Buck did not read the newspapers. He did not know that trouble was coming for every big dog in California. Men had found gold in the Yukon, and these men wanted big, strong dogs to work in the cold and snow of the north.
Buck lived in Mr. Miller’s big house in the sunny Santa Clara valley There were large gardens and fields of fruit trees around the house, and a river nearby. In a big place like this, of course, there were many dogs There were house dogs and farm dogs, but they were not important. Buck was chief dog; he was born here, and this was his place. He was four years old and weighed sixty kilos. He went swimming with Mr. Miller’s sons, and walking with his daughters. He carried the grandchildren on his back, and he sat at Mr. Miller’s feet in front of the fire in winter.
But this was 1897, and Buck did not know that men and dogs were hurrying to north-west Canada to look for gold. And he did not know that Manuel, one of Mr. Miller’s gardeners, needed money for his large family. One day, when Mr. Miller was out, Manuel and Buck left the garden together. It was just an evening walk, Buck thought. No one saw them go, and only one man saw them arrive at the railway station. This man talked to Manuel, and gave him some money. Then he tied a piece of rope around Buck’s neck.
Buck growled, and was surprised when the rope was pulled hard around his neck. He jumped at the man. The man caught him and suddenly Buck was on his back with his tongue out of his mouth. For a few moments he was unable to move, and it was easy for the two men to put him into the train.
When Buck woke up, the train was still moving. The man was sitting and watching him, but Buck was too quick for him and he bit the man’s hand hard. Then the rope was pulled again and Buck had to let go.
That evening, the man took Buck to the back room of a bar in San Francisco. The barman looked at the man’s hand and trousers covered in blood.
那天晚上，那个人把巴克带到旧金山一间酒吧的后屋里。（俗语：Under the table）酒吧老板看了看那人血迹斑斑的手和长裤。
‘How much are they paying you for this?’ he asked.
‘I only get fifty dollars.’
‘And the man who stole him—how much did he get?’ asked the barman.
‘A hundred. He wouldn’t take less.’
‘That makes a hundred and fifty. It’s a good price for a dog like him. Here, help me to get him into this.’
They took off Buck’s rope and pushed him into a wooden box. He spent the night in the box in the back room of the bar. His neck still ached with pain from the rope, and he could not understand what it all meant. What did they want with him, these strange men? And where was Mr. Miller?
The next day Buck was carried in the box to the railway station and put on a train to the north. For two days and nights the train travelled north, and for two days and nights Buck neither ate nor drank. Men on the train laughed at him and pushed sticks at him through the holes in the box. For two days and nights Buck got angrier and hungrier and thirstier. His eyes grew red and he bit anything that moved.
In Seattle four men took Buck to a small, high-walled back garden, where a fat man in an old red coat was waiting. Buck was now very angry indeed and he jumped and bit at the sides of his box. The fat man smiled and went to get an axe and a club.
‘Are you going to take him out now?’ asked one of the men.
‘Of course,’ answered the fat man, and he began to break the box with his axe.
Immediately the four other men climbed up onto the wall to watch from a safe place.
As the fat man hit the box with his axe, Buck jumped at the sides, growling and biting, pulling with his teeth at the pieces of broken wood. After a few minutes there was a hole big enough for Buck to get out.
‘Now, come here, red eyes,’ said the fat man, dropping his axe and taking the club in his right hand.
Buck jumped at the man, sixty kilos of anger, his mouth wide open ready to bite the man’s neck. Just before his teeth touched the skin, the man hit him with the club. Buck fell to the ground. It was the first time anyone had hit him with a club and he did not understand. He stood up, and jumped again. Again the club hit him and he crashed to the ground. Ten times he jumped at the man, and ten times the club hit him. Slowly he got to his feet, now only just able to stand. There was blood on his nose and mouth and ears. Then the fat man walked up and hit him again, very hard, on the nose. The pain was terrible. Again, Buck jumped at the man and again he was hit to the ground. A last time he jumped, and this time, when the man knocked him down, Buck did not move.
‘He knows how to teach a dog a lesson,’ said one of the men on the wall. Then the four men jumped down and went back to the station.
‘His name is Buck,’ said the fat man to himself, reading the letter that had come with the box. ‘Well, Buck, my by,’ he said in a friendly voice, ‘we’ve argued a little, and I think the best thing to do now is to stop. Be a good dog and we’ll be friends. But if you’re a bad dog, I’ll have to use my club again. Understand?’
As he spoke, he touched Buck’ s head, and although Buck was angry inside, he did not move. When the man brought him water and meat, Buck drank and then ate the meat, piece by piece, from the man’s hand.
Buck was beaten (he knew that) but he was not broken. He had learnt that a man with a club was stronger than him. Every day he saw more dogs arrive, and each dog was beaten by the fat man. Buck understood that a man with a club must be obeyed, although he did not have to be a friend.
Men came to see the fat man and to look at the dogs. Some-times they paid money and left with one or more of the dogs. One day a short, dark man came and looked at Buck.
‘That’s a good dog!’ he cried. ‘How much do you want for him?’
‘Three hundred dollars. It’s a good price, Perrault,’ said the fat man.
Perrault smiled and agreed that it was a good price. He knew dogs, and he knew that Buck was an excellent dog.
‘One in ten thousand,’ Perrault said to himself.
Buck saw money put into the fat man’ s hand, and he was not surprised when he and another dog called Curly were taken away by Perrault. He took them to a ship, and later that day Buck and Curly stood and watched the coast get further and further away. They had seen the warm south for the last time.
Perrault took Buck and Curly down to the bottom of the ship. There they met another man, Francois. Perrault was a French-Canadian, but Francois was half-Indian, tall and dark. Buck learnt quickly that Perrault and Francois were fair men, calm and honest. And they knew everything about dogs.
There were two other dogs on the ship. One was a big dog called Spitz, as white as snow. He was friendly to Buck at first, always smiling. He was smiling when he tried to steal Buck’ s food at the first meal. Francois was quick and hit Spitz before Buck had time to move. Buck decided that this was fair, and began to like Francois a little.
Dave, the other dog, was not friendly. He wanted to be alone all the time. He ate and slept and was interested in nothing.
One day was very like another, but Buck noticed that the weather was getting colder. One morning, the ship’s engines stopped, and there was a feeling of excitement in the ship. Francois leashed the dogs and took them outside. At the first step Buck’s feet went into something soft and white. He jumped back in surprise. The soft, white thing was also falling through the air, and it fell onto him. He tried to smell it, and then caught some on his tongue. It bit like fire, and then dis appeared. He tried again and the same thing happened. People were watching him and laughing, and Buck felt ashamed, although he did not know why. It was his first snow.