Text - "White Fang" Jack London

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They had lost no dogs during the night, and
they swung out upon the trail and into the silence, the darkness, and the
cold with spirits that were fairly light. Bill seemed to have forgotten
his forebodings of the previous night, and even waxed facetious with the
dogs when, at midday, they overturned the sled on a bad piece of trail.

It was an awkward mix-up. The sled was upside down and jammed between a
tree-trunk and a huge rock, and they were forced to unharness the dogs in
order to straighten out the tangle. The two men were bent over the sled
and trying to right it, when Henry observed One Ear sidling away.

"Here, you, One Ear!" he cried, straightening up and turning around on
the dog.

But One Ear broke into a run across the snow, his traces trailing behind
him. And there, out in the snow of their back track, was the she-wolf
waiting for him. As he neared her, he became suddenly cautious. He
slowed down to an alert and mincing walk and then stopped. He regarded
her carefully and dubiously, yet desirefully. She seemed to smile at
him, showing her teeth in an ingratiating rather than a menacing way. She
moved toward him a few steps, playfully, and then halted. One Ear drew
near to her, still alert and cautious, his tail and ears in the air, his
head held high.

He tried to sniff noses with her, but she retreated playfully and coyly.
Every advance on his part was accompanied by a corresponding retreat on
her part. Step by step she was luring him away from the security of his
human companionship. Once, as though a warning had in vague ways flitted
through his intelligence, he turned his head and looked back at the
overturned sled, at his team-mates, and at the two men who were calling
to him.

But whatever idea was forming in his mind, was dissipated by the
she-wolf, who advanced upon him, sniffed noses with him for a fleeting
instant, and then resumed her coy retreat before his renewed advances.

In the meantime, Bill had bethought himself of the rifle. But it was
jammed beneath the overturned sled, and by the time Henry had helped him
to right the load, One Ear and the she-wolf were too close together and
the distance too great to risk a shot.

Too late One Ear learned his mistake. Before they saw the cause, the two
men saw him turn and start to run back toward them. Then, approaching at
right angles to the trail and cutting off his retreat they saw a dozen
wolves, lean and grey, bounding across the snow. On the instant, the she-
wolf's coyness and playfulness disappeared. With a snarl she sprang upon
One Ear. He thrust her off with his shoulder, and, his retreat cut off
and still intent on regaining the sled, he altered his course in an
attempt to circle around to it. More wolves were appearing every moment
and joining in the chase. The she-wolf was one leap behind One Ear and
holding her own.

"Where are you goin'?" Henry suddenly demanded, laying his hand on his
partner's arm.

Bill shook it off. "I won't stand it," he said. "They ain't a-goin' to
get any more of our dogs if I can help it."

Gun in hand, he plunged into the underbrush that lined the side of the
trail. His intention was apparent enough. Taking the sled as the centre
of the circle that One Ear was making, Bill planned to tap that circle at
a point in advance of the pursuit. With his rifle, in the broad
daylight, it might be possible for him to awe the wolves and save the

"Say, Bill!" Henry called after him. "Be careful! Don't take no

Henry sat down on the sled and watched. There was nothing else for him
to do. Bill had already gone from sight; but now and again, appearing
and disappearing amongst the underbrush and the scattered clumps of
spruce, could be seen One Ear. Henry judged his case to be hopeless. The
dog was thoroughly alive to its danger, but it was running on the outer
circle while the wolf-pack was running on the inner and shorter circle.
It was vain to think of One Ear so outdistancing his pursuers as to be
able to cut across their circle in advance of them and to regain the

The different lines were rapidly approaching a point. Somewhere out
there in the snow, screened from his sight by trees and thickets, Henry
knew that the wolf-pack, One Ear, and Bill were coming together. All too
quickly, far more quickly than he had expected, it happened. He heard a
shot, then two shots, in rapid succession, and he knew that Bill's
ammunition was gone. Then he heard a great outcry of snarls and yelps.
He recognised One Ear's yell of pain and terror, and he heard a wolf-cry
that bespoke a stricken animal. And that was all. The snarls ceased.
The yelping died away. Silence settled down again over the lonely land.

He sat for a long while upon the sled. There was no need for him to go
and see what had happened. He knew it as though it had taken place
before his eyes. Once, he roused with a start and hastily got the axe
out from underneath the lashings. But for some time longer he sat and
brooded, the two remaining dogs crouching and trembling at his feet.

At last he arose in a weary manner, as though all the resilience had gone
out of his body, and proceeded to fasten the dogs to the sled. He passed
a rope over his shoulder, a man-trace, and pulled with the dogs. He did
not go far. At the first hint of darkness he hastened to make a camp,
and he saw to it that he had a generous supply of firewood. He fed the
dogs, cooked and ate his supper, and made his bed close to the fire.

But he was not destined to enjoy that bed. Before his eyes closed the
wolves had drawn too near for safety. It no longer required an effort of
the vision to see them. They were all about him and the fire, in a
narrow circle, and he could see them plainly in the firelight lying down,
sitting up, crawling forward on their bellies, or slinking back and
forth. They even slept. Here and there he could see one curled up in
the snow like a dog, taking the sleep that was now denied himself.

He kept the fire brightly blazing, for he knew that it alone intervened
between the flesh of his body and their hungry fangs. His two dogs
stayed close by him, one on either side, leaning against him for
protection, crying and whimpering, and at times snarling desperately when
a wolf approached a little closer than usual. At such moments, when his
dogs snarled, the whole circle would be agitated, the wolves coming to
their feet and pressing tentatively forward, a chorus of snarls and eager
yelps rising about him. Then the circle would lie down again, and here
and there a wolf would resume its broken nap.

But this circle had a continuous tendency to draw in upon him. Bit by
bit, an inch at a time, with here a wolf bellying forward, and there a
wolf bellying forward, the circle would narrow until the brutes were
almost within springing distance. Then he would seize brands from the
fire and hurl them into the pack. A hasty drawing back always resulted,
accompanied by angry yelps and frightened snarls when a well-aimed brand
struck and scorched a too daring animal.

Morning found the man haggard and worn, wide-eyed from want of sleep. He
cooked breakfast in the darkness, and at nine o'clock, when, with the
coming of daylight, the wolf-pack drew back, he set about the task he had
planned through the long hours of the night. Chopping down young
saplings, he made them cross-bars of a scaffold by lashing them high up
to the trunks of standing trees. Using the sled-lashing for a heaving
rope, and with the aid of the dogs, he hoisted the coffin to the top of
the scaffold.

"They got Bill, an' they may get me, but they'll sure never get you,
young man," he said, addressing the dead body in its tree-sepulchre.