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       The Highly Trained Dogs of Professor Petit (Nancy Pearl's Book Crush Rediscoveries), p.1

           Carol Ryrie Brink
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The Highly Trained Dogs of Professor Petit (Nancy Pearl's Book Crush Rediscoveries)

  This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, organizations, places, events, and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.

  Text copyright © 1953 Carol Ryrie Brink

  Introduction copyright © 2015 Nancy Pearl

  All rights reserved.

  No part of this book may be reproduced, or stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without express written permission of the publisher.

  Published by Two Lions, New York

  Amazon, the Amazon logo, and Two Lions are trademarks of, Inc., or its affiliates.

  ISBN-13: 9781503945197 (hardcover)

  ISBN-10: 1503945197 (hardcover)

  ISBN-13: 9781503945203 (paperback)

  ISBN-10: 1503945200 (paperback)

  Book design by Virginia Pope

  For Anne and Scotty, and their dogs Tiger and Troubles, with love.
















  14 FIRE! FIRE!







  Carol Ryrie Brink (1895–1980) was a highly prolific writer who penned well-reviewed and immensely interesting books for both children and adult readers. Yet not only are most of her books long out of print and generally forgotten, she’s basically known today for only one particular novel, Caddie Woodlawn. It won the 1936 John Newbery Award, the highest honor bestowed by the American Library Association for a work of fiction or nonfiction for young readers, and it brought her enduring fame.

  Brink was born in the small university town of Moscow, Idaho, and if you go to the public library there today you will not only see a painting of the author, but you’ll discover that the children’s area is named after her, The Carol Ryrie Brink Reading Room.

  The Highly Trained Dogs of Professor Petit was originally published in 1953. Miss Whitehead, the librarian at the public library nearest to my house in Detroit, knew me well. She understood that all I really wanted to read at age nine or ten were either books about dogs and horses or mysteries. She always had a couple of books to give to me each time I saw her, and I remember her saying as she handed me a copy of Mrs. Brink’s book, “Well, Nancy, you’ve hit the jackpot this time. This is a book that’s both about dogs—wonderful, amazing dogs—and a mystery that only one of the dogs can solve.”

  As you might imagine, I was immediately hooked. I couldn’t wait to find out what happened in The Highly Trained Dogs of Professor Petit and began reading it as I walked home from the library and finished it later that night. Then I immediately started it again. Miss Whitehead was right: this is a perfect choice for any child, like the child I was, who loves mysteries and/or books about dogs.

  In Brink’s novel, which takes place in 1852, eleven-year-old Willie is brought to Puddling Center from the country to help out his very stern uncle, Postmaster Scrivens. One day, while running an errand for Uncle Scrivens, Willie meets Professor Petit, who travels around in a covered wagon putting on shows with his five highly trained dogs—Sancho, Prince, Grushenka, Liddy, and Tip. Amazingly enough, Sancho, the very smartest of these very smart dogs, cannot only spell his own name but other short words like dog and cat and man out of alphabet blocks. And he can talk!

  But Professor Petit and his highly trained dogs find their livelihood is threatened because a traveling circus run by Hulk Hoskins not only features a dog named Brutus, but a real, live tiger who jumps through a hoop of fire! How will Professor Petit’s show survive? Even while they’re worrying about that, Willie and Professor Petit learn that Sancho is apparently responsible for a terrible act of violence. Can Willie discover the real culprit? Of course I shared The Highly Trained Dogs of Professor Petit with my children, who loved this timeless mystery starring dogs as much as I did. I hope you, or the children in your life, enjoy it as much as we all did.

  —Nancy Pearl



  There were really not enough boys in Puddling Center in the year 1852 to do all the work that usually falls to boys to do. Puddling Center was small, but the crop of local boys was smaller. The people of Puddling Center were serious people. They did not laugh or sing or dance. They liked to see that everything was seriously and promptly done. Without a good, handy errand boy, they found it difficult to get along.

  Postmaster Scrivens, who was perhaps the most serious of all the serious people in Puddling Center, gave the matter some serious thought. He remembered that his sister Sara, who lived on a farm near Wickersham, had seven children.

  “I will write to Sara,” he said, “and ask her if she will lend us one of her boys.”

  In a few days, Postmaster Scrivens had a reply from his sister Sara. She was willing to lend him her son Willie, who was the fourth from each end of the seven children. In fact, the bearer of the letter was none other than Willie himself, with all of his clothing in a small sack on his back. He was prepared to stay.

  Willie was a bright boy of eleven years who could do a great many things. There were a great many things in Puddling Center to do, as Willie soon found out.

  At home Willie had led an idle, pleasant life. The family dog liked Willie better than any of the other children, and together they had roamed the woods and fields, fishing, watching the little wild animals and bugs, or looking up at the clouds that sailed in the sky. The people at home liked to sing and laugh and dance.

  Willie found Puddling Center quite different. First of all he missed old Sport, the dog, and next he missed his pleasant, idle time. The days were not long enough in Puddling Center. He had to carry letters into the country for his uncle. He had to pull the baker’s cart to deliver the baker’s bread. He had to take the farmer’s sheep to pasture and bring them home again at night. Besides all this, the weaver expected Willie to be on hand to chase after the balls of yarn when they dropped down and rolled away, and the miller expected Willie to kill or capture the rats and mice that stole the grain in the mill. When he had done all of these things, if there was any time left over, Willie was expected to go to school.

  The strange thing about it was that Willie really wanted to go to school. The prospect of going to school and learning all sorts of interesting things had made him eager to come to Puddling Center. But now that he was here, his many jobs kept him busy all day long. The baker, the farmer, the weaver, the miller, each paid Willie a little money for the work he did. His uncle Scrivens gave him his room and board and a shilling a week.

  “Willie,” his uncle Scrivens said, “someday you are going to be rich.”

  “But what is the use of being rich,” Willie asked, “if I don’t know anything?”

  “Tomfoolery!” said Uncle Scrivens. “Anyone who knows how to become rich knows all that he needs to know.”

  Willie wondered if this were true
. He did not think so. But it was impossible to argue with Uncle Scrivens, because arguing made Uncle Scrivens angry and wasted too much time.

  Before the day had fairly begun, Willie was often tired out. A little pleasure now and then might have made him less tired. But Postmaster Scrivens did not understand that.

  “Keep a boy busy,” Uncle Scrivens said, “and you keep him out of mischief.”

  One day when he saw Willie stopping for a moment to read a circus poster that was stuck on the post office wall, Mr. Scrivens was quite impatient.

  “Willie,” he said, “you are wasting a moment of your time! Here I am, giving one of my poor dear sister’s seven children a wonderful opportunity to get rich, and what do you do in return? You stand there looking at a picture of a tiger jumping through a flaming hoop. Hoskins’s Circus, indeed! Be off with you, and deliver that letter. The baker and the farmer and the weaver and the miller are all waiting for you. Be off, Willie! Be off!”

  Willie ran off as fast as he could go. But he had never seen a circus nor a tiger, and he couldn’t help thinking how exciting it was that Hoskins’s Circus was coming to town.

  If only I can find time to go! Willie thought. But, if there isn’t time to go to school, sure as shooting there won’t be time to go to the circus.

  It was a beautiful summer morning and Willie had a long way to walk into the country to deliver his letter. He jogged along happily, thinking that if only old Sport had been with him, life would not be bad at all today. When he had delivered the letter, the man to whom it was addressed said, “Did you come by the highway, Willie?”

  Willie nodded.

  “Then let me tell you,” said the man, “that by taking the little woods road that branches to the left, you will save yourself a mile and get back to Puddling Center a half an hour earlier.”

  “Thank you,” Willie said. For a moment he wondered if he really wanted to get back to Puddling Center a half an hour earlier than Uncle Scrivens expected him. But then he decided that it would show Uncle Scrivens what good intentions he had.

  The woods road unrolled pleasantly among the trees. Birds sang, and daisies and buttercups bloomed. The air was sweet and clear. Willie smelled birch smoke and the wonderful odor of frying bacon. He remembered then that he had gone off without his breakfast. Uncle Scrivens had been in such a hurry to have the letter delivered that a slice of bread had been all Willie had taken time to eat.

  Now, as Willie rounded a bend in the woods, he saw that the road opened out at this point into a sunny clearing. In the clearing a man in his shirt sleeves was cooking bacon and porridge over an open fire. But there were other strange and interesting things in the clearing, and Willie stopped in his tracks and stood there for a moment, just looking.

  First of all, drawn up beside the road, was a small green caravan or covered wagon with windows in it, and a door at the back. Beyond the caravan a red roan pony was grazing among the buttercups and grasses. A clothesline had been strung out from the caravan to a nearby tree, and upon it fluttered and bobbed an odd assortment of clothing. There was a scarlet, long-tailed coat that probably belonged to the man who was frying the bacon. Beyond the coat there were five very small jackets of various colors and cuts, a large white ruffle, a dunce cap, two ballerina skirts, and three pairs of very small, brightly colored trousers. The curious thing about the trousers was that each and every pair had a small round hole in the back, as if for a tail to come through.

  There was a curious sound here, too. From inside the caravan came a sound that was not quite singing and not quite barking and not quite howling and not quite yodeling. But it was something like each of these things. Sometimes the sound was high and sometimes low. Now it seemed that someone inside the caravan might possibly be practicing scales for a singing lesson. Yet it was not exactly that either.

  The pony paid no attention to the strange sounds in the caravan and neither did the man by the fire. They seemed to think that everything was as it should be. The man looked sad, Willie thought, although it was hard to understand why anyone should be sad on such a lovely day and with bacon sizzling in a pan.

  Willie began to walk slowly toward the caravan and the fire. His feet made a quiet sound of walking on the rutted road.

  Suddenly the noises from the caravan completely changed. They burst out loudly now. Yap-yap-yap! Bow-wow-wow! and Arff! arff! arff! in several different tones of voice, but all unmistakably the voices of dogs, giving the alarm.

  The pony went on munching buttercups, but the man at the fire looked around.

  “Tut! tut!” he said severely. “You’ve disturbed the morning practice hour, my boy.”

  “I’m very sorry, sir,” Willie said. “I was just going by. I didn’t mean to do anything.”

  “‘I didn’t mean to’ never built a tower,” the man said. With which puzzling remark, he balanced the frying pan on a flat stone near the fire, arose, and came briskly forward. He was not a large man but a very brisk one. His face was slightly foreign-looking. He had a reassuring twinkle in his eye, and the lips, under a brisk black moustache, smiled engagingly. Willie liked him.

  “It doesn’t really matter,” the man said, speaking loudly to make himself heard above the uproar of barking. “Time’s about up anyway, and there’s no use practicing with nothing to look forward to. A business with no future! Too bad! Indeed, too bad!”

  He went around to the back of the caravan and opened the door. Five dogs leaped out of it, barking and jumping and wagging their tails like mad.

  “Wheesht! Wheesht!” the little man said, holding up his hand. “It’s only a boy, friends. No cause for excitement. Steady now.”

  The five dogs stopped barking and sat down in a semicircle before the man, with their tails curled up expectantly behind them. Their tongues lolled out of their mouths in mirth and excitement. They rolled their eyes curiously toward Willie and then back again to their master.

  “Now,” said he, “be civil to the boy, won’t you? You’ve scared him out of his wits.”

  “Oh, no, sir!” Willie cried. “Excuse me, sir, but I’ve never been scared by a dog.”

  “Ah!” said the man, looking at Willie with new interest. “Never scared? Never?”

  “I figure it this way,” Willie said. “Dogs usually want to be friends. If they see that you are scared or don’t like them, then sometimes they’ll be mean. But, if you like them, they’re sure to be good-natured.”

  “Ah-hah!” cried the man. “A wise boy! A boy after my own heart! You have discovered one of the universal laws of nature, son!”

  “I don’t know about that,” said Willie doubtfully. “But dogs—I like them.”

  “Splendid!” the man said. “It’s enough to make us all friends, eh, children?”

  The dogs began to frisk and bark, this time with pure pleasure. They came up and sniffed around Willie. One of them licked his hand, and then, to his great surprise, one of them sat up in front of him, and another lay down and rolled over. The smallest of the dogs stood on his hind legs and pulled Willie’s handkerchief out of his pocket. He was about to run away with it, when his master cried: “Tip!” in a very stern voice. The small dog returned and dropped Willie’s handkerchief before him as if in a game of Drop the Handkerchief.

  “Tut! tut!” said the man. “No tricks now! Breakfast first. Will you join us, boy? We haven’t much to offer today, but we are never too poor to share with a friend.”

  Willie thought of Uncle Scrivens. But, by taking the woods road, he had gained a half an hour. He could eat breakfast in this delightful company and still arrive back at the post office as soon as Uncle Scrivens expected him.

  “I’d be more than pleased,” said Willie.

  As he came around the caravan, he saw that a sign was painted on the side of it.

  Professor Petit


  His Highly Trained Dogs



  As Willie followed Professor Petit
around the caravan, his heart had begun to pound with excitement.

  “Excuse me, sir,” he said, “but are you a part of Hoskins’s Circus?”

  “Why, no,” said Professor Petit. His face suddenly darkened and grew sad. It was as if a cloud had passed across the sun. “What makes you ask a thing like that?”

  “Well,” said Willie, “I saw a poster of Hoskins’s Circus. It’s soon to come to town, and I just thought—. Hoskins has a tiger, sir. It jumps through a flaming hoop.”

  “Yes,” said Professor Petit, “Hulk Hoskins has a tiger. It’s Hoskins’s tiger that has ruined us, isn’t it, my friends?”

  Thus appealed to, the dogs all barked in agreement, but Willie could see that their attention was really fixed upon the bacon in the pan and the oatmeal porridge that stood near it.

  “I guess I don’t quite understand,” said Willie.

  “I will tell you,” said Professor Petit. As he spoke, he dished out the bacon and porridge into a large pan for the five dogs and into two small dishes for Willie and himself. The dogs stood around the large pan without quarrelling, waving their tails with enjoyment as they ate. Willie, too, spooned up his food with relish. It had a pleasant tang of wood smoke, and the savor that only food eaten out of doors can have. But, although he had given himself a very small helping, Professor Petit seemed to lack appetite for his food.

  “Hoskins’s Circus has ruined us,” he said sadly. “Once we were the most popular show on the road. Everybody came to see my highly trained dogs. I cannot tell you what skill, what patience, what understanding and devotion I have put into the training of my dogs. I do not hesitate to say that they are the most highly trained dogs in the world. About a year ago another animal show appeared upon the road, Hoskins’s Show. The animals performed only the very simplest of tricks and those to the tune of a cracking whip. The poor things were afraid for their lives. There was a frightened bear who did a kind of shuffling dance at one end of a chain. There was a dog, Brutus, who performed certain feats of strength, such as hanging onto a strap while he was pulled upward by a rope. But they had none of the skills that my dogs possess, of walking the tightrope, climbing ladders, and talking.”

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