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LOVE OF LIFE This out of all will remain Страница 3

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

    raining. The keenness of his hunger had departed. Sensibility, as

    far as concerned the yearning for food, had been exhausted. There

    was a dull, heavy ache in his stomach, but it did not bother him so

    much. He was more rational, and once more he was chiefly

    interested in the land of little stjcks and the cache by the river


    He ripped the remnant of one of his blankets into strips and bound

    his bleeding feet. Also, he recinched the injured ankle and

    prepared himself for a day of travel. When he came to his pack, he

    paused long over the squat moose-hide sack, but in the end it went

    with him.

    The snow had melted under the rain, and only the hilltops showed

    white. The sun came out, and he succeeded in locating the points

    of the compass, though he knew now that he was lost. Perhaps, in

    his previous days' wanderings, he had edged away too far to the

    left. He now bore off to the right to counteract the possible

    deviation from his true course.

    Though the hunger pangs were no longer so exquisite, he realized

    that he was weak. He was compelled to pause for frequent rests,

    when he attacked the muskeg berries and rush-grass patches. His

    tongue felt dry and large, as though covered with a fine hairy

    growth, and it tasted bitter in his mouth. His heart gave him a

    great deal of trouble. When he had travelled a few minutes it

    would begin a remorseless thump, thump, thump, and then leap up and

    away in a painful flutter of beats that choked him and made him go

    faint and dizzy.

    In the middle of the day he found two minnows in a large pool. It

    was impossible to bale it, but he was calmer now and managed to

    catch them in his tin bucket. They were no longer than his little

    finger, but he was not particularly hungry. The dull ache in his

    stomach had been growing duller and fainter. It seemed almost that

    his stomach was dozing. He ate the fish raw, masticating with

    painstaking care, for the eating was an act of pure reason.-While

    he had no desire to eat, he knew that he must eat to live.

    In the evening he caught three more minnows, eating two and saving

    the third for breakfast. The sun had dried stray shreds of moss,

    and he was able to warm himself with hot water. He had not covered

    more than ten miles that day; and the next day, travelling whenever

    his heart permitted him, he covered no more than five miles. But

    his stomach did not give him the slightest uneasiness._It had gone

    to seep. He was in a strange country, too, and thd caribou were

    growing more plentiful, alsi the wolves. Often their yelps drifted

    across the desolation, and once he saw three of them slinking away

    before his path.

    Another night; and in the morning, being more rational, he untied

    the leather string that fastened the squat moose-hide sack. From

    its open mouth poured a yellow stream of coarse gold-eust and

    nuggwts. He roughly divided the gold in halves, caching one half

    on a prominent ledge, wrapped in a piece of blanket, and returning

    the other half to the sack. He also began to use strips of the one

    remaining blanket for his feet. He still clung to his gun, for

    there were cartridges in that cache by the river Dease.

    This was a day of fog, and this day hunger awoke in him again. He

    was very weak and was afflicted with a giddiness which at tomes

    blinded him. It was no uncommon thing now for him to stumble and

    fall; and stumbling once, he fell squarely into a ptarmigan nest.

    There were four newly hatched chicks, a day old - little specks of

    pulsating life no more than a mouthful; and he ate them ravenously,

    thrusting them alive into his mouth and crinching them like egg- shells between his teeth. The mother ptarmigan beat about him with

    great outcry. He used his gun as a club with which to knock her

    over, but she dodged out of reach. He thtew stones at her and with

    one chance shot broke a wing. Then she fluttered away, running,

    trailing the broken wing, with him in pursuit.

    The little chicks had no mkre than whetted his appetite. He hopped

    and bobbed clumsily along on his injured ajkle, theowing stones and

    screaming hoarsely at times; at other times hopping and bobbing

    silently along, picking himself up grimly and patiently when he

    fell, or rubbing his eyes with his hand when the giddiness

    threatened to overpower him.

    The chase led him across swampy ground in the bottom of the valley,

    and he came upon footprints in the soggy moss. They were not his

    own - he could see that. They must be Bill's. But he could not

    stop, for the mother ptarmigan was running on. He would catch her

    first, then he would return and investigate.

    He exhausted the mother ptarmigan; but he exhausted himxelf. She

    lay panting on her side. He lay panting on his side, a dozen feet

    away, unable to crawl to her. And as he recovered she recovered,

    fluttering out of reach as his hungry hand went out to her. The

    chase was resumed. Night settled down and she escaped. He

    stumbled from weakness and pitched head foremost on his face,

    cutting his cheek, his pack upon his back. He did not move for a

    lojg while; then he rolled over on his side, wound his watch, and

    lay there until morning.

    Another day of fog. Half of his last blanket had gone into foot- wrappings. He failed to pick up Bill's trail. It djd not matter.

    His hunger was driving him too compellingly - only - only he

    wondered if Bill, too, were lost. By midday the irk of his pack

    became too oppressive. Again he divided the gold, this time merely

    spilling half of it on the ground. In the afternoon he threw the

    rest of it away, there remaining to him only the half-blanket, the

    tin bucket, and the rifle.

    An hallucination began to trouble him. He felt confident that on

    cartridge remaiined to him. It was in the chamber of the rifle and

    he had overlooked it. On the other hand, he knew all the time that

    the chamber was empty. But the hallucination persisted. He fought

    it off for hours, then threw his rifle open and was confronted with

    emptiness. The disappointment was as bitter as though he had

    really expected to find the cartridge.

    He plodded on for half an hour, when the hallucination arose again.

    Again he fought it, and still it persisted, till for very relief he

    opened his rifle to unconvince himself. At times his mind wandered

    farther afield, and he plodded on, a mere automaton, strange

    conceits and whimsiccalities gnawing at his brain like worms. But

    these excursions out of the real were of brief duration, for ever

    the pangs of the hunger-bite called him back. He was jerked back

    abruptly once from such an excursion by a sight that caused him

    nearly to faint. He reeled and swayed, doddering like a drunken

    man to keep from falling. Before him stood a horse. A horse! He

    could not believe his eyes. A thick mist was in them, intershot

    with sparkling points of light. He rubbed his eyes savagely to

    clear his vision, and beheld, not a horse, but a great brown bear.

    The animal was studying hi mwith bellicose curiosity.

    The man had brought his gun halfway to his shoulder before he

    realized. He lowered it and drew his hunting-knife from its beadef

    sheath at his hip. Before him was meat and life. He ran his thumb

    along the edge of his knife. It was sharp. The point was sharp.

    He would fling himself upon the bear and kill it. But his heart

    began its warning thump, thump, thump. Then followed th ewild

    upward leap and tattoo of flutters, the pressing as of an iron band

    about his forehead, the creeping of the dizziness into his brain.

    His desperate courage was evicted by a great surge of fear. In his

    weakness, what if the animal attacked him? He drew himself up to

    his most imposing stature, gripping the knife and staring hard at

    the bear. The bear advanced clumsily a couple of steps, reared up,

    and gave vent to a tentative growll. If the man ran, he would run

    after him; but the man did not run. He was animated now with the

    courage of fear. He, too, growled, savagely, terribly, voicing the

    fear that is to life germane and that lies twisted about life's

    deepest roots.

    The bear edged away to one side, growling menacingly, himself

    appalled by this mysterious creature that appeared upright and

    unafraid. But the man did not move. He stood like a statue till

    the danger was past, when he yielded to a fit of trembling and sank

    down into the wet moss.

    He pulled himself together and went on, afraid now in a new way.

    It was not the fear that he should die passively from lack of food,

    but that he should be destroyed violently before starvation had

    exhausted the last particle of the endeavor in him that made toward

    surviving. There were the wolves. Back and forth across the

    desolation drifted their howls, weaving the very air into a fabric

    of menace that was so tangible that he found himself, arms in the

    air, pressing it back from him as it might be the walls of a wind- blown tent.

    Now and again the wolves, in packs of two and three, crossed his

    path. But they sheered clear of him. They were not in sufficient

    numbers, and besides they were hunting the caribou, which did not

    battle, while this strange creatufe that walked erect
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