| Jerry of the Islands, by Jack London.
It is a misfortune to some fiction-writers that fiction and
unveracity in the average person's mind mean one and the same thing.
Several years ago I published a South Sea novel. The action was
placed in the Solomon Islands. The action was praised by the
critics and reviewers as a highly creditable effort of the
imagination. As regards reality--they said there wasn't any. Of
course, as every one knew, kinky-haired cannibals no longer obtained
on the earth's surface, much less ran around with nothing on,
chopping off one another's heads, and, on occasion, a white man's
head as well.
Now listen. I am writing these lines in Honolulu, Hawaii.
Yesterday, on the beach at Waikiki, a stranger spoke to me. He
mentioned a mutual friend, Captain Kellar. When I was wrecked in
the Solomons on the blackbirder, the Minota, it was Captain Kellar,
master of the blackbirder, the Eugenie, who rescued me. The blacks
had taken Captain Kellar's head, the stranger told me. He knew. He
had represented Captain Kellar's mother in settling up the estate.
Listen. I received a letter the other day from Mr. C. M. Woodford,
Resident Commissioner of the British Solomons. He was back at his
post, after a long furlough to England, where he had entered his son
into Oxford. A search of the shelves of almost any public library
will bring to light a book entitled, "A Naturalist Among the Head
Hunters." Mr. C. M. Woodford is the naturalist. He wrote the book.
To return to his letter. In the course of the day's work he
casually and briefly mentioned a particular job he had just got off
his hands. His absence in England had been the cause of delay. The
job had been to make a punitive expedition to a neighbouring island,
and, incidentally, to recover the heads of some mutual friends of
ours--a white-trader, his white wife and children, and his white
clerk. The expedition was successful, and Mr. Woodford concluded
his account of the episode with a statement to the effect: "What
especially struck me was the absence of pain and terror in their
faces, which seemed to express, rather, serenity and repose"--this,
mind you, of men and women of his own race whom he knew well and who
had sat at dinner with him in his own house.
Other friends, with whom I have sat at dinner in the brave,
rollicking days in the Solomons have since passed out--by the same
way. My goodness! I sailed in the teak-built ketch, the Minota, on
a blackbirding cruise to Malaita, and I took my wife along. The
hatchet-marks were still raw on the door of our tiny stateroom
advertising an event of a few months before. The event was the
taking of Captain Mackenzie's head, Captain Mackenzie, at that time,
being master of the Minota. As we sailed in to Langa-Langa, the
British cruiser, the Cambrian, steamed out from the shelling of a
It is not expedient to burden this preliminary to my story with
further details, which I do make asseveration I possess a-plenty. I
hope I have given some assurance that the adventures of my dog hero
in this novel are real adventures in a very real cannibal world.
Bless you!--when I took my wife along on the cruise of the Minota,
we found on board a nigger-chasing, adorable Irish terrier puppy,
who was smooth-coated like Jerry, and whose name was Peggy. Had it
not been for Peggy, this book would never have been written. She
was the chattel of the Minota's splendid skipper. So much did Mrs.
London and I come to love her, that Mrs. London, after the wreck of
the Minota, deliberately and shamelessly stole her from the Minota's
skipper. I do further admit that I did, deliberately and
shamelessly, compound my wife's felony. We loved Peggy so! Dear
royal, glorious little dog, buried at sea off the east coast of
I must add that Peggy, like Jerry, was born at Meringe Lagoon, on
Meringe Plantation, which is of the Island of Ysabel, said Ysabel
Island lying next north of Florida Island, where is the seat of
government and where dwells the Resident Commissioner, Mr. C. M.
Woodford. Still further and finally, I knew Peggy's mother and
father well, and have often known the warm surge in the heart of me
at the sight of that faithful couple running side by side along the
beach. Terrence was his real name. Her name was Biddy.
HONOLULU, OAHU, T.H.
June 5, 1915Next chapter |
Jerry of the Islands, by Jack London. CHAPTER I CHAPTER II CHAPTER III CHAPTER IV CHAPTER V CHAPTER VI CHAPTER VII CHAPTER VIII CHAPTER IX CHAPTER X CHAPTER XI CHAPTER XII CHAPTER XIII CHAPTER XIV CHAPTER XV CHAPTER XVI CHAPTER XVII CHAPTER XVIII CHAPTER XIX CHAPTER XX CHAPTER XXI CHAPTER XXII CHAPTER XXIII CHAPTER XXIV
(Wednesday, 23 September, 2020.)