Mr. Mysterious and Companyby Sid Fleischman, Eric Von Schmidt, Eric von Schmidt
A magic show is in town!
See Jane float through the air. Watch the head in the box move its lips and talk (that's Paul behind the whiskers). See tall, light-hearted Mr. MysteriousPa himselfmake a cow lay an egg and a chicken give milk. Follow the adventures and high comedy of this family of magicians traveling in a show wagon through the Old West. The… See more details below
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A magic show is in town!
See Jane float through the air. Watch the head in the box move its lips and talk (that's Paul behind the whiskers). See tall, light-hearted Mr. MysteriousPa himselfmake a cow lay an egg and a chicken give milk. Follow the adventures and high comedy of this family of magicians traveling in a show wagon through the Old West. The wonder workers are heading for California, where Pa intends to retire the show so that the kids can go to school. But the frontier has tricks of its own up its sleeve, and the magicians find themselves in hairbreadth escapes and nose-to-nose encounters with villains galoreincluding the notorious and short-tempered Badlands Kid. Mr. Mysterious & Company, otherwise known as the Hackett family, is a traveling magic show making its way across the country toward California. When this family passes through town in their brightly painted wagon, anything can happeneven the capture of a notorious bandit, the Badlands Kid!
Read an Excerpt
It was a most remarkable sight. Even the hawks and buzzards sleeping in the blue Texas sky awoke in midair to glance down in wonder.
A covered wagon was lurching west along the barren trail to Cactus City, but it was like no other wagon seen in those parts before. To begin with, it was the wrong color. its canvas was bright red and could be seen for miles. The wheels were painted gold, like a circus wagon, and the horses (if seeing was believing) were as white as swans.
The man driving this most remarkable wagon and these white horses was himself a most remarkable man. He wore a stovepipe hat, as tall as Abe Lincoln's and just as black, and had a smiling red beard even sharper than the letter V. if the hawks and buzzards could have read, they would have seen his name in golden letters a foot high on the sides of the wagon: The day was hot and the hour was noon. The gentleman (for even at this distance you could tell he was a gentleman) led the horses to the shade of a lone oak tree and pulled back on the leather reins.
"Whoa, Hocus," he said in a voice as deep as a bull fiddle. "Whoa, Pocus."
The horses looked so much alike it was difficult to tell one from the other. When strangers would ask Mr. Mysterious (who was a friendly man and always spoke to strangers) the secret of telling his white horses apart, a twinkle would come into his eye. A magician, as everyone knows, never explains his secrets, and Mr. Mysterious was a traveling magician. But in the matter of his horses there was no real secret to it at all. The animal on the left was Hocus and the one on the right was Pocus, unless they got mixed up, whichsometimes happened. in that case, it was better to talk about the weather, which was hot everywhere that late summer in the year 1884.
The moment the wagon came to a halt, three young faces, in an assortment of ages from six to twelve, appeared in the puckered canvas opening behind the driver's seat. Two girls and a boy had been doing their school lessons farther back in the wagon.
"Are we almost in Cactus City, Pa?" the boy asked.
The gentleman lifted his hat and kissed them each in the order of their ages and said, "Be patient, young 'uns. We'll be in Cactus City by show time and in California by Christmas."
The children ranged in size like organ pipes, and they had the bluest eyes in any six counties. They climbed to the ground in their bare feet, and Jane, who was the oldest, smiled to herself. She enjoyed smiling to herself and sometimes practiced in Pa's shaving mirror. She wondered how she could wait both for Christmas and for the new life Pa had promised them in California. For the first time she would have a chance to make friends her own age, and keep them for more than a day at a time. Jane was almost twelve and beginning to consider herself a young lady, despite her bare feet. It seemed to her, during secret moments at Pa's shaving mirror, that she appeared very grown up when she smiled to herself. And one day Mama would let her wear her hair up like the older girls she saw.
"California," Paul grimaced, turning up his toes from the hot earth, which stung like bees. He was nine and wore a pair of Pa's suspenders cut down to size. "Shucks, who'd want to go to California?"
"Me," Anne said, clutching a rag doll which had long legs and a fixed smile. Anne longed to take dancing lessons when they reached California. She had never seen a real ballerina, but she had seen a picture of one on Pa's magic lantern slides. From that moment, she had begun to walk on her toes and to dream of satin dancing slippers. Everything seemed possible to her once they reached California.
"We might never get there," Paul said. At least every other day he changed his mind, and this was a day he didn't want to go to California. "We might get stuck in the mud."
Jane cast an unworried glance over the trail ahead of them. "What mud?"
"It might rain."
"It might not."
"Well, we might get captured by Indians, then." Paul said that just to see his sister flinch. At that moment Mama, in her white sunbonnet, appeared at the wagon opening.
"Remind me to capture you before show time and give you a haircut," she said. "It's a wonder you can see three feet ahead of you with all that hair in your eyes."
Pa lifted her to the ground and she began to busy herself with the noon meal. Mama had once been a schoolteacher, and now she taught the youngsters their lessons as the wagon traveled from town to town. She also played the small portable piano inside the wagon and could sing all the Stephen Foster songs. "We're almost out of water, Andrew," she said.
"We'll get water and supplies in Cactus City," he nodded.
His name was not, as one might suppose, Andrew Mysterious. It was simply Andrew Perkins Hackett which hardly sounded mysterious enough for a man who could pluck coins from the air and turn hens' eggs into silk handkerchiefs. He had, therefore, adopted a stage name, according to the custom among show folks. As Mr. Mysterious & Company, the family entertained settlers and pioneers in the small towns of the Old West, which at the time was Brand New.
The brightly painted show wagon carried all the tricks and props of their trade. It was full of lacquered boxes with trap doors and secret compartments, colored scarves, and silk ribbons. There were velvet tables with gold fringes, cabinets, and strange vases. Tucked in a corner was a hutch of white rabbits, waiting to be pulled out of hats. On occasion Mr. Mysterious had pulled rabbits out of ten-gallon cowboy hats, Mexican sombreros, coonskin caps, and even ladies' bonnets.Mr. Mysterious & Company. Copyright � by Sid Fleischman. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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