White fang by jack london
The Trail of the Meat.
DARK SPRUCE FOREST frowned on either side the frozen waterway. The
trees had been stripped by a recent wind of their white covering of
the frost, and they seemed to lean toward each other, black and
ominous, in the fading light. A vast silence reigned over the land.
The land itself was a desolation, lifeless, without movement, so
lone and cold that the spirit of it was not even that of sadness.
There was a hint in it of laughter, but of a laughter more terrible
than any sadness- a laughter that was mirthless as the smile of the
Sphinx, a laughter cold as the frost and partaking of the grimness
of infallibility. It was the masterful and incommunicable wisdom of
eternity laughing at the futility of life and the effort of life. It
was the Wild, the savage, frozen-hearted Northland Wild.
But there was life, abroad in the land and defiant. Down the
frozen waterway toiled a string of wolfish dogs. Their bristly fur was
rimed with frost. Their breath froze in the air as it left their
mouths, spouting forth in spumes of vapor that settled upon the hair
of their bodies and formed into crystals of frost. Leather harness was
on the dogs, and leather traces attached them to a sled which
dragged along behind. The sled was without runners. It was made of
stout birch-bark, and its full surface rested on the snow. The front
end of the sled was turned up, like a scroll in order to force down
and under the bore of soft snow that surged like a wave before it.
On the sled, securely lashed, was a long and narrow oblong box.
There were other things on the sled-blankets, an axe, and a coffee-pot
and frying-pan; but prominent, occupying most of the space, was the
long and narrow oblong box.
In advance of the dogs, on wide snowshoes, toiled a man. At the rear
of the sled toiled a second man. On the sled, in the box, lay a
third man whose toil was over- a man whom the Wild had conquered and
beaten down until he would never move nor struggle again. It is not
the way of the Wild to like movement. Life is an offense to it, for
life is movement; and the Wild aims always to destroy movement. It
freezes the water to prevent it running to the sea; it drives the
sap out of the trees till they are frozen to their mighty hearts;
and most ferociously and terribly of all does the Wild harry and crush
into submission man- man, who is the most restless of life, ever in
revolt against the dictum that all movement must in the end come to
the cessation of movement.
But at front and rear, unawed and indomitable, toiled the two men
who were not yet dead. Their bodies were covered with fur and
soft-tanned leather. Eyelashes and cheeks and lips were so coated with
the crystals from their frozen breath that their faces were not
discernible. This gave them the seeming of ghostly masques,
undertakers in a spectral world at the funeral of some ghost. But
under it all they were men, penetrating the land of desolation and
mockery and silence, puny adventurers bent on colossal adventure,
pitting themselves against the might of a world as remote and alien
and pulseless as the abysses of space.