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Buck did not read the newspapers, or he would have known that trouble
was brewing, not alone for himself, but for every tide-water dog,
strong of muscle and with warm, long hair, from Puget Sound to San
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
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
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 gravelled driveways which wound about
through wide-spreading lawns and under the interlacing boughs of tall
At the rear things were on even a more spacious scale than at the
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
Then there was the pumping plant for the artesian well, and the big
cement tank where Judge Miller'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
It was true, there were other dogs.
There could not but be other dogs on so vast a place, but they did
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.
whole realm was his.
He plunged into the swimming tank or went hunting with the Judge's
sons; 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
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
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
But he had saved himself by not becoming a mere pampered
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
But Buck did not read the newspapers, and he did not know that
Manuel, one of the gardener's helpers, was an undesirable
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.
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 'm," the stranger
said gruffly, and Manuel doubled a piece of stout rope around Buck's
neck under the collar.
"Twist it, an' you'll choke 'm plentee," 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
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
In 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
Then the rope tightened mercilessly, while Buck struggled in a fury,
his tongue lolling out of his mouth and his great chest panting
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 had travelled 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
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
baggageman, 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 can cure '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
"All I get is fifty for it," he grumbled; "an' 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."