Pall Mall Gazette
THE ESCAPED WOLF PERILOUS ADVENTURE
OF OUR INTERVIEWER
INTERVIEW WITH THE KEEPER IN THE ZOOLOGICAL GARDENS
many inquiries and almost as many refusals, and perpetually using the words 'PALL
MALL GAZETTE' as a sort of talisman, I managed to find the keeper of the section
of the Zoological Gardens in which the wolf department is included. Thomas Bilder
lives in one of the cottages in the enclosure behind the elephant house, and was
just sitting down to his tea when I found him. Thomas and his wife are hospitable
folk, elderly, and without children, and if the specimen I enjoyed of their hospitality
be of the average kind, their lives must be pretty comfortable. The keeper would
not enter on what he called business until the supper was over, and we were all
satisfied. Then when the table was cleared, and he had lit his pipe, he said,
Sir, you can go on and arsk me what you want. You'll excoose me refoosin' to talk
of perfeshunal subjucts afore meals. I gives the wolves and the jackals and the
hyenas in all our section their tea afore I begins to arsk them questions."
do you mean, ask them questions?" I queried, wishful to get him into a talkative
"'Ittin' of them over the 'ead with a pole is one way. Scratchin'
of their ears in another, when gents as is flush wants a bit of a show- orf to
their gals. I don't so much mind the fust, the 'ittin of the pole part afore I
chucks in their dinner, but I waits till they've 'ad their sherry and kawffee,
so to speak, afore I tries on with the ear scratchin'. Mind you," he added
philosophically, "there's a deal of the same nature in us as in them theer
animiles. Here's you a-comin' and arskin' of me questions about my business, and
I that grump-like that only for your bloomin' 'arf-quid I'd 'a' seen you blowed
fust 'fore I'd answer. Not even when you arsked me sarcastic like if I'd like
you to arsk the Superintendent if you might arsk me questions. Without offence
did I tell yer to go to 'ell?"
when you said you'd report me for usin' obscene language that was 'ittin' me over
the 'ead. But the 'arf-quid made that all right. I weren't a-goin' to fight, so
I waited for the food, and did with my 'owl as the wolves and lions and tigers
does. But, lor' love yer 'art, now that the old 'ooman has stuck a chunk of her
tea- cake in me, an' rinsed me out with her bloomin' old teapot, and I've lit
hup, you may scratch my ears for all you're worth, and won't even get a growl
out of me. Drive along with your questions. I know what yer a-comin' at, that
'ere escaped wolf."
"Exactly. I want you to give me your view
of it. Just tell me how it happened, and when I know the facts I'll get you to
say what you consider was the cause of it, and how you think the whole affair
"All right, guv'nor. This 'ere is about the 'ole story.
That 'ere wolf what we called Bersicker was one of three gray ones that came from
Norway to Jamrach's, which we bought off him four years ago. He was a nice well-behaved
wolf, that never gave no trouble to talk of. I'm more surprised at 'im for wantin'
to get out nor any other animile in the place. But, there, you can't trust wolves
no more nor women."
"Don't you mind him, Sir!" broke in Mrs.
Tom, with a cheery laugh. "'E's got mindin' the animiles so long that blest
if he ain't like a old wolf 'isself! But there ain't no 'arm in 'im."
Sir, it was about two hours after feedin' yesterday when I first hear my disturbance.
I was makin' up a litter in the monkey house for a young puma which is ill. But
when I heard the yelpin' and 'owlin' I kem away straight. There was Bersicker
a-tearin' like a mad thing at the bars as if he wanted to get out. There wasn't
much people about that day, and close at hand was only one man, a tall, thin chap,
with a 'ook nose and a pointed beard, with a few white hairs runnin' through it.
He had a 'ard, cold look and red eyes, and I took a sort of mislike to him, for
it seemed as if it was 'im as they was hirritated at. He 'ad white kid gloves
on 'is 'ands, and he pointed out the animiles to me and says, 'Keeper, these wolves
seem upset at something.'
"'Maybe it's you,' says I, for I did not
like the airs as he give 'isself. He didn't get angry, as I 'oped he would, but
he smiled a kind of insolent smile, with a mouth full of white, sharp teeth. 'Oh
no, they wouldn't like me,' 'e says.
"'Ow yes, they would,' says I,
a-imitatin' of him. 'They always like a bone or two to clean their teeth on about
tea time, which you 'as a bagful.'
"Well, it was a odd thing, but when
the animiles see us a-talkin' they lay down, and when I went over to Bersicker
he let me stroke his ears same as ever. That there man kem over, and blessed but
if he didn't put in his hand and stroke the old wolf's ears too!
care,' says I. 'Bersicker is quick.'
"'Never mind,' he says. I'm used
"'Are you in the business yourself?' I says, tyking off my
'at, for a man what trades in wolves, anceterer, is a good friend to keepers.
says he, 'not exactly in the business, but I 'ave made pets of several.' And with
that he lifts his 'at as perlite as a lord, and walks away. Old Bersicker kep'
a-lookin' arter 'im till 'e was out of sight, and then went and lay down in a
corner and wouldn't come hout the 'ole hevening. Well, larst night, so soon as
the moon was hup, the wolves here all began a-'owling. There warn't nothing for
them to 'owl at. There warn't no one near, except some one that was evidently
a-callin' a dog somewheres out back of the gardings in the Park road. Once or
twice I went out to see that all was right, and it was, and then the 'owling stopped.
Just before twelve o'clock I just took a look round afore turnin' in, an', bust
me, but when I kem opposite to old Bersicker's cage I see the rails broken and
twisted about and the cage empty. And that's all I know for certing."
any one else see anything?"
"One of our gard'ners was a-comin'
'ome about that time from a 'armony, when he sees a big gray dog comin' out through
the garding 'edges. At least, so he says, but I don't give much for it myself,
for if he did 'e never said a word about it to his missis when 'e got 'ome, and
it was only after the escape of the wolf was made known, and we had been up all
night a-huntin' of the Park for Bersicker, that he remembered seein' anything.
My own belief was that the 'armony 'ad got into his 'ead."
Mr. Bilder, can you account in any way for the escape of the wolf?"
Sir," he said, with a suspicious sort of modesty, "I think I can, but
I don't know as 'ow you'd be satisfied with the theory."
I shall. If a man like you, who knows the animals from experience, can't hazard
a good guess at any rate, who is even to try?"
"Well then, Sir,
I accounts for it this way. It seems to me that 'ere wolf escaped--simply because
he wanted to get out."
From the hearty way that both Thomas and his
wife laughed at the joke I could see that it had done service before, and that
the whole explanation was simply an elaborate sell. I couldn't cope in badinage
with the worthy Thomas, but I thought I knew a surer way to his heart, so I said,
"Now, Mr. Bilder, we'll consider that first half-sovereign worked off, and
this brother of his is waiting to be claimed when you've told me what you think
"Right y'are, Sir," he said briskly. "Ye'll
excoose me, I know, for a-chaffin' of ye, but the old woman here winked at me,
which was as much as telling me to go on."
"Well, I never!"
said the old lady.
"My opinion is this: that 'ere wolf is a'idin' of,
somewheres. The gard'ner wot didn't remember said he was a-gallopin' northward
faster than a horse could go, but I don't believe him, for, yer see, Sir, wolves
don't gallop no more nor dogs does, they not bein' built that way. Wolves is fine
things in a storybook, and I dessay when they gets in packs and does be chivyin'
somethin' that's more afeared than they is they can make a devil of a noise and
chop it up, whatever it is. But, Lor' bless you, in real life a wolf is only a
low creature, not half so clever or bold as a good dog, and not half a quarter
so much fight in 'im. This one ain't been used to fightin' or even to providin'
for hisself, and more like he's somewhere round the Park a'hidin' an' a'shiverin'
of, and if he thinks at all, wonderin' where he is to get his breakfast from.
Or maybe he's got down some area and is in a coal cellar. My eye, won't some cook
get a rum start when she sees his green eyes a-shinin' at her out of the dark!
If he can't get food he's bound to look for it, and mayhap he may chance to light
on a butcher's shop in time. If he doesn't, and some nursemaid goes out walkin'
or orf with a soldier, leavin' of the hinfant in the perambulator--well, then
I shouldn't be surprised if the census is one babby the less. That's all."
was handing him the half-sovereign, when something came bobbing up against the
window, and Mr. Bilder's face doubled its natural length with surprise.
bless me!" he said. "If there ain't old Bersicker come back by 'isself!"
went to the door and opened it, a most unnecessary proceeding it seemed to me.
I have always thought that a wild animal never looks so well as when some obstacle
of pronounced durability is between us. A personal experience has intensified
rather than diminished that idea.
After all, however, there is nothing like
custom, for neither Bilder nor his wife thought any more of the wolf than I should
of a dog. The animal itself was a peaceful and well-behaved as that father of
all picture-wolves, Red Riding Hood's quondam friend, whilst moving her confidence
The whole scene was a unutterable mixture of comedy and pathos.
The wicked wolf that for a half a day had paralyzed London and set all the children
in town shivering in their shoes, was there in a sort of penitent mood, and was
received and petted like a sort of vulpine prodigal son. Old Bilder examined him
all over with most tender solicitude, and when he had finished with his penitent
"There, I knew the poor old chap would get into some kind of
trouble. Didn't I say it all along? Here's his head all cut and full of broken
glass. 'E's been a-gettin' over some bloomin' wall or other. It's a shyme that
people are allowed to top their walls with broken bottles. This 'ere's what comes
of it. Come along, Bersicker."
He took the wolf and locked him up in
a cage, with a piece of meat that satisfied, in quantity at any rate, the elementary
conditions of the fatted calf, and went off to report.
I came off too, to
report the only exclusive information that is given today regarding the strange
escapade at the Zoo.