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A short story by Louis Becke

"Dandy," The Ship's Dingo

Title:     "Dandy," The Ship's Dingo
Author: Louis Becke [More Titles by Becke]

We anchored under Cape Bedford (North Queensland) one day, and the skipper and I went on shore to bathe in one of the native-made rocky water-holes near the Cape. We found a native police patrol camped there, and the officer asked us if we would like to have a dingo pup for a pet. His troopers had caught two of them the previous day. We said we should like to possess a dingo.

"Bring him here, Dandy," said the officer to one of his black troopers, and Dandy, with a grin on his sooty face, brought to us a lanky-legged pup about three months old. Its colour was a dirty yellowish red, but it gave promise of turning out a dog--of a kind. The captain put out his hand to stroke it, and as quick as lightning it closed its fang-like teeth upon his thumb. With a bull-like bellow of rage, the skipper was about to hurl the savage little beast over the cliffs into the sea, when I stayed his hand.

"He'll make a bully ship-dog," I urged, "just the right kind of pup to chivvy the niggers over the side when we get to the Louisiades and Solomons. Please don't choke the little beggar, Ross. 'Twas only fear, not rage, that made him go for you."

We made a temporary muzzle from a bit of fishing line; bade the officer good-bye, and went off to the ship.

We were nearly a month beating up to the Solomons, and in that time we gained some knowledge of Dandy's character. (We named him after the black trooper.) He was fawningly, sneakingly, offensively affectionate--when he was hungry, which was nearly always; as ferocious and as spiteful as a tiger cat when his stomach was full; then, with a snarling yelp, he would put his tail beneath his legs and trot for'ard, turning his head and showing his teeth. Crawling under the barrel of the windlass he would lie there and go to sleep, only opening his eyes now and then to roll them about vindictively when any one passed by. Then when he was hungry again, he would crawl out and slouch aft with a "please-do-be-kind-to-a-poor-dog" expression on his treacherous face. Twice when we were sailing close to the land he jumped overboard, and made for the shore, though he couldn't swim very well and only went round and round in circles. On each occasion a native sailor jumped over after him and brought him back, and each time he bit his rescuer.

"Never mind him, sir," said the mate to Ross one day, when the angry skipper fired three shots at Dandy for killing the ship's cat--missed him and nearly killed the steward, who had put his head out of the galley door to see the fun--"there's money in that dog. I wouldn't mind bettin' half-a-sov that Charley Nyberg, the trader on Santa Anna, will give five pounds for him. He'll go for every nigger he's sooled on to. You mark my words."

In the fore-hold we had a hundred tons of coal destined for one of H.M. cruisers then surveying in the Solomon Group. We put Dandy down there to catch rats, and gave him nothing but water. Here he showed his blood. We could hear the scraping about of coal, and the screams of the captured rodents, as Dandy tore round the hold after them. In three days there were no more rats left, and Dandy began to utter his weird, blood-curdling howls--he wanted to come on deck. We lashed him down under the force pump, and gave him a thorough wash-down. He shook himself, showed his teeth at us and tore off to the galley in search of food. The cook gave him a large tinful of rancid fat, which was at once devoured, then he fled to his retreat under the windlass, and began to growl and moan. By-and-by we made Santa Anna.

Charley Nyberg, after he had tried the dog by setting him on to two Solomon Island "bucks" who were loafing around his house, and seen how the beast could bite, said he would give us thirteen dollars and a fat hog for him. We agreed, and Dandy was taken on shore and chained up outside the cook-house to keep away thieving natives.

About nine o'clock that evening, as the skipper and I were sitting on deck, we heard a fearful yell from Charley's house--a few hundred yards away from where we were anchored. The yell was followed by a wild clamour from many hundreds of native throats, and we saw several scores of people rushing towards the trader's dwelling. Then came the sound of two shots in quick succession.

"Haul the boat alongside," roared our skipper, "there's mischief going on on shore."

In a minute we, with the boat's crew, had seized our arms, tumbled into the boat and were racing for the beach.

Jumping out, we tore to the house. It seemed pretty quiet. Charley was in his sitting-room, binding up his wife's hand, and smoking in an unconcerned sort of a way.

"What is wrong, Charley?" we asked.

"That infernal mongrel of yours nearly bit my wife's hand off. Did it when she tried to stroke him. I soon settled him. If you go to the back you will see some native women preparing the brute for the oven. The niggers here like baked dog. Guess you fellows will have to give me back that thirteen dollars. But you can keep the hog."

So Dandy came to a just and fitting end.

[The end]
Louis Becke's short story: "Dandy," The Ship's Dingo