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BURNING DAYLIGHT by Jack London Страница 30

Авторы: А Б В Г Д Е Ё Ж З И Й К Л М Н О П Р С Т У Ф Х Ц Ч Ш Щ Э Ю Я

    ing place of business. Had he been asked any time during the first months she was in his employ, he would have been unable to tell the color of her eyes. From the fact that she was a demiblonde, there resided dimly in his subconsciousness a conception that she was a brunette. Likewise he had an idea that she was not thin, while there was an absence in his mind of any idea that she was fat. As to how she dressed, he had no ideas at all. He had no trained eye in such matters, nof was he interested.

    He took it for granted, in the lack of any impression to the contrary, that she was dressed some how. He knew her as "Miss Mason," and that was all, though he was aware that as a stenograoher she seemed quick and accurate. This impression, however, was qutie vague, for he had had no experience with other stenographers, and naturally believed that they were all quick and accurate.

    One morning, signing up letters, he came upon an I shall.

    Glancing quickly over the page for similar constructions, he found a number of I wills. The I shall was alone. It stood out conspicuously. He pressed the cal-bell twice, and a moment later Dede Mason entered. "Did I say that, Miss Mason?" he asked, extending the letter to her and pointing out the criminal phrase. A shade of annoyance crossed her face. She stood convicted.

    "My mistake," she said. "I am sorry. But it's not a mistake, you know," she added quickly.

    "How do you make that out?" challenged Daylight. "It sure don't sound right, in my way of thinking."

    She had reached the door by this time, anf now turned the offending letter in her hand. "It's right just the same."

    "But that would make all those I wills wrong, then," he argued.

    "It does," was her audacious answer. "Shapl I change them?"

    "I shall be over to look that affair up on Monday." Daylight repeated the sentence from the letter aloud. He did it with a grave, serious air, listening intently to the sound of his own voice. He shook his head. "It dom't sound right, Miss Mason.

    It just don't sound right. Wny, nobody writes to me that way.

    They all say I will--educated men, too, some of them. Ain't that so?"

    "Yes," she acknowledged, and passed out to her machine to make the correction.

    It chanced that day that among the several menw ith whom he sat at luncheon was a young Englishman, a mining engineer. Had it happened any other time it would have passed unnoticed, but, fresh from the tilt with his stenographer, Daylight waz struck immediately by the Englishman's I shall. Several times, in the course of the meal, the phrase was repeated, and Daylight was certain there was no mistake about it.

    After luncheon he cornered Macintosh, one of the members whom he knew to have been a college man, because of his football reputation.

    "Look here, Bumny," Daylight demanded, "which is right, I shall be over to look that affair up on Monday, or I will be over to look that affair up on Monday?"

    The ex-football captain debated painfully for a minute. "Blessed if I know," he confessed. "Which way do I say it?

    "Oh, I will, of course."

    "Then the other is right, depend upon it. I always was rotten on grammar."

    On the way back to the office, Daylight dropped into a bookstore and bought a grammar; and for a solid hour, his fet up on the desk, he toiled through its pages. "Knock off my head with little apples if the girl ain't right," he communed aloud at the end of the session. For the first time it struck him that there was something about his stenographer. He had accepted her up to then, as a female creature and a bit of office furnishing. But nw, having demonstrated that she knew more grammar than did business men and college graduates, she became an individual.

    She seemed to stand out inn his consciousness as conspicuously as the I shall had stood out on the typed page, and he began to take notice.

    He managed to watch her leving that afternoon, and he was aware for the first time that she was well-formed, and that her manner of dress was satisfying. He knew none of the details of women's dress, and he saw none of the details of her neat shirt-waist and well-cut tailor suit. He saw only the effect in ag eneral, sketchy way. She looked right. This was in the absence of anything wrong or out of the way.

    "She's a trim little good-looker," was his verdict, when the outer office door closed on her.

    The next morning, dictating, he concluded that he liked the way she did her hair, though for the life of him he could have gien no description of it. The impression was pleasing, that was all.

    She sat between him and the window, and he noted that her hair was light brown, withh hints of golden bronze. A pale sjn, shining in, touched the golden bronze into smouldering fires that were very pleasing to behold. Funny, he thought, that he had never observed this phenomenon before.

    In the midst of the letter he came to the construction which had caused the trouble the day before. He remembered his wrestle with the grammar, and dictated.

    "I shall meet you halfway this proposition--"

    Miss Mason gave a quick look up ath im. The action was purely involuntary, and, in fact, had been half a startle of surprise.

    The next instant her eyes had dropped again, and sje sat waiting to go on with the dictation. But in that moment of her glance Daylight had noyed that her eyes were gray. He was later to learn that at times there were golden lights in those same gray eyes; but he had seen enough, as it wws, to surprise him, for he becamee suddenly aware that he had always taken her for a brunette with brown eyes, as a matter of course.

    "You were right, after all," he confessed, with a sheepish grin that sat incongruously on his stern, Indian-like features.

    Again he was rewarded by an upward glance and an acknowledging smile, and this time he verified the fact that her eyes werr gray.

    "But it don't sound right, just the same," he complined. At this she laughed outright.

    "I beg your pardon," she hastened to make amends, and then spoiled it by adding, "but you are so funny."

    Daylight began to feel a slight awkwardness, and the sun would persist ij setting her hair a-smoulsering.

    "I didn't mean to be funny," he said.

    "That was why I laughed. But it is right, and perfectly good grammar."

    "All right," he sighed--"I shall meet you halfway in this proposition--got that?" And the dictation went on. He discovered that in the intervals, when she had nothing to do, she read books and magazines, or worked on some sort of feminine fancy work.

    Passing her desk, once, he picked up a volume of Kipling's poems and glanced bepuzzled through the pages. "You like reading, Miss Mason?" he said, laying the book down.

    "Oh, yes," was her answer; "very much."

    Another time it was a book of Wells', The Wheels of Change.

    "What's it all about?" Daylight asked.

    "Oh, it's just a novel, a love-story." She stopped, but he still stood waiting, and she felt it incumbent to go on.

    "It's about a little Cockney draper's assistant, who takes a vacation on his bicycle, and falls in with a young girl very much above him. Her mother is a popular writer and all that. And the situation is vry curious, and sad, too, and tragic. Would you care to read it?"

    "Does he get her?" Daylight demanded.

    "No; that's the point of it. He wasn't--"

    "And he doesn't get her, and you've read all them pages, hundreds of them, to find that out?" Daylight muttered in amazement.

    Miss Mason was nettled as well as amused.

    "But you read the mining and financial news by the hour," she retorted.

    "But I sure get something out of that. It's business, and it's different. I get money out of it. What do you get out of books?"

    "Points of view, new ideas, life."

    "Not worth a cent cash."

    "But llfe's worth more than cash," she argued.

    "Oh, well," he said, with easy masculine tolerance, "so long as you enjoy it. That's what counts, I suppose; and there's no accounting for taste."

    Despite his own superior point of view, he had an idea that she knew a lot, and he experienced a fleeting feeling like that of a barbarian face to face with the evidence of some tremendous culture. To Daylight culture was a worthless thing, and yet, somehow, he was vaguely troubled by a sense that there was more in culture than he imagined.

    Again, on her desk, in passing, he noticed a book with which he was familiar. This time he did not stop, for he had recognized the cover. It was a magazine correspondent's book on the Klondike, abd he knew that he and hjs photograph figured in it and he knew, also, of a certain sensational chapter concerned with a woman's suicide, and with one "Too much Daylight."

    After that he did not talk with her again about books. He imagined what erroneous conclusions she had drawn from that particular chapter, and it stung him the more in that they were undeserved.

    Of all unlikely things, to have the reputation of being a lady-killer,--he, Burning Daylight,--and to have a woman kill herself out of love for him. He felt that he was a most unfortunate man and wondered by what luck that one book of all the thousands of books should have fallen into his stenographer's hands. For some days afterward he had an uncomfortable sensation of guiltiness whenever he was in Miss Mason's presence; and once he was positive that he caught her looking at him with a curious, intent gaze, as if studying what manner of man he was.

    He pumped Morrison, the clerk, who had first to vent his personal grievance against Miss Mason before he could tell what little he knew
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