If you use Gmail, your installments and notifications may be going to the newly introduced promotions tab. To ensure delivery of installments, check your tabs and drag DailyLit emails to the primary tab. For more info click here
White Fang Installment 2 of 76 Previous Next
White Fang

At the fall of darkness they swung the dogs into a cluster of spruce trees on the edge of the waterway and made a camp.  The coffin, at the side of the fire, served for seat and table.  The wolf-dogs, clustered on the far side of the fire, snarled and bickered among themselves, but evinced no inclination to stray off into the darkness.

“Seems to me, Henry, they’re stayin’ remarkable close to camp,” Bill commented.

Henry, squatting over the fire and settling the pot of coffee with a piece of ice, nodded.  Nor did he speak till he had taken his seat on the coffin and begun to eat.

“They know where their hides is safe,” he said.  “They’d sooner eat grub than be grub.  They’re pretty wise, them dogs.”

Bill shook his head.  “Oh, I don’t know.”

His comrade looked at him curiously.  “First time I ever heard you say anything about their not bein’ wise.”

“Henry,” said the other, munching with deliberation the beans he was eating, “did you happen to notice the way them dogs kicked up when I was a-feedin’ ’em?”

“They did cut up more’n usual,” Henry acknowledged.

“How many dogs ’ve we got, Henry?”

“Six.”

“Well, Henry . . . ” Bill stopped for a moment, in order that his words might gain greater significance.  “As I was sayin’, Henry, we’ve got six dogs.  I took six fish out of the bag.  I gave one fish to each dog, an’, Henry, I was one fish short.”

“You counted wrong.”

“We’ve got six dogs,” the other reiterated dispassionately.  “I took out six fish.  One Ear didn’t get no fish.  I came back to the bag afterward an’ got ’m his fish.”

“We’ve only got six dogs,” Henry said.

“Henry,” Bill went on.  “I won’t say they was all dogs, but there was seven of ’m that got fish.”

Henry stopped eating to glance across the fire and count the dogs.

“There’s only six now,” he said.

“I saw the other one run off across the snow,” Bill announced with cool positiveness.  “I saw seven.”

Henry looked at him commiseratingly, and said, “I’ll be almighty glad when this trip’s over.”

“What d’ye mean by that?” Bill demanded.

“I mean that this load of ourn is gettin’ on your nerves, an’ that you’re beginnin’ to see things.”

“I thought of that,” Bill answered gravely.  “An’ so, when I saw it run off across the snow, I looked in the snow an’ saw its tracks.  Then I counted the dogs an’ there was still six of ’em.  The tracks is there in the snow now.  D’ye want to look at ’em?  I’ll show ’em to you.”

Henry did not reply, but munched on in silence, until, the meal finished, he topped it with a final cup of coffee.  He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand and said:

“Then you’re thinkin’ as it was—”

A long wailing cry, fiercely sad, from somewhere in the darkness, had interrupted him.  He stopped to listen to it, then he finished his sentence with a wave of his hand toward the sound of the cry, “—one of them?”

Bill nodded.  “I’d a blame sight sooner think that than anything else.  You noticed yourself the row the dogs made.”

Cry after cry, and answering cries, were turning the silence into a bedlam.  From every side the cries arose, and the dogs betrayed their fear by huddling together and so close to the fire that their hair was scorched by the heat.  Bill threw on more wood, before lighting his pipe.

“I’m thinking you’re down in the mouth some,” Henry said.

“Henry . . . ”  He sucked meditatively at his pipe for some time before he went on.  “Henry, I was a-thinkin’ what a blame sight luckier he is than you an’ me’ll ever be.”

He indicated the third person by a downward thrust of the thumb to the box on which they sat.

“You an’ me, Henry, when we die, we’ll be lucky if we get enough stones over our carcases to keep the dogs off of us.”

“But we ain’t got people an’ money an’ all the rest, like him,” Henry rejoined.  “Long-distance funerals is somethin’ you an’ me can’t exactly afford.”

“What gets me, Henry, is what a chap like this, that’s a lord or something in his own country, and that’s never had to bother about grub nor blankets; why he comes a-buttin’ round the Godforsaken ends of the earth—that’s what I can’t exactly see.”

“He might have lived to a ripe old age if he’d stayed at home,” Henry agreed.

Bill opened his mouth to speak, but changed his mind.  Instead, he pointed towards the wall of darkness that pressed about them from every side.  There was no suggestion of form in the utter blackness; only could be seen a pair of eyes gleaming like live coals.  Henry indicated with his head a second pair, and a third.  A circle of the gleaming eyes had drawn about their camp.  Now and again a pair of eyes moved, or disappeared to appear again a moment later.

The unrest of the dogs had been increasing, and they stampeded, in a surge of sudden fear, to the near side of the fire, cringing and crawling about the legs of the men.  In the scramble one of the dogs had been overturned on the edge of the fire, and it had yelped with pain and fright as the smell of its singed coat possessed the air.  The commotion caused the circle of eyes to shift restlessly for a moment and even to withdraw a bit, but it settled down again as the dogs became quiet.

© 2014 Plympton Inc. All Rights Reserved | Privacy | Terms | Press | Plympton