Thirty days after leaving Dawson City, the team arrived back in Skagway. They were very, very tired Buck now weighed only fifty kilograms, and the other dogs were also very thin. They were not ill; they just needed a long, long rest. But at Skagway there were mountains of letters waiting to go north,so the men had to buy new, strong dogs The old ones, now useless for work, were sold. Two American men, called Hal and Charles, bought Buck and his team, together with the harness. Charles was forty years old, with light hair and watery blue eyes. Hal was a young man of twenty with a big shiny gun and a big knife in his belt .These things, more than anything, showed how young he was Both men were clearly new to the north, and its hard and dangerous life. They took the dogs back to their untidy camp, where a woman was waiting .This was Mercedes—Charles's wife and Hal's sister. Buck watched the men take down the tent and load all their luggage on the sledge. They didn't know how to do it sensibly, and every time they put something on the sledge,Mercedes moved it. Often they had to take things off the sledge and start again. Three men came up and watched, laughing "You've got a heavy load on that sledge," said one of them "Why don't you leave the tent here in Skagway?" "How could we live without a tent?" asked Mercedes,throwing up her hands in the air. "It's spring now.You won't have any more cold weather," "I must have a tent," she answered, and helped Charles and Hal with the last few boxes. "Do you think that load will stay on?"asked another man. "Why shouldn't it?" asked Charles. "Well, it's a bit heavy on top. Do you think your dogs will be able to pull that?" "Of course they will," said Hal. The sledge was now ready to go." Come on,dogs, pull!" he shouted. The dogs pulled as hard as they could, but the sledge did not move. "The lazy animals!"shouted Hal, picking up his whip. But Mercedes stopped him "Oh, Hal, you mustn't," she cried, pulling the whip away from him." The poor dogs.You must promise to be nice to them or I'm staying here!" "You know nothing about dogs," answered Hal." Leave me alone Dogs are lazy, and you have to whip them. Everybody knows that. Ask those men if you don't believe me," Mercedes turned and looked at the watching men. "They" re tired, if you really want to know," said one of them "They" ve been working very hard and they need a rest," "Rest?"laughed Hal." These stupid dogs are just lazy," Now Mercedes decided that her brother was right." Don't listen to that man," she said "You're driving our dogs and you do what you think is best," Now Hal used his whip on the dogs. They pulled and pulled,but the sledge stayed where it was.Hal was still using his whip when Mercedes stopped him again and put her arms around Buck. "You poor,poor dears," she said." Why don't you pull hard?—then nobody will whip you," One of the men watching now spoke again." I don't care what happens to you," he said," but I'm sorry for the dogs.The sledge is frozen to the snow,and you'll have to break it out. Push it from one side to the other to break the ice," Hal tried again,but this time he broke the ice under the sledge.The heavy sledge started to move slowly,Buck and his team pulling hard under the whip.After a hundred metres they had to turn into another street.It was a difficult turn with a top-heavy load,and Hal was not a good driver.As they turned,the sledge went over onto its side,throwing boxes and packets into the street.The dogs didn't stop. The sledge was not so heavy now and they pulled it easily on its side.The whip had made them angry and they started to run.Hal cried "Stop!" but the dogs continued through Skagway,and the rest of the luggage fell off as they ran. People helped to catch the dogs and to pick up all the things from the street. They also told the men that if they wanted to reach Dawson,they needed twice as many dogs and half as much luggage.Hal and Charles went back to the camp and started to look at the luggage and throw things away.Tent,blankets and plates were taken out.Mercedes cried when most of her clothes went.When they had finished,Mercedes was still crying,there was a lot of luggage on the road,and there was still a lot to go on the sledge. Then Charles and Hal went out and bought six more dogs,so they now had fourteen. But the new dogs were not real sledge-dogs and they knew nothing about the work.Charles and Hal put them into harness, but Buck could not teach them how to pull a sledge.So now there were six dogs who couldn't pull at all, and eight who were tired after pulling for four thousand kilometres.But Charles and Hal were happy.They had more dogs than any sledge that they had seen at Skagway.They didn" t know that no sledge could carry enough food for fourteen dogs. The next morning Buck led the team up the street.They moved slowly, because they were tired before they started.Buck had pulled to Dawson and back twice,and he didn't want to do it again.He had watched Hal and Charles and Mercedes and he saw that they didn't know how to do any thing.And,as the days passed,he saw that they could not learn.It took them half the evening to get everything ready for the night;and it took them half the morning to get ready to leave. And when they did start, they often had to stop because something had fallen off the sledge.On some days they travelled twenty kilometres and on some days only ten. They didn't have enough dog food when they started,and they used what they had much too quickly.Hal gave the dogs extra food because he wanted them to pull harder.Mercedes gave them extra food because she was sorry for them.But it was not food that they wanted,but rest. Soon Hal saw that they had travelled only a quarter of the way to Dawson,but had eaten half their food.He had to give the dogs less food. It was easy to give them less food,but it was impossible to make them travel faster. Dub had pulled hard and well all the way from Skagway,but he had hurt his leg.It got worse and worse until finally Hal had to shoot him.The six new dogs,now weak and ill from hunger and hard work,died next. Hal,Charles,and Mercedes had started the journey happily;but now they were tired,cross and miserable.Charles and Hal argued about everything,because each thought that he was working harder than the other.And Mer cedes was unhappy because she thought that she shouldn't have to work.She was tired,so she rode on the sledge,mak ing the work even harder for the dogs.She rode for days,until the dogs could not move the sledge.The men asked her to walk,but she would not leave the sledge.One day they lifted her off.She sat in the snow and did not move.They went off with the sledge and travelled five kilometres.Then they turned,went back,and lifted her on again. Buck and the other dogs were now just skin and bone.They pulled when they could,and when they couldn't they lay down in the snow.When they were whipped,they stood up and tried to pull again. One day Billee fell and could not stand up.Hal killed him and threw him into the snow. Buck and the other dogs knew that soon they were going to die,too.On the next day Koona died,and there were only five dogs left:Joe,Pike,Sol-leks the one-eyed,Teek,and Buck. It was beautiful spring weather.The snow and ice were melting,the plants were growing,and the forest animals were waking from their winter sleep.It was a lovely morning when the two men, and the five dogs pulling Mercedes on the sledge,came into John Thornton's camp at White River.They stopped,and the dogs dropped down immediately to rest. John Thornton was mending an axe,and he went on working as he talked to Hal. "Is it safe to cross the river here?"asked Hal. "No,the ice is too thin.It's much too dangerous,answered Thornton. "People have told us that before," laughed Hal," but we got here with no problems," "Only somebody very stupid would cross the White River here," said Thornton. "That's what you think," said Hal." But we've got to get to Dawson." He pickd up his whip." Come on,Buck!Get up now!Let's go!" Thornton went on working.He had warned them,but he knew he couldn't stop these stupid men from going on. But Buck didn't get up.Sol-leks stood up slowly,then Teek and Joe,and finally Pike.But Buck stayed where he was.The whip came down on him again and again.Thornton started to speak,then stopped,and began to walk up and down. Hal now put down his whip and started to hit Buck with a club.But Buck had decided not to get up.He had felt thin ice under his feet all day and he saw thin ice in front of him.The club hit him again and again,but Buck felt almost nothing. Then suddenly, with a wild cry,John Thornton jumped on Hal,throwing him backwards.Mercedes screamed. "If you hit that dog again,I"11 kill you," Thornton shouted. "He's my dog," Hal replied.There was blood on his face." Get out of my way,or I"11 hit you,too.I'm going to Dawson," Thornton stood between Hal and Buck and did not move.Hal took out his long knife,but Thornton knocked it out of his hand.Mercedes screamed again.Then Thornton picked up Hal's knife and cut Buck out of the harness. Hal didn't want to fight,and Buck was not worth fighting for;he was nearly dead. Hal started the sledge and went down towards the river.Buck lifted his head and watched the sledge move away.Pike was leading,and Joe,Teek and Sol-leks were behind him.Hal was walking in front of the sledge and Mercedes was riding on it;Charles was walking behind. As Buck watched,Thornton felt his body with gentle hands,searching for broken bones.Buck was very thin,very tired and very weak,but Thornton didn't think he was going to die.Then both dog and man watched the sledge as it went slowly out on to the ice in the middle of the river.Suddenly the back of the sledge went down and the front went up into the air. Mercedes screamed,and Charles turned and took one step back. Then a big piece of ice broke off,and dogs,sledge and people disappeared;there was only a big hole in the ice. John Thornton and Buck looked at one another. "You poor thing," said John Thornton,and Buck licked his hand.