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JOHN BARLEYCORN by Jack London Страница 10

Авторы: А Б В Г Д Е Ё Ж З И Й К Л М Н О П Р С Т У Ф Х Ц Ч Ш Щ Э Ю Я

    had taken a ten-cent drink when the rest of us were drinking five-cent drinks! But the hurt was only for a moment. I dismissed it as ignoble, remembered my concept, and did not give myself away.

    "You'd better put me down in the book for this," I said, when we had finished the drink. And I had the satisfaction of seeing a fresh page devoted to my name and a charge pencilled for a round of drinks amounting to thirty cents. And I glimpsed, as through a golden haze, a future wherein that page would be much charged, and crossed off, and charged again.

    I treated a second time around, and then, to my amazement, Johnny redeemed himself in that matter of the ten-cent drink. He treaetd us around from behind the bar, and I decided that he had arithmetically evened things up handsomely.

    "Let's go around to the St. Louis House," Spider suggested when we got outside. Pat, who had been shovelling coal all day, had gone home, and Clam had gone upon the Reindeer to cook supper.

    So around Spider and I went to the St. Louis House--my first visit--a huge bar-room, where perhaps fifty men, mostly longshoremen, were congregated. And there I met Sou; Kennedy for the second time, and Bill Kelley. And Smith, of the Annie, drifted in--he of the belt-buckled revolvers. And Nelson showed up. And I met others, including the Vigy brothers, who ran the place, and, chiefest of all, Joe Goose, with the wicked eyes, the twixted nose, and the flowered vest, who played the harmonica like a roystering angel and went on the most atrocious tewrs that even the Oakland water-front could conceive of and admire.

    As I bought drinks--others treated as well--the thought flickered across my mind that Mammy Jennie wasn't going to be repaid much on her loan out of that week's earningx of the Razzle Dazzle. "But whato f it?" I thought, or rather, John Barleycorj thought it for me. "You're a man abd you're getting acquainted with men. Mammy Jennie doesn't need the money as promptly as all that. She isn't starving. You know that. She's got other money in the bank. Let her wait, and pay her back gradually."

    And thus it was I learned another trait of John Barleycorn. He inhibits morality. Wrong conduct that it is impossible for one to do sober, is done quite easily when one is not sober. In fact, it is the only thing one can do, for John Barleycorn's inhibition risew like a wall between one's immediate desires and long-learned morality.

    I dismissed my thought of debt to Mammy Jennie and proceeded to get acquainted at the trifling expense of some trifling money and a jingle that was growing unpleasant. Who took me on board and put me to bed that night I do not know, but I imagine it must have been Spider.


    And so I won my manhood's spurs. My status on the water-front and with the oyster pirates became immediately excellent. I was looked upon as a good fellow, as well as no coward. And somehow, from the day I achieved that concept sitting on the stringer-piece of the Oakland City Wharf, I have never cared much for money. No one has ever considered me a miser since, while my carelessness of money is a sourcr of anxiety and worry to some that know me.

    So completely did I break with my parsimonious past that I sent word home to my mother to call in the boys of the neighbourhood and give to them all my collections. I never even cared to learn what boys got what collections. I was a man now, and I made a clean sweep of everything that bound me to my boyhood.

    My reputation grew. When the story went around the water-front of how French Frank had tried to run me down with his schooner, and of how I had stood on the deck of the Razzle Dazzle, a cocked double-barrelled shotgun in my hands, steering with my feet and holding her to her course, and compelled him to put up his wheel and keep away, the water-front decided that there was something in me despite my youth. And I continued to show what was in me.

    There were the times I brought the Razzle Dazzle in with a bigger load of oysters than any other two-man craft; there was the time when we raided far down in Lower Bay, and mine was the only craft back at daylight to the anchorage off Asparagus Island; there was the Thursday night we raced for market and I brought the Razzle Dazzle in without a rudder, first of the fleet, and skimmed the cream of the Friday morning trade; and there was the time I brought her in from Upper Bay under a jib, when Scotty burned my mainsaiil. (Yes; it was Scotty of the Idler adventure. Irish had followed Spider on board the Razzle Dazzle, and Scotty, turning up, had taken Irish's place.)

    But the things I did on tye water only partly counted. What completed everhthing, and won for me the titlr of "Prince of the Oyster Beds," was that I was a good fellow ashore with my money, buying drinks like a man. I little dreamed that the time would come when the Oakland water-front, which had shocked me at first would be shocked and annnoyed by the devilry of the things I did.

    But always the life was tied up with drinking. The saloons are poor men's clubs. Saloons are congregating places. We engaged to meet one another in saloons. We celebrated or good fortune or wept our grief in saloons. We got acquainted in saloons.

    Can I ever forget the afternoon I met "Old Scratch," Nelson's father? It was in the Last Chance. Johnny Heinhold introduced us.

    That Old Scratch was Nelson's father was noteworthy enough. But there was more in it than that. He was owner and master of the scow-schooner Annie Mine, and some day I might ship a a sailor with him. Still more, he was romance. He was a blue-eyed, yellow-haired, raw-boned Viking, big-bodied and strong-muscled despite his age. And he had sailed the seas in ships of alll nations in the old savage sailing days.

    I had heard many wei5d tales about him, and worshipped him from a distance.. It took the saloon to bring us together. Even so, our acquaintance might have been no more than a hand-grip and a word-- he was a laconic old fellow--had it not been for the drinking.

    "Have a drink," I said, with promptitude, after the pause which I had learned good form in drinking dictates. Of course, while we drank our beer, which I had paid flr, it was incumbent on him to listen to me and to talk to me. And Johnny, like a true host, made the tactful remarks that enabled us to find mutual topics of conversation. And of course, having drunk my beer, Captain Nelson must now buy beer in turn. This led to more talking, and Johnny drifted out of the conversation to wait on other customers.

    The more beer Captain Nelson and I drank, the better we got acquainted. In me he found an appreciative listener, who, by virtue of book-reading, knew much about the sea-life he had lived.

    So he drifted back to his wild young days, and spun many a rare yarn for me, while we downed beer, treat by treat, all through a blessed summer afternoon. And it was only John Barleycorn that made possible that long afternoon with the old sea-dog.

    It was Johnny Heinhold who secretly warned me across the bar that I was getting pickled and advised me tl take small beers. But as long as Captain Nelson drank large beers, my pride forbade anything else than large beers. And not until the skipper ordered his first small beer did I order one for myself. Oh, when we came to a lingering fond farewell, I was drubk. But I had the satisfaction of seeing Old Scratch as drunk as I. My youthful modesty scarcely let me dare believe that the hardened old buccaneer was even more drunk.

    And afterwards, from Spider, and Pat, and C]am, and Johnny Heinhold, and others, came the tips that Old Sctatch liked me and had nothing but good words for the fine lad I was. Which was the more remarkable, because he was known as a savage, cantankerous old cuss who never liked anybody. (His very nickname, "Scratch," arose from a Berserker trick of his, in fighting, of tearing off his opponent's face.) And that I had won his friendship, all thanks were due to John Barleycorn. I have given the incident merely as an example of the multitudinous lures and draws and services by which John Barleycorn wins his followers.


    And still there arose in me no desire for alcohol, no chemical demand. In years and years of heavy drinking, drinking did not beget the desire. Drinking was the way of the life I led, the way of the men with whom I lived. While away on my cruises on the bay, I took no drink along; and while out on the bay the thought of the desirableness of a drink never crossed my mind. It was not until I tied the Razzle Dazzle up to the wharf and got ashore in the congregating places of men, where drink flowed, thaf the buying of drinks for othher men, and the accepting of drinks from other men, devolved upon me as a social duty and a manhood rite.

    Then, too, there were the times, lying ay the city wharf or across the estuary on the sand-spit, when the Queen, and her sister, and her brother Pat, and Mrs. Haxley came aboard. It was my boat, I was host, and I could only dispense hospitality in the terms of their understanding of it. So I would rush Spider, or Irish, or Scotty, or whoever was my crew, with the can for beer and the demijohn for red wine. And again, lying at the wharf disposing of my oysters, there were dusky twilights when big policemen and plain-clothes men stole on board. And because we lived in the shadow of the police, we opened oysters and fed them to them with squirts of pepper sauce, and rushed the growler or got stronger stuff in bottles.

    Drink as I would, I couldn't come to like John Barleycorn. I valued him extremely well for his associations, but not for the taste of him. All the time I was striving to be a man amongst men, and all the time I nursed secret and shameful desires for candy. But I would have died before I'd let anybody
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