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Not a dozen feet away another Shetland, a coal-black one, was behaving as peculiarly as it was being treated. Ropes were attached to its forelegs, each rope held by an assistant, who jerked on the same stoutly when a third man, standing in front of the pony, tapped it on the knees with a short, stiff whip of rattan. Whereupon the pony went down on its knees in the sawdust in a genuflection to the man with the whip. The pony did not like it, sometimes so successfully resisting with spread, taut legs and mutinous head-tossings, as to overcome the jerk of the ropes, and, at the same time wheeling, to fall heavily on its side or to uprear as the pull on the ropes was relaxed. But always it was lined up again to face the man who rapped its knees with the rattan. It was being taught merely how to kneel in the way that is ever a delight to the audiences who see only the results of the schooling and never dream of the manner of the schooling. For, as Michael was quickly sensing, knowledge was here learned by pain. In short, this was the college of pain, this Cedarwild Animal School.
Harris Collins himself nodded the dark youth-god up to him, and turned an inquiring and estimating gaze on Michael.
"The Del Mar dog, sir," said the youth-god.
Collins's eyes brightened, and he looked Michael over more carefully.
"Do you know what he can do?" he queried.
The youth shook his head.
"Harry was a keen one," Collins went on, apparently to the youth-god but mostly for his own benefit, being given to thinking aloud. "He picked this dog as a winner. And now what can he do? That's the question. Poor Harry's gone, and we don't know what he can do.--Take off the chain."
Released Michael regarded the master-god and waited for what might happen. A squall of pain from one of the bears across the ring hinted to him what he might expect.
"Come here," Collins commanded in his cold, hard tones.
Michael came and stood before him.
Michael lay down, although he did it slowly, with advertised reluctance.
"Damned thoroughbred!" Collins sneered at him. "Won't put any pep into your motions, eh? Well, we'll take care of that.--Get up!--Lie down!--Get up!--Lie down!--Get up!"
His commands were staccato, like revolver shots or the cracks of whips, and Michael obeyed them in his same slow, reluctant way.
"Understands English, at any rate," said Collins.
"Wonder if he can turn the double flip," he added, expressing the golden dream of all dog-trainers. "Come on, we'll try him for a flip. Put the chain on him. Come over here, Jimmy. Put another lead on him."
Another reform-school graduate youth obeyed, snapping a girth about Michael's loins, to which was attached a thin rope.
"Line him up," Collins commanded. "Ready?--Go!"
And the most amazing, astounding indignity was wreaked upon Michael. At the word "Go!", simultaneously, the chain on his collar jerked him up and back in the air, the rope on his hindquarters jerked that portion of him under, forward, and up, and the still short stick in Collins's hand hit him under the lower jaw. Had he had any previous experience with the manoeuvre, he would have saved himself part of the pain at least by springing and whirling backward in the air. As it was, he felt as if being torn and wrenched apart while at the same time the blow under his jaw stung him and almost dazed him. And, at the same time, whirled violently into the air, he fell on the back of his head in the sawdust.