Beautiful Joe
Chapter 33

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Please be aware that this book was originally published in 1894 and may contain words, descriptions, or other passages that may be considered offensive today.


CHAPTER XXXIII: PERFORMING ANIMALS

A week or two after we got home, I heard the Morris boys talking about an Italian who was coming to Fairport with a troupe of trained animals, and I could see for myself, whenever I went to town, great flaming pictures on the fences, of monkeys sitting at tables, dogs, and ponies, and goats climbing ladders, and rolling balls, and doing various tricks. I wondered very much whether they would be able to do all those extraordinary things, but it turned out that they did.

The Italian's name was Bellini, and one afternoon the whole Morris family went to see him and his animals, and when they came home, I heard them talking about it. "I wish you could have been there, Joe," said Jack, pulling up my paws to rest on his knees. "Now listen, old fellow, and I'll tell you all about it. First of all, there was a perfect jam in the town hall. I sat up in front, with a lot of fellows, and had a splendid view. The old Italian came out dressed in his best suit of clothes — black broadcloth, flower in his buttonhole, and so on. He made a fine bow, and he said he was 'pleased too see ze fine audience, and he was going to show zem ze fine animals, ze finest animals in ze world.' Then he shook a little whip that he carried in his hand, and he said 'zat zat whip didn't mean zat he was cruel. He cracked it to show his animals when to begin, end, or change their tricks.' Some boy yelled, 'Rats! you do whip them sometimes,' and the old man made another bow, and said, 'Sairteenly, he whipped zem just as ze mammas whip ze naughty boys, to make zem keep still when zey was noisy or stubborn.'

"Then everybody laughed at the boy, and the Italian said the performance would begin by a grand procession of all the animals, if some lady would kindly step up to the piano and play a march. Nina Smith — you know Nina, Joe, the girl that has black eyes and wears blue ribbons, and lives around the corner — stepped up to the piano, and banged out a fine loud march. The doors at the side of the platform opened, and out came the animals, two by two, just like Noah's ark. There was a pony with a monkey walking beside it and holding on to its mane, another monkey on a pony's back, two monkeys hand in hand, a dog with a parrot on his back, a goat harnessed to a little carriage, another goat carrying a birdcage in its mouth with two canaries inside, different kinds of cats, some doves and pigeons, half a dozen white rats with red harness, and dragging a little chariot with a monkey in it, and a common white gander that came in last of all, and did nothing but follow one of the ponies about.

"The Italian spoke of the gander, and said it was a stupid creature, and could learn no tricks, and he only kept it on account of its affection for the pony. He had got them both on a Vermont farm, when he was looking for show animals. The pony's master had made a pet of him, and had taught him to come whenever he whistled for him. Though the pony was only a scrub of a creature, he had a gentle disposition, and every other animal on the farm liked him. A gander, in particular, had such an admiration for him that he followed him wherever he went, and if he lost him for an instant, he would mount one of the knolls on the farm and stretch out his neck looking for him. When he caught sight of him, he gabbled with delight, and running to him, waddled up and down beside him. Every little while the pony put his nose down, and seemed to be having a conversation with the goose. If the farmer whistled for the pony and he started to run to him, the gander, knowing he could not keep up, would seize the pony's tail in his beak, and flapping his wings, would get along as fast as the pony did. And the pony never kicked him. The Italian saw that this pony would be a good one to train for the stage, so he offered the farmer a large price for him, and took him away.

"Oh, Joe, I forgot to say, that by this time all the animals had been sent off the stage except the pony and the gander, and they stood looking at the Italian while he talked. I never saw anything as human in dumb animals as that pony's face. He looked as if he understood every word that his master was saying. After this story was over, the Italian made another bow, and then told the pony to bow. He nodded his head at the people, and they all laughed. Then the Italian asked him to favor us with a waltz, and the pony got up on his hind legs and danced. You should have seen that gander skirmishing around, so as to be near the pony and yet keep out of the way of his heels. We fellows just roared, and we would have kept him dancing all the afternoon if the Italian hadn't begged 'ze young gentlemen not to make ze noise, but let ze pony do ze rest of his tricks.' Pony number two came on the stage, and it was too queer for anything to see the things the two of them did. They helped the Italian on with his coat, they pulled off his rubbers, they took his coat away and brought him a chair, and dragged a table up to it. They brought him letters and papers, and rang bells, and rolled barrels, and swung the Italian in a big swing, and jumped a rope, and walked up and down steps — they just went around that stage as handy with their teeth as two boys would be with their hands, and they seemed to understand every word their master said to them.