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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

me.

 

"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

preparation.

 

"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

obey?`

 

"`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

it."

 

Pentfield shrugged his shoulders gloomily. "She can wait, I

guess."

 

"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

they arrived."

 

"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

heavily.

 

"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

hum:-

 

 

"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

out."

 

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

can`t lose."

 

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

beats you!"

 

But they rolled out deuce, tray, four, and five--a stiff still and

no better nor worse than Pentfield`s throw.

 

Hutchinson sighed.

 

"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

the States.

 

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

unconcern.

 

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

fiercely:-

 

"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

went out."

 

"And that is--?"

 

Pentfield read the full question in his partner`s eyes, and

answered:-

 

"Yes, that very thing. You can bring her in to me. The only

difference will be a Dawson wedding instead of a San Franciscan

one."

 

"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

fling."

 

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

Holmes lives.

 

"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

tell you."

 

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

light.

 

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

Detroit.

 

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







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