LONDON JACK

Title:THE CALL OF THE WILD
Subject:FICTION Scarica il testo


The Call of the Wild
by Jack London
Into the Primitive
Buck did not read the newspapers, or he would have
known that trouble was brewing, not alone for himself, But for
every tidewater dog, strong of muscle and with warm,
long hair, from Puget Sound to San Diego. Because men,
groping in the Arctic darkness, had found a yellow metal, and
because steamship and transportation companies were booming the
find, thousands of men were rushing into the Northland.
These men wanted dogs, and the dogs they wanted were heavy
dogs, with strong muscles by which to toil, and furry coats
to protect them from the frost.
Buck lived at a big house in the sun-kissed Santa Clara
Valley. Judge Miller's place, it was called. It stood back
from the road, half-hidden among the trees, through which
glimpses could be caught of the wide cool veranda that ran
around its four sides. The house was approached by graveled
driveways which wound about through wide-spreading lawns and
under the interlacing boughs of tall poplars. At the rear
things were on even 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
pumping plant for the artesian well, and the big cement tank
where Judge Miler's boys 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 had lived 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 not count. They
came and went, resided in the populous kennels, or lived
obscurely in the recesses of the house after the fashion of
Toots, the Japanese pug, or Ysabel, the Mexican hairless,
strange creatures that rarely put nose out of doors or set
foot to ground. On the other hand, there were the fox
terriers, a score of them at least, who yelped fearful
promises at Toots and Ysabel looking out of the windows at
them and 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. He plunged into the swimming tank or
went hunting with the Judge's sons;I he escorted Mollie and
Alice, the Judge's daughters, on long twilight or early
morning rambles; on wintry nights he lay at the Judge's feet
before the roaring library fire; he carried the Judge's
grandsons on his back, or rolled them in the grass, and
guarded their footsteps through wild adventures down to the
fountain in the stable yard, and even beyond, where the
paddocks were, and the berry patches. Among the terriers
he stalked imperiously, and Toots and Ysabel he utterly
ignored, for he was king--king over all creeping, crawling,
flying things of Judge Miller's place, humans included.
His father, Elmo, a huge St. Bernard, had been the Judge's
inseparable companion, and Buck bid fair to follow in the
way of his father. He was not so large--he weighed only
one hundred and forty pounds--for his mother, Shep, had been a
Scotch shepherd dog. Nevertheless, one hundred and forty
pounds, to which was added the dignity that comes of good
living and universal respect, enabled him to carry himself
in right royal fashion. During the four years since his
puppyhood he had lived the life of a sated aristocrat; he had
a fine pride in himself, was even a trifle egotistical, as
country gentlemen sometimes become because of their insular
situation. But he had saved himself by not becoming a mere
pampered house dog. Hunting and kindred outdoor delights had
kept down the fat 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 the Klondike strike dragged men from all the world
into the frozen North. But Buck did not read the newspapers,
and he did not know that Manuel, one of the gardener's
helpers, was an undesirable acquaintance. Manuel had one
besetting sin. He loved to play Chinese lottery. Also, in
his gambling, he had one besetting weakness--faith in a
system; and this made his damnation certain. For to play a
system requires money, while the wages of a gardener's helper
do not lap over the needs of a wife and numerous progeny.
B The Judge was at a meeting of the Raisin Growers'
Association, and the boys were busy organizing an athletic
club, on the memorable night of Manuel's treachery. No one
saw him and Buck go off through the orchard on what Buck
imagined was merely a stroll. And with the exception of a
solitary man, no one saw them arrive at the little flag
station known as College Park. This man talked with Manuel,
and money chinked between them.
"You might wrap up the goods before you deliver them," the
stranger said gruffly, and Manuel doubled a piece of stout
rope around Buck's neck under the collar.
"Twist it, and you'll choke him plenty," said Manuel,
and the stranger grunted a ready affirmative.
Buck had accepted the rope with quiet dignity. To be
sure, it was an unwonted performance but he had learned to
trust in men he knew, and to give them credit for a wisdom
that outreached his own. But when the ends of the rope were
placed in the stranger's hands, he growled menacingly. He had
merely intimated his displeasure, in his pride believing that
to intimate was to command. But to his surprise the rope
tightened around his neck, shutting off his breath. In a
quick rage he sprang at the man, who met him halfway,
grappled him close by the throat, and with a deft twist
threw him over on his back. Then the rope tightened
mercilessly, while Buck struggled in a fury, his tongue lolling
out of his mouth and his great chest panting futilely. Never
in all his life had he been so vilely treated, and never in
all his life had he been so angry. But his strength ebbed,
his eyes glazed, and he knew nothing when the train was
flagged and the two men threw him into the baggage car.
The next he knew, he was dimly aware that his tongue was
hurting and that \he was being jolted along in some kind of a
conveyance.\ The hoarse shriek of a locomotive whistling a
crossing told him where he was. He had traveled too often
with the Judge not to know the sensation of riding in a
baggage car. He opened his eyes, and into them came the
unbridled anger of a kidnaped king. The man sprang for his
throat, but Buck was too quick for him. His jaws closed on
the hand, nor did they relax till his senses were choked
out of him once more.
"Yep, has fits," the man said, hiding his mangled hand
from the baggage man, who had been attracted by the sounds of
struggle. "taking him up for the boss to 'Frisco. A
crack dog doctor there thinks that he can cure him."
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, "and I
wouldn't do it over for a thousand, cold cash."
His hand was wrapped in a bloody handkerchief, and the
right trouser leg was ripped from knee to ankle.
"How much did the other mug get?" the saloon-keeper
demanded.
"A hundred," was the reply. "Wouldn't take a sou less,
so help me."
"That makes a hundred and fifty," the saloon-keeper
calculated, "and he's worth it, or a squarehead."
The kidnaper undid the bloody wrappings and looked at
his lacerated hand. "If I get hydrophobia--"
"be because you was born to hang," laughed the
saloon-keeper. "Here, lend me a hand before you pull your
freight," he added.
Dazed, suffering intolerable pain from throat and
tongue, with the life half throttled out of him, Buck
attempted to face his tormentors. But he was thrown down
and choked repeatedly, till they succeeded in filing the
heavy brass collar from off his neck. Then the rope was
removed, and he was flung into a cage-like crate.
There he lay for the remainder of the weary night,
nursing his wrath and wounded pride. He could not
understand what it all meant. What did they want with him,
these strange men? Why were they keeping him pent up in
this narrow crate? He did not know why, but he felt
oppressed by the vague ...

  • Libri.it

  • Libri.it