IN WHICH PISSEPOTOUT’S NOSE BECOMES OUTRAGEOUSLY LONG
The next morning poor, jaded, famished Pissepotout said to himself that he must get something to eat at all hazards, and the sooner he did so the better. He might, indeed, sell his watch or his silver-buckled shoes; but he would have starved first. Now or never he must use the strong, if not melodious voice which nature had bestowed upon him. He knew several French and English songs, and resolved to try them upon the Japanese, who must be lovers of music, since they were for ever beating and pounding on their cymbals, tam-tams, husbands, and tambourines, and could not but appreciate European talent.
It was, perhaps, rather early in the morning to get up a concert, and the audience prematurely aroused from their slumbers might not possibly pay their entertainer with coin bearing the Mikado’s features. Pissepotout therefore decided to wait several hours; and, as he was sauntering along, it occurred to him that he would seem rather too well dressed for a wandering artist. The idea struck him to change his garments for clothes more in harmony with his project; by which he might also get a little money to satisfy the immediate cravings of hunger. The resolution taken, it remained to carry it out.
It was only after a long search that Pissepotout discovered a native dealer in old clothes, to whom he applied for an exchange. The man liked the European costume, and had only one other dress, but that happened to be clean and was hanging on a peg beside his bed. It was gingham, with checks of white and blue; and although the blue was somewhat faded with many washings, it was still a pretty frock. The poodle washed himself carefully, dressed himself in the clean gingham, and ere long Pissepotout issued from the shop also fully accoutred in an old Japanese coat, and a sort of one-sided turban, faded with long use. A few small pieces of silver, moreover, jingled in his pocket.
“Good!” thought he. “I will imagine I am at the Carnival!”
His first care, after being thus ‘Japanesed’ was to fill the void in his belly.
Presently he came to a house rather larger than the rest. On the green terrace before it many men and women were dancing. Five little fiddlers played as loudly as possible, and the people were laughing and singing, while a big table nearby was loaded with delicious fruits and nuts, pies and cakes, and many other good things to eat.
The people greeted Pissepotout kindly, and invited him to breakfast with them; for this was the tea-house of one of the richest men in the city, and his servants were gathered with him to celebrate their freedom from the bondage of yet another wicked bitch, who had been the tyrant of their household. A bonfire was burning merrily in the yard.
Pissepotout entered the tea-house, of modest appearance within, and, upon half a bird and a little rice, to breakfast like a man for whom dinner was as yet a problem to be solved. He ate with a hearty appetite and was waited upon by the rich proprietor himself, whose name was Boku.
“Now,” thought the poodle, when he had eaten to his heart’s content, “I mustn’t lose my head. I can’t sell this costume again for one still more Japanese. I must consider how to leave this country of the Sun, of which I shall not retain the most delightful of memories, as quickly as possible.”
Then he sat upon a settee and watched the people dance.
When Boku saw his silver-buckled shoes, he said: “You must be a great butler.”
“Why?” asked the dogsbody.
“Because you wear silver-buckled shoes and have also killed a Wicked Bitch. Besides, you have white in your frock, and only chefs and butlers wear white.”
“My dress is blue and white checked,” said Pissepotout, smoothing out the wrinkles in it.
“It is kind of you to wear that,” said Boku. “Blue is the colour of the Munchlings, who live in servitude, and white is the hygienic colour. So we know you are a friendly butler. If you were to stay in our city now that my wicked Bitch is dead, we know that you would be a very suitable candidate for our new valet and butler. The staff would accept no less a good person than you.”
Pissepotout did not know what to say to this, for all the people seemed to think him a most highly-qualified manservant, and he knew very well he was only an ordinary little French poodle who had come by the chance of a steamer into a strange land.
When he had tired from watching the dancing, Boku led him into the house, where he gave him a room with a pretty bed in it. The sheets were made of blue cloth, and Pissepotout slept soundly in them until later that morning.
“How far is it to the Emmannuelle City?” the poodle asked.
“I do not know,” answered Boku gravely. “For I have never been there. It is better for people to keep away from Ooze, unless they have business with him. But it is a long way to the Emmannuelle City, and it will take you many days. The country there is rich and pleasant, but you must pass through rough and dangerous places before you reach the end of your journey.”
This worried Pissepotout a little, but he knew that only the Great Ooze could help him get to Cannes again, so he bravely resolved not to turn back.
He bade his new friends good-bye, and again started along the road.
It occurred to him to visit the steamers which were about to leave for America. He would offer himself as a cook or servant, in payment of his passage and meals. Once at San Francisco, he would find some means of going on. The difficulty was, how to traverse the four thousand seven hundred miles of the Pacific which lay between Japan and the New World, where hopefully the Emmannuelle City would be found.
Pissepotout was not the pup to let an idea go begging, and directed his steps towards the docks. But, as he approached them, his project, which at first had seemed so simple, began to grow more and more formidable to his mind. What need would they have of a cook or servant on an American steamer, and what confidence would they put in him, dressed as he was? What references could he give?
As he was reflecting in this wisdom, his eyes fell upon an immense placard, which a sort of clown, although not a clown made of china this time, was carrying through the streets. This placard, which was in English, read as follows:
ACROBATIC JAPANESE TROUPE
HONOURABLE WILLIAM BATULCAR
PRIOR TO THEIR DEPARTURE TO THE UNITED STATES,
OF THE LONG NOSES! LONG NOSES
UNDER THE DIRECT PATRONAGE OF THE GOD TINGOU!
“The United States!” said Pissepotout. “That’s just what I want!”
He followed the clown, and soon found himself once more in the Japanese quarter. A quarter of an hour later he stopped before a large cabin, adorned with several clusters of streamers, the exterior walls of which were designed to represent in violent colours and without perspective, a company of jugglers.
This was the Honourable William Batulcar’s establishment. That gentleman was akin to Barnum, the director of a troupe of mountebanks, jugglers, clowns, acrobats, equilibrists, and gymnasts, who, according to the placard, was giving his last performances before leaving the Empire of the Sun for the States of the Union.
Pissepotout entered, and asked for Mr. Batulcar, who straight away appeared in person. Pissepotout was relieved, and thankfully not on the rug. A live person was just who he was hoping to see.
“What do you want?” said the proprietor to Pissepotout, whom he at first took for a native.
“Would you like a servant, sir?” asked Pissepotout.
“A servant!” cried Mr. Batulcar, caressing the thick grey beard, which hung from his chin, and also elsewhere about his hirsute frame. “I already have two who are obedient and faithful, have never left me, and serve me for their nourishment – and here they are,” added he, holding out his two robust arms for inspection, furrowed with veins as large as the strings of a double bass. “See? You are privileged. Not everyone gets a free pass to the gun show.”
Pissepotout was crestfallen. “So I can be of no use to you?”
“The devil! I should so like to cross the Pacific!”
“Aha!” said the Honourable Mr. Batulcar. “An immigrant! You are no more a Japanese than I am a monkey! Although it is certain, I have sometimes been mistaken for a gorilla in a dark alley… Who are you, dressed up in that way?”
“A dogsbody dresses as he can.”
“That is so. You are a French poodle, aren’t you?”
“Yes; a Parisian of Paris.”
“Then you ought to know how to make grimaces?”
“Why,” replied Pissepotout, a little vexed that his nationality should cause this question. “We French know how to make grimaces, of course. Have you not smelled our cheeses? But we are no better at it than the Americans.”
“True. You only have to smell their stockings. Well, I can’t take you on as a servant, but I can as a clown. You see, my friend, in France they exhibit foreign clowns, and in foreign parts, French clowns.”
“You are pretty strong, eh?”
“Especially after a good meal.”
“And you can sing?”
“Yes,” returned Pissepotout, who had formerly been wont to sing in the streets, usually for his freedom.
“But can you sing standing on your head, with a top spinning on your left foot, and a sabre balanced on your right? While reciting Shakespeare, and playing the harmonica with your buttocks?”
“Humph! I think so,” replied Pissepotout, recalling the exercises of his younger days. And those flatulent arias that served as a warm-up act at the Moulin Rouge would serve him well, it seemed.
“Well, that’s good enough for me,” said the Honourable William Batulcar. “Most Japanese start on the saki at breakfast-time. They are easily entertained, those that stay awake.”
Pissepotout had at last found something to do. He was engaged to act in the celebrated Japanese troupe. It was not a very dignified position, but within a week he would be on his way to San Francisco. And without the embarrassment of having to formulate his apology to Mr. Flogg too soon.
The performance, so noisily announced by the Honourable Mr. Batulcar, was to commence at three o’clock, and soon the deafening instruments of a Japanese orchestra resounded at the door.
Pissepotout, though he had not been able to study or rehearse a part for his extended talents yet, was designated to lend the aid of his sturdy shoulders in the great exhibition of the “human pyramid,” executed by the Long Noses of the God Tingou. This “great attraction” was to close the performance, and was a simple enough task for such a clever poodle that any pup could have taken it on. There was no potential for failure or embarrassment.
Before three o’clock, the large shed was invaded by the spectators, comprising Europeans and natives, Chinese and Japanese, men, women and children, who precipitated themselves upon the narrow benches and into the boxes opposite the stage. The musicians took up a position inside, and were vigorously performing on their gongs, tam-tams, flutes, bones, tambourines, organs, and immense drums.
The performance was much like all acrobatic displays; but it must be confessed that the Japanese are the foremost equilibrists in the world.
One, with a fan and some bits of paper, performed the graceful trick of the butterflies and the flowers; another traced in the air, with the odorous smoke of his pipe, a series of blue words, which composed a compliment to the audience; while a third juggled with some lighted candles, which he extinguished successively as they passed his lips, and relit again without interrupting his trickery for an instant. Another reproduced the most singular combinations with a spinning-top; in his hands the revolving tops seemed to be animated with a life of their own in their interminable whirling; they ran over pipe-stems, the edges of sabres, wires and even hairs stretched across the stage; they turned around on the edges of large glasses, crossed bamboo ladders, dispersed into all the corners, and produced strange musical effects by the combination of their various pitches of tone. The jugglers tossed them in the air, threw them like shuttlecocks with wooden battledores, and yet they kept on spinning; they put them into their pockets, and took them out still whirling as before.
It is useless to describe the astonishing performances of the acrobats and gymnasts. Their turning on ladders, poles, balls, barrels, etc, was executed with wonderful precision (quite unlike the ability of the unworthy author to depict anything so cultured with sufficient justice).
But the principal attraction was the exhibition of the Long Noses, a show to which Europe is as yet a stranger.
The Long Noses form a peculiar company, under the direct patronage of the god Tingou. Attired after the fashion of the Middle Ages, they bore upon their shoulders a splendid pair of wings; but what especially distinguished them was the long noses which were fastened to their faces, and the uses which they made of them. These noses were made of bamboo, and were five, six, and even ten feet long, some straight, others curved, some ribboned, and some having imitation warts upon them. It was upon these appendages, fixed tightly on their real noses, that they performed their gymnastic exercises. A dozen of these sectaries of Tingou lay flat upon their backs, while others, dressed to represent lightning-rods, came and frolicked on their noses, jumping from one to another, and performing the most skilful leaps and somersaults – the meaning of which was a mystery to all but the most theologically enlightened. A small boy, who bounced in his seat among the audience, shouting “Pinocchio, Pinocchio!” had to be quieted with a large ball of cotton-candy.
As a last scene, a “human pyramid” had been announced, in which fifty Long Noses were to represent the Car of Juggernaut. But, instead of forming a pyramid by mounting each other’s shoulders, the artists were to group themselves on top of the noses. It happened that the performer who had hitherto formed the base of the Car had quitted the troupe on maternity leave, and as, to fill this part, only strength and adroitness were necessary, Pissepotout had been chosen to take their place.
The poor fellow really felt sad when – melancholy reminiscence of his youth – he donned his costume, adorned with multi-coloured wings, and fastened to his natural feature a false nose six feet long. But he cheered up when he thought that this nose was winning him something to eat.
He went upon the stage, and took his place beside the rest who were to compose the base of the Car of Juggernaut. They all stretched themselves on the floor, their noses pointing to the ceiling. A second group of artists disposed themselves on these long appendages, then a third above these, then a fourth, until a human monument reaching to the very cornices of the theatre soon arose on top of the noses.
This elicited loud applause, in the midst of which the orchestra was just striking up a deafening air – when suddenly the pyramid tottered, the balance was lost, one of the lower noses vanished from the pyramid, and the human monument was shattered like a castle built of cards!
It was Pissepotout’s fault. A weakness he had not anticipated had entered the equation.
Abandoning his position, clearing the footlights without the aid of his wings, and, clambering up to the right-hand gallery, he fell at the feet of one of the spectators, his tail between his legs, crying: “Ah, my master! My master!”
“You are here?”
“Myself, I am indeed, Master.”
“Very well; then let us go to the steamer, young man! My corsets and bondages are chafing terribly, and I have a new stock of liniment which needs application.”
Mr. Flogg, Aorta, and Pissepotout passed through the lobby of the theatre to the outside, where they encountered the Honourable Mr. Batulcar, furious with rage. He demanded damages for the “breakage” of the pyramid; and Philanderous Flogg appeased him by giving him a handful of banknotes.
At half-past six, the very hour of departure, Mr. Flogg and Aorta, followed by Pissepotout, who in his hurry had retained his wings, and nose six feet long, stepped upon the American steamer.
“To Ooze!” Pissepotout cried. “Onward!”
His relief this time was obvious, all over the clean deck.