Jack London.

Michael, Brother of Jerry online

. (page 1 of 23)
Online LibraryJack LondonMichael, Brother of Jerry → online text (page 1 of 23)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


Transcribed from the 1917 Mills & Boon edition by David Price, email
[email protected]





MICHAEL, BROTHER OF JERRY


FOREWORD


Very early in my life, possibly because of the insatiable curiosity that
was born in me, I came to dislike the performances of trained animals. It
was my curiosity that spoiled for me this form of amusement, for I was
led to seek behind the performance in order to learn how the performance
was achieved. And what I found behind the brave show and glitter of
performance was not nice. It was a body of cruelty so horrible that I am
confident no normal person exists who, once aware of it, could ever enjoy
looking on at any trained-animal turn.

Now I am not a namby-pamby. By the book reviewers and the namby-pambys I
am esteemed a sort of primitive beast that delights in the spilled blood
of violence and horror. Without arguing this matter of my general
reputation, accepting it at its current face value, let me add that I
have indeed lived life in a very rough school and have seen more than the
average man's share of inhumanity and cruelty, from the forecastle and
the prison, the slum and the desert, the execution-chamber and the lazar-
house, to the battlefield and the military hospital. I have seen
horrible deaths and mutilations. I have seen imbeciles hanged, because,
being imbeciles, they did not possess the hire of lawyers. I have seen
the hearts and stamina of strong men broken, and I have seen other men,
by ill-treatment, driven to permanent and howling madness. I have
witnessed the deaths of old and young, and even infants, from sheer
starvation. I have seen men and women beaten by whips and clubs and
fists, and I have seen the rhinoceros-hide whips laid around the naked
torsos of black boys so heartily that each stroke stripped away the skin
in full circle. And yet, let me add finally, never have I been so
appalled and shocked by the world's cruelty as have I been appalled and
shocked in the midst of happy, laughing, and applauding audiences when
trained-animal turns were being performed on the stage.

One with a strong stomach and a hard head may be able to tolerate much of
the unconscious and undeliberate cruelty and torture of the world that is
perpetrated in hot blood and stupidity. I have such a stomach and head.
But what turns my head and makes my gorge rise, is the cold-blooded,
conscious, deliberate cruelty and torment that is manifest behind ninety-
nine of every hundred trained-animal turns. Cruelty, as a fine art, has
attained its perfect flower in the trained-animal world.

Possessed myself of a strong stomach and a hard head, inured to hardship,
cruelty, and brutality, nevertheless I found, as I came to manhood, that
I unconsciously protected myself from the hurt of the trained-animal turn
by getting up and leaving the theatre whenever such turns came on the
stage. I say "unconsciously." By this I mean it never entered my mind
that this was a programme by which the possible death-blow might be given
to trained-animal turns. I was merely protecting myself from the pain of
witnessing what it would hurt me to witness.

But of recent years my understanding of human nature has become such that
I realize that no normal healthy human would tolerate such performances
did he or she know the terrible cruelty that lies behind them and makes
them possible. So I am emboldened to suggest, here and now, three
things:

First, let all humans inform themselves of the inevitable and eternal
cruelty by the means of which only can animals be compelled to perform
before revenue-paying audiences. Second, I suggest that all men and
women, and boys and girls, who have so acquainted themselves with the
essentials of the fine art of animal-training, should become members of,
and ally themselves with, the local and national organizations of humane
societies and societies for the prevention of cruelty to animals.

And the third suggestion I cannot state until I have made a preamble.
Like hundreds of thousands of others, I have worked in other fields,
striving to organize the mass of mankind into movements for the purpose
of ameliorating its own wretchedness and misery. Difficult as this is to
accomplish, it is still more difficult to persuade the human into any
organised effort to alleviate the ill conditions of the lesser animals.

Practically all of us will weep red tears and sweat bloody sweats as we
come to knowledge of the unavoidable cruelty and brutality on which the
trained-animal world rests and has its being. But not one-tenth of one
per cent. of us will join any organization for the prevention of cruelty
to animals, and by our words and acts and contributions work to prevent
the perpetration of cruelties on animals. This is a weakness of our own
human nature. We must recognize it as we recognize heat and cold, the
opaqueness of the non-transparent, and the everlasting down-pull of
gravity.

And still for us, for the ninety-nine and nine-tenths per cent. of us,
under the easy circumstance of our own weakness, remains another way most
easily to express ourselves for the purpose of eliminating from the world
the cruelty that is practised by some few of us, for the entertainment of
the rest of us, on the trained animals, who, after all, are only lesser
animals than we on the round world's surface. It is so easy. We will
not have to think of dues or corresponding secretaries. We will not have
to think of anything, save when, in any theatre or place of
entertainment, a trained-animal turn is presented before us. Then,
without premeditation, we may express our disapproval of such a turn by
getting up from our seats and leaving the theatre for a promenade and a
breath of fresh air outside, coming back, when the turn is over, to enjoy
the rest of the programme. All we have to do is just that to eliminate
the trained-animal turn from all public places of entertainment. Show
the management that such turns are unpopular, and in a day, in an
instant, the management will cease catering such turns to its audiences.

JACK LONDON

GLEN ELLEN, SONOMA COUNTY, CALIFORNIA,

December 8, 1915




CHAPTER I


But Michael never sailed out of Tulagi, nigger-chaser on the _Eugenie_.
Once in five weeks the steamer _Makambo_ made Tulagi its port of call on
the way from New Guinea and the Shortlands to Australia. And on the
night of her belated arrival Captain Kellar forgot Michael on the beach.
In itself, this was nothing, for, at midnight, Captain Kellar was back on
the beach, himself climbing the high hill to the Commissioner's bungalow
while the boat's crew vainly rummaged the landscape and canoe houses.

In fact, an hour earlier, as the _Makambo's_ anchor was heaving out and
while Captain Kellar was descending the port gang-plank, Michael was
coming on board through a starboard port-hole. This was because Michael
was inexperienced in the world, because he was expecting to meet Jerry on
board this boat since the last he had seen of him was on a boat, and
because he had made a friend.

Dag Daughtry was a steward on the _Makambo_, who should have known better
and who would have known better and done better had he not been
fascinated by his own particular and peculiar reputation. By luck of
birth possessed of a genial but soft disposition and a splendid
constitution, his reputation was that for twenty years he had never
missed his day's work nor his six daily quarts of bottled beer, even, as
he bragged, when in the German islands, where each bottle of beer carried
ten grains of quinine in solution as a specific against malaria.

The captain of the _Makambo_ (and, before that, the captains of the
_Moresby_, the _Masena_, the _Sir Edward Grace_, and various others of
the queerly named Burns Philp Company steamers had done the same) was
used to pointing him out proudly to the passengers as a man-thing novel
and unique in the annals of the sea. And at such times Dag Daughtry,
below on the for'ard deck, feigning unawareness as he went about his
work, would steal side-glances up at the bridge where the captain and his
passengers stared down on him, and his breast would swell pridefully,
because he knew that the captain was saying: "See him! that's Dag
Daughtry, the human tank. Never's been drunk or sober in twenty years,
and has never missed his six quarts of beer per diem. You wouldn't think
it, to look at him, but I assure you it's so. I can't understand. Gets
my admiration. Always does his time, his time-and-a-half and his double-
time over time. Why, a single glass of beer would give me heartburn and
spoil my next good meal. But he flourishes on it. Look at him! Look at
him!"

And so, knowing his captain's speech, swollen with pride in his own
prowess, Dag Daughtry would continue his ship-work with extra vigour and
punish a seventh quart for the day in advertisement of his remarkable
constitution. It was a queer sort of fame, as queer as some men are; and
Dag Daughtry found in it his justification of existence.

Wherefore he devoted his energy and the soul of him to the maintenance of
his reputation as a six-quart man. That was why he made, in odd moments
of off-duty, turtle-shell combs and hair ornaments for profit, and was
prettily crooked in such a matter as stealing another man's dog. Somebody
had to pay for the six quarts, which, multiplied by thirty, amounted to a
tidy sum in the course of the month; and, since that man was Dag
Daughtry, he found it necessary to pass Michael inboard on the _Makambo_
through a starboard port-hole.

On the beach, that night at Tulagi, vainly wondering what had become of
the whaleboat, Michael had met the squat, thick, hair-grizzled ship's
steward. The friendship between them was established almost instantly,
for Michael, from a merry puppy, had matured into a merry dog. Far
beyond Jerry, was he a sociable good fellow, and this, despite the fact
that he had known very few white men. First, there had been Mister
Haggin, Derby and Bob, of Meringe; next, Captain Kellar and Captain
Kellar's mate of the _Eugenie_; and, finally, Harley Kennan and the
officers of the _Ariel_. Without exception, he had found them all
different, and delightfully different, from the hordes of blacks he had
been taught to despise and to lord it over.

And Dag Daughtry had proved no exception from his first greeting of
"Hello, you white man's dog, what 'r' you doin' herein nigger country?"
Michael had responded coyly with an assumption of dignified aloofness
that was given the lie by the eager tilt of his ears and the good-humour
that shone in his eyes. Nothing of this was missed by Dag Daughtry, who
knew a dog when he saw one, as he studied Michael in the light of the
lanterns held by black boys where the whaleboats were landing cargo.

Two estimates the steward quickly made of Michael: he was a likable dog,
genial-natured on the face of it, and he was a valuable dog. Because of
those estimates Dag Daughtry glanced about him quickly. No one was
observing. For the moment, only blacks stood about, and their eyes were
turned seaward where the sound of oars out of the darkness warned them to
stand ready to receive the next cargo-laden boat. Off to the right,
under another lantern, he could make out the Resident Commissioner's
clerk and the _Makambo's_ super-cargo heatedly discussing some error in
the bill of lading.

The steward flung another quick glance over Michael and made up his mind.
He turned away casually and strolled along the beach out of the circle of
lantern light. A hundred yards away he sat down in the sand and waited.

"Worth twenty pounds if a penny," he muttered to himself. "If I couldn't
get ten pounds for him, just like that, with a thank-you-ma'am, I'm a
sucker that don't know a terrier from a greyhound. - Sure, ten pounds, in
any pub on Sydney beach."

And ten pounds, metamorphosed into quart bottles of beer, reared an
immense and radiant vision, very like a brewery, inside his head.

A scurry of feet in the sand, and low sniffings, stiffened him to
alertness. It was as he had hoped. The dog had liked him from the
start, and had followed him.

For Dag Daughtry had a way with him, as Michael was quickly to learn,
when the man's hand reached out and clutched him, half by the jowl, half
by the slack of the neck under the ear. There was no threat in that
reach, nothing tentative nor timorous. It was hearty, all-confident, and
it produced confidence in Michael. It was roughness without hurt,
assertion without threat, surety without seduction. To him it was the
most natural thing in the world thus to be familiarly seized and shaken
about by a total stranger, while a jovial voice muttered: "That's right,
dog. Stick around, stick around, and you'll wear diamonds, maybe."

Certainly, Michael had never met a man so immediately likable. Dag
Daughtry knew, instinctively to be sure, how to get on with dogs. By
nature there was no cruelty in him. He never exceeded in peremptoriness,
nor in petting. He did not overbid for Michael's friendliness. He did
bid, but in a manner that conveyed no sense of bidding. Scarcely had he
given Michael that introductory jowl-shake, when he released him and
apparently forgot all about him.

He proceeded to light his pipe, using several matches as if the wind blew
them out. But while they burned close up to his fingers, and while he
made a simulation of prodigious puffing, his keen little blue eyes, under
shaggy, grizzled brows, intently studied Michael. And Michael, ears
cocked and eyes intent, gazed at this stranger who seemed never to have
been a stranger at all.

If anything, it was disappointment Michael experienced, in that this
delightful, two-legged god took no further notice of him. He even
challenged him to closer acquaintance with an invitation to play, with an
abrupt movement lifting his paws from the ground and striking them down,
stretched out well before, his body bent down from the rump in such a
curve that almost his chest touched the sand, his stump of a tail waving
signals of good nature while he uttered a sharp, inviting bark. And the
man was uninterested, pulling stolidly away at his pipe, in the darkness
following upon the third match.

Never was there a more consummate love-making, with all the base intent
of betrayal, than this cavalier seduction of Michael by the elderly, six-
quart ship's steward. When Michael, not entirely unwitting of the snub
of the man's lack of interest, stirred restlessly with a threat to
depart, he had flung at him gruffly:

"Stick around, dog, stick around."

Dag Daughtry chuckled to himself, as Michael, advancing, sniffed his
trousers' legs long and earnestly. And the man took advantage of his
nearness to study him some more, lighting his pipe and running over the
dog's excellent lines.

"Some dog, some points," he said aloud approvingly. "Say, dog, you could
pull down ribbons like a candy-kid in any bench show anywheres. Only
thing against you is that ear, and I could almost iron it out myself. A
vet. could do it."

Carelessly he dropped a hand to Michael's ear, and, with tips of fingers
instinct with sensuous sympathy, began to manipulate the base of the ear
where its roots bedded in the tightness of skin-stretch over the skull.
And Michael liked it. Never had a man's hand been so intimate with his
ear without hurting it. But these fingers were provocative only of
physical pleasure so keen that he twisted and writhed his whole body in
acknowledgment.

Next came a long, steady, upward pull of the ear, the ear slipping slowly
through the fingers to the very tip of it while it tingled exquisitely
down to its roots. Now to one ear, now to the other, this happened, and
all the while the man uttered low words that Michael did not understand
but which he accepted as addressed to him.

"Head all right, good 'n' flat," Dag Daughtry murmured, first sliding his
fingers over it, and then lighting a match. "An' no wrinkles, 'n' some
jaw, good 'n' punishing, an' not a shade too full in the cheek or too
empty."

He ran his fingers inside Michael's mouth and noted the strength and
evenness of the teeth, measured the breadth of shoulders and depth of
chest, and picked up a foot. In the light of another match he examined
all four feet.

"Black, all black, every nail of them," said Daughtry, "an' as clean feet
as ever a dog walked on, straight-out toes with the proper arch 'n' small
'n' not too small. I bet your daddy and your mother cantered away with
the ribbons in their day."

Michael was for growing restless at such searching examination, but
Daughtry, in the midst of feeling out the lines and build of the thighs
and hocks, paused and took Michael's tail in his magic fingers, exploring
the muscles among which it rooted, pressing and prodding the adjacent
spinal column from which it sprang, and twisting it about in a most
daringly intimate way. And Michael was in an ecstasy, bracing his
hindquarters to one side or the other against the caressing fingers. With
open hands laid along his sides and partly under him, the man suddenly
lifted him from the ground. But before he could feel alarm he was back
on the ground again.

"Twenty-six or -seven - you're over twenty-five right now, I'll bet you on
it, shillings to ha'pennies, and you'll make thirty when you get your
full weight," Dag Daughtry told him. "But what of it? Lots of the
judges fancy the thirty-mark. An' you could always train off a few
ounces. You're all dog n' all correct conformation. You've got the
racing build and the fighting weight, an' there ain't no feathers on your
legs."

"No, sir, Mr. Dog, your weight's to the good, and that ear can be ironed
out by any respectable dog - doctor. I bet there's a hundred men in
Sydney right now that would fork over twenty quid for the right of
calling you his."

And then, just that Michael should not make the mistake of thinking he
was being much made over, Daughtry leaned back, relighted his pipe, and
apparently forgot his existence. Instead of bidding for good will, he
was bent on making Michael do the bidding.

And Michael did, bumping his flanks against Daughtry's knee; nudging his
head against Daughtry's hand, in solicitation for more of the blissful
ear-rubbing and tail-twisting. Daughtry caught him by the jowl instead
and slowly moved his head back and forth as he addressed him:

"What man's dog are you? Maybe you're a nigger's dog, an' that ain't
right. Maybe some nigger's stole you, an' that'd be awful. Think of the
cruel fates that sometimes happens to dogs. It's a damn shame. No white
man's stand for a nigger ownin' the likes of you, an' here's one white
man that ain't goin' to stand for it. The idea! A nigger ownin' you an'
not knowin' how to train you. Of course a nigger stole you. If I laid
eyes on him right now I'd up and knock seven bells and the Saint Paul
chimes out of 'm. Sure thing I would. Just show 'm to me, that's all,
an' see what I'd do to him. The idea of you takin' orders from a nigger
an' fetchin' 'n' carryin' for him! No, sir, dog, you ain't goin' to do
it any more. You're comin' along of me, an' I reckon I won't have to
urge you."

Dag Daughtry stood up and turned carelessly along the beach. Michael
looked after him, but did not follow. He was eager to, but had received
no invitation. At last Daughtry made a low kissing sound with his lips.
So low was it that he scarcely heard it himself and almost took it on
faith, or on the testimony of his lips rather than of his ears, that he
had made it. No human being could have heard it across the distance to
Michael; but Michael heard it, and sprang away after in a great delighted
rush.




CHAPTER II


Dag Daughtry strolled along the beach, Michael at his heels or running
circles of delight around him at every repetition of that strange low lip-
noise, and paused just outside the circle of lantern light where dusky
forms laboured with landing cargo from the whaleboats and where the
Commissioner's clerk and the _Makambo's_ super-cargo still wrangled over
the bill of lading. When Michael would have gone forward, the man
withstrained him with the same inarticulate, almost inaudible kiss.

For Daughtry did not care to be seen on such dog-stealing enterprises and
was planning how to get on board the steamer unobserved. He edged around
outside the lantern shine and went on along the beach to the native
village. As he had foreseen, all the able-bodied men were down at the
boat-landing working cargo. The grass houses seemed lifeless, but at
last, from one of them, came a challenge in the querulous, high-pitched
tones of age:

"What name?"

"Me walk about plenty too much," he replied in the beche-de-mer English
of the west South Pacific. "Me belong along steamer. Suppose 'm you
take 'm me along canoe, washee-washee, me give 'm you fella boy two stick
tobacco."

"Suppose 'm you give 'm me ten stick, all right along me," came the
reply.

"Me give 'm five stick," the six-quart steward bargained. "Suppose 'm
you no like 'm five stick then you fella boy go to hell close up."

There was a silence.

"You like 'm five stick?" Daughtry insisted of the dark interior.

"Me like 'm," the darkness answered, and through the darkness the body
that owned the voice approached with such strange sounds that the steward
lighted a match to see.

A blear-eyed ancient stood before him, balancing on a single crutch. His
eyes were half-filmed over by a growth of morbid membrane, and what was
not yet covered shone red and irritated. His hair was mangy, standing
out in isolated patches of wispy grey. His skin was scarred and wrinkled
and mottled, and in colour was a purplish blue surfaced with a grey
coating that might have been painted there had it not indubitably grown
there and been part and parcel of him.

A blighted leper - was Daughtry's thought as his quick eyes leapt from
hands to feet in quest of missing toe- and finger-joints. But in those
items the ancient was intact, although one leg ceased midway between knee
and thigh.

"My word! What place stop 'm that fella leg?" quoth Daughtry, pointing
to the space which the member would have occupied had it not been absent.

"Big fella shark-fish, that fella leg stop 'm along him," the ancient
grinned, exposing a horrible aperture of toothlessness for a mouth.

"Me old fella boy too much," the one-legged Methuselah quavered. "Long
time too much no smoke 'm tobacco. Suppose 'm you big fella white
marster give 'm me one fella stick, close up me washee-washee you that
fella steamer."

"Suppose 'm me no give?" the steward impatiently temporized.

For reply, the old man half-turned, and, on his crutch, swinging his
stump of leg in the air, began sidling hippity-hop into the grass hut.

"All right," Daughtry cried hastily. "Me give 'm you smoke 'm quick
fella."

He dipped into a side coat-pocket for the mintage of the Solomons and
stripped off a stick from the handful of pressed sticks. The old man was
transfigured as he reached avidly for the stick and received it. He
uttered little crooning noises, alternating with sharp cries akin to
pain, half-ecstatic, half-petulant, as he drew a black clay pipe from a
hole in his ear-lobe, and into the bowl of it, with trembling fingers,
untwisted and crumbled the cheap leaf of spoiled Virginia crop.

Pressing down the contents of the full bowl with his thumb, he suddenly
plumped upon the ground, the crutch beside him, the one limb under him so
that he had the seeming of a legless torso. From a small bag of twisted
coconut hanging from his neck upon his withered and sunken chest, he drew
out flint and steel and tinder, and, even while the impatient steward was
proffering him a box of matches, struck a spark, caught it in the tinder,
blew it into strength and quantity, and lighted his pipe from it.

With the first full puff of the smoke he gave over his moans and yelps,
the agitation began to fade out of him, and Daughtry, appreciatively
waiting, saw the trembling go out of his hands, the pendulous
lip-quivering cease, the saliva stop flowing from the corners of his
mouth, and placidity come into the fiery remnants of his eyes.

What the old man visioned in the silence that fell, Daughtry did not try
to guess. He was too occupied with his own vision, and vividly burned
before him the sordid barrenness of a poor-house ward, where an ancient,
very like what he himself would become, maundered and gibbered and
drooled for a crumb of tobacco for his old clay pipe, and where, of all


1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23

Online LibraryJack LondonMichael, Brother of Jerry → online text (page 1 of 23)