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    "The Story of Lost Face"

    Jack London Autograph Draft of "The Story of Lost Face" Signed "Jack London." Seven pages, 4.25" x 5.5", circa 1910. An early draft of London's short story "Lost Face", published in 1910. It is the brutal story of the last-surviving fur-thief as he bargains an attempt to escape torture at the hands of his Alaskan captors. London explores the power plays and human dynamics between Subienkow, a Polish fur-thief, and the chief of the tribe, Makamuk. This early draft has marked differences from the final published edition, with less detail throughout the story and less graphic descriptions. It also omits the character of Yakaga, who appears in the final draft as a recently freed slave who doubts Subienkow's story. This early draft reads, in full:

    "Subienkow sat in the snow, arms tied behind him, awaiting the torture. He had traveled thousands of miles across Siberia and Russia to Alaska always from savagery to deeper savagery. He had traveled with fur thieves to the far north and here in this last trading trip, they had been captured by Nulato Indians. All the band had been tortured to death and Subienkow was the only one that remained. He stared before him at a huge Cassack in the snow moaning in his pain. Subienkow looked on and shuddered. He was not afraid to die. But he objected to the torture. Better to pass out bravely and clearly, with a smile and a jest - Ah! That would have been the way.

    But he knew he would lose control, would pray and beg and entreat, would have his soul upset by the pangs of flesh - ah, that was what was so terrible. He was doomed to die in this far land of night, in this dark place beyond the boundaries of the world. He strove to think of other things and began reading back in his own life. He remembered his mother and his father and the little spotted pony. Once again he saw Paris and dreary London & gay Vienna & Rome. The past soon faded before the dreary north land scene. That could be done? Suddenly a thought came to him. He called to the chief, 'Oh, Makamuk, I am not minded to die. I am a great man and it were foolishness for me to die. In truth I am too wise to die. Behold I have a great medicine. I alone know this medicine. Since I am not going to die, I shall exchange this medicine with you. '

    'What is this medicine?'

    'It is a strange medicine.' Sub. debated with himself for a moment as if loath to part with the secret. 'I will tell you. A little bit of this medicine rubbed on the skin makes the skin hard like a rock so that no cutting weapon can cut it. What will you give me for the secret of the medicine?'

    'I will give you your life, and you shall be a slave in my house until you die.'

    Sub. laughed scornfully. 'Untie my feet and hands and let us talk.' When he was loosed Sub. rolled a cigarette & lighted it.

    'There is no such medicine. A cutting edge is stronger than any medicine." The Chief was incredulous, and yet he wavered. He had seen too many deviltries of fur-thieves that worked. 'I will give you your life but you shall not be a slave.'

    'More than that.' Sub. played his game as coolly as if he were bartering for a furskin. 'I want a sled and dogs, and six of your hunters to travel with me down the river.'

    'You must live here & teach me all of your deviltries." was the reply.

    Sub. shrugged his shoulders & remained silent.

    'I will let you go down the river, and the sled & dogs & six hunters shall be yours.'

    'You are slow & have thus offended me. Behold, I now demand more. I want one hundred beaver skins, 100 lbs fish, 2 sleds, and my rifle. If you do not like the price in a little while the price will grow.'

    'But how can I know your medicine is true medicine?'

    'It is very easy. First I shall go into the woods and get the berries and the roots with which to make the medicine. Then when you have brought my sled and outfit, I will rub the medicine on my neck, so, and lay my neck there on that log. Then can you take the axe and strike three times on my neck.'

    Makamuk stood with gaping mouth, drinking in this latest and most wonderful magic of the fur thieves. 'All that you ask shall be yours.'

    'You have been slow. To make the offence clean you must give me your daughter.' He pointed to the girl, an unwholesome creature, with a cast in one eye and a bristling wolf-tooth. Sub. was playing a desperate game and there must be no slips. As he glanced at the wolf toothed girl, he remembered another girl, a singer and a dancer in Paris. He hummed aloud a song she had taught him.

    'It shall be done.' Said Mak. 'The girl shall go down the river with you. Go into the forest and gather your medicine.'

    Sub. made haste in gathering some spruce needles, willow and berries & few frozen roots. Then he poured the ingredients into a pot of boiling water and began to sing. It was a French love-song that with great solemnity he sang into the brew.

    'Behold the medicine is ready. Thus I rub it on my neck. And remember you are to strike hard. This is not baby-work. Here, take the axe and strike the log so that I can see you strike like a man.'
    Makamuk obeyed, striking precisely and with great vigor.

    'It is well.' Sub. looked about him at the circle of savage faces. 'Take your axe, Makamuk, and stand so. I shall lie down. When I raise my hand, strike, and strike with all your might. And be careful that no one stands behind you. The axe may bounce from off my neck and right out of your hands.'

    Sub. looked at the sleds loaded with furs and fish, and the girl beside. Then he lay down in the snow, resting his hands on the log like a tired child about to sleep. He had lived so many dreary years that he was indeed tired.

    'I laugh at you and your strength, O Makamuk. Strike and strike hard.'

    He lifted his hand. Makamuk swung the axe. The bright steel flashed thro' the frosty air, passed for an instant above, then descended upon Subienkow's bare neck. Clear through flesh and bone it cut its way, biting deeply into the log beneath. There was a great bewilderment and silence while slowly it began to dawn in their minds that there had been no medicine. Alone, of all the prisoners, he had escaped the torture. Makamuk bowed his head in shame. He would be no longer known as Makamuk: he would be Lost Face. The story would pass back and forth how the fur-thief died peaceably, at a single stroke, by the hand of Lost Face."

    The manuscript has numerous holographic emendations throughout.

    At one time, the highest paid writer in America, San Francisco-born author and adventurer Jack London (1876-1916) is best known for his two works The Call of the Wild and White Fang. However, many have said that his true gift was in writing short stories. Over his lifetime he published over 100 short stories.

    Condition: The seven pages have been written on two sheets of paper that appear to have been taken from a three-ringed binder and folded in half. Flattened folds, with uneven toning throughout. Areas of dampstaining at center on both sheets; affects some of the text, but much of the writing is still legible. The three holes one each page do not affect the text.


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    April, 2018
    18th Wednesday
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