Three Elephant Power and Other Stories
Dan Fitzgerald Explains
The circus was having its afternoon siesta. Overhead the towering canvas tent spread like
a giant mushroom on a network of stalks -- slanting beams, interlaced with guys and wire
The ring looked small and lonely; its circle of empty benches seemed to stare intently at
it, as though some sort of unseen performance were going on for the benefit of a ghostly
audience. Now and again a guy rope creaked, or a loose end of canvas flapped like faint,
unreal applause, as the silence shut down again, it did not need much imagination to
people the ring with dead and gone circus riders performing for the benefit of shadowy
spectators packed on those benches.
In the menagerie portion matters were different; here there was a free and easy air, the
animals realising that for the present the eyes of the public were off them, and they could
put in the afternoon as they chose.
The big African apes had dropped the "business" of showing their teeth, and pretending
that they wanted to tear the spectators' faces off. They were carefully and painstakingly
trying to fix up a kind of rustic seat in the corner of their cage with a short piece of board,
which they placed against the wall. This fell down every time they sat on it, and the
whole adjustment had to be gone through again.
The camel had stretched himself full length on the tan, and was enjoying a luxurious
snooze, oblivious of the fact that before long he would have to get up and assume that
far-off ship-of-the-desert aspect. The remainder of the animals were, like actors, "resting"
before their "turn" came on; even the elephant had ceased to sway about, while a small
monkey, asleep on a sloping tent pole, had an attack of nightmare and would have fallen
off his perch but for his big tail. It was a land of the Lotus-eater
"In which it seemed always afternoon."
These visions were dispelled by the entry of a person who said, "D'ye want to see Dan?"
and soon Dan Fitzgerald, the man who knows all about the training of horses, came into
the tent with Montgomery, the ringmaster, and between them they proceeded to expound
the methods of training horseflesh.
"What sort of horse do we buy for circus work? Well, it depends what we want 'em for.
There are three sorts of horses in use in a circus -- ring horses, trick horses, and school
horses; but it doesn't matter what he is wanted for, a horse is all the better if he knows
nothing. A horse that has been pulled about and partly trained has to unlearn a lot before
he is any use to us. The less he knows, the better it is."
"Then do you just try any sort of horse?"