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Mr Galliano's Circus, Page 2

Enid Blyton

  “You’d do for a clown, but not for an acrobat just yet,” said Oona, with a grin. “Now off you go—I want to practise!”

  “I’ve got to go and help Lal get into her dress for tonight,” said Lotta, as the two children went away. “I must say Goodbye, Jimmy. Come again tomorrow.”

  Jimmy ran off home, his head full of elephants and monkeys and dogs and people standing on their heads and walking on their hands. If only he belonged to a circus too!


  Every day Jimmy ran off to the circus field to see Lotta and to hear all her news. She was a lively little girl, kind-hearted but often naughty, and she really could make the most dreadful faces Jimmy had ever seen. She could pinch hard too, and Jimmy didn’t like to pinch back.

  The circus was doing well. Every night the big tent was crowded with people from the town, and, as it was a very good show, many people went three or four times. Mr. Galliano wore his big top-hat very much on one side of his head, so much so that Jimmy really wondered why it didn’t fall off.

  “When Galliano wears his hat on one side the circus is taking lots of money,” said Lotta to him. “But when you see him wearing it straight up, then you know things are going badly. He gets into a bad temper then, and I hide when I see him coming. I’ve never seen his hat so much on one side before!”

  Jimmy thought that circus ways were very extraordinary.

  Even hats seemed to share in the excitement! He was afraid of Mr. Galliano, but he couldn’t help liking him too. He was such a big handsome man, and his face was so red and his moustache so fierce-looking. He usually carried a whip about with him, and he cracked this very often. It made a noise like a pistol-shot, and Jimmy jumped whenever he heard it. Jimmy made himself a whip with a long string like Mr. Galliano’s, but he couldn’t make it crack though he tried for a long time.

  Jimmy soon knew everybody at the circus. He knew every single one of the dogs. He took them out with Lotta on Saturday morning when there was no school. Lotta had five and he had five. It was hard work keeping the dogs in order. His five kept getting tangled up, but Lotta’s never did. The dogs loved Jimmy. How they barked when they saw him!

  He gave them their fresh water every day. He even cleaned out their big, airy cage, and put fresh sawdust down. He liked to feel the dogs running round his legs and yapping to him.

  Jumbo, the big elephant, was taken down to the nearby stream to drink twice a day. Mr. Tonks untied him and led him down. Jimmy asked if he could lead him back to his tent. Mr. Tonks looked at the little boy.

  “What will you do if he runs away from you?” he asked. “Could you catch him by the tail and pull him back? Or would you pick him up and carry him?”

  Jimmy laughed. “I guess if he ran away you couldn’t bring him back either, Mr. Tonks!” he said. “He won’t run away, will he? He’s the gentlest creature I ever saw, for all he is so big. Look how he’s putting his trunk into my hand now—just as if he wanted me to lead him back.”

  “Jumbo wouldn’t do that if he didn’t like you,” said Mr. Tonks. “Come on—step on my hand and I’ll give you a leg-up, Jimmy. You shall ride on his neck!”

  My word! That was a treat for Jimmy! In a trice the little boy was up on the elephant’s neck. He sat cross-legged, as Mr. Tonks told him to. The elephant’s neck was so broad that this was quite easy. Back went Jimmy and the elephant to the tent. Then, to Jimmy’s enormous surprise, the big creature put up his trunk, wound it firmly round his waist, and lifted the boy gently down to the ground himself.

  “Oooh!” said Jimmy, astonished. “Thank you, Jumbo!”

  “See that!” said Mr. Tonks in surprise. “Jumbo never does that to anyone unless he really likes them. He’s your friend for good now, Jimmy. You’re lucky!”

  After that Jimmy and Jumbo went down to the stream every day together, Jimmy always riding on the elephant’s neck. Jimmy saved part of his bread and cheese for Jumbo, and the elephant always looked for it when the boy came to see him. He sometimes put his trunk round Jimmy’s neck, and it did feel funny. Like a big snake, Jimmy thought.

  There was only one man that Jimmy didn’t like—and that was a little, crooked-eyed man called Harry. Harry never had a smile for anyone. He snapped at Lotta, and pulled her hair whenever he passed her. Once Jimmy saw him try to hit Jemima the monkey, when she ran near him.

  “I don’t like Harry,” he said to Lotta. “He has a horrid unkind face. What does he do in the circus, Lotta?”

  “He doesn’t really belong to us,” said the little girl “He’s what we call the odd-job man—he does all the odd-jobs—puts up the benches in the ring, mends anything that goes wrong, makes anything special we need. There’s always plenty for him to do. He’s very clever with his hands—that’s why Mr. Galliano keeps him on, but he can’t bear him really.”

  “I saw him try to hit Jemima just now,” said Jimmy.

  “I’ve seen him try, too,” said Lotta. “But Jemima knows Harry all right. She hates him—do you know, she went to his box of nails one day and stuffed her cheeks with about fifty of his nails. He couldn’t find them anywhere—and there was Jemima running about with them in her mouth! I saw her taking them, and I had to hide so that Harry shouldn’t see me laughing!”

  Jimmy laughed. “Good for Jemima!” he said. “Well, it’s a pity you have to keep Harry, Lotta. If I were Mr. Galliano I’d send him away—always snapping and snarling like a bad-tempered dog! He threw his hammer at me yesterday.”

  “Oh, he wouldn’t hit you,” said Lotta. “He’s too bad a shot for that. You keep out of his way, though, Jimmy. However much we dislike him we’ve got to have him—why, we couldn’t put up the circus tents and ring without him—and he’s so clever at making special ladders and things—and mending caravans.”

  Just then Mr. Galliano came up, his hat more on one side than ever. He beamed at Jimmy. He had heard that the little boy was marvellous with the animals, and that always pleased Mr. Galliano. He loved every creature, down to white mice, and Lotta had told Jimmy that once, when one of his horses was ill, Mr. Galliano had sat up with her for four nights running and hadn’t gone to sleep at all.

  “Hallo, boy,” he said. “So here you are again! You will be sorry when we move away? Yes?”

  “Very sorry,” said Jimmy. “I think a circus life is fine!”

  “You do not like to live in a house? No?” said Mr. Galliano, who had a very funny way of always putting yes or no at the end of his sentences.

  “I’d rather live in a caravan,” said Jimmy.

  “And you like my circus? Yes?” said Mr. Galliano, twisting his enormous moustache into even sharper points.

  “I haven’t seen the real circus,” said Jimmy. “I haven’t the money to go into the big tent at night, Mr. Galliano. But I’ve seen all the animals and people here in the field.”

  “What! This boy hasn’t seen our circus show, the best in the whole world?” cried Mr. Galliano, his big black eyebrows going right up under his curly hair. “He must come, Lotta, he must come tonight! Yes?”

  “I’d love to,” said Jimmy, red with excitement. “Thanks!”

  “Give this to the man at the gate,” said Mr. Galliano, and he gave Jimmy a card on which was printed Mr. Galliano’s own name. “I shall see you in the big tent tonight then? Yes? Be sure to get there early!”

  “Yes sir,” said Jimmy, and stuffed the card into his pocket very carefully. Lotta was pleased. She squeezed Jimmy’s arm. “Now you’ll see us all in the ring!” she said. “I shall be riding, too, tonight, as it’s Saturday. Come early!”

  The little boy raced home to dinner. He was tremendously excited. All his school-friends had seen the circus—but he, Jimmy, had a special ticket, one of Mr. Galliano’s own cards—and he knew everyone there! He knew all the dogs—he had ridden Jumbo! He had cuddled Jemima the clever little monkey! Ah! He would have a glorious time tonight!

  The circus began at eight o’clock and lasted for two hours. J
immy was at the gate at a quarter-past seven. He gave his card to the man there. He was one of the men who looked after Mr. Galliano’s many beautiful horses. He grinned at Jimmy. “You can sit anywhere you like with that card!” he said. “My word! Old Galliano was feeling generous this morning, wasn’t he—giving free tickets to shrimps like you!”

  “I’m not a shrimp,” said Jimmy, offended.

  “Well, maybe you’re a prawn then,” said the ticket man. That was just like circus-folk, Jimmy thought—they always had an answer for everything. Perhaps one day he too would be quick enough to think of funny answers—but, oh dear, by that time the circus would have gone!

  The little boy went into the big tent. It was lighted by huge flares. Not many people were there yet. There were a great many benches set all round a big red ring in the middle. Mr. Tonks was spreading sawdust in the ring, whistling loudly.

  Jimmy chose a seat right in the very front. He whistled to Mr. Tonks. Mr. Tonks looked up and pretended to be most surprised to see Jimmy there.

  “Hallo, hallo!” he said, ‘has somebody left you a fortune or what! Fancy seeing you here—in the best seats too—my word, you are throwing your money about!”

  “No, I’m not,” said Jimmy. “Mr. Galliano gave me a ticket.”

  The tent filled up with people. By the time eight o’clock came there wasn’t an empty seat. Jimmy thought that Mr. Galliano must have taken a lot of money tonight, and he wondered if his hat would keep on, he would wear it so much to one side!

  There was a doorway at one end, hung with red curtains. Suddenly these were drawn aside and two trumpets blew loudly.

  “Tan-tan-tar a! Tan-tan-tara! Tan-tan-tar a!”

  The circus was going to begin! What fun!


  “Tan-tan-tara!” went the trumpets again, and into the ring cantered six beautiful black horses. They ran gracefully round the ring, nose to tail. Mr. Galliano came striding into the ring, dressed in a magnificent black suit, his top-hat well on one side, his long stiff moustache turned up like wire.

  He cracked his whip. The horses went a bit faster. Galliano cracked his whip twice. The horses all stopped, turned round quickly—and went cantering round the other way. It was marvellous to watch them. How everyone clapped!

  Three of the horses went out. The three that were left went on cantering round the ring. They were thoroughly enjoying themselves. Mr. Galliano shouted out something and a barrel-organ began to play a dance tune.

  The three horses were delighted. They all loved music. Mr. Galliano cracked his whip sharply. At once all three horses rose up on their hind legs and began to sway in time to the music. Their coats shone like silk. The whip cracked again. Down they went on all-fours and began to gallop round the ring. Every time the music came to a certain chord the horses turned round and galloped the other way.

  Everyone clapped till they could clap no more when the horses went out, and they hadn’t finished clapping when Sticky Stanley, the clown, came in. He did look funny. His face was painted white, but his nose and lips were red, and he had big false eyebrows that jerked up and down.

  He had a broom in his hand and he began to sweep the ring—and he fell over the broom. He picked himself up, and found that his legs had got twisted round themselves, so he carefully untwisted them and then found that the broom was twisted up with them. So of course he fell over the broom again, and everyone laughed and laughed.

  Stanley turned somersaults, walked on his hands, carried a sunshade with one of his feet, went round the ring walking on a great round ball, and made so many jokes that Jimmy had a pain in his side with laughing.

  Then came Lal, Lotta’s mother, with the ten terrier dogs. How lovely they looked, all running into the ring in excitement, their tails wagging, their barks sounding loudly in the big tent.

  There were ten little stools set out in the ring, and Lal patted a nearby stool.

  “Up! Up!” she said to a dog, and he neatly jumped up and sat down on his stool. Then each dog jumped up on a stool and there they all sat, their mouths open, their tongues hanging out, their tails wagging.

  Lal looked grand. She was dressed in a short, fluffy frock of bright pink, and it sparkled and shone as if it were on fire. She had a bright wreath of flowers in her hair and these shone too. Jimmy thought she looked wonderful. He had only seen her before dressed in an old jersey and skirt—but now she looked like something out of Fairyland!

  How clever those dogs were! They played follow-my-leader in a long line, and the leader wound them in and out and in. Not a single dog make a mistake! Then they all sat up and begged, and when Lal threw them a biscuit each, they caught their biscuits one after another and barked sharply once.

  Lal ran to the side of the ring and fetched the big round ball that Sticky Stanley the clown had walked on so cleverly.

  “Up! Up!” she cried to a dog, and it leapt up on the ball and did just as the clown had done—walked swiftly on the top of it as the ball went round! Lal threw him a biscuit for doing it so well.

  Then Judy, the little brown-headed terrier, impatient to do her special trick, jumped down from her stool and ran behind Lal. Lal turned in surprise—for it was not like Judy to leave her stool before the right time.

  But Judy had seen the hoops of paper that Lal had ready for her, and she wanted to do her trick and get her share of clapping. So she took hold of a hoop and ran to Lal with it. She put it down at Lal’s feet and stood there wagging her tail so fast that it couldn’t be seen.

  Lal laughed. She picked up the hoop and held it shoulder high. “Jump, Judy, jump then!” she cried.

  Light as a feather Judy jumped through the hoop, breaking the thin paper as she did so. Then Lal picked up two paper hoops and held them high up, about two feet apart.

  “Jump, Judy, jump!” she cried. And Judy, taking a short run, jumped clean through both hoops. How everyone clapped the clever little dog!

  Jimmy’s face was red with excitement and happiness. How wonderful the circus folk were in the things they could do, and in their love for their animals! Jimmy watched the ten dogs go happily out with Lal, a forest of wagging tails, and he knew that Lal would see that they all got a good hot meal at once. She loved them and they loved her.

  The horses came in again—white ones this time—and who do you suppose came in with them? Why, Lotta! Yes, little Lotta, no longer dressed in her ragged old frock, but in a fairy’s dress with long silvery wings on her back! Her dark curls were fluffed out round her head and her long legs had on silvery stockings. She wore a little silver crown on her head and carried a silver wand in her hand.

  “It can’t be Lotta!” said Jimmy to himself, staring hard. But it was. She waved her wand at him as she passed his seat, and—what else do you suppose she did? She made one of her dreadful faces at him!

  Lotta jumped lightly up on to the back of one of the white horses. She sat there without holding on at all with her hands, blowing kisses and waving. The horses had no saddles and no bridles. Lotta couldn’t have held on to anything if she had wanted to.

  Jimmy watched her, his heart thumping in excitement. Whatever would she do next? She suddenly stood up on a horse’s back, and there she stayed, balancing perfectly, whilst the horse cantered round and round the ring.

  Jimmy was afraid the little girl would fall off—but Lotta knew she wouldn’t! She had ridden horses since she was a baby. Down she went again, sitting, and then up again, this time standing backwards, looking towards the tail of the horse. Everyone thought she was very brave and very clever.

  Then in came Laddo, her father, dressed in a tight blue shining suit, with glittering stars sewn all over it. He was much more clever than Lotta. The little girl jumped down when her father came in, and ran to the middle of the ring. Laddo jumped up in her place. He leapt from one horse to another as the three of them cantered round the ring. He stood on his hands as they went, he swung himself from side to side underneath a horse’s body—really, the
things he did you would hardly believe!

  Then Lotta jumped up behind him and the two of them galloped out of the ring together, followed by a thunderstorm of clapping and shouting. Jimmy’s hands were quite sore with clapping Lotta. He felt very proud of her.

  Jumbo came next, and he was very clever, for he certainly could play cricket extremely well. Mr. Tonks bowled a tennis-ball to him and he hit it every time. Once, to Jimmy’s great delight, Jumbo hit the ball straight at him, and by jumping up from his seat Jimmy just managed to catch the ball. And then everybody clapped him, and Jumbo said, “Hrrrumph, hrrrumph!” very loudly indeed. Jimmy threw the ball to him and he caught it with his trunk.

  The circus went on through the evening. Sticky Stanley the clown came in a great many times and always made everyone laugh, because he seemed to fall over everything, even things that were not there. Lilliput and his monkeys were very clever. They helped Lilliput to set a table with cups and saucers and plates. They got chairs. They sat down at the table. They had feeders tied round their necks, and they passed one another a plate of fruit.

  Jemima was the best. She peeled a banana for Lilliput and fed him with it! But then she stuffed the peel down his neck and he pretended to chase her all round the ring, and everyone laughed till they cried.

  Then Jemima got into a corner and pretended to cry. When Lilliput came up she took his handkerchief out of his pocket and wiped her eyes with it. Then she leapt on to Lilliput’s shoulder and spread the handkerchief over the top of his head. Jimmy laughed just as much at Jemima as he did at the clown.

  Of course Oona the acrobat had a lot of clapping too, especially when he walked up his step-ladder on his hands and stood on the top on just his head! Stanley the clown came running in to try and do it, but of course he couldn’t, and he fell all the way down the ladder, bumpity-bumpity-bump! Jimmy was afraid he might hurt himself, but he saw Stanley grinning all the time, so he knew he was all right.

  Oona did another clever thing too—he had a wire rope put up from one post to another, and he walked on the rope, which was about as high as Mr. Galliano’s top-hat from the ground. Jimmy hadn’t known he could do that—and he wondered how Oona did it. Surely it must be very difficult to walk on a rope without falling off at all!