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Jack London 11 страница
tickets and saw her off, the while smiling in her face and
muttering "dam-shame" into his beard.
With roar and rumble, through daylight and dark, swaying and
lurching between the dawns, soaring into the winter snows and
sinking to summer valleys, skirting depths, leaping chasms,
piercing mountains, Jees Uck and her boy were hurled south. But
she had no fear of the iron stallion; nor was she stunned by this
masterful civilization of Neil Bonner`s people. It seemed, rather,
that she saw with greater clearness the wonder that a man of such
godlike race had held her in his arms. The screaming medley of San
Francisco, with its restless shipping, belching factories, and
thundering traffic, did not confuse her; instead, she comprehended
swiftly the pitiful sordidness of Twenty Mile and the skin-lodged
Toyaat village. And she looked down at the boy that clutched her
hand and wondered that she had borne him by such a man.
She paid the hack-driver five pieces and went up the stone steps of
Neil Bonner`s front door. A slant-eyed Japanese parleyed with her
for a fruitless space, then led her inside and disappeared. She
remained in the hall, which to her simply fancy seemed to be the
guest-room--the show-place wherein were arrayed all the household
treasures with the frank purpose of parade and dazzlement. The
walls and ceiling were of oiled and panelled redwood. The floor
was more glassy than glare-ice, and she sought standing place on
one of the great skins that gave a sense of security to the
polished surface. A huge fireplace--an extravagant fireplace, she
deemed it--yawned in the farther wall. A flood of light, mellowed
by stained glass, fell across the room, and from the far end came
the white gleam of a marble figure.
This much she saw, and more, when the slant-eyed servant led the
way past another room--of which she caught a fleeting glance--and
into a third, both of which dimmed the brave show of the entrance
hall. And to her eyes the great house seemed to hold out the
promise of endless similar rooms. There was such length and
breadth to them, and the ceilings were so far away! For the first
time since her advent into the white man`s civilization, a feeling
of awe laid hold of her. Neil, her Neil, lived in this house,
breathed the air of it, and lay down at night and slept! It was
beautiful, all this that she saw, and it pleased her; but she felt,
also, the wisdom and mastery behind. It was the concrete
expression of power in terms of beauty, and it was the power that
she unerringly divined.
And then came a woman, queenly tall, crowned with a glory of hair
that was like a golden sun. She seemed to come toward Jees Uck as
a ripple of music across still water; her sweeping garment itself a
song, her body playing rhythmically beneath. Jees Uck herself was
a man compeller. There were Oche Ish and Imego and Hah Yo and Wy
Nooch, to say nothing of Neil Bonner and John Thompson and other
white men that had looked upon her and felt her power. But she
gazed upon the wide blue eyes and rose-white skin of this woman
that advanced to meet her, and she measured her with woman`s eyes
looking through man`s eyes; and as a man compeller she felt herself
diminish and grow insignificant before this radiant and flashing
"You wish to see my husband?" the woman asked; and Jees Uck gasped
at the liquid silver of a voice that had never sounded harsh cries
at snarling wolf-dogs, nor moulded itself to a guttural speech, nor
toughened in storm and frost and camp smoke.
"No," Jees Uck answered slowly and gropingly, in order that she
might do justice to her English. "I come to see Neil Bonner."
"He is my husband," the woman laughed.
Then it was true! John Thompson had not lied that bleak February
day, when she laughed pridefully and shut the door in his face. As
once she had thrown Amos Pentley across her knee and ripped her
knife into the air, so now she felt impelled to spring upon this
woman and bear her back and down, and tear the life out of her fair
body. But Jees Uck was thinking quickly and gave no sign, and
Kitty Bonner little dreamed how intimately she had for an instant
been related with sudden death.
Jees Uck nodded her head that she understood, and Kitty Bonner
explained that Neil was expected at any moment. Then they sat down
on ridiculously comfortable chairs, and Kitty sought to entertain
her strange visitor, and Jees Uck strove to help her.
"You knew my husband in the North?" Kitty asked, once.
"Sure. I wash um clothes," Jees Uck had answered, her English
abruptly beginning to grow atrocious.
"And this is your boy? I have a little girl."
Kitty caused her daughter to be brought, and while the children,
after their manner, struck an acquaintance, the mothers indulged in
the talk of mothers and drank tea from cups so fragile that Jees
Uck feared lest hers should crumble to pieces beneath her fingers.
Never had she seen such cups, so delicate and dainty. In her mind
she compared them with the woman who poured the tea, and there
uprose in contrast the gourds and pannikins of the Toyaat village
and the clumsy mugs of Twenty Mile, to which she likened herself.
And in such fashion and such terms the problem presented itself.
She was beaten. There was a woman other than herself better fitted
to bear and upbring Neil Bonner`s children. Just as his people
exceeded her people, so did his womankind exceed her. They were
the man compellers, as their men were the world compellers. She
looked at the rose-white tenderness of Kitty Bonner`s skin and
remembered the sun-beat on her own face. Likewise she looked from
brown hand to white--the one, work-worn and hardened by whip-handle
and paddle, the other as guiltless of toil and soft as a newborn
babe`s. And, for all the obvious softness and apparent weakness,
Jees Uck looked into the blue eyes and saw the mastery she had seen
in Neil Bonner`s eyes and in the eyes of Neil Bonner`s people.
"Why, it`s Jees Uck!" Neil Bonner said, when he entered. He said
it calmly, with even a ring of joyful cordiality, coming over to
her and shaking both her hands, but looking into her eyes with a
worry in his own that she understood.
"Hello, Neil!" she said. "You look much good."
"Fine, fine, Jees Uck," he answered heartily, though secretly
studying Kitty for some sign of what had passed between the two.
Yet he knew his wife too well to expect, even though the worst had
passed, such a sign.
"Well, I can`t say how glad I am to see you," he went on. "What`s
happened? Did you strike a mine? And when did you get in?"
"Oo-a, I get in to-day," she replied, her voice instinctively
seeking its guttural parts. "I no strike it, Neil. You known
Cap`n Markheim, Unalaska? I cook, his house, long time. No spend
money. Bime-by, plenty. Pretty good, I think, go down and see
White Man`s Land. Very fine, White Man`s Land, very fine," she
added. Her English puzzled him, for Sandy and he had sought,
constantly, to better her speech, and she had proved an apt pupil.
Now it seemed that she had sunk back into her race. Her face was
guileless, stolidly guileless, giving no cue. Kitty`s untroubled
brow likewise baffled him. What had happened? How much had been
said? and how much guessed?
While he wrestled with these questions and while Jees Uck wrestled
with her problem--never had he looked so wonderful and great--a
"To think that you knew my husband in Alaska!" Kitty said softly.
Knew him! Jees Uck could not forbear a glance at the boy she had
borne him, and his eyes followed hers mechanically to the window
where played the two children. An iron hand seemed to tighten
across his forehead. His knees went weak and his heart leaped up
and pounded like a fist against his breast. His boy! He had never
Little Kitty Bonner, fairylike in gauzy lawn, with pinkest of
cheeks and bluest of dancing eyes, arms outstretched and lips
puckered in invitation, was striving to kiss the boy. And the boy,
lean and lithe, sunbeaten and browned, skin-clad and in hair-
fringed and hair-tufted MUCLUCS that showed the wear of the sea and
rough work, coolly withstood her advances, his body straight and
stiff with the peculiar erectness common to children of savage
people. A stranger in a strange land, unabashed and unafraid, he
appeared more like an untamed animal, silent and watchful, his
black eyes flashing from face to face, quiet so long as quiet
endured, but prepared to spring and fight and tear and scratch for
life, at the first sign of danger.
The contrast between boy and girl was striking, but not pitiful.
There was too much strength in the boy for that, waif that he was
of the generations of Shpack, Spike O`Brien, and Bonner. In his
features, clean cut as a cameo and almost classic in their
severity, there were the power and achievement of his father, and
his grandfather, and the one known as the Big Fat, who was captured
by the Sea people and escaped to Kamchatka.
Neil Bonner fought his emotion down, swallowed it down, and choked
over it, though his face smiled with good-humour and the joy with
which one meets a friend.
"Your boy, eh, Jees Uck?" he said. And then turning to Kitty:
"Handsome fellow! He`ll do something with those two hands of his
in this our world."
Kitty nodded concurrence. "What is your name?" she asked.
The young savage flashed his quick eyes upon her and dwelt over her
for a space, seeking out, as it were, the motive beneath the
"Neil," he answered deliberately when the scrutiny had satisfied
"Injun talk," Jees Uck interposed, glibly manufacturing languages
on the spur of the moment. "Him Injun talk, NEE-AL all the same
`cracker.` Him baby, him like cracker; him cry for cracker. Him
say, `NEE-AL, NEE-AL,` all time him say, `NEE-AL.` Then I say that
um name. So um name all time Nee-al."
Never did sound more blessed fall upon Neil Bonner`s ear than that
lie from Jees Uck`s lips. It was the cue, and he knew there was
reason for Kitty`s untroubled brow.
"And his father?" Kitty asked. "He must be a fine man."
"Oo-a, yes," was the reply. "Um father fine man. Sure!"
"Did you know him, Neil?" queried Kitty.
"Know him? Most intimately," Neil answered, and harked back to
dreary Twenty Mile and the man alone in the silence with his
And here might well end the story of Jees Uck but for the crown she
put upon her renunciation. When she returned to the North to dwell
in her grand log-house, John Thompson found that the P. C. Company
could make a shift somehow to carry on its business without his
aid. Also, the new agent and the succeeding agents received
instructions that the woman Jees Uck should be given whatsoever
goods and grub she desired, in whatsoever quantities she ordered,
and that no charge should be placed upon the books. Further, the
Company paid yearly to the woman Jees Uck a pension of five
When he had attained suitable age, Father Champreau laid hands upon
the boy, and the time was not long when Jees Uck received letters
regularly from the Jesuit college in Maryland. Later on these
letters came from Italy, and still later from France. And in the
end there returned to Alaska one Father Neil, a man mighty for good
in the land, who loved his mother and who ultimately went into a
wider field and rose to high authority in the order.
Jees Uck was a young woman when she went back into the North, and
men still looked upon her and yearned. But she lived straight, and
no breath was ever raised save in commendation. She stayed for a
while with the good sisters at Holy Cross, where she learned to
read and write and became versed in practical medicine and surgery.
After that she returned to her grand log-house and gathered about
her the young girls of the Toyaat village, to show them the way of
their feet in the world. It is neither Protestant nor Catholic,
this school in the house built by Neil Bonner for Jees Uck, his
wife; but the missionaries of all the sects look upon it with equal
favour. The latchstring is always out, and tired prospectors and
trail-weary men turn aside from the flowing river or frozen trail
to rest there for a space and be warm by her fire. And, down in
the States, Kitty Bonner is pleased at the interest her husband
takes in Alaskan education and the large sums he devotes to that
purpose; and, though she often smiles and chaffs, deep down and
secretly she is but the prouder of him.