With a cry of rage, a flash of white teeth, and a bristle of short neck-hair, he sprang for the black. Lerumie fled down the deck, and Jerry pursued amid the laughter of all the blacks. Several times, in making the circuit of the deck, he managed to scratch the flying calves with his teeth. Then Lerumie took to the main rigging, leaving Jerry impotently to rage on the deck beneath him.
About this point the blacks grouped in a semi-circle at a respectful distance, with Van Horn to the fore beside Jerry. Van Horn centred his electric torch on the black in the rigging, and saw the long parallel scratches on the fingers of the hand that had invaded Jerry’s blanket. He pointed them out significantly to Borckman, who stood outside the circle so that no black should be able to come at his back.
Skipper picked Jerry up and soothed his anger with:
“Good boy, Jerry. You marked and sealed him. Some dog, you, some big man-dog.”
He turned back to Lerumie, illuminating him as he clung in the rigging, and his voice was harsh and cold as he addressed him.
“What name belong along you fella boy?” he demanded.
“Me fella Lerumie,” came the chirping, quavering answer.
“You come along Pennduffryn?”
“Me come along Meringe.”
Captain Van Horn debated the while he fondled the puppy in his arms. After all, it was a return boy. In a day, in two days at most, he would have him landed and be quit of him.
“My word,” he harangued, “me angry along you. Me angry big fella too much along you. Me angry along you any amount. What name you fella boy make ’m pickaninny dog belong along me walk about along water?”
Lerumie was unable to answer. He rolled his eyes helplessly, resigned to receive a whipping such as he had long since bitterly learned white masters were wont to administer.
Captain Van Horn repeated the question, and the black repeated the helpless rolling of his eyes.
“For two sticks tobacco I knock ’m seven bells outa you,” the skipper bullied. “Now me give you strong fella talk too much. You look ’m eye belong you one time along this fella dog belong me, I knock ’m seven bells and whole starboard watch outa you. Savve?”
“Me savve,” Lerumie, plaintively replied; and the episode was closed.
The return boys went below to sleep in the cabin. Borckman and the boat’s crew hoisted the mainsail and put the Arangi on her course. And Skipper, under a dry blanket from below, lay down to sleep with Jerry, head on his shoulder, in the hollow of his arm.
At seven in the morning, when Skipper rolled him out of the blanket and got up, Jerry celebrated the new day by chasing the wild-dog back into his hole and by drawing a snicker from the blacks on deck, when, with a growl and a flash of teeth, he made Lerumie side-step half a dozen feet and yield the deck to him.