The call of the wild 野性的呼唤 - 2

The call of the wild 野性的呼唤 - 2

2 The law of club and tooth


  Buck's first day at Dyea Beach was terrible. Every hour there was some new, frightening surprise. There was no peace, no rest—only continual noise and movement. And every minute there was danger, because these dogs and men were not town dogs and men. They knew only the law of club and tooth.

  Buck had never seen dogs fight like these dogs; they were like wolves. In a few minutes he learnt this from watching Curly. She tried to make friends with a dog, a big one, al-though not as big as she was. There was no warning. The dog jumped on Curly, his teeth closed together, then he jumped away,and Curly's face was torn open from eye to mouth.

  Wolves fight like this,biting and jumping away,but the fight did not finish then. Thirty or forty more dogs ran up and made a circle around the fight, watching silently. Curly tried to attack the dog who had bitten her; he bit her a second time, and jumped away. When she attacked him again, he knocked her backwards, and she fell on the ground. She never stood up again, because this was what the other dogs were waiting for. They moved in, and in a moment she was under a crowd of dogs.

  It was all very sudden. Buck saw Spitz run out from the crowd with his tongue out of his mouth, laughing. Then he saw Francois with an axe, and two or three other men with clubs jump in among the dogs. Two minutes later the last of the dogs was chased away. But Curly lay dead in the snow,her body torn almost to pieces.Curly's death often came backto Buck in his dreams. He understood that once a dog was down on the ground, he was dead He also remembered Spitz laughing, and from that moment he hated him.

  Then Buck had another surprise. Francois put a harness on him. Buck had seen harnesses on horses, and now he was made to work like a horse, pulling Francois on a sledge into the forest and returning with wood for the fire. Buck worked with Spitz and Dave.The two other dogs had worked in a har-ness before, and Buck learnt by watching them. He also learnt to stop and turn when Francois shouted.

  ‘Those three are very good dogs,’Francois told Perrault.‘That Buck pulls very well, and he's learning quickly.’

  Perrault had important letters and official papers to take to Dawson City, so that afternoon he bought two more dogs, two brothers called Billee and Joe.Billee was very friendly, but Joe was the opposite. In the evening Perrault bought one more dog, an old dog with one eye .His name was Sol-leks, which means The Angry One. Like Dave, he made no friends; all he wanted was to be alone.

  That night Buck discovered another problem. Where was he going to sleep?Francois and Perrault were in their tent, but when he went in, they shouted angrily and threw things at him.Outside it was very cold and windy. He lay down in the snow, but he was too cold to sleep.

  He walked around the tents trying to find the other dogs.But, to his surprise, they had disappeared. He walked around Perrault's tent,very, very cold, wondering what to do. Sud-denly, the snow under his feet fell in, and he felt something move. He jumped back, waiting for the attack, but heard on-ly a friendly bark. There, in a warm hole under the snow,was Billee.

  So that was what you had to do. Buck chose a place, dug himself a hole and in a minute he was warm and asleep. He slept well, although his dreams were bad.

  When he woke up, at first he did not know where he was.It had snowed in the night and the snow now lay thick and heavy above him. Suddenly he was afraid—the fear of a wild animal when it is caught and cannot escape. Growling, he threw himself at the snow, and a moment later, he had jumped upwards into the daylight. He saw the tents and re-membered everything, from the time he had gone for a walk with Manuel to the moment he had dug the hole the night before. ‘What did I say?’ shouted Francois to Perrault, when he saw Buck come up out of the snow.‘That Buck learns quickly.’

  Perrault smiled slowly. He was carrying important papers,and he needed good dogs. He was very pleased to have Buck.

  They bought three more dogs that morning, and a quarter of an hour later all nine dogs were in harness and on their way up the Dyea Canyon. Buck was not sorry to be moving, and although it was hard work, he almost enjoyed it. He was also surprised to see that Dave and Sol-leks no longer looked bored and miserable.Pulling in a harness was their job, and they were happy to do it.

  Dave was sledge-dog, the dog nearest to the sledge.In front of him was Buck, then came Sol-leks. In front of them were the six other dogs, with Spitz as leader at the front. Francois had put Buck between Dave and Sol-leks because they could teach him the work.Buck learnt well,and they were good teachers. When Buck pulled the wrong way, Dave always bit his leg, but only lightly. Once, when they stopped, Buck got tied up in his harness, and it took ten minutes to get started again.Both Dave and Sol-leks gave him a good beating for that mistake. Buck understood, and was more careful after that.

  It was a hard day's journey, up the Dyea Canyon and into the mountains. They camped that night at Lake Bennett.Here there were thousands of gold miners.They were building boats to sail up the lake when the ice melted in the spring.Buck made his hole in the snow and slept well, but was woken up very early and harnessed to the sledge. The first day they had travelled on snow that had been hardened by many sledges and they covered sixty kilometres. But the next day, and for days afterwards, they were on new snow. The work was harder and they went slowly. Usually, Perrault went in front,on snowshoes, flattening the snow a little for the dogs.Francois stayed by the sledge. Sometimes the two men changed places, but there were many small lakes and rivers,and Perrault understood ice better. He always knew when the ice across a river was very thin.

  Day after day Buck pulled in his harness.They started in the morning before it was light, and they stopped in the evening after dark, ate a piece of fish, and went to sleep in their holes under the snow. Buck was always hungry. Francoisgave him 750 grams of dried fish a day, and it was never enough. The other dogs were given only 500 grams; they were smaller and could stay dive on less food.

  Buck learnt to eat quickly; if he was too slow, the other dogs stole his food. He saw Pike, one of the new dogs, steal some meat from the sledge when Perrault wasn't looking.The next day Buck stole some and got away unseen. Perrault was very angry, but he thought another dog, Dub, had taken it and so punished him instead of Buck.

  Buck was learning how to live in the north. In the south he had never stolen, but there he had never been so hungry. He stole cleverly and secretly, remembering the beatings from the man with the club.

  Buck was learning the law of club and tooth.

  He learnt to eat any food—anything that he could get his teeth into. He learnt to break the ice on water holes with his feet when he wanted to drink He was stronger, harder, and could see and smell better than ever before .In a way,he was remembering back to the days when wild dogs travelled in packs through the forest, killing for meat as they went.It was easy for him to learn to fight like a wolf, because it was in his blood. In the evenings, when he pointed his nose at the moon and howled long and loud, he was remembering the dogs and wolves that had come before him.


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