Jerry of the Islands

Jerry of the Islands

JERRY OF THE ISLANDS JACK LONDON FOREWORD It is a misfortune to some fiction-writers that fiction and unveracity in the average person's mind mean one and the same thing. Several years ago I published a South Sea novel. The action was placed in the Solomon Islands. The action was praised by the critics and reviewers as a highly creditable effort of the imagination. As regards reality--they said there wasn't any. Of course as every one knew kinky-haired cannibals no longer obtained on the earth's surface much less ran around with nothing on chopping off one another's heads and on occasion a white man's head as well. Now listen. I am writing these lines in Honolulu Hawaii. Yesterday on the beach at Waikiki a stranger spoke to me. He mentioned a mutual friend Captain Kellar. When I was wrecked in the Solomons on the blackbirder the Minota it was Captain Kellar master of the blackbirder the Eugenie who rescued me. The blacks had taken Captain Kellar's head the stranger told me. He knew. He had represented Captain Kellar's mother in settling up the estate. Listen. I received a letter the other day from Mr. C. M. Woodford Resident Commissioner of the British Solomons. He was back at his post after a long furlough to England where he had entered his son into Oxford. A search of the shelves of almost any public library will bring to light a book entitled "A Naturalist Among the Head Hunters." Mr. C. M. Woodford is the naturalist. He wrote the book. To return to his letter. In the course of the day's work he casually and briefly mentioned a particular job he had just got off his hands. His absence in England had been the cause of delay. The job had been to make a punitive expedition to a neighbouring island and incidentally to recover the heads of some mutual friends of ours--a white-trader his white wife and children and his white clerk. The expedition was successful and Mr. Woodford concluded his account of the episode with a statement to the effect: "What especially struck me was the absence of pain and terror in their faces which seemed to express rather serenity and repose"--this mind you of men and women of his own race whom he knew well and who had sat at dinner with him in his own house. Other friends with whom I have sat at dinner in the brave rollicking days in the Solomons have since passed out--by the same way. My goodness! I sailed in the teak-built ketch the Minota on a blackbirding cruise to Malaita and I took my wife along. The hatchet-marks were still raw on the door of our tiny stateroom advertising an event of a few months before. The event was the taking of Captain Mackenzie's head Captain Mackenzie at that time being master of the Minota. As we sailed in to Langa-Langa the British cruiser the Cambrian steamed out from the shelling of a village. It is not expedient to burden this preliminary to my story with further details which I do make asseveration I possess a-plenty. I hope I have given some assurance that the adventures of my dog hero in this novel are real adventures in a very real cannibal world. Bless you!--when I took my wife along on the cruise of the Minota we found on board a nigger-chasing adorable Irish terrier puppy who was smooth-coated like Jerry and whose name was Peggy. Had it not been for Peggy this book would never have been written. She was the chattel of the Minota's splendid skipper. So much did Mrs. London and I come to love her that Mrs. London after the wreck of the Minota deliberately and shamelessly stole her from the Minota's skipper. I do further admit that I did deliberately and shamelessly compound my wife's felony. We loved Peggy so! Dear royal glorious little dog buried at sea off the east coast of Australia! I must add that Peggy like Jerry was born at Meringe Lagoon on Meringe Plantation which is of the Island of Ysabel said Ysabel Island lying next north of Florida Island where is the seat of government and where dwells the Resident Commissioner Mr. C. M. Woodford. Still further and finally I knew Peggy's mother and father well and have often known the warm surge in the heart of me at the sight of that faithful couple running side by side along the beach. Terrence was his real name. Her name was Biddy. JACK LONDON WAIKIKI BEACH HONOLULU OAHU T.H. June 5 1915 CHAPTER I Not until Mister Haggin abruptly picked him up under one arm and stepped into the sternsheets of the waiting whaleboat did Jerry dream that anything untoward was to happen to him. Mister Haggin was Jerry's beloved master and had been his beloved master for the six months of Jerry's life. Jerry did not know Mister Haggin as "master" for "master" had no place in Jerry's vocabulary Jerry being a smooth-coated golden-sorrel Irish terrier. But in Jerry's vocabulary "Mister Haggin" possessed all the definiteness of sound and meaning that the word "master" possesses in the vocabularies of humans in relation to their dogs. "Mister Haggin" was the sound Jerry had always heard uttered by Bob the clerk and by Derby the foreman on the plantation when they addressed his master. Also Jerry had always heard the rare visiting two-legged man-creatures such as came on the Arangi address his master as Mister Haggin. But dogs being dogs in their dim inarticulate brilliant and heroic-worshipping ways misappraising humans dogs think of their masters and love their masters more than the facts warrant. "Master" means to them as "Mister" Haggin meant to Jerry a deal more and a great deal more than it means to humans. The human considers himself as "master" to his dog but the dog considers his master "God." Now "God" was no word in Jerry's vocabulary despite the fact that he already possessed a definite and fairly large vocabulary. "Mister Haggin" was the sound that meant "God." In Jerry's heart and head in the mysterious centre of all his activities that is called consciousness the sound "Mister Haggin" occupied the same place that "God" occupies in human consciousness. By word and sound to Jerry "Mister Haggin" had the same connotation that "God" has to God-worshipping humans. In short Mister Haggin was Jerry's God. And so when Mister Haggin or God or call it what one will with the limitations of language picked Jerry up with imperative abruptness tucked him under his arm and stepped into the whaleboat whose black crew immediately bent to the oars Jerry was instantly and nervously aware that the unusual had begun to happen. Never before had he gone out on board the Arangi which he could see growing larger and closer to each lip-hissing stroke of the oars of the blacks. Only an hour before Jerry had come down from the plantation house to the beach to see the Arangi depart. Twice before in his half- year of life had he had this delectable experience. Delectable it truly was running up and down the white beach of sand-pounded coral and under the wise guidance of Biddy and Terrence taking part in the excitement of the beach and even adding to it. There was the nigger-chasing. Jerry had been born to hate niggers. His first experiences in the world as a puling puppy had taught him that Biddy his mother and his father Terrence hated niggers. A nigger was something to be snarled at. A nigger unless he were a house-boy was something to be attacked and bitten and torn if he invaded the compound. Biddy did it. Terrence did it. In doing it they served their God--Mister Haggin. Niggers were two-legged lesser creatures who toiled and slaved for their two-legged white lords who lived in the labour barracks afar off and who were so much lesser and lower that they must not dare come near the habitation of their lords. And nigger-chasing was adventure. Not long after he had learned to sprawl Jerry had learned that. One took his chances. As long as Mister Haggin or Derby or Bob was about the niggers took their chasing. But there were times when the white lords were not about. Then it was "'Ware niggers!" One must dare to chase only with due precaution. Because then beyond the white lord's eyes the niggers had a way not merely of scowling and muttering but of attacking four-legged dogs with stones and clubs. Jerry had seen his mother so mishandled and ere he had learned discretion alone in the high grass had been himself club-mauled by Godarmy the black who wore a china door-knob suspended on his chest from his neck on a string of sennit braided from cocoanut fibre. More. Jerry remembered another high-grass adventure when he and his brother Michael had fought Owmi another black distinguishable for the cogged wheels of an alarm clock on his chest. Michael had been so severely struck on his head that for ever after his left ear had remained sore and had withered into a peculiar wilted and twisted upward cock. Still more. There had been his brother Patsy and his sister Kathleen who had disappeared two months before who had ceased and no longer were. The great god Mister Haggin had raged up and down the plantation. The bush had been searched. Half a dozen niggers had been whipped. And Mister Haggin had failed to solve the mystery of Patsy's and Kathleen's disappearance. But Biddy and Terrence knew. So did Michael and Jerry. The four-months' old Patsy and Kathleen had gone into the cooking-pot at the barracks and their puppy-soft skins had been destroyed in the fire. Jerry knew this as did his father and mother and brother for they had smelled the unmistakable burnt-meat smell and Terrence in his rage of knowledge had even attacked Mogom the house-boy and been reprimanded and cuffed by Mister Haggin who had not smelled and did not understand and who had always to impress discipline on all creatures under his roof-tree. But on the beach when the blacks whose terms of service were up came down with their trade-boxes on their heads to depart on the Arangi was the time when nigger-chasing was not dangerous. Old scores could be settled and it was the last chance for the blacks who departed on the Arangi never came back. As an instance this very morning Biddy remembering a secret mauling at the hands of Lerumie laid teeth into his naked calf and threw him sprawling into the water trade-box earthly possessions and all and then laughed at him sure in the protection of Mister Haggin who grinned at the episode. Then too there was usually at least one bush-dog on the Arangi at which Jerry and Michael from the beach could bark their heads off. Once Terrence who was nearly as large as an Airedale and fully as lion-hearted--Terrence the Magnificent as Tom Haggin called him-- had caught such a bush-dog trespassing on the beach and given him a delightful thrashing in which Jerry and Michael and Patsy and Kathleen who were at the time alive had joined with many shrill yelps and sharp nips. Jerry had never forgotten the ecstasy of the hair unmistakably doggy in scent which had filled his mouth at his one successful nip. Bush-dogs were dogs--he recognized them as his kind; but they were somehow different from his own lordly breed different and lesser just as the blacks were compared with Mister Haggin Derby and Bob. But Jerry did not continue to gaze at the nearing Arangi. Biddy wise with previous bitter bereavements had sat down on the edge of the sand her fore-feet in the water and was mouthing her woe. That this concerned him Jerry knew for her grief tore sharply albeit vaguely at his sensitive passionate heart. What it presaged he knew not save that it was disaster and catastrophe connected with him. As he looked back at her rough-coated and grief-stricken he could see Terrence hovering solicitously near her. He too was rough-coated as was Michael and as Patsy and Kathleen had been Jerry being the one smooth-coated member of the family. ...