Jack London.

The Cruise of the Dazzler online

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Tempting boys to be what they should be - giving them in wholesome form
what they want - that is the purpose and power of Scouting. To help parents
and leaders of youth secure _books boys like best_ that are also best for
boys, the Boy Scouts of America organized EVERY BOY'S LIBRARY. The books
included, formerly sold at prices ranging from $1.50 to $2.00 but, by
special arrangement with the several publishers interested, are now sold
in the EVERY BOY'S LIBRARY Edition at $1.00 per volume.

The books of EVERY BOY'S LIBRARY were selected by the Library Commission
of the Boy Scouts of America, consisting of George F. Bowerman, Librarian,
Public Library of the District of Columbia; Harrison W. Craver, Director,
Engineering Societies Library, New York City; Claude G. Leland,
Superintendent, Bureau of Libraries, Board of Education, New York City;
Edward F. Stevens, Librarian, Pratt Institute Free Library, Brooklyn, N.Y.,
and Franklin K. Mathiews, Chief Scout Librarian. Only such books were
chosen by the Commission as proved to be, by _a nation wide canvas_, most
in demand by the boys themselves. Their popularity is further attested by
the fact that in the EVERY BOY'S LIBRARY Edition, more than a million and
a quarter copies of these books have already been sold.

We know so well, are reminded so often of the worth of the good book and
great, that too often we fail to observe or understand the influence for
good of a boy's recreational reading. Such books may influence him for
good or ill as profoundly as his play activities, of which they are a
vital part. The needful thing is to find stories in which the heroes have
the characteristics boys so much admire - unquenchable courage, immense
resourcefulness, absolute fidelity, conspicuous greatness. We believe the
books of EVERY BOY'S LIBRARY measurably well meet this challenge.


James E. West

Chief Scout Executive.


























They ran across the shining sand, the Pacific thundering its long surge
at their backs, and when they gained the roadway leaped upon bicycles and
dived at faster pace into the green avenues of the park. There were three
of them, three boys, in as many bright-colored sweaters, and they
"scorched" along the cycle-path as dangerously near the speed-limit as is
the custom of boys in bright-colored sweaters to go. They may have exceeded
the speed-limit. A mounted park policeman thought so, but was not sure,
and contented himself with cautioning them as they flashed by. They
acknowledged the warning promptly, and on the next turn of the path as
promptly forgot it, which is also a custom of boys in bright-colored

Shooting out through the entrance to Golden Gate Park, they turned into
San Francisco, and took the long sweep of the descending hills at a rate
that caused pedestrians to turn and watch them anxiously. Through the
city streets the bright sweaters flew, turning and twisting to escape
climbing the steeper hills, and, when the steep hills were unavoidable,
doing stunts to see which would first gain the top.

The boy who more often hit up the pace, led the scorching, and instituted
the stunts was called Joe by his companions. It was "follow the leader,"
and he led, the merriest and boldest in the bunch. But as they pedaled
into the Western Addition, among the large and comfortable residences,
his laughter became less loud and frequent, and he unconsciously lagged
in the rear. At Laguna and Vallejo streets his companions turned off to
the right.

"So long, Fred," he called as he turned his wheel to the left. "So long,

"See you to-night!" they called back.

"No - I can't come," he answered.

"Aw, come on," they begged.

"No, I've got to dig. - So long!"

As he went on alone, his face grew grave and a vague worry came into his
eyes. He began resolutely to whistle, but this dwindled away till it was
a thin and very subdued little sound, which ceased altogether as he rode
up the driveway to a large two-storied house.

"Oh, Joe!"

He hesitated before the door to the library. Bessie was there, he knew,
studiously working up her lessons. She must be nearly through with them,
too, for she was always done before dinner, and dinner could not be many
minutes away. As for his lessons, they were as yet untouched. The thought
made him angry. It was bad enough to have one's sister - and two years
younger at that - in the same grade, but to have her continually head and
shoulders above him in scholarship was a most intolerable thing. Not that
he was dull. No one knew better than himself that he was not dull. But
somehow - he did not quite know how - his mind was on other things and he
was usually unprepared.

"Joe - please come here." There was the slightest possible plaintive note
in her voice this time.

"Well?" he said, thrusting aside the portière with an impetuous movement.

He said it gruffly, but he was half sorry for it the next instant when he
saw a slender little girl regarding him with wistful eyes across the big
reading-table heaped with books. She was curled up, with pencil and pad,
in an easy-chair of such generous dimensions that it made her seem more
delicate and fragile than she really was.

"What is it, Sis?" he asked more gently, crossing over to her side.

She took his hand in hers and pressed it against her cheek, and as he
stood beside her came closer to him with a nestling movement.

"What is the matter, Joe dear?" she asked softly. "Won't you tell me?"

He remained silent. It struck him as ridiculous to confess his troubles
to a little sister, even if her reports _were_ higher than his. And the
little sister struck him as ridiculous to demand his troubles of him.
"What a soft cheek she has!" he thought as she pressed her face gently
against his hand. If he could but tear himself away - it was all so
foolish! Only he might hurt her feelings, and, in his experience, girls'
feelings were very easily hurt.

She opened his fingers and kissed the palm of his hand. It was like a
rose-leaf falling; it was also her way of asking her question over again.

"Nothing 's the matter," he said decisively. And then, quite
inconsistently, he blurted out, "Father!"

His worry was now in her eyes. "But father is so good and kind, Joe," she
began. "Why don't you try to please him? He does n't ask much of you, and
it 's all for your own good. It 's not as though you were a fool, like some
boys. If you would only study a little bit - "

"That 's it! Lecturing!" he exploded, tearing his hand roughly away. "Even
you are beginning to lecture me now. I suppose the cook and the stable-boy
will be at it next."

He shoved his hands into his pockets and looked forward into a melancholy
and desolate future filled with interminable lectures and lecturers

"Was that what you wanted me for?" he demanded, turning to go.

She caught at his hand again. "No, it wasn't; only you looked so worried
that I thought - I - " Her voice broke, and she began again freshly. "What
I wanted to tell you was that we're planning a trip across the bay to
Oakland, next Saturday, for a tramp in the hills."

"Who 's going?"

"Myrtle Hayes - "

"What! That little softy?" he interrupted.

"I don't think she is a softy," Bessie answered with spirit. "She 's one
of the sweetest girls I know."

"Which is n't saying much, considering the girls you know. But go on. Who
are the others?"

"Pearl Sayther, and her sister Alice, and Jessie Hilborn, and Sadie French,
and Edna Crothers. That 's all the girls."

Joe sniffed disdainfully. "Who are the fellows, then?"

"Maurice and Felix Clement, Dick Schofield, Burt Layton, and - "

"That 's enough. Milk-and-water chaps, all of them."

"I - I wanted to ask you and Fred and Charley," she said in a quavering
voice. "That 's what I called you in for - to ask you to come."

"And what are you going to do?" he asked.

"Walk, gather wild flowers, - the poppies are all out now, - eat luncheon
at some nice place, and - and - "

"Come home," he finished for her.

Bessie nodded her head. Joe put his hands in his pockets again, and
walked up and down.

"A sissy outfit, that 's what it is," he said abruptly; "and a sissy
program. None of it in mine, please."

She tightened her trembling lips and struggled on bravely. "What would
you rather do?" she asked.

"I 'd sooner take Fred and Charley and go off somewhere and do
something - well, anything."

He paused and looked at her. She was waiting patiently for him to proceed.
He was aware of his inability to express in words what he felt and wanted,
and all his trouble and general dissatisfaction rose up and gripped hold
of him.

"Oh, you can't understand!" he burst out. "You can't understand. You 're
a girl. You like to be prim and neat, and to be good in deportment and
ahead in your studies. You don't care for danger and adventure and such
things, and you don't care for boys who are rough, and have life and go
in them, and all that. You like good little boys in white collars, with
clothes always clean and hair always combed, who like to stay in at
recess and be petted by the teacher and told how they're always up in
their studies; nice little boys who never get into scrapes - who are too
busy walking around and picking flowers and eating lunches with girls,
to get into scrapes. Oh, I know the kind - afraid of their own shadows,
and no more spunk in them than in so many sheep. That 's what they
are - sheep. Well, I 'm not a sheep, and there 's no more to be said.
And I don't want to go on your picnic, and, what 's more, I 'm not going."

The tears welled up in Bessie's brown eyes, and her lips were trembling.
This angered him unreasonably. What were girls good for, anyway? - always
blubbering, and interfering, and carrying on. There was no sense in them.

"A fellow can't say anything without making you cry," he began, trying to
appease her. "Why, I did n't mean anything, Sis. I did n't, sure. I - "

He paused helplessly and looked down at her. She was sobbing, and at the
same time shaking with the effort to control her sobs, while big tears
were rolling down her cheeks.

"Oh, you - you girls!" he cried, and strode wrathfully out of the room.



A few minutes later, and still wrathful, Joe went in to dinner. He ate
silently, though his father and mother and Bessie kept up a genial flow
of conversation. There she was, he communed savagely with his plate,
crying one minute, and the next all smiles and laughter. Now that was
n't his way. If _he_ had anything sufficiently important to cry about,
rest assured he would n't get over it for days. Girls were hypocrites,
that was all there was to it. They did n't feel one hundredth part of all
that they said when they cried. It stood to reason that they did n't. It
must be that they just carried on because they enjoyed it. It made them
feel good to make other people miserable, especially boys. That was why
they were always interfering.

Thus reflecting sagely, he kept his eyes on his plate and did justice
to the fare; for one cannot scorch from the Cliff House to the Western
Addition via the park without being guilty of a healthy appetite.

Now and then his father directed a glance at him in a certain mildly
anxious way. Joe did not see these glances, but Bessie saw them, every
one. Mr. Bronson was a middle-aged man, well developed and of heavy
build, though not fat. His was a rugged face, square-jawed and
stern-featured, though his eyes were kindly and there were lines about
the mouth that betokened laughter rather than severity. A close
examination was not required to discover the resemblance between him
and Joe. The same broad forehead and strong jaw characterized them both,
and the eyes, taking into consideration the difference of age, were as
like as peas from one pod.

"How are you getting on, Joe?" Mr. Bronson asked finally. Dinner was
over and they were about to leave the table.

"Oh, I don't know," Joe answered carelessly, and then added: "We have
examinations to-morrow. I'll know then."

"Whither bound?" his mother questioned, as he turned to leave the room.
She was a slender, willowy woman, whose brown eyes Bessie's were, and
likewise her tender ways.

"To my room," Joe answered. "To work," he supplemented.

She rumpled his hair affectionately, and bent and kissed him. Mr. Bronson
smiled approval at him as he went out, and he hurried up the stairs,
resolved to dig hard and pass the examinations of the coming day.

Entering his room, he locked the door and sat down at a desk most
comfortably arranged for a boy's study. He ran his eye over his
text-books. The history examination came the first thing in the morning,
so he would begin on that. He opened the book where a page was turned
down, and began to read:

Shortly after the Draconian reforms, a war
broke out between Athens and Megara respecting
the island of Salamis, to which both cities
laid claim.

That was easy; but what were the Draconian reforms? He must look them up.
He felt quite studious as he ran over the back pages, till he chanced to
raise his eyes above the top of the book and saw on a chair a baseball
mask and a catcher's glove. They should n't have lost that game last
Saturday, he thought, and they would n't have, either, if it had n't been
for Fred. He wished Fred would n't fumble so. He could hold a hundred
difficult balls in succession, but when a critical point came, he 'd let
go of even a dewdrop. He 'd have to send him out in the field and bring
in Jones to first base. Only Jones was so excitable. He could hold any
kind of a ball, no matter how critical the play was, but there was no
telling what he would do with the ball after he got it.

Joe came to himself with a start. A pretty way of studying history! He
buried his head in his book and began:

Shortly after the Draconian reforms -

He read the sentence through three times, and then recollected that he
had not looked up the Draconian reforms.

A knock came at the door. He turned the pages over with a noisy flutter,
but made no answer.

The knock was repeated, and Bessie's "Joe, dear" came to his ears.

"What do you want?" he demanded. But before she could answer he hurried
on: "No admittance. I 'm busy."

"I came to see if I could help you," she pleaded. "I 'm all done, and I
thought - "

"Of course you 're all done!" he shouted. "You always are!"

He held his head in both his hands to keep his eyes on the book. But
the baseball mask bothered him. The more he attempted to keep his mind
on the history the more in his mind's eye he saw the mask resting on the
chair and all the games in which it had played its part.

This would never do. He deliberately placed the book face downward on the
desk and walked over to the chair. With a swift sweep he sent both mask
and glove hurtling under the bed, and so violently that he heard the mask
rebound from the wall.

Shortly after the Draconian reforms, a war
broke out between Athens and Megara -

The mask had rolled back from the wall. He wondered if it had rolled back
far enough for him to see it. No, he would n't look. What did it matter if
it had rolled out? That was n't history. He wondered -

He peered over the top of the book, and there was the mask peeping out at
him from under the edge of the bed. This was not to be borne. There was
no use attempting to study while that mask was around. He went over and
fished it out, crossed the room to the closet, and tossed it inside, then
locked the door. That was settled, thank goodness! Now he could do some

He sat down again.

Shortly after the Draconian reforms, a war
broke out between Athens and Megara respecting
the island of Salamis, to which, both cities
laid claim.

Which was all very well, if he had only found out what the Draconian
reforms were. A soft glow pervaded the room, and he suddenly became
aware of it. What could cause it? He looked out of the window. The
setting sun was slanting its long rays against low-hanging masses of
summer clouds, turning them to warm scarlet and rosy red; and it was
from them that the red light, mellow and glowing, was flung earthward.

His gaze dropped from the clouds to the bay beneath. The sea-breeze was
dying down with the day, and off Fort Point a fishing-boat was creeping
into port before the last light breeze. A little beyond, a tug was
sending up a twisted pillar of smoke as it towed a three-masted schooner
to sea. His eyes wandered over toward the Marin County shore. The line
where land and water met was already in darkness, and long shadows were
creeping up the hills toward Mount Tamalpais, which was sharply
silhouetted against the western sky.

Oh, if he, Joe Bronson, were only on that fishing-boat and sailing in
with a deep-sea catch! Or if he were on that schooner, heading out into
the sunset, into the world! That was life, that was living, doing
something and being something in the world. And, instead, here he was,
pent up in a close room, racking his brains about people dead and gone
thousands of years before he was born.

He jerked himself away from the window as though held there by some
physical force, and resolutely carried his chair and history into the
farthest corner of the room, where he sat down with his back to the

An instant later, so it seemed to him, he found himself again staring
out of the window and dreaming. How he had got there he did not know.
His last recollection was the finding of a subheading on a page on the
right-hand side of the book which read: "The Laws and Constitution of
Draco." And then, evidently like walking in one's sleep, he had come
to the window. How long had he been there? he wondered. The fishing-boat
which he had seen off Fort Point was now crawling into Meiggs's Wharf.
This denoted nearly an hour's lapse of time. The sun had long since set;
a solemn grayness was brooding over the water, and the first faint stars
were beginning to twinkle over the crest of Mount Tamalpais.

He turned, with a sigh, to go back into his corner, when a long whistle,
shrill and piercing, came to his ears. That was Fred. He sighed again.
The whistle repeated itself. Then another whistle joined it. That was
Charley. They were waiting on the corner - lucky fellows!

Well, they would n't see him this night. Both whistles arose in duet. He
writhed in his chair and groaned. No, they would n't see him this night,
he reiterated, at the same time rising to his feet. It was certainly
impossible for him to join them when he had not yet learned about the
Draconian reforms. The same force which had held him to the window now
seemed drawing him across the room to the desk. It made him put the
history on top of his school-books, and he had the door unlocked and
was half-way into the hall before he realized it. He started to return,
but the thought came to him that he could go out for a little while and
then come back and do his work.

A very little while, he promised himself, as he went down-stairs. He
went down faster and faster, till at the bottom he was going three
steps at a time. He popped his cap on his head and went out of the
side entrance in a rush; and ere he reached the corner the reforms of
Draco were as far away in the past as Draco himself, while the examinations
on the morrow were equally far away in the future.



"What 's up?" Joe asked, as he joined Fred and Charley.

"Kites," Charley answered. "Come on. We 're tired out waiting for you."

The three set off down the street to the brow of the hill, where they
looked down upon Union Street, far below and almost under their feet.
This they called the Pit, and it was well named. Themselves they called
the Hill-dwellers, and a descent into the Pit by the Hill-dwellers was
looked upon by them as a great adventure.

Scientific kite-flying was one of the keenest pleasures of these three
particular Hill-dwellers, and six or eight kites strung out on a mile
of twine and soaring into the clouds was an ordinary achievement for
them. They were compelled to replenish their kite-supply often; for
whenever an accident occurred, and the string broke, or a ducking kite
dragged down the rest, or the wind suddenly died out, their kites fell
into the Pit, from which place they were unrecoverable. The reason for
this was the young people of the Pit were a piratical and robber race
with peculiar ideas of ownership and property rights.

On a day following an accident to a kite of one of the Hill-dwellers,
the self-same kite could be seen riding the air attached to a string
which led down into the Pit to the lairs of the Pit People. So it came
about that the Pit People, who were a poor folk and unable to afford
scientific kite-flying, developed great proficiency in the art when
their neighbors the Hill-dwellers took it up.

There was also an old sailorman who profited by this recreation of the
Hill-dwellers; for he was learned in sails and air-currents, and being
deft of hand and cunning, he fashioned the best-flying kites that could
be obtained. He lived in a rattletrap shanty close to the water, where
he could still watch with dim eyes the ebb and flow of the tide, and the
ships pass out and in, and where he could revive old memories of the days
when he, too, went down to the sea in ships.

To reach his shanty from the Hill one had to pass through the Pit, and
thither the three boys were bound. They had often gone for kites in the
daytime, but this was their first trip after dark, and they felt it to
be, as it indeed was, a hazardous adventure.

In simple words, the Pit was merely the cramped and narrow quarters
of the poor, where many nationalities crowded together in cosmopolitan
confusion, and lived as best they could, amid much dirt and squalor.
It was still early evening when the boys passed through on their way
to the sailorman's shanty, and no mishap befell them, though some of
the Pit boys stared at them savagely and hurled a taunting remark after
them, now and then.

The sailorman made kites which were not only splendid fliers but which
folded up and were very convenient to carry. Each of the boys bought a
few, and, with them wrapped in compact bundles and under their arms,
started back on the return journey.

"Keep a sharp lookout for the b'ys," the kite-maker cautioned them.
"They 're like to be cruisin' round after dark."

"We 're not afraid," Charley assured him; "and we know how to take care
of ourselves."

Used to the broad and quiet streets of the Hill, the boys were shocked
and stunned by the life that teemed in the close-packed quarter. It
seemed some thick and monstrous growth of vegetation, and that they
were wading through it. They shrank closely together in the tangle of
narrow streets as though for protection, conscious of the strangeness
of it all, and how unrelated they were to it.

Children and babies sprawled on the sidewalk and under their feet.
Bareheaded and unkempt women gossiped in the doorways or passed back
and forth with scant marketings in their arms. There was a general
odor of decaying fruit and fish, a smell of staleness and putridity.
Big hulking men slouched by, and ragged little girls walked gingerly
through the confusion with foaming buckets of beer in their hands.
There was a clatter and garble of foreign tongues and brogues, shrill
cries, quarrels and wrangles, and the Pit pulsed with a great and
steady murmur, like the hum of the human hive that it was.

"Phew! I 'll be glad when we 're out of it," Fred said.

He spoke in a whisper, and Joe and Charley nodded grimly that they agreed
with him. They were not inclined to speech, and they walked as rapidly as

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Online LibraryJack LondonThe Cruise of the Dazzler → online text (page 1 of 9)