Did Roy Horn have a stroke onstage that upset his white tiger Montecore and caused the animal to try to save him? That's what Horn's partner Siegfried Fischbacher thinks took place. "Many ministrokes...caused Roy to stumble," Fischbacher, 64, told the audience at a Las Vegas cancer fund-raiser on Nov. 20, speaking from the same stage where Horn had been mauled nearly two months before. "Montecore carried him 35 feet...to his safety."

Fischbacher's stunning theory goes against eyewitness accounts that the 600-lb. cat attacked Horn, 59, after the showman scolded him for growling and becoming distracted during the show. No way, says Fischbacher, who compared Montecore to a mother carrying her young. "The injury [to Horn's neck] was small, about a quarter-of-an-inch puncture," he says. "The teeth of a tiger are about 6 inches long and...like an ice pick. He touched Roy so carefully. Now that was a miracle."

And so is Horn's ongoing recovery, says Fischbacher. Since the Oct. 3 attack, Horn, who remains in serious but stable condition at UCLA Medical Center, has undergone several operations to relieve pressure on his brain. (Doctors won't comment on Horn's treatment.) But he has regained the ability to communicate through hand gestures and even to write. (His first note was to Fischbacher: "It is beautiful to hold your hands.") He's made so much progress that Siegfried and Roy's manager Bernie Yuman expects Horn home for Christmas.

Looking to the future, Fischbacher speculates that the pair's show, which has headlined at the Mirage since 1990, will return. "I can assure you," Fischbacher told the Nevada Cancer Institute fund-raiser audience, "that even though I am standing here by myself, there will be a Siegfried & Roy in front of you again."

Whether the pair return to the Mirage, however, remains in question. The hotel's management announced on Oct. 4 that the $110-a-ticket spectacle had permanently closed, and spokesman Dave Kirvin said on Nov. 25 that the hotel is debating who will replace its once star performers on the massive marquee high above the Strip. "Their marquee is up there until the end of the year," Kirvin said. "There isn't a timeline."

Fischbacher, meanwhile, says he visits Horn regularly. On the day before the cancer fund-raiser, which he and Horn were supposed to cohost, Fischbacher asked his partner, "Should I go there on my own?" Horn replied, "Of course. Tell them thank you for the love." Fischbacher teared up thinking of the moment. "Thank you for the support," he told the Las Vegas audience. "Because I know it worked."