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Jack London 3 страница
those the gods would destroy they first make mad. And I have been
indeed mad. I have crossed thy will, and scoffed at thy authority,
and done divers evil and wanton things. Wherefore, last night a
vision was vouchsafed me, and I have seen the wickedness of my
ways. And thou stoodst forth like a shining star, with brows
aflame, and I knew in mine own heart thy greatness. I saw all
things clearly. I knew that thou didst command the ear of God, and
that when you spoke he listened. And I remembered that whatever of
the good deeds that I had done, I had done through the grace of
God, and the grace of Moosu.
"`Yes, my children,` I cried, turning to the people, `whatever
right I have done, and whatever good I have done, have been because
of the counsel of Moosu. When I listened to him, affairs
prospered; when I closed my ears, and acted according to my folly,
things came to folly. By his advice it was that I laid my store of
meat, and in time of darkness fed the famishing. By his grace it
was that I was made chief. And what have I done with my chiefship?
Let me tell you. I have done nothing. My head was turned with
power, and I deemed myself greater than Moosu, and, behold I have
come to grief. My rule has been unwise, and the gods are angered.
Lo, ye are pinched with famine, and the mothers are dry-breasted,
and the little babies cry through the long nights. Nor do I, who
have hardened my heart against Moosu, know what shall be done, nor
in what manner of way grub shall be had.`
"At this there was nodding and laughing, and the people put their
heads together, and I knew they whispered of the loaves and fishes.
I went on hastily. `So I was made aware of my foolishness and of
Moosu`s wisdom; of my own unfitness and of Moosu`s fitness. And
because of this, being no longer mad, I make acknowledgment and
rectify evil. I did cast unrighteous eyes upon Kluktu, and lo, she
was sealed to Moosu. Yet is she mine, for did I not pay to
Tummasook the goods of purchase? But I am well unworthy of her,
and she shall go from the igloo of her father to the igloo of
Moosu. Can the moon shine in the sunshine? And further, Tummasook
shall keep the goods of purchase, and she be a free gift to Moosu,
whom God hath ordained her rightful lord.
"`And further yet, because I have used my wealth unwisely, and to
oppress ye, O my children, do I make gifts of the kerosene can to
Moosu, and the gooseneck, and the gun-barrel, and the copper
kettle. Therefore, I can gather to me no more possessions, and
when ye are athirst for hooch, he will quench ye and without
robbery. For he is a great man, and God speaketh through his lips.
"`And yet further, my heart is softened, and I have repented me of
my madness. I, who am a fool and a son of fools; I, who am the
slave of the bad god Biz-e-Nass; I, who see thy empty bellies and
knew not wherewith to fill them--why shall I be chief, and sit
above thee, and rule to thine own destruction? Why should I do
this, which is not good? But Moosu, who is shaman, and who is wise
above men, is so made that he can rule with a soft hand and justly.
And because of the things I have related do I make abdication and
give my chiefship to Moosu, who alone knoweth how ye may be fed in
this day when there be no meat in the land.`
"At this there was a great clapping of hands, and the people cried,
`KLOSHE! KLOSHE!` which means `good.` I had seen the wonder-worry
in Moosu`s eyes; for he could not understand, and was fearful of my
white man`s wisdom. I had met his wishes all along the line, and
even anticipated some; and standing there, self-shorn of all my
power, he knew the time did not favour to stir the people against
"Before they could disperse I made announcement that while the
still went to Moosu, whatever hooch I possessed went to the people.
Moosu tried to protest at this, for never had we permitted more
than a handful to be drunk at a time; but they cried, `KLOSHE!
KLOSHE!` and made festival before my door. And while they waxed
uproarious without, as the liquor went to their heads, I held
council within with Angeit and the faithful ones. I set them the
tasks they were to do, and put into their mouths the words they
were to say. Then I slipped away to a place back in the woods
where I had two sleds, well loaded, with teams of dogs that were
not overfed. Spring was at hand, you see, and there was a crust to
the snow; so it was the best time to take the way south. Moreover,
the tobacco was gone. There I waited, for I had nothing to fear.
Did they bestir themselves on my trail, their dogs were too fat,
and themselves too lean, to overtake me; also, I deemed their
bestirring would be of an order for which I had made due
"First came a faithful one, running, and after him another. `O
master,` the first cried, breathless, `there be great confusion in
the village, and no man knoweth his own mind, and they be of many
minds. Everybody hath drunken overmuch, and some be stringing
bows, and some be quarrelling one with another. Never was there
such a trouble.`
"And the second one: `And I did as thou biddest, O master,
whispering shrewd words in thirsty ears, and raising memories of
the things that were of old time. The woman Ipsukuk waileth her
poverty and the wealth that no longer is hers. And Tummasook
thinketh himself once again chief, and the people are hungry and
rage up and down.`
"And a third one: `And Neewak hath overthrown the altars of Moosu,
and maketh incantation before the time-honoured and ancient gods.
And all the people remember the wealth that ran down their throats,
and which they possess no more. And first, Esanetuk, who be SICK
TUMTUM, fought with Kluktu, and there was much noise. And next,
being daughters of the one mother, did they fight with Tukeliketa.
And after that did they three fall upon Moosu, like wind-squalls,
from every hand, till he ran forth from the igloo, and the people
mocked him. For a man who cannot command his womankind is a fool.`
"Then came Angeit: `Great trouble hath befallen Moosu, O master,
for I have whispered to advantage, till the people came to Moosu,
saying they were hungry and demanding the fulfilment of prophecy.
And there was a loud shout of "Itlwillie! Itlwillie!" (Meat.) So
he cried peace to his womenfolk, who were overwrought with anger
and with hooch, and led the tribe even to thy meat caches. And he
bade the men open them and be fed. And lo, the caches were empty.
There was no meat. They stood without sound, the people being
frightened, and in the silence I lifted my voice. "O Moosu, where
is the meat? That there was meat we know. Did we not hunt it and
drag it in from the hunt? And it were a lie to say one man hath
eaten it; yet have we seen nor hide nor hair. Where is the meat, O
Moosu? Thou hast the ear of God. Where is the meat?"
"`And the people cried, "Thou hast the ear of God. Where is the
meat?" And they put their heads together and were afraid. Then I
went among them, speaking fearsomely of the unknown things, of the
dead that come and go like shadows and do evil deeds, till they
cried aloud in terror and gathered all together, like little
children afraid of the dark. Neewak made harangue, laying this
evil that had come upon them at the door of Moosu. When he had
done, there was a furious commotion, and they took spears in their
hands, and tusks of walrus, and clubs, and stones from the beach.
But Moosu ran away home, and because he had not drunken of hooch
they could not catch him, and fell one over another and made haste
slowly. Even now they do howl without his igloo, and his woman-
folk within, and what of the noise, he cannot make himself heard.`
"`O Angeit, thou hast done well,` I commanded. `Go now, taking
this empty sled and the lean dogs, and ride fast to the igloo of
Moosu; and before the people, who are drunken, are aware, throw him
quick upon the sled and bring him to me.`
"I waited and gave good advice to the faithful ones till Angeit
returned. Moosu was on the sled, and I saw by the fingermarks on
his face that his womankind had done well by him. But he tumbled
off and fell in the snow at my feet, crying: `O master, thou wilt
forgive Moosu, thy servant, for the wrong things he has done! Thou
art a great man! Surely wilt thou forgive!`
"`Call me "brother," Moosu--call me "brother,"` I chided, lifting
him to his feet with the toe of my moccasin. `Wilt thou evermore
"`Yea, master,` he whimpered, `evermore.`
"`Then dispose thy body, so, across the sled,` I shifted the
dogwhip to my right hand. `And direct thy face downwards, toward
the snow. And make haste, for we journey south this day.` And
when he was well fixed I laid the lash upon him, reciting, at every
stroke, the wrongs he had done me. `This for thy disobedience in
general--whack! And this for thy disobedience in particular--
whack! whack! And this for Esanetuk! And this for thy soul`s
welfare! And this for the grace of thy authority! And this for
Kluktu! And this for thy rights God-given! And this for thy fat
firstlings! And this and this for thy income-tax and thy loaves
and fishes! And this for all thy disobedience! And this, finally,
that thou mayest henceforth walk softly and with understanding!
Now cease thy sniffling and get up! Gird on thy snowshoes and go
to the fore and break trail for the dogs. CHOOK! MUSH-ON! Git!`"
Thomas Stevens smiled quietly to himself as he lighted his fifth
cigar and sent curling smoke-rings ceilingward.
"But how about the people of Tattarat?" I asked. "Kind of rough,
wasn`t it, to leave them flat with famine?"
And he answered, laughing, between two smoke-rings, "Were there not
the fat dogs?"
THE FAITH OF MEN
"Tell you what we`ll do; we`ll shake for it."
"That suits me," said the second man, turning, as he spoke, to the
Indian that was mending snow-shoes in a corner of the cabin.
"Here, you Billebedam, take a run down to Oleson`s cabin like a
good fellow, and tell him we want to borrow his dice box."
This sudden request in the midst of a council on wages of men,
wood, and grub surprised Billebedam. Besides, it was early in the
day, and he had never known white men of the calibre of Pentfield
and Hutchinson to dice and play till the day`s work was done. But
his face was impassive as a Yukon Indian`s should be, as he pulled
on his mittens and went out the door.
Though eight o`clock, it was still dark outside, and the cabin was
lighted by a tallow candle thrust into an empty whisky bottle. It
stood on the pine-board table in the middle of a disarray of dirty
tin dishes. Tallow from innumerable candles had dripped down the
long neck of the bottle and hardened into a miniature glacier. The
small room, which composed the entire cabin, was as badly littered
as the table; while at one end, against the wall, were two bunks,
one above the other, with the blankets turned down just as the two
men had crawled out in the morning.
Lawrence Pentfield and Corry Hutchinson were millionaires, though
they did not look it. There seemed nothing unusual about them,
while they would have passed muster as fair specimens of lumbermen
in any Michigan camp. But outside, in the darkness, where holes
yawned in the ground, were many men engaged in windlassing muck and
gravel and gold from the bottoms of the holes where other men
received fifteen dollars per day for scraping it from off the
bedrock. Each day thousands of dollars` worth of gold were scraped
from bedrock and windlassed to the surface, and it all belonged to
Pentfield and Hutchinson, who took their rank among the richest
kings of Bonanza.
Pentfield broke the silence that followed on Billebedam`s departure
by heaping the dirty plates higher on the table and drumming a
tattoo on the cleared space with his knuckles. Hutchinson snuffed
the smoky candle and reflectively rubbed the soot from the wick
between thumb and forefinger.
"By Jove, I wish we could both go out!" he abruptly exclaimed.
"That would settle it all."
Pentfield looked at him darkly.
"If it weren`t for your cursed obstinacy, it`d be settled anyway.
All you have to do is get up and go. I`ll look after things, and
next year I can go out."
"Why should I go? I`ve no one waiting for me--"
"Your people," Pentfield broke in roughly.
"Like you have," Hutchinson went on. "A girl, I mean, and you know
Pentfield shrugged his shoulders gloomily. "She can wait, I
"But she`s been waiting two years now."
"And another won`t age her beyond recognition."
"That`d be three years. Think of it, old man, three years in this
end of the earth, this falling-off place for the damned!"
Hutchinson threw up his arm in an almost articulate groan.
He was several years younger than his partner, not more than
twenty-six, and there was a certain wistfulness in his face that
comes into the faces of men when they yearn vainly for the things
they have been long denied. This same wistfulness was in
Pentfield`s face, and the groan of it was articulate in the heave
of his shoulders.
"I dreamed last night I was in Zinkand`s," he said. "The music
playing, glasses clinking, voices humming, women laughing, and I
was ordering eggs--yes, sir, eggs, fried and boiled and poached and
scrambled, and in all sorts of ways, and downing them as fast as
"I`d have ordered salads and green things," Hutchinson criticized
hungrily, "with a big, rare, Porterhouse, and young onions and
radishes,--the kind your teeth sink into with a crunch."
"I`d have followed the eggs with them, I guess, if I hadn`t
awakened," Pentfield replied.
He picked up a trail-scarred banjo from the floor and began to
strum a few wandering notes. Hutchinson winced and breathed
"Quit it!" he burst out with sudden fury, as the other struck into
a gaily lifting swing. "It drives me mad. I can`t stand it"
Pentfield tossed the banjo into a bunk and quoted:-
"Hear me babble what the weakest won`t confess -
I am Memory and Torment--I am Town!
I am all that ever went with evening dress!"
The other man winced where he sat and dropped his head forward on
the table. Pentfield resumed the monotonous drumming with his
knuckles. A loud snap from the door attracted his attention. The
frost was creeping up the inside in a white sheet, and he began to
"The flocks are folded, boughs are bare,
The salmon takes the sea;
And oh, my fair, would I somewhere
Might house my heart with thee."
Silence fell and was not again broken till Billebedam arrived and
threw the dice box on the table.
"Um much cold," he said. "Oleson um speak to me, um say um Yukon
freeze last night."
"Hear that, old man!" Pentfield cried, slapping Hutchinson on the
shoulder. "Whoever wins can be hitting the trail for God`s country
this time tomorrow morning!"
He picked up the box, briskly rattling the dice.
"What`ll it be?"
"Straight poker dice," Hutchinson answered. "Go on and roll them
Pentfield swept the dishes from the table with a crash and rolled
out the five dice. Both looked tragedy. The shake was without a
pair and five-spot high.
"A stiff!" Pentfield groaned.
After much deliberating Pentfield picked up all the five dice and
put them in the box.
"I`d shake to the five if I were you," Hutchinson suggested.
"No, you wouldn`t, not when you see this," Pentfield replied,
shaking out the dice.
Again they were without a pair, running this time in unbroken
sequence from two to six.
"A second stiff!" he groaned. "No use your shaking, Corry. You
The other man gathered up the dice without a word, rattled them,
rolled them out on the table with a flourish, and saw that he had
likewise shaken a six-high stiff.
"Tied you, anyway, but I`ll have to do better than that," he said,
gathering in four of them and shaking to the six. "And here`s what
But they rolled out deuce, tray, four, and five--a stiff still and
no better nor worse than Pentfield`s throw.
"Couldn`t happen once in a million times," said.
"Nor in a million lives," Pentfield added, catching up the dice and
quickly throwing them out. Three fives appeared, and, after much
delay, he was rewarded by a fourth five on the second shake.
Hutchinson seemed to have lost his last hope.
But three sixes turned up on his first shake. A great doubt rose
in the other`s eyes, and hope returned into his. He had one more
shake. Another six and he would go over the ice to salt water and
He rattled the dice in the box, made as though to cast them,
hesitated, and continued rattle them.
"Go on! Go on! Don`t take all night about it!" Pentfield cried
sharply, bending his nails on the table, so tight was the clutch
with which he strove to control himself.
The dice rolled forth, an upturned six meeting their eyes. Both
men sat staring at it. There was a long silence. Hutchinson shot
a covert glance at his partner, who, still more covertly, caught
it, and pursed up his lips in an attempt to advertise his
Hutchinson laughed as he got up on his feet. It was a nervous,
apprehensive laugh. It was a case where it was more awkward to win
than lose. He walked over to his partner, who whirled upon him
"Now you just shut up, Corry! I know all you`re going to say--that
you`d rather stay in and let me go, and all that; so don`t say it.
You`ve your own people in Detroit to see, and that`s enough.
Besides, you can do for me the very thing I expected to do if I
"And that is--?"
Pentfield read the full question in his partner`s eyes, and
"Yes, that very thing. You can bring her in to me. The only
difference will be a Dawson wedding instead of a San Franciscan
"But, man alike!" Corry Hutchinson objected "how under the sun can
I bring her in? We`re not exactly brother and sister, seeing that
I have not even met her, and it wouldn`t be just the proper thing,
you know, for us to travel together. Of course, it would be all
right--you and I know that; but think of the looks of it, man!"
Pentfield swore under his breath, consigning the looks of it to a
less frigid region than Alaska.
"Now, if you`ll just listen and not get astride that high horse of
yours so blamed quick," his partner went on, "you`ll see that the
only fair thing under the circumstances is for me to let you go out
this year. Next year is only a year away, and then I can take my
Pentfield shook his head, though visibly swayed by the temptation.
"It won`t do, Corry, old man. I appreciate your kindness and all
that, but it won`t do. I`d be ashamed every time I thought of you
slaving away in here in my place."
A thought seemed suddenly to strike him. Burrowing into his bunk
and disrupting it in his eagerness, he secured a writing-pad and
pencil, and sitting down at the table, began to write with
swiftness and certitude.
"Here," he said, thrusting the scrawled letter into his partner`s
hand. "You just deliver that and everything`ll be all right."
Hutchinson ran his eye over it and laid it down.
"How do you know the brother will be willing to make that beastly
trip in here?" he demanded.
"Oh, he`ll do it for me--and for his sister," Pentfield replied.
"You see, he`s tenderfoot, and I wouldn`t trust her with him alone.
But with you along it will be an easy trip and a safe one. As soon
as you get out, you`ll go to her and prepare her. Then you can
take your run east to your own people, and in the spring she and
her brother`ll be ready to start with you. You`ll like her, I
know, right from the jump; and from that, you`ll know her as soon
as you lay eyes on her."
So saying he opened the back of his watch and exposed a girl`s
photograph pasted on the inside of the case. Corry Hutchinson
gazed at it with admiration welling up in his eyes.
"Mabel is her name," Pentfield went on. "And it`s just as well you
should know how to find the house. Soon as you strike `Frisco,
take a cab, and just say, `Holmes`s place, Myrdon Avenue`--I doubt
if the Myrdon Avenue is necessary. The cabby`ll know where Judge
"And say," Pentfield continued, after a pause, "it won`t be a bad
idea for you to get me a few little things which a--er--"
"A married man should have in his business," Hutchinson blurted out
with a grin.
Pentfield grinned back.
"Sure, napkins and tablecloths and sheets and pillowslips, and such
things. And you might get a good set of china. You know it`ll
come hard for her to settle down to this sort of thing. You can
freight them in by steamer around by Bering Sea. And, I say,
what`s the matter with a piano?"
Hutchinson seconded the idea heartily. His reluctance had
vanished, and he was warming up to his mission.
"By Jove! Lawrence," he said at the conclusion of the council, as
they both rose to their feet, "I`ll bring back that girl of yours
in style. I`ll do the cooking and take care of the dogs, and all
that brother`ll have to do will be to see to her comfort and do for
her whatever I`ve forgotten. And I`ll forget damn little, I can
The next day Lawrence Pentfield shook hands with him for the last
time and watched him, running with his dogs, disappear up the
frozen Yukon on his way to salt water and the world. Pentfield
went back to his Bonanza mine, which was many times more dreary
than before, and faced resolutely into the long winter. There was
work to be done, men to superintend, and operations to direct in
burrowing after the erratic pay streak; but his heart was not in
the work. Nor was his heart in any work till the tiered logs of a
new cabin began to rise on the hill behind the mine. It was a
grand cabin, warmly built and divided into three comfortable rooms.
Each log was hand-hewed and squared--an expensive whim when the
axemen received a daily wage of fifteen dollars; but to him nothing
could be too costly for the home in which Mabel Holmes was to live.
So he went about with the building of the cabin, singing, "And oh,
my fair, would I somewhere might house my heart with thee!" Also,
he had a calendar pinned on the wall above the table, and his first
act each morning was to check off the day and to count the days
that were left ere his partner would come booming down the Yukon
ice in the spring. Another whim of his was to permit no one to
sleep in the new cabin on the hill. It must be as fresh for her
occupancy as the square-hewed wood was fresh; and when it stood
complete, he put a padlock on the door. No one entered save
himself, and he was wont to spend long hours there, and to come
forth with his face strangely radiant and in his eyes a glad, warm
In December he received a letter from Corry Hutchinson. He had
just seen Mabel Holmes. She was all she ought to be, to be
Lawrence Pentfield`s wife, he wrote. He was enthusiastic, and his
letter sent the blood tingling through Pentfield`s veins. Other
letters followed, one on the heels of another, and sometimes two or
three together when the mail lumped up. And they were all in the
same tenor. Corry had just come from Myrdon Avenue; Corry was just
going to Myrdon Avenue; or Corry was at Myrdon Avenue. And he
lingered on and on in San Francisco, nor even mentioned his trip to
Lawrence Pentfield began to think that his partner was a great deal
in the company of Mabel Holmes for a fellow who was going east to
see his people. He even caught himself worrying about it at times,
though he would have worried more had he not known Mabel and Corry
so well. Mabel`s letters, on the other hand, had a great deal to
say about Corry. Also, a thread of timidity that was near to
disinclination ran through them concerning the trip in over the ice
and the Dawson marriage. Pentfield wrote back heartily, laughing
at her fears, which he took to be the mere physical ones of danger
and hardship rather than those bred of maidenly reserve.
But the long winter and tedious wait, following upon the two
previous long winters, were telling upon him. The superintendence
of the men and the pursuit of the pay streak could not break the