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Michael left the _Makambo_ as he had come on board, through a port-hole. Likewise, the affair occurred at night, and it was Kwaque's hands that received him. It had been quick work, and daring, in the dark of early evening. From the boat-deck, with a bowline under Kwaque's arms and a turn of the rope around a pin, Dag Daughtry had lowered his leprous servitor into the waiting launch.
On his way below, he encountered Captain Duncan, who saw fit to warn him:
"No shannigan with Killeny Boy, Steward. He must go back to Tulagi with us."
"Yes, sir," the steward agreed. "An' I'm keepin' him tight in my room to make safe. Want to see him, sir?"
The very frankness of the invitation made the captain suspicious, and the thought flashed through his mind that perhaps Killeny Boy was already hidden ashore somewhere by the dog-stealing steward.
"Yes, indeed I'd like to say how-do-you-do to him," Captain Duncan answered.
And his was genuine surprise, on entering the steward's room, to behold Michael just rousing from his curled-up sleep on the floor. But when he left, his surprise would have been shocking could he have seen through the closed door what immediately began to take place. Out through the open port-hole, in a steady stream, Daughtry was passing the contents of the room. Everything went that belonged to him, including the turtle- shell and the photographs and calendars on the wall. Michael, with the command of silence laid upon him, went last. Remained only a sea-chest and two suit-cases, themselves too large for the port-hole but bare of contents.
When Daughtry sauntered along the main deck a few minutes later and paused for a gossip with the customs officer and a quartermaster at the head of the gang-plank, Captain Duncan little dreamed that his casual glance was resting on his steward for the last time. He watched him go down the gang-plank empty-handed, with no dog at his heels, and stroll off along the wharf under the electric lights.
Ten minutes after Captain Duncan saw the last of his broad back, Daughtry, in the launch with his belongings and heading for Jackson Bay, was hunched over Michael and caressing him, while Kwaque, crooning with joy under his breath that he was with all that was precious to him in the world, felt once again in the side-pocket of his flimsy coat to make sure that his beloved jews' harp had not been left behind.
Dag Daughtry was paying for Michael, and paying well. Among other things, he had not cared to arouse suspicion by drawing his wages from Burns Philp. The twenty pounds due him he had abandoned, and this was the very sum, that night on the beach at Tulagi, he had decided he could realize from the sale of Michael. He had stolen him to sell. He was paying for him the sales price that had tempted him.
For, as one has well said: the horse abases the base, ennobles the noble. Likewise the dog. The theft of a dog to sell for a price had been the abasement worked by Michael on Dag Daughtry. To pay the price out of sheer heart-love that could recognize no price too great to pay, had been the ennoblement of Dag Daughtry which Michael had worked. And as the launch chug-chugged across the quiet harbour under the southern stars, Dag Daughtry would have risked and tossed his life into the bargain in a battle to continue to have and to hold the dog he had originally conceived of as being interchangeable for so many dozens of beer.