To build a fire by jack london

Revised by:
Combat Arms BBS
P. O. Box 913
Portland, Oregon 97207-0913
Voice: (503) 223-3160
BBS: (503) 221-1777
Fido 1:105/68
February 20, 1993

TO BUILD A FIRE
by
Jack London

“He was quick and alert in the things of life, but
only in the things, and not in the significances.”
– – – – – – – – – – –

DAY HAD BROKEN cold and gray, exceedingly cold and gray,
when the man turned aside from the main Yukon trail and climbed
the high earth-bank, where a dim and little-travelled trail led
eastward through the fat spruce timberland. It was a steep bank,
and he paused for breath at the top, excusing the act to himself
by looking at his watch. It was nine o’clock. There was no sun
nor hind of sun, though there was not a cloud in the sky. It was
a clear day, and yet there seemed an intangible pall over the
face of things, a subtle gloom that made the day dark, and that
was due to the absence of sun. This fact did not worry the man.
He was used to the lack of sun. It had been days since he had
seen the sun, and he knew that a few more days must pass before
that cheerful orb, due south, would just peep above the sky line
and dip immediately from view.

The man flung a look back along the way he had come. The
Yukon lay a mile wide and hidden under three feet of ice. On top
of this ice were as many feet of snow. It was all pure white,
rolling in gentle undulations where the ice jams of the freeze-up
had formed. North and south, as far as his eye could see, it was
unbroken white, save for a dark hairline that curved and twisted
from around the spruce-covered island to the south, and that
curved and twisted away into the north, where it disappeared
behind another spruce-covered island.

This dark hairline was the
trail – – the main trail – that led south five hundred miles to the
Chilcoot Pass, Dyea, and salt water; and that led north seventy
miles to Dawson, and still on to the north a thousand miles to
Nulato, and finally to St. Michael, on Bearing Sea, a thousand
miles and half a thousand more.

But all this – – the mysterious, far-reaching hairline trail,
the absence of sun from the sky, the tremendous cold, and the
strangeness and weirdness of it all – made no impression on the
man. It was not because he was long used to it. He was a newcomer
in the land, a “chechaquo”, and this was his first winter. The
trouble with him was that he was without imagination. He was
quick and alert in the things of life, but only in the things,
and not in the significances. Fifty degrees below zero meant
eighty odd degrees of frost. Such fact impressed him as being
cold and uncomfortable, and that was all. It did not lead him to
meditate upon his frailty in general, able only to live within
certain narrow limits of heat and cold; and from there on it did
not lead him to the conjectural field of immortality and man’s
place in the universe. Fifty degrees below zero stood for a bite
of frost that hurt and that must be guarded against by the use of
mittens, ear flaps, warm moccasins, and thick socks. Fifty
degrees below zero was to him just precisely fifty degrees below
zero. That there should be anything more to it than that was a
thought that never entered his head.



To build a fire by jack london