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Chapter Six - Part Four

When Thornton comes to, he looks first to Buck, who is limp and apparently lifeless. Nig is howling, while Skeet licks Buck's wet face. Thornton gently rubs Buck's water-logged body, and finds three broken ribs. He insists that the group set up camp at that very spot, where they remain until Buck's broken bones heal.
That winter, Buck involves himself in another exploit, this time more notorious than heroic. The men are at Dawson, in a saloon, and involved in a boasting contest with other men. The men, who have heard of Buck, immediately target the dog, to which Thornton offers his greatest defense. The other men boast of the enormous loads their dogs can pull alone, to which John Thornton insists that Buck can pull the most - one thousand pounds. A man names Matthewson makes a bet of it - offering a thousand dollars if Buck can, in fact, pull the weight. Thornton is stunned that his bluff has been called. He has great faith in Buck, but has no idea if the dog can pull half a ton all by himself. Additionally, he does not have a thousand dollars to back himself up if he loses. Matthewson further eggs him on, but Thornton remains silent. He looks from man to man, imploring them to tell him what to do. A friend names Jim O'Brien tells Thornton that he will lend him the money.
The entire tavern empties into the street, anxious to see the contest unravel. Matthewson's sled, loaded down with a thousand pounds, is frozen hard into the snow. The men watching decide against Buck by the odds of two to one. An argument ensues on what Buck must do - fully break out the sled from the ice, or just pull the already loosened sled from a dead stand-still. Matthewson insists that Buck must pull the runners out of the hard packed ice, and now the odds go up to three to one. No one will take the bet; no one believes Buck can accomplish the feat. Even Thornton sadly feels that the task is impossible. Matthewson is jubilant, and offers another thousand to Thornton. Thornton has his doubts, but his fighting spirit rises above all else. He calls to Hans and Pete, and they manage to pull together two hundred dollars. It is all they have, but they lay it down in the bet.
The team of ten dogs in unhitched, and Buck is placed in their stead. He is also caught up in the excitement, and feels that he must win for his master. The crowd marvels at his fine appearance, and perfect shape. Even his coat shines like silk. Each hair comes alive with the dog's excitement, and his tight muscles tense in anticipation. A man offers Thornton eight hundred dollars for him on the spot. Thornton refuses the offer. He takes Buck's face in his hands, and whispers in his ear, "As you love me, Buck. As you love me." Buck only becomes more eager.
The crowd silently watches. They know that Buck is an exceptionally fine animal, but doubt that any dog can pull the enormous load. The interaction between man and beast is strange, and appears even more odd when Buck clamps his teeth around Thornton's hand, his own sign of love.
Buck tightens the traces, then slackens them, just as he has learned. He forcefully swings to the right, uplifting one hundred and fifty pounds, and is greeted by the sweet sound of crackling ice. He duplicates his maneuver to the left, and the crackling becomes a loud snapping. The sled breaks out. Thornton offers his final command - "mush!" - and Buck throws himself forward, his muscles writhing against the heavy weight. The sled sways, but stays put, and one of Buck's feet slips. A man in the crowd groans. Then the sled starts to move, jerking, and never in a fluid motion, an inch at a time. Finally, Buck manages to pull the load steadily along. The crowd gasps, and holds its collective breath. Thornton runs behind Buck, cheering him on. As he comes closer to the distance marked, the crowd begins to cheer, and when he completes the distance, a roar rises from the onlookers. Thornton falls on his knees beside Buck, holding his head and lovingly cursing the loyal animal.
The same man who had offered Thornton eight hundred for Buck increases his offer to twelve hundred. Tears streaming down his face, Thornton refuses, telling the man to go to hell. Buck grabs Thornton's hand in his teeth. The crowd draws back to allow the two some privacy in their moment of love.

Browse all book notes

Historical Context
Main Characters
Points to Ponder
Did You Know
Plot Summary
Chapter One - Part One
Chapter One - Part Two
Chapter Two - Part One
Chapter Two - Part Two
Chapter Three - Part One
Chapter Three - Part Two
Chapter Four - Part One
Chapter Four - Part Two
Chapter Five - Part One
Chapter Five - Part Two
Chapter Five - Part Three
Chapter Five - Part Four
Chapter Six - Part One
Chapter Six - Part Two
Chapter Six - Part Three
Chapter Six - Part Four
Chapter Seven - Part One
Chapter Seven - Part Two
Chapter Seven - Part Three
Chapter Seven - Part Four



 






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