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UPON returning from Hawaii in August, Jack went about making plans to get away to New York three months thence. His contract with Mr. Hearst was due to expire at the end of another year, and he wished to be timely in reconnoitering the market. His requirements, looking toward ranch expansion and rehabilitating the red ruins of the Wolf House, were not diminishing. From Honolulu he had urged his sister to gather the materials; but she has ever since contended that something more than want of funds held her back. The second cutting of logs had long been seasoning. There was what I can only call a telepathic impulse that had more than once warned her when all was not well with Jack—a sudden intuition that he was ill or in difficulties. She had not failed in this present instance, and I knew, when her eyes rested upon his telltale face at the dock, that some premonition had been verified. Jack's secretary, his sister Ida's widower, after Jack's death reported that Eliza had said that day:
"Our Jack has not come back to us."
When in Honolulu, he had first broached the New York trip, my unexpected decision to remain at home disquieted him as much as had my intention to go alone to the Islands on the occasion of his projected Fleet trip through the Canal.
"At least," he urged, "don't quite make up your mind that you are not going with me. Give it more thought."
I had been seized with determination that was not to be resisted, to revise old Hawaiian notes into the companion book of my "Log of the Snark," and knew beyond question that there could never be time nor strength to give to it unless Jack were absent. When he had gone to a farther port, never to return, a railroad ticket for New York, dated for just a week after his death, lay upon the roll-top desk beside his work-table. But he had not been happy about my consistent refusal to accompany him.
August 9 to 13 he spent at Bohemian Grove, bringing home George Sterling and James Hopper. On the 17th he finished a short story begun on the steamer, "The Kanaka Surf," and before leaving for the State Fair on September 3, had completed another, "When Alice Told Her Soul," both included in "On the Makaloa Mat."
In "When Alice Told Her Soul," underlying its rollicking humor, Jack evidences that his feet had crossed the threshold of psychoanalytical understanding, and it is fascinating to note, in Jung's "Psychology of the Unconscious," marked passages showing the concepts that quickened Jack's imagination to express itself in that tale. Knowing what I already knew of Jack's last days, it was wonderful to check up this knowledge by the aid of those markings. It was my privilege to have the guidance of a pupil of Jung's, our friend Mary Wilshire. Here is an underlined section:
"The possession of a subjectively important secret generally creates a disturbance."
"It may be said that the whole art of life shrinks to the one problem of how the libido may be freed in the most harmless way possible. Therefore, the neurotic derives special benefit in treatment when he can at last rid himself of its various secrets."
Upon this Jack based his picture of the woman struggling to free her soul from a life-long accumulation of
secrets which led her to the confessional of a mongrel Billy Sunday type of evangelist.
In the last story ever written by this master of the short story, "The Water Baby," completed on October 2, the theme is more subtly presented through the medium of Hawaiian mythology. Throughout Dr. Jung's chapter on "Symbolism of Mother and Rebirth," there are penciled indications of Jack's grasp of the meaning of folk-lore and mythology of recorded time. Also the comprehension of how to raise lower desires to higher expressions. He has underscored Jesus's challenge to Nicodemus, cited by Jung:
"Think not carnally or thou art carnal, but think symbolically and then thou art spirit."
"The Water Baby" is clearly a symbolic representation of the Rebirth, the return to the Mother, exemplified by the arguments of the old Hawaiian Kohokumi. A similar chord is struck in the following paragraph from Jung's book, indicated by Jack:
"The blessed state of sleep before birth and after birth is, as Joel observed, something like old shadowy memories of that unsuspecting thoughtless state of early childhood, where as yet no opposition disturbed the peaceful flow of dawning life, to which the inner longing always draws us back again and again, and from which the active life must free itself anew with struggle and death, so that it may not be doomed to destruction. Long before Joel, an Indian Chief, had said the same thing in similar words to one of the restless wise men: 'Ah, my brother, you will never learn to know the happiness of thinking nothing and doing nothing; this is next to sleep; this is the most delightful thing there is. Thus we were before birth; thus we shall be after death.'"
Even in "Like Argus of the Ancient Times," written in the first half of September, is exhibited, in the "Freudian dream" of old Tarwater, as he faces extinction in the Arctic forest, the influence of Jack's probings into the stuff of
the psyche. And to the lighter reader, I call attention to the fact that Jack himself walks across some of the pages as young Liverpool.
Jack's emphasis upon the primitive elements in life did not emanate from the fact that his readers especially wanted it, because upon this point he was in conflict from first to last, tooth and nail, with editors and reviewers. He was thorough, that is all. It can easily be seen how his early instinctive use of the methods of psychoanalysis abetted this thoroughness in seeking for the noumenon of things, the better to reveal the process by which man has become what he is to-day. Look in "Before Adam" and "The Star Rover," again to find evidence of his knowing how important a part is played in our lives by old, primal emotions, long thought extinct. To him the work of Freud and Jung and others of the school presented a psychological-philosophical key to the "understanding and practical advancement of human life" which leads to synthetic evaluation of human endeavor. It was inevitable that his brain, which was both analytic and synthetic, should first take hold of the analytic half of psychological under standing and quite as inevitably pass into the synthetic half which forms the whole of psychological understanding. With quick, incisive mind he apprehended the scope of the Freudian method in contemplation of the material thus acquired, and then with Jung moved on into the realm of cosmic urge of which man's psychic energy is a part.
A man of Jack London's fearless quality, who prized truth at its proper worth, could but accord a royal welcome to any form of philosophy which offered to render knowledge more complete. His was "the character and intelligence which makes it possible for him to submit himself to a facing of his naked soul, and to the pain and suffering which this often entails." This, from Dr. Beatrice Hinkle's Introduction to Jung's book, Jack had heavily underlined. To face his naked soul he dared to the uttermost, but that
was not new with him. It was the old tragedy that began with his earliest gropings. Yet see, in another marked passage, how in his loneliness he realized himself as brother to all other human beings:
"To those who have been able to recognize their own weakness and have suffered in the privacy of their own souls, the knowledge that these things have not set them apart from others, but that they are the common property of all and that no one can point the finger of scorn at his fellow, is one of the greatest experiences of life and is productive of the greatest relief."
"My one great weakness, "Jack once wrote to Cloudesley Johns, "is the study of human nature." And when human nature through its repressions baffled discernment, he suffered inexpressibly. He had us bared to the quick those last days. After a set-to with his sister, on ranch questions, or personal ones growing out of controversy, he cried, trying to pierce her brain:
"I'd give my right hand to know what you are really thinking of me!"
And to me, in privacy, after I had been almost overreaching myself in self-illumination—once or twice, alack, goaded even to resentment—he would grit out, intensely, with a gesture of despair:
"You tell me this and you tell me that, and you state your reasons. But your true inner impulsions are withheld in spite of yourself. Close as we are, you and I, hard as we strive to give ourselves to each other, the old reticences remain, repressing the utmost revelation. You do your best. It is not enough. Can't you see, oh, my dear, can't you let go completely, and let me see the real you that I want to fathom? . . . I'd give my soul to know what you are actually thinking!"
But when, in sudden unasked circumstances, our minds came together in almost superhuman enlightenment, the man was caught up into a supreme and wondrous exalta-
tion. I can only think that to sustain such heights one must needs seek a new world in which to live!
Read this section of Dr. Hinkle's Introduction, which, noted by Jack, throws light upon the struggle extraordinary which he was making to come breast to breast with us in mental sympathy:
"There is frequently expressed among people the idea of how fortunate it is that we cannot see each other's thoughts, and how disturbing it would be if our real feelings could be read. But what is so shameful in these secrets of the soul? They are in reality our own egotistic desires, all striving, longing, wishing for satisfaction, for happiness; those desires which instinctively crave their own gratification, but which can only be really fulfilled by adapting them to the real world and to the social group."
"The value of self-consciousness lies in the fact that man is enabled to reflect upon himself and learn to understand the true origin and significance of his actions and opinions, that he may adequately value the real level of his development and avoid being self-deceived and therefore inhibited from finding his biological adaptation. He need no longer be unconscious of the motives underlying his actions or hide himself behind a changed exterior, in other words, be merely a series of reactions to stimuli, as the mechanists have it, but he may to a certain extent become a self-creating and self-determining being."
I shall never cease to remember the day when, all a-tip-toe with discovery, Jack entered the dining room, slipped into his chair and repeated the foregoing italicized sentence. I, knowing his theretofore immovable position regarding free will, sat aghast at the implication upon his tongue. At length:
"Do you realize what you are saying? What you are implying?"
"I know how you feel—how surprised you are," he answered. "But it almost would seem that I can grasp, from
this, some sort of inkling of free will. I'll explain further—we will read together."
Bear with me, in fairness to a comprehension of the point Jack London, as an individual, a member of society, and an artist, had reached when he descended "into the dark," while I quote a few, so very few of the many, marked sentences from Dr. Hinkle's introduction:
He, Jung, saw in the term libido a concept of unknown nature, comparable with Bergson's elan vital, a hypothetical energy of life, which occupies itself not only in sexuality but in various physiological and psychological manifestations such as growth, development, hunger and all the human activities and interests. This cosmic energy or urge manifested in the human being he calls libido and compares it with the energy of physics. Although recognizing, in common with Freud as well as with many others, the primal instinct of reproduction as the basis of many functions and present-day activities of mankind no longer sexual in character, he repudiates the idea of still calling them sexual, even though their development was a growth originally out of the sexual. Sexuality and its various manifestations Jung sees as most important channels occupied by libido, but not the exclusive ones through which libido flows.
"In this achievement lies the hopeful and valuable side of this method—the development of the synthesis."
"—an absolute truth and an absolute honesty.*
"—the often quite unbearable conflict of his weaknesses with his feelings of idealism."
"The importance of this instinct (sexual) upon human life is clearly revealed by the great place given to it under the name of love in art, literature, poetry, romance and all beauty from the beginning of recorded time."
I was convinced that no mortal frame could out-last the terrific strain Jack was putting upon his own. Something had to break. And one can only give thanks forever that it was the body. That was the lesser sacrifice.
At this late date there rises out of my mind, quite humbly, the question as to whether certain independent
manifestations of myself to which he had been unaccustomed, were upsetting Jack more than he cared to voice—as notably my insistence, in face of his dissatisfaction, upon remaining at home alone to do work of my own. I have come to see it as an inevitable self -liberation after an association that had held me like one enchanted, my faculties paralyzed in every function except as toward him and what of assistance I could be to him. If, as may have been the truth, my ego was unconsciously making effort to win to itself, it was probably due to the impetus of the tuition Jack's superior ego had contributed. I am only trying to clear up phenomena that it now seems might have been more or less portentous to him, and the inner meaning of which he was bending every nerve to discover.
"For the first time in my life," he remarked one day, "I see the real value to the human soul of the confessional."
The effect of this budding impetus in me did not terminate with the termination of his dominating personality. It went marching on, evident in the most amazing ways. Instead of still requiring, in order to go on, that superb domination under which I had so loved to dwell, suddenly I stood free, an ambitious, sure soul for the first time, almost unrecognizable to friends and self, bent upon making the best of that self and its remaining span upon earth; this, if only to prove its appreciation of the gifts that had been bestowed upon it, in the discharge of its tender obligation to the one who had gone. Life-long, inherited insomnia fell from me, and nights were none too long to compass the rejuvenation that was mine, and that prepared me for each looking-forward day of the many days of hard work which had descended upon my willing shoulders. No task, in contemplation, discouraged—even the most exacting, this Biography.
It hardly matters that I am ahead of my story, inasmuch as the events immediately preceding and succeeding Jack's death are all of a piece.
Closely following his passing "into the Silence," on every hand speaking evidence of his thought and achievement, even lacking the maturer masterpieces we shall never know, it came to me this way:
"It seems clear that there was no limit to his mind. Could he have lived, that cerebration would have gone on and on, stretching incredibly, interminably, no bounds to its elasticity in every direction. It was enormous."
This to George Sterling, sad beyond despair above his friend's "holy ashes." And he repeated after me:
"There was no limit to his mind. It was enormous."
Jack was so tired that hot evening we arrived at Sacramento, September 3, that he went to bed after dinner instead of joining Mrs. Shepard at the Fair. We were hardly ready to "turn in" when a general fire-alarm called us to the hotel window, and in the direction of the Fair Grounds we could see the flames rising.
"It's the Exhibition going up, all right," Jack said, peering through the glare for the towers of the buildings.
"But aren't you going to dress and drive out to see if the stock is safe—Neuadd and the rest?" I asked, surprised at his lack of excitement.
"Oh, no—Eliza's there, or will get there, and she'll do everything that can be done."
And surely enough, his indomitable superintendent, already bound back to the hotel, had turned about and somehow bluffed her way through the cordon of police thrown about the place, and marshaled our stockmen to convey her precious charges to an unthreatened open space.
As before written, she and Jack had disagreed upon the question of showing animals, at least thus early in the establishment of his reputation as a stockbreeder. But having seen, upon his return from the Islands, the prime state of his beasts which she had ready for the journey, he had relented, admitted her standpoint, and was loyally on
hand to see them win. That they did; and no one, even Eliza, so proud as he with his handful of gold medals and blue and gold ribbons to prove that the Jack London Ranch was "on the right track."
But not with his own eyes did he behold our proud grand champions carry off their honors. Only the one day after arrival was he able to leave the hotel, for he was obliged to keep to bed for eight days with a session of rheumatism in his left ankle. Fortunately the torture was intermittent, or it would have been unbearable without a hypodermic. As it was, the doctor had to prescribe powders for the worst nights, or there would have been no rest for either of us. I went out of the house but three times, and then to buy books for the invalid, who seemed not to want me out of his sight.
In the longer pauses between recurrences of grinding misery that drenched the poor boy with sweat, we made genuinely merry over games of pinochle and cribbage, and read aloud, turn about; or he entertained callers, while I gently rubbed the ankle by the hour. Often I could put the sufferer to sleep by this means. Evenings, from the window, Jack enjoyed following the starry trail of Boquel's aeroplane flights.
For once, stung alert by pain, he was seriously anxious about the future as regarded bodily comfort. "Although, if I became permanently crippled, I'll have endless time in bed to do all the reading I can never get around to, and be the happiest fellow that ever came down the pike," he grinned with native paradox. But I noticed that he did not hasten that glad day by disobeying the physician, who told him he was in a precarious state and must mend his diet and work off some of his excess fat. He weighed in the neighborhood of one hundred and ninety-four pounds.
So all toothsome fleshpots were missing from the tray, while I was pressed to invent salad dressings and suggest the most tempting vegetable dishes.
Upon one especially precious day, when we two were reviewing our long run of years together, calling up memories sacred to our companionship, I asked Jack if he could remember a sweet thing, the idea of which, coming from him, had astonished me one day in Honolulu. I challenged:
"I'll wager anything you say, that you cannot repeat it just as you said it."
"Which sweet thing?" he came back; "There were many, if I remember aright. I'll subscribe to it, whatever it was, even if I can't remember it! Be kind, though, and give me a tip!"
When I had done so, he said very soberly:
"Yes, I not only remember and subscribe to it, but I can repeat it word for word. I told you: If I should go into the dark, and wake again—which I do not for a moment expect to do—but if I should open my eyes again, yours would be the first face I should want them to rest upon!——And I mean it, Mate Woman. I surrender to you, you are the only one.—— Ask me for something that I can do for you!"
I have no personal evidence that Jack did not die a firm unbeliever in any hereafter—materialist monist to the end. In a story, "The Eternity of Forms," included in "The Turtles of Tasman" collection, he has given his lifelong confession of faith, "simple, brief, unanswerable":
"I assert, with Hobbes, that it is impossible to separate thought from matter that thinks. I assert, with Bacon, that all human understanding arises from the world of sensations. I assert, with Locke, that all human ideas are due to the functions of the senses. I assert, with Kant, the mechanical origin of the universe, and that creation is a natural and historical process. I assert, with Laplace, that there is no need of the hypothesis of a creator. And, finally, I assert, because of all the foregoing, that form is ephemeral. Form passes. Therefore we pass."
Two years before his death, he had more briefly stated his old position in a letter to a young socialist in Chicago:
"June 25, 1914.
Dear Ralph Kasper:
". . . I have always inclined toward Haekel's position. In fact, incline is too weak a word. I am a hopeless materialist. I see a soul as nothing else than the sum of the activities of the organism plus personal habits, memories, experiences, of the organism. I believe that when I am dead, I am dead. I believe that with my death I am just as much obliterated as the last mosquito you or I smashed.
"I have no patience with fly-by-night philosophers such as Bergson. I have no patience with the metaphysical philosophers. With them, always, the wish is parent to the thought, and their wish is parent to their profoundest philosophical conclusions. I join with Haeckel in being what, in lieu of any other phrase, I am compelled to call 'a positive scientific thinker.'"
Yet it was the same Jack London, caressing the thought of Death at the close of "The Human Drift," who wrote:
"There is nothing terrible about it. With Richard Hovey, when he faced his death, we can say: 'Behold! I have lived!' And with another and greater one, we can lay ourselves down with a will. The one drop of living, the one taste of being, has been good; and perhaps our greatest achievement will be that we dreamed immortality, even though we failed to realize it."
Jack's sister thinks he was on the way, those last weeks, to modify his uncompromising attitude. At least, she considers, judging from things said and unsaid in their closer moments, that he was shaken in his certitudes about a number of subjects. He had always smiled or good-naturedly scoffed at her telepathic "hunches," as he termed them; but himself underwent a puzzling experience. Mid-most of his forenoon work, all at once he obeyed a call that his mortal ears had not heard, and discovered himself standing by the window straining his eyes toward Eliza's cottage, on a slight eminence several hundred yards away. Everything looked as usual in the serene prospect, and he came to himself with a laugh, turned to watch the big Shire mares
hauling his prided manure-spreader, and returned to the interrupted manuscript. But he continued uneasy. Odd it seems to me that Jack did not tell me of the incident; for later in the day Eliza reported that the husband of her new cook had arrived unheralded and with a gun threatened herself, who had been totally ignorant of her cook's marriage status, for keeping his wife away from him.
I repeat that I have no evidence at first hand that there was any radical change in Jack s method of thinking. He only showed an intensification of his old instinct for the "inexorable logic of the shadowland of the unconscious." What he did say to me, and more than once, was the old: "If you should ever go 'soft,' I'd never forgive you!"
It was not until after the Fair had closed and his sister gone home, that Jack was fit to make the journey by automobile. About sunset we had a breakdown, and I remember him hobbling about a little village while the repairing went forward, and halting to watch some small boys spinning tops.
"But don't you do this, and this?" he said, all interest in the new generation, taking the toy from an urchin, and trying to resurrect his own cunning. No, they couldn't spin it his way—had never seen it done, in fact; nor could they, as did he, make it spin on the vertical trunk of a tree. Suddenly one of the lads sprang away to the side of the road and glibly named the make of an approaching car while the headlights were still distant.
"Well, I'll be—" Jack left it becomingly unsaid. How did you know what was the name of that machine?"
Know its engines, of course—I can tell most of 'em a long way off, the boy bragged, nicely even with his interlocutor for superior skill in the top-game.
"See, Mate," Jack lit a cigarette and contemplated the group, "I'm getting old. I'm out of touch with the younger generation. All they know is gasolene—but I will say they know it pretty thoroughly!"
He was very quiet the rest of the ride, and I recall a curious misapprehension displayed by him as we made ready to leave the town of Napa in a moonlight haze. Though we had often visited here, this time we differed as to an avenue that led into the twenty-mile road to Glen Ellen. Jack's sense of locality was usually faultless, mine far from being so. But on that night I was so positive that finally he relapsed into silence, sending forward the parting shot:
Very well—have your way; but you'll soon find you are entirely off the route."
It happened otherwise; but I made no comment as the dim moonlit leagues were left behind. And then I became conscious of a pressure as Jack's hand clasped my shoulder, and over it came the love-husky, golden whisper I knew of his most humble and generous moments:
"I love you to death, my dear."
A return hand-caress, and "I know you do," closed the incident, and no reference to it was ever necessary.
To the tune of a merry household, after finishing "Like Argus of the Ancient Times" Jack went at a fantastic, whimsical tramp study entitled "The Princess," last of the "On the Makaloa Mat" cluster. The denouement is founded upon an after-dinner story once told at our table by a Bohemian clubman, an inimitable raconteur. Jack seemed to enjoy making this tale, and could hardly wait each day to catch me with his "Come on and see how it goes!" The accomplished ease of his method seemed only to increase; too much, some friends and critics thought. Yet, reading over his last stories, with their sure technique and character-drawing, profound thinking in the processes of the human soul, I cannot consider that he had fallen off.
How gay were host and guest, outside of what might be called natural sports such as swimming, and swimming the horses, "hiking," boating, riding, and the like, may be
judged by a reckless prank that broke up one noonday meal. I do not remember how it started, nor whose was the suggestion, but some one was dared to swallow, alive and whole, the tiny goldfish that swam among plants in a low cut-glass bowl on the long table. In the babble among the horrified girls, Jack shouted:
"We'll play a hand at poker for it, and the fellow who loses must not only swallow the fish, but keep it down for ten minutes, no matter what is said to him."
Remonstrance was in vain—the trio, Jack, Finn Frolich, and Joe Mather, were "on their way." Joe, slender, fastidious, was "stuck," and exhibited, in paying the forfeit, the keenest courage I ever have witnessed.
"Gee," gasped the chesty Frolich, "I couldn't have got it down!"
"I'd have died if I'd had to do it!" Jack said in awe-struck admiration when confronted by the tragic face of the man who had "put away" the scaly morsel. And "I never can feel quite the same toward you again," Joe's young wife murmured betwixt laugh and sob.
"That was an awful thing to allow," afterward I chided Jack.
"It was a wild thing," he giggled concurrence, "but think of the fun!"
"How about the fish?"
"Now you're saying something," he admitted. "Just the same, it was quicker 'curtains' for the fish than your fish in the garden pool get, slowly smothering in the gullets of the water-snakes! And how about live oysters, now, my dear . . . think, think!—Anyway, I'd rather have been the fish than Joe!" he grimaced in conclusion.
When, on October 2, "The Water Baby" was sent off to The Cosmopolitan, Jack went at his notes for a new novel, "Cherry," which was left less than half completed. This romance is laid in Hawaii. The heroine, Cherry, is a Japan-
ese girl, mysteriously wrecked in the Islands when a baby, and evidently, by the trappings and the dead servitors on the abandoned sampan, infant of high degree. She is adopted and given every cultural advantage by a wealthy white couple who were childless. The motif of the work is a racial one, the climax depending upon Cherry's choice of a husband among the many, of various nationalities, who sue for the hand of this tantalizing oriental maid whose brain has divined her situation in every connotation. There are enough notes to guide a reader to the conclusion; but up to the end of the year 1921, I have not matured my plans for this book and that other incomplete manuscript, "The Assassination Bureau."
Evenings were spent in cards, or games like "packing peanuts," in which Jack nearly died of mirth. Or he would be inclined to read aloud, poetry, or perhaps his own stories. And I know there were listeners, captured and enchained by his charm, in whose ears still rings his rich and solemn voice in the stately numbers of Ecclesiastes. He had read from this favorite several times to certain friends in Honolulu, and now recurred to it with increasing appreciation. At these times Jack was extremely handsome, with something hard to describe—a fine nobility in expression and pose, but something also of the unconscious hauteur of isolation, of the aristocrat, of the imperator.
One little party that was with us for a day or two consisted of my uncle, Harley R. Wiley, of the University of California faculty, who had brought up his long poem "Dust and Flame" to read to us; and Blanche Partington, whose contribution, in this instance, beside her own ever-welcome personaliy, was the young Irish revolutionist's, Kathleen O'Brennan, whom she wanted to see lock horns with Jack London. She was not disappointed. The pair went into the arena in fine form, while the rest of us sat panting with emotions that ranged from serious to comic. "Never in my
life," Blanche revives the occasion, "did I hear such a racial dressing-down as Jack gave Ireland!"
More often than he went himself, Jack sent me over the trails with parties, and never did we twain go on any of the long rides once so reveled in. When guests were absent, the ranch claimed all his daylight recreation hours, and he forewent the Outlaw, and Sonoma Maid, and Hilo, preferring Prince, the "Love-Horse" of our fore-in-hand, on whom leisurely he explored the uplands, testing with eye and hand for soils he ached to "put to work." This was not sufficient exercise for me, and I rode my colts longer distances, usually hunting for Jack in the woods, when we would descend together. Many was the day he said, though uncomplainingly:
"I got in a lot of reading last night, but not much sleep. I'll nap this afternoon."
But it was seldom, homing alone from a canter, that I failed to see his tumbled handful of curls bobbing out of the door to meet me.
"You'll never know," he said again and again, "how I love to hear your horse galloping toward me. I wouldn't miss being here to see you come in for anything!"
I was far from easy about him. There was a twilight stealing over our lives—was it to be ever this way, that I rode solitary while he must sleep? Whither were we trending?
"Near the end," an author has told me, "he wrote me about my book, and in that letter he complained of being ill. Said he had been down with rheumatism . . . complained of having had a severe time of it. Complaint of any kind from him seemed unusual. My impression was that he was not himself when he wrote this way. It came stealing over me that his work was nearly done."
Jack had expected to go east in the early part of October, but the water-suit intervened. He was supposed to be away, however, and I am always grateful to fate that we had those
last few weeks uninterrupted save by a few loved ones. To one, my cousin Beth, he gave a book in which the inscription verified my fear in that he was going too fast, his mind increasing upon itself with an insupportable rapidity, wave upon wave, factors climbing upon the backs of factors, the thousand-thousand connotations that might have suggested the loom of madness to any who could not know his natural scope. But to me it represented an enormous sanity, a huge, normal functioning, only a madness if to be super-sane is to be mad; and the only question was, how long could a man live in so unchecked a mind-functioning, while neglecting his body?
"It is a long time," he complained in the inscription to Beth above referred to, "since I've seen you to renew acquaintance with you. When you were here, the world was here, and the world was very much and too much with me. Darn the wheel of the world! Why must it continually turn over? Where is the reverse gear?"
Evening after evening he read aloud from Percy's "Reliques of Ancient English Poetry," and reread certain of these to Beth and to his two "saints," my sister Emma Growall, and my uncle s wife, Villa Wiley. Two large volumes we went through, and the third and last to Page 288. The next selection is "St. George for England," and Jack's book-mark, the ubiquitous safety-match, still rests between the leaves. Dryden's "Jealousie Tyrant of the Mind" was an especial treasure to us. I shall hear until I die Jack's voice of the lover in "The Nut-Browne Mayd," which he never tired of repeating, and which I called for over and over, if only for the spell of the "viols" in his throat, and to see, under the long curl of lashes, the eyes he raised to mine at the verse-ends:
"I love but you alone."
He fastened upon the sweet old-English spelling of Darling—"Dearling"—and thenceforward used it exclusively when addressing me, his voice like a prayer.
Interspersed with these poems we also read the Beaumont and Fletcher Elizabethan plays, the power and beauty of some of these affecting Jack profoundly.
He frequently asked me to play or sing for him, and was strangely touched by a song-relic of my girlhood, "Recompense," in which occur the lines:
"And at the last, I found that she
Handel's "Largo," Wagner's "Pilgrim's Chorus," and the trio of funeral marches, favorites of all his adult life, were resurrected and rendered him as much pleasure as ever. Whenever he went to Oakland, he put in an hour or so in some music store, after which there was sure to arrive in Glen Ellen a box of phonograph records, most of them operatic. Many he retained, and while we had supper at a card-table on my glass porch, it was the duty of Sekinè or the house-boy to run off a succession of disks laid out by Jack. In line with tracing back into race-consciousness, he showed increasing preference for folk songs, and the American negro melodies. After supper he would throw himself on the couch by my side, and have these reeled off, while he dreamed beyond all following of the significance of these human cries for rest.
"It's always been that way," he would reflect. "Mankind has always bowed under some galling yoke, physical or mental, that has made it supplicate for rest, to escape 'the dreary agitation of the dust.' Can't you hear it, beating down the ages—listen to that—play it over, Sera, so Mrs. London can hear it again."
Sometimes he was very calm, and evenings were of our sweetest, he reading aloud or talking, I embroidering the beloved "L" upon absurd little "guest-towels" for the Wolf House that was soon to be rebuilt. His dislike to see me sew had been modified these many years. My philoso-
phy upon needlework had so pleased him that he incorporated it in "The Little Lady of the Big House."
Again, over-intense, on hair-trigger to snap up any word as a pretext to start an argument, if he caught me trying to placate or turn him into smoother channels he flew into a mental fury, at times hot, at others deadly cool. Sometimes, as before noted, I let him wear himself out. And when, as might happen, he was soon over the mood, resting in my embrace he would tell me what it meant to unburden to me in any way at any time.
On October 22, precisely a month before Jack went out, Neuadd Hillside, the "Great Gentleman," our incomparable Shire Horse, died overnight while we slept. Rupture, they pronounced it, and veterinaries were summoned from all quarters.
It was a heavy blow to Jack. Aside from the monetary loss this was an incalculable set-back in his far-seeing plans, already under way, for breeding and in-breeding. I learned of the event when at nine of the morning I found Jack still in bed, lying quite idle. I had not time to ask the reason for his stricken face when he said, reaching out to me:
"Come here and sit beside me. I have bad news for you— your Great Gentleman is gone."
"What? Who?—what do you mean?"
"Good old Neuadd died last night."
. . . And a little later: "I'm not ashamed, Mate-Woman," looking at me like a lost child through his man's tears. He followed me around much that day, telling more than I had ever dreamed of what the glorious animal had meant to him.
"I tell you, Mrs. London," said Hazen Cowan, our cowboy, who had had the care of the stallion, "I hadn't cried since the last time my mother spanked me, until Neuadd fell down. He wouldn't lie down till he was dead, but stood there shaking all over." Hazen pulled a freckled hand
across his hazel, black-lashed eyes: "I'd really slept with him, lived with him, for months, you know."
"Cherry" was laid aside, and Jack went to making notes for a novel upon the horse. "You, too, make me some memory-pictures of him," he begged. He now believed that he had been right in the first place about "show-condition" for live stock, and that had Neuadd been maintained in proper working-flesh, he would have been saved to the farm.
He did not begin that book. After making a sufficient sketch to fix his motif, he returned to what was already begun—how vain the endeavor we were not then to know. But the death of the "chief of the herd" weighed more than we shall ever realize. At times he gave way to a listlessness I had never before seen in him.
Next, the gentle Prince developed what eventually proved an incurable rheumatism, and could not be used. One day his master charged: "If anything should happen to me, and Prince's case become hopeless, don't ever let him go off the ranch." So the "Love-Horse" came to sleep with Neuadd, Sonoma Maid and Hilda, in a wooded ravine on the "Beauty Ranch." The only one remaining of our joyous coaching team is the indefatigable Outlaw, Gert, who lives and moves and delivers the finest of colts each and every renascent springtime.
When, in mid-October, the duck-hunting season opened, Jack flung caution to the four winds and with gusto consumed two large birds, canvasback or mallard, each day. An Oakland market kept him supplied. Poisoned as he already was with uremia, this richest of diets was nothing less than suicidal, and put him out of the world of human affairs in less than six weeks. "Oh, I love them so," was his in corrigible waive of my remonstrance. "I've been good as gold ever since Sacramento, you've seen; and now it won't hurt me to fall off my diet. Don't forget I'm naturally a meat-eater!"
The last guest Jack ever entertained, and who left
three days before lie died, was a frail little stranger who came to ask if he would accept a joint guardianship of her children. "Sure!" said that obliging friend of the needy. "Put my name down with the rest!" She had studied medicine, and writing to me later inquired if Jack was accustomed to the amazing menu she had seen him consume twice daily while she was with us. None but a plowman could have survived it.
On the 28th, shaking off the dejection of the court proceedings in the water-suit begun two days previously, Jack with apparent joy read a letter from the Newspaper Enterprise Association, of New York City, and appended is his reply to their self-evident query:
adventure and romance are not dead as I lie on the placid beach of Waikiki."
Here is a letter to his London agent, Mr. Hughes Massie, dated November 5:
"I have not replied by cable because of two things.
"First, I expect to be in New York sometime after the middle of November. I should then be able to talk the matter of such an autobiography of 50,000 words, about my writing, with my magazine publisher. In any such event, I would personally handle the sale of the American first serial rights.
"Second, I am not sure about what the contemplated 50,000 words would be concerned. From reading your letter it would seem that what is asked is how I obtained at first hand the experiences that are at the back of my writing. I do not see how I could write on such a subject—at least no more than several thousand words. My idea would be to give my writing experiences from my first attempt at writing right on down the line to the present date, I mean my experiences with newspaper editors, magazine editors, book publishers, etc., etc., entering intimately into my various books and short stories themselves, I mean in relation to the sale of them to the purchasers.
"If you could write me a letter conveying more adequately the subject that would be acceptable, as well as some sort of suggestions about the rate that the Wide World Magazine would pay for the first serial rights in Great Britain, I would be better equipped to discuss the matter with my people when I get to New York."
"The money I get for this," he exulted, "will buy more farm machinery, more seed to plant, and the rest!"
On the afternoon of the second court-hearing in the riparian rights contest, Jack was threatened with a repetition of the severe attack he had suffered in Honolulu, and drilled me again in the use of the hypodermic, should the pain get beyond him. He was very wretched, but the calculus passed without resort to the needle.
His fourth appearance in court was on November 10. He came home looking ill, and complained of distressing
symptoms which toward evening so strongly resembled ptomaine poisoning that finally, as the pain increased, I got him to take an antidote, which produced the desired effect. Very gravely I talked with him, and he owned that he was shockingly out of condition, with an increasing tendency to dysentery. "I've never been quite right in that respect since my sickness and operation in Australia—and Mexico didn't help matters any. —But don't worry, don't bother; I'll be all right, my dear!"
And still he made no alteration in his diet of underdone wild fowl.
Philosophically, and helped by psychoanalysis, Jack better and better understood and sympathized with human frailty; but temperamentally, due largely to physical and nervous breakdown, he became more and more intolerant under the torment of his uncovered sensibilities. Those last days were not the first wherein he had gone stark against the apparent truism that any one who accepts benefits never forgives the benefactor.
As I sit at my typewriter, I can see him, back to me, elbows on desk, head in both hands, and hear him say, not for the initial time:
"It's a pretty picayune world, Mate—what am I to think? Are they all alike! Every person I've done anything for and I've not been a pincher, have I? —has thrown me down: near ones, dear ones—and the rest."
"Some of us are still standing by," I reminded him soothingly.
"Oh, I don't mean you, of course, nor Eliza. But the exceptions are so rare—friend and stranger alike. Run over the list. Take that socialist woman east—I've forgotten her name who wrote begging me to stake her to a small sum for a certain number of months, so she could devote herself to writing a book. It's ages since she acknowledged the last check Eliza sent, and she has never written me one line of thanks, nor even reported progress.
And she's but a sample of the whole hopeless, helpless mess! And take cases nearer home. The hand I feed smites. It's only the ones I have helped. What am I to conclude?" he finished, swallowed in gloom, suffering damnably.
"But even so," I argued, trying to offset the somber discord induced by those raw sensibilities that made him pierce too easily through even the unconscious petty shams of civilization—"even so, it is nothing new to you; do not forget that it has always been that way. Do not think you are the only one who suffers from this lamentable tendency of the human. Your kind has plenty of company in the world. No man who ever made money and played Santa Glaus to many, has escaped your fate. So don't isolate yourself as a martyr. Be a real philosopher, and forget it." Then in a vain attempt to sting him out of his lethargy to a normal sense of values, I dared: "Be careful, or you'll find yourself nursing a persecution mania!"
But the only reaction to this last bolt was a rather spiritless challenge to show him where he was wrong in his facts.
Although Judge Edgar Zook urged the plaintiffs to allow him to apportion the water, which he was empowered to do, their lawyer declined to consider this. "We stand or fall," was his ultimatum. On November 14, the injunction was dissolved. Jack, desiring in neighborly manner to convince the plaintiffs of the veracity of claims upon which his testimony had been based, drove around inviting one and all to break bread with us at noon on Friday the 17th, and accompany him on a little tour of inspection. Nearly all accepted, and with one or two exceptions it was their last meeting with the big neighbor whose visions for agricultural welfare were for the most part incomprehen sible to them. Jack appeared very bright during the meal, and no business was talked until its conclusion. But when we started out of doors, he became all earnest enthusiasm to persuade his opponents to the worth of his moral as well
as legal rights in the matter at issue. One of them was heard to sigh:
"We should never have gone into this fight with you!"
And another: "What a pity we didn't get togelher with you in the first place and thrash out this matter instead of rushing into court with it!"
Saturday I myself went to bed. I cannot, to this day, name my illness; but looking back it seems that I was on the verge of a nerve-collapse. I must have been laboring under too great anxiety. The Thursday before, when Ernest Hopkins and two cameramen had been photographing Jack both for "movies" and "stills," I had suddenly, in one or two of the poses, noticed something in Jack's face, or an accession of something more than dimly felt of late, that struck fear into me. It might be described as a deadness—or an absence of life; something that no face, upon an upright figure, should be. Others were full of vivacity, with all that Jack could command of charm and aliveness—sitting with his rifle, laughing from the high seat of the water cart, or driving two monster Shire mares in the manure-spreader. How eloquent, like a message of the year's increase, that oval ring of fertilizer lay for weeks upon his field until erased by the winter rains! How eloquent was the whole fruitful prospect, when he lay, in his own White Silence, in the midst of the fair land of his devising! To me, then, wandering among his kindly herds, in the effort to orient myself with a new universe, came the thought that he, our Jack, was the most eloquent dead man in all the world. That small, potent hand had written a deathless scroll upon the hills, and he seemed to live and speak and move at one with the growth he had encouraged in the pregnant dust of his Sweet Land. One could not quit and lie down in the face of such vital challenge to make short shrift of tears and rise to carry his banner as long as fate should be generous enough to let one work.
When on a day I gallop along the blossoming ways to Jack's mountain meadows, missing my Strong Traveler, it takes little effort still to hear his blithe, companionable "Toot! Toot!" I would feel no startlement did he emerge, reining the Outlaw from the shadows of the trees, laughing from under the cowboy hat.
He had been radiant in his hope that had no horizon. "I want to live a hundred years!" was his lusty slogan, repeated within a fortnight of his death. "See the dozens of boxes of notes filed away? Why, writers I know are looking about for plots, and I've enough here to keep me busy with twice a hundred novels!"
It was the expression of just such exuberance that Jack felt in this stanza of John G. Neihardt's:
Let me live out my years in heat of blood!
When he was gone, I smiled with appreciation of an enthusiastic, but uninformed, reviewer who, despite Jack's fifty-odd books written within seventeen years, credited him with more than double that number, "to say nothing of other forms of literature."
And there was also a letter that pleased me, written on November 20, and never read by Jack:
"I have just seen your picture, driving two huge draft-horses to a manure-spreader. This is the picture of a man with a wagonload of fertilizer. He is going to spread it over an acre of ground and make it fertile. In reality the man has an inexhaustible supply of mental pabulum which he spreads over the whole world, the dark spots are made lighter, the sloughs of despond are drained and made to blossom . . . the weary and heavy laden are lifted up. . . . In reality you are subsoil-plowing the world, preparing it for the seeds of Universal Brotherhood, the while you dream dreams."
It would not be hard to imagine him a happy ghost revisiting his beloved lands or the running tides of San Francisco Bay, irresistibly drawn back to
". . . The horses in the wagons with their kind long faces,
I could but think, viewing the excellence he left behind, the purity of his purpose, the way he went straight to his goal, that he made a shining exception to the rule that
"The evil that men do lives after them;
I was sad when, on Saturday the nineteenth, our tenth wedding anniversary, I was unable to join Jack and a quaint woman guest at dinner. Jack brought her in to meet me, and later, having settled her somewhere with a book, returned to stroke my throbbing head. I remember reminding him of the fact that I was born and married in the same month, and that eight days hence, the twenty-seventh, would be my birthday. How little I imagined that there would intervene the date of my widowhood! Yet doom was in the air. Subtly I felt its clutch, and this was all my malady.
Jack wrote with unabated industry on Monday morning, and in the afternoon he came and coaxed me in a cheery and loving way to pull myself together and accompany him up-mountain. He wanted to see again a piece of land that adjoined the ranch, which he recalled as being well watered by springs.
"I may buy it," he said. "I could develop the springs, and that would mean bigger crops, bigger and better cattle and horses, life, more life, Mate-Woman! Oh, it's big, and I have so many plans and so much to do! Come on up with me."
It hurt to refuse, but I felt too weak and tired to face the long ride; so he went out alone, looking unusually disappointed. Yet what strength was mine but half a hun-
dred hours later to meet the worst and not fail—so strangely are we constituted.
Upon his return he came breaking through the house with his merriest step to tell me every detail of his exploration.
"I found the trail without any trouble," he told me, "and when I came to the field I had in mind, there was a young farmer plowing. We talked quite a while, and I got off old Fritz to handle the soil myself. I found it of very good quality. It ran through my fingers, so friable, you know. I've discovered who owns it, and I'm going to take up the matter as soon as I can land the prospect of some money in New York. Maybe that autobiographical stuff will pay for it. Then further: "I'm planning to go on the twenty-ninth. And you're still not coming with me?" he finished wistfully. Then he resumed the tale of his projects for increasing the abundance upon his acres.
There followed a wakeful night for Jack, and he rose very late, frankly blue, and complaining of fatigue. The dysentery was so much worse that I protested at his taking no measures to check an alarming condition. He worked but a short time, and the few pages of manuscript were the last he ever set hand to. The several letters he dictated to the machine were transcribed afterward by his secretary. The very last letter he ever talked into the horn was the following:
"Editor Every Week,
"Curses on you, 'Every Week'! You keep a busy man busy over-time trying to get rid of you while unable to tear himself away. I wish the man who writes the captions for your photographs had never been born. I just can't refrain from reading every word he writes.
"And the rest of your staff bothers me the same way.
"Hereby registering my complaint,
The last literary notes he ever penciled, I take from his bed-side tablet:
"Martin Eden and Sea Wolf, attacks on Nietzeschean philosophy, which even the socialists missed the point of."
"In late autumn of 1916, when Adamson Bill (8 hrs. for Railroad Brotherhoods) rushed at the last tick of the sixtieth second of the twelfth hour, through Congress and Senate and signed by President Wilson, agreed with my forecast of favored unions in Iron Heel."
"Historical novel of 80,000 words—love—hate—primitiveness. Discovery of America by the Northmen—see my book on same, also see Maurice Hewlett's 'Frey and his Wife.' Get in interpretation of the genesis of their myths, etc., from their own unconsciousness."
He did not go out all day, and slept in the afternoon, rousing himself with an effort. Eliza came over to talk ranch business, and they were still at it when the first and then the second gong sounded for our supper. Having shaken off the half-stupor in which he had awakened, he had become very excited outlining his immediate intention to erect on the ranch a general store, a school, and a post-office. I heard him wind up:
"There are enough children on the ranch to open a school. The ranch people can have their homes here, trade here at better prices, be born here, grown up here, get their schooling here, and if they die they can be buried on the Little Hill, where the two Greenlaw children's graves are. . . . No, I haven't in mind a community in the usual sense
of a reform colony. I only look forward to making the place self-sustaining for every soul upon it."
Five days after that utterance, Jack London's own ashes were laid there on the whispering ridge.
Eliza told me later that in those days she worried about the over-working of Jack's brain. As far as possible she met him, yet wondered how he expected her to put into prompt execution the enormous tasks he prepared. A lesser man, in the throes of the toxemia that was destroying him, would have evinced a lesser "mania." Jack's mental vigor was spent logically along the lines of his ambition.
Even with modern familiarity with body chemistry, scientists are not able to determine with exactitude the nature of the toxins that produce uremia. "A gastro-intestinal type of uremia," the doctors pronounced Jack's disorder. The symptoms had been present for a long time—stomachic disturbances, insomnia, sporadic melancholia, dysentery, rheumatic edema in ankles, and dull headaches alternating with the speeding up of his mental enginery. Convulsions were absent, and the only coma was that in which he breathed his last.
When Jack at length parted from Eliza that night of the twenty-first, he brought with him into the warm and cozy veranda the sweeping current of his fervor, and continued talking in the same vein. But I saw that he was strung to a breaking pitch of excitement.
"Your duck was perfection half an hour ago," I said, "but I'm afraid it is far from that by now."
But he was not interested in ducks, and spoke much more than he ate, roving into a future heydey of the ranch. I distinctly recall one part of his conversation, and am again made glad for his clean soul:
There's a big slump coming in real estate, country, not city. Recollect that man who came the other day to interest me in some of the land among the little hills north of us?
I didn't like the looks of his speculation. But if I cared to play the dirty business game, I could buy in largely when the slump comes, cut up the property and later on sell, as that man expects to do, to poor people at big profit. But I don't care to make money that way, Mate-Woman," he broke off earnestly. "My hands are pretty clean, aren't they?"
I could thankfully respond to that. His business was clean: his vocation, the making of books; his avocation, agriculture.
He did not ask for music, nor did he frolic with the fox terrier, Possum, as he had done so much of late, testing that keen little brain and great heart in a hundred ways. In half an hour, Jack's exuberance had worn out; and with an apprehension to which I had been no stranger of late, I saw that he was getting argumentative, as if looking for trouble lest he fall into melancholy. He picked up two wooden box-trays of reading matter that he had brought with him, and lifted them to the table on which stood his almost untasted supper.
"Look," he said, his voice low and lifeless, "see what I've got to read to-night."
"But you don't have to do it, mate," I said, trying to stir his spirit. "Always remember that you make all this work and overwork for yourself, and it must be because you choose to do it rather than to rest. My ancient argument, you know!"
There followed a colloquy upon relative values, and then he stood up abruptly, came around the small table, and flung himself on the couch into my arms.
"Mate-Woman, Mate-Woman, you're all I've got, the last straw for me to cling to, my last bribe for living. You know. I have told you before. You must understand. If you don't understand, I'm lost. You're all I've got."
"I do understand," I cried. "I understand that there's too much for you to do, and that you're straining too hard to get it done. Are you so bound on the wheel that you
cannot ease up a little, both working and thinking? You are going too fast. You are too aware. And you are ill. Something will snap if you don't pull up. You are tired, perilously tired, tired almost to death. What shall we do? We can't go on this way!"
The green shade was well down over his face, and I could not see his eyes. But the corners of his mouth drooped pathetically. Poor lad, my poor boy—he was, in deed, tired to death.
We lay there for perhaps an hour, he resting, sometimes sighing, saying little except by an exchange of sympathetic pressures which were our wont. How thankfully I remember an old vow that never, under any provocation, would I ignore caress of his! A few sentences of that Hour are too sacred and too personal to be repeated, and yet they were the frequent expressions of our daily round—in the last analysis they were an expression of the ever-narrowing values of life, working the changes upon his "bribe for living."
All at once, turning slightly, he put his arms around my neck.
"I'm so worn for lack of sleep. I'm going to turn in." Rising, he gave voice to that which so startled me.
"Thank God, you're not afraid of anything!"
Never shall I know why it came from him unless it was he knew the unthinkable was upon him, that I would very shortly lose his dear comradeship, and felt that I would be gallant to cope with that disaster.
When in the days to follow Jack's holographic will was read, first in the family circle, next by Judge T. C. Denny, in court, and tacit responsibilities were made known, I could not help reverting to that fervent exclamation. Or was it an entreaty, a supplication? If a prayer, at least he had answered it by his own passive action in neglecting, during the half-decade the Will had lain in deposit, to alter a line of it. In effect it is a love letter, written by a wise man who
knew our metal, and he named Eliza Shepard and my cousin Willard L. Growall, as executors. But Jack gave loophole for discontent and criticism in that, beyond trifling provision for various beneficiaries, he stipulated:
"Whatever additional may be given them shall be a benefaction and a kindness from Charmian K. London and shall arise out of Charmian K. London's goodness and desire.
Having not forfeited his trust, I am proud to append his closing paragraph:
"The reason that I give all my estate to Charmian K. London, with exceptions noted, is as follows: Charmian K. London, by her personal fortune, and, far more, by her personal aid to me in my literary work, and still vastly far more, by the love, and comfort, and joy, and happiness she has given me, is the only person in this world who has any claim or merit earned upon my estate. This merit and claim she has absolutely earned, and I hereby earnestly, sincerely, and gratefully accord it."
After he had gone to his room, I thought to cool my distressed head by a stroll in the blue starlight. The burden of my thought was that matters could not go on in this way, that I must make an effort to shake Jack into recognizing that he would have to change his physical habits.
When I reëntered the house at about nine, it was on tiptoe. Jack's light was burning. Peeping across from my own quarters, I saw that his head had fallen upon his chest, the eyeshade down. As I looked, he made a slight movement, as if settling to sleep; and knowing his sore need of repose, I did not venture a chance of disturbing his first slumber. The last work in which he read that night, was a small, rusty, calf volume, "Around Cape Horn, Maine to California in 1852, Ship James W. Paige. Myself half-exhausted from emotion and lack of rest, I went to bed, read a few moments in "The Wayside Lute," by Lizette Woodworth Reese, and fell asleep for the first unbroken eight hours I had known in weeks—thereby shat-
tering any latent faith I may ever have entertained in the sweet code of telepathy between those close in sympathy. As if to me a prophesy, one of the poems on which I went to sleep was this:
"House, how still you are;
But the last lines I scanned, and which keep impinging now upon memory, were these:
"Loose me from tears, and make me see aright
When, at ten minutes past eight the next morning, my eyes opened upon Eliza standing by my bed, with Sekinè, our Japanese boy, in the background, I said, "Yes, what is it?" knowing well that only the gravest urgency brought them there. And just as quietly Eliza replied:
"Sekinè could not wake Jack, so came right to me. I think you'd better come in and see what you can do."
The stertorous respiration could be heard before we entered the sleeping-porch. Jack, unconscious, was doubled down sidewise, showing plain symptoms of poisoning. By means of strong coffee we had succeeded in producing some reaction before the doctors arrived and the real battle for Jack's life began, but not at any time did we succeed in coaxing the limp form to any effort. The physicians first summoned were A. M. Thompson and W. B. Hayes of Sonoma; followed by J. Wilson Shiels from San Francisco, and Jack's own surgeon, W. S. Porter. It was only by holding him up, one on a side, that Jack could be kept in a sitting
posture on the edge of the bed; and when ranchmen, waiting all day at call, had him on his feet, equilibrium of the heavy and nerveless figure was maintained only by sheer strength of his supporters. Body and will could not coöperate, and but several times, in the middle of the day, was there a flicker of intelligence. Every legitimate kind of shock was resorted to. Physically he was for the most part beyond effort, but half-conscious response was obtained when we shouted alarming tidings across the abysm of coma:
"Man, man, wake up! The dam has burst! Wake, man, wake!" This caused a shudder in the congested, discolored countenance, the head jerked, the fixed and awful eyes made a superhuman effort to focus. There was a glimmer of consciousness, evanescent as the dying light along the wires in an electric bulb that has been snapped off. The awareness faded, faded. But oh, the pang of happiness even this brief acknowledgment lent us who stood by, together or by turn, in the struggle of those midday hours!
When the news of harm to his dam had been reiterated to the point of intolerable agony of rousing from so deadly lethargy, we were rewarded by observing that he protested, with the leaden vigor of one half-thralled in nightmare, by slowly beating the mattress with a loosely-clenched right fist. The left was never raised. Whereupon shaking and shouting were resumed, with a like outcome. Although on verge of tears of pure joy at this encouragement, I could but note, with a sickening sense of futility, that body and will were at sharp variance—the closer we forced cognition of our intent to resuscitate, the more rational became the opposition. He was, I see it, setting the last fleeting effort of his life, of his reasoned will, against rehabilitation of that life and will.
Then, realizing this in spirit, I desisted, inwardly at least, to fight, to hope. One thing, however, I must do: establish one last mental contact, to serve me all the deprived years that should befall.
"Let me try something," I said, and they set him upright upon the edge of the bed, his helpless feet upon the fur rug.
Face to face, seizing him firmly by the shoulders, I shook him, not roughly, but decisively, and repeated:
"Mate! mate! You must come back! Mate! You've got to come back! To me! Mate! Mate!"
He came back. Of course he came back. Slowly, as something rising from the unfathomable well of eternity, full knowledge brimmed into those eyes that drew to mine in a conscious regard, and the mouth smiled, a fleeting, writhen smile. It seemed as if my unbodied soul went out to meet his in that instant. Instant it was, ineffable, brief. But it contained as great, as glorious, a meeting of two as ever took place upon this planet. Yet it was not enough. Again I sent out the call to him upon the brink—and again the smile. Was it of hail and faiewell to life as he had known it? Or of love, and the bliss of one perfect moment of understanding? Or was it of victory, that he, by lack of resistance, had beaten us all out, and thus invited "the ultimate nothingness," his passing behind the curtains into "The darkness that rounds the end of life"? Perhaps there was, too, upon the lips that smiled awry and vainly strove to speak, the twist of contempt for the dissolution that was upon him. What would we not give to know those words he could not frame!
What I love to believe, when all else is said, is that he, who gave life and death an equal supremacy in his affection, was redeeming a promise made so long ago that it is woven into the fabric of all memories of him.
"Death is sweet. Death is rest. Think of it!—to rest for ever! I promise you that whensoever and wheresoever Death comes to meet me, I shall greet Death with a smile."
How the great ones have walked arm-in-arm with Death! Thus Robert Louis Stevenson to the beloved Assassin:
"I have been waiting for you these many years. Give me your hand, and welcome."
Where was he, our Jack, all that day we warred with his fate? What was it he so hated to forswear in order to answer our importunity? Judging reasonably enough by the dreams of his latter years, I hazarded that he was wandering purposefully in that same land of green fields, intent, watchful, happy. It had been the same with his father during a longer period of alternate unconscious periods—the long life-desire fulfilled. This, oh, surely, is what we tortured the son from!—But with the last breath which left his body—what of the bright dream? When the splendid head, no longer instinct with resolution, ceased from its cerebration, hard it was to agree with that same cerebration that the Thing that Thinks is one with the Thing that Dies! How I should love to believe that he, liberated, opened eyes upon the range of illimitable possibilities that had hitherto been bounded by failing mortality. Yet who am I to invoke for him, who declared for perfect rest, otherwise than Ambrose Bierce's wish to a friend:
"Light lie the earth upon his dear, dead heart,
And dreams disturb him never.
Be deeper peace than Paradise his part
For ever and for ever."
Or,"the supreme beatitude of rest," as Jack's friend John Myers O'Hara has it.
Months after Jack's death I had the first and only "vision" of my experience. When a great asking comes upon me, in ungifted hours when my lamp burns low, I think of it. Rising one morning with a renewed cheerfulness that bubbled over into song, suddenly, as clearly as ever I had looked upon the man, I saw Jack stepping blithely in a green domain, the very picture of an Elysian pastoral, whistling comradely to an unmistakable friend shadowing his heel—Peggy the Beloved, our small canine
Irish saint of the Southern Seas. What was it—a miscalculation of my Unconscious that let the dear dream spill over into Foreconsciousness to rejoice the day?
The sun went down upon our endeavor. They had brought him across into my glass porch, scene of so much quiet happiness, and there he died upon the couch where, a scant twenty-four hours earlier, he had cried to me: "You must understand my need! You're all I've got left!"
We watched. The good breathing that had upborne expectation of recovery began to lag, and more labored became intake and suspiration. I became aware that one of the Sonoma physicians was leading me from where I stood at Jack's head. Mechanically we sat down in my room. Minutes passed, a few, an eternity of them, it seemed. Longer were the intervals between those breaths so plainly heard, a very great interval, another, and then silence absolute, the sheerest vacuum of sound I had ever known. No one moved until Sekinè, his face an oriental mask of ivory, stepped in and bent his head to me.
I, who had never before lost any one essentially close; I, who had been protected from all outward semblances of death, half an hour later went out with my own dead and sat by the sheeted form until, with every atom of understanding I possessed, I had reckoned for all time with the hitherto unthinkable: that ultimate silence lay upon the lips of my man. Let me review that day a thousand-thousand times, there is nothing new to face. The worst had befallen; the future was plain, a horizonless expanse of ready work in which one must in good time build out of the wreck a renewed, if different, joy of living and serving. It was good. It has worked. It has continued to work, test incontrovertible. I proclaim to these who mourn overmuch, the worth and solace of my remedy.
When, later in the evening, we crept, his true sister and I, into Jack's old sleeping-place, all was restored to order by Sekinè. The broad bed was laid and turned, the pillows
piled ready for the reader, the little table set to rights, even to cigarettes, freshly-sharpened pencils, and thermos bottles of water and milk. It was incredible that the one-time tenant should be lying, cold and insensible, across the house. We looked at each other dumbly, and I sought the Japanese lad.
"We always do it in our country for those who have died," he said unsteadily. "And I thought——" His explanation trailed into silence as he turned away. As long as he remained with the household, the bed was always in order, and we kept a single flower there and on the worktable.
Once, twice, in his later years, Jack, in chance reference to the possibility of his dying first, departed from his familiar careless injunction of Oh, if I should go, scatter my ashes to the winds, or, if you prefer, upon the bay or ocean!" Eliza and I both recalled the time, when, speaking of his love and hopes for the ranch, he remarked:
"If I should beat you to it, I wouldn't mind if you laid my ashes on the knoll where the Greenlaw children are buried. And roll over me a red boulder from the ruins of the Big House. I wouldn't want many to come. You might ask George."
But before his chosen ceremonial there were thrust in occasions which, left to his own choice, he would not have stipulated. Clothed in his favorite gray, as in gray I had first seen him sixteen years before, for a day in his work room he lay, in a gray casket that was like nothing so much as a cradle. Passing by I was touched by the smallness of it. I had thought Jack a larger man.
The neighbors came and went, in tearful awe of the unexpected demise of the lovable friend they yet had never understood. Little as he would have approved of exhibiting the discarded shell of him, it would have been needless affront to the tribute these people were accustomed to pay to the dead. And they had loved him more than they thought. As one of them said:
"I tell you, the death of Jack means a sorry day to many. He gave away a meal ticket and added to it a bit, too. His heart went out to the fellow who carried a roll of blankets—or no blankets."
On Friday, at dawn, I was awakened from fitful sleep by the rumble of the death-wagon coming up the hill. When, delaying, I slipped in to the abandoned workroom, the open window through which he had so often passed alive told of the manner in which Jack London had gone from his house.
Sekinè came to where I sat, thinking, adjusting, and held out a handful of keys, the dingy Klondike coin-sack of chamois, and a few stray notes, all taken from the ranch suit Jack had last worn. Sekinè murmured something about having put some notes in the breast-pocket of the burial clothes, together with a pencil and pad—"Just as he always had them, Missis," he whispered.
"But, Sekinè, the notes, what notes?" I asked, biting back the trembling of my lips at thought of the pitiful last service the boy had rendered, but fearful lest some latest words of Jack's had gone beyond recall.
"Something I wrote, and sent with him—no one will know," Sekinè explained. "I wrote," raising his head, 'Your Speech was silver, your Silence now is golden.' That was all. It was my Good-by."
My next step was to Jack's work-table, upon which lay the unfinished manuscript of "Cherry," just as he had laid down his pen. There, in that moment, looking at what was but an example of the myriad things he had left, in a flash it came to me:
"My life cannot be long enough to mend the broken things—to carry on the tasks that are left for me."
Eliza did me a supreme service that morning, when she accompanied Jack's casket from Glen Ellen to the Crematory in Oakland. One who met the little cortège in Oakland was Yoshimatsu Nakata, whom Sekinè had succeeded. No, I was not ill, as the report went out. I pre-
ferred to remain away from a funeral which represented Jack's idea so little, but which I felt should be accorded to his daughters and their mother. Several friends, including Frederick Bamford and others of the old Ruskin Club, were also there, and two or three persons who had corresponded with Jack now saw him for the first time. A short address was delivered by the Rev. Edward B. Payne, who was familiar with Jack's unorthodox views; and a poem, which had been asked of George Sterling, was read above his friend.
As regards the manner of his disposal, Jack himself, only a few weeks before, had had this to say, in reply to a query from Dr. Hugo Erichson, writing for the Cremation Association of America, the same having been submitted to a number of persons of national prominence:
"Glen Ellen, California, October 16, 1916.
"Dear Doctor Erichson:—
"In reply to yours of recent date, undated——
"Cremation is the only decent, right, sensible way of ridding the world of us when the world has ridden itself of us. Also, it is the only fair way, toward our children, and grandchildren, and all the generations to come after us. Why should we clutter the landscape and sweet-growing ground with our moldy memories? Besides, we have the testimony of all history that all such sad egotistic efforts have been failures. The best the Pharaohs could do with their pyramids was to preserve a few shriveled relics of themselves for our museums.
I have little connected memory of Friday and Saturday. I know there was work to do, and that I slept long night hours under the ministering hands of dear women. And I walked about the farm precincts, looking rather curiously at the young life, animal and vegetable, which Jack had fostered into being. Yet he, the biggest "mote of life between the darks" had vanished in a day! Wherever I appeared, I was conscious of some workman slipping away, or a face turned aside in a handkerchief. The half
hundred men, many of whom had never conversed with their employer, seemed unnerved by the sudden gap in their little universe.
Jack, himself, would not have believed the warmth there was toward him in the skeptical old earth. As one expressed it:
"To me it seems like having a light turned off, with too few already burning, leaving the road darker and more dismal and difficult."
It was almost as if his actual death purged the mankind who knew him and his work, of jealousy, hate, and carping criticism; put a seal upon the lips of the meanest. Even his bitterest detractors tried to be fair and charitable. If I needed corroboration of my own belief in this man of mine, I could recall the mourning of his world. It must have arisen from his usefulness, his big contribution of heart's blood to humanity. Praise of him from all quarters and in many tongues from every class of society, literally from rich man, poor man, beggar man, chief, doctor, lawyer, and the rest—aye, thief, and worse! Out of prisons has come to me a wail at his passing; for the immaterial sweetness of Jack and his code, squareness, his long-suffering charity, that patriarchal kindness, had passed in and still live behind the bars.
To him, so articulate in the Great Common Things: "Three common pitmen in Durham will keep his memory green while hearts are able to respond to the bounteous thought of his love," reads a letter from England. "The sweetness of his life and work can never die."
And another, no less than his trail-mate, Hargrave, wrote:
"Always I have been assaulted by doubts; and then, coincident with the message that Jack had passed the portal that bars the Unknown from the Known, those doubts (independent of mental processes) were dispelled. I gave no reason for it—the reasons of men are such vain things in the presence of the Infinite."
This from one more "sour-dough": "I loved the man because because he was a man; By the Turtles of Tasman, He was a man!"
And this for the premanency of his message:
"He touched the lowly side of life with a pen horn of love and bitter experience. . . . He had lived with down and outs, and with animals. . . . And he wrote their tragic lives as no human ever wrote them before. . . . So long as there are human hearts that feel the tender touch of love, so long as there are honest souls that revolt at cruelty and oppression, so long will Jack London's books and stories live and be read."
"If Jack London had had faith, what a great preacher he would have made!" Dr. H. J. Loken, of Berkeley, exclaimed to his congregation, and went on to declare that his subject was of a deeply religious nature, pointing out that his criticisms had been of religion as found in the churches and not against Christianity itself.
One thing I do clearly recollect of those two days before Jack's ashes were placed upon the Little Hill: Eliza and I walked there alone in a wintry sunset. Hazen, who had preceded us with a spade to mark the spot, received his instructions about the red boulder. Six horses were needed to move it upon the steep knoll.
On Sunday morning, November 26, Ernest Matthews, accompanied by George Sterling, brought the urn from Oakland. We wreathed it with ferns and with yellow primroses from the sweet old garden. With the primroses, as a tribute to Jack's adopted home, Hawaii, I wound the withered rust-colored leis of ilima once given Jack in Honolulu by Frank linger and Colonel Sam Parker, now, too, both under the ground. One terrible moment was mine when, in the rain, I carried the small, light vessel to the wagon, the same in which Jack had so blithely driven his four. The urn seemed to gather weight until I thought I should be pressed to the earth, but I reached the hands that
placed it upon the hight seat before it had become insupportable.
Eliza and I, together, and my people, followed the horses at a distance. When we had all gathered upon the dripping slope, Mr. G. L. Parslow, our oldest ranchman, received the urn from Ernest Matthews, and set it, with its flowers, in the tile already cemented into the ground. At that moment a great flood of sun-gold spilled upon us from a break in the leaden sky.
As the trowel relentlessly filled the space within the tile, with that curious transparency of mind in crises in which details stand out, I observed with satisfaction that was a reflection of Jack's effective sense of proportion, that exactly the right proportion of mortar had been mixed, not a trowelful too much or too little.
No word stirred the hush. No prayer, for Jack London prayed to no God but humanity. The men, uncovered, reverent, stood about among the trees, and when their senior had risen, the stone was rolled into place.
Before we turned to retrace our forlorn steps to the house, it had come to me, once and forever, that this unpretentious sepulture beneath the tall pine was but a self-chosen memorial. Death, with Jack, had not seemed like death. Nature had slipped the moorings, and he, "bold sailor of the grey-green sea," had gone out with the tide, gallant, victorious, cruising beyond the outer reef, into the West, to a paradise of green lands with an ocean of sails just over the hill. This rugged monument, by his own wish, could never be a place for mourning, a spot to sadden his sweet and happy mountainside. And, by that wish and whatever gods may be, it never has been. Beautiful, singing with birds, vocal with winds among the tree-tops, Jack's Little Hill appeals only to contemplation and tender melancholy. There is nothing better than that the pilgrim, standing above the mellow purple boulder, should say:
"By the Turtles of Tasman, he was a man!"
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