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Beschreibung des Verlags
Although my family was one of animal trainers and exhibitors, my father did not wish me to follow so hazardous a profession, and decided that I should become a clergyman of the Church of England. My early education was carefully looked after, and having completed my preparatory course under private tutors, I finally went to Kelvedon College in Essex, England, where I did well. I was fond of study, had good masters,—who always impressed upon me the fact that “he who would hope to command must learn to obey,”—and gained some honors.
But during one vacation I went home and saw my father’s wild-animal exhibition, and there all the glamour and fascination of the show came upon me. There is no doubt I had inherited my father’s instincts. The lion-tamer my father had at that time was the great feature of the show. It struck me, however, that he was extremely cruel, and being very fond of animals myself, this aroused my indignation. I spoke to my father about it rather warmly, but he, evidently thinking it a boy’s impetuosity, laughed it off, saying the man was only protecting himself.
That same evening, however, the trainer handled the lion so roughly that, enraged at the injustice and indignities to which he was subjected, the animal suddenly turned upon him, and would certainly have killed him had not prompt assistance been rendered.
Wrought up and excited by the occurrence, I begged my father to let me take his place, but he would not hear of it. The next day I took the law into my own hands, and it was in the lion’s cage that my father found me, to his horror, when casually going the rounds of the show. He watched me for a while in fear and trembling, and then said, his voice quivering with anger and fright:
“If ever you get out of there alive, my lad, I’ll give you the biggest thrashing you ever had in your life.”
But he didn’t. He was so overjoyed at my safety and so proud of my success, that after much persuasion I got him to allow me to take the place of the incapacitated trainer. I was fifteen at this time, and was called “The Boy Trainer.” From that time my college days were over, and I knew there could never be any other life for me than that of a trainer and showman.
I have never regretted this step; but I often look back upon my peaceful college days with great pleasure, for they laid the foundation of good principles, self-control, and discipline; and I have always made it my chief endeavor never to allow anything the least vulgar or offensive in my exhibitions.
There is a fascination about wild-animal training which few who have once felt it escape. The constant presence of danger calls for quick judgment and promptness in meeting an emergency. A thrilling experience of mine in Birmingham, England, in 1889, may show the critical situation in which a wild-animal showman is sometimes placed.
A country fair was being held at the time, very similar to the fairs held in America, which bring into the city country people from all parts, most of whom look upon them as events in their lives.
We had a remarkably fine specimen of an African lion at that time; well formed, well grown, with a handsome head and shoulders covered with a fine darkish mane. He had been much admired, and had been referred to by several naturalists as a typical king of beasts for his haughtiness and dignified bearing.
This lion was, however, one of the greatest worries and anxieties I have ever had. He had killed one man, and wounded several attendants, so powerful were his paws, and so quick his movements in reaching out of his cage. He required the most careful watching at all times, and was a very difficult animal to manage, in spite of unlimited time and patience spent on him. Kindness had no effect on him whatever. Special dainties he took with a growl, watching all the time for the least opportunity to grab and tear the giver. To attempt any sort of punishment or discipline with him would have been fatal; he was far too dangerous an animal to risk arousing his wild nature, and the only thing we could do was to keep him perfectly quiet, see that he was not irritated in any way, and was made as comfortable and happy as was possible, with good food, a clean house, and another lion for companionship.
The second lion was removed from the malcontent by an iron partition, as it appeared a little doubtful how he would be received. We intended transferring both lions on the opening day to a much larger cage, where they would have more space and comfort, and also have a much better opportunity of being seen.