CHAPTER I—THE TRAIL OF THE MEAT
Dark spruce forest frowned on either side the frozen waterway.
The trees had been stripped by a recent wind of their white covering
of frost, and they seemed to lean towards each other, black and ominous,
in the fading light. A vast silence reigned over the land. The
land itself was a desolation, lifeless, without movement, so lone and cold
that the spirit of it was not even that of sadness. There was a hint in
it of laughter, but of a laughter more terrible than any sadness—a laughter
that was mirthless as the smile of the sphinx, a laughter cold as the frost
and partaking of the grimness of infallibility. It was the masterful
and incommunicable wisdom of eternity laughing at the futility of life and
the effort of life. It was the Wild, the savage, frozen-hearted
But there WAS life, abroad in the land and defiant. Down
the frozen waterway toiled a string of wolfish dogs. Their bristly
fur was rimed with frost. Their breath froze in the air as it
left their mouths, spouting forth in spumes of vapour that settled
upon the hair of their bodies and formed into crystals of frost. Leather
harness was on the dogs, and leather traces attached them to a sled which
dragged along behind. The sled was without runners. It was made
of stout birch-bark, and its full surface rested on the snow. The front
end of the sled was turned up, like a scroll, in order to force down and
under the bore of soft snow that surged like a wave before it. On the
sled, securely lashed, was a long and narrow oblong box. There were
other things on the sled—blankets, an axe, and a coffee-pot and frying-pan;
but prominent, occupying most of the space, was the long and narrow oblong
In advance of the dogs, on wide snowshoes, toiled a man. At
the rear of the sled toiled a second man. On the sled, in the box,
lay a third man whose toil was over,—a man whom the Wild had conquered
and beaten down until he would never move nor struggle again. It is not
the way of the Wild to like movement. Life is an offence to it, for
life is movement; and the Wild aims always to destroy movement. It
freezes the water to prevent it running to the sea; it drives the sap out of
the trees till they are frozen to their mighty hearts; and most ferociously
and terribly of all does the Wild harry and crush into submission man—man
who is the most restless of life, ever in revolt against the dictum that
all movement must in the end come to the cessation of movement.
But at front and rear, unawed and indomitable, toiled the two men who
were not yet dead. Their bodies were covered with fur and soft-tanned
leather. Eyelashes and cheeks and lips were so coated with the crystals
from their frozen breath that their faces were not discernible. This
gave them the seeming of ghostly masques, undertakers in a spectral world at
the funeral of some ghost. But under it all they were men, penetrating
the land of desolation and mockery and silence, puny adventurers bent on
colossal adventure, pitting themselves against the might of a world as remote
and alien and pulseless as the abysses of space.
They travelled on without speech, saving their breath for the work of
their bodies. On every side was the silence, pressing upon them with a
tangible presence. It affected their minds as the many atmospheres of
deep water affect the body of the diver. It crushed them with the
weight of unending vastness and unalterable decree. It crushed them into the
remotest recesses of their own minds, pressing out of them, like juices from
the grape, all the false ardours and exaltations and undue self-values of the
human soul, until they perceived themselves finite and small, specks and
motes, moving with weak cunning and little wisdom amidst the play
and inter-play of the great blind elements and forces.
An hour went by, and a second hour. The pale light of the
short sunless day was beginning to fade, when a faint far cry arose on the
still air. It soared upward with a swift rush, till it reached its
topmost note, where it persisted, palpitant and tense, and then slowly died
away. It might have been a lost soul wailing, had it not been invested
with a certain sad fierceness and hungry eagerness. The front man
turned his head until his eyes met the eyes of the man behind. And
then, across the narrow oblong box, each nodded to the other.
A second cry arose, piercing the silence with
needle-like shrillness. Both men located the sound. It was to the
rear, somewhere in the snow expanse they had just traversed. A third
and answering cry arose, also to the rear and to the left of the
"They're after us, Bill," said the man at the front.
His voice sounded hoarse and unreal, and he had spoken with apparent
"Meat is scarce," answered his comrade. "I ain't seen a
rabbit sign for days."
Thereafter they spoke no more, though their ears were keen for
the hunting-cries that continued to rise behind them.
At the fall of darkness they swung the dogs into a cluster of spruce
trees on the edge of the waterway and made a camp. The coffin, at the
side of the fire, served for seat and table. The wolf-dogs, clustered
on the far side of the fire, snarled and bickered among themselves, but
evinced no inclination to stray off into the darkness.
"Seems to me, Henry, they're stayin' remarkable close to camp," Bill
Henry, squatting over the fire and settling the pot of coffee with a
piece of ice, nodded. Nor did he speak till he had taken his seat on
the coffin and begun to eat.
"They know where their hides is safe," he said. "They'd sooner
eat grub than be grub. They're pretty wise, them dogs."
Bill shook his head. "Oh, I don't know."
His comrade looked at him curiously. "First time I ever heard
you say anything about their not bein' wise."
"Henry," said the other, munching with deliberation the beans he was
eating, "did you happen to notice the way them dogs kicked up when I was
"They did cut up more'n usual," Henry acknowledged.
"How many dogs 've we got, Henry?"
"Well, Henry . . . " Bill stopped for a moment, in order that his words
might gain greater significance. "As I was sayin', Henry, we've got six
dogs. I took six fish out of the bag. I gave one fish to each
dog, an', Henry, I was one fish short."
"You counted wrong."
"We've got six dogs," the other reiterated dispassionately.
"I took out six fish. One Ear didn't get no fish. I came back to
the bag afterward an' got 'm his fish."
"We've only got six dogs," Henry said.
"Henry," Bill went on. "I won't say they was all dogs, but
there was seven of 'm that got fish."
Henry stopped eating to glance across the fire and count the dogs.
"There's only six now," he said.
"I saw the other one run off across the snow," Bill announced with cool
positiveness. "I saw seven."
Henry looked at him commiseratingly, and said, "I'll be almighty glad
when this trip's over."
"What d'ye mean by that?" Bill demanded.
"I mean that this load of ourn is gettin' on your nerves, an'
that you're beginnin' to see things."
"I thought of that," Bill answered gravely. "An' so, when I saw
it run off across the snow, I looked in the snow an' saw its tracks. Then
I counted the dogs an' there was still six of 'em. The tracks is there
in the snow now. D'ye want to look at 'em? I'll show 'em to
Henry did not reply, but munched on in silence, until, the
meal finished, he topped it with a final cup a of coffee. He wiped
his mouth with the back of his hand and said:
"Then you're thinkin' as it was—"
A long wailing cry, fiercely sad, from somewhere in the darkness, had
interrupted him. He stopped to listen to it, then he finished his
sentence with a wave of his hand toward the sound of the cry, "—one of
Bill nodded. "I'd a blame sight sooner think that than
anything else. You noticed yourself the row the dogs made."
Cry after cry, and answering cries, were turning the silence into
a bedlam. From every side the cries arose, and the dogs
betrayed their fear by huddling together and so close to the fire that
their hair was scorched by the heat. Bill threw on more wood,
before lighting his pipe.
"I'm thinking you're down in the mouth some," Henry said.
"Henry . . . " He sucked meditatively at his pipe for some
time before he went on. "Henry, I was a-thinkin' what a blame
sight luckier he is than you an' me'll ever be."
He indicated the third person by a downward thrust of the thumb to the
box on which they sat.
"You an' me, Henry, when we die, we'll be lucky if we get enough stones
over our carcases to keep the dogs off of us."
"But we ain't got people an' money an' all the rest, like him," Henry
rejoined. "Long-distance funerals is somethin' you an' me can't exactly
"What gets me, Henry, is what a chap like this, that's a lord
or something in his own country, and that's never had to bother about grub
nor blankets; why he comes a-buttin' round the Godforsaken ends of the earth
- that's what I can't exactly see."
"He might have lived to a ripe old age if he'd stayed at home," Henry
Bill opened his mouth to speak, but changed his mind. Instead,
he pointed towards the wall of darkness that pressed about them from every
side. There was no suggestion of form in the utter blackness; only
could be seen a pair of eyes gleaming like live coals. Henry indicated
with his head a second pair, and a third. A circle of the gleaming eyes had
drawn about their camp. Now and again a pair of eyes moved, or
disappeared to appear again a moment later.
The unrest of the dogs had been increasing, and they stampeded, in a
surge of sudden fear, to the near side of the fire, cringing and crawling
about the legs of the men. In the scramble one of the dogs had been
overturned on the edge of the fire, and it had yelped with pain and fright as
the smell of its singed coat possessed the air. The commotion caused
the circle of eyes to shift restlessly for a moment and even to withdraw a
bit, but it settled down again as the dogs became quiet.
"Henry, it's a blame misfortune to be out of ammunition."
Bill had finished his pipe and was helping his companion to spread the
bed of fur and blanket upon the spruce boughs which he had laid over the snow
before supper. Henry grunted, and began unlacing his mocassins.
"How many cartridges did you say you had left?" he asked.
"Three," came the answer. "An' I wisht 'twas three hundred.
Then I'd show 'em what for, damn 'em!"
He shook his fist angrily at the gleaming eyes, and began securely to
prop his moccasins before the fire.
"An' I wisht this cold snap'd break," he went on. "It's ben
fifty below for two weeks now. An' I wisht I'd never started on
this trip, Henry. I don't like the looks of it. I don't feel
right, somehow. An' while I'm wishin', I wisht the trip was over an'
done with, an' you an' me a-sittin' by the fire in Fort McGurry just about
now an' playing cribbage—that's what I wisht."
Henry grunted and crawled into bed. As he dozed off he was
aroused by his comrade's voice.
"Say, Henry, that other one that come in an' got a fish—why didn't the
dogs pitch into it? That's what's botherin' me."
"You're botherin' too much, Bill," came the sleepy response.
"You was never like this before. You jes' shut up now, an' go to
sleep, an' you'll be all hunkydory in the mornin'. Your stomach's
sour, that's what's botherin' you."
The men slept, breathing heavily, side by side, under the
one covering. The fire died down, and the gleaming eyes drew
closer the circle they had flung about the camp. The dogs
clustered together in fear, now and again snarling menacingly as a pair
of eyes drew close. Once their uproar became so loud that Bill
woke up. He got out of bed carefully, so as not to disturb the sleep
of his comrade, and threw more wood on the fire. As it began to
flame up, the circle of eyes drew farther back. He glanced casually
at the huddling dogs. He rubbed his eyes and looked at them
more sharply. Then he crawled back into the blankets.
"Henry," he said. "Oh, Henry."
Henry groaned as he passed from sleep to waking, and demanded, "What's
"Nothin'," came the answer; "only there's seven of 'em again.
I just counted."
Henry acknowledged receipt of the information with a grunt that slid
into a snore as he drifted back into sleep.
In the morning it was Henry who awoke first and routed his companion out
of bed. Daylight was yet three hours away, though it was already six
o'clock; and in the darkness Henry went about preparing breakfast, while Bill
rolled the blankets and made the sled ready for lashing.
"Say, Henry," he asked suddenly, "how many dogs did you say
"Wrong," Bill proclaimed triumphantly.
"Seven again?" Henry queried.
"No, five; one's gone."
"The hell!" Henry cried in wrath, leaving the cooking to come
and count the dogs.
"You're right, Bill," he concluded. "Fatty's gone."
"An' he went like greased lightnin' once he got started.
Couldn't 've seen 'm for smoke."
"No chance at all," Henry concluded. "They jes' swallowed
'm alive. I bet he was yelpin' as he went down their throats,
"He always was a fool dog," said Bill.
"But no fool dog ought to be fool enough to go off an' commit suicide
that way." He looked over the remainder of the team with a speculative
eye that summed up instantly the salient traits of each animal. "I bet
none of the others would do it."
"Couldn't drive 'em away from the fire with a club," Bill agreed. "I
always did think there was somethin' wrong with Fatty anyway."
And this was the epitaph of a dead dog on the Northland trail—less
scant than the epitaph of many another dog, of many a man.
CHAPTER II—THE SHE-WOLF
Breakfast eaten and the slim camp-outfit lashed to the sled, the men
turned their backs on the cheery fire and launched out into
the darkness. At once began to rise the cries that were fiercely sad
- cries that called through the darkness and cold to one another
and answered back. Conversation ceased. Daylight came at
nine o'clock. At midday the sky to the south warmed to rose-colour,
and marked where the bulge of the earth intervened between the
meridian sun and the northern world. But the rose-colour swiftly
faded. The grey light of day that remained lasted until three
o'clock, when it, too, faded, and the pall of the Arctic night
descended upon the lone and silent land.
As darkness came on, the hunting-cries to right and left and rear drew
closer—so close that more than once they sent surges of fear through the
toiling dogs, throwing them into short-lived panics.
At the conclusion of one such panic, when he and Henry had got the dogs
back in the traces, Bill said:
"I wisht they'd strike game somewheres, an' go away an' leave
"They do get on the nerves horrible," Henry sympathised.
They spoke no more until camp was made.
Henry was bending over and adding ice to the babbling pot of beans when
he was startled by the sound of a blow, an exclamation from Bill, and a sharp
snarling cry of pain from among the dogs. He straightened up in time to
see a dim form disappearing across the snow into the shelter of the
dark. Then he saw Bill, standing amid the dogs, half triumphant, half
crestfallen, in one hand a stout club, in the other the tail and part of the
body of a sun-cured salmon.
"It got half of it," he announced; "but I got a whack at it jes' the
same. D'ye hear it squeal?"
"What'd it look like?" Henry asked.
"Couldn't see. But it had four legs an' a mouth an' hair
an' looked like any dog."
"Must be a tame wolf, I reckon."
"It's damned tame, whatever it is, comin' in here at feedin' time an'
gettin' its whack of fish."
That night, when supper was finished and they sat on the oblong box and
pulled at their pipes, the circle of gleaming eyes drew in even closer than
"I wisht they'd spring up a bunch of moose or something, an' go away an'
leave us alone," Bill said.
Henry grunted with an intonation that was not all sympathy, and for a
quarter of an hour they sat on in silence, Henry staring at the fire, and
Bill at the circle of eyes that burned in the darkness just beyond the
"I wisht we was pullin' into McGurry right now," he began again.
"Shut up your wishin' and your croakin'," Henry burst out angrily. "Your
stomach's sour. That's what's ailin' you. Swallow a spoonful of
sody, an' you'll sweeten up wonderful an' be more pleasant company."
In the morning Henry was aroused by fervid blasphemy that proceeded from
the mouth of Bill. Henry propped himself up on an elbow and looked to
see his comrade standing among the dogs beside the replenished fire, his arms
raised in objurgation, his face distorted with passion.
"Hello!" Henry called. "What's up now?"
"Frog's gone," came the answer.
"I tell you yes."
Henry leaped out of the blankets and to the dogs. He counted
them with care, and then joined his partner in cursing the power of
the Wild that had robbed them of another dog.
"Frog was the strongest dog of the bunch," Bill pronounced finally.
"An' he was no fool dog neither," Henry added.
And so was recorded the second epitaph in two days.
A gloomy breakfast was eaten, and the four remaining dogs were harnessed
to the sled. The day was a repetition of the days that had gone
before. The men toiled without speech across the face of the frozen
world. The silence was unbroken save by the cries of their pursuers,
that, unseen, hung upon their rear. With the coming of night in the
mid-afternoon, the cries sounded closer as the pursuers drew in according to
their custom; and the dogs grew excited and frightened, and were guilty of
panics that tangled the traces and further depressed the two men.
"There, that'll fix you fool critters," Bill said with satisfaction that
night, standing erect at completion of his task.
Henry left the cooking to come and see. Not only had his
partner tied the dogs up, but he had tied them, after the Indian
fashion, with sticks. About the neck of each dog he had fastened a
leather thong. To this, and so close to the neck that the dog could
not get his teeth to it, he had tied a stout stick four or five feet
in length. The other end of the stick, in turn, was made fast to
a stake in the ground by means of a leather thong. The dog
was unable to gnaw through the leather at his own end of the stick. The
stick prevented him from getting at the leather that fastened the other
Henry nodded his head approvingly.
"It's the only contraption that'll ever hold One Ear," he said. "He can
gnaw through leather as clean as a knife an' jes' about half as quick.
They all'll be here in the mornin' hunkydory."
"You jes' bet they will," Bill affirmed. "If one of em' turns
up missin', I'll go without my coffee."
"They jes' know we ain't loaded to kill," Henry remarked at bed- time,
indicating the gleaming circle that hemmed them in. "If we could put a
couple of shots into 'em, they'd be more respectful. They come closer every
night. Get the firelight out of your eyes an' look hard—there!
Did you see that one?"
For some time the two men amused themselves with watching the movement
of vague forms on the edge of the firelight. By looking closely and
steadily at where a pair of eyes burned in the darkness, the form of the
animal would slowly take shape. They could even see these forms move at
A sound among the dogs attracted the men's attention. One Ear
was uttering quick, eager whines, lunging at the length of his
stick toward the darkness, and desisting now and again in order to
make frantic attacks on the stick with his teeth.
"Look at that, Bill," Henry whispered.
Full into the firelight, with a stealthy, sidelong movement, glided a
doglike animal. It moved with commingled mistrust and
daring, cautiously observing the men, its attention fixed on the dogs.
One Ear strained the full length of the stick toward the intruder
and whined with eagerness.
"That fool One Ear don't seem scairt much," Bill said in a
"It's a she-wolf," Henry whispered back, "an' that accounts for Fatty
an' Frog. She's the decoy for the pack. She draws out the dog an'
then all the rest pitches in an' eats 'm up."
The fire crackled. A log fell apart with a loud spluttering
noise. At the sound of it the strange animal leaped back into
"Henry, I'm a-thinkin'," Bill announced.
"I'm a-thinkin' that was the one I lambasted with the club."
"Ain't the slightest doubt in the world," was Henry's response.
"An' right here I want to remark," Bill went on, "that that animal's
familyarity with campfires is suspicious an' immoral."
"It knows for certain more'n a self-respectin' wolf ought to
know," Henry agreed. "A wolf that knows enough to come in with the
dogs at feedin' time has had experiences."
"Ol' Villan had a dog once that run away with the wolves,"
Bill cogitates aloud. "I ought to know. I shot it out of the pack
in a moose pasture over 'on Little Stick. An' Ol' Villan cried like
a baby. Hadn't seen it for three years, he said. Ben with
the wolves all that time."
"I reckon you've called the turn, Bill. That wolf's a dog,
an' it's eaten fish many's the time from the hand of man."
"An if I get a chance at it, that wolf that's a dog'll be jes' meat,"
Bill declared. "We can't afford to lose no more animals."
"But you've only got three cartridges," Henry objected.
"I'll wait for a dead sure shot," was the reply.
In the morning Henry renewed the fire and cooked breakfast to
the accompaniment of his partner's snoring.
"You was sleepin' jes' too comfortable for anything," Henry told him, as
he routed him out for breakfast. "I hadn't the heart to rouse
Bill began to eat sleepily. He noticed that his cup was empty
and started to reach for the pot. But the pot was beyond arm's
length and beside Henry.
"Say, Henry," he chided gently, "ain't you forgot somethin'?"
Henry looked about with great carefulness and shook his head.
Bill held up the empty cup.
"You don't get no coffee," Henry announced.
"Ain't run out?" Bill asked anxiously.
"Ain't thinkin' it'll hurt my digestion?"
A flush of angry blood pervaded Bill's face.
"Then it's jes' warm an' anxious I am to be hearin' you
explain yourself," he said.
"Spanker's gone," Henry answered.
Without haste, with the air of one resigned to misfortune Bill turned
his head, and from where he sat counted the dogs.
"How'd it happen?" he asked apathetically.
Henry shrugged his shoulders. "Don't know. Unless One Ear
gnawed 'm loose. He couldn't a-done it himself, that's sure."
"The darned cuss." Bill spoke gravely and slowly, with no hint
of the anger that was raging within. "Jes' because he couldn't
chew himself loose, he chews Spanker loose."
"Well, Spanker's troubles is over anyway; I guess he's digested by this
time an' cavortin' over the landscape in the bellies of twenty different
wolves," was Henry's epitaph on this, the latest lost dog. "Have some
But Bill shook his head.
"Go on," Henry pleaded, elevating the pot.
Bill shoved his cup aside. "I'll be ding-dong-danged if I do.
I said I wouldn't if ary dog turned up missin', an' I won't."
"It's darn good coffee," Henry said enticingly.
But Bill was stubborn, and he ate a dry breakfast washed down
with mumbled curses at One Ear for the trick he had played.
"I'll tie 'em up out of reach of each other to-night," Bill said, as
they took the trail.
They had travelled little more than a hundred yards, when Henry, who was
in front, bent down and picked up something with which his snowshoe had
collided. It was dark, and he could not see it, but he recognised it by
the touch. He flung it back, so that it struck the sled and bounced
along until it fetched up on Bill's snowshoes.
"Mebbe you'll need that in your business," Henry said.
Bill uttered an exclamation. It was all that was left of Spanker
- the stick with which he had been tied.
"They ate 'm hide an' all," Bill announced. "The stick's as
clean as a whistle. They've ate the leather offen both ends.
They're damn hungry, Henry, an' they'll have you an' me guessin'
before this trip's over."
Henry laughed defiantly. "I ain't been trailed this way by
wolves before, but I've gone through a whole lot worse an' kept my
health. Takes more'n a handful of them pesky critters to do for
yours truly, Bill, my son."
"I don't know, I don't know," Bill muttered ominously.
"Well, you'll know all right when we pull into McGurry."
"I ain't feelin' special enthusiastic," Bill persisted.
"You're off colour, that's what's the matter with you,"
Henry dogmatised. "What you need is quinine, an' I'm goin' to dose
you up stiff as soon as we make McGurry."
Bill grunted his disagreement with the diagnosis, and lapsed
into silence. The day was like all the days. Light came at
nine o'clock. At twelve o'clock the southern horizon was warmed by
the unseen sun; and then began the cold grey of afternoon that
would merge, three hours later, into night.
It was just after the sun's futile effort to appear, that Bill slipped
the rifle from under the sled-lashings and said:
"You keep right on, Henry, I'm goin' to see what I can see."
"You'd better stick by the sled," his partner protested.
"You've only got three cartridges, an' there's no tellin' what
"Who's croaking now?" Bill demanded triumphantly.
Henry made no reply, and plodded on alone, though often he cast anxious
glances back into the grey solitude where his partner had disappeared.
An hour later, taking advantage of the cut-offs around which the sled had to
go, Bill arrived.
"They're scattered an' rangin' along wide," he said: "keeping
up with us an' lookin' for game at the same time. You see,
they're sure of us, only they know they've got to wait to get us. In
the meantime they're willin' to pick up anything eatable that
"You mean they THINK they're sure of us," Henry objected pointedly.
But Bill ignored him. "I seen some of them. They're pretty
thin. They ain't had a bite in weeks I reckon, outside of Fatty an'
Frog an' Spanker; an' there's so many of 'em that that didn't go
far. They're remarkable thin. Their ribs is like wash-boards, an'
their stomachs is right up against their backbones. They're
pretty desperate, I can tell you. They'll be goin' mad, yet, an'
then watch out."
A few minutes later, Henry, who was now travelling behind the
sled, emitted a low, warning whistle. Bill turned and looked,
then quietly stopped the dogs. To the rear, from around the last
bend and plainly into view, on the very trail they had just
covered, trotted a furry, slinking form. Its nose was to the trail, and
it trotted with a peculiar, sliding, effortless gait. When
they halted, it halted, throwing up its head and regarding them
steadily with nostrils that twitched as it caught and studied the scent
"It's the she-wolf," Bill answered.
The dogs had laid down in the snow, and he walked past them to join his
partner in the sled. Together they watched the strange animal that had
pursued them for days and that had already accomplished the destruction of
half their dog-team.
After a searching scrutiny, the animal trotted forward a few steps. This
it repeated several times, till it was a short hundred yards away. It
paused, head up, close by a clump of spruce trees, and with sight and scent
studied the outfit of the watching men. It looked at them in a
strangely wistful way, after the manner of a dog; but in its wistfulness
there was none of the dog affection. It was a wistfulness bred of hunger, as
cruel as its own fangs, as merciless as the frost itself.
It was large for a wolf, its gaunt frame advertising the lines of an
animal that was among the largest of its kind.
"Stands pretty close to two feet an' a half at the shoulders," Henry
commented. "An' I'll bet it ain't far from five feet long."
"Kind of strange colour for a wolf," was Bill's criticism.
"I never seen a red wolf before. Looks almost cinnamon to me."
The animal was certainly not cinnamon-coloured. Its coat was
the true wolf-coat. The dominant colour was grey, and yet there was
to it a faint reddish hue—a hue that was baffling, that appeared
and disappeared, that was more like an illusion of the vision, now grey,
distinctly grey, and again giving hints and glints of a vague redness of
colour not classifiable in terms of ordinary experience.
"Looks for all the world like a big husky sled-dog," Bill said.
"I wouldn't be s'prised to see it wag its tail."
"Hello, you husky!" he called. "Come here, you
"Ain't a bit scairt of you," Henry laughed.
Bill waved his hand at it threateningly and shouted loudly; but
the animal betrayed no fear. The only change in it that they
could notice was an accession of alertness. It still regarded them
with the merciless wistfulness of hunger. They were meat, and it
was hungry; and it would like to go in and eat them if it dared.
"Look here, Henry," Bill said, unconsciously lowering his voice to a
whisper because of what he imitated. "We've got three cartridges.
But it's a dead shot. Couldn't miss it. It's got away with three
of our dogs, an' we oughter put a stop to it. What d'ye say?"
Henry nodded his consent. Bill cautiously slipped the gun
from under the sled-lashing. The gun was on the way to his
shoulder, but it never got there. For in that instant the she-wolf
leaped sidewise from the trail into the clump of spruce trees
The two men looked at each other. Henry whistled long
"I might have knowed it," Bill chided himself aloud as he replaced the
gun. "Of course a wolf that knows enough to come in with the dogs at
feedin' time, 'd know all about shooting-irons. I tell you right now,
Henry, that critter's the cause of all our trouble. We'd have six dogs at the
present time, 'stead of three, if it wasn't for her. An' I tell you
right now, Henry, I'm goin' to get her. She's too smart to be shot in
the open. But I'm goin' to lay for her. I'll bushwhack her as
sure as my name is Bill."
"You needn't stray off too far in doin' it," his
partner admonished. "If that pack ever starts to jump you, them
three cartridges'd be wuth no more'n three whoops in hell. Them
animals is damn hungry, an' once they start in, they'll sure get
They camped early that night. Three dogs could not drag the
sled so fast nor for so long hours as could six, and they were
showing unmistakable signs of playing out. And the men went early to
bed, Bill first seeing to it that the dogs were tied out of gnawing- reach
of one another.
But the wolves were growing bolder, and the men were aroused more than
once from their sleep. So near did the wolves approach, that the dogs
became frantic with terror, and it was necessary to replenish the fire from
time to time in order to keep the adventurous marauders at safer
"I've hearn sailors talk of sharks followin' a ship," Bill remarked, as
he crawled back into the blankets after one such replenishing of the
fire. "Well, them wolves is land sharks. They know their business
better'n we do, an' they ain't a-holdin' our trail this way for their
health. They're goin' to get us. They're sure goin' to get us,
"They've half got you a'ready, a-talkin' like that," Henry
retorted sharply. "A man's half licked when he says he is. An'
you're half eaten from the way you're goin' on about it."
"They've got away with better men than you an' me," Bill answered.
"Oh, shet up your croakin'. You make me all-fired tired."
Henry rolled over angrily on his side, but was surprised that Bill made
no similar display of temper. This was not Bill's way, for he was
easily angered by sharp words. Henry thought long over it before he
went to sleep, and as his eyelids fluttered down and he dozed off, the
thought in his mind was: "There's no mistakin' it, Bill's almighty
blue. I'll have to cheer him up to-morrow."
CHAPTER III—THE HUNGER CRY
The day began auspiciously. They had lost no dogs during
the night, and they swung out upon the trail and into the silence,
the darkness, and the cold with spirits that were fairly light.
Bill seemed to have forgotten his forebodings of the previous night,
and even waxed facetious with the dogs when, at midday, they
overturned the sled on a bad piece of trail.
It was an awkward mix-up. The sled was upside down and
jammed between a tree-trunk and a huge rock, and they were forced
to unharness the dogs in order to straighten out the tangle. The
two men were bent over the sled and trying to right it, when
Henry observed One Ear sidling away.
"Here, you, One Ear!" he cried, straightening up and turning around on
But One Ear broke into a run across the snow, his traces trailing behind
him. And there, out in the snow of their back track, was the she-wolf
waiting for him. As he neared her, he became suddenly cautious.
He slowed down to an alert and mincing walk and then stopped. He
regarded her carefully and dubiously, yet desirefully. She seemed to smile at
him, showing her teeth in an ingratiating rather than a menacing way.
She moved toward him a few steps, playfully, and then halted. One Ear
drew near to her, still alert and cautious, his tail and ears in the air, his
head held high.
He tried to sniff noses with her, but she retreated playfully
and coyly. Every advance on his part was accompanied by
a corresponding retreat on her part. Step by step she was luring
him away from the security of his human companionship. Once, as
though a warning had in vague ways flitted through his intelligence,
he turned his head and looked back at the overturned sled, at
his team-mates, and at the two men who were calling to him.
But whatever idea was forming in his mind, was dissipated by
the she-wolf, who advanced upon him, sniffed noses with him for a fleeting
instant, and then resumed her coy retreat before his renewed advances.
In the meantime, Bill had bethought himself of the rifle. But
it was jammed beneath the overturned sled, and by the time Henry
had helped him to right the load, One Ear and the she-wolf were too close
together and the distance too great to risk a shot.
Too late One Ear learned his mistake. Before they saw the
cause, the two men saw him turn and start to run back toward them.
Then, approaching at right angles to the trail and cutting off his retreat
they saw a dozen wolves, lean and grey, bounding across the snow. On
the instant, the she-wolf's coyness and playfulness disappeared. With a
snarl she sprang upon One Ear. He thrust her off with his shoulder,
and, his retreat cut off and still intent on regaining the sled, he altered
his course in an attempt to circle around to it. More wolves were
appearing every moment and joining in the chase. The she-wolf was one
leap behind One Ear and holding her own.
"Where are you goin'?" Henry suddenly demanded, laying his hand on his
Bill shook it off. "I won't stand it," he said. "They ain't
a- goin' to get any more of our dogs if I can help it."
Gun in hand, he plunged into the underbrush that lined the side of the
trail. His intention was apparent enough. Taking the sled as the
centre of the circle that One Ear was making, Bill planned to tap that circle
at a point in advance of the pursuit. With his rifle, in the broad
daylight, it might be possible for him to awe the wolves and save the
"Say, Bill!" Henry called after him. "Be careful! Don't take
Henry sat down on the sled and watched. There was nothing else
for him to do. Bill had already gone from sight; but now and
again, appearing and disappearing amongst the underbrush and the
scattered clumps of spruce, could be seen One Ear. Henry judged his
case to be hopeless. The dog was thoroughly alive to its danger, but
it was running on the outer circle while the wolf-pack was running on the
inner and shorter circle. It was vain to think of One Ear
so outdistancing his pursuers as to be able to cut across their circle in
advance of them and to regain the sled.
The different lines were rapidly approaching a point.
Somewhere out there in the snow, screened from his sight by trees
and thickets, Henry knew that the wolf-pack, One Ear, and Bill were coming
together. All too quickly, far more quickly than he had expected, it
happened. He heard a shot, then two shots, in rapid succession, and he
knew that Bill's ammunition was gone. Then he heard a great outcry of
snarls and yelps. He recognised One Ear's yell of pain and terror, and
he heard a wolf-cry that bespoke a stricken animal. And that was
all. The snarls ceased. The yelping died away. Silence
settled down again over the lonely land.
He sat for a long while upon the sled. There was no need for
him to go and see what had happened. He knew it as though it had
taken place before his eyes. Once, he roused with a start and
hastily got the axe out from underneath the lashings. But for some
time longer he sat and brooded, the two remaining dogs crouching
and trembling at his feet.
At last he arose in a weary manner, as though all the resilience had
gone out of his body, and proceeded to fasten the dogs to the sled. He
passed a rope over his shoulder, a man-trace, and pulled with the dogs.
He did not go far. At the first hint of darkness he hastened to make a
camp, and he saw to it that he had a generous supply of firewood. He
fed the dogs, cooked and ate his supper, and made his bed close to the
But he was not destined to enjoy that bed. Before his eyes
closed the wolves had drawn too near for safety. It no longer required
an effort of the vision to see them. They were all about him and
the fire, in a narrow circle, and he could see them plainly in
the firelight lying down, sitting up, crawling forward on their bellies,
or slinking back and forth. They even slept. Here and there he
could see one curled up in the snow like a dog, taking the sleep that was now
He kept the fire brightly blazing, for he knew that it alone intervened
between the flesh of his body and their hungry fangs. His two dogs stayed
close by him, one on either side, leaning against him for protection, crying
and whimpering, and at times snarling desperately when a wolf approached a
little closer than usual. At such moments, when his dogs snarled, the
whole circle would be agitated, the wolves coming to their feet and
pressing tentatively forward, a chorus of snarls and eager yelps
rising about him. Then the circle would lie down again, and here
and there a wolf would resume its broken nap.
But this circle had a continuous tendency to draw in upon him.
Bit by bit, an inch at a time, with here a wolf bellying forward,
and there a wolf bellying forward, the circle would narrow until
the brutes were almost within springing distance. Then he would
seize brands from the fire and hurl them into the pack. A hasty
drawing back always resulted, accompanied by an yelps and frightened
snarls when a well-aimed brand struck and scorched a too daring animal.
Morning found the man haggard and worn, wide-eyed from want
of sleep. He cooked breakfast in the darkness, and at nine
o'clock, when, with the coming of daylight, the wolf-pack drew back, he
set about the task he had planned through the long hours of the
night. Chopping down young saplings, he made them cross-bars of a
scaffold by lashing them high up to the trunks of standing trees. Using
the sled-lashing for a heaving rope, and with the aid of the dogs,
he hoisted the coffin to the top of the scaffold.
"They got Bill, an' they may get me, but they'll sure never get you,
young man," he said, addressing the dead body in its tree- sepulchre.
Then he took the trail, the lightened sled bounding along behind the
willing dogs; for they, too, knew that safety lay open in the gaining of Fort
McGurry. The wolves were now more open in their pursuit, trotting
sedately behind and ranging along on either side, their red tongues lolling
out, their-lean sides showing the udulating ribs with every movement.
They were very lean, mere skin-bags stretched over bony frames, with strings
for muscles—so lean that Henry found it in his mind to marvel that they
still kept their feet and did not collapse forthright in the snow.
He did not dare travel until dark. At midday, not only did the
sun warm the southern horizon, but it even thrust its upper rim, pale and
golden, above the sky-line. He received it as a sign. The days
were growing longer. The sun was returning. But scarcely had the
cheer of its light departed, than he went into camp. There were still
several hours of grey daylight and sombre twilight, and he utilised them in
chopping an enormous supply of fire-wood.
With night came horror. Not only were the starving wolves
growing bolder, but lack of sleep was telling upon Henry. He dozed
despite himself, crouching by the fire, the blankets about his
shoulders, the axe between his knees, and on either side a dog pressing
close against him. He awoke once and saw in front of him, not a
dozen feet away, a big grey wolf, one of the largest of the pack.
And even as he looked, the brute deliberately stretched himself after the
manner of a lazy dog, yawning full in his face and looking upon him with a
possessive eye, as if, in truth, he were merely a delayed meal that was soon
to be eaten.
This certitude was shown by the whole pack. Fully a score he
could count, staring hungrily at him or calmly sleeping in the snow. They
reminded him of children gathered about a spread table and awaiting
permission to begin to eat. And he was the food they were to eat!
He wondered how and when the meal would begin.
As he piled wood on the fire he discovered an appreciation of his own
body which he had never felt before. He watched his moving muscles and
was interested in the cunning mechanism of his fingers. By the light of the
fire he crooked his fingers slowly and repeatedly now one at a time, now all
together, spreading them wide or making quick gripping movements. He
studied the nail-formation, and prodded the finger-tips, now sharply, and
again softly, gauging the while the nerve-sensations produced. It
fascinated him, and he grew suddenly fond of this subtle flesh of his that
worked so beautifully and smoothly and delicately. Then he would cast
a glance of fear at the wolf-circle drawn expectantly about him, and like
a blow the realisation would strike him that this wonderful body of his, this
living flesh, was no more than so much meat, a quest of ravenous animals, to
be torn and slashed by their hungry fangs, to be sustenance to them as the
moose and the rabbit had often been sustenance to him.
He came out of a doze that was half nightmare, to see the
red-hued she-wolf before him. She was not more than half a dozen feet
away sitting in the snow and wistfully regarding him. The two dogs
were whimpering and snarling at his feet, but she took no notice
of them. She was looking at the man, and for some time he
returned her look. There was nothing threatening about her. She
looked at him merely with a great wistfulness, but he knew it to be
the wistfulness of an equally great hunger. He was the food, and
the sight of him excited in her the gustatory sensations. Her
mouth opened, the saliva drooled forth, and she licked her chops with
the pleasure of anticipation.
A spasm of fear went through him. He reached hastily for a
brand to throw at her. But even as he reached, and before his
fingers had closed on the missile, she sprang back into safety; and he
knew that she was used to having things thrown at her. She had
snarled as she sprang away, baring her white fangs to their roots, all
her wistfulness vanishing, being replaced by a carnivorous malignity that
made him shudder. He glanced at the hand that held the brand, noticing
the cunning delicacy of the fingers that gripped it, how they adjusted
themselves to all the inequalities of the surface, curling over and under and
about the rough wood, and one little finger, too close to the burning portion
of the brand, sensitively and automatically writhing back from the hurtful
heat to a cooler gripping-place; and in the same instant he seemed to see a
vision of those same sensitive and delicate fingers being crushed and
torn by the white teeth of the she-wolf. Never had he been so fond
of this body of his as now when his tenure of it was so precarious.
All night, with burning brands, he fought off the hungry pack. When he
dozed despite himself, the whimpering and snarling of the dogs aroused
him. Morning came, but for the first time the light of day failed to
scatter the wolves. The man waited in vain for them to go. They
remained in a circle about him and his fire, displaying an arrogance of
possession that shook his courage born of the morning light.
He made one desperate attempt to pull out on the trail. But
the moment he left the protection of the fire, the boldest wolf leaped for
him, but leaped short. He saved himself by springing back, the jaws
snapping together a scant six inches from his thigh. The rest of the
pack was now up and surging upon him, and a throwing of firebrands right and
left was necessary to drive them back to a respectful distance.
Even in the daylight he did not dare leave the fire to chop
fresh wood. Twenty feet away towered a huge dead spruce. He spent
half the day extending his campfire to the tree, at any moment a
half dozen burning faggots ready at hand to fling at his enemies.
Once at the tree, he studied the surrounding forest in order to fell
the tree in the direction of the most firewood.
The night was a repetition of the night before, save that the need for
sleep was becoming overpowering. The snarling of his dogs was losing
its efficacy. Besides, they were snarling all the time, and his
benumbed and drowsy senses no longer took note of changing pitch and
intensity. He awoke with a start. The she-wolf was less than a
yard from him. Mechanically, at short range, without letting go of it,
he thrust a brand full into her open and snarling mouth. She sprang
away, yelling with pain, and while he took delight in the smell of burning
flesh and hair, he watched her shaking her head and growling wrathfully a
score of feet away.
But this time, before he dozed again, he tied a burning pine-knot to his
right hand. His eyes were closed but few minutes when the burn of the
flame on his flesh awakened him. For several hours he adhered to this
programme. Every time he was thus awakened he drove back the wolves
with flying brands, replenished the fire, and rearranged the pine-knot on his
hand. All worked well, but there came a time when he fastened the
pine-knot insecurely. As his eyes closed it fell away from his
He dreamed. It seemed to him that he was in Fort McGurry. It
was warm and comfortable, and he was playing cribbage with the
Factor. Also, it seemed to him that the fort was besieged by wolves.
They were howling at the very gates, and sometimes he and the
Factor paused from the game to listen and laugh at the futile efforts
of the wolves to get in. And then, so strange was the dream,
there was a crash. The door was burst open. He could see the
wolves flooding into the big living-room of the fort. They were
leaping straight for him and the Factor. With the bursting open of
the door, the noise of their howling had increased tremendously.
This howling now bothered him. His dream was merging into
something else—he knew not what; but through it all, following
him, persisted the howling.
And then he awoke to find the howling real. There was a
great snarling and yelping. The wolves were rushing him. They
were all about him and upon him. The teeth of one had closed upon his
arm. Instinctively he leaped into the fire, and as he leaped, he felt the
sharp slash of teeth that tore through the flesh of his leg. Then began a
fire fight. His stout mittens temporarily protected his hands, and he
scooped live coals into the air in all directions, until the campfire took on
the semblance of a volcano.
But it could not last long. His face was blistering in the
heat, his eyebrows and lashes were singed off, and the heat was
becoming unbearable to his feet. With a flaming brand in each hand,
he sprang to the edge of the fire. The wolves had been driven
back. On every side, wherever the live coals had fallen, the snow
was sizzling, and every little while a retiring wolf, with wild leap and
snort and snarl, announced that one such live coal had been stepped
Flinging his brands at the nearest of his enemies, the man thrust his
smouldering mittens into the snow and stamped about to cool his feet.
His two dogs were missing, and he well knew that they had served as a course
in the protracted meal which had begun days before with Fatty, the last
course of which would likely be himself in the days to follow.
"You ain't got me yet!" he cried, savagely shaking his fist at
the hungry beasts; and at the sound of his voice the whole circle
was agitated, there was a general snarl, and the she-wolf slid up close to
him across the snow and watched him with hungry wistfulness.
He set to work to carry out a new idea that had come to him.
He extended the fire into a large circle. Inside this circle
he crouched, his sleeping outfit under him as a protection against
the melting snow. When he had thus disappeared within his shelter
of flame, the whole pack came curiously to the rim of the fire to see what
had become of him. Hitherto they had been denied access to the fire,
and they now settled down in a close-drawn circle, like so many dogs,
blinking and yawning and stretching their lean bodies in the unaccustomed
warmth. Then the she-wolf sat down, pointed her nose at a star, and
began to howl. One by one the wolves joined her, till the whole pack,
on haunches, with noses pointed skyward, was howling its hunger cry.
Dawn came, and daylight. The fire was burning low. The fuel
had run out, and there was need to get more. The man attempted to
step out of his circle of flame, but the wolves surged to meet
him. Burning brands made them spring aside, but they no longer
sprang back. In vain he strove to drive them back. As he gave up
and stumbled inside his circle, a wolf leaped for him, missed, and landed
with all four feet in the coals. It cried out with terror, at the same
time snarling, and scrambled back to cool its paws in the snow.
The man sat down on his blankets in a crouching position. His
body leaned forward from the hips. His shoulders, relaxed and
drooping, and his head on his knees advertised that he had given up
the struggle. Now and again he raised his head to note the dying
down of the fire. The circle of flame and coals was breaking
into segments with openings in between. These openings grew in
size, the segments diminished.
"I guess you can come an' get me any time," he mumbled.
"Anyway, I'm goin' to sleep."
Once he awakened, and in an opening in the circle, directly in front of
him, he saw the she-wolf gazing at him.
Again he awakened, a little later, though it seemed hours to him. A
mysterious change had taken place—so mysterious a change that he was
shocked wider awake. Something had happened. He could
not understand at first. Then he discovered it. The wolves were
gone. Remained only the trampled snow to show how closely they had pressed
him. Sleep was welling up and gripping him again, his head was sinking
down upon his knees, when he roused with a sudden start.
There were cries of men, and churn of sleds, the creaking of harnesses,
and the eager whimpering of straining dogs. Four sleds pulled in from
the river bed to the camp among the trees. Half a dozen men were about
the man who crouched in the centre of the dying fire. They were shaking
and prodding him into consciousness. He looked at them like a drunken man and
maundered in strange, sleepy speech.
"Red she-wolf. . . . Come in with the dogs at feedin' time. . . . First
she ate the dog-food. . . . Then she ate the dogs. . . . An' after that she
ate Bill. . . . "
"Where's Lord Alfred?" one of the men bellowed in his ear, shaking him
He shook his head slowly. "No, she didn't eat him. . . .
He's roostin' in a tree at the last camp."
"Dead?" the man shouted.
"An' in a box," Henry answered. He jerked his shoulder
petulantly away from the grip of his questioner. "Say, you lemme alone.
. . . I'm jes' plump tuckered out. . . . Goo' night, everybody."
His eyes fluttered and went shut. His chin fell forward on
his chest. And even as they eased him down upon the blankets
his snores were rising on the frosty air.
But there was another sound. Far and faint it was, in the
remote distance, the cry of the hungry wolf-pack as it took the trail
of other meat than the man it had just missed.
CHAPTER I—THE BATTLE OF THE FANGS
It was the she-wolf who had first caught the sound of men's voices and
the whining of the sled-dogs; and it was the she-wolf who was first to spring
away from the cornered man in his circle of dying flame. The pack had
been loath to forego the kill it had hunted down, and it lingered for several
minutes, making sure of the sounds, and then it, too, sprang away on the
trail made by the she- wolf.
Running at the forefront of the pack was a large grey wolf—one of its
several leaders. It was he who directed the pack's course on the heels
of the she-wolf. It was he who snarled warningly at the younger members
of the pack or slashed at them with his fangs when they ambitiously tried to
pass him. And it was he who increased the pace when he sighted the
she-wolf, now trotting slowly across the snow.
She dropped in alongside by him, as though it were her
appointed position, and took the pace of the pack. He did not snarl at
her, nor show his teeth, when any leap of hers chanced to put her
in advance of him. On the contrary, he seemed kindly disposed
toward her—too kindly to suit her, for he was prone to run near to
her, and when he ran too near it was she who snarled and showed
her teeth. Nor was she above slashing his shoulder sharply
on occasion. At such times he betrayed no anger. He merely sprang
to the side and ran stiffly ahead for several awkward leaps, in carriage
and conduct resembling an abashed country swain.
This was his one trouble in the running of the pack; but she had other
troubles. On her other side ran a gaunt old wolf, grizzled and marked
with the scars of many battles. He ran always on her right side.
The fact that he had but one eye, and that the left eye, might account for
this. He, also, was addicted to crowding her, to veering toward her
till his scarred muzzle touched her body, or shoulder, or neck. As with
the running mate on the left, she repelled these attentions with her teeth;
but when both bestowed their attentions at the same time she was roughly
jostled, being compelled, with quick snaps to either side, to drive
both lovers away and at the same time to maintain her forward leap
with the pack and see the way of her feet before her. At such times
her running mates flashed their teeth and growled threateningly across at
each other. They might have fought, but even wooing and its rivalry
waited upon the more pressing hunger-need of the pack.
After each repulse, when the old wolf sheered abruptly away from the
sharp-toothed object of his desire, he shouldered against a young
three-year-old that ran on his blind right side. This young wolf had
attained his full size; and, considering the weak and famished condition of
the pack, he possessed more than the average vigour and spirit.
Nevertheless, he ran with his head even with the shoulder of his one-eyed
elder. When he ventured to run abreast of the older wolf (which was
seldom), a snarl and a snap sent him back even with the shoulder again.
Sometimes, however, he dropped cautiously and slowly behind and edged in
between the old leader and the she-wolf. This was doubly resented, even
triply resented. When she snarled her displeasure, the old leader
would whirl on the three-year-old. Sometimes she whirled with
him. And sometimes the young leader on the left whirled, too.
At such times, confronted by three sets of savage teeth, the young wolf
stopped precipitately, throwing himself back on his haunches, with fore-legs
stiff, mouth menacing, and mane bristling. This confusion in the front
of the moving pack always caused confusion in the rear. The wolves
behind collided with the young wolf and expressed their displeasure by
administering sharp nips on his hind-legs and flanks. He was laying up
trouble for himself, for lack of food and short tempers went together; but
with the boundless faith of youth he persisted in repeating the
manoeuvre every little while, though it never succeeded in gaining
anything for him but discomfiture.
Had there been food, love-making and fighting would have gone on apace,
and the pack-formation would have been broken up. But the situation of
the pack was desperate. It was lean with long- standing hunger.
It ran below its ordinary speed. At the rear limped the weak members,
the very young and the very old. At the front were the strongest.
Yet all were more like skeletons than full-bodied wolves. Nevertheless,
with the exception of the ones that limped, the movements of the animals were
eftortless and tireless. Their stringy muscles seemed founts of
inexhaustible energy. Behind every steel-like contraction of a muscle,
lay another steel-like contraction, and another, and another, apparently
They ran many miles that day. They ran through the night. And
the next day found them still running. They were running over
the surface of a world frozen and dead. No life stirred. They
alone moved through the vast inertness. They alone were alive, and
they sought for other things that were alive in order that they
might devour them and continue to live.
They crossed low divides and ranged a dozen small streams in
a lower-lying country before their quest was rewarded. Then
they came upon moose. It was a big bull they first found. Here
was meat and life, and it was guarded by no mysterious fires nor
flying missiles of flame. Splay hoofs and palmated antlers they knew,
and they flung their customary patience and caution to the wind.
It was a brief fight and fierce. The big bull was beset on
every side. He ripped them open or split their skulls with
shrewdly driven blows of his great hoofs. He crushed them and broke
them on his large horns. He stamped them into the snow under him in
the wallowing struggle. But he was foredoomed, and he went down
with the she-wolf tearing savagely at his throat, and with other
teeth fixed everywhere upon him, devouring him alive, before ever his last
struggles ceased or his last damage had been wrought.
There was food in plenty. The bull weighed over eight
hundred pounds—fully twenty pounds of meat per mouth for the
forty-odd wolves of the pack. But if they could fast prodigiously,
they could feed prodigiously, and soon a few scattered bones were all that
remained of the splendid live brute that had faced the pack a few hours
There was now much resting and sleeping. With full
stomachs, bickering and quarrelling began among the younger males, and
this continued through the few days that followed before the
breaking-up of the pack. The famine was over. The wolves were now
in the country of game, and though they still hunted in pack, they
hunted more cautiously, cutting out heavy cows or crippled old bulls
from the small moose-herds they ran across.
There came a day, in this land of plenty, when the wolf-pack split in
half and went in different directions. The she-wolf, the young leader
on her left, and the one-eyed elder on her right, led their half of the pack
down to the Mackenzie River and across into the lake country to the
east. Each day this remnant of the pack dwindled. Two by two,
male and female, the wolves were deserting. Occasionally a solitary male was
driven out by the sharp teeth of his rivals. In the end there remained
only four: the she-wolf, the young leader, the one-eyed one, and the
ambitious three-year- old.
The she-wolf had by now developed a ferocious temper. Her
three suitors all bore the marks of her teeth. Yet they never replied
in kind, never defended themselves against her. They turned
their shoulders to her most savage slashes, and with wagging tails
and mincing steps strove to placate her wrath. But if they were
all mildness toward her, they were all fierceness toward one another. The
three-year-old grew too ambitious in his fierceness. He caught the
one-eyed elder on his blind side and ripped his ear into ribbons.
Though the grizzled old fellow could see only on one side, against the youth
and vigour of the other he brought into play the wisdom of long years of
experience. His lost eye and his scarred muzzle bore evidence to the
nature of his experience. He had survived too many battles to be in
doubt for a moment about what to do.
The battle began fairly, but it did not end fairly. There was
no telling what the outcome would have been, for the third wolf joined the
elder, and together, old leader and young leader, they attacked the ambitious
three-year-old and proceeded to destroy him. He was beset on either
side by the merciless fangs of his erstwhile comrades. Forgotten were
the days they had hunted together, the game they had pulled down, the famine
they had suffered. That business was a thing of the past. The
business of love was at hand—ever a sterner and crueller business than that
And in the meanwhile, the she-wolf, the cause of it all, sat
down contentedly on her haunches and watched. She was even
pleased. This was her day—and it came not often—when manes bristled,
and fang smote fang or ripped and tore the yielding flesh, all for
the possession of her.
And in the business of love the three-year-old, who had made this his
first adventure upon it, yielded up his life. On either side of his
body stood his two rivals. They were gazing at the she- wolf, who sat
smiling in the snow. But the elder leader was wise, very wise, in love
even as in battle. The younger leader turned his head to lick a wound
on his shoulder. The curve of his neck was turned toward his
rival. With his one eye the elder saw the opportunity. He darted
in low and closed with his fangs. It was a long, ripping slash, and
deep as well. His teeth, in passing, burst the wall of the great vein
of the throat. Then he leaped clear.
The young leader snarled terribly, but his snarl broke midmost into a
tickling cough. Bleeding and coughing, already stricken, he sprang at
the elder and fought while life faded from him, his legs going weak beneath
him, the light of day dulling on his eyes, his blows and springs falling
shorter and shorter.
And all the while the she-wolf sat on her haunches and smiled.
She was made glad in vague ways by the battle, for this was the
love- making of the Wild, the sex-tragedy of the natural world that
was tragedy only to those that died. To those that survived it was
not tragedy, but realisation and achievement.
When the young leader lay in the snow and moved no more, One Eye stalked
over to the she-wolf. His carriage was one of mingled triumph and
caution. He was plainly expectant of a rebuff, and he was just as
plainly surprised when her teeth did not flash out at him in anger. For
the first time she met him with a kindly manner. She sniffed noses with him,
and even condescended to leap about and frisk and play with him in quite
puppyish fashion. And he, for all his grey years and sage experience,
behaved quite as puppyishly and even a little more foolishly.
Forgotten already were the vanquished rivals and the love-tale
red—written on the snow. Forgotten, save once, when old One
Eye stopped for a moment to lick his stiffening wounds. Then it
was that his lips half writhed into a snarl, and the hair of his neck and
shoulders involuntarily bristled, while he half crouched for a spring, his
claws spasmodically clutching into the snow-surface for firmer footing.
But it was all forgotten the next moment, as he sprang after the she-wolf,
who was coyly leading him a chase through the woods.
After that they ran side by side, like good friends who have come to an
understanding. The days passed by, and they kept together, hunting
their meat and killing and eating it in common. After a time the
she-wolf began to grow restless. She seemed to be searching for
something that she could not find. The hollows under fallen trees
seemed to attract her, and she spent much time nosing about among the larger
snow-piled crevices in the rocks and in the caves of overhanging banks.
Old One Eye was not interested at all, but he followed her good-naturedly in
her quest, and when her investigations in particular places were unusually
protracted, he would lie down and wait until she was ready to go on.
They did not remain in one place, but travelled across country until
they regained the Mackenzie River, down which they slowly went, leaving it
often to hunt game along the small streams that entered it, but always
returning to it again. Sometimes they chanced upon other wolves,
usually in pairs; but there was no friendliness of intercourse displayed on
either side, no gladness at meeting, no desire to return to the
pack-formation. Several times they encountered solitary wolves.
These were always males, and they were pressingly insistent on joining with
One Eye and his mate. This he resented, and when she stood shoulder to
shoulder with him, bristling and showing her teeth, the aspiring
solitary ones would back off, turn-tail, and continue on their lonely
One moonlight night, running through the quiet forest, One Eye suddenly
halted. His muzzle went up, his tail stiffened, and his nostrils
dilated as he scented the air. One foot also he held up, after the
manner of a dog. He was not satisfied, and he continued to smell the
air, striving to understand the message borne upon it to him. One
careless sniff had satisfied his mate, and she trotted on to reassure
him. Though he followed her, he was still dubious, and he could not
forbear an occasional halt in order more carefully to study the
She crept out cautiously on the edge of a large open space in the midst
of the trees. For some time she stood alone. Then One
Eye, creeping and crawling, every sense on the alert, every hair radiating
infinite suspicion, joined her. They stood side by side, watching and
listening and smelling.
To their ears came the sounds of dogs wrangling and scuffling,
the guttural cries of men, the sharper voices of scolding women, and once
the shrill and plaintive cry of a child. With the exception of the huge
bulks of the skin-lodges, little could be seen save the flames of the fire,
broken by the movements of intervening bodies, and the smoke rising slowly on
the quiet air. But to their nostrils came the myriad smells of an
Indian camp, carrying a story that was largely incomprehensible to One Eye,
but every detail of which the she-wolf knew.
She was strangely stirred, and sniffed and sniffed with an increasing
delight. But old One Eye was doubtful. He betrayed
his apprehension, and started tentatively to go. She turned.
and touched his neck with her muzzle in a reassuring way, then
regarded the camp again. A new wistfulness was in her face, but it was
not the wistfulness of hunger. She was thrilling to a desire
that urged her to go forward, to be in closer to that fire, to
be squabbling with the dogs, and to be avoiding and dodging the stumbling
feet of men.
One Eye moved impatiently beside her; her unrest came back upon her, and
she knew again her pressing need to find the thing for which she
searched. She turned and trotted back into the forest, to the great
relief of One Eye, who trotted a little to the fore until they were well
within the shelter of the trees.
As they slid along, noiseless as shadows, in the moonlight, they came
upon a run-way. Both noses went down to the footprints in
the snow. These footprints were very fresh. One Eye ran
ahead cautiously, his mate at his heels. The broad pads of their
feet were spread wide and in contact with the snow were like velvet. One
Eye caught sight of a dim movement of white in the midst of the white.
His sliding gait had been deceptively swift, but it was as nothing to the
speed at which he now ran. Before him was bounding the faint patch of
white he had discovered.
They were running along a narrow alley flanked on either side by
a growth of young spruce. Through the trees the mouth of the
alley could be seen, opening out on a moonlit glade. Old One Eye
was rapidly overhauling the fleeing shape of white. Bound by bound
he gained. Now he was upon it. One leap more and his teeth would
be sinking into it. But that leap was never made. High in the
air, and straight up, soared the shape of white, now a struggling snowshoe
rabbit that leaped and bounded, executing a fantastic dance there above him
in the air and never once returning to earth.
One Eye sprang back with a snort of sudden fright, then shrank down to
the snow and crouched, snarling threats at this thing of fear he did not
understand. But the she-wolf coolly thrust past him. She poised
for a moment, then sprang for the dancing rabbit. She, too, soared
high, but not so high as the quarry, and her teeth clipped emptily together
with 'a metallic snap. She made another leap, and another.
Her mate had slowly relaxed from his crouch and was watching her. He now
evinced displeasure at her repeated failures, and himself made a mighty
spring upward. His teeth closed upon the rabbit, and he bore it back to
earth with him. But at the same time there was a suspicious crackling
movement beside him, and his astonished eye saw a young spruce sapling
bending down above him to strike him. His jaws let go their grip, and he
leaped backward to escape this strange danger, his lips drawn back from his
fangs, his throat snarling, every hair bristling with rage and fright.
And in that moment the sapling reared its slender length upright and the
rabbit soared dancing in the air again.
The she-wolf was angry. She sank her fangs into her
mate's shoulder in reproof; and he, frightened, unaware of
what constituted this new onslaught, struck back ferociously and in still
greater fright, ripping down the side of the she-wolf's muzzle. For him
to resent such reproof was equally unexpected to her, and she sprang upon him
in snarling indignation. Then he discovered his mistake and tried to
placate her. But she proceeded to punish him roundly, until he gave
over all attempts at placation, and whirled in a circle, his head away from
her, his shoulders receiving the punishment of her teeth.
In the meantime the rabbit danced above them in the air. The
she- wolf sat down in the snow, and old One Eye, now more in fear of
his mate than of the mysterious sapling, again sprang for the rabbit. As
he sank back with it between his teeth, he kept his eye on the sapling.
As before, it followed him back to earth. He crouched down under the
impending blow, his hair bristling, but his teeth still keeping tight hold of
the rabbit. But the blow did not fall. The sapling remained bent above
him. When he moved it moved, and he growled at it through his clenched
jaws; when he remained still, it remained still, and he concluded it was
safer to continue remaining still. Yet the warm blood of the rabbit
tasted good in his mouth.
It was his mate who relieved him from the quandary in which he found
himself. She took the rabbit from him, and while the sapling swayed and
teetered threateningly above her she calmly gnawed off the rabbit's
head. At once the sapling shot up, and after that gave no more trouble,
remaining in the decorous and perpendicular position in which nature had
intended it to grow. Then, between them, the she-wolf and One Eye
devoured the game which the mysterious sapling had caught for them.
There were other run-ways and alleys where rabbits were hanging in the
air, and the wolf-pair prospected them all, the she-wolf leading the way, old
One Eye following and observant, learning the method of robbing snares—a
knowledge destined to stand him in good stead in the days to come.
CHAPTER II—THE LAIR
For two days the she-wolf and One Eye hung about the Indian camp. He was
worried and apprehensive, yet the camp lured his mate and she was loath to
depart. But when, one morning, the air was rent with the report of a
rifle close at hand, and a bullet smashed against a tree trunk several inches
from One Eye's head, they hesitated no more, but went off on a long, swinging
lope that put quick miles between them and the danger.
They did not go far—a couple of days' journey. The
she-wolf's need to find the thing for which she searched had now
become imperative. She was getting very heavy, and could run but
slowly. Once, in the pursuit of a rabbit, which she ordinarily would
have caught with ease, she gave over and lay down and rested. One
Eye came to her; but when he touched her neck gently with his muzzle she
snapped at him with such quick fierceness that he tumbled over backward and
cut a ridiculous figure in his effort to escape her teeth. Her temper
was now shorter than ever; but he had become more patient than ever and more
And then she found the thing for which she sought. It was a
few miles up a small stream that in the summer time flowed into
the Mackenzie, but that then was frozen over and frozen down to its rocky
bottom—a dead stream of solid white from source to mouth. The she-wolf was
trotting wearily along, her mate well in advance, when she came upon the
overhanging, high clay-bank. She turned aside and trotted over to
it. The wear and tear of spring storms and melting snows had
underwashed the bank and in one place had made a small cave out of a narrow
She paused at the mouth of the cave and looked the wall
over carefully. Then, on one side and the other, she ran along the
base of the wall to where its abrupt bulk merged from the
softer-lined landscape. Returning to the cave, she entered its narrow
mouth. For a short three feet she was compelled to crouch, then the
walls widened and rose higher in a little round chamber nearly six feet in
diameter. The roof barely cleared her head. It was dry
and cosey. She inspected it with painstaking care, while One Eye,
who had returned, stood in the entrance and patiently watched her.
She dropped her head, with her nose to the ground and directed toward
a point near to her closely bunched feet, and around this point
she circled several times; then, with a tired sigh that was almost
a grunt, she curled her body in, relaxed her legs, and dropped down, her
head toward the entrance. One Eye, with pointed, interested ears,
laughed at her, and beyond, outlined against the white light, she could see
the brush of his tail waving good-naturedly. Her own ears, with a
snuggling movement, laid their sharp points backward and down against the
head for a moment, while her mouth opened and her tongue lolled peaceably
out, and in this way she expressed that she was pleased and satisfied.
One Eye was hungry. Though he lay down in the entrance and
slept, his sleep was fitful. He kept awaking and cocking his ears at
the bright world without, where the April sun was blazing across
the snow. When he dozed, upon his ears would steal the faint
whispers of hidden trickles of running water, and he would rouse and
listen intently. The sun had come back, and all the awakening
Northland world was calling to him. Life was stirring. The feel
of spring was in the air, the feel of growing life under the snow, of
sap ascending in the trees, of buds bursting the shackles of the frost.
He cast anxious glances at his mate, but she showed no desire to get
up. He looked outside, and half a dozen snow-birds fluttered across his
field of vision. He started to get up, then looked back to his mate
again, and settled down and dozed. A shrill and minute singing stole
upon his heating. Once, and twice, he sleepily brushed his nose with
his paw. Then he woke up. There, buzzing in the air at the tip of
his nose, was a lone mosquito. It was a full-grown mosquito, one that
had lain frozen in a dry log all winter and that had now been thawed out by
the sun. He could resist the call of the world no longer.
Besides, he was hungry.
He crawled over to his mate and tried to persuade her to get up. But she
only snarled at him, and he walked out alone into the bright sunshine to find
the snow-surface soft under foot and the travelling difficult. He went
up the frozen bed of the stream, where the snow, shaded by the trees, was yet
hard and crystalline. He was gone eight hours, and he came back through the
darkness hungrier than when he had started. He had found game, but he
had not caught it. He had broken through the melting snow crust,
and wallowed, while the snowshoe rabbits had skimmed along on top lightly
He paused at the mouth of the cave with a sudden shock
of suspicion. Faint, strange sounds came from within. They
were sounds not made by his mate, and yet they were remotely familiar. He
bellied cautiously inside and was met by a warning snarl from the
she-wolf. This he received without perturbation, though he obeyed it by
keeping his distance; but he remained interested in the other sounds—faint,
muffled sobbings and slubberings.
His mate warned him irritably away, and he curled up and slept in the
entrance. When morning came and a dim light pervaded the lair, he again
sought after the source of the remotely familiar sounds. There was a new note
in his mate's warning snarl. It was a jealous note, and he was very
careful in keeping a respectful distance. Nevertheless, he made out,
sheltering between her legs against the length of her body, five strange
little bundles of life, very feeble, very helpless, making tiny whimpering
noises, with eyes that did not open to the light. He was
surprised. It was not the first time in his long and successful life
that this thing had happened. It had happened many times, yet each time
it was as fresh a surprise as ever to him.
His mate looked at him anxiously. Every little while she emitted
a low growl, and at times, when it seemed to her he approached too near,
the growl shot up in her throat to a sharp snarl. Of her own experience
she had no memory of the thing happening; but in her instinct, which was the
experience of all the mothers of wolves, there lurked a memory of fathers
that had eaten their new-born and helpless progeny. It manifested
itself as a fear strong within her, that made her prevent One Eye from more
closely inspecting the cubs he had fathered.
But there was no danger. Old One Eye was feeling the urge of
an impulse, that was, in turn, an instinct that had come down to him from
all the fathers of wolves. He did not question it, nor puzzle over
it. It was there, in the fibre of his being; and it was the most
natural thing in the world that he should obey it by turning his back on his
new-born family and by trotting out and away on the meat-trail whereby he
Five or six miles from the lair, the stream divided, its forks going off
among the mountains at a right angle. Here, leading up the left fork,
he came upon a fresh track. He smelled it and found it so recent that
he crouched swiftly, and looked in the direction in which it
disappeared. Then he turned deliberately and took the right fork.
The footprint was much larger than the one his own feet made, and he knew
that in the wake of such a trail there was little meat for him.
Half a mile up the right fork, his quick ears caught the sound
of gnawing teeth. He stalked the quarry and found it to be
a porcupine, standing upright against a tree and trying his teeth on the
bark. One Eye approached carefully but hopelessly. He knew the
breed, though he had never met it so far north before; and never in his long
life had porcupine served him for a meal. But he had long since learned
that there was such a thing as Chance, or Opportunity, and he continued to
draw near. There was never any telling what might happen, for with live
things events were somehow always happening differently.
The porcupine rolled itself into a ball, radiating long, sharp needles
in all directions that defied attack. In his youth One Eye had once
sniffed too near a similar, apparently inert ball of quills, and had the tail
flick out suddenly in his face. One quill he had carried away in his
muzzle, where it had remained for weeks, a rankling flame, until it finally
worked out. So he lay down, in a comfortable crouching position, his
nose fully a foot away, and out of the line of the tail. Thus he
waited, keeping perfectly quiet. There was no telling. Something
might happen. The porcupine might unroll. There might be
opportunity for a deft and ripping thrust of paw into the tender, unguarded
But at the end of half an hour he arose, growled wrathfully at
the motionless ball, and trotted on. He had waited too often
and futilely in the past for porcupines to unroll, to waste any
more time. He continued up the right fork. The day wore along,
and nothing rewarded his hunt.
The urge of his awakened instinct of fatherhood was strong
upon him. He must find meat. In the afternoon he blundered upon
a ptarmigan. He came out of a thicket and found himself face to
face with the slow-witted bird. It was sitting on a log, not a
foot beyond the end of his nose. Each saw the other. The bird
made a startled rise, but he struck it with his paw, and smashed it
down to earth, then pounced upon it, and caught it in his teeth as
it scuttled across the snow trying to rise in the air again. As
his teeth crunched through the tender flesh and fragile bones, he
began naturally to eat. Then he remembered, and, turning on the
back- track, started for home, carrying the ptarmigan in his mouth.
A mile above the forks, running velvet-footed as was his custom,
a gliding shadow that cautiously prospected each new vista of the trail,
he came upon later imprints of the large tracks he had discovered in the
early morning. As the track led his way, he followed, prepared to meet
the maker of it at every turn of the stream.
He slid his head around a corner of rock, where began an unusually large
bend in the stream, and his quick eyes made out something that sent him
crouching swiftly down. It was the maker of the track, a large female
lynx. She was crouching as he had crouched once that day, in front of
her the tight-rolled ball of quills. If he had been a gliding shadow
before, he now became the ghost of such a shadow, as he crept and circled
around, and came up well to leeward of the silent, motionless pair.
He lay down in the snow, depositing the ptarmigan beside him, and with
eyes peering through the needles of a low-growing spruce he watched the play
of life before him—the waiting lynx and the waiting porcupine, each intent
on life; and, such was the curiousness of the game, the way of life for one
lay in the eating of the other, and the way of life for the other lay in
being not eaten. While old One Eye, the wolf crouching in the covert,
played his part, too, in the game, waiting for some strange freak
of Chance, that might help him on the meat-trail which was his way
Half an hour passed, an hour; and nothing happened. The balls
of quills might have been a stone for all it moved; the lynx might have
been frozen to marble; and old One Eye might have been dead. Yet all three
animals were keyed to a tenseness of living that was almost painful, and
scarcely ever would it come to them to be more alive than they were then in
their seeming petrifaction.
One Eye moved slightly and peered forth with increased
eagerness. Something was happening. The porcupine had at last decided
that its enemy had gone away. Slowly, cautiously, it was unrolling
its ball of impregnable armour. It was agitated by no tremor
of anticipation. Slowly, slowly, the bristling ball straightened
out and lengthened. One Eye watching, felt a sudden moistness in
his mouth and a drooling of saliva, involuntary, excited by the
living meat that was spreading itself like a repast before him.
Not quite entirely had the porcupine unrolled when it discovered its
enemy. In that instant the lynx struck. The blow was like a flash
of light. The paw, with rigid claws curving like talons, shot under the
tender belly and came back with a swift ripping movement. Had the
porcupine been entirely unrolled, or had it not discovered its enemy a
fraction of a second before the blow was struck, the paw would have escaped
unscathed; but a side-flick of the tail sank sharp quills into it as it was
Everything had happened at once—the blow, the counter-blow, the squeal
of agony from the porcupine, the big cat's squall of sudden hurt and
astonishment. One Eye half arose in his excitement, his ears up, his
tail straight out and quivering behind him. The lynx's bad temper got
the best of her. She sprang savagely at the thing that had hurt
her. But the porcupine, squealing and grunting, with disrupted anatomy
trying feebly to roll up into its ball-protection, flicked out its tail
again, and again the big cat squalled with hurt and astonishment. Then
she fell to backing away and sneezing, her nose bristling with quills like a
monstrous pin- cushion. She brushed her nose with her paws, trying to
dislodge the fiery darts, thrust it into the snow, and rubbed it
against twigs and branches, and all the time leaping about,
ahead, sidewise, up and down, in a frenzy of pain and fright.
She sneezed continually, and her stub of a tail was doing its
best toward lashing about by giving quick, violent jerks. She quit
her antics, and quieted down for a long minute. One Eye watched.
And even he could not repress a start and an involuntary bristling of hair
along his back when she suddenly leaped, without warning, straight up in the
air, at the same time emitting a long and most terrible squall. Then
she sprang away, up the trail, squalling with every leap she made.
It was not until her racket had faded away in the distance and died out
that One Eye ventured forth. He walked as delicately as though all the
snow were carpeted with porcupine quills, erect and ready to pierce the soft
pads of his feet. The porcupine met his approach with a furious
squealing and a clashing of its long teeth. It had managed to roll up in a
ball again, but it was not quite the old compact ball; its muscles were too
much torn for that. It had been ripped almost in half, and was still
One Eye scooped out mouthfuls of the blood-soaked snow, and chewed and
tasted and swallowed. This served as a relish, and his hunger increased
mightily; but he was too old in the world to forget his caution. He
waited. He lay down and waited, while the porcupine grated its teeth
and uttered grunts and sobs and occasional sharp little squeals. In a
little while, One Eye noticed that the quills were drooping and that a great
quivering had set up. The quivering came to an end suddenly.
There was a final defiant clash of the long teeth. Then all the quills
drooped quite down, and the body relaxed and moved no more.
With a nervous, shrinking paw, One Eye stretched out the porcupine to
its full length and turned it over on its back. Nothing
had happened. It was surely dead. He studied it intently for
a moment, then took a careful grip with his teeth and started off down the
stream, partly carrying, partly dragging the porcupine, with head turned to
the side so as to avoid stepping on the prickly mass. He recollected
something, dropped the burden, and trotted back to where he had left the
ptarmigan. He did not hesitate a moment. He knew clearly what was
to be done, and this he did by promptly eating the ptarmigan. Then he
returned and took up his burden.
When he dragged the result of his day's hunt into the cave, the she-wolf
inspected it, turned her muzzle to him, and lightly licked him on the
neck. But the next instant she was warning him away from the cubs with
a snarl that was less harsh than usual and that was more apologetic than
menacing. Her instinctive fear of the father of her progeny was toning
down. He was behaving as a wolf- father should, and manifesting no
unholy desire to devour the young lives she had brought into the world.
CHAPTER III—THE GREY CUB
He was different from his brothers and sisters. Their hair
already betrayed the reddish hue inherited from their mother, the
she-wolf; while he alone, in this particular, took after his father. He
was the one little grey cub of the litter. He had bred true to
the straight wolf-stock—in fact, he had bred true to old One
Eye himself, physically, with but a single exception, and that was he had
two eyes to his father's one.
The grey cub's eyes had not been open long, yet already he could see
with steady clearness. And while his eyes were still closed, he had
felt, tasted, and smelled. He knew his two brothers and his two sisters
very well. He had begun to romp with them in a feeble, awkward way, and
even to squabble, his little throat vibrating with a queer rasping noise (the
forerunner of the growl), as he worked himself into a passion. And long
before his eyes had opened he had learned by touch, taste, and smell to know
his mother—a fount of warmth and liquid food and tenderness. She
possessed a gentle, caressing tongue that soothed him when it passed over his
soft little body, and that impelled him to snuggle close against her
and to doze off to sleep.
Most of the first month of his life had been passed thus in sleeping;
but now he could see quite well, and he stayed awake for longer periods of
time, and he was coming to learn his world quite well. His world was
gloomy; but he did not know that, for he knew no other world. It was
dim-lighted; but his eyes had never had to adjust themselves to any other
light. His world was very small. Its limits were the walls of the lair;
but as he had no knowledge of the wide world outside, he was never oppressed
by the narrow confines of his existence.
But he had early discovered that one wall of his world was different
from the rest. This was the mouth of the cave and the source of
light. He had discovered that it was different from the other walls
long before he had any thoughts of his own, any conscious volitions. It
had been an irresistible attraction before ever his eyes opened and looked
upon it. The light from it had beat upon his sealed lids, and the eyes
and the optic nerves had pulsated to little, sparklike flashes, warm-coloured
and strangely pleasing. The life of his body, and of every fibre of his
body, the life that was the very substance of his body and that was
apart from his own personal life, had yearned toward this light and
urged his body toward it in the same way that the cunning chemistry of
a plant urges it toward the sun.
Always, in the beginning, before his conscious life dawned, he
had crawled toward the mouth of the cave. And in this his brothers
and sisters were one with him. Never, in that period, did any of
them crawl toward the dark corners of the back-wall. The light
drew them as if they were plants; the chemistry of the life that composed
them demanded the light as a necessity of being; and their little
puppet-bodies crawled blindly and chemically, like the tendrils of a
vine. Later on, when each developed individuality and became personally
conscious of impulsions and desires, the attraction of the light
increased. They were always crawling and sprawling toward it, and being
driven back from it by their mother.
It was in this way that the grey cub learned other attributes of his
mother than the soft, soothing, tongue. In his insistent crawling
toward the light, he discovered in her a nose that with a sharp nudge
administered rebuke, and later, a paw, that crushed him down and rolled him
over and over with swift, calculating stroke. Thus he learned hurt; and on
top of it he learned to avoid hurt, first, by not incurring the risk of it;
and second, when he had incurred the risk, by dodging and by
retreating. These were conscious actions, and were the results of his
first generalisations upon the world. Before that he had
recoiled automatically from hurt, as he had crawled automatically toward
the light. After that he recoiled from hurt because he KNEW that
it was hurt.
He was a fierce little cub. So were his brothers and sisters.
It was to be expected. He was a carnivorous animal. He came of
a breed of meat-killers and meat-eaters. His father and mother
lived wholly upon meat. The milk he had sucked with his first
flickering life, was milk transformed directly from meat, and now, at a
month old, when his eyes had been open for but a week, he was
beginning himself to eat meat—meat half-digested by the she-wolf
and disgorged for the five growing cubs that already made too great demand
upon her breast.
But he was, further, the fiercest of the litter. He could make
a louder rasping growl than any of them. His tiny rages were
much more terrible than theirs. It was he that first learned the
trick of rolling a fellow-cub over with a cunning paw-stroke. And it
was he that first gripped another cub by the ear and pulled and tugged and
growled through jaws tight-clenched. And certainly it was he that
caused the mother the most trouble in keeping her litter from the mouth of
The fascination of the light for the grey cub increased from day
to day. He was perpetually departing on yard-long adventures
toward the cave's entrance, and as perpetually being driven back. Only
he did not know it for an entrance. He did not know anything
about entrances—passages whereby one goes from one place to
another place. He did not know any other place, much less of a way to
get there. So to him the entrance of the cave was a wall—a wall
of light. As the sun was to the outside dweller, this wall was to
him the sun of his world. It attracted him as a candle attracts
a moth. He was always striving to attain it. The life that was
so swiftly expanding within him, urged him continually toward the wall of
light. The life that was within him knew that it was the one way out,
the way he was predestined to tread. But he himself did not know
anything about it. He did not know there was any outside at all.
There was one strange thing about this wall of light. His
father (he had already come to recognise his father as the one
other dweller in the world, a creature like his mother, who slept near the
light and was a bringer of meat)—his father had a way of walking right into
the white far wall and disappearing. The grey cub could not understand
this. Though never permitted by his mother to approach that wall, he
had approached the other walls, and encountered hard obstruction on the end
of his tender nose. This hurt. And after several such adventures, he
left the walls alone. Without thinking about it, he accepted this
disappearing into the wall as a peculiarity of his father, as milk and
half- digested meat were peculiarities of his mother.
In fact, the grey cub was not given to thinking—at least, to the kind
of thinking customary of men. His brain worked in dim ways. Yet his
conclusions were as sharp and distinct as those achieved by men. He had
a method of accepting things, without questioning the why and
wherefore. In reality, this was the act of classification. He was never
disturbed over why a thing happened. How it happened was sufficient for
him. Thus, when he had bumped his nose on the back-wall a few times, he
accepted that he would not disappear into walls. In the same way he
accepted that his father could disappear into walls. But he was not in
the least disturbed by desire to find out the reason for the difference
between his father and himself. Logic and physics were no part of his
Like most creatures of the Wild, he early experienced famine. There came
a time when not only did the meat-supply cease, but the milk no longer came
from his mother's breast. At first, the cubs whimpered and cried, but
for the most part they slept. It was not long before they were reduced
to a coma of hunger. There were no more spats and squabbles, no more
tiny rages nor attempts at growling; while the adventures toward the far
white wall ceased altogether. The cubs slept, while the life that was
in them flickered and died down.
One Eye was desperate. He ranged far and wide, and slept
but little in the lair that had now become cheerless and miserable. The
she-wolf, too, left her litter and went out in search of meat. In the first
days after the birth of the cubs, One Eye had journeyed several times back to
the Indian camp and robbed the rabbit snares; but, with the melting of the
snow and the opening of the streams, the Indian camp had moved away, and that
source of supply was closed to him.
When the grey cub came back to life and again took interest in the far
white wall, he found that the population of his world had been reduced.
Only one sister remained to him. The rest were gone. As he grew
stronger, he found himself compelled to play alone, for the sister no longer
lifted her head nor moved about. His little body rounded out with the
meat he now ate; but the food had come too late for her. She slept
continuously, a tiny skeleton flung round with skin in which the flame
flickered lower and lower and at last went out.
Then there came a time when the grey cub no longer saw his
father appearing and disappearing in the wall nor lying down asleep in
the entrance. This had happened at the end of a second and less
severe famine. The she-wolf knew why One Eye never came back, but
there was no way by which she could tell what she had seen to the
grey cub. Hunting herself for meat, up the left fork of the
stream where lived the lynx, she had followed a day-old trail of One
Eye. And she had found him, or what remained of him, at the end of
the trail. There were many signs of the battle that had been
fought, and of the lynx's withdrawal to her lair after having won
the victory. Before she went away, the she-wolf had found this
lair, but the signs told her that the lynx was inside, and she had
not dared to venture in.
After that, the she-wolf in her hunting avoided the left fork.
For she knew that in the lynx's lair was a litter of kittens, and she knew
the lynx for a fierce, bad-tempered creature and a terrible fighter. It
was all very well for half a dozen wolves to drive a lynx, spitting and
bristling, up a tree; but it was quite a different matter for a lone wolf to
encounter a lynx—especially when the lynx was known to have a litter of
hungry kittens at her back.
But the Wild is the Wild, and motherhood is motherhood, at all times
fiercely protective whether in the Wild or out of it; and the time was to
come when the she-wolf, for her grey cub's sake, would venture the left fork,
and the lair in the rocks, and the lynx's wrath.
CHAPTER IV—THE WALL OF THE WORLD
By the time his mother began leaving the cave on hunting expeditions,
the cub had learned well the law that forbade his approaching the
entrance. Not only had this law been forcibly and many times impressed
on him by his mother's nose and paw, but in him the instinct of fear was
developing. Never, in his brief cave- life, had he encountered anything
of which to be afraid. Yet fear was in him. It had come down to
him from a remote ancestry through a thousand thousand lives. It was a
heritage he had received directly from One Eye and the she-wolf; but to them,
in turn, it had been passed down through all the generations of wolves that
had gone before. Fear!—that legacy of the Wild which no animal
may escape nor exchange for pottage.
So the grey cub knew fear, though he knew not the stuff of which fear
was made. Possibly he accepted it as one of the restrictions of
life. For he had already learned that there were
such restrictions. Hunger he had known; and when he could not
appease his hunger he had felt restriction. The hard obstruction of
the cave-wall, the sharp nudge of his mother's nose, the smashing stroke
of her paw, the hunger unappeased of several famines, had borne in upon him
that all was not freedom in the world, that to life there was limitations and
restraints. These limitations and restraints were laws. To be
obedient to them was to escape hurt and make for happiness.
He did not reason the question out in this man fashion. He
merely classified the things that hurt and the things that did not
hurt. And after such classification he avoided the things that hurt,
the restrictions and restraints, in order to enjoy the satisfactions and
the remunerations of life.
Thus it was that in obedience to the law laid down by his mother, and in
obedience to the law of that unknown and nameless thing, fear, he kept away
from the mouth of the cave. It remained to him a white wall of
light. When his mother was absent, he slept most of the time, while
during the intervals that he was awake he kept very quiet, suppressing the
whimpering cries that tickled in his throat and strove for noise.
Once, lying awake, he heard a strange sound in the white wall.
He did not know that it was a wolverine, standing outside, all
a- trembling with its own daring, and cautiously scenting out the contents
of the cave. The cub knew only that the sniff was strange, a something
unclassified, therefore unknown and terrible—for the unknown was one of the
chief elements that went into the making of fear.
The hair bristled upon the grey cub's back, but it
bristled silently. How was he to know that this thing that sniffed was
a thing at which to bristle? It was not born of any knowledge
of his, yet it was the visible expression of the fear that was in him, and
for which, in his own life, there was no accounting. But fear was
accompanied by another instinct—that of concealment. The cub was in a
frenzy of terror, yet he lay without movement or sound, frozen, petrified
into immobility, to all appearances dead. His mother, coming home,
growled as she smelt the wolverine's track, and bounded into the cave and
licked and nozzled him with undue vehemence of affection. And the cub
felt that somehow he had escaped a great hurt.
But there were other forces at work in the cub, the greatest of which
was growth. Instinct and law demanded of him obedience.
But growth demanded disobedience. His mother and fear impelled him
to keep away from the white wall. Growth is life, and life is
for ever destined to make for light. So there was no damming up
the tide of life that was rising within him—rising with every mouthful
of meat he swallowed, with every breath he drew. In the end, one day,
fear and obedience were swept away by the rush of life, and the cub straddled
and sprawled toward the entrance.
Unlike any other wall with which he had had experience, this wall seemed
to recede from him as he approached. No hard surface collided with the
tender little nose he thrust out tentatively before him. The substance
of the wall seemed as permeable and yielding as light. And as
condition, in his eyes, had the seeming of form, so he entered into what had
been wall to him and bathed in the substance that composed it.
It was bewildering. He was sprawling through solidity. And
ever the light grew brighter. Fear urged him to go back, but
growth drove him on. Suddenly he found himself at the mouth of the
cave. The wall, inside which he had thought himself, as suddenly
leaped back before him to an immeasurable distance. The light had
become painfully bright. He was dazzled by it. Likewise he was
made dizzy by this abrupt and tremendous extension of
space. Automatically, his eyes were adjusting themselves to
the brightness, focusing themselves to meet the increased distance
of objects. At first, the wall had leaped beyond his vision. He
now saw it again; but it had taken upon itself a remarkable
remoteness. Also, its appearance had changed. It was now a variegated
wall, composed of the trees that fringed the stream, the opposing mountain
that towered above the trees, and the sky that out-towered the
A great fear came upon him. This was more of the terrible
unknown. He crouched down on the lip of the cave and gazed out on the
world. He was very much afraid. Because it was unknown, it was hostile
to him. Therefore the hair stood up on end along his back and
his lips wrinkled weakly in an attempt at a ferocious and
intimidating snarl. Out of his puniness and fright he challenged and
menaced the whole wide world.
Nothing happened. He continued to gaze, and in his interest
he forgot to snarl. Also, he forgot to be afraid. For the time,
fear had been routed by growth, while growth had assumed the guise
of curiosity. He began to notice near objects—an open portion
of the stream that flashed in the sun, the blasted pine-tree that stood at
the base of the slope, and the slope itself, that ran right up to him and
ceased two feet beneath the lip of the cave on which he crouched.
Now the grey cub had lived all his days on a level floor. He
had never experienced the hurt of a fall. He did not know what a
fall was. So he stepped boldly out upon the air. His hind-legs
still rested on the cave-lip, so he fell forward head downward.
The earth struck him a harsh blow on the nose that made him yelp.
Then he began rolling down the slope, over and over. He was in a
panic of terror. The unknown had caught him at last. It had
gripped savagely hold of him and was about to wreak upon him some
terrific hurt. Growth was now routed by fear, and he ki-yi'd like
any frightened puppy.
The unknown bore him on he knew not to what frightful hurt, and
he yelped and ki-yi'd unceasingly. This was a different
proposition from crouching in frozen fear while the unknown lurked
just alongside. Now the unknown had caught tight hold of him.
Silence would do no good. Besides, it was not fear, but terror,
that convulsed him.
But the slope grew more gradual, and its base was grass-covered. Here
the cub lost momentum. When at last he came to a stop, he gave one last
agonised yell and then a long, whimpering wail. Also, and quite as a matter
of course, as though in his life he had already made a thousand toilets, he
proceeded to lick away the dry clay that soiled him.
After that he sat up and gazed about him, as might the first man of the
earth who landed upon Mars. The cub had broken through the wall of the
world, the unknown had let go its hold of him, and here he was without
hurt. But the first man on Mars would have experienced less
unfamiliarity than did he. Without any antecedent knowledge, without
any warning whatever that such existed, he found himself an explorer in a
totally new world.
Now that the terrible unknown had let go of him, he forgot that
the unknown had any terrors. He was aware only of curiosity in all
the things about him. He inspected the grass beneath him, the
moss- berry plant just beyond, and the dead trunk of the blasted pine that
stood on the edge of an open space among the trees. A squirrel, running
around the base of the trunk, came full upon him, and gave him a great
fright. He cowered down and snarled. But the squirrel was as
badly scared. It ran up the tree, and from a point of safety chattered
This helped the cub's courage, and though the woodpecker he
next encountered gave him a start, he proceeded confidently on his
way. Such was his confidence, that when a moose-bird impudently hopped up
to him, he reached out at it with a playful paw. The result was a sharp
peck on the end of his nose that made him cower down and ki-yi. The
noise he made was too much for the moose-bird, who sought safety in
But the cub was learning. His misty little mind had already
made an unconscious classification. There were live things and
things not alive. Also, he must watch out for the live things.
The things not alive remained always in one place, but the live
things moved about, and there was no telling what they might do.
The thing to expect of them was the unexpected, and for this he must
He travelled very clumsily. He ran into sticks and things. A
twig that he thought a long way off, would the next instant hit him on the
nose or rake along his ribs. There were inequalities of surface.
Sometimes he overstepped and stubbed his nose. Quite as often he
understepped and stubbed his feet. Then there were the pebbles and
stones that turned under him when he trod upon them; and from them he came to
know that the things not alive were not all in the same state of stable
equilibrium as was his cave—also, that small things not alive were more
liable than large things to fall down or turn over. But with every
mishap he was learning. The longer he walked, the better he walked. He
was adjusting himself. He was learning to calculate his own muscular
movements, to know his physical limitations, to measure distances
between objects, and between objects and himself.
His was the luck of the beginner. Born to be a hunter of
meat (though he did not know it), he blundered upon meat just outside his
own cave-door on his first foray into the world. It was by sheer
blundering that he chanced upon the shrewdly hidden ptarmigan nest. He
fell into it. He had essayed to walk along the trunk of a fallen
pine. The rotten bark gave way under his feet, and with a despairing
yelp he pitched down the rounded crescent, smashed through the leafage and
stalks of a small bush, and in the heart of the bush, on the ground, fetched
up in the midst of seven ptarmigan chicks.
They made noises, and at first he was frightened at them. Then
he perceived that they were very little, and he became bolder.
They moved. He placed his paw on one, and its movements
were accelerated. This was a source of enjoyment to him. He
smelled it. He picked it up in his mouth. It struggled and
tickled his tongue. At the same time he was made aware of a sensation
of hunger. His jaws closed together. There was a crunching
of fragile bones, and warm blood ran in his mouth. The taste of
it was good. This was meat, the same as his mother gave him, only
it was alive between his teeth and therefore better. So he ate
the ptarmigan. Nor did he stop till he had devoured the whole
brood. Then he licked his chops in quite the same way his mother did,
and began to crawl out of the bush.
He encountered a feathered whirlwind. He was confused and
blinded by the rush of it and the beat of angry wings. He hid his
head between his paws and yelped. The blows increased. The
mother ptarmigan was in a fury. Then he became angry. He rose
up, snarling, striking out with his paws. He sank his tiny teeth
into one of the wings and pulled and tugged sturdily. The
ptarmigan struggled against him, showering blows upon him with her free
wing. It was his first battle. He was elated. He forgot all about
the unknown. He no longer was afraid of anything. He was
fighting, tearing at a live thing that was striking at him. Also, this
live thing was meat. The lust to kill was on him. He had
just destroyed little live things. He would now destroy a big
live thing. He was too busy and happy to know that he was happy.
He was thrilling and exulting in ways new to him and greater to him than
any he had known before.
He held on to the wing and growled between his
tight-clenched teeth. The ptarmigan dragged him out of the bush.
When she turned and tried to drag him back into the bush's shelter, he pulled
her away from it and on into the open. And all the time she was
making outcry and striking with her free wing, while feathers were
flying like a snow-fall. The pitch to which he was aroused
was tremendous. All the fighting blood of his breed was up in him
and surging through him. This was living, though he did not know
it. He was realising his own meaning in the world; he was doing that for
which he was made—killing meat and battling to kill it. He was
justifying his existence, than which life can do no greater; for life
achieves its summit when it does to the uttermost that which it was equipped
After a time, the ptarmigan ceased her struggling. He still
held her by the wing, and they lay on the ground and looked at
each other. He tried to growl threateningly, ferociously. She
pecked on his nose, which by now, what of previous adventures was sore. He
winced but held on. She pecked him again and again. From wincing
he went to whimpering. He tried to back away from her, oblivious to the
fact that by his hold on her he dragged her after him. A rain of pecks
fell on his ill-used nose. The flood of fight ebbed down in him, and,
releasing his prey, he turned tail and scampered on across the open in
He lay down to rest on the other side of the open, near the edge of the
bushes, his tongue lolling out, his chest heaving and panting, his nose still
hurting him and causing him to continue his whimper. But as he lay there,
suddenly there came to him a feeling as of something terrible
impending. The unknown with all its terrors rushed upon him, and he
shrank back instinctively into the shelter of the bush. As he did so, a
draught of air fanned him, and a large, winged body swept ominously and
silently past. A hawk, driving down out of the blue, had barely missed
While he lay in the bush, recovering from his fright and
peering fearfully out, the mother-ptarmigan on the other side of the
open space fluttered out of the ravaged nest. It was because of
her loss that she paid no attention to the winged bolt of the sky.
But the cub saw, and it was a warning and a lesson to him—the
swift downward swoop of the hawk, the short skim of its body just
above the ground, the strike of its talons in the body of the
ptarmigan, the ptarmigan's squawk of agony and fright, and the hawk's
rush upward into the blue, carrying the ptarmigan away with it,
It was a long time before the cub left its shelter. He had
learned much. Live things were meat. They were good to eat.
Also, live things when they were large enough, could give hurt. It was
better to eat small live things like ptarmigan chicks, and to let
alone large live things like ptarmigan hens. Nevertheless he felt
a little prick of ambition, a sneaking desire to have another battle with
that ptarmigan hen—only the hawk had carried her away. May be there
were other ptarmigan hens. He would go and see.
He came down a shelving bank to the stream. He had never
seen water before. The footing looked good. There were no
inequalities of surface. He stepped boldly out on it; and went down,
crying with fear, into the embrace of the unknown. It was cold, and
he gasped, breathing quickly. The water rushed into his lungs
instead of the air that had always accompanied his act of breathing.
The suffocation he experienced was like the pang of death. To him
it signified death. He had no conscious knowledge of death, but
like every animal of the Wild, he possessed the instinct of death.
To him it stood as the greatest of hurts. It was the very essence
of the unknown; it was the sum of the terrors of the unknown, the
one culminating and unthinkable catastrophe that could happen to
him, about which he knew nothing and about which he feared everything.
He came to the surface, and the sweet air rushed into his
open mouth. He did not go down again. Quite as though it had been
a long-established custom of his he struck out with all his legs and began
to swim. The near bank was a yard away; but he had come up with his
back to it, and the first thing his eyes rested upon was the opposite bank,
toward which he immediately began to swim. The stream was a small one,
but in the pool it widened out to a score of feet.
Midway in the passage, the current picked up the cub and swept
him downstream. He was caught in the miniature rapid at the bottom
of the pool. Here was little chance for swimming. The quiet
water had become suddenly angry. Sometimes he was under, sometimes
on top. At all times he was in violent motion, now being turned
over or around, and again, being smashed against a rock. And with
every rock he struck, he yelped. His progress was a series of
yelps, from which might have been adduced the number of rocks
Below the rapid was a second pool, and here, captured by the eddy, he
was gently borne to the bank, and as gently deposited on a bed of
gravel. He crawled frantically clear of the water and lay down. He had
learned some more about the world. Water was not alive. Yet it
moved. Also, it looked as solid as the earth, but was without any
solidity at all. His conclusion was that things were not always what
they appeared to be. The cub's fear of the unknown was an inherited
distrust, and it had now been strengthened by experience. Thenceforth,
in the nature of things, he would possess an abiding distrust of
appearances. He would have to learn the reality of a thing before he
could put his faith into it.
One other adventure was destined for him that day. He
had recollected that there was such a thing in the world as his
mother. And then there came to him a feeling that he wanted her more
than all the rest of the things in the world. Not only was his
body tired with the adventures it had undergone, but his little brain was
equally tired. In all the days he had lived it had not worked so hard
as on this one day. Furthermore, he was sleepy. So he started out
to look for the cave and his mother, feeling at the same time an overwhelming
rush of loneliness and helplessness.
He was sprawling along between some bushes, when he heard a
sharp intimidating cry. There was a flash of yellow before his
eyes. He saw a weasel leaping swiftly away from him. It was a
small live thing, and he had no fear. Then, before him, at his feet, he
saw an extremely small live thing, only several inches long, a
young weasel, that, like himself, had disobediently gone out
adventuring. It tried to retreat before him. He turned it over with his
paw. It made a queer, grating noise. The next moment the flash
of yellow reappeared before his eyes. He heard again the
intimidating cry, and at the same instant received a sharp blow on the side
of the neck and felt the sharp teeth of the mother-weasel cut into
While he yelped and ki-yi'd and scrambled backward, he saw
the mother-weasel leap upon her young one and disappear with it into the
neighbouring thicket. The cut of her teeth in his neck still hurt, but
his feelings were hurt more grievously, and he sat down and weakly
whimpered. This mother-weasel was so small and so savage. He was
yet to learn that for size and weight the weasel was the most ferocious,
vindictive, and terrible of all the killers of the Wild. But a portion
of this knowledge was quickly to be his.
He was still whimpering when the mother-weasel reappeared. She
did not rush him, now that her young one was safe. She approached
more cautiously, and the cub had full opportunity to observe her
lean, snakelike body, and her head, erect, eager, and snake-like
itself. Her sharp, menacing cry sent the hair bristling along his back,
and he snarled warningly at her. She came closer and closer.
There was a leap, swifter than his unpractised sight, and the lean, yellow
body disappeared for a moment out of the field of his vision. The next
moment she was at his throat, her teeth buried in his hair and flesh.
At first he snarled and tried to fight; but he was very young, and this
was only his first day in the world, and his snarl became a whimper, his
fight a struggle to escape. The weasel never relaxed her hold.
She hung on, striving to press down with her teeth to the great vein were his
life-blood bubbled. The weasel was a drinker of blood, and it was ever
her preference to drink from the throat of life itself.
The grey cub would have died, and there would have been no story
to write about him, had not the she-wolf come bounding through
the bushes. The weasel let go the cub and flashed at the
she-wolf's throat, missing, but getting a hold on the jaw instead. The
she- wolf flirted her head like the snap of a whip, breaking the weasel's
hold and flinging it high in the air. And, still in the air, the
she-wolf's jaws closed on the lean, yellow body, and the weasel knew death
between the crunching teeth.
The cub experienced another access of affection on the part of
his mother. Her joy at finding him seemed even greater than his joy
at being found. She nozzled him and caressed him and licked the
cuts made in him by the weasel's teeth. Then, between them, mother
and cub, they ate the blood-drinker, and after that went back to the cave
CHAPTER V THE LAW OF MEAT
The cub's development was rapid. He rested for two days, and
then ventured forth from the cave again. It was on this adventure
that he found the young weasel whose mother he had helped eat, and he saw
to it that the young weasel went the way of its mother. But on this
trip he did not get lost. When he grew tired, he found his way back to
the cave and slept. And every day thereafter found him out and ranging
a wider area.
He began to get accurate measurement of his strength and his weakness,
and to know when to be bold and when to be cautious. He found it
expedient to be cautious all the time, except for the rare moments, when,
assured of his own intrepidity, he abandoned himself to petty rages and
He was always a little demon of fury when he chanced upon a
stray ptarmigan. Never did he fail to respond savagely to the chatter
of the squirrel he had first met on the blasted pine. While the
sight of a moose-bird almost invariably put him into the wildest of rages;
for he never forgot the peck on the nose he had received from the first of
that ilk he encountered.
But there were times when even a moose-bird failed to affect him, and
those were times when he felt himself to be in danger from some other
prowling meat hunter. He never forgot the hawk, and its moving shadow
always sent him crouching into the nearest thicket. He no longer sprawled and
straddled, and already he was developing the gait of his mother, slinking and
furtive, apparently without exertion, yet sliding along with a swiftness that
was as deceptive as it was imperceptible.
In the matter of meat, his luck had been all in the beginning.
The seven ptarmigan chicks and the baby weasel represented the sum of his
killings. His desire to kill strengthened with the days, and he
cherished hungry ambitions for the squirrel that chattered so volubly and
always informed all wild creatures that the wolf-cub was approaching.
But as birds flew in the air, squirrels could climb trees, and the cub could
only try to crawl unobserved upon the squirrel when it was on the
The cub entertained a great respect for his mother. She could
get meat, and she never failed to bring him his share. Further,
she was unafraid of things. It did not occur to him that
this fearlessness was founded upon experience and knowledge. Its
effect on him was that of an impression of power. His mother
represented power; and as he grew older he felt this power in the
sharper admonishment of her paw; while the reproving nudge of her nose
gave place to the slash of her fangs. For this, likewise, he
respected his mother. She compelled obedience from him, and the older
he grew the shorter grew her temper.
Famine came again, and the cub with clearer consciousness knew once more
the bite of hunger. The she-wolf ran herself thin in the quest for
meat. She rarely slept any more in the cave, spending most of her time
on the meat-trail, and spending it vainly. This famine was not a long
one, but it was severe while it lasted. The cub found no more milk in
his mother's breast, nor did he get one mouthful of meat for himself.
Before, he had hunted in play, for the sheer joyousness of it; now he
hunted in deadly earnestness, and found nothing. Yet the failure of it
accelerated his development. He studied the habits of the squirrel with
greater carefulness, and strove with greater craft to steal upon it and
surprise it. He studied the wood-mice and tried to dig them out of
their burrows; and he learned much about the ways of moose-birds and
woodpeckers. And there came a day when the hawk's shadow did not drive
him crouching into the bushes. He had grown stronger and wiser, and
more confident. Also, he was desperate. So he sat on his haunches,
conspicuously in an open space, and challenged the hawk down out of the
sky. For he knew that there, floating in the blue above him, was meat,
the meat his stomach yearned after so insistently. But the
hawk refused to come down and give battle, and the cub crawled away into a
thicket and whimpered his disappointment and hunger.
The famine broke. The she-wolf brought home meat. It was
strange meat, different from any she had ever brought before. It was
a lynx kitten, partly grown, like the cub, but not so large. And
it was all for him. His mother had satisfied her hunger
elsewhere; though he did not know that it was the rest of the lynx litter
that had gone to satisfy her. Nor did he know the desperateness of
her deed. He knew only that the velvet-furred kitten was meat, and
he ate and waxed happier with every mouthful.
A full stomach conduces to inaction, and the cub lay in the
cave, sleeping against his mother's side. He was aroused by
her snarling. Never had he heard her snarl so terribly. Possibly
in her whole life it was the most terrible snarl she ever gave.
There was reason for it, and none knew it better than she. A lynx's
lair is not despoiled with impunity. In the full glare of the
afternoon light, crouching in the entrance of the cave, the cub saw the
lynx- mother. The hair rippled up along his back at the sight.
Here was fear, and it did not require his instinct to tell him of it.
And if sight alone were not sufficient, the cry of rage the intruder gave,
beginning with a snarl and rushing abruptly upward into a hoarse screech, was
convincing enough in itself.
The cub felt the prod of the life that was in him, and stood up
and snarled valiantly by his mother's side. But she thrust
him ignominiously away and behind her. Because of the
low-roofed entrance the lynx could not leap in, and when she made a
crawling rush of it the she-wolf sprang upon her and pinned her down.
The cub saw little of the battle. There was a tremendous snarling
and spitting and screeching. The two animals threshed about, the
lynx ripping and tearing with her claws and using her teeth as well, while
the she-wolf used her teeth alone.
Once, the cub sprang in and sank his teeth into the hind leg of
the lynx. He clung on, growling savagely. Though he did not know
it, by the weight of his body he clogged the action of the leg and thereby
saved his mother much damage. A change in the battle crushed him under
both their bodies and wrenched loose his hold. The next moment the two
mothers separated, and, before they rushed together again, the lynx lashed
out at the cub with a huge fore-paw that ripped his shoulder open to the bone
and sent him hurtling sidewise against the wall. Then was added to the
uproar the cub's shrill yelp of pain and fright. But the fight lasted
so long that he had time to cry himself out and to experience a second burst
of courage; and the end of the battle found him again clinging to
a hind-leg and furiously growling between his teeth.
The lynx was dead. But the she-wolf was very weak and sick.
At first she caressed the cub and licked his wounded shoulder; but
the blood she had lost had taken with it her strength, and for all of
a day and a night she lay by her dead foe's side, without
movement, scarcely breathing. For a week she never left the cave,
except for water, and then her movements were slow and painful. At the
end of that time the lynx was devoured, while the she-wolf's wounds
had healed sufficiently to permit her to take the meat-trail again.
The cub's shoulder was stiff and sore, and for some time he limped from
the terrible slash he had received. But the world now
seemed changed. He went about in it with greater confidence, with
a feeling of prowess that had not been his in the days before the battle
with the lynx. He had looked upon life in a more ferocious aspect; he
had fought; he had buried his teeth in the flesh of a foe; and he had
survived. And because of all this, he carried himself more boldly, with
a touch of defiance that was new in him. He was no longer afraid of minor
things, and much of his timidity had vanished, though the unknown never
ceased to press upon him with its mysteries and terrors, intangible and
He began to accompany his mother on the meat-trail, and he saw much of
the killing of meat and began to play his part in it. And in his own
dim way he learned the law of meat. There were two kinds of life—his
own kind and the other kind. His own kind included his mother and
himself. The other kind included all live things that moved. But
the other kind was divided. One portion was what his own kind killed
and ate. This portion was composed of the non- killers and the small
killers. The other portion killed and ate his own kind, or was killed
and eaten by his own kind. And out of this classification arose the
law. The aim of life was meat. Life itself was meat. Life
lived on life. There were the eaters and the eaten. The law
was: EAT OR BE EATEN. He did not formulate the law in clear, set
terms and moralise about it. He did not even think the law; he merely
lived the law without thinking about it at all.
He saw the law operating around him on every side. He had
eaten the ptarmigan chicks. The hawk had eaten the
ptarmigan-mother. The hawk would also have eaten him. Later, when he
had grown more formidable, he wanted to eat the hawk. He had eaten the
lynx kitten. The lynx-mother would have eaten him had she not
herself been killed and eaten. And so it went. The law was being
lived about him by all live things, and he himself was part and parcel
of the law. He was a killer. His only food was meat, live meat,
that ran away swiftly before him, or flew into the air, or climbed trees,
or hid in the ground, or faced him and fought with him, or turned the tables
and ran after him.
Had the cub thought in man-fashion, he might have epitomised life as a
voracious appetite and the world as a place wherein ranged a multitude of
appetites, pursuing and being pursued, hunting and being hunted, eating and
being eaten, all in blindness and confusion, with violence and disorder, a
chaos of gluttony and slaughter, ruled over by chance, merciless, planless,
But the cub did not think in man-fashion. He did not look
at things with wide vision. He was single-purposed, and
entertained but one thought or desire at a time. Besides the law of
meat, there were a myriad other and lesser laws for him to learn
and obey. The world was filled with surprise. The stir of the
life that was in him, the play of his muscles, was an
unending happiness. To run down meat was to experience thrills
and elations. His rages and battles were pleasures. Terror
itself, and the mystery of the unknown, led to his living.
And there were easements and satisfactions. To have a
full stomach, to doze lazily in the sunshine—such things
were remuneration in full for his ardours and toils, while his ardours and
tolls were in themselves self-remunerative. They were expressions of
life, and life is always happy when it is expressing itself. So the cub
had no quarrel with his hostile environment. He was very much alive, very
happy, and very proud of himself.
CHAPTER I—THE MAKERS OF FIRE
The cub came upon it suddenly. It was his own fault. He had
been careless. He had left the cave and run down to the stream
to drink. It might have been that he took no notice because he
was heavy with sleep. (He had been out all night on the
meat-trail, and had but just then awakened.) And his carelessness might
have been due to the familiarity of the trail to the pool. He
had travelled it often, and nothing had ever happened on it.
He went down past the blasted pine, crossed the open space, and trotted
in amongst the trees. Then, at the same instant, he saw and
smelt. Before him, sitting silently on their haunches, were five live
things, the like of which he had never seen before. It was his first
glimpse of mankind. But at the sight of him the five men did not spring
to their feet, nor show their teeth, nor snarl. They did not move, but sat
there, silent and ominous.
Nor did the cub move. Every instinct of his nature would
have impelled him to dash wildly away, had there not suddenly and for the
first time arisen in him another and counter instinct. A great awe
descended upon him. He was beaten down to movelessness by
an overwhelming sense of his own weakness and littleness. Here
was mastery and power, something far and away beyond him.
The cub had never seen man, yet the instinct concerning man
was his. In dim ways he recognised in man the animal that had
fought itself to primacy over the other animals of the Wild. Not
alone out of his own eyes, but out of the eyes of all his ancestors
was the cub now looking upon man—out of eyes that had circled in
the darkness around countless winter camp-fires, that had peered from safe
distances and from the hearts of thickets at the strange, two- legged animal
that was lord over living things. The spell of the cub's heritage was
upon him, the fear and the respect born of the centuries of struggle and the
accumulated experience of the generations. The heritage was too
compelling for a wolf that was only a cub. Had he been full-grown, he
would have run away. As it was, he cowered down in a paralysis of fear,
already half proffering the submission that his kind had proffered from
the first time a wolf came in to sit by man's fire and be made warm.
One of the Indians arose and walked over to him and stooped
above him. The cub cowered closer to the ground. It was the
unknown, objectified at last, in concrete flesh and blood, bending over
him and reaching down to seize hold of him. His hair
bristled involuntarily; his lips writhed back and his little fangs
were bared. The hand, poised like doom above him, hesitated, and
the man spoke laughing, "WABAM WABISCA IP PIT TAH." ("Look! The
The other Indians laughed loudly, and urged the man on to pick up the
cub. As the hand descended closer and closer, there raged within the
cub a battle of the instincts. He experienced two great impulsions—to
yield and to fight. The resulting action was a compromise. He did
both. He yielded till the hand almost touched him. Then he
fought, his teeth flashing in a snap that sank them into the hand. The
next moment he received a clout alongside the head that knocked him over on
his side. Then all fight fled out of him. His puppyhood and the
instinct of submission took charge of him. He sat up on his haunches
and ki-yi'd. But the man whose hand he had bitten was angry. The
cub received a clout on the other side of his head. Whereupon he sat up
and ki-yi'd louder than ever.
The four Indians laughed more loudly, while even the man who had been
bitten began to laugh. They surrounded the cub and laughed at him,
while he wailed out his terror and his hurt. In the midst of it, he
heard something. The Indians heard it too. But the cub knew what
it was, and with a last, long wail that had in it more of triumph than grief,
he ceased his noise and waited for the coming of his mother, of his ferocious
and indomitable mother who fought and killed all things and was never
afraid. She was snarling as she ran. She had heard the cry of her
cub and was dashing to save him.
She bounded in amongst them, her anxious and militant motherhood making
her anything but a pretty sight. But to the cub the spectacle of her
protective rage was pleasing. He uttered a glad little cry and bounded
to meet her, while the man-animals went back hastily several steps. The
she-wolf stood over against her cub, facing the men, with bristling hair, a
snarl rumbling deep in her throat. Her face was distorted and malignant
with menace, even the bridge of the nose wrinkling from tip to eyes so
prodigious was her snarl.
Then it was that a cry went up from one of the men. "Kiche!"
was what he uttered. It was an exclamation of surprise. The cub
felt his mother wilting at the sound.
"Kiche!" the man cried again, this time with sharpness
And then the cub saw his mother, the she-wolf, the fearless
one, crouching down till her belly touched the ground, whimpering, wagging
her tail, making peace signs. The cub could not understand. He
was appalled. The awe of man rushed over him again. His instinct
had been true. His mother verified it. She, too, rendered
submission to the man-animals.
The man who had spoken came over to her. He put his hand upon
her head, and she only crouched closer. She did not snap, nor
threaten to snap. The other men came up, and surrounded her, and felt
her, and pawed her, which actions she made no attempt to resent.
They were greatly excited, and made many noises with their mouths. These
noises were not indication of danger, the cub decided, as he crouched near
his mother still bristling from time to time but doing his best to
"It is not strange," an Indian was saying. "Her father was a
wolf. It is true, her mother was a dog; but did not my brother tie her out
in the woods all of three nights in the mating season? Therefore was the
father of Kiche a wolf."
"It is a year, Grey Beaver, since she ran away," spoke a
"It is not strange, Salmon Tongue," Grey Beaver answered. "It
was the time of the famine, and there was no meat for the dogs."
"She has lived with the wolves," said a third Indian.
"So it would seem, Three Eagles," Grey Beaver answered, lying his hand
on the cub; "and this be the sign of it."
The cub snarled a little at the touch of the hand, and the hand flew
back to administer a clout. Whereupon the cub covered its fangs, and
sank down submissively, while the hand, returning, rubbed behind his ears,
and up and down his back.
"This be the sign of it," Grey Beaver went on. "It is plain
that his mother is Kiche. But this father was a wolf. Wherefore
is there in him little dog and much wolf. His fangs be white,
and White Fang shall be his name. I have spoken. He is my
dog. For was not Kiche my brother's dog? And is not my brother
The cub, who had thus received a name in the world, lay
and watched. For a time the man-animals continued to make their
mouth- noises. Then Grey Beaver took a knife from a sheath that
hung around his neck, and went into the thicket and cut a stick.
White Fang watched him. He notched the stick at each end and in
the notches fastened strings of raw-hide. One string he tied
around the throat of Kiche. Then he led her to a small pine, around
which he tied the other string.
White Fang followed and lay down beside her. Salmon Tongue's
hand reached out to him and rolled him over on his back. Kiche
looked on anxiously. White Fang felt fear mounting in him again.
He could not quite suppress a snarl, but he made no offer to snap. The
hand, with fingers crooked and spread apart, rubbed his stomach in a playful
way and rolled him from side to side. It was ridiculous and ungainly,
lying there on his back with legs sprawling in the air. Besides, it was
a position of such utter helplessness that White Fang's whole nature revolted
against it. He could do nothing to defend himself. If this man-animal
intended harm, White Fang knew that he could not escape it. How could
he spring away with his four legs in the air above him?
Yet submission made him master his fear, and he only growled softly. This
growl he could not suppress; nor did the man-animal resent it by giving him a
blow on the head. And furthermore, such was the strangeness of it,
White Fang experienced an unaccountable sensation of pleasure as the hand
rubbed back and forth. When he was rolled on his side he ceased to
growl, when the fingers pressed and prodded at the base of his ears the
pleasurable sensation increased; and when, with a final rub and scratch, the
man left him alone and went away, all fear had died out of White Fang.
He was to know fear many times in his dealing with man; yet it was a
token of the fearless companionship with man that was ultimately to
After a time, White Fang heard strange noises approaching. He
was quick in his classification, for he knew them at once for man- animal
noises. A few minutes later the remainder of the tribe, strung out as
it was on the march, trailed in. There were more men and many women and
children, forty souls of them, and all heavily burdened with camp equipage
and outfit. Also there were many dogs; and these, with the exception of
the part-grown puppies, were likewise burdened with camp outfit. On
their backs, in bags that fastened tightly around underneath, the dogs
carried from twenty to thirty pounds of weight.
White Fang had never seen dogs before, but at sight of them he felt that
they were his own kind, only somehow different. But they displayed
little difference from the wolf when they discovered the cub and his
mother. There was a rush. White Fang bristled and snarled and
snapped in the face of the open-mouthed oncoming wave of dogs, and went down
and under them, feeling the sharp slash of teeth in his body, himself biting
and tearing at the legs and bellies above him. There was a great
uproar. He could hear the snarl of Kiche as she fought for him; and he
could hear the cries of the man-animals, the sound of clubs striking upon
bodies, and the yelps of pain from the dogs so struck.
Only a few seconds elapsed before he was on his feet again.
He could now see the man-animals driving back the dogs with clubs
and stones, defending him, saving him from the savage teeth of his
kind that somehow was not his kind. And though there was no reason
in his brain for a clear conception of so abstract a thing as
justice, nevertheless, in his own way, he felt the justice of the
man- animals, and he knew them for what they were—makers of law
and executors of law. Also, he appreciated the power with which
they administered the law. Unlike any animals he had ever
encountered, they did not bite nor claw. They enforced their live
strength with the power of dead things. Dead things did their
bidding. Thus, sticks and stones, directed by these strange creatures,
leaped through the air like living things, inflicting grievous hurts
upon the dogs.
To his mind this was power unusual, power inconceivable and beyond the
natural, power that was godlike. White Fang, in the very nature of him,
could never know anything about gods; at the best he could know only things
that were beyond knowing—but the wonder and awe that he had of these
man-animals in ways resembled what would be the wonder and awe of man at
sight of some celestial creature, on a mountain top, hurling thunderbolts
from either hand at an astonished world.
The last dog had been driven back. The hubbub died down.
And White Fang licked his hurts and meditated upon this, his first taste
of pack-cruelty and his introduction to the pack. He had never dreamed
that his own kind consisted of more than One Eye, his mother, and
himself. They had constituted a kind apart, and here, abruptly, he had
discovered many more creatures apparently of his own kind. And there
was a subconscious resentment that these, his kind, at first sight had
pitched upon him and tried to destroy him. In the same way he resented his
mother being tied with a stick, even though it was done by the superior
man-animals. It savoured of the trap, of bondage. Yet of the trap
and of bondage he knew nothing. Freedom to roam and run and lie down at
will, had been his heritage; and here it was being infringed upon. His
mother's movements were restricted to the length of a stick, and by
the length of that same stick was he restricted, for he had not yet
got beyond the need of his mother's side.
He did not like it. Nor did he like it when the man-animals
arose and went on with their march; for a tiny man-animal took the
other end of the stick and led Kiche captive behind him, and behind
Kiche followed White Fang, greatly perturbed and worried by this
new adventure he had entered upon.
They went down the valley of the stream, far beyond White Fang's widest
ranging, until they came to the end of the valley, where the stream ran into
the Mackenzie River. Here, where canoes were cached on poles high in
the air and where stood fish-racks for the drying of fish, camp was made; and
White Fang looked on with wondering eyes. The superiority of these
man-animals increased with every moment. There was their mastery over
all these sharp- fanged dogs. It breathed of power. But greater
than that, to the wolf-cub, was their mastery over things not alive; their
capacity to communicate motion to unmoving things; their capacity to
change the very face of the world.
It was this last that especially affected him. The elevation
of frames of poles caught his eye; yet this in itself was not
so remarkable, being done by the same creatures that flung sticks
and stones to great distances. But when the frames of poles were
made into tepees by being covered with cloth and skins, White Fang
was astounded. It was the colossal bulk of them that impressed
him. They arose around him, on every side, like some monstrous
quick- growing form of life. They occupied nearly the whole
circumference of his field of vision. He was afraid of them. They
loomed ominously above him; and when the breeze stirred them into
huge movements, he cowered down in fear, keeping his eyes warily
upon them, and prepared to spring away if they attempted to
precipitate themselves upon him.
But in a short while his fear of the tepees passed away. He
saw the women and children passing in and out of them without harm, and he
saw the dogs trying often to get into them, and being driven away with sharp
words and flying stones. After a time, he left Kiche's side and crawled
cautiously toward the wall of the nearest tepee. It was the curiosity
of growth that urged him on—the necessity of learning and living and doing
that brings experience. The last few inches to the wall of the tepee were
crawled with painful slowness and precaution. The day's events had
prepared him for the unknown to manifest itself in most stupendous
and unthinkable ways. At last his nose touched the canvas. He
waited. Nothing happened. Then he smelled the strange fabric,
saturated with the man-smell. He closed on the canvas with his teeth
and gave a gentle tug. Nothing happened, though the adjacent
portions of the tepee moved. He tugged harder. There was a
greater movement. It was delightful. He tugged still harder,
and repeatedly, until the whole tepee was in motion. Then the
sharp cry of a squaw inside sent him scampering back to Kiche. But
after that he was afraid no more of the looming bulks of the tepees.
A moment later he was straying away again from his mother.
Her stick was tied to a peg in the ground and she could not follow him. A
part-grown puppy, somewhat larger and older than he, came toward him slowly,
with ostentatious and belligerent importance. The puppy's name, as
White Fang was afterward to hear him called, was Lip-lip. He had had
experience in puppy fights and was already something of a bully.
Lip-lip was White Fang's own kind, and, being only a puppy, did not seem
dangerous; so White Fang prepared to meet him in a friendly spirit. But
when the strangers walk became stiff-legged and his lips lifted clear of his
teeth, White Fang stiffened too, and answered with lifted lips. They
half circled about each other, tentatively, snarling and bristling.
This lasted several minutes, and White Fang was beginning to enjoy it, as a
sort of game. But suddenly, with remarkable swiftness, Lip-lip leaped
in, delivering a slashing snap, and leaped away again. The snap had
taken effect on the shoulder that had been hurt by the lynx and that was
still sore deep down near the bone. The surprise and hurt of it
brought a yelp out of White Fang; but the next moment, in a rush of
anger, he was upon Lip-lip and snapping viciously.
But Lip-hp had lived his life in camp and had fought many
puppy fights. Three times, four times, and half a dozen times, his
sharp little teeth scored on the newcomer, until White Fang,
yelping shamelessly, fled to the protection of his mother. It was
the first of the many fights he was to have with Lip-lip, for they
were enemies from the start, born so, with natures destined perpetually to
Kiche licked White Fang soothingly with her tongue, and tried to prevail
upon him to remain with her. But his curiosity was rampant, and several
minutes later he was venturing forth on a new quest. He came upon one
of the man-animals, Grey Beaver, who was squatting on his hams and doing
something with sticks and dry moss spread before him on the ground.
White Fang came near to him and watched. Grey Beaver made mouth-noises
which White Fang interpreted as not hostile, so he came still nearer.
Women and children were carrying more sticks and branches to
Grey Beaver. It was evidently an affair of moment. White Fang
came in until he touched Grey Beaver's knee, so curious was he, and
already forgetful that this was a terrible man-animal. Suddenly he saw
a strange thing like mist beginning to arise from the sticks and
moss beneath Grey Beaver's hands. Then, amongst the sticks
themselves, appeared a live thing, twisting and turning, of a colour like
the colour of the sun in the sky. White Fang knew nothing about
fire. It drew him as the light, in the mouth of the cave had drawn him
in his early puppyhood. He crawled the several steps toward
the flame. He heard Grey Beaver chuckle above him, and he knew
the sound was not hostile. Then his nose touched the flame, and at
the same instant his little tongue went out to it.
For a moment he was paralysed. The unknown, lurking in the
midst of the sticks and moss, was savagely clutching him by the nose.
He scrambled backward, bursting out in an astonished explosion of
ki- yi's. At the sound, Kiche leaped snarling to the end of her
stick, and there raged terribly because she could not come to his aid. But
Grey Beaver laughed loudly, and slapped his thighs, and told the happening to
all the rest of the camp, till everybody was laughing uproariously. But
White Fang sat on his haunches and ki- yi'd and ki-yi'd, a forlorn and
pitiable little figure in the midst of the man-animals.
It was the worst hurt he had ever known. Both nose and tongue
had been scorched by the live thing, sun-coloured, that had grown up under
Grey Beaver's hands. He cried and cried interminably, and every fresh
wail was greeted by bursts of laughter on the part of the man-animals.
He tried to soothe his nose with his tongue, but the tongue was burnt too,
and the two hurts coming together produced greater hurt; whereupon he cried
more hopelessly and helplessly than ever.
And then shame came to him. He knew laughter and the meaning
of it. It is not given us to know how some animals know laughter,
and know when they are being laughed at; but it was this same way
that White Fang knew it. And he felt shame that the man-animals
should be laughing at him. He turned and fled away, not from the hurt
of the fire, but from the laughter that sank even deeper, and hurt in the
spirit of him. And he fled to Kiche, raging at the end of her stick
like an animal gone mad—to Kiche, the one creature in the world who was not
laughing at him.
Twilight drew down and night came on, and White Fang lay by his mother's
side. His nose and tongue still hurt, but he was perplexed by a greater
trouble. He was homesick. He felt a vacancy in him, a need for
the hush and quietude of the stream and the cave in the cliff. Life had
become too populous. There were so many of the man-animals, men, women,
and children, all making noises and irritations. And there were the
dogs, ever squabbling and bickering, bursting into uproars and creating
confusions. The restful loneliness of the only life he had known was
gone. Here the very air was palpitant with life. It hummed and
buzzed unceasingly. Continually changing its intensity and
abruptly variant in pitch, it impinged on his nerves and senses, made
him nervous and restless and worried him with a perpetual imminence
He watched the man-animals coming and going and moving about
the camp. In fashion distantly resembling the way men look upon
the gods they create, so looked White Fang upon the man-animals
before him. They were superior creatures, of a verity, gods. To
his dim comprehension they were as much wonder-workers as gods are to
men. They were creatures of mastery, possessing all manner of unknown and
impossible potencies, overlords of the alive and the not alive—making obey
that which moved, imparting movement to that which did not move, and making
life, sun-coloured and biting life, to grow out of dead moss and wood.
They were fire-makers! They were gods.
CHAPTER II—THE BONDAGE
The days were thronged with experience for White Fang. During
the time that Kiche was tied by the stick, he ran about over all the camp,
inquiring, investigating, learning. He quickly came to know much of the
ways of the man-animals, but familiarity did not breed contempt. The
more he came to know them, the more they vindicated their superiority, the
more they displayed their mysterious powers, the greater loomed their
To man has been given the grief, often, of seeing his gods overthrown
and his altars crumbling; but to the wolf and the wild dog that have come in
to crouch at man's feet, this grief has never come. Unlike man, whose
gods are of the unseen and the overguessed, vapours and mists of fancy
eluding the garmenture of reality, wandering wraiths of desired goodness and
power, intangible out-croppings of self into the realm of spirit—
unlike man, the wolf and the wild dog that have come in to the fire
find their gods in the living flesh, solid to the touch,
occupying earth-space and requiring time for the accomplishment of their
ends and their existence. No effort of faith is necessary to believe
in such a god; no effort of will can possibly induce disbelief in such a
god. There is no getting away from it. There it stands, on
its two hind-legs, club in hand, immensely potential, passionate
and wrathful and loving, god and mystery and power all wrapped up
and around by flesh that bleeds when it is torn and that is good to
eat like any flesh.
And so it was with White Fang. The man-animals were
gods unmistakable and unescapable. As his mother, Kiche, had
rendered her allegiance to them at the first cry of her name, so he
was beginning to render his allegiance. He gave them the trail as
a privilege indubitably theirs. When they walked, he got out
of their way. When they called, he came. When they threatened,
he cowered down. When they commanded him to go, he went
away hurriedly. For behind any wish of theirs was power to enforce
that wish, power that hurt, power that expressed itself in clouts
and clubs, in flying stones and stinging lashes of whips.
He belonged to them as all dogs belonged to them. His actions
were theirs to command. His body was theirs to maul, to stamp upon,
to tolerate. Such was the lesson that was quickly borne in upon
him. It came hard, going as it did, counter to much that was strong
and dominant in his own nature; and, while he disliked it in the learning
of it, unknown to himself he was learning to like it. It was a placing
of his destiny in another's hands, a shifting of the responsibilities of
existence. This in itself was compensation, for it is always easier to
lean upon another than to stand alone.
But it did not all happen in a day, this giving over of himself, body
and soul, to the man-animals. He could not immediately forego his wild
heritage and his memories of the Wild. There were days when he crept to
the edge of the forest and stood and listened to something calling him far
and away. And always he returned, restless and uncomfortable, to
whimper softly and wistfully at Kiche's side and to lick her face with eager,
White Fang learned rapidly the ways of the camp. He knew
the injustice and greediness of the older dogs when meat or fish
was thrown out to be eaten. He came to know that men were more
just, children more cruel, and women more kindly and more likely to
toss him a bit of meat or bone. And after two or three
painful adventures with the mothers of part-grown puppies, he came into
the knowledge that it was always good policy to let such mothers alone, to
keep away from them as far as possible, and to avoid them when he saw them
But the bane of his life was Lip-lip. Larger, older, and
stronger, Lip-lip had selected White Fang for his special object
of persecution. While Fang fought willingly enough, but he
was outclassed. His enemy was too big. Lip-lip became a nightmare
to him. Whenever he ventured away from his mother, the bully was
sure to appear, trailing at his heels, snarling at him, picking upon him,
and watchful of an opportunity, when no man-animal was near, to spring upon
him and force a fight. As Lip-lip invariably won, he enjoyed it
hugely. It became his chief delight in life, as it became White Fang's
But the effect upon White Fang was not to cow him. Though
he suffered most of the damage and was always defeated, his
spirit remained unsubdued. Yet a bad effect was produced. He
became malignant and morose. His temper had been savage by birth, but
it became more savage under this unending persecution. The
genial, playful, puppyish side of him found little expression. He
never played and gambolled about with the other puppies of the
camp. Lip-lip would not permit it. The moment White Fang appeared
near them, Lip-lip was upon him, bullying and hectoring him, or
fighting with him until he had driven him away.
The effect of all this was to rob White Fang of much of his puppyhood
and to make him in his comportment older than his age. Denied the outlet,
through play, of his energies, he recoiled upon himself and developed his
mental processes. He became cunning; he had idle time in which to
devote himself to thoughts of trickery. Prevented from obtaining his share of
meat and fish when a general feed was given to the camp-dogs, he became a
clever thief. He had to forage for himself, and he foraged well, though
he was oft-times a plague to the squaws in consequence. He learned to
sneak about camp, to be crafty, to know what was going on everywhere, to
see and to hear everything and to reason accordingly, and successfully to
devise ways and means of avoiding his implacable persecutor.
It was early in the days of his persecution that he played his first
really big crafty game and got there from his first taste of revenge.
As Kiche, when with the wolves, had lured out to destruction dogs from the
camps of men, so White Fang, in manner somewhat similar, lured Lip-lip into
Kiche's avenging jaws. Retreating before Lip-lip, White Fang made an indirect
flight that led in and out and around the various tepees of the camp.
He was a good runner, swifter than any puppy of his size, and swifter
than Lip-lip. But he did not run his best in this chase. He
barely held his own, one leap ahead of his pursuer.
Lip-lip, excited by the chase and by the persistent nearness of
his victim, forgot caution and locality. When he remembered
locality, it was too late. Dashing at top speed around a tepee, he ran
full tilt into Kiche lying at the end of her stick. He gave one yelp
of consternation, and then her punishing jaws closed upon him.
She was tied, but he could not get away from her easily. She
rolled him off his legs so that he could not run, while she
repeatedly ripped and slashed him with her fangs.
When at last he succeeded in rolling clear of her, he crawled to his
feet, badly dishevelled, hurt both in body and in spirit. His hair was
standing out all over him in tufts where her teeth had mauled. He stood
where he had arisen, opened his mouth, and broke out the long, heart-broken
puppy wail. But even this he was not allowed to complete. In the
middle of it, White Fang, rushing in, sank his teeth into Lip-lip's hind
leg. There was no fight left in Lip-lip, and he ran away shamelessly,
his victim hot on his heels and worrying him all the way back to his own
tepee. Here the squaws came to his aid, and White Fang, transformed
into a raging demon, was finally driven off only by a fusillade of
Came the day when Grey Beaver, deciding that the liability of
her running away was past, released Kiche. White Fang was
delighted with his mother's freedom. He accompanied her joyfully about
the camp; and, so long as he remained close by her side, Lip-lip kept
a respectful distance. White-Fang even bristled up to him and
walked stiff-legged, but Lip-lip ignored the challenge. He was no
fool himself, and whatever vengeance he desired to wreak, he could
wait until he caught White Fang alone.
Later on that day, Kiche and White Fang strayed into the edge of the
woods next to the camp. He had led his mother there, step by step, and
now when she stopped, he tried to inveigle her farther. The stream, the lair,
and the quiet woods were calling to him, and he wanted her to come. He
ran on a few steps, stopped, and looked back. She had not moved.
He whined pleadingly, and scurried playfully in and out of the
underbrush. He ran back to her, licked her face, and ran on
again. And still she did not move. He stopped and regarded her,
all of an intentness and eagerness, physically expressed, that slowly faded
out of him as she turned her head and gazed back at the camp.
There was something calling to him out there in the open.
His mother heard it too. But she heard also that other and
louder call, the call of the fire and of man—the call which has
been given alone of all animals to the wolf to answer, to the wolf and the
wild-dog, who are brothers.
Kiche turned and slowly trotted back toward camp. Stronger
than the physical restraint of the stick was the clutch of the camp
upon her. Unseen and occultly, the gods still gripped with their
power and would not let her go. White Fang sat down in the shadow of
a birch and whimpered softly. There was a strong smell of pine,
and subtle wood fragrances filled the air, reminding him of his old life
of freedom before the days of his bondage. But he was still only a
part-grown puppy, and stronger than the call either of man or of the Wild was
the call of his mother. All the hours of his short life he had depended
upon her. The time was yet to come for independence. So he arose
and trotted forlornly back to camp, pausing once, and twice, to sit down and
whimper and to listen to the call that still sounded in the depths of the
In the Wild the time of a mother with her young is short; but under the
dominion of man it is sometimes even shorter. Thus it was with White
Fang. Grey Beaver was in the debt of Three Eagles. Three Eagles
was going away on a trip up the Mackenzie to the Great Slave Lake. A
strip of scarlet cloth, a bearskin, twenty cartridges, and Kiche, went to pay
the debt. White Fang saw his mother taken aboard Three Eagles' canoe,
and tried to follow her. A blow from Three Eagles knocked him backward
to the land. The canoe shoved off. He sprang into the water and
swam after it, deaf to the sharp cries of Grey Beaver to return. Even a
man-animal, a god, White Fang ignored, such was the terror he was in of
losing his mother.
But gods are accustomed to being obeyed, and Grey Beaver
wrathfully launched a canoe in pursuit. When he overtook White Fang,
he reached down and by the nape of the neck lifted him clear of
the water. He did not deposit him at once in the bottom of the
canoe. Holding him suspended with one hand, with the other hand
he proceeded to give him a beating. And it WAS a beating. His
hand was heavy. Every blow was shrewd to hurt; and he delivered
a multitude of blows.
Impelled by the blows that rained upon him, now from this side, now from
that, White Fang swung back and forth like an erratic and jerky
pendulum. Varying were the emotions that surged through him. At first,
he had known surprise. Then came a momentary fear, when he yelped
several times to the impact of the hand. But this was quickly followed
by anger. His free nature asserted itself, and he showed his teeth and
snarled fearlessly in the face of the wrathful god. This but served to
make the god more wrathful. The blows came faster, heavier, more shrewd
Grey Beaver continued to beat, White Fang continued to snarl.
But this could not last for ever. One or the other must give over,
and that one was White Fang. Fear surged through him again. For
the first time he was being really man-handled. The occasional
blows of sticks and stones he had previously experienced were as
caresses compared with this. He broke down and began to cry and
yelp. For a time each blow brought a yelp from him; but fear passed
into terror, until finally his yelps were voiced in unbroken
succession, unconnected with the rhythm of the punishment.
At last Grey Beaver withheld his hand. White Fang, hanging
limply, continued to cry. This seemed to satisfy his master, who flung
him down roughly in the bottom of the canoe. In the meantime the
canoe had drifted down the stream. Grey Beaver picked up the
paddle. White Fang was in his way. He spurned him savagely with his
foot. In that moment White Fang's free nature flashed forth again, and
he sank his teeth into the moccasined foot.
The beating that had gone before was as nothing compared with
the beating he now received. Grey Beaver's wrath was
terrible; likewise was White Fang's fright. Not only the hand, but the
hard wooden paddle was used upon him; and he was bruised and sore in
all his small body when he was again flung down in the canoe.
Again, and this time with purpose, did Grey Beaver kick him. White
Fang did not repeat his attack on the foot. He had learned
another lesson of his bondage. Never, no matter what the
circumstance, must he dare to bite the god who was lord and master over him;
the body of the lord and master was sacred, not to be defiled by the teeth
of such as he. That was evidently the crime of crimes, the one offence
there was no condoning nor overlooking.
When the canoe touched the shore, White Fang lay whimpering
and motionless, waiting the will of Grey Beaver. It was Grey
Beaver's will that he should go ashore, for ashore he was flung,
striking heavily on his side and hurting his bruises afresh. He
crawled tremblingly to his feet and stood whimpering. Lip-lip, who
had watched the whole proceeding from the bank, now rushed upon
him, knocking him over and sinking his teeth into him. White Fang
was too helpless to defend himself, and it would have gone hard with him
had not Grey Beaver's foot shot out, lifting Lip-lip into the air with its
violence so that he smashed down to earth a dozen feet away. This was
the man-animal's justice; and even then, in his own pitiable plight, White
Fang experienced a little grateful thrill. At Grey Beaver's heels he limped
obediently through the village to the tepee. And so it came that White
Fang learned that the right to punish was something the gods reserved for
themselves and denied to the lesser creatures under them.
That night, when all was still, White Fang remembered his mother and
sorrowed for her. He sorrowed too loudly and woke up Grey Beaver, who
beat him. After that he mourned gently when the gods were around.
But sometimes, straying off to the edge of the woods by himself, he gave vent
to his grief, and cried it out with loud whimperings and wailings.
It was during this period that he might have harkened to the memories of
the lair and the stream and run back to the Wild. But the memory of his
mother held him. As the hunting man-animals went out and came back, so
she would come back to the village some time. So he remained in his bondage
waiting for her.
But it was not altogether an unhappy bondage. There was much
to interest him. Something was always happening. There was no end
to the strange things these gods did, and he was always curious
to see. Besides, he was learning how to get along with Grey
Beaver. Obedience, rigid, undeviating obedience, was what was exacted
of him; and in return he escaped beatings and his existence
Nay, Grey Beaver himself sometimes tossed him a piece of meat,
and defended him against the other dogs in the eating of it. And
such a piece of meat was of value. It was worth more, in some
strange way, then a dozen pieces of meat from the hand of a squaw.
Grey Beaver never petted nor caressed. Perhaps it was the weight of
his hand, perhaps his justice, perhaps the sheer power of him, and perhaps
it was all these things that influenced White Fang; for a certain tie of
attachment was forming between him and his surly lord.
Insidiously, and by remote ways, as well as by the power of stick and
stone and clout of hand, were the shackles of White Fang's bondage being
riveted upon him. The qualities in his kind that in the beginning made
it possible for them to come in to the fires of men, were qualities capable
of development. They were developing in him, and the camp-life, replete
with misery as it was, was secretly endearing itself to him all the
time. But White Fang was unaware of it. He knew only grief for
the loss of Kiche, hope for her return, and a hungry yearning for the free
life that had been his.
CHAPTER III—THE OUTCAST
Lip-lip continued so to darken his days that White Fang became wickeder
and more ferocious than it was his natural right to be. Savageness was a part
of his make-up, but the savageness thus developed exceeded his make-up.
He acquired a reputation for wickedness amongst the man-animals
themselves. Wherever there was trouble and uproar in camp, fighting and
squabbling or the outcry of a squaw over a bit of stolen meat, they were sure
to find White Fang mixed up in it and usually at the bottom of it. They
did not bother to look after the causes of his conduct. They saw only
the effects, and the effects were bad. He was a sneak and a thief,
a mischief-maker, a fomenter of trouble; and irate squaws told him to his
face, the while he eyed them alert and ready to dodge any quick-flung
missile, that he was a wolf and worthless and bound to come to an evil
He found himself an outcast in the midst of the populous camp.
All the young dogs followed Lip-lip's lead. There was a
difference between White Fang and them. Perhaps they sensed his
wild-wood breed, and instinctively felt for him the enmity that the
domestic dog feels for the wolf. But be that as it may, they joined
with Lip-lip in the persecution. And, once declared against him,
they found good reason to continue declared against him. One and
all, from time to time, they felt his teeth; and to his credit, he
gave more than he received. Many of them he could whip in single
fight; but single fight was denied him. The beginning of such a fight
was a signal for all the young dogs in camp to come running and pitch upon
Out of this pack-persecution he learned two important things:
how to take care of himself in a mass-fight against him—and how, on
a single dog, to inflict the greatest amount of damage in the briefest
space of time. To keep one's feet in the midst of the hostile mass
meant life, and this he learnt well. He became cat- like in his ability
to stay on his feet. Even grown dogs might hurtle him backward or
sideways with the impact of their heavy bodies; and backward or sideways he
would go, in the air or sliding on the ground, but always with his legs under
him and his feet downward to the mother earth.
When dogs fight, there are usually preliminaries to the actual combat—
snarlings and bristlings and stiff-legged struttings. But White Fang
learned to omit these preliminaries. Delay meant the coming against him
of all the young dogs. He must do his work quickly and get away.
So he learnt to give no warning of his intention. He rushed in and
snapped and slashed on the instant, without notice, before his foe could
prepare to meet him. Thus he learned how to inflict quick and severe
damage. Also he learned the value of surprise. A dog, taken off
its guard, its shoulder slashed open or its ear ripped in ribbons before it
knew what was happening, was a dog half whipped.
Furthermore, it was remarkably easy to overthrow a dog taken
by surprise; while a dog, thus overthrown, invariably exposed for a moment
the soft underside of its neck—the vulnerable point at which to strike for
its life. White Fang knew this point. It was a knowledge
bequeathed to him directly from the hunting generation of wolves. So it
was that White Fang's method when he took the offensive, was: first to
find a young dog alone; second, to surprise it and knock it off its feet; and
third, to drive in with his teeth at the soft throat.
Being but partly grown his jaws had not yet become large enough
nor strong enough to make his throat-attack deadly; but many a young dog
went around camp with a lacerated throat in token of White Fang's
intention. And one day, catching one of his enemies alone on the edge
of the woods, he managed, by repeatedly overthrowing him and attacking the
throat, to cut the great vein and let out the life. There was a great
row that night. He had been observed, the news had been carried to the
dead dog's master, the squaws remembered all the instances of stolen meat,
and Grey Beaver was beset by many angry voices. But he resolutely held
the door of his tepee, inside which he had placed the culprit, and refused
to permit the vengeance for which his tribespeople clamoured.
White Fang became hated by man and dog. During this period of
his development he never knew a moment's security. The tooth of
every dog was against him, the hand of every man. He was greeted
with snarls by his kind, with curses and stones by his gods. He
lived tensely. He was always keyed up, alert for attack, wary of
being attacked, with an eye for sudden and unexpected missiles,
prepared to act precipitately and coolly, to leap in with a flash of
teeth, or to leap away with a menacing snarl.
As for snarling he could snarl more terribly than any dog, young or old,
in camp. The intent of the snarl is to warn or frighten, and judgment
is required to know when it should be used. White Fang knew how to make
it and when to make it. Into his snarl he incorporated all that was
vicious, malignant, and horrible. With nose serrulated by continuous
spasms, hair bristling in recurrent waves, tongue whipping out like a red
snake and whipping back again, ears flattened down, eyes gleaming hatred,
lips wrinkled back, and fangs exposed and dripping, he could compel a pause
on the part of almost any assailant. A temporary pause, when
taken off his guard, gave him the vital moment in which to think
and determine his action. But often a pause so gained lengthened
out until it evolved into a complete cessation from the attack.
And before more than one of the grown dogs White Fang's snarl enabled him
to beat an honourable retreat.
An outcast himself from the pack of the part-grown dogs, his sanguinary
methods and remarkable efficiency made the pack pay for its persecution of
him. Not permitted himself to run with the pack, the curious state of
affairs obtained that no member of the pack could run outside the pack.
White Fang would not permit it. What of his bushwhacking and waylaying
tactics, the young dogs were afraid to run by themselves. With the
exception of Lip-lip, they were compelled to hunch together for mutual
protection against the terrible enemy they had made. A puppy alone by
the river bank meant a puppy dead or a puppy that aroused the camp with its
shrill pain and terror as it fled back from the wolf-cub that had
But White Fang's reprisals did not cease, even when the young dogs had
learned thoroughly that they must stay together. He attacked them when
he caught them alone, and they attacked him when they were bunched. The
sight of him was sufficient to start them rushing after him, at which times
his swiftness usually carried him into safety. But woe the dog that
outran his fellows in such pursuit! White Fang had learned to turn
suddenly upon the pursuer that was ahead of the pack and thoroughly to rip
him up before the pack could arrive. This occurred with great
frequency, for, once in full cry, the dogs were prone to forget themselves in
the excitement of the chase, while White Fang never forgot
himself. Stealing backward glances as he ran, he was always ready to
whirl around and down the overzealous pursuer that outran his fellows.
Young dogs are bound to play, and out of the exigencies of the situation
they realised their play in this mimic warfare. Thus it was that the
hunt of White Fang became their chief game—a deadly game, withal, and at
all times a serious game. He, on the other hand, being the
fastest-footed, was unafraid to venture anywhere. During the period that he
waited vainly for his mother to come back, he led the pack many a wild chase
through the adjacent woods. But the pack invariably lost him. Its noise
and outcry warned him of its presence, while he ran alone, velvet-footed,
silently, a moving shadow among the trees after the manner of his father
and mother before him. Further he was more directly connected with
the Wild than they; and he knew more of its secrets and stratagems.
A favourite trick of his was to lose his trail in running water and then
lie quietly in a near-by thicket while their baffled cries arose around
Hated by his kind and by mankind, indomitable, perpetually warred upon
and himself waging perpetual war, his development was rapid and
one-sided. This was no soil for kindliness and affection to blossom
in. Of such things he had not the faintest glimmering. The code he
learned was to obey the strong and to oppress the weak. Grey Beaver was a
god, and strong. Therefore White Fang obeyed him. But the dog
younger or smaller than himself was weak, a thing to be destroyed. His
development was in the direction of power. In order to face the constant
danger of hurt and even of destruction, his predatory and protective
faculties were unduly developed. He became quicker of movement than the
other dogs, swifter of foot, craftier, deadlier, more lithe, more lean
with ironlike muscle and sinew, more enduring, more cruel, more ferocious,
and more intelligent. He had to become all these things, else he would
not have held his own nor survive the hostile environment in which he found
CHAPTER IV—THE TRAIL OF THE GODS
In the fall of the year, when the days were shortening and the bite of
the frost was coming into the air, White Fang got his chance
for liberty. For several days there had been a great hubbub in
the village. The summer camp was being dismantled, and the tribe,
bag and baggage, was preparing to go off to the fall hunting.
White Fang watched it all with eager eyes, and when the tepees began
to come down and the canoes were loading at the bank, he
understood. Already the canoes were departing, and some had disappeared
down the river.
Quite deliberately he determined to stay behind. He waited
his opportunity to slink out of camp to the woods. Here, in
the running stream where ice was beginning to form, he hid his trail. Then
he crawled into the heart of a dense thicket and waited. The time
passed by, and he slept intermittently for hours. Then he was aroused
by Grey Beaver's voice calling him by name. There were other
voices. White Fang could hear Grey Beaver's squaw taking part in the
search, and Mit-sah, who was Grey Beaver's son.
White Fang trembled with fear, and though the impulse came to crawl out
of his hiding-place, he resisted it. After a time the voices died away,
and some time after that he crept out to enjoy the success of his
undertaking. Darkness was coming on, and for a while he played about
among the trees, pleasuring in his freedom. Then, and quite suddenly, he
became aware of loneliness. He sat down to consider, listening to the
silence of the forest and perturbed by it. That nothing moved nor
sounded, seemed ominous. He felt the lurking of danger, unseen and
unguessed. He was suspicious of the looming bulks of the trees and of
the dark shadows that might conceal all manner of perilous things.
Then it was cold. Here was no warm side of a tepee against
which to snuggle. The frost was in his feet, and he kept lifting
first one fore-foot and then the other. He curved his bushy tail
around to cover them, and at the same time he saw a vision. There
was nothing strange about it. Upon his inward sight was impressed
a succession of memory-pictures. He saw the camp again, the
tepees, and the blaze of the fires. He heard the shrill voices of
the women, the gruff basses of the men, and the snarling of the dogs. He
was hungry, and he remembered pieces of meat and fish that had been thrown
him. Here was no meat, nothing but a threatening and inedible
His bondage had softened him. Irresponsibility had weakened
him. He had forgotten how to shift for himself. The night yawned
about him. His senses, accustomed to the hum and bustle of the
camp, used to the continuous impact of sights and sounds, were now
left idle. There was nothing to do, nothing to see nor hear.
They strained to catch some interruption of the silence and immobility of
nature. They were appalled by inaction and by the feel of something
He gave a great start of fright. A colossal and formless
something was rushing across the field of his vision. It was a
tree-shadow flung by the moon, from whose face the clouds had been
brushed away. Reassured, he whimpered softly; then he suppressed
the whimper for fear that it might attract the attention of the
A tree, contracting in the cool of the night, made a loud noise. It was
directly above him. He yelped in his fright. A panic seized him,
and he ran madly toward the village. He knew an overpowering desire for
the protection and companionship of man. In his nostrils was the smell of the
camp-smoke. In his ears the camp-sounds and cries were ringing
loud. He passed out of the forest and into the moonlit open where were
no shadows nor darknesses. But no village greeted his eyes. He
had forgotten. The village had gone away.
His wild flight ceased abruptly. There was no place to which
to flee. He slunk forlornly through the deserted camp, smelling
the rubbish-heaps and the discarded rags and tags of the gods.
He would have been glad for the rattle of stones about him, flung by an
angry squaw, glad for the hand of Grey Beaver descending upon him in wrath;
while he would have welcomed with delight Lip-lip and the whole snarling,
He came to where Grey Beaver's tepee had stood. In the centre
of the space it had occupied, he sat down. He pointed his nose at
the moon. His throat was afflicted by rigid spasms, his mouth
opened, and in a heart-broken cry bubbled up his loneliness and fear,
his grief for Kiche, all his past sorrows and miseries as well as
his apprehension of sufferings and dangers to come. It was the
long wolf-howl, full-throated and mournful, the first howl he had
The coming of daylight dispelled his fears but increased
his loneliness. The naked earth, which so shortly before had been
so populous; thrust his loneliness more forcibly upon him. It did
not take him long to make up his mind. He plunged into the forest
and followed the river bank down the stream. All day he ran. He
did not rest. He seemed made to run on for ever. His iron-like
body ignored fatigue. And even after fatigue came, his heritage
of endurance braced him to endless endeavour and enabled him to drive his
complaining body onward.
Where the river swung in against precipitous bluffs, he climbed the high
mountains behind. Rivers and streams that entered the main river he
forded or swam. Often he took to the rim-ice that was beginning to
form, and more than once he crashed through and struggled for life in the icy
current. Always he was on the lookout for the trail of the gods where
it might leave the river and proceed inland.
White Fang was intelligent beyond the average of his kind; yet
his mental vision was not wide enough to embrace the other bank of
the Mackenzie. What if the trail of the gods led out on that
side? It never entered his head. Later on, when he had travelled
more and grown older and wiser and come to know more of trails and
rivers, it might be that he could grasp and apprehend such a
possibility. But that mental power was yet in the future. Just now he
ran blindly, his own bank of the Mackenzie alone entering into
All night he ran, blundering in the darkness into mishaps and obstacles
that delayed but did not daunt. By the middle of the second day he had
been running continuously for thirty hours, and the iron of his flesh was
giving out. It was the endurance of his mind that kept him going.
He had not eaten in forty hours, and he was weak with hunger. The
repeated drenchings in the icy water had likewise had their effect on
him. His handsome coat was draggled. The broad pads of his feet were
bruised and bleeding. He had begun to limp, and this limp increased
with the hours. To make it worse, the light of the sky was obscured and
snow began to fall—a raw, moist, melting, clinging snow, slippery under
foot, that hid from him the landscape he traversed, and that covered over
the inequalities of the ground so that the way of his feet was
more difficult and painful.
Grey Beaver had intended camping that night on the far bank of
the Mackenzie, for it was in that direction that the hunting lay.
But on the near bank, shortly before dark, a moose coming down to drink,
had been espied by Kloo-kooch, who was Grey Beaver's squaw. Now, had not the
moose come down to drink, had not Mit-sah been steering out of the course
because of the snow, had not Kloo-kooch sighted the moose, and had not Grey
Beaver killed it with a lucky shot from his rifle, all subsequent things
would have happened differently. Grey Beaver would not have camped on
the near side of the Mackenzie, and White Fang would have passed by and gone
on, either to die or to find his way to his wild brothers and become one
of them—a wolf to the end of his days.
Night had fallen. The snow was flying more thickly, and
White Fang, whimpering softly to himself as he stumbled and limped
along, came upon a fresh trail in the snow. So fresh was it that he
knew it immediately for what it was. Whining with eagerness,
he followed back from the river bank and in among the trees.
The camp-sounds came to his ears. He saw the blaze of the fire,
Kloo- kooch cooking, and Grey Beaver squatting on his hams and mumbling
a chunk of raw tallow. There was fresh meat in camp!
White Fang expected a beating. He crouched and bristled a
little at the thought of it. Then he went forward again. He
feared and disliked the beating he knew to be waiting for him. But he
knew, further, that the comfort of the fire would be his, the
protection of the gods, the companionship of the dogs—the last,
a companionship of enmity, but none the less a companionship
and satisfying to his gregarious needs.
He came cringing and crawling into the firelight. Grey Beaver
saw him, and stopped munching the tallow. White Fang crawled
slowly, cringing and grovelling in the abjectness of his abasement
and submission. He crawled straight toward Grey Beaver, every inch
of his progress becoming slower and more painful. At last he lay
at the master's feet, into whose possession he now surrendered himself,
voluntarily, body and soul. Of his own choice, he came in to sit by
man's fire and to be ruled by him. White Fang trembled, waiting for the
punishment to fall upon him. There was a movement of the hand above
him. He cringed involuntarily under the expected blow. It did not
fall. He stole a glance upward. Grey Beaver was breaking the lump
of tallow in half! Grey Beaver was offering him one piece of the
tallow! Very gently and somewhat suspiciously, he first smelled the
tallow and then proceeded to eat it. Grey Beaver ordered meat to be
brought to him, and guarded him from the other dogs while he ate. After
that, grateful and content, White Fang lay at Grey Beaver's feet, gazing at
the fire that warmed him, blinking and dozing, secure in the knowledge that
the morrow would find him, not wandering forlorn through bleak
forest-stretches, but in the camp of the man-animals, with the gods to whom
he had given himself and upon whom he was now dependent.
CHAPTER V—THE COVENANT
When December was well along, Grey Beaver went on a journey up
the Mackenzie. Mit-sah and Kloo-kooch went with him. One sled
he drove himself, drawn by dogs he had traded for or borrowed.
A second and smaller sled was driven by Mit-sah, and to this was harnessed
a team of puppies. It was more of a toy affair than anything else, yet
it was the delight of Mit-sah, who felt that he was beginning to do a man's
work in the world. Also, he was learning to drive dogs and to train
dogs; while the puppies themselves were being broken in to the harness.
Furthermore, the sled was of some service, for it carried nearly two hundred
pounds of outfit and food.
White Fang had seen the camp-dogs toiling in the harness, so that he did
not resent overmuch the first placing of the harness upon himself.
About his neck was put a moss-stuffed collar, which was connected by two
pulling-traces to a strap that passed around his chest and over his
back. It was to this that was fastened the long rope by which he pulled
at the sled.
There were seven puppies in the team. The others had been
born earlier in the year and were nine and ten months old, while
White Fang was only eight months old. Each dog was fastened to the
sled by a single rope. No two ropes were of the same length, while
the difference in length between any two ropes was at least that of
a dog's body. Every rope was brought to a ring at the front end
of the sled. The sled itself was without runners, being a
birch-bark toboggan, with upturned forward end to keep it from ploughing
under the snow. This construction enabled the weight of the sled
and load to be distributed over the largest snow-surface; for the snow was
crystal-powder and very soft. Observing the same principle of widest
distribution of weight, the dogs at the ends of their ropes radiated
fan-fashion from the nose of the sled, so that no dog trod in another's
There was, furthermore, another virtue in the fan-formation.
The ropes of varying length prevented the dogs attacking from the
rear those that ran in front of them. For a dog to attack another,
it would have to turn upon one at a shorter rope. In which case
it would find itself face to face with the dog attacked, and also it would
find itself facing the whip of the driver. But the most peculiar virtue
of all lay in the fact that the dog that strove to attack one in front of him
must pull the sled faster, and that the faster the sled travelled, the faster
could the dog attacked run away. Thus, the dog behind could never catch
up with the one in front. The faster he ran, the faster ran the one he
was after, and the faster ran all the dogs. Incidentally, the sled went
faster, and thus, by cunning indirection, did man increase his mastery
over the beasts.
Mit-sah resembled his father, much of whose grey wisdom
he possessed. In the past he had observed Lip-lip's persecution
of White Fang; but at that time Lip-lip was another man's dog, and Mit-sah
had never dared more than to shy an occasional stone at him. But now
Lip-lip was his dog, and he proceeded to wreak his vengeance on him by
putting him at the end of the longest rope. This made Lip-lip the leader, and
was apparently an honour! but in reality it took away from him all honour,
and instead of being bully and master of the pack, he now found himself hated
and persecuted by the pack.
Because he ran at the end of the longest rope, the dogs had always the
view of him running away before them. All that they saw of him was his
bushy tail and fleeing hind legs—a view far less ferocious and intimidating
than his bristling mane and gleaming fangs. Also, dogs being so
constituted in their mental ways, the sight of him running away gave desire
to run after him and a feeling that he ran away from them.
The moment the sled started, the team took after Lip-lip in a chase that
extended throughout the day. At first he had been prone to turn upon
his pursuers, jealous of his dignity and wrathful; but at such times Mit-sah
would throw the stinging lash of the thirty-foot cariboo-gut whip into his
face and compel him to turn tail and run on. Lip-lip might face the
pack, but he could not face that whip, and all that was left him to do was to
keep his long rope taut and his flanks ahead of the teeth of his mates.
But a still greater cunning lurked in the recesses of the
Indian mind. To give point to unending pursuit of the leader,
Mit-sah favoured him over the other dogs. These favours aroused in
them jealousy and hatred. In their presence Mit-sah would give him
meat and would give it to him only. This was maddening to them.
They would rage around just outside the throwing-distance of the
whip, while Lip-lip devoured the meat and Mit-sah protected him.
And when there was no meat to give, Mit-sah would keep the team at
a distance and make believe to give meat to Lip-lip.
White Fang took kindly to the work. He had travelled a
greater distance than the other dogs in the yielding of himself to the
rule of the gods, and he had learned more thoroughly the futility
of opposing their will. In addition, the persecution he had
suffered from the pack had made the pack less to him in the scheme
of things, and man more. He had not learned to be dependent on
his kind for companionship. Besides, Kiche was well-nigh
forgotten; and the chief outlet of expression that remained to him was in
the allegiance he tendered the gods he had accepted as masters. So
he worked hard, learned discipline, and was obedient.
Faithfulness and willingness characterised his toil. These are
essential traits of the wolf and the wild-dog when they have become
domesticated, and these traits White Fang possessed in unusual measure.
A companionship did exist between White Fang and the other dogs, but it
was one of warfare and enmity. He had never learned to play with
them. He knew only how to fight, and fight with them he did, returning
to them a hundred-fold the snaps and slashes they had given him in the days
when Lip-lip was leader of the pack. But Lip-lip was no longer leader—
except when he fled away before his mates at the end of his rope, the sled
bounding along behind. In camp he kept close to Mit-sah or Grey Beaver
or Kloo-kooch. He did not dare venture away from the gods, for now the
fangs of all dogs were against him, and he tasted to the dregs the
persecution that had been White Fang's.
With the overthrow of Lip-lip, White Fang could have become leader of
the pack. But he was too morose and solitary for that. He merely
thrashed his team-mates. Otherwise he ignored them. They got out
of his way when he came along; nor did the boldest of them ever dare to rob
him of his meat. On the contrary, they devoured their own meat
hurriedly, for fear that he would take it away from them. White Fang
knew the law well: TO OPPRESS THE WEAK AND OBEY THE STRONG. He
ate his share of meat as rapidly as he could. And then woe the dog that
had not yet finished! A snarl and a flash of fangs, and that dog would
wail his indignation to the uncomforting stars while White Fang finished his
portion for him.
Every little while, however, one dog or another would flame up in revolt
and be promptly subdued. Thus White Fang was kept in training. He
was jealous of the isolation in which he kept himself in the midst of the
pack, and he fought often to maintain it. But such fights were of brief
duration. He was too quick for the others. They were slashed open
and bleeding before they knew what had happened, were whipped almost before
they had begun to fight.
As rigid as the sled-discipline of the gods, was the
discipline maintained by White Fang amongst his fellows. He never
allowed them any latitude. He compelled them to an unremitting respect
for him. They might do as they pleased amongst themselves. That
was no concern of his. But it WAS his concern that they leave
him alone in his isolation, get out of his way when he elected to
walk among them, and at all times acknowledge his mastery over them.
A hint of stiff-leggedness on their part, a lifted lip or a bristle of
hair, and he would be upon them, merciless and cruel, swiftly convincing them
of the error of their way.
He was a monstrous tyrant. His mastery was rigid as steel.
He oppressed the weak with a vengeance. Not for nothing had he
been exposed to the pitiless struggles for life in the day of his cubhood,
when his mother and he, alone and unaided, held their own and survived in the
ferocious environment of the Wild. And not for nothing had he learned
to walk softly when superior strength went by. He oppressed the weak,
but he respected the strong. And in the course of the long journey with
Grey Beaver he walked softly indeed amongst the full-grown dogs in the camps
of the strange man- animals they encountered.
The months passed by. Still continued the journey of Grey
Beaver. White Fang's strength was developed by the long hours on trail
and the steady toil at the sled; and it would have seemed that his mental
development was well-nigh complete. He had come to know quite
thoroughly the world in which he lived. His outlook was bleak and
materialistic. The world as he saw it was a fierce and brutal world, a
world without warmth, a world in which caresses and affection and the bright
sweetnesses of the spirit did not exist.
He had no affection for Grey Beaver. True, he was a god, but
a most savage god. White Fang was glad to acknowledge his
lordship, but it was a lordship based upon superior intelligence and
brute strength. There was something in the fibre of White Fang's
being that made his lordship a thing to be desired, else he would not have
come back from the Wild when he did to tender his allegiance. There were
deeps in his nature which had never been sounded. A kind word, a
caressing touch of the hand, on the part of Grey Beaver, might have sounded
these deeps; but Grey Beaver did not caress, nor speak kind words. It
was not his way. His primacy was savage, and savagely he ruled,
administering justice with a club, punishing transgression with the pain of a
blow, and rewarding merit, not by kindness, but by withholding a blow.
So White Fang knew nothing of the heaven a man's hand might contain for
him. Besides, he did not like the hands of the man-animals. He was
suspicious of them. It was true that they sometimes gave meat, but more
often they gave hurt. Hands were things to keep away from. They
hurled stones, wielded sticks and clubs and whips, administered slaps and
clouts, and, when they touched him, were cunning to hurt with pinch and twist
and wrench. In strange villages he had encountered the hands of the
children and learned that they were cruel to hurt. Also, he had once
nearly had an eye poked out by a toddling papoose. From these
experiences he became suspicious of all children. He could not tolerate
them. When they came near with their ominous hands, he got up.
It was in a village at the Great Slave Lake, that, in the course
of resenting the evil of the hands of the man-animals, he came to modify
the law that he had learned from Grey Beaver: namely, that the
unpardonable crime was to bite one of the gods. In this village, after
the custom of all dogs in all villages, White Fang went foraging, for
food. A boy was chopping frozen moose-meat with an axe, and the chips
were flying in the snow. White Fang, sliding by in quest of meat,
stopped and began to eat the chips. He observed the boy lay down the
axe and take up a stout club. White Fang sprang clear, just in time to
escape the descending blow. The boy pursued him, and he, a stranger in
the village, fled between two tepees to find himself cornered against a high
There was no escape for White Fang. The only way out was
between the two tepees, and this the boy guarded. Holding his
club prepared to strike, he drew in on his cornered quarry. White
Fang was furious. He faced the boy, bristling and snarling, his
sense of justice outraged. He knew the law of forage. All the
wastage of meat, such as the frozen chips, belonged to the dog that
found it. He had done no wrong, broken no law, yet here was this
boy preparing to give him a beating. White Fang scarcely knew
what happened. He did it in a surge of rage. And he did it so
quickly that the boy did not know either. All the boy knew was that he
had in some unaccountable way been overturned into the snow, and that his
club-hand had been ripped wide open by White Fang's teeth.
But White Fang knew that he had broken the law of the gods. He
had driven his teeth into the sacred flesh of one of them, and
could expect nothing but a most terrible punishment. He fled away
to Grey Beaver, behind whose protecting legs he crouched when the bitten
boy and the boy's family came, demanding vengeance. But they went away
with vengeance unsatisfied. Grey Beaver defended White Fang. So
did Mit-sah and Kloo-kooch. White Fang, listening to the wordy war and
watching the angry gestures, knew that his act was justified. And so it
came that he learned there were gods and gods. There were his gods, and
there were other gods, and between them there was a difference. Justice
or injustice, it was all the same, he must take all things from the hands of
his own gods. But he was not compelled to take injustice from the other
gods. It was his privilege to resent it with his teeth. And this
also was a law of the gods.
Before the day was out, White Fang was to learn more about
this law. Mit-sah, alone, gathering firewood in the forest,
encountered the boy that had been bitten. With him were other
boys. Hot words passed. Then all the boys attacked Mit-sah.
It was going hard with him. Blows were raining upon him from all
sides. White Fang looked on at first. This was an affair of the
gods, and no concern of his. Then he realised that this was Mit-sah,
one of his own particular gods, who was being maltreated. It was no
reasoned impulse that made White Fang do what he then did. A mad rush
of anger sent him leaping in amongst the combatants. Five
minutes later the landscape was covered with fleeing boys, many of
whom dripped blood upon the snow in token that White Fang's teeth had not
been idle. When Mit-sah told the story in camp, Grey Beaver ordered
meat to be given to White Fang. He ordered much meat to be given, and
White Fang, gorged and sleepy by the fire, knew that the law had received its
It was in line with these experiences that White Fang came to learn the
law of property and the duty of the defence of property. From the
protection of his god's body to the protection of his god's possessions was a
step, and this step he made. What was his god's was to be defended
against all the world—even to the extent of biting other gods. Not
only was such an act sacrilegious in its nature, but it was fraught with
peril. The gods were all-powerful, and a dog was no match against them;
yet White Fang learned to face them, fiercely belligerent and unafraid.
Duty rose above fear, and thieving gods learned to leave Grey Beaver's
One thing, in this connection, White Fang quickly learnt, and that was
that a thieving god was usually a cowardly god and prone to run away at the
sounding of the alarm. Also, he learned that but brief time elapsed
between his sounding of the alarm and Grey Beaver coming to his aid. He
came to know that it was not fear of him that drove the thief away, but fear
of Grey Beaver. White Fang did not give the alarm by barking. He
never barked. His method was to drive straight at the intruder, and to
sink his teeth in if he could. Because he was morose and solitary,
having nothing to do with the other dogs, he was unusually fitted to guard
his master's property; and in this he was encouraged and trained by Grey
Beaver. One result of this was to make White Fang more ferocious
and indomitable, and more solitary.
The months went by, binding stronger and stronger the covenant between
dog and man. This was the ancient covenant that the first wolf that
came in from the Wild entered into with man. And, like all succeeding
wolves and wild dogs that had done likewise, White Fang worked the covenant
out for himself. The terms were simple. For the possession of a
flesh-and-blood god, he exchanged his own liberty. Food and fire,
protection and companionship, were some of the things he received from the
god. In return, he guarded the god's property, defended his body,
worked for him, and obeyed him.
The possession of a god implies service. White Fang's was
a service of duty and awe, but not of love. He did not know
what love was. He had no experience of love. Kiche was a
remote memory. Besides, not only had he abandoned the Wild and his
kind when he gave himself up to man, but the terms of the covenant
were such that if ever he met Kiche again he would not desert his god
to go with her. His allegiance to man seemed somehow a law of
his being greater than the love of liberty, of kind and kin.
CHAPTER VI—THE FAMINE
The spring of the year was at hand when Grey Beaver finished his long
journey. It was April, and White Fang was a year old when he pulled
into the home villages and was loosed from the harness by Mit-sah.
Though a long way from his full growth, White Fang, next to Lip-lip, was the
largest yearling in the village. Both from his father, the wolf, and
from Kiche, he had inherited stature and strength, and already he was
measuring up alongside the full-grown dogs. But he had not yet grown
compact. His body was slender and rangy, and his strength more stringy
than massive, His coat was the true wolf-grey, and to all appearances he was
true wolf himself. The quarter-strain of dog he had inherited from Kiche had
left no mark on him physically, though it had played its part in his
He wandered through the village, recognising with staid satisfaction the
various gods he had known before the long journey. Then there were the dogs,
puppies growing up like himself, and grown dogs that did not look so large
and formidable as the memory pictures he retained of them. Also, he
stood less in fear of them than formerly, stalking among them with a certain
careless ease that was as new to him as it was enjoyable.
There was Baseek, a grizzled old fellow that in his younger days had but
to uncover his fangs to send White Fang cringing and crouching to the right
about. From him White Fang had learned much of his own insignificance;
and from him he was now to learn much of the change and development that had
taken place in himself. While Baseek had been growing weaker with age,
White Fang had been growing stronger with youth.
It was at the cutting-up of a moose, fresh-killed, that White
Fang learned of the changed relations in which he stood to the
dog- world. He had got for himself a hoof and part of the shin-bone,
to which quite a bit of meat was attached. Withdrawn from
the immediate scramble of the other dogs—in fact out of sight behind a
thicket—he was devouring his prize, when Baseek rushed in upon him.
Before he knew what he was doing, he had slashed the intruder twice and
sprung clear. Baseek was surprised by the other's temerity and
swiftness of attack. He stood, gazing stupidly across at White Fang,
the raw, red shin-bone between them.
Baseek was old, and already he had come to know the increasing valour of
the dogs it had been his wont to bully. Bitter experiences these,
which, perforce, he swallowed, calling upon all his wisdom to cope with
them. In the old days he would have sprung upon White Fang in a fury of
righteous wrath. But now his waning powers would not permit such a
course. He bristled fiercely and looked ominously across the shin-bone
at White Fang. And White Fang, resurrecting quite a deal of the old
awe, seemed to wilt and to shrink in upon himself and grow small, as he cast
about in his mind for a way to beat a retreat not too inglorious.
And right here Baseek erred. Had he contented himself with
looking fierce and ominous, all would have been well. White Fang, on
the verge of retreat, would have retreated, leaving the meat to him. But
Baseek did not wait. He considered the victory already his and stepped
forward to the meat. As he bent his head carelessly to smell it, White
Fang bristled slightly. Even then it was not too late for Baseek to
retrieve the situation. Had he merely stood over the meat, head up and
glowering, White Fang would ultimately have slunk away. But the fresh
meat was strong in Baseek's nostrils, and greed urged him to take a bite of
This was too much for White Fang. Fresh upon his months of
mastery over his own team-mates, it was beyond his self-control to
stand idly by while another devoured the meat that belonged to him.
He struck, after his custom, without warning. With the first
slash, Baseek's right ear was ripped into ribbons. He was astounded
at the suddenness of it. But more things, and most grievous
ones, were happening with equal suddenness. He was knocked off his
feet. His throat was bitten. While he was struggling to his feet
the young dog sank teeth twice into his shoulder. The swiftness of
it was bewildering. He made a futile rush at White Fang, clipping
the empty air with an outraged snap. The next moment his nose was
laid open, and he was staggering backward away from the meat.
The situation was now reversed. White Fang stood over the
shin- bone, bristling and menacing, while Baseek stood a little way
off, preparing to retreat. He dared not risk a fight with this
young lightning-flash, and again he knew, and more bitterly,
the enfeeblement of oncoming age. His attempt to maintain his
dignity was heroic. Calmly turning his back upon young dog and
shin-bone, as though both were beneath his notice and unworthy of
his consideration, he stalked grandly away. Nor, until well out
of sight, did he stop to lick his bleeding wounds.
The effect on White Fang was to give him a greater faith in himself, and
a greater pride. He walked less softly among the grown dogs; his
attitude toward them was less compromising. Not that he went out of his
way looking for trouble. Far from it. But upon his way he
demanded consideration. He stood upon his right to go his way
unmolested and to give trail to no dog. He had to be taken into
account, that was all. He was no longer to be disregarded and ignored,
as was the lot of puppies, and as continued to be the lot of the puppies that
were his team-mates. They got out of the way, gave trail to the grown dogs,
and gave up meat to them under compulsion. But White Fang,
uncompanionable, solitary, morose, scarcely looking to right or left,
redoubtable, forbidding of aspect, remote and alien, was accepted as an equal
by his puzzled elders. They quickly learned to leave him
alone, neither venturing hostile acts nor making overtures
of friendliness. If they left him alone, he left them alone—a
state of affairs that they found, after a few encounters, to be
pre- eminently desirable.
In midsummer White Fang had an experience. Trotting along in
his silent way to investigate a new tepee which had been erected on
the edge of the village while he was away with the hunters after moose, he
came full upon Kiche. He paused and looked at her. He remembered
her vaguely, but he REMEMBERED her, and that was more than could be said for
her. She lifted her lip at him in the old snarl of menace, and his
memory became clear. His forgotten cubhood, all that was associated
with that familiar snarl, rushed back to him. Before he had known the
gods, she had been to him the centre-pin of the universe. The old
familiar feelings of that time came back upon him, surged up within
him. He bounded towards her joyously, and she met him with shrewd fangs
that laid his cheek open to the bone. He did not understand. He
backed away, bewildered and puzzled.
But it was not Kiche's fault. A wolf-mother was not made
to remember her cubs of a year or so before. So she did not
remember White Fang. He was a strange animal, an intruder; and her
present litter of puppies gave her the right to resent such intrusion.
One of the puppies sprawled up to White Fang. They were
half- brothers, only they did not know it. White Fang sniffed the
puppy curiously, whereupon Kiche rushed upon him, gashing is face a second
time. He backed farther away. All the old memories
and associations died down again and passed into the grave from which they
had been resurrected. He looked at Kiche licking her puppy and stopping
now and then to snarl at him. She was without value to him. He
had learned to get along without her. Her meaning was forgotten.
There was no place for her in his scheme of things, as there was no place for
him in hers.
He was still standing, stupid and bewildered, the memories forgotten,
wondering what it was all about, when Kiche attacked him a third time, intent
on driving him away altogether from the vicinity. And White Fang
allowed himself to be driven away. This was a female of his kind, and
it was a law of his kind that the males must not fight the females. He
did not know anything about this law, for it was no generalisation of the
mind, not a something acquired by experience of the world. He knew it
as a secret prompting, as an urge of instinct—of the same instinct that
made him howl at the moon and stars of nights, and that made him
fear death and the unknown.
The months went by. White Fang grew stronger, heavier, and
more compact, while his character was developing along the lines laid down
by his heredity and his environment. His heredity was a life- stuff
that may be likened to clay. It possessed many possibilities, was
capable of being moulded into many different forms. Environment served
to model the clay, to give it a particular form. Thus, had White Fang
never come in to the fires of man, the Wild would have moulded him into a
true wolf. But the gods had given him a different environment, and he
was moulded into a dog that was rather wolfish, but that was a dog and not a
And so, according to the clay of his nature and the pressure of
his surroundings, his character was being moulded into a
certain particular shape. There was no escaping it. He was
becoming more morose, more uncompanionable, more solitary, more ferocious;
while the dogs were learning more and more that it was better to be
at peace with him than at war, and Grey Beaver was coming to prize
him more greatly with the passage of each day.
White Fang, seeming to sum up strength in all his
qualities, nevertheless suffered from one besetting weakness. He could
not stand being laughed at. The laughter of men was a hateful
thing. They might laugh among themselves about anything they
pleased except himself, and he did not mind. But the moment laughter
was turned upon him he would fly into a most terrible rage.
Grave, dignified, sombre, a laugh made him frantic to ridiculousness.
It so outraged him and upset him that for hours he would behave like
a demon. And woe to the dog that at such times ran foul of him.
He knew the law too well to take it out of Grey Beaver; behind Grey Beaver
were a club and godhead. But behind the dogs there was nothing but
space, and into this space they flew when White Fang came on the scene, made
mad by laughter.
In the third year of his life there came a great famine to the Mackenzie
Indians. In the summer the fish failed. In the winter the cariboo
forsook their accustomed track. Moose were scarce, the rabbits almost
disappeared, hunting and preying animals perished. Denied their usual
food-supply, weakened by hunger, they fell upon and devoured one
another. Only the strong survived. White Fang's gods were always
hunting animals. The old and the weak of them died of hunger.
There was wailing in the village, where the women and children went without
in order that what little they had might go into the bellies of the lean and
hollow-eyed hunters who trod the forest in the vain pursuit of meat.
To such extremity were the gods driven that they ate the soft- tanned
leather of their mocassins and mittens, while the dogs ate the harnesses off
their backs and the very whip-lashes. Also, the dogs ate one another,
and also the gods ate the dogs. The weakest and the more worthless were
eaten first. The dogs that still lived, looked on and understood.
A few of the boldest and wisest forsook the fires of the gods, which had now
become a shambles, and fled into the forest, where, in the end, they starved
to death or were eaten by wolves.
In this time of misery, White Fang, too, stole away into the woods. He
was better fitted for the life than the other dogs, for he had the training
of his cubhood to guide him. Especially adept did he become in stalking
small living things. He would lie concealed for hours, following every
movement of a cautious tree-squirrel, waiting, with a patience as huge as the
hunger he suffered from, until the squirrel ventured out upon the
ground. Even then, White Fang was not premature. He waited until
he was sure of striking before the squirrel could gain a tree-refuge.
Then, and not until then, would he flash from his hiding-place, a grey
projectile, incredibly swift, never failing its mark—the fleeing
squirrel that fled not fast enough.
Successful as he was with squirrels, there was one difficulty
that prevented him from living and growing fat on them. There were
not enough squirrels. So he was driven to hunt still smaller
things. So acute did his hunger become at times that he was not
above rooting out wood-mice from their burrows in the ground. Nor did
he scorn to do battle with a weasel as hungry as himself and many times
In the worst pinches of the famine he stole back to the fires of the
gods. But he did not go into the fires. He lurked in the forest,
avoiding discovery and robbing the snares at the rare intervals when game was
caught. He even robbed Grey Beaver's snare of a rabbit at a time when
Grey Beaver staggered and tottered through the forest, sitting down often to
rest, what of weakness and of shortness of breath.
One day While Fang encountered a young wolf, gaunt and
scrawny, loose-jointed with famine. Had he not been hungry himself,
White Fang might have gone with him and eventually found his way into
the pack amongst his wild brethren. As it was, he ran the young
wolf down and killed and ate him.
Fortune seemed to favour him. Always, when hardest pressed
for food, he found something to kill. Again, when he was weak, it
was his luck that none of the larger preying animals chanced upon
him. Thus, he was strong from the two days' eating a lynx had afforded him
when the hungry wolf-pack ran full tilt upon him. It was a long, cruel
chase, but he was better nourished than they, and in the end outran
them. And not only did he outrun them, but, circling widely back on his
track, he gathered in one of his exhausted pursuers.
After that he left that part of the country and journeyed over to the
valley wherein he had been born. Here, in the old lair, he encountered
Kiche. Up to her old tricks, she, too, had fled the inhospitable fires
of the gods and gone back to her old refuge to give birth to her young.
Of this litter but one remained alive when White Fang came upon the scene,
and this one was not destined to live long. Young life had little
chance in such a famine.
Kiche's greeting of her grown son was anything but affectionate. But
White Fang did not mind. He had outgrown his mother. So he turned
tail philosophically and trotted on up the stream. At the forks he took
the turning to the left, where he found the lair of the lynx with whom his
mother and he had fought long before. Here, in the abandoned lair, he
settled down and rested for a day.
During the early summer, in the last days of the famine, he met Lip-lip,
who had likewise taken to the woods, where he had eked out a miserable
White Fang came upon him unexpectedly. Trotting in
opposite directions along the base of a high bluff, they rounded a corner
of rock and found themselves face to face. They paused with
instant alarm, and looked at each other suspiciously.
White Fang was in splendid condition. His hunting had been
good, and for a week he had eaten his fill. He was even gorged from
his latest kill. But in the moment he looked at Lip-lip his hair
rose on end all along his back. It was an involuntary bristling on
his part, the physical state that in the past had always accompanied the
mental state produced in him by Lip-lip's bullying and persecution. As
in the past he had bristled and snarled at sight of Lip-lip, so now, and
automatically, he bristled and snarled. He did not waste any
time. The thing was done thoroughly and with despatch. Lip-lip
essayed to back away, but White Fang struck him hard, shoulder to
shoulder. Lip-lip was overthrown and rolled upon his back. White
Fang's teeth drove into the scrawny throat. There was a death-struggle,
during which White Fang walked around, stiff- legged and observant.
Then he resumed his course and trotted on along the base of the bluff.
One day, not long after, he came to the edge of the forest, where
a narrow stretch of open land sloped down to the Mackenzie. He
had been over this ground before, when it was bare, but now a
village occupied it. Still hidden amongst the trees, he paused to
study the situation. Sights and sounds and scents were familiar to
him. It was the old village changed to a new place. But sights
and sounds and smells were different from those he had last had when
he fled away from it. There was no whimpering nor wailing.
Contented sounds saluted his ear, and when he heard the angry voice of
a woman he knew it to be the anger that proceeds from a full stomach. And
there was a smell in the air of fish. There was food. The famine
was gone. He came out boldly from the forest and trotted into camp
straight to Grey Beaver's tepee. Grey Beaver was not there; but
Kloo-kooch welcomed him with glad cries and the whole of a fresh-caught fish,
and he lay down to wait Grey Beaver's coming.
CHAPTER I—THE ENEMY OF HIS KIND
Had there been in White Fang's nature any possibility, no matter how
remote, of his ever coming to fraternise with his kind, such possibility was
irretrievably destroyed when he was made leader of the sled-team. For
now the dogs hated him—hated him for the extra meat bestowed upon him by
Mit-sah; hated him for all the real and fancied favours he received; hated
him for that he fled always at the head of the team, his waving brush of a
tail and his perpetually retreating hind-quarters for ever maddening their
And White Fang just as bitterly hated them back. Being
sled-leader was anything but gratifying to him. To be compelled to run
away before the yelling pack, every dog of which, for three years, he had
thrashed and mastered, was almost more than he could endure. But endure it he
must, or perish, and the life that was in him had no desire to perish
out. The moment Mit-sah gave his order for the start, that moment the
whole team, with eager, savage cries, sprang forward at White Fang.
There was no defence for him. If he turned upon them,
Mit-sah would throw the stinging lash of the whip into his face.
Only remained to him to run away. He could not encounter that
howling horde with his tail and hind-quarters. These were scarcely
fit weapons with which to meet the many merciless fangs. So run
away he did, violating his own nature and pride with every leap he
made, and leaping all day long.
One cannot violate the promptings of one's nature without having that
nature recoil upon itself. Such a recoil is like that of a hair, made
to grow out from the body, turning unnaturally upon the direction of its
growth and growing into the body—a rankling, festering thing of hurt.
And so with White Fang. Every urge of his being impelled him to spring
upon the pack that cried at his heels, but it was the will of the gods that
this should not be; and behind the will, to enforce it, was the whip of
cariboo-gut with its biting thirty-foot lash. So White Fang could only
eat his heart in bitterness and develop a hatred and malice
commensurate with the ferocity and indomitability of his nature.
If ever a creature was the enemy of its kind, White Fang was
that creature. He asked no quarter, gave none. He was
continually marred and scarred by the teeth of the pack, and as continually
he left his own marks upon the pack. Unlike most leaders, who,
when camp was made and the dogs were unhitched, huddled near to the
gods for protection, White Fang disdained such protection. He
walked boldly about the camp, inflicting punishment in the night for
what he had suffered in the day. In the time before he was made
leader of the team, the pack had learned to get out of his way. But
now it was different. Excited by the day-long pursuit of him,
swayed subconsciously by the insistent iteration on their brains of
the sight of him fleeing away, mastered by the feeling of mastery enjoyed
all day, the dogs could not bring themselves to give way to him. When
he appeared amongst them, there was always a squabble. His progress was
marked by snarl and snap and growl. The very atmosphere he breathed was
surcharged with hatred and malice, and this but served to increase the hatred
and malice within him.
When Mit-sah cried out his command for the team to stop, White
Fang obeyed. At first this caused trouble for the other dogs. All
of them would spring upon the hated leader only to find the
tables turned. Behind him would be Mit-sah, the great whip singing in
his hand. So the dogs came to understand that when the team stopped
by order, White Fang was to be let alone. But when White Fang
stopped without orders, then it was allowed them to spring upon him
and destroy him if they could. After several experiences, White
Fang never stopped without orders. He learned quickly. It was in
the nature of things, that he must learn quickly if he were to survive the
unusually severe conditions under which life was vouchsafed him.
But the dogs could never learn the lesson to leave him alone
in camp. Each day, pursuing him and crying defiance at him,
the lesson of the previous night was erased, and that night would have to
be learned over again, to be as immediately forgotten. Besides, there
was a greater consistence in their dislike of him. They sensed between
themselves and him a difference of kind—cause sufficient in itself for
hostility. Like him, they were domesticated wolves. But they had
been domesticated for generations. Much of the Wild had been lost, so
that to them the Wild was the unknown, the terrible, the ever-menacing and
ever warring. But to him, in appearance and action and impulse,
still clung the Wild. He symbolised it, was its personification:
so that when they showed their teeth to him they were defending themselves
against the powers of destruction that lurked in the shadows of the forest
and in the dark beyond the camp-fire.
But there was one lesson the dogs did learn, and that was to
keep together. White Fang was too terrible for any of them to
face single-handed. They met him with the mass-formation, otherwise
he would have killed them, one by one, in a night. As it was,
he never had a chance to kill them. He might roll a dog off its
feet, but the pack would be upon him before he could follow up and deliver
the deadly throat-stroke. At the first hint of conflict, the whole team
drew together and faced him. The dogs had quarrels among themselves,
but these were forgotten when trouble was brewing with White Fang.
On the other hand, try as they would, they could not kill
White Fang. He was too quick for them, too formidable, too wise.
He avoided tight places and always backed out of it when they bade fair to
surround him. While, as for getting him off his feet, there was no dog
among them capable of doing the trick. His feet clung to the earth with
the same tenacity that he clung to life. For that matter, life and footing
were synonymous in this unending warfare with the pack, and none knew it
better than White Fang.
So he became the enemy of his kind, domesticated wolves that they were,
softened by the fires of man, weakened in the sheltering shadow of man's
strength. White Fang was bitter and implacable. The clay of him was so
moulded. He declared a vendetta against all dogs. And so terribly
did he live this vendetta that Grey Beaver, fierce savage himself, could not
but marvel at White Fang's ferocity. Never, he swore, had there been
the like of this animal; and the Indians in strange villages swore likewise
when they considered the tale of his killings amongst their dogs.
When White Fang was nearly five years old, Grey Beaver took him
on another great journey, and long remembered was the havoc he
worked amongst the dogs of the many villages along the Mackenzie,
across the Rockies, and down the Porcupine to the Yukon. He revelled
in the vengeance he wreaked upon his kind. They were
ordinary, unsuspecting dogs. They were not prepared for his swiftness
and directness, for his attack without warning. They did not know
him for what he was, a lightning-flash of slaughter. They bristled
up to him, stiff-legged and challenging, while he, wasting no time
on elaborate preliminaries, snapping into action like a steel spring, was
at their throats and destroying them before they knew what was happening and
while they were yet in the throes of surprise.
He became an adept at fighting. He economised. He never
wasted his strength, never tussled. He was in too quickly for that,
and, if he missed, was out again too quickly. The dislike of the
wolf for close quarters was his to an unusual degree. He could
not endure a prolonged contact with another body. It smacked
of danger. It made him frantic. He must be away, free, on his
own legs, touching no living thing. It was the Wild still clinging
to him, asserting itself through him. This feeling had
been accentuated by the Ishmaelite life he had led from his
puppyhood. Danger lurked in contacts. It was the trap, ever the trap,
the fear of it lurking deep in the life of him, woven into the fibre
In consequence, the strange dogs he encountered had no chance against
him. He eluded their fangs. He got them, or got away, himself
untouched in either event. In the natural course of things there were
exceptions to this. There were times when several dogs, pitching on to
him, punished him before he could get away; and there were times when a
single dog scored deeply on him. But these were accidents. In the
main, so efficient a fighter had he become, he went his way unscathed.
Another advantage he possessed was that of correctly judging time and
distance. Not that he did this consciously, however. He did not
calculate such things. It was all automatic. His eyes
saw correctly, and the nerves carried the vision correctly to
his brain. The parts of him were better adjusted than those of
the average dog. They worked together more smoothly and steadily.
His was a better, far better, nervous, mental, and muscular
co- ordination. When his eyes conveyed to his brain the moving
image of an action, his brain without conscious effort, knew the
space that limited that action and the time required for its
completion. Thus, he could avoid the leap of another dog, or the drive of
its fangs, and at the same moment could seize the infinitesimal fraction
of time in which to deliver his own attack. Body and brain, his was a
more perfected mechanism. Not that he was to be praised for it.
Nature had been more generous to him than to the average animal, that was
It was in the summer that White Fang arrived at Fort Yukon.
Grey Beaver had crossed the great watershed between Mackenzie and
the Yukon in the late winter, and spent the spring in hunting among
the western outlying spurs of the Rockies. Then, after the break-up
of the ice on the Porcupine, he had built a canoe and paddled down that
stream to where it effected its junction with the Yukon just under the Artic
circle. Here stood the old Hudson's Bay Company fort; and here were
many Indians, much food, and unprecedented excitement. It was the
summer of 1898, and thousands of gold- hunters were going up the Yukon to
Dawson and the Klondike. Still hundreds of miles from their goal,
nevertheless many of them had been on the way for a year, and the least any
of them had travelled to get that far was five thousand miles, while some had
come from the other side of the world.
Here Grey Beaver stopped. A whisper of the gold-rush had
reached his ears, and he had come with several bales of furs, and
another of gut-sewn mittens and moccasins. He would not have ventured
so long a trip had he not expected generous profits. But what he
had expected was nothing to what he realised. His wildest dreams
had not exceeded a hundred per cent. profit; he made a thousand
per cent. And like a true Indian, he settled down to trade
carefully and slowly, even if it took all summer and the rest of the
winter to dispose of his goods.
It was at Fort Yukon that White Fang saw his first white men.
As compared with the Indians he had known, they were to him another race
of beings, a race of superior gods. They impressed him as possessing
superior power, and it is on power that godhead rests. White Fang did not
reason it out, did not in his mind make the sharp generalisation that the
white gods were more powerful. It was a feeling, nothing more, and yet
none the less potent. As, in his puppyhood, the looming bulks of the
tepees, man-reared, had affected him as manifestations of power, so was he
affected now by the houses and the huge fort all of massive logs. Here
was power. Those white gods were strong. They possessed greater mastery
over matter than the gods he had known, most powerful among which was Grey
Beaver. And yet Grey Beaver was as a child-god among
these white-skinned ones.
To be sure, White Fang only felt these things. He was
not conscious of them. Yet it is upon feeling, more often
than thinking, that animals act; and every act White Fang now
performed was based upon the feeling that the white men were the
superior gods. In the first place he was very suspicious of them.
There was no telling what unknown terrors were theirs, what unknown
hurts they could administer. He was curious to observe them, fearful
of being noticed by them. For the first few hours he was content
with slinking around and watching them from a safe distance. Then
he saw that no harm befell the dogs that were near to them, and he came in
In turn he was an object of great curiosity to them. His
wolfish appearance caught their eyes at once, and they pointed him out
to one another. This act of pointing put White Fang on his guard,
and when they tried to approach him he showed his teeth and
backed away. Not one succeeded in laying a hand on him, and it was
well that they did not.
White Fang soon learned that very few of these gods—not more than a
dozen—lived at this place. Every two or three days a steamer (another
and colossal manifestation of power) came into the bank and stopped for
several hours. The white men came from off these steamers and went away
on them again. There seemed untold numbers of these white men. In
the first day or so, he saw more of them than he had seen Indians in all his
life; and as the days went by they continued to come up the river, stop, and
then go on up the river out of sight.
But if the white gods were all-powerful, their dogs did not amount to
much. This White Fang quickly discovered by mixing with those that came
ashore with their masters. They were irregular shapes and sizes.
Some were short-legged—too short; others were long- legged—too
long. They had hair instead of fur, and a few had very little hair at
that. And none of them knew how to fight.
As an enemy of his kind, it was in White Fang's province to fight with
them. This he did, and he quickly achieved for them a
mighty contempt. They were soft and helpless, made much noise,
and floundered around clumsily trying to accomplish by main strength what
he accomplished by dexterity and cunning. They rushed bellowing at
him. He sprang to the side. They did not know what had become of
him; and in that moment he struck them on the shoulder, rolling them off
their feet and delivering his stroke at the throat.
Sometimes this stroke was successful, and a stricken dog rolled in the
dirt, to be pounced upon and torn to pieces by the pack of Indian dogs that
waited. White Fang was wise. He had long since learned that the
gods were made angry when their dogs were killed. The white men were no
exception to this. So he was content, when he had overthrown and
slashed wide the throat of one of their dogs, to drop back and let the pack
go in and do the cruel finishing work. It was then that the white men
rushed in, visiting their wrath heavily on the pack, while White Fang went
free. He would stand off at a little distance and look on, while
stones, clubs, axes, and all sorts of weapons fell upon his fellows.
White Fang was very wise.
But his fellows grew wise in their own way; and in this White Fang grew
wise with them. They learned that it was when a steamer first tied to
the bank that they had their fun. After the first two or three strange
dogs had been downed and destroyed, the white men hustled their own animals
back on board and wrecked savage vengeance on the offenders. One white
man, having seen his dog, a setter, torn to pieces before his eyes, drew a
revolver. He fired rapidly, six times, and six of the pack lay dead or
dying—another manifestation of power that sank deep into White
White Fang enjoyed it all. He did not love his kind, and he
was shrewd enough to escape hurt himself. At first, the killing of
the white men's dogs had been a diversion. After a time it became
his occupation. There was no work for him to do. Grey Beaver was
busy trading and getting wealthy. So White Fang hung around the
landing with the disreputable gang of Indian dogs, waiting for
steamers. With the arrival of a steamer the fun began. After a few
minutes, by the time the white men had got over their surprise, the
gang scattered. The fun was over until the next steamer should
But it can scarcely be said that White Fang was a member of
the gang. He did not mingle with it, but remained aloof,
always himself, and was even feared by it. It is true, he worked with
it. He picked the quarrel with the strange dog while the gang waited. And
when he had overthrown the strange dog the gang went in to finish it.
But it is equally true that he then withdrew, leaving the gang to receive the
punishment of the outraged gods.
It did not require much exertion to pick these quarrels. All
he had to do, when the strange dogs came ashore, was to show himself. When
they saw him they rushed for him. It was their instinct. He was
the Wild—the unknown, the terrible, the ever-menacing, the thing that
prowled in the darkness around the fires of the primeval world when they,
cowering close to the fires, were reshaping their instincts, learning to fear
the Wild out of which they had come, and which they had deserted and
betrayed. Generation by generation, down all the generations, had this
fear of the Wild been stamped into their natures. For centuries the
Wild had stood for terror and destruction. And during all this time
free licence had been theirs, from their masters, to kill the things of
the Wild. In doing this they had protected both themselves and
the gods whose companionship they shared
And so, fresh from the soft southern world, these dogs, trotting down
the gang-plank and out upon the Yukon shore had but to see White Fang to
experience the irresistible impulse to rush upon him and destroy him.
They might be town-reared dogs, but the instinctive fear of the Wild was
theirs just the same. Not alone with their own eyes did they see the
wolfish creature in the clear light of day, standing before them. They
saw him with the eyes of their ancestors, and by their inherited memory they
knew White Fang for the wolf, and they remembered the ancient feud.
All of which served to make White Fang's days enjoyable. If
the sight of him drove these strange dogs upon him, so much the better for
him, so much the worse for them. They looked upon him as legitimate
prey, and as legitimate prey he looked upon them.
Not for nothing had he first seen the light of day in a lonely lair and
fought his first fights with the ptarmigan, the weasel, and the lynx.
And not for nothing had his puppyhood been made bitter by the persecution of
Lip-lip and the whole puppy pack. It might have been otherwise, and he
would then have been otherwise. Had Lip-lip not existed, he would have
passed his puppyhood with the other puppies and grown up more doglike and
with more liking for dogs. Had Grey Beaver possessed the plummet of affection
and love, he might have sounded the deeps of White Fang's nature and brought
up to the surface all manner of kindly qualities. But these
things had not been so. The clay of White Fang had been moulded until
he became what he was, morose and lonely, unloving and ferocious,
the enemy of all his kind.
CHAPTER II—THE MAD GOD
A small number of white men lived in Fort Yukon. These men
had been long in the country. They called themselves Sour-doughs,
and took great pride in so classifying themselves. For other men,
new in the land, they felt nothing but disdain. The men who
came ashore from the steamers were newcomers. They were known
as CHECHAQUOS, and they always wilted at the application of the name. They
made their bread with baking-powder. This was the invidious distinction
between them and the Sour-doughs, who, forsooth, made their bread from
sour-dough because they had no baking-powder.
All of which is neither here nor there. The men in the
fort disdained the newcomers and enjoyed seeing them come to
grief. Especially did they enjoy the havoc worked amongst the
newcomers' dogs by White Fang and his disreputable gang. When a
steamer arrived, the men of the fort made it a point always to come down
to the bank and see the fun. They looked forward to it with as
much anticipation as did the Indian dogs, while they were not slow
to appreciate the savage and crafty part played by White Fang.
But there was one man amongst them who particularly enjoyed
the sport. He would come running at the first sound of a
steamboat's whistle; and when the last fight was over and White Fang and
the pack had scattered, he would return slowly to the fort, his face heavy
with regret. Sometimes, when a soft southland dog went down, shrieking
its death-cry under the fangs of the pack, this man would be unable to
contain himself, and would leap into the air and cry out with delight.
And always he had a sharp and covetous eye for White Fang.
This man was called "Beauty" by the other men of the fort. No
one knew his first name, and in general he was known in the country
as Beauty Smith. But he was anything save a beauty. To
antithesis was due his naming. He was pre-eminently unbeautiful.
Nature had been niggardly with him. He was a small man to begin with;
and upon his meagre frame was deposited an even more strikingly
meagre head. Its apex might be likened to a point. In fact, in
his boyhood, before he had been named Beauty by his fellows, he had been
Backward, from the apex, his head slanted down to his neck and forward
it slanted uncompromisingly to meet a low and remarkably wide forehead.
Beginning here, as though regretting her parsimony, Nature had spread his
features with a lavish hand. His eyes were large, and between them was
the distance of two eyes. His face, in relation to the rest of him, was
prodigious. In order to discover the necessary area, Nature had given
him an enormous prognathous jaw. It was wide and heavy, and protruded
outward and down until it seemed to rest on his chest. Possibly this
appearance was due to the weariness of the slender neck, unable properly to
support so great a burden.
This jaw gave the impression of ferocious determination.
But something lacked. Perhaps it was from excess. Perhaps the jaw
was too large. At any rate, it was a lie. Beauty Smith was known
far and wide as the weakest of weak-kneed and snivelling cowards.
To complete his description, his teeth were large and yellow, while the
two eye-teeth, larger than their fellows, showed under his lean lips like
fangs. His eyes were yellow and muddy, as though Nature had run short
on pigments and squeezed together the dregs of all her tubes. It was
the same with his hair, sparse and irregular of growth, muddy-yellow and
dirty-yellow, rising on his head and sprouting out of his face in unexpected
tufts and bunches, in appearance like clumped and wind-blown grain.
In short, Beauty Smith was a monstrosity, and the blame of it
lay elsewhere. He was not responsible. The clay of him had been
so moulded in the making. He did the cooking for the other men in
the fort, the dish-washing and the drudgery. They did not despise
him. Rather did they tolerate him in a broad human way, as one
tolerates any creature evilly treated in the making. Also, they feared
him. His cowardly rages made them dread a shot in the back or poison
in their coffee. But somebody had to do the cooking, and
whatever else his shortcomings, Beauty Smith could cook.
This was the man that looked at White Fang, delighted in his ferocious
prowess, and desired to possess him. He made overtures to White Fang
from the first. White Fang began by ignoring him. Later on, when the
overtures became more insistent, White Fang bristled and bared his teeth and
backed away. He did not like the man. The feel of him was
bad. He sensed the evil in him, and feared the extended hand and the
attempts at soft-spoken speech. Because of all this, he hated the man.
With the simpler creatures, good and bad are things
simply understood. The good stands for all things that bring easement
and satisfaction and surcease from pain. Therefore, the good is
liked. The bad stands for all things that are fraught with
discomfort, menace, and hurt, and is hated accordingly. White Fang's
feel of Beauty Smith was bad. From the man's distorted body and
twisted mind, in occult ways, like mists rising from malarial marshes,
came emanations of the unhealth within. Not by reasoning, not by
the five senses alone, but by other and remoter and uncharted senses, came
the feeling to White Fang that the man was ominous with evil, pregnant with
hurtfulness, and therefore a thing bad, and wisely to be hated.
White Fang was in Grey Beaver's camp when Beauty Smith first visited
it. At the faint sound of his distant feet, before he came in sight,
White Fang knew who was coming and began to bristle. He had been lying
down in an abandon of comfort, but he arose quickly, and, as the man arrived,
slid away in true wolf-fashion to the edge of the camp. He did not know
what they said, but he could see the man and Grey Beaver talking
together. Once, the man pointed at him, and White Fang snarled back as
though the hand were just descending upon him instead of being, as it was,
fifty feet away. The man laughed at this; and White Fang slunk away to
the sheltering woods, his head turned to observe as he glided softly over
Grey Beaver refused to sell the dog. He had grown rich with
his trading and stood in need of nothing. Besides, White Fang was
a valuable animal, the strongest sled-dog he had ever owned, and the best
leader. Furthermore, there was no dog like him on the Mackenzie nor the
Yukon. He could fight. He killed other dogs as easily as men
killed mosquitoes. (Beauty Smith's eyes lighted up at this, and he
licked his thin lips with an eager tongue). No, White Fang was not for
sale at any price.
But Beauty Smith knew the ways of Indians. He visited
Grey Beaver's camp often, and hidden under his coat was always a
black bottle or so. One of the potencies of whisky is the breeding
of thirst. Grey Beaver got the thirst. His fevered membranes
and burnt stomach began to clamour for more and more of the
scorching fluid; while his brain, thrust all awry by the unwonted
stimulant, permitted him to go any length to obtain it. The money he
had received for his furs and mittens and moccasins began to go.
It went faster and faster, and the shorter his money-sack grew,
the shorter grew his temper.
In the end his money and goods and temper were all gone.
Nothing remained to him but his thirst, a prodigious possession in
itself that grew more prodigious with every sober breath he drew. Then
it was that Beauty Smith had talk with him again about the sale of White
Fang; but this time the price offered was in bottles, not dollars, and Grey
Beaver's ears were more eager to hear.
"You ketch um dog you take um all right," was his last word.
The bottles were delivered, but after two days. "You ketch
um dog," were Beauty Smith's words to Grey Beaver.
White Fang slunk into camp one evening and dropped down with a sigh of
content. The dreaded white god was not there. For days
his manifestations of desire to lay hands on him had been growing
more insistent, and during that time White Fang had been compelled
to avoid the camp. He did not know what evil was threatened by
those insistent hands. He knew only that they did threaten evil of
some sort, and that it was best for him to keep out of their reach.
But scarcely had he lain down when Grey Beaver staggered over to him and
tied a leather thong around his neck. He sat down beside White Fang,
holding the end of the thong in his hand. In the other hand he held a
bottle, which, from time to time, was inverted above his head to the
accompaniment of gurgling noises.
An hour of this passed, when the vibrations of feet in contact with the
ground foreran the one who approached. White Fang heard it first, and
he was bristling with recognition while Grey Beaver still nodded
stupidly. White Fang tried to draw the thong softly out of his master's
hand; but the relaxed fingers closed tightly and Grey Beaver roused
Beauty Smith strode into camp and stood over White Fang.
He snarled softly up at the thing of fear, watching keenly the deportment
of the hands. One hand extended outward and began to descend upon his
head. His soft snarl grew tense and harsh. The hand continued
slowly to descend, while he crouched beneath it, eyeing it malignantly, his
snarl growing shorter and shorter as, with quickening breath, it approached
its culmination. Suddenly he snapped, striking with his fangs like a
snake. The hand was jerked back, and the teeth came together emptily
with a sharp click. Beauty Smith was frightened and angry. Grey Beaver
clouted White Fang alongside the head, so that he cowered down close to the
earth in respectful obedience.
White Fang's suspicious eyes followed every movement. He
saw Beauty Smith go away and return with a stout club. Then the end
of the thong was given over to him by Grey Beaver. Beauty
Smith started to walk away. The thong grew taut. White Fang
resisted it. Grey Beaver clouted him right and left to make him get up
and follow. He obeyed, but with a rush, hurling himself upon
the stranger who was dragging him away. Beauty Smith did not
jump away. He had been waiting for this. He swung the club
smartly, stopping the rush midway and smashing White Fang down upon
the ground. Grey Beaver laughed and nodded approval. Beauty
Smith tightened the thong again, and White Fang crawled limply and dizzily
to his feet.
He did not rush a second time. One smash from the club
was sufficient to convince him that the white god knew how to handle it,
and he was too wise to fight the inevitable. So he followed morosely at
Beauty Smith's heels, his tail between his legs, yet snarling softly under
his breath. But Beauty Smith kept a wary eye on him, and the club was
held always ready to strike.
At the fort Beauty Smith left him securely tied and went in to
bed. White Fang waited an hour. Then he applied his teeth to the
thong, and in the space of ten seconds was free. He had wasted no
time with his teeth. There had been no useless gnawing. The thong
was cut across, diagonally, almost as clean as though done by a
knife. White Fang looked up at the fort, at the same time bristling
and growling. Then he turned and trotted back to Grey Beaver's
camp. He owed no allegiance to this strange and terrible god. He
had given himself to Grey Beaver, and to Grey Beaver he considered
he still belonged.
But what had occurred before was repeated—with a difference. Grey
Beaver again made him fast with a thong, and in the morning turned him over
to Beauty Smith. And here was where the difference came in.
Beauty Smith gave him a beating. Tied securely, White Fang could only
rage futilely and endure the punishment. Club and whip were both used
upon him, and he experienced the worst beating he had ever received in his
life. Even the big beating given him in his puppyhood by Grey Beaver
was mild compared with this.
Beauty Smith enjoyed the task. He delighted in it. He
gloated over his victim, and his eyes flamed dully, as he swung the whip
or club and listened to White Fang's cries of pain and to his
helpless bellows and snarls. For Beauty Smith was cruel in the way
that cowards are cruel. Cringing and snivelling himself before
the blows or angry speech of a man, he revenged himself, in turn,
upon creatures weaker than he. All life likes power, and Beauty
Smith was no exception. Denied the expression of power amongst his
own kind, he fell back upon the lesser creatures and there vindicated the
life that was in him. But Beauty Smith had not created himself, and no
blame was to be attached to him. He had come into the world with a
twisted body and a brute intelligence. This had constituted the clay of
him, and it had not been kindly moulded by the world.
White Fang knew why he was being beaten. When Grey Beaver tied
the thong around his neck, and passed the end of the thong into
Beauty Smith's keeping, White Fang knew that it was his god's will for
him to go with Beauty Smith. And when Beauty Smith left him
tied outside the fort, he knew that it was Beauty Smith's will that
he should remain there. Therefore, he had disobeyed the will of
both the gods, and earned the consequent punishment. He had seen
dogs change owners in the past, and he had seen the runaways beaten as he
was being beaten. He was wise, and yet in the nature of him there were
forces greater than wisdom. One of these was fidelity. He did not love
Grey Beaver, yet, even in the face of his will and his anger, he was faithful
to him. He could not help it. This faithfulness was a quality of
the clay that composed him. It was the quality that was peculiarly the
possession of his kind; the quality that set apart his species from all other
species; the quality that has enabled the wolf and the wild dog to come in
from the open and be the companions of man.
After the beating, White Fang was dragged back to the fort.
But this time Beauty Smith left him tied with a stick. One does
not give up a god easily, and so with White Fang. Grey Beaver was
his own particular god, and, in spite of Grey Beaver's will, White
Fang still clung to him and would not give him up. Grey Beaver
had betrayed and forsaken him, but that had no effect upon him.
Not for nothing had he surrendered himself body and soul to
Grey Beaver. There had been no reservation on White Fang's part,
and the bond was not to be broken easily.
So, in the night, when the men in the fort were asleep, White
Fang applied his teeth to the stick that held him. The wood
was seasoned and dry, and it was tied so closely to his neck that he could
scarcely get his teeth to it. It was only by the severest muscular
exertion and neck-arching that he succeeded in getting the wood between his
teeth, and barely between his teeth at that; and it was only by the exercise
of an immense patience, extending through many hours, that he succeeded in
gnawing through the stick. This was something that dogs were not supposed to
do. It was unprecedented. But White Fang did it, trotting away
from the fort in the early morning, with the end of the stick hanging to
He was wise. But had he been merely wise he would not have
gone back to Grey Beaver who had already twice betrayed him. But
there was his faithfulness, and he went back to be betrayed yet a
third time. Again he yielded to the tying of a thong around his neck
by Grey Beaver, and again Beauty Smith came to claim him. And
this time he was beaten even more severely than before.
Grey Beaver looked on stolidly while the white man wielded
the whip. He gave no protection. It was no longer his dog.
When the beating was over White Fang was sick. A soft southland dog
would have died under it, but not he. His school of life had
been sterner, and he was himself of sterner stuff. He had too
great vitality. His clutch on life was too strong. But he was
very sick. At first he was unable to drag himself along, and
Beauty Smith had to wait half-an-hour for him. And then, blind
and reeling, he followed at Beauty Smith's heels back to the fort.
But now he was tied with a chain that defied his teeth, and he strove in
vain, by lunging, to draw the staple from the timber into which it was
driven. After a few days, sober and bankrupt, Grey Beaver departed up
the Porcupine on his long journey to the Mackenzie. White Fang remained
on the Yukon, the property of a man more than half mad and all brute.
But what is a dog to know in its consciousness of madness? To White
Fang, Beauty Smith was a veritable, if terrible, god. He was a mad god
at best, but White Fang knew nothing of madness; he knew only that he must
submit to the will of this new master, obey his every whim and fancy.
CHAPTER III—THE REIGN OF HATE
Under the tutelage of the mad god, White Fang became a fiend.
He was kept chained in a pen at the rear of the fort, and here
Beauty Smith teased and irritated and drove him wild with petty
torments. The man early discovered White Fang's susceptibility to
laughter, and made it a point after painfully tricking him, to laugh at
him. This laughter was uproarious and scornful, and at the same time
the god pointed his finger derisively at White Fang. At such
times reason fled from White Fang, and in his transports of rage he
was even more mad than Beauty Smith.
Formerly, White Fang had been merely the enemy of his kind, withal a
ferocious enemy. He now became the enemy of all things, and
more ferocious than ever. To such an extent was he tormented, that
he hated blindly and without the faintest spark of reason. He
hated the chain that bound him, the men who peered in at him through
the slats of the pen, the dogs that accompanied the men and that snarled
malignantly at him in his helplessness. He hated the very wood of the
pen that confined him. And, first, last, and most of all, he hated
But Beauty Smith had a purpose in all that he did to White Fang. One day
a number of men gathered about the pen. Beauty Smith entered, club in
hand, and took the chain off from White Fang's neck. When his master
had gone out, White Fang turned loose and tore around the pen, trying to get
at the men outside. He was magnificently terrible. Fully five
feet in length, and standing two and one-half feet at the shoulder, he far
outweighed a wolf of corresponding size. From his mother he had
inherited the heavier proportions of the dog, so that he weighed, without any
fat and without an ounce of superfluous flesh, over ninety pounds. It
was all muscle, bone, and sinew-fighting flesh in the finest condition.
The door of the pen was being opened again. White Fang
paused. Something unusual was happening. He waited. The door was
opened wider. Then a huge dog was thrust inside, and the door was
slammed shut behind him. White Fang had never seen such a dog (it was
a mastiff); but the size and fierce aspect of the intruder did not deter
him. Here was some thing, not wood nor iron, upon which to wreak his
hate. He leaped in with a flash of fangs that ripped down the side of
the mastiff's neck. The mastiff shook his head, growled hoarsely, and
plunged at White Fang. But White Fang was here, there, and everywhere,
always evading and eluding, and always leaping in and slashing with his fangs
and leaping out again in time to escape punishment.
The men outside shouted and applauded, while Beauty Smith, in an ecstasy
of delight, gloated over the rippling and manging performed by White
Fang. There was no hope for the mastiff from the first. He was too
ponderous and slow. In the end, while Beauty Smith beat White Fang back
with a club, the mastiff was dragged out by its owner. Then there was a
payment of bets, and money clinked in Beauty Smith's hand.
White Fang came to look forward eagerly to the gathering of the
men around his pen. It meant a fight; and this was the only way
that was now vouchsafed him of expressing the life that was in
him. Tormented, incited to hate, he was kept a prisoner so that there was
no way of satisfying that hate except at the times his master saw fit to put
another dog against him. Beauty Smith had estimated his powers well,
for he was invariably the victor. One day, three dogs were turned in
upon him in succession. Another day a full- grown wolf, fresh-caught
from the Wild, was shoved in through the door of the pen. And on still
another day two dogs were set against him at the same time. This was
his severest fight, and though in the end he killed them both he was himself
half killed in doing it.
In the fall of the year, when the first snows were falling and mush-ice
was running in the river, Beauty Smith took passage for himself and White
Fang on a steamboat bound up the Yukon to Dawson. White Fang had now achieved
a reputation in the land. As "the Fighting Wolf" he was known far and
wide, and the cage in which he was kept on the steam-boat's deck was usually
surrounded by curious men. He raged and snarled at them, or lay quietly
and studied them with cold hatred. Why should he not hate them?
He never asked himself the question. He knew only hate and lost himself
in the passion of it. Life had become a hell to him. He had not
been made for the close confinement wild beasts endure at the hands
of men. And yet it was in precisely this way that he was
treated. Men stared at him, poked sticks between the bars to make him
snarl, and then laughed at him.
They were his environment, these men, and they were moulding the clay of
him into a more ferocious thing than had been intended by Nature.
Nevertheless, Nature had given him plasticity. Where many another
animal would have died or had its spirit broken, he adjusted himself and
lived, and at no expense of the spirit. Possibly Beauty Smith, arch-fiend and
tormentor, was capable of breaking White Fang's spirit, but as yet there were
no signs of his succeeding.
If Beauty Smith had in him a devil, White Fang had another; and the two
of them raged against each other unceasingly. In the days before, White
Fang had had the wisdom to cower down and submit to a man with a club in his
hand; but this wisdom now left him. The mere sight of Beauty Smith was
sufficient to send him into transports of fury. And when they came to
close quarters, and he had been beaten back by the club, he went on growling
and snarling, and showing his fangs. The last growl could never be
extracted from him. No matter how terribly he was beaten, he had
always another growl; and when Beauty Smith gave up and withdrew,
the defiant growl followed after him, or White Fang sprang at the bars of
the cage bellowing his hatred.
When the steamboat arrived at Dawson, White Fang went ashore.
But he still lived a public life, in a cage, surrounded by curious men. He
was exhibited as "the Fighting Wolf," and men paid fifty cents in gold dust
to see him. He was given no rest. Did he lie down to sleep, he
was stirred up by a sharp stick—so that the audience might get its money's
worth. In order to make the exhibition interesting, he was kept in a
rage most of the time. But worse than all this, was the atmosphere in
which he lived. He was regarded as the most fearful of wild beasts, and
this was borne in to him through the bars of the cage. Every word,
every cautious action, on the part of the men, impressed upon him his own
terrible ferocity. It was so much added fuel to the flame of
his fierceness. There could be but one result, and that was that
his ferocity fed upon itself and increased. It was another instance
of the plasticity of his clay, of his capacity for being moulded by the
pressure of environment.
In addition to being exhibited he was a professional
fighting animal. At irregular intervals, whenever a fight could
be arranged, he was taken out of his cage and led off into the woods a few
miles from town. Usually this occurred at night, so as to avoid
interference from the mounted police of the Territory. After a few
hours of waiting, when daylight had come, the audience and the dog with which
he was to fight arrived. In this manner it came about that he fought
all sizes and breeds of dogs. It was a savage land, the men were
savage, and the fights were usually to the death.
Since White Fang continued to fight, it is obvious that it was the other
dogs that died. He never knew defeat. His early training, when he
fought with Lip-lip and the whole puppy-pack, stood him in good stead.
There was the tenacity with which he clung to the earth. No dog could
make him lose his footing. This was the favourite trick of the wolf
breeds—to rush in upon him, either directly or with an unexpected swerve,
in the hope of striking his shoulder and overthrowing him. Mackenzie
hounds, Eskimo and Labrador dogs, huskies and Malemutes—all tried it on
him, and all failed. He was never known to lose his footing. Men
told this to one another, and looked each time to see it happen; but White
Fang always disappointed them.
Then there was his lightning quickness. It gave him a
tremendous advantage over his antagonists. No matter what their
fighting experience, they had never encountered a dog that moved so
swiftly as he. Also to be reckoned with, was the immediateness of
his attack. The average dog was accustomed to the preliminaries
of snarling and bristling and growling, and the average dog was knocked
off his feet and finished before he had begun to fight or recovered from his
surprise. So often did this happen, that it became the custom to hold
White Fang until the other dog went through its preliminaries, was good and
ready, and even made the first attack.
But greatest of all the advantages in White Fang's favour, was
his experience. He knew more about fighting than did any of the
dogs that faced him. He had fought more fights, knew how to meet
more tricks and methods, and had more tricks himself, while his own method
was scarcely to be improved upon.
As the time went by, he had fewer and fewer fights. Men
despaired of matching him with an equal, and Beauty Smith was compelled
to pit wolves against him. These were trapped by the Indians for
the purpose, and a fight between White Fang and a wolf was always sure to
draw a crowd. Once, a full-grown female lynx was secured, and this time
White Fang fought for his life. Her quickness matched his; her ferocity
equalled his; while he fought with his fangs alone, and she fought with her
sharp-clawed feet as well.
But after the lynx, all fighting ceased for White Fang. There
were no more animals with which to fight—at least, there was
none considered worthy of fighting with him. So he remained
on exhibition until spring, when one Tim Keenan, a faro-dealer, arrived in
the land. With him came the first bull-dog that had ever entered the
Klondike. That this dog and White Fang should come together was
inevitable, and for a week the anticipated fight was the mainspring of
conversation in certain quarters of the town.
CHAPTER IV—THE CLINGING DEATH
Beauty Smith slipped the chain from his neck and stepped back.
For once White Fang did not make an immediate attack. He
stood still, ears pricked forward, alert and curious, surveying
the strange animal that faced him. He had never seen such a
dog before. Tim Keenan shoved the bull-dog forward with a muttered
"Go to it." The animal waddled toward the centre of the circle,
short and squat and ungainly. He came to a stop and blinked across
at White Fang.
There were cries from the crowd of, "Go to him, Cherokee! Sick
'm, Cherokee! Eat 'm up!"
But Cherokee did not seem anxious to fight. He turned his head
and blinked at the men who shouted, at the same time wagging his stump of
a tail good-naturedly. He was not afraid, but merely lazy. Besides, it
did not seem to him that it was intended he should fight with the dog he saw
before him. He was not used to fighting with that kind of dog, and he
was waiting for them to bring on the real dog.
Tim Keenan stepped in and bent over Cherokee, fondling him on both sides
of the shoulders with hands that rubbed against the grain of the hair and
that made slight, pushing-forward movements. These were so many
suggestions. Also, their effect was irritating, for Cherokee began to
growl, very softly, deep down in his throat. There was a correspondence in
rhythm between the growls and the movements of the man's hands. The
growl rose in the throat with the culmination of each forward-pushing
movement, and ebbed down to start up afresh with the beginning of the next
movement. The end of each movement was the accent of the rhythm, the
movement ending abruptly and the growling rising with a jerk.
This was not without its effect on White Fang. The hair began
to rise on his neck and across the shoulders. Tim Keenan gave a
final shove forward and stepped back again. As the impetus that
carried Cherokee forward died down, he continued to go forward of his
own volition, in a swift, bow-legged run. Then White Fang struck.
A cry of startled admiration went up. He had covered the
distance and gone in more like a cat than a dog; and with the same
cat-like swiftness he had slashed with his fangs and leaped clear.
The bull-dog was bleeding back of one ear from a rip in his
thick neck. He gave no sign, did not even snarl, but turned and
followed after White Fang. The display on both sides, the quickness of
the one and the steadiness of the other, had excited the partisan spirit
of the crowd, and the men were making new bets and increasing original
bets. Again, and yet again, White Fang sprang in, slashed, and got away
untouched, and still his strange foe followed after him, without too great
haste, not slowly, but deliberately and determinedly, in a businesslike sort
of way. There was purpose in his method—something for him to do that
he was intent upon doing and from which nothing could distract him.
His whole demeanour, every action, was stamped with this purpose. It
puzzled White Fang. Never had he seen such a dog. It had no hair
protection. It was soft, and bled easily. There was no thick mat
of fur to baffle White Fang's teeth as they were often baffled by dogs of his
own breed. Each time that his teeth struck they sank easily into the
yielding flesh, while the animal did not seem able to defend itself.
Another disconcerting thing was that it made no outcry, such as he had been
accustomed to with the other dogs he had fought. Beyond a growl or a
grunt, the dog took its punishment silently. And never did it flag in
its pursuit of him.
Not that Cherokee was slow. He could turn and whirl
swiftly enough, but White Fang was never there. Cherokee was puzzled,
too. He had never fought before with a dog with which he could
not close. The desire to close had always been mutual. But here
was a dog that kept at a distance, dancing and dodging here and there
and all about. And when it did get its teeth into him, it did not
hold on but let go instantly and darted away again.
But White Fang could not get at the soft underside of the throat. The
bull-dog stood too short, while its massive jaws were an
added protection. White Fang darted in and out unscathed,
while Cherokee's wounds increased. Both sides of his neck and head
were ripped and slashed. He bled freely, but showed no signs of
being disconcerted. He continued his plodding pursuit, though once,
for the moment baffled, he came to a full stop and blinked at the men who
looked on, at the same time wagging his stump of a tail as an expression of
his willingness to fight.
In that moment White Fang was in upon him and out, in passing ripping
his trimmed remnant of an ear. With a slight manifestation of anger,
Cherokee took up the pursuit again, running on the inside of the circle White
Fang was making, and striving to fasten his deadly grip on White Fang's
throat. The bull-dog missed by a hair's-breadth, and cries of praise
went up as White Fang doubled suddenly out of danger in the opposite
The time went by. White Fang still danced on, dodging
and doubling, leaping in and out, and ever inflicting damage.
And still the bull-dog, with grim certitude, toiled after him.
Sooner or later he would accomplish his purpose, get the grip that
would win the battle. In the meantime, he accepted all the
punishment the other could deal him. His tufts of ears had become
tassels, his neck and shoulders were slashed in a score of places, and
his very lips were cut and bleeding—all from these lightning snaps that
were beyond his foreseeing and guarding.
Time and again White Fang had attempted to knock Cherokee off his feet;
but the difference in their height was too great. Cherokee was too
squat, too close to the ground. White Fang tried the trick once too
often. The chance came in one of his quick doublings
and counter-circlings. He caught Cherokee with head turned away as
he whirled more slowly. His shoulder was exposed. White Fang
drove in upon it: but his own shoulder was high above, while he
struck with such force that his momentum carried him on across over
the other's body. For the first time in his fighting history, men
saw White Fang lose his footing. His body turned a half-somersault
in the air, and he would have landed on his back had he not
twisted, catlike, still in the air, in the effort to bring his feet to
the earth. As it was, he struck heavily on his side. The next
instant he was on his feet, but in that instant Cherokee's teeth closed
on his throat.
It was not a good grip, being too low down toward the chest;
but Cherokee held on. White Fang sprang to his feet and tore
wildly around, trying to shake off the bull-dog's body. It made
him frantic, this clinging, dragging weight. It bound his
movements, restricted his freedom. It was like the trap, and all his
instinct resented it and revolted against it. It was a mad
revolt. For several minutes he was to all intents insane. The
basic life that was in him took charge of him. The will to exist of his
body surged over him. He was dominated by this mere flesh-love of
life. All intelligence was gone. It was as though he had no
brain. His reason was unseated by the blind yearning of the flesh to
exist and move, at all hazards to move, to continue to move, for movement
was the expression of its existence.
Round and round he went, whirling and turning and reversing, trying to
shake off the fifty-pound weight that dragged at his throat. The bull-dog did
little but keep his grip. Sometimes, and rarely, he managed to get his
feet to the earth and for a moment to brace himself against White Fang.
But the next moment his footing would be lost and he would be dragging around
in the whirl of one of White Fang's mad gyrations. Cherokee identified
himself with his instinct. He knew that he was doing the right thing by
holding on, and there came to him certain blissful thrills of
satisfaction. At such moments he even closed his eyes and allowed his
body to be hurled hither and thither, willy-nilly, careless of any hurt
that might thereby come to it. That did not count. The grip was
the thing, and the grip he kept.
White Fang ceased only when he had tired himself out. He could
do nothing, and he could not understand. Never, in all his
fighting, had this thing happened. The dogs he had fought with did not
fight that way. With them it was snap and slash and get away, snap
and slash and get away. He lay partly on his side, panting for
breath. Cherokee still holding his grip, urged against him, trying to
get him over entirely on his side. White Fang resisted, and he
could feel the jaws shifting their grip, slightly relaxing and
coming together again in a chewing movement. Each shift brought the
grip closer to his throat. The bull-dog's method was to hold what
he had, and when opportunity favoured to work in for more. Opportunity
favoured when White Fang remained quiet. When White Fang struggled,
Cherokee was content merely to hold on.
The bulging back of Cherokee's neck was the only portion of his body
that White Fang's teeth could reach. He got hold toward the base where
the neck comes out from the shoulders; but he did not know the chewing method
of fighting, nor were his jaws adapted to it. He spasmodically ripped
and tore with his fangs for a space. Then a change in their position diverted
him. The bull-dog had managed to roll him over on his back, and still
hanging on to his throat, was on top of him. Like a cat, White Fang
bowed his hind- quarters in, and, with the feet digging into his enemy's
abdomen above him, he began to claw with long tearing-strokes.
Cherokee might well have been disembowelled had he not quickly pivoted
on his grip and got his body off of White Fang's and at right angles to
There was no escaping that grip. It was like Fate itself, and
as inexorable. Slowly it shifted up along the jugular. All
that saved White Fang from death was the loose skin of his neck and
the thick fur that covered it. This served to form a large roll
in Cherokee's mouth, the fur of which well-nigh defied his teeth.
But bit by bit, whenever the chance offered, he was getting more of
the loose skin and fur in his mouth. The result was that he was
slowly throttling White Fang. The latter's breath was drawn with
greater and greater difficulty as the moments went by.
It began to look as though the battle were over. The backers
of Cherokee waxed jubilant and offered ridiculous odds. White
Fang's backers were correspondingly depressed, and refused bets of ten
to one and twenty to one, though one man was rash enough to close a wager
of fifty to one. This man was Beauty Smith. He took a step into
the ring and pointed his finger at White Fang. Then he began to laugh
derisively and scornfully. This produced the desired effect.
White Fang went wild with rage. He called up his reserves of strength,
and gained his feet. As he struggled around the ring, the fifty pounds
of his foe ever dragging on his throat, his anger passed on into panic.
The basic life of him dominated him again, and his intelligence fled before
the will of his flesh to live. Round and round and back again, stumbling and
falling and rising, even uprearing at times on his hind-legs and lifting his
foe clear of the earth, he struggled vainly to shake off the clinging
At last he fell, toppling backward, exhausted; and the bull-dog promptly
shifted his grip, getting in closer, mangling more and more of the fur-folded
flesh, throttling White Fang more severely than ever. Shouts of
applause went up for the victor, and there were many cries of "Cherokee!"
"Cherokee!" To this Cherokee responded by vigorous wagging of the stump
of his tail. But the clamour of approval did not distract him.
There was no sympathetic relation between his tail and his massive
jaws. The one might wag, but the others held their terrible grip on
White Fang's throat.
It was at this time that a diversion came to the spectators.
There was a jingle of bells. Dog-mushers' cries were heard.
Everybody, save Beauty Smith, looked apprehensively, the fear of the
police strong upon them. But they saw, up the trail, and not down,
two men running with sled and dogs. They were evidently coming
down the creek from some prospecting trip. At sight of the crowd
they stopped their dogs and came over and joined it, curious to see
the cause of the excitement. The dog-musher wore a moustache, but
the other, a taller and younger man, was smooth-shaven, his skin rosy from
the pounding of his blood and the running in the frosty air.
White Fang had practically ceased struggling. Now and again
he resisted spasmodically and to no purpose. He could get little
air, and that little grew less and less under the merciless grip that ever
tightened. In spite of his armour of fur, the great vein of his throat
would have long since been torn open, had not the first grip of the bull-dog
been so low down as to be practically on the chest. It had taken
Cherokee a long time to shift that grip upward, and this had also tended
further to clog his jaws with fur and skin-fold.
In the meantime, the abysmal brute in Beauty Smith had been rising into
his brain and mastering the small bit of sanity that he possessed at
best. When he saw White Fang's eyes beginning to glaze, he knew beyond
doubt that the fight was lost. Then he broke loose. He sprang
upon White Fang and began savagely to kick him. There were hisses from the
crowd and cries of protest, but that was all. While this went on, and
Beauty Smith continued to kick White Fang, there was a commotion in the
crowd. The tall young newcomer was forcing his way through, shouldering
men right and left without ceremony or gentleness. When he broke
through into the ring, Beauty Smith was just in the act of delivering another
kick. All his weight was on one loot, and he was in a state of
unstable equilibrium. At that moment the newcomer's fist landed a
smashing blow full in his face. Beauty Smith's remaining leg left
the ground, and his whole body seemed to lift into the air as he
turned over backward and struck the snow. The newcomer turned upon
"You cowards!" he cried. "You beasts!"
He was in a rage himself—a sane rage. His grey eyes
seemed metallic and steel-like as they flashed upon the crowd.
Beauty Smith regained his feet and came toward him, sniffling
and cowardly. The new-comer did not understand. He did not know
how abject a coward the other was, and thought he was coming back intent
on fighting. So, with a "You beast!" he smashed Beauty Smith over
backward with a second blow in the face. Beauty Smith decided that the
snow was the safest place for him, and lay where he had fallen, making no
effort to get up.
"Come on, Matt, lend a hand," the newcomer called the dog-musher, who
had followed him into the ring.
Both men bent over the dogs. Matt took hold of White Fang,
ready to pull when Cherokee's jaws should be loosened. This the
younger man endeavoured to accomplish by clutching the bulldog's jaws
in his hands and trying to spread them. It was a vain
undertaking. As he pulled and tugged and wrenched, he kept exclaiming with
every expulsion of breath, "Beasts!"
The crowd began to grow unruly, and some of the men were
protesting against the spoiling of the sport; but they were silenced when
the newcomer lifted his head from his work for a moment and glared
"You damn beasts!" he finally exploded, and went back to his task.
"It's no use, Mr. Scott, you can't break 'm apart that way," Matt said
The pair paused and surveyed the locked dogs.
"Ain't bleedin' much," Matt announced. "Ain't got all the way
"But he's liable to any moment," Scott answered. "There, did
you see that! He shifted his grip in a bit."
The younger man's excitement and apprehension for White Fang
was growing. He struck Cherokee about the head savagely again
and again. But that did not loosen the jaws. Cherokee wagged
the stump of his tail in advertisement that he understood the meaning of
the blows, but that he knew he was himself in the right and only doing his
duty by keeping his grip.
"Won't some of you help?" Scott cried desperately at the crowd.
But no help was offered. Instead, the crowd began sarcastically
to cheer him on and showered him with facetious advice.
"You'll have to get a pry," Matt counselled.
The other reached into the holster at his hip, drew his revolver, and
tried to thrust its muzzle between the bull-dog's jaws. He shoved, and
shoved hard, till the grating of the steel against the locked teeth could be
distinctly heard. Both men were on their knees, bending over the
dogs. Tim Keenan strode into the ring. He paused beside Scott and
touched him on the shoulder, saying ominously:
"Don't break them teeth, stranger."
"Then I'll break his neck," Scott retorted, continuing his shoving and
wedging with the revolver muzzle.
"I said don't break them teeth," the faro-dealer repeated more ominously
But if it was a bluff he intended, it did not work. Scott
never desisted from his efforts, though he looked up coolly and asked:
The faro-dealer grunted.
"Then get in here and break this grip."
"Well, stranger," the other drawled irritatingly, "I don't mind telling
you that's something I ain't worked out for myself. I don't know how to
turn the trick."
"Then get out of the way," was the reply, "and don't bother me. I'm
Tim Keenan continued standing over him, but Scott took no further notice
of his presence. He had managed to get the muzzle in between the jaws
on one side, and was trying to get it out between the jaws on the other
side. This accomplished, he pried gently and carefully, loosening the
jaws a bit at a time, while Matt, a bit at a time, extricated White Fang's
"Stand by to receive your dog," was Scott's peremptory order
to Cherokee's owner.
The faro-dealer stooped down obediently and got a firm hold
"Now!" Scott warned, giving the final pry.
The dogs were drawn apart, the bull-dog struggling vigorously.
"Take him away," Scott commanded, and Tim Keenan dragged Cherokee back
into the crowd.
White Fang made several ineffectual efforts to get up. Once
he gained his feet, but his legs were too weak to sustain him, and
he slowly wilted and sank back into the snow. His eyes were
half closed, and the surface of them was glassy. His jaws were
apart, and through them the tongue protruded, draggled and limp. To
all appearances he looked like a dog that had been strangled to
death. Matt examined him.
"Just about all in," he announced; "but he's breathin' all right."
Beauty Smith had regained his feet and come over to look at
"Matt, how much is a good sled-dog worth?" Scott asked.
The dog-musher, still on his knees and stooped over White
Fang, calculated for a moment.
"Three hundred dollars," he answered.
"And how much for one that's all chewed up like this one?" Scott asked,
nudging White Fang with his foot.
"Half of that," was the dog-musher's judgment. Scott turned
upon Beauty Smith.
"Did you hear, Mr. Beast? I'm going to take your dog from you,
and I'm going to give you a hundred and fifty for him."
He opened his pocket-book and counted out the bills.
Beauty Smith put his hands behind his back, refusing to touch
the proffered money.
"I ain't a-sellin'," he said.
"Oh, yes you are," the other assured him. "Because I'm
buying. Here's your money. The dog's mine."
Beauty Smith, his hands still behind him, began to back away.
Scott sprang toward him, drawing his fist back to strike.
Beauty Smith cowered down in anticipation of the blow.
"I've got my rights," he whimpered.
"You've forfeited your rights to own that dog," was the rejoinder. "Are
you going to take the money? or do I have to hit you again?"
"All right," Beauty Smith spoke up with the alacrity of fear.
"But I take the money under protest," he added. "The dog's a
mint. I ain't a-goin' to be robbed. A man's got his
"Correct," Scott answered, passing the money over to him. "A
man's got his rights. But you're not a man. You're a
"Wait till I get back to Dawson," Beauty Smith threatened.
"I'll have the law on you."
"If you open your mouth when you get back to Dawson, I'll have you run
out of town. Understand?"
Beauty Smith replied with a grunt.
"Understand?" the other thundered with abrupt fierceness.
"Yes," Beauty Smith grunted, shrinking away.
"Yes, sir," Beauty Smith snarled.
"Look out! He'll bite!" some one shouted, and a guffaw of
laughter went up.
Scott turned his back on him, and returned to help the dog-musher, who
was working over White Fang.
Some of the men were already departing; others stood in groups, looking
on and talking. Tim Keenan joined one of the groups.
"Who's that mug?" he asked.
"Weedon Scott," some one answered.
"And who in hell is Weedon Scott?" the faro-dealer demanded.
"Oh, one of them crackerjack minin' experts. He's in with all
the big bugs. If you want to keep out of trouble, you'll steer
clear of him, that's my talk. He's all hunky with the officials.
The Gold Commissioner's a special pal of his."
"I thought he must be somebody," was the faro-dealer's comment. "That's
why I kept my hands offen him at the start."
CHAPTER V—THE INDOMITABLE
"It's hopeless," Weedon Scott confessed.
He sat on the step of his cabin and stared at the dog-musher,
who responded with a shrug that was equally hopeless.
Together they looked at White Fang at the end of his stretched chain,
bristling, snarling, ferocious, straining to get at the sled-dogs.
Having received sundry lessons from Matt, said lessons being imparted by
means of a club, the sled-dogs had learned to leave White Fang alone; and
even then they were lying down at a distance, apparently oblivious of his
"It's a wolf and there's no taming it," Weedon Scott announced.
"Oh, I don't know about that," Matt objected. "Might be a lot
of dog in 'm, for all you can tell. But there's one thing I
know sure, an' that there's no gettin' away from."
The dog-musher paused and nodded his head confidentially at Moosehide
"Well, don't be a miser with what you know," Scott said sharply, after
waiting a suitable length of time. "Spit it out. What
The dog-musher indicated White Fang with a backward thrust of
"Wolf or dog, it's all the same—he's ben tamed 'ready."
"I tell you yes, an' broke to harness. Look close there. D'ye
see them marks across the chest?"
"You're right, Matt. He was a sled-dog before Beauty Smith
got hold of him."
"And there's not much reason against his bein' a sled-dog again."
"What d'ye think?" Scott queried eagerly. Then the hope died
down as he added, shaking his head, "We've had him two weeks now, and
if anything he's wilder than ever at the present moment."
"Give 'm a chance," Matt counselled. "Turn 'm loose for a
The other looked at him incredulously.
"Yes," Matt went on, "I know you've tried to, but you didn't take
"You try it then."
The dog-musher secured a club and went over to the chained animal. White
Fang watched the club after the manner of a caged lion watching the whip of
"See 'm keep his eye on that club," Matt said. "That's a
good sign. He's no fool. Don't dast tackle me so long as I got
that club handy. He's not clean crazy, sure."
As the man's hand approached his neck, White Fang bristled and snarled
and crouched down. But while he eyed the approaching hand, he at the
same time contrived to keep track of the club in the other hand, suspended
threateningly above him. Matt unsnapped the chain from the collar and
White Fang could scarcely realise that he was free. Many
months had gone by since he passed into the possession of Beauty
Smith, and in all that period he had never known a moment of
freedom except at the times he had been loosed to fight with other
dogs. Immediately after such fights he had always been imprisoned
He did not know what to make of it. Perhaps some new devilry
of the gods was about to be perpetrated on him. He walked slowly
and cautiously, prepared to be assailed at any moment. He did not
know what to do, it was all so unprecedented. He took the precaution
to sheer off from the two watching gods, and walked carefully to
the corner of the cabin. Nothing happened. He was plainly
perplexed, and he came back again, pausing a dozen feet away and regarding
the two men intently.
"Won't he run away?" his new owner asked.
Matt shrugged his shoulders. "Got to take a gamble. Only way
to find out is to find out."
"Poor devil," Scott murmured pityingly. "What he needs is
some show of human kindness," he added, turning and going into
He came out with a piece of meat, which he tossed to White Fang. He
sprang away from it, and from a distance studied it suspiciously.
"Hi-yu, Major!" Matt shouted warningly, but too late.
Major had made a spring for the meat. At the instant his
jaws closed on it, White Fang struck him. He was overthrown.
Matt rushed in, but quicker than he was White Fang. Major staggered
to his feet, but the blood spouting from his throat reddened the snow in a
"It's too bad, but it served him right," Scott said hastily.
But Matt's foot had already started on its way to kick White Fang. There
was a leap, a flash of teeth, a sharp exclamation. White Fang, snarling
fiercely, scrambled backward for several yards, while Matt stooped and
investigated his leg.
"He got me all right," he announced, pointing to the torn trousers and
undercloths, and the growing stain of red.
"I told you it was hopeless, Matt," Scott said in a
discouraged voice. "I've thought about it off and on, while not wanting
to think of it. But we've come to it now. It's the only thing
As he talked, with reluctant movements he drew his revolver, threw open
the cylinder, and assured himself of its contents.
"Look here, Mr. Scott," Matt objected; "that dog's ben
through hell. You can't expect 'm to come out a white an' shinin'
angel. Give 'm time."
"Look at Major," the other rejoined.
The dog-musher surveyed the stricken dog. He had sunk down on
the snow in the circle of his blood and was plainly in the last gasp.
"Served 'm right. You said so yourself, Mr. Scott. He tried
to take White Fang's meat, an' he's dead-O. That was to be
expected. I wouldn't give two whoops in hell for a dog that wouldn't
fight for his own meat."
"But look at yourself, Matt. It's all right about the dogs, but
we must draw the line somewhere."
"Served me right," Matt argued stubbornly. "What'd I want to
kick 'm for? You said yourself that he'd done right. Then I had
no right to kick 'm."
"It would be a mercy to kill him," Scott insisted.
"Now look here, Mr. Scott, give the poor devil a fightin' chance. He
ain't had no chance yet. He's just come through hell, an' this is the
first time he's ben loose. Give 'm a fair chance, an' if he don't
deliver the goods, I'll kill 'm myself. There!"
"God knows I don't want to kill him or have him killed," Scott answered,
putting away the revolver. "We'll let him run loose and see what
kindness can do for him. And here's a try at it."
He walked over to White Fang and began talking to him gently
"Better have a club handy," Matt warned.
Scott shook his head and went on trying to win White
White Fang was suspicious. Something was impending. He had
killed this god's dog, bitten his companion god, and what else was to
be expected than some terrible punishment? But in the face of it
he was indomitable. He bristled and showed his teeth, his
eyes vigilant, his whole body wary and prepared for anything. The
god had no club, so he suffered him to approach quite near. The
god's hand had come out and was descending upon his head. White
Fang shrank together and grew tense as he crouched under it. Here
was danger, some treachery or something. He knew the hands of
the gods, their proved mastery, their cunning to hurt. Besides,
there was his old antipathy to being touched. He snarled
more menacingly, crouched still lower, and still the hand descended.
He did not want to bite the hand, and he endured the peril of it until his
instinct surged up in him, mastering him with its insatiable yearning for
Weedon Scott had believed that he was quick enough to avoid any snap or
slash. But he had yet to learn the remarkable quickness of White Fang,
who struck with the certainty and swiftness of a coiled snake.
Scott cried out sharply with surprise, catching his torn hand
and holding it tightly in his other hand. Matt uttered a great
oath and sprang to his side. White Fang crouched down, and backed
away, bristling, showing his fangs, his eyes malignant with menace.
Now he could expect a beating as fearful as any he had received
from Beauty Smith.
"Here! What are you doing?" Scott cried suddenly.
Matt had dashed into the cabin and come out with a rifle.
"Nothin'," he said slowly, with a careless calmness that was assumed,
"only goin' to keep that promise I made. I reckon it's up to me to kill
'm as I said I'd do."
"No you don't!"
"Yes I do. Watch me."
As Matt had pleaded for White Fang when he had been bitten, it was now
Weedon Scott's turn to plead.
"You said to give him a chance. Well, give it to him. We've
only just started, and we can't quit at the beginning. It served
me right, this time. And—look at him!"
White Fang, near the corner of the cabin and forty feet away,
was snarling with blood-curdling viciousness, not at Scott, but at
"Well, I'll be everlastingly gosh-swoggled!" was the
dog-musher's expression of astonishment.
"Look at the intelligence of him," Scott went on hastily.
"He knows the meaning of firearms as well as you do. He's
got intelligence and we've got to give that intelligence a chance.
Put up the gun."
"All right, I'm willin'," Matt agreed, leaning the rifle against the
"But will you look at that!" he exclaimed the next moment.
White Fang had quieted down and ceased snarling. "This is
worth investigatin'. Watch."
Matt, reached for the rifle, and at the same moment White
Fang snarled. He stepped away from the rifle, and White Fang's
lifted lips descended, covering his teeth.
"Now, just for fun."
Matt took the rifle and began slowly to raise it to his shoulder. White
Fang's snarling began with the movement, and increased as the movement
approached its culmination. But the moment before the rifle came to a
level on him, he leaped sidewise behind the corner of the cabin. Matt
stood staring along the sights at the empty space of snow which had been
occupied by White Fang.
The dog-musher put the rifle down solemnly, then turned and looked at
"I agree with you, Mr. Scott. That dog's too intelligent to
CHAPTER VI—THE LOVE-MASTER
As White Fang watched Weedon Scott approach, he bristled and snarled to
advertise that he would not submit to punishment. Twenty-four hours had
passed since he had slashed open the hand that was now bandaged and held up
by a sling to keep the blood out of it. In the past White Fang had
experienced delayed punishments, and he apprehended that such a one was about
to befall him. How could it be otherwise? He had committed what
was to him sacrilege, sunk his fangs into the holy flesh of a god, and of a
white-skinned superior god at that. In the nature of things, and of
intercourse with gods, something terrible awaited him.
The god sat down several feet away. White Fang could see
nothing dangerous in that. When the gods administered punishment
they stood on their legs. Besides, this god had no club, no whip,
no firearm. And furthermore, he himself was free. No chain nor
stick bound him. He could escape into safety while the god
was scrambling to his feet. In the meantime he would wait and
The god remained quiet, made no movement; and White Fang's snarl slowly
dwindled to a growl that ebbed down in his throat and ceased. Then the
god spoke, and at the first sound of his voice, the hair rose on White Fang's
neck and the growl rushed up in his throat. But the god made no hostile
movement, and went on calmly talking. For a time White Fang growled in
unison with him, a correspondence of rhythm being established between growl
and voice. But the god talked on interminably. He talked to White Fang
as White Fang had never been talked to before. He talked softly
and soothingly, with a gentleness that somehow, somewhere, touched White
Fang. In spite of himself and all the pricking warnings of his
instinct, White Fang began to have confidence in this god. He had a
feeling of security that was belied by all his experience with men.
After a long time, the god got up and went into the cabin.
White Fang scanned him apprehensively when he came out. He had
neither whip nor club nor weapon. Nor was his uninjured hand behind
his back hiding something. He sat down as before, in the same
spot, several feet away. He held out a small piece of meat. White
Fang pricked his ears and investigated it suspiciously, managing to
look at the same time both at the meat and the god, alert for any
overt act, his body tense and ready to spring away at the first sign
Still the punishment delayed. The god merely held near to his
nose a piece of meat. And about the meat there seemed nothing
wrong. Still White Fang suspected; and though the meat was proffered
to him with short inviting thrusts of the hand, he refused to
touch it. The gods were all-wise, and there was no telling
what masterful treachery lurked behind that apparently harmless piece
of meat. In past experience, especially in dealing with squaws,
meat and punishment had often been disastrously related.
In the end, the god tossed the meat on the snow at White
Fang's feet. He smelled the meat carefully; but he did not look at
it. While he smelled it he kept his eyes on the god. Nothing
happened. He took the meat into his mouth and swallowed it. Still
nothing happened. The god was actually offering him another piece of
meat. Again he refused to take it from the hand, and again it was
tossed to him. This was repeated a number of times. But there
came a time when the god refused to toss it. He kept it in his hand
and steadfastly proffered it.
The meat was good meat, and White Fang was hungry. Bit by
bit, infinitely cautious, he approached the hand. At last the time
came that he decided to eat the meat from the hand. He never took
his eyes from the god, thrusting his head forward with ears flattened back
and hair involuntarily rising and cresting on his neck. Also a low
growl rumbled in his throat as warning that he was not to be trifled
with. He ate the meat, and nothing happened. Piece by piece, he
ate all the meat, and nothing happened. Still the punishment
He licked his chops and waited. The god went on talking. In
his voice was kindness—something of which White Fang had no experience
whatever. And within him it aroused feelings which he had likewise
never experienced before. He was aware of a certain strange
satisfaction, as though some need were being gratified, as though some void
in his being were being filled. Then again came the prod of his
instinct and the warning of past experience. The gods were ever crafty,
and they had unguessed ways of attaining their ends.
Ah, he had thought so! There it came now, the god's hand,
cunning to hurt, thrusting out at him, descending upon his head. But
the god went on talking. His voice was soft and soothing. In
spite of the menacing hand, the voice inspired confidence. And in spite
of the assuring voice, the hand inspired distrust. White Fang
was torn by conflicting feelings, impulses. It seemed he would fly
to pieces, so terrible was the control he was exerting, holding together
by an unwonted indecision the counter-forces that struggled within him for
He compromised. He snarled and bristled and flattened his
ears. But he neither snapped nor sprang away. The hand
descended. Nearer and nearer it came. It touched the ends of his
upstanding hair. He shrank down under it. It followed down after
him, pressing more closely against him. Shrinking, almost shivering,
he still managed to hold himself together. It was a torment,
this hand that touched him and violated his instinct. He could
not forget in a day all the evil that had been wrought him at the hands of
men. But it was the will of the god, and he strove to submit.
The hand lifted and descended again in a patting,
caressing movement. This continued, but every time the hand lifted, the
hair lifted under it. And every time the hand descended, the
ears flattened down and a cavernous growl surged in his throat.
White Fang growled and growled with insistent warning. By this means
he announced that he was prepared to retaliate for any hurt he
might receive. There was no telling when the god's ulterior motive
might be disclosed. At any moment that soft, confidence-inspiring
voice might break forth in a roar of wrath, that gentle and caressing hand
transform itself into a vice-like grip to hold him helpless and administer
But the god talked on softly, and ever the hand rose and fell
with non-hostile pats. White Fang experienced dual feelings. It
was distasteful to his instinct. It restrained him, opposed the
will of him toward personal liberty. And yet it was not
physically painful. On the contrary, it was even pleasant, in a
physical way. The patting movement slowly and carefully changed to a rubbing
of the ears about their bases, and the physical pleasure even increased a
little. Yet he continued to fear, and he stood on guard, expectant of
unguessed evil, alternately suffering and enjoying as one feeling or the
other came uppermost and swayed him.
"Well, I'll be gosh-swoggled!"
So spoke Matt, coming out of the cabin, his sleeves rolled up, a pan of
dirty dish-water in his hands, arrested in the act of emptying the pan by the
sight of Weedon Scott patting White Fang.
At the instant his voice broke the silence, White Fang leaped
back, snarling savagely at him.
Matt regarded his employer with grieved disapproval.
"If you don't mind my expressin' my feelin's, Mr. Scott, I'll make free
to say you're seventeen kinds of a damn fool an' all of 'em different, an'
Weedon Scott smiled with a superior air, gained his feet, and walked
over to White Fang. He talked soothingly to him, but not for long, then
slowly put out his hand, rested it on White Fang's head, and resumed the
interrupted patting. White Fang endured it, keeping his eyes fixed
suspiciously, not upon the man that patted him, but upon the man that stood
in the doorway.
"You may be a number one, tip-top minin' expert, all right all right,"
the dog-musher delivered himself oracularly, "but you missed the chance of
your life when you was a boy an' didn't run off an' join a circus."
White Fang snarled at the sound of his voice, but this time did not leap
away from under the hand that was caressing his head and the back of his neck
with long, soothing strokes.
It was the beginning of the end for White Fang—the ending of the old
life and the reign of hate. A new and incomprehensibly fairer life was
dawning. It required much thinking and endless patience on the part of
Weedon Scott to accomplish this. And on the part of White Fang it
required nothing less than a revolution. He had to ignore the urges and
promptings of instinct and reason, defy experience, give the lie to life
Life, as he had known it, not only had had no place in it for much that
he now did; but all the currents had gone counter to those to which he now
abandoned himself. In short, when all things were considered, he had to
achieve an orientation far vaster than the one he had achieved at the time he
came voluntarily in from the Wild and accepted Grey Beaver as his lord.
At that time he was a mere puppy, soft from the making, without form, ready
for the thumb of circumstance to begin its work upon him. But now it
was different. The thumb of circumstance had done its work only
too well. By it he had been formed and hardened into the
Fighting Wolf, fierce and implacable, unloving and unlovable. To
accomplish the change was like a reflux of being, and this when the
plasticity of youth was no longer his; when the fibre of him had become
tough and knotty; when the warp and the woof of him had made of him
an adamantine texture, harsh and unyielding; when the face of his spirit
had become iron and all his instincts and axioms had crystallised into set
rules, cautions, dislikes, and desires.
Yet again, in this new orientation, it was the thumb of circumstance
that pressed and prodded him, softening that which had become hard and
remoulding it into fairer form. Weedon Scott was in truth this
thumb. He had gone to the roots of White Fang's nature, and with
kindness touched to life potencies that had languished and well-nigh
perished. One such potency was LOVE. It took the place of LIKE,
which latter had been the highest feeling that thrilled him in his
intercourse with the gods.
But this love did not come in a day. It began with LIKE and out
of it slowly developed. White Fang did not run away, though he
was allowed to remain loose, because he liked this new god. This
was certainly better than the life he had lived in the cage of
Beauty Smith, and it was necessary that he should have some god.
The lordship of man was a need of his nature. The seal of
his dependence on man had been set upon him in that early day when
he turned his back on the Wild and crawled to Grey Beaver's feet
to receive the expected beating. This seal had been stamped upon
him again, and ineradicably, on his second return from the Wild, when the
long famine was over and there was fish once more in the village of Grey
And so, because he needed a god and because he preferred Weedon Scott to
Beauty Smith, White Fang remained. In acknowledgment of fealty, he
proceeded to take upon himself the guardianship of his master's
property. He prowled about the cabin while the sled-dogs slept, and the
first night-visitor to the cabin fought him off with a club until Weedon
Scott came to the rescue. But White Fang soon learned to differentiate
between thieves and honest men, to appraise the true value of step and
carriage. The man who travelled, loud-stepping, the direct line to the
cabin door, he let alone—though he watched him vigilantly until the door
opened and he received the endorsement of the master. But the man who
went softly, by circuitous ways, peering with caution, seeking
after secrecy—that was the man who received no suspension of
judgment from White Fang, and who went away abruptly, hurriedly, and
Weedon Scott had set himself the task of redeeming White Fang—
or rather, of redeeming mankind from the wrong it had done White Fang. It
was a matter of principle and conscience. He felt that the ill done
White Fang was a debt incurred by man and that it must be paid. So he
went out of his way to be especially kind to the Fighting Wolf. Each
day he made it a point to caress and pet White Fang, and to do it at
At first suspicious and hostile, White Fang grew to like
this petting. But there was one thing that he never outgrew—
his growling. Growl he would, from the moment the petting began
till it ended. But it was a growl with a new note in it. A
stranger could not hear this note, and to such a stranger the growling
of White Fang was an exhibition of primordial savagery, nerve-racking and
blood-curdling. But White Fang's throat had become harsh- fibred from
the making of ferocious sounds through the many years since his first little
rasp of anger in the lair of his cubhood, and he could not soften the sounds
of that throat now to express the gentleness he felt. Nevertheless,
Weedon Scott's ear and sympathy were fine enough to catch the new note all
but drowned in the fierceness—the note that was the faintest hint of a
croon of content and that none but he could hear.
As the days went by, the evolution of LIKE into LOVE
was accelerated. White Fang himself began to grow aware of it,
though in his consciousness he knew not what love was. It
manifested itself to him as a void in his being—a hungry, aching,
yearning void that clamoured to be filled. It was a pain and an unrest;
and it received easement only by the touch of the new god's presence. At
such times love was joy to him, a wild, keen-thrilling satisfaction.
But when away from his god, the pain and the unrest returned; the void in him
sprang up and pressed against him with its emptiness, and the hunger gnawed
and gnawed unceasingly.
White Fang was in the process of finding himself. In spite of
the maturity of his years and of the savage rigidity of the mould that had
formed him, his nature was undergoing an expansion. There was a
burgeoning within him of strange feelings and unwonted impulses. His old code
of conduct was changing. In the past he had liked comfort and surcease
from pain, disliked discomfort and pain, and he had adjusted his actions
accordingly. But now it was different. Because of this new feeling
within him, he ofttimes elected discomfort and pain for the sake of his
god. Thus, in the early morning, instead of roaming and foraging, or
lying in a sheltered nook, he would wait for hours on the cheerless
cabin-stoop for a sight of the god's face. At night, when the god
returned home, White Fang would leave the warm sleeping-place he had burrowed
in the snow in order to receive the friendly snap of fingers and the word
of greeting. Meat, even meat itself, he would forego to be with his
god, to receive a caress from him or to accompany him down into the
LIKE had been replaced by LOVE. And love was the plummet
dropped down into the deeps of him where like had never gone.
And responsive out of his deeps had come the new thing—love.
That which was given unto him did he return. This was a god indeed,
a love-god, a warm and radiant god, in whose light White Fang's nature
expanded as a flower expands under the sun.
But White Fang was not demonstrative. He was too old, too
firmly moulded, to become adept at expressing himself in new ways. He
was too self-possessed, too strongly poised in his own isolation.
Too long had he cultivated reticence, aloofness, and moroseness.
He had never barked in his life, and he could not now learn to bark
a welcome when his god approached. He was never in the way,
never extravagant nor foolish in the expression of his love. He
never ran to meet his god. He waited at a distance; but he
always waited, was always there. His love partook of the nature
of worship, dumb, inarticulate, a silent adoration. Only by
the steady regard of his eyes did he express his love, and by
the unceasing following with his eyes of his god's every movement. Also,
at times, when his god looked at him and spoke to him, he betrayed an awkward
self-consciousness, caused by the struggle of his love to express itself and
his physical inability to express it.
He learned to adjust himself in many ways to his new mode of life. It
was borne in upon him that he must let his master's dogs alone. Yet his
dominant nature asserted itself, and he had first to thrash them into an
acknowledgment of his superiority and leadership. This accomplished, he had
little trouble with them. They gave trail to him when he came and went
or walked among them, and when he asserted his will they obeyed.
In the same way, he came to tolerate Matt—as a possession of
his master. His master rarely fed him. Matt did that, it was
his business; yet White Fang divined that it was his master's food he ate
and that it was his master who thus led him vicariously. Matt it was
who tried to put him into the harness and make him haul sled with the other
dogs. But Matt failed. It was not until Weedon Scott put the
harness on White Fang and worked him, that he understood. He took it as
his master's will that Matt should drive him and work him just as he drove
and worked his master's other dogs.
Different from the Mackenzie toboggans were the Klondike sleds
with runners under them. And different was the method of driving
the dogs. There was no fan-formation of the team. The dogs worked
in single file, one behind another, hauling on double traces.
And here, in the Klondike, the leader was indeed the leader.
The wisest as well as strongest dog was the leader, and the team
obeyed him and feared him. That White Fang should quickly gain this
post was inevitable. He could not be satisfied with less, as
Matt learned after much inconvenience and trouble. White Fang
picked out the post for himself, and Matt backed his judgment with
strong language after the experiment had been tried. But, though
he worked in the sled in the day, White Fang did not forego the guarding
of his master's property in the night. Thus he was on duty all the
time, ever vigilant and faithful, the most valuable of all the dogs.
"Makin' free to spit out what's in me," Matt said one day, "I beg to
state that you was a wise guy all right when you paid the price you did for
that dog. You clean swindled Beauty Smith on top of pushin' his face in
with your fist."
A recrudescence of anger glinted in Weedon Scott's grey eyes, and he
muttered savagely, "The beast!"
In the late spring a great trouble came to White Fang.
Without warning, the love-master disappeared. There had been warning,
but White Fang was unversed in such things and did not understand
the packing of a grip. He remembered afterwards that his packing
had preceded the master's disappearance; but at the time he
suspected nothing. That night he waited for the master to return.
At midnight the chill wind that blew drove him to shelter at the rear of
the cabin. There he drowsed, only half asleep, his ears keyed for the
first sound of the familiar step. But, at two in the morning, his
anxiety drove him out to the cold front stoop, where he crouched, and
But no master came. In the morning the door opened and
Matt stepped outside. White Fang gazed at him wistfully. There
was no common speech by which he might learn what he wanted to know.
The days came and went, but never the master. White Fang, who
had never known sickness in his life, became sick. He became
very sick, so sick that Matt was finally compelled to bring him inside the
cabin. Also, in writing to his employer, Matt devoted a postscript to
Weedon Scott reading the letter down in Circle City, came upon
"That dam wolf won't work. Won't eat. Aint got no spunk
left. All the dogs is licking him. Wants to know what has become of
you, and I don't know how to tell him. Mebbe he is going to die."
It was as Matt had said. White Fang had ceased eating, lost
heart, and allowed every dog of the team to thrash him. In the cabin
he lay on the floor near the stove, without interest in food, in Matt, nor
in life. Matt might talk gently to him or swear at him, it was all the
same; he never did more than turn his dull eyes upon the man, then drop his
head back to its customary position on his fore- paws.
And then, one night, Matt, reading to himself with moving lips
and mumbled sounds, was startled by a low whine from White Fang.
He had got upon his feet, his ears cocked towards the door, and he
was listening intently. A moment later, Matt heard a footstep.
The door opened, and Weedon Scott stepped in. The two men shook
hands. Then Scott looked around the room.
"Where's the wolf?" he asked.
Then he discovered him, standing where he had been lying, near to the
stove. He had not rushed forward after the manner of other dogs.
He stood, watching and waiting.
"Holy smoke!" Matt exclaimed. "Look at 'm wag his tail!"
Weedon Scott strode half across the room toward him, at the same time
calling him. White Fang came to him, not with a great bound, yet
quickly. He was awakened from self-consciousness, but as he drew near,
his eyes took on a strange expression. Something, an incommunicable
vastness of feeling, rose up into his eyes as a light and shone forth.
"He never looked at me that way all the time you was gone!"
Weedon Scott did not hear. He was squatting down on his
heels, face to face with White Fang and petting him—rubbing at the
roots of the ears, making long caressing strokes down the neck to
the shoulders, tapping the spine gently with the balls of his fingers. And
White Fang was growling responsively, the crooning note of the growl more
pronounced than ever.
But that was not all. What of his joy, the great love in him,
ever surging and struggling to express itself, succeeding in finding a new
mode of expression. He suddenly thrust his head forward and nudged his
way in between the master's arm and body. And here, confined, hidden
from view all except his ears, no longer growling, he continued to nudge and
The two men looked at each other. Scott's eyes were shining.
"Gosh!" said Matt in an awe-stricken voice.
A moment later, when he had recovered himself, he said, "I
always insisted that wolf was a dog. Look at 'm!"
With the return of the love-master, White Fang's recovery
was rapid. Two nights and a day he spent in the cabin. Then
he sallied forth. The sled-dogs had forgotten his prowess.
They remembered only the latest, which was his weakness and sickness. At
the sight of him as he came out of the cabin, they sprang upon him.
"Talk about your rough-houses," Matt murmured gleefully, standing in the
doorway and looking on.
Give 'm hell, you wolf! Give 'm hell!—an' then some!"
White Fang did not need the encouragement. The return of the
love- master was enough. Life was flowing through him again,
splendid and indomitable. He fought from sheer joy, finding in it
an expression of much that he felt and that otherwise was
without speech. There could be but one ending. The team dispersed
in ignominious defeat, and it was not until after dark that the dogs came
sneaking back, one by one, by meekness and humility signifying their fealty
to White Fang.
Having learned to snuggle, White Fang was guilty of it often.
It was the final word. He could not go beyond it. The one thing
of which he had always been particularly jealous was his head. He
had always disliked to have it touched. It was the Wild in him,
the fear of hurt and of the trap, that had given rise to the
panicky impulses to avoid contacts. It was the mandate of his
instinct that that head must be free. And now, with the love-master,
his snuggling was the deliberate act of putting himself into a position of
hopeless helplessness. It was an expression of perfect confidence, of
absolute self-surrender, as though he said: "I put myself into thy
hands. Work thou thy will with me."
One night, not long after the return, Scott and Matt sat at a game of
cribbage preliminary to going to bed. "Fifteen-two, fifteen- four an' a
pair makes six," Mat was pegging up, when there was an outcry and sound of
snarling without. They looked at each other as they started to rise to
"The wolf's nailed somebody," Matt said.
A wild scream of fear and anguish hastened them.
"Bring a light!" Scott shouted, as he sprang outside.
Matt followed with the lamp, and by its light they saw a man lying on
his back in the snow. His arms were folded, one above the other, across
his face and throat. Thus he was trying to shield himself from White
Fang's teeth. And there was need for it. White Fang was in a
rage, wickedly making his attack on the most vulnerable spot. From
shoulder to wrist of the crossed arms, the coat-sleeve, blue flannel shirt
and undershirt were ripped in rags, while the arms themselves were terribly
slashed and streaming blood.
All this the two men saw in the first instant. The next
instant Weedon Scott had White Fang by the throat and was dragging
him clear. White Fang struggled and snarled, but made no attempt
to bite, while he quickly quieted down at a sharp word from
Matt helped the man to his feet. As he arose he lowered
his crossed arms, exposing the bestial face of Beauty Smith. The
dog- musher let go of him precipitately, with action similar to that of a
man who has picked up live fire. Beauty Smith blinked in the lamplight
and looked about him. He caught sight of White Fang and terror rushed
into his face.
At the same moment Matt noticed two objects lying in the snow.
He held the lamp close to them, indicating them with his toe for
his employer's benefit—a steel dog-chain and a stout club.
Weedon Scott saw and nodded. Not a word was spoken. The
dog- musher laid his hand on Beauty Smith's shoulder and faced him to the
right about. No word needed to be spoken. Beauty
In the meantime the love-master was patting White Fang and talking to
"Tried to steal you, eh? And you wouldn't have it! Well, well,
he made a mistake, didn't he?"
"Must 'a' thought he had hold of seventeen devils," the
White Fang, still wrought up and bristling, growled and growled, the
hair slowly lying down, the crooning note remote and dim, but growing in his
CHAPTER I—THE LONG TRAIL
It was in the air. White Fang sensed the coming calamity,
even before there was tangible evidence of it. In vague ways it
was borne in upon him that a change was impending. He knew not how
nor why, yet he got his feel of the oncoming event from the
gods themselves. In ways subtler than they knew, they betrayed
their intentions to the wolf-dog that haunted the cabin-stoop, and
that, though he never came inside the cabin, knew what went on
inside their brains.
"Listen to that, will you!" the dug-musher exclaimed at supper
Weedon Scott listened. Through the door came a low, anxious
whine, like a sobbing under the breath that had just grown audible.
Then came the long sniff, as White Fang reassured himself that his god was
still inside and had not yet taken himself off in mysterious and solitary
"I do believe that wolf's on to you," the dog-musher said.
Weedon Scott looked across at his companion with eyes that
almost pleaded, though this was given the lie by his words.
"What the devil can I do with a wolf in California?" he demanded.
"That's what I say," Matt answered. "What the devil can you
do with a wolf in California?"
But this did not satisfy Weedon Scott. The other seemed to
be judging him in a non-committal sort of way.
"White man's dogs would have no show against him," Scott went on. "He'd
kill them on sight. If he didn't bankrupt me with damaged suits, the
authorities would take him away from me and electrocute him."
"He's a downright murderer, I know," was the dog-musher's comment.
Weedon Scott looked at him suspiciously.
"It would never do," he said decisively.
"It would never do!" Matt concurred. "Why you'd have to hire a
man 'specially to take care of 'm."
The other suspicion was allayed. He nodded cheerfully. In
the silence that followed, the low, half-sobbing whine was heard at
the door and then the long, questing sniff.
"There's no denyin' he thinks a hell of a lot of you," Matt said.
The other glared at him in sudden wrath. "Damn it all, man!
I know my own mind and what's best!"
"I'm agreein' with you, only . . . "
"Only what?" Scott snapped out.
"Only . . . " the dog-musher began softly, then changed his mind and
betrayed a rising anger of his own. "Well, you needn't get so all-fired
het up about it. Judgin' by your actions one'd think you didn't know
your own mind."
Weedon Scott debated with himself for a while, and then said
more gently: "You are right, Matt. I don't know my own mind,
and that's what's the trouble."
"Why, it would be rank ridiculousness for me to take that dog along," he
broke out after another pause.
"I'm agreein' with you," was Matt's answer, and again his employer was
not quite satisfied with him.
"But how in the name of the great Sardanapolis he knows you're goin' is
what gets me," the dog-musher continued innocently.
"It's beyond me, Matt," Scott answered, with a mournful shake of the
Then came the day when, through the open cabin door, White Fang saw the
fatal grip on the floor and the love-master packing things into it.
Also, there were comings and goings, and the erstwhile placid atmosphere of
the cabin was vexed with strange perturbations and unrest. Here was
indubitable evidence. White Fang had already scented it. He now
reasoned it. His god was preparing for another flight. And since
he had not taken him with him before, so, now, he could look to be left
That night he lifted the long wolf-howl. As he had howled, in
his puppy days, when he fled back from the Wild to the village to find it
vanished and naught but a rubbish-heap to mark the site of Grey Beaver's
tepee, so now he pointed his muzzle to the cold stars and told to them his
Inside the cabin the two men had just gone to bed.
"He's gone off his food again," Matt remarked from his bunk.
There was a grunt from Weedon Scott's bunk, and a stir of blankets.
"From the way he cut up the other time you went away, I wouldn't wonder
this time but what he died."
The blankets in the other bunk stirred irritably.
"Oh, shut up!" Scott cried out through the darkness. "You
nag worse than a woman."
"I'm agreein' with you," the dog-musher answered, and Weedon Scott was
not quite sure whether or not the other had snickered.
The next day White Fang's anxiety and restlessness were even
more pronounced. He dogged his master's heels whenever he left
the cabin, and haunted the front stoop when he remained inside. Through
the open door he could catch glimpses of the luggage on the floor. The
grip had been joined by two large canvas bags and a box. Matt was
rolling the master's blankets and fur robe inside a small tarpaulin.
White Fang whined as he watched the operation.
Later on two Indians arrived. He watched them closely as
they shouldered the luggage and were led off down the hill by Matt,
who carried the bedding and the grip. But White Fang did not
follow them. The master was still in the cabin. After a time,
Matt returned. The master came to the door and called White
"You poor devil," he said gently, rubbing White Fang's ears and tapping
his spine. "I'm hitting the long trail, old man, where you cannot
follow. Now give me a growl—the last, good, good-bye growl."
But White Fang refused to growl. Instead, and after a
wistful, searching look, he snuggled in, burrowing his head out of
sight between the master's arm and body.
"There she blows!" Matt cried. From the Yukon arose the
hoarse bellowing of a river steamboat. "You've got to cut it
short. Be sure and lock the front door. I'll go out the
back. Get a move on!"
The two doors slammed at the same moment, and Weedon Scott waited for
Matt to come around to the front. From inside the door came a low
whining and sobbing. Then there were long, deep-drawn sniffs.
"You must take good care of him, Matt," Scott said, as they started down
the hill. "Write and let me know how he gets along."
"Sure," the dog-musher answered. "But listen to that, will
Both men stopped. White Fang was howling as dogs howl when
their masters lie dead. He was voicing an utter woe, his cry
bursting upward in great heart-breaking rushes, dying down into
quavering misery, and bursting upward again with a rush upon rush of
The AURORA was the first steamboat of the year for the Outside, and her
decks were jammed with prosperous adventurers and broken gold seekers, all
equally as mad to get to the Outside as they had been originally to get to
the Inside. Near the gang-plank, Scott was shaking hands with Matt, who
was preparing to go ashore. But Matt's hand went limp in the other's
grasp as his gaze shot past and remained fixed on something behind him.
Scott turned to see. Sitting on the deck several feet away and watching
wistfully was White Fang,
The dog-musher swore softly, in awe-stricken accents. Scott
could only look in wonder.
"Did you lock the front door?" Matt demanded. The other
nodded, and asked, "How about the back?"
"You just bet I did," was the fervent reply.
White Fang flattened his ears ingratiatingly, but remained where he was,
making no attempt to approach.
"I'll have to take 'm ashore with me."
Matt made a couple of steps toward White Fang, but the latter slid away
from him. The dog-musher made a rush of it, and White Fang dodged
between the legs of a group of men. Ducking, turning, doubling, he slid
about the deck, eluding the other's efforts to capture him.
But when the love-master spoke, White Fang came to him with
"Won't come to the hand that's fed 'm all these months," the dog- musher
muttered resentfully. "And you—you ain't never fed 'm after them
first days of gettin' acquainted. I'm blamed if I can see how he works
it out that you're the boss."
Scott, who had been patting White Fang, suddenly bent closer and pointed
out fresh-made cuts on his muzzle, and a gash between the eyes.
Matt bent over and passed his hand along White Fang's belly.
"We plump forgot the window. He's all cut an' gouged
underneath. Must 'a' butted clean through it, b'gosh!"
But Weedon Scott was not listening. He was thinking rapidly.
The AURORA'S whistle hooted a final announcement of departure.
Men were scurrying down the gang-plank to the shore. Matt loosened
the bandana from his own neck and started to put it around
White Fang's. Scott grasped the dog-musher's hand.
"Good-bye, Matt, old man. About the wolf-you needn't write.
You see, I've . . . !"
"What!" the dog-musher exploded. "You don't mean to say . . .?"
"The very thing I mean. Here's your bandana. I'll write to
you about him."
Matt paused halfway down the gang-plank.
"He'll never stand the climate!" he shouted back. "Unless you
clip 'm in warm weather!"
The gang-plank was hauled in, and the AURORA swang out from
the bank. Weedon Scott waved a last good-bye. Then he turned and
bent over White Fang, standing by his side.
"Now growl, damn you, growl," he said, as he patted the responsive head
and rubbed the flattening ears.
CHAPTER II—THE SOUTHLAND
White Fang landed from the steamer in San Francisco. He
was appalled. Deep in him, below any reasoning process or act
of consciousness, he had associated power with godhead. And never
had the white men seemed such marvellous gods as now, when he trod
the slimy pavement of San Francisco. The log cabins he had known
were replaced by towering buildings. The streets were crowded
with perils—waggons, carts, automobiles; great, straining horses pulling
huge trucks; and monstrous cable and electric ears hooting and clanging
through the midst, screeching their insistent menace after the manner of the
lynxes he had known in the northern woods.
All this was the manifestation of power. Through it all, behind
it all, was man, governing and controlling, expressing himself, as of old,
by his mastery over matter. It was colossal, stunning. White Fang
was awed. Fear sat upon him. As in his cubhood he had been made
to feel his smallness and puniness on the day he first came in from the Wild
to the village of Grey Beaver, so now, in his full- grown stature and pride
of strength, he was made to feel small and puny. And there were so many
gods! He was made dizzy by the swarming of them. The thunder of
the streets smote upon his ears. He was bewildered by the tremendous and
endless rush and movement of things. As never before, he felt his
dependence on the love- master, close at whose heels he followed, no matter
what happened never losing sight of him.
But White Fang was to have no more than a nightmare vision of the city—
an experience that was like a bad dream, unreal and terrible, that haunted
him for long after in his dreams. He was put into a baggage-car by the
master, chained in a corner in the midst of heaped trunks and valises.
Here a squat and brawny god held sway, with much noise, hurling trunks and
boxes about, dragging them in through the door and tossing them into the
piles, or flinging them out of the door, smashing and crashing, to
other gods who awaited them.
And here, in this inferno of luggage, was White Fang deserted by the
master. Or at least White Fang thought he was deserted, until he
smelled out the master's canvas clothes-bags alongside of him, and proceeded
to mount guard over them.
"'Bout time you come," growled the god of the car, an hour later, when
Weedon Scott appeared at the door. "That dog of yourn won't let me lay
a finger on your stuff."
White Fang emerged from the car. He was astonished. The
nightmare city was gone. The car had been to him no more than a room in
a house, and when he had entered it the city had been all around him. In
the interval the city had disappeared. The roar of it no longer dinned
upon his ears. Before him was smiling country, streaming with sunshine,
lazy with quietude. But he had little time to marvel at the
transformation. He accepted it as he accepted all the unaccountable
doings and manifestations of the gods. It was their way.
There was a carriage waiting. A man and a woman approached
the master. The woman's arms went out and clutched the master
around the neck—a hostile act! The next moment Weedon Scott had
torn loose from the embrace and closed with White Fang, who had become
a snarling, raging demon.
"It's all right, mother," Scott was saving as he kept tight hold
of White Fang and placated him. "He thought you were going to
injure me, and he wouldn't stand for it. It's all right. It's all
right. He'll learn soon enough."
"And in the meantime I may be permitted to love my son when his dog is
not around," she laughed, though she was pale and weak from the fright.
She looked at White Fang, who snarled and bristled and
"He'll have to learn, and he shall, without postponement,"
He spoke softly to White Fang until he had quieted him, then his voice
"Down, sir! Down with you!"
This had been one of the things taught him by the master, and White Fang
obeyed, though he lay down reluctantly and sullenly.
Scott opened his arms to her, but kept his eyes on White Fang.
"Down!" he warned. "Down!"
White Fang, bristling silently, half-crouching as he rose, sank back and
watched the hostile act repeated. But no harm came of it, nor of the
embrace from the strange man-god that followed. Then the clothes-bags
were taken into the carriage, the strange gods and the love-master followed,
and White Fang pursued, now running vigilantly behind, now bristling up to
the running horses and warning them that he was there to see that no harm
befell the god they dragged so swiftly across the earth.
At the end of fifteen minutes, the carriage swung in through a stone
gateway and on between a double row of arched and interlacing walnut
trees. On either side stretched lawns, their broad sweep broken here
and there by great sturdy-limbed oaks. In the near distance, in
contrast with the young-green of the tended grass, sunburnt hay-fields showed
tan and gold; while beyond were the tawny hills and upland pastures.
From the head of the lawn, on the first soft swell from the valley-level,
looked down the deep- porched, many-windowed house.
Little opportunity was given White Fang to see all this.
Hardly had the carriage entered the grounds, when he was set upon by
a sheep-dog, bright-eyed, sharp-muzzled, righteously indignant
and angry. It was between him and the master, cutting him off.
White Fang snarled no warning, but his hair bristled as he made his silent
and deadly rush. This rush was never completed. He halted with
awkward abruptness, with stiff fore-legs bracing himself against his
momentum, almost sitting down on his haunches, so desirous was he of avoiding
contact with the dog he was in the act of attacking. It was a female,
and the law of his kind thrust a barrier between. For him to attack her
would require nothing less than a violation of his instinct.
But with the sheep-dog it was otherwise. Being a female,
she possessed no such instinct. On the other hand, being a
sheep-dog, her instinctive fear of the Wild, and especially of the wolf,
was unusually keen. White Fang was to her a wolf, the
hereditary marauder who had preyed upon her flocks from the time sheep
were first herded and guarded by some dim ancestor of hers. And so,
as he abandoned his rush at her and braced himself to avoid the contact,
she sprang upon him. He snarled involuntarily as he felt her teeth in
his shoulder, but beyond this made no offer to hurt her. He backed
away, stiff-legged with self-consciousness, and tried to go around her.
He dodged this way and that, and curved and turned, but to no purpose.
She remained always between him and the way he wanted to go.
"Here, Collie!" called the strange man in the carriage.
Weedon Scott laughed.
"Never mind, father. It is good discipline. White Fang will
have to learn many things, and it's just as well that he begins now. He'll
adjust himself all right."
The carriage drove on, and still Collie blocked White Fang's way. He
tried to outrun her by leaving the drive and circling across the lawn but she
ran on the inner and smaller circle, and was always there, facing him with
her two rows of gleaming teeth. Back he circled, across the drive to
the other lawn, and again she headed him off.
The carriage was bearing the master away. White Fang
caught glimpses of it disappearing amongst the trees. The situation
was desperate. He essayed another circle. She followed,
running swiftly. And then, suddenly, he turned upon her. It was
his old fighting trick. Shoulder to shoulder, he struck her
squarely. Not only was she overthrown. So fast had she been
running that she rolled along, now on her back, now on her side, as she
struggled to stop, clawing gravel with her feet and crying shrilly her
hurt pride and indignation.
White Fang did not wait. The way was clear, and that was all
he had wanted. She took after him, never ceasing her outcry. It
was the straightaway now, and when it came to real running, White
Fang could teach her things. She ran frantically,
hysterically, straining to the utmost, advertising the effort she was making
with every leap: and all the time White Fang slid smoothly away
from her silently, without effort, gliding like a ghost over the
As he rounded the house to the PORTE-COCHERE, he came upon
the carriage. It had stopped, and the master was alighting. At
this moment, still running at top speed, White Fang became suddenly aware
of an attack from the side. It was a deer-hound rushing upon him.
White Fang tried to face it. But he was going too fast, and the hound
was too close. It struck him on the side; and such was his forward
momentum and the unexpectedness of it, White Fang was hurled to the ground
and rolled clear over. He came out of the tangle a spectacle of
malignancy, ears flattened back, lips writhing, nose wrinkling, his teeth
clipping together as the fangs barely missed the hound's soft throat.
The master was running up, but was too far away; and it was Collie that
saved the hound's life. Before White Fang could spring in and deliver
the fatal stroke, and just as he was in the act of springing in, Collie
arrived. She had been out-manoeuvred and out- run, to say nothing of
her having been unceremoniously tumbled in the gravel, and her arrival was
like that of a tornado—made up of offended dignity, justifiable wrath, and
instinctive hatred for this marauder from the Wild. She struck White
Fang at right angles in the midst of his spring, and again he was knocked off
his feet and rolled over.
The next moment the master arrived, and with one hand held White Fang,
while the father called off the dogs.
"I say, this is a pretty warm reception for a poor lone wolf from the
Arctic," the master said, while White Fang calmed down under his caressing
hand. "In all his life he's only been known once to go off his feet,
and here he's been rolled twice in thirty seconds."
The carriage had driven away, and other strange gods had appeared from
out the house. Some of these stood respectfully at a distance; but two
of them, women, perpetrated the hostile act of clutching the master around
the neck. White Fang, however, was beginning to tolerate this
act. No harm seemed to come of it, while the noises the gods made were
certainly not threatening. These gods also made overtures to White Fang, but
he warned them off with a snarl, and the master did likewise with word of
mouth. At such times White Fang leaned in close against the master's
legs and received reassuring pats on the head.
The hound, under the command, "Dick! Lie down, sir!" had gone
up the steps and lain down to one side of the porch, still growling and
keeping a sullen watch on the intruder. Collie had been taken in charge
by one of the woman-gods, who held arms around her neck and petted and
caressed her; but Collie was very much perplexed and worried, whining and
restless, outraged by the permitted presence of this wolf and confident that
the gods were making a mistake.
All the gods started up the steps to enter the house. White
Fang followed closely at the master's heels. Dick, on the
porch, growled, and White Fang, on the steps, bristled and growled
"Take Collie inside and leave the two of them to fight it
out," suggested Scott's father. "After that they'll be friends."
"Then White Fang, to show his friendship, will have to be chief mourner
at the funeral," laughed the master.
The elder Scott looked incredulously, first at White Fang, then at Dick,
and finally at his son.
"You mean . . .?"
Weedon nodded his head. "I mean just that. You'd have a dead
Dick inside one minute—two minutes at the farthest."
He turned to White Fang. "Come on, you wolf. It's you
that'll have to come inside."
White Fang walked stiff-legged up the steps and across the porch, with
tail rigidly erect, keeping his eyes on Dick to guard against a flank attack,
and at the same time prepared for whatever fierce manifestation of the
unknown that might pounce out upon him from the interior of the house.
But no thing of fear pounced out, and when he had gained the inside he
scouted carefully around, looking at it and finding it not. Then he lay
down with a contented grunt at the master's feet, observing all that went on,
ever ready to spring to his feet and fight for life with the terrors he felt
must lurk under the trap-roof of the dwelling.
CHAPTER III—THE GOD'S DOMAIN
Not only was White Fang adaptable by nature, but he had travelled much,
and knew the meaning and necessity of adjustment. Here, in Sierra
Vista, which was the name of Judge Scott's place, White Fang quickly began to
make himself at home. He had no further serious trouble with the
dogs. They knew more about the ways of the Southland gods than did he,
and in their eyes he had qualified when he accompanied the gods inside the
house. Wolf that he was, and unprecedented as it was, the gods had
sanctioned his presence, and they, the dogs of the gods, could only recognise
Dick, perforce, had to go through a few stiff formalities at
first, after which he calmly accepted White Fang as an addition to
the premises. Had Dick had his way, they would have been good
friends. All but White Fang was averse to friendship. All he asked of
other dogs was to be let alone. His whole life he had kept aloof
from his kind, and he still desired to keep aloof. Dick's
overtures bothered him, so he snarled Dick away. In the north he had
learned the lesson that he must let the master's dogs alone, and he did
not forget that lesson now. But he insisted on his own privacy
and self-seclusion, and so thoroughly ignored Dick that that good- natured
creature finally gave him up and scarcely took as much interest in him as in
the hitching-post near the stable.
Not so with Collie. While she accepted him because it was
the mandate of the gods, that was no reason that she should leave him in
peace. Woven into her being was the memory of countless crimes he and
his had perpetrated against her ancestry. Not in a day nor a generation
were the ravaged sheepfolds to be forgotten. All this was a spur to
her, pricking her to retaliation. She could not fly in the face of the
gods who permitted him, but that did not prevent her from making life
miserable for him in petty ways. A feud, ages old, was between them,
and she, for one, would see to it that he was reminded.
So Collie took advantage of her sex to pick upon White Fang and maltreat
him. His instinct would not permit him to attack her, while her
persistence would not permit him to ignore her. When she rushed at him
he turned his fur-protected shoulder to her sharp teeth and walked away
stiff-legged and stately. When she forced him too hard, he was
compelled to go about in a circle, his shoulder presented to her, his head
turned from her, and on his face and in his eyes a patient and bored
expression. Sometimes, however, a nip on his hind-quarters hastened his
retreat and made it anything but stately. But as a rule he managed to
maintain a dignity that was almost solemnity. He ignored her
existence whenever it was possible, and made it a point to keep out of
her way. When he saw or heard her coming, he got up and walked
There was much in other matters for White Fang to learn. Life
in the Northland was simplicity itself when compared with the complicated
affairs of Sierra Vista. First of all, he had to learn the family of
the master. In a way he was prepared to do this. As Mit-sah and
Kloo-kooch had belonged to Grey Beaver, sharing his food, his fire, and his
blankets, so now, at Sierra Vista, belonged to the love-master all the
denizens of the house.
But in this matter there was a difference, and many differences. Sierra
Vista was a far vaster affair than the tepee of Grey Beaver. There were many
persons to be considered. There was Judge Scott, and there was his
wife. There were the master's two sisters, Beth and Mary. There
was his wife, Alice, and then there were his children, Weedon and Maud,
toddlers of four and six. There was no way for anybody to tell him
about all these people, and of blood- ties and relationship he knew nothing
whatever and never would be capable of knowing. Yet he quickly worked
it out that all of them belonged to the master. Then, by observation,
whenever opportunity offered, by study of action, speech, and the very
intonations of the voice, he slowly learned the intimacy and the degree of
favour they enjoyed with the master. And by this ascertained
standard, White Fang treated them accordingly. What was of value to
the master he valued; what was dear to the master was to be cherished by
White Fang and guarded carefully.
Thus it was with the two children. All his life he had
disliked children. He hated and feared their hands. The lessons
were not tender that he had learned of their tyranny and cruelty in the
days of the Indian villages. When Weedon and Maud had first
approached him, he growled warningly and looked malignant. A cuff from
the master and a sharp word had then compelled him to permit
their caresses, though he growled and growled under their tiny hands,
and in the growl there was no crooning note. Later, he observed
that the boy and girl were of great value in the master's eyes. Then
it was that no cuff nor sharp word was necessary before they could
Yet White Fang was never effusively affectionate. He yielded
to the master's children with an ill but honest grace, and endured their
fooling as one would endure a painful operation. When he could no
longer endure, he would get up and stalk determinedly away from them.
But after a time, he grew even to like the children. Still he was not
demonstrative. He would not go up to them. On the other hand,
instead of walking away at sight of them, he waited for them to come to
him. And still later, it was noticed that a pleased light came into his
eyes when he saw them approaching, and that he looked after them with an
appearance of curious regret when they left him for other amusements.
All this was a matter of development, and took time. Next in
his regard, after the children, was Judge Scott. There were
two reasons, possibly, for this. First, he was evidently a
valuable possession of the master's, and next, he was
undemonstrative. White Fang liked to lie at his feet on the wide porch when
he read the newspaper, from time to time favouring White Fang with a
look or a word—untroublesome tokens that he recognised White
Fang's presence and existence. But this was only when the master was
not around. When the master appeared, all other beings ceased to
exist so far as White Fang was concerned.
White Fang allowed all the members of the family to pet him and make
much of him; but he never gave to them what he gave to the master. No
caress of theirs could put the love-croon into his throat, and, try as they
would, they could never persuade him into snuggling against them. This
expression of abandon and surrender, of absolute trust, he reserved for the
master alone. In fact, he never regarded the members of the family in
any other light than possessions of the love-master.
Also White Fang had early come to differentiate between the family and
the servants of the household. The latter were afraid of him, while he
merely refrained from attacking them. This because he considered that
they were likewise possessions of the master. Between White Fang and them
existed a neutrality and no more. They cooked for the master and washed
the dishes and did other things just as Matt had done up in the
Klondike. They were, in short, appurtenances of the household.
Outside the household there was even more for White Fang to learn. The
master's domain was wide and complex, yet it had its metes and bounds.
The land itself ceased at the county road. Outside was the common
domain of all gods—the roads and streets. Then inside other fences
were the particular domains of other gods. A myriad laws governed all
these things and determined conduct; yet he did not know the speech of the
gods, nor was there any way for him to learn save by experience. He
obeyed his natural impulses until they ran him counter to some law.
When this had been done a few times, he learned the law and after that
But most potent in his education was the cuff of the master's hand, the
censure of the master's voice. Because of White Fang's very great love,
a cuff from the master hurt him far more than any beating Grey Beaver or
Beauty Smith had ever given him. They had hurt only the flesh of him;
beneath the flesh the spirit had still raged, splendid and invincible.
But with the master the cuff was always too light to hurt the flesh.
Yet it went deeper. It was an expression of the master's disapproval,
and White Fang's spirit wilted under it.
In point of fact, the cuff was rarely administered. The
master's voice was sufficient. By it White Fang knew whether he did
right or not. By it he trimmed his conduct and adjusted his
actions. It was the compass by which he steered and learned to chart
the manners of a new land and life.
In the Northland, the only domesticated animal was the dog.
All other animals lived in the Wild, and were, when not too
formidable, lawful spoil for any dog. All his days White Fang had
foraged among the live things for food. It did not enter his head that
in the Southland it was otherwise. But this he was to learn early
in his residence in Santa Clara Valley. Sauntering around the
corner of the house in the early morning, he came upon a chicken that
had escaped from the chicken-yard. White Fang's natural impulse was
to eat it. A couple of bounds, a flash of teeth and a
frightened squawk, and he had scooped in the adventurous fowl. It was
farm- bred and fat and tender; and White Fang licked his chops and decided
that such fare was good.
Later in the day, he chanced upon another stray chicken near
the stables. One of the grooms ran to the rescue. He did not
know White Fang's breed, so for weapon he took a light buggy-whip.
At the first cut of the whip, White Fang left the chicken for the man. A
club might have stopped White Fang, but not a whip. Silently, without
flinching, he took a second cut in his forward rush, and as he leaped for the
throat the groom cried out, "My God!" and staggered backward. He
dropped the whip and shielded his throat with his arms. In consequence,
his forearm was ripped open to the bone.
The man was badly frightened. It was not so much White
Fang's ferocity as it was his silence that unnerved the groom.
Still protecting his throat and face with his torn and bleeding arm,
he tried to retreat to the barn. And it would have gone hard with
him had not Collie appeared on the scene. As she had saved
Dick's life, she now saved the groom's. She rushed upon White Fang
in frenzied wrath. She had been right. She had known better than
the blundering gods. All her suspicions were justified. Here was
the ancient marauder up to his old tricks again.
The groom escaped into the stables, and White Fang backed away before
Collie's wicked teeth, or presented his shoulder to them and circled round
and round. But Collie did not give over, as was her wont, after a
decent interval of chastisement. On the contrary, she grew more excited
and angry every moment, until, in the end, White Fang flung dignity to the
winds and frankly fled away from her across the fields.
"He'll learn to leave chickens alone," the master said. "But
I can't give him the lesson until I catch him in the act."
Two nights later came the act, but on a more generous scale than the
master had anticipated. White Fang had observed closely
the chicken-yards and the habits of the chickens. In the
night-time, after they had gone to roost, he climbed to the top of a pile
of newly hauled lumber. From there he gained the roof of a
chicken- house, passed over the ridgepole and dropped to the ground
inside. A moment later he was inside the house, and the slaughter
In the morning, when the master came out on to the porch, fifty white
Leghorn hens, laid out in a row by the groom, greeted his eyes. He
whistled to himself, softly, first with surprise, and then, at the end, with
admiration. His eyes were likewise greeted by White Fang, but about the
latter there were no signs of shame nor guilt. He carried himself with
pride, as though, forsooth, he had achieved a deed praiseworthy and
meritorious. There was about him no consciousness of sin. The
master's lips tightened as he faced the disagreeable task. Then he
talked harshly to the unwitting culprit, and in his voice there was nothing
but godlike wrath. Also, he held White Fang's nose down to the slain
hens, and at the same time cuffed him soundly.
White Fang never raided a chicken-roost again. It was against
the law, and he had learned it. Then the master took him into
the chicken-yards. White Fang's natural impulse, when he saw the
live food fluttering about him and under his very nose, was to spring upon
it. He obeyed the impulse, but was checked by the master's voice.
They continued in the yards for half an hour. Time and again the
impulse surged over White Fang, and each time, as he yielded to it, he was
checked by the master's voice. Thus it was he learned the law, and ere
he left the domain of the chickens, he had learned to ignore their
"You can never cure a chicken-killer." Judge Scott shook his
head sadly at luncheon table, when his son narrated the lesson he
had given White Fang. "Once they've got the habit and the taste
of blood . . ." Again he shook his head sadly.
But Weedon Scott did not agree with his father. "I'll tell
you what I'll do," he challenged finally. "I'll lock White Fang
in with the chickens all afternoon."
"But think of the chickens," objected the judge.
"And furthermore," the son went on, "for every chicken he kills, I'll
pay you one dollar gold coin of the realm."
"But you should penalise father, too," interpose Beth.
Her sister seconded her, and a chorus of approval arose from around the
table. Judge Scott nodded his head in agreement.
"All right." Weedon Scott pondered for a moment. "And if, at
the end of the afternoon White Fang hasn't harmed a chicken, for every ten
minutes of the time he has spent in the yard, you will have to say to him,
gravely and with deliberation, just as if you were sitting on the bench and
solemnly passing judgment, 'White Fang, you are smarter than I
From hidden points of vantage the family watched the performance. But it
was a fizzle. Locked in the yard and there deserted by the master,
White Fang lay down and went to sleep. Once he got up and walked over
to the trough for a drink of water. The chickens he calmly
ignored. So far as he was concerned they did not exist. At four
o'clock he executed a running jump, gained the roof of the chicken-house and
leaped to the ground outside, whence he sauntered gravely to the house.
He had learned the law. And on the porch, before the delighted family,
Judge Scott, face to face with White Fang, said slowly and solemnly, sixteen
times, "White Fang, you are smarter than I thought."
But it was the multiplicity of laws that befuddled White Fang and often
brought him into disgrace. He had to learn that he must not touch the
chickens that belonged to other gods. Then there were cats, and
rabbits, and turkeys; all these he must let alone. In fact, when he had
but partly learned the law, his impression was that he must leave all live
things alone. Out in the back-pasture, a quail could flutter up under
his nose unharmed. All tense and trembling with eagerness and desire,
he mastered his instinct and stood still. He was obeying the will of
And then, one day, again out in the back-pasture, he saw Dick start a
jackrabbit and run it. The master himself was looking on and did not
interfere. Nay, he encouraged White Fang to join in the chase. And thus
he learned that there was no taboo on jackrabbits. In the end he worked
out the complete law. Between him and all domestic animals there must
be no hostilities. If not amity, at least neutrality must obtain.
But the other animals—the squirrels, and quail, and cottontails, were
creatures of the Wild who had never yielded allegiance to man. They
were the lawful prey of any dog. It was only the tame that the gods
protected, and between the tame deadly strife was not permitted. The
gods held the power of life and death over their subjects, and the gods were
jealous of their power.
Life was complex in the Santa Clara Valley after the simplicities of the
Northland. And the chief thing demanded by these intricacies of
civilisation was control, restraint—a poise of self that was as delicate as
the fluttering of gossamer wings and at the same time as rigid as
steel. Life had a thousand faces, and White Fang found he must meet
them all—thus, when he went to town, in to San Jose, running behind the
carriage or loafing about the streets when the carriage stopped. Life
flowed past him, deep and wide and varied, continually impinging upon his
senses, demanding of him instant and endless adjustments
and correspondences, and compelling him, almost always, to suppress
his natural impulses.
There were butcher-shops where meat hung within reach. This
meat he must not touch. There were cats at the houses the
master visited that must be let alone. And there were dogs
everywhere that snarled at him and that he must not attack. And then,
on the crowded sidewalks there were persons innumerable whose attention
he attracted. They would stop and look at him, point him out to
one another, examine him, talk of him, and, worst of all, pat him.
And these perilous contacts from all these strange hands he
must endure. Yet this endurance he achieved. Furthermore, he got
over being awkward and self-conscious. In a lofty way he received
the attentions of the multitudes of strange gods. With
condescension he accepted their condescension. On the other hand, there
was something about him that prevented great familiarity. They
patted him on the head and passed on, contented and pleased with their
But it was not all easy for White Fang. Running behind
the carriage in the outskirts of San Jose, he encountered certain
small boys who made a practice of flinging stones at him. Yet he
knew that it was not permitted him to pursue and drag them down.
Here he was compelled to violate his instinct of self-preservation,
and violate it he did, for he was becoming tame and qualifying himself for
Nevertheless, White Fang was not quite satisfied with
the arrangement. He had no abstract ideas about justice and fair
play. But there is a certain sense of equity that resides in life, and
it was this sense in him that resented the unfairness of his
being permitted no defence against the stone-throwers. He forgot that
in the covenant entered into between him and the gods they were pledged to
care for him and defend him. But one day the master sprang from the
carriage, whip in hand, and gave the stone-throwers a thrashing. After
that they threw stones no more, and White Fang understood and was
One other experience of similar nature was his. On the way
to town, hanging around the saloon at the cross-roads, were three
dogs that made a practice of rushing out upon him when he went by. Knowing
his deadly method of fighting, the master had never ceased impressing upon
White Fang the law that he must not fight. As a result, having learned
the lesson well, White Fang was hard put whenever he passed the cross-roads
saloon. After the first rush, each time, his snarl kept the three dogs
at a distance but they trailed along behind, yelping and bickering and
insulting him. This endured for some time. The men at the saloon even
urged the dogs on to attack White Fang. One day they openly sicked the
dogs on him. The master stopped the carriage.
"Go to it," he said to White Fang.
But White Fang could not believe. He looked at the master, and
he looked at the dogs. Then he looked back eagerly and
questioningly at the master.
The master nodded his head. "Go to them, old fellow. Eat
White Fang no longer hesitated. He turned and leaped
silently among his enemies. All three faced him. There was a
great snarling and growling, a clashing of teeth and a flurry of
bodies. The dust of the road arose in a cloud and screened the battle.
But at the end of several minutes two dogs were struggling in the dirt and
the third was in full flight. He leaped a ditch, went through a rail
fence, and fled across a field. White Fang followed, sliding over the
ground in wolf fashion and with wolf speed, swiftly and without noise, and in
the centre of the field he dragged down and slew the dog.
With this triple killing his main troubles with dogs ceased.
The word went up and down the valley, and men saw to it that their
dogs did not molest the Fighting Wolf.
CHAPTER IV—THE CALL OF KIND
The months came and went. There was plenty of food and no work
in the Southland, and White Fang lived fat and prosperous and happy. Not
alone was he in the geographical Southland, for he was in the Southland of
life. Human kindness was like a sun shining upon him, and he flourished
like a flower planted in good soil.
And yet he remained somehow different from other dogs. He knew
the law even better than did the dogs that had known no other life, and he
observed the law more punctiliously; but still there was about him a
suggestion of lurking ferocity, as though the Wild still lingered in him and
the wolf in him merely slept.
He never chummed with other dogs. Lonely he had lived, so far
as his kind was concerned, and lonely he would continue to live.
In his puppyhood, under the persecution of Lip-lip and the puppy-pack, and
in his fighting days with Beauty Smith, he had acquired a fixed aversion for
dogs. The natural course of his life had been diverted, and, recoiling
from his kind, he had clung to the human.
Besides, all Southland dogs looked upon him with suspicion.
He aroused in them their instinctive fear of the Wild, and they greeted
him always with snarl and growl and belligerent hatred. He, on the other
hand, learned that it was not necessary to use his teeth upon them. His
naked fangs and writhing lips were uniformly efficacious, rarely failing to
send a bellowing on-rushing dog back on its haunches.
But there was one trial in White Fang's life—Collie. She
never gave him a moment's peace. She was not so amenable to the law
as he. She defied all efforts of the master to make her
become friends with White Fang. Ever in his ears was sounding her
sharp and nervous snarl. She had never forgiven him the
chicken-killing episode, and persistently held to the belief that his
intentions were bad. She found him guilty before the act, and treated
him accordingly. She became a pest to him, like a policeman
following him around the stable and the hounds, and, if he even so much
as glanced curiously at a pigeon or chicken, bursting into an outcry of
indignation and wrath. His favourite way of ignoring her was to lie
down, with his head on his fore-paws, and pretend sleep. This always
dumfounded and silenced her.
With the exception of Collie, all things went well with White Fang. He
had learned control and poise, and he knew the law. He achieved a
staidness, and calmness, and philosophic tolerance. He no longer lived
in a hostile environment. Danger and hurt and death did not lurk
everywhere about him. In time, the unknown, as a thing of terror and
menace ever impending, faded away. Life was soft and easy. It
flowed along smoothly, and neither fear nor foe lurked by the way.
He missed the snow without being aware of it. "An unduly
long summer," would have been his thought had he thought about it; as
it was, he merely missed the snow in a vague, subconscious way.
In the same fashion, especially in the heat of summer when he
suffered from the sun, he experienced faint longings for the
Northland. Their only effect upon him, however, was to make him uneasy
and restless without his knowing what was the matter.
White Fang had never been very demonstrative. Beyond his
snuggling and the throwing of a crooning note into his love-growl, he had
no way of expressing his love. Yet it was given him to discover
a third way. He had always been susceptible to the laughter of
the gods. Laughter had affected him with madness, made him
frantic with rage. But he did not have it in him to be angry with
the love-master, and when that god elected to laugh at him in a
good- natured, bantering way, he was nonplussed. He could feel
the pricking and stinging of the old anger as it strove to rise up in him,
but it strove against love. He could not be angry; yet he had to do
something. At first he was dignified, and the master laughed the
harder. Then he tried to be more dignified, and the master laughed
harder than before. In the end, the master laughed him out of his
dignity. His jaws slightly parted, his lips lifted a little, and a
quizzical expression that was more love than humour came into his eyes.
He had learned to laugh.
Likewise he learned to romp with the master, to be tumbled down
and rolled over, and be the victim of innumerable rough tricks.
In return he feigned anger, bristling and growling ferociously,
and clipping his teeth together in snaps that had all the seeming
of deadly intention. But he never forgot himself. Those snaps
were always delivered on the empty air. At the end of such a romp,
when blow and cuff and snap and snarl were last and furious, they
would break off suddenly and stand several feet apart, glaring at
each other. And then, just as suddenly, like the sun rising on a
stormy sea, they would begin to laugh. This would always culminate
with the master's arms going around White Fang's neck and shoulders while
the latter crooned and growled his love-song.
But nobody else ever romped with White Fang. He did not permit
it. He stood on his dignity, and when they attempted it, his warning snarl
and bristling mane were anything but playful. That he allowed the
master these liberties was no reason that he should be a common dog, loving
here and loving there, everybody's property for a romp and good time.
He loved with single heart and refused to cheapen himself or his love.
The master went out on horseback a great deal, and to accompany him was
one of White Fang's chief duties in life. In the Northland he had
evidenced his fealty by toiling in the harness; but there were no sleds in
the Southland, nor did dogs pack burdens on their backs. So he rendered
fealty in the new way, by running with the master's horse. The longest
day never played White Fang out. His was the gait of the wolf, smooth,
tireless and effortless, and at the end of fifty miles he would come in
jauntily ahead of the horse.
It was in connection with the riding, that White Fang achieved one other
mode of expression—remarkable in that he did it but twice in all his
life. The first time occurred when the master was trying to teach a
spirited thoroughbred the method of opening and closing gates without the
rider's dismounting. Time and again and many times he ranged the horse
up to the gate in the effort to close it and each time the horse became
frightened and backed and plunged away. It grew more nervous and
excited every moment. When it reared, the master put the spurs to it
and made it drop its fore-legs back to earth, whereupon it would begin
kicking with its hind-legs. White Fang watched the performance with
increasing anxiety until he could contain himself no longer, when he sprang
in front of the horse and barked savagely and warningly.
Though he often tried to bark thereafter, and the master encouraged him,
he succeeded only once, and then it was not in the master's presence. A
scamper across the pasture, a jackrabbit rising suddenly under the horse's
feet, a violent sheer, a stumble, a fall to earth, and a broken leg for the
master, was the cause of it. White Fang sprang in a rage at the throat of the
offending horse, but was checked by the master's voice.
"Home! Go home!" the master commanded when he had ascertained
White Fang was disinclined to desert him. The master thought
of writing a note, but searched his pockets vainly for pencil
and paper. Again he commanded White Fang to go home.
The latter regarded him wistfully, started away, then returned
and whined softly. The master talked to him gently but seriously,
and he cocked his ears, and listened with painful intentness.
"That's all right, old fellow, you just run along home," ran
the talk. "Go on home and tell them what's happened to me. Home
with you, you wolf. Get along home!"
White Fang knew the meaning of "home," and though he did not understand
the remainder of the master's language, he knew it was his will that he
should go home. He turned and trotted reluctantly away. Then he
stopped, undecided, and looked back over his shoulder.
"Go home!" came the sharp command, and this time he obeyed.
The family was on the porch, taking the cool of the afternoon,
when White Fang arrived. He came in among them, panting, covered
"Weedon's back," Weedon's mother announced.
The children welcomed White Fang with glad cries and ran to
meet him. He avoided them and passed down the porch, but they
cornered him against a rocking-chair and the railing. He growled and
tried to push by them. Their mother looked apprehensively in
"I confess, he makes me nervous around the children," she said.
"I have a dread that he will turn upon them unexpectedly some day."
Growling savagely, White Fang sprang out of the corner, overturning the
boy and the girl. The mother called them to her and comforted them,
telling them not to bother White Fang.
"A wolf is a wolf!" commented Judge Scott. "There is no
"But he is not all wolf," interposed Beth, standing for her brother in
"You have only Weedon's opinion for that," rejoined the judge.
"He merely surmises that there is some strain of dog in White Fang; but as
he will tell you himself, he knows nothing about it. As for
He did not finish his sentence. White Fang stood before
him, growling fiercely.
"Go away! Lie down, sir!" Judge Scott commanded.
White Fang turned to the love-master's wife. She screamed
with fright as he seized her dress in his teeth and dragged on it till the
frail fabric tore away. By this time he had become the centre of
He had ceased from his growling and stood, head up, looking into their
faces. His throat worked spasmodically, but made no sound, while he
struggled with all his body, convulsed with the effort to rid himself of the
incommunicable something that strained for utterance.
"I hope he is not going mad," said Weedon's mother. "I told
Weedon that I was afraid the warm climate would not agree with an
"He's trying to speak, I do believe," Beth announced.
At this moment speech came to White Fang, rushing up in a great burst of
"Something has happened to Weedon," his wife said decisively.
They were all on their feet now, and White Fang ran down the
steps, looking back for them to follow. For the second and last time
in his life he had barked and made himself understood.
After this event he found a warmer place in the hearts of the Sierra
Vista people, and even the groom whose arm he had slashed admitted that he
was a wise dog even if he was a wolf. Judge Scott still held to the
same opinion, and proved it to everybody's dissatisfaction by measurements
and descriptions taken from the encyclopaedia and various works on natural
The days came and went, streaming their unbroken sunshine over the Santa
Clara Valley. But as they grew shorter and White Fang's second winter
in the Southland came on, he made a strange discovery. Collie's teeth
were no longer sharp. There was a playfulness about her nips and a
gentleness that prevented them from really hurting him. He forgot that
she had made life a burden to him, and when she disported herself around him
he responded solemnly, striving to be playful and becoming no more
One day she led him off on a long chase through the back-pasture land
into the woods. It was the afternoon that the master was to ride, and
White Fang knew it. The horse stood saddled and waiting at the
door. White Fang hesitated. But there was that in him deeper than
all the law he had learned, than the customs that had moulded him, than his
love for the master, than the very will to live of himself; and when, in the
moment of his indecision, Collie nipped him and scampered off, he turned and
followed after. The master rode alone that day; and in the woods, side
by side, White Fang ran with Collie, as his mother, Kiche, and old One Eye
had run long years before in the silent Northland forest.
CHAPTER V—THE SLEEPING WOLF
It was about this time that the newspapers were full of the
daring escape of a convict from San Quentin prison. He was a
ferocious man. He had been ill-made in the making. He had not
been born right, and he had not been helped any by the molding he
had received at the hands of society. The hands of society are
harsh, and this man was a striking sample of its handiwork. He was
a beast—a human beast, it is true, but nevertheless so terrible a beast
that he can best be characterised as carnivorous.
In San Quentin prison he had proved incorrigible.
Punishment failed to break his spirit. He could die dumb-mad and
fighting to the last, but he could not live and be beaten. The more
fiercely he fought, the more harshly society handled him, and the
only effect of harshness was to make him fiercer.
Straight-jackets, starvation, and beatings and clubbings were the wrong
treatment for Jim Hall; but it was the treatment he received. It was
the treatment he had received from the time he was a little pulpy boy in a
San Francisco slum—soft clay in the hands of society and ready to be formed
It was during Jim Hall's third term in prison that he encountered
a guard that was almost as great a beast as he. The guard
treated him unfairly, lied about him to the warden, lost his
credits, persecuted him. The difference between them was that the
guard carried a bunch of keys and a revolver. Jim Hall had only
his naked hands and his teeth. But he sprang upon the guard one
day and used his teeth on the other's throat just like any
After this, Jim Hall went to live in the incorrigible cell.
He lived there three years. The cell was of iron, the floor,
the walls, the roof. He never left this cell. He never saw the
sky nor the sunshine. Day was a twilight and night was a
black silence. He was in an iron tomb, buried alive. He saw no
human face, spoke to no human thing. When his food was shoved in to
him, he growled like a wild animal. He hated all things. For days
and nights he bellowed his rage at the universe. For weeks and
months he never made a sound, in the black silence eating his very
soul. He was a man and a monstrosity, as fearful a thing of fear as
ever gibbered in the visions of a maddened brain.
And then, one night, he escaped. The warders said it
was impossible, but nevertheless the cell was empty, and half in half out
of it lay the body of a dead guard. Two other dead guards marked his
trail through the prison to the outer walls, and he had killed with his hands
to avoid noise.
He was armed with the weapons of the slain guards—a live arsenal that
fled through the hills pursued by the organised might of society. A
heavy price of gold was upon his head. Avaricious farmers hunted him
with shot-guns. His blood might pay off a mortgage or send a son to
college. Public-spirited citizens took down their rifles and went out
after him. A pack of bloodhounds followed the way of his bleeding
feet. And the sleuth-hounds of the law, the paid fighting animals of
society, with telephone, and telegraph, and special train, clung to his trail
night and day.
Sometimes they came upon him, and men faced him like heroes,
or stampeded through barbed-wire fences to the delight of the commonwealth
reading the account at the breakfast table. It was after such
encounters that the dead and wounded were carted back to the towns, and their
places filled by men eager for the man-hunt.
And then Jim Hall disappeared. The bloodhounds vainly quested
on the lost trail. Inoffensive ranchers in remote valleys were
held up by armed men and compelled to identify themselves. While
the remains of Jim Hall were discovered on a dozen mountain-sides
by greedy claimants for blood-money.
In the meantime the newspapers were read at Sierra Vista, not so much
with interest as with anxiety. The women were afraid. Judge Scott
pooh-poohed and laughed, but not with reason, for it was in his last days on
the bench that Jim Hall had stood before him and received sentence. And
in open court-room, before all men, Jim Hall had proclaimed that the day
would come when he would wreak vengeance on the Judge that sentenced
For once, Jim Hall was right. He was innocent of the crime
for which he was sentenced. It was a case, in the parlance of
thieves and police, of "rail-roading." Jim Hall was being "rail-roaded"
to prison for a crime he had not committed. Because of the two
prior convictions against him, Judge Scott imposed upon him a sentence
of fifty years.
Judge Scott did not know all things, and he did not know that he was
party to a police conspiracy, that the evidence was hatched and perjured,
that Jim Hall was guiltless of the crime charged. And Jim Hall, on the
other hand, did not know that Judge Scott was merely ignorant. Jim Hall
believed that the judge knew all about it and was hand in glove with the
police in the perpetration of the monstrous injustice. So it was, when
the doom of fifty years of living death was uttered by Judge Scott, that Jim
Hall, hating all things in the society that misused him, rose up and raged in
the court-room until dragged down by half a dozen of his
blue-coated enemies. To him, Judge Scott was the keystone in the arch
of injustice, and upon Judge Scott he emptied the vials of his wrath and
hurled the threats of his revenge yet to come. Then Jim Hall went to
his living death . . . and escaped.
Of all this White Fang knew nothing. But between him and
Alice, the master's wife, there existed a secret. Each night,
after Sierra Vista had gone to bed, she rose and let in White Fang
to sleep in the big hall. Now White Fang was not a house-dog, nor
was he permitted to sleep in the house; so each morning, early,
she slipped down and let him out before the family was awake.
On one such night, while all the house slept, White Fang awoke and lay
very quietly. And very quietly he smelled the air and read the message
it bore of a strange god's presence. And to his ears came sounds of the
strange god's movements. White Fang burst into no furious outcry.
It was not his way. The strange god walked softly, but more softly
walked White Fang, for he had no clothes to rub against the flesh of his
body. He followed silently. In the Wild he had hunted live meat
that was infinitely timid, and he knew the advantage of surprise.
The strange god paused at the foot of the great staircase and listened,
and White Fang was as dead, so without movement was he as he watched and
waited. Up that staircase the way led to the love- master and to the
love-master's dearest possessions. White Fang bristled, but
waited. The strange god's foot lifted. He was beginning the
Then it was that White Fang struck. He gave no warning, with
no snarl anticipated his own action. Into the air he lifted his
body in the spring that landed him on the strange god's back.
White Fang clung with his fore-paws to the man's shoulders, at the
same time burying his fangs into the back of the man's neck. He
clung on for a moment, long enough to drag the god over backward. Together
they crashed to the floor. White Fang leaped clear, and, as the man
struggled to rise, was in again with the slashing fangs.
Sierra Vista awoke in alarm. The noise from downstairs was as
that of a score of battling fiends. There were revolver shots. A
man's voice screamed once in horror and anguish. There was a
great snarling and growling, and over all arose a smashing and crashing of
furniture and glass.
But almost as quickly as it had arisen, the commotion died away. The
struggle had not lasted more than three minutes. The frightened
household clustered at the top of the stairway. From below, as from out
an abyss of blackness, came up a gurgling sound, as of air bubbling through
water. Sometimes this gurgle became sibilant, almost a whistle.
But this, too, quickly died down and ceased. Then naught came up out of
the blackness save a heavy panting of some creature struggling sorely for
Weedon Scott pressed a button, and the staircase and downstairs hall
were flooded with light. Then he and Judge Scott, revolvers in hand,
cautiously descended. There was no need for this caution. White Fang
had done his work. In the midst of the wreckage of overthrown and
smashed furniture, partly on his side, his face hidden by an arm, lay a
man. Weedon Scott bent over, removed the arm and turned the man's face
upward. A gaping throat explained the manner of his death.
"Jim Hall," said Judge Scott, and father and son looked significantly at
Then they turned to White Fang. He, too, was lying on his
side. His eyes were closed, but the lids slightly lifted in an effort
to look at them as they bent over him, and the tail was
perceptibly agitated in a vain effort to wag. Weedon Scott patted him,
and his throat rumbled an acknowledging growl. But it was a weak growl
at best, and it quickly ceased. His eyelids drooped and went
shut, and his whole body seemed to relax and flatten out upon the
"He's all in, poor devil," muttered the master.
"We'll see about that," asserted the Judge, as he started for
"Frankly, he has one chance in a thousand," announced the surgeon, after
he had worked an hour and a half on White Fang.
Dawn was breaking through the windows and dimming the
electric lights. With the exception of the children, the whole family
was gathered about the surgeon to hear his verdict.
"One broken hind-leg," he went on. "Three broken ribs, one
at least of which has pierced the lungs. He has lost nearly all
the blood in his body. There is a large likelihood of
internal injuries. He must have been jumped upon. To say nothing
of three bullet holes clear through him. One chance in a thousand is
really optimistic. He hasn't a chance in ten thousand."
"But he mustn't lose any chance that might be of help to him," Judge
Scott exclaimed. "Never mind expense. Put him under the X- ray—
anything. Weedon, telegraph at once to San Francisco for Doctor
Nichols. No reflection on you, doctor, you understand; but he must have
the advantage of every chance."
The surgeon smiled indulgently. "Of course I understand.
He deserves all that can be done for him. He must be nursed as
you would nurse a human being, a sick child. And don't forget what
I told you about temperature. I'll be back at ten o'clock again."
White Fang received the nursing. Judge Scott's suggestion of
a trained nurse was indignantly clamoured down by the girls,
who themselves undertook the task. And White Fang won out on the
one chance in ten thousand denied him by the surgeon.
The latter was not to be censured for his misjudgment. All
his life he had tended and operated on the soft humans of
civilisation, who lived sheltered lives and had descended out of many
sheltered generations. Compared with White Fang, they were frail and
flabby, and clutched life without any strength in their grip. White
Fang had come straight from the Wild, where the weak perish early
and shelter is vouchsafed to none. In neither his father nor
his mother was there any weakness, nor in the generations before them. A
constitution of iron and the vitality of the Wild were White Fang's
inheritance, and he clung to life, the whole of him and every part of him, in
spirit and in flesh, with the tenacity that of old belonged to all
Bound down a prisoner, denied even movement by the plaster casts and
bandages, White Fang lingered out the weeks. He slept long hours and
dreamed much, and through his mind passed an unending pageant of Northland
visions. All the ghosts of the past arose and were with him. Once
again he lived in the lair with Kiche, crept trembling to the knees of Grey
Beaver to tender his allegiance, ran for his life before Lip-lip and all the
howling bedlam of the puppy-pack.
He ran again through the silence, hunting his living food through the
months of famine; and again he ran at the head of the team, the gut-whips of
Mit-sah and Grey Beaver snapping behind, their voices crying "Ra! Raa!" when
they came to a narrow passage and the team closed together like a fan to go
through. He lived again all his days with Beauty Smith and the fights
he had fought. At such times he whimpered and snarled in his sleep, and
they that looked on said that his dreams were bad.
But there was one particular nightmare from which he suffered—
the clanking, clanging monsters of electric cars that were to him colossal
screaming lynxes. He would lie in a screen of bushes, watching for a
squirrel to venture far enough out on the ground from its tree-refuge.
Then, when he sprang out upon it, it would transform itself into an electric
car, menacing and terrible, towering over him like a mountain, screaming and
clanging and spitting fire at him. It was the same when he challenged
the hawk down out of the sky. Down out of the blue it would rush, as
it dropped upon him changing itself into the ubiquitous electric car. Or
again, he would be in the pen of Beauty Smith. Outside the pen, men
would be gathering, and he knew that a fight was on. He watched the
door for his antagonist to enter. The door would open, and thrust in
upon him would come the awful electric car. A thousand times this
occurred, and each time the terror it inspired was as vivid and great as
Then came the day when the last bandage and the last plaster cast were
taken off. It was a gala day. All Sierra Vista was
gathered around. The master rubbed his ears, and he crooned his
love-growl. The master's wife called him the "Blessed Wolf," which name
was taken up with acclaim and all the women called him the
He tried to rise to his feet, and after several attempts fell down from
weakness. He had lain so long that his muscles had lost their cunning,
and all the strength had gone out of them. He felt a little shame
because of his weakness, as though, forsooth, he were failing the gods in the
service he owed them. Because of this he made heroic efforts to arise
and at last he stood on his four legs, tottering and swaying back and
"The Blessed Wolf!" chorused the women.
Judge Scott surveyed them triumphantly.
"Out of your own mouths be it," he said. "Just as I
contended right along. No mere dog could have done what he did.
He's a wolf."
"A Blessed Wolf," amended the Judge's wife.
"Yes, Blessed Wolf," agreed the Judge. "And henceforth that
shall be my name for him."
"He'll have to learn to walk again," said the surgeon; "so he might as
well start in right now. It won't hurt him. Take him outside."
And outside he went, like a king, with all Sierra Vista about him and
tending on him. He was very weak, and when he reached the lawn he lay
down and rested for a while.
Then the procession started on, little spurts of strength coming into
White Fang's muscles as he used them and the blood began to surge through
them. The stables were reached, and there in the doorway, lay Collie, a
half-dozen pudgy puppies playing about her in the sun.
White Fang looked on with a wondering eye. Collie
snarled warningly at him, and he was careful to keep his distance.
The master with his toe helped one sprawling puppy toward him.
He bristled suspiciously, but the master warned him that all was
well. Collie, clasped in the arms of one of the women, watched
him jealously and with a snarl warned him that all was not well.
The puppy sprawled in front of him. He cocked his ears and
watched it curiously. Then their noses touched, and he felt the
warm little tongue of the puppy on his jowl. White Fang's tongue
went out, he knew not why, and he licked the puppy's face.
Hand-clapping and pleased cries from the gods greeted
the performance. He was surprised, and looked at them in a
puzzled way. Then his weakness asserted itself, and he lay down, his
ears cocked, his head on one side, as he watched the puppy. The
other puppies came sprawling toward him, to Collie's great disgust; and he
gravely permitted them to clamber and tumble over him. At first, amid
the applause of the gods, he betrayed a trifle of his old self-consciousness
and awkwardness. This passed away as the puppies' antics and mauling
continued, and he lay with half-shut patient eyes, drowsing in the sun.
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