HotFreeBooks.com
Peck's Bad Boy With the Cowboys
by Hon. Geo. W. Peck
Previous Part     1  2
Home - Random Browse

"You don't mean to tell me the bull charged on you and didn't kill you?" said the ranchman, winking at the hired man. "How did you keep from being gored?"

"Well it takes a pretty smart animal to get the best of me," said pa, looking wise. "You see, when the bull came over the hill I gave him a couple of shots, one in the eye and another in the chest, but he came on, with his other eye flashing fire, and the hair on his head and on his hump sticking up like a porcupine, and the whole herd followed, bellowing and fairly shaking the earth, but I kept my nerve. I shot the bull full of lead, and he tottered along towards me, bound to have revenge, but just as he was going to gore me with his wicked horns I caught hold of the long hair on his head and yelled "Get out of here, condemn you," and I looked him in the one eye, like this," and Pa certainly did look fierce, "and he threw up his head, with me hanging to his hair, and when I came down I kicked him in the ribs and he gave a grunt and a mournful bellow, as though he was all in, and was afraid of me, and went off over the hill, followed by the herd, scared to death at a man that was not afraid to stand his ground against the fiercest animal that ever trod the ground. Now, come on and help me find the carcass." Pa looked as though he meant it.

"Well, you are a wonder," said the ranch-man, looking at Pa in admiration. "I have seen men before that could lie some, but you have got Annanias beaten a block. Now we will go to the house and settle this thing, and I will send my trusty henchmen out henching after your bull."

Then we went to the house and got dinner, and the men drove up the buffalo into the barnyard and fed them hay, and we went out and played with the buffaloes, and Pa found his bull hadn't a scratch on him, and that he would lean up against Pa and rub against him just like he was a fencepost.

The ranchman told Pa they had been stringing him, and that the animals were so tame you could feed them out of your hand, and that he had been shooting blank cartridges, and the only thing he regretted was that Pa would lie so before strangers. Then pa bought the herd for the show, and next year Pa will show audiences how he can tame the wildest of the animal kingdom, so they will eat out of his hand.



CHAPTER IX

The Bad Boy and His Pa Return to the Circus to Find They Have Been Quite Forgotten—The Fat Lady and the Bearded Woman Give Pa the Cold Shoulder—Pa Finally Makes Himself Recognized and Attends the Last Performance of the Season.

We arrived from the far west and struck the show at Indianapolis, where it was playing its last date of the season, before going to winter quarters. It was a sad home coming, 'cause the animals and the performers had forgotten us, and we had to be introduced to everybody.

We arrived about noon and while I stayed down town to get a shine, Pa took a street car and went right up to the lot, and the crowd was around the ticket wagon getting ready to go in. Pa went up to the ticket taker at the entrance and said, "hello, Bill," and was going to push right in, when Bill said that was no good, and there couldn't any old geezer play the "hello Bill" business on him.

A couple of bouncers took Pa by the elbows and fired him out, and the crowd laughed at pa, and told him to go and buy a ticket like a man, and Pa told the bouncers he would discharge them on the spot. Pa went to the manager's tent and complained that he had been fired out, and the manager said that was perfectly proper, unless he had a ticket, and he told Pa to get out. Pa told them who he was, but they wouldn't believe him. You see pa's face was all red and sore where the buffaloes had licked him, and the buffaloes had licked all the hair dye out of his hair and whiskers, and they were as white as the driven snow. Pa looked 20 years older than when he went west. While they were arguing about Pa and examining him to see if he had smallpox, I came up and Pa saw me and he said, "Hennery, ain't I your pa?" and I said "you can search me, that's what they always said," and then I identified pa, and they all shook hands with him, and he reported about the trip to the west, and what talent he had engaged for the wild west department for next year. Then we all went into the tent. I guess everybody was mad and excited, 'cause the show was going to close, and the salaries stop, as some of the performers were crying, and everybody was packed up, and all were paying borrowed money.



Pa went up to the freak's platform and tapping the fat lady on the shoulder he said, "Hello, you seem to be taking on flesh, now that the show is going to close, and you ought to have got that flesh on earlier in the season."

I shall never forget the scene. The fat lady did not recognize pa, but thought he was just an ordinary old Hoosier trying to take liberties with her, and she kicked pa's feet out from under him, and pulled him down across her lap and with her big fat hand she gave him a few spanks that made Pa see stars, and then cuffed pa's ears, and let him up. He went over to the bearded woman for sympathy, asked her how she had got along without him so long; and she got mad too and swatted Pa with her fist, and yelled for help. The giant came and was going to break Pa in two, and Pa asked the giant what it was to him, and he said the bearded woman was his wife, and that they were married the week before at Toledo. The giant lifted Pa one with his hind foot, and Pa got down off the platform, and he told them that was their last season with the show, when they had no respect for the general manager.

Then they all found out who Pa was, and apologized and tried to square themselves, but Pa was hot enough to boil over, and we went off to see the animals.

Say, there wasn't a single animal that would have Pa around. The zebras kicked at pa, the lions roared and sassed him, the hyenas snarled and howled, the wolves looked ugly, and the tigers acted as though they wanted to get him in the cage and tear out his tenderloin; the elephants wanted to catch Pa and walk on his frame. The only friends Pa seemed to have was the sacred bull and cow, who let him come near them, and when they began to lick pa's hand he remembered his experience with the buffaloes, and he drew away to the monkey cages. The ourang outang seemed to look on pa as an equal, and the monkeys treated me like a long lost brother.

It was the saddest home coming I ever participated in, and when the performance began Pa and I went and sat on the lowest seat near the ring, and the performers guyed Pa for a Hoosier, and the lemonade butchers tried to sell Pa lemonade and peanuts, which was the last hair, until a fakir tried to get Pa to bet on a shell game, and that was the limit.

Pa got up with a heavy heart, and started to go into the dressing room, and was arrested by one of the detectives, and put out under the canvas, and we went down town almost heartbroken, I told Pa to go to a barber shop and have his hair and whiskers colored black again, and put on his old checkered vest, and big plug hat, and two-pound watch chain, and they would all know him. So Pa had his hair and whiskers colored natural, and dressed up in the old way, and at evening we went back and stood around the tent, and everybody took off their hats to him, and when we went into the show at night everybody was polite, the freaks wanted Pa to sit on the platform with them, and the animals came off their perch, and treated Pa like they used to, and he was himself again.

He went around the big tent and watched the last performance of the season, and complimented the performers, went into the dressing room and jollied the members of the staff, and when the performance was over, and the audience had gone, all the managers and everybody connected with the show gathered in the ring to bid each other good bye, and make presents to each other. Everybody made speeches congratulating the management and all who had helped to make the show a success, and they all joined hands around the ring and sang "Auld Lang Sine," the animals in the next tent joining in the chorus.

The lights were lowered, and the canvas-men took down the tents and loaded them on the cars for home. We went down to the hotel and the managers listened to the reading of a statement from the treasurer showing how much money we had made, Pa drew his share of the profits, and we took a train for home.

At breakfast the next morning in the dining car, going into Chicago, Pa said to me, "Hennery, we have had the most exciting five months of my life. The circus business is just like any other business. If you make good and we are ahead of the game, it is respectable, but if you run behind and have to deal with the sheriff, you are suspected of being crooked. Make the people laugh and forget their troubles, and you are a benefactor, but if your show is so bad that it makes them kick and find fault, and wish they had stayed at home, you might as well put crape on the grand entrance, and go out of the business. The animals in a show are just like the people we meet in society. If you put on a good front, and act as though you were the whole thing, they respect you, and allow you to stay on the earth, but if you are changeable, and look different from your customary appearance, and come up to the cage in a frightened manner, they pipe you off and give you the ha, ha! See? Now we will go home and get acquainted."

"Well, pa," said I, looking him straight in the eye, "where are we going next?"



CHAPTER X.

The Bad Boy Calls on the Old Groceryman and Gets Acquainted with His New Dog—Off Again to See America.

The old groceryman was sitting in the old grocery one fine spring morning looking over his accounts, as they were written on a quire of brown wrapping paper with a blunt lead pencil, and wondering where he could go to collect money to pay a note that was due at the bank at noon on that day. He was looking ten years older than he did the year before when the Bad Boy had played his last trick on the old man, and gone abroad to chaperone his sick father, in a search for health and adventure. The old man had missed the boy around the grocery, and with no one to keep his blood circulating, and his temperature occasionally soaring above the normal, he had failed in health, and had read with mixed feelings of joy, fear and resentment that the Bad Boy and his dad had arrived home, and he knew it could not be long before the boy would blow in, and he was trying to decide whether to meet the boy cheerfully and with a spirit of resignation, or to meet him with a club, whether to give him the glad hand, or form himself into a column of fours to drive him out when he came.

He had accumulated a terrier dog since the boy went away, to be company for the old singed cat, to hunt rats in the cellar, and to watch the store nights. The dog was barking down cellar, and the old man went down the rickety stairs to see what the trouble was, and while he was down there helping the dog to tree a rat under a sack of potatoes, the Bad Boy slipped into the store, and finding the old man absent, he crawled under the counter, curled up on a cracker box, and began to snore as the old man came up the stairs, followed by the dog, with a rat in his mouth. The old man heard the snore, and wondered if he had been entertaining a tramp unawares, when the dog dropped the rat and rushing behind the counter began to growl, and grabbed the Bad boy by the seat of his trousers and gave him a good shaking, while the boy set up a yell that caused the plaster to fall, and the old man to almost faint with excitement, and he went to the door to call a policeman, when the boy kicked the dog off, and raised up from behind the counter, causing the old cat to raise her back and spit cotton, and as the old man saw the Bad Boy he leaned against the show case and a large smile came over his face, and he said: "Gee whiz, where did you get on?"

"The porter was not in, so I turned in in the first lower berth I came to," said the Bad Boy, as he jumped over the counter and grabbed the old man by the arm and shook his hand until it ached. "Introduce me to your friend, the dog, who seems to have acquired an appetite for pants," and the Bad Boy got behind the old man and kicked at the dog, who was barking as though he had a cat on the fence.



"Get out, Tiger," said the old man, as he pushed the dog away. "You have got to get used to this young heathen," and he hugged the bright-looking, well-dressed boy as though he was proud of him.

"What are good fat rats selling for now?" asked the boy, as his eye fell on the rat the terrier had brought out of the cellar. "I did not know you had added a meat market to your grocery. Now, in Paris the rat business is a very important industry, but I didn't know the people ate them here. What do you retail them at?"

"O, get out, I don't sell rats," said the old man, indignantly. "I got this dog for company, in your place, and he has proved himself more useful than any boy I ever saw. Say, come and sit down by the stove, and tell me all about your trip, as your letters to me were not very full of information. How is your father's health?"

"Dad is the healthiest man in America," said the boy, as he handed the old man a Turkish cigarette, with a piece of cheese under the tobacco about half an inch from where the old man lighted it with a match. "Dad is all right, except his back. He slept four nights with a cork life preserver strapped to, his back, coming over, and he has got curvature of the spine, but the doctor has strapped a board to dad's back, and says when his back warps back to fit the board he will be sound again."

"Say, this is a genuine Turkish cigarette, isn't it," said the old man, as he puffed away at it, and blew the smoke through his nose.

"I have always wanted to smoke a genuine, imported cigarette. Got a flavor something like a Welsh rabbit, ain't it?" and the old man looked at the cigarette where the frying cheese was soaking through the paper.

"Gee, but I can't go that," and he threw it away and looked sea sick.

"Turks always take cheese in their cigarettes," said the Bad Boy. "They get a smoke and food at the same time. But if you feel sick you can go out in the back yard and I will wait for you."

"No, I will be all right," said the old man, as he got up to wait on a customer. "Here, try a glass of my cider," and he handed the boy a dirty glass half filled with cider which the boy drank, and then looked queer at the old man.

"Tastes like it smells going through the oil belt in Indiana," said the boy. "What's in it?"

"Kerosene," said the old man. "The Turks like kerosene in their cider. They get drink and light, if they touch a match to their breath. Say, that makes us even. Now, tell me, what country did you dad get robbed the most in while you were abroad?"

"Well, it was about a stand off," said the boy, as he made a slip noose on the end of a piece of twine, and was trying to make a hitch over the bob tail of the groceryman's dog, with an idea of fastening a tomato can to the string a little later, and turning the dog loose. "Do you know," said he to the old man, "that I think it is wrong to cut off a dog's tail, cause when you tie a tin can to it you feel as though you were taking advantage of a cripple.

"Well, all the countries we visited robbed dad of all the money he had, one way of another, sooner or later; even our own country, when we arrived in New York, took his roll for duty on some little things he smuggled, but I think the combination of robbers at Carlsbad stuck together and got the goods off dad in the most systematic manner. Some way they got news when we arrived, of the exact amount of money dad had got out of the bank, and before we had breakfast the fakers had divided it up among themselves, and each one knew just what was going to be his share, and it was just like getting a check from home for them. If we were going there again we would give the money to some particular faker to divide with the rest, and then take a few swallows of their rotten egg water, and get out.

"Say, did you ever eat a piece of custard pie made out of stale eggs? Well, that is just about the same as the Carlsbad water, only the water is not baked with a raw crust on the bottom. But the doctor dad consulted was the peach. Dad asked him how much of the water he ought to drink, and the doctor held a counsel with himself, and said dad might drink all he could hold, and when dad asked him how much his charges were he said, 'Oh, wait till you are cured.' So dad thought he was not going to charge for his advice, but after we had drank the water for ten days, and dad was so weak he couldn't brush the flies off his bald spot, we decided to go to rest cure, and when we had our tickets bought the doctor attached our baggage, and had a bill against dad for four hundred and sixty dollars for consultations, operations, advice, board and borrowed money, and he had a dozen witnesses to prove every item. Dad paid it, but we are going there once more with a keg of dynamite for that doctor. But dad thinks he got the worth of his money.

"You remember before he went away he thought the doctors who operated on him for that 'pendecitus' left a monkey wrench in him when they sewed him up. Well, after he began to drink that water he found iron rust on the towels when he took a bath, and he believes the monkey wrench was sweat out of him. Say, does your dog like candy?"

"O, yes, he eats a little," said the grocery-man, and the boy tossed a piece of candy such as he gave the King of Spain, with cayenne pepper in it, to the dog, which swallowed it whole, and the old man said, "Now, I suppose your father is cured, you will stay at home for awhile, and settle down to decent citizenship, and take an active part in the affairs of your city and state? Gee, but what is the matter with the dog?" added the old man, as the dog jumped up on all fours, looked cross-eyed, and tried to dig a hole in his stomach with his hind leg.

"O, no, we shall never stay home much more," said the Bad Boy, getting up on a barrel and pulling his feet up to get away from the dog, which was beginning to act queer. "You see, dad got cured all right, of a few diseases that were carrying him off, but he has taken the 'jumps,' a disease that is incurable. When a man has the 'jumps' he can't stay long in one place, but his life after taking the disease is one continual round of packing up and unpacking. His literature is time cards and railroad guides, and his meals are largely taken at railroad eating houses, sitting on a stool, and his sleep is uncertain cat naps. Say, that dog acts as though the mouthful he took out of my pants under the counter didn't agree with him," added the boy, as the dog rolled over and tried to stand on his head.

"Dog does act kinder like he had something on his mind," said the old man, as he got out of the dog's way, so he could do his acrobatic stunt. "Where is your dad going next trip? Seems as though he would want to stay home long enough to change his shirt."

"Don't have to change your shirt when you travel," said the boy, as he slipped an imitation snake into the side pocket of the old groceryman's sack coat. "We are going to see all the world, now that we have started in the traveling industry, but our next move will be chasing ourselves around our own native land. Say, if you have never been vaccinated against mad dog, you better take something right now, for that dog is mad, and in about two minutes he is going to begin to snap at people, and there is no death so terrible as death from a mad dog bite. Gee, but I wouldn't be in your for a million dollars." And the boy stood upon the barrel, and was beginning to yell "mad dog," when the old man asked what he could take to make him immune from the bite of a mad dog.

"Eat a bottle of horseradish," said the boy, as he reached over to the shelves and got a bottle, and pulled the cork. "Eminent scientists agree that horseradish is the only thing that will get the system in shape to withstand and throw off the mad dog virus," and he handed the old man the bottle and he began to eat it, and cry, and choke, and the boy got down from the barrel and let the dog out doors, and he made a bee line for the lake.

"He's a water dog all right," said the boy, and as a servant girl came in to buy some soap, and saw the old man eating raw horseradish and choking and looking apoplectic, she asked what was the matter with the old man, and a boy said a mad dog just escaped from the store, and that the old man had shown signs of madness ever since; the girl gave a yell and rushed out into the world without her soap. "Let this be a lesson to you to be kind to dumb animals," said the boy to the old man, as he finished the bottle of horseradish, and put his hands on his stomach.

"Write to me, won't you?" said the old groceryman, "and may the fiercest grizzly bear get you, and eat you, condemn you," and the old man opened the door and pointed to the street.

"Sure," said the Bad Boy. "I will write you but beware of the dog. Good-bye. You are a good thing. Push yourself along," and the Bad Boy went out to pack up for another journey.



CHAPTER XI.

The Bad Boy Relates the Automobile Ride He and Dad Had—They Sneak Out of Town.

"Give me a package of your strongest breakfast food, and a big onion," said the Bad Boy, as he came into the grocery, looking as weak as a fever convalescent, "and I want to eat the onion right now."

"Well, that is a combination, sure enough," said the old groceryman, as he wrapped a package of breakfast food in a paper and watched the boy rub half an onion on a salt bag, and eat it greedily. "What is the matter with you to look so sick, and eat raw onion before breakfast?"

"Oh, it is this new-fashioned way of living that is killing little Hennery. When I lived at home before we used to have sassidge and pancakes for breakfast, roast meat for dinner and cold meat for supper, and dad was healthy as a tramp, ma could dance a highland fling, I could play all kinds of games and jump over a high board fence when anybody was chasing me. Now we have some kind of breakfast food three times a day because ma reads the advertisements, and dad is so weak he has to be helped to dress, ma goes moping around like a fashionable invalid, I am so tired I can't hit a window with a snowball, and the dog that used to fight cats now wants to lay in front of the grate and wish he was dead. Gosh, but there ought to be a law that any man that invents a new breakfast food should be compelled to eat it. Gee, but that onion gives a man strength."



"I should think so," said the old groceryman, as he took a rag and set it on fire and let the smoke purify the room. "But I suppose your folks are like a great many others who have quit eating meat on account of the meat trust, and are going to die in their tracks on health food. Is your dad going out today to get the fresh air and brace up for his next trip?"

"No, dad is going to stay in the house. He wants ma to get him a female trained nurse, but ma kicks. They had a trained nurse for a week, once, but ma had one of those little electric flash-lights that you touch a button and it lights up the room like a burglar was in the house, and she used to get up in the night and flash the light into dad's room. Dad always had nervous prostration after ma flashed the light, and the nurse fainted dead away, so ma and I are going to do the nursing until dad is strong enough to travel again, and then he and I skip."

"Where are you going first?" asked the old groceryman, as he opened the door to let the odor of onion, and burned rag out of the room. "What kind of treatment do the doctors advise to bring the old man around so he will be himself again?"

"They want him to go where he can take baths, and gamble, and attend horse races, and go into fast society, and maybe have a fight or two so as to stir his blood, and we have decided to take him first to the hot springs and turn him loose, and we are packing up now and shall go next week. They tell me that at the Arkansaw Hot Springs you can get into any kind of a scrape you want, and you don't have to look around for trouble. It comes to you. Oh, we won't do a thing down there. I broke the news to dad last night, and he said that was good enough for him, and he has packed up his poker chips and some marked cards he used to win money with from the deacons in the church, and he wants to go as quick as possible. You will have to excuse me now, for I am going to take dad out in an automobile after breakfast to give him his first dose of excitement. I will make dad think that automobiling is a sport next to fox hunting, and I will drop in this afternoon and tell you about it," and the Bad Boy took his breakfast food and went home.

"Jerusalem, but you are a sight," said the groceryman late in the afternoon, as the bad boy came in with a pair of black goggles on, his coat torn down the back and his pants ripped up the legs. "What a time you must have had in the automobile. Did you run over anybody?"

"Everybody," said the bad boy, as he pinned his trousers leg together with a safety pin. "There they go now with dad in a milk wagon. Say, these airships that run on the ground give a man all the excitement he needs."

"Hurry up and tell me about your automobile ride," said the groceryman as he brushed off the bad boy's clothes with an old blacking brush.

"Well, dad said he had never taken a ride in one of the devil wagons, though he had got a good deal of exercise the last year or two dodging them on the streets, but he said he was tickled to death to hear that I was an expert performer, and he would go out with me, and if he liked the sensation, he would buy one. The machine I hired was one of those doublets for two persons, one seat, you know, a runabout. It was a runabout all right. It run about eighteen miles in fifteen minutes. I got dad tucked in, and touched her on a raw spot, and we were off. I run her around town for a while on the streets that had no teams on, and dad was pleased. He said:

"'Hennery, I like a boy that knows something about machinery, and who knows what dingus to touch to make his machine do a certain thing, and I am proud of you.'

"We had to go through the business part of town, and dad looked around at the people on the streets that he knew, and he swelled up and tried to look as though he owned a brewery, and told me to let her out, and I thought if dad could stand it to let her out I could, so I pulled her open just as one of these station fruit venders with a hand cart was crossing the street. The cowcatcher in front caught the hand cart right in the middle and threw it into the air and it rained bananas and oranges, and the dago came down on his head and swore in Italian, and dad said, 'Good shot, Hennery,' and then the machine swung across the street and knocked the fender off a street car, and then I got her in the road straight and by gosh I couldn't stop her. Something had got balled up, and the more I touched things the faster she went. We frightened four teams and had three runaways, and the air seemed full of horses rearing up and drivers yelling for us to stop. One farmer with a load of hay would not give any of the road, and I guess his hay came in contact with the gasoline tank, for the hay took fire, his team ran away, and as we went over the hill I looked back and saw a fire engine trying to catch up with the red-hot load of hay, and the farmer had grabbed hold of a wire sign across the street and let the wagon run out from under him, and they had to take him down with a fire ladder.



"We kept going faster, and dad began to get frightened and asked me to slow up, but I couldn't. We must have got in the country about eight miles, and dad was getting scared, and his face was just the color of salt pork, and he said:

"'Hennery, this excursion is going to wind up in a tragedy, and if I die I want you to have a post-mortem examination made, just to see if I am right about those doctors leaving that monkey wrench in me. For heaven's sake make the machine jump that fence, for here comes a drove of cattle in the road, more'n a hundred horned steers, and we never can pass them alive.'"

"Gee, but when I saw those cattle ahead and the machine running away, I tried to pray, and then I steered her towards an old rail fence that looked as though it was rotten, and then there was a crash, the air was full of rails, and dad said, 'This is no hurdle race,' and we landed in a field where there was an old hard snow bank. She went up on the side, hit the frozen snow, turned a summersault, the gasoline tank exploded and I didn't remember anything till some farmers that were spreading manure in the field turned me over with a pitchfork and asked me who the old dead man was standing on his head in the snow bank with his plug hat around his neck. As soon as I came to I went to dad, and he was just coming out of a trance, and asked him if he didn't think a little excitement sort of made the sluggish blood circulate, and he looked at the blood on the snow, and said he thought there was no doubt about the circulation of his blood.



"He got up, got his hat untangled, told the farmers he was obliged to them for their courtesy and then he called me one side and said:

"'Hennery, this attempt on your part to murder me was not the success that you expected, but you keep on and you will get me all right. Now, as a business man, I want to say we have got to get out of this town to-night or we will be arrested and sent to the penitentiary; besides, I will have to pay a thousand dollars damage at the least calculation. Get me a carriage for home, and you stay and set this machine on fire and skip back to town in time for the evening train south, and we will go where the climate is more genial.'

"Just then the steers we saw in the road came into the field through the fence we had broken, and when they smelled the blood they began to paw and beller, and look like they would run at dad, so the farmers got dad into a milk wagon that was going to town, and when the wagon started dad was pouring a cup of milk on him where the gasoline had scorched him when it exploded, and I walked in town helping the fellows drive the steers, and here I am, alive and ready to travel at 8 p. m.



"If my chum comes around tell him I will write him from Hot Springs and give him the news."

"If that don't beat anything I ever heard of," said the old grocery man. "I have always been afraid of those automobiles, and when one of the horns blow I go in the first gate, say my prayers and wait for it to go by and run over some one farther down the block. Did your dad say anything about buying an automobile after he came to?"

"Yes, as I remember it, he said he would see me in h—- first, or something like that. He remarked, as he got in the milk wagon, that every man that owned an automobile ought to be examined by an insanity expert and sent to the penitentiary for letting concealed weapons carry him.

"Well, good-by, old man," and the bad boy went limping out of the grocery to go home and tell his mother that he and dad had been scoring up for the good time they were going to have when they got out on the road for dad's health.



CHAPTER XII.

The Bad Boy Writes His Chum Not to Get So Gay—Dad's Experience with the Pecarries.

"Hot Springs, Ark.—My dear old chum: Dad and I got here three days ago, and have begun to enjoy life. We didn't leave home a minute too soon, as we would have been arrested for running over that banana peddler, and for arson in setting a load of hay on fire and destroying the farmer's pants in our automobile accident. Ma writes that a policeman and a deputy sheriff have camped on our front doorstep ever since we left, waiting for dad and I to show up. Dad wants me to tell you to notify the officers that they can go plum, as we shall never come back. Tell them we have gone to Panama, or Mexico, or any old place.

"By the way, kid, I shall have to give you a little fatherly advice. When dad and I were at the bank getting a wad to travel with, I asked one of the clerks how it was that the bank dispensed with your services, after you had been there nearly a year, and had got your salary up to $60 a month, and were just becoming worth your salt. He said you got too fresh, that every new responsibility that was put upon you caused your chest to swell, and that you walked around as though you were president of the bank, and that you got ashamed to carry your lunch to the bank, to eat it in the back room, but went out to a restaurant and ordered the things to eat that came under the 15-cent list, whether you liked the food or not, just to show off; and instead of quietly eating the wholesome lunch your mother put up for you, and being good natured, you ate the restaurant refuse, and got cross, and all for style, showing that you had got the big head; and that you demanded an increase of salary, like a walking delegate, and got fired, as you ought to have been; and now you are walking on your uppers, and are ashamed to look into the bank, which you think is going to fail because you have withdrawn your support. Dad arranged with the managers to take you back on probation, so you go and report for duty just as though you had been off on a vacation, and then you try and have some sense. Dad says you should get to the bank before you are expected, and stay a little while after it is time to quit, and don't watch the clock and get your coat on before it strikes, and don't make a center rush for the door, as though you were escaping from jail. Let those above you see that there is not enough for you to do, and that you are anxious to help all around the place. Look upon a bale of money just as you would look upon a bale of hay if you were working in a feed store, and don't look covetous upon a pile of bills, and wonder how much there is in it, and think how much you could buy with it if it was yours. It is just a part of the business, that pile of money is, and it is not your place to brood over it with venom in your eyes, or some day you will reach out and take a little, and look guilty, and if they don't find you out, you will take a bigger slice next time, and go and blow yourself for clothes as good as the president of the bank wears, and some night you will open a small bottle of wine, and put your thumbs in the arm-holes of your vest and imagine you are 'it,' and when you flash your roll to pay the score, the quiet man at another table in the saloon, who has been drinking pop, and whom you were sorry for, he looked so forlorn, will take you into the police station, and they will search you, and you will break down and blubber, and then it is all off, and the next day you will be before a judge, and your broken-hearted mother will be there trying to convince the judge that somebody must have put the money in your pocket to ruin you, some one jealous of your great success as a banker, but the judge will know how you came by the money, and you will go over the road, your mother goes to the grave, and your friends will say it is a pity about you.



"Men who employ boys know that half of them will never amount to a tinker's dam, a quarter of them will just pass muster, and if they can't run the place in a year they will find another job, and two out of the 20 will be what are needed in the business. The boy who is always looking for another job is the one that never finds one that suits him. The two boys out of the twenty will seem to look a little rustier each year as to clothes but their round, rosy faces will change from year to year, the jaws begin to show strength, the eyes get to looking through you, and the forehead seems to expand as the brain gets to working.

"The successful boys out of the bunch remind me of the automatic repeating rifle, that you put ten cartridges in and pull the trigger and shoot ten times with your eyes shut, if you want to, and it hits where you point it. Every time an employer pulls the trigger on a successful business boy, and a good idea of business is fired, the recoil puts a new idea into the chamber, and you pull again, and so on until the magazine of the brainy boy is emptied, when you load him up again, and he is ready for business, and the employer wouldn't be without him, and would not go back to the old-fashioned one-idea boy, that goes off half-cocked when not pointed at anything in particular, and whose ideas get stuck in the barrel and have to be pulled out with a wormer, and primed with borrowed powder, and touched off by the neighbors, most of whom get powder in their eyes, unless they look the other way when the useless employee goes off, for anything in the world. So, chum, you go back to the bank and become an automatic repeater in business, with ideas to distribute to others, instead of borrowing ideas, and you will own the bank some day.



"Now, kid, you don't want to go peddling this around among the neighbors, but dad and I are having the time of our lives here, and since dad has begun to get acquainted with the ladies here at the hotel, and the millionaire sports, he is getting well, and acts like old times. He sat in the parlor of the hotel with a widow the first night until the porter had to tell him to cut it out. Say, I got asleep three or four times on a lounge in the parlor, waiting for dad to get to the 'continued in our next' in talking with that widow about his wealth, and his loneliness since ma died. He said he didn't know what he was worth, because he didn't pay any attention to any of his bonds and securities, except his Standard Oil stock, because the dividends on that stock came regular and increased a little every quarter.

Gee, but I wanted to tell her that all the interest he had in Standard Oil was a gallon kerosene can with a potato stuck in the spout, and when we went to bed I told him that woman's husband was behind the door of the parlor all the time listening, and he had a gun in his hip pocket, and would call him out for a duel the next morning, sure. Dad didn't sleep good that night, and the next morning I got a gambler to look cross at dad and size him up, and dad didn't eat any breakfast. After breakfast I had the hotel stenographer write a challenge to dad, and demand satisfaction for alienating the affections of his wife, and dad began to get weak in the knees. He showed me the challenge, and I told him the only way to do in this climate was to walk around and punch his cane on the floor, and look mad, and talk loud, and the challenger would know he was a fiery fighter, and would apologize, and dad walked around town and through the hotel office most of the day, fairly frothing at the mouth, and he thinks he has scared the challenger away, and, as the woman is gone, dad thinks he is a hero.

"But the worst thing has happened and it will take a week to grow new skin on dad's legs. He got acquainted with a bunch of men who were bear hunters and sports, and they talked of the bear shooting in Arkansas, and dad told about how he had killed tigers, lions, elephants and things until they thought he was great. Dad never saw one of those animals except in a menagerie, but when they suggested that he go with them on a bear hunt, he bit like a bass, and the whole bunch went off in a buckboard one morning with guns, lunches, hounds, bottles, and all kinds of ammunition. They didn't let me go but when the crowd came back about midnight, and they carried dad up to his room, and sent for a doctor, one of the horse race men who went along told me all about it.



"He said they went out in a canebrake and stationed dad on a runway for bear, and put in the dogs about a mile away in the swamp, and they left him there for five hours, and when they went to where he was, there was a drove of wild hogs, or peccaries, under a tree, and dad was up, on a limb praying, his gun on the ground; his coat was chewed by the wild pigs, and the wild animals were jumping up to eat his shoes. The fellows hid behind trees and listened to dad confess his sins, and pray, and promise to do better, and be a good man, and when a wild pig would gnash his teeth and make a jump at him, he would talk swear words at the pig, and then he would put up his hands and ask forgiveness, and promise to lead a different life, and say what a fool he was to be off down here in the sunny south being eaten alive by wild hogs, when he ought to be home enjoying religion. Just as dad was about to die there on the limb of a shagbark hickory, the fellows behind the trees touched off a small dynamite cartridge and threw it under the tree, and when it exploded the wild hogs ran away, dad fell off the limb, and he was rescued. He was a sight, for sure, when they brought him to the hotel; his clothes were torn off, his stomach lacerated, and when he was stuck together with plasters, and I was alone with him, he said he was as good a bear hunter as ever came down the pike, but he never worked in a slaughter house, and didn't know anything about slaughtering pigs, and besides, if he ever got out again, and able to use a gun, he would put that bunch of hunters that took him out in the canbrakes under the sod. He said while he sat up the tree praying for strength to endure the ordeal he had a revelation that there wasn't a bear within a hundred miles, and that those fellows had the hogs trained to scare visitors to Hot Springs, so they could be easy to rob. He said one fellow borrowed $50 off him to pay into the state treasury for wear and tear on the wild hogs. Well, dad had forgotten about the monkey-wrench in his system, and I guess we are going to enjoy ourselves here in the old-fashioned way. Yours all right,

"Hennery."



CHAPTER XIII.

The Bad Boy and His Dad Have Trouble with a New Breakfast Food— Dad Rides a Bucking Broncho.

San Antonio, Texas.—My Dear Chum: Dad and I left Hot Springs because the man who kept the hotel where we stopped got prejudiced against me. I suppose I did carry the thing a little too far. You see dad has got into this breakfast food habit, and reads all the advertisements that describe new inventions of breakfast food, and he has got himself so worked up over the bran mash that he is losing appetite for anything substantial, and he is getting weak and nutty. Ma told me when I went away with dad that she wanted me to try my best to break dad of the breakfast food habit, and I promised to do it. Say, kid, if you ever expect to succeed in life, you have got to establish a reputation for keeping your promises. Truth is mighty, and when anybody can depend upon a boy to do as he agrees his fortune is made. Dad saw a new breakfast food advertised in an eastern magazine, and as the hotel people only kept thirty or forty kinds of mockingbird food for guests, dad made me go out to the groceries and round up the new kind. I brought a box to the table at breakfast, and dad fell over himself to fill his saucer, and then he offered some to eight boarders that sat at our table. Dad had been bragging for a week about how he had adopted the breakfast food fad, first for his health, and then to get even with the beef trust. He had convinced the boarders at our table that it was a patriotic duty of every citizen to shut down on eating meat until the criminal meat trust was ruined.



"The breakfast food I put up on dad was some pulverized cork that I got at a grocery out of a barrel of California grapes. It looked exactly like other breakfast food, but you'd a died to see dad and several invalid Southern colonels, and two women who were at the table, pour cream on that pulverized cork, and springle sugar on it, and try to get the pulverized cork to soak up the cream, but the particles of cork floated on top of the cream, and acted alive. An old confederate colonel, who had called dad a dam yankee ever since we had been there, and always acted as though he was on the point of drawing a gun, took the first mouthful, and after chewing it a while he swallowed as though his throat was sore, but he got it down, and ordered a cocktail, and looked mad at dad. Dad noticed that the others were having difficulty in masticating the food, and so he pitched in and ate his food and said it was the finest he ever tasted, but the rest of the crowd only took a spoonful or two, and et fruit. One woman who is there to be cured of the habit of betting on the races, got the cork in amongst her false teeth and it squeaked when she chewed, like pulling a cork out of a beer bottle. They all seemed to want to please dad, and so they munched away at the cork, until the woman with the false teeth had to leave the table, then a colonel went out, and then all quit the table except dad and I, and by that time dad felt as though he had swallowed a life preserver, and he said to me:

"'Hennery, either the baths or the climate, or something has upset me, and I feel as though your dad was not very long for this world. Before I die I want you to confess to me what that stuff is that I have been eating, and I can die in peace!'

"I told him that he had wanted a light breakfast, and I though there was nothing quite so light as cork, and that he was full clear to the muzzle with pulverized cork, and he couldn't sink any more when he took a bath. Dad turned pale and we went out in the office and found that all the people who sat at our table, and ate breakfast food were in the hands of doctors, and dad went in the room with them, and each had a doctor, and how they got it out of them I don't know, as I was busy organizing a strike among the bell boys. I told them they could double their wages by striking at exactly at ten o'clock, when all the boarders wanted cocktails sent to their rooms.



"They struck all right, and the breakfast food people had all got pumped out, and then it came my turn. Dad gave me a licking, the boarders kicked at me, the landlord ordered me out of the house, and the striking bell boys who had their places filled in ten minutes, chased me all over town, and when I got back to the hotel dad had bought tickets to San Antonio, because the doctor told him to get out on the prairies and take horseback exercise to shake the pulverized cork and the monkey-wrench out of his system, and everybody threw stones at the buss that we rode to the depot in. Gosh, but I hate a town where genius has no chance against the mob element. The worst was that woman with the false teeth, because she lost them somewhere, and had to hold her handkerchief over her mouth while she called me names when the porter took me by the collar and the pants and flung me into the buss. Dad told the porter, when he handed out the regular 'tip,' that he would have made it large if the porter had taken an axe to me. Dad is getting so funny he almost makes me laugh.

"Well, kid, we arrived here next day, and got acclimated before night. Dad bought a wide gray cowboy hat, with a leather strap for a band, and began to pose as a regular old rough rider, and told everybody at the hotel that he was going to buy a ranch, and run for congress. Everybody here is willing a northern man should buy a ranch, but when he talks about running for Congress they look sassy at him, but dad can look just as sassy as anybody here. He told all around that he was a cavalry veteran of the war, and wanted to get a horse to ride that would stir up his patriotic instincts and his liver, and all his insides, and a real kind man steered dad to a livery stable, and I knew by the way the natives winked at each other that they were going to let him have a horse that would jounce him all right.

"They saddled up a real nice pony for me, but when they led out the horse for dad I knew that trouble was coming. The horse was round shouldered on the back, and when they put the saddle on the horse humped up and coughed most pitiful, and when they fastened the cinch the horse groaned and the crowd all laughed, A negro boy asked me if my old man was ever on a horse before, and when I told him that dad had eaten horses in the army, the boy said that horse would eat him, 'cause he was a bucker from Buckersville in the western part of the state.



I told dad the horse was a dangerous bucker, but he tipped his hat on one side and said he had broken more bucking bronchos than those Texas livery men ever saw. Dad borrowed a pair of these Mexican spurs with a wheel in them as big as a silver dollar, and the men held the horse by the bridle while dad got on, and I must say he got on like he knew how. He asked which was the road to Houston, and we started out of town.

"Well, sir, I have been in a good many runaways, and I was filling a soda fountain once when it exploded, and I have been on a toboggan when it run into a cow, and I have been to a church sociable when a boy turned some rats loose, and a terrier went after them right among the women, but I never was so paralyzed as I was to see dad and that horse try to stay together. The first two miles out of town the horse walked, and acted as though it was going to die, and my pony would get away ahead and have to wait for dad and the camel to come up. Dad was mad because they gave him such a slow horse.

"'What are those things on your heels for?' I says to dad. 'Why don't you run the spokes into his slats?' I said, just to be sociable.

"'Never you mind me,' says dad. 'After I have looked at the scenery a while I will open the throttle on this dromedary, and we will go and visit the Pyramids.'

"I was a little ahead and I did not catch dad in the act of kicking open the throttle, but I heard something that sounded like a freight train wreck, and dad and the horse went by me like a horse race, only that horse was not on the ground half the time, and he didn't go straight ahead, but just lowered his head between his legs and jumped in the air and came down stifflegged and then jumped sideways, and changed ends and did it all over again, all over the prairie, and dad was a sight. His eyes stuck out, and his teeth rattled, and every time the horse came down on his feet dad seemed to get shorter, as though his spine was being telescoped up into his hat. I think dad would have fallen off the first jump, only he had rammed the spurs in amongst the horse's ribs, and couldn't get them out. Gee, but you never saw such actions, unless you have seen a horse go plum crazy. The horse kept giving dad new fancy side steps, and jumps until dad yelled to me to get a gun and shoot him or the horse, and he didn't care which. I yelled to dad to loosen up on the bridle, and let the horse run lengthways instead of sideways, and I guess he did, for the horse lit out for some musquite trees and before I could get there the horse had run under a limb and scraped dad off, and when I got there dad was lying under a tree, trying to pray and swear all to wonst, and his spurs were all blood and hair, and things a horse wears on the inside of his self, and the horse was standing not far away, eating grass, and looking at dad. If dad had had his revolver along he would have killed the horse, but the horse seemed to know he had been fooling with an unarmed man. I got dad righted up, and he rode my pony to town, and I had to lead the bucking horse, and he eat some of the cloth out of my pants.



"Say, this is a bully place down here; just as quiet and sunshiny as can be, only dad is in a hospital for a week or so, having operations on where the horse let him drop once in a while on the saddle, and the livery man made dad buy the horse 'cause he said dad had ripped his sides out with the spurs. Dad says we will have a picnic when he gets out of the hospital. He is going to buy some dynamite and take the horse out on the prairie and blow him up. Dad is so fond of dumb animals. I got your letter about your being in love. Gee, but you can't afford it on your salary.

"Yours quite truly, "HENNERY."



CHAPTER XIV.

The Bad Boy and his Dad Return from Texas—The Boy Tells the Groceryman About the Excitement at San Antonio.

The old groceryman sat on an up-turned half bushel measure in front of the store drying his old-fashioned boots. As he fried the soles in front of the red hot stove, there was an odor of burnt leather, but he did not notice it, as the other odors natural to the dirty old grocery seemed to be in the majority. The door opened quietly and the old man got up to wait on a possible customer, when the bald boy rushed in and dropped on the floor the queerest animal the old man and the cat had ever seen. The cat got up on the counter on a pile of brown wrapping paper, curved its back and purmeyowed, and the strange animal jumped into a half barrel of dried apples and began to dig with all four feet, as though to make a bed to lie in.

"Take that animalcule, or whatever it is, out of them apples," said the old groceryman, picking up a fire-poker. "What is it, and where did it come from, and when did you get back, and how is your pa, and why didn't you stay away, and what do you want here anyway?" and the old man eyed the animal and the bad boy, expecting to be bitten by one and bilked by the other.

"That's a prairie dog from Texas, if you are not posted in ornicothology," said the boy, as he took the prairie dog up and put him on the counter near the cat. "Dad is all right, only we were driven out of Texas by the board of health."

"I told that pirate chum of yours when he read me your letter, that you would last in Texas just about a week, and that you would be shipped home in a box. They are not as tolerant with public nuisances down south as we are here. But what did you do there to get the board of health after you?" and the old man pushed the cat's back down level, and held her tail so she couldn't eat the prairie dog.

"Well, sir, it was the condemnedest outrage that ever was," said the boy, as he gave the prairie dog some crackers and cheese. "You see, dad told me I could pick up some pet animals while I was in Texas, and I got quite a collection while dad was in the hospital. Here is one in my pocket," and the boy took a horned toad out of his pocket, about as big as a soft-shelled crab, and put it in the old groceryman's hand.



"Condemn you, don't you put a poisonous reptile in my hand," said the odd man, as he dropped the ugly-looking toad on the floor, and got behind the show case, while the boy laughed fit to kill. "Now tell your story and vamoose, by ginger, or I will ring for the patrol wagon. You would murder a man in his own house, and laugh at his spasms."

"O, get out, that toad and this prairie dog are as harmless as your old cat there," said the boy, as he watched the old man tremble as though he had jim-jams. "I have got a tarantula and a diamond-back rattlesnake that will pizen you, though. I'll tell you about our getting fired out of Texas, if you will stand still a minute. You see, I had my collection of pets in my room at the hotel, and I had the bell boys bribed, and the chambermaid would only come in our room while I was there to watch the pets. The night dad got back from the hospital, where he went to grow some new bones and things on his insides, after he rode the bucking broncho, a man got me the prettiest little animal you ever saw, sort of white and black, about the size of a cat, and I took it to the room and put it under the bed in a box the man gave me. Dad had gone to bed, and was snoring so you could cut it with a knife."

"Say, you knew that animal was a skunk all the time, now tell me, didn't you," said the old groceryman. "You was a fool to take it, when you knew what a skunk will do."

"Yes, I thought it was a skunk, all right," said the boy, "but the man told me the animal had been vaccinated, and wouldn't ever make any trouble for any one, and he would warrant it. I thought a warranted skunk was all right, and so I went to bed in a cot next to dad's bed. I guess it was about daylight when skunks want to suck eggs, that he began to scratch the box, and squeak, and I was afraid it would wake dad up, so I reached down and took off the cover of the box. From that very identical moment the trouble began. Dad heard something in the room and he rose up in bed and the animal sat on the foot of the bed and looked at dad. Dad said 'scat,' and threw a pillow at my pet, and then all was chaos. I never exactly smelled chaos, but I know it when I smell it. O, O, but you'd a dide to see dad. He turned blue and green, and said, 'Hennery, someone has opened a jack pot, call for the police!' I rushed for the indicator where you ring for bell boys, and cocktails, and things, and touched all the buttons, and then got in bed and pulled a quilt over my head, and dad went into a closet where my snakes and things were, and the vaccinated skunk kept on doing the same as he did to dad, and I though I should die. Dad heard my snake rattle his self in the box, and he stepped on my prairie dog and yelled murder, and he got into my box of horned toads, and my young badger scratched dad's bare feet, and a young eagle I had began to screech, and dad began to have a fit. He said the air seemed fixed, and he opened the window, and sat on the window sill in his night shirt, and a fireman came up a ladder from the outside and turned the hose on dad, then the police came and broke in the door, and the landlord was along, and the porter, and all the chambermaids, and everybody. I had turned in all the alarms there were, and everybody came quick. The skunk met the policemen halfway, and saluted them as polite as could be, and they fell back for reinforcements; dad got into his pants and yelled that he was stabbed, and I don't know what didn't happen. Finally the policemen got my skunk under a blanket and walked on him, and he was squashed, but, by gosh, they can never use that blanket again, and I told 'em so."



"It's a wonder they didn't put a blanket over you and kill you too," said the old groceryman, as he moved away from the horned toad, which the boy had placed on the counter. "What did they do to you then? What way did your dad explain it? How long did you remain at the hotel after that?"

"We didn't stay hardly any after that," said the boy, as he pushed the prairie dog along the counter toward the groceryman's cat, hoping to get them to fighting. "The landlord said we dam yankees were too strenuous for his climate, and if we didn't get out of the house in fifteen minutes he would get a gun and see about it, and he left two policemen to see that we got away. Dad tried to argue the question with the landlord, after all the windows had been opened in the house. He said he had come to Texas for a quiet life, to get away from the climate of the north, but he had no idea any landlord would turn animals into a gentleman's room, and he would sue for damages; but the bluff did not work, and we left San Antonio on a freight train, under escort of the police, and the board of health. Say, that freight train smelled like it had a hot box, but nobody suspected us. When we got most to New Orleans dad said, 'Hennery, I hope this will be a lesson to you,' and I told him two more such lessons would kill his little boy dead."



"What did you do with your clothes?" said the groceryman, as he snuffed around, as though he thought he could smell something.

"O, we bought new clothes in New Orleans, and let our old ones out of the window of a hotel with a rope. A man picked them up, and they sent him to the quarantine for smallpox patients. O, we came out all right, but it was a close call. Say, I bet this prairie dog can lick your cat in a holy minute," and the boy pushed the dog against the cat, said "sik em," and the cat scratched the dog, the dog yelled and bit the cat, the cat run up the shelves, over the canned goods, and tipped over some bottles of pickles, and the old groceryman got crazy, while the boy took his prairie dog under his arm, and his horned toad in his hand and started to go out.

"I'll drop in some day and have some fun with you," says the boy.

"If you do I will stab you with a cheese knife," said the groceryman as he picked up the broken glass.



CHAPTER XV.

The Bad Boy's Joke with a Stuffed Rattlesnake—He Tells the Old Groceryman About his Dad's Morbid Appetite.

The old groceryman was sitting on the counter, with his legs stretched lengthwise, his heels resting on a sack of flour, and his back against a pile of wrapping paper, his eyes closed, his pipe gone out, and the ashes sifting from it on the cat that was asleep in his lap. He was waiting for a customer to come in and buy something to start the day's business. He had sprinkled the floor and swept the dirt up in a corner, and he was sleepy. There was a crash in front of the door, a barrel of axe handles and garden tools had been tipped over on the sidewalk, the door opened with a jerk and closed with a slam, and the bad boy came in with a long paper bax, perforated with holes, slammed it on the counter beside the groceryman's legs, and yelled:

"Wake up, Rip Van Winkle, the day of judgment has come, and you are still buried. You get a move on you or the procession will go off and leave you. Say, are you afraid of rattlesnakes?" and the bad boy shook the paper box, when an enormous rattle came from within, as though a snake had shaken its tail good and plenty.

"Great Scott, boy, I believe you have got a rattlesnake in that box," and he jumped off the counter and grabbed an iron fire poker, while the boy got out his knife to cut the string on the box. "Now, look here, I am suffering from nervous prostration, and a snake turned loose in this store would settle it with me. I am at your mercy, but by the holy smoke, if I am bitten by that snake I will kill you and your old snake. Now take that box out of here," and the old man picked up a hatchet and got behind a barrel.

"Well, wouldn't that skin you," said the bad boy, as he sharpened his knife on a piece of old cheese, and felt of the edge. "Here you have been telling me for years what a brave man you were, and how you were not afraid of anything that wore hair, and now you have fits because a little five-foot rattlesnake, with only ten rattles on, makes a formal call on you. Gee, but you are a squaw. Why, there is no danger in the bite of a rattlesnake, since science has taken the matter up. All you got to do, when a snake bites you and you begin to turn black, is to drink a couple of quarts of whisky, and bind a poultice of limberg cheese on the wound, and go to bed for a week or ten days, and you come out all right," and the bad boy began to cut the string.

"Now, let up until I wait on these customers," said the old man, as he went to the door and let in a committee of women who were to buy some supplies for a church sociable. The women lined up on each side of the store, looking at the canned things on the shelves, and the old man was trying to be polite, when the bad boy opened the box and laid on the floor a stuffed rattlesnake that was as natural as life, and touched a rattle box in his pocket, and the trouble began. The women saw the snake curled up, ready to spring, and they all went through the door at once, tipping over everything that was loose, and screaming, while the old man, when he saw the snake, got into the front show window and trembled and yelled for the police. A policeman rushed in the store and when he saw the snake he backed out of the door, and the bad boy sat down on a box and began to eat some raisins out of a box, as though he was not particularly interested in the commotion.

"Arrest that boy with the snake," said the groceryman.

"Come out of that wid your menagerie," said the policeman, shaking his club.



"Come in and get the snake if you want it," said the boy, "I don't want it any more, anyway," and he took the stuffed snake up by the head and laid it across his lap, and began to shake the rattles, and laugh at the groceryman and the policeman, and the crowd that had collected in front of the store. The policeman came in laughing, and the old groceryman crawled out of the show window, and all breathed free again, and finally the policeman went and drove the crowd away, and went on his beat again, after shaking his club at the boy; the groceryman, the snake and the cat remained in the store. The groceryman took a swig out of a bottle of whisky, to settle his nerves, and the took up his snake and pushed it towards the cat, which ran up a stepladder and yowled.

"Do you know, I kind of like you," said the old groceryman, as he went up behind the bad boy and took him by the throat, "and I think it would be a great thing for the community if I should just choke you to death. You are worse than a mad dog, and you are just ruining my business."

"I will give you just ten seconds to take you hand off my neck," said the bad boy, pulling out a dollar watch, "and when the time is up, and you have not let loose of me, I will turn loose a couple of live snakes I have in my pocket, and some tarantulas, and you will probably be bitten and swell up like a poisoned pup, and die under the counter."

"All right, let's be friends," said the old man, as he let go of the bad boy. "If your parents and the rest of the community can stand having you around, alive, probably it is my duty to be a martyr, and stand my share, but you are very trying to the nerves. By the way, put that confounded stuffed snake in the ice box, and sit down here and tell me something. I saw your father on the street yesterday, and he is a sight. His stomach is twice as big around as it was, and he looks troubled. What has got into him?"

"Well, I'll tell you, dad has got what they call a morbid appetite. Whatever you do, old skate, don't you ever get a morbid appetite."

"What is a morbid appetite?" asked the old man; as he peeled a banana and began to eat it. "I can always eat anything that is not tied down, but I don't know about this morbid business."

"Scientists say a morbid appetite is one that don't know when it has got enough. Dad likes good things, but he wants all there is on the table. Now, at New Orleans, before we came home, dad and I went in a restaurant to get some oysters, and you know the oysters there are the biggest in the world. When we got there dad was hungry, and the thought of raw oysters on the half shell made him morbid. He had a blue point appetite, and ordered four dozen on the half shell, for himself, and one dozen for me. Well, you would have dropped dead in your tracks if you had been there. Six waiters brought on the five dozen oysters, and each oyster was as big as a pie plate. Six dozen oysters would cover this floor from the door to the ice box. Dad almost fainted when he saw them, but his pride was at stake, and he made up his mind if he didn't eat them all the waiters would think he was a tenderfoot, and so he started in. The first oyster was as big as a calf's liver, and nobody but a sword swallower could ever have got it down. Dad cut one oyster into quarters, and got away with it, and after a while he murdered another, and after he had eaten three he wanted to go home and leave them. Then is the time his little boy got in his work. I told dad that if he didn't eat all the oysters the waiters and the people would mob him, that it was a deadly offense to order oysters and not eat them, and that they would probably kill us both before we got out of the place. He said, 'Hennery, I don't like oysters like I used to, and it seems to me I couldn't eat another one to save my life, but if, as you say, we are in a country where a man's life is held so cheaply, by the great horn spoons, I will eat every oyster in the house, and the Lord have mercy on me.' I told him that was about the size of it, and he would eat or die, and maybe he would die anyway, and just then a wicked-looking negro with a big oyster knife came to the table and looked ugly at dad and said, 'Have another dozen?' and dad said, 'Yes,' and then he began to eat as though his life depended on it, and I could hear the great wads of oysters strike with a dull thud on exposed places inside of dad, and before he got up from the table he had eaten them all, and he told the man we would be in again to lunch after awhile. Dad is the bravest man I ever saw, and don't you forget it. He would have come out all right, I suppose, and lived, if it hadn't been for his devilish morbid appetite for travel and adventure. Quick as we got out of the oyster place dad wanted to take a steamboat ride down the river to the Eades Jetties at the mouth of the river, and we went on board, and had a nice ride down to the mouth. After we had looked over the jetties where Eades made an artificial canal big enough for the largest ocean steamers to come up to New Orleans, the passengers wanted the captain to run the boat outside the bar, into the blue ocean, where the waves come from. Gee, but I hope I may live long enough to forget the ride. We hadn't got a boat's length outside the bar before the boat began to roll and toss, and I held on to dad's hand, and wished I was dead. I told him my little tummy ached, and I wanted a lemon. Dad said my little tummy, with its three oysters in it, was not worth mentioning, and told me to look at him. Talk about your Mount Pelee, and your Vesuvius, those volcanoes were tame and uninteresting, compared to dad, leaning over the railing, and shouting words at the sharks in the water. Why? he just doubled up like a jack knife, one minute, and then straightened up like an elephant standing on its hind legs in a circus, the next minute, and he kept saying, 'Ye-up,' and all the passengers said 'poor man.' I told them he was not so poor, for he owned a brewery at home. Dad finally went to sleep with his arm and head over the rail, and his body hanging limp, down on deck. The boat turned around and went back into the mouth of the river, and the passengers were thanking the captain for giving them such a lovely ride, when I thought I would wake dad up, and so I touched him on the shoulder and asked him if he didn't want a few dozen more raw oysters, and he yelled murder, and began to have hydrophobia again, and bump himself. You know the way people do when they are dissatisfied with the medicine the doctor gives. Well, we got back to New Orleans, and dad took a hack to the hotel, and told the driver not to pass any saloon where there were oyster shells on the sidewalk. We came home next day. Well, I guess I will get my snake out of the ice box, and go home and comfort dad. But wait a minute till that Irishman puts that chunk of ice in the ice box, and see if he notices the snake." Just then there was a sound as if a house had fallen, a two hundred pound cake of ice struck the floor, and the Irishman came running through the grocery with his ice tongs waving, and yelling, "There's a rattlesnake in yer ice box, mister, and ye can go to h—l for yer ice." The groceryman looked at the boy, and the boy looked at the groceryman, the cat looked at both, the boy took his snake under his arm and went out, and the old man said:



"Well, you are the limit. Call again, and bring an anaconda, and a man-eating tiger," and he went and scraped up the ice.



CHAPTER XVI.

The Bad Boy Tells the Story of the Bears in Yellowstone Park and How Brave Dad Was.

The old groceryman was down on his knees, with a wet cloth, swabbing up something from the floor with one hand, while he held his nose with the other, his back toward the door, when suddenly the door opened with a bank, striking the old man in the back, knocking him over and landing him with his head in a basket of strictly fresh eggs, breaking at least a dozen of them, and filling the air with an odor that was unmistakable; and the bad boy followed the door into the grocery.

"What's your notion of taking a nap, with a basket of stale eggs for a pillow," said the bad boy, as he took the old man by the arm and raised him up, and looked at him with a grin that was tantalizing. "What is it, sewer gas? My, but the board of health won't do a thing to you if the inspector happens in here. Those eggs must have been mislaid by a hen that had a diseased mind," and the bad boy took a bottle of cologne out of the show case and began to sprinkle the floor, and squirted some of it on the old man's clothes.

"Say, do you know I bought those eggs of a man dressed like a farmer, who came in here yesterday with his pants in his boots, and smelling as though he had just come out of his cow stable?" said the old groceryman, as he took a piece of coffee sack and wiped yellow egg off his whiskers. "And yet they are old enough to attend caucuses. I tell you that you have got to watch a farmer the same as you do a crook, or he will get the best of you. And to think I sold four dozen of those eggs to a church sociable committee that is going to make ice cream for a celebration to- night. But what in thunder do you come in here for, like a toboggin, and knock me all over the floor, into eggs, when you could come in gently and save a fellow's life; and me a sick man, too. Ever since that explosion, when we tried to see how they blow up battleships, I have had nervous prostration, and I am just about sick of this condemned foolishness. I like to keep posted on current events, and want to learn how things are going on outside in the world, and I realize that for an old man to associate with a bright boy like you keeps him young, but, by ginger, when I think how you have done me up several times, I sometimes think I better pick out a boy that is not so strenuous, so you can tell your Pa I rather he wouldn't trade here any more, for him to keep you away from here. It is hard on me, I know, but life is dear to all of us, and the life insurance company that I am contributing to has notified me that if I don't quit having you around they will cancel my policy. Now, you may say farewell, and get out of here forever, and I will try and pull along with the cat, and such boys as come in here to be sociable. Go on now," and the old groceryman threw the eggs out in the alley, and washed his whiskers at the sink.



"Oh, I guess not," said the boy, as he sat down on a tin cracker box and began to eat figs out of a box. "I know something about the law myself, and if you drive me away, you could be arrested for breach of promise, and arson, and you would go to the penitentiary. It was all I could do to make the police believe you didn't set this old shebang afire to get the insurance, and my being here has drawn more custom to your store than the quality of your goods would warrant. No, sir, I stay right here, and advise with you, and keep you out of trouble. If I went home and told dad what you said he would fall in a fit, and would sue you for damages for ruining my reputation, if he didn't come over here with a club and take it out of your hide. Dad can stand a good many things, but when anybody insults one of our family, dad gets violent, and he had rather kill a man than eat. You read about their finding the body of a man in an alley, with his head crushed? Well, I don't want to say anything, but it is rumored that dad was seen near that alley the night before, and that man chased me once for throwing snow balls at him. We move in good society, and are looked upon as good citizens, but dad's temper gets worse every year. Can I stay around here more or less, or do I have to go out into the world, branded as a criminal, because an old fool fell into a basket of his own eggs? Say, now, answer up quick," and the bad boy sharpened a match with a big dirk knife and picked fig seeds out of his teeth.

"Oh, sugar, no; you don't need to go," said the old groceryman, as he came up to the boy, wiping the soapsuds off, and trying to smile. "I was only joshing you, and, honestly, I enjoy you. Life is a dreary burden when you are away. Somehow I have got so my blood gets thick, and my appetite fails, when you are away from town, and when you play some low down trick on me, while I seem mad at the time, it does me good, starts the circulation, and when you go away I seem a new man, and laugh, and feel like I had been off on a vacation, fishing, or something. It was a great mistake that I did not have a family of boys to keep me mad part of the time, because a man that never has anything to make him mad is no good. I envy your dad in having you around constantly to keep his blood in circulation. I suppose you are responsible for his being, at his age, as spry as a boy. He told me when he and you got back from Yellowstone park last summer that the trip did him a world of good, and that he got so he could climb a tree—just shin right up like a cat, and that you were the bravest boy he ever saw, said that you would fight a bear as quick as eat. Such a boy I am proud to call my friend. What was it about your fighting bears, single- handed, with no weapon but empty tomato cans? You ought to be in the history books. Your dad said bravery run in the family."

"Oh, get out. Did dad tell you about that bear story?" said the bad boy, as he sharpened his knife on his boot. "Well, you'd a dide right there, if you could have seen dad.



He is one of these men that is brave sort of intermittent, like folks have fever. Half the time he is a darn coward, but when you don't expect it, for instance when the pancakes are burned, or the steak is raw, and his dyspepsia seems to work just right, he will flare up and sass the cook, and I don't know of anything braver than that; but ordinarily he is meek as a lam. I think the stomach has a good deal to do with a man's bravery. You take a soldier in battle, and if he is hungry he is full of fight, but you fill him up with baked beans and things and he is willing to postpone a fight, and he don't care whether there is any fight at all or not. I think the trip through Yellowstone park took the tar out of dad. Those geysers throwing up hot water, apparently right out of the hot place the preachers tell about, seemed to set him to thinking that may be he had got nearer h—l, on a railroad pass, than he had ever expected to get. He told me, one day, when we stood beside old Faithful geyser, and the hot water belched up into the air a hundred feet, that all it wanted was for the lid to be taken off, and h—l would be yawning right there, and he was going to try to lead a different life, and if he ever got out of that park alive he should go home and join every church in town, and he should advise ministers to get the sinners to take a trip to the park, if they wanted to work religion into them. Dad would wake up in the night, at the hotels in the park, when a geyser went off suddenly, and groan, and cross himself, as he had seen religious people do, and tell me that in a few days more we would be safe out of the d—n place, and you would never catch him in it again.

"Well, there is one hotel where a lot of bears come out of the woods in the evening, to eat the garbage that is thrown out from the hotel. They are wild bears, all right, but they have got so tame that they come right near folks, and don't do anything but eat garbage and growl, and fight each other. The cook told me about it, and said there was no danger, 'cause you could take a club and scare them into the woods.

"We got to the hotel in the afternoon, and dad went to our room to say his prayers, and take a nap, and had his supper taken to the room, and he was so scared at the awful surroundings in the park that he asked a blessing on the supper, though it was the bummest supper I ever struck. After dark I told dad we better go out and take a walk and inspect the scenery, 'cause it was all in the bill, and if you got a bum supper and didn't get the scenery you were losing money on the deal. I saw the man emptying the garbage and I knew the bears would be getting in their work pretty soon, so I took dad and we walked away off, and he talked about how God had prepared that park as a warning to sinners of what was to come, and I knew his system was sort of running down, and I knew he needed excitement, a shock or something to make a reaction, so I steered him around by the garbage pile.



"Say, before he knew it we were right in the midst of about nine bears, grizzlies, cinnamon bears, black bears, and all of them raised up and said, 'Whoof!' and they growled, and, by gosh, just as quick as I could run this knife into your liver, I missed dad. He just yelled: 'Hennery, this is the limit, and here is where your poor old dad sprints for tall timber,' and he made for a tree, and I yelled: 'Hurry up, dad!' and he said: 'I ain't walking, am I?' and you ought to have seen his short legs carry him to the tree, and help him skin up it. I have seen squirrels climb trees, when a dog was after them, but they were slow compared to dad. When he got up to a limb he yelled to me to come on up, as he wanted to give me a few last instructions about settling his estate, but I told him I was going to play I was Daniel in the lion's den, so I studied the bears for a while and let dad yell for the police, and then I picked up an armful of tomato cans and made a rush for the bears, and yelled and threw cans at them, and pretty soon every bear went off into the woods, growling and scrapping with each other, and I told dad to come down and I would save him at the risk of my life. Dad came down as quick as he went up, and I took his arm and led him to the hotel, and when we got to the room he would have collapsed, only I gave him a big drink of whiskey, and then he braced up and said: 'Hennery, when it comes to big game, you and I are the wonders of the world. You are brave, and I am discreet, and we make a team hard to beat.' I told dad he covered himself with glory, but that he left most of his pants on the tree, but he said he didn't care for a few pants when he had a boy that was the bravest that ever came down the pike. When we got home alive he didn't join the church, but he gave me a gold watch. Well, I'll have to depart," and the bad boy went out and left the old groceryman thinking of the hereafter.



CHAPTER XVII.

The Bad Boy and the Groceryman Illustrate the Russia-Japanese War—The Bad Boy Tells About Dad's Efforts to Raise Hair by the "Sunshine" Method.

The old groceryman had a war map spread out on the counter, and for an hour he had stood up in front of it, reading a morning paper, with his thumb on Port Arthur, his fingers covering the positions occupied by the Japanese and Russian forces in Manchuria, and his face working worse than the face of the Czar eating a caviar sandwich and ordering troops to the far east, at the same time shying at dynamite bombs of nihilists. There was a crash in front of the grocery and the old man jumped behind a barrel, thinking Port Arthur had been blown up, and the Russian fleet torpedoed.

"Hello, Matsuma, you young monkey," said the old man, as the bad boy burst the door open and rushed in with a shovel at shoulder arms, and came to "present arms" in front of the old man, who came from behind the barrel and acknowledged the salute. "Say, now honest did you put that chunk of ice in the stove the day you skipped out last?"

"Sure Mike!" said the boy, as he ran the shovel under the cat that was sleeping by the stove, and tossed her into a barrel of dried apples. "I wanted to demonstrate to you, old Michaelovitski, the condition of things at Vladivostok, where you candle-eating Russians are bottled up in the ice, and where we Japanese are going to make you put on your skates and get away to Siberia. What are you doing with the map of the seat of war?"



"Oh, I was only trying to figure out the plan of campaign, and find out where the Japanese would go to when they are licked," said the old man. "This thing is worrying me. I want to see Russia win, and I think our government ought to send to them all the embalmed beef we had left from the war with Spain, but if we did you monkey Japanese would capture it, and have a military funeral over it, and go on eating fish and rice. When this country was in trouble, in 1864, the Russians sent a fleet of warships to New York and notified all Europe to stand back and look pleasant, and by the great horn spoons, I am going to stand by Russia or bust. I would like to be over there at Port Arthur and witness an explosion of a torpedo under something. Egad, but I glory in the smell of gunpowder. Now, say, here is Port Arthur, by this barrel of dried apples, and there is Mushapata, by the ax handle barrel, see?"

"Well, you and I are just alike," said the boy. "Let's have a sham battle, right here in the grocery. Get down that can of powder."

"'Taint against the law, is it?" said the old man as he handed down a tin cannister of powder. "I want excitement, and valuable information, but I don't want to unduly excite the neighbors."

"Oh, don't worry about the neighbors," said the boy, as he poured a little powder under the barrel of dried apples. "Now, as you say, this is Port Arthur. This chest of Oolong tea represents a Japanese cruiser outside the harbor. This box of codfish represents a Russian fort, see? and the stove represents a Russian cruiser. This barrel of ax handles is the Russian army, entrenched behind the bag of coffee. Now, we put a little powder under all of thems and lay a train from one to the other, and now you get out a few of those giant firecrackers you had left over from last Fourth of July, and a Roman candle, and we can illustrate the whole business so Alexovitch and Ito would take to the woods."

"No danger, is there?" said the old groceryman, as he brought out the fireworks, looking as happy and interested as the bad boy did. "I want to post myself on war in the far east, but I don't want to do anything that would occasion remark."

"Oh, remark nothing," said the boy, as he fixed a firecracker under a barrel of rice, another under a tin can of soda crackers, and got the Roman candle ready to touch off at the stove. "It will not make any more fuss than faking a flash-light photograph. Just a piff—s—s—sis—boom—and there you are, full of information."

"Well, let-er-go-Galiagher," said the old man, sort of reckless like, as he got behind the cheese box. "Gol darn the expense, when you want to illustrate your ideas of war."

The boy lit the Roman candle, got behind a barrel of potatoes and turned the spluttering Roman candle on the giant firecracker under the stove, and when he saw the fuse of the firecracker was lighted, he turned the torch on the powder under the barrel of dried apples, and in a second everything went kiting; the barrel of dried apples with the cat in it went up to the ceiling, the stove was blown over the counter, the cheese box and the old groceryman went with a crash to the back end of the store, the front windows blew out on the sidewalk, the store was full of smoke, the old man rushed out the back door with his whiskers singed and yelled "Fire!" while the bad boy fell out the front door his eye winkers gone, and his hair singed, the cat got out with no hair to brag on, and before they could breathe twice the fire department came clattering up to a hydrant and soon turned the hose inside the grocery. There was not very much fire, and after tipping over every barrel and box that had not been blown skyhigh the firemen gave one last look at the inside of the grocery, one last squirt at the burned and singed cat, that had crawled into a bag of cinnamon on the top shelf, and they went away, leaving the doors and windows open; the crowd dispersed, and the bad boy went in the front door; peered around under the counter, pulled the cork out of a bottle of olive oil and began to anoint himself where he had been scorched. Hearing a shuffling of arctic overshoes filled with water, in the back shed, and a still small voice, saying, "Well, I'll be condemned," he looked up and saw the red face of the old groceryman peeking in the back door.



"Come in, Alexandroviski, and rub some of this sweet oil on your countenance, and put some kerosene on your head, where the hair was. Gee! but you are a sight! Don't you go out anywhere and let a horse see you, or he will run away."

"Have all the forts and warships come down yet?" said the old man, looking up toward the ceiling, holding up his elbow to ward off any possible descending barrel or stove lid. "I now realize the truth of General Sherman's remark that war is hell. Gosh! how it smarts where the skin is burnt off.

"Give me some of that salad oil," and the old man sopped the oil on his face and head, and the boy rubbed his lips and ears, and they looked at each other and tried to smile, two cracked, and wrinkled and scorched smiles, across the counter at each other. "Now, you little Japanese monkey, I hope you are satisfied, after you have wrecked my store, and fitted me for the hospital, and I want you to get out of here, and never come back. By ginger, I know when I have got enough war. They can settle that affair at Mukden, or Holoyahoo, or any old place. I wash my hands of the whole business. Git, you Spitz. What did you pour so much powder around the floor for? All I wanted was a little innocent illustration of the horrors of war, not an explosion."

"Th—at's what I wanted, too," said the boy, as he looked up on the top shelf at the cat, that was licking herself where the hair used to be. "How did I know that powder would burn so quick? Say, you are unreasonable. Do you think I will go off and leave you to die here under the counter of bloodpoisoning, like a dog that has eaten a loaded sausage? Never! I am going to nurse you through this thing, and bring you out as good as new. I know how you feel towards me. Dad felt the same way towards me, down in Florida, the time he got skun. You old people don't seem to appreciate a boy that tries to teach you useful nollig."

"What about your dad getting skun in Florida? I never heard about it," said the old groceryman, as he took a hand mirror and looked at his burned face.

"Why, that was when we first got down there," said the boy, looking at the old man and laughing. "Gee! but you would make a boy laugh if his lips were chapped. You look like a greased pig at a barbecue. Well, when we struck Florida, and dad got so he could assimilate high balls, and eat oranges off the trees, like a giraf, he said he wanted to go fishing, and get tanned up, so we hired a boat and I rowed while dad fished, I ask him why he didn't try that new prescription to raise hair on his bald head that I read of in a magazine, to go bareheaded in the sun. He ask me if anybody ever raised any hair on a bald head that way, and I told him about Mr, Rockefeller, who had only one hair on his head, and he played golf bareheaded and in two weeks had to have his hair cut with a lawn mower, 'cause it made his brain ache. Dad said if Rockefeller could raise hair by the sunshine method he could, and he threw his straw hat overboard, and began to fish in the sun for fish and hair. Well, you'd a dide to see dad's head after the blisters began to raise. First, he thought the blisters was hair, but when we got back to the hotel and he looked in a glass, he see it wasn't hair worth a cent. His head and face looked like one of these hippopotamuses, and dad was mad. If I could have got dad in a side show I could have made a barrel of money, but he won't never make a show of his self, not even to make money, he is so proud. There is more proud flesh on dad than there is on any man I ever nursed. Well, dad ask me what was good for blisters, and I told him lime juice was the best thing, so he sent me to get some limes. They are a little sour thing, like a lemon, and I told him to cut one in two and soak the juice on his head and face, and I went to supper, 'cause dad looked so disreputable he wouldn't go to the dining room. When I bought the limes the man gave me a green persimmon, and of course dad got the persimmon instead of the lime, and when I came back to our room after supper dad was in bed, yelling for a doctor. Say, you know how a persimmon puckers your mouth up when you eat it? Well, dad had just sopped himself with persimmon juice, and his head was puckered up like the hide of an elephant, and his face and cheeks were drawn around sideways, and wrinkled so I was scart. I gave him a mirror to look at his self, and when he got one look he said: 'Hennery, it is all over with your dad, you might just as well call in a lawyer to take my measure for a will, and an undertaker to fill me with stuff so I will keep till they get me home by express, with handles on. What was that you called that fruit I sopped my head with?' and he groaned like he was at a revival. Well, I told him he had used the persimmon instead of the lime juice I told him to, and that I would cure him, so I got a cake of dog soap and laundered dad, and put on stuff to take the swelling out, and the next day he began to notice things, it would have been all right only a chambermaid told somebody the mean old man with the pretty boy in 471 had the smallpox, and that settled it. You know in a hotel they are offal sensitive about smallpox, 'cause all the boarders will leave if a man has a pimple on his self, so they made dad and I go into quarantine in a hen house for a week, and dad said it was all my fault trying to get him to raise hair like Rockefeller. Well, I must go home and explain to ma how I lost my hair and eye-winkers. If I was in your place I would take a little tar and put it on where your hair was before the explosion," and the bad boy went out, leaving the old groceryman drawing some tar out of the barrel, on to a piece of brown paper, and dabbling it on his head with his finger.



END.

Previous Part     1  2
Home - Random Browse