White Fang HTML version
The Sleeping Wolf
It was about this time that the newspapers were full of the daring escape of a convict
from San Quentin prison. He was a ferocious man. He had been ill-made in the making.
He had not been born right, and he had not been helped any by the moulding he had
received at the hands of society. The hands of society are harsh, and this man was a
striking sample of its handiwork. He was a beast - a human beast, it is true, but
nevertheless so terrible a beast that he can best be characterised as carnivorous.
In San Quentin prison he had proved incorrigible. Punishment failed to break his spirit.
He could die dumb-mad and fighting to the last, but he could not live and be beaten. The
more fiercely he fought, the more harshly society handled him, and the only effect of
harshness was to make him fiercer. Straight-jackets, starvation, and beatings and
clubbings were the wrong treatment for Jim Hall; but it was the treatment he received. It
was the treatment he had received from the time he was a little pulpy boy in a San
Francisco slum - soft clay in the hands of society and ready to be formed into something.
It was during Jim Hall's third term in prison that he encountered a guard that was almost
as great a beast as he. The guard treated him unfairly, lied about him to the warden, lost
his credits, persecuted him. The difference between them was that the guard carried a
bunch of keys and a revolver. Jim Hall had only his naked hands and his teeth. But he
sprang upon the guard one day and used his teeth on the other's throat just like any jungle
After this, Jim Hall went to live in the incorrigible cell. He lived there three years. The
cell was of iron, the floor, the walls, the roof. He never left this cell. He never saw the sky
nor the sunshine. Day was a twilight and night was a black silence. He was in an iron
tomb, buried alive. He saw no human face, spoke to no human thing. When his food was
shoved in to him, he growled like a wild animal. He hated all things. For days and nights
he bellowed his rage at the universe. For weeks and months he never made a sound, in
the black silence eating his very soul. He was a man and a monstrosity, as fearful a thing
of fear as ever gibbered in the visions of a maddened brain.
And then, one night, he escaped. The warders said it was impossible, but nevertheless the
cell was empty, and half in half out of it lay the body of a dead guard. Two other dead
guards marked his trail through the prison to the outer walls, and he had killed with his
hands to avoid noise.
He was armed with the weapons of the slain guards - a live arsenal that fled through the
hills pursued by the organised might of society. A heavy price of gold was upon his head.
Avaricious farmers hunted him with shot-guns. His blood might pay off a mortgage or
send a son to college. Public-spirited citizens took down their rifles and went out after
him. A pack of bloodhounds followed the way of his bleeding feet. And the sleuth-
hounds of the law, the paid fighting animals of society, with telephone, and telegraph,
and special train, clung to his trail night and day.