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It was quick, rough bathing. Reaching out for the dogs nearest him, he flung them in turn into the tub from which they had drunk. When they were frightened, or when they objected in any way, he rapped them on the head with the scrubbing brush or the bar of yellow laundry soap with which he was lathering them. Several minutes sufficed for a dog.
"Drink, damn you, drink--have some more," he would say, as he shoved their heads down and under the dirty, soapy water.
He seemed to hold them responsible for their horrible condition, to look upon their filthiness as a personal affront.
Michael yielded to being flung into the tub. He recognized that baths were necessary and compulsory, although they were administered in much better fashion at Cedarwild, while Kwaque and Steward had made a sort of love function of it when they bathed him. So he did his best to endure the scrubbing, and all might have been well had not Davis soused him under. Michael jerked his head up with a warning growl. Davis suspended half-way the blow he was delivering with the heavy brush, and emitted a low whistle of surprise.
"Hello!" he said. "And look who's here!--Lovey, this is the Irish terrier I got from Collins. He's no good. Collins said so. Just a fill- in.--Get out!" he commanded Michael. "That's all you get now, Mr. Fresh Dog. But take it from me pretty soon you'll be getting it fast enough to make you dizzy."
While the potatoes were cooling, Mrs. Davis kept the hungry dogs warned away by sharp cries. Michael lay down sullenly to one side, and took no part in the rush for the trough when permission was given. Again Davis danced among them, kicking away the stronger and the more eager.
"If they get to fighting after all we've done for them, kick in their ribs, lovey," he told his wife.
"There! You would, would you?"--this to a large black dog, accompanied by a savage kick in the side. The animal yelped its pain as it fled away, and, from a safe distance, looked on piteously at the steaming food.
"Well, after this they can't say I don't never give my dogs a bath," Davis remarked from the sink, where he was rinsing his arms. "What d'ye say we call it a day's work, my dear?" Mrs. Davis nodded agreement. "We can rehearse them to-morrow and next day. That will be plenty of time. I'll run in to-night and boil them some bran. They'll need an extra meal after fasting two days."
The potatoes finished, the dogs were put back in their cages for another twenty-four hours of close confinement. Water was poured into their drinking-tins, and, in the evening, still in their cages, they were served liberally with boiled bran and dog-biscuit. This was Michael's first food, for he had sulkily refused to go near the potatoes.
* * * * *
The rehearsing took place on the stage, and for Michael trouble came at the very start. The drop-curtain was supposed to go up and reveal the twenty dogs seated on chairs in a semi-circle. Because, while they were being thus arranged, the preceding turn was taking place in front of the drop-curtain, it was imperative that rigid silence should be kept. Next, when the curtain rose on full stage, the dogs were trained to make a great barking.