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Jerry of the Islands Jack London

Chapter XVI

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"Nay," said Agno. "The white master's dog has broken the taboo. It must be eaten. Take any other dog and leave the pig. Take a big dog."

"I will have the white master's dog," Nalasu persisted. "Only the white master's dog and no other."

The matter was at a deadlock when Bashti chanced upon the scene and stood listening.

"Take the dog, Nalasu," he said finally. "It is a good pig, and I shall myself eat it."

"But he has broken the taboo, your great taboo of the laying-yard, and must go to the eating," Agno interposed quickly.

Too quickly, Bashti thought, while a vague suspicion arose in his mind of he knew not what.

"The taboo must be paid in blood and cooking," Agno continued.

"Very well," said Bashti. "I shall eat the small pig. Let its throat be cut and its body know the fire."

"I but speak the law of the taboo. Life must pay for the breaking."

"There is another law," Bashti grinned. "Long has it been since ever Somo built these walls that life may buy life."

"But of life of man and life of woman," Agno qualified.

"I know the law," Bashti held steadily on. "Somo made the law. Never has it been said that animal life may not buy animal life."

"It has never been practised," was the devil devil doctor's fling.

"And for reason enough," the old chief retorted. "Never before has a man been fool enough to give a pig for a dog. It is a young pig, and it is fat and tender. Take the dog, Nalasu. Take the dog now."

But the devil devil doctor was not satisfied.

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"As you said, O Bashti, in your very great wisdom, he is the seed dog of strength and courage. Let him be slain. When he comes from the fire, his body shall be divided into many small pieces so that every man may eat of him and thereby get his portion of strength and courage. Better is it for Somo that its men be strong and brave rather than its dogs."

But Bashti held no anger against Jerry. He had lived too long and too philosophically to lay blame on a dog for breaking a taboo which it did not know. Of course, dogs often were slain for breaking the taboos. But he allowed this to be done because the dogs themselves in nowise interested him, and because their deaths emphasized the sacredness of the taboo. Further, Jerry had more than slightly interested him. Often, since, Jerry had attacked him because of Van Horn's head, he had pondered the incident. Baffling as it was, as all manifestations of life were baffling, it had given him food for thought. Then there was his admiration for Jerry's courage and that inexplicable something in him that prevented him crying out from the pain of the stick. And, without thinking of it as beauty, the beauty of line and colour of Jerry had insensibly penetrated him with a sense of pleasantness. It was good to look upon.

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Jerry of the Islands
Jack London

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