Russian exemplar for LIE, but I have my doubts. Anyone read "To Build a Fire" etc?
Russian exemplar for LIE, but I have my doubts. Anyone read "To Build a Fire" etc?
But, for a certainty, back then,
We loved so many, yet hated so much,
We hurt others and were hurt ourselves...
Yet even then, we ran like the wind,
Whilst our laughter echoed,
Under cerulean skies...
- from The Sea Wolf by Jack London; pp. 7-10 (Chapter 1): I scarcely know where to begin, though I sometimes facetiously place the cause of it all to Charley Furuseth’s credit. He kept a summer cottage in Mill Valley, under the shadow of Mount Tamalpais, and never occupied it except when he loafed through the winter months and read Nietzsche and Schopenhauer to rest his brain. When summer came on, he elected to sweat out a hot and dusty existence in the city and to toil incessantly. Had it not been my custom to run up to see him every Saturday afternoon and to stop over till Monday morning, this particular January Monday morning would not have found me afloat on San Francisco Bay.
Not but that I was afloat in a safe craft, for the Martinez was a new ferry steamer, making her fourth or fifth trip on the run between Sausalito and San Francisco. The danger lay in the heavy fog which blanketed the bay, and of which, as a landsman, I had little apprehension. In fact, I remember the placid exaltation with which I took up my position on the forward upper deck, directly beneath the pilothouse, and allowed the mystery of the fog to lay hold of my imagination. A fresh breeze was blowing, and for a time I was alone in the moist obscurity—yet not alone, for I was dimly conscious of the presence of the pilot and of what I took to be the captain in the glass house above my head.
I remember thinking how comfortable it was, this division of labor which made it unnecessary for me to study fogs, winds, tides, and navigation in order to visit my friend who lived across an arm of the sea. It was good that men should be specialists, I mused. The peculiar knowledge of the pilot and captain sufficed for many thousands of people who knew no more of the sea and navigation than I knew. On the other hand, instead of having to devote my energy to the learning of a multitude of things, I concentrated it upon a few particular things, such as, for instance, the analysis of Poe’s place in American literature—an essay of mine, by the way, in the current Atlantic. Coming aboard, as I passed through the cabin, I had noticed with greedy eyes a stout gentleman reading the Atlantic, which was open at my very essay. And there it was again, the division of labor, the special knowledge of the pilot and captain which permitted the stout gentleman to read my special knowledge on Poe while they carried him safely from Sausalito to San Francisco.
A red-faced man, slamming the cabin door behind him and stumping out on the deck, interrupted my reflections, though I made a mental note of the topic for use in a projected essay which I had thought of calling “The Necessity for Freedom: A Plea for the Artist.” The red-faced man shot a glance up at the pilothouse, gazed around at the fog, stumped across the deck and back (he evidently had artificial legs), and stood still by my side, legs wide apart, and with an expression of keen enjoyment on his face. I was not wrong when I decided that his days had been spent on the sea.
“It’s nasty weather like this here that turns heads gray before their time,” he said with a nod toward the pilothouse.
“I had not thought there was any particular strain,” I answered. “It seems as simple as ABC. They know the direction by compass, the distance, and the speed. I should not call it anything more than mathematical certainty.”
“Strain!” he snorted. “Simple as ABC! Mathematical certainty!”
He seemed to brace himself up and lean backward against the air as he stared at me. “How about this here tide that’s rushin’ out through the Golden Gate?” he demanded, or bellowed, rather. “How fast is she ebbin’? What’s the drift, eh? Listen to that, will you? A bell buoy, and we’re atop of it! See ‘em alterin’ the course!”
From out of the fog came the mournful tolling of a bell, and I could see the pilot turning the wheel with great rapidity. The bell, which had seemed straight ahead, was now sounding from the side. Our own whistle was blowing hoarsely, and from time to time the sound of other whistles came to us from out of the fog.
“That’s a ferry boat of some sort,” the newcomer said, indicating a whistle off to the right. “And there! D’ye hear that? Blown by mouth. Some scow schooner, most likely. Better watch out, Mr. Schooner man. Ah, I thought so. Now hell’s a-poppin’ for somebody!”
The unseen ferryboat was blowing blast after blast, and the mouth-blown horn was tooting in terror-stricken fashion.
“And now they’re payin’ their respects to each other and tryin’ to get clear,” the red-faced man went on as the hurried whistling ceased.
His face was shining, his eyes flashing with excitement, as he translated into articulate language the speech of the horns and sirens. “That’s a steam siren a-goin’ it over there to the left. And you hear that fellow with a frog in his throat—a steam schooner as near as I can judge, crawlin’ in from the Heads against the tide.”
A shrill little whistle, piping as if gone mad, came from directly ahead and from very near at hand. Gongs sounded on the Martinez. Our paddle wheels stopped, their pulsing beat died away, and then they started again. The shrill little whistle, like the chirping of a cricket amid the cries of great beasts, shot through the fog from more to the side and swiftly grew faint and fainter. I looked to my companion for enlightenment.
“One of them daredevil launches,” he said. “I almost wish we’d sunk him, the little rip! They’re the cause of more trouble. And what good are they? Any jackass gets aboard one and runs it from hell to breakfast, blowin’ his whistle to beat the band and tellin’ the rest of the world to look out for him because he’s comin’ and can’t look out for himself! Because he’s comin’! And you’ve got to look out too! Right of way! Common decency! They don’t know the meanin’ of it!”
I felt quite amused at his unwarranted choler, and while he stumped indignantly up and down I fell to dwelling upon the romance of the fog. And romantic it certainly was—the fog, like the gray shadow of infinite mystery, brooding over the whirling speck of earth; and men, mere motes of light and sparkle, cursed with an insane relish for work, riding their steeds of wood and steel through the heart of the mystery, groping their way blindly through the unseen, and clamoring and clanging in confident speech the while their hearts are heavy with incertitude and fear.
The voice of my companion brought me back to myself with a laugh. I too had been groping and floundering, the while I thought I rode clear-eyed through the mystery.
- from The Call of the Wild and White Fang by Jack London; p. 91 [White Fang (Part One—The Wild)]: Dark spruce forest frowned on either side the frozen waterway. The trees had been stripped by a recent wind of their white covering of frost, and they seemed to lean toward each other, black and ominous, in the fading light. A vast silence reigned over the land. The land itself was a desolation, lifeless, without movement, so lone and cold that the spirit of it was not even that of sadness. There was a hint in it of laughter, but of a laughter more terrible than any sadness—a laughter that was mirthless as the smile of the Sphinx, a laughter cold as the frost and partaking of the grimness of infallibility. It was the masterful and incommunicable wisdom of eternity laughing at the futility of life and the effort of life. It was the Wild, the savage, frozen-hearted Northland Wild.
- p. 99: At once began to rise the cries that were fiercely sad—cries that called through the darkness and cold to one another and answered back. Conversation ceased. Daylight came at nine o’clock. At midday the sky to the south warmed to rose-color, and marked where the bulge of the earth intervened between the meridian sun and the northern world. But the rose-color swiftly faded. The gray light of day that remained lasted until three o’clock, when it, too, faded, and the pall of the Arctic night descended upon the lone and silent land.
- pp. 104-105: “They ate ‘m hide an’ all,” Bill announced. “The stick’s as clean as a whistle. They’ve ate the leather offen both ends. They’re damn hungry, Henry, an’ they’ll have you an’ me guessin’ before this trip’s over.”
Henry laughed defiantly. “I ain’t been trailed this way by wolves before, but I’ve gone through a whole lot worse an’ kept my health. Takes more’n a handful of them pesky critters to do for yours truly, Bill, my son.
“I don’t know, I don’t know,” Bill muttered ominously.
“Well, you’ll know all right when we pull into McGurry.”
“I ain’t feelin’ special enthusiastic,” Bill persisted.
“You’re off color, that’s what’s the matter with you,” Henry dogmatized. “What you need is quinine, an’ I’m goin’ to dose you up stiff as soon as we make McGurry.”
Bill grunted his disagreement with the diagnosis, and lapsed into silence. The day was like all the days. Light came at nine o’clock. At twelve o’clock the southern horizon was warmed by the unseen sun; and then began the cold gray of afternoon that would merge, three hours later, into night.
- pp. 109-111 (3. The Hunger Cry): The day began auspiciously. They had lost no dogs during the night, and they swung out upon the trail and into the silence, the darkness, and the cold with spirits that were fairly light. Bill seemed to have forgotten his forebodings of the previous night, and even waxed facetious with the dogs when, at midday, they overturned the sled on a bad piece of trail.
It was an awkward mix-up. The sled was upside down and jammed between a tree-trunk and a huge rock, and they were forced to unharness the dogs in order to straighten out the tangle. The two men were bent over the sled and trying to right it, when Henry observed One Ear sidling away.
“Here, you, One Ear!” he cried, straightening up and turning around on the dog.
But One Ear broke into a run across the snow, his traces trailing behind him. And there, out in the snow of their back-track, was the she-wolf waiting for him. As he neared her, he became suddenly cautious. He slowed down to an alert and mincing walk and then stopped. He regarded her carefully and dubiously, yet desirefully. She seemed to smile at him, showing her teeth in an ingratiating rather than a menacing way. She moved toward him a few steps, playfully, and then halted. One Ear drew near to her, still alert and cautious, his tail and ears in the air, his head held high.
He tried to sniff noses with her, but she retreated playfully and coyly. Every advance on his part was accompanied by a corresponding retreat on her part. Step by step she was luring him away from the security of his human companionship. Once, as though a warning had in vague ways flitted through his intelligence, he turned his head and looked back at the overturned sled, at his team-mates, and at the two men who were calling to him.
But whatever idea was forming in his mind, was dissipated by the she-wolf, who advanced upon him, sniffed noses with him for a fleeting instant, and then resumed her coy retreat before his renewed advances.
In the meantime, Bill had bethought himself of the rifle. But it was jammed beneath the overturned sled, and by the time Henry had helped him to right the load, One Ear and the she-wolf were too close together and the distance too great to risk a shot.
Too late, One Ear learned his mistake. Before they saw the cause, the two men saw him turn and start to run back toward them. Then, approaching at right angles to the trail and cutting off his retreat, they saw a dozen wolves, lean and gray, bounding across the snow. On the instant, the she-wolf’s coyness and playfulness disappeared. With a snarl she sprang upon One Ear. He thrust her off with his shoulder, and, his retreat cut off and still intent on regaining the sled, he altered his course in an attempt to circle around to it. More wolves were appearing every moment and joining in the chase. The she-wolf was one leap behind One Ear and holding her own.
“Where are you goin’?” Henry suddenly demanded, laying his hand on his partner’s arm.
Bill shook it off. “I won’t stand it,” he said. “They ain’t a-goin’ to get any more of our dogs if I can help it.”
Gun in hand, he plunged into the underbrush that lined the side of the trail. His intention was apparent enough. Taking the sled as the center of the circle that One Ear was making, Bill planned to tap that circle at a point in advance of the pursuit. With his rifle, in the broad daylight, it might be possible for him to awe the wolves and save the dog.
“Say, Bill!” Henry called after him. “Be careful! Don’t take no chances!”
Henry sat down on the sled and watched. There was nothing else for him to do. Bill had already gone from sight; but now and again, appearing and disappearing amongst the underbrush and the scattered clumps of spruce, could be seen One Ear. Henry judged his case to be hopeless. The dog was thoroughly alive to its danger, but it was running on the outer circle while the wolf-pack was running on the inner and shorter circle. It was vain to think of One Ear so outdistancing his pursuers as to be able to cut across their circle in advance of them and to regain the sled.
The different lines were rapidly approaching a point. Somewhere out there in the snow, screened from his sight by trees and thickets, Henry knew that the wolf-pack, One Ear, and Bill were coming together. All too quickly, far more quickly than he had expected, it happened. He heard a shot, then two shots in rapid succession, and he knew that Bill’s ammunition was gone. Then he heard a great outcry of snarls and yelps. He recognized One Ear’s yell of pain and terror, and he heard a wolf cry that bespoke a stricken animal. And that was all. The snarls ceased. The yelping died away. Silence settled down again over the lonely land.
He sat for a long while upon the sled. There was no need for him to go and see what had happened. He knew it as though it had taken place before his eyes.
- pp. 114-118: He came out of a doze that was half nightmare, to see the red-hued she-wolf before him. She was not more than half a dozen feet away, sitting in the snow and wistfully regarding him. The two dogs were whimpering and snarling at his feet, but she took no notice of them. She was looking at the man, and for some time he returned her look. There was nothing threatening about her. She looked at him merely with a great wistfulness, but he knew it to be the wistfulness of an equally great hunger. He was the food, and the sight of him excited in her the gustatory sensations. Her mouth opened, the saliva drooled forth, and she licked her chops with the pleasure of anticipation.
A spasm of fear went through him. He reached hastily for a brand to throw at her. But even as he reached, and before his fingers had closed on the missile, she sprang back into safety; and he knew that she was used to having things thrown at her. She had snarled as she sprang away, baring her white fangs to their roots, all her wistfulness vanishing, being replaced by a carnivorous malignity that made him shudder. He glanced at the hand that held the brand, noticing the cunning delicacy of the fingers that gripped it, how they adjusted themselves to all the inequalities of the surface, curling over and under and about the rough wood, and one little finger, too close to the burning portion of the brand, sensitively and automatically writhing back from the hurtful heat to a cooler gripping-place; and in the same instant he seemed to see a vision of those same sensitive and delicate fingers being crushed and torn by the white teeth of the she-wolf. Never had he been so fond of this body of his as now when his tenure of it was so precarious.
All night, with burning brands, he fought off the hungry pack. When he dozed despite himself, the whimpering and snarling of the dogs aroused him. Morning came, but for the first time the light of day failed to scatter the wolves. The man waited in vain for them to go. They remained in a circle about him and his fire, displaying an arrogance of possession that shook his courage born of the morning light.
He made one desperate attempt to pull out on the trail. But the moment he left the protection of the fire, the boldest wolf leaped for him, but leaped short. He saved himself by springing back, the jaws snapping together a scant six inches from his thigh. The rest of the pack was now up and surging upon him, and a throwing of firebrands right and left was necessary to drive them back to a respectful distance.
Even in the daylight he did not dare leave the fire to chop fresh wood. Twenty feet away towered a huge dead spruce. He spent half the day extending his campfire to the tree, at any moment a half dozen burning fagots ready at hand to fling at his enemies. Once at the tree, he studied the surrounding forest in order to fell the tree in the direction of the most firewood.
The night was a repetition of the night before, save that the need for sleep was becoming overpowering. The snarling of his dogs was losing its efficacy. Besides, they were snarling all the time, and his benumbed and drowsy senses no longer took note of changing pitch and intensity. He awoke with a start. The she-wolf was less than a yard from him. Mechanically, at short range, without letting go of it, he thrust a brand full into her open and snarling mouth. She sprang away, yelling with pain, and while he took delight in the smell of burning flesh and hair, he watched her shaking her head and growling wrathfully a score of feet away.
But this time, before he dozed again, he tied a burning pine-knot to his right hand. His eyes were closed but a few minutes when the burn of the flame on his flesh awakened him. For several hours he adhered to this programme. Every time he was thus awakened he drove back the wolves with flying brands, replenished the fire, and rearranged the pine-knot on his hand. All worked well, but there came a time when he fastened the pine-knot insecurely. As his eyes closed it fell away from his hand.
He dreamed. It seemed to him that he was in Fort McGurry. It was warm and comfortable, and he was playing cribbage with the Factor. Also, it seemed to him that the fort was besieged by wolves. They were howling at the very gates, and sometimes he and the Factor paused from the game to listen and laugh at the futile efforts of the wolves to get in. And then, so strange was the dream, there was a crash. The door was burst open. He could see the wolves flooding into the big living-room of the fort. They were leaping straight for him and the Factor. With the bursting open of the door, the noise of their howling had increased tremendously. This howling now bothered him. His dream was merging into something else—he knew not what; but through it all, following him, persisted the howling.
And then he awoke to find the howling real. There was a great snarling and yelping. The wolves were rushing him. They were all about him and upon him. The teeth of one had closed upon his arm. Instinctively he leaped into the fire, and as he leaped, he felt the sharp slash of teeth that tore through the flesh of his leg. Then began a fire fight. His stout mittens temporarily protected his hands, and he scooped live coals into the air in all directions, until the camp-fire took on the semblance of a volcano.
But it could not last long. His face was blistering in the heat, his eyebrows and lashes were singed off, and the heat was becoming unbearable to his feet. With a flaming brand in each hand, he sprang to the edge of the fire. The wolves had been driven back. On every side, wherever the live coals had fallen, the snow was sizzling, and every little while a retiring wolf, with wild leap and snort and snarl, announced that one such live coal had been stepped upon.
Flinging his brands at the nearest of his enemies, the man thrust his smoldering mittens into the snow and stamped about to cool his feet. His two dogs were missing, and he well knew that they had served as a course in the protracted meal which had begun days before with Fatty, the last course of which would likely be himself in the days to follow.
“You ain’t got me yet!” he cried, savagely shaking his fist at the hungry beasts; and at the sound of his voice the whole circle was agitated, there was a general snarl, and the she-wolf slid up close to him across the snow and watched him with hungry wistfulness.
He set to work to carry out a new idea that had come to him. He extended the fire into a large circle. Inside this circle he crouched, his sleeping outfit under him as a protection against the melting snow. When he had thus disappeared within his shelter of flame, the whole pack came curiously to the rim of the fire to see what had become of him. Hitherto they had been denied access to the fire, and they now settled down in a close-drawn circle, like so many dogs, blinking and yawning and stretching their lean bodies in the unaccustomed warmth. Then the she-wolf sat down, pointed her nose at a star, and began to howl. One by one the wolves joined her, till the whole pack, on haunches, with noses pointed skyward, was howling its hunger cry.
Dawn came, and daylight. The fire was burning low. The fuel had run out, and there was need to get more. The man attempted to step out his circle of flame, but the wolves surged to meet him. Burning brands made them spring aside, but they no longer sprang back. In vain he strove to drive them back. As he gave up and stumbled inside his circle, a wolf leaped for him, missed, and landed with all four feet in the coals. It cried out with terror, at the same time snarling, and scrambled back to cool its paws in the snow.
The man sat down on his blankets in a crouching position. His body leaned forward from the hips. His shoulders, relaxed and drooping, and his head on his knees advertised that he had given up the struggle. Now and again he raised his head to note the dying down of the fire. The circle of flame and coals was breaking into segments with openings in between. These openings grew in size, the segments diminished.
“I guess you can come an’ get me any time,” he mumbled. “Anyway, I’m goin’ to sleep.”
Once he awakened, and in an opening in the circle, directly in front of him, he saw the she-wolf gazing at him.
Again he awakened, a little later, though it seemed hours to him. A mysterious change had taken place—so mysterious a change that he was shocked wider awake. Something had happened. He could not understand at first. Then he discovered it. The wolves were gone. Remained only the trampled snow to show how closely they had pressed him. Sleep was welling up and gripping him again, his head was sinking down upon his knees, when he roused with a sudden start.
There were cries of men, the churn of sleds, the creaking of harnesses, and the eager whimpering of straining dogs. Four sleds pulled in from the river bed to the camp among the trees. Half a dozen men were about the man who crouched in the center of the dying fire. They were shaking and prodding him into consciousness. He looked at them like a drunken man and maundered in strange, sleepy speech:
“Red she-wolf . . . . Come in with the dogs at feedin’ time. . . . First she ate the dog food. . . . Then she ate the dogs. . . . An’ after that she ate Bill. . . .”
“Where’s Lord Alfred?” one of the men bellowed in his ear, shaking him roughly.
He shook his head slowly. “No, she didn’t eat him. . . . He’s roostin’ in a tree at the last camp.”
“Dead?” the man shouted.
“An’ in a box,” Henry answered. He jerked his shoulder petulantly away from the grip of his questioner. “Say, you lemme alone. ... I’m jes’ plumb tuckered out. . . . Goo’ night, everybody.”
His eyes fluttered and went shut. His chin fell forward on his chest. And even as they eased him down upon the blankets his snores were rising on the frosty air.
But there was another sound. Far and faint it was, in the remote distance, the cry of the hungry wolf-pack as it took the trail of other meat than the man it had just missed.
- pp. 123-126 [Part Two—Born of the Wild (1—The Battle of the Fangs)]: They were running over the surface of a world frozen and dead. No life stirred. They alone moved through the vast inertness. They alone were alive, and they sought for other things that were alive in order that they might devour them and continue to live.
They crossed low divides and ranged a dozen small streams in a lower-lying country before their quest was rewarded. Then they came upon moose. It was a big bull they first found. Here was meat and life, and it was guarded by no mysterious fires nor flying missiles of flame. Splay hoofs and palmated antlers they knew, and they flung their customary patience and caution to the wind. It was a brief fight and fierce. The big bull was beset on every side. He ripped them open or split their skulls with shrewdly driven blows of his great hoofs. He crushed them and broke them on his large horns. He stamped them into the snow under him in the wallowing struggle. But he was foredoomed, and he went down with the she-wolf tearing savagely at his throat, and with other teeth fixed everywhere upon him, devouring him alive, before ever his last struggles ceased or his last damage had been wrought.
There was food in plenty. The bull weighted over eight hundred pounds—fully twenty pounds of meat per mouth for the forty-odd wolves of the pack. But if they could fast prodigiously, they could feed prodigiously, and soon a few scattered bones were all that remained of the splendid live brute that had faced the pack a few hours before.
There was now much resting and sleeping. With full stomachs, bickering and quarreling began among the younger males, and this continued through the few days that followed before the breaking-up of the pack. The famine was over. The wolves were now in the country of game, and though they still hunted in pack, they hunted more cautiously, cutting out heavy cows or crippled old bulls from the small moose-herds they ran across.
There came a day, in this land of plenty, when the wolf-pack split in half and went in different directions. The she-wolf, the young leader on her left, and the one-eyed elder on her right, led their half of the pack down to the Mackenzie River and across into the lake country to the east. Each day this remnant of the pack dwindled. Two by two, male and female, the wolves were deserting. Occasionally a solitary male was driven out by the sharp teeth of his rivals. In the end there remained only four: the she-wolf, the young leader, the one-eyed one, and the ambitious three-year-old.
The she-wolf had by now developed a ferocious temper. Her three suitors all bore the marks of her teeth. Yet they never replied in kind, never defended themselves against her. They turned their shoulders to her most savage slashes, and with wagging tails and mincing steps strove to placate her wrath. But if they were all mildness toward her, they were all fierceness toward one another. The three-year-old grew too ambitious in his fierceness. He caught the one-eyed elder on his blind side and ripped his ear into ribbons. Though the grizzled old fellow could see only on one side, against the youth and vigor of the other he brought into play the wisdom of long years of experience. His lost eye and his scarred muzzle bore evidence to the nature of his experience. He had survived too many battles to be in doubt for a moment about what to do.
The battle began fairly, but it did not end fairly. There was no telling what the outcome would have been, for the third wolf joined the elder, and together, old leader and young leader, they attacked the ambitious three-year-old and proceeded to destroy him. He was beset on either side by the merciless fangs of his erstwhile comrades. Forgotten were the days they had hunted together, the game they had pulled down, the famine they had suffered. That business was a thing of the past. The business of love was at hand—ever a sterner and cruder business than that of food-getting.
And in the meanwhile, the she-wolf, the cause of it all, sat down contentedly on her haunches and watched. She was even pleased. This was her day,--and it came not often,--when manes bristled, and fang smote fang or ripped and tore the yielding flesh, all for the possession of her.
And in the business of love the three-year-old, who had made this his first adventure upon it, yielded up his life. On either side of his body stood his two rivals. They were gazing at the she-wolf, who sat smiling in the snow. But the elder leader was wise, very wise, in love even as in battle. The younger leader turned his head to lick a wound on his shoulder. The curve of his neck was turned toward his rival. With his one eye the elder saw the opportunity. He darted in low and closed with his fangs. It was a long, ripping slash, and deep as well. His teeth, in passing, burst the wall of the great vein of the throat. Then he leaped clear.
The young leader snarled terribly, but his snarl broke midmost into a tickling cough. Bleeding and coughing, already stricken, he sprang at the elder and fought while life faded from him, his legs going weak beneath him, the light of day dulling on his eyes, his blows and springs falling shorter and shorter.
And all the while the she-wolf sat on her haunches and smiled. She was made glad in vague ways by the battle, for this was the love-making of the Wild, the sex-tragedy of the natural world that was tragedy only to those that died. To those that survived it was not tragedy, but realization and achievement.
When the young leader lay in the snow and moved no more, One Eye stalked over to the she-wolf. His carriage was one of mingled triumph and caution. He was plainly expectant of a rebuff, and he was just as plainly surprised when her teeth did not flash out at him in anger. For the first time she met him with a kindly manner. She sniffed noses with him, and even condescended to leap about and frisk and play with him in quite puppyish fashion. And he, for all his gray years and sage experience, behaved quite as puppyishly and even a little more foolishly.
Forgotten already were the vanquished rivals and the love-tale red-written on the snow.
- pp. 131-133 (2—The Lair): The she-wolf was trotting wearily along, her mate well in advance, when she came upon the over-hanging, high clay-bank. She turned aside and trotted over to it. The wear and tear of spring storms and melting snows had underwashed the bank and in one place had made a small cave out of a narrow fissure.
She paused at the mouth of the cave and looked the wall over carefully. Then, on one side and the other, she ran along the base of the wall to where its abrupt bulk merged from the softer-lined landscape. Returning to the cave, she entered its narrow mouth. For a short three feet she was compelled to crouch; then the walls widened and rose higher in a little round chamber nearly six feet in diameter. The roof barely cleared her head. It was dry and cosey. She inspected it with painstaking care, while One Eye, who had returned, stood in the entrance and patiently watched her. She dropped her head, with her nose to the ground and directed toward a point near to her closely bunched feet, and around this point she circled several times; then, with a tired sigh that was almost a grunt, she curled her body in, relaxed her legs, and dropped down, her head toward the entrance. One Eye, with pointed, interested ears, laughed at her, and beyond, outlined against the white light, she could see the brush of his tail waving good-naturedly. Her own ears, with a snuggling movement, laid their sharp points backward and down against the head for a moment, while her mouth opened and her tongue lolled peaceably out, and in this way she expressed that she was pleased and satisfied.
One Eye was hungry. Though he lay down in the entrance and slept, his sleep was fitful. He kept awaking and cocking his ears at the bright world without, where the April sun was blazing across the snow. When he dozed, upon his ears would steal the faint whispers of hidden trickles of running water, and he would rouse and listen intently. The sun had come back, and all the awakening Northland world was calling to him. Life was stirring. The feel of spring was in the air, the feel of growing life under the snow, of sap ascending in the trees, of buds bursting the shackles of the frost.
He cast anxious glances at his mate, but she showed no desire to get up. He looked outside, and half a dozen snow-birds fluttered across his field of vision. He started to get up, then looked back to his mate again, and settled down and dozed. A shrill and minute singing stole upon his hearing. Once, and twice, he sleepily brushed his nose with his paw. Then he woke up. There, buzzing in the air at the tip of his nose, was a lone mosquito. It was a full-grown mosquito, one that had lain frozen in a dry log all winter and that had now been thawed out by the sun. He could resist the call of the world no longer. Besides, he was hungry.
He crawled over to his mate and tried to persuade her to get up. But she only snarled at him, and he walked out alone into the bright sunshine to find the snow-surface soft underfoot and the travelling difficult. He went up the frozen bed of the stream, where the snow, shaded by the trees, was yet hard and crystalline. He was gone eight hours, and he came back through the darkness hungrier than when he had started. He had found game, but he had not caught it. He had broken through the melting snow-crust, and wallowed, while the snowshoe rabbits had skimmed along on top lightly as ever.
He paused at the mouth of the cave with a sudden shock of suspicion. Faint, strange sounds came from within. They were sounds not made by his mate, and yet they were remotely familiar. He bellied cautiously inside and was met by a warning snarl from the she-wolf. This he received without perturbation, though he obeyed it by keeping his distance; but he remained interested in the other sounds—faint, muffled sobbings and slubberings.
His mate warned him irritably away, and he curled up and slept in the entrance. When morning came and a dim light pervaded the lair, he again sought after the source of the remotely familiar sounds. There was a new note in his mate’s warning snarl. It was a jealous note, and he was very careful in keeping a respectful distance. Nevertheless, he made out, sheltering between her legs against the length of her body, five strange little bundles of life, very feeble, very helpless, making tiny whimpering noises, with eyes that did not open to the light. He was surprised. It was not the first time in his long and successful life that this thing had happened. It had happened many times, yet each time it was as fresh a surprise as ever to him.
His mate looked at him anxiously. Every little while she emitted a low growl, and at times, when it seemed to her he approached too near, the growl shot up in her throat to a sharp snarl. Of her own experience she had no memory of the thing happening; but in her instinct, which was the experience of all the mothers of wolves, there lurked a memory of fathers that had eaten their new-born and helpless progeny. It manifested itself as a fear strong within her, that made her prevent One Eye from more closely inspecting the cubs he had fathered.
But there was no danger. Old One Eye was feeling the urge of an impulse, that was, in turn, an instinct that had come down to him from all the fathers of wolves. He did not question it, nor puzzle over it. It was there, in the fiber of his being; and it was the most natural thing in the world that he should obey it by turning his back on his new-born family and by trotting out and away on the meat-trail whereby he lived.
- pp. 139-140 (3—The Gray Cub): Most of the first month of his life had been passed thus in sleeping; but now he could see quite well, and he stayed awake for longer periods of time, and he was coming to learn his world quite well. His world was gloomy; but he did not know that, for he knew no other world. It was dim-lighted; but his eyes had never had to adjust themselves to any other light. His world was very small. Its limits were the walls of the lair; but as he had no knowledge of the wide world outside, he was never oppressed by the narrow confines of his existence.
But he had early discovered that one wall of his world was different from the rest. This was the mouth of the cave and the source of light. He had discovered that it was different from the other walls long before he had any thoughts of his own, any conscious volitions. It had been an irresistible attraction before ever his eyes opened and looked upon it. The light from it had beat upon his sealed lids, and the eyes and the optic nerves had pulsated to little, sparklike flashes, warm-colored and strangely pleasing. The life of his body, and of every fiber of his body, the life that was the very substance of his body and that was apart from his own personal life, had yearned toward this light and urged his body toward it in the same way that the cunning chemistry of a plant urges it toward the sun.
Always, in the beginning, before his conscious life dawned, he had crawled toward the mouth of the cave. And in this his brothers and sisters were one with him. Never, in that period, did any of them crawl toward the dark corners of the back-wall. The light drew them as if they were plants; the chemistry of the life that composed them demanded the light as a necessity of being; and their little puppet-bodies crawled blindly and chemically, like the tendrils of a vine. Later on, when each developed individuality and became personally conscious of impulsions and desires, the attraction of the light increased. They were always crawling and sprawling toward it, and being driven back from it by their mother.
It was in this way that the gray cub learned other attributes of his mother than the soft, soothing tongue. In his insistent crawling toward the light, he discovered in her a nose that with a sharp nudge administered rebuke, and later, a paw, that crushed him down or rolled him over and over with swift, calculating stroke. Thus he learned hurt; and on top of it he learned to avoid hurt, first, by not incurring the risk of it; and second, when he had incurred the risk, by dodging and by retreating. These were conscious actions, and were the results of his first generalizations upon the world. Before that he had recoiled automatically from hurt, as he had crawled automatically toward the light. After that he recoiled from hurt because he knew that it was hurt.
- pp. 140-141: The fascination of the light for the gray cub increased from day to day. He was perpetually departing on yard-long adventures toward the cave’s entrance, and as perpetually being driven back. Only he did not know it for an entrance. He did not know anything about entrances—passages whereby one goes from one place to another place. He did not know any other place, much less of a way to get there. So to him the entrance of the cave was a wall—a wall of light. As the sun was to the outside dweller, this wall was to him the sun of his world. It attracted him as a candle attracts a moth. He was always striving to attain it. The life that was so swiftly expanding within him, urged him continually toward the wall of light. The life that was within him knew that it was the one way out, the way he was predestined to tread. But he himself did not know anything about it. He did not know there was any outside at all.
There was one strange thing about this wall of light. His father (he had already come to recognize his father as the one other dweller in the world, a creature like his mother, who slept near the light and was a bringer of meat)—his father had a way of walking right into the white far wall and disappearing. The gray cub could not understand this. Though never permitted by his mother to approach that wall, he had approached the other walls, and encountered hard obstruction on the end of his tender nose. This hurt. And after several such adventures, he left the walls alone. Without thinking about it, he accepted this disappearing into the wall as a peculiarity of his father, as milk and half-digested meat were peculiarities of his mother.
In fact, the gray cub was not given to thinking—at least, to the kind of thinking customary of men. His brain worked in dim ways. Yet his conclusions were as sharp and distinct as those achieved by men. He had a method of accepting things, without questioning the why and wherefore. In reality, this was the act of classification. He was never disturbed over why a thing happened. How it happened was sufficient for him. Thus, when he had bumped his nose on the back-wall a few times, he accepted that his father could disappear into walls. But he was not in the least disturbed by desire to find out the reason for the difference between his father and himself. Logic and physics were no part of his mental make-up.
- from The Sea Wolf by Jack London; pp. 12-13: In a hazy way I saw and heard men rushing and shouting as they strove to lower the boats. It was just as I had read descriptions of such scenes in books. The tackles jammed. Nothing worked. One boat lowered away with the plugs out, filled with women and children and then with water, and capsized. Another boat had been lowered by one end, and still hung in the tackle by the other end, where it had been abandoned. Nothing was to be seen of the strange steamboat which had caused the disaster, though I heard men saying that she would undoubtedly send boats to our assistance.
I descended to the lower deck. The Martinez was sinking fast, for the water was very near. Numbers of the passengers were leaping overboard. Others, in the water, were clamoring to be taken aboard again. No one heeded them. A cry arose that we were sinking. I was seized by the consequent panic, and went over the side in a surge of bodies. How I went over I do not know, though I did know, and instantly, why those in the water were so desirous of getting back on the steamer. The water was cold—so cold that it was painful. The pang as I plunged into it was as quick and sharp as that of fire. It bit to the marrow. It was like the grip of death. I gasped with the anguish and shock of it, filling my lungs before the life preserver popped me to the surface. The taste of the salt was strong in my mouth, and I was strangling with the acrid stuff in my throat and lungs.
But it was the cold that was most distressing. I felt that I could survive but a few minutes. People were struggling and floundering in the water about me. I could hear them crying out to one another. And I heard also the sound of oars. Evidently the strange steamboat had lowered its boats. As the time went by I marveled that I was still alive. I had no sensation whatever in my lower limbs, while a chilling numbness was wrapping about my heart and creeping into it. Small waves, with spiteful foaming crests, continually broke over me and into my mouth, sending me off into more strangling paroxysms.
The noises grew indistinct, though I heard a final and despairing chorus of screams in the distance and knew that the Martinez had gone down. Later—how much later I have no knowledge—I came to myself with a start of fear. I was alone. I could hear no calls or cries, only the sound of the waves, made weirdly hollow and reverberant by the fog. A panic in a crowd, which partakes of a sort of community of interest, is not so terrible as a panic when one is by oneself; and such a panic I now suffered. Whither was I drifting? The red-faced man had said that the tide was ebbing through the Golden Gate. Was I, then, being carried out to sea? And the life preserver in which I floated? Was it not liable to go to pieces at any moment? I had heard of such things being made of paper and hollow rushes which quickly became saturated and lost all buoyancy. And I could not swim a stroke. And I was alone, floating apparently in the midst of a gray primordial vastness. I confess that a madness seized me, that I shrieked aloud as the women had shrieked and beat the water with my numb hands.
How long this lasted I have no conception, for a blankness intervened, of which I remember no more than one remembers of troubled and painful sleep. When I aroused, it was as after centuries of time; and I saw, almost above me and emerging from the fog, the bow of a vessel and three triangular sails, each shrewdly lapping the other and filled with wind. Where the bow cut the water there was a great foaming and gurgling, and I seemed directly in its path. I tried to cry out but was too exhausted. The bow plunged down, just missing me and sending a swash of water clear over my head. Then the long, black side of the vessel began slipping past, so near that I could have touched it with my hands. I tried to reach it in a mad resolve to claw into the wood with my nails, but my arms were heavy and lifeless. Again I strove to call out but made no sound.
- pp. 16-18: “Have you any dry clothes I may put on?” I asked the cook.
“Yes, sir,” he answered with cheerful alacrity. “I’ll run down an’ tyke a look over my kit, if you’ve no objections, sir, to wearin’ my things.”
He dived out of the galley door, or glided rather, with a swiftness and smoothness of gait that struck me as being not so much catlike as oily. In fact, this oiliness, or greasiness, as I was later to learn, was probably the most salient expression of his personality.
“And where am I?” I asked Johnson, whom I took, and rightly, to be one of the sailors. “What vessel is this, and where is she bound?”
“Off the Farallons, heading about sou’west,” he answered slowly and methodically, as though groping for his best English and rigidly observing the order of my queries. “The schooner Ghost, bound seal hunting to Japan.”
“And who is the captain? I must see him as soon as I am dressed.”
Johnson looked puzzled and embarrassed. He hesitated while he groped in his vocabulary and framed a complete answer. “The cap’n is Wolf Larsen, or so men call him. I never heard his other name. But you better speak soft with him. He is mad this morning. The mate—“
But he did not finish. The cook had glided in.
“Better sling yer ‘ook out of ‘ere, Yonson,” he said. “The old man’ll be wantin’ yer on deck, an’ this ayn’t no d’y to fall foul of ‘im.|
Johnson turned obediently to the door, at the same time, over the cook’s shoulder, favoring me with an amazingly solemn and portentous wink, as though to emphasize his interrupted remark and the need for me to be soft-spoken with the captain.
Hanging over the cook’s arm was a loose and crumpled array of evil-looking and sour-smelling garments.
“They was put aw’y wet, sir,” he vouchsafed explanation. “But you’ll ‘ave to make them do till I dry yours out by the fire.”
Clinging to the woodwork, staggering with the roll of the ship, and aided by the cook, I managed to slip into a rough woolen undershirt. On the instant my flesh was creeping and crawling from the harsh contact. He noticed my involuntary twitching and grimacing and smirked.
“I only ‘ope yer don’t ever ‘ave to get used to such as that in this life, ‘cos you’ve got a bloomin’ soft skin, that you ‘ave, more like a lydy’s than any I know of. I was bloomin’ well sure you was a gentleman as soon as I set eyes on yer.”
I had taken a dislike to him at first, and as he helped to dress me this dislike increased. There was something repulsive about his touch. I shrank from his hand; my flesh revolted. And between this and the smells arising from various pots boiling and bubbling on the galley fire, I was in haste to get out into the fresh air. Further, there was the need of seeing the captain about what arrangements could be made for getting me ashore.
A cheap cotton shirt with frayed collar and a bosom discolored with what I took to be ancient bloodstains was put on me amid a running and apologetic fire of comment. A pair of workman’s brogans encased my feet, and for trousers I was furnished with a pair of pale blue, washed-out overalls, one leg of which was fully ten inches shorter than the other. The abbreviated leg looked as though the devil had there clutched for the cockney’s soul and missed the shadow for the substance.
“And whom have I to thank for this kindness?” I asked when I stood completely arrayed, a tiny boy’s cap on my head, and for coat a dirty, striped cotton jacket which reached just below my elbows.
The crook drew himself up in a smugly humble fashion, a deprecating smirk on his face. Out of my experience with stewards on the Atlantic liners at the end of the voyage, I could have sworn he was waiting for his tip. From my fuller knowledge of the creature I now know that the posture was unconscious. An hereditary servility, no doubt, was responsible.
“Mugridge, sir,” he fawned, his effeminate features running into a greasy smile. “Thomas Mugridge, sir, an’ at yer service.”
“All right, Thomas,” I said. “I shall not forget you—when my clothes are dry.”
A soft light suffused his face, and his eyes glistened as though somewhere in the deeps of his being his ancestors had quickened and stirred with dim memories of tips received in former lives.
- p. 30: “What is the matter? Anything wrong?”
This was the cry from the Lady Mine.
“Yes!” I shouted, at the top of my lungs. “Life or death! One thousand dollars if you take me ashore!”
“Too much ‘Frisco tanglefoot for the health of my crew!” Wolf Larsen shouted after. “This one”—indicating me with his thumb—“fancies sea serpents and monkeys just now!”
The man on the Lady Mine laughed back through the megaphone. The pilotboat plunged past.
“Give him hell for me!” came a final cry, and the two men waved their arms in farewell.
I leaned despairingly over the rail, watching the trim little schooner swiftly increasing the bleak sweep of ocean between us. And she would probably be in San Francisco in five or six hours! My head seemed bursting. There was an ache in my throat as though my heart were up in it. A curling wave struck the side and splashed salt spray on my lips. The wind puffed strongly, and the Ghost heeled far over, burying her lee rail. I could hear the water rushing down upon the deck.
- p. 33-34: . . . it was the heartlessness of it that especially struck me. The dead man was an episode that was past, an incident that was dropped, in a canvas covering with a sack of coal, while the ship sped along and her work went on. Nobody had been affected. The hunters were laughing at a fresh story of Smoke’s; the men pulling and hauling, and two of them climbing aloft; Wolf Larsen was studying the clouding sky to windward; and the dead man, dying obscenely, buried sordidly, and sinking down, down.
Then it was that the cruelty of the sea, its relentlessness and awfulness, rushed upon me. Life had become cheap and tawdry, a beastly and inarticulate thing, a soulless stirring of the ooze and slime. I held on to the weather rail, close by the shrouds, and gazed out across the desolate foaming waves to the low-lying fogbanks that hid San Francisco and the California coast. Rain squalls were driving in between, and I could scarcely see the fog. And this strange vessel, with its terrible men, pressed under by wind and sea and ever leaping up and out, was heading away into the southwest, into the great and lonely Pacific expanse.
What happened to me next on the sealing schooner Ghost as I strove to fit into my new environment are matters of humiliation and pain. The cook, who was called “the doctor” by the crew, “Tommy” by the hunters, and “Cooky” by Wolf Larsen, was a changed person. The difference worked in my status brought about a corresponding difference in treatment from him. Servile and fawning as he had been before, he was now as domineering and bellicose. In truth, I was no longer the fine gentleman with a skin soft as a “lydy’s,” but only an ordinary and very worthless cabin boy.
He absurdly insisted upon my addressing him as Mr. Mugridge, and his behavior and carriage were insufferable as he showed me my duties. Besides my work in the cabin, with its four small staterooms, I was supposed to be his assistant in the galley, and my colossal ignorance concerning such things as peeling potatoes or washing greasy pots was a source of unending and sarcastic wonder to him. He refused to take into consideration what I was, or rather what my life and the things I was accustomed to had been. This was part of the attitude he chose to adopt toward me; and I confess, ere the day was done, that I hated him with more lively feelings than I had ever hated anyone in my life before.
Last edited by HERO; 01-12-2012 at 04:46 PM.
Kristen Pfaff and Kurt Donald Cobain didn't like the scene anyhow
His writing style is strikingly similar to Ashton's. I vote for "obvious ENTj is obvious".
fatti non foste a viver come bruti ma per seguir virtute e canoscenza
LIE-Te (Dominant subtype) [LIE-EXE]
- from “The Economics of the Klondike” by Jack London; pp. 73-74: The Klondike
rush placed hundreds of steamers on the Yukon, opened the navigation of its upper reaches and
the lakes, put tramways around the unnavigable Box Canon and White Horse Rapids, and built a
railroad from salt water at Skaguay across the White Pass to the head of steamboat traffic on
With dwindling of population caused by the collapse of the rush, these transportation
facilities will be, if anything, greater than the need of the country demands. The excessive
profits will be cut down and only the best-equipped and most efficient companies remain in
operation. Conditions will become normal and the Klondike just enter upon its true development.
With the necessaries and luxuries of life cheap and plentiful, with the importation of the
machinery which will cheapen many enterprises and render many others possible, with easy
traveling and quick communication between it and the world and between its parts, the resources
of the Yukon district will be opened up and developed in a steady, business-like way.
Living expenses being normal, a moderate wage will be possible. Nor will laborers
fail to hasten there from the congested labor markets of the older countries. This, in turn, will
permit the employment on a large scale of much of the world’s restless capital now seeking
investment. On the White River, eighty miles south of Dawson, great deposits of copper are to
be found. Coal, so essential to the country’s exploitation, has already been discovered at
various places along the Yukon, from “MacCormack’s Houses” above the Five Finger Rapids
down to Rampart City and the Koyokuk in Alaska. There is small doubt that iron will eventually
be unearthed, and with equal certainty the future gold-mining will be mainly in quartz.
As to the ephemeral placers, the outlook cannot be declared bad. It is fair to suppose that many
new ones will be discovered, but outside of this there is much else that is favorable. While there
are very few “paying” creeks, it must be understood that nothing below a return of $10 a day
per man under the old expensive conditions has been considered “pay.” But when a sack of flour
may be bought for a dollar instead of fifty, and all other things in proportion, it is apparent how
great a fall the scale of pay can sustain. In California gravel containing 5 cents of gold to the
cubic yard is washed at a profit; but hitherto in the Klondike gravel yielding less than $10 to the
cubic yard has been ignored as unprofitable. That is to say, the old conditions in the Klondike
made it impossible to wash dirt which was not at least two hundred times richer than that
washed in California. But this will not be true henceforth. There are immense quantities of these
cheaper gravels in the Yukon Valley, and it is inevitable that they yield to the enterprise of brains
In short, though many of its individuals have lost, the world will have lost nothing by the
Klondike. The new Klondike, the Klondike of the future, will present remarkable contrasts
with the Klondike of the past. Natural obstacles will be cleared away or surmounted, primitive
methods abandoned, and hardship of toil and travel reduced to the smallest possible minimum.
Exploration and transportation will be systematized. There will be no waste energy, no
harum-scarum carrying on of industry. The frontiers-man will yield to the laborer, the
prospector to the mining engineer, the dog-driver to the engine-driver, the trader and
speculator to the steady-going modern man of business; for these are the men in whose
hands the destiny of the Klondike will be intrusted.
- from Jack London’s Martin Eden; pp. 7-13 [Introduction (by Andrew Sinclair)]: Jack
London was a born rebel whose personality demanded the immediate gratification of his
contradictory wants. He had a dialectic of appetites without a synthesis of satisfaction. He
once confessed to wanting to drive forty horses abreast with the thousand strong arms of his
mind; his ambitions in writing and ranching were as excessive as his self-discipline and vigor.
Yet his incessant forcing of himself led to occasional nervous collapses into morbidity and
despair. Then his horses changed masters. “Satiety and possession are Death’s horses,” he wrote;
“they run in span.”
Martin Eden (1909) is London’s most autobiographical novel. It describes his struggle for
education and literary fame in his youth and his disillusion with success in his middle age. It
mythologizes his rise from obscurity and prophesies his early death at forty. The author’s
passionate identification with his hero, Martin Eden, creates the power and compulsion of the
book, which remains today equaled only by Knut Hamsen’s Hunger as an archetypal
study of the urge to write subordinating even the will to live.
London had a hard raising, although not as hard as did Martin Eden, who mysteriously has no
parents, only a brood of vagrant brothers and slatternly sisters. London himself was born in 1876
in San Francisco, the only child of Flora Wellman, a spiritualist and music teacher from a
middle-class family. His father was probably a wandering astrologer called William Henry
Chaney. Shortly after the boy’s birth, his mother married a widower, John London, and her son
was given his stepfather’s name.
The boy grew up in Oakland and on neighboring small farms. To earn a few dollars, he worked
as a newsboy and fought some of the fights Martin Eden fought with Cheese-Face. He had an
early love of books and of sailing on San Francisco Bay. By the age of fifteen, he was a
delinquent, gang leader, and oyster pirate. Foreseeing an early death on shore, he set off for a
seven-month sealing voyage, on which he saw the bloody battle for life between men and beasts.
On his return, he worked in factories before joining an army of the unemployed for a march on
Washington. A thirty-day jail sentence for vagrancy made him determined to use his mind and
avoid the degradation of life as a wage-slave in the Social Pit. He resolved to sell his muscle no
more but to become a vendor of brains. Then began for him a frantic pursuit of knowledge.
It is at a similar point in life that London chose to introduce his hero Martin Eden.
London himself, supported by his mother and by a job as a school janitor, completed high
school, took the entrance examinations for the University of California at Berkeley, and
attended classes there for two semesters, grasping at knowledge with the desperation of a
drowning man and the arrogance of the self-taught. He met a middle-class family, the
Applegarths, and fell in love with their daughter Mabel, whose ethereal beauty embodied the
visions of his favorite romantic poets. Browning and Swinburne on the shelves always
signified for London a touch of class.
Mabel Applegarth was the model for Ruth Morse in Martin Eden, observed with the
ruthless hindsight of eleven years’ more experience of life. The episode in the novel when Ruth
is seen as a woman because black cherry juice stains her lips is based on the moment at which
Jack London first saw Mabel “stripping off her immortality.” As he wrote in 1900 to the second
love of his life, Anna Strunsky, Mabel seemed very small a mere four years after he first knew
her. “Her virtues led her nowhere. Works? She had none. Her culture was a surface smear, her
deepest depth a singing shallow. Do you understand? Can I explain further? I awoke, and judged,
and my puppy love was over.”
During the time, however, when the young Jack London adored Mabel Applegarth, he was trying
to adopt the values of her class and to leave his own. His memory of his feelings explains the
marvel of the opening chapters of Martin Eden, when the youthful sailor rolls into the
Morse household and soon feels like “God’s own mad lover dying on a kiss.” Eden’s reverence
for bourgeois standards and culture mirrors London’s own rapture at his first encounter with
them. When London described the novel as primarily an attack upon the bourgeoisie and all it
stood for, he was not wrong; but fortunately, his artistry and awareness of his former illusions
enable him to lurch with his hero through the bric-a-brac and deceits of the Morses’ mansions
and see all as Camelot and Parnassus.
The novel, London always insisted, was also an attack on individualism. “Being unaware of the
needs of others, of the whole human collective need, Martin Eden lived only for himself, fought
only for himself, and, if you please, died for himself.” He died because of his lack of faith in
men. London, however, claimed to have faith in men. He was a socialist and not an individualist.
And so he lived.
Unfortunately, London’s character was nearer Martin Eden’s than he allowed. His individualism
and Nietzschean belief in the strength of the will were usually more apparent than his faith in
socialism. To reconcile his beliefs in the survival of the fittest and in the aristocracy of the
intellect with his compassion for his fellow workers was a task as difficult as driving forty
horses abreast. Martin Eden was more consistent, living and dying an individualist, ignoring
the decadent poet Brissenden, who praised socialism as the answer to the death wish.
After leaving Berkeley, London joined the Klondike gold rush, a vain quest that he equated with
Martin Eden’s treasure hunt in the South Seas. He returned, married his first wife, Bess
Maddern, and began to make some literary progress. After the success of his short Klondike
stories, The Call of the Wild (1903) and The Sea-Wolf (1904) gave him an
international reputation almost as sudden and spectacular as Martin Eden’s. Disillusioned
with fame, he retreated from Oakland to a ranch at Glen Ellen, where he hoped to counteract
the rape of the American earth by restoring the virgin soil and making a paradise from the land
looted by the greed of the pioneers.
By 1906, London’s reaction to overwork and notoriety—experiences that drove Martin Eden to
commit suicide—plunged him into long periods of disgust. He summed it up in his drinking
confession, the novel John Barleycorn:
The things I had fought for and burned my midnight oil for had failed me. Success—I
despised it. Recognition—it was dead ashes. Society, men and women above the ruck and the
muck of the waterfront and the forecastle—I was appalled by their unlovely mental
mediocrity. Love of woman—it was like all the rest. Money—I could sleep in only one bed at a
time, and of what worth was an income of a hundred porterhouses a day when I could eat only
one? Art, culture—in the face of the iron facts of biology such things were ridiculous, the
exponents of such things only the more ridiculous.
The way out of disgust was love of the people and escape. In 1906, London married Charmian
Kittredge, made a lecture tour of the United States preaching revolutionary socialism, and set off
on a self-designed ketch called the Snark to sail round the world. He had bought too much
land at Glen Ellen and had ruined himself building the boat. His captain was incompetent, the
ketch was inefficient, and London found himself navigating the vessel with Charmian as his
true “mate-woman.” Only his iron determination—and the need to earn a large income to pay for
the voyage and the ranch in California—kept him writing a thousand words a day in any
The book he wrote on the voyage was Martin Eden. He was only thirty-one years of age,
yet he had already achieved too much too soon. His mental energy seemed to him at times to be
mental sickness. He had lamed his splendid body and began to suffer from bowel diseases. The
voyage of the Snark was meant to reassert his physical dominance, but it ended in his
physical collapse. By the time the Snark reached Hawaii, London had to fire his captain
for allowing the sails, ropes, and decking to rot in the sun. Penniless, he had to beg an advance
from his publisher to refit the ketch; he beat two thousand miles in variable winds on the Pacific
Traverse to the Marquesas, where Gauguin had found his own disillusion and death. There
London rented the clubhouse where his boyhood idol Robert Louis Stevenson had stayed and set
out for Melville’s paradise of Happar. Tuberculosis, leprosy, and elephantiasis had decimated
Melville’s noble warriors. The survivors were mostly freaks and monsters.
More disillusion was to come. There was a financial panic in the United States. London’s checks
were being returned by the banks; the mortgages on his properties were threatened with
foreclosure. His teeth, which were in terrible shape (unlike Martin Eden’s), were giving him
incessant pain. He booked a passage back to California on the Mariposa so he could
finish the novel and use the proceeds to pay his debts.
London’s sense of disgust and despair, his physical pain, and his pressing financial problems all
help to explain why he pushed his hero through the porthole of a boat that he was taking back to
California. Charmian’s diary reveals London’s state of mind while he was finishing Martin
Eden on the voyage home: “Jack is sick sometimes, mentally, or he wouldn’t do as he does.
This reflection helps me through some hopeless, loveless times—seldom, thank God.” London’s
disgust and self-destructive urges at that time were transferred to Martin Eden, but not fully
explained. The result is that Eden’s sudden suicide by drowning appears not inevitable but
willful—the self-dramatization of a spoiled youth, not the necessary action of a strong man. The
published work was an immediate failure with the critics and the public—but has had long-term
success as the parable that London always intended it to be, the parable of an individualist who
had to die, “not because of his lack of faith in God, but because of his lack of faith in men.”
Had London not been in a temporary slough of disgust, he might have let Martin Eden
continue his South Seas voyage as originally intended, even if in the end he was still to drown
splendidly in the surf. But the book was long enough, the finish fitting, if depressing. It suited
the dark side of London: preoccupied with the struggle of all life against death, the “Noseless
One,” he was prodigal with his own energies and physique, excessive in his eating and
drinking, driven to die unwillingly at forty from a drug overdose, his body no longer capable of
responding to the demands his dominant will put upon it. As a young man he had once tried
suicide by drowning—and that is the end he wished for Martin Eden, an end when death no
longer hurts, and at the instant of knowing the mind ceases to know.
Unlike Socrates, who only knew that he knew nothing, and spent his life inquiring, both Martin
Eden and Jack London thought they knew everything and therefore died from a surfeit of
boredom. Satisfaction kills the cat, curiosity brings it back. “Work performed” was the
ceaseless maggot in Martin Eden’s mind that led him to world-weariness and self-destruction. He
had worked too hard and wanted to perform no more. To the self-taught American at the turn of
this century, the facile world view of Herbert Spencer comprehended all knowledge and
superseded all other philosophies. The paradox was never clear to London or to his surrogate
hero: If evolution and Social Darwinism explained everything, thought could evolve no further,
and the Social Darwinist would become bigoted and reactionary.
- from The Best Short Stories of Jack London; pp. 10-11 (“To Build a Fire”): At the man’s
heels trotted a dog, a big native husky, the proper wolf dog, gray-coated and without any visible
or temperamental difference from its brother, the wild wolf. The animal was depressed by the
tremendous cold. It knew that it was no time for travelling. Its instinct told it a truer tale than was
told to the man by the man’s judgment. In reality, it was not merely colder than fifty below zero;
it was colder than sixty below, than seventy below. It was seventy-five below zero. Since the
freezing point is thirty-two above zero, it meant that one hundred and seven degrees of frost
obtained. The dog did not know anything about thermometers. Possibly in its brain there was no
sharp consciousness of a condition of very cold such as was in the man’s brain. But the brute had
its instinct. It experienced a vague but menacing apprehension that subdued it and made it slink
along at the man’s heels, and that made it question eagerly every unwonted movement of the
man as if expecting him to go into camp or to seek shelter somewhere and build a fire. The dog
had learned fire, and it wanted fire, or else to burrow under the snow and cuddle its warmth
away from the air.
The frozen moisture of its breathing had settled on its fur in a fine powder of frost, and
especially were its jowls, muzzle, and eyelashes whitened by its crystalled breath. The man’s red
beard and mustache were likewise frosted, but more solidly, the deposit taking the form of ice
and increasing with every warm, moist breath he exhaled. Also, the man was chewing tobacco,
and the muzzle of ice held his lips so rigidly that he was unable to clear his chin when he
expelled the juice. The result was that a crystal beard of the color and solidity of amber was
increasing its length on his chin. If he fell down it would shatter itself, like glass, into brittle
fragments. But he did not mind the appendage. It was the penalty all tobacco chewers paid in that
country, and he had been out before in two cold snaps. They had not been so cold as this, he
knew, but by the spirit thermometer at Sixty Mile he knew they had been registered at fifty
below and at fifty-five.
- pp. 12-14: In a month no man had come up or down that silent creek. The man held steadily on.
He was not much given to thinking, and just then particularly he had nothing to think about save
that he would eat lunch at the forks and that at six o’clock he would be in camp with the boys.
There was nobody to talk to and, had there been, speech would have been impossible because of
the ice muzzle on his mouth. So he continued monotonously to chew tobacco and to increase the
length of his amber beard.
Once in a while the thought reiterated itself that it was very cold and that he had never
experienced such cold. As he walked along he rubbed his cheekbones and nose with the back of
his mittened hand. He did this automatically, now and again changing hands. But, rub as he
would, the instant he stopped his cheekbones went numb, and the following instant the end of his
nose went numb. He was sure to frost his cheeks; he knew that, and experienced a pang of
regret that he had not devised a nose strap of the sort Bud wore in cold snaps. Such a strap
passed across the cheeks, as well, and saved them. But it didn’t matter much, after all. What
were frosted cheeks? A bit painful, that was all; they were never serious.
Empty as the man’s mind was of thoughts, he was keenly observant, and he noticed the changes
in the creek, the curves and bends and timber jams, and always he sharply noted where he
placed his feet. Once, coming around a bend, he shied abruptly, like a startled horse, curved
away from the place where he had been walking, and retreated several paces back along the
trail. The creek he knew was frozen clear to the bottom—no creek could contain water in that
arctic winter—but he knew also that there were springs that bubbled out from the hillsides and
ran along under the snow and on top the ice of the creek. He knew that the coldest snaps never
froze these springs, and he knew likewise their danger. They were traps. They hid pools of water
under the snow that might be three inches deep, or three feet. Sometimes a skin of ice half an
inch thick covered them, and in turn was covered by the snow. Sometimes there were alternate
layers of water and ice skin, so that when one broke through he kept on breaking through for a
while, sometimes wetting himself to the waist.
That was why he had shied in such panic. He had felt the give under his feet and heard the
crackle of a snow-hidden ice skin. And to get his feet wet in such a temperature meant
trouble and danger. At the very least it meant delay, for he would be forced to stop and build a
fire, and under its protection to bare his feet while he dried his socks and moccasins. He stood
and studied the creek bed and its banks, and decided that the flow of water came from the right.
He reflected awhile, rubbing his nose and cheeks, then skirted to the left, stepping gingerly and
testing the footing for each step. Once clear of the danger, he took a fresh chew of tobacco and
swung along at his four-mile gait.
In the course of the next two hours he came upon several similar traps. Usually the snow above
the hidden pools had a sunken, candied appearance that advertised the danger. Once again,
however, he had a close call; and once, suspecting danger, he compelled the dog to go on in
front. The dog did not want to go. It hung back until the man shoved it forward, and then it
went quickly across the white, unbroken surface. Suddenly it broke through, floundered to one
side, and got away to firmer footing. It had wet its forefeet and legs, and almost immediately the
water that clung to it turned to ice. It made quick efforts to lick the ice off its legs, then dropped
down in the snow and began to bite out the ice that had formed between the toes. This was
matter of instinct. To permit the ice to remain would mean sore feet. It did not know this. It
merely obeyed the mysterious prompting that arose from the deep crypts of its being.
- pp. 16-32: That man from Sulphur Creek had spoken the truth when telling how cold it
sometimes got in the country. And he had laughed at him at the time! That showed one must not
be too sure of things. There was no mistake about it, it was cold. He strode up and down,
stamping his feet and threshing his arms, until reassured by the returning warmth. Then he got
out matches and proceeded to make a fire. From the undergrowth, where high water of the
previous spring had lodged a supply of seasoned twigs, he got his firewood. Working carefully
from a small beginning, he soon had a roaring fire, over which he thawed the ice from his face
and in the protection of which he ate his biscuits. For the moment the cold of space was
outwitted. The dog took satisfaction in the fire, stretching out close enough for warmth and far
enough away to escape being singed.
When the man had finished, he filled his pipe and took his comfortable time over a smoke. Then
he pulled on his mittens, settled the ear flaps of his cap firmly about his ears, and took the creek
trail up the left fork. The dog was disappointed and yearned back toward the fire. This man did
not know cold. Possibly all the generations of his ancestry had been ignorant of cold, of real
cold, of cold one hundred and seven degrees below freezing point. But the dog knew all its
ancestry knew, and it had inherited the knowledge. And it knew that it was not good to walk
abroad in such fearful cold. It was the time to lie snug in a hole in the snow and wait for a
curtain of cloud to be drawn across the face of outer space whence this cold came. On the other
hand, there was no keen intimacy between the dog and the man. The one was the toil slave of the
other, and the only caresses it had ever received were the caresses of the whip lash and of harsh
and menacing throat sounds that threatened the whip lash. So the dog made no effort to
communicate its apprehension to the man. It was not concerned in the welfare of the man; it
was for its own sake that it yearned back toward the fire. But the man whistled, and spoke to it
with the sound of whip lashes, and the dog swung in at the man’s heels and followed after.
The man took a chew of tobacco and proceeded to start a new amber beard. Also, his moist
breath quickly powdered with white his mustache, eyebrows, and lashes. There did not seem to
be so many springs on the left fork of the Henderson, and for half an hour the man saw no signs
of any. And then it happened. At a place where there were no signs, where the soft, unbroken
snow seemed to advertise solidity beneath, the man broke through. It was not deep. He wet
himself halfway to the knees before he floundered out to the firm crust.
He was angry, and cursed his luck aloud. He had hoped to get into camp with the boys at six
o’clock, and this would delay him an hour, for he would have to build a fire and dry out his
footgear. This was imperative at that low temperature—he knew that much; and he turned
aside to the bank, which he climbed. On top, tangled in the underbrush about the trunks of
several small spruce trees, was a highwater deposit of dry firewood—sticks and twigs,
principally, but also larger portions of seasoned branches and fine, dry, last year’s grasses. He
threw down several large pieces on top of the snow. This served for a foundation and prevented
the young flame from drowning itself in the snow it otherwise would melt. The flame he got by
touching a match to a small shred of birch bark that he took from his pocket. This burned even
more readily than paper. Placing it on the foundation, he fed the young flame with wisps of dry
grass and with the tiniest dry twigs.
He worked slowly and carefully, keenly aware of his danger. Gradually, as the flame grew
stronger, he increased the size of the twigs with which he fed it. He squatted in the snow, pulling
the twigs out from their entanglement in the brush and feeding directly to the flame. He knew
there must be no failure. When it is seventy-five below zero, a man must not fail in his first
attempt to build a fire—that is, if his feet are wet. If his feet are dry, and he fails, he can run
along the trail for half a mile and restore his circulation. But the circulation of wet and freezing
feet cannot be restored by running when it is seventy-five below. No matter how fast he runs, the
wet feet will freeze the harder.
All this the man knew. The old-timer on Sulphur Creek had told him about it the previous fall,
and now he was appreciating the advice. Already all sensation had gone out of his feet. To build
the fire he had been forced to remove his mittens, and the fingers had quickly gone numb. His
pace of four miles an hour had kept his heart pumping blood to the surface of his body and to
all the extremities. But the instant he stopped, the action of the pump eased down. The cold of
space smote the unprotected tip of the planet, and he, being on that unprotected tip, received the
full force of the blow. The blood of his body recoiled before it. The blood was alive, like the dog,
and like the dog it wanted to hide away and cover itself up from the fearful cold. So long as he
walked four miles an hour, he pumped that blood, willy-nilly, to the surface; but now it ebbed
away and sank down into the recesses of his body. The extremities were the first to feel its
absence. His wet feet froze the faster, and his exposed fingers numbed the faster, though they
had not yet begun to freeze. Nose and cheeks were already freezing, while the skin of all his
body chilled as it lost its blood.
But he was safe. Toes and nose and cheeks would be only touched by the frost, for the fire was
beginning to burn with strength. He was feeding it with twigs the size of his finger. In another
minute he would be able to feed it with branches the size of his wrist, and then he could remove
his wet footgear, and, while it dried, he could keep his naked feet warm by the fire, rubbing them
at first, of course, with snow. The fire was a success. He was safe. He remembered the advice of
the old-timer on Sulphur Creek, and smiled. The old-timer had been very serious in laying down
the law that no man must travel alone in the Klondike after fifty below. Well, here he was; he
had had the accident; he was alone; and he had saved himself. Those old-timers were rather
womanish, some of them, he thought. All a man had to do was to keep his head, and he was all
right. Any man who was a man could travel alone. But it was surprising, the rapidity with which
his cheeks and nose were freezing. And he had not thought his fingers could go lifeless in so
short a time. Lifeless they were, for he could scarcely make them move together to grip a twig,
and they seemed remote from his body and from him. When he touched a twig, he had to look
and see whether or not he had hold of it. The wires were pretty well down between him and his
All of which counted for little. There was the fire, snapping and crackling and promising life
with every dancing flame. He started to untie his moccasins. They were coated with ice; the
thick German socks were like sheaths of iron halfway to the knees; and the moccasin strings
were like rods of steel all twisted and knotted as by some conflagration. For a moment he tugged
with his numb fingers, then, realizing the folly of it, he drew his sheath knife.
But before he could cut the strings, it happened. It was his own fault or, rather, his mistake. He
should not have built the fire under the spruce tree. He should have built it in the open. But it
had been easier to pull the twigs from the brush and drop them directly on the fire. Now the tree
under which he had done this carried a weight of snow on its boughs. No wind had blown for
weeks, and each bough was fully freighted. Each time he had pulled a twig he had communicated
a slight agitation to the tree—an imperceptible agitation, so far as he was concerned, but an
agitation sufficient to bring about the disaster. High up in the tree one bough capsized its load of
snow. This fell on the boughs beneath, capsizing them. This process continued, spreading out
and involving the whole tree. It grew like an avalanche, and it descended without warning upon
the man and the fire, and the fire was blotted out! Where it had burned was a mantle of fresh and
The man was shocked. It was as though he had just heard his own sentence of death. For a
moment he sat and stared at the spot where the fire had been. Then he grew very calm. Perhaps
the old-timer on Sulphur Creek was right. If he had only had a trail mate he would have been in
no danger now. The trail mate could have built the fire. Well, it was up to him to build the fire
over again, and this second time there must be no failure. Even if he succeeded, he would most
likely lose some toes. His feet must be badly frozen by now, and there would be some time
before the second fire was ready.
Such were his thoughts, but he did not sit and think them. He was busy all the time they were
passing through his mind. He made a new foundation for a fire, this time in the open, where no
treacherous tree could blot it out. Next he gathered dry grasses and tiny twigs from the
high-water flotsam. He could not bring his fingers together to pull them out, but he was able to
gather them by the handful. In this way he got many rotten twigs and bits of green moss that
were undesirable, but it was the best he could do. He worked methodically, even collecting an
armful of the larger branches to be used later when the fire gathered strength. And all the while
the dog sat and watched him, a certain yearning wistfulness in its eyes, for it looked upon him as
the fire provider, and the fire was slow in coming.
When all was ready, the man reached in his pocket for a second piece of birch bark. He
knew the bark was there, and, though he could not feel it with his fingers, he could hear its crisp
rustling as he fumbled for it. Try as he would, he could not clutch hold of it. And all the time, in
his consciousness, was the knowledge that each instant his feet were freezing. This thought
tended to put him in a panic, but he fought against it and kept calm. He pulled on his mittens
with his teeth, and threshed his arms back and forth, beating his hands with all his might against
his sides. He did this sitting down, and he stood up to do it; and all the while the dog sat in the
snow, its wolf brush of a tail curled around warmly over its forefeet, its sharp wolf ears pricked
forward intently as it watched the man. And the man, as he beat and threshed with his arms and
hands, felt a great surge of envy as he regarded the creature that was warm and secure in its
After a time he was aware of the first faraway signals of sensation in his beaten fingers. The faint
tingling grew stronger till it evolved into a stinging ache that was excruciating, but which the
man hailed with satisfaction. He stripped the mitten from his right hand and fetched forth the
birch bark. The exposed fingers were quickly going numb again. Next he brought out his bunch
of sulphur matches. But the tremendous cold had already driven the life out of his fingers. In his
effort to separate one match from the others, the whole bunch fell in the snow. He tried to pick it
out of the snow, but failed. The dead fingers could neither touch nor clutch. He was very careful.
He drove the thought of his freezing feet, and nose, and cheeks, out of his mind, devoting his
whole soul to the matches. He watched, using the sense of vision in place of that of touch, and
when he saw his fingers on each side the bunch, he closed them—that is, he willed to close them,
for the wires were down, and the fingers did not obey. He pulled the mitten on the right hand,
and beat it fiercely against his knee. Then, with both mittened hands, he scooped the bunch of
matches, along with much snow, into his lap. Yet he was no better off.
After some manipulation he managed to get the bunch between the heels of his mittened
hands. In this fashion he carried it to his mouth. The ice crackled and snapped when by a
violent effort he opened his mouth. He drew the lower jaw in, curled the upper lip out of the
way, and scraped the bunch with his upper teeth in order to separate a match. He succeeded in
getting one, which he dropped on his lap. He was no better off. He could not pick it up. Then he
devised a way. He picked it up in his teeth and scratched it on his leg. Twenty times he scratched
before he succeeded in lighting it. As it flamed he held it with his teeth to the birch bark. But the
burning brimstone went up his nostrils and into his lungs, causing him to cough spasmodically.
The match fell into the snow and went out.
The old-timer on Sulphur Creek was right, he thought in the moment of controlled despair that
ensued: after fifty below, a man should travel with a partner. He beat his hands, but failed in
exciting any sensation. Suddenly he bared both hands, removing the mittens with his teeth. He
caught the whole bunch between the heels of his hands. His arm muscles not being frozen
enabled him to press the hand heels tightly against the matches. Then he scratched the bunch
along his leg. It flared into flame, seventy sulphur matches at once! There was no wind to blow
them out. He kept his head to one side to escape the strangling fumes, and held the blazing bunch
to the birch bark. As he so held it, he became aware of sensation in his hand. His flesh was
burning. He could smell it. Deep down below the surface he could feel it. The sensation
developed into pain that grew acute. And still he endured it, holding the flame of the matches
clumsily to the bark that would not light readily because his own burning hands were in the way,
absorbing most of the flame.
At last, when he could endure no more, he jerked his hands apart. The blazing matches fell
sizzling into the snow, but the birch bark was alight. He began laying dry grasses and the
tiniest twigs on the flame. He could not pick and choose, for he had to lift the fuel between
the heels of his hands. Small pieces of rotten wood and green moss clung to the twigs, and he bit
them off as well as he could with his teeth. He cherished the flame carefully and awkwardly. It
meant life, and it must not perish. The withdrawal of blood from the surface of his body now
made him begin to shiver, and he grew more awkward. A large piece of green moss fell
squarely on the little fire. He tried to poke it out with his fingers, but his shivering frame made
him poke too far, and he disrupted the nucleus of the little fire, the burning grasses and tiny
twigs separating and scattering. He tried to poke them together again, but in spite of the
tenseness of the effort, his shivering got away with him, and the twigs were hopelessly
scattered. Each twig gushed a puff of smoke and went out. The fire provider had failed. As he
looked apathetically about him, his eyes chanced on the dog, sitting across the ruins of the
fire from him, in the snow, making restless, hunching movements, slightly lifting one
forefoot and then the other, shifting its weight back and forth on them with wistful eagerness.
The sight of the dog put a wild idea into his head. He remembered the tale of the man,
caught in a blizzard, who killed a steer and crawled inside the carcass, and so was saved. He
would kill the dog and bury his hands in the warm body until the numbness went out of them.
Then he could build another fire. He spoke to the dog, calling it to him; but in his voice was a
strange note of fear that frightened the animal, who had never known the man to speak in such
way before. Something was the matter, and its suspicious nature sensed danger—it knew not
what danger, but somewhere, somehow, in its brain arose an apprehension of the man. It
flattened its ears down at the sound of the man’s voice, and its restless, hunching movements
and the liftings and shiftings of its forefeet became more pronounced; but it would not come to
the man. He got on his hands and knees and crawled toward the dog. This unusual posture
again excited suspicion, and the animal sidled mincingly away.
The man sat up in the snow for a moment and struggled for calmness. Then he pulled on his
mittens, by means of his teeth, and got upon his feet. He glanced down at first in order to assure
himself that he was really standing up, for the absence of sensation in his feet left him unrelated
to the earth. His erect position in itself started to drive the webs of suspicion from the dog’s
mind; and when he spoke peremptorily, with the sound of whip lashes in his voice, the dog
rendered its customary allegiance and came to him. As it came within reaching distance, the man
lost his control. His arms flashed out to the dog, and he experienced genuine surprise when he
discovered that his hands could not clutch, that there was neither bend nor feeling in the fingers.
He had forgotten for the moment that they were frozen and that they were freezing more and
more. All this happened quickly, and before the animal could get away, he encircled its body
with his arms. He sat down in the snow, and in this fashion held the dog, while it snarled and
whined and struggled.
But it was all he could do, hold its body encircled in his arms and sit there. He realized that he
could not kill the dog. There was no way to do it. With his helpless hands he could neither draw
nor hold his sheath knife nor throttle the animal. He released it, and it plunged wildly away, with
tail between its legs, and still snarling. It halted forty feet away and surveyed him curiously, with
ears sharply pricked forward.
The man looked down at his hands in order to locate them, and found them hanging on the ends
of his arms. It struck him as curious that one should have to use his eyes in order to find out
where his hands were. He began threshing his arms back and forth, beating the mittened hands
against his sides. He did this for five minutes, violently, and his heart pumped enough blood up
to the surface to put a stop to his shivering. But no sensation was aroused in the hands. He had an
impression that they hung like weights on the ends of his arms, but when he tried to run the
impression down, he could not find it.
A certain fear of death, dull and oppressive, came to him. This fear quickly became poignant as
he realized that it was no longer a mere matter of freezing his fingers and toes, or of losing his
hands and feet, but that it was a matter of life and death with the chances against him. This
threw him into a panic, and he turned and ran up the creek bed along the old, dim trail. The
dog joined in behind and kept up with him. He ran blindly, without intention, in fear such as he
had never known in his life. Slowly, as he plowed and floundered through the snow, he began to
see things again—the banks of the creek, the old timber jams, the leafless aspens, and the sky.
The running made him feel better. He did not shiver. Maybe, if he ran on, his feet would thaw
out; and, anyway, if he ran far enough, he would reach camp and the boys. Without doubt he
would lose some fingers and toes and some of his face; but the boys would take care of him, and
save the rest of him when he got there. And at the same time there was another thought in his
mind that said he would never get to the camp and the boys; that it was too many miles away,
that the freezing had too great a start on him, and that he would soon be stiff and dead. This
thought he kept in the background and refused to consider. Sometimes it pushed itself forward
and demanded to be heard, but he thrust it back and strove to think of other things.
It struck him as curious that he could run at all on feet so frozen that he could not feel them when
they struck the earth and took the weight of his body. He seemed to himself to skim along above
the surface, and to have no connection with the earth. Somewhere he had once seen a winged
Mercury, and he wondered if Mercury felt as he felt when skimming over the earth.
His theory of running until he reached camp and the boys had one flaw in it: he lacked the
endurance. Several times he stumbled, and finally he tottered, crumpled up, and fell. When he
tried to rise, he failed. He must sit and rest, he decided, and next time he would merely walk and
keep on going. As he sat and regained his breath, he noted that he was feeling quite warm and
comfortable. He was not shivering, and it even seemed that a warm glow had come to his chest
and trunk. And yet, when he touched his nose or cheeks, there was no sensation. Running would
not thaw them out. Nor would it thaw out his hands and feet. Then the thought came to him that
the frozen portions of his body must be extending. He tried to keep this thought down, to forget
it, to think of something else; he was aware of the panicky feeling that it caused, and he was
afraid of the panic. But the thought asserted itself, and persisted, until it produced a vision of
his body totally frozen. This was too much, and he made another wild run along the trail. Once
he slowed down to a walk, but the thought of the freezing extending itself made him run again.
And all the time the dog ran with him, at his heels. When he fell down a second time, it
curled its tail over its forefeet and sat in front of him, facing him, curiously eager and intent. The
warmth and security of the animal angered him, and he cursed it till it flattened down its ears
appeasingly. This time the shivering came more quickly upon the man. He was losing in his
battle with the frost. It was creeping into his body from all sides. The thought of it drove him
on, but he ran no more than a hundred feet, when he staggered and pitched headlong. It was
his last panic. When he had recovered his breath and control, he sat up and entertained in his
mind the conception of meeting death with dignity. However, the conception did not come to
him in such terms. His idea of it was that he had been making a fool of himself, running
around like a chicken with its head cut off—such was the simile that occurred to him. Well,
he was bound to freeze anyway, and he might as well take it decently. With this newfound
peace of mind came the first glimmerings of drowsiness. A good idea, he thought, to sleep
off to death. It was like taking an anesthetic. Freezing was not so bad as people thought. There
were lots worse ways to die.
He pictured the boys finding his body next day. Suddenly he found himself with them, coming
along the trail and looking for himself. And, still with them, he came around a turn in the trail
and found himself lying in the snow. He did not belong with himself any more, for even then he
was out of himself, standing with the boys and looking at himself in the snow. It certainly was
cold, was his thought. When he got back to the States he could tell the folks what real cold was.
He drifted on from this to a vision of the old-timer on Sulphur Creek, He could see him quite
clearly, warm and comfortable, and smoking a pipe.
“You were right, old hoss; you were right,” the man mumbled to the old-timer of Sulphur Creek.
Then the man drowsed off into what seemed to him the most comfortable and satisfying
sleep he had ever known. The dog sat facing him and waiting. The brief day drew to a close in a
long, slow twilight. There were no signs of a fire to be made, and, besides, never in the dog’s
experience had it known a man to sit like that in the snow and make no fire. As the twilight
drew on, its eager yearning for the fire mastered it, and with a great lifting and shifting of
forefeet, it whined softly, then flattened its ears down in anticipation of being chidden by the
man. But the man remained silent. Later the dog whined loudly. And still later it crept close to
the man and caught the scent of death. This made the animal bristle and back away. A little
longer it delayed, howling under the stars that leaped and danced and shone brightly in the
cold sky. Then it turned and trotted up the trail in the direction of the camp it knew, where were
the other food providers and fire providers.
- pp. 134-135 (“The Heathen”): Out of all my experience I could not have believed it possible for
the wind to blow as it did. There is no describing it. How can one describe a nightmare? It was
the same way with that wind. It tore the clothes off our bodies. I say tore them off, and I
mean it. I am not asking you to believe it. I am merely telling something that I saw and felt.
There are times when I do not believe it myself. I went through it, and that is enough. One
could not face that wind and live. It was a monstrous thing, and the most monstrous thing
about it was that it increased and continued to increase.
Imagine countless millions and billions of tons of sand. Imagine this sand tearing along at
ninety, a hundred, a hundred and twenty, or any other number of miles per hour. Imagine,
further, this sand to be invisible, impalpable, yet to retain all the weight and density of sand. Do
all this, and you may get a vague inkling of what that wind was like.
Perhaps sand is not the right comparison. Consider it mud, invisible, impalpable, but heavy as
mud. Nay, it goes beyond that. Consider every molecule of air to be a mudbank in itself. Then
try to imagine the multitudinous impact of mudbanks. No; it is beyond me. Language may be
adequate to express the ordinary conditions of life, but it cannot possibly express any of the
conditions of so enormous a blast of wind. It would have been better had I stuck by my original
intention of not attempting a description.
I will say this much: the sea, which had risen at first, was beaten down by that wind. More, it
seemed as if the whole ocean had been sucked up in the maw of the hurricane, and hurled on
through that portion of space which previously had been occupied by the air.
- pp. 136-142: The situation really would have been favorable had we not been in the path of the
storm. True, the wind itself tore our canvas out of the gaskets, jerked out our topmasts, and made
a raffle of our running gear, but still we would have come through nicely had we not been square
in front of the advancing storm center. That was what fixed us. I was in a state of stunned,
numbed, paralyzed collapse from enduring the impact of the wind, and I think I was just about
ready to give up and die when the center smote us. The blow we received was an absolute lull.
There was not a breath of air. The effect on one was sickening. Remember that for hours we had
been at terrific muscular tension, withstanding the awful pressure of that wind. And then,
suddenly, the pressure was removed. I know that I felt as though I was about to expand, to fly
apart in all directions. It seemed as if every atom composing my body was repelling every other
atom and was on the verge of rushing off irresistibly into space. But that lasted only for a
moment. Destruction was upon us.
In the absence of wind and pressure the sea rose. It jumped, it leaped, it soared straight
toward the clouds. Remember, from every point of the compass that inconceivable wind was
blowing in toward the center of calm. The result was that the seas sprang up from every point of
the compass. There was no wind to check them. They popped up like corks released from the
bottom of a pail of water. There was no system to them, no stability. They were hollow, maniacal
seas. They were eighty feet high at the least. They were not seas at all. They resembled no sea a
man had ever seen.
They were splashes, monstrous splashes—that is all. Splashes that were eighty feet high. Eighty!
They were more than eighty. They went over our mastheads. They were spouts, explosions. They
were drunken. They fell anywhere, anyhow. They jostled one another; they collided. They
rushed together and collapsed upon one another, or fell apart like a thousand waterfalls all at
once. It was no ocean any man had ever dreamed of, that hurricane center. It was confusion
thrice confounded. It was anarchy. It was a hell pit of sea water gone mad.
The Petite Jeanne? I don’t know. The heathen told me afterwards that he did not know.
She was literally torn apart, ripped wide open, beaten into a pulp, smashed into kindling wood,
annihilated. When I came to I was in the water, swimming automatically, though I was about two
thirds drowned. How I got there I had no recollection. I remembered seeing the Petite
Jeanne fly to pieces at what must have been the instant that my own consciousness was
buffeted out of me. But there I was, with nothing to do but make the best of it, and in that best
there was little promise. The wind was blowing again, the sea was much smaller and more
regular, and I knew that I had passed through the center. Fortunately there were no sharks
about. The hurricane had dissipated the ravenous horde that had surrounded the death ship
and fed off the dead.
It was about midday when the Petite Jeanne went to pieces, and it must have been two
hours afterward when I picked up with one of her hatch covers. Thick rain was driving at the
time and it was the merest chance that flung me and the hatch cover together. A short length of
line was trailing from the rope handle; and I knew that I was good for a day, at least, if the
sharks did not return. Three hours later, possibly a little longer, sticking close to the cover, and
with closed eyes concentrating my whole soul upon the task of breathing in enough air to keep
me going and at the same time of avoiding breathing in enough water to drown me, it seemed to
me that I heard voices. The rain had ceased, and wind and sea were easing marvelously. Not
twenty feet away from me, on another hatch cover, were Captain Oudouse and the heathen. They
were fighting over the possession of the cover—at least, the Frenchman was.
“Paien noir” I heard him scream, and at the same time I saw him kick the Kanaka.
Now Captain Oudouse had lost all his clothes except his shoes, and they were heavy
brogans. It was a cruel blow, for it caught the heathen on the mouth and the point of the chin,
half stunning him. I looked for him to retaliate, but he contented himself with swimming about
forlornly a safe ten feet away. Whenever a fling of the sea threw him closer, the Frenchman,
hanging on with his hands, kicked out at him with both feet. Also, at the moment of delivering
each kick, he called the Kanaka a black heathen.
“For two centimes I’d come over there and drown you, you white beast!” I yelled.
The only reason I did not go was that I felt too tired. The very thought of the effort to swim over
was nauseating. So I called to the Kanaka to come to me, and proceeded to share the hatch cover
with him. Otoo, he told me his name was (pronounced o-to-o); also he told me that he was a
native of Borabora, the most westerly of the Society group. As I learned afterward, he had got
the hatch cover first, and, after some time, encountering Captain Oudouse, had offered to share it
with him, and had been kicked off for his pains.
And that was how Otoo and I first came together. He was no fighter. He was all sweetness and
gentleness, a love creature, though he stood nearly six feet tall and was muscled like a gladiator.
He was no fighter, but he was also no coward. He had the heart of a lion; and in the years that
followed I have seen him run risks that I would never dream of taking. What I mean is that while
he was no fighter, and while he always avoided precipitating a row, he never ran away from
trouble when it started. And it was “ ’Ware shoal!” when once Otoo went into action. I shall
never forget what he did to Bill King. It occurred in German Samoa. Bill King was hailed the
champion heavyweight of the American Navy. He was a big brute of a man, a veritable
gorilla, one of those hard-hitting, roughhousing chaps, and clever with his fists as well. He
picked the quarrel, and he kicked Otoo twice and struck him once before Otoo felt it to be
necessary to fight. I don’t think it lasted four minutes, at the end of which time Bill King was
the unhappy possessor of four broken ribs, a broken forearm, and a dislocated shoulder blade.
Otoo knew nothing of scientific boxing. He was merely a manhandler; and Bill King was
something like three months in recovering from the bit of manhandling he received that
afternoon on Apia beach.
But I am running ahead of my yarn. We shared the hatch cover between us. We took turn and
turn about, one lying flat on the cover and resting, while the other, submerged to the neck,
merely held on with his hands. For two days and nights, spell and spell, on the cover and in
the water, we drifted over the ocean. Toward the last I was delirious most of the time, and
there were times, too, when I heard Otoo babbling and raving in his native tongue. Our
continuous immersion prevented us from dying of thirst, though the sea water and the
sunshine gave us the prettiest imaginable combination of salt pickle and sunburn.
In the end Otoo saved my life; for I came to lying on the beach twenty feet from the
water, sheltered from the sun by a couple of coconut leaves. No one but Otoo could have
dragged me there and stuck up the leaves for shade. He was lying beside me. I went off
again; and the next time I came round it was cool and starry night, and Otoo was pressing a
drinking coconut to my lips.
We were the sole survivors of the Petite Jeanne. Captain Oudouse must have succumbed to
exhaustion, for several days later his hatch cover drifted ashore without him. Otoo and I lived
with the natives of the atoll for a week, when we were rescued by the French cruiser and taken to
Tahiti. In the meantime, however, we had performed the ceremony of exchanging names. In the
South Seas such a ceremony binds two men closer together than blood brothership. The initiative
had been mine; and Otoo was rapturously delighted when I suggested it.
“It is well,” he said in Tahitian. “For we have been mates together for two days on the lips of
“But Death stuttered.” I smiled.
“It was a brave deed you did, master,” he replied, “and Death was not vile enough to
“Why do you ‘master’ me?” I demanded with a show of hurt feelings. “We have
exchanged names. To you I am Otoo. To me you are Charley. And between you and me, forever
and forever, you shall be Charley, and I shall be Otoo. It is the way of the custom. And when we
die, if it does happen that we live again somewhere beyond the stars and the sky, still shall you
be Charley to me, and I Otoo to you.”
“Yes, master,” he answered, his eyes luminous and soft with joy.
“There you go!” I cried indignantly.
“What does it matter what my lips utter?” he argued. “They are only my lips. But I shall think
Otoo always. Whenever I think of myself, I shall think of you. Whenever men call me by name, I
shall think of you. And beyond the sky and beyond the stars, always forever, you shall be Otoo
to me. Is it well, master?”
I hid my smile and answered that it was well.
- pp. 142-151: I never had a brother; but from what I have seen of other men’s brothers, I doubt
if any man ever had a brother that was to him what Otoo was to me. He was brother and father
and mother as well. And this I know: I lived a straighter and better man because of Otoo. I
cared little for other men, but I had to live straight in Otoo’s eyes. Because of him I dared not
tarnish myself. He made me his idea, compounding me, I fear, chiefly out of his own love and
worship; and there were times when I stood close to the steep pitch of hell, and would have
taken the plunge had not the thought of Otoo restrained me. His pride in me entered into me
until he became one of the major rules in my personal code to do nothing that would diminish
that pride of his.
Naturally I did not learn right away what his feelings were toward me. He never criticized, never
censured; and slowly the exalted place I held in his eyes dawned upon me, and slowly I grew to
comprehend the hurt I could inflict upon him by anything less than my best.
For seventeen years we were together; for seventeen years he was at my shoulder, watching
while I slept, nursing me through fever and wounds—aye, and receiving wounds in fighting for
me. He signed on the same ships with me; and together we ranged the Pacific from Hawaii to
Sydney Head, and from Torres Straits to the Galapagos. We blackbirded from the New Hebrides
and the Line Islands over to the westward clear through the Louisiades, New Britain, New
Ireland, and New Hanover. We were wrecked three times—in the Gilberts, in the Santa Cruz
group, and in the Fijis. And he traded and salved wherever a dollar promised in the way of pearl
and pearl shell, copra, beche-de-mer, hawkbill turtle shell, and stranded wrecks.
It began in Papeete, immediately after his announcement that he was going with me over all the
sea, and the islands in the midst thereof. There was a club in those days in Papeete, where the
pearlers, traders, captains, and riffraff of South Sea adventurers forgathered. The play ran high,
and the drink ran high; and I am very much afraid that I kept later hours than were becoming or
proper. No matter what the hour was when I left the club, there was Otoo waiting to see me
At first I smiled; next I chided him. Then I told him flatly that I stood in need of no wet-nursing.
After that I did not see him when I came out of the club. Quite by accident, a week or so later, I
discovered that he still saw me home, lurking across the street among the shadows of the mango
trees. What could I do? I know what I did do.
Insensibly I began to keep better hours. On wet and stormy nights, in the thick of the folly and
the fun, the thought would persist in coming to me of Otoo keeping his dreary vigil under the
dripping mangoes. Truly, he made a better man of me. Yet he was not strait-laced. And he knew
nothing of common Christian morality. All the people on Borabora were Christians; but he was a
heathen, the only unbeliever on the island, a gross materialist, who believed that when he died he
was dead. He believed merely in fair play and square dealing. Petty meanness, in his code, was
almost as serious as wanton homicide, and I do believe that he respected a murderer more than a
man given to small practices.
Concerning me, personally, he objected to my doing anything that was hurtful to me. Gambling
was all right. He was an ardent gambler himself. But late hours, he explained, were bad for one’s
health. He had seen men who did not take care of themselves die of fever. He was no teetotaler,
and welcomed a stiff nip any time when it was wet work in the boats. On the other hand, he
believed in liquor in moderation. He had seen many men killed or disgraced by squareface or
Otoo had my welfare always at heart. He thought ahead for me, weighed my plans, and took a
greater interest in them than I did myself. At first, when I was unaware of this interest of his in
my affairs, he had to divine my intentions, as, for instance, at Papeete, when I contemplated
going partners with a knavish fellow countryman on a guana venture. I did not know he was a
knave. Nor did any white man in Papeete. Neither did Otoo know, but he saw how thick we were
getting, and found out for me, and without asking him. Native sailors from the ends of the seas
knock about on the beach in Tahiti; and Otoo, suspicious merely, went among them till he had
gathered sufficient data to justify his suspicions. Oh, it was a nice history, that of Randolph
Waters. I couldn’t believe it when Otoo first narrated it; but when I sheeted it home to Waters he
gave in without a murmur and got away on the first steamer to Auckland.
At first, I am free to confess, I couldn’t help resenting Otoo’s poking his nose into my business.
But I knew that he was wholly unselfish; and soon I had to acknowledge his wisdom and
discretion. He had his eyes open always to my main chance, and he was both keen-sighted and
farsighted. In time he became my counselor, until he knew more of my business than I did
myself. He really had my interest at heart more than I did. Mine was the magnificent
carelessness of youth, for I preferred romance to dollars, and adventure to a comfortable
billet with all night in. So it was well that I had someone to look out for me. I know that if it
had not been for Otoo I should not be here today.
Of numerous instances, let me give one. I had had some experience in blackbirding before I went
pearling in the Paumotus. Otoo and I were on the beach in Samoa—we really were on the beach
and hard aground—when my chance came to go as a recruiter on a blackbird brig. Otoo signed
on before the mast; and for the next half-dozen years, in as many ships, we knocked about the
wildest portions of Melanesia. Otoo saw to it that he always pulled stroke oar in my boat. Our
custom in recruiting labor was to land the recruiter on the beach. The covering boat always lay
on its oars several hundred feet offshore while the recruiter’s boat, also lying on its oars, kept
afloat on the edge of the beach. When I landed with my trade goods, leaving my steering sweep
apeak, Otoo left his stroke position and came into the stern sheets, where a Winchester lay ready
to hand under a flap of canvas. The boat’s crew was also armed, the Sniders concealed under
canvas flaps that ran the length of the gunwales. While I was busy arguing and persuading the
woolly-headed cannibals to come and labor on the Queensland plantations, Otoo kept watch.
And often and often his low voice warned me of suspicious actions and impending treachery.
Sometimes it was the quick shot from his rifle that was the first warning I received. And in my
rush to the boat his hand was always there to jerk me flying aboard. Once, I remember, on
Santa Anna, the boat grounded just as the trouble began. The boat was dashing to our
assistance, but the several savages would have wiped us out before it arrived. Otoo took a
flying leap ashore, dug both hands into the trade goods, and scattered tobacco, beads,
tomahawks, knives, and calicoes in all directions.
This was too much for the woolly-heads. While they scrambled for the treasures, the boat was
shoved clear, and we were aboard and forty feet away. And I got thirty recruits off that very
beach in the next four hours.
The particular instance I have in mind was on Malaita, the most savage island in the easterly
Solomons. The natives had been remarkably friendly; and how were we to know that the whole
village had been taking up a collection for over two years with which to buy a white man’s
head? The beggars are all head-hunters, and they especially esteem a white man’s head. The
fellow who captured the head would receive the whole collection. As I say, they appeared
very friendly; and on this day I was fully a hundred yards down the beach from the boat.
Otoo had cautioned me and, as usual when I did not heed him, I came to grief.
The first I knew, a cloud of spears sailed out of the mangrove swamp at me. At least a dozen
were sticking into me. I started to run, but tripped over one that was fast in my calf, and went
down. The woolly-heads made a run for me, each with a long-handled fantail tomahawk with
which to hack off my head. They were so eager for the prize that they got in one another’s way.
In the confusion I avoided several hacks by throwing myself right and left on the sand.
Then Otoo arrived—Otoo the manhandler. In some way he had got hold of a heavy war
club, and at close quarters it was a far more efficient weapon than a rifle. He was right in the
thick of them, so that they could not spear him, while their tomahawks seemed worse than
useless. He was fighting for me, and he was in a true berserker rage. The way he handled that
club was amazing. Their skulls squashed like overripe oranges. It was not until he had driven
them back, picked me up in his arms, and started to run that he received his first wounds. He
arrived in the boat with four spear thrusts, got his Winchester, and with it got a man for every
shot. Then we pulled aboard the schooner and doctored up.
Seventeen years we were together. He made me. I should today be a supercargo, a recruiter, or a
memory, if it had not been for him.
“You spend your money, and you go out and get more,” he said one day. “It is easy to get money
now. But when you get old, your money will be spent, and you will not be able to go out and get
more. I know, master. I have studied the way of white men. On the beaches are many old men
who were young once, and who could get money just like you. Now they are old, and they have
nothing, and they wait about for the young men like you to come ashore and buy drinks for them.
“The black boy is a slave on the plantations. He gets twenty dollars a year. He works
hard. The overseer does not work hard. He rides a horse and watches the black boy work. He
gets twelve hundred dollars a year. I am a sailor on the schooner. I get fifteen dollars a month.
That is because I am a good sailor. I work hard. The captain has a double awning and drinks
beer out of long bottles. I have never seen him haul a rope or pull an oar. He gets one hundred
and fifty dollars a month. I am a sailor. He is a navigator. Master, I think it would be very good
for you to know navigation.”
Otoo spurred me on to it. He sailed with me as second mate on my first schooner, and he
was far prouder of my command than I was myself. Later on it was:
“The captain is well paid, master; but the ship is in his keeping, and he is never free from the
burden. It is the owner who is better paid—and the owner who sits ashore with many servants
and turns his money over.”
“True, but a schooner costs five thousand dollars—an old schooner at that,” I objected. “I
should be an old man before I saved five thousand dollars.”
“There be short ways for white men to make money,” he went on, pointing ashore at the
We were in the Solomons at the time, picking up a cargo of ivory nuts along the east coast of
“Between this river mouth and the next it is two miles,” he said. “The flat land runs far back. It is
worth nothing now. Next year—who knows?—or the year after, men will pay much money for
that land. The anchorage is good. Big steamers can lie close up. You can buy the land four miles
deep from the old chief for ten thousand sticks of tobacco, ten bottles of squareface, and a
Snider, which will cost you, maybe, one hundred dollars. Then you place the deed with the
commissioner; and the next year, or the year after, you sell and become the owner of a ship.”
I followed his lead, and his words came true, though in three years instead of two. Next
came the grasslands deal on Guadalcanal—twenty thousand acres, on a governmental nine
hundred and ninety-nine years’ lease at a nominal sum. I owned the lease for precisely ninety
days, when I sold it to a company for half a fortune. Always it was Otoo who looked ahead and
saw the opportunity. He was responsible for the salving of the Doncaster—bought in an
auction for a hundred pounds, and clearing three thousand after every expense was paid. He led
me into the Savaii plantation and the cocoa venture on Upolu.
- pp. 151-157: “My people in Borabora do not like heathen—they are all Christians; and I do not
like Borabora Christians,” he said one day, when I, with the idea of getting him to spend some of
the money that was rightfully his, had been trying to persuade him to make a visit to his own
island in one of our schooners—a special voyage which I had hoped to make a record breaker in
the matter of prodigal expense.
I say one of our schooners, though legally at the time they belonged to me. I struggled long with
him to enter into partnership.
“We have been partners from the day the Petite Jeanne went down,” he said at last. “But if
your heart so wishes, then shall we become partners by the law. I have no work to do, yet are my
expenses large. I drink and eat and smoke in plenty—it costs much, I know. I do not pay for the
playing of billiards, for I play on your table; but still the money goes. Fishing on the reef is only
a rich man’s pleasure. It is shocking, the cost of hooks and cotton line. Yes; it is necessary that
we be partners by law. I need the money. I shall get it from the head clerk in the office.”
So the papers were made out and recorded. A year later I was compelled to complain.
“Charley,” said I, “you are a wicked old fraud, a miserly skinflint, a miserable land crab.
Behold, your share for the year in all our partnership has been thousands of dollars. The head
clerk has given me this paper. It says that in the year you have drawn just eighty-seven dollars
and twenty cents.”
“Is there any owing me?” he asked anxiously.
“I tell you thousands and thousands,” I answered.
His face brightened, as with an immense relief.
“It is well,” he said. “See that the head clerk keeps good account of it. When I want it, I shall
want it, and there must not be a cent missing.”
“If there is,” he added fiercely, after a pause, “it must come out of the clerk’s wages.”
And all the time, as I afterward learned, his will, drawn up by Carruthers, and making me
sole beneficiary, lay in the American consul’s safe.
But the end came, as the end must come to all human associations. It occurred in the Solomons,
where our wildest work had been done in the wild young days, and where we were once more—
principally on a holiday, incidentally to look after our holdings on Florida Island and to look
over the pearling possibilities of the Mboli Pass. We were lying at Savu, having run in to trade
Now Savu is alive with sharks. The custom of the woolly-heads of burying their dead in the sea
did not tend to discourage the sharks from making the adjacent waters a hangout. It was my luck
to be coming aboard in a tiny, overloaded, native canoe when the thing capsized. There were
four woolly-heads and myself in it, or, rather hanging to it. The schooner was a hundred yards
away. I was just hailing for a boat when one of the woolly-heads began to scream. Holding on to
the end of the canoe, both he and that portion of the canoe were dragged under several times.
Then he loosed his clutch and disappeared. A shark had got him.
The three remaining woolly-heads tried to climb out of the water upon the bottom of the canoe. I
yelled and cursed and struck at the nearest with my fist, but it was no use. They were in a blind
funk. The canoe could barely have supported one of them. Under the three it upended and rolled
sidewise, throwing them back into the water.
I abandoned the canoe and started to swim toward the schooner, expecting to be picked up by the
boat before I got there. One of the woolly-heads elected to come with me, and we swam along
silently, side by side, now and again putting our faces into the water and peering about for
sharks. The screams of the man who stayed by the canoe informed us that he was taken. I was
peering into the water when I saw a big shark pass directly beneath me. He was fully
sixteen feet in length. I saw the whole thing. He got the woolly-head by the middle, and away he
went, the poor devil, head, shoulders, and arms out of water all the time, screeching in a
heart-rending way. He was carried along in this fashion for several hundred feet, when he was
dragged beneath the surface.
I swam doggedly on, hoping that that was the last unattached shark. But there was another.
Whether it was one that had attacked the natives earlier, or whether it was one that had made a
good meal elsewhere, I do not know. At any rate, he was not in such haste as the others. I could
not swim so rapidly now, for a large part of my effort was devoted to keeping track of him. I was
watching him when he made his first attack. By good luck I got both hands on his nose, and
though his momentum nearly shoved me under, I managed to keep him off. He veered clear and
began circling about again. A second time I escaped him by the same maneuver. The third rush
was a miss on both sides. He sheered at the moment my hands should have landed on his nose,
but his sandpaper hide (I had on a sleeveless undershirt) scraped the skin off one arm from elbow
By this time I was played out, and gave up hope. The schooner was still two hundred feet away.
My face was in the water, and I was watching him maneuver for another attempt, when I saw a
brown body pass between us. It was Otoo.
“Swim for the schooner, master!” he said. And he spoke gaily, as though the affair was a mere
lark. “I know sharks. The shark is my brother.”
I obeyed, swimming slowly on, while Otoo swam about me, keeping always between me and the
shark, foiling his rushes and encouraging me.
“The davit tackle carried away, and they are rigging the falls,” he explained a minute or so later,
and then went under to head off another attack.
By the time the schooner was thirty feet away I was about done for. I could scarcely move. They
were heaving lines at us from on board, but they continually fell short. The shark, finding that it
was receiving no hurt, had become bolder. Several times it nearly got me, but each time Otoo
was there just the moment before it was too late. Of course Otoo could have saved himself any
time. But he stuck by me.
“Good-by, Charley! I’m finished!” I just managed to gasp.
I knew that the end had come, and that the next moment I should throw up my hands and go
But Otoo laughed in my face, saying:
“I will show you a new trick. I will make that shark feel sick!”
He dropped in behind me, where the shark was preparing to come at me.
“A little more to the left!” he next called out. “There is a line there on the water. To the left,
master—to the left!”
I changed my course and struck out blindly. I was by that time barely conscious. As my hand
closed on the line I heard an exclamation from on board. I turned and looked. There was no
sign of Otoo. The next instant he broke surface. Both hands were off at the wrist, the stumps
“Otoo!” he called softly. And I could see in his gaze the love that thrilled in his voice.
Then, and then only, at the very last of all our years, he called me by that name.
“Good-by, Otoo!” he called.
Then he was dragged under, and I was hauled aboard, where I fainted in the captain’s arms.
And so passed Otoo, who saved me and made me a man, and who saved me in the end. We met
in the maw of a hurricane and parted in the maw of a shark, with seventeen intervening years of
comradeship, the like of which I dare to assert has never befallen two men, the one brown and
the other white. If Jehovah be from His high place watching every sparrow fall, not least in His
kingdom shall be Otoo, the one heathen of Borabora.
- from Martin Eden by Jack London; pp. 33-36: He glanced around at his friend reading the
letter and saw the books on the table. Into his eyes leaped a wistfulness and a yearning as
promptly as the yearning leaps into the eyes of a starving man at sight of food. An impulsive
stride, with one lurch to right and left of the shoulders, brought him to the table, where he
began affectionately handling the books. He glanced at the titles and the authors’ names,
read fragments of text, caressing the volumes with his eyes and hands, and, once, recognized a
book he had read. For the rest, they were strange books and strange authors. He chanced upon a
volume of Swinburne and began reading steadily, forgetful of where he was, his face glowing.
Twice he closed the book on his forefinger to look at the name of the author. Swinburne! he
would remember that name. That fellow had eyes, and he had certainly seen color and flashing
light. But who was Swinburne? Was he dead a hundred years ago or so, like most of the poets?
Or was he alive still, and writing? He turned to the title-page . . . yes, he had written other books;
well, he would go to the free library the first thing in the morning and try to get hold of some of
Swinburne’s stuff. He went back to the text and lost himself. He did not notice that a young
woman had entered the room. The first he knew was when he heard Arthur’s voice saying:--
“Ruth, this is Mr. Eden.”
The book was closed on his forefinger, and before he turned he was thrilling to the first new
impression, which was not of the girl, but of her brother’s words. Under that muscled body of
his he was a mass of quivering sensibilities. At the slightest impact of the outside world upon
his consciousness, his thoughts, sympathies, and emotions leapt and played like lambent flame.
He was extraordinarily receptive and responsive, while his imagination, pitched high, was ever at
work establishing relations of likeness and difference. “Mr. Eden,” was what he had thrilled to—
he who had been called “Eden,” or “Martin Eden,” or just “Martin,” all his life. And
“Mister!” It was certainly going some, was his internal comment. His mind seemed to
turn, on the instant, into a vast camera obscura, and he saw arrayed around his consciousness
endless pictures from his life, of stokeholes and forecastles, camps and beaches, jails and
boozing-kens, fever-hospitals and slum streets, wherein the thread of association was the fashion
in which he had been addressed in those various situations.
And then he turned and saw the girl. The phantasmagoria of his brain vanished at sight of her.
She was a pale, ethereal creature, with wide, spiritual blue eyes and a wealth of golden hair. He
did not know how she was dressed, except that the dress was as wonderful as she. He likened her
to a pale gold flower upon a slender stem. No, she was a spirit, a divinity, a goddess; such
sublimated beauty was not of the earth. Or perhaps the books were right, and there were many
such as she in the upper walks of life. She might well be sung by that chap Swinburne. Perhaps
he had had somebody like her in mind when he painted that girl, Iseult, in the book there on the
table. All this plethora of sight, and feeling, and thought occurred on the instant. There was no
pause of the realities wherein he moved. He saw her hand coming out to his, and she looked him
straight in the eyes as she shook hands, frankly, like a man. The women he had known did not
shake hands that way. For that matter, most of them did not shake hands at all. A flood of
associations, visions of various ways he had made the acquaintance of women, rushed into his
mind and threatened to swamp it. But he shook them aside and looked at her. Never had he
seen such a woman. The women he had known! Immediately, beside her, on either hand, ranged
the women he had known. For an eternal second he stood in the midst of a portrait gallery,
wherein she occupied the central place, while about her were limned many women, all to be
weighted and measured by a fleeting glance, herself the unit of weight and measure.
- pp. 39-47: “This man Swineburne,” he began, attempting to put his plan into execution and
pronouncing the i long.
“Swineburne,” he repeated, with the same mispronunciation. “The poet.”
“Swinburne,” she corrected.
“Yes, that’s the chap,” he stammered, his cheeks hot again. “How long since he died?”
“Why, I haven’t heard that he was dead.” She looked at him curiously. “Where did you make his
“I never clapped eyes on him,” was the reply. “But I read some of his poetry out of that book
there on the table just before you come in. How do you like his poetry?”
And thereat she began to talk quickly and easily upon the subject he had suggested. He felt
better, and settled back slightly from the edge of the chair, holding tightly to its arms with his
hands, as if it might get away from him and buck him to the floor. He had succeeded in making
her talk her talk, and while she rattled on, he strove to follow her, marveling at all the
knowledge that was stowed away in that pretty head of hers, and drinking in the pale beauty of
her face. Follow her he did, though bothered by unfamiliar words that fell glibly from her lips
and by critical phrases and thought-processes that were foreign to his mind, but that nevertheless
stimulated his mind and set it tingling. Here was intellectual life, he thought, and here was
beauty, warm and wonderful as he had never dreamed it could be. He forgot himself and
stared at her with hungry eyes. Here was something to live for, to win to, to fight for—ay,
and die for. The books were true. There were such women in the world. She was one of them.
She lent wings to his imagination, and great, luminous canvases spread themselves before him,
whereon loomed vague, gigantic figures of love and romance, and of heroic deeds for woman’s
sake—for a pale woman, a flower of gold. And through the swaying, palpitant vision, as
through a fairy mirage, he stared at the real woman, sitting there and talking of literature and art.
He listened as well, but he stared, unconscious of the fixity of his gaze or of the fact that all that
was essentially masculine in his nature was shining in his eyes. But she, who knew little of the
world of men, being a woman, was keenly aware of his burning eyes. She had never had men
look at her in such fashion, and it embarrassed her. She stumbled and halted in her utterance. The
thread of argument slipped from her. He frightened her, and at the same time it was strangely
pleasant to be so looked upon. Her training warned her of peril and of wrong, subtle, mysterious,
luring; while her instincts rang clarion-voiced through her being, impelling her to hurdle caste
and place and gain to this traveler from another world, to this uncouth young fellow with
lacerated hands and a line of raw red caused by the unaccustomed linen at his throat, who, all too
evidently, was soiled and tainted by ungracious existence. She was clean, and her cleanness
revolted; but she was woman, and she was just beginning to learn the paradox of woman.
“As I was saying—what was I saying?” She broke off abruptly and laughed merrily at
“You was saying that this man Swinburne failed bein’ a great poet because—an’ that was as far
as you got, miss,” he prompted, while to himself he seemed suddenly hungry, and delicious little
thrills crawled up and down his spine at the sound of her laughter. Like silver, he thought to
himself, like tinkling silver bells; and on the instant, and for an instant, he was transported to a
far land, where under pink cherry blossoms, he smoked a cigarette and listened to the bells of the
peaked pagoda calling straw-sandaled devotees to worship.
“Yes, thank you,” she said. “Swinburne fails, when all is said, because he is, well, indelicate.
There are many of his poems that should never be read. Every line of the really great poets is
filled with beautiful truth, and calls to all that is high and noble in the human. Not a line of the
great poets can be spared without impoverishing the world by that much.”
“I thought it was great,” he said hesitatingly, “the little I read. I had no idea he was such a—a
scoundrel. I guess that crops out in his other books.”
“There are many lines that could be spared from the book you were reading,” she said, her voice
primly firm and dogmatic.
“I must’a’ missed ‘em,” he announced. “What I read was the real goods. It was all lighted up an’
shining, an’ it shun right into me an’ lighted me up inside, like the sun or a searchlight. That’s
the way it landed on me, but I guess I ain’t up much on poetry, miss.”
He broke off lamely. He was confused, painfully conscious of his inarticulateness. He had felt
the bigness and glow of life in what he had read, but his speech was inadequate. He could not
express what he felt, and to himself he likened himself to a sailor, in a strange ship, on a dark
night, groping about in the unfamiliar running rigging. Well, he decided, it was up to him to get
acquainted in this new world. He had never seen anything that he couldn’t get the hang of when
he wanted to and it was about time for him to want to learn to talk the things that were inside of
him so that she could understand. She was bulking large on his horizon.
“Now Longfellow—“ she was saying.
“Yes, I’ve read ‘m,” he broke in impulsively, spurred on to exhibit and make the most of his
little store of book knowledge, desirous of showing her that he was not wholly a stupid clod.
“ ‘The Psalm of Life,’ ‘Excelsior,’ an’. . . . I guess that’s all.”
She nodded her head and smiled, and he felt, somehow, that her smile was tolerant, pitifully
tolerant. He was a fool to attempt to make a pretense that way. That Longfellow chap most
likely had written countless books of poetry.
“Excuse me, miss, for buttin’ in that way, I guess the real facts is that I don’t know nothin’
much about such things. It ain’t in my class. But I’m goin’ to make it in my class.”
It sounded like a threat. His voice was determined, his eyes were flashing, the lines of his
face had grown harsh. And to her it seemed that the angle of his jaw had changed; its pitch had
become unpleasantly aggressive. At the same time a wave of intense virility seemed to surge out
from him and impinge upon her.
“I think you could make it in—in your class,” she finished with a laugh. “You are very strong.”
Her gaze rested for a moment on the muscular neck, heavy corded, almost bull-like, bronzed by
the sun, spilling over with rugged health and strength. And though he sat there, blushing and
humble, again she felt drawn to him. She was surprised by a wanton thought that rushed into
her mind. It seemed to her that if she could lay her two hands upon that neck that all its strength
and vigor would flow out to her. She was shocked by this thought. It seemed to reveal to her an
undreamed depravity in her nature. Besides, strength to her was a gross and brutish thing. Her
ideal of masculine beauty had always been slender gracefulness. Yet the thought still persisted. It
bewildered her that she should desire to place her hands on that sunburned neck. In truth, she
was far from robust, and the need of her body and mind was for strength. But she did not know
it. She knew only that no man had ever affected her before as this one had, who shocked her
from moment to moment with his awful grammar.
“Yes, I ain’t no invalid,” he said. “When it comes down to hard-pan, I can digest scrap-iron. But
just now I’ve got dyspepsia. Most of what you was sayin’ I can’t digest. Never trained that way,
you see. I like books and poetry, and what time I’ve had I’ve read ‘em, but I’ve never thought
about ‘em the way you have. That’s why I can’t talk about ‘em. I’m like a navigator adrift on a
strange sea without chart or compass. Now I want to get my bearin’s. Mebbe you can put me
right. How did you learn all this you’ve ben talkin’?”
“By going to school, I fancy, and by studying,” she answered.
“I went to school when I was a kid,” he began to object.
“Yes; but I mean high school, and lectures, and the university.”
“You’ve gone to the university?” he demanded in frank amazement. He felt that she had become
remoter from him by at least a million miles.
“I’m going there now. I’m taking special courses in English.”
He did not know what “English” meant, but he made a mental note of that item of ignorance and
“How long would I have to study before I could go to the university?” he asked.
She beamed encouragement upon his desire for knowledge, and said: “That depends upon how
much studying you have already done. You have never attended high school? Of course not. But
did you finish grammar school?”
“I had two years to run, when I left,” he answered. “But I was always honorably promoted at
The next moment, angry with himself for the boast, he had gripped the arms of the chair so
savagely that every finger-end was stinging. At the same moment he became aware that a
woman was entering the room. He saw the girl leave her chair and trip swiftly across the
floor to the newcomer. They kissed each other, and, with arms around each other’s waists,
they advanced toward him. That must be her mother, he thought. She was a tall, blonde
woman, slender, and stately, and beautiful. Her gown was what he might expect in such a
house. His eyes delighted in the graceful lines of it. She and her dress together reminded him of
women on the stage. Then he remembered seeing similar grand ladies and gowns entering the
London theatres while he stood and watched and the policemen shoved him back into the
drizzle beyond the awning. Next his mind leaped to the Grand Hotel at Yokohama, where, too,
from the sidewalk, he had seen grand ladies. Then the city and the harbor of Yokohama, in a
thousand pictures, began flashing before his eyes. But he swiftly dismissed the kaleidoscope of
memory, oppressed by the urgent need of the present. He knew that he must stand up to be
introduced, and he struggled painfully to his feet, where he stood with trousers bagging at the
knees, his arms loose-hanging and ludicrous, his face set hard for the impending ordeal.
The process of getting into the dining room was a nightmare to him. Between halts and stumbles,
jerks and lurches, locomotion had at times seemed impossible. But at last he had made it, and
was seated alongside of Her. The array of knives and forks frightened him. They bristled with
unknown perils, and he gazed at them, fascinated, till their dazzle became a background across
which moved a succession of forecastle pictures, wherein he and his mates sat eating salt beef
with sheath-knives and fingers, or scooping thick pea-soup out of pannikins by means of battered
iron spoons. The stench of bad beef was in his nostrils, while in his ears, to the accompaniment
of creaking timbers and groaning bulkheads, echoed the loud mouth-noises of the eaters. He
watched them eating, and decided that they ate like pigs. Well, he would be careful here. He
would make no noise. He would keep his mind upon it all the time.
He glanced around the table. Opposite him was Arthur, and Arthur’s brother, Norman. They
were her brothers, he reminded himself, and his heart warmed toward them. How they loved
each other, the members of this family! There flashed into his mind the picture of her mother, of
the kiss of greeting, and of the pair of them walking toward him with arms entwined. Not in his
world were such display of affection between parents and children made. It was a revelation of
the heights of existence that were attained in the world above. It was the finest thing yet that he
had seen in this small glimpse of that world. He was moved deeply by appreciation of it, and his
heart was melting with sympathetic tenderness. He had starved for love all his life. His nature
craved love. It was an organic demand of his being. Yet he had gone without, and hardened
himself in the process. He had not known that he needed love. Nor did he know it now. He
merely saw it in operation, and thrilled to it, and thought it fine, and high, and splendid.
He was glad that Mr. Morse was not there. It was difficult enough getting acquainted
with her, and her mother, and her brother, Norman. Arthur he already knew somewhat. The
father would have been too much for him, he felt sure. It seemed to him that he had never
worked so hard in his life. The severest toil was child’s play compared with this. Tiny
nodules of moisture stood out on his forehead, and his shirt was wet with sweat from the
exertion of doing so many unaccustomed things at once. He had to eat as he had never eaten
before, to handle strange tools, to glance surreptitiously about and learn how to accomplish
each new thing, to receive the flood of impressions that was pouring in upon him and being
mentally annotated and classified; to be conscious of a yearning for her that perturbed him in
the form of a dull, aching restlessness; to feel the prod of desire to win to the walk in life
whereon she trod, and to have his mind ever and again straying off in speculation and vague
plans of how to reach to her. Also, when his secret glance went across to Norman opposite him,
or to any one else, to ascertain just what knife or fork was to be used in any particular occasion,
that person’s features were seized upon by his mind, which automatically strove to appraise them
and to divine what they were—all in relation to her. Then he had to talk, to hear what was said to
him and what was said back and forth, and to answer, when it was necessary, with a tongue
prone to looseness of speech that required a constant curb. And to add confusion to confusion,
there was the servant, an unceasing menace, that appeared noiselessly at his shoulder, a dire
Sphinx that propounded puzzles and conundrums demanding instantaneous solution. He was
oppressed throughout the meal by the thought of fingerbowls. Irrelevantly, insistently, scores of
times, he wondered when they would come on and what they looked like. He had heard of such
things, and now, sooner or later, somewhere in the next few minutes, he would see them, sit at
table with exalted beings who used them—ay, and he would use them himself. And most
important of all, far down and yet always at the surface of his thought, was the problem of how
he should comport himself toward these persons. What should his attitude be? He wrestled
continually and anxiously with the problem. There were cowardly suggestions that he should
make believe, assume a part; and there were still more cowardly suggestions that warned him he
would fail in such course, that his nature was not fitted to live up to it, and that he would make a
fool of himself.
Last edited by HERO; 02-10-2014 at 03:48 AM.
Kristen Pfaff and Kurt Donald Cobain didn't like the scene anyhow
Is this entire thread (both posts included) at least partially readable? And does (any of) the double spacing work?
- from The Best Short Stories of Jack London; pp. 158-164 (“The Law of Life”): Old
Koskoosh listened greedily. Though his sight had long since faded, his hearing was still acute,
and the slightest sound penetrated to the glimmering intelligence which yet abode behind the
withered forehead, but which no longer gazed forth upon the things of the world. Ah! That was
Sit-cum-to-ha, shrilly anathematizing the dogs as she cuffed and beat them into the harnesses.
Sit-cum-to-ha was his daughter’s daughter, but she was too busy to waste a thought upon her
broken grandfather, sitting alone there in the snow, forlorn and helpless. Camp must be broken.
The long trail waited while the short day refused to linger. Life called her, and the duties of
life, not death. And he was very close to death now.
The thought made the old man panicky for the moment, and he stretched forth a palsied hand
which wandered tremblingly over the small heap of dry wood beside him. Reassured that it was
indeed there, his hand returned to the shelter of his mangy furs, and he again fell to listening.
The sulky crackling of half-frozen hides told him that the chief’s moose-skin lodge had been
struck, and even then was being rammed and jammed into portable compass. The chief was his
son, stalwart and strong, headman of the tribesmen, and a mighty hunter. As the women toiled
with the camp luggage, his voice rose, chiding them for their slowness. Old Koskoosh strained
his ears. It was the last time he would hear that voice. There went Geehow’s lodge! And
Tusken’s! Seven, eight, nine; only the shaman’s could be still standing. There! They were at
work upon it now. He could hear the shaman grunt as he piled it on the sled. A child whimpered,
and a woman soothed it with soft, crooning gutturals. Little Koo-tee, the old man thought, a
fretful child, and not over-strong. It would die soon, perhaps, and they would burn a hole through
the frozen tundra and pile rocks above to keep the wolverines away. Well, what did it matter? A
few years at best, and as many an empty belly as a full one. And in the end, Death waited,
ever-hungry and hungriest of them all.
What was that? Oh, the men lashing the sleds and drawing tight the thongs. He listened, who
would listen no more. The whiplashes snarled and bit among the dogs. Hear them whine! How
they hated the work and the trail! They were off! Sled after sled churned slowly away into the
silence. They were gone. They had passed out of his life, and he faced the last bitter hour alone.
No. The snow crunched beneath a moccasin; a man stood beside him; upon his head a hand
rested gently. His son was good to do this thing. He remembered other old men whose sons had
not waited after the tribe. But his son had. He wandered away into the past, till the young man’s
voice brought him back.
“It is well with you?” he asked.
And the old man answered, “It is well.”
“There be wood beside you,” the younger man continued, “and the fire burns bright. The
morning is gray, and the cold has broken. It will snow presently. Even now it is snowing.”
“Aye, even now is it snowing.”
“The tribesmen hurry. Their bales are heavy and their bellies flat with lack of feasting. The
trail is long and they travel fast. I go now. It is well?”
“It is well. I am as a last year’s leaf, clinging lightly to the stem. The first breath that blows, and I
fall. My voice is become like an old woman’s. My eyes no longer show me the way of my feet,
and my feet are heavy, and I am tired. It is well.”
He bowed his head in content till the last noise of the complaining snow had died away, and he
knew his son was beyond recall. Then his hand crept out in haste to the wood. It alone stood
between him and the eternity that yawned in upon him. At last the measure of his life was a
handful of f****ts. One by one they would go to feed the fire, and just so, step by step, death
would creep upon him. When the last stick had surrendered up its heat, the frost would begin to
gather strength. First his feet would yield, then his hands; and the numbness would travel,
slowly, from the extremities to the body. His head would fall forward upon his knees, and he
would rest. It was easy. All men must die.
He did not complain. It was the way of life, and it was just. He had been born close to the earth,
close to the earth had he lived, and the law thereof was not new to him. It was the law of all
flesh. Nature was not kindly to the flesh. She had no concern for that concrete thing called the
individual. Her interest lay in the species, the race. This was the deepest abstraction old
Koskoosh’s barbaric mind was capable of, but he grasped it firmly. He saw it exemplified in all
life. The rise of the sap, the bursting greenness of the willow bud, the fall of the yellow leaf—in
this alone was told the whole history. But one task did Nature set the individual. Did he not
perform it, he died. Did he perform it, it was all the same, he died. Nature did not care; there
were plenty who were obedient, and it was only the obedience in this matter, not the obedient,
which lived and lived always. The tribe of Koskoosh was very old. The old men he had known
when a boy had known old men before them. Therefore it was true that the tribe lived, that it
stood for the obedience of all its members, way down into the forgotten past, whose very resting
places were unremembered. They did not count; they were episodes. They had passed away from
a summer sky. He also was an episode and would pass away. Nature did not care. To life she set
one task, gave one law. To perpetuate was the task of life, its law was death. A maiden was a
good creature to look upon, full-breasted and strong, with spring to her step and light in her eyes.
But her task was yet before her. The light in her eyes brightened, her step quickened, she was
now bold with men, now timid, and she gave them of her own unrest. And ever she grew fairer
and yet fairer to look upon, till some hunter, able no longer to withhold himself, took her to his
lodge to cook and toil for him and to become the mother of his children. And with the coming of
her offspring her looks left her. Her limbs dragged and shuffled, her eyes dimmed and bleared,
and only the children found joy against the withered cheek of the old squaw by the fire. Her task
was done. But a little while, on the first pinch of famine or the first long trail, and she would be
left, even as he had been left, in the snow, with a little pile of wood. Such was the law.
He placed a stick carefully upon the fire and resumed his meditation. It was the same
everywhere, with all things. The mosquitoes vanished with the first frost. The little tree
squirrel crawled away to die. When age settled upon the rabbit it became slow and heavy and
could no longer outfoot its enemies. Even the big bald-face grew clumsy and blind and
quarrelsome, in the end to be dragged down by a handful of yelping huskies. He
remembered how he had abandoned his own father on an upper reach of the Klondike one
winter, the winter before the missionary came with his talk books and his box of medicines.
Many a time had Koskoosh smacked his lips over the recollection of that box, though now his
mouth refused to moisten. The “painkiller” had been especially good. But the missionary was a
bother after all, for he brought no meat into the camp and he ate heartily and the hunters
grumbled. But he chilled his lungs on the divide by the Mayo, and the dogs afterward nosed the
stones away and fought over his bones.
Kosboosh placed another stick on the fire and harked back deeper into the past. There was the
time of the great famine, when the old men crouched empty-bellied to the fire, and let fall from
their lips dim traditions of the ancient day when the Yukon ran wide open for three winters, and
then lay frozen for three summers. He had lost his mother in that famine. In the summer the
salmon run had failed, and the tribe looked forward to the winter and the coming of the
caribou. Then the winter came, but with it there were no caribou. Never had the like been
known, not even in the lives of the old men. But the caribou did not come, and it was the
seventh year, and the rabbits had not replenished, and the dogs were naught but bundles of
bones. And through the long darkness the children wailed and died, and the women, and the old
men; and not one in ten of the tribe lived to meet the sun when it came back in the spring. That
was a famine!
But he had seen times of plenty, too, when the meat spoiled on their hands, and the dogs were fat
and worthless with overeating—times when they let the game go unkilled, and the women were
fertile, and the lodges were cluttered with sprawling men-children and women-children. Then it
was the men became high-stomached, and revived ancient quarrels, and crossed the divides to
the south to kill the Pellys, and to the west that they might sit by the dead fires of the Tananas.
Last edited by HERO; 01-13-2014 at 12:36 PM.
Thanks for letting me know. I was also wondering if all the double spacing in the first post of this thread looks readable? As long as it does, then it should be okay.
Wall of text, I do not approve! Use spoiler tags and even than it's far to much information...just summerize (are you one of those evil fact gathering authoraty loving Te favoring bastards?) or link to your source and let people choose their own passages...
I had to scroll down to just write this post and then Ryene was ahead of me..i'm still going to post it damned you!
TOOO FUCKING LOOONG DIDNT READ!
congratulations, there are only two other people on this forum that can annoy me so that's kinda an achievement ^^
Thanks for all the feedback. Here are a couple of other threads that I've hopefully made more readable, in case they weren't before:
LIE-Te sp/so (possibly 8w9)
His first wife, Elizabeth "Bessie" Maddern, was likely his identical or kindred - LIE or LSE e1.
"London married Elizabeth "Bessie" Maddern on April 7, 1900 ... Stasz says, "Both acknowledged publicly that they were not marrying out of love, but from friendship and a belief that they would produce sturdy children.", Kingman says, "they were comfortable together... Jack had made it clear to Bessie that he did not love her, but that he liked her enough to make a successful marriage."
London's pet name for Bess was "Mother-Girl" and Bess's for London was "Daddy-Boy". Their first child, Joan, was born on January 15, 1901 and their second, Bessie (later called Becky), on October 20, 1902. Both children were born in Piedmont, California. Here London wrote one of his most celebrated works, The Call of the Wild.
During the marriage, London continued his friendship with Anna Strunsky, co-authoring The Kempton-Wace Letters, an epistolary novel contrasting two philosophies of love. Anna, writing "Dane Kempton's" letters, arguing for a romantic view of marriage, while London, writing "Herbert Wace's" letters, argued for a scientific view, based on Darwinism and eugenics. In the novel, his fictional character contrasted two women he had known.
London reportedly complained to friends Joseph Noel and George Sterling: "[Bessie] is devoted to purity. When I tell her morality is only evidence of low blood pressure, she hates me. She'd sell me and the children out for her damned purity. It's terrible. Every time I come back after being away from home for a night she won't let me be in the same room with her if she can help it."
His second wife, Charmian Kittredge, was IEE sp/so.
"After divorcing Maddern, London married Charmian Kittredge in 1905. London was introduced to Kittredge by his MacMillan publisher, George Platt Brett, Sr., while Kittredge served as Brett's secretary. Biographer Russ Kingman called Charmian "Jack's soul-mate, always at his side, and a perfect match."
Their time together included numerous trips, including a 1907 cruise on the yacht Snark to Hawaii and Australia. Many of London's stories are based on his visits to Hawaii, the last one for 10 months beginning in December 1915.
London had contrasted the concepts of the "Mother Woman" and the "Mate Woman" in The Kempton-Wace Letters. His pet name for Bess had been "Mother-Girl;" his pet name for Charmian was "Mate-Woman." Charmian's aunt and foster mother, a disciple of Victoria Woodhull, had raised her without prudishness. Every biographer alludes to Charmian's uninhibited sexuality.
Joseph Noel calls the events from 1903 to 1905 "a domestic drama that would have intrigued the pen of an Ibsen.... London's had comedy relief in it and a sort of easy-going romance." In broad outline, London was restless in his first marriage, sought extramarital sexual affairs, and found, in Charmian Kittredge, not only a sexually active and adventurous partner, but his future life-companion. They attempted to have children; one child died at birth, and another pregnancy ended in a miscarriage."