Michael was no coward. He did not slink behind the man for protection. On the other hand, he was too sensible to rush to attack such formidable creatures. What he did do, with bristling neck-hair, was to stalk stiff-leggedly across the cage, turn about with his face toward the danger, and stalk stiffly back, coming to a pause alongside of Jack, who gave him a good-natured sniff of greeting.
"He's the stuff," the trainer muttered in a curiously tense voice. "They don't get his goat."
The situation was deservedly tense, and Ralph developed it with cautious care, making no abrupt movements, his eyes playing everywhere over dogs and leopards and the men outside with the prods and bars. He made the savage cats come out of their crouch and separate from one another. At his word of command, Jack walked about among them. Michael, on his own initiative, followed. And, like Jack, he walked very stiffly on his guard and very circumspectly.
One of them, Alphonso, spat suddenly at him. He did not startle, though his hair rippled erect and he bared his fangs in a silent snarl. At the same moment the nearest iron bar was shoved in threateningly close to Alphonso, who shifted his yellow eyes from Michael to the bar and back again and did not strike out.
The first day was the hardest. After that the leopards accepted Michael as they accepted Jack. No love was lost on either side, nor were friendly overtures ever offered. Michael was quick to realize that it was the men and dogs against the cats and that the men and does must stand together. Each day he spent from an hour to two hours in the cage, watching the rehearsing, with nothing for him and Jack to do save stand vigilantly on guard. Sometimes, when the leopards seemed better natured, Ralph even encouraged the two dogs to lie down. But, on bad mornings, he saw to it that they were ever ready to spring in between him and any possible attack.
For the rest of the time Michael shared his large pen with Jack. They were well cared for, as were all animals at Cedarwild, receiving frequent scrubbings and being kept clean of vermin. For a dog only three years old, Jack was very sedate. Either he had never learned to play or had already forgotten how. On the other hand, he was sweet-tempered and equable, and he did not resent the early shows of crustiness which Michael made. And Michael quickly ceased from being crusty and took pleasure in their quiet companionship. There were no demonstrations. They were content to lie awake by the hour, merely pleasantly aware of each other's proximity.
Occasionally, Michael could hear Sara making a distant scene or sending out calls which he knew were for him. Once she got away from her keeper and located Michael coming out of the leopard cage. With a shrill squeal of joy she was upon him, clinging to him and chattering the hysterical tale of all her woes since they had been parted. The leopard man looked on tolerantly and let her have her few minutes. It was her keeper who tore her away in the end, cling as she would to Michael, screaming all the while like a harridan. When her hold was broken, she sprang at the man in a fury, and, before he could throttle her to subjection, sank her teeth into his thumb and wrist. All of which was provocative of great hilarity to the onlookers, while her squalls and cries excited the leopards to spitting and leaping against their bars. And, as she was borne away, she set up a soft wailing like that of a heart-broken child.
Although Michael proved a success with the leopards, Raoul Castlemon never bought him from Collins. One morning, several days later, the arena was vexed by uproar and commotion from the animal cages. The excitement, starting with revolver shots, was communicated everywhere. The various lions raised a great roaring, and the many dogs barked frantically. All tricks in the arena stopped, the animals temporarily unstrung and unable to continue. Several men, among them Collins, ran in the direction of the cages. Sara's keeper dropped her chain in order to follow.