The Call of the Wild HTML version

2. The Law of Club and Fang
Buck'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 moment'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
experience 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 intent and silent circle. Buck did not comprehend 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 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 laughing; and he saw Francois,
swinging an axe, spring into the mess of dogs. Three men with clubs were
helping him to scatter them. It did not take long. Two minutes from the time Curly
went down, the last of her assailants were clubbed off. But she lay there limp and
lifeless in the bloody, trampled snow, almost literally torn to pieces, the swart
half-breed standing over her and cursing horribly. The scene often came back to
Buck to trouble him in his sleep. So that was the way. No fair play. Once down,
that was the end of you. Well, he would see to it that he never went down. Spitz
ran out his tongue and laughed again, and from that moment Buck hated him
with a bitter and deathless hatred.
Before he had recovered from the shock caused by the tragic passing of Curly,
he received another shock. Francois fastened upon him an arrangement of
straps and buckles. It was a harness, such as he had seen the grooms put on the
horses at home. And as he had seen horses work, so he was set to work, hauling
Francois on a sled to the forest that fringed the valley, and returning with a load
of firewood. Though his dignity was sorely hurt by thus being made a draught
animal, he was too wise to rebel. He buckled down with a will and did his best,
though it was all new and strange. Francois was stern, demanding instant