Chapter 1

"Old longings nomadic leap, Chafing at custom's chain; Again from its brumal sleep Wakens the ferine strain." Buck did not read the newspapers, or he would have known that trouble was brewing, not alone for himself, but for every tide-water dog, strong of muscle and with warm, long hair, from Puget Sound to San Diego. Because men, groping in the Arctic darkness, had found a yellow metal, and because steamship and transportation companies were booming the find, thousands of men were rushing into the Northland. These men wanted dogs, and the dogs they wanted were heavy dogs, with strong muscles by which to toil, and furry coats to protect them from the frost. Buck lived at a big house in the sun-kissed Santa Clara Valley. Judge Miller's place, it was called. It stood back from the road, half hidden among the trees, through which glimpses could be caught of the wide cool veranda that ran around its four sides. The house was approached by gravelled driveways which wound about through wide-spreading lawns and under the interlacing boughs of tall poplars. At the rear, things were on even a more spacious scale than at the front. There were great stables, where a dozen grooms and boys held forth, rows of vine-clad servants' cottages, an endless and orderly array of outhouses, long grape arbors, green pastures, orchards, and berry patches. Then there was the pumping plant for the artesian well, and the big cement tank where Judge Miller's boys took their morning plunge and kept cool in the hot afternoon. And over this great demesne Buck ruled. Here he was born, and here he had lived the four years of his life. It was true, there were other dogs, There could not but be other dogs on so vast a place, but they did not count. They came and went, resided in the populous kennels, or lived obscurely in the recesses of the house after the fashion of Toots, the Japanese pug, or Ysabel, the Mexican hairless,—strange creatures that rarely put nose out of doors or set foot to ground. On the other hand, there were the fox terriers, a score of them at least, who yelped fearful promises at Toots and Ysabel looking out of the windows at them and protected by a legion of housemaids armed with brooms and mops. But Buck was neither house-dog nor kennel-dog. The whole realm was his. He plunged into the swimming tank or went hunting with the Judge's sons; he escorted Mollie and Alice, the Judge's daughters, on long twilight or early morning rambles; on wintry nights he lay at the Judge's feet before the roaring library fire; he carried the Judge's grandsons on his back, or rolled them in the grass, and guarded their footsteps through wild adventures down to the fountain in the stable yard, and even beyond, where the paddocks were, and the berry patches. Among the terriers he stalked imperiously, and Toots and Ysabel he utterly ignored, for he was king,—king over all creeping, crawling, flying things of Judge Miller's place, humans included. His father, Elmo, a huge St. Bernard, had been the Judge's inseparable companion, and Buck bid fair to follow in the way of his father. He was not so large,—he weighed only one hundred and forty pounds, —for his mother, Shep, had been a Scotch shepherd dog. Nevertheless, one hundred and forty pounds, to which was added the dignity that comes of good living and universal respect, enabled him to carry himself in right royal fashion. During the four years since his puppyhood he had lived the life of a sated aristocrat; he had a fine pride in himself, was even a trifle egotistical, as country gentlemen sometimes become because of their insular situation. But he had saved himself by not becoming a mere pampered house-dog. Hunting and kindred outdoor delights had kept down the fat and hardened his muscles; and to him, as to the cold-tubbing races, the love of water had been a tonic and a health preserver.

And this was the manner of dog Buck was in the fall of 1897, when the Klondike strike dragged men from all the world into the frozen North. But Buck did not read the newspapers, and he did not know that Manuel, one of the gardener's helpers, was an undesirable acquaintance. Manuel had one besetting sin. He loved to play Chinese lottery. Also, in his gambling, he had one besetting weakness—faith in a system; and this made his damnation certain. For to play a system requires money, while the wages of a gardener's helper do not lap over the needs of a wife and numerous progeny. The Judge was at a meeting of the Raisin Growers' Association, and the boys were busy organizing an athletic club, on the memorable night of Manuel's treachery. No one saw him and Buck go off through the orchard on what Buck imagined was merely a stroll. And with the exception of a solitary man, no one saw them arrive at the little flag station known as College Park. This man talked with Manuel, and money chinked between them. "You might wrap up the goods before you deliver 'm," the stranger said gruffly, and Manuel doubled a piece of stout rope around Buck's neck under the collar. "Twist it, an' you'll choke 'm plentee," said Manuel, and the stranger grunted a ready affirmative. Buck had accepted the rope with quiet dignity. To be sure, it was an unwonted performance: but he had learned to trust in men he knew, and to give them credit for a wisdom that outreached his own. But when the ends of the rope were placed in the stranger's hands, he growled menacingly. He had merely intimated his displeasure, in his pride believing that to intimate was to command. But to his surprise the rope tightened around his neck, shutting off his breath. In quick rage he sprang at the man, who met him halfway, grappled him close by the throat, and with a deft twist threw him over on his back. Then the rope tightened mercilessly, while Buck struggled in a fury, his tongue lolling out of his mouth and his great chest panting futilely. Never in all his life had he been so vilely treated, and never in all his life had he been so angry. But his strength ebbed, his eyes glazed, and he knew nothing when the train was flagged and the two men threw him into the baggage car. The next he knew, he was dimly aware that his tongue was hurting and that he was being jolted along in some kind of a conveyance. The hoarse shriek of a locomotive whistling a crossing told him where he was. He had travelled too often with the Judge not to know the sensation of riding in a baggage car. He opened his eyes, and into them came the unbridled anger of a kidnapped king. The man sprang for his throat, but Buck was too quick for him. His jaws closed on the hand, nor did they relax till his senses were choked out of him once more. "Yep, has fits," the man said, hiding his mangled hand from the baggageman, who had been attracted by the sounds of struggle. "I'm takin' 'm up for the boss to 'Frisco. A crack dog-doctor there thinks that he can cure 'm." Concerning that night's ride, the man spoke most eloquently for himself, in a little shed back of a saloon on the San Francisco water front. "All I get is fifty for it," he grumbled; "an' I wouldn't do it over for a thousand, cold cash." His hand was wrapped in a bloody handkerchief, and the right trouser leg was ripped from knee to ankle. "How much did the other mug get?" the saloon-keeper demanded. "A hundred," was the reply. "Wouldn't take a sou less, so help me." "That makes a hundred and fifty," the saloon-keeper calculated; "and he's worth it, or I'm a squarehead."

The kidnapper undid the bloody wrappings and looked at his lacerated hand. "If I don't get the hydrophoby—" "It'll be because you was born to hang," laughed the saloon- keeper. "Here, lend me a hand before you pull your freight," he added. Dazed, suffering intolerable pain from throat and tongue, with the life half throttled out of him, Buck attempted to face his tormentors. But he was thrown down and choked repeatedly, till they succeeded in filing the heavy brass collar from off his neck. Then the rope was removed, and he was flung into a cagelike crate. There he lay for the remainder of the weary night, nursing his wrath and wounded pride. He could not understand what it all meant. What did they want with him, these strange men? Why were they keeping him pent up in this narrow crate? He did not know why, but he felt oppressed by the vague sense of impending calamity. Several times during the night he sprang to his feet when the shed door rattled open, expecting to see the Judge, or the boys at least. 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. And each time the joyful bark that trembled in Buck's throat was twisted into a savage growl. But the saloon-keeper let him alone, and in the morning four men entered and picked up the crate. More tormentors, Buck decided, for they were evil-looking creatures, ragged and unkempt; and he stormed and raged at them through the bars. They only laughed and poked sticks at him, which he promptly assailed with his teeth till he realized that that was what they wanted. Whereupon he lay down sullenly and allowed the crate to be lifted into a wagon. Then he, and the crate in which he was imprisoned, began a passage through many hands. Clerks in the express office took charge of him; he was carted about in another wagon; a truck carried him, with an assortment of boxes and parcels, upon a ferry steamer; he was trucked off the steamer into a great railway depot, and finally he was deposited in an express car. For two days and nights this express car was dragged along at the tail of shrieking locomotives; and for two days and nights Buck neither ate nor drank. In his anger he had met the first advances of the express messengers with growls, and they had retaliated by teasing him. When he flung himself against the bars, quivering and frothing, they laughed at him and taunted him. They growled and barked like detestable dogs, mewed, and flapped their arms and crowed. It was all very silly, he knew; but therefore the more outrage to his dignity, and his anger waxed and waxed. He did not mind the hunger so much, but the lack of water caused him severe suffering and fanned his wrath to fever-pitch. For that matter, high-strung and finely sensitive, the ill treatment had flung him into a fever, which was fed by the inflammation of his parched and swollen throat and tongue. He was glad for one thing: the rope was off his neck. That had given them an unfair advantage; but now that it was off, he would show them. They would never get another rope around his neck. Upon that he was resolved. For two days and nights he neither ate nor drank, and during those two days and nights of torment, he accumulated a fund of wrath that boded ill for whoever first fell foul of him. His eyes turned blood-shot, and he was metamorphosed into a raging fiend. So changed was he that the Judge himself would not have recognized him; and the express messengers breathed with relief when they bundled him off the train at Seattle. Four men gingerly carried the crate from the wagon into a small, high-walled back yard. A stout man, with a red sweater that sagged generously at the neck, came out and signed the book for the driver. That was the man, Buck divined, the next tormentor, and he hurled himself savagely against the bars. The man smiled grimly, and brought a hatchet and a club.

"You ain't going to take him out now?" the driver asked. "Sure," the man replied, driving the hatchet into the crate for a pry. There was an instantaneous scattering of the four men who had carried it in, and from safe perches on top the wall they prepared to watch the performance. Buck rushed at the splintering wood, sinking his teeth into it, surging and wrestling with it. Wherever the hatchet fell on the outside, he was there on the inside, snarling and growling, as furiously anxious to get out as the man in the red sweater was calmly intent on getting him out. "Now, you red-eyed devil," he said, when he had made an opening sufficient for the passage of Buck's body. At the same time he dropped the hatchet and shifted the club to his right hand. And Buck was truly a red-eyed devil, as he drew himself together for the spring, hair bristling, mouth foaming, a mad glitter in his blood-shot eyes. Straight at the man he launched his one hundred and forty pounds of fury, surcharged with the pent passion of two days and nights. In mid air, just as his jaws were about to close on the man, he received a shock that checked his body and brought his teeth together with an agonizing clip. He whirled over, fetching the ground on his back and side. He had never been struck by a club in his life, and did not understand. With a snarl that was part bark and more scream he was again on his feet and launched into the air. And again the shock came and he was brought crushingly to the ground. This time he was aware that it was the club, but his madness knew no caution. A dozen times he charged, and as often the club broke the charge and smashed him down. After a particularly fierce blow, he crawled to his feet, too dazed to rush. He staggered limply about, the blood flowing from nose and mouth and ears, his beautiful coat sprayed and flecked with bloody slaver. Then the man advanced and deliberately dealt him a frightful blow on the nose. All the pain he had endured was as nothing compared with the exquisite agony of this. With a roar that was almost lionlike in its ferocity, he again hurled himself at the man. But the man, shifting the club from right to left, coolly caught him by the under jaw, at the same time wrenching downward and backward. Buck described a complete circle in the air, and half of another, then crashed to the ground on his head and chest. For the last time he rushed. The man struck the shrewd blow he had purposely withheld for so long, and Buck crumpled up and went down, knocked utterly senseless. "He's no slouch at dog-breakin', that's wot I say," one of the men on the wall cried enthusiastically. "Druther break cayuses any day, and twice on Sundays," was the reply of the driver, as he climbed on the wagon and started the horses. Buck's senses came back to him, but not his strength. He lay where he had fallen, and from there he watched the man in the red sweater. " 'Answers to the name of Buck,' " the man soliloquized, quoting from the saloon-keeper's letter which had announced the consignment of the crate and contents. "Well, Buck, my boy," he went on in a genial voice, "we've had our little ruction, and the best thing we can do is to let it go at that. You've learned your place, and I know mine. Be a good dog and all 'll go well and the goose hang high. Be a bad dog, and I'll whale the stuffin' outa you. Understand?" As he spoke he fearlessly patted the head he had so mercilessly pounded, and though Buck's hair involuntarily bristled at touch of the hand, he endured it without protest. When the man brought him water he drank eagerly, and later bolted a generous meal of raw meat, chunk by chunk, from the man's hand.

He was friendly. Of this last Buck was never guilty. "Dave" he was called. "Sacredam!" he cried. The other dog made no advances. not even when the Narwhal . "And seem' it's government money. in the form of a little weazened man who spat broken English and many strange and uncouth exclamations which Buck could not understand. and in all his after life he never forgot it. but the fear of the future was strong upon him. some docilely. and he was glad each time when he was not selected. he watched them pass under the dominion of the man in the red sweater. though not necessarily conciliated. and. the lash of François's whip sang through the air. Buck and Curly joined two other dogs. the lesson was driven home to Buck: a man with a club was a lawgiver. nor received any. "Dat one dam bully dog! Eh? How moch?" "Three hundred. Perrault?" Perrault grinned. and he ate and slept. As Buck sprang to punish him. Perrault knew dogs. and when he looked at Buck he knew that he was one in a thousand— "One in ten t'ousand. Considering that the price of dogs had been boomed skyward by the unwonted demand. he none the less grew honestly to respect them. who talked excitedly. finally killed in the struggle for mastery. it was not an unfair sum for so fine an animal. in the end. and further. They were a new kind of men to Buck (of which he was destined to see many more). and he showed Curly plainly that all he desired was to be left alone. snow-white fellow from Spitzbergen who had been brought away by a whaling captain. calm and impartial in administering justice. you ain't got no kick coming. eh. He was a gloomy. when his eyes lit upon Buck. nor would its despatches travel the slower. though he did see beaten dogs that fawned upon the man.He was beaten (he knew that). in a treacherous sort of way. as he looked at each brutal performance. Perrault was a French-Canadian. Curly and he were taken below by Perrault and turned over to a black-faced giant called François. he decided. morose fellow. that would neither conciliate nor obey. he did not attempt to steal from the newcomers. in crates and at the ends of ropes. and was not surprised when Curly. and he were led away by the little weazened man. and some raging and roaring as he had come. and the half-breed began his rise in Buck's estimation. smiling into one's face the while he meditated some underhand trick. He saw. for they never came back. also. and took interest in nothing. And at such times that money passed between them the strangers took one or more of the dogs away with them. and swarthy. or yawned between times. that he stood no chance against a man with a club. it was the last he saw of the warm Southland. and he met the introduction halfway. Buck wondered where they went. He had learned the lesson. and while he developed no affection for them. and wagged their tails. but François was a French-Canadian half-breed. Now and again men came. It was his introduction to the reign of primitive law. for instance. and in all kinds of fashions to the man in the red sweater. strangers. Again and again. and twice as swarthy. and a present at that. a good-natured Newfoundland. That was fair of François. He speedily learned that Perrault and François were fair men. that there would be trouble if he were not left alone. one and all. but he was not broken. reaching the culprit first. and who had later accompanied a Geological Survey into the Barrens. In the 'tween-decks of the Narwhal. and while he faced that aspect uncowed. he faced it with all the latent cunning of his nature aroused. wheedlingly. and licked his hand. as." he commented mentally. once for all. Yet his time came. Also he saw one dog. a master to be obeyed. other dogs came. The facts of life took on a fiercer aspect. and too wise in the way of dogs to be fooled by dogs. and as Curly and he looked at receding Seattle from the deck of the Narwhal. One of them was a big. Buck saw money pass between them." was the prompt reply of the man in the red sweater. As the days went by. and nothing remained to Buck but to recover the bone. That club was a revelation. when he stole from Buck's food at the first meal. The Canadian Government would be no loser. That was the last he saw of the man in the red sweater.

screaming with agony. as did the other dogs. Three men with clubs were helping him to scatter them. and so unexpected. and from that moment Buck hated him with a bitter and deathless hatred. yawned. he raised his head as though annoyed. and though one day was very like another. though not half so large as she. that was the end of you. Two minutes from the time Curly went down. nor rest. it was apparent to Buck that the weather was steadily growing colder. it was a vicarious experience. who knew no law but the law of club and fang. for these dogs and men were not town dogs and men. made advances to a husky dog the size of a full-grown wolf. spring into the mess of dogs. It was the wolf manner of fighting. Chapter 2 Buck's first day on the Dyea beach was like a nightmare. to strike and leap away. in her friendly way. almost literally torn to pieces. the propeller was quiet. the swart half-breed standing over her and cursing horribly. Well. The scene often came back to Buck to trouble him in his sleep. They closed in upon her. He met her next rush with his chest. Once down. half wild with fear. with the same result. No fair play. The onlookers laughed uproariously. There was no warning. for it was his first snow. snarling and yelping. Curly was the victim. He had never seen dogs fight as these wolfish creatures fought. This puzzled him. He sprang back with a snort.crossed Queen Charlotte Sound and rolled and pitched and bucked like a thing possessed. Every hour was filled with shock and surprise. and every moment life and limb were in peril. . At the first step upon the cold surface. and the next instant was gone. all of them. It bit like fire. and his first experience taught him an unforgetable lesson. nor a moment's safety. trampled snow. and he felt ashamed. a leap out equally swift. So sudden was it. Buck's feet sank into a white mushy something very like mud. But she lay there limp and lifeless in the bloody. All was confusion and action. At last. Day and night the ship throbbed to the tireless pulse of the propeller. and he saw François. but there was more to it than this. who struck again and leaped aside. It did not take long. Here was neither peace. a metallic clip of teeth. Spitz ran out his tongue and laughed again. There was imperative need to be constantly alert. She never regained them. This was what the onlooking huskies had waited for. and Curly's face was ripped open from eye to jaw. then licked some up on his tongue. he knew not why. More of this white stuff was falling through the air. So that was the way. Buck did not comprehend that silent intentness. where she. nor the eager way with which they were licking their chops. He sniffed it curiously. only a leap in like a flash. and she was buried. He saw Spitz run out his scarlet tongue in a way he had of laughing. favored them with an incurious glance. but more of it fell upon him. he would see to it that he never went down. the last of her assailants were clubbed off. No lazy. They were camped near the log store. Curly rushed her antagonist. and knew that a change was at hand. that Buck was taken aback. They were savages. He tried it again. When Buck and Curly grew excited. He felt it. one morning. with nothing to do but loaf and be bored. Thirty or forty huskies ran to the spot and surrounded the combatants in an intent and silent circle. It is true. beneath the bristling mass of bodies. sun-kissed life was this. swinging an axe. and went to sleep again. He had been suddenly jerked from the heart of civilization and flung into the heart of things primordial. else he would not have lived to profit by it. François leashed them and brought them on deck. in a peculiar fashion that tumbled her off her feet. and the Narwhal was pervaded with an atmosphere of excitement. He shook himself.

two brothers. long and lean and gaunt. they were as different as day and night. His only apparent ambition. and to the last of their comradeship had no more trouble. He had one peculiarity which Buck was unlucky enough to discover. likewise experienced. each of them possessed one other and even more vital ambition. "Dat Buck. lips writhing and snarling. expected nothing. Like Dave. which means the Angry One. though. like Dave's. It was a harness. turned to run when he saw that appeasement was of no avail. who was an experienced wheeler. A chill wind was blowing that nipped him sharply and bit with especial venom into his wounded shoulder. till he recovered from his consternation and fled ignominiously into the outer cold. gave nothing. as Buck was afterward to learn. sour and introspective. both Perrault and François bombarded him with curses and cooking utensils. He did not like to be approached on his blind side. nipped Buck's hind quarters whenever he was in error. glowed warmly in the midst of the white plain. He was called Solleks. Miserable and disconsolate. or cunningly threw his weight in the traces to jerk Buck into the way he should go. He buckled down with a will and did his best. while Spitz proceeded to thrash first one and then the other. Billee's one fault was his excessive good nature. and to keep clear of the wheeler when the loaded sled shot downhill at their heels. with a battle-scarred face and a single eye which flashed a warning of prowess that commanded respect. François fastened upon him an arrangement of straps and buckles. That night Buck faced the great problem of sleeping. Billee wagged his tail appeasingly. Sons of the one mother though they were. only to find that one place was as cold as another. such as he had seen the grooms put on the horses at home. François was stern. he wandered about among the many tents. though it was all new and strange. and returning with a load of firewood. jaws clipping together as fast as he could snap. ears laid back. Though his dignity was sorely hurt by thus being made a draught animal." By afternoon. Dave ignored them. heem pool lak hell. and by virtue of his whip receiving instant obedience. and the first knowledge he had of his indiscretion was when Sol-leks whirled upon him and slashed his shoulder to the bone for three inches up and down. mane bristling. and eyes diabolically gleaming—the incarnation of belligerent fear. And as he had seen horses work. The tent. while Joe was the very opposite. demanding instant obedience. and while he could not always get at Buck. returned with two more dogs. with a perpetual snarl and a malignant eye. He lay down on the snow and attempted to sleep. he growled sharp reproof now and again. entered it. But no matter how Spitz circled. So terrible was his appearance that Spitz was forced to forego disciplining him. was to be left alone. illumined by a candle. an old husky." to go ahead at "mush. and cried (still appeasingly) when Spitz's sharp teeth scored his flank. I tich heem queek as anyt'ing. he received another shock. so he was set to work. and under the combined tuition of his two mates and François made remarkable progress.Before he had recovered from the shock caused by the tragic passing of Curly. Buck received them in comradely fashion. Ere they returned to camp he knew enough to stop at "ho. hauling François on a sled to the forest that fringed the valley. Perrault. while Dave. Buck learned easily." François told Perrault. Joe whirled around on his heels to face him. Here and there savage dogs rushed upon . but to cover his own discomfiture he turned upon the inoffensive and wailing Billee and drove him to the confines of the camp. and when he marched slowly and deliberately into their midst. Of this offence Buck was unwittingly guilty. and when he. who was in a hurry to be on the trail with his despatches. and true huskies both." to swing wide on the bends. "T'ree vair' good dogs. he was too wise to rebel. Spitz was the leader. he asked nothing. but the frost soon drove him shivering to his feet. as a matter of course. even Spitz left him alone. Forever after Buck avoided his blind side. By evening Perrault secured another dog. "Billee" and "Joe" he called them.

and all that they lived for and the only thing in which they took delight. At first he did not know where he was. bristling and snarling. It was a token that he was harking back through his own life to the lives of his forebears. and fiercely irritable with whatever. an unduly civilized dog. All passiveness and unconcern had dropped from them. To his astonishment. eh? Buck confidently selected a spot. the rest of the team was strung out ahead. to the leader. but he bristled his neck-hair and snarled (for he was learning fast). single file. "Dat Buck for sure learn queek as anyt'ing. 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. He was surprised at the eagerness which animated the whole team and which was communicated to him. They were alert and active. Again he wandered about through the great camp. looking for them. He would return and see how his own team-mates were making out. Three more huskies were added to the team inside an hour. making a total of nine. The muscles of his whole body contracted spasmodically and instinctively. Finally an idea came to him. and before another quarter of an hour had passed they were in harness and swinging up the trail toward the Dyea Canon. The toil of the traces seemed the supreme expression of their being. and he was particularly gladdened by the possession of Buck. pulling in front of him was Buck. Another lesson. the hair on his neck and shoulders stood on end. It had snowed during the night and he was completely buried.him. Buck had been purposely placed between Dave and Sol-leks so that he might receive instruction. and even ventured. that could not be. As courier for the Canadian Government. and he went back to investigate. Buck was glad to be gone. squirmed and wriggled to show his good will and intentions. Dave was wheeler or sled dog. which position was filled by Spitz. else he would not have been driven out. curled up under the snow in a snug ball. though he growled and barked and wrestled with bad dreams. Then where could they possibly be? With drooping tail and shivering body. Apt scholar that he was. Something wriggled under his feet. But a friendly little yelp reassured him. for he was a civilized dog. Dave was fair and very wise. lay Billee. and there. He sprang back. but still more surprising was the change wrought in Dave and Sol-leks. and they let him go his way unmolested. So that was the way they did it. anxious that the work should go well. bearing important despatches. retarded that work. very forlorn indeed. they were equally apt teachers. he aimlessly circled the tent. the snow flying about him in a flashing cloud." Perrault nodded gravely. and enforcing their teaching with their sharp teeth. and with much fuss and waste effort proceeded to dig a hole for himself. fearful of the unseen and unknown. "Wot I say?" the dog-driver cried to Perrault. to lick Buck's face with his warm wet tongue. and with a ferocious snarl he bounded straight up into the blinding day. then came Sol-leks. A whiff of warm air ascended to his nostrils. by delay or confusion. and though the work was hard he found he did not particularly despise it. Were they in the tent? No. they had disappeared. He whined placatingly. In a trice the heat from his body filled the confined space and he was asleep. utterly transformed by the harness. and again he returned. They were new dogs. and he slept soundly and comfortably. He never nipped Buck . The snow walls pressed him on every side. The day had been long and arduous. Ere he landed on his feet. and a great surge of fear swept through him—the fear of the wild thing for the trap. Suddenly the snow gave way beneath his fore legs and he sank down. as a bribe for peace. and of his own experience knew no trap and so could not of himself fear it. never allowing him to linger long in error. A shout from François hailed his appearance. Nor did he open his eyes till roused by the noises of the waking camp. he was anxious to secure the best dogs.

eating their bit of fish. because they weighed less and were born to the life. they broke camp in the dark. and. to respect private property and personal feelings. under the law of club and fang. The pound and a half of sun-dried salmon. But the club . To remedy this. up the Canon. And always they pitched camp after dark. slyly steal a slice of bacon when Perrault's back was turned. and over the great Chilcoot Divide. he was not above taking what did not belong to him. under the law of love and fellowship. but in the Northland. Day after day. when he got tangled in the traces and delayed the start. and the first gray of dawn found them hitting the trail with fresh miles reeled off behind them. the trail being packed. but he was unsuspected. he duplicated the performance the following day. A dainty eater. As François's whip backed him up. packing the snow with webbed shoes to make it easier for them. It was a hard day's run. Yet the other dogs. and late that night pulled into the huge camp at the head of Lake Bennett. and crawling to sleep into the snow. It marked. a clever malingerer and thief. and where there was swift water. it was disappearing down the throats of the others. further. There was no defending it. sometimes exchanged places with him. his mates about ceased nagging him. he found that his mates. but all too early was routed out in the cold darkness and harnessed with his mates to the sled. guiding the sled at the gee. so greatly did hunger compel him. past the Scales and the timber line. He was fit. which was his ration for each day. but not often. finishing first. the decay or going to pieces of his moral nature. his capacity to adjust himself to changing conditions. François's whip snapped less frequently. Buck found it to be cheaper to mend his ways than to retaliate. getting away with the whole chunk. received a pound only of the fish and managed to keep in good condition. They made good time down the chain of lakes which fills the craters of extinct volcanoes. robbed him of his unfinished ration. whoso took such things into account was a fool. the lack of which would have meant swift and terrible death. where thousands of goldseekers were building boats against the break-up of the ice in the spring. was punished for Buck's misdeed. All his days. an awkward blunderer who was always getting caught. A great uproar was raised. and suffered from perpetual hunger pangs. Always. which knowledge was indispensable. He never had enough. so well had he mastered his work. Not that Buck reasoned it out. one of the new dogs. seemed to go nowhere. When he saw Pike. and unconsciously he accommodated himself to the new mode of life. no matter what the odds. It was all well enough in the Southland. He swiftly lost the fastidiousness which had characterized his old life. Perrault travelled ahead of the team. for days unending. Once. he ate as fast as they. there was no ice at all. He watched and learned. they broke their own trail. The resulting tangle was even worse. While he was fighting off two or three. This first theft marked Buck as fit to survive in the hostile Northland environment. he had never run from a fight. Perrault was in a hurry. and he never failed to nip him when he stood in need of it. and in so far as he observed them he would fail to prosper. both Dave and Sol. across glaciers and snowdrifts hundreds of feet deep. but Buck took good care to keep the traces clear thereafter. which stands between the salt water and the fresh and guards forbiddingly the sad and lonely North.leks flew at him and administered a sound trouncing. while Dub. Buck made his hole in the snow and slept the sleep of the exhausted just. Buck toiled in the traces. for the fall ice was very thin. but the next day. As a rule. and for many days to follow. through Sheep Camp. during a brief halt.pole.without cause. and made poorer time. François. Buck was ravenous. That day they made forty miles. It marked his adaptability. worked harder. that was all. and ere the day was done. and he prided himself on his knowledge of ice. a vain thing and a handicap in the ruthless struggle for existence. and Perrault even honored Buck by lifting up his feet and carefully examining them.

but stole secretly and cunningly. and he came because men had found a yellow metal in the North. but instincts long dead became alive again. and dark. striving constantly to start the fight which could end only in the death of one or the other. He could eat anything. he pointed his nose at a star and howled long and wolflike. and he grew callous to all ordinary pain. He learned to bite the ice out with his teeth when it collected between his toes. They quickened the old life within him. and not only did he not pick fights. And when. And not only did he learn by experience. possibly because he divined in Buck a dangerous rival. In this manner had fought forgotten ancestors. once eaten. the juices of his stomach extracted the last least particle of nutriment. and the cold. A certain deliberateness characterized his attitude. while his hearing developed such acuteness that in his sleep he heard the faintest sound and knew whether it heralded peace or peril. out of respect for club and fang. In vague ways he remembered back to the youth of the breed. The domesticated generations fell from him. on the still cold nights. the wind that later blew inevitably found him to leeward. dead and dust. but the completeness of his decivilization was now evidenced by his ability to flee from the defence of a moral consideration and so save his hide. In short. but because of the clamor of his stomach. On the other hand. and in the bitter hatred between him and Spitz he betrayed no impatience. Early in the trip this might have taken place had it not been for an unwonted accident. a wind that cut like a white-hot knife. He did not steal for joy of it. He achieved an internal as well as external economy. the cadences which voiced their woe and what to them was the meaning of the stiffness. And his cadences were their cadences. Thus. pointing nose at star and howling down through the centuries and through him. to the time the wild dogs ranged in packs through the primeval forest and killed their meat as they ran it down. he would break it by rearing and striking it with stiff fore legs. as token of what a puppet thing life is. Sight and scent became remarkably keen. and under the fierce conditions of trail life it grew and grew. He did not rob openly. and when he was thirsty and there was a thick scum of ice over the water hole. say the defence of Judge Miller's riding-whip. Spitz never lost an opportunity of showing his teeth. it was his ancestors. as though they had been his always. No matter how breathless the air when he dug his nest by tree or bank. Yet it was a secret growth. shunned all offensive acts. They came to him without effort or discovery. he could have died for a moral consideration. the things he did were done because it was easier to do them than not to do them. His newborn cunning gave him poise and control. Civilized. It was no task for him to learn to fight with cut and slash and the quick wolf snap. but he avoided them whenever possible. He even went out of his way to bully Buck. He was not prone to rashness and precipitate action. building it into the toughest and stoutest of tissues. and the old tricks which they had stamped into the heredity of the breed were his tricks. His most conspicuous trait was an ability to scent the wind and forecast it a night in advance.of the man in the red sweater had beaten into him a more fundamental and primitive code. His development (or retrogression) was rapid. 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. He was too busy adjusting himself to the new life to feel at ease. and his blood carried it to the farthest reaches of his body. no matter how loathsome or indigestible. At the end of this day they made a bleak and miserable camp on the shore of Lake Le Barge. Chapter 3 The dominant primordial beast was strong in Buck. Driving snow. and darkness . and. sheltered and snug. His muscles became hard as iron. the ancient song surged through him and he came into his own again.

So snug and warm was it. four or five score of them. by Gar! Gif it to heem. He flung himself upon another. past many a weary mile of trail and toil. but struggled none the less madly till the last crumb had been devoured. Buck got a frothing adversary by the throat. The team-dogs were swept back against the cliff at the first onset. His club landed heavily on the gaunt ribs. draped loosely in draggled hides. Perrault and François. "Gif it to heem. heralded the breaking forth of pandemonium. he found his nest occupied. terrified into bravery. On the instant a score of the famished brutes were scrambling for the bread and bacon. and he crunched down through the bone. It was Spitz. The tent they had discarded at Dyea in order to travel light. They yelped and howled under the rain of blows. and the grub-box was capsized on the ground. The camp was suddenly discovered to be alive with skulking furry forms. But it was only for a moment. the dirty t'eef!" Spitz was equally willing.—starving huskies. He was crying with sheer rage and eagerness as he circled back and forth for a chance to spring in. In the meantime the astonished team-dogs had burst out of their nests only to be set upon by the fierce invaders. were fighting bravely side by side. François was surprised. the malingerer. upon which the huskies returned to the attack on the team. A warning snarl told him that the trespasser was Spitz. "A-a. his teeth closed on the fore leg of a husky. dripping blood from a score of wounds. There was no opposing them. and Perrault and François were compelled to make their fire and spread their sleeping robes on the ice of the lake itself. At their backs rose a perpendicular wall of rock. Billee. Joe was snapping like a demon. But when Buck finished his ration and returned. Till now Buck had avoided trouble with his enemy. Buck was no less eager. with blazing eyes and slavered fangs. irresistible. as he likewise circled back and forth for the advantage. But the hunger-madness made them terrifying. Close in under the sheltering rock Buck made his nest. The clubs fell upon them unheeded. The two men were compelled to run back to save the grub. but this was too much. An oath from Perrault. They had crept in while Buck and Spitz were fighting. They were crazed by the smell of the food. 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. Billee was crying as usual. hurried to save their sled-dogs. and a shrill yelp of pain. and Buck shook himself free. Once. They were mere skeletons. Buck was beset by three huskies.ah!" he cried to Buck. The beast in him roared. The din was frightful. who had scented the camp from some Indian village. when they shot out in a tangle from the disrupted nest and he divined the cause of the trouble. who managed to hold his own only because of his great weight and size. Dave and Sol-leks. He sprang upon Spitz with a fury which surprised them both. Perrault found one with head buried in the grub-box. having cleaned out their part of the camp. that he was loath to leave it when François distributed the fish which he had first thawed over the fire. for his whole experience with Buck had gone to teach him that his rival was an unusually timid dog. and when the two men sprang among them with stout clubs they showed their teeth and fought back. leaped upon the crippled animal. treacherously attacking from the side. They could hardly have fared worse. breaking its neck with a quick flash of teeth and a jerk. The wild wave of famished beasts rolled back before them. too. the thing which projected their struggle for supremacy far into the future. But it was then that the unexpected happened. and no less cautious. and at the same time felt teeth sink into his own throat.had forced them to grope for a camping place. The warm taste of it in his mouth goaded him to greater fierceness. Pike. the resounding impact of a club upon a bony frame. and was sprayed with blood when his teeth sank through the jugular. and Spitz particularly. and in a trice his head and shoulders were ripped and slashed. sprang through the savage circle and . It seemed as though their bones would burst through their skins. Never had Buck seen such dogs.

He broke from a mournful contemplation of it to look over his wounded dogs. the last husky added to the team at Dyea. Mebbe all mad dog. with Dave and Buck. out of the tail of his eye he saw Spitz rush upon him with the evident intention of overthrowing him. But he braced himself to the shock of Spitz's charge. and with every thong and sled lashing and the last bit of harness rove into a long rope. which he so held that it fell each time across the hole made by his body. and the two men kept them on the run around the fire. with an ear chewed and rent to ribbons. who strained backward with all his strength. and it was in the eddies only and in the quiet places that the ice held at all. It was because nothing daunted him that he had been chosen for government courier. Pike and Dub followed on his heels. In fact. At daybreak they limped warily back to camp. Perrault scaled it by a miracle. struggling painfully over the hardest part of the trail they had yet encountered. There was not one who was not wounded in four or five places. Two hours of cursing and exertion got the harnesses into shape. the thermometer registering fifty below zero. As Buck drew himself together to spring after them. Perrault. the hardest between them and Dawson. and the wound-stiffened team was under way. Later. he could ill afford to have madness break out among his dogs. to find the marauders gone and the two men in bad tempers. and they were half-frozen and all but drowned by the time they were dragged out. sweating and thawing. eh. with the rest of the team behind. and for that matter. At another time Spitz went through. while François prayed for just that miracle. no matter how remotely eatable. the dogs were hoisted. his fore paws on the slippery edge and the ice quivering and snapping all around. cried and whimpered throughout the night. to the cliff crest. The Thirty Mile River was wide open. Its wild water defied the frost. the rim ice broke away before and behind. Once. Joe had lost an eye. "mebbe it mek you mad dog. sacredam! Wot you t'ink. there was no hope for him. and each time he broke through he was compelled for very life to build a fire and dry his garments. and behind the sled was François. dragging the whole team after him up to Buck. the good-natured. The usual fire was necessary to save them. Then came the search for a place to descend.fled away over the ice. But behind him was Dave. had escaped them. He skirted the frowning shores on rim ice that bent and crackled under foot and upon which they dared not halt. Fully half their grub supply was gone. which . He took all manner of risks. the nine team-dogs gathered together and sought shelter in the forest. They were coated solidly with ice. And terrible they were. after the sled and load. resolutely thrusting his little weazened face into the frost and struggling on from dim dawn to dark. François came up last. With four hundred miles of trail still between him and Dawson. But a cold snap was on. Dub was badly injured in a hind leg. while some were wounded grievously. and even two feet of lash from the end of François's whip. and there was no escape except up the cliff. Though unpursued. chunks out of the leather traces. "Ah. Once off his feet and under that mass of huskies. then joined the flight out on the lake. had a badly torn throat." he said softly. being saved by the long pole he carried. dose many bites. A dozen times. Nothing daunted him. so close that they were singed by the flames. Six days of exhausting toil were required to cover those thirty terrible miles. they were in a sorry plight. likewise straining backward. nothing. one by one. nosing the way broke through the ice bridges. the sled broke through. for every foot of them was accomplished at the risk of life to dog and man. my frien's. Again. Perrault?" The courier shook his head dubiously. while Billee. pulling till his tendons cracked. They had eaten a pair of Perrault's moose-hide moccasins. Dolly. The huskies had chewed through the sled lashings and canvas coverings.

Straight away he raced. and could bide his time with a patience that was nothing less than primitive. nor could she gain on him. She announced her condition by a long. He alone endured and prospered. curved back to the main river. The dog-driver held the axe poised in his hand. and night found them back on the river with a quarter of a mile to the day's credit. Later his feet grew hard to the trail. This was a great relief. His had softened during the many generations since the day his last wild ancestor was tamed by a cave-dweller or river man. and refused to budge without them. helpless. so great was her madness. Also. as lead-dog and acknowledged master of the team. Buck was played out. the frost. They were all too soft. and as Buck shot past him the axe crashed down upon mad Dolly's head. he could hear her snarling just one leap behind. matching the husky in strength. went suddenly mad. savagery. 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. which François had to bring to him." From then on it was war between them. lay down like a dead dog. "One devil. This was Spitz's opportunity. when François forgot the moccasins and Buck lay on his back. and sacrificed the tops of his own moccasins to make four moccasins for Buck. with Dolly. felt his supremacy threatened by this strange Southland dog. Then he was a masterful dog. Sure. Dolly. nor did he have any reason to fear madness. and twice his teeth sank into his unresisting foe and ripped and tore the flesh to the bone. I know. Hungry as he was. The first day they covered thirty-five miles to the Big Salmon. and camp once made. dat Spitz. yet he knew that here was horror. 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 out of his desire for mastery. "All de tam I watch dat Buck I know for sure. for of the many Southland dogs he had known. but Perrault. dying under the toil." was François's rejoinder. He was preeminently cunning. not one had shown up worthily in camp and on trail. the next day thirty-five more to the Little Salmon. then sprang straight for Buck. as they were harnessing up. heartbreaking wolf howl that sent every dog bristling with fear. and in desperation started to cross it." remarked Perrault. flew down to the lower end. nor could he leave her. Buck's feet were not so compact and hard as the feet of the huskies. so great was his terror." "Dat Buck two devils. pushed them late and early. By the time they made the Hootalinqua and good ice. to make up lost time. gasping painfully for air and putting all his faith in that François would save him. He plunged through the wooded breast of the island. gained a third island. and fled away from it in a panic. The rest of the dogs were in like condition. sobbing for breath. Buck staggered over against the sled. Spitz. Buck was the exception. the third day forty miles. he would not move to receive his ration of fish. And all the time. his four feet waving appealingly in the air. and Buck had the satisfaction of watching Spitz receive the worst whipping as yet administered to any of the teams. panting and frothing. . and cunning. and starvation. François called to him a quarter of a mile away and he doubled back. He sprang upon Buck. who had never been conspicuous for anything. though he did not look. crossed a back channel filled with rough ice to another island. Then François's lash descended. At the Pelly one morning. and the worn-out foot-gear was thrown away. "Some dam day heem keel dat Buck. still one leap ahead. exhausted. He had never seen a dog go mad. And strange Buck was to him.descent was ultimately made by the aid of the rope. which brought them well up toward the Five Fingers. one leap behind. and Buck caused even the weazened face of Perrault to twist itself into a grin one morning. All day long he limped in agony. the dog-driver rubbed Buck's feet for half an hour each night after supper.

Things no longer went right. the malingerer. In the days that followed. for the dog. while Spitz soundly punished the many times offending Pike. He was securely hidden in his nest under a foot of snow. and was more the pleading of life. But François. It seemed the ordained order of things that dogs should work. likewise sprang upon Spitz. and at the bottom of it was Buck. at three. And he did it deliberately. But the opportunity did not present itself. snarling so frightfully that Pike heard and shivered in his hiding-place. in which it was Buck's delight to join. He wanted it because it was his nature. brought his lash down upon Buck with all his might. When he moaned and sobbed. or the stars leaping in the frost dance. to whom fair play was a forgotten code. regularly. smelling and digging in every likely place. Buck wanted it. He raged through the camp. Buck.stunned by the blow. and in the night their jingling bells still went by. because he had been gripped tight by that nameless. did not appear. 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. ambitious creatures. which lures them to die joyfully in the harness. It was invested with the woe of unnumbered generations. There was continual bickering and jangling. He openly threatened the other's leadership. took heart at this open mutiny. and Spitz flew at him to punish him. old as the breed itself—one of the first songs of the younger world in a day when songs were sad. and the land numb and frozen under its pall of snow.driver was in constant apprehension of the life-and-death struggle between the two which he knew must take place sooner or later. Trouble was always afoot. It was an old song. This was the pride of Dave as wheeldog. And this was Buck's pride. and sprang upon his overthrown leader. and Buck found them all at work. and countless dogs. So unexpected was it. with equal rage. chuckling at the incident while unswerving in the administration of justice. letting them fall back into gloomy unrest and uncontent. fearful that Buck and Spitz were at it. Dave and Sol-leks were unaffected. they lifted a nocturnal song. Here were many men. only it was pitched in minor key. too. and the butt of the whip was brought into play. the pride that spurred them on all day and dropped them at pitch of camp at night. eager. the pride that laid hold of them at break of camp. Buck flew. and so shrewdly managed. Here and there Buck met Southland dogs. All day they swung up and down the main street in long teams. Pike. Every night. a weird and eerie chant. François called him and sought him in vain.drawn wailings and half-sobs. Buck still continued to interfere between Spitz and the culprits. With the covert mutiny of Buck. transforming them from sour and sullen brutes into straining. and they pulled into Dawson one dreary afternoon with the great fight still to come. One night there was a heavy snowfall. freighted up to the mines. incomprehensible pride of the trail and trace—that pride which holds dogs in the toil to the last gasp. They hauled cabin logs and firewood. But when he was at last unearthed. that Spitz was hurled backward and off his feet. in between. Buck was knocked backward and the lash laid upon him again and again. Likewise it was this pride that made him fear Buck as a possible lead-dog. it was . as Dawson grew closer and closer. when François was not around. Half. this song of the huskies might have been the defiance of life. the articulate travail of existence. but he did it craftily. and did all manner of work that horses did in the Santa Clara Valley. who had been trembling abjectly. this plaint by which Buck was so strangely stirred. at nine. but in the main they were the wild wolf husky breed. He kept François busy. a general insubordination sprang up and increased. but the rest of the team went from bad to worse. Spitz was wild with wrath. with long. and breaks their hearts if they are cut out of the harness. and in the morning Pike. He came between him and the shirks he should have punished. at twelve. With the aurora borealis flaming coldly overhead. This failed to drive Buck from his prostrate rival. of Sol-leks as he pulled with all his strength. and on more than one night the sounds of quarrelling and strife among the other dogs turned him out of his sleeping robe.It was inevitable that the clash for leadership should come.

was less good-natured. in the wan white moonlight. The encouragement Buck gave the rebels led them into all kinds of petty misdemeanors. on the first day. but he could not gain. while Buck backed up the remainder of the team. though they were made irritable by the unending squabbling. but Buck was too clever ever again to be caught red-handed. The trail they had broken into the country was packed hard by later journeyers. François swore strange barbarous oaths. while the dogs ploughed through by main strength. the good-natured. with fifty dogs. Directly his back was turned they were at it again. Several things favored him in this. the living meat. He worked faithfully in the harness. sixty strong. 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. It ran lightly on the surface of the snow. huskies all. they dropped down the steep bank by the Barracks to the Yukon Trail. and the second day saw them booming up the Yukon well on their way to Pelly. and he was travelling light. It no longer was as one dog leaping in the traces. He lay down low to the race. turned off into a small creek. And further. running the wild thing down. up the frozen bed of which it held steadily. The insidious revolt led by Buck had destroyed the solidarity of the team. the blood lust. And even Billee. the travel pride had gripped him. . leap by leap. He backed up Spitz with his whip. Dub turned up a snowshoe rabbit. Seven days from the time they pulled into Dawson. 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. and stamped the snow in futile rage. The breaking down of discipline likewise affected the dogs in their relations with one another. and they grew equal to challenging his authority. like some pale frost wraith. In a second the whole team was in full cry. one night after supper. but it was of small avail. But such splendid running was achieved not without great trouble and vexation on the part of François. Perrault was carrying despatches if anything more urgent than those he had brought in. yet it was a greater delight slyly to precipitate a fight amongst his mates and tangle the traces. his splendid body flashing forward. to kill with his own teeth and wash his muzzle to the eyes in warm blood. At the mouth of the Tahkeena. and tore his hair. A hundred yards away was a camp of the Northwest Police. till at times the camp was a howling bedlam. No more was Spitz a leader greatly to be feared. his conduct approached that of a bully. only it was infinitely more intimate. and whined not half so placatingly as in former days. They quarrelled and bickered more than ever among themselves. and the fear and mystery of the cold and dark that was to them fear and mystery. and missed. The week's rest had recuperated the dogs and put them in thorough trim. François knew he was behind all the trouble. the joy to kill—all this was Buck's.with the pain of living that was of old the pain of his wild fathers. They made Sixty Mile. He was ranging at the head of the pack. The old awe departed. Another night Dub and Joe fought Spitz and made him forego the punishment they deserved. Buck never came near Spitz without snarling and bristling menacingly. which is a fifty-mile run. and he purposed to make the record trip of the year. Buck led the pack. The rabbit sped down the river. and gulped it down under the protection of Buck. In fact. who joined the chase. and pulled for Dyea and Salt Water. around bend after bend. and Buck knew he knew. for the toil had become a delight to him. And leap by leap. the police had arranged in two or three places deposits of grub for dog and man. Dave and Sol-leks alone were unaltered. also. His lash was always singing among the dogs. blundered it. Pike robbed him of half a fish one night. whining eagerly. and he was given to swaggering up and down before Spitz's very nose. the snowshoe rabbit flashed on ahead.

and they were now drawn up in an expectant circle. too. and lips were cut and bleeding. he would drive his shoulder at the shoulder of Spitz. He seemed to remember it all. Twice his teeth clipped together. Spitz was a practised fighter. and it comes as a complete forgetfulness that one is alive. he saw another and larger frost wraith leap from the overhanging bank into the immediate path of the rabbit. At sound of this. straining after the food that was alive and that fled swiftly before him through the moonlight. as though for the throat. but Buck could not penetrate his enemy's guard. slashing Buck down the shoulder and leaping clear. and as he rounded the bend. Buck did not cry out. the wonted way of things. and earth. their eyes only gleaming and their breaths drifting slowly upward. shoulder to shoulder. joint. cold and calculating even in his supreme moods. this forgetfulness of living. They. leading the pack. There was not the faintest whisper of air—nothing moved. . keenly watchful for the advantage. Buck did not know of this. In a flash Buck knew it. Then Buck took to rushing. and moonlight. the tidal wave of being. He never rushed till he was prepared to receive a rush. the visible breaths of the dogs rising slowly and lingering in the frosty air. As they circled about. suddenly drawing back his head and curving in from the side. not a leaf quivered. Wherever his fangs struck for the softer flesh. Spitz gained his feet almost as though he had not been overthrown. comes to the artist. Over the whiteness and silence brooded a ghostly calm. but drove in upon Spitz. that it was aglow and rampant. To Buck it was nothing new or strange. and the thrill of battle. Buck's shoulder was slashed down each time as Spitz leaped lightly away. were silent. This ecstasy. going back into the womb of Time. he had held his own with all manner of dogs and achieved to mastery over them. And such is the paradox of living. war-mad on a stricken field and refusing quarter. this scene of old time. But instead. he never forgot that his enemy was in like passion to rend and destroy. From Spitzbergen through the Arctic. He did not check himself. It was as though it had always been. and as the white teeth broke its back in mid air it shrieked as loudly as a stricken man may shriek. and beyond which life cannot rise. He was sounding the deeps of his nature. this ecstasy comes when one is most alive. the scene came to Buck with a sense of familiarity. the fall pack at Buck's heels raised a hell's chorus of delight. the perfect joy of each separate muscle. But Spitz. never attacked till he had first defended that attack. when. Fang clashed fang. They had made short work of the snowshoe rabbit. snarling. as he backed away for better footing. and of the parts of his nature that were deeper than he. sounding the old wolf-cry. ears laid back. He was mastered by the sheer surging of life. these dogs that were ill-tamed wolves. and it came to Buck.There is an ecstasy that marks the summit of life. Bitter rage was his. the cry of Life plunging down from Life's apex in the grip of Death. with lean and lifting lips that writhed and snarled. it comes to the soldier. The rabbit could not turn.—the white woods. left the pack and cut across a narrow neck of land where the creek made a long bend around. In vain Buck strove to sink his teeth in the neck of the big white dog. and each time and every time Spitz slashed him and got away. expressing itself in movement. but never blind rage. It was Spitz. They rolled over and over in the powdery snow. flying exultantly under the stars and over the face of dead matter that did not move. It was to the death. like the steel jaws of a trap. the frost wraith of a rabbit still flitting before him. as a ram by which to overthrow him. they were countered by the fangs of Spitz. In passion to rend and destroy. caught up and out of himself in a sheet of flame. The time had come. Time and time again he tried for the snow-white throat. and across Canada and the Barrens. and sinew in that it was everything that was not death. Then he warmed up and enveloped Spitz in a whirlwind of rushes. so hard that he missed the throat. where life bubbled near to the surface.

as he surveyed the gaping rips and cuts. Sol-leks was the best lead-dog left." said Perrault. He manoeuvred for the final rush. with gleaming eyes. Buck sprang upon Sol-leks in a fury. Spitz struggled madly to keep up. but Buck refused to budge. driving him back and standing in his place. He took Buck by the scruff of the neck. but he could fight by head as well. But Buck possessed a quality that made for greatness— imagination. and though the dog growled threateningly. who was not at all unwilling to go. half crouching for the spring. the successful champion. almost in mid air. no more trouble. and the whole circle of sixty dogs started up. Spitz took to rushing. . In his judgment. A pause seemed to fall." While Perrault packed the camp outfit and loaded the sled. Once Buck went over. "Look at dat Buck. No more Spitz. as though to frighten off impending death. shoulder had at last squarely met shoulder. but while he was in. Buck trotted up to the place Spitz would have occupied as leader. snarling with horrible menace. As Buck grew winded. There was no hope for him. The dark circle became a dot on the moon-flooded snow as Spitz disappeared from view. The circle had tightened till he could feel the breaths of the huskies on his flanks. His teeth closed on Spitz's left fore leg. François was obdurate. sure. while Buck was streaming with blood and panting hard. There was a crunch of breaking bone. the dominant primordial beast who had made his kill and found it good. but he recovered himself. "An' now we make good time. Thrice he tried to knock him over. "Dat Spitz fight lak hell. Only this time he was the one who was beaten. their eyes fixed upon him. The old dog did not like it. beyond Spitz and to either side. Only Spitz quivered and bristled as he staggered back and forth. He fought by instinct. but when he turned his back Buck again displaced Sol-leks. brought Sol-leks to the coveted position. He saw the silent circle. not noticing him. Every animal was motionless as though turned to stone. Chook!" he cried. Chapter 4 "Eh? Wot I say? I spik true w'en I say dat Buck two devils. Heem keel dat Spitz. lolling tongues. but François." was François's answer. as though attempting the old shoulder trick. Mercy was a thing reserved for gentler climes. And all the while the silent and wolfish circle waited to finish off whichever dog went down. He could see them. heem t'ink to take de job. the dog-driver proceeded to harness the dogs. then repeated the trick and broke the right fore leg. and the white dog faced him on three legs. dragged him to one side and replaced Sol-leks." This was François's speech next morning when he discovered Spitz missing and Buck covered with wounds.Spitz was untouched. slapping his thighs gleefully. "Eh? eh?" François cried. but at the last instant swept low to the snow and in. Despite the pain and helplessness. He rushed." "Go 'way. and showed plainly that he was afraid of Buck. Buck was inexorable. Buck stood and looked on. Then Buck sprang in and out. He drew him to the fire and by its light pointed them out. The fight was growing desperate. and the circle sank down again and waited. and silvery breaths drifting upward. closing in upon him as he had seen similar circles close in upon beaten antagonists in the past. and he kept him staggering for footing. "An' dat Buck fight lak two hells.

François scratched his head again. but to have the leadership. So long as that were not interfered with. they did not care what happened. François unfastened Sol-leks's traces and put him back in his old place. and where judgment was required. Billee. The driver went about his work. Between them they ran him about for the better part of an hour. François complied. The first night in camp. was punished roundly— a thing that Spitz had never succeeded in doing. Joe. Buck remembered the man in the red sweater. But he circled just beyond the range of the club. coming back with a heavy club in his hand. "T'row down de club. The rest of the team. François sat down and scratched his head. Then François went up to where Sol-leks stood and called to Buck. however. François threw down the club. and swung around into position at the head of the team. in the traces. Buck retreated two or three steps. At a bound Buck took up the duties of leadership. Their business was to toil. that Buck excelled. He shook it and grinned sheepishly at the courier. He did not try to run away. François followed him up. who pulled at Buck's heels. with his two devils. and while he circled he watched the club so as to dodge it if thrown by François. nor did he attempt to charge in when Sol-leks was once more brought forward. Perrault looked at his watch and swore. thinking that Buck feared a thrashing. as dogs laugh. . whereupon Buck trotted in. and ere the first day was done he was pulling more than ever before in his life." Perrault commanded. had grown unruly during the last days of Spitz. and all his seed to come after him down to the remotest generation. Once more François called. and cut him up till he ceased snapping and began to whine for mercy. His traces were fastened. Highly as the dog-driver had forevalued Buck. Buck simply smothered him by virtue of superior weight. the sled broken out. Perrault took a hand. and who never put an ounce more of his weight against the breastband than he was compelled to do. They cursed him. and he answered curse with snarl and kept out of their reach. could lead for all they cared. I feex you!" he cried. It was none of their business. and toil mightily. and they should have been on the trail an hour gone. The team stood harnessed to the sled in an unbroken line. yet kept his distance. and retreated slowly. Dave and Sol-leks did not mind the change in leadership. and he called to Buck when he was ready to put him in his old place in front of Dave. who shrugged his shoulders in sign that they were beaten. He wanted. There was no place for Buck save at the front. and every hair on his body and drop of blood in his veins. but retreated around and around the camp. snarling with bitterness and rage. not to escape a clubbing. while the day was yet young. He dodged. whereupon he again retreated. by Gar. and he would not be content with less. and their surprise was great now that Buck proceeded to lick them into shape. he would come in and be good. and with both men running they dashed out on to the river trail. so long as he kept order. It was his by right. He had earned it. laughing triumphantly. that he had undervalued. advertising plainly that when his desire was met. and his fathers and mothers before him. Pike. of whom François had never seen an equal. They threw clubs at him. After some time of this. he showed himself the superior even of Spitz. for he was become wise in the way of clubs. the sour one. he found. ready for the trail. was swiftly and repeatedly shaken for loafing. and once more Buck laughed and kept away. But Buck was in open revolt. But it was in giving the law and making his mates live up to it. Time was flying. Buck laughed.François was angry. the good-natured. "Now. and quick thinking and quick acting.

others cut firewood and pine boughs for the beds. the Japanese pug. and the good things he had eaten or would like to eat. the dogs were fed. and the dogs were kept on the jump.The general tone of the team picked up immediately. nevaire! Heem worth one t'ousan' dollair. operating with machine-like regularity. François called Buck to him. were riddled like pepper-boxes for their pains. and still others carried water or ice for the cooks. after the fish was eaten. Then. At the Rink Rapids two native huskies. carrying word from the world to the men who sought gold under the shadow of the Pole. It was a monotonous life. and they were under way an hour or so before the darkness fell which gave warning of dawn. for this was the mail train. Then three or four western bad men aspired to clean out the town. but heavy toil each day. and there was no new-fallen snow with which to contend. The Sunland was very dim and distant. Some pitched the flies. hind legs crouched under him. for an hour or so with the other dogs. At night. It was no light running now. And that was the last of François and Perrault. with but infrequent stoppages. whether they prided in it or not. 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. Far more potent were the memories of his heredity that gave things he had never seen before a seeming . "Nevaire such a dog as dat Buck!" he cried. and in company with a dozen other dog-teams he started back over the weary trail to Dawson. and of the cement swimming-tank. did their fair share. they flew so fast that the man whose turn it was to run towed behind the sled at the end of a rope. but three battles with the fiercest brought Buck to mastery. Perrault?" And Perrault nodded. perhaps. and such memories had no power over him. head raised. while some broke camp. and Ysabel. he loved to lie near the fire. He was ahead of the record then. To them. and eyes blinking dreamily at the flames. In one run they made a sixty-mile dash from the foot of Lake Le Barge to the White Horse Rapids. fires were built. others harnessed the dogs. and Toots. the great fight with Spitz. camp was made. Buck did not like it. but oftener he remembered the man in the red sweater. nor record time. this was the one feature of the day. so that when he bristled and showed his teeth they got out of his way. by Gar! Eh? Wot you say. Best of all. For three days Perrault and François threw chests up and down the main street of Skaguay and were deluged with invitations to drink. Each day for fourteen days they had averaged forty miles. with a heavy load behind. Across Marsh. He was not homesick. Tagish. There were fierce fighters among them. the death of Curly. and once more the dogs leaped as one dog in the traces. and seeing that his mates. taking pride in it after the manner of Dave and Sol-leks. while the team was the constant centre of a worshipful crowd of dog-busters and mushers. The trail was in excellent condition. It was a record run. and public interest turned to other idols. It recovered its old-time solidarity. though it was good to loaf around. were added. and breakfast was eaten. and the celerity with which Buck broke them in took away François's breath. the Mexican hairless. fore legs stretched out in front. Also. One day was very like another. but he bore up well to the work. At a certain time each morning the cooks turned out. Sometimes he thought of Judge Miller's big house in the sun-kissed Santa Clara Valley. "No. Like other men. The men rode and ran by turn. of which there were fivescore and odd. 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. well packed and hard. they passed out of Buck's life for good. Teek and Koona. A Scotch half-breed took charge of him and his mates. wept over him. and gaining day by day. It was not too cold. threw his arms around him. The temperature dropped to fifty below zero and remained there the whole trip. Next came official orders. and Bennett (seventy miles of lakes).

always two by two. and the heavy work wore them down. He became more morose and irritable. wake up!" Whereupon the other world would vanish and the real world come into his eyes. almost catlike. or growled softly. blind side or other side. But in two days' time they dropped down the Yukon bank from the Barracks. it snowed every day. and heavier pulling for the dogs. but on his body there was much hair. and seemed very much afraid of the darkness. He did not stand erect.familiarity. clutching in his hand. They were short of weight and in poor condition when they made Dawson. where his driver fed him. when jerked by a sudden stoppage of the sled. in the circling darkness. their strength went down. quickened and become alive again. All the drivers became interested in his case. dragging sleds the whole weary distance. and did their best for the animals. This other man was shorter of leg and longer of arm. he would cry out with pain. on legs that bent at the knees. and when camp was pitched at once made his nest. Billee cried and whimpered regularly in his sleep each night. blinking dreamily at the flames. Joe was sourer than ever. till he whimpered low and suppressedly. and no man sought his sleeping-robe till he had seen to the feet of the dogs he drove. into which he peered continually. his hands clasped above his head as though to shed rain by the hairy arms. The driver examined him. But it was Dave who suffered most of all. you Buck. and one night they held a consultation. which he knew to be the eyes of great beasts of prey. too. two by two. keeping his mates up to their work and maintaining discipline. greater friction on the runners. and over their last pipes before going to bed. He was all but naked. and Sol-leks was unapproachable. or resiliency. Each night the dogs were attended to first. Once out of the harness and down. and eighteen hundred miles will tell upon life of the toughest. Buck stood it. the drivers grumbling. And beyond that fire. with lazy eyes blinking at the fire. Buck could see many gleaming coals. It was a hard trip. a ragged and firescorched skin hanging part way down his back. across the chest and shoulders and down the outside of the arms and thighs. He was brought from his nest to the fire and was pressed and . and the noises they made in the night. which hung midway between knee and foot. it seemed that the flames were of another fire. in him. yet the drivers were fair through it all. loaded with letters for the outside. Sometimes as he crouched there. a stick with a heavy stone made fast to the end. and to make matters worse. and his head slanted back under it from the eyes. This meant a soft trail. it was matted into almost a thick fur. but could find nothing. He uttered strange sounds. with muscles that were stringy and knotty rather than rounded and swelling. and the half-breed cook shouted at him. They talked it over at meal-time. In some places. And he could hear the crashing of their bodies through the undergrowth. The dogs were tired. Sometimes. On such occasions his elbows were on his knees. but with trunk inclined forward from the hips. And dreaming there by the Yukon bank. About his body there was a peculiar springiness. They ate before the drivers ate. he did not get on his feet again till harness-up time in the morning. At other times this hairy man squatted by the fire with head between his legs and slept. or by straining to start it. and a quick alertness as of one who lived in perpetual fear of things seen and unseen. and that as he crouched by this other fire he saw another and different man from the halfbreed cook before him. in the traces. "Hey. The hair of this man was long and matted. with the mail behind them. and still later. and he would get up and yawn and stretch as though he had been asleep. Still. though he. 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. Something had gone wrong with him. was very tired. Since the beginning of the winter they had travelled eighteen hundred miles. and should have had a ten days' or a week's rest at least. the instincts (which were but the memories of his ancestors become habits) which had lapsed in later days.

when his driver made a place for him by the fire. Here the train was halted. and all the while whining and yelping and crying with grief and pain. By the time Cassiar Bar was reached. The Scotch half-breed called a halt and took him out of the team. heart-easy and content. too. where dogs. or injured. Also.prodded till he cried out many times. and every dog knew. turned their heads uneasily. that he should die in the traces. Sick as he was. letting him run free behind the sled. The Scotch half-breed slowly retraced his steps to the camp they had left. Dave resented being taken out. and lay where he fell. Something was wrong inside. but Buck knew. they held it a mercy. His comrades talked of how a dog could break its heart through being denied the work that killed it. could not make it out. The whips snapped. and once the sled ran upon him so that he limped thereafter in one of his hind legs. But he held out till camp was reached. He pleaded with his eyes to remain there. His intention was to rest Dave. he could not bear that another dog should do his work. howling lugubriously as the long train of sleds churned by. too old for the toil. where the going was most difficult. but they could locate no broken bones. Dave refused to run quietly on the trail behind the sled. and recalled instances they had known. The driver was perplexed. fast to the sled. till exhausted. When the sled started. rushing against him and trying to thrust him off into the soft snow on the other side. The half-breed tried to drive him away with the whip. and fell. striving to leap inside his traces and get between him and the sled. With the last remnant of his strength he managed to stagger along behind till the train made another stop. For the pride of trace and trail was his. The men ceased talking. A revolver-shot rang out. but he paid no heed to the stinging lash. he floundered in the soft snow alongside the beaten trail. Dave had bitten through both of Sol-leks's traces. But they could hear him mournfully howling till they passed out of sight behind a belt of river timber. where the going was easy. and stopped in surprise. he was so weak that he was falling repeatedly in the traces. the sled had not moved. and the man had not the heart to strike harder. At harness-up time he tried to crawl to his driver. By convulsive efforts he got on his feet. Chapter 5 . Then he returned and started his dogs. where he stood alongside Sol-leks. and the last his mates saw of him he lay gasping in the snow and yearning toward them. His strength left him. So he was harnessed in again. sick unto death. His driver lingered a moment to get a light for his pipe from the man behind. when he would advance his fore legs and hitch ahead again for a few more inches. Several times he fell down and was dragged in the traces. grunting and growling while the traces were unfastened. They swung out on the trail with remarkable lack of exertion. He called his comrades to witness the sight. Then he fell. making the next dog. The driver was surprised. Sol-leks. had died because they were cut out of the traces. the bells tinkled merrily. when he floundered past the sleds to his own. attacking Sol-leks with his teeth. Morning found him too weak to travel. since Dave was to die anyway. The man came back hurriedly. though more than once he cried out involuntarily from the bite of his inward hurt. the sleds churned along the trail. and proudly he pulled as of old. and. and was standing directly in front of the sled in his proper place. and whimpering brokenheartedly when he saw Sol-leks in the position he had held and served so long. what had taken place behind the belt of river trees. staggered. Then he wormed his way forward slowly toward where the harnesses were being put on his mates. He would advance his fore legs and drag up his body with a sort of hitching movement. but continued to flounder alongside in the soft snow.

that the congested mail was taking on Alpine proportions. This belt was the most salient thing about him. And there was reason for it. was now limping in earnest. Buck watched them apprehensively as they proceeded to take down the tent and load the sled. She was Charles's wife and Hal's sister —a nice family party. also. by which time Buck and his mates found how really tired and weak they were. though lighter dogs. They were all terribly footsore. It advertised his callowness—a callowness sheer and unutterable. "Mercedes" the men called her. but no businesslike method. since dogs count for little against dollars. was tired. and why such as they should adventure the North is part of the mystery of things that passes understanding. they had covered twelve hundred miles with two days' rest. the malingerer. Three days passed. Hal was a youngster of nineteen or twenty. Both men were manifestly out of place. The men addressed each other as "Hal" and "Charles. 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. worn out and worn down. The tin dishes were packed away . and Dub was suffering from a wrenched shoulder-blade. the last least bit of it. in his lifetime of deceit. on the morning of the fourth day. Their feet fell heavily on the trail. but it was the dead-tiredness that comes through the slow and prolonged strength drainage of months of toil. the Salt Water Mail. dishes unwashed. and." the driver encouraged them as they tottered down the main street of Skaguay. there were official orders. they were to be sold.Thirty days from the time it left Dawson. everything in disorder. no reserve strength to call upon. Then. arrived at Skaguay. It had been all used. harness and all. with a big Colt's revolver and a hunting-knife strapped about him on a belt that fairly bristled with cartridges. dead tired. Buck's one hundred and forty pounds had dwindled to one hundred and fifteen. There was no power of recuperation left. They were in a wretched state. he saw a woman. The tent was rolled into an awkward bundle three times as large as it should have been. every fibre. with Buck and his mates at the fore. and kin that had not rushed in. The worthless ones were to be got rid of. Pike. One bully long res'. two men from the States came along and bought them. "Dis is de las'. poor sore feets. with weak and watery eyes and a mustache that twisted fiercely and vigorously up. But so many were the men who had rushed into the Klondike. during the last eighteen hundred of which they had had but five days' rest. Eh? For sure. for a song. When they arrived at Skaguay they were apparently on their last legs. who. lightish-colored man. from which recovery is a matter of hours. "Mush on. They could barely keep the traces taut. had often successfully feigned a hurt leg. Themselves. There was a great deal of effort about their manner. had relatively lost more weight than he." Charles was a middle-aged. and in the nature of reason and common justice they deserved an interval of loafing. Den we get one long res'. It was not the dead-tiredness that comes through brief and excessive effort. When driven with his mates to the new owners' camp. The rest of his mates. Fresh batches of Hudson Bay dogs were to take the places of those worthless for the trail. and on the down grades just managed to keep out of the way of the sled. Buck heard the chaffering. tent half stretched. There was nothing the matter with them except that they were dead tired. and so many were the sweethearts. every cell. Every muscle. wives. also. Buck saw a slipshod and slovenly affair. Sol-leks was limping." The drivers confidently expected a long stopover. saw the money pass between the man and the Government agent. No spring or rebound was left in them. In less than five months they had travelled twenty-five hundred miles. giving the lie to the limply drooping lip it concealed. jarring their bodies and doubling the fatigue of a day's travel.

It seemed a mite top-heavy. "However in the world could I manage without a tent?" "It's springtime.unwashed. she discovered overlooked articles which could abide nowhere else but in that very sack. "Plum tuckered out. "The lazy brutes. taking hold of the gee-pole with one hand and swinging his whip from the other. "Mush on there!" The dogs sprang against the breast-bands." as she caught hold of the whip and wrenched it from him. grinning and winking at one another. preparing to lash out at them with the whip. She shook her head decidedly. "Why shouldn't it?" Charles demanded rather shortly. and you've got to whip them to get anything out of them. "Never mind that man. strained hard for a few moments. "An' of course the dogs can hike along all day with that contraption behind them. untold repugnance at sight of pain written in her pretty face. that is all. But she was a clannish creature." Charles turned his back and drew the lashings down as well as he could. "Certainly. Ask one of those men. with his beardless lips. Mercedes continually fluttered in the way of her men and kept up an unbroken chattering of remonstrance and advice. "You've got a right smart load as it is. and you won't get any more cold weather. throwing up her hands in dainty dismay. but I wouldn't tote that tent along if I was you." "Rest be blanked. "I was just a-wonderin'. "Mush!" he shouted. I tell you. then relaxed." affirmed a second of the men. Hal." said Hal. and covered it over with a couple of other bundles." the man hastened meekly to say." "Precious lot you know about dogs. They were unable to move the sled. "and it's not me should tell you your business. But Mercedes interfered. that's all right. which was not in the least well." the man replied. "The poor dears! Now you must promise you won't be harsh with them for the rest of the trip." her brother sneered. "Think it'll ride?" one of the men asked. and rushed at once to the defence of her brother. and Mercedes said." came the reply from one of the men. Three men from a neighboring tent came out and looked on. and when they had put it on the back. and Charles and Hal put the last odds and ends on top the mountainous load. "They're weak as water. and you do what you think best with them. and they unloaded again." "Undreamed of!" cried Mercedes. You ask any one." Mercedes looked at them imploringly. that's what's the matter. They're lazy. you mustn't." said Hal." he cried. crying. if you want to know. "You're driving our dogs." . "Oh. that's all right. I'll show them. or I won't go a step." she said pointedly. That's their way. "Oh." said one of them. "Oh!" in pain and sorrow at the oath. They need a rest. she suggested it should go on the back. "and I wish you'd leave me alone. with freezing politeness. When they put a clothes-sack on the front of the sled.

when she had finished with her own. She clasped hands about knees. and the dogs dashed on up the street. Hal and his sister and brother-in-law listened unwillingly. but this time. Also. The dogs never stopped. not for a dozen Charleses. The capsized sled ground over him." Buck did not like her. brought the team up to fourteen. for canned goods on the Long Trail is a thing to dream about. A hundred yards ahead the path turned and sloped steeply into the main street. get rid of them. spilling half its load through the loose lashings. They did not seem to know anything. Canned goods were turned out that made men laugh. these newcomers. She appealed to everybody and to everything. got down low to it. He tripped and was pulled off his feet." A third time the attempt was made. The runners are froze fast. Three were short-haired pointers. the huskies obtained at the Rink Rapids on the record trip." she cried sympathetically. Throw your weight against the gee-pole. right and left. though cut in half. It would have required an experienced man to keep the top-heavy sled upright. And in her zeal. After two efforts. now spoke up:— "It's not that I care a whoop what becomes of you. This accomplished. you can help them a mighty lot by breaking out that sled. though practically broken in since their landing. adding to the gayety of Skaguay as they scattered the remainder of the outfit along its chief thoroughfare. finally wiping her eyes and proceeding to cast out even articles of apparel that were imperative necessaries. anyway? Good Lord. was still a formidable bulk. the inexorable elimination of the superfluous. he could not . rocking back and forth brokenheartedly. One of the onlookers. Charles and Hal went out in the evening and bought six Outside dogs. dug their feet into the packed snow. and Hal was not such a man. and she cried in particular over each discarded thing. "why don't you pull hard?—then you wouldn't be whipped. who had been clenching his teeth to suppress hot speech. Buck and his mates struggling frantically under the rain of blows. and Teek and Koona. they stood still. taking it as part of the day's miserable work. The sled held as though it were an anchor. if they ever expected to reach Dawson. but he was feeling too miserable to resist her. and overhauled the outfit. the team following his lead. They threw themselves against the breast-bands. Buck was raging. He broke into a run. and put forth all their strength. and the other two were mongrels of indeterminate breed. The lightened sled bounded on its side behind them. Mercedes cried when her clothes-bags were dumped on the ground and article after article was thrown out.—who's going to wash them. Hal broke out the runners which had been frozen to the snow. Half the load and twice the dogs. panting. She cried in general. Hal cried "Whoa! whoa!" but they gave no heed. and all those dishes. following the advice. The whip was whistling savagely. and put her arms around his neck. "You poor.Again Hal's whip fell upon the dogs. She averred she would not go an inch. did not amount to much. was what was said. The overloaded and unwieldy sled forged ahead. one was a Newfoundland. Throw away that tent. Kind-hearted citizens caught the dogs and gathered up the scattered belongings. they gave advice. They were angry because of the ill treatment they had received and the unjust load. but for the dogs' sakes I just want to tell you. These. pitched tent. "Blankets for a hotel" quoth one of the men who laughed and helped. As they swung on the turn the sled went over. poor dears. with tears in her eyes. the outfit. do you think you're travelling on a Pullman?" And so it went. and though he speedily taught them their places and what not to do. she attacked the belongings of her men and went through them like a tornado. "Half as many is too much. added to the six of the original team. But the Outside dogs. She dropped on her knees before Buck. and break it out. Buck and his comrades looked upon them with disgust. when once more Mercedes interfered.

he had none the less been a faithful worker. but it was impossible to make the dogs travel faster. On other days they were unable to get started at all. but rest. And when. but they were frustrated by their heavy outfit and their own incompetence. They were starting dead weary. so many days. It was inevitable that they should go short on dog-food. were quite cheerful. nor was the heart of any dog. Then came the underfeeding. It took them half the night to pitch a slovenly camp. They had worked the trip out with a pencil. and the old team worn out by twenty-five hundred miles of continuous trail. untreated and unrested. it was all so very simple. 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. They were doing the thing in style. no snap or go in him and his fellows. Q. Hal decided that the orthodox ration was too small. with fourteen dogs. that for love or money no additional dog-food was to be obtained. His wrenched shoulder-blade. the outlook was anything but bright. and as the days went by it became apparent that they could not learn. however. always getting caught and punished. but they did not know how to work themselves. The two mongrels were without spirit at all. So he cut down even the orthodox ration and tried to increase the day's travel. There was nothing lively about it. bones were the only things breakable about them. It is a saying of the country that an Outside dog starves to death on the ration of the husky. so the six Outside dogs under Buck could do no . in addition to this. He doubled it. The Outsides were timid and frightened. Buck felt vaguely that there was no depending upon these two men and the woman. The first to go was Dub. without order or discipline. The Outside dogs. had voracious appetites. His sister and brother-in-law seconded him. And they were proud. but never had they seen a sled with so many as fourteen dogs. The two men. when Mercedes. so much to a dog. the Insides without confidence in their masters. And though they were making poor time. while their own inability to get under way earlier in the morning prevented them from travelling longer hours.out huskies pulled weakly. Not only did they not know how to work dogs. It was a simple matter to give the dogs less food. But Charles and Hal did not know this. Hal awoke one day to the fact that his dog-food was half gone and the distance only quarter covered. the heavy load they dragged sapped their strength severely. But they hastened it by overfeeding.E. 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. with tears in her pretty eyes and a quaver in her throat. They had seen other sleds depart over the Pass for Dawson. But it was not food that Buck and the huskies needed. till finally Hal shot him with the big Colt's revolver. made him bitter. too. Late next morning Buck led the long team up the street. went from bad to worse. With the newcomers hopeless and forlorn. Mercedes looked over their shoulders and nodded comprehensively. They did not take kindly to trace and trail.D. bringing the day nearer when underfeeding would commence. They did not know how to do anything. and that was that one sled could not carry the food for fourteen dogs. With the exception of the two mongrels. the worn. Poor blundering thief that he was. or come in from Dawson. And to cap it all. she stole from the fish-sacks and fed them slyly. they were bewildered and spirit-broken by the strange savage environment in which they found themselves and by the ill treatment they had received. and the knowledge that. further. His heart was not in the work. he was facing the same trail once more. In the nature of Arctic travel there was a reason why fourteen dogs should not drag one sled. so many dogs. Four times he had covered the distance between Salt Water and Dawson.teach them what to do. Some days they did not make ten miles. could not cajole him into giving the dogs still more. They were slack in all things. jaded and tired. whose digestions had not been trained by chronic famine to make the most of little.

and some of them dead. people thousands of miles away. was apparent only to Mercedes. presently would be lugged in the rest of the family. and sat down on the trail. was that one must get hardened. and a toothless old squaw offered to trade them a few pounds of frozen horsehide for the Colt's revolver that kept the big hunting-knife company at Hal's hip. passes comprehension. their very hearts ached. and incidentally upon a few other traits unpleasantly peculiar to her husband's family. and neither forbore to speak this belief at every opportunity. which he practised on others. They went on their way. Mercedes nursed a special grievance—the grievance of sex. but she weighed one hundred and twenty pounds—a lusty last straw to the load dragged by the weak and starving animals. They never did it again. doubled upon it. After they had travelled three miles they unloaded the sled. She rode for days. just as it had been stripped from the starved horses of the cattlemen six months back. She was pretty and soft. He had started out preaching it to his sister and brother-in-law. being too occupied with weeping over herself and with quarrelling with her husband and brother. It was her custom to be helpless. uncles. They had no inkling of such a patience. she made their lives unendurable. pleaded with her. sometimes with her brother. should have anything to do with the chopping of a few sticks of firewood. She no longer considered the dogs. the while she wept and importuned Heaven with a recital of their brutality. fathers. he hammered it into the dogs with a club. To quarrel was the one thing they were never too weary to do. nevertheless the quarrel was as likely to tend in that direction as in the direction of Charles's political prejudices. Sometimes Mercedes sided with her husband. A poor substitute for food was this hide. she persisted in riding on the sled. That Hal's views on art. Hal's theory. The wonderful patience of the trail which comes to men who toil hard and suffer sore. Charles and Hal begged her to get off and walk. came back for her. Starting from a dispute as to which should chop a few sticks for the fire (a dispute which concerned only Charles and Hal). Their irritability arose out of their misery. the two mongrels hanging more grittily on to life. In its frozen state it was more like strips of galvanized iron. Shorn of its glamour and romance. and remain sweet of speech and kindly. followed by the three shorthaired pointers. Upon which impeachment of what to her was her most essential sex-prerogative. But the present treatment by her husband and brother was everything save chivalrous. the camp half pitched. and by main strength put her on the sled again. entreated. or the sort of society plays his mother's brother wrote. but going in the end. On one occasion they took her off the sled by main strength. The result was a beautiful and unending family quarrel. and the dogs unfed. They complained. their bones ached. Arctic travel became to them a reality too harsh for their manhood and womanhood. and hard words were first on their lips in the morning and last at night. Mercedes ceased weeping over the dogs. At the Five Fingers the dog-food gave out. but she did not move. By this time all the amenities and gentlenesses of the Southland had fallen away from the three people. till they fell in the traces and the sled stood still. In the meantime the fire remained unbuilt. increased with it. She was pretty and soft. Charles and Hal wrangled whenever Mercedes gave them a chance. and when a dog wrestled it into his . their muscles ached. In the excess of their own misery they were callous to the suffering of their animals. and had been chivalrously treated all her days. Failing there. outdistanced it. The Newfoundland went first. and because of this they became sharp of speech. did not come to these two men and the woman.less than die on half the ration of the husky. And that Charles's sister's tale-bearing tongue should be relevant to the building of a Yukon fire. It was the cherished belief of each that he did more than his share of the work. cousins. and because she was sore and tired. They were stiff and in pain. mothers. who disburdened herself of copious opinions upon that topic. She let her legs go limp like a spoiled child.

limp and draggled. blind with weakness half the time and keeping the trail by the loom of it and by the dim feel of his feet. crippled and limping. It was beautiful spring weather. just as the things their eyes saw and their ears heard seemed dull and distant. . but no longer enforcing discipline or striving to enforce it. and but five of them remained: Joe. the sun ate from above. fraught with the joy of living. so he took the axe and knocked Billee on the head as he lay in the traces. rending. Pike. fell and could not rise. and Buck. like wayfarers to death. and overhead honked the wild-fowl driving up from the south in cunning wedges that split the air.stomach it thawed into thin and innutritious leathery strings and into a mass of short hair. and the spark dimmed and paled and seemed to go out. The whole long day was a blaze of sunshine. staggered the two men. and they knew that this thing was very close to them. crawling things rustled forth into the sun. The pain of the beating was dull and distant. irritating and indigestible. and the huskies. There came a day when Billee. and mournful in that he had so little strength with which to pull. while thin sections of ice fell through bodily into the river. On the next day Koona went. still at the head of the team. and twilight lingered till nine at night. he fell down and remained down till blows from whip or club drove him to his feet again. Partridges and woodpeckers were booming and knocking in the forest. or quarter living. but neither dogs nor humans were aware of it. Squirrels were chattering. Buck saw. bending. and the flesh pads had disappeared. only half conscious and not conscious enough longer to malinger. and in the days all manner of creeping. including him. Hal had traded off his revolver. too far gone to be malignant. This murmur arose from all the land. the woman. throbbing of awakening life. Sol-leks. The ghostly winter silence had given way to the great spring murmur of awakening life. who had not travelled so far that winter and who was now beaten more than the others because he was fresher. In their very great misery they had become insensible to the bite of the lash or the bruise of the club. All things were thawing. snapping. All the stiffness and gloss had gone out of his beautiful furry coat. Teek. the good-natured. things which had been as dead and which had not moved during the long months of frost. The man in the red sweater had proved that. As it was with Buck. and they tottered to their feet and staggered on. And when the club or whip fell upon them. It came from the things that lived and moved again. His muscles had wasted away to knotty strings. He pulled when he could. They were not half living. From every hill slope came the trickle of running water. Crickets sang in the nights. They were perambulating skeletons. The Yukon was straining to break loose the ice that bound it down. only Buck's heart was unbreakable. The hair hung down. The sap was rising in the pines. fissures sprang and spread apart. so that each rib and every bone in his frame were outlined cleanly through the loose hide that was wrinkled in folds of emptiness. Shrubs and vines were putting on fresh garbs of green. still faithful to the toil of trace and trail. they dropped down in the traces like dead dogs. the spark fluttered feebly up. when he could no longer pull. And amid all this bursting. It ate away from beneath. The willows and aspens were bursting out in young buds. and his mates saw. birds singing. Air-holes formed. There were seven all together. When a halt was made. the music of unseen fountains. They were simply so many bags of bones in which sparks of life fluttered faintly. It was dawn by three in the morning. It was heartbreaking. And through it all Buck staggered along at the head of the team as in a nightmare. then cut the carcass out of the harness and dragged it to one side. or matted with dried blood where Hal's club had bruised him. the one-eyed. so was it with his mates. under the blazing sun and through the soft-sighing breezes. Each day the sun rose earlier and set later.

while two or three fools more or less would not alter the scheme of things. Buck refused to move under the rain of heavier blows which now fell upon him. "Get up there. when it was asked. Pike made painful efforts. It had long since passed into the stage where blows were required to rouse it. He knew the breed." "That's because you're not a fool. Mercedes screamed. John Thornton compressed his lips. with the blind luck of fools. "All the same. Hal did the talking. but he neither whined nor struggled. He whittled and listened. But it was no longer his body. wiped his watery eyes. Like his mates. John Thornton sprang upon the man who wielded the club. and. it seemed so far away. Joe came next. Only fools. But the team did not get up at the command. it seemed that he sensed disaster close at hand. Buck made no effort. struggling to control himself. It was idle." Hal said in response to Thornton's warning to take no more chances on the rotten ice. This was the first time Buck had failed. I wouldn't risk my carcass on that ice for all the gold in Alaska. So greatly had he suffered. uttering a cry that was inarticulate and more like the cry of an animal.With the dogs falling. When they halted. when half up. and so far gone was he. What of the thin and rotten ice he had felt under his feet all day. too convulsed with rage to speak." said Hal. He sat down very slowly and painstakingly what of his great stiffness. Charles sat down on a log to rest. without warning. Several times Thornton started. "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 dogs dropped down as though they had all been struck dead. I suppose. I tell you straight. He refused to stir. here and there. . He felt strangely numb. but did not get up because of his stiffness. as though struck by a failing tree. we'll go on to Dawson." He uncoiled his whip. in itself a sufficient reason to drive Hal into a rage. and Charles's eyes wistfully watering." John Thornton answered. A moisture came into his eyes. He lay quietly where he had fallen. yelping with pain. Mercedes weeping and riding. as though to speak. The lash bit into him again and again. And then. he arose and walked irresolutely up and down. but changed his mind. Sol-leks was the first to crawl to his feet. could have made it. out there ahead on the ice where his master was trying to drive him." This last with a sneering ring of triumph in it. to get between a fool and his folly. terse advice. Hal swearing innocuously. that the blows did not hurt much. but. "The bottom's likely to drop out at any moment. and he gave his advice in the certainty that it would not be followed. And as they continued to fall upon him. they staggered into John Thornton's camp at the mouth of White River. and it had not departed from him. on its merciless errands. This had been strong upon him when he pulled in to the bank. As though from a great distance. He had a vague feeling of impending doom. and here we are. he barely able to get up. though very faintly he could hear the impact of the club upon his body. he was aware that he was being beaten. The last sensations of pain left him. He exchanged the whip for the customary club. Mercedes dried her eyes and looked at John Thornton. He no longer felt anything. John Thornton stood over Buck. Twice he fell over. and. the spark of life within flickered and went down. The whip flashed out. Teek followed. Buck! Hi! Get up there! Mush on!" Thornton went on whittling. "And they told you true. unlike them. It was nearly out. as the whipping continued. "They told us we couldn't make White River. gave monosyllabic replies. suddenly. he had made up his mind not to get up. he knew. and on the third attempt managed to rise. Charles looked on wistfully. Hal was hurled backward. John Thornton was whittling the last touches on an axehandle he had made from a stick of birch.

John Thornton and Buck looked at each other. They saw Charles turn and make one step to run back. his muscles swelled out. but with the continued warm weather even the slight limp left him. half bloodhound and half deerhound. Hal guided at the gee-pole. Pike was leading. or I'll fix you. laughed. "You poor devil. He was still limping slightly at the time he rescued Buck. and Buck licked his hand. As Buck grew stronger they enticed him into all sorts of ridiculous ." he at last managed to say in a choking voice. Hal had no fight left in him. listening lazily to the songs of birds and the hum of nature. wiping the blood from his mouth as he came back. watching the running water. as into a rut. with Hal clinging to it." said John Thornton." Thornton stood between him and Buck. jerk into the air. and the flesh came back to cover his bones. Thornton knelt beside him and with rough. "It's my dog. Dog and man watched it crawling along over the ice. And here. and as a mother cat washes her kittens. Hal drew his long hunting-knife.—Buck. A few minutes later they pulled out from the bank and down the river. A yawning hole was all that was to be seen. picked it up himself. lying by the river bank through the long spring days. They seemed to share the kindliness and largeness of John Thornton. so she washed and cleansed Buck's wounds. equally friendly. I'll kill you. Mercedes screamed. Buck heard them go and raised his head to see. each morning after he had finished his breakfast. and manifested the chaotic abandonment of hysteria. Then he stooped. while Buck was too near dead to be of further use in hauling the sled. rather. in a dying condition.—waiting for the raft to come that was to carry them down to Dawson. his hands were full with his sister. till he came to look for her ministrations as much as he did for Thornton's. The bottom had dropped out of the trail. and then a whole section of ice give way and dogs and humans disappear. Sol-leks was at the wheel. John Thornton. Nig. Regularly." Hal replied. was a huge black dog. with eyes that laughed and a boundless good nature. Chapter 6 When John Thornton froze his feet in the previous December his partners had made him comfortable and left him to get well. she performed her self. By the time his search had disclosed nothing more than many bruises and a state of terrible starvation. was unable to resent her first advances. who.appointed task. Mercedes's scream came to their ears. and it must be confessed that Buck waxed lazy as his wounds healed. the sled was a quarter of a mile away. A rest comes very good after one has travelled three thousand miles. I'm going to Dawson. and the gee-pole. She had the doctor trait which some dogs possess. cried. and Skeet and Nig. Skeet was a little Irish setter who early made friends with Buck. Mercedes was riding the loaded sled. and evinced no intention of getting out of the way. Buck slowly won back his strength. To Buck's surprise these dogs manifested no jealousy toward him. Suddenly. "Get out of my way. or his arms. kindly hands searched for broken bones. Besides. They were limping and staggering. Thornton rapped Hal's knuckles with the axe-handle. they saw its back end drop down. they were all loafing. and Charles stumbled along in the rear. though less demonstrative."If you strike that dog again. As Buck watched them. and between were Joe and Teek. and with two strokes cut Buck's traces. knocking the knife to the ground. For that matter. He rapped his knuckles again as he tried to pick it up. going on themselves up the river to get out a raft of saw-logs for Dawson.

He never forgot a kindly greeting or a cheering word. watching the outlines of the man and the occasional movements of his body. and in that fashion remained without movement. With the Judge's sons. and in this fashion Buck romped through his convalescence and into a new existence. For the most part. he did not seek these tokens. dwelling upon it. in his dreams. such was the communion in which they lived. and with the Judge himself. Buck would follow at his Because of his very great love. remained alive and active. While he went wild with happiness when Thornton touched him or spoke to him. he saw to the welfare of his as if they were his own children. of shaking him back and forth. He was a thing of the wild. But in spite of this great love he bore John Thornton. the strain of the primitive. He was afraid that Thornton would pass out of his life as Perrault and François and the Scotch half-breed had passed out. He would lie by the hour. in which Thornton himself could not forbear to join. so the man understood this feigned bite for a caress. He had a way of taking Buck's head roughly between his hands. as chance might have it. Other men saw to the welfare of their dogs from a sense of duty and business expediency. And when. without speech. was his for the first time. Buck knew no greater joy than that rough embrace and the sound of murmured oaths. who was wont to shove her nose under Thornton's hand and nudge and nudge till petted. because he could not help it. he did not hesitate an instant. And he saw further. released. further. This he had never experienced at Judge Miller's down in the sun-kissed Santa Clara Valley. Or. or Nig. 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. which the Northland had aroused in him. in any other camp. he was haunted by this fear. it had been a working partnership. that was adoration. Buck's love was expressed in adoration. Buck did not like Thornton to get out of his sight. Faithfulness and devotion. a stately and dignified friendship. following with keenest interest each fleeting expression. And often. Even in the night. he could not steal from this man. which was something. From the moment he left the tent to when he entered it again. every movement or change of feature. hunting and tramping. a sort of pompous guardianship. "God! you can all but speak!" Buck had a trick of love expression that was akin to hurt. looking up into his face. the strength of Buck's gaze would draw John Thornton's head around. with the Judge's grandsons. he sprang to his feet. studying it. At such times he would shake off sleep and creep through the chill to the flap of the tent. to the side or rear. Unlike Skeet. at Thornton's feet. yet he retained his wildness and wiliness. rather than a dog of the soft Southland stamped with the marks of generations of civilization. he would lie farther away. . Love. while the cunning with which he stole enabled him to escape detection. but from any other man. and at each jerk back and forth it seemed that his heart would be shaken out of his body so great was its ecstasy. Buck was content to adore at a distance. John Thornton would reverently exclaim. where he would stand and listen to the sound of his master's breathing. which seemed to bespeak the soft civilizing influence. come in from the wild to sit by John Thornton's fire. it had taken John Thornton to arouse. his heart shining out of his eyes as Buck's heart shone out. eager. his mouth laughing. and resting his own head upon Buck's. things born of fire and roof. His transient masters since he had come into the Northland had bred in him a fear that no master could be permanent. but. however. and he would return the gaze. And as Buck understood the oaths to be love words. This man had saved his life. For a long time after his rescue. were his. But love that was feverish and burning. his throat vibrant with unuttered sound. the while calling him ill names that to Buck were love names. he was the ideal master. genuine passionate love. that was madness. his eyes eloquent. alert. who would stalk up and rest his great head on Thornton's knee. and to sit down for a long talk with them ("gas" he called it) was as much his delight as theirs.

to naked bed-rock three hundred feet below.mill at Dawson. He linked the past with the present. Kill or be killed. tasting the savor of the meat he ate. could put a pack upon Buck's back in the summer travelling. Hans and Pete. He must master or be mastered. and he fought as fiercely as ever and more shrewdly. and he never forewent an advantage or drew back from a foe he had started on the way to Death. They were of the same large type as Thornton. For Thornton. John Thornton was sitting near the edge. sweeping his arm out and over the chasm." Pete said. scenting the wind with him. and as often as he heard this call. his love seemed to grow and grow. Mercy did not exist in the primordial life. He. it is splendid. and to plunge into the forest. eat or be eaten. after that he tolerated them in a passive sort of way. living close to the earth. When Thornton's partners. however. the love for John Thornton drew him back to the fire again. was the law. He had learned well the law of club and fang. white-fanged and long-furred. and such misunderstandings made for death. half-wolves and wild wolves. 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. listening with him and telling him the sounds made by the wild life in the forest. he obeyed. and from a too demonstrative man he would get up and walk away. thirsting for the water he drank. directing his actions. when Thornton commanded.—besides. thinking simply and seeing clearly. "No. and knew there was no middle course. down out of the depths of Time. while Hans and Pete were dragging them back into safety. arrived on the long-expected raft. while to show mercy was a weakness. dictating his moods. But as often as he gained the soft unbroken earth and the green shade. urgent and prompting. Deep in the forest a call was sounding. and on and on. the call sounding imperiously. Nothing was too great for Buck to do. accepting favors from them as though he favored them by accepting. he knew not where or why. alone among men. The next instant he was grappling with Buck on the extreme edge. He sat by John Thornton's fire. and he drew the attention of Hans and Pete to the experiment he had in mind. and ere they swung the raft into the big eddy by the saw. A thoughtless whim seized Thornton. swiftly acknowledged Buck's supremacy or found himself struggling for life with a terrible antagonist. mysteriously thrilling and luring. no matter what the breed or valor. but he was cold under it all. too. they understood Buck and his ways. and this mandate. straight down. Buck at his shoulder. lying down to sleep with him when he lay down. and from the chief fighting dogs of the police and mail. "Jump. and it is terrible. and the eternity behind him throbbed through him in a mighty rhythm to which he swayed as the tides and seasons swayed. Chance travellers might praise or pet him. and dreaming with him and beyond him and becoming themselves the stuff of his dreams. Thornton shook his head. after it was over and they had caught their speech. Skeet and Nig were too good-natured for quarrelling. Do you know. a broad-breasted dog. it sometimes makes me afraid. deep in the forest. Buck refused to notice them till he learned they were close to Thornton. they belonged to John Thornton. and did not insist upon an intimacy such as obtained with Skeet and Nig.His face and body were scored by the teeth of many dogs. but the strange dog. nor did he wonder where or why. Thornton alone held him. So peremptorily did these shades beckon him. Buck!" he commanded. He was older than the days he had seen and the breaths he had drawn. He had lessoned from Spitz. he felt compelled to turn his back upon the fire and the beaten earth around it." . And Buck was merciless. "It's uncanny. that each day mankind and the claims of mankind slipped farther from him. It was misunderstood for fear. The rest of mankind was as nothing. but behind him were the shades of all manner of dogs.

flung sheer out of it. At a particularly bad spot. Buck loosed his teeth from the flesh of the arm and drove in again for the throat. kept abreast of the boat. he partly reared out of the water. nodding his head toward Buck. "Not mineself either. and saved himself from falling only by clutching the rail of the bar. A "miners' meeting. He clutched its slippery top with both hands. This time the man succeeded only in partly blocking. and from that day his name spread through every camp in Alaska. then turned obediently toward the bank."I'm not hankering to be the man that lays hands on you while he's around. was carried down-stream toward the worst part of the rapids. he prowled up and down. as was his custom. From below came the fatal roaring where the wild current went wilder and was rent in shreds and spray by the rocks which thrust through like the teeth of an enormous comb. Thornton was sent spinning. decided that the dog had sufficient provocation. and struck a third with crushing force. straight from the shoulder. He scraped furiously over a rock. in the fall of the year. . Hans cast off the rope. Buck had sprung in on the instant. This it did. snubbing with a thin Manila rope from tree to tree." called on the spot. and at the end of three hundred yards. while Thornton remained in the boat. Buck. "Py Jingo!" was Hans's contribution. The three partners were lining a long and narrow poling-boat down a bad stretch of rapids on the Forty. he saved John Thornton's life in quite another fashion. he overhauled Thornton. and swept on down-stream. attempting to rush in. throwing his head high. bruised across a second. while Thornton poled the boat out into the stream. The man saved his life by instinctively throwing out his arm. Burton struck out. The suck of the water as it took the beginning of the last steep pitch was frightful. worried and anxious. The boat flirted over and snubbed in to the bank bottom up. but a something which is best described as a roar. on the bank. but unable to win back. He swam powerfully and was dragged ashore by Pete and Hans at the very point where swimming ceased to be possible and destruction began. the progress down-stream amazingly rapid. growling furiously. when Hans checked it with the rope and checked too suddenly. When he felt him grasp his tail. releasing Buck. swimming with all his splendid strength. and was flying down-stream in a current as swift as a mill-race. and his throat was torn open. amid a mad swirl of water. and Thornton knew that the shore was impossible.Mile Creek. Then the crowd was upon Buck. that Pete's apprehensions were realized. and Buck was discharged. and he was driven off. Hans and Pete moved along the bank. When he heard Thornton's command repeated. head on paws. was lying in a corner. as though for a last look. his eyes never off his master. Buck! Go!" Buck could not hold his own. "Black" Burton. and shouting directions to the shore. ran down the bank with the end in his hand to snub the boat when it had cleared the ledge. and being forced back by an array of hostile clubs. Buck. when Thornton stepped good-naturedly between. but while a surgeon checked the bleeding. but was hurled backward to the floor with Buck on top of him. Buck headed for the bank. struggling desperately. But the progress shoreward was slow. where a ledge of barely submerged rocks jutted out into the river. a stretch of wild water in which no swimmer could live. and. Later on. Those who were looking on heard what was neither bark nor yelp. and they saw Buck's body rise up in the air as he left the floor for Burton's throat." Pete announced conclusively. helping its descent by means of a pole. while Thornton. a man evil-tempered and malicious. had been picking a quarrel with a tenderfoot at the bar. watching his master's every action. ere the year was out. and above the roar of the churning water shouted: "Go." It was at Circle City. But his reputation was made. without warning.

and though they could not make out the words of it. Hans promptly snubbed with the rope. he reached up and closed with both arms around the shaggy neck. and under the surface he remained till his body struck against the bank and he was hauled out. because of his record. They attached the line with which they had been snubbing the boat to Buck's neck and shoulders. over whose limp and apparently lifeless body Nig was setting up a howl. perhaps. being careful that it should neither strangle him nor impede his swimming. pounding the breath into him and the water out of him. He staggered to his feet and fell down. and Buck and Thornton were jerked under the water. This exploit was particularly gratifying to the three men. seven hundred. but one that put his name many notches higher on the totem-pole of Alaskan fame. smashing against rocks and snags. while Skeet was licking the wet face and closed eyes. Buck held on till he was on a line straight above Thornton. for they stood in need of the outfit which it furnished. they veered in to the bank. but he would not be guilty of it a second time. as though Buck were a boat. Buck. belly downward and being violently propelled back and forth across a drift log by Hans and Pete. and he went carefully over Buck's body." "And break it out? and walk off with it for a hundred yards?" demanded Matthewson. with the whole force of the current behind him. was the target for these men. and were enabled to make a long-desired trip into the virgin East. and again he struck out. finding three broken ribs. "We camp right here. He sprang to his feet and ran up the bank ahead of the men to the point of his previous departure. he of the seven hundred vaunt. when Thornton was abreast of him and a bare half-dozen strokes away while he was being carried helplessly past. and Hans and Pete threw themselves upon him. in which men waxed boastful of their favorite dogs. His master's voice acted on Buck like an electric shock. they knew that he was in his extremity. as Buck struck him like a battering ram. sometimes one uppermost and sometimes the other. a Bonanza King. Again the rope was attached and he was launched. and walk off with it for a hundred yards." John Thornton said coolly. He had miscalculated once. "Buck can start a thousand pounds. Strangling. Thornton saw him coming.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. till Buck's ribs knitted and he was able to travel. The rope thus tightening on him in the sweep of the current. while Pete kept it clear of coils. "That settles it. then he turned. He discovered the mistake too late. and. Buck performed another exploit. Thornton was himself bruised and battered. "Pooh! pooh!" said John Thornton. Thornton came to. not so heroic." And camp they did. . Hans snubbed the rope around the tree. He was half drowned. and with the speed of an express train headed down upon him. He struck out boldly. at Dawson. and Thornton was driven stoutly to defend him. and launched him into the stream." he announced. dragging over the jagged bottom. permitting no slack. suffocating. His first glance was for Buck. where miners had not yet appeared. he was jerked under the surface. 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. when he had been brought around. The faint sound of Thornton's voice came to them. and they ran as fast as they could up the bank to a point far above where Thornton was hanging on. It was brought about by a conversation in the Eldorado Saloon. "And break it out. a second bragged six hundred for his dog. Hans paid out the rope. and a third. That winter. but not straight enough into the stream. but this time straight into the stream.

slowly and deliberately. with twenty fiftypound sacks of flour on it. leaving Buck to "break it out" from a dead standstill. thumping down a plethoric sack by the side of Matthewson's. A quibble arose concerning the phrase "break out. that the beast can do the trick. fails to recognize the impossible." Matthewson went on with brutal directness. Not a man believed him capable of the feat. and now that he looked at the sled itself. The team of ten dogs was unhitched. "Three to one!" he proclaimed. In the ebb of their fortunes." Matthewson said. nor had Hans or Pete. Further. Men offered odds of two to one that Buck could not budge the sled. but never. a Mastodon King and old-time comrade. "Though it's little faith I'm having. He had great faith in Buck's strength and had often thought him capable of starting such a load. Thornton had been hurried into the wager. had been called. he slammed a sack of gold dust of the size of a bologna sausage down upon the bar. There were no takers. Several hundred men. and Buck. Their sacks were slim. He had caught the contagion of the excitement. "so don't let that hinder you. and he felt that in some way he must do a great thing for John Thornton. Down the neck and across . caught his eyes. What d'ye say?" Thornton's doubt was strong in his face. yet they laid it unhesitatingly against Matthewson's six hundred. A majority of the men who had witnessed the making of the bet decided in his favor. as now. And there it is. but his fighting spirit was aroused—the fighting spirit that soars above odds. and the dealers and gamekeepers came forth to see the outcome of the wager and to lay odds. Thornton's bluff. the concrete fact. banked around the sled within easy distance. the more impossible the task appeared." O'Brien contended it was Thornton's privilege to knock the runners loose. almost in a whisper. "I've got a sled standing outside now. he had no thousand dollars. He did not know whether Buck could start a thousand pounds. It was as a cue to him. heavy with doubt. "I've got a thousand dollars that says he can't. He called Hans and Pete to him. The face of Jim O'Brien. this sum was their total capital. His tongue had tricked him. Matthewson waxed jubilant. and in the intense cold (it was sixty below zero) the runners had frozen fast to the hard-packed snow. silent and waiting. Matthewson's sled. Thornton." So saying. The tables were deserted. with his own harness. Murmurs of admiration at his splendid appearance went up." answered O'Brien. had he faced the possibility of it. was put into the sled. the eyes of a dozen men fixed upon him. if bluff it was. "Sure. Matthewson insisted that the phrase included breaking the runners from the frozen grip of the snow. Nobody spoke. whereat the odds went up to three to one against Buck. and with his own the three partners could rake together only two hundred dollars. He could feel a flush of warm blood creeping up his face. without an ounce of superfluous flesh. Half a ton! The enormousness of it appalled him. loaded with a thousand pounds of flour. 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. He was in perfect condition. "Can you lend me a thousand?" he asked. seeming to rouse him to do what he would never have dreamed of doing."Well. "I'll lay you another thousand at that figure. He did not know what to say." The Eldorado emptied its occupants into the street to see the test. and the one hundred and fifty pounds that he weighed were so many pounds of grit and virility. so that all could hear. His furry coat shone with the sheen of silk." Thornton did not reply. and is deaf to all save the clamor for battle. with the regular team of ten dogs curled up in the snow before it. had been standing for a couple of hours. John.

" The crowd fell silent. He took his head in his two hands and rested cheek on cheek. "As you love me. MUSH!" Thornton's command cracked out like a pistol-shot. Then the sled lurched ahead in what appeared a rapid succession of jerks. The sled was broken out. "Now. the sled pivoting and the runners slipping and grating several inches to the side. . then slacked them for a matter of several inches. "Free play and plenty of room. Thornton stepped well back." Matthewson protested. The affair was growing mysterious. pressing in with his teeth and releasing slowly. where the muscles showed in tight rolls underneath the skin. One of his feet slipped. The crowd was watching curiously. Buck swung to the right. though it never really came to a dead stop again . in terms. "Gee!" Thornton's voice rang out.. before the test. intensely unconscious of the fact. Buck tightened the traces. ending the movement in a plunge that took up the slack and with a sudden jerk arrested his one hundred and fifty pounds. and the odds went down to two to one. Men were holding their breaths.the shoulders. two inch . as was his wont.." he said. It was the way he had learned. The sled swayed and trembled. sir. eight hundred just as he stands. The great breast and heavy fore legs were no more than in proportion with the rest of the body. . Buck whined with suppressed eagerness. "I offer you eight hundred for him. sir! Gad. Buck. this time to the left. It was the answer. while his feet were flying like mad. As you love me. half-started forward. sharp in the tense silence. till it was moving steadily along. It seemed like a conjuration. "Haw!" Thornton commanded. but twenty fifty-pound sacks of flour bulked too large in their eyes for them to loosen their pouch-strings. as the sled gained momentum. but of love. "Gad." Thornton shook his head and stepped to Buck's side. . sir!" stuttered a member of the latest dynasty. The jerks perceptibly diminished.half an inch... only could be heard the voices of the gamblers vainly offering two to one. He did not playfully shake him. . . His great chest was low to the ground. his mane. Thornton knelt down by Buck's side. the claws scarring the hardpacked snow in parallel grooves. "Now. Men felt these muscles and proclaimed them hard as iron. the muscles writhing and knotting like live things under the silky fur. half-reluctantly. and from under the runners arose a crisp crackling. The load quivered." was what he whispered. Buck threw himself forward. The crackling turned into a snapping. Buck seized his mittened hand between his jaws. but he whispered in his ear. Buck. his head forward and down. Everybody acknowledged Buck a magnificent animal. and one man groaned aloud. he caught them up. As Thornton got to his feet. half bristled and seemed to lift with every movement. in repose as it was. not of speech. a king of the Skookum Benches. tightening the traces with a jarring lunge. as though excess of vigor made each particular hair alive and active. or murmur soft love curses. sir. Buck duplicated the manoeuvre. "You must stand off from him. His whole body was gathered compactly together in the tremendous effort.

and if he failed to find it. secure in the knowledge that sooner or later he would come to it." Buck seized Thornton's hand in his teeth. John Thornton asked little of man or nature. on this great journey into the East. Men were shaking hands. To Buck it was boundless delight. "no. day after day. here and there. and indefinite wandering through strange places. Every man was tearing himself loose. the history of which was as old as the history of the country. sir! Gad. threading the upstanding peaks which marked the backbone of the continent. This lost mine was steeped in tragedy and shrouded in mystery. unaware that for a moment they had ceased to breathe. Thornton was running behind. wherefore John Thornton and Pete and Hans. cheery words. he hunted his dinner in the course of the day's travel. "Sir. sir. like the Indian. with Buck and half a dozen other dogs. and the dead were dead. You can go to hell. sir. and for weeks upon end they would camp. he kept on travelling. Indian fashion. Thornton shook him back and forth. From the beginning there had been an ancient and ramshackle cabin. Chapter 7 When Buck earned sixteen hundred dollars in five minutes for John Thornton. and bubbling over in a general incoherent babel. "Gad. Many men had sought it. They sledded seventy miles up the Yukon. fishing. He was unafraid of the wild. No one knew of the first man. a cheer began to grow and grow. and he cursed him long and fervently. passed the Mayo and the McQuestion. and as he neared the pile of firewood which marked the end of the hundred yards. it did not matter with whom. The tears were streaming frankly down his cheeks. this hunting. It's the best I can do for you. Those who hurried up heard him cursing Buck. sir. 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." he said to the Skookum Bench king. 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. and he was shaking him back and forth. few had found it. sir. His eyes were wet. faced into the East on an unknown trail to achieve where men and dogs as good as themselves had failed. So. nor were they again indiscreet enough to interrupt. sir—twelve hundred. which burst into a roar as he passed the firewood and halted at command. straight meat was the bill of fare. Dying men had sworn to it. But no living man had looted this treasure house. and held on until the Stewart itself became a streamlet. Being in no haste. a thousand. As though animated by a common impulse. and to the mine the site of which it marked. ammunition and tools principally made up the load on the sled. The oldest tradition stopped before it got back to him. Head was against head." Thornton rose to his feet. . But Thornton fell on his knees beside Buck. the onlookers drew back to a respectful distance. clinching their testimony with nuggets that were unlike any known grade of gold in the Northland. all according to the abundance of game and the fortune of hunting. and softly and lovingly. sir!" spluttered the Skookum Bench king. even Matthewson. he made it possible for his master to pay off certain debts and to journey with his partners into the East after a fabled lost mine. The distance had been measured off. "I'll give you a thousand for him.Men gasped and began to breathe again. Hats and mittens were flying in the air. sometimes they feasted riotously. and the time-card was drawn upon the limitless future. and more than a few there were who had never returned from the quest. encouraging Buck with short. Sometimes they went hungry. swung to the left into the Stewart River. sir. For weeks at a time they would hold on steadily.

and the melancholy rippling of waves on lonely beaches. never falling. he seemed as much at home among the trees as on the ground. blinking by the fire. and they were alert and vigilant. Buck wandered with him in that other world which he remembered. where no men were and yet where men had been if the Lost Cabin were true. and often. The gold was sacked in moose-hide bags. with many starts and awakenings. barking softly or defiantly. Buck saw that he slept restlessly. Sometimes he pursued the call into the forest. And closely akin to the visions of the hairy man was the call still sounding in the depths of the forest. It filled him with a great unrest and strange desires. fifty pounds to the bag. but a shallow placer in a broad valley where the gold showed like yellow butter across the bottom of the washing-pan. and amid the shreds of rotted blankets John Thornton found a long-barrelled flint-lock. Like giants they toiled. But the path began nowhere and ended nowhere. the forming of ice in sheltered places. and dogs and men packed on their backs.Summer arrived. In the fall of the year they penetrated a weird lake country. they came upon a path blazed through the forest. swinging by the arms from limb to limb. or into the black soil where long grasses . And through another winter they wandered on the obliterated trails of men who had gone before. They sought no farther. rafted across blue mountain lakes. where the hairy man gathered shell. and descended or ascended unknown rivers in slender boats whipsawed from the standing forest. it was with eyes that roved everywhere for hidden danger and with legs prepared to run like the wind at its first appearance. and back and forth they twisted through the uncharted vastness. and the Lost Cabin seemed very near. now that there was little work to be done. looking for it as though it were a tangible thing. as the man who made it and the reason he made it remained mystery. Through the forest they crept noiselessly. The months came and went. sometimes a dozen feet apart. and piled like so much firewood outside the spruce-bough lodge. where wild. and Buck spent long hours musing by the fire. sad and silent. The salient thing of this other world seemed fear. They went across divides in summer blizzards. He would thrust his nose into the cool wood moss. head between his knees and hands clasped above. When he watched the hairy man sleeping by the fire. not the Lost Cabin. Buck at the hairy man's heels. 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. There was nothing for the dogs to do. as the mood might dictate. Once. ears twitching and moving and nostrils quivering. Did they walk by the beach of a sea. the pair of them. for the man heard and smelled as keenly as Buck. days flashing on the heels of days like dreams as they heaped the treasure up. an ancient path. at which times he would peer fearfully into the darkness and fling more wood upon the fire. In fact. Spring came on once more. and it remained mystery.fowl had been. The hairy man could spring up into the trees and travel ahead as fast as on the ground. and they worked every day. holding on tightly as he slept. and he was aware of wild yearnings and stirrings for he knew not what. dropped into summer valleys amid swarming gnats and flies. and in the shadows of glaciers picked strawberries and flowers as ripe and fair as any the Southland could boast. and Buck had memories of nights of vigil spent beneath trees wherein the hairy man roosted. He knew it for a Hudson Bay Company gun of the young days in the Northwest. but where then there was no life nor sign of life— only the blowing of chill winds. Another time they chanced upon the time-graven wreckage of a hunting lodge. sweet gladness. 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. save the hauling in of meat now and again that Thornton killed. It caused him to feel a vague. The vision of the short-legged hairy man came to him more and ate them as he gathered. letting go and catching. shivered under the midnight sun on naked mountains between the timber line and the eternal snows. never missing his grip. and at the end of all their wandering they found.

at all times. straight up the creek bed.covered trunks of fallen trees. and snort with joy at the fat earth smells. But the wolf fled at sight of him. in a frenzy to overtake. erect on haunches. He made it clear to Buck that he was to come. for the wolf. as if in concealment. finding that no harm was intended. a long. and seeking for the mysterious something that called—called. dozing lazily in the heat of the day. He loved to run down dry watercourses. and across the bleak divide where it took its rise. but circled him about and hedged him in with friendly advances. running by the side of his wood brother toward the place from where the call surely came. finally sniffed noses with him. half. Buck was wildly glad. Old . Buck stalked into the open. It might be. After some time of this the wolf started off at an easy lope in a manner that plainly showed he was going somewhere. that he hoped to surprise this call he could not understand. It was the menacing truce that marks the meeting of wild beasts that prey. lean. Every movement advertised commingled threatening and overture of friendliness. he darted away. and the thing repeated. for the call was many noted). waking or sleeping. and looking out saw. or Buck could not so easily have overtaken him. snarling and bristling. He ran him into a blind channel. with nose pointed to the sky. feet falling with unwonted care. and on and on. like. behind fungus. listening to the subdued and sleepy murmurs of the forest. and through these great stretches they ran steadily.coy way with which fierce beasts belie their fierceness. One night he sprang from sleep with a start. For a day at a time he would lie in the underbrush where he could watch the partridges drumming and strutting up and down. Irresistible impulses seized him. and the chase was resumed. through the forest aisles and across the open spaces where the niggerheads bunched. into the gorge from which it issued. He had made no noise. On the opposite slope of the watershed they came down into a level country where were great stretches of forest and many streams. nostrils quivering and scenting. yet unlike. and played about in the nervous. tail straight and stiff.grew. and he would spring to his feet and dash away. He would run till Buck's head was even with his flank. till he came to an open place among the trees. as a sound heard before. body gathered compactly together. Watching his chance. Time and again he was cornered. the sun rising higher and the day growing warmer. his mane bristling in recurrent waves. and they ran side by side through the sombre twilight. timber wolf. Then they became friendly. with caution in every movement. or he would crouch for hours. Buck did not attack. He knew he was at last answering the call. But in the end Buck's pertinacity was rewarded. when suddenly his head would lift and his ears cock up. and did not reason about them at all. The wolf whirled about. pivoting on his hind legs after the fashion of Joe and of all cornered husky dogs. But he did not know why he did these various things. yet it ceased from its howling and tried to sense his presence. The wolf was suspicious and afraid. for hours. He was impelled to do them. clipping his teeth together in a continuous and rapid succession of snaps. half crouching. reading signs and sounds as man may read a book. only to dash away again at the first opportunity. wide-eyed and wide-eared to all that moved and sounded about him. for him to come. But especially he loved to run in the dim twilight of the summer midnights. in the old familiar way. though he was in poor condition.—a long-drawn howl. for Buck made three of him in weight. lying thus. And he knew it. He sprang through the sleeping camp and in swift silence dashed through the woods. He followed. intent and listening. As he drew closer to the cry he went more slowly. while his head barely reached Buck's shoulder. in the bed of the creek where a timber jam barred the way. any noise made by husky dog. and to creep and spy upon the bird life in the woods. From the forest came the call (or one note of it. when he would whirl around at bay. with wild leapings. He would be lying in camp. hour after hour. distinct and definite as never before. eager-eyed.

saw him into his blankets at night and out of them in the morning. his intelligence. He fished for salmon in a broad stream that emptied somewhere into the sea. he was in full flower. Once again he took to wandering in the woods. Because of all this he became possessed of a great pride in himself. And two days later. and those that fled left two behind who would quarrel no more. seeking vainly for fresh sign of the wild brother. and once he crossed the divide at the head of the creek and went down into the land of timber and streams. For the better part of an hour the wild brother ran by his side. he might well have been mistaken for a gigantic wolf. The wolf started on toward the place from where the call surely came. licking his face. He had done this thing before. scrambling upon him. now. watched him while he ate. somewhat broader. For two days and nights Buck never left camp. a thing that preyed. Buck's restlessness came back on him. blinded by the mosquitoes while likewise fishing. made him as formidable a creature as any that intelligence roamed the wild. From his St. stopping. somewhere in that other and dimly remembered world. and as Buck held steadily on his way he heard it grow faint and fainter until it was lost in the distance. it was a hard fight. the unpacked earth underfoot. alone. The blood-longing became stronger than ever before. His muzzle was the long wolf muzzle. John Thornton was eating dinner when Buck dashed into camp and sprang upon him in a frenzy of affection. running free in the open. He sat down. But Buck turned about and started slowly on the back track. pointed his nose upward. killing his meat as he travelled and travelling with the long. and he was stirring to them as of old he stirred to the realities of which they were the shadows. and by this stream he killed a large black bear. overturning him. which communicated itself like a contagion to his physical being. whining softly. plus an experience gained in the fiercest of schools. But after two days the call in the forest began to sound more imperiously than ever. the wide sky overhead. surviving triumphantly in a hostile environment where only the strong survived. never let Thornton out of his sight. and wild cunning. It advertised itself in all his movements. save that was larger than the muzzle of any wolf. He began to sleep out at night." as John Thornton characterized it. and all this. and. biting his hand—"playing the general tom-fool. and for the splash of white hair that ran midmost down his chest. when he returned to his kill and found a dozen wolverenes quarrelling over the spoil. They stopped by a running stream to drink. sniffing noses and making actions as though to encourage him. Bernard intelligence. overspilling with vigor and virility. . the while he shook Buck back and forth and cursed him lovingly. Bernard father he had inherited size and weight. the mournful howl was never raised. He followed him about at his work. and though he listened through long vigils. spoke plainly as speech in the way he carried himself. staying away from camp for days at a time. and made his glorious furry coat if anything more glorious. and his head. But for the stray brown on his muzzle and above his eyes. was the wolf head on a massive scale. shepherd intelligence and St. and raging through the forest helpless and terrible. then returned to him. at the high tide of his life. unaided.memories were coming upon him fast. Even so. but it was his shepherd mother who had given shape to that size and weight. and it aroused the last latent remnants of Buck's ferocity. and he was doing it again. he scattered them like chaff. larger than the largest of the breed. but the wild brother came no more. A carnivorous animal living on a straight meat diet. easy lope that seems never to tire. He was a killer. Then he sat down. and howled. and of the smiling land beyond the divide and the run side by side through the wide forest stretches. by virtue of his own strength and prowess. Buck remembered John Thornton. and he was haunted by recollections of the wild brother. It was a mournful howl. living on the things that lived. There he wandered for a week. His cunning was wolf cunning. was apparent in the play of every muscle.

As the fall of the year came on. but they did not see the instant and terrible transformation which took place as soon as he was within the secrecy of the forest. just forward of the flank. glad and rampant. and responded in less time than another dog required to compass the mere seeing or hearing. a passing shadow that appeared and disappeared among the shadows. and snap in mid air the little chipmunks fleeing a second too late for the trees. nor were beaver. But when he was thus separated from his fellows. "Py jingo! I t'ink so mineself. Every part. So a lurking humor ran through his deeds. He was in a savage temper. when he all but had them. To sights and sounds and events which required action. His muscles were surcharged with vitality. He knew how to take advantage of every cover. stealing along softly. His small eyes burned with a vicious and bitter light. He could take a ptarmigan from its nest.When Thornton passed a caressing hand along his back. and he came upon it one day on the divide at the head of the creek. kill a rabbit as it slept. like steel springs. A band of twenty moose had crossed over from the land of streams and timber." said John Thornton one day. At such moments he charged Buck. the mould was broke. and between all the parts there was a perfect equilibrium or adjustment. and snapped into play sharply. In point of fact the three actions of perceiving.footed. It was no slight task. the moose appeared in greater abundance. he could leap twice as quickly. which accounted for his savageness. They saw him marching out of camp. chattering in mortal fear to the treetops. and responding were sequential. he responded with lightning-like rapidity. but he preferred to eat what he killed himself. He perceived and determined and responded in the same instant. Quickly as a husky dog could leap to defend from attack or to attack. and. Buck proceeded to cut the bull out from the herd. . and like a snake to leap and strike. cat. while he roared with fury at sight of Buck. and it was his delight to steal upon the squirrels. two or three of the younger bulls would charge back upon Buck and enable the wounded bull to rejoin the herd. protruded a feathered arrow-end. but so infinitesimal were the intervals of time between them that they appeared simultaneous. standing over six feet from the ground. mending their dams. who retreated craftily. was keyed to the most exquisite pitch. branching to fourteen points and embracing seven feet within the tips. Life streamed through him in splendid flood. the bull would be driven into paroxysms of rage. but he wished strongly for larger and more formidable quarry. and chief among them was a great bull. were not too quick for him. luring him on by a simulated inability to escape. not from wantonness. Fish. "Never was there such a dog. At once he became a thing of the wild. He would bark and dance about in front of the bull. Back and forth the bull tossed his great palmated antlers. to crawl on his belly like a snake. He no longer marched. was as formidable an antagonist as even Buck could desire. nerve tissue and fibre. Unable to turn his back on the fanged danger and go on. in open pools. determining. or heard sound. brain and body. He killed to eat. Buck had already dragged down a stray part-grown calf. Guided by that instinct which came from the old hunting days of the primordial world. too wary. a snapping and crackling followed the hand. and. "When he was made. moving slowly down to meet the winter in the lower and less rigorous valleys. From the bull's side. each hair discharging its pent magnetism at the contact." Hans affirmed. until it seemed that it would burst him asunder in sheer ecstasy and pour forth generously over the world. He saw the movement. as the partners watched Buck marching out of camp. to let them go." said Pete. 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.

the panther in its ambuscade. and it seemed they could never shake off this tireless creature that held them back. and went on. rested. the young bulls retraced their steps more and more reluctantly to the aid of their beset leader. Several times he stopped and drew in the fresh morning air in great sniffs. Then. he had lived a long. it was not the life of the herd. and he resolved to investigate after he had finished the business in hand. As he held on he became more and more conscious of the new stir in the land. cutting out his victim as fast as it could rejoin its mates. He broke into the long easy lope. . never permitted it to browse the leaves of trees or the shoots of young birch and willow. and driving the wounded bull mad with helpless rage. he turned his face toward camp and John Thornton. the bulls he had mastered—as they shambled on at a rapid pace through the fading light. satisfied with the way the game was played. irritating the young bulls. At such times Buck did not attempt to stay him. and it belonged to Buck as he clung to the flank of the herd. Besides. saw nothing. lying down when the moose stood still. The birds talked of it. retarding its march. the very breeze whispered of it. turn and turn about. in desperation. night and day. Three hundredweight more than half a ton he weighed. for before his nose leaped the merciless fanged terror that would not let him go. refreshed and strong. the snake in its coils. with nose to the ground and dejected ears dropped limply. and the shambling trot grew weak and weaker. other kinds of life were coming in. that was threatened. tireless. or of the young bulls. As the moose were coming into the land. He could not follow. but by some other and subtler sense. yet knew that the land was somehow different. and Buck found more time in which to get water for himself and in which to rest. never gave it a moment's rest. For a day and a night he remained by the kill. that through it strange things were afoot and ranging. the squirrels chattered about it. The news of it was borne in upon him. No longer was this fact borne in upon him in some subtle. he pulled the great moose down. For half a day this continued. strong life. There was life abroad in it different from the life which had been there throughout the summer. Buck multiplied himself. watching his mates—the cows he had known. The life of only one member was demanded. hour after hour. and at the end he faced death at the teeth of a creature whose head did not reach beyond his great knuckled knees. it appeared to Buck that a change was coming over the face of things. but loped easily at his heels. attacking from all sides. full of fight and struggle. not by sight. Forest and stream and air seemed palpitant with their presence. or sound. The great head drooped more and more under its tree of horns. he burst into long stretches of flight. which was a remoter interest than their lives. Buck never left his prey. Often. heading straight home through strange country with a certitude of direction that put man and his magnetic needle to shame. eating and sleeping. At such moments. and in the end they were content to pay the toll. enveloping the herd in a whirlwind of menace. Nor did he give the wounded bull opportunity to slake his burning thirst in the slender trickling streams they crossed. He could feel a new stir in the land. mysterious way. 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). worrying the cows with their half-grown calves. at the end of the fourth day. As twilight fell the old bull stood with lowered head. which is a lesser patience than that of creatures preying. persistent as life itself—that holds motionless for endless hours the spider in its web. panting with red lolling tongue and with eyes fixed upon the big bull. The down-coming winter was harrying them on to the lower levels. He took to standing for long periods. From then on. attacking him fiercely when he strove to eat or drink. or smell. never at loss for the tangled way. this patience belongs peculiarly to life when it hunts its living food. At last. He heard nothing.There is a patience of the wild—dogged. the calves he had fathered. wearing out the patience of creatures preyed upon.

Three miles away he came upon a fresh trail that sent his neck hair rippling and bristling. The pool itself. and it contained John Thornton. He remarked the pregnant silence of the forest. By the edge. with the next bound tearing wide the throat of a second man. A hundred yards farther on. It led straight toward camp and John Thornton. Thornton's desperate struggle was fresh-written on the earth. He plunged about in their very midst. The squirrels were in hiding. he proceeded with greater caution. swiftly and stealthily. and Buck scented every detail of it down to the edge of a deep pool. in constant and terrific motion which defied the arrows they discharged at him. his nose was jerked suddenly to the side as though a positive force had gripped and pulled it. but ripped in passing. every nerve straining and tense. 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. He did not pause to worry the victim. He was lying on his side. dead where he had dragged himself. a woody excrescence upon the wood itself. It was Buck. He followed the new scent into a thicket and found Nig. but he growled aloud with a terrible ferocity. rising and falling in a sing-song chant. hurling himself upon them in a frenzy to destroy. he returned to the desolated camp. tearing. for Buck followed his trace into the water. rending. if it were not calamity already happened.reading a message which made him leap on with greater speed. lay Skeet. raging at their heels and dragging them down like deer as they raced through the trees. directly on the trail. feathered with arrows like a porcupine. He sprang at the foremost man (it was the chief of the Yeehats). that they shot one another with the arrows.—a sleek gray fellow. destroying. Buck came upon one of the sled-dogs Thornton had bought in Dawson. It was a fateful day for the Yeehats. from which no trace led away. and it was because of his great love for John Thornton that he lost his head. and Buck passed around him without stopping. There was no withstanding him. . hurling a spear at Buck in mid air. ripping the throat wide open till the rent jugular spouted a fountain of blood. The bird life had flitted. proclaiming as they fled the advent of the Evil Spirit. a live hurricane of fury. and they fled in terror to the woods. 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. He was oppressed with a sense of calamity happening. from either side of his body. effectually hid what it contained. He found Pete where he had been killed in his blankets in the first moment of surprise. flattened against a gray dead limb so that he seemed a part of it. muddy and discolored from the sluice boxes. He did not know that he growled. lying on his face. Then a panic seized the Yeehats. and so closely were the Indians tangled together. From the camp came the faint sound of many voices. This dog was thrashing about in a death-struggle. As Buck slid along with the obscureness of a gliding shadow. so inconceivably rapid were his movements. One only he saw. They scattered far and wide over the country. faithful to the last. 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. he found Hans. As for Buck. In fact. alert to the multitudinous details which told a story—all but the end. And truly Buck was the Fiend incarnate. Buck hurried on. head and feathers. and it was not till a week later that the last of the survivors gathered together in a lower valley and counted their losses. Bellying forward to the edge of the clearing. and as he crossed the last watershed and dropped down into the valley toward camp. an arrow protruding. head and fore feet in the water. A gust of overpowering rage swept over him. For the last time in his life he allowed passion to usurp cunning and reason. His nose gave him a varying description of the passage of the life on the heels of which he was travelling. wearying of the pursuit. and one young hunter.

till he brought up against a high gravel bank. Thenceforward he would be unafraid of them except when they bore in their hands their arrows. They were awed. Night came on. This over. and a moment's pause fell.All day Buck brooded by the pool or roamed restlessly about the camp. too. and one after the other they drew back. and Buck recognized the wild brother with whom he had run for a night and a day. others stood on their feet. as the Yeehats were hunting it. Buck became alive to a stirring of the new life in the forest other than that which the Yeehats had made. the stricken wolf rolling in agony behind him. This was sufficient to fling the whole pack forward. and broke out the long wolf howl. and at such times he was aware of a great pride in himself. gaunt and battle-scarred.—a pride greater than any he had yet experienced.noted call. came forward. without movement. breaking the neck. he was everywhere at once. he was forced back. He sniffed the bodies curiously. in a friendly manner. long and lean and gray. and. Pivoting on his hind legs. followed by a chorus of similar sharp yelps. At times. And as never before. they poured in a silvery flood. sounding more luringly and compellingly than ever before. blocked and confused by its eagerness to pull down the prey. And now the call came to Buck in unmistakable accents. and which food could not fill. One wolf. and snapping and gashing. as a cessation of movement. he knew. He worked along to a right angle in the bank which the men had made in the course of mining. motionless as a statue. He was whining softly. Death. Some were lying down with heads raised and ears pricked forward. advanced cautiously. and he had killed in the face of the law of club and fang. crowded together. but sniffed noses with him. From far away drifted a faint. the wolf pack had at last crossed over from the land of streams and timber and invaded Buck's valley. The last tie was broken. and in the centre of the clearing stood Buck. so still and large he stood. As the moments passed the yelps grew closer and louder. And with the coming of the night. waiting their coming. as Buck whined. lighting the land till it lay bathed in ghostly day. pell-mell. He stood up. Three others tried it in sharp succession. he came out of his angle and the pack . Man and the claims of man no longer bound him. Buck writhed his lips into the preliminary of a snarl. Then an old wolf. pointed nose at the moon. he forgot the pain of it. and he knew John Thornton was dead. listening and scenting. that at the end of half an hour the wolves drew back discomfited. The tongues of all were out and lolling. till the boldest one leaped straight for him. down past the pool and into the creek bed. and in this angle he came to bay. and still others were lapping water from the pool. as a passing out and away from the lives of the living. presenting a front which was apparently unbroken so swiftly did he whirl and guard from side to side. the noblest game of all. but a void which ached and ached. somewhat akin to hunger. It left a great void in him. streaming blood from slashed throats or shoulders. And so well did he face it. They had died so easily. spears. Buck's marvellous quickness and agility stood him in good stead. watching him. the many. sat down and howled. It was the call. He. They were no match at all. brooding and mourning by the pool. Then he stood. It was harder to kill a husky dog than them. Whereupon the old wolf sat down. when he paused to contemplate the carcasses of the Yeehats. they touched noses. John Thornton was dead. Into the clearing where the moonlight streamed. Hunting their living meat. and clubs. Like a flash Buck struck. the white fangs showing cruelly white in the moonlight. Again Buck knew them as things heard in that other world which persisted in his memory. He walked to the centre of the open space and listened. were it not for their arrows and spears and clubs. But to prevent them from getting behind him. on the flanks of the migrating moose. as before. sharp yelp. and a full moon rose high over the trees into the sky. protected on three sides and with nothing to do but face the front. The others sat down and howled. he was ready to obey. He had killed man.

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

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