Words of Wisdom
By the Owl
IT was away north, in one of the sugar towns, the river in high flood, and no chance of getting away.
The only thing left to do was sit down in the parlor of the hotel, drink bottled beer, and read the cards.
“When anyone got cleaned out the rest would make up a subscription and set him up in the picture line again. Our luck fluctuated, but the publican was doing a steady trade all the time. We had an assorted crowd at that hotel, the two most noticeable being a travelling mesmerist, and the proprietor of a moving menagerie.
The menagerie was mostly chained up in the back yard of the pub, and made a devil of a row at nights. Naturally there was friction between the rival showmen, the mesmerist affecting to look down on the menagerie man as not belonging to the “legitimate” perfesh, and the menagerie man on his part throwing doubt on the other’s alleged hypnotic powers.
On the third evening, when the bitter beer had intensified other bitterness, things came to a climax. The proprietor of the menagerie openly inferred that the ‘lone, shoreman couldn’t hypnotise for Sauer krant, and the latter freely insinuated that, the former brought fleas into the place from his animals.
“Look to me here,” shouted the menagerie (he was a Dutchman), “I vos pet you fife bounds dat you don’t vas even mesmerise der monkey.”
“Der monkey” happened to be one of the features of the show, and the Dutch man’s particular pride. The company freely chivvied the Professor on to take up the bet, a genial bagman offering to wager, drinks all round that the Professor could do it without hurting himself a little bit. After some slight hesitation the challenge was accepted, and the showman brought Jocko in.
The Mesmerist, first passing his hand through his long hair and displaying the several paste diamonds on his fingers, began to quell the brute with a tremendous stare. Jocko sat quite still, staring back and making most hideous grimaces.
The Professor drew gradually nearer and nearer to his subject, who was sitting in the middle of a table in the billiard-room, the spectators ranged round in groups watching the performance with blended curiosity and astonishment.
The mesmerist was now alongside the table, making elaborate passes over the monkey. Jocko had ceased grimacing, and was apparently dozing off into a deep hypnotic slumber.
Everybody except the Dutchman would have laid long odds on the Professor, when suddenly, without any preliminary waning, the monkey made a spring and caught the latter’s finger firmly between his teeth. Then went up mingled yells of profanity and laughter. “Take the —- —– monkey off!” howled the mesmerist.
“Vy don’t you mesmerise him und make him let go?” queried the Dutchman, sweetly.
“Der man vat couldn’t mesmerise van poor liddle monkey — vell —” and with that he caught his pet by the scruff of the neck and pulled him away, leaving the Professor to nurse his wrath and his bleeding finger as best he might.
Next morning the mesmerist was missing from the breakfast table. He must have swum the river somehow in the night, for at a recent date I heard that he was “touring” in the North of Queensland. But he forgot to pay that five pounds to the menagerie man before he left.
–The Bird O’ Freedom, Saturday 28 December 1895
Categories: Queensland hotels