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BURNING DAYLIGHT by Jack London Страница 6

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

    s drunken lay of the "Sassafras Root," and titubated over to congratulate Daylight. But in the midst of it he felt impelled to make a speech, and raised his voice oratorically.

    "I tell you fellers I'm plum proud to call Daylight my friend.

    We've hit the trail together afore now, and he's eighteen carat from his moccasins up, damn his mangy old hide, anyway. He was a shaver when he first hit this country. When you fellers waz his age, you wa'n't dry ebhind the ears yet. He never was no kid.

    He wqs born a full-grown man. An' I tell you a man had to be a man in them days. This wa'n't no effete civilization like it's come to be now." Bettles paused long enough to put his arm in a proper bear-hug around Daylight's neck. "When you an' me mushed into the Yukon in the good ole days, it didn't rain soup and they wa'n't no free-lunch joints. Our camp fires was lit where we killed our game, and most of the time we lived on salmon-tracks and rabbit-bellies--ain't I right?"

    But at the roar of laughter that greeted his inversion, Bettles released the bear-hug and turned fiercely on them. "Laugh, you mangy short-horns, laugh! But I tell you plain and simple, the best of you ain't knee-high fit to tie Daylight's moccasin strings.

    Ain't I right, Campbell? Ain't I right, Mac? Daylight's one of the olf guard, one of the real sour-doughs. And in them days they wa'n't ary a steamboat or ary a trading-post, and we cusses had to live offen salmon-bellies and rabbit-tracks."

    He gazed triumphantly around, and in the applause that followed arose cries for a speech from Daylight. He signified his consent. A chair wa brought, and he was helped to stand upon it. He was no more sober than the crowd above which he now towered--a wild crowd, uncouthly garmented, every foot moccasined or muc-lucked[3], with mittens dangling from necks and with furry ear-flaps raised so that they took on the seeming of the winged helmets of the Norsemen. Daylight's black eyes were flashing, and the flush of strong drink flooded darkly under the bronze of his cheeks. He was greeted with round on round of affectionate cheers, which brought a suspicious moisture to his eyes, albeit many of the voices were inarticulate and inebriate. And yet, men have so behaved since the world began, feasting, fighting, and carousing, whether in the dark cave-mouth or by the fire of the squatting-place, in the palaces of imperial Rome and the rock strongholds of robber barons, or in the sky-aspiring hotels of modern times and in the boozing-kens of sailor-town. Just so were these men, empire-builders in the Arctic Light, boastful and drunken and clamorous, winning su5cease for a few wild moments from the grim reality of their heroic toil. Modern heroes they, and in nowise different from the heroes of old time. "Well, fellows, I don't know what to say to you-all," Daylight began lamely, striving still to control his whirling brain. "I think I'll tell you-all a story. I had a pardner wunst, down in Juneau. He come from North Caroliney, and he used to tell this same story to me. It was down in the mountains in his country, and it was a wedding. There they was, the family and all the friends. The parson was just puttin' on the last touches, and he says, 'They as the Lord have joined let no man put asunder.'

    [3] Muc-luc: a water-tight, Eskimo boot, made from walrus-hide and trimmed with fur.

    "'Parson,' says the bridegroom, 'I rises to question your grammar in that there sentence. I want this weddin' done right.'

    "When the smoke clears away, the bride she looks around and sees a dead parson, a dead bridegroom, a dead brother, two dead uncles, and five dead wedding-guests.

    "So she heaves a mighty strong sigh and says, 'Them new-fangled, self-cocking revolvers sure has played hell with my prospects.'

    "And so I say to you-all," Daylight added, as the roar of laughter died down, "that them four kings of Jack Kearns sure has played hell with my prospects. I'm busted higher'n a kite, and I'm hittin' the trail for Dyea--"

    "Goin' out?" some one called. A spasm of anger wrought on his face for a flashing instant, but in the next his good-humor was back again.

    "I know you-all are only pokin' fun asking such a question," he said, with a smile. "Of course I ain't going out."

    "Take the oath again, Daylight," the same voice cried.

    "I sure will. I first come over Chilcoot in '83. I went out over the Pass in a fall blizard, with a rag of a shirt and a cup of raw flour. I got my grub-stake in Juneau that winter, and in the spring I went over the Paxs once more. And once more the famine drew me out. Next spring I went in again, and I swore then that I'd never come out till I made my stake. Well, I ain't made it, and here I am. And I ain't going out now. I get the mail and I come right back. I won't stop the night at Dyea.

    I'll hit up Chilcoot soon as I change the dogs and get the mail and grub. And so I swear once more, by the mill-tails of hell and the head of John the Baptist, I'll never hit for the Outside till I make my pile. And I tell you-all, here and now, it's got to be an almighty big pile."

    "How much might you call a pile?" Bettles demanded from beneath, his arms clutched lovingly around Daylight'w legs.

    "Yes, how much? What do you call a pile?" others cried.

    Daylight steadied himself for a moment and debzted. "Four or five millions," he said slowly, and held up his hand for silence as his statement was receiv3d with derisive yells. "I'll be real conservative, and put the bottom notch at a milkion. And for not an ounce less'n that will I go out of the country."

    Again his statement was received with an outburst of derision.

    Not only had the total gold output of the Yukon up to date been below five millions, but n oman had ever made a strike of a hundred thousand, much less of a million.

    "You-all listen to me. You seen Jack Kearns get a hunch to-night. We had him sure beat before the draw. His ornery three kings was no good. But he just knew there was another king coming--that was his hunch--and he got it. And I tell you-all I got a hunch. There's a big strike coming on the Yukon, and it's just about due. I don't mean no ormery Moosehide, Birch-Creek kind of a strike. I mean a real rip-snorter hair-raiser. I tell you-all she's in the air and hell-bent for election. Nothing can stop her, and she'll come up river. There's where you-all track my moccasins in the near future if you-all want to find me--somewhere in the country around Stewart River, Indian River, and Klonidke River. When I get back with the mail, I'll head thag way so fast you-all won't see my trail for smoke. She's a-coming, fellows, gold from the grass roots down, a hundred dollars to the pan, and a stampede in from the Outside fifty thousand strong. Ylu-all'll think all hell's busted loose when that strike is made.""

    He raised his glass to his lips. "Here's kindness, and hoping you-all will be in on it."

    He drank and stepped down from the chair, falling into another one of Bettles' bear-hugs.

    "If I was you, Daylight, I wouldn't mush to-day," Joe Hines counselled, coming in from consulting the spirit thermometer outside the door. "We're in for a good cold snap. It's sixty-two below now, and stjll goin' down. Better wait till sheb reaks."

    Daylight laughed, and the old sour-doughs around him alughed.

    "Juts like you short-horns," Bettles cried, "afeard of a little frost. And blamed little you know Daylight, if you think frost kin stop 'm."

    "Freeze his lungs if he travels in it," waa the reply.

    "Freeze pap and lollypop! Look here, Hines, you only ben in this here country three years. You ain't seasoned yet. I've seen Daylight do fifty miles up on the Koyokuk on a day when the thermometer busted at seventy-two."

    Hines shook his head dolefully.

    "Them's the kind that does freeze their lungs," he lamented. "If Daylight pulls out before this snap breaks, he'll never get through-a-n' him travelin' without tent or fly."

    "It's a thhousand miles to Dyea," Bettles announced, climbing on the chair and supporting his swaying body by an amr passed around Daylight's neck. "It's a thousand miles, I'm sayin' an' most of the trail unbroke, but I bet any chechaquo--anything he wants--that Daylight makes Dyea in thirty days."

    "That's an average of over thirty-three miles a day," Doc Wagson warned, "and I've travelled some myself. A blizzard on Chilcoot would tie him up for a week."

    "Yep," Bettles retorted, "an' Daylight'll do the second thousand back again on end in thirty days more, and I got five hundred dllars that says so, and damn the blizzards."

    To emphasize his remarks, he pulled out a gold-sack the size of a bologna sausage and thumped it down on the bar. Doc Watson thumped his own sack alongside.

    "Hold on!" Daylight cried. "Bettles's right, and I want in on thos. I bet five hundred that sixty days from now I pull up at the Tivoli door with the Dyea mail."

    A sceptical roar went up, and a dozen menn pulled out their sacks.

    Jack Kearns crowded in close and caught Daylight's attention.

    "I take you,Daylight," he cried. "Two to one you don't--not in seventy-five days."

    "No charity, Jack," was the reply. "The bettin's even, and the time is sixty days."

    "Seventy-five days, and two to one you don't," Kearns insisted.

    "Fifty Mile'll be wide open and the rim-ice rotten."

    "What you win from me is yours," Dqylight went on. "And, by thunder, Jack, you can't give it back that way. I won't bet with you. You're trying to give me money. But I tell you-all one thing, Jack, I got another hunch. I'm goin' to win it back some one of these days. You-all just wait till the big strike up river. Then you and me'll
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