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Francois was surprised, too, when they shot out in a tangle from
the disrupted nest and he divined the cause of the trouble. ‘A-a-
ah!’ he cried to Buck. ‘Gif it to heem, by Gar! Gif it to heem, the
dirty t’eef!’ Spitz was equally willing. He was crying with sheer
rage and eagerness as he circled back and forth for a chance to
spring in. Buck was no less eager and no less cautious, as he
likewise circled back and forth for the advantage. But it was then
the unexpected happened, the thing which projected their struggle
for supremacy far into the future, past many a weary mile of trail
An oath from Perrault, the resounding impact of a club upon a
bony frame, and a shrill yelp of pain, heralded the breaking forth
of pandemonium. The camp was suddenly discovered to be alive
with skulking furry forms-starving huskies, four or five score of
them, who had scented the camp from some Indian village.
They had crept in while Buck and Spitz were fighting, and when
the two men sprang among them with stout clubs they showed
their teeth and fought back.
They were crazed by the smell of the food. Perrault found one with
head buried in the grub-box. His club landed heavily on the gaunt
ribs, and the grub-box was capsized on the ground. On the instant
a score of the famished brutes were scrambling for the bread and
bacon. The clubs fell upon them unheeded. They yelped and
howled under the rain of blows, but struggled none the less madly
till the last crumb had been devoured.
In the meantime the astonished team-dogs had burst out of their
nests only to be set upon by the fierce invaders. Never had Buck
seen such dogs. It seemed as though their bones would burst
through their skins. They were mere skeletons, draped loosely in
draggled hides, with blazing eyes and slavered fangs. But the
hunger-madness made them terrifying, irresistible. There was no
The team-dogs were swept back against the cliff at the first onset.
Buck was beset by three huskies, and in a trice his head and
shoulders were ripped and slashed.
The din was frightful. Billee was crying as usual. Dave and Sol-
leks, dripping blood from a score of wounds, were fighting bravely
side by side. Joe was snapping like a demon. Once, his teeth closed
on the fore leg of a husky, and he crunched down through the
bone. Pike, the malingerer, leaped upon the crippled animal,
breaking its neck with a quick flash of teeth and a jerk. Buck got a