Authors: Walter R. Brooks
“Is that someone singing?
Freddy Goes to the North Pole
Walter R. Brooks
Illustrated by Kurt Wiese
The Overlook Press
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.”