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´╗┐Title: John Barleycorn
Author: London, Jack, 1876-1916
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "John Barleycorn" ***

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Jack London (1876-1916)



It all came to me one election day.  It was on a warm California
afternoon, and I had ridden down into the Valley of the Moon from the
ranch to the little village to vote Yes and No to a host of proposed
amendments to the Constitution of the State of California.  Because of
the warmth of the day I had had several drinks before casting my ballot,
and divers drinks after casting it.  Then I had ridden up through the
vine-clad hills and rolling pastures of the ranch, and arrived at the
farm-house in time for another drink and supper.

"How did you vote on the suffrage amendment?" Charmian asked.

"I voted for it."

She uttered an exclamation of surprise.  For, be it known, in my younger
days, despite my ardent democracy, I had been opposed to woman suffrage.
In my later and more tolerant years I had been unenthusiastic in my
acceptance of it as an inevitable social phenomenon.

"Now just why did you vote for it?" Charmian asked.

I answered.  I answered at length.  I answered indignantly.  The more I
answered, the more indignant I became.  (No; I was not drunk.  The horse
I had ridden was well named "The Outlaw."  I'd like to see any drunken
man ride her.)

And yet--how shall I say?--I was lighted up, I was feeling "good," I was
pleasantly jingled.

"When the women get the ballot, they will vote for prohibition," I said.
"It is the wives, and sisters, and mothers, and they only, who will drive
the nails into the coffin of John Barleycorn----"

"But I thought you were a friend to John Barleycorn," Charmian

"I am.  I was.  I am not.  I never am.  I am never less his friend than
when he is with me and when I seem most his friend.  He is the king of
liars.  He is the frankest truthsayer.  He is the august companion with
whom one walks with the gods.  He is also in league with the Noseless
One.  His way leads to truth naked, and to death.  He gives clear vision,
and muddy dreams.  He is the enemy of life, and the teacher of wisdom
beyond life's wisdom.  He is a red-handed killer, and he slays youth."

And Charmian looked at me, and I knew she wondered where I had got it.

I continued to talk.  As I say, I was lighted up.  In my brain every
thought was at home.  Every thought, in its little cell, crouched
ready-dressed at the door, like prisoners at midnight a jail-break.  And
every thought was a vision, bright-imaged, sharp-cut, unmistakable.  My
brain was illuminated by the clear, white light of alcohol.  John
Barleycorn was on a truth-telling rampage, giving away the choicest
secrets on himself.  And I was his spokesman.  There moved the multitudes
of memories of my past life, all orderly arranged like soldiers in some
vast review.  It was mine to pick and choose.  I was a lord of thought,
the master of my vocabulary and of the totality of my experience,
unerringly capable of selecting my data and building my exposition.  For
so John Barleycorn tricks and lures, setting the maggots of intelligence
gnawing, whispering his fatal intuitions of truth, flinging purple
passages into the monotony of one's days.

I outlined my life to Charmian, and expounded the make-up of my
constitution.  I was no hereditary alcoholic.  I had been born with no
organic, chemical predisposition toward alcohol.  In this matter I was
normal in my generation.  Alcohol was an acquired taste.  It had been
painfully acquired.  Alcohol had been a dreadfully repugnant thing--more
nauseous than any physic.  Even now I did not like the taste of it.  I
drank it only for its "kick." And from the age of five to that of
twenty-five I had not learned to care for its kick.  Twenty years of
unwilling apprenticeship had been required to make my system rebelliously
tolerant of alcohol, to make me, in the heart and the deeps of me,
desirous of alcohol.

I sketched my first contacts with alcohol, told of my first intoxications
and revulsions, and pointed out always the one thing that in the end had
won me over--namely, the accessibility of alcohol.  Not only had it
always been accessible, but every interest of my developing life had
drawn me to it.  A newsboy on the streets, a sailor, a miner, a wanderer
in far lands, always where men came together to exchange ideas, to laugh
and boast and dare, to relax, to forget the dull toil of tiresome nights
and days, always they came together over alcohol.  The saloon was the
place of congregation.  Men gathered to it as primitive men gathered
about the fire of the squatting place or the fire at the mouth of the

I reminded Charmian of the canoe houses from which she had been barred in
the South Pacific, where the kinky-haired cannibals escaped from their
womenkind and feasted and drank by themselves, the sacred precincts taboo
to women under pain of death.  As a youth, by way of the saloon I had
escaped from the narrowness of woman's influence into the wide free world
of men.  All ways led to the saloon.  The thousand roads of romance and
adventure drew together in the saloon, and thence led out and on over the

"The point is," I concluded my sermon, "that it is the accessibility of
alcohol that has given me my taste for alcohol.  I did not care for it.
I used to laugh at it.  Yet here I am, at the last, possessed with the
drinker's desire.  It took twenty years to implant that desire; and for
ten years more that desire has grown.  And the effect of satisfying that
desire is anything but good.  Temperamentally I am wholesome-hearted and
merry.  Yet when I walk with John Barleycorn I suffer all the damnation
of intellectual pessimism.

"But," I hastened to add (I always hasten to add), "John Barleycorn must
have his due.  He does tell the truth.  That is the curse of it.  The
so-called truths of life are not true.  They are the vital lies by which
life lives, and John Barleycorn gives them the lie."

"Which does not make toward life," Charmian said.

"Very true," I answered.  "And that is the perfectest hell of it.  John
Barleycorn makes toward death.  That is why I voted for the amendment
to-day.  I read back in my life and saw how the accessibility of alcohol
had given me the taste for it.  You see, comparatively few alcoholics are
born in a generation.  And by alcoholic I mean a man whose chemistry
craves alcohol and drives him resistlessly to it.  The great majority of
habitual drinkers are born not only without desire for alcohol, but with
actual repugnance toward it.  Not the first, nor the twentieth, nor the
hundredth drink, succeeded in giving them the liking.  But they learned,
just as men learn to smoke; though it is far easier to learn to smoke
than to learn to drink.  They learned because alcohol was so accessible.
The women know the game.  They pay for it--the wives and sisters and
mothers.  And when they come to vote, they will vote for prohibition.
And the best of it is that there will be no hardship worked on the coming
generation.  Not having access to alcohol, not being predisposed toward
alcohol, it will never miss alcohol.  It will mean life more abundant for
the manhood of the young boys born and growing up--ay, and life more
abundant for the young girls born and growing up to share the lives of
the young men."

"Why not write all this up for the sake of the men and women coming?"
Charmian asked.  "Why not write it so as to help the wives and sisters
and mothers to the way they should vote?"

"The 'Memoirs of an Alcoholic,'" I sneered--or, rather, John Barleycorn
sneered; for he sat with me there at table in my pleasant, philanthropic
jingle, and it is a trick of John Barleycorn to turn the smile to a sneer
without an instant's warning.

"No," said Charmian, ignoring John Barleycorn's roughness, as so many
women have learned to do.  "You have shown yourself no alcoholic, no
dipsomaniac, but merely an habitual drinker, one who has made John
Barleycorn's acquaintance through long years of rubbing shoulders with
him.  Write it up and call it 'Alcoholic Memoirs.'"


And, ere I begin, I must ask the reader to walk with me in all sympathy;
and, since sympathy is merely understanding, begin by understanding me
and whom and what I write about.  In the first place, I am a seasoned
drinker.  I have no constitutional predisposition for alcohol.  I am not
stupid.  I am not a swine.  I know the drinking game from A to Z, and I
have used my judgment in drinking.  I never have to be put to bed.  Nor
do I stagger.  In short, I am a normal, average man; and I drink in the
normal, average way, as drinking goes.  And this is the very point: I am
writing of the effects of alcohol on the normal, average man.  I have no
word to say for or about the microscopically unimportant excessivist, the

There are, broadly speaking, two types of drinkers.  There is the man
whom we all know, stupid, unimaginative, whose brain is bitten numbly by
numb maggots; who walks generously with wide-spread, tentative legs,
falls frequently in the gutter, and who sees, in the extremity of his
ecstasy, blue mice and pink elephants.  He is the type that gives rise to
the jokes in the funny papers.

The other type of drinker has imagination, vision.  Even when most
pleasantly jingled, he walks straight and naturally, never staggers nor
falls, and knows just where he is and what he is doing.  It is not his
body but his brain that is drunken.  He may bubble with wit, or expand
with good fellowship.  Or he may see intellectual spectres and phantoms
that are cosmic and logical and that take the forms of syllogisms.  It is
when in this condition that he strips away the husks of life's healthiest
illusions and gravely considers the iron collar of necessity welded about
the neck of his soul.  This is the hour of John Barleycorn's subtlest
power.  It is easy for any man to roll in the gutter.  But it is a
terrible ordeal for a man to stand upright on his two legs unswaying, and
decide that in all the universe he finds for himself but one
freedom--namely, the anticipating of the day of his death.  With this man
this is the hour of the white logic (of which more anon), when he knows
that he may know only the laws of things--the meaning of things never.
This is his danger hour.  His feet are taking hold of the pathway that
leads down into the grave.

All is clear to him.  All these baffling head-reaches after immortality
are but the panics of souls frightened by the fear of death, and cursed
with the thrice-cursed gift of imagination.  They have not the instinct
for death; they lack the will to die when the time to die is at hand.
They trick themselves into believing they will outwit the game and win to
a future, leaving the other animals to the darkness of the grave or the
annihilating heats of the crematory.  But he, this man in the hour of his
white logic, knows that they trick and outwit themselves.  The one event
happeneth to all alike.  There is no new thing under the sun, not even
that yearned-for bauble of feeble souls--immortality.  But he knows, HE
knows, standing upright on his two legs unswaying.  He is compounded of
meat and wine and sparkle, of sun-mote and world-dust, a frail mechanism
made to run for a span, to be tinkered at by doctors of divinity and
doctors of physic, and to be flung into the scrap-heap at the end.

Of course, all this is soul-sickness, life-sickness.  It is the penalty
the imaginative man must pay for his friendship with John Barleycorn.
The penalty paid by the stupid man is simpler, easier.  He drinks himself
into sottish unconsciousness.  He sleeps a drugged sleep, and, if he
dream, his dreams are dim and inarticulate.  But to the imaginative man,
John Barleycorn sends the pitiless, spectral syllogisms of the white
logic.  He looks upon life and all its affairs with the jaundiced eye of
a pessimistic German philosopher.  He sees through all illusions.  He
transvalues all values.  Good is bad, truth is a cheat, and life is a
joke.  From his calm-mad heights, with the certitude of a god, he beholds
all life as evil.  Wife, children, friends--in the clear, white light of
his logic they are exposed as frauds and shams.  He sees through them,
and all that he sees is their frailty, their meagreness, their
sordidness, their pitifulness.  No longer do they fool him.  They are
miserable little egotisms, like all the other little humans, fluttering
their May-fly life-dance of an hour.  They are without freedom.  They are
puppets of chance.  So is he.  He realises that.  But there is one
difference.  He sees; he knows.  And he knows his one freedom: he may
anticipate the day of his death.  All of which is not good for a man who
is made to live and love and be loved.  Yet suicide, quick or slow, a
sudden spill or a gradual oozing away through the years, is the price
John Barleycorn exacts.  No friend of his ever escapes making the just,
due payment.


I was five years old the first time I got drunk.  It was on a hot day,
and my father was ploughing in the field.  I was sent from the house,
half a mile away, to carry to him a pail of beer.  "And be sure you don't
spill it," was the parting injunction.

It was, as I remember it, a lard pail, very wide across the top, and
without a cover.  As I toddled along, the beer slopped over the rim upon
my legs.  And as I toddled, I pondered.  Beer was a very precious thing.
Come to think of it, it must be wonderfully good.  Else why was I never
permitted to drink of it in the house?  Other things kept from me by the
grown-ups I had found good.  Then this, too, was good.  Trust the
grown-ups.  They knew.  And, anyway, the pail was too full.  I was
slopping it against my legs and spilling it on the ground.  Why waste it?
And no one would know whether I had drunk or spilled it.

I was so small that, in order to negotiate the pail, I sat down and
gathered it into my lap.  First I sipped the foam.  I was disappointed.
The preciousness evaded me.  Evidently it did not reside in the foam.
Besides, the taste was not good.  Then I remembered seeing the grown-ups
blow the foam away before they drank.  I buried my face in the foam and
lapped the solid liquid beneath.  It wasn't good at all.  But still I
drank.  The grown-ups knew what they were about.  Considering my
diminutiveness, the size of the pail in my lap, and my drinking out of it
my breath held and my face buried to the ears in foam, it was rather
difficult to estimate how much I drank.  Also, I was gulping it down like
medicine, in nauseous haste to get the ordeal over.

I shuddered when I started on, and decided that the good taste would come
afterward.  I tried several times more in the course of that long
half-mile.  Then, astounded by the quantity of beer that was lacking, and
remembering having seen stale beer made to foam afresh, I took a stick
and stirred what was left till it foamed to the brim.

And my father never noticed.  He emptied the pail with the wide thirst of
the sweating ploughman, returned it to me, and started up the plough.  I
endeavoured to walk beside the horses.  I remember tottering and falling
against their heels in front of the shining share, and that my father
hauled back on the lines so violently that the horses nearly sat down on
me.  He told me afterward that it was by only a matter of inches that I
escaped disembowelling.  Vaguely, too, I remember, my father carried me
in his arms to the trees on the edge of the field, while all the world
reeled and swung about me, and I was aware of deadly nausea mingled with
an appalling conviction of sin.

I slept the afternoon away under the trees, and when my father roused me
at sundown it was a very sick little boy that got up and dragged wearily
homeward.  I was exhausted, oppressed by the weight of my limbs, and in
my stomach was a harp-like vibrating that extended to my throat and
brain.  My condition was like that of one who had gone through a battle
with poison.  In truth, I had been poisoned.

In the weeks and months that followed I had no more interest in beer than
in the kitchen stove after it had burned me.  The grown-ups were right.
Beer was not for children.  The grown-ups didn't mind it; but neither did
they mind taking pills and castor oil.  As for me, I could manage to get
along quite well without beer.  Yes, and to the day of my death I could
have managed to get along quite well without it.  But circumstance
decreed otherwise.  At every turn in the world in which I lived, John
Barleycorn beckoned.  There was no escaping him.  All paths led to him.
And it took twenty years of contact, of exchanging greetings and passing
on with my tongue in my cheek, to develop in me a sneaking liking for the


My next bout with John Barleycorn occurred when I was seven.  This time
my imagination was at fault, and I was frightened into the encounter.
Still farming, my family had moved to a ranch on the bleak sad coast of
San Mateo County, south of San Francisco.  It was a wild, primitive
countryside in those days; and often I heard my mother pride herself that
we were old American stock and not immigrant Irish and Italians like our
neighbours.  In all our section there was only one other old American

One Sunday morning found me, how or why I cannot now remember, at the
Morrisey ranch.  A number of young people had gathered there from the
nearer ranches.  Besides, the oldsters had been there, drinking since
early dawn, and, some of them, since the night before.  The Morriseys
were a huge breed, and there were many strapping great sons and uncles,
heavy-booted, big-fisted, rough-voiced.

Suddenly there were screams from the girls and cries of "Fight!" There
was a rush.  Men hurled themselves out of the kitchen.  Two giants,
flush-faced, with greying hair, were locked in each other's arms.  One
was Black Matt, who, everybody said, had killed two men in his time.  The
women screamed softly, crossed themselves, or prayed brokenly, hiding
their eyes and peeping through their fingers.  But not I.  It is a fair
presumption that I was the most interested spectator.  Maybe I would see
that wonderful thing, a man killed.  Anyway, I would see a man-fight.
Great was my disappointment.  Black Matt and Tom Morrisey merely held on
to each other and lifted their clumsy-booted feet in what seemed a
grotesque, elephantine dance.  They were too drunk to fight.  Then the
peacemakers got hold of them and led them back to cement the new
friendship in the kitchen.

Soon they were all talking at once, rumbling and roaring as big-chested
open-air men will, when whisky has whipped their taciturnity.  And I, a
little shaver of seven, my heart in my mouth, my trembling body strung
tense as a deer's on the verge of flight, peered wonderingly in at the
open door and learned more of the strangeness of men.  And I marvelled at
Black Matt and Tom Morrisey, sprawled over the table, arms about each
other's necks, weeping lovingly.

The kitchen-drinking continued, and the girls outside grew timorous.
They knew the drink game, and all were certain that something terrible
was going to happen.  They protested that they did not wish to be there
when it happened, and some one suggested going to a big Italian rancho
four miles away, where they could get up a dance.  Immediately they
paired off, lad and lassie, and started down the sandy road.  And each
lad walked with his sweetheart--trust a child of seven to listen and to
know the love-affairs of his countryside.  And behold, I, too, was a lad
with a lassie.  A little Irish girl of my own age had been paired off
with me.  We were the only children in this spontaneous affair.  Perhaps
the oldest couple might have been twenty.  There were chits of girls,
quite grown up, of fourteen and sixteen, walking with their fellows.  But
we were uniquely young, this little Irish girl and I, and we walked hand
in hand, and, sometimes, under the tutelage of our elders, with my arm
around her waist.  Only that wasn't comfortable.  And I was very proud,
on that bright Sunday morning, going down the long bleak road among the
sandhills.  I, too, had my girl, and was a little man.

The Italian rancho was a bachelor establishment.  Our visit was hailed
with delight.  The red wine was poured in tumblers for all, and the long
dining-room was partly cleared for dancing.  And the young fellows drank
and danced with the girls to the strains of an accordion.  To me that
music was divine.  I had never heard anything so glorious.  The young
Italian who furnished it would even get up and dance, his arms around his
girl, playing the accordion behind her back.  All of which was very
wonderful for me, who did not dance, but who sat at a table and gazed
wide-eyed at the amazingness of life.  I was only a little lad, and there
was so much of life for me to learn.  As the time passed, the Irish lads
began helping themselves to the wine, and jollity and high spirits
reigned.  I noted that some of them staggered and fell down in the
dances, and that one had gone to sleep in a corner.  Also, some of the
girls were complaining, and wanting to leave, and others of the girls
were titteringly complacent, willing for anything to happen.

When our Italian hosts had offered me wine in a general sort of way, I
had declined.  My beer experience had been enough for me, and I had no
inclination to traffic further in the stuff, or in anything related to
it.  Unfortunately, one young Italian, Peter, an impish soul, seeing me
sitting solitary, stirred by a whim of the moment, half-filled a tumbler
with wine and passed it to me.  He was sitting across the table from me.
I declined.  His face grew stern, and he insistently proffered the wine.
And then terror descended upon me--a terror which I must explain.

My mother had theories.  First, she steadfastly maintained that brunettes
and all the tribe of dark-eyed humans were deceitful.  Needless to say,
my mother was a blonde.  Next, she was convinced that the dark-eyed Latin
races were profoundly sensitive, profoundly treacherous, and profoundly
murderous.  Again and again, drinking in the strangeness and the
fearsomeness of the world from her lips, I had heard her state that if
one offended an Italian, no matter how slightly and unintentionally, he
was certain to retaliate by stabbing one in the back.  That was her
particular phrase--"stab you in the back."

Now, although I had been eager to see Black Matt kill Tom Morrisey that
morning, I did not care to furnish to the dancers the spectacle of a
knife sticking in my back.  I had not yet learned to distinguish between
facts and theories.  My faith was implicit in my mother's exposition of
the Italian character.  Besides, I had some glimmering inkling of the
sacredness of hospitality.  Here was a treacherous, sensitive, murderous
Italian, offering me hospitality.  I had been taught to believe that if I
offended him he would strike at me with a knife precisely as a horse
kicked out when one got too close to its heels and worried it.  Then,
too, this Italian, Peter, had those terrible black eyes I had heard my
mother talk about.  They were eyes different from the eyes I knew, from
the blues and greys and hazels of my own family, from the pale and genial
blues of the Irish.  Perhaps Peter had had a few drinks.  At any rate,
his eyes were brilliantly black and sparkling with devilry.  They were
the mysterious, the unknown, and who was I, a seven-year-old, to analyse
them and know their prankishness? In them I visioned sudden death, and I
declined the wine half-heartedly.  The expression in his eyes changed.
They grew stern and imperious as he shoved the tumbler of wine closer.

What could I do? I have faced real death since in my life, but never have
I known the fear of death as I knew it then.  I put the glass to my lips,
and Peter's eyes relented.  I knew he would not kill me just then.  That
was a relief.  But the wine was not.  It was cheap, new wine, bitter and
sour, made of the leavings and scrapings of the vineyards and the vats,
and it tasted far worse than beer.  There is only one way to take
medicine, and that is to take it.  And that is the way I took that wine.
I threw my head back and gulped it down.  I had to gulp again and hold
the poison down, for poison it was to my child's tissues and membranes.

Looking back now, I can realise that Peter was astounded.  He half-filled
a second tumbler and shoved it across the table.  Frozen with fear, in
despair at the fate which had befallen me, I gulped the second glass down
like the first.  This was too much for Peter.  He must share the infant
prodigy he had discovered.  He called Dominick, a young moustached
Italian, to see the sight.  This time it was a full tumbler that was
given me.  One will do anything to live.  I gripped myself, mastered the
qualms that rose in my throat, and downed the stuff.

Dominick had never seen an infant of such heroic calibre.  Twice again he
refilled the tumbler, each time to the brim, and watched it disappear
down my throat.  By this time my exploits were attracting attention.
Middle-aged Italian labourers, old-country peasants who did not talk
English, and who could not dance with the Irish girls, surrounded me.
They were swarthy and wild-looking; they wore belts and red shirts; and I
knew they carried knives; and they ringed me around like a pirate chorus.
And Peter and Dominick made me show off for them.

Had I lacked imagination, had I been stupid, had I been stubbornly mulish
in having my own way, I should never have got in this pickle.  And the
lads and lassies were dancing, and there was no one to save me from my
fate.  How much I drank I do not know.  My memory of it is of an age-long
suffering of fear in the midst of a murderous crew, and of an infinite
number of glasses of red wine passing across the bare boards of a
wine-drenched table and going down my burning throat.  Bad as the wine
was, a knife in the back was worse, and I must survive at any cost.

Looking back with the drinker's knowledge, I know now why I did not
collapse stupefied upon the table.  As I have said, I was frozen, I was
paralysed, with fear.  The only movement I made was to convey that
never-ending procession of glasses to my lips.  I was a poised and
motionless receptacle for all that quantity of wine.  It lay inert in my
fear-inert stomach.  I was too frightened, even, for my stomach to turn.
So all that Italian crew looked on and marvelled at the infant phenomenon
that downed wine with the sang-froid of an automaton.  It is not in the
spirit of braggadocio that I dare to assert they had never seen anything
like it.

The time came to go.  The tipsy antics of the lads had led a majority of
the soberer-minded lassies to compel a departure.  I found myself, at the
door, beside my little maiden.  She had not had my experience, so she was
sober.  She was fascinated by the titubations of the lads who strove to
walk beside their girls, and began to mimic them.  I thought this a great
game, and I, too, began to stagger tipsily.  But she had no wine to stir
up, while my movements quickly set the fumes rising to my head.  Even at
the start, I was more realistic than she.  In several minutes I was
astonishing myself.  I saw one lad, after reeling half a dozen steps,
pause at the side of the road, gravely peer into the ditch, and gravely,
and after apparent deep thought, fall into it.  To me this was
excruciatingly funny.  I staggered to the edge of the ditch, fully
intending to stop on the edge.  I came to myself, in the ditch, in
process of being hauled out by several anxious-faced girls.

I didn't care to play at being drunk any more.  There was no more fun in
me.  My eyes were beginning to swim, and with wide-open mouth I panted
for air.  A girl led me by the hand on either side, but my legs were
leaden.  The alcohol I had drunk was striking my heart and brain like a
club.  Had I been a weakling of a child, I am confident that it would
have killed me.  As it was, I know I was nearer death than any of the
scared girls dreamed.  I could hear them bickering among themselves as to
whose fault it was; some were weeping--for themselves, for me, and for
the disgraceful way their lads had behaved.  But I was not interested.  I
was suffocating, and I wanted air.  To move was agony.  It made me pant
harder.  Yet those girls persisted in making me walk, and it was four
miles home.  Four miles! I remember my swimming eyes saw a small bridge
across the road an infinite distance away.  In fact, it was not a hundred
feet distant.  When I reached it, I sank down and lay on my back panting.
The girls tried to lift me, but I was helpless and suffocating.  Their
cries of alarm brought Larry, a drunken youth of seventeen, who proceeded
to resuscitate me by jumping on my chest.  Dimly I remember this, and the
squalling of the girls as they struggled with him and dragged him away.
And then I knew nothing, though I learned afterward that Larry wound up
under the bridge and spent the night there.

When I came to, it was dark.  I had been carried unconscious for four
miles and been put to bed.  I was a sick child, and, despite the terrible
strain on my heart and tissues, I continually relapsed into the madness
of delirium.  All the contents of the terrible and horrible in my child's
mind spilled out.  The most frightful visions were realities to me.  I
saw murders committed, and I was pursued by murderers.  I screamed and
raved and fought.  My sufferings were prodigious.  Emerging from such
delirium, I would hear my mother's voice: "But the child's brain.  He
will lose his reason." And sinking back into delirium, I would take the
idea with me and be immured in madhouses, and be beaten by keepers, and
surrounded by screeching lunatics.

One thing that had strongly impressed my young mind was the talk of my
elders about the dens of iniquity in San Francisco's Chinatown.  In my
delirium I wandered deep beneath the ground through a thousand of these
dens, and behind locked doors of iron I suffered and died a thousand
deaths.  And when I would come upon my father, seated at table in these
subterranean crypts, gambling with Chinese for great stakes of gold, all
my outrage gave vent in the vilest cursing.  I would rise in bed,
struggling against the detaining hands, and curse my father till the
rafters rang.  All the inconceivable filth a child running at large in a
primitive countryside may hear men utter was mine; and though I had never
dared utter such oaths, they now poured from me, at the top of my lungs,
as I cursed my father sitting there underground and gambling with
long-haired, long-nailed Chinamen.

It is a wonder that I did not burst my heart or brain that night.  A
seven-year-old child's arteries and nerve-centres are scarcely fitted to
endure the terrific paroxysms that convulsed me.  No one slept in the
thin, frame farm-house that night when John Barleycorn had his will of
me.  And Larry, under the bridge, had no delirium like mine.  I am
confident that his sleep was stupefied and dreamless, and that he awoke
next day merely to heaviness and moroseness, and that if he lives to-day
he does not remember that night, so passing was it as an incident.  But
my brain was seared for ever by that experience.  Writing now, thirty
years afterward, every vision is as distinct, as sharp-cut, every pain as
vital and terrible, as on that night.

I was sick for days afterward, and I needed none of my mother's
injunctions to avoid John Barleycorn in the future.  My mother had been
dreadfully shocked.  She held that I had done wrong, very wrong, and that
I had gone contrary to all her teaching.  And how was I, who was never
allowed to talk back, who lacked the very words with which to express my
psychology--how was I to tell my mother that it was her teaching that was
directly responsible for my drunkenness? Had it not been for her theories
about dark eyes and Italian character, I should never have wet my lips
with the sour, bitter wine.  And not until man-grown did I tell her the
true inwardness of that disgraceful affair.

In those after days of sickness, I was confused on some points, and very
clear on others.  I felt guilty of sin, yet smarted with a sense of
injustice.  It had not been my fault, yet I had done wrong.  But very
clear was my resolution never to touch liquor again.  No mad dog was ever
more afraid of water than was I of alcohol.

Yet the point I am making is that this experience, terrible as it was,
could not in the end deter me from forming John Barleycorn's
cheek-by-jowl acquaintance.  All about me, even then, were the forces
moving me toward him.  In the first place, barring my mother, ever
extreme in her views, it seemed to me all the grown-ups looked upon the
affair with tolerant eyes.  It was a joke, something funny that had
happened.  There was no shame attached.  Even the lads and lassies
giggled and snickered over their part in the affair, narrating with gusto
how Larry had jumped on my chest and slept under the bridge, how
So-and-So had slept out in the sandhills that night, and what had
happened to the other lad who fell in the ditch.  As I say, so far as I
could see, there was no shame anywhere.  It had been something
ticklishly, devilishly fine--a bright and gorgeous episode in the
monotony of life and labour on that bleak, fog-girt coast.

The Irish ranchers twitted me good-naturedly on my exploit, and patted me
on the back until I felt that I had done something heroic.  Peter and
Dominick and the other Italians were proud of my drinking prowess.  The
face of morality was not set against drinking.  Besides, everybody drank.
There was not a teetotaler in the community.  Even the teacher of our
little country school, a greying man of fifty, gave us vacations on the
occasions when he wrestled with John Barleycorn and was thrown.  Thus
there was no spiritual deterrence.  My loathing for alcohol was purely
physiological.  I didn't like the damned stuff.


This physical loathing for alcohol I have never got over.  But I have
conquered it.  To this day I conquer it every time I take a drink.  The
palate never ceases to rebel, and the palate can be trusted to know what
is good for the body.  But men do not drink for the effect alcohol
produces on the body.  What they drink for is the brain-effect; and if it
must come through the body, so much the worse for the body.

And yet, despite my physical loathing for alcohol, the brightest spots in
my child life were the saloons.  Sitting on the heavy potato wagons,
wrapped in fog, feet stinging from inactivity, the horses plodding slowly
along the deep road through the sandhills, one bright vision made the way
never too long.  The bright vision was the saloon at Colma, where my
father, or whoever drove, always got out to get a drink.  And I got out
to warm by the great stove and get a soda cracker.  Just one soda
cracker, but a fabulous luxury.  Saloons were good for something.  Back
behind the plodding horses, I would take an hour in consuming that one
cracker.  I took the smallest nibbles, never losing a crumb, and chewed
the nibble till it became the thinnest and most delectable of pastes.  I
never voluntarily swallowed this paste.  I just tasted it, and went on
tasting it, turning it over with my tongue, spreading it on the inside of
this cheek, then on the inside of the other cheek, until, at the end, it
eluded me and in tiny drops and oozelets, slipped and dribbled down my
throat.  Horace Fletcher had nothing on me when it came to soda crackers.

I liked saloons.  Especially I liked the San Francisco saloons.  They had
the most delicious dainties for the taking--strange breads and crackers,
cheeses, sausages, sardines--wonderful foods that I never saw on our
meagre home-table.  And once, I remember, a barkeeper mixed me a sweet
temperance drink of syrup and soda-water.  My father did not pay for it.
It was the barkeeper's treat, and he became my ideal of a good, kind man.
I dreamed day-dreams of him for years.  Although I was seven years old at
the time, I can see him now with undiminished clearness, though I never
laid eyes on him but that one time.  The saloon was south of Market
Street in San Francisco.  It stood on the west side of the street.  As
you entered, the bar was on the left.  On the right, against the wall,
was the free lunch counter.  It was a long, narrow room, and at the rear,
beyond the beer kegs on tap, were small, round tables and chairs.  The
barkeeper was blue-eyed, and had fair, silky hair peeping out from under
a black silk skull-cap.  I remember he wore a brown Cardigan jacket, and
I know precisely the spot, in the midst of the array of bottles, from
which he took the bottle of red-coloured syrup.  He and my father talked
long, and I sipped my sweet drink and worshipped him.  And for years
afterward I worshipped the memory of him.

Despite my two disastrous experiences, here was John Barleycorn,
prevalent and accessible everywhere in the community, luring and drawing
me.  Here were connotations of the saloon making deep indentations in a
child's mind.  Here was a child, forming its first judgments of the
world, finding the saloon a delightful and desirable place.  Stores, nor
public buildings, nor all the dwellings of men ever opened their doors to
me and let me warm by their fires or permitted me to eat the food of the
gods from narrow shelves against the wall.  Their doors were ever closed
to me; the saloon's doors were ever open.  And always and everywhere I
found saloons, on highway and byway, up narrow alleys and on busy
thoroughfares, bright-lighted and cheerful, warm in winter, and in summer
dark and cool.  Yes, the saloon was a mighty fine place, and it was more
than that.

By the time I was ten years old, my family had abandoned ranching and
gone to live in the city.  And here, at ten, I began on the streets as a
newsboy.  One of the reasons for this was that we needed the money.
Another reason was that I needed the exercise.  I had found my way to the
free public library, and was reading myself into nervous prostration.  On
the poor ranches on which I had lived there had been no books.  In ways
truly miraculous, I had been lent four books, marvellous books, and them
I had devoured.  One was the life of Garfield; the second, Paul du
Chaillu's African travels; the third, a novel by Ouida with the last
forty pages missing; and the fourth, Irving's "Alhambra." This last had
been lent me by a school-teacher.  I was not a forward child.  Unlike
Oliver Twist, I was incapable of asking for more.  When I returned the
"Alhambra" to the teacher I hoped she would lend me another book.  And
because she did not--most likely she deemed me unappreciative--I cried
all the way home on the three-mile tramp from the school to the ranch. I
waited and yearned for her to lend me another book.  Scores of times I
nerved myself almost to the point of asking her, but never quite reached
the necessary pitch of effrontery.

And then came the city of Oakland, and on the shelves of that free
library I discovered all the great world beyond the skyline.  Here were
thousands of books as good as my four wonder-books, and some were even
better.  Libraries were not concerned with children in those days, and I
had strange adventures.  I remember, in the catalogue, being impressed by
the title, "The Adventures of Peregrine Pickle." I filled an application
blank and the librarian handed me the collected and entirely unexpurgated
works of Smollett in one huge volume.  I read everything, but principally
history and adventure, and all the old travels and voyages.  I read
mornings, afternoons, and nights.  I read in bed, I read at table, I read
as I walked to and from school, and I read at recess while the other boys
were playing.  I began to get the "jerks." To everybody I replied: "Go
away.  You make me nervous."

And so, at ten, I was out on the streets, a newsboy.  I had no time to
read.  I was busy getting exercise and learning how to fight, busy
learning forwardness, and brass and bluff.  I had an imagination and a
curiosity about all things that made me plastic.  Not least among the
things I was curious about was the saloon.  And I was in and out of many
a one.  I remember, in those days, on the east side of Broadway, between
Sixth and Seventh, from corner to corner, there was a solid block of

In the saloons life was different.  Men talked with great voices, laughed
great laughs, and there was an atmosphere of greatness.  Here was
something more than common every-day where nothing happened.  Here life
was always very live, and, sometimes, even lurid, when blows were struck,
and blood was shed, and big policemen came shouldering in.  Great
moments, these, for me, my head filled with all the wild and valiant
fighting of the gallant adventurers on sea and land.  There were no big
moments when I trudged along the street throwing my papers in at doors.
But in the saloons, even the sots, stupefied, sprawling across the tables
or in the sawdust, were objects of mystery and wonder.

And more, the saloons were right.  The city fathers sanctioned them and
licensed them.  They were not the terrible places I heard boys deem them
who lacked my opportunities to know.  Terrible they might be, but then
that only meant they were terribly wonderful, and it is the terribly
wonderful that a boy desires to know.  In the same way pirates, and
shipwrecks, and battles were terrible; and what healthy boy wouldn't give
his immortal soul to participate in such affairs?

Besides, in saloons I saw reporters, editors, lawyers, judges, whose
names and faces I knew.  They put the seal of social approval on the
saloon.  They verified my own feeling of fascination in the saloon.
They, too, must have found there that something different, that something
beyond, which I sensed and groped after.  What it was, I did not know;
yet there it must be, for there men focused like buzzing flies about a
honey pot.  I had no sorrows, and the world was very bright, so I could
not guess that what these men sought was forgetfulness of jaded toil and
stale grief.

Not that I drank at that time.  From ten to fifteen I rarely tasted
liquor, but I was intimately in contact with drinkers and drinking
places.  The only reason I did not drink was because I didn't like the
stuff.  As the time passed, I worked as boy-helper on an ice-wagon, set
up pins in a bowling alley with a saloon attached, and swept out saloons
at Sunday picnic grounds.

Big jovial Josie Harper ran a road house at Telegraph Avenue and
Thirty-ninth Street.  Here for a year I delivered an evening paper, until
my route was changed to the water-front and tenderloin of Oakland.  The
first month, when I collected Josie Harper's bill, she poured me a glass
of wine.  I was ashamed to refuse, so I drank it.  But after that I
watched the chance when she wasn't around so as to collect from her

The first day I worked in the bowling alley, the barkeeper, according to
custom, called us boys up to have a drink after we had been setting up
pins for several hours.  The others asked for beer.  I said I'd take
ginger ale.  The boys snickered, and I noticed the barkeeper favoured me
with a strange, searching scrutiny.  Nevertheless, he opened a bottle of
ginger ale.  Afterward, back in the alleys, in the pauses between games,
the boys enlightened me.  I had offended the barkeeper.  A bottle of
ginger ale cost the saloon ever so much more than a glass of steam beer;
and it was up to me, if I wanted to hold my job, to drink beer.  Besides,
beer was food.  I could work better on it.  There was no food in ginger
ale.  After that, when I couldn't sneak out of it, I drank beer and
wondered what men found in it that was so good.  I was always aware that
I was missing something.

What I really liked in those days was candy. For five cents I could buy
five "cannon-balls"--big lumps of the most delicious lastingness.  I
could chew and worry a single one for an hour.  Then there was a Mexican
who sold big slabs of brown chewing taffy for five cents each.  It
required a quarter of a day properly to absorb one of them.  And many a
day I made my entire lunch off one of those slabs.  In truth, I found
food there, but not in beer.


But the time was rapidly drawing near when I was to begin my second
series of bouts with John Barleycorn.  When I was fourteen, my head
filled with the tales of the old voyagers, my vision with tropic isles
and far sea-rims, I was sailing a small centreboard skiff around San
Francisco Bay and on the Oakland Estuary.  I wanted to go to sea.  I
wanted to get away from monotony and the commonplace.  I was in the
flower of my adolescence, a-thrill with romance and adventure, dreaming
of wild life in the wild man-world.  Little I guessed how all the warp
and woof of that man-world was entangled with alcohol.

So, one day, as I hoisted sail on my skiff, I met Scotty.  He was a husky
youngster of seventeen, a runaway apprentice, he told me, from an English
ship in Australia.  He had just worked his way on another ship to San
Francisco; and now he wanted to see about getting a berth on a whaler.
Across the estuary, near where the whalers lay, was lying the sloop-yacht
Idler.  The caretaker was a harpooner who intended sailing next voyage on
the whale ship Bonanza.  Would I take him, Scotty, over in my skiff to
call upon the harpooner?

Would I! Hadn't I heard the stories and rumours about the Idler?--the big
sloop that had come up from the Sandwich Islands where it had been
engaged in smuggling opium.  And the harpooner who was caretaker! How
often had I seen him and envied him his freedom.  He never had to leave
the water.  He slept aboard the Idler each night, while I had to go home
upon the land to go to bed.  The harpooner was only nineteen years old
(and I have never had anything but his own word that he was a harpooner);
but he had been too shining and glorious a personality for me ever to
address as I paddled around the yacht at a wistful distance.  Would I
take Scotty, the runaway sailor, to visit the harpooner, on the
opium-smuggler Idler?  WOULD I!

The harpooner came on deck to answer our hail, and invited us aboard.  I
played the sailor and the man, fending off the skiff so that it would not
mar the yacht's white paint, dropping the skiff astern on a long painter,
and making the painter fast with two nonchalant half-hitches.

We went below.  It was the first sea-interior I had ever seen.  The
clothing on the wall smelled musty.  But what of that? Was it not the
sea-gear of men?--leather jackets lined with corduroy, blue coats of
pilot cloth, sou'westers, sea-boots, oilskins.  And everywhere was in
evidence the economy of space--the narrow bunks, the swinging tables, the
incredible lockers.  There were the tell-tale compass, the sea-lamps in
their gimbals, the blue-backed charts carelessly rolled and tucked away,
the signal-flags in alphabetical order, and a mariner's dividers jammed
into the woodwork to hold a calendar.  At last I was living.  Here I sat,
inside my first ship, a smuggler, accepted as a comrade by a harpooner
and a runaway English sailor who said his name was Scotty.

The first thing that the harpooner, aged nineteen, and the sailor, aged
seventeen, did to show that they were men was to behave like men.  The
harpooner suggested the eminent desirableness of a drink, and Scotty
searched his pockets for dimes and nickels.  Then the harpooner carried
away a pink flask to be filled in some blind pig, for there were no
licensed saloons in that locality.  We drank the cheap rotgut out of
tumblers.  Was I any the less strong, any the less valiant, than the
harpooner and the sailor?  They were men.  They proved it by the way they
drank.  Drink was the badge of manhood.  So I drank with them, drink by
drink, raw and straight, though the damned stuff couldn't compare with a
stick of chewing taffy or a delectable "cannon-ball." I shuddered and
swallowed my gorge with every drink, though I manfully hid all such

Divers times we filled the flask that afternoon.  All I had was twenty
cents, but I put it up like a man, though with secret regret at the
enormous store of candy it could have bought.  The liquor mounted in the
heads of all of us, and the talk of Scotty and the harpooner was upon
running the Easting down, gales off the Horn and pamperos off the Plate,
lower topsail breezes, southerly busters, North Pacific gales, and of
smashed whaleboats in the Arctic ice.

"You can't swim in that ice water," said the harpooner confidentially to
me.  "You double up in a minute and go down.  When a whale smashes your
boat, the thing to do is to get your belly across an oar, so that when
the cold doubles you you'll float."

"Sure," I said, with a grateful nod and an air of certitude that I, too,
would hunt whales and be in smashed boats in the Arctic Ocean.  And,
truly, I registered his advice as singularly valuable information, and
filed it away in my brain, where it persists to this day.

But I couldn't talk--at first.  Heavens! I was only fourteen, and had
never been on the ocean in my life.  I could only listen to the two
sea-dogs, and show my manhood by drinking with them, fairly and squarely,
drink and drink.

The liquor worked its will with me; the talk of Scotty and the harpooner
poured through the pent space of the Idler's cabin and through my brain
like great gusts of wide, free wind; and in imagination I lived my years
to come and rocked over the wild, mad, glorious world on multitudinous

We unbent.  Our inhibitions and taciturnities vanished.  We were as if we
had known each other for years and years, and we pledged ourselves to
years of future voyagings together.  The harpooner told of misadventures
and secret shames.  Scotty wept over his poor old mother in Edinburgh--a
lady, he insisted, gently born--who was in reduced circumstances, who had
pinched herself to pay the lump sum to the ship-owners for his
apprenticeship, whose sacrificing dream had been to see him a merchantman
officer and a gentleman, and who was heartbroken because he had deserted
his ship in Australia and joined another as a common sailor before the
mast.  And Scotty proved it.  He drew her last sad letter from his pocket
and wept over it as he read it aloud.  The harpooner and I wept with him,
and swore that all three of us would ship on the whaleship Bonanza, win a
big pay-day, and, still together, make a pilgrimage to Edinburgh and lay
our store of money in the dear lady's lap.

And, as John Barleycorn heated his way into my brain, thawing my
reticence, melting my modesty, talking through me and with me and as me,
my adopted twin brother and alter ego, I, too, raised my voice to show
myself a man and an adventurer, and bragged in detail and at length of
how I had crossed San Francisco Bay in my open skiff in a roaring
southwester when even the schooner sailors doubted my exploit.  Further,
I--or John Barleycorn, for it was the same thing--told Scotty that he
might be a deep-sea sailor and know the last rope on the great deep-sea
ships, but that when it came to small-boat sailing I could beat him hands
down and sail circles around him.

The best of it was that my assertion and brag were true.  With reticence
and modesty present, I could never have dared tell Scotty my small-boat
estimate of him.  But it is ever the way of John Barleycorn to loosen the
tongue and babble the secret thought.

Scotty, or John Barleycorn, or the pair, was very naturally offended by
my remarks.  Nor was I loath.  I could whip any runaway sailor seventeen
years old.  Scotty and I flared and raged like young cockerels, until the
harpooner poured another round of drinks to enable us to forgive and make
up.  Which we did, arms around each other's necks, protesting vows of
eternal friendship--just like Black Matt and Tom Morrisey, I remembered,
in the ranch kitchen in San Mateo.  And, remembering, I knew that I was
at last a man--despite my meagre fourteen years--a man as big and manly
as those two strapping giants who had quarrelled and made up on that
memorable Sunday morning of long ago.

By this time the singing stage was reached, and I joined Scotty and the
harpooner in snatches of sea songs and chanties.  It was here, in the
cabin of the Idler, that I first heard "Blow the Man Down," "Flying
Cloud," and "Whisky, Johnny, Whisky." Oh, it was brave.  I was beginning
to grasp the meaning of life.  Here was no commonplace, no Oakland
Estuary, no weary round of throwing newspapers at front doors, delivering
ice, and setting up ninepins.  All the world was mine, all its paths were
under my feet, and John Barleycorn, tricking my fancy, enabled me to
anticipate the life of adventure for which I yearned.

We were not ordinary.  We were three tipsy young gods, incredibly wise,
gloriously genial, and without limit to our powers.  Ah!--and I say it
now, after the years--could John Barleycorn keep one at such a height, I
should never draw a sober breath again.  But this is not a world of free
freights.  One pays according to an iron schedule--for every strength the
balanced weakness; for every high a corresponding low; for every
fictitious god-like moment an equivalent time in reptilian slime.  For
every feat of telescoping long days and weeks of life into mad
magnificent instants, one must pay with shortened life, and, oft-times,
with savage usury added.

Intenseness and duration are as ancient enemies as fire and water.  They
are mutually destructive.  They cannot co-exist.  And John Barleycorn,
mighty necromancer though he be, is as much a slave to organic chemistry
as we mortals are.  We pay for every nerve marathon we run, nor can John
Barleycorn intercede and fend off the just payment.  He can lead us to
the heights, but he cannot keep us there, else would we all be devotees.
And there is no devotee but pays for the mad dances John Barleycorn pipes.

Yet the foregoing is all in after wisdom spoken.  It was no part of the
knowledge of the lad, fourteen years old, who sat in the Idler's cabin
between the harpooner and the sailor, the air rich in his nostrils with
the musty smell of men's sea-gear, roaring in chorus: "Yankee ship come
down de ribber--pull, my bully boys, pull!"

We grew maudlin, and all talked and shouted at once.  I had a splendid
constitution, a stomach that would digest scrap-iron, and I was still
running my marathon in full vigour when Scotty began to fail and fade.
His talk grew incoherent.  He groped for words and could not find them,
while the ones he found his lips were unable to form.  His poisoned
consciousness was leaving him.  The brightness went out of his eyes, and
he looked as stupid as were his efforts to talk.  His face and body
sagged as his consciousness sagged.  (A man cannot sit upright save by an
act of will.)  Scotty's reeling brain could not control his muscles.  All
his correlations were breaking down.  He strove to take another drink,
and feebly dropped the tumbler on the floor.  Then, to my amazement,
weeping bitterly, he rolled into a bunk on his back and immediately
snored off to sleep.

The harpooner and I drank on, grinning in a superior way to each other
over Scotty's plight.  The last flask was opened, and we drank it between
us, to the accompaniment of Scotty's stertorous breathing.  Then the
harpooner faded away into his bunk, and I was left alone, unthrown, on
the field of battle.

I was very proud, and John Barleycorn was proud with me.  I could carry
my drink.  I was a man.  I had drunk two men, drink for drink, into
unconsciousness.  And I was still on my two feet, upright, making my way
on deck to get air into my scorching lungs.  It was in this bout on the
Idler that I discovered what a good stomach and a strong head I had for
drink--a bit of knowledge that was to be a source of pride in succeeding
years, and that ultimately I was to come to consider a great affliction.
The fortunate man is the one who cannot take more than a couple of drinks
without becoming intoxicated.  The unfortunate wight is the one who can
take many glasses without betraying a sign, who must take numerous
glasses in order to get the "kick."

The sun was setting when I came on the Idler's deck.  There were plenty
of bunks below.  I did not need to go home.  But I wanted to demonstrate
to myself how much I was a man.  There lay my skiff astern.  The last of
a strong ebb was running out in channel in the teeth of an ocean breeze
of forty miles an hour.  I could see the stiff whitecaps, and the suck
and run of the current was plainly visible in the face and trough of each

I set sail, cast off, took my place at the tiller, the sheet in my hand,
and headed across channel.  The skiff heeled over and plunged into it
madly.  The spray began to fly.  I was at the pinnacle of exaltation.  I
sang "Blow the Man Down" as I sailed.  I was no boy of fourteen, living
the mediocre ways of the sleepy town called Oakland.  I was a man, a god,
and the very elements rendered me allegiance as I bitted them to my will.

The tide was out.  A full hundred yards of soft mud intervened between
the boat-wharf and the water.  I pulled up my centreboard, ran full tilt
into the mud, took in sail, and, standing in the stern, as I had often
done at low tide, I began to shove the skiff with an oar.  It was then
that my correlations began to break down.  I lost my balance and pitched
head-foremost into the ooze.  Then, and for the first time, as I
floundered to my feet covered with slime, the blood running down my arms
from a scrape against a barnacled stake, I knew that I was drunk.  But
what of it? Across the channel two strong sailormen lay unconscious in
their bunks where I had drunk them.  I WAS a man.  I was still on my
legs, if they were knee-deep in mud.  I disdained to get back into the
skiff.  I waded through the mud, shoving the skiff before me and
yammering the chant of my manhood to the world.

I paid for it.  I was sick for a couple of days, meanly sick, and my arms
were painfully poisoned from the barnacle scratches.  For a week I could
not use them, and it was a torture to put on and take off my clothes.

I swore, "Never again!" The game wasn't worth it.  The price was too
stiff.  I had no moral qualms.  My revulsion was purely physical.  No
exalted moments were worth such hours of misery and wretchedness.  When I
got back to my skiff, I shunned the Idler.  I would cross the opposite
side of the channel to go around her.  Scotty had disappeared.  The
harpooner was still about, but him I avoided.  Once, when he landed on
the boat-wharf, I hid in a shed so as to escape seeing him.  I was afraid
he would propose some more drinking, maybe have a flask full of whisky in
his pocket.

And yet--and here enters the necromancy of John Barleycorn--that
afternoon's drunk on the Idler had been a purple passage flung into the
monotony of my days.  It was memorable.  My mind dwelt on it continually.
I went over the details, over and over again.  Among other things, I had
got into the cogs and springs of men's actions.  I had seen Scotty weep
about his own worthlessness and the sad case of his Edinburgh mother who
was a lady.  The harpooner had told me terribly wonderful things of
himself.  I had caught a myriad enticing and inflammatory hints of a
world beyond my world, and for which I was certainly as fitted as the two
lads who had drunk with me.  I had got behind men's souls.  I had got
behind my own soul and found unguessed potencies and greatnesses.

Yes, that day stood out above all my other days.  To this day it so
stands out.  The memory of it is branded in my brain.  But the price
exacted was too high.  I refused to play and pay, and returned to my
cannon-balls and taffy-slabs.  The point is that all the chemistry of my
healthy, normal body drove me away from alcohol.  The stuff didn't agree
with me.  It was abominable.  But, despite this, circumstance was to
continue to drive me toward John Barleycorn, to drive me again and again,
until, after long years, the time should come when I would look up John
Barleycorn in every haunt of men--look him up and hail him gladly as
benefactor and friend.  And detest and hate him all the time.  Yes, he is
a strange friend, John Barleycorn.


I was barely turned fifteen, and working long hours in a cannery.  Month
in and month out, the shortest day I ever worked was ten hours.  When to
ten hours of actual work at a machine is added the noon hour; the walking
to work and walking home from work; the getting up in the morning,
dressing, and eating; the eating at night, undressing, and going to bed,
there remains no more than the nine hours out of the twenty-four required
by a healthy youngster for sleep.  Out of those nine hours, after I was
in bed and ere my eyes drowsed shut, I managed to steal a little time for

But many a night I did not knock off work until midnight.  On occasion I
worked eighteen and twenty hours on a stretch.  Once I worked at my
machine for thirty-six consecutive hours.  And there were weeks on end
when I never knocked off work earlier than eleven o'clock, got home and
in bed at half after midnight, and was called at half-past five to dress,
eat, walk to work, and be at my machine at seven o'clock whistle blow.

No moments here to be stolen for my beloved books.  And what had John
Barleycorn to do with such strenuous, Stoic toil of a lad just turned
fifteen? He had everything to do with it.  Let me show you.  I asked
myself if this were the meaning of life--to be a work-beast? I knew of no
horse in the city of Oakland that worked the hours I worked.  If this
were living, I was entirely unenamoured of it.  I remembered my skiff,
lying idle and accumulating barnacles at the boat-wharf; I remembered the
wind that blew every day on the bay, the sunrises and sunsets I never
saw; the bite of the salt air in my nostrils, the bite of the salt water
on my flesh when I plunged overside; I remembered all the beauty and the
wonder and the sense-delights of the world denied me.  There was only one
way to escape my deadening toil.  I must get out and away on the water.
I must earn my bread on the water.  And the way of the water led
inevitably to John Barleycorn.  I did not know this.  And when I did
learn it, I was courageous enough not to retreat back to my bestial life
at the machine.

I wanted to be where the winds of adventure blew.  And the winds of
adventure blew the oyster pirate sloops up and down San Francisco Bay,
from raided oyster-beds and fights at night on shoal and flat, to markets
in the morning against city wharves, where peddlers and saloon-keepers
came down to buy.  Every raid on an oyster-bed was a felony.  The penalty
was State imprisonment, the stripes and the lockstep.  And what of that?
The men in stripes worked a shorter day than I at my machine.  And there
was vastly more romance in being an oyster pirate or a convict than in
being a machine slave.  And behind it all, behind all of me with youth
abubble, whispered Romance, Adventure.

So I interviewed my Mammy Jennie, my old nurse at whose black breast I
had suckled.  She was more prosperous than my folks.  She was nursing
sick people at a good weekly wage.  Would she lend her "white child" the
money?  WOULD SHE?  What she had was mine.

Then I sought out French Frank, the oyster pirate, who wanted to sell, I
had heard, his sloop, the Razzle Dazzle.  I found him lying at anchor on
the Alameda side of the estuary near the Webster Street bridge, with
visitors aboard, whom he was entertaining with afternoon wine.  He came
on deck to talk business.  He was willing to sell.  But it was Sunday.
Besides, he had guests.  On the morrow he would make out the bill of sale
and I could enter into possession. And in the meantime I must come below
and meet his friends.  They were two sisters, Mamie and Tess; a Mrs.
Hadley, who chaperoned them; "Whisky" Bob, a youthful oyster pirate of
sixteen; and "Spider" Healey, a black-whiskered wharf-rat of twenty.
Mamie, who was Spider's niece, was called the Queen of the Oyster
Pirates, and, on occasion, presided at their revels.  French Frank was in
love with her, though I did not know it at the time; and she steadfastly
refused to marry him.

French Frank poured a tumbler of red wine from a big demijohn to drink to
our transaction.  I remembered the red wine of the Italian rancho, and
shuddered inwardly.  Whisky and beer were not quite so repulsive.  But
the Queen of the Oyster Pirates was looking at me, a part-emptied glass
in her own hand.  I had my pride.  If I was only fifteen, at least I
could not show myself any less a man than she.  Besides, there were her
sister, and Mrs. Hadley, and the young oyster pirate, and the whiskered
wharf-rat, all with glasses in their hands.  Was I a milk-and-water sop?
No; a thousand times no, and a thousand glasses no.  I downed the
tumblerful like a man.

French Frank was elated by the sale, which I had bound with a
twenty-dollar goldpiece.  He poured more wine.  I had learned my strong
head and stomach, and I was certain I could drink with them in a
temperate way and not poison myself for a week to come.  I could stand as
much as they; and besides, they had already been drinking for some time.

We got to singing.  Spider sang "The Boston Burglar" and "Black Lulu."
The Queen sang "Then I Wisht I Were a Little Bird." And her sister Tess
sang "Oh, Treat My Daughter Kindily." The fun grew fast and furious.  I
found myself able to miss drinks without being noticed or called to
account.  Also, standing in the companionway, head and shoulders out and
glass in hand, I could fling the wine overboard.

I reasoned something like this: It is a queerness of these people that
they like this vile-tasting wine.  Well, let them.  I cannot quarrel with
their tastes.  My manhood, according to their queer notions, must compel
me to appear to like this wine.  Very well.  I shall so appear.  But I
shall drink no more than is unavoidable.

And the Queen began to make love to me, the latest recruit to the oyster
pirate fleet, and no mere hand, but a master and owner.  She went upon
deck to take the air, and took me with her.  She knew, of course, but I
never dreamed, how French Frank was raging down below.  Then Tess joined
us, sitting on the cabin; and Spider, and Bob; and at the last, Mrs.
Hadley and French Frank.  And we sat there, glasses in hand, and sang,
while the big demijohn went around; and I was the only strictly sober one.

And I enjoyed it as no one of them was able to enjoy it.  Here, in this
atmosphere of bohemianism, I could not but contrast the scene with my
scene of the day before, sitting at my machine, in the stifling, shut-in
air, repeating, endlessly repeating, at top speed, my series of
mechanical motions.  And here I sat now, glass in hand, in warm-glowing
camaraderie, with the oyster pirates, adventurers who refused to be
slaves to petty routine, who flouted restrictions and the law, who
carried their lives and their liberty in their hands.  And it was through
John Barleycorn that I came to join this glorious company of free souls,
unashamed and unafraid.

And the afternoon seabreeze blew its tang into my lungs, and curled the
waves in mid-channel.  Before it came the scow schooners, wing-and-wing,
blowing their horns for the drawbridges to open.  Red-stacked tugs tore
by, rocking the Razzle Dazzle in the waves of their wake.  A sugar barque
towed from the "boneyard" to sea.  The sun-wash was on the crisping
water, and life was big.  And Spider sang:

    "Oh, it's Lulu, black Lulu, my darling,
       Oh, it's where have you been so long?
          Been layin' in jail,
          A-waitin' for bail,
     Till my bully comes rollin' along."

There it was, the smack and slap of the spirit of revolt, of adventure,
of romance, of the things forbidden and done defiantly and grandly.  And
I knew that on the morrow I would not go back to my machine at the
cannery.  To-morrow I would be an oyster pirate, as free a freebooter as
the century and the waters of San Francisco Bay would permit.  Spider had
already agreed to sail with me as my crew of one, and, also, as cook
while I did the deck work.  We would outfit our grub and water in the
morning, hoist the big mainsail (which was a bigger piece of canvas than
any I had ever sailed under), and beat our way out the estuary on the
first of the seabreeze and the last of the ebb.  Then we would slack
sheets, and on the first of the flood run down the bay to the Asparagus
Islands, where we would anchor miles off shore.  And at last my dream
would be realised: I would sleep upon the water.  And next morning I
would wake upon the water; and thereafter all my days and nights would be
on the water.

And the Queen asked me to row her ashore in my skiff, when at sunset
French Frank prepared to take his guests ashore.  Nor did I catch the
significance of his abrupt change of plan when he turned the task of
rowing his skiff over to Whisky Bob, himself remaining on board the
sloop.  Nor did I understand Spider's grinning side-remark to me: "Gee!
There's nothin' slow about YOU." How could it possibly enter my boy's
head that a grizzled man of fifty should be jealous of me?


We met by appointment, early Monday morning, to complete the deal, in
Johnny Heinhold's "Last Chance "--a saloon, of course, for the
transactions of men.  I paid the money over, received the bill of sale,
and French Frank treated.  This struck me as an evident custom, and a
logical one--the seller, who receives, the money, to wet a piece of it in
the establishment where the trade was consummated.  But, to my surprise,
French Frank treated the house.  He and I drank, which seemed just; but
why should Johnny Heinhold, who owned the saloon and waited behind the
bar, be invited to drink? I figured it immediately that he made a profit
on the very drink he drank.  I could, in a way, considering that they
were friends and shipmates, understand Spider and Whisky Bob being asked
to drink; but why should the longshoremen, Bill Kelley and Soup Kennedy,
be asked?

Then there was Pat, the Queen's brother, making a total of eight of us.
It was early morning, and all ordered whisky.  What could I do, here in
this company of big men, all drinking whisky?  "Whisky," I said, with the
careless air of one who had said it a thousand times.  And such whisky! I
tossed it down.  A-r-r-r-gh! I can taste it yet.

And I was appalled at the price French Frank had paid--eighty cents.
EIGHTY CENTS!  It was an outrage to my thrifty soul.  Eighty cents--the
equivalent of eight long hours of my toil at the machine, gone down our
throats, and gone like that, in a twinkling, leaving only a bad taste in
the mouth.  There was no discussion that French Frank was a waster.

I was anxious to be gone, out into the sunshine, out over the water to my
glorious boat.  But all hands lingered.  Even Spider, my crew, lingered.
No hint broke through my obtuseness of why they lingered.  I have often
thought since of how they must have regarded me, the newcomer being
welcomed into their company standing at bar with them, and not standing
for a single round of drinks.

French Frank, who, unknown to me, had swallowed his chagrin since the day
before, now that the money for the Razzle Dazzle was in his pocket, began
to behave curiously toward me.  I sensed the change in his attitude, saw
the forbidding glitter in his eyes, and wondered.  The more I saw of men,
the queerer they became.  Johnny Heinhold leaned across the bar and
whispered in my ear, "He's got it in for you.  Watch out."

I nodded comprehension of his statement, and acquiescence in it, as a man
should nod who knows all about men.  But secretly I was perplexed.
Heavens! How was I, who had worked hard and read books of adventure, and
who was only fifteen years old, who had not dreamed of giving the Queen
of the Oyster Pirates a second thought, and who did not know that French
Frank was madly and Latinly in love with her--how was I to guess that I
had done him shame? And how was I to guess that the story of how the
Queen had thrown him down on his own boat, the moment I hove in sight,
was already the gleeful gossip of the water-front? And by the same token,
how was I to guess that her brother Pat's offishness with me was anything
else than temperamental gloominess of spirit?

Whisky Bob got me aside a moment.  "Keep your eyes open," he muttered.
"Take my tip.  French Frank's ugly.  I'm going up river with him to get a
schooner for oystering.  When he gets down on the beds, watch out.  He
says he'll run you down.  After dark, any time he's around, change your
anchorage and douse your riding light.  Savve?"

Oh, certainly, I savve'd.  I nodded my head, and, as one man to another,
thanked him for his tip; and drifted back to the group at the bar.  No; I
did not treat.  I never dreamed that I was expected to treat.  I left
with Spider, and my ears burn now as I try to surmise the things they
must have said about me.

I asked Spider, in an off-hand way, what was eating French Frank.  "He's
crazy jealous of you," was the answer.  "Do you think so?" I said, and
dismissed the matter as not worth thinking about.

But I leave it to any one--the swell of my fifteen-years-old manhood at
learning that French Frank, the adventurer of fifty, the sailor of all
the seas of all the world, was jealous of me--and jealous over a girl
most romantically named the Queen of the Oyster Pirates.  I had read of
such things in books, and regarded them as personal probabilities of a
distant maturity.  Oh, I felt a rare young devil, as we hoisted the big
mainsail that morning, broke out anchor, and filled away close-hauled on
the three-mile beat to windward out into the bay.

Such was my escape from the killing machine-toil, and my introduction to
the oyster pirates.  True, the introduction had begun with drink, and the
life promised to continue with drink.  But was I to stay away from it for
such reason? Wherever life ran free and great, there men drank.  Romance
and Adventure seemed always to go down the street locked arm in arm with
John Barleycorn.  To know the two, I must know the third.  Or else I must
go back to my free library books and read of the deeds of other men and
do no deeds of my own save slave for ten cents an hour at a machine in a

No; I was not to be deterred from this brave life on the water by the
fact that the water-dwellers had queer and expensive desires for beer and
wine and whisky.  What if their notions of happiness included the strange
one of seeing me drink? When they persisted in buying the stuff and
thrusting it upon me, why, I would drink it.  It was the price I would
pay for their comradeship.  And I didn't have to get drunk.  I had not
got drunk the Sunday afternoon I arranged to buy the Razzle Dazzle,
despite the fact that not one of the rest was sober.  Well, I could go on
into the future that way, drinking the stuff when it gave them pleasure
that I should drink it, but carefully avoiding over-drinking.


Gradual as was my development as a heavy drinker among the oyster
pirates, the real heavy drinking came suddenly, and was the result, not
of desire for alcohol, but of an intellectual conviction.

The more I saw of the life, the more I was enamoured of it.  I can never
forget my thrills the first night I took part in a concerted raid, when
we assembled on board the Annie--rough men, big and unafraid, and
weazened wharf-rats, some of them ex-convicts, all of them enemies of the
law and meriting jail, in sea-boots and sea-gear, talking in gruff low
voices, and "Big" George with revolvers strapped about his waist to show
that he meant business.

Oh, I know, looking back, that the whole thing was sordid and silly.  But
I was not looking back in those days when I was rubbing shoulders with
John Barleycorn and beginning to accept him.  The life was brave and
wild, and I was living the adventure I had read so much about.

Nelson, "Young Scratch" they called him, to distinguish him from "Old
Scratch," his father, sailed in the sloop Reindeer, partners with one
"Clam."  Clam was a dare-devil, but Nelson was a reckless maniac.  He was
twenty years old, with the body of a Hercules.  When he was shot in
Benicia, a couple of years later, the coroner said he was the
greatest-shouldered man he had ever seen laid on a slab.

Nelson could not read or write.  He had been "dragged" up by his father
on San Francisco Bay, and boats were second nature with him.  His
strength was prodigious, and his reputation along the water-front for
violence was anything but savoury.  He had Berserker rages and did mad,
terrible things.  I made his acquaintance the first cruise of the Razzle
Dazzle, and saw him sail the Reindeer in a blow and dredge oysters all
around the rest of us as we lay at two anchors, troubled with fear of
going ashore.

He was some man, this Nelson; and when, passing by the Last Chance
saloon, he spoke to me, I felt very proud.  But try to imagine my pride
when he promptly asked me in to have a drink.  I stood at the bar and
drank a glass of beer with him, and talked manfully of oysters, and
boats, and of the mystery of who had put the load of buckshot through the
Annie's mainsail.

We talked and lingered at the bar.  It seemed to me strange that we
lingered.  We had had our beer.  But who was I to lead the way outside
when great Nelson chose to lean against the bar? After a few minutes, to
my surprise, he asked me to have another drink, which I did.  And still
we talked, and Nelson evinced no intention of leaving the bar.

Bear with me while I explain the way of my reasoning and of my innocence.
First of all, I was very proud to be in the company of Nelson, who was
the most heroic figure among the oyster pirates and bay adventurers.
Unfortunately for my stomach and mucous membranes, Nelson had a strange
quirk of nature that made him find happiness in treating me to beer.  I
had no moral disinclination for beer, and just because I didn't like the
taste of it and the weight of it was no reason I should forgo the honour
of his company.  It was his whim to drink beer, and to have me drink beer
with him.  Very well, I would put up with the passing discomfort.

So we continued to talk at the bar, and to drink beer ordered and paid
for by Nelson.  I think, now, when I look back upon it, that Nelson was
curious.  He wanted to find out just what kind of a gink I was.  He
wanted to see how many times I'd let him treat without offering to treat
in return.

After I had drunk half a dozen glasses, my policy of temperateness in
mind, I decided that I had had enough for that time.  So I mentioned that
I was going aboard the Razzle Dazzle, then lying at the city wharf, a
hundred yards away.

I said good-bye to Nelson, and went on down the wharf.  But, John
Barleycorn, to the extent of six glasses, went with me.  My brain tingled
and was very much alive.  I was uplifted by my sense of manhood.  I, a
truly-true oyster pirate, was going aboard my own boat after hob-nobbing
in the Last Chance with Nelson, the greatest oyster pirate of us all.
Strong in my brain was the vision of us leaning against the bar and
drinking beer.  And curious it was, I decided, this whim of nature that
made men happy in spending good money for beer for a fellow like me who
didn't want it.

As I pondered this, I recollected that several times other men, in
couples, had entered the Last Chance, and first one, then the other, had
treated to drinks.  I remembered, on the drunk on the Idler, how Scotty
and the harpooner and myself had raked and scraped dimes and nickels with
which to buy the whisky.  Then came my boy code: when on a day a fellow
gave another a "cannon-ball" or a chunk of taffy, on some other day he
would expect to receive back a cannon-ball or a chunk of taffy.

That was why Nelson had lingered at the bar.  Having bought a drink, he
had waited for me to buy one.  I HAD, LET HIM BUY SIX DRINKS AND NEVER
ONCE OFFERED TO TREAT.  And he was the great Nelson! I could feel myself
blushing with shame.  I sat down on the stringer-piece of the wharf and
buried my face in my hands.  And the heat of my shame burned up my neck
and into my cheeks and forehead.  I have blushed many times in my life,
but never have I experienced so terrible a blush as that one.

And sitting there on the stringer-piece in my shame, I did a great deal
of thinking and transvaluing of values.  I had been born poor.  Poor I
had lived.  I had gone hungry on occasion.  I had never had toys nor
playthings like other children.  My first memories of life were pinched
by poverty.  The pinch of poverty had been chronic.  I was eight years
old when I wore my first little undershirt actually sold in a store
across the counter.  And then it had been only one little undershirt.
When it was soiled I had to return to the awful home-made things until it
was washed.  I had been so proud of it that I insisted on wearing it
without any outer garment.  For the first time I mutinied against my
mother--mutinied myself into hysteria, until she let me wear the store
undershirt so all the world could see.

Only a man who has undergone famine can properly value food; only sailors
and desert-dwellers know the meaning of fresh water.  And only a child,
with a child's imagination, can come to know the meaning of things it has
been long denied.  I early discovered that the only things I could have
were those I got for myself.  My meagre childhood developed meagreness.
The first things I had been able to get for myself had been cigarette
pictures, cigarette posters, and cigarette albums.  I had not had the
spending of the money I earned, so I traded "extra" newspapers for these
treasures.  I traded duplicates with the other boys, and circulating, as
I did, all about town, I had greater opportunities for trading and

It was not long before I had complete every series issued by every
cigarette manufacturer--such as the Great Race Horses, Parisian Beauties,
Women of All Nations, Flags of All Nations, Noted Actors, Champion Prize
Fighters, etc.  And each series I had three different ways: in the card
from the cigarette package, in the poster, and in the album.

Then I began to accumulate duplicate sets, duplicate albums.  I traded
for other things that boys valued and which they usually bought with
money given them by their parents.  Naturally, they did not have the keen
sense of values that I had, who was never given money to buy anything.  I
traded for postage-stamps, for minerals, for curios, for birds' eggs, for
marbles (I had a more magnificent collection of agates than I have ever
seen any boy possess--and the nucleus of the collection was a handful
worth at least three dollars, which I had kept as security for twenty
cents I loaned to a messenger-boy who was sent to reform school before he
could redeem them).

I'd trade anything and everything for anything else, and turn it over in
a dozen more trades until it was transmuted into something that was worth
something.  I was famous as a trader.  I was notorious as a miser.  I
could even make a junkman weep when I had dealings with him.  Other boys
called me in to sell for them their collections of bottles, rags, old
iron, grain, and gunny-sacks, and five-gallon oil-cans--aye, and gave me
a commission for doing it.

And this was the thrifty, close-fisted boy, accustomed to slave at a
machine for ten cents an hour, who sat on the stringer-piece and
considered the matter of beer at five cents a glass and gone in a moment
with nothing to show for it.  I was now with men I admired.  I was proud
to be with them.  Had all my pinching and saving brought me the
equivalent of one of the many thrills which had been mine since I came
among the oyster pirates? Then what was worth while--money or thrills?
These men had no horror of squandering a nickel, or many nickels.  They
were magnificently careless of money, calling up eight men to drink
whisky at ten cents a glass, as French Frank had done.  Why, Nelson had
just spent sixty cents on beer for the two of us.

Which was it to be? I was aware that I was making a grave decision.  I
was deciding between money and men, between niggardliness and romance.
Either I must throw overboard all my old values of money and look upon it
as something to be flung about wastefully, or I must throw overboard my
comradeship with these men whose peculiar quirks made them like strong

I retraced my steps up the wharf to the Last Chance, where Nelson still
stood outside.  "Come on and have a beer," I invited.  Again we stood at
the bar and drank and talked, but this time it was I who paid ten cents!
a whole hour of my labour at a machine for a drink of something I didn't
want and which tasted rotten.  But it wasn't difficult.  I had achieved a
concept.  Money no longer counted.  It was comradeship that counted.
"Have another?" I said.  And we had another, and I paid for it.  Nelson,
with the wisdom of the skilled drinker, said to the barkeeper, "Make mine
a small one, Johnny." Johnny nodded and gave him a glass that contained
only a third as much as the glasses we had been drinking.  Yet the charge
was the same--five cents.

By this time I was getting nicely jingled, so such extravagance didn't
hurt me much.  Besides, I was learning.  There was more in this buying of
drinks than mere quantity.  I got my finger on it.  There was a stage
when the beer didn't count at all, but just the spirit of comradeship of
drinking together.  And, ha!--another thing! I, too, could call for small
beers and minimise by two-thirds the detestable freightage with which
comradeship burdened one.

"I had to go aboard to get some money," I remarked casually, as we drank,
in the hope Nelson would take it as an explanation of why I had let him
treat six consecutive times.

"Oh, well, you didn't have to do that," he answered.  "Johnny'll trust a
fellow like you--won't you, Johnny!"

"Sure," Johnny agreed, with a smile.

"How much you got down against me?" Nelson queried.

Johnny pulled out the book he kept behind the bar, found Nelson's page,
and added up the account of several dollars.  At once I became possessed
with a desire to have a page in that book.  Almost it seemed the final
badge of manhood.

After a couple more drinks, for which I insisted on paying, Nelson
decided to go.  We parted true comradely, and I wandered down the wharf
to the Razzle Dazzle.  Spider was just building the fire for supper.

"Where'd you get it?" he grinned up at me through the open companion.

"Oh, I've been with Nelson," I said carelessly, trying to hide my pride.

Then an idea came to me.  Here was another one of them.  Now that I had
achieved my concept, I might as well practise it thoroughly.  "Come on,"
I said, "up to Johnny's and have a drink."

Going up the wharf, we met Clam coming down.  Clam was Nelson's partner,
and he was a fine, brave, handsome, moustached man of thirty--everything,
in short, that his nickname did not connote.  "Come on," I said, "and
have a drink." He came.  As we turned into the Last Chance, there was
Pat, the Queen's brother, coming out.

"What's your hurry?" I greeted him.  "We're having a drink.  Come on
along." "I've just had one," he demurred.  "What of it?--we're having one
now," I retorted.  And Pat consented to join us, and I melted my way into
his good graces with a couple of glasses of beer.  Oh! I was learning
things that afternoon about John Barleycorn.  There was more in him than
the bad taste when you swallowed him.  Here, at the absurd cost of ten
cents, a gloomy, grouchy individual, who threatened to become an enemy,
was made into a good friend.  He became even genial, his looks were
kindly, and our voices mellowed together as we talked water-front and
oyster-bed gossip.

"Small beer for me, Johnny," I said, when the others had ordered
schooners.  Yes, and I said it like the accustomed drinker, carelessly,
casually, as a sort of spontaneous thought that had just occurred to me.
Looking back, I am confident that the only one there who guessed I was a
tyro at bar-drinking was Johnny Heinhold.

"Where'd he get it?" I overheard Spider confidentially ask Johnny.

"Oh, he's been sousin' here with Nelson all afternoon," was Johnny's

I never let on that I'd heard, but PROUD? Aye, even the barkeeper was
giving me a recommendation as a man.  "HE'S BEEN SOUSIN' HERE WITH NELSON
ALL AFTERNOON." Magic words! The accolade delivered by a barkeeper with a
beer glass!

I remembered that French Frank had treated Johnny the day I bought the
Razzle Dazzle.  The glasses were filled and we were ready to drink.
"Have something yourself, Johnny," I said, with an air of having intended
to say it all the time, but of having been a trifle remiss because of the
interesting conversation I had been holding with Clam and Pat.

Johnny looked at me with quick sharpness, divining, I am positive, the
strides I was making in my education, and poured himself whisky from his
private bottle.  This hit me for a moment on my thrifty side.  He 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

I treated a second time around, and then, to my amazement, Johnny
redeemed himself in that matter of the ten-cent drink.  He treated 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 Soup 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 twisted nose, and the flowered vest, who played the
harmonica like a roystering angel and went on the most atrocious tears
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 earnings of the Razzle Dazzle.  "But what of it?" I
thought, or rather, John Barleycorn thought it for me.  "You're a man and
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 rises 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 source 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 mainsail.  (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 the water only partly counted.  What completed
everything, and won for me the title 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 annoyed 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 our 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 as 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
all nations in the old savage sailing days.

I had heard many weird 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 for, 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

It was Johnny Heinhold who secretly warned me across the bar that I was
getting pickled and advised me to 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 drunk.  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 Clam, and Johnny Heinhold, and
others, came the tips that Old Scratch 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, that the buying of drinks for other men, and the accepting of
drinks from other men, devolved upon me as a social duty and a manhood

Then, too, there were the times, lying at the city wharf or across the
estuary on the sand-spit, when the Queen, and her sister, and her brother
Pat, and Mrs. Hadley 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

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 guess it.  I used to indulge in lonely debauches,
on nights when I knew my crew was going to sleep ashore.  I would go up
to the Free Library, exchange my books, buy a quarter's worth of all
sorts of candy that chewed and lasted, sneak aboard the Razzle Dazzle,
lock myself in the cabin, go to bed, and lie there long hours of bliss,
reading and chewing candy.  And those were the only times I felt that I
got my real money's worth.  Dollars and dollars, across the bar, couldn't
buy the satisfaction that twenty-five cents did in a candy store.

As my drinking grew heavier, I began to note more and more that it was in
the drinking bouts the purple passages occurred.  Drunks were always
memorable.  At such times things happened.  Men like Joe Goose dated
existence from drunk to drunk.  The longshoremen all looked forward to
their Saturday night drunk.  We of the oyster boats waited until we had
disposed of our cargoes before we got really started, though a scattering
of drinks and a meeting of a chance friend sometimes precipitated an
accidental drunk.

In ways, the accidental drunks were the best.  Stranger and more exciting
things happened at such times.  As, for instance, the Sunday when Nelson
and French Frank and Captain Spink stole the stolen salmon boat from
Whisky Bob and Nicky the Greek.  Changes had taken place in the personnel
of the oyster boats.  Nelson had got into a fight with Bill Kelley on the
Annie and was carrying a bullet-hole through his left hand.  Also, having
quarrelled with Clam and broken partnership, Nelson had sailed the
Reindeer, his arm in a sling, with a crew of two deep-water sailors, and
he had sailed so madly as to frighten them ashore.  Such was the tale of
his recklessness they spread, that no one on the water-front would go out
with Nelson.  So the Reindeer, crewless, lay across the estuary at the
sandspit.  Beside her lay the Razzle Dazzle with a burned mainsail and
Scotty and me on board.  Whisky Bob had fallen out with French Frank and
gone on a raid "up river" with Nicky the Greek.

The result of this raid was a brand-new Columbia River salmon boat,
stolen from an Italian fisherman.  We oyster pirates were all visited by
the searching Italian, and we were convinced, from what we knew of their
movements, that Whisky Bob and Nicky the Greek were the guilty parties.
But where was the salmon boat?  Hundreds of Greek and Italian fishermen,
up river and down bay, had searched every slough and tule patch for it.
When the owner despairingly offered a reward of fifty dollars, our
interest increased and the mystery deepened.

One Sunday morning old Captain Spink paid me a visit.  The conversation
was confidential.  He had just been fishing in his skiff in the old
Alameda ferry slip.  As the tide went down, he had noticed a rope tied to
a pile under water and leading downward.  In vain he had tried to heave
up what was fast on the other end.  Farther along, to another pile, was a
similar rope, leading downward and unheavable.  Without doubt, it was the
missing salmon boat.  If we restored it to its rightful owner there was
fifty dollars in it for us.  But I had queer ethical notions about honour
amongst thieves, and declined to have anything to do with the affair.

But French Frank had quarrelled with Whisky Bob, and Nelson was also an
enemy.  (Poor Whisky Bob!--without viciousness, good-natured, generous,
born weak, raised poorly, with an irresistible chemical demand for
alcohol, still prosecuting his vocation of bay pirate, his body was
picked up, not long afterward, beside a dock where it had sunk full of
gunshot wounds.)  Within an hour after I had rejected Captain Spink's
proposal, I saw him sail down the estuary on board the Reindeer with
Nelson.  Also, French Frank went by on his schooner.

It was not long ere they sailed back up the estuary, curiously side by
side.  As they headed in for the sandspit, the submerged salmon boat
could be seen, gunwales awash and held up from sinking by ropes fast to
the schooner and the sloop.  The tide was half out, and they sailed
squarely in on the sand, grounding in a row, with the salmon boat in the

Immediately Hans, one of French Frank's sailors, was into a skiff and
pulling rapidly for the north shore.  The big demijohn in the
stern-sheets told his errand.  They couldn't wait a moment to celebrate
the fifty dollars they had so easily earned.  It is the way of the
devotees of John Barleycorn.  When good fortune comes, they drink.  When
they have no fortune, they drink to the hope of good fortune.  If fortune
be ill, they drink to forget it.  If they meet a friend, they drink.  If
they quarrel with a friend and lose him, they drink.  If their
love-making be crowned with success, they are so happy they needs must
drink.  If they be jilted, they drink for the contrary reason.  And if
they haven't anything to do at all, why, they take a drink, secure in the
knowledge that when they have taken a sufficient number of drinks the
maggots will start crawling in their brains and they will have their
hands full with things to do.  When they are sober they want to drink;
and when they have drunk they want to drink more.

Of course, as fellow comrades, Scotty and I were called in for the
drinking.  We helped to make a hole in that fifty dollars not yet
received.  The afternoon, from just an ordinary common summer Sunday
afternoon, became a gorgeous, purple afternoon.  We all talked and sang
and ranted and bragged, and ever French Frank and Nelson sent more drinks
around.  We lay in full sight of the Oakland water-front, and the noise
of our revels attracted friends.  Skiff after skiff crossed the estuary
and hauled up on the sandspit, while Hans' work was cut out for him--ever
to row back and forth for more supplies of booze.

Then Whisky Bob and Nicky the Greek arrived, sober, indignant, outraged
in that their fellow pirates had raised their plant.  French Frank, aided
by John Barleycorn, orated hypocritically about virtue and honesty, and,
despite his fifty years, got Whisky Bob out on the sand and proceeded to
lick him.  When Nicky the Greek jumped in with a short-handled shovel to
Whisky Bob's assistance, short work was made of him by Hans.  And of
course, when the bleeding remnants of Bob and Nicky were sent packing in
their skiff, the event must needs be celebrated in further carousal.

By this time, our visitors being numerous, we were a large crowd
compounded of many nationalities and diverse temperaments, all aroused by
John Barleycorn, all restraints cast off.  Old quarrels revived, ancient
hates flared up.  Fight was in the air.  And whenever a longshoreman
remembered something against a scow-schooner sailor, or vice versa, or an
oyster pirate remembered or was remembered, a fist shot out and another
fight was on.  And every fight was made up in more rounds of drinks,
wherein the combatants, aided and abetted by the rest of us, embraced
each other and pledged undying friendship.

And, of all times, Soup Kennedy selected this time to come and retrieve
an old shirt of his, left aboard the Reindeer from the trip he sailed
with Clam.  He had espoused Clam's side of the quarrel with Nelson.
Also, he had been drinking in the St. Louis House, so that it was John
Barleycorn who led him to the sandspit in quest of his old shirt.  Few
words started the fray.  He locked with Nelson in the cockpit of the
Reindeer, and in the mix-up barely escaped being brained by an iron bar
wielded by irate French Frank--irate because a two-handed man had
attacked a one-handed man.  (If the Reindeer still floats, the dent of
the iron bar remains in the hard-wood rail of her cockpit.)

But Nelson pulled his bandaged hand, bullet-perforated, out of its sling,
and, held by us, wept and roared his Berserker belief that he could lick
Soup Kennedy one-handed.  And we let them loose on the sand.  Once, when
it looked as if Nelson were getting the worst of it, French Frank and
John Barleycorn sprang unfairly into the fight.  Scotty protested and
reached for French Frank, who whirled upon him and fell on top of him in
a pummelling clinch after a sprawl of twenty feet across the sand.  In
the course of separating these two, half a dozen fights started amongst
the rest of us.  These fights were finished, one way or the other, or we
separated them with drinks, while all the time Nelson and Soup Kennedy
fought on.  Occasionally we returned to them and gave advice, such as,
when they lay exhausted in the sand, unable to strike a blow, "Throw sand
in his eyes." And they threw sand in each other's eyes, recuperated, and
fought on to successive exhaustions.

And now, of all this that is squalid, and ridiculous, and bestial, try to
think what it meant to me, a youth not yet sixteen, burning with the
spirit of adventure, fancy-filled with tales of buccaneers and
sea-rovers, sacks of cities and conflicts of armed men, and
imagination-maddened by the stuff I had drunk.  It was life raw and
naked, wild and free--the only life of that sort which my birth in time
and space permitted me to attain.  And more than that.  It carried a
promise.  It was the beginning.  From the sandspit the way led out
through the Golden Gate to the vastness of adventure of all the world,
where battles would be fought, not for old shirts and over stolen salmon
boats, but for high purposes and romantic ends.

And because I told Scotty what I thought of his letting an old man like
French Frank get away with him, we, too, brawled and added to the
festivity of the sandspit.  And Scotty threw up his job as crew, and
departed in the night with a pair of blankets belonging to me.  During
the night, while the oyster pirates lay stupefied in their bunks, the
schooner and the Reindeer floated on the high water and swung about to
their anchors.  The salmon boat, still filled with rocks and water,
rested on the bottom.

In the morning, early, I heard wild cries from the Reindeer, and tumbled
out in the chill grey to see a spectacle that made the water-front laugh
for days.  The beautiful salmon boat lay on the hard sand, squashed flat
as a pancake, while on it were perched French Frank's schooner and the
Reindeer.  Unfortunately two of the Reindeer's planks had been crushed in
by the stout oak stem of the salmon boat.  The rising tide had flowed
through the hole, and just awakened Nelson by getting into his bunk with
him.  I lent a hand, and we pumped the Reindeer out and repaired the

Then Nelson cooked breakfast, and while we ate we considered the
situation.  He was broke.  So was I.  The fifty dollars reward would
never be paid for that pitiful mess of splinters on the sand beneath us.
He had a wounded hand and no crew.  I had a burned main sail and no crew.

"What d'ye say, you and me?" Nelson queried.  "I'll go you," was my
answer.  And thus I became partners with "Young Scratch" Nelson, the
wildest, maddest of them all.  We borrowed the money for an outfit of
grub from Johnny Heinhold, filled our water-barrels, and sailed away that
day for the oyster-beds.


Nor have I ever regretted those months of mad devilry I put in with
Nelson.  He COULD sail, even if he did frighten every man that sailed
with him.  To steer to miss destruction by an inch or an instant was his
joy.  To do what everybody else did not dare attempt to do, was his
pride.  Never to reef down was his mania, and in all the time I spent
with him, blow high or low, the Reindeer was never reefed.  Nor was she
ever dry.  We strained her open and sailed her open and sailed her open
continually.  And we abandoned the Oakland water-front and went wider
afield for our adventures.

And all this glorious passage in my life was made possible for me by John
Barleycorn.  And this is my complaint against John Barleycorn.  Here I
was, thirsting for the wild life of adventure, and the only way for me to
win to it was through John Barleycorn's mediation.  It was the way of the
men who lived the life.  Did I wish to live the life, I must live it the
way they did.  It was by virtue of drinking that I gained that
partnership and comradeship with Nelson.  Had I drunk only the beer he
paid for, or had I declined to drink at all, I should never have been
selected by him as a partner.  He wanted a partner who would meet him on
the social side, as well as the work side of life.

I abandoned myself to the life, and developed the misconception that the
secret of John Barleycorn lay in going on mad drunks, rising through the
successive stages that only an iron constitution could endure to final
stupefaction and swinish unconsciousness.  I did not like the taste, so I
drank for the sole purpose of getting drunk, of getting hopelessly,
helplessly drunk.  And I, who had saved and scraped, traded like a
Shylock and made junkmen weep; I, who had stood aghast when French Frank,
at a single stroke, spent eighty cents for whisky for eight men, I turned
myself loose with a more lavish disregard for money than any of them.

I remember going ashore one night with Nelson.  In my pocket were one
hundred and eighty dollars.  It was my intention, first, to buy me some
clothes, after that, some drinks.  I needed the clothes.  All I possessed
were on me, and they were as follows: a pair of sea-boots that
providentially leaked the water out as fast as it ran in, a pair of
fifty-cent overalls, a forty-cent cotton shirt, and a sou'wester.  I had
no hat, so I had to wear the sou'wester, and it will be noted that I have
listed neither underclothes nor socks.  I didn't own any.

To reach the stores where clothes could be bought, we had to pass a dozen
saloons.  So I bought me the drinks first.  I never got to the clothing
stores.  In the morning, broke, poisoned, but contented, I came back on
board, and we set sail.  I possessed only the clothes I had gone ashore
in, and not a cent remained of the one hundred and eighty dollars.  It
might well be deemed impossible, by those who have never tried it, that
in twelve hours a lad can spend all of one hundred and eighty dollars for
drinks.  I know otherwise.

And I had no regrets.  I was proud.  I had shown them I could spend with
the best of them.  Amongst strong men I had proved myself strong.  I had
clinched again, as I had often clinched, my right to the title of
"Prince." Also, my attitude may be considered, in part, as a reaction
from my childhood's meagreness and my childhood's excessive toil.
Possibly my inchoate thought was: Better to reign among booze-fighters a
prince than to toil twelve hours a day at a machine for ten cents an
hour.  There are no purple passages in machine toil.  But if the spending
of one hundred and eighty dollars in twelve hours isn't a purple passage,
then I'd like to know what is.

Oh, I skip much of the details of my trafficking with John Barleycorn
during this period, and shall only mention events that will throw light
on John Barleycorn's ways.  There were three things that enabled me to
pursue this heavy drinking: first, a magnificent constitution far better
than the average; second, the healthy open-air life on the water; and
third, the fact that I drank irregularly.  While out on the water, we
never carried any drink along.

The world was opening up to me.  Already I knew several hundred miles of
the water-ways of it, and of the towns and cities and fishing hamlets on
the shores.  Came the whisper to range farther.  I had not found it yet.
There was more behind.  But even this much of the world was too wide for
Nelson.  He wearied for his beloved Oakland water-front, and when he
elected to return to it we separated in all friendliness.

I now made the old town of Benicia, on the Carquinez Straits, my
headquarters.  In a cluster of fishermen's arks, moored in the tules on
the water-front, dwelt a congenial crowd of drinkers and vagabonds, and I
joined them.  I had longer spells ashore, between fooling with salmon
fishing and making raids up and down bay and rivers as a deputy fish
patrolman, and I drank more and learned more about drinking.  I held my
own with any one, drink for drink; and often drank more than my share to
show the strength of my manhood.  When, on a morning, my unconscious
carcass was disentangled from the nets on the drying-frames, whither I
had stupidly, blindly crawled the night before; and when the water-front
talked it over with many a giggle and laugh and another drink, I was
proud indeed.  It was an exploit.

And when I never drew a sober breath, on one stretch, for three solid
weeks, I was certain I had reached the top.  Surely, in that direction,
one could go no farther.  It was time for me to move on.  For always,
drunk or sober, at the back of my consciousness something whispered that
this carousing and bay-adventuring was not all of life.  This whisper was
my good fortune.  I happened to be so made that I could hear it calling,
always calling, out and away over the world.  It was not canniness on my
part.  It was curiosity, desire to know, an unrest and a seeking for
things wonderful that I seemed somehow to have glimpsed or guessed.  What
was this life for, I demanded, if this were all? No; there was something
more, away and beyond.  (And, in relation to my much later development as
a drinker, this whisper, this promise of the things at the back of life,
must be noted, for it was destined to play a dire part in my more recent
wrestlings with John Barleycorn.)

But what gave immediacy to my decision to move on was a trick John
Barleycorn played me--a monstrous, incredible trick that showed abysses
of intoxication hitherto undreamed.  At one o'clock in the morning, after
a prodigious drunk, I was tottering aboard a sloop at the end of the
wharf, intending to go to sleep.  The tides sweep through Carquinez
Straits as in a mill-race, and the full ebb was on when I stumbled
overboard.  There was nobody on the wharf, nobody on the sloop.  I was
borne away by the current.  I was not startled.  I thought the
misadventure delightful.  I was a good swimmer, and in my inflamed
condition the contact of the water with my skin soothed me like cool

And then John Barleycorn played me his maniacal trick.  Some maundering
fancy of going out with the tide suddenly obsessed me.  I had never been
morbid.  Thoughts of suicide had never entered my head.  And now that
they entered, I thought it fine, a splendid culminating, a perfect
rounding off of my short but exciting career.  I, who had never known
girl's love, nor woman's love, nor the love of children; who had never
played in the wide joy-fields of art, nor climbed the star-cool heights
of philosophy, nor seen with my eyes more than a pin-point's surface of
the gorgeous world; I decided that this was all, that I had seen all,
lived all, been all, that was worth while, and that now was the time to
cease.  This was the trick of John Barleycorn, laying me by the heels of
my imagination and in a drug-dream dragging me to death.

Oh, he was convincing.  I had really experienced all of life, and it
didn't amount to much.  The swinish drunkenness in which I had lived for
months (this was accompanied by the sense of degradation and the old
feeling of conviction of sin) was the last and best, and I could see for
myself what it was worth.  There were all the broken-down old bums and
loafers I had bought drinks for.  That was what remained of life.  Did I
want to become like them? A thousand times no; and I wept tears of sweet
sadness over my glorious youth going out with the tide.  (And who has not
seen the weeping drunk, the melancholic drunk? They are to be found in
all the bar-rooms, if they can find no other listener telling their
sorrows to the barkeeper, who is paid to listen.)

The water was delicious.  It was a man's way to die.  John Barleycorn
changed the tune he played in my drink-maddened brain.  Away with tears
and regret.  It was a hero's death, and by the hero's own hand and will.
So I struck up my death-chant and was singing it lustily, when the gurgle
and splash of the current-riffles in my ears reminded me of my more
immediate situation.

Below the town of Benicia, where the Solano wharf projects, the Straits
widen out into what bay-farers call the "Bight of Turner's Shipyard." I
was in the shore-tide that swept under the Solano wharf and on into the
bight.  I knew of old the power of the suck which developed when the tide
swung around the end of Dead Man's Island and drove straight for the
wharf.  I didn't want to go through those piles.  It wouldn't be nice,
and I might lose an hour in the bight on my way out with the tide.

I undressed in the water and struck out with a strong, single-overhand
stroke, crossing the current at right-angles.  Nor did I cease until, by
the wharf lights, I knew I was safe to sweep by the end.  Then I turned
over and rested.  The stroke had been a telling one, and I was a little
time in recovering my breath.

I was elated, for I had succeeded in avoiding the suck.  I started to
raise my death-chant again--a purely extemporised farrago of a
drug-crazed youth.  "Don't sing--yet," whispered John Barleycorn.  "The
Solano runs all night.  There are railroad men on the wharf.  They will
hear you, and come out in a boat and rescue you, and you don't want to be
rescued." I certainly didn't.  What? Be robbed of my hero's death?
Never.  And I lay on my back in the starlight, watching the familiar
wharf-lights go by, red and green and white, and bidding sad sentimental
farewell to them, each and all.

When I was well clear, in mid-channel, I sang again.  Sometimes I swam a
few strokes, but in the main I contented myself with floating and
dreaming long drunken dreams.  Before daylight, the chill of the water
and the passage of the hours had sobered me sufficiently to make me
wonder what portion of the Straits I was in, and also to wonder if the
turn of the tide wouldn't catch me and take me back ere I had drifted out
into San Pablo Bay.

Next I discovered that I was very weary and very cold, and quite sober,
and that I didn't in the least want to be drowned.  I could make out the
Selby Smelter on the Contra Costa shore and the Mare Island lighthouse.
I started to swim for the Solano shore, but was too weak and chilled, and
made so little headway, and at the cost of such painful effort, that I
gave it up and contented myself with floating, now and then giving a
stroke to keep my balance in the tide-rips which were increasing their
commotion on the surface of the water.  And I knew fear.  I was sober
now, and I didn't want to die.  I discovered scores of reasons for
living.  And the more reasons I discovered, the more liable it seemed
that I was going to drown anyway.

Daylight, after I had been four hours in the water, found me in a parlous
condition in the tide-rips off Mare Island light, where the swift ebbs
from Vallejo Straits and Carquinez Straits were fighting with each other,
and where, at that particular moment, they were fighting the flood tide
setting up against them from San Pablo Bay.  A stiff breeze had sprung
up, and the crisp little waves were persistently lapping into my mouth,
and I was beginning to swallow salt water.  With my swimmer's knowledge,
I knew the end was near.  And then the boat came--a Greek fisherman
running in for Vallejo; and again I had been saved from John Barleycorn
by my constitution and physical vigour.

And, in passing, let me note that this maniacal trick John Barleycorn
played me is nothing uncommon.  An absolute statistic of the per centage
of suicides due to John Barleycorn would be appalling.  In my case,
healthy, normal, young, full of the joy of life, the suggestion to kill
myself was unusual; but it must be taken into account that it came on the
heels of a long carouse, when my nerves and brain were fearfully
poisoned, and that the dramatic, romantic side of my imagination,
drink-maddened to lunacy, was delighted with the suggestion.  And yet,
the older, more morbid drinkers, more jaded with life and more
disillusioned, who kill themselves, do so usually after a long debauch,
when their nerves and brains are thoroughly poison-soaked.


So I left Benicia, where John Barleycorn had nearly got me, and ranged
wider afield in pursuit of the whisper from the back of life to come and
find.  And wherever I ranged, the way lay along alcohol-drenched roads.
Men still congregated in saloons.  They were the poor-man's clubs, and
they were the only clubs to which I had access.  I could get acquainted
in saloons.  I could go into a saloon and talk with any man.  In the
strange towns and cities I wandered through, the only place for me to go
was the saloon.  I was no longer a stranger in any town the moment I had
entered a saloon.

And right here let me break in with experiences no later than last year.
I harnessed four horses to a light trap, took Charmian along, and drove
for three months and a half over the wildest mountain parts of California
and Oregon.  Each morning I did my regular day's work of writing fiction.
That completed, I drove on through the middle of the day and the
afternoon to the next stop.  But the irregularity of occurrence of
stopping-places, coupled with widely varying road conditions, made it
necessary to plan, the day before, each day's drive and my work.  I must
know when I was to start driving in order to start writing in time to
finish my day's output.  Thus, on occasion, when the drive was to be
long, I would be up and at my writing by five in the morning.  On easier
driving days I might not start writing till nine o'clock.

But how to plan? As soon as I arrived in a town, and put the horses up,
on the way from the stable to the hotel I dropped into the saloons.
First thing, a drink--oh, I wanted the drink, but also it must not be
forgotten that, because of wanting to know things, it was in this very
way I had learned to want a drink.  Well, the first thing, a drink.
"Have something yourself," to the barkeeper.  And then, as we drink, my
opening query about roads and stopping-places on ahead.

"Let me see," the barkeeper will say, "there's the road across Tarwater
Divide.  That used to be good.  I was over it three years ago.  But it
was blocked this spring.  Say, I'll tell you what.  I'll ask Jerry----"
And the barkeeper turns and addresses some man sitting at a table or
leaning against the bar farther along, and who may be Jerry, or Tom, or
Bill.  "Say, Jerry, how about the Tarwater road? You was down to Wilkins
last week."

And while Bill or Jerry or Tom is beginning to unlimber his thinking and
speaking apparatus, I suggest that he join us in the drink.  Then
discussions arise about the advisability of this road or that, what the
best stopping-places may be, what running time I may expect to make,
where the best trout streams are, and so forth, in which other men join,
and which are punctuated with more drinks.

Two or three more saloons, and I accumulate a warm jingle and come pretty
close to knowing everybody in town, all about the town, and a fair deal
about the surrounding country.  I know the lawyers, editors, business
men, local politicians, and the visiting ranchers, hunters, and miners,
so that by evening, when Charmian and I stroll down the main street and
back, she is astounded by the number of my acquaintances in that totally
strange town.

And thus is demonstrated a service John Barleycorn renders, a service by
which he increases his power over men.  And over the world, wherever I
have gone, during all the years, it has been the same.  It may be a
cabaret in the Latin Quarter, a cafe in some obscure Italian village, a
boozing ken in sailor-town, and it may be up at the club over Scotch and
soda; but always it will be where John Barleycorn makes fellowship that I
get immediately in touch, and meet, and know.  And in the good days
coming, when John Barleycorn will have been banished out of existence
along with the other barbarisms, some other institution than the saloon
will have to obtain, some other congregating place of men where strange
men and stranger men may get in touch, and meet, and know.

But to return to my narrative.  When I turned my back on Benicia, my way
led through saloons.  I had developed no moral theories against drinking,
and I disliked as much as ever the taste of the stuff.  But I had grown
respectfully suspicious of John Barleycorn.  I could not forget that
trick he had played on me--on me who did not want to die.  So I continued
to drink, and to keep a sharp eye on John Barleycorn, resolved to resist
all future suggestions of self-destruction.

In strange towns I made immediate acquaintances in the saloons.  When I
hoboed, and hadn't the price of a bed, a saloon was the only place that
would receive me and give me a chair by the fire.  I could go into a
saloon and wash up, brush my clothes, and comb my hair.  And saloons were
always so damnably convenient.  They were everywhere in my western

I couldn't go into the dwellings of strangers that way.  Their doors were
not open to me; no seats were there for me by their fires.  Also,
churches and preachers I had never known.  And from what I didn't know I
was not attracted toward them.  Besides, there was no glamour about them,
no haze of romance, no promise of adventure.  They were the sort with
whom things never happened.  They lived and remained always in the one
place, creatures of order and system, narrow, limited, restrained.  They
were without greatness, without imagination, without camaraderie.  It was
the good fellows, easy and genial, daring, and, on occasion, mad, that I
wanted to know--the fellows, generous-hearted and -handed, and not

And here is another complaint I bring against John Barleycorn.  It is
these good fellows that he gets--the fellows with the fire and the go in
them, who have bigness, and warmness, and the best of the human
weaknesses.  And John Barleycorn puts out the fire, and soddens the
agility, and, when he does not more immediately kill them or make maniacs
of them, he coarsens and grossens them, twists and malforms them out of
the original goodness and fineness of their natures.

Oh!--and I speak out of later knowledge--Heaven forefend me from the most
of the average run of male humans who are not good fellows, the ones cold
of heart and cold of head who don't smoke, drink, or swear, or do much of
anything else that is brase, and resentful, and stinging, because in
their feeble fibres there has never been the stir and prod of life to
well over its boundaries and be devilish and daring.  One doesn't meet
these in saloons, nor rallying to lost causes, nor flaming on the
adventure-paths, nor loving as God's own mad lovers.  They are too busy
keeping their feet dry, conserving their heart-beats, and making unlovely
life-successes of their spirit-mediocrity.

And so I draw the indictment home to John Barleycorn.  It is just those,
the good fellows, the worth while, the fellows with the weakness of too
much strength, too much spirit, too much fire and flame of fine
devilishness, that he solicits and ruins.  Of course, he ruins weaklings;
but with them, the worst we breed, I am not here concerned.  My concern
is that it is so much of the best we breed whom John Barleycorn destroys.
And the reason why these best are destroyed is because John Barleycorn
stands on every highway and byway, accessible, law-protected, saluted by
the policeman on the beat, speaking to them, leading them by the hand to
the places where the good fellows and daring ones forgather and drink
deep.  With John Barleycorn out of the way, these daring ones would still
be born, and they would do things instead of perishing.

Always I encountered the camaraderie of drink.  I might be walking down
the track to the water-tank to lie in wait for a passing freight-train,
when I would chance upon a bunch of "alki-stiffs." An alki-stiff is a
tramp who drinks druggist's alcohol.  Immediately, with greeting and
salutation, I am taken into the fellowship.  The alcohol, shrewdly
blended with water, is handed to me, and soon I am caught up in the
revelry, with maggots crawling in my brain and John Barleycorn whispering
to me that life is big, and that we are all brave and fine--free spirits
sprawling like careless gods upon the turf and telling the two-by-four,
cut-and-dried, conventional world to go hang.


Back in Oakland from my wanderings, I returned to the water-front and
renewed my comradeship with Nelson, who was now on shore all the time and
living more madly than before.  I, too, spent my time on shore with him,
only occasionally going for cruises of several days on the bay to help
out on short-handed scow-schooners.

The result was that I was no longer reinvigorated by periods of open-air
abstinence and healthy toil.  I drank every day, and whenever opportunity
offered I drank to excess; for I still laboured under the misconception
that the secret of John Barleycorn lay in drinking to bestiality and
unconsciousness.  I became pretty thoroughly alcohol-soaked during this
period.  I practically lived in saloons; became a bar-room loafer, and

And right here was John Barleycorn getting me in a more insidious though
no less deadly way than when he nearly sent me out with the tide.  I had
a few months still to run before I was seventeen; I scorned the thought
of a steady job at anything; I felt myself a pretty tough individual in a
group of pretty tough men; and I drank because these men drank and
because I had to make good with them.  I had never had a real boyhood,
and in this, my precocious manhood, I was very hard and woefully wise.
Though I had never known girl's love even, I had crawled through such
depths that I was convinced absolutely that I knew the last word about
love and life.  And it wasn't a pretty knowledge.  Without being
pessimistic, I was quite satisfied that life was a rather cheap and
ordinary affair.

You see, John Barleycorn was blunting me.  The old stings and prods of
the spirit were no longer sharp.  Curiosity was leaving me.  What did it
matter what lay on the other side of the world?  Men and women, without
doubt, very much like the men and women I knew; marrying and giving in
marriage and all the petty run of petty human concerns; and drinks, too.
But the other side of the world was a long way to go for a drink.  I had
but to step to the corner and get all I wanted at Joe Vigy's.  Johnny
Heinhold still ran the Last Chance.  And there were saloons on all the
corners and between the corners.

The whispers from the back of life were growing dim as my mind and body
soddened.  The old unrest was drowsy.  I might as well rot and die here
in Oakland as anywhere else.  And I should have so rotted and died, and
not in very long order either, at the pace John Barleycorn was leading
me, had the matter depended wholly on him.  I was learning what it was to
have no appetite.  I was learning what it was to get up shaky in the
morning, with a stomach that quivered, with fingers touched with palsy,
and to know the drinker's need for a stiff glass of whisky neat in order
to brace up.  (Oh! John Barleycorn is a wizard dopester.  Brain and body,
scorched and jangled and poisoned, return to be tuned up by the very
poison that caused the damage.)

There is no end to John Barleycorn's tricks.  He had tried to inveigle me
into killing myself.  At this period he was doing his best to kill me at
a fairly rapid pace.  But, not satisfied with that, he tried another
dodge.  He very nearly got me, too, and right there I learned a lesson
about him--became a wiser, a more skilful drinker.  I learned there were
limits to my gorgeous constitution, and that there were no limits to John
Barleycorn.  I learned that in a short hour or two he could master my
strong head, my broad shoulders and deep chest, put me on my back, and
with a devil's grip on my throat proceed to choke the life out of me.

Nelson and I were sitting in the Overland House.  It was early in the
evening, and the only reason we were there was because we were broke and
it was election time.  You see, in election time local politicians,
aspirants for office, have a way of making the rounds of the saloons to
get votes.  One is sitting at a table, in a dry condition, wondering who
is going to turn up and buy him a drink, or if his credit is good at some
other saloon and if it's worth while to walk that far to find out, when
suddenly the saloon doors swing wide, and enters a bevy of well-dressed
men, themselves usually wide and exhaling an atmosphere of prosperity and

They have smiles and greetings for everybody--for you, without the price
of a glass of beer in your pocket, for the timid hobo who lurks in the
corner and who certainly hasn't a vote, but who may establish a
lodging-house registration.  And do you know, when these politicians
swing wide the doors and come in, with their broad shoulders, their deep
chests, and their generous stomachs which cannot help making them
optimists and masters of life, why, you perk right up.  It's going to be
a warm evening after all, and you know you'll get a souse started at the
very least.

And--who knows?--the gods may be kind, other drinks may come, and the
night culminate in glorious greatness.  And the next thing you know, you
are lined up at the bar, pouring drinks down your throat and learning the
gentlemen's names and the offices which they hope to fill.

It was during this period, when the politicians went their saloon rounds,
that I was getting bitter bits of education and having illusions
punctured--I, who had pored and thrilled over "The Rail-Splitter," and
"From Canal Boy to President." Yes, I was learning how noble politics and
politicians are.

Well, on this night, broke, thirsty, but with the drinker's faith in the
unexpected drink, Nelson and I sat in the Overland House waiting for
something to turn up, especially politicians.  And there entered Joe
Goose--he of the unquenchable thirst, the wicked eyes, the crooked nose,
the flowered vest.

"Come on, fellows--free booze--all you want of it.  I didn't want you to
miss it."

"Where?" we wanted to know.

"Come on.  I'll tell you as we go along.  We haven't a minute to lose."
And as we hurried up town, Joe Goose explained: "It's the Hancock Fire
Brigade.  All you have to do is wear a red shirt and a helmet, and carry
a torch.

"They're going down on a special train to Haywards to parade."

(I think the place was Haywards.  It may have been San Leandro or Niles.
And, to save me, I can't remember whether the Hancock Fire Brigade was a
republican or a democratic organisation.  But anyway, the politicians who
ran it were short of torch-bearers, and anybody who would parade could
get drunk if he wanted to.)

"The town'll be wide open," Joe Goose went on.  "Booze? It'll run like
water.  The politicians have bought the stocks of the saloons.  There'll
be no charge.  All you got to do is walk right up and call for it.  We'll
raise hell."

At the hall, on Eighth Street near Broadway, we got into the firemen's
shirts and helmets, were equipped with torches, and, growling because we
weren't given at least one drink before we started, were herded aboard
the train.  Oh, those politicians had handled our kind before.  At
Haywards there were no drinks either.  Parade first, and earn your booze,
was the order of the night.

We paraded.  Then the saloons were opened.  Extra barkeepers had been
engaged, and the drinkers jammed six deep before every drink-drenched and
unwiped bar.  There was no time to wipe the bar, nor wash glasses, nor do
anything save fill glasses.  The Oakland water-front can be real thirsty
on occasion.

This method of jamming and struggling in front of the bar was too slow
for us.  The drink was ours.  The politicians had bought it for us.  We'd
paraded and earned it, hadn't we? So we made a flank attack around the
end of the bar, shoved the protesting barkeepers aside, and helped
ourselves to bottles.

Outside, we knocked the necks of the bottles off against the concrete
curbs, and drank.  Now Joe Goose and Nelson had learned discretion with
straight whisky, drunk in quantity.  I hadn't.  I still laboured under
the misconception that one was to drink all he could get--especially when
it didn't cost anything.  We shared our bottles with others, and drank a
good portion ourselves, while I drank most of all.  And I didn't like the
stuff.  I drank it as I had drunk beer at five, and wine at seven.  I
mastered my qualms and downed it like so much medicine.  And when we
wanted more bottles, we went into other saloons where the free drink was
flowing, and helped ourselves.

I haven't the slightest idea of how much I drank--whether it was two
quarts or five.  I do know that I began the orgy with half-pint draughts
and with no water afterward to wash the taste away or to dilute the

Now the politicians were too wise to leave the town filled with drunks
from the water-front of Oakland.  When train time came, there was a
round-up of the saloons.  Already I was feeling the impact of the whisky.
Nelson and I were hustled out of a saloon, and found ourselves in the
very last rank of a disorderly parade.  I struggled along heroically, my
correlations breaking down, my legs tottering under me, my head swimming,
my heart pounding, my lungs panting for air.

My helplessness was coming on so rapidly that my reeling brain told me I
would go down and out and never reach the train if I remained at the rear
of the procession.  I left the ranks and ran down a pathway beside the
road under broad-spreading trees.  Nelson pursued me, laughing.  Certain
things stand out, as in memories of nightmare.  I remember those trees
especially, and my desperate running along under them, and how, every
time I fell, roars of laughter went up from the other drunks.  They
thought I was merely antic drunk.  They did not dream that John
Barleycorn had me by the throat in a death-clutch.  But I knew it.  And I
remember the fleeting bitterness that was mine as I realised that I was
in a struggle with death, and that these others did not know.  It was as
if I were drowning before a crowd of spectators who thought I was cutting
up tricks for their entertainment.

And running there under the trees, I fell and lost consciousness.  What
happened afterward, with one glimmering exception, I had to be told.
Nelson, with his enormous strength, picked me up and dragged me on and
aboard the train.  When he had got me into a seat, I fought and panted so
terribly for air that even with his obtuseness he knew I was in a bad
way.  And right there, at any moment, I know now, I might have died.  I
often think it is the nearest to death I have ever been.  I have only
Nelson's description of my behaviour to go by.

I was scorching up, burning alive internally, in an agony of fire and
suffocation, and I wanted air.  I madly wanted air.  My efforts to raise
a window were vain, for all the windows in the car were screwed down.
Nelson had seen drink-crazed men, and thought I wanted to throw myself
out.  He tried to restrain me, but I fought on.  I seized some man's
torch and smashed the glass.

Now there were pro-Nelson and anti-Nelson factions on the Oakland
water-front, and men of both factions, with more drink in them than was
good, filled the car.  My smashing of the window was the signal for the
antis.  One of them reached for me, and dropped me, and started the
fight, of all of which I have no knowledge save what was told me
afterward, and a sore jaw next day from the blow that put me out.  The
man who struck me went down across my body, Nelson followed him, and they
say there were few unbroken windows in the wreckage of the car that
followed as the free-for-all fight had its course.

This being knocked cold and motionless was perhaps the best thing that
could have happened to me.  My violent struggles had only accelerated my
already dangerously accelerated heart, and increased the need for oxygen
in my suffocating lungs.

After the fight was over and I came to, I did not come to myself.  I was
no more myself than a drowning man is who continues to struggle after he
has lost consciousness.  I have no memory of my actions, but I cried
"Air! Air!" so insistently, that it dawned on Nelson that I did not
contemplate self-destruction.  So he cleared the jagged glass from the
window-ledge and let me stick my head and shoulders out.  He realised,
partially, the seriousness of my condition, and held me by the waist to
prevent me from crawling farther out.  And for the rest of the run in to
Oakland I kept my head and shoulders out, fighting like a maniac whenever
he tried to draw me inside.

And here my one glimmering streak of true consciousness came.  My sole
recollection, from the time I fell under the trees until I awoke the
following evening, is of my head out of the window, facing the wind
caused by the train, cinders striking and burning and blinding me, while
I breathed with will.  All my will was concentrated on breathing--on
breathing the air in the hugest lung-full gulps I could, pumping the
greatest amount of air into my lungs in the shortest possible time.  It
was that or death, and I was a swimmer and diver, and I knew it; and in
the most intolerable agony of prolonged suffocation, during those moments
I was conscious, I faced the wind and the cinders and breathed for life.

All the rest is a blank.  I came to the following evening, in a
water-front lodging-house.  I was alone.  No doctor had been called in.
And I might well have died there, for Nelson and the others, deeming me
merely "sleeping off my drunk," had let me lie there in a comatose
condition for seventeen hours.  Many a man, as every doctor knows, has
died of the sudden impact of a quart or more of whisky.  Usually one
reads of them so dying, strong drinkers, on account of a wager.  But I
didn't know--then.  And so I learned; and by no virtue nor prowess, but
simply through good fortune and constitution.  Again my constitution had
triumphed over John Barleycorn.  I had escaped from another death-pit,
dragged myself through another morass, and perilously acquired the
discretion that would enable me to drink wisely for many another year to

Heavens! That was twenty years ago, and I am still very much and wisely
alive; and I have seen much, done much, lived much, in that intervening
score of years; and I shudder when I think how close a shave I ran, how
near I was to missing that splendid fifth of a century that has been
mine.  And, oh, it wasn't John Barleycorn's fault that he didn't get me
that night of the Hancock Fire Brigade.


It was during the early winter of 1892 that I resolved to go to sea.  My
Hancock Fire Brigade experience was very little responsible for this.  I
still drank and frequented saloons--practically lived in saloons.  Whisky
was dangerous, in my opinion, but not wrong.  Whisky was dangerous like
other dangerous things in the natural world.  Men died of whisky; but
then, too, fishermen were capsized and drowned, hoboes fell under trains
and were cut to pieces.  To cope with winds and waves, railroad trains,
and bar-rooms, one must use judgment.  To get drunk after the manner of
men was all right, but one must do it with discretion.  No more quarts of
whisky for me.

What really decided me to go to sea was that I had caught my first vision
of the death-road which John Barleycorn maintains for his devotees.  It
was not a clear vision, however, and there were two phases of it,
somewhat jumbled at the time.  It struck me, from watching those with
whom I associated, that the life we were living was more destructive than
that lived by the average man.

John Barleycorn, by inhibiting morality, incited to crime.  Everywhere I
saw men doing, drunk, what they would never dream of doing sober.  And
this wasn't the worst of it.  It was the penalty that must be paid.
Crime was destructive.  Saloon-mates I drank with, who were good fellows
and harmless, sober, did most violent and lunatic things when they were
drunk.  And then the police gathered them in and they vanished from our
ken.  Sometimes I visited them behind the bars and said good-bye ere they
journeyed across the bay to put on the felon's stripes.  And time and
again I heard the one explanation "IF I HADN'T BEEN DRUNK I WOULDN'T
A-DONE IT."  And sometimes, under the spell of John Barleycorn, the most
frightful things were done--things that shocked even my case-hardened

The other phase of the death-road was that of the habitual drunkards, who
had a way of turning up their toes without apparent provocation.  When
they took sick, even with trifling afflictions that any ordinary man
could pull through, they just pegged out.  Sometimes they were found
unattended and dead in their beds; on occasion their bodies were dragged
out of the water; and sometimes it was just plain accident, as when Bill
Kelley, unloading cargo while drunk, had a finger jerked off, which,
under the circumstances, might just as easily have been his head.

So I considered my situation and knew that I was getting into a bad way
of living.  It made toward death too quickly to suit my youth and
vitality.  And there was only one way out of this hazardous manner of
living, and that was to get out.  The sealing fleet was wintering in San
Francisco Bay, and in the saloons I met skippers, mates, hunters,
boat-steerers, and boat-pullers.  I met the seal-hunter, Pete Holt, and
agreed to be his boat-puller and to sign on any schooner he signed on.
And I had to have half a dozen drinks with Pete Holt there and then to
seal our agreement.

And at once awoke all my old unrest that John Barleycorn had put to
sleep.  I found myself actually bored with the saloon life of the Oakland
water-front, and wondered what I had ever found fascinating in it.  Also,
with this death-road concept in my brain, I began to grow afraid that
something would happen to me before sailing day, which was set for some
time in January.  I lived more circumspectly, drank less deeply, and went
home more frequently.  When drinking grew too wild, I got out.  When
Nelson was in his maniacal cups, I managed to get separated from him.

On the 12th of January, 1893, I was seventeen, and the 20th of January I
signed before the shipping commissioner the articles of the Sophie
Sutherland, a three topmast sealing schooner bound on a voyage to the
coast of Japan.  And of course we had to drink on it.  Joe Vigy cashed my
advance note, and Pete Holt treated, and I treated, and Joe Vigy treated,
and other hunters treated.  Well, it was the way of men, and who was I,
just turned seventeen, that I should decline the way of life of these
fine, chesty, man-grown men?


There was nothing to drink on the Sophie Sutherland, and we had fifty-one
days of glorious sailing, taking the southern passage in the north-east
trades to Bonin Islands.  This isolated group, belonging to Japan, had
been selected as the rendezvous of the Canadian and American sealing
fleets.  Here they filled their water-barrels and made repairs before
starting on the hundred days' harrying of the seal-herd along the
northern coasts of Japan to Behring Sea.

Those fifty-one days of fine sailing and intense sobriety had put me in
splendid fettle.  The alcohol had been worked out of my system, and from
the moment the voyage began I had not known the desire for a drink.  I
doubt if I even thought once about a drink.  Often, of course, the talk
in the forecastle turned on drink, and the men told of their more
exciting or humorous drunks, remembering such passages more keenly, with
greater delight, than all the other passages of their adventurous lives.

In the forecastle, the oldest man, fat and fifty, was Louis.  He was a
broken skipper.  John Barleycorn had thrown him, and he was winding up
his career where he had begun it, in the forecastle.  His case made quite
an impression on me.  John Barleycorn did other things beside kill a man.
He hadn't killed Louis.  He had done much worse.  He had robbed him of
power and place and comfort, crucified his pride, and condemned him to
the hardship of the common sailor that would last as long as his healthy
breath lasted, which promised to be for a long time.

We completed our run across the Pacific, lifted the volcanic peaks,
jungle-clad, of the Bonin Islands, sailed in among the reefs to the
land-locked harbour, and let our anchor rumble down where lay a score or
more of sea-gypsies like ourselves.  The scents of strange vegetation
blew off the tropic land.  Aborigines, in queer outrigger canoes, and
Japanese, in queerer sampans, paddled about the bay and came aboard.  It
was my first foreign land; I had won to the other side of the world, and
I would see all I had read in the books come true.  I was wild to get

Victor and Axel, a Swede and a Norwegian, and I planned to keep together.
(And so well did we, that for the rest of the cruise we were known as the
"Three Sports.") Victor pointed out a pathway that disappeared up a wild
canyon, emerged on a steep bare lava slope, and thereafter appeared and
disappeared, ever climbing, among the palms and flowers.  We would go
over that path, he said, and we agreed, and we would see beautiful
scenery, and strange native villages, and find, Heaven alone knew, what
adventure at the end.  And Axel was keen to go fishing.  The three of us
agreed to that, too.  We would get a sampan, and a couple of Japanese
fishermen who knew the fishing grounds, and we would have great sport.
As for me, I was keen for anything.

And then, our plans made, we rowed ashore over the banks of living coral
and pulled our boat up the white beach of coral sand.  We walked across
the fringe of beach under the cocoanut-palms and into the little town,
and found several hundred riotous seamen from all the world, drinking
prodigiously, singing prodigiously, dancing prodigiously--and all on the
main street to the scandal of a helpless handful of Japanese police.

Victor and Axel said that we'd have a drink before we started on our long
walk.  Could I decline to drink with these two chesty shipmates?
Drinking together, glass in hand, put the seal on comradeship.  It was
the way of life.  Our teetotaler owner-captain was laughed at, and
sneered at, by all of us because of his teetotalism.  I didn't in the
least want a drink, but I did want to be a good fellow and a good
comrade.  Nor did Louis' case deter me, as I poured the biting, scorching
stuff down my throat.  John Barleycorn had thrown Louis to a nasty fall,
but I was young.  My blood ran full and red; I had a constitution of
iron; and--well, youth ever grins scornfully at the wreckage of age.

Queer, fierce, alcoholic stuff it was that we drank.  There was no
telling where or how it had been manufactured--some native concoction
most likely.  But it was hot as fire, pale as water, and quick as death
with its kick.  It had been filled into empty "square-face" bottles which
had once contained Holland gin, and which still bore the fitting legend
"Anchor Brand." It certainly anchored us.  We never got out of the town.
We never went fishing in the sampan.  And though we were there ten days,
we never trod that wild path along the lava cliffs and among the flowers.

We met old acquaintances from other schooners, fellows we had met in the
saloons of San Francisco before we sailed.  And each meeting meant a
drink; and there was much to talk about; and more drinks; and songs to be
sung; and pranks and antics to be performed, until the maggots of
imagination began to crawl, and it all seemed great and wonderful to me,
these lusty hard-bitten sea-rovers, of whom I made one, gathered in
wassail on a coral strand.  Old lines about knights at table in the great
banquet halls, and of those above the salt and below the salt, and of
Vikings feasting fresh from sea and ripe for battle, came to me; and I
knew that the old times were not dead and that we belonged to that
selfsame ancient breed.

By mid-afternoon Victor went mad with drink, and wanted to fight
everybody and everything.  I have since seen lunatics in the violent
wards of asylums that seemed to behave in no wise different from Victor's
way, save that perhaps he was more violent.  Axel and I interfered as
peacemakers, were roughed and jostled in the mix-ups, and finally, with
infinite precaution and intoxicated cunning, succeeded in inveigling our
chum down to the boat and in rowing him aboard our schooner.

But no sooner did Victor's feet touch the deck than he began to clean up
the ship.  He had the strength of several men, and he ran amuck with it.
I remember especially one man whom he got into the chain-boxes but failed
to damage through inability to hit him.  The man dodged and ducked, and
Victor broke all the knuckles of both his fists against the huge links of
the anchor chain.  By the time we dragged him out of that, his madness
had shifted to the belief that he was a great swimmer, and the next
moment he was overboard and demonstrating his ability by floundering like
a sick porpoise and swallowing much salt water.

We rescued him, and by the time we got him below, undressed, and into his
bunk, we were wrecks ourselves.  But Axel and I wanted to see more of
shore, and away we went, leaving Victor snoring.  It was curious, the
judgment passed on Victor by his shipmates, drinkers themselves.  They
shook their heads disapprovingly and muttered: "A man like that oughtn't
to drink." Now Victor was the smartest sailor and best-tempered shipmate
in the forecastle.  He was an all-round splendid type of seaman; his
mates recognised his worth, and respected him and liked him.  Yet John
Barleycorn metamorphosed him into a violent lunatic.  And that was the
very point these drinkers made.  They knew that drink--and drink with a
sailor is always excessive--made them mad, but only mildly mad.  Violent
madness was objectionable because it spoiled the fun of others and often
culminated in tragedy.  From their standpoint, mild madness was all
right.  But from the standpoint of the whole human race, is not all
madness objectionable? And is there a greater maker of madness of all
sorts than John Barleycorn?

But to return.  Ashore, snugly ensconced in a Japanese house of
entertainment, Axel and I compared bruises, and over a comfortable drink
talked of the afternoon's happenings.  We liked the quietness of that
drink and took another.  A shipmate dropped in, several shipmates dropped
in, and we had more quiet drinks.  Finally, just as we had engaged a
Japanese orchestra, and as the first strains of the samisens and taikos
were rising, through the paper-walls came a wild howl from the street.
We recognised it.  Still howling, disdaining doorways, with blood-shot
eyes and wildly waving muscular arms, Victor burst upon us through the
fragile walls.  The old amuck rage was on him, and he wanted blood,
anybody's blood.  The orchestra fled; so did we.  We went through
doorways, and we went through paper-walls--anything to get away.

And after the place was half wrecked, and we had agreed to pay the
damage, leaving Victor partly subdued and showing symptoms of lapsing
into a comatose state, Axel and I wandered away in quest of a quieter
drinking-place.  The main street was a madness.  Hundreds of sailors
rollicked up and down.  Because the chief of police with his small force
was helpless, the governor of the colony had issued orders to the
captains to have all their men on board by sunset.

What! To be treated in such fashion! As the news spread among the
schooners, they were emptied.  Everybody came ashore.  Men who had had no
intention of coming ashore climbed into the boats.  The unfortunate
governor's ukase had precipitated a general debauch for all hands.  It
was hours after sunset, and the men wanted to see anybody try to put them
on board.  They went around inviting the authorities to try to put them
on board.  In front of the governor's house they were gathered thickest,
bawling sea-songs, circulating square faces, and dancing uproarious
Virginia reels and old-country dances.  The police, including the
reserves, stood in little forlorn groups, waiting for the command the
governor was too wise to issue.  And I thought this saturnalia was great.
It was like the old days of the Spanish Main come back.  It was license;
it was adventure.  And I was part of it, a chesty sea-rover along with
all these other chesty sea-rovers among the paper houses of Japan.

The governor never issued the order to clear the streets, and Axel and I
wandered on from drink to drink.  After a time, in some of the antics,
getting hazy myself, I lost him.  I drifted along, making new
acquaintances, downing more drinks, getting hazier and hazier.  I
remember, somewhere, sitting in a circle with Japanese fishermen, Kanaka
boat-steerers from our own vessels, and a young Danish sailor fresh from
cowboying in the Argentine and with a penchant for native customs and
ceremonials.  And with due and proper and most intricate Japanese
ceremonial we of the circle drank saki, pale, mild, and lukewarm, from
tiny porcelain bowls.

And, later, I remember the runaway apprentices--boys of eighteen and
twenty, of middle class English families, who had jumped their ships and
apprenticeships in various ports of the world and drifted into the
forecastles of the sealing schooners.  They were healthy, smooth-skinned,
clear-eyed, and they were young--youths like me, learning the way of
their feet in the world of men.  And they WERE men.  No mild saki for
them, but square faces illicitly refilled with corrosive fire that flamed
through their veins and burst into conflagrations in their heads.  I
remember a melting song they sang, the refrain of which was:

   "'Tis but a little golden ring,
      I give it to thee with pride,
    Wear it for your mother's sake
      When you are on the tide."

They wept over it as they sang it, the graceless young scamps who had all
broken their mothers' prides, and I sang with them, and wept with them,
and luxuriated in the pathos and the tragedy of it, and struggled to make
glimmering inebriated generalisations on life and romance.  And one last
picture I have, standing out very clear and bright in the midst of
vagueness before and blackness afterward.  We--the apprentices and I--are
swaying and clinging to one another under the stars.  We are singing a
rollicking sea song, all save one who sits on the ground and weeps; and
we are marking the rhythm with waving square faces.  From up and down the
street come far choruses of sea-voices similarly singing, and life is
great, and beautiful and romantic, and magnificently mad.

And next, after the blackness, I open my eyes in the early dawn to see a
Japanese woman, solicitously anxious, bending over me.  She is the port
pilot's wife and I am lying in her doorway.  I am chilled and shivering,
sick with the after-sickness of debauch.  And I feel lightly clad.  Those
rascals of runaway apprentices!  They have acquired the habit of running
away.  They have run away with my possessions.  My watch is gone.  My few
dollars are gone.  My coat is gone.  So is my belt.  And yes, my shoes.

And the foregoing is a sample of the ten days I spent in the Bonin
Islands.  Victor got over his lunacy, rejoined Axel and me, and after
that we caroused somewhat more discreetly.  And we never climbed that
lava path among the flowers.  The town and the square faces were all we

One who has been burned by fire must preach about the fire.  I might have
seen and healthily enjoyed a whole lot more of the Bonin Islands, if I
had done what I ought to have done.  But, as I see it, it is not a matter
of what one ought to do, or ought not to do.  It is what one DOES do.
That is the everlasting, irrefragable fact.  I did just what I did.  I
did what all those men did in the Bonin Islands.  I did what millions of
men over the world were doing at that particular point in time.  I did it
because the way led to it, because I was only a human boy, a creature of
my environment, and neither an anaemic nor a god.  I was just human, and
I was taking the path in the world that men took--men whom I admired, if
you please; full-blooded men, lusty, breedy, chesty men, free spirits and
anything but niggards in the way they foamed life away.

And the way was open.  It was like an uncovered well in a yard where
children play.  It is small use to tell the brave little boys toddling
their way along into knowledge of life that they mustn't play near the
uncovered well.  They'll play near it.  Any parent knows that.  And we
know that a certain percentage of them, the livest and most daring, will
fall into the well.  The thing to do--we all know it--is to cover up the
well.  The case is the same with John Barleycorn.  All the no-saying and
no-preaching in the world will fail to keep men, and youths growing into
manhood, away from John Barleycorn when John Barleycorn is everywhere
accessible, and where John Barleycorn is everywhere the connotation of
manliness, and daring, and great-spiritedness.

The only rational thing for the twentieth-century folk to do is to cover
up the well; to make the twentieth century in truth the twentieth
century, and to relegate to the nineteenth century and all the preceding
centuries the things of those centuries, the witch-burnings, the
intolerances, the fetiches, and, not least among such barbarisms.  John


North we raced from the Bonin Islands to pick up the seal-herd, and north
we hunted it for a hundred days into frosty, mitten weather and into and
through vast fogs which hid the sun from us for a week at a time.  It was
wild and heavy work, without a drink or thought of drink.  Then we sailed
south to Yokohama, with a big catch of skins in our salt and a heavy
pay-day coming.

I was eager to be ashore and see Japan, but the first day was devoted to
ship's work, and not until evening did we sailors land.  And here, by the
very system of things, by the way life was organised and men transacted
affairs, John Barleycorn reached out and tucked my arm in his.  The
captain had given money for us to the hunters, and the hunters were
waiting in a certain Japanese public house for us to come and get it.  We
rode to the place in rickshaws.  Our own crowd had taken possession of
it.  Drink was flowing.  Everybody had money, and everybody was treating.
After the hundred days of hard toil and absolute abstinence, in the pink
of physical condition, bulging with health, over-spilling with spirits
that had long been pent by discipline and circumstance, of course we
would have a drink or two.  And after that we would see the town.

It was the old story.  There were so many drinks to be drunk, and as the
warm magic poured through our veins and mellowed our voices and
affections we knew it was no time to make invidious distinctions--to
drink with this shipmate and to decline to drink with that shipmate.  We
were all shipmates who had been through stress and storm together, who
had pulled and hauled on the same sheets and tackles, relieved one
another's wheels, laid out side by side on the same jib-boom when she was
plunging into it and looked to see who was missing when she cleared and
lifted.  So we drank with all, and all treated, and our voices rose, and
we remembered a myriad kindly acts of comradeship, and forgot our fights
and wordy squabbles, and knew one another for the best fellows in the

Well, the night was young when we arrived in that public house, and for
all of that first night that public house was what I saw of Japan--a
drinking-place which was very like a drinking-place at home or anywhere
else over the world.

We lay in Yokohama harbour for two weeks, and about all we saw of Japan
was its drinking-places where sailors congregated.  Occasionally, some
one of us varied the monotony with a more exciting drunk.  In such
fashion I managed a real exploit by swimming off to the schooner one dark
midnight and going soundly to sleep while the water-police searched the
harbour for my body and brought my clothes out for identification.

Perhaps it was for things like that, I imagined, that men got drunk.  In
our little round of living what I had done was a noteworthy event.  All
the harbour talked about it.  I enjoyed several days of fame among the
Japanese boatmen and ashore in the pubs.  It was a red-letter event.  It
was an event to be remembered and narrated with pride.  I remember it
to-day, twenty years afterward, with a secret glow of pride.  It was a
purple passage, just as Victor's wrecking of the tea-house in the Bonin
Islands and my being looted by the runaway apprentices were purple

The point is that the charm of John Barleycorn was still a mystery to me.
I was so organically a non-alcoholic that alcohol itself made no appeal;
the chemical reactions it produced in me were not satisfying because I
possessed no need for such chemical satisfaction.  I drank because the
men I was with drank, and because my nature was such that I could not
permit myself to be less of a man than other men at their favourite
pastime.  And I still had a sweet tooth, and on privy occasions when
there was no man to see, bought candy and blissfully devoured it.

We hove up anchor to a jolly chanty, and sailed out of Yokohama harbour
for San Francisco.  We took the northern passage, and with the stout west
wind at our back made the run across the Pacific in thirty-seven days of
brave sailing.  We still had a big pay-day coming to us, and for
thirty-seven days, without a drink to addle our mental processes, we
incessantly planned the spending of our money.

The first statement of each man--ever an ancient one in homeward-bound
forecastles--was: "No boarding-house sharks in mine." Next, in
parentheses, was regret at having spent so much money in Yokohama.  And
after that, each man proceeded to paint his favourite phantom.  Victor,
for instance, said that immediately he landed in San Francisco he would
pass right through the water-front and the Barbary Coast, and put an
advertisement in the papers.  His advertisement would be for board and
room in some simple working-class family.  "Then," said Victor, "I shall
go to some dancing-school for a week or two, just to meet and get
acquainted with the girls and fellows.  Then I'll get the run of the
different dancing crowds, and be invited to their homes, and to parties,
and all that, and with the money I've got I can last out till next
January, when I'll go sealing again."

No; he wasn't going to drink.  He knew the way of it, particularly his
way of it, wine in, wit out, and his money would be gone in no time.  He
had his choice, based on bitter experience, between three days' debauch
among the sharks and harpies of the Barbary Coast and a whole winter of
wholesome enjoyment and sociability, and there wasn't any doubt of the
way he was going to choose.

Said Axel Gunderson, who didn't care for dancing and social functions:
"I've got a good pay-day.  Now I can go home.  It is fifteen years since
I've seen my mother and all the family.  When I pay off, I shall send my
money home to wait for me.  Then I'll pick a good ship bound for Europe,
and arrive there with another pay-day.  Put them together, and I'll have
more money than ever in my life before.  I'll be a prince at home.  You
haven't any idea how cheap everything is in Norway.  I can make presents
to everybody, and spend my money like what would seem to them a
millionaire, and live a whole year there before I'd have to go back to

"The very thing I'm going to do," declared Red John.  "It's three years
since I've received a line from home and ten years since I was there.
Things are just as cheap in Sweden, Axel, as in Norway, and my folks are
real country folk and farmers.  I'll send my pay-day home and ship on the
same ship with you for around the Horn.  We'll pick a good one."

And as Axel Gunderson and Red John painted the pastoral delights and
festive customs of their respective countries, each fell in love with the
other's home place, and they solemnly pledged to make the journey
together, and to spend, together, six months in the one's Swedish home
and six months in the other's Norwegian home.  And for the rest of the
voyage they could hardly be pried apart, so infatuated did they become
with discussing their plans.

Long John was not a home-body.  But he was tired of the forecastle.  No
boarding-house sharks in his.  He, too, would get a room in a quiet
family, and he would go to a navigation school and study to be a captain.
And so it went.  Each man swore that for once he would be sensible and
not squander his money.  No boarding-house sharks, no sailor-town, no
drink, was the slogan of our forecastle.

The men became stingy.  Never was there such economy.  They refused to
buy anything more from the slopchest.  Old rags had to last, and they
sewed patch upon patch, turning out what are called "homeward-bound
patches" of the most amazing proportions.  They saved on matches, even,
waiting till two or three were ready to light their pipes from the same

As we sailed up the San Francisco water-front, the moment the port
doctors passed us, the boarding-house runners were alongside in whitehall
boats.  They swarmed on board, each drumming for his own boarding-house,
and each with a bottle of free whisky inside his shirt.  But we waved
them grandly and blasphemously away.  We wanted none of their
boarding-houses and none of their whisky.  We were sober, thrifty
sailormen, with better use for our money.

Came the paying off before the shipping commissioner.  We emerged upon
the sidewalk, each with a pocketful of money.  About us, like buzzards,
clustered the sharks and harpies.  And we looked at each other.  We had
been seven months together, and our paths were separating.  One last
farewell rite of comradeship remained.  (Oh, it was the way, the custom.)
"Come on, boys," said our sailing master.  There stood the inevitable
adjacent saloon.  There were a dozen saloons all around.  And when we had
followed the sailing master into the one of his choice, the sharks were
thick on the sidewalk outside.  Some of them even ventured inside, but we
would have nothing to do with them.

There we stood at the long bar--the sailing master, the mate, the six
hunters, the six boat-steerers, and the five boat-pullers.  There were
only five of the last, for one of our number had been dropped overboard,
with a sack of coal at his feet, between two snow squalls in a driving
gale off Cape Jerimo.  There were nineteen of us, and it was to be our
last drink together.  With seven months of men's work in the world, blow
high, blow low, behind us, we were looking on each other for the last
time.  We knew it, for sailors' ways go wide.  And the nineteen of us,
drank the sailing master's treat.  Then the mate looked at us with
eloquent eyes and called another round.  We liked the mate just as well
as the sailing master, and we liked them both.  Could we drink with one,
and not the other?

And Pete Holt, my own hunter (lost next year in the Mary Thomas, with all
hands), called a round.  The time passed, the drinks continued to come on
the bar, our voices rose, and the maggots began to crawl.  There were six
hunters, and each insisted, in the sacred name of comradeship, that all
hands drink with him just once.  There were six boat-steerers and five
boat-pullers and the same logic held with them.  There was money in all
our pockets, and our money was as good as any man's, and our hearts were
as free and generous.

Nineteen rounds of drinks.  What more would John Barleycorn ask in order
to have his will with men? They were ripe to forget their dearly
cherished plans.  They rolled out of the saloon and into the arms of the
sharks and harpies.  They didn't last long.  From two days to a week saw
the end of their money and saw them being carted by the boarding-house
masters on board outward-bound ships.  Victor was a fine body of a man,
and through a lucky friendship managed to get into the life-saving
service.  He never saw the dancing-school nor placed his advertisement
for a room in a working-class family.  Nor did Long John win to
navigation school.  By the end of the week he was a transient lumper on a
river steamboat.  Red John and Axel did not send their pay-days home to
the old country.  Instead, and along with the rest, they were scattered
on board sailing ships bound for the four quarters of the globe, where
they had been placed by the boarding-house masters, and where they were
working out advance money which they had neither seen nor spent.

What saved me was that I had a home and people to go to.  I crossed the
bay to Oakland, and, among other things, took a look at the death-road.
Nelson was gone--shot to death while drunk and resisting the officers.
His partner in that affair was lying in prison.  Whisky Bob was gone.
Old Cole, Old Smoudge, and Bob Smith were gone.  Another Smith, he of the
belted guns and the Annie, was drowned.  French Frank, they said, was
lurking up river, afraid to come down because of something he had done.
Others were wearing the stripes in San Quentin or Folsom.  Big Alec, the
King of the Greeks, whom I had known well in the old Benicia days, and
with whom I had drunk whole nights through, had killed two men and fled
to foreign parts.  Fitzsimmons, with whom I had sailed on the Fish
Patrol, had been stabbed in the lung through the back and had died a
lingering death complicated with tuberculosis.  And so it went, a very
lively and well-patronised road, and, from what I knew of all of them,
John Barleycorn was responsible, with the sole exception of Smith of the


My infatuation for the Oakland water-front was quite dead.  I didn't like
the looks of it, nor the life.  I didn't care for the drinking, nor the
vagrancy of it, and I wandered back to the Oakland Free Library and read
the books with greater understanding.  Then, too, my mother said I had
sown my wild oats and it was time I settled down to a regular job.  Also,
the family needed the money.  So I got a job at the jute mills--a
ten-hour day at ten cents an hour.  Despite my increase in strength and
general efficiency, I was receiving no more than when I worked in the
cannery several years before.  But, then, there was a promise of a rise
to a dollar and a quarter a day after a few months.  And here, so far as
John Barleycorn is concerned, began a period of innocence.  I did not
know what it was to take a drink from month end to month end.  Not yet
eighteen years old, healthy and with labour-hardened but unhurt muscles,
like any young animal I needed diversion, excitement, something beyond
the books and the mechanical toil.

I strayed into Young Men's Christian Associations.  The life there was
healthful and athletic, but too juvenile.  For me it was too late.  I was
not boy, nor youth, despite my paucity of years.  I had bucked big with
men.  I knew mysterious and violent things.  I was from the other side of
life so far as concerned the young men I encountered in the Y.M.C.A.  I
spoke another language, possessed a sadder and more terrible wisdom.
(When I come to think it over, I realise now that I have never had a
boyhood.)  At any rate, the Y.M.C.A. young men were too juvenile for me,
too unsophisticated.  This I would not have minded, could they have met
me and helped me mentally.  But I had got more out of the books than
they.  Their meagre physical experiences, plus their meagre intellectual
experiences, made a negative sum so vast that it overbalanced their
wholesome morality and healthful sports.

In short, I couldn't play with the pupils of a lower grade.  All the
clean splendid young life that was theirs was denied me--thanks to my
earlier tutelage under John Barleycorn.  I knew too much too young.  And
yet, in the good time coming when alcohol is eliminated from the needs
and the institutions of men, it will be the Y.M.C.A., and similar
unthinkably better and wiser and more virile congregating-places, that
will receive the men who now go to saloons to find themselves and one
another.  In the meantime, we live to-day, here and now, and we discuss
to-day, here and now.

I was working ten hours a day in the jute mills.  It was hum-drum machine
toil.  I wanted life.  I wanted to realise myself in other ways than at a
machine for ten cents an hour.  And yet I had had my fill of saloons.  I
wanted something new.  I was growing up.  I was developing unguessed and
troubling potencies and proclivities.  And at this very stage,
fortunately, I met Louis Shattuck and we became chums.

Louis Shattuck, without one vicious trait, was a real innocently devilish
young fellow, who was quite convinced that he was a sophisticated town
boy.  And I wasn't a town boy at all.  Louis was handsome, and graceful,
and filled with love for the girls.  With him it was an exciting and
all-absorbing pursuit.  I didn't know anything about girls.  I had been
too busy being a man.  This was an entirely new phase of existence which
had escaped me.  And when I saw Louis say good-bye to me, raise his hat
to a girl of his acquaintance, and walk on with her side by side down the
sidewalk, I was made excited and envious.  I, too, wanted to play this

"Well, there's only one thing to do," said Louis, "and that is, you must
get a girl."

Which is more difficult than it sounds.  Let me show you, at the expense
of a slight going aside.  Louis did not know girls in their home life.
He had the entree to no girl's home.  And of course, I, a stranger in
this new world, was similarly circumstanced.  But, further, Louis and I
were unable to go to dancing-schools, or to public dances, which were
very good places for getting acquainted.  We didn't have the money.  He
was a blacksmith's apprentice, and was earning but slightly more than I.
We both lived at home and paid our way.  When we had done this, and
bought our cigarettes, and the inevitable clothes and shoes, there
remained to each of us, for personal spending, a sum that varied between
seventy cents and a dollar for the week.  We whacked this up, shared it,
and sometimes loaned all of what was left of it when one of us needed it
for some more gorgeous girl-adventure, such as car-fare out to Blair's
Park and back--twenty cents, bang, just like that; and ice-cream for
two--thirty cents; or tamales in a tamale-parlour, which came cheaper and
which for two cost only twenty cents.

I did not mind this money meagreness.  The disdain I had learned for
money from the oyster pirates had never left me.  I didn't care
over-weeningly for it for personal gratification; and in my philosophy I
completed the circle, finding myself as equable with the lack of a
ten-cent piece as I was with the squandering of scores of dollars in
calling all men and hangers-on up to the bar to drink with me.

But how to get a girl? There was no girl's home to which Louis could take
me and where I might be introduced to girls.  I knew none.  And Louis'
several girls he wanted for himself; and anyway, in the very human nature
of boys' and girls' ways, he couldn't turn any of them over to me.  He
did persuade them to bring girl-friends for me; but I found them weak
sisters, pale and ineffectual alongside the choice specimens he had.

"You'll have to do like I did," he said finally.  "I got these by getting
them.  You'll have to get one the same way."

And he initiated me.  It must be remembered that Louis and I were hard
situated.  We really had to struggle to pay our board and maintain a
decent appearance.  We met each other in the evening, after the day's
work, on the street corner, or in a little candy store on a side street,
our sole frequenting-place.  Here we bought our cigarettes, and,
occasionally, a nickel's worth of "red-hots." (Oh, yes; Louis and I
unblushingly ate candy--all we could get.  Neither of us drank.  Neither
of us ever went into a saloon.)

But the girl.  In quite primitive fashion, as Louis advised me, I was to
select her and make myself acquainted with her.  We strolled the streets
in the early evenings.  The girls, like us, strolled in pairs.  And
strolling girls will look at strolling boys who look.  (And to this day,
in any town, city, or village, in which I, in my middle age, find myself,
I look on with the eye trained of old experience, and watch the sweet
innocent game played by the strolling boys and girls who just must stroll
when the spring and summer evenings call.)

The trouble was that in this Arcadian phase of my history, I, who had
come through, case-hardened, from the other side of life, was timid and
bashful.  Again and again Louis nerved me up.  But I didn't know girls.
They were strange and wonderful to me after my precocious man's life.  I
failed of the bold front and the necessary forwardness when the crucial
moment came.

Then Louis would show me how--a certain, eloquent glance of eye, a smile,
a daring, a lifted hat, a spoken word, hesitancies, giggles, coy
nervousnesses--and, behold, Louis acquainted and nodding me up to be
introduced.  But when we paired off to stroll along boy and girl
together, I noted that Louis had invariably picked the good-looker and
left to me the little lame sister.

I improved, of course, after experiences too numerous to enter upon, so
that there were divers girls to whom I could lift my hat and who would
walk beside me in the early evenings.  But girl's love did not
immediately come to me.  I was excited, interested, and I pursued the
quest.  And the thought of drink never entered my mind.  Some of Louis'
and my adventures have since given me serious pause when casting
sociological generalisations.  But it was all good and innocently
youthful, and I learned one generalisation, biological rather than
sociological, namely, that the "Colonel's lady and Judy O'Grady are
sisters under their skins."

And before long I learned girl's love, all the dear fond deliciousness of
it, all the glory and the wonder.  I shall call her Haydee.  She was
between fifteen and sixteen.  Her little skirt reached her shoe-tops.  We
sat side by side in a Salvation Army meeting.  She was not a convert, nor
was her aunt who sat on the other side of her, and who, visiting from the
country where at that time the Salvation Army was not, had dropped in to
the meeting for half an hour out of curiosity.  And Louis sat beside me
and observed--I do believe he did no more than observe, because Haydee
was not his style of girl.

We did not speak, but in that great half-hour we glanced shyly at each
other, and shyly avoided or as shyly returned and met each other's
glances more than several times.  She had a slender oval face.  Her brown
eyes were beautiful.  Her nose was a dream, as was her sweet-lipped,
petulant-hinting mouth.  She wore a tam-o'-shanter, and I thought her
brown hair the prettiest shade of brown I had ever seen.  And from that
single experience of half an hour I have ever since been convinced of the
reality of love at first sight.

All too soon the aunt and Haydee departed.  (This is permissible at any
stage of a Salvation Army meeting.)  I was no longer interested in the
meeting, and, after an appropriate interval of a couple of minutes or
less, started to leave with Louis.  As we passed out, at the back of the
hall a woman recognised me with her eyes, arose, and followed me.  I
shall not describe her.  She was of my own kind and friendship of the old
time on the water-front.  When Nelson was shot, he had died in her arms,
and she knew me as his one comrade.  And she must tell me how Nelson had
died, and I did want to know; so I went with her across the width of life
from dawning boy's love for a brown-haired girl in a tam-o'-shanter back
to the old sad savagery I had known.

And when I had heard the tale, I hurried away to find Louis, fearing that
I had lost my first love with the first glimpse of her.  But Louis was
dependable.  Her name was--Haydee.  He knew where she lived.  Each day
she passed the blacksmith's shop where he worked, going to or from the
Lafayette School.  Further, he had seen her on occasion with Ruth,
another schoolgirl, and, still further, Nita, who sold us red-hots at the
candy store, was a friend of Ruth.  The thing to do was to go around to
the candy store and see if we could get Nita to give a note to Ruth to
give to Haydee.  If this could be arranged, all I had to do was write the

And it so happened.  And in stolen half-hours of meeting I came to know
all the sweet madness of boy's love and girl's love.  So far as it goes
it is not the biggest love in the world, but I do dare to assert that it
is the sweetest.  Oh, as I look back on it!  Never did girl have more
innocent boy-lover than I who had been so wicked-wise and violent beyond
my years.  I didn't know the first thing about girls.  I, who had been
hailed Prince of the Oyster Pirates, who could go anywhere in the world
as a man amongst men; who could sail boats, lay aloft in black and storm,
or go into the toughest hang-outs in sailor town and play my part in any
rough-house that started or call all hands to the bar--I didn't know the
first thing I might say or do with this slender little chit of a
girl-woman whose scant skirt just reached her shoe-tops and who was as
abysmally ignorant of life as I was, or thought I was, profoundly wise.

I remember we sat on a bench in the starlight.  There was fully a foot of
space between us.  We slightly faced each other, our near elbows on the
back of the bench; and once or twice our elbows just touched.  And all
the time, deliriously happy, talking in the gentlest and most delicate
terms that might not offend her sensitive ears, I was cudgelling my
brains in an effort to divine what I was expected to do.  What did girls
expect of boys, sitting on a bench and tentatively striving to find out
what love was?  What did she expect me to do? Was I expected to kiss her?
Did she expect me to try? And if she did expect me, and I didn't what
would she think of me?

Ah, she was wiser than I--I know it now--the little innocent girl-woman
in her shoe-top skirt.  She had known boys all her life.  She encouraged
me in the ways a girl may.  Her gloves were off and in one hand, and I
remember, lightly and daringly, in mock reproof for something I had said,
how she tapped my lips with a tiny flirt of those gloves.  I was like to
swoon with delight.  It was the most wonderful thing that had ever
happened to me.  And I remember yet the faint scent that clung to those
gloves and that I breathed in the moment they touched my lips.

Then came the agony of apprehension and doubt.  Should I imprison in my
hand that little hand with the dangling, scented gloves which had just
tapped my lips? Should I dare to kiss her there and then, or slip my arm
around her waist? Or dared I even sit closer?

Well, I didn't dare.  I did nothing.  I merely continued to sit there and
love with all my soul.  And when we parted that evening I had not kissed
her.  I do remember the first time I kissed her, on another evening, at
parting--a mighty moment, when I took all my heart of courage and dared.
We never succeeded in managing more than a dozen stolen meetings, and we
kissed perhaps a dozen times--as boys and girls kiss, briefly and
innocently, and wonderingly.  We never went anywhere--not even to a
matinee.  We once shared together five cents worth of red-hots.  But I
have always fondly believed that she loved me.  I know I loved her; and I
dreamed day-dreams of her for a year and more, and the memory of her is
very dear.


When I was with people who did not drink, I never thought of drinking.
Louis did not drink.  Neither he nor I could afford it; but, more
significant than that, we had no desire to drink.  We were healthy,
normal, non-alcoholic.  Had we been alcoholic, we would have drunk
whether or not we could have afforded it.

Each night, after the day's work, washed up, clothes changed, and supper
eaten, we met on the street corner or in the little candy store.  But the
warm fall weather passed, and on bitter nights of frost or damp nights of
drizzle, the street corner was not a comfortable meeting-place.  And the
candy store was unheated.  Nita, or whoever waited on the counter,
between waitings lurked in a back living-room that was heated.  We were
not admitted to this room, and in the store it was as cold as

Louis and I debated the situation.  There was only one solution: the
saloon, the congregating-place of men, the place where men hobnobbed with
John Barleycorn.  Well do I remember the damp and draughty evening,
shivering without overcoats because we could not afford them, that Louis
and I started out to select our saloon.  Saloons are always warm and
comfortable.  Now Louis and I did not go into this saloon because we
wanted a drink.  Yet we knew that saloons were not charitable
institutions.  A man could not make a lounging-place of a saloon without
occasionally buying something over the bar.

Our dimes and nickels were few.  We could ill spare any of them when they
were so potent in paying car-fare for oneself and a girl.  (We never paid
car-fare when by ourselves, being content to walk.)  So, in this saloon,
we desired to make the most of our expenditure.  We called for a deck of
cards and sat down at a table and played euchre for an hour, in which
time Louis treated once, and I treated once, to beer--the cheapest drink,
ten cents for two.  Prodigal! How we grudged it!

We studied the men who came into the place.  They seemed all middle-aged
and elderly work-men, most of them Germans, who flocked by themselves in
old-acquaintance groups, and with whom we could have only the slightest
contacts.  We voted against that saloon, and went out cast down with the
knowledge that we had lost an evening and wasted twenty cents for beer
that we didn't want.

We made several more tries on succeeding nights, and at last found our
way into the National, a saloon on Tenth and Franklin.  Here was a more
congenial crowd.  Here Louis met a fellow or two he knew, and here I met
fellows I had gone to school with when a little lad in knee pants.  We
talked of old days, and of what had become of this fellow, and what that
fellow was doing now, and of course we talked it over drinks.  They
treated, and we drank.  Then, according to the code of drinking, we had
to treat.  It hurt, for it meant forty to fifty cents a clatter.

We felt quite enlivened when the short evening was over; but at the same
time we were bankrupt.  Our week's spending money was gone.  We decided
that that was the saloon for us, and we agreed to be more circumspect
thereafter in our drink-buying.  Also, we had to economise for the rest
of the week.  We didn't even have car-fare.  We were compelled to break
an engagement with two girls from West Oakland with whom we were
attempting to be in love.  They were to meet us up town the next evening,
and we hadn't the car-fare necessary to take them home.  Like many others
financially embarrassed, we had to disappear for a time from the gay
whirl--at least until Saturday night pay-day.  So Louis and I
rendezvoused in a livery stable, and with coats buttoned and chattering
teeth played euchre and casino until the time of our exile was over.

Then we returned to the National Saloon and spent no more than we could
decently avoid spending for the comfort and warmth.  Sometimes we had
mishaps, as when one got stuck twice in succession in a five-handed game
of Sancho Pedro for the drinks.  Such a disaster meant anywhere between
twenty-five to eighty cents, just according to how many of the players
ordered ten-cent drinks.  But we could temporarily escape the evil
effects of such disaster, by virtue of an account we ran behind the bar.
Of course, this only set back the day of reckoning and seduced us into
spending more than we would have spent on a cash basis.  (When I left
Oakland suddenly for the adventure-path the following spring, I well
remember I owed that saloon-keeper one dollar and seventy cents.  Long
after, when I returned, he was gone.  I still owe him that dollar and
seventy cents, and if he should chance to read these lines I want him to
know that I'll pay on demand.)

The foregoing incident of the National Saloon I have given in order again
to show the lure, or draw, or compulsion, toward John Barleycorn in
society as at present organised with saloons on all the corners.  Louis
and I were two healthy youths.  We didn't want to drink.  We couldn't
afford to drink.  And yet we were driven by the circumstance of cold and
rainy weather to seek refuge in a saloon, where we had to spend part of
our pitiful dole for drink.  It will be urged by some critics that we
might have gone to the Y.M.C.A., to night school, and to the social
circles and homes of young people.  The only reply is that we didn't.
That is the irrefragable fact.  We didn't.  And to-day, at this moment,
there are hundreds of thousands of boys like Louis and me doing just what
Louis and I did with John Barleycorn, warm and comfortable, beckoning and
welcoming, tucking their arms in his and beginning to teach them his
mellow ways.


The jute mills failed of its agreement to increase my pay to a dollar and
a quarter a day, and I, a free-born American boy whose direct ancestors
had fought in all the wars from the old pre-Revolutionary Indian wars
down, exercised my sovereign right of free contract by quitting the job.

I was still resolved to settle down, and I looked about me.  One thing
was clear.  Unskilled labour didn't pay.  I must learn a trade, and I
decided on electricity.  The need for electricians was constantly
growing.  But how to become an electrician? I hadn't the money to go to a
technical school or university; besides, I didn't think much of schools.
I was a practical man in a practical world.  Also, I still believed in
the old myths which were the heritage of the American boy when I was a

A canal boy could become a President.  Any boy who took employment with
any firm could, by thrift, energy, and sobriety, learn the business and
rise from position to position until he was taken in as a junior partner.
After that the senior partnership was only a matter of time.  Very
often--so ran the myth--the boy, by reason of his steadiness and
application, married his employ's daughter.  By this time I had been
encouraged to such faith in myself in the matter of girls that I was
quite certain I would marry my employer's daughter.  There wasn't a doubt
of it.  All the little boys in the myths did it as soon as they were old

So I bade farewell for ever to the adventure-path, and went out to the
power plant of one of our Oakland street railways.  I saw the
superintendent himself, in a private office so fine that it almost
stunned me.  But I talked straight up.  I told him I wanted to become a
practical electrician, that I was unafraid of work, that I was used to
hard work, and that all he had to do was look at me to see I was fit and
strong.  I told him that I wanted to begin right at the bottom and work
up, that I wanted to devote my life to this one occupation and this one

The superintendent beamed as he listened.  He told me that I was the
right stuff for success, and that he believed in encouraging American
youth that wanted to rise.  Why, employers were always on the lookout for
young fellows like me, and alas, they found them all too rarely.  My
ambition was fine and worthy, and he would see to it that I got my
chance.  (And as I listened with swelling heart, I wondered if it was his
daughter I was to marry.)

"Before you can go out on the road and learn the more complicated and
higher details of the profession," he said, "you will, of course, have to
work in the car-house with the men who install and repair the motors.
(By this time I was sure that it was his daughter, and I was wondering
how much stock he might own in the company.)

"But," he said, "as you yourself so plainly see, you couldn't expect to
begin as a helper to the car-house electricians.  That will come when you
have worked up to it.  You will really begin at the bottom.  In the
car-house your first employment will be sweeping up, washing the windows,
keeping things clean.  And after you have shown yourself satisfactory at
that, then you may become a helper to the car-house electricians."

I didn't see how sweeping and scrubbing a building was any preparation
for the trade of electrician; but I did know that in the books all the
boys started with the most menial tasks and by making good ultimately won
to the ownership of the whole concern.

"When shall I come to work?" I asked, eager to launch on this dazzling

"But," said the superintendent, "as you and I have already agreed, you
must begin at the bottom.  Not immediately can you in any capacity enter
the car-house.  Before that you must pass through the engine-room as an

My heart went down slightly and for the moment as I saw the road lengthen
between his daughter and me; then it rose again.  I would be a better
electrician with knowledge of steam engines.  As an oiler in the great
engine-room I was confident that few things concerning steam would escape
me.  Heavens! My career shone more dazzling than ever.

"When shall I come to work?" I asked gratefully.

"But," said the superintendent, "you could not expect to enter
immediately into the engine-room.  There must be preparation for that.
And through the fire-room, of course.  Come, you see the matter clearly,
I know.  And you will see that even the mere handling of coal is a
scientific matter and not to be sneered at.  Do you know that we weigh
every pound of coal we burn? Thus, we learn the value of the coal we buy;
we know to a tee the last penny of cost of every item of production, and
we learn which firemen are the most wasteful, which firemen, out of
stupidity or carelessness, get the least out of the coal they fire." The
superintendent beamed again.  "You see how very important the little
matter of coal is, and by as much as you learn of this little matter you
will become that much better a workman--more valuable to us, more
valuable to yourself.  Now, are you prepared to begin?"

"Any time," I said valiantly.  "The sooner the better."

"Very well," he answered.  "You will come to-morrow morning at seven

I was taken out and shown my duties.  Also, I was told the terms of my
employment--a ten-hour day, every day in the month including Sundays and
holidays, with one day off each month, with a salary of thirty dollars a
month.  It wasn't exciting.  Years before, at the cannery, I had earned a
dollar a day for a ten-hour day.  I consoled myself with the thought that
the reason my earning capacity had not increased with my years and
strength was because I had remained an unskilled labourer.  But it was
different now.  I was beginning to work for skill, for a trade, for
career and fortune, and the superintendent's daughter.

And I was beginning in the right way--right at the beginning.  That was
the thing.  I was passing coal to the firemen, who shovelled it into the
furnaces, where its energy was transformed into steam, which, in the
engine-room, was transformed into the electricity with which the
electricians worked.  This passing coal was surely the very
beginning-unless the superintendent should take it into his head to send
me to work in the mines from which the coal came in order to get a
completer understanding of the genesis of electricity for street railways.

Work! I, who had worked with men, found that I didn't know the first
thing about real work.  A ten-hour day! I had to pass coal for the day
and night shifts, and, despite working through the noon-hour, I never
finished my task before eight at night.  I was working a twelve-to
thirteen-hour day, and I wasn't being paid overtime as in the cannery.

I might as well give the secret away right here.  I was doing the work of
two men.  Before me, one mature able-bodied labourer had done the day
shift and another equally mature able-bodied labourer had done the
night-shift.  They had received forty dollars a month each.  The
superintendent, bent on an economical administration, had persuaded me to
do the work of both men for thirty dollars a month.  I thought he was
making an electrician of me.  In truth and fact, he was saving fifty
dollars a month operating expenses to the company.

But I didn't know I was displacing two men.  Nobody told me.  On the
contrary, the superintendent warned everybody not to tell me.  How
valiantly I went at it that first day.  I worked at top speed, filling
the iron wheelbarrow with coal, running it on the scales and weighing the
load, then trundling it into the fire-room and dumping it on the plates
before the fires.

Work! I did more than the two men whom I had displaced.  They had merely
wheeled in the coal and dumped it on the plates.  But while I did this
for the day coal, the night coal I had to pile against the wall of the
fire-room.  Now the fire-room was small.  It had been planned for a night
coal-passer.  So I had to pile the night coal higher and higher,
buttressing up the heap with stout planks.  Toward the top of the heap I
had to handle the coal a second time, tossing it up with a shovel.

I dripped with sweat, but I never ceased from my stride, though I could
feel exhaustion coming on.  By ten o'clock in the morning, so much of my
body's energy had I consumed, I felt hungry and snatched a thick
double-slice of bread and butter from my dinner pail.  This I devoured,
standing, grimed with coal-dust, my knees trembling under me.  By eleven
o'clock, in this fashion I had consumed my whole lunch.  But what of it?
I realised that it would enable me to continue working through the noon
hour.  And I worked all the afternoon.  Darkness came on, and I worked
under the electric lights.  The day fireman went off and the night
fireman came on.  I plugged away.

At half-past eight, famished, tottering, I washed up, changed my clothes,
and dragged my weary body to the car.  It was three miles to where I
lived, and I had received a pass with the stipulation that I could sit
down as long as there were no paying passengers in need of a seat.  As I
sank into a corner outside seat I prayed that no passenger might require
my seat.  But the car filled up, and, half-way in, a woman came on board,
and there was no seat for her.  I started to get up, and to my
astonishment found that I could not.  With the chill wind blowing on me,
my spent body had stiffened into the seat.  It took me the rest of the
run in to unkink my complaining joints and muscles and get into a
standing position on the lower step.  And when the car stopped at my
corner I nearly fell to the ground when I stepped off.

I hobbled two blocks to the house and limped into the kitchen.  While my
mother started to cook, I plunged into bread and butter; but before my
appetite was appeased, or the steak fried, I was sound asleep.  In vain
my mother strove to shake me awake enough to eat the meat.  Failing in
this, with the assistance of my father she managed to get me to my room,
where I collapsed dead asleep on the bed.  They undressed me and covered
me up.  In the morning came the agony of being awakened.  I was terribly
sore, and, worst of all, my wrists were swelling.  But I made up for my
lost supper, eating an enormous breakfast, and when I hobbled to catch my
car I carried a lunch twice as big as the one the day before.

Work! Let any youth just turned eighteen try to out-shovel two man-grown
coal-shovellers.  Work! Long before midday I had eaten the last scrap of
my huge lunch.  But I was resolved to show them what a husky young fellow
determined to rise could do.  The worst of it was that my wrists were
swelling and going back on me.  There are few who do not know the pain of
walking on a sprained ankle.  Then imagine the pain of shovelling coal
and trundling a loaded wheelbarrow with two sprained wrists.

Work! More than once I sank down on the coal where no one could see me,
and cried with rage, and mortification, and exhaustion, and despair.
That second day was my hardest, and all that enabled me to survive it and
get in the last of the night coal at the end of thirteen hours was the
day fireman, who bound both my wrists with broad leather straps.  So
tightly were they buckled that they were like slightly flexible plaster
casts.  They took the stresses and pressures which hitherto had been
borne by my wrists, and they were so tight that there was no room for the
inflammation to rise in the sprains.

And in this fashion I continued to learn to be an electrician.  Night
after night I limped home, fell asleep before I could eat my supper, and
was helped into bed and undressed.  Morning after morning, always with
huger lunches in my dinner pail, I limped out of the house on my way to

I no longer read my library books.  I made no dates with the girls.  I
was a proper work beast.  I worked, and ate, and slept, while my mind
slept all the time.  The whole thing was a nightmare.  I worked every
day, including Sunday, and I looked far ahead to my one day off at the
end of a month, resolved to lie abed all that day and just sleep and rest

The strangest part of this experience was that I never took a drink nor
thought of taking a drink.  Yet I knew that men under hard pressure
almost invariably drank.  I had seen them do it, and in the past had
often done it myself.  But so sheerly non-alcoholic was I that it never
entered my mind that a drink might be good for me.  I instance this to
show how entirely lacking from my make-up was any predisposition toward
alcohol.  And the point of this instance is that later on, after more
years had passed, contact with John Barleycorn at last did induce in me
the alcoholic desire.

I had often noticed the day fireman staring at me in a curious way.  At
last, one day, he spoke.  He began by swearing me to secrecy.  He had
been warned by the superintendent not to tell me, and in telling me he
was risking his job.  He told me of the day coal-passer and the night
coal-passer, and of the wages they had received.  I was doing for thirty
dollars a month what they had received eighty dollars for doing.  He
would have told me sooner, the fireman said, had he not been so certain
that I would break down under the work and quit.  As it was, I was
killing myself, and all to no good purpose.  I was merely cheapening the
price of labour, he argued, and keeping two men out of a job.

Being an American boy, and a proud American boy, I did not immediately
quit.  This was foolish of me, I know; but I resolved to continue the
work long enough to prove to the superintendent that I could do it
without breaking down.  Then I would quit, and he would realise what a
fine young fellow he had lost.

All of which I faithfully and foolishly did.  I worked on until the time
came when I got in the last of the night coal by six o'clock.  Then I
quit the job of learning electricity by doing more than two men's work
for a boy's wages, went home, and proceeded to sleep the clock around.

Fortunately, I had not stayed by the job long enough to injure
myself--though I was compelled to wear straps on my wrists for a year
afterward.  But the effect of this work orgy in which I had indulged was
to sicken me with work.  I just wouldn't work.  The thought of work was
repulsive.  I didn't care if I never settled down.  Learning a trade
could go hang.  It was a whole lot better to royster and frolic over the
world in the way I had previously done.  So I headed out on the
adventure-path again, starting to tramp East by beating my way on the


But behold! As soon as I went out on the adventure-path I met John
Barleycorn again.  I moved through a world of strangers, and the act of
drinking together made one acquainted with men and opened the way to
adventures.  It might be in a saloon with jingled townsmen, or with a
genial railroad man well lighted up and armed with pocket flasks, or with
a bunch of alki stiffs in a hang-out.  Yes; and it might be in a
prohibition state, such as Iowa was in 1894, when I wandered up the main
street of Des Moines and was variously invited by strangers into various
blind pigs--I remember drinking in barber-shops, plumbing establishments,
and furniture stores.

Always it was John Barleycorn.  Even a tramp, in those halcyon days,
could get most frequently drunk.  I remember, inside the prison at
Buffalo, how some of us got magnificently jingled, and how, on the
streets of Buffalo after our release, another jingle was financed with
pennies begged on the main-drag.

I had no call for alcohol, but when I was with those who drank, I drank
with them.  I insisted on travelling or loafing with the livest, keenest
men, and it was just these live, keen ones that did most of the drinking.
They were the more comradely men, the more venturous, the more
individual.  Perhaps it was too much temperament that made them turn from
the commonplace and humdrum to find relief in the lying and fantastic
sureties of John Barleycorn.  Be that as it may, the men I liked best,
desired most to be with, were invariably to be found in John Barleycorn's

In the course of my tramping over the United States I achieved a new
concept.  As a tramp, I was behind the scenes of society--aye, and down
in the cellar.  I could watch the machinery work.  I saw the wheels of
the social machine go around, and I learned that the dignity of manual
labour wasn't what I had been told it was by the teachers, preachers, and
politicians.  The men without trades were helpless cattle.  If one
learned a trade, he was compelled to belong to a union in order to work
at his trade.  And his union was compelled to bully and slug the
employers' unions in order to hold up wages or hold down hours.  The
employers' unions like-wise bullied and slugged.  I couldn't see any
dignity at all.  And when a workman got old, or had an accident, he was
thrown into the scrap-heap like any worn-out machine.  I saw too many of
this sort who were making anything but dignified ends of life.

So my new concept was that manual labour was undignified, and that it
didn't pay.  No trade for me, was my decision, and no superintendent's
daughters.  And no criminality, I also decided.  That would be almost as
disastrous as to be a labourer.  Brains paid, not brawn, and I resolved
never again to offer my muscles for sale in the brawn market.  Brain, and
brain only, would I sell.

I returned to California with the firm intention of developing my brain.
This meant school education.  I had gone through the grammar school long
ago, so I entered the Oakland High School.  To pay my way I worked as a
janitor.  My sister helped me, too; and I was not above mowing anybody's
lawn or taking up and beating carpets when I had half a day to spare.  I
was working to get away from work, and I buckled down to it with a grim
realisation of the paradox.

Boy and girl love was left behind, and, along with it, Haydee and Louis
Shattuck, and the early evening strolls.  I hadn't the time.  I joined
the Henry Clay Debating Society.  I was received into the homes of some
of the members, where I met nice girls whose skirts reached the ground.
I dallied with little home clubs wherein we discussed poetry and art and
the nuances of grammar.  I joined the socialist local where we studied
and orated political economy, philosophy, and politics.  I kept half a
dozen membership cards working in the free library and did an immense
amount of collateral reading.

And for a year and a half on end I never took a drink, nor thought of
taking a drink.  I hadn't the time, and I certainly did not have the
inclination.  Between my janitor-work, my studies, and innocent
amusements such as chess, I hadn't a moment to spare.  I was discovering
a new world, and such was the passion of my exploration that the old
world of John Barleycorn held no inducements for me.

Come to think of it, I did enter a saloon.  I went to see Johnny Heinhold
in the Last Chance, and I went to borrow money.  And right here is
another phase of John Barleycorn.  Saloon-keepers are notoriously good
fellows.  On an average they perform vastly greater generosities than do
business men.  When I simply had to have ten dollars, desperate, with no
place to turn, I went to Johnny Heinhold.  Several years had passed since
I had been in his place or spent a cent across his bar.  And when I went
to borrow the ten dollars I didn't buy a drink, either.  And Johnny
Heinhold let me have the ten dollars without security or interest.

More than once, in the brief days of my struggle for an education, I went
to Johnny Heinhold to borrow money.  When I entered the university, I
borrowed forty dollars from him, without interest, without security,
without buying a drink.  And yet--and here is the point, the custom, and
the code--in the days of my prosperity, after the lapse of years, I have
gone out of my way by many a long block to spend across Johnny Heinhold's
bar deferred interest on the various loans.  Not that Johnny Heinhold
asked me to do it, or expected me to do it.  I did it, as I have said, in
obedience to the code I had learned along with all the other things
connected with John Barleycorn.  In distress, when a man has no other
place to turn, when he hasn't the slightest bit of security which a
savage-hearted pawn-broker would consider, he can go to some
saloon-keeper he knows.  Gratitude is inherently human.  When the man so
helped has money again, depend upon it that a portion will be spent
across the bar of the saloon-keeper who befriended him.

Why, I recollect the early days of my writing career, when the small sums
of money I earned from the magazines came with tragic irregularity, while
at the same time I was staggering along with a growing family--a wife,
children, a mother, a nephew, and my Mammy Jennie and her old husband
fallen on evil days.  There were two places at which I could borrow
money; a barber shop and a saloon.  The barber charged me five per cent.
per month in advance.  That is to say, when I borrowed one hundred
dollars, he handed me ninety-five.  The other five dollars he retained as
advance interest for the first month.  And on the second month I paid him
five dollars more, and continued so to do each month until I made a ten
strike with the editors and lifted the loan.

The other place to which I came in trouble was the saloon.  This
saloon-keeper I had known by sight for a couple of years.  I had never
spent my money in his saloon, and even when I borrowed from him I didn't
spend any money.  Yet never did he refuse me any sum I asked of him.
Unfortunately, before I became prosperous, he moved away to another city.
And to this day I regret that he is gone.  It is the code I have learned.
The right thing to do, and the thing I'd do right now did I know where he
is, would be to drop in on occasion and spend a few dollars across his
bar for old sake's sake and gratitude.

This is not to exalt saloon-keepers.  I have written it to exalt the
power of John Barleycorn and to illustrate one more of the myriad ways by
which a man is brought in contact with John Barleycorn until in the end
he finds he cannot get along without him.

But to return to the run of my narrative.  Away from the adventure-path,
up to my ears in study, every moment occupied, I lived oblivious to John
Barleycorn's existence.  Nobody about me drank.  If any had drunk, and
had they offered it to me, I surely would have drunk.  As it was, when I
had spare moments I spent them playing chess, or going with nice girls
who were themselves students, or in riding a bicycle whenever I was
fortunate enough to have it out of the pawnbroker's possession.

What I am insisting upon all the time is this: in me was not the
slightest trace of alcoholic desire, and this despite the long and severe
apprenticeship I had served under John Barleycorn.  I had come back from
the other side of life to be delighted with this Arcadian simplicity of
student youths and student maidens.  Also, I had found my way into the
realm of the mind, and I was intellectually intoxicated.  (Alas! as I was
to learn at a later period, intellectual intoxication too, has its


Three years was the time required to go through the high school.  I grew
impatient.  Also, my schooling was becoming financially impossible.  At
such rate I could not last out, and I did greatly want to go to the state
university.  When I had done a year of high school, I decided to attempt
a short cut.  I borrowed the money and paid to enter the senior class of
a "cramming joint" or academy.  I was scheduled to graduate right into
the university at the end of four months, thus saving two years.

And how I did cram! I had two years' new work to do in a third of a year.
For five weeks I crammed, until simultaneous quadratic equations and
chemical formulas fairly oozed from my ears.  And then the master of the
academy took me aside.  He was very sorry, but he was compelled to give
me back my tuition fee and to ask me to leave the school.  It wasn't a
matter of scholarship.  I stood well in my classes, and did he graduate
me into the university he was confident that in that institution I would
continue to stand well.  The trouble was that tongues were gossiping
about my case.  What! In four months accomplished two years' work! It
would be a scandal, and the universities were becoming severer in their
treatment of accredited prep schools.  He couldn't afford such a scandal,
therefore I must gracefully depart.

I did.  And I paid back the borrowed money, and gritted my teeth, and
started to cram by myself.  There were three months yet before the
university entrance examinations.  Without laboratories, without
coaching, sitting in my bedroom, I proceeded to compress that two years'
work into three months and to keep reviewed on the previous year's work.

Nineteen hours a day I studied.  For three months I kept this pace, only
breaking it on several occasions.  My body grew weary, my mind grew
weary, but I stayed with it.  My eyes grew weary and began to twitch, but
they did not break down.  Perhaps, toward the last, I got a bit dotty.  I
know that at the time I was confident, I had discovered the formula for
squaring the circle; but I resolutely deferred the working of it out
until after the examinations.  Then I would show them.

Came the several days of the examinations, during which time I scarcely
closed my eyes in sleep, devoting every moment to cramming and reviewing.
And when I turned in my last examination paper I was in full possession
of a splendid case of brain-fag.  I didn't want to see a book.  I didn't
want to think or to lay eyes on anybody who was liable to think.

There was but one prescription for such a condition, and I gave it to
myself--the adventure-path.  I didn't wait to learn the result of my
examinations.  I stowed a roll of blankets and some cold food into a
borrowed whitehall boat and set sail.  Out of the Oakland Estuary I
drifted on the last of an early morning ebb, caught the first of the
flood up bay, and raced along with a spanking breeze.  San Pablo Bay was
smoking, and the Carquinez Straits off the Selby Smelter were smoking, as
I picked up ahead and left astern the old landmarks I had first learned
with Nelson in the unreefer Reindeer.

Benicia showed before me.  I opened the bight of Turner's Shipyard,
rounded the Solano wharf, and surged along abreast of the patch of tules
and the clustering fishermen's arks where in the old days I had lived and
drunk deep.

And right here something happened to me, the gravity of which I never
dreamed for many a long year to come.  I had had no intention of stopping
at Benicia.  The tide favoured, the wind was fair and howling--glorious
sailing for a sailor.  Bull Head and Army Points showed ahead, marking
the entrance to Suisun Bay which I knew was smoking.  And yet, when I
laid eyes on those fishing arks lying in the water-front tules, without
debate, on the instant, I put down my tiller, came in on the sheet, and
headed for the shore.  On the instant, out of the profound of my
brain-fag, I knew what I wanted.  I wanted to drink.  I wanted to get

The call was imperative.  There was no uncertainty about it.  More than
anything else in the world, my frayed and frazzled mind wanted surcease
from weariness in the way it knew surcease would come.  And right here is
the point.  For the first time in my life I consciously, deliberately,
desired to get drunk.  It was a new, a totally different manifestation of
John Barleycorn's power.  It was not a body need for alcohol.  It was a
mental desire.  My over-worked and jaded mind wanted to forget.

And here the point is drawn to its sharpest.  Granted my prodigious
brain-fag, nevertheless, had I never drunk in the past, the thought would
never have entered my mind to get drunk now.  Beginning with physical
intolerance for alcohol, for years drinking only for the sake of
comradeship and because alcohol was everywhere on the adventure-path, I
had now reached the stage where my brain cried out, not merely for a
drink, but for a drunk.  And had I not been so long used to alcohol, my
brain would not have so cried out.  I should have sailed on past Bull
Head, and in the smoking white of Suisun Bay, and in the wine of wind
that filled my sail and poured through me, I should have forgotten my
weary brain and rested and refreshed it.

So I sailed in to shore, made all fast, and hurried up among the arks.
Charley Le Grant fell on my neck.  His wife, Lizzie, folded me to her
capacious breast.  Billy Murphy, and Joe Lloyd, and all the survivors of
the old guard, got around me and their arms around me.  Charley seized
the can and started for Jorgensen's saloon across the railroad tracks.
That meant beer.  I wanted whisky, so I called after him to bring a flask.

Many times that flask journeyed across the railroad tracks and back.
More old friends of the old free and easy times dropped in, fishermen,
Greeks, and Russians, and French.  They took turns in treating, and
treated all around in turn again.  They came and went, but I stayed on
and drank with all.  I guzzled.  I swilled.  I ran the liquor down and
joyed as the maggots mounted in my brain.

And Clam came in, Nelson's partner before me, handsome as ever, but more
reckless, half insane, burning himself out with whisky.  He had just had
a quarrel with his partner on the sloop Gazelle, and knives had been
drawn, and blows struck, and he was bent on maddening the fever of the
memory with more whisky.  And while we downed it, we remembered Nelson
and that he had stretched out his great shoulders for the last long sleep
in this very town of Benicia; and we wept over the memory of him, and
remembered only the good things of him, and sent out the flask to be
filled and drank again.

They wanted me to stay over, but through the open door I could see the
brave wind on the water, and my ears were filled with the roar of it.
And while I forgot that I had plunged into the books nineteen hours a day
for three solid months, Charley Le Grant shifted my outfit into a big
Columbia River salmon boat.  He added charcoal and a fisherman's brazier,
a coffee pot and frying pan, and the coffee and the meat, and a black
bass fresh from the water that day.

They had to help me down the rickety wharf and into the salmon boat.
Likewise they stretched my boom and sprit until the sail set like a
board.  Some feared to set the sprit; but I insisted, and Charley had no
doubts.  He knew me of old, and knew that I could sail as long as I could
see.  They cast off my painter.  I put the tiller up, filled away before
it, and with dizzy eyes checked and steadied the boat on her course and
waved farewell.

The tide had turned, and the fierce ebb, running in the teeth of a
fiercer wind, kicked up a stiff, upstanding sea.  Suisun Bay was white
with wrath and sea-lump.  But a salmon boat can sail, and I knew how to
sail a salmon boat.  So I drove her into it, and through it, and across,
and maundered aloud and chanted my disdain for all the books and schools.
Cresting seas filled me a foot or so with water, but I laughed at it
sloshing about my feet, and chanted my disdain for the wind and the
water.  I hailed myself a master of life, riding on the back of the
unleashed elements, and John Barleycorn rode with me.  Amid dissertations
on mathematics and philosophy and spoutings and quotations, I sang all
the old songs learned in the days when I went from the cannery to the
oyster boats to be a pirate--such songs as: "Black Lulu," "Flying Cloud,"
"Treat my Daughter Kind-i-ly," "The Boston Burglar," "Come all you
Rambling, Gambling Men," "I Wisht I was a Little Bird," "Shenandoah," and
"Ranzo, Boys, Ranzo."

Hours afterward, in the fires of sunset, where the Sacramento and the San
Joaquin tumble their muddy floods together, I took the New York Cut-Off,
skimmed across the smooth land-locked water past Black Diamond, on into
the San Joaquin, and on to Antioch, where, somewhat sobered and
magnificently hungry, I laid alongside a big potato sloop that had a
familiar rig.  Here were old friends aboard, who fried my black bass in
olive oil.  Then, too, there was a meaty fisherman's stew, delicious with
garlic, and crusty Italian bread without butter, and all washed down with
pint mugs of thick and heady claret.

My salmon boat was a-soak, but in the snug cabin of the sloop dry
blankets and a dry bunk were mine; and we lay and smoked and yarned of
old days, while overhead the wind screamed through the rigging and taut
halyards drummed against the mast.


My cruise in the salmon boat lasted a week, and I returned ready to enter
the university.  During the week's cruise I did not drink again.  To
accomplish this I was compelled to avoid looking up old friends, for as
ever the adventure-path was beset with John Barleycorn.  I had wanted the
drink that first day, and in the days that followed I did not want it.
My tired brain had recuperated.  I had no moral scruples in the matter.
I was not ashamed nor sorry because of that first day's orgy at Benicia,
and I thought no more about it, returning gladly to my books and studies.

Long years were to pass ere I looked back upon that day and realised its
significance.  At the time, and for a long time afterward, I was to think
of it only as a frolic.  But still later, in the slough of brain-fag and
intellectual weariness, I was to remember and know the craving for the
anodyne that resides in alcohol.

In the meantime, after this one relapse at Benicia, I went on with my
abstemiousness, primarily because I didn't want to drink.  And next, I
was abstemious because my way led among books and students where no
drinking was.  Had I been out on the adventure-path, I should as a matter
of course have been drinking.  For that is the pity of the
adventure-path, which is one of John Barleycorn's favourite stamping

I completed the first half of my freshman year, and in January of 1897
took up my courses for the second half.  But the pressure from lack of
money, plus a conviction that the university was not giving me all that I
wanted in the time I could spare for it, forced me to leave.  I was not
very disappointed.  For two years I had studied, and in those two years,
what was far more valuable, I had done a prodigious amount of reading.
Then, too, my grammar had improved.  It is true, I had not yet learned
that I must say "It is I"; but I no longer was guilty of a double
negative in writing, though still prone to that error in excited speech.

I decided immediately to embark on my career.  I had four preferences:
first, music; second, poetry; third, the writing of philosophic,
economic, and political essays; and, fourth, and last, and least, fiction
writing.  I resolutely cut out music as impossible, settled down in my
bedroom, and tackled my second, third, and fourth choices simultaneously.
Heavens, how I wrote!  Never was there a creative fever such as mine from
which the patient escaped fatal results.  The way I worked was enough to
soften my brain and send me to a mad-house.  I wrote, I wrote
everything--ponderous essays, scientific and sociological short stories,
humorous verse, verse of all sorts from triolets and sonnets to blank
verse tragedy and elephantine epics in Spenserian stanzas.  On occasion I
composed steadily, day after day, for fifteen hours a day.  At times I
forgot to eat, or refused to tear myself away from my passionate
outpouring in order to eat.

And then there was the matter of typewriting.  My brother-in-law owned a
machine which he used in the day-time.  In the night I was free to use
it.  That machine was a wonder.  I could weep now as I recollect my
wrestlings with it.  It must have been a first model in the year one of
the typewriter era.  Its alphabet was all capitals.  It was informed with
an evil spirit.  It obeyed no known laws of physics, and overthrew the
hoary axiom that like things performed to like things produce like
results.  I'll swear that machine never did the same thing in the same
way twice.  Again and again it demonstrated that unlike actions produce
like results.

How my back used to ache with it! Prior to that experience, my back had
been good for every violent strain put upon it in a none too gentle
career.  But that typewriter proved to me that I had a pipe-stem for a
back.  Also, it made me doubt my shoulders.  They ached as with
rheumatism after every bout.  The keys of that machine had to be hit so
hard that to one outside the house it sounded like distant thunder or
some one breaking up the furniture.  I had to hit the keys so hard that I
strained my first fingers to the elbows, while the ends of my fingers
were blisters burst and blistered again.  Had it been my machine I'd have
operated it with a carpenter's hammer.

The worst of it was that I was actually typing my manuscripts at the same
time I was trying to master that machine.  It was a feat of physical
endurance and a brain storm combined to type a thousand words, and I was
composing thousands of words every day which just had to be typed for the
waiting editors.

Oh, between the writing and the typewriting I was well a-weary.  I had
brain and nerve fag, and body fag as well, and yet the thought of drink
never suggested itself.  I was living too high to stand in need of an
anodyne.  All my waking hours, except those with that infernal
typewriter, were spent in a creative heaven.  And along with this I had
no desire for drink because I still believed in many things--in the love
of all men and women in the matter of man and woman love; in fatherhood;
in human justice; in art--in the whole host of fond illusions that keep
the world turning around.

But the waiting editors elected to keep on waiting.  My manuscripts made
amazing round-trip records between the Pacific and the Atlantic.  It
might have been the weirdness of the typewriting that prevented the
editors from accepting at least one little offering of mine.  I don't
know, and goodness knows the stuff I wrote was as weird as its typing.  I
sold my hard-bought school books for ridiculous sums to second-hand
bookmen.  I borrowed small sums of money wherever I could, and suffered
my old father to feed me with the meagre returns of his failing strength.

It didn't last long, only a few weeks, when I had to surrender and go to
work.  Yet I was unaware of any need for the drink anodyne.  I was not
disappointed.  My career was retarded, that was all.  Perhaps I did need
further preparation.  I had learned enough from the books to realise that
I had only touched the hem of knowledge's garment.  I still lived on the
heights.  My waking hours, and most of the hours I should have used for
sleep, were spent with the books.


Out in the country, at the Belmont Academy, I went to work in a small,
perfectly appointed steam laundry.  Another fellow and myself did all the
work from sorting and washing to ironing the white shirts, collars and
cuffs, and the "fancy starch" of the wives of the professors.  We worked
like tigers, especially as summer came on and the academy boys took to
the wearing of duck trousers.  It consumes a dreadful lot of time to iron
one pair of duck trousers.  And there were so many pairs of them.  We
sweated our way through long sizzling weeks at a task that was never
done; and many a night, while the students snored in bed, my partner and
I toiled on under the electric light at steam mangle or ironing board.

The hours were long, the work was arduous, despite the fact that we
became past masters in the art of eliminating waste motion.  And I was
receiving thirty dollars a month and board--a slight increase over my
coal-shovelling and cannery days, at least to the extent of board, which
cost my employer little (we ate in the kitchen), but which was to me the
equivalent of twenty dollars a month.  My robuster strength of added
years, my increased skill, and all I had learned from the books, were
responsible for this increase of twenty dollars.  Judging by my rate of
development, I might hope before I died to be a night watchman for sixty
dollars a month, or a policeman actually receiving a hundred dollars with

So relentlessly did my partner and I spring into our work throughout the
week that by Saturday night we were frazzled wrecks.  I found myself in
the old familiar work-beast condition, toiling longer hours than the
horses toiled, thinking scarcely more frequent thoughts than horses
think.  The books were closed to me.  I had brought a trunkful to the
laundry, but found myself unable to read them.  I fell asleep the moment
I tried to read; and if I did manage to keep my eyes open for several
pages, I could not remember the contents of those pages.  I gave over
attempts on heavy study, such as jurisprudence, political economy, and
biology, and tried lighter stuff, such as history.  I fell asleep.  I
tried literature, and fell asleep.  And finally, when I fell asleep over
lively novels, I gave up.  I never succeeded in reading one book in all
the time I spent in the laundry.

And when Saturday night came, and the week's work was over until Monday
morning, I knew only one desire besides the desire to sleep, and that was
to get drunk.  This was the second time in my life that I had heard the
unmistakable call of John Barleycorn.  The first time it had been because
of brain-fag.  But I had no over-worked brain now.  On the contrary, all
I knew was the dull numbness of a brain that was not worked at all.  That
was the trouble.  My brain had become so alert and eager, so quickened by
the wonder of the new world the books had discovered to it, that it now
suffered all the misery of stagnancy and inaction.

And I, the long time intimate of John Barleycorn, knew just what he
promised me--maggots of fancy, dreams of power, forgetfulness, anything
and everything save whirling washers, revolving mangles, humming
centrifugal wringers, and fancy starch and interminable processions of
duck trousers moving in steam under my flying iron.  And that's it.  John
Barleycorn makes his appeal to weakness and failure, to weariness and
exhaustion.  He is the easy way out.  And he is lying all the time.  He
offers false strength to the body, false elevation to the spirit, making
things seem what they are not and vastly fairer than what they are.

But it must not be forgotten that John Barleycorn is protean.  As well as
to weakness and exhaustion, does he appeal to too much strength, to
superabundant vitality, to the ennui of idleness.  He can tuck in his arm
the arm of any man in any mood.  He can throw the net of his lure over
all men.  He exchanges new lamps for old, the spangles of illusion for
the drabs of reality, and in the end cheats all who traffic with him.

I didn't get drunk, however, for the simple reason that it was a mile and
a half to the nearest saloon.  And this, in turn, was because the call to
get drunk was not very loud in my ears.  Had it been loud, I would have
travelled ten times the distance to win to the saloon.  On the other
hand, had the saloon been just around the corner, I should have got
drunk.  As it was, I would sprawl out in the shade on my one day of rest
and dally with the Sunday papers.  But I was too weary even for their
froth.  The comic supplement might bring a pallid smile to my face, and
then I would fall asleep.

Although I did not yield to John Barleycorn while working in the laundry,
a certain definite result was produced.  I had heard the call, felt the
gnaw of desire, yearned for the anodyne.  I was being prepared for the
stronger desire of later years.

And the point is that this development of desire was entirely in my
brain.  My body did not cry out for alcohol.  As always, alcohol was
repulsive to my body.  When I was bodily weary from shovelling coal the
thought of taking a drink had never flickered into my consciousness.
When I was brain-wearied after taking the entrance examinations to the
university, I promptly got drunk.  At the laundry I was suffering
physical exhaustion again, and physical exhaustion that was not nearly so
profound as that of the coal-shovelling.  But there was a difference.
When I went coal-shovelling my mind had not yet awakened.  Between that
time and the laundry my mind had found the kingdom of the mind.  While
shovelling coal my mind was somnolent.  While toiling in the laundry my
mind, informed and eager to do and be, was crucified.

And whether I yielded to drink, as at Benicia, or whether I refrained, as
at the laundry, in my brain the seeds of desire for alcohol were


After the laundry my sister and her husband grubstaked me into the
Klondike.  It was the first gold rush into that region, the early fall
rush of 1897.  I was twenty-one years old, and in splendid physical
condition.  I remember, at the end of the twenty-eight-mile portage
across Chilcoot from Dyea Beach to Lake Linderman, I was packing up with
the Indians and out-packing many an Indian.  The last pack into Linderman
was three miles.  I back-tripped it four times a day, and on each forward
trip carried one hundred and fifty pounds.  This means that over the
worst trails I daily travelled twenty-four miles, twelve of which were
under a burden of one hundred and fifty pounds.

Yes, I had let career go hang, and was on the adventure-path again in
quest of fortune.  And of course, on the adventure-path, I met John
Barleycorn.  Here were the chesty men again, rovers and adventurers, and
while they didn't mind a grub famine, whisky they could not do without.
Whisky went over the trail, while the flour lay cached and untouched by
the trail-side.

As good fortune would have it, the three men in my party were not
drinkers.  Therefore I didn't drink save on rare occasions and
disgracefully when with other men.  In my personal medicine chest was a
quart of whisky.  I never drew the cork till six months afterward, in a
lonely camp, where, without anaesthetics, a doctor was compelled to
operate on a man.  The doctor and the patient emptied my bottle between
them and then proceeded to the operation.

Back in California a year later, recovering from scurvy, I found that my
father was dead and that I was the head and the sole bread-winner of a
household.  When I state that I had passed coal on a steamship from
Behring Sea to British Columbia, and travelled in the steerage from there
to San Francisco, it will be understood that I brought nothing back from
the Klondike but my scurvy.

Times were hard.  Work of any sort was difficult to get.  And work of any
sort was what I had to take, for I was still an unskilled labourer.  I
had no thought of career.  That was over and done with.  I had to find
food for two mouths beside my own and keep a roof over our heads--yes,
and buy a winter suit, my one suit being decidedly summery.  I had to get
some sort of work immediately.  After that, when I had caught my breath,
I might think about my future.

Unskilled labour is the first to feel the slackness of hard times, and I
had no trades save those of sailor and laundryman.  With my new
responsibilities I didn't dare go to sea, and I failed to find a job at
laundrying.  I failed to find a job at anything.  I had my name down in
five employment bureaux.  I advertised in three newspapers.  I sought out
the few friends I knew who might be able to get me work; but they were
either uninterested or unable to find anything for me.

The situation was desperate.  I pawned my watch, my bicycle, and a
mackintosh of which my father had been very proud and which he had left
to me.  It was and is my sole legacy in this world.  It had cost fifteen
dollars, and the pawnbroker let me have two dollars on it.  And--oh,
yes--a water-front comrade of earlier years drifted along one day with a
dress suit wrapped in newspapers.  He could give no adequate explanation
of how he had come to possess it, nor did I press for an explanation.  I
wanted the suit myself.  No; not to wear.  I traded him a lot of rubbish
which, being unpawnable, was useless to me.  He peddled the rubbish for
several dollars, while I pledged the dress-suit with my pawnbroker for
five dollars.  And for all I know the pawnbroker still has the suit.  I
had never intended to redeem it.

But I couldn't get any work.  Yet I was a bargain in the labour market.
I was twenty-two years old, weighed one hundred and sixty-five pounds
stripped, every pound of which was excellent for toil; and the last
traces of my scurvy were vanishing before a treatment of potatoes chewed
raw.  I tackled every opening for employment.  I tried to become a studio
model, but there were too many fine-bodied young fellows out of jobs.  I
answered advertisements of elderly invalids in need of companions.  And I
almost became a sewing machine agent, on commission, without salary.  But
poor people don't buy sewing machines in hard times, so I was forced to
forgo that employment.

Of course, it must be remembered that along with such frivolous
occupations I was trying to get work as wop, lumper, and roustabout.  But
winter was coming on, and the surplus labour army was pouring into the
cities.  Also I, who had romped along carelessly through the countries of
the world and the kingdom of the mind, was not a member of any union.

I sought odd jobs.  I worked days, and half-days, at anything I could
get.  I mowed lawns, trimmed hedges, took up carpets, beat them, and laid
them again.  Further, I took the civil service examinations for mail
carrier and passed first.  But alas! there was no vacancy, and I must
wait.  And while I waited, and in between the odd jobs I managed to
procure, I started to earn ten dollars by writing a newspaper account of
a voyage I had made, in an open boat down the Yukon, of nineteen hundred
miles in nineteen days.  I didn't know the first thing about the
newspaper game, but I was confident I'd get ten dollars for my article.

But I didn't.  The first San Francisco newspaper to which I mailed it
never acknowledged receipt of the manuscript, but held on to it.  The
longer it held on to it the more certain I was that the thing was

And here is the funny thing.  Some are born to fortune, and some have
fortune thrust upon them.  But in my case I was clubbed into fortune, and
bitter necessity wielded the club.  I had long since abandoned all
thought of writing as a career.  My honest intention in writing that
article was to earn ten dollars.  And that was the limit of my intention.
It would help to tide me along until I got steady employment.  Had a
vacancy occurred in the post office at that time, I should have jumped at

But the vacancy did not occur, nor did a steady job; and I employed the
time between odd jobs with writing a twenty-one-thousand-word serial for
the "Youth's Companion."  I turned it out and typed it in seven days.  I
fancy that was what was the matter with it, for it came back.

It took some time for it to go and come, and in the meantime I tried my
hand at short stories.  I sold one to the "Overland Monthly" for five
dollars.  The "Black Cat" gave me forty dollars for another.  The
"Overland Monthly" offered me seven dollars and a half, pay on
publication, for all the stories I should deliver.  I got my bicycle, my
watch, and my father's mackintosh out of pawn and rented a typewriter.
Also, I paid up the bills I owed to the several groceries that allowed me
a small credit.  I recall the Portuguese groceryman who never permitted
my bill to go beyond four dollars.  Hopkins, another grocer, could not be
budged beyond five dollars.

And just then came the call from the post office to go to work.  It
placed me in a most trying predicament.  The sixty-five dollars I could
earn regularly every month was a terrible temptation.  I couldn't decide
what to do.  And I'll never be able to forgive the postmaster of Oakland.
I answered the call, and I talked to him like a man.  I frankly told him
the situation.  It looked as if I might win out at writing.  The chance
was good, but not certain.  Now, if he would pass me by and select the
next man on the eligible list and give me a call at the next vacancy--

But he shut me off with: "Then you don't want the position?"

"But I do," I protested.  "Don't you see, if you will pass me over this

"If you want it you will take it," he said coldly.

Happily for me, the cursed brutality of the man made me angry.

"Very well," I said.  "I won't take it."


Having burned my ship, I plunged into writing.  I am afraid I always was
an extremist.  Early and late I was at it--writing, typing, studying
grammar, studying writing and all the forms of writing, and studying the
writers who succeeded in order to find out how they succeeded.  I managed
on five hours' sleep in the twenty-four, and came pretty close to working
the nineteen waking hours left to me.  My light burned till two and three
in the morning, which led a good neighbour woman into a bit of
sentimental Sherlock-Holmes deduction.  Never seeing me in the day-time,
she concluded that I was a gambler, and that the light in my window was
placed there by my mother to guide her erring son home.

The trouble with the beginner at the writing game is the long, dry
spells, when there is never an editor's cheque and everything pawnable is
pawned.  I wore my summer suit pretty well through that winter, and the
following summer experienced the longest, dryest spell of all, in the
period when salaried men are gone on vacation and manuscripts lie in
editorial offices until vacation is over.

My difficulty was that I had no one to advise me.  I didn't know a soul
who had written or who had ever tried to write.  I didn't even know one
reporter.  Also, to succeed at the writing game, I found I had to unlearn
about everything the teachers and professors of literature of the high
school and university had taught me.  I was very indignant about this at
the time; though now I can understand it.  They did not know the trick of
successful writing in the years 1895 and 1896.  They knew all about "Snow
Bound" and "Sartor Resartus"; but the American editors of 1899 did not
want such truck.  They wanted the 1899 truck, and offered to pay so well
for it that the teachers and professors of literature would have quit
their jobs could they have supplied it.

I struggled along, stood off the butcher and the grocer, pawned my watch
and bicycle and my father's mackintosh, and I worked.  I really did work,
and went on short commons of sleep.  Critics have complained about the
swift education one of my characters, Martin Eden, achieved.  In three
years, from a sailor with a common school education, I made a successful
writer of him.  The critics say this is impossible.  Yet I was Martin
Eden.  At the end of three working years, two of which were spent in high
school and the university and one spent at writing, and all three in
studying immensely and intensely, I was publishing stories in magazines
such as the "Atlantic Monthly," was correcting proofs of my first book
(issued by Houghton, Mifflin Co.), was selling sociological articles to
"Cosmopolitan" and "McClure's," had declined an associate editorship
proffered me by telegraph from New York City, and was getting ready to

Now the foregoing means work, especially the last year of it, when I was
learning my trade as a writer.  And in that year, running short on sleep
and tasking my brain to its limit, I neither drank nor cared to drink.
So far as I was concerned, alcohol did not exist.  I did suffer from
brain-fag on occasion, but alcohol never suggested itself as an
ameliorative.  Heavens! Editorial acceptances and cheques were all the
amelioratives I needed.  A thin envelope from an editor in the morning's
mail was more stimulating than half a dozen cocktails.  And if a cheque
of decent amount came out of the envelope, such incident in itself was a
whole drunk.

Furthermore, at that time in my life I did not know what a cocktail was.
I remember, when my first book was published, several Alaskans, who were
members of the Bohemian Club, entertained me one evening at the club in
San Francisco.  We sat in most wonderful leather chairs, and drinks were
ordered.  Never had I heard such an ordering of liqueurs and of highballs
of particular brands of Scotch.  I didn't know what a liqueur or a
highball was, and I didn't know that "Scotch" meant whisky.  I knew only
poor men's drinks, the drinks of the frontier and of sailor-town--cheap
beer and cheaper whisky that was just called whisky and nothing else.  I
was embarrassed to make a choice, and the steward nearly collapsed when I
ordered claret as an after-dinner drink.


As I succeeded with my writing, my standard of living rose and my horizon
broadened.  I confined myself to writing and typing a thousand words a
day, including Sundays and holidays; and I still studied hard, but not so
hard as formerly.  I allowed myself five and one-half hours of actual
sleep.  I added this half-hour because I was compelled.  Financial
success permitted me more time for exercise.  I rode my wheel more,
chiefly because it was permanently out of pawn; and I boxed and fenced,
walked on my hands, jumped high and broad, put the shot and tossed the
caber, and went swimming.  And I learned that more sleep is required for
physical exercise than for mental exercise.  There were tired nights,
bodily, when I slept six hours; and on occasion of very severe exercise I
actually slept seven hours.  But such sleep orgies were not frequent.
There was so much to learn, so much to be done, that I felt wicked when I
slept seven hours.  And I blessed the man who invented alarm clocks.

And still no desire to drink.  I possessed too many fine faiths, was
living at too keen a pitch.  I was a socialist, intent on saving the
world, and alcohol could not give me the fervours that were mine from my
ideas and ideals.  My voice, on account of my successful writing, had
added weight, or so I thought.  At any rate, my reputation as a writer
drew me audiences that my reputation as a speaker never could have drawn.
I was invited before clubs and organisations of all sorts to deliver my
message.  I fought the good fight, and went on studying and writing, and
was very busy.

Up to this time I had had a very restricted circle of friends.  But now I
began to go about.  I was invited out, especially to dinner, and I made
many friends and acquaintances whose economic lives were easier than mine
had been.  And many of them drank.  In their own houses they drank and
offered me drink.  They were not drunkards any of them.  They just drank
temperately, and I drank temperately with them as an act of comradeship
and accepted hospitality.  I did not care for it, neither wanted it nor
did not want it, and so small was the impression made by it that I do not
remember my first cocktail nor my first Scotch highball.

Well, I had a house.  When one is asked into other houses, he naturally
asks others into his house.  Behold the rising standard of living.
Having been given drink in other houses, I could expect nothing else of
myself than to give drink in my own house.  So I laid in a supply of beer
and whisky and table claret.  Never since that has my house not been well

And still, through all this period, I did not care in the slightest for
John Barleycorn.  I drank when others drank, and with them, as a social
act.  And I had so little choice in the matter that I drank whatever they
drank.  If they elected whisky, then whisky it was for me.  If they drank
root beer or sarsaparilla, I drank root beer or sarsaparilla with them.
And when there were no friends in the house, why, I didn't drink
anything.  Whisky decanters were always in the room where I wrote, and
for months and years I never knew what it was, when by myself, to take a

When out at dinner I noticed the kindly, genial glow of the preliminary
cocktail.  It seemed a very fitting and gracious thing.  Yet so little
did I stand in need of it, with my own high intensity and vitality, that
I never thought it worth while to have a cocktail before my own meal when
I ate alone.

On the other hand, I well remember a very brilliant man, somewhat older
than I, who occasionally visited me.  He liked whisky, and I recall
sitting whole afternoons in my den, drinking steadily with him, drink for
drink, until he was mildly lighted up and I was slightly aware that I had
drunk some whisky.  Now why did I do this? I don't know, save that the
old schooling held, the training of the old days and nights glass in hand
with men, the drinking ways of drink and drinkers.

Besides, I no longer feared John Barleycorn.  Mine was that most
dangerous stage when a man believes himself John Barleycorn's master.  I
had proved it to my satisfaction in the long years of work and study.  I
could drink when I wanted, refrain when I wanted, drink without getting
drunk, and to cap everything I was thoroughly conscious that I had no
liking for the stuff.  During this period I drank precisely for the same
reason I had drunk with Scotty and the harpooner and with the oyster
pirates--because it was an act that men performed with whom I wanted to
behave as a man.  These brilliant ones, these adventurers of the mind,
drank.  Very well.  There was no reason I should not drink with them--I
who knew so confidently that I had nothing to fear from John Barleycorn.

And the foregoing was my attitude of mind for years.  Occasionally I got
well jingled, but such occasions were rare.  It interfered with my work,
and I permitted nothing to interfere with my work.  I remember, when
spending several months in the East End of London, during which time I
wrote a book and adventured much amongst the worst of the slum classes,
that I got drunk several times and was mightily wroth with myself because
it interfered with my writing.  Yet these very times were because I was
out on the adventure-path where John Barleycorn is always to be found.

Then, too, with the certitude of long training and unholy intimacy, there
were occasions when I engaged in drinking bouts with men.  Of course,
this was on the adventure-path in various parts of the world, and it was
a matter of pride.  It is a queer man-pride that leads one to drink with
men in order to show as strong a head as they.  But this queer man-pride
is no theory.  It is a fact.

For instance, a wild band of young revolutionists invited me as the guest
of honour to a beer bust.  It is the only technical beer bust I ever
attended.  I did not know the true inwardness of the affair when I
accepted.  I imagined that the talk would be wild and high, that some of
them might drink more than they ought, and that I would drink discreetly.
But it seemed these beer busts were a diversion of these high-spirited
young fellows whereby they whiled away the tedium of existence by making
fools of their betters.  As I learned afterward, they had got their
previous guest of honour, a brilliant young radical, unskilled in
drinking, quite pipped.

When I found myself with them, and the situation dawned on me, up rose my
queer man-pride.  I'd show them, the young rascals.  I'd show them who
was husky and chesty, who had the vitality and the constitution, the
stomach and the head, who could make most of a swine of himself and show
it least.  These unlicked cubs who thought they could out-drink ME!

You see, it was an endurance test, and no man likes to give another best.
Faugh! it was steam beer.  I had learned more expensive brews.  Not for
years had I drunk steam beer; but when I had, I had drunk with men, and I
guessed I could show these youngsters some ability in beer-guzzling.  And
the drinking began, and I had to drink with the best of them.  Some of
them might lag, but the guest of honour was not permitted to lag.

And all my austere nights of midnight oil, all the books I had read, all
the wisdom I had gathered, went glimmering before the ape and tiger in me
that crawled up from the abysm of my heredity, atavistic, competitive and
brutal, lustful with strength and desire to outswine the swine.

And when the session broke up I was still on my feet, and I walked,
erect, unswaying--which was more than can be said of some of my hosts.  I
recall one of them in indignant tears on the street corner, weeping as he
pointed out my sober condition.  Little he dreamed the iron clutch, born
of old training, with which I held to my consciousness in my swimming
brain, kept control of my muscles and my qualms, kept my voice unbroken
and easy and my thoughts consecutive and logical.  Yes, and mixed up with
it all I was privily a-grin.  They hadn't made a fool of me in that
drinking bout.  And I was proud of myself for the achievement.  Darn it,
I am still proud, so strangely is man compounded.

But I didn't write my thousand words next morning.  I was sick, poisoned.
It was a day of wretchedness.  In the afternoon I had to give a public
speech.  I gave it, and I am confident it was as bad as I felt.  Some of
my hosts were there in the front rows to mark any signs on me of the
night before.  I don't know what signs they marked, but I marked signs on
them and took consolation in the knowledge that they were just as sick as

Never again, I swore.  And I have never been inveigled into another beer
bust.  For that matter, that was my last drinking bout of any sort.  Oh,
I have drunk ever since, but with more wisdom, more discretion, and never
in a competitive spirit.  It is thus that the seasoned drinker grows

To show that at this period in my life drinking was wholly a matter of
companionship, I remember crossing the Atlantic in the old Teutonic.  It
chanced, at the start, that I chummed with an English cable operator and
a younger member of a Spanish shipping firm.  Now the only thing they
drank was "horse's neck"--a long, soft, cool drink with an apple peel or
an orange peel floating in it.  And for that whole voyage I drank
horse's, necks with my two companions.  On the other hand, had they drunk
whisky, I should have drunk whisky with them.  From this it must not be
concluded that I was merely weak.  I didn't care.  I had no morality in
the matter.  I was strong with youth, and unafraid, and alcohol was an
utterly negligible question so far as I was concerned.


Not yet was I ready to tuck my arm in John Barleycorn's.  The older I
got, the greater my success, the more money I earned, the wider was the
command of the world that became mine and the more prominently did John
Barleycorn bulk in my life.  And still I maintained no more than a
nodding acquaintance with him.  I drank for the sake of sociability, and
when alone I did not drink.  Sometimes I got jingled, but I considered
such jingles the mild price I paid for sociability.

To show how unripe I was for John Barleycorn, when, at this time, I
descended into my slough of despond, I never dreamed of turning to John
Barleycorn for a helping hand.  I had life troubles and heart troubles
which are neither here nor there in this narrative.  But, combined with
them, were intellectual troubles which are indeed germane.

Mine was no uncommon experience.  I had read too much positive science
and lived too much positive life.  In the eagerness of youth I had made
the ancient mistake of pursuing Truth too relentlessly.  I had torn her
veils from her, and the sight was too terrible for me to stand.  In
brief, I lost my fine faiths in pretty well everything except humanity,
and the humanity I retained faith in was a very stark humanity indeed.

This long sickness of pessimism is too well known to most of us to be
detailed here.  Let it suffice to state that I had it very bad.  I
meditated suicide coolly, as a Greek philosopher might.  My regret was
that there were too many dependent directly upon me for food and shelter
for me to quit living.  But that was sheer morality.  What really saved
me was the one remaining illusion--the PEOPLE.

The things I had fought for and burned my midnight oil for had failed me.
Success--I despised it.  Recognition--it was dead ashes.  Society, men
and women above the ruck and the muck of the water-front and the
forecastle--I was appalled by their unlovely mental mediocrity.  Love of
woman--it was like all the rest.  Money--I could sleep in only one bed at
a time, and of what worth was an income of a hundred porterhouses a day
when I could eat only one? Art, culture--in the face of the iron facts of
biology such things were ridiculous, the exponents of such things only
the more ridiculous.

From the foregoing it can be seen how very sick I was.  I was born a
fighter.  The things I had fought for had proved not worth the fight.
Remained the PEOPLE.  My fight was finished, yet something was left still
to fight for--the PEOPLE.

But while I was discovering this one last tie to bind me to life, in my
extremity, in the depths of despond, walking in the valley of the shadow,
my ears were deaf to John Barleycorn.  Never the remotest whisper arose
in my consciousness that John Barleycorn was the anodyne, that he could
lie me along to live.  One way only was uppermost in my thought--my
revolver, the crashing eternal darkness of a bullet.  There was plenty of
whisky in the house--for my guests.  I never touched it.  I grew afraid
of my revolver--afraid during the period in which the radiant, flashing
vision of the PEOPLE was forming in my mind and will.  So obsessed was I
with the desire to die that I feared I might commit the act in my sleep,
and I was compelled to give my revolver away to others who were to lose
it for me where my subconscious hand might not find it.

But the PEOPLE saved me.  By the PEOPLE was I handcuffed to life.  There
was still one fight left in me, and here was the thing for which to
fight.  I threw all precaution to the winds, threw myself with fiercer
zeal into the fight for socialism, laughed at the editors and publishers
who warned me and who were the sources of my hundred porterhouses a day,
and was brutally careless of whose feelings I hurt and of how savagely I
hurt them.  As the "well-balanced radicals" charged at the time, my
efforts were so strenuous, so unsafe and unsane, so ultra-revolutionary,
that I retarded the socialist development in the United States by five
years.  In passing, I wish to remark, at this late date, that it is my
fond belief that I accelerated the socialist development in the United
States by at least five minutes.

It was the PEOPLE, and no thanks to John Barleycorn, who pulled me
through my long sickness.  And when I was convalescent came the love of
woman to complete the cure and lull my pessimism asleep for many a long
day, until John Barleycorn again awoke it.  But in the meantime, I
pursued Truth less relentlessly, refraining from tearing her last veils
aside even when I clutched them in my hand.  I no longer cared to look
upon Truth naked.  I refused to permit myself to see a second time what I
had once seen.  And the memory of what I had that time seen I resolutely
blotted from my mind.

And I was very happy.  Life went well with me, I took delight in little
things.  The big things I declined to take too seriously.  I still read
the books, but not with the old eagerness.  I still read the books
to-day, but never again shall I read them with that old glory of youthful
passion when I harked to the call from over and beyond that whispered me
on to win to the mystery at the back of life and behind the stars.

The point of this chapter is that, in the long sickness that at some time
comes to most of us, I came through without any appeal for aid to John
Barleycorn.  Love, socialism, the PEOPLE--healthful figments of man's
mind--were the things that cured and saved me.  If ever a man was not a
born alcoholic, I believe that I am that man.  And yet--well, let the
succeeding chapters tell their tale, for in them will be shown how I paid
for my previous quarter of a century of contact with ever-accessible John


After my long sickness my drinking continued to be convivial.  I drank
when others drank and I was with them.  But, imperceptibly, my need for
alcohol took form and began to grow.  It was not a body need.  I boxed,
swam, sailed, rode horses, lived in the open an arrantly healthful life,
and passed life insurance examinations with flying colours.  In its
inception, now that I look back upon it, this need for alcohol was a
mental need, a nerve need, a good-spirits need.  How can I explain?

It was something like this.  Physiologically, from the standpoint of
palate and stomach, alcohol was, as it had always been, repulsive.  It
tasted no better than beer did when I was five, than bitter claret did
when I was seven.  When I was alone, writing or studying, I had no need
for it.  But--I was growing old, or wise, or both, or senile as an
alternative.  When I was in company I was less pleased, less excited,
with the things said and done.  Erstwhile worth-while fun and stunts
seemed no longer worth while; and it was a torment to listen to the
insipidities and stupidities of women, to the pompous, arrogant sayings
of the little half-baked men.  It is the penalty one pays for reading the
books too much, or for being oneself a fool.  In my case it does not
matter which was my trouble.  The trouble itself was the fact.  The
condition of the fact was mine.  For me the life, and light, and sparkle
of human intercourse were dwindling.

I had climbed too high among the stars, or, maybe, I had slept too hard.
Yet I was not hysterical nor in any way overwrought.  My pulse was
normal.  My heart was an amazement of excellence to the insurance
doctors.  My lungs threw the said doctors into ecstasies.  I wrote a
thousand words every day.  I was punctiliously exact in dealing with all
the affairs of life that fell to my lot.  I exercised in joy and
gladness.  I slept at night like a babe.  But--

Well, as soon as I got out in the company of others I was driven to
melancholy and spiritual tears.  I could neither laugh with nor at the
solemn utterances of men I esteemed ponderous asses; nor could I laugh,
nor engage in my old-time lightsome persiflage, with the silly
superficial chatterings of women, who, underneath all their silliness and
softness, were as primitive, direct, and deadly in their pursuit of
biological destiny as the monkeys women were before they shed their furry
coats and replaced them with the furs of other animals.

And I was not pessimistic.  I swear I was not pessimistic.  I was merely
bored.  I had seen the same show too often, listened too often to the
same songs and the same jokes.  I knew too much about the box office
receipts.  I knew the cogs of the machinery behind the scenes so well
that the posing on the stage, and the laughter and the song, could not
drown the creaking of the wheels behind.

It doesn't pay to go behind the scenes and see the angel-voiced tenor
beat his wife.  Well, I'd been behind, and I was paying for it.  Or else
I was a fool.  It is immaterial which was my situation.  The situation is
what counts, and the situation was that social intercourse for me was
getting painful and difficult.  On the other hand, it must be stated that
on rare occasions, on very rare occasions, I did meet rare souls, or
fools like me, with whom I could spend magnificent hours among the stars,
or in the paradise of fools.  I was married to a rare soul, or a fool,
who never bored me and who was always a source of new and unending
surprise and delight.  But I could not spend all my hours solely in her

Nor would it have been fair, nor wise, to compel her to spend all her
hours in my company.  Besides, I had written a string of successful
books, and society demands some portion of the recreative hours of a
fellow that writes books.  And any normal man, of himself and his needs,
demands some hours of his fellow men.

And now we begin to come to it.  How to face the social intercourse game
with the glamour gone? John Barleycorn.  The ever patient one had waited
a quarter of a century and more for me to reach my hand out in need of
him.  His thousand tricks had failed, thanks to my constitution and good
luck, but he had more tricks in his bag.  A cocktail or two, or several,
I found, cheered me up for the foolishness of foolish people.  A
cocktail, or several, before dinner, enabled me to laugh whole-heartedly
at things which had long since ceased being laughable.  The cocktail was
a prod, a spur, a kick, to my jaded mind and bored spirits.  It
recrudesced the laughter and the song, and put a lilt into my own
imagination so that I could laugh and sing and say foolish things with
the liveliest of them, or platitudes with verve and intensity to the
satisfaction of the pompous mediocre ones who knew no other way to talk.

A poor companion without a cocktail, I became a very good companion with
one.  I achieved a false exhilaration, drugged myself to merriment.  And
the thing began so imperceptibly that I, old intimate of John Barleycorn,
never dreamed whither it was leading me.  I was beginning to call for
music and wine; soon I should be calling for madder music and more wine.

It was at this time I became aware of waiting with expectancy for the
pre-dinner cocktail.  I WANTED it, and I was CONSCIOUS that I wanted it.
I remember, while war-corresponding in the Far East, of being
irresistibly attracted to a certain home.  Besides accepting all
invitations to dinner, I made a point of dropping in almost every
afternoon.  Now, the hostess was a charming woman, but it was not for her
sake that I was under her roof so frequently.  It happened that she made
by far the finest cocktail procurable in that large city where
drink-mixing on the part of the foreign population was indeed an art.  Up
at the club, down at the hotels, and in other private houses, no such
cocktails were created.  Her cocktails were subtle.  They were
masterpieces.  They were the least repulsive to the palate and carried
the most "kick." And yet, I desired her cocktails only for sociability's
sake, to key myself to sociable moods.  When I rode away from that city,
across hundreds of miles of rice-fields and mountains, and through months
of campaigning, and on with the victorious Japanese into Manchuria, I did
not drink.  Several bottles of whisky were always to be found on the
backs of my pack-horses.  Yet I never broached a bottle for myself, never
took a drink by myself, and never knew a desire to take such a drink.
Oh, if a white man came into my camp, I opened a bottle and we drank
together according to the way of men, just as he would open a bottle and
drink with me if I came into his camp.  I carried that whisky for social
purposes, and I so charged it up in my expense account to the newspaper
for which I worked.

Only in retrospect can I mark the almost imperceptible growth of my
desire.  There were little hints then that I did not take, little straws
in the wind that I did not see, little incidents the gravity of which I
did not realise.

For instance, for some years it had been my practice each winter to
cruise for six or eight weeks on San Francisco Bay.  My stout sloop
yacht, the Spray, had a comfortable cabin and a coal stove.  A Korean boy
did the cooking, and I usually took a friend or so along to share the
joys of the cruise.  Also, I took my machine along and did my thousand
words a day.  On the particular trip I have in mind, Cloudesley and Toddy
came along.  This was Toddy's first trip.  On previous trips Cloudesley
had elected to drink beer; so I had kept the yacht supplied with beer and
had drunk beer with him.

But on this cruise the situation was different.  Toddy was so nicknamed
because of his diabolical cleverness in concocting toddies.  So I brought
whisky along--a couple of gallons.  Alas!  Many another gallon I bought,
for Cloudesley and I got into the habit of drinking a certain hot toddy
that actually tasted delicious going down and that carried the most
exhilarating kick imaginable.

I liked those toddies.  I grew to look forward to the making of them.  We
drank them regularly, one before breakfast, one before dinner, one before
supper, and a final one when we went to bed.  We never got drunk.  But I
will say that four times a day we were very genial.  And when, in the
middle of the cruise, Toddy was called back to San Francisco on business,
Cloudesley and I saw to it that the Korean boy mixed toddies regularly
for us according to formula.

But that was only on the boat.  Back on the land, in my house, I took no
before breakfast eye-opener, no bed-going nightcap.  And I haven't drunk
hot toddies since, and that was many a year ago.  But the point is, I
LIKED those toddies.  The geniality of which they were provocative was
marvellous.  They were eloquent proselyters for John Barleycorn in their
own small insidious way.  They were tickles of the something destined to
grow into daily and deadly desire.  And I didn't know, never dreamed--I,
who had lived with John Barleycorn for so many years and laughed at all
his unavailing attempts to win me.


Part of the process of recovering from my long sickness was to find
delight in little things, in things unconnected with books and problems,
in play, in games of tag in the swimming pool, in flying kites, in
fooling with horses, in working out mechanical puzzles.  As a result, I
grew tired of the city.  On the ranch, in the Valley of the Moon, I found
my paradise.  I gave up living in cities.  All the cities held for me
were music, the theatre, and Turkish baths.

And all went well with me.  I worked hard, played hard, and was very
happy.  I read more fiction and less fact.  I did not study a tithe as
much as I had studied in the past.  I still took an interest in the
fundamental problems of existence, but it was a very cautious interest;
for I had burned my fingers that time I clutched at the veils of Truth
and wrested them from her.  There was a bit of lie in this attitude of
mine, a bit of hypocrisy; but the lie and the hypocrisy were those of a
man desiring to live.  I deliberately blinded myself to what I took to be
the savage interpretation of biological fact.  After all, I was merely
forswearing a bad habit, forgoing a bad frame of mind.  And I repeat, I
was very happy.  And I add, that in all my days, measuring them with
cold, considerative judgment, this was, far and away beyond all other
periods, the happiest period of my life.

But the time was at hand, rhymeless and reasonless so far as I can see,
when I was to begin to pay for my score of years of dallying with John
Barleycorn.  Occasionally guests journeyed to the ranch and remained a
few days.  Some did not drink.  But to those who did drink, the absence
of all alcohol on the ranch was a hardship.  I could not violate my sense
of hospitality by compelling them to endure this hardship.  I ordered in
a stock--for my guests.

I was never interested enough in cocktails to know how they were made.
So I got a bar-keeper in Oakland to make them in bulk and ship them to
me.  When I had no guests I didn't drink.  But I began to notice, when I
finished my morning's work, that I was glad if there were a guest, for
then I could drink a cocktail with him.

Now I was so clean of alcohol that even a single cocktail was provocative
of pitch.  A single cocktail would glow the mind and tickle a laugh for
the few minutes prior to sitting down to table and starting the
delightful process of eating.  On the other hand, such was the strength
of my stomach, of my alcoholic resistance, that the single cocktail was
only the glimmer of a glow, the faintest tickle of a laugh.  One day, a
friend frankly and shamelessly suggested a second cocktail.  I drank the
second one with him.  The glow was appreciably longer and warmer, the
laughter deeper and more resonant.  One does not forget such experiences.
Sometimes I almost think that it was because I was so very happy that I
started on my real drinking.

I remember one day Charmian and I took a long ride over the mountains on
our horses.  The servants had been dismissed for the day, and we returned
late at night to a jolly chafing-dish supper.  Oh, it was good to be
alive that night while the supper was preparing, the two of us alone in
the kitchen.  I, personally, was at the top of life.  Such things as the
books and ultimate truth did not exist.  My body was gloriously healthy,
and healthily tired from the long ride.  It had been a splendid day.  The
night was splendid.  I was with the woman who was my mate, picnicking in
gleeful abandon.  I had no troubles.  The bills were all paid, and a
surplus of money was rolling in on me.  The future ever-widened before
me.  And right there, in the kitchen, delicious things bubbled in the
chafing-dish, our laughter bubbled, and my stomach was keen with a most
delicious edge of appetite.

I felt so good, that somehow, somewhere, in me arose an insatiable greed
to feel better.  I was so happy that I wanted to pitch my happiness even
higher.  And I knew the way.  Ten thousand contacts with John Barleycorn
had taught me.  Several times I wandered out of the kitchen to the
cocktail bottle, and each time I left it diminished by one man's size
cocktail.  The result was splendid.  I wasn't jingled, I wasn't lighted
up; but I was warmed, I glowed, my happiness was pyramided.  Munificent
as life was to me, I added to that munificence.  It was a great hour--one
of my greatest.  But I paid for it, long afterwards, as you will see.
One does not forget such experiences, and, in human stupidity, cannot be
brought to realise that there is no immutable law which decrees that same
things shall produce same results.  For they don't, else would the
thousandth pipe of opium be provocative of similar delights to the first,
else would one cocktail, instead of several, produce an equivalent glow
after a year of cocktails.

One day, just before I ate midday dinner, after my morning's writing was
done, when I had no guest, I took a cocktail by myself.  Thereafter, when
there were no guests, I took this daily pre-dinner cocktail.  And right
there John Barleycorn had me.  I was beginning to drink regularly.  I was
beginning to drink alone.  And I was beginning to drink, not for
hospitality's sake, not for the sake of the taste, but for the effect of
the drink.

I WANTED that daily pre-dinner cocktail.  And it never crossed my mind
that there was any reason I should not have it.  I paid for it.  I could
pay for a thousand cocktails each day if I wanted.  And what was a
cocktail--one cocktail--to me who on so many occasions for so many years
had drunk inordinate quantities of stiffer stuff and been unharmed?

The programme of my ranch life was as follows: Each morning, at
eight-thirty, having been reading or correcting proofs in bed since four
or five, I went to my desk.  Odds and ends of correspondence and notes
occupied me till nine, and at nine sharp, invariably, I began my writing.
By eleven, sometimes a few minutes earlier or later, my thousand words
were finished.  Another half-hour at cleaning up my desk, and my day's
work was done, so that at eleven-thirty I got into a hammock under the
trees with my mail-bag and the morning newspaper.  At twelve-thirty I ate
dinner and in the afternoon I swam and rode.

One morning, at eleven-thirty, before I got into the hammock, I took a
cocktail.  I repeated this on subsequent mornings, of course, taking
another cocktail just before I ate at twelve-thirty.  Soon I found
myself, seated at my desk in the midst of my thousand words, looking
forward to that eleven-thirty cocktail.

At last, now, I was thoroughly conscious that I desired alcohol.  But
what of it? I wasn't afraid of John Barleycorn.  I had associated with
him too long.  I was wise in the matter of drink.  I was discreet.  Never
again would I drink to excess.  I knew the dangers and the pitfalls of
John Barleycorn, the various ways by which he had tried to kill me in the
past.  But all that was past, long past.  Never again would I drink
myself to stupefaction.  Never again would I get drunk.  All I wanted,
and all I would take, was just enough to glow and warm me, to kick
geniality alive in me and put laughter in my throat and stir the maggots
of imagination slightly in my brain.  Oh, I was thoroughly master of
myself, and of John Barleycorn.


But the same stimulus to the human organism will not continue to produce
the same response.  By and by I discovered there was no kick at all in
one cocktail.  One cocktail left me dead.  There was no glow, no laughter
tickle.  Two or three cocktails were required to produce the original
effect of one.  And I wanted that effect.  I drank my first cocktail at
eleven-thirty when I took the morning's mail into the hammock, and I
drank my second cocktail an hour later just before I ate.  I got into the
habit of crawling out of the hammock ten minutes earlier so as to find
time and decency for two more cocktails ere I ate.  This became
schedule--three cocktails in the hour that intervened between my desk and
dinner.  And these are two of the deadliest drinking habits: regular
drinking and solitary drinking.

I was always willing to drink when any one was around.  I drank by myself
when no one was around.  Then I made another step.  When I had for guest
a man of limited drinking calibre, I took two drinks to his one--one
drink with him, the other drink without him and of which he did not know.
I STOLE that other drink, and, worse than that, I began the habit of
drinking alone when there was a guest, a man, a comrade, with whom I
could have drunk.  But John Barleycorn furnished the extenuation.  It was
a wrong thing to trip a guest up with excess of hospitality and get him
drunk.  If I persuaded him, with his limited calibre, into drinking up
with me, I'd surely get him drunk.  What could I do but steal that every
second drink, or else deny myself the kick equivalent to what he got out
of half the number?

Please remember, as I recite this development of my drinking, that I am
no fool, no weakling.  As the world measures such things, I am a
success--I dare to say a success more conspicuous than the success of the
average successful man, and a success that required a pretty fair amount
of brains and will power.  My body is a strong body.  It has survived
where weaklings died like flies.  And yet these things which I am
relating happened to my body and to me.  I am a fact.  My drinking is a
fact.  My drinking is a thing that has happened, and is no theory nor
speculation; and, as I see it, it but lays the emphasis on the power of
John Barleycorn--a savagery that we still permit to exist, a deadly
institution that lingers from the mad old brutal days and that takes its
heavy toll of youth and strength, and high spirit, and of very much of
all of the best we breed.

To return.  After a boisterous afternoon in the swimming pool, followed
by a glorious ride on horseback over the mountains or up or down the
Valley of the Moon, I found myself so keyed and splendid that I desired
to be more highly keyed, to feel more splendid.  I knew the way.  A
cocktail before supper was not the way.  Two or three, at the very least,
was what was needed.  I took them.  Why not? It was living.  I had always
dearly loved to live.  This also became part of the daily schedule.

Then, too, I was perpetually finding excuses for extra cocktails.  It
might be the assembling of a particularly jolly crowd; a touch of anger
against my architect or against a thieving stone-mason working on my
barn; the death of my favourite horse in a barbed wire fence; or news of
good fortune in the morning mail from my dealings with editors and
publishers.  It was immaterial what the excuse might be, once the desire
had germinated in me.  The thing was: I WANTED alcohol.  At last, after a
score and more of years of dallying and of not wanting, now I wanted it.
And my strength was my weakness.  I required two, three, or four drinks
to get an effect commensurate with the effect the average man got out of
one drink.

One rule I observed.  I never took a drink until my day's work of writing
a thousand words was done.  And, when done, the cocktails reared a wall
of inhibition in my brain between the day's work done and the rest of the
day of fun to come.  My work ceased from my consciousness.  No thought of
it flickered in my brain till next morning at nine o'clock when I sat at
my desk and began my next thousand words.  This was a desirable condition
of mind to achieve.  I conserved my energy by means of this alcoholic
inhibition.  John Barleycorn was not so black as he was painted.  He did
a fellow many a good turn, and this was one of them.

And I turned out work that was healthful, and wholesome, and sincere.  It
was never pessimistic.  The way to life I had learned in my long
sickness.  I knew the illusions were right, and I exalted the illusions.
Oh, I still turn out the same sort of work, stuff that is clean, alive,
optimistic, and that makes toward life.  And I am always assured by the
critics of my super-abundant and abounding vitality, and of how
thoroughly I am deluded by these very illusions I exploit.

And while on this digression, let me repeat the question I have repeated
to myself ten thousand times.  WHY DID I DRINK?  What need was there for
it? I was happy.  Was it because I was too happy? I was strong.  Was it
because I was too strong? Did I possess too much vitality? I don't know
why I drank.  I cannot answer, though I can voice the suspicion that ever
grows in me.  I had been in too-familiar contact with John Barleycorn
through too many years.  A left-handed man, by long practice, can become
a right-handed man.  Had I, a non-alcoholic, by long practice become an

I was so happy.  I had won through my long sickness to the satisfying
love of woman.  I earned more money with less endeavour.  I glowed with
health.  I slept like a babe.  I continued to write successful books, and
in sociological controversy I saw my opponents confuted with the facts of
the times that daily reared new buttresses to my intellectual position.
From day's end to day's end I never knew sorrow, disappointment, nor
regret.  I was happy all the time.  Life was one unending song.  I
begrudged the very hours of blessed sleep because by that much was I
robbed of the joy that would have been mine had I remained awake.  And
yet I drank.  And John Barleycorn, all unguessed by me, was setting the
stage for a sickness all his own.

The more I drank the more I was required to drink to get an equivalent
effect.  When I left the Valley of the Moon, and went to the city, and
dined out, a cocktail served at table was a wan and worthless thing.
There was no pre-dinner kick in it.  On my way to dinner I was compelled
to accumulate the kick--two cocktails, three, and, if I met some fellows,
four or five, or six, it didn't matter within several.  Once, I was in a
rush.  I had no time decently to accumulate the several drinks.  A
brilliant idea came to me.  I told the barkeeper to mix me a double
cocktail.  Thereafter, whenever I was in a hurry, I ordered double
cocktails.  It saved time.

One result of this regular heavy drinking was to jade me.  My mind grew
so accustomed to spring and liven by artificial means that without
artificial means it refused to spring and liven.  Alcohol became more and
more imperative in order to meet people, in order to become sociably fit.
I had to get the kick and the hit of the stuff, the crawl of the maggots,
the genial brain glow, the laughter tickle, the touch of devilishness and
sting, the smile over the face of things, ere I could join my fellows and
make one with them.

Another result was that John Barleycorn was beginning to trip me up.  He
was thrusting my long sickness back upon me, inveigling me into again
pursuing Truth and snatching her veils away from her, tricking me into
looking reality stark in the face.  But this came on gradually.  My
thoughts were growing harsh again, though they grew harsh slowly.

Sometimes warning thoughts crossed my mind.  Where was this steady
drinking leading? But trust John Barleycorn to silence such questions.
"Come on and have a drink and I'll tell you all about it," is his way.
And it works.  For instance, the following is a case in point, and one
which John Barleycorn never wearied of reminding me:

I had suffered an accident which required a ticklish operation.  One
morning, a week after I had come off the table, I lay on my hospital bed,
weak and weary.  The sunburn of my face, what little of it could be seen
through a scraggly growth of beard, had faded to a sickly yellow.  My
doctor stood at my bedside on the verge of departure.  He glared
disapprovingly at the cigarette I was smoking.

"That's what you ought to quit," he lectured.  "It will get you in the
end.  Look at me."

I looked.  He was about my own age, broad-shouldered, deep-chested, eyes
sparkling, and ruddy-cheeked with health.  A finer specimen of manhood
one would not ask.

"I used to smoke," he went on.  "Cigars.  But I gave even them up.  And
look at me."

The man was arrogant, and rightly arrogant, with conscious well-being.
And within a month he was dead.  It was no accident.  Half a dozen
different bugs of long scientific names had attacked and destroyed him.
The complications were astonishing and painful, and for days before he
died the screams of agony of that splendid manhood could be heard for a
block around.  He died screaming.

"You see," said John Barleycorn.  "He took care of himself.  He even
stopped smoking cigars.  And that's what he got for it.  Pretty rotten,
eh? But the bugs will jump.  There's no forefending them.  Your
magnificent doctor took every precaution, yet they got him.  When the bug
jumps you can't tell where it will land.  It may be you.  Look what he
missed.  Will you miss all I can give you, only to have a bug jump on you
and drag you down? There is no equity in life.  It's all a lottery.  But
I put the lying smile on the face of life and laugh at the facts.  Smile
with me and laugh.  You'll get yours in the end, but in the meantime
laugh.  It's a pretty dark world.  I illuminate it for you.  It's a
rotten world, when things can happen such as happened to your doctor.
There's only one thing to do: take another drink and forget it."

And, of course, I took another drink for the inhibition that accompanied
it.  I took another drink every time John Barleycorn reminded me of what
had happened.  Yet I drank rationally, intelligently.  I saw to it that
the quality of the stuff was of the best.  I sought the kick and the
inhibition, and avoided the penalties of poor quality and of drunkenness.
It is to be remarked, in passing, that when a man begins to drink
rationally and intelligently that he betrays a grave symptom of how far
along the road he has travelled.

But I continued to observe my rule of never taking my first drink of the
day until the last word of my thousand words was written.  On occasion,
however, I took a day's vacation from my writing.  At such times, since
it was no violation of my rule, I didn't mind how early in the day I took
that first drink.  And persons who have never been through the drinking
game wonder how the drinking habit grows!


When the Snark sailed on her long cruise from San Francisco there was
nothing to drink on board.  Or, rather, we were all of us unaware that
there was anything to drink, nor did we discover it for many a month.
This sailing with a "dry" boat was malice aforethought on my part.  I had
played John Barleycorn a trick.  And it showed that I was listening ever
so slightly to the faint warnings that were beginning to arise in my

Of course, I veiled the situation to myself and excused myself to John
Barleycorn.  And I was very scientific about it.  I said that I would
drink only while in ports.  During the dry sea-stretches my system would
be cleansed of the alcohol that soaked it, so that when I reached a port
I should be in shape to enjoy John Barleycorn more thoroughly.  His bite
would be sharper, his kick keener and more delicious.

We were twenty-seven days on the traverse between San Francisco and
Honolulu.  After the first day out, the thought of a drink never troubled
me.  This I take to show how intrinsically I am not an alcoholic.
Sometimes, during the traverse, looking ahead and anticipating the
delightful lanai luncheons and dinners of Hawaii (I had been there a
couple of times before), I thought, naturally, of the drinks that would
precede those meals.  I did not think of those drinks with any yearning,
with any irk at the length of the voyage.  I merely thought they would be
nice and jolly, part of the atmosphere of a proper meal.

Thus, once again I proved to my complete satisfaction that I was John
Barleycorn's master.  I could drink when I wanted, refrain when I wanted.
Therefore I would continue to drink when I wanted.

Some five months were spent in the various islands of the Hawaiian group.
Being ashore, I drank.  I even drank a bit more than I had been
accustomed to drink in California prior to the voyage.  The people in
Hawaii seemed to drink a bit more, on the average, than the people in
more temperate latitudes.  I do not intend the pun, and can awkwardly
revise the statement to "latitudes more remote from the equator;" Yet
Hawaii is only sub-tropical.  The deeper I got into the tropics, the
deeper I found men drank, the deeper I drank myself.

From Hawaii we sailed for the Marquesas.  The traverse occupied sixty
days.  For sixty days we never raised land, a sail, nor a steamer smoke.
But early in those sixty days the cook, giving an overhauling to the
galley, made a find.  Down in the bottom of a deep locker he found a
dozen bottles of angelica and muscatel.  These had come down from the
kitchen cellar of the ranch along with the home-preserved fruits and
jellies.  Six months in the galley heat had effected some sort of a
change in the thick sweet wine--branded it, I imagine.

I took a taste.  Delicious! And thereafter, once each day, at twelve
o'clock, after our observations were worked up and the Snark's position
charted, I drank half a tumbler of the stuff.  It had a rare kick to it.
It warmed the cockles of my geniality and put a fairer face on the truly
fair face of the sea.  Each morning, below, sweating out my thousand
words, I found myself looking forward to that twelve o'clock event of the

The trouble was I had to share the stuff, and the length of the traverse
was doubtful.  I regretted that there were not more than a dozen bottles.
And when they were gone I even regretted that I had shared any of it.  I
was thirsty for the alcohol, and eager to arrive in the Marquesas.

So it was that I reached the Marquesas the possessor of a real man's size
thirst.  And in the Marquesas were several white men, a lot of sickly
natives, much magnificent scenery, plenty of trade rum, an immense
quantity of absinthe, but neither whisky nor gin.  The trade rum scorched
the skin off one's mouth.  I know, because I tried it.  But I had ever
been plastic, and I accepted the absinthe.  The trouble with the stuff
was that I had to take such inordinate quantities in order to feel the
slightest effect.

From the Marquesas I sailed with sufficient absinthe in ballast to last
me to Tahiti, where I outfitted with Scotch and American whisky, and
thereafter there were no dry stretches between ports.  But please do not
misunderstand.  There was no drunkenness, as drunkenness is ordinarily
understood--no staggering and rolling around, no befuddlement of the
senses.  The skilled and seasoned drinker, with a strong constitution,
never descends to anything like that.  He drinks to feel good, to get a
pleasant jingle, and no more than that.  The things he carefully avoids
are the nausea of over-drinking, the after-effect of over-drinking, the
helplessness and loss of pride of over-drinking.

What the skilled and seasoned drinker achieves is a discreet and canny
semi-intoxication.  And he does it by the twelve-month around without any
apparent penalty.  There are hundreds of thousands of men of this sort in
the United States to-day, in clubs, hotels, and in their own homes--men
who are never drunk, and who, though most of them will indignantly deny
it, are rarely sober.  And all of them fondly believe, as I fondly
believed, that they are beating the game.

On the sea-stretches I was fairly abstemious; but ashore I drank more.  I
seemed to need more, anyway, in the tropics.  This is a common
experience, for the excessive consumption of alcohol in the tropics by
white men is a notorious fact.  The tropics is no place for white-skinned
men.  Their skin-pigment does not protect them against the excessive
white light of the sun.  The ultra-violet rays, and other high-velocity
and invisible rays from the upper end of the spectrum, rip and tear
through their tissues, just as the X-ray ripped and tore through the
tissues of so many experimenters before they learned the danger.

White men in the tropics undergo radical changes of nature.  They become
savage, merciless.  They commit monstrous acts of cruelty that they would
never dream of committing in their original temperate climate.  They
become nervous, irritable, and less moral.  And they drink as they never
drank before.  Drinking is one form of the many forms of degeneration
that set in when white men are exposed too long to too much white light.
The increase of alcoholic consumption is automatic.  The tropics is no
place for a long sojourn.  They seem doomed to die anyway, and the heavy
drinking expedites the process.  They don't reason about it.  They just
do it.

The sun sickness got me, despite the fact that I had been in the tropics
only a couple of years.  I drank heavily during this time, but right here
I wish to forestall misunderstanding.  The drinking was not the cause of
the sickness, nor of the abandonment of the voyage.  I was strong as a
bull, and for many months I fought the sun sickness that was ripping and
tearing my surface and nervous tissues to pieces.  All through the New
Hebrides and the Solomons and up among the atolls on the Line, during
this period under a tropic sun, rotten with malaria, and suffering from a
few minor afflictions such as Biblical leprosy with the silvery skin, I
did the work of five men.

To navigate a vessel through the reefs and shoals and passages and
unlighted coasts of the coral seas is a man's work in itself.  I was the
only navigator on board.  There was no one to check me up on the working
out of my observations, nor with whom I could advise in the ticklish
darkness among uncharted reefs and shoals.  And I stood all watches.
There was no sea-man on board whom I could trust to stand a mate's watch.
I was mate as well as captain.  Twenty-four hours a day were the watches
I stood at sea, catching cat-naps when I might.  Third, I was doctor.
And let me say right here that the doctor's job on the Snark at that time
was a man's job.  All on board suffered from malaria--the real, tropical
malaria that can kill in three months.  All on board suffered from
perforating ulcers and from the maddening itch of ngari-ngari.  A
Japanese cook went insane from his too numerous afflictions.  One of my
Polynesian sailors lay at death's door with blackwater fever.  Oh, yes,
it was a full man's job, and I dosed and doctored, and pulled teeth, and
dragged my patients through mild little things like ptomaine poisoning.

Fourth, I was a writer.  I sweated out my thousand words a day, every
day, except when the shock of fever smote me, or a couple of nasty
squalls smote the Snark, in the morning.  Fifth, I was a traveller and a
writer, eager to see things and to gather material into my note-books.
And, sixth, I was master and owner of the craft that was visiting strange
places where visitors are rare and where visitors are made much of.  So
here I had to hold up the social end, entertain on board, be entertained
ashore by planters, traders, governors, captains of war vessels,
kinky-headed cannibal kings, and prime ministers sometimes fortunate
enough to be clad in cotton shifts.

Of course I drank.  I drank with my guests and hosts.  Also, I drank by
myself.  Doing the work of five men, I thought, entitled me to drink.
Alcohol was good for a man who over-worked.  I noted its effect on my
small crew, when, breaking their backs and hearts at heaving up anchor in
forty fathoms, they knocked off gasping and trembling at the end of half
an hour and had new life put into them by stiff jolts of rum.  They
caught their breaths, wiped their mouths, and went to it again with a
will.  And when we careened the Snark and had to work in the water to our
necks between shocks of fever, I noted how raw trade rum helped the work

And here again we come to another side of many-sided John Barleycorn.  On
the face of it, he gives something for nothing.  Where no strength
remains he finds new strength.  The wearied one rises to greater effort.
For the time being there is an actual accession of strength.  I remember
passing coal on an ocean steamer through eight days of hell, during which
time we coal-passers were kept to the job by being fed with whisky.  We
toiled half drunk all the time.  And without the whisky we could not have
passed the coal.

This strength John Barleycorn gives is not fictitious strength.  It is
real strength.  But it is manufactured out of the sources of strength,
and it must ultimately be paid for, and with interest.  But what weary
human will look so far ahead? He takes this apparently miraculous
accession of strength at its face value.  And many an overworked business
and professional man, as well as a harried common labourer, has travelled
John Barleycorn's death road because of this mistake.


I went to Australia to go into hospital and get tinkered up, after which
I planned to go on with the voyage.  And during the long weeks I lay in
hospital, from the first day I never missed alcohol.  I never thought
about it.  I knew I should have it again when I was on my feet.  But when
I regained my feet I was not cured of my major afflictions.  Naaman's
silvery skin was still mine.  The mysterious sun-sickness, which the
experts of Australia could not fathom, still ripped and tore my tissues.
Malaria still festered in me and put me on my back in shivering delirium
at the most unexpected moments, compelling me to cancel a double lecture
tour which had been arranged.

So I abandoned the Snark voyage and sought a cooler climate.  The day I
came out of hospital I took up drinking again as a matter of course.  I
drank wine at meals.  I drank cocktails before meals.  I drank Scotch
highballs when anybody I chanced to be with was drinking them.  I was so
thoroughly the master of John Barleycorn I could take up with him or let
go of him whenever I pleased, just as I had done all my life.

After a time, for cooler climate, I went down to southermost Tasmania in
forty-three South.  And I found myself in a place where there was nothing
to drink.  It didn't mean anything.  I didn't drink.  It was no hardship.
I soaked in the cool air, rode horseback, and did my thousand words a day
save when the fever shock came in the morning.

And for fear that the idea may still lurk in some minds that my preceding
years of drinking were the cause of my disabilities, I here point out
that my Japanese cabin boy, Nakata, still with me, was rotten with fever,
as was Charmian, who in addition was in the slough of a tropical
neurasthenia that required several years of temperate climates to cure,
and that neither she nor Nakata drank or ever had drunk.

When I returned to Hobart Town, where drink was obtainable, I drank as of
old.  The same when I arrived back in Australia.  On the contrary, when I
sailed from Australia on a tramp steamer commanded by an abstemious
captain, I took no drink along, and had no drink for the forty-three
days' passage.  Arrived in Ecuador, squarely under the equatorial sun,
where the humans were dying of yellow fever, smallpox, and the plague, I
promptly drank again--every drink of every sort that had a kick in it.  I
caught none of these diseases.  Neither did Charmian nor Nakata who did
not drink.

Enamoured of the tropics, despite the damage done me, I stopped in
various places, and was a long while getting back to the splendid,
temperate climate of California.  I did my thousand words a day,
travelling or stopping over, suffered my last faint fever shock, saw my
silvery skin vanish and my sun-torn tissues healthily knit again, and
drank as a broad-shouldered chesty man may drink.


Back on the ranch, in the Valley of the Moon, I resumed my steady
drinking.  My programme was no drink in the morning; first drink-time
came with the completion of my thousand words.  Then, between that and
the midday meal, were drinks numerous enough to develop a pleasant
jingle.  Again, in the hour preceding the evening meal, I developed
another pleasant jingle.  Nobody ever saw me drunk, for the simple reason
that I never was drunk.  But I did get a jingle twice each day; and the
amount of alcohol I consumed every day, if loosed in the system of one
unaccustomed to drink, would have put such a one on his back and out.

It was the old proposition.  The more I drank, the more I was compelled
to drink in order to get an effect.  The time came when cocktails were
inadequate.  I had neither the time in which to drink them nor the space
to accommodate them.  Whisky had a more powerful jolt.  It gave quicker
action with less quantity.  Bourbon or rye, or cunningly aged blends,
constituted the pre-midday drinking.  In the late afternoon it was Scotch
and soda.

My sleep, always excellent, now became not quite so excellent.  I had
been accustomed to read myself back asleep when I chanced to awake.  But
now this began to fail me.  When I had read two or three of the small
hours away and was as wide awake as ever, I found that a drink furnished
the soporific effect.  Sometimes two or three drinks were required.

So short a period of sleep then intervened before early morning rising
that my system did not have time to work off the alcohol.  As a result I
awoke with mouth parched and dry, with a slight heaviness of head, and
with a mild nervous palpitation in the stomach.  In fact I did not feel
good.  I was suffering from the morning sickness of the steady, heavy
drinker.  What I needed was a pick-me-up, a bracer.  Trust John
Barleycorn, once he has broken down a man's defences! So it was a drink
before breakfast to put me right for breakfast--the old poison of the
snake that has bitten one! Another custom begun at this time was that of
the pitcher of water by the bedside to furnish relief to my scorched and
sizzling membranes.

I achieved a condition in which my body was never free from alcohol.  Nor
did I permit myself to be away from alcohol.  If I travelled to
out-of-the-way places, I declined to run the risk of finding them dry.  I
took a quart, or several quarts, along in my grip.  In the past I had
been amazed by other men guilty of this practice.  Now I did it myself
unblushingly.  And when I got out with the fellows, I cast all rules by
the board.  I drank when they drank, what they drank, and in the same way
they drank.

I was carrying a beautiful alcoholic conflagration around with me.  The
thing fed on its own heat and flamed the fiercer.  There was no time, in
all my waking time, that I didn't want a drink.  I began to anticipate
the completion of my daily thousand words by taking a drink when only
five hundred words were written.  It was not long until I prefaced the
beginning of the thousand words with a drink.

The gravity of this I realised too well.  I made new rules.  Resolutely I
would refrain from drinking until my work was done.  But a new and most
diabolical complication arose.  The work refused to be done without
drinking.  It just couldn't be done.  I had to drink in order to do it.
I was beginning to fight now.  I had the craving at last, and it was
mastering me.  I would sit at my desk and dally with pad and pen, but
words refused to flow.  My brain could not think the proper thoughts
because continually it was obsessed with the one thought that across the
room in the liquor cabinet stood John Barleycorn.  When, in despair, I
took my drink, at once my brain loosened up and began to roll off the
thousand words.

In my town house, in Oakland, I finished the stock of liquor and wilfully
refused to purchase more.  It was no use, because, unfortunately, there
remained in the bottom of the liquor cabinet a case of beer.  In vain I
tried to write.  Now beer is a poor substitute for strong waters:
besides, I didn't like beer, yet all I could think of was that beer so
singularly accessible in the bottom of the cabinet.  Not until I had
drunk a pint of it did the words begin to reel off, and the thousand were
reeled off to the tune of numerous pints.  The worst of it was that the
beer caused me severe heart-burn; but despite the discomfort I soon
finished off the case.

The liquor cabinet was now bare.  I did not replenish it.  By truly
heroic perseverance I finally forced myself to write the daily thousand
words without the spur of John Barleycorn.  But all the time I wrote I
was keenly aware of the craving for a drink.  And as soon as the
morning's work was done, I was out of the house and away down-town to get
my first drink.  Merciful goodness!--if John Barleycorn could get such
sway over me, a non-alcoholic, what must be the sufferings of the true
alcoholic, battling against the organic demands of his chemistry while
those closest to him sympathise little, understand less, and despise and
deride him!


But the freight has to be paid.  John Barleycorn began to collect, and he
collected not so much from the body as from the mind.  The old long
sickness, which had been purely an intellectual sickness, recrudesced.
The old ghosts, long laid, lifted their heads again.  But they were
different and more deadly ghosts.  The old ghosts, intellectual in their
inception, had been laid by a sane and normal logic.  But now they were
raised by the White Logic of John Barleycorn, and John Barleycorn never
lays the ghosts of his raising.  For this sickness of pessimism, caused
by drink, one must drink further in quest of the anodyne that John
Barleycorn promises but never delivers.

How to describe this White Logic to those who have never experienced it!
It is perhaps better first to state how impossible such a description is.
Take Hasheesh Land, for instance, the land of enormous extensions of time
and space.  In past years I have made two memorable journeys into that
far land.  My adventures there are seared in sharpest detail on my brain.
Yet I have tried vainly, with endless words, to describe any tiny
particular phase to persons who have not travelled there.

I use all the hyperbole of metaphor, and tell what centuries of time and
profounds of unthinkable agony and horror can obtain in each interval of
all the intervals between the notes of a quick jig played quickly on the
piano.  I talk for an hour, elaborating that one phase of Hasheesh Land,
and at the end I have told them nothing.  And when I cannot tell them
this one thing of all the vastness of terrible and wonderful things, I
know I have failed to give them the slightest concept of Hasheesh Land.

But let me talk with some other traveller in that weird region, and at
once am I understood.  A phrase, a word, conveys instantly to his mind
what hours of words and phrases could not convey to the mind of the
non-traveller.  So it is with John Barleycorn's realm where the White
Logic reigns.  To those untravelled there, the traveller's account must
always seem unintelligible and fantastic.  At the best, I may only beg of
the untravelled ones to strive to take on faith the narrative I shall

For there are fatal intuitions of truth that reside in alcohol.  Philip
sober vouches for Philip drunk in this matter.  There seem to be various
orders of truth in this world.  Some sorts of truth are truer than
others.  Some sorts of truth are lies, and these sorts are the very ones
that have the greatest use-value to life that desires to realise and
live.  At once, O untravelled reader, you see how lunatic and blasphemous
is the realm I am trying to describe to you in the language of John
Barleycorn's tribe.  It is not the language of your tribe, all of whose
members resolutely shun the roads that lead to death and tread only the
roads that lead to life.  For there are roads and roads, and of truth
there are orders and orders.  But have patience.  At least, through what
seems no more than verbal yammerings, you may, perchance, glimpse faint
far vistas of other lands and tribes.

Alcohol tells truth, but its truth is not normal.  What is normal is
healthful.  What is healthful tends toward life.  Normal truth is a
different order, and a lesser order, of truth.  Take a dray horse.
Through all the vicissitudes of its life, from first to last, somehow, in
unguessably dim ways, it must believe that life is good; that the
drudgery in harness is good; that death, no matter how
blind-instinctively apprehended, is a dread giant; that life is
beneficent and worth while; that, in the end, with fading life, it will
not be knocked about and beaten and urged beyond its sprained and
spavined best; that old age, even, is decent, dignified, and valuable,
though old age means a ribby scare-crow in a hawker's cart, stumbling a
step to every blow, stumbling dizzily on through merciless servitude and
slow disintegration to the end--the end, the apportionment of its parts
(of its subtle flesh, its pink and springy bone, its juices and ferments,
and all the sensateness that informed it) to the chicken farm, the
hide-house, the glue-rendering works, and the bone-meal fertiliser
factory.  To the last stumble of its stumbling end this dray horse must
abide by the mandates of the lesser truth that is the truth of life and
that makes life possible to persist.

This dray horse, like all other horses, like all other animals, including
man, is life-blinded and sense-struck.  It will live, no matter what the
price.  The game of life is good, though all of life may be hurt, and
though all lives lose the game in the end.  This is the order of truth
that obtains, not for the universe, but for the live things in it if they
for a little space will endure ere they pass.  This order of truth, no
matter how erroneous it may be, is the sane and normal order of truth,
the rational order &f truth that life must believe in order to live.

To man, alone among the animals, has been given the awful privilege of
reason.  Man, with his brain, can penetrate the intoxicating show of
things and look upon the universe brazen with indifference toward him and
his dreams.  He can do this, but it is not well for him to do it.  To
live, and live abundantly, to sting with life, to be alive (which is to
be what he is), it is good that man be life-blinded and sense-struck.
What is good is true.  And this is the order of truth, lesser though it
be, that man must know and guide his actions by with unswerving certitude
that it is absolute truth and that in the universe no other order of
truth can obtain.  It is good that man should accept at face value the
cheats of sense and snares of flesh and through the fogs of sentiency
pursue the lures and lies of passion.  It is good that he shall see
neither shadows nor futilities, nor be appalled by his lusts and

And man does this.  Countless men have glimpsed that other and truer
order of truth and recoiled from it.  Countless men have passed through
the long sickness and lived to tell of it and deliberately to forget it
to the end of their days.  They lived.  They realised life, for life is
what they were.  They did right.

And now comes John Barleycorn with the curse he lays upon the imaginative
man who is lusty with life and desire to live.  John Barleycorn sends his
White Logic, the argent messenger of truth beyond truth, the antithesis
of life, cruel and bleak as interstellar space, pulseless and frozen as
absolute zero, dazzling with the frost of irrefragable logic and
unforgettable fact.  John Barleycorn will not let the dreamer dream, the
liver live.  He destroys birth and death, and dissipates to mist the
paradox of being, until his victim cries out, as in "The City of Dreadful
Night": "Our life's a cheat, our death a black abyss." And the feet of
the victim of such dreadful intimacy take hold of the way of death.


Back to personal experiences and the effects in the past of John
Barleycorn's White Logic on me.  On my lovely ranch in the Valley of the
Moon, brain-soaked with many months of alcohol, I am oppressed by the
cosmic sadness that has always been the heritage of man.  In vain do I
ask myself why I should be sad.  My nights are warm.  My roof does not
leak.  I have food galore for all the caprices of appetite.  Every
creature comfort is mine.  In my body are no aches nor pains.  The good
old flesh-machine is running smoothly on.  Neither brain nor muscle is
overworked.  I have land, money, power, recognition from the world, a
consciousness that I do my meed of good in serving others, a mate whom I
love, children that are of my own fond flesh.  I have done, and am doing,
what a good citizen of the world should do.  I have built houses, many
houses, and tilled many a hundred acres.  And as for trees, have I not
planted a hundred thousand? Everywhere, from any window of my house, I
can gaze forth upon these trees of my planting, standing valiantly erect
and aspiring toward the sun.

My life has indeed fallen in pleasant places.  Not a hundred men in a
million have been so lucky as I.  Yet, with all this vast good fortune,
am I sad.  And I am sad because John Barleycorn is with me.  And John
Barleycorn is with me because I was born in what future ages will call
the dark ages before the ages of rational civilisation.  John Barleycorn
is with me because in all the unwitting days of my youth John Barleycorn
was accessible, calling to me and inviting me on every corner and on
every street between the corners.  The pseudo-civilisation into which I
was born permitted everywhere licensed shops for the sale of soul-poison.
The system of life was so organised that I (and millions like me) was
lured and drawn and driven to the poison shops.

Wander with me through one mood of the myriad moods of sadness into which
one is plunged by John Barleycorn.  I ride out over my beautiful ranch.
Between my legs is a beautiful horse.  The air is wine.  The grapes on a
score of rolling hills are red with autumn flame.  Across Sonoma Mountain
wisps of sea fog are stealing.  The afternoon sun smoulders in the drowsy
sky.  I have everything to make me glad I am alive.  I am filled with
dreams and mysteries.  I am all sun and air and sparkle.  I am vitalised,
organic.  I move, I have the power of movement, I command movement of the
live thing I bestride.  I am possessed with the pomps of being, and know
proud passions and inspirations.  I have ten thousand august
connotations.  I am a king in the kingdom of sense, and trample the face
of the uncomplaining dust....

And yet, with jaundiced eye I gaze upon all the beauty and wonder about
me, and with jaundiced brain consider the pitiful figure I cut in this
world that endured so long without me and that will again endure without
me.  I remember the men who broke their hearts and their backs over this
stubborn soil that now belongs to me.  As if anything imperishable could
belong to the perishable!  These men passed.  I, too, shall pass.  These
men toiled, and cleared, and planted, gazed with aching eyes, while they
rested their labour-stiffened bodies on these same sunrises and sunsets,
at the autumn glory of the grape, and at the fog-wisps stealing across
the mountain.  And they are gone.  And I know that I, too, shall some
day, and soon, be gone.

Gone? I am going now.  In my jaw are cunning artifices of the dentists
which replace the parts of me already gone.  Never again will I have the
thumbs of my youth.  Old fights and wrestlings have injured them
irreparably.  That punch on the head of a man whose very name is
forgotten settled this thumb finally and for ever.  A slip-grip at
catch-as-catch-can did for the other.  My lean runner's stomach has
passed into the limbo of memory.  The joints of the legs that bear me up
are not so adequate as they once were, when, in wild nights and days of
toil and frolic, I strained and snapped and ruptured them.  Never again
can I swing dizzily aloft and trust all the proud quick that is I to a
single rope-clutch in the driving blackness of storm.  Never again can I
run with the sled-dogs along the endless miles of Arctic trail.

I am aware that within this disintegrating body which has been dying
since I was born I carry a skeleton, that under the rind of flesh which
is called my face is a bony, noseless death's head.  All of which does
not shudder me.  To be afraid is to be healthy.  Fear of death makes for
life.  But the curse of the White Logic is that it does not make one
afraid.  The world-sickness of the White Logic makes one grin jocosely
into the face of the Noseless One and to sneer at all the phantasmagoria
of living.

I look about me as I ride and on every hand I see the merciless and
infinite waste of natural selection.  The White Logic insists upon
opening the long-closed books, and by paragraph and chapter states the
beauty and wonder I behold in terms of futility and dust.  About me is
murmur and hum, and I know it for the gnat-swarm of the living, piping
for a little space its thin plaint of troubled air.

I return across the ranch.  Twilight is on, and the hunting animals are
out.  I watch the piteous tragic play of life feeding on life.  Here is
no morality.  Only in man is morality, and man created it--a code of
action that makes toward living and that is of the lesser order of truth.
Yet all this I knew before, in the weary days of my long sickness.  These
were the greater truths that I so successfully schooled myself to forget;
the truths that were so serious that I refused to take them seriously,
and played with gently, oh! so gently, as sleeping dogs at the back of
consciousness which I did not care to waken.  I did but stir them, and
let them lie.  I was too wise, too wicked wise, to wake them.  But now
White Logic willy-nilly wakes them for me, for White Logic, most valiant,
is unafraid of all the monsters of the earthly dream.

"Let the doctors of all the schools condemn me," White Logic whispers as
I ride along.  "What of it? I am truth.  You know it.  You cannot combat
me.  They say I make for death.  What of it? It is truth.  Life lies in
order to live.  Life is a perpetual lie-telling process.  Life is a mad
dance in the domain of flux, wherein appearances in mighty tides ebb and
flow, chained to the wheels of moons beyond our ken.  Appearances are
ghosts.  Life is ghost land, where appearances change, transfuse,
permeate each the other and all the others, that are, that are not, that
always flicker, fade, and pass, only to come again as new appearances, as
other appearances.  You are such an appearance, composed of countless
appearances out of the past.  All an appearance can know is mirage.  You
know mirages of desire.  These very mirages are the unthinkable and
incalculable congeries of appearances that crowd in upon you and form you
out of the past, and that sweep you on into dissemination into other
unthinkable and incalculable congeries of appearances to people the ghost
land of the future.  Life is apparitional, and passes.  You are an
apparition.  Through all the apparitions that preceded you and that
compose the parts of you, you rose gibbering from the evolutionary mire,
and gibbering you will pass on, interfusing, permeating the procession of
apparitions that will succeed you."

And of course it is all unanswerable, and as I ride along through the
evening shadows I sneer at that Great Fetish which Comte called the
world.  And I remember what another pessimist of sentiency has uttered:
"Transient are all.  They, being born, must die, and, being dead, are
glad to be at rest."

But here through the dusk comes one who is not glad to be at rest.  He is
a workman on the ranch, an old man, an immigrant Italian.  He takes his
hat off to me in all servility, because, forsooth, I am to him a lord of
life.  I am food to him, and shelter, and existence.  He has toiled like
a beast all his days, and lived less comfortably than my horses in their
deep-strawed stalls.  He is labour-crippled.  He shambles as he walks.
One shoulder is twisted higher than the other.  His hands are gnarled
claws, repulsive, horrible.  As an apparition he is a pretty miserable
specimen.  His brain is as stupid as his body is ugly.

"His brain is so stupid that he does not know he is an apparition," the
White Logic chuckles to me.  "He is sense-drunk.  He is the slave of the
dream of life.  His brain is filled with superrational sanctions and
obsessions.  He believes in a transcendent over-world.  He has listened
to the vagaries of the prophets, who have given to him the sumptuous
bubble of Paradise.  He feels inarticulate self-affinities, with
self-conjured non-realities.  He sees penumbral visions of himself
titubating fantastically through days and nights of space and stars.
Beyond the shadow of any doubt he is convinced that the universe was made
for him, and that it is his destiny to live for ever in the immaterial
and supersensuous realms he and his kind have builded of the stuff of
semblance and deception.

"But you, who have opened the books and who share my awful
confidence--you know him for what he is, brother to you and the dust, a
cosmic joke, a sport of chemistry, a garmented beast that arose out of
the ruck of screaming beastliness by virtue and accident of two opposable
great toes.  He is brother as well to the gorilla and the chimpanzee.  He
thumps his chest in anger, and roars and quivers with cataleptic
ferocity.  He knows monstrous, atavistic promptings, and he is composed
of all manner of shreds of abysmal and forgotten instincts."

"Yet he dreams he is immortal," I argue feebly.  "It is vastly wonderful
for so stupid a clod to bestride the shoulders of time and ride the

"Pah!" is the retort.  "Would you then shut the books and exchange places
with this thing that is only an appetite and a desire, a marionette of
the belly and the loins?"

"To be stupid is to be happy," I contend.

"Then your ideal of happiness is a jelly-like organism floating in a
tideless, tepid twilight sea, eh?"

Oh, the victim cannot combat John Barleycorn!

"One step removed from the annihilating bliss of Buddha's Nirvana," the
White Logic adds.  "Oh well, here's the house.  Cheer up and take a
drink.  We know, we illuminated, you and I, all the folly and the farce."

And in my book-walled den, the mausoleum of the thoughts of men, I take
my drink, and other drinks, and roust out the sleeping dogs from the
recesses of my brain and hallo them on over the walls of prejudice and
law and through all the cunning labyrinths of superstition and belief.

"Drink," says the White Logic.  "The Greeks believed that the gods gave
them wine so that they might forget the miserableness of existence.  And
remember what Heine said."

Well do I remember that flaming Jew's "With the last breath all is done:
joy, love, sorrow, macaroni, the theatre, lime-trees, raspberry drops,
the power of human relations, gossip, the barking of dogs, champagne."

"Your clear white light is sickness," I tell the White Logic.  "You lie."

"By telling too strong a truth," he quips back.

"Alas, yes, so topsy-turvy is existence," I acknowledge sadly.

"Ah, well, Liu Ling was wiser than you," the White Logic girds.  "You
remember him?"

I nod my head--Liu Ling, a hard drinker, one of the group of bibulous
poets who called themselves the Seven Sages of the Bamboo Grove and who
lived in China many an ancient century ago.

"It was Liu Ling," prompts the White Logic, "who declared that to a
drunken man the affairs of this world appear but as so much duckweed on a
river.  Very well.  Have another Scotch, and let semblance and deception
become duck-weed on a river."

And while I pour and sip my Scotch, I remember another Chinese
philosopher, Chuang Tzu, who, four centuries before Christ, challenged
this dreamland of the world, saying: "How then do I know but that the
dead repent of having previously clung to life?  Those who dream of the
banquet, wake to lamentation and sorrow.  Those who dream of lamentation
and sorrow, wake to join the hunt.  While they dream, they do not know
that they dream.  Some will even interpret the very dream they are
dreaming; and only when they awake do they know it was a dream....  Fools
think they are awake now, and flatter themselves they know if they are
really princes or peasants.  Confucius and you are both dreams; and I who
say you are dreams--I am but a dream myself.

"Once upon a time, I, Chuang Tzu, dreamt I was a butterfly, fluttering
hither and thither, to all intents and purposes a butterfly.  I was
conscious only of following my fancies as a butterfly, and was
unconscious of my individuality as a man.  Suddenly, I awaked, and there
I lay, myself again.  Now I do not know whether I was then a man dreaming
I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly dreaming I am a man."


"Come," says the White Logic, "and forget these Asian dreamers of old
time.  Fill your glass and let us look at the parchments of the dreamers
of yesterday who dreamed their dreams on your own warm hills."

I pore over the abstract of title of the vineyard called Tokay on the
rancho called Petaluma.  It is a sad long list of the names of men,
beginning with Manuel Micheltoreno, one time Mexican "Governor,
Commander-in-Chief, and Inspector of the Department of the Californias,"
who deeded ten square leagues of stolen Indian land to Colonel Don
Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo for services rendered his country and for
moneys paid by him for ten years to his soldiers.

Immediately this musty record of man's land lust assumes the
formidableness of a battle--the quick struggling with the dust.  There
are deeds of trust, mortgages, certificates of release, transfers,
judgments, foreclosures, writs of attachment, orders of sale, tax liens,
petitions for letters of administration, and decrees of distribution.  It
is like a monster ever unsubdued, this stubborn land that drowses in this
Indian summer weather and that survives them all, the men who scratched
its surface and passed.

Who was this James King of William, so curiously named? The oldest
surviving settler in the Valley of the Moon knows him not.  Yet only
sixty years ago he loaned Mariano G. Vallejo eighteen thousand dollars on
security of certain lands including the vineyard yet to be and to be
called Tokay.  Whence came Peter O'Connor, and whither vanished, after
writing his little name of a day on the woodland that was to become a
vineyard? Appears Louis Csomortanyi, a name to conjure with.  He lasts
through several pages of this record of the enduring soil.

Comes old American stock, thirsting across the Great American Desert,
mule-backing across the Isthmus, wind-jamming around the Horn, to write
brief and forgotten names where ten thousand generations of wild Indians
are equally forgotten--names like Halleck, Hastings, Swett, Tait, Denman,
Tracy, Grimwood, Carlton, Temple.  There are no names like those to-day
in the Valley of the Moon.

The names begin to appear fast and furiously, flashing from legal page to
legal page and in a flash vanishing.  But ever the persistent soil
remains for others to scrawl themselves across.  Come the names of men of
whom I have vaguely heard but whom I have never known.  Kohler and
Frohling--who built the great stone winery on the vineyard called Tokay,
but who built upon a hill up which other vineyardists refused to haul
their grapes.  So Kohler and Frohling lost the land; the earthquake of
1906 threw down the winery; and I now live in its ruins.

La Motte--he broke the soil, planted vines and orchards, instituted
commercial fish culture, built a mansion renowned in its day, was
defeated by the soil, and passed.  And my name of a day appears.  On the
site of his orchards and vine-yards, of his proud mansion, of his very
fish ponds, I have scrawled myself with half a hundred thousand
eucalyptus trees.

Cooper and Greenlaw--on what is called the Hill Ranch they left two of
their dead, "Little Lillie" and "Little David," who rest to-day inside a
tiny square of hand-hewn palings.  Also, Gooper and Greenlaw in their
time cleared the virgin forest from three fields of forty acres.  To-day
I have those three fields sown with Canada peas, and in the spring they
shall be ploughed under for green manure.

Haska--a dim legendary figure of a generation ago, who went back up the
mountain and cleared six acres of brush in the tiny valley that took his
name.  He broke the soil, reared stone walls and a house, and planted
apple trees.  And already the site of the house is undiscoverable, the
location of the stone walls may be deduced from the configuration of the
landscape, and I am renewing the battle, putting in angora goats to
browse away the brush that has overrun Haska's clearing and choked
Haska's apple trees to death.  So I, too, scratch the land with my brief
endeavour and flash my name across a page of legal script ere I pass and
the page grows musty.

"Dreamers and ghosts," the White Logic chuckles.

"But surely the striving was not altogether vain," I contend.

"It was based on illusion and is a lie."

"A vital lie," I retort.

"And pray what is a vital lie but a lie?" the White Logic challenges.
"Come.  Fill your glass and let us examine these vital liars who crowd
your bookshelves.  Let us dabble in William James a bit."

"A man of health," I say.  "From him we may expect no philosopher's
stone, but at least we will find a few robust tonic things to which to

"Rationality gelded to sentiment," the White Logic grins.  "At the end of
all his thinking he still clung to the sentiment of immortality.  Facts
transmuted in the alembic of hope into terms of faith.  The ripest fruit
of reason the stultification of reason.  From the topmost peak of reason
James teaches to cease reasoning and to have faith that all is well and
will be well--the old, oh, ancient old, acrobatic flip of the
metaphysicians whereby they reasoned reason quite away in order to escape
the pessimism consequent upon the grim and honest exercise of reason.

"Is this flesh of yours you? Or is it an extraneous something possessed
by you? Your body--what is it? A machine for converting stimuli into
reactions.  Stimuli and reactions are remembered.  They constitute
experience.  Then you are in your consciousness these experiences.  You
are at any moment what you are thinking at that moment.  Your I is both
subject and object; it predicates things of itself and is the things
predicated.  The thinker is the thought, the knower is what is known, the
possessor is the things possessed.

"After all, as you know well, man is a flux of states of consciousness, a
flow of passing thoughts, each thought of self another self, a myriad
thoughts, a myriad selves, a continual becoming but never being, a
will-of-the-wisp flitting of ghosts in ghostland.  But this, man will not
accept of himself.  He refuses to accept his own passing.  He will not
pass.  He will live again if he has to die to do it.

"He shuffles atoms and jets of light, remotest nebulae, drips of water,
prick-points of sensation, slime-oozings and cosmic bulks, all mixed with
pearls of faith, love of woman, imagined dignities, frightened surmises,
and pompous arrogances, and of the stuff builds himself an immortality to
startle the heavens and baffle the immensities.  He squirms on his
dunghill, and like a child lost in the dark among goblins, calls to the
gods that he is their younger brother, a prisoner of the quick that is
destined to be as free as they--monuments of egotism reared by the
epiphenomena; dreams and the dust of dreams, that vanish when the dreamer
vanishes and are no more when he is not.

"It is nothing new, these vital lies men tell themselves, muttering and
mumbling them like charms and incantations against the powers of Night.
The voodoos and medicine men and the devil-devil doctors were the fathers
of metaphysics.  Night and the Noseless One were ogres that beset the way
of light and life.  And the metaphysicians would win by if they had to
tell lies to do it.  They were vexed by the brazen law of the Ecclesiast
that men die like the beasts of the field and their end is the same.
Their creeds were their schemes, their religions their nostrums, their
philosophies their devices, by which they half-believed they would outwit
the Noseless One and the Night.

"Bog-lights, vapours of mysticism, psychic overtones, soul orgies,
wailings among the shadows, weird gnosticisms, veils and tissues of
words, gibbering subjectivisms, gropings and maunderings, ontological
fantasies, pan-psychic hallucinations--this is the stuff, the phantasms
of hope, that fills your bookshelves.  Look at them, all the sad wraiths
of sad mad men and passionate rebels--your Schopenhauers, your
Strindbergs, your Tolstois and Nietzsches.

"Come.  Your glass is empty.  Fill and forget."

I obey, for my brain is now well a-crawl with the maggots of alcohol, and
as I drink to the sad thinkers on my shelves I quote Richard Hovey:

   "Abstain not! Life and Love like night and day
    Offer themselves to us on their own terms,
    Not ours.  Accept their bounty while ye may,
    Before we be accepted by the worms,"

"I will cap you," cries the White Logic.

"No," I answer, while the maggots madden me.  "I know you for what you
are, and I am unafraid.  Under your mask of hedonism you are yourself the
Noseless One and your way leads to the Night.  Hedonism has no meaning.
It, too, is a lie, at best the coward's smug compromise."

"Now will I cap you!" the White Logic breaks in.

   "But if you would not this poor life fulfil,
    Lo, you are free to end it when you will,
    Without the fear of waking after death."

And I laugh my defiance; for now, and for the moment, I know the White
Logic to be the arch-impostor of them all, whispering his whispers of
death.  And he is guilty of his own unmasking, with his own genial
chemistry turning the tables on himself, with his own maggots biting
alive the old illusions, resurrecting and making to sound again the old
voice from beyond of my youth, telling me again that still are mine the
possibilities and powers which life and the books had taught me did not

And the dinner gong sounds to the reversed bottom of my glass.  Jeering
at the White Logic, I go out to join my guests at table, and with assumed
seriousness to discuss the current magazines and the silly doings of the
world's day, whipping every trick and ruse of controversy through all the
paces of paradox and persiflage.  And, when the whim changes, it is most
easy and delightfully disconcerting to play with the respectable and
cowardly bourgeois fetishes and to laugh and epigram at the flitting
god-ghosts and the debaucheries and follies of wisdom.

The clown's the thing! The clown! If one must be a philosopher, let him
be Aristophanes.  And no one at the table thinks I am jingled.  I am in
fine fettle, that is all.  I tire of the labour of thinking, and, when
the table is finished, start practical jokes and set all playing at
games, which we carry on with bucolic boisterousness.

And when the evening is over and good-night said, I go back through my
book-walled den to my sleeping porch and to myself and to the White Logic
which, undefeated, has never left me.  And as I fall to fuddled sleep I
hear youth crying, as Harry Kemp heard it:

   "I heard Youth calling in the night:
    'Gone is my former world-delight;
    For there is naught my feet may stay;
    The morn suffuses into day,
    It dare not stand a moment still
    But must the world with light fulfil.
    More evanescent than the rose
    My sudden rainbow comes and goes,
    Plunging bright ends across the sky--
    Yea, I am Youth because I die!'"


The foregoing is a sample roaming with the White Logic through the dusk
of my soul.

To the best of my power I have striven to give the reader a glimpse of a
man's secret dwelling when it is shared with John Barleycorn.  And the
reader must remember that this mood, which he has read in a quarter of an
hour, is but one mood of the myriad moods of John Barleycorn, and that
the procession of such moods may well last the clock around through many
a day and week and month.

My alcoholic reminiscences draw to a close.  I can say, as any strong,
chesty drinker can say, that all that leaves me alive to-day on the
planet is my unmerited luck--the luck of chest, and shoulders, and
constitution.  I dare to say that a not large percentage of youths, in
the formative stage of fifteen to seventeen, could have survived the
stress of heavy drinking that I survived between my fifteenth and
seventeenth years; that a not large percentage of men could have punished
the alcohol I have punished in my manhood years and lived to tell the
tale.  I survived, through no personal virtue, but because I did not have
the chemistry of a dipsomaniac and because I possessed an organism
unusually resistant to the ravages of John Barleycorn.  And, surviving, I
have watched the others die, not so lucky, down all the long sad road.

It was my unmitigated and absolute good fortune, good luck, chance, call
it what you will, that brought me through the fires of John Barleycorn.
My life, my career, my joy in living, have not been destroyed.  They have
been scorched, it is true; like the survivors of forlorn hopes, they have
by unthinkably miraculous ways come through the fight to marvel at the
tally of the slain.

And like such a survivor of old red war who cries out, "Let there be no
more war!" so I cry out, "Let there be no more poison-fighting by our
youths!"  The way to stop war is to stop it.  The way to stop drinking is
to stop it.  The way China stopped the general use of opium was by
stopping the cultivation and importation of opium.  The philosophers,
priests, and doctors of China could have preached themselves breathless
against opium for a thousand years, and the use of opium, so long as
opium was ever accessible and obtainable, would have continued unabated.
We are so made, that is all.

We have with great success made a practice of not leaving arsenic and
strychnine, and typhoid and tuberculosis germs lying around for our
children to be destroyed by.  Treat John Barleycorn the same way.  Stop
him.  Don't let him lie around, licensed and legal, to pounce upon our
youth.  Not of alcoholics nor for alcoholics do I write, but for our
youths, for those who possess no more than the adventure-stings and the
genial predispositions, the social man-impulses, which are twisted all
awry by our barbarian civilisation which feeds them poison on all the
corners.  It is the healthy, normal boys, now born or being born, for
whom I write.

It was for this reason, more than any other, and more ardently than any
other, that I rode down into the Valley of the Moon, all a-jingle, and
voted for equal suffrage.  I voted that women might vote, because I knew
that they, the wives and mothers of the race, would vote John Barleycorn
out of existence and back into the historical limbo of our vanished
customs of savagery.  If I thus seem to cry out as one hurt, please
remember that I have been sorely bruised and that I do dislike the
thought that any son or daughter of mine or yours should be similarly

The women are the true conservators of the race.  The men are the
wastrels, the adventure-lovers and gamblers, and in the end it is by
their women that they are saved.  About man's first experiment in
chemistry was the making of alcohol, and down all the generations to this
day man has continued to manufacture and drink it.  And there has never
been a day when the women have not resented man's use of alcohol, though
they have never had the power to give weight to their resentment.  The
moment women get the vote in any community, the first thing they proceed
to do is to close the saloons.  In a thousand generations to come men of
themselves will not close the saloons.  As well expect the morphine
victims to legislate the sale of morphine out of existence.

The women know.  They have paid an incalculable price of sweat and tears
for man's use of alcohol.  Ever jealous for the race, they will legislate
for the babes of boys yet to be born; and for the babes of girls, too,
for they must be the mothers, wives, and sisters of these boys.

And it will be easy.  The only ones that will be hurt will be the topers
and seasoned drinkers of a single generation.  I am one of these, and I
make solemn assurance, based upon long traffic with John Barleycorn, that
it won't hurt me very much to stop drinking when no one else drinks and
when no drink is obtainable.  On the other hand, the overwhelming
proportion of young men are so normally non-alcoholic, that, never having
had access to alcohol, they will never miss it.  They will know of the
saloon only in the pages of history, and they will think of the saloon as
a quaint old custom similar to bull-baiting and the burning of witches.


Of course, no personal tale is complete without bringing the narrative of
the person down to the last moment.  But mine is no tale of a reformed
drunkard.  I was never a drunkard, and I have not reformed.

It chanced, some time ago, that I made a voyage of one hundred and
forty-eight days in a windjammer around the Horn.  I took no private
supply of alcohol along, and, though there was no day of those one
hundred and forty-eight days that I could not have got a drink from the
captain, I did not take a drink.  I did not take a drink because I did
not desire a drink.  No one else drank on board.  The atmosphere for
drinking was not present, and in my system there was no organic need for
alcohol.  My chemistry did not demand alcohol.

So there arose before me a problem, a clear and simple problem: THIS IS
problem carefully.  I weighed it for five months, in a state of absolute
non-contact with alcohol.  And out of the data of past experience, I
reached certain conclusions.

In the first place, I am convinced that not one man in ten thousand or in
a hundred thousand is a genuine, chemical dipsomaniac.  Drinking, as I
deem it, is practically entirely a habit of mind.  It is unlike tobacco,
or cocaine, or morphine, or all the rest of the long list of drugs.  The
desire for alcohol is quite peculiarly mental in its origin.  It is a
matter of mental training and growth, and it is cultivated in social
soil.  Not one drinker in a million began drinking alone.  All drinkers
begin socially, and this drinking is accompanied by a thousand social
connotations such as I have described out of my own experience in the
first part of this narrative.  These social connotations are the stuff of
which the drink habit is largely composed.  The part that alcohol itself
plays is inconsiderable when compared with the part played by the social
atmosphere in which it is drunk.  The human is rarely born these days,
who, without long training in the social associations of drinking, feels
the irresistible chemical propulsion of his system toward alcohol.  I do
assume that such rare individuals are born, but I have never encountered

On this long, five-months' voyage, I found that among all my bodily needs
not the slightest shred of a bodily need for alcohol existed.  But this I
did find: my need was mental and social.  When I thought of alcohol, the
connotation was fellowship.  When I thought of fellowship, the
connotation was alcohol.  Fellowship and alcohol were Siamese twins.
They always occurred linked together.

Thus, when reading in my deck chair or when talking with others,
practically any mention of any part of the world I knew instantly aroused
the connotation of drinking and good fellows.  Big nights and days and
moments, all purple passages and freedoms, thronged my memory.  "Venice"
stares at me from the printed page, and I remember the cafe tables on the
sidewalks.  "The Battle of Santiago," some one says, and I answer, "Yes,
I've been over the ground." But I do not see the ground, nor Kettle Hill,
nor the Peace Tree.  What I see is the Cafe Venus, on the plaza of
Santiago, where one hot night I drank and talked with a dying consumptive.

The East End of London, I read, or some one says; and first of all, under
my eyelids, leap the visions of the shining pubs, and in my ears echo the
calls for "two of bitter" and "three of Scotch." The Latin Quarter--at
once I am in the student cabarets, bright faces and keen spirits around
me, sipping cool, well-dripped absinthe while our voices mount and soar
in Latin fashion as we settle God and art and democracy and the rest of
the simple problems of existence.

In a pampero off the River Plate we speculate, if we are disabled, of
running in to Buenos Ayres, the "Paris of America," and I have visions of
bright congregating places of men, of the jollity of raised glasses, and
of song and cheer and the hum of genial voices.  When we have picked up
the North-east Trades in the Pacific we try to persuade our dying captain
to run for Honolulu, and while I persuade I see myself again drinking
cocktails on the cool lanais and fizzes out at Waikiki where the surf
rolls in.  Some one mentions the way wild ducks are cooked in the
restaurants of San Francisco, and at once I am transported to the light
and clatter of many tables, where I gaze at old friends across the golden
brims of long-stemmed Rhine-wine glasses.

And so I pondered my problem.  I should not care to revisit all these
fair places of the world except in the fashion I visited them before.
GLASS IN HAND!  There is a magic in the phrase.  It means more than all
the words in the dictionary can be made to mean.  It is a habit of mind
to which I have been trained all my life.  It is now part of the stuff
that composes me.  I like the bubbling play of wit, the chesty laughs,
the resonant voices of men, when, glass in hand, they shut the grey world
outside and prod their brains with the fun and folly of an accelerated

No, I decided; I shall take my drink on occasion.  With all the books on
my shelves, with all the thoughts of the thinkers shaded by my particular
temperament, I decided coolly and deliberately that I should continue to
do what I had been trained to want to do.  I would drink--but oh, more
skilfully, more discreetly, than ever before.  Never again would I be a
peripatetic conflagration.  Never again would I invoke the White Logic.
I had learned how not to invoke him.

The White Logic now lies decently buried alongside the Long Sickness.
Neither will afflict me again.  It is many a year since I laid the Long
Sickness away; his sleep is sound.  And just as sound is the sleep of the
White Logic.  And yet, in conclusion, I can well say that I wish my
forefathers had banished John Barleycorn before my time.  I regret that
John Barleycorn flourished everywhere in the system of society in which I
was born, else I should not have made his acquaintance, and I was long
trained in his acquaintance.

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "John Barleycorn" ***

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