First Page Project Gutenberg Header Page 161 of 193 Next Page Last Page CHAPTER XXXII - Michael, Brother of Jerry

And yet Michael was a prisoner, a life-prisoner. Fed well, bathed well, exercised well, he never knew a moment of freedom. When travelling, days and nights he spent in the cage, which, however, was generous enough to allow him to stand at full height and to turn around without too uncomfortable squirming. Sometimes, in hotels in country towns, out of the crate he shared Henderson's room with him. Otherwise, unless other animals were hewing on the same circuit time, he had, outside his cage, the freedom of the animal room attached to the particular theatre where he performed for from three days to a week.

But there was never a chance, never a moment, when he might run free of a cage about him, of the walls of a room restricting him, of a chain shackled to the collar about his throat. In good weather, in the afternoons, Henderson often took him for a walk. But always it was at the end of a chain. And almost always the way led to some park, where Henderson fastened the other end of the chain to the bench on which he sat and browsed Swedenborg. Not one act of free agency was left to Michael. Other dogs ran free, playing with one another, or behaving bellicosely. If they approached him for purposes of investigation or acquaintance, Henderson invariably ceased from his reading long enough to drive them away.

A life prisoner to a lifeless gaoler, life was all grey to Michael. His moroseness changed to a deep-seated melancholy. He ceased to be interested in life and in the freedom of life. Not that he regarded the play of life about him with a jaundiced eye, but, rather, that his eyes became unseeing. Debarred from life, he ignored life. He permitted himself to become a sheer puppet slave, eating, taking his baths, travelling in his cage, performing regularly, and sleeping much.

He had pride--the pride of the thoroughbred; the pride of the North American Indian enslaved on the plantations of the West Indies who died uncomplaining and unbroken. So Michael. He submitted to the cage and the iron of the chain because they were too strong for his muscles and teeth. He did his slave-task of performance and rendered obedience to Jacob Henderson; but he neither loved nor feared that master. And because of this his spirit turned in on itself. He slept much, brooded much, and suffered unprotestingly a great loneliness. Had Henderson made a bid for his heart, he would surely have responded; but Henderson had a heart only for the fantastic mental gyrations of Swedenborg, and merely made his living out of Michael.

Sometimes there were hardships. Michael accepted them. Especially hard did he find railroad travel in winter-time, when, on occasion, fresh from the last night's performance in a town, he remained for hours in his crate on a truck waiting for the train that would take him to the next town of performance. There was a night on a station platform in Minnesota, when two dogs of a troupe, on the next truck to his, froze to death. He was himself well frosted, and the cold bit abominably into his shoulder wounded by the leopard; but a better constitution and better general care of him enabled him to survive. Next Page

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"What quarrel, what harshness, what unbelief in each other can subsist in the presence of a great calamity, when all the artificial vesture of our life is gone, and we are all one with each other in primitive mortal needs?"
George Eliot