Authors: Walter R. Brooks
“Is that someone singing?
Freddy Goes to the North Pole
Walter R. Brooks
Illustrated by Kurt Wiese
The Overlook Press
I Â Freddy Has an Idea
II Â Barnyard Tours, Inc.
III Â The Explorers Set Out
IV Â Ferdinand Returns
V Â The Rescue Party
VI Â Three Join the Party
VII Â A Lecture Tour in the North Woods
VIII Â Jack and Charles Get into Trouble
IX Â A Fight in the Forest
X Â A Dash for the Pole
XI Â Santa and the Sailors
XII Â In the Polar Palace
XIII Â The Animals Play Ghosts
XIV Â The Flight of Hooker
XV Â Christmas Eve at Santa's
XVI Â The Ride Home
FREDDY HAS AN IDEA
Jinx, the cat, was walking round in the bushes behind the barn, looking for excitement. Things had been very quiet on the farm for a long time. Nothing really interesting had happened since spring, when he and the other animals had come back from their trip to Florida. That had been a great trip! He purred whenever he thought of it.
Suddenly he crouched down and began to lash his tail. A little grey shape darted out from under the barn into the shadow of a bush. Noiselessly Jinx crept forward, inch by inch, until he was within jumping-distance. But just as he was about to spring, a little squeaky voice came from under the bush:
“Hey, Jinx! Stop it! It's meâEeny!”
Jinx stopped crouching and straightened up. He gave a disgusted sniff. “I might have known it!” he growled. “There's never anything new around this place! Since I made friends with you and your family and promised to leave you alone, I haven't seen hide nor hair, nor tooth nor tail of anything I could hunt. Friendship's all very well, but it spoils lots of good sport.”
“I'm sorry,” said the mouse. He came out from the shadow and sat down beside Jinx and began to clean his whiskers with his fore-paws. “But you ought to be more careful, Jinx. You might have jumped on me and hurt me.”
“How'd I know it was you?” said the cat. “You said your cousins were giving a party down in the pasture. I thought you'd be down there.”
“I was,” said Eeny. “But I came away early. It wasn't much of a party. Why, all they gave us to eat was grass roots and a little birch bark. Even if they are my cousins, I
“Oh, don't tell me anything about relatives!” said Jinx. “I've got a dozen brothers and sisters in this neighbourhood, but if I was starving, d'you think any of 'em would give me as much as a robin's claw or a mouse tailâexcuse me, Eeny.”
The mouse shuddered slightly and curled his tail tightly under him. “Don't mention it,” he said.
Jinx gave a loud laugh. “I won'tâagain,” he said. “Come on, let's go down to the pigpen and see what Freddy's doing.”
As Jinx and Eeny walked side by side through the orchard, they met Mrs. Bean, the farmer's wife. Mrs. Bean had an empty bucket in her hand, because she had been feeding the pigs; and when she saw the two of them, she stared and stared. “Land sakes!” she exclaimed. “What this farm's coming to I don't know! When I was a girl, animals behaved the way you expected them to. Cats and mice didn't go out walking together and pigs didn't read newspapers and there weren't any of these animal parties given in the barn. It's more like a circus than a farm here ever since these animals got back from Florida last year. Here, Jinx! Come, kitty, kitty!”
Jinx walked over to her. He didn't want to, but Mrs. Bean liked him and was very good to him, so he was always polite to her. She petted him and scratched his head, and then she pointed to Eeny, who, while he waited for his friend, was nibbling at an apple that had fallen from one of the trees.
“Look, Jinx. Go chase the mouse. See? Nice fat mouse! M'm! Mice, Jinx, mice!”
Jinx crouched down and lashed his tail. “I'll have to chase you, Eeny,” he said. “Run over towards the fence, and I'll pretend to look for you, and then we can go on down and see Freddy.”
Eeny scurried off, squeaking with pretended fright, and Jinx, looking as ferocious as possible, bounded after him. But as soon as they were out of sight of Mrs. Bean, they walked along again side by side.
“What did she mean about pigs reading newspapers?” asked Eeny.
“Oh,” said Jinx, “that's Freddy. I've been teaching him to read and he's crazy about it. He reads everything he can lay his hoofs on now.”
“Good gracious!” squeaked the mouse. “I didn't know you could read, Jinx.”
“Read!” Jinx waved his tail importantly. “That's nothing. I can do anything I set my mind to. I learned to read sitting on Mrs. Bean's lap when she read the newspaper out loud to Mr. Bean.”
As they came in sight of the pig-pen, they saw quite a group of animals sitting round in a circle outside, and in the middle of it was Freddy. He seemed to be reading aloud from a paper that lay on the ground in front of him, for whenever he said anything, all the others would either cheer or groan.
“Hurry up! He's reading the baseball news!” said Jinx, and started to run.
Eeny started to run too, but his legs were much too short to keep up with a cat. “Hey, Jinx, wait for me!” he shouted.
Jinx stopped. “Sorry,” he said, and, picking up the mouse carefully in his mouth, bounded down into the middle of the circle, knocking over one or two of the smaller pigs as he did so. That was the way Jinx always did things. He had the best heart in the world, but he was apt to be rather rough and thoughtless.
“'Lo, Freddy, old scout,” he said. “Who won yesterday?”
“The Giants,” said the pig. “Very close game. Two and two at the end of the eighth inning, and then Whippenberger knocked a home run and brought two men in.”
“Whippenberger?” said Jinx. “Who's he? That new shortstop? What's his batting average?”
“Oh my goodness!” said Freddy crossly. “You can read, Jinx. Why don't you look it up yourself? I'm sick of doing the reading for all the animals on the farm. I don't get a chance to do anything I want to any more. Always somebody coming down here to get me to read something. And I'm especially sick of reading all these long accounts of baseball games. Maybe you get some fun out of it, but I don't. What's the sense of getting all excited about a game played by somebody elseâa game that we animals couldn't play ourselves if we wanted to? I think it's silly.”
Freddy was usually so cheerful and good-natured that all the other animals were very much surprised at this outburst, and they just sat and stared at him without saying anything. But Jinx said:
“Maybe you're right, Freddy. I'd a lot rather go out and have adventures of my own than sit home and read about those somebody else had. Look at the fun we had going to Florida. Wasn't that better than reading a book about it?”
“Yes, yes. Oh my, I should say so!” exclaimed Freddy and Eeny and Robert, the dog. They and Jinx were the only ones there who had taken the Florida trip, and they naturally felt a little superior to the other animals on that account and were sometimes inclined to put on airs about it. And Ferdinand, the crow, who lived in the woods, had a very exasperating habit of sitting up in the big elm near the barn, where all the animals could hear him, and puffing out his chest and saying importantly: “Well, when I was in Floridaâ” And then he would burst into a loud derisive laugh.
So now, as soon as the subject of Florida was brought up, all the other animals groaned and walked away, leaving Freddy and Eeny and Jinx and Robert alone.
“I mean what I said, Jinx,” said Freddy. “We ought to be doing something ourselves, instead of reading about what somebody else does. We ought to take another trip.”
“We haven't been back from Florida very long,” said Robert. “I don't think we ought to take another trip now. We all have our work to do on the farm, and we can't do it if we're always running off on pleasure trips. It wouldn't be fair to Mr. Bean. He feeds us and takes care of us, and we mustn't go back on him.”
“That's right,” said Freddy. “But I tell you what. I have an idea. Just wait till I run into my study for a minute. There's something I want to read to you.”
Freddy had gathered together quite a library of old newspapers and printed advertising folders, which he kept in one corner of the pig-pen. He also had
The Complete Works of Shakespeare in One Volume
, which for many years had been almost indispensable to Mr. and Mrs. Bean, since they had used it to prop up the corner of their bed that didn't have any leg on it. But when they could afford it, they bought a new bed, and then the book was thrown out and Freddy got it.
Freddy was very proud of his study, although it was so dark in the pig-pen that nobody could possibly study there, or even read. But he knew all the different papers and pamphlets by their smell (the smell of
The Complete Works of Shakespeare in One Volume
differs from that of last week's newspaper more than you would believe), and so when he wanted to read anything, he just went in and got it and carried it outside.
Pretty soon he came back with a little booklet. On the cover it said:
Personally Conducted Tours to Europe
. And inside were pictures of some of the places people could be personally conducted to. Freddy read it aloud to them and explained how for a certain amount of money a person could join one of these tours, and then he didn't have to bother about buying his tickets or checking his baggage or anything. The company who ran the tour saw to everything, and it took him and all the other tourists round and showed them all the sights and got them back home safely. “And,” said Freddy, “I don't see why we couldn't run such a company ourselves. Since we got back from Florida, lots of other animals, not only on this farm, but on other farms round here, have been wanting to take such a trip.”
“I know a lot of mice that would like to go,” said Eeny. “Only it's such a long way!”
“Oh, for animals that don't want to go far or can't get away for more than a day or two, we could get up short trips round here,” said Freddy. “There are lots of interesting sights to see within just a short distance. Of course different animals are interested in different things. But we could have a tour of the ponds and rivers for ducks and geese, and a two-day trip to the cheese-factory for mice, and so on.”
“I choose to personally conduct the mouse tour,” said Jinx, with a laugh.
Eeny frowned. Being a mouse, he didn't have any eyebrows, and so he had to do most of it with his ears, which made him look quite terrifying, even though he was so small. It quite terrified Freddy.
“Please, Eeny, don't do that!” he exclaimed. “I'm sure Jinx didn't mean anything. You didn't, did you, Jinx?”
“No, no, certainly not,” replied the cat. “Don't be so touchy, Eeny.”
“You'd be touchy if your father and six aunts and fourteen uncles and nine brothers and sisters had been eaten by cats.”
“Give you my word,” said Jinx solemnly, “I haven't eaten a mouse in over a year.âWorse luck!” he added under his breath.
“What did you say?” asked Eeny suspiciously.
“Nothing,” said Jinx, “nothing. Just purring because I'm glad you mice don't hate me any more.”
“H'm,” said Eeny scornfully, and was about to make a sharp retort, but Robert said: “Come on, stop your quarrelling. I think that's a great idea of yours, Freddy. But I've got to go now; I just heard a buggy stop at the gate and I must go bark at it so Mr. Bean will know he's got company. Let's call a meeting in the cow-barn tonight and talk it over.”
“Right,” said the pig. “And then we'll form a company and incorporate.”
“Incorporate?” asked Robert. “What's that?”
“Oh, I ran across it in reading,” said Freddy importantly. “It's what all companies do. You draw up rules and by-laws and then you pay the government a fee, and then you're incorporated. That means that whatever you do after that is legal.”
“Then we ought to do it,” said Robert. “Good-bye, you animals. See you later.”
BARNYARD TOURS, INC.
So that was how they started Barnyard Tours, Inc. The “Inc.” stands for “Incorporated.” Freddy was president, and Jinx was secretary, and Mrs. Wiggins was treasurer. Mrs. Wiggins was the cow who lived in the shed with Mrs. Wurzburger and Mrs. Wogus, her two sisters, and Mrs. Wogus's little girl, Marietta. Mrs. Wogus called Marietta her little girl, but of course she was a calf. Mrs. Wiggins was chosen treasurer because the cow-shed made such a good treasury for the various things that the tourist animals paid the company. They brought all sorts of things, but mostly things to eat, because these were what the company wanted most. This was a very good arrangement for Mr. Bean, because by and by he didn't have to feed the animals on the farm at all, and yet they were getting fat on the delicacies the tourists brought to them.
The tours started in a very small way, of course. The first one was for mice. Mrs. Wiggins took thirty mice on her back and went down the river road for a mile or two and then crossed the canal and came back the other way, stopping at the cheese-factory for lunch. The mice sat two by two, as you do in a sightseeing bus, and Eeny stood up in front, between Mrs. Wiggins's horns, and told them about the various points of interest they were passing, and pointed out bits of especially beautiful scenery and gave the names of the mice that lived in some of the finer residences. He was rather nervous at first, because he had never done any public speaking before, but after a while he began to enjoy it and grew quite poetic in the descriptive bits. Only he had to be careful not to make any jokes, because when he did, Mrs. Wiggins laughed heartily, and when she laughed, she shook so that the mice bounced about on her back, and once six of them fell off.
The mice were very much pleased with their trip and told all their friends, and gradually more and more animals came to the farm to inquire about tours. So many came finally that Mr. Bean was quite put out about it; he said he was sick and tired of seeing the barnyard crowded with strange animals, and he couldn't step foot outside the door without tripping over woodchucks and squirrels and rats or being bumped into by cows and horses. One night six skunks came, a father and mother and four children. One of the children wasn't very well, and they wanted to inquire about a place in the mountains to spend the summer where the water would be good and where the air would be bracing. The little skunks weren't very well brought up, and while the father and mother were in the barn talking to Jinx, they got to fighting, and they made so much noise that they waked up Mrs. Bean. She looked out the window and saw them, and of course she didn't know they had come on business, so she threw a pitcher of water on them. The mother skunk was quite mad, because she said the children might have caught their deaths of cold, being all wet through like that. Fortunately none of them took cold. But after that Robert said he thought they ought to open a regular office somewhere away from the house and near the road, where one animal could always be on hand to answer questions and give out information. Then they wouldn't bother Mr. and Mrs. Bean.
So they opened an office in an old shed that stood down in the corner of one of the fields quite a long way from the house. Most of the time Charles, the rooster, stayed in the office, because he was a very good talker, and he liked to tell other birds and animals things they didn't know. He was a good salesman. That means that he could often persuade animals to take trips that they really didn't care about taking at all. One time he talked so enthusiastically about the beautiful view you could get from the ten-acre lot, which was behind the house, on the hill, that he persuaded three horses from over near Centerboro to come up and plough it, just so they could see the view when they turned round at the end of each furrow. Mr. Bean was very much pleased when he found the field all ploughed.
After a number of short one-day trips had been carried out successfully, they began to get up longer ones. Jinx took a mixed party of cats and rabbits and cows on a ten-day tour of the Adirondacks. He looked up all the routes beforehand on a map that was in Freddy's library. They had a fine timeâclimbed mountains and went swimming and were royally entertained by the woods animals they met.
Special trips were arranged too for each kind of animal. The smaller animals particularly, who never dared venture alone very far from home, were very glad to see something of the world under the protection of such a brave and loyal dog as Robert, or such a reckless swashbuckler as Jinx. Freddy even got up a trip for spiders from the barn and the house and they all worked together in the morning and built a big web and then spent a glorious afternoon catching flies, and came home, very tired but very happy, early in the evening. In return they wove a big mosquito-net for Freddy to sleep under in the pig-pen. Of course it wasn't very strong and tore quite easily, but they agreed to keep it in repair for a year.
The hardest animals to get up trips for were cows. Cows aren't much interested in what is going on in the world. “It's hot and dusty out on the road,” they said, “and dogs chase us, and automobiles make us hurry in a very undignified way. We'd rather stand round in the shade and swish our tails and think.”
“But if you take a trip and see strange sights, you'll have more interesting things to think about,” Freddy objected. Of course he knew as well as you do that it is almost impossible to catch a cow thinking. They have very good brains and they can think when they want to, but usually it's just too much trouble. They said that simply because they felt they ought to have
excuse for not ever doing anything. But Freddy went round and made a lot of inquiries and finally found several places that would interest cows. One place was a meadow on an abandoned farm that had very thick sweet grass, and another had historic interest for cows because over a hundred years ago a very famous cow had fought and killed a bear there, and another was a specially good place for them to stand in and switch their tails and think. But it took so much talking to persuade any cows to take the trip that although several parties were got up, Freddy decided it didn't pay. “The overhead is too high,” Freddy said.
One day Freddy and Jinx were sitting inside the shed. It was a very hot day and they had talked for a while, and then Jinx had curled up and gone to sleep, and Freddy had started to look at a map of the arctic regions that a dog whose master kept a magazine stand had brought in and exchanged for a personally conducted tour through Scenic Centerboro. This was a very popular trip with dogs and cats, and would have been with other animals too, but the company didn't like to have its animal sightseers become too conspicuous. And so, of course, they couldn't go into towns and cities much. If people saw a party of dogs admiring the Centerboro Public Libraryâwhich was really very beautiful, built in the Gothic styleâthey wouldn't pay much attention to them. But if a party of rabbits or squirrels did the same thing, children would throw stones, and people would try to catch them, or at least would stare and make remarks, and it would be very unpleasant. And that would be bad for the company, because other animals would hear about it and wouldn't want to go on the tours.
While Freddy was poring sleepily over the map inside the shed, Charles, the rooster, was sitting on the fence outside, watching for customers. Charles liked the sound of his own voice pretty well, and when there wasn't anybody round to listen, he sometimes talked to himself. “Dear me,” he was saying, “it
hot. Yes indeed, very hot. I do hope we'll get a shower to lay the dust.” He kept saying this over and over. He was very economical and never wasted his best conversation on himself. Sometimes of course he said quite a good thing by mistake, but then he would save it up until someone came along and repeat it as if he had just thought of it.
By and by he saw something moving away off down the empty road. It got larger and larger, and pretty soon he saw it was a big grey farm horse. “Good gracious!” said Charles. “I wonder who that is. He walks very slowly, as if he were tired. He must have come a long way. Maybe he wants to take a tour.
“Good afternoon, horse,” he said pleasantly when the animal had come near enough. “You a stranger in these parts?”
The horse did not answer, but came clumping stolidly along until he was opposite the shed.
Charles was naturally a little put out at being snubbed by a horse and he jumped down from the fence and walked out into the road. The horse saw him and stopped. “Excuse me, friend,” he said. “Can you tell me if this is the place where there's a company that arranges trips for animals?”
“This is the place,” said Charles, “and I'm part of the company. What can I do for you? We plan your vacations for you, tell you what to see and how to see it, conduct you to all points of greatest intâ”
This is the place,” said Charles, “and I'm part of the company.
The horse shook his head slowly. “Ain't heard a word,” he interrupted. “I know you're talkin' 'cause I can see your beak move, but I ain't as young as I was, and I'm gettin' a little deef. Just hop up on my back like a good feller, and then we can talk comfortable.”
As soon as Charles realized that the horse hadn't heard his first greeting and wasn't trying to snub him at all, he felt more agreeable, and he did as the other requested and repeated his remarks at greater length. But the horse still seemed doubtful.
“I understood there was a pig was president of this concern,” he said. “I'd like to see him, I guess.”
Charles glanced at the shed, from which came the mingled snores of one pig and one cat. “Our president is in conference just at present,” he said importantly. “I'm afraid you couldn't see him without an appointment. But I am authorized to act for the company in these matters. If you tell me where you wish to goâ”
“H'm,” said the horse. “Well, I ain't ever got much information out of any rooster beforeânor any information, for the matter of that, except maybe about what a smart feller he was, but maybe you're different. Anyway, I come a long way, and I don't want to go back empty-hoofed, so to speak. Ye see, I'm just a plain farm workerâhave been all my life. I've worked hard. Now I'm gettin' old and I can't work like I used to, but while I still got some of my faculties, I'd like to see a little of the world. That's reasonable, ain't it?”
“Very commendable,” said Charles.
“And so here I am. Now what kind of trips have you got?”
“Well, from what you say, I suppose you want a long trip, and the only long trip we're planning just now is one to Florida this winter. Our president is going to take this party himself. He's a seasoned traveller and has had a great deal of experience in conducting tours, and he knows everything there is to know about Florida. Of course it is a long trip and therefore rather more expensive than some of theâ”
“That's what I wanted to talk to you about,” interrupted the horse. “I'm poor. I haven't got anything to pay for the trip with.”
“Oh, surely we can arrange that,” said Charles. “Our charges are not excessive. A small bag of oats, or a bale of hayâ”
“The farmer where I live is poor, too,” the horse replied. “And as I don't do as much work as I used to, I don't get any more oats and hay than just barely enough to get along on. I can't save any of it. But I thought maybe I could work it out. I'd be willing to come over either before or after the trip and do, say, ten good days' work. I'm still strong and hearty. I wouldn't skimp ye on my part of the bargain.”
“Dear me,” said Charles, “that's very awkwardâvery awkward indeed. No, I'm very sorry, but I'm afraid that wouldn't do. It wouldn't do at all. Our rules are very strict, and our terms are strictly cash in advance.”
“Ah,” said the horse thoughtfully. “Well, I guess that finishes it, then. I thought maybe we could strike a bargain. But if that's the caseâ”
“I'm sorry,” said Charles firmly. “But we have to be business-like, or where would we be? There's nothing personal in it, you understandâ”
“Oh sure, I understand,” said the horse impatiently. “Hop down now, I've got a long way to travel before night. Good day to ye. That's what I get for talking to a rooster, anyway.” And he clumped off down the road.
Charles resumed his perch on the fence. “Stupid animal!” he said to himself. “Who ever heard of such a thing! Just like all of 'em: trying to get something for nothing. Oh, this being in business is not so easy. It takes lots of cleverness and tact and ability. It's a lucky day for the company when they got me to interview these animals. Why, suppose Freddy had been out here. For all his cleverness, he's not such a fine business man. Just between you and me, Charles, you handled that horse pretty well.”
The longer Charles thought about it, the more pleased with himself he became, and finally he got so puffed up with pride that he went in and waked Freddy up and told him about it. But, to his amazement, Freddy was not at all pleased.
“What!” he exclaimed, “he offered to work his way on the trip, and you sent him away? Why, you ninny, that's the best idea I've heard since the company started. Why, you miserable fowl you, you oaf, youâyou
“Umph” is a word that pigs use only when they are thoroughly disgusted with people. If a pig calls you an umph, you have a right to get mad about itâunless, of course, you happen to be one. Charles ruffled up the feathers in his neck and started to get mad, but before he could think of anything sarcastic to say, Freddy pushed him aside, crawled through the fence, and trotted off up the road in the direction the horse had taken.
Jinx hadn't waked up, and Charles tiptoed out of the shed, and walked dejectedly back to his home in the hen-coop. “That's gratitude for you!” he muttered. “Work and slave for these animals day in and day out, and what thanks do I get? Get called an umph. An umphâme! Well, I'm through, that's all. They can get somebody else to interview the tourists. We'll see how many they get when I'm not round.”
But the next morning when Mrs. Wiggins told him that there was to be a meeting of the company at ten o'clock, his curiosity was too much for him, and he got to the office before anybody but Freddy had come. Freddy was again looking over the map of the arctic regions. Charles, whose feelings were still hurt, would have gone out, but Freddy said:
“Don't go, Charles. I'm sorry I was rude to you yesterday. Please forgive me, will you?”
Of course there was nothing for Charles to do but to accept the apology, which he did, very handsomely. “Certainly, Freddy,” he said. “Pray don't mention it again.” He was going on to say more, because no matter how long he had talked, he could always find more to say on any subject, and he had hardly said anything yet, but the other animals began to arrive, and pretty soon Freddy called the meeting to order.
“Ladies and gentlemen, friends and fellow stockholders,” he said, “I have the great pleasure to announce to you that at the end of the first three months of business, your company finds itself in a very strong position. Although no very long trips have been organized, twenty-eight short trips have been successfully completed without loss or damage to any client, with the exception of one spider, who lost three legs on the third Fly-catching Expedition in a fight with a wasp, and one mouse who had indigestion as a result of eating too much cheese at the cheese-factory on Scenic Tour No. 3 for Mice. Both of these unfortunates, I am happy to say, have stated of their own free will that the company is not to blame. In addition to such profits of the business as have already been divided up, there is in the treasury a substantial surplus of nuts, grain, and various kinds of food, as well as of odds and ends which we have accepted in payment, and which we shall undoubtedly find use for later.”
There were loud cheers at this very favourable report, and then Freddy went on:
“But the principal reason for calling this meeting is that something happened which showed me a new way in which the company can benefit both us and our friend and owner, Mr. Bean.”
“Three cheers for Mr. Bean,” called Hank, the old white horse, and the animals cheered lustily, for Mr. Bean was well liked. Even Mr. and Mrs. Webb, the spiders, who had come to the meeting on Mrs. Wiggins's back, cheered heartily, but of course nobody heard them.
Then Freddy told them about the horse. “He wants to take a long trip, but he hasn't anything to pay for it with, so he has offered to give two weeks' work. Do you see what that means, animals? That means that Hank, here, can take two weeks' vacation whenever he wants to. Now, suppose for every animal, bird, and insect here we can get a substitute in this way. Two weeks' vacation for us all. And there is no need to limit it to two weeks. Up to today there has been one great difficulty in getting up tours. Most animals haven't anything to pay with. But there are hundreds who will be willing to work their way. I see no reason why Mr. Bean should not have twice as many animals at work on the farm as he has now. And at the same time I see no reason why any of us should ever have to work again.”
At this there was a perfectly tremendous burst of cheering, and then all the animals came up and shook hands with Freddy and congratulated him on having such a fine idea. Mrs. Wiggins was so enthusiastic that she slapped him on the back, and as she was a large cow and Freddy was a rather small pig, she knocked him clean through the side of the shed. He took two boards out with him as he went and this weakened the shed so that the roof fell right down on top of the meeting. But nobody was hurt, and all the animals scrambled out except Mrs. Wiggins who was so ashamed of what she had done that she just stayed right there until they got worried about her and pulled her out. And then when she saw Freddy's black eye, and the awful damage she had done to the office of the company, she broke down and cried and wanted to go home, and it was quite a long time before Freddy could comfort her and persuade her that nobody thought it was her fault.
The animals went to work on the new scheme right away. It was really quite a good scheme. You see, on a farm every bird and animal gets food and lodging from the farmer. In return he is supposed to do certain work. A horse's duty is to draw ploughs and wagons and buggies; and a dog's duty is to bark at strangers and do tricks and keep an eye on the children and look intelligent when his master talks to him; and a cat's duty is to chase mice, and purr when he's petted and sleep in ladies' laps and sit on the fence nights and sing. Some animals don't have any special duties. A pig's duty is just to be a pig, which isn't very hard if you have a good appetite.
Most of the work is done in the summer, and that is why it was so easy for the animals to get off and go to Florida as they had the previous winter. But now, if they could get substitutes, it would be easy for them to get off at any time of the year. So they went round and saw all the animals on the near-by farms and told them about the new scheme. And they found cows and horses and sheep and pigs and goats and cats and dogsâninety-four animals in all, not counting birds and insects and wild animals like chipmunks and skunks and rabbitsâwho each agreed to do two weeks' work the following summer if they could be taken on the Florida trip. For the next two months Barnyard Tours, Inc., was a pretty busy company. Hundreds of animals who had never before been able to afford even the short sightseeing trips came to the farm and offered one or two hours' work if they could take a one- or two-day tour. Freddy and Jinx and Robert and Charles and Hank and even Mrs. Wiggins were almost never home. They were off every day personally conducting groups of animal tourists. The miceâEek and Quik and Eeny and Cousin Augustusâtook so many parties of rats and mice and chipmunks to the cheese-factory that they began to get very fat, and they had to have all the mouse holes in the barn enlarged so they could get through them. Of course they got the tourists to do all the heavy gnawing.
Mr. Bean was delighted with the way the work on the farm was getting done. The day he ploughed the twenty-acre field, thirty-five horses came and helped him, and it didn't take more than half an hour. Then one day he started to paint the barn. He painted one side of it before supper, and he was going to paint the rest the next day. But that night Freddy got a lot of squirrels down from the woods, and they finished the job before morning. They dipped their tails in the paint and used them as brushes, and then, when they were through, they cleaned them off with turpentine. There wasn't enough turpentine, and three of the squirrels had to go round with white tails all the following winter, till the paint wore off.
One evening Jinx heard Mr. Bean say to his wife: “Mrs. B., if the stumps were cleared out of that lot down back of the pond and it was planted with potatoes next year, we'd make a lot of money.”
“You've often said, Mr. B.,” replied his wife, “that there was money to be made out of that lot. Many and many's the time I've heard you say it. But it would take an awful lot of work.”
“Yes,” said Mr. Bean, “And I'm not as young as I was. Not by a whole lot, I ain't. And I've come to the time of life when I want to sit back and not work so hard. We've got plenty to get along on. What's the use making more money when we ain't got any children to leave it to? I guess we'll leave them stumps alone.” And he leaned back and puffed hard on his pipe, and the smoke trickled out of his bushy whiskers so that he looked like a haystack about to burst into flames.
And Mrs. Bean sighed and said: “This is a nice farm. But it's lonesome for just us two. I do wish we had some children to leave it to.”
But Jinx jumped up and ran out into the barn and called a meeting, and the next night nearly two hundred animals gathered down in the lot beyond the pond and set to work to clean out the stumps. They went at it with paws and claws and snoutsâdogs and pigs and woodchucks and squirrels and rabbits and even miceâand the dirt simply flew out of the holes. Then when they had dug all around one stump, and the roots had been gnawed through, the horses would put a rope around it and pull it down to the end of the field. By morning there wasn't a stump left and when Mr. Bean leaned out of his window just after sunrise to see what kind of day it was going to be, he noticed a big pile of stumps away down across the pond that hadn't been there the night before. At first he didn't know what had happened, but when he had got out his telescope and had a good look, he hurried into his clothes and hurried downstairs and “Hurry up my breakfast, Mrs. B.,” he called. “There's queer goings-on on this farm, and I've got to find out about 'em.” But he didn't take time for much breakfast. He ate only three eggs and four sausages and two stacks of buckwheat cakes and a cup of coffee and five slices of toast, and then he hurried to the lot beyond the pond. And when he saw that the stumps were all cleaned out and piled up neatly in a corner of the lot, he stared and stared. And then he said very slowly two or three times: “Peter grieve us!” And then he went back to the house and told Mrs. Bean.
“All we've got to do now is plough that field and plant it next spring,” he said. “Bushels and bushels of potatoes just for a little work. I want to tell you, Mrs. B.,” he said, “that hereafter these animals can do what they please around here. I've farmed this place, man and boy, for fifty-two years, but those animals are better farmers than I am.”
Mrs. Bean looked at him in surprise. “I never thought I'd live to see the day, Mr. B., when you'd admit that any human being, let alone an animal, knew more about farming than you did. And, whatever you say, I'll never believe it. But I think the least thing we can do, Mr. B., is to give the animals a party.”