Of all Jack London's fictions none have been as popular as his dog stories. In addition to The Call of the Wild, the epic tale of a Californian dog's adventures during the Klondike gold rush, this edition includes White Fang, and five famous short stories - 'B tard', 'Moon-Face', 'Brown Wolf', 'That Spot', and 'To Build a Fire'.
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About the Author
Jack London—his real name was John Griffith London—had a wild and colorful youth on the waterfront of Oakland, his native city. Born in 1876, he left school at the age of fourteen and worked in a cannery. By the time he was sixteen he had been both an oyster pirate and a member of the Fish Patrol in San Francisco Bay. He later wrote about these experiences in The Cruise of the Dazzler (1902) and Tales of the Fish Patrol (1905). In 1893 he joined a sealing cruise that took him as far as Japan. Returning to the United States, he traveled throughout the country. He was determined to become a writer and read voraciously. After a brief period of study at the University of California at Berkeley he joined the gold rush to the Klondike in 1897. He returned to San Francisco the following year. His short stories of the Yukon were published in Overland Monthly (1898) and the Atlantic Monthly (1899), and in 1900 his first collection, The Son of the Wolf, appeared, bringing him national fame. In 1902 he went to London, where he studied the slum conditions of the East End. He wrote about this experience in The People of the Abyss (1903). His life was exciting and eventful. There were sailing voyages to the South Seas and around Cape Horn. He reported on the Russo-Japanese War for the Hearst papers and gave lecture tours. A prolific writer, he published an enormous number of stories and novels. Besides two revealing memoirs, The Road (1907) and John Barleycorn (1913), he authored several collections of short stories, including Love of Life (1907), Lost Face (1910), and On the Makaloa Mat (1919). He also wrote many novels, including The Call of the Wild (1903), The Sea-Wolf (1904), White Fang (1906), Before Adam (1907), The Iron Heel (1908), Martin Eden (1909), and The Star Rover (1915). Jack London died in 1916, at his famous Beauty Ranch in California.
Earle Labor is the acknowledged major authority on the novelist Jack London and the curator of the Jack London Museum and Research Center in Shreveport. He is also Emeritus Professor of American Literature at Centenary College of Louisiana.
Kenneth K. Brandt is Professor of Liberal Arts at the Savannah College of Art and Design. He is the editor of The Call: The Magazine of the Jack London Society and is the executive coordinator of the Jack London Society (jacklondonsociety.org). He is the author of Jack London: Writers and Their Work (Liverpool University Press) and the co-editor, with Jeanne Campbell Reesman, of Approaches to Teaching the Works of Jack London (Modern Language Association).
Read an Excerpt
The Call of the Wild, White Fang, and Other Stories
By Jack London
Oxford University PressCopyright ©1998 Jack London
All right reserved.
(From The Call of The Wild)
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 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 therear 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 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 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; 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 padlocks 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.
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 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 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 bag gageman, 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 waterfront.
"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 saloonkeeper demanded.
"A hundred," was the reply. "Wouldn't take a sou less, so help me."
"That makes a hundred and fifty," the saloonkeeper calculated; "and he's worth it, or I'm a squarehead."
The kidnaper undid the bloody wrappings and looked at his lacerated hand. "If I don't get the hydrophoby "
"It'll be because you was born to hang," laughed the saloonkeeper. "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 cagelike 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 sense of impending calamity. Several times during the night he sprang to his feet when the shed door rattled open, expecting to see the Judge, or the boys at least. But each time it was the bulging face of the saloonkeeper that peered in at him by the sickly light of a tallow candle. And each time the joyful bark that trembled in Buck's throat was twisted into a savage growl.
But the saloonkeeper let him alone, and in the morning four men entered and picked up the crate. More tormentors, Buck decided, for they were evil-looking creatures, ragged and unkempt; and he stormed and raged at them through the bars. They only laughed and poked sticks at him, which he promptly assailed with his teeth till he realized that that was what they wanted. Whereupon he lay down sullenly and allowed the crate to be lifted into a wagon. Then he, and the crate in which he was imprisoned, began a passage through many hands. Clerks in the express office took charge of him; he was carted about in another wagon; a truck carried him, with an assortment of boxes and parcels, upon a ferry steamer; he was trucked off the steamer into a great railway depot, and finally he was deposited in an express car.
Excerpted from The Call of the Wild, White Fang, and Other Stories by Jack London Copyright ©1998 by Jack London. Excerpted by permission.
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