John Thornton had been ill in December, and his two friends had had to leave him at White River and go on to Dawson. They left him in the camp with plenty of food , and with his two dogs, Skeet and Blackie. Now the spring had come, and he was almost well. He lay in the sun by the river with Buck, watching the water and listening to the birds, slowly getting stronger and stronger. A rest is very welcome after running five thousand kilome tres, and Buck slowly got fatter and stronger. It was a peace ful, lazy time for both man and dogs while they waited for Thornton's friends to return from Dawson. Skeet made friends with Buck immediately, and while Buck was still very ill,  every morning she washed his cuts carefully with her tongue. Blackie, too, was friendly, and as Buck grew stronger, the three dogs often played games together. Sometimes Thornton joined the games too. The days passed very happily, and for the first time, Buck learned to love, He had never loved a man before. He and Mr Miller in the Santa Clara valley had been very good friends, but Buck had not loved him. John Thornton had saved his life, but he was also a man who was naturally kind to animals. He took very good care of his dogs, not because it was sensible to do that,  but because he felt they were his children.  He was always talking to Buck, holding his head and shaking it lovingly. In answer, Buck liked to take Thornton's hand gently in his mouth. Buck was happy to lie on the ground all day and watch Thornton And when Thornton spoke to him or touched him, Buck went wild with happiness.  At first,  he was afraid that Thornton was going to disappear, like Perrault and Francois, and at night he sometimes woke up and went to the tent to make sure that he was still there. But something was changing in Buck. He had lived in the north a long time now, and he was almost a wild dog. He was happy to sit by Thornton's fire, but he sat as a wild animal, and his dreams were filled with other animals—dogs,  half wolves, and wild wolves. They seemed to call him into the forest, and sometimes Buck wanted to leave the fire and answer the call. But every time he went into the trees, his love for Thornton brought him back. It was only Thornton who stopped him going into the forest. Other men did not interest him. Visitors to the camp tried to make friends with him, but Buck stayed cold. When Thornton's two friends, Hans and Pete, arrived from Dawson, Buck refused to notice them at first. Then he saw that they were friends of Thornton's and after that he accept ed them;but they were not his friends They were, like Thornton, kind men, and they understood that Buck loved Thornton, and him alone. Thornton, too, understood Buck. One day, Buck and the three men were sitting on some high rocks,  a hundred metres above the river. Thornton wondered if Buck would obey any order,  even a crazy one."Jump, Buck!"he shouted, pointing down to the river. A second later the three men were holding Buck back as he tried to jump. "That was very strange, "said Pete,  when they had sat down again. "Not strange;wonderful, "said Thornton."Terrible, too. Sometimes it frightens me. "Yes. I feel sorry for any man who hits you when Buck's near, "said Pete. "So do I, "said Hans. It happened in the autumn in Circle City. A man called Bur ton was starting a fight with another man in a bar. Thornton stepped between them to try to stop them. Buck was, as usual, lying in the corner watching. Burton hit Thornton and he nearly fell, just catching a table. Buck flew through the air at Burton's throat. Burton saved his life by putting up his arm, and was thrown on to the ground, with Buck on top of him. Buck took his teeth out of the man's arm and this time bit into his throat. Then a crowd of people pulled Buck off, and a doctor was called. Everyone agreed that Buck had only attacked because he saw Thornton in danger, and from that day Buck's name became famous all over the north. Later that year, Buck saved Thornton in a different way. The three men were taking a boat down a fast and rocky river. Thornton was in the boat, while Hans and Pete moved along the river bank, holding the boat with a rope. Buck followed them, keeping a worried eye on Thornton. They came to a more dangerous part of the river,  and the boat started to go too quickly. Hans pulled on the rope to stop it, and pulled too hard. The boat turned over, and Thornton was thrown into the water and carried down river towards rocks where no swimmer could live. Buck jumped in immediately and swam three hundred me tres until he reached Thornton. Then he turned, and with Thornton holding his tail, Buck swam towards the river bank. But they moved slowly, and all the time the river was carrying them towards the place where the water crashed twenty metres down onto rocks. Thornton knew that they would not get to the bank quickly enough, so he let go of Buck, held on to a rock in the middle of the water, and shouted, "Go, Buck, go!" Buck swam as hard as he could to the bank, and Pete and Hans pulled him out. It was hard for Thornton to hold on to his rock in that wild water, and his friends knew they had only a few minutes to save him. They tied their rope round Buck, who at once jumped into the river and tried to swim to Thornton. The first time, the water took him past the rock, and Pete and Hans had to pull him back The second time, he swam higher up the river, and the water brought him down to Thornton. Thornton held on to Buck, and Hans and Pete pulled the rope as hard as they could. Man and dog disappeared under the water, banging into rocks, turning over and over, sometimes with Buck on top, sometimes Thornton. When Hans and Pete finally pulled them out, both seemed more dead than alive But after a while their eyes opened and life returned That winter, at Dawson, Buck did something that made him even more famous in the north. It was also very helpful to the three men. They wanted to make a journey to look for gold in the east, and they needed money. They were in a bar one day when some of the men started to talk about dogs. One man said that he had a dog who was strong enough to pull a sledge with two hundred kilos on it. Another said his dog could pull two hundred and fifty. A third man, called Matthewson, said his dog could pull three hundred kilos. "That's nothing, "said Thornton."Buck can pull three hundred and fifty. "Can he break the sledge out when it's frozen to the ice and then start it moving?And pull it a hundred metres?" asked Matthewson. "He can break it out, and start it, and pull it a hundred metres, said Thornton. "Well, "said Matthewson, speaking slowly and loudly."I've got a thousand dollars here, and I say he can't." As he spoke, he took a bag of gold and put it down on the table. Suddenly Thornton was worried. He knew Buck was strong, but was he strong enough? Now ten men were watching him and waiting. He didn't have a thousand dollars, and neither did Hans or Pete. "I've got a sledge outside with three hundrd and fifty kilos on it, "said Matthewson."So it's easy if you want to try. Thornton didn't know what to say. He looked at the other men in the bar. One of them was an old friend, Jim O"Brien. "Can yon lend me a thousand dollars, Jim?"he asked softly. "Sure, "said O"Brien, putting another bag of gold next to Matthewson's."But I don't think the dog can do it, John. Everybody went out into the street. There were two or three hundred men around Matthewson's sledge. The sledge had been outside the bar for two hours, and it was frozen to the ice, in a temperature of 50°below zero. Most of the men thought that Buck was not strong enough, and Matthewson smiled happily. "Shall we make it two thousand dollars?"he asked. Thornton, Hans and Pete talked for a minute. They had only four hundred dollars, but they added this to O"Brien's thousand. Matthewson, very sure of winning. also put down another four hundred dollars. Matthewson's ten dogs were taken away, and Buck, who could feel the excitement in the air, was harnessed to the sledge. Buck was, without question, a very fine animal—bright-eyed, intelligent, his thick coat shining with health. And he looked as strong as a horse. One man went up to Thornton."I'll buy him now, "he said."I"11 give you eight hundred dollars for him. Thornton shook his head and sat down on the snow next to Buck. He held Buck's head in his hands and spoke softly into his ear."If you love me, Buck. If you love me. Buck took Thornton's hand between his teeth, then let go, and Thornton stood up and stepped back. "Ready, Buck, "he said. Buck pulled on the harness a little,  getting ready. "Right!"cried Thornton. Buck pulled to the right, hard, stopped suddenly, and the ice under the sledge began to break. "Now, left!"called Thornton, and Buck pulled to the left, breaking more of the ice. "Now, pull!" Buck threw himself against his harness, and pulled. He held his body low to the ground, his head down and forward, and his feet dug into the hard snow. Harder and harder he pulled. Suddenly, the sledge moved a centimetre…two…three…and, little by little, it started to go forward across the snow. With each second it went a little faster, and Thornton ran be hind, calling to Buck as he pulled the sledge towards the end of the hundred metres. The watching men were shouting and throwing their hats in the air;Buck had won. Then Thornton was on the snow next to Buck again, talking to him, and Buck had Thornton's hand in his teeth.