164 RECOLLECTIONS OF A LION TAMER
made the walls and floors resound. Evidently a fierce fight was going on somewhere. Hastily dressing, I hurried to the scene, and discovered that the black bear had contrived to overthrow the bars which separated his cage from that of his neighbour, the bison, upon whom he had fallen, and, hugging him bear fashion, was now, with his long sharp tusks, pitilessly devouring his hump, buffalo hump being esteemed a delicacy. The danger was imminent, for if in their struggles the door should become open there was no end to the consequences that might ensue. Throwing myself between the combatants I held one by the neck while I sent the other flying back to his den. Thus the peril was averted, and next day it was as if nothing had happened, except that the bison was humpless.
The success of my menagerie had now become so generally acknowledged that, after visiting all the principal towns in the south of France, I crossed the frontier and went south into Italy, where each stopping-place was the scene of fresh triumphs. In Florence the king and all his court were present at a performance, where I surpassed myself in daring and audacity. The king applauded louder than anyone, and afterwards desired that I should be presented to him in order that he might congratulate me himself. Encouraged by my successes, I determined to push on to Rome. There a terrible catastrophe came near taking place. I was seated, one afternoon, at the desk taking the tickets, just as the performance was about to begin, and the enclosure was already crammed with people, when suddenly there were heard heart-rending cries, succeeded by furious roarings, and frantic shrieks of ' Help ! help !' In an instant I was in the enclosure, where I found general panic, women fainting, men yelling, and all eyes turned in the direction of the lions' cage, where Venturelli, one of my men, hung suspended in mid-air from the claws of four lions ; one was devouring bis arm, blood from which spurted in all directions.