The Clinging Death
Beauty Smith slipped the chain from his neck and stepped back.
For once White Fang did not make an immediate attack. He stood still, ears pricked
forward, alert and curious, surveying the strange animal that faced him. He had never
seen such a dog before. Tim Keenan shoved the bull-dog forward with a muttered "Go to
it." The animal waddled toward the centre of the circle, short and squat and ungainly. He
came to a stop and blinked across at White Fang.
There were cries from the crowd of, "Go to him, Cherokee! Sick 'm, Cherokee! Eat 'm
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.