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READINGS FROM LITERATURE
HENRY CUYLER BUNNER
Henry Cuyler Bunner (1855-1896) was born in Oswego, New York. He was for many years editor of Puck, one of the most famous humorous magazines of the United States. He wrote three volumes of short stories, most of which show an unusual and delightful humor. See also:
National Cyclopedia of American Biography.
DR. TIBBITT stood on the porch of Mrs. Pennypepper's boarding house, and looked up and down the deserted Main Street of Sagawaug with a contented smile, the while he buttoned his driving gloves. The little doctor had good cause to be content with himself and with everything else — with his growing practice, with his comfortable boarding house, with his own good looks, with his neat attire, and with the world in general. He could not but be content with Sagawaug, for there never was a prettier country town. The doctor looked across the street and picked out the very house that he proposed to buy when the one remaining desire of his soul was gratified. It was a house with a hip roof and with a long garden running down to the river.
There was no one in the house to-day, but there was no one in any of the houses. Not even a pair of round bare
Copyright, 1890, by Puck Publishing Corporation. This story and its illustrations are used in this volume by special arrangement with Puck Publishing Corporation.
arms was visible among the clothes that waved in the August. breeze in every backyard. It was circus day in Sagawaug.
The doctor was climbing into his gig when a yell startled him. A freckled boy with saucer eyes dashed around the corner.
“Doctor !” he gasped, "come quick! The circus got afire an' the trick elephant's most roasted !”
“Don't be silly, Johnny,” said the doctor, reprovingly.
“Hope to die — Honest Injun — cross my breast !” said the boy. The doctor knew the sacredness of this juvenile oath.
“Get in here with me,” he said, “and if I find you're trying to be funny, I'll drop you in the river."
As they drove toward the outskirts of the town, Johnny told his tale.
“Now,” he began, “the folks was all out of the tent after the show was over, and one of the circus men, he went to the oil barrel in the green wagon with Dan'l in the Lion's Den onto the outside of it, an' he took in a candle an' left it there, and fust thing the barrel busted, an' he wasn't hurted a bit, but the trick elephant she was burned awful, an' the ringtailed baboon, he was so scared he had a fit. Say, did you know baboons had fits ?”
When they reached the circus grounds, they found a crowd around a small side-show tent. A strong odor of burnt leather confirmed Johnny's story. Dr. Tibbitt pushed his way through the throng, and gazed upon the huge beast, lying on her side on the grass, her broad shoulder charred and quivering. Her bulk expanded and contracted with spasms of agony, and from time to time she uttered a moaning sound. On her head was a structure of red cloth, about the size of a bushel basket, apparently intended to look like a British soldier's forage cap. This was secured by a strap that went under her chin — if an elephant has a chin. This scarlet
.cheese box every now and then slipped down over her eye, and the faithful animal patiently, in all her anguish, adjusted it with her prehensile trunk.
By her side stood her keeper and the proprietor of the show, a large man with a dyed mustache, a wrinkled face, and hair oiled and frizzed. These two bewailed their loss alternately.
“The boss elephant in the business !” cried the showman. “Barnum never had no trick elephant like Zenobia. And them lynes and Dan'l was painted in new before I took the road this season. Oh, there's been a hoodoo on me since I showed ag'inst the Sunday-school picnic !”
“That there elephant's been like my own child,” groaned the keeper, “or my own wife, I may say.”
The doctor had been carefully examining his patient. “If there is any analogy — ” he began.
“Neuralogy !” snorted the indignant showman; “'t ain't neuralogy, you jay pill box, she's cooked !”.
“If there is any analogy,” repeated Dr. Tibbitt, flushing a little, “between her case and that of a human being, I think I can save your elephant. Get me a barrel of linseed oil, and drive these people away.”
The doctor's orders were obeyed with eager submission. He took off his coat and went to work. He had never doctored an elephant, and the job interested him. At the end of an hour, Zenobia's sufferings were somewhat alleviated. She lay on her side, chained tightly to the ground, and swaddled in bandages. Her groans had ceased.
"I'll call to-morrow at noon," said the doctor — "good gracious, what's that?” Zenobia's trunk was playing around his waistband.
"She wants to shake hands with you,” her keeper ex