The Faith of Men
Part 3 out of 3
It came with a slurring rush upwards, swelling to a great heart-
breaking burst of sound, and dying away in sadly cadenced woe--then
the next rush upward, octave upon octave; the bursting heart; and
the infinite sorrow and misery, fainting, fading, falling, and
dying slowly away.
It was fit for hell. And Leclere, with fiendish ken, seemed to
divine each particular nerve and heartstring, and with long wails
and tremblings and sobbing minors to make it yield up its last
shred of grief. It was frightful, and for twenty-four hours after,
Batard was nervous and unstrung, starting at common sounds,
tripping over his own shadow, but, withal, vicious and masterful
with his team-mates. Nor did he show signs of a breaking spirit.
Rather did he grow more grim and taciturn, biding his time with an
inscrutable patience that began to puzzle and weigh upon Leclere.
The dog would lie in the firelight, motionless, for hours, gazing
straight before him at Leclere, and hating him with his bitter
Often the man felt that he had bucked against the very essence of
life--the unconquerable essence that swept the hawk down out of the
sky like a feathered thunderbolt, that drove the great grey goose
across the zones, that hurled the spawning salmon through two
thousand miles of boiling Yukon flood. At such times he felt
impelled to--express his own unconquerable essence; and with strong
drink, wild music, and Batard, he indulged in vast orgies, wherein
he pitted his puny strength in the face of things, and challenged
all that was, and had been, and was yet to be.
"Dere is somet'ing dere," he affirmed, when the rhythmed vagaries
of his mind touched the secret chords of Batard's being and brought
forth the long lugubrious howl. "Ah pool eet out wid bot' my
han's, so, an' so. Ha! ha! Eet is fonee! Eet is ver' fonee! De
priest chant, de womans pray, de mans swear, de leetle bird go
peep-peep, Batard, heem go yow-yow--an' eet is all de ver' same
t'ing. Ha! ha!"
Father Gautier, a worthy priest, one reproved him with instances of
concrete perdition. He never reproved him again.
"Eet may be so, mon pere," he made answer. "An' Ah t'ink Ah go
troo hell a-snappin', lak de hemlock troo de fire. Eh, mon pere?"
But all bad things come to an end as well as good, and so with
Black Leclere. On the summer low water, in a poling boat, he left
McDougall for Sunrise. He left McDougall in company with Timothy
Brown, and arrived at Sunrise by himself. Further, it was known
that they had quarrelled just previous to pulling out; for the
Lizzie, a wheezy ten-ton stern-wheeler, twenty-four hours behind,
beat Leclere in by three days. And when he did get in, it was with
a clean-drilled bullet-hole through his shoulder muscle, and a tale
of ambush and murder.
A strike had been made at Sunrise, and things had changed
considerably. With the infusion of several hundred gold-seekers, a
deal of whisky, and half-a-dozen equipped gamblers, the missionary
had seen the page of his years of labour with the Indians wiped
clean. When the squaws became preoccupied with cooking beans and
keeping the fire going for the wifeless miners, and the bucks with
swapping their warm furs for black bottles and broken time-pieces,
he took to his bed, said "Bless me" several times, and departed to
his final accounting in a rough-hewn, oblong box. Whereupon the
gamblers moved their roulette and faro tables into the mission
house, and the click of chips and clink of glasses went up from
dawn till dark and to dawn again.
Now Timothy Brown was well beloved among these adventurers of the
North. The one thing against him was his quick temper and ready
fist--a little thing, for which his kind heart and forgiving hand
more than atoned. On the other hand, there was nothing to atone
for Black Leclere. He was "black," as more than one remembered
deed bore witness, while he was as well hated as the other was
beloved. So the men of Sunrise put an antiseptic dressing on his
shoulder and haled him before Judge Lynch.
It was a simple affair. He had quarrelled with Timothy Brown at
McDougall. With Timothy Brown he had left McDougall. Without
Timothy Brown he had arrived at Sunrise. Considered in the light
of his evilness, the unanimous conclusion was that he had killed
Timothy Brown. On the other hand, Leclere acknowledged their
facts, but challenged their conclusion, and gave his own
explanation. Twenty miles out of Sunrise he and Timothy Brown were
poling the boat along the rocky shore. From that shore two rifle-
shots rang out. Timothy Brown pitched out of the boat and went
down bubbling red, and that was the last of Timothy Brown. He,
Leclere, pitched into the bottom of the boat with a stinging
shoulder. He lay very quiet, peeping at the shore. After a time
two Indians stuck up their heads and came out to the water's edge,
carrying between them a birch-bark canoe. As they launched it,
Leclere let fly. He potted one, who went over the side after the
manner of Timothy Brown. The other dropped into the bottom of the
canoe, and then canoe and poling boat went down the stream in a
drifting battle. After that they hung up on a split current, and
the canoe passed on one side of an island, the poling boat on the
other. That was the last of the canoe, and he came on into
Sunrise. Yes, from the way the Indian in the canoe jumped, he was
sure he had potted him. That was all. This explanation was not
deemed adequate. They gave him ten hours' grace while the Lizzie
steamed down to investigate. Ten hours later she came wheezing
back to Sunrise. There had been nothing to investigate. No
evidence had been found to back up his statements. They told him
to make his will, for he possessed a fifty-thousand dollar Sunrise
claim, and they were a law-abiding as well as a law-giving breed.
Leclere shrugged his shoulders. "Bot one t'ing," he said; "a
leetle, w'at you call, favour--a leetle favour, dat is eet. I gif
my feefty t'ousan' dollair to de church. I gif my husky dog,
Batard, to de devil. De leetle favour? Firs' you hang heem, an'
den you hang me. Eet is good, eh?"
Good it was, they agreed, that Hell's Spawn should break trail for
his master across the last divide, and the court was adjourned down
to the river bank, where a big spruce tree stood by itself.
Slackwater Charley put a hangman's knot in the end of a hauling-
line, and the noose was slipped over Leclere's head and pulled
tight around his neck. His hands were tied behind his back, and he
was assisted to the top of a cracker box. Then the running end of
the line was passed over an over-hanging branch, drawn taut, and
made fast. To kick the box out from under would leave him dancing
on the air.
"Now for the dog," said Webster Shaw, sometime mining engineer.
"You'll have to rope him, Slackwater."
Leclere grinned. Slackwater took a chew of tobacco, rove a running
noose, and proceeded leisurely to coil a few turns in his hand. He
paused once or twice to brush particularly offensive mosquitoes
from off his face. Everybody was brushing mosquitoes, except
Leclere, about whose head a small cloud was visible. Even Batard,
lying full-stretched on the ground with his fore paws rubbed the
pests away from eyes and mouth.
But while Slackwater waited for Batard to lift his head, a faint
call came from the quiet air, and a man was seen waving his arms
and running across the flat from Sunrise. It was the store-keeper.
"C-call 'er off, boys," he panted, as he came in among them.
"Little Sandy and Bernadotte's jes' got in," he explained with
returning breath. "Landed down below an' come up by the short cut.
Got the Beaver with 'm. Picked 'm up in his canoe, stuck in a back
channel, with a couple of bullet-holes in 'm. Other buck was Klok
Kutz, the one that knocked spots out of his squaw and dusted."
"Eh? W'at Ah say? Eh?" Leclere cried exultantly. "Dat de one fo'
sure! Ah know. Ah spik true."
"The thing to do is to teach these damned Siwashes a little
manners," spoke Webster Shaw. "They're getting fat and sassy, and
we'll have to bring them down a peg. Round in all the bucks and
string up the Beaver for an object lesson. That's the programme.
Come on and let's see what he's got to say for himself."
"Heh, M'sieu!" Leclere called, as the crowd began to melt away
through the twilight in the direction of Sunrise. "Ah lak ver'
moch to see de fon."
"Oh, we'll turn you loose when we come back," Webster Shaw shouted
over his shoulder. "In the meantime meditate on your sins and the
ways of Providence. It will do you good, so be grateful."
As is the way with men who are accustomed to great hazards, whose
nerves are healthy and trained in patience, so it was with Leclere
who settled himself to the long wait--which is to say that he
reconciled his mind to it. There was no settling of the body, for
the taut rope forced him to stand rigidly erect. The least
relaxation of the leg muscles pressed the rough-fibred noose into
his neck, while the upright position caused him much pain in his
wounded shoulder. He projected his under lip and expelled his
breath upwards along his face to blow the mosquitoes away from his
eyes. But the situation had its compensation. To be snatched from
the maw of death was well worth a little bodily suffering, only it
was unfortunate that he should miss the hanging of the Beaver.
And so he mused, till his eyes chanced to fall upon Batard, head
between fore paws and stretched on the ground asleep. And their
Leclere ceased to muse. He studied the animal closely, striving to
sense if the sleep were real or feigned. Batard's sides were
heaving regularly, but Leclere felt that the breath came and went a
shade too quickly; also he felt that there was a vigilance or
alertness to every hair that belied unshackling sleep. He would
have given his Sunrise claim to be assured that the dog was not
awake, and once, when one of his joints cracked, he looked quickly
and guiltily at Batard to see if he roused. He did not rouse then
but a few minutes later he got up slowly and lazily, stretched, and
looked carefully about him.
"Sacredam," said Leclere under his breath.
Assured that no one was in sight or hearing, Batard sat down,
curled his upper lip almost into a smile, looked up at Leclere, and
licked his chops.
"Ah see my feenish," the man said, and laughed sardonically aloud.
Batard came nearer, the useless ear wabbling, the good ear cocked
forward with devilish comprehension. He thrust his head on one
side quizzically, and advanced with mincing, playful steps. He
rubbed his body gently against the box till it shook and shook
again. Leclere teetered carefully to maintain his equilibrium.
"Batard," he said calmly, "look out. Ah keel you."
Batard snarled at the word and shook the box with greater force.
Then he upreared, and with his fore paws threw his weight against
it higher up. Leclere kicked out with one foot, but the rope bit
into his neck and checked so abruptly as nearly to overbalance him.
"Hi, ya! Chook! Mush-on!" he screamed.
Batard retreated, for twenty feet or so, with a fiendish levity in
his bearing that Leclere could not mistake. He remembered the dog
often breaking the scum of ice on the water hole by lifting up and
throwing his weight upon it; and remembering, he understood what he
now had in mind. Batard faced about and paused. He showed his
white teeth in a grin, which Leclere answered; and then hurled his
body through the air, in full charge, straight for the box.
Fifteen minutes later, Slackwater Charley and Webster Shaw
returning, caught a glimpse of a ghostly pendulum swinging back and
forth in the dim light. As they hurriedly drew in closer, they
made out the man's inert body, and a live thing that clung to it,
and shook and worried, and gave to it the swaying motion.
"Hi, ya! Chook! you Spawn of Hell!" yelled Webster Shaw.
But Batard glared at him, and snarled threateningly, without
loosing his jaws.
Slackwater Charley got out his revolver, but his hand was shaking,
as with a chill, and he fumbled.
"Here you take it," he said, passing the weapon over.
Webster Shaw laughed shortly, drew a sight between the gleaming
eyes, and pressed the trigger. Batard's body twitched with the
shock, threshed the ground spasmodically for a moment, and went
suddenly limp. But his teeth still held fast locked.
THE STORY OF JEES' UCK
There have been renunciations and renunciations. But, in its
essence, renunciation is ever the same. And the paradox of it is,
that men and women forego the dearest thing in the world for
something dearer. It was never otherwise. Thus it was when Abel
brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. The
firstlings and the fat thereof were to him the dearest things in
the world; yet he gave them over that he might be on good terms
with God. So it was with Abraham when he prepared to offer up his
son Isaac on a stone. Isaac was very dear to him; but God, in
incomprehensible ways, was yet dearer. It may be that Abraham
feared the Lord. But whether that be true or not it has since been
determined by a few billion people that he loved the Lord and
desired to serve him.
And since it has been determined that love is service, and since to
renounce is to serve, then Jees Uck, who was merely a woman of a
swart-skinned breed, loved with a great love. She was unversed in
history, having learned to read only the signs of weather and of
game; so she had never heard of Abel nor of Abraham; nor, having
escaped the good sisters at Holy Cross, had she been told the story
of Ruth, the Moabitess, who renounced her very God for the sake of
a stranger woman from a strange land. Jees Uck had learned only
one way of renouncing, and that was with a club as the dynamic
factor, in much the same manner as a dog is made to renounce a
stolen marrow-bone. Yet, when the time came, she proved herself
capable of rising to the height of the fair-faced royal races and
of renouncing in right regal fashion.
So this is the story of Jees Uck, which is also the story of Neil
Bonner, and Kitty Bonner, and a couple of Neil Bonner's progeny.
Jees Uck was of a swart-skinned breed, it is true, but she was not
an Indian; nor was she an Eskimo; nor even an Innuit. Going
backward into mouth tradition, there appears the figure of one
Skolkz, a Toyaat Indian of the Yukon, who journeyed down in his
youth to the Great Delta where dwell the Innuits, and where he
foregathered with a woman remembered as Olillie. Now the woman
Olillie had been bred from an Eskimo mother by an Innuit man. And
from Skolkz and Olillie came Halie, who was one-half Toyaat Indian,
one-quarter Innuit, and one-quarter Eskimo. And Halie was the
grandmother of Jees Uck.
Now Halie, in whom three stocks had been bastardized, who cherished
no prejudice against further admixture, mated with a Russian fur
trader called Shpack, also known in his time as the Big Fat.
Shpack is herein classed Russian for lack of a more adequate term;
for Shpack's father, a Slavonic convict from the Lower Provinces,
had escaped from the quicksilver mines into Northern Siberia, where
he knew Zimba, who was a woman of the Deer People and who became
the mother of Shpack, who became the grandfather of Jees Uck.
Now had not Shpack been captured in his boyhood by the Sea People,
who fringe the rim of the Arctic Sea with their misery, he would
not have become the grandfather of Jees Uck and there would be no
story at all. But he WAS captured by the Sea People, from whom he
escaped to Kamchatka, and thence, on a Norwegian whale-ship, to the
Baltic. Not long after that he turned up in St. Petersburg, and
the years were not many till he went drifting east over the same
weary road his father had measured with blood and groans a half-
century before. But Shpack was a free man, in the employ of the
great Russian Fur Company. And in that employ he fared farther and
farther east, until he crossed Bering Sea into Russian America; and
at Pastolik, which is hard by the Great Delta of the Yukon, became
the husband of Halie, who was the grandmother of Jees Uck. Out of
this union came the woman-child, Tukesan.
Shpack, under the orders of the Company, made a canoe voyage of a
few hundred miles up the Yukon to the post of Nulato. With him he
took Halie and the babe Tukesan. This was in 1850, and in 1850 it
was that the river Indians fell upon Nulato and wiped it from the
face of the earth. And that was the end of Shpack and Halie. On
that terrible night Tukesan disappeared. To this day the Toyaats
aver they had no hand in the trouble; but, be that as it may, the
fact remains that the babe Tukesan grew up among them.
Tukesan was married successively to two Toyaat brothers, to both of
whom she was barren. Because of this, other women shook their
heads, and no third Toyaat man could be found to dare matrimony
with the childless widow. But at this time, many hundred miles
above, at Fort Yukon, was a man, Spike O'Brien. Fort Yukon was a
Hudson Bay Company post, and Spike O'Brien one of the Company's
servants. He was a good servant, but he achieved an opinion that
the service was bad, and in the course of time vindicated that
opinion by deserting. It was a year's journey, by the chain of
posts, back to York Factory on Hudson's Bay. Further, being
Company posts, he knew he could not evade the Company's clutches.
Nothing retained but to go down the Yukon. It was true no white
man had ever gone down the Yukon, and no white man knew whether the
Yukon emptied into the Arctic Ocean or Bering Sea; but Spike
O'Brien was a Celt, and the promise of danger was a lure he had
A few weeks later, somewhat battered, rather famished, and about
dead with river-fever, he drove the nose of his canoe into the
earth bank by the village of the Toyaats and promptly fainted away.
While getting his strength back, in the weeks that followed, he
looked upon Tukesan and found her good. Like the father of Shpack,
who lived to a ripe old age among the Siberian Deer People, Spike
O'Brien might have left his aged bones with the Toyaats. But
romance gripped his heart-strings and would not let him stay. As
he had journeyed from York Factory to Fort Yukon, so, first among
men, might he journey from Fort Yukon to the sea and win the honour
of being the first man to make the North-West Passage by land. So
he departed down the river, won the honour, and was unannaled and
unsung. In after years he ran a sailors' boarding-house in San
Francisco, where he became esteemed a most remarkable liar by
virtue of the gospel truths he told. But a child was born to
Tukesan, who had been childless. And this child was Jees Uck. Her
lineage has been traced at length to show that she was neither
Indian, nor Eskimo, nor Innuit, nor much of anything else; also to
show what waifs of the generations we are, all of us, and the
strange meanderings of the seed from which we spring.
What with the vagrant blood in her and the heritage compounded of
many races, Jees Uck developed a wonderful young beauty. Bizarre,
perhaps, it was, and Oriental enough to puzzle any passing
ethnologist. A lithe and slender grace characterized her. Beyond
a quickened lilt to the imagination, the contribution of the Celt
was in no wise apparent. It might possibly have put the warm blood
under her skin, which made her face less swart and her body fairer;
but that, in turn, might have come from Shpack, the Big Fat, who
inherited the colour of his Slavonic father. And, finally, she had
great, blazing black eyes--the half-caste eye, round, full-orbed,
and sensuous, which marks the collision of the dark races with the
light. Also, the white blood in her, combined with her knowledge
that it was in her, made her, in a way, ambitious. Otherwise by
upbringing and in outlook on life, she was wholly and utterly a
One winter, when she was a young woman, Neil Bonner came into her
life. But he came into her life, as he had come into the country,
somewhat reluctantly. In fact, it was very much against his will,
coming into the country. Between a father who clipped coupons and
cultivated roses, and a mother who loved the social round, Neil
Bonner had gone rather wild. He was not vicious, but a man with
meat in his belly and without work in the world has to expend his
energy somehow, and Neil Bonner was such a man. And he expended
his energy in such a fashion and to such extent that when the
inevitable climax came, his father, Neil Bonner, senior, crawled
out of his roses in a panic and looked on his son with a wondering
eye. Then he hied himself away to a crony of kindred pursuits,
with whom he was wont to confer over coupons and roses, and between
the two the destiny of young Neil Bonner was made manifest. He
must go away, on probation, to live down his harmless follies in
order that he might live up to their own excellent standard.
This determined upon, and young Neil a little repentant and a great
deal ashamed, the rest was easy. The cronies were heavy
stockholders in the P. C. Company. The P. C. Company owned fleets
of river-steamers and ocean-going craft, and, in addition to
farming the sea, exploited a hundred thousand square miles or so of
the land that, on the maps of geographers, usually occupies the
white spaces. So the P. C. Company sent young Neil Bonner north,
where the white spaces are, to do its work and to learn to be good
like his father. "Five years of simplicity, close to the soil and
far from temptation, will make a man of him," said old Neil Bonner,
and forthwith crawled back among his roses. Young Neil set his
jaw, pitched his chin at the proper angle, and went to work. As an
underling he did his work well and gained the commendation of his
superiors. Not that he delighted in the work, but that it was the
one thing that prevented him from going mad.
The first year he wished he was dead. The second year he cursed
God. The third year he was divided between the two emotions, and
in the confusion quarrelled with a man in authority. He had the
best of the quarrel, though the man in authority had the last
word,--a word that sent Neil Bonner into an exile that made his old
billet appear as paradise. But he went without a whimper, for the
North had succeeded in making him into a man.
Here and there, on the white spaces on the map, little circlets
like the letter "o" are to be found, and, appended to these
circlets, on one side or the other, are names such as "Fort
Hamilton," "Yanana Station," "Twenty Mile," thus leading one to
imagine that the white spaces are plentifully besprinkled with
towns and villages. But it is a vain imagining. Twenty Mile,
which is very like the rest of the posts, is a log building the
size of a corner grocery with rooms to let up-stairs. A long-
legged cache on stilts may be found in the back yard; also a couple
of outhouses. The back yard is unfenced, and extends to the
skyline and an unascertainable bit beyond. There are no other
houses in sight, though the Toyaats sometimes pitch a winter camp a
mile or two down the Yukon. And this is Twenty Mile, one tentacle
of the many-tentacled P. C. Company. Here the agent, with an
assistant, barters with the Indians for their furs, and does an
erratic trade on a gold-dust basis with the wandering miners.
Here, also, the agent and his assistant yearn all winter for the
spring, and when the spring comes, camp blasphemously on the roof
while the Yukon washes out the establishment. And here, also, in
the fourth year of his sojourn in the land, came Neil Bonner to
He had displaced no agent; for the man that previously ran the post
had made away with himself; "because of the rigours of the place,"
said the assistant, who still remained; though the Toyaats, by
their fires, had another version. The assistant was a shrunken-
shouldered, hollow-chested man, with a cadaverous face and
cavernous cheeks that his sparse black beard could not hide. He
coughed much, as though consumption gripped his lungs, while his
eyes had that mad, fevered light common to consumptives in the last
stage. Pentley was his name--Amos Pentley--and Bonner did not like
him, though he felt a pity for the forlorn and hopeless devil.
They did not get along together, these two men who, of all men,
should have been on good terms in the face of the cold and silence
and darkness of the long winter.
In the end, Bonner concluded that Amos was partly demented, and
left him alone, doing all the work himself except the cooking.
Even then, Amos had nothing but bitter looks and an undisguised
hatred for him. This was a great loss to Bonner; for the smiling
face of one of his own kind, the cheery word, the sympathy of
comradeship shared with misfortune--these things meant much; and
the winter was yet young when he began to realize the added
reasons, with such an assistant, that the previous agent had found
to impel his own hand against his life.
It was very lonely at Twenty Mile. The bleak vastness stretched
away on every side to the horizon. The snow, which was really
frost, flung its mantle over the land and buried everything in the
silence of death. For days it was clear and cold, the thermometer
steadily recording forty to fifty degrees below zero. Then a
change came over the face of things. What little moisture had
oozed into the atmosphere gathered into dull grey, formless clouds;
it became quite warm, the thermometer rising to twenty below; and
the moisture fell out of the sky in hard frost-granules that hissed
like dry sugar or driving sand when kicked underfoot. After that
it became clear and cold again, until enough moisture had gathered
to blanket the earth from the cold of outer space. That was all.
Nothing happened. No storms, no churning waters and threshing
forests, nothing but the machine-like precipitation of accumulated
moisture. Possibly the most notable thing that occurred through
the weary weeks was the gliding of the temperature up to the
unprecedented height of fifteen below. To atone for this, outer
space smote the earth with its cold till the mercury froze and the
spirit thermometer remained more than seventy below for a
fortnight, when it burst. There was no telling how much colder it
was after that. Another occurrence, monotonous in its regularity,
was the lengthening of the nights, till day became a mere blink of
light between the darkness.
Neil Bonner was a social animal. The very follies for which he was
doing penance had been bred of his excessive sociability. And
here, in the fourth year of his exile, he found himself in company-
-which were to travesty the word--with a morose and speechless
creature in whose sombre eyes smouldered a hatred as bitter as it
was unwarranted. And Bonner, to whom speech and fellowship were as
the breath of life, went about as a ghost might go, tantalized by
the gregarious revelries of some former life. In the day his lips
were compressed, his face stern; but in the night he clenched his
hands, rolled about in his blankets, and cried aloud like a little
child. And he would remember a certain man in authority and curse
him through the long hours. Also, he cursed God. But God
understands. He cannot find it in his heart to blame weak mortals
who blaspheme in Alaska.
And here, to the post of Twenty Mile, came Jees Uck, to trade for
flour and bacon, and beads, and bright scarlet cloths for her fancy
work. And further, and unwittingly, she came to the post of Twenty
Mile to make a lonely man more lonely, make him reach out empty
arms in his sleep. For Neil Bonner was only a man. When she first
came into the store, he looked at her long, as a thirsty man may
look at a flowing well. And she, with the heritage bequeathed her
by Spike O'Brien, imagined daringly and smiled up into his eyes,
not as the swart-skinned peoples should smile at the royal races,
but as a woman smiles at a man. The thing was inevitable; only, he
did not see it, and fought against her as fiercely and passionately
as he was drawn towards her. And she? She was Jees Uck, by
upbringing wholly and utterly a Toyaat Indian woman.
She came often to the post to trade. And often she sat by the big
wood stove and chatted in broken English with Neil Bonner. And he
came to look for her coming; and on the days she did not come he
was worried and restless. Sometimes he stopped to think, and then
she was met coldly, with a resolve that perplexed and piqued her,
and which, she was convinced, was not sincere. But more often he
did not dare to think, and then all went well and there were smiles
and laughter. And Amos Pentley, gasping like a stranded catfish,
his hollow cough a-reek with the grave, looked upon it all and
grinned. He, who loved life, could not live, and it rankled his
soul that others should be able to live. Wherefore he hated
Bonner, who was so very much alive and into whose eyes sprang joy
at the sight of Jees Uck. As for Amos, the very thought of the
girl was sufficient to send his blood pounding up into a
Jees Uck, whose mind was simple, who thought elementally and was
unused to weighing life in its subtler quantities, read Amos
Pentley like a book. She warned Bonner, openly and bluntly, in few
words; but the complexities of higher existence confused the
situation to him, and he laughed at her evident anxiety. To him,
Amos was a poor, miserable devil, tottering desperately into the
grave. And Bonner, who had suffered much, found it easy to forgive
But one morning, during a bitter snap, he got up from the
breakfast-table and went into the store. Jees Uck was already
there, rosy from the trail, to buy a sack of flour. A few minutes
later, he was out in the snow lashing the flour on her sled. As he
bent over he noticed a stiffness in his neck and felt a premonition
of impending physical misfortune. And as he put the last half-
hitch into the lashing and attempted to straighten up, a quick
spasm seized him and he sank into the snow. Tense and quivering,
head jerked back, limbs extended, back arched and mouth twisted and
distorted, he appeared as though being racked limb from limb.
Without cry or sound, Jees Uck was in the snow beside him; but he
clutched both her wrists spasmodically, and as long as the
convulsion endured she was helpless. In a few moments the spasm
relaxed and he was left weak and fainting, his forehead beaded with
sweat, and his lips flecked with foam.
"Quick!" he muttered, in a strange, hoarse voice. "Quick!
He started to crawl on hands and knees, but she raised him up, and,
supported by her young arm, he made faster progress. As he entered
the store the spasm seized him again, and his body writhed
irresistibly away from her and rolled and curled on the floor.
Amos Pentley came and looked on with curious eyes.
"Oh, Amos!" she cried in an agony of apprehension and helplessness,
"him die, you think?" But Amos shrugged his shoulders and
continued to look on.
Bonner's body went slack, the tense muscles easing down and an
expression of relief coming into his face. "Quick!" he gritted
between his teeth, his mouth twisting with the on-coming of the
next spasm and with his effort to control it. "Quick, Jees Uck!
The medicine! Never mind! Drag me!"
She knew where the medicine-chest stood, at the rear of the room
beyond the stove, and thither, by the legs, she dragged the
struggling man. As the spasm passed he began, very faint and very
sick, to overhaul the chest. He had seen dogs die exhibiting
symptoms similar to his own, and he knew what should be done. He
held up a vial of chloral hydrate, but his fingers were too weak
and nerveless to draw the cork. This Jees Uck did for him, while
he was plunged into another convulsion. As he came out of it he
found the open bottle proffered him, and looked into the great
black eyes of the woman and read what men have always read in the
Mate-woman's eyes. Taking a full dose of the stuff, he sank back
until another spasm had passed. Then he raised himself limply on
"Listen, Jees Uck!" he said very slowly, as though aware of the
necessity for haste and yet afraid to hasten. "Do what I say.
Stay by my side, but do not touch me. I must be very quiet, but
you must not go away." His jaw began to set and his face to quiver
and distort with the fore-running pangs, but he gulped and
struggled to master them. "Do not got away. And do not let Amos
go away. Understand! Amos must stay right here."
She nodded her head, and he passed off into the first of many
convulsions, which gradually diminished in force and frequency.
Jees Uck hung over him remembering his injunction and not daring to
touch him. Once Amos grew restless and made as though to go into
the kitchen; but a quick blaze from her eyes quelled him, and after
that, save for his laboured breathing and charnel cough, he was
Bonner slept. The blink of light that marked the day disappeared.
Amos, followed about by the woman's eyes, lighted the kerosene
lamps. Evening came on. Through the north window the heavens were
emblazoned with an auroral display, which flamed and flared and
died down into blackness. Some time after that, Neil Bonner
roused. First he looked to see that Amos was still there, then
smiled at Jees Uck and pulled himself up. Every muscle was stiff
and sore, and he smiled ruefully, pressing and prodding himself as
if to ascertain the extent of the ravage. Then his face went stern
"Jees Uck," he said, "take a candle. Go into the kitchen. There
is food on the table--biscuits and beans and bacon; also, coffee in
the pot on the stove. Bring it here on the counter. Also, bring
tumblers and water and whisky, which you will find on the top shelf
of the locker. Do not forget the whisky."
Having swallowed a stiff glass of the whisky, he went carefully
through the medicine chest, now and again putting aside, with
definite purpose, certain bottles and vials. Then he set to work
on the food, attempting a crude analysis. He had not been unused
to the laboratory in his college days and was possessed of
sufficient imagination to achieve results with his limited
materials. The condition of tetanus, which had marked his
paroxysms, simplified matters, and he made but one test. The
coffee yielded nothing; nor did the beans. To the biscuits he
devoted the utmost care. Amos, who knew nothing of chemistry,
looked on with steady curiosity. But Jees Uck, who had boundless
faith in the white man's wisdom, and especially in Neil Bonner's
wisdom, and who not only knew nothing but knew that she knew
nothing watched his face rather than his hands.
Step by step he eliminated possibilities, until he came to the
final test. He was using a thin medicine vial for a tube, and this
he held between him and the light, watching the slow precipitation
of a salt through the solution contained in the tube. He said
nothing, but he saw what he had expected to see. And Jees Uck, her
eyes riveted on his face, saw something too,--something that made
her spring like a tigress upon Amos, and with splendid suppleness
and strength bend his body back across her knee. Her knife was out
of its sheaf and uplifted, glinting in the lamplight. Amos was
snarling; but Bonner intervened ere the blade could fall.
"That's a good girl, Jees Uck. But never mind. Let him go!"
She dropped the man obediently, though with protest writ large on
her face; and his body thudded to the floor. Bonner nudged him
with his moccasined foot.
"Get up, Amos!" he commanded. "You've got to pack an outfit yet
to-night and hit the trail."
"You don't mean to say--" Amos blurted savagely.
"I mean to say that you tried to kill me," Neil went on in cold,
even tones. "I mean to say that you killed Birdsall, for all the
Company believes he killed himself. You used strychnine in my
case. God knows with what you fixed him. Now I can't hang you.
You're too near dead as it is. But Twenty Mile is too small for
the pair of us, and you've got to mush. It's two hundred miles to
Holy Cross. You can make it if you're careful not to over-exert.
I'll give you grub, a sled, and three dogs. You'll be as safe as
if you were in jail, for you can't get out of the country. And
I'll give you one chance. You're almost dead. Very well. I shall
send no word to the Company until the spring. In the meantime, the
thing for you to do is to die. Now MUSH!"
"You go to bed!" Jees Uck insisted, when Amos had churned away into
the night towards Holy Cross. "You sick man yet, Neil."
"And you're a good girl, Jees Uck," he answered. "And here's my
hand on it. But you must go home."
"You don't like me," she said simply.
He smiled, helped her on with her PARKA, and led her to the door.
"Only too well, Jees Uck," he said softly; "only too well."
After that the pall of the Arctic night fell deeper and blacker on
the land. Neil Bonner discovered that he had failed to put proper
valuation upon even the sullen face of the murderous and death-
stricken Amos. It became very lonely at Twenty Mile. "For the
love of God, Prentiss, send me a man," he wrote to the agent at
Fort Hamilton, three hundred miles up river. Six weeks later the
Indian messenger brought back a reply. It was characteristic:
"Hell. Both feet frozen. Need him myself--Prentiss."
To make matters worse, most of the Toyaats were in the back country
on the flanks of a caribou herd, and Jees Uck was with them.
Removing to a distance seemed to bring her closer than ever, and
Neil Bonner found himself picturing her, day by day, in camp and on
trail. It is not good to be alone. Often he went out of the quiet
store, bare-headed and frantic, and shook his fist at the blink of
day that came over the southern sky-line. And on still, cold
nights he left his bed and stumbled into the frost, where he
assaulted the silence at the top of his lungs, as though it were
some tangible, sentiment thing that he might arouse; or he shouted
at the sleeping dogs till they howled and howled again. One shaggy
brute he brought into the post, playing that it was the new man
sent by Prentiss. He strove to make it sleep decently under
blankets at nights and to sit at table and eat as a man should; but
the beast, mere domesticated wolf that it was, rebelled, and sought
out dark corners and snarled and bit him in the leg, and was
finally beaten and driven forth.
Then the trick of personification seized upon Neil Bonner and
mastered him. All the forces of his environment metamorphosed into
living, breathing entities and came to live with him. He recreated
the primitive pantheon; reared an altar to the sun and burned
candle fat and bacon grease thereon; and in the unfenced yard, by
the long-legged cache, made a frost devil, which he was wont to
make faces at and mock when the mercury oozed down into the bulb.
All this in play, of course. He said it to himself that it was in
play, and repeated it over and over to make sure, unaware that
madness is ever prone to express itself in make-believe and play.
One midwinter day, Father Champreau, a Jesuit missionary, pulled
into Twenty Mile. Bonner fell upon him and dragged him into the
post, and clung to him and wept, until the priest wept with him
from sheer compassion. Then Bonner became madly hilarious and made
lavish entertainment, swearing valiantly that his guest should not
depart. But Father Champreau was pressing to Salt Water on urgent
business for his order, and pulled out next morning, with Bonner's
blood threatened on his head.
And the threat was in a fair way toward realization, when the
Toyaats returned from their long hunt to the winter camp. They had
many furs, and there was much trading and stir at Twenty Mile.
Also, Jees Uck came to buy beads and scarlet cloths and things, and
Bonner began to find himself again. He fought for a week against
her. Then the end came one night when she rose to leave. She had
not forgotten her repulse, and the pride that drove Spike O'Brien
on to complete the North-West Passage by land was her pride.
"I go now," she said; "good-night, Neil."
But he came up behind her. "Nay, it is not well," he said.
And as she turned her face toward his with a sudden joyful flash,
he bent forward, slowly and gravely, as it were a sacred thing, and
kissed her on the lips. The Toyaats had never taught her the
meaning of a kiss upon the lips, but she understood and was glad.
With the coming of Jees Uck, at once things brightened up. She was
regal in her happiness, a source of unending delight. The
elemental workings of her mind and her naive little ways made an
immense sum of pleasurable surprise to the over-civilized man that
had stooped to catch her up. Not alone was she solace to his
loneliness, but her primitiveness rejuvenated his jaded mind. It
was as though, after long wandering, he had returned to pillow his
head in the lap of Mother Earth. In short, in Jees Uck he found
the youth of the world--the youth and the strength and the joy.
And to fill the full round of his need, and that they might not see
overmuch of each other, there arrived at Twenty Mile one Sandy
MacPherson, as companionable a man as ever whistled along the trail
or raised a ballad by a camp-fire. A Jesuit priest had run into
his camp, a couple of hundred miles up the Yukon, in the nick of
time to say a last word over the body of Sandy's partner. And on
departing, the priest had said, "My son, you will be lonely now."
And Sandy had bowed his head brokenly. "At Twenty Mile," the
priest added, "there is a lonely man. You have need of each other,
So it was that Sandy became a welcome third at the post, brother to
the man and woman that resided there. He took Bonner moose-hunting
and wolf-trapping; and, in return, Bonner resurrected a battered
and way-worn volume and made him friends with Shakespeare, till
Sandy declaimed iambic pentameters to his sled-dogs whenever they
waxed mutinous. And of the long evenings they played cribbage and
talked and disagreed about the universe, the while Jees Uck rocked
matronly in an easy-chair and darned their moccasins and socks.
Spring came. The sun shot up out of the south. The land exchanged
its austere robes for the garb of a smiling wanton. Everywhere
light laughed and life invited. The days stretched out their balmy
length and the nights passed from blinks of darkness to no darkness
at all. The river bared its bosom, and snorting steamboats
challenged the wilderness. There were stir and bustle, new faces,
and fresh facts. An assistant arrived at Twenty Mile, and Sandy
MacPherson wandered off with a bunch of prospectors to invade the
Koyokuk country. And there were newspapers and magazines and
letters for Neil Bonner. And Jees Uck looked on in worriment, for
she knew his kindred talked with him across the world.
Without much shock, it came to him that his father was dead. There
was a sweet letter of forgiveness, dictated in his last hours.
There were official letters from the Company, graciously ordering
him to turn the post over to the assistant and permitting him to
depart at his earliest pleasure. A long, legal affair from the
lawyers informed him of interminable lists of stocks and bonds,
real estate, rents, and chattels that were his by his father's
will. And a dainty bit of stationery, sealed and monogramed,
implored dear Neil's return to his heart-broken and loving mother.
Neil Bonner did some swift thinking, and when the Yukon Belle
coughed in to the bank on her way down to Bering Sea, he departed--
departed with the ancient lie of quick return young and blithe on
"I'll come back, dear Jees Uck, before the first snow flies," he
promised her, between the last kisses at the gang-plank.
And not only did he promise, but, like the majority of men under
the same circumstances, he really meant it. To John Thompson, the
new agent, he gave orders for the extension of unlimited credit to
his wife, Jees Uck. Also, with his last look from the deck of the
Yukon Belle, he saw a dozen men at work rearing the logs that were
to make the most comfortable house along a thousand miles of river
front--the house of Jees Uck, and likewise the house of Neil
Bonner--ere the first flurry of snow. For he fully and fondly
meant to come back. Jees Uck was dear to him, and, further, a
golden future awaited the north. With his father's money he
intended to verify that future. An ambitious dream allured him.
With his four years of experience, and aided by the friendly
cooperation of the P. C. Company, he would return to become the
Rhodes of Alaska. And he would return, fast as steam could drive,
as soon as he had put into shape the affairs of his father, whom he
had never known, and comforted his mother, whom he had forgotten.
There was much ado when Neil Bonner came back from the Arctic. The
fires were lighted and the fleshpots slung, and he took of it all
and called it good. Not only was he bronzed and creased, but he
was a new man under his skin, with a grip on things and a
seriousness and control. His old companions were amazed when he
declined to hit up the pace in the good old way, while his father's
crony rubbed hands gleefully, and became an authority upon the
reclamation of wayward and idle youth.
For four years Neil Bonner's mind had lain fallow. Little that was
new had been added to it, but it had undergone a process of
selection. It had, so to say, been purged of the trivial and
superfluous. He had lived quick years, down in the world; and, up
in the wilds, time had been given him to organize the confused mass
of his experiences. His superficial standards had been flung to
the winds and new standards erected on deeper and broader
generalizations. Concerning civilization, he had gone away with
one set of values, had returned with another set of values. Aided,
also, by the earth smells in his nostrils and the earth sights in
his eyes, he laid hold of the inner significance of civilization,
beholding with clear vision its futilities and powers. It was a
simple little philosophy he evolved. Clean living was the way to
grace. Duty performed was sanctification. One must live clean and
do his duty in order that he might work. Work was salvation. And
to work toward life abundant, and more abundant, was to be in line
with the scheme of things and the will of God.
Primarily, he was of the city. And his fresh earth grip and virile
conception of humanity gave him a finer sense of civilization and
endeared civilization to him. Day by day the people of the city
clung closer to him and the world loomed more colossal. And, day
by day, Alaska grew more remote and less real. And then he met
Kitty Sharon--a woman of his own flesh and blood and kind; a woman
who put her hand into his hand and drew him to her, till he forgot
the day and hour and the time of the year the first snow flies on
Jees Uck moved into her grand log-house and dreamed away three
golden summer months. Then came the autumn, post-haste before the
down rush of winter. The air grew thin and sharp, the days thin
and short. The river ran sluggishly, and skin ice formed in the
quiet eddies. All migratory life departed south, and silence fell
upon the land. The first snow flurries came, and the last homing
steamboat bucked desperately into the running mush ice. Then came
the hard ice, solid cakes and sheets, till the Yukon ran level with
its banks. And when all this ceased the river stood still and the
blinking days lost themselves in the darkness.
John Thompson, the new agent, laughed; but Jees Uck had faith in
the mischances of sea and river. Neil Bonner might be frozen in
anywhere between Chilkoot Pass and St. Michael's, for the last
travellers of the year are always caught by the ice, when they
exchange boat for sled and dash on through the long hours behind
the flying dogs.
But no flying dogs came up the trail, nor down the trail, to Twenty
Mile. And John Thompson told Jees Uck, with a certain gladness ill
concealed, that Bonner would never come back again. Also, and
brutally, he suggested his own eligibility. Jees Uck laughed in
his face and went back to her grand log-house. But when midwinter
came, when hope dies down and life is at its lowest ebb, Jees Uck
found she had no credit at the store. This was Thompson's doing,
and he rubbed his hands, and walked up and down, and came to his
door and looked up at Jees Uck's house and waited. And he
continued to wait. She sold her dog-team to a party of miners and
paid cash for her food. And when Thompson refused to honour even
her coin, Toyaat Indians made her purchases, and sledded them up to
her house in the dark.
In February the first post came in over the ice, and John Thompson
read in the society column of a five-months-old paper of the
marriage of Neil Bonner and Kitty Sharon. Jees Uck held the door
ajar and him outside while he imparted the information; and, when
he had done, laughed pridefully and did not believe. In March, and
all alone, she gave birth to a man-child, a brave bit of new life
at which she marvelled. And at that hour, a year later, Neil
Bonner sat by another bed, marvelling at another bit of new life
that had fared into the world.
The snow went off the ground and the ice broke out of the Yukon.
The sun journeyed north, and journeyed south again; and, the money
from the being spent, Jees Uck went back to her own people. Oche
Ish, a shrewd hunter, proposed to kill the meat for her and her
babe, and catch the salmon, if she would marry him. And Imego and
Hah Yo and Wy Nooch, husky young hunters all, made similar
proposals. But she elected to live alone and seek her own meat and
fish. She sewed moccasins and PARKAS and mittens--warm,
serviceable things, and pleasing to the eye, withal, what of the
ornamental hair-tufts and bead-work. These she sold to the miners,
who were drifting faster into the land each year. And not only did
she win food that was good and plentiful, but she laid money by,
and one day took passage on the Yukon Belle down the river.
At St. Michael's she washed dishes in the kitchen of the post. The
servants of the Company wondered at the remarkable woman with the
remarkable child, though they asked no questions and she vouchsafed
nothing. But just before Bering Sea closed in for the year, she
bought a passage south on a strayed sealing schooner. That winter
she cooked for Captain Markheim's household at Unalaska, and in the
spring continued south to Sitka on a whisky sloop. Later on
appeared at Metlakahtla, which is near to St. Mary's on the end of
the Pan-Handle, where she worked in the cannery through the salmon
season. When autumn came and the Siwash fishermen prepared to
return to Puget Sound, she embarked with a couple of families in a
big cedar canoe; and with them she threaded the hazardous chaos of
the Alaskan and Canadian coasts, till the Straits of Juan de Fuca
were passed and she led her boy by the hand up the hard pave of
There she met Sandy MacPherson, on a windy corner, very much
surprised and, when he had heard her story, very wroth--not so
wroth as he might have been, had he known of Kitty Sharon; but of
her Jees Uck breathed not a word, for she had never believed.
Sandy, who read commonplace and sordid desertion into the
circumstance, strove to dissuade her from her trip to San
Francisco, where Neil Bonner was supposed to live when he was at
home. And, having striven, he made her comfortable, bought her
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.
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