The Passenger's Dog
The Passenger's Dog
BY CLARENCE B. KELLAND
SPEAKIN' of dawgs," said Captain Saturn Horgin, "did I ever tell you 'bout Big Foot's purp an' Cap'n Swiggs?"
The Cap'n always prefaced a story by asking if he had told it before; but whether or no he had retailed that very incident no longer ago than yesterday, and were told of that circumstance, he would spin it again. It was as easy to stop Cap'n Saturn from telling a story upon which he had set his heart as it would be to hold an eel in the naked palm.
"Big Foot he come fr'm nowheres. All of a suddin he turned up in Algonac, an' didn't do nothin' but stan' on this here very dock lookin' at th' river. He didn't speak to no one nor do nothin' noticeable 'cept wear them feet of his'n—which was somethin' of an accomplishment. Along with him come a dawg. That there dawg wa'n't like no dawg I ever see, still you cud tell it was a canine critter 'cause 'twa'n't nothin' else. I admit they was consid'ble speculatin' on the subjec' fer a while, though.
"Well, Big Foot an' that purp come fr'm nowheres and began occupyin' this here dock an' meditatin' together. They don't never address no remarks to no one. Big Foot he don't wax sociable, an' his dawg don't pick no fights, so th' populace of Algonac sees they is neither pleasure nor profit to be got outen them, an' leaves them to themselves.
"One day Cap'n Swiggs' vessel is tied up to this dock, coalin'. As usual, Big Foot is standin' here lookin' as if he was fresh fr'm a funeral or a hangin'.
"Cap'n Swiggs, bein' short-handed, looks over the side an' sees Big Foot. Big Foot sees him, too, but he ain't admittin' it—neither is th' dawg. They both continooes to look like they was on th' p'int of applyin' fer perpetool jobs as pall-bearers.
" 'Say!' yells Cap'n Swiggs.
"Big Foot makes no reply.
" 'Say, you with th' feet!' shouts the Cap'n agin.
"Big Foot looks up at him kinda sad an' expectant—jus as though he was hopin' he'd fall in an' drown then an' there.
"Cap'n Swiggs he leans onto th' rail an' studies Big Foot careful.
" 'Talkative chap, ain't you?' says Cap'n.
"Big Foot he continooes t' say nothin', an' th' dawg he follers suit.
" 'Be you a sailorman?' asks Cap'n.
"Big Foot he nods his head, an' looks regretful at th' fate he hopes is comin' to th' other.
" 'Wanta ship?' asks Cap'n.
"Big Foot then, unexpected like, up an' breaks th' fast he'd been givin' his vocabulary.
" 'Wot fur?' he asks.
" 'Wot fur!' repeats th' Cap'n. 'Wot does any man wanta ship fer? To cure rhumytism, er t' grow a beard, er t' cultyvate a tenner voice. Them is wot fur.'
" 'Kin I ship my dawg?' asks Big Foot.
" 'Naw,' says Cap'n, disgusted like.
"Big Foot he starts movin' away like he's lost intrust. Cap'n he needs a man bad, so he hollers fer him t' stop a bit.
"Big Foot comes back an' addresses th' Cap'n abrupt.
" 'See that there dawg?' he asks.
" 'I ain't got no cataracts into my eyes,' says Cap'n.
" 'That there dawg,' goes on Big Foot, 'is boun' t' me by undissoluble ties, that dawg is. Him an' me is took each other fer better er fer worse. That there dawg has a warmth of affection fer me. I occupy th' position of apple into his eye. If I sh'ud desert he'd pine away inter a shadder an' die.' Then he quit talkin' suddin an' looked at Cap'n Swiggs' boat.
"Th' dawg he looks at th' boat, too.
"Pretty soon Big Foot he h'ists th' dawg into his arms an' puts it aboard gentle. Then he climbs aboard hisself.
" 'We ships with you,' he announces, an' calmly walks forrud without no more parleyin'.
"Cap'n he don't know what t' do. He is knocked all of a heap—an' a pretty big heap, too. So there he stands at th' rail, leanin' thereon an' not able t' move. He stands there an' ponders an' ponders, and don't reach no conclusion whatever; an' as he ain't reached none when th' vessel is coaled an' has swung out into th' river. Big Foot an' his dawg remains aboard in a party, one an' indivisible.
"They ain't much time give. Cap'n fer ponderin', howsumever, fer th' dumdest racket ever heard onto th' St. Clair River begun t' shatter th' ca'm of th' peaceful day. Words sich as seldom frequents parlors, an' howls an' animal n'ises, come along all mixed together, an' plum startles Cap'n outa his reveree. He dashes onto th' hurrycane deck an' there he sees th' blamdest sight.
"Right in th' middle of th' deck is Wash Biler Sands, th' cook. On top o' Biler's head is th' scardest cat that ever was frightened outa her nine lives. Each an' every distinct claw was rammed into Biler's scalp t' th' hilt, an' th' feline was yellin' murder t' th' top of its lungs. Biler he's jumpin' an' clawin' an' cursin' an' prayin' an' makin' hisself mos' agree'ble t' th' comp'ny. Big Foot's dawg is cavortin' aroun' promisc'us on th' trail of th' cat. Sometimes he rushes in clost an' grabs Biler by the laig. Other times he gits a runnin' start, endin' with a leap fer th' cat onto Biler's head.
" 'Yow! Yow!' yells Biler. 'Murder! Fire! Take 'er off!' he begs. 'Kill that there dawg!' This here excites th' cat an' she reaches down an' fondles his cheek with her claws.
"The excitement it don't appear t' have attracted th' attention of Big Foot, fer he stands leanin' on th' bulwarks lookin' at th' water like 's if there ain't no disturbance whatever.
" 'Here, you with th' feet! shouts Cap'n Swiggs. 'Git this here dawg away. Don't you see he's spilin' th' cook?'
"Big Foot turns reproachful like an' says, 'Is that there th' cook?'
"Cap'n says, 'Yaas,' sharp like.
" 'Oh, that's th' cook!' says Big Foot, an' relapses into lookin' at th' river ag'in.
"Cap'n walks over t' Big Foot an' slaps him onto th' back.. 'You call off that there dawg,' he says savage, 'er I'll chuck yuh both overboard.'
"Big Foot looks aroun'. 'Is my dawg disturbin' some one?' he asks, surprised like. 'I can't believe it! Naw, it can't be my dawg you're alludin' to'.
"Then he appears t' notus what's happenin'.
" 'Does that feller allus carry a cat onto his head?' he asks.
" 'I don't carry no cats nowheres,' Biler howls. 'Your dawg comes an' chases this here feline up me like I'm a tree.'
" 'Surprisin'!' says Big Foot. 'Surprisin'!' Then he looks at th' dawg sorrowful like an' says: 'Come away from there, dawg. Come away here where they ain't disturbin' of you.' An' they both walk t' th' far end of th' deck, leavin' Biler an' Cap'n Swiggs an' th' crew gapin' in amazement.
"Big Foot an' his dawg was left alone fer a consid'ble spell. Then Cap'n comes up to them an' says:
" 'Well,' says he, 'you an' your dawg is aboard an' we gotter make th' best of it. I'll git work enough outa you t' pay fer your passage, I bet!'
"Big Foot never winks an eye; on'y he looks gloomier an' melancholier than ever.
" 'Kin vuh wheel?' asks Cap'n.
" 'I kin,' responds Big Foot, 'but I won't.'
"Cap'n Swiggs doubles his fists an' starts fer Big Foot. Th' dawg, however, raises onto his oneven laigs an' gits in front of his master, standin' there wearin' a ugly look an' snappin' his jaws. Cap'n thinks best t' stop.
" 'Is this here mutiny?' he roars.
" 'It ain't,' sobs Big Foot. 'Hones', Cap'n, it ain't. I jus' decided I wanta be a passenger. I made up my min' t' go this here trip as your guest. Man an' boy fer twenty year I've sailed these here ol' lakes, but never yit have I made a trip as a passenger. I'm a-goin' to now. I'm jus' a-goin' t' sail 'thout workin' an' see how I like it.'
" 'Yuh be, hay?' howls Cap'n Swiggs. 'Yuh be, be yuh?' an' he makes a rush fer Big Foot. But that there rush stops suddin an' precipitate, fer th' dawg has him by th' laig an' acts like he means bizness.
" 'Yaas,' says Big Foot, sadder 'n' mournfuler 'n ever. 'Yaas, I'm goin' t' be a passenger.'
"So Big Foot goes an' takes possession of th' spare cabin, an' begins t' lead a idle an' sportive existence.
"Cap'n Swiggs he dunno what t' do. He can't make Big Foot work, 'cause th' dawg won't let 'im. It sets him mos' crazy t' see th' man doin' nothin' an' look in' so woebegone. Havin' no idees of his own, he calls Bill, th' mate, an' holds a council of war.
" 'Here's this here Big Foot,' he growls. 'Won't work an' I can't make him, 'cause I can't git my hands onto him t' make him. Ef 'twasn't fer that there dawg I'd soon fix him all right.'
" 'Shoot th' dawg,' advises Bill.
" 'I'm a humane man,' says Cap'n, 'I has scruples agin shootin' dawgs—an' besides,' he sorter slings in fer good measure, 'besides they ain't no shootin'-iron aboard.'
" 'Less see wot he's doin',' says Bill.
"They go to th' spare cabin, an' there is Big Foot nappin' inside, with th' dawg a-layin' in th' door.
" 'No chanct,' says Cap'n. 'Dawg's on guard.'
"When Big Foot's nap's over, him an' th' dawg comes out on deck. Cap'n an' mate an' crew an' Wash Biler, with his head did up into a bandage, is waitin' fer them with hunks of coal in their hands. Big Foot ducks back into th' cabin, but th' dawg he stays t' see what's doin'. As soon as th' first chunk of coal comes sailin' at him he sees. Hones', I believe he liked it—dodgin' that coal. Fer a quatter of a hour them men throws coal at him, an' him dodgin' ev'ry piece. Then he gits tired. Lettin' a snarl outen him, he goes fer th' crowd, an' in five seconds th' ratlines is full of men. Th' dawg has th' deck to hisself. Big Foot strolls out after a while an' sees th' dawg squattin' on deck lickin' his chops an' keepin' th' Cap'n, mate, crew, an' Wash Biler all aloft.
" 'Wanta come down?' he asks.
"Cap'n he don't say nothin'.
" 'Promise t' let me an' th' dawg be passengers,' says Big Foot, 'an' I'll let yuh loose."
"Cap'n is almos' bustin', but he ain't got no choice, so he promises an' Big Foot calls off his dawg.
"It's some hours after w'en Wash Biler gits out on deck an' rings th' bell fer grub. Everybody comes a-runnin', includin' Big Foot an' his dawg. Th' man sets down t' th' table, an' th' beast he faces th' back so's nobody kin attack that way. There ain't much cheerfulness t' that meal, an' reppertee an' jests fails t' spice them there viands. Big Foot gits his plate full an' commences. Across fr'm him sets Bill, th' mate. Now, Bill he has a healthy appetite, an' th' stuff he piles onto his plate is astonishin'. All of a suddin Big Foot quits eatin' an' looks aroun' at his dawg. Then he looks aroun' t' th' table, an' they was sure-enough tears into his eyes.
" 'Fellers,' he says, 'I knows they ain't none of you what would pizen a man. I ain't afeered t' gobble your grub, but that there dawg's diffrunt.' He stopped, an' stretchin' across th' table, grabs Bill's plateful an' chucks it onto th' floor t' that canine. 'I guess that there grub is all right, er that feller wouldn't be eatin' so much of it,' adds Big Foot.
"Nothin' but a savage growl outen that dawg prevents a riot fr'm bein' acted right then an' there. But with that purp armed with a full an' complete set of teeth, what was anybody t' do?
"That night Big Foot sleeps comfortable in th' spare cabin with his dawg layin' acrost th' door. All through them long hours vari'us persons tries t' coax him away, but he don't coax none at all. They throws pizen meat t' him, but he won't eat. They does ever'thing they kin think of, but nothin' encouragin' happens. Dawg won't fool with them at all, an' Big Foot sleeps safe.
"Nex' mornin' at breakfus Big Foot repeats th' same performance he done th' night before, on'y this time he takes th' Cap'n's grub an' feeds it t' th' dawg.
" 'It's a good idee t' change ev'ry meal,' he says. 'Ef I took th' same grub ev'ry time th' cook 'ud find it out an' pizen it.'
"This goes on 'bout two days, with them men gittin' madder 'n' madder ev'ry minnit. Cap'n is mos' gone crazy, an' th' things Wash Biler says he's goin' t' do is enough t' freeze yer blood. Final this Wash Biler gits a idee. As soon's his work is done he gits about fifty foot of rope an' makes a runnin' noose into th' end of it. Then he gits out on deck an' sets up a mark. What does he do all day then but stan' there an' heave that there line at th' mark, tryin' t' catch it into th' noose. Next day he does th' same, an' 'long 'bout evenin' he's got so's he ketches th' mark mos' ev'ry time.
"Beginnin' t' look kinda satisfied, he coils up his rope onto his arm an' gits a hunk of coal. Knowin' th' dawg considers coal a insult, Wash Biler stands near t' th' shrouds an' hurls his missel at th' purp. Without waitin' t' see th' result, he turns an' scuds up them ratlines like he's a monkey. Dawg he takes note of th' insult an' makes fer Wash Biler. When he sees th' enemy's escaped, dawg sets down an' waits. 'Pears that's jus' what Biler's achin' fer. He draws out a big noose in his rope an' coils th' rest into a neat little coil. Actually he grins as he looks at th' dawg. Then he begins swingin' th' noose aroun' his head.
"Big Foot suddin wakes up that somethin's goin' on that ain't good fer his aims t' be a passenger, an' he makes a jump fer th' dawg, but it's too late. Wash Biler lets go his noose, an' sure enough it drops over th' dawg. Suddin an' strong Biler jerks, an' th' dawg is fast an' travellin' up through th' air like a new kind o' shootin'-star, splittin' th' atmosphere with yawps of startledness.
"Th' minnit that dawg is outen th' way they is a rush fer Big Foot, an' at least six men piles onto him 'fore he has time t' square aroun'. In two licks he's layin' on th' deck with th' hull crew hangin' onto him an' yellin' fer Wash Biler t' hang onto th' dawg.
" 'I got him,' says Biler, satisfied like. 'An' I'll hang him here till his skin's tanned t' leather, an' then I'll make a pair o' gloves outen him.'
"Big Foot he moans at them words.
" 'I loves that animile,' he says, pitiful.
"Cap'n orders th' men t' stan' th' passenger up, whereat he walks up an knocks him down. He does this repeated, till he's tired an' th' keen end of th' fun's wore off. Then he says:
" 'You, Big Foot, I'll give you a new job. It ain't been th' custom t' swab this here deck regular. In fact that there pleasin' function is did so infrequent I fail t' rec'lect th' last time it happens. They's goin' t' be a change. You kin have th' job of scrubbin' from here t' Duluth.'
"Big Foot is furnished with a pail an' a scrubbin'-brush an' put to work. Now an' agin he looks up pitiful at th' dawg, which is lookin' pitiful down at him. Then he goes t' scrubbin' an' drippin' tears all over th' deck. Fer two hull days he scrubs an' scrubs an' scrubs without a word. At las', his face wearin' a look that would make a piece of crape a joyful sight if they was put next to each other, he gazes up at th' dawg an' says:
" 'Dawg, I guess you an' me ain't never goin' t' git t' be no passengers.'
" 'Nope,' says Cap'n Swiggs, as he gently kicks Big Foot. 'I'm inclinin' toward that there belief myself.' "