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<- Previous | First | Next -> Digital Library - - Call Of The Wild by Jack London
fight. But the club of the man in the red sweater had beaten into
him a more fundamental and primitive code. Civilised, he could
have died for a moral consideration, say the defence of Judge
Millerís ridingwhip; but the completeness of his decivilisation was
not evidenced by his ability to flee from the defence of a moral
consideration and so save his hide. He did not steal for joy of it, but
because of the clamour of his stomach. He did not rob openly, but
stole secretly and cunningly, out of respect for club and fang. In
short, the things he did were done because it was easier to do them
than not to do them.

His development (or retrogression) was rapid. His muscles became
hard as iron, and he grew callous to all ordinary pain. He achieved
an internal as well as external economy. He could eat anything, no
matter how loathsome or indigestible; and, once eaten, the juices of
his stomach extracted the last least particle of nutriment; and his
blood carried it to the farthest reaches of his body, building it into
the, toughest and stoutest of tissues. Sight and scent became
remarkably keen, while his hearing developed such acuteness that
in his sleep he heard the faintest sound whether it heralded peace
or peril. He learned to bite the ice out with his teeth when it
collected between his toes; and when he was thirsty and there was
a thick scum of ice over the water hole, he would break it by
rearing and striking it with stiff fore legs. His most conspicuous
trait was an ability to scent the wind and forecast it at night in
advance. No matter how breathless the air when he dug his nest by
tree or bank, the wind that later blew inevitably found him to
leeward, sheltered and snug.

And not only did he learn by experience, but instincts long dead
became alive again. The domesticated generations fell from him. In
vague ways he remembered back to the youth of the breed, to the
time the wild dogs ranged in packs through the primeval forest
and killed their meat as they ran it down. It was no task for him to
learn to fight with cut and slash and the quick wolf snap. In this
manner had fought forgotten ancestors. They quickened the old life
within him, and the old tricks which they had stamped into the
heredity of the breed were his tricks. They came to him without
effort or discovery, as though they had been his always. And
when, on the still cold nights, he pointed his nose at a star and
howled long and wolflike, it was his ancestors, dead and dust,
pointing nose at star and howling down through the centuries and
through him. And his cadences were their cadences, the cadences
which voiced their woe and what to them was the meaning of the
stillness, and the cold, and dark.
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