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CHAPTER SUMMARY AND NOTES
After the men finish their breakfast and load their gear onto the sled, they set out in the darkness, as the wolves continue to howl. Daybreak comes at nine in the morning, and the sky warms to a rose color at mid day. The light, however, quickly fades in the afternoon, and it grows dark again, forcing the men to stop. As the wolves' cries get closer and closer to their camp, the dogs are thrown into a panic. Henry is preparing food when he hears a different cry coming from the dogs. He then notices a strange dog among his own and thinks that perhaps it is a tame wolf. The next morning, Henry wakes up to Bill's curses. Another dog, Frog, has disappeared. The men eat their breakfast, harness the four dogs to the sled, and leave, pursued by the wolves.
When they stop for the night, Bill ties the dogs in such a manner that they cannot tangle their traces anymore, and he is confident that none of the dogs can get away. Just then, One Ear begins to whine. The men see the "dog-like animal," the she-wolf, who has been luring the dogs away so that her pack can feed on them. They realize that she is quite tame and must have had some experience with humans. The next morning Spanker is gone. The men later find the stick to which Spanker was tied and conclude that the wolves have killed him.
Bill goes to take a look at the wolves and comes back with the news that they are very thin and desperately hungry. They see the she-wolf approaching them again. She is over two feet tall at the shoulder and five feet long, with a gray wolf coat that has an unusual reddish hue. She is not a bit scared of the men and eyes them hungrily. Bill is tempted to use his gun, but Henry advises him against it, reminding him they have only three cartridges left. Besides, the she-wolf has already disappeared into the woods.
The other wolves are getting bolder as they approach the men, but the remaining dogs manage to hold them off. Bill has lost hope by now and is sure that the wolves will eventually overpower them. When Henry snaps at him, he does not even get a response from Bill. Henry resolves to try to lift his companion's spirits the next day.
The dark mood of the novel is further developed in this chapter. Although it is normal daytime, the light lasts for only a few hours. Additionally, whenever the men stop for the night, the cries of the wolves come closer and closer. The men are also slowly losing their dog-team to the wolves. A female wolf comes amongst the dogs and lures them away. Bill believes that the she-wolf is tame, not afraid of humans. Bill states "that animal's familiarity with campfires is suspicious and immoral."
The men "amuse" themselves at the sight of the gleaming circle of wolf eyes that surrounds them and draws closer every night. The men believe they are helpless. A couple of shots at these animals would probably have been enough to scare the wolves away, but the men are nearly out of ammunition and cannot spare the shots. They must rely upon the sight of the fire the keep the wolves at bay.
The fact that nothing is left of Spanker, except for the stick to which he was tied, shows how hungry the wolves are, making them very aggressive. They relentless pursue Bill and Henry, which leads Bill to conclude that they are going to end up as prey. Henry's encouraging remarks do not seem to have any effect on Bill, who is typically preoccupied with his own thoughts.
The she-wolf is shown to be a unique creature in both appearance and character. The unusual red tinge of her coat is quite striking and implies that she is not a pure wolf. Her behavior is also unlike that of the typical wolf, for she is not afraid to draw near the fire or the humans.