The Call of the Wild
Jack London
Novels
3:47 h
Level 9
The Call of the Wild is a short adventure novel by American author Jack London (1876-1916) published in 1903, about a dog’s transition from domestic to wild. It is set in Yukon, Canada during the 1890s Klondike Gold Rush, when strong sled dogs were in high demand. As early as 1923, the story was adapted to film, and it has since seen several more cinematic adaptations..

The Call of the Wild

by

Jack London


Chapter 1
Into the Primitive

“Old longings nomadic leap,
Chafing at custom’s chain;
Again from its brumal sleep
Wakens the ferine strain.”

Buck did not read the newspapers, or he would have known that trouble wasbrewing, not alone for himself, but for every tide-water dog, strong ofmuscle and with warm, long hair, from Puget Sound to San Diego. Becausemen, groping in the Arctic darkness, had found a yellow metal, and becausesteamship and transportation companies were booming the find, thousands ofmen were rushing into the Northland. These men wanted dogs, and the dogsthey wanted were heavy dogs, with strong muscles by which to toil, andfurry coats to protect them from the frost.

Buck lived at a big house in the sun-kissed Santa Clara Valley. JudgeMiller’s place, it was called. It stood back from the road, half hiddenamong the trees, through which glimpses could be caught of the wide coolveranda that ran around its four sides. The house was approached bygravelled driveways which wound about through wide-spreading lawns andunder the interlacing boughs of tall poplars. At the rear things were oneven a more spacious scale than at the front. There were great stables,where a dozen grooms and boys held forth, rows of vine-clad servants’cottages, an endless and orderly array of outhouses, long grape arbors,green pastures, orchards, and berry patches. Then there was the pumpingplant for the artesian well, and the big cement tank where Judge Miller’sboys took their morning plunge and kept cool in the hot afternoon.

And over this great demesne Buck ruled. Here he was born, and here he hadlived the four years of his life. It was true, there were other dogs,There could not but be other dogs on so vast a place, but they did notcount. They came and went, resided in the populous kennels, or livedobscurely in the recesses of the house after the fashion of Toots, theJapanese pug, or Ysabel, the Mexican hairless, — strange creaturesthat rarely put nose out of doors or set foot to ground. On the otherhand, there were the fox terriers, a score of them at least, who yelpedfearful promises at Toots and Ysabel looking out of the windows at themand protected by a legion of housemaids armed with brooms and mops.

But Buck was neither house-dog nor kennel-dog. The whole realm was his. Heplunged into the swimming tank or went hunting with the Judge’s sons; heescorted Mollie and Alice, the Judge’s daughters, on long twilight orearly morning rambles; on wintry nights he lay at the Judge’s feet beforethe roaring library fire; he carried the Judge’s grandsons on his back, orrolled them in the grass, and guarded their footsteps through wildadventures down to the fountain in the stable yard, and even beyond, wherethe paddocks were, and the berry patches. Among the terriers he stalkedimperiously, and Toots and Ysabel he utterly ignored, for he was king, — kingover all creeping, crawling, flying things of Judge Miller’s place, humansincluded.

His father, Elmo, a huge St. Bernard, had been the Judge’s inseparablecompanion, and Buck bid fair to follow in the way of his father. He wasnot so large, — he weighed only one hundred and forty pounds, — forhis mother, Shep, had been a Scotch shepherd dog. Nevertheless, onehundred and forty pounds, to which was added the dignity that comes ofgood living and universal respect, enabled him to carry himself in rightroyal fashion. During the four years since his puppyhood he had lived thelife of a sated aristocrat; he had a fine pride in himself, was even atrifle egotistical, as country gentlemen sometimes become because of theirinsular situation. But he had saved himself by not becoming a merepampered house-dog. Hunting and kindred outdoor delights had kept down thefat and hardened his muscles; and to him, as to the cold-tubbing races,the love of water had been a tonic and a health preserver.

And this was the manner of dog Buck was in the fall of 1897, when theKlondike strike dragged men from all the world into the frozen North. ButBuck did not read the newspapers, and he did not know that Manuel, one ofthe gardener’s helpers, was an undesirable acquaintance. Manuel had onebesetting sin. He loved to play Chinese lottery. Also, in his gambling, hehad one besetting weakness — faith in a system; and this made hisdamnation certain. For to play a system requires money, while the wages ofa gardener’s helper do not lap over the needs of a wife and numerousprogeny.

The Judge was at a meeting of the Raisin Growers’ Association, and theboys were busy organizing an athletic club, on the memorable night ofManuel’s treachery. No one saw him and Buck go off through the orchard onwhat Buck imagined was merely a stroll. And with the exception of asolitary man, no one saw them arrive at the little flag station known asCollege Park. This man talked with Manuel, and money chinked between them.

“You might wrap up the goods before you deliver ‘m,” the stranger saidgruffly, and Manuel doubled a piece of stout rope around Buck’s neck underthe collar.

“Twist it, an’ you’ll choke ‘m plentee,” said Manuel, and the strangergrunted a ready affirmative.

Buck had accepted the rope with quiet dignity. To be sure, it was anunwonted performance: but he had learned to trust in men he knew, and togive them credit for a wisdom that outreached his own. But when the endsof the rope were placed in the stranger’s hands, he growled menacingly. Hehad merely intimated his displeasure, in his pride believing that tointimate was to command. But to his surprise the rope tightened around hisneck, shutting off his breath. In quick rage he sprang at the man, who methim halfway, grappled him close by the throat, and with a deft twist threwhim over on his back. Then the rope tightened mercilessly, while Buckstruggled in a fury, his tongue lolling out of his mouth and his greatchest panting futilely. Never in all his life had he been so vilelytreated, and never in all his life had he been so angry. But his strengthebbed, his eyes glazed, and he knew nothing when the train was flagged andthe two men threw him into the baggage car.

The next thing he knew, he was dimly aware that his tongue was hurting and thathe was being jolted along in some kind of a conveyance. The hoarse shriekof a locomotive whistling a crossing told him where he was. He hadtravelled too often with the Judge not to know the sensation of riding ina baggage car. He opened his eyes, and into them came the unbridled angerof a kidnapped king. The man sprang for his throat, but Buck was too quickfor him. His jaws closed on the hand, nor did they relax till his senseswere choked out of him once more.

“Yep, has fits,” the man said, hiding his mangled hand from thebaggageman, who had been attracted by the sounds of struggle. “I’m takin’‘m up for the boss to ‘Frisco. A crack dog-doctor there thinks that he cancure ‘m.”

Concerning that night’s ride, the man spoke most eloquently for himself,in a little shed back of a saloon on the San Francisco water front.

“All I get is fifty for it,” he grumbled; “an’ I wouldn’t do it over for athousand, cold cash.”