The strength of the strong jack london

The Strength of the Strong

Jack London

Contents:

The Strength of the Strong
South of the Slot
The Unparalleled Invasion
The Enemy of All the World
The Dream of Debs
The Sea-Farmer
Samuel

THE STRENGTH OF THE STRONG

"Parables don't lie, but liars will parable." — Lip-King.

Old Long-Beard paused in his narrative, licked his greasy fingers,
and wiped them on his naked sides where his one piece of ragged
bearskin failed to cover him. Crouched around him, on their hams,
were three young men, his grandsons, Deer-Runner, Yellow-Head, and
Afraid-of-the-Dark. In appearance they were much the same. Skins
of wild animals partly covered them. They were lean and meagre of
build, narrow-hipped and crooked-legged, and at the same time deep-
chested, with heavy arms and enormous hands. There was much hair
on their chests and shoulders, and on the outsides of their arms
and legs. Their heads were matted with uncut hair, long locks of
which often strayed before their eyes, beady and black and
glittering like the eyes of birds. They were narrow between the
eyes and broad between the cheeks, while their lower jaws were
projecting and massive.

It was a night of clear starlight, and below them, stretching away
remotely, lay range on range of forest-covered hills. In the
distance the heavens were red from the glow of a volcano. At their
backs yawned the black mouth of a cave, out of which, from time to
time, blew draughty gusts of wind. Immediately in front of them
blazed a fire. At one side, partly devoured, lay the carcass of a
bear, with about it, at a respectable distance, several large dogs,
shaggy and wolf-like. Beside each man lay his bow and arrows and a
huge club. In the cave-mouth a number of rude spears leaned
against the rock.

"So that was how we moved from the cave to the tree," old Long-
Beard spoke up.

They laughed boisterously, like big children, at recollection of a
previous story his words called up. Long-Beard laughed, too, the
five-inch bodkin of bone, thrust midway through the cartilage of
his nose, leaping and dancing and adding to his ferocious
appearance. He did not exactly say the words recorded, but he made
animal-like sounds with his mouth that meant the same thing.

"And that is the first I remember of the Sea Valley," Long-Beard
went on. "We were a very foolish crowd. We did not know the
secret of strength. For, behold, each family lived by itself, and
took care of itself. There were thirty families, but we got no
strength from one another. We were in fear of each other all the
time. No one ever paid visits. In the top of our tree we built a
grass house, and on the platform outside was a pile of rocks, which
were for the heads of any that might chance to try to visit us.
Also, we had our spears and arrows. We never walked under the
trees of the other families, either. My brother did, once, under
old Boo-oogh's tree, and he got his head broken and that was the
end of him.

"Old Boo-oogh was very strong. It was said he could pull a grown
man's head right off. I never heard of him doing it, because no
man would give him a chance. Father wouldn't. One day, when
father was down on the beach, Boo-oogh took after mother. She
couldn't run fast, for the day before she had got her leg clawed by
a bear when she was up on the mountain gathering berries. So Boo-
oogh caught her and carried her up into his tree. Father never got
her back. He was afraid. Old Boo-oogh made faces at him.