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Jerry of the Islands
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 Hag gin 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 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 master God.”
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 center of all his activities that is called consciousness, the sound, “Mister Haggin,” occupies 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 God.
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 the blacks.
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 labor 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 an 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 Go army, the black who wore a china door-knob suspended on his chest from his neck on a string of sennit braided from cocoanut fiber.
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 forever 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 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.
|No. of Pages||270|
|PDF Size||0.5 MB|
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