Jack London. The Apostate (part 13)
«But what’s goin’ to come of Will an’ the children?» she asked despairingly.
«That’s it, `Will an’ the children,'» he repeated.
But there was no bitterness in his voice. He had long known his mother’s ambition for the younger boy, but the thought of it no longer rankled. Nothing mattered any more. Not even that.
«I know, ma, what you’ve ben plannin’ for Will — keepin’ him in school to make a bookkeeper out of him. But it ain’t no use, I’ve quit. He’s got to go to work.»
«An’ after I have brung you up the way I have,» she wept, starting to cover her head with the apron and changing her mind.
«You never brung me up,» he answered with sad kindliness. «brung myself up, ma, an’ I brung up Will. He’s bigger’n me, an’ heavier, an’ taller. When I was a kid, I reckon I didn’t git enough to eat. When he come along an’ was a kid, I was workin’ an’ earnin’ grub for him too. But that’s done with. Will can go to work, same as me, or he can go to hell, I don’t care which. I’m tired. I’m goin’ now. Ain’t you goin’ to say good-by?»
She made no reply. The apron had gone over her head again, and she was crying. He paused a moment in the doorway.
«I’m sure I done the best I knew how,» she was sobbing.
He passed out of the house and down the street. A wan delight came into his face at the sight of the lone tree. «Jes’ ain’t goin’ to do nothin’,» he said to himself, half aloud, in a crooning tone. He glanced wistfully up at the sky, but the bright sun dazzled and blinded him.
It was a long walk he took, and he did not walk fast. It took him past the jute-mill. The muffled roar of the loom room came to his ears, and he smiled. It was a gentle, placid smile. He hated no one, not even the pounding, shrieking machines. There was no bitterness in him, nothing but an inordinate hunger for rest.
The houses and factories thinned out and the open spaces increased as he approached the country. At last the city was behind him, and he was walking down a leafy lane beside the railroad track. He did not walk like a man. He did not look like a man. He was a travesty of the human. It was a twisted and stunted and nameless piece of life that shambled like a sickly ape, arms loose-hanging, stoop-shouldered, narrow-chested, grotesque and terrible.
He passed by a small railroad station and lay down in the grass under a tree. All afternoon he lay there. Sometimes he dozed, with muscles that twitched in his sleep. When awake, he lay without movement, watching the birds or looking up at the sky through the branches of the tree above him. Once or twice he laughed aloud, but without relevance to anything he had seen or felt.
After twilight had gone, in the first darkness of the night, a freight train rumbled into the station. When the engine was switching cars on to the side-track, Johnny crept along the side of the train. He pulled open the side-door of an empty box-car and awkwardly and laboriously climbed in. He closed the door. The engine whistled. Johnny was lying down, and in the darkness he smiled.