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About the Author: Walter R. Brooks was born in Rome, New York, on January 9, 1886, and died in Roxbury, New York, on August 17, 1958. Brooks attended the University of Rochester and, after graduation, worked for the American Red Cross and the Woodrow Wilson Foundation. He became associate editor of Outlook in 1928 and subsequently was a staff writer for several magazines, including The New Yorker.
The short stories he began writing at this time were published in The Saturday Evening Post, The Atlantic Monthly, and Esquire. Brooks' short story, "Ed Takes the Pledge," was the basis for the 1960s television series, "Mr. Ed," but his most lasting achievement is the Freddy the Pig series, which began in 1928 with To and Again (Freddy Goes to Florida). He subsequently wrote twenty-five more delightful books starring Freddy, called "that charming ingenious pig" by The New York Times.
When the animals of Mr. Bloomschmidt's traveling circus need help, Freddy the pig does not disappoint them.
"Funny, beautifully written gems." —Nicholas Kristof, The New York Times
"At my funeral, in lieu of flowers, I'd prefer that people give money to the Friends of Freddy fan club." —Deirdre Donahue, USA Today
"Freddy is blessed with courage, wit, agility and a Sherlock Holmes-like capacity for detective work." —Newsday
"My very, very favourite book series as a child...It is that dual perspective of nostalgia for rural life and sophisticated urbanity that makes Brooks's wry, perceptive and affectionately humorous narrative voice so inviting and entertaining, and as fresh as ever for readers of all ages." —Sherie Posesorski, The Globe and Mail
It had been a hard winter. A foot of snow had fallen on the 3rd of December and another foot on the 10th, and then the mercury crawled down to ten below and stayed there until after Christmas. Then it warmed up just enough to snow some more. And the weather kept on like that for another six weeks. It was still that way on the morning of February 14th, when Freddy, the pig, crawled out of his warm bed and went to his study window and looked out and said disgustedly: "Oh, my goodness sakes!"
The windowpanes were frosted up so that he could only see out of the upper quarter of them, and they were made of old-fashioned glass that was so crinkly and full of bubbles that what he did see through them was so twisted and warped that it was hard to tell what it really was. Of course Freddy rather liked this. He said it made the things he saw twice as interesting as they really were. If, for instance, his friend Charles, the rooster, went by, his neck might be drawn out long, so that he looked like an ostrich, or his head might be completely disconnected from his body and float along above him. Whereas seen through a clear pane of glass he was just Charles, and nothing to think about much.
But today nobody was going by, and there was nothing to be seen but dazzling snow which stretched from the window sill in an unbroken sheet up to meet the blue sky. And Freddy had said: "Oh, my goodness sakes!" partly because he was sick of the snow, but more particularly because today was St. Valentine's Day, and he had hoped the mailman would bring him some valentines. But the mailman hadn't been up the road past the Bean farm in over a week, and he certainly wouldn't try to buck those drifts in his old Ford today, even to bring Freddy a valentine.
So Freddy sighed and was just turning back to crawl under the quilts again when he saw something moving. It was long and low and grey, and it might have been a shed, only there wasn't any shed down by the gate, and anyway sheds don't move around. Even though the glass made everything he saw through it look queer, Freddy usually could guess what things were if he wanted to, but he couldn't guess what this thing was. He took a rag and wiped a pane, but the rag wasn't very clean and just blurred it more than ever. And then the thing moved on out of sight of his window. "Oh, shucks!" said Freddy and went back to bed.
He shut his eyes and took up his dream again where he left off. It was a nice dream. He was opening stacks of valentines, and each valentine had a dollar bill in it. It was rather like Christmas, only better because there were no names signed to the valentines and so there wouldn't be any thank-you letters to write. But he had only opened about fifteen when there came a tap-tap-tap, and it woke him and he opened his eyes and there outside the window was Charles, tapping on the pane.
Freddy got up and went to the window rather grumpily, and put it up and let the rooster in.
"Morning, Freddy," said Charles. "There's a rhinoceros here to see you."
"There's a what?" said Freddy. "Oh, cut the funny stuff, Charles."
"Funny, nothing!" said Charles. "There's a rhinoceros. He wants to talk to you."
"Oh, yeah?" said Freddy. "I guess you aren't awake yet this morning. I guess you're still dreaming, and your dreams are just as impossible as mine are. I just dreamed that you gave me a dollar for Valentine's Day."
"Look, Freddy," said Charles; "I put myself to a good deal of inconvenience and discomfort to bring you this message. My feet are darn near frozen, and I fell through the crust three times between here and the barnyard. But if that's all the thanks I get ... calling me a liar ..."
Freddy said: "Hold on! Hold on! If you say it's a rhinoceros, OK—then it's a rhinoceros. But I still think ... Well, the only rhinoceros I ever knew was the one that was in Mr. Boomschmidt's circus, and he's down in Virginia with Mr. Boomschmidt."
"Sure—that's the one," said Charles. "He's come all the way up here to see you. Came on foot every inch of the way, too, and he's got an awful cold."
"I should think he would have," said Freddy. "Coming up north in the winter time. What does he want?"
"Why don't you go down to the cow barn and find out? You're the one he asked for."
It would have been a lot easier to stay in the warm pig pen and make guesses as to what the visitor wanted, than to go down in the cold and find out. But though rhinoceroses are pretty tough animals, they are not accustomed to a cold climate, and Freddy realized that this one would not have taken such a trip unless his errand was important. So he started for the cow barn.
Like all lazy people, Freddy was capable of doing long stretches of really hard work. He was lazy in streaks. He was lazy about things he wasn't interested in, but there were a lot of things he was very much interested in, and in his short life he had accomplished more than many children of the same age. But he often spent more time and energy in getting out of a job than it would have taken to do the job in the first place.
One of the things he didn't like was shoveling snow. Mr. Bean had kept the paths around the barnyard open all winter, but the path to the pig pen was Freddy's job. He could either keep that path shoveled out, and be free to come and go, and to see his friends, and get his three meals a day, or he could let it go and hibernate all winter like a woodchuck in his hole.
Well, of course he tried to have it both ways. In December, when the snow was a foot deep, he didn't bother to shovel because he could wade through it all right. When it got to be two feet in January he still didn't shovel it, because he could still flounder back and forth through it. But when it got to be three feet deep and over his head, he had to do something. So he took his shovel and he opened his door and looked at the snow piled against it higher than his head, and then he shut the door again and leaned the shovel in the corner, and sat down in his big chair and thought.
The result of his thinking was that he decided to drive a tunnel down to the barnyard. That would be no more work than shoveling, and a lot more fun. More practical, too. For it would be warmer in the tunnel than outdoors, and if it blew he would be out of the wind, and if it snowed he wouldn't get all wet and chilly. And it wasn't like shoveling: if he did it once he wouldn't have to do it again. So he opened the door and went to work.
Well, of course, before he had driven his tunnel three yards the whole thing caved in on him, and he almost smothered before he got back to the door again.
But even then he didn't start shoveling. Because he had an old pair of skis in his study, and he said: "It will certainly take me less time to learn to ski than to shovel out the path, and then I can go on top of the snow. That will be even more fun than a tunnel, because not only can I whiz down to the barnyard in about three seconds, but I can ski all over the farm, and even down to Centerboro to the movies if I want to."
Well, the skis were better than the tunnel, but he didn't whiz down to the barnyard in any three seconds. The first time it took him two hours, and the second time he lost one ski, and a rescue party headed by Mrs. Wiggins, the cow, had to come out for him. But after that he got so that he could manage the skis pretty well. Though his friend Jinx, the cat, figured out that in the time he had lost and wasted he could have shoveled a path through the snow six feet deep and three miles long. Of course, I don't know if his figures were right. But Freddy didn't care anyway. He hadn't done any shoveling.
All winter it had been cold and the snow had packed hard and dry. But the night before the rhinoceros came it had warmed up and rained a little, and then it had frozen, so that there was a crust over the snow that was as slippery as glass. Freddy didn't realize this. He put on his skis and stepped out on the snow. And it was a good thing that the skis were pointed towards the barnyard or goodness knows where he would have ended up. For the minute the skis touched the icy crust, they started. Freddy gave a yell of surprise and pushed backwards with the ski poles to keep from falling, and then the whole farm seemed to come whizzing up towards him, and past him, and though it was a still day the wind whistled in his ears; and then before he knew what had happened the dark square of the cow barn door rushed at him and swallowed him, and there was a crash and a thump and he was sitting on a hard floor with a pain in his shoulder and a lot of comets and constellations whirling around his head. And when these cleared away he couldn't see anything.
Through the darkness came Mrs. Wiggins' voice. "Goodness, Freddy! Are you all right?"
"I'm blind!" said Freddy. "Oh dear, I'm blind! I can't see you or anything."
"You've got your eyes shut," said Mrs. Wiggins.
"Why—that's right!" Freddy opened his eyes. He was sitting on the floor, and the three cows were standing over him, watching him with anxious concern. "I'm all right," he said. "That is—I guess I am. Wrenched my shoulder a little." He got up and shook himself, and then he laughed. "Bet I did it in three seconds that time all right!" he said.
"There's somebody here to see you, Freddy," Mrs. Wiggins said.
"Oh, yes, the rhinoceros," said Freddy. "Where is he?"
"We put him over in the box stall in the stable," said the cow. "He's got a bad cold, and we thought he'd be more comfortable there. Mr. Bean has been looking after him."
So Freddy limped over to the stable. He found the rhinoceros lying in the corner on a pile of hay with a blanket around his shoulders. He looked pretty miserable, but rhinoceroses always look miserable, even when they're in the best of spirits.
"Hello, Freddy," he said. "My, I'm glad to see you! I had quite a time finding your place. I must say these Beans you live with are nice people. Soon as I got here and they saw I had a cold they hustled me right in here where it's warm, and covered me up with a blanket, and Mrs. Bean made me a pailful of hot lemonade. I'll be fit as a fiddle by morning."
"Well, it's nice to see you, Jerry," Freddy said. "I don't suppose you made the trip for pleasure, though. Is there anything wrong with Mr. Boomschmidt?"
Jerry shook his head sadly. "There ain't much that's right, Freddy. You see, he hasn't been able to take his circus out on the road for four years, because war conditions made traveling out of the question. That wouldn't have been so bad, because he's got that place down south and we thought we could all live there until he could start out again. He had quite a little money put by, and he figured out a regular budget—so much for coal, and so much for electricity, and entertainment, and all the things you spend money on; and it worked out that we could all stay there and have a good time and not do a tap of work for five or six years.
"Well, it worked out nice on paper, but when we came to the end of the first year—well, Freddy, the money was all gone."
"Gone! You mean it was stolen?" Freddy asked.
"No. It was all used up. Mr. Boomschmidt hadn't figured it right. In making out this budget thing he hadn't put anything down for food. And food for lions and tigers and giraffes and ... why, do you know how much hay one elephant eats at a meal?"
"No," said Freddy. "How much?"
"I don't know, but it's an awful lot. And then when meat was rationed, the lions and tigers had to go on a vegetable diet. You ought to have seen Leo making faces over his supper—a big bowl of oatmeal."
Leo, the lion, was an old friend of Freddy's, and had often visited at the Bean farm. "Where is Leo?" Freddy asked.
Jerry shook his head. "I don't know. When Mr. Boomschmidt couldn't afford to feed us any more, he sent around to different zoos to see if they'd take some of us. They took the giraffe and two of the elephants and some of the smaller animals. But they wouldn't take lions and tigers because they couldn't get meat for them. So finally Mr. Boomschmidt called us all together and he said: 'Boys, you know how things are. If any one of you has got a plan, well my goodness, let's hear it!' Of course nobody had any plan. 'Well then,' he said, 'the only thing for us to do is to scatter and live off the country. If we stay here, we'll starve. Of course," he said, "if I could find Col. Yancey's treasure, we'd all be fixed. But we haven't had much luck with that.'"
"What's the treasure?" Freddy asked.
"Oh, there's supposed to be some money hidden in the old house. At least folks around there say this old Col. Yancey that used to own the place hid it before he went off to join the Confederate army. Mr. Boomschmidt has hunted for it some, but it's been more a game than anything else: he doesn't really believe it's there.
"'Well,' he said, 'how about it? There's lots of wild country around here and, my goodness, your forefathers managed all right, in the days before there were any circuses. Eh, Leo—didn't they manage all right?' You know how the chief always wanted Leo to back him up.
"Well, Leo backed him up all right, though I guess he didn't know much about how his forefathers managed, seeing he wasn't there. But he said the chief was perfectly right and it was the only thing to do, and the other animals agreed. So we decided not to put it off, but to start right away. Leo made a little speech and thanked Mr. Boomschmidt for all he'd done for us, and then we said goodbye." The rhinoceros sniffed damply, and wiped his eyes with the corner of the blanket. "It was pretty sad, Freddy. I don't like to think about it. Mr. Boomschmidt and his old mother, and Madame Delphine—you remember, she was the fortune teller with the circus—they stood there in the porch and watched us marching off to the woods. Tears running down their faces.—Tears running down our faces too, of course." Jerry sniffed again. "Got a handkerchief? Oh, never mind; here's some Kleenex Mrs. Bean brought me."
Freddy was very much affected by the rhinoceros' tears. Mr. Boomschmidt and his animals were old and valued friends, and this account of their misfortunes made him sad. But Freddy was practical in such matters and he didn't think that he and Jerry would help Mr. Boomschmidt much by crying on each other's shoulders. Besides, having an animal who weighs nearly a ton crying on your shoulder is no treat. So to keep Jerry from breaking down completely he said gruffly: "Snap out of it, Jerry. I'll do anything I can for Mr. Boomschmidt, but you haven't told me yet what you want me to do."
Jerry wiped his eyes on half a box of Kleenex, sneezed twice, and then said: "You're right, Freddy. Well, there isn't much more to tell. It was last spring—nearly a year ago—that we took to the woods and separated, and what has become of the rest of the animals I don't know. I struck out northwest, into the mountains. Had a real nice summer, too. I kept to the hills, and I don't suppose any of the farmers or village people in the valleys ever guessed there was a rhinoceros living close by.
"But one day last fall I was lying up in a blackberry patch—you never saw such berries, Freddy; they were as big as plums—well, small plums, anyway ... I was on the edge of the woods above a valley, and I saw what I thought was a big yellow dog running across the fields below me. You know I don't see very well; I have to rely on my ears and my nose; but the wind was from me to him so I couldn't tell much about him. But all at once he stopped, and then came bounding up towards me, and I knew he'd scented me."
"And it was Leo, I bet," Freddy put in.
"Darn it, Freddy, you spoiled my story," said Jerry peevishly. "Oh yes, it was Leo. Just as I started to charge him, he roared. I'd know that roar anywhere. Well, we were pretty glad to see each other. But Leo was awful thin. He said: 'You know, Jerry, this wild free life isn't all it's cracked up to be. All I've had to eat in the last two weeks is a couple of owls and a woodchuck. And that's pretty poor pickings.' And then he said he'd decided to strike north and try to reach here. ' 'Tisn't only on my own account, Jerry,' he said. 'We ought to do something to help the chief. He's been good to us for a long time, and now when he's in trouble, what are we doing to help him? Walked out—that's what we did, just walked out.'
Excerpted from Freddy the Pied Piper by Walter R. Brooks, Kurt Wiese. Copyright © 1946 Walter R. Brooks. Excerpted by permission of The Overlook Press.
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