About the Author
Kurt Wiese (1887-1974) illustrated over 300 children’s books and wrote and illustrated another 20 books. He received two Newbury Awards and two Caldecott Honor Book Awards.
Walter R. Brooks (1886-1958) is the beloved author of 26 books about Freddy the Pig. He edited for magazines, including The New Yorker. In addition to the Freddy books, Brooks created the character Mr. Ed the Talking Horse.
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Freddy and Simon the Dictator
By Walter R. Brooks, Kurt Wiese
The Overlook PressCopyright © 1956 Walter R. Brooks
All rights reserved.
"Look, Freddy, you dope," said Jinx, the black cat; "what do you want to learn to lash your tail for? You're not a cat. You're a pig. And, strictly speaking, you haven't really got a tail, anyway."
"Oh, is that so!" said Freddy. "Well, I've got enough of a tail so that when I wanted to learn to wag it, like a dog, I got Georgie to teach me, and I learned to wag it in two lessons. Look!"
It wasn't really much of a wag; it was more of a tremble; but Jinx, watching carefully, could see that the pig's tail did move. "Very pretty," he said. "But why are you always trying to do something that pigs can't do? Remember when you hired that squirrel to teach you to climb trees, and you got two feet off the ground and fell and sprained both fore trotters? Tail lashing is not for pigs."
"I know, Jinx," said Freddy mournfully. "But you handle your tail so elegantly. It's a real pleasure to watch you. Of course I wouldn't expect ever to be as graceful as you are, but don't you suppose you could give me some exercises, maybe, so my tail could be a little more expressive?"
Cats are vain animals, and Freddy knew that he could get Jinx to do almost anything by paying him a few compliments on his handsome figure or his gentlemanly manners. Now the cat had difficulty in hiding his pleasure. He suppressed a purr and yawned instead, covering his mouth delicately with one paw. Then he said: "Yes, we cats are naturally graceful; it's not something you can learn. But I suppose—yes, I think I could do something for you. But your tail's kinked up so tight. If you could manage to straighten it out—"
"It only straightens out when I'm scared," Freddy said.
"That's no good," said Jinx. "H'm, Mrs. Bean is ironing today. We might go down to the house and have her press it out straight with a hot iron."
"Not on your life!" said Freddy. "Not my tail. Well, I guess—" He stopped as a high thin squealing and sobbing broke out on the other side of the cow barn, in front of which they were standing. "What on earth—!"
"One of the rabbits," said Jinx. "Sounds like he's caught in a trap. Come on."
But at the edge of the vegetable garden, they saw that the rabbit wasn't in any trap, he was across Mr. Bean's knee, getting spanked. And a second rabbit was held tightly under Mr. Bean's arm, waiting his turn. He was making almost as much noise as the first one.
Mr. Bean looked up and nodded to Freddy and Jinx but went right on spanking. At last when he had spanked the second rabbit, he let them both go and they ran off, hobbling and pretending to be crippled for life, and when they got to what they felt was a safe distance, they stopped and turned around and made faces at the farmer. "Yaah, yaah, yaah!" they yelled. "You big bully! You wait—we'll get even with you for this!" And so on.
Freddy shook his head. "Never saw any animal on this farm talk back to Mr. Bean before," he said.
But Mr. Bean paid no attention to the jeers. "Told 'em next time I caught 'em stealing lettuce I'd spank 'em, and I did," he said to Freddy. "Don't know what's got into the rabbits—they've been gettin' into all kinds of mischief lately. Broke two windows in the woodshed Friday. Throwing stones. And pulled half Mrs. B's washing off the line. Might think they was tigers instead of rabbits. Though I'm glad they ain't. Wouldn't care to spank a tiger." And he made the fizzing sound that meant that he was laughing behind his beard.
Mr. Bean didn't usually talk much to his animals, even to Freddy. He was kind of old-fashioned, and it was hard for him to get used to the idea that animals could talk. It embarrassed him to talk to them, or to have them answer. Freddy knew that he must be pretty upset about the rabbits to have said so much. So he said: "I know those two. They're Numbers 6 Jr. and 14." There were so many rabbits on the farm that they had been given numbers instead of names. "I'll talk to their mothers."
"Do that," said Mr. Bean, and he whacked Freddy on the shoulder and turned and went down to the farmhouse.
Jinx said: "Those two are Horribles, aren't they?"
Freddy nodded. The Horribles, otherwise the Horrible Ten, had been organized as a joke by a group of rabbits. With their ears pinned flat to their heads, and brandishing daggers cut out of tin, they would lie in wait after dark for some animal and then rush out and dance a sort of war dance around their victim, chanting one of their bloodthirsty songs. "I don't know what's getting into the Horribles," Freddy said. "Mr. Bean has had several complaints about them. At least everybody thinks it was them that broke into Miss McMinickle's house down the road and raided her icebox, and the next night threw stones at Mr. Margarine's car."
"Well," said Jinx, "I suppose after you've jumped out and scared everybody you know a dozen times, it kind of loses its point. You want to go on to bigger and better things."
"But not stealing things, for goodness' sake," said Freddy, "and destroying property."
"Why don't you talk to 23. Or 12. They've done detective work for you, and they're both good steady boys. I'll bet they haven't been in on any of this rough stuff."
"Let's go talk to 6 Jr.'s mother first," Freddy said.
So they went on up to the upper pasture where Mrs. 6 lived in a comfortable burrow not far from the duck pond. Mrs. 6 had eight children, two of whom, 6 Jr. and 62, were Horribles. Freddy called down the hole which was Mrs. 6's front door, but nobody answered, and he and Jinx were turning away when a rabbit came hopping up.
"Hello, 23," said Freddy. "You're just the rabbit I want."
"Well, here I am," said 23. "Got a job for me?"
"Not exactly," said the pig. "But I think maybe you can tell me what's gone wrong with all you Horribles. I've had some pretty bad reports about you lately, and Mr. Bean just caught 6 Jr. and 14 stealing lettuce again. What are you doing, trying to work up a crime wave?"
23 looked embarrassed. "I—I know. There's been a lot of things. But I hope you don't think I was in on any of them."
"No, I didn't think you were, or 12 either. That's why I'm asking you what it's all about."
The rabbit hesitated. "I don't want to be a tattletale," he said. "And besides, I don't think it would be very healthy for me to tell you all I know—or guess. On the other hand, as a loyal citizen of the First Animal Republic ..." He broke off. "Oh dear," he said, "I wish-I wish I could tell you, Freddy, but I don't see—"
Jinx sprang forward and, with his paws on his shoulders, shook him until his teeth rattled. "Come on, you pink-eyed powder puff," he said, "let's have it. Give."
"Hold it, Jinx," Freddy said. "You won't get anything out of 23 that way. He's a good boy, and loyal to Mr. Bean. Isn't that right, 23? He'll tell us."
"O.K., pig; have it your way," said the cat. "Me, I'd tie him up and tickle his toes until he spilled everything he knew. But you go ahead and see how far your soft-soaping him will get you."
"It'll get farther than rough stuff," said Freddy. "Look, 23. We don't want you to give away any secrets that you've promised not to. Just tell us what you can, honorably."
The cat laughed sarcastically. But 23 said: "You can find out almost as much as I know, Freddy, without my telling you anything, if you'll go up to the Grimby house tonight after dark. Don't get too close; there'll be a lot of animals there and if they see you—well, you won't find out much."
"You mean there's some kind of a meeting there?" Freddy asked. The Grimby house in the Big Woods had burned down two years ago, and there was nothing left but a cellar hole half filled with charred beams and other debris. It was here that Freddy's lifelong enemies, the rats under old Simon, had made their last stand against the animals of the Bean farm.
"I don't want to tell you any more," 23 said. "I'd be in serious trouble if it got out that I'd said anything to you. But I'll say this, Freddy: If later on, you decide to do anything about it, there are a few of us you can count on. There's 12 and 24. And 18 and 34. One or two others." He hesitated. "Well ... I guess that's all for now. Be seeing you around." And he hopped off.
"Say, what is this, Freddy?" said Jinx. "A conspiracy or something? You suppose these rabbits are planning to overthrow the government?"
"Maybe we'll find out tonight," said the pig. He turned to bow politely to an elderly rabbit who was coming slowly towards them. "Good afternoon, Mrs. 6. We were looking for you."
To his surprise, the rabbit, who had always in the past been very pleasant to him—had indeed seemed flattered to be spoken to by so important a member of the barnyard group—frowned and eyed him coldly. "I have nothing to say to you," she said, and moved towards her front door.
Freddy blocked the way. "Please, Mrs. 6," he said. "I want to talk to you about 6 Jr. He's always been a good boy, but just recently some of these younger rabbits have been running wild, and I want to see if we can't find some way to straighten them out. Just today 6 Jr. and 14 were caught by Mr. Bean stealing lettuce, and—"
"You needn't go on," said Mrs. 6 coldly. "I know all about that. As brutal an attack as I ever saw! Beating up two helpless little children! Well, your fine Mr. Bean will get his comeuppance—you wait and see. Why can't he pick on someone his own size?"
"Probably because nobody his own size was stealing his property," said Jinx.
But Freddy said: "Hold on a minute! You say you saw Mr. Bean spanking 6 Jr.? Then you were there. You mean you just stood by and watched them stealing lettuce without trying to stop them?"
"I not only didn't try to stop them, I told them to take the lettuce. And what are you going to do about that, Mr. Smarty Pig?"
"Well, I'll be darned!" Jinx muttered. He and Freddy stared at each other, hardly able to believe their ears. That a responsible mother of a family would actually urge her child to steal was incredible.
Jinx was the first to recover himself. "Hey!" he exclaimed. "You're the one Mr. Bean ought to have spanked. By gosh, I'll do it for him." His paw shot out and caught Mrs. 6 by the shoulder.
But Freddy stopped him. "Wait a minute," he said. "We must get to the bottom of this. Mrs. 6, will you tell me why you turned against Mr. Bean, who has always been kind and considerate to all the animals on the farm?"
"Tell you?" said Mrs. 6 angrily, "indeed and I'll tell you! It's the same reason why I'm left a poor widow woman with eight fatherless children. It's your fine Mr. Bean that's responsible for that."
"Oh, come," said Freddy. "I was on that case, when your husband disappeared two years ago. There wasn't a clue—certainly nothing to connect his disappearance with Mr. Bean. He just walked out one night and vanished."
"And who's to blame him?" said Jinx, looking distastefully at Mrs. 6. "Got sick of being nagged at, and just up and went over the hill. Smart guy, if you ask me."
"Oh, sure," said the rabbit. "I know that's what some people said. But Mr. 6 wasn't nagged; we never had a cross word. And why was nothing ever seen or heard of him again? Why didn't you, Freddy, find any trace of him? I'll tell you why. You wait here." She hopped into her front door.
In a minute, she was back. She held out a piece of paper to Freddy. It was a leaf torn out of a cookbook. "Rabbit stew," Freddy read. "Cut up your rabbit and place him in a saucepan ..."
"Sure," said the rabbit. "Cut up Mr. 6—that's what your kind, sweet Mrs. Bean did. Fried him and had him for supper. How do I know? Because that's a page out of Mrs. Bean's cookbook, that's howl"
"Where'd you get this?" Freddy asked. "Even if it was out of Mrs. Bean's cookbook, I wouldn't believe that the Beans had your husband for supper. I don't know anybody but Jinx, or the mice, or probably the two dogs, who could get into Mrs. Bean's kitchen to tear a page out of her cookbook. Where'd you get it?"
"I'm not at liberty to say," Mrs. 6 replied.
"I thought so," said Freddy. "Somebody has done this to set you—and if they can, all the other rabbits—against the Beans." He thought a minute. "Well," he said finally, "I'm not going to argue with you. If you're silly enough to believe that, you're too silly to argue with. Come on, Jinx."CHAPTER 2
Two years earlier, Freddy had driven the rats out of the Grimby house cellar, where they had dug themselves in, by dumping a lot of spoiled onions in the cellar hole. Rats don't even like fresh onions, and spoiled ones make them very sick. Shortly after this, as has been related elsewhere, all but one of the rats had been shipped out to a ranch in Montana. Freddy was sure that that time he had got rid of them for good.
Since then, he hadn't visited the Grimby house. As he and Jinx crept up towards it through the woods that evening, there was no taint of spoiled onions in the air. Two years of rain and snow and sunshine had taken it all away.
Jinx was all black, and even in the daytime could have slipped through the woods without being noticed. But though Freddy was a skilled woodsman, and could move as silently as a shadow, he knew that he was too pale in color to escape attention, and so he had put on one of the many disguises he used in his detective work: a black morning coat, gray striped trousers, and a derby hat. With this, and a dark false beard to hide his face, he was nearly invisible.
They sneaked up as close to the ruined house as they dared. It was not very close. For they sensed, rather than heard, the presence of a large gathering of animals. There was no talk; everyone was keeping very quiet; but there were rustlings, whisperings—and then suddenly a great voice came roaring out of the cellar hole.
"Attention, friends! At our last meeting, you learned something of the true nature of the human race, and particularly of your masters, Bean and Witherspoon, Macy and Schermerhorn, the farmers on whose land you live and whose slaves you are. For make no mistake, friends, slaves you are, ruled by whip and gun. This very afternoon, one of the most brutal punishments ever suffered by any animal was inflicted upon two helpless young rabbits by Mr. William Bean. Beaten within an inch of their lives, they were left moaning and half dead beside the vegetable garden where they had been innocently nibbling at a wilted lettuce leaf.
"But enough of this, friends. I am not here tonight to tell you of these things. Every one of you knows of the wrongs and cruelties he himself has suffered at the hands of these men. Every one of you bitterly resents the oppression which he is powerless to overcome."
A small shrill voice cut across the speaker's roaring tones. "Mr. Bean is kind to his animals."
"I know that he has that reputation," came the reply. "I know that he says he is kind to them. And no doubt to some of them he does show kindness at times. A horse or a dog will work harder for a kind master than for an unkind one. But is it kindness to beat young rabbits into insensibility? Is it kindness to make a stew of the father of a large family and serve him up for supper? No, friends, such kindness is not what we have a right to expect."
Jinx put his mouth close to Freddy's ear. "Something familiar about that voice," he muttered.
"Is to me, too," said the pig. "But only one of the cows would have as big a one. Like Mrs. Wiggins when she gets to laughing."
"'Tisn't a cow," said Jinx. "Look, I'm going to climb a tree and see if I can get a squint at the guy. I want to see who's here, too. This business could be serious."
How serious it could be, Freddy was to learn later. Now he listened as the big voice went on. "I said a moment ago that we animals were powerless. As long as we are each of us acting alone, that is true. One animal by himself can do nothing. But suppose ten thousand animals, on the farms about Centerboro, banded together in the cause of freedom! Suppose ten million animals in New York State! Friends, in one night we could cast off our chains! We could take over these farms—yes, and the villages, too, and later, even the cities. We could run them for ourselves, for the workers who are today deprived of the fruit of their labors by their masters, the farmers.
Excerpted from Freddy and Simon the Dictator by Walter R. Brooks, Kurt Wiese. Copyright © 1956 Walter R. Brooks. Excerpted by permission of The Overlook Press.
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