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A visit to the Zoo

by J.J. Bell
originally published in the Evening Times, 1901

"Paw," said Macgregor, as the family party turned out of Sauchiehall Street into Cambridge Street, "Paw, whit wey dae they ca' it the Zoo?"
" Deed, Macgregor, ye bate me there, " returned Mr Robinson, " Lizzie, " turning to his wife, " Macgregor's speirin' whit wey they ca' it the Zoo. "
" Macgregor's aye speirin', " said Lizzie. " If they didna ca' it the Zoo, whit wud they ca' it? "
" Weel, that's true, " observed her husband. " But it's a queer word, Zoo; an' the mair ye think o' 't, the queerer it gets. I mind I yinst --- "
"Paw, wull we shin be there?" inquired his son, whose philological craving was apparently neither severe nor lasting.
" Aye, ye'll be there in a meenit. Lizzie, are ye shair it's a' right aboot takin' wee Jeannie in to see the beasts? I doot she'll be frichtit. "
" Frichtit? Nae fear, John! Wee Jeannie's no' that easy frichtit. Losh me! When the meenister wis in the hoose on Wensday, wee Jeannie wisna a bit feart - wis ye, ma doo? She jist laucht til hin, an' played dab at his e'e wi' the leg o' her auld jumpin' jake. Mr Broon wis fair divertit, an' gi'ed her yin o' his cough lozengers. Na, na, John; she's no' that easy frichtit. "
" Aweel, ye ken best, Lizzie. See, gi'e her to me. "
" Oh, I'll haud her till we get inside. She'll shin be walkin' her lanesome - wull ye no' , honey? Jist keep a grup o' Macgreegor, John, or he'll be fleein' awa' an' gettin' rin ower or wannert. "
"Paw, " saif Macgregor, "I see the Zoo."
" Ay, thon's it. Ye never seen wild animals afore, Macgreegor. "
"I near seen wild beasts in the shows at the Lairgs, Paw."
" Aw, ay; ye wis bidin' wi' yer Aunt Purdie then. She wud be feart to gang in whaur the beasts wis. "
"Aunt Purdie's an auld footer," said Macgregor.
" Whisht, whisht! " interposed his mother. " Ye're no' to speak that wey aboot yer Aunt Purdie. She's a rale dacent wumman...John, ye sudna lauch at Macgregor's talk; ye jist mak' him think he's clever. "
" Aw, the wean's fine, Lizzie. Weel, we'll get across the road noo. "
"Whit wey ---" began the boy.
" Macreegor, tak' yer Paw's haun'. I'm no' wantin' ye to be catched wi' yin o' thae electric caurs, " said his mother.

The street was crossed without mishap, and presently the quartet found themselves within the Zoo. For a couple of minutes, perhaps, they paused on the threshold, uncertain which direction to take. Then the announcement made by an official in a loud voice to the effect that a performance by the lions and tigers was about to take place on the west side of the building sent them hurrying thither with the crowd, Macgregor for once in his life being too overcome for speech.

Beyond sundry ejaculations, little conversation took place while the trainer exhibited his pluck and command over the brutes; and it might have been observed that Macgregor never once made the slightest attempt to withdraw his fingers from the fatherly clasp.

" Mercy me! It's maist wunnerfu'! " exclaimed Lizzie, when it was all over.
" Dod, it bates a'! " said John, as he took wee Jeannie from her arms.
And a small voice at his side whispered, "I wisna feart, Paw!"
" Macgregor's sayin' he wisna feart, Lizzie ," said John to his wife.
" Maybe he wisna, " returned Lizzie, " but I can tell ye I wis a' shakin' when thae muckle beasts wis loupin'aboot the man. I wis wunnerin' whit I wud dae wi' wee Jeannie if ony o' the beasts wun oot the cages an' commenced fur to pu' the heids an' legs aff the folk "
" Och, wumman, there nae fear o' that. "
"If a beast wis comin' fur to pu' ma heid aff," remarked Macgregor, who had grown suddenly bold, "I - I - I wud - I wud gi'e 't a kick!"
" Ye're the boy! " said his father.
" Ye sudna let him boast like that, John, " said Lizzie reprovingly.
" Whit wud ye dae, Macgreegor, " asked John, with a grin, " if a beast wis efter yer Maw? "
"I - I - wud pu' its tail," replied the valiant Macgregor. "And then I wud ---" A loud roar from one of the lions interrupted him and caused him to clutch at his parent.
" Aw, Macgreegor, " said his mother, " I doot ye wud jist rin awa' an' leave yer Maw to be ett. "
The boy's lip trembled. "I wudna dae that, Maw," he said solemnly.
" Wud ye no', ma dearie? " said Lizzie, her voice softening. " Weel, weel, we'll say nae mair aboot it. Whit's yer Paw an' wee Jeannie efter noo? "
"It's an elephant, Maw," said Macgregor, as they overtook the father and daughter, who were admiring the stuffed carcase of a huge elephant.
" He's no leevin', " John explained. " He's the yin that had to be shot a while syne. "
"Whit wey wis he shot, Paw?"
" He wis dangerous. "
"Whit wey wis he dangerous?"
" I'm no' jist shair, but a man yinst tell't me the beast wis trampin' on his keepers, an' eatin' the bunnets aff the folk's heids. "
"Paw, whit's thon big white oosie beast?"
" Thon yin? Dae ye ken, Lizzie? "
" I've seen pictures like it, John. It's a - oh, ay, it's a Polish bear. "
" Dod, ay! It wud gey shin polish aff you an' me, wumman, " said John, laughing heartily.
"Dod, ay!" echoed Macgregor.
" Ye're no' to say that, " said Lizzie.
"Whit, Maw?"
" Ye're no' to say 'dod'. "
"Paw says it, Maw."
" Weel, per Paw sudna say it. "
"Whit wey, Maw?"
" Ha'e, Lizzie, " said John, handing his wife a catalogue which he had just purchased, " that'll tell ye the names o' the beasts. Whit dae they ca' thon strippit -- "
"Maw, whit's the name o 'thon spotit yin?" cried Macgregor.
" They're baith Hyaenies, " replied Lizzie, after consulting the numbers on the cages and the booklet. " Thon big black beast wi' the awfu' tae-nails is the Aswail or Sloth Bear. "
" Ay, it's jist Aswail it's in its cage, " remarked her husband with a chuckle.
" My! ye're rale smairt the day, John, wi yer bit jokes. But whaur's Macgreegor? "
The youngster was discovered, after some search, at the other side of the building, gazing with an expression of awe at a couple of camels.
"Paw, the wee yin's face is unco like Aunst Purdie," he observed.
His father guffawed.
His mother frowned. " John, I've tell't ye afore no' to lauch when Macgreegor says impiddent things. I wunner at ye! "
" But, Lizzie, I cudna help it this time. Dod, I thocht it wis gey like yer brither's guidwife masel'! "
" John! " " As shair's daith! It's jist the face she pits on when she's comin' oot the kirk on a wat Sawbath. "
" Weel, she canna help her face, puir thing! " said Lizzie.
" I never cud unnerstaun' hoo yer brither Rubbert cud mairry sic an auld bogle, an' him wi' sic a braw sister. "
" Hoots, John" Ye're fair aff at the nail the day! " said Lizzie, trying not to smile.
"Paw, whit wey ha'e the caymels nae trunks like the ephelants?"
" Macgreegor, " remarked Lizzie, " ye wud turn Solyman hissel' dementit! Jist luk at the humphs on their backs, an' dinna fash yer-- "
"Paw, whit wey ha'e the caymels got humphs?"
" Man, ye're a fair divert, Macgreegor! " said John. " Maybe it's because they ha'e nae trunks. See, there a penny fur ye. Awa' to the stall ower thonder, an' get a wheen biscuits fur the beasts. "
"I'm gaun to feed the elephants," Macgregor announced on his return.
" That's richt! See, there's the big yin haudin' oot his trunk... Dod, a biscuit's naethin' to him. Gi'e yin to wee Jeannie an' she'll feed the ither yin. "
"Is the elephant's trunk jist the same as a man's neb, Paw?" inquired Macgregor.
" Ay, jist the same. "
"Whit wey dae folk no' pick up things wi' their nebs, Paw?"
" Aw, haud yer tongue, Macgreegor, " said his mother. " John, bring wee Jeannie ower to see the paurrits. "
The birds having been duly admired and commented upon, Macgregor was again discovered to be missing. This time he was found engaged in making faces at a family of monkeys. " Come awa' frae the nesty things! " cried Lizzie. " I canna thole monkeys, John. Whit'll thon beast be in the watter? "
" The number's wan-twinty-nine.
" Oh, ay. Common Seal, frae the German Ocean. Ah, but that'll be the wee yin. The big yin's a Californian Sea Lion. Macgreegor, here a sea lion! "
"It's no vera like a lion, Maw... I see its whuskers! Whit wey has it got nae ooss on its feet?"
" Thae things isna feet. Thae's fins. "
"Whit wey has it nae ooss on its fins, Paw?"
" Maybe it cudna soom wi' ooss on its fins. "
"Whit wey cud it no' soom wi' ooss on ---"
" Come awa' an' see this extraornar' beast, Macgreegor, " said Lizzie. " The book says it's ca'ed a tapir. "
"Whit wey is't ca'ed a tapir, Maw?"
" Gi'e 't a bit biscuit, " returned his mother evasively. " Puir beastie, its lukin' gey doon i' the mooth, is't no', John? "
" It's a' that. But I wud be doon i' the mooth, masel', Lizzie, wi' a neb like that on me. See an' no' let it nip yer fingers, Macgreegor. "
"Whit wey is its neb sae shoogly, Paw?"
" Dod, Macgreegor, I'm thinkin' it kens ye. It's wagglin' its neb at ye fur anither bit biscuit. "
" John, " said his wife, " I'll tak' wee Jeannie an' ha'e a sate fur a wee. "
" Are ye wearit? Wud ye no' like a dish o' tea? "
" Och, I'm no' needin' tea, John. "
" Plenty folk tak' tea when they're no' needin' it. Come on, Lizzie! "

Lizzie shook her head and muttered something about " gentry " and " wastry ."
" I - I got a rise in ma pey the day, Lizzie, " said her husband suddenly.
" Did ye that, John? "
" Ay! Hauf-a-croon. "
" Deed, I wis thinkin' it wis mair nor naethin' that wis makin' ye sae jokey-like, " said Lizzie with a laugh.
" Come on, then Lizzie. Here, Macgreegor! "
"Paw, whit wey ---"
" Aw, ye'll see the beasts again in a wee while. Cud ye eat a pie? "
Macgregor drew a long breath. "Could I no'?" he exclaimed, beaming.