“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 place.”
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 out.”
“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?”