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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesBurning Daylight - PART II - Chapter XVII
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Burning Daylight - PART II - Chapter XVII Post by :Savvymarketer Category :Long Stories Author :Jack London Date :March 2011 Read :2349

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Burning Daylight - PART II - Chapter XVII

For months Daylight was buried in work. The outlay was terrific,
and there was nothing coming in. Beyond a general rise in land
values, Oakland had not acknowledged his irruption on the
financial scene. The city was waiting for him to show what he
was going to do, and he lost no time about it. The best skilled
brains on the market were hired by him for the different branches
of the work. Initial mistakes he had no patience with, and he
was determined to start right, as when he engaged Wilkinson,
almost doubling his big salary, and brought him out from Chicago
to take charge of the street railway organization. Night and day
the road gangs toiled on the streets. And night and day the
pile-drivers hammered the big piles down into the mud of San
Francisco Bay. The pier was to be three miles long, and the
Berkeley hills were denuded of whole groves of mature eucalyptus
for the piling.

At the same time that his electric roads were building out
through the hills, the hay-fields were being surveyed and broken
up into city squares, with here and there, according to best
modern methods, winding boulevards and strips of park. Broad
streets, well graded, were made, with sewers and water-pipes
ready laid, and macadamized from his own quarries. Cement
sidewalks were also laid, so that all the purchaser had to do was
to select his lot and architect and start building. The quick
service of Daylight's new electric roads into Oakland made this
big district immediately accessible, and long before the ferry
system was in operation hundreds of residences were going up.

The profit on this land was enormous. In a day, his onslaught of
wealth had turned open farming country into one of the best
residential districts of the city.

But this money that flowed in upon him was immediately poured
back into his other investments. The need for electric cars was
so great that he installed his own shops for building them. And
even on the rising land market, he continued to buy choice
factory sites and building properties. On the advice of
Wilkinson, practically every electric road already in operation
was rebuilt. The light, old fashioned rails were torn out and
replaced by the heaviest that were manufactured. Corner lots, on
the sharp turns of narrow streets, were bought and ruthlessly
presented to the city in order to make wide curves for his tracks
and high speed for his cars. Then, too, there were the main-line
feeders for his ferry system, tapping every portion of Oakland,
Alameda, and Berkeley, and running fast expresses to the pier
end. The same large-scale methods were employed in the water
system. Service of the best was needed, if his huge land
investment was to succeed. Oakland had to be made into a
worth-while city, and that was what he intended to do. In
addition to his big hotels, he built amusement parks for the
common people, and art galleries and club-house country inns for
the more finicky classes. Even before there was any increase in
population, a marked increase in street-railway traffic took
place. There was nothing fanciful about his schemes. They were
sound investments.

"What Oakland wants is a first glass theatre," he said, and,
after vainly trying to interest local capital, he started the
building of the theatre himself; for he alone had vision for the
two hundred thousand new people that were coming to the town.

But no matter what pressure was on Daylight, his Sundays he
reserved for his riding in the hills. It was not the winter
weather, however, that brought these rides with Dede to an end.
One Saturday afternoon in the office she told him not to expect
to meet her next day, and, when he pressed for an explanation:

"I've sold Mab."

Daylight was speechless for the moment. Her act meant one of so
many serious things that he couldn't classify it. It smacked
almost of treachery. She might have met with financial disaster.

It might be her way of letting him know she had seen enough of
him. Or...

"What's the matter?" he managed to ask.

"I couldn't afford to keep her with hay forty-five dollars a
ton," Dede answered.

"Was that your only reason?" he demanded, looking at her
steadily; for he remembered her once telling him how she had
brought the mare through one winter, five years before, when hay
had gone as high as sixty dollars a ton.

"No. My brother's expenses have been higher, as well, and I was
driven to the conclusion that since I could not afford both, I'd
better let the mare go and keep the brother."

Daylight felt inexpressibly saddened. He was suddenly aware of a
great emptiness. What would a Sunday be without Dede? And
Sundays without end without her? He drummed perplexedly on the
desk with his fingers.

"Who bought her?" he asked. Dede's eyes flashed in the way long
since familiar to him when she was angry.

"Don't you dare buy her back for me," she cried. "And don't deny
that that was what you had in mind."

"I won't deny it. It was my idea to a tee. But I wouldn't have
done it without asking you first, and seeing how you feel about
it, I won't even ask you. But you thought a heap of that mare,
and it's pretty hard on you to lose her. I'm sure sorry. And
I'm sorry, too, that you won't be riding with me tomorrow. I'll
be plumb lost. I won't know what to do with myself."

"Neither shall I," Dede confessed mournfully, "except that I
shall be able to catch up with my sewing."

"But I haven't any sewing."

Daylight's tone was whimsically plaintive, but secretly he was
delighted with her confession of loneliness. It was almost worth
the loss of the mare to get that out of her. At any rate, he
meant something to her. He was not utterly unliked.

"I wish you would reconsider, Miss Mason," he said softly. "Not
alone for the mare's sake, but for my sake. Money don't cut any
ice in this. For me to buy that mare wouldn't mean as it does to
most men to send a bouquet of flowers or a box of candy to a
young lady. And I've never sent you flowers or candy." He
observed the warning flash of her eyes, and hurried on to escape
refusal. "I'll tell you what we'll do. Suppose I buy the mare
and own her myself, and lend her to you when you want to ride.
There's nothing wrong in that. Anybody borrows a horse from
anybody, you know."

Agin he saw refusal, and headed her off.

"Lots of men take women buggy-riding. There's nothing wrong in
that. And the man always furnishes the horse and buggy. Well,
now, what's the difference between my taking you buggy-riding and
furnishing the horse and buggy, and taking you horse-back-riding
and furnishing the horses?"

She shook her head, and declined to answer, at the same time
looking at the door as if to intimate that it was time for this
unbusinesslike conversation to end. He made one more effort.

"Do you know, Miss Mason, I haven't a friend in the world outside
you? I mean a real friend, man or woman, the kind you chum with,
you know, and that you're glad to be with and sorry to be away
from. Hegan is the nearest man I get to, and he's a million
miles away from me. Outside business, we don't hitch. He's got
a big library of books, and some crazy kind of culture, and he
spends all his off times reading things in French and German and
other outlandish lingoes--when he ain't writing plays and poetry.
There's nobody I feel chummy with except you, and you know how
little we've chummed--once a week, if it didn't rain, on Sunday.
I've grown kind of to depend on you. You're a sort of--of--of--"

"A sort of habit," she said with a smile.

"That's about it. And that mare, and you astride of her, coming
along the road under the trees or through the sunshine--why, with
both you and the mare missing, there won't be anything worth
waiting through the week for. If you'd just let me buy her
back--"

"No, no; I tell you no." Dede rose impatiently, but her eyes
were moist with the memory of her pet. "Please don't mention her
to me again. If you think it was easy to part with her, you are
mistaken. But I've seen the last of her, and I want to forget
her."

Daylight made no answer, and the door closed behind him.

Half an hour later he was conferring with Jones, the erstwhile
elevator boy and rabid proletarian whom Daylight long before had
grubstaked to literature for a year. The resulting novel had
been a failure. Editors and publishers would not look at it, and
now Daylight was using the disgruntled author in a little private
secret service system he had been compelled to establish for
himself. Jones, who affected to be surprised at nothing after
his crushing experience with railroad freight rates on firweood
and charcoal, betrayed no surprise now when the task was given to
him to locate the purchaser of a certain sorrel mare.

"How high shall I pay for her?" he asked.

"Any price. You've got to get her, that's the point. Drive a
sharp bargain so as not to excite suspicion, but her. Then you
deliver her to that address up in Sonoma County. The man's the
caretaker on a little ranch I have there. Tell him he's to take
whacking good care of her. And after that forget all about it.
Don't tell me the name of the man you buy her from. Don't tell
me anything about it except that you've got her and delivered
her. Savvee?"

But the week had not passed, when Daylight noted the flash in
Dede's eyes that boded trouble.

"Something's gone wrong--what is it?" he asked boldly.

"Mab," she said. "The man who bought her has sold her already.
If I thought you had anything to do with it--"

"I don't even know who you sold her to," was Daylight's answer.
"And what's more, I'm not bothering my head about her. She was
your mare, and it's none of my business what you did with her.
You haven't got her, that's sure and worse luck. And now, while
we're on touchy subjects, I'm going to open another one with you.

And you needn't get touchy about it, for it's not really your
business at all."

She waited in the pause that followed, eyeing him almost
suspiciously.

"It's about that brother of yours. He needs more than you can do
for him. Selling that mare of yours won't send him to Germany.
And that's what his own doctors say he needs--that crack German
specialist who rips a man's bones and muscles into pulp and then
molds them all over again. Well, I want to send him to Germany
and give that crack a flutter, that's all."

"If it were only possible" she said, half breathlessly, and
wholly without anger. "Only it isn't, and you know it isn't. I
can't accept money from you--"

"Hold on, now," he interrupted. "Wouldn't you accept a drink of
water from one of the Twelve Apostles if you was dying of thirst?
Or would you be afraid of his evil intentions"--she made a
gesture of dissent "--or of folks might say about it?"

"But that's different," she began.

"Now look here, Miss Mason. You've got to get some foolish
notions out of your head. This money notion is one of the
funniest things I've seen. Suppose you was falling over a cliff,
wouldn't it be all right for me to reach out and hold you by the
arm? Sure it would. But suppose you ended another sort of
help--instead of the strength of arm, the strength of my pocket?
That would be all and that's what they all say. But why do they
say it. Because the robber gangs want all the suckers to be
honest and respect money. If the suckers weren't honest and
didn't respect money, where would the robbers be? Don't you see?

The robbers don't deal in arm-holds; they deal in dollars.
Therefore arm-holds are just common and ordinary, while dollars
are sacred--so sacred that you didn't let me lend you a hand with
a few.

"Or here's another way," he continued, spurred on by her mute
protest. "It's all right for me to give the strength of my arm
when you're falling over a cliff. But if I take that same
strength of arm and use it at pick-and-shovel work for a day and
earn two dollars, you won't have anything to do with the two
dollars. Yet it's the same old strength of arm in a new form,
that's all. Besides, in this proposition it won't be a claim on
you. It ain't even a loan to you. It's an arm-hold I'm giving
your brother--just the same sort of arm-hold as if he was falling
over a cliff. And a nice one you are, to come running out and
yell 'Stop!' at me, and let your brother go on over the cliff.
What he needs to save his legs is that crack in Germany, and
that's the arm-hold I'm offering.

"Wish you could see my rooms. Walls all decorated with horsehair
bridles--scores of them--hundreds of them. They're no use to me,
and they cost like Sam Scratch. But there's a lot of convicts
making them, and I go on buying. Why, I've spent more money in a
single night on whiskey than would get the best specialists and
pay all the expenses of a dozen cases like your brother's. And
remember, you've got nothing to do with this. If your brother
wants to look on it as a loan, all right. It's up to him, and
you've got to stand out of the way while I pull him back from
that cliff."

Still Dede refused, and Daylight's argument took a more painful
turn.

"I can only guess that you're standing in your brother's way on
account of some mistaken idea in your head that this is my idea
of courting. Well, it ain't. You might as well think I'm
courting all those convicts I buy bridles from. I haven't asked
you to marry me, and if I do I won't come trying to buy you into
consenting. And there won't be anything underhand when I come
a-asking."

Dede's face was flushed and angry. "If you knew how ridiculous
you
are, you'd stop," she blurted out. "You can make me more
uncomfortable than any man I ever knew. Every little while you
give me to understand that you haven't asked me to marry you yet.

I'm not waiting to be asked, and I warned you from the first that
you had no chance. And yet you hold it over my head that some
time, some day, you're going to ask me to marry you. Go ahead
and
ask me now, and get your answer and get it over and done with."

He looked at her in honest and pondering admiration. "I want you
so bad, Miss Mason, that I don't dast to ask you now," he said,
with such whimsicality and earnestness as to make her throw her
head back in a frank boyish laugh. "Besides, as I told you, I'm
green at it. I never went a-courting before, and I don't want to
make any mistakes."

"But you're making them all the time," she cried impulsively.
"No man ever courted a woman by holding a threatened proposal
over her head like a club."

"I won't do it any more," he said humbly. "And anyway, we're off
the argument. My straight talk a minute ago still holds. You're
standing in your brother's way. No matter what notions you've
got in your head, you've got to get out of the way and give him a
chance. Will you let me go and see him and talk it over with
him? I'll make it a hard and fast business proposition. I'll
stake him to get well, that's all, and charge him interest."

She visibly hesitated.

"And just remember one thing, Miss Mason: it's HIS leg, not
yours."

Still she refrained from giving her answer, and Daylight went on
strengthening his position.

"And remember, I go over to see him alone. He's a man, and I can
deal with him better without womenfolks around. I'll go over
to-morrow afternoon."

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Burning Daylight - PART II - Chapter XVIII Burning Daylight - PART II - Chapter XVIII

Burning Daylight - PART II - Chapter XVIII
Daylight had been wholly truthful when he told Dede that he hadno real friends. On speaking terms with thousands, on fellowshipand drinking terms with hundreds, he was a lonely man. He failedto find the one man, or group of several men, with whom he couldbe really intimate. Cities did not make for comradeship as didthe Alaskan trail. Besides, the types of men were different. Scornful and contemptuous of business men on the one hand, on theother his relations with the San Francisco bosses had been morean alliance of expediency than anything else. He had felt moreof
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All week every one in the office knew that something new and bigwas afoot in Daylight's mind. Beyond some deals of noimportance, he had not been interested in anything for severalmonths. But now he went about in an almost unbroken brown study,made unexpected and lengthy trips across the bay to Oakland, orsat at his desk silent and motionless for hours. He seemedparticularly happy with what occupied his mind. At times mencame in and conferred with him--and with new faces and differingin type from those that usually came to see him.On Sunday Dede learned all about it.
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