The Call of the Wild
1. 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 companies were booming the find, thousands of men were rushing
into the Northland. These men wanted dogs, and the dogs they wanted were
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 approached 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 arbors, 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 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 Ysabel, 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 footsteps through wild adventures down to the 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