Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

Brown Wolf and Other Jack London Stories by Jack London

Part 4 out of 4

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.4 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

"He hit the high places right away for Bujannoff's house," Matt
explained. "Go on an' read."

"Was to have sailed last night at ten on the _Sajoda_ for the South
Seas--steamship delayed by extra freight----"

"That's why we caught 'm in bed," Matt interrupted. "It was just
luck--like pickin' a fifty-to-one winner."

"_Sajoda_ sailed at six this mornin'----"

"He didn't catch her," Matt said. "I saw his alarm clock was set at
five. That'd given 'm plenty of time ... only I come along an' put the
_kibosh_ on his time. Go on."

"Adolph Metzner in despair--the famous Haythorne pearl
necklace--magnificently assorted pearls--valued by experts at from fifty
to seventy thousan' dollars."

Jim broke off to say solemnly, "Those oyster-eggs worth all that money!"

He licked his lips and added, "They was beauties an' no mistake."

"Big Brazilian gem," he read on. "Eighty thousan' dollars--many valuable
gems of the first water--several thousan' small diamonds well worth
forty thousan'."

"What you don't know about jools is worth knowin'," Matt smiled good

"Theory of the sleuths," Jim read. "Thieves must have known--cleverly
kept watch on Bujannoff's actions--must have learned his plan and
trailed him to his house with the fruits of his robbery--"

"Clever--" Matt broke out. "That's the way reputations is made ... in
the noos-papers. How'd we know he was robbin' his pardner?"

"Anyway, we've got the goods," Jim grinned. "Let's look at 'em again."

He assured himself that the door was locked and bolted, while Matt
brought out the bundle in the bandana and opened it on the table.

"Ain't they beauties, though!" Jim exclaimed at sight of the pearls; and
for a time he had eyes only for them. "Accordin' to the experts, worth
from fifty to seventy thousan' dollars."

"An' women like them things," Matt commented. "An' they'll do everything
to get 'em--sell themselves, commit murder, anything."

"Just like you an' me."

"Not on your life," Matt retorted. "I'll commit murder for 'em, but not
for their own sakes, but for the sake of what they'll get me. That's the
difference. Women want the jools for themselves, an' I want the jools
for the women an' such things they'll get me."

"Lucky that men an' women don't want the same things," Jim remarked.

"That's what makes commerce," Matt agreed; "people wantin' different

In the middle of the afternoon Jim went out to buy food. While he was
gone, Matt cleared the table of the jewels, wrapping them up as before
and putting them under the pillow. Then he lighted the kerosene stove
and started to boil water for the coffee. A few minutes later, Jim

"Most surprising," he remarked. "Streets, an' stores, an' people just
like they always was. Nothin' changed. An' me walkin' along through it
all a millionnaire. Nobody looked at me an' guessed it"

Matt grunted unsympathetically. He had little comprehension of the
lighter whims and fancies of his partner's imagination.

"Did you get a porterhouse?" he demanded.

"Sure, an' an inch thick. It's a peach. Look at it."

He unwrapped the steak and held it up for the other's inspection. Then
he made the coffee and set the table, while Matt fried the steak.

"Don't put on too much of them red peppers," Jim warned. "I ain't used
to your Mexican cookin'. You always season too hot."

Matt grunted a laugh and went on with his cooking. Jim poured out the
coffee, but first, into the nicked china cup, he emptied a powder he had
carried in his vest pocket wrapped in a rice-paper. He had turned his
back for the moment on his partner, but he did not dare to glance around
at him. Matt placed a newspaper on the table, and on the newspaper set
the hot frying pan. He cut the steak in half, and served Jim and

"Eat her while she's hot," he counselled, and with knife and fork set
the example.

"She's a dandy," was Jim's judgment, after his first mouthful. "But I
tell you one thing straight. I'm never goin' to visit you on that
Arizona ranch, so you needn't ask me."

"What's the matter now?" Matt asked.

"The Mexican cookin' on your ranch'd be too much for me. If I've got
blue blazes a-comin' in the next life, I'm not goin' to torment my
insides in this one!"

He smiled, expelled his breath forcibly to cool his burning mouth, drank
some coffee, and went on eating the steak.

"What do you think about the next life anyway, Matt?" he asked a little
later, while secretly he wondered why the other had not yet touched his

"Ain't no next life," Matt answered, pausing from the steak to take his
first sip of coffee. "Nor heaven nor hell, nor nothin'. You get all
that's comin' right here in this life."

"An' afterward?" Jim queried out of his morbid curiosity, for he knew
that he looked upon a man that was soon to die. "An' afterward?" he

"Did you ever see a man two weeks dead?" the other asked.

Jim shook his head.

"Well, I have. He was like this beefsteak you an' me is eatin'. It was
once steer cavortin' over the landscape. But now it's just meat. That's
all, just meat. An' that's what you an' me an' all people come

Matt gulped down the whole cup of coffee, and refilled the cup.

"Are you scared to die?" he asked.

Jim shook his head. "What's the use? I don't die anyway. I pass on an'
live again--"

"To go stealin', an' lyin', an' snivellin' through another life, an' go
on that way forever an' ever an' ever?" Matt sneered.

"Maybe I'll improve," Jim suggested hopefully. "Maybe stealin' won't be
necessary in the life to come."

He ceased abruptly, and stared straight before him, a frightened
expression on his face.

"What's the matter!" Matt demanded.

"Nothin'. I was just wonderin'"--Jim returned to himself with an
effort--"about this dyin', that was all."

But he could not shake off the fright that had startled him. It was as
if an unseen thing of gloom had passed him by, casting upon him the
intangible shadow of its presence. He was aware of a feeling of
foreboding. Something ominous was about to happen. Calamity hovered in
the air. He gazed fixedly across the table at the other man. He could
not understand. Was it that he had blundered and poisoned himself? No,
Matt had the nicked cup, and he had certainly put the poison in the
nicked cup.

It was all his own imagination, was his next thought. It had played him
tricks before. Fool! Of course it was. Of course something was about to
happen, but it was about to happen to Matt. Had not Matt drunk the
whole cup of coffee?

Jim brightened up and finished his steak, sopping bread in the gravy
when the meat was gone.

"When I was a kid--" he began, but broke off abruptly.

Again the unseen thing of gloom had fluttered, and his being was vibrant
with premonition of impending misfortune. He felt a disruptive influence
at work in the flesh of him, and in all his muscles there was a seeming
that they were about to begin to twitch. He sat back suddenly, and as
suddenly leaned forward with his elbows on the table. A tremor ran dimly
through the muscles of his body. It was like the first rustling of
leaves before the oncoming of wind. He clenched his teeth. It came
again, a spasmodic tensing of his muscles. He knew panic at the revolt
within his being. His muscles no longer recognized his mastery over
them. Again they spasmodically tensed, despite the will of him, for he
had willed that they should not tense. This was revolution within
himself, this was anarchy; and the terror of impotence rushed up in him
as his flesh gripped and seemed to seize him in a clutch, chills running
up and down his back and sweat starting on his brow. He glanced about
the room, and all the details of it smote him with a strange sense of
familiarity. It was as though he had just returned from a long journey.
He looked across the table at his partner. Matt was watching him and
smiling. An expression of horror spread over Jim's face.

"Matt!" he screamed. "You ain't doped me?"

Matt smiled and continued to watch him. In the paroxysm that followed,
Jim did not become unconscious. His muscles tensed and twitched and
knotted, hurting him and crushing him in their savage grip. And in the
midst of it all, it came to him that Matt was acting queerly. He was
traveling the same road. The smile had gone from his face, and there was
on it an intense expression, as if he were listening to some inner tale
of himself and trying to divine the message. Matt got up and walked
across the room and back again, then sat down.

"You did this, Jim," he said quietly.

"But I didn't think you'd try to fix _me_," Jim answered reproachfully.

"Oh, I fixed you all right," Matt said, with teeth close together and
shivering body. "What did you give me?"


"Same as I gave you," Matt volunteered. "It's some mess, ain't it!"

"You're lyin', Matt," Jim pleaded. "You ain't doped me, have you?"

"I sure did, Jim; an' I didn't overdose you, neither. I cooked it in as
neat as you please in your half the porterhouse.--Hold on! Where're you

Jim had made a dash for the door, and was throwing back the bolts. Matt
sprang in between and shoved him away.

"Drug store," Jim panted. "Drug store."

"No you don't. You'll stay right here. There ain't goin' to be any
runnin' out an' makin' a poison play on the street--not with all them
jools reposin' under the pillow. Savve? Even if you didn't die, you'd be
in the hands of the police with a lot of explanations comin'. Emetics is
the stuff for poison. I'm just as bad bit as you, an' I'm goin' to take
a emetic. That's all they'd give you at a drug store, anyway."

He thrust Jim back into the middle of the room and shot the bolts into
place. As he went across the floor to the food shelf, he passed one hand
over his brow and flung off the beaded sweat. It spattered audibly on
the floor. Jim watched agonizedly as Matt got the mustard can and a cup
and ran for the sink. He stirred a cupful of mustard and water and drank
it down. Jim had followed him and was reaching with trembling hands for
the empty cup. Again Matt shoved him away. As he mixed a second cupful,
he demanded:

"D'you think one cup'll do for me? You can wait till I'm done."

Jim started to totter toward the door, but Matt checked him.

"If you monkey with that door, I'll twist your neck. Savve? You can take
yours when I'm done. An' if it saves you, I'll twist your neck, anyway.
You ain't got no chance, nohow. I told you many times what you'd get if
you did me dirt."

"But you did me dirt, too," Jim articulated with an effort.

Matt was drinking the second cupful, and did not answer. The sweat had
got into Jim's eyes, and he could scarcely see his way to the table,
where he got a cup for himself. But Matt was mixing a third cupful, and,
as before, thrust him away.

"I told you to wait till I was done," Matt growled. "Get outa my way."

And Jim supported his twitching body by holding on to the sink, the
while he yearned toward the yellowish concoction that stood for life. It
was by sheer will that he stood and clung to the sink. His flesh strove
to double him up and bring him to the floor. Matt drank the third
cupful, and with difficulty managed to get to a chair and sit down. His
first paroxysm was passing. The spasms that afflicted him were dying
away. This good effect he ascribed to the mustard and water. He was
safe, at any rate. He wiped the sweat from his face, and, in the
interval of calm, found room for curiosity. He looked at his partner.

A spasm had shaken the mustard can out of Jim's hands, and the contents
were spilled upon the floor. He stooped to scoop some of the mustard
into the cup, and the succeeding spasm doubled him up on the floor. Matt

"Stay with it," he encouraged. "It's the stuff all right. It's fixed me

Jim heard him and turned toward him with a stricken face, twisted with
suffering and pleading. Spasm now followed spasm till he was in
convulsions, rolling on the floor and yellowing his face and hair in the

Matt laughed hoarsely at the sight, but the laugh broke midway. A tremor
had run through his body. A new paroxysm was beginning. He arose and
staggered across to the sink, where, with probing forefinger, he vainly
strove to assist the action of the emetic. In the end, he clung to the
sink as Jim had clung, filled with the horror of going down to the

The other's paroxysm had passed, and he sat up, weak and fainting, too
weak to rise, his forehead dripping, his lips flecked with a foam made
yellow by the mustard in which he had rolled. He rubbed his eyes with
his knuckles, and groans that were like whines came from his throat.

"What are you snifflin' about!" Matt demanded out of his agony. "All you
got to do is die. An' when you die you're dead."

"I ... ain't ... snifflin' ... it's ... the ... mustard ... stingin'
... my ... eyes," Jim panted with desperate slowness.

It was his last successful attempt at speech. Thereafter he babbled
incoherently, pawing the air with shaking arms till a fresh convulsion
stretched him on the floor.

Matt struggled back to the chair, and, doubled up on it, with his arms
clasped about his knees, he fought with his disintegrating flesh. He
came out of the convulsion cool and weak. He looked to see how it went
with the other, and saw him lying motionless.

He tried to soliloquize, to be facetious, to have his last grim laugh at
life, but his lips made only incoherent sounds. The thought came to him
that the emetic had failed, and that nothing remained but the drug
store. He looked toward the door and drew himself to his feet. There he
saved himself from falling by clutching the chair. Another paroxysm had
begun. And in the midst of the paroxysm, with his body and all the parts
of it flying apart and writhing and twisting back again into knots, he
clung to the chair and shoved it before him across the floor. The last
shreds of his will were leaving him when he gained the door. He turned
the key and shot back one bolt. He fumbled for the second bolt, but
failed. Then he leaned his weight against the door and slid down gently
to the floor.



In the morning calm of Korea, when its peace and tranquility truly
merited its ancient name, "Cho-sen," there lived a politician by name Yi
Chin Ho. He was a man of parts, and--who shall say?--perhaps in no wise
worse than politicians the world over. But, unlike his brethren in other
lands, Yi Chin Ho was in jail. Not that he had inadvertently diverted to
himself public moneys, but that he had inadvertently diverted too much.
Excess is to be deplored in all things, even in grafting, and Yi Chin
Ho's excess had brought him to most deplorable straits.

Ten thousand strings of cash he owed the government, and he lay in
prison under sentence of death. There was one advantage to the
situation--he had plenty of time in which to think. And he thought well.
Then called he the jailer to him.

"Most worthy man, you see before you one most wretched," he began. "Yet
all will be well with me if you will but let me go free for one short
hour this night. And all will be well with you, for I shall see to your
advancement through the years, and you shall come at length to the
directorship of all the prisons of Cho-sen."

"How now?" demanded the jailer. "What foolishness is this? One short
hour, and you but waiting for your head to be chopped off! And I, with
an aged and much-to-be-respected mother, not to say anything of a wife
and several children of tender years! Out upon you for the scoundrel
that you are!"

"From the Sacred City to the ends of all the Eight Coasts there is no
place for me to hide," Yi Chin Ho made reply. "I am a man of wisdom, but
of what worth my wisdom here in prison? Were I free, well I know I could
seek out and obtain the money wherewith to repay the government. I know
of a nose that will save me from all my difficulties."

"A nose!" cried the jailer.

"A nose," said Yi Chin Ho. "A remarkable nose, if I may say so, a most
remarkable nose."

The jailer threw up his hands despairingly. "Ah, what a wag you are,
what a wag," he laughed. "To think that that very admirable wit of yours
must go the way of the chopping-block!"

And so saying, he turned and went away. But in the end, being a man soft
of head and heart, when the night was well along he permitted Yi Chin Ho
to go.

Straight he went to the Governor, catching him alone and arousing him
from his sleep.

"Yi Chin Ho, or I'm no Governor!" cried the Governor. "What do you here
who should be in prison waiting on the chopping-block!"

"I pray your excellency to listen to me," said Yi Chin Ho, squatting on
his hams by the bedside and lighting his pipe from the fire-box. "A dead
man is without value. It is true, I am as a dead man, without value to
the government, to your excellency, or to myself. But if, so to say,
your excellency were to give me my freedom--"

"Impossible!" cried the Governor. "Besides, you are condemned to death."

"Your excellency well knows that if I can repay the ten thousand strings
of cash, the government will pardon me," Yi Chin Ho went on. "So, as I
say, if your excellency were to give me my freedom for a few days, being
a man of understanding, I should then repay the government and be in
position to be of service to your excellency. I should be in position to
be of very great service to your excellency."

"Have you a plan whereby you hope to obtain this money?" asked the

"I have," said Yi Chin Ho.

"Then come with it to me to-morrow night; I would now sleep," said the
Governor, taking up his snore where it had been interrupted.

On the following night, having again obtained leave of absence from the
jailer, Yi Chin Ho presented himself at the Governor's bedside.

"Is it you, Yi Chin Ho?" asked the Governor. "And have you the plan?"

"It is I, your excellency," answered Yi Chin Ho, "and the plan is here."

"Speak," commanded the Governor.

"The plan is here," repeated Yi Chin Ho, "here in my hand."

The Governor sat up and opened his eyes, Yi Chin Ho proffered in his
hand a sheet of paper. The Governor held it to the light.

"Nothing but a nose," said he.

"A bit pinched, so, and so, your excellency," said Yi Chin Ho.

"Yes, a bit pinched here and there, as you say," said the Governor.

"Withal it is an exceeding corpulent nose, thus, and so, all in one
place, at the end," proceeded Yi Chin Ho. "Your excellency would seek
far and wide and many a day for that nose and find it not."

"An unusual nose," admitted the Governor.

"There is a wart upon it," said Yi Chin Ho.

"A most unusual nose," said the Governor. "Never have I seen the like.
But what do you with this nose, Yi Chin Ho!"

"I seek it whereby to repay the money to the government," said Yi Chin
Ho. "I seek it to be of service to your excellency, and I seek it to
save my own worthless head. Further, I seek your excellency's seal upon
this picture of the nose."

And the Governor laughed and affixed the seal of state, and Yi Chin Ho
departed. For a month and a day he traveled the King's Road which leads
to the shore of the Eastern Sea; and there, one night, at the gate of
the largest mansion of a wealthy city he knocked loudly for admittance.

"None other than the master of the house will I see," said he fiercely
to the frightened servants. "I travel upon the King's business."

Straightway was he led to an inner room, where the master of the house
was roused from his sleep and brought blinking before him.

"You are Pak Chung Chang, head man of this city," said Yi Chin Ho in
tones that were all-accusing. "I am upon the King's business."

Pak Chung Chang trembled. Well he knew the King's business was ever a
terrible business. His knees smote together, and he near fell to the

"The hour is late," he quavered. "Were it not well to----"

"The King's business never waits!" thundered Yi Chin Ho. "Come apart
with me, and swiftly. I have an affair of moment to discuss with you.

"It is the King's affair," he added with even greater fierceness; so
that Pak Chung Chang's silver pipe dropped from his nerveless fingers
and clattered on the floor.

"Know then," said Yi Chin Ho, when they had gone apart, "that the King
is troubled with an affliction, a very terrible affliction. In that he
failed to cure, the Court physician has had nothing else than his head
chopped off. From all the Eight Provinces have the physicians come to
wait upon the King. Wise consultation have they held, and they have
decided that for a remedy for the King's affliction nothing else is
required than a nose, a certain kind of nose, a very peculiar certain
kind of nose.

"Then by none other was I summoned than his excellency the prime
minister himself. He put a paper into my hand. Upon this paper was the
very peculiar kind of nose drawn by the physicians of the Eight
Provinces, with the seal of state upon it.

"'Go,' said his excellency the prime minister. 'Seek out this nose, for
the King's affliction is sore. And wheresoever you find this nose upon
the face of a man, strike it off forthright and bring it in all haste to
the Court, for the King must be cured. Go, and come not back until your
search is rewarded.'

"And so I departed upon my quest," said Yi Chin Ho. "I have sought out
the remotest corners of the kingdom; I have traveled the Eight
Highways, searched the Eight Provinces, and sailed the seas of the Eight
Coasts. And here I am."

With a great flourish he drew a paper from his girdle, unrolled it with
many snappings and cracklings, and thrust it before the face of Pak
Chung Chang. Upon the paper was the picture of the nose.

Pak Chung Chang stared upon it with bulging eyes.

"Never have I beheld such a nose," he began.

"There is a wart upon it," said Yi Chin Ho.

"Never have I beheld----" Pak Chung Chang began again.

"Bring your father before me," Yi Chin Ho interrupted sternly.

"My ancient and very-much-to-be-respected ancestor sleeps," said Pak
Chung Chang.

"Why dissemble?" demanded Yi Chin Ho. "You know it is your father's
nose. Bring him before me that I may strike it off and be gone. Hurry,
lest I make bad report of you."

"Mercy!" cried Pak Chung Chang, falling on his knees. "It is impossible!
It is impossible! You cannot strike off my father's nose. He cannot go
down without his nose to the grave. He will become a laughter and a
byword, and all my days and nights will be filled with woe. O reflect!
Report that you have seen no such nose in your travels. You, too, have a

Pak Chung Chang clasped Yi Chin Ho's knees and fell to weeping on his

"My heart softens strangely at your tears," said Yi Chin Ho. "I, too,
know filial piety and regard. But--" He hesitated, then added, as though
thinking aloud, "It is as much as my head is worth."

"How much is your head worth?" asked Pak Chung Chang in a thin, small

"A not remarkable head," said Yi Chin Ho. "An absurdly unremarkable
head! but, such is my great foolishness, I value it at nothing less than
one hundred thousand strings of cash."

"So be it," said Pak Chung Chang, rising to his feet.

"I shall need horses to carry the treasure," said Yi Chin Ho, "and men
to guard it well as I journey through the mountains. There are robbers
abroad in the land."

"There are robbers abroad in the land," said Pak Chung Chang, sadly.
"But it shall be as you wish, so long as my ancient and
very-much-to-be-respected ancestor's nose abide in its appointed

"Say nothing to any man of this occurrence," said Yi Chin Ho, "else will
other and more loyal servants than I be sent to strike off your father's

And so Yi Chin Ho departed on his way through the mountains, blithe of
heart and gay of song as he listened to the jingling bells of his
treasure-laden ponies.

There is little more to tell. Yi Chin Ho prospered through the years. By
his efforts the jailer attained at length to the directorship of all the
prisons of Cho-sen; the Governor ultimately betook himself to the Sacred
City to be prime minister to the King, while Yi Chin Ho became the
King's boon companion and sat at table with him to the end of a round,
fat life. But Pak Chung Chang fell into a melancholy, and ever after he
shook his head sadly, with tears in his eyes, whenever he regarded the
expensive nose of his ancient and very-much-to-be-respected ancestor.

Book of the day:
Facebook Google Reddit StumbleUpon Twitter Pinterest