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This was Spitz’s opportunity. He sprang upon Buck, and twice his
teeth sank into his unresisting foe and ripped and tore the flesh to
the bone. Then Francois’s lash descended, and Buck had the
satisfaction of watching Spitz receive the worst whipping as yet
administered to any of the teams.
‘One devil, dat Spitz,’ remarked Perrault. ‘Some dam day heem
keel dat Buck.’ ‘Dat Buck two devils,’ was Francois’s rejoinder. ‘All
de tam I watch dat Buck I know for sure. Lissen: some dam fine
day heem get mad lak hell an’ den heem chew dat Spitz all up an’
spit heem out on de snow. Sure. I know.’ From then on it was war
between them. Spitz, as lead-dog and acknowledged master of the
team, felt his supremacy threatened by this strange Southland dog.
And strange Buck was to him, for of the many Southland dogs he
had known, not one had shown up worthily in camp and on trail.
They were all too soft, dying under the toil, the frost, and
starvation. Buck was the exception. He alone endured and
prospered, matching the husky in strength, savagery, and cunning.
Then he was a masterful dog, and what made him dangerous was
the fact that the club of the man in the red sweater had knocked all
blind pluck and rashness out of his desire for mastery. He was pre-
eminently cunning; and could bide his time with a patience that
was nothing less than primitive.
It was inevitable that the clash for leadership should come. Buck
He wanted it because it was his nature, because he had been
gripped tight by that nameless, incomprehensible pride of the trail
and trace-that pride which holds dogs in the toil to the last gasp,
which lures them to die joyfully in the harness, and breaks their
hearts if they are cut out of the harness. This was the pride of Dave
as wheel-dog, of Sol-leks as he pulled with all his strength; the
pride that laid hold of them at break of camp, transforming them
from sour and sullen brutes into straining, eager, ambitious
creatures; the pride that spurred them on all day and dropped
them at pitch of camp at night, letting them fall back into gloomy
unrest and uncontent. This was the pride that bore up Spitz and
made him thrash the sled-dogs who blundered and shirked in the
traces or hid away at harness-up time in the morning. Likewise it
was this pride that made him fear Buck as a possible lead-dog.
And this was Buck’s pride, too.
He openly threatened the other’s leadership. He came between him
and the shirks he should have punished. And he did it
deliberately. One night there was a