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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Valley Of The Moon - BOOK I - Chapter V
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The Valley Of The Moon - BOOK I - Chapter V Post by :dudeworks Category :Long Stories Author :Jack London Date :March 2011 Read :1837

Click below to download : The Valley Of The Moon - BOOK I - Chapter V (Format : PDF)

The Valley Of The Moon - BOOK I - Chapter V

At eight o'clock the Al Vista band played "Home, Sweet Home,"
and, following the hurried rush through the twilight to the
picnic train, the four managed to get double seats facing each
other. When the aisles and platforms were packed by the hilarious
crowd, the train pulled out for the short run from the suburbs
into Oakland. All the car was singing a score of songs at once,
and Bert, his head pillowed on Mary's breast with her arms around
him, started "On the Banks of the Wabash." And he sang the song
through, undeterred by the bedlam of two general fights, one on
the adjacent platform, the other at the opposite end of the car,
both of which were finally subdued by special policemen to the
screams of women and the crash of glass.

Billy sang a lugubrious song of many stanzas about a cowboy, the
refrain of which was, "Bury me out on the lone pr-rairie."

"That's one you never heard before; my father used to sing it,"
he told Saxon, who was glad that it was ended.

She had discovered the first flaw in him. He was tonedeaf. Not
once had he been on the key.

"I don't sing often," he added.

"You bet your sweet life he don't," Bert exclaimed. "His
friends'd kill him if he did."

"They all make fun of my singin'," he complained to Saxon.
"Honest, now, do you find it as rotten as all that?"

"It 's...it's maybe flat a bit," she admitted reluctantly.

"It don't sound flat to me," he protested. "It's a regular josh
on me. I'll bet Bert put you up to it. You sing something now,
Saxon. I bet you sing good. I can tell it from lookin' at you."

She began "When the Harvest Days Are Over." Bert and Mary joined
in; but when Billy attempted to add his voice he was dissuaded by
a shin-kick from Bert. Saxon sang in a clear, true soprano, thin
but sweet, and she was aware that she was singing to Billy.

"Now THAT is singing what is," he proclaimed, when she had
finished. "Sing it again. Aw, go on. You do it just right. It's
great."

His hand slipped to hers and gathered it in, and as she sang
again she felt the tide of his strength flood warmingly through
her.

"Look at 'em holdin' hands," Bert jeered. "Just a-holdin' hands
like they was afraid. Look at Mary an' me, Come on an' kick in,
you cold-feets. Get together. If you don't, it'll look
suspicious. I got my suspicions already. You're framin' somethin'
up."

Thers was no mistaking his innuendo, and Saxon felt her cheeks
flaming.

"Get onto yourself, Bert," Billy reproved.

"Shut up!" Mary added the weight of her indignation. "You're
awfully raw, Bert Wanhope, an' I won't have anything more to do
with you--there!"

She withdrew her arms and shoved him away, only to receive him
forgivingly half a dozen seconds afterward.

"Come on, the four of us," Bert went on irrepressibly. "The
night's young. Let's make a time of it--Pabst's Cafe first, and
then some. What you say, Bill? What you say, Saxon? Mary's game."

Saxon waited and wondered, half sick with apprehension of this
man beside her whom she had known so short a time.

"Nope," he said slowly. "I gotta get up to a hard day's work
to-morrow, and I guess the girls has got to, too."

Saxon forgave him his tone-deafness. Here was the kind of man she
always had known existed. It was for some such man that she had
waited. She was twenty-two, and her first marriage offer had come
when she was sixteen. The last had occurred only the month
before, from the foreman of the washing-room, and he had been
good and kind, but not young. But this one beside her--he was
strong and kind and good, and YOUNG. She was too young herself
not to desire youth. There would have been rest from fancy starch
with the foreman, but there would have been no warmth. But this
man beside her.... She caught herself on the verge involuntarily
of pressing his hand that held hers.

"No, Bert, don't tease he's right," Mary was saying. "We've got
to get some sleep. It's fancy starch to-morrow, and all day on
our feet."

It came to Saxon with a chill pang that she was surely older than
Billy. She stole glances at the smoothness of his face, and the
essential boyishness of him, so much desired, shocked her. Of
course he would marry some girl years younger than himself, than
herself. How old was he? Could it be that he was too young for
her? As he seemed to grow insecessible, she was drawn toward him
more compellingly. He was so strong, so gentle. She lived over
the events of the day. There was no flaw there. He had considered
her and Mary, always. And he had torn the program up and danced
only with her. Surely he had liked her, or he would not have done
it.

She slightly moved her hand in his and felt the harsh contact of
his teamster callouses. The sensation was exquisite. He, too,
moved his hand, to accommodate the shift of hers, and she waited
fearfully. She did not want him to prove like other men, and she
could have hated him had he dared to take advantage of that
slight movement of her fingers and put his arm around her. He did
not, and she flamed toward him. There was fineness in him. He was
neither rattle-brained, like Bert, nor coarse like other men she
had encountered. For she had had experiences, not nice, and she
had been made to suffer by the lack of what was termed chivalry,
though she, in turn, lacked that word to describe what she
divined and desired.

And he was a prizefighter. The thought of it almost made her
gasp. Yet he answered not at all to her conception of a
prizefighter. But, then, he wasn't a prizefighter. He had said he
was not. She resolved to ask him about it some time if . . . if
he took her out again. Yet there was little doubt of that, for
when a man danced with one girl a whole day he did not drop her
immediately. Almost she hoped that he was a prizefighter. There
was a delicious tickle of wickedness about it. Prizefighters were
such terrible and mysterious men. In so far as they were out of
the ordinary and were not mere common workingmen such as
carpenters and laundrymen, they represented romance. Power also
they represented. They did not work for bosses, but spectacularly
and magnificently, with their own might, grappled with the great
world and wrung splendid living from its reluctant hands. Some of
them even owned automobiles and traveled with a retinue of
trainers and servants. Perhaps it had been only Billy's modesty
that made him say he had quit fighting. And yet, there were the
callouses on his hands. That showed he had quit.

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They said good-bye at the gate. Billy betrayed awkwardness thatwas sweet to Saxon. He was not one of the take-it-for-grantedyoung men. There was a pause, while she feigned desire to go intothe house, yet waited in secret eagerness for the words shewanted him to say."When am I goin' to see you again?" he asked, holding her hand inhis.She laughed consentingly."I live 'way up in East Oakland," he explained. "You know there'swhere the stable is, an' most of our teaming is done in thatsection, so I don't knock around down this way much. But, say--"His hand tightened on hers. "We just gotta
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After dinner there were two dances in the pavilion, and then theband led the way to the race track for the games. The dancersfollowed, and all through the grounds the picnic parties lefttheir tables to join in. Five thousand packed the grassy slopesof the amphitheater and swarmed inside the race track. Here,first of the events, the men were lining up for a tug of war. Thecontest was between the Oakland Bricklayers and the San FranciscoBricklayers, and the picked braves, huge and heavy, were takingtheir positions along the rope. They kicked heel-holds in thesoft earth, rubbed their hands with the soil from
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