Джек Лондон
Dutch Courage and Other Stories

Dutch Courage and Other Stories
Джек Лондон

Jack London

Dutch Courage and Other Stories

PREFACE

"I've never written a line that I'd be ashamed for my young daughters to read, and I never shall write such a line!"

Thus Jack London, well along in his career. And thus almost any collection of his adventure stories is acceptable to young readers as well as to their elders. So, in sorting over the few manuscripts still unpublished in book form, while most of them were written primarily for boys and girls, I do not hesitate to include as appropriate a tale such as "Whose Business Is to Live."

Number two of the present group, "Typhoon Off the Coast of Japan," is the first story ever written by Jack London for publication. At the age of seventeen he had returned from his deep-water voyage in the sealing schooner Sophie Sutherland, and was working thirteen hours a day for forty dollars a month in an Oakland, California, jute mill. The San Francisco Call offered a prize of twenty-five dollars for the best written descriptive article. Jack's mother, Flora London, remembering that I had excelled in his school "compositions," urged him to enter the contest by recalling some happening of his travels. Grammar school, years earlier, had been his sole disciplined education. But his wide reading, worldly experience, and extraordinary powers of observation and correlation, enabled him to command first prize. It is notable that the second and third awards went to students at California and Stanford universities.

Jack never took the trouble to hunt up that old San Francisco Call of November 12, 1893; but when I came to write his biography, "The Book of Jack London," I unearthed the issue, and the tale appears intact in my English edition, published in 1921. And now, gathering material for what will be the final Jack London collections, I cannot but think that his first printed story will have unusual interest for his readers of all ages.

The boy Jack's unexpected success in that virgin venture naturally spurred him to further effort. It was, for one thing, the pleasantest way he had ever earned so much money, even if it lacked the element of physical prowess and danger that had marked those purple days with the oyster pirates, and, later, equally exciting passages with the Fish Patrol. He only waited to catch up on sleep lost while hammering out "Typhoon Off the Coast of Japan," before applying himself to new fiction. That was what was the matter with it: it was sheer fiction in place of the white-hot realism of the "true story" that had brought him distinction. This second venture he afterward termed "gush." It was promptly rejected by the editor of the Call. Lacking experience in such matters, Jack could not know why. And it did not occur to him to submit his manuscript elsewhere. His fire was dampened; he gave over writing and continued with the jute mill and innocent social diversion in company with Louis Shattuck and his friends, who had superseded Jack's wilder comrades and hazards of bay- and sea-faring. This period, following the publication of "Typhoon Off the Coast of Japan," is touched upon in his book "John Barleycorn."

The next that one hears of attempts at writing is when, during his tramping episode, he showed some stories to his aunt, Mrs. Everhard, in St. Joseph, Michigan. And in the ensuing months of that year, 1894, she received other romances mailed at his stopping places along the eastward route, alone or with Kelly's Industrial Army. As yet it had not sunk into his consciousness that his unyouthful knowledge of life in the raw would be the means of success in literature; therefore he discoursed of imaginary things and persons, lords and ladies, days of chivalry and what not – anything but out of his priceless first-hand lore. At the same time, however, he kept a small diary which, in the days when he had found himself, helped in visualizing his tramp life, in "The Road."

The only out and out "juvenile" in the Jack London list prior to his death is "The Cruise of the Dazzler," published in 1902. At that it is a good and authentic maritime study of its kind, and not lacking in honest thrills. "Tales of the Fish Patrol" comes next as a book for boys; but the happenings told therein are perilous enough to interest many an older reader.

I am often asked which of his books have made the strongest appeal to youth. The impulse is to answer that it depends upon the particular type of youth. As example, there lies before me a letter from a friend: "Ruth (she is eleven) has been reading every book of your husband's that she can get hold of. She is crazy over the stories. I have bought nearly all of them, but cannot find 'The Son of the Wolf,' 'Moon Face,' and 'Michael Brother of Jerry.' Will you tell me where I can order these?" I have not yet learned Ruth's favorites; but I smile to myself at thought of the re-reading she may have to do when her mind has more fully developed.

The youth of every country who read Jack London naturally turn to his adventure stories – particularly "The Call of the Wild" and its companion "White Fang," "The Sea Wolf," "The Cruise of the Snark," and my own journal, "The Log of the Snark," and "Our Hawaii," "Smoke Bellew Tales," "Adventure," "The Mutiny of the Elsinore," as well as "Before Adam," "The Game," "The Abysmal Brute," "The Road," "Jerry of the Islands" and its sequel "Michael Brother of Jerry." And because of the last named, the youth of many lands are enrolling in the famous Jack London Club. This was inspired by Dr. Francis H. Bowley, President of the Massachusetts S.P.C.A. The Club expects no dues. Membership is automatic through the mere promise to leave any playhouse during an animal performance. The protest thereby registered is bound, in good time, to do away with the abuses that attend animal training for show purposes. "Michael Brother of Jerry" was written out of Jack London's heart of love and head of understanding of animals, aided by a years'-long study of the conditions of which he treats. Incidentally this book contains one of the most charming bits of seafaring romance of the Southern Ocean that he ever wrote.

During the Great War, the English speaking soldiers called freely for the foregoing novels, dubbing them "The Jacklondons"; and there was also lively demand for "Burning Daylight," "The Scarlet Plague," "The Star Rover," "The Little Lady of the Big House," "The Valley of the Moon," and, because of its prophetic spirit, "The Iron Heel." There was likewise a desire for the short-story collections, such as "The God of His Fathers," "Children of the Frost," "The Faith of Men," "Love of Life," "Lost Face," "When God Laughs," and later groups like "South Sea Tales," "A Son of the Sun," "The Night Born," and "The House of Pride," and a long list beside.

But for the serious minded youth of America, Great Britain, and all countries where Jack London's work has been translated – youth considering life with a purpose – "Martin Eden" is the beacon. Passing years only augment the number of messages that find their way to me from near and far, attesting the worth to thoughtful boys and girls, young men and women, of the author's own formative struggle in life and letters as partially outlined in "Martin Eden."

The present sheaf of young folk's stories were written during the latter part of that battle for recognition, and my gathering of them inside book covers is pursuant of his own intention at the time of his death on November 22, 1916.

    CHARMIAN LONDON.

Jack London Ranch,

Glen Ellen, Sonoma County, California

August 1, 1922

DUTCH COURAGE

"Just our luck!"

Gus Lafee finished wiping his hands and sullenly threw the towel upon the rocks. His attitude was one of deep dejection. The light seemed gone out of the day and the glory from the golden sun. Even the keen mountain air was devoid of relish, and the early morning no longer yielded its customary zest.

"Just our luck!" Gus repeated, this time avowedly for the edification of another young fellow who was busily engaged in sousing his head in the water of the lake.

"What are you grumbling about, anyway?" Hazard Van Dorn lifted a soap-rimmed face questioningly. His eyes were shut. "What's our luck?"

"Look there!" Gus threw a moody glance skyward. "Some duffer's got ahead of us. We've been scooped, that's all!"

Hazard opened his eyes, and caught a fleeting glimpse of a white flag waving arrogantly on the edge of a wall of rock nearly a mile above his head. Then his eyes closed with a snap, and his face wrinkled spasmodically. Gus threw him the towel, and uncommiseratingly watched him wipe out the offending soap. He felt too blue himself to take stock in trivialities.

Hazard groaned.

"Does it hurt – much?" Gus queried, coldly, without interest, as if it were no more than his duty to ask after the welfare of his comrade.

"I guess it does," responded the suffering one.

"Soap's pretty strong, eh? – Noticed it myself."

"'Tisn't the soap. It's – it's that!" He opened his reddened eyes and pointed toward the innocent white little flag. "That's what hurts."

Gus Lafee did not reply, but turned away to start the fire and begin cooking breakfast. His disappointment and grief were too deep for anything but silence, and Hazard, who felt likewise, never opened his mouth as he fed the horses, nor once laid his head against their arching necks or passed caressing fingers through their manes. The two boys were blind, also, to the manifold glories of Mirror Lake which reposed at their very feet. Nine times, had they chosen to move along its margin the short distance of a hundred yards, could they have seen the sunrise repeated; nine times, from behind as many successive peaks, could they have seen the great orb rear his blazing rim; and nine times, had they but looked into the waters of the lake, could they have seen the phenomena reflected faithfully and vividly. But all the Titanic grandeur of the scene was lost to them. They had been robbed of the chief pleasure of their trip to Yosemite Valley. They had been frustrated in their long-cherished design upon Half Dome, and hence were rendered disconsolate and blind to the beauties and the wonders of the place.

Half Dome rears its ice-scarred head fully five thousand feet above the level floor of Yosemite Valley. In the name itself of this great rock lies an accurate and complete description. Nothing more nor less is it than a cyclopean, rounded dome, split in half as cleanly as an apple that is divided by a knife. It is, perhaps, quite needless to state that but one-half remains, hence its name, the other half having been carried away by the great ice-river in the stormy time of the Glacial Period. In that dim day one of those frigid rivers gouged a mighty channel from out the solid rock. This channel to-day is Yosemite Valley. But to return to the Half Dome. On its northeastern side, by circuitous trails and stiff climbing, one may gain the Saddle. Against the slope of the Dome the Saddle leans like a gigantic slab, and from the top of this slab, one thousand feet in length, curves the great circle to the summit of the Dome. A few degrees too steep for unaided climbing, these one thousand feet defied for years the adventurous spirits who fixed yearning eyes upon the crest above.

One day, a couple of clear-headed mountaineers had proceeded to insert iron eye-bolts into holes which they drilled into the rock every few feet apart. But when they found themselves three hundred feet above the Saddle, clinging like flies to the precarious wall with on either hand a yawning abyss, their nerves failed them and they abandoned the enterprise. So it remained for an indomitable Scotchman, one George Anderson, finally to achieve the feat. Beginning where they had left off, drilling and climbing for a week, he had at last set foot upon that awful summit and gazed down into the depths where Mirror Lake reposed, nearly a mile beneath.

In the years which followed, many bold men took advantage of the huge rope ladder which he had put in place; but one winter ladder, cables and all were carried away by the snow and ice. True, most of the eye-bolts, twisted and bent, remained. But few men had since essayed the hazardous undertaking, and of those few more than one gave up his life on the treacherous heights, and not one succeeded.

But Gus Lafee and Hazard Van Dorn had left the smiling valley-land of California and journeyed into the high Sierras, intent on the great adventure. And thus it was that their disappointment was deep and grievous when they awoke on this morning to receive the forestalling message of the little white flag.

"Camped at the foot of the Saddle last night and went up at the first peep of day," Hazard ventured, long after the silent breakfast had been tucked away and the dishes washed.

Gus nodded. It was not in the nature of things that a youth's spirits should long remain at low ebb, and his tongue was beginning to loosen.

"Guess he's down by now, lying in camp and feeling as big as Alexander," the other went on. "And I don't blame him, either; only I wish it were we."

"You can be sure he's down," Gus spoke up at last. "It's mighty warm on that naked rock with the sun beating down on it at this time of year. That was our plan, you know, to go up early and come down early. And any man, sensible enough to get to the top, is bound to have sense enough to do it before the rock gets hot and his hands sweaty."

"And you can be sure he didn't take his shoes with, him." Hazard rolled over on his back and lazily regarded the speck of flag fluttering briskly on the sheer edge of the precipice. "Say!" He sat up with a start. "What's that?"

A metallic ray of light flashed out from the summit of Half Dome, then a second and a third. The heads of both boys were craned backward on the instant, agog with excitement.

"What a duffer!" Gus cried. "Why didn't he come down when it was cool?"

Hazard shook his head slowly, as if the question were too deep for immediate answer and they had better defer judgment.

The flashes continued, and as the boys soon noted, at irregular intervals of duration and disappearance. Now they were long, now short; and again they came and went with great rapidity, or ceased altogether for several moments at a time.

"I have it!" Hazard's face lighted up with the coming of understanding. "I have it! That fellow up there is trying to talk to us. He's flashing the sunlight down to us on a pocket-mirror – dot, dash; dot, dash; don't you see?"

The light also began to break in Gus's face. "Ah, I know! It's what they do in war-time – signaling. They call it heliographing, don't they? Same thing as telegraphing, only it's done without wires. And they use the same dots and dashes, too."

"Yes, the Morse alphabet. Wish I knew it."

"Same here. He surely must have something to say to us, or he wouldn't be kicking up all that rumpus."