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Room | White
THE ENEMY OF HIS KIND
Had there been in White Fang's nature any possibility, no matter
how remote, of his ever coming to fraternise with his kind, such
possibility was irretrievably destroyed when he was made leader of
the sled-team. For now the dogs hated him - hated him for the
extra meat bestowed upon him by Mit-sah; hated him for all the real
and fancied favours he received; hated him for that he fled always
at the head of the team, his waving brush of a tail and his
perpetually retreating hind-quarters for ever maddening their eyes.
And White Fang just as bitterly hated them back. Being sled-leader
was anything but gratifying to him. To be compelled to run away
before the yelling pack, every dog of which, for three years, he
had thrashed and mastered, was almost more than he could endure.
But endure it he must, or perish, and the life that was in him had
no desire to perish out. The moment Mit-sah gave his order for the
start, that moment the whole team, with eager, savage cries, sprang
forward at White Fang.
There was no defence for him. If he turned upon them, Mit-sah
would throw the stinging lash of the whip into his face. Only
remained to him to run away. He could not encounter that howling
horde with his tail and hind-quarters. These were scarcely fit
weapons with which to meet the many merciless fangs. So run away
he did, violating his own nature and pride with every leap he made,
and leaping all day long.
One cannot violate the promptings of one's nature without having
that nature recoil upon itself. Such a recoil is like that of a
hair, made to grow out from the body, turning unnaturally upon the
direction of its growth and growing into the body - a rankling,
festering thing of hurt. And so with White Fang. Every urge of
his being impelled him to spring upon the pack that cried at his
heels, but it was the will of the gods that this should not be; and
behind the will, to enforce it, was the whip of cariboo-gut with
its biting thirty-foot lash. So White Fang could only eat his
heart in bitterness and develop a hatred and malice commensurate
with the ferocity and indomitability of his nature.
If ever a creature was the enemy of its kind, White Fang was that
creature. He asked no quarter, gave none. He was continually
marred and scarred by the teeth of the pack, and as continually he
left his own marks upon the pack. Unlike most leaders, who, when
camp was made and the dogs were unhitched, huddled near to the gods
for protection, White Fang disdained such protection. He walked
boldly about the camp, inflicting punishment in the night for what
he had suffered in the day. In the time before he was made leader
of the team, the pack had learned to get out of his way. But now
it was different. Excited by the day-long pursuit of him, swayed
subconsciously by the insistent iteration on their brains of the
sight of him fleeing away, mastered by the feeling of mastery
enjoyed all day, the dogs could not bring themselves to give way to
him. When he appeared amongst them, there was always a squabble.
His progress was marked by snarl and snap and growl. The very
atmosphere he breathed was surcharged with hatred and malice, and
this but served to increase the hatred and malice within him.
When Mit-sah cried out his command for the team to stop, White Fang
obeyed. At first this caused trouble for the other dogs. All of
them would spring upon the hated leader only to find the tables
turned. Behind him would be Mit-sah, the great whip singing in his
hand. So the dogs came to understand that when the team stopped by
order, White Fang was to be let alone. But when White Fang stopped
without orders, then it was allowed them to spring upon him and
destroy him if they could. After several experiences, White Fang
never stopped without orders. He learned quickly. It was in the
nature of things, that he must learn quickly if he were to survive
the unusually severe conditions under which life was vouchsafed
But the dogs could never learn the lesson to leave him alone in
camp. Each day, pursuing him and crying defiance at him, the
lesson of the previous night was erased, and that night would have
to be learned over again, to be as immediately forgotten. Besides,
there was a greater consistence in their dislike of him. They
sensed between themselves and him a difference of kind - cause
sufficient in itself for hostility. Like him, they were
domesticated wolves. But they had been domesticated for
generations. Much of the Wild had been lost, so that to them the
Wild was the unknown, the terrible, the ever-menacing and ever
warring. But to him, in appearance and action and impulse, still
clung the Wild. He symbolised it, was its personification: so
that when they showed their teeth to him they were defending
themselves against the powers of destruction that lurked in the
shadows of the forest and in the dark beyond the camp-fire.
But there was one lesson the dogs did learn, and that was to keep
together. White Fang was too terrible for any of them to face
single-handed. They met him with the mass-formation, otherwise he
would have killed them, one by one, in a night. As it was, he
never had a chance to kill them. He might roll a dog off its feet,
but the pack would be upon him before he could follow up and
deliver the deadly throat-stroke. At the first hint of conflict,
the whole team drew together and faced him. The dogs had quarrels
among themselves, but these were forgotten when trouble was brewing
with White Fang.
On the other hand, try as they would, they could not kill White
Fang. He was too quick for them, too formidable, too wise. He
avoided tight places and always backed out of it when they bade
fair to surround him. While, as for getting him off his feet,
there was no dog among them capable of doing the trick. His feet
clung to the earth with the same tenacity that he clung to life.
For that matter, life and footing were synonymous in this unending
warfare with the pack, and none knew it better than White Fang.
So he became the enemy of his kind, domesticated wolves that they
were, softened by the fires of man, weakened in the sheltering
shadow of man's strength. White Fang was bitter and implacable.
The clay of him was so moulded. He declared a vendetta against all
dogs. And so terribly did he live this vendetta that Grey Beaver,
fierce savage himself, could not but marvel at White Fang's
ferocity. Never, he swore, had there been the like of this animal;
and the Indians in strange villages swore likewise when they
considered the tale of his killings amongst their dogs.
When White Fang was nearly five years old, Grey Beaver took him on
another great journey, and long remembered was the havoc he worked
amongst the dogs of the many villages along the Mackenzie, across
the Rockies, and down the Porcupine to the Yukon. He revelled in
the vengeance he wreaked upon his kind. They were ordinary,
unsuspecting dogs. They were not prepared for his swiftness and
directness, for his attack without warning. They did not know him
for what he was, a lightning-flash of slaughter. They bristled up
to him, stiff-legged and challenging, while he, wasting no time on
elaborate preliminaries, snapping into action like a steel spring,
was at their throats and destroying them before they knew what was
happening and while they were yet in the throes of surprise.
He became an adept at fighting. He economised. He never wasted
his strength, never tussled. He was in too quickly for that, and,
if he missed, was out again too quickly. The dislike of the wolf
for close quarters was his to an unusual degree. He could not
endure a prolonged contact with another body. It smacked of
danger. It made him frantic. He must be away, free, on his own
legs, touching no living thing. It was the Wild still clinging to
him, asserting itself through him. This feeling had been
accentuated by the Ishmaelite life he had led from his puppyhood.
Danger lurked in contacts. It was the trap, ever the trap, the
fear of it lurking deep in the life of him, woven into the fibre of
In consequence, the strange dogs he encountered had no chance
against him. He eluded their fangs. He got them, or got away,
himself untouched in either event. In the natural course of things
there were exceptions to this. There were times when several dogs,
pitching on to him, punished him before he could get away; and
there were times when a single dog scored deeply on him. But these
were accidents. In the main, so efficient a fighter had he become,
he went his way unscathed.
Another advantage he possessed was that of correctly judging time
and distance. Not that he did this consciously, however. He did
not calculate such things. It was all automatic. His eyes saw
correctly, and the nerves carried the vision correctly to his
brain. The parts of him were better adjusted than those of the
average dog. They worked together more smoothly and steadily. His
was a better, far better, nervous, mental, and muscular co-
ordination. When his eyes conveyed to his brain the moving image
of an action, his brain without conscious effort, knew the space
that limited that action and the time required for its completion.
Thus, he could avoid the leap of another dog, or the drive of its
fangs, and at the same moment could seize the infinitesimal
fraction of time in which to deliver his own attack. Body and
brain, his was a more perfected mechanism. Not that he was to be
praised for it. Nature had been more generous to him than to the
average animal, that was all.
It was in the summer that White Fang arrived at Fort Yukon. Grey
Beaver had crossed the great watershed between Mackenzie and the
Yukon in the late winter, and spent the spring in hunting among the
western outlying spurs of the Rockies. Then, after the break-up of
the ice on the Porcupine, he had built a canoe and paddled down
that stream to where it effected its junction with the Yukon just
under the Artic circle. Here stood the old Hudson's Bay Company
fort; and here were many Indians, much food, and unprecedented
excitement. It was the summer of 1898, and thousands of gold-
hunters were going up the Yukon to Dawson and the Klondike. Still
hundreds of miles from their goal, nevertheless many of them had
been on the way for a year, and the least any of them had travelled
to get that far was five thousand miles, while some had come from
the other side of the world.
Here Grey Beaver stopped. A whisper of the gold-rush had reached
his ears, and he had come with several bales of furs, and another
of gut-sewn mittens and moccasins. He would not have ventured so
long a trip had he not expected generous profits. But what he had
expected was nothing to what he realised. His wildest dreams had
not exceeded a hundred per cent. profit; he made a thousand per
cent. And like a true Indian, he settled down to trade carefully
and slowly, even if it took all summer and the rest of the winter
to dispose of his goods.
It was at Fort Yukon that White Fang saw his first white men. As
compared with the Indians he had known, they were to him another
race of beings, a race of superior gods. They impressed him as
possessing superior power, and it is on power that godhead rests.
White Fang did not reason it out, did not in his mind make the
sharp generalisation that the white gods were more powerful. It
was a feeling, nothing more, and yet none the less potent. As, in
his puppyhood, the looming bulks of the tepees, man-reared, had
affected him as manifestations of power, so was he affected now by
the houses and the huge fort all of massive logs. Here was power.
Those white gods were strong. They possessed greater mastery over
matter than the gods he had known, most powerful among which was
Grey Beaver. And yet Grey Beaver was as a child-god among these
To be sure, White Fang only felt these things. He was not
conscious of them. Yet it is upon feeling, more often than
thinking, that animals act; and every act White Fang now performed
was based upon the feeling that the white men were the superior
gods. In the first place he was very suspicious of them. There
was no telling what unknown terrors were theirs, what unknown hurts
they could administer. He was curious to observe them, fearful of
being noticed by them. For the first few hours he was content with
slinking around and watching them from a safe distance. Then he
saw that no harm befell the dogs that were near to them, and he
came in closer.
In turn he was an object of great curiosity to them. His wolfish
appearance caught their eyes at once, and they pointed him out to
one another. This act of pointing put White Fang on his guard, and
when they tried to approach him he showed his teeth and backed
away. Not one succeeded in laying a hand on him, and it was well
that they did not.
White Fang soon learned that very few of these gods - not more than
a dozen - lived at this place. Every two or three days a steamer
(another and colossal manifestation of power) came into the bank
and stopped for several hours. The white men came from off these
steamers and went away on them again. There seemed untold numbers
of these white men. In the first day or so, he saw more of them
than he had seen Indians in all his life; and as the days went by
they continued to come up the river, stop, and then go on up the
river out of sight.
But if the white gods were all-powerful, their dogs did not amount
to much. This White Fang quickly discovered by mixing with those
that came ashore with their masters. They were irregular shapes
and sizes. Some were short-legged - too short; others were long-
legged - too long. They had hair instead of fur, and a few had
very little hair at that. And none of them knew how to fight.
As an enemy of his kind, it was in White Fang's province to fight
with them. This he did, and he quickly achieved for them a mighty
contempt. They were soft and helpless, made much noise, and
floundered around clumsily trying to accomplish by main strength
what he accomplished by dexterity and cunning. They rushed
bellowing at him. He sprang to the side. They did not know what
had become of him; and in that moment he struck them on the
shoulder, rolling them off their feet and delivering his stroke at
Sometimes this stroke was successful, and a stricken dog rolled in
the dirt, to be pounced upon and torn to pieces by the pack of
Indian dogs that waited. White Fang was wise. He had long since
learned that the gods were made angry when their dogs were killed.
The white men were no exception to this. So he was content, when
he had overthrown and slashed wide the throat of one of their dogs,
to drop back and let the pack go in and do the cruel finishing
work. It was then that the white men rushed in, visiting their
wrath heavily on the pack, while White Fang went free. He would
stand off at a little distance and look on, while stones, clubs,
axes, and all sorts of weapons fell upon his fellows. White Fang
was very wise.
But his fellows grew wise in their own way; and in this White Fang
grew wise with them. They learned that it was when a steamer first
tied to the bank that they had their fun. After the first two or
three strange dogs had been downed and destroyed, the white men
hustled their own animals back on board and wrecked savage
vengeance on the offenders. One white man, having seen his dog, a
setter, torn to pieces before his eyes, drew a revolver. He fired
rapidly, six times, and six of the pack lay dead or dying - another
manifestation of power that sank deep into White Fang's
White Fang enjoyed it all. He did not love his kind, and he was
shrewd enough to escape hurt himself. At first, the killing of the
white men's dogs had been a diversion. After a time it became his
occupation. There was no work for him to do. Grey Beaver was busy
trading and getting wealthy. So White Fang hung around the landing
with the disreputable gang of Indian dogs, waiting for steamers.
With the arrival of a steamer the fun began. After a few minutes,
by the time the white men had got over their surprise, the gang
scattered. The fun was over until the next steamer should arrive.
But it can scarcely be said that White Fang was a member of the
gang. He did not mingle with it, but remained aloof, always
himself, and was even feared by it. It is true, he worked with it.
He picked the quarrel with the strange dog while the gang waited.
And when he had overthrown the strange dog the gang went in to
finish it. But it is equally true that he then withdrew, leaving
the gang to receive the punishment of the outraged gods.
It did not require much exertion to pick these quarrels. All he
had to do, when the strange dogs came ashore, was to show himself.
When they saw him they rushed for him. It was their instinct. He
was the Wild - the unknown, the terrible, the ever-menacing, the
thing that prowled in the darkness around the fires of the primeval
world when they, cowering close to the fires, were reshaping their
instincts, learning to fear the Wild out of which they had come,
and which they had deserted and betrayed. Generation by
generation, down all the generations, had this fear of the Wild
been stamped into their natures. For centuries the Wild had stood
for terror and destruction. And during all this time free licence
had been theirs, from their masters, to kill the things of the
Wild. In doing this they had protected both themselves and the
gods whose companionship they shared
And so, fresh from the soft southern world, these dogs, trotting
down the gang-plank and out upon the Yukon shore had but to see
White Fang to experience the irresistible impulse to rush upon him
and destroy him. They might be town-reared dogs, but the
instinctive fear of the Wild was theirs just the same. Not alone
with their own eyes did they see the wolfish creature in the clear
light of day, standing before them. They saw him with the eyes of
their ancestors, and by their inherited memory they knew White Fang
for the wolf, and they remembered the ancient feud.
All of which served to make White Fang's days enjoyable. If the
sight of him drove these strange dogs upon him, so much the better
for him, so much the worse for them. They looked upon him as
legitimate prey, and as legitimate prey he looked upon them.
Not for nothing had he first seen the light of day in a lonely lair
and fought his first fights with the ptarmigan, the weasel, and the
lynx. And not for nothing had his puppyhood been made bitter by
the persecution of Lip-lip and the whole puppy pack. It might have
been otherwise, and he would then have been otherwise. Had Lip-lip
not existed, he would have passed his puppyhood with the other
puppies and grown up more doglike and with more liking for dogs.
Had Grey Beaver possessed the plummet of affection and love, he
might have sounded the deeps of White Fang's nature and brought up
to the surface all manner of kindly qualities. But these things
had not been so. The clay of White Fang had been moulded until he
became what he was, morose and lonely, unloving and ferocious, the
enemy of all his kind.
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