THE CALL OF THE WILD

BY

JACK LONDON

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COPYRIGHT INFORMATION
Book: The Call of the Wild Author: Jack London, 1876–1916 First published: 1903 The original book is in the public domain in the United States and in most, if not all, other countries as well. Readers outside the United States should check their own countries’ copyright laws to be certain they can legally download this ebook. The Online Books Page has an FAQ which gives a summary of copyright durations for many other countries, as well as links to more official sources. (Links will open in a new window.) This PDF ebook was created by José Menéndez.

CONTENTS
I. II. III. IV. V. VI. VII. INTO THE PRIMITIVE THE LAW OF CLUB AND FANG THE DOMINANT PRIMORDIAL BEAST WHO HAS WON TO MASTERSHIP THE TOIL OF TRACE AND TRAIL FOR THE LOVE OF A MAN THE SOUNDING OF THE CALL

but for every tidewater dog. The house was approached by gravelled driveways which wound about through wide-spreading lawns and under the interlacing boughs of tall poplars. with strong muscles by which to toil.I INTO THE PRIMITIVE “Old longings nomadic leap. groping in the Arctic darkness. from Puget Sound to San Diego. Judge Miller’s place. It stood back from the road. had found a yellow metal. strong of muscle and with warm. an endless and orderly array of outhouses. Buck lived at a big house in the sun-kissed Santa Clara Valley. Chafing at custom’s chain. thousands of men were rushing into the Northland. rows of vine-clad servants’ cottages. through which glimpses could be caught of the wide cool veranda that ran around its four sides. it was called. These men wanted dogs. not alone for himself.” UCK did not read the newspapers. Again from its brumal sleep Wakens the ferine strain. At the rear things were on even a more spacious scale than at the front. long grape 5 B . where a dozen grooms and boys held forth. Because men. or he would have known that trouble was brewing. and the dogs they wanted were heavy dogs. and because steamship and transportation companies were booming the find. and furry coats to protect them from the frost. half hidden among the trees. There were great stables. long hair.

It was true.6 THE CALL OF THE WILD arbors. humans included. a huge St. and Buck bid fair to follow in the way of his father. and the berry patches. Here he was born. to which was added the dignity that comes of good living and universal respect.—for his mother. for he was king. flying things of Judge Miller’s place. Elmo. During the four years since his puppyhood he had lived the life of a sated aristocrat. one hundred and forty pounds. and even beyond. His father. the Japanese pug. or rolled them in the grass. But Buck was neither house-dog nor kennel-dog. Bernard. resided in the populous kennels. orchards. a score of them at least. as country gentlemen sometimes become because of their insular situation. and here he had lived the four years of his life. They came and went. There could not but be other dogs on so vast a place. crawling. and berry patches. on long twilight or early morning rambles. Among the terriers he stalked imperiously.—king over all creeping. He plunged into the swimming tank or went hunting with the Judge’s sons. enabled him to carry himself in right royal fashion. was even a trifle egotistical. had been the Judge’s inseparable companion. there were other dogs. And over this great demesne Buck ruled. On the other hand. the Mexican hairless. he escorted Mollie and Alice. on wintry nights he lay at the Judge’s feet before the roaring library fire. Nevertheless. and Toots and Ysabel he utterly ignored. The whole realm was his. there were the fox terriers. where the paddocks were. or Ysabel. had been a Scotch shepherd dog. but they did not count. He was not so large.—strange creatures that rarely put nose out of doors or set foot to ground. the Judge’s daughters. and the big cement tank where Judge Miller’s boys took their morning plunge and kept cool in the hot afternoon. or lived obscurely in the recesses of the house after the fashion of Toots. But he had saved himself by . he carried the Judge’s grandsons on his back. Shep. he had a fine pride in himself. green pastures. and guarded their footsteps through wild adventures down to the fountain in the stable yard. Then there was the pumping plant for the artesian well.—he weighed only one hundred and forty pounds. 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.

in his pride believing that to intimate was to command. This man talked with Manuel. Manuel had one besetting sin. To be sure. while Buck struggled in a fury. on the memorable night of Manuel’s treachery. the love of water had been a tonic and a health preserver. grappled him close by the throat. But to his surprise the rope tightened around his neck. no one saw them arrive at the little flag station known as College Park. and he did not know that Manuel. The Judge was at a meeting of the Raisin Growers’ Association. Hunting and kindred outdoor delights had kept down the fat and hardened his muscles. and to give them credit for a wisdom that outreached his own. in his gambling. shutting off his breath. while the wages of a gardener’s helper do not lap over the needs of a wife and numerous progeny.INTO THE PRIMITIVE 7 not becoming a mere pampered house-dog. and money chinked between them. “You might wrap up the goods before you deliver ’m. And this was the manner of dog Buck was in the fall of 1897. Also.” the stranger said gruffly. an’ you’ll choke ’m plentee. For to play a system requires money. and with a deft twist threw him over on his back. was an undesirable acquaintance. and the boys were busy organizing an athletic club. And with the exception of a solitary man. one of the gardener’s helpers. as to the cold-tubbing races. Then the rope tightened mercilessly. He loved to play Chinese lottery. and to him. and this made his damnation certain. “Twist it. He had merely intimated his displeasure. and Manuel doubled a piece of stout rope around Buck’s neck under the collar. he had one besetting weakness—faith in a system. it was an unwonted performance: but he had learned to trust in men he knew. and the stranger grunted a ready affirmative. Buck had accepted the rope with quiet dignity.” said Manuel. his tongue lolling . In quick rage he sprang at the man. But Buck did not read the newspapers. But when the ends of the rope were placed in the stranger’s hands. he growled menacingly. who met him halfway. No one saw him and Buck go off through the orchard on what Buck imagined was merely a stroll. when the Klondike strike dragged men from all the world into the frozen North.

so help me. till they succeeded in filing . He had travelled too often with the Judge not to know the sensation of riding in a baggage car.” “That makes a hundred and fifty. he was dimly aware that his tongue was hurting and that he was being jolted along in some kind of a conveyance. The next he knew. has fits. “Here. his eyes glazed. but Buck was too quick for him. cold cash. lend me a hand before you pull your freight. “How much did the other mug get?” the saloon-keeper demanded. in a little shed. But his strength ebbed. A crack dog-doctor there thinks that he can cure ’m. back of a saloon on the San Francisco water front.8 THE CALL OF THE WILD out of his mouth and his great chest panting futilely.” he grumbled. hiding his mangled hand from the baggageman.” the saloon-keeper calculated. But he was thrown down and choked repeatedly. and the right trouser leg was ripped from knee to ankle. or I’m a squarehead.” Concerning that night’s ride. “an’ I wouldn’t do it over for a thousand.” His hand was wrapped in a bloody handkerchief. “Yep. who had been attracted by the sounds of struggle. “A hundred.” he added. with the life half throttled out of him. suffering intolerable pain from throat and tongue.” The kidnapper undid the bloody wrappings and looked at his lacerated hand. “All I get is fifty for it. The hoarse shriek of a locomotive whistling a crossing told him where he was. The man sprang for his throat. and never in all his life had he been so angry.” the man said. Never in all his life had he been so vilely treated. “I’m takin’ ’m up for the boss to ’Frisco. and he knew nothing when the train was flagged and the two men threw him into the baggage car. “and he’s worth it. the man spoke most eloquently for himself. “If I don’t get the hydrophoby—” “It’ll be because you was born to hang.” laughed the saloon-keeper. His jaws closed on the hand. Buck attempted to face his tormentors. Dazed. “Wouldn’t take a sou less. He opened his eyes. and into them came the unbridled anger of a kidnapped king. nor did they relax till his senses were choked out of him once more.” was the reply.

There he lay for the remainder of the weary night. They only laughed and poked sticks at him. They growled and barked like detestable dogs. which he promptly assailed with his teeth till he realized that that was what they wanted. upon a ferry steamer. the ill treatment had flung him . Buck decided.INTO THE PRIMITIVE 9 the heavy brass collar from off his neck. When he flung himself against the bars. and he stormed and raged at them through the bars. and finally he was deposited in an express car. they laughed at him and taunted him. It was all very silly. he was trucked off the steamer into a great railway depot. a truck carried him. For that matter. or the boys at least. Several times during the night he sprang to his feet when the shed door rattled open. But each time it was the bulging face of the saloon-keeper that peered in at him by the sickly light of a tallow candle. quivering and frothing. What did they want with him. he knew. nursing his wrath and wounded pride. But the saloon-keeper let him alone. but the lack of water caused him severe suffering and fanned his wrath to fever pitch. He did not mind the hunger so much. Then he. high-strung and finely sensitive. and the crate in which he was imprisoned. He could not understand what it all meant. with an assortment of boxes and parcels. mewed. More tormentors. Then the rope was removed. and his anger waxed and waxed. and he was flung into a cagelike crate. and in the morning four men entered and picked up the crate. but he felt oppressed by the vague sense of impending calamity. but therefore the more outrage to his dignity. these strange men? Why were they keeping him pent up in this narrow crate? He did not know why. And each time the joyful bark that trembled in Buck’s throat was twisted into a savage growl. and for two days and nights Buck neither ate nor drank. ragged and unkempt. Whereupon he lay down sullenly and allowed the crate to be lifted into a wagon. for they were evil-looking creatures. he was carted about in another wagon. Clerks in the express office took charge of him. and they had retaliated by teasing him. For two days and nights this express car was dragged along at the tail of shrieking locomotives. began a passage through many hands. In his anger he had met the first advances of the express messengers with growls. and flapped their arms and crowed. expecting to see the Judge.

with a red sweater that sagged generously at the neck. “Now.10 THE CALL OF THE WILD into a fever. There was an instantaneous scattering of the four men who had carried it in. In mid air. as he drew himself together for the spring. A stout man. At the same time he dropped the hatchet and shifted the club to his right hand. Wherever the hatchet fell on the outside. and during those two days and nights of torment. high-walled back yard. They would never get another rope around his neck. he received a shock . and he hurled himself savagely against the bars. the next tormentor.” he said. and brought a hatchet and a club. snarling and growling. He was glad for one thing: the rope was off his neck. when he had made an opening sufficient for the passage of Buck’s body. And Buck was truly a red-eyed devil. but now that it was off. and the express messengers breathed with relief when they bundled him off the train at Seattle.” the man replied. he was there on the inside. he accumulated a fund of wrath that boded ill for whoever first fell foul of him. a mad glitter in his bloodshot eyes. Straight at the man he launched his one hundred and forty pounds of fury. hair bristling. So changed was he that the Judge himself would not have recognized him. he would show them. and he was metamorphosed into a raging fiend. sinking his teeth into it. That had given them an unfair advantage. which was fed by the inflammation of his parched and swollen throat and tongue. mouth foaming. as furiously anxious to get out as the man in the red sweater was calmly intent on getting him out. Buck rushed at the splintering wood. surging and wrestling with it. driving the hatchet into the crate for a pry. His eyes turned bloodshot. you red-eyed devil. Four men gingerly carried the crate from the wagon into a small. Buck divined. and from safe perches on top the wall they prepared to watch the performance. “Sure. just as his jaws were about to close on the man. For two days and nights he neither ate nor drank. Upon that he was resolved. That was the man. came out and signed the book for the driver. The man smiled grimly. surcharged with the pent passion of two days and nights. “You ain’t going to take him out now?” the driver asked.

coolly caught him by the under jaw. and twice on Sundays. Be a bad dog.INTO THE PRIMITIVE 11 that checked his body and brought his teeth together with an agonizing clip. he again hurled himself at the man. With a roar that was almost lionlike in its ferocity. All the pain he had endured was as nothing compared with the exquisite agony of this. and half of another. He staggered limply about.” he went on in a genial voice. quoting from the saloon-keeper’s letter which had announced the consignment of the crate and contents. but not his strength. But the man. and from there he watched the man in the red sweater. With a snarl that was part bark and more scream he was again on his feet and launched into the air. Then the man advanced and deliberately dealt him a frightful blow on the nose. You’ve learned your place. at the same time wrenching downward and backward. that’s wot I say.’ ” the man soliloquized. After a particularly fierce blow. his beautiful coat sprayed and flecked with bloody slaver. For the last time he rushed. “ ‘Answers to the name of Buck. Buck described a complete circle in the air. “He’s no slouch at dog-breakin’.” one of the men on the wall cried enthusiastically. knocked utterly senseless. then crashed to the ground on his head and chest. he crawled to his feet. This time he was aware that it was the club. and Buck crumpled up and went down. fetching the ground on his back and side. and did not understand. Buck’s senses came back to him. He lay where he had fallen. and I’ll whale the stuffin’ outa you. Be a good dog and all’ll go well and the goose hang high. the blood flowing from nose and mouth and ears. He had never been struck by a club in his life. The man struck the shrewd blow he had purposely withheld for so long. shifting the club from right to left. A dozen times he charged.” was the reply of the driver. And again the shock came and he was brought crushingly to the ground. “Well. and I know mine. Understand?” . but his madness knew no caution. too dazed to rush. He whirled over. “we’ve had our little ruction. my boy. and as often the club broke the charge and smashed him down. “Druther break cayuses any day. as he climbed on the wagon and started the horses. and the best thing we can do is to let it go at that. Buck.

once for all. the lesson was driven home to Buck: a man with a club was a lawgiver.” was the prompt reply of the man in the red sweater. and licked his hand. that he stood no chance against a man with a club. “And seein’ it’s government money. for they never came back. It was his introduction to the reign of primitive law. and though Buck’s hair involuntarily bristled at touch of the hand. and while he faced that aspect uncowed. and later bolted a generous meal of raw meat. and wagged their tails. he endured it without protest. that would neither conciliate nor obey. and he was glad each time when he was not selected. in crates and at the ends of ropes. he faced it with all the latent cunning of his nature aroused. strangers. As the days went by. 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. “Dat one dam bully dog! Eh? How moch?” “Three hundred. That club was a revelation. chunk by chunk. He was beaten (he knew that). When the man brought him water he drank eagerly. but the fear of the future was strong upon him. Again and again. other dogs came. one and all. and he met the introduction halfway. some docilely. The facts of life took on a fiercer aspect. Now and again men came. wheedlingly. in the end. who talked excitedly. when his eyes lit upon Buck. finally killed in the struggle for mastery. from the man’s hand. and in all his after life he never forgot it. he watched them pass under the dominion of the man in the red sweater. in the form of a little weazened man who spat broken English and many strange and uncouth exclamations which Buck could not understand. Also he saw one dog. eh. though he did see beaten dogs that fawned upon the man. and some raging and roaring as he had come. and a present at that. a master to be obeyed. you ain’t got no kick coming. as he looked at each brutal performance. “Sacredam!” he cried.12 THE CALL OF THE WILD As he spoke he fearlessly patted the head he had so mercilessly pounded. though not necessarily conciliated. Perrault?” . and in all kinds of fashions to the man in the red sweater. He had learned the lesson. and. Of this last Buck was never guilty. Yet his time came. but he was not broken. He saw.

He was friendly. morose fellow. and he were led away by the little weazened man. The other dog made no advances. he none the less grew honestly to respect them. in a treacherous sort of way. and further. and when he looked at Buck he knew that he was one in a thousand—“One in ten t’ousand. but François was a French-Canadian half-breed. Buck and Curly joined two other dogs. snow-white fellow from Spitzbergen who had been brought away by a whaling captain. and was not surprised when Curly. and as Curly and he looked at receding Seattle from the deck of the Narwhal. and took . He speedily learned that Perrault and François were fair men. and twice as swarthy. it was not an unfair sum for so fine an animal. That was fair of François. and swarthy. smiling into one’s face the while he meditated some underhand trick. That was the last he saw of the man in the red sweater. when he stole from Buck’s food at the first meal. Curly and he were taken below by Perrault and turned over to a black-faced giant called François. and while he developed no affection for them. also. Perrault was a French-Canadian.” he commented mentally. In the ’tween-decks of the Narwhal. and he showed Curly plainly that all he desired was to be left alone. Perrault knew dogs. and too wise in the way of dogs to be fooled by dogs. he did not attempt to steal from the newcomers. reaching the culprit first. or yawned between times. and he ate and slept. calm and impartial in administering justice. and the half-breed began his rise in Buck’s estimation. The Canadian Government would be no loser. Buck saw money pass between them. One of them was a big. and nothing remained to Buck but to recover the bone. As Buck sprang to punish him. nor received any. “Dave” he was called. that there would be trouble if he were not left alone. and who had later accompanied a Geological Survey into the Barrens. nor would its despatches travel the slower. as. the lash of François’s whip sang through the air.INTO THE PRIMITIVE 13 Perrault grinned. he decided. it was the last he saw of the warm Southland. Considering that the price of dogs had been boomed skyward by the unwonted demand. for instance. He was a gloomy. a good-natured Newfoundland. They were a new kind of men to Buck (of which he was destined to see many more).

At last. This puzzled him. He felt it. and though one day was very like another. . half wild with fear. and the Narwhal was pervaded with an atmosphere of excitement. and the next instant was gone.14 THE CALL OF THE WILD interest in nothing. one morning. When Buck and Curly grew excited. not even when the Narwhal crossed Queen Charlotte Sound and rolled and pitched and bucked like a thing possessed. More of this white stuff was falling through the air. then licked some up on his tongue. yawned. Buck’s feet sank into a white mushy something very like mud. he knew not why. and went to sleep again. but more of it fell upon him. At the first step upon the cold surface. He tried it again. He sprang back with a snort. the propeller was quiet. with the same result. He shook himself. for it was his first snow. Day and night the ship throbbed to the tireless pulse of the propeller. favored them with an incurious glance. François leashed them and brought them on deck. The onlookers laughed uproariously. and he felt ashamed. it was apparent to Buck that the weather was steadily growing colder. It bit like fire. and knew that a change was at hand. He sniffed it curiously. he raised his head as though annoyed. as did the other dogs.

Buck did not comprehend that silent intentness.II THE LAW OF CLUB AND FANG UCK’S first day on the Dyea beach was like a nightmare. though not half so large as she. with nothing to do but loaf and be bored. There was no warning. He had been suddenly jerked from the heart of civilization and flung into the heart of things primordial. Curly rushed her antagonist. There was imperative need to be constantly alert. This was B 15 . to strike and leap away. Thirty or forty huskies ran to the spot and surrounded the combatants in an intent and silent circle. for these dogs and men were not town dogs and men. and his first experience taught him an unforgetable lesson. and every moment life and limb were in peril. Every hour was filled with shock and surprise. They were savages. where she. all of them. but there was more to it than this. made advances to a husky dog the size of a full-grown wolf. nor a moment’s safety. Here was neither peace. She never regained them. a metallic clip of teeth. They were camped near the log store. It was the wolf manner of fighting. in her friendly way. and Curly’s face was ripped open from eye to jaw. nor rest. who struck again and leaped aside. He had never seen dogs fight as these wolfish creatures fought. sun-kissed life was this. only a leap in like a flash. All was confusion and action. He met her next rush with his chest. nor the eager way with which they were licking their chops. No lazy. Curly was the victim. else he would not have lived to profit by it. it was a vicarious experience. a leap out equally swift. It is true. who knew no law but the law of club and fang. in a peculiar fashion that tumbled her off her feet.

Before he had recovered from the shock caused by the tragic passing of Curly. François fastened upon him an arrangement of straps and buckles. swinging an axe. But she lay there limp and lifeless in the bloody. He saw Spitz run out his scarlet tongue in a way he had of laughing. beneath the bristling mass of bodies. almost literally torn to pieces.” to swing wide on the bends. likewise experienced. nipped Buck’s hind quarters whenever he was in error. trampled snow. demanding instant obedience. and returning with a load of firewood. so he was set to work. He buckled down with a will and did his best. he growled sharp reproof now and again. Well. such as he had seen the grooms put on the horses at home. while Dave. and by virtue of his whip receiving instant obedience. and while he could not always get at Buck. Two minutes from the time Curly went down. So sudden was it. Spitz was the leader. and so unexpected. and under the combined tuition of his two mates and François made remarkable progress. and from that moment Buck hated him with a bitter and deathless hatred. And as he had seen horses work. It did not take long. Spitz ran out his tongue and laughed again. the swart half-breed standing over her and cursing horribly. It was a harness. No fairplay. he would see to it that he never went down. who was an experienced wheeler. or cunningly threw his weight in the traces to jerk Buck into the way he should go. . hauling François on a sled to the forest that fringed the valley. and he saw François. François was stern. They closed in upon her. and to keep clear of the wheeler when the loaded sled shot downhill at their heels. the last of her assailants were clubbed off.16 THE CALL OF THE WILD what the onlooking huskies had waited for. and she was buried. The scene often came back to Buck to trouble him in his sleep. he received another shock. So that was the way. Three men with clubs were helping him to scatter them. screaming with agony. he was too wise to rebel. though it was all new and strange. spring into the mess of dogs.” to go ahead at “mush. that was the end of you. snarling and yelping. that Buck was taken aback. Ere they returned to camp he knew enough to stop at “ho. Buck learned easily. Once down. Though his dignity was sorely hurt by thus being made a draught animal.

an old husky. Of this offence Buck was unwittingly guilty. Dave ignored them.” By afternoon. He had one peculiarity which Buck was unlucky enough to discover. Billee’s one fault was his excessive good nature. So terrible was his appearance that Spitz was forced to forego disciplining him. Joe whirled around on his heels to face him. He did not like to be approached on his blind side. mane bristling. Buck received them in comradely fashion.” François told Perrault. Billee wagged his tail appeasingly. Forever after Buck avoided his blind side. gave nothing. was to be left alone. turned to run when he saw that appeasement was of no avail. who was in a hurry to be on the trail with his despatches. Like Dave. and eyes diabolically gleaming—the incarnation of belligerent fear. with a battle-scarred face and a single eye which flashed a warning of prowess that commanded respect. “Dat Buck. Perrault. I tich heem queek as anyt’ing. By evening Perrault secured another dog. returned with two more dogs. and cried (still appeasingly) when Spitz’s sharp teeth scored his flank. heem pool lak hell. lips writhing and snarling. ears laid back. and when he marched slowly and deliberately into their midst. they were as different as day and night. His only apparent ambition. expected nothing. and the first knowledge he had of his indiscretion was when Solleks whirled upon him and slashed his shoulder to the bone for three inches up and down. sour and introspective. which means the Angry One. and true huskies both. with a perpetual snarl and a malignant eye. each of them possessed one other and even more vital ambition. while Spitz proceeded to thrash first one and then the other. “Billee” and “Joe” he called them. he asked nothing. even Spitz left him alone. He was called Sol-leks.THE LAW OF CLUB AND FANG 17 “T’ree vair’ good dogs. jaws clipping together as fast as he could snap. while Joe was the very opposite. but to cover his own discomfiture he turned upon the inoffensive and wailing Billee and drove him to the confines of the camp. long and lean and gaunt. like Dave’s. But no matter how Spitz circled. though. and to the last of their comradeship had no more trouble. as Buck was afterward to learn. Sons of the one mother though they were. . two brothers.

and there. and he slept soundly and comfortably. So that was the way they did it. Were they in the tent? No. Another lesson. both Perrault and François bombarded him with curses and cooking utensils. Something wriggled under his feet. and even ventured. only to find that one place was as cold as another. he wandered about among the many tents. Then where could they possibly be? With drooping tail and shivering body. Suddenly the snow gave way beneath his fore legs and he sank down. glowed warmly in the midst of the white plain. they had disappeared. The tent. The snow walls pressed him on . and with much fuss and waste effort proceeded to dig a hole for himself. but he bristled his neck hair and snarled (for he was learning fast). A chill wind was blowing that nipped him sharply and bit with especial venom into his wounded shoulder. In a trice the heat from his body filled the confined space and he was asleep. looking for them. and they let him go his way unmolested.18 THE CALL OF THE WILD That night Buck faced the great problem of sleeping. The day had been long and arduous. and he went back to investigate. squirmed and wriggled to show his good will and intentions. bristling and snarling. Finally an idea came to him. He would return and see how his own team-mates were making out. curled up under the snow in a snug ball. Here and there savage dogs rushed upon him. lay Billee. Again he wandered about through the great camp. he aimlessly circled the tent. and when he. Miserable and disconsolate. A whiff of warm air ascended to his nostrils. eh? Buck confidently selected a spot. It had snowed during the night and he was completely buried. as a bribe for peace. illumined by a candle. but the frost soon drove him shivering to his feet. and again he returned. entered it. He whined placatingly. Nor did he open his eyes till roused by the noises of the waking camp. very forlorn indeed. He lay down on the snow and attempted to sleep. though he growled and barked and wrestled with bad dreams. fearful of the unseen and unknown. At first he did not know where he was. But a friendly little yelp reassured him. He sprang back. to lick Buck’s face with his warm wet tongue. To his astonishment. as a matter of course. that could not be. till he recovered from his consternation and fled ignominiously into the outer cold. else he would not have been driven out.

single file. he was anxious to secure the best dogs. Apt scholar that he was. the hair on his neck and shoulders stood on end. retarded that work. “Wot I say?” the dogdriver cried to Perrault. The muscles of his whole body contracted spasmodically and instinctively. It was a token that he was harking back through his own life to the lives of his forebears. They were new dogs. “Dat Buck for sure learn queek as anyt’ing. Three more huskies were added to the team inside an hour.” Perrault nodded gravely. the rest of the team was strung out ahead. then came Sol-leks. which position was filled by Spitz. to the leader. Buck had been purposely placed between Dave and Sol-leks so that he might receive instruction. by delay or confusion. and though the work was hard he found he did not particularly despise it. but still more surprising was the change wrought in Dave and Sol-leks. utterly transformed by the harness. He was surprised at the eagerness which animated the whole team. for he was a civilized dog. and all that they lived for and the only thing in which they took delight. and he was particularly gladdened by the possession of Buck. and with a ferocious snarl he bounded straight up into the blinding day. and which was communicated to him. and of his own experience knew no trap and so could not of himself fear it. A shout from François hailed his appearance. and fiercely irritable with whatever. 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. The toil of the traces seemed the supreme expression of their being. the snow flying about him in a flashing cloud. making a total of nine. they were equally . and a great surge of fear swept through him—the fear of the wild thing for the trap. Buck was glad to be gone. As courier for the Canadian Government. bearing important despatches.THE LAW OF CLUB AND FANG 19 every side. Dave was wheeler or sled dog. an unduly civilized dog. pulling in front of him was Buck. They were alert and active. All passiveness and unconcern had dropped from them. and before another quarter of an hour had passed they were in harness and swinging up the trail toward the Dyea Cañon. anxious that the work should go well. Ere he landed on his feet.

Perrault travelled ahead of the team. and Perrault even honored Buck by lifting up his feet and carefully examining them. Always. so well had he mastered his work. they broke camp in the dark. Perrault was in a hurry. during a brief halt. his mates about ceased nagging him. and he prided himself on his knowledge of ice. Buck toiled in the traces. As a rule. and enforcing their teaching with their sharp teeth. worked harder. They made good time down the chain of lakes which fills the craters of extinct volcanoes. both Dave and Sol-leks flew at him and administered a sound trouncing. there was no ice at all. It was a hard day’s run. Dave was fair and very wise. guiding the sled at the gee-pole. for the fall ice was very thin. and the first gray of dawn found them hitting the trail with fresh miles reeled off behind them. but Buck took good care to keep the traces clear thereafter. but the next day. As François’s whip backed him up. across glaciers and snowdrifts hundreds of feet deep. never allowing him to linger long in error. which knowledge was indispensable. and late that night pulled into the huge camp at the head of Lake Bennett. but not often. they broke their own trail. when he got tangled in the traces and delayed the start. packing the snow with webbed shoes to make it easier for them. the trail being packed. past the Scales and the timber line. and where there was swift water. That day they made forty miles. and ere the day was done. but all too early was routed out in the cold darkness and harnessed with his mates to the sled. where thousands of gold-seekers were building boats against the breakup of the ice in the spring. and over the great Chilcoot Divide. François. for days unending. sometimes exchanged places with him. François’s whip snapped less frequently. And always they . which stands between the salt water and the fresh and guards forbiddingly the sad and lonely North. through Sheep Camp.20 THE CALL OF THE WILD apt teachers. Once. and made poorer time. and for many days to follow. The resulting tangle was even worse. up the Cañon. Buck found it to be cheaper to mend his ways than to retaliate. Buck made his hole in the snow and slept the sleep of the exhausted just. Day after day. and he never failed to nip him when he stood in need of it. He never nipped Buck without cause.

seemed to go nowhere. his capacity to adjust himself to changing conditions. the lack of which would have meant swift and terrible death. There was no defending it. was punished for Buck’s misdeed. a clever malingerer and thief. and in so far as he observed them he would fail to prosper. Buck was ravenous. When he saw Pike. A dainty eater. It marked. getting away with the whole chunk. under the law of club and fang. It marked his adaptability. but he was unsuspected. He watched and learned. but in the Northland. and crawling to sleep into the snow. Not that Buck reasoned it out. He swiftly lost the fastidiousness which had characterized his old life. Civilized. he ate as fast as they.THE LAW OF CLUB AND FANG 21 pitched camp after dark. whoso took such things into account was a fool. to respect private property and personal feelings. it was disappearing down the throats of the others. Yet the other dogs. he could have died for a moral consideration. A great uproar was raised. say the defence of Judge Miller’s riding-whip. that was all. while Dub. and suffered from perpetual hunger pangs. the decay or going to pieces of his moral nature. To remedy this. But the club of the man in the red sweater had beaten into him a more fundamental and primitive code. a vain thing and a handicap in the ruthless struggle for existence. He never had enough. which was his ration for each day. he had never run from a fight. so greatly did hunger compel him. one of the new dogs. The pound and a half of sun-dried salmon. slyly steal a slice of bacon when Perrault’s back was turned. and. All his days. While he was fighting off two or three. because they weighed less and were born to the life. This first theft marked Buck as fit to survive in the hostile Northland environment. It was all well enough in the Southland. under the law of love and fellowship. no matter what the odds. an awkward blunderer who was always getting caught. finishing first. but the completeness of his decivilization was now evidenced by his ability . He was fit. eating their bit of fish. he duplicated the performance the following day. received a pound only of the fish and managed to keep in good condition. and unconsciously he accommodated himself to the new mode of life. he was not above taking what did not belong to him. robbed him of his unfinished ration. he found that his mates. further.

the things he did were done because it was easier to do them than not to do them. It was no task for him to learn to fight with cut and slash and the quick wolf snap. He achieved an internal as well as external economy. but stole secretly and cunningly. He learned to bite the ice out with his teeth when it collected between his toes. pointing nose at star and howling down through the centuries and through him. no matter how loathsome or indigestible. as though they had been his always.22 THE CALL OF THE WILD to flee from the defence of a moral consideration and so save his hide. He did not rob openly. He could eat anything. In this manner had fought forgotten ancestors. He did not steal for joy of it. it was his ancestors. dead and dust. sheltered and snug. They came to him without effort or discovery. and he grew callous to all ordinary pain. the cadences which . building it into the toughest and stoutest of tissues. And when. and the old tricks which they had stamped into the heredity of the breed were his tricks. The domesticated generations fell from him. His muscles became hard as iron. and his blood carried it to the farthest reaches of his body. the wind that later blew inevitably found him to leeward. but because of the clamor of his stomach. And his cadences were their cadences. on the still cold nights. he pointed his nose at a star and howled long and wolf-like. the juices of his stomach extracted the last least particle of nutriment. and when he was thirsty and there was a thick scum of ice over the water hole. while his hearing developed such acuteness that in his sleep he heard the faintest sound and knew whether it heralded peace or peril. And not only did he learn by experience. 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 forecast it a night in advance. No matter how breathless the air when he dug his nest by tree or bank. once eaten. His development (or retrogression) was rapid. out of respect for club and fang. In short. and. but instincts long dead became alive again. In vague ways he remembered back to the youth of the breed. Sight and scent became remarkably keen. to the time the wild dogs ranged in packs through the primeval forest and killed their meat as they ran it down. They quickened the old life within him.

as token of what a puppet thing life is. Thus. 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.THE LAW OF CLUB AND FANG 23 voiced their woe and what to them was the meaning of the stillness. and dark. the ancient song surged through him and he came into his own again. and the cold. . and he came because men had found a yellow metal in the North.

and under the fierce conditions of trail life it grew and grew. and not only did he not pick fights. Early in the trip this might have taken place had it not been for an unwonted accident. The tent they had discarded at Dyea in order to travel light. At their backs rose a perpendicular wall of rock. A certain deliberateness characterized his attitude. and darkness had forced them to grope for a camping place. They could hardly have fared worse. 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. He even went out of his way to bully Buck.III THE DOMINANT PRIMORDIAL BEAST HE dominant primordial beast was strong in Buck. a wind that cut like a white-hot knife. and in the bitter hatred between him and Spitz he betrayed no impatience. and Perrault and François were compelled to make their fire and spread their sleeping robes on the ice of the lake itself. On the other hand. Close in under the sheltering rock Buck made his nest. Driving snow. shunned all offensive acts. He was too busy adjusting himself to the new life to feel at ease. but he avoided them whenever possible. that he was loath to leave it when François distributed the T 24 . He was not prone to rashness and precipitate action. So snug and warm was it. possibly because he divined in Buck a dangerous rival. Spitz never lost an opportunity of showing his teeth. striving constantly to start the fight which could end only in the death of one or the other. Yet it was a secret growth. At the end of this day they made a bleak and miserable camp on the shore of Lake Le Barge. His new-born cunning gave him poise and control.

“A-a-ah!” he cried to Buck. the resounding impact of a club upon a bony frame. It seemed as though their bones would burst through their skins. he found his nest occupied. for his whole experience with Buck had gone to teach him that his rival was an unusually timid dog. and the grub-box was capsized on the ground. Buck was no less eager. They were mere skeletons. draped loosely in draggled hides. too. but struggled none the less madly till the last crumb had been devoured. He sprang upon Spitz with a fury which surprised them both. as he likewise circled back and forth for the advantage. with blazing eyes and slavered fangs. In the meantime the astonished team-dogs had burst out of their nests only to be set upon by the fierce invaders. and a shrill yelp of pain. and no less cautious.THE DOMINANT PRIMORDIAL BEAST 25 fish which he had first thawed over the fire. but this was too much. An oath from Perrault. The camp was suddenly discovered to be alive with skulking furry forms—starving huskies. and when the two men sprang among them with stout clubs they showed their teeth and fought back. They had crept in while Buck and Spitz were fighting. the dirty t’eef!” Spitz was equally willing. Till now Buck had avoided trouble with his enemy. heralded the breaking forth of pandemonium. “Gif it to heem. who managed to hold his own only because of his great weight and size. But it was then that the unexpected happened. Perrault found one with head buried in the grub-box. Never had Buck seen such dogs. François was surprised. But the hunger-madness made them . past many a weary mile of trail and toil. when they shot out in a tangle from the disrupted nest and he divined the cause of the trouble. The beast in him roared. who had scented the camp from some Indian village. by Gar! Gif it to heem. four or five score of them. But when Buck finished his ration and returned. A warning snarl told him that the trespasser was Spitz. the thing which projected their struggle for supremacy far into the future. His club landed heavily on the gaunt ribs. and Spitz particularly. The clubs fell upon them unheeded. On the instant a score of the famished brutes were scrambling for the bread and bacon. They were crazed by the smell of the food. He was crying with sheer rage and eagerness as he circled back and forth for a chance to spring in. They yelped and howled under the rain of blows.

cried and whimpered throughout the night. and he crunched down through the bone. There was not one who was not wounded in four or five places. out of the tail of his eye he saw Spitz rush upon him with the evident intention of overthrowing him. Perrault and François. The din was frightful. The huskies had chewed . There was no opposing them. with the rest of the team behind. the good-natured. irresistible. hurried to save their sled-dogs. they were in a sorry plight.26 THE CALL OF THE WILD terrifying. sprang through the savage circle and fled away over the ice. Joe was snapping like a demon. The wild wave of famished beasts rolled back before them. treacherously attacking from the side. Buck got a frothing adversary by the throat. But it was only for a moment. But he braced himself to the shock of Spitz’s charge. leaped upon the crippled animal. and was sprayed with blood when his teeth sank through the jugular. then joined the flight out on the lake. It was Spitz. As Buck drew himself together to spring after them. while some were wounded grievously. Once his teeth closed on the fore leg of a husky. terrified into bravery. Though unpursued. Once off his feet and under that mass of huskies. Pike. breaking its neck with a quick flash of teeth and a jerk. At daybreak they limped warily back to camp. and at the same time felt teeth sink into his own throat. Dave and Sol-leks. Fully half their grub supply was gone. while Billee. Dub was badly injured in a hind leg. The team-dogs were swept back against the cliff at the first onset. upon which the huskies returned to the attack on the team. The two men were compelled to run back to save the grub. Buck was beset by three huskies. having cleaned out their part of the camp. Pike and Dub followed on his heels. Later. Joe had lost an eye. there was no hope for him. The warm taste of it in his mouth goaded him to greater fierceness. to find the marauders gone and the two men in bad tempers. had a badly torn throat. He flung himself upon another. Billee. Dolly. dripping blood from a score of wounds. with an ear chewed and rent to ribbons. the nine team-dogs gathered together and sought shelter in the forest. and in a trice his head and shoulders were ripped and slashed. were fighting bravely side by side. and Buck shook himself free. the last husky added to the team at Dyea. the malingerer. Billee was crying as usual.

resolutely thrusting his little weazened face into the frost and struggling on from dim dawn to dark. the hardest between them and Dawson. Nothing daunted him. With four hundred miles of trail still between him and Dawson. no matter how remotely eatable. “Ah. Two hours of cursing and exertion got the harnesses into shape. the thermometer registering fifty below zero. Its wild water defied the frost. He broke from a mournful contemplation of it to look over his wounded dogs. sacredam! Wot you t’ink. which he so held that it fell each time across the hole made by his body. eh. dragging the whole team after him up to Buck. And terrible they were. chunks out of the leather traces. He skirted the frowning shores on rim ice that bent and crackled under foot and upon which they dared not halt. for every foot of them was accomplished at the risk of life to dog and man. he could ill afford to have madness break out among his dogs.THE DOMINANT PRIMORDIAL BEAST 27 through the sled lashings and canvas coverings. struggling painfully over the hardest part of the trail they had yet encountered. being saved by the long pole he carried. nosing the way. He took all manner of risks. The Thirty Mile River was wide open. In fact. and the wound-stiffened team was under way. Mebbe all mad dog. The usual fire was necessary to save them. Six days of exhausting toil were required to cover those thirty terrible miles. But a cold snap was on. and it was in the eddies only and in the quiet places that the ice held at all. the sled broke through. It was because nothing daunted him that he had been chosen for government courier. my frien’s. and even two feet of lash from the end of François’s whip. so close that they were singed by the flames. and for that matter.” he said softly. A dozen times. had escaped them. Perrault?” The courier shook his head dubiously. They were coated solidly with ice. and the two men kept them on the run around the fire. broke through the ice bridges. with Dave and Buck. “mebbe it mek you mad dog. and each time he broke through he was compelled for very life to build a fire and dry his garments. and they were halffrozen and all but drowned by the time they were dragged out. They had eaten a pair of Perrault’s moose-hide moccasins. At another time Spitz went through. nothing. Perrault. Once. sweating and thawing. his fore . dose many bites. who strained backward with all his strength.

pushed them late and early. after the sled and load. who had never been conspicuous for anything. nor did he have any reason to fear madness. The rest of the dogs were in like condition. François came up last. His had softened during the many generations since the day his last wild ancestor was tamed by a cave-dweller or river man. while François prayed for just that miracle. and the worn-out foot-gear was thrown away. Buck’s feet were not so compact and hard as the feet of the huskies. to the cliff crest. heart-breaking wolf howl that sent every dog bristling with fear. and Buck caused even the weazened face of Perrault to twist itself into a grin one morning. Buck was played out. and sacrificed the tops of his own moccasins to make four moccasins for Buck. to make up lost time. All day long he limped in agony. Again. lay down like a dead dog.28 THE CALL OF THE WILD paws on the slippery edge and the ice quivering and snapping all around. the dogs were hoisted. Perrault scaled it by a miracle. his four feet waving appealingly in the air. Also. one by one. the next day thirty-five more to the Little Salmon. and with every thong and sled lashing and the last bit of harness rove into a long rope. the rim ice broke away before and behind. Later his feet grew hard to the trail. likewise straining backward. and refused to budge without them. and there was no escape except up the cliff. but Perrault. when François forgot the moccasins and Buck lay on his back. and behind the sled was François. the third day forty miles. . Dolly. She announced her condition by a long. Then came the search for a place to descend. and night found them back on the river with a quarter of a mile to the day’s credit. which descent was ultimately made by the aid of the rope. and camp once made. But behind him was Dave. pulling till his tendons cracked. went suddenly mad. as they were harnessing up. At the Pelly one morning. This was a great relief. which brought them well up toward the Five Fingers. He had never seen a dog go mad. which François had to bring to him. then sprang straight for Buck. he would not move to receive his ration of fish. Hungry as he was. By the time they made the Hootalinqua and good ice. the dog-driver rubbed Buck’s feet for half an hour each night after supper. The first day they covered thirty-five miles to the Big Salmon.

helpless. and cunning. gained a third island. He plunged through the wooded breast of the island. matching the husky in strength. with Dolly. Then François’s lash descended. and fled away from it in a panic. though he did not look. Spitz. savagery. He sprang upon Buck. exhausted. Straight away he raced. And strange Buck was to him. crossed a back channel filled with rough ice to another island. Then he was a masterful dog. The dog-driver held the axe poised in his hand. flew down to the lower end. They were all too soft. “All de tam I watch dat Buck I know for sure. He alone endured and prospered. “One devil. felt his supremacy threatened by this strange Southland dog. nor could he leave her. curved back to the main river.” From then on it was war between them. dat Spitz. I know. and starvation.THE DOMINANT PRIMORDIAL BEAST 29 yet he knew that here was horror. and twice his teeth sank into his unresisting foe and ripped and tore the flesh to the bone. “Some dam day heem keel dat Buck. so great was his terror. he could hear her snarling just one leap behind. not one had shown up worthily in camp and on trail. panting and frothing. and what made him dangerous was the fact that the club of the man in the red sweater had knocked all blind pluck and rashness . the frost. nor could she gain on him. one leap behind. and in desperation started to cross it.” “Dat Buck two devils. so great was her madness. and as Buck shot past him the axe crashed down upon mad Dolly’s head. sobbing for breath. 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. dying under the toil. and Buck had the satisfaction of watching Spitz receive the worst whipping as yet administered to any of the team. gasping painfully for air and putting all his faith in that François would save him. Buck was the exception. And all the time. This was Spitz’s opportunity. François called to him a quarter of a mile away and he doubled back.” remarked Perrault. still one leap ahead.” was François’s rejoinder. Sure. for of the many Southland dogs he had known. as lead-dog and acknowledged master of the team. Buck staggered over against the sled.

and so shrewdly managed. and Spitz flew at him to punish him. He was preëminently cunning. likewise sprang upon Spitz. One night there was a heavy snowfall. He wanted it because it was his nature. and could bide his time with a patience that was nothing less than primitive. the pride that laid hold of them at break of camp. It was inevitable that the clash for leadership should come. And he did it deliberately. Likewise it was this pride that made him fear Buck as a possible lead-dog. of Sol-leks as he pulled with all his strength. letting them fall back into gloomy unrest and uncontent. took heart at this open mutiny. Buck was knocked backward and the lash laid . that Spitz was hurled backward and off his feet. And this was Buck’s pride. 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. eager. Buck flew. François called him and sought him in vain. did not appear. transforming them from sour and sullen brutes into straining. But François. Half-stunned by the blow. who had been trembling abjectly. But when he was at last unearthed. chuckling at the incident while unswerving in the administration of justice. and breaks their hearts if they are cut out of the harness. He came between him and the shirks he should have punished. ambitious creatures. This failed to drive Buck from his prostrate rival. because he had been gripped tight by that nameless. Buck. and in the morning Pike. He openly threatened the other’s leadership. too. Pike. Buck wanted it. which lures them to die joyfully in the harness. brought his lash down upon Buck with all his might. and the butt of the whip was brought into play. and sprang upon his overthrown leader. the malingerer. incomprehensible pride of the trail and trace—that pride which holds dogs in the toil to the last gasp. the pride that spurred them on all day and dropped them at pitch of camp at night. with equal rage. to whom fairplay was a forgotten code. He was securely hidden in his nest under a foot of snow.30 THE CALL OF THE WILD out of his desire for mastery. snarling so frightfully that Pike heard and shivered in his hiding-place. in between. smelling and digging in every likely place. This was the pride of Dave as wheel-dog. So unexpected was it. He raged through the camp. Spitz was wild with wrath.

and countless dogs. All day they swung up and down the main street in long teams. only it was pitched in minor key. But the opportunity did not present itself. at nine. they lifted a nocturnal song. a general insubordination sprang up and increased. With the aurora borealis flaming coldly overhead. It seemed the ordained order of things that dogs should work. In the days that followed. this song of the huskies might have been the defiance of life. and in the night their jingling bells still went by. They hauled cabin logs and firewood. Every night. at twelve. Things no longer went right. for the dog-driver was in constant apprehension of the life-and-death struggle between the two which he knew must take place sooner or later. and the fear and mystery of the . freighted up to the mines. and did all manner of work that horses did in the Santa Clara Valley. it was with the pain of living that was of old the pain of his wild fathers. and they pulled into Dawson one dreary afternoon with the great fight still to come. and Buck found them all at work. It was invested with the woe of unnumbered generations. a weird and eerie chant. He kept François busy. when François was not around. the articulate travail of existence. Trouble was always afoot. this plaint by which Buck was so strangely stirred. as Dawson grew closer and closer. Here were many men. Buck still continued to interfere between Spitz and the culprits. with long-drawn wailings and half-sobs. and was more the pleading of life. but he did it craftily. Dave and Sol-leks were unaffected. When he moaned and sobbed. in which it was Buck’s delight to join. It was an old song. at three. while Spitz soundly punished the many times offending Pike. and at the bottom of it was Buck. There was continual bickering and jangling. and the land numb and frozen under its pall of snow. or the stars leaping in the frost dance. Here and there Buck met Southland dogs. regularly.THE DOMINANT PRIMORDIAL BEAST 31 upon him again and again. but in the main they were the wild wolf husky breed. old as the breed itself—one of the first songs of the younger world in a day when songs were sad. fearful that Buck and Spitz were at it. With the covert mutiny of Buck. and on more than one night the sounds of quarrelling and strife among the other dogs turned him out of his sleeping robe. but the rest of the team went from bad to worse.

It no longer was as one dog leaping in the traces. Another night Dub and Joe fought Spitz and made him forego the punishment they deserved. on the first day. Dave and Sol-leks alone were unaltered. and the second day saw them booming up the Yukon well on their way to Pelly. They made Sixty Mile. 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. The week’s rest had recuperated the dogs and put them in thorough trim. And further. the good-natured. François swore strange barbarous oaths. which is a fifty-mile run. The encouragement Buck gave the rebels led them into all kinds of petty misdemeanors. and pulled for Dyea and Salt Water. and . And even Billee. Pike robbed him of half a fish one night. till at times the camp was a howling bedlam. was less good-natured. and they grew equal to challenging his authority. But such splendid running was achieved not without great trouble and vexation on the part of François. also. the police had arranged in two or three places deposits of grub for dog and man. The breaking down of discipline likewise affected the dogs in their relations with one another. The trail they had broken into the country was packed hard by later journeyers. No more was Spitz a leader greatly to be feared. the travel pride had gripped him. and he purposed to make the record trip of the year. his conduct approached that of a bully. and he was given to swaggering up and down before Spitz’s very nose. and he was travelling light. and gulped it down under the protection of Buck.32 THE CALL OF THE WILD cold and dark that was to them fear and mystery. Buck never came near Spitz without snarling and bristling menacingly. and whined not half so placatingly as in former days. Several things favored him in this. Seven days from the time they pulled into Dawson. In fact. they dropped down the steep bank by the Barracks to the Yukon Trail. The insidious revolt led by Buck had destroyed the solidarity of the team. They quarrelled and bickered more than ever among themselves. though they were made irritable by the unending squabbling. Perrault was carrying despatches if anything more urgent than those he had brought in. The old awe departed.

comes to the artist.THE DOMINANT PRIMORDIAL BEAST 33 stamped the snow in futile rage. but Buck was too clever ever again to be caught red-handed. Dub turned up a snowshoe rabbit. running the wild thing down. He worked faithfully in the harness. yet it was a greater delight slyly to precipitate a fight amongst his mates and tangle the traces. in the wan white moonlight. At the mouth of the Tahkeena. but it was of small avail. blundered it. this forgetfulness of living. like some pale frost wraith. and it comes as a complete forgetfulness that one is alive. his splendid body flashing forward. with fifty dogs. who joined the chase. around bend after bend. A hundred yards away was a camp of the Northwest Police. and missed. This ecstasy. And such is the paradox of living. caught up and out of himself in a sheet of flame. while Buck backed up the remainder of the team. In a second the whole team was in full cry. straining after the food that was alive and that fled swiftly before him through the moonlight. huskies all. He was ranging at the head of the pack. He was sounding the deeps of his nature. and it came to Buck. sixty strong. turned off into a small creek. the living meat. this ecstasy comes when one is most alive. and Buck knew he knew. it comes to the soldier. up the frozen bed of which it held steadily. the joy to kill—all this was Buck’s. but he could not gain. the blood lust. There is an ecstasy that marks the summit of life. Directly his back was turned they were at it again. going back into the womb of Time. the snowshoe rabbit flashed on ahead. only it was infinitely more intimate. All that stirring of old instincts which at stated periods drives men out from the sounding cities to forest and plain to kill things by chemically propelled leaden pellets. and tore his hair. It ran lightly on the surface of the snow. He lay down low to the race. François knew he was behind all the trouble. And leap by leap. for the toil had become a delight to him. and beyond which life cannot rise. He was . He backed up Spitz with his whip. whining eagerly. leading the pack. Buck led the pack. and of the parts of his nature that were deeper than he. The rabbit sped down the river. war-mad on a stricken field and refusing quarter. leap by leap. while the dogs ploughed through by main strength. His lash was always singing among the dogs. to kill with his own teeth and wash his muzzle to the eyes in warm blood. one night after supper. sounding the old wolf-cry.

joint. In a flash Buck knew it. cold and calculating even in his supreme moods. keenly watchful for the advantage. this scene of old time. To Buck it was nothing new or strange. It was as though it had always been. At sound of this. slashing Buck down the shoulder and leaping clear. and moonlight. He did not check himself. not a leaf quivered. the cry of Life plunging down from Life’s apex in the grip of Death. as he backed away for better footing. It was to the death. Buck did not know of this. the scene came to Buck with a sense of familiarity. expressing itself in movement. were silent. shoulder to shoulder. snarling. the tidal wave of being. Over the whiteness and silence brooded a ghostly calm. There was not the faintest whisper of air—nothing moved. like the steel jaws of a trap. the full pack at Buck’s heels raised a hell’s chorus of delight. ears laid back. the perfect joy of each separate muscle. and sinew in that it was everything that was not death. They. the frost wraith of a rabbit still flitting before him. these dogs that were ill-tamed wolves. The time had come. The rabbit could not turn. too. Spitz gained his feet almost as though he had not been overthrown. He seemed to remember it all. with lean and lifting lips that writhed and snarled. and as the white teeth broke its back in mid air it shrieked as loudly as a stricken man may shriek. he saw another and larger frost wraith leap from the overhanging bank into the immediate path of the rabbit. and they were now drawn up in an expectant circle. so hard that he missed the throat. They rolled over and over in the powdery snow.—the white woods. Buck did not cry out. their eyes only gleaming and their breaths drifting slowly upward. that it was aglow and rampant. and earth. and as he rounded the bend. But Spitz. and the thrill of battle. but drove in upon Spitz. . They had made short work of the snowshoe rabbit.34 THE CALL OF THE WILD mastered by the sheer surging of life. the visible breaths of the dogs rising slowly and lingering in the frosty air. flying exultantly under the stars and over the face of dead matter that did not move. left the pack and cut across a narrow neck of land where the creek made a long bend around. Twice his teeth clipped together. As they circled about. It was Spitz. the wonted way of things.

as though for the throat. He rushed. In passion to rend and destroy. Spitz struggled madly to keep up. He fought by instinct. Despite the pain and helplessness. But Buck possessed a quality that made for greatness—imagination. they were countered by the fangs of Spitz. he would drive his shoulder at the shoulder of Spitz. There was a crunch of breaking bone. He never rushed till he was prepared to receive a rush. when. Then Buck took to rushing. but at the last instant swept low to the snow and in. and the circle sank down again and waited. and he kept him staggering for footing. Thrice he tried to knock him over. and each time and every time Spitz slashed him and got away. suddenly drawing back his head and curving in from the side. then repeated the trick and broke the right fore leg. almost in mid air. and silvery breaths drifting upward. And all the while the silent and wolfish circle waited to finish off whichever dog went down. but never blind rage. he never forgot that his enemy was in like passion to rend and destroy. Spitz was untouched. Buck’s shoulder was slashed down each time as Spitz leaped lightly away. and across Canada and the Barrens. lolling tongues. he had held his own with all manner of dogs and achieved to mastery over them. while Buck was streaming with blood and panting hard. From Spitzbergen through the Arctic. where life bubbled near to the surface. His teeth closed on Spitz’s left fore leg. Then he warmed up and enveloped Spitz in a whirlwind of rushes. As Buck grew winded. with gleaming eyes. closing in upon him as he had seen . Time and time again he tried for the snow-white throat. never attacked till he had first defended that attack. Spitz took to rushing. But instead. Wherever his fangs struck for the softer flesh. and the whole circle of sixty dogs started up. and the white dog faced him on three legs. as though attempting the old shoulder trick. He saw the silent circle. Once Buck went over. Fang clashed fang. Bitter rage was his. as a ram by which to overthrow him. but he recovered himself. but Buck could not penetrate his enemy’s guard. The fight was growing desperate.THE DOMINANT PRIMORDIAL BEAST 35 Spitz was a practised fighter. but he could fight by head as well. In vain Buck strove to sink his teeth in the neck of the big white dog. and lips were cut and bleeding.

shoulder had at last squarely met shoulder. Every animal was motionless as though turned to stone. as though to frighten off impending death. He could see them.36 THE CALL OF THE WILD similar circles close in upon beaten antagonists in the past. but while he was in. the dominant primordial beast who had made his kill and found it good. Only this time he was the one who was beaten. The circle had tightened till he could feel the breaths of the huskies on his flanks. snarling with horrible menace. Buck stood and looked on. half crouching for the spring. Buck was inexorable. beyond Spitz and to either side. He manœuvred for the final rush. Then Buck sprang in and out. Mercy was a thing reserved for gentler climes. . Only Spitz quivered and bristled as he staggered back and forth. There was no hope for him. The dark circle became a dot on the moon-flooded snow as Spitz disappeared from view. their eyes fixed upon him. the successful champion. A pause seemed to fall.

IV
WHO HAS WON TO MASTERSHIP
H? Wot I say? I spik true w’en I say dat Buck two devils.” This was François’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 Perrault, as he surveyed the gaping rips and cuts. “An’ dat Buck fight lak two hells,” was François’s answer. “An’ now we make good time. No more Spitz, no more trouble, sure.” While Perrault packed the camp outfit and loaded the sled, the dogdriver proceeded to harness the dogs. Buck trotted up to the place Spitz would have occupied as leader; but François, not noticing him, brought Sol-leks to the 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?” François cried, slapping his thighs gleefully. “Look at dat Buck. Heem keel dat Spitz, heem t’ink to take de job.” “Go ’way, Chook!” he cried, but Buck refused 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. François was obdurate, but when he turned his back Buck again displaced Sol-leks, who was not at all unwilling to go. François was angry. “Now, by Gar, I feex you!” he cried, coming back with a heavy club in his hand. “

E

37

38

THE CALL OF THE WILD

Buck remembered the man in the red sweater, and retreated slowly; nor did he attempt to charge in when Sol-leks was once more brought forward. But he circled just beyond 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 François, 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. François followed him up, whereupon he again retreated. After some time of this, François 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 retreated around and around the camp, advertising plainly that when his desire was met, he would come in and be good. François 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. François scratched his head again. He shook it and grinned sheepishly at the courier, who shrugged his shoulders in sign that they were beaten. Then François went up to where Sol-leks stood and called to Buck. Buck laughed, as dogs laugh, yet kept his distance. François unfastened Sol-leks’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 François called, and once more Buck laughed and kept away. “T’row down de club,” Perrault commanded. François complied, whereupon Buck trotted in, laughing triumphantly, and swung around into position at the head of the team.

WHO HAS WON TO MASTERSHIP

39

His traces were fastened, the sled broken out, and 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 leadership; and where judgment was required, and quick thinking and quick acting, he showed himself the superior even of Spitz, of whom François 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 leadership. 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 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 succeeded 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 solidarity, 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 François’s breath. “Nevaire such a dog as dat Buck!” he cried. “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 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

40

THE CALL OF THE WILD

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 François threw chests up and down the main street of Skaguay and were 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. François called Buck to him, threw his arms around him, wept over him. And that was the last of François 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 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,

This other man was shorter of leg and longer of arm. Sometimes he thought of Judge Miller’s big house in the sun-kissed Santa Clara Valley. on legs that bent at the knees. for an hour or so with the other dogs. of which there were fivescore and odd. He was all but naked. though it was good to loaf around. and of the cement swimming-tank. and seemed very much afraid of the darkness. Best of all. clutching in his hand. and that as he crouched by this other fire he saw another and different man from the half-breed cook before him. so that when he bristled and showed his teeth. the great fight with Spitz. a ragged and fire-scorched skin hanging part way down his back. the dogs were fed. There were fierce fighters among them. it seemed that the flames were of another fire. in him. quickened and became alive again. and such memories had no power over him. a stick with a heavy stone made fast to the end. head raised. but on his body there was much hair. the instincts (which were but the memories of his ancestors become habits) which had lapsed in later days. Also. To them. with muscles that were stringy and knotty rather than rounded and swelling. He did not stand erect. Far more potent were the memories of his heredity that gave things he had never seen before a seeming familiarity. but oftener he remembered the man in the red sweater. it was matted into almost a thick fur. Sometimes as he crouched there. hind legs crouched under him. and his head slanted back under it from the eyes. and the good things he had eaten or would like to eat. In some places. He was not homesick. but three battles with the fiercest brought Buck to mastery. The Sunland was very dim and distant. and Toots. and Ysabel. fore legs stretched out in front. He uttered strange sounds. which hung midway between knee and foot. The hair of this man was long and matted. and still later. and eyes blinking dreamily at the flames. this was the one feature of the day. blinking dreamily at the flames.WHO HAS WON TO MASTERSHIP 41 and still others carried water or ice for the cooks. the death of Curly. the Mexican hairless. perhaps. after the fish was eaten. into which he peered continually. they got out of his way. across the chest and shoulders and down the outside of the arms and thighs. he loved to lie near the fire. but with trunk inclined forward from the hips. the Japanese pug. About his body there was a .

or growled softly. it snowed every day. And he could hear the crashing of their bodies through the undergrowth. you Buck. his hands clasped above his head as though to shed rain by the hairy arms. with the mail behind them. Billee cried and whimpered regularly in his sleep each night. or resiliency. two by two. and the half-breed cook shouted at him. Still. They were short of weight and in poor condition when they made Dawson. and to make matters worse. wake up!” Whereupon the other world would vanish and the real world come into his eyes. It was a hard trip. And dreaming there by the Yukon bank. their strength went down. Since the beginning of the winter they had travelled eighteen hundred miles. and the noises they made in the night. They ate before the drivers ate. But in two days’ time they dropped down the Yukon bank from the Barracks. and heavier pulling for the dogs. dragging sleds the whole weary distance. yet the drivers were fair through it all. On such occasions his elbows were on his knees. And beyond that fire. till he whimpered low and suppressedly. and a quick alertness as of one who lived in perpetual fear of things seen and unseen. and should have had a ten days’ or a week’s rest at least. always two by two. Buck could see many gleaming coals. and he would get up and yawn and stretch as though he had been asleep. The dogs were tired. Joe was sourer than ever. At other times this hairy man squatted by the fire with head between his legs and slept. the drivers grumbling. with lazy eyes blinking at the fire. . though he too was very tired. and the heavy work wore them down. “Hey. blind side or other side. Buck stood it. which he knew to be the eyes of great beasts of prey. and did their best for the animals. and no man sought his sleeping-robe till he had seen to the feet of the dogs he drove. in the circling darkness. keeping his mates up to their work and maintaining discipline.42 THE CALL OF THE WILD peculiar springiness. 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. This meant a soft trail. almost catlike. and Sol-leks was unapproachable. greater friction on the runners. loaded with letters for the outside. Each night the dogs were attended to first. and eighteen hundred miles will tell upon life of the toughest.

howling lugubriously as the long train of sleds churned by. when he floundered past the sleds to his own. By the time Cassiar Bar was reached. Sometimes. where he stood alongside Sol-leks. With the last remnant of his strength he managed to stagger along behind till the train made another stop. where his driver fed him. and all the while whining and yelping and crying with grief and pain.WHO HAS WON TO MASTERSHIP 43 But it was Dave who suffered most of all. and the man had not the heart to strike harder. but they could locate no broken bones. Then he fell. Dave resented being taken out. For the pride of trace and trail was his. and whimpering broken-heartedly when he saw Sol-leks in the position he had held and served so long. but could find nothing. and one night they held a consultation. where the going was easy. could not make it out. The Scotch half-breed called a halt and took him out of the team. He became more morose and irritable. he was so weak that he was falling repeatedly in the traces. but continued to flounder alongside in the soft snow. where the going was most difficult. letting him run free behind the sled. The driver examined him. he could not bear that another dog should do his work. and when camp was pitched at once made his nest. he did not get on his feet again till harness-up time in the morning. attacking Sol-leks with his teeth. He was brought from his nest to the fire and was pressed and prodded till he cried out many times. till exhausted. His driver lingered a . grunting and growling while the traces were unfastened. sick unto death. Once out of the harness and down. and lay where he fell. or by straining to start it. when jerked by a sudden stoppage of the sled. Something had gone wrong with him. Sick as he was. Sol-leks. When the sled started. The half-breed tried to drive him away with the whip. making the next dog. rushing against him and trying to thrust him off into the soft snow on the other side. in the traces. striving to leap inside his traces and get between him and the sled. His intention was to rest Dave. and over their last pipes before going to bed. Dave refused to run quietly on the trail behind the sled. but he paid no heed to the stinging lash. he floundered in the soft snow alongside the beaten trail. Something was wrong inside. he would cry out with pain. fast to the sled. All the drivers became interested in his case. They talked it over at meal-time. and.

when his driver made a place for him by the fire. where dogs. that he should die in the traces. Then he wormed his way forward slowly toward where the harnesses were being put on his mates. The men ceased talking. though more than once he cried out involuntarily from the bite of his inward hurt. turned their heads uneasily. the bells tinkled merrily. Morning found him too weak to travel. The Scotch half-breed slowly retraced his steps to the camp they had left. Dave had bitten through both of Sol-leks’s traces. and the last his mates saw of him he lay gasping in the snow and yearning toward them. they held it a mercy. and proudly he pulled as of old.44 THE CALL OF THE WILD moment to get a light for his pipe from the man behind. His strength left him. But they could hear him mournfully howling till they passed out of sight behind a belt of river timber. and recalled instances they had known. . and every dog knew. Also. Several times he fell down and was dragged in the traces. So he was harnessed in again. They swung out on the trail with remarkable lack of exertion. and once the sled ran upon him so that he limped thereafter in one of his hind legs. By convulsive efforts he got on his feet. heart-easy and content. too old for the toil. staggered. But he held out till camp was reached. He called his comrades to witness the sight. the sled had not moved. A revolver-shot rang out. since Dave was to die anyway. and was standing directly in front of the sled in his proper place. At harness-up time he tried to crawl to his driver. when he would advance his fore legs and hitch ahead again for a few more inches. His comrades talked of how a dog could break its heart through being denied the work that killed it. but Buck knew. had died because they were cut out of the traces. and fell. The driver was perplexed. Here the train was halted. The man came back hurriedly. He pleaded with his eyes to remain there. The whips snapped. Then he returned and started his dogs. too. and stopped in surprise. what had taken place behind the belt of river trees. He would advance his fore legs and drag up his body with a sort of hitching movement. the sleds churned along the trail. or injured. The driver was surprised.

Every muscle. no reserve strength to call upon. It had been all used. had often successfully feigned a hurt leg. No spring or rebound was left in them. from which recovery is a matter of hours. every cell. Buck’s one hundred and forty pounds had dwindled to one hundred and fifteen.V THE TOIL OF TRACE AND TRAIL HIRTY days from the time it left Dawson. arrived at Skaguay. during the last eighteen hundred of which they had had but five days’ rest. who. It was not the dead tiredness that comes through brief and excessive effort. They were all terribly footsore. every fibre. When they arrived at Skaguay. They could barely keep the traces taut. the Salt Water Mail. worn out and worn down. the malingerer. but it was the dead tiredness that comes through the slow and prolonged strength drainage of months of toil. the last least bit of it. was tired. In less than five months they had travelled twenty-five hundred miles. Their feet fell heavily on the trail. There was no power of recuperation left. There was nothing the matter with them except that they were dead tired. The rest of his mates. Sol-leks was limping. dead tired. jarring their bodies and doubling the fatigue of a day’s travel. they were apparently on their last legs. They were in a wretched state. was now limping in earnest. and on the down grades just managed to keep out of the way of the sled. And there was reason for it. and Dub was suffering from a wrenched shoulder-blade. had relatively lost more weight than he. though lighter dogs. in his lifetime of deceit. T 45 . with Buck and his mates at the fore. Pike.

saw the money pass between the man and the Government agent. and in the nature of reason and common justice they deserved an interval of loafing. and kin that had not rushed in. every thing in disorder. This belt was the most salient thing about him. When driven with his mates to the new owners’ camp.46 THE CALL OF THE WILD “Mush on. Buck saw a slipshod and slovenly affair. and knew that the Scotch half-breed and the mail-train drivers were passing out of his life on the heels of Perrault and François and the others who had gone before. with a big Colt’s revolver and a hunting-knife strapped about him on a belt that fairly bristled with cartridges. by which time Buck and his mates found how really tired and weak they were. also. wives. and. harness and all. It advertised his callowness—a callowness sheer and unutterable.” Charles was a middle-aged. also. since dogs count for little against dollars. giving the lie to the limply drooping lip it concealed. Fresh batches of Hudson Bay dogs were to take the places of those worthless for the trail. with weak and watery eyes and a mustache that twisted fiercely and vigorously up. two men from the States came along and bought them. Den we get one long res’. “Dis is de las’. But so many were the men who had rushed into the Klondike. he saw a woman. The men addressed each other as “Hal” and “Charles. lightish-colored man. Hal was a youngster of nineteen or twenty. . dishes unwashed. Themselves. The worthless ones were to be got rid of. they were to be sold. that the congested mail was taking on Alpine proportions.” The drivers confidently expected a long stopover. She was Charles’s wife and Hal’s sister—a nice family party. there were official orders. they had covered twelve hundred miles with two days’ rest. and so many were the sweethearts. “Mercedes” the men called her. Then. for a song. poor sore feets. tent half stretched. One bully long res’. and why such as they should adventure the North is part of the mystery of things that passes understanding. on the morning of the fourth day. Eh? For sure. Both men were manifestly out of place. Buck heard the chaffering.” the driver encouraged them as they tottered down the main street of Skaguay. Three days passed.

” affirmed a second of the men. “Why shouldn’t it?” Charles demanded rather shortly. “You’ve got a right smart load as it is.” said Hal. The tent was rolled into an awkward bundle three times as large as it should have been.” the man replied. When they put a clothes-sack on the front of the sled. “I was just a-wonderin’. that’s all right. taking hold of the gee-pole with one hand and swinging his whip from the other.” said one of them. and Charles and Hal put the last odds and ends on top the mountainous load. She shook her head decidedly. and covered it over with a couple of other bundles. The tin dishes were packed away unwashed.” the man hastened meekly to say. It seemed a mite top-heavy. “Oh. grinning and winking at one another. she suggested it should go on the back. “However in the world could I manage without a tent?” “It’s springtime. that’s all right. throwing up her hands in dainty dismay. There was a great deal of effort about their manner.” “Undreamed of!” cried Mercedes. They were unable to move the sled. “Certainly. .THE TOIL OF TRACE AND TRAIL 47 Buck watched them apprehensively as they proceeded to take down the tent and load the sled. and they unloaded again. that is all. Three men from a neighboring tent came out and looked on. and when they had put it on the back. strained hard for a few moments. with freezing politeness. she discovered overlooked articles which could abide nowhere else but in that very sack. “Think it’ll ride?” one of the men asked.” Charles turned his back and drew the lashings down as well as he could. but no businesslike method. “An’ of course the dogs can hike along all day with that contraption behind them. “Mush on there!” The dogs sprang against the breast-bands. “and it’s not me should tell you your business. Mercedes continually fluttered in the way of her men and kept up an unbroken chattering of remonstrance and advice. which was not in the least well. then relaxed. and you won’t get any more cold weather. but I wouldn’t tote that tent along if I was you. “Mush!” he shouted.

that’s what’s the matter.” she said pointedly. “Never mind that man. panting. They threw themselves against the breast-bands.” Mercedes looked at them imploringly. One of the onlookers.” came the reply from one of the men. poor dears. But she was a clannish creature. who had been clenching his teeth to suppress hot speech. crying. you can help them a mighty lot by breaking .” her brother sneered. they stood still. but he was feeling too miserable to resist her. “You’re driving our dogs. “Oh!” in pain and sorrow at the oath. preparing to lash out at them with the whip.” “Rest be blanked.” said Hal.” he cried. I’ll show them. and put forth all their strength. or I won’t go a step. “why don’t you pull hard?—then you wouldn’t be whipped.” “Precious lot you know about dogs. you mustn’t. Ask one of those men. “They’re weak as water. taking it as part of the day’s miserable work. untold repugnance at sight of pain written in her pretty face. and Mercedes said. if you want to know. You ask any one. and you’ve got to whip them to get anything out of them. The whip was whistling savagely. with tears in her eyes. and you do what you think best with them.” as she caught hold of the whip and wrenched it from him. when once more Mercedes interfered. “You poor.48 THE CALL OF THE WILD “The lazy brutes.” Buck did not like her. and rushed at once to the defence of her brother. but for the dogs’ sakes I just want to tell you. with his beardless lips. I tell you. Hal. That’s their way. dug their feet into the packed snow.” Again Hal’s whip fell upon the dogs. After two efforts. They’re lazy. The sled held as though it were an anchor. They need a rest. “and I wish you’d leave me alone.” she cried sympathetically. “Plum tuckered out. She dropped on her knees before Buck. and put her arms around his neck. “The poor dears! Now you must promise you won’t be harsh with them for the rest of the trip. got down low to it. But Mercedes interfered. “Oh. now spoke up:— “It’s not that I care a whoop what becomes of you.

was what was said. It would have required an experienced man to keep the top-heavy sled upright. She appealed to everybody and to everything. Kind-hearted citizens caught the dogs and gathered up the scattered belongings. Also. anyway? Good Lord.—who’s going to wash them. the team following his lead. Throw your weight against the gee-pole. rocking back and forth broken-heartedly. for canned goods on the Long Trail is a thing to dream about. but this time. right and left. Throw away that tent. adding to the gayety of Skaguay as they scattered the remainder of the outfit along its chief thoroughfare. spilling half its load through the loose lashings. They were angry because of the ill treatment they had received and the unjust load. She clasped hands about knees. Mercedes cried when her clothes-bags were dumped on the ground and article after article was thrown out. they gave advice. following the advice. pitched tent. Hal and his sister and brother-in-law listened unwillingly. and Hal was not such a man. The lightened sled bounded on its side behind them. if they ever expected to reach Dawson. He tripped and was pulled off his feet. A hundred yards ahead the path turned and sloped steeply into the main street. As they swung on the turn the sled went over. The runners are froze fast. Canned goods were turned out that made men laugh. The capsized sled ground over him. . She cried in general. and all those dishes. Half the load and twice the dogs. finally wiping her eyes and proceeding to cast out even articles of apparel that were imperative necessaries. and she cried in particular over each discarded thing. Buck and his mates struggling frantically under the rain of blows. “Blankets for a hotel” quoth one of the men who laughed and helped.” A third time the attempt was made. The overloaded and unwieldy sled forged ahead. do you think you’re travelling on a Pullman?” And so it went. She averred she would not go an inch. Hal cried “Whoa! whoa!” but they gave no heed. the inexorable elimination of the superfluous. Buck was raging.THE TOIL OF TRACE AND TRAIL 49 out that sled. and the dogs dashed on up the street. “Half as many is too much. get rid of them. And in her zeal. and overhauled the outfit. not for a dozen Charleses. He broke into a run. The dogs never stopped. and break it out. Hal broke out the runners which had been frozen to the snow.

however. though practically broken in since their landing. made him bitter. Mercedes looked over their shoulders and nodded comprehensively. and the other two were mongrels of indeterminate breed. They did not take kindly to trace and trail. There was nothing lively about it. he was facing the same trail once more. so much to a dog. They were starting dead weary. They did not seem to know anything. The two men. she attacked the belongings of her men and went through them like a tornado. bones were the only things breakable about them. brought the team up to fourteen. Buck and his comrades looked upon them with disgust. They had worked the trip out with a pencil. so many dogs. but never had they seen a sled with so many as fourteen dogs. and though he speedily taught them their places and what not to do. with fourteen dogs. This accomplished. E. the huskies obtained at the Rink Rapids on the record trip. But the Outside dogs. Four times he had covered the distance between Salt Water and Dawson. and that was that one sled could not carry the food for fourteen dogs. he could not teach them what to do. did not amount to much. D. And they were proud. Q. In the nature of Arctic travel there was a reason why fourteen dogs should not drag one sled. too. and the old team worn out by twenty-five hundred miles of continuous trail. They had seen other sleds depart over the Pass for Dawson. These. one was a Newfoundland. these newcomers. Three were short-haired pointers. His heart was not in . was still a formidable bulk. But Charles and Hal did not know this. were quite cheerful. the outlook was anything but bright. Charles and Hal went out in the evening and bought six Outside dogs. With the exception of the two mongrels. the outfit. and the knowledge that. Late next morning Buck led the long team up the street. or come in from Dawson. no snap or go in him and his fellows. and Teek and Koona. they were bewildered and spirit-broken by the strange savage environment in which they found themselves and by the ill treatment they had received. it was all so very simple. With the newcomers hopeless and forlorn.50 THE CALL OF THE WILD when she had finished with her own. though cut in half. The two mongrels were without spirit at all. added to the six of the original team. jaded and tired. They were doing the thing in style. so many days.

But it was not food that Buck and the huskies needed. had voracious appetites. And on no day did they succeed in making more than half the distance used by the men as a basis in their dog-food computation. 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. The first to go was Dub. He doubled it. the heavy load they dragged sapped their strength severely. It was a simple matter to give the dogs less food. further. the worn-out huskies pulled weakly. The Outside dogs. And though they were making poor time. Buck felt vaguely that there was no depending upon these two men and the woman.THE TOIL OF TRACE AND TRAIL 51 the work. So he cut down even the orthodox ration and tried to increase the day’s travel. On other days they were unable to get started at all. without order or discipline. They were slack in all things. Then came the underfeeding. the Insides without confidence in their masters. could not cajole him into giving the dogs still more. that for love or money no additional dog-food was to be obtained. Some days they did not make ten miles. The Outsides were timid and frightened. But they hastened it by overfeeding. . and as the days went by it became apparent that they could not learn. with tears in her pretty eyes and a quaver in her throat. They did not know how to do anything. And when. she stole from the fish-sacks and fed them slyly. he had none the less been a faithful worker. always getting caught and punished. in addition to this. whose digestions had not been trained by chronic famine to make the most of little. It took them half the night to pitch a slovenly camp. Hal decided that the orthodox ration was too small. but it was impossible to make the dogs travel faster. when Mercedes. nor was the heart of any dog. And to cap it all. but they did not know how to work themselves. Hal awoke one day to the fact that his dog-food was half gone and the distance only quarter covered. Poor blundering thief that he was. Not only did they not know how to work dogs. It was inevitable that they should go short on dog-food. but rest. bringing the day nearer when underfeeding would commence. His sister and brother-in-law seconded him. but they were frustrated by their heavy outfit and their own incompetence. while their own inability to get under way earlier in the morning prevented them from travelling longer hours.

should have anything to do with the chopping of a few sticks of firewood. the two mongrels hanging more grittily on to life. and neither forbore to speak his belief at every opportunity. Their irritability arose out of their misery. That Hal’s views on art. people thousands of miles away. untreated and unrested. sometimes with her brother. The wonderful patience of the trail which comes to men who toil hard and suffer sore. Charles and Hal wrangled whenever Mercedes gave them a chance. And that Charles’s sister’s tale-bearing tongue should be relevant to the building . uncles. till finally Hal shot him with the big Colt’s revolver. being too occupied with weeping over herself and with quarrelling with her husband and brother. but going in the end. and remain sweet of speech and kindly. It was the cherished belief of each that he did more than his share of the work. fathers. mothers. The Newfoundland went first. They were stiff and in pain.52 THE CALL OF THE WILD His wrenched shoulder-blade. did not come to these two men and the woman. went from bad to worse. their bones ached. cousins. It is a saying of the country that an Outside dog starves to death on the ration of the husky. followed by the three short-haired pointers. Mercedes ceased weeping over the dogs. and hard words were first on their lips in the morning and last at night. To quarrel was the one thing they were never too weary to do. outdistanced it. Sometimes Mercedes sided with her husband. presently would be lugged in the rest of the family. their muscles ached. so the six Outside dogs under Buck could do no less than die on half the ration of the husky. or the sort of society plays his mother’s brother wrote. They had no inkling of such a patience. their very hearts ached. Arctic travel became to them a reality too harsh for their manhood and womanhood. Shorn of its glamour and romance. Starting from a dispute as to which should chop a few sticks for the fire (a dispute which concerned only Charles and Hal). and because of this they became sharp of speech. passes comprehension. The result was a beautiful and unending family quarrel. By this time all the amenities and gentlenesses of the Southland had fallen away from the three people. and some of them dead. nevertheless the quarrel was as likely to tend in that direction as in the direction of Charles’s political prejudices. doubled upon it. increased with it.

Mercedes nursed a special grievance—the grievance of sex. She rode for days.THE TOIL OF TRACE AND TRAIL 53 of a Yukon fire. 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 hunting-knife company at Hal’s hip. the camp half pitched. came back for her. They never did it again. which he practised on others. He had started out preaching it to his sister and brother-in-law. and the dogs unfed. Failing there. In its frozen state it was more like strips of galvanized iron. On one occasion they took her off the sled by main strength. She was pretty and soft. . who disburdened herself of copious opinions upon that topic. and incidentally upon a few other traits unpleasantly peculiar to her husband’s family. and because she was sore and tired. After they had travelled three miles they unloaded the sled. It was her custom to be helpless. she made their lives unendurable. he hammered it into the dogs with a club. and by main strength put her on the sled again. but she did not move. pleaded with her. They went on their way. A poor substitute for food was this hide. Hal’s theory. But the present treatment by her husband and brother was everything save chivalrous. it thawed into thin and innutritious leathery strings and into a mass of short hair. She was pretty and soft. irritating and indigestible. In the meantime the fire remained unbuilt. In the excess of their own misery they were callous to the suffering of their animals. and had been chivalrously treated all her days. was apparent only to Mercedes. and when a dog wrestled it into his stomach. and sat down on the trail. just as it had been stripped from the starved horses of the cattlemen six months back. At the Five Fingers the dog-food gave out. the while she wept and importuned Heaven with a recital of their brutality. Upon which impeachment of what to her was her most essential sexprerogative. she persisted in riding on the sled. They complained. Charles and Hal begged her to get off and walk. but she weighed one hundred and twenty pounds—a lusty last straw to the load dragged by the weak and starving animals. till they fell in the traces and the sled stood still. She no longer considered the dogs. She let her legs go limp like a spoiled child. was that one must get hardened. entreated.

There were seven all together. only half conscious and not conscious enough longer to malinger. still faithful to the toil of trace and trail. It was heartbreaking. . They were simply so many bags of bones in which sparks of life fluttered faintly. still at the head of the team. so was it with his mates. As it was with Buck.54 THE CALL OF THE WILD And through it all Buck staggered along at the head of the team as in a nightmare. and they knew that this thing was very close to them. There came a day when Billee. the spark fluttered feebly up. he fell down and remained down till blows from whip or club drove him to his feet again. They were perambulating skeletons. Pike. so he took the axe and knocked Billee on the head as he lay in the traces. Teek. Buck saw. And when the club or whip fell upon them. then cut the carcass out of the harness and dragged it to one side. crippled and limping. and they tottered to their feet and staggered on. including him. just as the things their eyes saw and their ears heard seemed dull and distant. so that each rib and every bone in his frame were outlined cleanly through the loose hide that was wrinkled in folds of emptiness. The hair hung down. and Buck. blind with weakness half the time and keeping the trail by the loom of it and by the dim feel of his feet. who had not travelled so far that winter and who was now beaten more than the others because he was fresher. The pain of the beating was dull and distant. He pulled when he could. Sol-leks. or quarter living. His muscles had wasted away to knotty strings. In their very great misery they had become insensible to the bite of the lash or the bruise of the club. the good-natured. when he could no longer pull. they dropped down in the traces like dead dogs. Hal had traded off his revolver. too far gone to be malignant. fell and could not rise. and but five of them remained: Joe. and the flesh pads had disappeared. When a halt was made. and mournful in that he had so little strength with which to pull. the one-eyed. On the next day Koona went. but no longer enforcing discipline or striving to enforce it. The man in the red sweater had proved that. and his mates saw. limp and draggled. only Buck’s heart was unbreakable. or matted with dried blood where Hal’s club had bruised him. All the stiffness and gloss had gone out of his beautiful furry coat. They were not half living. and the spark dimmed and paled and seemed to go out.

rending. bending. He knew the breed. Mercedes weeping and riding. and the huskies. and twilight lingered till nine at night. The sap was rising in the pines. and. All things were thawing. Hal did the talking. . under the blazing sun and through the soft-sighing breezes. but neither dogs nor humans were aware of it. like wayfarers to death. And amid all this bursting. they staggered into John Thornton’s camp at the mouth of White River. what of his great stiffness. fraught with the joy of living. Crickets sang in the nights. staggered the two men. Air-holes formed. while thin sections of ice fell through bodily into the river. The whole long day was a blaze of sunshine. things which had been as dead and which had not moved during the long months of frost. When they halted. From every hill slope came the trickle of running water. birds singing. It came from the things that lived and moved again. The ghostly winter silence had given way to the great spring murmur of awakening life. Charles sat down on a log to rest. The willows and aspens were bursting out in young buds. the dogs dropped down as though they had all been struck dead. crawling things rustled forth into the sun.THE TOIL OF TRACE AND TRAIL 55 It was beautiful spring weather. snapping. the sun ate from above. Squirrels were chattering. Hal swearing innocuously. Shrubs and vines were putting on fresh garbs of green. John Thornton was whittling the last touches on an axe-handle he had made from a stick of birch. He whittled and listened. terse advice. and in the days all manner of creeping. and overhead honked the wild-fowl driving up from the south in cunning wedges that split the air. Partridges and woodpeckers were booming and knocking in the forest. This murmur arose from all the land. The Yukon was straining to break loose the ice that bound it down. Each day the sun rose earlier and set later. It ate away from beneath. fissures sprang and spread apart. when it was asked. the music of unseen fountains. He sat down very slowly and painstakingly. throbbing of awakening life. With the dogs falling. Mercedes dried her eyes and looked at John Thornton. It was dawn by three in the morning. and he gave his advice in the certainty that it would not be followed. the woman. and Charles’s eyes wistfully watering. gave monosyllabic replies.

unlike them. we’ll go on to Dawson. But the team did not get up at the command. “Get up there. yelping with pain. while two or three fools more or less would not alter the scheme of things. and it had not departed from him. Joe came next. Sol-leks was the first to crawl to his feet. I suppose. it seemed that he sensed disaster close at hand. with the blind luck of fools. Twice he fell over.” John Thornton answered.” This last with a sneering ring of triumph in it. It had long since passed into the stage where blows were required to rouse it. He exchanged the whip for the customary club. Pike made painful efforts.” “That’s because you’re not a fool. I wouldn’t risk my carcass on that ice for all the gold in Alaska. Several times Thornton started. as the whipping continued. Buck made no effort. A moisture came into his eyes. but changed his mind. He lay quietly where he had fallen. Like his mates. It was idle. Only fools. and on the third attempt managed to rise. I tell you straight. Buck! Hi! Get up there! Mush on!” Thornton went on whittling. to get between a fool and his folly. He had a vague feeling of impending doom.56 THE CALL OF THE WILD “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. The lash bit into him again and again. Buck refused to move under the rain of heavier blows which now fell upon him. The whip flashed out. he was barely able to get up. “The bottom’s likely to drop out at any moment. out there ahead on the ice where his master was trying to .” Hal said in response to Thornton’s warning to take no more chances on the rotten ice. on its merciless errands. “They told us we couldn’t make White River. What of the thin and rotten ice he had felt under his feet all day. but he neither whined nor struggled. John Thornton compressed his lips. This had been strong upon him when he pulled in to the bank.” He uncoiled his whip. in itself a sufficient reason to drive Hal into a rage. and here we are. “All the same.” said Hal. as though to speak. could have made it. This was the first time Buck had failed. when half up. here and there. “And they told you true. he arose and walked irresolutely up and down. but. and. Teek followed. he knew. he had made up his mind not to get up.

and so far gone was he. Charles looked on wistfully. He refused to stir. Then he stooped. John Thornton stood over Buck.” he at last managed to say in a choking voice. Besides. I’m going to Dawson. Hal had no fight left in him. Pike was leading. though very faintly he could hear the impact of the club upon his body. or I’ll fix you. “It’s my dog. “Get out of my way. or his arms. They were limping and staggering. while Buck was too near dead to be of further use in hauling the sled. that the blows did not hurt much. Hal drew his long hunting-knife. It was nearly out. wiping the blood from his mouth as he came back. Hal guided at the gee-pole. as though struck by a falling tree. too convulsed with rage to speak.THE TOIL OF TRACE AND TRAIL 57 drive him. without warning. laughed. The last sensations of pain left him. So greatly had he suffered. Buck heard them go and raised his head to see. his hands were full with his sister. I’ll kill you. He no longer felt anything. rather. Mercedes screamed. A few minutes later they pulled out from the bank and down the river. picked it up himself. But it was no longer his body. and evinced no intention of getting out of the way. and Charles stumbled along in the rear.” Thornton stood between him and Buck. cried. Mercedes was riding the loaded sled. And as they continued to fall upon him. . Hal was hurled backward. As though from a great distance.” Hal replied. “If you strike that dog again. Sol-leks was at the wheel. and manifested the chaotic abandonment of hysteria. uttering a cry that was inarticulate and more like the cry of an animal. it seemed so far away. and with two strokes cut Buck’s traces. He rapped his knuckles again as he tried to pick it up. knocking the knife to the ground. He felt strangely numb. he was aware that he was being beaten. but did not get up because of his stiffness. wiped his watery eyes. suddenly. struggling to control himself. John Thornton sprang upon the man who wielded the club. the spark of life within flickered and went down. and between were Joe and Teek. And then. Mercedes screamed. Thornton rapped Hal’s knuckles with the axe-handle.

Thornton knelt beside him and with rough. John Thornton and Buck looked at each other.” said John Thornton. A yawning hole was all that was to be seen.58 THE CALL OF THE WILD As Buck watched them. the sled was a quarter of a mile away. jerk into the air. “You poor devil. Mercedes’s scream came to their ears. Suddenly. as into a rut. . Dog and man watched it crawling along over the ice. kindly hands searched for broken bones. They saw Charles turn and make one step to run back. and then a whole section of ice give way and dogs and humans disappear. and the gee-pole. with Hal clinging to it. By the time his search had disclosed nothing more than many bruises and a state of terrible starvation. The bottom had dropped out of the trail. and Buck licked his hand. they saw its back end drop down.

As Buck W 59 . John Thornton. his muscles swelled out.—Buck. Buck slowly won back his strength. He was still limping slightly at the time he rescued Buck. who. with eyes that laughed and a boundless good nature. half bloodhound and half deerhound. they were all loafing. and as a mother cat washes her kittens. watching the running water. A rest comes very good after one has travelled three thousand miles. was unable to resent her first advances. Skeet was a little Irish setter who early made friends with Buck. and the flesh came back to cover his bones. going on themselves up the river to get out a raft of sawlogs for Dawson. was a huge black dog. she performed her self-appointed task. till he came to look for her ministrations as much as he did for Thornton’s. She had the doctor trait which some dogs possess. his partners had made him comfortable and left him to get well. Nig. To Buck’s surprise these dogs manifested no jealousy toward him. and Skeet and Nig. Regularly.—waiting for the raft to come that was to carry them down to Dawson. but with the continued warm weather even the slight limp left him. and it must be confessed that Buck waxed lazy as his wounds healed. so she washed and cleansed Buck’s wounds. in a dying condition. lying by the river bank through the long spring days.VI FOR THE LOVE OF A MAN HEN John Thornton froze his feet in the previous December. listening lazily to the songs of birds and the hum of nature. They seemed to share the kindliness and largeness of John Thornton. each morning after he had finished his breakfast. And here. though less demonstrative. For that matter. equally friendly.

And he saw further. the while calling him ill names that to Buck were love names. however. that was madness. And as Buck understood the oaths to be love words. With the Judge’s sons. And when. and resting his own head upon Buck’s. and with the Judge himself. further. John Thornton would reverently exclaim. was his for the first time. But love that was feverish and burning. he saw to the welfare of his as if they were his own children. his eyes eloquent. This man had saved his life. it had taken John Thornton to arouse. Buck’s love was expressed in adoration. but. he sprang to his feet. While he went wild with happiness when Thornton touched him or spoke to him. Other men saw to the welfare of their dogs from a sense of duty and business expediency. and at each jerk back and forth it seemed that his heart would be shaken out of his body. he did not seek these tokens. he was the ideal master. Buck knew no greater joy than that rough embrace and the sound of murmured oaths. hunting and tramping. He never forgot a kindly greeting or a cheering word. a sort of pompous guardianship. his mouth laughing. which was something. Unlike Skeet. and in this fashion Buck romped through his convalescence and into a new existence. with the Judge’s grandsons. and in that fashion remained without movement. that was adoration. For the most part. genuine passionate love. so the man understood this feigned bite for a caress. it had been a working partnership. who was wont to shove her nose under Thornton’s hand and nudge and nudge till . “God! you can all but speak!” Buck had a trick of love expression that was akin to hurt. of shaking him back and forth. and to sit down for a long talk with them (“gas” he called it) was as much his delight as theirs. because he could not help it. his throat vibrant with unuttered sound. This he had never experienced at Judge Miller’s down in the sun-kissed Santa Clara Valley. in which Thornton himself could not forbear to join. a stately and dignified friendship.60 THE CALL OF THE WILD grew stronger they enticed him into all sorts of ridiculous games. Love. 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. so great was its ecstasy. He had a way of taking Buck’s head roughly between his hands. released.

—besides. in any other camp. His transient masters since he had come into the Northland had bred in him a fear that no master could be permanent. Faithfulness and devotion. his heart shining out of his eyes as Buck’s heart shone out. in his dreams. He was a thing of the wild. such was the communion in which they lived. the strain of the primitive. things born of fire and roof. come in from the wild to sit by John Thornton’s fire.FOR THE LOVE OF A MAN 61 petted. His face and body were scored by the teeth of many dogs. where he would stand and listen to the sound of his master’s breathing. looking up into his face. which the Northland had aroused in him. and he would return the gaze. watching the outlines of the man and the occasional movements of his body. From the moment he left the tent to when he entered it again. studying it. he could not steal from this man. swiftly acknowledged Buck’s supremacy or found himself struggling for life with a terrible antagonist. alert. he would lie farther away. yet he retained his wildness and wiliness. Buck would follow at his heels. were his. 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. Even in the night. eager. every movement or change of feature. For a long time after his rescue. dwelling upon it. Skeet and Nig were too good-natured for quarrelling. Buck was content to adore at a distance. but the strange dog. remained alive and active. who would stalk up and rest his great head on Thornton’s knee. as chance might have it. Because of his very great love. Buck did not like Thornton to get out of his sight. while the cunning with which he stole enabled him to escape detection. he did not hesitate an instant. And Buck was merciless. without speech. rather than a dog of the soft Southland stamped with the marks of generations of civilization. they belonged to John Thornton. which seemed to bespeak the soft civilizing influence. but from any other man. And often. He had learned well . He would lie by the hour. and he fought as fiercely as ever and more shrewdly. following with keenest interest each fleeting expression. the strength of Buck’s gaze would draw John Thornton’s head around. Or. But in spite of this great love he bore John Thornton. at Thornton’s feet. or Nig. He was afraid that Thornton would pass out of his life as Perrault and François and the Scotch half-breed had passed out. to the side or rear. no matter what the breed or valor.

but behind him were the shades of all manner of dogs. and dreaming with him and beyond him and becoming themselves the stuff of his dreams.62 THE CALL OF THE WILD the law of club and fang. So peremptorily did these shades beckon him. and such misunderstandings made for death. and this mandate. But as often as he gained the soft unbroken earth and the green shade. down out of the depths of Time. arrived on the long-expected raft. and knew there was no middle course. listening with him and telling him the sounds made by the wild life in the forest. urgent and prompting. he obeyed. nor did he wonder where or why. He was older than the days he had seen and the breaths he had drawn. It was misunderstood for fear. He must master or be mastered. scenting the wind with him. deep in the forest. and the eternity behind him throbbed through him in a mighty rhythm to which he swayed as the tides and seasons swayed. Kill or be killed. a broadbreasted dog. Hans and Pete. Mercy did not exist in the primordial life. and from a too demonstrative man he would get up and walk away. Chance travellers might praise or pet him. he felt compelled to turn his back upon the fire and the beaten earth around it. that each day mankind and the claims of mankind slipped farther from him. and on and on. eat or be eaten. thirsting for the water he drank. and to plunge into the forest. 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. white-fanged and long-furred. after that he tolerated them in a passive sort of way. When Thornton’s partners. and as often as he heard this call. and from the chief fighting dogs of the police and mail. directing his actions. he knew not where or why. Buck refused to notice them till he learned they were close to Thornton. Deep in the forest a call was sounding. the call sounding imperiously. accepting . tasting the savor of the meat he ate. lying down to sleep with him when he lay down. He linked the past with the present. the love for John Thornton drew him back to the fire again. He sat by John Thornton’s fire. mysteriously thrilling and luring. dictating his moods. was the law. Thornton alone held him. while to show mercy was a weakness. but he was cold under it all. The rest of mankind was as nothing. half-wolves and wild wolves.

Those who were looking on heard what was neither bark nor yelp. living close to the earth. straight from the shoulder. “Black” Burton. “Py Jingo!” was Hans’s contribution.” It was at Circle City. “No. however. The next instant he was grappling with Buck on the extreme edge. and they saw Buck’s . to naked bed-rock three hundred feet below. but a something which is best described as a roar. Nothing was too great for Buck to do. “It’s uncanny. A thoughtless whim seized Thornton. One day (they had grub-staked themselves from the proceeds 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. Thornton shook his head. and saved himself from falling only by clutching the rail of the bar. Buck.” Pete said. Buck!” he commanded. straight down. For Thornton. John Thornton was sitting near the edge. had been picking a quarrel with a tenderfoot at the bar. and did not insist upon an intimacy such as obtained with Skeet and Nig. a man evil-tempered and malicious. “not mineself either. alone among men. ere the year was out. that Pete’s apprehensions were realized. too. while Hans and Pete were dragging them back into safety. could put a pack upon Buck’s back in the summer travelling. when Thornton commanded. they understood Buck and his ways. when Thornton stepped good-naturedly between. and it is terrible. it is splendid. They were of the same large type as Thornton. his love seemed to grow and grow.FOR THE LOVE OF A MAN 63 favors from them as though he favored them by accepting. as was his custom. Burton struck out. and he drew the attention of Hans and Pete to the experiment he had in mind.” “I’m not hankering to be the man that lays hands on you while he’s around. “Jump. after it was over and they had caught their speech. sweeping his arm out and over the chasm. watching his master’s every action. and ere they swung the raft into the big eddy by the saw-mill at Dawson. He. thinking simply and seeing clearly. Thornton was sent spinning. head on paws.” Pete announced conclusively. without warning. it sometimes makes me afraid. Buck at his shoulder. nodding his head toward Buck. Do you know. was lying in a corner.

on the bank. amid a mad swirl of water. and being forced back by an array of hostile clubs. helping its descent by means of a pole. decided that the dog had sufficient provocation. kept abreast of the boat. snubbing with a thin Manila rope from tree to tree. and. attempting to rush in. but was hurled backward to the floor with Buck on top of him. Hans cast off the rope. This time the man succeeded only in partly blocking. From below came the fatal roaring where the wild current went wilder and was rent in shreds and spray by the . when Hans checked it with the rope and checked too suddenly. in the fall of the year. The boat flirted over and snubbed in to the bank bottom up. while Thornton. while Thornton remained in the boat. At a particularly bad spot. and shouting directions to the shore. swimming with all his splendid strength. and he was driven off. When he felt him grasp his tail. the progress down-stream amazingly rapid.64 THE CALL OF THE WILD body rise up in the air as he left the floor for Burton’s throat. a stretch of wild water in which no swimmer could live. flung sheer out of it. where a ledge of barely submerged rocks jutted out into the river. ran down the bank with the end in his hand to snub the boat when it had cleared the ledge.” called on the spot. This it did. The three partners were lining a long and narrow poling-boat down a bad stretch of rapids on the Forty-Mile Creek. he prowled up and down. The man saved his life by instinctively throwing out his arm. he saved John Thornton’s life in quite another fashion. But the progress shoreward was slow. and Buck was discharged. was carried down-stream toward the worst part of the rapids. he overhauled Thornton. Buck. Buck loosed his teeth from the flesh of the arm and drove in again for the throat. and at the end of three hundred yards. Buck had sprung in on the instant. and his throat was torn open. but while a surgeon checked the bleeding. growling furiously. Then the crowd was upon Buck. his eyes never off his master. worried and anxious. and from that day his name spread through every camp in Alaska. Hans and Pete moved along the bank. A “miners’ meeting. while Thornton poled the boat out into the stream. Later on. But his reputation was made. Buck headed for the bank. and was flying down-stream in a current as swift as a mill-race.

but unable to win back. and above the roar of the churning water shouted: “Go. He discovered the mistake too late. and Hans and Pete threw themselves upon him. 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 swept on down-stream. He was half drowned. and under the surface he remained till his body struck against the bank and he was hauled out. and though they could not make out the words of it. Hans promptly snubbed with the rope. He struck out boldly. He staggered to his feet and fell down. He scraped furiously over a rock. The rope thus tightening on him in the sweep of the current. He swam powerfully and was dragged ashore by Pete and Hans at the very point where swimming ceased to be possible and destruction began. and struck a third with crushing force. When he heard Thornton’s command repeated. but not straight enough into the stream. His master’s voice acted on Buck like an electric shock. then turned obediently toward the bank. He sprang to his feet and ran up the bank ahead of the men to the point of his previous departure. when Thornton was abreast of him and a bare half-dozen strokes away while he was being carried helplessly past.FOR THE LOVE OF A MAN 65 rocks which thrust through like the teeth of an enormous comb. they knew that he was in his extremity. He had miscalculated . and again he struck out. The faint sound of Thornton’s voice came to them. being careful that it should neither strangle him nor impede his swimming. They attached the line with which they had been snubbing the boat to Buck’s neck and shoulders. pounding the breath into him and the water out of him. Buck! Go!” Buck could not hold his own. he was jerked under the surface. as though Buck were a boat. bruised across a second. struggling desperately. The suck of the water as it took the beginning of the last steep pitch was frightful. Again the rope was attached and he was launched. and they ran as fast as they could up the bank to a point far above where Thornton was hanging on. but this time straight into the stream. and Thornton knew that the shore was impossible. throwing his head high. releasing Buck. and launched him into the stream. He clutched its slippery top with both hands. he partly reared out of the water. as though for a last look.

but he would not be guilty of it a second time. smashing against rocks and snags. “That settles it. and with the speed of an express train headed down upon him.” . suffocating. when he had been brought around. sometimes one uppermost and sometimes the other.” And camp they did. and he went carefully over Buck’s body. and a third. Buck. His first glance was for Buck. Buck performed another exploit. because of his record.” he announced. for they stood in need of the outfit which it furnished. “Buck can start a thousand pounds. while Pete kept it clear of coils. “We camp right here. he reached up and closed with both arms around the shaggy neck. was the target for these men. Strangling.66 THE CALL OF THE WILD once. That winter. It was brought about by a conversation in the Eldorado Saloon. 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. belly downward and being violently propelled back and forth across a drift log by Hans and Pete. while Skeet was licking the wet face and closed eyes. Hans paid out the rope. a second bragged six hundred for his dog. in which men waxed boastful of their favorite dogs. Buck held on till he was on a line straight above Thornton. seven hundred. “Pooh! pooh!” said John Thornton. and were enabled to make a long-desired trip into the virgin East. and Buck and Thornton were jerked under the water. Thornton was himself bruised and battered. where miners had not yet appeared. Hans snubbed the rope around the tree. as Buck struck him like a battering ram. This exploit was particularly gratifying to the three men. then he turned. and. over whose limp and apparently lifeless body Nig was setting up a howl. with the whole force of the current behind him. perhaps. dragging over the jagged bottom. till Buck’s ribs knitted and he was able to travel. and Thornton was driven stoutly to defend him. Thornton came to. they veered in to the bank. at Dawson. but one that put his name many notches higher on the totem-pole of Alaskan fame. permitting no slack. Thornton saw him coming. not so heroic. finding three broken ribs.

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. furred and mittened. but never. He did not know whether Buck could start a thousand pounds. Nobody spoke.” The Eldorado emptied its occupants into the street to see the test. John.” John Thornton said coolly. he slammed a sack of gold dust of the size of a bologna sausage down upon the bar. a Mastodon King and old-time comrade. if bluff it was. had been standing for a couple of hours. He had great faith in Buck’s strength and had often thought him capable of starting such a load. a Bonanza King. It was as a cue to him.” answered O’Brien. almost in a whisper. Further. caught his eyes.” Matthewson went on with brutal directness. and in the intense cold (it was sixty . slowly and deliberately. Half a ton! The enormousness of it appalled him. had been called. seeming to rouse him to do what he would never have dreamed of doing. thumping down a plethoric sack by the side of Matthewson’s. “I’ve got a sled standing outside now. His tongue had tricked him. loaded with a thousand pounds of flour. “Well. He could feel a flush of warm blood creeping up his face. Matthewson’s sled. “And break it out. as now. he had no thousand dollars. so that all could hear. that the beast can do the trick. the eyes of a dozen men fixed upon him. “Can you lend me a thousand?” he asked. he of the seven hundred vaunt.” So saying. nor had Hans or Pete. The face of Jim O’Brien. with twenty fifty-pound sacks of flour on it. had he faced the possibility of it. He did not know what to say. “Though it’s little faith I’m having.” Matthewson said. and the dealers and gamekeepers came forth to see the outcome of the wager and to lay odds. “so don’t let that hinder you. Several hundred men. silent and waiting. banked around the sled within easy distance. The tables were deserted. And there it is. and walk off with it for a hundred yards. “Sure.FOR THE LOVE OF A MAN 67 “And break it out? and walk off with it for a hundred yards?” demanded Matthewson. Thornton’s bluff. “I’ve got a thousand dollars that says he can’t.” Thornton did not reply.

What d’ye say?” Thornton’s doubt was strong in his face. without an ounce of superfluous flesh. Not a man believed him capable of the feat. but his fighting spirit was aroused—the fighting spirit that soars above odds. whereat the odds went up to three to one against Buck. and now that he looked at the sled itself. his mane. The team of ten dogs was unhitched. Matthewson insisted that the phrase included breaking the runners from the frozen grip of the snow. half bristled and seemed to lift with every movement. Down the neck and across the shoulders. the concrete fact.68 THE CALL OF THE WILD below zero) the runners had frozen fast to the hard-packed snow. “I’ll lay you another thousand at that figure. and Buck. and the one hundred and fifty pounds that he weighed were so many pounds of grit and virility. was put into the sled. and is deaf to all save the clamor for battle. His furry coat shone with the sheen of silk. where the muscles showed in tight rolls underneath the skin. and with his own the three partners could rake together only two hundred dollars. Murmurs of admiration at his splendid appearance went up. yet they laid it unhesitatingly against Matthewson’s six hundred. Men offered odds of two to one that Buck could not budge the sled. fails to recognize the impossible. He had caught the contagion of the excitement. Their sacks were slim. the more impossible the task appeared. Matthewson waxed jubilant. He called Hans and Pete to him. with the regular team of ten dogs curled up in the snow before it. as though excess of vigor made each particular hair alive and active.” O’Brien contended it was Thornton’s privilege to knock the runners loose. heavy with doubt. A majority of the men who had witnessed the making of the bet decided in his favor. He was in perfect condition. Thornton had been hurried into the wager. In the ebb of their fortunes. and he felt that in some way he must do a great thing for John Thornton. There were no takers. this sum was their total capital. with his own harness. “Three to one!” he proclaimed. leaving Buck to “break it out” from a dead standstill. in repose as it was. Men . Thornton. A quibble arose concerning the phrase “break out. The great breast and heavy fore legs were no more than in proportion with the rest of the body.

this time to the left. . It was the way he had learned. half-reluctantly. Buck seized his mittened hand between his jaws. “Free play and plenty of room. Buck. Men were holding their breaths. Buck duplicated the manœuvre. sharp in the tense silence. and the odds went down to two to one. sir!” stuttered a member of the latest dynasty. Buck swung to the right. “Haw!” Thornton commanded. sir. intensely unconscious of the fact. in terms. The load quivered. “Gee!” Thornton’s voice rang out. as was his wont. “You must stand off from him. Buck. only could be heard the voices of the gamblers vainly offering two to one. “As you love me. ending the movement in a plunge that took up the slack and with a sudden jerk arrested his one hundred and fifty pounds. “Gad.” Thornton shook his head and stepped to Buck’s side. Buck tightened the traces. Thornton stepped well back. sir. The crowd was watching curiously. a king of the Skookum Benches. and from under the runners arose a crisp crackling. Buck whined with suppressed eagerness. or murmur soft love curses. He took his head in his two hands and rested cheek on cheek.” The crowd fell silent. not of speech. then slacked them for a matter of several inches. the sled pivoting and the runners slipping and grating several inches to the side. sir! Gad. It was the answer. but of love. before the test. As you love me. “Now. “I offer you eight hundred for him. but twenty fifty-pound sacks of flour bulked too large in their eyes for them to loosen their pouch-strings.” Matthewson protested. As Thornton got to his feet. He did not playfully shake him. eight hundred just as he stands. Everybody acknowledged Buck a magnificent animal. It seemed like a conjuration. pressing in with his teeth and releasing slowly. The crackling turned into a snapping. but he whispered in his ear.FOR THE LOVE OF A MAN 69 felt these muscles and proclaimed them hard as iron. Thornton knelt down by Buck’s side.” he said. The affair was growing mysterious.” was what he whispered. The sled was broken out.

half-started forward. sir. encouraging Buck with short. As though animated by a common impulse. his head forward and down.” Buck seized Thornton’s hand in his teeth. “I’ll give you a thousand for him. cheery words. The distance had been measured off. and one man groaned aloud. and as he neared the pile of firewood which marked the end of the hundred yards. “Sir. a thousand. . nor were they again indiscreet enough to interrupt. tightening the traces with a jarring lunge. Men were shaking hands. Every man was tearing himself loose. . sir. unaware that for a moment they had ceased to breathe. sir. while his feet were flying like mad. the claws scarring the hard-packed snow in parallel grooves.70 THE CALL OF THE WILD “Now. Thornton was running behind. “Gad. an inch . “no. His great chest was low to the ground.” he said to the Skookum Bench king. The jerks perceptibly diminished. sir—twelve hundred. Those who hurried up heard him cursing Buck. . Men gasped and began to breathe again. sir!” spluttered the Skookum Bench king. . Thornton shook him back and forth. even Matthewson. and bubbling over in a general incoherent babel. But Thornton fell on his knees beside Buck. You can go to hell. His eyes were wet. and he was shaking him back and forth. it did not matter with whom. though it never really came to a dead stop again . as the sled gained momentum. Buck threw himself forward. and softly and lovingly. which burst into a roar as he passed the firewood and halted at command. . he caught them up. a cheer began to grow and grow. sir. The sled swayed and trembled. The tears were streaming frankly down his cheeks. . . the muscles writhing and knotting like live things under the silky fur. Hats and mittens were flying in the air. half an inch . two inches. His whole body was gathered compactly together in the tremendous effort. sir. till it was moving steadily along. Head was against head. MUSH!” Thornton’s command cracked out like a pistol-shot. . and he cursed him long and fervently. One of his feet slipped. sir! Gad. It’s the best I can do for you. . the onlookers drew back to a respectful distance. Then the sled lurched ahead in what appeared a rapid succession of jerks.” Thornton rose to his feet. .

VII THE SOUNDING OF THE CALL HEN Buck earned sixteen hundred dollars in five minutes for John Thornton. and more than a few there were who had never returned from the quest. John Thornton asked little of man or nature. and to the mine the site of which it marked. They sledded seventy miles up the Yukon. passed the Mayo and the McQuestion. No one knew of the first man. clinching their testimony with nuggets that were unlike any known grade of gold in the Northland. with Buck and half a dozen other dogs. he hunted his dinner in the course of W 71 . swung to the left into the Stewart River. Dying men had sworn to it. the history of which was as old as the history of the country. 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. Being in no haste. faced into the East on an unknown trail to achieve where men and dogs as good as themselves had failed. From the beginning there had been an ancient and ramshackle cabin. threading the upstanding peaks which marked the backbone of the continent. and held on until the Stewart itself became a streamlet. Many men had sought it. But no living man had looted this treasure house. With a handful of salt and a rifle he could plunge into the wilderness and fare wherever he pleased and as long as he pleased. few had found it. and the dead were dead. He was unafraid of the wild. The oldest tradition stopped before it got back to him. This lost mine was steeped in tragedy and shrouded in mystery. wherefore John Thornton and Pete and Hans. Indian fashion.

To Buck it was boundless delight. For weeks at a time they would hold on steadily. and the time-card was drawn upon the limitless future. shivered under the midnight sun on naked mountains between the timber line and the eternal snows. So. But the path began nowhere and ended nowhere. He knew it for a Hudson Bay . and descended or ascended unknown rivers in slender boats whipsawed from the standing forest. and dogs and men packed on their backs. as the man who made it and the reason he made it remained mystery. on this great journey into the East. Once. straight meat was the bill of fare. and the melancholy rippling of waves on lonely beaches. an ancient path. Sometimes they went hungry. Another time they chanced upon the time-graven wreckage of a hunting lodge. Summer arrived. this hunting. sad and silent. and in the shadows of glaciers picked strawberries and flowers as ripe and fair as any the Southland could boast. and indefinite wandering through strange places. In the fall of the year they penetrated a weird lake country. like the Indian. all according to the abundance of game and the fortune of hunting.72 THE CALL OF THE WILD the day’s travel. where no men were and yet where men had been if the Lost Cabin were true. 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 feasted riotously. and the Lost Cabin seemed very near. he kept on travelling. And through another winter they wandered on the obliterated trails of men who had gone before. they came upon a path blazed through the forest. the forming of ice in sheltered places. rafted across blue mountain lakes. They went across divides in summer blizzards. where wild-fowl had been. but where then there was no life nor sign of life—only the blowing of chill winds. secure in the knowledge that sooner or later he would come to it. ammunition and tools principally made up the load on the sled. The months came and went. fishing. and if he failed to find it. and back and forth they twisted through the uncharted vastness. and for weeks upon end they would camp. and amid the shreds of rotted blankets John Thornton found a long-barrelled flint-lock. dropped into summer valleys amid swarming gnats and flies. here and there. and it remained mystery. day after day.

and at the end of all their wandering they found.THE SOUNDING OF THE CALL 73 Company gun of the young days in the Northwest. Like giants they toiled. with many starts and awakenings. now that there was little work to be done. not the Lost Cabin. never falling. In fact. and they worked every day. head between his knees and hands clasped above. save the hauling in of meat now and again that Thornton killed. but a shallow placer in a broad valley where the gold showed like yellow butter across the bottom of the washingpan. The salient thing of this other world seemed fear. Spring came on once more. Buck at the hairy man’s heels. blinking by the fire. The hairy man could spring up into the trees and travel ahead as fast as on the ground. And that was all—no hint as to the man who in an early day had reared the lodge and left the gun among the blankets. letting go and catching. never missing his grip. There was nothing for the dogs to do. swinging by the arms from limb to limb. Did they walk by the beach of a sea. fifty pounds to the bag. the pair of them. and . at which times he would peer fearfully into the darkness and fling more wood upon the fire. Buck wandered with him in that other world which he remembered. sometimes a dozen feet apart. he seemed as much at home among the trees as on the ground. it was with eyes that roved everywhere for hidden danger and with legs prepared to run like the wind at its first appearance. Through the forest they crept noiselessly. Each day they worked earned them thousands of dollars in clean dust and nuggets. when such a gun was worth its height in beaver skins packed flat. and Buck spent long hours musing by the fire. and often. where the hairy man gathered shell-fish and ate them as he gathered. days flashing on the heels of days like dreams as they heaped the treasure up. Buck saw that he slept restlessly. and piled like so much firewood outside the spruce-bough lodge. ears twitching and moving and nostrils quivering. When he watched the hairy man sleeping by the fire. They sought no farther. and they were alert and vigilant. The vision of the short-legged hairy man came to him more frequently. for the man heard and smelled as keenly as Buck. The gold was sacked in moose-hide bags.

or he would crouch for hours. It filled him with a great unrest and strange desires. Irresistible impulses seized him. dozing lazily in the heat of the day. when suddenly his head would lift and his ears cock up. From the forest came the call (or one note of it. One night he sprang from sleep with a start.74 THE CALL OF THE WILD Buck had memories of nights of vigil spent beneath trees wherein the hairy man roosted. But especially he loved to run in the dim twilight of the summer midnights. that he hoped to surprise this call he could not understand. He loved to run down dry watercourses. He was impelled to do them. his mane bristling in recurrent waves. and to creep and spy upon the bird life in the woods. for him to come. He would be lying in camp. listening to the subdued and sleepy murmurs of the forest. He sprang through the sleeping camp and in swift silence dashed through the woods. and did not reason about them at all. looking for it as though it were a tangible thing. and he was aware of wild yearnings and stirrings for he knew not what. and on and on. It might be. in the old familiar way. eager-eyed. as the mood might dictate. and he would spring to his feet and dash away. like. for hours. at all times. And closely akin to the visions of the hairy man was the call still sounding in the depths of the forest. As he drew closer to the cry . as if in concealment. intent and listening. reading signs and sounds as man may read a book. nostrils quivering and scenting. waking or sleeping.—a long-drawn howl. or into the black soil where long grasses grew. distinct and definite as never before. For a day at a time he would lie in the underbrush where he could watch the partridges drumming and strutting up and down. behind fungus-covered trunks of fallen trees. sweet gladness. Sometimes he pursued the call into the forest. that called—called. for the call was many noted). wide-eyed and wide-eared to all that moved and sounded about him. yet unlike. any noise made by husky dog. and snort with joy at the fat earth smells. through the forest aisles and across the open spaces where the niggerheads bunched. holding on tightly as he slept. He would thrust his nose into the cool wood moss. It caused him to feel a vague. And he knew it. lying thus. and seeking for the mysterious something. as a sound heard before. But he did not know why he did these various things. barking softly or defiantly.

and looking out saw. timber wolf. with wild leapings. Every movement advertised commingled threatening and overture of friendliness. pivoting on his hind legs after the fashion of Joe and of all cornered husky dogs. He made it clear to Buck that he was to come. finally sniffed noses with him. Buck stalked into the open. and the chase was resumed. in the bed of the creek. and played about in the nervous. lean. for the wolf. the sun rising higher and the day growing warmer. The wolf whirled about. snarling and bristling. and through these great stretches they ran steadily. a long. into the gorge from which it issued. feet falling with unwonted care. body gathered compactly together. half-coy way with which fierce beasts belie their fierceness. when he would whirl around at bay. and across the bleak divide where it took its rise. and the thing repeated. He followed. and they ran side by side through the sombre twilight. Buck was wildly glad. with caution in every movement. he darted away. It was the menacing truce that marks the meeting of wild beasts that prey. till he came to an open place among the trees. clipping his teeth together in a continuous and rapid succession of snaps. in a frenzy to overtake. yet it ceased from its howling and tried to sense his presence. Watching his chance. finding that no harm was intended. though he was in poor condition or Buck could not so easily have overtaken him.THE SOUNDING OF THE CALL 75 he went more slowly. But the wolf fled at sight of him. tail straight and stiff. After some time of this the wolf started off at an easy lope in a manner that plainly showed he was going somewhere. straight up the creek bed. with nose pointed to the sky. erect on haunches. The wolf was suspicious and afraid. He . Time and again he was cornered. But in the end Buck’s pertinacity was rewarded. He ran him into a blind channel. He would run till Buck’s head was even with his flank. Buck did not attack. while his head barely reached Buck’s shoulder. On the opposite slope of the watershed they came down into a level country where were great stretches of forest and many streams. only to dash away again at the first opportunity. where a timber jam barred the way. hour after hour. but circled him about and hedged him in with friendly advances. He had made no noise. for Buck made three of him in weight. half crouching. Then they became friendly.

There he wandered for a week. But after two days the call in the forest began to sound more imperiously than ever. running free in the open. the while he shook Buck back and forth and cursed him lovingly. stopping. biting his hand—“playing the general tomfool. somewhere in that other and dimly remembered world. It was a mournful howl. For the better part of an hour the wild brother ran by his side. and he was stirring to them as of old he stirred to the realities of which they were the shadows. Buck’s restlessness came back on him. Once again he took to wandering in the woods. staying away from camp for days at a time. then returned to him. the mournful howl was never raised. killing his meat . John Thornton was eating dinner when Buck dashed into camp and sprang upon him in a frenzy of affection. He began to sleep out at night. He had done this thing before. running by the side of his wood brother toward the place from where the call surely came. and howled. and once he crossed the divide at the head of the creek and went down into the land of timber and streams. and of the smiling land beyond the divide and the run side by side through the wide forest stretches. and he was doing it again. He sat down. never let Thornton out of his sight. but the wild brother came no more. But Buck turned about and started slowly on the back track. and he was haunted by recollections of the wild brother. pointed his nose upward. He followed him about at his work.” as John Thornton characterized it. For two days and nights Buck never left camp. overturning him. Old memories were coming upon him fast. They stopped by a running stream to drink. and though he listened through long vigils. scrambling upon him. Then he sat down. saw him into his blankets at night and out of them in the morning. the wide sky overhead. watched him while he ate. now. The wolf started on toward the place from where the call surely came. licking his face. seeking vainly for fresh sign of the wild brother. and as Buck held steadily on his way he heard it grow faint and fainter until it was lost in the distance. Buck remembered John Thornton.76 THE CALL OF THE WILD knew he was at last answering the call. and. sniffing noses and making actions as though to encourage him. the unpacked earth underfoot. whining softly.

at the high tide of his life. but it was his shepherd mother who had given shape to that size and weight. by virtue of his own strength and prowess. To . Because of all this he became possessed of a great pride in himself. overspilling with vigor and virility. It advertised itself in all his movements. save that it was larger than the muzzle of any wolf. plus an experience gained in the fiercest of schools. His cunning was wolf cunning. and made his glorious furry coat if anything more glorious.THE SOUNDING OF THE CALL 77 as he travelled and travelling with the long. brain and body. living on the things that lived. and by this stream he killed a large black bear. He fished for salmon in a broad stream that emptied somewhere into the sea. made him as formidable a creature as any that roamed the wild. Bernard intelligence. spoke plainly as speech in the way he carried himself. his intelligence. it was a hard fight. he might well have been mistaken for a gigantic wolf. was apparent in the play of every muscle. was the wolf head on a massive scale. and those that fled left two behind who would quarrel no more. Even so. somewhat broader. was keyed to the most exquisite pitch. The blood-longing became stronger than ever before. Every part. When Thornton passed a caressing hand along his back. surviving triumphantly in a hostile environment where only the strong survived. He was a killer. blinded by the mosquitoes while likewise fishing. and wild cunning. and raging through the forest helpless and terrible. living on a straight meat diet. From his St. a snapping and crackling followed the hand. His muzzle was the long wolf muzzle. and for the splash of white hair that ran midmost down his chest. he scattered them like chaff. a thing that preyed. Bernard father he had inherited size and weight. each hair discharging its pent magnetism at the contact. and all this. easy lope that seems never to tire. A carnivorous animal. nerve tissue and fibre. alone. and his head. which communicated itself like a contagion to his physical being. he was in full flower. larger than the largest of the breed. and it aroused the last latent remnants of Buck’s ferocity. And two days later. when he returned to his kill and found a dozen wolverenes quarrelling over the spoil. unaided. But for the stray brown on his muzzle and above his eyes. and between all the parts there was a perfect equilibrium or adjustment. shepherd intelligence and St.

and snap in mid air the little chipmunks fleeing a second too late for the trees. A band .” said Pete. He no longer marched. glad and rampant. He perceived and determined and responded in the same instant. but he wished strongly for larger and more formidable quarry. determining. and it was his delight to steal upon the squirrels. Life streamed through him in splendid flood. a passing shadow that appeared and disappeared among the shadows. nor were the beaver. he responded with lightning-like rapidity. to crawl on his belly like a snake. too wary. and responding were sequential. stealing along softly. were not too quick for him. Quickly as a husky dog could leap to defend from attack or to attack. the mould was broke. In point of fact the three actions of perceiving. So a lurking humor ran through his deeds. like steel springs. He killed to eat. and responded in less time than another dog required to compass the mere seeing or hearing. as the partners watched Buck marching out of camp. As the fall of the year came on. mending their dams.” Hans affirmed. He could take a ptarmigan from its nest. He saw the movement. Fish. when he all but had them. kill a rabbit as it slept. moving slowly down to meet the winter in the lower and less rigorous valleys. not from wantonness. His muscles were surcharged with vitality. the moose appeared in greater abundance. He knew how to take advantage of every cover. and he came upon it one day on the divide at the head of the creek. chattering in mortal fear to the tree-tops. to let them go. They saw him marching out of camp. At once he became a thing of the wild. and snapped into play sharply. until it seemed that it would burst him asunder in sheer ecstasy and pour forth generously over the world. and. and like a snake to leap and strike.” said John Thornton one day.78 THE CALL OF THE WILD sights and sounds and events which required action. but so infinitesimal were the intervals of time between them that they appeared simultaneous. “Py jingo! I t’ink so mineself. but he preferred to eat what he killed himself. cat-footed. “Never was there such a dog. Buck had already dragged down a stray part-grown calf. but they did not see the instant and terrible transformation which took place as soon as he was within the secrecy of the forest. he could leap twice as quickly. in open pools. “When he was made. or heard sound.

luring him on by a simulated inability to escape. wearing out the patience of creatures preyed upon. There is a patience of the wild—dogged. just forward of the flank. cutting out his victim as fast as it could rejoin its mates. His small eyes burned with a vicious and bitter light. and driving the wounded bull mad with helpless rage. It was no slight task. standing over six feet from the ground. while he roared with fury at sight of Buck. and it belonged to Buck as he clung to the flank of the herd. irritating the young bulls. two or three of the younger bulls would charge back upon Buck and enable the wounded bull to rejoin the herd. and. which accounted for his savageness. the panther in its ambuscade. and chief among them was a great bull. persistent as life itself—that holds motionless for endless hours the spider in its web.THE SOUNDING OF THE CALL 79 of twenty moose had crossed over from the land of streams and timber. branching to fourteen points and embracing seven feet within the tips. Buck multiplied himself. The down-coming winter was harrying them on to the lower levels. the young bulls retraced their steps more and more reluctantly to the aid of their beset leader. Unable to turn his back on the fanged danger and go on. and it seemed they could never . 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). But when he was thus separated from his fellows. just out of reach of the great antlers and of the terrible splay hoofs which could have stamped his life out with a single blow. tireless. enveloping the herd in a whirlwind of menace. the bull would be driven into paroxysms of rage. At such moments he charged Buck. He was in a savage temper. He would bark and dance about in front of the bull. Back and forth the bull tossed his great palmated antlers. 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. retarding its march. which is a lesser patience than that of creatures preying. attacking from all sides. For half a day this continued. the snake in its coils. From the bull’s side. worrying the cows with their half-grown calves. who retreated craftily. this patience belongs peculiarly to life when it hunts its living food. protruded a feathered arrow-end. was as formidable an antagonist as even Buck could desire.

and he resolved to investigate after he had finished the business in hand. . The great head drooped more and more under its tree of horns. panting with red lolling tongue and with eyes fixed upon the big bull. or smell. Forest and stream and air seemed palpitant with their presence. watching his mates—the cows he had known. it was not the life of the herd. yet knew that the land was somehow different. or sound.80 THE CALL OF THE WILD shake off this tireless creature that held them back. and Buck found more time in which to get water for himself and in which to rest. As the moose were coming into the land. The news of it was borne in upon him. full of fight and struggle. As twilight fell the old bull stood with lowered head. He could feel a new stir in the land. saw nothing. not by sight. lying down when the moose stood still. Buck never left his prey. The life of only one member was demanded. other kinds of life were coming in. that was threatened. satisfied with the way the game was played. attacking him fiercely when he strove to eat or drink. he burst into long stretches of flight. and the shambling trot grew weak and weaker. it appeared to Buck that a change was coming over the face of things. From then on. for before his nose leaped the merciless fanged terror that would not let him go. in desperation. He could not follow. night and day. but by some other and subtler sense. strong life. the calves he had fathered. and at the end he faced death at the teeth of a creature whose head did not reach beyond his great knuckled knees. with nose to the ground and dejected ears dropped limply. the bulls he had mastered—as they shambled on at a rapid pace through the fading light. Often. Three hundredweight more than half a ton he weighed. He heard nothing. or of the young bulls. At such moments. Besides. he had lived a long. that through it strange things were afoot and ranging. never permitted it to browse the leaves of trees or the shoots of young birch and willow. He took to standing for long periods. which was a remoter interest than their lives. but loped easily at his heels. and in the end they were content to pay the toll. Nor did he give the wounded bull opportunity to slake his burning thirst in the slender trickling streams they crossed. never gave it a moment’s rest. At such times Buck did not attempt to stay him.

No longer was this fact borne in upon him in some subtle. As he held on he became more and more conscious of the new stir in the land. Three miles away he came upon a fresh trail that sent his neck hair rippling and bristling. he pulled the great moose down. the very breeze whispered of it. Buck hurried on. his nose was jerked suddenly to the side as though a positive force had gripped and pulled it. he turned his face toward camp and John Thornton.THE SOUNDING OF THE CALL 81 At last. alert to the multitudinous details which told a story—all but the end. The squirrels were in hiding. rested. As Buck slid along with the obscureness of a gliding shadow. turn and turn about. flattened against a gray dead limb so that he seemed a part of it. reading a message which made him leap on with greater speed. The birds talked of it. hour after hour. He broke into the long easy lope. rising . from either side of his body. This dog was thrashing about in a death-struggle. swiftly and stealthily. From the camp came the faint sound of many voices. heading straight home through strange country with a certitude of direction that put man and his magnetic needle to shame. and Buck passed around him without stopping. and as he crossed the last watershed and dropped down into the valley toward camp. directly on the trail. He remarked the pregnant silence of the forest. mysterious way. a woody excrescence upon the wood itself. Then. the squirrels chattered about it. never at loss for the tangled way. Buck came upon one of the sled-dogs Thornton had bought in Dawson. The bird life had flitted. There was life abroad in it different from the life which had been there throughout the summer. dead where he had dragged himself. It led straight toward camp and John Thornton. A hundred yards farther on. His nose gave him a varying description of the passage of the life on the heels of which he was travelling. if it were not calamity already happened. eating and sleeping. Several times he stopped and drew in the fresh morning air in great sniffs. head and feathers. One only he saw. at the end of the fourth day. an arrow protruding. every nerve straining and tense. and went on. he proceeded with greater caution. He was lying on his side. refreshed and strong.—a sleek gray fellow. He followed the new scent into a thicket and found Nig. He was oppressed with a sense of calamity happening. For a day and a night he remained by the kill.

proclaiming as they fled the advent of the Evil Spirit. and one young hunter. He found Pete where he had been killed in his blankets in the first moment of surprise. By . A gust of overpowering rage swept over him. hurling himself upon them in a frenzy to destroy. so inconceivably rapid were his movements. As for Buck. There was no withstanding him. rending. destroying. Thornton’s desperate struggle was fresh-written on the earth. tearing. he found Hans. but he growled aloud with a terrible ferocity. Bellying forward to the edge of the clearing. wearying of the pursuit. and it was because of his great love for John Thornton that he lost his head. ripping the throat wide open till the rent jugular spouted a fountain of blood. He did not pause to worry the victim. and so closely were the Indians tangled together. 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.82 THE CALL OF THE WILD and falling in a sing-song chant. raging at their heels and dragging them down like deer as they raced through the trees. It was a fateful day for the Yeehats. with the next bound tearing wide the throat of a second man. He plunged about in their very midst. Then a panic seized the Yeehats. lying on his face. 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. They scattered far and wide over the country. and Buck scented every detail of it down to the edge of a deep pool. but ripped in passing. He sprang at the foremost man (it was the chief of the Yeehats). that they shot one another with the arrows. It was Buck. And truly Buck was the Fiend incarnate. and they fled in terror to the woods. feathered with arrows like a porcupine. He did not know that he growled. The Yeehats were dancing about the wreckage 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. a live hurricane of fury. For the last time in his life he allowed passion to usurp cunning and reason. and it was not till a week later that the last of the survivors gathered together in a lower valley and counted their losses. hurling a spear at Buck in mid air. he returned to the desolated camp. In fact. in constant and terrific motion which defied the arrows they discharged at him.

and a full moon rose high over the trees into the sky. lay Skeet. It was the call. they poured in a silvery flood. somewhat akin to hunger. It was harder to kill a husky dog than them. spears. John Thornton was dead. At times. as a passing out and away from the lives of the living. .—a pride greater than any he had yet experienced. as the Yeehats were hunting it. when he paused to contemplate the carcasses of the Yeehats. as a cessation of movement. Man and the claims of man no longer bound him. listening and scenting.THE SOUNDING OF THE CALL 83 the edge. All day Buck brooded by the pool or roamed restlessly about the camp. were it not for their arrows and spears and clubs. Buck became alive to a stirring of the new life in the forest other than that which the Yeehats had made. head and fore feet in the water. He stood up. They were no match at all. sounding more luringly and compellingly than ever before. The pool itself. but a void which ached and ached. He walked to the centre of the open space and listened. The last tie was broken. It left a great void in him. and which food could not fill. They had died so easily. he knew. As the moments passed the yelps grew closer and louder. Thenceforward he would be unafraid of them except when they bore in their hands their arrows. from which no trace led away. faithful to the last. And with the coming of the night. He sniffed the bodies curiously. brooding and mourning by the pool. and it contained John Thornton. effectually hid what it contained. he forgot the pain of it. Hunting their living meat. the noblest game of all. From far away drifted a faint. and he had killed in the face of the law of club and fang. Death. and clubs. followed by a chorus of similar sharp yelps. Again Buck knew them as things heard in that other world which persisted in his memory. Night came on. he was ready to obey. And as never before. Into the clearing where the moonlight streamed. lighting the land till it lay bathed in ghostly day. sharp yelp. the many-noted call. and at such times he was aware of a great pride in himself. and he knew John Thornton was dead. on the flanks of the migrating moose. muddy and discolored from the sluice boxes. for Buck followed his trace into the water. He had killed man. the wolf pack had at last crossed over from the land of streams and timber and invaded Buck’s valley.

advanced cautiously. crowded together. Three others tried it in sharp succession. Some were lying down with heads raised and ears pricked forward. motionless as a statue. and a moment’s pause fell. He worked along to a right angle in the bank which the men had made in the course of mining. gaunt and battle-scarred. half-savage manner. as Buck whined. protected on three sides and with nothing to do but face the front. so still and large he stood. The tongues of all were out and lolling. watching him. streaming blood from slashed throats or shoulders. The leaders lifted the yelp of the pack and sprang away into the woods. that at the end of half an hour the wolves drew back discomfited. and broke out the long wolf howl. they touched noses.84 THE CALL OF THE WILD and in the centre of the clearing stood Buck. And so well did he face it. long and lean and gray. sat down and howled. and one after the other they drew back. but sniffed noses with him. Pivoting on his hind legs. as before. Buck writhed his lips into the preliminary of a snarl. Then an old wolf. Whereupon the old wolf sat down. He. he was forced back. the stricken wolf rolling in agony behind him. sniffing in half-friendly. pell-mell. and snapping and gashing. presenting a front which was apparently unbroken so swiftly did he whirl and guard from side to side. This was sufficient to fling the whole pack forward. without movement. down past the pool and into the creek bed. till he brought up against a high gravel bank. and Buck recognized the wild brother with whom he had run for a night and a day. too. and still others were lapping water from the pool. And now the call came to Buck in unmistakable accents. till the boldest one leaped straight for him. Like a flash Buck struck. blocked and confused by its eagerness to pull down the prey. breaking the neck. the white fangs showing cruelly white in the moonlight. and. pointed nose at the moon. But to prevent them from getting behind him. The wolves . waiting their coming. he came out of his angle and the pack crowded around him. others stood on their feet. he was everywhere at once. and in this angle he came to bay. Buck’s marvellous quickness and agility stood him in good stead. in a friendly manner. Then he stood. He was whining softly. This over. They were awed. One wolf. The others sat down and howled. came forward.

and yet unlike. It is a great. yelping as he ran. side by side with the wild brother. And here may well end the story of Buck. 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 prints about them in the snow greater than the prints of any wolf. The years were not many when the Yeehats noted a change in the breed of timber wolves. there is a certain valley which they never enter. . for it has cunning greater than they. howling once. he may be seen running at the head of the pack through the pale moonlight or glimmering borealis. when the Yeehats follow the movement of the moose. which is the song of the pack. his great throat a-bellow as he sings a song of the younger world. to that valley. slaying their dogs. And women there are who become sad when the word goes over the fire of how the Evil Spirit came to select that valley for an abidingplace. In the summers there is one visitor. however. and here he muses for a time. leaping gigantic above his fellows. But more remarkable than this. and with a rift of white centring down the chest. the Yeehats tell of a Ghost Dog that runs at the head of the pack. ere he departs. stealing from their camps in fierce winters. Here a yellow stream flows from rotted moose-hide sacks and sinks into the ground. and defying their bravest hunters. yelping in chorus. But he is not always alone. all other wolves. robbing their traps. And Buck ran with them. for some were seen with splashes of brown on head and muzzle. gloriously coated wolf. like. They are afraid of this Ghost Dog. Each fall. with long grasses growing through it and vegetable mould overrunning it and hiding its yellow from the sun. He crosses alone from the smiling timber land and comes down into an open space among the trees. Nay. of which the Yeehats do not know. When the long winter nights come on and the wolves follow their meat into the lower valleys. long and mournfully. the tale grows worse.THE SOUNDING OF THE CALL 85 swung in behind.