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Circus Days Again, Page 2

Enid Blyton

  Everyone else laughed too. “Oh, Jimmy! You did look scared!” said Lotta.

  “I should think so,” said Jimmy indignantly. “Screaming like an express train right in my ear.”

  “Mushrooms and kippers,” remarked the parrot, scratching its head.

  “That parrot seems to think of nothing but food,” said Jimmy.

  Madame Prunella stared at Jimmy. “Gringle has never behaved like that before,” she said. “Jimmy, go round the other parrots and see if they will rub their heads against you, or talk. Mind that green-and-red one over there—he’s a bit bad-tempered and may tear your hand with his beak. Go slowly.”

  Jimmy was only too pleased to go round the parrots. Lotta watched proudly. She knew better than anyone how marvellous Jimmy was with all live creatures. She had watched him with fierce tigers! She had seen him with bears and monkeys. She knew how dogs and horses all loved him. She knew that the parrots would make friends with him at once.

  And so they did. As soon as the big birds knew that Jimmy wanted to be friendly, they crowded round him, muttering, screeching, talking. Two perched on his shoulders. One tried to sit on his head. The others flew round him, making quite a wind with their big wings.

  Jimmy laughed. “I like them,” he said. “They are clever birds, Madame Prunella. Oh, do come and join our circus, and let me help you with your parrots. I’d love to know them.”

  “Well, I was thinking of joining Mr. Phillippino’s Circus,” said Madame Prunella, “but as my cousin is with Mr. Galliano’s, and you are there, Jimmy, I’ll come!

  I’d like to see you handling my parrots. Maybe you could teach them some new tricks.”

  Jimmy beamed. It would be fun to have plump-cheeked little Madame Prunella in the circus. She looked such a comical, good-tempered little person.

  But suddenly he had another glimpse of her—one that surprised him and Lotta very much. She jumped up from her chair to take one of her parrots—and trod on one of the pins that lay all about the floor. She gave a screech just like one of her parrots, held her foot and danced angrily about, treading on yet more pins with her other foot!

  Madame Prunella was in a temper—and such a temper! She screeched, she shouted, she yelled—and all the parrots with one accord flew as far away from her as they could! She caught hold of the table-cloth and flapped it wildly. She picked up a broom and ran at the two children as if she would sweep them from the room. They were quite frightened.

  “Come away,” said Oona, grinning. “Prunella is in one of her tantrums. She’ll get out of it as quickly as she got into it—but it’s safer to go when she’s like this!”

  The children fled down the little path to the gate. They could hear the shouting and screeching of the parrots behind them. Gringle was yelling, “Pepper and mustard, pepper and mustard!” at the top of his voice.

  “Golly! Pepper and mustard is just about right when Madame Prunella loses her temper!” said Jimmy. “What a funny person! I like her, though she gets into tantrums—and I do like the parrots. I hope she joins the circus and comes along with us.”

  A curtain was pulled aside and a window was thrown open. Madame Prunella looked out, smiling.

  “Tell Galliano I’ll come along tomorrow,” she called. “About twelve o’clock!”

  Like an April shower Madame Prunella’s temper had passed away. Gringle was on her shoulder, rubbing against her ear. “Sugar and spice,” he said. “Sugar and spice.”

  “We shall have some fun with Madame Prunella!” said Oona, grinning. And he was right!

  Madame Prunella joins the Show

  JIMMY and Lotta told Mrs. Brown all about Madame Prunella and her parrots and tantrums. Mrs. Brown was amused.

  “Well, if parrots join this circus, there will be even more chattering!” she said, smiling at the children, who had both been talking at once. “Jimmy, Lal has been shouting for you. He wants you to go and see to the dogs.”

  It was part of Jimmy’s work to help with the performing dogs, and he loved this. Every dog adored Jimmy and when he came near their cage they all pressed against the wire, some standing up on their hind-legs to get near to him. Lucky, his own dog, ran at his heels, for Jimmy would never allow her to be shut up in a cage, valuable though she was.

  “I say, Jimmy, it would be rather fun to tease Madame Prunella and get her into a few tempers, wouldn’t it?” said Lotta. “I do think she was funny, don’t you?”

  “Yes,” said Jimmy, washing out all the dogs’ dishes. “We’ll have a good time with her. I like her. Here, Lotta, dry these dishes. Surely you can do a bit of work too?”

  “I’ve done my work this morning,” said Lotta lazily. “I’ve groomed Black Beauty, and exercised him, and done my practice in the tent. This is your work, not mine.”

  Jimmy took hold of her tiny pink ear and led her to where a clean cloth was hanging. “I shan’t stand any nonsense from you!” he said. “I’ll go to Mr. Galliano and tell him I won’t let you share my turn tonight in the ring!”

  Lotta wriggled away, grinning. She and Jimmy were very good friends, though they often teased one another. She began to dry the dishes.

  “Isn’t it windy up here?” she said. “You know, we’re not very far from the sea, Jimmy. We might go down and bathe one afternoon.”

  “I can smell the sea in the wind,” said Jimmy, sniffing. “I hope the breeze doesn’t get any stronger. The tents are flapping enough already!”

  Jemima the monkey sidled by. She snatched Lotta’s drying-cloth and tore off with it. Lotta gave a squeal of rage and ran after her. The tiny monkey was a ballof mischief, and loved to tease Lotta. She jumped up on to the top of Jimmy’s caravan, and twisted the cloth round the smoking chimney.

  “You wait till I get you!” cried Lotta. The monkey leapt off the caravan roof and shot up a tree, where she sat grinning and chattering, looking down at the two children. The cloth waved wildly from the chimney, much to Mrs. Brown’s amazement when she came in from doing a bit of shopping, and there it stayed till Jimmy climbed up and fetched it down, black and smoky.

  The circus opened well. Mr. Wally and his wonderful chimpanzee, Sammy, amazed everyone, and they had to come back half a dozen times after their turn and bow all around the ring. Sammy loved the clapping and the cheering. He took off his hat and waved it wildly, which made everyone cheer all the more.

  The horses and their beautiful dancing were always loved by everyone. Lal and Laddo looked magnificent in their circus-suits, as they rode their horses, glittering and shining, under the flaring circus-lights. The dogs, too, were cheered, and indeed they were very clever in the way they walked, jumped, played ball, carried flags, and did all kinds of tricks. Lal and Laddo patted them and rewarded them with kind words and biscuits, and the happy little dogs wagged their tails like leaves waving in the wind!

  Lotta and Jimmy, who were known as the two Wonder-Children, always got long and loud cheers and claps, for little dog Lucky, and the pony Black Beauty, were marvellous in their tricks. When Lucky leapt on to Black Beauty’s back, and jumped through a paper hoop, just as Lotta had done, the cheers almost brought the roof down! It was great fun, and both children and animals loved it.

  The children had to go to bed very late when thecircus was on, but they were used to this. Mrs. Brown saw that Jimmy went straight to bed, instead of chattering and laughing with the other circus-folk after the show, and she had told Lal, Lotta’s mother, that she would see to the little girl too.

  “Thanks,” said Lal. “I have to see to the horses and dogs with Laddo—so if you will see that Lotta is safe in bed, instead of rushing round till midnight, I’d be grateful!”

  Madame Prunella did not join the circus for a few days. She sent word to say that one of her parrots was ill, but she would come before the week-end. The children were delighted. They hung on the field-gate about the time that Madame Prunella was expected—and at last they saw her caravan arriving. It was a very gay one indeed!

  It was bri
ght orange, with blue wheels, and the horse that pulled it had his mane plaited with blue and orange ribbons, and his tail plaited too. He was an old circus-horse, and his delight at sniffing the old smells of the ring was sweet to see. He whinnied to the other horses, and they whinnied back.

  “What talks they’ll have about old times!” said Jimmy, as he unharnessed Madame Prunella’s horse and led him to where the other horses were. “There you are, old boy—have a good feed, and a chat about all the circuses you have ever been in!”

  Madame Prunella was standing the perches of her parrots outside in the sun. Each parrot was chained by the leg to its perch, and they all screeched and squealed at the tops of their voices. Madame Prunella scratched them on their heads, and they chattered away happily.

  “Kippers and herrings,” said Gringle solemnly to Jimmy. “Kippers and herrings.”

  “Pickles and sauce,” answered Jimmy in just as solemn a voice. Gringle put out a foot and Jimmy shook hands with him.

  “Gringle has certainly made friends with you,” said Madame Prunella. “But just you mind what I say, children—no playing about with my parrots, please, or I shall have something to say to you!”

  Jemima the monkey came near and the parrots set up a great screeching. Jemima grinned and chattered back. She took off her little hat and put it on a parrot’s head. The parrot took it off in anger and threw it on the ground.

  “You’d better tell Jemima, too, not to play about with the parrots!” grinned Jimmy. “I say, what a row they make! I can see my mother getting headaches all the day long! I’d better move our caravan a bit farther off!”

  “Boy, my parrots can be as quiet as mice in a corner!” said Madame Prunella with a gleam in her eye. She swung round on her brilliant birds. “Hush!” she said. “Hush! The baby is asleep!”

  At once every parrot was quiet. The children looked about for the baby. They couldn’t see one anywhere.

  “There isn’t a real baby,” said Madame Prunella. “It’s just one of our circus tricks. Whenever I say the word ‘baby’ they have to be quiet.”

  The parrot-woman had a very untidy caravan. It smelt of parrots, and it really seemed as if there was no room for anything else but a bed for her and a stove inside the caravan. All the rest of the room was taken up by cages or perches. Prunella loved her parrots so much that, like Mr. Wally and his chimpanzee, she would not be parted from her pets even at night. Jimmy had often seen Sammy the chimp sleeping peacefully in his bunk opposite to Mr. Wally in his caravan. He couldn’t imagine how Madame Prunella could bear to sleep with twelve parrots!

  “Still, I wouldn’t let Lucky sleep anywhere but with me,” he thought. “So I suppose if Madame Prunella loves her parrots as I love dogs, she feels the same.”

  Madame Prunella took her parrots into the ring that night. They were an enormous success! Jimmy could hardly believe his ears at the things they could say and sing!

  They all knew the nursery rhymes, of course, and they could all count and say the alphabet. Gringle could reel off the names of all kinds of food, and Pola, another grey-and-red parrot, could recite long poems. When they sang together it was very funny indeed, for although they knew the words well, they did not always keep good time, and the band, which played the music for them, had to keep going slowly or quickly to keep time to the parrots’ loud, harsh voices!

  Gringle could whistle too—and his cleverest trick of all was his imitation of all kinds of noises. “Now, Gringle, tell us how an aeroplane goes,” said Madame Prunella, who was very plump and pretty in a brilliant blue-and-gold skirt and bodice, with golden feathers nodding in her hair.

  Gringle swelled out his throat and opened his beak—and from it there came the throbbing sound of an aeroplane! It was really marvellous.

  “And now I want an ice, Gringle,” said Madame Prunella. “Where’s the ice-cream man?”

  The sound of an ice-cream man’s bell came jingling into the ring. Jimmy looked round in surprise—surely the ice-cream man would not be allowed in the ring! But it was only Gringle, making the exact noise of the tricycle bell!

  “Now it’s firework night! The fireworks are going off, Gringle!” cried Prunella—and from the clever parrot came the noises of pops and explosions, splutters and bangs—for all the world like fireworks going off on Guy Fawkes’ Day! It was really most extraordinary.

  Gringle could cry like a baby, howl like a wolf, and mew like a cat. Jimmy and Lotta thought he must be the cleverest parrot in the whole world.

  When the people cheered and yelled and clapped, the parrots went mad with joy. They danced from side to side on their perches, and screeched loudly above the applause. “Sh! The baby’s asleep!” said Prunella, and at once every parrot was quiet. They each bowed solemnly round the ring and then, fluttering round Madame Prunella, they were taken from the ring.

  “Madame Prunella, we are proud to have you here,” said Mr. Galliano, delighted, his hat well on one side. “Your turn is good, very good, yes. We shall all do well at Bigminton!”

  And so they did! The money poured in, and Mr. Galliano went whistling round the circus-camp, paying everyone well, and telling them that they were to stay another week in the windy, cliff-side camp. The children were pleased. They had discovered a short way to the beach and had bathed and paddled every afternoon.

  “It’s fine here!” said Jimmy. “I hope we have another good week, Lotta. I don’t see why we shouldn’t!”

  But the next week wasn’t quite what anyone expected!

  What Happened on a Windy Night

  THE second week opened well. The weather was not so good, and the wind blew even more strongly, but this did not seem to stop the Bigminton people from flocking to see Mr. Galliano’s famous circus. Mr. Galliano bought himself a grand new circus-suit, which glittered so much that it almost dazzled Lotta to look at it.

  “Doesn’t he look grand, standing in the middle of the ring, cracking his whip like that?” said Jimmy admiringly. “I’ll be a circus-owner one day! I’ll be a ring-master in top-hat and top-boots and a glittering suit, cracking a whip till it sounds like a pistol-shot!”

  “I wish this wind would stop,” said Lotta, pulling her coat closely round her shoulders. “It’s so cold when it blows. The animals don’t like it either.”

  Jimmy had noticed that often with the animals. They were restless and uneasy when the wind blew strongly. There were strange noises that the wind made, rattles and bangs, jiggles and whistlings, which made the animals constantly prick up their ears and turn this way and that.

  The horses whinnied and stamped when the wind roared round the field. The dogs whined and growled. The monkeys sat shivering close together in Lilliput’s caravan. They felt cold and frightened. Even Jumbo the elephant flapped his big ears in annoyance when the gale shrieked round his enormous head.

  Lucky didn’t mind the wind. She didn’t mind anything so long as she was with Jimmy, But Black Beauty the pony looked round him with startled eyes when the wind flapped at his tail and sent a piece of paper rustling against his beautiful legs. He whinnied for Lotta, and she went to soothe him and comfort him.

  “It’s only the wind,” she told him. “Don’t be afraid, Black Beauty. See how it blows my curls—I don’t mind it! See how it flaps at my dress! It’s only the wind.”

  The last night of the circus came. The wind had risen to a gale, and all the animals were nervous and restless. Mr. Galliano wondered whether he should put off the last night, but it was difficult to put posters up in the town to tell the people. The circus must open and do its best!

  A great many people came, and soon the big top, as the great ring-tent was called, was full. The ring was strewn with sawdust, and the band took their places. Outside the wind roared steadily, drowning even the band at times! All the circus-folk felt they would be glad when the performance was safely over, for the horses and dogs were nervous and disobedient! Sammy the chimpanzee was very difficult. Just before he was due to enter the ring, he went
into a corner and took off all his clothes!

  “Sammy! How tiresome you are!” cried Mr. Wally. “Jimmy, come and help me to dress him, quickly. He does so hate the wind. He did this once before in a storm.”

  Sammy was dressed, but he was so naughty that he had to miss his turn in the ring, and go on later. Even so, he gave a bad performance and Mr. Wally was quite ashamed of him. One of the chimpanzee’s tricks was to ride a bicycle round the ring, waving his hat to say goodbye—and then to ride right out of the ring like that.

  But he wouldn’t ride out! He kept on and on riding round the ring, making queer noises! He threw his hat at Mr. Wally, and nearly knocked him over when his trainer went to get him off the bicycle! But at last Jimmy went to help, and between them they got the naughty chimpanzee safely out of the ring and into his cage!

  The wind went on howling round and round the tent. The ropes that held down the tent creaked, and the canvas flapped and swayed. Once or twice Mr. Galliano looked uneasily at the canvas walls of the tent, and to Jimmy’s surprise he cut short two or three of the turns, and would not let Lotta go into the ring at all. The little girl was very angry, but she did not dare to grumble in front of Mr. Galliano.

  The ring-master’s hat was on quite straight—a thing that only happened when he was worried. Lal and Laddo, Mr. Volla and Mr. Wally, looked worried too. It was not good to know that their animals were nervousand afraid. It is only when an animal is afraid that a trainer finds it hard to handle him.

  Lucky ran round Jimmy’s heels, keeping very close to him. She knew that people were worried. When Mr. Galliano brought the circus to an end, half-an-hour before its time, Lotta and Jimmy went to hold torches so that the departing people might see their way out of the wind-swept field.

  And no sooner had they all gone than a surprising and alarming thing happened. The gale blew down the big tent, in which was the circus-ring!

  SNAP! went the ropes—and with a great flapping and creaking the enormous tent, so carefully put up by Jimmy’s father and the other men, was lifted right up from the ground!