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The Sounding of the Call
WHEN BUCK EARNED SIXTEEN hundred dollars in five minutes
for John Thornton, he made it possible for his master to pay off
certain debts and to journey with his partners into the East after a
fabled lost mine, the history of which was as old as the history of
the country. Many men had sought it; few had found it; and more
than a few there were who had never returned from the quest.
This lost mine was steeped in tragedy and shrouded in mystery.
No one knew of the first man. The oldest tradition stopped before
it got back to him. From the beginning there had been an ancient
and ramshackle cabin. Dying men had sworn to it, and to the mine
the site of which it marked, clinching their testimony with nuggets
that were unlike any known grades of gold in the Northland.
But no living man had looted this treasure house and the dead
were dead; wherefore John Thornton and Pete and Hans, with
Buck and half a dozen other dogs, faced into the East on an
unknown trail to achieve where men and dogs as good as
themselves had failed. They sledded seventy miles up the Yukon,
swung to the left into the Stewart River, passed the Mayo and the
McQuestion, and held on until the Stewart itself became a
streamlet, threading the upstanding peaks which marked the
backbone of the continent.
John Thornton asked little of man or nature. He was unafraid of
With a handful of salt and a rifle he could plunge into the
wilderness and fare wherever he pleased and as long as he
pleased. Being in no haste, Indian fashion, he hunted his dinner in
the course of the day’s travel; and if he failed to find it, like the
Indian, he kept on travelling, secure in the knowledge that sooner
or later he would come to it. So, on this great journey into the East,
straight meat was the bill of fare, ammunition and tools principally
made up the load on the sled, and the time-card was drawn upon
the limitless future.
To Buck it was boundless delight, this hunting, fishing, and
indefinite wandering through strange places. For weeks at a time
they would hold on steadily, day after day; and for weeks upon
end they would camp, here and there, the dogs loafing and the