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Signora and Lori, edited by Andrew Lang

Translated from Deutsche Blätter, 1867. No. 10.

A gentleman living at Güstrow, in Mecklenburg, who was very fond of animals, possessed a fine parrot, which had beautiful plumage, and could talk better than most of his kind. Besides the parrot, he had a poodle, called Signora Patti, after the great singer, whom the gentleman had once heard when he was upon a visit to Rostock; after his return home he bestowed the name upon his dear poodle.

Under the tuition of her master, the poodle began to be an artist in her way. There was no trick performed by dogs too difficult for her to learn. The parrot, whose name was Lori, paid the greatest attention whilst the Signora’s lessons were going on, and he soon had all the vocabulary, which the Signora carried in her head, not only in his memory, but on his tongue.

When the dog was told by her master to ‘go to the baker,’ then Lori could croak out the words also. Signora Patti would hasten to fetch the little basket, seat herself before her master, and, looking up at him with her wise eyes, scrape gently upon the floor with her paw, which signified: ‘Please put in the money.’ Her master dropped in a few coins, the Signora ran quickly to the baker with the basket, and brought it back filled with little cakes; placing it before her master, she awaited her reward, a good share of the dainties.

Often, for a variety in the lessons, she had to go to the baker without money; then her master simply gave  the order, ‘on tick!’ and the Signora, who knew that the cakes would be sent, obeyed the command at once.

Lori sits on the handle of the basket to stop Patti reaching the cakes


The parrot made a droll use of these practisings, turning to account his knowledge of speech in the slyest way. If he found himself alone with the poodle, who was perhaps comfortably stretched on her cushion, Lori would cry—imitating his master’s voice—as if he quite understood the joke: ‘Go out!’ Poor Patti would get up in obedience to the order and slink out of the door with her ears drooping. And immediately Lori would whistle, just in the tone used by his master, and the Signora then returned joyfully into the room.

But it was not only for pastime that Lori exercised his gift; the cunning bird used it for the benefit of his greedy beak. It began to happen often to the master to find that his private account-book, carefully kept in the smallest details, did not agree well with that of his  neighbour the baker. The Signora, declared the baker, had become most accomplished in the art of running up a long bill, and always, of course, at her master’s orders. Only he, the master, when he looked over the reckoning, growled to himself: ‘My neighbour is a rogue; he chalks up the amount double.’

How very much was he astonished, then, and how quickly were his suspicions turned into laughter, when he beheld, through a half-open door, the following absurd scene.

It was one fine morning, and Lori sat upon the top of his cage, calling out in his shrillest tones: ‘Signora, Signora!’ The poodle hastened to present herself before him, wagging her tail, and Lori continued, ‘Go to the baker.’ The Signora fetched the little basket from its place, and put it before her tyrant, scratching her paw on the floor to ask for money.

‘On tick!’ was Lori’s prompt and brief remark; the Signora seized the basket, and rushed out of the door. Before long she returned, laid the basket, full of the little cakes, before the parrot, and looked with a beseeching air for the reward of her toil.

But the wicked Lori received her with a sharp ‘get out,’ putting her to flight, and proceeded to enjoy his ill-gotten gains in solitude.