Текст книги

Джек Лондон
Michael, Brother of Jerry


Nor, beyond trying to avoid him, was he interested in the sailor. It was Captain Duncan, leaning his back against the rail, breathing heavily, and wiping the streaming sweat from his face, who was Michael’s meat. Long as it has taken to tell the battle, beginning with the slaying of the Persian cat to the thrusting of the mop into Michael’s jaws, so swift had been the rush of events that the passengers, springing from their deck-chairs and hurrying to the scene, were just arriving when Michael eluded the mop of the sailor by a successful dodge and plunged in on Captain Duncan, this time sinking his teeth so savagely into a rotund calf as to cause its owner to splutter an incoherent curse and howl of wrathful surprise.

A fortunate kick hurled Michael away and enabled the sailor to intervene once again with the mop. And upon the scene came Dag Daughtry, to behold his captain, frayed and bleeding and breathing apoplectically, Michael raging in ghastly silence at the end of a mop, and a large Persian mother-cat writhing with a broken back.

“Killeny Boy!” the steward cried imperatively.

Through no matter what indignation and rage that possessed him, his lord’s voice penetrated his consciousness, so that, cooling almost instantly, Michael’s ears flattened, his bristling hair lay down, and his lips covered his fangs as he turned his head to look acknowledgment.

“Come here, Killeny!”

Michael obeyed – not crouching cringingly, but trotting eagerly, gladly, to Steward’s feet.

“Lie down, Boy.”

He turned half around as he flumped himself down with a sigh of relief, and, with a red flash of tongue, kissed Steward’s foot.

“Your dog, Steward?” Captain Duncan demanded in a smothered voice wherein struggled anger and shortness of breath.

“Yes, sir. My dog. What’s he been up to, sir?”

The totality of what Michael had been up to choked the Captain completely. He could only gesture around from the dying cat to his torn clothes and bleeding wounds and the fox-terriers licking their injuries and whimpering at his feet.

“It’s too bad, sir.. ” Daughtry began.

“Too bad, hell!” the captain shut him off. “Bo’s’n! Throw that dog overboard.”

“Throw the dog overboard, sir, yes, sir,” the boatswain repeated, but hesitated.

Dag Daughtry’s face hardened unconsciously with the stiffening of his will to dogged opposition, which, in its own slow quiet way, would go to any length to have its way. But he answered respectfully enough, his features, by a shrewd effort, relaxing into a seeming of his customary good-nature.

“He’s a good dog, sir, and an unoffending dog. I can’t imagine what could a-made ’m break loose this way. He must a-had cause, sir – ”

“He had,” one of the passengers, a coconut planter from the Shortlands, interjected.

The steward threw him a grateful glance and continued.

“He’s a good dog, sir, a most obedient dog, sir – look at the way he minded me right in the thick of the scrap an’ come ’n’ lay down. He’s smart as chain-lightnin’, sir; do anything I tell him. I’ll make him make friends. See.. ”

Stepping over to the two hysterical terriers, Daughtry called Michael to him.

“He’s all right, savvee, Killeny, he all right,” he crooned, at the same time resting one hand on a terrier and the other on Michael.

The terrier whimpered and backed solidly against Captain Duncan’s legs, but Michael, with a slow bob of tail and unbelligerent ears, advanced to him, looked up to Steward to make sure, then sniffed his late antagonist, and even ran out his tongue in a caress to the side of the other’s ear.

“See, sir, no bad feelings,” Daughtry exulted. “He plays the game, sir. He’s a proper dog, he’s a man-dog. – Here, Killeny! The other one. He all right. Kiss and make up. That’s the stuff.”

The other fox-terrier, the one with the injured foreleg, endured Michael’s sniff with no more than hysterical growls deep in the throat; but the flipping out of Michael’s tongue was too much. The wounded terrier exploded in a futile snap at Michael’s tongue and nose.

“He all right, Killeny, he all right, sure,” Steward warned quickly.

With a bob of his tail in token of understanding, without a shade of resentment, Michael lifted a paw and with a playful casual stroke, dab-like, brought its weight on the other’s neck and rolled him, head-downward, over on the deck. Though he snarled wrathily, Michael turned away composedly and looked up into Steward’s face for approval.

A roar of laughter from the passengers greeted the capsizing of the fox-terrier and the good-natured gravity of Michael. But not alone at this did they laugh, for at the moment of the snap and the turning over, Captain Duncan’s unstrung nerves had exploded, causing him to jump as he tensed his whole body.

“Why, sir,” the steward went on with growing confidence, “I bet I can make him friends with you, too, by this time to-morrow.. ”

“By this time five minutes he’ll be overboard,” the captain answered. “Bo’s’n! Over with him!”

The boatswain advanced a tentative step, while murmurs of protest arose from the passengers.

“Look at my cat, and look at me,” Captain Duncan defended his action.

The boatswain made another step, and Dag Daughtry glared a threat at him.

“Go on!” the Captain commanded.

“Hold on!” spoke up the Shortlands planter. “Give the dog a square deal. I saw the whole thing. He wasn’t looking for trouble. First the cat jumped him. She had to jump twice before he turned loose. She’d have scratched his eyes out. Then the two dogs jumped him. He hadn’t bothered them. Then you jumped him. He hadn’t bothered you. And then came that sailor with the mop. And now you want the bo’s’n to jump him and throw him overboard. Give him a square deal. He’s only been defending himself. What do you expect any dog that is a dog to do? – lie down and be walked over by every strange dog and cat that comes along? Play the game, Skipper. You gave him some mighty hard kicks. He only defended himself.”

“He’s some defender,” Captain Duncan grinned, with a hint of the return of his ordinary geniality, at the same time tenderly pressing his bleeding shoulder and looking woefully down at his tattered duck trousers. “All right, Steward. If you can make him friends with me in five minutes, he stays on board. But you’ll have to make it up to me with a new pair of trousers.”

“And gladly, sir, thank you, sir,” Daughtry cried. “And I’ll make it up with a new cat as well, sir – Come on, Killeny Boy. This big fella marster he all right, you bet.”

And Michael listened. Not with the smouldering, smothering, choking hysteria that still worked in the fox-terriers did he listen, nor with quivering of muscles and jumps of over-wrought nerves, but coolly, composedly, as if no battle royal had just taken place and no rips of teeth and kicks of feet still burned and ached his body.

He could not help bristling, however, when first he sniffed a trousers’ leg into which his teeth had so recently torn.

“Put your hand down on him, sir,” Daughtry begged.

And Captain Duncan, his own good self once more, bent and rested a firm, unhesitating hand on Michael’s head. Nay, more; he even caressed the ears and rubbed about the roots of them. And Michael the merry-hearted, who fought like a lion and forgave and forgot like a man, laid his neck hair smoothly down, wagged his stump tail, smiled with his eyes and ears and mouth, and kissed with his tongue the hand with which a short time before he had been at war.

CHAPTER VII

For the rest of the voyage Michael had the run of the ship. Friendly to all, he reserved his love for Steward alone, though he was not above many an undignified romp with the fox-terriers.

“The most playful-minded dog, without being silly, I ever saw,” was Dag Daughtry’s verdict to the Shortlands planter, to whom he had just sold one of his turtle-shell combs. “You see, some dogs never get over the play-idea, an’ they’re never good for anything else. But not Killeny Boy. He can come down to seriousness in a second. I’ll show you, and I’ll show you he’s got a brain that counts to five an’ knows wireless telegraphy. You just watch.”

At the moment the steward made his faint lip-noise – so faint that he could not hear it himself and was almost for wondering whether or not he had made it; so faint that the Shortlands planter did not dream that he was making it. At that moment Michael was lying squirming on his back a dozen feet away, his legs straight up in the air, both fox-terriers worrying with well-stimulated ferociousness. With a quick out-thrust of his four legs, he rolled over on his side and with questioning eyes and pricked ears looked and listened. Again Daughtry made the lip-noise; again the Shortlands planter did not hear nor guess; and Michael bounded to his feet and to his lord’s side.

“Some dog, eh?” the steward boasted.

“But how did he know you wanted him?” the planter queried. “You never called him.”

“Mental telepathy, the affinity of souls pitched in the same whatever-you-call-it harmony,” the steward mystified. “You see, Killeny an’ me are made of the same kind of stuff, only run into different moulds. He might a-been my full brother, or me his, only for some mistake in the creation factory somewhere. Now I’ll show you he knows his bit of arithmetic.”

And, drawing the paper balls from his pocket, Dag Daughtry demonstrated to the amazement and satisfaction of the ring of passengers Michael’s ability to count to five.

“Why, sir,” Daughtry concluded the performance, “if I was to order four glasses of beer in a public-house ashore, an’ if I was absent-minded an’ didn’t notice the waiter ’d only brought three, Killeny Boy there ’d raise a row instanter.”

Kwaque was no longer compelled to enjoy his jews’ harp on the gratings over the fire-room, now that Michael’s presence on the Makambo was known, and, in the stateroom, on stolen occasions, he made experiments of his own with Michael. Once the jews’ harp began emitting its barbaric rhythms, Michael was helpless. He needs must open his mouth and pour forth an unwilling, gushing howl. But, as with Jerry, it was not mere howl. It was more akin to a mellow singing; and it was not long before Kwaque could lead his voice up and down, in rough time and tune, within a definite register.
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