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Title: Side Show Studies
Author: Metcalfe, Francis
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Side Show Studies" ***

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               SIDE SHOW


            BY OLIVER HERFORD_

                NEW YORK

 Copyright, 1905 and 1906, by

 First impression, March, 1906






 THE AMOROUS BABOON                                             45





 KALSOMINING AN ELEPHANT                                       163





Madame Morelli, the pretty little Frenchwoman who makes a half-score of
leopards, panthers and jaguars do things which nature never intended
them to do, had finished her act and driven the snarling performers
through the narrow runway to their separate cages, fastening each one,
as she thought, securely. Two French clowns were filling in the time and
making the audience of Coney Island pleasure seekers laugh by their
antics with a performing dog, while the stage hands were bringing in the
properties for the next trained animal act, when the Proprietor came
from behind the scenes and strolled, apparently unconcerned, to the back
of the Arena, where he could command a clear view of the performance,
the audience and the cages. He said a few words to each of the trainers
and keepers whom he passed, and the Stranger, who knew the clock-like
regularity with which each one of them went through his allotted duties,
noticed an unwonted haste and suppressed excitement among them.

As he joined the Proprietor the sound of hammering mingled with the
noise of the blatant brass band and the cries of the ballyhoo spielers
for the other Dreamland attractions, which came in through the open
windows, and he saw that Stevenson, the mild eyed quiet man who is
always on hand to rescue imperiled trainers and keepers when their own
carelessness, or unexpected revolt on the part of the animals, leads to
a fight, was rapidly nailing boards over the ventilating spaces above
the cages. Madam Morelli, whip and training rod in hand, hurried from
her dressing room to the runway, and every keeper and trainer seemed to
be loitering in the space between the leopards' den and the audience.

He looked at the Proprietor inquiringly, but the little trickle of
blood which ran down his cheek from under his cap answered the question
he would have asked, an animal was loose and the Proprietor had
encountered it in his rounds. A crash of weird music from the band
drowned the sound of a cracking whip and sharp commands which came from
the runway, and announced the appearance of Brandu, the snake charmer,
in the exhibition cage, and the audience watched him play with a cobra,
all unconscious that Franz, the jaguar, which a few minutes before had
desisted from his attempt to tear the fair shoulders of Morelli only
after a dozen blank cartridges had been fired in his face, was a
gentleman-at-large in Dreamland. The Proprietor gave a sigh of relief as
the jaguar backed into his cage from the runway, snarling and striking
at the little woman who forced him backward with the whip until she was
able to slam the door and make him once more a prisoner. When she passed
them on her way back to the dressing-room, her dress was torn, and her
eyes were flashing from the excitement of the encounter and anger at the
carelessness of the carpenter who had left a board loose at the top of
the den.

[Illustration: _The table in front of the Arena._]

"Of course, that might have been a serious thing for the jaguar and for
my pocket book," said the Proprietor as three deep scratches in his head
were being plastered up. "I couldn't afford to take any chances of an
accident, and he would have been shot if he had attempted to come
through a ventilator into the Arena, but a trained animal like that is
worth a goodish bit of money. He let me know he was loose by giving me
his love pat when I was walking through the runway, and as Morelli is
the only one who can do anything with him I sent for her. She can whip
considerably more than her own weight in wild-cats, and there was not
the slightest danger to the audience, but not many men would have
relished her task of going into that passage with the beast loose on top
of the cages." He negatived the Press Agent's suggestion to make a
scare-head story of the escape for the papers, and suggested that they
should go up and hear Madam Morelli's account of it. She was sitting on
the edge of her bed, mending a rip which the jaguar's sharp claws had
made in her gown, and she shrugged her shoulders when the Stranger
inquired if she had been hurt.

[Illustration: _Two French clowns and a performing dog._]

"It was nothing," she said laughing. "He jumped at me from the top of a
cage when I came in, but I beat him off and whipped him back into his
cage. It was only the close quarters which made it bad, for I am used to
fighting them." She was interrupted by a yapping and caterwauling in the
doorway, and sprang on the bed, her face white with terror, as a small
terrier and the menagerie cat rolled into the room in a clawing, biting
mix-up. The terrier was raising a litter of puppies in the next room,
and the cat had transformed the space back of Morelli's bed into a
feline nursery, and a meeting of the two anxious mothers in the hall had
led to trouble. Madam Morelli always goes through her performance in an
evening dress, and she stood on the bed, her long train gathered closely
about her, trembling like a leaf, when the Proprietor finally separated
the combatants and restored peace.

"You wouldn't think that a woman who had just come from a fight with a
two hundred pound jaguar, which could easily tear her to pieces, would
be scared at a scrap between a toy terrier and a mongrel cat," said the
Proprietor, laughing, as he led the way to the café table. "But she
makes a specialty of the larger species."

"This matter of specialties seems to run through every branch of the
show business," said the Press Agent as they took their seats at the
table. "I ran a dime museum in St. Louis a few years ago--in those days
there was lots of money in it--and the freaks would never stand for any
change in their billing. We used to have a fresh lot sent on by our New
York agent every two weeks, and one Monday morning when I went down to
look over the new arrivals, I knew that he had been up against the demon
Rum, when he engaged such a tough looking bunch. The alleged fat woman
looked as if she was wasting away with consumption, and the bearded lady
had a way of absentmindedly humming the popular airs in a bass voice
which gave the whole snap away. There was one likely looking girl and
when I asked her what she was she told me she was the web-footed lady
and showed me her feet, which had little pieces of skin growing between
the toes.

"I knew that wasn't good enough, so I told her she was mistaken; that
she was a Circassian beauty, and I gave her a wig and the fixings and
put her on the platform. But say, would you believe it? She was so mad
and embarrassed by the change in her stunt that when the lecturer was
calling attention to her blond beauty, she would blush until she looked
like an Indian Princess, and every time he turned his back she would
take off her shoes and wiggle her toes at the audience to show what she
really was.

[Illustration: _"Things which Nature never intended them to do."_]

"It was up to us to get some real attraction to tide over the time until
our agent should get sober and send us another bunch of freaks, so
Merritt, who was my partner, and myself hunted up a big buck nigger and
made a deal with him to go on as a 'Wild Man.' We ripped up a hair
mattress and glued the contents onto him, and wired a couple of big
tusks to his teeth, and with an iron collar around his neck and a log
chain around his waist he was as good an imitation as was ever faked. We
put him in a big cage which we had used the week before for a mangy old
lion; one of the five hundred or so 'Wallace the Untamables' which were
touring the country, and Merritt taught him to howl like a steam

"We called him 'Fuzzy Wuzzy, the Terrible Man-Eating Cannibal,' which
was a waste of words, but Merritt had language to burn. He had got hold
of a phony five hundred dollar bill, and when he was giving his spiel
about how Fuzzy Wuzzy was captured upon a desert island, where he was
found chewing a human leg, and how he couldn't eat anything but raw
meat, and was always trying to get at his keeper for dessert, he would
wave his phony five hundred spot over his head and give it to 'em good.

"'Five hundred dollars, ladies and gents, I will give to any man who
will remain for the short space of two minutes in the cage with Fuzzy
Wuzzy! Five hundred dollars to any man who is brave enough to run the
risk of letting this terrible man-eating cannibal get his hinder limbs
about him, for then all would be lost and Fuzzy Wuzzy would fasten his
terrible fangs in his victim's throat and suck his ber-lud.'

"Well, it was a good spiel, all right, all right, and when Merritt
struck that part one of the supers would prod up old Fuzzy, who would
rattle his chains and howl for fair, and the audience would get cold
chills down their backs. We were playing to the S. R. O., and giving so
many shows a day that Merritt pretty nearly lost his voice, and Fuzzy
had been prodded so much that he had to take his meals standing up. We
ran 'em through pretty fast, and one afternoon Merritt was just going to
give the 'All out' signal, which cleared the exhibition hall for the
next performance, when up steps a big husky black roustabout from the
levee and commences to strip off his coat.

"'Jes' a minit, boss,' says he. 'Ah reckon ah needs dat five hundred in
mah bizness,' and Merritt looks at him in astonishment.

"'My deluded colored brother,' says he, 'Do you appreciate the fact that
you are going to a certain and horrible death? If this terrible Fuzzy
Wuzzy gets his hinder limbs about you he will suck your ber-lud.'

"'Ah doan reckon he'll git me, an' ah suttenly needs de money,' answers
the coon, and continues to strip, and Merritt sizes him up and sees the
finish of Fuzzy Wuzzy, who was shaking the bars and trying to get away
from the super who was prodding him; but everybody thought he was trying
to get at the coon to make a meal of him, and some of the women folks
were getting hysterics. One of the boys had put me wise, and I broke
through the crowd and called a halt in the proceedings.

"'Ladies and gentlemen,' says I, 'I didn't believe that a man existed
who was foolhardy enough to be tempted to certain death by the lure of
a paltry five hundred dollars. But although this man is so reckless of
his own life, I must insist that he get a permit from the mayor,
relieving us from all responsibility, before we allow him to be torn
limb from limb. Return to-morrow at two o'clock, and if this man's
courage still keeps up, you will see before your shuddering eyes an
encounter which will make the historical gladiatorial combats of ancient
Rome pale into insignificance.' I could sling a few language myself,
those days, and the mayor was a friend of mine--or I thought he was--so
I figured we could catch the suckers for an admission and then call it
off, because he would refuse a permit.

[Illustration: _"Blank cartridges fired in his face."_]

"But he was onto the game and he was one of those blame fools who
thought he had a sense of humor, so he gives him a document with a big
red seal on it which looks like a doctor's diploma, which says that
Thomas Jefferson is allowed to go in and win our five hundred, and the
next day the coon shows up smiling and ready, and I knew we had to make
good somehow. I passed the word to Merritt to delay the game and make a
last grand effort to throw a scare into the coon, and he put up a spiel
to beat the band.

"'This terrible Fuzzy Wuzzy has none of the attributes of a human
being,' says he. 'He lives upon raw meat and would prefer human flesh if
he could get it. Observe the expression of ghoulish glee in his eyes as
he regards the foolhardy man who will soon furnish him such a meal as he
formerly enjoyed in his native jungle. He sleeps at night suspended from
the top bars of his cage by his claw-like hands and feet, which will
soon be tearing the flesh of this man who stands before you now, a
picture of perfect health and strength. He speaks no intelligible
language, but he utters howls and yells, which will be more horrible
than ever before when he is sucking the warm heart's be-lud of the
figure which you see before you for the last time in human shape.' Just
then the super gives Fuzzy a prod and he howls like Balaam's ass, but
the coon stands there smiling and not feazed a bit.

"'It's a sad sight,' continues Merritt, 'to see a fine man in the prime
of life, like our colored brother here, crushed into an unrecognizable
mass by the terrible hinder limbs of this man-eating cannibal and then
torn to shreds by his horrible fangs. The management of this highly
moral and intellectual show will provide a funeral for the remains, if
there are any, and now, ladies and gents, I call upon you to witness
that we are not responsible for the terrible end which awaits this
reckless man.'

"I had taken the precaution to button up the box office 'take' in my
inside pocket, and while Merritt was making a bluff at looking for the
key to the cage door I looked around to see that there was a free exit,
for the coon was standing there swelling out his chest and grinning as
if he had the five hundred already in his jeans, and I knew he couldn't
be bluffed out. Just then a typical antebellum Missourian, one of the
kind that has to be shown, steps up in front. He was tanked up until his
safety valve would have blown off if it hadn't been wired down, but he
was pretty steady on his pins when he held onto the railing in front of
the cage.

[Illustration: _"Five hundred dollars to any one who will enter the

"'Professah,' says he, 'did I undahstand yo' all correctly to say that
this yeah object in the cage has none of the attributes of the human

"'Correct!' says Merritt, glad of an excuse to delay things. 'He is
lower than the beasts of the field.'

"'Well, he suttenly aint much to look at,' says the Southerner, looking
him over carefully. 'He won't eat like folks--he can't talk--an' he
sleeps like a bat. I dunno why such a pusillanimous critter should
cumber the yearth,' and with that he puts his hand to his hip and pulls
out a forty-five from under the tails of his coat. Fuzzy takes one look
at it, and it didn't need any prodding to make him holler, and he tries
to tear off the false tusks.

"'Foh Gawd's sake, mistah, doan shoot!' he yells. 'Dat white mahn's been
tellin' a passel ob lies about me until ah's sartain suah somefing gwine
fer to git me. Ah can eat an' talk like any one, an' mos' ebery one
knows me about yeah wen ah ain't got dese yeah contraptions on.'

"'Shut up, you blame fool!' says Merritt. 'He won't shoot you.'

"'Mebbe he knows dat, mebbe you knows dat; but how does I know dat?'
yells Fuzzy. 'Dat gun suttenly looks big to me.'

"About this time the other coon got wise and saw the five hundred
vanishing, and the last I saw of Merritt he was trying to break a
half-Nelson that the coon had got on him and dodge the rest of the crowd
at the same time. I left St. Louis on a freight that night, wearing a
few lumps where some stray brickbats landed, and the next time I saw
Merritt was in Chicago, and he was on crutches and had his head covered
with plaster."

No thunderbolt dropped from the blue dome over the Dreamland tower, and
the Proprietor, with a childlike and bland smile on his face, motioned
to the waiter to refill the glasses.



Like the pitcher which went to the well until it met the proverbial
fate, the trainer entered the lion's den once too often, and what
remained of him was placed in an ambulance and taken to the hospital.
After the performance for the evening was over, Baltimore, the bad lion,
who had suddenly developed a craving for human flesh, had been dealt
with by the Proprietor of the menagerie in a manner which would spoil
his appetite for many a day to come and make him remember that trainers
cannot be mangled with impunity.

Most of the lights were extinguished at Dreamland, but two men sat at
the table in front of the Arena with the Proprietor, discussing the
accident and listening to stories of former encounters which he
related. His own body bears the scars of many a battle with his savage
charges, but he has discontinued giving personal exhibitions with them
in the large cage, because his wife has developed a prejudice against
having him brought to her in fragments, and he has found that the
training of trainers is a far more difficult task than the education of
wild animals.

"Yes, any man who follows this business carries his life in his hands,"
he said in answer to a question from the Stranger within the gates. "You
helped to care for poor Bonavita to-night, after Baltimore finished with
him, so you know what a lion's jaws can do. I've seen 'em chewed up as
bad as that and get over it, but they never get quite the same again.
Leave the business? No; it is like the sea: a man who takes to it keeps
it up until the time comes when he doesn't recover, but after a bad
accident he usually takes another breed of animals.

"The worst sight I ever saw was about five years ago, when one of our
performing bears turned on its trainer and seized his arm. He worried
it as a terrier would a bone for a good twenty minutes before we could
drive him off, and the bear died from the punishment we gave him. The
man's arm isn't much use to him now, but he is crazy for me to give him
another group of animals to train, which I can't do because a man needs
two good pairs of limbs when he gets into the exhibition cage." He told
of many accidents which had happened to himself and his employees, most
of them through their own carelessness, born of constant association
with their charges who never miss the opportunity which the shortest
instant of forgetfulness gives them.

[Illustration: _"A constant procession of small animals moving down his

"I said that bear attack was the worst sight I ever saw, and it was; but
something happened here last year which impressed me more because it was
so mysterious. A friend of mine in Florida shipped me a box of rattlers,
which he wrote had been 'attended to,' and I supposed that their poison
fangs had been extracted. They were delivered just before the
performance started and I ripped a board off the box and stuck my hand
in, grabbing them one by one and throwing them into the den as if they
were garter snakes.

"The man who took care of the snakes was out on the ballyhoo, walking
around with the gander following him to advertise the show; and when he
came in he looked them over and found that each one had as pretty a pair
of fangs as you would wish to see. He told me about it and I confess
that it gave me a gone feeling in the pit of my stomach, for I
remembered how I had felt around for them in the box with my bare

"I am pretty busy while a performance is going on, so I told him to let
them alone until I had a chance to examine them. Ninety per cent. of the
accidents which occur in a menagerie comes from the disregard of
ordinary precautions or the disobedience of orders, and I had a
presentiment that something was going to happen and I was keeping an
extra vigilant eye on the performers in the big exhibition cage. Well,
it happened, all right; but not in the way that I expected.

"The snake man instead of getting back on the ballyhoo where he
belonged, stood around the snake cage, watching the new rattlers, and
along came a couple of gazabos who commenced talking about them. One of
them was the wise guy, who always knows about how the animals are doped
so they won't bite and all that other information which isn't so. He
commenced explaining how the snakes were harmless, because their teeth
had been pulled, and giving a lot of misinformation about them. The
snake man listened until he couldn't stand it any longer and then he
stuck his hand into the cage and grabbed one of the rattlers by the

"'Fangs pulled, eh?' says he, and he made the rattler open his mouth and
show a perfect pair of stingers. The wise guy took one look at them and
fled, and the snake man would have carried it off all right, only he was
so busy calling a few choice names after him that he placed the snake
back in the cage instead of throwing it in, and the rattler struck him
before he could draw his hand out. He had a clown make-up on, so I
couldn't tell whether he was pale or not when he came to me a few
minutes later and held out his hand, but there was a queer expression on
his face and I knew that my apprehensions had not been groundless.

"There were just two little red dots, no bigger than pin heads, on the
back of his hand.

"'You got it, didn't you?' says I.

"'Good and plenty,' says he. 'My arm hurts me already.'

"We got busy right away and took him up to the hospital where Bonavita
is now. Say, he was a very thin man and you can see that I'm no
lightweight; but by midnight the right side of his body and his right
arm and leg were swollen to my size, and in the morning all of the
swollen part was as black as a coal. He was suffering terribly, and I
tried to get hold of the Arab snake doctor but couldn't locate him, so I
wired to Rochester for Rattlesnake Pete. He came down and a mighty
interesting man he is, but he couldn't do anything which 'Doc' up at the
hospital hadn't done, and it was five days before my man was out of
danger. He was not a drinking man--I finished having drunkards around my
show a good many years ago--and the whiskey took right hold of him and
pulled him through. 'Doc' kept squirting some red stuff into his arm,
but it was the 'red-eye' which saved him--and that reminds me."

[Illustration: _"The wise guy."_]

He beckoned to the waiter and each one ordered his favorite antidote for
a possible snake bite.

"Did he return to the show?" asked the Stranger, after he had rendered
himself immune.

[Illustration: _Noah listens to the tale of a Johnstown flood

"He sure did; you couldn't keep him away, but he has never been fond of
snakes since. It is the same man whom you saw putting the group of
elephants through their paces to-night."

It was growing late, and the Proprietor announced that he was going to
show his wife a good husband and said good-night, but the Stranger
waited for the story which he saw was trembling upon his companion's
lips, and induced the sleepy waiter to bring a farewell dose of
snake-bite antidote. The man was unknown to him by name, but his
personality promised to be interesting, for his face spoke of good
living, the red of his complexion was evidently not entirely due to
exposure to the sun, and the little sacs under the eyes indicated that
he was apt to be the last of a convivial party to suggest breaking up.

He had listened to the Proprietor's stories with the same bored
expression which Noah might wear in hearing the experiences of a
survivor of the Johnstown flood, and he looked regretfully at the vacant
chair, now that his turn had come.

"Snakes!" he exclaimed with a contemptuous snort. "What does the boss
know about 'em? I used to own the only snake that was worth having. Ever
hear of 'Big Pete'?" The Stranger confessed his ignorance, and the
other settled back in his chair and lighted a fresh cigar.

"I'll tell you about him, then. You know that a snake is a queer
proposition in a menagerie. They get sore mouths--canker the fakirs
call it--and won't eat, and then, if you've got any investment in 'em
you want to get it out mighty quick, for they are no orchids. I was
pretty well on my uppers, after a bad season on the road, when a guy
named Merritt came to me and said he could get a fine snake cheap, and
he thought we might make some money out of him by showing him to the
Rubes at the county fairs.

"What I didn't know about snakes would have filled a book, but when I
saw this one I knew it was a bargain. It was the blamedest biggest snake
that ever gave a wriggle, and the only reason its owners had not made a
fortune was because it was never properly advertised. I used to know
just how much he weighed and how long he was, but my brain got so tired
figuring up the money we made out of him that I've had no memory for
figures since.

"Well, as I said, I was pretty hard up, but I had this sparkler left for
'fall money,' and when I saw that snake I pushed it over my uncle's
counter." He pointed to a large yellow diamond in his scarf, and the
Stranger tried to make a mental calculation of a pawnbroker's valuation
of it.

"Merritt managed to dig up some mazuma, and we chipped in fifty apiece
and became the proud possessors of Big Pete. If I had been wise to the
business I would have known there was something wrong to make him sell
so cheap, but we more than got our money back out of him the first week,
so we had no kick coming. The newspaper boys were good to us and gave us
a lot of space, and we were playing on velvet and had Pete besides. It
was such a cinch that Merritt, who looked after the snake while I did
the spieling and sold tickets on the front, commenced to get worried for
fear we should lose him.

"'Jim,' says he to me one morning when business was a little dull, 'I
believe there's something phony about the blame snake. He won't eat and
I've tempted him with the best I could get. I guess I'll run down to the
Bowery and get one of those snake sharps to come up and have a look at
him; I believe his teeth need filling.'

[Illustration: _"Just two little red dots on the back of his hand."_]

"I knew he was stuck on a girl that was doing a turn in a music hall
down that way, but business was dull, so I let him go without raising a
holler. The next day he comes back with a jaw-carpenter who claimed he
knew all about snakes and when he gets through looking at Pete's mouth
we felt pretty blue.

"'Canker!' says he. 'Your little snakelet may live a month.'

"Well, that put it up to us to get busy, so I did the spieling on the
outside until my voice gave out, and Merritt lied on the inside until he
was black in the face, telling the Rubes about how many sheep old Pete
swallowed every week. We had a lot of rabbits and doves with him in the
cage, hopping and flying around behind the thick glass front, and they
were real sociable with old Pete, who never batted an eye at 'em. At the
end of the month he was looking pretty thin and we were afraid he would
peg out any day. It was hard luck on us, for things were coming our way
and our bank rolls were getting good and plenty thick and they were all
'yellow boys,' from the case card to the wrapper. Our wads grew fatter
as Pete grew thinner, and we were looking for some easy mark to unload
him onto, when one morning Merritt comes running out, just as I was
staving off a farmer who had heard him lie and brought around a flock of
scabby sheep to sell to us for snake food.

"'Jim,' he yells, grabbing me by the shoulders and waltzing around like
a whirling dervish, 'we'll make Vanderbilt and Rockefeller look like
thirty cents; old Pete has swallowed every blame pigeon and rabbit in
the coop.'

"It seemed too good to be true, but when I went to have a look there was
not a feather nor a piece of fur to be seen and old Pete was examining
all the corners of the cage to see that he hadn't overlooked a bit. He
looked a whole lot better already, and Merritt and I began to discuss
what we should do with all our money.

"But say, there was one thing we forgot to reckon on--the appetite he
had been saving for about a year, and although the money came in faster
than ever, most of it went out to the rabbit men and pigeon fanciers.

"You know that when a snake swallows an animal you can see the bulge in
him for a long time, but you couldn't see any in old Pete. He was just
the same size all the way from his nose to the tip of his tail, for
there was no space between the animals.

"Things began to look pretty serious for us, for we had used up all the
available small live stock in the surrounding country, and the Rubes got
onto the fact that we were up against their game and raised the ante on
us for what was left. It's like taking candy from a child to sell a gold
brick to a farmer, but he everlastingly gets back at you if you have to
buy any of his produce. Hungry Joe and the man who invented the
green-goods game would be skinned to death if they had to buy a dozen
eggs from one of 'em.

"And all the time old Pete kept a constant procession of small animals
moving down his throat, regardless of expense, and if the supply ran
short he would look at Merritt so reproachfully that it made him feel so
bad he couldn't deliver his lecture for sobs. He worked the pathetic on
him, but if I came around there was no 'Only three grains of corn,
mother,' expression on his face; he would just rear up on his tail and
lambaste that glass trying to get at me. I had been living pretty well
during our prosperity and I guess I looked good to him, so rather than
have any hard feelings about it I stuck closer than ever to the front of
the house.

"We had rented a frame building in a little town up on the Hudson and
were showing him off in good form. Business was rushing and we had the
S. R. O. sign out all the time, but snake food was getting scarcer than
boiled lobsters during the cold snap last winter. The show had closed up
for night and we were trying to make dents in the front of the tavern
bar with our breast bones and laying in a stock of supplies, in case old
Pete should bite us.

"While we were discussing the best way to stimulate the rabbit-breeding
industry, 'biff--boom--bang,' went the town bell and the barkeep
commenced to peel off his coat and get into a red flannel shirt and a
fireman's helmet. It was one of those towns where they have a dude
volunteer fire department, which the boys all join for the socials in
the winter and to look pretty on the annual parade day. Merritt and I
didn't hurry any; we knew that it would take some time for the chief,
who kept the town drug store, to get into his red shirt and shiny boots
and select the bouquet to carry in the big end of his speaking trumpet.
Pretty soon, 'Always Ready, Ever Faithful, Hose Company Number One,'
which comprised the department, came down the street, all of the company
shouting orders through trumpets at the two coons who were pulling the

"Of course, we went along to see the 'Fighting the Flames' show, but
say: the joke was on us, for it was our theater which provided it. There
wasn't anything left to burn and the hose company marched proudly back.
Poor old Pete was nothing but a heap of ashes and Merritt looked

"'Jim,' says he, 'let's copper the rabbit market before they get wise.'"

"Did you have no insurance?" asked the Stranger sympathetically.

"Not a blame cent," replied his companion as he rose to go to bed. "But
I am making good money out of old Pete yet. I had him stuffed and get a
hundred a week from a dime museum for him--and they furnish the feed."



Thanks to the busy Press Agent, the fame of Jocko the Jealous, the
amorous baboon, had preceded him to America, and when the animals from
the Paris Hippodrome had been safely transferred to their dens in the
Arena at Dreamland he was the center of attraction as he limbered up his
muscles in the large monkey cage, after the cramped accommodations of
the small traveling box. He had gained a reputation as a masher in
Paris; but never had the menagerie attendants seen him so madly in love
and so insanely jealous as upon his first introduction to American
beauty, as exemplified by the fair woman who stood before his cage.

Jocko was not the first male being who had been fascinated by the charms
of the Prima Donna during her career; for she had been through the
marriage ceremony so often that she could say it backwards, never
forgetting to cross her fingers before saying, "Until death do us part."
The Proprietor drew the Stranger's attention to the group before the
cage, a mischievous smile on his face as he looked over the half dozen
of callow youths who are always in the train of the Prima Donna.

"Watch out for squalls over there," he said. "Jocko is affectionate now,
but there will be something doing in a few minutes." The monkey was
using all of the blandishments known to an amorous baboon and although
the words of his soft chattering were unintelligible, their import could
not be mistaken by a past mistress of the gentle art of love making; but
the Prima Donna could not be beguiled into placing herself within reach
of the hairy paws. Suddenly his mood changed, for one of her male
companions placed his hand on her arm to attract her attention and
Jocko, giving a howl of rage, danced madly up and down on all fours,
showing a vicious set of fangs as his lips curled back in a hideous
snarl. The bars of his cage were strong and so close together that he
could not get out to attack his rival; but he gathered up a mass of
litter from the floor and showered Prima Donna and callow youth alike.
His screams echoed through the Arena and caused even the majestic lions
and the haughty tigers to look in the direction of the cage of the
despised "Bandar Log," and made the smaller animals uneasy. The woman
who was described on the programme as "Miss ----, Famous Society Woman,"
had torn herself away from her arduous social duties with the Four
Hundred to exhibit a troupe of leopards to a Coney Island audience, her
identity concealed by a small black mask, and her performance in the big
cage was interrupted by the noise; so the Proprietor thought it time to

[Illustration: _"He smoked his cigar in the lobby like any other

The Prima Donna laughed good-naturedly as he helped to brush the sawdust
and litter from her dress and tactfully drew her away, and Jocko quieted
down and implored her to return; but she was accustomed to gentler
wooing, and refused to put her dainty gown again in jeopardy.

"Jocko gave quite a performance to-night," said the Proprietor as he
joined the Press Agent and the Stranger at the table, after the show.
"That baboon is crazy about women; but he hasn't the discrimination of
Consul, the most intelligent monkey that ever lived. You may remember
that he was never quiet in his cage, but if a specially well-dressed
woman stopped in front of it he played entirely to her and when she
moved away his eyes followed her as long as she was in sight."

"There will never be another like Consul," said the Press Agent, shaking
his head sadly. "He made my job a sinecure, for he was good for a column
any day and a full page on Sundays."

"Never until the Missing Link is discovered," replied the Proprietor. "I
don't believe a more human monkey will ever be found, and I attribute
his wonderful intelligence to the fact that he associated entirely with
human beings, almost from the day of his birth. I got him from the
captain of a tramp steamer which traded to the West Coast, and I paid a
goodish bit of money for him too. I have never dared to tell his early
history as it was told to me, for fear I should be laughed at for a
liar; but stranger things happen in the animal business than ever get
into print, and if I dared risk my reputation by telling the things
which actually occur in a menagerie, I should never need a Press Agent;
but a plausible lie is accepted where a truth which sounds improbable is
turned down."

The Press Agent looked at him reproachfully, but agreed with the

"Do you know, I have found that to be true when I have visited the
newspaper offices," he said. "I have actually had to embroider some of
the accounts of things which have happened here."

"I suspected it, for I didn't recognize some of the stories when I saw
them in print," answered the Proprietor, smiling at him approvingly. He
consented to tell the history of Consul, the famous chimpanzee, when
the Stranger expressed his entire credulity and the Press Agent assumed
an encouraging and sympathetic attitude.

[Illustration: _"Jocko, giving a howl of rage, danced madly up and

"Of course, I have to take the ship captain's word for what happened
before I bought him, but from the way the chimp developed and the
intelligence he displayed after he came into my possession, I am
prepared to believe it. He told me that he got him from the natives at
the mouth of a small river on the West Coast, where he anchored his
steamer to trade. They came off about the ship in their canoes, but he
did not care for the rubber and ivory they had to offer and he was about
to hoist anchor when one of them, who was in a small canoe with a woman,
motioned to him to stop. The woman was crouched up in the stern, nursing
what the captain thought was a baby, but when the man dragged it away
from her, in spite of her voluble protest, he saw that it was a small
chimpanzee. The man seemed desperately anxious to trade--and I imagine
the captain's trade goods were not the sort to meet the entire approval
of the missionaries--so that a bargain was concluded and the woman's
grief allayed by a generous share of the purchase price. As nearly as he
could make out, she had found the little thing in the jungle when it was
only a few days old and had reared it in place of a baby which had just
died. She was a low type of woman, even for an African savage, but the
maternal instinct was strong enough to make her grieve for little
Consul, as the captain christened him. The monkey grieved over the
separation, too, but sailors make much of animals and he soon became
reconciled to it.

"Thousands of people saw him after I purchased him, and you can judge of
the reputation he attained when I tell you that I was getting fifteen
hundred dollars a week for him in Berlin when he died, and he was booked
for the entire season at that price. People had seen him eat with a
knife and fork, smoke a cigar, use a typewriter and do all of the stunts
which simply aped humanity, but you had to live with the little beast to
appreciate how intensely human he was. Everybody connected with the show
loved him, and when I wanted to find any one of the employees who was
off duty, or not in his proper place, I always went first to Consul's
cage and I was pretty sure to locate him. That monkey was never still,
and the things he would do and the pranks he would play off his own bat
were more amusing than any of the things he had been taught.

"When he was in company he was as well mannered as most men, but, of
course, he had his prejudices and had to be watched. His special
aversion was a negro, which is strange when you consider his early
associations, and if one came around when he was loose he was apt to
attack him. We had to consider that in traveling, for Consul always
stopped at the hotels with his trainer and sat about the lobbies,
smoking his cigar like any other guest, but if there were negro servants
about, we had to be very careful not to let them come near him.

"He had the reasoning power of a child of ten years old; he was patient
when anything was wrong and we had to do disagreeable things to him,
appreciating that it was for his benefit. Only once did we have to use
force, when it was necessary to pull a tooth, and I am glad it wasn't
oftener, for it took seven men to control him and they thought they had
done a day's work when we finished. The last time he went abroad he was
the life of the ship, but he pretty nearly killed himself. The doctor
prescribed a cough medicine for him and Consul liked it so well that he
got up in the night, after his trainer had gone to sleep, opened the
valise in which it was kept and emptied the bottle. I guess there must
have been laudanum in it, for they had to work over him the rest of the
night to save him.

[Illustration: _"All of his savage instincts were aroused."_]

"He would walk the deck with the lady passengers, who made a great deal
of him, and when the customary concert was given, nothing would do but
that he must perform and then pass the plate for the collection. He was
in evening dress and behaved like a perfect gentleman, and the
collection was a large one. It was heaped on the plate, and he was just
about to present it to the captain when Booker Washington stepped
forward to make a contribution. The money for the Seaman's Home went
flying to the four corners of the salon and the trainer had a difficult
time in persuading Consul to retire without tearing the clothes off of
the man whose only offense was his color. This was Consul's last voyage,
for he contracted pleurisy and died in Berlin, and I felt worse over his
death than I did over the burning of my whole menagerie in Baltimore a
few years ago."

"Have you found that early association with human beings makes the other
animals easier to train?" asked the Stranger, and the Proprietor shook
his head.

"No; I would rather train one taken in the jungle than an animal born in
captivity. They do raise the pumas in South America and have them about
the houses as we do cats; but I wouldn't trust one of 'em. And as for
the bigger cats, the lions and tigers, there is no such thing as taming
them. They may be trained to do certain things, but they are never
trustworthy. We had a queer illustration of that when I was traveling
with a caravan circus in France. One of the lionesses had a litter of
three cubs, and in the excitement of the moving and strange
surroundings, she killed two of them. We took the other one away and the
woman who cooked for us volunteered to raise it. She became very much
attached to it and developed the theory that she could overcome its
savage instincts by diet, and for a time it looked as if she were right.
The beast was with her for about two years and grew to a fine animal,
but she never let him taste raw food. One day, when he was comfortably
lying before the stove, she pushed him with her foot to get him out of
the way and he resented it. Whether it was that alone, or whether the
odor of meat which she was about to cook appealed to him, I don't know;
but all of his savage instincts were aroused and when we secured him we
found that he had taken most of her scalp off."

"It's funny how some people are always looking for a chance to get
damages," said the Press Agent, settling himself comfortably in his
chair. "We had a case of it when Merritt and I were running a dime
museum out West. The freaks all lived together at a large boarding house
and one morning, when they reported for duty, the 'Tattooed Lady' was
missing. It was before the days when they were so common and we had
spent a lot of money to have her decorated and made her our star
attraction. Of course, none of the tattooing was visible when she was in
street costume, but when she sat on the platform dressed in low neck and
short skirts the lecturer had something to talk about, for the menagerie
pictured on her was a thing of beauty, and the few choice texts like,
'Be good and you will be happy,' which were scattered in between the
animals, were highly moral and elevating, and that was one of the strong
points of our show. Merritt used to spread himself when he was telling
how she was shipwrecked on a desert island and held captive by the cruel
cannibals, whose high priests spared her from the menu to tattoo her
with the symbols of their heathenish worship. It gave him a great chance
to come in strong on the moral part, when he explained about the texts
and told how they were added after the cannibals had been converted to
red flannel shirts, silk hats and a vegetable diet, by the missionaries,
and I have seen ancient maiden ladies moved to tears by his recital. So
when he had to give his lecture without her, he got mixed up and called
attention to the marvelous growth of hair on the face of the 'Circassian
Beauty,' thinking she was the 'Bearded Lady,' and nearly pulled the ears
off of the 'Dog Faced Boy,' trying to explain that he was 'The Man With
The Rubber Skin.' Of course, that made trouble among the freaks, who are
a mighty touchy lot anyway, and I have noticed that trouble always comes
in bunches in the show business, so I wasn't surprised when a husky guy
that looked like a farmer came in with blood in his eye and asked for
the manager. I looked around for Merritt, but he had gone around the
corner to get something to drown his sorrow, so I slipped a piece of
lead pipe under my coat and acknowledged the soft impeachment.

[Illustration: _"A 'Tattooed Lady,' and she's all covered with

"'Look'ee here, wot kinder a skin game be youse fellers runnin' here?'
says the guy, and I took a good grip on the lead pipe and tried to turn
away wrath by a soft answer, and quoting from our advertisement that it
was a highly moral and intellectual entertainment.

"'Not by a dern sight, it ain't,' says he. 'It's a blasted man-trap to
ketch the unwary, an' I'll have the law on ye an' make yer pay fer
trifling with my young affections.' I have had some pretty tough things
said to me in my day, but that was about the worst ever, and pretty
nearly took my breath away, but he went right on.

"'I deliver milk to that boardin' house down the street an' I see a
likely lookin' gal there lately an' I wanted some one to help milk an'
look after the house, so I asks her to marry me. She says she will, so
we hitched up an' I never knew she was one o' yer dern freaks until it
was too late. She says she's a "Tattooed Lady," an' she's all covered
with picters.'

"'Well, what's the matter with 'em?' says I. 'Aren't they good

"'Good enough,' says he, 'for them as likes 'em; but I don't hanker
after no decorations o' that kind an', b'gosh, I'll make yer pay fer
palmin' off a damaged article on me. She's all over snakes an' other
beasts an' it makes me sick ter my stummick every time I thinks of 'em.'
I tried to convince him that we were not responsible and that it was his
wife's duty to have informed him.

"'That's what I told her, dod gast her! But she says it's my own fault
if I didn't know she was a "Tattooed Lady," because I never asked her,
an' blamed if she isn't proud o' them picters, too.'"

"How did you settle it--did he get damages?" asked the Stranger.

"Damages!" exclaimed the Press Agent as he wiped the foam from his
moustache. "Why, Merritt came in, and when he heard the guy's kick he
lit right into him.

"'Blame your skin!' he yelled. 'I've a good mind to have you arrested
for stealing the pictures from my art gallery. I have a claim on 'em,
for I paid for the liquor to keep a sailor drunk for six weeks while he
was doing that job.' The Rube got onto the fact that she was valuable,
so they adjourned to a saloon to talk it over."

"With what result?" asked the Proprietor, as he rose from the table.

"Well, Merritt got her back on the platform, the Rube sold his farm, and
within six weeks he was wearing more yellow diamonds and throwing a
bigger chest than the husband of a grand opera prima donna."



The animals had received their evening meal when the Proprietor came
from the Arena and joined the Stranger and the Press Agent at the table

"I can never understand the interest people take in seeing the
carnivorous animals fed; it is no more than giving a bone to a dog," he
said, as he took his seat. "And yet it is one of the best drawing
features of the show, and the same people remain night after night to
see the meat poked into the cages. If it were not for the prohibition of
the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals I could give a
feeding exhibition which would be novel and interesting, for
comparatively few people have ever seen a snake eat.

"It is because a snake will not eat unless it kills its own food," he
continued in answer to a question from the Stranger. "Snakes are more
particular feeders than any other animals, and they will not touch
anything which is not alive when it is brought to them. This is the
night for feeding them, and if you care to remain until the crowd has
gone you can see how it is done. Long as I have been in the business, I
learn something new every day, and I never saw a cobra fed artificially
until last week, when Brandu, my Hindoo snake charmer, received one
direct from India. It seems that they are cannibal snakes and live upon
their own kind in India, but that would be too expensive a diet here,
and he forces feed down its throat."

The thousands of incandescent lights on the Dreamland tower went
out--the signal that the barkers might cease from barking and the
spielers spiel no more--until the morrow brought its fresh crowd of
amusement seekers, and the Proprietor led the way into the Arena. Brandu
and his two native assistants were carrying the boxes which contained
the snakes into the big exhibition cage, and, when the three men
joined them, the weirdness of the surroundings made a profound
impression upon the Stranger. All of the lights in the Arena were
extinguished, with the exception of the small cluster directly over
their heads, and pairs of luminous spots from the great semicircle of
cages at the outer edge of the building reminded him that the human
beings in the cage were not the only interested spectators of the

[Illustration: _"A procession of sandwich men."_]

The assistants carefully removed the great boas and pythons from the
boxes, laying them on the floor, where they crawled lazily about, their
delicate forked tongues vibrating like streaks of red flame, while
Brandu removed a slat from a crate of rabbits and put a half-dozen of
them on the floor. The little animals had no instinctive fear of the
serpents, for they hopped about among them and over their wriggling
bodies unconcernedly, but the snakes were hungry after a fast of two
weeks and they wasted no time in getting to the business before them.
The proceeding was the same in each case. A serpent would crawl up to
the rabbit and place its nose, at which the little furry beast would
sniff curiously, close to that of its prospective supper. The red forked
tongue would pass rapidly over its face and the rabbit made no attempt
to move. Whether it was the effect of some anæsthetic quality in the
breath of the snake or the traditional charm of the serpent, it was hard
to say, but the rabbit made no move to escape. Slowly but surely it
yielded to the fascination of the snake, the large transparent ears
dropped to the side of the head and the body muscles relaxed until the
tickling of the serpent's tongue caused no reflex movement of the paws.

The snake then carefully withdrew its head until the slim neck was in
the form of a letter S, and when it again straightened out it was with
the force of a released steel spring and the aim of the flat head was
unerring. The stroke was so rapid that it was difficult for the eye to
follow and the rabbit never knew what happened, for its body made a
quick circle in the air and in less than a second all that was to be
seen was one small paw protruding from the coiled body which had brought
it a quick and merciful death. The jaws of the serpent have seized it by
the snout and thrown it back into its coils and the first pressure kills
it, although the ever tightening embrace continues until the bones are
crushed within the unbroken skin, so that it can be easily swallowed.

It is not swallowing in the ordinary sense of the word, for the snakes
pull themselves over the rabbits as a glove is pulled over the finger,
and the progress to the stomach can be watched through the length of the
snake's neck. The snakes which were too small to manage a rabbit were
fed on white rats and mice, but the process was the same in each case,
except that the Hindoos held the rodents by their tails until the snakes
had hypnotized them.

"I suppose that this seems cruel to people because the rabbits are such
harmless little beasts," said the Proprietor as the last bit of fur
disappeared. "To my mind it is not half so cruel as hunting hares with
guns and dogs, for death from the snake's blow is as quick and
painless as that from a bullet, and there are no maimed and wounded
animals to drag themselves away to lingering deaths in hiding. But now I
will show you something which has never been known in this country."

[Illustration: _"Brought the head of the cobra close to his face."_]

One of the natives brought out a curiously woven circular basket which
he handled with great care, and setting it in the middle of the cage
retired to a respectful distance. Brandu crouched on the floor beside
it, and, although the performance was not accompanied by the weird
Oriental music which signaled the public appearances of the snake
charmer, the tense expression of his face and the uncanniness of the
surroundings made it sufficiently impressive, for he was about to handle
the cobra de capello, the most venomous snake in all the great
collection. He wasted no time in the pantomime and incantation of the
ring performance, but quickly threw off the cover, and when the hooded
head arose swaying above the edge of the basket, he started a low
whistling and passed his slim brown hands with lightning rapidity above
it. He was absolutely fearless, but the task before him demanded the
concentration of all his thoughts and he seemed unconscious of the
startling interruption of a fight between two of the lions, and the
shouts and pistol-shots of the keepers who separated them.

He never removed his gaze from the head of the serpent and his hands
moved so rapidly that they were almost invisible until, quicker than a
snake could strike, one of them darted down and caught the slim neck
behind the distended hood. He gave a sharp exclamation of triumph and
sprang to his feet, the cobra coiling its body about his bare brown arm
and giving every indication of rage.

"I am always glad when that part of the performance is over," said the
Proprietor with a sigh of relief. "Of course, it is all in the day's
work with Brandu and he has done it thousands of times, but some day he
will be a fraction of a second too slow and then--well, I shall have to
get another snake charmer. Watch him now and you will see something
which only the men of his caste can do."

Brandu's white teeth glistened as he smiled at the Proprietor and
pointed first to his own eyes and then to those of the serpent. He
brought the head of the cobra close to his face, his expression became
fixed and stern and the pupils of his widely opened eyes, which had been
dilated until the iris was but a narrow rim, contracted to the size of
pin heads. The cobra gazed at him fixedly and the tense body slowly
uncoiled from his arm and hung limp and motionless, and Brandu laid it
on the floor as lifeless and inert as a piece of rope. One of his
assistants handed him a glass containing a couple of raw eggs and,
handling it as carelessly as if it were a harmless garter snake, he
picked up the cobra and forced a tube of polished bamboo between its
jaws. When he had poured the eggs through the tube he withdrew it and
carefully replaced the snake in the basket, still apparently lifeless;
but bending over he blew sharply into its face and the cobra was
instantly reanimated into five feet of viciousness. Its head reared up
above the edge, the spectacled hood distended in anger, but Brandu
quickly clapped on the cover and the snake feeding was finished for two

[Illustration: _"You're a blame fine figure of a fat man."_]

"That is a great performance of Brandu's," said the Press Agent, "but it
profits us nothing because the best part of it cannot be shown to the
public. I never see a snake fed without thinking of something which
happened when I was running a side show with the Greatest Show on Earth.

"You know that the dime museum business was run to death while the craze
lasted in this country, and freaks got so common that you couldn't throw
a stone in the streets of any large city without hitting one of 'em.
When the fickle public tired of giving up its dimes to see 'em, a guy
named Merritt and myself had a choice collection on hand, and we went on
the road with the big show for the summer, thinking perhaps our business
would pick up in the fall. Our two great attractions were the biggest
boa-constrictor in captivity, which we called 'Jointless Jake,' and the
heaviest fat man in the world. That snake was about two hundred feet
long, and while the fat man wasn't much on length, he held the record
for belt measurement. Nine hundred and twenty-seven pounds he weighed,
as we demonstrated on our own scales at every performance. Their feed
bill was quite an item, as the snake took a half-dozen sheep every two
weeks and the fat man, who was billed as 'Signor Adipose
Avoirdupois'--Merritt invented that--needed about a side of beef every

"Freaks are a jealous lot and as hard to manage as rival prima donnas,
and these two monstrosities came to hate each other like poison. They
were in different lines, but you may have noticed that the side show
'professor' uses up most of the superlatives in the English language
when he gives his lecture, and each of 'em seemed afraid that the other
would get some of his share of the dictionary. Adipose used to look at
Jake's coiled body as if he would like to sit on it and flatten it out,
and the snake would return the glance with a naughty little twinkle in
its eye, as if he was estimating how much it would have to stretch its
skin to accommodate A. A. in its interior, until it made Merritt anxious
about 'em.

"'That blame fat fool will waste away and spoil his shape, if he don't
stop worrying,' he says, and he cuts a lot of his talk out of the
description of the snake and uses the words on Adipose. Maybe you think
snakes are stupid, but they aren't, and the boa got the hump and refused
to uncoil himself to show his length unless he got his full share of the
spiel. It cheered Avoirdupois up, though, and when we moved to the next
town he stood around to gloat over Jake when he was being moved from the
traveling box to the exhibition cage. The snake hadn't been fed for ten
days and he was good and lively as well as being out of temper, so when
he caught sight of the Signor he scattered the boys with one flip of his
tail and went for him.

"I've heard of bear hugs, but I never saw such a squeezing as that boa
gave poor Adipose. It was a long way around him, but the snake made
about a dozen wraps and all we could see of the fat man was a pair of
feet sticking out at one end of the coil and his face, which looked like
a purple harvest moon, projecting from the other. Jake reaches out and
gets hold of a tent peg with his tail, which gives him a purchase, and
then he tightens up for fair and Adipose lets out a holler you could
hear a mile.

"Of course, we got busy with crowbars and jackscrews and tried to pry
Jake off, but there was nothing doing and the harder we pried the closer
he cinched up on Adipose. Merritt usually had a suggestion to make, so I
looked at him and he was lost in thought, but in a minute he brightens
up and calls for a rope.

"'We can't pry the blame snake away from the man,' says he, as he tied
the rope around the Signor's feet, 'so we'll try to pull the man away
from the snake.' All hands fell to and pulled to beat four of a kind,
but Jake just tightened up a bit and grinned and Adipose let out
another holler.

"'You need a traction engine on that rope,' says I when they gave it up
as a bad job, and Merritt, who was looking a little discouraged, gave a

"'Bring an elephant,' he yelled, and when one of the boys started off on
a run for the menagerie, he called after him to 'make that order two
elephants.' The Hathis came lumbering over, and Merritt tied the rope
around the shoulders of one and put another rope around Jake's neck and
the shoulders of the other elephant.

"'Now pull, blame you!' says he, heading 'em in different directions and
giving one of 'em a kick, and they put their shoulders against the
ropes. It was a mighty interesting performance to every one but Adipose,
who didn't seem to enjoy it at all, judging from the yells he let out.
Jake was having the time of his life, and the harder the elephants
pulled the tighter he squeezed the Signor, and when he felt that they
were getting the better of him he made a supreme effort which kinked up
every muscle in his body. But there was no holding on against those
brutes, and pretty soon the fat man commenced to slip out from the
coils, feet first. It was a queer thing to watch and his legs stretched
so that I thought his knees would never come into sight. His legs had
been about the size of barrels when the snake grabbed him, but between
the stretching and the squeezing they were now three times as long and
about as large as broomsticks. He weighed as much as ever when the
elephants finally got him out, but the flesh was distributed differently
and instead of being six feet tall and twelve feet around, he was twelve
feet long and built in proportion. The snake was up against it, too, for
he had cramped himself so with that last squeeze that he couldn't
straighten out the kinks, and he kept in the same shape as when he was
wrapped around the Signor. We tried to straighten him out, but it was no
use; he just stayed coiled up like a spring and the boys rolled him
around as if he were a barrel.

"Merritt had kept cheerful as long as there was anything to be done, but
tears came to his eyes when he looked at Adipose. The Signor was
standing up, gazing at his feet, which he hadn't seen before in twenty
years, and Merritt looked up at him and freed his mind.

"'You're a blame fine figure of a fat man, aren't you, now?' says he.
'Just on account of your confounded professional jealousy we lose our
two star attractions, for that blamed snake is so kinked up that he
isn't good for anything except to cut up into barrel hoops.'

"The Signor was ashamed of himself and hadn't a word to say, so he just
kept quiet and tried to get used to his new shape and taking a
bird's-eye view of things. Merritt and I were feeling pretty blue when
along comes Tody Hamilton, the circus press agent, and as soon as he saw
what had happened he made a run for a trolley car.

"'Don't let 'em get away!' he yelled back over his shoulder. 'This is
the biggest scoop on record and I'm off for the printing-office.'

[Illustration: _"Jake was having the time of his life, and the harder
the elephants pulled the tighter he squeezed the Signor."_]

"'It'll make a good newspaper story, all right; but where do we come in
on it?' says Merritt, looking mournfully at Adipose.

"Well, a couple of hours later I had to go into the city to order some
new togs for the Signor, who looked as if he were dressed in a
particularly baggy bathing suit since he had been stretched out, and the
first thing I saw was a procession of sandwich men marching down the
street. The ink wasn't dry on the posters, but Tody had been busy, and
there in flaming red letters was the announcement--

           BIG SHOW!






The conventional skirt dance has long ceased to be a novelty on the
vaudeville stage, but as it is performed by "La Belle Selica" in the
Arena at Dreamland it holds the interest of that most exacting
audience--a crowd of Coney Island pleasure seekers. It is not because
Selica is pre-eminent among dancers, but on account of the unusual and
dangerous stage setting; for she performs in the large exhibition cage,
surrounded by a half dozen lionesses, each animal seated on a separate
pedestal. Any one of the huge beasts could crush the dancer with a
single blow of a massive paw, and the great jaws which snap viciously at
her tiny feet as she kicks them before their faces are sufficiently
powerful to crush the shin-bone of an ox.

She is apparently without fear of them, for she dances gracefully from
one to the other, flicking them across their faces with the light switch
which she carries for her only protection, and kicking over their heads
and into their very mouths, always missing the answering snap of the
jaws by the fraction of an inch, and acknowledging it with a smile as
she whirls away to repeat the performance before another pedestal. The
lionesses see the performance many times in the course of a season, but
they never lose interest in it and they do not remove their eyes from
Selica from the time she enters the cage until she drives them out
before her. So long as she is on her feet and agile enough to escape the
swift stroke of a paw or the snapping jaws, she is safe; for a lioness
would not jump at her from a pedestal; but there is always the chance of
a slip or a false step and then----!!!

It happened once, and caused a suspension of Selica's performance for
two months during the Pan-American Exposition at Buffalo, for Grace, the
largest lioness, was on her before she could recover herself; and it
required the efforts of Bostock and all of his trainers to beat back the
beasts who were maddened by the sight and smell of blood and to rescue
the unconscious woman from the cage. They have never forgotten that
moment of rebellion which was so nearly successful, and they are ever
watchful for another opportunity to avenge the many cuts of the
training whip which they received in the course of their schooling. But
Selica is also watchful, and although Grace had latterly done nothing
particularly out of the way, the wonderful sixth sense which experienced
trainers always acquire warned her that the animal should be regarded
with suspicion. The beast had become nervous; a little more sullen than
usual when ordered to leave her den for the exhibition cage, and a
trifle slow and rebellious when told to jump up on her allotted

[Illustration: _"Now, if you'll kindly give me your attention."_]

Constant association with the wild animals begets carelessness but
Selica, with the scars of Grace's sharp claws still visible on her back
and shoulders, was quick to notice the change and especially careful,
before opening the door from the den to the runway, to look through the
observation hole and make sure that the lioness was not crouched for a
spring. Grace had been particularly sullen in the afternoon and she was
growling ominously when Selica went to get her for the evening
performance, but when the woman saw the three little furry balls which
were huddled in a corner of the den she understood and forgave all. The
cubs were no larger than St. Bernard puppies, but Grace apparently
considered them worth fighting for; and Selica's dance was given that
night with only five lionesses in the cage, and the Proprietor told the
Stranger the reason for the empty pedestal.

"Wait until after the performance and I will take them out of the cage
and show them to you," he said; and the Stranger, remembering a
tradition to the effect that robbing a lioness of her cubs is a
dangerous feat, looked forward with a great deal of interest to the

"We can't trust the rearing of the cubs to Grace," said the Proprietor,
as he stood in front of her cage after the audience had been dismissed.
"The close proximity of the other animals in the Arena and the curiosity
of the thousands of people who come here every day would make her so
crazy that she would destroy them, so I must get them a foster mother. I
have sent to New York for a bitch with pups, and in a couple of days I
will show you a happy family." The cubs were in the center of the cage
and Grace stood over them, snarling and looking with blazing eyes at the
group in front of it; but Selica's voice from the runway and a rattling
of the door at the back distracted her attention, and as she sprang at
the door the Proprietor darted a hand between the bars and seized one of
the cubs, drawing it safely out a half second before the enraged mother
landed against the bars with a force which made them rattle.

The poor beast was almost frantic, but the same maneuver was twice
repeated, and in spite of her fierce attacks on doors and bars the
Proprietor, who had acquired through his lifetime association with the
great cats as much of their quickness of movement as it is given to mere
man to learn, removed the three cubs without receiving a scratch.

Poor helpless little creatures they were, and it was difficult to
realize that they would soon grow into beasts as powerful as the
ferocious Baltimore, the terror of trainers, who was answering Grace's
lamentations with roars which fairly shook the building, from his cage
on the other side of the Arena.

[Illustration: _"Looked like the pennant of a man-o'-war."_]

"That animal was bred in captivity, born and raised in our menagerie in
England," said the Proprietor after he had placed the cubs in charge of
one of the keepers. "I suppose that's what makes him such a bad beggar
to handle. Give me the jungle-bred lion to train, every time, for after
the manhandling and discomfort of his capture and transportation to the
coast by the natives, he appreciates the care and humanity of a
civilized trainer. These cubs which are raised in captivity are always
played with and teased by the employees and visitors, and their first
knowledge of their strength comes to them accidentally when they hurt a
man without meaning to do it; but they soon learn to connect cause and
effect, and then it is time to watch out for 'em. A jungle-bred lion is
pretty much cock o' the walk until he is snared or trapped, and in his
first experience with men he is vanquished and realizes how useless is
his great strength against the nets and ropes which entangle him. The
cub born in captivity is familiar with men from the first, and plays
with them like a kitten until one day he is out of sorts or is
accidentally hurt in a frolic and the swift cut of his razor-like claws
makes his playmate or tormentor drop him and leave him in peace. That
makes it hard for the trainer when he takes him in hand, for although
the cub may be subdued, he remembers that he was once victorious and
watches his chance. Jack Bonavita, the greatest trainer who ever went
into a lion's cage, would have two good arms to-day if Baltimore had
been born in the Nubian desert instead of in Manchester."

They stood in front of Baltimore's cage for a moment, admiring the
swelling muscles of the great beast as he sprang from side to side,
shaking his shaggy mane and roaring defiance at the world, and then
turned to go to the white-topped table in front of the Arena. In the
doorway they met the Press Agent, looking anything but cheerful and
muttering maledictions on the heads of all city editors. The Proprietor
told him of the new arrivals in the Arena, and suggested sending the
announcement of the birth to the papers.

"A fat chance I'd stand of having it printed," he grumbled. "Here I've
worked half the season and never given 'em a story that wasn't pretty
nearly true, and to-day when I take them that account of Morelli and the
jaguar they turn me down and holler 'fake.' Let me take one of those
cubs and stripe it over with a little black paint, and to-morrow morning
every newspaper in New York will have a photographer down here to take
pictures of 'the only hybrid lion-tiger cub ever born,' and all of the
space jerkers will be buttonholing me for a three column, front page

The arrival of the waiter with soothing beverages soon brought back the
customary smile to his genial face and the Proprietor's suggestion that
perhaps he had embroidered some of the stories just a trifle, aroused
only a good-natured protest.

"The worst thing about the press agent's profession is that he has to
risk his eternal salvation by making up plausible lies to satisfy the
newspapers when he could give 'em better stories which are actually true
if they would take 'em on his say so," he said, as he wiped the froth
from his mustache. "I remember once when a guy named Merritt and
myself were running a snake show in New York that we couldn't pay the
rent because the papers wouldn't give us any publicity, although we had
the finest collection of wrigglers that was ever gotten together. We
were running it on the dead level, nary a fake about it, and Merritt's
lecture was highly instructive and interesting and more than half true;
but we saw that we couldn't win out at the game unless we crooked it. We
were running so far behind that the only thing which saved us from a
dispossess was the fact that they couldn't get a constable who would
carry the snakes out to the sidewalk; but Merritt was a resourceful cuss
and I felt confident that he would figure out some scheme to win out.

[Illustration: _"Kicking over their heads and into their very mouths."_]

"'Jim,' says he, 'it's necessary for us to give 'em a sensation. We've
tried to run this game as a purely moral and instructive entertainment,
but we need the money and I reckon we've got to spring a cold deck on
'em. I guess you've got to stand for being attacked by an untamable,
man-eating python.'

"'You can count me out on that,' says I. 'Every paper in the city would
write me up as a victim of the demon Rum.' Merritt looked discouraged
for a minute, but his face suddenly lighted up and I knew he had found a

"'Jim,' says he, 'if we only take half of our usual allowance of
fire-water to-night we will have enough cash to buy some paint. Now
there's that big white python; the only specimen ever captured, the
"pythonatus fluidum lactalis giganticus,"' says he. That was one trouble
with Merritt; he'd get so stuck on the language which he manufactured
that he couldn't leave it out, even in our business consultations, and
it used up a lot of time. 'That python is the straight goods,' says he,
'but he doesn't catch their eyes, so I'll paint the blame snake red,
white and blue and christen him the "anacondus flagelum americanibus e
pluribus unum," and give the reporters something to work on,' says he.
'That'll work up the snakologists and set 'em writing in the papers to
prove that there isn't any such thing; but we've got the answer to
that, for we can show 'em one at twenty-five cents per.'

"I never could stand for flim-flamming the generous public, but my meal
ticket was punched so full of holes that it looked like a porous
plaster, and I consented. Merritt spent most of the night decorating
that python, and in the morning it looked like the pennant of a
man-o'-war. I had to sit up and watch him, for he had the artistic
temperament, and he was so carried away by his enthusiasm that if I
hadn't restrained him he would have put on the coat-of-arms of the
United States, eagle, motto and all.

"'Now,' says he, when he had finished and stepped back to admire his
work, 'if that blame snake's own mother would know him if she met him on
the street, I'm a Dutchman. If this don't make 'em sit up and take
notice, then I'll go to night school to learn the show business.'"

"How did the scheme work?" asked the Proprietor, as the Press Agent
paused to make the grand hailing sign of distress to the waiter.

"Work!" he answered. "How does a fake always work in New York? Why, P.
T. Barnum had the mold for his petrified man made from the legs of one
man and the body of another, and he didn't even take the trouble to
smooth off the ridges where the edges met when he cast it in Portland
cement. But that didn't prevent all of the scientific sharps who
inspected it from certifying to its genuineness. His mermaid was
manufactured from a codfish skin and a stuffed monkey; but the public
stood for that, too, and he made a fortune out of 'em. Maybe you can't
fool all of the people all of the time, but you can fool most of 'em
most of the time; especially if they live in little old New York. Of
course, we didn't pull off such a success as Barnum did; but we had no
kick coming when we counted up the receipts for the next week. Merritt's
lecture was a work of art and he manufactured language at a rate which
would have given Noah Webster nervous prostration when he christened the
python 'Old Glory,' and told about its combining the venomous qualities
of the cobra and the strength of the boa-constrictor. The python was so
stuck on its new colors that it nearly broke its neck turning around to
admire itself and everything went lovely. Of course, there was the usual
howl from the snakologists who knew it all, and 'Old Subscriber,'
'Citizen,' 'Pro Bono Publico' and the rest of the bunch wrote columns to
the newspapers, denouncing us as frauds.

[Illustration: _Grace snarled over the cubs._]

"You know how those things work; everybody puts up an argument and then
it's up to the fellow who is making the bluff to back it up with an
offer to donate a sum of money to some charitable institution if he
can't deliver the goods. We were well ahead of the game as a result of
the advertising and had about two thousand to the good and Merritt got
awful chesty. He had lied about that snake so much that he believed in
it himself and it made me a little nervous one night when he offered to
donate two thousand dollars to the 'Home for Decrepit Side Show Fakirs'
if any one could produce another specimen like this one, short of the
head waters of the Amazon. I wasn't scared so much by that as by what I
feared he might say, for I knew they couldn't get another if they raked
the universe with a fine-tooth comb, and sure enough, he was carried
away by his enthusiasm and offered to bet our entire bank roll that the
snake was a genuine 'American flag', such as had never been exhibited in
any country.

"It was just our luck that there was a half-loaded tin-horn gambler in
the audience that night; one of the kind that wears a yellow diamond and
a checked suit with a white stove-pipe hat; and the only part of the
speech that he understood was that somebody wanted to make a bet. That
raised his sporting blood, and he climbed up to the platform and pulled
out a roll of yellow boys that would choke a dog and peeled off twenty

"'I don't know much about snakes which bromide won't make chase
themselves back to the woods,' says he as he plunked 'em down on the
table. 'I ain't got your gift of gab, but money talks and I've got this
pile to say that you can't tell the truth to save your neck. Just stack
up your pile alongside of that and then trot out your snakelet.' I was
feeling pretty sore on Merritt for making such a bluff, but, of course,
we had to make good and between us we covered the bet. We had glass
cages full of snakes all around the platform, but 'Old Glory' was in a
big chest covered with gilt figures and brass chains and fastened with a
padlock. Merritt was mad clear through at having his veracity
questioned, but he looked pretty confident as he stuck the key in the

"'It's a shame to take the money,' says he, as he eyed the gambler, 'but
there's an old saying about the mental capacity of a man that is
speedily separated from his bank roll, and I reckon you were away from
home the last time the fool killer called.' The gam just smiled and kept
his eye on the stakes, and Merritt gives the chains a rattle to wake up
'Old Glory' and throws back the lid of the chest.

"'Now,' says he, turning to the audience, 'if you'll kindly give me your
attention I'll show you one of the most marvelous mysteries of Nature.
It was procured by one of our special agents at the head waters of the
Amazon at tremendous expense. It is a unique representative of the
reptilian family and the sight of it should arouse pride in the hearts
of all patriotic Americans; for as he unwinds his sinuous coils you will
observe that while his head and neck are blue, the body, down to the
tip of the tail, is marked with thirteen alternate stripes of red and
white, giving this marvelous creature the appearance of being wrapped in
that glorious emblem of liberty which waves over the land of the brave
and the home of the free.' Merritt stops then, throwing out his chest
and sticking his hand into the bosom of his coat to wait for the
customary applause from the gallery to subside; but instead of the usual
glad hands he was greeted with a roar of laughter and cat-calls and when
he turned to look at the snake box, there was 'Old Glory' crawling out,
looking ashamed of himself, for he was as white as the day he was born."

"What happened?" asked the Proprietor as the Press Agent sighed.

"Well, Merritt always had presence of mind, and as the sport gathered up
our hard earned shekels he grabbed me by the arm and hurried me from the
building. He knew that a Bowery audience was apt to follow cat-calls
with antique eggs and vegetables of last season's vintage, and five
minutes later we were trying to drown our sorrow.

"'Jim,' says Merritt, 'I made a big mistake, for I should have tattooed
him. His beauty was only skin deep and the blame snake shed his



Uncle Sam spends a large amount of money to forecast the weather
twenty-four hours in advance, and the farmers and seafaring folk watch
the bulletins no more eagerly than do the owners of the many shows whose
harvest time is the brief summer season at Coney Island. Bad weather,
especially if it comes on the first or last day of the week or a legal
holiday, means a loss of hundreds of dollars to them, for if the skies
are threatening, the holiday makers seek their pleasures nearer home and
there are fewer people to give up their dimes and quarters under the
seductive wheedling of the "barkers." Most of the show people look
anxiously at the sky before retiring for the night, but there is one of
them who finds an absolutely reliable forecast within the walls of his
own building. Perhaps the signs and portents could not be translated by
the weather clerk, but the Proprietor of the trained animal exhibition
at Dreamland has been all of his life the companion of his charges, and
has learned to recognize the meaning of unusual behavior or the shade of
change in their voices which indicates an approaching storm.

There was not a cloud to be seen, and every star in the heavens was
trying to rival the brilliant electric lights on the great tower as he
sat at the café table in front of the Arena with the Stranger and the
Press Agent after the night's performance was over, but he gave an
exclamation of disappointment as a half-smothered roar came from the
throat of one of the lions in the building.

"Rain to-morrow!" he said as the grumbling roar spread from cage to cage
about the great semicircle. His companions smiled incredulously as they
looked at the cloudless sky, but he repeated his prediction when the
Stranger read "Fair and warmer to-morrow" from one of the evening
papers. "I know all about the 'high and low pressure areas,'" he said,
as he glanced at the chart. "A man in the show business has to study
everything which may influence the attendance, but the behavior of my
animals is a better barometer for local conditions than any aneroid
which the Weather Bureau owns. In spite of the clear sky and the
official predictions, I would wager that we shall have a bad storm
within the next twenty-four hours, for those lions have the inherited
knowledge of hundreds of generations of jungle-bred ancestors whose food
supply depended largely upon the weather conditions."

"Do the other animals possess the same barometric accomplishments?"
asked the Stranger skeptically, and the Proprietor laughed as he invited
him to come inside and judge for himself. The Arena was always an
uncanny place at night, for in the dim light only the glowing eyes of
the animals could be distinguished in the cages, and the snarls and
growls which came from behind the gratings conjured up visions of what
might happen if one of the animals were loose and crouching on the seats
of the auditorium or in the galleries, waiting for a meal of human
flesh; but to-night it was worse than usual, for the unwonted
restlessness of the animals was apparent even to the untrained senses of
the Stranger.

The carnivora in captivity retain the habits of their relatives of the
jungle and are more alert at night than in the daytime, but following a
hard day's work in the exhibition cage they usually settle down for a
few hours of sleep after receiving their evening allowance of meat.
Although it was long past their resting time, not an eye was closed, and
hundreds of pairs of bright spots were visible in the darkness as the
beasts paced uneasily from end to end of their narrow dens. The
elephants, whose arduous duties in the ring and on the ballyhoo brought
such leg weariness that they were usually glad to be shackled for the
night, were swaying their huge bodies from side to side and straining at
the stout chains which fastened them and the shrill trumpeting of Tom,
the largest one, was echoed and repeated by his companions, Roger and
Alice. The roaring of the lions and the snarling of the tigers was
mocked by the hideous laugh of the hyenas, and the discord of the
strange noises was so disagreeable that the Stranger was relieved when
they left the Arena and returned to the comparative quiet of the
white-topped table.

[Illustration: _"Every one of the great beasts jumped for her."_]

"It will be a severe storm," said the Proprietor as the waiter took
their orders. "Any impending change makes them uneasy, but when every
animal in the menagerie is in the state of excitement which you noticed
to-night you can be assured that it means a very decided disturbance. It
is a thing which animal trainers are ever watchful about, for most of
the training is done at night, and it is not safe to work with them when
they are in that frame of mind."

"But you give your advertised performances just the same," said the
Press Agent.

"That's a different matter," answered the Proprietor. "When the Arena is
lighted up and filled with people, the attention of the animals is
distracted and they forget their nervousness, but a rehearsal at night
is a lonesome proceeding, at best, and as the trainer devotes his
attention to a single animal at a time it leaves the others free to
think up mischief or to give way to their unreasoning fear. I had that
borne in upon me in a way I shall never forget a few years ago when I
was a younger hand at the business. I knew a good deal about handling
animals, but not as much about managing men as I have learned since, and
I used to forget that giving an order was not the same thing as seeing
that it was executed. There was a trainer named Barton in my employ who
did a pretty fair act with a group of six lions, but he was a brutal
sort of a chap and punished his animals so severely that they went
through their performance on the jump so as to get out of the exhibition
cage, where blows were more plentiful than kind words. His act was a
winner, all right, for he was absolutely fearless and the animals put up
a bluff of snarling and snapping which made it exciting, but I disliked
the man so much that I was glad to farm him out for a ten weeks'
engagement on the vaudeville circuit.

"He wasn't a bad-looking chap and when he came back from his tour he
brought with him one of the most beautiful women I have ever seen. She
was an Egyptian who had been brought to this country with a troupe of
dancers for one of the big exhibitions, and he met her and married her
when they were performing in the same theater. Of course, I had
absolutely no use for an Egyptian dancer with my show and I made the
marriage an excuse to get rid of Barton; but he begged me to keep him on
the plea that he was teaching her to do his act with the lions. She was
so beautiful that I realized that she would be a great drawing card if
she developed into a good trainer, so I consented and signed a contract
with him for another year. I regretted it when I saw the first
rehearsal, for it was painfully evident that she went into the cage only
because she was more afraid of her husband than she was of the lions,
and I didn't blame her; for while I might interfere to prevent
ill-treatment of the lions, which were my property, I had no authority
to protect her from his cruelty. They did most of the rehearsing at
night, and I trusted to the fear which Barton had instilled in the lions
to keep them from attacking her, for he always stood at the bars and
they would cower down at the sound of his voice. You know it is never
safe for two people to be in the cage with a group of animals at the
same time unless they stand back to back and keep in one place, for if
they are moving about an animal may run into one while endeavoring to
escape from the other, and even the blow from a lion's tail might knock
a man from his feet and then there would be trouble.

[Illustration: _"Jim," says Merritt, ... "there is a great advantage in
having a squaw for the top part of that there fish."_]

"Poor little Leotta used to go into the cage and try to keep the
tell-tale tremble out of her voice when she gave her commands, but she
could never learn to concentrate her whole attention on the animals and
give up looking for a sign of approval from Barton out of the corner of
her eye. I made it a point to see that there was always plenty of
assistance near in case of accidents, and gave Barton strict orders to
keep her out of the cage when the animals were under the influence of
'weather fear.' It was difficult for me to instruct or warn Leotta, for
she understood English very little; but I helped her all I could, and
gave her husband to understand that I would not allow any ill-treatment.

"In spite of all my precautions, I was always uneasy when she was in the
cage, and when I had to be away from the show she was constantly in my
mind. I had to go to the wharf one afternoon to superintend the
unloading of a new lot of animals which had been sent from our English
quarters, and owing to delays at the custom house it was late at night
before I could start back for the show. Perhaps I had absorbed some of
the weather wisdom of the animals from long association with them, but,
at any rate, I was uneasy at the delays and as I whizzed along in the
trolley I congratulated myself on my foresight in having warned Barton,
as the thunder heads were gathering and I knew the animals would have
the jumps and be unsafe to work with. But my heart sank as I drew near
the building and saw that it was brilliantly lighted up, for that could
only mean one thing at that time of night--Leotta must be rehearsing.
The trainers usually have but one small cluster of lights, but I had
ordered the electrician to turn on all the switches when she was in the
cage, as I thought she would be less frightened and the animals more
tractable in the full light.

"My guess was right: Barton, in disobedience of orders, had made her go
into the cage, and he had taken advantage of my absence to break our
iron-clad rule which forbids a trainer to drink. I saw the whole
situation as soon as I entered the building, and I would have given the
whole show to have the little woman safely on the right side of the
bars. The animals in the dens were raising a worse row than they did
to-night, and the lions in Leotta's group had forgotten their fear of
the trainer in their greater fear of the approaching storm. They were
ugly, and Barton, who was more than half-seas over, stood at the bars
shouting abuse at his wife and the lions and jeering at her evident
terror. I saw that the other trainers and keepers appreciated the
danger, for they were gathered around, holding iron bars, Roman candles
and pistols; but they had sense enough to know that any interference
which would draw his attention from the cage would precipitate the
trouble, and none of them could make Leotta appreciate the danger of her
position. I went up to him quietly and told him that I thought he had
better call the rehearsal off for the night, intending to square
accounts with him as soon as Leotta was safely out of the cage; but the
drink was in his brain and he turned on me and cursed me. Leotta gave a
scream of terror as the brute turned his back on the cage and, as if by
a preconcerted plan, every one of the six great beasts jumped for her.

"Barton knew that the game was up, and in his drunken rage he attacked
me and it kept my hands full to manage him; but the others rushed for
the cage, and while Bonavita and Stevenson beat off the lions with the
help of the keepers on the outside who were firing pistols and Roman
candles and using fire-extinguishers through the bars, Bobby Mack picked
up Leotta and carried her outside. Of course, that ended Leotta's career
in the show business and finished Barton's employment with me. The poor
little thing's beauty was gone, for a lion's claws make deep cuts, and
it was many a day before she was able to leave the hospital. You can see
that I have reason to be confident of the accuracy of the predictions of
my weather bureau, for if there had been no thunderstorm brewing I might
have developed a sensational lion act."

"Or if Leotta had understood English," commented the Press Agent, as he
beckoned to the waiter. "Of course, it is sometimes an advantage to have
performers who can't converse with the audience, but it is mighty
inconvenient if they can't understand the orders of the boss. I lost the
chance of making a lot of money once, because a squaw who was working
for us couldn't understand the white man's lingo. A guy named Merritt
and myself were disappointed about getting a concession for a snake show
at the Pan-American Exposition, and we found ourselves broke in Buffalo,
which is separated from the Bowery by about five hundred miles of very
tough walking when you haven't got the price of a railway ticket.
Merritt was mad clean through at being thrown down by the Exposition
managers, but he was an inventive genius and I knew that he would figure
out a way to raise the price of transportation.

[Illustration: _"A howl of terror from the platform."_]

"'Jim,' says he as we counted up our available assets and found that
they were pretty well along toward a minus quantity, 'it makes me dead
sore to be turned down this way without getting a run for our money, and
it's up to us to increase our capital and incidentally give the bunch
that done us dirt the double cross. Get your think tank working and see
what it will produce.' I couldn't see a way out, but when a squaw from
the Tonawanda Reservation, who was selling trailing arbutus, came up to
us and offered us a nosegay, Merritt gives a whoop and claps me on the

"'Jim,' says he, 'I've got it and we'll make our everlasting fortunes!'
He commenced to question the squaw, but all the English she knew was
'ten cent a bunch,' and he didn't make much headway until a big buck
Injin who had been watching her from across the street came over and
butted in. It appeared that he was her husband, and when Merritt stated
his proposition the buck accepted the terms without the formality of
consulting the squaw. When the Exposition opened we had a big tent on an
open lot across from the main entrance, with a life-sized picture of
'The Marvelous Mermaid' as big as a house. As I remarked, Merritt was an
inventive genius and he had worked up a scheme to deceive the confiding
public. He had provided a platform and carefully cut out a hole so that
the squaw could stand on the ground and the edges of the hole fitted
snugly about her waist. He made her lean forward and rest her chin in
her hands in the conventionally accepted mermaid position, and then he
fitted a fish tail which lay along the top of the platform, and it was
so skillfully joined to her that it looked as if it grew there. She was
a good-looking squaw and she certainly played her part and made an
interesting picture.

"Of course, he couldn't explain to her what he wanted her to do, but he
would tell the buck, who would carefully translate and impress the
instructions upon her memory with the aid of a bale stick. The thing
which he put most stress upon was that she was to remain absolutely
still, no matter what happened. I sold the tickets and put up the spiel
on the front, and Merritt lectured inside and we did a land-office
business. Lots of smart guys came around and tried to get gay with the
mermaid, but she couldn't understand their joshing and never cracked a
smile. The blame tent caught fire one night when it was filled with
people, and she had such a wholesome recollection of the bale stick
that she kept as still as a cigar-store Indian until we had cleared the
place and put the fire out.

"'Jim,' says Merritt as he looked her over admiringly after that
experience, 'there is a great advantage in having a squaw for the top
part of that there fish. She can't understand what the Willie boys say
to her and nothing feazes her. A white gal would have had hysterics and
given the whole snap away.' It gave Merritt a lot more confidence and we
felt pretty safe after that experience, and neglected to have the buck
repeat his bale-stick admonitions to her upon the necessity of
cultivating repose of manner. Everything was lovely and we were turning
hundreds of people away and making more money than the big show. One
afternoon we were playing to a record house and Merritt was doing
himself proud on his lecture.

"'Ladies and gentlemen,' says he, 'I have the honor to present to this
intelligent audience a creature which is commonly, but erroneously,
supposed to be extinct at the present day; but you have before you a
living and convincing proof that mermaids still exist. I confess that
until I was able to obtain this unique specimen, which was captured
while basking in the sun and singing a love song upon an iceberg in the
Antarctic Ocean, I shared the opinions of my fellow scientists that the
mermaid was a fabulous or extinct creature; for during a lifetime
devoted to exhibiting the mysterious marvels of nature to the American
public it had never been my good fortune to acquire one. You will
observe that she is half woman and half fish, and she is perfectly
helpless when out of the water. She is unfortunately unable to express
herself in any known tongue; in fact, she has never uttered a sound
since her capture and we fear that she has lost her voice, which--' Just
then he was interrupted by a howl of terror from the platform, which was
followed by a roar of laughter from the audience, and when he turned he
saw the squaw standing up and trying to wrap the fake tail around a pair
of well-developed, copper-colored legs. Her face was as pale as a
squaw's face could get and Merritt knew the jig was up. I was peeking in
the door, and when I saw what had happened I gathered up the box-office
receipts and faded away. I met Merritt that evening in our usual saloon,
and underneath a pair of black eyes and a battered-up phiz I could see
that he was wearing a look of deep disgust.

"'Jim,' says he, 'this is what comes from pinning your faith to a woman
and not appreciating the weakness of the sex. She faced the danger of
being burned alive and never turned a hair; but when she saw a measly
little mouse crawl under the platform she busted up the whole show.'"

The Stranger said good-night and started for the city, but before he
reached the railway station he was drenched by the downpour which the
Proprietor had predicted.



"You were not in this part of the country when New York was in an uproar
for two days over the escape of one of my lions," said the Proprietor to
the Stranger as they joined the Press Agent. "I suppose that ninety per
cent. of the people who remember it think that it was all a fake, but I
can assure you that I put in the most strenuous forty-eight hours of my
career while he was loose, and it pretty nearly decided me to give up
the show business. It was my first experience at running an independent
show, and after great persuasion I had induced my father to let me bring
some boxing kangaroos, two young lions and Wallace, a fine big brute
about fifteen years old, from our English establishment to the States.
Wallace was already a famous--or infamous--lion in England, where he
had the score of three trainers to his credit. He had received the name
of 'The Mankiller' over there, and they were rather relieved to have me
get him out of the country.

"His last victim was a Frenchman, one of the best-known trainers in the
business, and he went into the cage to subdue Wallace on a wager. He
won, and a remarkable performance it was, but I won't take the time to
tell you about that now. He made just one little mistake: his vanity got
the better of him when he turned his back on the lion to bow to the
audience after remaining in the cage for ten minutes. As I said, he won
the bet, and it about paid the funeral expenses of what was left of him.
After that the only man who could go near Wallace was a half-breed
American Indian from up near Cape Cod; Broncho Boccacio, he called
himself. I don't know what the other half of him was, and I don't
remember how he happened to be with our English show, but all sorts and
conditions of men drift into the animal training business. At any rate,
he was the only man who could do anything with Wallace, and that wasn't
much. He would get into the cage and chase him around a bit and then
jump out quick--always backward after seeing what happened to the
Frenchman. I brought him along to take especial charge of the brute. It
took a couple of days to get the animals through the customs, and in the
meantime I cast about for quarters and finally rented a stable on
Eighteenth Street to keep them in until I should secure an engagement."
He took a pencil from his pocket and drew a plan on the white table top.

[Illustration: _"There was a loose lion downstairs and a nurse and two
children in the loft."_]

"The stable was arranged in this way: here in the front was the carriage
house with these narrow stairs at the side leading up to the loft. On
each side of the door was a window facing on the street, and back of the
carriage room was the stable proper--two stalls and a loose-box. On one
side of the stable was a saloon and on the other a carpenter shop, so I
didn't expect much complaint from my neighbors, as my men patronized
one, while I ordered the carpenter to build a traveling cage for Wallace
which would slide on wheels, as our English cages were too heavy to
handle in a country where labor is as high as it is here. I moved the
lions up to the stable to let them rest a bit after the voyage and
started to look for an engagement. It was a hard row to hoe, as I was
not known in this country, and the best I could do was a booking at a
dime museum for a month, and I had to take a lowish price at that, but
I ordered a big nine sheet poster and trusted to luck to make more out
of them later.

"The lions were in three cages in the stable, and in one of the stalls I
had a trotting horse which had been purchased for my brother in England,
and which I kept there until I should have an opportunity to ship it to
the other side. The kangaroos were in the loft, and a couple of days
after they were all settled my two little girls came over from the hotel
with me one morning and went up there with the nurse to play with them
while I went into the carpenter shop next door to settle for the new
cage, which had just been delivered. Broncho, as soon as he struck his
native soil, had discovered a camp of other Indians on the Bowery and
spent most of his time in their encampment, leaving a Cockney Englishman
in charge of the lions and the horse. I intended to wait until he
arrived before shifting Wallace to the new cage, but the Englishman
thought he would show his cleverness and attempted to do it alone
without waiting for us. He threw a piece of meat into the new cage and
then rolled it up to the old one, and when the doors were opposite each
other he opened them. Of course Wallace made a spring for the meat in
the new cage, but he struck the edge of the door, and as the Cockney had
neglected to block the wheels the cage rolled away and the keeper gave a
yell and bolted for the stairs. There was a loose lion downstairs--and a
bad one at that--and the nurse and two children in the loft.

"The first I knew of it was from the nurse, who had grabbed the children
and stood with them in the door which had been used to pass the hay in,
yelling 'Fire!' and 'Murder!' but I knew that there was hell to pay as
soon as I reached the street, by the sound which came from the stable.
We got a ladder from the carpenter shop and hustled the nurse and
children down to the street, and then I went up to the loft, while the
nurse and the Cockney held the small door from the stable to the street,
which could not be fastened from the outside until the carpenter spiked
some plank over it.

"A look into the stable convinced me that I did not want to go down the
stairs, for with one blow Wallace had converted a thousand-dollar
trotting horse into two dollars' worth of lion meat, and he was crouched
on the body, which he had dragged from the stall, clawing at its throat
and drinking the blood. The place looked like a shambles, and the growls
which came from Wallace as the other lions threw themselves against the
bars of their cages in their efforts to get out and join in the feast
were redoubled when he caught sight of my head through the trap-door. I
slammed it down and drew the kangaroo cage on top of it and then went
down to the street to see that the windows and doors were securely
boarded up. A great crowd was gathering and I was afraid that the police
would shoot the brute, for I saw the possibilities of an advertisement
which would more than pay for the expensive meal which Wallace was
making from the trotting horse.

[Illustration: _"His vanity got the better of him when he turned his
back on the lion, to bow to the audience."_]

"Just as I reached the street, Broncho strolled up. As I said, he was a
queer-looking guy; his skin was copper-colored and he had piercing black
eyes and long, fuzzy black hair which fell down to his shoulders. His
nose was hooked and something about his face always reminded me of a
bird of prey. He was only a half-breed, but when I told him what had
occurred he was all Indian and he drew a long knife and started for the
Cockney, who gave only one look at the expression on Broncho's face and
then started for Harlem, touching only the high spots until he was quite
out of sight. Broncho didn't chase him; he just looked after him with a
smile on his face, glad to see him disappear, as there had been more or
less bad blood between them for a long time. Then he came to me and
laughed at the idea of danger and offered to go into the stable and put
Wallace back in the cage. I knew that it would be impossible until the
lion had gorged himself on horse meat, and now that the damage was done
I was in no hurry to allay the excitement until the police and reporters
arrived. We didn't have to wait long, for the crowd had grown until the
street was blocked, and, of course, the reporters asked more than a
thousand questions. When I had worked the sensation up pretty well I
consented to let Broncho take his training rod and go down, and I went
with him carrying a club and a pitchfork. Things commenced to happen
right away, for Wallace didn't wait for the call of time, but sailed
right into us, and when I saw that he was getting the better of Broncho
I made a bluff at going back to the carcass of the horse. Wallace
bounded back to protect it and crouched on it, snarling viciously, but
the delay gave me a chance to help Broncho up the stairway. There was
not enough of his trousers left to wad a gun, and while I was bandaging
up a deep claw wound in his thigh that advertisement seemed less and
less important to me, and I would have given a good deal to have Wallace
safely behind the bars of his cage again. He was contracted for four
weeks anyway, and it takes a pretty big sensation to be remembered for
more than thirty days in New York.

"Well, we fussed about all day, trying to figure out some way to get the
beggar back in his cage, and I got an earache listening to advice from
people who had never seen a lion, but who considered themselves experts.
At sunset Wallace still held the fort and the streets were blocked in
all directions, for the afternoon papers were out with extras with
scare-heads. The boards over the windows made the interior of the stable
so dark that no one could see into it, but the roars which came from it
gave the spectators all the thrills they were entitled to and caused a
stampede every few minutes. We tried to drive Wallace into the cage
with a stream of water from the fire plug, but he only shook his head
and growled at it, so we gave it up and waited for daylight. There were
about forty policemen and a crowd of reporters about the place all
night, and I was getting nervous for fear some fool would shoot the
lion, whose value was increasing every minute, so I kept awake and did
a heap of thinking.

[Illustration: _"Broncho was only a half-breed."_]

"I knew that Wallace would fight for his 'kill' as long as any of the
meat was left, so we rigged up a tackle to try and draw the carcass out.
We were all ready at daylight and the crowd was bigger than ever. Say,
if you want to count the idle people in New York just get up a free show
at any hour of the day or night and they will all come. There must have
been over a thousand loafing about the street all night. We were just
getting ready to make a try for the horse when the idlers outside gave a
cheer, and I saw an express wagon loaded with nets and ropes and all
sorts of animal catching stuff drive up. Tody Hamilton, Barnum's press
agent, had caught on to the possibilities of an advertisement, and sent
to the winter quarters at Bridgeport for some of their animal men to
come down and capture a loose lion. They supposed it was in Central
Park, and when they found it was in a stable the job looked easy to
them. One of them, a man named McDonald, had been with our English
show, and when he heard that it was Wallace they were to tackle his
enthusiasm seemed to melt. He told the others a few anecdotes of the
lion, and two of them went to find the Cockney, I guess, for we never
saw them again.

"We managed to throw a slip noose around the carcass from the stairs,
and when we passed the end of the rope out of the window there must have
been five hundred men pulling on it from the way that horse's body slid
across the floor. The four of us stood around the trap-door to beat
Wallace back, and when he realized that he was losing his prey it kept
us busy.

"Say, a dead horse seems to have more legs than a centipede when you try
to drag it through a narrow space, and they all stick out in different
directions. Of course, this one stuck and then there was more trouble,
for when I took an axe to dismember it, a cop threatened to arrest me
for cutting up a horse in the city limits. It took three hours to
satisfy the red-tape requirements and get a permit from the Board of
Health, and then I had a long, sickening job, for we had to haul up
what was left of the poor beast in fragments, and all the time Wallace
was snapping at them or rushing at us. We gave him several nasty cracks
over the snout, the only place where a lion seems to be sensitive to
pain, but it only made him uglier than ever and I knew that there was a
pretty fight ahead of us. It was a case of 'Perdicaris alive or Raisouli
dead' with me, for the police were getting impatient, and I knew they
would shoot him if we did not get him caged before night.

"We drew lots to see who should be the first to go down, and I think
that McDonald stacked the straws, for Broncho won--or lost--I was
second, the other Barnum man third and McDonald last; but he made good
after we got down there, and it was what the President would have called
a 'crowded hour.' If Wallace hadn't been full of horse meat, which made
him a trifle slow, I think he would have chased the bunch of us out, and
as it was he gave us all we wanted to do. We used blank cartridges,
Roman candles, training rods and whips, and I learned afterward that
the crowd outside thought we were all being torn to pieces, but we
finally conquered and it was a singed and battered lion which jumped
back into the den and gave me a chance to slam the door. The noise of
the clicking lock sounded good to me, and I went up the stairs with a
lighter heart, in spite of tattered clothes and a scratched hand and
bruised body. I knew that I had a small fortune in the beast, but I
nearly cried when I went into the saloon to freshen up, and the first
thing I saw was the poster with the announcement that Wallace would be
shown at the dime museum. I knew that it would make the reporters, who
had been writing columns of space, suspect that it was all a fake and
prearranged. The manager was afraid that I would renege on my contract
after all the free advertising, but he didn't know me.

[Illustration: _"We didn't have any regular snake charmer, but Merritt
made himself up for a Hindoo fakir."_]

"Sure enough, the reporters came for me in a body while I was still
tired and dirty from the fight and worn out with anxiety and loss of
sleep. They accused me of having put up a job on them, but I guess the
sight of my condition convinced them of my sincerity, for only one paper
even hinted at any crookedness, and that proved the best advertisement
in the whole business.

"It was the _Sun_ which came out in an article about Wallace, saying
that he was toothless and decrepit from old age, and that there had
never been the slightest danger from him. If the reporter who wrote it
had gone into the stable with us, I don't think he would have written
the article. I did my own announcing in those days and I always started
off with the announcement, 'Ladies and gentlemen! If you see it in the
_Sun_, it's so, and the _Sun_ says that Wallace is played out and
toothless from old age.' Then I would make a move to the front of the
cage, and Wallace, who had a special hatred for me, would spring at the
bars and show as pretty a set of fangs as you would wish to see and I
was always sure of a laugh.

"Well, I showed Wallace in New York and other cities for thirty straight
weeks and got back the value of that trotter a good many times over,"
continued the Proprietor as he rose from the table. "His name is one to
conjure with, even yet, and nearly every lion which is exhibited in the
side shows at the county fairs is billed as 'Wallace, the Untamable!'
The original Wallace is still alive and at our English breeding
establishment." He said good-night and left the table, the Press Agent
looking regretfully after him.

"That's just like the boss," he complained as he watched the retreating
figure. "He takes the center of the stage until he has told his story,
and when my turn comes to get in the limelight he does the disappearing
act. That was a pretty good story, but talking of escapes, I can tell
you about an escape that is worth talking about. It happened when a guy
named Merritt and myself were running a snake show next to a camp
meeting down on the Jersey coast. We didn't have any regular snake
charmer, but we bought a lot of wrigglers from a dealer down on the
Bowery and Merritt made himself up for a Hindoo fakir. He would get into
the cage with them and those snakes would wrap themselves about him from
his head to his toes and it was an awe-inspiring sight. He taught them
to stand up on their tails and dance while he played on a tin whistle
and to do other pretty little tricks, but the great and original stunt
was what he called the 'Interminable Snake,' when one would grab the
biggest snake's tail in his mouth, another would fasten onto him, and so
on until the whole blame lot looked like one big serpent. Say, those
snakes got so stuck on that game that they would do it for sport without
the word of command. Whenever one started to move around the cage
another would grab his tail, and the first thing you knew the whole
bunch was going around in a string and the sight of it was enough to
make a man swear off for a year.

"We were doing a fine business until a temperance lecturer set up a show
a little way off, and that cut into us so that there was nothing much
doing. The crowd would walk right past the entrance to our 'Highly Moral
and Instructive Exhibition,' and go on to listen to the temperance guy
telling them about the evils of drink, as illustrated by the horrible
living examples which he had upon the platform. You see that was a free
show, while ours cost a quarter--and cheap at the price.

"One afternoon after I had cracked my voice trying to draw the crowd
without landing one of 'em, Merritt comes to me, and as we saw the crowd
pouring in to the temperance show, we looked at each other and shook
our heads in sorrow.

"'Jim,' says Merritt, 'that guy down there has got you skinned to death
on the ballyhoo, and it's up to you to go over there and get next to the
attraction and see if we can't cop it out for our show. I hate to ask it
of you,' says he, 'knowing your views on the temperance question, but
business is business and this ain't no time for sentiment.' It went
against the grain, but I knew it must be done, so I went down to the
lecture. I wasn't wise to the game, but I was anxious not to miss a
trick, so I went right up to the front, and the first thing I knew I was
seated on the mourners' bench, right under the platform. As soon as the
lecturer came on I piped him for a guy that used to pull teeth on the
Bowery with a brass band accompaniment and a gasoline torch, and I
remembered that at that time he could punish more booze than any man I
ever knew. He had the gift of gab all right, and he had picked up a
couple of panhandlers for horrible examples and they looked the part.
If either one of them had ever drawn a sober breath in twenty years he
should have sued his face for libel, and they looked as if they had been
towed behind a trolley car from the Battery to Fort George.

"Well, the ex-jaw carpenter cut loose in good form, and he soon had
every one worked up, telling the horrible things which alcohol did to
your interior lining, and giving a description of the menagerie which a
man sees when he has the jim-jams, which would have done credit to the
boss lecturer in there." He pointed with his thumb to the Arena, and the
alert waiter, taking it for a signal, refilled the glasses.

"He did it so well that he sort of had me going, and I was beginning to
think that possibly I was taking a trifle too much," continued the Press
Agent, as he sampled the fresh drink. "I was giving the matter serious
thought, when my attention was attracted by one of the panhandlers who
was nudging his partner.

"'Bill,' says he, 'tell the old man to put on full steam ahead, for I'm
backsliding and need encouragement. I'm afraid I've got 'em again. Look
there!' Bill looks down the aisle and gets uneasy, too.

"'Hank,' says he, 'I've got 'em, likewise, only that ain't my usual kind
of snake, coz he ain't got no plug hat with a red flannel band on it;
but it's me for the bromide and the simple life.'

"'It's this damn Jersey whiskey that's changed 'em,' answers Bill. 'Mine
always has gorillas ridin' 'em.' Well, I looked around and I would have
been scared myself if I hadn't recognized our own bunch of snakes, each
one of 'em with the tail of the snake in front of him in his mouth. Old
'Limber Larry'--we called him that on account of his habit of going to
sleep curled up in a true lover's knot--was in the lead, and behind him
came about half a mile of snakes.

"They were festooning themselves up the aisle, coming slow, because
there were a couple of them which could not move very fast, and when the
gait got too lively they used to bite their leaders' tails. Old Larry
was raising his head and looking around every few feet, and just when
the lecturer had reached the most thrilling part of his 'Ten Nights in a
Barroom' spiel he caught Larry's eye and the meeting adjourned, _sine
die_, right there. You couldn't see him for dust as he broke for the
nearest 'speakeasy,' and the two panhandlers were hanging on to his coat

"Just then Merritt comes in looking worried, for he had gone to sleep
and let 'em get away from him, but when he sees 'em he takes his tin
whistle out of his pocket and goes back to the show, tooting it like a
blasted Pied Piper, the snakes following along as meek as Mary's little
lamb, and most of the audience goes with him at a quarter per."

"Did business improve?" asked the Stranger.

"Improve? Why, my boy, after we put that temperance show out of business
we just turned 'em away for three months. Not only did we do a good
business, but the hotel people put us on the free list at the bar,
because Merritt used to take 'em down in 'Interminable Snake' formation
for a dip in the ocean every morning, and the hotel press agent wrote it
up as the daily appearance of the gigantic sea serpent."



A delegation from the National Association of Press Agents which was
holding its annual meeting in the interests of the Furtherance of Truth
and the Elevation of the Show Business had left the meeting place in New
York, and after inspecting the various moral and entertaining
performances at Coney Island was gathered about one of the white-topped
tables near the Dreamland tower. Colonel Tody Hamilton, prince of press
agents, master of a picturesque vocabulary, inventor of superlatives in
the English language and champion of veracity, pointed laughingly toward
the Arena, where the Proprietor of the trained animal exhibition was
instructing a new barker how to make the most out of a trick of one of
the elephants which was being used for ballyhoo purposes in front of
the entrance to his show.

"Listen to him, gentlemen, and you will be convinced that he is eligible
to membership in our truth-loving fraternity," he remarked admiringly.
The ungainly pachyderm was standing on its hind legs, trumpeting through
its upraised trunk a protest against the prodding of the sharp goad
which was forcing it to walk backward in that absurd position. The voice
of the Proprietor, who was using a megaphone, came to them distinctly as
he invited the people to look at "One of the greatest triumphs of the
animal trainer's art; something which has never been exhibited in any

The speech caught and held the attention of the crowd, and when the
elephant was allowed to rejoin its companions and the three great beasts
entered the building in single file, Tom grasping Roger's tail in his
trunk and Alice following suit with the caudal appendage of Tom, a
goodly number stepped up to the ticket booth and paid their entrance
money. The Colonel and his associates, whose business had made them
familiar with elephants, smiled at the credulity of the crowd, but
acknowledged the Proprietor's skill in attracting an audience.

[Illustration: _"Sam Watson confessed the whole thing."_]

"You wouldn't believe that I spent over seven hundred dollars to turn
that smallest elephant white a few years ago," said the Colonel as the
waiter refilled their glasses, but his companions made unanimous
protestation that they would believe any statement he made, and the
Colonel settled back comfortably in his chair to tell the story which
they demanded.

"You will have to listen to the story of the famous war of the white
elephants, then," he said, good-naturedly, "a struggle which will remain
famous in the circus world as long as the big tops are spread. It was in
the good old days of fierce competition in the business, the days when
the press agents earned every dollar of their salaries, and sometimes
had to go to the extent of saying things in print which were not
strictly true. There was intense rivalry between the two big shows, the
P. T. Barnum and the Forepaugh aggregations, and the bitter feeling
between the proprietors was transmitted to the employees. The advance
agents would steal each other's printed matter and posters out of the
express offices, and you could always count on a fight between the
canvas men whenever the two shows were close enough together. They
would damage each other's property, loosen nuts on the wagons so that
the wheels would come off and cause upsets, and do anything to embarrass
the rival show.

"Each show tried to outdo the other at every point; advertising, number
of performers, length of the street parade, menagerie collection and
everything which money could buy. They started in to see which could get
the largest herd of elephants, each advertising the largest herd in
captivity, and that competition raised the price of elephants all over
the world and denuded every small zoological park in Europe, while it
pretty nearly bankrupted the shows to feed them. We had eighty with the
Barnum circus, and finally Mr. Barnum came to me and said that he had
purchased a Sacred White Elephant and told me to start giving it
publicity. Of course, I didn't know anything about that particular kind
of elephant, but as I always like to be perfectly accurate in my
statements I made a scientific study of it. I found that, as a matter
of fact, there was no such thing as a white elephant known in natural
history, although there was an occasional absence of the usual pigment
in the skins of some beasts which give them a trifle lighter color, and
that these animals were apt to have a few spots on the body which were
nearly white, just as you sometimes hear of a negro who is spotted. When
such a spot occurs in the center of the forehead the Buddhists regard
the beast as sacred, from the fact that the god, Buddha, is always
depicted as wearing a jewel in that position and it is looked upon as
his special mark of protection. It is the ambition of every Indian Rajah
to possess one, for then he is billed as 'The Lord of the Sacred White
Elephant,' a title which seems to fill a long-felt want in the heart of
an Oriental potentate.

"Well, Barnum's agent had, by some hook or crook, procured one of these
and sent it to London, but owing to the lateness of the season it was
decided to leave it there in the Zoological Gardens and get up a
controversy which, in itself, would be a good advertisement for it. The
average Englishman is very fond of writing to the _Times_ to expose a
fraud, and we knew that there would be a protest from those who would be
disappointed in the brute's color. There are hundreds of retired
officers who have served in India living in London, and they know all
about Sacred White Elephants, and time hangs heavily on their hands.
They were only too anxious to certify to its genuineness, and they wrote
the peppery kind of replies to the criticisms which might be expected
from men who had spent the best years of their lives under a hot sun and
lived upon curries and red peppers. Of course, I saw that the letters
were copied in the home papers, and before the circus season opened I
had the Great American Public watching anxiously for the reported
sailing of the Sacred White Elephant.

[Illustration: _"Walking upon its hind legs, BACKWARD."_]

"I should have been on my guard, for the Forepaugh bunch just kept
sawing wood and saying nothing, but whenever I met their press agent he
gave me the quiet laugh. Our elephant was finally shipped, and you can
imagine that I made the most of it in the papers. I had 'em filled up
for two days, and then, while ours was still in mid-ocean, out comes
Forepaugh's announcement that his Sacred White Elephant would land in
New York the following day. I knew it was a fake, for they were very
difficult to obtain, but they stole our thunder, just the same. I
managed to get a peep at it while it was being unloaded, and although it
was only a dirty yellowish color, I knew that it would make ours look
like a decided brunette by comparison. They had worked it well and kept
it quiet, but knowing that there was a nigger in the woodpile and that
money would bring him out, I spent it like a drunken sailor in trying to
get information.

"Forepaugh had eminent scientists examine the beast and give their
certificates that it was genuine, and all the inside information I could
get was that the elephant had been purchased through Cross, the great
animal dealer in Liverpool, and that it had been kept secluded in his
place there all winter. Sam Watson, who was Forepaugh's foreign agent,
and his groom, a man named Telford, were the only people who had access
to it, and they had spent hours every day in its stall. Cross would give
us no information as to how or where he obtained the elephant, for
Forepaugh bought all of the animals for his menagerie through him,
while we dealt with his great rival, Hagenbeck, of Hamburg.

"Forepaugh got all the newspaper space for the next few days, and when
our elephant finally arrived it looked mighty dark-colored for a white
elephant when compared with the fake one. It was hard to educate the
people up to the significance of the little white spot in the center of
the forehead, but any one but a blind man could see that Forepaugh's
fake was lighter in color. We went at it, horse, foot and artillery, and
the fight cost the two shows more than a quarter of a million dollars,
and lasted until we patched up a truce in St. Louis to save us both
going into bankruptcy. I got some of Cross's employees to swear that
they had seen the elephant being painted in Liverpool, and Forepaugh
replied by getting a commission of scientific sharps from Ann Arbor to
examine the beast and swear that the color was natural. There was good
money in perjury and scientific opinions those days, but I never let up
for a minute in my endeavor to get at the truth of the matter, for I
knew it was hanky panky and I am a diligent searcher after truth,
especially when a rival has sunk it to the bottom of a well. I
experimented with some of our elephants until I nearly took their thick
hides off, but I could get no satisfactory results until I called in
Marchand, the chemist, and asked him if he could give me something to
bleach an elephant. He had an especially strong solution of peroxide of
hydrogen made up, and I selected the smallest animal out of our herd of
eighty to try it on. It happened to be the one which you just saw
working on the ballyhoo over there, which you noticed was the ordinary
slate color. We soaked cloths in the peroxide and covered the beast with
them and then put blankets on top. After they had been on for awhile we
washed the animal with ammonia and water and repeated the performance
until that elephant was as white as snow.

[Illustration: _"Forepaugh had eminent scientists examine the beast."_]

"Forepaugh was to open in Philadelphia, so I shipped our fake over
there, and when they had their street parade I followed right behind it
with our bleached animal on a truck which was liberally placarded. The
notices called attention to the fact that Forepaugh's alleged sacred
elephant was simply painted and that the men who did it were bunglers at
the business. 'LOOK AT THIS ONE!' read our largest placard. 'WE TELL
YOU THAT IT IS A FAKE! So is Forepaugh's, but he won't tell! This is A
BETTER JOB BY A BETTER ARTIST!' That made the Forepaugh people hot, and
they replied with a new bunch of affidavits and expert opinions from a
lot of University of Pennsylvania professors. That couldn't offset our
show-up, though, and the whole situation had become so mixed that the
public thought all of the elephants were fakes. We had the only genuine
one and the best fake also, but they were a pair of white elephants in
every sense of the term, and a losing proposition. The one which we had
bleached would only keep white for about two weeks, and as each
treatment cost seven hundred dollars Barnum called me off. The Forepaugh
bunch was trying to poison it, and as the whole thing was dead as a
money-making venture and white elephants a drug in the market, we let
this one regain its natural color. When the great herd was broken up it
was sold off, and I never saw it again until to-night."

"But what was the inside history of the Forepaugh white elephant?" asked
one of his companions, and the Colonel smiled as he lighted a fresh

"I never knew it until this year, when one night over a friendly drink
Sam Watson, who is now a clown with the Big Show, confessed the whole
thing. Forepaugh is dead and the shows have been consolidated, so there
is no further object in keeping the thing quiet. It seems that
Forepaugh's agents found out that Barnum had purchased the elephant from
an impecunious Indian Rajah; in fact, he had purchased two, the first
one having died on its way to England. It was the misdirection of a
cable announcing the death and ordering another at any cost which put
them wise to the fact that Barnum had a rarity. Watson had never heard
of a sacred elephant, but he started out to get one when he read that
cablegram. They were scarce articles, and Barnum had bought the only two
which were to be had for love or money in all India, so he and Cross got
their heads together and started out to manufacture a bogus one in

"They prepared a closed stall, which was always kept locked, and put an
elephant in it--just a common, or garden, elephant. Then Sam and his
groom, Telford, proceeded to get busy with bath bricks, pumice stone
and a barrel of white aniline dye. I imagine they had a pretty hard
winter's work and it was certainly a tough period for the elephant,
because they had to scrape about half the skin off the poor brute before
the dye would take hold. They finally succeeded in getting him several
shades lighter than normal, all except about eighteen inches at the end
of the trunk. They could do nothing with that on account of the habit of
the beast, which was always mussing around in its bedding, searching for
stray peanuts.

[Illustration: _"Then Sam and his groom, Telford, proceeded to get

"They kept in touch with the London Zoo and found out when we were to
ship the genuine one, and then got their fake on a steamer which would
land it in New York a few days ahead of us. Of course, they had to keep
working at it all the way over, but they kept it quiet and no one caught
on. When the scientific sharps came to examine it, Sam would hoist the
trunk up in the air while he drew their attention to the marvelous
whiteness of the under side, and no one caught on to the fact that the
end of the trunk was the natural color.

"He let them remove some bits of skin for microscopic examination to
prove that no dye was used, but he always had them taken from the inner
side of the foreleg near the body, from which the natural pigment is
absent in all elephants. Sam swears that they never had to fix one of
the experts; they were only too anxious to get the advertisement, and
they were prepared to swear, and did in this particular case, that black
was white.

"I have a few gray hairs in my head, and most of them came during the
strain of that fight. The game isn't what it used to be and I'm glad
that it isn't, and let me tell you, as a result of long experience, that
the worst thing which can happen to a man is to have a white elephant,
fake or genuine, on his hands."



The doctor shook his head as he slipped his ophthalmoscope into his
pocket, and Rey, the trainer, who had been holding the bear's head still
while the oculist made the examination, opened the door of the cage for
him. The bear--a medium-sized black animal--wandered aimlessly about,
stumbling over the water pan and knocking its head against the bars, its
eyes, which were evidently sightless, shining like two fiery opals as
they reflected the electric light.

"I am sorry to tell you that it is a hopeless case," said the physician
to the Proprietor, who was standing with the Stranger in front of the
cage watching the examination. "Both optic nerves are atrophied, and
the animal must have received some serious injury, possibly a heavy
blow on the forehead." The Proprietor, who has the reputation of being a
"good loser," thanked him and gave some directions to the trainer about
the care of the animal before leading the way to the table in front of
the Arena, where the Press Agent was waiting for them.

"It is rather unusual to call the most famous specialist in the country
to examine a menagerie animal," he said, after the doctor hurriedly left
them to catch the express train back to the city. "You know that he
takes no small fee; his services are either given for charity or his
charge is very high--and this visit was not for charity."

"I should think that the value of a bear would hardly warrant the
expense," answered the Stranger as the waiter filled the glasses.

"It wouldn't be for an ordinary bear, but I was willing to pay anything
in reason to restore the sight of this particular specimen, so I sent
for the best-known oculist in New York. The decision which he has just
given will probably mean a loss of thousands of dollars to me, but that
is one of the risks which I have to assume. Would it interest you to
hear a rather unusual romance of the menagerie business?" The Stranger
gave eager assent, and the Press Agent settled himself comfortably and
lighted a cigar.

[Illustration: _"There seems to be a sympathy between them."_]

"You have no idea how many animals are offered to the owner of a
menagerie and from what unusual sources the offers come," said the
Proprietor. "Travelers in far countries bring back strange animals as
pets or curiosities; people buy young wild animals which get beyond
control when they mature and become veritable white elephants on their
hands, and their owners have to dispose of them. I have had everything
from monkeys to lions brought to me, and so it did not surprise me when
an artist came to the Hippodrome in Paris last winter and asked me if I
didn't want to purchase a bear. He seemed anxious for me to see it
immediately, and at his earnest solicitation I got in a cab with him and
drove to his studio, which was situated on the far side of the Seine.
The bear which you saw examined to-night was in a small room adjoining
the studio, chained to a ring in the wall.

"The apartment was luxuriously furnished, and I realized that it was not
lack of ready money which made the artist so anxious to dispose of the
brute; but he seemed in a desperate hurry to have me take it away, and
offered it for such a low price that I closed the bargain at once. I
suggested sending one of my men for it in the evening, but he insisted
upon my taking it with me, and as the bear was evidently as gentle as a
kitten I called a closed cab and drove away with it. The bear sat
comfortably on the seat beside me and gave no trouble, but as we drove
along I got to thinking the matter over and the whole proceeding seemed
a little strange. I had Mephisto, as the bear was named, put in a cage
well away from the other animals--a sort of quarantine precaution which
I always take with new arrivals--and as there was apparently nothing
unusual about him gave him little attention, there being for the moment
no group of animals in training for which he would be available. I soon
noticed that during the intermissions, when the audience wandered about
and examined the animals in the cages, there was always a crowd of women
about his den; but I thought that it was because he was such an
inveterate beggar, and had a habit of standing at the bars with his
mouth wide open, waiting for some one to flick a lump of sugar into it.

"The bear had given us no trouble, and there was only one peculiar thing
about him: he seemed to have an aversion to cats. The bodies of three of
them had been found in front of his cage, although we had never seen one
killed. The cats about a menagerie instinctively keep out of harm's way,
and it puzzled me to know how Mephisto had managed to get them within
reach of his heavy paw. Jack Bonavita, who fusses about his lions at all
hours of the day and night, solved that mystery and incidentally saved
his pet cat, Tramp, from an untimely ending. Tramp has been with Jack
for years and appreciates the folly of venturing within reach of the
animals in the cages, but Bonavita came across him in front of
Mephisto's cage in the middle of the night. The bear was absolutely
quiet, lying with its head on its paws and its eyes, which glistened
like two points of flame, fixed on the cat. Tramp was staring at it in
turn and slowly drawing nearer to the cage, apparently struggling
against some influence which was stronger than its will. Bonavita
watched them for a few minutes, but before the cat ventured within
striking distance he picked it up and carried it away, while Mephisto,
growling with rage, tried to break through the stout bars and get at it.

[Illustration: _"Tramp was slowly drawing nearer to the cage."_]

"Two days before we were to sail for America I was sitting at my desk
arranging some of the last details of shipment, when the door burst open
and a well-dressed, handsome woman rushed in, followed by the artist who
had sold me the bear. She was in a tearing rage and jabbering excitedly
in a language which I did not understand, while the artist was trying to
quiet her. She pushed him aside, and opening a purse which was well
stuffed with banknotes, she asked in French, which she spoke with a
marked foreign accent, for how much I would sell Mephisto. The artist
protested, but she turned on him and gave him a tongue lashing of which
I could guess the meaning, although the words were unintelligible to me.
I couldn't quite grasp the situation, but the strange hypnotic power
which the bear apparently exercised over cats had excited my curiosity,
and I wished to investigate it at my leisure, so I politely but
positively refused to name a price, and told her the animal was not for
sale. The artist seemed relieved and she was very much disappointed, but
she quieted down and asked me what I intended to do with the animal. I
told her that I was taking it to America, where it would be put in a
mixed group which Rey was to train, and after inquiring when we were to
sail, they left the office.

"I regretted that I had not taken the opportunity to find out something
about the history of the animal, and looked over the audience to try to
locate the couple, but they had left the building. One of the keepers
told me that she had screamed when she recognized the bear and called it
by name. She was trying to bribe him to let her go into the cage when
the artist came up and expostulated with her, and they had an awful row
before coming to my office. I heard nothing more from them and we
shipped the animals at Havre the following day. The traveling dens were
placed in the 'tween decks, which is not a pleasant place to be when the
ship is tossing about, and I was surprised the second day out to find
the woman who had tried to purchase Mephisto standing in front of his
cage in that smelly place, talking to the bear as if it were a child.
She laughed when I came up to her, and told me that as I would not part
with the bear I would have to take her with the show. I, too, laughed,
for I have a large family of daughters, and I knew that the simple
traveling gown which she wore had cost more than two months' salary of
my best trainer, but to my great surprise she was in dead earnest, and
asked me seriously if I would not let her train a group of animals."

The Press Agent grew very attentive, but the Proprietor told him that he
was not talking for publication, and that a name which occupied several
pages of the Almanach de Gotha was sacred, even from an American
promoter of publicity.

"And she does carry that name and was born to it," he continued, "but I
can't tell you what it is. She didn't tell it to me and it was not on
the passenger list, but the ambassador from a great European nation came
on from Washington to see her and remonstrate with her and to influence
me to exclude her from the show. I wouldn't consent to that, but I am
afraid that the accident of the bear's going blind will be the cause of
my losing an act which promised to be sensational."

[Illustration: _"The bear sat comfortably on the seat beside me."_]

"You have kept it quiet enough," said the Press Agent with a trace of
resentment in his voice. "It sounds to me as if it ought to be good for
a front-page column in every New York paper."

"As I told you, there are reasons why I can't exploit it," answered the
Proprietor. "I am counting upon it for my opening sensation at the Paris
Hippodrome next winter, and I don't intend to discount it before a Coney
Island audience. But to get back to my experience with her on the
steamer. I found that she occupied the most expensive deck stateroom,
and had a maid and a man servant traveling with her; so that I refused
all of her renewed offers for the bear when I found the powerful
fascination it had for her, and I finally consented to let her try the
experiment of working with a group of animals. You know the class from
which trainers are usually recruited, and you can imagine the interest
I take in a woman who possesses an absolute fearlessness which is
inherited from generations of ancestors who have never shown the white
feather, in addition to education and intelligence. The only thing which
puzzled me was her motive, and that I have not discovered yet, although
the ambassador, who had received all sorts of communications about her
from his own government, told me her history. It seems that she has
always been noted for her eccentricity and her rebellion against the
strict laws of convention which were supposed to control her life, and
this is not the first time she has defied them. She had commissioned the
artist--who, by the way, is one of the most celebrated men in Paris--to
paint a portrait of her. At the same time he was painting an exhibition
picture to be called the 'Dancing Bear,' and had purchased Mephisto for
a model. The picture was to represent the bear dancing on its hind legs
opposite a woman, to the music of a flageolet played by a man bear
leader--such an exhibition as is commonly given at the country fairs
throughout Europe. He had no difficulty in getting a male model, but he
was in despair about the woman dancer. He tried model after model, and
although they started in all right each one became so nervous after a
sitting or two that they refused to continue. The bear was chained to
the wall and they were posed safely out of reach, but each of them
asserted that the animal was like a serpent and trying to charm them so
that they would come close enough to be caught. They were all afraid
that they might yield to the fascination and be seriously injured.
Tramp, the cat, would probably have told the same story if he had been
able to talk.

"As a matter of curiosity the artist experimented with men, but the bear
appeared indifferent to them and the men made no complaint. It only
seemed to exercise this strange hypnotic power over women--and cats--for
the artist found two Persian felines, which had been studio pets, dead
beside it; simply crushed, as were those which were killed by the bear
at the Hippodrome. He mentioned the matter during one of the sittings
for the portrait, and the lady, being curious to see the animal, came to
his studio--and then the trouble commenced. She developed a most
unaccountable attachment for Mephisto, and he was as gentle as a lamb
with her. They would sit facing each other by the hour, and the artist
swore they talked to each other and understood each other perfectly. The
animal never attempted to harm her, but the artist became alarmed for
fear there should be an accident, and believing that there was something
uncanny about the brute, he decided to get rid of it and sold it to me.

"Well, I watched her with the bear on shipboard and since we landed, and
I can't yet understand her control over it, for it does not control her
in any way. There seems to be a sympathy between them which makes them
absolutely understand each other, and through it she understands the
other caged beasts. The act which I had framed for her when I found that
she was absolutely in earnest was a dance to be given in the midst of a
group of adult lions. The lady is absolutely fearless and approved the
plan, but stipulated that she should select the lions.

"'I have means of knowing which ones will behave and which are such
idiots that they can't be controlled if anything goes wrong,' she
answered when I suggested that I was a better judge of the dispositions
of the lions. 'I don't intend to have my beauty spoiled,' she said, 'and
I only want beasts which are intelligent. No one can trust a fool.'
Perhaps I have fallen under her influence, which according to her
standard should indicate intelligence, for I have given way at every
point and her judgment has proved correct, for in rehearsing the act she
has perfect control over the animals, three of which I considered the
most vicious in the menagerie. I let her take them in fear and

"For the past three days she has been anxious and uneasy about the bear
and has insisted that it was rapidly going blind. She says that the bear
is her teacher about things in the animal world, and that she can tell
what it is thinking about. Its eyes look perfectly sound, and it is only
for two days that we have noticed anything wrong with it. Mephisto knew
its way about its old cage so well that it gave no evidence of
blindness, and a bear is naturally clumsy in its movements, but when we
moved it to a strange den it stumbled over everything. I experimented by
bringing Tramp in front of its cage, but with the loss of sight the
hypnotic power has apparently deserted it, and the cat paid no attention
to it. Finally I called in the doctor and you heard him pronounce his

"But where is the great loss?" asked the Stranger.

"It is principally a loss in prospective profits," replied the
Proprietor as he beckoned to the waiter. "I had the new act all planned
out for Paris--the lady was to appear masked for her performance, but I
knew her identity would be discovered and that it would be a tremendous
sensation. I don't know how much of her desire to train animals is due
to eccentricity and as a protest against the conventions which hedged
in her former life, and how much to her strange infatuation for
Mephisto, but since its blindness has developed she has lost interest
and I suppose she will renege on the whole business."

"How do you account for it all--her infatuation for the bear and her
intuitive knowledge of the dispositions of the lions?" asked the

"I don't try to account for anything. It is one of the thousand things
about animals and the million things about women which no mere man can
understand," replied the Proprietor laughing. "I have simply given you
the facts of the situation and you can draw your own conclusions, but
the bear's blindness upsets my plans and possibly prevents a sensation
in circles which approach royalty."

"Women _are_ difficult to understand," agreed the Press Agent as the
Proprietor paused to moisten his throat, "and a man who is in love with
one of 'em is just about as unaccountable for his actions. I had that
fact engraved upon the tablets of my memory when a guy named Merritt and
myself were running a dime museum in Pittsburg. Merritt was a good,
hard-headed business man as a rule and he made a first-class lecturer;
but when I found that he was taking to 'dropping into poetry' and
delivering his descriptions of the freaks in verse, I began to get leary
about the condition of the contents of his head. The poetry was always
extemporaneous and was pretty bad, but it amused the crowd when it
wasn't too sentimental.

"As I say, the poetry was strictly on the bum, but what it lacked in
quality it made up in quantity and he could spiel it off by the yard.
Whenever he got stuck for a rhyme he would blow the whistle which he
used to call the crowd in front of the freak he was lecturing about and
move to the next platform. That didn't happen often, but whenever we had
a Circassian Beauty among the freaks Merritt's poetry got so sentimental
that no one but a bride and groom could stand for it--and it had to be
early in the honeymoon at that. He would ring in turtle doves and azure
skies and all the wishy-washy things in natural history and mythology
and it was positively sickening.

"He sure had a soft place in his heart for Circassian Beauties, and as
they were as common as wire tappers on Broadway under a reform
administration he was always getting sentimental. We used to get a new
lot of freaks each week; our agent in New York engaged 'em and sent on
the advertising matter ahead, and when we looked over the list I could
see Merritt's face brighten up if there happened to be one of the fuzzy
blondes included in the bunch.

"Business was good, in spite of Merritt's poetry, so that I didn't kick
when I saw that another one was coming. It was a good assortment: a
Legless Wonder, The Man Who Breaks Paving Stones With His Bare Fists, a
pair of Siamese Twins, a Leopard Boy and a particularly fuzzy Circassian
Beauty. I saw Merritt's eyes grow soft when he looked at her photograph,
and I prayed for a large proportion of the newly wedded among the
audience that week.

[Illustration: _"He made sheep's eyes and threw a chest."_]

"Well, Merritt starts in with the Stone Breaker and restrains himself
pretty well; the only sentiment he got in was a fervent wish that 'a
certain blonde beauty, with eyes of cerulean blue, would not break a
heart which time would prove tender and true,' as ruthlessly as this man
cracked rocks. He was gradually working up to the blonde, you
understand, and he got warmer as he approached. The next one was the
Legless Wonder, and he got a little tangled up in his comparisons when
he sprung his poetry about him and tried to ring in the Circassian, and
he had to blow his whistle like blazes to spare the blushes of the
audience. The Siamese Twins gave him a good opening about 'bonds
eternal' and the 'season vernal' and he didn't do a thing with it. The
Leopard Boy was a cinch for him as he declaimed that

    "'They say that beauty is but skin deep.
    And as you gaze upon this freak,
    You will, I think, agree with me,
    That though beneath he fair may be,
    You'd much prefer to look the same
    As the fair being who next will claim
    Our admiration and attention,
    With charms too numerous to mention.'

"That made the Leopard Boy mad, for you know that freaks are as proud of
their deformities as a mother is of a new baby, and look on normal
people as objects of pity. But Merritt blew his whistle and passed on to
the Circassian, and he made sheep's eyes and threw a chest as his
fingers toyed with her peroxide locks. Say, it was sickening to listen
to, and I saw that even the Stone Breaker was showing signs of distress
and couldn't stand much of it. He bore up pretty well at first, while
Merritt stuck to describing the 'golden locks and eyes of blue,' but
when he got to the 'sugar is sweet and so are you,' stage he commenced
to get mad and moved over to the platform.

"'Say, Mag,' says he, 'get down offen dat staige an' come away from de
guy. It ain't in our contrac' dat we has ter stand for his gettin' soft
on youse an' stringin' youse like dat. Come down, er I'll climb up an'
break his face fer him.'

"'Sure, Mike,' says the blonde, and climbs down. That made Merritt mad
and he talks real English without any poetic frills for a minute. He
allowed that he could lick any Stone Breaker that ever came off the
Bowery, and when he started to prove it there was a mix-up which made
the breaking up of 'The Society upon the Stanislaus' look like a fist
fight between two Frenchmen. The walls were covered with curiosities
from all over the world, and pretty soon they were flying through the
air. Merritt yanked down an Indian war club and started for the Stone
Breaker and somebody swatted him over the head with a mummy. The Legless
Wonder couldn't join in, but he contributed a two-headed calf which was
preserved in a jar of alcohol, and the Leopard Boy grabbed a bunch of
Zulu spears and prodded every one in reach. Even the blonde was
something of a scrapper and she mixed in with a miscellaneous assortment
of stuffed animals and preserved specimens, to say nothing of some
choice language which she hadn't learned in Circassia. The place was
pretty well wrecked by the time the police arrived and separated the

"'What's all this row about, anyway?' asks the sergeant after they had
quieted things down.

"'Dat guy was tryin' to get nex' to me wife, de Circassian Beaut','
answers the Stone Breaker. 'He spouts bum poetry about her, an' I won't
stand fer it, see? Leave me go an' I'll crack his nut as easy as I would
a pavin' stone.' Merritt had lots of fight left in him and tried to
break loose, but the Circassian's remarks wilted him and I never knew
him to use poetry again.

"'Aw, wot's de use, Mike?' says she. 'Youse can't crack a ting dat ain't
hard, an' his sky-piece is made of mush.'"



Chauncey Depew was at the bottom of all the trouble; not the punctured
senator from the state of New York, but his namesake, one of the
handsomest double-striped royal Bengal tigers ever captured. Depew was
the central figure in the group which Miller, the trainer of tigers, had
worked so hard to educate, and it was his rebellion which made the
teacher's labors of years come to naught. Late in the season, after
months spent in giving the finishing touches to their education while
they were with a small part of the show which was exhibited near
Cleveland, the tigers were brought to Dreamland; a group of eight
magnificent beasts, all jungle bred and each worthy of a place in any
menagerie. Perhaps it was the discomfort of the journey in the small
traveling cages, possibly the change in the surroundings and the
nearness of the other animals excited them; but whatever the cause,
there was trouble in the narrow runway at the back of the dens when they
entered it to go to the exhibition cage for their first Coney Island

The sound of their snarling and growling, the reports of pistol shots
and the cracking of training whips caused a sensation of uneasiness in
the audience until the first tiger bounded through the door at the back
of the cage, closely followed by a half-dozen others. Dangerous beasts
they looked as they threw themselves against the stout bars, which
rattled from the impact of their great bodies, and the front seats of
the auditorium were quickly vacated by the audience. The noise in the
runway continued, but the deep throaty growls which came from behind the
dens were of a different quality from the snarling and yapping of the
seven beasts in the exhibition cage, and when the last of the tigers
appeared in the doorway the first arrivals made renewed efforts to
escape through the bars.

[Illustration: _"The first tiger bounded through the door."_]

It was Depew; not the good-natured-looking great cat whose
"I-have-eaten-the-canary" expression and smug whiskers had suggested his
name, but a jungle tiger who had "gone bad," as the animal trainers call
it, and who stood for a moment in the doorway, wrathfully surveying his
frantic companions and selecting a victim. Froth was dripping from his
snarling lips, his small eyes were blazing like two points of flame, the
hair on his neck and back stood up like bristles, and his great tail
struck the door-casing resounding whacks, as he lashed it from side to
side. Only a moment he stood there, and then the great striped body
hurtled through the air as if shot from a catapult, and covering a good
twenty feet in the spring it landed fair on Bombay, one of the largest
tigers in the group. The aim was a true one and the sound of breaking
bone mingled with a scream of pain from his victim, as Bombay sank under
the weight of the blow, his cervical vertebræ crushed between Depew's
powerful jaws.

The door had been closed behind Depew when he made his spring, and the
other tigers were chasing madly about the great cage, looking for a
chance to escape. There was no desire to fight left in them, but when
they collided with each other they snapped and struck with the instinct
of self-preservation, their sharp claws and teeth cutting gashes in the
sleek striped coats. It was evident that all training had been
forgotten, that fear of anything so puny as man had departed from the
minds of the tigers, and a groan went up from the audience when the door
was opened and quickly closed behind Miller, the trainer, who stood,
whip and training rod in hand, in the cage with the maddened animals. He
went about his work as quietly as if it were only an ordinary
performance, his object being to return his pupils to their dens before
further damage was done and to try to make them recognize that they were
obeying him.

Depew was still crouched on the body of his victim, biting at the neck
and growling ferociously, his tail lashing from side to side. Miller
never took his eyes from him and kept between him and the door as he
called the others by name and tried to regain control of them. One tiger
after another was released, glad of the opportunity to escape, as the
door to the runway was opened at Miller's signal, until only Depew, the
body of Bombay and the trainer occupied the cage.

The other tigers had entered into a general free fight in the runway,
but the noise of their bickering was unheeded in the excitement of the
contest in the exhibition cage. Depew rose as Miller cracked his whip
and approached him, and made a rush which the trainer met with his
pronged training rod, driving it hard between the widely opened jaws
while his whip rained blows upon the tiger's face. But he was only
checked for a moment, and under his fiercer attack the trainer was
forced to give ground. They were so close that the tiger could not
spring, but he struck savagely with his great forepaws and tried again
and again to pass the guard which Miller maintained with the training
rod, using it as a fencer uses a foil. It was an unequal contest and the
trainer realized that he was beaten; Depew would not be driven from the
cage. The useless training whip was discarded and a savage rush from the
tiger was met by a pistol shot in the face, blank cartridge, of course,
but effective for a moment. Five more shots followed in quick succession
and the trainer backed quickly toward the door, when his foot slipped,
he was on his back, and Depew, quick to seize the advantage, stood over

[Illustration: _"Depew was still crouched on the body of his victim."_]

Every keeper connected with the show stood about the cage with the Roman
candles, fire extinguishers, pistols and irons which are always kept in
readiness, and any or all of them would have willingly entered to rescue
the man, but experience has taught them that two cannot work together
in a cage with animals. They were quick to act and a stream of water
under heavy pressure from the fire hose struck the tiger in the side,
exploding fireworks scorched his skin, the din of revolver shots was in
his ears, while the wads from the cartridges stung him, but he seemed
conscious only of the prostrate form beneath him. At last his chance had
come; the trainer who for long months had made him do foolish things
which were beneath the dignity of a royal tiger was in his power; the
revolver which had so often checked him was emptied; the cruel training
rod was powerless, for the hand which held it was pinned to the floor by
a huge paw. Cat-like he paused to glory in his triumph, loath to give
the _coup de grâce_ which would put his victim beyond the reach of
suffering, and he stood there growling, the bloody slaver from his jaws
dripping on the upturned face of the prostrate man.

Animal trainers need to think quickly and to seize the slightest moment
of hesitation or indecision on the part of their pupils if they wish to
be long-lived, and Miller, as he fell, had thrown his useless pistol out
of the cage and uttered the one word "Load!" There was no time for that,
but Tudor, seeing that the trainer had one arm free, threw his own
pistol through the bars and it slid across the floor of the cage
straight as a die to the outstretched hand. It was a time when fractions
of a second count and Depew's hesitation robbed him of his revenge. The
opened jaws were within a foot of the trainer's throat when the muzzle
of the pistol went between them, and Depew, coughing and choking, drew
back, his throat scorched by the burning powder, his eyes momentarily
blinded by the stream from a fire extinguisher, while Miller struggled
to his feet.

"People who see the crowds at my show think that I must coin money,"
said the Proprietor as he joined the Press Agent and the Stranger after
the performance. "But that accident in the Arena to-night means a loss
of fifty thousand dollars to me."

"Isn't that a high figure, even if they all die?" asked the Stranger,
who had been doing a little mental arithmetic.

"For those eight, yes, although a trained tiger is worth all sorts of
money, but I have purchased twenty-eight in all for that group, and the
others have been killed one by one, fighting among themselves. They
average over a thousand apiece, for I bought only the best, and figure
up the cost of their keep, transportation and trainer's salaries for
three years and you will find that I am not far out. That is the
difficulty of the show business in America, the public demands so much.
It is a marvelous thing, when you come to think of it, to see one
educated tiger; but if he wore evening clothes and played the fiddle it
wouldn't impress the Americans; they would demand a full orchestra. I
can give an act an hour long in Paris with one high school horse, but
here they want fifty liberty horses in a bunch and only care to watch
them for ten minutes. I realized that from Bonavita's act with the
lions; no individual lion did very much, but the fact that there were
twenty-seven of them in the cage drew the crowds. That's what made me
start in with the tigers, and I intended to get a big group, but now I
am back where I started from. I don't believe a troupe of tigers can
ever be trained."

[Illustration: _"Depew, coughing and choking, drew back."_]

"Hagenbeck has them," ventured the Stranger. "They seem as tame as
kittens with his show."

"That's just the point," answered the Proprietor. "They are as tame as
kittens: undersized brutes which have been raised in captivity and
which go through their act like domestic cats. That isn't what the
public wants. A sensation--the realization that every animal in the cage
is a wild animal and that he is liable to remember it at any minute--is
what holds attention. That is why I always use jungle animals when I can
get them, for, although they can be as well trained, they always perform
under protest and it makes it exciting. But the losses from fighting
among themselves make it mighty expensive to keep up the big groups
which the American public demands."

"That's one of the things which drove me out of the show business," said
the Press Agent as he set his empty glass on the table and signaled to
the waiter. "A guy named Merritt and myself had a snake show in New York
a few years ago which presented the most complete collection of reptiles
ever gotten together, for it contained specimens of every species of
wriggler known to herpetology and a good many that were not described in
the books. That man Merritt was an inventive genius and had the
California sharp, Burbank, beaten a mile when it came to inventing new
species. When business was dull he'd take a lot of common, ordinary
snakes into the back room and with a bottle of peroxide of hydrogen and
an assortment of aniline dyes he would bring out albinos and spotted and
striped snakes which made the scientists open their eyes and kept 'em
busy inventing new Latin names.

"His biggest success was 'The Great Two-horned Rhinoceros Serpent,'
which made 'em all sit up for a month, and if I hadn't seen Merritt
working over a common boa-constrictor with a pair of shark's teeth and a
dish of bird lime it would have fooled me. That snake was proud of the
horns which Merritt glued on his head, too, and he used to chase the
other snakes around the cage and butt 'em like a giddy billy-goat. But
in spite of all his ingenuity in originating new varieties, business was
dropping off, for the public demanded quantity as well as quality and we
had skinned the local snake market clean. We were sitting in the office
one day, figuring on where we could get additions to our collection,
when a stout, red-faced little man who had 'sea captain' written all
over him came in and asked if we wanted any more snakes. Merritt allowed
that we did if the snakes and the prices were right and asked where we
could inspect them.

"'Well, I've got one that I brought from Borneo and he's on a ship down
in the harbor,' says the Captain. 'We won't argue none about the price,
for if you'll come down and take him away you can have him for nothing.'
That made Merritt a little suspicious and he asked the Captain if it
were his ship.

"'I reckoned it was until two days ago, when that blame snake broke
loose,' he answered irritably. 'Since then he seems to own it and not a
man jack of the crew will go below. I've tried to shoot him, but the
beggar's too quick, and I want to discharge my cargo, so if you ain't
afraid to tackle him, come on.'

"'Me afraid! Me?' says Merritt throwing out a chest. 'Why, man alive,
I'm the only living snake charmer who ever dared handle the dangerous
Two-horned Rhinoceros Serpent, and do you think I'd weaken before a
common Borneo python?'

"'I dunno whether you will or not until I see you try,' says the
Captain. 'I've handled a Malay crew, which is worse than serpents, and
I've mixed it up with most of the scum that sails the seven seas, but
this blame snake's got me bluffed all right. He's three fathom long, as
big around as the mainmast, and made up principally of muscle and

"'Just watch me. Watch me!' says Merritt. 'I'll use my wonderful
hypnotic power and you'll see the serpent crawl into the bag at my
command, to be easily transported to this moral and elevating show for
exhibition as an example of the power of mind over matter.'

"'All right, professor,' says the Captain. 'But if you'll take my advice
you'll stow those shore-going togs and get into working rig before you
tackle him.' Merritt was arrayed in all his finery, and if you'd ever
seen him you'd know that that meant a lot, for when he was flush he
could make Solomon in all his glory, or any other swell dresser look
like a dirty deuce in a new deck. He had on a light suit with checks
which were so loud they drowned the music of the orchestra, and a shirt
which would make a summer sunset hide its head in disappointment. Patent
leather shoes with yellow tops and a white plug hat with a black band
around it completed his costume, except for a few specimens of yellow
diamonds which adorned his shirt front and cuffs.

"Merritt snorted contemptuously at the suggestion and we started for the
ship. When we got on board he made a little speech before he went into
the hold, telling the sailors about his wonderful hypnotic power and how
he would exercise it to charm the serpent which was preventing their
worthy Captain from reaping the rewards of his arduous toil and his
hardihood in having braved the perils of the vasty deep. The sailors
listened and grinned, but the Captain was getting impatient and
suggested that Merritt get the snake first and give his spiel afterward,
so Merritt went down the ladder with the bag over his shoulder and we
all rubbered down the hatchway to watch the capture.

[Illustration: _"Merritt was quick enough to get a strangle hold around
the snake's neck."_]

"I knew what he would try to do, for I had seen him work it before. The
way to get one of those big snakes is to cover his head with a bag, and
then he'll crawl in himself to get into the dark, which is a serpent's
idea of safety. The more you prod 'em the faster they'll crawl, and that
was the time when Merritt always made passes with his hands and muttered
gibberish to impress the spectators. He started in according to
programme as soon as he located the snake, which was half hidden among a
lot of casks. The snake carried out his part and struck at the opened
bag which Merritt held out to him, but instead of sticking his head in
he grabbed it with his teeth, and as Merritt held on he drew him back
among the barrels and there was a pretty fight. Merritt was quick enough
to get a strangle hold around the snake's neck and then it kept him
busy keeping out of his coils. The Captain hadn't lied much about the
size of the python--it was about thirty feet long--and Merritt didn't
have time to use any incantation, although considerable forcible
language floated up through the hatchway. They wiped the deck with each
other for about twenty minutes, and Merritt had been bumped against
pretty nearly every cask in the hold before he finally succeeded in
drawing the sack over the snake's head. Then it was easy, and in spite
of his lack of breath the showman in Merritt asserted itself. He put the
sack on the floor, and with one foot on the neck of it he prodded the
snake's body with the other while he made mysterious passes with his
hands until the tip of the tail disappeared. When the sack was securely
tied up the python was hoisted on deck, and Merritt, his clothing torn
and soiled with pitch and the miscellaneous oily and sticky things which
made up the ship's cargo, climbed up after it.

"'Did you see me?' he asked proudly, throwing out his chest. 'Did you
observe the wonderful hypnotic power which overcame the prowess of the

"'Yes, I noticed it, along toward the finish,' answered the Captain,
grinning skeptically as he sized up Merritt's dilapidated apparel. 'But
say, professor, what I can't understand is why you didn't get it working


Transcriber's Note:

    Minor typographical errors have been corrected without note. Dialect
    spellings have been retained.

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Side Show Studies" ***

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