What the baggageman did not know, and what Peterson did know, was that of these thirty-five dogs not one was a surviving original of the troupe when it first started out four years before. Nor had there been any originals discarded. The only way they left the troupe and its cages was by dying. Nor did Michael know even as little as the baggageman knew. He knew nothing save that here reigned pain and woe and that it seemed he was destined to share the same fate.
Into the midst of them, when with more howlings and yelpings they were loaded into the baggage car, was Michael's cage piled. And for a day and a part of two nights, travelling eastward, he remained in the dog inferno. Then they were loaded off in some large city, and Michael continued on in greater quietness and comfort, although his injured foot still hurt and was bruised afresh whenever his crate was moved about in the car.
What it was all about--why he was kept in his cramped prison in the cramped car--he did not ask himself. He accepted it as unhappiness and misery, and had no more explanation for it than for the crushing of the paw. Such things happened. It was life, and life had many evils. The WHY of things never entered his head. He knew THINGS and some small bit of the HOW of things. What was, WAS. Water was wet, fire hot, iron hard, meat good. He accepted such things as he accepted the everlasting miracles of the light and of the dark, which were no miracles to him any more than was his wire coat a miracle, or his beating heart, or his thinking brain.
In Chicago, he was loaded upon a track, carted through the roaring streets of the vast city, and put into another baggage-car which was quickly in motion in continuation of the eastward journey. It meant more strange men who handled baggage, as it meant in New York, where, from railroad baggage-room to express wagon he was exchanged, for ever a crated prisoner and dispatched to one, Harris Collins, on Long Island.
First of all came Harris Collins and the animal hell over which he ruled. But the second event must be stated first. Michael never saw Harry Del Mar again. As the other men he had known had stepped out of life, which was a way they had, so Harry Del Mar stepped out of Michael's purview of life as well as out of life itself. And his stepping out was literal. A collision on the elevated, a panic scramble of the uninjured out upon the trestle over the street, a step on the third rail, and Harry Del Mar was engulfed in the Nothingness which men know as death and which is nothingness in so far as such engulfed ones never reappear nor walk the ways of life again.
Harris Collins was fifty-two years of age. He was slender and dapper, and in appearance and comportment was so sweet- and gentle-spirited that the impression he radiated was almost of sissyness. He might have taught a Sunday-school, presided over a girls' seminary, or been a president of a humane society.
His complexion was pink and white, his hands were as soft as the hands of his daughters, and he weighed a hundred and twelve pounds. Moreover, he was afraid of his wife, afraid of a policeman, afraid of physical violence, and lived in constant dread of burglars. But the one thing he was not afraid of was wild animals of the most ferocious sorts, such as lions, tigers, leopards, and jaguars. He knew the game, and could conquer the most refractory lion with a broom-handle--not outside the cage, but inside and locked in.
It was because he knew the game and had learned it from his father before him, a man even smaller than himself and more fearful of all things except animals. This father, Noel Collins, had been a successful animal trainer in England, before emigrating to America, and in America he had continued the success and laid the foundation of the big animal training school at Cedarwild, which his son had developed and built up after him. So well had Harris Collins built on his father's foundation that the place was considered a model of sanitation and kindness. It entertained many visitors, who invariably went away with their souls filled with ecstasy over the atmosphere of sweetness and light that pervaded the place. Never, however, were they permitted to see the actual training. On occasion, performances were given them by the finished products which verified all their other delightful and charming conclusions about the school. But had they seen the training of raw novices, it would have been a different story. It might even have been a riot. As it was, the place was a zoo, and free at that; for, in addition to the animals he owned and trained and bought and sold, a large portion of the business was devoted to boarding trained animals and troupes of animals for owners who were out of engagements, or for estates of such owners which were in process of settlement. From mice and rats to camels and elephants, and even, on occasion, to a rhinoceros or a pair of hippopotamuses, he could supply any animal on demand.