فصل 08

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فصل 08

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CHAPTER EIGHT

The Winner

At Dawson that winter Buck did something that made him very famous in the Northland. Thornton, Hans and Pete wanted to go to the east to look for gold. But they needed money.

One day they were at the Eldorado Saloon.

“My dog can pull a sled with five hundred pounds on it’ said one man.

“Well, my dog can pull six hundred pounds’ said another man.

“Really? Well, my dog can pull seven hundred pounds,” said a third man called Matthewson.

“That’s nothing,” said Thornton. “Buck can pull a thousand pounds.”

“Can he move the sled when it’s frozen to the ice and then pull it a hundred yards?” asked Matthewson.

“Yes, he can,” said Thornton.

“Well,” said Matthewson. “I’ve got a thousand dollars here, and I say he can’t.” He took a bag of gold and put it on the table.

Nobody spoke. Thornton thought, “I know Buck is strong, but is he really so strong?”

The men at the saloon looked at him silently and waited. Thornton did not have a thousand dollars, and his friends did not either.

“I’ve got a sled outside with a thousand pounds on it,” Matthewson said. “Do you want to try?”

Thornton did not know what to say. He looked at all the men. Then he saw his old friend Jim O’Brien.

“Can you lend me a thousand dollars, Jim?” Thornton said softly.

“Sure,” said O’Brien. “But I don’t think your dog can do it.”

Everyone went into the street. A lot of men stood around Matthewson’s sled.

The sled was frozen to the ice because it was terribly cold.

Matthewson was sure Buck could not win and said, “I’m paying another four hundred dollars! What about you?”

Thornton, Hans and Pete talked together. They had only two hundred dollars and they added them to the thousand dollars.

Buck felt the excitement in the air. He knew he must do something great for Thornton. Buck was in perfect condition. He was a splendid dog.

Thornton sat down on the snow next to Buck. He held Buck’s head in his hands and spoke softly in his ear.

“If you love me, Buck. If you love me.”

Buck understood. He took Thornton’s hand between his teeth and then let go. He often did this as a sign of his love.

Everyone was silent. Thornton stood up and said, “Ready, Buck.”

Buck pulled on the harness. “Right!” cried Thornton.

Buck pulled to the right and stopped suddenly. “Now, left!” cried Thornton.

Buck pulled to the left. The ice was breaking.

“Now, MUSH!”

Buck started to pull. His strong body pulled harder and harder. The sled moved a little. Suddenly it started to go forward on the snow. Buck pulled it for one hundred yards. He was the winner! The men shouted and threw their hats in the air.

Thornton was on the snow with Buck. He took his head and shook it. He was crying with happiness. Buck had Thornton’s hand between his teeth.

In five minutes Buck made one thousand six hundred dollars for Thornton and his friends. With this money they could travel to the east to look for a lost gold mine. No one knew where it was. It was a mystery.

The three men with Buck and six other dogs started to go east. They traveled up the Stewart River and into the Mackenzie Mountains.

Thornton was not afraid of the wild. He hunted his food during the day. Buck was very happy. He loved hunting, fishing and traveling.

They camped in different places and looked for gold. In the summer they built small boats and crossed mountain lakes and went down rivers. The months passed and they continued to travel in the unknown country. In the winter they found an old cabin, but they did not find the gold mine.

Then in the spring they found a stream with gold in it. It looked like yellow butter. Every day the men worked hard and found lots of gold. They put it in many big bags. Each bag had fifty pounds of gold.

The dogs did nothing except watch the men and eat. Buck spent many hours sitting by the fire and dreaming. Sometimes during the day he heard a call from the forest. He listened and ran off into the forest. He loved running under the tall trees and looking at the birds.

One night he woke up suddenly. He heard the call again. It came from the forest and it was a long howl. He ran into the forest and followed the sound. He came to an open space in the trees and saw a wolf. He was sitting and his nose was up in the air. He was looking at the sky.

Buck walked towards him slowly and silently. The wolf stopped howling and ran away. Buck followed him. After some time the wolf stopped and growled at Buck. He was afraid because Buck was much bigger. But Buck did not want to fight. He wanted to make friends with the wolf. The wolf understood and they touched noses. They became friends and played together. They ran for hours through the forest and under the open sky. Old memories came back to Buck. He was very happy.

They stopped by a stream to drink and Buck remembered John Thornton. The wolf wanted Buck to follow him. But Buck turned and slowly went back. The wolf followed him for a while. Then he sat down and howled. It was a sad howl.

Thornton was eating dinner when Buck returned. He jumped all over Thornton and licked his face.

For two days and nights Buck never left camp. He followed Thornton everywhere. But soon Buck heard the call again. He thought about his wild brother and the forest.

Buck began to sleep out at night. He stayed away from camp for three or four days. Once he stayed away for a week. He looked for his wild brother but could not find him. He fished in the streams and killed animals for food.

Every part of his body was alive and healthy. He was stronger and faster than other dogs. There was so much energy in Buck.

One day Buck was going to the forest and Thornton said, “What a fantastic dog!” Hans and Pete agreed.

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