First Page Project Gutenberg Header Page 173 of 193 Next Page Last Page CHAPTER XXXIV - Michael, Brother of Jerry


It was in the Orpheum Theatre, of Oakland, California; and Harley Kennan was in the act of reaching under his seat for his hat, when his wife said:

"Why, this isn't the interval. There's one more turn yet."

"A dog turn," he answered, and thereby explained; for it was his practice to leave a theatre during the period of the performance of an animal-act.

Villa Kennan glanced hastily at the programme.

"Of course," she said, then added: "But it's a singing dog. A dog Caruso. And it points out that there is no one on the stage with the dog. Let us stay for once, and see how he compares with Jerry."

"Some poor brute tormented into howling," Harley grumbled.

"But it has the stage to itself," Villa urged. "Besides, if it is painful, then we can go out. I'll go out with you. But I just would like to see how much better Jerry sings than does he. And it says an Irish terrier, too."

So Harley Kennan remained. The two burnt-cork comedians finished their turn and their three encores, and the curtain behind them went up on a full set of an empty stage. A rough-coated Irish terrier entered at a sedate walk, sedately walked forward to the centre, nearly to the footlights, and faced the leader of the orchestra. As the programme had stated, he had the stage to himself.

The orchestra played the opening strains of "Sweet Bye and Bye." The dog yawned and sat down. But the orchestra was thoroughly instructed to play the opening strains over and over, until the dog responded, and then to follow on with him. By the third time, the dog opened his mouth and began. It was not a mere howling. For that matter, it was too mellow to be classified as a howl at all. Nor was it merely rhythmic. The notes the dog sang were of the air, and they were correct.

But Villa Kennan scarcely heard.

"He has Jerry beaten a mile," Harley muttered to her.

"Listen," she replied, in tense whispers. "Did you ever see that dog before?"

Harley shook his head.

"You have seen him before," she insisted. "Look at that crinkled ear. Think! Think back! Remember!"

Still her husband shook his head.

"Remember the Solomons," she pressed. "Remember the _Ariel_. Remember when we came back from Malaita, where we picked Jerry up, to Tulagi, that he had a brother there, a nigger-chaser on a schooner."

"And his name was Michael--go on."

"And he had that self-same crinkled ear," she hurried. "And he was rough- coated. And he was full brother to Jerry. And their father and mother were Terrence and Biddy of Meringe. And Jerry is our Sing Song Silly. And this dog sings. And he has a crinkled ear. And his name is Michael."

"Impossible," said Harley.

"It is when the impossible comes true that life proves worth while," she retorted. "And this is one of those worth-whiles of impossibles. I know it." Next Page

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"The ear tends to be lazy, craves the familiar and is shocked by the unexpected; the eye, on the other hand, tends to be impatient, craves the novel and is bored by repetition."
Wystan Hugh Auden