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When the team was back at Skagway, they were all worn out and footsore. Even the drivers complained about the situation but they were not given any rest time because the mail had to be delivered. When it became clear that the dogs were unable to continue the run, the men were ordered to replace them with another group of dogs and sell the "old ones".
After four days, Buck and the rest of the team was bought by two men, named Charles and Hal. When they were taken to the new camp, Buck realized that his new owners were not experienced in the ways of the North. The camp was in disarray even though Hal's sister was trying to maintain it. When they were ready to leave, neither of the men knew how to load the sled and over-packed it. Some of the near-by campers tried to give them advice, but neither of the men took any heed. As a result, the dogs were unable to move the sled. Hal proceeded to whip them so that they would exert more energy and get the sled to move. Mercedes tried to interfere and prevent Hal from lashing out at the dogs, but he insisted that he knew best. He finally took the advice of a by-stander who told him that the runners were frozen to the ground and had to be broken out. When this was done, they were able to get started. They were moving only a short distance when they reached a sharp incline. Hal was unable to maneuver the sled and it tipped over. As most of the load scattered, the sled became lighter and the dogs broke into a run not heeding Hal's command to halt. They were finally stopped by some other men and led back to Hal. These men also suggested that Hal should lighten the load and get rid of most of the supplies that were frivolous. Even though Mercedes was very upset by this, Hal and Charles followed this advice. That evening, they bought more dogs bringing the number to fourteen but they did not remember to increase the food supply. The newcomers were insufficiently trained and gave Buck a hard time. Since they were poorly fed nor adequately rested, the wear and tear of the trip began to take its toll and the dogs got very ill and a number of them even died. Hal, Charles, and Merecedes also reflected the wear and the tear of this strenuous schedule and there was constant bickering amongst them.
When they finally reached Jim Thornton's camp who is an experienced gold hunter, everybody was exhausted. Instead of resting and heeding his advice that they should not undertake the rest of the trip because the trail was in poor condition, Hal insisted to move on. When he wanted to get started, the team would not move. He started to whip the dogs but no matter how hard he clubbed them, he could not get them to get up. After enough blows, they slowly got to their feet except Buck who did not move at all. Hal was furious and lashed out at Buck. No matter how hard he whipped him, Buck would not move. Suddenly, Thornton who had been watching and trying to stay out of their business could not endure this cruelty and interfered by hitting Hal and knocking him down to the ground. He then cut Buck's traces and prevented both Charles and Hal from touching the dog. Realizing that they had no choice, the men left and Buck stayed behind with Thornton. Only a few minutes elapsed when they heard a crashing sound and saw the trail give way. It appeared as if the group had been swallowed by the ground.
This chapter deals with the problems that sled dogs have to endure when they are in the hands of men who are poorly qualified to deal with the Arctic environment and with life on the trail. In addition to being inexperienced, Hal, Charles, and Mercedes exhibit stupidity and obstinacy in refusing to take the advice that more seasoned men of the wild attempt to offer. They miscalculate the amount of provisions that they will need for the trip as well as the conditions that they will meet. To counteract their ineptitude, they argue among themselves and are inhumane to their dogs.
John Thornton represents the complete opposite. He is an experienced man of the Arctic region who is knowledgeable of the dangers that lurk in the North. He tries to warn Charles, Hal, and Mercedes of the impending dangers that lurks on the trail. He is also extremely kind and rescues Buck from Hal's cruel beatings when Buck refuses to pull the sled.
It is interesting to note how London is able to sway the reader into almost rejoicing with Buck when he witnesses the accident that kills Hal, Charles, and Mercedes and from which he had been saved. "John Thornton and Buck looked at each other. 'You poor devil,' said John Thornton, and Buck licked his hand."
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