Jerry of the Islands
by Jack London
It is a misfortune to some fiction-writers that fiction and
unveracity in the average person's mind mean one and the same thing.
Several years ago I published a South Sea novel. The action was
placed in the Solomon Islands. The action was praised by the
critics and reviewers as a highly creditable effort of the
imagination. As regards reality--they said there wasn't any. Of
course, as every one knew, kinky-haired cannibals no longer obtained
on the earth's surface, much less ran around with nothing on,
chopping off one another's heads, and, on occasion, a white man's
head as well.
Now listen. I am writing these lines in Honolulu, Hawaii.
Yesterday, on the beach at Waikiki, a stranger spoke to me. He
mentioned a mutual friend, Captain Kellar. When I was wrecked in
the Solomons on the blackbirder, the Minota, it was Captain Kellar,
master of the blackbirder, the Eugenie, who rescued me. The blacks
had taken Captain Kellar's head, the stranger told me. He knew. He
had represented Captain Kellar's mother in settling up the estate.
Listen. I received a letter the other day from Mr. C. M. Woodford,
Resident Commissioner of the British Solomons. He was back at his
post, after a long furlough to England, where he had entered his son
into Oxford. A search of the shelves of almost any public library
will bring to light a book entitled, "A Naturalist Among the Head
Hunters." Mr. C. M. Woodford is the naturalist. He wrote the book.
To return to his letter. In the course of the day's work he
casually and briefly mentioned a particular job he had just got off
his hands. His absence in England had been the cause of delay. The
job had been to make a punitive expedition to a neighbouring island,
and, incidentally, to recover the heads of some mutual friends of
ours--a white-trader, his white wife and children, and his white
clerk. The expedition was successful, and Mr. Woodford concluded
his account of the episode with a statement to the effect: "What
especially struck me was the absence of pain and terror in their
faces, which seemed to express, rather, serenity and repose"--this,
mind you, of men and women of his own race whom he knew well and who
had sat at dinner with him in his own house.
Other friends, with whom I have sat at dinner in the brave,
rollicking days in the Solomons have since passed out--by the same
way. My goodness! I sailed in the teak-built ketch, the Minota, on
a blackbirding cruise to Malaita, and I took my wife along. The
hatchet-marks were still raw on the door of our tiny stateroom
advertising an event of a few months before. The event was the
taking of Captain Mackenzie's head, Captain Mackenzie, at that time,
being master of the Minota. As we sailed in to Langa-Langa, the
British cruiser, the Cambrian, steamed out from the shelling of a
It is not expedient to burden this preliminary to my story with
further details, which I do make asseveration I possess a-plenty. I
hope I have given some assurance that the adventures of my dog hero
in this novel are real adventures in a very real cannibal world.
Bless you!--when I took my wife along on the cruise of the Minota,
we found on board a nigger-chasing, adorable Irish terrier puppy,
who was smooth-coated like Jerry, and whose name was Peggy. Had it
not been for Peggy, this book would never have been written. She
was the chattel of the Minota's splendid skipper. So much did Mrs.
London and I come to love her, that Mrs. London, after the wreck of
the Minota, deliberately and shamelessly stole her from the Minota's
skipper. I do further admit that I did, deliberately and
shamelessly, compound my wife's felony. We loved Peggy so! Dear
royal, glorious little dog, buried at sea off the east coast of
I must add that Peggy, like Jerry, was born at Meringe Lagoon, on
Meringe Plantation, which is of the Island of Ysabel, said Ysabel
Island lying next north of Florida Island, where is the seat of
government and where dwells the Resident Commissioner, Mr. C. M.
Woodford. Still further and finally, I knew Peggy's mother and
father well, and have often known the warm surge in the heart of me
at the sight of that faithful couple running side by side along the
beach. Terrence was his real name. Her name was Biddy.
HONOLULU, OAHU, T.H.
June 5, 1915
Not until Mister Haggin abruptly picked him up under one arm and
stepped into the sternsheets of the waiting whaleboat, did Jerry
dream that anything untoward was to happen to him. Mister Haggin
was Jerry's beloved master, and had been his beloved master for the
six months of Jerry's life. Jerry did not know Mister Haggin as
"master," for "master" had no place in Jerry's vocabulary, Jerry
being a smooth-coated, golden-sorrel Irish terrier.
But in Jerry's vocabulary, "Mister Haggin" possessed all the
definiteness of sound and meaning that the word "master" possesses
in the vocabularies of humans in relation to their dogs. "Mister
Haggin" was the sound Jerry had always heard uttered by Bob, the
clerk, and by Derby, the foreman on the plantation, when they
addressed his master. Also, Jerry had always heard the rare
visiting two-legged man-creatures such as came on the Arangi,
address his master as Mister Haggin.
But dogs being dogs, in their dim, inarticulate, brilliant, and
heroic-worshipping ways misappraising humans, dogs think of their
masters, and love their masters, more than the facts warrant.
"Master" means to them, as "Mister" Haggin meant to Jerry, a deal
more, and a great deal more, than it means to humans. The human
considers himself as "master" to his dog, but the dog considers his
Now "God" was no word in Jerry's vocabulary, despite the fact that
he already possessed a definite and fairly large vocabulary.
"Mister Haggin" was the sound that meant "God." In Jerry's heart
and head, in the mysterious centre of all his activities that is
called consciousness, the sound, "Mister Haggin," occupied the same
place that "God" occupies in human consciousness. By word and
sound, to Jerry, "Mister Haggin" had the same connotation that "God"
has to God-worshipping humans. In short, Mister Haggin was Jerry's
And so, when Mister Haggin, or God, or call it what one will with
the limitations of language, picked Jerry up with imperative
abruptness, tucked him under his arm, and stepped into the
whaleboat, whose black crew immediately bent to the oars, Jerry was
instantly and nervously aware that the unusual had begun to happen.
Never before had he gone out on board the Arangi, which he could see
growing larger and closer to each lip-hissing stroke of the oars of
Only an hour before, Jerry had come down from the plantation house
to the beach to see the Arangi depart. Twice before, in his half-
year of life, had he had this delectable experience. Delectable it
truly was, running up and down the white beach of sand-pounded
coral, and, under the wise guidance of Biddy and Terrence, taking
part in the excitement of the beach and even adding to it.
There was the nigger-chasing. Jerry had been born to hate niggers.
His first experiences in the world as a puling puppy, had taught him
that Biddy, his mother, and his father Terrence, hated niggers. A
nigger was something to be snarled at. A nigger, unless he were a
house-boy, was something to be attacked and bitten and torn if he
invaded the compound. Biddy did it. Terrence did it. In doing it,
they served their God--Mister Haggin. Niggers were two-legged
lesser creatures who toiled and slaved for their two-legged white
lords, who lived in the labour barracks afar off, and who were so
much lesser and lower that they must not dare come near the
habitation of their lords.
And nigger-chasing was adventure. Not long after he had learned to
sprawl, Jerry had learned that. One took his chances. As long as
Mister Haggin, or Derby, or Bob, was about, the niggers took their
chasing. But there were times when the white lords were not about.
Then it was "'Ware niggers!" One must dare to chase only with due
precaution. Because then, beyond the white lord's eyes, the niggers
had a way, not merely of scowling and muttering, but of attacking
four-legged dogs with stones and clubs. Jerry had seen his mother
so mishandled, and, ere he had learned discretion, alone in the high
grass had been himself club-mauled by Godarmy, the black who wore a
china door-knob suspended on his chest from his neck on a string of
sennit braided from cocoanut fibre. More. Jerry remembered another
high-grass adventure, when he and his brother Michael had fought
Owmi, another black distinguishable for the cogged wheels of an
alarm clock on his chest. Michael had been so severely struck on
his head that for ever after his left ear had remained sore and had
withered into a peculiar wilted and twisted upward cock.
Still more. There had been his brother Patsy, and his sister
Kathleen, who had disappeared two months before, who had ceased and
no longer were. The great god, Mister Haggin, had raged up and down
the plantation. The bush had been searched. Half a dozen niggers
had been whipped. And Mister Haggin had failed to solve the mystery
of Patsy's and Kathleen's disappearance. But Biddy and Terrence
knew. So did Michael and Jerry. The four-months' old Patsy and
Kathleen had gone into the cooking-pot at the barracks, and their
puppy-soft skins had been destroyed in the fire. Jerry knew this,
as did his father and mother and brother, for they had smelled the
unmistakable burnt-meat smell, and Terrence, in his rage of
knowledge, had even attacked Mogom the house-boy, and been
reprimanded and cuffed by Mister Haggin, who had not smelled and did
not understand, and who had always to impress discipline on all
creatures under his roof-tree.
But on the beach, when the blacks, whose terms of service were up
came down with their trade-boxes on their heads to depart on the
Arangi, was the time when nigger-chasing was not dangerous. Old
scores could be settled, and it was the last chance, for the blacks
who departed on the Arangi never came back. As an instance, this
very morning Biddy, remembering a secret mauling at the hands of
Lerumie, laid teeth into his naked calf and threw him sprawling into
the water, trade-box, earthly possessions and all, and then laughed
at him, sure in the protection of Mister Haggin who grinned at the
Then, too, there was usually at least one bush-dog on the Arangi at
which Jerry and Michael, from the beach, could bark their heads off.
Once, Terrence, who was nearly as large as an Airedale and fully as
lion-hearted--Terrence the Magnificent, as Tom Haggin called him--
had caught such a bush-dog trespassing on the beach and given him a
delightful thrashing, in which Jerry and Michael, and Patsy and
Kathleen, who were at the time alive, had joined with many shrill
yelps and sharp nips. Jerry had never forgotten the ecstasy of the
hair, unmistakably doggy in scent, which had filled his mouth at his
one successful nip. Bush-dogs were dogs--he recognized them as his
kind; but they were somehow different from his own lordly breed,
different and lesser, just as the blacks were compared with Mister
Haggin, Derby, and Bob.
But Jerry did not continue to gaze at the nearing Arangi. Biddy,
wise with previous bitter bereavements, had sat down on the edge of
the sand, her fore-feet in the water, and was mouthing her woe.
That this concerned him, Jerry knew, for her grief tore sharply,
albeit vaguely, at his sensitive, passionate heart. What it
presaged he knew not, save that it was disaster and catastrophe
connected with him. As he looked back at her, rough-coated and
grief-stricken, he could see Terrence hovering solicitously near
her. He, too, was rough-coated, as was Michael, and as Patsy and
Kathleen had been, Jerry being the one smooth-coated member of the
Further, although Jerry did not know it and Tom Haggin did, Terrence
was a royal lover and a devoted spouse. Jerry, from his earliest
impressions, could remember the way Terrence had of running with
Biddy, miles and miles along the beaches or through the avenues of
cocoanuts, side by side with her, both with laughing mouths of sheer
delight. As these were the only dogs, besides his brothers and
sisters and the several eruptions of strange bush-dogs that Jerry
knew, it did not enter his head otherwise than that this was the way
of dogs, male and female, wedded and faithful. But Tom Haggin knew
its unusualness. "Proper affinities," he declared, and repeatedly
declared, with warm voice and moist eyes of appreciation. "A
gentleman, that Terrence, and a four-legged proper man. A man-dog,
if there ever was one, four-square as the legs on the four corners
of him. And prepotent! My word! His blood'd breed true for a
thousand generations, and the cool head and the kindly brave heart
Terrence did not voice his sorrow, if sorrow he had; but his
hovering about Biddy tokened his anxiety for her. Michael, however,
yielding to the contagion, sat beside his mother and barked angrily
out across the increasing stretch of water as he would have barked
at any danger that crept and rustled in the jungle. This, too, sank
to Jerry's heart, adding weight to his sure intuition that dire
fate, he knew not what, was upon him.
For his six months of life, Jerry knew a great deal and knew very
little. He knew, without thinking about it, without knowing that he
knew, why Biddy, the wise as well as the brave, did not act upon all
the message that her heart voiced to him, and spring into the water
and swim after him. She had protected him like a lioness when the
big puarka (which, in Jerry's vocabulary, along with grunts and
squeals, was the combination of sound, or word, for "pig") had tried
to devour him where he was cornered under the high-piled plantation
house. Like a lioness, when the cook-boy had struck him with a
stick to drive him out of the kitchen, had Biddy sprung upon the
black, receiving without wince or whimper one straight blow from the
stick, and then downing him and mauling him among his pots and pans
until dragged (for the first time snarling) away by the unchiding
Mister Haggin, who; however, administered sharp words to the cook-
boy for daring to lift hand against a four-legged dog belonging to a
Jerry knew why his mother did not plunge into the water after him.
The salt sea, as well as the lagoons that led out of the salt sea,
were taboo. "Taboo," as word or sound, had no place in Jerry's
vocabulary. But its definition, or significance, was there in the
quickest part of his consciousness. He possessed a dim, vague,
imperative knowingness that it was not merely not good, but
supremely disastrous, leading to the mistily glimpsed sense of utter
endingness for a dog, for any dog, to go into the water where
slipped and slid and noiselessly paddled, sometimes on top,
sometimes emerging from the depths, great scaly monsters, huge-jawed
and horribly-toothed, that snapped down and engulfed a dog in an
instant just as the fowls of Mister Haggin snapped and engulfed
grains of corn.
Often he had heard his father and mother, on the safety of the sand,
bark and rage their hatred of those terrible sea-dwellers, when,
close to the beach, they appeared on the surface like logs awash.
"Crocodile" was no word in Jerry's vocabulary. It was an image, an
image of a log awash that was different from any log in that it was
alive. Jerry, who heard, registered, and recognized many words that
were as truly tools of thought to him as they were to humans, but
who, by inarticulateness of birth and breed, could not utter these
many words, nevertheless in his mental processes, used images just
as articulate men use words in their own mental processes. And
after all, articulate men, in the act of thinking, willy nilly use
images that correspond to words and that amplify words.
Perhaps, in Jerry's brain, the rising into the foreground of
consciousness of an image of a log awash connoted more intimate and
fuller comprehension of the thing being thought about, than did the
word "crocodile," and its accompanying image, in the foreground of a
human's consciousness. For Jerry really did know more about
crocodiles than the average human. He could smell a crocodile
farther off and more differentiatingly than could any man, than
could even a salt-water black or a bushman smell one. He could tell
when a crocodile, hauled up from the lagoon, lay without sound or
movement, and perhaps asleep, a hundred feet away on the floor mat
He knew more of the language of crocodiles than did any man. He had
better means and opportunities of knowing. He knew their many
noises that were as grunts and slubbers. He knew their anger
noises, their fear noises, their food noises, their love noises.
And these noises were as definitely words in his vocabulary as are
words in a human's vocabulary. And these crocodile noises were
tools of thought. By them he weighed and judged and determined his
own consequent courses of action, just like any human; or, just like
any human, lazily resolved upon no course of action, but merely
noted and registered a clear comprehension of something that was
going on about him that did not require a correspondence of action
on his part.
And yet, what Jerry did not know was very much. He did not know the
size of the world. He did not know that this Meringe Lagoon, backed
by high, forested mountains and fronted and sheltered by the off-
shore coral islets, was anything else than the entire world. He did
not know that it was a mere fractional part of the great island of
Ysabel, that was again one island of a thousand, many of them
greater, that composed the Solomon Islands that men marked on charts
as a group of specks in the vastitude of the far-western South
It was true, there was a somewhere else or a something beyond of
which he was dimly aware. But whatever it was, it was mystery. Out
of it, things that had not been, suddenly were. Chickens and
puarkas and cats, that he had never seen before, had a way of
abruptly appearing on Meringe Plantation. Once, even, had there
been an eruption of strange four-legged, horned and hairy creatures,
the images of which, registered in his brain, would have been
identifiable in the brains of humans with what humans worded
It was the same way with the blacks. Out of the unknown, from the
somewhere and something else, too unconditional for him to know any
of the conditions, instantly they appeared, full-statured, walking
about Meringe Plantation with loin-cloths about their middles and
bone bodkins through their noses, and being put to work by Mister
Haggin, Derby, and Bob. That their appearance was coincidental with
the arrival of the Arangi was an association that occurred as a
matter of course in Jerry's brain. Further, he did not bother, save
that there was a companion association, namely, that their
occasional disappearances into the beyond was likewise coincidental
with the Arangi's departure.
Jerry did not query these appearances and disappearances. It never
entered his golden-sorrel head to be curious about the affair or to
attempt to solve it. He accepted it in much the way he accepted the
wetness of water and the heat of the sun. It was the way of life
and of the world he knew. His hazy awareness was no more than an
awareness of something--which, by the way, corresponds very fairly
with the hazy awareness of the average human of the mysteries of
birth and death and of the beyondness about which they have no
definiteness of comprehension.
For all that any man may gainsay, the ketch Arangi, trader and
blackbirder in the Solomon Islands, may have signified in Jerry's
mind as much the mysterious boat that traffics between the two
worlds, as, at one time, the boat that Charon sculled across the
Styx signified to the human mind. Out of the nothingness men came.
Into the nothingness they went. And they came and went always on
And to the Arangi, this hot-white tropic morning, Jerry went on the
whaleboat under the arm of his Mister Haggin, while on the beach
Biddy moaned her woe, and Michael, not sophisticated, barked the
eternal challenge of youth to the Unknown.
From the whaleboat, up the low side of the Arangi, and over her six-
inch rail of teak to her teak deck, was but a step, and Tom Haggin
made it easily with Jerry still under his arm. The deck was
cluttered with an exciting crowd. Exciting the crowd would have
been to untravelled humans of civilization, and exciting it was to
Jerry; although to Tom Haggin and Captain Van Horn it was a mere
commonplace of everyday life.
The deck was small because the Arangi was small. Originally a teak-
built, gentleman's yacht, brass-fitted, copper-fastened, angle-
ironed, sheathed in man-of-war copper and with a fin-keel of bronze,
she had been sold into the Solomon Islands' trade for the purpose of
blackbirding or nigger-running. Under the law, however, this
traffic was dignified by being called "recruiting."
The Arangi was a labour-recruit ship that carried the new-caught,
cannibal blacks from remote islands to labour on the new plantations
where white men turned dank and pestilential swamp and jungle into
rich and stately cocoanut groves. The Arangi's two masts were of
Oregon cedar, so scraped and hot-paraffined that they shone like tan
opals in the glare of sun. Her excessive sail plan enabled her to
sail like a witch, and, on occasion, gave Captain Van Horn, his
white mate, and his fifteen black boat's crew as much as they could
handle. She was sixty feet over all, and the cross beams of her
crown deck had not been weakened by deck-houses. The only breaks--
and no beams had been cut for them--were the main cabin skylight and
companionway, the booby hatch for'ard over the tiny forecastle, and
the small hatch aft that let down into the store-room.
And on this small deck, in addition to the crew, were the "return"
niggers from three far-flung plantations. By "return" was meant
that their three years of contract labour was up, and that,
according to contract, they were being returned to their home
villages on the wild island of Malaita. Twenty of them--familiar,
all, to Jerry--were from Meringe; thirty of them came from the Bay
of a Thousand Ships, in the Russell Isles; and the remaining twelve
were from Pennduffryn on the east coast of Guadalcanar. In addition
to these--and they were all on deck, chattering and piping in queer,
almost elfish, falsetto voices--were the two white men, Captain Van
Horn and his Danish mate, Borckman, making a total of seventy-nine
"Thought your heart 'd failed you at the last moment," was Captain
Van Horn's greeting, a quick pleasure light glowing into his eyes as
they noted Jerry.
"It was sure near to doin' it," Tom Haggin answered. "It's only for
you I'd a done it, annyways. Jerry's the best of the litter,
barrin' Michael, of course, the two of them bein' all that's left
and no better than them that was lost. Now that Kathleen was a
sweet dog, the spit of Biddy if she'd lived.--Here, take 'm."
With a jerk of abruptness, he deposited Jerry in Van Horn's arms and
turned away along the deck.
"An' if bad luck comes to him I'll never forgive you, Skipper," he
flung roughly over his shoulder.
"They'll have to take my head first," the skipper chuckled.
"An' not unlikely, my brave laddy buck," Haggin growled. "Meringe
owes Somo four heads, three from the dysentery, an' another wan from
a tree fallin' on him the last fortnight. He was the son of a chief
"Yes, and there's two heads more that the Arangi owes Somo," Van
Horn nodded. "You recollect, down to the south'ard last year, a
chap named Hawkins was lost in his whaleboat running the Arli
Passage?" Haggin, returning along the deck, nodded. "Two of his
boat's crew were Somo boys. I'd recruited them for Ugi Plantation.
With your boys, that makes six heads the Arangi owes. But what of
it? There's one salt-water village, acrost on the weather coast,
where the Arangi owes eighteen. I recruited them for Aolo, and
being salt-water men they put them on the Sandfly that was lost on
the way to the Santa Cruz. They've got a jack-pot over there on the
weather coast--my word, the boy that could get my head would be a
second Carnegie! A hundred and fifty pigs and shell money no end
the village's collected for the chap that gets me and delivers."
"And they ain't--yet," Haggin snorted.
"No fear," was the cheerful retort.
"You talk like Arbuckle used to talk," Haggin censured. "Manny's
the time I've heard him string it off. Poor old Arbuckle. The most
sure and most precautious chap that ever handled niggers. He never
went to sleep without spreadin' a box of tacks on the floor, and
when it wasn't them it was crumpled newspapers. I remember me well,
bein' under the same roof at the time on Florida, when a big tomcat
chased a cockroach into the papers. And it was blim, blam, blim,
six times an' twice over, with his two big horse-pistols, an' the
house perforated like a cullender. Likewise there was a dead tom-
cat. He could shoot in the dark with never an aim, pullin' trigger
with the second finger and pointing with the first finger laid
straight along the barrel.
"No, sir, my laddy buck. He was the bully boy with the glass eye.
The nigger didn't live that'd lift his head. But they got 'm. They
got 'm. He lasted fourteen years, too. It was his cook-boy.
Hatcheted 'm before breakfast. An' it's well I remember our second
trip into the bush after what was left of 'm."
"I saw his head after you'd turned it over to the Commissioner at
Tulagi," Van Horn supplemented.
"An' the peaceful, quiet, everyday face of him on it, with almost
the same old smile I'd seen a thousand times. It dried on 'm that
way over the smokin' fire. But they got 'm, if it did take fourteen
years. There's manny's the head that goes to Malaita, manny's the
time untooken; but, like the old pitcher, it's tooken in the end."
"But I've got their goat," the captain insisted. "When trouble's
hatching, I go straight to them and tell them what. They can't get
the hang of it. Think I've got some powerful devil-devil medicine."
Tom Haggin thrust out his hand in abrupt good-bye, resolutely
keeping his eyes from dropping to Jerry in the other's arms.
"Keep your eye on my return boys," he cautioned, as he went over the
side, "till you land the last mother's son of 'm. They've got no
cause to love Jerry or his breed, an' I'd hate ill to happen 'm at a
nigger's hands. An' in the dark of the night 'tis like as not he
can do a fare-you-well overside. Don't take your eye off 'm till
you're quit of the last of 'm."
At sight of big Mister Haggin deserting him and being pulled away in
the whaleboat, Jerry wriggled and voiced his anxiety in a low,
whimpering whine. Captain Van Horn snuggled him closer in his arm
with a caress of his free hand.
"Don't forget the agreement," Tom Haggin called back across the
widening water. "If aught happens you, Jerry's to come back to me."
"I'll make a paper to that same and put it with the ship's
articles," was Van Horn's reply.
Among the many words possessed by Jerry was his own name; and in the
talk of the two men he had recognised it repeatedly, and he was
aware, vaguely, that the talk was related to the vague and
unguessably terrible thing that was happening to him. He wriggled
more determinedly, and Van Horn set him down on the deck. He sprang
to the rail with more quickness than was to be expected of an
awkward puppy of six months, and not the quick attempt of Van Horn
to cheek him would have succeeded. But Jerry recoiled from the open
water lapping the Arangi's side. The taboo was upon him. It was
the image of the log awash that was not a log but that was alive,
luminous in his brain, that checked him. It was not reason on his
part, but inhibition which had become habit.
He plumped down on his bob tail, lifted golden muzzle skyward, and
emitted a long puppy-wail of dismay and grief.
"It's all right, Jerry, old man, brace up and be a man-dog," Van
Horn soothed him.
But Jerry was not to be reconciled. While this indubitably was a
white-skinned god, it was not his god. Mister Haggin was his god,
and a superior god at that. Even he, without thinking about it at
all, recognized that. His Mister Haggin wore pants and shoes. This
god on the deck beside him was more like a black. Not only did he
not wear pants, and was barefooted and barelegged, but about his
middle, just like any black, he wore a brilliant-coloured loin-
cloth, that, like a kilt, fell nearly to his sunburnt knees.
Captain Van Horn was a handsome man and a striking man, although
Jerry did not know it. If ever a Holland Dutchman stepped out of a
Rembrandt frame, Captain Van Horn was that one, despite the fact
that he was New York born, as had been his knickerbocker ancestors
before him clear back to the time when New York was not New York but
New Amsterdam. To complete his costume, a floppy felt hat,
distinctly Rembrandtish in effect, perched half on his head and
mostly over one ear; a sixpenny, white cotton undershirt covered his
torso; and from a belt about his middle dangled a tobacco pouch, a
sheath-knife, filled clips of cartridges, and a huge automatic
pistol in a leather holster.
On the beach, Biddy, who had hushed her grief, lifted it again when
she heard Jerry's wail. And Jerry, desisting a moment to listen,
heard Michael beside her, barking his challenge, and saw, without
being conscious of it, Michael's withered ear with its persistent
upward cock. Again, while Captain Van Horn and the mate, Borckman,
gave orders, and while the Arangi's mainsail and spanker began to
rise up the masts, Jerry loosed all his heart of woe in what Bob
told Derby on the beach was the "grandest vocal effort" he had ever
heard from any dog, and that, except for being a bit thin, Caruso
didn't have anything on Jerry. But the song was too much for
Haggin, who, as soon as he had landed, whistled Biddy to him and
strode rapidly away from the beach.
At sight of her disappearing, Jerry was guilty of even more Caruso-
like effects, which gave great joy to a Pennduffryn return boy who
stood beside him. He laughed and jeered at Jerry with falsetto
chucklings that were more like the jungle-noises of tree-dwelling
creatures, half-bird and half-man, than of a man, all man, and
therefore a god. This served as an excellent counter-irritant.
Indignation that a mere black should laugh at him mastered Jerry,
and the next moment his puppy teeth, sharp-pointed as needles, had
scored the astonished black's naked calf in long parallel scratches
from each of which leaped the instant blood. The black sprang away
in trepidation, but the blood of Terrence the Magnificent was true
in Jerry, and, like his father before him, he followed up, slashing
the black's other calf into a ruddy pattern.
At this moment, anchor broken out and headsails running up, Captain
Van Horn, whose quick eye had missed no detail of the incident, with
an order to the black helmsman turned to applaud Jerry.
"Go to it, Jerry!" he encouraged. "Get him! Shake him down! Sick
him! Get him! Get him!"
The black, in defence, aimed a kick at Jerry, who, leaping in
instead of away--another inheritance from Terrence--avoided the bare
foot and printed a further red series of parallel lines on the dark
leg. This was too much, and the black, afraid more of Van Horn than
of Jerry, turned and fled for'ard, leaping to safety on top of the
eight Lee-Enfield rifles that lay on top of the cabin skylight and
that were guarded by one member of the boat's crew. About the
skylight Jerry stormed, leaping up and falling back, until Captain
Van Horn called him off.
"Some nigger-chaser, that pup, some nigger-chaser!" Van Horn
confided to Borckman, as he bent to pat Jerry and give him due
reward of praise.
And Jerry, under this caressing hand of a god, albeit it did not
wear pants, forgot for a moment longer the fate that was upon him.
"He's a lion-dog--more like an Airedale than an Irish terrier," Van
Horn went on to his mate, still petting. "Look at the size of him
already. Look at the bone of him. Some chest that. He's got the
endurance. And he'll be some dog when he grows up to those feet of
Jerry had just remembered his grief and was starting a rush across
the deck to the rail to gaze at Meringe growing smaller every second
in the distance, when a gust of the South-east Trade smote the sails
and pressed the Arangi down. And down the deck, slanted for the
moment to forty-five degrees, Jerry slipped and slid, vainly clawing
at the smooth surface for a hold. He fetched up against the foot of
the mizzenmast, while Captain Van Horn, with the sailor's eye for
the coral patch under his bow, gave the order "Hard a-lee!"
Borckman and the black steersman echoed his words, and, as the wheel
spun down, the Arangi, with the swiftness of a witch, rounded into
the wind and attained a momentary even keel to the flapping of her
headsails and a shifting of headsheets.
Jerry, still intent on Meringe, took advantage of the level footing
to recover himself and scramble toward the rail. But he was
deflected by the crash of the mainsheet blocks on the stout deck-
traveller, as the mainsail, emptied of the wind and feeling the wind
on the other side, swung crazily across above him. He cleared the
danger of the mainsheet with a wild leap (although no less wild had
been Van Horn's leap to rescue him), and found himself directly
under the mainboom with the huge sail looming above him as if about
to fall upon him and crush him.
It was Jerry's first experience with sails of any sort. He did not
know the beasts, much less the way of them, but, in his vivid
recollection, when he had been a tiny puppy, burned the memory of
the hawk, in the middle of the compound, that had dropped down upon
him from out of the sky. Under that colossal threatened impact he
crouched down to the deck. Above him, falling upon him like a bolt
from the blue, was a winged hawk unthinkably vaster than the one he
had encountered. But in his crouch was no hint of cower. His
crouch was a gathering together, an assembling of all the parts of
him under the rule of the spirit of him, for the spring upward to
meet in mid career this monstrous, menacing thing.
But, the succeeding fraction of a moment, so that Jerry, leaping,
missed even the shadow of it, the mainsail, with a second crash of
blocks on traveller, had swung across and filled on the other tack.
Van Horn had missed nothing of it. Before, in his time, he had seen
young dogs frightened into genuine fits by their first encounters
with heaven-filling, sky-obscuring, down-impending sails. This was
the first dog he had seen leap with bared teeth, undismayed, to
grapple with the huge unknown.
With spontaneity of admiration, Van Horn swept Jerry from the deck
and gathered him into his arms.
Jerry quite forgot Meringe for the time being. As he well
remembered, the hawk had been sharp of beak and claw. This air-
flapping, thunder-crashing monster needed watching. And Jerry,
crouching for the spring and ever struggling to maintain his footing
on the slippery, heeling deck, kept his eyes on the mainsail and
uttered low growls at any display of movement on its part.
The Arangi was beating out between the coral patches of the narrow
channel into the teeth of the brisk trade wind. This necessitated
frequent tacks, so that, overhead, the mainsail was ever swooping
across from port tack to starboard tack and back again, making air-
noises like the swish of wings, sharply rat-tat-tatting its reef
points and loudly crashing its mainsheet gear along the traveller.
Half a dozen times, as it swooped overhead, Jerry leaped for it,
mouth open to grip, lips writhed clear of the clean puppy teeth that
shone in the sun like gems of ivory.
Failing in every leap, Jerry achieved a judgment. In passing, it
must be noted that this judgment was only arrived at by a definite
act of reasoning. Out of a series of observations of the thing, in
which it had threatened, always in the same way, a series of
attacks, he had found that it had not hurt him nor come in contact
with him at all. Therefore--although he did not stop to think that
he was thinking--it was not the dangerous, destroying thing he had
first deemed it. It might be well to be wary of it, though already
it had taken its place in his classification of things that appeared
terrible but were not terrible. Thus, he had learned not to fear
the roar of the wind among the palms when he lay snug on the
plantation-house veranda, nor the onslaught of the waves, hissing
and rumbling into harmless foam on the beach at his feet.
Many times, in the course of the day, alertly and nonchalantly,
almost with a quizzical knowingness, Jerry cocked his head at the
mainsail when it made sudden swooping movements or slacked and
tautened its crashing sheet-gear. But he no longer crouched to
spring for it. That had been the first lesson, and quickly
Having settled the mainsail, Jerry returned in mind to Meringe. But
there was no Meringe, no Biddy and Terrence and Michael on the
beach; no Mister Haggin and Derby and Bob; no beach: no land with
the palm-trees near and the mountains afar off everlastingly lifting
their green peaks into the sky. Always, to starboard or to port, at
the bow or over the stern, when he stood up resting his fore-feet on
the six-inch rail and gazing, he saw only the ocean, broken-faced
and turbulent, yet orderly marching its white-crested seas before
the drive of the trade.
Had he had the eyes of a man, nearly two yards higher than his own
from the deck, and had they been the trained eyes of a man, sailor-
man at that, Jerry could have seen the low blur of Ysabel to the
north and the blur of Florida to the south, ever taking on
definiteness of detail as the Arangi sagged close-hauled, with a
good full, port-tacked to the south-east trade. And had he had the
advantage of the marine glasses with which Captain Van Horn
elongated the range of his eyes, he could have seen, to the east,
the far peaks of Malaita lifting life-shadowed pink cloud-puffs
above the sea-rim.
But the present was very immediate with Jerry. He had early learned
the iron law of the immediate, and to accept what was when it was,
rather than to strain after far other things. The sea was. The
land no longer was. The Arangi certainly was, along with the life
that cluttered her deck. And he proceeded to get acquainted with
what was--in short, to know and to adjust himself to his new
His first discovery was delightful--a wild-dog puppy from the Ysabel
bush, being taken back to Malaita by one of the Meringe return boys.
In age they were the same, but their breeding was different. The
wild-dog was what he was, a wild-dog, cringing and sneaking, his
ears for ever down, his tail for ever between his legs, for ever
apprehending fresh misfortune and ill-treatment to fall on him, for
ever fearing and resentful, fending off threatened hurt with lips
curling malignantly from his puppy fangs, cringing under a blow,
squalling his fear and his pain, and ready always for a treacherous
slash if luck and safety favoured.
The wild-dog was maturer than Jerry, larger-bodied, and wiser in
wickedness; but Jerry was blue-blooded, right-selected, and valiant.
The wild-dog had come out of a selection equally rigid; but it was a
different sort of selection. The bush ancestors from whom he had
descended had survived by being fear-selected. They had never
voluntarily fought against odds. In the open they had never
attacked save when the prey was weak or defenceless. In place of
courage, they had lived by creeping, and slinking, and hiding from
danger. They had been selected blindly by nature, in a cruel and
ignoble environment, where the prize of living was to be gained, in
the main, by the cunning of cowardice, and, on occasion, by
desperateness of defence when in a corner.
But Jerry had been love-selected and courage-selected. His
ancestors had been deliberately and consciously chosen by men, who,
somewhere in the forgotten past, had taken the wild-dog and made it
into the thing they visioned and admired and desired it to be. It
must never fight like a rat in a corner, because it must never be
rat-like and slink into a corner. Retreat must be unthinkable. The
dogs in the past who retreated had been rejected by men. They had
not become Jerry's ancestors. The dogs selected for Jerry's
ancestors had been the brave ones, the up-standing and out-dashing
ones, who flew into the face of danger and battled and died, but who
never gave ground. And, since it is the way of kind to beget kind,
Jerry was what Terrence was before him, and what Terrence's
forefathers had been for a long way back.
So it was that Jerry, when he chanced upon the wild-dog stowed
shrewdly away from the wind in the lee-corner made by the mainmast
and the cabin skylight, did not stop to consider whether the
creature was bigger or fiercer than he. All he knew was that it was
the ancient enemy--the wild-dog that had not come in to the fires of
man. With a wild paean of joy that attracted Captain Van Horn's
all-hearing ears and all-seeing eyes, Jerry sprang to the attack.
The wild puppy gained his feet in full retreat with incredible
swiftness, but was caught by the rush of Jerry's body and rolled
over and over on the sloping deck. And as he rolled, and felt sharp
teeth pricking him, he snapped and snarled, alternating snarls with
whimperings and squallings of terror, pain, and abject humility.
And Jerry was a gentleman, which is to say he was a gentle dog. He
had been so selected. Because the thing did not fight back, because
it was abject and whining, because it was helpless under him, he
abandoned the attack, disengaging himself from the top of the tangle
into which he had slid in the lee scuppers. He did not think about
it. He did it because he was so made. He stood up on the reeling
deck, feeling excellently satisfied with the delicious, wild-doggy
smell of hair in his mouth and consciousness, and in his ears and
consciousness the praising cry of Captain Van Horn: "Good boy,
Jerry! You're the goods, Jerry! Some dog, eh! Some dog!"
As he stalked away, it must be admitted that Jerry displayed pride
in himself, his gait being a trifle stiff-legged, the cocking of his
head back over his shoulder at the whining wild-dog having all the
articulateness of: "Well, I guess I gave you enough this time.
You'll keep out of my way after this."
Jerry continued the exploration of his new and tiny world that was
never at rest, for ever lifting, heeling, and lunging on the rolling
face of the sea. There were the Meringe return boys. He made it a
point to identify all of them, receiving, while he did so, scowls
and mutterings, and reciprocating with cocky bullyings and
threatenings. Being so trained, he walked on his four legs superior
to them, two-legged though they were; for he had moved and lived
always under the aegis of the great two-legged and be-trousered god,
Then there were the strange return boys, from Pennduffryn and the
Bay of a Thousand Ships. He insisted on knowing them all. He might
need to know them in some future time. He did not think this. He
merely equipped himself with knowledge of his environment without
any awareness of provision or without bothering about the future.
In his own way of acquiring knowledge, he quickly discovered, just
as on the plantation house-boys were different from field-boys, that
on the Arangi there was a classification of boys different from the
return boys. This was the boat's crew. The fifteen blacks who
composed it were closer than the others to Captain Van Horn. They
seemed more directly to belong to the Arangi and to him. They
laboured under him at word of command, steering at the wheel,
pulling and hauling on ropes, healing water upon the deck from
overside and scrubbing with brooms.
Just as Jerry had learned from Mister Haggin that he must be more
tolerant of the house-boys than of the field-boys if they trespassed
on the compound, so, from Captain Van Horn, he learned that he must
be more tolerant of the boat's crew than of the return boys. He had
less license with them, more license with the others. As long as
Captain Van Horn did not want his boat's crew chased, it was Jerry's
duty not to chase. On the other hand he never forgot that he was a
white-god's dog. While he might not chase these particular blacks,
he declined familiarity with them. He kept his eye on them. He had
seen blacks as tolerated as these, lined up and whipped by Mister
Haggin. They occupied an intermediate place in the scheme of
things, and they were to be watched in case they did not keep their
place. He accorded them room, but he did not accord them equality.
At the best, he could be stand-offishly considerate of them.
He made thorough examination of the galley, a rude affair, open on
the open deck, exposed to wind and rain and storm, a small stove
that was not even a ship's stove, on which somehow, aided by strings
and wedges, commingled with much smoke, two blacks managed to cook
the food for the four-score persons on board.
Next, he was interested by a strange proceeding on the part of the
boat's crew. Upright pipes, serving as stanchions, were being
screwed into the top of the Arangi's rail so that they served to
support three strands of barbed wire that ran completely around the
vessel, being broken only at the gangway for a narrow space of
fifteen inches. That this was a precaution against danger, Jerry
sensed without a passing thought to it. All his life, from his
first impressions of life, had been passed in the heart of danger,
ever-impending, from the blacks. In the plantation house at
Meringe, always the several white men had looked askance at the many
blacks who toiled for them and belonged to them. In the living-
room, where were the eating-table, the billiard-table, and the
phonograph, stood stands of rifles, and in each bedroom, beside each
bed, ready to hand, had been revolvers and rifles. As well, Mister
Haggin and Derby and Bob had always carried revolvers in their belts
when they left the house to go among their blacks.
Jerry knew these noise-making things for what they were--instruments
of destruction and death. He had seen live things destroyed by
them, such as puarkas, goats, birds, and crocodiles. By means of
such things the white-gods by their will crossed space without
crossing it with their bodies, and destroyed live things. Now he,
in order to damage anything, had to cross space with his body to get
to it. He was different. He was limited. All impossible things
were possible to the unlimited, two-legged white-gods. In a way,
this ability of theirs to destroy across space was an elongation of
claw and fang. Without pondering it, or being conscious of it, he
accepted it as he accepted the rest of the mysterious world about
Once, even, had Jerry seen his Mister Haggin deal death at a
distance in another noise-way. From the veranda he had seen him
fling sticks of exploding dynamite into a screeching mass of blacks
who had come raiding from the Beyond in the long war canoes, beaked
and black, carved and inlaid with mother-of-pearl, which they had
left hauled up on the beach at the door of Meringe.
Many precautions by the white-gods had Jerry been aware of, and so,
sensing it almost in intangible ways, as a matter of course he
accepted this barbed-wire fence on the floating world as a mark of
the persistence of danger. Disaster and death hovered close about,
waiting the chance to leap upon life and drag it down. Life had to
be very alive in order to live was the law Jerry had learned from
the little of life he knew.
Watching the rigging up of the barbed wire, Jerry's next adventure
was an encounter with Lerumie, the return boy from Meringe, who,
only that morning, on the beach embarking, had been rolled by Biddy,
along with his possessions into the surf. The encounter occurred on
the starboard side of the skylight, alongside of which Lerumie was
standing as he gazed into a cheap trade-mirror and combed his kinky
hair with a hand-carved comb of wood.
Jerry, scarcely aware of Lerumie's presence, was trotting past on
his way aft to where Borckman, the mate, was superintending the
stringing of the barbed wire to the stanchions. And Lerumie, with a
side-long look to see if the deed meditated for his foot was
screened from observation, aimed a kick at the son of his four-
legged enemy. His bare foot caught Jerry on the sensitive end of
his recently bobbed tail, and Jerry, outraged, with the sense of
sacrilege committed upon him, went instantly wild.
Captain Van Horn, standing aft on the port quarter, gauging the
slant of the wind on the sails and the inadequate steering of the
black at the wheel, had not seen Jerry because of the intervening
skylight. But his eyes had taken in the shoulder movement of
Lerumie that advertised the balancing on one foot while the other
foot had kicked. And from what followed, he divined what had
Jerry's outcry, as he sprawled, whirled, sprang, and slashed, was a
veritable puppy-scream of indignation. He slashed ankle and foot as
he received the second kick in mid-air; and, although he slid clear
down the slope of deck into the scuppers, he left on the black skin
the red tracery of his puppy-needle teeth. Still screaming his
indignation, he clawed his way back up the steep wooden hill.
Lerumie, with another side-long look, knew that he was observed and
that he dare not go to extremes. He fled along the skylight to
escape down the companionway, but was caught by Jerry's sharp teeth
in his calf. Jerry, attacking blindly, got in the way of the
black's feet. A long, stumbling fall, accelerated by a sudden
increase of wind in the sails, ensued, and Lerumie, vainly trying to
catch his footing, fetched up against the three strands of barbed
wire on the lee rail.
The deck-full of blacks shrieked their merriment, and Jerry, his
rage undiminished, his immediate antagonist out of the battle,
mistaking himself as the object of the laughter of the blacks,
turned upon them, charging and slashing the many legs that fled
before him. They dropped down the cabin and forecastle
companionways, ran out the bowsprit, and sprang into the rigging
till they were perched everywhere in the air like monstrous birds.
In the end, the deck belonged to Jerry, save for the boat's crew;
for he had already learned to differentiate. Captain Van Horn was
hilariously vocal of his praise, calling Jerry to him and giving him
man-thumps of joyful admiration. Next, the captain turned to his
many passengers and orated in beche-de-mer English.
"Hey! You fella boy! I make 'm big fella talk. This fella dog he
belong along me. One fella boy hurt 'm that fella dog--my word!--me
cross too much along that fella boy. I knock 'm seven bells outa
that fella boy. You take 'm care leg belong you. I take 'm care
dog belong me. Savve?"
And the passengers, still perched in the air, with gleaming black
eyes and with querulerus chirpings one to another, accepted the
white man's law. Even Lerumie, variously lacerated by the barbed
wire, did not scowl nor mutter threats. Instead, and bringing a
roar of laughter from his fellows and a twinkle into the skipper's
eyes, he rubbed questing fingers over his scratches and murmured:
"My word! Some big fella dog that fella!"
It was not that Jerry was unkindly. Like Biddy and Terrence, he was
fierce and unafraid; which attributes were wrapped up in his
heredity. And, like Biddy and Terrence, he delighted in nigger-
chasing, which, in turn, was a matter of training. From his
earliest puppyhood he had been so trained. Niggers were niggers,
but white men were gods, and it was the white-gods who had trained
him to chase niggers and keep them in their proper lesser place in
the world. All the world was held in the hollow of the white man's
hands. The niggers--well, had not he seen them always compelled to
remain in their lesser place? Had he not seen them, on occasion,
triced up to the palm-trees of the Meringe compound and their backs
lashed to ribbons by the white-gods? Small wonder that a high-born
Irish terrier, in the arms of love of the white-god, should look at
niggers through white-god's eyes, and act toward niggers in the way
that earned the white-god's reward of praise.
It was a busy day for Jerry. Everything about the Arangi was new
and strange, and so crowded was she that exciting things were
continually happening. He had another encounter with the wild-dog,
who treacherously attacked him in flank from ambuscade. Trade boxes
belonging to the blacks had been irregularly piled so that a small
space was left between two boxes in the lower tier. From this hole,
as Jerry trotted past in response to a call from the skipper, the
wild-dog sprang, scratched his sharp puppy-teeth into Jerry's
yellow-velvet hide, and scuttled back into his lair.
Again Jerry's feelings were outraged. He could understand flank
attack. Often he and Michael had played at that, although it had
only been playing. But to retreat without fighting from a fight
once started was alien to Jerry's ways and nature. With righteous
wrath he charged into the hole after his enemy. But this was where
the wild-dog fought to best advantage--in a corner. When Jerry
sprang up in the confined space he bumped his head on the box above,
and the next moment felt the snarling impact of the other's teeth
against his own teeth and jaw.
There was no getting at the wild-dog, no chance to rush against him
whole heartedly, with generous full weight in the attack. All Jerry
could do was to crawl and squirm and belly forward, and always he
was met by a snarling mouthful of teeth. Even so, he would have got
the wild-dog in the end, had not Borckman, in passing, reached in
and dragged Jerry out by a hind-leg. Again came Captain Van Horn's
call, and Jerry, obedient, trotted on aft.
A meal was being served on deck in the shade of the spanker, and
Jerry, sitting between the two men received his share. Already he
had made the generalization that of the two, the captain was the
superior god, giving many orders that the mate obeyed. The mate, on
the other hand, gave orders to the blacks, but never did he give
orders to the captain. Furthermore, Jerry was developing a liking
for the captain, so he snuggled close to him. When he put his nose
into the captain's plate, he was gently reprimanded. But once, when
he merely sniffed at the mate's steaming tea-cup, her received a
snub on the nose from the mate's grimy forefinger. Also, the mate
did not offer him food.
Captain Van Horn gave him, first of all, a pannikin of oatmeal mush,
generously flooded with condensed cream and sweetened with a heaping
spoonful of sugar. After that, on occasion, he gave him morsels of
buttered bread and slivers of fried fish from which he first
carefully picked the tiny bones.
His beloved Mister Haggin had never fed him from the table at meal
time, and Jerry was beside himself with the joy of this delightful
experience. And, being young, he allowed his eagerness to take
possession of him, so that soon he was unduly urging the captain for
more pieces of fish and of bread and butter. Once, he even barked
his demand. This put the idea into the captain's head, who began
immediately to teach him to "speak."
At the end of five minutes he had learned to speak softly, and to
speak only once--a low, mellow, bell-like bark of a single syllable.
Also, in this first five minutes, he had learned to "sit down," as
distinctly different from "lie down"; and that he must sit down
whenever he spoke, and that he must speak without jumping or moving
from the sitting position, and then must wait until the piece of
food was passed to him.
Further, he had added three words to his vocabulary. For ever
after, "speak" would mean to him "speak," and "sit down" would mean
"sit down" and would not mean "lie down." The third addition to his
vocabulary was "Skipper." That was the name he had heard the mate
repeatedly call Captain Van Horn. And just as Jerry knew that when
a human called "Michael," that the call referred to Michael and not
to Biddy, or Terrence, or himself, so he knew that Skipper was the
name of the two-legged white master of this new floating world.
"That isn't just a dog," was Van Horn's conclusion to the mate.
"There's a sure enough human brain there behind those brown eyes.
He's six months old. Any boy of six years would be an infant
phenomenon to learn in five minutes all that he's just learned.
Why, Gott-fer-dang, a dog's brain has to be like a man's. If he
does things like a man, he's got to think like a man."
The companionway into the main cabin was a steep ladder, and down
this, after his meal, Jerry was carried by the captain. The cabin
was a long room, extending for the full width of the Arangi from a
lazarette aft to a tiny room for'ard. For'ard of this room,
separated by a tight bulkhead, was the forecastle where lived the
boat's crew. The tiny room was shared between Van Horn and
Borckman, while the main cabin was occupied by the three-score and
odd return boys. They squatted about and lay everywhere on the
floor and on the long low bunks that ran the full length of the
In the little stateroom the captain tossed a blanket on the floor in
a corner, and he did not find it difficult to get Jerry to
understand that that was his bed. Nor did Jerry, with a full
stomach and weary from so much excitement, find it difficult to fall
An hour later he was awakened by the entrance of Borckman. When he
wagged his stub of a tail and smiled friendly with his eyes, the
mate scowled at him and muttered angrily in his throat. Jerry made
no further overtures, but lay quietly watching. The mate had come
to take a drink. In truth, he was stealing the drink from Van
Horn's supply. Jerry did not know this. Often, on the plantation,
he had seen the white men take drinks. But there was something
somehow different in the manner of Borckman's taking a drink. Jerry
was aware, vaguely, that there was something surreptitious about it.
What was wrong he did not know, yet he sensed the wrongness and
After the mate departed, Jerry would have slept again had not the
carelessly latched door swung open with a bang. Opening his eyes,
prepared for any hostile invasion from the unknown, he fell to
watching a large cockroach crawling down the wall. When he got to
his feet and warily stalked toward it, the cockroach scuttled away
with a slight rustling noise and disappeared into a crack. Jerry
had been acquainted with cockroaches all his life, but he was
destined to learn new things about them from the particular breed
that dwelt on the Arangi.
After a cursory examination of the stateroom he wandered out into
the cabin. The blacks, sprawled about everywhere, but, conceiving
it to be his duty to his Skipper, Jerry made it a point to identify
each one. They scowled and uttered low threatening noises when he
sniffed close to them. One dared to menace him with a blow, but
Jerry, instead of slinking away, showed his teeth and prepared to
spring. The black hastily dropped the offending hand to his side
and made soothing, penitent noises, while others chuckled; and Jerry
passed on his way. It was nothing new. Always a blow was to be
expected from blacks when white men were not around. Both the mate
and the captain were on deck, and Jerry, though unafraid, continued
his investigations cautiously.
But at the doorless entrance to the lazarette aft, he threw caution
to the winds and darted in in pursuit of the new scent that came to
his nostrils. A strange person was in the low, dark space whom he
had never smelled. Clad in a single shift and lying on a coarse
grass-mat spread upon a pile of tobacco cases and fifty-pound tins
of flour, was a young black girl.
There was something furtive and lurking about her that Jerry did not
fail to sense, and he had long since learned that something was
wrong when any black lurked or skulked. She cried out with fear as
he barked an alarm and pounced upon her. Even though his teeth
scratched her bare arm, she did not strike at him. Not did she cry
out again. She cowered down and trembled and did not fight back.
Keeping his teeth locked in the hold he had got on her flimsy shift,
he shook and dragged at her, all the while growling and scolding for
her benefit and yelping a high clamour to bring Skipper or the mate.
In the course of the struggle the girl over-balanced on the boxes
and tins and the entire heap collapsed. This caused Jerry to yelp a
more frenzied alarm, while the blacks, peering in from the cabin,
laughed with cruel enjoyment.
When Skipper arrived, Jerry wagged his stump tail and, with ears
laid back, dragged and tugged harder than ever at the thin cotton of
the girl's garment. He expected praise for what he had done, but
when Skipper merely told him to let go, he obeyed with the
realization that this lurking, fear-struck creature was somehow
different, and must be treated differently, from other lurking
Fear-struck she was, as it is given to few humans to be and still
live. Van Horn called her his parcel of trouble, and he was anxious
to be rid of the parcel, without, however, the utter annihilation of
the parcel. It was this annihilation which he had saved her from
when he bought her in even exchange for a fat pig.
Stupid, worthless, spiritless, sick, not more than a dozen years
old, no delight in the eyes of the young men of her village, she had
been consigned by her disappointed parents to the cooking-pot. When
Captain Van Horn first encountered her had been when she was the
central figure in a lugubrious procession on the banks of the
Anything but a beauty--had been his appraisal when he halted the
procession for a pow-wow. Lean from sickness, her skin mangy with
the dry scales of the disease called bukua, she was tied hand and
foot and, like a pig, slung from a stout pole that rested on the
shoulders of the bearers, who intended to dine off of her. Too
hopeless to expect mercy, she made no appeal for help, though the
horrible fear that possessed her was eloquent in her wild-staring
In the universal beche-de-mer English, Captain Van Horn had learned
that she was not regarded with relish by her companions, and that
they were on their way to stake her out up to her neck in the
running water of the Balebuli. But first, before they staked her,
their plan was to dislocate her joints and break the big bones of
the arms and legs. This was no religious rite, no placation of the
brutish jungle gods. Merely was it a matter of gastronomy. Living
meat, so treated, was made tender and tasty, and, as her companions
pointed out, she certainly needed to be put through such a process.
Two days in the water, they told the captain, ought to do the
business. Then they would kill her, build the fire, and invite in a
After half an hour of bargaining, during which Captain Van Horn had
insisted on the worthlessness of the parcel, he had bought a fat pig
worth five dollars and exchanged it for her. Thus, since he had
paid for the pig in trade goods, and since trade goods were rated at
a hundred per cent. profit, the girl had actually cost him two
dollars and fifty cents.
And then Captain Van Horn's troubles had begun. He could not get
rid of the girl. Too well he knew the natives of Malaita to turn
her over to them anywhere on the island. Chief Ishikola of Su'u had
offered five twenties of drinking coconuts for her, and Bau, a bush
chief, had offered two chickens on the beach at Malu. But this last
offer had been accompanied by a sneer, and had tokened the old
rascal's scorn of the girl's scrawniness. Failing to connect with
the missionary brig, the Western Cross, on which she would not have
been eaten, Captain Van Horn had been compelled to keep her in the
cramped quarters of the Arangi against a problematical future time
when he would be able to turn her over to the missionaries.
But toward him the girl had no heart of gratitude because she had no
brain of understanding. She, who had been sold for a fat pig,
considered her pitiful role in the world to be unchanged. Eatee she
had been. Eatee she remained. Her destination merely had been
changed, and this big fella white marster of the Arangi would
undoubtedly be her destination when she had sufficiently fattened.
His designs on her had been transparent from the first, when he had
tried to feed her up. And she had outwitted him by resolutely
eating no more than would barely keep her alive.
As a result, she, who had lived in the bush all her days and never
so much as set foot in a canoe, rocked and rolled unendingly over
the broad ocean in a perpetual nightmare of fear. In the beche-de-
mer that was current among the blacks of a thousand islands and ten
thousand dialects, the Arangi's procession of passengers assured her
of her fate. "My word, you fella Mary," one would say to her,
"short time little bit that big fella white marster kai-kai along
you." Or, another: "Big fella white marster kai-kai along you, my
word, belly belong him walk about too much."
Kai-kai was the beche-de-mer for "eat." Even Jerry knew that.
"Eat" did not obtain in his vocabulary; but kai-kai did, and it
meant all and more than "eat," for it served for both noun and verb.
But the girl never replied to the jeering of the blacks. For that
matter, she never spoke at all, not even to Captain Van Horn, who
did not so much as know her name.
It was late afternoon, after discovering the girl in the lazarette,
when Jerry again came on deck. Scarcely had Skipper, who had
carried him up the steep ladder, dropped him on deck than Jerry made
a new discovery--land. He did not see it, but he smelled it. His
nose went up in the air and quested to windward along the wind that
brought the message, and he read the air with his nose as a man
might read a newspaper--the salt smells of the seashore and of the
dank muck of mangrove swamps at low tide, the spicy fragrances of
tropic vegetation, and the faint, most faint, acrid tingle of smoke
from smudgy fires.
The trade, which had laid the Arangi well up under the lee of this
outjutting point of Malaita, was now failing, so that she began to
roll in the easy swells with crashings of sheets and tackles and
thunderous flappings of her sails. Jerry no more than cocked a
contemptuous quizzical eye at the mainsail anticking above him. He
knew already the empty windiness of its threats, but he was careful
of the mainsheet blocks, and walked around the traveller instead of
While Captain Van Horn, taking advantage of the calm to exercise the
boat's crew with the fire-arms and to limber up the weapons, was
passing out the Lee-Enfields from their place on top the cabin
skylight, Jerry suddenly crouched and began to stalk stiff-legged.
But the wild-dog, three feet from his lair under the trade-boxes,
was not unobservant. He watched and snarled threateningly. It was
not a nice snarl. In fact, it was as nasty and savage a snarl as
all his life had been nasty and savage. Most small creatures were
afraid of that snarl, but it had no deterrent effect on Jerry, who
continued his steady stalking. When the wild-dog sprang for the
hole under the boxes, Jerry sprang after, missing his enemy by
inches. Tossing overboard bits of wood, bottles and empty tins,
Captain Van Horn ordered the eight eager boat's crew with rifles to
turn loose. Jerry was excited and delighted with the fusillade, and
added his puppy yelpings to the noise. As the empty brass
cartridges were ejected, the return boys scrambled on the deck for
them, esteeming them as very precious objects and thrusting them,
still warm, into the empty holes in their ears. Their ears were
perforated with many of these holes, the smallest capable of
receiving a cartridge, while the larger ones contained-clay pipes,
sticks of tobacco, and even boxes of matches. Some of the holes in
the ear-lobes were so huge that they were plugged with carved wooden
cylinders three inches in diameter.
Mate and captain carried automatics in their belts, and with these
they turned loose, shooting away clip after clip to the breathless
admiration of the blacks for such marvellous rapidity of fire. The
boat's crew were not even fair shots, but Van Horn, like every
captain in the Solomons, knew that the bush natives and salt-water
men were so much worse shots, and knew that the shooting of his
boat's crew could be depended upon--if the boat's crew itself did
not turn against the ship in a pinch.
At first, Borckman's automatic jammed, and he received a caution
from Van Horn for his carelessness in not keeping it clean and thin-
oiled. Also, Borckman was twittingly asked how many drinks he had
taken, and if that was what accounted for his shooting being under
his average. Borckman explained that he had a touch of fever, and
Van Horn deferred stating his doubts until a few minutes later,
squatting in the shade of the spanker with Jerry in his arms, he
told Jerry all about it.
"The trouble with him is the schnapps, Jerry," he explained. "Gott-
fer-dang, it makes me keep all my watches and half of his. And he
says it's the fever. Never believe it, Jerry. It's the schnapps--
just the plain s-c-h-n-a-p-p-s schnapps. An' he's a good sailor-
man, Jerry, when he's sober. But when he's schnappy he's sheer
lunatic. Then his noddle goes pinwheeling and he's a blighted fool,
and he'd snore in a gale and suffer for sleep in a dead calm.--
Jerry, you're just beginning to pad those four little soft feet of
yours into the world, so take the advice of one who knows and leave
the schnapps alone. Believe me, Jerry, boy--listen to your father--
schnapps will never buy you anything."
Whereupon, leaving Jerry on deck to stalk the wild-dog, Captain Van
Horn went below into the tiny stateroom and took a long drink from
the very bottle from which Borckman was stealing.
The stalking of the wild-dog became a game, at least to Jerry, who
was so made that his heart bore no malice, and who hugely enjoyed
it. Also, it gave him a delightful consciousness of his own
mastery, for the wild-dog always fled from him. At least so far as
dogs were concerned, Jerry was cock of the deck of the Arangi. It
did not enter his head to query how his conduct affected the wild-
dog, though, in truth, he led that individual a wretched existence.
Never, except when Jerry was below, did the wild one dare venture
more than several feet from his retreat, and he went about in fear
and trembling of the fat roly-poly puppy who was unafraid of his
In the late afternoon, Jerry trotted aft, after having administered
another lesson to the wild-dog, and found Skipper seated on the
deck, back against the low rail, knees drawn up, and gazing absently
off to leeward. Jerry sniffed his bare calf--not that he needed to
identify it, but just because he liked to, and in a sort of friendly
greeting. But Van Horn took no notice, continuing to stare out
across the sea. Nor was he aware of the puppy's presence.
Jerry rested the length of his chin on Skipper's knee and gazed long
and earnestly into Skipper's face. This time Skipper knew, and was
pleasantly thrilled; but still he gave no sign. Jerry tried a new
tack. Skipper's hand drooped idly, half open, from where the
forearm rested on the other knee. Into the part-open hand Jerry
thrust his soft golden muzzle to the eyes and remained quite still.
Had he been situated to see, he would have seen a twinkle in
Skipper's eyes, which had been withdrawn from the sea and were
looking down upon him. But Jerry could not see. He kept quiet a
little longer, and then gave a prodigious sniff.
This was too much for Skipper, who laughed with such genial
heartiness as to lay Jerry's silky ears back and down in self-
deprecation of affection and pleadingness to bask in the sunshine of
the god's smile. Also, Skipper's laughter set Jerry's tail wildly
bobbing. The half-open hand closed in a firm grip that gathered in
the slack of the skin of one side of Jerry's head and jowl. Then
the hand began to shake him back and forth with such good will that
he was compelled to balance back and forth on all his four feet.
It was bliss to Jerry. Nay, more, it was ecstasy. For Jerry knew
there was neither anger nor danger in the roughness of the shake,
and that it was play of the sort that he and Michael had indulged
in. On occasion, he had so played with Biddy and lovingly mauled
her about. And, on very rare occasion, Mister Haggin had lovingly
mauled him about. It was speech to Jerry, full of unmistakable
As the shake grew rougher, Jerry emitted his most ferocious growl,
which grew more ferocious with the increasing violence of the
shaking. But that, too, was play, a making believe to hurt the one
he liked too well to hurt. He strained and tugged at the grip,
trying to twist his jowl in the slack of skin so as to reach a bite.
When Skipper, with a quick thrust, released him and shoved him
clear, he came back, all teeth and growl, to be again caught and
shaken. The play continued, with rising excitement to Jerry. Once,
too quick for Skipper, he caught his hand between teeth; but he did
not bring them together. They pressed lovingly, denting the skin,
but there was no bite in them.
The play grew rougher, and Jerry lost himself in the play. Still
playing, he grew so excited that all that had been feigned became
actual. This was battle a struggle against the hand that seized and
shook him and thrust him away. The make-believe of ferocity passed
out of his growls; the ferocity in them became real. Also, in the
moments when he was shoved away and was springing back to the
attack, he yelped in high-pitched puppy hysteria. And Captain Van
Horn, realizing, suddenly, instead of clutching, extended his hand
wide open in the peace sign that is as ancient as the human hand.
At the same time his voice rang out the single word, "Jerry!" In it
was all the imperativeness of reproof and command and all the
solicitous insistence of love.
Jerry knew and was checked back to himself. He was instantly
contrite, all soft humility, ears laid back with pleadingness for
forgiveness and protestation of a warm throbbing heart of love.
Instantly, from an open-mouthed, fang-bristling dog in full career
of attack, he melted into a bundle of softness and silkiness, that
trotted to the open hand and kissed it with a tongue that flashed
out between white gleaming teeth like a rose-red jewel. And the
next moment he was in Skipper's arms, jowl against cheek, and the
tongue was again flashing out in all the articulateness possible for
a creature denied speech. It was a veritable love-feast, as dear to
one as to the other.
"Gott-fer-dang!" Captain Van Horn crooned. "You're nothing but a
bunch of high-strung sensitiveness, with a golden heart in the
middle and a golden coat wrapped all around. Gott-fer-dang, Jerry,
you're gold, pure gold, inside and out, and no dog was ever minted
like you in all the world. You're heart of gold, you golden dog,
and be good to me and love me as I shall always be good to you and
love you for ever and for ever."
And Captain Van Horn, who ruled the Arangi in bare legs, a loin
cloth, and a sixpenny under-shirt, and ran cannibal blacks back and
forth in the blackbird trade with an automatic strapped to his body
waking and sleeping and with his head forfeit in scores of salt-
water villages and bush strongholds, and who was esteemed the
toughest skipper in the Solomons where only men who are tough may
continue to live and esteem toughness, blinked with sudden moisture
in his eyes, and could not see for the moment the puppy that
quivered all its body of love in his arms and kissed away the salty
softness of his eyes.
And swift tropic night smote the Arangi, as she alternately rolled
in calms and heeled and plunged ahead in squalls under the lee of
the cannibal island of Malaita. It was a stoppage of the south-east
trade wind that made for variable weather, and that made cooking on
the exposed deck galley a misery and sent the return boys, who had
nothing to wet but their skins, scuttling below.
The first watch, from eight to twelve, was the mate's; and Captain
Van Horn, forced below by the driving wet of a heavy rain squall,
took Jerry with him to sleep in the tiny stateroom. Jerry was weary
from the manifold excitements of the most exciting day in his life;
and he was asleep and kicking and growling in his sleep, ere
Skipper, with a last look at him and a grin as he turned the lamp
low, muttered aloud: "It's that wild-dog, Jerry. Get him. Shake
him. Shake him hard."
So soundly did Jerry sleep, that when the rain, having robbed the
atmosphere of its last breath of wind, ceased and left the stateroom
a steaming, suffocating furnace, he did not know when Skipper,
panting for air, his loin cloth and undershirt soaked with sweat,
arose, tucked blanket and pillow under his arm, and went on deck.
Jerry only awakened when a huge three-inch cockroach nibbled at the
sensitive and hairless skin between his toes. He awoke kicking the
offended foot, and gazed at the cockroach that did not scuttle, but
that walked dignifiedly away. He watched it join other cockroaches
that paraded the floor. Never had he seen so many gathered together
at one time, and never had he seen such large ones. They were all
of a size, and they were everywhere. Long lines of them poured out
of cracks in the walls and descended to join their fellows on the
The thing was indecent--at least, in Jerry's mind, it was not to be
tolerated. Mister Haggin, Derby, and Bob had never tolerated
cockroaches, and their rules were his rules. The cockroach was the
eternal tropic enemy. He sprang at the nearest, pouncing to crush
it to the floor under his paws. But the thing did what he had never
known a cockroach to do. It arose in the air strong-flighted as a
bird. And as if at a signal, all the multitude of cockroaches took
wings of flight and filled the room with their flutterings and
He attacked the winged host, leaping into the air, snapping at the
flying vermin, trying to knock them down with his paws.
Occasionally he succeeded and destroyed one; nor did the combat
cease until all the cockroaches, as if at another signal,
disappeared into the many cracks, leaving the room to him.
Quickly, his next thought was: Where is Skipper? He knew he was
not in the room, though he stood up on his hind-legs and
investigated the low bunk, his keen little nose quivering
delightedly while he made little sniffs of delight as he smelled the
recent presence of Skipper. And what made his nose quiver and
sniff, likewise made his stump of a tail bob back and forth.
But where was Skipper? It was a thought in his brain that was as
sharp and definite as a similar thought would be in a human brain.
And it similarly preceded action. The door had been left hooked
open, and Jerry trotted out into the cabin where half a hundred
blacks made queer sleep-moanings, and sighings, and snorings. They
were packed closely together, covering the floor as well as the long
sweep of bunks, so that he was compelled to crawl over their naked
legs. And there was no white god about to protect him. He knew it,
but was unafraid.
Having made sure that Skipper was not in the cabin, Jerry prepared
for the perilous ascent of the steep steps that were almost a
ladder, then recollected the lazarette. In he trotted and sniffed
at the sleeping girl in the cotton shift who believed that Van Horn
was going to eat her if he could succeed in fattening her.
Back at the ladder-steps, he looked up and waited in the hope that
Skipper might appear from above and carry him up. Skipper had
passed that way, he knew, and he knew for two reasons. It was the
only way he could have passed, and Jerry's nose told him that he had
passed. His first attempt to climb the steps began well. Not until
a third of the way up, as the Arangi rolled in a sea and recovered
with a jerk, did he slip and fall. Two or three boys awoke and
watched him while they prepared and chewed betel nut and lime
wrapped in green leaves.
Twice, barely started, Jerry slipped back, and more boys, awakened
by their fellows, sat up and enjoyed his plight. In the fourth
attempt he managed to gain half way up before he fell, coming down
heavily on his side. This was hailed with low laughter and
querulous chirpings that might well have come from the throats of
huge birds. He regained his feet, absurdly bristled the hair on his
shoulders and absurdly growled his high disdain of these lesser,
two-legged things that came and went and obeyed the wills of great,
white-skinned, two-legged gods such as Skipper and Mister Haggin.
Undeterred by his heavy fall, Jerry essayed the ladder again. A
temporary easement of the Arangi's rolling gave him his opportunity,
so that his forefeet were over the high combing of the companion
when the next big roll came. He held on by main strength of his
bent forelegs, then scrambled over and out on deck.
Amidships, squatting on the deck near the sky-light, he investigated
several of the boat's crew and Lerumie. He identified them
circumspectly, going suddenly stiff-legged as Lerumie made a low,
hissing, menacing noise. Aft, at the wheel, he found a black
steering, and, near him, the mate keeping the watch. Just as the
mate spoke to him and stooped to pat him, Jerry whiffed Skipper
somewhere near at hand. With a conciliating, apologetic bob of his
tail, he trotted on up wind and came upon Skipper on his back,
rolled in a blanket so that only his head stuck out, and sound
First of all Jerry needs must joyfully sniff him and joyfully wag
his tail. But Skipper did not awake and a fine spray of rain,
almost as thin as mist, made Jerry curl up and press closely into
the angle formed by Skipper's head and shoulder. This did awake
him, for he uttered "Jerry" in a low, crooning voice, and Jerry
responded with a touch of his cold damp nose to the other's cheek.
And then Skipper went to sleep again. But not Jerry. He lifted the
edge of the blanket with his nose and crawled across the shoulder
until he was altogether inside. This roused Skipper, who, half-
asleep, helped him to curl up.
Still Jerry was not satisfied, and he squirmed around until he lay
in the hollow of Skipper's arm, his head resting on Skipper's
shoulder, when, with a profound sigh of content, he fell asleep.
Several times the noises made by the boat's crew in trimming the
sheets to the shifting draught of air roused Van Horn, and each
time, remembering the puppy, he pressed him caressingly with his
hollowed arm. And each time, in his sleep, Jerry stirred
responsively and snuggled cosily to him.
For all that he was a remarkable puppy, Jerry had his limitations,
and he could never know the effect produced on the hard-bitten
captain by the soft warm contact of his velvet body. But it made
the captain remember back across the years to his own girl babe
asleep on his arm. And so poignantly did he remember, that he
became wide awake, and many pictures, beginning, with the girl babe,
burned their torment in his brain. No white man in the Solomons
knew what he carried about with him, waking and often sleeping; and
it was because of these pictures that he had come to the Solomons in
a vain effort to erase them.
First, memory-prodded by the soft puppy in his arm, he saw the girl
and the mother in the little Harlem flat. Small, it was true, but
tight-packed with the happiness of three that made it heaven.
He saw the girl's flaxen-yellow hair darken to her mother's gold as
it lengthened into curls and ringlets until finally it became two
thick long braids. From striving not to see these many pictures he
came even to dwelling upon them in the effort so to fill his
consciousness as to keep out the one picture he did not want to see.
He remembered his work, the wrecking car, and the wrecking crew that
had toiled under him, and he wondered what had become of Clancey,
his right-hand man. Came the long day, when, routed from bed at
three in the morning to dig a surface car out of the wrecked show
windows of a drug store and get it back on the track, they had
laboured all day clearing up a half-dozen smash-ups and arrived at
the car house at nine at night just as another call came in.
"Glory be!" said Clancey, who lived in the next block from him. He
could see him saying it and wiping the sweat from his grimy face.
"Glory be, 'tis a small matter at most, an' right in our
neighbourhood--not a dozen blocks away. Soon as it's done we can
beat it for home an' let the down-town boys take the car back to the
"We've only to jack her up for a moment," he had answered.
"What is it?" Billy Jaffers, another of the crew, asked.
"Somebody run over--can't get them out," he said, as they swung on
board the wrecking-car and started.
He saw again all the incidents of the long run, not omitting the
delay caused by hose-carts and a hook-and-ladder running to a cross-
town fire, during which time he and Clancey had joked Jaffers over
the dates with various fictitious damsels out of which he had been
cheated by the night's extra work.
Came the long line of stalled street-cars, the crowd, the police
holding it back, the two ambulances drawn up and waiting their
freight, and the young policeman, whose beat it was, white and
shaken, greeting him with: "It's horrible, man. It's fair
sickening. Two of them. We can't get them out. I tried. One was
still living, I think."
But he, strong man and hearty, used to such work, weary with the
hard day and with a pleasant picture of the bright little flat
waiting him a dozen blocks away when the job was done, spoke
cheerfully, confidently, saying that he'd have them out in a jiffy,
as he stooped and crawled under the car on hands and knees.
Again he saw himself as he pressed the switch of his electric torch
and looked. Again he saw the twin braids of heavy golden hair ere
his thumb relaxed from the switch, leaving him in darkness.
"Is the one alive yet?" the shaken policeman asked.
And the question was repeated, while he struggled for will power
sufficient to press on the light.
He heard himself reply, "I'll tell you in a minute."
Again he saw himself look. For a long minute he looked.
"Both dead," he answered quietly. "Clancey, pass in a number three
jack, and get under yourself with another at the other end of the
He lay on his back, staring straight up at one single star that
rocked mistily through a thinning of cloud-stuff overhead. The old
ache was in his throat, the old harsh dryness in mouth and eyes.
And he knew--what no other man knew--why he was in the Solomons,
skipper of the teak-built yacht Arangi, running niggers, risking his
head, and drinking more Scotch whiskey than was good for any man.
Not since that night had he looked with warm eyes on any woman. And
he had been noted by other whites as notoriously cold toward
pickanninnies white or black.
But, having visioned the ultimate horror of memory, Van Horn was
soon able to fall asleep again, delightfully aware, as he drowsed
off, of Jerry's head on his shoulder. Once, when Jerry, dreaming of
the beach at Meringe and of Mister Haggin, Biddy, Terrence, and
Michael, set up a low whimpering, Van Horn roused sufficiently to
soothe him closer to him, and to mutter ominously: "Any nigger
that'd hurt that pup. . . "
At midnight when the mate touched him on the shoulder, in the moment
of awakening and before he was awake Van Horn did two things
automatically and swiftly. He darted his right hand down to the
pistol at his hip, and muttered: "Any nigger that'd hurt that pup .
"That'll be Kopo Point abreast," Borckman explained, as both men
stared to windward at the high loom of the land. "She hasn't made
more than ten miles, and no promise of anything steady."
"There's plenty of stuff making up there, if it'll ever come down,"
Van Horn said, as both men transferred their gaze to the clouds
drifting with many breaks across the dim stars.
Scarcely had the mate fetched a blanket from below and turned in on
deck, than a brisk steady breeze sprang up from off the land,
sending the Arangi through the smooth water at a nine-knot clip.
For a time Jerry tried to stand the watch with Skipper, but he soon
curled up and dozed off, partly on the deck and partly on Skipper's
When Skipper carried him to the blanket and rolled him in, he was
quickly asleep again; and he was quickly awake, out of the blanket,
and padding after along the deck as Skipper paced up and down. Here
began another lesson, and in five minutes Jerry learned it was the
will of Skipper that he should remain in the blanket, that
everything was all right, and that Skipper would be up and down and
near him all the time.
At four the mate took charge of the deck.
"Reeled off thirty miles," Van Horn told him. "But now it is
baffling again. Keep an eye for squalls under the land. Better
throw the halyards down on deck and make the watch stand by. Of
course they'll sleep, but make them sleep on the halyards and
Jerry roused to Skipper's entrance under the blanket, and, quite as
if it were a long-established custom, curled in between his arm and
side, and, after one happy sniff and one kiss of his cool little
tongue, as Skipper pressed his cheek against him caressingly, dozed
off to sleep.
Half an hour later, to all intents and purposes, so far as Jerry
could or could not comprehend, the world might well have seemed
suddenly coming to an end. What awoke him was the flying leap of
Skipper that sent the blanket one way and Jerry the other. The deck
of the Arangi had become a wall, down which Jerry slipped through
the roaring dark. Every rope and shroud was thrumming and
screeching in resistance to the fierce weight of the squall.
"Stand by main halyards!--Jump!" he could hear Skipper shouting
loudly; also he heard the high note of the mainsheet screaming
across the sheaves as Van Horn, bending braces in the dark, was
swiftly slacking the sheet through his scorching palms with a single
turn on the cleat.
While all this, along with many other noises, squealings of boat-
boys and shouts of Borckman, was impacting on Jerry's ear-drums, he
was still sliding down the steep deck of his new and unstable world.
But he did not bring up against the rail where his fragile ribs
might well have been broken. Instead, the warm ocean water, pouring
inboard across the buried rail in a flood of pale phosphorescent
fire, cushioned his fall. A raffle of trailing ropes entangled him
as he struck out to swim.
And he swam, not to save his life, not with the fear of death upon
him. There was but one idea in his mind. Where was Skipper? Not
that he had any thought of trying to save Skipper, nor that he might
be of assistance to him. It was the heart of love that drives one
always toward the beloved. As the mother in catastrophe tries to
gain her babe, as the Greek who, dying, remembered sweet Argos, as
soldiers on a stricken field pass with the names of their women upon
their lips, so Jerry, in this wreck of a world, yearned toward
The squall ceased as abruptly as it had struck. The Arangi righted
with a jerk to an even keel, leaving Jerry stranded in the starboard
scuppers. He trotted across the level deck to Skipper, who,
standing erect on wide-spread legs, the bight of the mainsheet still
in his hand, was exclaiming:
"Gott-fer-dang! Wind he go! Rain he no come!"
He felt Jerry's cool nose against his bare calf, heard his joyous
sniff, and bent and caressed him. In the darkness he could not see,
but his heart warmed with knowledge that Jerry's tail was surely
Many of the frightened return boys had crowded on deck, and their
plaintive, querulous voices sounded like the sleepy noises of a
roost of birds. Borckman came and stood by Van Horn's shoulder, and
both men, strung to their tones in the tenseness of apprehension,
strove to penetrate the surrounding blackness with their eyes, while
they listened with all their ears for any message of the elements
from sea and air.
"Where's the rain?" Borckman demanded peevishly. "Always wind
first, the rain follows and kills the wind. There is no rain."
Van Horn still stared and listened, and made no answer.
The anxiety of the two men was sensed by Jerry, who, too, was on his
toes. He pressed his cool nose to Skipper's leg, and the rose-kiss
of his tongue brought him the salt taste of sea-water.
Skipper bent suddenly, rolled Jerry with quick toughness into the
blanket, and deposited him in the hollow between two sacks of yams
lashed on deck aft of the mizzenmast. As an afterthought, he
fastened the blanket with a piece of rope yarn, so that Jerry was as
if tied in a sack.
Scarcely was this finished when the spanker smashed across overhead,
the headsails thundered with a sudden filling, and the great
mainsail, with all the scope in the boom-tackle caused by Van Horn's
giving of the sheet, came across and fetched up to tautness on the
tackle with a crash that shook the vessel and heeled her violently
to port. This second knock-down had come from the opposite
direction, and it was mightier than the first.
Jerry heard Skipper's voice ring out, first, to the mate: "Stand by
main-halyards! Throw off the turns! I'll take care of the
tackle!"; and, next, to some of the boat's crew: "Batto! you fella
slack spanker tackle quick fella! Ranga! you fella let go spanker
Here Van Horn was swept off his legs by an avalanche of return boys
who had cluttered the deck with the first squall. The squirming
mass, of which he was part, slid down into the barbed wire of the
port rail beneath the surface of the sea.
Jerry was so secure in his nook that he did not roll away. But when
he heard Skipper's commands cease, and, seconds later, heard his
cursings in the barbed wire, he set up a shrill yelping and clawed
and scratched frantically at the blanket to get out. Something had
happened to Skipper. He knew that. It was all that he knew, for he
had no thought of himself in the chaos of the ruining world.
But he ceased his yelping to listen to a new noise--a thunderous
slatting of canvas accompanied by shouts and cries. He sensed, and
sensed wrongly, that it boded ill, for he did not know that it was
the mainsail being lowered on the run after Skipper had slashed the
boom-tackle across with his sheath-knife.
As the pandemonium grew, he added his own yelping to it until he
felt a fumbling hand without the blanket. He stilled and sniffed.
No, it was not Skipper. He sniffed again and recognized the person.
It was Lerumie, the black whom he had seen rolled on the beach by
Biddy only the previous morning, who, still were recently, had
kicked him on his stub of a tail, and who not more than a week
before he had seen throw a rock at Terrence.
The rope yarn had been parted, and Lerumie's fingers were feeling
inside the blanket for him. Jerry snarled his wickedest. The thing
was sacrilege. He, as a white man's dog, was taboo to all blacks.
He had early learned the law that no nigger must ever touch a white-
god's dog. Yet Lerumie, who was all of evil, at this moment when
the world crashed about their ears, was daring to touch him.
And when the fingers touched him, his teeth closed upon them. Next,
he was clouted by the black's free hand with such force as to tear
his clenched teeth down the fingers through skin and flesh until the
fingers went clear.
Raging like a tiny fiend, Jerry found himself picked up by the neck,
half-throttled, and flung through the air. And while flying through
the air, he continued to squall his rage. He fell into the sea and
went under, gulping a mouthful of salt water into his lungs, and
came up strangling but swimming. Swimming was one of the things he
did not have to think about. He had never had to learn to swim, any
more than he had had to learn to breathe. In fact, he had been
compelled to learn to walk; but he swam as a matter of course.
The wind screamed about him. Flying froth, driven on the wind's
breath, filled his mouth and nostrils and beat into his eyes,
stinging and blinding him. In the struggle to breathe he, all
unlearned in the ways of the sea, lifted his muzzle high in the air
to get out of the suffocating welter. As a result, off the
horizontal, the churning of his legs no longer sustained him, and he
went down and under perpendicularly. Again he emerged, strangling
with more salt water in his windpipe. This time, without reasoning
it out, merely moving along the line of least resistance, which was
to him the line of greatest comfort, he straightened out in the sea
and continued so to swim as to remain straightened out.
Through the darkness, as the squall spent itself, came the slatting
of the half-lowered mainsail, the shrill voices of the boat's crew,
a curse of Borckman's, and, dominating all, Skipper's voice,
"Grab the leech, you fella boys! Hang on! Drag down strong fella!
Come in mainsheet two blocks! Jump, damn you, jump!"
At recognition of Skipper's voice, Jerry, floundering in the stiff
and crisping sea that sprang up with the easement of the wind,
yelped eagerly and yearningly, all his love for his new-found
beloved eloquent in his throat. But quickly all sounds died away as
the Arangi drifted from him. And then, in the loneliness of the
dark, on the heaving breast of the sea that he recognized as one
more of the eternal enemies, he began to whimper and cry plaintively
like a lost child.
Further, by the dim, shadowy ways of intuition, he knew his weakness
in that merciless sea with no heart of warmth, that threatened the
unknowable thing, vaguely but terribly guessed, namely, death. As
regarded himself, he did not comprehend death. He, who had never
known the time when he was not alive, could not conceive of the time
when he would cease to be alive.
Yet it was there, shouting its message of warning through every
tissue cell, every nerve quickness and brain sensitivity of him--a
totality of sensation that foreboded the ultimate catastrophe of
life about which he knew nothing at all, but which, nevertheless, he
felt to be the conclusive supreme disaster. Although he did not
comprehend it, he apprehended it no less poignantly than do men who
know and generalize far more deeply and widely than mere four-legged
As a man struggles in the throes of nightmare, so Jerry struggled in
the vexed, salt-suffocating sea. And so he whimpered and cried,
lost child, lost puppy-dog that he was, only half a year existent in
the fair world sharp with joy and suffering. And he wanted Skipper.
Skipper was a god.
On board the Arangi, relieved by the lowering of her mainsail, as
the fierceness went out of the wind and the cloudburst of tropic
rain began to fall, Van Horn and Borckman lurched toward each other
in the blackness.
"A double squall," said Van Horn. "Hit us to starboard and to
"Must a-split in half just before she hit us," the mate concurred.
"And kept all the rain in the second half--"
Van Horn broke off with an oath.
"Hey! What's the matter along you fella boy?" he shouted to the man
at the wheel.
For the ketch, under her spanker which had just then been flat-
hauled, had come into the wind, emptying her after-sail and
permitting her headsails to fill on the other tack. The Arangi was
beginning to work back approximately over the course she had just
traversed. And this meant that she was going back toward Jerry
floundering in the sea. Thus, the balance, on which his life
titubated, was inclined in his favour by the blunder of a black
Keeping the Arangi on the new tack, Van Horn set Borckman clearing
the mess of ropes on deck, himself, squatting in the rain,
undertaking to long-splice the tackle he had cut. As the rain
thinned, so that the crackle of it on deck became less noisy, he was
attracted by a sound from out over the water. He suspended the work
of his hands to listen, and, when he recognized Jerry's wailing,
sprang to his feet, galvanized into action.
"The pup's overboard!" he shouted to Borckman. "Back your jib to
He sprang aft, scattering a cluster of return boys right and left.
"Hey! You fella boat's crew! Come in spanker sheet! Flatten her
down good fella!"
He darted a look into the binnacle and took a hurried compass
bearing of the sounds Jerry was making.
"Hard down your wheel!" he ordered the helmsman, then leaped to the
wheel and put it down himself, repeating over and over aloud,
"Nor'east by east a quarter, nor'east by east a quarter."
Back and peering into the binnacle, he listened vainly for another
wail from Jerry in the hope of verifying his first hasty bearing.
But not long he waited. Despite the fact that by his manoeuvre the
Arangi had been hove to, he knew that windage and sea-driftage would
quickly send her away from the swimming puppy. He shouted Borckman
to come aft and haul in the whaleboat, while he hurried below for
his electric torch and a boat compass.
The ketch was so small that she was compelled to tow her one
whaleboat astern on long double painters, and by the time the mate
had it hauled in under the stern, Van Horn was back. He was
undeterred by the barbed wire, lifting boy after boy of the boat's
crew over it and dropping them sprawling into the boat, following
himself, as the last, by swinging over on the spanker boom, and
calling his last instructions as the painters were cast off.
"Get a riding light on deck, Borckman. Keep her hove to. Don't
hoist the mainsail. Clean up the decks and bend the watch tackle on
the main boom."
He took the steering-sweep and encouraged the rowers with: "Washee-
washee, good fella, washee-washee!"--which is the beche-de-mer for
As he steered, he kept flashing the torch on the boat compass so
that he could keep headed north-east by east a quarter east. Then
he remembered that the boat compass, on such course, deviated two
whole points from the Arangi's compass, and altered his own course
Occasionally he bade the rowers cease, while he listened and called
for Jerry. He had them row in circles, and work back and forth, up
to windward and down to leeward, over the area of dark sea that he
reasoned must contain the puppy.
"Now you fella boy listen ear belong you," he said, toward the
first. "Maybe one fella boy hear 'm pickaninny dog sing out, I give
'm that fella boy five fathom calico, two ten sticks tobacco."
At the end of half an hour he was offering "Two ten fathoms calico
and ten ten sticks tobacco" to the boy who first heard "pickaninny
dog sing out."
Jerry was in bad shape. Not accustomed to swimming, strangled by
the salt water that lapped into his open mouth, he was getting loggy
when first he chanced to see the flash of the captain's torch.
This, however, he did not connect with Skipper, and so took no more
notice of it than he did of the first stars showing in the sky. It
never entered his mind that it might be a star nor even that it
might not be a star. He continued to wail and to strangle with more
salt water. But when he at length heard Skipper's voice he went
immediately wild. He attempted to stand up and to rest his forepaws
on Skipper's voice coming out of the darkness, as he would have
rested his forepaws on Skipper's leg had he been near. The result
was disastrous. Out of the horizontal, he sank down and under,
coming up with a new spasm of strangling.
This lasted for a short time, during which the strangling prevented
him from answering Skipper's cry, which continued to reach him. But
when he could answer he burst forth in a joyous yelp. Skipper was
coming to take him out of the stinging, biting sea that blinded his
eyes and hurt him to breathe. Skipper was truly a god, his god,
with a god's power to save.
Soon he heard the rhythmic clack of the oars on the thole-pins, and
the joy in his own yelp was duplicated by the joy in Skipper's
voice, which kept up a running encouragement, broken by objurgations
to the rowers.
"All right, Jerry, old man. All right, Jerry. All right.--Washee-
washee, you fella boy!--Coming, Jerry, coming. Stick it out, old
man. Stay with it.--Washee-washee like hell!--Here we are, Jerry.
Stay with it. Hang on, old boy, we'll get you.--Easy . . . easy.
And then, with amazing abruptness, Jerry saw the whaleboat dimly
emerge from the gloom close upon him, was blinded by the stab of the
torch full in his eyes, and, even as he yelped his joy, felt and
recognized Skipper's hand clutching him by the slack of the neck and
lifting him into the air.
He landed wet and soppily against Skipper's rain-wet chest, his tail
bobbing frantically against Skipper's containing arm, his body
wriggling, his tongue dabbing madly all over Skipper's chin and
mouth and cheeks and nose. And Skipper did not know that he was
himself wet, and that he was in the first shock of recurrent malaria
precipitated by the wet and the excitement. He knew only that the
puppy-dog, given him only the previous morning, was safe back in his
While the boat's crew bent to the oars, he steered with the sweep
between his arm and his side in order that he might hold Jerry with
the other arm.
"You little son of a gun," he crooned, and continued to croon, over
and over. "You little son of a gun."
And Jerry responded with tongue-kisses, whimpering and crying as is
the way of lost children immediately after they are found. Also, he
shivered violently. But it was not from the cold. Rather was it
due to his over-strung, sensitive nerves.
Again on board, Van Horn stated his reasoning to the mate.
"The pup didn't just calmly walk overboard. Nor was he washed
overboard. I had him fast and triced in the blanket with a rope
He walked over, the centre of the boat's crew and of the three-score
return boys who were all on deck, and flashed his torch on the
blanket still lying on the yams.
"That proves it. The rope-yarn's cut. The knot's still in it. Now
what nigger is responsible?"
He looked about at the circle of dark faces, flashing the light on
them, and such was the accusation and anger in his eyes, that all
eyes fell before his or looked away.
"If only the pup could speak," he complained. "He'd tell who it
He bent suddenly down to Jerry, who was standing as close against
his legs as he could, so close that his wet forepaws rested on
Skipper's bare feet.
"You know 'm, Jerry, you known the black fella boy," he said, his
words quick and exciting, his hand moving in questing circles toward
Jerry was all alive on the instant, jumping about, barking with
short yelps of eagerness.
"I do believe the dog could lead me to him," Van Horn confided to
the mate. "Come on, Jerry, find 'm, sick 'm, shake 'm down. Where
is he, Jerry? Find 'm. Find 'm."
All that Jerry knew was that Skipper wanted something. He must find
something that Skipper wanted, and he was eager to serve. He
pranced about aimlessly and willingly for a space, while Skipper's
urging cries increased his excitement. Then he was struck by an
idea, and a most definite idea it was. The circle of boys broke to
let him through as he raced for'ard along the starboard side to the
tight-lashed heap of trade-boxes. He put his nose into the opening
where the wild-dog laired, and sniffed. Yes, the wild-dog was
inside. Not only did he smell him, but he heard the menace of his
He looked up to Skipper questioningly. Was it that Skipper wanted
him to go in after the wild-dog? But Skipper laughed and waved his
hand to show that he wanted him to search in other places for
He leaped away, sniffing in likely places where experience had
taught him cockroaches and rats might be. Yet it quickly dawned on
him that it was not such things Skipper was after. His heart was
wild with desire to serve, and, without clear purpose, he began
sniffing legs of black boys.
This brought livelier urgings and encouragements from Skipper, and
made him almost frantic. That was it. He must identify the boat's
crew and the return boys by their legs. He hurried the task,
passing swiftly from boy to boy, until he came to Lerumie.
And then he forgot that Skipper wanted him to do something. All he
knew was that it was Lerumie who had broken the taboo of his sacred
person by laying hands on him, and that it was Lerumie who had
thrown him overboard.
With a cry of rage, a flash of white teeth, and a bristle of short
neck-hair, he sprang for the black. Lerumie fled down the deck, and
Jerry pursued amid the laughter of all the blacks. Several times,
in making the circuit of the deck, he managed to scratch the flying
calves with his teeth. Then Lerumie took to the main rigging,
leaving Jerry impotently to rage on the deck beneath him.
About this point the blacks grouped in a semi-circle at a respectful
distance, with Van Horn to the fore beside Jerry. Van Horn centred
his electric torch on the black in the rigging, and saw the long
parallel scratches on the fingers of the hand that had invaded
Jerry's blanket. He pointed them out significantly to Borckman, who
stood outside the circle so that no black should be able to come at
Skipper picked Jerry up and soothed his anger with:
"Good boy, Jerry. You marked and sealed him. Some dog, you, some
He turned back to Lerumie, illuminating him as he clung in the
rigging, and his voice was harsh and cold as he addressed him.
"What name belong along you fella boy?" he demanded.
"Me fella Lerumie," came the chirping, quavering answer.
"You come along Pennduffryn?"
"Me come along Meringe."
Captain Van Horn debated the while he fondled the puppy in his arms.
After all, it was a return boy. In a day, in two days at most, he
would have him landed and be quit of him.
"My word," he harangued, "me angry along you. Me angry big fella
too much along you. Me angry along you any amount. What name you
fella boy make 'm pickaninny dog belong along me walk about along
Lerumie was unable to answer. He rolled his eyes helplessly,
resigned to receive a whipping such as he had long since bitterly
learned white masters were wont to administer.
Captain Van Horn repeated the question, and the black repeated the
helpless rolling of his eyes.
"For two sticks tobacco I knock 'm seven bells outa you," the
skipper bullied. "Now me give you strong fella talk too much. You
look 'm eye belong you one time along this fella dog belong me, I
knock 'm seven bells and whole starboard watch outa you. Savve?"
"Me savve," Lerumie, plaintively replied; and the episode was
The return boys went below to sleep in the cabin. Borckman and the
boat's crew hoisted the mainsail and put the Arangi on her course.
And Skipper, under a dry blanket from below, lay down to sleep with
Jerry, head on his shoulder, in the hollow of his arm.
At seven in the morning, when Skipper rolled him out of the blanket
and got up, Jerry celebrated the new day by chasing the wild-dog
back into his hole and by drawing a snicker from the blacks on deck,
when, with a growl and a flash of teeth, he made Lerumie side-step
half a dozen feet and yield the deck to him.
He shared breakfast with Skipper, who, instead of eating, washed
down with a cup of coffee fifty grains of quinine wrapped in a
cigarette paper, and who complained to the mate that he would have
to get under the blankets and sweat out the fever that was attacking
him. Despite his chill, and despite his teeth that were already
beginning to chatter while the burning sun extracted the moisture in
curling mist-wreaths from the deck planking, Van Horn cuddled Jerry
in his arms and called him princeling, and prince, and a king, and a
son of kings.
For Van Horn had often listened to the recitals of Jerry's pedigree
by Tom Haggin, over Scotch-and-sodas, when it was too pestilentially
hot to go to bed. And the pedigree was as royal-blooded as was
possible for an Irish terrier to possess, whose breed, beginning
with the ancient Irish wolf-hound, had been moulded and established
by man in less than two generations of men.
There was Terrence the Magnificent--descended, as Van Horn
remembered, from the American-bred Milton Droleen, out of the Queen
of County Antrim, Breda Muddler, which royal bitch, as every one who
is familiar with the stud book knows, goes back as far as the almost
mythical Spuds, with along the way no primrose dallyings with black-
and-tan Killeney Boys and Welsh nondescripts. And did not Biddy
trace to Erin, mother and star of the breed, through a long
descendant out of Breda Mixer, herself an ancestress of Breda
Muddler? Nor could be omitted from the purple record the later
ancestress, Moya Doolen.
So Jerry knew the ecstasy of loving and of being loved in the arms
of his love-god, although little he knew of such phrases as "king's
son" and "son of kings," save that they connoted love for him in the
same way that Lerumie's hissing noises connoted hate. One thing
Jerry knew without knowing that he knew, namely, that in the few
hours he had been with Skipper he loved him more than he had loved
Derby and Bob, who, with the exception of Mister Haggin, were the
only other white-gods he had ever known. He was not conscious of
this. He merely loved, merely acted on the prompting of his heart,
or head, or whatever organic or anatomical part of him that
developed the mysterious, delicious, and insatiable hunger called
Skipper went below. He went all unheeding of Jerry, who padded
softly at his heels until the companionway was reached. Skipper was
unheeding of Jerry because of the fever that wrenched his flesh and
chilled his bones, that made his head seem to swell monstrously,
that glazed the world to his swimming eyes and made him walk feebly
and totteringly like a drunken man or a man very aged. And Jerry
sensed that something was wrong with Skipper.
Skipper, beginning the babblings of delirium which alternated with
silent moments of control in order to get below and under blankets,
descended the ladder-like stairs, and Jerry, all-yearning,
controlled himself in silence and watched the slow descent with the
hope that when Skipper reached the bottom he would raise his arms
and lift him down. But Skipper was too far gone to remember that
Jerry existed. He staggered, with wide-spread arms to keep from
falling, along the cabin floor for'ard to the bunk in the tiny
Jerry was truly of a kingly line. He wanted to call out and beg to
be taken down. But he did not. He controlled himself, he knew not
why, save that he was possessed by a nebulous awareness that Skipper
must be considered as a god should be considered, and that this was
no time to obtrude himself on Skipper. His heart was torn with
desire, although he made no sound, and he continued only to yearn
over the companion combing and to listen to the faint sounds of
Skipper's progress for'ard.
But even kings and their descendants have their limitations, and at
the end of a quarter of an hour Jerry was ripe to cease from his
silence. With the going below of Skipper, evidently in great
trouble, the light had gone out of the day for Jerry. He might have
stalked the wild-dog, but no inducement lay there. Lerumie passed
by unnoticed, although he knew he could bully him and make him give
deck space. The myriad scents of the land entered his keen
nostrils, but he made no note of them. Not even the flopping,
bellying mainsail overhead, as the Arangi rolled becalmed, could
draw a glance of quizzical regard from him.
Just as it was tremblingly imperative that Jerry must suddenly squat
down, point his nose at the zenith, and vocalize his heart-rending
woe, an idea came to him. There is no explaining how this idea
came. No more can it be explained than can a human explain why, at
luncheon to-day, he selects green peas and rejects string beans,
when only yesterday he elected to choose string beans and to reject
green peas. No more can it be explained than can a human judge,
sentencing a convicted criminal and imposing eight years
imprisonment instead of the five or nine years that also at the same
time floated upward in his brain, explain why he categorically
determined on eight years as the just, adequate punishment. Since
not even humans, who are almost half-gods, can fathom the mystery of
the genesis of ideas and the dictates of choice, appearing in their
consciousness as ideas, it is not to be expected of a more dog to
know the why of the ideas that animate it to definite acts toward
And so Jerry. Just as he must immediately howl, he was aware that
the idea, an entirely different idea, was there, in the innermost
centre of the quick-thinkingness of him, with all its compulsion.
He obeyed the idea as a marionette obeys the strings, and started
forthwith down the deck aft in quest of the mate.
He had an appeal to make to Borckman. Borckman was also a two-
legged white-god. Easily could Borckman lift him down the
precipitous ladder, which was to him, unaided, a taboo, the
violation of which was pregnant with disaster. But Borckman had in
him little of the heart of love, which is understanding. Also,
Borckman was busy. Besides overseeing the continuous adjustment, by
trimming of sails and orders to the helmsman, of the Arangi to her
way on the sea, and overseeing the boat's crew at its task of
washing deck and polishing brasswork, he was engaged in steadily
nipping from a stolen bottle of his captain's whiskey which he had
stowed away in the hollow between the two sacks of yams lashed on
deck aft the mizzenmast.
Borckman was on his way for another nip, after having thickly
threatened to knock seven bells and the ten commandments out of the
black at the wheel for faulty steering, when Jerry appeared before
him and blocked the way to his desire. But Jerry did not block him
as he would have blocked Lerumie, for instance. There was no
showing of teeth, no bristling of neck hair. Instead, Jerry was all
placation and appeal, all softness of pleading in a body denied
speech that nevertheless was articulate, from wagging tail and
wriggling sides to flat-laid ears and eyes that almost spoke, to any
human sensitive of understanding.
But Borckman saw in his way only a four-legged creature of the brute
world, which, in his arrogant brutalness he esteemed more brute than
himself. All the pretty picture of the soft puppy, instinct with
communicativeness, bursting with tenderness of petition, was veiled
to his vision. What he saw was merely a four-legged animal to be
thrust aside while he continued his lordly two-legged progress
toward the bottle that could set maggots crawling in his brain and
make him dream dreams that he was prince, not peasant, that he was a
master of matter rather than a slave of matter.
And thrust aside Jerry was, by a rough and naked foot, as harsh and
unfeeling in its impact as an inanimate breaking sea on a beach-jut
of insensate rock. He half-sprawled on the slippery deck, regained
his balance, and stood still and looked at the white-god who had
treated him so cavalierly. The meanness and unfairness had brought
from Jerry no snarling threat of retaliation, such as he would have
offered Lerumie or any other black. Nor in his brain was any
thought of retaliation. This was no Lerumie. This was a superior
god, two-legged, white-skinned, like Skipper, like Mister Haggin and
the couple of other superior gods he had known. Only did he know
hurt, such as any child knows under the blow of a thoughtless or
In the hurt was mingled a resentment. He was keenly aware that
there were two sorts of roughness. There was the kindly roughness
of love, such as when Skipper gripped him by the jowl, shook him
till his teeth rattled, and thrust him away with an unmistakable
invitation to come back and be so shaken again. Such roughness, to
Jerry, was heaven. In it was the intimacy of contact with a beloved
god who in such manner elected to express a reciprocal love.
But this roughness of Borckman was different. It was the other kind
of roughness in which resided no warm affection, no heart-touch of
love. Jerry did not quite understand, but he sensed the difference
and resented, without expressing in action, the wrongness and
unfairness of it. So he stood, after regaining balance, and soberly
regarded, in a vain effort to understand, the mate with a bottle-
bottom inverted skyward, the mouth to his lips, the while his throat
made gulping contractions and noises. And soberly he continued to
regard the mate when he went aft and threatened to knock the "Song
of Songs" and the rest of the Old Testament out of the black
helmsman whose smile of teeth was as humbly gentle and placating as
Jerry's had been when he made his appeal.
Leaving this god as a god unliked and not understood, Jerry sadly
trotted back to the companionway and yearned his head over the
combing in the direction in which he had seen Skipper disappear.
What bit at his consciousness and was a painful incitement in it,
was his desire to be with Skipper who was not right, and who was in
trouble. He wanted Skipper. He wanted to be with him, first and
sharply, because he loved him, and, second and dimly, because he
might serve him. And, wanting Skipper, in his helplessness and
youngness in experience of the world, he whimpered and cried his
heart out across the companion combing, and was too clean and direct
in his sorrow to be deflected by an outburst of anger against the
niggers, on deck and below, who chuckled at him and derided him.
From the crest of the combing to the cabin floor was seven feet. He
had, only a few hours before, climbed the precipitous stairway; but
it was impossible, and he knew it, to descend the stairway. And
yet, at the last, he dared it. So compulsive was the prod of his
heart to gain to Skipper at any cost, so clear was his comprehension
that he could not climb down the ladder head first, with no
grippingness of legs and feet and muscles such as were possible in
the ascent, that he did not attempt it. He launched outward and
down, in one magnificent and love-heroic leap. He knew that he was
violating a taboo of life, just as he knew he was violating a taboo
if he sprang into Meringe Lagoon where swam the dreadful crocodiles.
Great love is always capable of expressing itself in sacrifice and
self-immolation. And only for love, and for no lesser reason, could
Jerry have made the leap.
He struck on his side and head. The one impact knocked the breath
out of him; the other stunned him. Even in his unconsciousness,
lying on his side and quivering, he made rapid, spasmodic movements
of his legs as if running for'ard to Skipper. The boys looked on
and laughed, and when he no longer quivered and churned his legs
they continued to laugh. Born in savagery, having lived in savagery
all their lives and known naught else, their sense of humour was
correspondingly savage. To them, the sight of a stunned and
possibly dead puppy was a side-splitting, ludicrous event.
Not until the fourth minute ticked off did returning consciousness
enable Jerry to crawl to his feet and with wide-spread legs and
swimming eyes adjust himself to the Arangi's roll. Yet with the
first glimmerings of consciousness persisted the one idea that he
must gain to Skipper. Blacks? In his anxiety and solicitude and
love they did not count. He ignored the chuckling, grinning,
girding black boys, who, but for the fact that he was under the
terrible aegis of the big fella white marster, would have delighted
to kill and eat the puppy who, in the process of training, was
proving a most capable nigger-chaser. Without a turn of head or
roll of eye, aristocratically positing their non-existingness to
their faces, he trotted for'ard along the cabin floor and into the
stateroom where Skipper babbled maniacally in the bunk.
Jerry, who had never had malaria, did not understand. But in his
heart he knew great trouble in that Skipper was in trouble. Skipper
did not recognize him, even when he sprang into the bunk, walked
across Skipper's heaving chest, and licked the acrid sweat of fever
from Skipper's face. Instead, Skipper's wildly-thrashing arms
brushed him away and flung him violently against the side of the
This was roughness that was not love-roughness. Nor was it the
roughness of Borckman spurning him away with his foot. It was part
of Skipper's trouble. Jerry did not reason this conclusion. But,
and to the point, he acted upon it as if he had reasoned it. In
truth, through inadequacy of one of the most adequate languages in
the world, it can only be said that Jerry sensed the new difference
of this roughness.
He sat up, just out of range of one restless, beating arm, yearned
to come closer and lick again the face of the god who knew him not,
and who, he knew, loved him well, and palpitatingly shared and
suffered all Skipper's trouble.
"Eh, Clancey," Skipper babbled. "It's a fine job this day, and no
better crew to clean up after the dubs of motormen. . . . Number
three jack, Clancey. Get under the for'ard end." And, as the
spectres of his nightmare metamorphosed: "Hush, darling, talking to
your dad like that, telling him the combing of your sweet and golden
hair. As if I couldn't, that have combed it these seven years--
better than your mother, darling, better than your mother. I'm the
one gold-medal prize-winner in the combing of his lovely daughter's
lovely hair. . . . She's broken out! Give her the wheel aft there!
Jib and fore-topsail halyards! Full and by, there! A good full! .
. . Ah, she takes it like the beauty fairy boat that she is upon the
sea. . . I'll just lift that--sure, the limit. Blackey, when you
pay as much to see my cards as I'm going to pay to see yours, you're
going to see some cards, believe me!"
And so the farrago of unrelated memories continued to rise vocal on
Skipper's lips to the heave of his body and the beat of his arms,
while Jerry, crouched against the side of the bunk mourned and
mourned his grief and inability to be of help. All that was
occurring was beyond him. He knew no more of poker hands than did
he know of getting ships under way, of clearing up surface car
wrecks in New York, or of combing the long yellow hair of a loved
daughter in a Harlem flat.
"Both dead," Skipper said in a change of delirium. He said it
quietly, as if announcing the time of day, then wailed: "But, oh,
the bonnie, bonnie braids of all the golden hair of her!"
He lay motionlessly for a space and sobbed out a breaking heart.
This was Jerry's chance. He crept inside the arm that tossed,
snuggled against Skipper's side, laid his head on Skipper's
shoulder, his cool nose barely touching Skipper's cheek, and felt
the arm curl about him and press him closer. The hand bent from the
wrist and caressed him protectingly, and the warm contact of his
velvet body put a change in Skipper's sick dreams, for he began to
mutter in cold and bitter ominousness: "Any nigger that as much as
bats an eye at that puppy. . ."
When, in half an hour, Van Horn's sweat culminated in profusion, it
marked the breaking of the malarial attack. Great physical relief
was his, and the last mists of delirium ebbed from his brain. But
he was left limply weak, and, after tossing off the blankets and
recognizing Jerry, he fell into a refreshing natural sleep.
Not till two hours later did he awake and start to go on deck.
Half-way up the companion, he deposited Jerry on deck and went back
to the stateroom for a forgotten bottle of quinine. But he did not
immediately return to Jerry. The long drawer under Borckman's bunk
caught his eye. The wooden button that held it shut was gone, and
it was far out and hanging at an angle that jammed it and prevented
it from falling to the floor. The matter was serious. There was
little doubt in his mind, had the drawer, in the midst of the squall
of the previous night, fallen to the floor, that no Arangi and no
soul of the eighty souls on board would have been left. For the
drawer was filled with a heterogeneous mess of dynamite sticks,
boxes of fulminating caps, coils of fuses, lead sinkers, iron tools,
and many boxes of rifle, revolver and pistol cartridges. He sorted
and arranged the varied contents, and with a screwdriver and a
longer screw reattached the button.
In the meantime, Jerry was encountering new adventure not of the
pleasantest. While waiting for Skipper to return, Jerry chanced to
see the wild-dog brazenly lying on deck a dozen feet from his lair
in the trade-boxes. Instantly stiffly crouching, Jerry began to
stalk. Success seemed assured, for the wild-dog, with closed eyes,
was apparently asleep.
And at this moment the mate, two-legging it along the deck from
for'ard in the direction of the bottle stored between the yam sacks,
called, "Jerry," in a remarkably husky voice. Jerry flattened his
filbert-shaped ears and wagged his tail in acknowledgment, but
advertised his intention of continuing to stalk his enemy. And at
sound of the mate's voice the wild-dog flung quick-opened eyes in
Jerry's direction and flashed into his burrow, where he immediately
turned around, thrust his head out with a show of teeth, and snarled
Baulked of his quarry by the inconsiderateness of the mate, Jerry
trotted back to the head of the companion to wait for Skipper. But
Borckman, whose brain was well a-crawl by virtue of the many nips,
clung to a petty idea after the fashion of drunken men. Twice
again, imperatively, he called Jerry to him, and twice again, with
flattened ears of gentleness and wagging tail, Jerry good-naturedly
expressed his disinclination. Next, he yearned his head over the
coming and into the cabin after Skipper.
Borckman remembered his first idea and continued to the bottle,
which he generously inverted skyward. But the second idea, petty as
it was, persisted; and, after swaying and mumbling to himself for a
time, after unseeingly making believe to study the crisp fresh
breeze that filled the Arangi's sails and slanted her deck, and,
after sillily attempting on the helmsman to portray eagle-like
vigilance in his drink-swimming eyes, he lurched amidships toward
Jerry's first intimation of Borckman's arrival was a cruel and
painful clutch on his flank and groin that made him cry out in pain
and whirl around. Next, as the mate had seen Skipper do in play,
Jerry had his jowls seized in a tooth-clattering shake that was
absolutely different from the Skipper's rough love-shake. His head
and body were shaken, his teeth clattered painfully, and with the
roughest of roughness he was flung part way down the slippery slope
Now Jerry was a gentleman. All the soul of courtesy was in him, for
equals and superiors. After all, even in an inferior like the wild-
dog, he did not consciously press an advantage very far--never
extremely far. In his stalking and rushing of the wild-dog, he had
been more sound and fury than an overbearing bully. But with a
superior, with a two-legged white-god like Borckman, there was more
a demand upon his control, restraint, and inhibition of primitive
promptings. He did not want to play with the mate a game that he
ecstatically played with Skipper, because he had experienced no
similar liking for the mate, two-legged white-god that he was.
And still Jerry was all gentleness. He came back in a feeble
imitation rush of the whole-hearted rush that he had learned to make
on Skipper. He was, in truth, acting, play-acting, attempting to do
what he had no heart-prompting to do. He made believe to play, and
uttered simulated growls that failed of the verity of simulation.
He bobbed his tail good-naturedly and friendly, and growled
ferociously and friendly; but the keenness of the drunkenness of the
mate discerned the difference and aroused in him, vaguely, the
intuition of difference, of play-acting, of cheating. Jerry was
cheating--out of his heart of consideration. Borckman drunkenly
recognized the cheating without crediting the heart of good behind
it. On the instant he was antagonistic. Forgetting that he was
only a brute, he posited that this was no more than a brute with
which he strove to play in the genial comradely way that the Skipper
Red war was inevitable--not first on Jerry's part, but on Borckman's
part. Borckman felt the abysmal urgings of the beast, as a beast,
to prove himself master of this four-legged beast. Jerry felt his
jowl and jaw clutched still more harshly and hardly, and, with
increase of harshness and hardness, he was flung farther down the
deck, which, on account of its growing slant due to heavier gusts of
wind, had become a steep and slippery hill.
He came back, clawing frantically up the slope that gave him little
footing; and he came back, no longer with poorly attempted
simulation of ferocity, but impelled by the first flickerings of
real ferocity. He did not know this. If he thought at all, he was
under the impression that he was playing the game as he had played
it with Skipper. In short, he was taking an interest in the game,
although a radically different interest from what he had taken with
This time his teeth flashed quicker and with deeper intent at the
jowl-clutching hand, and, missing, he was seized and flung down the
smooth incline harder and farther than before. He was growing
angry, as he clawed back, though he was not conscious of it. But
the mate, being a man, albeit a drunken one, sensed the change in
Jerry's attack ere Jerry dreamed there was any change in it. And
not only did Borckman sense it, but it served as a spur to drive him
back into primitive beastliness, and to fight to master this puppy
as a primitive man, under dissimilar provocation, might have fought
with the members of the first litter stolen from a wolf-den among
True, Jerry could trace as far back. His ancient ancestors had been
Irish wolf-hounds, and, long before that, the ancestors of the wolf-
hounds had been wolves. The note in Jerry's growls changed. The
unforgotten and ineffaceable past strummed the fibres of his throat.
His teeth flashed with fierce intent, in the desire of sinking as
deep in the man's hand as passion could drive. For Jerry by this
time was all passion. He had leaped back into the dark stark
rawness of the early world almost as swiftly as had Borckman. And
this time his teeth scored, ripping the tender and sensitive and
flesh of all the inside of the first and second joints of Borckman's
right hand. Jerry's teeth were needles that stung, and Borckman,
gaining the grasp on Jerry's jaw, flung him away and down so that
almost he hit the Arangi's tiny-rail ere his clawing feet stopped
And Van Horn, having finished his rearrangement and repair of the
explosive-filled drawer under the mate's bunk, climbed up the
companion steps, saw the battle, paused, and quietly looked on.
But he looked across a million years, at two mad creatures who had
slipped the leach of the generations and who were back in the
darkness of spawning life ere dawning intelligence had modified the
chemistry of such life to softness of consideration. What stirred
in the brain crypts of Borckman's heredity, stirred in the brain-
crypts of Jerry's heredity. Time had gone backward for both. All
the endeavour and achievement of the ten thousand generations was
not, and, as wolf-dog and wild-man, the combat was between Jerry and
the mate. Neither saw Van Horn, who was inside the companionway
hatch, his eyes level with the combing.
To Jerry, Borckman was now no more a god than was he himself a mere,
smooth-coated Irish terrier. Both had forgotten the million years
stamped into their heredity more feebly, less eraseably, than what
had been stamped in prior to the million years. Jerry did not know
drunkenness, but he did know unfairness; and it was with raging
indignation that he knew it. Borckman fumbled his next counter to
Jerry's attack, missed, and had both hands slashed in quick
succession ere he managed to send the puppy sliding.
And still Jerry came back. As any screaming creature of the jungle,
he hysterically squalled his indignation. But he made no whimper.
Nor did he wince or cringe to the blows. He bored straight in,
striving, without avoiding a blow, to beat and meet the blow with
his teeth. So hard was he flung down the last time that his side
smashed painfully against the rail, and Van Horn cried out:
"Cut that out, Borckman! Leave the puppy alone!"
The mate turned in the startle of surprise at being observed. The
sharp, authoritative words of Van Horn were a call across the
million years. Borckman's anger-convulsed face ludicrously
attempted a sheepish, deprecating grin, and he was just mumbling,
"We was only playing," when Jerry arrived back, leaped in the air,
and sank his teeth into the offending hand.
Borckman immediately and insanely went back across the million
years. An attempted kick got his ankle scored for his pains. He
gibbered his own rage and hurt, and, stooping, dealt Jerry a
tremendous blow alongside the head and neck. Being in mid-leap when
he received the blow Jerry was twistingly somersaulted sidewise
before he struck the deck on his back. As swiftly as he could
scramble to footing and charge, he returned to the attack, but was
checked by Skipper's:
"Jerry! Stop it! Come here!"
He obeyed, but only by prodigious effort, his neck bristling and his
lips writhing clear of his teeth as he passed the mate. For the
first time there was a whimper in his throat; but it was not the
whimper of fear, nor of pain, but of outrage, and of desire to
continue the battle which he struggled to control at Skipper's
Stepping out on deck, Skipper picked him up and patted and soothed
him the while he expressed his mind to the mate.
"Borckman, you ought to be ashamed. You ought to be shot or have
your block knocked off for this. A puppy, a little puppy scarcely
weaned. For two cents I'd give you what-for myself. The idea of
it. A little puppy, a weanling little puppy. Glad your hands are
ripped. You deserved it. Hope you get blood-poisoning in them.
Besides, you're drunk. Go below and turn in, and don't you dare
come on deck until you're sober. Savve?"
And Jerry, far-journeyer across life and across the history of all
life that goes to make the world, strugglingly mastering the abysmal
slime of the prehistoric with the love that had come into existence
and had become warp and woof of him in far later time, his wrath of
ancientness still faintly reverberating in his throat like the
rumblings of a passing thunder-storm, knew, in the wide warm ways of
feeling, the augustness and righteousness of Skipper. Skipper was
in truth a god who did right, who was fair, who protected, and who
imperiously commanded this other and lesser god that slunk away
before his anger.
Jerry and Skipper shared the long afternoon-watch together, the
latter being guilty of recurrent chuckles and exclamations such as:
"Gott-fer-dang, Jerry, believe me, you're some fighter and all dog";
or, "You're a proper man's dog, you are, a lion dog. I bet the lion
don't live that could get your goat."
And Jerry, understanding none of the words, with the exception of
his own name, nevertheless knew that the sounds made by Skipper were
broad of praise and warm of love. And when Skipper stooped and
rubbed his ears, or received a rose-kiss on extended fingers, or
caught him up in his arms, Jerry's heart was nigh to bursting. For
what greater ecstasy can be the portion of any creature than that it
be loved by a god? This was just precisely Jerry's ecstasy. This
was a god, a tangible, real, three-dimensioned god, who went about
and ruled his world in a loin-cloth and on two bare legs, and who
loved him with crooning noises in throat and mouth and with two
wide-spread arms that folded him in.
At four o'clock, measuring a glance at the afternoon sun and gauging
the speed of the Arangi through the water in relation to the
closeness of Su'u, Van Horn went below and roughly shook the mate
awake. Until both returned, Jerry held the deck alone. But for the
fact that the white-gods were there below and were certain to be
back at any moment, not many moments would Jerry have held the deck,
for every lessened mile between the return boys and Malaita
contributed a rising of their spirits, and under the imminence of
their old-time independence, Lerumie, as an instance of many of
them, with strong gustatory sensations and a positive drooling at
the mouth, regarded Jerry in terms of food and vengeance that were
Flat-hauled on the crisp breeze, the Arangi closed in rapidly with
the land. Jerry peered through the barbed wire, sniffing the air,
Skipper beside him and giving orders to the mate and helmsman. The
heap of trade-boxes was now unlashed, and the boys began opening and
shutting them. What gave them particular delight was the ringing of
the bell with which each box was equipped and which rang whenever a
lid was raised. Their pleasure in the toy-like contrivance was that
of children, and each went back again and again to unlock his own
box and make the bell ring.
Fifteen of the boys were to be landed at Su'u and with wild
gesticulations and cries they began to recognize and point out the
infinitesimal details of the landfall of the only spot they had
known on earth prior to the day, three years before, when they had
been sold into slavery by their fathers, uncles, and chiefs.
A narrow neck of water, scarcely a hundred yards across, gave
entrance to a long and tiny bay. The shore was massed with
mangroves and dense, tropical vegetation. There was no sign of
houses nor of human occupancy, although Van Horn, staring at the
dense jungle so close at hand, knew as a matter of course that
scores, and perhaps hundreds, of pairs of human eyes were looking at
"Smell 'm, Jerry, smell 'm," he encouraged.
And Jerry's hair bristled as he barked at the mangrove wall, for
truly his keen scent informed him of lurking niggers.
"If I could smell like him," the captain said to the mate, "there
wouldn't be any risk at all of my ever losing my head."
But Borckman made no reply and sullenly went about his work. There
was little wind in the bay, and the Arangi slowly forged in and
dropped anchor in thirty fathoms. So steep was the slope of the
harbour bed from the beach that even in such excessive depth the
Arangi's stern swung in within a hundred feet of the mangroves.
Van Horn continued to cast anxious glances at the wooded shore. For
Su'u had an evil name. Since the schooner Fair Hathaway, recruiting
labour for the Queensland plantations, had been captured by the
natives and all hands slain fifteen years before, no vessel, with
the exception of the Arangi, had dared to venture into Su'u. And
most white men condemned Van Horn's recklessness for so venturing.
Far up the mountains, that towered many thousands of feet into the
trade-wind clouds, arose many signal smokes that advertised the
coming of the vessel. Far and near, the Arangi's presence was
known; yet from the jungle so near at hand only shrieks of parrots
and chatterings of cockatoos could be heard.
The whaleboat, manned with six of the boat's crew, was drawn
alongside, and the fifteen Su'u boys and their boxes were loaded in.
Under the canvas flaps along the thwarts, ready to hand for the
rowers, were laid five of the Lee-Enfields. On deck, another of the
boat's crew, rifle in hand, guarded the remaining weapons. Borckman
had brought up his own rifle to be ready for instant use. Van
Horn's rifle lay handy in the stern sheets where he stood near
Tambi, who steered with a long sweep. Jerry raised a low whine and
yearned over the rail after Skipper, who yielded and lifted him
The place of danger was in the boat; for there was little
likelihood, at this particular time, of a rising of the return boys
on the Arangi. Being of Somo, No-ola, Langa-Langa, and far Malu
they were in wholesome fear, did they lose the protection of their
white masters, of being eaten by the Su'u folk, just as the Su'u
boys would have feared being eaten by the Somo and Langa-Langa and
What increased the danger of the boat was the absence of a covering
boat. The invariable custom of the larger recruiting vessels was to
send two boats on any shore errand. While one landed on the beach,
the other lay off a short distance to cover the retreat of the shore
party, if trouble broke out. Too small to carry one boat on deck,
the Arangi could not conveniently tow two astern; so Van Horn, who
was the most daring of the recruiters, lacked this essential
Tambi, under Van Horn's low-uttered commands, steered a parallel
course along the shore. Where the mangroves ceased, and where high
ground and a beaten runway came down to the water's edge, Van Horn
motioned the rowers to back water and lay on their oars. High palms
and lofty, wide-branched trees rose above the jungle at this spot,
and the runway showed like the entrance of a tunnel into the dense,
green wall of tropical vegetation.
Van Horn, regarding the shore for some sign of life, lighted a cigar
and put one hand to the waist-line of his loin-cloth to reassure
himself of the presence of the stick of dynamite that was tucked
between the loin-cloth and his skin. The lighted cigar was for the
purpose, if emergency arose, of igniting the fuse of the dynamite.
And the fuse was so short, with its end split to accommodate the
inserted head of a safety match, that between the time of touching
it off with the live cigar to the time of the explosion not more
than three seconds could elapse. This required quick cool work on
Van Horn's part, in case need arose. In three seconds he would have
to light the fuse and throw the sputtering stick with directed aim
to its objective. However, he did not expect to use it, and had it
ready merely as a precautionary measure.
Five minutes passed, and the silence of the shore remained profound.
Jerry sniffed Skipper's bare leg as if to assure him that he was
beside him no matter what threatened from the hostile silence of the
land, then stood up with his forepaws on the gunwale and continued
to sniff eagerly and audibly, to prick his neck hair, and to utter
"They're there, all right," Skipper confided to him; and Jerry, with
a sideward glance of smiling eyes, with a bobbing of his tail and a
quick love-flattening of his ears, turned his nose shoreward again
and resumed his reading of the jungle tale that was wafted to him on
the light fans of the stifling and almost stagnant air.
"Hey!" Van Horn suddenly shouted. "Hey, you fella boy stick 'm head
out belong you!"
As if in a transformation scene, the apparently tenantless jungle
spawned into life. On the instant a hundred stark savages appeared.
They broke forth everywhere from the vegetation. All were armed,
some with Snider rifles and ancient horse pistols, others with bows
and arrows, with long throwing spears, with war-clubs, and with
long-handled tomahawks. In a flash, one of them leaped into the
sunlight in the open space where runway and water met. Save for
decorations, he was naked as Adam before the Fall. A solitary white
feather uprose from his kinky, glossy, black hair. A polished
bodkin of white petrified shell, with sharp-pointed ends, thrust
through a hole in the partition of his nostrils, extended five
inches across his face. About his neck, from a cord of twisted
coconut sennit, hung an ivory-white necklace of wild-boar's tusks.
A garter of white cowrie shells encircled one leg just below the
knee. A flaming scarlet flower was coquettishly stuck over one ear,
and through a hole in the other ear was threaded a pig's tail so
recently severed that it still bled.
As this dandy of Melanesia leaped into the sunshine, the Snider
rifle in his hands came into position, aimed from his hip, the
generous muzzle bearing directly on Van Horn. No less quick was Van
Horn. With equal speed he had snatched his rifle and brought it to
bear from his hip. So they stood and faced each other, death in
their finger-tips, forty feet apart. The million years between
barbarism and civilization also yawned between them across that
narrow gulf of forty feet. The hardest thing for modern, evolved
man to do is to forget his ancient training. Easiest of all things
is it for him to forget his modernity and slip back across time to
the howling ages. A lie in the teeth, a blow in the face, a love-
thrust of jealousy to the heart, in a fraction of an instant can
turn a twentieth-century philosopher into an ape-like arborean
pounding his chest, gnashing his teeth, and seeing red.
So Van Horn. But with a difference. He straddled time. He was at
one and the same instant all modern, all imminently primitive,
capable of fighting in redness of tooth and claw, desirous of
remaining modern for as long as he could with his will master the
study of ebon black of skin and dazzling white of decoration that
A long ten seconds of silence endured. Even Jerry, he knew not why,
stilled the growl in his throat. Five score of head-hunting
cannibals on the fringe of the jungle, fifteen Su'u return blacks in
the boat, seven black boat's crew, and a solitary white man with a
cigar in his mouth, a rifle at his hip, and an Irish terrier
bristling against his bare calf, kept the solemn pact of those ten
seconds, and no one of them knew or guessed what the outcome would
One of the return boys, in the bow of the whaleboat, made the peace
sign with his palm extended outward and weaponless, and began to
chirp in the unknown Su'u dialect. Van Horn held his aim and
waited. The dandy lowered his Snider, and breath came more easily
to the chests of all who composed the picture.
"Me good fella boy," the dandy piped, half bird-like and half elf.
"You big fella fool too much," Van Horn retorted harshly, dropping
his gun into the stern-sheets, motioning to rowers and steersman to
turn the boat around, and puffing his cigar as carelessly casual as
if, the moment before, life and death had not been the debate.
"My word," he went on with fine irritable assumption. "What name
you stick 'm gun along me? Me no kai-kai (eat) along you. Me kai-
kai along you, stomach belong me walk about. You kai-kai along me,
stomach belong you walk about. You no like 'm kai-kai Su'u boy
belong along you? Su'u boy belong you all the same brother along
you. Long time before, three monsoon before, me speak 'm true
speak. Me say three monsoon boy come back. My word, three monsoon
finish, boy stop along me come back."
By this time the boat had swung around, reversing bow and stern, Van
Horn pivoting so as to face the Snider-armed dandy. At another
signal from Van Horn the rowers backed water and forced the boat,
stern in, up to the solid ground of the runway. And each rower, his
oar in position in case of attack, privily felt under the canvas
flap to make sure of the exact location of his concealed Lee-
"All right boy belong you walk about?" Van Horn queried of the
dandy, who signified the affirmative in the Solomon Islands fashion
by half-closing his eyes and nodding his head upward, in a queer,
"No kai-kai 'm Su'u fella boy suppose walk about along you?"
"No fear," the dandy answered. "Suppose 'm Su'u fella boy, all
right. Suppose 'm no fella Su'u boy, my word, big trouble.
Ishikola, big fella black marster along this place, him talk 'm me
talk along you. Him say any amount bad fella boy stop 'm along
bush. Him say big fella white marster no walk about. Him say jolly
good big fella white marster stop 'm along ship."
Van Horn nodded in an off-hand way, as if the information were of
little value, although he knew that for this time Su'u would furnish
him no fresh recruits. One at a time, compelling the others to
remain in their places, he directed the return boys astern and
ashore. It was Solomon Islands tactics. Crowding was dangerous.
Never could the blacks be risked to confusion in numbers. And Van
Horn, smoking his cigar in lordly indifferent fashion, kept his
apparently uninterested eyes glued to each boy who made his way aft,
box on shoulder, and stepped out on the land. One by one they
disappeared into the runway tunnel, and when the last was ashore he
ordered the boat back to the ship.
"Nothing doing here this trip," he told the mate. "We'll up hook
and out in the morning."
The quick tropic twilight swiftly blent day and darkness. Overhead
all stars were out. No faintest breath of air moved over the water,
and the humid heat beaded the faces and bodies of both men with
profuse sweat. They ate their deck-spread supper languidly and ever
and anon used their forearms to wipe the stinging sweat from their
"Why a man should come to the Solomons--beastly hole," the mate
"Or stay on," the captain rejoined.
"I'm too rotten with fever," the mate grumbled. "I'd die if I left.
Remember, I tried it two years ago. It takes the cold weather to
bring out the fever. I arrived in Sydney on my back. They had to
take me to hospital in an ambulance. I got worse and worse. The
doctors told me the only thing to do was to head back where I got
the fever. If I did I might live a long time. If I hung on in
Sydney it meant a quick finish. They packed me on board in another
ambulance. And that's all I saw of Australia for my holiday. I
don't want to stay in the Solomons. It's plain hell. But I got to,
He rolled, at a rough estimate, thirty grains of quinine in a
cigarette paper, regarded the result sourly for a moment, then
swallowed it at a gulp. This reminded Van Horn, who reached for the
bottle and took a similar dose.
"Better put up a covering cloth," he suggested.
Borckman directed several of the boat's crew in the rigging up of a
thin tarpaulin, like a curtain along the shore side of the Arangi.
This was a precaution against any bushwhacking bullet from the
mangroves only a hundred feet away.
Van Horn sent Tambi below to bring up the small phonograph and run
off the dozen or so scratchy, screechy records that had already been
under the needle a thousand times. Between records, Van Horn
recollected the girl, and had her haled out of her dark hole in the
lazarette to listen to the music. She obeyed in fear, apprehensive
that her time had come. She looked dumbly at the big fella white
master, her eyes large with fright; nor did the trembling of her
body cease for a long time after he had made her lie down. The
phonograph meant nothing to her. She knew only fear--fear of this
terrible white man that she was certain was destined to eat her.
Jerry left the caressing hand of Skipper for a moment to go over and
sniff her. This was an act of duty. He was identifying her once
again. No matter what happened, no matter what months or years
might elapse, he would know her again and for ever know her again.
He returned to the free hand of Skipper that resumed its caressing.
The other hand held the cigar which he was smoking.
The wet sultry heat grew more oppressive. The air was nauseous with
the dank mucky odour that cooked out of the mangrove swamp.
Rowelled by the squeaky music to recollection of old-world ports and
places, Borckman lay on his face on the hot planking, beat a tattoo
with his naked toes, and gutturally muttered an unending monologue
of curses. But Van Horn, with Jerry panting under his hand,
placidly and philosophically continued to smoke, lighting a fresh
cigar when the first gave out.
He roused abruptly at the faint wash of paddles which he was the
first on board to hear. In fact, it was Jerry's low growl and neck-
rippling of hair that had keyed Van Horn to hear. Pulling the stick
of dynamite out from the twist of his loin cloth and glancing at the
cigar to be certain it was alight, he rose to his feet with
leisurely swiftness and with leisurely swiftness gained the rail.
"What name belong you?" was his challenge to the dark.
"Me fella Ishikola," came the answer in the quavering falsetto of
Van Horn, before speaking again, loosened his automatic pistol half
out of its holster, and slipped the holster around from his hip till
it rested on his groin conveniently close to his hand.
"How many fella boy stop along you?" he demanded.
"One fella ten-boy altogether he stop," came the aged voice.
"Come alongside then." Without turning his head, his right hand
unconsciously dropping close to the butt of the automatic, Van Horn
commanded: "You fella Tambi. Fetch 'm lantern. No fetch 'm this
place. Fetch 'm aft along mizzen rigging and look sharp eye belong
Tambi obeyed, exposing the lantern twenty feet away from where his
captain stood. This gave Van Horn the advantage over the
approaching canoe-men, for the lantern, suspended through the barbed
wire across the rail and well down, would clearly illuminate the
occupants of the canoe while he was left in semi-darkness and
"Washee-washee!" he urged peremptorily, while those in the invisible
canoe still hesitated.
Came the sound of paddles, and, next, emerging into the lantern's
area of light, the high, black bow of a war canoe, curved like a
gondola, inlaid with silvery-glistening mother-of-pearl; the long
lean length of the canoe which was without outrigger; the shining
eyes and the black-shining bodies of the stark blacks who knelt in
the bottom and paddled; Ishikola, the old chief, squatting amidships
and not paddling, an unlighted, empty-bowled, short-stemmed clay
pipe upside-down between his toothless gums; and, in the stern, as
coxswain, the dandy, all nakedness of blackness, all whiteness of
decoration, save for the pig's tail in one ear and the scarlet
hibiscus that still flamed over the other ear.
Less than ten blacks had been known to rush a blackbirder officered
by no more than two white men, and Van Horn's hand closed on the
butt of his automatic, although he did not pull it clear of the
holster, and although, with his left hand, he directed the cigar to
his mouth and puffed it lively alight.
"Hello, Ishikola, you blooming old blighter," was Van Horn's
greeting to the old chief, as the dandy, with a pry of his steering-
paddle against the side of the canoe and part under its bottom,
brought the dug-out broadside-on to the Arangi so that the sides of
both crafts touched.
Ishikola smiled upward in the lantern light. He smiled with his
right eye, which was all he had, the left having been destroyed by
an arrow in a youthful jungle-skirmish.
"My word!" he greeted back. "Long time you no stop eye belong me."
Van Horn joked him in understandable terms about the latest wives he
had added to his harem and what price he had paid for them in pigs.
"My word," he concluded, "you rich fella too much together."
"Me like 'm come on board gammon along you," Ishikola meekly
"My word, night he stop," the captain objected, then added, as a
concession against the known rule that visitors were not permitted
aboard after nightfall: "You come on board, boy stop 'm along
Van Horn gallantly helped the old man to clamber to the rail,
straddle the barbed wire, and gain the deck. Ishikola was a dirty
old savage. One of his tambos (tambo being beche-de-mer and
Melanesian for "taboo") was that water unavoidable must never touch
his skin. He who lived by the salt sea, in a land of tropic
downpour, religiously shunned contact with water. He never went
swimming or wading, and always fled to shelter from a shower. Not
that this was true of the rest of his tribe. It was the peculiar
tambo laid upon him by the devil-devil doctors. Other tribesmen the
devil-devil doctors tabooed against eating shark, or handling
turtle, or contacting with crocodiles or the fossil remains of
crocodiles, or from ever being smirched by the profanity of a
woman's touch or of a woman's shadow cast across the path.
So Ishikola, whose tambo was water, was crusted with the filth of
years. He was sealed like a leper, and, weazen-faced and age-
shrunken, he hobbled horribly from an ancient spear-thrust to the
thigh that twisted his torso droopingly out of the vertical. But
his one eye gleamed brightly and wickedly, and Van Horn knew that it
observed as much as did both his own eyes.
Van Horn shook hands with him--an honour he accorded only chiefs--
and motioned him to squat down on deck on his hams close to the
fear-struck girl, who began trembling again at recollection of
having once heard Ishikola offer five twenties of drinking coconuts
for the meat of her for a dinner.
Jerry needs must sniff, for future identification purposes, this
graceless, limping, naked, one-eyed old man. And, when he had
sniffed and registered the particular odour, Jerry must growl
intimidatingly and win a quick eye-glance of approval from Skipper.
"My word, good fella kai-kai dog," said Ishikola. "Me give 'm half-
fathom shell money that fella dog."
For a mere puppy this offer was generous, because half a fathom of
shell-money, strung on a thread of twisted coconut fibres, was
equivalent in cash to half a sovereign in English currency, to two
dollars and a half in American, or, in live-pig currency, to half of
a fair-sized fat pig.
"One fathom shell-money that fella dog," Van Horn countered, in his
heart knowing that he would not sell Jerry for a hundred fathoms, or
for any fabulous price from any black, but in his head offering so
small a price over par as not to arouse suspicion among the blacks
as to how highly he really valued the golden-coated son of Biddy and
Ishikola next averred that the girl had grown much thinner, and that
he, as a practical judge of meat, did not feel justified this time
in bidding more than three twenty-strings of drinking coconuts.
After these amenities, the white master and the black talked of many
things, the one bluffing with the white-man's superiority of
intellect and knowledge, the other feeling and guessing, primitive
statesman that he was, in an effort to ascertain the balance of
human and political forces that bore upon his Su'u territory, ten
miles square, bounded by the sea and by landward lines of an inter-
tribal warfare that was older than the oldest Su'u myth. Eternally,
heads had been taken and bodies eaten, now on one side, now on the
other, by the temporarily victorious tribes. The boundaries had
remained the same. Ishikola, in crude beche-de-mer, tried to learn
the Solomon Islands general situation in relation to Su'u, and Van
Horn was not above playing the unfair diplomatic game as it is
unfairly played in all the chancellories of the world powers.
"My word," Van Horn concluded; "you bad fella too much along this
place. Too many heads you fella take; too much kai-kai long pig
along you." (Long pig, meaning barbecued human flesh.)
"What name, long time black fella belong Su'u take 'm heads, kai-kai
along long pig?" Ishikola countered.
"My word," Van Horn came back, "too much along this place. Bime by,
close up, big fella warship stop 'm along Su'u, knock seven balls
"What name him big fella warship stop 'm along Solomons?" Ishikola
"Big fella Cambrian, him fella name belong ship," Van Horn lied, too
well aware that no British cruiser had been in the Solomons for the
past two years.
The conversation was becoming rather a farcical dissertation upon
the relations that should obtain between states, irrespective of
size, when it was broken off by a cry from Tambi, who, with another
lantern hanging overside at the end of his arm had made a discovery.
"Skipper, gun he stop along canoe!" was his cry.
Van Horn, with a leap, was at the rail and peering down over the
barbed wire. Ishikola, despite his twisted body, was only seconds
"What name that fella gun stop 'm along bottom?" Van Horn
The dandy, in the stern, with a careless look upward, tried with his
foot to shove over the green leaves so as to cover the out-jutting
butts of several rifles, but made the matter worse by exposing them
more fully. He bent to rake the leaves over with his hand, but sat
swiftly upright when Van Horn roared at him:
"Stand clear! Keep 'm fella hand belong you long way big bit!"
Van Horn turned on Ishikola, and simulated wrath which he did not
feel against the ancient and ever-recurrent trick.
"What name you come alongside, gun he stop along canoe belong you?"
The old salt-water chief rolled his one eye and blinked a fair
simulation of stupidity and innocence.
"My word, me cross along you too much," Van Horn continued.
"Ishikola, you plenty bad fella boy. You get 'm to hell overside."
The old fellow limped across the deck with more agility than he had
displayed coming aboard, straddled the barbed wire without
assistance, and without assistance dropped into the canoe, cleverly
receiving his weight on his uninjured leg. He blinked up for
forgiveness and in reassertion of innocence. Van Horn turned his
face aside to hide a grin, and then grinned outright when the old
rascal, showing his empty pipe, wheedled up:
"Suppose 'm five stick tobacco you give 'm along me?"
While Borckman went below for the tobacco, Van Horn orated to
Ishikola on the sacred solemnity of truth and promises. Next, he
leaned across the barbed wire and handed down the five sticks of
"My word," he threatened. "Somo day, Ishikola, I finish along you
altogether. You no good friend stop along salt-water. You big fool
stop along bush."
When Ishikola attempted protest, he shut him off with, "My word, you
gammon along me too much."
Still the canoe lingered. The dandy's toe strayed privily to feel
out the butts of the Sniders under the green leaves, and Ishikola
was loth to depart.
"Washee-washee!" Van Horn cried with imperative suddenness.
The paddlers, without command from chief or dandy, involuntarily
obeyed, and with deep, strong strokes sent the canoe into the
encircling darkness. Just as quickly Van Horn changed his position
on deck to the tune of a dozen yards, so that no hazarded bullet
might reach him. He crouched low and listened to the wash of
paddles fade away in the distance.
"All right, you fella Tambi," he ordered quietly. "Make 'm music he
fella walk about."
And while "Red Wing" screeched its cheap and pretty rhythm, he
reclined elbow on deck, smoked his cigar, and gathered Jerry into
As he smoked he watched the abrupt misting of the stars by a rain-
squall that made to windward or to where windward might vaguely be
configured. While he gauged the minutes ere he must order Tambi
below with the phonograph and records, he noted the bush-girl gazing
at him in dumb fear. He nodded consent with half-closed eyes and
up-tilting face, clinching his consent with a wave of hand toward
the companionway. She obeyed as a beaten dog, spirit-broken, might
have obeyed, dragging herself to her feet, trembling afresh, and
with backward glances of her perpetual terror of the big white
master that she was convinced would some day eat her. In such
fashion, stabbing Van Horn to the heart because of his inability to
convey his kindness to her across the abyss of the ages that
separated them, she slunk away to the companionway and crawled down
it feet-first like some enormous, large-headed worm.
After he had sent Tambi to follow her with the precious phonograph,
Van Horn continued to smoke on while the sharp, needle-like spray of
the rain impacted soothingly on his heated body.
Only for five minutes did the rain descend. Then, as the stars
drifted back in the sky, the smell of steam seemed to stench forth
from deck and mangrove swamp, and the suffocating heat wrapped all
Van Horn knew better, but ill health, save for fever, had never
concerned him; so he did not bother for a blanket to shelter him.
"Yours the first watch," he told Borckman. "I'll have her under way
in the morning, before I call you."
He tucked his head on the biceps of his right arm, with the hollow
of the left snuggling Jerry in against his chest, and dozed off to
And thus adventuring, white men and indigenous black men from day to
day lived life in the Solomons, bickering and trafficking, the
whites striving to maintain their heads on their shoulders, the
blacks striving, no less single-heartedly, to remove the whites'
heads from their shoulders and at the same time to keep their own
And Jerry, who knew only the world of Meringe Lagoon, learning that
these new worlds of the ship Arangi and of the island of Malaita
were essentially the same, regarded the perpetual game between the
white and the black with some slight sort of understanding.
Daylight saw the Arangi under way, her sails drooping heavily in the
dead air while the boat's crew toiled at the oars of the whaleboat
to tow her out through the narrow entrance. Once, when the ketch,
swerved by some vagrant current, came close to the break of the
shore-surf, the blacks on board drew toward one another in
apprehension akin to that of startled sheep in a fold when a wild
woods marauder howls outside. Nor was there any need for Van Horn's
shout to the whaleboat: "Washee-washee! Damn your hides!" The
boat's crew lifted themselves clear of the thwarts as they threw all
their weight into each stroke. They knew what dire fate was certain
if ever the sea-washed coral rock gripped the Arangi's keel. And
they knew fear precisely of the same sort as that of the fear-struck
girl below in the lazarette. In the past more than one Langa-Langa
and Somo boy had gone to make a Su'u feast day, just as Su'u boys,
on occasion, had similarly served feasts at Langa-Langa and at Somo.
"My word," Tambi, at the wheel, addressed Van Horn as the period of
tension passed and the Arangi went clear. "Brother belong my
father, long time before he come boat's crew along this place. Big
fella schooner brother belong my father he come along. All finish
this place Su'u. Brother belong my father Su'u boys kai-kai along
Van Horn recollected the Fair Hathaway of fifteen years before,
looted and burned by the people of Su'u after all hands had been
killed. Truly, the Solomons at this beginning of the twentieth
century were savage, and truly, of the Solomons, this great island
of Malaita was savagest of all.
He cast his eyes speculatively up the slopes of the island to the
seaman's landmark, Mount Kolorat, green-forested to its cloud-capped
summit four thousand feet in the air. Even as he looked, thin
smoke-columns were rising along the slopes and lesser peaks, and
more were beginning to rise.
"My word," Tambi grinned. "Plenty boy stop 'm bush lookout along
you eye belong him."
Van Horn smiled understandingly. He knew, by the ancient telegraphy
of smoke-signalling, the message was being conveyed from village to
village and tribe to tribe that a labour-recruiter was on the
All morning, under a brisk beam wind which had sprung up with the
rising of the sun, the Arangi flew north, her course continuously
advertised by the increasing smoke-talk that gossiped along the
green summits. At high noon, with Van Horn, ever-attended by Jerry,
standing for'ard and conning, the Arangi headed into the wind to
thread the passage between two palm-tufted islets. There was need
for conning. Coral patches uprose everywhere from the turquoise
depths, running the gamut of green from deepest jade to palest
tourmaline, over which the sea filtered changing shades, creamed
lazily, or burst into white fountains of sun-flashed spray.
The smoke columns along the heights became garrulous, and long
before the Arangi was through the passage the entire leeward coast,
from the salt-water men of the shore to the remotest bush villagers,
knew that the labour recruiter was going in to Langa-Langa. As the
lagoon, formed by the chain of islets lying off shore, opened out,
Jerry began to smell the reef-villages. Canoes, many canoes, urged
by paddles or sailed before the wind by the weight of the freshening
South East trade on spread fronds of coconut palms, moved across the
smooth surface of the lagoon. Jerry barked intimidatingly at those
that came closest, bristling his neck and making a ferocious
simulation of an efficient protector of the white god who stood
beside him. And after each such warning, he would softly dab his
cool damp muzzle against the sun-heated skin of Skipper's leg.
Once inside the lagoon, the Arangi filled away with the wind a-beam.
At the end of a swift half-mile she rounded to, with head-sails
trimming down and with a great flapping of main and mizzen, and
dropped anchor in fifty feet of water so clear that every huge
fluted clamshell was visible on the coral floor. The whaleboat was
not necessary to put the Langa-Langa return boys ashore. Hundreds
of canoes lay twenty deep along both sides of the Arangi, and each
boy, with his box and bell, was clamoured for by scores of relatives
In such height of excitement, Van Horn permitted no one on board.
Melanesians, unlike cattle, are as prone to stampede to attack as to
retreat. Two of the boat's crew stood beside the Lee-Enfields on
the skylight. Borckman, with half the boat's crew, went about the
ship's work. Van Horn, Jerry at his heels, careful that no one
should get at his back, superintended the departure of the Langa-
Langa returns and kept a vigilant eye on the remaining half of the
boat's crew that guarded the barbed-wire rails. And each Somo boy
sat on his trade-box to prevent it from being tossed into the
waiting canoes by some Langa-Langa boy.
In half an hour the riot departed ashore. Only several canoes
lingered, and from one of these Van Horn beckoned aboard Nau-hau,
the biggest chief of the stronghold of Langa-Langa. Unlike most of
the big chiefs, Nau-hau was young, and, unlike most of the
Melanesians, he was handsome, even beautiful.
"Hello, King o' Babylon," was Van Horn's greeting, for so he had
named him because of fancied Semitic resemblance blended with the
crude power that marked his visage and informed his bearing.
Born and trained to nakedness, Nau-hau trod the deck boldly and
unashamed. His sole gear of clothing was a length of trunk strap
buckled about his waist. Between this and his bare skin was thrust
the naked blade of a ten-inch ripping knife. His sole decoration
was a white China soup-plate, perforated and strung on coconut
sennit, suspended from about his neck so that it rested flat on his
chest and half-concealed the generous swell of muscles. It was the
greatest of treasures. No man of Malaita he had ever heard of
possessed an unbroken soup-plate.
Nor was he any more ridiculous because of the soup-plate than was he
ludicrous because of his nakedness. He was royal. His father had
been a king before him, and he had proved himself greater than his
father. Life and death he bore in his hands and head. Often he had
exercised it, chirping to his subjects in the tongue of Langa-Langa:
"Slay here," and "Slay there"; "Thou shalt die," and "Thou shalt
live." Because his father, a year abdicated, had chosen foolishly
to interfere with his son's government, he had called two boys and
had them twist a cord of coconut around his father's neck so that
thereafter he never breathed again. Because his favourite wife,
mother of his eldest born, had dared out of silliness of affection
to violate one of his kingly tamboos, he had had her killed and had
himself selfishly and religiously eaten the last of her even to the
marrow of her cracked joints, sharing no morsel with his boonest of
Royal he was, by nature, by training, by deed. He carried himself
with consciousness of royalty. He looked royal--as a magnificent
stallion may look royal, as a lion on a painted tawny desert may
look royal. He was as splendid a brute--an adumbration of the
splendid human conquerors and rulers, higher on the ladder of
evolution, who have appeared in other times and places. His pose of
body, of chest, of shoulders, of head, was royal. Royal was the
heavy-lidded, lazy, insolent way he looked out of his eyes.
Royal in courage was he, this moment on the Arangi, despite the fact
that he knew he walked on dynamite. As he had long since bitterly
learned, any white man was as much dynamite as was the mysterious
death-dealing missile he sometimes employed. When a stripling, he
had made one of the canoe force that attacked the sandalwood-cutter
that had been even smaller than the Arangi. He had never forgotten
that mystery. Two of the three white men he had seen slain and
their heads removed on deck. The third, still fighting, had but the
minute before fled below. Then the cutter, along with all her
wealth of hoop-iron, tobacco, knives and calico, had gone up into
the air and fallen back into the sea in scattered and fragmented
nothingness. It had been dynamite--the MYSTERY. And he, who had
been hurled uninjured through the air by a miracle of fortune, had
divined that white men in themselves were truly dynamite, compounded
of the same mystery as the substance with which they shot the swift-
darting schools of mullet, or blow up, in extremity, themselves and
the ships on which they voyaged the sea from far places. And yet on
this unstable and death-terrific substance of which he was well
aware Van Horn was composed, he trod heavily with his personality,
daring, to the verge of detonation, to impact it with his insolence.
"My word," he began, "what name you make 'm boy belong me stop along
you too much?" Which was a true and correct charge that the boys
which Van Horn had just returned had been away three years and a
half instead of three years.
"You talk that fella talk I get cross too much along you," Van Horn
bristled back, and then added, diplomatically, dipping into a half-
case of tobacco sawed across and proffering a handful of stick
tobacco: "Much better you smoke 'm up and talk 'm good fella talk."
But Nau-hau grandly waved aside the gift for which he hungered.
"Plenty tobacco stop along me," he lied. "What name one fella boy
go way no come back?" he demanded.
Van Horn pulled the long slender account book out of the twist of
his loin-cloth, and, while he skimmed its pages, impressed Nau-hau
with the dynamite of the white man's superior powers which enabled
him to remember correctly inside the scrawled sheets of a book
instead of inside his head.
"Sati," Van Horn read, his finger marking the place, his eyes
alternating watchfully between the writing and the black chief
before him, while the black chief himself speculated and studied the
chance of getting behind him and, with the single knife-thrust he
knew so well, of severing the other's spinal cord at the base of the
"Sati," Van Horn read. "Last monsoon begin about this time, him
fella Sati get 'm sick belly belong him too much; bime by him fella
Sati finish altogether," he translated into beche-de-mer the written
information: Died of dysentery July 4th, 1901.
"Plenty work him fella Sati, long time," Nau-hau drove to the point.
"What come along money belong him?"
Van Horn did mental arithmetic from the account.
"Altogether him make 'm six tens pounds and two fella pounds gold
money," was his translation of sixty-two pounds of wages. "I pay
advance father belong him one ten pounds and five fella pounds. Him
finish altogether four tens pounds and seven fella pounds."
"What name stop four tens pounds and seven fella pounds?" Nau-hau
demanded, his tongue, but not his brain, encompassing so prodigious
Van Horn held up his hand.
"Too much hurry you fella Nau-hau. Him fella Sati buy 'm slop chest
along plantation two tens pounds and one fella pound. Belong Sati
he finish altogether two tens pounds and six fella pounds."
"What name stop two tens pounds and six fella pounds?" Nau-hau
"Stop 'm along me," the captain answered curtly.
"Give 'm me two tens pounds and six fella pounds."
"Give 'm you hell," Van Horn refused, and in the blue of his eyes
the black chief sensed the impression of the dynamite out of which
white men seemed made, and felt his brain quicken to the vision of
the bloody day he first encountered an explosion of dynamite and was
hurled through the air.
"What name that old fella boy stop 'm along canoe?" Van Horn asked,
pointing to an old man in a canoe alongside. "Him father belong
"Him father belong Sati," Nau-hau affirmed.
Van Horn motioned the old man in and on board, beckoned Borckman to
take charge of the deck and of Nau-hau, and went below to get the
money from his strong-box. When he returned, cavalierly ignoring
the chief, he addressed himself to the old man.
"What name belong you?"
"Me fella Nino," was the quavering response. "Him fella Sati belong
Van Horn glanced for verification to Nau-hau, who nodded affirmation
in the reverse Solomon way; whereupon Van Horn counted twenty-six
gold sovereigns into the hand of Sati's father.
Immediately thereafter Nau-hau extended his hand and received the
sum. Twenty gold pieces the chief retained for himself, returning
to the old man the remaining six. It was no quarrel of Van Horn's.
He had fulfilled his duty and paid properly. The tyranny of a chief
over a subject was none of his business.
Both masters, white and black, were fairly contented with
themselves. Van Horn had paid the money where it was due; Nau-hau,
by virtue of kingship, had robbed Sati's father of Sati's labour
before Van Horn's eyes. But Nau-hau was not above strutting. He
declined a proffered present of tobacco, bought a case of stick
tobacco from Van Horn, paying him five pounds for it, and insisted
on having it sawed open so that he could fill his pipe.
"Plenty good boy stop along Langa-Langa?" Van Horn, unperturbed,
politely queried, in order to make conversation and advertise
The King o' Babylon grinned, but did not deign to reply.
"Maybe I go ashore and walk about?" Van Horn challenged with
"Maybe too much trouble along you," Nau-hau challenged back. "Maybe
plenty bad fella boy kai-kai along you."
Although Van Horn did not know it, at this challenge he experienced
the hair-pricking sensations in his scalp that Jerry experienced
when he bristled his back.
"Hey, Borckman," he called. "Man the whaleboat."
When the whaleboat was alongside, he descended into it first,
superiorly, then invited Nau-hau to accompany him.
"My word, King o' Babylon," he muttered in the chief's ears as the
boat's crew bent to the oars, "one fella boy make 'm trouble, I
shoot 'm hell outa you first thing. Next thing I shoot 'm hell outa
Langa-Langa. All the time you me fella walk about, you walk about
along me. You no like walk about along me, you finish close up
And ashore, a white man alone, attended by an Irish terrier puppy
with a heart flooded with love and by a black king resentfully
respectful of the dynamite of the white man, Van Horn went,
swashbuckling barelegged through a stronghold of three thousand
souls, while his white mate, addicted to schnapps, held the deck of
the tiny craft at anchor off shore, and while his black boat's crew,
oars in hands, held the whaleboat stern-on to the beach to receive
the expected flying leap of the man they served but did not love,
and whose head they would eagerly take any time were it not for fear
Van Horn had had no intention of going ashore, and that he went
ashore at the black chief's insolent challenge was merely a matter
of business. For an hour he strolled about, his right hand never
far from the butt of the automatic that lay along his groin, his
eyes never too far from the unwilling Nau-hau beside him. For Nau-
hau, in sullen volcanic rage, was ripe to erupt at the slightest
opportunity. And, so strolling, Van Horn was given to see what few
white men have seen, for Langa-Langa and her sister islets,
beautiful beads strung along the lee coast of Malaita, were as
unique as they were unexplored.
Originally these islets had been mere sand-banks and coral reefs
awash in the sea or shallowly covered by the sea. Only a hunted,
wretched creature, enduring incredible hardship, could have eked out
a miserable existence upon them. But such hunted, wretched
creatures, survivors of village massacres, escapes from the wrath of
chiefs and from the long-pig fate of the cooking-pot, did come, and
did endure. They, who knew only the bush, learned the salt water
and developed the salt-water-man breed. They learned the ways of
the fish and the shell-fish, and they invented hooks and lines, nets
and fish-traps, and all the diverse cunning ways by which swimming
meat can be garnered from the shifting, unstable sea.
Such refugees stole women from the mainland, and increased and
multiplied. With herculean labour, under the burning sun, they
conquered the sea. They walled the confines of their coral reefs
and sand-banks with coral-rock stolen from the mainland on dark
nights. Fine masonry, without mortar or cutting chisel, they
builded to withstand the ocean surge. Likewise stolen from the
mainland, as mice steal from human habitations when humans sleep,
they stole canoe-loads, and millions of canoe-loads, of fat, rich
Generations and centuries passed, and, behold, in place of naked
sandbanks half awash were walled citadels, perforated with
launching-ways for the long canoes, protected against the mainland
by the lagoons that were to them their narrow seas. Coconut palms,
banana trees, and lofty breadfruit trees gave food and sun-shelter.
Their gardens prospered. Their long, lean war-canoes ravaged the
coasts and visited vengeance for their forefathers upon the
descendants of them that had persecuted and desired to eat.
Like the refugees and renegades who slunk away in the salt marshes
of the Adriatic and builded the palaces of powerful Venice on her
deep-sunk piles, so these wretched hunted blacks builded power until
they became masters of the mainland, controlling traffic and trade-
routes, compelling the bushmen for ever after to remain in the bush
and never to dare attempt the salt-water.
And here, amidst the fat success and insolence of the sea-people,
Van Horn swaggered his way, taking his chance, incapable of
believing that he might swiftly die, knowing that he was building
good future business in the matter of recruiting labour for the
plantations of other adventuring white men on far islands who dared
only less greatly than he.
And when, at the end of an hour, Van Horn passed Jerry into the
sternsheets of the whaleboat and followed, he left on the beach a
stunned and wondering royal black, who, more than ever before, was
respectful of the dynamite-compounded white men who brought to him
stick tobacco, calico, knives and hatchets, and inexorably extracted
from such trade a profit.
Back on board, Van Horn immediately hove short, hoisted sail, broke
out the anchor, and filled away for the ten-mile beat up the lagoon
to windward that would fetch Somo. On the way, he stopped at Binu
to greet Chief Johnny and land a few Binu returns. Then it was on
to Somo, and to the end of voyaging for ever of the Arangi and of
many that were aboard of her.
Quite the opposite to his treatment at Langa-Langa was that accorded
Van Horn at Somo. Once the return boys were put ashore, and this
was accomplished no later than three-thirty in the afternoon, he
invited Chief Bashti on board. And Chief Bashti came, very nimble
and active despite his great age, and very good-natured--so good-
natured, in fact, that he insisted on bringing three of his elderly
wives on board with him. This was unprecedented. Never had he
permitted any of his wives to appear before a white man, and Van
Horn felt so honoured that he presented each of them with a gay clay
pipe and a dozen sticks of tobacco.
Late as the afternoon was, trade was brisk, and Bashti, who had
taken the lion's share of the wages due to the fathers of two boys
who had died, bought liberally of the Arangi's stock. When Bashti
promised plenty of fresh recruits, Van Horn, used to the
changeableness of the savage mind, urged signing them up right away.
Bashti demurred, and suggested next day. Van Horn insisted that
there was no time like the present, and so well did he insist that
the old chief sent a canoe ashore to round up the boys who had been
selected to go away to the plantations.
"Now, what do you think?" Van Horn asked of Borckman, whose eyes
were remarkably fishy. "I never saw the old rascal so friendly.
Has he got something up his sleeve?"
The mate stared at the many canoes alongside, noted the numbers of
women in them, and shook his head.
"When they're starting anything they always send the Marys into the
bush," he said.
"You never can tell about these niggers," the captain grumbled.
"They may be short on imagination, but once in a while they do
figure out something new. Now Bashti's the smartest old nigger I've
ever seen. What's to prevent his figuring out that very bet and
playing it in reverse? Just because they've never had their women
around when trouble was on the carpet is no reason that they will
always keep that practice."
"Not even Bashti's got the savvee to pull a trick like that,"
Borckman objected. "He's just feeling good and liberal. Why, he's
bought forty pounds of goods from you already. That's why he wants
to sign on a new batch of boys with us, and I'll bet he's hoping
half of them die so's he can have the spending of their wages."
All of which was most reasonable. Nevertheless, Van Horn shook his
"All the same keep your eyes sharp on everything," he cautioned.
"And remember, the two of us mustn't ever be below at the same time.
And no more schnapps, mind, until we're clear of the whole kit and
Bashti was incredibly lean and prodigiously old. He did not know
how old he was himself, although he did know that no person in his
tribe had been alive when he was a young boy in the village. He
remembered the days when some of the old men, still alive, had been
born; and, unlike him, they were now decrepit, shaken with palsy,
blear-eyed, toothless of mouth, deaf of ear, or paralysed. All his
own faculties remained unimpaired. He even boasted a dozen worn
fangs of teeth, gum-level, on which he could still chew. Although
he no longer had the physical endurance of youth, his thinking was
as original and clear as it had always been. It was due to his
thinking that he found his tribe stronger than when he had first
come to rule it. In his small way he had been a Melanesian
Napoleon. As a warrior, the play of his mind had enabled him to
beat back the bushmen's boundaries. The scars on his withered body
attested that he had fought to the fore. As a Law-giver, he had
encouraged and achieved strength and efficiency within his tribe.
As a statesman, he had always kept one thought ahead of the thoughts
of the neighbouring chiefs in the making of treaties and the
granting of concessions.
And with his mind, still keenly alive, he had but just evolved a
scheme whereby he might outwit Van Horn and get the better of the
vast British Empire about which he guessed little and know less.
For Somo had a history. It was that queer anomaly, a salt-water
tribe that lived on the lagoon mainland where only bushmen were
supposed to live. Far back into the darkness of time, the folk-lore
of Somo cast a glimmering light. On a day, so far back that there
was no way of estimating its distance, one, Somo, son of Loti, who
was the chief of the island fortress of Umbo, had quarrelled with
his father and fled from his wrath along with a dozen canoe-loads of
young men. For two monsoons they had engaged in an odyssey. It was
in the myth that they circumnavigated Malaita twice, and forayed as
far as Ugi and San Cristobal across the wide seas.
Women they had inevitably stolen after successful combats, and, in
the end, being burdened with women and progeny, Somo had descended
upon the mainland shore, driven the bushmen back, and established
the salt-water fortress of Somo. Built it was, on its sea-front,
like any island fortress, with walled coral-rock to oppose the sea
and chance marauders from the sea, and with launching ways through
the walls for the long canoes. To the rear, where it encroached on
the jungle, it was like any scattered bush village. But Somo, the
wide-seeing father of the new tribe, had established his boundaries
far up in the bush on the shoulders of the lesser mountains, and on
each shoulder had planted a village. Only the greatly daring that
fled to him had Somo permitted to join the new tribe. The weaklings
and cowards they had promptly eaten, and the unbelievable tale of
their many heads adorning the canoe-houses was part of the myth.
And this tribe, territory, and stronghold, at the latter end of
time, Bashti had inherited, and he had bettered his inheritance.
Nor was he above continuing to better it. For a long time he had
reasoned closely and carefully in maturing the plan that itched in
his brain for fulfilment. Three years before, the tribe of Ano Ano,
miles down the coast, had captured a recruiter, destroyed her and
all hands, and gained a fabulous store of tobacco, calico, beads,
and all manner of trade goods, rifles and ammunition.
Little enough had happened in the way of price that was paid. Half
a year after, a war vessel had poked her nose into the lagoon,
shelled Ano Ano, and sent its inhabitants scurrying into the bush.
The landing-party that followed had futilely pursued along the
jungle runways. In the end it had contented itself with killing
forty fat pigs and chopping down a hundred coconut trees. Scarcely
had the war vessel passed out to open sea, when the people of Ano
Ano were back from the bush to the village. Shell fire on flimsy
grass houses is not especially destructive. A few hours' labour of
the women put that little matter right. As for the forty dead pigs,
the entire tribe fell upon the carcasses, roasted them under the
ground with hot stones, and feasted. The tender tips of the fallen
palms were likewise eaten, while the thousands of coconuts were
husked and split and sun-dried and smoke-cured into copra to be sold
to the next passing trader.
Thus, the penalty exacted had proved a picnic and a feast--all of
which appealed to the thrifty, calculating brain of Bashti. And
what was good for Ano Ano, in his judgment was surely good for Somo.
Since such were white men's ways who sailed under the British flag
and killed pigs and cut down coconuts in cancellation of blood-debts
and headtakings, Bashti saw no valid reason why he should not profit
as Ano Ano had profited. The price to be paid at some possible
future time was absurdly disproportionate to the immediate wealth to
be gained. Besides, it had been over two years since the last
British war vessel had appeared in the Solomons.
And thus, Bashti, with a fine fresh idea inside his head, bowed his
chief's head in consent that his people could flock aboard and
trade. Very few of them knew what his idea was or that he even had
Trade grew still brisker as more canoes came alongside and black men
and women thronged the deck. Then came the recruits, new-caught,
young, savage things, timid as deer, yet yielding to stern parental
and tribal law and going down into the Arangi's cabin, one by one,
their fathers and mothers and relatives accompanying them in family
groups, to confront the big fella white marster, who wrote their
names down in a mysterious book, had them ratify the three years'
contract of their labour by a touch of the right hand to the pen
with which he wrote, and who paid the first year's advance in trade
goods to the heads of their respective families.
Old Bashti sat near, taking his customary heavy tithes out of each
advance, his three old wives squatting humbly at his feet and by
their mere presence giving confidence to Van Horn, who was elated by
the stroke of business. At such rate his cruise on Malaita would be
a short one, when he would sail away with a full ship.
On deck, where Borckman kept a sharp eye out against danger, Jerry
prowled about, sniffing the many legs of the many blacks he had
never encountered before. The wild-dog had gone ashore with the
return boys, and of the return boys only one had come back. It was
Lerumie, past whom Jerry repeatedly and stiff-leggedly bristled
without gaining response of recognition. Lerumie coolly ignored
him, went down below once and purchased a trade hand-mirror, and,
with a look of the eyes, assured old Bashti that all was ready and
ripe to break at the first favourable moment.
On deck, Borckman gave this favourable moment. Nor would he have so
given it had he not been guilty of carelessness and of disobedience
to his captain's orders. He did not leave the schnapps alone. Be
did not sense what was impending all about him. Aft, where he
stood, the deck was almost deserted. Amidships and for'ard, gamming
with the boat's crew, the deck was crowded with blacks of both
sexes. He made his way to the yam sacks lashed abaft the mizzenmast
and got his bottle. Just before he drank, with a shred of caution,
he cast a glance behind him. Near him stood a harmless Mary,
middle-aged, fat, squat, asymmetrical, unlovely, a sucking child of
two years astride her hip and taking nourishment. Surely no harm
was to be apprehended there. Furthermore, she was patently a
weaponless Mary, for she wore no stitch of clothing that otherwise
might have concealed a weapon. Over against the rail, ten feet to
one side, stood Lerumie, smirking into the trade mirror he had just
It was in the trade mirror that Lerumie saw Borckman bend to the
yam-sacks, return to the erect, throw his head back, the mouth of
the bottle glued to his lips, the bottom elevated skyward. Lerumie
lifted his right hand in signal to a woman in a canoe alongside.
She bent swiftly for something that she tossed to Lerumie. It was a
long-handled tomahawk, the head of it an ordinary shingler's
hatchet, the haft of it, native-made, a black and polished piece of
hard wood, inlaid in rude designs with mother-of-pearl and wrapped
with coconut sennit to make a hand grip. The blade of the hatchet
had been ground to razor-edge.
As the tomahawk flew noiselessly through the air to Lerumie's hand,
just as noiselessly, the next instant, it flew through the air from
his hand into the hand of the fat Mary with the nursing child who
stood behind the mate. She clutched the handle with both hands,
while the child, astride her hip, held on to her with both small
arms part way about her.
Still she waited the stroke, for with Borckman's head thrown back
was no time to strive to sever the spinal cord at the neck. Many
eyes beheld the impending tragedy. Jerry saw, but did not
understand. With all his hostility to niggers he had not divined
the attack from the air. Tambi, who chanced to be near the
skylight, saw, and, seeing, reached for a Lee-Enfield. Lerumie saw
Tambi's action and hissed haste to the Mary.
Borckman, as unaware of this, his last second of life, as he had
been of his first second of birth, lowered the bottle and
straightened forward his head. The keen edge sank home. What, in
that flash of instant when his brain was severed from the rest of
his body, Borckman may have felt or thought, if he felt or thought
at all, is a mystery unsolvable to living man. No man, his spinal
cord so severed, has ever given one word or whisper of testimony as
to what were his sensations and impressions. No less swift than the
hatchet stroke was the limp placidity into which Borckman's body
melted to the deck. He did not reel or pitch. He melted, as a sack
of wind suddenly emptied, as a bladder of air suddenly punctured.
The bottle fell from his dead hand upon the yams without breaking,
although the remnant of its contents gurgled gently out upon the
So quick was the occurrence of action, that the first shot from
Tambi's musket missed the Mary ere Borckman had quite melted to the
deck. There was no time for a second shot, for the Mary, dropping
the tomahawk, holding her child in both her hands and plunging to
the rail, was in the air and overboard, her fall capsizing the canoe
which chanced to be beneath her.
Scores of actions were simultaneous. From the canoes on both sides
uprose a glittering, glistening rain of mother-of-pearl-handled
tomahawks that descended into the waiting hands of the Somo men on
deck, while the Marys on deck crouched down and scrambled out of the
fray. At the same time that the Mary who had killed Borckman leapt
the rail, Lerumie bent for the tomahawk she had dropped, and Jerry,
aware of red war, slashed the hand that reached for the tomahawk.
Lerumie stood upright and loosed loudly, in a howl, all the pent
rage and hatred, of months which he had cherished against the puppy.
Also, as he gained the perpendicular and as Jerry flew at his legs,
he launched a kick with all his might that caught and lifted Jerry
squarely under the middle.
And in the next second, or fraction of second, as Jerry lifted and
soared through the air, over the barbed wire of the rail and
overboard, while Sniders were being passed up overside from the
canoes, Tambi fired his next hasty shot. And Lerumie, the foot with
which he had kicked not yet returned to the deck as again he was in
mid-action of stooping to pick up the tomahawk, received the bullet
squarely in the heart and pitched down to melt with Borckman into
the softness of death.
Ere Jerry struck the water, the glory of Tambi's marvellously lucky
shot was over for Tambi; for, at the moment he pressed trigger to
the successful shot, a tomahawk bit across his skull at the base of
the brain and darkened from his eyes for ever the bright vision of
the sea-washed, sun-blazoned tropic world. As swiftly, all
occurring almost simultaneously, did the rest of the boat's crew
pass and the deck became a shambles.
It was to the reports of the Sniders and the noises of the death
scuffle that Jerry's head emerged from the water. A man's hand
reached over a canoe-side and dragged him in by the scruff of the
neck, and, although he snarled and struggled to bite his rescuer, he
was not so much enraged as was he torn by the wildest solicitude for
Skipper. He knew, without thinking about it, that the Arangi had
been boarded by the hazily sensed supreme disaster of life that all
life intuitively apprehends and that only man knows and calls by the
name of "death." Borckman he had seen struck down. Lerumie he had
heard struck down. And now he was hearing the explosions of rifles
and the yells and screeches of triumph and fear.
So it was, helpless, suspended in the air by the nape of the neck,
that he bawled and squalled and choked and coughed till the black,
disgusted, flung him down roughly in the canoe's bottom. He
scrambled to his feet and made two leaps: one upon the gunwale of
the canoe; the next, despairing and hopeless, without consideration
of self, for the rail of the Arangi.
His forefeet missed the rail by a yard, and he plunged down into the
sea. He came up, swimming frantically, swallowing and strangling
salt water because he still yelped and wailed and barked his
yearning to be on board with Skipper.
But a boy of twelve, in another canoe, having witnessed the first
black's adventure with Jerry, treated him without ceremony, laying,
first the flat, and next the edge, of a paddle upon his head while
he still swam. And the darkness of unconsciousness welled over his
bright little love-suffering brain, so that it was a limp and
motionless puppy that the black boy dragged into his canoe.
In the meantime, down below in the Arangi's cabin, ere ever Jerry
hit the water from Lerumie's kick, even while he was in the air, Van
Horn, in one great flashing profound fraction of an instant, had
known his death. Not for nothing had old Bashti lived longest of
any living man in his tribe, and ruled wisest of all the long line
of rulers since Somo's time. Had he been placed more generously in
earth space and time, he might well have proved an Alexander, a
Napoleon, or a swarthy Kahehameha. As it was, he performed well,
and splendidly well, in his limited little kingdom on the leeward
coast of the dark cannibal island of Malaita.
And such a performance! In cool good nature in rigid maintenance of
his chiefship rights, he had smiled at Van Horn, given royal
permission to his young men to sign on for three years of plantation
slavery, and exacted his share of each year's advance. Aora, who
might be described as his prime minister and treasurer, had received
the tithes as fast as they were paid over, and filled them into
large, fine-netted bags of coconut sennit. At Bashti's back,
squatting on the bunk-boards, a slim and smooth-skinned maid of
thirteen had flapped the flies away from his royal head with the
royal fly-flapper. At his feet had squatted his three old wives,
the oldest of them, toothless and somewhat palsied, ever presenting
to his hand, at his head nod, a basket rough-woven of pandanus leaf.
And Bashti, his keen old ears pitched for the first untoward sound
from on deck, had continually nodded his head and dipped his hand
into the proffered basket--now for betel-nut, and lime-box, and the
invariable green leaf with which to wrap the mouthful; now for
tobacco with which to fill his short clay pipe; and, again, for
matches with which to light the pipe which seemed not to draw well
and which frequently went out.
Toward the last the basket had hovered constantly close to his hand,
and, at the last, he made one final dip. It was at the moment when
the Mary's axe, on deck, had struck Borckman down and when Tambi
loosed the first shot at her from his Lee-Enfield. And Bashti's
withered ancient hand, the back of it netted with a complex of large
up-standing veins from which the flesh had shrunk away, dipped out a
huge pistol of such remote vintage that one of Cromwell's round-
heads might well have carried it or that it might well have voyaged
with Quiros or La Perouse. It was a flint-lock, as long as a man's
forearm, and it had been loaded that afternoon by no less a person
than Bashti himself.
Quick as Bashti had been, Van Horn was almost as quick, but not
quite quick enough. Even as his hand leapt to the modern automatic
lying out of it's holster and loose on his knees, the pistol of the
centuries went off. Loaded with two slugs and a round bullet, its
effect was that of a sawed-off shotgun. And Van Horn knew the blaze
and the black of death, even as "Gott fer dang!" died unuttered on
his lips and as his fingers relaxed from the part-lifted automatic,
dropping it to the floor.
Surcharged with black powder, the ancient weapon had other effect.
It burst in Bashti's hand. While Aora, with a knife produced
apparently from nowhere, proceeded to hack off the white master's
head, Bashti looked quizzically at his right forefinger dangling by
a strip of skin. He seized it with his left hand, with a quick pull
and twist wrenched it off, and grinningly tossed it, as a joke, into
the pandanus basket which still his wife with one hand held before
him while with the other she clutched her forehead bleeding from a
flying fragment of pistol.
Collaterally with this, three of the young recruits, joined by their
fathers and uncles, had downed, and were finishing off the only one
of the boat's crew that was below. Bashti, who had lived so long
that he was a philosopher who minded pain little and the loss of a
finger less, chuckled and chirped his satisfaction and pride of
achievement in the outcome, while his three old wives, who lived
only at the nod of his head, fawned under him on the floor in the
abjectness of servile congratulation and worship. Long had they
lived, and they had lived long only by his kingly whim. They
floundered and gibbered and mowed at his feet, lord of life and
death that he was, infinitely wise as he had so often proved
himself, as he had this time proved himself again.
And the lean, fear-stricken girl, like a frightened rabbit in the
mouth of its burrow, on hands and knees peered forth upon the scene
from the lazarette and knew that the cooking-pot and the end of time
had come for her.
What happened aboard the Arangi Jerry never knew. He did know that
it was a world destroyed, for he saw it destroyed. The boy who had
knocked him on the head with the paddle, tied his legs securely and
tossed him out on the beach ere he forgot him in the excitement of
looting the Arangi.
With great shouting and song, the pretty teak-built yacht was towed
in by the long canoes and beached close to where Jerry lay just
beyond the confines of the coral-stone walls. Fires blazed on the
beach, lanterns were lighted on board, and, amid a great feasting,
the Arangi was gutted and stripped. Everything portable was taken
ashore, from her pigs of iron ballast to her running gear and sails.
No one in Somo slept that night. Even the tiniest of children
toddled about the feasting fires or sprawled surfeited on the sands.
At two in the morning, at Bashti's command, the shell of the boat
was fired. And Jerry, thirsting for water, having whimpered and
wailed himself to exhaustion, lying helpless, leg-tied, on his side,
saw the floating world he had known so short a time go up in flame
And by the light of her burning, old Bashti apportioned the loot.
No one of the tribe was too mean to receive nothing. Even the
wretched bush-slaves, who had trembled through all the time of their
captivity from fear of being eaten, received each a clay pipe and
several sticks of tobacco. The main bulk of the trade goods, which
was not distributed, Bashti had carried up to his own large grass
house. All the wealth of gear was stored in the several canoe
houses. While in the devil devil houses the devil devil doctors set
to work curing the many heads over slow smudges; for, along with the
boat's crew there were a round dozen of No-ola return boys and
several Malu boys which Van Horn had not yet delivered.
Not all these had been slain, however. Bashti had issued stern
injunctions against wholesale slaughter. But this was not because
his heart was kind. Rather was it because his head was shrewd.
Slain they would all be in the end. Bashti had never seen ice, did
not know it existed, and was unversed in the science of
refrigeration. The only way he knew to keep meat was to keep it
alive. And in the biggest canoe house, the club house of the stags,
where no Mary might come under penalty of death by torture, the
captives were stored.
Tied or trussed like fowls or pigs, they were tumbled on the hard-
packed earthen floor, beneath which, shallowly buried, lay the
remains of ancient chiefs, while, overhead, in wrappings of grass
mats, swung all that was left of several of Bashti's immediate
predecessors, his father latest among them and so swinging for two
full generations. Here, too, since she was to be eaten and since
the taboo had no bearing upon one condemned to be cooked, the thin
little Mary from the lazarette was tumbled trussed upon the floor
among the many blacks who had teased and mocked her for being
fattened by Van Horn for the eating.
And to this canoe house Jerry was also brought to join the others on
the floor. Agno, chief of the devil devil doctors, had stumbled
across him on the beach, and, despite the protestations of the boy
who claimed him as personal trove, had ordered him to the canoe
house. Carried past the fires of the feasting, his keen nostrils
had told him of what the feast consisted. And, new as the
experience was, he had bristled and snarled and struggled against
his bonds to be free. Likewise, at first, tossed down in the canoe
house, he had bristled and snarled at his fellow captives, not
realizing their plight, and, since always he had been trained to
look upon niggers as the eternal enemy, considering them responsible
for the catastrophe to the Arangi and to Skipper.
For Jerry was only a little dog, with a dog's limitations, and very
young in the world. But not for long did he throat his rage at
them. In vague ways it was borne in upon him that they, too, were
not happy. Some had been cruelly wounded, and kept up a moaning and
groaning. Without any clearness of concept, nevertheless Jerry had
a realization that they were as painfully circumstanced as himself.
And painful indeed was his own circumstance. He lay on his side,
the cords that bound his legs so tight as to bite into his tender
flesh and shut off the circulation. Also, he was perishing for
water, and panted, dry-tongued, dry-mouthed, in the stagnant heat.
A dolorous place it was, this canoe house, filled with groans and
sighs, corpses beneath the floor and composing the floor, creatures
soon to be corpses upon the floor, corpses swinging in aerial
sepulchre overhead, long black canoes, high-ended like beaked
predatory monsters, dimly looming in the light of a slow fire where
sat an ancient of the tribe of Somo at his interminable task of
smoke-curing a bushman's head. He was withered, and blind, and
senile, gibbering and mowing like some huge ape as ever he turned
and twisted, and twisted back again, the suspended head in the
pungent smoke, and handful by handful added rotten punk of wood to
the smudge fire.
Sixty feet in the clear, the dim fire occasionally lighted, through
shadowy cross-beams, the ridge-pole that was covered with sennit of
coconut that was braided in barbaric designs of black and white and
that was stained by the smoke of years almost to a monochrome of
dirty brown. From the lofty cross-beams, on long sennit strings,
hung the heads of enemies taken aforetime in jungle raid and sea
foray. The place breathed the very atmosphere of decay and death,
and the imbecile ancient, curing in the smoke the token of death,
was himself palsiedly shaking into the disintegration of the grave.
Toward daylight, with great shouting and heaving and pull and haul,
scores of Somo men brought in another of the big war canoes. They
made way with foot and hand, kicking and thrusting dragging and
shoving, the bound captives to either side of the space which the
canoe was to occupy. They were anything but gentle to the meat with
which they had been favoured by good fortune and the wisdom of
For a time they sat about, all pulling at clay pipes and chirruping
and laughing in queer thin falsettos at the events of the night and
the previous afternoon. Now one and now another stretched out and
slept without covering; for so, directly under the path of the sun,
had they slept nakedly from the time they were born.
Remained awake, as dawn paled the dark, only the grievously wounded
or the too-tightly bound, and the decrepit ancient who was not so
old as Bashti. When the boy who had stunned Jerry with his paddle-
blade and who claimed him as his own stole into the canoe house, the
ancient did not hear him. Being blind, he did not see him. He
continued gibbering and chuckling dementedly, to twist the bushman's
head back and forth and to feed the smudge with punk-wood. This was
no night-task for any man, nor even for him who had forgotten how to
do aught else. But the excitement of cutting out the Arangi had
been communicated to his addled brain, and, with vague reminiscent
flashes of the strength of life triumphant, he shared deliriously in
this triumph of Somo by applying himself to the curing of the head
that was in itself the concrete expression of triumph.
But the twelve-year-old lad who stole in and cautiously stepped over
the sleepers and threaded his way among the captives, did so with
his heart in his mouth. He knew what taboos he was violating. Not
old enough even to leave his father's grass roof and sleep in the
youths' canoe house, much less to sleep with the young bachelors in
their canoe house, he knew that he took his life, with all of its
dimly guessed mysteries and arrogances, in his hand thus to trespass
into the sacred precinct of the full-made, full-realized, full-
statured men of Somo.
But he wanted Jerry and he got him. Only the lean little Mary,
trussed for the cooking, staring through her wide eyes of fear, saw
the boy pick Jerry up by his tied legs and carry him out and away
from the booty of meat of which she was part. Jerry's heroic little
heart of courage would have made him snarl and resent such treatment
of handling had he not been too exhausted and had not his mouth and
throat been too dry for sound. As it was, miserably and helplessly,
not half himself, a puppet dreamer in a half-nightmare, he knew, as
a restless sleeper awakening between vexing dreams, that he was
being transported head-downward out of the canoe house that stank of
death, through the village that was only less noisome, and up a path
under lofty, wide-spreading trees that were beginning languidly to
stir with the first breathings of the morning wind.
The boy's name, as Jerry was to learn, was Lamai, and to Lamai's
house Jerry was carried. It was not much of a house, even as
cannibal grass-houses go. On an earthen floor, hard-packed of the
filth of years, lived Lamai's father and mother and a spawn of four
younger brothers and sisters. A thatched roof that leaked in every
heavy shower leaned to a wabbly ridge-pole over the floor. The
walls were even more pervious to a driving rain. In fact, the house
of Lamai, who was the father of Lumai, was the most miserable house
in all Somo.
Lumai, the house-master and family head, unlike most Malaitans, was
fat. And of his fatness it would seem had been begotten his good
nature with its allied laziness. But as the fly in his ointment of
jovial irresponsibility was his wife, Lenerengo--the prize shrew of
Somo, who was as lean about the middle and all the rest of her as
her husband was rotund; who was as remarkably sharp-spoken as he was
soft-spoken; who was as ceaselessly energetic as he was unceasingly
idle; and who had been born with a taste for the world as sour in
her mouth as it was sweet in his.
The boy merely peered into the house as he passed around it to the
rear, and he saw his father and mother, at opposite corners,
sleeping without covering, and, in the middle of the floor, his four
naked brothers and sisters curled together in a tangle like a litter
of puppies. All about the house, which in truth was scarcely more
than an animal lair, was an earthly paradise. The air was spicily
and sweetly heavy with the scents of wild aromatic plants and
gorgeous tropic blooms. Overhead three breadfruit trees interlaced
their noble branches. Banana and plantain trees were burdened with
great bunches of ripening fruit. And huge, golden melons of the
papaia, ready for the eating, globuled directly from the slender-
trunked trees not one-tenth the girth of the fruits they bore. And,
for Jerry, most delightful of all, there was the gurgle and plash of
a brooklet that pursued its invisible way over mossy stones under a
garmenture of tender and delicate ferns. No conservatory of a king
could compare with this wild wantonness of sun-generous vegetation.
Maddened by the sound of the water, Jerry had first to endure an
embracing and hugging from the boy, who, squatted on his hams,
rocked back and forth and mumbled a strange little crooning song.
And Jerry, lacking articulate speech, had no way of telling him of
the thirst of which he was perishing.
Next, Lamai tied him securely with a sennit cord about the neck and
untied the cords that bit into his legs. So numb was Jerry from
lack of circulation, and so weak from lack of water through part of
a tropic day and all of a tropic night, that he stood up, tottered
and fell, and, time and again, essaying to stand, floundered and
fell. And Lamai understood, or tentatively guessed. He caught up a
coconut calabash attached to the end of a stick of bamboo, dipped
into the greenery of ferns, and presented to Jerry the calabash
brimming with the precious water.
Jerry lay on his side at first as he drank, until, with the
moisture, life flowed back into the parched channels of him, so
that, soon, still weak and shaky, he was up and braced on all his
four wide-spread legs and still eagerly lapping. The boy chuckled
and chirped his delight in the spectacle, and Jerry found surcease
and easement sufficient to enable him to speak with his tongue after
the heart-eloquent manner of dogs. He took his nose out of the
calabash and with his rose-ribbon strip of tongue licked Lamai's
hand. And Lamai, in ecstasy over this establishment of common
speech, urged the calabash back under Jerry's nose, and Jerry drank
He continued to drink. He drank until his sun-shrunken sides stood
out like the walls of a balloon, although longer were the intervals
from the drinking in which, with his tongue of gratefulness, he
spoke against the black skin of Lamai's hand. And all went well,
and would have continued to go well, had not Lamai's mother,
Lenerengo, just awakened, stepped across her black litter of progeny
and raised her voice in shrill protest against her eldest born's
introducing of one more mouth and much more nuisance into the
A squabble of human speech followed, of which Jerry knew no word but
of which he sensed the significance. Lamai was with him and for
him. Lamai's mother was against him. She shrilled and shrewed her
firm conviction that her son was a fool and worse because he had
neither the consideration nor the silly sense of a fool's solicitude
for a hard-worked mother. She appealed to the sleeping Lumai, who
awoke heavily and fatly, who muttered and mumbled easy terms of Somo
dialect to the effect that it was a most decent world, that all
puppy dogs and eldest-born sons were right delightful things to
possess, that he had never yet starved to death, and that peace and
sleep were the finest things that ever befell the lot of mortal man-
-and, in token thereof, back into the peace of sleep, he snuggled
his nose into the biceps of his arm for a pillow and proceeded to
But Lamai, eyes stubbornly sullen, with mutinous foot-stampings and
a perfect knowledge that all was clear behind him to leap and flee
away if his mother rushed upon him, persisted in retaining his puppy
dog. In the end, after an harangue upon the worthlessness of
Lamai's father, she went back to sleep.
Ideas beget ideas. Lamai had learned how astonishingly thirsty
Jerry had been. This engendered the idea that he might be equally
hungry. So he applied dry branches of wood to the smouldering coals
he dug out of the ashes of the cooking-fire, and builded a large
fire. Into this, as it gained strength, he placed many stones from
a convenient pile, each fire-blackened in token that it had been
similarly used many times. Next, hidden under the water of the
brook in a netted hand-bag, he brought to light the carcass of a fat
wood-pigeon he had snared the previous day. He wrapped the pigeon
in green leaves, and, surrounding it with the hot stones from the
fire, covered pigeon and stones with earth.
When, after a time, he removed the pigeon and stripped from it the
scorched wrappings of leaves, it gave forth a scent so savoury as to
prick up Jerry's ears and set his nostrils to quivering. When the
boy had torn the steaming carcass across and cooled it, Jerry's meal
began; nor did the meal cease till the last sliver of meat had been
stripped and tongued from the bones and the bones crunched and
crackled to fragments and swallowed. And throughout the meal Lamai
made love to Jerry, crooning over and over his little song, and
patting and caressing him.
On the other hand, refreshed by the water and the meat, Jerry did
not reciprocate so heartily in the love-making. He was polite, and
received his petting with soft-shining eyes, tail-waggings and the
customary body-wrigglings; but he was restless, and continually
listened to distant sounds and yearned away to be gone. This was
not lost upon the boy, who, before he curled himself down to sleep,
securely tied to a tree the end of the cord that was about Jerry's
After straining against the cord for a time, Jerry surrendered and
slept. But not for long. Skipper was too much with him. He knew,
and yet he did not know, the irretrievable ultimate disaster to
Skipper. So it was, after low whinings and whimperings, that he
applied his sharp first-teeth to the sennit cord and chewed upon it
till it parted.
Free, like a homing pigeon, he headed blindly and directly for the
beach and the salt sea over which had floated the Arangi, on her
deck Skipper in command. Somo was largely deserted, and those that
were in it were sunk in sleep. So no one vexed him as he trotted
through the winding pathways between the many houses and past the
obscene kingposts of totemic heraldry, where the forms of men,
carved from single tree trunks, were seated in the gaping jaws of
carved sharks. For Somo, tracing back to Somo its founder,
worshipped the shark-god and the salt-water deities as well as the
deities of the bush and swamp and mountain.
Turning to the right until he was past the sea-wall, Jerry came on
down to the beach. No Arangi was to be seen on the placid surface
of the lagoon. All about him was the debris of the feast, and he
scented the smouldering odours of dying fires and burnt meat. Many
of the feasters had not troubled to return to their houses, but lay
about on the sand, in the mid-morning sunshine, men, women, and
children and entire families, wherever they had yielded to slumber.
Down by the water's edge, so close that his fore-feet rested in the
water, Jerry sat down, his heart bursting for Skipper, thrust his
nose heavenward at the sun, and wailed his woe as dogs have ever
wailed since they came in from the wild woods to the fires of men.
And here Lamai found him, hushed his grief against his breast with
cuddling arms, and carried him back to the grass house by the brook.
Water he offered, but Jerry could drink no more. Love he offered,
but Jerry could not forget his torment of desire for Skipper. In
the end, disgusted with so unreasonable a puppy, Lamai forgot his
love in his boyish savageness, clouted Jerry over the head, right
side and left, and tied him as few whites men's dogs have ever been
tied. For, in his way, Lamai was a genius. He had never seen the
thing done with any dog, yet he devised, on the spur of the moment,
the invention of tying Jerry with a stick. The stick was of bamboo,
four feet long. One end he tied shortly to Jerry's neck, the other
end, just as shortly to a tree. All that Jerry's teeth could reach
was the stick, and dry and seasoned bamboo can defy the teeth of any
For many days, tied by the stick, Jerry remained Lamai's prisoner.
It was not a happy time, for the house of Lumai was a house of
perpetual bickering and quarrelling. Lamai fought pitched battles
with his brothers and sisters for teasing Jerry, and these battles
invariably culminated in Lenerengo taking a hand and impartially
punishing all her progeny.
After that, as a matter of course and on general principles, she
would have it out with Lumai, whose soft voice always was for quiet
and repose, and who always, at the end of a tongue-lashing, took
himself off to the canoe house for a couple of days. Here,
Lenerengo was helpless. Into the canoe house of the stags no Mary
might venture. Lenerengo had never forgotten the fate of the last
Mary who had broken the taboo. It had occurred many years before,
when she was a girl, and the recollection was ever vivid of the
unfortunate woman hanging up in the sun by one arm for all of a day,
and for all of a second day by the other arm. After that she had
been feasted upon by the stags of the canoe house, and for long
afterward all women had talked softly before their husbands.
Jerry did discover liking for Lamai, but it was not strong nor
passionate. Rather was it out of gratitude, for only Lamai saw to
it that he received food and water. Yet this boy was no Skipper, no
Mister Haggin. Nor was he even a Derby or a Bob. He was that
inferior man-creature, a nigger, and Jerry had been thoroughly
trained all his brief days to the law that the white men were the
superior two-legged gods.
He did not fail to recognize, however, the intelligence and power
that resided in the niggers. He did not reason it out. He accepted
it. They had power of command over other objects, could propel
sticks and stones through the air, could even tie him a prisoner to
a stick that rendered him helpless. Inferior as they might be to
the white-gods, still they were gods of a sort.
It was the first time in his life that Jerry had been tied up, and
he did not like it. Vainly he hurt his teeth, some of which were
loosening under the pressure of the second teeth rising underneath.
The stick was stronger than he. Although he did not forget Skipper,
the poignancy of his loss faded with the passage of time, until
uppermost in his mind was the desire to be free.
But when the day came that he was freed, he failed to take advantage
of it and scuttle away for the beach. It chanced that Lenerengo
released him. She did it deliberately, desiring to be quit of him.
But when she untied Jerry, he stopped to thank her, wagging his tail
and smiling up at her with his hazel-brown eyes. She stamped her
foot at him to be gone, and uttered a harsh and intimidating cry.
This Jerry did not understand, and so unused was he to fear that he
could not be frightened into running away. He ceased wagging his
tail, and, though he continued to look up at her, his eyes no longer
smiled. Her action and noise he identified as unfriendly, and he
became alert and watchful, prepared for whatever hostile act she
might next commit.
Again she cried out and stamped her foot. The only effect on Jerry
was to make him transfer his watchfulness to the foot. This
slowness in getting away, now that she had released him, was too
much for her short temper. She launched the kick, and Jerry,
avoiding it, slashed her ankle.
War broke on the instant, and that she might have killed Jerry in
her rage was highly probable had not Lamai appeared on the scene.
The stick untied from Jerry's neck told the tale of her perfidy and
incensed Lamai, who sprang between and deflected the blow with a
stone poi-pounder that might have brained Jerry.
Lamai was now the one in danger of grievous damage, and his mother
had just knocked him down with a clout alongside the head when poor
Lumai, roused from sleep by the uproar, ventured out to make peace.
Lenerengo, as usual, forgot everything else in the fiercer pleasure
of berating her spouse.
The conclusion of the affair was harmless enough. The children
stopped their crying, Lamai retied Jerry with the stick, Lenerengo
harangued herself breathless, and Lumai departed with hurt feelings
for the canoe house where stags could sleep in peace and Marys
That night, in the circle of his fellow stags, Lumai recited his
sorrows and told the cause of them--the puppy dog which had come on
the Arangi. It chanced that Agno, chief of the devil devil doctors,
or high priest, heard the tale, and recollected that he had sent
Jerry to the canoe house along with the rest of the captives. Half
an hour later he was having it out with Lamai. Beyond doubt, the
boy had broken the taboos, and privily he told him so, until Lamai
trembled and wept and squirmed abjectly at his feet, for the penalty
It was too good an opportunity to get a hold over the boy for Agno
to misplay it. A dead boy was worth nothing to him, but a living
boy whose life he carried in his hand would serve him well. Since
no one else knew of the broken taboo, he could afford to keep quiet.
So he ordered Lamai forthright down to live in the youths' canoe
house, there to begin his novitiate in the long series of tasks,
tests and ceremonies that would graduate him into the bachelors'
canoe house and half way along toward being a recognized man.
In the morning, obeying the devil devil doctor's commands, Lenerengo
tied Jerry's feet together, not without a struggle in which his head
was banged about and her hands were scratched. Then she carried him
down through the village on the way to deliver him at Agno's house.
On the way, in the open centre of the village where stood the
kingposts, she left him lying on the ground in order to join in the
hilarity of the population.
Not only was old Bashti a stern law-giver, but he was a unique one.
He had selected this day at the one time to administer punishment to
two quarrelling women, to give a lesson to all other women, and to
make all his subjects glad once again that they had him for ruler.
Tiha and Wiwau, the two women, were squat and stout and young, and
had long been a scandal because of their incessant quarrelling.
Bashti had set them a race to run. But such a race. It was side-
splitting. Men, women, and children, beholding, howled with
delight. Even elderly matrons and greybeards with a foot in the
grave screeched and shrilled their joy in the spectacle.
The half-mile course lay the length of the village, through its
heart, from the beach where the Arangi had been burned to the beach
at the other end of the sea-wall. It had to be covered once in each
direction by Tiha and Wiwau, in each case one of them urging speed
on the other and the other desiring speed that was unattainable.
Only the mind of Bashti could have devised the show. First, two
round coral stones, weighing fully forty pounds each, were placed in
Tiha's arms. She was compelled to clasp them tightly against her
sides in order that they might not roll to the ground. Behind her,
Bashti placed Wiwau, who was armed with a bristle of bamboo splints
mounted on a light long shaft of bamboo. The splints were sharp as
needles, being indeed the needles used in tattooing, and on the end
of the pole they were intended to be applied to Tiha's back in the
same way that men apply ox-goads to oxen. No serious damage, but
much pain, could be inflicted, which was just what Bashti had
Wiwau prodded with the goad, and Tiha stumbled and wabbled in
gymnastic efforts to make speed. Since, when the farther beach had
been reached, the positions would be reversed and Wiwau would carry
the stones back while Tiha prodded, and since Wiwau knew that for
what she gave Tiha would then try to give more, Wiwau exerted
herself to give the utmost while yet she could. The perspiration
ran down both their faces. Each had her partisans in the crowd, who
encouraged and heaped ridicule with every prod.
Ludicrous as it was, behind it lay iron savage law. The two stones
were to be carried the entire course. The woman who prodded must do
so with conviction and dispatch. The woman who was prodded must not
lose her temper and fight her tormentor. As they had been duly
forewarned by Bashti, the penalty for infraction of the rules he had
laid down was staking out on the reef at low tide to be eaten by the
As the contestants came opposite where Bashti and Aora his prime
minister stood, they redoubled their efforts, Wiwau goading
enthusiastically, Tiha jumping with every thrust to the imminent
danger of dropping the stones. At their heels trooped the children
of the village and all the village dogs, whooping and yelping with
"Long time you fella Tiha no sit 'm along canoe," Aora bawled to the
victim and set Bashti cackling again.
At an unusually urgent prod, Tiha dropped a stone and was duly
goaded while she sank to her knees and with one arm scooped it in
against her side, regained her feet, and waddled on.
Once, in stark mutiny at so much pain, she deliberately stopped and
addressed her tormentor.
"Me cross along you too much," she told Wiwau. "Bime by, close--"
But she never completed the threat. A warmly administered prod
broke through her stoicism and started her tottering along.
The shouting of the rabble ebbed away as the queer race ran on
toward the beach. But in a few minutes it could be heard flooding
back, this time Wiwau panting with the weight of coral stone and
Tiha, a-smart with what she had endured, trying more than to even
Opposite Bashti, Wiwau lost one of the stones, and, in the effort to
recover it, lost the other, which rolled a dozen feet away from the
first. Tiha became a whirlwind of avenging fury. And all Somo went
wild. Bashti held his lean sides with merriment while tears of
purest joy ran down his prodigiously wrinkled cheeks.
And when all was over, quoth Bashti to his people: "Thus shall all
women fight when they desire over much to fight."
Only he did not say it in this way. Nor did he say it in the Somo
tongue. What he did say was in beche-de-mer, and his words were:
"Any fella Mary he like 'm fight, all fella Mary along Somo fight 'm
this fella way."
For some time after the conclusion of the race, Bashti stood talking
with his head men, Agno among them. Lenerengo was similarly engaged
with several old cronies. As Jerry lay off to one side where she
had forgotten him, the wild-dog he had bullied on the Arangi came up
and sniffed at him. At first he sniffed at a distance, ready for
instant flight. Then he drew cautiously closer. Jerry watched him
with smouldering eyes. At the moment wild-dog's nose touched him,
he uttered a warning growl. Wild-dog sprang back and whirled away
in headlong flight for a score of yards before he learned that he
was not pursued.
Again he came back cautiously, as it was the instinct in him to
stalk wild game, crouching so close to the ground that almost his
belly touched. He lifted and dropped his feet with the lithe
softness of a cat, and from time to time glanced to right and to
left as if in apprehension of some flank attack. A noisy outburst
of boys' laughter in the distance caused him to crouch suddenly
down, his claws thrust into the ground for purchase, his muscles
tense springs for the leap he knew not in what direction, from the
danger he knew not what that might threaten him. Then he identified
the noise, know that no harm impended, and resumed his stealthy
advance on the Irish terrier.
What might have happened there is no telling, for at that moment
Bashti's eyes chanced to rest on the golden puppy for the first time
since the capture of the Arangi. In the rush of events Bashti had
forgotten the puppy.
"What name that fella dog?" he cried out sharply, causing wild-dog
to crouch down again and attracting Lenerengo's attention.
She cringed in fear to the ground before the terrible old chief and
quavered a recital of the facts. Her good-for-nothing boy Lamai had
picked the dog from the water. It had been the cause of much
trouble in her house. But now Lamai had gone to live with the
youths, and she was carrying the dog to Agno's house at Agno's
"What name that dog stop along you?" Bashti demanded directly of
"Me kai-kai along him," came the answer. "Him fat fella dog. Him
good fella dog kai-kai."
Into Bashti's alert old brain flashed an idea that had been long
"Him good fella dog too much," he announced. "Better you eat 'm
bush fella dog," he advised, pointing at wild-dog.
Agno shook his head. "Bush fella dog no good kai-kai."
"Bush fella dog no good too much," was Bashti's judgment. "Bush
fella dog too much fright. Plenty fella bush dog too much fright.
White marster's dog no fright. Bush dog no fight. White marster's
dog fight like hell. Bush dog run like hell. You look 'm eye
belong you, you see."
Bashti stepped over to Jerry and cut the cords that tied his legs.
And Jerry, upon his feet in a surge, was for once in too great haste
to pause to give thanks. He hurled himself after wild-dog, caught
him in mid-flight, and rolled him over and over in a cloud of dust.
Ever wild-dog strove to escape, and ever Jerry cornered him, rolled
him, and bit him, while Bashti applauded and called on his head men
By this time Jerry had become a raging little demon. Fired by all
his wrongs, from the bloody day on the Arangi and the loss of
Skipper down to this latest tying of his legs, he was avenging
himself on wild-dog for everything. The owner of wild-dog, a return
boy, made the mistake of trying to kick Jerry away. Jerry was upon
him in a flash scratching his calves with his teeth, in the
suddenness of his onslaught getting between the black's legs and
tumbling him to the ground.
"What name!" Bashti cried in a rage at the offender, who lay fear-
stricken where he had fallen, trembling for what next words might
fall from his chief's lips.
But Bashti was already doubling with laughter at sight of wild-dog
running for his life down the street with Jerry a hundred feet
behind and tearing up the dust.
As they disappeared, Bashti expounded his idea. If men planted
banana trees, it ran, what they would get would be bananas. If they
planted yams, yams would be produced, not sweet potatoes or
plantains, but yams, nothing but yams. The same with dogs. Since
all black men's dogs were cowards, all the breeding of all black
men's dogs would produce cowards. White men's dogs were courageous
fighters. When they were bred they produced courageous fighters.
Very well, and to the conclusion, namely, here was a white man's dog
in their possession. The height of foolishness would be to eat it
and to destroy for all time the courage that resided in it. The
wise thing to do was to regard it as a seed dog, to keep it alive,
so that in the coming generations of Somo dogs its courage would be
repeated over and over and spread until all Somo dogs would be
strong and brave.
Further, Bashti commanded his chief devil devil doctor to take
charge of Jerry and guard him well. Also, he sent his word forth to
all the tribe that Jerry was taboo. No man, woman, or child was to
throw spear or stone at him, strike him with club or tomahawk, or
hurt him in any way.
Thenceforth, and until Jerry himself violated one of the greatest of
taboos, he had a happy time in Agno's gloomy grass house. For
Bashti, unlike most chiefs, ruled his devil devil doctors with an
iron hand. Other chiefs, even Nau-hau of Langa-Langa, were ruled by
their devil devil doctors. For that matter, the population of Somo
believed that Bashti was so ruled. But the Somo folk did not know
what went on behind the scenes, when Bashti, a sheer infidel, talked
alone now with one doctor and now with another.
In these private talks he demonstrated that he knew their game as
well as they did, and that he was no slave to the dark superstitions
and gross impostures with which they kept the people in submission.
Also, he exposited the theory, as ancient as priests and rulers,
that priests and rulers must work together in the orderly governance
of the people. He was content that the people should believe that
the gods, and the priests who were the mouth-pieces of the gods, had
the last word, but he would have the priests know that in private
the last word was his. Little as they believed in their trickery,
he told them, he believed less.
He knew taboo, and the truth behind taboo. He explained his
personal taboos, and how they came to be. Never must he eat clam-
meat, he told Agno. It was so selected by himself because he did
not like clam-meat. It was old Nino, high priest before Agno, with
an ear open to the voice of the shark-god, who had so laid the
taboo. But, he, Bashti, had privily commanded Nino to lay the taboo
against clam-meat upon him, because he, Bashti, did not like clam-
meat and had never liked clam-meat.
Still further, since he had lived longer than the oldest priest of
them, his had been the appointing of every one of them. He knew
them, had made them, had placed them, and they lived by his
pleasure. And they would continue to take program from him, as they
had always taken it, or else they would swiftly and suddenly pass.
He had but to remind them of the passing of Kori, the devil devil
doctor who had believed himself stronger than his chief, and who,
for his mistake, had screamed in pain for a week ere what composed
him had ceased to scream and for ever ceased to scream.
In Agno's large grass house was little light and much mystery.
There was no mystery there for Jerry, who merely knew things, or did
not know things, and who never bothered about what he did not know.
Dried heads and other cured and mouldy portions of human carcasses
impressed him no more than the dried alligators and dried fish that
contributed to the festooning of Agno's dark abode.
Jerry found himself well cared for. No children nor wives cluttered
the devil devil doctor's house. Several old women, a fly-flapping
girl of eleven, and two young men who had graduated from the canoe
house of the youths and who were studying priestcraft under the
master, composed the household and waited upon Jerry. Food of the
choicest was his. After Agno had eaten first-cut of pig, Jerry was
served second. Even the two acolytes and the fly-flapping maid ate
after him, leaving the debris for the several old women. And,
unlike the mere bush dogs, who stole shelter from the rain under
overhanging eaves, Jerry was given a dry place under the roof where
the heads of bushmen and of forgotten sandalwood traders hung down
from above in the midst of a dusty confusion of dried viscera of
sharks, crocodile skulls, and skeletons of Solomons rats that
measured two-thirds of a yard in length from bone-tip of nose to
bone-tip of tail.
A number of times, all freedom being his, Jerry stole away across
the village to the house of Lumai. But never did he find Lamai,
who, since Skipper, was the only human he had met that had placed a
bid to his heart. Jerry never appeared openly, but from the thick
fern of the brookside observed the house and scented out its
occupants. No scent of Lamai did he ever obtain, and, after a time,
he gave up his vain visits and accepted the devil devil doctor's
house as his home and the devil devil doctor as his master.
But he bore no love for this master. Agno, who had ruled by fear so
long in his house of mystery, did not know love. Nor was affection
any part of him, nor was geniality. He had no sense of humour, and
was as frostily cruel as an icicle. Next to Bashti he stood in
power, and all his days had been embittered in that he was not first
in power. He had no softness for Jerry. Because he feared Bashti
he feared to harm Jerry.
The months passed, and Jerry got his firm, massive second teeth and
increased in weight and size. He came as near to being spoiled as
is possible for a dog. Himself taboo, he quickly learned to lord it
over the Somo folk and to have his way and will in all matters. No
one dared to dispute with him with stick or stone. Agno hated him--
he knew that; but also he gleaned the knowledge that Agno feared him
and would not dare to hurt him. But Agno was a chill-blooded
philosopher and bided his time, being different from Jerry in that
he possessed human prevision and could adjust his actions to remote
From the edge of the lagoon, into the waters of which, remembering
the crocodile taboo he had learned on Meringe, he never ventured,
Jerry ranged to the outlying bush villages of Bashti's domain. All
made way for him. All fed him when he desired food. For the taboo
was upon him, and he might unchidden invade their sleeping-mats or
food calabashes. He might bully as he pleased, and be arrogant
beyond decency, and there was no one to say him nay. Even had
Bashti's word gone forth that if Jerry were attacked by the full-
grown bush dogs, it was the duty of the Somo folk to take his part
and kick and stone and beat the bush dogs. And thus his own four-
legged cousins came painfully to know that he was taboo.
And Jerry prospered. Fat to stupidity he might well have become,
had it not been for his high-strung nerves and his insatiable, eager
curiosity. With the freedom of all Somo his, he was ever a-foot
over it, learning its metes and bounds and the ways of the wild
creatures that inhabited its swamps and forests and that did not
acknowledge his taboo.
Many were his adventures. He fought two battles with the wood-rats
that were almost of his size, and that, being mature and wild and
cornered, fought him as he had never been fought before. The first
he had killed, unaware that it was an old and feeble rat. The
second, in prime of vigour, had so punished him that he crawled
back, weak and sick to the devil devil doctor's house, where, for a
week, under the dried emblems of death, he licked his wounds and
slowly came back to life and health.
He stole upon the dugong and joyed to stampede that silly timid
creature by sudden ferocious onslaughts which he knew himself to be
all sound and fury, but which tickled him and made him laugh with
the consciousness of playing a successful joke. He chased the
unmigratory tropi-ducks from their shrewd-hidden nests, walked
circumspectly among the crocodiles hauled out of water for slumber,
and crept under the jungle-roof and spied upon the snow-white saucy
cockatoos, the fierce ospreys, the heavy-flighted buzzards, the
lories and kingfishers, and the absurdly garrulous little pygmy
Thrice, beyond the boundaries of Somo, he encountered the little
black bushmen who were more like ghosts than men, so noiseless and
unperceivable were they, and who, guarding the wild-pig runways of
the jungle, missed spearing him on the three memorable occasions.
As the wood-rats had taught him discretion, so did these two-legged
lurkers in the jungle twilight. He had not fought with them,
although they tried to spear him. He quickly came to know that
these were other folk than Somo folk, that his taboo did not extend
to them, and that, even of a sort, they were two-legged gods who
carried flying death in their hands that reached farther than their
hands and bridged distance.
As he ran the jungle, so Jerry ran the village. No place was sacred
to him. In the devil devil houses, where, before the face of
mystery men and women crawled in fear and trembling, he walked
stiff-legged and bristling; for fresh heads were suspended there--
heads his eyes and keen nostrils identified as those of once living
blacks he had known on board the Arangi. In the biggest devil devil
house he encountered the head of Borckman, and snarled at it,
without receiving response, in recollection of the fight he had
fought with the schnapps-addled mate on the deck of the Arangi.
Once, however, in Bashti's house, he chanced upon all that remained
on earth of Skipper. Bashti had lived very long, had lived most
wisely and thought much, and was thoroughly aware that, having lived
far beyond the span of man his own span was very short. And he was
curious about it all--the meaning and purpose of life. He loved the
world and life, into which he had been fortunately born, both as to
constitution and to place, which latter, for him, had been the high
place over hie priests and people. He was not afraid to die, but he
wondered if he might live again. He discounted the silly views of
the tricky priests, and he was very much alone in the chaos of the
For he had lived so long, and so luckily, that he had watched the
waning to extinction of all the vigorous appetites and desires. He
had known wives and children, and the keen-edge of youthful hunger.
He had seen his children grow to manhood and womanhood and become
fathers and grandfathers, mothers and grandmothers. But having
known woman, and love, and fatherhood, and the belly-delights of
eating, he had passed on beyond. Food? Scarcely did he know its
meaning, so little did he eat. Hunger, that bit him like a spur
when he was young and lusty, had long since ceased to stir and prod
him. He ate out of a sense of necessity and duty, and cared little
for what he ate, save for one thing: the eggs of the megapodes that
were, in season, laid in his private, personal, strictly tabooed
megapode laying-yard. Here was left to him his last lingering flesh
thrill. As for the rest, he lived in his intellect, ruling his
people, seeking out data from which to induce laws that would make
his people stronger and rivet his people's clinch upon life.
But he realized clearly the difference between that abstract thing,
the tribe, and that most concrete of things, the individual. The
tribe persisted. Its members passed. The tribe was a memory of the
history and habits of all previous members, which the living members
carried on until they passed and became history and memory in the
intangible sum that was the tribe. He, as a member, soon or late,
and late was very near, must pass. But pass to what? There was the
rub. And so it was, on occasion, that he ordered all forth from his
big grass house, and, alone with his problem, lowered from the roof-
beams the matting-wrapped parcels of heads of men he had once seen
live and who had passed into the mysterious nothingness of death.
Not as a miser had he collected these heads, and not as a miser
counting his secret hoard did he ponder these heads, unwrapped, held
in his two hands or lying on his knees. He wanted to know. He
wanted to know what he guessed they might know, now that they had
long since gone into the darkness that rounds the end of life.
Various were the heads Bashti thus interrogated--in his hands, on
his knees, in his dim-lighted grasshouse, while the overhead sun
blazed down and the fading south-east sighed through the palm-fronds
and breadfruit branches. There was the head of a Japanese--the only
one he had ever seen or heard of. Before he was born it had been
taken by his father. Ill-cured it was, and battered and marred with
ancientness and rough usage. Yet he studied its features, decided
that it had once had two lips as live as his own and a mouth as
vocal and hungry as his had often been in the past. Two eyes and a
nose it had, a thatched crown of roof, and a pair of ears like to
his own. Two legs and a body it must once have had, and desires and
lusts. Heats of wrath and of love, so he decided, had also been its
once on a time when it never thought to die.
A head that amazed him much, whose history went back before his
father's and grandfather's time, was the head of a Frenchman,
although Bashti knew it not. Nor did he know it was the head of La
Perouse, the doughty old navigator, who had left his bones, the
bones of his crews, and the bones of his two frigates, the Astrolabe
and the Boussole, on the shores of the cannibal Solomons. Another
head--for Bashti was a confirmed head-collector--went back two
centuries before La Perouse to Alvaro de Mendana, the Spaniard. It
was the head of one of Mendana's armourers, lost in a beach
scrimmage to one of Bashti's remote ancestors.
Still another head, the history of which was vague, was a white
woman's head. What wife of what navigator there was no telling.
But earrings of gold and emerald still clung to the withered ears,
and the hair, two-thirds of a fathom long, a shimmering silk of
golden floss, flowed from the scalp that covered what had once been
the wit and will of her that Bashti reasoned had in her ancient time
been quick with love in the arms of man.
Ordinary heads, of bushmen and salt-water men, and even of schnapps-
drinking white men like Borckman, he relegated to the canoe houses
and devil devil houses. For he was a connoisseur in the matter of
heads. There was a strange head of a German that lured him much.
Red-bearded it was, and red-haired, but even in dried death there
was an ironness of feature and a massive brow that hinted to him of
mastery of secrets beyond his ken. No more than did he know it once
had been a German, did he know it was a German professor's head, an
astronomer's head, a head that in its time had carried within its
content profound knowledge of the stars in the vasty heavens, of the
way of star-directed ships upon the sea, and of the way of the earth
on its starry course through space that was a myriad million times
beyond the slight concept of space that he possessed.
Last of all, sharpest of bite in his thought, was the head of Van
Horn. And it was the head of Van Horn that lay on his knees under
his contemplation when Jerry, who possessed the freedom of Somo,
trotted into Bashti's grass house, scented and identified the mortal
remnant of Skipper, wailed first in woe over it, then bristled into
Bashti did not notice at first, for he was deep in interrogation of
Van Horn's head. Only short months before this head had been alive,
he pondered, quick with wit, attached to a two-legged body that
stood erect and that swaggered about, a loincloth and a belted
automatic around its middle, more powerful, therefrom, than Bashti,
but with less wit, for had not he, Bashti, with an ancient pistol,
put darkness inside that skull where wit resided, and removed that
skull from the soddenly relaxed framework of flesh and bone on which
it had been supported to tread the earth and the deck of the Arangi?
What had become of that wit? Had that wit been all of the arrogant,
upstanding Van Horn, and had it gone out as the flickering flame of
a splinter of wood goes out when it is quite burnt to a powder-fluff
of ash? Had all that made Van Horn passed like the flame of the
splinter? Had he passed into the darkness for ever into which the
beast passed, into which passed the speared crocodile, the hooked
bonita, the netted mullet, the slain pig that was fat to eat? Was
Van Horn's darkness as the darkness of the blue-bottle fly that his
fly-flapping maid smashed and disrupted in mid-flight of the air?--
as the darkness into which passed the mosquito that knew the secret
of flying, and that, despite its perfectness of flight, with almost
an unthought action, he squashed with the flat of his hand against
the back of his neck when it bit him?
What was true of this white man's head, so recently alive and
erectly dominant, Bashti knew was true of himself. What had
happened to this white man, after going through the dark gate of
death, would happen to him. Wherefore he questioned the head, as if
its dumb lips might speak to him from out of the mystery and tell
him the meaning of life, and the meaning of death that inevitably
laid life by the heels.
Jerry's long-drawn howl of woe at sight and scent of all that was
left of Skipper, roused Bashti from his reverie. He looked at the
sturdy, golden-brown puppy, and immediately included it in his
reverie. It was alive. It was like man. It knew hunger, and pain,
anger and love. It had blood in its veins, like man, that a thrust
of a knife could make redly gush forth and denude it to death. Like
the race of man it loved its kind, and birthed and breast-nourished
its young. And passed. Ay, it passed; for many a dog, as well as a
human, had he, Bashti, devoured in his hey-dey of appetite and
youth, when he knew only motion and strength, and fed motion and
strength out of the calabashes of feasting.
But from woe Jerry went on into anger. He stalked stiff-legged,
with a snarl writhen on his lips, and with recurrent waves of hair-
bristling along his back and up his shoulders and neck. And he
stalked not the head of Skipper, where rested his love, but Bashti,
who held the head on his knees. As the wild wolf in the upland
pasture stalks the mare mother with her newly delivered colt, so
Jerry stalked Bashti. And Bashti, who had never feared death all
his long life and who had laughed a joke with his forefinger blown
off by the bursting flint-lock pistol, smiled gleefully to himself,
for his glee was intellectual and in admiration of this half-grown
puppy whom he rapped on the nose with a short, hardwood stick and
compelled to keep distance. No matter how often and fiercely Jerry
rushed him, he met the rush with the stick, and chuckled aloud,
understanding the puppy's courage, marvelling at the stupidity of
life that impelled him continually to thrust his nose to the hurt of
the stick, and that drove him, by passion of remembrance of a dead
man to dare the pain of the stick again and again.
This, too, was life, Bashti meditated, as he deftly rapped the
screaming puppy away from him. Four-legged life it was, young and
silly and hot, heart-prompted, that was like any young man making
love to his woman in the twilight, or like any young man fighting to
the death with any other young man over a matter of passion, hurt
pride, or thwarted desire. As much as in the dead head of Van Horn
or of any man, he realized that in this live puppy might reside the
clue to existence, the solution of the riddle.
So he continued to rap Jerry on the nose away from him, and to
marvel at the persistence of the vital something within him that
impelled him to leap forward always to the stick that hurt him and
made him recoil. The valour and motion, the strength and the
unreasoning of youth he knew it to be, and he admired it sadly, and
envied it, willing to exchange for it all his lean grey wisdom if
only he could find the way.
"Some dog, that dog, sure some dog," he might have uttered in Van
Horn's fashion of speech. Instead, in beche-de-mer, which was as
habitual to him as his own Somo speech, he thought:
"My word, that fella dog no fright along me."
But age wearied sooner of the play, and Bashti put an end to it by
rapping Jerry heavily behind the ear and stretching him out stunned.
The spectacle of the puppy, so alive and raging the moment before,
and, the moment after, lying as if dead, caught Bashti's speculative
fancy. The stick, with a single sharp rap of it, had effected the
change. Where had gone the anger and wit of the puppy? Was that
all it was, the flame of the splinter that could be quenched by any
chance gust of air? One instant Jerry had raged and suffered,
snarled and leaped, willed and directed his actions. The next
instant he lay limp and crumpled in the little death of
unconsciousness. In a brief space, Bashti knew, consciousness,
sensation, motion, and direction would flow back into the wilted
little carcass. But where, in the meanwhile, at the impact of the
stick, had gone all the consciousness, and sensitiveness, and will?
Bashti sighed wearily, and wearily wrapped the heads in their grass-
mat coverings--all but Van Horn's; and hoisted them up in the air to
hang from the roof-beams--to hang as he debated, long after he was
dead and out if it, even as some of them had so hung from long
before his father's and his grandfather's time. The head of Van
Horn he left lying on the floor, while he stole out himself to peer
in through a crack and see what next the puppy might do.
Jerry quivered at first, and in the matter of a minute struggled
feebly to his feet where he stood swaying and dizzy; and thus
Bashti, his eye to the crack, saw the miracle of life flow back
through the channels of the inert body and stiffen the legs to
upstanding, and saw consciousness, the mystery of mysteries, flood
back inside the head of bone that was covered with hair, smoulder
and glow in the opening eyes, and direct the lips to writhe away
from the teeth and the throat to vibrate to the snarl that had been
interrupted when the stick smashed him down into darkness.
And more Bashti saw. At first, Jerry looked about for his enemy,
growling and bristling his neck hair. Next, in lieu of his enemy,
he saw Skipper's head, and crept to it and loved it, kissing with
his tongue the hard cheeks, the closed lids of the eyes that his
love could not open, the immobile lips that would not utter one of
the love-words they had been used to utter to the little dog.
Next, in profound desolation, Jerry set down before Skipper's head,
pointed his nose toward the lofty ridge-pole, and howled mournfully
and long. Finally, sick and subdued, he crept out of the house and
away to the house of his devil devil master, where, for the round of
twenty-four hours, he waked and slept and dreamed centuries of
For ever after in Somo, Jerry feared that grass house of Bashti. He
was not in fear of Bashti. His fear was indescribable and
unthinkable. In that house was the nothingness of what once was
Skipper. It was the token of the ultimate catastrophe to life that
was wrapped and twisted into every fibre of his heredity. One step
advanced beyond this, Jerry's uttermost, the folk of Somo, from the
contemplation of death, had achieved concepts of the spirits of the
dead still living in immaterial and supersensuous realms.
And thereafter Jerry hated Bashti intensely, as a lord of life who
possessed and laid on his knees the nothingness of Skipper. Not
that Jerry reasoned it out. All dim and vague it was, a sensation,
an emotion, a feeling, an instinct, an intuition, name it mistily as
one will in the misty nomenclature of speech wherein words cheat
with the impression of definiteness and lie to the brain an
understanding which the brain does not possess.
Three months more passed; the north-west monsoon, after its half-
year of breath, had given way to the south-east trade; and Jerry
still continued to live in the house of Agno and to have the run of
the village. He had put on weight, increased in size, and,
protected by the taboo, had become self-confident almost to
lordliness. But he had found no master. Agno had never won a
heart-throb from him. For that matter, Agno had never tried to win
him. Nor, in his cold-blooded way, had he ever betrayed his hatred
Not even the several old women, the two acolytes, and the fly-
flapping maid in Agno's house dreamed that the devil devil doctor
hated Jerry. Nor did Jerry dream it. To him Agno was a neutral
sort of person, a person who did not count. Those of the household
Jerry recognized as slaves or servants to Agno, and he knew when
they fed him that the food he ate proceeded from Agno and was Agno's
food. Save himself, taboo protected, all of them feared Agno, and
his house was truly a house of fear in which could bloom no love for
a stray puppy dog. The eleven-years' maid might have placed a bid
for Jerry's affection, had she not been deterred at the start by
Agno, who reprimanded her sternly for presuming to touch or fondle a
dog of such high taboo.
What delayed Agno's plot against Jerry for the half-year of the
monsoon was the fact that the season of egg-laying for the megapodes
in Bashti's private laying-yard did not begin until the period of
the south-east trades. And Agno, having early conceived his plot,
with the patience that was characteristic of him was content to wait
Now the megapode of the Solomons is a distant cousin to the brush
turkey of Australia. No larger than a large pigeon, it lays an egg
the size of a domestic duck's. The megapode, with no sense of fear,
is so silly that it would have been annihilated hundreds of
centuries before had it not been preserved by the taboos of the
chiefs and priests. As it was, the chiefs were compelled to keep
cleared patches of sand for it, and to fence out the dogs. It
buried its eggs two feet deep, depending on the heat of the sun for
the hatching. And it would dig and lay, and continue to dig and
lay, while a black dug out its eggs within two or three feet of it.
The laying-yard was Bashti's. During the season, he lived almost
entirely on megapode eggs. On rare occasion he even had megapodes
that were near to finishing their laying killed for his kai-kai.
This was no more than a whim, however, prompted by pride in such
exclusiveness of diet only possible to one in such high place. In
truth, he cared no more for megapode meat than for any other meat.
All meat tasted alike to him, for his taste for meat was one of the
vanished pleasures in the limbo of memory.
But the eggs! He liked to eat them. They were the only article of
food he liked to eat, They gave him reminiscent thrills of the
ancient food-desires of his youth. Actually was he hungry when he
had megapode eggs, and the well-nigh dried founts of saliva and of
internal digestive juices were stimulated to flow again at
contemplation of a megapode egg prepared for the eating. Wherefore,
he alone of all Somo, barred rigidly by taboo, ate megapode eggs.
And, since the taboo was essentially religious, to Agno was deputed
the ecclesiastical task of guarding and cherishing and caring for
the royal laying-yard.
But Agno was no longer young. The acid bite of belly desire had
long since deserted him, and he, too, ate from a sense of duty, all
meat tasting alike to him. Megapode eggs only stung his taste alive
and stimulated the flow of his juices. Thus it was that he broke
the taboos he imposed, and, privily, before the eyes of no man,
woman, or child ate the eggs he stole from Bashti's private
So it was, as the laying season began, and when both Bashti and Agno
were acutely egg-yearning after six months of abstinence, that Agno
led Jerry along the taboo path through the mangroves, where they
stepped from root to root above the muck that ever steamed and stank
in the stagnant air where the wind never penetrated.
The path, which was not an ordinary path and which consisted, for a
man, in wide strides from root to root, and for a dog in four-legged
leaps and plunges, was new to Jerry. In all his ranging of Somo,
because it was so unusual a path, he had never discovered it. The
unbending of Agno, thus to lead him, was a surprise and a delight to
Jerry, who, without reasoning about it, in a vague way felt the
preliminary sensations that possibly Agno, in a small way, might
prove the master which his dog's soul continually sought.
Emerging from the swamp of mangroves, abruptly they came upon a
patch of sand, still so salt and inhospitable from the sea's deposit
that no great trees rooted and interposed their branches between it
and the sun's heat. A primitive gate gave entrance, but Agno did
not take Jerry through it. Instead, with weird little chirrupings
of encouragement and excitation, he persuaded Jerry to dig a tunnel
beneath the rude palisade of fence. He helped with his own hands,
dragging out the sand in quantities, but imposing on Jerry the
leaving of the indubitable marks of a dog's paws and claws.
And, when Jerry was inside, Agno, passing through the gate, enticed
and seduced him into digging out the eggs. But Jerry had no taste
of the eggs. Eight of them Agno sucked raw, and two of them he
tucked whole into his arm-pits to take back to his house of the
devil devils. The shells of the eight he sucked he broke to
fragments as a dog might break them, and, to build the picture he
had long visioned, of the eighth egg he reserved a tiny portion
which he spread, not on Jerry's jowls where his tongue could have
erased it, but high up about his eyes and above them, where it would
remain and stand witness against him according to the plot he had
Even worse, in high priestly sacrilege, he encouraged Jerry to
attack a megapode hen in the act of laying. And, while Jerry slew
it, knowing that the lust of killing, once started, would lead him
to continue killing the silly birds, Agno left the laying-yard to
hot-foot it through the mangrove swamp and present to Bashti an
ecclesiastical quandary. The taboo of the dog, as he expounded it,
had prevented him from interfering with the taboo dog when it ate
the taboo egg-layers. Which taboo might be the greater was beyond
him. And Bashti, who had not tasted a megapode egg in half a year,
and who was keen for the one recrudescent thrill of remote youth
still left to him, led the way back across the mangrove swamp at so
prodigious a pace as quite to wind his high priest who was many
years younger than he.
And he arrived at the laying-yard and caught Jerry, red-pawed and
red-mouthed, in the midst of his fourth kill of an egg-layer, the
raw yellow yolk of the portion of one egg, plastered by Agno to
represent many eggs, still about his eyes and above his eyes to the
bulge of his forehead. In vain Bashti looked about for one egg, the
six months' hunger stronger than ever upon him in the thick of the
disaster. And Jerry, under the consent and encouragement of Agno,
wagged his tail to Bashti in a bid for recognition, of prowess, and
laughed with his red-dripping jowls and yellow plastered eyes.
Bashti did not rage as he would have done had he been alone. Before
the eyes of his chief priest he disdained to lower himself to such
commonness of humanity. Thus it is always with those in the high
places, ever temporising with their natural desires, ever masking
their ordinariness under a show of disinterest. So it was that
Bashti displayed no vexation at the disappointment to his appetite.
Agno was a shade less controlled, for he could not quite chase away
the eager light in his eyes. Bashti glimpsed it and mistook it for
simple curiosity of observation not guessing its real nature. Which
goes to show two things of those in the high place: one, that they
may fool those beneath them; the other, that they may be fooled by
those beneath them.
Bashti regarded Jerry quizzically, as if the matter were a joke, and
shot a careless side glance to note the disappointment in his
priest's eyes. Ah, ha, thought Bashti; I have fooled him.
"Which is the high taboo?" Agno queried in the Somo tongue.
"As you should ask. Of a surety, the megapode."
"And the dog?" was Agno's next query.
"Must pay for breaking the taboo. It is a high taboo. It is my
taboo. It was so placed by Somo, the ancient father and first ruler
of all of us, and it has been ever since the taboo of the chiefs.
The dog must die."
He paused and considered the matter, while Jerry returned to digging
the sand where the scent was auspicious. Agno made to stop him, but
"Let be," he said. "Let the dog convict himself before my eyes."
And Jerry did, uncovering two eggs, breaking them and lapping that
portion of their precious contents which was not spilled and wasted
in the sand. Bashti's eyes were quite lack-lustre as he asked
"The feast of dogs for the men is to-day?"
"To-morrow, at midday," Agno answered. "Already are the dogs coming
in. There will be at least fifty of them."
"Fifty and one," was Bashti's verdict, as he nodded at Jerry.
The priest made a quick movement of impulse to capture Jerry.
"Why now?" the chief demanded. "You will but have to carry him
through the swamp. Let him trot back on his own legs, and when he
is before the canoe house tie his legs there."
Across the swamp and approaching the canoe house, Jerry, trotting
happily at the heels of the two men, heard the wailing and sorrowing
of many dogs that spelt unmistakable woe and pain. He developed
instant suspicion that was, however, without direct apprehension for
himself. And at that moment, his ears cocked forward and his nose
questing for further information in the matter, Bashti seized him by
the nape of the neck and held him in the air while Agno proceeded to
tie his legs.
No whimper, nor sound, nor sign of fear, came from Jerry--only
choking growls of ferociousness, intermingled with snarls of anger,
and a belligerent up-clawing of hind-legs. But a dog, clutched by
the neck from the back, can never be a match for two men, gifted
with the intelligence and deftness of men, each of them two-handed
with four fingers and an opposable thumb to each hand.
His fore-legs and hind-legs tied lengthwise and crosswise, he was
carried head-downward the short distance to the place of slaughter
and cooking, and flung to the earth in the midst of the score or
more of dogs similarly tied and helpless. Although it was mid-
afternoon, a number of them had so lain since early morning in the
hot sun. They were all bush dogs or wild-dogs, and so small was
their courage that their thirst and physical pain from cords drawn
too tight across veins and arteries, and their dim apprehension of
the fate such treatment foreboded, led them to whimper and wail and
howl their despair and suffering.
The next thirty hours were bad hours for Jerry. The word had gone
forth immediately that the taboo on him had been removed, and of the
men and boys none was so low as to do him reverence. About him,
till night-fall, persisted a circle of teasers and tormenters. They
harangued him for his fall, sneered and jeered at him, rooted him
about contemptuously with their feet, made a hollow in the sand out
of which he could not roll and desposited him in it on his back, his
four tied legs sticking ignominiously in the air above him.
And all he could do was growl and rage his helplessness. For,
unlike the other dogs, he would not howl or whimper his pain. A
year old now, the last six months had gone far toward maturing him,
and it was the nature of his breed to be fearless and stoical. And,
much as he had been taught by his white masters to hate and despise
niggers, he learned in the course of these thirty hours an
especially bitter and undying hatred.
His torturers stopped at nothing. Even they brought wild-dog and
set him upon Jerry. But it was contrary to wild-dog's nature to
attack an enemy that could not move, even if the enemy was Jerry who
had so often bullied him and rolled him on the deck. Had Jerry,
with a broken leg or so, still retained power of movement, then he
would have mauled him, perhaps to death. But this utter
helplessness was different. So the expected show proved a failure.
When Jerry snarled and growled, wild-dog snarled and growled back
and strutted and bullied around him, him to persuasion of the blacks
could induce but no sink his teeth into Jerry.
The killing-ground before the canoe house was a bedlam of horror.
From time to time more bound dogs were brought in and flung down.
There was a continuous howling, especially contributed to by those
which had lain in the sun since early morning and had no water. At
times, all joined in, the control of the quietest breaking down
before the wave of excitement and fear that swept spasmodically over
all of them. This howling, rising and falling, but never ceasing,
continued throughout the night, and by morning all were suffering
from the intolerable thirst.
The sun blazing down upon them in the white sand and almost
parboiling them, brought anything but relief. The circle of
torturers formed about Jerry again, and again was wreaked upon him
all abusive contempt for having lost his taboo. What drove Jerry
the maddest were not the blows and physical torment, but the
laughter. No dog enjoys being laughed at, and Jerry, least of all,
could restrain his wrath when they jeered him and cackled close in
Although he had not howled once, his snarling and growling, combined
with his thirst, had hoarsened his throat and dried the mucous
membranes of his mouth so that he was incapable, except under the
sheerest provocation, of further sound. His tongue hung out of his
mouth, and the eight o'clock sun began slowly to burn it.
It was at this time that one of the boys cruelly outraged him. He
rolled Jerry out of the hollow in which he had lain all night on his
back, turned him over on his side, and presented to him a small
calabash filled with water. Jerry lapped it so fanatically that not
for half a minute did he become aware that the boy had squeezed into
it many hot seeds of ripe red peppers. The circle shrieked with
glee, and what Jerry's thirst had been before was as nothing
compared with this new thirst to which had been added the stinging
agony of pepper.
Next in event, and a most important event it was to prove, came
Nalasu. Nalasu was an old man of three-score years, and he was
blind, walking with a large staff with which he prodded his path.
In his free hand he carried a small pig by its tied legs.
"They say the white master's dog is to be eaten," he said in the
Somo speech. "Where is the white master's dog? Show him to me."
Agno, who had just arrived, stood beside him as he bent over Jerry
and examined him with his fingers. Nor did Jerry offer to snarl or
bite, although the blind man's hands came within reach of his teeth
more than once. For Jerry sensed no enmity in the fingers that
passed so softly over him. Next, Nalasu felt over the pig, and
several times, as if calculating, alternated between Jerry and the
Nalasu stood up and voiced judgment:
"The pig is as small as the dog. They are of a size, but the pig
has more meat on it for the eating. Take the pig and I shall take
"Nay," said Agno. "The white master's dog has broken the taboo. It
must be eaten. Take any other dog and leave the pig. Take a big
"I will have the white master's dog," Nalasu persisted. "Only the
white master's dog and no other."
The matter was at a deadlock when Bashti chanced upon the scene and
"Take the dog, Nalasu," he said finally. "It is a good pig, and I
shall myself eat it."
"But he has broken the taboo, your great taboo of the laying-yard,
and must go to the eating," Agno interposed quickly.
Too quickly, Bashti thought, while a vague suspicion arose in his
mind of he knew not what.
"The taboo must be paid in blood and cooking," Agno continued.
"Very well," said Bashti. "I shall eat the small pig. Let its
throat be cut and its body know the fire."
"I but speak the law of the taboo. Life must pay for the breaking."
"There is another law," Bashti grinned. "Long has it been since
ever Somo built these walls that life may buy life."
"But of life of man and life of woman," Agno qualified.
"I know the law," Bashti held steadily on. "Somo made the law.
Never has it been said that animal life may not buy animal life."
"It has never been practised," was the devil devil doctor's fling.
"And for reason enough," the old chief retorted. "Never before has
a man been fool enough to give a pig for a dog. It is a young pig,
and it is fat and tender. Take the dog, Nalasu. Take the dog now."
But the devil devil doctor was not satisfied.
"As you said, O Bashti, in your very great wisdom, he is the seed
dog of strength and courage. Let him be slain. When he comes from
the fire, his body shall be divided into many small pieces so that
every man may eat of him and thereby get his portion of strength and
courage. Better is it for Somo that its men be strong and brave
rather than its dogs."
But Bashti held no anger against Jerry. He had lived too long and
too philosophically to lay blame on a dog for breaking a taboo which
it did not know. Of course, dogs often were slain for breaking the
taboos. But he allowed this to be done because the dogs themselves
in nowise interested him, and because their deaths emphasized the
sacredness of the taboo. Further, Jerry had more than slightly
interested him. Often, since, Jerry had attacked him because of Van
Horn's head, he had pondered the incident. Baffling as it was, as
all manifestations of life were baffling, it had given him food for
thought. Then there was his admiration for Jerry's courage and that
inexplicable something in him that prevented him crying out from the
pain of the stick. And, without thinking of it as beauty, the
beauty of line and colour of Jerry had insensibly penetrated him
with a sense of pleasantness. It was good to look upon.
There was another angle to Bashti's conduct. He wondered why his
devil devil doctor so earnestly desired a mere dog's death. There
were many dogs. Then why this particular dog? That the weight of
something was on the other's mind was patent, although what it was
Bashti could not gauge, guess--unless it might be revenge incubated
the day he had prevented Agno from eating the dog. If such were the
case, it was a state of mind he could not tolerate in any of his
tribespeople. But whatever was the motive, guarding as he always
did against the unknown, he thought it well to discipline his priest
and demonstrate once again whose word was the last word in Somo.
Wherefore Bashti replied:
"I have lived long and eaten many pigs. What man may dare say that
the many pigs have entered into me and made me a pig?"
He paused and cast a challenging eye around the circle of his
audience; but no man spoke. Instead, some men grinned sheepishly
and were restless on their feet, while Agno's expression advertised
sturdy unbelief that there was anything pig-like about his chief.
"I have eaten much fish," Bashti continued. "Never has one scale of
a fish grown out on my skin. Never has a gill appeared on my
throat. As you all know, by the looking, never have I sprouted one
fin out of my backbone.--Nalasu, take the dog.--Aga, carry the pig
to my house. I shall eat it to-day.--Agno, let the killing of the
dogs begin so that the canoe-men shall eat at due time."
Then, as he turned to go, he lapsed into beche-de-mer English and
flung sternly over his shoulder, "My word, you make 'm me cross
As blind Nalasu slowly plodded away, with one hand tapping the path
before him and with the other carrying Jerry head-downward suspended
by his tied legs, Jerry heard a sudden increase in the wild howling
of the dogs as the killing began and they realized that death was
But, unlike the boy Lamai, who had known no better, the old man did
not carry Jerry all the way to his house. At the first stream
pouring down between the low hills of the rising land, he paused and
put Jerry down to drink. And Jerry knew only the delight of the wet
coolness on his tongue, all about his mouth, and down his throat.
Nevertheless, in his subconsciousness was being planted the
impression that, kinder than Lamai, than Agno, than Bashti, this was
the kindest black he had encountered in Somo.
When he had drunk till for the moment he could drink no more, he
thanked Nalasu with his tongue--not warmly nor ecstatically as had
it been Skipper's hand, but with due gratefulness for the life-
giving draught. The old man chuckled in a pleased way, rolled
Jerry's parched body into the water, and, keeping his head above the
surface, rubbed the water into his dry skin and let him lie there
for long blissful minutes.
From the stream to Nalasu's house, a goodly distance, Nalasu still
carried him with bound legs, although not head-downward but clasped
in one arm against his chest. His idea was to love the dog to him.
For Nalasu, having sat in the lonely dark for many years, had
thought far more about the world around him and knew it far better
than had he been able to see it. For his own special purpose he had
need of a dog. Several bush dogs he had tried, but they had shown
little appreciation of his kindness and had invariably run away.
The last had remained longest because he had treated it with the
greatest kindness, but run away it had before he had trained it to
his purpose. But the white master's dog, he had heard, was
different. It never ran away in fear, while it was said to be more
intelligent than the dogs of Somo.
The invention Lamai had made of tying Jerry with a stick had been
noised abroad in the village, and by a stick, in Nalasu's house,
Jerry found himself again tied. But with a difference. Never once
was the blind man impatient, while he spent hours each day in
squatting on his hams and petting Jerry. Yet, had he not done this,
Jerry, who ate his food and who was growing accustomed to changing
his masters, would have accepted Nalasu for master. Further, it was
fairly definite in Jerry's mind, after the devil devil doctor's
tying him and flinging him amongst the other helpless dogs on the
killing-ground, that all mastership of Agno had ceased. And Jerry,
who had never been without a master since his first days in the
world, felt the imperative need of a master.
So it was, when the day came that the stick was untied from him,
that Jerry remained, voluntarily in Nalasu's house. When the old
man was satisfied there would be no running away, he began Jerry's
training. By slow degrees he advanced the training until hours a
day were devoted to it.
First of all Jerry learned a new name for himself, which was Bao,
and he was taught to respond to it from an ever-increasing distance
no matter how softly it was uttered, and Nalasu continued to utter
it more softly until it no longer was a spoken word, but a whisper.
Jerry's ears were keen, but Nalasu's, from long use, were almost as
Further, Jerry's own hearing was trained to still greater acuteness.
Hours at a time, sitting by Nalasu or standing apart from him, he
was taught to catch the slightest sounds or rustlings from the bush.
Still further, he was taught to differentiate between the bush
noises and between the ways he growled warnings to Nalasu. If a
rustle took place that Jerry identified as a pig or a chicken, he
did not growl at all. If he did not identify the noise, he growled
fairly softly. But if the noise were made by a man or boy who moved
softly and therefore suspiciously, Jerry learned to growl loudly; if
the noise were loud and careless, then Jerry's growl was soft.
It never entered Jerry's mind to question why he was taught all
this. He merely did it because it was this latest master's desire
that he should. All this, and much more, at a cost of interminable
time and patience, Nalasu taught him, and much more he taught him,
increasing his vocabulary so that, at a distance, they could hold
quick and sharply definite conversations.
Thus, at fifty feet away, Jerry would "Whuff!" softly the
information that there was a noise he did not know; and Nalasu, with
different sibilances, would hiss to him to stand still, to whuff
more softly, or to keep silent, or to come to him noiselessly, or to
go into the bush and investigate the source of the strange noise,
or, barking loudly, to rush and attack it.
Perhaps, if from the opposite direction Nalasu's sharp ears alone
caught a strange sound, he would ask Jerry if he had heard it. And
Jerry, alert to his toes to listen, by an alteration in the quantity
or quality of his whuff, would tell Nalasu that he did not hear;
next, that he did hear; and, perhaps finally, that it was a strange
dog, or a wood-rat, or a man, or a boy--all in the softest of sounds
that were scarcely more than breath-exhalations, all monosyllables,
a veritable shorthand of speech.
Nalasu was a strange old man. He lived by himself in a small grass
house on the edge of the village. The nearest house was quite a
distance away, while his own stood in a clearing in the thick jungle
which approached no where nearer than sixty feet. Also, this
cleared space he kept continually free from the fast-growing
vegetation. Apparently he had no friends. At least no visitors
ever came to his dwelling. Years had passed since he discouraged
the last. Further, he had no kindred. His wife was long since
dead, and his three sons, not yet married, in a foray behind the
bounds of Somo had lost their heads in the jungle runways of the
higher hills and been devoured by their bushman slayers.
For a blind man he was very busy. He asked favour of no one and was
self-supporting. In his house-clearing he grew yams, sweet
potatoes, and taro. In another clearing--because it was his policy
to have no trees close to his house--he had plantains, bananas, and
half a dozen coconut palms. Fruits and vegetables he exchanged down
in the village for meat and fish and tobacco.
He spent a good portion of his time on Jerry's education, and, on
occasion, would make bows and arrows that were so esteemed by his
tribespeople as to command a steady sale. Scarcely a day passed in
which he did not himself practise with bow and arrow. He shot only
by direction of sound; and whenever a noise or rustle was heard in
the jungle, and when Jerry had informed him of its nature, he would
shoot an arrow at it. Then it was Jerry's duty cautiously to
retrieve the arrow had it missed the mark.
A curious thing about Nalasu was that he slept no more than three
hours in the twenty-four, that he never slept at night, and that his
brief daylight sleep never took place in the house. Hidden in the
thickest part of the neighbouring jungle was a sort of nest to which
led no path. He never entered nor left by the same way, so that the
tropic growth on the rich soil, being so rarely trod upon, ever
obliterated the slightest sign of his having passed that way.
Whenever he slept, Jerry was trained to remain on guard and never to
go to sleep.
Reason enough there was and to spare for Nalasu's infinite
precaution. The oldest of his three sons had slain one, Ao, in a
quarrel. Ao had been one of six brothers of the family of Anno
which dwelt in one of the upper villages. According to Somo law,
the Anno family was privileged to collect the blood-debt from the
Nalasu family, but had been balked of it by the deaths of Nalasu's
three sons in the bush. And, since the Somo code was a life for a
life, and since Nalasu alone remained alive of his family, it was
well known throughout the tribe that the Annos would never be
content until they had taken the blind man's life.
But Nalasu had been famous as a great fighter, as well as having
been the progenitor of three such warlike sons. Twice had the Annos
sought to collect, the first time while Nalasu still retained his
eyesight. Nalasu had discovered their trap, circled about it, and
in the rear encountered and slain Anno himself, the father, thus
doubling the blood-debt.
Then had come his accident. While refilling many-times used Snider
cartridges, an explosion of black powder put out both his eyes.
Immediately thereafter, while he sat nursing his wounds, the Annos
had descended upon him--just what he had expected. And for which he
had made due preparation. That night two uncles and another brother
stepped on poisoned thorns and died horribly. Thus the sum of lives
owing the Annos had increased to five, with only a blind man from
whom to collect.
Thenceforth the Annos had feared the thorns too greatly to dare
again, although ever their vindictiveness smouldered and they lived
in hope of the day when Nalasu's head should adorn their ridgepole.
In the meantime the state of affairs was not that of a truce but of
a stalemate. The old man could not proceed against them, and they
were afraid to proceed against him. Nor did the day come until
after Jerry's adoption, when one of the Annos made an invention the
like of which had never been known in all Malaita.
Meanwhile the months slipped by, the south-east trade blew itself
out, the monsoon had begun to breathe, and Jerry added to himself
six months of time, weight, stature, and thickness of bone. An easy
time his half-year with the blind man had been, despite the fact
that Nalasu was a rigid disciplinarian who insisted on training
Jerry for longer hours, day in and day out, than falls to the lot of
most dogs. Never did Jerry receive from him a blow, never a harsh
word. This man, who had slain four of the Annos, three of them
after he had gone blind, who had slain still more men in his savage
youth, never raised his voice in anger to Jerry and ruled him by
nothing severer than the gentlest of chidings.
Mentally, the persistent education Jerry received, in this period of
late puppyhood, fixed in him increased brain power for all his life.
Possibly no dog in all the world had ever been so vocal as he, and
for three reasons: his own intelligence, the genius for teaching
that was Nalasu's, and the long hours devoted to the teaching.
His shorthand vocabulary, for a dog, was prodigious. Almost might
it be said that he and the man could talk by the hour, although few
and simple were the abstractions they could talk; very little of the
immediate concrete past, and scarcely anything of the immediate
concrete future, entered into their conversations. Jerry could no
more tell him of Meringe, nor of the Arangi, than could he tell him
of the great love he had borne Skipper, or of his reason for hating
Bashti. By the same token, Nalasu could not tell Jerry of the
blood-feud with the Annos, nor of how he had lost his eyesight.
Practically all their conversation was confined to the instant
present, although they could compass a little of the very immediate
past. Nalasu would give Jerry a series of instructions, such as,
going on a scout by himself, to go to the nest, then circle about it
widely, to continue to the other clearing where were the fruit
trees, to cross the jungle to the main path, to proceed down the
main path toward the village till he came to the great banyan tree,
and then to return along the small path to Nalasu and Nalasu's
house. All of which Jerry would carry out to the letter, and,
arrived back, would make report. As, thus: at the nest nothing
unusual save that a buzzard was near it; in the other clearing three
coconuts had fallen to the ground--for Jerry could count unerringly
up to five; between the other clearing and the main path were four
pigs; along the main path he had passed a dog, more than five women,
and two children; and on the small path home he had noted a cockatoo
and two boys.
But he could not tell Nalasu his states of mind and heart that
prevented him from being fully contented in his present situation.
For Nalasu was not a white-god, but only a mere nigger god. And
Jerry hated and despised all niggers save for the two exceptions of
Lamai and Nalasu. He tolerated them, and, for Nalasu, had even
developed a placid and sweet affection. Love him he did not and
At the best, they were only second-rate gods, and he could not
forget the great white-gods such as Skipper and Mister Haggin, and,
of the same breed, Derby and Bob. They were something else,
something other, something better than all this black savagery in
which he lived. They were above and beyond, in an unattainable
paradise which he vividly remembered, for which he yearned, but to
which he did not know the way, and which, dimly sensing the ending
that comes to all things, might have passed into the ultimate
nothingness which had already overtaken Skipper and the Arangi.
In vain did the old man play to gain Jerry's heart of love. He
could not bid against Jerry's many reservations and memories,
although he did win absolute faithfulness and loyalty. Not
passionately, as he would have fought to the death for Skipper, but
devotedly would he have fought to the death for Nalasu. And the old
man never dreamed but what he had won all of Jerry's heart.
Came the day of the Annos, when one of them made the invention,
which was thick-plaited sandals to armour the soles of their feet
against the poisoned thorns with which Nalasu had taken three of
their lives. The day, in truth, was the night, a black night, a
night so black under a cloud-palled sky that a tree-trunk could not
be seen an eighth of an inch beyond one's nose. And the Annos
descended on Nalasu's clearing, a dozen of them, armed with Sniders,
horse pistols, tomahawks and war clubs, walking gingerly, despite
their thick sandals, because of fear of the thorns which Nalasu no
Jerry, sitting between Nalasu's knees and nodding sleepily, gave the
first warning to Nalasu, who sat outside his door, wide-eyed, ear-
strung, as he had sat through all the nights of the many years. He
listened still more tensely through long minutes in which he heard
nothing, at the same time whispering to Jerry for information and
commanding him to be soft-spoken; and Jerry, with whuffs and whiffs
and all the short-hand breath-exhalations of speech he had been
taught, told him that men approached, many men, more men than five.
Nalasu reached the bow beside him, strung an arrow, and waited. At
last his own ears caught the slightest of rustlings, now here, now
there, advancing upon him in the circle of the compass. Still
speaking for softness, he demanded verification from Jerry, whose
neck hair rose bristling under Nalasu's sensitive fingers, and who,
by this time, was reading the night air with his nose as well as his
ears. And Jerry, as softly as Nalasu, informed him again that it
was men, many men, more men than five.
With the patience of age Nalasu sat on without movement, until,
close at hand, on the very edge of the jungle, sixty feet away, he
located a particular noise of a particular man. He stretched his
bow, loosed the arrow, and was rewarded by a gasp and a groan
strangely commingled. First he restrained Jerry from retrieving the
arrow, which he knew had gone home; and next he fitted a fresh arrow
to the bow string.
Fifteen minutes of silence passed, the blind man as if carven of
stone, the dog, trembling with eagerness under the articulate touch
of his fingers, obeying the bidding to make no sound. For Jerry, as
well as Nalasu, knew that death rustled and lurked in the encircling
dark. Again came a softness of movement, nearer than before; but
the sped arrow missed. They heard its impact against a tree trunk
beyond and a confusion of small sounds caused by the target's hasty
retreat. Next, after a time of silence, Nalasu told Jerry silently
to retrieve the arrow. He had been well trained and long trained,
for with no sound even to Nalasu's ears keener than seeing men's
ears, he followed the direction of the arrow's impact against the
tree and brought the arrow back in his mouth.
Again Nalasu waited, until the rustlings of a fresh drawing-in of
the circle could be heard, whereupon Nalasu, Jerry accompanying him,
picked up all his arrows and moved soundlessly half-way around the
circle. Even as they moved, a Snider exploded that was aimed in the
general direction of the spot just vacated.
And the blind man and the dog, from midnight to dawn, successfully
fought off twelve men equipped with the thunder of gunpowder and the
wide-spreading, deep-penetrating, mushroom bullets of soft lead.
And the blind man defended himself only with a bow and a hundred
arrows. He discharged many hundreds of arrows which Jerry retrieved
for him and which he discharged over and over. But Jerry aided
valiantly and well, adding to Nalasu's acute hearing his own acuter
hearing, circling noiselessly about the house and reporting where
the attack pressed closest.
Much of their precious powder the Annos wasted, for the affair was
like a game of invisible ghosts. Never was anything seen save the
flashes of the rifles. Never did they see Jerry, although they
became quickly aware of his movements close to them as he searched
out the arrows. Once, as one of them felt for an arrow which had
narrowly missed him, he encountered Jerry's back with his hand and
acknowledged the sharp slash of Jerry's teeth with a wild yell of
terror. They tried firing at the twang of Nalasu's bowstring, but
every time Nalasu fired he instantly changed position. Several
times, warned of Jerry's nearness, they fired at him, and, once
even, was his nose slightly powder burned.
When day broke, in the quick tropic grey that marks the leap from
dark to sun, the Annos retreated, while Nalasu, withdrawn from the
light into his house, still possessed eighty arrows, thanks to
Jerry. The net result to Nalasu was one dead man and no telling how
many arrow-pricked wounded men who dragged themselves away.
And half the day Nalasu crouched over Jerry, fondling and caressing
him for what he had done. Then he went abroad, Jerry with him, and
told of the battle. Bashti paid him a visit ere the day was done,
and talked with him earnestly.
"As an old man to an old man, I talk," was Bashti's beginning. "I
am older than you, O Nalasu; I have ever been unafraid. Yet never
have I been braver than you. I would that every man of the tribe
were as brave as you. Yet do you give me great sorrow. Of what
worth are your courage and cunning, when you have no seed to make
your courage and cunning live again?"
"I am an old man," Nalasu began.
"Not so old as I am," Bashti interrupted. "Not too old to marry so
that your seed will add strength to the tribe."
"I was married, and long married, and I fathered three brave sons.
But they are dead. I shall not live so long as you. I think of my
young days as pleasant dreams remembered after sleep. More I think
of death, and the end. Of marriage I think not at all. I am too
old to marry. I am old enough to make ready to die, and a great
curiousness have I about what will happen to me when I am dead.
Will I be for ever dead? Will I live again in a land of dreams--a
shadow of a dream myself that will still remember the days when I
lived in the warm world, the quick juices of hunger in my mouth, in
the chest of the body of me the love of woman?"
Bashti shrugged his shoulders.
"I too, have thought much on the matter," he said. "Yet do I arrive
nowhere. I do not know. You do not know. We will not know until
we are dead, if it happens that we know anything when what we are we
no longer are. But this we know, you and I: the tribe lives. The
tribe never dies. Wherefore, if there be meaning at all to our
living, we must make the tribe strong. Your work in the tribe is
not done. You must marry so that your cunning and your courage live
after you. I have a wife for you--nay, two wives, for your days are
short and I shall surely live to see you hang with my fathers from
the canoe-house ridgepole."
"I will not pay for a wife," Nalasu protested. "I will not pay for
any wife. I would not pay a stick of tobacco or a cracked coconut
for the best woman in Somo."
"Worry not," Bashti went on placidly. "I shall pay you for the
price of the wife, of the two wives. There is Bubu. For half a
case of tobacco shall I buy her for you. She is broad and square,
round-legged, broad-hipped, with generous breasts of richness.
There is Nena. Her father sets a stiff price upon her--a whole case
of tobacco. I will buy her for you as well. Your time is short.
We must hurry."
"I will not marry," the old blind man proclaimed hysterically.
"You will. I have spoken."
"No, I say, and say again, no, no, no, no. Wives are nuisances.
They are young things, and their heads are filled with foolishness.
Their tongues are loose with idleness of speech. I am old, I am
quiet in my ways, the fires of life have departed from me, I prefer
to sit alone in the dark and think. Chattering young things about
me, with nothing but foam and spume in their heads, on their
tongues, would drive me mad. Of a surety they would drive me mad--
so mad that I will spit into every clam shell, make faces at the
moon, and bite my veins and howl."
"And if you do, what of it? So long as your seed does not perish.
I shall pay for the wives to their fathers and send them to you in
"I will have nothing to do with them," Nalasu asserted wildly.
"You will," Bashti insisted calmly. "Because if you do not you will
have to pay me. It will be a sore, hard debt. I will have every
joint of you unhinged so that you will be like a jelly-fish, like a
fat pig with the bones removed, and I will then stake you out in the
midmost centre of the dog-killing ground to swell in pain under the
sun. And what is left of you I shall fling to the dogs to eat.
Your seed shall not perish out of Somo. I, Bashti, so tell you. In
three days I shall send to you your two wives. . . . "
He paused, and a long silence fell upon them.
"Well?" Bashti reiterated. "It is wives or staking out unhinged in
the sun. You choose, but think well before you choose the
"At my age, with all the vexations of youngness so far behind me!"
"Choose. You will find there is vexation, and liveliness and much
of it, in the centre of the dog-killing yard when the sun cooks your
sore joints till the grease of the leanness of you bubbles like the
tender fat of a cooked sucking-pig."
"Then send me the wives," Nalasu managed to utter after a long
pause. "But send them in three days, not in two, nor to-morrow."
"It is well," Bashti nodded gravely. "You have lived at all only
because of those before you, now long in the dark, who worked so
that the tribe might live and you might come to be. You are. They
paid the price for you. It is your debt. You came into being with
this debt upon you. You will pay the debt before you pass out of
being. It is the law. It is very well."
And had Bashti hastened delivery of the wives by one day, or by even
two days, Nalasu would have entered the feared, purgatory of
matrimony. But Bashti kept his word, and on the third day was too
busy, with a more momentous problem, to deliver Bubu and Nena to the
blind old man who apprehensively waited their coming. For the
morning of the third day all the summits of leeward Malaita smoked
into speech. A warship was on the coast--so the tale ran; a big
warship that was heading in through the reef islands at Langa-Langa.
The tale grew. The warship was not stopping at Langa-Langa. The
warship was not stopping at Binu. It was directing its course
Nalasu, blind, could not see this smoke speech written in the air.
Because of the isolation of his house, no one came and told him.
His first warning was when shrill voices of women, cries of
children, and wailings of babes in nameless fear came to him from
the main path that led from the village to the upland boundaries of
Somo. He read only fear and panic from the sounds, deduced that the
village was fleeing to its mountain fastnesses, but did not know the
cause of the flight.
He called Jerry to him and instructed him to scout to the great
banyan tree, where Nalasu's path and the main path joined, and to
observe and report. And Jerry sat under the banyan tree and
observed the flight of all Somo. Men, women, and children, the
young and the aged, babes at breast and patriarchs leaning on sticks
and staffs passed before his eyes, betraying the greatest haste and
alarm. The village dogs were as frightened, whimpering and whining
as they ran. And the contagion of terror was strong upon Jerry. He
knew the prod of impulse to join in this rush away from some
unthinkably catastrophic event that impended and that stirred his
intuitive apprehensions of death. But he mastered the impulse with
his sense of loyalty to the blind man who had fed him and caressed
him for a long six months.
Back with Nalasu, sitting between his knees, he made his report. It
was impossible for him to count more than five, although he knew the
fleeing population numbered many times more than five. So he
signified five men, and more; five women, and more five children,
and more; five babies, and more; five dogs, and more--even of pigs
did he announce five and more. Nalasu's ears told him that it was
many, many times more, and he asked for names. Jerry know the names
of Bashti, of Agno, and of Lamai, and Lumai. He did not pronounce
them with the slightest of resemblance to their customary soundings,
but pronounced them in the whiff-whuff of shorthand speech that
Nalasu had taught him.
Nalasu named over many other names that Jerry knew by ear but could
not himself evoke in sound, and he answered yes to most of them by
simultaneously nodding his head and advancing his right paw. To
some names he remained without movement in token that he did not
know them. And to other names, which he recognized, but the owners
of which he had not seen, he answered no by advancing his left paw.
And Nalasu, beyond knowing that something terrible was impending--
something horribly more terrible than any foray of neighbouring
salt-water tribes, which Somo, behind her walls, could easily fend
off, divined that it was the long-expected punitive man-of-war.
Despite his three-score years, he had never experienced a village
shelling. He had heard vague talk of what had happened in the
matter of shell-fire in other villages, but he had no conception of
it save that it must be, bullets on a larger scale than Snider
bullets that could be fired correspondingly longer distances through
But it was given to him to know shell-fire before he died. Bashti,
who had long waited the cruiser that was to avenge the destruction
of the Arangi and the taking of the heads of the two white men, and
who had long calculated the damage to be wrought, had given the
command to his people to flee to the mountains. First in the
vanguard, borne by a dozen young men, went his mat-wrapped parcels
of heads. The last slow trailers in the rear of the exodus were
just passing, and Nalasu, his bow and his eighty arrows clutched to
him, Jerry at his heels, made his first step to follow, when the air
above him was rent by a prodigiousness of sound.
Nalasu sat down abruptly. It was his first shell, and it was a
thousand times more terrible than he had imagined. It was a rip-
snorting, sky-splitting sound as of a cosmic fabric being torn
asunder between the hands of some powerful god. For all the world
it was like the roughest tearing across of sheets that were thick as
blankets, that were broad as the earth and wide as the sky.
Not only did he sit down just outside his door, but he crouched his
head to his knees and shielded it with the arch of his arms. And
Jerry, who had never heard shell-fire, much less imagined what it
was like, was impressed with the awfulness of it. It was to him a
natural catastrophe such as had happened to the Arangi when she was
flung down reeling on her side by the shouting wind. But, true to
his nature, he did not crouch down under the shriek of that first
shell. On the contrary, he bristled his hair and snarled up with
menacing teeth at whatever the thing was which was so enormously
present and yet invisible to his eyes.
Nalasu crouched closer when the shell burst beyond, and Jerry
snarled and rippled his hair afresh. Each repeated his actions with
each fresh shell, for, while they screamed no more loudly, they
burst in the jungle more closely. And Nalasu, who had lived a long
life most bravely in the midst of perils he had known, was destined
to die a coward out of his fear of the thing unknown, the chemically
propelled missile of the white masters. As the dropping shells
burst nearer and nearer, what final self-control he possessed left
him. Such was his utter panic that he might well have bitten his
veins and howled. With a lunatic scream, he sprang to his feet and
rushed inside the house as if forsooth its grass thatch could
protect his head from such huge projectiles. He collided with the
door-jamb, and, ere Jerry could follow him, whirled around in a part
circle into the centre of the floor just in time to receive the next
shell squarely upon his head.
Jerry had just gained the doorway when the shell exploded. The
house went into flying fragments, and Nalasu flew into fragments
with it. Jerry, in the doorway, caught in the out-draught of the
explosion, was flung a score of feet away. All in the same fraction
of an instant, earthquake, tidal wave, volcanic eruption, the
thunder of the heavens and the fire-flashing of an electric bolt
from the sky smote him and smote consciousness out of him.
He had no conception of how long he lay. Five minutes passed before
his legs made their first spasmodic movements, and, as he stumbled
to his feet and rocked giddily, he had no thought of the passage of
time. He had no thought about time at all. As a matter of course,
his own idea, on which he proceeded to act without being aware of
it, was that, a part of a second before, he had been struck a
terrific blow magnified incalculable times beyond the blow of a
stick at a nigger's hands.
His throat and lungs filled with the pungent stifling smoke of
powder, his nostrils with earth and dust, he frantically wheezed and
sneezed, leaping about, falling drunkenly, leaping into the air
again, staggering on his hind-legs, dabbing with his forepaws at his
nose head-downward between his forelegs, and even rubbing his nose
into the ground. He had no thought for anything save to remove the
biting pain from his nose and mouth, the suffocation from his lungs.
By a miracle he had escaped being struck by the flying splinters of
iron, and, thanks to his strong heart, had escaped being killed by
the shock of the explosion. Not until the end of five minutes of
mad struggling, in which he behaved for all the world like a
beheaded chicken, did he find life tolerable again. The maximum of
stifling and of agony passed, and, although he was still weak and
giddy, he tottered in the direction of the house and of Nalasu. And
there was no house and no Nalasu--only a debris intermingled of
While the shells continued to shriek and explode, now near, now far,
Jerry investigated the happening. As surely as the house was gone,
just as surely was Nalasu gone. Upon both had descended the
ultimate nothingness. All the immediate world seemed doomed to
nothingness. Life promised only somewhere else, in the high hills
and remote bush whither the tribe had already fled. Loyal he was to
his salt, to the master whom he had obeyed so long, nigger that he
was, who so long had fed him, and for whom he had entertained a true
affection. But this master no longer was.
Retreat Jerry did, but he was not hasty in retreat. For a time he
snarled at every shell-scream in the air and every shell-burst in
the bush. But after a time, while the awareness of them continued
uncomfortably with him, the hair on his neck remained laid down and
he neither uttered a snarl nor bared his teeth.
And when he parted from what had been and which had ceased to be,
not like the bush dogs did he whimper and run. Instead, he trotted
along the path at a regular and dignified pace. When he emerged
upon the main path, he found it deserted. The last refugee had
passed. The path, always travelled from daylight to dark, and which
he had so recently seen glutted with humans, now in its emptiness
affected him profoundly with the impression of the endingness of all
things in a perishing world. So it was that he did not sit down
under the banyan tree, but trotted along at the far rear of the
With his nose he read the narrative of the flight. Only once did he
encounter what advertised its terror. It was an entire group
annihilated by a shell. There were: an old man of fifty, with a
crutch because of the leg which had been slashed off by a shark when
he was a young boy; a dead Mary with a dead babe at her breast and a
dead child of three clutching her hand; and two dead pigs, huge and
fat, which the woman had been herding to safety.
And Jerry's nose told him of how the stream of the fugitives had
split and flooded past on each side and flowed together again
beyond. Incidents of the flight he did encounter: a part-chewed
joint of sugar-cane some child had dropped; a clay pipe, the stem
short from successive breakages; a single feather from some young
man's hair, and a calabash, full of cooked yams and sweet potatoes,
deposited carefully beside the trail by some Mary for whom its
weight had proved too great.
The shell-fire ceased as Jerry trotted along; next he heard the
rifle-fire from the landing-party, as it shot down the domestic pigs
on Somo's streets. He did not hear, however, the chopping down of
the coconut trees, any more than did he ever return to behold what
damage the axes had wrought.
For right here occurred with Jerry a wonderful thing that thinkers
of the world have not explained. He manifested in his dog's brain
the free agency of life, by which all the generations of
metaphysicians have postulated God, and by which all the
deterministic philosophers have been led by the nose despite their
clear denouncement of it as sheer illusion. What Jerry did he did.
He did not know how or why he did it any more than does the
philosopher know how or why he decides on mush and cream for
breakfast instead of two soft-boiled eggs.
What Jerry did was to yield in action to a brain impulse to do, not
what seemed the easier and more usual thing, but to do what seemed
the harder and more unusual thing. Since it is easier to endure the
known than to fly to the unknown; since both misery and fear love
company; the apparent easiest thing for Jerry to have done would
have been to follow the tribe of Somo into its fastnesses. Yet what
Jerry did was to diverge from the line of retreat and to start
northward, across the bounds of Somo, and continue northward into a
strange land of the unknown.
Had Nalasu not been struck down by the ultimate nothingness, Jerry
would have remained. This is true, and this, perhaps, to the one
who considers his action, might have been the way he reasoned. But
he did not reason it, did not reason at all; he acted on impulse.
He could count five objects, and pronounce them by name and number,
but he was incapable of reasoning that he would remain in Somo if
Nalasu lived, depart from Somo if Nalasu died. He merely departed
from Somo because Nalasu was dead, and the terrible shell-fire
passed quickly into the past of his consciousness, while the present
became vivid after the way of the present. Almost on his toes did
he tread the wild bushmen's trails, tense with apprehension of the
lurking death he know infested such paths, his ears cocked alertly
for jungle sounds, his eyes following his ears to discern what made
No more doughty nor daring was Columbus, venturing all that he was
to the unknown, than was Jerry in venturing this jungle-darkness of
black Malaita. And this wonderful thing, this seeming great deed of
free will, he performed in much the same way that the itching of
feet and tickle of fancy have led the feet of men over all the
Though Jerry never laid eyes on Somo again, Bashti returned with his
tribe the same day, grinning and chuckling as he appraised the
damage. Only a few grass houses had been damaged by the shells.
Only a few coconuts had been chopped down. And as for the slain
pigs, lest they spoil, he made of their carcasses a great feast.
One shell had knocked a hole through his sea-wall. He enlarged it
for a launching-ways, faced the sides of it with dry-fitted coral
rock, and gave orders for the building of an additional canoe-house.
The only vexation he suffered was the death of Nalasu and the
disappearance of Jerry--his two experiments in primitive eugenics.
A week Jerry spent in the bush, deterred always from penetrating to
the mountains by the bushmen who ever guarded the runways. And it
would have gone hard with him in the matter of food, had he not, on
the second day, encountered a lone small pig, evidently lost from
its litter. It was his first hunting adventure for a living, and it
prevented him from travelling farther, for, true to his instinct, he
remained by his kill until it was nearly devoured.
True, he ranged widely about the neighbourhood, finding no other
food he could capture. But always, until it was gone, he returned
to the slain pig. Yet he was not happy in his freedom. He was too
domesticated, too civilized. Too many thousands of years had
elapsed since his ancestors had run freely wild. He was lonely. He
could not get along without man. Too long had he, and the
generations before him, lived in intimate relationship with the two-
legged gods. Too long had his kind loved man, served him for love,
endured for love, died for love, and, in return, been partly
appreciated, less understood, and roughly loved.
So great was Jerry's loneliness that even a two-legged black-god was
desirable, since white-gods had long since faded into the limbo of
the past. For all he might have known, had he been capable of
conjecturing, the only white-gods in existence had perished. Acting
on the assumption that a black-god was better than no god, when he
had quite finished the little pig, he deflected his course to the
left, down-hill, toward the sea. He did this, again without
reasoning, merely because, in the subtle processes of his brain,
experience worked. His experience had been to live always close by
the sea; humans he had always encountered close by the sea; and
down-hill had invariably led to the sea.
He came out upon the shore of the reef-sheltered lagoon where ruined
grass houses told him men had lived. The jungle ran riot through
the place. Six-inch trees, throated with rotten remnants of
thatched roofs through which they had aspired toward the sun, rose
about him. Quick-growing trees had shadowed the kingposts so that
the idols and totems, seated in carved shark jaws, grinned greenly
and monstrously at the futility of man through a rime of moss and
mottled fungus. A poor little sea-wall, never much at its best,
sprawled in ruin from the coconut roots to the placid sea. Bananas,
plantains, and breadfruit lay rotting on the ground. Bones lay
about, human bones, and Jerry nosed them out, knowing them for what
they were, emblems of the nothingness of life. Skulls he did not
encounter, for the skulls that belonged to the scattered bones
ornamented the devil devil houses in the upland bush villages.
The salt tang of the sea gladdened his nostrils, and he snorted with
the pleasure of the stench of the mangrove swamp. But, another
Crusoe chancing upon the footprint of another man Friday, his nose,
not his eyes, shocked him electrically alert as he smelled the fresh
contact of a living man's foot with the ground. It was a nigger's
foot, but it was alive, it was immediate; and, as he traced it a
score of yards, he came upon another foot-scent, indubitably a white
Had there been an onlooker, he would have thought Jerry had gone
suddenly mad. He rushed frantically about, turning and twisting his
course, now his nose to the ground, now up in the air, whining as
frantically as he rushed, leaping abruptly at right angles as new
scents reached him, scurrying here and there and everywhere as if in
a game of tag with some invisible playfellow.
But he was reading the full report which many men had written on the
ground. A white man had been there, he learned, and a number of
blacks. Here a black had climbed a coconut tree and cast down the
nuts. There a banana tree had been despoiled of its clustered
fruit; and, beyond, it was evident that a similar event had happened
to a breadfruit tree. One thing, however, puzzled him--a scent new
to him that was neither black man's nor white man's. Had he had the
necessary knowledge and the wit of eye-observance, he would have
noted that the footprint was smaller than a man's and that the
toeprints were different from a Mary's in that they were close
together and did not press deeply into the earth. What bothered him
in his smelling was his ignorance of talcum powder. Pungent it was
in his nostrils, but never, since first he had smelled out the
footprints of man, had he encountered such a scent. And with this
were combined other and fainter scents that were equally strange to
Not long did he interest himself in such mystery. A white man's
footprints he had smelled, and through the maze of all the other
prints he followed the one print down through a breach of sea-wall
to the sea-pounded coral sand lapped by the sea. Here the latest
freshness of many feet drew together where the nose of a boat had
rested on the beach and where men had disembarked and embarked
again. He smelled up all the story, and, his forelegs in the water
till it touched his shoulders, he gazed out across the lagoon where
the disappearing trail was lost to his nose.
Had he been half an hour sooner he would have seen a boat, without
oars, gasoline-propelled, shooting across the quiet water. What he
did see was an Arangi. True, it was far larger than the Arangi he
had known, but it was white, it was long, it had masts, and it
floated on the surface of the sea. It had three masts, sky-lofty
and all of a size; but his observation was not trained to note the
difference between them and the one long and the one short mast of
the Arangi. The one floating world he had known was the white-
painted Arangi. And, since, without a quiver of doubt, this was the
Arangi, then, on board, would be his beloved Skipper. If Arangis
could resurrect, then could Skippers resurrect, and in utter faith
that the head of nothingness he had last seen on Bashti's knees he
would find again rejoined to its body and its two legs on the deck
of the white-painted floating world, he waded out to his depth, and,
swimming dared the sea.
He greatly dared, for in venturing the water he broke one of the
greatest and earliest taboos he had learned. In his vocabulary was
no word for "crocodile"; yet in his thought, as potent as any
utterable word, was an image of dreadful import--an image of a log
awash that was not a log and that was alive, that could swim upon
the surface, under the surface, and haul out across the dry land,
that was huge-toothed, mighty-mawed, and certain death to a swimming
But he continued the breaking of the taboo without fear. Unlike a
man who can be simultaneously conscious of two states of mind, and
who, swimming, would have known both the fear and the high courage
with which he overrode the fear, Jerry, as he swam, knew only one
state of mind, which was that he was swimming to the Arangi and to
Skipper. At the moment preceding the first stroke of his paws in
the water out of his depth, he had known all the terribleness of the
taboo he deliberately broke. But, launched out, the decision made,
the line of least resistance taken, he knew, single-thoughted,
single-hearted, only that he was going to Skipper.
Little practised as he was in swimming, he swam with all his
strength, whimpering in a sort of chant his eager love for Skipper
who indubitably must be aboard the white yacht half a mile away.
His little song of love, fraught with keenness of anxiety, came to
the ears of a man and woman lounging in deck-chairs under the
awning; and it was the quick-eyed woman who first saw the golden
head of Jerry and cried out what she saw.
"Lower a boat, Husband-Man," she commanded. "It's a little dog. He
"Dogs don't drown that easily," was "Husband-Man's" reply. "He'll
make it all right. But what under the sun a dog's doing out here .
. . " He lifted his marine glasses to his eyes and stared a moment.
"And a white man's dog at that!"
Jerry beat the water with his paws and moved steadily along,
straining his eyes at the growing yacht until suddenly warned by a
sensing of immediate danger. The taboo smote him. This that moved
toward him was the log awash that was not a log but a live thing of
peril. Part of it he saw above the surface moving sluggishly, and
ere that projecting part sank, he had an awareness that somehow it
was different from a log awash.
Next, something brushed past him, and he encountered it with a snarl
and a splashing of his forepaws. He was half-whirled about in the
vortex of the thing's passage caused by the alarmed flirt of its
tail. Shark it was, and not crocodile, and not so timidly would it
have sheered clear but for the fact that it was fairly full with a
recent feed of a huge sea turtle too feeble with age to escape.
Although he could not see it, Jerry sensed that the thing, the
instrument of nothingness, lurked about him. Nor did he see the
dorsal fin break surface and approach him from the rear. From the
yacht he heard rifle-shots in quick succession. From the rear a
panic splash came to his ears. That was all. The peril passed and
was forgotten. Nor did he connect the rifle-shots with the passing
of the peril. He did not know, and he was never to know, that one,
known to men as Harley Kennan, but known as "Husband-Man" by the
woman he called "Wife-Woman," who owned the three-topmast schooner
yacht Ariel, had saved his life by sending a thirty-thirty Marlin
bullet through the base of a shark's fin.
But Jerry was to know Harley Kennan, and quickly, for it was Harley
Kennan, a bowline around his body under his arm-pits, lowered by a
couple of seamen down the generous freeboard of the Ariel, who
gathered in by the nape of the neck the smooth-coated Irish terrier
that, treading water perpendicularly, had no eyes for him so eagerly
did he gaze at the line of faces along the rail in quest of the one
No pause for thanks did he make when he was dropped down upon the
deck. Instead, shaking himself instinctively as he ran, he scurried
along the deck for Skipper. The man and his wife laughed at the
"He acts as if he were demented with delight at being rescued," Mrs.
And Mr. Kennan: "It's not that. He must have a screw loose
somewhere. Perhaps he's one of those creatures who've slipped the
ratchet off the motion cog. Maybe he can't stop running till he
In the meantime Jerry continued to run, up port side and down
starboard side, from stern to bow and back again, wagging his stump
tail and laughing friendliness to the many two-legged gods he
encountered. Had he been able to think to such abstraction he would
have been astounded at the number of white-gods. Thirty there were
at least of them, not counting other gods that were neither black
nor white, but that still, two-legged, upright and garmented, were
beyond all peradventure gods. Likewise, had he been capable of such
generalization, he would have decided that the white-gods had not
yet all of them passed into the nothingness. As it was, he realized
all this without being aware that he realized it.
But there was no Skipper. He sniffed down the forecastle hatch,
sniffed into the galley where two Chinese cooks jabbered
unintelligibly to him, sniffed down the cabin companionway, sniffed
down the engine-room skylight and for the first time knew gasoline
and engine oil; but sniff as he would, wherever he ran, no scent did
he catch of Skipper.
Aft, at the wheel, he would have sat down and howled his heartbreak
of disappointment, had not a white-god, evidently of command, in
gold-decorated white duck cap and uniform, spoken to him.
Instantly, always a gentleman, Jerry smiled with flattened ears of
courtesy, wagged his tail, and approached. The hand of this high
god had almost caressed his head when the woman's voice came down
the deck in speech that Jerry did not understand. The words and
terms of it were beyond him. But he sensed power of command in it,
which was verified by the quick withdrawal of the hand of the god in
white and gold who had almost caressed him. This god, stiffened
electrically and pointed Jerry along the deck, and, with mouth
encouragements and urgings the import of which Jerry could only
guess, directed him toward the one who so commanded by saying:
"Send him, please, along to me, Captain Winters."
Jerry wriggled his body in delight of obeying, and would loyally
have presented his head to her outreaching caress of hand, had not
the strangeness and difference of her deterred him. He broke off in
mid-approach and with a show of teeth snarled himself back and away
from the windblown skirt of her. The only human females he had
known were naked Marys. This skirt, flapping in the wind like a
sail, reminded him of the menacing mainsail of the Arangi when it
had jarred and crashed and swooped above his head. The noises her
mouth made were gentle and ingratiating, but the fearsome skirt
still flapped in the breeze.
"You ridiculous dog!" she laughed. "I'm not going to bite you."
But her husband thrust out a rough, sure hand and drew Jerry in to
him. And Jerry wriggled in ecstasy under the god's caress, kissing
the hand with a red flicker of tongue. Next, Harley Kennan directed
him toward the woman sitting up in the deck-chair and bending
forward, with hovering hands of greeting. Jerry obeyed. He
advanced with flattened ears and laughing mouth: but, just ere she
could touch him, the wind fluttered the skirt again and he backed
away with a snarl.
"It's not you that he's afraid of, Villa," he said. "But of your
skirt. Perhaps he's never seen a skirt before."
"You mean," Villa Kennan challenged, "that these head-hunting
cannibals ashore here keep records of pedigrees and maintain
kennels; for surely this absurd adventurer of a dog is as proper an
Irish terrier as the Ariel is an Oregon-pine-planked schooner."
Harley Kennan laughed in acknowledgment. Villa Kennan laughed too;
and Jerry knew that these were a pair of happy gods, and himself
laughed with them.
Of his own initiative, he approached the lady god again, attracted
by the talcum powder and other minor fragrances he had already
identified as the strange scents encountered on the beach. But the
unfortunate trade wind again fluttered her skirt, and again he
backed away--not so far, this time, with much less of a bristle of
his neck and shoulder hair, and with no more of a snarl than a mere
half-baring of his fangs.
"He's afraid of your skirt," Harley insisted. "Look at him! He
wants to come to you, but the skirt keeps him away. Tuck it under
you so that it won't flutter, and see what happens."
Villa Kennan carried out the suggestion, and Jerry came
circumspectly, bent his head to her hand and writhed his back under
it, the while he sniffed her feet, stocking-clad and shoe-covered,
and knew them as the feet which had trod uncovered the ruined ways
of the village ashore.
"No doubt of it," Harley agreed. "He's white-man selected, white-
man bred and born. He has a history. He knows adventure from the
ground-roots up. If he could tell his story, we'd sit listening
entranced for days. Depend on it, he's not known blacks all his
life. Let's try him on Johnny."
Johnny, whom Kennan beckoned up to him, was a loan from the Resident
Commissioner of the British Solomons at Tulagi, who had come along
as pilot and guide to Kennan rather than as philosopher and friend.
Johnny approached grinning, and Jerry's demeanour immediately
changed. His body stiffened under Villa Kennan's hand as he drew
away from her and stalked stiff-legged to the black. Jerry's ears
did not flatten, nor did he laugh fellowship with his mouth, as he
inspected Johnny and smelt his calves for future reference.
Cavalier he was to the extreme, and, after the briefest of
inspection, he turned back to Villa Kennan.
"What did I say?" her husband exulted. "He knows the colour line.
He's a white man's dog that has been trained to it."
"My word," spoke up Johnny. "Me know 'm that fella dog. Me know 'm
papa and mamma belong along him. Big fella white marster Mister
Haggin stop along Meringe, mamma and papa stop along him that fella
Harley Kennan uttered a sharp exclamation.
"Of course," he cried. "The Commissioner told me all about it. The
Arangi, that the Somo people captured, sailed last from Meringe
Plantation. Johnny recognizes the dog as the same breed as the pair
Haggin, of Meringe, must possess. But that was a long time ago. He
must have been a little puppy. Of course he's a white man's dog."
"And yet you've overlooked the crowning proof of it," Villa Kennan
teased. "The dog carries the evidence around with him."
Harley looked Jerry over carefully.
"Indisputable evidence," she insisted.
After another prolonged scrutiny, Kennan shook his head.
"Blamed if I can see anything so indisputable as to leave conjecture
"The tail," his wife gurgled. "Surely the natives do not bob the
tails of their dogs.--Do they, Johnny? Do black man stop along
Malaita chop 'm off tail along dog."
"No chop 'm off," Johnny agreed. "Mister Haggin along Meringe he
chop 'm off. My word, he chop 'm that fella tail, you bet."
"Then he's the sole survivor of the Arangi," Villa Kennan concluded.
"Don't you agree, Mr. Sherlock Holmes Kennan?"
"I salute you, Mrs. S. Holmes," her husband acknowledged gallantly.
"And all that remains is for you to lead me directly to the head of
La Perouse himself. The sailing directions record that he left it
somewhere in these islands."
Little did they guess that Jerry had lived on intimate terms with
one Bashti, not many miles away along the shore, who, in Somo, at
that very moment, sat in his grass house pondering over a head on
his withered knees that had once been the head of the great
navigator, the history of which had been forgotten by the sons of
the chief who had taken it.
The fine, three-topmast schooner Ariel, on a cruise around the
world, had already been out a year from San Francisco when Jerry
boarded her. As a world, and as a white-god world, she was to him
beyond compare. She was not small like the Arangi, nor was she
cluttered fore and aft, on deck and below, with a spawn of niggers.
The only black Jerry found on her was Johnny; while her spaciousness
was filled principally with two-legged white-gods.
He met them everywhere, at the wheel, on lookout, washing decks,
polishing brass-work, running aloft, or tailing on to sheets and
tackles half a dozen at a time. But there was a difference. There
were gods and gods, and Jerry was not long in learning that in the
hierarchy of the heaven of these white-gods on the Ariel, the
sailorizing, ship-working ones were far beneath the captain and his
two white-and-gold-clad officers. These, in turn, were less than
Harley Kennan and Villa Kennan; for them, it came quickly to him,
Harley Kennan commanded. Nevertheless, there was one thing he did
not learn and was destined never to learn, namely, the supreme god
over all on the Ariel. Although he never tried to know, being
unable to think to such a distance, he never came to know whether it
was Harley Kennan who commanded Villa, or Villa Kennan who commanded
Harley. In a way, without vexing himself with the problem, he
accepted their over-lordship of the world as dual. Neither out-
ranked the other. They seemed to rule co-equal, while all others
bowed before them.
It is not true that to feed a dog is to win a dog's heart. Never
did Harley or Villa feed Jerry; yet it was to them he elected to
belong, them he elected to love and serve rather than to the
Japanese steward who regularly fed him. For that matter, Jerry,
like any dog, was able to differentiate between the mere direct
food-giver and the food source. That is, subconsciously, he was
aware that not alone his own food, but the food of all on board
found its source in the man and woman. They it was who fed all and
ruled all. Captain Winters might give orders to the sailors, but
Captain Winters took orders from Harley Kennan. Jerry knew this as
indubitably as he acted upon it, although all the while it never
entered his head as an item of conscious knowledge.
And, as he had been accustomed, all his life, as with Mister Haggin,
Skipper, and even with Bashti and the chief devil devil doctor of
Somo, he attached himself to the high gods themselves, and from the
gods under them received deference accordingly. As Skipper, on the
Arangi, and Bashti in Somo, had promulgated taboos, so the man and
the woman on the Ariel protected Jerry with taboos. From Sano, the
Japanese steward, and from him alone, did Jerry receive food. Not
from any sailor in whaleboat or launch could he accept, or would he
be offered, a bit of biscuit or an invitation to go ashore for a
run. Nor did they offer it. Nor were they permitted to become
intimate, to the extent of romping and playing with him, nor even of
whistling to him along the deck.
By nature a "one-man" dog, all this was very acceptable to Jerry.
Differences of degree there were, of course; but no one more
delicately and definitely knew those differences than did Jerry
himself. Thus, it was permissible for the two officers to greet him
with a "Hello," or a "Good morning," and even to touch a hand in a
brief and friendly pat to his head. With Captain Winters, however,
greater familiarity obtained. Captain Winters could rub his ears,
shake hands with his, scratch his back, and even roughly catch him
by the jowls. But Captain Winters invariably surrendered him up
when the one man and the one woman appeared on deck.
When it came to liberties, delicious, wanton liberties, Jerry alone
of all on board could take them with the man and woman, and, on the
other hand, they were the only two to whom he permitted liberties.
Any indignity that Villa Kennan chose to inflict upon him he was
throbbingly glad to receive, such as doubling his ears inside out
till they stuck, at the same time making him sit upright, with
helpless forefeet paddling the air for equilibrium, while she blew
roguishly in his face and nostrils. As bad was Harley Kennan's
trick of catching him gloriously asleep on an edge of Villa's skirt
and of tickling the hair between his toes and making him kick
involuntarily in his sleep, until he kicked himself awake to hearing
of gurgles and snickers of laughter at his expense.
In turn, at night on deck, wriggling her toes at him under a rug to
simulate some strange and crawling creature of an invader, he would
dare to simulate his own befoolment and quite disrupt Villa's bed
with his frantic ferocious attack on the thing that he knew was only
her toes. In gales of laughter, intermingled with half-genuine
cries of alarm as almost his teeth caught her toes, she always
concluded by gathering him into her arms and laughing the last of
her laughter away into his flattened ears of joy and love. Who
else, of all on board the Ariel, would have dared such devilishness
with the lady-god's bed? This question it never entered his mind to
ask himself; yet he was fully aware of how exclusively favoured he
Another of his deliberate tricks was one discovered by accident.
Thrusting his muzzle to meet her in love, he chanced to encounter
her face with his soft-hard little nose with such force as to make
her recoil and cry out. When, another time, in all innocence this
happened again, he became conscious of it and of its effect upon
her; and thereafter, when she grew too wildly wild, too wantonly
facetious in her teasing playful love of him, he would thrust his
muzzle at her face and make her throw her head back to escape him.
After a time, learning that if he persisted, she would settle the
situation by gathering him into her arms and gurgling into his ears,
he made it a point to act his part until such delectable surrender
and joyful culmination were achieved.
Never, by accident, in this deliberate game, did he hurt her chin or
cheek so severely as he hurt his own tender nose, but in the hurt
itself he found more of delight than pain. All of fun it was, all
through, and, in addition, it was love fun. Such hurt was more than
fun. Such pain was heart-pleasure.
All dogs are god-worshippers. More fortunate than most dogs, Jerry
won to a pair of gods that, no matter how much they commanded, loved
more. Although his nose might threaten grievously to hurt the cheek
of his adored god, rather than have it really hurt he would have
spilled out all the love-tide of his heart that constituted the life
of him. He did not live for food, for shelter, for a comfortable
place between the darknesses that rounded existence. He lived for
love. And as surely as he gladly lived for love, would he have died
gladly for love.
Not quickly, in Somo, had Jerry's memory of Skipper and Mister
Haggin faded. Life in the cannibal village had been too
unsatisfying. There had been too little love. Only love can erase
the memory of love, or rather, the hurt of lost love. And on board
the Ariel such erasement occurred quickly. Jerry did not forget
Skipper and Mister Haggin. But at the moments he remembered them
the yearning that accompanied the memory grew less pronounced and
painful. The intervals between the moments widened, nor did Skipper
and Mister Haggin take form and reality so frequently in his dreams;
for, after the manner of dogs, he dreamed much and vividly.
Northward, along the leeward coast of Malaita, the Ariel worked her
leisurely way, threading the colour-riotous lagoon that lay between
the shore-reefs and outer-reefs, daring passages so narrow and
coral-patched that Captain Winters averred each day added a thousand
grey hairs to his head, and dropping anchor off every walled inlet
of the outer reef and every mangrove swamp of the mainland that
looked promising of cannibal life. For Harley and Villa Kennan were
in no hurry. So long as the way was interesting, they dared not how
long it proved from anywhere to anywhere.
During this time Jerry learned a new name for himself--or, rather,
an entire series of names for himself. This was because of an
aversion on Harley Kennan's part against renaming a named thing.
"A name he must have had," he argued to Villa. "Haggin must have
named him before he sailed on the Arangi. Therefore, nameless he
must be until we get back to Tulagi and find out his real name."
"What's in a name?" Villa had begun to tease.
"Everything," her husband retorted. "Think of yourself,
shipwrecked, called by your rescuers 'Mrs. Riggs,' or 'Mademoiselle
de Maupin,' or just plain 'Topsy.' And think of me being called
'Benedict Arnold,' or ' Judas,' or . . . or . . . 'Haman.' No, keep
him nameless, until we find out his original name."
"Must call him something," she objected. "Can't think of him
without thinking something."
"Then call him many names, but never the same name twice. Call him
'Dog' to-day, and 'Mister Dog' to-morrow, and the next day something
So it was, more by tone and emphasis and context of situation than
by anything else, that Jerry came hazily to identify himself with
names such as: Dog, Mister Dog, Adventurer, Strong Useful One, Sing
Song Silly, Noname, and Quivering Love-Heart. These were a few of
the many names lavished on him by Villa. Harley, in turn, addressed
him as: Man-Dog, Incorruptible One, Brass Tacks, Then Some, Sin of
Gold, South Sea Satrap, Nimrod, Young Nick, and Lion-Slayer. In
brief, the man and woman competed with each other to name him most
without naming him ever the same. And Jerry, less by sound and
syllable than by what of their hearts vibrated in their throats,
soon learned to know himself by any name they chose to address to
him. He no longer thought of himself as Jerry, but, instead, as any
sound that sounded nice or was love-sounded.
His great disappointment (if "disappointment" may be considered to
describe an unconsciousness of failure to realize the expected) was
in the matter of language. No one on board, not even Harley and
Villa, talked Nalasu's talk. All Jerry's large vocabulary, all his
proficiency in the use of it, which would have set him apart as a
marvel beyond all other dogs in the mastery of speech, was wasted on
those of the Ariel. They did not speak, much less guess, the
existence of the whiff-whuff shorthand language which Nalasu had
taught him, and which, Nalasu dead, Jerry alone knew of all living
creatures in the world.
In vain Jerry tried it on the lady-god. Sitting squatted on his
haunches, his head bowed forward and held between her hands, he
would talk and talk and elicit never a responsive word from her.
With tiny whines and thin whimperings, with whiffs and whuffs and
growly sorts of noises down in his throat, he would try to tell her
somewhat of his tale. She was all meltingness of sympathy; she
would hold her ear so near to the articulate mouth of him as almost
to drown him in the flowing fragrance of her hair; and yet her brain
told her nothing of what he uttered, although her heart surely
sensed his intent.
"Bless me, Husband-Man!" she would cry out. "The Dog is talking. I
know he is talking. He is telling me all about himself. The story
of his life is mine, could I but understand. It's right here
pouring into my miserable inadequate ears, only I can't catch it."
Harley was sceptical, but her woman's intuition guessed aright.
"I know it!" she would assure her husband. "I tell you he could
tell the tale of all his adventures if only we had understanding.
No other dog has ever talked this way to me. There's a tale there.
I feel its touches. Sometimes almost do I know he is telling of
joy, of love, of high elation, and combat. Again, it is
indignation, hurt of outrage, despair and sadness."
"Naturally," Harley agreed quietly. "A white man's dog, adrift
among the anthropophagi of Malaita, would experience all such
sensations and, just as naturally, a white man's woman, a Wife-
Woman, a dear, delightful Villa Kennan woman, can of herself imagine
such a dog's experiences and deem his silly noises a recital of
them, failing to recognize them as projections of her own delicious,
sensitive, sympathetic self. The song of the sea from the lips of
the shell--Pshaw! The song oneself makes of the sea and puts into
"Just the same--"
"Always the same," he gallantly cut her off. "Always right,
especially when most wrong. Not in navigation, of course, nor in
affairs such as the multiplication table, where the brass tacks of
reality stud the way of one's ship among the rocks and shoals of the
sea; but right, truth beyond truth to truth higher than truth,
namely, intuitional truth."
"Now you are laughing at me with your superior man-wisdom," she
retorted. "But I know--" she paused for the strength of words she
needed, and words forsook her, so that her quick sweeping gesture of
hand-touch to heart named authority that overrode all speech.
"We agree--I salute," he laughed gaily. "It was just precisely what
I was saying. Our hearts can talk our heads down almost any time,
and, best all, our hearts are always right despite the statistic
that they are mostly wrong."
Harley Kennan did not believe, and never did believe, his wife's
report of the tales Jerry told. And through all his days to the
last one of them, he considered the whole matter a pleasant fancy,
all poesy of sentiment, on Villa's part.
But Jerry, four-legged, smooth-coated, Irish terrier that he was,
had the gift of tongues. If he could not teach languages, at least
he could learn languages. Without effort, and quickly, practically
with no teaching, he began picking up the language of the Ariel.
Unfortunately, it was not a whiff-whuff, dog-possible language such
as Nalasu had invented. While Jerry came to understand much that
was spoken on the Ariel, he could speak none of it. Three names, at
least, he had for the lady-god: "Villa," "Wife-Woman," "Missis
Kennan," for so he heard her variously called. But he could not so
call her. This was god-language entire, which only gods could talk.
It was unlike the language of Nalasu's devising, which had been a
compromise between god-talk and dog-talk, so that a god and a dog
could talk in the common medium.
In the same way he learned many names for the one-man god: "Mister
Kennan," "Harley," "Captain Kennan," and "Skipper." Only in the
intimacy of the three of them alone did Jerry hear him called:
"Husband-Man," "My Man," "Patient One," "Dear Man," "Lover," and
"This Woman's Delight." But in no way could Jerry utter these names
in address of the one-man nor the many names in address of the one-
woman. Yet on a quiet night with no wind among the trees, often and
often had he whispered to Nalasu, by whiff-whuff of name, from a
hundred feet away.
One day, bending over him, her hair (drying from a salt-water swim)
flying about him, the one-woman, her two hands holding his head and
jowls so that his ribbon of kissing tongue just missed her nose in
the empty air, sang to him: "'Don't know what to call him, but he's
mighty lak' a rose!'"
On another day she repeated this, at the same time singing most of
the song to him softly in his ear. In the midst of it Jerry
surprised her. Equally true might be the statement that he
surprised himself. Never, had he consciously done such a thing
before. And he did it without volition. He never intended to do
it. For that matter, the very thing he did was what mastered him
into doing it. No more than could he refrain from shaking the water
from his back after a swim, or from kicking in his sleep when his
feet were tickled, could he have avoided doing this imperative
As her voice, in the song, made soft vibrations in his ears, it
seemed to him that she grew dim and vague before him, and that
somehow, under the soft searching prod of her song, he was
otherwhere. So much was he otherwhere that he did the surprising
thing. He sat down abruptly, almost cataleptically, drew his head
away from the clutch of her hands and out of the entanglement of her
hair, and, his nose thrust upward at an angle of forty-five degrees,
he began to quiver and to breathe audibly in rhythm to the rhythm of
her singing. With a quick jerk, cataleptically, his nose pointed to
the zenith, his mouth opened, and a flood of sound poured forth,
running swiftly upward in crescendo and slowly falling as it died
This howl was the beginning, and it led to the calling him "Sing
Song Silly." For Villa Kennan was quick to seize upon the howling
her singing induced and to develop it. Never did he hang back when
she sat down, extended her welcoming hands to him, and invited:
"Come on, Sing Song Silly." He would come to her, sit down with the
loved fragrance of her hair in his nostrils, lay the side of his
head against hers, point his nose past her ear, and almost
immediately follow her when she began her low singing. Minor
strains were especially provocative in getting him started, and,
once started, he would sing with her as long as she wished.
Singing it truly was. Apt in all ways of speech, he quickly learned
to soften and subdue his howl till it was mellow and golden. Even
could he manage it to die away almost to a whisper, and to rise and
fall, accelerate and retard, in obedience to her own voice and in
accord with it.
Jerry enjoyed the singing much in the same way the opium eater
enjoys his dreams. For dream he did, vaguely and indistinctly, eyes
wide open and awake, the lady-god's hair in a faint-scented cloud
about him, her voice mourning with his, his consciousness drowning
in the dreams of otherwhereness that came to him of the singing and
that was the singing. Memories of pain were his, but of pain so
long forgotten that it was no longer pain. Rather did it permeate
him with a delicious sadness, and lift him away and out of the Ariel
(lying at anchor in some coral lagoon) to that unreal place of
For visions were his at such times. In the cold bleakness of night,
it would seem he sat on a bare hill and raised his howl to the
stars, while out of the dark, from far away, would drift to him an
answering howl. And other howls, near and far, would drift along
until the night was vocal with his kind. His kind it was. Without
knowing it he knew it, this camaraderie of the land of Otherwhere.
Nalasu, in teaching him the whiff-whuff language, deliberately had
gone into the intelligence of him; but Villa, unwitting of what she
was doing, went into the heart of him, and into the heart of his
heredity, touching the profoundest chords of ancient memories and
making them respond.
As instance: dim shapes and shadowy forms would sometimes appear to
him out of the night, and as they flitted spectrally past he would
hear, as in a dream, the hunting cries of the pack; and, as his
pulse quickened, his own hunting instinct would rouse until his
controlled soft-howling in the song broke into eager whinings. His
head would lower out of the entanglement of the woman's hair; his
feet would begin making restless, spasmodic movements as if running;
and Presto, in a flash, he would be out and away, across the face of
time, out of reality and into the dream, himself running in the
midst of those shadowy forms in the hunting fellowship of the pack.
And as men have ever desired the dust of the poppy and the juice of
the hemp, so Jerry desired the joys that were his when Villa Kennan
opened her arms to him, embraced him with her hair, and sang him
across time and space into the dream of his ancient kind.
Not always, however, were such experiences his when they sang
together. Usually, unaccompanied by visions, he knew no more than
vaguenesses of sensations, sadly sweet, ghosts of memories that they
were. At other times, incited by such sadness, images of Skipper
and Mister Haggin would throng his mind; images, too, of Terrence,
and Biddy, and Michael, and the rest of the long-vanished life at
"My dear," Harley said to Villa at the conclusion of one such
singing, "it's fortunate for him that you are not an animal trainer,
or, rather, I suppose, it would be better called 'trained animal
show-woman'; for you'd be topping the bill in all the music-halls
and vaudeville houses of the world."
"If I did," she replied, "I know he'd just love to do it with me--"
"Which would make it a very unusual turn," Harley caught her up.
"You mean . . .?"
"That in about one turn in a hundred does the animal love its work
or is the animal loved by its trainer."
"I thought all the cruelty had been done away with long ago," she
"So the audience thinks, and the audience is ninety-nine times
Villa heaved a great sigh of renunciation as she said, "Then I
suppose I must abandon such promising and lucrative career right now
in the very moment you have discovered it for me. Just the same the
billboards would look splendid with my name in the hugest letters--"
"Villa Kennan the Thrush-throated Songstress, and Sing Song Silly
the Irish-Terrier Tenor," her husband pictured the head-lines for
And with dancing eyes and lolling tongue Jerry joined in the
laughter, not because he knew what it was about, but because it
tokened they were happy and his love prompted him to be happy with
For Jerry had found, and in the uttermost, what his nature craved--
the love of a god. Recognizing the duality of their lordship over
the Ariel, he loved the pair of them; yet, somehow, perhaps because
she had penetrated deepest into his heart with her magic voice that
transported him to the land of Otherwhere, he loved the lady-god
beyond all love he had ever known, not even excluding his love for
One thing Jerry learned early on the Ariel, namely, that nigger-
chasing was not permitted. Eager to please and serve his new gods,
he took advantage of the first opportunity to worry a canoe-load of
blacks who came visiting on board. The quick chiding of Villa and
the command of Harley made him pause in amazement. Fully believing
he had been mistaken, he resumed his ragging of the particular black
he had picked upon. This time Harley's voice was peremptory, and
Jerry came to him, his wagging tail and wriggling body all eagerness
of apology, as was his rose-strip of tongue that kissed the hand of
forgiveness with which Harley patted him.
Next, Villa called him to her. Holding him close to her with her
hands on his jowls, eye to eye and nose to nose, she talked to him
earnestly about the sin of nigger-chasing. She told him that he was
no common bush-dog, but a blooded Irish gentleman, and that no dog
that was a gentleman ever did such things as chase unoffending black
men. To all of which he listened with unblinking serious eyes,
understanding little of what she said, yet comprehending all.
"Naughty" was a word in the Ariel language he had already learned,
and she used it several times. "Naughty," to him, meant "must not,"
and was by way of expressing a taboo.
Since it was their way and their will, who was he, he might well
have asked himself, to disobey their rule or question it? If
niggers were not to be chased, then chase them he would not, despite
the fact that Skipper had encouraged him to chase them. Not in such
set terms did Jerry consider the matter; but in his own way he
accepted the conclusions.
Love of a god, with him, implied service. It pleased him to please
with service. And the foundation-stone of service, in his case, was
obedience. Yet it strained him sore for a time to refrain from
snarl and snap when the legs of strange and presumptuous blacks
passed near him along the Ariel's white deck.
But there were times and times, as he was to learn, and the time
came when Villa Kennan wanted a bath, a real bath in fresh, rain-
descended, running water, and when Johnny, the black pilot from
Tulagi, made a mistake. The chart showed a mile of the Suli river
where it emptied into the sea. Why it showed only a mile was
because no white man had ever explored it farther. When Villa
proposed the bath, her husband advised with Johnny. Johnny shook
"No fella boy stop 'm along that place," he said. "No make 'm
trouble along you. Bush fella boy stop 'm long way too much."
So it was that the launch went ashore, and, while its crew lolled in
the shade of the beach coconuts, Villa, Harley, and Jerry followed
the river inland a quarter of a mile to the first likely pool.
"One can never be too sure," Harley said, taking his automatic
pistol from its holster and placing it on top his heap of clothes.
"A stray bunch of blacks might just happen to surprise us."
Villa stepped into the water to her knees, looked up at the dark
jungle roof high overhead through which only occasional shafts of
sunlight penetrated, and shuddered.
"An appropriate setting for a dark deed," she smiled, then scooped a
handful of chill water against her husband, who plunged in in
For a time Jerry sat by their clothes and watched the frolic. Then
the drifting shadow of a huge butterfly attracted his attention, and
soon he was nosing through the jungle on the trail of a wood-rat.
It was not a very fresh trail. He knew that well enough; but in the
deeps of him were all his instincts of ancient training--instincts
to hunt, to prowl, to pursue living things, in short, to play the
game of getting his own meat though for ages man had got the meat
for him and his kind.
So it was, exercising faculties that were no longer necessary, but
that were still alive in him and clamorous for exercise, he followed
the long-since passed wood-rat with all the soft-footed crouching
craft of the meat-pursuer and with utmost fineness of reading the
scent. The trail crossed a fresh trail, a trail very fresh, very
immediately fresh. As if a rope had been attached to it, his head
was jerked abruptly to right angles with his body. The unmistakable
smell of a black was in his nostrils. Further, it was a strange
black, for he did not identify it with the many he possessed filed
away in the pigeon-holes of his brain.
Forgotten was the stale wood-rat as he followed the new trail.
Curiosity and play impelled him. He had no thought of apprehension
for Villa and Harley--not even when he reached the spot where the
black, evidently startled by bearing their voices, had stood and
debated, and so left a very strong scent. From this point the trail
swerved off toward the pool. Nervously alert, strung to extreme
tension, but without alarm, still playing at the game of tracking,
From the pool came occasional cries and laughter, and each time they
reached his ears Jerry experienced glad little thrills. Had he been
asked, and had he been able to express the sensations of emotion in
terms of thought, he would have said that the sweetest sound in the
world was any sound of Villa Kennan's voice, and that, next
sweetest, was any sound of Harley Kennan's voice. Their voices
thrilled him, always, reminding him of his love for them and that he
was beloved of them.
With the first sight of the strange black, which occurred close to
the pool, Jerry's suspicions were aroused. He was not conducting
himself as an ordinary black, not on evil intent, should conduct
himself. Instead, he betrayed all the actions of one who lurked in
the perpetration of harm. He crouched on the jungle floor, peering
around a great root of a board tree. Jerry bristled and himself
crouched as he watched.
Once, the black raised his rifle half-way to his shoulder; but, with
an outburst of splashing and laughter, his unconscious victims
evidently removed themselves from his field of vision. His rifle
was no old-fashioned Snider, but a modern, repeating Winchester; and
he showed habituation to firing it from his shoulder rather than
from the hip after the manner of most Malaitans.
Not satisfied with his position by the board tree, he lowered his
gun to his side and crept closer to the pool. Jerry crouched low
and followed. So low did he crouch that his head, extended
horizontally forward, was much lower than his shoulders which were
humped up queerly and composed the highest part of him. When the
black paused, Jerry paused, as if instantly frozen. When the black
moved, he moved, but more swiftly, cutting down the distance between
them. And all the while the hair of his neck and shoulders bristled
in recurrent waves of ferocity and wrath. No golden dog this, ears
flattened and tongue laughing in the arms of the lady-god, no Sing
Song Silly chanting ancient memories in the cloud-entanglement of
her hair; but a four-legged creature of battle, a fanged killer ripe
to rend and destroy.
Jerry intended to attack as soon as he had crept sufficiently near.
He was unaware of the Ariel taboo against nigger-chasing. At that
moment it had no place in his consciousness. All he knew was that
harm threatened the man and woman and that this nigger intended this
So much had Jerry gained on his quarry, that when again the black
squatted for his shot, Jerry deemed he was near enough to rush. The
rifle was coming to shoulder when he sprang forward. Swiftly as he
sprang, he made no sound, and his victim's first warning was when
Jerry's body, launched like a projectile, smote the black squarely
between the shoulders. At the same moment his teeth entered the
back of the neck, but too near the base in the lumpy shoulder
muscles to permit the fangs to penetrate to the spinal cord.
In the first fright of surprise, the black's finger pulled the
trigger and his throat loosed an unearthly yell. Knocked forward on
his face, he rolled over and grappled with Jerry, who slashed cheek-
bone and cheek and ribboned an ear; for it is the way of an Irish
terrier to bite repeatedly and quickly rather than to hold a bulldog
When Harley Kennan, automatic in hand and naked as Adam, reached the
spot, he found dog and man locked together and tearing up the forest
mould in their struggle. The black, his face streaming blood, was
throttling Jerry with both hands around his neck; and Jerry,
snorting, choking, snarling, was scratching for dear life with the
claws of his hind feet. No puppy claws were they, but the stout
claws of a mature dog that were stiffened by a backing of hard
muscles. And they ripped naked chest and abdomen full length again
and again until the whole front of the man was streaming red.
Harley Kennan did not dare chance a shot, so closely were the
combatants locked. Instead, stepping in close; he smashed down the
butt of his automatic upon the side of the man's head. Released by
the relaxing of the stunned black's hands, Jerry flung himself in a
flash upon the exposed throat, and only Harley's hand on his neck
and Harley's sharp command made him cease and stand clear. He
trembled with rage and continued to snarl ferociously, although he
would desist long enough to glance up with his eyes, flatten his
ears, and wag his tail each time Harley uttered "Good boy."
"Good boy" he knew for praise; and he knew beyond any doubt, by
Harley's repetition of it, that he had served him and served him
"Do you know the beggar intended to bush-whack us," Harley told
Villa, who, half-dressed and still dressing, had joined him. "It
wasn't fifty feet and he couldn't have missed. Look at the
Winchester. No old smooth bore. And a fellow with a gun like that
would know how to use it."
"But why didn't he?" she queried.
Her husband pointed to Jerry.
Villa's eyes brightened with quick comprehension. "You mean . . .
?" she began.
He nodded. "Just that. Sing Song Silly beat him to it." He bent,
rolled the man over, and discovered the lacerated back of the neck.
"That's where he landed on him first, and he must have had his
finger on the trigger, drawing down on you and me, most likely me
first, when Sing Song Silly broke up his calculations."
Villa was only half hearing, for she had Jerry in her arms and was
calling him "Blessed Dog," the while she stilled his snarling and
soothed down the last bristling hair.
But Jerry snarled again and was for leaping upon the black when he
stirred restlessly and dizzily sat up. Harley removed a knife from
between the bare skin and a belt.
"What name belong you?" he demanded.
But the black had eyes only for Jerry, staring at him in wondering
amaze until he pieced the situation together in his growing clarity
of brain and realized that such a small chunky animal had spoiled
"My word," he grinned to Harley, "that fella dog put 'm crimp along
me any amount."
He felt out the wounds of his neck and face, while his eyes embraced
the fact that the white master was in possession of his rifle.
"You give 'm musket belong me," he said impudently.
"I give 'm you bang alongside head," was Harley's answer.
"He doesn't seem to me to be a regular Malaitan," he told Villa.
"In the first place, where would he get a rifle like that? Then
think of his nerve. He must have seen us drop anchor, and he must
have known our launch was on the beach. Yet he played to take our
heads and get away with them back into the bush--"
"What name belong you?" he again demanded.
But not until Johnny and the launch crew arrived breathless from
their run, did he learn. Johnny's eyes gloated when he beheld the
prisoner, and he addressed Kennan in evident excitement.
"You give 'm me that fella boy," he begged. "Eh? You give 'm me
that fella boy."
"What name you want 'm?"
Not for some time would Johnny answer this question, and then only
when Kennan told him that there was no harm done and that he
intended to let the black go. At this Johnny protested vehemently.
"Maybe you fetch 'm that fella boy along Government House, Tulagi,
Government House give 'm you twenty pounds. Him plenty bad fella
boy too much. Makawao he name stop along him. Bad fella boy too
much. Him Queensland boy--"
"What name Queensland?" Kennan interrupted. "He belong that fella
Johnny shook his head.
"Him belong along Malaita first time. Long time before too much he
recruit 'm along schooner go work along Queensland."
"He's a return Queenslander," Harley interpreted to Villa. "You
know, when Australia went 'all white,' the Queensland plantations
had to send all the black birds back. This Makawao is evidently one
of them, and a hard case as well, if there's anything in Johnny's
gammon about twenty pounds reward for him. That's a big price for a
Johnny continued his explanation which, reduced to flat and sober
English, was to the effect that Makawao had always borne a bad
character. In Queensland he had served a total of four years in
jail for thefts, robberies, and attempted murder. Returned to the
Solomons by the Australian government, he had recruited on Buli
Plantation for the purpose--as was afterwards proved--of getting
arms and ammunition. For an attempt to kill the manager he had
received fifty lashes at Tulagi and served a year. Returned to Buli
Plantation to finish his labour service, he had contrived to kill
the owner in the manager's absence and to escape in a whaleboat.
In the whaleboat with him he had taken all the weapons and
ammunition of the plantation, the owner's head, ten Malaita
recruits, and two recruits from San Cristobal--the two last because
they were salt-water men and could handle the whaleboat. Himself
and the ten Malaitans, being bushmen, were too ignorant of the sea
to dare the long passage from Guadalcanar.
On the way, he had raided the little islet of Ugi, sacked the store,
and taken the head of the solitary trader, a gentle-souled half-
caste from Norfolk Island who traced back directly to a Pitcairn
ancestry straight from the loins of McCoy of the Bounty. Arrived
safely at Malaita, he and his fellows, no longer having any use for
the two San Cristobal boys, had taken their heads and eaten their
"My word, him bad fella boy any amount," Johnny finished his tale.
"Government House, Tulagi, damn glad give 'm twenty pounds along
"You blessed Sing Song Silly," Villa, murmured in Jerry's ears. "If
it hadn't been for you--"
"Your head and mine would even now be galumping through the bush as
Makawao hit the high places for home," Harley concluded for her.
"My word, some fella dog that, any amount," he added lightly. "And
I gave him merry Ned just the other day for nigger-chasing, and he
knew his business better than I did all the time."
"If anybody tries to claim him--" Villa threatened.
Harley confirmed her muttered sentiment with a nod.
"Any way," he said, with a smile, "there would have been one
consolation if your head had gone up into the bush."
"Consolation!" she cried, throaty with indignation.
"Why, yes; because in that case my head would have gone along."
"You dear and blessed Husband-Man," she murmured, a quick cloudiness
of moisture in her eyes, as with her eyes she embraced him, her arms
still around Jerry, who, sensing the ecstasy of the moment, kissed
her fragrant cheek with his ribbon-tongue of love.
When the Ariel cleared from Malu, on the north-west coast of
Malaita, Malaita sank down beneath the sea-rim astern and, so far as
Jerry's life was concerned, remained sunk for ever--another vanished
world, that, in his consciousness, partook of the ultimate
nothingness that had befallen Skipper. For all Jerry might have
known, though he pondered it not, Malaita was a universe, beheaded
and resting on the knees of some brooding lesser god, himself vastly
mightier than Bashti whose knees bore the brooding weight of
Skipper's sun-dried, smoke-cured head, this lesser god vexed and
questing, feeling and guessing at the dual twin-mysteries of time
and space and of motion and matter, above, beneath, around, and
Only, in Jerry's case, there was no pondering of the problem, no
awareness of the existence of such mysteries. He merely accepted
Malaita as another world that had ceased to be. He remembered it as
he remembered dreams. Himself a live thing, solid and substantial,
possessed of weight and dimension, a reality incontrovertible, he
moved through the space and place of being, concrete, hard, quick,
convincing, an absoluteness of something surrounded by the shades
and shadows of the fluxing phantasmagoria of nothing.
He took his worlds one by one. One by one his worlds evaporated,
rose beyond his vision as vapours in the hot alembic of the sun,
sank for ever beneath sea-levels, themselves unreal and passing as
the phantoms of a dream. The totality of the minute, simple world
of the humans, microscopic and negligible as it was in the siderial
universe, was as far beyond his guessing as is the siderial universe
beyond the starriest guesses and most abysmal imaginings of man.
Jerry was never to see the dark island of savagery again, although
often in his sleeping dreams it was to return to him in vivid
illusion, as he relived his days upon it, from the destruction of
the Arangi and the man-eating orgy on the beach to his flight from
the shell-scattered house and flesh of Nalasu. These dream episodes
constituted for him another land of Otherwhere, mysterious, unreal,
and evanescent as clouds drifting across the sky or bubbles taking
iridescent form and bursting on the surface of the sea. Froth and
foam it was, quick-vanishing as he awoke, non-existent as Skipper,
Skipper's head on the withered knees of Bashti in the lofty grass
house. Malaita the real, Malaita the concrete and ponderable,
vanished and vanished for ever, as Meringe had vanished, as Skipper
had vanished, into the nothingness.
From Malaita the Ariel steered west of north to Ongtong Java and to
Tasman--great atolls that sweltered under the Line not quite awash
in the vast waste of the West South Pacific. After Tasman was
another wide sea-stretch to the high island of Bougainville.
Thence, bearing generally south-east and making slow progress in the
dead beat to windward, the Ariel dropped anchor in nearly every
harbour of the Solomons, from Choiseul and Ronongo islands, to the
islands of Kulambangra, Vangunu, Pavuvu, and New Georgia. Even did
she ride to anchor, desolately lonely, in the Bay of a Thousand
Last of all, so far as concerned the Solomons, her anchor rumbled
down and bit into the coral-sanded bottom of the harbour of Tulagi,
where, ashore on Florida Island, lived and ruled the Resident
To the Commissioner, Harley Kennan duly turned over Makawao, who was
committed to a grass-house jail, well guarded, to sit in leg-irons
against the time of trial for his many crimes. And Johnny, the
pilot, ere he returned to the service of the Commissioner, received
a fair portion of the twenty pounds of head money that Kennan
divided among the members of the launch crew who had raced through
the jungle to the rescue the day Jerry had taken Makawao by the back
of the neck and startled him into pulling the trigger of his unaimed
"I'll tell you his name," the Commissioner said, as they sat on the
wide veranda of his bungalow. "It's one of Haggin's terriers--
Haggin of Meringe Lagoon. The dog's father is Terrence, the mother
is Biddy. The dog's own name is Jerry, for I was present at the
christening before ever his eyes were open. Better yet, I'll show
you his brother. His brother's name is Michael. He's nigger-chaser
on the Eugenie, the two-topmast schooner that rides abreast of you.
Captain Kellar is the skipper. I'll have him bring Michael ashore.
Beyond all doubt, this Jerry is the sole survivor of the Arangi."
"When I get the time, and a sufficient margin of funds, I shall pay
a visit to Chief Bashti--oh, no British cruiser program. I'll
charter a couple of trading ketches, take my own black police force
and as many white men as I cannot prevent from volunteering. There
won't be any shelling of grass houses. I'll land my shore party
down the coast and cut in and come down upon Somo from the rear,
timing my vessels to arrive on Somo's sea-front at the same time."
"You will answer slaughter with slaughter?" Villa Kennan objected.
"I will answer slaughter with law," the Commissioner replied. "I
will teach Somo law. I hope that no accidents will occur. I hope
that no life will be lost on either side. I know, however, that I
shall recover Captain Van Horn's head, and his mate Borckman's, and
bring them back to Tulagi for Christian burial. I know that I shall
get old Bashti by the scruff of the neck and sit him down while I
pump law and square-dealing into him. Of course . . . "
The Commissioner, ascetic-looking, an Oxford graduate, narrow-
shouldered and elderly, tired-eyed and bespectacled like the scholar
he was, like the scientist he was, shrugged his shoulders. "Of
course, if they are not amenable to reason, there may be trouble,
and some of them and some of us will get hurt. But, one way or the
other, the conclusion will be the same. Old Bashti will learn that
it is expedient to maintain white men's heads on their shoulders."
"But how will he learn?" Villa Kennan asked. "If he is shrewd
enough not to fight you, and merely sits and listens to your English
law, it will be no more than a huge joke to him. He will no more
than pay the price of listening to a lecture for any atrocity he
"On the contrary, my dear Mrs. Kennan. If he listens peaceably to
the lecture, I shall fine him only a hundred thousand coconuts, five
tons of ivory nut, one hundred fathoms of shell money, and twenty
fat pigs. If he refuses to listen to the lecture and goes on the
war path, then, unpleasantly for me, I assure you, I shall be
compelled to thrash him and his village, first: and, next, I shall
triple the fine he must pay and lecture the law into him a trifle
"Suppose he doesn't fight, stops his ears to the lecture, and
declines to pay?" Villa Kennan persisted.
"Then he shall be my guest, here in Tulagi, until he changes his
mind and heart, and does pay, and listens to an entire course of
So it was that Jerry came to hear his old-time name on the lips of
Villa and Harley, and saw once again his full-brother Michael.
"Say nothing," Harley muttered to Villa, as they made out, peering
over the bow of the shore-coming whaleboat, the rough coat, red-
wheaten in colour, of Michael. "We won't know anything about
anything, and we won't even let on we're watching what they do."
Jerry, feigning interest in digging a hole in the sand as if he were
on a fresh scent, was unaware of Michael's nearness. In fact, so
well had Jerry feigned that he had forgotten it was all a game, and
his interest was very real as he sniffed and snorted joyously in the
bottom of the hole he had dug. So deep was it, that all he showed
of himself was his hind-legs, his rump, and an intelligent and
stiffly erect stump of a tail.
Little wonder that he and Michael failed to see each other. And
Michael, spilling over with unused vitality from the cramped space
of the Eugenie's deck, scampered down the beach in a hurly-burly of
joy, scenting a thousand intimate land-scents as he ran, and
describing a jerky and eccentric course as he made short dashes and
good-natured snaps at the coconut crabs that scuttled across his
path to the safety of the water or reared up and menaced him with
formidable claws and a spluttering and foaming of the shell-lids of
The beach was only so long. The end of it reached where rose the
rugged wall of a headland, and while the Commissioner introduced
Captain Kellar to Mr. and Mrs. Kennan, Michael came tearing back
across the wet-hard sand. So interested was he in everything that
he failed to notice the small rear-end portion of Jerry that was
visible above the level surface of the beach. Jerry's ears had
given him warning, and, the precise instant that he backed hurriedly
up and out of the hole, Michael collided with him. As Jerry was
rolled, and as Michael fell clear over him, both erupted into
ferocious snarls and growls. They regained their legs, bristled and
showed teeth at each other, and stalked stiff-leggedly, in a stately
and dignified sort of way, as they drew intimidating semi-circles
about each other.
But they were fooling all the while, and were more than a trifle
embarrassed. For in each of their brains were bright identification
pictures of the plantation house and compound and beach of Meringe.
They knew, but they were reticent of recognition. No longer
puppies, vaguely proud of the sedateness of maturity, they strove to
be proud and sedate while all their impulse was to rush together in
a frantic ecstasy.
Michael it was, less travelled in the world than Jerry, by nature
not so self-controlled, who threw the play-acting of dignity to the
wind, and, with shrill whinings of emotion, with body-wrigglings of
delight, flashed out his tongue of love and shouldered his brother
roughly in eagerness to get near to him.
Jerry responded as eagerly with kiss of tongue and contact of
shoulder; then both, springing apart, looked at each other, alert
and querying, almost in half challenge, Jerry's ears pricked into
living interrogations, Michael's one good ear similarly questioning,
his withered ear retaining its permanent queer and crinkly cock in
the tip of it. As one, they sprang away in a wild scurry down the
beach, side by side, laughing to each other and occasionally
striking their shoulders together as they ran.
"No doubt of it," said the Commissioner. "The very way their father
and mother run. I have watched them often."
But, after ten days of comradeship, came the parting. It was
Michael's first visit on the Ariel, and he and Jerry had spent a
frolicking half-hour on her white deck amid the sound and commotion
of hoisting in boats, making sail, and heaving out anchor. As the
Ariel began to move through the water and heeled to the filling of
her canvas by the brisk trade-wind, the Commissioner and Captain
Kellar shook last farewells and scrambled down the gang-plank to
their waiting whaleboats. At the last moment Captain Kellar had
caught Michael up, tucked him under an arm, and with him dropped
into the, sternsheets of his whaleboat.
Painters were cast off, and in the sternsheets of each boat solitary
white men were standing up, heads bared in graciousness of conduct
to the furnace-stab of the tropic sun, as they waved additional and
final farewells. And Michael, swept by the contagion of excitement,
barked and barked again, as if it were a festival of the gods being
"Say good-bye to your brother, Jerry," Villa Kennan prompted in
Jerry's ear, as she held him, his quivering flanks between her two
palms, on the rail where she had lifted him.
And Jerry, not understanding her speech, torn about with conflicting
desires, acknowledged her speech with wriggling body, a quick back-
toss of head, and a red flash of kissing tongue, and, the next
moment, his head over the rail and lowered to see the swiftly
diminishing Michael, was mouthing grief and woe very much akin to
the grief and woe his mother, Biddy, had mouthed in the long ago, on
the beach of Meringe, when he had sailed away with Skipper.
For Jerry had learned partings, and beyond all peradventure this was
a parting, though little he dreamed that he would again meet Michael
across the years and across the world, in a fabled valley of far
California, where they would live out their days in the hearts and
arms of the beloved gods.
Michael, his forefeet on the gunwale, barked to him in a puzzled,
questioning sort of way, and Jerry whimpered back incommunicable
understanding. The lady-god pressed his two flanks together
reassuringly, and he turned to her, his cool nose touched
questioningly to her cheek. She gathered his body close against her
breast in one encircling arm, her free hand resting on the rail,
half-closed, a pink-and-white heart of flower, fragrant and
seducing. Jerry's nose quested the way of it. The aperture
invited. With snuggling, budging, and nudging-movements he spread
the fingers slightly wider as his nose penetrated into the sheer
delight and loveliness of her hand.
He came to rest, his golden muzzle soft-enfolded to the eyes, and
was very still, all forgetful of the Ariel showing her copper to the
sun under the press of the wind, all forgetful of Michael growing
small in the distance as the whaleboat grew small astern. No less
still was Villa. Both were playing the game, although to her it was
As long as he could possibly contain himself, Jerry maintained his
stiffness. And then, his love bursting beyond the control of him,
he gave a sniff--as prodigious a one as he had sniffed into the
tunnel of Skipper's hand in the long ago on the deck of the Arangi.
And, as Skipper had relaxed into the laughter of love, so did the
lady-god now. She gurgled gleefully. Her fingers tightened, in a
caress that almost hurt, on Jerry's muzzle. Her other hand and arm
crushed him against her till he gasped. Yet all the while his stump
of tail valiantly bobbed back and forth, and, when released from
such blissful contact, his silky ears flattened back and down as,
with first a scarlet slash of tongue to cheek, he seized her hand
between his teeth and dented the soft skin with a love bite that did
And so, for Jerry, vanished Tulagi, its Commissioner's bungalow on
top of the hill, its vessels riding to anchor in the harbour, and
Michael, his full blood-brother. He had grown accustomed to such
vanishments. In such way had vanished as in the mirage of a dream,
Meringe, Somo, and the Arangi. In such way had vanished all the worlds
and harbours and roadsteads and atoll lagoons where the Ariel had
had lifted her laid anchor and gone on across and over the erasing sea-rim.