Chapter XI - The Outcast
Lip-lip continued so to darken his days that White Fang became
wickeder and more ferocious than it was his natural right to be.
Savageness was a part of his make-up, but the savageness thus
developed exceeded his make-up. He acquired a reputation for
wickedness amongst the man-animals themselves. Wherever there was
trouble and uproar in camp, fighting and squabbling or the outcry
of a squaw over a bit of stolen meat, they were sure to find White
Fang mixed up in it and usually at the bottom of it. They did not
bother to look after the causes of his conduct. They saw only the
effects, and the effects were bad. He was a sneak and a thief, a
mischief-maker, a fomenter of trouble; and irate squaws told him to
his face, the while he eyed them alert and ready to dodge any
quick-flung missile, that he was a wolf and worthless and bound to
come to an evil end.
He found himself an outcast in the midst of the populous camp. All
the young dogs followed Lip-lip's lead. There was a difference
between White Fang and them. Perhaps they sensed his wild-wood
breed, and instinctively felt for him the enmity that the domestic
dog feels for the wolf. But be that as it may, they joined with
Lip-lip in the persecution. And, once declared against him, they
found good reason to continue declared against him. One and all,
from time to time, they felt his teeth; and to his credit, he gave
more than he received. Many of them he could whip in single fight;
but single fight was denied him. The beginning of such a fight was
a signal for all the young dogs in camp to come running and pitch
Out of this pack-persecution he learned two important things: how
to take care of himself in a mass-fight against him - and how, on a
single dog, to inflict the greatest amount of damage in the
briefest space of time. To keep one's feet in the midst of the
hostile mass meant life, and this he learnt well. He became cat-
like in his ability to stay on his feet. Even grown dogs might
hurtle him backward or sideways with the impact of their heavy
bodies; and backward or sideways he would go, in the air or sliding
on the ground, but always with his legs under him and his feet
downward to the mother earth.
When dogs fight, there are usually preliminaries to the actual
combat - snarlings and bristlings and stiff-legged struttings. But
White Fang learned to omit these preliminaries. Delay meant the
coming against him of all the young dogs. He must do his work
quickly and get away. So he learnt to give no warning of his
intention. He rushed in and snapped and slashed on the instant,
without notice, before his foe could prepare to meet him. Thus he
learned how to inflict quick and severe damage. Also he learned
the value of surprise. A dog, taken off its guard, its shoulder
slashed open or its ear ripped in ribbons before it knew what was
happening, was a dog half whipped.
Furthermore, it was remarkably easy to overthrow a dog taken by
surprise; while a dog, thus overthrown, invariably exposed for a
moment the soft underside of its neck - the vulnerable point at
which to strike for its life. White Fang knew this point. It was
a knowledge bequeathed to him directly from the hunting generation
of wolves. So it was that White Fang's method when he took the
offensive, was: first to find a young dog alone; second, to
surprise it and knock it off its feet; and third, to drive in with
his teeth at the soft throat.
Being but partly grown his jaws had not yet become large enough nor
strong enough to make his throat-attack deadly; but many a young
dog went around camp with a lacerated throat in token of White
Fang's intention. And one day, catching one of his enemies alone
on the edge of the woods, he managed, by repeatedly overthrowing
him and attacking the throat, to cut the great vein and let out the
life. There was a great row that night. He had been observed, the
news had been carried to the dead dog's master, the squaws
remembered all the instances of stolen meat, and Grey Beaver was
beset by many angry voices. But he resolutely held the door of his
tepee, inside which he had placed the culprit, and refused to
permit the vengeance for which his tribespeople clamoured.
White Fang became hated by man and dog. During this period of his
development he never knew a moment's security. The tooth of every
dog was against him, the hand of every man. He was greeted with
snarls by his kind, with curses and stones by his gods. He lived
tensely. He was always keyed up, alert for attack, wary of being
attacked, with an eye for sudden and unexpected missiles, prepared
to act precipitately and coolly, to leap in with a flash of teeth,
or to leap away with a menacing snarl.
As for snarling he could snarl more terribly than any dog, young or
old, in camp. The intent of the snarl is to warn or frighten, and
judgment is required to know when it should be used. White Fang
knew how to make it and when to make it. Into his snarl he
incorporated all that was vicious, malignant, and horrible. With
nose serrulated by continuous spasms, hair bristling in recurrent
waves, tongue whipping out like a red snake and whipping back
again, ears flattened down, eyes gleaming hatred, lips wrinkled
back, and fangs exposed and dripping, he could compel a pause on
the part of almost any assailant. A temporary pause, when taken
off his guard, gave him the vital moment in which to think and
determine his action. But often a pause so gained lengthened out
until it evolved into a complete cessation from the attack. And
before more than one of the grown dogs White Fang's snarl enabled
him to beat an honourable retreat.
An outcast himself from the pack of the part-grown dogs, his
sanguinary methods and remarkable efficiency made the pack pay for
its persecution of him. Not permitted himself to run with the
pack, the curious state of affairs obtained that no member of the
pack could run outside the pack. White Fang would not permit it.
What of his bushwhacking and waylaying tactics, the young dogs were
afraid to run by themselves. With the exception of Lip-lip, they
were compelled to hunch together for mutual protection against the
terrible enemy they had made. A puppy alone by the river bank
meant a puppy dead or a puppy that aroused the camp with its shrill
pain and terror as it fled back from the wolf-cub that had waylaid
But White Fang's reprisals did not cease, even when the young dogs
had learned thoroughly that they must stay together. He attacked
them when he caught them alone, and they attacked him when they
were bunched. The sight of him was sufficient to start them
rushing after him, at which times his swiftness usually carried him
into safety. But woe the dog that outran his fellows in such
pursuit! White Fang had learned to turn suddenly upon the pursuer
that was ahead of the pack and thoroughly to rip him up before the
pack could arrive. This occurred with great frequency, for, once
in full cry, the dogs were prone to forget themselves in the
excitement of the chase, while White Fang never forgot himself.
Stealing backward glances as he ran, he was always ready to whirl
around and down the overzealous pursuer that outran his fellows.
Young dogs are bound to play, and out of the exigencies of the
situation they realised their play in this mimic warfare. Thus it
was that the hunt of White Fang became their chief game - a deadly
game, withal, and at all times a serious game. He, on the other
hand, being the fastest-footed, was unafraid to venture anywhere.
During the period that he waited vainly for his mother to come
back, he led the pack many a wild chase through the adjacent woods.
But the pack invariably lost him. Its noise and outcry warned him
of its presence, while he ran alone, velvet-footed, silently, a
moving shadow among the trees after the manner of his father and
mother before him. Further he was more directly connected with the
Wild than they; and he knew more of its secrets and stratagems. A
favourite trick of his was to lose his trail in running water and
then lie quietly in a near-by thicket while their baffled cries
arose around him.
Hated by his kind and by mankind, indomitable, perpetually warred
upon and himself waging perpetual war, his development was rapid
and one-sided. This was no soil for kindliness and affection to
blossom in. Of such things he had not the faintest glimmering.
The code he learned was to obey the strong and to oppress the weak.
Grey Beaver was a god, and strong. Therefore White Fang obeyed
him. But the dog younger or smaller than himself was weak, a thing
to be destroyed. His development was in the direction of power.
In order to face the constant danger of hurt and even of
destruction, his predatory and protective faculties were unduly
developed. He became quicker of movement than the other dogs,
swifter of foot, craftier, deadlier, more lithe, more lean with
ironlike muscle and sinew, more enduring, more cruel, more
ferocious, and more intelligent. He had to become all these
things, else he would not have held his own nor survive the hostile
environment in which he found himself.