Saturday, November 10, 2007


White Fang by Jack London

White Fang by Jack London
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, frozenhearted
Northland Wild.
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 space.
They travelled on without speech, saving their breath for the work
of their bodies. On every side was the silence, pressing upon them
with a tangible presence. It affected their minds as the many
atmospheres of deep water affect the body of the diver. It crushed
them with the weight of unending vastness and unalterable decree.
It crushed them into the remotest recesses of their own minds,
pressing out of them, like juices from the grape, all the false
ardours and exaltations and undue self-values of the human soul,
until they perceived themselves finite and small, specks and motes,
moving with weak cunning and little wisdom amidst the play and
inter-play of the great blind elements and forces.
An hour went by, and a second hour. The pale light of the short
sunless day was beginning to fade, when a faint far cry arose on
the still air. It soared upward with a swift rush, till it reached
its topmost note, where it persisted, palpitant and tense, and then
slowly died away. It might have been a lost soul wailing, had it
not been invested with a certain sad fierceness and hungry
eagerness. The front man turned his head until his eyes met the
eyes of the man behind. And then, across the narrow oblong box,
each nodded to the other.
A second cry arose, piercing the silence with needle-like
shrillness. Both men located the sound. It was to the rear,
somewhere in the snow expanse they had just traversed. A third and
answering cry arose, also to the rear and to the left of the second
"They're after us, Bill," said the man at the front.
His voice sounded hoarse and unreal, and he had spoken with
apparent effort.
"Meat is scarce," answered his comrade. "I ain't seen a rabbit
sign for days."
Thereafter they spoke no more, though their ears were keen for the
hunting-cries that continued to rise behind them.
At the fall of darkness they swung the dogs into a cluster of
spruce trees on the edge of the waterway and made a camp. The
coffin, at the side of the fire, served for seat and table. The
wolf-dogs, clustered on the far side of the fire, snarled and
bickered among themselves, but evinced no inclination to stray off
into the darkness.
"Seems to me, Henry, they're stayin' remarkable close to camp,"
Bill commented.
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 a-feedin' 'em?"
"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 a of coffee. He wiped his
mouth with the back of his hand and said:
"Then you're thinkin' as it was - "
A long wailing cry, fiercely sad, from somewhere in the darkness,
had interrupted him. He stopped to listen to it, then he finished
his sentence with a wave of his hand toward the sound of the cry, "
- one of them?"
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 afford."
"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 agreed.
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
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
"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 wrong now?"
"Nothin'," came the answer; "only there's seven of 'em again. I
just counted."
Henry acknowledged receipt of the information with a grunt that
slid into a snore as he drifted back into sleep.
In the morning it was Henry who awoke first and routed his
companion out of bed. Daylight was yet three hours away, though it
was already six o'clock; and in the darkness Henry went about
preparing breakfast, while Bill rolled the blankets and made the
sled ready for lashing.
"Say, Henry," he asked suddenly, "how many dogs did you say we
"Wrong," Bill proclaimed triumphantly.
"Seven again?" Henry queried.
"No, five; one's gone."
"The hell!" Henry cried in wrath, leaving the cooking to come and
count the dogs.
"You're right, Bill," he concluded. "Fatty's gone."
"An' he went like greased lightnin' once he got started. Couldn't
've seen 'm for smoke."
"No chance at all," Henry concluded. "They jes' swallowed 'm
alive. I bet he was yelpin' as he went down their throats, damn
"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.
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
"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
"It got half of it," he announced; "but I got a whack at it jes'
the same. D'ye hear it squeal?"
"What'd it look like?" Henry asked.
"Couldn't see. But it had four legs an' a mouth an' hair an'
looked like any dog."
"Must be a tame wolf, I reckon."
"It's damned tame, whatever it is, comin' in here at feedin' time
an' gettin' its whack of fish."
That night, when supper was finished and they sat on the oblong box
and pulled at their pipes, the circle of gleaming eyes drew in even
closer than before.
"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 firelight.
"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 bedtime,
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 times.
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
"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
"Henry, I'm a-thinkin'," Bill announced.
"Thinkin' what?"
"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 beside Henry.
"Say, Henry," he chided gently, "ain't you forgot somethin'?"
Henry looked about with great carefulness and shook his head. Bill
held up the empty cup.
"You don't get no coffee," Henry announced.
"Ain't run out?" Bill asked anxiously.
"Ain't thinkin' it'll hurt my digestion?"
A flush of angry blood pervaded Bill's face.
"Then it's jes' warm an' anxious I am to be hearin' you explain
yourself," he said.
"Spanker's gone," Henry answered.
Without haste, with the air of one resigned to misfortune Bill
turned his head, and from where he sat counted the dogs.
"How'd it happen?" he asked apathetically.
Henry shrugged his shoulders. "Don't know. Unless One Ear gnawed
'm loose. He couldn't a-done it himself, that's sure."
"The darned cuss." Bill spoke gravely and slowly, with no hint of
the anger that was raging within. "Jes' because he couldn't chew
himself loose, he chews Spanker loose."
"Well, Spanker's troubles is over anyway; I guess he's digested by
this time an' cavortin' over the landscape in the bellies of twenty
different wolves," was Henry's epitaph on this, the latest lost
dog. "Have some coffee, Bill."
But Bill shook his head.
"Go on," Henry pleaded, elevating the pot.
Bill shoved his cup aside. "I'll be ding-dong-danged if I do. I
said I wouldn't if ary dog turned up missin', an' I won't."
"It's darn good coffee," Henry said enticingly.
But Bill was stubborn, and he ate a dry breakfast washed down with
mumbled curses at One Ear for the trick he had played.
"I'll tie 'em up out of reach of each other to-night," Bill said,
as they took the trail.
They had travelled little more than a hundred yards, when Henry,
who was in front, bent down and picked up something with which his
snowshoe had collided. It was dark, and he could not see it, but
he recognised it by the touch. He flung it back, so that it struck
the sled and bounced along until it fetched up on Bill's snowshoes.
"Mebbe you'll need that in your business," Henry said.
Bill uttered an exclamation. It was all that was left of Spanker -
the stick with which he had been tied.
"They ate 'm hide an' all," Bill announced. "The stick's as clean
as a whistle. They've ate the leather offen both ends. They're
damn hungry, Henry, an' they'll have you an' me guessin' before
this trip's over."
Henry laughed defiantly. "I ain't been trailed this way by wolves
before, but I've gone through a whole lot worse an' kept my health.
Takes more'n a handful of them pesky critters to do for yours
truly, Bill, my son."
"I don't know, I don't know," Bill muttered ominously.
"Well, you'll know all right when we pull into McGurry."
"I ain't feelin' special enthusiastic," Bill persisted.
"You're off colour, that's what's the matter with you," Henry
dogmatised. "What you need is quinine, an' I'm goin' to dose you
up stiff as soon as we make McGurry."
Bill grunted his disagreement with the diagnosis, and lapsed into
silence. The day was like all the days. Light came at nine
o'clock. At twelve o'clock the southern horizon was warmed by the
unseen sun; and then began the cold grey of afternoon that would
merge, three hours later, into night.
It was just after the sun's futile effort to appear, that Bill
slipped the rifle from under the sled-lashings and said:
"You keep right on, Henry, I'm goin' to see what I can see."
"You'd better stick by the sled," his partner protested. "You've
only got three cartridges, an' there's no tellin' what might
"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
"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
"It's the she-wolf," Bill answered.
The dogs had laid down in the snow, and he walked past them to join
his partner in the sled. Together they watched the strange animal
that had pursued them for days and that had already accomplished
the destruction of half their dog-team.
After a searching scrutiny, the animal trotted forward a few steps.
This it repeated several times, till it was a short hundred yards
away. It paused, head up, close by a clump of spruce trees, and
with sight and scent studied the outfit of the watching men. It
looked at them in a strangely wistful way, after the manner of a
dog; but in its wistfulness there was none of the dog affection.
It was a wistfulness bred of hunger, as cruel as its own fangs, as
merciless as the frost itself.
It was large for a wolf, its gaunt frame advertising the lines of
an animal that was among the largest of its kind.
"Stands pretty close to two feet an' a half at the shoulders,"
Henry commented. "An' I'll bet it ain't far from five feet long."
"Kind of strange colour for a wolf," was Bill's criticism. "I
never seen a red wolf before. Looks almost cinnamon to me."
The animal was certainly not cinnamon-coloured. Its coat was the
true wolf-coat. The dominant colour was grey, and yet there was to
it a faint reddish hue - a hue that was baffling, that appeared and
disappeared, that was more like an illusion of the vision, now
grey, distinctly grey, and again giving hints and glints of a vague
redness of colour not classifiable in terms of ordinary experience.
"Looks for all the world like a big husky sled-dog," Bill said. "I
wouldn't be s'prised to see it wag its tail."
"Hello, you husky!" he called. "Come here, you whatever-your-nameis."
"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
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,
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 gnawingreach
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 distance.
"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."
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 the dog.
But One Ear broke into a run across the snow, his traces trailing
behind him. And there, out in the snow of their back track, was
the she-wolf waiting for him. As he neared her, he became suddenly
cautious. He slowed down to an alert and mincing walk and then
stopped. He regarded her carefully and dubiously, yet desirefully.
She seemed to smile at him, showing her teeth in an ingratiating
rather than a menacing way. She moved toward him a few steps,
playfully, and then halted. One Ear drew near to her, still alert
and cautious, his tail and ears in the air, his head held high.
He tried to sniff noses with her, but she retreated playfully and
coyly. Every advance on his part was accompanied by a
corresponding retreat on her part. Step by step she was luring him
away from the security of his human companionship. Once, as though
a warning had in vague ways flitted through his intelligence, he
turned his head and looked back at the overturned sled, at his
team-mates, and at the two men who were calling to him.
But whatever idea was forming in his mind, was dissipated by the
she-wolf, who advanced upon him, sniffed noses with him for a
fleeting instant, and then resumed her coy retreat before his
renewed advances.
In the meantime, Bill had bethought himself of the rifle. But it
was jammed beneath the overturned sled, and by the time Henry had
helped him to right the load, One Ear and the she-wolf were too
close together and the distance too great to risk a shot.
Too late One Ear learned his mistake. Before they saw the cause,
the two men saw him turn and start to run back toward them. Then,
approaching at right angles to the trail and cutting off his
retreat they saw a dozen wolves, lean and grey, bounding across the
snow. On the instant, the she-wolf's coyness and playfulness
disappeared. With a snarl she sprang upon One Ear. He thrust her
off with his shoulder, and, his retreat cut off and still intent on
regaining the sled, he altered his course in an attempt to circle
around to it. More wolves were appearing every moment and joining
in the chase. The she-wolf was one leap behind One Ear and holding
her own.
"Where are you goin'?" Henry suddenly demanded, laying his hand on
his partner's arm.
Bill shook it off. "I won't stand it," he said. "They ain't agoin'
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 dog.
"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 sled.
The different lines were rapidly approaching a point. Somewhere
out there in the snow, screened from his sight by trees and
thickets, Henry knew that the wolf-pack, One Ear, and Bill were
coming together. All too quickly, far more quickly than he had
expected, it happened. He heard a shot, then two shots, in rapid
succession, and he knew that Bill's ammunition was gone. Then he
heard a great outcry of snarls and yelps. He recognised One Ear's
yell of pain and terror, and he heard a wolf-cry that bespoke a
stricken animal. And that was all. The snarls ceased. The
yelping died away. Silence settled down again over the lonely
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 an yelps and frightened snarls
when a well-aimed brand struck and scorched a too daring animal.
Morning found the man haggard and worn, wide-eyed from want of
sleep. He cooked breakfast in the darkness, and at nine o'clock,
when, with the coming of daylight, the wolf-pack drew back, he set
about the task he had planned through the long hours of the night.
Chopping down young saplings, he made them cross-bars of a scaffold
by lashing them high up to the trunks of standing trees. Using the
sled-lashing for a heaving rope, and with the aid of the dogs, he
hoisted the coffin to the top of the scaffold.
"They got Bill, an' they may get me, but they'll sure never get
you, young man," he said, addressing the dead body in its treesepulchre.
Then he took the trail, the lightened sled bounding along behind
the willing dogs; for they, too, knew that safety lay open in the
gaining of Fort McGurry. The wolves were now more open in their
pursuit, trotting sedately behind and ranging along on either side,
their red tongues lolling out, their-lean sides showing the
udulating ribs with every movement. They were very lean, mere
skin-bags stretched over bony frames, with strings for muscles - so
lean that Henry found it in his mind to marvel that they still kept
their feet and did not collapse forthright in the snow.
He did not dare travel until dark. At midday, not only did the sun
warm the southern horizon, but it even thrust its upper rim, pale
and golden, above the sky-line. He received it as a sign. The
days were growing longer. The sun was returning. But scarcely had
the cheer of its light departed, than he went into camp. There
were still several hours of grey daylight and sombre twilight, and
he utilised them in chopping an enormous supply of fire-wood.
With night came horror. Not only were the starving wolves growing
bolder, but lack of sleep was telling upon Henry. He dozed despite
himself, crouching by the fire, the blankets about his shoulders,
the axe between his knees, and on either side a dog pressing close
against him. He awoke once and saw in front of him, not a dozen
feet away, a big grey wolf, one of the largest of the pack. And
even as he looked, the brute deliberately stretched himself after
the manner of a lazy dog, yawning full in his face and looking upon
him with a possessive eye, as if, in truth, he were merely a
delayed meal that was soon to be eaten.
This certitude was shown by the whole pack. Fully a score he could
count, staring hungrily at him or calmly sleeping in the snow.
They reminded him of children gathered about a spread table and
awaiting permission to begin to eat. And he was the food they were
to eat! He wondered how and when the meal would begin.
As he piled wood on the fire he discovered an appreciation of his
own body which he had never felt before. He watched his moving
muscles and was interested in the cunning mechanism of his fingers.
By the light of the fire he crooked his fingers slowly and
repeatedly now one at a time, now all together, spreading them wide
or making quick gripping movements. He studied the nail-formation,
and prodded the finger-tips, now sharply, and again softly, gauging
the while the nerve-sensations produced. It fascinated him, and he
grew suddenly fond of this subtle flesh of his that worked so
beautifully and smoothly and delicately. Then he would cast a
glance of fear at the wolf-circle drawn expectantly about him, and
like a blow the realisation would strike him that this wonderful
body of his, this living flesh, was no more than so much meat, a
quest of ravenous animals, to be torn and slashed by their hungry
fangs, to be sustenance to them as the moose and the rabbit had
often been sustenance to him.
He came out of a doze that was half nightmare, to see the red-hued
she-wolf before him. She was not more than half a dozen feet away
sitting in the snow and wistfully regarding him. The two dogs were
whimpering and snarling at his feet, but she took no notice of
them. She was looking at the man, and for some time he returned
her look. There was nothing threatening about her. She looked at
him merely with a great wistfulness, but he knew it to be the
wistfulness of an equally great hunger. He was the food, and the
sight of him excited in her the gustatory sensations. Her mouth
opened, the saliva drooled forth, and she licked her chops with the
pleasure of anticipation.
A spasm of fear went through him. He reached hastily for a brand
to throw at her. But even as he reached, and before his fingers
had closed on the missile, she sprang back into safety; and he knew
that she was used to having things thrown at her. She had snarled
as she sprang away, baring her white fangs to their roots, all her
wistfulness vanishing, being replaced by a carnivorous malignity
that made him shudder. He glanced at the hand that held the brand,
noticing the cunning delicacy of the fingers that gripped it, how
they adjusted themselves to all the inequalities of the surface,
curling over and under and about the rough wood, and one little
finger, too close to the burning portion of the brand, sensitively
and automatically writhing back from the hurtful heat to a cooler
gripping-place; and in the same instant he seemed to see a vision
of those same sensitive and delicate fingers being crushed and torn
by the white teeth of the she-wolf. Never had he been so fond of
this body of his as now when his tenure of it was so precarious.
All night, with burning brands, he fought off the hungry pack.
When he dozed despite himself, the whimpering and snarling of the
dogs aroused him. Morning came, but for the first time the light
of day failed to scatter the wolves. The man waited in vain for
them to go. They remained in a circle about him and his fire,
displaying an arrogance of possession that shook his courage born
of the morning light.
He made one desperate attempt to pull out on the trail. But the
moment he left the protection of the fire, the boldest wolf leaped
for him, but leaped short. He saved himself by springing back, the
jaws snapping together a scant six inches from his thigh. The rest
of the pack was now up and surging upon him, and a throwing of
firebrands right and left was necessary to drive them back to a
respectful distance.
Even in the daylight he did not dare leave the fire to chop fresh
wood. Twenty feet away towered a huge dead spruce. He spent half
the day extending his campfire to the tree, at any moment a half
dozen burning faggots ready at hand to fling at his enemies. Once
at the tree, he studied the surrounding forest in order to fell the
tree in the direction of the most firewood.
The night was a repetition of the night before, save that the need
for sleep was becoming overpowering. The snarling of his dogs was
losing its efficacy. Besides, they were snarling all the time, and
his benumbed and drowsy senses no longer took note of changing
pitch and intensity. He awoke with a start. The she-wolf was less
than a yard from him. Mechanically, at short range, without
letting go of it, he thrust a brand full into her open and snarling
mouth. She sprang away, yelling with pain, and while he took
delight in the smell of burning flesh and hair, he watched her
shaking her head and growling wrathfully a score of feet away.
But this time, before he dozed again, he tied a burning pine-knot
to his right hand. His eyes were closed but few minutes when the
burn of the flame on his flesh awakened him. For several hours he
adhered to this programme. Every time he was thus awakened he
drove back the wolves with flying brands, replenished the fire, and
rearranged the pine-knot on his hand. All worked well, but there
came a time when he fastened the pine-knot insecurely. As his eyes
closed it fell away from his 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
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 roughly.
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.
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 shewolf.
Running at the forefront of the pack was a large grey wolf - one of
its several leaders. It was he who directed the pack's course on
the heels of the she-wolf. It was he who snarled warningly at the
younger members of the pack or slashed at them with his fangs when
they ambitiously tried to pass him. And it was he who increased
the pace when he sighted the she-wolf, now trotting slowly across
the snow.
She dropped in alongside by him, as though it were her appointed
position, and took the pace of the pack. He did not snarl at her,
nor show his teeth, when any leap of hers chanced to put her in
advance of him. On the contrary, he seemed kindly disposed toward
her - too kindly to suit her, for he was prone to run near to her,
and when he ran too near it was she who snarled and showed her
teeth. Nor was she above slashing his shoulder sharply on
occasion. At such times he betrayed no anger. He merely sprang to
the side and ran stiffly ahead for several awkward leaps, in
carriage and conduct resembling an abashed country swain.
This was his one trouble in the running of the pack; but she had
other troubles. On her other side ran a gaunt old wolf, grizzled
and marked with the scars of many battles. He ran always on her
right side. The fact that he had but one eye, and that the left
eye, might account for this. He, also, was addicted to crowding
her, to veering toward her till his scarred muzzle touched her
body, or shoulder, or neck. As with the running mate on the left,
she repelled these attentions with her teeth; but when both
bestowed their attentions at the same time she was roughly jostled,
being compelled, with quick snaps to either side, to drive both
lovers away and at the same time to maintain her forward leap with
the pack and see the way of her feet before her. At such times her
running mates flashed their teeth and growled threateningly across
at each other. They might have fought, but even wooing and its
rivalry waited upon the more pressing hunger-need of the pack.
After each repulse, when the old wolf sheered abruptly away from
the sharp-toothed object of his desire, he shouldered against a
young three-year-old that ran on his blind right side. This young
wolf had attained his full size; and, considering the weak and
famished condition of the pack, he possessed more than the average
vigour and spirit. Nevertheless, he ran with his head even with
the shoulder of his one-eyed elder. When he ventured to run
abreast of the older wolf (which was seldom), a snarl and a snap
sent him back even with the shoulder again. Sometimes, however, he
dropped cautiously and slowly behind and edged in between the old
leader and the she-wolf. This was doubly resented, even triply
resented. When she snarled her displeasure, the old leader would
whirl on the three-year-old. Sometimes she whirled with him. And
sometimes the young leader on the left whirled, too.
At such times, confronted by three sets of savage teeth, the young
wolf stopped precipitately, throwing himself back on his haunches,
with fore-legs stiff, mouth menacing, and mane bristling. This
confusion in the front of the moving pack always caused confusion
in the rear. The wolves behind collided with the young wolf and
expressed their displeasure by administering sharp nips on his
hind-legs and flanks. He was laying up trouble for himself, for
lack of food and short tempers went together; but with the
boundless faith of youth he persisted in repeating the manoeuvre
every little while, though it never succeeded in gaining anything
for him but discomfiture.
Had there been food, love-making and fighting would have gone on
apace, and the pack-formation would have been broken up. But the
situation of the pack was desperate. It was lean with longstanding
hunger. It ran below its ordinary speed. At the rear
limped the weak members, the very young and the very old. At the
front were the strongest. Yet all were more like skeletons than
full-bodied wolves. Nevertheless, with the exception of the ones
that limped, the movements of the animals were eftortless and
tireless. Their stringy muscles seemed founts of inexhaustible
energy. Behind every steel-like contraction of a muscle, lay
another steel-like contraction, and another, and another,
apparently without end.
They ran many miles that day. They ran through the night. And the
next day found them still running. They were running over the
surface of a world frozen and dead. No life stirred. They alone
moved through the vast inertness. They alone were alive, and they
sought for other things that were alive in order that they might
devour them and continue to live.
They crossed low divides and ranged a dozen small streams in a
lower-lying country before their quest was rewarded. Then they
came upon moose. It was a big bull they first found. Here was
meat and life, and it was guarded by no mysterious fires nor flying
missiles of flame. Splay hoofs and palmated antlers they knew, and
they flung their customary patience and caution to the wind. It
was a brief fight and fierce. The big bull was beset on every
side. He ripped them open or split their skulls with shrewdly
driven blows of his great hoofs. He crushed them and broke them on
his large horns. He stamped them into the snow under him in the
wallowing struggle. But he was foredoomed, and he went down with
the she-wolf tearing savagely at his throat, and with other teeth
fixed everywhere upon him, devouring him alive, before ever his
last struggles ceased or his last damage had been wrought.
There was food in plenty. The bull weighed over eight hundred
pounds - fully twenty pounds of meat per mouth for the forty-odd
wolves of the pack. But if they could fast prodigiously, they
could feed prodigiously, and soon a few scattered bones were all
that remained of the splendid live brute that had faced the pack a
few hours 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-yearold.
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 food-getting.
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 shewolf,
who sat smiling in the snow. But the elder leader was wise,
very wise, in love even as in battle. The younger leader turned
his head to lick a wound on his shoulder. The curve of his neck
was turned toward his rival. With his one eye the elder saw the
opportunity. He darted in low and closed with his fangs. It was a
long, ripping slash, and deep as well. His teeth, in passing,
burst the wall of the great vein of the throat. Then he leaped
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 lovemaking
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 redwritten
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 and smelling.
To their ears came the sounds of dogs wrangling and scuffling, the
guttural cries of men, the sharper voices of scolding women, and
once the shrill and plaintive cry of a child. With the exception
of the huge bulks of the skin-lodges, little could be seen save the
flames of the fire, broken by the movements of intervening bodies,
and the smoke rising slowly on the quiet air. But to their
nostrils came the myriad smells of an Indian camp, carrying a story
that was largely incomprehensible to One Eye, but every detail of
which the she-wolf knew.
She was strangely stirred, and sniffed and sniffed with an
increasing delight. But old One Eye was doubtful. He betrayed his
apprehension, and started tentatively to go. She turned. and
touched his neck with her muzzle in a reassuring way, then regarded
the camp again. A new wistfulness was in her face, but it was not
the wistfulness of hunger. She was thrilling to a desire that
urged her to go forward, to be in closer to that fire, to be
squabbling with the dogs, and to be avoiding and dodging the
stumbling feet of men.
One Eye moved impatiently beside her; her unrest came back upon
her, and she knew again her pressing need to find the thing for
which she searched. She turned and trotted back into the forest,
to the great relief of One Eye, who trotted a little to the fore
until they were well within the shelter of the trees.
As they slid along, noiseless as shadows, in the moonlight, they
came upon a run-way. Both noses went down to the footprints in the
snow. These footprints were very fresh. One Eye ran ahead
cautiously, his mate at his heels. The broad pads of their feet
were spread wide and in contact with the snow were like velvet.
One Eye caught sight of a dim movement of white in the midst of the
white. His sliding gait had been deceptively swift, but it was as
nothing to the speed at which he now ran. Before him was bounding
the faint patch of white he had discovered.
They were running along a narrow alley flanked on either side by a
growth of young spruce. Through the trees the mouth of the alley
could be seen, opening out on a moonlit glade. Old One Eye was
rapidly overhauling the fleeing shape of white. Bound by bound he
gained. Now he was upon it. One leap more and his teeth would be
sinking into it. But that leap was never made. High in the air,
and straight up, soared the shape of white, now a struggling
snowshoe rabbit that leaped and bounded, executing a fantastic
dance there above him in the air and never once returning to earth.
One Eye sprang back with a snort of sudden fright, then shrank down
to the snow and crouched, snarling threats at this thing of fear he
did not understand. But the she-wolf coolly thrust past him. She
poised for a moment, then sprang for the dancing rabbit. She, too,
soared high, but not so high as the quarry, and her teeth clipped
emptily together with 'a metallic snap. She made another leap, and
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 shewolf
sat down in the snow, and old One Eye, now more in fear of his
mate than of the mysterious sapling, again sprang for the rabbit.
As he sank back with it between his teeth, he kept his eye on the
sapling. As before, it followed him back to earth. He crouched
down under the impending blow, his hair bristling, but his teeth
still keeping tight hold of the rabbit. But the blow did not fall.
The sapling remained bent above him. When he moved it moved, and
he growled at it through his clenched jaws; when he remained still,
it remained still, and he concluded it was safer to continue
remaining still. Yet the warm blood of the rabbit tasted good in
his mouth.
It was his mate who relieved him from the quandary in which he
found himself. She took the rabbit from him, and while the sapling
swayed and teetered threateningly above her she calmly gnawed off
the rabbit's head. At once the sapling shot up, and after that
gave no more trouble, remaining in the decorous and perpendicular
position in which nature had intended it to grow. Then, between
them, the she-wolf and One Eye devoured the game which the
mysterious sapling had caught for them.
There were other run-ways and alleys where rabbits were hanging in
the air, and the wolf-pair prospected them all, the she-wolf
leading the way, old One Eye following and observant, learning the
method of robbing snares - a knowledge destined to stand him in
good stead in the days to come.
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 and satisfied.
One Eye was hungry. Though he lay down in the entrance and slept,
his sleep was fitful. He kept awaking and cocking his ears at the
bright world without, where the April sun was blazing across the
snow. When he dozed, upon his ears would steal the faint whispers
of hidden trickles of running water, and he would rouse and listen
intently. The sun had come back, and all the awakening Northland
world was calling to him. Life was stirring. The feel of spring
was in the air, the feel of growing life under the snow, of sap
ascending in the trees, of buds bursting the shackles of the frost.
He cast anxious glances at his mate, but she showed no desire to
get up. He looked outside, and half a dozen snow-birds fluttered
across his field of vision. He started to get up, then looked back
to his mate again, and settled down and dozed. A shrill and minute
singing stole upon his heating. Once, and twice, he sleepily
brushed his nose with his paw. Then he woke up. There, buzzing in
the air at the tip of his nose, was a lone mosquito. It was a
full-grown mosquito, one that had lain frozen in a dry log all
winter and that had now been thawed out by the sun. He could
resist the call of the world no longer. Besides, he was hungry.
He crawled over to his mate and tried to persuade her to get up.
But she only snarled at him, and he walked out alone into the
bright sunshine to find the snow-surface soft under foot and the
travelling difficult. He went up the frozen bed of the stream,
where the snow, shaded by the trees, was yet hard and crystalline.
He was gone eight hours, and he came back through the darkness
hungrier than when he had started. He had found game, but he had
not caught it. He had broken through the melting snow crust, and
wallowed, while the snowshoe rabbits had skimmed along on top
lightly 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 slubberings.
His mate warned him irritably away, and he curled up and slept in
the entrance. When morning came and a dim light pervaded the lair,
he again sought after the source of the remotely familiar sounds.
There was a new note in his mate's warning snarl. It was a jealous
note, and he was very careful in keeping a respectful distance.
Nevertheless, he made out, sheltering between her legs against the
length of her body, five strange little bundles of life, very
feeble, very helpless, making tiny whimpering noises, with eyes
that did not open to the light. He was surprised. It was not the
first time in his long and successful life that this thing had
happened. It had happened many times, yet each time it was as
fresh a surprise as ever to him.
His mate looked at him anxiously. Every little while she emitted a
low growl, and at times, when it seemed to her he approached too
near, the growl shot up in her throat to a sharp snarl. Of her own
experience she had no memory of the thing happening; but in her
instinct, which was the experience of all the mothers of wolves,
there lurked a memory of fathers that had eaten their new-born and
helpless progeny. It manifested itself as a fear strong within
her, that made her prevent One Eye from more closely inspecting the
cubs he had fathered.
But there was no danger. Old One Eye was feeling the urge of an
impulse, that was, in turn, an instinct that had come down to him
from all the fathers of wolves. He did not question it, nor puzzle
over it. It was there, in the fibre of his being; and it was the
most natural thing in the world that he should obey it by turning
his back on his new-born family and by trotting out and away on the
meat-trail whereby he 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 backtrack,
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
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 of
Half an hour passed, an hour; and nothing happened. The balls of
quills might have been a stone for all it moved; the lynx might
have been frozen to marble; and old One Eye might have been dead.
Yet all three animals were keyed to a tenseness of living that was
almost painful, and scarcely ever would it come to them to be more
alive than they were then in their seeming petrifaction.
One Eye moved slightly and peered forth with increased eagerness.
Something was happening. The porcupine had at last decided that
its enemy had gone away. Slowly, cautiously, it was unrolling its
ball of impregnable armour. It was agitated by no tremor of
anticipation. Slowly, slowly, the bristling ball straightened out
and lengthened. One Eye watching, felt a sudden moistness in his
mouth and a drooling of saliva, involuntary, excited by the living
meat that was spreading itself like a repast before him.
Not quite entirely had the porcupine unrolled when it discovered
its enemy. In that instant the lynx struck. The blow was like a
flash of light. The paw, with rigid claws curving like talons,
shot under the tender belly and came back with a swift ripping
movement. Had the porcupine been entirely unrolled, or had it not
discovered its enemy a fraction of a second before the blow was
struck, the paw would have escaped unscathed; but a side-flick of
the tail sank sharp quills into it as it was 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 pincushion.
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 bleeding profusely.
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
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 wolffather
should, and manifesting no unholy desire to devour the young
lives she had brought into the world.
He was different from his brothers and sisters. Their hair already
betrayed the reddish hue inherited from their mother, the she-wolf;
while he alone, in this particular, took after his father. He was
the one little grey cub of the litter. He had bred true to the
straight wolf-stock - in fact, he had bred true to old One Eye
himself, physically, with but a single exception, and that was he
had two eyes to his father's one.
The grey cub's eyes had not been open long, yet already he could
see with steady clearness. And while his eyes were still closed,
he had felt, tasted, and smelled. He knew his two brothers and his
two sisters very well. He had begun to romp with them in a feeble,
awkward way, and even to squabble, his little throat vibrating with
a queer rasping noise (the forerunner of the growl), as he worked
himself into a passion. And long before his eyes had opened he had
learned by touch, taste, and smell to know his mother - a fount of
warmth and liquid food and tenderness. She possessed a gentle,
caressing tongue that soothed him when it passed over his soft
little body, and that impelled him to snuggle close against her and
to doze off to sleep.
Most of the first month of his life had been passed thus in
sleeping; but now he could see quite well, and he stayed awake for
longer periods of time, and he was coming to learn his world quite
well. His world was gloomy; but he did not know that, for he knew
no other world. It was dim-lighted; but his eyes had never had to
adjust themselves to any other light. His world was very small.
Its limits were the walls of the lair; but as he had no knowledge
of the wide world outside, he was never oppressed by the narrow
confines of his existence.
But he had early discovered that one wall of his world was
different from the rest. This was the mouth of the cave and the
source of light. He had discovered that it was different from the
other walls long before he had any thoughts of his own, any
conscious volitions. It had been an irresistible attraction before
ever his eyes opened and looked upon it. The light from it had
beat upon his sealed lids, and the eyes and the optic nerves had
pulsated to little, sparklike flashes, warm-coloured and strangely
pleasing. The life of his body, and of every fibre of his body,
the life that was the very substance of his body and that was apart
from his own personal life, had yearned toward this light and urged
his body toward it in the same way that the cunning chemistry of a
plant urges it toward the sun.
Always, in the beginning, before his conscious life dawned, he had
crawled toward the mouth of the cave. And in this his brothers and
sisters were one with him. Never, in that period, did any of them
crawl toward the dark corners of the back-wall. The light drew
them as if they were plants; the chemistry of the life that
composed them demanded the light as a necessity of being; and their
little puppet-bodies crawled blindly and chemically, like the
tendrils of a vine. Later on, when each developed individuality
and became personally conscious of impulsions and desires, the
attraction of the light increased. They were always crawling and
sprawling toward it, and being driven back from it by their mother.
It was in this way that the grey cub learned other attributes of
his mother than the soft, soothing, tongue. In his insistent
crawling toward the light, he discovered in her a nose that with a
sharp nudge administered rebuke, and later, a paw, that crushed him
down and rolled him over and over with swift, calculating stroke.
Thus he learned hurt; and on top of it he learned to avoid hurt,
first, by not incurring the risk of it; and second, when he had
incurred the risk, by dodging and by retreating. These were
conscious actions, and were the results of his first
generalisations upon the world. Before that he had recoiled
automatically from hurt, as he had crawled automatically toward the
light. After that he recoiled from hurt because he KNEW that it
was hurt.
He was a fierce little cub. So were his brothers and sisters. It
was to be expected. He was a carnivorous animal. He came of a
breed of meat-killers and meat-eaters. His father and mother lived
wholly upon meat. The milk he had sucked with his first flickering
life, was milk transformed directly from meat, and now, at a month
old, when his eyes had been open for but a week, he was beginning
himself to eat meat - meat half-digested by the she-wolf and
disgorged for the five growing cubs that already made too great
demand upon her breast.
But he was, further, the fiercest of the litter. He could make a
louder rasping growl than any of them. His tiny rages were much
more terrible than theirs. It was he that first learned the trick
of rolling a fellow-cub over with a cunning paw-stroke. And it was
he that first gripped another cub by the ear and pulled and tugged
and growled through jaws tight-clenched. And certainly it was he
that caused the mother the most trouble in keeping her litter from
the mouth of the 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 halfdigested
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-up.
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
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
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 cavelife,
had he encountered anything of which to be afraid. Yet fear
was in him. It had come down to him from a remote ancestry through
a thousand thousand lives. It was a heritage he had received
directly from One Eye and the she-wolf; but to them, in turn, it
had been passed down through all the generations of wolves that had
gone before. Fear! - that legacy of the Wild which no animal may
escape nor exchange for pottage.
So the grey cub knew fear, though he knew not the stuff of which
fear was made. Possibly he accepted it as one of the restrictions
of life. For he had already learned that there were such
restrictions. Hunger he had known; and when he could not appease
his hunger he had felt restriction. The hard obstruction of the
cave-wall, the sharp nudge of his mother's nose, the smashing
stroke of her paw, the hunger unappeased of several famines, had
borne in upon him that all was not freedom in the world, that to
life there was limitations and restraints. These limitations and
restraints were laws. To be obedient to them was to escape hurt
and make for happiness.
He did not reason the question out in this man fashion. He merely
classified the things that hurt and the things that did not hurt.
And after such classification he avoided the things that hurt, the
restrictions and restraints, in order to enjoy the satisfactions
and the remunerations of life.
Thus it was that in obedience to the law laid down by his mother,
and in obedience to the law of that unknown and nameless thing,
fear, he kept away from the mouth of the cave. It remained to him
a white wall of light. When his mother was absent, he slept most
of the time, while during the intervals that he was awake he kept
very quiet, suppressing the whimpering cries that tickled in his
throat and strove for noise.
Once, lying awake, he heard a strange sound in the white wall. He
did not know that it was a wolverine, standing outside, all atrembling
with its own daring, and cautiously scenting out the
contents of the cave. The cub knew only that the sniff was
strange, a something unclassified, therefore unknown and terrible -
for the unknown was one of the chief elements that went into the
making of fear.
The hair bristled upon the grey cub's back, but it bristled
silently. How was he to know that this thing that sniffed was a
thing at which to bristle? It was not born of any knowledge of
his, yet it was the visible expression of the fear that was in him,
and for which, in his own life, there was no accounting. But fear
was accompanied by another instinct - that of concealment. The cub
was in a frenzy of terror, yet he lay without movement or sound,
frozen, petrified into immobility, to all appearances dead. His
mother, coming home, growled as she smelt the wolverine's track,
and bounded into the cave and licked and nozzled him with undue
vehemence of affection. And the cub felt that somehow he had
escaped a great hurt.
But there were other forces at work in the cub, the greatest of
which was growth. Instinct and law demanded of him obedience. But
growth demanded disobedience. His mother and fear impelled him to
keep away from the white wall. Growth is life, and life is for
ever destined to make for light. So there was no damming up the
tide of life that was rising within him - rising with every
mouthful of meat he swallowed, with every breath he drew. In the
end, one day, fear and obedience were swept away by the rush of
life, and the cub straddled and sprawled toward the entrance.
Unlike any other wall with which he had had experience, this wall
seemed to recede from him as he approached. No hard surface
collided with the tender little nose he thrust out tentatively
before him. The substance of the wall seemed as permeable and
yielding as light. And as condition, in his eyes, had the seeming
of form, so he entered into what had been wall to him and bathed in
the substance that composed it.
It was bewildering. He was sprawling through solidity. And ever
the light grew brighter. Fear urged him to go back, but growth
drove him on. Suddenly he found himself at the mouth of the cave.
The wall, inside which he had thought himself, as suddenly leaped
back before him to an immeasurable distance. The light had become
painfully bright. He was dazzled by it. Likewise he was made
dizzy by this abrupt and tremendous extension of space.
Automatically, his eyes were adjusting themselves to the
brightness, focusing themselves to meet the increased distance of
objects. At first, the wall had leaped beyond his vision. He now
saw it again; but it had taken upon itself a remarkable remoteness.
Also, its appearance had changed. It was now a variegated wall,
composed of the trees that fringed the stream, the opposing
mountain that towered above the trees, and the sky that out-towered
the 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 mossberry
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
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
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 him.
While he lay in the bush, recovering from his fright and peering
fearfully out, the mother-ptarmigan on the other side of the open
space fluttered out of the ravaged nest. It was because of her
loss that she paid no attention to the winged bolt of the sky. But
the cub saw, and it was a warning and a lesson to him - the swift
downward swoop of the hawk, the short skim of its body just above
the ground, the strike of its talons in the body of the ptarmigan,
the ptarmigan's squawk of agony and fright, and the hawk's rush
upward into the blue, carrying the ptarmigan away with it,
It was a long time before the cub left its shelter. He had learned
much. Live things were meat. They were good to eat. Also, live
things when they were large enough, could give hurt. It was better
to eat small live things like ptarmigan chicks, and to let alone
large live things like ptarmigan hens. Nevertheless he felt a
little prick of ambition, a sneaking desire to have another battle
with that ptarmigan hen - only the hawk had carried her away. May
be there were other ptarmigan hens. He would go and see.
He came down a shelving bank to the stream. He had never seen
water before. The footing looked good. There were no inequalities
of surface. He stepped boldly out on it; and went down, crying
with fear, into the embrace of the unknown. It was cold, and he
gasped, breathing quickly. The water rushed into his lungs instead
of the air that had always accompanied his act of breathing. The
suffocation he experienced was like the pang of death. To him it
signified death. He had no conscious knowledge of death, but like
every animal of the Wild, he possessed the instinct of death. To
him it stood as the greatest of hurts. It was the very essence of
the unknown; it was the sum of the terrors of the unknown, the one
culminating and unthinkable catastrophe that could happen to him,
about which he knew nothing and about which he feared everything.
He came to the surface, and the sweet air rushed into his open
mouth. He did not go down again. Quite as though it had been a
long-established custom of his he struck out with all his legs and
began to swim. The near bank was a yard away; but he had come up
with his back to it, and the first thing his eyes rested upon was
the opposite bank, toward which he immediately began to swim. The
stream was a small one, but in the pool it widened out to a score
of feet.
Midway in the passage, the current picked up the cub and swept him
downstream. He was caught in the miniature rapid at the bottom of
the pool. Here was little chance for swimming. The quiet water
had become suddenly angry. Sometimes he was under, sometimes on
top. At all times he was in violent motion, now being turned over
or around, and again, being smashed against a rock. And with every
rock he struck, he yelped. His progress was a series of yelps,
from which might have been adduced the number of rocks he
Below the rapid was a second pool, and here, captured by the eddy,
he was gently borne to the bank, and as gently deposited on a bed
of gravel. He crawled frantically clear of the water and lay down.
He had learned some more about the world. Water was not alive.
Yet it moved. Also, it looked as solid as the earth, but was
without any solidity at all. His conclusion was that things were
not always what they appeared to be. The cub's fear of the unknown
was an inherited distrust, and it had now been strengthened by
experience. Thenceforth, in the nature of things, he would possess
an abiding distrust of appearances. He would have to learn the
reality of a thing before he could put his faith into it.
One other adventure was destined for him that day. He had
recollected that there was such a thing in the world as his mother.
And then there came to him a feeling that he wanted her more than
all the rest of the things in the world. Not only was his body
tired with the adventures it had undergone, but his little brain
was equally tired. In all the days he had lived it had not worked
so hard as on this one day. Furthermore, he was sleepy. So he
started out to look for the cave and his mother, feeling at the
same time an overwhelming rush of loneliness and helplessness.
He was sprawling along between some bushes, when he heard a sharp
intimidating cry. There was a flash of yellow before his eyes. He
saw a weasel leaping swiftly away from him. It was a small live
thing, and he had no fear. Then, before him, at his feet, he saw
an extremely small live thing, only several inches long, a young
weasel, that, like himself, had disobediently gone out adventuring.
It tried to retreat before him. He turned it over with his paw.
It made a queer, grating noise. The next moment the flash of
yellow reappeared before his eyes. He heard again the intimidating
cry, and at the same instant received a sharp blow on the side of
the neck and felt the sharp teeth of the mother-weasel cut into his
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
He was still whimpering when the mother-weasel reappeared. She did
not rush him, now that her young one was safe. She approached more
cautiously, and the cub had full opportunity to observe her lean,
snakelike body, and her head, erect, eager, and snake-like itself.
Her sharp, menacing cry sent the hair bristling along his back, and
he snarled warningly at her. She came closer and closer. There
was a leap, swifter than his unpractised sight, and the lean,
yellow body disappeared for a moment out of the field of his
vision. The next moment she was at his throat, her teeth buried in
his hair and flesh.
At first he snarled and tried to fight; but he was very young, and
this was only his first day in the world, and his snarl became a
whimper, his fight a struggle to escape. The weasel never relaxed
her hold. She hung on, striving to press down with her teeth to
the great vein were his life-blood bubbled. The weasel was a
drinker of blood, and it was ever her preference to drink from the
throat of life itself.
The grey cub would have died, and there would have been no story to
write about him, had not the she-wolf come bounding through the
bushes. The weasel let go the cub and flashed at the she-wolf's
throat, missing, but getting a hold on the jaw instead. The shewolf
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.
The cub's development was rapid. He rested for two days, and then
ventured forth from the cave again. It was on this adventure that
he found the young weasel whose mother he had helped eat, and he
saw to it that the young weasel went the way of its mother. But on
this trip he did not get lost. When he grew tired, he found his
way back to the cave and slept. And every day thereafter found him
out and ranging a wider area.
He began to get accurate measurement of his strength and his
weakness, and to know when to be bold and when to be cautious. He
found it expedient to be cautious all the time, except for the rare
moments, when, assured of his own intrepidity, he abandoned himself
to petty rages and lusts.
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 lynxmother.
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 nonkillers
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
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 of himself.
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, twolegged
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
The other Indians laughed loudly, and urged the man on to pick up
the cub. As the hand descended closer and closer, there raged
within the cub a battle of the instincts. He experienced two great
impulsions - to yield and to fight. The resulting action was a
compromise. He did both. He yielded till the hand almost touched
him. Then he fought, his teeth flashing in a snap that sank them
into the hand. The next moment he received a clout alongside the
head that knocked him over on his side. Then all fight fled out of
him. His puppyhood and the instinct of submission took charge of
him. He sat up on his haunches and ki-yi'd. But the man whose
hand he had bitten was angry. The cub received a clout on the
other side of his head. Whereupon he sat up and ki-yi'd louder
than ever.
The four Indians laughed more loudly, while even the man who had
been bitten began to laugh. They surrounded the cub and laughed at
him, while he wailed out his terror and his hurt. In the midst of
it, he heard something. The Indians heard it too. But the cub
knew what it was, and with a last, long wail that had in it more of
triumph than grief, he ceased his noise and waited for the coming
of his mother, of his ferocious and indomitable mother who fought
and killed all things and was never afraid. She was snarling as
she ran. She had heard the cry of her cub and was dashing to save
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
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
And then the cub saw his mother, the she-wolf, the fearless one,
crouching down till her belly touched the ground, whimpering,
wagging her tail, making peace signs. The cub could not
understand. He was appalled. The awe of man rushed over him
again. His instinct had been true. His mother verified it. She,
too, rendered submission to the man-animals.
The man who had spoken came over to her. He put his hand upon her
head, and she only crouched closer. She did not snap, nor threaten
to snap. The other men came up, and surrounded her, and felt her,
and pawed her, which actions she made no attempt to resent. They
were greatly excited, and made many noises with their mouths.
These noises were not indication of danger, the cub decided, as he
crouched near his mother still bristling from time to time but
doing his best to 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
"It is not strange, Salmon Tongue," Grey Beaver answered. "It was
the time of the famine, and there was no meat for the dogs."
"She has lived with the wolves," said a third Indian.
"So it would seem, Three Eagles," Grey Beaver answered, lying his
hand on the cub; "and this be the sign of it."
The cub snarled a little at the touch of the hand, and the hand
flew back to administer a clout. Whereupon the cub covered its
fangs, and sank down submissively, while the hand, returning,
rubbed behind his ears, and up and down his back.
"This be the sign of it," Grey Beaver went on. "It is plain that
his mother is Kiche. But this father was a wolf. Wherefore is
there in him little dog and much wolf. His fangs be white, and
White Fang shall be his name. I have spoken. He is my dog. For
was not Kiche my brother's dog? And is not my brother 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 mouthnoises.
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 mananimal
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 mananimals,
and he knew them for what they were - makers of law and
executors of law. Also, he appreciated the power with which they
administered the law. Unlike any animals he had ever encountered,
they did not bite nor claw. They enforced their live strength with
the power of dead things. Dead things did their bidding. Thus,
sticks and stones, directed by these strange creatures, leaped
through the air like living things, inflicting grievous hurts upon
the dogs.
To his mind this was power unusual, power inconceivable and beyond
the natural, power that was godlike. White Fang, in the very
nature of him, could never know anything about gods; at the best he
could know only things that were beyond knowing - but the wonder
and awe that he had of these man-animals in ways resembled what
would be the wonder and awe of man at sight of some celestial
creature, on a mountain top, hurling thunderbolts from either hand
at an astonished world.
The last dog had been driven back. The hubbub died down. And
White Fang licked his hurts and meditated upon this, his first
taste of pack-cruelty and his introduction to the pack. He had
never dreamed that his own kind consisted of more than One Eye, his
mother, and himself. They had constituted a kind apart, and here,
abruptly, he had discovered many more creatures apparently of his
own kind. And there was a subconscious resentment that these, his
kind, at first sight had pitched upon him and tried to destroy him.
In the same way he resented his mother being tied with a stick,
even though it was done by the superior man-animals. It savoured
of the trap, of bondage. Yet of the trap and of bondage he knew
nothing. Freedom to roam and run and lie down at will, had been
his heritage; and here it was being infringed upon. His mother's
movements were restricted to the length of a stick, and by the
length of that same stick was he restricted, for he had not yet got
beyond the need of his mother's side.
He did not like it. Nor did he like it when the man-animals arose
and went on with their march; for a tiny man-animal took the other
end of the stick and led Kiche captive behind him, and behind Kiche
followed White Fang, greatly perturbed and worried by this new
adventure he had entered upon.
They went down the valley of the stream, far beyond White Fang's
widest ranging, until they came to the end of the valley, where the
stream ran into the Mackenzie River. Here, where canoes were
cached on poles high in the air and where stood fish-racks for the
drying of fish, camp was made; and White Fang looked on with
wondering eyes. The superiority of these man-animals increased
with every moment. There was their mastery over all these sharpfanged
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 quickgrowing
form of life. They occupied nearly the whole circumference
of his field of vision. He was afraid of them. They loomed
ominously above him; and when the breeze stirred them into huge
movements, he cowered down in fear, keeping his eyes warily upon
them, and prepared to spring away if they attempted to precipitate
themselves upon him.
But in a short while his fear of the tepees passed away. He saw
the women and children passing in and out of them without harm, and
he saw the dogs trying often to get into them, and being driven
away with sharp words and flying stones. After a time, he left
Kiche's side and crawled cautiously toward the wall of the nearest
tepee. It was the curiosity of growth that urged him on - the
necessity of learning and living and doing that brings experience.
The last few inches to the wall of the tepee were crawled with
painful slowness and precaution. The day's events had prepared him
for the unknown to manifest itself in most stupendous and
unthinkable ways. At last his nose touched the canvas. He waited.
Nothing happened. Then he smelled the strange fabric, saturated
with the man-smell. He closed on the canvas with his teeth and
gave a gentle tug. Nothing happened, though the adjacent portions
of the tepee moved. He tugged harder. There was a greater
movement. It was delightful. He tugged still harder, and
repeatedly, until the whole tepee was in motion. Then the sharp
cry of a squaw inside sent him scampering back to Kiche. But after
that he was afraid no more of the looming bulks of the tepees.
A moment later he was straying away again from his mother. Her
stick was tied to a peg in the ground and she could not follow him.
A part-grown puppy, somewhat larger and older than he, came toward
him slowly, with ostentatious and belligerent importance. The
puppy's name, as White Fang was afterward to hear him called, was
Lip-lip. He had had experience in puppy fights and was already
something of a bully.
Lip-lip was White Fang's own kind, and, being only a puppy, did not
seem dangerous; so White Fang prepared to meet him in a friendly
spirit. But when the strangers walk became stiff-legged and his
lips lifted clear of his teeth, White Fang stiffened too, and
answered with lifted lips. They half circled about each other,
tentatively, snarling and bristling. This lasted several minutes,
and White Fang was beginning to enjoy it, as a sort of game. But
suddenly, with remarkable swiftness, Lip-lip leaped in, delivering
a slashing snap, and leaped away again. The snap had taken effect
on the shoulder that had been hurt by the lynx and that was still
sore deep down near the bone. The surprise and hurt of it brought
a yelp out of White Fang; but the next moment, in a rush of anger,
he was upon Lip-lip and snapping viciously.
But Lip-hp had lived his life in camp and had fought many puppy
fights. Three times, four times, and half a dozen times, his sharp
little teeth scored on the newcomer, until White Fang, yelping
shamelessly, fled to the protection of his mother. It was the
first of the many fights he was to have with Lip-lip, for they were
enemies from the start, born so, with natures destined perpetually
to 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 kiyi'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 kiyi'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
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
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 god-likeness.
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 fangs.
When at last he succeeded in rolling clear of her, he crawled to
his feet, badly dishevelled, hurt both in body and in spirit. His
hair was standing out all over him in tufts where her teeth had
mauled. He stood where he had arisen, opened his mouth, and broke
out the long, heart-broken puppy wail. But even this he was not
allowed to complete. In the middle of it, White Fang, rushing in,
sank his teeth into Lip-lip's hind leg. There was no fight left in
Lip-lip, and he ran away shamelessly, his victim hot on his heels
and worrying him all the way back to his own tepee. Here the
squaws came to his aid, and White Fang, transformed into a raging
demon, was finally driven off only by a fusillade of 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 alone.
Later on that day, Kiche and White Fang strayed into the edge of
the woods next to the camp. He had led his mother there, step by
step, and now when she stopped, he tried to inveigle her farther.
The stream, the lair, and the quiet woods were calling to him, and
he wanted her to come. He ran on a few steps, stopped, and looked
back. She had not moved. He whined pleadingly, and scurried
playfully in and out of the underbrush. He ran back to her, licked
her face, and ran on again. And still she did not move. He
stopped and regarded her, all of an intentness and eagerness,
physically expressed, that slowly faded out of him as she turned
her head and gazed back at the camp.
There was something calling to him out there in the open. His
mother heard it too. But she heard also that other and louder
call, the call of the fire and of man - the call which has been
given alone of all animals to the wolf to answer, to the wolf and
the wild-dog, who are brothers.
Kiche turned and slowly trotted back toward camp. Stronger than
the physical restraint of the stick was the clutch of the camp upon
her. Unseen and occultly, the gods still gripped with their power
and would not let her go. White Fang sat down in the shadow of a
birch and whimpered softly. There was a strong smell of pine, and
subtle wood fragrances filled the air, reminding him of his old
life of freedom before the days of his bondage. But he was still
only a part-grown puppy, and stronger than the call either of man
or of the Wild was the call of his mother. All the hours of his
short life he had depended upon her. The time was yet to come for
independence. So he arose and trotted forlornly back to camp,
pausing once, and twice, to sit down and whimper and to listen to
the call that still sounded in the depths of the 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 punishment.
At last Grey Beaver withheld his hand. White Fang, hanging limply,
continued to cry. This seemed to satisfy his master, who flung him
down roughly in the bottom of the canoe. In the meantime the canoe
had drifted down the stream. Grey Beaver picked up the paddle.
White Fang was in his way. He spurned him savagely with his foot.
In that moment White Fang's free nature flashed forth again, and he
sank his teeth into the moccasined foot.
The beating that had gone before was as nothing compared with the
beating he now received. Grey Beaver's wrath was terrible;
likewise was White Fang's fright. Not only the hand, but the hard
wooden paddle was used upon him; and he was bruised and sore in all
his small body when he was again flung down in the canoe. Again,
and this time with purpose, did Grey Beaver kick him. White Fang
did not repeat his attack on the foot. He had learned another
lesson of his bondage. Never, no matter what the circumstance,
must he dare to bite the god who was lord and master over him; the
body of the lord and master was sacred, not to be defiled by the
teeth of such as he. That was evidently the crime of crimes, the
one offence there was no condoning nor overlooking.
When the canoe touched the shore, White Fang lay whimpering and
motionless, waiting the will of Grey Beaver. It was Grey Beaver's
will that he should go ashore, for ashore he was flung, striking
heavily on his side and hurting his bruises afresh. He crawled
tremblingly to his feet and stood whimpering. Lip-lip, who had
watched the whole proceeding from the bank, now rushed upon him,
knocking him over and sinking his teeth into him. White Fang was
too helpless to defend himself, and it would have gone hard with
him had not Grey Beaver's foot shot out, lifting Lip-lip into the
air with its violence so that he smashed down to earth a dozen feet
away. This was the man-animal's justice; and even then, in his own
pitiable plight, White Fang experienced a little grateful thrill.
At Grey Beaver's heels he limped obediently through the village to
the tepee. And so it came that White Fang learned that the right
to punish was something the gods reserved for themselves and denied
to the lesser creatures under them.
That night, when all was still, White Fang remembered his mother
and sorrowed for her. He sorrowed too loudly and woke up Grey
Beaver, who beat him. After that he mourned gently when the gods
were around. But sometimes, straying off to the edge of the woods
by himself, he gave vent to his grief, and cried it out with loud
whimperings and wailings.
It was during this period that he might have harkened to the
memories of the lair and the stream and run back to the Wild. But
the memory of his mother held him. As the hunting man-animals went
out and came back, so she would come back to the village some time.
So he remained in his bondage waiting for her.
But it was not altogether an unhappy bondage. There was much to
interest him. Something was always happening. There was no end to
the strange things these gods did, and he was always curious to
see. Besides, he was learning how to get along with Grey Beaver.
Obedience, rigid, undeviating obedience, was what was exacted of
him; and in return he escaped beatings and his existence was
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
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
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 end.
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 catlike
in his ability to stay on his feet. Even grown dogs might
hurtle him backward or sideways with the impact of their heavy
bodies; and backward or sideways he would go, in the air or sliding
on the ground, but always with his legs under him and his feet
downward to the mother earth.
When dogs fight, there are usually preliminaries to the actual
combat - snarlings and bristlings and stiff-legged struttings. But
White Fang learned to omit these preliminaries. Delay meant the
coming against him of all the young dogs. He must do his work
quickly and get away. So he learnt to give no warning of his
intention. He rushed in and snapped and slashed on the instant,
without notice, before his foe could prepare to meet him. Thus he
learned how to inflict quick and severe damage. Also he learned
the value of surprise. A dog, taken off its guard, its shoulder
slashed open or its ear ripped in ribbons before it knew what was
happening, was a dog half whipped.
Furthermore, it was remarkably easy to overthrow a dog taken by
surprise; while a dog, thus overthrown, invariably exposed for a
moment the soft underside of its neck - the vulnerable point at
which to strike for its life. White Fang knew this point. It was
a knowledge bequeathed to him directly from the hunting generation
of wolves. So it was that White Fang's method when he took the
offensive, was: first to find a young dog alone; second, to
surprise it and knock it off its feet; and third, to drive in with
his teeth at the soft throat.
Being but partly grown his jaws had not yet become large enough nor
strong enough to make his throat-attack deadly; but many a young
dog went around camp with a lacerated throat in token of White
Fang's intention. And one day, catching one of his enemies alone
on the edge of the woods, he managed, by repeatedly overthrowing
him and attacking the throat, to cut the great vein and let out the
life. There was a great row that night. He had been observed, the
news had been carried to the dead dog's master, the squaws
remembered all the instances of stolen meat, and Grey Beaver was
beset by many angry voices. But he resolutely held the door of his
tepee, inside which he had placed the culprit, and refused to
permit the vengeance for which his tribespeople clamoured.
White Fang became hated by man and dog. During this period of his
development he never knew a moment's security. The tooth of every
dog was against him, the hand of every man. He was greeted with
snarls by his kind, with curses and stones by his gods. He lived
tensely. He was always keyed up, alert for attack, wary of being
attacked, with an eye for sudden and unexpected missiles, prepared
to act precipitately and coolly, to leap in with a flash of teeth,
or to leap away with a menacing snarl.
As for snarling he could snarl more terribly than any dog, young or
old, in camp. The intent of the snarl is to warn or frighten, and
judgment is required to know when it should be used. White Fang
knew how to make it and when to make it. Into his snarl he
incorporated all that was vicious, malignant, and horrible. With
nose serrulated by continuous spasms, hair bristling in recurrent
waves, tongue whipping out like a red snake and whipping back
again, ears flattened down, eyes gleaming hatred, lips wrinkled
back, and fangs exposed and dripping, he could compel a pause on
the part of almost any assailant. A temporary pause, when taken
off his guard, gave him the vital moment in which to think and
determine his action. But often a pause so gained lengthened out
until it evolved into a complete cessation from the attack. And
before more than one of the grown dogs White Fang's snarl enabled
him to beat an honourable retreat.
An outcast himself from the pack of the part-grown dogs, his
sanguinary methods and remarkable efficiency made the pack pay for
its persecution of him. Not permitted himself to run with the
pack, the curious state of affairs obtained that no member of the
pack could run outside the pack. White Fang would not permit it.
What of his bushwhacking and waylaying tactics, the young dogs were
afraid to run by themselves. With the exception of Lip-lip, they
were compelled to hunch together for mutual protection against the
terrible enemy they had made. A puppy alone by the river bank
meant a puppy dead or a puppy that aroused the camp with its shrill
pain and terror as it fled back from the wolf-cub that had waylaid
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 him.
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 himself.
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
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
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
All night he ran, blundering in the darkness into mishaps and
obstacles that delayed but did not daunt. By the middle of the
second day he had been running continuously for thirty hours, and
the iron of his flesh was giving out. It was the endurance of his
mind that kept him going. He had not eaten in forty hours, and he
was weak with hunger. The repeated drenchings in the icy water had
likewise had their effect on him. His handsome coat was draggled.
The broad pads of his feet were bruised and bleeding. He had begun
to limp, and this limp increased with the hours. To make it worse,
the light of the sky was obscured and snow began to fall - a raw,
moist, melting, clinging snow, slippery under foot, that hid from
him the landscape he traversed, and that covered over the
inequalities of the ground so that the way of his feet was more
difficult and painful.
Grey Beaver had intended camping that night on the far bank of the
Mackenzie, for it was in that direction that the hunting lay. But
on the near bank, shortly before dark, a moose coming down to
drink, had been espied by Kloo-kooch, who was Grey Beaver's squaw.
Now, had not the moose come down to drink, had not Mit-sah been
steering out of the course because of the snow, had not Kloo-kooch
sighted the moose, and had not Grey Beaver killed it with a lucky
shot from his rifle, all subsequent things would have happened
differently. Grey Beaver would not have camped on the near side of
the Mackenzie, and White Fang would have passed by and gone on,
either to die or to find his way to his wild brothers and become
one of them - a wolf to the end of his days.
Night had fallen. The snow was flying more thickly, and White
Fang, whimpering softly to himself as he stumbled and limped along,
came upon a fresh trail in the snow. So fresh was it that he knew
it immediately for what it was. Whining with eagerness, he
followed back from the river bank and in among the trees. The
camp-sounds came to his ears. He saw the blaze of the fire, Klookooch
cooking, and Grey Beaver squatting on his hams and mumbling a
chunk of raw tallow. There was fresh meat in camp!
White Fang expected a beating. He crouched and bristled a little
at the thought of it. Then he went forward again. He feared and
disliked the beating he knew to be waiting for him. But he knew,
further, that the comfort of the fire would be his, the protection
of the gods, the companionship of the dogs - the last, a
companionship of enmity, but none the less a companionship and
satisfying to his gregarious needs.
He came cringing and crawling into the firelight. Grey Beaver saw
him, and stopped munching the tallow. White Fang crawled slowly,
cringing and grovelling in the abjectness of his abasement and
submission. He crawled straight toward Grey Beaver, every inch of
his progress becoming slower and more painful. At last he lay at
the master's feet, into whose possession he now surrendered
himself, voluntarily, body and soul. Of his own choice, he came in
to sit by man's fire and to be ruled by him. White Fang trembled,
waiting for the punishment to fall upon him. There was a movement
of the hand above him. He cringed involuntarily under the expected
blow. It did not fall. He stole a glance upward. Grey Beaver was
breaking the lump of tallow in half! Grey Beaver was offering him
one piece of the tallow! Very gently and somewhat suspiciously, he
first smelled the tallow and then proceeded to eat it. Grey Beaver
ordered meat to be brought to him, and guarded him from the other
dogs while he ate. After that, grateful and content, White Fang
lay at Grey Beaver's feet, gazing at the fire that warmed him,
blinking and dozing, secure in the knowledge that the morrow would
find him, not wandering forlorn through bleak forest-stretches, but
in the camp of the man-animals, with the gods to whom he had given
himself and upon whom he was now dependent.
When December was well along, Grey Beaver went on a journey up the
Mackenzie. Mit-sah and Kloo-kooch went with him. One sled he
drove himself, drawn by dogs he had traded for or borrowed. A
second and smaller sled was driven by Mit-sah, and to this was
harnessed a team of puppies. It was more of a toy affair than
anything else, yet it was the delight of Mit-sah, who felt that he
was beginning to do a man's work in the world. Also, he was
learning to drive dogs and to train dogs; while the puppies
themselves were being broken in to the harness. Furthermore, the
sled was of some service, for it carried nearly two hundred pounds
of outfit and food.
White Fang had seen the camp-dogs toiling in the harness, so that
he did not resent overmuch the first placing of the harness upon
himself. About his neck was put a moss-stuffed collar, which was
connected by two pulling-traces to a strap that passed around his
chest and over his back. It was to this that was fastened the long
rope by which he pulled at the sled.
There were seven puppies in the team. The others had been born
earlier in the year and were nine and ten months old, while White
Fang was only eight months old. Each dog was fastened to the sled
by a single rope. No two ropes were of the same length, while the
difference in length between any two ropes was at least that of a
dog's body. Every rope was brought to a ring at the front end of
the sled. The sled itself was without runners, being a birch-bark
toboggan, with upturned forward end to keep it from ploughing under
the snow. This construction enabled the weight of the sled and
load to be distributed over the largest snow-surface; for the snow
was crystal-powder and very soft. Observing the same principle of
widest distribution of weight, the dogs at the ends of their ropes
radiated fan-fashion from the nose of the sled, so that no dog trod
in another's footsteps.
There was, furthermore, another virtue in the fan-formation. The
ropes of varying length prevented the dogs attacking from the rear
those that ran in front of them. For a dog to attack another, it
would have to turn upon one at a shorter rope. In which case it
would find itself face to face with the dog attacked, and also it
would find itself facing the whip of the driver. But the most
peculiar virtue of all lay in the fact that the dog that strove to
attack one in front of him must pull the sled faster, and that the
faster the sled travelled, the faster could the dog attacked run
away. Thus, the dog behind could never catch up with the one in
front. The faster he ran, the faster ran the one he was after, and
the faster ran all the dogs. Incidentally, the sled went faster,
and thus, by cunning indirection, did man increase his mastery over
the beasts.
Mit-sah resembled his father, much of whose grey wisdom he
possessed. In the past he had observed Lip-lip's persecution of
White Fang; but at that time Lip-lip was another man's dog, and
Mit-sah had never dared more than to shy an occasional stone at
him. But now Lip-lip was his dog, and he proceeded to wreak his
vengeance on him by putting him at the end of the longest rope.
This made Lip-lip the leader, and was apparently an honour! but in
reality it took away from him all honour, and instead of being
bully and master of the pack, he now found himself hated and
persecuted by the pack.
Because he ran at the end of the longest rope, the dogs had always
the view of him running away before them. All that they saw of him
was his bushy tail and fleeing hind legs - a view far less
ferocious and intimidating than his bristling mane and gleaming
fangs. Also, dogs being so constituted in their mental ways, the
sight of him running away gave desire to run after him and a
feeling that he ran away from them.
The moment the sled started, the team took after Lip-lip in a chase
that extended throughout the day. At first he had been prone to
turn upon his pursuers, jealous of his dignity and wrathful; but at
such times Mit-sah would throw the stinging lash of the thirty-foot
cariboo-gut whip into his face and compel him to turn tail and run
on. Lip-lip might face the pack, but he could not face that whip,
and all that was left him to do was to keep his long rope taut and
his flanks ahead of the teeth of his mates.
But a still greater cunning lurked in the recesses of the Indian
mind. To give point to unending pursuit of the leader, Mit-sah
favoured him over the other dogs. These favours aroused in them
jealousy and hatred. In their presence Mit-sah would give him meat
and would give it to him only. This was maddening to them. They
would rage around just outside the throwing-distance of the whip,
while Lip-lip devoured the meat and Mit-sah protected him. And
when there was no meat to give, Mit-sah would keep the team at a
distance and make believe to give meat to Lip-lip.
White Fang took kindly to the work. He had travelled a greater
distance than the other dogs in the yielding of himself to the rule
of the gods, and he had learned more thoroughly the futility of
opposing their will. In addition, the persecution he had suffered
from the pack had made the pack less to him in the scheme of
things, and man more. He had not learned to be dependent on his
kind for companionship. Besides, Kiche was well-nigh forgotten;
and the chief outlet of expression that remained to him was in the
allegiance he tendered the gods he had accepted as masters. So he
worked hard, learned discipline, and was obedient. Faithfulness
and willingness characterised his toil. These are essential traits
of the wolf and the wild-dog when they have become domesticated,
and these traits White Fang possessed in unusual measure.
A companionship did exist between White Fang and the other dogs,
but it was one of warfare and enmity. He had never learned to play
with them. He knew only how to fight, and fight with them he did,
returning to them a hundred-fold the snaps and slashes they had
given him in the days when Lip-lip was leader of the pack. But
Lip-lip was no longer leader - except when he fled away before his
mates at the end of his rope, the sled bounding along behind. In
camp he kept close to Mit-sah or Grey Beaver or Kloo-kooch. He did
not dare venture away from the gods, for now the fangs of all dogs
were against him, and he tasted to the dregs the persecution that
had been White Fang's.
With the overthrow of Lip-lip, White Fang could have become leader
of the pack. But he was too morose and solitary for that. He
merely thrashed his team-mates. Otherwise he ignored them. They
got out of his way when he came along; nor did the boldest of them
ever dare to rob him of his meat. On the contrary, they devoured
their own meat hurriedly, for fear that he would take it away from
them. White Fang knew the law well: TO OPPRESS THE WEAK AND OBEY
THE STRONG. He ate his share of meat as rapidly as he could. And
then woe the dog that had not yet finished! A snarl and a flash of
fangs, and that dog would wail his indignation to the uncomforting
stars while White Fang finished his portion for him.
Every little while, however, one dog or another would flame up in
revolt and be promptly subdued. Thus White Fang was kept in
training. He was jealous of the isolation in which he kept himself
in the midst of the pack, and he fought often to maintain it. But
such fights were of brief duration. He was too quick for the
others. They were slashed open and bleeding before they knew what
had happened, were whipped almost before they had begun to fight.
As rigid as the sled-discipline of the gods, was the discipline
maintained by White Fang amongst his fellows. He never allowed
them any latitude. He compelled them to an unremitting respect for
him. They might do as they pleased amongst themselves. That was
no concern of his. But it WAS his concern that they leave him
alone in his isolation, get out of his way when he elected to walk
among them, and at all times acknowledge his mastery over them. A
hint of stiff-leggedness on their part, a lifted lip or a bristle
of hair, and he would be upon them, merciless and cruel, swiftly
convincing them of the error of their way.
He was a monstrous tyrant. His mastery was rigid as steel. He
oppressed the weak with a vengeance. Not for nothing had he been
exposed to the pitiless struggles for life in the day of his
cubhood, when his mother and he, alone and unaided, held their own
and survived in the ferocious environment of the Wild. And not for
nothing had he learned to walk softly when superior strength went
by. He oppressed the weak, but he respected the strong. And in
the course of the long journey with Grey Beaver he walked softly
indeed amongst the full-grown dogs in the camps of the strange mananimals
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 property alone.
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.
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
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 dogworld.
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 shinbone,
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 preeminently
In midsummer White Fang had an experience. Trotting along in his
silent way to investigate a new tepee which had been erected on the
edge of the village while he was away with the hunters after moose,
he came full upon Kiche. He paused and looked at her. He
remembered her vaguely, but he REMEMBERED her, and that was more
than could be said for her. She lifted her lip at him in the old
snarl of menace, and his memory became clear. His forgotten
cubhood, all that was associated with that familiar snarl, rushed
back to him. Before he had known the gods, she had been to him the
centre-pin of the universe. The old familiar feelings of that time
came back upon him, surged up within him. He bounded towards her
joyously, and she met him with shrewd fangs that laid his cheek
open to the bone. He did not understand. He backed away,
bewildered and puzzled.
But it was not Kiche's fault. A wolf-mother was not made to
remember her cubs of a year or so before. So she did not remember
White Fang. He was a strange animal, an intruder; and her present
litter of puppies gave her the right to resent such intrusion.
One of the puppies sprawled up to White Fang. They were halfbrothers,
only they did not know it. White Fang sniffed the puppy
curiously, whereupon Kiche rushed upon him, gashing is face a
second time. He backed farther away. All the old memories and
associations died down again and passed into the grave from which
they had been resurrected. He looked at Kiche licking her puppy
and stopping now and then to snarl at him. She was without value
to him. He had learned to get along without her. Her meaning was
forgotten. There was no place for her in his scheme of things, as
there was no place for him in hers.
He was still standing, stupid and bewildered, the memories
forgotten, wondering what it was all about, when Kiche attacked him
a third time, intent on driving him away altogether from the
vicinity. And White Fang allowed himself to be driven away. This
was a female of his kind, and it was a law of his kind that the
males must not fight the females. He did not know anything about
this law, for it was no generalisation of the mind, not a something
acquired by experience of the world. He knew it as a secret
prompting, as an urge of instinct - of the same instinct that made
him howl at the moon and stars of nights, and that made him fear
death and the unknown.
The months went by. White Fang grew stronger, heavier, and more
compact, while his character was developing along the lines laid
down by his heredity and his environment. His heredity was a lifestuff
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 softtanned
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 him.
Fortune seemed to favour him. Always, when hardest pressed for
food, he found something to kill. Again, when he was weak, it was
his luck that none of the larger preying animals chanced upon him.
Thus, he was strong from the two days' eating a lynx had afforded
him when the hungry wolf-pack ran full tilt upon him. It was a
long, cruel chase, but he was better nourished than they, and in
the end outran them. And not only did he outrun them, but,
circling widely back on his track, he gathered in one of his
exhausted pursuers.
After that he left that part of the country and journeyed over to
the valley wherein he had been born. Here, in the old lair, he
encountered Kiche. Up to her old tricks, she, too, had fled the
inhospitable fires of the gods and gone back to her old refuge to
give birth to her young. Of this litter but one remained alive
when White Fang came upon the scene, and this one was not destined
to live long. Young life had little chance in such a famine.
Kiche's greeting of her grown son was anything but affectionate.
But White Fang did not mind. He had outgrown his mother. So he
turned tail philosophically and trotted on up the stream. At the
forks he took the turning to the left, where he found the lair of
the lynx with whom his mother and he had fought long before. Here,
in the abandoned lair, he settled down and rested for a day.
During the early summer, in the last days of the famine, he met
Lip-lip, who had likewise taken to the woods, where he had eked out
a miserable existence.
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, stifflegged
and observant. Then he resumed his course and trotted on
along the base of the bluff.
One day, not long after, he came to the edge of the forest, where a
narrow stretch of open land sloped down to the Mackenzie. He had
been over this ground before, when it was bare, but now a village
occupied it. Still hidden amongst the trees, he paused to study
the situation. Sights and sounds and scents were familiar to him.
It was the old village changed to a new place. But sights and
sounds and smells were different from those he had last had when he
fled away from it. There was no whimpering nor wailing. Contented
sounds saluted his ear, and when he heard the angry voice of a
woman he knew it to be the anger that proceeds from a full stomach.
And there was a smell in the air of fish. There was food. The
famine was gone. He came out boldly from the forest and trotted
into camp straight to Grey Beaver's tepee. Grey Beaver was not
there; but Kloo-kooch welcomed him with glad cries and the whole of
a fresh-caught fish, and he lay down to wait Grey Beaver's coming.
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 vouchsafed
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 coordination.
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 all.
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 goldhunters
were going up the Yukon to Dawson and the Klondike. Still
hundreds of miles from their goal, nevertheless many of them had
been on the way for a year, and the least any of them had travelled
to get that far was five thousand miles, while some had come from
the other side of the world.
Here Grey Beaver stopped. A whisper of the gold-rush had reached
his ears, and he had come with several bales of furs, and another
of gut-sewn mittens and moccasins. He would not have ventured so
long a trip had he not expected generous profits. But what he had
expected was nothing to what he realised. His wildest dreams had
not exceeded a hundred per cent. profit; he made a thousand per
cent. And like a true Indian, he settled down to trade carefully
and slowly, even if it took all summer and the rest of the winter
to dispose of his goods.
It was at Fort Yukon that White Fang saw his first white men. As
compared with the Indians he had known, they were to him another
race of beings, a race of superior gods. They impressed him as
possessing superior power, and it is on power that godhead rests.
White Fang did not reason it out, did not in his mind make the
sharp generalisation that the white gods were more powerful. It
was a feeling, nothing more, and yet none the less potent. As, in
his puppyhood, the looming bulks of the tepees, man-reared, had
affected him as manifestations of power, so was he affected now by
the houses and the huge fort all of massive logs. Here was power.
Those white gods were strong. They possessed greater mastery over
matter than the gods he had known, most powerful among which was
Grey Beaver. And yet Grey Beaver was as a child-god among these
white-skinned ones.
To be sure, White Fang only felt these things. He was not
conscious of them. Yet it is upon feeling, more often than
thinking, that animals act; and every act White Fang now performed
was based upon the feeling that the white men were the superior
gods. In the first place he was very suspicious of them. There
was no telling what unknown terrors were theirs, what unknown hurts
they could administer. He was curious to observe them, fearful of
being noticed by them. For the first few hours he was content with
slinking around and watching them from a safe distance. Then he
saw that no harm befell the dogs that were near to them, and he
came in 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 longlegged
- too long. They had hair instead of fur, and a few had
very little hair at that. And none of them knew how to fight.
As an enemy of his kind, it was in White Fang's province to fight
with them. This he did, and he quickly achieved for them a mighty
contempt. They were soft and helpless, made much noise, and
floundered around clumsily trying to accomplish by main strength
what he accomplished by dexterity and cunning. They rushed
bellowing at him. He sprang to the side. They did not know what
had become of him; and in that moment he struck them on the
shoulder, rolling them off their feet and delivering his stroke at
the throat.
Sometimes this stroke was successful, and a stricken dog rolled in
the dirt, to be pounced upon and torn to pieces by the pack of
Indian dogs that waited. White Fang was wise. He had long since
learned that the gods were made angry when their dogs were killed.
The white men were no exception to this. So he was content, when
he had overthrown and slashed wide the throat of one of their dogs,
to drop back and let the pack go in and do the cruel finishing
work. It was then that the white men rushed in, visiting their
wrath heavily on the pack, while White Fang went free. He would
stand off at a little distance and look on, while stones, clubs,
axes, and all sorts of weapons fell upon his fellows. White Fang
was very wise.
But his fellows grew wise in their own way; and in this White Fang
grew wise with them. They learned that it was when a steamer first
tied to the bank that they had their fun. After the first two or
three strange dogs had been downed and destroyed, the white men
hustled their own animals back on board and wrecked savage
vengeance on the offenders. One white man, having seen his dog, a
setter, torn to pieces before his eyes, drew a revolver. He fired
rapidly, six times, and six of the pack lay dead or dying - another
manifestation of power that sank deep into White Fang's
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 outraged gods.
It did not require much exertion to pick these quarrels. All he
had to do, when the strange dogs came ashore, was to show himself.
When they saw him they rushed for him. It was their instinct. He
was the Wild - the unknown, the terrible, the ever-menacing, the
thing that prowled in the darkness around the fires of the primeval
world when they, cowering close to the fires, were reshaping their
instincts, learning to fear the Wild out of which they had come,
and which they had deserted and betrayed. Generation by
generation, down all the generations, had this fear of the Wild
been stamped into their natures. For centuries the Wild had stood
for terror and destruction. And during all this time free licence
had been theirs, from their masters, to kill the things of the
Wild. In doing this they had protected both themselves and the
gods whose companionship they shared
And so, fresh from the soft southern world, these dogs, trotting
down the gang-plank and out upon the Yukon shore had but to see
White Fang to experience the irresistible impulse to rush upon him
and destroy him. They might be town-reared dogs, but the
instinctive fear of the Wild was theirs just the same. Not alone
with their own eyes did they see the wolfish creature in the clear
light of day, standing before them. They saw him with the eyes of
their ancestors, and by their inherited memory they knew White Fang
for the wolf, and they remembered the ancient feud.
All of which served to make White Fang's days enjoyable. If the
sight of him drove these strange dogs upon him, so much the better
for him, so much the worse for them. They looked upon him as
legitimate prey, and as legitimate prey he looked upon them.
Not for nothing had he first seen the light of day in a lonely lair
and fought his first fights with the ptarmigan, the weasel, and the
lynx. And not for nothing had his puppyhood been made bitter by
the persecution of Lip-lip and the whole puppy pack. It might have
been otherwise, and he would then have been otherwise. Had Lip-lip
not existed, he would have passed his puppyhood with the other
puppies and grown up more doglike and with more liking for dogs.
Had Grey Beaver possessed the plummet of affection and love, he
might have sounded the deeps of White Fang's nature and brought up
to the surface all manner of kindly qualities. But these things
had not been so. The clay of White Fang had been moulded until he
became what he was, morose and lonely, unloving and ferocious, the
enemy of all his kind.
A small number of white men lived in Fort Yukon. These men had
been long in the country. They called themselves Sour-doughs, and
took great pride in so classifying themselves. For other men, new
in the land, they felt nothing but disdain. The men who came
ashore from the steamers were newcomers. They were known as
CHECHAQUOS, and they always wilted at the application of the name.
They made their bread with baking-powder. This was the invidious
distinction between them and the Sour-doughs, who, forsooth, made
their bread from sour-dough because they had no baking-powder.
All of which is neither here nor there. The men in the fort
disdained the newcomers and enjoyed seeing them come to grief.
Especially did they enjoy the havoc worked amongst the newcomers'
dogs by White Fang and his disreputable gang. When a steamer
arrived, the men of the fort made it a point always to come down to
the bank and see the fun. They looked forward to it with as much
anticipation as did the Indian dogs, while they were not slow to
appreciate the savage and crafty part played by White Fang.
But there was one man amongst them who particularly enjoyed the
sport. He would come running at the first sound of a steamboat's
whistle; and when the last fight was over and White Fang and the
pack had scattered, he would return slowly to the fort, his face
heavy with regret. Sometimes, when a soft southland dog went down,
shrieking its death-cry under the fangs of the pack, this man would
be unable to contain himself, and would leap into the air and cry
out with delight. And always he had a sharp and covetous eye for
White Fang.
This man was called "Beauty" by the other men of the fort. No one
knew his first name, and in general he was known in the country as
Beauty Smith. But he was anything save a beauty. To antithesis
was due his naming. He was pre-eminently unbeautiful. Nature had
been niggardly with him. He was a small man to begin with; and
upon his meagre frame was deposited an even more strikingly meagre
head. Its apex might be likened to a point. In fact, in his
boyhood, before he had been named Beauty by his fellows, he had
been 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 his feet.
He did not rush a second time. One smash from the club was
sufficient to convince him that the white god knew how to handle
it, and he was too wise to fight the inevitable. So he followed
morosely at Beauty Smith's heels, his tail between his legs, yet
snarling softly under his breath. But Beauty Smith kept a wary eye
on him, and the club was held always ready to strike.
At the fort Beauty Smith left him securely tied and went in to bed.
White Fang waited an hour. Then he applied his teeth to the thong,
and in the space of ten seconds was free. He had wasted no time
with his teeth. There had been no useless gnawing. The thong was
cut across, diagonally, almost as clean as though done by a knife.
White Fang looked up at the fort, at the same time bristling and
growling. Then he turned and trotted back to Grey Beaver's camp.
He owed no allegiance to this strange and terrible god. He had
given himself to Grey Beaver, and to Grey Beaver he considered he
still belonged.
But what had occurred before was repeated - with a difference.
Grey Beaver again made him fast with a thong, and in the morning
turned him over to Beauty Smith. And here was where the difference
came in. Beauty Smith gave him a beating. Tied securely, White
Fang could only rage futilely and endure the punishment. Club and
whip were both used upon him, and he experienced the worst beating
he had ever received in his life. Even the big beating given him
in his puppyhood by Grey Beaver was mild compared with this.
Beauty Smith enjoyed the task. He delighted in it. He gloated
over his victim, and his eyes flamed dully, as he swung the whip or
club and listened to White Fang's cries of pain and to his helpless
bellows and snarls. For Beauty Smith was cruel in the way that
cowards are cruel. Cringing and snivelling himself before the
blows or angry speech of a man, he revenged himself, in turn, upon
creatures weaker than he. All life likes power, and Beauty Smith
was no exception. Denied the expression of power amongst his own
kind, he fell back upon the lesser creatures and there vindicated
the life that was in him. But Beauty Smith had not created
himself, and no blame was to be attached to him. He had come into
the world with a twisted body and a brute intelligence. This had
constituted the clay of him, and it had not been kindly moulded by
the world.
White Fang knew why he was being beaten. When Grey Beaver tied the
thong around his neck, and passed the end of the thong into Beauty
Smith's keeping, White Fang knew that it was his god's will for him
to go with Beauty Smith. And when Beauty Smith left him tied
outside the fort, he knew that it was Beauty Smith's will that he
should remain there. Therefore, he had disobeyed the will of both
the gods, and earned the consequent punishment. He had seen dogs
change owners in the past, and he had seen the runaways beaten as
he was being beaten. He was wise, and yet in the nature of him
there were forces greater than wisdom. One of these was fidelity.
He did not love Grey Beaver, yet, even in the face of his will and
his anger, he was faithful to him. He could not help it. This
faithfulness was a quality of the clay that composed him. It was
the quality that was peculiarly the possession of his kind; the
quality that set apart his species from all other species; the
quality that has enabled the wolf and the wild dog to come in from
the open and be the companions of man.
After the beating, White Fang was dragged back to the fort. But
this time Beauty Smith left him tied with a stick. One does not
give up a god easily, and so with White Fang. Grey Beaver was his
own particular god, and, in spite of Grey Beaver's will, White Fang
still clung to him and would not give him up. Grey Beaver had
betrayed and forsaken him, but that had no effect upon him. Not
for nothing had he surrendered himself body and soul to Grey
Beaver. There had been no reservation on White Fang's part, and
the bond was not to be broken easily.
So, in the night, when the men in the fort were asleep, White Fang
applied his teeth to the stick that held him. The wood was
seasoned and dry, and it was tied so closely to his neck that he
could scarcely get his teeth to it. It was only by the severest
muscular exertion and neck-arching that he succeeded in getting the
wood between his teeth, and barely between his teeth at that; and
it was only by the exercise of an immense patience, extending
through many hours, that he succeeded in gnawing through the stick.
This was something that dogs were not supposed to do. It was
unprecedented. But White Fang did it, trotting away from the fort
in the early morning, with the end of the stick hanging to his
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.
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 rippling and manging performed
by White Fang. There was no hope for the mastiff from the first.
He was too ponderous and slow. In the end, while Beauty Smith beat
White Fang back with a club, the mastiff was dragged out by its
owner. Then there was a payment of bets, and money clinked in
Beauty Smith's hand.
White Fang came to look forward eagerly to the gathering of the men
around his pen. It meant a fight; and this was the only way that
was now vouchsafed him of expressing the life that was in him.
Tormented, incited to hate, he was kept a prisoner so that there
was no way of satisfying that hate except at the times his master
saw fit to put another dog against him. Beauty Smith had estimated
his powers well, for he was invariably the victor. One day, three
dogs were turned in upon him in succession. Another day a fullgrown
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
If Beauty Smith had in him a devil, White Fang had another; and the
two of them raged against each other unceasingly. In the days
before, White Fang had had the wisdom to cower down and submit to a
man with a club in his hand; but this wisdom now left him. The
mere sight of Beauty Smith was sufficient to send him into
transports of fury. And when they came to close quarters, and he
had been beaten back by the club, he went on growling and snarling,
and showing his fangs. The last growl could never be extracted
from him. No matter how terribly he was beaten, he had always
another growl; and when Beauty Smith gave up and withdrew, the
defiant growl followed after him, or White Fang sprang at the bars
of the cage bellowing his hatred.
When the steamboat arrived at Dawson, White Fang went ashore. But
he still lived a public life, in a cage, surrounded by curious men.
He was exhibited as "the Fighting Wolf," and men paid fifty cents
in gold dust to see him. He was given no rest. Did he lie down to
sleep, he was stirred up by a sharp stick - so that the audience
might get its money's worth. In order to make the exhibition
interesting, he was kept in a rage most of the time. But worse
than all this, was the atmosphere in which he lived. He was
regarded as the most fearful of wild beasts, and this was borne in
to him through the bars of the cage. Every word, every cautious
action, on the part of the men, impressed upon him his own terrible
ferocity. It was so much added fuel to the flame of his
fierceness. There could be but one result, and that was that his
ferocity fed upon itself and increased. It was another instance of
the plasticity of his clay, of his capacity for being moulded by
the pressure of environment.
In addition to being exhibited he was a professional fighting
animal. At irregular intervals, whenever a fight could be
arranged, he was taken out of his cage and led off into the woods a
few miles from town. Usually this occurred at night, so as to
avoid interference from the mounted police of the Territory. After
a few hours of waiting, when daylight had come, the audience and
the dog with which he was to fight arrived. In this manner it came
about that he fought all sizes and breeds of dogs. It was a savage
land, the men were savage, and the fights were usually to the
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.
Beauty Smith slipped the chain from his neck and stepped back.
For once White Fang did not make an immediate attack. He stood
still, ears pricked forward, alert and curious, surveying the
strange animal that faced him. He had never seen such a dog
before. Tim Keenan shoved the bull-dog forward with a muttered "Go
to it." The animal waddled toward the centre of the circle, short
and squat and ungainly. He came to a stop and blinked across at
White Fang.
There were cries from the crowd of, "Go to him, Cherokee! Sick 'm,
Cherokee! Eat 'm up!"
But Cherokee did not seem anxious to fight. He turned his head and
blinked at the men who shouted, at the same time wagging his stump
of a tail good-naturedly. He was not afraid, but merely lazy.
Besides, it did not seem to him that it was intended he should
fight with the dog he saw before him. He was not used to fighting
with that kind of dog, and he was waiting for them to bring on the
real dog.
Tim Keenan stepped in and bent over Cherokee, fondling him on both
sides of the shoulders with hands that rubbed against the grain of
the hair and that made slight, pushing-forward movements. These
were so many suggestions. Also, their effect was irritating, for
Cherokee began to growl, very softly, deep down in his throat.
There was a correspondence in rhythm between the growls and the
movements of the man's hands. The growl rose in the throat with
the culmination of each forward-pushing movement, and ebbed down to
start up afresh with the beginning of the next movement. The end
of each movement was the accent of the rhythm, the movement ending
abruptly and the growling rising with a jerk.
This was not without its effect on White Fang. The hair began to
rise on his neck and across the shoulders. Tim Keenan gave a final
shove forward and stepped back again. As the impetus that carried
Cherokee forward died down, he continued to go forward of his own
volition, in a swift, bow-legged run. Then White Fang struck. A
cry of startled admiration went up. He had covered the distance
and gone in more like a cat than a dog; and with the same cat-like
swiftness he had slashed with his fangs and leaped clear.
The bull-dog was bleeding back of one ear from a rip in his thick
neck. He gave no sign, did not even snarl, but turned and followed
after White Fang. The display on both sides, the quickness of the
one and the steadiness of the other, had excited the partisan
spirit of the crowd, and the men were making new bets and
increasing original bets. Again, and yet again, White Fang sprang
in, slashed, and got away untouched, and still his strange foe
followed after him, without too great haste, not slowly, but
deliberately and determinedly, in a businesslike sort of way.
There was purpose in his method - something for him to do that he
was intent upon doing and from which nothing could distract him.
His whole demeanour, every action, was stamped with this purpose.
It puzzled White Fang. Never had he seen such a dog. It had no
hair protection. It was soft, and bled easily. There was no thick
mat of fur to baffle White Fang's teeth as they were often baffled
by dogs of his own breed. Each time that his teeth struck they
sank easily into the yielding flesh, while the animal did not seem
able to defend itself. Another disconcerting thing was that it
made no outcry, such as he had been accustomed to with the other
dogs he had fought. Beyond a growl or a grunt, the dog took its
punishment silently. And never did it flag in its pursuit of him.
Not that Cherokee was slow. He could turn and whirl swiftly
enough, but White Fang was never there. Cherokee was puzzled, too.
He had never fought before with a dog with which he could not
close. The desire to close had always been mutual. But here was a
dog that kept at a distance, dancing and dodging here and there and
all about. And when it did get its teeth into him, it did not hold
on but let go instantly and darted away again.
But White Fang could not get at the soft underside of the throat.
The bull-dog stood too short, while its massive jaws were an added
protection. White Fang darted in and out unscathed, while
Cherokee's wounds increased. Both sides of his neck and head were
ripped and slashed. He bled freely, but showed no signs of being
disconcerted. He continued his plodding pursuit, though once, for
the moment baffled, he came to a full stop and blinked at the men
who looked on, at the same time wagging his stump of a tail as an
expression of his willingness to fight.
In that moment White Fang was in upon him and out, in passing
ripping his trimmed remnant of an ear. With a slight manifestation
of anger, Cherokee took up the pursuit again, running on the inside
of the circle White Fang was making, and striving to fasten his
deadly grip on White Fang's throat. The bull-dog missed by a
hair's-breadth, and cries of praise went up as White Fang doubled
suddenly out of danger in the opposite direction.
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 hindquarters
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 throat.
It was at this time that a diversion came to the spectators. There
was a jingle of bells. Dog-mushers' cries were heard. Everybody,
save Beauty Smith, looked apprehensively, the fear of the police
strong upon them. But they saw, up the trail, and not down, two
men running with sled and dogs. They were evidently coming down
the creek from some prospecting trip. At sight of the crowd they
stopped their dogs and came over and joined it, curious to see the
cause of the excitement. The dog-musher wore a moustache, but the
other, a taller and younger man, was smooth-shaven, his skin rosy
from the pounding of his blood and the running in the frosty air.
White Fang had practically ceased struggling. Now and again he
resisted spasmodically and to no purpose. He could get little air,
and that little grew less and less under the merciless grip that
ever tightened. In spite of his armour of fur, the great vein of
his throat would have long since been torn open, had not the first
grip of the bull-dog been so low down as to be practically on the
chest. It had taken Cherokee a long time to shift that grip
upward, and this had also tended further to clog his jaws with fur
and skin-fold.
In the meantime, the abysmal brute in Beauty Smith had been rising
into his brain and mastering the small bit of sanity that he
possessed at best. When he saw White Fang's eyes beginning to
glaze, he knew beyond doubt that the fight was lost. Then he broke
loose. He sprang upon White Fang and began savagely to kick him.
There were hisses from the crowd and cries of protest, but that was
all. While this went on, and Beauty Smith continued to kick White
Fang, there was a commotion in the crowd. The tall young newcomer
was forcing his way through, shouldering men right and left without
ceremony or gentleness. When he broke through into the ring,
Beauty Smith was just in the act of delivering another kick. All
his weight was on one loot, and he was in a state of unstable
equilibrium. At that moment the newcomer's fist landed a smashing
blow full in his face. Beauty Smith's remaining leg left the
ground, and his whole body seemed to lift into the air as he turned
over backward and struck the snow. The newcomer turned upon the
"You cowards!" he cried. "You beasts!"
He was in a rage himself - a sane rage. His grey eyes seemed
metallic and steel-like as they flashed upon the crowd. Beauty
Smith regained his feet and came toward him, sniffling and
cowardly. The new-comer did not understand. He did not know how
abject a coward the other was, and thought he was coming back
intent on fighting. So, with a "You beast!" he smashed Beauty
Smith over backward with a second blow in the face. Beauty Smith
decided that the snow was the safest place for him, and lay where
he had fallen, making no effort to get up.
"Come on, Matt, lend a hand," the newcomer called the dog-musher,
who had followed him into the ring.
Both men bent over the dogs. Matt took hold of White Fang, ready
to pull when Cherokee's jaws should be loosened. This the younger
man endeavoured to accomplish by clutching the bulldog's jaws in
his hands and trying to spread them. It was a vain undertaking.
As he pulled and tugged and wrenched, he kept exclaiming with every
expulsion of breath, "Beasts!"
The crowd began to grow unruly, and some of the men were protesting
against the spoiling of the sport; but they were silenced when the
newcomer lifted his head from his work for a moment and glared at
"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 last.
The pair paused and surveyed the locked dogs.
"Ain't bleedin' much," Matt announced. "Ain't got all the way in
"But he's liable to any moment," Scott answered. "There, did you
see that! He shifted his grip in a bit."
The younger man's excitement and apprehension for White Fang was
growing. He struck Cherokee about the head savagely again and
again. But that did not loosen the jaws. Cherokee wagged the
stump of his tail in advertisement that he understood the meaning
of the blows, but that he knew he was himself in the right and only
doing his duty by keeping his grip.
"Won't some of you help?" Scott cried desperately at the crowd.
But no help was offered. Instead, the crowd began sarcastically to
cheer him on and showered him with facetious advice.
"You'll have to get a pry," Matt counselled.
The other reached into the holster at his hip, drew his revolver,
and tried to thrust its muzzle between the bull-dog's jaws. He
shoved, and shoved hard, till the grating of the steel against the
locked teeth could be distinctly heard. Both men were on their
knees, bending over the dogs. Tim Keenan strode into the ring. He
paused beside Scott and touched him on the shoulder, saying
"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 than before.
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:
"Your dog?"
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 busy."
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
Cherokee's owner.
The faro-dealer stooped down obediently and got a firm hold on
"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
"Matt, how much is a good sled-dog worth?" Scott asked.
The dog-musher, still on his knees and stooped over White Fang,
calculated for a moment.
"Three hundred dollars," he answered.
"And how much for one that's all chewed up like this one?" Scott
asked, nudging White Fang with his foot.
"Half of that," was the dog-musher's judgment. Scott turned upon
Beauty Smith.
"Did you hear, Mr. Beast? I'm going to take your dog from you, and
I'm going to give you a hundred and fifty for him."
He opened his pocket-book and counted out the bills.
Beauty Smith put his hands behind his back, refusing to touch the
proffered money.
"I ain't a-sellin'," he said.
"Oh, yes you are," the other assured him. "Because I'm buying.
Here's your money. The dog's mine."
Beauty Smith, his hands still behind him, began to back away.
Scott sprang toward him, drawing his fist back to strike. Beauty
Smith cowered down in anticipation of the blow.
"I've got my rights," he whimpered.
"You've forfeited your rights to own that dog," was the rejoinder.
"Are you going to take the money? or do I have to hit you again?"
"All right," Beauty Smith spoke up with the alacrity of fear. "But
I take the money under protest," he added. "The dog's a mint. I
ain't a-goin' to be robbed. A man's got his 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 what?"
"Yes, sir," Beauty Smith snarled.
"Look out! He'll bite!" some one shouted, and a guffaw of laughter
went up.
Scott turned his back on him, and returned to help the dog-musher,
who was working over White Fang.
Some of the men were already departing; others stood in groups,
looking on and talking. Tim Keenan joined one of the groups.
"Who's that mug?" he asked.
"Weedon Scott," some one answered.
"And who in hell is Weedon Scott?" the faro-dealer demanded.
"Oh, one of them crackerjack minin' experts. He's in with all the
big bugs. If you want to keep out of trouble, you'll steer clear
of him, that's my talk. He's all hunky with the officials. The
Gold Commissioner's a special pal of his."
"I thought he must be somebody," was the faro-dealer's comment.
"That's why I kept my hands offen him at the start."
"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 existence.
"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 Mountain.
"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
The dog-musher indicated White Fang with a backward thrust of his
"Wolf or dog, it's all the same - he's ben tamed 'ready."
"I tell you yes, an' broke to harness. Look close there. D'ye see
them marks across the chest?"
"You're right, Matt. He was a sled-dog before Beauty Smith got
hold of him."
"And there's not much reason against his bein' a sled-dog again."
"What d'ye think?" Scott queried eagerly. Then the hope died down
as he added, shaking his head, "We've had him two weeks now, and if
anything he's wilder than ever at the present moment."
"Give 'm a chance," Matt counselled. "Turn 'm loose for a 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
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
"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
As he talked, with reluctant movements he drew his revolver, threw
open the cylinder, and assured himself of its contents.
"Look here, Mr. Scott," Matt objected; "that dog's ben through
hell. You can't expect 'm to come out a white an' shinin' angel.
Give 'm time."
"Look at Major," the other rejoined.
The dog-musher surveyed the stricken dog. He had sunk down on the
snow in the circle of his blood and was plainly in the last gasp.
"Served 'm right. You said so yourself, Mr. Scott. He tried to
take White Fang's meat, an' he's dead-O. That was to be expected.
I wouldn't give two whoops in hell for a dog that wouldn't fight
for his own meat."
"But look at yourself, Matt. It's all right about the dogs, but we
must draw the line somewhere."
"Served me right," Matt argued stubbornly. "What'd I want to kick
'm for? You said yourself that he'd done right. Then I had no
right to kick 'm."
"It would be a mercy to kill him," Scott insisted. "He's
"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
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
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
"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 woodpile
"But will you look at that!" he exclaimed the next moment.
White Fang had quieted down and ceased snarling. "This is worth
investigatin'. Watch."
Matt, reached for the rifle, and at the same moment White Fang
snarled. He stepped away from the rifle, and White Fang's lifted
lips descended, covering his teeth.
"Now, just for fun."
Matt took the rifle and began slowly to raise it to his shoulder.
White Fang's snarling began with the movement, and increased as the
movement approached its culmination. But the moment before the
rifle came to a level on him, he leaped sidewise behind the corner
of the cabin. Matt stood staring along the sights at the empty
space of snow which had been occupied by White Fang.
The dog-musher put the rifle down solemnly, then turned and looked
at his employer.
"I agree with you, Mr. Scott. That dog's too intelligent to kill."
As White Fang watched Weedon Scott approach, he bristled and
snarled to advertise that he would not submit to punishment.
Twenty-four hours had passed since he had slashed open the hand
that was now bandaged and held up by a sling to keep the blood out
of it. In the past White Fang had experienced delayed punishments,
and he apprehended that such a one was about to befall him. How
could it be otherwise? He had committed what was to him sacrilege,
sunk his fangs into the holy flesh of a god, and of a white-skinned
superior god at that. In the nature of things, and of intercourse
with gods, something terrible awaited him.
The god sat down several feet away. White Fang could see nothing
dangerous in that. When the gods administered punishment they
stood on their legs. Besides, this god had no club, no whip, no
firearm. And furthermore, he himself was free. No chain nor stick
bound him. He could escape into safety while the god was
scrambling to his feet. In the meantime he would wait and see.
The god remained quiet, made no movement; and White Fang's snarl
slowly dwindled to a growl that ebbed down in his throat and
ceased. Then the god spoke, and at the first sound of his voice,
the hair rose on White Fang's neck and the growl rushed up in his
throat. But the god made no hostile movement, and went on calmly
talking. For a time White Fang growled in unison with him, a
correspondence of rhythm being established between growl and voice.
But the god talked on interminably. He talked to White Fang as
White Fang had never been talked to before. He talked softly and
soothingly, with a gentleness that somehow, somewhere, touched
White Fang. In spite of himself and all the pricking warnings of
his instinct, White Fang began to have confidence in this god. He
had a feeling of security that was belied by all his experience
with men.
After a long time, the god got up and went into the cabin. White
Fang scanned him apprehensively when he came out. He had neither
whip nor club nor weapon. Nor was his uninjured hand behind his
back hiding something. He sat down as before, in the same spot,
several feet away. He held out a small piece of meat. White Fang
pricked his ears and investigated it suspiciously, managing to look
at the same time both at the meat and the god, alert for any overt
act, his body tense and ready to spring away at the first sign of
Still the punishment delayed. The god merely held near to his nose
a piece of meat. And about the meat there seemed nothing wrong.
Still White Fang suspected; and though the meat was proffered to
him with short inviting thrusts of the hand, he refused to touch
it. The gods were all-wise, and there was no telling what
masterful treachery lurked behind that apparently harmless piece of
meat. In past experience, especially in dealing with squaws, meat
and punishment had often been disastrously related.
In the end, the god tossed the meat on the snow at White Fang's
feet. He smelled the meat carefully; but he did not look at it.
While he smelled it he kept his eyes on the god. Nothing happened.
He took the meat into his mouth and swallowed it. Still nothing
happened. The god was actually offering him another piece of meat.
Again he refused to take it from the hand, and again it was tossed
to him. This was repeated a number of times. But there came a
time when the god refused to toss it. He kept it in his hand and
steadfastly proffered it.
The meat was good meat, and White Fang was hungry. Bit by bit,
infinitely cautious, he approached the hand. At last the time came
that he decided to eat the meat from the hand. He never took his
eyes from the god, thrusting his head forward with ears flattened
back and hair involuntarily rising and cresting on his neck. Also
a low growl rumbled in his throat as warning that he was not to be
trifled with. He ate the meat, and nothing happened. Piece by
piece, he ate all the meat, and nothing happened. Still the
punishment delayed.
He licked his chops and waited. The god went on talking. In his
voice was kindness - something of which White Fang had no
experience whatever. And within him it aroused feelings which he
had likewise never experienced before. He was aware of a certain
strange satisfaction, as though some need were being gratified, as
though some void in his being were being filled. Then again came
the prod of his instinct and the warning of past experience. The
gods were ever crafty, and they had unguessed ways of attaining
their ends.
Ah, he had thought so! There it came now, the god's hand, cunning
to hurt, thrusting out at him, descending upon his head. But the
god went on talking. His voice was soft and soothing. In spite of
the menacing hand, the voice inspired confidence. And in spite of
the assuring voice, the hand inspired distrust. White Fang was
torn by conflicting feelings, impulses. It seemed he would fly to
pieces, so terrible was the control he was exerting, holding
together by an unwonted indecision the counter-forces that
struggled within him for mastery.
He compromised. He snarled and bristled and flattened his ears.
But he neither snapped nor sprang away. The hand descended.
Nearer and nearer it came. It touched the ends of his upstanding
hair. He shrank down under it. It followed down after him,
pressing more closely against him. Shrinking, almost shivering, he
still managed to hold himself together. It was a torment, this
hand that touched him and violated his instinct. He could not
forget in a day all the evil that had been wrought him at the hands
of men. But it was the will of the god, and he strove to submit.
The hand lifted and descended again in a patting, caressing
movement. This continued, but every time the hand lifted, the hair
lifted under it. And every time the hand descended, the ears
flattened down and a cavernous growl surged in his throat. White
Fang growled and growled with insistent warning. By this means he
announced that he was prepared to retaliate for any hurt he might
receive. There was no telling when the god's ulterior motive might
be disclosed. At any moment that soft, confidence-inspiring voice
might break forth in a roar of wrath, that gentle and caressing
hand transform itself into a vice-like grip to hold him helpless
and administer punishment.
But the god talked on softly, and ever the hand rose and fell with
non-hostile pats. White Fang experienced dual feelings. It was
distasteful to his instinct. It restrained him, opposed the will
of him toward personal liberty. And yet it was not physically
painful. On the contrary, it was even pleasant, in a physical way.
The patting movement slowly and carefully changed to a rubbing of
the ears about their bases, and the physical pleasure even
increased a little. Yet he continued to fear, and he stood on
guard, expectant of unguessed evil, alternately suffering and
enjoying as one feeling or the other came uppermost and swayed him.
"Well, I'll be gosh-swoggled!"
So spoke Matt, coming out of the cabin, his sleeves rolled up, a
pan of dirty dish-water in his hands, arrested in the act of
emptying the pan by the sight of Weedon Scott patting White Fang.
At the instant his voice broke the silence, White Fang leaped back,
snarling savagely at him.
Matt regarded his employer with grieved disapproval.
"If you don't mind my expressin' my feelin's, Mr. Scott, I'll make
free to say you're seventeen kinds of a damn fool an' all of 'em
different, an' then some."
Weedon Scott smiled with a superior air, gained his feet, and
walked over to White Fang. He talked soothingly to him, but not
for long, then slowly put out his hand, rested it on White Fang's
head, and resumed the interrupted patting. White Fang endured it,
keeping his eyes fixed suspiciously, not upon the man that patted
him, but upon the man that stood in the doorway.
"You may be a number one, tip-top minin' expert, all right all
right," the dog-musher delivered himself oracularly, "but you
missed the chance of your life when you was a boy an' didn't run
off an' join a circus."
White Fang snarled at the sound of his voice, but this time did not
leap away from under the hand that was caressing his head and the
back of his neck with long, soothing strokes.
It was the beginning of the end for White Fang - the ending of the
old life and the reign of hate. A new and incomprehensibly fairer
life was dawning. It required much thinking and endless patience
on the part of Weedon Scott to accomplish this. And on the part of
White Fang it required nothing less than a revolution. He had to
ignore the urges and promptings of instinct and reason, defy
experience, give the lie to life itself.
Life, as he had known it, not only had had no place in it for much
that he now did; but all the currents had gone counter to those to
which he now abandoned himself. In short, when all things were
considered, he had to achieve an orientation far vaster than the
one he had achieved at the time he came voluntarily in from the
Wild and accepted Grey Beaver as his lord. At that time he was a
mere puppy, soft from the making, without form, ready for the thumb
of circumstance to begin its work upon him. But now it was
different. The thumb of circumstance had done its work only too
well. By it he had been formed and hardened into the Fighting
Wolf, fierce and implacable, unloving and unlovable. To accomplish
the change was like a reflux of being, and this when the plasticity
of youth was no longer his; when the fibre of him had become tough
and knotty; when the warp and the woof of him had made of him an
adamantine texture, harsh and unyielding; when the face of his
spirit had become iron and all his instincts and axioms had
crystallised into set rules, cautions, dislikes, and desires.
Yet again, in this new orientation, it was the thumb of
circumstance that pressed and prodded him, softening that which had
become hard and remoulding it into fairer form. Weedon Scott was
in truth this thumb. He had gone to the roots of White Fang's
nature, and with kindness touched to life potencies that had
languished and well-nigh perished. One such potency was LOVE. It
took the place of LIKE, which latter had been the highest feeling
that thrilled him in his intercourse with the gods.
But this love did not come in a day. It began with LIKE and out of
it slowly developed. White Fang did not run away, though he was
allowed to remain loose, because he liked this new god. This was
certainly better than the life he had lived in the cage of Beauty
Smith, and it was necessary that he should have some god. The
lordship of man was a need of his nature. The seal of his
dependence on man had been set upon him in that early day when he
turned his back on the Wild and crawled to Grey Beaver's feet to
receive the expected beating. This seal had been stamped upon him
again, and ineradicably, on his second return from the Wild, when
the long famine was over and there was fish once more in the
village of Grey Beaver.
And so, because he needed a god and because he preferred Weedon
Scott to Beauty Smith, White Fang remained. In acknowledgment of
fealty, he proceeded to take upon himself the guardianship of his
master's property. He prowled about the cabin while the sled-dogs
slept, and the first night-visitor to the cabin fought him off with
a club until Weedon Scott came to the rescue. But White Fang soon
learned to differentiate between thieves and honest men, to
appraise the true value of step and carriage. The man who
travelled, loud-stepping, the direct line to the cabin door, he let
alone - though he watched him vigilantly until the door opened and
he received the endorsement of the master. But the man who went
softly, by circuitous ways, peering with caution, seeking after
secrecy - that was the man who received no suspension of judgment
from White Fang, and who went away abruptly, hurriedly, and without
Weedon Scott had set himself the task of redeeming White Fang - or
rather, of redeeming mankind from the wrong it had done White Fang.
It was a matter of principle and conscience. He felt that the ill
done White Fang was a debt incurred by man and that it must be
paid. So he went out of his way to be especially kind to the
Fighting Wolf. Each day he made it a point to caress and pet White
Fang, and to do it at length.
At first suspicious and hostile, White Fang grew to like this
petting. But there was one thing that he never outgrew - his
growling. Growl he would, from the moment the petting began till
it ended. But it was a growl with a new note in it. A stranger
could not hear this note, and to such a stranger the growling of
White Fang was an exhibition of primordial savagery, nerve-racking
and blood-curdling. But White Fang's throat had become harshfibred
from the making of ferocious sounds through the many years
since his first little rasp of anger in the lair of his cubhood,
and he could not soften the sounds of that throat now to express
the gentleness he felt. Nevertheless, Weedon Scott's ear and
sympathy were fine enough to catch the new note all but drowned in
the fierceness - the note that was the faintest hint of a croon of
content and that none but he could hear.
As the days went by, the evolution of LIKE into LOVE was
accelerated. White Fang himself began to grow aware of it, though
in his consciousness he knew not what love was. It manifested
itself to him as a void in his being - a hungry, aching, yearning
void that clamoured to be filled. It was a pain and an unrest; and
it received easement only by the touch of the new god's presence.
At such times love was joy to him, a wild, keen-thrilling
satisfaction. But when away from his god, the pain and the unrest
returned; the void in him sprang up and pressed against him with
its emptiness, and the hunger gnawed and gnawed unceasingly.
White Fang was in the process of finding himself. In spite of the
maturity of his years and of the savage rigidity of the mould that
had formed him, his nature was undergoing an expansion. There was
a burgeoning within him of strange feelings and unwonted impulses.
His old code of conduct was changing. In the past he had liked
comfort and surcease from pain, disliked discomfort and pain, and
he had adjusted his actions accordingly. But now it was different.
Because of this new feeling within him, he ofttimes elected
discomfort and pain for the sake of his god. Thus, in the early
morning, instead of roaming and foraging, or lying in a sheltered
nook, he would wait for hours on the cheerless cabin-stoop for a
sight of the god's face. At night, when the god returned home,
White Fang would leave the warm sleeping-place he had burrowed in
the snow in order to receive the friendly snap of fingers and the
word of greeting. Meat, even meat itself, he would forego to be
with his god, to receive a caress from him or to accompany him down
into the town.
LIKE had been replaced by LOVE. And love was the plummet dropped
down into the deeps of him where like had never gone. And
responsive out of his deeps had come the new thing - love. That
which was given unto him did he return. This was a god indeed, a
love-god, a warm and radiant god, in whose light White Fang's
nature expanded as a flower expands under the sun.
But White Fang was not demonstrative. He was too old, too firmly
moulded, to become adept at expressing himself in new ways. He was
too self-possessed, too strongly poised in his own isolation. Too
long had he cultivated reticence, aloofness, and moroseness. He
had never barked in his life, and he could not now learn to bark a
welcome when his god approached. He was never in the way, never
extravagant nor foolish in the expression of his love. He never
ran to meet his god. He waited at a distance; but he always
waited, was always there. His love partook of the nature of
worship, dumb, inarticulate, a silent adoration. Only by the
steady regard of his eyes did he express his love, and by the
unceasing following with his eyes of his god's every movement.
Also, at times, when his god looked at him and spoke to him, he
betrayed an awkward self-consciousness, caused by the struggle of
his love to express itself and his physical inability to express
He learned to adjust himself in many ways to his new mode of life.
It was borne in upon him that he must let his master's dogs alone.
Yet his dominant nature asserted itself, and he had first to thrash
them into an acknowledgment of his superiority and leadership.
This accomplished, he had little trouble with them. They gave
trail to him when he came and went or walked among them, and when
he asserted his will they obeyed.
In the same way, he came to tolerate Matt - as a possession of his
master. His master rarely fed him. Matt did that, it was his
business; yet White Fang divined that it was his master's food he
ate and that it was his master who thus led him vicariously. Matt
it was who tried to put him into the harness and make him haul sled
with the other dogs. But Matt failed. It was not until Weedon
Scott put the harness on White Fang and worked him, that he
understood. He took it as his master's will that Matt should drive
him and work him just as he drove and worked his master's other
Different from the Mackenzie toboggans were the Klondike sleds with
runners under them. And different was the method of driving the
dogs. There was no fan-formation of the team. The dogs worked in
single file, one behind another, hauling on double traces. And
here, in the Klondike, the leader was indeed the leader. The
wisest as well as strongest dog was the leader, and the team obeyed
him and feared him. That White Fang should quickly gain this post
was inevitable. He could not be satisfied with less, as Matt
learned after much inconvenience and trouble. White Fang picked
out the post for himself, and Matt backed his judgment with strong
language after the experiment had been tried. But, though he
worked in the sled in the day, White Fang did not forego the
guarding of his master's property in the night. Thus he was on
duty all the time, ever vigilant and faithful, the most valuable of
all the dogs.
"Makin' free to spit out what's in me," Matt said one day, "I beg
to state that you was a wise guy all right when you paid the price
you did for that dog. You clean swindled Beauty Smith on top of
pushin' his face in with your fist."
A recrudescence of anger glinted in Weedon Scott's grey eyes, and
he muttered savagely, "The beast!"
In the late spring a great trouble came to White Fang. Without
warning, the love-master disappeared. There had been warning, but
White Fang was unversed in such things and did not understand the
packing of a grip. He remembered afterwards that his packing had
preceded the master's disappearance; but at the time he suspected
nothing. That night he waited for the master to return. At
midnight the chill wind that blew drove him to shelter at the rear
of the cabin. There he drowsed, only half asleep, his ears keyed
for the first sound of the familiar step. But, at two in the
morning, his anxiety drove him out to the cold front stoop, where
he crouched, and waited.
But no master came. In the morning the door opened and Matt
stepped outside. White Fang gazed at him wistfully. There was no
common speech by which he might learn what he wanted to know. The
days came and went, but never the master. White Fang, who had
never known sickness in his life, became sick. He became very
sick, so sick that Matt was finally compelled to bring him inside
the cabin. Also, in writing to his employer, Matt devoted a
postscript to White Fang.
Weedon Scott reading the letter down in Circle City, came upon the
"That dam wolf won't work. Won't eat. Aint got no spunk left.
All the dogs is licking him. Wants to know what has become of you,
and I don't know how to tell him. Mebbe he is going to die."
It was as Matt had said. White Fang had ceased eating, lost heart,
and allowed every dog of the team to thrash him. In the cabin he
lay on the floor near the stove, without interest in food, in Matt,
nor in life. Matt might talk gently to him or swear at him, it was
all the same; he never did more than turn his dull eyes upon the
man, then drop his head back to its customary position on his forepaws.
And then, one night, Matt, reading to himself with moving lips and
mumbled sounds, was startled by a low whine from White Fang. He
had got upon his feet, his ears cocked towards the door, and he was
listening intently. A moment later, Matt heard a footstep. The
door opened, and Weedon Scott stepped in. The two men shook hands.
Then Scott looked around the room.
"Where's the wolf?" he asked.
Then he discovered him, standing where he had been lying, near to
the stove. He had not rushed forward after the manner of other
dogs. He stood, watching and waiting.
"Holy smoke!" Matt exclaimed. "Look at 'm wag his tail!"
Weedon Scott strode half across the room toward him, at the same
time calling him. White Fang came to him, not with a great bound,
yet quickly. He was awakened from self-consciousness, but as he
drew near, his eyes took on a strange expression. Something, an
incommunicable vastness of feeling, rose up into his eyes as a
light and shone forth.
"He never looked at me that way all the time you was gone!" Matt
Weedon Scott did not hear. He was squatting down on his heels,
face to face with White Fang and petting him - rubbing at the roots
of the ears, making long caressing strokes down the neck to the
shoulders, tapping the spine gently with the balls of his fingers.
And White Fang was growling responsively, the crooning note of the
growl more pronounced than ever.
But that was not all. What of his joy, the great love in him, ever
surging and struggling to express itself, succeeding in finding a
new mode of expression. He suddenly thrust his head forward and
nudged his way in between the master's arm and body. And here,
confined, hidden from view all except his ears, no longer growling,
he continued to nudge and snuggle.
The two men looked at each other. Scott's eyes were shining.
"Gosh!" said Matt in an awe-stricken voice.
A moment later, when he had recovered himself, he said, "I always
insisted that wolf was a dog. Look at 'm!"
With the return of the love-master, White Fang's recovery was
rapid. Two nights and a day he spent in the cabin. Then he
sallied forth. The sled-dogs had forgotten his prowess. They
remembered only the latest, which was his weakness and sickness.
At the sight of him as he came out of the cabin, they sprang upon
"Talk about your rough-houses," Matt murmured gleefully, standing
in the doorway and looking on.
Give 'm hell, you wolf! Give 'm hell! - an' then some!"
White Fang did not need the encouragement. The return of the lovemaster
was enough. Life was flowing through him again, splendid
and indomitable. He fought from sheer joy, finding in it an
expression of much that he felt and that otherwise was without
speech. There could be but one ending. The team dispersed in
ignominious defeat, and it was not until after dark that the dogs
came sneaking back, one by one, by meekness and humility signifying
their fealty to White Fang.
Having learned to snuggle, White Fang was guilty of it often. It
was the final word. He could not go beyond it. The one thing of
which he had always been particularly jealous was his head. He had
always disliked to have it touched. It was the Wild in him, the
fear of hurt and of the trap, that had given rise to the panicky
impulses to avoid contacts. It was the mandate of his instinct
that that head must be free. And now, with the love-master, his
snuggling was the deliberate act of putting himself into a position
of hopeless helplessness. It was an expression of perfect
confidence, of absolute self-surrender, as though he said: "I put
myself into thy hands. Work thou thy will with me."
One night, not long after the return, Scott and Matt sat at a game
of cribbage preliminary to going to bed. "Fifteen-two, fifteenfour
an' a pair makes six," Mat was pegging up, when there was an
outcry and sound of snarling without. They looked at each other as
they started to rise to their feet.
"The wolf's nailed somebody," Matt said.
A wild scream of fear and anguish hastened them.
"Bring a light!" Scott shouted, as he sprang outside.
Matt followed with the lamp, and by its light they saw a man lying
on his back in the snow. His arms were folded, one above the
other, across his face and throat. Thus he was trying to shield
himself from White Fang's teeth. And there was need for it. White
Fang was in a rage, wickedly making his attack on the most
vulnerable spot. From shoulder to wrist of the crossed arms, the
coat-sleeve, blue flannel shirt and undershirt were ripped in rags,
while the arms themselves were terribly slashed and streaming
All this the two men saw in the first instant. The next instant
Weedon Scott had White Fang by the throat and was dragging him
clear. White Fang struggled and snarled, but made no attempt to
bite, while he quickly quieted down at a sharp word from the
Matt helped the man to his feet. As he arose he lowered his
crossed arms, exposing the bestial face of Beauty Smith. The dogmusher
let go of him precipitately, with action similar to that of
a man who has picked up live fire. Beauty Smith blinked in the
lamplight and looked about him. He caught sight of White Fang and
terror rushed into his face.
At the same moment Matt noticed two objects lying in the snow. He
held the lamp close to them, indicating them with his toe for his
employer's benefit - a steel dog-chain and a stout club.
Weedon Scott saw and nodded. Not a word was spoken. The dogmusher
laid his hand on Beauty Smith's shoulder and faced him to
the right about. No word needed to be spoken. Beauty Smith
In the meantime the love-master was patting White Fang and talking
to him.
"Tried to steal you, eh? And you wouldn't have it! Well, well, he
made a mistake, didn't he?"
"Must 'a' thought he had hold of seventeen devils," the dog-musher
White Fang, still wrought up and bristling, growled and growled,
the hair slowly lying down, the crooning note remote and dim, but
growing in his throat.
It was in the air. White Fang sensed the coming calamity, even
before there was tangible evidence of it. In vague ways it was
borne in upon him that a change was impending. He knew not how nor
why, yet he got his feel of the oncoming event from the gods
themselves. In ways subtler than they knew, they betrayed their
intentions to the wolf-dog that haunted the cabin-stoop, and that,
though he never came inside the cabin, knew what went on inside
their brains.
"Listen to that, will you!" the dug-musher exclaimed at supper one
Weedon Scott listened. Through the door came a low, anxious whine,
like a sobbing under the breath that had just grown audible. Then
came the long sniff, as White Fang reassured himself that his god
was still inside and had not yet taken himself off in mysterious
and solitary flight.
"I do believe that wolf's on to you," the dog-musher said.
Weedon Scott looked across at his companion with eyes that almost
pleaded, though this was given the lie by his words.
"What the devil can I do with a wolf in California?" he demanded.
"That's what I say," Matt answered. "What the devil can you do
with a wolf in California?"
But this did not satisfy Weedon Scott. The other seemed to be
judging him in a non-committal sort of way.
"White man's dogs would have no show against him," Scott went on.
"He'd kill them on sight. If he didn't bankrupt me with damaged
suits, the authorities would take him away from me and electrocute
"He's a downright murderer, I know," was the dog-musher's comment.
Weedon Scott looked at him suspiciously.
"It would never do," he said decisively.
"It would never do!" Matt concurred. "Why you'd have to hire a man
'specially to take care of 'm."
The other suspicion was allayed. He nodded cheerfully. In the
silence that followed, the low, half-sobbing whine was heard at the
door and then the long, questing sniff.
"There's no denyin' he thinks a hell of a lot of you," Matt said.
The other glared at him in sudden wrath. "Damn it all, man! I
know my own mind and what's best!"
"I'm agreein' with you, only . . . "
"Only what?" Scott snapped out.
"Only . . . " the dog-musher began softly, then changed his mind
and betrayed a rising anger of his own. "Well, you needn't get so
all-fired het up about it. Judgin' by your actions one'd think you
didn't know your own mind."
Weedon Scott debated with himself for a while, and then said more
gently: "You are right, Matt. I don't know my own mind, and
that's what's the trouble."
"Why, it would be rank ridiculousness for me to take that dog
along," he broke out after another pause.
"I'm agreein' with you," was Matt's answer, and again his employer
was not quite satisfied with him.
"But how in the name of the great Sardanapolis he knows you're
goin' is what gets me," the dog-musher continued innocently.
"It's beyond me, Matt," Scott answered, with a mournful shake of
the head.
Then came the day when, through the open cabin door, White Fang saw
the fatal grip on the floor and the love-master packing things into
it. Also, there were comings and goings, and the erstwhile placid
atmosphere of the cabin was vexed with strange perturbations and
unrest. Here was indubitable evidence. White Fang had already
scented it. He now reasoned it. His god was preparing for another
flight. And since he had not taken him with him before, so, now,
he could look to be left behind.
That night he lifted the long wolf-howl. As he had howled, in his
puppy days, when he fled back from the Wild to the village to find
it vanished and naught but a rubbish-heap to mark the site of Grey
Beaver's tepee, so now he pointed his muzzle to the cold stars and
told to them his woe.
Inside the cabin the two men had just gone to bed.
"He's gone off his food again," Matt remarked from his bunk.
There was a grunt from Weedon Scott's bunk, and a stir of blankets.
"From the way he cut up the other time you went away, I wouldn't
wonder this time but what he died."
The blankets in the other bunk stirred irritably.
"Oh, shut up!" Scott cried out through the darkness. "You nag
worse than a woman."
"I'm agreein' with you," the dog-musher answered, and Weedon Scott
was not quite sure whether or not the other had snickered.
The next day White Fang's anxiety and restlessness were even more
pronounced. He dogged his master's heels whenever he left the
cabin, and haunted the front stoop when he remained inside.
Through the open door he could catch glimpses of the luggage on the
floor. The grip had been joined by two large canvas bags and a
box. Matt was rolling the master's blankets and fur robe inside a
small tarpaulin. White Fang whined as he watched the operation.
Later on two Indians arrived. He watched them closely as they
shouldered the luggage and were led off down the hill by Matt, who
carried the bedding and the grip. But White Fang did not follow
them. The master was still in the cabin. After a time, Matt
returned. The master came to the door and called White Fang
"You poor devil," he said gently, rubbing White Fang's ears and
tapping his spine. "I'm hitting the long trail, old man, where you
cannot follow. Now give me a growl - the last, good, good-bye
But White Fang refused to growl. Instead, and after a wistful,
searching look, he snuggled in, burrowing his head out of sight
between the master's arm and body.
"There she blows!" Matt cried. From the Yukon arose the hoarse
bellowing of a river steamboat. "You've got to cut it short. Be
sure and lock the front door. I'll go out the back. Get a move
The two doors slammed at the same moment, and Weedon Scott waited
for Matt to come around to the front. From inside the door came a
low whining and sobbing. Then there were long, deep-drawn sniffs.
"You must take good care of him, Matt," Scott said, as they started
down the hill. "Write and let me know how he gets along."
"Sure," the dog-musher answered. "But listen to that, will you!"
Both men stopped. White Fang was howling as dogs howl when their
masters lie dead. He was voicing an utter woe, his cry bursting
upward in great heart-breaking rushes, dying down into quavering
misery, and bursting upward again with a rush upon rush of grief.
The AURORA was the first steamboat of the year for the Outside, and
her decks were jammed with prosperous adventurers and broken gold
seekers, all equally as mad to get to the Outside as they had been
originally to get to the Inside. Near the gang-plank, Scott was
shaking hands with Matt, who was preparing to go ashore. But
Matt's hand went limp in the other's grasp as his gaze shot past
and remained fixed on something behind him. Scott turned to see.
Sitting on the deck several feet away and watching wistfully was
White Fang,
The dog-musher swore softly, in awe-stricken accents. Scott could
only look in wonder.
"Did you lock the front door?" Matt demanded. The other nodded,
and asked, "How about the back?"
"You just bet I did," was the fervent reply.
White Fang flattened his ears ingratiatingly, but remained where he
was, making no attempt to approach.
"I'll have to take 'm ashore with me."
Matt made a couple of steps toward White Fang, but the latter slid
away from him. The dog-musher made a rush of it, and White Fang
dodged between the legs of a group of men. Ducking, turning,
doubling, he slid about the deck, eluding the other's efforts to
capture him.
But when the love-master spoke, White Fang came to him with prompt
"Won't come to the hand that's fed 'm all these months," the dogmusher
muttered resentfully. "And you - you ain't never fed 'm
after them first days of gettin' acquainted. I'm blamed if I can
see how he works it out that you're the boss."
Scott, who had been patting White Fang, suddenly bent closer and
pointed out fresh-made cuts on his muzzle, and a gash between the
Matt bent over and passed his hand along White Fang's belly.
"We plump forgot the window. He's all cut an' gouged underneath.
Must 'a' butted clean through it, b'gosh!"
But Weedon Scott was not listening. He was thinking rapidly. The
AURORA'S whistle hooted a final announcement of departure. Men
were scurrying down the gang-plank to the shore. Matt loosened the
bandana from his own neck and started to put it around White
Fang's. Scott grasped the dog-musher's hand.
"Good-bye, Matt, old man. About the wolf-you needn't write. You
see, I've . . . !"
"What!" the dog-musher exploded. "You don't mean to say . . .?"
"The very thing I mean. Here's your bandana. I'll write to you
about him."
Matt paused halfway down the gang-plank.
"He'll never stand the climate!" he shouted back. "Unless you clip
'm in warm weather!"
The gang-plank was hauled in, and the AURORA swang out from the
bank. Weedon Scott waved a last good-bye. Then he turned and bent
over White Fang, standing by his side.
"Now growl, damn you, growl," he said, as he patted the responsive
head and rubbed the flattening ears.
White Fang landed from the steamer in San Francisco. He was
appalled. Deep in him, below any reasoning process or act of
consciousness, he had associated power with godhead. And never had
the white men seemed such marvellous gods as now, when he trod the
slimy pavement of San Francisco. The log cabins he had known were
replaced by towering buildings. The streets were crowded with
perils - waggons, carts, automobiles; great, straining horses
pulling huge trucks; and monstrous cable and electric ears hooting
and clanging through the midst, screeching their insistent menace
after the manner of the lynxes he had known in the northern woods.
All this was the manifestation of power. Through it all, behind it
all, was man, governing and controlling, expressing himself, as of
old, by his mastery over matter. It was colossal, stunning. White
Fang was awed. Fear sat upon him. As in his cubhood he had been
made to feel his smallness and puniness on the day he first came in
from the Wild to the village of Grey Beaver, so now, in his fullgrown
stature and pride of strength, he was made to feel small and
puny. And there were so many gods! He was made dizzy by the
swarming of them. The thunder of the streets smote upon his ears.
He was bewildered by the tremendous and endless rush and movement
of things. As never before, he felt his dependence on the lovemaster,
close at whose heels he followed, no matter what happened
never losing sight of him.
But White Fang was to have no more than a nightmare vision of the
city - an experience that was like a bad dream, unreal and
terrible, that haunted him for long after in his dreams. He was
put into a baggage-car by the master, chained in a corner in the
midst of heaped trunks and valises. Here a squat and brawny god
held sway, with much noise, hurling trunks and boxes about,
dragging them in through the door and tossing them into the piles,
or flinging them out of the door, smashing and crashing, to other
gods who awaited them.
And here, in this inferno of luggage, was White Fang deserted by
the master. Or at least White Fang thought he was deserted, until
he smelled out the master's canvas clothes-bags alongside of him,
and proceeded to mount guard over them.
"'Bout time you come," growled the god of the car, an hour later,
when Weedon Scott appeared at the door. "That dog of yourn won't
let me lay a finger on your stuff."
White Fang emerged from the car. He was astonished. The nightmare
city was gone. The car had been to him no more than a room in a
house, and when he had entered it the city had been all around him.
In the interval the city had disappeared. The roar of it no longer
dinned upon his ears. Before him was smiling country, streaming
with sunshine, lazy with quietude. But he had little time to
marvel at the transformation. He accepted it as he accepted all
the unaccountable doings and manifestations of the gods. It was
their way.
There was a carriage waiting. A man and a woman approached the
master. The woman's arms went out and clutched the master around
the neck - a hostile act! The next moment Weedon Scott had torn
loose from the embrace and closed with White Fang, who had become a
snarling, raging demon.
"It's all right, mother," Scott was saving as he kept tight hold of
White Fang and placated him. "He thought you were going to injure
me, and he wouldn't stand for it. It's all right. It's all right.
He'll learn soon enough."
"And in the meantime I may be permitted to love my son when his dog
is not around," she laughed, though she was pale and weak from the
She looked at White Fang, who snarled and bristled and glared
"He'll have to learn, and he shall, without postponement," Scott
He spoke softly to White Fang until he had quieted him, then his
voice became firm.
"Down, sir! Down with you!"
This had been one of the things taught him by the master, and White
Fang obeyed, though he lay down reluctantly and sullenly.
"Now, mother."
Scott opened his arms to her, but kept his eyes on White Fang.
"Down!" he warned. "Down!"
White Fang, bristling silently, half-crouching as he rose, sank
back and watched the hostile act repeated. But no harm came of it,
nor of the embrace from the strange man-god that followed. Then
the clothes-bags were taken into the carriage, the strange gods and
the love-master followed, and White Fang pursued, now running
vigilantly behind, now bristling up to the running horses and
warning them that he was there to see that no harm befell the god
they dragged so swiftly across the earth.
At the end of fifteen minutes, the carriage swung in through a
stone gateway and on between a double row of arched and interlacing
walnut trees. On either side stretched lawns, their broad sweep
broken here and there by great sturdy-limbed oaks. In the near
distance, in contrast with the young-green of the tended grass,
sunburnt hay-fields showed tan and gold; while beyond were the
tawny hills and upland pastures. From the head of the lawn, on the
first soft swell from the valley-level, looked down the deepporched,
many-windowed house.
Little opportunity was given White Fang to see all this. Hardly
had the carriage entered the grounds, when he was set upon by a
sheep-dog, bright-eyed, sharp-muzzled, righteously indignant and
angry. It was between him and the master, cutting him off. White
Fang snarled no warning, but his hair bristled as he made his
silent and deadly rush. This rush was never completed. He halted
with awkward abruptness, with stiff fore-legs bracing himself
against his momentum, almost sitting down on his haunches, so
desirous was he of avoiding contact with the dog he was in the act
of attacking. It was a female, and the law of his kind thrust a
barrier between. For him to attack her would require nothing less
than a violation of his instinct.
But with the sheep-dog it was otherwise. Being a female, she
possessed no such instinct. On the other hand, being a sheep-dog,
her instinctive fear of the Wild, and especially of the wolf, was
unusually keen. White Fang was to her a wolf, the hereditary
marauder who had preyed upon her flocks from the time sheep were
first herded and guarded by some dim ancestor of hers. And so, as
he abandoned his rush at her and braced himself to avoid the
contact, she sprang upon him. He snarled involuntarily as he felt
her teeth in his shoulder, but beyond this made no offer to hurt
her. He backed away, stiff-legged with self-consciousness, and
tried to go around her. He dodged this way and that, and curved
and turned, but to no purpose. She remained always between him and
the way he wanted to go.
"Here, Collie!" called the strange man in the carriage.
Weedon Scott laughed.
"Never mind, father. It is good discipline. White Fang will have
to learn many things, and it's just as well that he begins now.
He'll adjust himself all right."
The carriage drove on, and still Collie blocked White Fang's way.
He tried to outrun her by leaving the drive and circling across the
lawn but she ran on the inner and smaller circle, and was always
there, facing him with her two rows of gleaming teeth. Back he
circled, across the drive to the other lawn, and again she headed
him off.
The carriage was bearing the master away. White Fang caught
glimpses of it disappearing amongst the trees. The situation was
desperate. He essayed another circle. She followed, running
swiftly. And then, suddenly, he turned upon her. It was his old
fighting trick. Shoulder to shoulder, he struck her squarely. Not
only was she overthrown. So fast had she been running that she
rolled along, now on her back, now on her side, as she struggled to
stop, clawing gravel with her feet and crying shrilly her hurt
pride and indignation.
White Fang did not wait. The way was clear, and that was all he
had wanted. She took after him, never ceasing her outcry. It was
the straightaway now, and when it came to real running, White Fang
could teach her things. She ran frantically, hysterically,
straining to the utmost, advertising the effort she was making with
every leap: and all the time White Fang slid smoothly away from
her silently, without effort, gliding like a ghost over the ground.
As he rounded the house to the PORTE-COCHERE, he came upon the
carriage. It had stopped, and the master was alighting. At this
moment, still running at top speed, White Fang became suddenly
aware of an attack from the side. It was a deer-hound rushing upon
him. White Fang tried to face it. But he was going too fast, and
the hound was too close. It struck him on the side; and such was
his forward momentum and the unexpectedness of it, White Fang was
hurled to the ground and rolled clear over. He came out of the
tangle a spectacle of malignancy, ears flattened back, lips
writhing, nose wrinkling, his teeth clipping together as the fangs
barely missed the hound's soft throat.
The master was running up, but was too far away; and it was Collie
that saved the hound's life. Before White Fang could spring in and
deliver the fatal stroke, and just as he was in the act of
springing in, Collie arrived. She had been out-manoeuvred and outrun,
to say nothing of her having been unceremoniously tumbled in
the gravel, and her arrival was like that of a tornado - made up of
offended dignity, justifiable wrath, and instinctive hatred for
this marauder from the Wild. She struck White Fang at right angles
in the midst of his spring, and again he was knocked off his feet
and rolled over.
The next moment the master arrived, and with one hand held White
Fang, while the father called off the dogs.
"I say, this is a pretty warm reception for a poor lone wolf from
the Arctic," the master said, while White Fang calmed down under
his caressing hand. "In all his life he's only been known once to
go off his feet, and here he's been rolled twice in thirty
The carriage had driven away, and other strange gods had appeared
from out the house. Some of these stood respectfully at a
distance; but two of them, women, perpetrated the hostile act of
clutching the master around the neck. White Fang, however, was
beginning to tolerate this act. No harm seemed to come of it,
while the noises the gods made were certainly not threatening.
These gods also made overtures to White Fang, but he warned them
off with a snarl, and the master did likewise with word of mouth.
At such times White Fang leaned in close against the master's legs
and received reassuring pats on the head.
The hound, under the command, "Dick! Lie down, sir!" had gone up
the steps and lain down to one side of the porch, still growling
and keeping a sullen watch on the intruder. Collie had been taken
in charge by one of the woman-gods, who held arms around her neck
and petted and caressed her; but Collie was very much perplexed and
worried, whining and restless, outraged by the permitted presence
of this wolf and confident that the gods were making a mistake.
All the gods started up the steps to enter the house. White Fang
followed closely at the master's heels. Dick, on the porch,
growled, and White Fang, on the steps, bristled and growled back.
"Take Collie inside and leave the two of them to fight it out,"
suggested Scott's father. "After that they'll be friends."
"Then White Fang, to show his friendship, will have to be chief
mourner at the funeral," laughed the master.
The elder Scott looked incredulously, first at White Fang, then at
Dick, and finally at his son.
"You mean . . .?"
Weedon nodded his head. "I mean just that. You'd have a dead Dick
inside one minute - two minutes at the farthest."
He turned to White Fang. "Come on, you wolf. It's you that'll
have to come inside."
White Fang walked stiff-legged up the steps and across the porch,
with tail rigidly erect, keeping his eyes on Dick to guard against
a flank attack, and at the same time prepared for whatever fierce
manifestation of the unknown that might pounce out upon him from
the interior of the house. But no thing of fear pounced out, and
when he had gained the inside he scouted carefully around, looking
at it and finding it not. Then he lay down with a contented grunt
at the master's feet, observing all that went on, ever ready to
spring to his feet and fight for life with the terrors he felt must
lurk under the trap-roof of the dwelling.
Not only was White Fang adaptable by nature, but he had travelled
much, and knew the meaning and necessity of adjustment. Here, in
Sierra Vista, which was the name of Judge Scott's place, White Fang
quickly began to make himself at home. He had no further serious
trouble with the dogs. They knew more about the ways of the
Southland gods than did he, and in their eyes he had qualified when
he accompanied the gods inside the house. Wolf that he was, and
unprecedented as it was, the gods had sanctioned his presence, and
they, the dogs of the gods, could only recognise this sanction.
Dick, perforce, had to go through a few stiff formalities at first,
after which he calmly accepted White Fang as an addition to the
premises. Had Dick had his way, they would have been good friends.
All but White Fang was averse to friendship. All he asked of other
dogs was to be let alone. His whole life he had kept aloof from
his kind, and he still desired to keep aloof. Dick's overtures
bothered him, so he snarled Dick away. In the north he had learned
the lesson that he must let the master's dogs alone, and he did not
forget that lesson now. But he insisted on his own privacy and
self-seclusion, and so thoroughly ignored Dick that that goodnatured
creature finally gave him up and scarcely took as much
interest in him as in the hitching-post near the stable.
Not so with Collie. While she accepted him because it was the
mandate of the gods, that was no reason that she should leave him
in peace. Woven into her being was the memory of countless crimes
he and his had perpetrated against her ancestry. Not in a day nor
a generation were the ravaged sheepfolds to be forgotten. All this
was a spur to her, pricking her to retaliation. She could not fly
in the face of the gods who permitted him, but that did not prevent
her from making life miserable for him in petty ways. A feud, ages
old, was between them, and she, for one, would see to it that he
was reminded.
So Collie took advantage of her sex to pick upon White Fang and
maltreat him. His instinct would not permit him to attack her,
while her persistence would not permit him to ignore her. When she
rushed at him he turned his fur-protected shoulder to her sharp
teeth and walked away stiff-legged and stately. When she forced
him too hard, he was compelled to go about in a circle, his
shoulder presented to her, his head turned from her, and on his
face and in his eyes a patient and bored expression. Sometimes,
however, a nip on his hind-quarters hastened his retreat and made
it anything but stately. But as a rule he managed to maintain a
dignity that was almost solemnity. He ignored her existence
whenever it was possible, and made it a point to keep out of her
way. When he saw or heard her coming, he got up and walked off.
There was much in other matters for White Fang to learn. Life in
the Northland was simplicity itself when compared with the
complicated affairs of Sierra Vista. First of all, he had to learn
the family of the master. In a way he was prepared to do this. As
Mit-sah and Kloo-kooch had belonged to Grey Beaver, sharing his
food, his fire, and his blankets, so now, at Sierra Vista, belonged
to the love-master all the denizens of the house.
But in this matter there was a difference, and many differences.
Sierra Vista was a far vaster affair than the tepee of Grey Beaver.
There were many persons to be considered. There was Judge Scott,
and there was his wife. There were the master's two sisters, Beth
and Mary. There was his wife, Alice, and then there were his
children, Weedon and Maud, toddlers of four and six. There was no
way for anybody to tell him about all these people, and of bloodties
and relationship he knew nothing whatever and never would be
capable of knowing. Yet he quickly worked it out that all of them
belonged to the master. Then, by observation, whenever opportunity
offered, by study of action, speech, and the very intonations of
the voice, he slowly learned the intimacy and the degree of favour
they enjoyed with the master. And by this ascertained standard,
White Fang treated them accordingly. What was of value to the
master he valued; what was dear to the master was to be cherished
by White Fang and guarded carefully.
Thus it was with the two children. All his life he had disliked
children. He hated and feared their hands. The lessons were not
tender that he had learned of their tyranny and cruelty in the days
of the Indian villages. When Weedon and Maud had first approached
him, he growled warningly and looked malignant. A cuff from the
master and a sharp word had then compelled him to permit their
caresses, though he growled and growled under their tiny hands, and
in the growl there was no crooning note. Later, he observed that
the boy and girl were of great value in the master's eyes. Then it
was that no cuff nor sharp word was necessary before they could pat
Yet White Fang was never effusively affectionate. He yielded to
the master's children with an ill but honest grace, and endured
their fooling as one would endure a painful operation. When he
could no longer endure, he would get up and stalk determinedly away
from them. But after a time, he grew even to like the children.
Still he was not demonstrative. He would not go up to them. On
the other hand, instead of walking away at sight of them, he waited
for them to come to him. And still later, it was noticed that a
pleased light came into his eyes when he saw them approaching, and
that he looked after them with an appearance of curious regret when
they left him for other amusements.
All this was a matter of development, and took time. Next in his
regard, after the children, was Judge Scott. There were two
reasons, possibly, for this. First, he was evidently a valuable
possession of the master's, and next, he was undemonstrative.
White Fang liked to lie at his feet on the wide porch when he read
the newspaper, from time to time favouring White Fang with a look
or a word - untroublesome tokens that he recognised White Fang's
presence and existence. But this was only when the master was not
around. When the master appeared, all other beings ceased to exist
so far as White Fang was concerned.
White Fang allowed all the members of the family to pet him and
make much of him; but he never gave to them what he gave to the
master. No caress of theirs could put the love-croon into his
throat, and, try as they would, they could never persuade him into
snuggling against them. This expression of abandon and surrender,
of absolute trust, he reserved for the master alone. In fact, he
never regarded the members of the family in any other light than
possessions of the love-master.
Also White Fang had early come to differentiate between the family
and the servants of the household. The latter were afraid of him,
while he merely refrained from attacking them. This because he
considered that they were likewise possessions of the master.
Between White Fang and them existed a neutrality and no more. They
cooked for the master and washed the dishes and did other things
just as Matt had done up in the Klondike. They were, in short,
appurtenances of the household.
Outside the household there was even more for White Fang to learn.
The master's domain was wide and complex, yet it had its metes and
bounds. The land itself ceased at the county road. Outside was
the common domain of all gods - the roads and streets. Then inside
other fences were the particular domains of other gods. A myriad
laws governed all these things and determined conduct; yet he did
not know the speech of the gods, nor was there any way for him to
learn save by experience. He obeyed his natural impulses until
they ran him counter to some law. When this had been done a few
times, he learned the law and after that observed it.
But most potent in his education was the cuff of the master's hand,
the censure of the master's voice. Because of White Fang's very
great love, a cuff from the master hurt him far more than any
beating Grey Beaver or Beauty Smith had ever given him. They had
hurt only the flesh of him; beneath the flesh the spirit had still
raged, splendid and invincible. But with the master the cuff was
always too light to hurt the flesh. Yet it went deeper. It was an
expression of the master's disapproval, and White Fang's spirit
wilted under it.
In point of fact, the cuff was rarely administered. The master's
voice was sufficient. By it White Fang knew whether he did right
or not. By it he trimmed his conduct and adjusted his actions. It
was the compass by which he steered and learned to chart the
manners of a new land and life.
In the Northland, the only domesticated animal was the dog. All
other animals lived in the Wild, and were, when not too formidable,
lawful spoil for any dog. All his days White Fang had foraged
among the live things for food. It did not enter his head that in
the Southland it was otherwise. But this he was to learn early in
his residence in Santa Clara Valley. Sauntering around the corner
of the house in the early morning, he came upon a chicken that had
escaped from the chicken-yard. White Fang's natural impulse was to
eat it. A couple of bounds, a flash of teeth and a frightened
squawk, and he had scooped in the adventurous fowl. It was farmbred
and fat and tender; and White Fang licked his chops and
decided that such fare was good.
Later in the day, he chanced upon another stray chicken near the
stables. One of the grooms ran to the rescue. He did not know
White Fang's breed, so for weapon he took a light buggy-whip. At
the first cut of the whip, White Fang left the chicken for the man.
A club might have stopped White Fang, but not a whip. Silently,
without flinching, he took a second cut in his forward rush, and as
he leaped for the throat the groom cried out, "My God!" and
staggered backward. He dropped the whip and shielded his throat
with his arms. In consequence, his forearm was ripped open to the
The man was badly frightened. It was not so much White Fang's
ferocity as it was his silence that unnerved the groom. Still
protecting his throat and face with his torn and bleeding arm, he
tried to retreat to the barn. And it would have gone hard with him
had not Collie appeared on the scene. As she had saved Dick's
life, she now saved the groom's. She rushed upon White Fang in
frenzied wrath. She had been right. She had known better than the
blundering gods. All her suspicions were justified. Here was the
ancient marauder up to his old tricks again.
The groom escaped into the stables, and White Fang backed away
before Collie's wicked teeth, or presented his shoulder to them and
circled round and round. But Collie did not give over, as was her
wont, after a decent interval of chastisement. On the contrary,
she grew more excited and angry every moment, until, in the end,
White Fang flung dignity to the winds and frankly fled away from
her across the fields.
"He'll learn to leave chickens alone," the master said. "But I
can't give him the lesson until I catch him in the act."
Two nights later came the act, but on a more generous scale than
the master had anticipated. White Fang had observed closely the
chicken-yards and the habits of the chickens. In the night-time,
after they had gone to roost, he climbed to the top of a pile of
newly hauled lumber. From there he gained the roof of a chickenhouse,
passed over the ridgepole and dropped to the ground inside.
A moment later he was inside the house, and the slaughter began.
In the morning, when the master came out on to the porch, fifty
white Leghorn hens, laid out in a row by the groom, greeted his
eyes. He whistled to himself, softly, first with surprise, and
then, at the end, with admiration. His eyes were likewise greeted
by White Fang, but about the latter there were no signs of shame
nor guilt. He carried himself with pride, as though, forsooth, he
had achieved a deed praiseworthy and meritorious. There was about
him no consciousness of sin. The master's lips tightened as he
faced the disagreeable task. Then he talked harshly to the
unwitting culprit, and in his voice there was nothing but godlike
wrath. Also, he held White Fang's nose down to the slain hens, and
at the same time cuffed him soundly.
White Fang never raided a chicken-roost again. It was against the
law, and he had learned it. Then the master took him into the
chicken-yards. White Fang's natural impulse, when he saw the live
food fluttering about him and under his very nose, was to spring
upon it. He obeyed the impulse, but was checked by the master's
voice. They continued in the yards for half an hour. Time and
again the impulse surged over White Fang, and each time, as he
yielded to it, he was checked by the master's voice. Thus it was
he learned the law, and ere he left the domain of the chickens, he
had learned to ignore their existence.
"You can never cure a chicken-killer." Judge Scott shook his head
sadly at luncheon table, when his son narrated the lesson he had
given White Fang. "Once they've got the habit and the taste of
blood . . ." Again he shook his head sadly.
But Weedon Scott did not agree with his father. "I'll tell you
what I'll do," he challenged finally. "I'll lock White Fang in
with the chickens all afternoon."
"But think of the chickens," objected the judge.
"And furthermore," the son went on, "for every chicken he kills,
I'll pay you one dollar gold coin of the realm."
"But you should penalise father, too," interpose Beth.
Her sister seconded her, and a chorus of approval arose from around
the table. Judge Scott nodded his head in agreement.
"All right." Weedon Scott pondered for a moment. "And if, at the
end of the afternoon White Fang hasn't harmed a chicken, for every
ten minutes of the time he has spent in the yard, you will have to
say to him, gravely and with deliberation, just as if you were
sitting on the bench and solemnly passing judgment, 'White Fang,
you are smarter than I thought.'"
From hidden points of vantage the family watched the performance.
But it was a fizzle. Locked in the yard and there deserted by the
master, White Fang lay down and went to sleep. Once he got up and
walked over to the trough for a drink of water. The chickens he
calmly ignored. So far as he was concerned they did not exist. At
four o'clock he executed a running jump, gained the roof of the
chicken-house and leaped to the ground outside, whence he sauntered
gravely to the house. He had learned the law. And on the porch,
before the delighted family, Judge Scott, face to face with White
Fang, said slowly and solemnly, sixteen times, "White Fang, you are
smarter than I thought."
But it was the multiplicity of laws that befuddled White Fang and
often brought him into disgrace. He had to learn that he must not
touch the chickens that belonged to other gods. Then there were
cats, and rabbits, and turkeys; all these he must let alone. In
fact, when he had but partly learned the law, his impression was
that he must leave all live things alone. Out in the back-pasture,
a quail could flutter up under his nose unharmed. All tense and
trembling with eagerness and desire, he mastered his instinct and
stood still. He was obeying the will of the gods.
And then, one day, again out in the back-pasture, he saw Dick start
a jackrabbit and run it. The master himself was looking on and did
not interfere. Nay, he encouraged White Fang to join in the chase.
And thus he learned that there was no taboo on jackrabbits. In the
end he worked out the complete law. Between him and all domestic
animals there must be no hostilities. If not amity, at least
neutrality must obtain. But the other animals - the squirrels, and
quail, and cottontails, were creatures of the Wild who had never
yielded allegiance to man. They were the lawful prey of any dog.
It was only the tame that the gods protected, and between the tame
deadly strife was not permitted. The gods held the power of life
and death over their subjects, and the gods were jealous of their
Life was complex in the Santa Clara Valley after the simplicities
of the Northland. And the chief thing demanded by these
intricacies of civilisation was control, restraint - a poise of
self that was as delicate as the fluttering of gossamer wings and
at the same time as rigid as steel. Life had a thousand faces, and
White Fang found he must meet them all - thus, when he went to
town, in to San Jose, running behind the carriage or loafing about
the streets when the carriage stopped. Life flowed past him, deep
and wide and varied, continually impinging upon his senses,
demanding of him instant and endless adjustments and
correspondences, and compelling him, almost always, to suppress his
natural impulses.
There were butcher-shops where meat hung within reach. This meat
he must not touch. There were cats at the houses the master
visited that must be let alone. And there were dogs everywhere
that snarled at him and that he must not attack. And then, on the
crowded sidewalks there were persons innumerable whose attention he
attracted. They would stop and look at him, point him out to one
another, examine him, talk of him, and, worst of all, pat him. And
these perilous contacts from all these strange hands he must
endure. Yet this endurance he achieved. Furthermore, he got over
being awkward and self-conscious. In a lofty way he received the
attentions of the multitudes of strange gods. With condescension
he accepted their condescension. On the other hand, there was
something about him that prevented great familiarity. They patted
him on the head and passed on, contented and pleased with their own
But it was not all easy for White Fang. Running behind the
carriage in the outskirts of San Jose, he encountered certain small
boys who made a practice of flinging stones at him. Yet he knew
that it was not permitted him to pursue and drag them down. Here
he was compelled to violate his instinct of self-preservation, and
violate it he did, for he was becoming tame and qualifying himself
for civilisation.
Nevertheless, White Fang was not quite satisfied with the
arrangement. He had no abstract ideas about justice and fair play.
But there is a certain sense of equity that resides in life, and it
was this sense in him that resented the unfairness of his being
permitted no defence against the stone-throwers. He forgot that in
the covenant entered into between him and the gods they were
pledged to care for him and defend him. But one day the master
sprang from the carriage, whip in hand, and gave the stone-throwers
a thrashing. After that they threw stones no more, and White Fang
understood and was satisfied.
One other experience of similar nature was his. On the way to
town, hanging around the saloon at the cross-roads, were three dogs
that made a practice of rushing out upon him when he went by.
Knowing his deadly method of fighting, the master had never ceased
impressing upon White Fang the law that he must not fight. As a
result, having learned the lesson well, White Fang was hard put
whenever he passed the cross-roads saloon. After the first rush,
each time, his snarl kept the three dogs at a distance but they
trailed along behind, yelping and bickering and insulting him.
This endured for some time. The men at the saloon even urged the
dogs on to attack White Fang. One day they openly sicked the dogs
on him. The master stopped the carriage.
"Go to it," he said to White Fang.
But White Fang could not believe. He looked at the master, and he
looked at the dogs. Then he looked back eagerly and questioningly
at the master.
The master nodded his head. "Go to them, old fellow. Eat them
White Fang no longer hesitated. He turned and leaped silently
among his enemies. All three faced him. There was a great
snarling and growling, a clashing of teeth and a flurry of bodies.
The dust of the road arose in a cloud and screened the battle. But
at the end of several minutes two dogs were struggling in the dirt
and the third was in full flight. He leaped a ditch, went through
a rail fence, and fled across a field. White Fang followed,
sliding over the ground in wolf fashion and with wolf speed,
swiftly and without noise, and in the centre of the field he
dragged down and slew the dog.
With this triple killing his main troubles with dogs ceased. The
word went up and down the valley, and men saw to it that their dogs
did not molest the Fighting Wolf.
The months came and went. There was plenty of food and no work in
the Southland, and White Fang lived fat and prosperous and happy.
Not alone was he in the geographical Southland, for he was in the
Southland of life. Human kindness was like a sun shining upon him,
and he flourished like a flower planted in good soil.
And yet he remained somehow different from other dogs. He knew the
law even better than did the dogs that had known no other life, and
he observed the law more punctiliously; but still there was about
him a suggestion of lurking ferocity, as though the Wild still
lingered in him and the wolf in him merely slept.
He never chummed with other dogs. Lonely he had lived, so far as
his kind was concerned, and lonely he would continue to live. In
his puppyhood, under the persecution of Lip-lip and the puppy-pack,
and in his fighting days with Beauty Smith, he had acquired a fixed
aversion for dogs. The natural course of his life had been
diverted, and, recoiling from his kind, he had clung to the human.
Besides, all Southland dogs looked upon him with suspicion. He
aroused in them their instinctive fear of the Wild, and they
greeted him always with snarl and growl and belligerent hatred.
He, on the other hand, learned that it was not necessary to use his
teeth upon them. His naked fangs and writhing lips were uniformly
efficacious, rarely failing to send a bellowing on-rushing dog back
on its haunches.
But there was one trial in White Fang's life - Collie. She never
gave him a moment's peace. She was not so amenable to the law as
he. She defied all efforts of the master to make her become
friends with White Fang. Ever in his ears was sounding her sharp
and nervous snarl. She had never forgiven him the chicken-killing
episode, and persistently held to the belief that his intentions
were bad. She found him guilty before the act, and treated him
accordingly. She became a pest to him, like a policeman following
him around the stable and the hounds, and, if he even so much as
glanced curiously at a pigeon or chicken, bursting into an outcry
of indignation and wrath. His favourite way of ignoring her was to
lie down, with his head on his fore-paws, and pretend sleep. This
always dumfounded and silenced her.
With the exception of Collie, all things went well with White Fang.
He had learned control and poise, and he knew the law. He achieved
a staidness, and calmness, and philosophic tolerance. He no longer
lived in a hostile environment. Danger and hurt and death did not
lurk everywhere about him. In time, the unknown, as a thing of
terror and menace ever impending, faded away. Life was soft and
easy. It flowed along smoothly, and neither fear nor foe lurked by
the way.
He missed the snow without being aware of it. "An unduly long
summer," would have been his thought had he thought about it; as it
was, he merely missed the snow in a vague, subconscious way. In
the same fashion, especially in the heat of summer when he suffered
from the sun, he experienced faint longings for the Northland.
Their only effect upon him, however, was to make him uneasy and
restless without his knowing what was the matter.
White Fang had never been very demonstrative. Beyond his snuggling
and the throwing of a crooning note into his love-growl, he had no
way of expressing his love. Yet it was given him to discover a
third way. He had always been susceptible to the laughter of the
gods. Laughter had affected him with madness, made him frantic
with rage. But he did not have it in him to be angry with the
love-master, and when that god elected to laugh at him in a goodnatured,
bantering way, he was nonplussed. He could feel the
pricking and stinging of the old anger as it strove to rise up in
him, but it strove against love. He could not be angry; yet he had
to do something. At first he was dignified, and the master laughed
the harder. Then he tried to be more dignified, and the master
laughed harder than before. In the end, the master laughed him out
of his dignity. His jaws slightly parted, his lips lifted a
little, and a quizzical expression that was more love than humour
came into his eyes. He had learned to laugh.
Likewise he learned to romp with the master, to be tumbled down and
rolled over, and be the victim of innumerable rough tricks. In
return he feigned anger, bristling and growling ferociously, and
clipping his teeth together in snaps that had all the seeming of
deadly intention. But he never forgot himself. Those snaps were
always delivered on the empty air. At the end of such a romp, when
blow and cuff and snap and snarl were last and furious, they would
break off suddenly and stand several feet apart, glaring at each
other. And then, just as suddenly, like the sun rising on a stormy
sea, they would begin to laugh. This would always culminate with
the master's arms going around White Fang's neck and shoulders
while the latter crooned and growled his love-song.
But nobody else ever romped with White Fang. He did not permit it.
He stood on his dignity, and when they attempted it, his warning
snarl and bristling mane were anything but playful. That he
allowed the master these liberties was no reason that he should be
a common dog, loving here and loving there, everybody's property
for a romp and good time. He loved with single heart and refused
to cheapen himself or his love.
The master went out on horseback a great deal, and to accompany him
was one of White Fang's chief duties in life. In the Northland he
had evidenced his fealty by toiling in the harness; but there were
no sleds in the Southland, nor did dogs pack burdens on their
backs. So he rendered fealty in the new way, by running with the
master's horse. The longest day never played White Fang out. His
was the gait of the wolf, smooth, tireless and effortless, and at
the end of fifty miles he would come in jauntily ahead of the
It was in connection with the riding, that White Fang achieved one
other mode of expression - remarkable in that he did it but twice
in all his life. The first time occurred when the master was
trying to teach a spirited thoroughbred the method of opening and
closing gates without the rider's dismounting. Time and again and
many times he ranged the horse up to the gate in the effort to
close it and each time the horse became frightened and backed and
plunged away. It grew more nervous and excited every moment. When
it reared, the master put the spurs to it and made it drop its
fore-legs back to earth, whereupon it would begin kicking with its
hind-legs. White Fang watched the performance with increasing
anxiety until he could contain himself no longer, when he sprang in
front of the horse and barked savagely and warningly.
Though he often tried to bark thereafter, and the master encouraged
him, he succeeded only once, and then it was not in the master's
presence. A scamper across the pasture, a jackrabbit rising
suddenly under the horse's feet, a violent sheer, a stumble, a fall
to earth, and a broken leg for the master, was the cause of it.
White Fang sprang in a rage at the throat of the offending horse,
but was checked by the master's voice.
"Home! Go home!" the master commanded when he had ascertained his
White Fang was disinclined to desert him. The master thought of
writing a note, but searched his pockets vainly for pencil and
paper. Again he commanded White Fang to go home.
The latter regarded him wistfully, started away, then returned and
whined softly. The master talked to him gently but seriously, and
he cocked his ears, and listened with painful intentness.
"That's all right, old fellow, you just run along home," ran the
talk. "Go on home and tell them what's happened to me. Home with
you, you wolf. Get along home!"
White Fang knew the meaning of "home," and though he did not
understand the remainder of the master's language, he knew it was
his will that he should go home. He turned and trotted reluctantly
away. Then he stopped, undecided, and looked back over his
"Go home!" came the sharp command, and this time he obeyed.
The family was on the porch, taking the cool of the afternoon, when
White Fang arrived. He came in among them, panting, covered with
"Weedon's back," Weedon's mother announced.
The children welcomed White Fang with glad cries and ran to meet
him. He avoided them and passed down the porch, but they cornered
him against a rocking-chair and the railing. He growled and tried
to push by them. Their mother looked apprehensively in their
"I confess, he makes me nervous around the children," she said. "I
have a dread that he will turn upon them unexpectedly some day."
Growling savagely, White Fang sprang out of the corner, overturning
the boy and the girl. The mother called them to her and comforted
them, telling them not to bother White Fang.
"A wolf is a wolf!" commented Judge Scott. "There is no trusting
"But he is not all wolf," interposed Beth, standing for her brother
in his absence.
"You have only Weedon's opinion for that," rejoined the judge. "He
merely surmises that there is some strain of dog in White Fang; but
as he will tell you himself, he knows nothing about it. As for his
appearance - "
He did not finish his sentence. White Fang stood before him,
growling fiercely.
"Go away! Lie down, sir!" Judge Scott commanded.
White Fang turned to the love-master's wife. She screamed with
fright as he seized her dress in his teeth and dragged on it till
the frail fabric tore away. By this time he had become the centre
of interest.
He had ceased from his growling and stood, head up, looking into
their faces. His throat worked spasmodically, but made no sound,
while he struggled with all his body, convulsed with the effort to
rid himself of the incommunicable something that strained for
"I hope he is not going mad," said Weedon's mother. "I told Weedon
that I was afraid the warm climate would not agree with an Arctic
"He's trying to speak, I do believe," Beth announced.
At this moment speech came to White Fang, rushing up in a great
burst of barking.
"Something has happened to Weedon," his wife said decisively.
They were all on their feet now, and White Fang ran down the steps,
looking back for them to follow. For the second and last time in
his life he had barked and made himself understood.
After this event he found a warmer place in the hearts of the
Sierra Vista people, and even the groom whose arm he had slashed
admitted that he was a wise dog even if he was a wolf. Judge Scott
still held to the same opinion, and proved it to everybody's
dissatisfaction by measurements and descriptions taken from the
encyclopaedia and various works on natural history.
The days came and went, streaming their unbroken sunshine over the
Santa Clara Valley. But as they grew shorter and White Fang's
second winter in the Southland came on, he made a strange
discovery. Collie's teeth were no longer sharp. There was a
playfulness about her nips and a gentleness that prevented them
from really hurting him. He forgot that she had made life a burden
to him, and when she disported herself around him he responded
solemnly, striving to be playful and becoming no more than
One day she led him off on a long chase through the back-pasture
land into the woods. It was the afternoon that the master was to
ride, and White Fang knew it. The horse stood saddled and waiting
at the door. White Fang hesitated. But there was that in him
deeper than all the law he had learned, than the customs that had
moulded him, than his love for the master, than the very will to
live of himself; and when, in the moment of his indecision, Collie
nipped him and scampered off, he turned and followed after. The
master rode alone that day; and in the woods, side by side, White
Fang ran with Collie, as his mother, Kiche, and old One Eye had run
long years before in the silent Northland forest.
It was about this time that the newspapers were full of the daring
escape of a convict from San Quentin prison. He was a ferocious
man. He had been ill-made in the making. He had not been born
right, and he had not been helped any by the moulding he had
received at the hands of society. The hands of society are harsh,
and this man was a striking sample of its handiwork. He was a
beast - a human beast, it is true, but nevertheless so terrible a
beast that he can best be characterised as carnivorous.
In San Quentin prison he had proved incorrigible. Punishment
failed to break his spirit. He could die dumb-mad and fighting to
the last, but he could not live and be beaten. The more fiercely
he fought, the more harshly society handled him, and the only
effect of harshness was to make him fiercer. Straight-jackets,
starvation, and beatings and clubbings were the wrong treatment for
Jim Hall; but it was the treatment he received. It was the
treatment he had received from the time he was a little pulpy boy
in a San Francisco slum - soft clay in the hands of society and
ready to be formed into something.
It was during Jim Hall's third term in prison that he encountered a
guard that was almost as great a beast as he. The guard treated
him unfairly, lied about him to the warden, lost his credits,
persecuted him. The difference between them was that the guard
carried a bunch of keys and a revolver. Jim Hall had only his
naked hands and his teeth. But he sprang upon the guard one day
and used his teeth on the other's throat just like any jungle
After this, Jim Hall went to live in the incorrigible cell. He
lived there three years. The cell was of iron, the floor, the
walls, the roof. He never left this cell. He never saw the sky
nor the sunshine. Day was a twilight and night was a black
silence. He was in an iron tomb, buried alive. He saw no human
face, spoke to no human thing. When his food was shoved in to him,
he growled like a wild animal. He hated all things. For days and
nights he bellowed his rage at the universe. For weeks and months
he never made a sound, in the black silence eating his very soul.
He was a man and a monstrosity, as fearful a thing of fear as ever
gibbered in the visions of a maddened brain.
And then, one night, he escaped. The warders said it was
impossible, but nevertheless the cell was empty, and half in half
out of it lay the body of a dead guard. Two other dead guards
marked his trail through the prison to the outer walls, and he had
killed with his hands to avoid noise.
He was armed with the weapons of the slain guards - a live arsenal
that fled through the hills pursued by the organised might of
society. A heavy price of gold was upon his head. Avaricious
farmers hunted him with shot-guns. His blood might pay off a
mortgage or send a son to college. Public-spirited citizens took
down their rifles and went out after him. A pack of bloodhounds
followed the way of his bleeding feet. And the sleuth-hounds of
the law, the paid fighting animals of society, with telephone, and
telegraph, and special train, clung to his trail night and day.
Sometimes they came upon him, and men faced him like heroes, or
stampeded through barbed-wire fences to the delight of the
commonwealth reading the account at the breakfast table. It was
after such encounters that the dead and wounded were carted back to
the towns, and their places filled by men eager for the man-hunt.
And then Jim Hall disappeared. The bloodhounds vainly quested on
the lost trail. Inoffensive ranchers in remote valleys were held
up by armed men and compelled to identify themselves. While the
remains of Jim Hall were discovered on a dozen mountain-sides by
greedy claimants for blood-money.
In the meantime the newspapers were read at Sierra Vista, not so
much with interest as with anxiety. The women were afraid. Judge
Scott pooh-poohed and laughed, but not with reason, for it was in
his last days on the bench that Jim Hall had stood before him and
received sentence. And in open court-room, before all men, Jim
Hall had proclaimed that the day would come when he would wreak
vengeance on the Judge that sentenced him.
For once, Jim Hall was right. He was innocent of the crime for
which he was sentenced. It was a case, in the parlance of thieves
and police, of "rail-roading." Jim Hall was being "rail-roaded" to
prison for a crime he had not committed. Because of the two prior
convictions against him, Judge Scott imposed upon him a sentence of
fifty years.
Judge Scott did not know all things, and he did not know that he
was party to a police conspiracy, that the evidence was hatched and
perjured, that Jim Hall was guiltless of the crime charged. And
Jim Hall, on the other hand, did not know that Judge Scott was
merely ignorant. Jim Hall believed that the judge knew all about
it and was hand in glove with the police in the perpetration of the
monstrous injustice. So it was, when the doom of fifty years of
living death was uttered by Judge Scott, that Jim Hall, hating all
things in the society that misused him, rose up and raged in the
court-room until dragged down by half a dozen of his blue-coated
enemies. To him, Judge Scott was the keystone in the arch of
injustice, and upon Judge Scott he emptied the vials of his wrath
and hurled the threats of his revenge yet to come. Then Jim Hall
went to his living death . . . and escaped.
Of all this White Fang knew nothing. But between him and Alice,
the master's wife, there existed a secret. Each night, after
Sierra Vista had gone to bed, she rose and let in White Fang to
sleep in the big hall. Now White Fang was not a house-dog, nor was
he permitted to sleep in the house; so each morning, early, she
slipped down and let him out before the family was awake.
On one such night, while all the house slept, White Fang awoke and
lay very quietly. And very quietly he smelled the air and read the
message it bore of a strange god's presence. And to his ears came
sounds of the strange god's movements. White Fang burst into no
furious outcry. It was not his way. The strange god walked
softly, but more softly walked White Fang, for he had no clothes to
rub against the flesh of his body. He followed silently. In the
Wild he had hunted live meat that was infinitely timid, and he knew
the advantage of surprise.
The strange god paused at the foot of the great staircase and
listened, and White Fang was as dead, so without movement was he as
he watched and waited. Up that staircase the way led to the lovemaster
and to the love-master's dearest possessions. White Fang
bristled, but waited. The strange god's foot lifted. He was
beginning the ascent.
Then it was that White Fang struck. He gave no warning, with no
snarl anticipated his own action. Into the air he lifted his body
in the spring that landed him on the strange god's back. White
Fang clung with his fore-paws to the man's shoulders, at the same
time burying his fangs into the back of the man's neck. He clung
on for a moment, long enough to drag the god over backward.
Together they crashed to the floor. White Fang leaped clear, and,
as the man struggled to rise, was in again with the slashing fangs.
Sierra Vista awoke in alarm. The noise from downstairs was as that
of a score of battling fiends. There were revolver shots. A man's
voice screamed once in horror and anguish. There was a great
snarling and growling, and over all arose a smashing and crashing
of furniture and glass.
But almost as quickly as it had arisen, the commotion died away.
The struggle had not lasted more than three minutes. The
frightened household clustered at the top of the stairway. From
below, as from out an abyss of blackness, came up a gurgling sound,
as of air bubbling through water. Sometimes this gurgle became
sibilant, almost a whistle. But this, too, quickly died down and
ceased. Then naught came up out of the blackness save a heavy
panting of some creature struggling sorely for air.
Weedon Scott pressed a button, and the staircase and downstairs
hall were flooded with light. Then he and Judge Scott, revolvers
in hand, cautiously descended. There was no need for this caution.
White Fang had done his work. In the midst of the wreckage of
overthrown and smashed furniture, partly on his side, his face
hidden by an arm, lay a man. Weedon Scott bent over, removed the
arm and turned the man's face upward. A gaping throat explained
the manner of his death.
"Jim Hall," said Judge Scott, and father and son looked
significantly at each other.
Then they turned to White Fang. He, too, was lying on his side.
His eyes were closed, but the lids slightly lifted in an effort to
look at them as they bent over him, and the tail was perceptibly
agitated in a vain effort to wag. Weedon Scott patted him, and his
throat rumbled an acknowledging growl. But it was a weak growl at
best, and it quickly ceased. His eyelids drooped and went shut,
and his whole body seemed to relax and flatten out upon the floor.
"He's all in, poor devil," muttered the master.
"We'll see about that," asserted the Judge, as he started for the
"Frankly, he has one chance in a thousand," announced the surgeon,
after he had worked an hour and a half on White Fang.
Dawn was breaking through the windows and dimming the electric
lights. With the exception of the children, the whole family was
gathered about the surgeon to hear his verdict.
"One broken hind-leg," he went on. "Three broken ribs, one at
least of which has pierced the lungs. He has lost nearly all the
blood in his body. There is a large likelihood of internal
injuries. He must have been jumped upon. To say nothing of three
bullet holes clear through him. One chance in a thousand is really
optimistic. He hasn't a chance in ten thousand."
"But he mustn't lose any chance that might be of help to him,"
Judge Scott exclaimed. "Never mind expense. Put him under the Xray
- anything. Weedon, telegraph at once to San Francisco for
Doctor Nichols. No reflection on you, doctor, you understand; but
he must have the advantage of every chance."
The surgeon smiled indulgently. "Of course I understand. He
deserves all that can be done for him. He must be nursed as you
would nurse a human being, a sick child. And don't forget what I
told you about temperature. I'll be back at ten o'clock again."
White Fang received the nursing. Judge Scott's suggestion of a
trained nurse was indignantly clamoured down by the girls, who
themselves undertook the task. And White Fang won out on the one
chance in ten thousand denied him by the surgeon.
The latter was not to be censured for his misjudgment. All his
life he had tended and operated on the soft humans of civilisation,
who lived sheltered lives and had descended out of many sheltered
generations. Compared with White Fang, they were frail and flabby,
and clutched life without any strength in their grip. White Fang
had come straight from the Wild, where the weak perish early and
shelter is vouchsafed to none. In neither his father nor his
mother was there any weakness, nor in the generations before them.
A constitution of iron and the vitality of the Wild were White
Fang's inheritance, and he clung to life, the whole of him and
every part of him, in spirit and in flesh, with the tenacity that
of old belonged to all creatures.
Bound down a prisoner, denied even movement by the plaster casts
and bandages, White Fang lingered out the weeks. He slept long
hours and dreamed much, and through his mind passed an unending
pageant of Northland visions. All the ghosts of the past arose and
were with him. Once again he lived in the lair with Kiche, crept
trembling to the knees of Grey Beaver to tender his allegiance, ran
for his life before Lip-lip and all the howling bedlam of the
He ran again through the silence, hunting his living food through
the months of famine; and again he ran at the head of the team, the
gut-whips of Mit-sah and Grey Beaver snapping behind, their voices
crying "Ra! Raa!" when they came to a narrow passage and the team
closed together like a fan to go through. He lived again all his
days with Beauty Smith and the fights he had fought. At such times
he whimpered and snarled in his sleep, and they that looked on said
that his dreams were bad.
But there was one particular nightmare from which he suffered - the
clanking, clanging monsters of electric cars that were to him
colossal screaming lynxes. He would lie in a screen of bushes,
watching for a squirrel to venture far enough out on the ground
from its tree-refuge. Then, when he sprang out upon it, it would
transform itself into an electric car, menacing and terrible,
towering over him like a mountain, screaming and clanging and
spitting fire at him. It was the same when he challenged the hawk
down out of the sky. Down out of the blue it would rush, as it
dropped upon him changing itself into the ubiquitous electric car.
Or again, he would be in the pen of Beauty Smith. Outside the pen,
men would be gathering, and he knew that a fight was on. He
watched the door for his antagonist to enter. The door would open,
and thrust in upon him would come the awful electric car. A
thousand times this occurred, and each time the terror it inspired
was as vivid and great as ever.
Then came the day when the last bandage and the last plaster cast
were taken off. It was a gala day. All Sierra Vista was gathered
around. The master rubbed his ears, and he crooned his love-growl.
The master's wife called him the "Blessed Wolf," which name was
taken up with acclaim and all the women called him the Blessed
He tried to rise to his feet, and after several attempts fell down
from weakness. He had lain so long that his muscles had lost their
cunning, and all the strength had gone out of them. He felt a
little shame because of his weakness, as though, forsooth, he were
failing the gods in the service he owed them. Because of this he
made heroic efforts to arise and at last he stood on his four legs,
tottering and swaying back and forth.
"The Blessed Wolf!" chorused the women.
Judge Scott surveyed them triumphantly.
"Out of your own mouths be it," he said. "Just as I contended
right along. No mere dog could have done what he did. He's a
"A Blessed Wolf," amended the Judge's wife.
"Yes, Blessed Wolf," agreed the Judge. "And henceforth that shall
be my name for him."
"He'll have to learn to walk again," said the surgeon; "so he might
as well start in right now. It won't hurt him. Take him outside."
And outside he went, like a king, with all Sierra Vista about him
and tending on him. He was very weak, and when he reached the lawn
he lay down and rested for a while.
Then the procession started on, little spurts of strength coming
into White Fang's muscles as he used them and the blood began to
surge through them. The stables were reached, and there in the
doorway, lay Collie, a half-dozen pudgy puppies playing about her
in the sun.
White Fang looked on with a wondering eye. Collie snarled
warningly at him, and he was careful to keep his distance. The
master with his toe helped one sprawling puppy toward him. He
bristled suspiciously, but the master warned him that all was well.
Collie, clasped in the arms of one of the women, watched him
jealously and with a snarl warned him that all was not well.
The puppy sprawled in front of him. He cocked his ears and watched
it curiously. Then their noses touched, and he felt the warm
little tongue of the puppy on his jowl. White Fang's tongue went
out, he knew not why, and he licked the puppy's face.
Hand-clapping and pleased cries from the gods greeted the
performance. He was surprised, and looked at them in a puzzled
way. Then his weakness asserted itself, and he lay down, his ears
cocked, his head on one side, as he watched the puppy. The other
puppies came sprawling toward him, to Collie's great disgust; and
he gravely permitted them to clamber and tumble over him. At
first, amid the applause of the gods, he betrayed a trifle of his
old self-consciousness and awkwardness. This passed away as the
puppies' antics and mauling continued, and he lay with half-shut
patient eyes, drowsing in the sun.

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