Part 2 out of 4
more spats and squabbles, no more tiny rages nor attempts at
growling; while the adventures toward the far white wall ceased
altogether. The cubs slept, while the life that was in them
flickered and died down.
One Eye was desperate. He ranged far and wide, and slept but
little in the lair that had now become cheerless and miserable.
The she-wolf, too, left her litter and went out in search of meat.
In the first days after the birth of the cubs, One Eye had
journeyed several times back to the Indian camp and robbed the
rabbit snares; but, with the melting of the snow and the opening of
the streams, the Indian camp had moved away, and that source of
supply was closed to him.
When the grey cub came back to life and again took interest in the
far white wall, he found that the population of his world had been
reduced. Only one sister remained to him. The rest were gone. As
he grew stronger, he found himself compelled to play alone, for the
sister no longer lifted her head nor moved about. His little body
rounded out with the meat he now ate; but the food had come too
late for her. She slept continuously, a tiny skeleton flung round
with skin in which the flame flickered lower and lower and at last
Then there came a time when the grey cub no longer saw his father
appearing and disappearing in the wall nor lying down asleep in the
entrance. This had happened at the end of a second and less severe
famine. The she-wolf knew why One Eye never came back, but there
was no way by which she could tell what she had seen to the grey
cub. Hunting herself for meat, up the left fork of the stream
where lived the lynx, she had followed a day-old trail of One Eye.
And she had found him, or what remained of him, at the end of the
trail. There were many signs of the battle that had been fought,
and of the lynx's withdrawal to her lair after having won the
victory. Before she went away, the she-wolf had found this lair,
but the signs told her that the lynx was inside, and she had not
dared to venture in.
After that, the she-wolf in her hunting avoided the left fork. For
she knew that in the lynx's lair was a litter of kittens, and she
knew the lynx for a fierce, bad-tempered creature and a terrible
fighter. It was all very well for half a dozen wolves to drive a
lynx, spitting and bristling, up a tree; but it was quite a
different matter for a lone wolf to encounter a lynx--especially
when the lynx was known to have a litter of hungry kittens at her
But the Wild is the Wild, and motherhood is motherhood, at all
times fiercely protective whether in the Wild or out of it; and the
time was to come when the she-wolf, for her grey cub's sake, would
venture the left fork, and the lair in the rocks, and the lynx's
CHAPTER IV--THE WALL OF THE WORLD
By the time his mother began leaving the cave on hunting
expeditions, the cub had learned well the law that forbade his
approaching the entrance. Not only had this law been forcibly and
many times impressed on him by his mother's nose and paw, but in
him the instinct of fear was developing. Never, in his brief cave-
life, had he encountered anything of which to be afraid. Yet fear
was in him. It had come down to him from a remote ancestry through
a thousand thousand lives. It was a heritage he had received
directly from One Eye and the she-wolf; but to them, in turn, it
had been passed down through all the generations of wolves that had
gone before. Fear!--that legacy of the Wild which no animal may
escape nor exchange for pottage.
So the grey cub knew fear, though he knew not the stuff of which
fear was made. Possibly he accepted it as one of the restrictions
of life. For he had already learned that there were such
restrictions. Hunger he had known; and when he could not appease
his hunger he had felt restriction. The hard obstruction of the
cave-wall, the sharp nudge of his mother's nose, the smashing
stroke of her paw, the hunger unappeased of several famines, had
borne in upon him that all was not freedom in the world, that to
life there was limitations and restraints. These limitations and
restraints were laws. To be obedient to them was to escape hurt
and make for happiness.
He did not reason the question out in this man fashion. He merely
classified the things that hurt and the things that did not hurt.
And after such classification he avoided the things that hurt, the
restrictions and restraints, in order to enjoy the satisfactions
and the remunerations of life.
Thus it was that in obedience to the law laid down by his mother,
and in obedience to the law of that unknown and nameless thing,
fear, he kept away from the mouth of the cave. It remained to him
a white wall of light. When his mother was absent, he slept most
of the time, while during the intervals that he was awake he kept
very quiet, suppressing the whimpering cries that tickled in his
throat and strove for noise.
Once, lying awake, he heard a strange sound in the white wall. He
did not know that it was a wolverine, standing outside, all a-
trembling with its own daring, and cautiously scenting out the
contents of the cave. The cub knew only that the sniff was
strange, a something unclassified, therefore unknown and terrible--
for the unknown was one of the chief elements that went into the
making of fear.
The hair bristled upon the grey cub's back, but it bristled
silently. How was he to know that this thing that sniffed was a
thing at which to bristle? It was not born of any knowledge of
his, yet it was the visible expression of the fear that was in him,
and for which, in his own life, there was no accounting. But fear
was accompanied by another instinct--that of concealment. The cub
was in a frenzy of terror, yet he lay without movement or sound,
frozen, petrified into immobility, to all appearances dead. His
mother, coming home, growled as she smelt the wolverine's track,
and bounded into the cave and licked and nozzled him with undue
vehemence of affection. And the cub felt that somehow he had
escaped a great hurt.
But there were other forces at work in the cub, the greatest of
which was growth. Instinct and law demanded of him obedience. But
growth demanded disobedience. His mother and fear impelled him to
keep away from the white wall. Growth is life, and life is for
ever destined to make for light. So there was no damming up the
tide of life that was rising within him--rising with every mouthful
of meat he swallowed, with every breath he drew. In the end, one
day, fear and obedience were swept away by the rush of life, and
the cub straddled and sprawled toward the entrance.
Unlike any other wall with which he had had experience, this wall
seemed to recede from him as he approached. No hard surface
collided with the tender little nose he thrust out tentatively
before him. The substance of the wall seemed as permeable and
yielding as light. And as condition, in his eyes, had the seeming
of form, so he entered into what had been wall to him and bathed in
the substance that composed it.
It was bewildering. He was sprawling through solidity. And ever
the light grew brighter. Fear urged him to go back, but growth
drove him on. Suddenly he found himself at the mouth of the cave.
The wall, inside which he had thought himself, as suddenly leaped
back before him to an immeasurable distance. The light had become
painfully bright. He was dazzled by it. Likewise he was made
dizzy by this abrupt and tremendous extension of space.
Automatically, his eyes were adjusting themselves to the
brightness, focusing themselves to meet the increased distance of
objects. At first, the wall had leaped beyond his vision. He now
saw it again; but it had taken upon itself a remarkable remoteness.
Also, its appearance had changed. It was now a variegated wall,
composed of the trees that fringed the stream, the opposing
mountain that towered above the trees, and the sky that out-towered
A great fear came upon him. This was more of the terrible unknown.
He crouched down on the lip of the cave and gazed out on the world.
He was very much afraid. Because it was unknown, it was hostile to
him. Therefore the hair stood up on end along his back and his
lips wrinkled weakly in an attempt at a ferocious and intimidating
snarl. Out of his puniness and fright he challenged and menaced
the whole wide world.
Nothing happened. He continued to gaze, and in his interest he
forgot to snarl. Also, he forgot to be afraid. For the time, fear
had been routed by growth, while growth had assumed the guise of
curiosity. He began to notice near objects--an open portion of the
stream that flashed in the sun, the blasted pine-tree that stood at
the base of the slope, and the slope itself, that ran right up to
him and ceased two feet beneath the lip of the cave on which he
Now the grey cub had lived all his days on a level floor. He had
never experienced the hurt of a fall. He did not know what a fall
was. So he stepped boldly out upon the air. His hind-legs still
rested on the cave-lip, so he fell forward head downward. The
earth struck him a harsh blow on the nose that made him yelp. Then
he began rolling down the slope, over and over. He was in a panic
of terror. The unknown had caught him at last. It had gripped
savagely hold of him and was about to wreak upon him some terrific
hurt. Growth was now routed by fear, and he ki-yi'd like any
The unknown bore him on he knew not to what frightful hurt, and he
yelped and ki-yi'd unceasingly. This was a different proposition
from crouching in frozen fear while the unknown lurked just
alongside. Now the unknown had caught tight hold of him. Silence
would do no good. Besides, it was not fear, but terror, that
But the slope grew more gradual, and its base was grass-covered.
Here the cub lost momentum. When at last he came to a stop, he
gave one last agonised yell and then a long, whimpering wail.
Also, and quite as a matter of course, as though in his life he had
already made a thousand toilets, he proceeded to lick away the dry
clay that soiled him.
After that he sat up and gazed about him, as might the first man of
the earth who landed upon Mars. The cub had broken through the
wall of the world, the unknown had let go its hold of him, and here
he was without hurt. But the first man on Mars would have
experienced less unfamiliarity than did he. Without any antecedent
knowledge, without any warning whatever that such existed, he found
himself an explorer in a totally new world.
Now that the terrible unknown had let go of him, he forgot that the
unknown had any terrors. He was aware only of curiosity in all the
things about him. He inspected the grass beneath him, the moss-
berry plant just beyond, and the dead trunk of the blasted pine
that stood on the edge of an open space among the trees. A
squirrel, running around the base of the trunk, came full upon him,
and gave him a great fright. He cowered down and snarled. But the
squirrel was as badly scared. It ran up the tree, and from a point
of safety chattered back savagely.
This helped the cub's courage, and though the woodpecker he next
encountered gave him a start, he proceeded confidently on his way.
Such was his confidence, that when a moose-bird impudently hopped
up to him, he reached out at it with a playful paw. The result was
a sharp peck on the end of his nose that made him cower down and
ki-yi. The noise he made was too much for the moose-bird, who
sought safety in flight.
But the cub was learning. His misty little mind had already made
an unconscious classification. There were live things and things
not alive. Also, he must watch out for the live things. The
things not alive remained always in one place, but the live things
moved about, and there was no telling what they might do. The
thing to expect of them was the unexpected, and for this he must be
He travelled very clumsily. He ran into sticks and things. A twig
that he thought a long way off, would the next instant hit him on
the nose or rake along his ribs. There were inequalities of
surface. Sometimes he overstepped and stubbed his nose. Quite as
often he understepped and stubbed his feet. Then there were the
pebbles and stones that turned under him when he trod upon them;
and from them he came to know that the things not alive were not
all in the same state of stable equilibrium as was his cave--also,
that small things not alive were more liable than large things to
fall down or turn over. But with every mishap he was learning.
The longer he walked, the better he walked. He was adjusting
himself. He was learning to calculate his own muscular movements,
to know his physical limitations, to measure distances between
objects, and between objects and himself.
His was the luck of the beginner. Born to be a hunter of meat
(though he did not know it), he blundered upon meat just outside
his own cave-door on his first foray into the world. It was by
sheer blundering that he chanced upon the shrewdly hidden ptarmigan
nest. He fell into it. He had essayed to walk along the trunk of
a fallen pine. The rotten bark gave way under his feet, and with a
despairing yelp he pitched down the rounded crescent, smashed
through the leafage and stalks of a small bush, and in the heart of
the bush, on the ground, fetched up in the midst of seven ptarmigan
They made noises, and at first he was frightened at them. Then he
perceived that they were very little, and he became bolder. They
moved. He placed his paw on one, and its movements were
accelerated. This was a source of enjoyment to him. He smelled
it. He picked it up in his mouth. It struggled and tickled his
tongue. At the same time he was made aware of a sensation of
hunger. His jaws closed together. There was a crunching of
fragile bones, and warm blood ran in his mouth. The taste of it
was good. This was meat, the same as his mother gave him, only it
was alive between his teeth and therefore better. So he ate the
ptarmigan. Nor did he stop till he had devoured the whole brood.
Then he licked his chops in quite the same way his mother did, and
began to crawl out of the bush.
He encountered a feathered whirlwind. He was confused and blinded
by the rush of it and the beat of angry wings. He hid his head
between his paws and yelped. The blows increased. The mother
ptarmigan was in a fury. Then he became angry. He rose up,
snarling, striking out with his paws. He sank his tiny teeth into
one of the wings and pulled and tugged sturdily. The ptarmigan
struggled against him, showering blows upon him with her free wing.
It was his first battle. He was elated. He forgot all about the
unknown. He no longer was afraid of anything. He was fighting,
tearing at a live thing that was striking at him. Also, this live
thing was meat. The lust to kill was on him. He had just
destroyed little live things. He would now destroy a big live
thing. He was too busy and happy to know that he was happy. He
was thrilling and exulting in ways new to him and greater to him
than any he had known before.
He held on to the wing and growled between his tight-clenched
teeth. The ptarmigan dragged him out of the bush. When she turned
and tried to drag him back into the bush's shelter, he pulled her
away from it and on into the open. And all the time she was making
outcry and striking with her free wing, while feathers were flying
like a snow-fall. The pitch to which he was aroused was
tremendous. All the fighting blood of his breed was up in him and
surging through him. This was living, though he did not know it.
He was realising his own meaning in the world; he was doing that
for which he was made--killing meat and battling to kill it. He
was justifying his existence, than which life can do no greater;
for life achieves its summit when it does to the uttermost that
which it was equipped to do.
After a time, the ptarmigan ceased her struggling. He still held
her by the wing, and they lay on the ground and looked at each
other. He tried to growl threateningly, ferociously. She pecked
on his nose, which by now, what of previous adventures was sore.
He winced but held on. She pecked him again and again. From
wincing he went to whimpering. He tried to back away from her,
oblivious to the fact that by his hold on her he dragged her after
him. A rain of pecks fell on his ill-used nose. The flood of
fight ebbed down in him, and, releasing his prey, he turned tail
and scampered on across the open in inglorious retreat.
He lay down to rest on the other side of the open, near the edge of
the bushes, his tongue lolling out, his chest heaving and panting,
his nose still hurting him and causing him to continue his whimper.
But as he lay there, suddenly there came to him a feeling as of
something terrible impending. The unknown with all its terrors
rushed upon him, and he shrank back instinctively into the shelter
of the bush. As he did so, a draught of air fanned him, and a
large, winged body swept ominously and silently past. A hawk,
driving down out of the blue, had barely missed him.
While he lay in the bush, recovering from his fright and peering
fearfully out, the mother-ptarmigan on the other side of the open
space fluttered out of the ravaged nest. It was because of her
loss that she paid no attention to the winged bolt of the sky. But
the cub saw, and it was a warning and a lesson to him--the swift
downward swoop of the hawk, the short skim of its body just above
the ground, the strike of its talons in the body of the ptarmigan,
the ptarmigan's squawk of agony and fright, and the hawk's rush
upward into the blue, carrying the ptarmigan away with it,
It was a long time before the cub left its shelter. He had learned
much. Live things were meat. They were good to eat. Also, live
things when they were large enough, could give hurt. It was better
to eat small live things like ptarmigan chicks, and to let alone
large live things like ptarmigan hens. Nevertheless he felt a
little prick of ambition, a sneaking desire to have another battle
with that ptarmigan hen--only the hawk had carried her away. May
be there were other ptarmigan hens. He would go and see.
He came down a shelving bank to the stream. He had never seen
water before. The footing looked good. There were no inequalities
of surface. He stepped boldly out on it; and went down, crying
with fear, into the embrace of the unknown. It was cold, and he
gasped, breathing quickly. The water rushed into his lungs instead
of the air that had always accompanied his act of breathing. The
suffocation he experienced was like the pang of death. To him it
signified death. He had no conscious knowledge of death, but like
every animal of the Wild, he possessed the instinct of death. To
him it stood as the greatest of hurts. It was the very essence of
the unknown; it was the sum of the terrors of the unknown, the one
culminating and unthinkable catastrophe that could happen to him,
about which he knew nothing and about which he feared everything.
He came to the surface, and the sweet air rushed into his open
mouth. He did not go down again. Quite as though it had been a
long-established custom of his he struck out with all his legs and
began to swim. The near bank was a yard away; but he had come up
with his back to it, and the first thing his eyes rested upon was
the opposite bank, toward which he immediately began to swim. The
stream was a small one, but in the pool it widened out to a score
Midway in the passage, the current picked up the cub and swept him
downstream. He was caught in the miniature rapid at the bottom of
the pool. Here was little chance for swimming. The quiet water
had become suddenly angry. Sometimes he was under, sometimes on
top. At all times he was in violent motion, now being turned over
or around, and again, being smashed against a rock. And with every
rock he struck, he yelped. His progress was a series of yelps,
from which might have been adduced the number of rocks he
Below the rapid was a second pool, and here, captured by the eddy,
he was gently borne to the bank, and as gently deposited on a bed
of gravel. He crawled frantically clear of the water and lay down.
He had learned some more about the world. Water was not alive.
Yet it moved. Also, it looked as solid as the earth, but was
without any solidity at all. His conclusion was that things were
not always what they appeared to be. The cub's fear of the unknown
was an inherited distrust, and it had now been strengthened by
experience. Thenceforth, in the nature of things, he would possess
an abiding distrust of appearances. He would have to learn the
reality of a thing before he could put his faith into it.
One other adventure was destined for him that day. He had
recollected that there was such a thing in the world as his mother.
And then there came to him a feeling that he wanted her more than
all the rest of the things in the world. Not only was his body
tired with the adventures it had undergone, but his little brain
was equally tired. In all the days he had lived it had not worked
so hard as on this one day. Furthermore, he was sleepy. So he
started out to look for the cave and his mother, feeling at the
same time an overwhelming rush of loneliness and helplessness.
He was sprawling along between some bushes, when he heard a sharp
intimidating cry. There was a flash of yellow before his eyes. He
saw a weasel leaping swiftly away from him. It was a small live
thing, and he had no fear. Then, before him, at his feet, he saw
an extremely small live thing, only several inches long, a young
weasel, that, like himself, had disobediently gone out adventuring.
It tried to retreat before him. He turned it over with his paw.
It made a queer, grating noise. The next moment the flash of
yellow reappeared before his eyes. He heard again the intimidating
cry, and at the same instant received a sharp blow on the side of
the neck and felt the sharp teeth of the mother-weasel cut into his
While he yelped and ki-yi'd and scrambled backward, he saw the
mother-weasel leap upon her young one and disappear with it into
the neighbouring thicket. The cut of her teeth in his neck still
hurt, but his feelings were hurt more grievously, and he sat down
and weakly whimpered. This mother-weasel was so small and so
savage. He was yet to learn that for size and weight the weasel
was the most ferocious, vindictive, and terrible of all the killers
of the Wild. But a portion of this knowledge was quickly to be
He was still whimpering when the mother-weasel reappeared. She did
not rush him, now that her young one was safe. She approached more
cautiously, and the cub had full opportunity to observe her lean,
snakelike body, and her head, erect, eager, and snake-like itself.
Her sharp, menacing cry sent the hair bristling along his back, and
he snarled warningly at her. She came closer and closer. There
was a leap, swifter than his unpractised sight, and the lean,
yellow body disappeared for a moment out of the field of his
vision. The next moment she was at his throat, her teeth buried in
his hair and flesh.
At first he snarled and tried to fight; but he was very young, and
this was only his first day in the world, and his snarl became a
whimper, his fight a struggle to escape. The weasel never relaxed
her hold. She hung on, striving to press down with her teeth to
the great vein were his life-blood bubbled. The weasel was a
drinker of blood, and it was ever her preference to drink from the
throat of life itself.
The grey cub would have died, and there would have been no story to
write about him, had not the she-wolf come bounding through the
bushes. The weasel let go the cub and flashed at the she-wolf's
throat, missing, but getting a hold on the jaw instead. The she-
wolf flirted her head like the snap of a whip, breaking the
weasel's hold and flinging it high in the air. And, still in the
air, the she-wolf's jaws closed on the lean, yellow body, and the
weasel knew death between the crunching teeth.
The cub experienced another access of affection on the part of his
mother. Her joy at finding him seemed even greater than his joy at
being found. She nozzled him and caressed him and licked the cuts
made in him by the weasel's teeth. Then, between them, mother and
cub, they ate the blood-drinker, and after that went back to the
cave and slept.
CHAPTER V--THE LAW OF MEAT
The cub's development was rapid. He rested for two days, and then
ventured forth from the cave again. It was on this adventure that
he found the young weasel whose mother he had helped eat, and he
saw to it that the young weasel went the way of its mother. But on
this trip he did not get lost. When he grew tired, he found his
way back to the cave and slept. And every day thereafter found him
out and ranging a wider area.
He began to get accurate measurement of his strength and his
weakness, and to know when to be bold and when to be cautious. He
found it expedient to be cautious all the time, except for the rare
moments, when, assured of his own intrepidity, he abandoned himself
to petty rages and lusts.
He was always a little demon of fury when he chanced upon a stray
ptarmigan. Never did he fail to respond savagely to the chatter of
the squirrel he had first met on the blasted pine. While the sight
of a moose-bird almost invariably put him into the wildest of
rages; for he never forgot the peck on the nose he had received
from the first of that ilk he encountered.
But there were times when even a moose-bird failed to affect him,
and those were times when he felt himself to be in danger from some
other prowling meat hunter. He never forgot the hawk, and its
moving shadow always sent him crouching into the nearest thicket.
He no longer sprawled and straddled, and already he was developing
the gait of his mother, slinking and furtive, apparently without
exertion, yet sliding along with a swiftness that was as deceptive
as it was imperceptible.
In the matter of meat, his luck had been all in the beginning. The
seven ptarmigan chicks and the baby weasel represented the sum of
his killings. His desire to kill strengthened with the days, and
he cherished hungry ambitions for the squirrel that chattered so
volubly and always informed all wild creatures that the wolf-cub
was approaching. But as birds flew in the air, squirrels could
climb trees, and the cub could only try to crawl unobserved upon
the squirrel when it was on the ground.
The cub entertained a great respect for his mother. She could get
meat, and she never failed to bring him his share. Further, she
was unafraid of things. It did not occur to him that this
fearlessness was founded upon experience and knowledge. Its effect
on him was that of an impression of power. His mother represented
power; and as he grew older he felt this power in the sharper
admonishment of her paw; while the reproving nudge of her nose gave
place to the slash of her fangs. For this, likewise, he respected
his mother. She compelled obedience from him, and the older he
grew the shorter grew her temper.
Famine came again, and the cub with clearer consciousness knew once
more the bite of hunger. The she-wolf ran herself thin in the
quest for meat. She rarely slept any more in the cave, spending
most of her time on the meat-trail, and spending it vainly. This
famine was not a long one, but it was severe while it lasted. The
cub found no more milk in his mother's breast, nor did he get one
mouthful of meat for himself.
Before, he had hunted in play, for the sheer joyousness of it; now
he hunted in deadly earnestness, and found nothing. Yet the
failure of it accelerated his development. He studied the habits
of the squirrel with greater carefulness, and strove with greater
craft to steal upon it and surprise it. He studied the wood-mice
and tried to dig them out of their burrows; and he learned much
about the ways of moose-birds and woodpeckers. And there came a
day when the hawk's shadow did not drive him crouching into the
bushes. He had grown stronger and wiser, and more confident.
Also, he was desperate. So he sat on his haunches, conspicuously
in an open space, and challenged the hawk down out of the sky. For
he knew that there, floating in the blue above him, was meat, the
meat his stomach yearned after so insistently. But the hawk
refused to come down and give battle, and the cub crawled away into
a thicket and whimpered his disappointment and hunger.
The famine broke. The she-wolf brought home meat. It was strange
meat, different from any she had ever brought before. It was a
lynx kitten, partly grown, like the cub, but not so large. And it
was all for him. His mother had satisfied her hunger elsewhere;
though he did not know that it was the rest of the lynx litter that
had gone to satisfy her. Nor did he know the desperateness of her
deed. He knew only that the velvet-furred kitten was meat, and he
ate and waxed happier with every mouthful.
A full stomach conduces to inaction, and the cub lay in the cave,
sleeping against his mother's side. He was aroused by her
snarling. Never had he heard her snarl so terribly. Possibly in
her whole life it was the most terrible snarl she ever gave. There
was reason for it, and none knew it better than she. A lynx's lair
is not despoiled with impunity. In the full glare of the afternoon
light, crouching in the entrance of the cave, the cub saw the lynx-
mother. The hair rippled up along his back at the sight. Here was
fear, and it did not require his instinct to tell him of it. And
if sight alone were not sufficient, the cry of rage the intruder
gave, beginning with a snarl and rushing abruptly upward into a
hoarse screech, was convincing enough in itself.
The cub felt the prod of the life that was in him, and stood up and
snarled valiantly by his mother's side. But she thrust him
ignominiously away and behind her. Because of the low-roofed
entrance the lynx could not leap in, and when she made a crawling
rush of it the she-wolf sprang upon her and pinned her down. The
cub saw little of the battle. There was a tremendous snarling and
spitting and screeching. The two animals threshed about, the lynx
ripping and tearing with her claws and using her teeth as well,
while the she-wolf used her teeth alone.
Once, the cub sprang in and sank his teeth into the hind leg of the
lynx. He clung on, growling savagely. Though he did not know it,
by the weight of his body he clogged the action of the leg and
thereby saved his mother much damage. A change in the battle
crushed him under both their bodies and wrenched loose his hold.
The next moment the two mothers separated, and, before they rushed
together again, the lynx lashed out at the cub with a huge fore-paw
that ripped his shoulder open to the bone and sent him hurtling
sidewise against the wall. Then was added to the uproar the cub's
shrill yelp of pain and fright. But the fight lasted so long that
he had time to cry himself out and to experience a second burst of
courage; and the end of the battle found him again clinging to a
hind-leg and furiously growling between his teeth.
The lynx was dead. But the she-wolf was very weak and sick. At
first she caressed the cub and licked his wounded shoulder; but the
blood she had lost had taken with it her strength, and for all of a
day and a night she lay by her dead foe's side, without movement,
scarcely breathing. For a week she never left the cave, except for
water, and then her movements were slow and painful. At the end of
that time the lynx was devoured, while the she-wolf's wounds had
healed sufficiently to permit her to take the meat-trail again.
The cub's shoulder was stiff and sore, and for some time he limped
from the terrible slash he had received. But the world now seemed
changed. He went about in it with greater confidence, with a
feeling of prowess that had not been his in the days before the
battle with the lynx. He had looked upon life in a more ferocious
aspect; he had fought; he had buried his teeth in the flesh of a
foe; and he had survived. And because of all this, he carried
himself more boldly, with a touch of defiance that was new in him.
He was no longer afraid of minor things, and much of his timidity
had vanished, though the unknown never ceased to press upon him
with its mysteries and terrors, intangible and ever-menacing.
He began to accompany his mother on the meat-trail, and he saw much
of the killing of meat and began to play his part in it. And in
his own dim way he learned the law of meat. There were two kinds
of life--his own kind and the other kind. His own kind included
his mother and himself. The other kind included all live things
that moved. But the other kind was divided. One portion was what
his own kind killed and ate. This portion was composed of the non-
killers and the small killers. The other portion killed and ate
his own kind, or was killed and eaten by his own kind. And out of
this classification arose the law. The aim of life was meat. Life
itself was meat. Life lived on life. There were the eaters and
the eaten. The law was: EAT OR BE EATEN. He did not formulate
the law in clear, set terms and moralise about it. He did not even
think the law; he merely lived the law without thinking about it at
He saw the law operating around him on every side. He had eaten
the ptarmigan chicks. The hawk had eaten the ptarmigan-mother.
The hawk would also have eaten him. Later, when he had grown more
formidable, he wanted to eat the hawk. He had eaten the lynx
kitten. The lynx-mother would have eaten him had she not herself
been killed and eaten. And so it went. The law was being lived
about him by all live things, and he himself was part and parcel of
the law. He was a killer. His only food was meat, live meat, that
ran away swiftly before him, or flew into the air, or climbed
trees, or hid in the ground, or faced him and fought with him, or
turned the tables and ran after him.
Had the cub thought in man-fashion, he might have epitomised life
as a voracious appetite and the world as a place wherein ranged a
multitude of appetites, pursuing and being pursued, hunting and
being hunted, eating and being eaten, all in blindness and
confusion, with violence and disorder, a chaos of gluttony and
slaughter, ruled over by chance, merciless, planless, endless.
But the cub did not think in man-fashion. He did not look at
things with wide vision. He was single-purposed, and entertained
but one thought or desire at a time. Besides the law of meat,
there were a myriad other and lesser laws for him to learn and
obey. The world was filled with surprise. The stir of the life
that was in him, the play of his muscles, was an unending
happiness. To run down meat was to experience thrills and
elations. His rages and battles were pleasures. Terror itself,
and the mystery of the unknown, led to his living.
And there were easements and satisfactions. To have a full
stomach, to doze lazily in the sunshine--such things were
remuneration in full for his ardours and toils, while his ardours
and tolls were in themselves self-remunerative. They were
expressions of life, and life is always happy when it is expressing
itself. So the cub had no quarrel with his hostile environment.
He was very much alive, very happy, and very proud of himself.
CHAPTER I--THE MAKERS OF FIRE
The cub came upon it suddenly. It was his own fault. He had been
careless. He had left the cave and run down to the stream to
drink. It might have been that he took no notice because he was
heavy with sleep. (He had been out all night on the meat-trail,
and had but just then awakened.) And his carelessness might have
been due to the familiarity of the trail to the pool. He had
travelled it often, and nothing had ever happened on it.
He went down past the blasted pine, crossed the open space, and
trotted in amongst the trees. Then, at the same instant, he saw
and smelt. Before him, sitting silently on their haunches, were
five live things, the like of which he had never seen before. It
was his first glimpse of mankind. But at the sight of him the five
men did not spring to their feet, nor show their teeth, nor snarl.
They did not move, but sat there, silent and ominous.
Nor did the cub move. Every instinct of his nature would have
impelled him to dash wildly away, had there not suddenly and for
the first time arisen in him another and counter instinct. A great
awe descended upon him. He was beaten down to movelessness by an
overwhelming sense of his own weakness and littleness. Here was
mastery and power, something far and away beyond him.
The cub had never seen man, yet the instinct concerning man was
his. In dim ways he recognised in man the animal that had fought
itself to primacy over the other animals of the Wild. Not alone
out of his own eyes, but out of the eyes of all his ancestors was
the cub now looking upon man--out of eyes that had circled in the
darkness around countless winter camp-fires, that had peered from
safe distances and from the hearts of thickets at the strange, two-
legged animal that was lord over living things. The spell of the
cub's heritage was upon him, the fear and the respect born of the
centuries of struggle and the accumulated experience of the
generations. The heritage was too compelling for a wolf that was
only a cub. Had he been full-grown, he would have run away. As it
was, he cowered down in a paralysis of fear, already half
proffering the submission that his kind had proffered from the
first time a wolf came in to sit by man's fire and be made warm.
One of the Indians arose and walked over to him and stooped above
him. The cub cowered closer to the ground. It was the unknown,
objectified at last, in concrete flesh and blood, bending over him
and reaching down to seize hold of him. His hair bristled
involuntarily; his lips writhed back and his little fangs were
bared. The hand, poised like doom above him, hesitated, and the
man spoke laughing, "Wabam wabisca ip pit tah." ("Look! The white
The other Indians laughed loudly, and urged the man on to pick up
the cub. As the hand descended closer and closer, there raged
within the cub a battle of the instincts. He experienced two great
impulsions--to yield and to fight. The resulting action was a
compromise. He did both. He yielded till the hand almost touched
him. Then he fought, his teeth flashing in a snap that sank them
into the hand. The next moment he received a clout alongside the
head that knocked him over on his side. Then all fight fled out of
him. His puppyhood and the instinct of submission took charge of
him. He sat up on his haunches and ki-yi'd. But the man whose
hand he had bitten was angry. The cub received a clout on the
other side of his head. Whereupon he sat up and ki-yi'd louder
The four Indians laughed more loudly, while even the man who had
been bitten began to laugh. They surrounded the cub and laughed at
him, while he wailed out his terror and his hurt. In the midst of
it, he heard something. The Indians heard it too. But the cub
knew what it was, and with a last, long wail that had in it more of
triumph than grief, he ceased his noise and waited for the coming
of his mother, of his ferocious and indomitable mother who fought
and killed all things and was never afraid. She was snarling as
she ran. She had heard the cry of her cub and was dashing to save
She bounded in amongst them, her anxious and militant motherhood
making her anything but a pretty sight. But to the cub the
spectacle of her protective rage was pleasing. He uttered a glad
little cry and bounded to meet her, while the man-animals went back
hastily several steps. The she-wolf stood over against her cub,
facing the men, with bristling hair, a snarl rumbling deep in her
throat. Her face was distorted and malignant with menace, even the
bridge of the nose wrinkling from tip to eyes so prodigious was her
Then it was that a cry went up from one of the men. "Kiche!" was
what he uttered. It was an exclamation of surprise. The cub felt
his mother wilting at the sound.
"Kiche!" the man cried again, this time with sharpness and
And then the cub saw his mother, the she-wolf, the fearless one,
crouching down till her belly touched the ground, whimpering,
wagging her tail, making peace signs. The cub could not
understand. He was appalled. The awe of man rushed over him
again. His instinct had been true. His mother verified it. She,
too, rendered submission to the man-animals.
The man who had spoken came over to her. He put his hand upon her
head, and she only crouched closer. She did not snap, nor threaten
to snap. The other men came up, and surrounded her, and felt her,
and pawed her, which actions she made no attempt to resent. They
were greatly excited, and made many noises with their mouths.
These noises were not indication of danger, the cub decided, as he
crouched near his mother still bristling from time to time but
doing his best to submit.
"It is not strange," an Indian was saying. "Her father was a wolf.
It is true, her mother was a dog; but did not my brother tie her
out in the woods all of three nights in the mating season?
Therefore was the father of Kiche a wolf."
"It is a year, Grey Beaver, since she ran away," spoke a second
"It is not strange, Salmon Tongue," Grey Beaver answered. "It was
the time of the famine, and there was no meat for the dogs."
"She has lived with the wolves," said a third Indian.
"So it would seem, Three Eagles," Grey Beaver answered, lying his
hand on the cub; "and this be the sign of it."
The cub snarled a little at the touch of the hand, and the hand
flew back to administer a clout. Whereupon the cub covered its
fangs, and sank down submissively, while the hand, returning,
rubbed behind his ears, and up and down his back.
"This be the sign of it," Grey Beaver went on. "It is plain that
his mother is Kiche. But this father was a wolf. Wherefore is
there in him little dog and much wolf. His fangs be white, and
White Fang shall be his name. I have spoken. He is my dog. For
was not Kiche my brother's dog? And is not my brother dead?"
The cub, who had thus received a name in the world, lay and
watched. For a time the man-animals continued to make their mouth-
noises. Then Grey Beaver took a knife from a sheath that hung
around his neck, and went into the thicket and cut a stick. White
Fang watched him. He notched the stick at each end and in the
notches fastened strings of raw-hide. One string he tied around
the throat of Kiche. Then he led her to a small pine, around which
he tied the other string.
White Fang followed and lay down beside her. Salmon Tongue's hand
reached out to him and rolled him over on his back. Kiche looked
on anxiously. White Fang felt fear mounting in him again. He
could not quite suppress a snarl, but he made no offer to snap.
The hand, with fingers crooked and spread apart, rubbed his stomach
in a playful way and rolled him from side to side. It was
ridiculous and ungainly, lying there on his back with legs
sprawling in the air. Besides, it was a position of such utter
helplessness that White Fang's whole nature revolted against it.
He could do nothing to defend himself. If this man-animal intended
harm, White Fang knew that he could not escape it. How could he
spring away with his four legs in the air above him? Yet
submission made him master his fear, and he only growled softly.
This growl he could not suppress; nor did the man-animal resent it
by giving him a blow on the head. And furthermore, such was the
strangeness of it, White Fang experienced an unaccountable
sensation of pleasure as the hand rubbed back and forth. When he
was rolled on his side he ceased to growl, when the fingers pressed
and prodded at the base of his ears the pleasurable sensation
increased; and when, with a final rub and scratch, the man left him
alone and went away, all fear had died out of White Fang. He was
to know fear many times in his dealing with man; yet it was a token
of the fearless companionship with man that was ultimately to be
After a time, White Fang heard strange noises approaching. He was
quick in his classification, for he knew them at once for man-
animal noises. A few minutes later the remainder of the tribe,
strung out as it was on the march, trailed in. There were more men
and many women and children, forty souls of them, and all heavily
burdened with camp equipage and outfit. Also there were many dogs;
and these, with the exception of the part-grown puppies, were
likewise burdened with camp outfit. On their backs, in bags that
fastened tightly around underneath, the dogs carried from twenty to
thirty pounds of weight.
White Fang had never seen dogs before, but at sight of them he felt
that they were his own kind, only somehow different. But they
displayed little difference from the wolf when they discovered the
cub and his mother. There was a rush. White Fang bristled and
snarled and snapped in the face of the open-mouthed oncoming wave
of dogs, and went down and under them, feeling the sharp slash of
teeth in his body, himself biting and tearing at the legs and
bellies above him. There was a great uproar. He could hear the
snarl of Kiche as she fought for him; and he could hear the cries
of the man-animals, the sound of clubs striking upon bodies, and
the yelps of pain from the dogs so struck.
Only a few seconds elapsed before he was on his feet again. He
could now see the man-animals driving back the dogs with clubs and
stones, defending him, saving him from the savage teeth of his kind
that somehow was not his kind. And though there was no reason in
his brain for a clear conception of so abstract a thing as justice,
nevertheless, in his own way, he felt the justice of the man-
animals, and he knew them for what they were--makers of law and
executors of law. Also, he appreciated the power with which they
administered the law. Unlike any animals he had ever encountered,
they did not bite nor claw. They enforced their live strength with
the power of dead things. Dead things did their bidding. Thus,
sticks and stones, directed by these strange creatures, leaped
through the air like living things, inflicting grievous hurts upon
To his mind this was power unusual, power inconceivable and beyond
the natural, power that was godlike. White Fang, in the very
nature of him, could never know anything about gods; at the best he
could know only things that were beyond knowing--but the wonder and
awe that he had of these man-animals in ways resembled what would
be the wonder and awe of man at sight of some celestial creature,
on a mountain top, hurling thunderbolts from either hand at an
The last dog had been driven back. The hubbub died down. And
White Fang licked his hurts and meditated upon this, his first
taste of pack-cruelty and his introduction to the pack. He had
never dreamed that his own kind consisted of more than One Eye, his
mother, and himself. They had constituted a kind apart, and here,
abruptly, he had discovered many more creatures apparently of his
own kind. And there was a subconscious resentment that these, his
kind, at first sight had pitched upon him and tried to destroy him.
In the same way he resented his mother being tied with a stick,
even though it was done by the superior man-animals. It savoured
of the trap, of bondage. Yet of the trap and of bondage he knew
nothing. Freedom to roam and run and lie down at will, had been
his heritage; and here it was being infringed upon. His mother's
movements were restricted to the length of a stick, and by the
length of that same stick was he restricted, for he had not yet got
beyond the need of his mother's side.
He did not like it. Nor did he like it when the man-animals arose
and went on with their march; for a tiny man-animal took the other
end of the stick and led Kiche captive behind him, and behind Kiche
followed White Fang, greatly perturbed and worried by this new
adventure he had entered upon.
They went down the valley of the stream, far beyond White Fang's
widest ranging, until they came to the end of the valley, where the
stream ran into the Mackenzie River. Here, where canoes were
cached on poles high in the air and where stood fish-racks for the
drying of fish, camp was made; and White Fang looked on with
wondering eyes. The superiority of these man-animals increased
with every moment. There was their mastery over all these sharp-
fanged dogs. It breathed of power. But greater than that, to the
wolf-cub, was their mastery over things not alive; their capacity
to communicate motion to unmoving things; their capacity to change
the very face of the world.
It was this last that especially affected him. The elevation of
frames of poles caught his eye; yet this in itself was not so
remarkable, being done by the same creatures that flung sticks and
stones to great distances. But when the frames of poles were made
into tepees by being covered with cloth and skins, White Fang was
astounded. It was the colossal bulk of them that impressed him.
They arose around him, on every side, like some monstrous quick-
growing form of life. They occupied nearly the whole circumference
of his field of vision. He was afraid of them. They loomed
ominously above him; and when the breeze stirred them into huge
movements, he cowered down in fear, keeping his eyes warily upon
them, and prepared to spring away if they attempted to precipitate
themselves upon him.
But in a short while his fear of the tepees passed away. He saw
the women and children passing in and out of them without harm, and
he saw the dogs trying often to get into them, and being driven
away with sharp words and flying stones. After a time, he left
Kiche's side and crawled cautiously toward the wall of the nearest
tepee. It was the curiosity of growth that urged him on--the
necessity of learning and living and doing that brings experience.
The last few inches to the wall of the tepee were crawled with
painful slowness and precaution. The day's events had prepared him
for the unknown to manifest itself in most stupendous and
unthinkable ways. At last his nose touched the canvas. He waited.
Nothing happened. Then he smelled the strange fabric, saturated
with the man-smell. He closed on the canvas with his teeth and
gave a gentle tug. Nothing happened, though the adjacent portions
of the tepee moved. He tugged harder. There was a greater
movement. It was delightful. He tugged still harder, and
repeatedly, until the whole tepee was in motion. Then the sharp
cry of a squaw inside sent him scampering back to Kiche. But after
that he was afraid no more of the looming bulks of the tepees.
A moment later he was straying away again from his mother. Her
stick was tied to a peg in the ground and she could not follow him.
A part-grown puppy, somewhat larger and older than he, came toward
him slowly, with ostentatious and belligerent importance. The
puppy's name, as White Fang was afterward to hear him called, was
Lip-lip. He had had experience in puppy fights and was already
something of a bully.
Lip-lip was White Fang's own kind, and, being only a puppy, did not
seem dangerous; so White Fang prepared to meet him in a friendly
spirit. But when the strangers walk became stiff-legged and his
lips lifted clear of his teeth, White Fang stiffened too, and
answered with lifted lips. They half circled about each other,
tentatively, snarling and bristling. This lasted several minutes,
and White Fang was beginning to enjoy it, as a sort of game. But
suddenly, with remarkable swiftness, Lip-lip leaped in, delivering
a slashing snap, and leaped away again. The snap had taken effect
on the shoulder that had been hurt by the lynx and that was still
sore deep down near the bone. The surprise and hurt of it brought
a yelp out of White Fang; but the next moment, in a rush of anger,
he was upon Lip-lip and snapping viciously.
But Lip-hp had lived his life in camp and had fought many puppy
fights. Three times, four times, and half a dozen times, his sharp
little teeth scored on the newcomer, until White Fang, yelping
shamelessly, fled to the protection of his mother. It was the
first of the many fights he was to have with Lip-lip, for they were
enemies from the start, born so, with natures destined perpetually
Kiche licked White Fang soothingly with her tongue, and tried to
prevail upon him to remain with her. But his curiosity was
rampant, and several minutes later he was venturing forth on a new
quest. He came upon one of the man-animals, Grey Beaver, who was
squatting on his hams and doing something with sticks and dry moss
spread before him on the ground. White Fang came near to him and
watched. Grey Beaver made mouth-noises which White Fang
interpreted as not hostile, so he came still nearer.
Women and children were carrying more sticks and branches to Grey
Beaver. It was evidently an affair of moment. White Fang came in
until he touched Grey Beaver's knee, so curious was he, and already
forgetful that this was a terrible man-animal. Suddenly he saw a
strange thing like mist beginning to arise from the sticks and moss
beneath Grey Beaver's hands. Then, amongst the sticks themselves,
appeared a live thing, twisting and turning, of a colour like the
colour of the sun in the sky. White Fang knew nothing about fire.
It drew him as the light, in the mouth of the cave had drawn him in
his early puppyhood. He crawled the several steps toward the
flame. He heard Grey Beaver chuckle above him, and he knew the
sound was not hostile. Then his nose touched the flame, and at the
same instant his little tongue went out to it.
For a moment he was paralysed. The unknown, lurking in the midst
of the sticks and moss, was savagely clutching him by the nose. He
scrambled backward, bursting out in an astonished explosion of ki-
yi's. At the sound, Kiche leaped snarling to the end of her stick,
and there raged terribly because she could not come to his aid.
But Grey Beaver laughed loudly, and slapped his thighs, and told
the happening to all the rest of the camp, till everybody was
laughing uproariously. But White Fang sat on his haunches and ki-
yi'd and ki-yi'd, a forlorn and pitiable little figure in the midst
of the man-animals.
It was the worst hurt he had ever known. Both nose and tongue had
been scorched by the live thing, sun-coloured, that had grown up
under Grey Beaver's hands. He cried and cried interminably, and
every fresh wail was greeted by bursts of laughter on the part of
the man-animals. He tried to soothe his nose with his tongue, but
the tongue was burnt too, and the two hurts coming together
produced greater hurt; whereupon he cried more hopelessly and
helplessly than ever.
And then shame came to him. He knew laughter and the meaning of
it. It is not given us to know how some animals know laughter, and
know when they are being laughed at; but it was this same way that
White Fang knew it. And he felt shame that the man-animals should
be laughing at him. He turned and fled away, not from the hurt of
the fire, but from the laughter that sank even deeper, and hurt in
the spirit of him. And he fled to Kiche, raging at the end of her
stick like an animal gone mad--to Kiche, the one creature in the
world who was not laughing at him.
Twilight drew down and night came on, and White Fang lay by his
mother's side. His nose and tongue still hurt, but he was
perplexed by a greater trouble. He was homesick. He felt a
vacancy in him, a need for the hush and quietude of the stream and
the cave in the cliff. Life had become too populous. There were
so many of the man-animals, men, women, and children, all making
noises and irritations. And there were the dogs, ever squabbling
and bickering, bursting into uproars and creating confusions. The
restful loneliness of the only life he had known was gone. Here
the very air was palpitant with life. It hummed and buzzed
unceasingly. Continually changing its intensity and abruptly
variant in pitch, it impinged on his nerves and senses, made him
nervous and restless and worried him with a perpetual imminence of
He watched the man-animals coming and going and moving about the
camp. In fashion distantly resembling the way men look upon the
gods they create, so looked White Fang upon the man-animals before
him. They were superior creatures, of a verity, gods. To his dim
comprehension they were as much wonder-workers as gods are to men.
They were creatures of mastery, possessing all manner of unknown
and impossible potencies, overlords of the alive and the not alive-
-making obey that which moved, imparting movement to that which did
not move, and making life, sun-coloured and biting life, to grow
out of dead moss and wood. They were fire-makers! They were gods.
CHAPTER II--THE BONDAGE
The days were thronged with experience for White Fang. During the
time that Kiche was tied by the stick, he ran about over all the
camp, inquiring, investigating, learning. He quickly came to know
much of the ways of the man-animals, but familiarity did not breed
contempt. The more he came to know them, the more they vindicated
their superiority, the more they displayed their mysterious powers,
the greater loomed their god-likeness.
To man has been given the grief, often, of seeing his gods
overthrown and his altars crumbling; but to the wolf and the wild
dog that have come in to crouch at man's feet, this grief has never
come. Unlike man, whose gods are of the unseen and the
overguessed, vapours and mists of fancy eluding the garmenture of
reality, wandering wraiths of desired goodness and power,
intangible out-croppings of self into the realm of spirit--unlike
man, the wolf and the wild dog that have come in to the fire find
their gods in the living flesh, solid to the touch, occupying
earth-space and requiring time for the accomplishment of their ends
and their existence. No effort of faith is necessary to believe in
such a god; no effort of will can possibly induce disbelief in such
a god. There is no getting away from it. There it stands, on its
two hind-legs, club in hand, immensely potential, passionate and
wrathful and loving, god and mystery and power all wrapped up and
around by flesh that bleeds when it is torn and that is good to eat
like any flesh.
And so it was with White Fang. The man-animals were gods
unmistakable and unescapable. As his mother, Kiche, had rendered
her allegiance to them at the first cry of her name, so he was
beginning to render his allegiance. He gave them the trail as a
privilege indubitably theirs. When they walked, he got out of
their way. When they called, he came. When they threatened, he
cowered down. When they commanded him to go, he went away
hurriedly. For behind any wish of theirs was power to enforce that
wish, power that hurt, power that expressed itself in clouts and
clubs, in flying stones and stinging lashes of whips.
He belonged to them as all dogs belonged to them. His actions were
theirs to command. His body was theirs to maul, to stamp upon, to
tolerate. Such was the lesson that was quickly borne in upon him.
It came hard, going as it did, counter to much that was strong and
dominant in his own nature; and, while he disliked it in the
learning of it, unknown to himself he was learning to like it. It
was a placing of his destiny in another's hands, a shifting of the
responsibilities of existence. This in itself was compensation,
for it is always easier to lean upon another than to stand alone.
But it did not all happen in a day, this giving over of himself,
body and soul, to the man-animals. He could not immediately forego
his wild heritage and his memories of the Wild. There were days
when he crept to the edge of the forest and stood and listened to
something calling him far and away. And always he returned,
restless and uncomfortable, to whimper softly and wistfully at
Kiche's side and to lick her face with eager, questioning tongue.
White Fang learned rapidly the ways of the camp. He knew the
injustice and greediness of the older dogs when meat or fish was
thrown out to be eaten. He came to know that men were more just,
children more cruel, and women more kindly and more likely to toss
him a bit of meat or bone. And after two or three painful
adventures with the mothers of part-grown puppies, he came into the
knowledge that it was always good policy to let such mothers alone,
to keep away from them as far as possible, and to avoid them when
he saw them coming.
But the bane of his life was Lip-lip. Larger, older, and stronger,
Lip-lip had selected White Fang for his special object of
persecution. While Fang fought willingly enough, but he was
outclassed. His enemy was too big. Lip-lip became a nightmare to
him. Whenever he ventured away from his mother, the bully was sure
to appear, trailing at his heels, snarling at him, picking upon
him, and watchful of an opportunity, when no man-animal was near,
to spring upon him and force a fight. As Lip-lip invariably won,
he enjoyed it hugely. It became his chief delight in life, as it
became White Fang's chief torment.
But the effect upon White Fang was not to cow him. Though he
suffered most of the damage and was always defeated, his spirit
remained unsubdued. Yet a bad effect was produced. He became
malignant and morose. His temper had been savage by birth, but it
became more savage under this unending persecution. The genial,
playful, puppyish side of him found little expression. He never
played and gambolled about with the other puppies of the camp.
Lip-lip would not permit it. The moment White Fang appeared near
them, Lip-lip was upon him, bullying and hectoring him, or fighting
with him until he had driven him away.
The effect of all this was to rob White Fang of much of his
puppyhood and to make him in his comportment older than his age.
Denied the outlet, through play, of his energies, he recoiled upon
himself and developed his mental processes. He became cunning; he
had idle time in which to devote himself to thoughts of trickery.
Prevented from obtaining his share of meat and fish when a general
feed was given to the camp-dogs, he became a clever thief. He had
to forage for himself, and he foraged well, though he was oft-times
a plague to the squaws in consequence. He learned to sneak about
camp, to be crafty, to know what was going on everywhere, to see
and to hear everything and to reason accordingly, and successfully
to devise ways and means of avoiding his implacable persecutor.
It was early in the days of his persecution that he played his
first really big crafty game and got there from his first taste of
revenge. As Kiche, when with the wolves, had lured out to
destruction dogs from the camps of men, so White Fang, in manner
somewhat similar, lured Lip-lip into Kiche's avenging jaws.
Retreating before Lip-lip, White Fang made an indirect flight that
led in and out and around the various tepees of the camp. He was a
good runner, swifter than any puppy of his size, and swifter than
Lip-lip. But he did not run his best in this chase. He barely
held his own, one leap ahead of his pursuer.
Lip-lip, excited by the chase and by the persistent nearness of his
victim, forgot caution and locality. When he remembered locality,
it was too late. Dashing at top speed around a tepee, he ran full
tilt into Kiche lying at the end of her stick. He gave one yelp of
consternation, and then her punishing jaws closed upon him. She
was tied, but he could not get away from her easily. She rolled
him off his legs so that he could not run, while she repeatedly
ripped and slashed him with her fangs.
When at last he succeeded in rolling clear of her, he crawled to
his feet, badly dishevelled, hurt both in body and in spirit. His
hair was standing out all over him in tufts where her teeth had
mauled. He stood where he had arisen, opened his mouth, and broke
out the long, heart-broken puppy wail. But even this he was not
allowed to complete. In the middle of it, White Fang, rushing in,
sank his teeth into Lip-lip's hind leg. There was no fight left in
Lip-lip, and he ran away shamelessly, his victim hot on his heels
and worrying him all the way back to his own tepee. Here the
squaws came to his aid, and White Fang, transformed into a raging
demon, was finally driven off only by a fusillade of stones.
Came the day when Grey Beaver, deciding that the liability of her
running away was past, released Kiche. White Fang was delighted
with his mother's freedom. He accompanied her joyfully about the
camp; and, so long as he remained close by her side, Lip-lip kept a
respectful distance. White-Fang even bristled up to him and walked
stiff-legged, but Lip-lip ignored the challenge. He was no fool
himself, and whatever vengeance he desired to wreak, he could wait
until he caught White Fang alone.
Later on that day, Kiche and White Fang strayed into the edge of
the woods next to the camp. He had led his mother there, step by
step, and now when she stopped, he tried to inveigle her farther.
The stream, the lair, and the quiet woods were calling to him, and
he wanted her to come. He ran on a few steps, stopped, and looked
back. She had not moved. He whined pleadingly, and scurried
playfully in and out of the underbrush. He ran back to her, licked
her face, and ran on again. And still she did not move. He
stopped and regarded her, all of an intentness and eagerness,
physically expressed, that slowly faded out of him as she turned
her head and gazed back at the camp.
There was something calling to him out there in the open. His
mother heard it too. But she heard also that other and louder
call, the call of the fire and of man--the call which has been
given alone of all animals to the wolf to answer, to the wolf and
the wild-dog, who are brothers.
Kiche turned and slowly trotted back toward camp. Stronger than
the physical restraint of the stick was the clutch of the camp upon
her. Unseen and occultly, the gods still gripped with their power
and would not let her go. White Fang sat down in the shadow of a
birch and whimpered softly. There was a strong smell of pine, and
subtle wood fragrances filled the air, reminding him of his old
life of freedom before the days of his bondage. But he was still
only a part-grown puppy, and stronger than the call either of man
or of the Wild was the call of his mother. All the hours of his
short life he had depended upon her. The time was yet to come for
independence. So he arose and trotted forlornly back to camp,
pausing once, and twice, to sit down and whimper and to listen to
the call that still sounded in the depths of the forest.
In the Wild the time of a mother with her young is short; but under
the dominion of man it is sometimes even shorter. Thus it was with
White Fang. Grey Beaver was in the debt of Three Eagles. Three
Eagles was going away on a trip up the Mackenzie to the Great Slave
Lake. A strip of scarlet cloth, a bearskin, twenty cartridges, and
Kiche, went to pay the debt. White Fang saw his mother taken
aboard Three Eagles' canoe, and tried to follow her. A blow from
Three Eagles knocked him backward to the land. The canoe shoved
off. He sprang into the water and swam after it, deaf to the sharp
cries of Grey Beaver to return. Even a man-animal, a god, White
Fang ignored, such was the terror he was in of losing his mother.
But gods are accustomed to being obeyed, and Grey Beaver wrathfully
launched a canoe in pursuit. When he overtook White Fang, he
reached down and by the nape of the neck lifted him clear of the
water. He did not deposit him at once in the bottom of the canoe.
Holding him suspended with one hand, with the other hand he
proceeded to give him a beating. And it WAS a beating. His hand
was heavy. Every blow was shrewd to hurt; and he delivered a
multitude of blows.
Impelled by the blows that rained upon him, now from this side, now
from that, White Fang swung back and forth like an erratic and
jerky pendulum. Varying were the emotions that surged through him.
At first, he had known surprise. Then came a momentary fear, when
he yelped several times to the impact of the hand. But this was
quickly followed by anger. His free nature asserted itself, and he
showed his teeth and snarled fearlessly in the face of the wrathful
god. This but served to make the god more wrathful. The blows
came faster, heavier, more shrewd to hurt.
Grey Beaver continued to beat, White Fang continued to snarl. But
this could not last for ever. One or the other must give over, and
that one was White Fang. Fear surged through him again. For the
first time he was being really man-handled. The occasional blows
of sticks and stones he had previously experienced were as caresses
compared with this. He broke down and began to cry and yelp. For
a time each blow brought a yelp from him; but fear passed into
terror, until finally his yelps were voiced in unbroken succession,
unconnected with the rhythm of the punishment.
At last Grey Beaver withheld his hand. White Fang, hanging limply,
continued to cry. This seemed to satisfy his master, who flung him
down roughly in the bottom of the canoe. In the meantime the canoe
had drifted down the stream. Grey Beaver picked up the paddle.
White Fang was in his way. He spurned him savagely with his foot.
In that moment White Fang's free nature flashed forth again, and he
sank his teeth into the moccasined foot.
The beating that had gone before was as nothing compared with the
beating he now received. Grey Beaver's wrath was terrible;
likewise was White Fang's fright. Not only the hand, but the hard
wooden paddle was used upon him; and he was bruised and sore in all
his small body when he was again flung down in the canoe. Again,
and this time with purpose, did Grey Beaver kick him. White Fang
did not repeat his attack on the foot. He had learned another
lesson of his bondage. Never, no matter what the circumstance,
must he dare to bite the god who was lord and master over him; the
body of the lord and master was sacred, not to be defiled by the
teeth of such as he. That was evidently the crime of crimes, the
one offence there was no condoning nor overlooking.
When the canoe touched the shore, White Fang lay whimpering and
motionless, waiting the will of Grey Beaver. It was Grey Beaver's
will that he should go ashore, for ashore he was flung, striking
heavily on his side and hurting his bruises afresh. He crawled
tremblingly to his feet and stood whimpering. Lip-lip, who had
watched the whole proceeding from the bank, now rushed upon him,
knocking him over and sinking his teeth into him. White Fang was
too helpless to defend himself, and it would have gone hard with
him had not Grey Beaver's foot shot out, lifting Lip-lip into the
air with its violence so that he smashed down to earth a dozen feet
away. This was the man-animal's justice; and even then, in his own
pitiable plight, White Fang experienced a little grateful thrill.
At Grey Beaver's heels he limped obediently through the village to
the tepee. And so it came that White Fang learned that the right
to punish was something the gods reserved for themselves and denied
to the lesser creatures under them.
That night, when all was still, White Fang remembered his mother
and sorrowed for her. He sorrowed too loudly and woke up Grey
Beaver, who beat him. After that he mourned gently when the gods
were around. But sometimes, straying off to the edge of the woods
by himself, he gave vent to his grief, and cried it out with loud
whimperings and wailings.
It was during this period that he might have harkened to the
memories of the lair and the stream and run back to the Wild. But
the memory of his mother held him. As the hunting man-animals went
out and came back, so she would come back to the village some time.
So he remained in his bondage waiting for her.
But it was not altogether an unhappy bondage. There was much to
interest him. Something was always happening. There was no end to
the strange things these gods did, and he was always curious to
see. Besides, he was learning how to get along with Grey Beaver.
Obedience, rigid, undeviating obedience, was what was exacted of
him; and in return he escaped beatings and his existence was
Nay, Grey Beaver himself sometimes tossed him a piece of meat, and
defended him against the other dogs in the eating of it. And such
a piece of meat was of value. It was worth more, in some strange
way, then a dozen pieces of meat from the hand of a squaw. Grey
Beaver never petted nor caressed. Perhaps it was the weight of his
hand, perhaps his justice, perhaps the sheer power of him, and
perhaps it was all these things that influenced White Fang; for a
certain tie of attachment was forming between him and his surly
Insidiously, and by remote ways, as well as by the power of stick
and stone and clout of hand, were the shackles of White Fang's
bondage being riveted upon him. The qualities in his kind that in
the beginning made it possible for them to come in to the fires of
men, were qualities capable of development. They were developing
in him, and the camp-life, replete with misery as it was, was
secretly endearing itself to him all the time. But White Fang was
unaware of it. He knew only grief for the loss of Kiche, hope for
her return, and a hungry yearning for the free life that had been
CHAPTER III--THE OUTCAST
Lip-lip continued so to darken his days that White Fang became
wickeder and more ferocious than it was his natural right to be.
Savageness was a part of his make-up, but the savageness thus
developed exceeded his make-up. He acquired a reputation for
wickedness amongst the man-animals themselves. Wherever there was
trouble and uproar in camp, fighting and squabbling or the outcry
of a squaw over a bit of stolen meat, they were sure to find White
Fang mixed up in it and usually at the bottom of it. They did not
bother to look after the causes of his conduct. They saw only the
effects, and the effects were bad. He was a sneak and a thief, a
mischief-maker, a fomenter of trouble; and irate squaws told him to
his face, the while he eyed them alert and ready to dodge any
quick-flung missile, that he was a wolf and worthless and bound to
come to an evil end.
He found himself an outcast in the midst of the populous camp. All
the young dogs followed Lip-lip's lead. There was a difference
between White Fang and them. Perhaps they sensed his wild-wood
breed, and instinctively felt for him the enmity that the domestic
dog feels for the wolf. But be that as it may, they joined with
Lip-lip in the persecution. And, once declared against him, they
found good reason to continue declared against him. One and all,
from time to time, they felt his teeth; and to his credit, he gave
more than he received. Many of them he could whip in single fight;
but single fight was denied him. The beginning of such a fight was
a signal for all the young dogs in camp to come running and pitch
Out of this pack-persecution he learned two important things: how
to take care of himself in a mass-fight against him--and how, on a
single dog, to inflict the greatest amount of damage in the
briefest space of time. To keep one's feet in the midst of the
hostile mass meant life, and this he learnt well. He became cat-
like in his ability to stay on his feet. Even grown dogs might
hurtle him backward or sideways with the impact of their heavy
bodies; and backward or sideways he would go, in the air or sliding
on the ground, but always with his legs under him and his feet
downward to the mother earth.
When dogs fight, there are usually preliminaries to the actual
combat--snarlings and bristlings and stiff-legged struttings. But
White Fang learned to omit these preliminaries. Delay meant the
coming against him of all the young dogs. He must do his work
quickly and get away. So he learnt to give no warning of his
intention. He rushed in and snapped and slashed on the instant,
without notice, before his foe could prepare to meet him. Thus he
learned how to inflict quick and severe damage. Also he learned
the value of surprise. A dog, taken off its guard, its shoulder
slashed open or its ear ripped in ribbons before it knew what was
happening, was a dog half whipped.
Furthermore, it was remarkably easy to overthrow a dog taken by
surprise; while a dog, thus overthrown, invariably exposed for a
moment the soft underside of its neck--the vulnerable point at
which to strike for its life. White Fang knew this point. It was
a knowledge bequeathed to him directly from the hunting generation
of wolves. So it was that White Fang's method when he took the
offensive, was: first to find a young dog alone; second, to
surprise it and knock it off its feet; and third, to drive in with
his teeth at the soft throat.
Being but partly grown his jaws had not yet become large enough nor
strong enough to make his throat-attack deadly; but many a young
dog went around camp with a lacerated throat in token of White
Fang's intention. And one day, catching one of his enemies alone
on the edge of the woods, he managed, by repeatedly overthrowing
him and attacking the throat, to cut the great vein and let out the
life. There was a great row that night. He had been observed, the
news had been carried to the dead dog's master, the squaws
remembered all the instances of stolen meat, and Grey Beaver was
beset by many angry voices. But he resolutely held the door of his
tepee, inside which he had placed the culprit, and refused to
permit the vengeance for which his tribespeople clamoured.
White Fang became hated by man and dog. During this period of his
development he never knew a moment's security. The tooth of every
dog was against him, the hand of every man. He was greeted with
snarls by his kind, with curses and stones by his gods. He lived
tensely. He was always keyed up, alert for attack, wary of being
attacked, with an eye for sudden and unexpected missiles, prepared
to act precipitately and coolly, to leap in with a flash of teeth,
or to leap away with a menacing snarl.
As for snarling he could snarl more terribly than any dog, young or
old, in camp. The intent of the snarl is to warn or frighten, and
judgment is required to know when it should be used. White Fang
knew how to make it and when to make it. Into his snarl he
incorporated all that was vicious, malignant, and horrible. With
nose serrulated by continuous spasms, hair bristling in recurrent
waves, tongue whipping out like a red snake and whipping back
again, ears flattened down, eyes gleaming hatred, lips wrinkled
back, and fangs exposed and dripping, he could compel a pause on
the part of almost any assailant. A temporary pause, when taken
off his guard, gave him the vital moment in which to think and
determine his action. But often a pause so gained lengthened out
until it evolved into a complete cessation from the attack. And
before more than one of the grown dogs White Fang's snarl enabled
him to beat an honourable retreat.
An outcast himself from the pack of the part-grown dogs, his
sanguinary methods and remarkable efficiency made the pack pay for
its persecution of him. Not permitted himself to run with the
pack, the curious state of affairs obtained that no member of the
pack could run outside the pack. White Fang would not permit it.
What of his bushwhacking and waylaying tactics, the young dogs were
afraid to run by themselves. With the exception of Lip-lip, they
were compelled to hunch together for mutual protection against the
terrible enemy they had made. A puppy alone by the river bank
meant a puppy dead or a puppy that aroused the camp with its shrill
pain and terror as it fled back from the wolf-cub that had waylaid
But White Fang's reprisals did not cease, even when the young dogs
had learned thoroughly that they must stay together. He attacked
them when he caught them alone, and they attacked him when they
were bunched. The sight of him was sufficient to start them
rushing after him, at which times his swiftness usually carried him
into safety. But woe the dog that outran his fellows in such
pursuit! White Fang had learned to turn suddenly upon the pursuer
that was ahead of the pack and thoroughly to rip him up before the
pack could arrive. This occurred with great frequency, for, once
in full cry, the dogs were prone to forget themselves in the
excitement of the chase, while White Fang never forgot himself.
Stealing backward glances as he ran, he was always ready to whirl
around and down the overzealous pursuer that outran his fellows.
Young dogs are bound to play, and out of the exigencies of the
situation they realised their play in this mimic warfare. Thus it
was that the hunt of White Fang became their chief game--a deadly
game, withal, and at all times a serious game. He, on the other
hand, being the fastest-footed, was unafraid to venture anywhere.
During the period that he waited vainly for his mother to come
back, he led the pack many a wild chase through the adjacent woods.
But the pack invariably lost him. Its noise and outcry warned him
of its presence, while he ran alone, velvet-footed, silently, a
moving shadow among the trees after the manner of his father and
mother before him. Further he was more directly connected with the
Wild than they; and he knew more of its secrets and stratagems. A
favourite trick of his was to lose his trail in running water and
then lie quietly in a near-by thicket while their baffled cries
arose around him.
Hated by his kind and by mankind, indomitable, perpetually warred
upon and himself waging perpetual war, his development was rapid
and one-sided. This was no soil for kindliness and affection to
blossom in. Of such things he had not the faintest glimmering.
The code he learned was to obey the strong and to oppress the weak.
Grey Beaver was a god, and strong. Therefore White Fang obeyed
him. But the dog younger or smaller than himself was weak, a thing
to be destroyed. His development was in the direction of power.
In order to face the constant danger of hurt and even of
destruction, his predatory and protective faculties were unduly
developed. He became quicker of movement than the other dogs,
swifter of foot, craftier, deadlier, more lithe, more lean with
ironlike muscle and sinew, more enduring, more cruel, more
ferocious, and more intelligent. He had to become all these
things, else he would not have held his own nor survive the hostile
environment in which he found himself.
CHAPTER IV--THE TRAIL OF THE GODS
In the fall of the year, when the days were shortening and the bite
of the frost was coming into the air, White Fang got his chance for
liberty. For several days there had been a great hubbub in the
village. The summer camp was being dismantled, and the tribe, bag
and baggage, was preparing to go off to the fall hunting. White
Fang watched it all with eager eyes, and when the tepees began to
come down and the canoes were loading at the bank, he understood.
Already the canoes were departing, and some had disappeared down
Quite deliberately he determined to stay behind. He waited his
opportunity to slink out of camp to the woods. Here, in the
running stream where ice was beginning to form, he hid his trail.
Then he crawled into the heart of a dense thicket and waited. The
time passed by, and he slept intermittently for hours. Then he was
aroused by Grey Beaver's voice calling him by name. There were
other voices. White Fang could hear Grey Beaver's squaw taking
part in the search, and Mit-sah, who was Grey Beaver's son.
White Fang trembled with fear, and though the impulse came to crawl
out of his hiding-place, he resisted it. After a time the voices
died away, and some time after that he crept out to enjoy the
success of his undertaking. Darkness was coming on, and for a
while he played about among the trees, pleasuring in his freedom.
Then, and quite suddenly, he became aware of loneliness. He sat
down to consider, listening to the silence of the forest and
perturbed by it. That nothing moved nor sounded, seemed ominous.
He felt the lurking of danger, unseen and unguessed. He was
suspicious of the looming bulks of the trees and of the dark
shadows that might conceal all manner of perilous things.
Then it was cold. Here was no warm side of a tepee against which
to snuggle. The frost was in his feet, and he kept lifting first
one fore-foot and then the other. He curved his bushy tail around
to cover them, and at the same time he saw a vision. There was
nothing strange about it. Upon his inward sight was impressed a
succession of memory-pictures. He saw the camp again, the tepees,
and the blaze of the fires. He heard the shrill voices of the
women, the gruff basses of the men, and the snarling of the dogs.
He was hungry, and he remembered pieces of meat and fish that had
been thrown him. Here was no meat, nothing but a threatening and
His bondage had softened him. Irresponsibility had weakened him.
He had forgotten how to shift for himself. The night yawned about
him. His senses, accustomed to the hum and bustle of the camp,
used to the continuous impact of sights and sounds, were now left
idle. There was nothing to do, nothing to see nor hear. They
strained to catch some interruption of the silence and immobility
of nature. They were appalled by inaction and by the feel of
something terrible impending.
He gave a great start of fright. A colossal and formless something
was rushing across the field of his vision. It was a tree-shadow
flung by the moon, from whose face the clouds had been brushed
away. Reassured, he whimpered softly; then he suppressed the
whimper for fear that it might attract the attention of the lurking
A tree, contracting in the cool of the night, made a loud noise.
It was directly above him. He yelped in his fright. A panic
seized him, and he ran madly toward the village. He knew an
overpowering desire for the protection and companionship of man.
In his nostrils was the smell of the camp-smoke. In his ears the
camp-sounds and cries were ringing loud. He passed out of the
forest and into the moonlit open where were no shadows nor
darknesses. But no village greeted his eyes. He had forgotten.
The village had gone away.
His wild flight ceased abruptly. There was no place to which to
flee. He slunk forlornly through the deserted camp, smelling the
rubbish-heaps and the discarded rags and tags of the gods. He
would have been glad for the rattle of stones about him, flung by
an angry squaw, glad for the hand of Grey Beaver descending upon
him in wrath; while he would have welcomed with delight Lip-lip and
the whole snarling, cowardly pack.
He came to where Grey Beaver's tepee had stood. In the centre of
the space it had occupied, he sat down. He pointed his nose at the
moon. His throat was afflicted by rigid spasms, his mouth opened,
and in a heart-broken cry bubbled up his loneliness and fear, his
grief for Kiche, all his past sorrows and miseries as well as his
apprehension of sufferings and dangers to come. It was the long
wolf-howl, full-throated and mournful, the first howl he had ever
The coming of daylight dispelled his fears but increased his
loneliness. The naked earth, which so shortly before had been so
populous; thrust his loneliness more forcibly upon him. It did not
take him long to make up his mind. He plunged into the forest and
followed the river bank down the stream. All day he ran. He did
not rest. He seemed made to run on for ever. His iron-like body
ignored fatigue. And even after fatigue came, his heritage of
endurance braced him to endless endeavour and enabled him to drive
his complaining body onward.
Where the river swung in against precipitous bluffs, he climbed the
high mountains behind. Rivers and streams that entered the main
river he forded or swam. Often he took to the rim-ice that was
beginning to form, and more than once he crashed through and
struggled for life in the icy current. Always he was on the
lookout for the trail of the gods where it might leave the river
and proceed inland.
White Fang was intelligent beyond the average of his kind; yet his
mental vision was not wide enough to embrace the other bank of the
Mackenzie. What if the trail of the gods led out on that side? It
never entered his head. Later on, when he had travelled more and
grown older and wiser and come to know more of trails and rivers,
it might be that he could grasp and apprehend such a possibility.
But that mental power was yet in the future. Just now he ran
blindly, his own bank of the Mackenzie alone entering into his
All night he ran, blundering in the darkness into mishaps and
obstacles that delayed but did not daunt. By the middle of the
second day he had been running continuously for thirty hours, and
the iron of his flesh was giving out. It was the endurance of his
mind that kept him going. He had not eaten in forty hours, and he
was weak with hunger. The repeated drenchings in the icy water had
likewise had their effect on him. His handsome coat was draggled.
The broad pads of his feet were bruised and bleeding. He had begun
to limp, and this limp increased with the hours. To make it worse,
the light of the sky was obscured and snow began to fall--a raw,
moist, melting, clinging snow, slippery under foot, that hid from
him the landscape he traversed, and that covered over the
inequalities of the ground so that the way of his feet was more
difficult and painful.
Grey Beaver had intended camping that night on the far bank of the
Mackenzie, for it was in that direction that the hunting lay. But
on the near bank, shortly before dark, a moose coming down to
drink, had been espied by Kloo-kooch, who was Grey Beaver's squaw.
Now, had not the moose come down to drink, had not Mit-sah been
steering out of the course because of the snow, had not Kloo-kooch
sighted the moose, and had not Grey Beaver killed it with a lucky
shot from his rifle, all subsequent things would have happened
differently. Grey Beaver would not have camped on the near side of
the Mackenzie, and White Fang would have passed by and gone on,
either to die or to find his way to his wild brothers and become
one of them--a wolf to the end of his days.
Night had fallen. The snow was flying more thickly, and White
Fang, whimpering softly to himself as he stumbled and limped along,
came upon a fresh trail in the snow. So fresh was it that he knew
it immediately for what it was. Whining with eagerness, he
followed back from the river bank and in among the trees. The
camp-sounds came to his ears. He saw the blaze of the fire, Kloo-
kooch cooking, and Grey Beaver squatting on his hams and mumbling a
chunk of raw tallow. There was fresh meat in camp!
White Fang expected a beating. He crouched and bristled a little
at the thought of it. Then he went forward again. He feared and
disliked the beating he knew to be waiting for him. But he knew,
further, that the comfort of the fire would be his, the protection
of the gods, the companionship of the dogs--the last, a
companionship of enmity, but none the less a companionship and
satisfying to his gregarious needs.
He came cringing and crawling into the firelight. Grey Beaver saw
him, and stopped munching the tallow. White Fang crawled slowly,
cringing and grovelling in the abjectness of his abasement and
submission. He crawled straight toward Grey Beaver, every inch of
his progress becoming slower and more painful. At last he lay at
the master's feet, into whose possession he now surrendered
himself, voluntarily, body and soul. Of his own choice, he came in
to sit by man's fire and to be ruled by him. White Fang trembled,
waiting for the punishment to fall upon him. There was a movement
of the hand above him. He cringed involuntarily under the expected
blow. It did not fall. He stole a glance upward. Grey Beaver was
breaking the lump of tallow in half! Grey Beaver was offering him
one piece of the tallow! Very gently and somewhat suspiciously, he
first smelled the tallow and then proceeded to eat it. Grey Beaver
ordered meat to be brought to him, and guarded him from the other
dogs while he ate. After that, grateful and content, White Fang
lay at Grey Beaver's feet, gazing at the fire that warmed him,
blinking and dozing, secure in the knowledge that the morrow would
find him, not wandering forlorn through bleak forest-stretches, but
in the camp of the man-animals, with the gods to whom he had given
himself and upon whom he was now dependent.
CHAPTER V--THE COVENANT
When December was well along, Grey Beaver went on a journey up the
Mackenzie. Mit-sah and Kloo-kooch went with him. One sled he
drove himself, drawn by dogs he had traded for or borrowed. A
second and smaller sled was driven by Mit-sah, and to this was
harnessed a team of puppies. It was more of a toy affair than
anything else, yet it was the delight of Mit-sah, who felt that he
was beginning to do a man's work in the world. Also, he was
learning to drive dogs and to train dogs; while the puppies
themselves were being broken in to the harness. Furthermore, the
sled was of some service, for it carried nearly two hundred pounds
of outfit and food.
White Fang had seen the camp-dogs toiling in the harness, so that
he did not resent overmuch the first placing of the harness upon
himself. About his neck was put a moss-stuffed collar, which was
connected by two pulling-traces to a strap that passed around his
chest and over his back. It was to this that was fastened the long
rope by which he pulled at the sled.
There were seven puppies in the team. The others had been born
earlier in the year and were nine and ten months old, while White
Fang was only eight months old. Each dog was fastened to the sled
by a single rope. No two ropes were of the same length, while the
difference in length between any two ropes was at least that of a
dog's body. Every rope was brought to a ring at the front end of
the sled. The sled itself was without runners, being a birch-bark
toboggan, with upturned forward end to keep it from ploughing under
the snow. This construction enabled the weight of the sled and
load to be distributed over the largest snow-surface; for the snow
was crystal-powder and very soft. Observing the same principle of
widest distribution of weight, the dogs at the ends of their ropes
radiated fan-fashion from the nose of the sled, so that no dog trod
in another's footsteps.
There was, furthermore, another virtue in the fan-formation. The
ropes of varying length prevented the dogs attacking from the rear
those that ran in front of them. For a dog to attack another, it
would have to turn upon one at a shorter rope. In which case it
would find itself face to face with the dog attacked, and also it
would find itself facing the whip of the driver. But the most
peculiar virtue of all lay in the fact that the dog that strove to
attack one in front of him must pull the sled faster, and that the
faster the sled travelled, the faster could the dog attacked run
away. Thus, the dog behind could never catch up with the one in
front. The faster he ran, the faster ran the one he was after, and
the faster ran all the dogs. Incidentally, the sled went faster,
and thus, by cunning indirection, did man increase his mastery over
Mit-sah resembled his father, much of whose grey wisdom he
possessed. In the past he had observed Lip-lip's persecution of
White Fang; but at that time Lip-lip was another man's dog, and
Mit-sah had never dared more than to shy an occasional stone at
him. But now Lip-lip was his dog, and he proceeded to wreak his
vengeance on him by putting him at the end of the longest rope.
This made Lip-lip the leader, and was apparently an honour! but in
reality it took away from him all honour, and instead of being
bully and master of the pack, he now found himself hated and
persecuted by the pack.
Because he ran at the end of the longest rope, the dogs had always
the view of him running away before them. All that they saw of him
was his bushy tail and fleeing hind legs--a view far less ferocious
and intimidating than his bristling mane and gleaming fangs. Also,
dogs being so constituted in their mental ways, the sight of him
running away gave desire to run after him and a feeling that he ran
away from them.
The moment the sled started, the team took after Lip-lip in a chase
that extended throughout the day. At first he had been prone to
turn upon his pursuers, jealous of his dignity and wrathful; but at
such times Mit-sah would throw the stinging lash of the thirty-foot
cariboo-gut whip into his face and compel him to turn tail and run
on. Lip-lip might face the pack, but he could not face that whip,
and all that was left him to do was to keep his long rope taut and
his flanks ahead of the teeth of his mates.
But a still greater cunning lurked in the recesses of the Indian
mind. To give point to unending pursuit of the leader, Mit-sah
favoured him over the other dogs. These favours aroused in them
jealousy and hatred. In their presence Mit-sah would give him meat
and would give it to him only. This was maddening to them. They
would rage around just outside the throwing-distance of the whip,
while Lip-lip devoured the meat and Mit-sah protected him. And
when there was no meat to give, Mit-sah would keep the team at a
distance and make believe to give meat to Lip-lip.
White Fang took kindly to the work. He had travelled a greater
distance than the other dogs in the yielding of himself to the rule
of the gods, and he had learned more thoroughly the futility of
opposing their will. In addition, the persecution he had suffered
from the pack had made the pack less to him in the scheme of
things, and man more. He had not learned to be dependent on his
kind for companionship. Besides, Kiche was well-nigh forgotten;
and the chief outlet of expression that remained to him was in the
allegiance he tendered the gods he had accepted as masters. So he
worked hard, learned discipline, and was obedient. Faithfulness
and willingness characterised his toil. These are essential traits
of the wolf and the wild-dog when they have become domesticated,
and these traits White Fang possessed in unusual measure.
A companionship did exist between White Fang and the other dogs,
but it was one of warfare and enmity. He had never learned to play
with them. He knew only how to fight, and fight with them he did,
returning to them a hundred-fold the snaps and slashes they had
given him in the days when Lip-lip was leader of the pack. But
Lip-lip was no longer leader--except when he fled away before his
mates at the end of his rope, the sled bounding along behind. In
camp he kept close to Mit-sah or Grey Beaver or Kloo-kooch. He did
not dare venture away from the gods, for now the fangs of all dogs
were against him, and he tasted to the dregs the persecution that
had been White Fang's.
With the overthrow of Lip-lip, White Fang could have become leader
of the pack. But he was too morose and solitary for that. He
merely thrashed his team-mates. Otherwise he ignored them. They
got out of his way when he came along; nor did the boldest of them
ever dare to rob him of his meat. On the contrary, they devoured
their own meat hurriedly, for fear that he would take it away from
them. White Fang knew the law well: TO OPPRESS THE WEAK AND OBEY
THE STRONG. He ate his share of meat as rapidly as he could. And
then woe the dog that had not yet finished! A snarl and a flash of
fangs, and that dog would wail his indignation to the uncomforting
stars while White Fang finished his portion for him.
Every little while, however, one dog or another would flame up in
revolt and be promptly subdued. Thus White Fang was kept in
training. He was jealous of the isolation in which he kept himself
in the midst of the pack, and he fought often to maintain it. But
such fights were of brief duration. He was too quick for the
others. They were slashed open and bleeding before they knew what
had happened, were whipped almost before they had begun to fight.
As rigid as the sled-discipline of the gods, was the discipline
maintained by White Fang amongst his fellows. He never allowed
them any latitude. He compelled them to an unremitting respect for
him. They might do as they pleased amongst themselves. That was
no concern of his. But it WAS his concern that they leave him
alone in his isolation, get out of his way when he elected to walk
among them, and at all times acknowledge his mastery over them. A
hint of stiff-leggedness on their part, a lifted lip or a bristle
of hair, and he would be upon them, merciless and cruel, swiftly
convincing them of the error of their way.
He was a monstrous tyrant. His mastery was rigid as steel. He
oppressed the weak with a vengeance. Not for nothing had he been
exposed to the pitiless struggles for life in the day of his
cubhood, when his mother and he, alone and unaided, held their own
and survived in the ferocious environment of the Wild. And not for
nothing had he learned to walk softly when superior strength went
by. He oppressed the weak, but he respected the strong. And in
the course of the long journey with Grey Beaver he walked softly
indeed amongst the full-grown dogs in the camps of the strange man-
animals they encountered.
The months passed by. Still continued the journey of Grey Beaver.
White Fang's strength was developed by the long hours on trail and
the steady toil at the sled; and it would have seemed that his
mental development was well-nigh complete. He had come to know
quite thoroughly the world in which he lived. His outlook was
bleak and materialistic. The world as he saw it was a fierce and
brutal world, a world without warmth, a world in which caresses and
affection and the bright sweetnesses of the spirit did not exist.
He had no affection for Grey Beaver. True, he was a god, but a
most savage god. White Fang was glad to acknowledge his lordship,
but it was a lordship based upon superior intelligence and brute
strength. There was something in the fibre of White Fang's being
that made his lordship a thing to be desired, else he would not
have come back from the Wild when he did to tender his allegiance.
There were deeps in his nature which had never been sounded. A
kind word, a caressing touch of the hand, on the part of Grey
Beaver, might have sounded these deeps; but Grey Beaver did not
caress, nor speak kind words. It was not his way. His primacy was
savage, and savagely he ruled, administering justice with a club,
punishing transgression with the pain of a blow, and rewarding
merit, not by kindness, but by withholding a blow.
So White Fang knew nothing of the heaven a man's hand might contain
for him. Besides, he did not like the hands of the man-animals.
He was suspicious of them. It was true that they sometimes gave
meat, but more often they gave hurt. Hands were things to keep
away from. They hurled stones, wielded sticks and clubs and whips,
administered slaps and clouts, and, when they touched him, were
cunning to hurt with pinch and twist and wrench. In strange
villages he had encountered the hands of the children and learned
that they were cruel to hurt. Also, he had once nearly had an eye
poked out by a toddling papoose. From these experiences he became
suspicious of all children. He could not tolerate them. When they
came near with their ominous hands, he got up.
It was in a village at the Great Slave Lake, that, in the course of
resenting the evil of the hands of the man-animals, he came to
modify the law that he had learned from Grey Beaver: namely, that
the unpardonable crime was to bite one of the gods. In this
village, after the custom of all dogs in all villages, White Fang
went foraging, for food. A boy was chopping frozen moose-meat with
an axe, and the chips were flying in the snow. White Fang, sliding
by in quest of meat, stopped and began to eat the chips. He
observed the boy lay down the axe and take up a stout club. White
Fang sprang clear, just in time to escape the descending blow. The
boy pursued him, and he, a stranger in the village, fled between
two tepees to find himself cornered against a high earth bank.
There was no escape for White Fang. The only way out was between
the two tepees, and this the boy guarded. Holding his club
prepared to strike, he drew in on his cornered quarry. White Fang
was furious. He faced the boy, bristling and snarling, his sense
of justice outraged. He knew the law of forage. All the wastage
of meat, such as the frozen chips, belonged to the dog that found
it. He had done no wrong, broken no law, yet here was this boy
preparing to give him a beating. White Fang scarcely knew what
happened. He did it in a surge of rage. And he did it so quickly
that the boy did not know either. All the boy knew was that he had
in some unaccountable way been overturned into the snow, and that
his club-hand had been ripped wide open by White Fang's teeth.
But White Fang knew that he had broken the law of the gods. He had
driven his teeth into the sacred flesh of one of them, and could
expect nothing but a most terrible punishment. He fled away to
Grey Beaver, behind whose protecting legs he crouched when the
bitten boy and the boy's family came, demanding vengeance. But
they went away with vengeance unsatisfied. Grey Beaver defended
White Fang. So did Mit-sah and Kloo-kooch. White Fang, listening
to the wordy war and watching the angry gestures, knew that his act
was justified. And so it came that he learned there were gods and
gods. There were his gods, and there were other gods, and between
them there was a difference. Justice or injustice, it was all the
same, he must take all things from the hands of his own gods. But
he was not compelled to take injustice from the other gods. It was
his privilege to resent it with his teeth. And this also was a law
of the gods.
Before the day was out, White Fang was to learn more about this
law. Mit-sah, alone, gathering firewood in the forest, encountered
the boy that had been bitten. With him were other boys. Hot words
passed. Then all the boys attacked Mit-sah. It was going hard
with him. Blows were raining upon him from all sides. White Fang
looked on at first. This was an affair of the gods, and no concern
of his. Then he realised that this was Mit-sah, one of his own
particular gods, who was being maltreated. It was no reasoned
impulse that made White Fang do what he then did. A mad rush of
anger sent him leaping in amongst the combatants. Five minutes
later the landscape was covered with fleeing boys, many of whom
dripped blood upon the snow in token that White Fang's teeth had
not been idle. When Mit-sah told the story in camp, Grey Beaver
ordered meat to be given to White Fang. He ordered much meat to be
given, and White Fang, gorged and sleepy by the fire, knew that the
law had received its verification.
It was in line with these experiences that White Fang came to learn
the law of property and the duty of the defence of property. From
the protection of his god's body to the protection of his god's
possessions was a step, and this step he made. What was his god's
was to be defended against all the world--even to the extent of
biting other gods. Not only was such an act sacrilegious in its
nature, but it was fraught with peril. The gods were all-powerful,
and a dog was no match against them; yet White Fang learned to face
them, fiercely belligerent and unafraid. Duty rose above fear, and
thieving gods learned to leave Grey Beaver's property alone.
One thing, in this connection, White Fang quickly learnt, and that
was that a thieving god was usually a cowardly god and prone to run
away at the sounding of the alarm. Also, he learned that but brief
time elapsed between his sounding of the alarm and Grey Beaver
coming to his aid. He came to know that it was not fear of him
that drove the thief away, but fear of Grey Beaver. White Fang did
not give the alarm by barking. He never barked. His method was to
drive straight at the intruder, and to sink his teeth in if he
could. Because he was morose and solitary, having nothing to do
with the other dogs, he was unusually fitted to guard his master's
property; and in this he was encouraged and trained by Grey Beaver.
One result of this was to make White Fang more ferocious and
indomitable, and more solitary.
The months went by, binding stronger and stronger the covenant
between dog and man. This was the ancient covenant that the first
wolf that came in from the Wild entered into with man. And, like
all succeeding wolves and wild dogs that had done likewise, White
Fang worked the covenant out for himself. The terms were simple.
For the possession of a flesh-and-blood god, he exchanged his own
liberty. Food and fire, protection and companionship, were some of
the things he received from the god. In return, he guarded the
god's property, defended his body, worked for him, and obeyed him.
The possession of a god implies service. White Fang's was a