Tantissimi classici della letteratura e della cultura politica,
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Abbe Prevost - MANON LESCAUT
Alcott, Louisa M. - AN OLDFASHIONED GIRL
Alcott, Louisa M. - LITTLE MEN
Alcott, Louisa M. - LITTLE WOMEN
Alcott, Louisa May - JACK AND JILL
Alcott, Louisa May - LIFE LETTERS AND JOURNALS
Andersen, Hans Christian - FAIRY TALES
Anonimo - BEOWULF
Ariosto, Ludovico - ORLANDO ENRAGED
Aurelius, Marcus - MEDITATIONS
Austen, Jane - EMMA
Austen, Jane - MANSFIELD PARK
Austen, Jane - NORTHANGER ABBEY
Austen, Jane - PERSUASION
Austen, Jane - PRIDE AND PREJUDICE
Austen, Jane - SENSE AND SENSIBILITY
Authors, Various - LETTERS OF ABELARD AND HELOISE
Authors, Various - SELECTED ENGLISH LETTERS
Autori Vari - THE WORLD ENGLISH BIBLE
Bacon, Francis - THE ADVANCEMENT OF LEARNING
Balzac, Honore de - EUGENIE GRANDET
Balzac, Honore de - FATHER GORIOT
Baroness Orczy - THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL
Barrie, J. M. - PETER AND WENDY
Barrie, James M. - PETER PAN
Bierce, Ambrose - THE DEVIL'S DICTIONARY
Blake, William - SONGS OF INNOCENCE AND EXPERIENCE
Boccaccio, Giovanni - DECAMERONE
Brent, Linda - INCIDENTS IN THE LIFE OF A SLAVE GIRL
Bronte, Charlotte - JANE EYRE
Bronte, Charlotte - VILLETTE
Buchan, John - GREENMANTLE
Buchan, John - MR STANDFAST
Buchan, John - THE 39 STEPS
Bunyan, John - THE PILGRIM'S PROGRESS
Burckhardt, Jacob - THE CIVILIZATION OF THE RENAISSANCE IN ITALY
Burnett, Frances H. - A LITTLE PRINCESS
Burnett, Frances H. - LITTLE LORD FAUNTLEROY
Burnett, Frances H. - THE SECRET GARDEN
Butler, Samuel - EREWHON
Carlyle, Thomas - PAST AND PRESENT
Carlyle, Thomas - THE FRENCH REVOLUTION
Cellini, Benvenuto - AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Cervantes - DON QUIXOTE
Chaucer, Geoffrey - THE CANTERBURY TALES
Chesterton, G. K. - A SHORT HISTORY OF ENGLAND
Chesterton, G. K. - THE BALLAD OF THE WHITE HORSE
Chesterton, G. K. - THE INNOCENCE OF FATHER BROWN
Chesterton, G. K. - THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH
Chesterton, G. K. - THE MAN WHO WAS THURSDAY
Chesterton, G. K. - THE WISDOM OF FATHER BROWN
Chesterton, G. K. - TWELVE TYPES
Chesterton, G. K. - WHAT I SAW IN AMERICA
Chesterton, Gilbert K. - HERETICS
Chopin, Kate - AT FAULT
Chopin, Kate - BAYOU FOLK
Chopin, Kate - THE AWAKENING AND SELECTED SHORT STORIES
Clark Hall, John R. - A CONCISE ANGLOSAXON DICTIONARY
Clarkson, Thomas - AN ESSAY ON THE SLAVERY AND COMMERCE OF THE HUMAN SPECIES
Clausewitz, Carl von - ON WAR
Coleridge, Herbert - A DICTIONARY OF THE FIRST OR OLDEST WORDS IN THE ENGLISH
Coleridge, S. T. - COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS
Coleridge, S. T. - HINTS TOWARDS THE FORMATION OF A MORE COMPREHENSIVE THEORY
Coleridge, S. T. - THE RIME OF THE ANCIENT MARINER
Collins, Wilkie - THE MOONSTONE
Collodi - PINOCCHIO
Conan Doyle, Arthur - A STUDY IN SCARLET
Conan Doyle, Arthur - MEMOIRS OF SHERLOCK HOLMES
Conan Doyle, Arthur - THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES
Conan Doyle, Arthur - THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES
Conan Doyle, Arthur - THE SIGN OF THE FOUR
Conrad, Joseph - HEART OF DARKNESS
Conrad, Joseph - LORD JIM
Conrad, Joseph - NOSTROMO
Conrad, Joseph - THE NIGGER OF THE NARCISSUS
Conrad, Joseph - TYPHOON
Crane, Stephen - LAST WORDS
Crane, Stephen - MAGGIE
Crane, Stephen - THE RED BADGE OF COURAGE
Crane, Stephen - WOUNDS IN THE RAIN
Dante - THE DIVINE COMEDY: HELL
Dante - THE DIVINE COMEDY: PARADISE
Dante - THE DIVINE COMEDY: PURGATORY
Darwin, Charles - THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF CHARLES DARWIN
Darwin, Charles - THE ORIGIN OF SPECIES
Defoe, Daniel - A GENERAL HISTORY OF THE PYRATES
Defoe, Daniel - A JOURNAL OF THE PLAGUE YEAR
Defoe, Daniel - CAPTAIN SINGLETON
Defoe, Daniel - MOLL FLANDERS
Defoe, Daniel - ROBINSON CRUSOE
Defoe, Daniel - THE COMPLETE ENGLISH TRADESMAN
Defoe, Daniel - THE FURTHER ADVENTURES OF ROBINSON CRUSOE
Deledda, Grazia - AFTER THE DIVORCE
Dickens, Charles - A CHRISTMAS CAROL
Dickens, Charles - A TALE OF TWO CITIES
Dickens, Charles - BLEAK HOUSE
Dickens, Charles - DAVID COPPERFIELD
Dickens, Charles - DONBEY AND SON
Dickens, Charles - GREAT EXPECTATIONS
Dickens, Charles - HARD TIMES
Dickens, Charles - LETTERS VOLUME 1
Dickens, Charles - LITTLE DORRIT
Dickens, Charles - MARTIN CHUZZLEWIT
Dickens, Charles - NICHOLAS NICKLEBY
Dickens, Charles - OLIVER TWIST
Dickens, Charles - OUR MUTUAL FRIEND
Dickens, Charles - PICTURES FROM ITALY
Dickens, Charles - THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD
Dickens, Charles - THE OLD CURIOSITY SHOP
Dickens, Charles - THE PICKWICK PAPERS
Dickinson, Emily - POEMS
Dostoevsky, Fyodor - CRIME AND PUNISHMENT
Dostoyevsky, Fyodor - THE BROTHERS KARAMAZOV
Du Maurier, George - TRILBY
Dumas, Alexandre - THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO
Dumas, Alexandre - THE MAN IN THE IRON MASK
Dumas, Alexandre - THE THREE MUSKETEERS
Eliot, George - DANIEL DERONDA
Eliot, George - MIDDLEMARCH
Eliot, George - SILAS MARNER
Eliot, George - THE MILL ON THE FLOSS
Engels, Frederick - THE CONDITION OF THE WORKING-CLASS IN ENGLAND IN 1844
Equiano - AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Esopo - FABLES
Fenimore Cooper, James - THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS
Fielding, Henry - TOM JONES
France, Anatole - THAIS
France, Anatole - THE GODS ARE ATHIRST
France, Anatole - THE LIFE OF JOAN OF ARC
France, Anatole - THE SEVEN WIVES OF BLUEBEARD
Frank Baum, L. - THE PATCHWORK GIRL OF OZ
Frank Baum, L. - THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ
Franklin, Benjamin - AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Frazer, James George - THE GOLDEN BOUGH
Freud, Sigmund - DREAM PSYCHOLOGY
Galsworthy, John - COMPLETE PLAYS
Galsworthy, John - STRIFE
Galsworthy, John - STUDIES AND ESSAYS
Galsworthy, John - THE FIRST AND THE LAST
Galsworthy, John - THE FORSYTE SAGA
Galsworthy, John - THE LITTLE MAN
Galsworthy, John - THE SILVER BOX
Galsworthy, John - THE SKIN GAME
Gaskell, Elizabeth - CRANFORD
Gaskell, Elizabeth - MARY BARTON
Gaskell, Elizabeth - NORTH AND SOUTH
Gaskell, Elizabeth - THE LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE
Gay, John - THE BEGGAR'S OPERA
Gentile, Maria - THE ITALIAN COOK BOOK
Gilbert and Sullivan - PLAYS
Goethe - FAUST
Gogol - DEAD SOULS
Goldsmith, Oliver - SHE STOOPS TO CONQUER
Goldsmith, Oliver - THE VICAR OF WAKEFIELD
Grahame, Kenneth - THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS
Grimm, Brothers - FAIRY TALES
Harding, A. R. - GINSENG AND OTHER MEDICINAL PLANTS
Hardy, Thomas - A CHANGED MAN AND OTHER TALES
Hardy, Thomas - FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD
Hardy, Thomas - JUDE THE OBSCURE
Hardy, Thomas - TESS OF THE D'URBERVILLES
Hardy, Thomas - THE MAYOR OF CASTERBRIDGE
Hartley, Cecil B. - THE GENTLEMEN'S BOOK OF ETIQUETTE
Hawthorne, Nathaniel - LITTLE MASTERPIECES
Hawthorne, Nathaniel - THE SCARLET LETTER
Henry VIII - LOVE LETTERS TO ANNE BOLEYN
Henry, O. - CABBAGES AND KINGS
Henry, O. - SIXES AND SEVENS
Henry, O. - THE FOUR MILLION
Henry, O. - THE TRIMMED LAMP
Henry, O. - WHIRLIGIGS
Hindman Miller, Gustavus - TEN THOUSAND DREAMS INTERPRETED
Hobbes, Thomas - LEVIATHAN
Homer - THE ILIAD
Homer - THE ODYSSEY
Hornaday, William T. - THE EXTERMINATION OF THE AMERICAN BISON
Hume, David - A TREATISE OF HUMAN NATURE
Hume, David - AN ENQUIRY CONCERNING HUMAN UNDERSTANDING
Hume, David - DIALOGUES CONCERNING NATURAL RELIGION
Ibsen, Henrik - A DOLL'S HOUSE
Ibsen, Henrik - AN ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE
Ibsen, Henrik - GHOSTS
Ibsen, Henrik - HEDDA GABLER
Ibsen, Henrik - JOHN GABRIEL BORKMAN
Ibsen, Henrik - ROSMERHOLM
Ibsen, Henrik - THE LADY FROM THE SEA
Ibsen, Henrik - THE MASTER BUILDER
Ibsen, Henrik - WHEN WE DEAD AWAKEN
Irving, Washington - THE LEGEND OF SLEEPY HOLLOW
James, Henry - ITALIAN HOURS
James, Henry - THE ASPERN PAPERS
James, Henry - THE BOSTONIANS
James, Henry - THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY
James, Henry - THE TURN OF THE SCREW
James, Henry - WASHINGTON SQUARE
Jerome, Jerome K. - THREE MEN IN A BOAT
Jerome, Jerome K. - THREE MEN ON THE BUMMEL
Jevons, Stanley - POLITICAL ECONOMY
Johnson, Samuel - A GRAMMAR OF THE ENGLISH TONGUE
Jonson, Ben - THE ALCHEMIST
Jonson, Ben - VOLPONE
Joyce, James - A PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST AS A YOUNG MAN
Joyce, James - CHAMBER MUSIC
Joyce, James - DUBLINERS
Joyce, James - ULYSSES
Keats, John - ENDYMION
Keats, John - POEMS PUBLISHED IN 1817
Keats, John - POEMS PUBLISHED IN 1820
King James - THE BIBLE
Kipling, Rudyard - CAPTAINS COURAGEOUS
Kipling, Rudyard - INDIAN TALES
Kipling, Rudyard - JUST SO STORIES
Kipling, Rudyard - KIM
Kipling, Rudyard - THE JUNGLE BOOK
Kipling, Rudyard - THE MAN WHO WOULD BE KING
Kipling, Rudyard - THE SECOND JUNGLE BOOK
Lawrence, D. H - THE RAINBOW
Lawrence, D. H - THE WHITE PEACOCK
Lawrence, D. H - TWILIGHT IN ITALY
Lawrence, D. H. - AARON'S ROD
Lawrence, D. H. - SONS AND LOVERS
Lawrence, D. H. - THE LOST GIRL
Lawrence, D. H. - WOMEN IN LOVE
Lear, Edward - BOOK OF NONSENSE
Lear, Edward - LAUGHABLE LYRICS
Lear, Edward - MORE NONSENSE
Lear, Edward - NONSENSE SONG
Leblanc, Maurice - ARSENE LUPIN VS SHERLOCK HOLMES
Leblanc, Maurice - THE ADVENTURES OF ARSENE LUPIN
Leblanc, Maurice - THE CONFESSIONS OF ARSENE LUPIN
Leblanc, Maurice - THE HOLLOW NEEDLE
Leblanc, Maurice - THE RETURN OF ARSENE LUPIN
Lehmann, Lilli - HOW TO SING
Leroux, Gaston - THE MAN WITH THE BLACK FEATHER
Leroux, Gaston - THE MYSTERY OF THE YELLOW ROOM
Leroux, Gaston - THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA
London, Jack - MARTIN EDEN
London, Jack - THE CALL OF THE WILD
London, Jack - WHITE FANG
Machiavelli, Nicolo' - THE PRINCE
Malthus, Thomas - PRINCIPLE OF POPULATION
Mansfield, Katherine - THE GARDEN PARTY AND OTHER STORIES
Marlowe, Christopher - THE JEW OF MALTA
Marryat, Captain - THE CHILDREN OF THE NEW FOREST
Maupassant, Guy De - BEL AMI
Melville, Hermann - MOBY DICK
Melville, Hermann - TYPEE
Mill, John Stuart - PRINCIPLES OF POLITICAL ECONOMY
Milton, John - PARADISE LOST
Mitra, S. M. - HINDU TALES FROM THE SANSKRIT
Montaigne, Michel de - ESSAYS
Montgomery, Lucy Maud - ANNE OF GREEN GABLES
More, Thomas - UTOPIA
Nesbit, E. - FIVE CHILDREN AND IT
Nesbit, E. - THE PHOENIX AND THE CARPET
Nesbit, E. - THE RAILWAY CHILDREN
Nesbit, E. - THE STORY OF THE AMULET
Newton, Isaac - OPTICKS
Nietsche, Friedrich - BEYOND GOOD AND EVIL
Nietsche, Friedrich - THUS SPAKE ZARATHUSTRA
Nightingale, Florence - NOTES ON NURSING
Owen, Wilfred - POEMS
Ozaki, Yei Theodora - JAPANESE FAIRY TALES
Pascal, Blaise - PENSEES
Pellico, Silvio - MY TEN YEARS IMPRISONMENT
Perrault, Charles - FAIRY TALES
Pirandello, Luigi - THREE PLAYS
Plato - THE REPUBLIC
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 1
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 2
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 3
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 4
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 5
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER
Potter, Beatrix - THE TALE OF PETER RABBIT
Proust, Marcel - SWANN'S WAY
Radcliffe, Ann - A SICILIAN ROMANCE
Ricardo, David - ON THE PRINCIPLES OF POLITICAL ECONOMY AND TAXATION
Richardson, Samuel - PAMELA
Rider Haggard, H. - ALLAN QUATERMAIN
Rider Haggard, H. - KING SOLOMON'S MINES
Rousseau, J. J. - THE ORIGIN AND FOUNDATION OF INEQUALITY AMONG MANKIND
Ruskin, John - THE SEVEN LAMPS OF ARCHITECTURE
Schiller, Friedrich - THE DEATH OF WALLENSTEIN
Schiller, Friedrich - THE PICCOLOMINI
Schopenhauer, Arthur - THE ART OF CONTROVERSY
Schopenhauer, Arthur - THE WISDOM OF LIFE
Scott Fitzgerald, F. - FLAPPERS AND PHILOSOPHERS
Scott Fitzgerald, F. - TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
Scott Fitzgerald, F. - THE BEAUTIFUL AND DAMNED
Scott Fitzgerald, F. - THIS SIDE OF PARADISE
Scott, Walter - IVANHOE
Scott, Walter - QUENTIN DURWARD
Scott, Walter - ROB ROY
Scott, Walter - THE BRIDE OF LAMMERMOOR
Scott, Walter - WAVERLEY
Sedgwick, Anne Douglas - THE THIRD WINDOW
Sewell, Anna - BLACK BEAUTY
Shakespeare, William - COMPLETE WORKS
Shakespeare, William - HAMLET
Shakespeare, William - OTHELLO
Shakespeare, William - ROMEO AND JULIET
Shelley, Mary - FRANKENSTEIN
Shelley, Percy Bysshe - A DEFENCE OF POETRY AND OTHER ESSAYS
Shelley, Percy Bysshe - COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS
Sheridan, Richard B. - THE SCHOOL FOR SCANDAL
Sienkiewicz, Henryk - QUO VADIS
Smith, Adam - THE WEALTH OF NATIONS
Smollett, Tobias - TRAVELS THROUGH FRANCE AND ITALY
Spencer, Herbert - ESSAYS ON EDUCATION AND KINDRED SUBJECTS
Spyri, Johanna - HEIDI
Sterne, Laurence - A SENTIMENTAL JOURNEY
Sterne, Laurence - TRISTRAM SHANDY
Stevenson, Robert Louis - A CHILD'S GARDEN OF VERSES
Stevenson, Robert Louis - ESSAYS IN THE ART OF WRITING
Stevenson, Robert Louis - KIDNAPPED
Stevenson, Robert Louis - NEW ARABIAN NIGHTS
Stevenson, Robert Louis - THE BLACK ARROW
Stevenson, Robert Louis - THE STRANGE CASE OF DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE
Stevenson, Robert Louis - TREASURE ISLAND
Stoker, Bram - DRACULA
Strindberg, August - LUCKY PEHR
Strindberg, August - MASTER OLOF
Strindberg, August - THE RED ROOM
Strindberg, August - THE ROAD TO DAMASCUS
Strindberg, August - THERE ARE CRIMES AND CRIMES
Swift, Jonathan - A MODEST PROPOSAL
Swift, Jonathan - A TALE OF A TUB
Swift, Jonathan - GULLIVER'S TRAVELS
Swift, Jonathan - THE BATTLE OF THE BOOKS AND OTHER SHORT PIECES
Tagore, Rabindranath - FRUIT GATHERING
Tagore, Rabindranath - THE GARDENER
Tagore, Rabindranath - THE HUNGRY STONES AND OTHER STORIES
Thackeray, William - BARRY LYNDON
Thackeray, William - VANITY FAIR
Thackeray, William Makepeace - THE BOOK OF SNOBS
Thackeray, William Makepeace - THE ROSE AND THE RING
Thackeray, William Makepeace - THE VIRGINIANS
Thoreau, Henry David - WALDEN
Tolstoi, Leo - A LETTER TO A HINDU
Tolstoy, Lev - ANNA KARENINA
Tolstoy, Lev - WAR AND PEACE
Trollope, Anthony - AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Trollope, Anthony - BARCHESTER TOWERS
Trollope, Anthony - FRAMLEY PARSONAGE
Trollope, Anthony - THE EUSTACE DIAMONDS
Trollope, Anthony - THE MAN WHO KEPT HIS MONEY IN A BOX
Trollope, Anthony - THE WARDEN
Trollope, Anthony - THE WAY WE LIVE NOW
Twain, Mark - LIFE ON THE MISSISSIPPI
Twain, Mark - SPEECHES
Twain, Mark - THE ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN
Twain, Mark - THE ADVENTURES OF TOM SAWYER
Twain, Mark - THE PRINCE AND THE PAUPER
Vari, Autori - THE MAGNA CARTA
Verga, Giovanni - SICILIAN STORIES
Verne, Jules - 20000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEAS
Verne, Jules - A JOURNEY TO THE CENTRE OF THE EARTH
Verne, Jules - ALL AROUND THE MOON
Verne, Jules - AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS
Verne, Jules - FIVE WEEKS IN A BALLOON
Verne, Jules - FROM THE EARTH TO THE MOON
Verne, Jules - MICHAEL STROGOFF
Verne, Jules - THE MYSTERIOUS ISLAND
Voltaire - PHILOSOPHICAL DICTIONARY
Vyasa - MAHABHARATA
Wallace, Edgar - SANDERS OF THE RIVER
Wallace, Edgar - THE DAFFODIL MYSTERY
Wallace, Lew - BEN HUR
Webster, Jean - DADDY LONG LEGS
Wedekind, Franz - THE AWAKENING OF SPRING
Wells, H. G. - KIPPS
Wells, H. G. - THE INVISIBLE MAN
Wells, H. G. - THE ISLAND OF DOCTOR MOREAU
Wells, H. G. - THE STOLEN BACILLUS AND OTHER INCIDENTS
Wells, H. G. - THE TIME MACHINE
Wells, H. G. - THE WAR OF THE WORLDS
Wells, H. G. - WHAT IS COMING
Wharton, Edith - THE AGE OF INNOCENCE
White, Andrew Dickson - FIAT MONEY INFLATION IN FRANCE
Wilde, Oscar - A WOMAN OF NO IMPORTANCE
Wilde, Oscar - AN IDEAL HUSBAND
Wilde, Oscar - DE PROFUNDIS
Wilde, Oscar - LADY WINDERMERE'S FAN
Wilde, Oscar - SALOME
Wilde, Oscar - SELECTED POEMS
Wilde, Oscar - THE BALLAD OF READING GAOL
Wilde, Oscar - THE CANTERVILLE GHOST
Wilde, Oscar - THE HAPPY PRINCE AND OTHER TALES
Wilde, Oscar - THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST
Wilde, Oscar - THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GREY
Wilde, Oscar - THE SOUL OF MAN
Wilson, Epiphanius - SACRED BOOKS OF THE EAST
Wollstonecraft, Mary - A VINDICATION OF THE RIGHTS OF WOMAN
Woolf, Virgina - NIGHT AND DAY
Woolf, Virgina - THE VOYAGE OUT
Woolf, Virginia - JACOB'S ROOM
Woolf, Virginia - MONDAY OR TUESDAY
Wordsworth, William - POEMS
Wordsworth, William - PROSE WORKS
Zola, Emile - THERESE RAQUIN
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ISTRUZIONI D'USO DETTAGLIATE
BY JACK LONDON.
CHAPTER 1--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 box.
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
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 second cry.
"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
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 you."
Henry did not reply, but munched on in silence, until, the meal finished,
he topped it with a final cup 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
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 we had?"
"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
"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, damn 'em!"
"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 us alone."
"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
"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
"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 end.
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 low tone.
"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 the darkness.
"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 you."
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
"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
"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 might happen."
"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 comes handy."
"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 of them.
"It's the she-wolf," Bill answered.
The dogs had lain 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 whatever-your-name-is."
"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 and disappeared.
The two men looked at each other. Henry whistled long and
"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 you, Bill."
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, Henry."
"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
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 no
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
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 fire.
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 denied himself.
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 angry 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
"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 undulating 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
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
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 hand.
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 upon.
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
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
effortless 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
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 before.
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-
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 of
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
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 way.
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 warning.
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
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
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
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 solicitous.
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 fissure.
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
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 as ever.
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
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 lived.
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 belly.
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
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 withdrawn.
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
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
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 cave.
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 mental make-
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
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
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 mountain.
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 back savagely.
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 flight.
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 be prepared.
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 to do.
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 inglorious retreat.
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
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 he encountered.
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
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 his flesh.
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 where 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 and slept.
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
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 ground.
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 ever-menacing.
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, endless.
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
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 white fangs!")
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
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 authority.
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-
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 submit.
"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 second Indian.
"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, laying 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 his 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 dead?"
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 be
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
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
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
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-lip 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 clash.
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 of happening.
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, questioning tongue.
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 coming.
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 chief torment.
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
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 stones.
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
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 forest.
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 to hurt.
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
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 was tolerated.
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 him.
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
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
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 silence.
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 terrible impending.
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 lurking dangers.
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, cowardly pack.
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 ever uttered.
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 his calculations.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 earth bank.
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 verification.
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 mental make-up.
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 it.
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
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 his 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 wolf.
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 more ferocious.
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
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
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 eyes.
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
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 of
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-
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 closer.
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
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 arrive.
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
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-
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
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 called "Pinhead."
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 the ground.
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 himself.
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
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 his neck.
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 Beauty Smith.
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 ripping and mangling 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
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
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
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
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 it.
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 death.
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
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 foot, 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 the crowd.
"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,
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 at them.
"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 at
The pair paused and surveyed the locked dogs.
"Ain't bleedin' much," Matt announced. "Ain't got all the way in yet."
"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
"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 mangled neck.
"Stand by to receive your dog," was Scott's peremptory order to
The faro-dealer stooped down obediently and got a firm hold on Cherokee.
"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 White Fang.
"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
"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
"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 rights."
"Correct," Scott answered, passing the money over to him. "A man's got
his rights. But you're not a man. You're a beast."
"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
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 is it?"
The dog-musher indicated White Fang with a backward thrust of his thumb.
"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
"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 spell."
The other looked at him incredulously.
"Yes," Matt went on, "I know you've tried to, but you didn't take a
"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 its trainer.
"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 stepped back.
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 again.
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 the cabin.
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 widening path.
"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 to do."
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
"It would be a mercy to kill him," Scott insisted. "He's untamable."
"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 and
"Better have a club handy," Matt warned.
Scott shook his head and went on trying to win White Fang's confidence.
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 life.
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 the dog-
"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
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
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