Ebooka przeczytasz w aplikacjach Legimi na:
Odsłuch ebooka (TTS) dostępny w abonamencie „ebooki+audiobooki bez limitu” w aplikacji Legimi na:
THE COMPLETE NOVELS
2017 © Book House Publishing
All rights reserved.
No part of this publication may be reproduced,
stored in a retrieval system or transmitted
in any form or by any means, electronic,
recording or otherwise,
without prior permission of
Get your next Book House Publishing title for Kindle here
Table of Contents
Jack London — An Extensive Biography
The Cruise of the Dazzler
A Daughter of the Snows
The Call of the Wild
The Kempton-Wace Letters
The Iron Heel
The Scarlet Plague
A Son of the Sun
The Abysmal Brute
The Valley of the Moon
The Mutiny of the Elsinore
The Star Rover
The Little Lady of the Big House
Jerry of the Islands
Michael, Brother of Jerry
Hearts of Three
by Charmian London
Prologue... and a Meeting
Chapter 1 — The Stuff of Stabs
Chapter 2 — Birth
Chapter 3 — Boyhood (Oakland, Alameda, San Mateo)
Chapter 4 — Livermore Valley (Ages 8 to 10)
Chapter 5 — Boyhood to Youth: Oakland Estuary, Sailoring, etc.
Chapter 6 — Cannery. Buys Sloop “Razzle Dazzle.” Queen of the Oyster Pirates (15 to 16 Years)
Chapter 7 — Oyster-Pirating
Chapter 8 — Fish-Patrol (17th Year)
Chapter 9 — “Sophie Sutherland,” Sealing (17 to Nearly 18 Years)
Chapter 10 — Autumn into Spring, 1893-1894 — Jute-Mill; Coal-Shoveling; Boy-And-Girl Love (17-18 Years)
Chapter 11 — Tramping: “The Road” (The Sailor on Foot and Rod — 1894)
Chapter 12 — Teamping (From St. Joseph, Mich., to Washington, D. C., New York, Boston, Canada, and Home — 1894)
Chapter 13 — High School (19th Year)
Chapter 14 — At the University of California (1896-7)
Chapter 15 — Into Klondike (1897 — 21st Year)
Chapter 16 — Out of Klondike (1898)
Chapter 17 — Return from Klondike Lily Maid Letters (1898-9)
Chapter 18 — The Cloudesley Johns Correspondence
Chapter 19 — Introducing Anna Strunsky, and Jack’s Letters to Her; Also Further Cloudesley Johns Letters
Chapter 20 — Marriage to Elizabeth Maddern; More Letters
Chapter 21 — Letters: Cloudesley Johns and Anna Strunsky
Chapter 22 — Piedmont (1902 — 27th Year)
Chapter 23 — Home from Europe; Separation (1903)
Chapter 24 — Japanese-Russian War (Spring 1904)
Chapter 25 — Return from Korea; Divorce (Autumn, 1904)
Chapter 26 — “Spray” Cruise; Glen Ellen from Napa; Hospital; Summer at Glen Ellen (1905)
Chapter 27 — Second Marriage; Lecture Trip; Boston(1905-1906)
Chapter 28 — Jamaica, Cuba, Florida, New York City (30th Year)
Chapter 29 — Chicago; Return to Oakland, Glen Ellen; Earthquake (1906)
Chapter 30 — Snark Voyage (End 1906; 1907-8-9)
Chapter 31 — The “Snark” Voyage; Tramp Collier “Tymeric” Voyage; Ecuador; Panama; Home (1907-8-9)
Chapter 32 — Return from Snark Voyage; A Daughter Is Born (End 1909-1910)
Chapter 33 — Yacht “Roamer” (The End of 1910)
Chapter 34 — Four-Horse Driving-Trip; New York City (1911)
Chapter 35 — Cape Horn Voyage (1912)
Chapter 36 — The Bad Year; Agriculture (1913)
Chapter 37 — New York; Mexico; Roamer (1914)
Chapter 38 — Roamer; Return to Hawaii; Glen Ellen Fortieth Year (1915)
Chapter 39 — The War; Hawaii (1916)
Chapter 40 — The Last Summer (1916)
“I wish you’d meet this remarkable boy of mine, this Jack London,” my aunt remarked one morning in the spring of 1900, with a laugh in her earnest blue eyes. “I should like to have your opinion of him. The fact is, I have only talked with him once, myself, but already I feel as if he belonged to me.”
“Very well,” I replied rather absently, pinning on my straw sailor before a diminutive silver-trinketed dressing-table that was my especial pride. For my mind was bent on other matters than this vague young writer whose stories in the Overland Monthly I had heard the family discussing with fervor for months past. “Very well,” I repeated, “when shall it be?”
“He’s coming here to-morrow afternoon,” she considered, “though too early for you. But in a few days I’m to meet him at the museum in the Ferry Building, to pose him for a picture in Alaskan furs, to illustrate my article. How would this do? — I’ll take you to lunch!”
“Why should you take him to lunch!” I cried, stung to protest.
“My dear child — I know he hasn’t an extra cent to spend. No, I will entertain the pair of you, at half past twelve.”
“I don’t know what you will think of him,” she called after me, in a doubtful tone, as I hurried off for Dwight Way station, which was near our home in Berkeley. “He is not a bit like your college and society friends!”
But their afternoon’s interview lasted until six o’clock. My latch-key was already clicking in the lock as Auntie turned the knob for the egress of a rather odd caller, clad in shabby bicycle trousers and dark gray woolen shirt. A nondescript tie, soft bicycle shoes, and a worn cap in one hand, completed his outfit, while the other held fast a copy of Boyd’s Composition, borrowed from his hostess. There was a hasty introduction in the dim hall rainbowed by the sunset through a stained glass window. Then the apparently abashed young fellow ran lightly down the steps, pulling the dingy cap over a mop of brown curls, and rode away on his wheel.
“So that’s your wonderful Jack London,” I chaffed. “You will admit he is not a very elegant afternoon caller!”
“Granted,” Auntie concurred; but added swiftly, “I do not think he missed your hardly concealed critical look, my dear. Nothing escapes that boy. And you must remember,” she admonished gently, “with genius, clothing doesn’t matter. Besides, I doubt if he can afford better.”
“Well,” I retorted, a trifle guiltily; “he is not the only genius amongst your friends, but certainly none of them ever came to our house looking like this one.”
Seeing me really contrite, she told me laughingly how Hannah had come to her with puzzled brow, after answering the door bell:
“‘I do not think this can be the gentleman Mrs. Eames expects. He is only a boy, in rough clothes, and walks like a sailor.’” Whereupon Hannah had flushingly received a rebuke similar to mine.
On the day set for the lunch, I exchanged noon hours with my pretty assistant. For, in a big San Francisco shipping and commission firm, my shorthand and typewriting earned bed and board, party gowns, the services of Hannah, the immaculate Swedish maid, not to mention fodder and stabling for my beautiful saddle mare. For we were not in opulent circumstances. My aunt and foster mother, Ninetta Eames, wrote for the magazines, while her husband acted as business manager of the beloved old Overland Monthly, whose funds were notoriously meager —no one better than Jack London knew how meager. As for myself, I had taken a hand in my own maintenance from my fourteenth year, when I had mastered Uncle Roscoe Earnest Light Line Shorthand and assisted him with his classes, on to the year at Mills College, where I worked my way as secretary to its President, Mrs. Susan L. Mills.
Promptly at twelve-thirty I reached the entrance of the restaurant my aunt had named — Young’s, I think it was, on Montgomery, not far from Market Street. If I am a shade misty, it must be borne in mind that this was almost six years before the time when the Great Fire, following upon the Great Earthquake, destroyed landmarks in this section of incomparable old San Francisco.
Already they were on the spot, my small, blue-eyed, dark-haired aunt, and beside her the boyish figure of medium height in a sack-coated gray suit, patently ready-made and almost pathetically new. He wore a small black tie, low-cut shoes, and a neat visored gray cap that did not hide a wavy brown forelock. And this was the first and last time we ever saw Jack London arrayed in waistcoat and starched collar.
My clearest vision of this moment when I first looked fairly upon the man who was destined to play such momentous part in my life, is of the cheerful-gray aspect of him; for, under the meeting low line of his brows, the wide-set, very large, direct eyes were as gray as the soft gray cloth, but more blue for the tan of his blond skin.
Another unclouded mental impression that persists across the years, is of the modest quiet of his manner, and, still more distinctly, the beauty of his mouth, full-lipped, not small, with deep, upturned ends that my aunt happily described as “pictured corners” — a designation too lovely for analysis. And there was about this feature a chastity, an untried virginity of expression, that seemed greatly at odds with recalled rumors of the romantic if rather dubious career of this sailor-shouldered, light-stepping man of twenty-four, as gamin, redoubtable member of dread hoodlum gangs in Oakland, bay pirate, vagrant, adventurer in Alaskan gold fields — not to emphasize a smear of actual jail-birding, if truth prevailed. That he was moreover an exceedingly active member of the Socialist Labor Party was no shock to my propriety, albeit his Socialism was of a ruggeder, more militant sort than that with which I was familiar in my own home.
Ever my initial picture of that baffling mouth must hold its own with the great gray eyes, in their almost appealing candor a similar unbelievable childlikeness. “Looking for something he has never known,” was the fancy that drifted through my brain, as my own eyes fell from his to the small hand he extended — half-timorously it seemed to me, as I noted an absence of grip.
“Jack London is the gentlest man I have ever known,” I once heard an old woman say. And that is what also comes down to me from this early contact with a personality that made its thoroughgoing masculinity only slightly felt through an alight repose of demeanor, an expectant passivity, which very little advertised vibrant nerves and quick underlying dominance. That is it — sitting across the table in the buzzing, bustling café, I seemed to sense that he was expecting something, something we two women had for him of our personalities, our ideas, our good will. In those long-lashed eyes that had mirrored much of life’s most unbeautiful presentments, there was a waiting, a continual asking, and their own response was swift and sweet toward any gift of frank idea or fellowship. He displayed interest in the fact that I was self-supporting; and once, when my Aunt had addressed me, he raised that full gray look to mine and slowly pronounced, as if listening to the sound of his own pleased voice:
“Charmian... Charmian... What a beautiful name!”
I have little recollection of the conversation that lasted out the meal, nor of what Jack London ordered. It is safe to say that, barring his half-fed tramp days, or some outlandish delicacy temporarily in favor, few privileged to contact with him remember him for his appetite. The morning’s visit to the museum came up, along with his delight in once more seeing the familiar Klondike habiliments. Then, while my Aunt drew him out concerning himself, Rudyard Kipling’s name was mentioned, and Jack’s whole face lighted as he exclaimed: “Oh, have you read ‘The Brushwood Boy’? — There is no end to Kipling, simply no end.” Gone was that half-deferential diffidence; remained only his kindling enthusiasm for the work of his British idol, treasured possession of which without delay he would share with responsive companions.
It had proved inevitable, upon the appearance of young London’s “Odyssey of the North” in the Atlantic Monthly for January just past, that this new writer’s revolutionary method of presenting the primal, raw, frigid life of the savage North should call forth comparison with Kipling. I felt at a disadvantage in that I had missed reading this tale and the other eight that had been running in the Overland, beginning with “To the Man on Trail” in the January 1899 issue, and ending with “The Wisdom of the Trail” in December. The entire nine I learned were by now in the hands of Houghton, Mifflin & Company for hook publication, under the title of “The Son of the Wolf” — the Arctic Indian’s name for the conquering white man. Simultaneously with the Atlantic Monthly, he had broken into two other eastern publications, with an article, “The Economics of the Klondike,” in The Review of Reviews, and a story, “Pluck and Pertinacity,” in The Youth’s Companion.
“Charmian,” Mrs. Eames was suddenly struck with the idea, “why can’t you review ‘The Son of the Wolf’ — perhaps in the same number of the Overland with my article on Mr. London?”
For as has been seen, at this period we were closely associated with the old magazine of the Golden West, that had cradled the first born of Bret Harte’s genius; even I, urged on by my family, had dabbled sporadically and unambitiously at certain unimportant book reviewings. Besides, had not my maiden position, after leaving Mills College, been as assistant sub-scissors in the Overland sanctum? But far more than with literary leanings was I occupied, outside my office hours, with University of California “hops,” and “proms,” and “senior balls,” to say nothing of week-end yachting on San Francisco Bay, horseback rides, and youth’s joy of living generally.
Jack beamed upon me from under his marked, mobile brows that just touched over the square bridge of a precisely not-too-short nose:
“Is it a go, Miss Kittredge? — I’ll hold you to that! And I’ll send you my duplicate proof-sheets soon, so you won’t have to wait for the book.”
When we parted he asked, meanwhile rolling and lighting a cigarette with quick, definite motions of his tapering fingers:
“Mrs. Eames, may I bring a friend to see you? His name is Herman Whitaker, ‘Jim’ we call him, and he can give you lots of points about me that I can’t think of, for your article.”
An early night was determined upon, and the engagement was fulfilled, shortly followed by a second. While my aunt’s interviews with Mr. Whitaker were in progress, it devolved upon me to entertain their subject.
Of these occasions, nothing consecutive lives in memory, and only two incidents stand out: one, that I complied with my aunt’s request to play on the piano for Mr. London, she having discovered his intense fondness for music; the other, that I introduced him to my “den” where, among other cherished objects, were my books, reproductions of my favorite marbles and paintings, and an absurdly elaborate little tea-table. I had the feeling that he was brightly aware of the feminine individuality of the room; and he showed interest in my various girlish activities, whether in music, or drawing, riding, even dancing. Years afterward that rosy little apartment, Venus Crouched and all, figured as Dede Mason’s, in “Burning Daylight.”
“I never danced a step in my life,” he regretted bashfully. “Never seemed to have time to learn those soft, lovely ways of young people. But I like to see dancing.”
For the music and the books he was almost equally hungry. Fled beyond recall is the memory of what I played, except that he asked if I had the de Koven “Recessional” — Kipling’s verses; and he told me he sometimes bicycled to San José to visit friends, and there he had heard the song. It happened that I was able to gratify him, since I possessed quite a repertory of vocal music; for although no singer, I played accompaniments unprofessionally in the Bay region concerts.
Together we several times hummed through the stately invocation, and Jack was all alight with emotion, his great eyes shining, while he begged for it over and over. He had no apparent singing voice, although to a pleasanter, more expressive speaking tone I had never listened, especially when he descanted upon Kipling.
But more vividly than any other picture of him at that time, he rises standing by my side at the tall book-case in my “den.” His glowing eyes ranged rapidly over the volumes, and he seemed in a fine fervor, murmuring titles and authors or touching the backs with his small hands. Soon we were talking very fast, discussing works we had both read, and he urged me not to neglect Thomas Hardy’s “Jude the Obscure.” “Tess of the D’Urbervilles” had not come his way. This I lent him, together with Maurice Hewlett’s “The Forest Lovers” and “Flood Tide,” by Sallie P. McLean Green.
And once, turning toward him, I met a pair of fathomless sea-blue eyes, and experienced a sudden and unexpected impact of his mental and physical vitality; felt at-one with him for a high instant, knew his spiritual dignity, recognized him for the warm, human creature that he was. The moment passed quickly, and he was assuring me, unasked, that he had “a conscience about books,” and would take the best care of mine. Through the irony of chance, some one spilled a bottle of ink over the cover of “Flood Tide,” to Jack London’s undying indignation and remorse. To this day I treasure the stained thing.
Often in later years, he and I wondered, had we been further thrown together, if we should have come to care the whole way for each other. And we usually agreed that the hour was not then. “You came in my great need,” he would muse. “That early my great need had not developed, or else I did not recognize it.”
The second of these calls occurred, I think, in the week of March 26. I aim to be thus explicit, because of headlong happenings in the succeeding week. Of what led to our making an appointment I am not sure; most likely he was sketching his college career for me, which, owing to responsibilities and lack of money, had been limited to half his Freshman year. Be this as it may, there was to me some unfamiliar purlieu of the staid university town that he thought would be of interest. With mutual amusement over the gaiety that would be added to the academic precincts by spectacle of man a-wheel and woman a-horse, we decided upon Saturday afternoon, April the seventh.
Meanwhile, one Saturday there had arrived the promised proof-sheets of “The Son of the Wolf,” and when I returned home early for my long ride, on the tiny dresser I found waiting the long, printed slips. While unpinning my hat I started to read. I neither rose nor finished removing the sailor, until my streaming eyes had lifted from the last word of the last tale.
For before the first few sheets had been turned down, I had become thrall to the wonder and wisdom and artistry of “The White Silence,” profoundly aware of the awareness of this young protagonist of nature’s primordial forces, his apperception of the world in which he lived, and of the heart of man and beast, aye, and of woman — all human and fallible, hut shot through with the fineness and courage of the spirit of nobility. This story, one of his first, contains some of the most masterly of the passages which set him amongst the young lords of language. In Mason’s parting words are shown Jack’s love of his own race, and for children. Indeed, he let us in upon nearly all of himself in that story. In most of the stories I noticed that he never seemed to be far from the consideration of death. His artistry lingered caressingly about the final destiny of man and animal.
Throughout the long afternoon, thrilled alike with the splendid repose and the crackling action of the work, shaken with its power, there blended with spiritual emotion the conviction that I had no business with the reviewing or criticizing of such brain-stuff as Jack London’s. Forasmuch as I was intellectually indolent, I even felt no incitement to bestir myself. I would not touch the thing, I declared first to the four walls of the den, later to my aunt, who stood petrified before this breakdown of my accustomed certitude.
In after years, many were the times Jack London half seriously if laughingly charged that my unalterable decision was due, in the last analysis, to occurrences of the ensuing week. But I plead, now as always, complete innocence. Aside from my being more or less absorbed in another and very different person, the man Jack London dwelt in my consciousness little more tenaciously than an unusual book or play.
On Wednesday evening, April fourth, I found a typewritten note awaiting me at home. This must have been tossed into the waste basket, for I have not seen it since. But it was worded something like this — he never lost many hours weeding out formal titles:
It will be impossible for me to keep that engagement next Saturday. My letter to your aunt by this mail will explain. Sometime in the future, maybe.
As I finished reading, Auntie came in, real distress in her face, for she had grown truly fond of her lovable friend, an affection which he reciprocated. In her hand was a similarly typed missive, covering a page and a half. “Listen to this,” she said in a dead voice, and read to me the unexpected contents, which were Jack’s vindication for the suddenness of his proceeding. I copy:
1130 East 15th St., Oakland, Calif.,
April 3, 1900.
My dear Mrs. Eames:
Must confess you have the advantage of me. I have not yet seen my book, nor can I possibly imagine what it looks like. Nor can you possibly imagine why I am going to beg off from going out to your place next Saturday. You know I do things quickly. Sunday morning, last, I had not the slightest intention of doing what I am going to do. I came down and looked over the house I was to move into — that fathered the thought. I made up my mind. Sunday evening I opened transactions for a wife; by Monday evening had the affair well under way; and next Saturday morning I shall marry — a Bessie Maddern, cousin to Minnie Maddern Fiske. Also, on said Saturday, as soon as the thing is over with we jump out on our wheels for a three days’ trip, and then back and to work.
‘The rash boy,’ I hear you say. Divers deep considerations have led me to do this thing; but I shall over-ride just one objection — that of being tied. I am already tied. Though single, I have had to support a household just the same. Should I wish to go to China the household would have to be provided for whether I had a wife or not.
As it is, I shall be steadied, and can be able to devote more time to my work. One only has one life, you know, after all, and why not live it? Besides, my heart is large, and I shall be a cleaner, wholesomer man because of a restraint being laid upon me in place of being free to drift wheresoever I listed. I am sure you will understand.
I thank you for your kind word concerning the appearance of ‘The Son of the Wolf,’ I shall let you know when I am coming out, and now, being located, want you and yours to come and see me and mine. Will settle that when I get back. Wedding is to be private.
Send announcement later.
Very sincerely yours,
“Heavens and earth!” wailed my aunt. “Think what the hoy is doing! A sensible, considered marriage for a love-man like that! ‘Only one life... and why not live it?’ — The boy must be crazy to dream that marrying in cold blood is living life!”
“No, not crazy, but perhaps super-sane — or thinks he is,” I commented, and went down to dinner, probably marveling how “God’s own mad lover” may sometimes direct his madness into quite practical channels.
One bitter cold morning in New York City, in the winter of 1918, I was called over the telephone by Jack’s longtime friend, Cloudesley Johns:
“Oh, Charmian — I’ve been looking over those 1899 and 1900 letters of Jack’s I promised for your use, and find this, dated March 10, 1900. Listen:
“‘Have just finished reading “Forest Lovers” by Maurice Hewlett. Read it by all means... Have made the acquaintance of Charmian Kittredge, a charming girl who writes book reviews, and who possesses a pretty little library wherein I have found all these late books which the public libraries are afraid to have circulated.’”
Thus, Jack London, who always decried puns on my given name, was himself not guiltless in this reference to our passing acquaintance of 1900.
Except for one occasion, when he brought his wife, the pair on bicycles, to call upon us, Jack London dropped out of my sphere of interest, save insofar as I desultorily followed his work. My aunt’s article duly appeared in the 1900 May Overland, while their friendship grew apace, until he came to address her in letters as Mother Mine. Later in the year I sold a piece of Berkeley land in which she had long since wisely overborne me to invest my savings, and a portion of the sum realized I spent on a fifteen months’ vacation in the eastern states and Europe. One icy morning, away up in Mt. Desert Island, opening an Oakland, California, paper, I stumbled upon this item:
LONDON — In this city, January 15, 1901, to the wife of Jack London, a daughter.
A comment read:
Jack London, the brilliant young author and essayist, is receiving congratulations upon the advent of a daughter. Mr. London is satisfied that he has a real live subject for the study of psychology and other phenomena in which he is so much interested.
In this wise the young adventurer, who has been dubbed “the most picturesque figure in American literature,” pursued the law-abiding domesticity he had calculated so nicely as his duty to himself, his work, and society; while I, like Masefield’s “Young April on a bloodhorse with a roving eye,” rode merrily upon my own dutiful, dancing, musical way that seemed all-sufficient to my needs, unheedful of the future.
All in all, it is a happy fate that places in one’s keeping the rudimental material, blood-drift and magical spirit-stuff, that went into the syntheses of this resultant entity whom men knew as Jack London; who in his time was loved or hated as they reacted to his spacious nature with its varying levels of humannesses, its winging heights, its drowning depths.
In sifting and assembling the details bearing upon Jack London’s origin, the keen enjoyment of serving his readers joins with a keener zest in singing his pride of race; in sounding the pean, manifest throughout his work, of his very own Anglo-Saxon breed, upon which he gambled his faith. And the pleasure increases as additional verification is uncovered bearing upon his direct British ancestry.
From the heart of the city of London there sprang two large families that bore the city’s name, one of which branches was from Semitic seed, as witness Meyer London, erstwhile Socialist congressman at Washington, D. C., and many another in America; while in England one of my correspondents is a Jewess whom I address as “Mrs. Jack London.”
The Gentile group, it seems, owned the land of which Chatham Square is now part. One of the early Londons had a sister Elizabeth, who married a Wellington, and lived at Chatham. When Jack London’s sister Eliza was a child, she heard her father say, referring to politics in his part of Pennsylvania: “If the Wellingtons and McLoughlins stood together, they’d carry the elections!” In Jack’s direct ancestry, the first person in my available record is Sir William London, who foreswore allegiance to Great Britain and betook himself to America. Here, under General George Washington, he fought valiantly for his ideals, thereby sacrificing no mean estates in the tight little island; for these were promptly confiscated by the jealous Crown, and thereafter figured in the mill of Chancery. I can remember Jack London saying: “One of my childhood recollections is of mysterious sessions held by my mother and father, from which I gathered that he had been approached across the water by the London heirs to lend a hand in fighting for his great-grandfather’s seized properties.”
But a letter from one Mary London Wilson, seventy years old, writing from Lackawanna County, Pennsylvania, in 1904, gives the following: That nearly thirty years before, an advertisement had been run in the papers, calling for information of London heirs in America. For Lord Russell London had died in England, the last of his line, leaving a half million for the American heirs if they could be located. From this letter one learns that none of the Londons knew of this advertisement for nearly two years; when a Charley London, with a lawyer, voyaged overseas, only to find that the estate had gone from Chancery to the Crown.
Sir William London’s son William named his son Manley. Manley London married Sarah Hess, and became the sire of eight: Mary, Sarah, Rebecca, George, Martha, Eliza, Joseph, and John London, with whom the direct life-story of Jack London begins. And these Londons, one and all, from the redoubtable knight down to and including his great-grandson John, took part in each and every warlike uprising for American liberty. It would not be out of place here to add that the last of the paternal line, nephews of Jack London, namely, Irving Shepard and John Miller, did their part on sea and land in this twentieth century greatest of all struggles.
John London, great-grandson of Sir William, first saw the light in Springfield County, Pennsylvania, on January 11, 1828. He grew up on a farm, receiving the education attainable in small rural schools nearly a century ago, while he learned the hard, empirical way of agriculture at that early date.
He comes next into view at the age of nineteen, as boss of a section gang in the construction of a great railroad system through Pennsylvania. One day, John reported at the big farm residence of an official of the road, one Hugh Cavett. The latter being absent, his daughter Anna Jane took the message. Eyes and hands struck fire, and in two weeks the pair were married; for John London was a bonnie lad, six feet in his homespun socks, square-shouldered, well-limbed, fine-skinned, with comely hands and feet, and a wealth of soft, wavy brown hair — one of Jack London own physical characteristics. “Finest head of hair I ever barbered!” old Barber Smith of San Francisco declared of John’s luxuriant mane thirty years later. And, like Jack’s, John’s wide-set, gray-blue, dancing eyes and sweeping ways were not to be resisted by mortal woman. What mattered it to him, when kind called to kind, that Anna Jane’s father was his employer and a rich man! He was the owner of profitable farmlands, not only in Westmorel, but in Township Patton, Alleghany County; a stockholder in the Wheeling Bridge property in Virginia, and an investor in various other lucrative schemes that were bringing fortunes to foreseeing men of Hugh Cavett’s type. Besides, over and above the love that drew the man and maid so quickly together, was not the comely girl John’s very ideal of a capable country-house mistress?
After the wedding John London came to live for a time in the big house, where he began the founding of his own line — a generous contribution of eleven olive branches, some sprouting twin-buds, to the family tree. He was absent frequently, sent out, I gather, by his father-in-law on business connected with the railroad. If the other man was at all put out by the forthright methods of the young couple in matters matrimonial, evidently he made the best of the situation and advanced the unexpected son-in-law in line with his abilities. Moreover, the sedately arriving yearly babies, beginning with Tom and Mary, could not have failed to erase any last vestige of their grandfather’s pique.
John London’s life-long gallantry is illustrated by a little incident that took place upon his homecoming from one of these trips. Finding his bride over-strained by the housewifely labor of entertaining for weeks a full complement of relatives, he expressed his solicitude by dismissing the whole tribe, stating his reasons. He then turned to and helped Anna Jane clear up after them. In quite another setting, half a century later, Jack London said to me:
“When we are married, much as I love an open house, if I cannot afford servants, we’ll live in tents so there can’t be any entertaining! No domestic drudgery for wife of mine. It’s your life and my life, first. Our need of each other lies in different ways than circumscribed domesticity.”
Very congenial seem to have been John and Anna Jane. “No one ever saw Jane angry or disagreeable,” reads the yellowed fragment of a letter, “nor John London cross or harsh. He was always protecting some one.” A roving spirit characterized the London strain, and Anna Jane appears to have been in no wise backward in aiding and abetting its development in her spouse. From the fact that she is not mentioned in Hugh Cavett’s will, and by other data, one is led to conclude that he had settled her portion upon her before she and John presently went adventuring up through Wisconsin, with an eye for an abiding-place, thence drifting down to Illinois, where John’s mother, a remarkable woman, managed her own stockfarm. Five sons she gave to the Civil War, meanwhile she continued to develop her holdings.
When John London enlisted in the War of the Rebellion, it was from a Missouri farm, and he left behind Anna Jane with seven children. At the close of the war, with one lung out of action as the result of a combined siege of pneumonia and smallpox, he lived with his family in the town of Moscow, Muscatine County, Iowa, in a two-story white house on the town square. Here Eliza was born. On the opposite side of the square stood the flourmill, and John, among other building work, superintended the construction of a bridge across Cedar River, the stream that furnished power to the mill. Eliza remembers well the close proximity of the watercourse. Priscilla was washing and getting dinner, and asked her wee sister to run and see if papa was coming. Eliza toddled to the bench on which she was wont to climb to the window, and pulled over upon herself the steaming tub of clothing big sister had set there. She never forgot how quickly papa, returning from his bridge-building, answered the summons to aid his scalded baby. Later, they migrated to a quarter section of government land outside of Moscow. When his wife was discovered with consumption, John arranged affairs so that he could devote himself to her, and it fell in with their mutual dreams to play at gipsying. For two years they moved over the prairies in a “schooner,” and during this time John came into pleasant contact with the Pawnees, by whom he swore stoutly to his dying day. “Play fair with an Indian,” he held, “and you can trust him with anything, anywhere. It’s wrong treatment that’s made sly devils of ‘em.”
With the redskins this bora out-doors man hunted and trapped raccoons and other prairie game; and, in bee-hunting, proved of keener sight than the aborigines in following to its honey store the flight of a homing worker. Later, when the Indians were camping near the farm, John branded his stock, and, unlike some of his neighbors, never lost a single head to any marauder. Play the game squarely, was his philosophy, and you stand to win.
That Anna Jane did not entirely subscribe to this wholesale confidence in the original American crops out in an amusing anecdote, often told by her husband. He, despite the railing of his familiars, had blithely loaned to an old brave fifty cents and a musket, but forgot to mention the little transaction to his wife. It happened that she was alone when the chief came to redeem his obligations, and being very ill, she was badly frightened when his gaunt frame filled the doorway. In round terms she ordered him away; but the Indian, when she refused to touch the fifty cents, strode furiously in, grandly threw the coins into the middle of the floor, and stood the well-cleaned gun carefully in its corner. Stalking as furiously forth, he met his benefactor coming home, to whom he clipped out that the white-face squaw was no good — too foolish even to take money or guns offered her.
Early in the seventies, John London found himself bereft of his mate, and with an exceptionally large family to consider. One of the sons, Charles, had been injured playing our national game, a ball catching him in the chest. His father conceived a plan whereby he might leave the remaining youngest folk — three of the eleven had died — temporarily with the older sisters and willing neighbors, while he struck out farther West in the hope of benefiting the ailing boy. All was satisfactorily worked out, when John weakened to the wailing of Eliza and Ida, hardly more than babies. At the last moment a rearrangement was effected that included the pair, as well as two friends, Mr. and Mrs. Chase. They, in return for their expenses to California, were to assume the care of Charles and his two little sisters.
John never again saw Iowa. Charles grew rapidly worse, and died eleven days after he looked upon his first ocean. The widower disposed of the farm, and with the proceeds established himself in a contracting business in San Francisco. Meantime he placed Eliza and Ida in the Protestant Orphan Asylum on Haight Street, paying for their living and tuition. Eliza London has always averred that the period spent in the quaint, moss-grown stone home was the happiest of her life, and with the tenaciousness of a devoted nature, she had soon fastened her shy affection upon one of the teachers. Next she came to nourish a fond hope that her beloved papa would share her own adoration for teacher, and bring to his girls a new mother. But she was doomed to secret sorrow and tears, for papa, although never blind to a pretty face and womanly traits, was even then under the influence of wholly a different person.
Many a smart beau of that winsome light-opera star of the long ago, Kate Castleton, will smile with awakened memories to learn that a sweet friendship existed between the lovable young singer and the big, quiet, long-bearded man from the Middle West who had such a way with him. But it was not she — and another ardent desire of the wee Eliza, who still wore a ring her idol had sent her, went glimmering with the first. For the lady of her father’s second choice in life was not beautiful. And Eliza, who did not consider lovely her own small, expressive face with its deep-blue, black-lashed London eyes, worshiped beauty, and little considered other possible attractiveness in herself or those about her.
Now the widower, ever alert to new impressions from the world’s limitless abundance, never convinced but there was something better for him just over the mutely summoning horizon, and with the death of two dear ones still quick in his consciousness, had strayed from his more or less strict Methodist outlook and observances and had become enamored of the doctrines of a spiritualistic cult.
Amongst the devout sisters of this group of seekers after truth he met Flora Wellman, a tiny, fair woman in her early thirties, hailing from Massillon, Ohio. Once more in the London fashion, John wasted no moment in binding to him his desire.
The next visiting day at the orphanage, on which he had planned to escort the betrothed to meet his daughters, found him ill; and when the unsuspecting Eliza and Ida were bidden to the stiff reception-room, imagine their astonishment to see an unknown woman, hardly above their own height, rise and announce that she was to be their new mother.
In Jack London’s inheritance through his mother, again the blood of Great Britain predominates, for Flora Wellman ancestry leads back to England and Wales, and includes strains of French and Dutch. The family traces its American residence to pre-Revolution days. Flora’s father, Marshall Daniel Wellman, was born in Augusta, Oneida County, New York, in 1800, son of Betsy Baker and Joel Wellman, both of British stock. Joel was a cooper, plying his trade in the Syracuse District Salt Wells. When Betsy died, he married a second wife who in turn left him a widower. Whereupon, while Marshall and a brother were yet boys, Joel journeyed to the headwaters of the Allegheny River, where the three built and launched a wondrous houseboat, called a bateau, and made the voyage to Pittsburgh. Thence the bateau floated them on down to old Beavertown, where Joel had heard there was a demand for pork and whisky-barrels. In his palmy days, Marshall Wellman loved to boast that he had earned a reputation of turning out the best tight oaken barrels ever seen in the region of Beavertown.
A year afterward they moved farther West, this time to Wooster, Ohio. There, from the ashes of timber burned in clearing this new country, Joel and his sons manufactured “pot ash,” which they had learned was one of the few products that sold for cash in Pittsburgh. When he was an old man, Marshall “remembered well the mountain of stacked ash we piled up south of the town, Wooster, near the Robinson place.” Once a sister came all the way from New York to see their land of promise; but she became homesick and Marshall escorted her, the couple on horses, hack to New York. While still under twenty-one, he took a contract for building a section of the Allegheny Canal in Pennsylvania; and subsequently Marshall Wellman rose to be the wealthiest citizen of Massillon, Ohio, as wealth was accounted in those days.
Flora Wellman, born August 17, 1843, was the youngest child of Marshall Wellman’s family of five, the others being Mary Marcia, Hiram B., Susan, and Louisa. Her mother, Eleanor Garrett Jones, born in 1810 at Brookfield, Trumbull County, Ohio, had married Marshall in 1852. Her father, a devout circuit-rider of Welsh extraction, called “Priest” Jones, well beloved and valued adviser to the countryside, had been a pioneer settler and upbuilder of Ohio when that state was thought of as the whole West. He passed away an honored member of Wooster’s society, full of good works, and incidentally leaving a comfortable fortune to his heirs.
The mother died shortly following Flora’s birth, and Wellman remarried when she was four years of age. His bride was Julia Frederica Hurxthal, the Hurxthals being another of the pioneer Massillon families that had amassed riches.
The little girl was nurtured in an atmosphere of luxury and culture, her clothes and her hats and her boots, her books, and her teachers, all especially ordered and delivered from New York City; and she has told me that she possessed distinct talents in music and elocution. That no due family observance might be neglected, Marshall Wellman even summoned a portrait painter from New
York, who immortalized all the members of the household on his canvases.
“Few mothers of great men have been happy women,”some one has written, and Flora Wellman seems to have been no exception. Capacity for happiness may have been a part of her heritage, but fate was extraordinarily cruel. Somewhere around her thirteenth year, I have it from her, she fell victim to a fever that physically stunted her, and probably accounted for her short sparse hair and for certain melancholic tendencies. “I cannot remember the day when my mother was not old,” Jack London more than once declared, while relatives, and friends of long standing, have asserted in her advanced years, “She has always been very much as you see her now.” It would seem that the fever almost entirely robbed the unfortunate young soul of youth and gladness. Her eyes were ever fixed upon decline and dissolution, or peering into the hereafter of her spiritualistic faith.
Jack London was born in San Francisco, California, on January 12, 1876. At two o’clock of the afternoon came her woman’s hour, that is the most lonely of all hours known to the human, and Flora London’s voice was joined by the cry of her first and only child. He weighed nine pounds, which was one-tenth of his mother’s weight. She called him John Griffith, — the middle name being in memory of Griffith Everhard, a favorite nephew. Flora and John London, having no formal church affiliations, the infant was never christened, and answered to “Johnnie” until the day when deliberately he selected, and made splendidly his own, the terse British name that has girdled the world wherever books and adventure, and abundant life are known.
The house in which he first expanded his fine young chest and made himself audible, was at Third and Bryant streets, occupied by the Slocums, friends of Flora, the master of the home being a prosperous member of a well-known printing establishment. Contrary to the more or less general belief that Jack London was born in a shanty on a sand-lot, the dwelling was a large and not inelegant one. For this had been a fashionable neighborhood in the changing fortunes of the gay western metropolis, and had not yet lapsed into the subsequent “south of Market” social disfavor.
Unluckily, Flora was unable long to nourish her lusty babe, and he speedily grew thin and blue. John London looked about and discovered among the men working for him one whose wife had lost her latest born and who was willing to become wet-nurse to the white child. Mrs. Prentiss was a full-blooded negress, and proud of it. Many a time Jack London has told how she was bartered on the block for a high price, while her mother was sold down the river. Now she became “Mammy Jenny” to an appreciative foster-son whose faithful and affectionate care years afterward she was until his death; since then, I have as naturally assumed the trust, over and above the provisions of his last will and testament.
It was a veritable cherub that the black woman undertook to mother in her essential capacity, white as snow, exquisitely modeled, with dimpled hands and feet surprisingly small for his firm, plump torso. He soon became pink-cheeked, with eyes of violet, his seraphic face haloed in white-gold ringlets too fragile-fine to seem real to the worshiping African, the devotion of whose deprived heart was instant and abiding toward the “teenty, helpless angel.” In the Cloudesley Johns correspondence I find this from Jack: “Hair was black when I was born, then came out during an infantile sickness and returned positively white — so white that my negress nurse called me ‘cotton ball.’”
When the baby was returned to his family they had moved to a cottage on Bernal Heights. And now upon the maternal Eliza devolved most of the rearing of her half-brother, indoors and out, in the energetic year spent in the cottage. The perambulator containing the baby boy, wheeled by a no less azure-eyed girl-child, became a familiar object of an afternoon on the hilly streets.
John London, man of the open field, with clinging conservative principles in money matters, was no match for the swift Western commercial spirit. But he recognized his inability in time to avert disaster, closed his contracting office, and accepted a position with the J. M. Flaven Company’s famous IXL Emporium. In his canvassing about the spreading city, built upon its many hills, he was further enlightened of this Farthest West expansive atmosphere. His bubbling sense of humor unavoidably entered into many a conflict with a fading Methodist viewpoint — as one day, on a steep cobbled declivity of Telegraph Hill, when he paused to rest his benevolent, well-shaped hand upon the towseled pate of the handsomest of a group of urchins playing in the street. “What’s your name, sonny?” he asked kindly. In later years, one of the best yarns of this indefatigable story-teller wound up with the shock he had sustained from this pure, sweet little child: “‘What t’e hell business is it of yourn what’s my name? — an’ I ain’t your sonny, neither!’”
The next on the list of baby Johnnie’s unremembered homes was a new six-room flat opposite the old Plaza on Folsom Street, owned by a family of Cohens who dwelt in the lower apartments. John London had steadily bettered his income, and was now employed by the Singer Sewing Machine Company, as general agent and collector. To this day one might find a few of the decayed mansions of the section’s past grandeur. In one of these, even then long since converted into a boarding house, I once went to take piano lessons. My teacher dwelt in the inexhaustible fragrance of old cedar paneling, and once surreptitiously led me down a maze of marble staircases into the nether regions of the imposing pile. There my ravished eyes roved about dismantled dining halls of maple and gilt, and a fabulous, echoing ballroom walled in mirrors like Versailles; and the ceiling, I verily believe, was a copy of Rubens’ plump charmers and cherubs in Queen Wilhelmina’s House in the Wood, near the Hague.
But Flora, never content for long in any spot, found a home she liked better, this time at the blind end of Natoma Street. Here it seemed as if they had come upon the nearest that San Francisco ever conceded to their desire. For the two-storied roomy house was set in a sort of court shaped by the abrupt, vine-fenced termination of the thoroughfare. It was a blossomy oasis in the engulfing metropolitan life of the ambitious city, through tacit agreement kept neat by the dwellers therein, who carefully tended their window pots and flowering strips of garden soil.
Not to restlessness, however, but to an epidemic of diphtheria was due the subsequent exodus of the Londons from San Francisco. The baby fell a victim, followed by his shadow, Eliza, agonizing doubly on his account. The terrified mother turned to and heroically nursed the pair of them — as when a girl she had with deathly fear courageously brought through smallpox her sister Mary’s son, Harry Everhard. To this day Eliza holds that a certain mortuary suggestion from her stepmother whipped her to consciousness and a winning fight for life. Both she and Johnnie were lying in what the doctor pronounced a condition bordering upon dissolution. The exhausted but thrifty Flora asked him if it would be feasible to bury them in the same coffin, when the aroused girl opened horrified eyes and feebly, but unmistakably, protested.
The physician, having proved a poor judge of their resistance, dropped back upon the time-honored recommendations of a sojourn in the country. But business had to be business to the paternal provider, and with his agricultural intentions dear as ever to his heart, this change was regarded from the viewpoint of an enduring rural residence. The first lap toward this end was merely to the large San Francisco suburb of Oakland, to the east across the bay, that wide expanse of capricious waters that set in Jack London’s eyes the far away look of the Argonaut. Thus Oakland, in the County of Alameda, for him came to be the center to which he always referred as his home town, from which he fared forth to the adventures in which he recaptured the spirit of romance for a growingly blasé civilization.
“My father was the best man I have ever known,” Jack London was wont to say, “too intrinsically good to get ahead in the soulless scramble for a living that a man must cope with if he would survive in our anarchical capitalist system.”
John London once more plunged into business for himself, working toward his pastoral goal. His savings were applied to the leasing and cultivating of a tract of land adjoining the race track at Emeryville, suburb of Oakland near the eastern bay shore, and hard by Shell Mound Park, described in “Martin Eden.” With the produce, a green-goods store was opened at Seventh and Campbell Streets. This junction was known as The Point by Oaklanders of that day. Here the local and main line trains left terra firma and proceeded out upon a fearsome, teredo-incrusted trestle far into the bay to where the largest ferry steamers in the world conveyed passengers to and from San Francisco. I recall an occasion, in girlhood, when I paddled in the tiny gray-green surf at The Point, and then went indoors for a salt tubbing in water pumped from the bay and heated.
Into this fresh venture John put his savings and his faith, and, despite a rigorous honesty that ranged the most luscious of his justly famed tomatoes at the lowest tiers of the boxes — the “culls” went to less fortunate neighbors —he might have prospered had he let well enough alone. But to his bosom he took a shifty partner, one S to well, inwhose slippery hands he placed the thriving little shop while he traveled in outlying districts. These absences were for the purpose of taking orders and introducing his fruit and vegetables, which were the best Oakland ever enjoyed; and also for buying, at the Stone and the Meek orchards between San Leandro and Haywards, to fill the demand of his own enlarging trade.
One week-end, arriving back unsuspecting from a trip, he discovered that he had been figuratively thrown out, sold out, cleaned out, by his partner. Stowell must have been a clever crook and known his man well, for John was quite unequal to the tangle in which he found himself when he appealed to the law. Fight he did, and manfully; only a pitiful few dollars remained to him at the end of a legal battle.
But with the recurrent youthful optimism that was his chiefest personal charm, he shook those broad spare shoulders free of the sordid morass, threw back his curly poll, and turned toward the race track garden, from which he began supplying the firm of Porter Brothers, commission merchants, who sold his fast augmenting product.
Four successive homes the family occupied during this phase in their fortunes — one at Twelfth and Wood Streets, another on Seventh near Center and Peralta. And then they essayed to cheer the premises known as the Haunted House, the rumor being that a man had hanged himself from a beam therein. Nothing daunted, Mrs. London pitched in and established a kindergarten, in business relations with a Mrs. Kegler. Flora’s knowledge of music assisted capitally in this connection, and she taught a few outside pupils as well. Although Eliza and Jack both received piano instructions from her in childhood, they have always united in declaring that they never saw her play. Her method seemed based upon the mechanics of the process, with no attempt to induce the harmonies by personal example.
Jack’s own memories reached to this house, mainly because it was the stage of his debut in trousers — albeit hidden by a jumper. But his infantile pride for once soared above shrinking self-consciousness, and rebelled at the ignominy of this concealment. He was wont, in the most public places, to lift said jumper, that all men might bear witness to the uniform of his sturdy sex. An adorable little man he must have been. Eliza found there was hardly any possession her schoolgirl friends would not part with or lend in exchange for the privilege of taking care of him, or having him sit with them at their desks. He went to the highest bidder, of course; and his sister munched many an otherwise unattainable apple or bun, or pleasured in a borrowed ring or bracelet.
Matters began to mend, and from a subsequent home on Twelfth Street near Castro, they moved upon fifteen acres of the Davenport property in Alameda, where now looms the Clark Pottery Company’s factory. So full of strange happenings are our lives, it was in this selfsame Pottery the red Spanish tiling was fashioned to crown Jack London’s “Wolf House” on Sonoma Mountain — futile dream-house, three years’ building, that in a single midnight puffed out in flame and smoke!
John’s success led him to spread operations to other convenient locations, one of which was the later site of the Smith Borax Works. Still other fruitful acres branched out from both sides of the old “Narrow Gauge” trans-bay railway on the Alameda flats. Through commission merchants his produce, ever maintaining its standard of super-excellence, now found ready market in San Francisco. Long after his death, Eliza’s ear one day was caught by a familiar note, caroled by a street hawker. She asked if the words he was singing, “J. L. Corn,” meant anything to him. Needless to say, to his bucolic intelligence, they signified nothing more nor less than mere corn. And it pleased Eliza to inform the man that her father had been, so to speak, the father of his wares.
Like a bad dream, the little Jack always remembered his first intoxication, which took place, at the tender age of five, just after he came to Alameda. It was his task to toddle at noonday with a tin lard-pail of beer out into the fields where John London mopped his brow amidst his springing green creations. One day, the frothy contents overrunning and biting into the scratches on his chubby legs, the small man was seized with a desire to taste the stuff that so refreshed his elders. It was not the first time that out of a vast latent curiosity he had fallen for the temptation to test forbidden choice morsels intended for older folk, which up to now he had found good. Also, the pail was too full, and his calves smarted. Into the crackly foam he buried his hot little face to the eyes, hoping the taste would improve when he reached the yellow liquid. It did not improve; hut driven by that persistence that all through his career forced him to complete what he had begun, the doughty youngling drained what was to his tiny paunch a mighty draught. Sorely that same thirsty organ must have been crowded, for alarm spread in him to see how the beer had receded. With a stick, remembering how stale brew was made to effervesce, he stirred what was left, and was rewarded by a crop of white bubbles that would deceive the onlooker. John London, sweating prodigiously and eager to complete his furrow, unnoticing poured the liquor down his dry throat and started up the team, his small son trotting alongside.
The next the inebriated baby knew, he was coming to in the shade of a tree, in his fuzzy brain a crushing terror of flashing steel blades and great shining hooves of plunging horses. Then his eyes, dark with fear, looked up into a reassuring bearded face that bent over him, its solicitude and relief struggling with a mirth it could not quite control. Poor little wayfarer in the fields of chance — he had reeled and fallen between a plowshare and the hind feet of the beasts, and only the plowman’s instant halting of the outfit had preserved the baby from being cloven and turned under with the soil.
Another vividly remembered if lesser childish tragedy on Alameda ground was connected with his building instincts, and it came about in this way: Myself a contemporary child in Oakland, transplanted from the indolent Spanish air of Southern California, I remember my aunt and uncle and the neighbors on Thirty-fifth Street discussing the wonder-operetta Satanella which they had attended in the Tivoli Opera House, forbidden pleasure to one so young as I. A magical performance it was, if my excited imagining was correct, of inexplicable appearings and vanishings of sulphurous deities, with all the glamour of intermixed Fairyland and Heaven arrayed against black-and-red hut enchanting Sin. Whilst I was drinking in my elders’ reminiscent snatches of libretto and score, Johnnie London actually, with his own rounded orbs, beheld the absorbing spectacle. Incited thereby, after a night of fire-illumined nightmare, he undertook to build a little hell of his own under the apple tree by the side of the house. He was assisted wonderingly by his chum, Theodore Crittenden, who, as co-creator, was to be constituted only second in importance to his superior’s own Satanic Majesty. But swifter hell than had been anticipated broke loose when the Vice-Devil’s assiduous spade accidentally split open the prospective Majesty’s chubby nose, and Johnnie’s lurid dream collapsed in gore and tears on sister Eliza’s clean pinafore.
When Jack London turned sadly from the disappointing soil of human society at large, to solve some of its economic problems in the undisappointing if wearied land that he so patiently reclaimed, he sorrowed from year to year, while his terraced hillsides increased their yield, that John London could not be there to behold and rejoice:
“My one greatest regret, always, is that my father could not live to share my prosperity,” he would say. “Think of the lasting joy if the two dear old soldiers, your father and mine, could have lived here on the Ranch and watched my blades of grass come up out of the rejuvenated soil — two blades or more where but one grew when I came upon it!” Alas — the years are many since that pair of stalwart, child-hearted real Americans, born in the same year, laid themselves down untimely.