The Dark Dog's Story
Fancy then turned to the Dark Dog. Expectantly. The Dark Dog looked about the group and said "You are all friends of Fancy. You shall hear my story."
He turned to Fancy and began. "I, who you know as Dark Dog, was a business associate of your father, Cutlass. I met him on his first voyage to India and I liked him. He came to my warehouse soon after he arrived hoping to sell his goods at a better price than the buyers at the dock would offer. In truth, these thieves did not offer fair prices and he was happy to find a trustworthy merchant. His first shipload of goods had been well chosen and I had no trouble selling them or finding honest buyers for them if they were items that I could not easily handle.
"We worked out an arrangement that benefited both of us. While others offered him shoddy goods or common goods at high prices, I could show him goods of value and taste that were produced in India that I thought he might like. Your father examined them, questioned me and others and made a selection of goods that he wished. I then purchased them for him when they became available at reasonable prices and stored them in my warehouses until his next voyage. I of course, helped him provision his ship whenever he arrived. On the other hand, I told him what sort of barbarian goods were most in demand in India and he tried to supply them in his cargos. I bought his goods and sold them to merchants throughout India. This exchange was most profitable for both of us.
"He and his wife were often welcome guests in my home. I and my wife spent many pleasant hours talking with them in the gardens of our compound. We had built our home on the hill just above the port city where my warehouses are so that we got the sea breeze and were away from much of the filth and disease of the port.
"Your father was an honest man and a brave one. I owe him a good deal. Several years ago there was a insurrection in the port city where I live. There had been a long drought and then the monsoon came and brought heavy floods to the country side. Crops failed and rice and lentils had become dear and many of the poorer dogs found it difficult to feed their families. We are a diverse pack and many dogs in the port city do not hold my beliefs and look on my family and friends as strangers and believe that we treat them unfairly. Many there think of me and my friends as unbelievers and blame us for their sorrows.
"They think that because we have done well as merchants and traders that we have unfairly obtained our moneys at their expense. There were even those few who preached hate against us and called for our death or banishment from the port.
"One day when your father's ship was in port, riots started. I was not there, having taken a short sail down the coast to buy fabrics. Food stores were robbed and burned and rioters filled the streets looting and attacking all strangers. When I learned of the troubles and returned to the port, I could not reach my wife and children because of the mobs and fires around us. I and my crew had all we could do to protect ourselves, our dock, storehouse, and shops. The city watchdogs were too few to do more than stop the worst crimes.
"When finally the riots had stopped and I could reach home, I found that your father, knowing that I was gone, had taken some of his crew through the mobs, sabers in hand, and reached my home before the rioters could. He knew that there was little protection there for my family. The riotous dogs came with torches and threatened our compound but your father and his men patrolled it and kept them away. They saved my wife and children, at the risk of their lives. Foreign dogs were not popular with the rioters. I owe them much.
"As I mentioned, our exchange in goods was mutually profitable, and your father's last cargo was large and he realized much money. Your father had also done well on his last trip. He left most of the proceeds of his trading in my care. I arranged to invest it with honest bankers in our area as I had done with other sums he left in my care after previous trips. He left India, expecting to return after a short voyage to test trading opportunities in southern Africa.
"When your father did not return, we waited and finally I made inquiries with the traders who traveled his route. When we finally learned that your father and mother had died in a shipwreck, I was duty bound to deliver the wealth I held in trust to his heirs or family. He had told me of his daughter Fancy but nothing of other heirs.
"It was several years before I could convert his wealth into goods easily carried. I did this quietly for greedy officials and tax collectors are everywhere. For the same reasons I came to England with only the one servant and friend who you now know.
"I knew from many talks with your father that in England, women do not often take part in business. It seems a strange custom as women handle much trade in India and the neighboring countries, but when in foreign lands one must be resigned to the peculiar ways of the foreigner. I therefore decided to come to see who my friend's daughter had been given to, and to decide how best to provide your father's wealth to you, or to those who would keep it for you. I thought it best not to immediately introduce myself or my mission and, of course, to determine if there were other heirs.
"We took quarters in Hundsmuth, and making inquiries learned that you were at Hoarhound House. I also visited the warehouse of your father and found that the manager was an honest and provident man but was not your master.
"Recently, I heard of the attempts to kill you and determined to do my best to protect you, as your father had protected my family. We moved here to your village to do what we could. Either I or my servant tried to watch you when you left your home.
"A few days ago, Singlefoot came to me and asked me of my purposes here. To my surprise he spoke the language of my childhood. He explained that my surveillance was the cause of fear. I told him that I had been a business associate of your father, and that I had some confidential business to do with you or your master. I was at first, as you would expect, somewhat suspicious of his intentions, so I told him little more.
"I questioned Singlefoot about you at length and about himself and the problems that you are having. Singlefoot explained that you could indeed hold and keep property and we arranged that I should soon meet with you and allow me to conclude my task. I learned that he held you in great affection. I had, earlier made enquiries about him, as I knew he spent much time with you. He was spoken of with respect and honor. Finally, I decided that he was trustworthy and told him something more of my mission. He then came to see you to explain about me, but you were already missing. I rejoice that you are well."
Fancy was greatly astonished by these tales but was beginning to tire, and Crossbark severely ordered her back to bed. She complied but before leaving she arranged for a private dinner with her rescuers at Hoarhound House the coming weekend.
All accepted but before they left, Fancy asked Singlefoot to stay a moment. She then asked him to come visit her the next morning.