Freddy, who has won so many admirers in his roles of detective, pied piper, editor, general advisor to the animals on the Bean Farm, and—always—poet, will fascinate his readers in his role of magician. Freddy pulls some wonderful tricks, not the least of which is outwitting the fraudulent magician who comes to entertain the unsuspecting inhabitants of the nearby town of Centerboro.
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.
Read an Excerpt
Freddy the Magician
By Walter R. Brooks, Kurt Wiese
The Overlook PressCopyright © 1947 Walter R. Brooks
All rights reserved.
Pigs are not generally thought of as very tidy animals, and I suppose a good many people would have been surprised to see what Mr. Bean's pig, Freddy, was doing the morning after the big gale.
The tail end of a hurricane had whipped across the Bean farm, tearing limbs off trees, ripping shingles off roofs, and strewing everything that wasn't nailed down over half a mile of countryside. The whole barnyard was littered with twigs and even good-sized branches, and the little terrace in front of the pig pen, where Freddy sat and dozed on drowsy summer afternoons, was a mess. So Freddy was cleaning up.
He picked up all the rubbish and carted it off in the little rubber-tired wheelbarrow that Mr. Bean had given him last Christmas and then after resting a while he went down to the house to borrow a broom. All the other animals were at work tidying up the barnyard, and on the roof of the house Mr. Bean was nailing on new shingles in place of those that the wind had torn off. Mrs. Wiggins, one of the cows, had hooked a horn into a big branch that had blown off the crabapple tree and was dragging it away. She stopped when she saw Freddy.
"I don't suppose you've had any word from Centerboro yet, have you, Freddy?" she asked.
Freddy shook his head. "No. I thought after we got through here, maybe some of us could go down to the circus grounds and give Mr. Boomschmidt a hand. The place must be a shambles after the storm."
"I've never seen a shambles," said Mrs. Wiggins, who had no idea what the word meant, "but probably you're right. I must say I'm glad we went to the circus Tuesday. I'd hate to have been in that big tent yesterday when the storm struck."
The circus was paying its yearly visit to Centerboro. The Bean animals always went to it in a body, for the proprietor, Mr. Boomschmidt, was an old friend and always gave them free seats. Indeed, Freddy had several times gone on the road with the show and taken part in the performance, and he had many close friends in the menagerie. I suppose that Leo, the circus lion, was as close to him as any of his own relatives. So the Bean animals were naturally worried about what might have happened when that high wind struck.
"I was planning to go again tomorrow," said Freddy. "That new magician that's with the show—he's wonderful! I'd like to get him to give me some lessons. Of course I could never do card tricks; you have to have hands for that and I've got trotters. But I bet I could learn some of the others. Maybe I could give performances."
"Well, I hope you won't," said the cow. "I should be nervous as a witch when you were around if I thought any minute you might take an egg out of my ear, or fire off a pistol and make a canary appear in a bird cage. And sawing that girl in two—that was downright wicked, Freddy."
"Oh, he didn't really saw her in two," said Freddy. "There was some trick to it. Anyway, you saw the girl afterwards, didn't you? So he couldn't have hurt her."
"How do I know it was the same girl?" said Mrs. Wiggins. "It looked like her, but it might have been her twin sister."
"He saws a girl in two at every performance," said Freddy. "So there'd have to be about a hundred girls all looking just alike—a hundred twin sisters. Only you wouldn't call them twins if there were a hundred of them, would you?"
"Hundreduplets, I suppose," said the cow. "Just the same I don't see how there could be any trick about it—he certainly sawed her in two. I just don't think it's right. And anyway ..." She stopped.
"Look, there's Mrs. Bean calling to us."
The two animals crossed the barnyard to the back porch, where Mrs. Bean was standing. Mrs. Bean was small and plump and comfortable looking and she had red cheeks and snapping black eyes, and the animals were all very fond of her. They were fond of Mr. Bean too, but he was harder to get acquainted with because he didn't talk much and because you never could tell what he was thinking on account of the whiskers that covered up his expression.
Mrs. Bean said: "Freddy, now that everything's about cleaned up after the storm, why don't you and some of the others go down to Centerboro and help Mr. Boomschmidt? He phoned a while ago and said if we could spare any of you, he'd be very grateful. He said there was nobody hurt; everybody got out of the big tent all right; but some of the smaller tents were blown to pieces and a lot of stuff scattered around."
"Mrs. Wiggins and I were just talking about going down," Freddy said. "If it's all right with you and Mr. Bean, I'll collect some of the others and start now."
Down at the Centerboro fairgrounds everybody was hard at work straightening up after the storm. Men and animals were rushing around, mending torn canvas and tightening guy ropes and picking up and sorting out stuff that had been scattered by the wind. On the top of a very tall stepladder in the middle of everything sat Mr. Boomschmidt, his plug hat on the back of his head, shouting orders through a megaphone at the various gangs. Every now and then when he shouted too vigorously, his hat would fall off, and when that happened, Jonesy, the giraffe, who was standing beside the ladder, would pick it up and hand it back to him.
When Mr. Boomschmidt saw the Bean animals come through the gate he waved and then shouted greetings at them through the megaphone. He swept off his hat and bowed so low to Mrs. Wiggins that he overbalanced and would have bounced right down the steps of the ladder if Jonesy hadn't propped him up again. Then supporting himself with a hand on the giraffe's head, he said, "Welcome, animals! Welcome! My goodness, you're certainly real friends. But I'll thank you later. Just pitch in wherever you're needed, will you? And Freddy, do go over to Leo's wagon and see if you can't cheer him up. Gracious, you haven't heard about him? Why, you know how proud he is of his mane. Well, the wind started the wagon he lives in rolling down the hill, and instead of jumping, he stuck with it and it ran off the road and overturned in a big patch of weeds and threw him out. He wasn't hurt any, but oh, dear me, is that mane of his a mess of burrs! He sat up all night trying to comb them out, but I guess it's the clippers for him. But my gracious, you'd think it was his leg instead of his mane that had to be cut off. I keep telling him it won't hurt. My goodness me, to think of what I went through when I had my tonsils out! And just cutting a lot of hair off.... Well, you go see him."
Leo's wagon was the last one in the row of cages on wheels that housed the menagerie. A couple of blankets had been pinned up across the front of it, and Freddy said "Hi, Leo!" and lifted a corner and peeked in. It was so dark that he could just barely make out the tawny shape of his old friend crouched in a corner.
"Ah, it's the pig," said Leo as if speaking to himself. "Come to look his last upon an old comrade. Come to gibe and to sneer, no doubt—to point the finger of scorn and make the dirty crack. Ah, me, the great King of Beasts, to be made a laughingstock for those who, in the days of his greatness, stood in awe before his strength; who, in the words of Shakespeare, 'smiled at his purr and trembled at his growl!'"
"That's not in Shakespeare," said Freddy. "I have his Complete-Works-in-One-Volume home, and there's nothing like that in it."
A leopard poked his nose out of the next cage. "Leo's been like that ever since yesterday," he said. "Moaning and complaining. We none of us got a wink of sleep. Can't you do something, Freddy?"
"I'll try," said the pig. He yanked down one of the blankets. "Quit being so sorry for yourself, Leo," he said. "Goodness me, you did pick up a burr or two, didn't you? But what are you kicking about? You ought to be glad to get rid of that mane. For one thing, I should think it would be a lot cooler—and gracious sakes, it's way out of fashion anyway. Any boy would be ashamed to be seen on the street with such a mess of curls as you've always worn. You looked like a little girl. Besides, you've got a nice shaped head, Leo—a fine, noble head—but nobody will ever know it unless you do away with those curls and ribbons."
"What do you mean, ribbons?" said Leo crossly. "I never wore a ribbon in my life."
"Well, you looked as if you ought to. I tell you, Leo, when you get all that hair off, you'll feel like a new lion. And you'll look—well, you'll look forty times more like the King of Beasts."
Leo began to show interest. "You really think so, Freddy? More masculine, eh? Well, perhaps there's something in it. Only ... only ... suppose I don't? Suppose I don't like it?"
"OK, suppose you don't," said Freddy. "Then you get a false mane made. A wig."
Leo let out a roar. "Me? Wear a wig? Are you crazy?"
"Now take it easy," said Freddy. "Lots of great people—kings and movie actors and so on—have worn wigs."
"Yeah?" said Leo. "Name one."
"Well, Louis Fourteen was the King of France and he wore a wig. And so did Louis Fifteen and Sixteen."
"And Seventeen," said Mrs. Wiggins, trying to be helpful.
"Never even heard of Louis One," said Leo. "Try again."
"Well, how about George Washington?" said the pig. "He wore one."
"He wore knee pants, too," said Leo, "but that's no reason why I should."
"Oh, all right, all right," said Freddy crossly. "Have it your way. That's the thanks we get. Come on, Mrs. Wiggins." He turned away and ran smack into a tall thin man in a dress suit who had come up to the lion cage.
The pig drew back and bowed and said politely: "I beg your pardon, sir. I'm afraid I didn't see you."
The man had sharp black eyes, very white teeth under a black moustache that curled in two little horns up on either side of his nose. He wore no hat but around his shoulders was a long black cape, lined with red. "Not at all," he said. "Not at all. Most people, I find, are singularly unobservant. They go through life not seeing many things that are right under their noses. Permit me." And he reached out a hand and took a silver dollar out of Freddy's left ear. "Not under your nose exactly," he said, "but in the immediate vicinity. Been there for weeks, I dare say, and you've never noticed it.—And you, madam," he said, turning to Mrs. Wiggins, "I'm sorry to see that you haven't combed your hair recently." He picked an old bird's nest and a small bouquet of paper flowers from between her horns. "Tut, tut! Very slovenly. You ought to be more particular about your appearance."
"Oh!" said Freddy delightedly. "You're Signor Zingo!"
"In person," said the magician with a self-satisfied smile.
Freddy said: "I saw your performance Tuesday and it was—well it was wonderful!"
"Naturally," Signor Zingo said. "Naturally. A performance that has been given before all the crowned heads of Europe, that has won deafening applause in every first-class theatre from London to Bombay, from Capetown to Reykjavik, that has charmed the distinguished drawing rooms of three continents ..."
"Modest little man, isn't he?" Leo interrupted sarcastically. "That's what I like about you, Zing—so many people brag about their accomplishments, but not you! No sir, just a shrinking violet."
The magician showed his teeth in a tight smile. "Ah, yes, Leo," he said; "we're rather alike in that, aren't we? You've been rather shrinking from the public gaze too since yesterday, haven't you? Very wise of you, I must say, with that donkey's breakfast you call a mane on your head. King of the Beasts, hey? You look like the King of the Scarecrows." He narrowed his eyes viciously at the lion, and Freddy, who had at first thought he might be rather nice, didn't like him any more.
Neither did Mrs. Wiggins. And like all cows, she never hesitated to speak her mind. "Look here, Mr. Zingo," she said. "Maybe Leo hadn't ought to have said what he did about your bragging, but it isn't very nice of you to make fun of his mane when he's so upset about it. If you want my opinion, I think you're just plain mean!"
Signor Zingo turned on her. "Oh, do you, madam! Well, since we're exchanging opinions, may I say that your fat silly face gives me acute indigestion? And please take it away."
Cows are plain and there is nothing they can do about it, but they are very kindhearted animals, and it is a pretty mean man who will deliberately insult a cow. Mrs. Wiggins was hurt and astonished. "Well I never!" she exclaimed.
Freddy was good and mad. Mrs. Wiggins was. not only his partner and one of his oldest friends, she was a lady, and Freddy had been too well brought up not to resent an insult to a lady, even if a perfect stranger. He showed his teeth in a snarl that would have done credit to Leo. "See here, mister," he said; "you take that back and apologize. Quick!"
"Ha, chivalrous pig!" said Signor Zingo contemptuously. "And what will you do if I don't? Tear me limb from limb?"
People who don't know much about pigs are not likely to class them as dangerous animals; but an angry pig is something that no farmer in his senses will tackle barehanded. One snap of Freddy's strong jaws could have taken a good-sized chunk out of the magician. And Freddy was just about to rush when he was interrupted by Mr. Boomschmidt, who had climbed down from his ladder and come bustling over.
"Come, come, Zing," he said. "I heard that last remark of yours. A very ungentlemanly remark, very ungentlemanly indeed. This lady is a friend of mine, an old friend. If you have to insult somebody, why can't you insult somebody I don't like? Why don't you ..." He laughed suddenly —"Why don't you insult yourself, hey? I don't like you very well, you know." He doubled up with laughter, and Freddy and then Mrs. Wiggins, and finally Leo, began to laugh too.
Signor Zingo didn't laugh. He kept the tight little smile on his face, and really looked quite dangerous. "Very witty, Boomschmidt," he said. "Being my employer gives you the right to say what you please, of course."
"Dear me," said Mr. Boomschmidt, "I always say what I please, Zing. Though what I say doesn't always please me after I've said it. Well now, and that's funny too, isn't it? How do you explain that, Leo? Eh?—Or no, never mind; you're not feeling well this morning; forget that I asked you. Now what is this all about?"
They all began talking at once, but after a moment Mr. Boomschmidt put his fingers in his ears. "Oh dear," he said, "you're just mixing me up. I think the best plan is for you all to apologize all around and start fresh. Eh? You first, Zing."
"I won't be the first," said the magician.
"Well, I certainly won't," Leo said.
"Mrs. Wiggins and I have nothing to apologize for," said Freddy.
"Just the same, as a favor to me, you'll apologize if the others do, won't you?" Mr. Boomschmidt asked, and when they nodded he said: "Now I'll count three and when I say 'three' you'll all say: 'I apologize.' Agreed?" So he counted and then when they had all mumbled together: "I apologize," he said: "Come along, Zing; I want to talk to you about that hat."
"I will gladly come with you," said the magician, "if you'll persuade this—this lion to return to me the comb I lent him last night to get the burrs out of his mane."
"But I keep telling you, Zing," said Leo: "I lost the comb. I can't find it."
"You haven't been out of your cage all morning. It must be there somewhere."
"Of course it's here," said Leo. "It's in my mane somewhere. But if you can find it, you're a whole lot smarter than I think you are. And I don't think ..."
"Now, Leo!" said Mr. Boomschmidt warningly.
"All right, chief," said the lion. "I'll tell him what I think later. But he's been pestering me for that comb—and it only had about four teeth anyway. But I'm perfectly willing to buy him another."
"Well, if it's in his mane," said Mr. Boomschmidt, "my gracious, Zing, go on in his cage and help him find it."
Leo laughed. "Yeah, Zing, come on in. Come into my little parlor, and come out in pieces, in fragments, in little tiny chawed-up bits." He spread the claws of one big forepaw and raked it across the floor of the cage so that the splinters flew.
Excerpted from Freddy the Magician by Walter R. Brooks, Kurt Wiese. Copyright © 1947 Walter R. Brooks. Excerpted by permission of The Overlook Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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