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Nobody enjoyed roguish pranks and jokes more than the king. A good joke, an amusing story were the surest roads to his favour. That is why his seven ministers were all known to be accomplished jokers. They were not only inimitable comedians, but also just as fat and corpulent as he was. But, large though they were, they were just the right shape, since a lean joker is a rare bird. Fools had not yet gone out of fashion at the courts of the time of our story. It goes without saying that the king of whom we are speaking also kept a jester. He required something in the way of folly in his vicinity if only to keep his seven fat ministers in good humour. His fool, a professional joker, was especially valuable, for he was not only a dwarf of unusual appearance: in addition to his entertaining form, he was extraordinarily witty, blessed with imperturbable jolliness and armed with a sense of humour which never missed its target. Our king had every reason to consider himself fortunate in owning a creature of such manifold value as Hop-Frog - this was the court jester's name. The dwarf was called "Hop-Frog" on account of one of his simple-minded ideas, to which he was very partial. He claimed that he was unable to walk in the normal manner and propelled himself forward by a jerky movement which was something between a leap and a wriggle - a gait which invariably gave rise to unbounded hilarity. If the king was in a bad temper, or if his seven ministers were down in the dumps - and given the complicated state affairs they had to see to, it was inevitable that from time to time they should become dejected - then, as if by magic, Hop-Frog would revive their spirits and joie de vivre with the right joke at the right moment. This was yet another reason why the king always wanted the fool to be part of the company. Picture 135. Hop-Frog and Number One Hop-Frog had been forcibly carried off from his home many years previously together with a girl who, though equally dwarfish, was of exquisite proportions and a marvellous dancer, One of the king's victorious generals had brought them to court and given them to the monarch as a present. Tripetta - for this was the little dancer's name - was the only person at court who never mocked the fool because of his deformity. So it is not surprising that the two little prisoners soon developed a close friendship. They became inseparable.One day during a big state occasion, the king ordered that a masquerade take place. On such occasions Hop-Frog and Tripetta were inevitably sent out to prove their talents. Hop-Frog, in particular, was most inventive and the whole court was in a fever of expectation wondering what novelty the fool would think up this time. Those invited to the pageant had long since decided on mask and costume. Only the king and his seven ministers were still undecided. But as time was moving on, they sent for Hop-Frog and Tripetta seeking their help. Both came. The king knew that wine had a stimulating effect on his fool's ideas, exciting the imagination of that dwarfish brain to grotesque excess, but he couldn't resist a coarse practical joke. "Come here, Hop-Frog!" he called, as soon as the jester had approached with his friend, the dancer. "Swallow this bumper, drink to our health and let us admire your powers of invention!" Hop-Frog sighed, for he too knew that the fiery grape-juice pushed his folly beyond the bounds of the acceptable and he secretly feared his master's anger. "We need characters! Characters! Do you hear me? Something novel, something unheard of! We are tired of eternal repetitions. Come on - drink up! The wine will lend wings to your imagination." As Hop-Frog humbly took the goblet from his master's hand, he hesitated, very downcast. "Ah! Hahaha!" the king laughed and forced the dwarf to drain the glass at one go. "And now to business!" said the Prime Minister. - "Come, come!" cried the king impatiently, "ah! - I see! You are not yet in a good humour, you little orang-utang baby, and you want yet more wine. Here, drink!" Hop-Frog gazed blankly at his king, gasping for breath. The word "Orang-utang baby" penetrated into the labyrinth of his mind and threatened to cause an explosion in his head. The wine had begun to take effect. "Orang-utang baby! Orang-utang baby!" - the phrase seemed to echo from all corners of the hall; Hop-Frog was in despair. The king misunderstood his gestures, and poured out yet another glass of sparkling red wine for him. Tripetta, pale as a corpse, now approached the monarch in tears and implored him to spare her friend. Tripetta weeps But before the king could reply, Hop-Frog laughed aloud in relief: "I have it!" he cried. "We could call this masquerade 'Eight fully-grown orang-utangs', which could be excellent sport if it were well enacted!" The dwarf had trumpeted out his proposal and everybody stared silently at him for some seconds before they understood. "Capital!" exclaimed the king and his seven ministers almost simultaneously "The beauty of the game lies in the fright it occasions to the women", the dwarf continued. "Splendid!" the king and his ministers laughed in chorus. "I will equip you as orang-utangs - leave that to me", said the dwarf, delighted to have found the redeeming idea, which indeed the king himself had suggested to him. "The resemblance shall be so striking that nobody will be able to distinguish you from real beasts." - "Magnificent!" cried the king and his ministers, "is it not astonishing what a dwarf like him can accomplish!" "And the shaggy creatures shall be tied together by chains, whose jangling and clanging shall heighten the effect!" - "It shall be done!" cried king and ministers in unison. Time had sped by and the masque was already in full swing. "I shall see to your costumes myself", said Hop-Frog, setting to work forthwith. First of all, the king and his ministers were sewn into tight-fitting garments on to which a thick layer of feathers and wool were glued. Now Hop-Frog had the eight orang-utangs march in and bound them together with a long chain. The beginning and end of the chain were tied together in the middle of the group. Picture 136. King and Cabinet on the Fool's Rope The king and his ministers waited patiently in their costumes until midnight and then they rushed into the packed banqueting hall. Terrible confusion arose: the orang-utangs were generally believed to be genuine, so true-to-life were Hop-Frog's costumes. Had the dwarf not taken the precaution of forbidding the wearing of arms in the hall, the king and his companions might well have paid for their entertainment with their lives. The male guests hastily armed themselves with all available objects and launched savage attacks with puppet rattles, toy shepherd crooks, wind instruments and paper hammers on the putative apes. The eight orang-utangs' cries for help could not be heard in the appalling commotion and din of the blows. Only Hop-Frog's voice transcended the tumult. Tormented by his guilty conscience, he made superhuman efforts to liberate his king. "Leave the orang-utangs to me!" he screamed at the top of his voice. Once the dwarf had made his way through the crowd, he attached the two ends of the chain as quick as lightening to the hook on which the chandelier was suspended, which he had already lowered somewhat at the beginning of the masque. In an instant, as if by the power of an invisible force, the eight orang-utangs were pulled up high, and hovered in the air, freed from the frenzied and furious crowd. In their amazement at this extraordinary sight, everybody retreated towards the doors of the hall. Now Hop-Frog leapt up on to the end of the chain hanging from the living chandelier and asked for silence. "Highly esteemed company, our sovereign, our most gracious king sent us these jungle giants. A scientific problem: the state of nature versus civilisation! Here it has been put to the test. Had I not taken these gentle monsters away to safety, they would have been bestially torn to pieces by these crazed and frenzied people!" While the dwarf was speaking, one guest after the other slipped out of the banqueting hall. Picture 137. Tripetta Dances When the hall was empty, Hop-Frog had a whistle blown; the big double doors were closed and a host of servants carried in a table set for the guests. He lowered the chandelier, removed the chain, and the king and his seven ministers sat down. Everybody was happy at the way things had turned out, and the diners in their bizarre fancy dress had soon forgotten their fright. The fool resumed his old habit of cracking jokes and playing pranks on people; charming little Tripetta jumped on to the table and danced among the bowls, dishes and drinking vessels. There was much laughter, and good humour prevailed. But when the Prime Minister handed the dwarf a full glass, the king motioned him to stop: "Careful! Wine doesn't agree with our rascal of a jester; it would be better to give him that medal you are wearing around your neck. I think that he well deserves it this evening!"

The human chandelier