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<i>The New York Times Book Review wroteThe American version of the great English classics, such as the Pooh books or The Wind in the Willows.
—before his death in 1974.
About the Author: Walter R. Brooks died in 1958 after writing 26 Freddy the Pig books. Kurt Wiese illustrated over 400 ...
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About the Author: Walter R. Brooks died in 1958 after writing 26 Freddy the Pig books. Kurt Wiese illustrated over 400 books, nineteen of which he also wrote, before his death in 1974.
Freddy the multitalented pig publishes a newspaper for the animals on Bean Farm.
"Freddy is blessed with courage, wit, agility and a Sherlock Holmes-like capacity for detective work."
Charles the rooster was asleep on his perch in the warm, dark henhouse. His head was tucked snugly under his wing, and he was dreaming. He dreamt that he was giving his wife Henrietta her orders for the day. At five o'clock, he said, she was to get up and tiptoe out without disturbing him, and climb up on the fence post and crow three times, to wake up Mr. and Mrs. Bean and all the animals so that the day's work on the farm could begin. She was not to wake him until ten o'clock, when she would bring him his breakfast. At eleven, while he was having his constitutional, she was to tidy up the henhouse. At twelve, she would bring him his dinner. At one, she would listen to him rehearse a patriotic address which he had composed for the meeting that evening. At two ...
It was a nice dream, but unfortunately when he had got that far in it, a sharp peck on the shoulder awoke him. It was something that happened every morning of his life, yet somehow he had never got used to it. His head came out from under his wing with a jerk. "Yes? What is it? What's wrong?" he gasped. "Oh! Oh dear me! I wish you wouldn't poke me like that, Henrietta."
"Nonsense," said Henrietta. "I hardly touched you. Now get along out there and crow. It's five o'clock."
"Yes, dear," said Charles submissively. He ruffled his feathers, shivered, and then sneezed. He sneezed so hard that he blew two of his daughters right off the perch beside him.
"Good gracious!" said Henrietta. "I do believe you're coming down with a cold. Oh dear, what next!"
Charles knew that he was not coming down with a cold. He had sneezed because when he had pulled his head out from under his wing a feather had tickled his nose. But Henrietta's remark had given him an idea. It was no fun to wade through icy slush to the fence post on a raw March day, and to draw in a lungful of damp cold air in order to crow loud enough to wake everybody up. You had to crow louder on cold mornings, because people's ears were usually covered up with quilts and blankets. Charles was proud of his voice, which was high and penetrating, and considered by some—but principally by Charles himself—very musical. Indeed, on fine mornings he often kept on crowing just for the pleasure of hearing himself until the other animals chased him back into the henhouse. But this morning he thought it would be much nicer to stay in where it was warm and let someone else get things started.
So he said: "I believe I ab cubbing dowd with subthig this bordig." And he took a deep breath and then let out just a faint squawk, and said: "I cad crow, Hedrietta."
"Well," said his wife, "I shall have to go out and crow for you. You try to go back to sleep, and I'll fix you up when I get back."
So Henrietta went out and got on the fence post.
Henrietta had never tried crowing before. Like most hens, she thought she could crow as well as a rooster can. But when she got up on the post and opened her beak, all that came out was a cackle, and if Mr. Bean or any of the animals heard it, they just thought it was Henrietta scolding Charles, and turned over and went to sleep again. Henrietta tried and tried, but nobody paid any attention.
Nobody, that is, except Freddy, the pig. Freddy was a sound sleeper, and sometimes Charles had to come right down and put his head in the door of the pigpen and crow in order to wake him up. But when he had some special work to do, I dare say there was no pig in New York State that got up earlier in the morning. And this morning he was working out a plan for a scrap drive that he was to present to the animals at a meeting in the cowbarn that evening. So when he heard Henrietta's excited cackle, he rushed to the window.
Of course it didn't do him much good to rush to the window, for the panes were so dirty that you couldn't tell whether it was daylight outside, much less see anything that was going on. Freddy had put off having them washed because he didn't like being disturbed—and also perhaps because he didn't like having visitors he didn't want to talk to, peeking in the window to see if he was at home. But after all, when it was getting so bad that you couldn't tell any more if the sun was shining or not, something would have to be done about it, and muttering: "I really must have that window washed," he went to the door.
When he opened the door he couldn't see much more than he had through the window, because the sun hadn't come up yet, but the moon was setting, and in its light he could just make out what he supposed to be Charles on top of the fence post.
"Good gracious, Charles," he said, walking over to the fence, "what an awful noise. You sound like an old sick hen."
"Oh, do I indeed?" said Henrietta angrily. "Well, I'll thank you to keep your opinions to yourself, pig. I guess it's enough to have a sick husband on my hands without having to listen to any smartness from you."
"Why, Henrietta!" exclaimed Freddy. "I didn't know it was you. I thought it was Charles. There was nothing personal about it, you understand; I was just going to have a little fun with him. As a matter of fact, I came out because his voice seemed so much more musical this morning. Quite thrilling in the upper notes, in fact."
"You can save your compliments for those that like them," said Henrietta.
"Everybody likes compliments if they're true," said Freddy. "You have a very nice voice, Henrietta. But it hasn't the harshness of Charles', and that's why you haven't been able to wake anybody up."
"Well, what am I to do?" said Henrietta. "Charles' job on this farm is to get people up, but he's so hoarse he can't crow a note."
"Well, I can't crow," said Freddy, "but I can squeal good and loud. We can't let old Charles down." And he lifted up his head and let out a shriek that could have been heard halfway to Centerboro.
I guess there wasn't another snore snored on the Bean farm after that squeal. Birds' heads came out from under their wings as if they had been on springs, and squirrels and chipmunks popped out of their holes, and the three cows and Hank, the old white horse, came clattering out of their barns, and a light went on in Mr. Bean's bedroom window. And thirty seconds later, Mr. Bean himself came hurrying across the barnyard.
He had dressed the lower half of himself in boots and trousers, but the upper half he hadn't bothered about, and he still had on his long white nightshirt and the white nightcap with the red tassel. And over his shoulder was a shotgun. "What's going on here?" he roared.
Henrietta sat on the post and didn't say anything, and neither did Freddy, because although in a way Mr. Bean was very proud of his talking animals he had a kind of old-fashioned notion that animals should be seen and not heard. So unless it was absolutely necessary none of them ever spoke to him directly, although they talked to Mrs. Bean a good deal.
But Mr. Bean was pretty sharp. He peered at Henrietta on the post, and then at Freddy, and then he said: "H'm, 'whistling girls and crowing hens.' Heard of them before. Never heard of a crowing pig. Where's Charles? Sick?" And he went over to the henhouse and turned the beam of a flashlight on Charles, who blinked miserably and sniffed.
"Got the sniffles, hey?" said Mr. Bean. "I'll take you in to Mrs. B." And he lifted Charles off the perch and started for the house. As he passed Henrietta and Freddy he said gruffly: "Much obliged to ye."
That wasn't much to say, but from Mr. Bean it was high praise, and they knew he meant every word of it.
Mrs. Bean wrapped Charles in an old quilt and tucked him up in a box behind the stove, and then she fed him some of the corn meal mush left over from Mr. Bean's breakfast. She even brought him an old soft handkerchief of Mr. Bean's to wipe his nose on. Charles felt a little ashamed of himself. But it was warm and comfortable in the box, and by and by he fell into a doze, and took up the dream about Henrietta where he had left it off when she had waked him up.
But he had only got as far as four o'clock, when she was to clear a path from the henhouse to the barn, so that he could walk over to make his speech that evening without having to wade through slush, when a loud voice woke him again. "Hi, Charley, how's the boy?" It was Jinx, the black cat, who had a basket behind the stove, next to Charles' box.
Jinx didn't like getting his feet wet, and so he hadn't gone outdoors that morning. He had been wandering about the house, trying to think of something to do, and bothering everybody. He had jumped out from behind doors at Mrs. Bean, and he had pretended that Robert's tail was a rat, and had pounced on it until the dog had lost patience and cuffed him good. He had tried to chase the mice, when they had come up through the holes in the floor that Mr. Bean had bored for them, to get the crumbs from breakfast. But it wasn't much fun, because the mice didn't pay any attention to him when he crouched and lashed his tail. They just said: "Oh, be your age, Jinx!" and went on hunting crumbs. So at last he decided to take a nap in his basket, and it was then he saw Charles.
Although he was a nice cat, Jinx did not have a very sympathetic nature; but when he heard that Charles had a cold, he said: "Golly, that's hard luck. You won't be able to make your speech tonight, then."
"Oh, my goodness!" exclaimed Charles. "I never thought of that! Mrs. Bean will never let me go out to the barn. And—well, to tell you the truth, Jinx, I haven't really got a cold at all." And he told the cat what had happened.
"Well," said Jinx with a grin, "it's hard luck for you, all right, but it's a break for us. We won't have to listen to that speech again."
"What do you mean, again?" said Charles indignantly. "This is a bran new speech. A speech designed to inform the animals on this farm of their high privileges as citizens of a free nation, to —"
"Save it," interrupted Jinx. "You see, Charles, your speeches—well, it's like Mrs. Bean cooking spinach. Sometimes she cooks it with cream, and sometimes with butter, and sometimes this way and sometimes that. But in the end, it's always spinach that gets to the table. Now, your speeches—"
"I won't have my speeches compared to spinach," said Charles huffily.
"'Tisn't a fair comparison, I'll admit," said the cat. "Because spinach does you a lot of good, while your speeches—"
But Charles had pulled his head down under the quilt and refused to listen to any more.
After a little, Jinx got tired of waiting for him to come out, and went off to find somebody else to tease. Charles could hear Mrs. Bean's quick footsteps moving around upstairs, making the bed. He climbed cautiously out of the box and looked around. The pantry door was open a crack, and he felt pretty sure that the pantry window was open a crack, too. If it was open wide enough so that he could squeeze through ...
He knew that it was his one chance of making that speech. Mrs. Bean would never let him go out for the evening when he had a cold. He could hide somewhere for the rest of the day, and then when the meeting was in full swing, and Freddy was saying: "Our principal speaker is unfortunately not able to be with us this evening," he would make a dramatic entrance, and launch magnificently into the speech before Henrietta could stop him. For he knew that Henrietta would be pretty mad.
He squeezed through the pantry window with only the loss of a few unimportant feathers. Nobody was in sight, and he legged it for the barn. Hank, the old white horse, had his back turned, and Charles sneaked upstairs into the hay loft. Then he burrowed down into the hay and tried to go to sleep.
But a few years earlier, when the animals had come back from their famous trip to Florida, Mr. Bean had put furnaces in the barns, and had also put an electric heater in the henhouse. He had even put a revolving door in the henhouse, so that it wouldn't be so draughty. Some people thought that he pampered his animals. But he only said that he didn't see what harm it did them to be warm and comfortable in the winter time. However, there is no denying that Charles had got pretty soft. When you have been able to get heat any time by just snapping a switch, you aren't likely to be very comfortable in a cold hay loft.
Pretty soon Charles was shivering so that his beak rattled. He got out and flapped his wings, and did setting up exercises, but as soon as he stopped he got cold again. But every time he was on the point of giving up and going back to the house, the thought of that big audience swayed to wild applause by his eloquence, strengthened his determination to stick it out.
Along in the afternoon Mrs. Bean discovered his absence. "The young scamp!" she exclaimed. "Jinx! Robert! Georgie!" she called. "Where are you? Go see if you can find Charles and bring him back here. He's got a bad cold, and he has no business running around outdoors in this weather. Hurry, now!"
So they went to look for him. Jinx didn't want to give Charles away, so he didn't tell the others that Charles was just pretending to have a cold, and he didn't hunt very hard. He went up into the spare room and curled up on the bed.
"You look in the barn, Georgie," said Robert, "and I'll go down to the cow barn." So Georgie went and asked Hank if he had seen anything of Charles.
"Why, I dunno," said Hank. "I did see him—let me see, was it yesterday or the day before? Don't seem as if I'd seen him this morning. No, he ain't here. But as long as you are, Georgie, I wish you'd run up in the loft and see what it is that keeps sneezing up there. I know there ain't anybody up there, but there's a sneeze there because I've heard it. It isn't natural to have a sneeze around that ain't attached to somebody."
So Georgie ran up the steep stairs. The sneeze was there all right, because he heard it just as he got to the top. And it wasn't long before he found the sneezer.
"Come on out, Charles," he said. "Mrs. Bean wants you."
Charles was too cold and unhappy to refuse. He followed, sneezing miserably, to the kitchen, where Mrs. Bean, instead of scolding him, gave him half a molasses cookie, and then wrapped him up again in the quilt behind the warm stove.
By and by Jinx came downstairs again. "Well, well," he said; "where have you been?"
"I was oud id the bard," said Charles.
"Look," said Jinx, "you don't have to talk that stuffed up way with me. I guess you forgot that you told me you didn't have any cold."
"Well, I god wud dow," said Charles.CHAPTER 2
So Charles didn't get to the meeting in the barn that night, and I guess it was a good thing for his reputation as an orator, for you can't make much of a speech if you haven't got the use of your nose. But all the animals agreed that something was lacking. For though they always complained that he talked too long, and though they never could remember afterwards anything he had said, they had come to feel that no meeting was complete without one of Charles' highflown orations.
The meeting was called for half past seven, and when Freddy climbed into the old phaeton and rapped on the dashboard for order, the barn was crowded to the doors.
"Ladies and gentlemen," said Freddy; "friends and fellow animals—yes, and fellow insects, for I see our good neighbors, Mr. and Mrs. Webb, have spun front row seats for themselves here in the whip socket. And Randolph is here too." And he waved to a beetle who was sitting on a beam that ran along the side wall.
Randolph reared up and attempted to wave his forelegs at Freddy, but immediately fell over on his back and lay there struggling until Jinx flipped him right side up with his paw.
"Yes," said Freddy, "I am glad to see so many of you here, and so many of the woods animals, too. For the matter which has called us together is one which concerns us all. You all know of the scrap metal drive which was held in Centerboro last year. You know that Mr. Bean collected, on his farm alone, three tons of old iron, which was shipped off to make guns and ships to help our fighting men win the war. You probably know, too, that another drive is being held this year, to get out all the scrap metal that was missed on the last one. And you have probably heard of the prize which is being offered to the person who brings in the most scrap.
"Now, ladies and gentlemen, we would like that prize to go to the Bean farm."
"What's the prize?" shouted someone.
"The prize," said Freddy, "is a blue pennant, with a white S on it for Scrap. To which the sheriff has generously added a box of cigars."
Excerpted from Freddy and the Bean Home News by Walter R. Brooks, Kurt Wiese. Copyright © 1943 Walter R. Brooks. Excerpted by permission of The Overlook Press.
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