The Cruise of the Dazzler - Jack London - ebook

The Cruise of the Dazzler ebook

Jack London

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This is an early Jack London novel set in his hometown of San Francisco. It is considered the novel of a boy’s adventure. In the novel, Joe Bronson, dissatisfied with his dull life at school, runs away and joins the sloop team, he sees in San Francisco Bay. He finds that the captain is involved in criminal activity. Navigational actions on board a sailing boat are genuinely described, and there are convincing descriptions of boats that endure stormy weather at sea.

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Liczba stron: 180

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Contents

I. BROTHER AND SISTER

II. "THE DRACONIAN REFORMS"

III. "BRICK," "SORREL-TOP," AND "REDDY"

IV. THE BITER BITTEN

V. HOME AGAIN

VI. EXAMINATION DAY

VII. FATHER AND SON

VIII. 'FRISCO KID AND THE NEW BOY

IX. ABOARD THE DAZZLER

X. WITH THE BAY PIRATES

XI. CAPTAIN AND CREW

XII. JOE TRIES TO TAKE FRENCH LEAVE

XIII. BEFRIENDING EACH OTHER

XIV. AMONG THE OYSTER-BEDS

XV. GOOD SAILORS IN A WILD ANCHORAGE

XVI. 'FRISCO KID'S DITTY-BOX

XVII. 'FRISCO KID TELLS HIS STORY

XVIII. A NEW RESPONSIBILITY FOR JOE

XIX. THE BOYS PLAN AN ESCAPE

XX. PERILOUS HOURS

XXI. JOE AND HIS FATHER

CHAPTER I

BROTHER AND SISTER

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

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

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

“So long, Fred,” he called as he turned his wheel to the left. “So long, Charley.”

“See you to-night!” they called back.

“No–I can’t come,” he answered.

“Aw, come on,” they begged.

“No, I’ve got to dig.–So long!”

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

“Oh, Joe!”

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

“Joe–please come here.” There was the slightest possible plaintive note in her voice this time.

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

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

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

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

“What is the matter, Joe dear?” she asked softly. “Won’t you tell me?”

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

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

“Nothing ’s the matter,” he said decisively. And then, quite inconsistently, he blurted out, “Father!”

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

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

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

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

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

“Who ’s going?”

“Myrtle Hayes–”

“What! That little softy?” he interrupted.

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

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

“Pearl Sayther, and her sister Alice, and Jessie Hilborn, and Sadie French, and Edna Crothers. That ’s all the girls.”

Joe sniffed disdainfully. “Who are the fellows, then?”

“Maurice and Felix Clement, Dick Schofield, Burt Layton, and–”

“That ’s enough. Milk-and-water chaps, all of them.”

“I–I wanted to ask you and Fred and Charley,” she said in a quavering voice. “That ’s what I called you in for–to ask you to come.”

“And what are you going to do?” he asked.

“Walk, gather wild flowers,–the poppies are all out now,–eat luncheon at some nice place, and–and–”

“Come home,” he finished for her.

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

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

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

“I ‘d sooner take Fred and Charley and go off somewhere and do something–well, anything.”

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

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

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

“A fellow can’t say anything without making you cry,” he began, trying to appease her. “Why, I did n’t mean anything, Sis. I did n’t, sure. I–”

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

“Oh, you–you girls!” he cried, and strode wrathfully out of the room.

CHAPTER II

“THE DRACONIAN REFORMS”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“To my room,” Joe answered. “To work,” he supplemented.

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

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

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

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

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

Shortly after the Draconian reforms–

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

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

The knock was repeated, and Bessie’s “Joe, dear” came to his ears.

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

“I came to see if I could help you,” she pleaded. “I ‘m all done, and I thought–”

“Of course you ‘re all done!” he shouted. “You always are!”

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

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

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

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

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

He sat down again.

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