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By the time they made the Hootalinqua and good ice, Buck was
The rest of the dogs were in like condition; but Perrault, to make
up lost time, pushed them late and early. The first day they
covered thirty-five miles to the Big Salmon; the next day thirty-five
more to the Little Salmon; the third day forty miles, which brought
them well up toward the Five Fingers.
Buck’s feet were not so compact and hard as the feet of the huskies.
His had softened during the many generations since the day his
last wild ancestor was tamed by a cave-dweller or river man. All
day long he limped in agony, and camp once made, lay down like
a dead dog. Hungry as he was, he would not move to receive his
ration of fish, which Francois had to bring to him. Also, the dog-
driver rubbed Buck’s feet for half an hour each night after supper,
and sacrificed the tips of his own moccasins to make four
moccasins for Buck. This was a great relief, and Buck caused even
the weazened face of Perrault to twist itself into a grin one
morning, when Francois forgot the moccasins and Buck lay on his
back, his four feet waving appealingly in the air, and refused to
budge without them. Later his feet grew hard to the trail, and the
worn-out foot-gear was thrown away.
At the Pelly one morning, as they were harnessing up, Dolly, who
had never been conspicuous for anything, went suddenly mad. She
announced her condition by a long, heart-breaking wolf howl that
sent every dog bristling with fear, then sprang straight for Buck.
He had never seen a dog go mad, nor did he have any reason to
fear madness; yet he knew that here was horror, and fled away
from it in a panic. Straight away he raced, with Dolly, panting and
frothing, one leap behind; nor could she gain on him, so great was
his terror, nor could he leave her, so great was her madness. He
plunged through the wooded breast of the island, flew down to the
lower end, crossed a back channel filled with rough ice to another
island, gained a third island, curved back to the main river and in
desperation started to cross it. And all the time, though he did not
look, he could hear her snarling just one leap behind. Francois
called to him a quarter of a mile away and he doubled back, still
one leap ahead, gasping painfully for air and putting all his faith in
that Francois would save him. The dog-driver held the axe poised
in his hand, and as Buck shot past him the axe crashed down upon
mad Dolly’s head.
Buck staggered over against the sled, exhausted, sobbing for