezing polite 
ness, taking hold of the gee-pole with one 
hand and swinging his whip from the other. 
" Mush ! " he shouted. " Mush on there ! " 

The dogs sprang against the breastbands. 



THE TOIL OF TRACE AND TRAIL 109 

strained hard for a few moments, then relaxed. 
They were unable to move the sled. 

" The lazy brutes, I ll show them," he cried, 
preparing to lash out at them with the whip. 

But, Mercedes interfered, crying, " Oh, Hal, 
you mustn t," as she caught hold of the whip 
and wrenched it from him. " The poor dears ! 
Now you must promise* you won t be harsh with 
them for the rest of the trip, or I won t go a 
step." 

" Precious lot you know about dogs," her 
brother sneered; "and I wish you d leave me 
-alone. They re lazy, I tell you, and you ve got 
to whip them to get anything out of them. 
That s their way. You ask any one. Ask 
one of those men." 

Mercedes looked at them imploringly, untold 
repugnance at sight of pain written in her pretty 
face. 

4 They re weak as water, if you want to 
know," came the reply from one of the men. 
" Plum tuckered out, that s what s the matter. 
They need a rest." 



no THE CALL OF THE WILD 

" Rest be blanked," said Hal, with his beard 
less lips; and Mercedes said, "Oh!" in pain 
and sorrow at the oath. 

But she was a clannish creature, and rushed 
at once to the defence of her brother. " Never 
mind that man," she said pointedly. " You re 
driving our dogs, and you do what you think 
best with them." 

Again Hal s whip fell upon the dogs. They 
threw themselves against the breast-bands, dug 
their feet into the packed snow, got down low 
to it, and put forth all their strength. The 
sled held as though it were an anchor. After 
two efforts, they stood still, panting. The 
whip was whistling savagely, when once more 
Mercedes interfered. She dropped on her 
knees before Buck, with tears in her eyes, and 
put her arms around his neck. 

" You poor, poor dears," she cried sympa 
thetically, "why don t you pull hard? then 
you wouldn t be whipped." Buck did not like 
her, but he was feeling too miserable to resist 
her, taking it as part of the day s miserable 
work. 



THE TOIL OF TRACE AND TRAIL 1 1 1 

One of the onlookers, who had been clench 
ing his teeth to suppress hot speech, now spoke 
up: 

" It s not that I care a whoop what becomes 
of you, but for the dogs sakes I just want to 
tell you, you can help them a mighty lot by 
breaking out that sled. The runners are froze 
fast. Throw your weight against the gee-pole, 
right and left, and break it out." 

A third time the attempt was made, but this 
time, following the advice, Hal broke out the 
runners which had been frozen to the snow. 
The overloaded and unwieldy sled forged 
ahead, Buck and his mates struggling frantically 
under the rain of blows. A hundred yards 
ahead the path turned and sloped steeply into 
the mkin street. It would have required an ex 
perienced man to keep the top-heavy sled up 
right, and Hal was not such a man. As they 
swung on the turn the sled went over, spilling 
half its load through the loose lashings. The 
dogs never stopped. The lightened sled 
bounded on its side behind them. They were 
angry because of the ill treatment they had re- 



U2 THE CALL OF THE WILD 

ceived and the unjust load. Buck was raging. 
He broke into a run, the team following his 
lead. Hal cried "Whoa! whoa!" but they 
gave no heed. He tripped and was pulled off 
his feet. The capsized sled ground over him, 
and the dogs dashed on up the street, adding 
to the gayety of Skaguay as they scattered the 
remainder of the outfit along its chief thorough 
fare. 

Kind-hearted citizens caught the dogs and 
gathered up the scattered belongings. Also 
they gave advice. Half the load and twice the 
dogs, if they ever expected to reach Dawson, 
was what was said. Hal and his sister and 
brother-in-law listened unwillingly, pitched tent, 
and overhauled the outfit. Canned goods were 
turned out that made men laugh, for canned 
goods on the Long Trail is a thing to dream 
about. " Blankets for a hotel," quoth one of 
the men who laughed and helped. " Half as 
many is too much; get rid of them. Throw 
away that tent, and all those dishes, who s 
going to wash them, anyway? Good Lord, do 
you think you re travelling on a Pullman? " 



THE TOIL OF TRACE AND TRAIL 113 

And so it went, the inexorable elimination of 
the superfluous. Mercedes cried when her 
clothes-bag were dumped on the ground and 
article after article was thrown out. She cried 
in general, and she cried in particular over each 
discarded thing. She clasped hands about 
knees, rocking back and forth broken-heartedly. 
She averred she would not go an inch, not for 
a dozen Charleses. She appealed to every 
body and to everything, finally wiping her eyes 
and proceeding to cast out even articles of ap 
parel that were imperative necessaries. And 
in her zeal, when she had finished with her own, 
she attacked the belongings of her men and 
went through them like a tornado. 

This accomplished, the outfit, though cut in 
half, was still a formidable bulk. Charles and 
Hal went out in the evening and brought six 
Outside dogs. These, added to the six of the 
original team, and Teek and Koona, the huskies 
obtained at the Rink Rapids on the record trip, 
brought the team up to fourteen. But the Out 
side dogs, though practically broken in since 
their landing, did not amount to much. Three 



1 1 4 THE CALL OF THE WILD 

were short-haired pointers, one was a New- 
foundland, and the other two were mongrels of 
indeterminate breed. They did not seem to 
know anything, these newcomers. Buck and 
his comrades looked upon them with disgust, 
and though he speedily taught them their places 
and what not to do, he could not teach them 
what to do. They did not take kindly to trace 
and trail. With the exception of the two mon 
grels, they were bewildered and spirit-broken 
by the strange savage environment in which 
they found themselves and by the ill treatment 
they had received. The two mongrels were 
without spirit at all; bones were the only things 
breakable about them. 

With the newcomers hopeless and forlorn, 
and the old team worn out by twenty-five hun 
dred miles of continuous trail, the outlook was 
anything but bright. The two men, however, 
were quite cheerful. And they were proud, 
too. They were doing the thing in style, with 
fourteen dogs. They had seen other sleds de 
part over the Pass for Dawson, or come in from 
Dawson, but never had they seen a sled with so 



THE TOIL OF TRACE AND TRAIL 115 

many as fourteen dogs. In the nature of Arctic 
travel there was a reason why fourteen dogs 
should not drag one sled, and that was that 
one sled could not carry the food for fourteen 
dogs. But Charles and Hal did not know this. 
They had worked the trip out with a pencil, so 
much to a dog, so many dogs, so many days, 
Q. E. D. Mercedes looked over their shoul 
ders and nodded comprehensively, it was all so 
very simple. 

Late next morning Buck led the long team 
up the street. There was nothing lively about 
it, no snap or go in him and his fellows. They 
were starting dead weary. Four times he had 
covered the distance between Salt Water and 
Dawson, and the knowledge that, jaded and 
tired, he was facing the same trail once more, 
made him bitter. His heart was not in the 
work, nor was the heart of any dog. The Out- 
sides were timid and frightened, the Insides 
without confidence in their masters. 

Buck felt vaguely that there was no depend 
ing upon these two men and the woman. They 
did not know how to do anything, and as the 



Il6 THE CALL OF THE WILD 

days went by it became apparent that they 
could not learn. They were slack in all things, 
without order or discipline. It took them half 
the night to pitch a slovenly camp, and half the 
morning to break that camp and get the sled 
loaded in fashion so slovenly that for the rest 
of the day they were occupied in stopping and 
rearranging the load. Some days they did not 
make ten miles. On other days they were un 
able to get started at all. And on no day did 
they succeed in making more than half the dis 
tance used by the men as a basis in their dog- 
food computation. 

It was inevitable that they should go short 
on dog-food. But they hastened it by over 
feeding, bringing the day nearer when under 
feeding would commence. The Outside dogs, 
whose digestions had not been trained by 
chronic famine to make the most of little, had 
voracious appetites. And when, in addition to 
this, the worn-out huskies pulled weakly, Hal 
decided that the orthodox ration was too small. 
He doubled it. And to cap it all, when Mer 
cedes, with tears in her pretty eyes and a quaver 



THE TOIL OF TRACE AND TRAIL 117 

in her throat, could not cajole him into giving 
the dogs still more, she stole from the fish- 
sacks and fed them slyly. But it was not food 
that Buck and the huskies needed, but rest. 
And though they were making poor time, the 
heavy load they dragged sapped their strength 
severely. 

Then came the underfeeding. Hal awoke 
one day to the fact that his dog-food was half 
gone and the distance only quarter covered; 
further, that for love or money no additional 
dog-food was to be obtained. So he cut down 
even the orthodox ration and tried to increase 
the day s travel. His sister and brother-in-law 
seconded him; but they were frustrated by their 
heavy outfit and their own incompetence. It 
was a simple matter to give the dogs less food; 
but it was impossible to make the dogs travel 
faster, while their own inability to get under 
way earlier in the morning prevented them 
from travelling longer hours. Not only did 
they not know how to work dogs, but they did 
not know how to work themselves. 

The first to go was Dub. Poor blundering 



Ii8 THE CALL OF THE WILD 

thief that he was, always getting caught and 
punished, he had none the less been a faithful 
worker. His wrenched shoulder-blade, un 
treated and unrested, went from bad to worse, 
till finally Hal shot him with the big Colt s re 
volver. It is a saying of the country that an 
Outside dog starves to death on the ration of 
the husky, so the six Outside dogs under Buck 
could do no less than die on half the ration of 
the husky. The Newfoundland went first, fol 
lowed by the three short-haired pointers, the 
two mongrels hanging more grittily on to life, 
but going in the end. 

By this time all the amenities and gentle 
nesses of the Southland had fallen away from 
the three people. Shorn of its glamour and 
romance, Arctic travel became to them a reality 
too harsh for their manhood and womanhood. 
Mercedes ceased weeping over the dogs, being 
too occupied with weeping over herself and 
with quarrelling with her husband and brother. 
To quarrel was the one thing they were 
never too weary to do. Their irritability arose 
out of their misery, increased with it, doubled 



THE TOIL OF TRACE AND TRAIL 119 

upon it, outdistanced it. The wonderful pa 
tience of the trail which comes to men who 
toil hard and suffer sore, and remain sweet of 
speech and kindly, did not come to these two 
men and the woman. They had no inkling of 
such a patience. They were stiff and in pain; 
their muscles ached, their bones ached, their 
very hearts ached; and because of this they be 
came sharp of speech, and hard words were 
first on their lips in the morning and last at 
night. 

Charles and Hal wrangled whenever Mer 
cedes gave them a chance. It was the cher 
ished belief of each that he. did more than his 
share of the work, and neither forbore to 
speak this belief at every opportunity. Some 
times Mercedes sided with her husband, some 
times with her brother. The result was a 
beautiful and unending family quarrel. Start 
ing from a dispute as to which should chop a 
few sticks for the fire (a dispute which con 
cerned only Charles and Hal), presently would 
be lugged in the rest of the family, fathers, 
mothers, uncles, cousins, people thousands of 



120 THE CALL OF THE WILD 

miles away, and some of them dead. That 
Hal s views on art, or the sort of society plays 
his mother s brother wrote, should have any 
thing to do with the chopping of a few sticks of 
firewood, passes comprehension; nevertheless 
the quarrel was as likely to tend in that direc 
tion as in the direction of Charles s political 
prejudices. And that Charles s sister s tale 
bearing tongue should be relevant to the build 
ing of a Yukon fire, was apparent only to Mer 
cedes, who disburdened herself of copious opin 
ions upon that topic, and incidentally upon a few 
other traits unpleasantly peculiar to her hus 
band s family. In the meantime the fire re 
mained unbuilt, the camp half pitched, and 
the dogs unfed. 

Mercedes nursed a special grievance the 
grievance of sex. She was pretty and soft, and 
had been chivalrously treated all her days. 
But the present treatment by her husband and 
brother was everything save chivalrous. It 
was her custom to be helpless. They com 
plained. Upon which impeachment of what to 
her was her most essential sex-prerogative, she 



THE TOIL OF TRACE AND TRAIL 121 

made their lives unendurable. She no longer 
considered the dogs, and because she was sore 
and tired, she persisted in riding on the sled. 
She was pretty and soft, but she weighed one 
hundred and twenty pounds a lusty last straw 
to the load dragged by the weak and starving 
animals. She rode for days, till they fell in 
the traces and the sled stood still. Charles and 
Hal begged her to get off and walk, pleaded 
with her, entreated, the while she wept and im 
portuned Heaven with a recital of their bru 
tality. 

On one occasion they took her off the sled by 
main strength. They never did it again. She 
let her legs go limp like a spoiled child, and sat 
down on the trail. They went on their way, 
but she did not move. After they had travelled 
three miles they unloaded the sled, came back 
for her, and by main strength put her on the 
sled again. 

In the excess of their own misery they were 
callous to the suffering of their animals. Hal s 
theory, which le practised on others, was that 
one must get hardened. He had started out 



322 THE CALL OF THE WILD 

preaching it to his sister and brother-in-law. 
Failing there, he hammered it into the dogs 
with a club. At the Five Fingers the dog-food 
gave out, and a toothless old squaw offered to 
trade them a few pounds of frozen horse-hide 
for the Colt s revolver that kept the big hunt 
ing-knife company at Hal s hip. A poor sub 
stitute for food was this hide, just as it had 
been stripped from the starved horses of the 
cattlemen six months back. In its frozen state 
it was more like strips of galvanized iron, and 
when a dog wrestled it into his stomach it 
thawed into thin and innutritious leathery 
strings and into a mass of short hair, irritating 
and indigestible. 

And through it all Buck staggered along at 
the head of the team as in a nightmare. He 
pulled when he could; when he could no longer 
pull, he fell down and remained down til; blows 
from whip or club drove him to his feet again. 
All the stiffness and gloss had gone out of his 
beautiful furry coat. The hair hung down, 
limp and draggled, or matted with dried blood 
where Hal s club had bruised him. His mus- 



THE TOIL OF TRACE AND TRAIL 123 

cles had wasted away to knotty strings, and the 
flesh pads had disappeared, so that each rib 
and every bone in his frame were outlined 
cleanly through the loose hide that was wrinkled 
in folds of emptiness. It was heartbreaking, 
only Buck s heart was unbreakable. The man 
in the red sweater had proved that. 

As it was with Buck, so was it with his mates 
They were perambulating skeletons. Therp 
were seven all together, including him. In 
their very great misery they had become insen 
sible to the bite of the lash or the bruise of the 
club. The pain of the beating was dull and dis 
tant, just as the things their eyes saw and their 
ears heard seemed dull and distant. They 
were not half living, or quarter living. They 
were simply so many bags of bones in which 
sparks of life fluttered faintly. When a halt 
was made, they dropped down in the traces 
like dead dogs, and the spark dimmed and 
paled and seemed to go out. And when the 
club or whip fell upon them, the spark fluttered 
feebly up, and they tottered to their feet and 
staggered on. 



124 THE CALL OF THE WILD 

There came a day when Billee, the good- 
natured, fell and could not rise. Hal had 
traded off his revolver, so he took the axe and 
knocked Billee on the head as he lay in the 
traces, then cut the carcass out of the harness 
and dragged it to one side. Buck saw, and his 
mates saw, and they knew that this thing was 
very close to them. On the next day Koona 
went, and but five of them remained: Joe, too 
far gone to be malignant; Pike, crippled and 
limping, only half conscious and not conscious 
enough longer to malinger; Sol-leks, the one- 
eyed, still faithful to the toil of trace and trail, 
and mournful in that he had so little strength 
with which to pull; Teek, who had not travelled 
so far that winter and who was now beaten 
more than the others because he was fresher; 
and Buck, still at the head of the team, but no 
longer enforcing discipline or striving to en 
force it, blind with weakness half the time and 
keeping the trail by the loom of it and by the 
dim feel of his feet. 

It was beautiful spring weather, but neither 
dogs nor humans were aware of it. Each day 



THE TOIL OF TRACE AND TRAIL 125 

the sun rose earlier and set later. It was 
dawn by three in the morning, and twilight 
lingered till nine at night. The whole long 
day was a blaze of sunshine. The ghostly 
winter silence had given way to the great spring 
murmur of awakening life. This murmur 
arose from all the land, fraught with the joy 
of living. It came from the things that lived 
and moved again, things which had been as 
dead and which had not moved during the long 
months of frost. The sap was rising in the 
pines. The willows and aspens were bursting 
out in young buds. Shrubs and vines were put 
ting on fresh garbs of green. Crickets sang in 
the nights, and in the days all manner of creep 
ing, crawling things rustled forth into the sun. 
Partridges and woodpeckers were booming and 
knocking in the forest. Squirrels were chatter 
ing, birds singing} and overhead honked the 
wild-fowl driving up from the south in cunning 
wedges that split the air. 

From every hill slope came the trickle of 
running water, the music of unseen fountains. 
All things were thawing, bending, snapping. 



126 THE CALL OF THE WILD 

The Yukon was straining to break loose the iee 
that bound it down. It ate away from beneath ; 
the sun ate from above. Air-holes formed, 
fissures sprang and spread apart, while thin 
sections of ice fell through bodily into the river. 
And amid all this bursting, rending, throbbing 
of awakening life, under the blazing sun and 
through the soft-sighing breezes, like wayfarers 
to death, staggered the two men, the woman, 
and the huskies. 

With the dogs falling, Mercedes weeping and 
riding, Hal swearing innocuously, and Charles s 
eyes wistfully watering, they staggered into 
John Thornton s camp at the mouth of the 
White River. When they halted, the dogs 
dropped down as though they had all been 
struck dead. Mercedes dried her eyes and 
looked at John Thornton. Charles sat down 
on a log to rest. He sat down very slowly and 
painstakingly what of his great stiffness. Hal 
did the talking. John Thornton was whittling 
the last touches on an axe-handle he had made 
from a stick of birch. He whittled and lis 
tened, gave monosyllabic replies, and, when it 



THE TOIL OF TRACE AND TRAIL 127 

was asked, terse advice. He knew the breed, 
and he gave his advice in the certainty that it 
would not be followed. 

4 They told us up above that the bottom 
was dropping out of the trail and that the best 
thing for us to do was to lay over," Hal said 
in response to Thornton s warning to take no 
more chances on the rotten ice. " They told 
us we couldn t make White River, and here 
we are." This last with a sneering ring of tri 
umph in it. 

" And they told you true," John Thornton 
answered. " The bottom s likely to drop out 
at any moment. Only fools, with the blind 
luck of fools, could have made it. I tell you 
straight, I wouldn t risk my carcass on that ice 
for all the gold in Alaska." 

" That s because you re not a fool, I sup 
pose," said Hal. " All the same, we ll go on 
to Dawson." He uncoiled his whip. " Get up 
there, Buck! Hi! Get up there! Mush 
on!" 

Thornton went on whittling. It was idle, 
he knew, to get between a fool and his folly; 



128 THE CALL OF THE WILD 

while two or three fools more or less would 
not alter the scheme of things. 

But the team did not get up at the command. 
It had long since passed into the stage where 
blows were required to rouse it. The whip 
flashed out, here and there, on its merciless er 
rands. John Thornton compressed his lips. 
Sol-leks was the first to crawl to his feet. Teek 
followed. Joe came next, yelping with pain. 
Pike made painful efforts. Twice he fell over, 
when half up, and on the third attempt man 
aged to rise. Buck made no effort. He lay 
quietly where he had fallen. The lash bit into 
him again and again, but he neither whined nor 
struggled. Several times Thornton started, as 
though to speak, but changed his mind. A 
moisture came into his eyes, and, as the whip 
ping continued, he arose and walked irresolutely 
up and down. 

This was the first time Buck had failed, in 
itself a sufficient reason to drive Hal into a rage. 
He exchanged the whip for the customary club. 
Buck refused to move under the rain of heavier 
blows which now fell upon him. Like his 



THE TOIL OF TRACE AND TRAIL 129 

mates, he was barely able to get up, but, unlike 
them, he had made up his mind not to get up. 
He had a vague feeling of impending doom. 
This had been strong upon him when he pulled 
in to the bank, and it had not departed from 
him. What of the thin and rotten ice he had 
felt under his feet all day, it seemed that he 
sensed disaster close at hand, out there ahead 
on the ice where his master was trying to drive 
him. He refused to stir. So greatly had he 
suffered, and so far gone was he, that the 
blows did not hurt much. And as they con 
tinued to fall upon him, the spark of life within 
flickered and went down. It was nearly out. 
He felt strangely numb. As though from a 
great distance, he was aware that he was being 
beaten. The last sensations of pain left him. 
He no longer felt anything, though very faintly 
he could hear the impact of the club upon his 
body. But it was no longer his body, it seemed 
so far away. 

And then, suddenly, without warning, utter 
ing a cry that was inarticulate and more like 
the cry of an animal, John Thornton sprang 



I 3 o THE CALL OF THE WILD 

upon the man who wielded the club. Hal was 
hurled backward, as though struck by a falling 
tree. Mercedes screamed. Charles looked 
on wistfully, wiped his watery eyes, but did not 
get up because of his stiffness. 

John Thornton stood over Buck, struggling 
to control himself, too convulsed with rage to 
speak. 

" If you strike that dog again, I ll kill you," 
he at last managed to say in a choking voice. 

"It s my dog," Hal replied, wiping the blood 
from his mouth as he came back. " Get out 
of my way, or I ll fix you. I m going to Daw- 



son." 



Thornton stood between him and Buck, and 
evinced no intention of getting out of the way. 
Hal drew his long hunting-knife. Mercedes 
screamed, cried, laughed, and manifested the 
chaotic abandonment of hysteria. Thornton 
rapped Hal s knuckles with the axe-handle, 
knocking the knife to the ground. He rapped 
his knuckles again as he tried to pick it up. 
Then he stooped, picked it up himself, and with 
two strokes cut Buck s traces. 



THE TOIL OF TRACE AND TRAIL 131 

Hal had no fight left in him. Besides, his 
hands were full with his sister, or his arms, 
rather; while Buck was too near dead to be 
of further use in hauling the sled. A few 
minutes later they pulled out from the bank and 
down the river. Buck heard them go and 
raised his head to see. Pike was leading, Sol- 
leks was at the wheel, and between were Joe 
and Teek. They were limping and staggering. 
Mercedes was riding the loaded sled. Hal 
guided at the gee-pole, and Charles stumbled 
along in the rear. 

As Buck watched them, Thornton knelt be 
side him and with rough, kindly hands searched 
for broken bones. By the time his search had 
disclosed nothing more than many bruises and 
a state of terrible starvation, the sled was a 
quarter of a mile away. Dog and man watched 
it crawling along over the ice. Suddenly, they 
saw its back end drop down as into a rut, and 
the gee-pole, with Hal clinging to it, jerk into 
the air. Mercedes s scream came to their ears. 
They saw Charles turn and make one step to 
run back, and then a whole section of ice give 



I 3 2 THE CALL OF THE WILD 

way and dogs and humans disappear. A 
yawning hole was all that was to be seen. The 
bottom had dropped out of the trail. 

John Thornton and Buck looked at each 
other. 

" You poor devil," said John Thornton, and 
Buck licked his hand. 



VI 
FOR THE LOVE OF A MAN 



VI 

For the Love of a Man 

WHEN John Thornton froze his feet 
in the previous December, his part 
ners had made him comfortable and 
left him to get well, going on themselves up 
the river to get out a raft of saw-logs for Daw- 
son. He was still limping slightly at the time 
he rescued Buck, but with the continued warm 
weather even the slight limp left him. And 
here, lying by the river bank through the long 
spring days, watching the running water, listen 
ing lazily to the songs of birds and the hum of 
nature, Buck slowly won back his strength. 

A rest comes very good after one has trav 
elled three thousand miles, and it must be con 
fessed that Buck waxed lazy as his wounds 
healed, his muscles swelled out>, and the flesh 
came back to cover his bones. For that matter, 

i3S 



136 THE CALL OF THE WILD 

they were all loafing, Buck, John Thornton, 
and Skeet and Nig, waiting for the raft to 
come that was to carry them down to Dawson. 
Skeet was a little Irish setter who early made 
friends with Buck, who, in a dying condition, 
was unable to resent her first advances. She 
had the doctor trait which some dogs possess; 
and as a mother cat washes her kittens, so she 
washed and cleansed Buck s wounds. Regu 
larly, each morning after he had finished his 
breakfast, she performed her self-appointed 
task, till he came to look for her ministrations 
as much as he did for Thornton s. Nig, equally 
friendly, though less demonstrative, was a 
huge black dog, half bloodhound and half deer- 
hound, with eyes that laughed and a boundless 
good nature. 

To Buck s surprise these dogs manifested no 
jealousy toward him. They seemed to share 
the kindliness and largeness of John Thornton. 
As Buck grew stronger they enticed him into 
all sorts of ridiculous games, in which Thorn 
ton himself could not forbear to join; and in 
this fashion Buck romped through his conva- 



FOR THE LOVE OF A MAN 137 

lescence and into a new existence. Love, genu 
ine passionate love, was his for the first time. 
This he had never experienced at Judge Mil 
ler s down in the sun-kissed Santa Clara Valley. 
With the Judge s sons, hunting and tramping, 
it had been a working partnership; with the 
Judge s grandsons, a sort of pompous guar 
dianship; and with the Judge himself, a stately 
and dignified friendship. But love that was 
feverish and burning, that was adoration, that 
was madness, it had taken John Thornton to 
arouse. 

This man had saved his life, which was some 
thing; but, further, he was the ideal master. 
Other men saw to the welfare of their dogs 
from a sense of duty and business expediency; 
he s^w to the welfare of his as if they were 
his own children, because he could not help it. 
And he saw further. He never forgot a kindly 
greeting or a cheering word, and to sit down 
for a long talk with them (" gas " he called it) 
was as much his delight as theirs. He had a 
way of taking Buck s head roughly between 
his hands, and resting his own head upon Buck s, 



138 THE CALL OF THE WILD 

of shaking him back and forth, the while call 
ing him ill names that to Buck were love names. 
Buck knew no greater joy than that rough em 
brace and the sound of murmured oaths, and 
at each jerk back and forth it seemed that his 
heart would be shaken out of his body so great 
was its ecstasy. And when, released, he sprang 
to his feet, his mouth laughing, his eyes elo 
quent, his throat vibrant with unuttered sound, 
and in that fashion remained without move 
ment, John Thornton would reverently ex 
claim, "God! you can all but speak! " 

Buck had a trick of love expression that was 
akin to hurt. He would often seize Thornton s 
hand in his mouth and close so fiercely that 
the flesh bore the impress of his teeth for some 
time afterward. And as Buck understood the 
oaths to be love words, so the man understood 
this feigned bite for a caress. 

For the most part, however, Buck s love 
was expressed in adoration. While he went 
wild with happiness when Thornton touched 
him or spoke to him, he did not seek these 
tokens. Unlike Skeet, who was wont to shove 



FOR THE LOVE OF A MAN 139 

her nose under Thornton s hand and nudge and 
nudge till petted, or Nig, who would stalk up 
and rest his great head on Thornton s knee, 
Buck was content to adore at a distance. He 
would lie by the hour, eager, alert, at Thorn 
ton s feet, looking up into his face, dwelling 
upon it, studying it, following with keenest in 
terest each fleeting expression, every movement 
or change of feature. Or, as chance might 
have it, he would lie farther away, to the side or 
rear, watching the outlines of the man and the 
occasional movements of his body. And often, 
such was the communion in which they lived, 
the strength of Buck s gaze would draw John 
Thornton s head around, and he would return 
the gaze, without speech, his heart shining out 
of his eyes as Buck s heart shone out. 

For a long time after his rescue, Buck did 
not like Thornton to get out of his sight. 
From the moment he left the tent to when he 
entered it again, Buck would follow at his 
heels. His transient masters since he had 
come into the Northland had bred in him a 
fear that no master could be permanent. He 



1 40 THE CALL OF THE WILD 

was afraid that Thornton would pass out of his 
life as Perrault and Francois and the Scotch 
half-breed had passed out. Even in the night, 
in his dreams, he was haunted by this fear. 
At such times he would shake off sleep and 
creep through the chill to the flap of the tent, 
where he would stand and listen to the sound 
of his master s breathing. 

But in spite of this great love he bore John 
Thornton, which seemed to bespeak he soft 
civilizing influence, the strain of the primitive, 
which the Northland had aroused in him, re 
mained alive and active. Faithfulness and de 
votion, things born of fire and roof, were his, 
yet he retained his wildness and wiliness. He 
was a thing of the wild, come in from the wild 
to sit by John Thornton s fire, rather than a 
dog of the soft Southland stamped with the 
marks of generations of civilization. Because 
of his very great love, he could not steal from 
this man, -but from any other man, in any 
other camp, he did not hesitate an instant; 
while the cunning with which he stole enabled 
him to escape detection. 



FOR THE LOVE OF A MAN 141 

His face and body were scored by the teeth 
of many dogs, and he fought as fiercely as ever 
and more shrewdly. Skeet and Nig were too 
good-natured for quarrelling, besides, they 
belonged to John Thornton; but the strange 
dog, no matter what the breed or valor, swiftly 
acknowledged Buck s supremacy or found him 
self struggling for life with a terrible antagonist. 
And Buck was merciless. He had learned 
well the law of club anc fang, and he never 
forewent an advantage or drew back from a 
foe he had started on the way to Death. He 
had lessoned from Spitz, and from the chief 
fighting dogs of the police and mail, and knew 
there was no middle course. He must master 
or be mastered; while to show mercy was a 
weakness. Mercy did not exist in the primor 
dial life. It was misunderstood for fear, and 
such misunderstandings made for death. Kill 
or be killed, eat or be eaten, was the law; and 
this mandate, down out of the depths of Time, 
he obeyed. 

He was older than the days he had seen and 
the breaths he had drawn. He linked the past 



1 42 THE CALL OF THE WILD 

with the present, and the eternity behind him 
throbbed through him in a mighty rhythm to 
which he swayed as the tides and seasons 
swayed. He sat by John Thornton s fire, a 
broad-breasted dog, white-fanged and long- 
furred; but behind him were the shades of all 
manner of dogs, half-wolves and wild wolves, 
urgent and prompting, tasting the savor of the 
meat he ate, thirsting for the water he drank, 
scenting the wind w .h him, listening with him 
and telling him the sounds made by the wild 
life in the forest, dictating his moods, directing 
his actions, lying down to sleep with him when 
he lay down, and dreaming with him and be 
yond him and becoming themselves the stuff 
of his dreams. 

So peremptorily did these shades beckon him, 
that each day mankind and the claims of man 
kind slipped farther from him. Deep in the , 
forest a call was sounding, and as often as he 
heard this call, mysteriously thrilling and lur 
ing, he felt compelled to turn his back upon the 
fire and the beaten earth around it, and to plunge 
into the forest, and on and on, he knew not 



FOR THE LOVE OF A MAN 143 

where or why; nor did he wonder where or 
why, the call sounding imperiously, deep in the 
forest. But as often as he gained the soft un 
broken earth and the green shade, the love for 
John Thornton drew him back to the fire 
again. 

Thornton alone held him. The rest of man 
kind was as nothing. Chance travellers might 
praise or pet him; but he was cold under it all, 
and from a too demonstrative man he would 
get up and walk away. When Thornton s 
partners, Hans and Pete, arrived on the long- 
expected raft, Buck refused to notice them till 
he learned they were close to Thornton; after 
that he tolerated them in a passive sort of way, 
accepting favors from them as though he fa 
vored them by accepting. They were of the 
same large type as Thornton, living close to 
the earth, thinking simply and seeing clearly; 
and ere they swung the raft into the big eddy by 
the saw-mill at Dawson, they understood Buck 
and his ways, and did not insist upon an in 
timacy such as obtained with Skeet and Nig. 

For Thornton, however, his love seemed to 



144 THE CALL OF THE WILD 

grow and grow. He, alone among men, could 
put a pack upon Buck s back in the summer 
travelling. Nothing was too great for Buck to 
do, when Thornton commanded. One day 
(they had grub-staked themselves from the pro 
ceeds of the raft and left Dawson for the head 
waters of the Tanana) the men and dogs were 
sitting on the crest of a cliff which fell away, 
straight down, to naked bed-rock three hun 
dred feet below. John Thornton was sitting 
near the edge, Buck at his shoulder. A 
thoughtless whim seized Thornton, and he drew 
the attention of Hans and Pete to the experi 
ment he had in mind. "Jump, Buck!" he 
commanded, sweeping his arm out and over 
the chasm. The next instant he was grappling 
with Buck on the extreme edge, while Hans 
and Pete were dragging them back into safety. 

" It s uncanny," Pete said, after it was over 
and they had caught their speech. 

Thornton shook his head. " No, it is splen 
did, and it is terrible, too. Do you know, it 
sometimes makes me afraid." 

" I m not hankering to be the man that lays 



FOR THE LOVE OF A MAN 145 

hands on you while he s around, " Pete an 
nounced conclusively, nodding his head toward 
Buck. 

" Py Jingo ! " was Hans s contribution. 
" Not mineself either." 

It was at Circle City, ere the year was out, 
that Pete s apprehensions were realized. 
" Black " Burton, a man evil-tempered and 
malicious, had been picking a quarrel with a 
tenderfoot at the bar, when Thornton stepped 
good-naturedly between. Buck, as was his cus 
tom, was lying in a corner, head on paws, watch 
ing his master s every action. Burton struck 
out, without warning, straight from the shoul 
der. Thornton was sent spinning, and saved 
himself from falling only by clutching the rail 
of the bar. 

Those who were looking on heard what was 
neither bark nor yelp, but a something which 
is best described as a roar, and they saw Buck s 
body rise up in the air as he left the floor for 
Burton s throat. The man saved his life by 
instinctively throwing out his arm, but was 
hurled backward to the floor with Buck on top 



146 THE CALL OF THE WILD 

of him. Buck loosed his teeth from the flesh 
of the arm and drove in again for the throat. 
This time the man succeeded only in partly 
blocking, and his throat was torn open. Then 
the crowd was upon Buck, and he was driven 
off; but while a surgeon checked the bleeding, 
he prowled up and down, growling furiously, 
attempting to rush in, and being forced back by 
an array of hostile clubs. A " miners meet 
ing," called on the spot, decided that the dog 
had sufficient provocation, and Buck was dis 
charged. But his reputation was made, and 
from that day his name spread through every 
camp in Alaska. 

Later on, in the fall of the year, he saved 
John Thornton s life in quite another fashion. 
The three partners were lining a long and nar 
row poling-boat down a bad stretch of rapids 
on the Forty-Mile Creek. Hans and Pete 
moved along the bank, snubbing with a thin 
Manila rope from tree to tree, while Thornton 
remained in the boat, helping its descent by 
means of a pole, and shouting directions to the 
shore. Buck, on the bank, worried and anx- 



FOR THE LOVE OF A MAN 147 

ious, kept abreast of the boat, his eyes never off 
his master. 

At a particularly bad spot, where a ledge of 
barely submerged rocks jutted out into the 
river, Hans cast off the rope, and, while Thorn 
ton poled the boat out into the stream, ran down 
the bank with the end in his hand to snub the 
boat when it had cleared the ledge. This it 
did, and was flying down-stream in a current as 
swift as a mill-race, when Hans checked it with 
the rope and checked too suddenly. The boat 
flirted over and snubbed in to the bank bottom 
up, while Thornton, flung sheer out of it, was 
carried down-stream toward the worst part of 
the rapids, a stretch of wild water in which no 
swimmer could live. 

Buck had sprung in on the instant; and at 
the end of three hundred yards, amid a mad 
swirl of water, he overhauled Thornton. 
When he felt him grasp his tail, Buck headed 
for the bank, swimming with all his splendid 
strength. But the progress shoreward was 
slow, the progress down-stream amazingly 
rapid. From below came the fatal roaring 



148 THE CALL OF THE WILD 

where the wild current went wilder and was rent 
in shreds and spray by the rocks which thrust 
through like the teeth of an enormous comb. 
The suck of the water as it took the beginning 
of the last steep pitch was frightful, and Thorn 
ton knew that the shore was impossible. He 
scraped furiously over a rock, bruised across a 
second, and struck a third with crushing force. 
He clutched its slippery top with both hands, 
releasing Buck, and above the roar of the 
churning water shouted: " Go, Buck! Go! " 

Buck could not hold his own, and swept on 
down-stream, struggling desperately, but unable 
to win back. When he heard Thornton s com 
mand repeated, he partly reared out of the 
water, throwing his head high, as though for a 
last look, then turned obediently toward the 
bank. He swam powerfully and was dragged 
ashore by Pete and Hans at the very point 
where swimming ceased to be possible and de 
struction began. 

They knew that the time a man could cling 
to a slippery rock in the face of that driving 
current was a matter of minutes, and they ran 



FOR THE LOVE OF A MAN 149 

as fast as they could up the bank to a point 
far above where Thornton was hanging on. 
They attached the line with which they had 
been snubbing the boat to Buck s neck and 
shoulders, being careful that it should neither 
strangle him nor impede his swimming, and 
launched him into the stream. He struck out 
boldly, but not straight enough into the stream. 
He discovered the mistake too late, when 
Thornton was abreast of him and a bare half- 
dozen strokes away while he was being carried 
helplessly past. 

Hans promptly snubbed with the rope, as 
though Buck were a boat. The rope thus 
tightening on him in the sweep of the current, 
he was jerked under the surface, and under the 
surface he remained till his body struck against 
the bank and he was hauled out. He was half 
drowned, and Hans and Pete threw themselves 
upon him, pounding the breath into him and the 
water out of him. He staggered to his feet 
and fell down. The faint sound of Thorn 
ton s voice came to them, and though they 
could not make out the words of it, they knew 



150 THE CALL OF THE WILD 

that he was in his extremity. His master s 
voice acted on Buck like an electric shock. He 
sprang to his feet and ran up the bank ahead 
of the men to the point of his previous de 
parture. 

Again the rope was attached and he was 
launched, and again he struck out, but this time 
straight into the stream. He had miscalculated 
once, but he would not be guilty of it a second 
time. Hans paid out the rope, permitting no 
slack, while Pete kept it clear of coils. Buck 
held on till he was on a line straight above 
Thornton; then he turned, and with the speed 
of an express train headed down upon him. 
Thornton saw him coming, and, as Buck struck 
him like a battering ram, with the whole force 
of the current behind him, he reached up and 
closed with both arms around the shaggy neck. 
Hans snubbed the rope around the tree, and 
Buck and Thornton were jerked under the 
water. Strangling, suffocating, sometimes one 
uppermost and sometimes the other, dragging 
over the jagged bottom, smashing against rocks 
and snags, they veered into the bank. 



FOR THE LOVE OF A MAN 151 

Thornton came to, belly downward and 
being violently propelled back and forth across 
a drift log by Hans and Pete. His first glance 
was for Buck, over whose limp and apparently 
lifeless body Nig was setting up a howl, while 
Skeet was licking the wet face and closed eyes. 
Thornton was himself bruised and battered, 
and he went carefully over Buck s body, when 
he had been brought around, finding three 
broken ribs. 

" That settles it," he announced. " We 
camp right here." And camp they did, till 
Buck s ribs knitted and he was able to travel. 

That winter, at Dawson, Buck performed 
another exploit, not so heroic, perhaps, but one 
that put his name many notches higher on the 
totem-pole of Alaskan fame. This exploit was 
particularly gratifying to the three men; for 
they stood in need of the outfit which it fur 
nished, and were enabled to make a long- 
desired trip into the virgin East, where miners 
had not yet appeared. It was brought about 
by a conversation in the Eldorado Saloon, in 
which men waxed boastful of their favorite 



152 THE CALL OF THE WILD 

dogs. Buck, because of his record, was the 
target for these men, and Thornton was driven 
stoutly to defend him. At the end of half an 
hour one man stated that his dog could start 
a sled with five hundred pounds and walk off 
with it; a second bragged six hundred for his 
dog; and a third, seven hundred. 

" Pooh ! pooh ! " said John Thornton, 
" Buck can start a thousand pounds. " 

44 And break it out? and walk off with it for 
a hundred yards?" demanded Matthewson, a 
Bonanza King, he of the seven hundred vaunt. 

44 And break it out, and walk off with it for 
a hundred yards," John Thornton said coolly. 

44 Well," Matthewson said, slowly and de 
liberately, so that all could hear, 4t IVe got a 
thousand dollars that says he can t. And there 
it is." So saying, he slammed a sack of gold 
dust of the size of a bologna sausage down 
upon the bar. 

Nobody spoke. Thornton s bluff, if bluff it 
was, had been called. He could feel a flush 
of warm blood creeping up his face. His 
tongue had tricked him. He did not know 



FOR THE LOVE OF A MAN 153 

whether Buck could start a thousand pounds. 
Half a ton ! The enormousness of it appalled 
him. He had great faith in Buck s strength 
and had often thought him capable of starting 
such a load; but never, as now, had he faced 
the possibility of it; the eyes of a dozen men 
fixed upon him, silent and waiting. Further, 
he had no thousand dollars; nor had Hans or 
Pete. 

11 I ve got a sled standing outside now, with 
twenty fifty-pound sacks of flour on it," Mat- 
thewson went on with brutal directness, " so 
don t let that hinder you." 

Thornton did not reply. He did not know 
what to say. He glanced from face to face 
in the absent way of a man who has lost the 
power of thought and is seeking somewhere to 
find the thing that will start it going again. 
The face of Jim O Brien, a Mastodon King 
and old-time comrade, caught his eyes. It was 
as a cue to him, seeming to rouse him to do 
what he would never have dreamed of doing. 

" Can you lend me a thousand? " he asked, 
almost in a whisper. 



154 THE CALL OF THE WILD 

" Sure/ answered O Brien, thumping down 
a plethoric sack by the side of Matthewson s. 
" Though it s little faith I m having, John, 
that the beast can do the trick." 

The Eldorado emptied its occupants into the 
street to see the test. The tables were de 
serted, and the dealers and gamekeepers came 
forth to see the outcome of the wager and to 
lay odds. Several hundred men, furred and 
mittened, banked around the sled within easy 
distance. Matthewson s sled, loaded with a 
thousand pounds of flour, had been standing 
for a couple of hours, and in the intense cold (it 
was sixty below zero) the runners had frozen 
fast to the hard-packed snow. Men offered 
odds of two to one that Buck could not budge 
the sled. A quibble arose concerning the 
phrase " break out." O Brien contended it 
was Thornton s privilege to knock the runners 
loose, leaving Buck to " break it out " from 
a dead standstill. Matthewson insisted that 
the phrase included breaking the runners from 
the frozen grip of the snow. A majority of the 
men who had witnessed the making of the bet 



FOR THE LOVE OF A MAN 155 

decided in his favor, whereat the odds went up 
to three to one against Buck. 

There were no takers. Not a man believed 
him capable of the feat. Thornton had been 
hurried into the wager, heavy with doubt; and 
now that he looked at the sled itself, the con 
crete fact, with the regular team of ten dogs 
curled up in the snow before it, the more 
impossible the task appeared. Matthewson 
waxed jubilant. 

" Three to one ! " he proclaimed. " I ll lay 
you another thousand at that figure, Thornton. 
What d ye say ?" 

Thornton s doubt was strong in his face, but 
his fighting spirit was aroused the fighting 
spirit that soars above odds, fails to recognize 
the impossible, and is deaf to all save the 
clamor for battle. He called Hans and Pete 
to him. Their sacks were slim, and with his 
own the three partners could rake together only 
two hundred dollars. In the ebb of their for 
tunes, this sum was their total capital; yet they 
laid it unhesitatingly against Matthewson s six 
hundred. 



156 THE CALL OF THE WILD 

The team of ten dogs was unhitched, and 
Buck, with his own harness, was put into the 
sled. He had caught the contagion of the ex 
citement, and he felt that in some way he must 
do a great thing for John Thornton. Mur 
murs of admiration at his splendid appearance 
went up. He was in perfect condition, without 
an ounce of superfluous flesh, and the one hun 
dred and fifty pounds that he weighed were so 
many pounds of grit and virility. His furry 
coat shone with the sheen of silk. Down the 
neck and across the shoulders, his mane, in 
repose as it was, half bristled and seemed to lift 
with every movement as though excess of vigor 
made each particular hair alive and active. 
The great breast and heavy fore legs were no 
, more than in proportion with the rest of the 
body, where the muscles showed in tight rolls 
underneath the skin. Men felt these muscles 
and proclaimed them hard as iron, and the odds 
went down to two to one. 

" Gad, sir! Gad, sir! " stuttered a member 
of the latest dynasty, a king of the Skookum 
Benches. " I offer you eight hundred for him, 



FOR THE LOVE OF A MAN 157 

sir, before the test, sir; eight hundred just as 
he stands." 

Thornton shook his head and stepped to 
Buck s side. 

" You must stand off from him," Matthew- 
son protested. " Free play and plenty of 



room." 



The crowd fell silent; only could be heard 
the voices of the gamblers vainly offering two 
to one. Everybody acknowledged Buck a 
magnificent animal, but twenty fifty-pound sacks 
of flour bulked too large in their eyes for them 
to loosen their pouch-strings. 

Thornton knelt down by Buck s side. He 
took his head in his two hands and rested cheek 
on cheek. He did not playfully shake him, as 
was his wont, or murmur soft love curses; but 
he whispered in his ear. " As you love me, 
Buck. As you love me," was what he whis 
pered. Buck whined with suppressed eager 
ness. 

The crowd was watching curiously. The 
affair was growing mysterious. It seemed like 
a conjuration. As Thornton got to his feet, 



158 THE CALL OF THE WILD 

Buck seized his mittened hand between his 
jaws, pressing in with his teeth and releasing 
slowly, half-reluctantly. It was the answer, in 
terms, not of speech, but of love. Thornton 
stepped well back. 

" Now, Buck," he said. 

Buck tightened the traces, then slacked them 
for a matter of several inches. It was the way 
he had learned. 

"Gee!" Thornton s voice rang out, sharp 
in the tense silence. 

Buck swung to the right, ending the move 
ment in a plunge that took up the slack and 
with a sudden jerk arrested his one hundred 
and fifty pounds. The load quivered, and 
from under the runners arose a crisp crackling. 

"Haw!" Thornton commanded. 

Buck duplicated the manoeuvre, this time to 
the left. The crackling turned into a snapping, 
the sled pivoting and the runners slipping and 
grating several inches to the side. The sled 
was broken out. Men were holding their 
breaths, intensely unconscious of the fact. 

" Now, MUSH ! " 



FOR THE LOVE OF A MAN 159 

Thornton s command cracked out like a 
pistol-shot. Buck threw himself forward, 
tightening the traces with a jarring lunge. 
His whole body was gathered compactly to 
gether in the tremendous effort, the muscles 
writhing and knotting like live things under 
the silky fur. His great chest was low to the 
ground, his head forward and down, while his 
feet were flying like mad, the claws scarring 
the hard-packed snow in parallel grooves. 
The sled swayed and trembled, half-started 
forward. One of his feet slipped, and one man 
groaned aloud. Then the sled lurched ahead 
in what appeared a rapid succession of jerks, 
though it never really came to a dead stop 
again . . . half an inch ... an inch . . . 
two inches. . . . The jerks perceptibly dimin 
ished; as the sled gained momentum, he caught 
them up, till it was moving steadily along. 

Men gasped and began to breathe again, 
unaware that for a moment they had ceased to 
breathe. Thornton was running behind, en 
couraging Buck with short, cheery words. 
The distance had been measured off, and as he 



160 THE CALL OF THE WILD 

neared the pile of firewood which marked the 
end of the hundred yards, a cheer began to 
grow and grow, which burst into a roar as he 
passed the firewood and halted at command. 
Every man was tearing himself loose, even 
Matthewson. Hats and mittens were flying in 
the air. Men were shaking hands, it did not 
matter with whom, and bubbling over in a gen 
eral incoherent babel. 

But Thornton fell on his knees beside Buck. 
Head was against head, and he was shaking 
him back and forth. Those who hurried up 
heard him cursing Buck, and he cursed him 
long and fervently, and softly and lovingly. 

"Gad, sir! Gad, sir!" spluttered the 
Skookum Bench king. "I ll give you a 
thousand for him, sir, a thousand, sir twelve 
hundred, sir." 

Thornton rose to his feet. His eyes were 
wet. The tears were streaming frankly down 
his cheeks. u Sir," he said to the Skookum 
Bench king, " no, sir. You can go to hell, sir. 
It s the best I can do for you, sir." 

Buck seized Thornton s hand in his teeth. 



FOR THE LOVE OF A MAN 161 

Thornton shook him back and forth. As 
though animated by a common impulse, the on 
lookers drew back to a respectful distance, nor 
were they again indiscreet enough to interrupt. 



VII 
THE SOUNDING OF THE CALL 



VII 
The Sounding of the Call 

WHEN Buck earned sixteen hundred 
dollars in five minutes for John 
Thornton, he made it possible for 
his master to pay off certain debts and to 
journey with his partners into the East after a 
fabled lost mine, the history of which was as 
old as the history of the country. Many men 
had sought it; few had found it; and more 
than a few there were who had never returned 
from the quest. This lost mine was steeped 
in tragedy and shrouded in mystery. No one 
knew of the first man. The oldest tradition 
stopped before it got back to him. From the 
beginning there had been an ancient and ram 
shackle cabin. Dying men had sworn to it, and 
to the mine the site of which it marked, clinching 
their testimony with nuggets that were unlike 
any known grade of gold in the Northland. 

165 



1 66 THE CALL OF THE WILD 

But no living man had looted this treasure 
house, and the dead were dead; wherefore 
John Thornton and Pete and Hans, with 
Buck and half a dozen other dogs, faced into 
the East on an unknown trail to achieve where 
men and dogs as good as themselves had 
failed. They sledded seventy miles up the 
Yukon, swung to the left into the Stewart 
River, passed the Mayo and the McQuestion, 
and held on until the Stewart itself became a 
streamlet, threading the upstanding peaks which 
marked the backbone of the continent. 

John Thornton asked little of man or nature. 
He was unafraid of the wild. With a handful 
of salt and a rifle he could plungs into the 
wilderness and fare wherever he pleased and 
as long as he pleased. Being in no haste, In 
dian fashion, he hunted his dinner in the course 
of the day s travel; and if he failed to find it, 
like the Indian, he kept on travelling, secure in 
the knowledge that sooner or later he would 
come to it. So, on this great journey into the 
East, straight meat was the bill of fare, am 
munition and tools principally made up the load 



THE SOUNDING OF THE CALL 167 

on the sled, and the time-card was drawn upon 
the limitless future. 

To Buck it was boundless delight, this hunt 
ing, fishing, and indefinite wandering through 
strange places. For weeks at a time they 
would hold steadily, day after day, and for 
weeks upon end they would camp here and 
there, the dogs loafing and the men burning 
holes through frozen muck and gravel and 
washing countless pans of dirt by the heat of 
the fire. Sometimes they went hungry, some 
times they feasted riotously, all according to the 
abundance of game and the fortune of hunting. 
Summer arrived, and dogs and men packed on 
their backs, rafted across blue mountain lakes, 
and descended or ascended unknown rivers in 
slender boats whipsawed from the standing 
forest. 

The months came and went, and back and 
forth they twisted through the uncharted vast- 
ness, where no men were and yet where men 
had been if the Lost Cabin were true. They 
went across divides in summer blizzards, shiv 
ered under the midnight sun on naked moun- 



1 68 THE CALL OF THE WILD 

tains between the timber line and the eternal 
snows, dropped into summer valleys amid 
swarming gnats and flies, and in the shadows 
of glaciers picked strawberries and flowers as 
ripe and fair as any the Southland could boast. 
In the fall of the year they penetrated a weird 
lake country, sad and silent, where wild-fowl 
had been, but where then there was no life 
nor sign of life only the blowing of chill 
winds, the forming of ice in sheltered places, 
and the melancholy rippling of waves on lonely 
beaches. 

And through another winter they wandered 
on the obliterated trails of men who had gone 
before. Once, they came upon a path blazed 
through the forest, an ancient path, and the 
Lost Cabin seemed very near. But the path 
began nowhere and ended nowhere, and it 
remained mystery, as the man who made it 
and the reason he made it remained mystery. 
Another time they chanced upon the time- 
graven wreckage of a hunting lodge, and amid 
the shreds of rotted blankets John Thornton 
found a long-barrelled flint-lock. He knew it 



THE SOUNDING OF THE CALL 169 

for a Hudson Bay Company gun of the young 
days in the Northwest, when such a gun was 
worth its height in beaver skins packed flat. 
And that was all no hint as to the men who 
in an early day had reared the lodge and left 
the gun among the blankets. 

Spring came on once more, and at the end 
of all their wandering they found, not the Lost 
Cabin, but a shallow placer in a broad valley 
where the gold showed like yellow butter across 
the bottom of the washing-pan. They sought 
no farther. Each day they worked earned 
them thousands of dollars in clean dust and 
nuggets, and they worked every day. The gold 
was sacked in moose-hide bags, fifty pounds to 
the bag, and piled like so much firewood out 
side the spruce-bough lodge. Like giants they 
toiled, days flashing on the heels of days like 
dreams as they heaped the treasure up. 

There was nothing for the dogs to do, save 
the hauling in of meat now and again that 
Thornton killed, and Buck spent long hours 
musing by the fire. The vision of the short- 
legged hairy man came to him more frequently, 



1 7 o THE CALL OF THE WILD 

now that there was little work to be done; and 
often, blinking by the fire, Buck wandered with 
him in that other world which he remembered. 
The salient thing of this other world seemed 
fear. When he watched the hairy man sleep 
ing by the fire, head between his knees and 
hands clasped above, Buck saw that he slept 
restlessly, with many starts and awakenings, 
at which times he would peer fearfully into the 
darkness and fling more wood upon the fire. 
Did they walk by the beach of a sea, where the 
hairy man gathered shell-fish and ate them as 
he gathered, it was with eyes that roved every 
where for hidden danger and with legs pre 
pared to run like the wind at its first appear 
ance. Through the forest they crept noise 
lessly, Buck at the hairy man s heels; and they 
were alert and vigilant, the pair of them, ears 
twitching and moving and nostrils quivering, 
for the man heard and smelled as keenly as 
Buck. The hairy man could spring up into the 
trees and travel ahead as fast as on the ground, 
swinging by the arms from limb to limb, some 
times a dozen feet apart, letting go and catch- 



THE SOUNDING OF THE CALL 171 

ing, never falling, never missing his grip. In 
fact, he seemed as much at home among the 
trees as on the ground; and Buck had memories 
of nights of vigil spent beneath trees wherein 
the hairy man roosted, holding on tightly as he 
slept. 

And closely akin to the visions of the hairy 
man was the call still sounding in the depths 
of the forest. It filled him with a great unrest 
and strange desires. It caused him to feel a 
vague, sweet gladness, and he was aware of 
wild yearnings and stirrings for he knew not 
what. Sometimes he pursued the call into the 
forest, looking for it as though it were a tan 
gible thing, barking softly or defiantly, as the 
mood might dictate. He would thrust his nose 
into the cool wood moss, or into the black soil 
where long grasses grew, and snort with joy at 
the fat earth smells; or he would crouch for 
hours, as if in concealment, behind fungus-cov 
ered trunks of fallen trees, wide-eyed and wide- 
eared to all that moved and sounded about him. 
It might be, lying thus, that he hoped to sur 
prise this call he could not understand. But 



1 72 THE CALL OF THE WILD 

he did not know why he did these various 
things. He was impelled to do them, and did 
not reason about them at all. 

Irresistible impulses seized him. He would 
be lying in camp, dozing lazily in the heat of 
the day, when suddenly his head would lift and 
his ears cock up, intent and listening, and he 
would spring to his feet and dash away, and on 
and on, for hours, through the forest aisles and 
across the open spaces where the niggerheads 
bunched. He loved to run down dry water 
courses, and to creep and spy upon the bird life 
in the woods. For a day at a time he would 
lie in the underbrush where he could watch the 
partridges drumming and strutting up and 
down. But especially he loved to run in the 
dim twilight of the summer midnights, listening 
to the subdued and sleepy murmurs of the for 
est, reading signs and sounds as man may read 
a book, and seeking for the mysterious some 
thing that called called, waking or sleeping, 
at all times, for him to come. 

One night he sprang from sleep with a start, 
eager-eyed, nostrils quivering and scenting, his 



THE SOUNDING OF THE CALL 173 

mane bristling in recurrent waves. From the 
forest came the call (or one note of it, for the 
call was many noted), distinct and definite as 
never before, a long-drawn howl, like, yet 
unlike, any noise made by husky dog. And he 
knew it, in the old familiar way, as a sound 
heard before. He sprang through the sleeping 
camp and in swift silence dashed through the 
woods. As he drew closer to the cry he went 
more slowly, with caution in every movement, 
till he came to an open place among the trees, 
and looking out saw, erect on haunches, with 
nose pointed to the sky, a long, lean, timber 
wolf. 

He had made no noise, yet it ceased from 
its howling and tried to sense his presence. 
Buck stalked into the open, half crouching, 
body gathered compactly together, tail straight 
and stiff, feet falling with unwonted care. 
Every movement advertised commingled threat 
ening and overture of friendliness. It was the 
menacing truce that marks the meeting of wild 
beasts that prey. But the wolf fled at sight 
of him. He followed, with wild leapings, in a 



I 7 4 THE CALL OF THE WILD 

frenzy to overtake. He ran him into a blind 
channel, in the bed of the creek, where a tim 
ber jam barred the way. The wolf whirled 
about, pivoting on his hind legs after the fash 
ion of Joe and of all cornered husky dogs, 
snarling and bristling, clipping his teeth to 
gether in a continuous and rapid succession 
of snaps. 

Buck did not attack, but circled him about 
and hedged him in with friendly advances. 
The wolf was suspicious and afraid; for Buck 
made three of him in weight, while his head 
barely reached Buck s shoulder. Watching his 
chance, he darted away, and the chase was 
resumed. Time and again he was cornered, 
and the thing repeated, though he was in poor 
condition or Buck could not so easily have 
overtaken him. He would run till Buck s 
head was even with his flank, when he would 
whirl around at bay, only to dash away again 
at the first opportunity. 

But in the end Buck s pertinacity was re 
warded; for the wolf, finding that no harm was 
intended, finally sniffed noses with him. Then 



THE SOUNDING OF THE CALL 175 

they became friendly, and played about in the 
nervous, half-coy way with which fierce beasts 
belie their fierceness. After some time of this 
the wolf started off at an easy lope in a manner 
that plainly showed he was going somewhere. 
He made it clear to Buck that he was to come, 
and they ran side by side through the sombre 
twilight, straight up the creek bed, into the 
gorge from which it issued, and across the bleak 
divide where it took its rise. 

On the opposite slope of the watershed they 
came down into a level country where were 
great stretches of forest and many streams, 
and through these great stretches they ran 
steadily, hour after hour, the sun rising higher 
and the day growing warmer. Buck was 
wildly glad. He knew he was at last answer 
ing the call, running by the side of his wood 
brother toward the place from where the call 
surely came. Old memories were coming upon 
him fast, and he was stirring to them as of old 
he stirred to the realities of which they were 
the shadows. He had done this thing before, 
somewhere in that other and dimly remembered 



1 7 6 THE CALL OF THE WILD 

world, and he was doing it again, now, running 
free in the open, the unpacked earth underfoot, 
the wide sky overhead. 

They stopped by a running stream to drink, 
and, s opping, Buck remembered John Thorn 
ton. He sat down. The wolf started on 
toward the place from where the call surely 
came, then returned to him, sniffing noses and 
making actions as though to encourage him. 
But Buck turned about and started slowly on 
the back track. For the better part of an 
hour the wild brother ran by his side, whining 
softly. Then he sat down, pointed his nose 
upward, and howled. It was a mournful howl, 
and as Buck held steadily on his way he heard 
it grow faint and fainter until it was lost in the 
distance. 

John Thornton was eating dinner when Buck 
dashed into camp and sprang upon him in a 
frenzy of affection, overturning him, scrambling 
upon him, licking his face, biting his hand 
44 playing the general torn-fool," as John Thorn 
ton characterized it, the while he shook Buck 
back and forth and cursed him lovingly. 



THE SOUNDING OF THE CALL 177 

For two days and nights Buck never left 
camp, never let Thornton out of his sight, 
lie followed him about at his work, watched 
him while he ate, saw him into his blankets at 
night and out of them in the morning. But 
after two days the call in the forest began to 
sound more imperiously than ever. Buck s 
restlessness came back on him, and he was 
haunted by recollections of the wild brother, 
and of the smiling land beyond the divide and 
the run side by side through the wide forest 
stretches. Once again he took to wandering 
in the woods, but the wild brother came no 
more; and though he listened through long 
vigils, the mournful howl was never raised. 

We began to sleep out at night, staying 
away from camp for days at a time; and once 
he crossed the divide at the head of the creek 
and went down into the land of timber and 
streams. There he wandered for a week, 
seeking vainly for fresh sign of the wild 
brother, killing his meat as he travelled and 
travelling with the long, easy lope that seems 
never to tire. He fished for salmon in a broad 



I 7 8 THE CALL OF THE WILD 

stream that empties somewhere into the sea s 
and by this stream he killed a large black bear, 
blinded by the mosquitoes while likewise fishing, 
and raging through the forest helpless and 
terrible. Even so, it was a hard fight, and 
it aroused the last latent remnants of Buck s 
ferocity. And two days later, when he re 
turned to his kill and found a dozen wolver 
enes quarrelling over the spoil, he scattered 
them like chaff; and those that fled left two 
behind who would quarrel no more. 

The blood-longing became stronger than 
ever before. He was a killer, a thing that 
preyed, living on the things that lived, unaided, 
alone, by virtue of his own strength and 
prowess, surviving triumphantly in a hostile 
environment where only the strong survived. 
Because of all this he became possessed of a 
great pride in himself, which communicated 
itself like a contagion to his physical being. 
It advertised itself in all his movements, was 
apparent in the play of every muscle, spoke 
plainly as speech in the way he carried himself, 
and made his glorious furry coat if anything 



THE SOUNDING OF THE CALL 179 

more glorious. But for the stray brown on his 
muzzle and above his eyes, and for the splash 
of white hair that ran midmost down his chest, 
he might well have been mistaken for a gigantic 
wolf, larger than the largest of the breed. 
From his St. Bernard father he had inherited 
size and weight, but it was his shepherd 
mother who had given shape to that size and 
weight. His muzzle was the long wolf muzzle, 
save that it was larger than the muzzle of any 
wolf; and his head, somewhat broader, was 
the wolf head on a massive scale. 

His cunning was wolf cunning, and wild 
cunning; his intelligence, shepherd intelligence 
and St. Bernard intelligence; and all this, plus 
an experience gained in the fiercest of schools, 
made him as formidable a creature as any that 
roamed the wild. A carnivorous animal, liv 
ing on a straight meat diet, he was in full 
flower, at the high tide of his life, overspilling 
with vigor and virility. When Thornton 
passed a caressing hand along his back, a snap 
ping and crackling followed the hand, each hair 
discharging its pent magnetism at the contact 



l8o THE CALL OF THE WILD 

Every part, brain and body, nerve tissue and 
fibre, was keyed to the most exquisite pitch; and 
between all the parts there was a perfect equi 
librium or adjustment. To sights and sounds 
and events which required action, he responded 
with lightning-like rapidity. Quickly as a 
husky dog could leap to defend from attack or 
to attack, he could leap twice as quickly. He 
saw the movement, or heard sound, and re 
sponded in less time than another dog required 
to compass the mere seeing or hearing. He 
perceived and determined and responded in the 
same instant. In point of fact the three actions 
of perceiving, determining, and responding 
were sequential; but so infinitesimal were the 
intervals of time between them that they ap 
peared simultaneous. His muscles were sur 
charged with vitality, and snapped into play 
sharply, like steel springs. Life streamed 
through him in splendid flood, glad and ram 
pant, until it seemed that it would burst him 
asunder in sheer ecstasy and pour forth gener 
ously over the world. 

" Never was there such a dog," said John 



THE SOUNDING OF THE CALL 181 

Thornton one day, as the partners watched 
Buck marching out of camp. 

When he was made, the mould was broke/ 
said Pete. 

" Py jingo! I t ink so mineself," Hans 
affirmed. 

They saw him marching out of camp, but 
they did not see the instant and terrible trans 
formation which took place as soon as he was 
within the secrecy of the forest. He no longer 
marched. At once he became a thing of the 
wild, stealing along softly, cat-footed, a pass 
ing shadow that appeared and disappeared 
among the shadows. He knew how to take 
advantage of every cover, to crawl on his 
belly like a snake, and like a snake to leap and 
strike. He could take a ptarmigan from its 
nest, kill a rabbit as it slept, and snap in mid 
air the little chipmunks fleeing a second too 
late for the trees. Fish, in open pools, were 
not too quick for him; nor were beaver, mend 
ing their dams, too wary. He killed to eat, 
not from wantonness; but he preferred to eat 
what he killed himself. So a lurking humor 



1 82 THE CALL OF THE WILD 

ran through his deeds, and it was his delight 
to steal upon the squirrels, and, when he all 
but had them, to let them go, chattering in 
mortal fear to the tree-tops. 

As the fall of the year came on, the moose 
appeared in greater abundance, moving slowly 
down to meet the winter in the lower and less 
rigorous valleys. Buck had already dragged 
down a stray part-grown calf; but he wished 
strongly for larger and more formidable quarry, 
and he came upon it one day on the divide 
at the head of the creek. A band of twenty 
moose had crossed over from the land of 
streams and timber, and chief among them was 
a great bull. He was in a savage temper, and, 
standing over six feet from the ground, was as 
formidable an antagonist as even Buck could 
desire. Back and forth the bull tossed his 
great palmated antlers, branching to fourteen 
points and embracing seven feet within the tips. 
His small eyes burned with a vicious and bitter 
light, while he roared with fury at sight of 
Buck. 

From the bull s side, just forward of the 



THE SOUNDING OF THE CALL 183 

flank, protruded a feathered arrow-end, which 
accounted for his savageness. Guided by that 
instinct which came from the old hunting days 
of the primordial world, Buck proceeded to 
cut the bull out from the herd. It was no slight 
task. He would bark and dance about in 
front of the bull, just out of reach of the great 
antlers and the terrible splay hoofs which could 
have stamped his life out with a single blow. 
Unable to turn his back on the fanged danger 
and go on, the bull would be driven into parox 
ysms of rage. At such moments he charged 
Buck, who retreated craftily, luring him on by 
a simulated inability to escape. But when he 
was thus separated from his fellows, two or 
three of the younger bulls would charge back 
upon Buck and enable the wounded bull to 
rejoin the herd. 

There is a patience of the wild dogged, 
tireless, persistent as life itself that holds 
motionless for endless hours the spider in its 
web, the snake in its coils, the panther in its 
ambuscade; this patience belongs peculiarly to 
life when it hunts its living food; and it belonged 



184 THE CALL OF THE WILD 

to Buck as he clnng to the flank of the herd s 
retarding its march, irritating the young bulls, 
worrying the cows with their half-grown calves, 
and driving the wounded bull mad with helpless 
rage. For half a day this continued. Buck 
multiplied himself, attacking from all sides, en 
veloping the herd in a whirlwind of menace, 
cutting out his victim as fast as it could rejoin 
its mates, wearing out the patience of creatures 
preyed upon, which is a lesser patience than 
that of creatures preying. 

As the day wore along and the sun dropped 
to its bed in the northwest (the darkness had 
come back and the fall nights were six hours 
long), the young bulls retraced their steps more 
and more reluctantly to the aid of their beset 
leader. The down-coming winter was harry 
ing them on to the lower levels, and it seemed 
they could never shake off this tireless creature 
that held them back. Besides, it was not the 
life of the herd, or of the young bulls, that 
was threatened. The life of only one member 
was demanded, which was a remoter interest 



THE SOUNDING OF THE CALL 185 

than their lives, and in the end they were con 
tent to pay the toll. 

As twilight fell the old bull stood with low 
ered head, watching his mates the cows he 
had known, the calves he had fathered, the bulls 
he had mastered as they shambled on at a 
rapid pace through the fading light. He could 
not follow, for before his nose leaped the 
merciless fanged terror that would not let him 
go. Three hundredweight more than half a 
ton he weighed; he had lived a long, strong 
life, full of fight and struggle, and at the end 
he faced death at the teeth of a creature whose 
head did not reach beyond his great knuckled 
knees. 

From then on, night and day, Buck never 
left his prey, never gave it a moment s rest, 
never permitted it to browse the leaves of trees 
or the shoots of young birch and willow. Nor 
did he give the wounded bull opportunity to 
slake his burning thirst in the slender trickling 
streams they crossed. Often, in desperation, 
he burst into long stretches of flight. At such 



1 86 THE CALL OF THE WILD 

times Buck did not attempt to stay him, but 
loped easily at his heels, satisfied with the way 
the game was played, lying down when the 
moose stood still, attacking him fiercely when 
he strove to eat or drink. 

The great head drooped more and more 
under its tree of horns, and the shambling trot 
grew weaker and weaker. He took to stand 
ing for long periods, with nose to the ground 
and dejected ears dropped limply; and Buck 
found more time in which to get water for 
himself and in which to rest. At such mo 
ments, panting with red lolling tongue and with 
eyes fixed upon the big bull, it appeared to 
Buck that a change was coming over the face of 
things. He could feel a new stir in the land. 
As the moose were coming into the land, other 
kinds of life were coming in. Forest and 
stream and air seemed palpitant with their 
presence. The news of it was borne in upon 
him, not by sight, or sound, or smell, but by 
some other and subtler sense. He heard noth 
ing, saw nothing, yet knew that the land was 
somehow different; that through it strange 



THE SOUNDING OF THE CALL 187 

things were afoot and ranging; and he resolved 
to investigate after he had finished the business 
in hand. 

At last, at the end of the fourth day, he 
pulled the great moose down. For a day and 
a night he remained by the kill, eating and 
sleeping, turn and turn about. Then, rested, 
refreshed and strong, he turned his face toward 
camp and John Thornton. He broke into the 
long easy lope, and went on, hour after hour, 
never at loss for the tangled way, heading 
straight home through strange country with a 
certitude of direction that put man and his mag 
netic needle to shame. 

As he held on he became more and more 
conscious of the new stir in the land. There 
was life abroad in it different from the life 
which had been there throughout the summer. 
No longer was this fact borne in upon him in 
some subtle, mysterious way. The birds talked 
of it, the squirrels chattered about it, the very 
breeze whispered of it. Several times he 
stopped and drew in the fresh morning air in 
great sniffs, reading a message which made him 



1 88 THE CALL OF THE WILD 

leap on with greater speed. He was oppressed 
with a sense of calamity happening, if it were 
not calamity already happened; and as he 
crossed the last watershed and dropped down 
into the valley toward camp, he proceeded with 
greater caution. 

Three miles away he came upon a fresh trail 
that sent his neck hair rippling and bristling. 
It led straight toward camp and John Thorn 
ton. Buck hurried on, swiftly and stealthily, 
every nerve straining and tense, alert to the 
multitudinous details which told a story all 
but the end. His nose gave him a varying de 
scription of the passage of the life on the heels 
of which he was travelling. He remarked the 
pregnant silence of the forest. The bird life 
had flitted. The squirrels were in hiding. 
One only he saw, a sleek gray fellow, flat 
tened against a gray dead limb so that he 
seemed a part of it, a woody excrescence upon 
the wood itself. 

As Buck slid along with the obscureness of 
a gliding shadow, Jiis nose was jerked suddenly 
to the side as though a positive force had 



THE SOUNDING OF THE CALL 189 

gripped and pulled it. He followed the new 
scent into a thicket and found Nig. He was 
lying on his side, dead where he had dragged 
himself, an arrow protruding, head and feath 
ers, from either side of his body. 

A hundred yards farther on, Buck came upon 
one of the sled-dogs Thornton had bought in 
Dawson. This dog was thrashing about in a 
death-struggle, directly on the trail, and Buck 
passed around him without stopping. From 
the camp came the faint sound of many voices, 
rising and falling in a sing-song chant. Belly 
ing forward to the edge of the clearing he 
found Hans, lying on his face, feathered with 
arrows like a porcupine. At the same instant 
Buck peered out where the spruce-bough lodge 
had been and saw what made his hair leap 
straight up on his neck and shoulders. A gust 
of overpowering rage swept over him. He did 
not know that he growled, but he growled aloud 
with a terrible ferocity. For the last time in 
his life he allowed passion to usurp cunning 
and reason, and it was because of his great love 
for John Thornton that he lost his head. 



I 9 o THE CALL OF THE WILD 

The Ycchats were dancing about the wreck 
age of the spruce-bough lodge when they heard 
a fearful roaring and saw rushing upon them 
an animal the like of which they had never seen 
before. It was Buck, a live hurricane of fury, 
hurling himself upon them in a frenzy to de 
stroy. He sprang at the foremost man (it was 
the chief of the Yeehats), ripping the throat 
wide open till the rent jugular spouted a foun 
tain of blood. He did not pause to worry the 
victim, but ripped in passing, with the next 
bound tearing wide the throat of a second man. 
[There was no withstanding him. He plunged 
about in their very midst, tearing, rending, de 
stroying, in constant and terrific motion which 
defied the arrows they discharged at him. In 
fact, so inconceivably rapid were his move 
ments, and so closely were the Indians tangled 
together, that they shot one another with the 
arrows; and one young hunter, hurling a spear 
at Buck in mid air, drove it through the chest 
of another hunter with such force that the point 
broke through the skin of the back and stood 
out beyond. Then a panic seized the Yeehats, 



THE SOUNDING OF THE CALL 191 

and they fled in terror to the woods, proclaim 
ing as they fled the advent of the Evil Spirit, 

And truly Buck was the Fiend incarnate, 
raging at their heels and dragging them down 
like deer as they raced through the trees. It 
was a fateful day for the Yeehats. They scat 
tered far and wide over the country, and it was 
not till a week later that the last of the survivors 
gathered together in a lower valley and counted 
their losses. As for Buck, wearying of the 
pursuit, he returned to the desolated camp. 
He found Pete where he had been killed in 
his blankets in the first moment of surprise. 
Thornton s desperate struggle was fresh- 
written on the earth, and Buck scented every 
detail of it down to the edge of a deep pool. 
By the edge, head and fore feet in the water, 
lay Skeet, faithful to the last. The pool itself, 
muddy and discolored from the sluice boxes, 
effectually hid what it contained, and it con 
tained John T^hornton; for Buck followed his 
trace into the water, from which no trace led 
away. 

All day Buck brooded by the pool or roamed 



I 9 2 THE CALL OF THE WILD 

restlessly about the camp. Death, as a cessa 
tion of movement, as a passing out and away 
from the lives of the living, he knew, and he 
knew John Thornton was dead. It left a great 
void in him, somewhat akin to hunger, but a 
void which ached and ached, and which food 
could not fill. At times, when he paused to 
contemplate the carcasses of the Yeehats, he 
forgot the pain of it; and at such times he 
was aware of a great pride in himself, a 
pride greater than any he had yet experienced. 
He had killed man, the noblest game of all, and 
he had killed in the face of the law of club and 
fang. He sniffed the bodies curiously. They 
had died so easily. It was harder to kill a 
husky dog than them. They were no match at 
all, were it not for their arrows and spears and 
clubs. Thenceforward he would be unafraid 
of them except when they bore in their hands 
their arrows, spears, and clubs. 

Night came on, and a full moon rose high 
over the trees into the sky, lighting the land 
till it lay bathed in ghostly day. And with 
the coming of the night, brooding and mourn- 



THE SOUNDING OF THE CALL 193 

ing by the pool, Buck became alive to a stirring 
of the new life in the forest other than that 
which the Yeehats had made. He stood up, 
listening and scenting. From far away drifted 
a faint, sharp yelp, followed by a chorus of 
similar sharp yelps. As the moments passed 
the yelps grew closer and louder. Again Buck 
knew JJhem as things heard in that other world 
which persisted in his memory. He walked to 
the centre of the open space and listened. It 
was the call, the many-noted call, sounding more 
luringly and compelling than ever before. 
And as never before, he was ready to obey. 
John Thornton was dead. The last tie was 
broken. Man and the claims of man no longer 
bound him. 

Hunting their living meat, as the Yeehats 
were hunting it, on the flanks of the migrating 
moose, the wolf pack had at last crossed over 
from the land of streams and timber and in 
vaded Buck s valley. Into the clearing where 
the moonlight streamed, they poured in a silvery 
flood; and in the centre of the clearing stood 
Buck, motionless as a statue, waiting their 



I 9 4 THE CALL OF THE WILD 

coming. They were awed, so still and large 
he stood, and a moment s pause fell, till the 
boldest one leaped straight for him. Like a 
flash Buck struck, breaking the neck. Then he 
stood, without movement, as before, the 
stricken wolf rolling in agony behind him. 
Three others tried it in sharp succession; and 
one after the other they drew back, streaming 
blood from slashed throats or shoulders. 

[This was sufficient to fling the whole pack 
forward, pell-mell, crowded together, blocked 
and confused by its eagerness to pull down the 
prey. Buck s marvellous quickness and agility 
stood him in good stead. Pivoting on his hind 
legs, and snapping and gashing, he was every 
where at once, presenting a front which was 
apparently unbroken so swiftly did he whirl 
and guard from side to side. But to prevent 
them from getting behind him, he was forced 
back, down past the pool and into the creek bed, 
till he brought up against a high gravel bank. 
He worked along to a right angle in the bank 
which the men had made in the course of min 
ing, and in this angle he came to bay, protected 



THE SOUNDING OF THE CALL 195 

on three sides and with nothing to do but face 
the front. 

And so well did he face it, that at the end 
of half an hour the wolves drew back discom 
fited. The tongues of all were out and lolling, 
the white fangs showing cruelly white in the 
moonlight. Some were lying down with heads 
raised and ears pricked forward; others stood 
on their feet, watching him; and still others 
were lapping water from the pool. One wolf, 
long and lean and gray, advanced cautiously, in 
a friendly manner, and Buck recognized the 
wild brother with whom he had run for a night 
and a day. He was whining softly, and, as 
Buck whined, they touched noses. 

Then an old wolf, gaunt and battle-scarred, 
came forward. Buck writhed his lips into the 
preliminary of a snarl, but sniffed noses with 
him. Whereupon the old wolf sat down, 
pointed nose at the moon, and broke out the 
long wolf howl! The others sat down and 
howled. And now the call came to Buck in un 
mistakable accents. He, too, sat down and 
howled. This over, he came out of his angle 



196 THE CALL OF THE WILD 

and the pack crowded around him, sniffing in 
half-friendly, half-savage manner. The lead 
ers lifted the yelp of the pack and sprang away 
into the woods. The wolves swung in behind, 
yelping in chorus. And Buck ran with them, 
side by side with the wild brother, yelping as he 
ran. 

And here may well end the story of Buck. 
The years were not many when the Yeehats 
noted a change in the breed of timber wolves; 
for some were seen with splashes of brown on 
head and muzzle, and with a rift of white 
centering down the chest. But more remark 
able than this, the Yeehats tell of a Ghost Dog 
that runs at the head of the pack. They are 
afraid of this Ghost Dog, for it has cunning 
greater than they, stealing from their camps in 
fierce winters, robbing their traps, slaying their 
dogs, and defying their bravest hunters. 

Nay, the tale grows worse. Hunters there 
are who fail to return to the camp, and hunters 
there have been whom their tribesmen found 
with throats slashed cruelly open and with wolf 



THE SOUNDING OF THE CALL 197 

prints about them in the snow greater than the 
prints of any wolf. Each fall, when the Yee- 
hats follow the movement of the moose, there 
is a certain valley which they never enter. 
And women there are who become sad when the 
word goes over the fire of how the Evil Spirit 
same to select that valley for an abiding-place. 

In the summers there is one visitor, however, 
to that valley, of which the Yeehats do not 
know. It is a great, gloriously coated wolf, 
like, and yet unlike, all other wolves. He 
crosses alone from the smiling timber land and 
comes down into an open space among the trees. 
Here a yellow stream flows from rotted moose- 
hide sacks and sinks into the ground, with long 
grasses growing through it and vegetable mould 
overrunning it and hiding its yellow from the 
sun; and here he muses for a time, howling 
once, long and mournfully, ere he departs. 

But he is not always alone. When the long 
winter nights come on and the wolves follow 
their meat into the lower valleys, he may be 
seen running at the head of the pack through 
the pale moonlight or glimmering borealis, 



198 THE CALL OF THE WILD 

leaping gigantic above his fellows, his great 
throat a-bellow as he sings a song of the younger 
world, which is the song of the pack. 



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