The Call of the Wild
4. Who Has Won to Mastership
"Eh? Wot I say? I spik true w'en I say dat Buck two devils." This was Francois's
speech next morning when he discovered Spitz missing and Buck covered with
wounds. He drew him to the fire and by its light pointed them out.
"Dat Spitz fight lak hell," said Perrault, as he surveyed the gaping rips and cuts.
"An' dat Buck fight lak two hells," was Francois's answer. "An' now we make
good time. No more Spitz, no more trouble, sure."
While Perrault packed the camp outfit and loaded the sled, the dog-driver
proceeded to harness the dogs. Buck trotted up to the place Spitz would have
occupied as leader; but Francois, not noticing him, brought Sol-leks to the
coveted position. In his judgment, Sol-leks was the best lead-dog left. Buck
sprang upon Sol-leks in a fury, driving him back and standing in his place.
"Eh? eh?" Francois cried, slapping his thighs gleefully. "Look at dat Buck. Heem
keel dat Spitz, heem t'ink to take de job."
"Go 'way, Chook!" he cried, but Buck refused to budge.
He took Buck by the scruff of the neck, and though the dog growled
threateningly, dragged him to one side and replaced Sol-leks. The old dog did
not like it, and showed plainly that he was afraid of Buck. Francois was obdurate,
but when he turned his back Buck again displaced Sol-leks, who was not at all
unwilling to go.
Francois was angry. "Now, by Gar, I feex you!" he cried, coming back with a
heavy club in his hand.
Buck remembered the man in the red sweater, and retreated slowly; nor did he
attempt to charge in when Sol-leks was once more brought forward. But he
circled just beyond the range of the club, snarling with bitterness and rage; and
while he circled he watched the club so as to dodge it if thrown by Francois, for
he was become wise in the way of clubs. The driver went about his work, and he
called to Buck when he was ready to put him in his old place in front of Dave.
Buck retreated two or three steps. Francois followed him up, whereupon he again
retreated. After some time of this, Francois threw down the club, thinking that
Buck feared a thrashing. But Buck was in open revolt. He wanted, not to escape
a clubbing, but to have the leadership. It was his by right. He had earned it, and
he would not be content with less.
Perrault took a hand. Between them they ran him about for the better part of an
hour. They threw clubs at him. He dodged. They cursed him, and his fathers and
mothers before him, and all his seed to come after him down to the remotest
generation, and every hair on his body and drop of blood in his veins; and he
answered curse with snarl and kept out of their reach. He did not try to run away,
but retreated around and around the camp, advertising plainly that when his
desire was met, he would come in and be good.
Francois sat down and scratched his head. Perrault looked at his watch and
swore. Time was flying, and they should have been on the trail an hour gone.
Francois scratched his head again. He shook it and grinned sheepishly at the
courier, who shrugged his shoulders in sign that they were beaten. Then