Enter Bingo by A. A. Milne

Before I introduce Bingo I must say a word for Humphrey, his sparring partner. Humphrey found himself on the top of my stocking last December, put there, I fancy, by Celia, though she says it was Father Christmas. He is a small yellow dog, with glass optics, and the label round his neck said, “His eyes move.” When I had finished the oranges and sweets and nuts, when Celia and I had pulled the crackers, Humphrey remained over to sit on the music-stool, with the air of one playing the pianola. In this position he found his uses. There are times when a husband may legitimately be annoyed; at these times it was pleasant to kick Humphrey off his stool on to the divan, to stand on the divan and kick him on to the sofa, to stand on the sofa and kick him on to the bookcase; and then, feeling another man, to replace him on the music-stool and apologize to Celia. It was thus that he lost his tail.

Here we say good-bye to Humphrey for the present; Bingo claims our attention. Bingo arrived as an absurd little black tub of puppiness, warranted (by a pedigree as long as your arm) to grow into a Pekinese. It was Celia’s idea to call him Bingo; because (a ridiculous reason) as a child she had had a poodle called Bingo. The less said about poodles the better; why rake up the past?

“If there is the slightest chance of Bingo–of this animal growing up into a poodle,” I said, “he leaves my house at once.”

My poodle,” said Celia, “was a lovely dog.”

(Of course she was only a child then. She wouldn’t know.)

“The point is this,” I said firmly, “our puppy is meant for a Pekinese–the pedigree says so. From the look of him it will be touch and go whether he pulls it off. To call him by the name of a late poodle may just be the deciding factor. Now I hate poodles; I hate pet dogs. A Pekinese is not a pet dog; he is an undersized lion. Our puppy may grow into a small lion, or a mastiff, or anything like that; but I will not have him a poodle. If we call him Bingo, will you promise never to mention in his presence that you once had a–a–you know what I mean–called Bingo?”

She promised. I have forgiven her for having once loved a poodle. I beg you to forget about it. There is now only one Bingo, and he is a Pekinese puppy.

However, after we had decided to call him Bingo, a difficulty arose. Bingo’s pedigree is full of names like Li Hung Chang and Sun Yat Sen; had we chosen a sufficiently Chinese name for him? Apart from what was due to his ancestors, were we encouraging him enough to grow into a Pekinese? What was there Oriental about “Bingo”?

In itself, apparently, little. And Bingo himself must have felt this; for his tail continued to be nothing but a rat’s tail, and his body to be nothing but a fat tub, and his head to be almost the head of any little puppy in the world. He felt it deeply. When I ragged him about it he tried to eat my ankles. I had only to go into the room in which he was, and murmur, “Rat’s tail,” to myself, or (more offensive still) “Chewed string,” for him to rush at me. “Where, O Bingo, is that delicate feather curling gracefully over the back, which was the pride and glory of thy great-grandfather? Is the caudal affix of the rodent thy apology for it?” And Bingo would whimper with shame.

Then we began to look him up in the map.

I found a Chinese town called “Ning-po,” which strikes me as very much like “Bing-go,” and Celia found another one called “Yung-Ping,” which might just as well be “Yung-Bing,” the obvious name of Bingo’s heir when he has one. These facts being communicated to Bingo, his nose immediately began to go back a little and his tub to develop something of a waist. But what finally decided him was a discovery of mine made only yesterday. There is a Japanese province called Bingo. Japanese, not Chinese, it is true; but at least it is Oriental. In any case conceive one’s pride in realizing suddenly that one has been called after a province and not after a poodle. It has determined Bingo unalterably to grow up in the right way.

You have Bingo now definitely a Pekinese. That being so, I may refer to his ancestors, always an object of veneration among these Easterns. I speak of (hats off, please!) Ch. Goodwood Lo.

Of course you know (I didn’t myself till last week) that “Ch.” stands for “Champion.” On the male side Champion Goodwood Lo is Bingo’s great-great-grandfather. On the female side the same animal is Bingo’s great-grandfather. One couldn’t be a poodle after that. A fortnight after Bingo came to us we found in a Pekinese book a photograph of Goodwood Lo. How proud we all were! Then we saw above it, “Celebrities of the Past. The Late–“

Champion Goodwood Lo was no more! In one moment Bingo had lost both his great-grandfather and his great-great-grandfather!

We broke it to him as gently as possible, but the double shock was too much, and he passed the evening in acute depression. Annoyed with my tactlessness in letting him know anything about it, I kicked Humphrey off his stool. Humphrey, I forgot to say, has a squeak if kicked in the right place. He squeaked.

Bingo, at that time still uncertain of his destiny, had at least the courage of the lion. Just for a moment he hesitated. Then with a pounce he was upon Humphrey.

Till then I had regarded Humphrey–save for his power of rolling the eyes and his habit of taking long jumps from the music-stool to the book-case–as rather a sedentary character. But in the fight which followed he put up an amazingly good resistance. At one time he was underneath Bingo; the next moment he had Bingo down; first one, then the other, seemed to gain the advantage. But blood will tell. Humphrey’s ancestry is unknown; I blush to say that it may possibly be German. Bingo had Goodwood Lo to support him–in two places. Gradually he got the upper hand; and at last, taking the reluctant Humphrey by the ear, he dragged him laboriously beneath the sofa. He emerged alone, with tail wagging, and was taken on to his mistress’s lap. There he slept, his grief forgotten.

So Humphrey was found a job. Whenever Bingo wants exercise, Humphrey plants himself in the middle of the room, his eyes cast upwards in an affectation of innocence. “I’m just sitting here,” says Humphrey; “I believe there’s a fly on the ceiling.” It is a challenge which no great-grandson of Goodwood Lo could resist. With a rush Bingo is at him. “I’ll learn you to stand in my way,” he splutters. And the great dust-up begins….

Brave little Bingo! I don’t wonder that so warlike a race as the Japanese has called a province after him.

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