Michael, Brother of Jerry
He drained the bottle, tossed it to Kwaque, and made signs for him to open the remaining one.
“The namin’ of you, son, is not lightly to be considered. Irish, of course, but what shall it be? Paddy? Well may you shake your head. There’s no smack of distinction to it. Who’d mistake you for a hod-carrier? Ballymena might do, but it sounds much like a lady, my boy. Ay, boy you are. ’Tis an idea. Boy! Let’s see. Banshee Boy? Rotten. Lad of Erin!”
He nodded approbation and reached for the second bottle. He drank and meditated, and drank again.
“I’ve got you,” he announced solemnly. “Killeny is a lovely name, and it’s Killeny Boy for you. How’s that strike your honourableness? – high-soundin’, dignified as a earl or.. or a retired brewer. Many’s the one of that gentry I’ve helped to retire in my day.”
He finished his bottle, caught Michael suddenly by both jowls, and, leaning forward, rubbed noses with him. As suddenly released, with thumping tail and dancing eyes, Michael gazed up into the god’s face. A definite soul, or entity, or spirit-thing glimmered behind his dog’s eyes, already fond with affection for this hair-grizzled god who talked with him he knew not what, but whose very talking carried delicious and unguessable messages to his heart.
“Hey! Kwaque, you!”
Kwaque, squatted on the floor, his hams on his heels, paused from the rough-polishing of a shell comb designed and cut out by his master, and looked up, eager to receive command and serve.
“Kwaque, you fella this time now savvee name stop along this fella dog. His name belong ’m him, Killeny Boy. You make ’m name stop ’m inside head belong you. All the time you speak ’m this fella dog, you speak ’m Killeny Boy. Savvee? Suppose ’m you no savvee, I knock ’m block off belong you. Killeny Boy, savvee! Killeny Boy. Killeny Boy.”
As Kwaque removed his shoes and helped him undress, Daughtry regarded Michael with sleepy eyes.
“I’ve got you, laddy,” he announced, as he stood up and swayed toward bed. “I’ve got your name, an’ here’s your number – I got that, too: high-strung but reasonable. It fits you like the paper on the wall.
“High-strung but reasonable, that’s what you are, Killeny Boy, high-strung but reasonable,” he continued to mumble as Kwaque helped to roll him into his bunk.
Kwaque returned to his polishing. His lips stammered and halted in the making of noiseless whispers, as, with corrugated brows of puzzlement, he addressed the steward:
“Marster, what name stop ’m along that fella dog?”
“Killeny Boy, you kinky-head man-eater, Killeny Boy, Killeny Boy,” Dag Daughtry murmured drowsily. “Kwaque, you black blood-drinker, run n’ fetch ’m one fella bottle stop ’m along icey-chestis.”
“No stop ’m, marster,” the black quavered, with eyes alert for something to be thrown at him. “Six fella bottle he finish altogether.”
The steward’s sole reply was a snore.
The black, with the twisted hand of leprosy and with a barely perceptible infiltration of the same disease thickening the skin of the forehead between the eyes, bent over his polishing, and ever his lips moved, repeating over and over, “Killeny Boy.”
For a number of days Michael saw only Steward and Kwaque. This was because he was confined to the steward’s stateroom. Nobody else knew that he was on board, and Dag Daughtry, thoroughly aware that he had stolen a white man’s dog, hoped to keep his presence secret and smuggle him ashore when the Makambo docked in Sydney.
Quickly the steward learned Michael’s pre-eminent teachableness. In the course of his careful feeding of him, he gave him an occasional chicken bone. Two lessons, which would scarcely be called lessons, since both of them occurred within five minutes and each was not over half a minute in duration, sufficed to teach Michael that only on the floor of the room in the corner nearest the door could he chew chicken bones. Thereafter, without prompting, as a matter of course when handed a bone, he carried it to the corner.
And why not? He had the wit to grasp what Steward desired of him; he had the heart that made it a happiness for him to serve. Steward was a god who was kind, who loved him with voice and lip, who loved him with touch of hand, rub of nose, or enfolding arm. As all service flourishes in the soil of love, so with Michael. Had Steward commanded him to forego the chicken bone after it was in the corner, he would have served him by foregoing. Which is the way of the dog, the only animal that will cheerfully and gladly, with leaping body of joy, leave its food uneaten in order to accompany or to serve its human master.
Practically all his waking time off duty, Dag Daughtry spent with the imprisoned Michael, who, at command, had quickly learned to refrain from whining and barking. And during these hours of companionship Michael learned many things. Daughtry found that he already understood and obeyed simple things such as “no,” “yes,” “get up,” and “lie down,” and he improved on them, teaching him, “Go into the bunk and lie down,” “Go under the bunk,” “Bring one shoe,” “Bring two shoes.” And almost without any work at all, he taught him to roll over, to say his prayers, to play dead, to sit up and smoke a pipe with a hat on his head, and not merely to stand up on his hind legs but to walk on them.
Then, too, was the trick of “no can and can do.” Placing a savoury, nose-tantalising bit of meat or cheese on the edge of the bunk on a level with Michael’s nose, Daughtry would simply say, “No can.” Nor would Michael touch the food till he received the welcome, “Can do.” Daughtry, with the “no can” still in force, would leave the stateroom, and, though he remained away half an hour or half a dozen hours, on his return he would find the food untouched and Michael, perhaps, asleep in the corner at the head of the bunk which had been allotted him for a bed. Early in this trick once when the steward had left the room and Michael’s eager nose was within an inch of the prohibited morsel, Kwaque, playfully inclined, reached for the morsel himself and received a lacerated hand from the quick flash and clip of Michael’s jaws.
None of the tricks that he was ever eager to do for Steward, would Michael do for Kwaque, despite the fact that Kwaque had no touch of meanness or viciousness in him. The point was that Michael had been trained, from his first dawn of consciousness, to differentiate between black men and white men. Black men were always the servants of white men – or such had been his experience; and always they were objects of suspicion, ever bent on wreaking mischief and requiring careful watching. The cardinal duty of a dog was to serve his white god by keeping a vigilant eye on all blacks that came about.
Yet Michael permitted Kwaque to serve him in matters of food, water, and other offices, at first in the absence of Steward attending to his ship duties, and, later, at any time. For he realized, without thinking about it at all, that whatever Kwaque did for him, whatever food Kwaque spread for him, really proceeded, not from Kwaque, but from Kwaque’s master who was also his master. Yet Kwaque bore no grudge against Michael, and was himself so interested in his lord’s welfare and comfort – this lord who had saved his life that terrible day on King William Island from the two grief-stricken pig-owners – that he cherished Michael for his lord’s sake. Seeing the dog growing into his master’s affection, Kwaque himself developed a genuine affection for Michael – much in the same way that he worshipped anything of the steward’s, whether the shoes he polished for him, the clothes he brushed and cleaned for him, or the six bottles of beer he put into the ice-chest each day for him.
In truth, there was nothing of the master-quality in Kwaque, while Michael was a natural aristocrat. Michael, out of love, would serve Steward, but Michael lorded it over the kinky-head. Kwaque possessed overwhelmingly the slave-nature, while in Michael there was little more of the slave-nature than was found in the North American Indians when the vain attempt was made to make them into slaves on the plantations of Cuba. All of which was no personal vice of Kwaque or virtue of Michael. Michael’s heredity, rigidly selected for ages by man, was chiefly composed of fierceness and faithfulness. And fierceness and faithfulness, together, invariably produce pride. And pride cannot exist without honour, nor can honour without poise.
Michael’s crowning achievement, under Daughtry’s tutelage, in the first days in the stateroom, was to learn to count up to five. Many hours of work were required, however, in spite of his unusual high endowment of intelligence. For he had to learn, first, the spoken numerals; second, to see with his eyes and in his brain differentiate between one object, and all other groups of objects up to and including the group of five; and, third, in his mind, to relate an object, or any group of objects, with its numerical name as uttered by Steward.
In the training Dag Daughtry used balls of paper tied about with twine. He would toss the five balls under the bunk and tell Michael to fetch three, and neither two, nor four, but three would Michael bring forth and deliver into his hand. When Daughtry threw three under the bunk and demanded four, Michael would deliver the three, search about vainly for the fourth, then dance pleadingly with bobs of tail and half-leaps about Steward, and finally leap into the bed and secure the fourth from under the pillow or among the blankets.
It was the same with other known objects. Up to five, whether shoes or shirts or pillow-slips, Michael would fetch the number requested. And between the mathematical mind of Michael, who counted to five, and the mind of the ancient black at Tulagi, who counted sticks of tobacco in units of five, was a distance shorter than that between Michael and Dag Daughtry who could do multiplication and long division. In the same manner, up the same ladder of mathematical ability, a still greater distance separated Dag Daughtry from Captain Duncan, who by mathematics navigated the Makambo. Greatest mathematical distance of all was that between Captain Duncan’s mind and the mind of an astronomer who charted the heavens and navigated a thousand million miles away among the stars and who tossed, a mere morsel of his mathematical knowledge, the few shreds of information to Captain Duncan that enabled him to know from day to day the place of the Makambo on the sea.
In one thing only could Kwaque rule Michael. Kwaque possessed a jews’ harp, and, whenever the world of the Makambo and the servitude to the steward grew wearisome, he could transport himself to King William Island by thrusting the primitive instrument between his jaws and fanning weird rhythms from it with his hand, and when he thus crossed space and time, Michael sang – or howled, rather, though his howl possessed the same soft mellowness as Jerry’s. Michael did not want to howl, but the chemistry of his being was such that he reacted to music as compulsively as elements react on one another in the laboratory.
While he lay perdu in Steward’s stateroom, his voice was the one thing that was not to be heard, so Kwaque was forced to seek the solace of his jews’ harp in the sweltering heat of the gratings over the fire-room. But this did not continue long, for, either according to blind chance, or to the lines of fate written in the book of life ere ever the foundations of the world were laid, Michael was scheduled for an adventure that was profoundly to affect, not alone his own destiny, but the destinies of Kwaque and Dag Daughtry and determine the very place of their death and burial.
The adventure that was so to alter the future occurred when Michael, in no uncertain manner, announced to all and sundry his presence on the Makambo. It was due to Kwaque’s carelessness, to commence with, for Kwaque left the stateroom without tight-closing the door. As the Makambo rolled on an easy sea the door swung back and forth, remaining wide open for intervals and banging shut but not banging hard enough to latch itself.
Michael crossed the high threshold with the innocent intention of exploring no farther than the immediate vicinity. But scarcely was he through, when a heavier roll slammed the door and latched it. And immediately Michael wanted to get back. Obedience was strong in him, for it was his heart’s desire to serve his lord’s will, and from the few days’ confinement he sensed, or guessed, or divined, without thinking about it, that it was Steward’s will for him to stay in the stateroom.
For a long time he sat down before the closed door, regarding it wistfully but being too wise to bark or speak to such inanimate object. It had been part of his early puppyhood education to learn that only live things could be moved by plea or threat, and that while things not alive did move, as the door had moved, they never moved of themselves, and were deaf to anything life might have to say to them. Occasionally he trotted down the short cross-hall upon which the stateroom opened, and gazed up and down the long hall that ran fore and aft.
For the better part of an hour he did this, returning always to the door that would not open. Then he achieved a definite idea. Since the door would not open, and since Steward and Kwaque did not return, he would go in search of them. Once with this concept of action clear in his brain, without timidities of hesitation and irresolution, he trotted aft down the long hall. Going around the right angle in which it ended, he encountered a narrow flight of steps. Among many scents, he recognized those of Kwaque and Steward and knew they had passed that way.
Up the stairs and on the main deck, he began to meet passengers. Being white gods, he did not resent their addresses to him, though he did not linger and went out on the open deck where more of the favoured gods reclined in steamer-chairs. Still no Kwaque or Steward. Another flight of narrow, steep stairs invited, and he came out on the boat-deck. Here, under the wide awnings, were many more of the gods – many times more than he had that far seen in his life.
The for’ard end of the boat-deck terminated in the bridge, which, instead of being raised above it, was part of it. Trotting around the wheel-house to the shady lee-side of it, he came upon his fate; for be it known that Captain Duncan possessed on board in addition to two fox-terriers, a big Persian cat, and that cat possessed a litter of kittens. Her chosen nursery was the wheel-house, and Captain Duncan had humoured her, giving her a box for her kittens and threatening the quartermasters with all manner of dire fates did they so much as step on one of the kittens.
But Michael knew nothing of this. And the big Persian knew of his existence before he did of hers. In fact, the first he knew was when she launched herself upon him out of the open wheel-house doorway. Even as he glimpsed this abrupt danger, and before he could know what it was, he leaped sideways and saved himself. From his point of view, the assault was unprovoked. He was staring at her with bristling hair, recognizing her for what she was, a cat, when she sprang again, her tail the size of a large man’s arm, all claws and spitting fury and vindictiveness.
This was too much for a self-respecting Irish terrier. His wrath was immediate with her second leap, and he sprang to the side to avoid her claws, and in from the side to meet her, his jaws clamping together on her spinal column with a jerk while she was still in mid-air. The next moment she lay sprawling and struggling on the deck with a broken back.
But for Michael this was only the beginning. A shrill yelling, rather than yelping, of more enemies made him whirl half about, but not quick enough. Struck in flank by two full-grown fox-terriers, he was slashed and rolled on the deck. The two, by the way, had long before made their first appearance on the Makambo as little puppies in Dag Daughtry’s coat pockets – Daughtry, in his usual fashion, having appropriated them ashore in Sydney and sold them to Captain Duncan for a guinea apiece.
By this time, scrambling to his feet, Michael was really angry. In truth, it was raining cats and dogs, such belligerent shower all unprovoked by him who had picked no quarrels nor even been aware of his enemies until they assailed him. Brave the fox-terriers were, despite the hysterical rage they were in, and they were upon him as he got his legs under him. The fangs of one clashed with his, cutting the lips of both of them, and the lighter dog recoiled from the impact. The other succeeded in taking Michael in flank, fetching blood and hurt with his teeth. With an instant curve, that was almost spasmodic, of his body, Michael flung his flank clear, leaving the other’s mouth full of his hair, and at the same moment drove his teeth through an ear till they met. The fox-terrier, with a shrill yelp of pain, sprang back so impetuously as to ribbon its ear as Michael’s teeth combed through it.
The first terrier was back upon him, and he was whirling to meet it, when a new and equally unprovoked assault was made upon him. This time it was Captain Duncan, in a rage at sight of his slain cat. The instep of his foot caught Michael squarely under the chest, half knocking the breath out of him and wholly lifting him into the air, so that he fell heavily on his side. The two terriers were upon him, filling their mouths with his straight, wiry hair as they sank their teeth in. Still on his side, as he was beginning to struggle to his feet, he clipped his jaws together on a leg of one, who screamed with pain and retreated on three legs, holding up the fourth, a fore leg, the bone of which Michael’s teeth had all but crushed.
Twice Michael slashed the other four-footed foe and then pursued him in a circle with Captain Duncan pursuing him in turn. Shortening the distance by leaping across a chord of the arc of the other’s flight, Michael closed his jaws on the back and side of the neck. Such abrupt arrest in mid-flight by the heavier dog brought the fox-terrier down on deck with, a heavy thump. Simultaneous with this, Captain Duncan’s second kick landed, communicating such propulsion to Michael as to tear his clenched teeth through the flesh and out of the flesh of the fox-terrier.
And Michael turned on the Captain. What if he were a white god? In his rage at so many assaults of so many enemies, Michael, who had been peacefully looking for Kwaque and Steward, did not stop to reckon. Besides, it was a strange white god upon whom he had never before laid eyes.
At the beginning he had snarled and growled. But it was a more serious affair to attack a god, and no sound came from him as he leaped to meet the leg flying toward him in another kick. As with the cat, he did not leap straight at it. To the side to avoid, and in with a curve of body as it passed, was his way. He had learned the trick with many blacks at Meringe and on board the Eugénie, so that as often he succeeded as failed at it. His teeth came together in the slack of the white duck trousers. The consequent jerk on Captain Duncan’s leg made that infuriated mariner lose his balance. Almost he fell forward on his face, part recovered himself with a violent effort, stumbled over Michael who was in for another bite, tottered wildly around, and sat down on the deck.
How long he might have sat there to recover his breath is problematical, for he rose as rapidly as his stoutness would permit, spurred on by Michael’s teeth already sunk into the fleshy part of his shoulder. Michael missed his calf as he uprose, but tore the other leg of the trousers to shreds and received a kick that lifted him a yard above the deck in a half-somersault and landed him on his back on deck.
Up to this time the Captain had been on the ferocious offensive, and he was in the act of following up the kick when Michael regained his feet and soared up in the air, not for leg or thigh, but for the throat. Too high it was for him to reach it, but his teeth closed on the flowing black scarf and tore it to tatters as his weight drew him back to deck.
It was not this so much that turned Captain Duncan to the pure defensive and started him retreating backward, as it was the silence of Michael. Ominous as death it was. There were no snarls nor throat-threats. With eyes straight-looking and unblinking, he sprang and sprang again. Neither did he growl when he attacked nor yelp when he was kicked. Fear of the blow was not in him. As Tom Haggin had so often bragged of Biddy and Terrence, they bred true in Jerry and Michael in the matter of not wincing at a blow. Always – they were so made – they sprang to meet the blow and to encounter the creature who delivered the blow. With a silence that was invested with the seriousness of death, they were wont to attack and to continue to attack.
And so Michael. As the Captain retreated kicking, he attacked, leaping and slashing. What saved Captain Duncan was a sailor with a deck mop on the end of a stick. Intervening, he managed to thrust it into Michael’s mouth and shove him away. This first time his teeth closed automatically upon it. But, spitting it out, he declined thereafter to bite it, knowing it for what it was, an inanimate thing upon which his teeth could inflict no hurt.