Jack London.

Call of the wild online

. (page 1 of 8)
Online LibraryJack LondonCall of the wild → online text (page 1 of 8)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


^rasp^



THE CALL OF THE WILD




THE WORKS OF



JACK LONDON



THE GALL
OF THE WILD




THE REVIEW OF REVIEWS COMPANY
NEW YORK





UiRAKT



COPYRIGHT, 1903,
BY JACK LONDON.

Set up and electrotyped. Published July, 1903. Re
printed July, August, September, December. 1903;
January, March, September, November, 1904; Febru
ary, April, July, 1905; January, April, November,
1906; June, 1907: May, June, 1908; April, 1909;
February, 1910; September, December, 1911: April,
September, October, 1912.

New edition May, September, 1910. October, 1913.
May, 1915.



>

I

CONTENTS



Chapter Page

I. INTO THE PRIMITIVE 9

II. THE LAW OF CLUB AND FANG ... 33

III. THE DOMINANT PRIMORDIAL, BEAST . . 53

IV. WHO HAS WON TO MASTERSHIP ... 83
V. THE TOIL OF TRACE AND TRAIL . . .103

VI. FOR THE LOVE. OF A MAN . . . .135

VII. THE SOUNDING OF THE CALL . 165



17743820



I

MTO THE PRIMITIVE



THE
CALL OF THE WILD



Into the Primitive

" Old longings nomadic leap,

Chafing at custom s chain;

Again from its brumal sleep

Wakens the ferine strain."

BUCK did not read the newspapers, or
he would have known that trouble
was brewing, not alone for himself,
but for every tide-water dog, strong of muscle
and with warm, long hair, from Puget Sound
to San Diego. Because men, groping in the
Arctic darkness, had found a yellow metal, and
because steamship and transportation com
panies were booming the find, thousands of men
were rushing into the Northland. These men
wanted dogs, and the dogs they wanted were

9



io THE CALL OF THE WILD

heavy dogs, with strong muscles by which to
toil, and furry coats to protect them from the
frost.

Buck lived at a big house in the sun-kissed
Santa Clara Valley. Judge Miller s place, it
was called. It stood back from the road, half
hidden among the trees, through which glimpses
could be caught of the wide cool veranda that
ran around its four sides. The house was ap
proached by gravelled driveways which wound
about through wide-spreading lawns and under
the interlacing boughs of tall poplars. At the
rear things were on even a more spacious scale
than at the front. There were great stables,
where a dozen grooms and boys held forth,
rows of vine-clad servants cottages, an endless
and orderly array of outhouses, long grape ar
bors, green pastures, orchards, and berry
patches. Then there was the pumping plant
for the artesian well, and the big cement tank
where Judge Miller s boys took their morning
plunge and kept cool in the hot afternoon.

And over this great demesne Buck ruled.
Here he was born, and here he had lived the



INTO THE PRIMITIVE n

four years of his life. It was true, there were
other dogs. There could not but be other dogs
on so vast a place, but they did not count.
They came and went, resided in the populous
kennels, or lived obscurely in the recesses of the
house after the fashion of Toots, the Japanese
pug, or Ysabl, the Mexican hairless, strange
creatures that rarely put nose out of doors or
set foot to ground. On the other hand, there
were the fox terriers, a score of them at least,
who yelped fearful promises at Toots and
Ysabel looking out of the windows at them and
protected by a legion of housemaids armed with
brooms and mops.

But Buck was neither house-dog nor kennel
dog. The whole realm was his. He plunged
into the swimming tank or went hunting with
the Judge s sons; he escorted Mollie and Alice,
the Judge s daughters, on long twilight or early
morning rambles; on wintry nights he lay at
the Judge s feet before the roaring library fire;
he carried the Judge s grandsons on his back, or
rolled them in the grass, and guarded their foot
steps through wild adventures down to the



12 THE CALL OF THE WILD

fountain in the stable yard, and even beyond,
where the paddocks were, and the berry patches.
Among the terriers he stalked imperiously, and
Toots and Ysabel he utterly ignored, for he
was king, king over all creeping, crawling,
flying things of Judge Miller s place, humans
included.

His father, Elmo, a huge St. Bernard, had
been the Judge s inseparable companion, and
Buck bid fair to follow in the way of his father.
He was not so large, he weighed only one
hundred and forty pounds, for his mother,
Shep, had been a Scotch shepherd dog. ! Never
theless, one hundred and forty pounds, to which
was added the dignity that comes of good living
and universal respect, enabled him to carry him
self in right royal fashion. During the four
years since his puppyhood he had lived the life
of a sated aristocrat; he had a fine pride in him
self, was ever a trifle egotistical, as country
gentlemen sometimes become because of their
insular situation. But he had saved himself by
not becoming a mere pampered house-dog.
Hunting and kindred outdoor delights had



INTO THE PRIMITIVE 13

kept down the fat and hardened his muscles;
and to him, as to the cold-tubbing races, the
love of water had been a tonic and a health
preserver.

And this was the manner of dog Buck was
in the fall of 1897, when the Klondike strike
dragged men from all the world into the frozen
North. But Buck did not read the newspapers,
and he did not know that Manuel, one of the
gardener s helpers, was an undesirable acquaint
ance. Manuel had one besetting sin. He
loved to play Chinese lottery. Also, in his
gambling, he had one besetting weakness
faith in a system; and this made his damnation
certain. For to play a system requires money,
while the wages of a gardener s helper do not
lap over the needs of a wife and numerous
progeny.

The Judge was at a meeting of the Raisin
Growers Association, and the boys were busy
organizing an athletic ( club, on the memorable
night of Manuel s treachery. No one saw him
and Buck go off through the orchard on what
Buck imagined was merely a stroll. And with



I 4 THE CALL OF THE WILD

the exception of a solitary man, no one saw
them arrive at the little flag station known as
College Park. This man talked with Manuel,
and money chinked betweei them.

" You might wrap up the goods before you
deliver m," the stranger said gruffly, and
Manuel doubled a piece of stout rope around
Buck s neck under the collar.

" Twist it, an you ll choke m plentee," said
Manuel, and the stranger grunted a ready af
firmative.

Buck had accepted the rope with quiet dig
nity. To be sure, it was an unwonted perform
ance: but he had learned to trust in men he
knew, and to give them credit for a wisdom
that outreached his own. But when the ends
of the rope were placed in the stranger s hands,
he growled menacingly. He had merely inti
mated his displeasure, in his pride believing
that to intimate was to command. But to his
surprise the rope tightened around his neck,
shutting off his breath. In quick rage he
sprang at the -man, who met him halfway,
grappled him close by the throat, and with a



INTO THE PRIMITIVE 15

deft twist threw him over on his back. Then
the rope tightened mercilessly, while Buck
struggled in a fury, his tongue lolling out of
his mouth and his great chest panting futilely.
Never in all his life had he been so vilely
treated, and never in all his life had he been
so angry. But his strength ebbed, his eyes
glazed, and he knew nothing when the train
was flagged and the two men thiew him into the
baggage car.

The next he knew, he was dimly aware that
his tongue was hurting and that he was being
jolted along in some kind of a conveyance.
The hoarse shriek of a locomotive whistling
a crossing told him where he was. He had
travelled too often with the Judge not to know
the sensation of riding in a baggage car. He
opened his eyes, and into them came the
unbridled anger of a kidnapped king. The
man sprang for his throat, but Buck was too
quick for him. His jaws closed on the hand,
nor did they relax till his senses were choked
out of him once more.

** Yep, has fits," the man said, hiding his



1 6 THE CALL OF THE WILD

mangled hand from the baggageman, who had
been attracted by the sounds of struggle.
" I m takin m up for the boss to Frisco.
A crack dog-doctor there thinks that he can



cure m."



Concerning that night s ride, the man spoke
most eloquently for himself, in a little shed
back of a saloon on the San Francisco water
front.

"All I get is fifty for it," he grumbled;
" an I wouldn t do it over for a thousand, cold
cash."

His hand was wrapped in a bloody hand
kerchief, and the right trouser leg was ripped
from knee to ankle.

" How much did the other mug get?" the
saloon-keeper demanded.

"A hundred," was the reply. " Wouldn t
take a sou less, so help me."

" That makes a hundred and fifty," the
saloon-keeper calculated; " and he s worth it,
or I m a squarehead."

The kidnapper undid the bloody wrappings



INTO THE PRIMITIVE 17

and looked at his lacerated hand. " If I don t
get the hydrophoby "

" It ll be because you was born to hang,"
laughed the saloon-keeper. " Here, lend me a
hand before you pull your freight," he added.

Dazed, suffering intolerable pain from
throat and tongue, with the life half throttled
out of him, Buck attempted to face his tor
mentors. But he was thrown down and
choked repeatedly, till they succeeded in filing
the heavy brass collar from off his neck. Then
the robe was removed, and he was flung into a
cagelike crate.

There he lay for the remainder of the weary
night, nursing his wrath and wounded pride.
He could not understand what it all meant.
What did they want with him, these strange
men? Why were they keeping him pent up
in this narrow crate? He did not know why, J
but he felt oppressed by the vague sense of
impending calamity. Several times during the
night he sprang to his feet when the shed door
rattled open, expecting to see the Judge, or the



1 8 THE CALL OF THE WILD

boys at least. But each time it was the bulg
ing face of the saloon-keeper that peered in
at him by the sickly light of a tallow candle.
And each time the joyful bark that trembled
in Buck s throat was twisted into a savage growl.
But the saloon-keeper let him alone, and in
the morning four men entered and picked up
the crate. More tormentors, Buck decided,
for they were evil-looking creatures, ragged
and unkempt; and he stormed and raged at
them through the bars. They only laughed
and poked sticks at him, which he promptly
assailed with his teeth till he realized that that
was what they wanted. Whereupon he lay
down sullenly and allowed the crate to be
lifted into a wagon. Then he, and the crate
in which he was imprisoned, began a passage
through many lands. Clerks in the express
office took charge of him; he was carted about
in another wagon; a truck carried him, with an ;
assortment of boxes and parcels, upon a ferry
steamer; he was trucked off the steamer into
a great railway depot, and finally he was de
posited in an express car.



INTO THE PRIMITIVE 19

For two days and nights this express car
was dragged along at the tail of shrieking loco
motives; and for two days and nights Buck
neither ate nor drank. In his anger he had
met the first advances of the express mes
sengers with growls, and they had retaliated by
teasing him. When he flung himself against
the bars, quivering and frothing, they laughed
at him and taunted him. They growled and
barked like detestable dogs, mewed, and
flapped their arms and crowed. It was all very
silly, helcnew; but therefore the more outrage
to his dignity, and his anger waxed and waxed.
He did not mind the hunger so much, but
the lack of water caused him severe suffering
and fanned his wrath to fever-pitch. For that
matter, high-strung and finely sensitive, the ill
treatment had flung him into a fever, which
was fed by the inflammation of his parched and
swollen throat and tongue.

He was glad for one thing: the rope was
off his neck. That had given them an unfair
advantage; but now that it was off, he would
show them. They would never get another



20 THE CALL OF THE WILD

rope around his neck. Upon that he was re
solved. For two days and nights he neither
ate nor drank, and during those two days and
nights of torment, he accumulated a fund of
wrath that boded ill for whoever first fell foul
of him. His eyes turned blood-shot, and he
was metamorphosed into a raging fiend. So
changed was he that the Judge himself would
/not jiayc recognized him ; and the express
messengers breathed with relief when they bun
dled him off the train at Seattle.

Four men gingerly carried the crate from
the wagon into a small, high-walled back yard.
A stout man, with a red sweater that sagged
generously at the neck, came out and signed
the book for the driver. That was the man,
Buck divined, the next tormentor, and he
hurled himself savagely against the bars. The
man smiled grimly, and brought a hatchet and
a club.

"You ain t going to take him out now? 1
the driver asked.

" Sure," the man replied, driving the hatchet
into the crate for a pry.



INTO THE PRIMITIVE 21

There was an instantaneous scattering of
the four men who had carried it in, and from
safe perches on top the wall they prepared to
watch the performance.

Buck rushed at the splintering wood, sink
ing his teeth into it, surging and wrestling with
it. Wherever the hatchet fell on the outside,
he was there on the inside, snarling and growl
ing, as furiously anxious to get out as the man
in the red sweater was calmly intent on getting
him out.

" Now, you red-eyed devil," he said, when
he had made an opening sufficient for the pas
sage of Buck s body. At the same time he
dropped the hatchet and shifted the club to
his right hand.

And Buck was truly a red-eyed devil, as he
drew himself together for the spring, hair bris
tling, mouth foaming, a mad glitter in his blood
shot eyes. Straight at the man he launched
his one hundred and forty pounds of fury, sur
charged with the pent passion of two days and
nights. In mid air, just as his jaws were about
to close on the man, he received a shock that



22 THE CALL OF THE WILD

checked his body and brought his teeth together
with an agonizing clip. He whirled over,
fetching the ground on his back and side. He
had never been struck by a club in his life, and
did not understand. With a snarl that was part
bark and more scream he was again on his feet
and launched into the air. And again the
shock came and he was brought crushingly to
the ground. This time he was aware that it
was the club, but his madness knew no caution.
A dozen times he charged, and as often the
club broke the charge and smashed him down.
After a particularly fierce blow he crawled
to his feet, too dazed to rush. He staggered
limply about, the blood flowing from nose and
mouth and ears, his beautiful coat sprayed and
flecked with bloody slaver. Then the man ad
vanced and deliberately dealt him a frightful
blow on the nose. All the pain he had endured
was as nothing compared with the exquisite
agony of this. With a roar that was almost
lionlike in its ferocity, he again hurled himself
at the man. But the man, shifting the club
from right to left, coolly caught him by the



INTO THE PRIMITIVE 23

under jaw, at the same time wrenching down
ward and backward. Buck described a com
plete circle in the air, and half of another, then
crashed to the ground on his head and chest.

For the last time he rushed. The man
struck the shrewd blow he had purposely with
held for so long, and Buck crumpled up and
went down, knocked utterly senseless.

" He s no slouch at dog-breakin , that s wot
I say," one of the men on the wall cried en
thusiastically.

" Druther break cayuses any day, and twice
on Sundays," was the reply of the driver, as he
climbed on the wagon and started the horses.

Buck s senses came back to him, but not his
strength. He lay where he had fallen, and
from there he watched the man in the red
sweater.

Answers to the name of Buck, " the man
soliloquized, quoting from the saloon-keeper s
letter which had announced the consignment
of the crate and contents. " Well, Buck, my
boy," he went on in a genial voice, " we ve had
our little ruction, and the best thing we can do



24 THE CALL OF THE WILD

is to let it go at that. You ve learned your
place, and I know mine. Be a good dog and
all 11 go well and the goose hang high. Be a
bad dog, and I ll whale the stuffin outa you.
Understand?"

As he spoke he fearlessly patted the head he
had so mercilessly pounded, and though Buck s
hair involuntarily bristled at touch of the hand,
he endured it without protest. When the man
brought him water he drank eagerly, and later
bolted a generous meal of raw meat, chunk by
chunk, from the man s hand.

He was beaten (he knew that) ; but he was
not broken. He saw, once for all, that he
stood no chance against a man with a club. He
had learned the lesson, and in all his after
life he never forgot it. That club was a reve
lation. It was his introduction to the reign of
primitive law, and he met the introduction half
way. The facts of life took on a fiercer as
pect; and while he faced that aspect uncowed,
he faced it with all the latent cunning of his
nature aroused. As the days went by, other
dogs came, in crates and at the ends of ropes,



INTO THE PRIMITIVE 25

some docilely, and some raging and roaring as
he had come; and, one and all, he watched them
pass under the dominion of the man in the red
sweater. Again and again, as he looked at
each brutal performance, the lesson was driven
home to Buck; a man with a club was a law
giver, a master to be obeyed, though not neces
sarily conciliated. Of this last Buck was never
guilty, though he did see beaten dogs that
fawned upon the man, and wagged their tails,
and licked his hand. Also he saw one dog, that
would neither conciliate nor obey, finally killed
in the struggle for mastery.

Now and again men came, strangers, who
talked excitedly, wheedlingly, and in all kinds
of fashions to the man in the red sweater. And
at such times that money passed between them
the strangers took one or more of the dogs
away with them. Buck wondered where they
went, for they never came back; but the fear
of the future was strong upon him, and he was
glad each time when he was not selected.

Yet his time came, in the end, in the form
of a little weazened man who spat broken



26 THE CALL OF THE WILD

English and many strange and uncouth excla
mations which Buck could not understand.

" Sacredam ! " he cried, when his eyes lit
upon Buck. " Dat one dam bully dog! Eh?
How moch? "

" Three hundred, and a present at that,"
was the prompt reply of the man in the red
sweater. " And seein it s government money,
you ain t got no kick coming, eh, Perrault? "

Perrault grinned. Considering that the
price of dogs had been boomed skyward by the
unwonted demand, it was not an unfair sum for
so fine an animal. The Canadian Government
would be no loser, nor would its despatches
travel the slower. Perrault knew dogs, and
when he looked at Buck he knew that he was
one in a thousand " One in ten t ousand,"
he commented mentally.

Buck saw money pass between them, and
was not surprised when Curly, a good-natured
Newfoundland, and he were led away by the
little weazened man. That was the last he saw
of the man in the red sweater, and as Curly
and he looked at receding Seattle from the



INTO THE PRIMITIVE 27

deck of the Narwhal, it was the last he saw of
the warm Southland. Curly and he were taken
below by Perrault and turned over to a black-
faced giant called Francois. Perrault was a
French-Canadian, and swarthy; but Frangois
was a French-Canadian half-breed, and twice as
swarthy. They were a new kind of men to
Buck (of which he was destined to see many
more), and while he developed no affection for
them, he none the less grew honestly to re
spect them. He speedily learned that Perrault
and Francois were fair men, calm and impartial
in administering justice, and too wise in the
way of dogs to be fooled by dogs.

In the tween-decks of the Narwhal, Buck
and Curly joined two other dogs. One of
them was a big, snow-white fellow from
Spitzbergen who had been brought away by a
whaling captain, and who had later accom
panied a Geological Survey into the Barrens.

He was friendly, in a treacherous sort of way,
smiling into one s face the while he meditated
some underhand trick, as, for instance, when
he stole from Buck s food at the first meal.



28 THE CALL OF THE WILD

As Buck sprang to punish him, the lash of
Francois s whip sang through the air, reaching
the culprit first; and nothing remained to
Buck but to recover the bone. That was fair
of Francois, he decided, and the half-breed
began his rise in Buck s estimation.

The other dog made no advances, nor re
ceived any; also, he did not attempt to steal
from the newcomers. He was a gloomy,
morose fellow, and he showed Curly plainly
that all he desired was to be left alone, and
further, that there would be trouble if he were
not left alone. " Dave " he was called, and
he ate and slept, or yawned between times,
and took interest in nothing, not even when
the Narwhal crossed Queen Charlotte Sound
and rolled and pitched and bucked like a
thing possessed. When Buck and Curly grew
excited, half wild with fear, he raised his head
as though annoyed, favored them with an in
curious glance, yawned, and went to sleep
again.

Day and night the ship throbbed to the tire
less pulse of the propeller, and though one



INTO THE PRIMITIVE 29

day was very like another, it was apparent to
Buck that the weather was steadily growing
colder. At last, one morning, the propeller
was quiet, and the Narwhal was pervaded with
an atmosphere of excitement. He felt it, as
did the other dogs, and knew that a change
was at hand. Francois leashed them and
brought them on deck. At the first step
upon the cold surface, Buck s feet sank into a
white mushy something very like mud. He
sprang back with a snort. More of this white
stuff was falling through the air. He shook
himself, but more of it fell upon him. He
sniffed it curiously, then licked some up on his
tongue. It bit like fire, and the next instant
was gone. This puzzled him. He tried it
again, with the same result. The onlookers
laughed uproariously, and he felt ashamed, he
knew not why, for it was his first snow.



II

THE LAW OF CLUB AND FANG




II

The Law of Club and Fang

UCK S first day on the Dyea beach
was like a nightmare. Every hour
was filled with shock and surprise. He
had been suddenly jerked from the heart of
civilization and flung into the heart of things
primordial. No lazy, sun-kissed life was this,
with nothing to do but loaf and be bored.
Here was neither peace, nor rest, nor a mo
ment s safety. All was confusion and action,
and every moment life and limb were in peril.
There was imperative need to be constantly
alert; for these dogs and men were not town
dogs and men. They were savages, all of
them, who knew no law but the law of club
and fang.

He had never seen dogs fight as these
wolfish creatures fought, and his first experi-

33



34 THE CALL OF THE WILD

cnce taught him an unforgetable lesson. It is
true, it was a vicarious experience, else he would
not have lived to profit by it. Curly was the
victim. They were camped near the log store,
where she, in her friendly way, made advances
to a husky dog the size of a full-grown wolf,
though not half so large as she. There was
no warning, only a leap in like a flash, a metallic
clip of teeth, a leap out equally swift, and
Curly s face was ripped open from eye to jaw.
It was the wolf manner of fighting, to
strike and leap away; but there was more to it
than this. Thirty or forty huskies ran to the
spot and surrounded the combatants in an in
tent and silent circle. Buck did not compre
hend that silent intentness, nor the eager way
with which they were licking their chops.
Curly rushed her antagonist, who struck again
and leaped aside. He met her next rush with
his chest, in a peculiar fashion that tumbled
her off her feet. She never regained them.
This was what the onlooking huskies had waited
for. They closed in upon her, snarling and
yelping, and she was buried, screaming with



THE LAW OF CLUB AND FANG 35

agony, beneath the bristling mass of bodies.

So sudden was it, and so unexpected, that
Buck was taken aback. He saw Spitz run
out his scarlet tongue in a way he had of laugh
ing; and he saw Francois, swinging an axe,
spring into the mess of dogs. Three men with
clubs were helping him to scatter them. Tt did
not take long. Two minutes from the time
. Curly went down, the last of her assailants were


1 3 4 5 6 7 8

Online LibraryJack LondonCall of the wild → online text (page 1 of 8)