<h3>CHAPTER IV—THE TRAIL OF THE GODS</h3>
<p>In the fall of the year, when the days were shortening and the bite
of the frost was coming into the air, White Fang got his chance for
liberty. For several days there had been a great hubbub in the
village. The summer camp was being dismantled, and the tribe,
bag and baggage, was preparing to go off to the fall hunting.
White Fang watched it all with eager eyes, and when the tepees began
to come down and the canoes were loading at the bank, he understood.
Already the canoes were departing, and some had disappeared down the
<p>Quite deliberately he determined to stay behind. He waited
his opportunity to slink out of camp to the woods. Here, in the
running stream where ice was beginning to form, he hid his trail.
Then he crawled into the heart of a dense thicket and waited.
The time passed by, and he slept intermittently for hours. Then
he was aroused by Grey Beaver’s voice calling him by name.
There were other voices. White Fang could hear Grey Beaver’s
squaw taking part in the search, and Mit-sah, who was Grey Beaver’s
<p>White Fang trembled with fear, and though the impulse came to crawl
out of his hiding-place, he resisted it. After a time the voices
died away, and some time after that he crept out to enjoy the success
of his undertaking. Darkness was coming on, and for a while he
played about among the trees, pleasuring in his freedom. Then,
and quite suddenly, he became aware of loneliness. He sat down
to consider, listening to the silence of the forest and perturbed by
it. That nothing moved nor sounded, seemed ominous. He felt
the lurking of danger, unseen and unguessed. He was suspicious
of the looming bulks of the trees and of the dark shadows that might
conceal all manner of perilous things.</p>
<p>Then it was cold. Here was no warm side of a tepee against
which to snuggle. The frost was in his feet, and he kept lifting
first one fore-foot and then the other. He curved his bushy tail
around to cover them, and at the same time he saw a vision. There
was nothing strange about it. Upon his inward sight was impressed
a succession of memory-pictures. He saw the camp again, the tepees,
and the blaze of the fires. He heard the shrill voices of the
women, the gruff basses of the men, and the snarling of the dogs.
He was hungry, and he remembered pieces of meat and fish that had been
thrown him. Here was no meat, nothing but a threatening and inedible
<p>His bondage had softened him. Irresponsibility had weakened
him. He had forgotten how to shift for himself. The night
yawned about him. His senses, accustomed to the hum and bustle
of the camp, used to the continuous impact of sights and sounds, were
now left idle. There was nothing to do, nothing to see nor hear.
They strained to catch some interruption of the silence and immobility
of nature. They were appalled by inaction and by the feel of something
<p>He gave a great start of fright. A colossal and formless something
was rushing across the field of his vision. It was a tree-shadow
flung by the moon, from whose face the clouds had been brushed away.
Reassured, he whimpered softly; then he suppressed the whimper for fear
that it might attract the attention of the lurking dangers.</p>
<p>A tree, contracting in the cool of the night, made a loud noise.
It was directly above him. He yelped in his fright. A panic
seized him, and he ran madly toward the village. He knew an overpowering
desire for the protection and companionship of man. In his nostrils
was the smell of the camp-smoke. In his ears the camp-sounds and
cries were ringing loud. He passed out of the forest and into
the moonlit open where were no shadows nor darknesses. But no
village greeted his eyes. He had forgotten. The village
had gone away.</p>
<p>His wild flight ceased abruptly. There was no place to which
to flee. He slunk forlornly through the deserted camp, smelling
the rubbish-heaps and the discarded rags and tags of the gods.
He would have been glad for the rattle of stones about him, flung by
an angry squaw, glad for the hand of Grey Beaver descending upon him
in wrath; while he would have welcomed with delight Lip-lip and the
whole snarling, cowardly pack.</p>
<p>He came to where Grey Beaver’s tepee had stood. In the
centre of the space it had occupied, he sat down. He pointed his
nose at the moon. His throat was afflicted by rigid spasms, his
mouth opened, and in a heart-broken cry bubbled up his loneliness and
fear, his grief for Kiche, all his past sorrows and miseries as well
as his apprehension of sufferings and dangers to come. It was
the long wolf-howl, full-throated and mournful, the first howl he had
<p>The coming of daylight dispelled his fears but increased his loneliness.
The naked earth, which so shortly before had been so populous; thrust
his loneliness more forcibly upon him. It did not take him long
to make up his mind. He plunged into the forest and followed the
river bank down the stream. All day he ran. He did not rest.
He seemed made to run on for ever. His iron-like body ignored
fatigue. And even after fatigue came, his heritage of endurance
braced him to endless endeavour and enabled him to drive his complaining
<p>Where the river swung in against precipitous bluffs, he climbed the
high mountains behind. Rivers and streams that entered the main
river he forded or swam. Often he took to the rim-ice that was
beginning to form, and more than once he crashed through and struggled
for life in the icy current. Always he was on the lookout for
the trail of the gods where it might leave the river and proceed inland.</p>
<p>White Fang was intelligent beyond the average of his kind; yet his
mental vision was not wide enough to embrace the other bank of the Mackenzie.
What if the trail of the gods led out on that side? It never entered
his head. Later on, when he had travelled more and grown older
and wiser and come to know more of trails and rivers, it might be that
he could grasp and apprehend such a possibility. But that mental
power was yet in the future. Just now he ran blindly, his own
bank of the Mackenzie alone entering into his calculations.</p>
<p>All night he ran, blundering in the darkness into mishaps and obstacles
that delayed but did not daunt. By the middle of the second day
he had been running continuously for thirty hours, and the iron of his
flesh was giving out. It was the endurance of his mind that kept
him going. He had not eaten in forty hours, and he was weak with
hunger. The repeated drenchings in the icy water had likewise
had their effect on him. His handsome coat was draggled.
The broad pads of his feet were bruised and bleeding. He had begun
to limp, and this limp increased with the hours. To make it worse,
the light of the sky was obscured and snow began to fall—a raw,
moist, melting, clinging snow, slippery under foot, that hid from him
the landscape he traversed, and that covered over the inequalities of
the ground so that the way of his feet was more difficult and painful.</p>
<p>Grey Beaver had intended camping that night on the far bank of the
Mackenzie, for it was in that direction that the hunting lay.
But on the near bank, shortly before dark, a moose coming down to drink,
had been espied by Kloo-kooch, who was Grey Beaver’s squaw.
Now, had not the moose come down to drink, had not Mit-sah been steering
out of the course because of the snow, had not Kloo-kooch sighted the
moose, and had not Grey Beaver killed it with a lucky shot from his
rifle, all subsequent things would have happened differently.
Grey Beaver would not have camped on the near side of the Mackenzie,
and White Fang would have passed by and gone on, either to die or to
find his way to his wild brothers and become one of them—a wolf
to the end of his days.</p>
<p>Night had fallen. The snow was flying more thickly, and White
Fang, whimpering softly to himself as he stumbled and limped along,
came upon a fresh trail in the snow. So fresh was it that he knew
it immediately for what it was. Whining with eagerness, he followed
back from the river bank and in among the trees. The camp-sounds
came to his ears. He saw the blaze of the fire, Kloo-kooch cooking,
and Grey Beaver squatting on his hams and mumbling a chunk of raw tallow.
There was fresh meat in camp!</p>
<p>White Fang expected a beating. He crouched and bristled a little
at the thought of it. Then he went forward again. He feared
and disliked the beating he knew to be waiting for him. But he
knew, further, that the comfort of the fire would be his, the protection
of the gods, the companionship of the dogs—the last, a companionship
of enmity, but none the less a companionship and satisfying to his gregarious
<p>He came cringing and crawling into the firelight. Grey Beaver
saw him, and stopped munching the tallow. White Fang crawled slowly,
cringing and grovelling in the abjectness of his abasement and submission.
He crawled straight toward Grey Beaver, every inch of his progress becoming
slower and more painful. At last he lay at the master’s
feet, into whose possession he now surrendered himself, voluntarily,
body and soul. Of his own choice, he came in to sit by man’s
fire and to be ruled by him. White Fang trembled, waiting for
the punishment to fall upon him. There was a movement of the hand
above him. He cringed involuntarily under the expected blow.
It did not fall. He stole a glance upward. Grey Beaver was
breaking the lump of tallow in half! Grey Beaver was offering
him one piece of the tallow! Very gently and somewhat suspiciously,
he first smelled the tallow and then proceeded to eat it. Grey
Beaver ordered meat to be brought to him, and guarded him from the other
dogs while he ate. After that, grateful and content, White Fang
lay at Grey Beaver’s feet, gazing at the fire that warmed him,
blinking and dozing, secure in the knowledge that the morrow would find
him, not wandering forlorn through bleak forest-stretches, but in the
camp of the man-animals, with the gods to whom he had given himself
and upon whom he was now dependent.</p>
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