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<- Previous | First | Next -> Digital Library - - Call Of The Wild by Jack London
This man had saved his life, which was something; but, further, he
was the ideal master. Other men saw to the welfare of their dogs
from a sense of duty and business expediency; he saw to the
welfare of his as if they were his own children, because he could
not help it. And he saw further. He never forgot a kindly greeting
or a cheering word, and to sit down for a long talk with them (Ďgasí
he called it) was as much his delight as theirs. He had a way of
taking Buckís head roughly between his hands, and resting his
own head upon Buckís, of shaking him back and forth, the while
calling him ill names that to Buck were love names.

Buck knew no greater joy than that rough embrace and the sound
of murmured oaths, and at each jerk back and forth it seemed that
his heart would be shaken out of his body so great was its ecstasy.
And when, released, he sprang to his feet, his mouth laughing, his
eyes eloquent, his throat vibrant with unuttered sounds, and in
that fashion remain without movement, John Thornton would
reverently exclaim, ĎGod, you can all but speak!í Buck had a trick
of love expression that was akin to hurt. He would often seize
Thorntonís hand in his mouth and close so fiercely that the flesh
bore impress of his teeth for some time afterward. And as Buck
understood the oaths to be love words, so the man understood this
feigned bite for a caress.

For the most part, however, Buckís love was expressed in
adoration. While he went wild with happiness when Thornton
touched him or spoke to him, he did not seek these tokens. Unlike
Skeet, who was wont to shove her nose under Thorntonís hand and
nudge and nudge till petted, or Nig, who would stalk up and rest
his great head on Thorntonís knee, Buck was content to adore at a
distance. He would lie by the hour, eager, alert, at Thorntonís feet
looking up into his face, dwelling upon it, studying it, following
with keenest interest each fleeting expression, every movement or
change of feature. Or, as chance might have it, he would lie farther
away, to the side or rear, watching the outlines of the man and the
occasional movements of his body. And often, such was the
communion in which they lived, the strength of Buckís gaze would
draw John Thorntonís head around, and he would return the gaze,
without speech, his heart shining out of his eyes as Buckís heart
shone out.

For a long time after his rescue, Buck did not like Thornton to get
out of his sight. From the moment he left the tent to when he
entered it again, Buck would follow at his heels. His transient
masters since he had come into the Northland had bred in him fear
that no master could be permanent. He was afraid that Thornton
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