The Battle Of The Fangs
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 she- wolf.
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