I DON’T know why, but it is a fact that Providence one day decreed that everything should turn upside down. The picture that the world presented could not have been more extraordinary: the fishes flew through the air like swarms of butterflies; in place of linnets and nightingales, the sharks and whales sang. The birds swam on the bosom of the waters, like Pedro for his house; it was glorious to see the dives they made. A donkey in the porch of an Inn played on a clarinet the "No me matas, no me matas," while another who was apparently in a good position, came out of a restaurant picking his teeth with a Toledo sword.
It is related that a boy who lived at that time, and whose name was, if I remember right, Manolo, had, among other grave defects, that of ill-treating animals; his parents and masters reprimanded him in vain, and from time to time even gave him a flogging that would have set fire to tinder: but it did not make the boy any better. Whenever he saw an ass tied to a fence he untied it and rode it for a good while, hitting it a whack to make it trot. When he met a dog the least that he did was to fetch it a smack that made it go away at more than a walking pace with its tail between its legs. More than one cat he chased about after having tied a sardine tin to its tail; in short, he was a little demon.
But now it must be remembered that all things were changed, and that on waking up one morning he found, at the head of his bed, one of his dogs, which, giving him a punch, said:
"Little friend, on getting up you have got to clean my boots;" and as the boy hesitated, the dog hit him two punches which made him get up more than quickly. What was his surprise to notice that he could only go on four feet! He wished to speak, but a bark came from his lips; he tried to bite the dog, and the latter rained blows upon him.
He rushed out of the house, and found other boys as mischievous as himself punished in the same way. In Oriente Place, Carlos and Pepe were pulling a little carriage, and in it were riding the two goats that usually drew the vehicle. Several of those water-carriers who carry their water-skins on the loins of a donkey which they almost kill by blows, went about themselves bent down under the load, getting a blow each time they sucked their thumbs. Their former slaves went on two feet behind them, saying: "Gee up, donkey, you are more stupid than a post."
Manolo went on his way, on four feet of course, and even these seemed few enough to run with, when on crossing a street he met a friend and schoolmate, with whom he opened, by barks, the following dialogue:
"Bernardo, as I live! Have you seen what has happened to us?"
"Yes, of course I see it! For am I not changed into a poodle?"
"Here you see me in a fix; I don’t know where to hide myself so that the old dogs won’t be able to take their revenge for the tricks I used to play on them when I was a person."
At this moment a noise was heard, and on turning round they saw a tramcar drawn by some of those drovers who are always complaining, and on the platform was a mule coquettishly adorned with a cocked hat, driving the car, which was full of all kinds of animals.
"My boy," said Manolo to Bernardo, "do you know that instead of a tramcar that looks more like Noah’s Ark!"
He had hardly uttered these words when he felt himself seized and secured, and his shirt was pulled out at the back, and to the tail of it was tied a petrol can. He turned his head, and then saw all the dogs gathered together which formerly he used to hurt, and who now were celebrating with great laughter the happy event of making Manolo run with the can tied to his tail. Two kicks well given rid him of all doubt and made him start running as fast as he could.
On passing close to a tank he saw some fishes which, with a rod under their fins, were angling for boys who were swimming about. At last he stopped half dead from fatigue, being taken up by an old, blind horse, which sported eye-protectors, and which, in exchange for some crusts, made him learn some exercises with which to amuse the appreciative audience of bears, monkeys, dogs, cats, and other distinguished people.
The horse, seated on the ground, with a silk hat which resembled a concertina, played on a little drum "The Paraguay Polka," while Manolo danced to it. So much dancing made him tired, and one day he gave the old horse the slip, leaving him alone with the drum. Naturally the loss was announced in the Gazette, and a reward was even offered to any one who found him, but all was useless, because the latter hid himself in order not to get caught.
One afternoon he saw many people—if we can call cats, dogs, mules, etc., people—gather together and enter a large building.
"Dear me!" said Manolo, "this is the bull-ring! All right, as a dog I can go in and see the fight free."
And slipping between two animals who acted as porters, he went into the ring and took a seat.
Divine Power! What a spectacle! A fat donkey, which acted as master of ceremonies, had at his side in the box another as asinine as himself, and it was the latter who told him when it was necessary to change the programme.
A number of peacocks adorned with airy mantles filled the boxes, and with opera-glasses and lorgnettes looked at each other, criticising and ridiculing each other disparagingly. How many animals there were in all parts of the ring! Round the arena barrier it was crowded with bears carrying leather bottles filled with wine, which they delicately raised. There was great confusion, until a band, or rather an orchestra, of ostriches played a gay double step, the toreadors appearing immediately after. What a fight it was! Twelve bulls from the most celebrated breeding studs came out on two feet with the red cloth airily placed between their horns. Those which acted as spearmen rode on the boys who clean up the ring, and carried very long spears. The trumpet sounded, and the first animal appeared in the arena; it was a German, who attacked the spearmen, overthrowing two boys. The master of ceremonies made a sign that it was now time to use the darts. The audience protested, shouting: "Donkey, donkey! you don’t understand!" The donkey M.C. took off his hat, and the audience asked that the darts should be stuck in the toreadors. Cuernosgrandes, who was the first killer, tried to fix his pair, as badly, more or less, as the old toreadors, when a horrible shouting arose in the arena, and such formidable fighting took place that two monkeys, who had been beautiful English girls, seated at Manolo’s side, fainted, and the audience rushed to the doors of the bull-ring: the German had jumped over the barrier. Manolo felt two kicks behind, and without even turning his head to see who gave them, rushed into the street like a mad animal.
Then came the worst. Some geese with Roman helmets on their heads, riding upon sardine tins, were pretending to maintain order with their sabres, and playing a number of foolish tricks upon the authorities. They soon knocked down poor little Manolo, who was obliged to seek refuge in a doorway, when a camel stopped him by laying a hand on him, saying:
"Thank goodness, I have a little dog."
The wretched camel put on a lady’s veil, took Manolo in its arms as if he were a wee baby, and taking up its place in a corner, began to sing in a falsetto voice:
"I was born in a wood of cocoanut trees
One morning in the month of April."
"Gentlemen," it added, "alms for this poor mother who has a child to support." But Manolo, who did not wish to play the part of an infant in arms, gave the camel a bite in the arm and ran away to the outskirts of the town. In a cottage he found two doves, which, on seeing him so thin and hollow-cheeked, offered him their assistance and gave him something to eat. A sympathetic swallow gently looked after him, and the lullaby of its song made the poor boy sleep soundly. A feeling of sweet well-being pervaded his little body, he saw in his dreams a cloud of rose and gold, and in it the white figure of an angel which, gently moving its wings, arrived at his side and in a melodious voice said to him:
"Manuel, your sufferings have ended; let what you have seen be a warning to you, and try to be good to everybody, including animals."
The boy woke up, looked around him and found himself in his own bed, and soon the servant came in to tell him that it was now time to go to school. Manolo, who had not got over his astonishment, dressed himself quickly, noticing, full of surprise, that he went on two legs—as if he had gone all his life on four.
He never ill-treated an animal again, for this was what he said:
"Besides it being cowardly to ill-treat defenceless beings, is it not dangerous to expose oneself to the risk of the tables being turned and finding oneself in the same disagreeable position?"