"Say, you get out of here, condemn you. You are getting sassy. There is no one that is more free hearted than I am," said the grocery man.
"O, give us a siesta. I am onto you bigger than an elevator. When they had the oyster sociable at the church, you gave four pounds of musty crackers with worms in, and they tasted of kerosene, and when the minister prayed for those who had generously contributed to the sociable, you raised up your head as though you wanted them all to know he meant you. If a man can get to heaven on four pounds of musty crackers, done up in a paper that has been around mackerel, then what's the use of a man being good, and giving sixteen ounces to the pound? But, there, don't blush, and cry. I will use my influence to get your feet onto the golden streets of the New Jerusalem, but you have got to quit sending those small potatoes to our house, with a few big ones on top of the basket. I'll tell you how it was that Pa told me I would go to hell. You see Pa has been reading out of an old back number bible, and Ma and me argued with him about getting a new revised edition. We told him that the old one was all out of style, and that all the neighbors had the newest cut in bibles, with dolman sleeves, and gathered in the back, and they put on style over us, and we could not hold up our heads in society when it was known that we were wearing the old last year's bible. Pa kicked against it, but finally got one. I thought I had as much right to change things in the revised bible, as the other fellows had to change the old one, so I pasted some mottoes and patent medicine advertisements in it, after the verses. Pa never reads a whole chapter, but reads a verse or two and skips around. Before breakfast, the other morning, Pa got the new bible and started to read the ten commandments, and some other things. The first thing Pa struck was, 'Verily I say unto you, try St. Jacobs oil for rheumatism.' Pa looked over his specks at Ma, and then looked at me, but I had my face covered with my hands, sort of pious. Pa said he didn't think it was just the thing to put advertisements in the bible, but Ma said she didn't know as it was any worse than to have a patent medicine notice next to Beecher's sermon in the religious paper. Pa sighed and turned over a few leaves, and read, 'Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife, nor his ox, if you love me as I love you no knife can cut our love in two.' That last part was a motto that I got out of a paper of candy. Pa said that the sentiment was good, but he didn't think the revisers had improved the old commandment very much. Then Pa turned over and read, 'Take a little wine for the stomach's sake, and keep a bottle of Reed's Gilt Edged tonic on your side-board, and you can defy malaria, and chills and fever.' Pa was hot. He looked at it again, and noticed that the tonic commandment was on yellow paper, and the corner curled up, and Pa took hold of it, and the paste that I stuck it on with was not good, and it come off, and when I saw Pa lay down the bible, and put his spectacles in the case, and reach for the fire poker, I knew he was not going to pray, and I looked out the window and yelled dog fight, and I lit out, and Pa followed me as far as the sidewalk, and it was that morning when it was so slippery, and Pa's feet slipped out from under him, and he stood on his neck, and slid around on his ear, and the special providence of sleet on the sidewalk saved me. Say, do you believe in special providence? What was the use of that sleet on the sidewalk, if it was not to save sinners?"
"O, I don't know anything about special providences," said the grocery man, "but I know you have got two of your pockets filled with them boneless raisins since you have been talking, and my opinion is you will steal. But, say, what is your Pa on crutches for? I see him hobbling down town this morning. Has he sprained his ankle?"
"Well, I guess his ankle got sprained with all the rest. You see, my chum and me went bobbing, and Pa said he supposed he used to be the greatest bobber, when he was a boy, that ever was. He said he used to slide down a hill that was steeper than a church steeple. We asked him to go with us, and we went to that street that goes down by the depot, and we had two sleds hitched together, and there were mor'n a hundred boys, and Pa wanted to steer, and he got on the front sled, and when we got about half way down the sled slewed, and my chum and me got off all right, but Pa got shut up between the two sleds, and the other boys behind fell over Pa and one sled runner caught him in the trowsers leg, and dragged him over the slippery ice clear to the bottom, and the whole lay out run into the street car, and the mules got wild and kicked, and Pa's suspenders broke, and when my chum and me got down there Pa was under the car, and a boy's boots was in Pa's shirt bosom, and another boy was straddle of Pa's neck, and the crowd rushed up from the depot, and got Pa out, and began to yell 'fire,' and 'police,' and he kicked at a boy that was trying to get his sled out of the small of Pa's back, and a policeman came along and pushed Pa and said, 'Go away from here, ye owld divil, and let the b'ys enjoy themselves,' and he was going to arrest Pa, when me and my chum told him we would take Pa home. Pa said the hill was not steep enough for him, or he wouldn't have fell off. He is offul stiff to-day: but he says he will go skating with us next week, and show us how to skate. Pa means well, but he don't realize that he is getting stiff and can't be as kitteny as he used to be. He is very kind to me, If I had some fathers I would have been a broken backed, disfigured angel long ago. Don't you think so?"
The grocery man said he was sure of it, and the boy got out with his boneless raisins, and pocket full of lump sugar.
HIS PA GOES SKATING—THE BAD BOY CARVES A TURKEY—HIS PA'S FAME AS A SKATER—THE OLD MAN ESSAYS TO SKATE ON ROLLERS— HIS WILD CAPERS—HE SPREADS HIMSELF—HOLIDAYS A CONDEMNED NUISANCE—THE BAY BOY'S CHRISTMAS PRESENTS.
"What is that stuff on your shirt bosom, that looks like soap grease?" said the grocery man to the bad boy, as he came into the grocery the morning after Christmas.
The boy looked at his shirt front, put his fingers on the stuff and smelled of his fingers, and then said, "O, that is nothing but a little of the turkey dressing and gravy. You see after Pa and I got back from the roller skating rink yesterday, Pa was all broke up and he couldn't carve the turkey, and I had to do it, and Pa sat in a stuffed chair with his head tied up, and a pillow amongst his legs, and he kept complaining that I didn't do it right. Gol darn a turkey any way. I should think they would make a turkey flat on the back, so he would lay on a greasy platter without skating all around the table. It looks easy to see Pa carve a turkey, but when I speared into the bosom of that turkey, and began to saw on it, the turkey rolled-around as though it was on castors, and it was all I could do to keep it out of Ma's lap. But I rasseled with it till I got off enough white meat for Pa and Ma and dark meat enough for me, and I dug out the dressing, but most of it flew into my shirt bosom, cause the string that tied up the place where the dressing was concealed about the person of the turkey, broke prematurely, and one oyster hit Pa in the eye, and he said I was as awkward as a cross-eyed girl trying to kiss a man with a hair lip. If I ever get to be the head of a family I shall carve turkeys with a corn sheller."
"But what broke your Pa up at the roller skating rink," asked the grocery man.
"O, everything broke him up. He is, split up so Ma buttons the top of his pants to his collar button, like a by cycle rider. Well, he no business to have told me and my chum that he used to be the best skater in North America, when he was a boy. He said he skated once from Albany to New York in an hour and eighty minutes. Me and my chum thought if Pa was such a terror on skates we would get him to put on a pair of roller skates and enter him as the "great unknown," and clean out the whole gang. We told Pa that he must remember that roller skates were different from ice skates, and that maybe he couldn't skate on them, but he said it didn't make any difference what they were as long as they were skates, and he would just paralyze the whole crowd. So we got a pair of big roller skates for him, and while we were strapping them on, Pa he looked at the skaters glide around on the smooth wax floor just as though they were greased. Pa looked at the skates on his feet, after they were fastened, sort of forlorn like, the way a horse thief does when they put shackles on his legs, and I told him if he was afraid he couldn't skate with them we would take them off, but he said he would beat anybody there was there, or bust a suspender. Then we straightened Pa up, and pointed him towards the middle of the room, and he said, "leggo," and we just give him a little push to start him, and he began to go.
"Well, by gosh, you'd a dide to have seen Pa try to stop. You see, you can't stick in your heel and stop, like you can on ice skates, and Pa soon found that out, and he began to turn sideways, and then he threw his arms and walked on his heels, and he lost his hat, and his eyes began to stick out, cause he was going right towards an iron post. One arm caught the post and he circled around it a few times, and then he let go and began to fall, and, sir, he kept falling all across the room, and everybody got out of the way, except a girl, and Pa grabbed her by the polonaise, like a drowning man grabs at straws, though there wasn't any straws in her polonaise as I know of, but Pa just pulled her along as though she was done up in a shawl-strap, and his feet went out from under him and he struck on his shoulders and kept a going, with the girl dragging along like a bundle of clothes."
"If Pa had had another pair of roller skates on his shoulders, and castors on his ears, he couldn't have slid along any better. Pa is a short, big man, and as he was rolling along on his back, he looked like a sofa with castors on being pushed across a room by a girl. Finally Pa came to the wall and had to stop, and the girl fell right across him, with her roller skates in his neck, and she called him an old brute, and told him if he didn't let go of her polonaise she would murder him. Just then my chum and me got there and we amputated Pa from the girl, and lifted him up, and told him for heaven's sake to let us take off the skates, cause he couldn't skate any more than a cow, and Pa was mad and said for us to let him alone, and he could skate all right, and we let go and he struck out again. Well, sir, I was ashamed. An old man like Pa ought to know better than to try to be a boy. This last time Pa said he was going to spread himself, and if I am any judge of a big spread, he did spread himself. Somehow the skates had got turned around side-ways on his feet, and his feet got to going in different directions, and Pa's feet were getting so far apart that I was afraid I would have two Pa's, half the size, with one leg apiece.
"I tried to get him to take up a collection of his legs, and get them both in the same ward but his arms flew around and one hit me on the nose, and I thought if he wanted to strike the best friend he had, he could run his old legs hisself. When he began to seperate I could hear the bones crack, but maybe it was his pants, but anyway he came down on the floor like one of these fellows in a circus who spreads hissel, and he kept going and finally he surrounded an iron post with his legs, and stopped, and looked pale, and the proprietor of the rink told Pa if he wanted to give a flying trapeze performance he would have to go to the gymnasium, and he couldn't skate on his shoulders any more, cause other skaters were afraid of him. Then Pa said he would kick the liver out of the proprietor of the rink, and he got up and steaded himself, and then he tried to kick the man, but both heels went up to wonct, and Pa turned a back summersault and struck right on his vest in front. I guess it knocked the breath out of him, for he didn't speak for a few minutes, and then he wanted to go home, and we put him in a street car, and he laid down on the hay and rode home. O, the work we had to get Pa's clothes off. He had cricks in his back, and everywhere, and Ma was away to one of the neighbors, to look at the presents, and I had to put liniment on Pa, and I made a mistake and got a bottle of furniture polish, and put it on Pa and rubbed it in, and when Ma came home, Pa smelled like a coffin at a charity funeral, and Ma said there was no way of getting that varnish off of Pa till it wore off. Pa says holidays are a condemned nuisance anyway. He will have to stay in the house all this week.
"You are pretty rough on the old man," said the grocery man, "after he has been so kind to you and given you nice presents."
"Nice presents nothin. All I got was a 'come to Jesus' Christmas card, with brindle fringe, from Ma, and Pa gave me a pair of his old suspenders, and a calender with mottoes for every month, some quotations from scripture, such as 'honorthy father and mother,' and 'evil communications corrupt two in the bush,' and 'a bird in the hand beats two pair.' Such things don't help a boy to be good. What a boy wants is club skates, and seven shot revolvers, and such things. Well, I must go and help Pa roll over in bed, and put on a new porous plaster. Good bye."
HIS PA GOES CALLING—HIS PA STARTS FORTH—A PICTURE OF THE OLD MAN "FULL "—POLITENESS AT A WINTER PICNIC—ASSAULTED BY SANDBAGGERS—RESOLVED TO DRINK NO MORE COFFEE—A GIRL FULL OF "AIG NOGG."
"Say, you are getting too alfired smart," said the grocery man to the bad boy as he pushed him into a corner by the molasses barrel, and took him by the neck and choked him so his eyes stuck out. "You have driven away several of my best customers, and now, confound you, I am going to have your life," and he took up a cheese knife and began to sharpen it on his boot.
"What's the—gurgle—matter," asked the choking boy, as the grocery man's fingers let up on his throat a little, so he could speak. "I haint done nothin."
"Didn't you hang up that dead gray torn cat by the heels, in front of my store, with the rabbits I had for sale? I didn't notice it until the minister called me out in front of the store, and pointing to the rabbits, asked what good fat cats were selling for. By crimus, this thing has got to stop. You have got to move out of this ward or I will."
The boy got his breath and said it wasn't him that put the cat up there. He said it was the policeman, and he and his chum saw him do it, and he just come in to tell the grocery man about it, and before he could speak he had his neck nearly pulled off. The boy began to cry, and the grocery man said he was only joking, and gave him a box of sardines, and they made up. Then he asked the boy how his Pa put in his New Years, and the boy sighed and said:
"We had a sad time at our house New Years. Pa insisted on making calls, and Ma and me tried to prevent it, but he said he was of age, and guessed he could make calls if he wanted to, so he looked at the morning paper and got the names of all the places where they were going to receive, and he turned his paper collar, and changed ends with his cuffs, and put some arnica on his handkerchief, and started out. Ma told him not to drink anything, and he said he wouldn't, but he did. He was full the third place he went to. O, so full. Some men can get full and not show it, but when Pa gets full, he gets so full his back teeth float, and the liquor crowds his eyes out, and his mouth gets loose and wiggles all over his face, and he laughs all the time, and the perspiration just oozes out of him, and his face gets red, and he walks so wide. O, he disgraced us all. At one place he wished the hired girl a happy new year more than twenty times, and hung his hat on her elbow, and tried to put on a rubber hall mat for his over shoes. At another place he walked up a lady's train, and carried away a card basket full of bananas and oranges. Ma wanted my chum and me to follow Pa and bring him home, and about dark we found him in the door yard of a house where they have statues in front of the house, and he grabbed me by the arm, and mistook me for another caller, and insisted on introducing me to a marble statue without any clothes on. He said it was a friend of his, and it was a winter picnic."
"He hung his hat on an evergreen, and put his overcoat on the iron fence, and I was so mortified I almost cried. My chum said if his Pa made such a circus of himself he would sand bag him. That gave me an idea, and when we got Pa most home I went and got a paper box covered with red paper, so it looked just like a brick, and a bottle of tomato ketchup, and when we got Pa up on the steps at home I hit him with the paper brick, and my chum squirted the ketchup on his head, and we demanded his money, and then he yelled murder, and we lit out, and Ma and the minister, who was making a call on her, all the afternoon; they came to the door and pulled Pa in. He said he had been attacked by a band of robbers, and they knocked his brains out, but he whipped them, and then Ma saw the ketchup brains oozing out of his head, and she screamed, and the minister said, 'Good heavens he is murdered,' and just then I came in the back door and they sent me after the doctor, and they put him on the lounge, and tied up his head with a towel to keep the brains in, and Pa began to snore, and when the doctor came in it took them half an hour to wake him, and then he was awful sick to his stummick, and then Ma asked the doctor if he would live, and the doc. analyzed the ketchup and smelled of it and told Ma he would be all right if he had a little Worcester sauce to put on with the ketchup, and when he said Pa would pull through, Ma looked awful sad. Then Pa opened his eyes and saw the minister and said that was one of the robbers that jumped on him, and he wanted to whip the minister, but the doc. held Pa's arms and Ma sat on his legs, and the minister said he had got some other calls to make, and he wished Ma a happy new year in the hall, much as fifteen minutes. His happy new year to Ma is most as long as his prayers. Well, we got Pa to bed, and when we undressed him we found nine napkins in the bosom of his vest, that he had picked up at the places where he called. He is all right this morning, but he says it is the last time he will drink coffee when he makes New Year's calls."
"Well, then you didn't have much fun yourself on New Years. That's too bad," said the grocery man, as he looked at the sad eyed youth. "But you look hard. If you were old enough I should say you had been drunk, your eyes are so red."
"Didn't have any fun eh? Well, I wish I had as many collars as I had fun. You see, after Pa got to sleep Ma wanted me and my chum to go to the houses that Pa had called at and return the napkins he had Kleptomaniaced, so we dressed up and went. The first house we called at the girls were sort of demoralized. I don't know as I ever saw a girl drunk, but those girls acted queer. The callers had stopped coming, and the girls were drinking something out of shaving cups that looked like lather, and they said it was 'aignogg.' They laffed and kicked up their heels wuss nor a circus, and their collars got unpinned, and their faces was red, and they put their arms around me and my chum and hugged us and asked us if we didn't want some of the custard. You'd a dide to see me and my chum drink that lather. It looked just like soap suds with nutmaig in it, but by gosh it got in its work sudden. At first I was afraid when the girls hugged me, but after I had drank a couple of shaving cups full of the 'aignogg' I wasn't afraid no more, and I hugged a girl so hard she catched her breath and panted and said, 'O, don't.' Then I kissed her, and she is a great big girl, bigger'n me, but she didn't care. Say, did you ever kiss a girl full of aignogg? If you did it would break up your grocery business. You would want to waller in bliss instead of selling mackerel. My chum ain't no slouch either. He was sitting in a stuffed chair holding another New Year's girl, and I could hear him kiss her so it sounded like a cutter scraping on bare ground. But the girl's Pa came in and said he guessed it was time to close the place, unless they had a license for an all night house, and me and my chum went out. But wasn't we sick when we got out doors. O, it seemed as though the pegs in my boots was the only thing that kept them down, and my chum he like to dide. He had been to dinner and supper and I had only been skating all day, so he had more to contend with than I did. O, my, but that lets me out on aignogg. I don't know how I got home, but I got in bed with Pa, cause Ma was called away to attend a baby matinee in the night. I don't know how it is, but there never is anybody in our part of the town that has a baby but they have it in the night, and they send for Ma. I don't know what she has to be sent for every time for. Ma ain't to blame for all the young ones in this town, but she has got up a reputashun, and when we hear the bell ring in the night Ma gets up and begins to put on her clothes, and the next morning she comes in the dining room with a shawl over her head, and says, 'its a girl and weighs ten pounds,' or a boy, if its a boy baby. Ma was out on one of her professional engagements, and I got in bed with Pa. I had heard Pa blame Ma about her cold feet, so I got a piece of ice about as big as a raisin box, just zactly like one of Ma's feet, and I laid it right against the small of Pa's back. I couldn't help laffing, but pretty soon Pa began to squirm and he said, 'Why'n 'ell don't you warm them feet before you come to bed,' and then he hauled back his leg and kicked me clear out in the middle of the floor, and said if he married again he would marry a woman who had lost both of her feet in a railroad accident. Then I put the ice back in the bed with Pa and went to my room, and in the morning Pa said he sweat more'n a pail full in the night. Well, you must excuse me, I have an engagement to shovel snow off the side-walk. But before I go, let me advise you not to drink aignogg, and don't sell torn cats for rabbits," and he got out the door just in time to miss the rutabaga that the grocery man threw at him.
HIS PA DISSECTED—THE MISERIES OP THE MUMPS—NO PICKLES THANK YOU—ONE MORE EFFORT TO REFORM THE OLD MAN—THE BAD BOY PLAYS MEDICAL STUDENT—PROCEEDS TO DISSECT HIS PA— "GENTLEMEN I AM NOT DEAD!"—SAVED FROM THE SCALPEL!—"NO MORE WHISKY FOR YOU."
"I understand your Pa has got to drinking again like a fish," says the grocery man to the bad boy, as the youth came in the grocery and took a handful of dried apples. The boy ate a dried apple and then made up a terrible face, and the grocery man asked him what he was trying to do with his face. The boy caught his breath and then said:
"Say, don't you know any better than to keep dried apples where a boy can get hold of them when he has got the mumps? You will kill some boy yet by such dum carelessness. I thought these were sweet dried apples, but they are sour as a boarding house keeper, and they make me tired. Didn't you ever have the mumps? Gosh, but don't it hurt though? You have got to be darn careful when you have the mumps, and not go out bob-sledding, or skating, or you will have your neck swell up biggern a milk pail. Pa says he had the mumps once when he was a boy and it broke him all up.
"Well, never mind the mumps, how about your Pa spreeing it. Try one of those pickles in the jar there, wont you. I always like to have a boy enjoy himself when he comes to see me," said the grocery man, winking to a man who was filling and old fashioned tin box with tobacco out of the pail, who winked back as much as to say, "if that boy eats a pickle on top of them mumps we will have a circus, sure."
"You can't play no pickle on me, not when I have the mumps. Ma passed the pickles to me this morning, and I took one mouthful, and like to had the lockjaw. But Ma didn't do it on purpose, I guess. She never had the mumps and didn't know how discouraging a pickle is. Darn if I didn't feel as though I had been struck in the butt of the ear with a brick. But about Pa. He has been fuller'n a goose ever since New Year's day. I think its wrong for women to tempt feeble minded persons with liquor on New Year's. Now me and my chum, we can take a drink and then let it alone. We have got brain, and know when we have got enough, but Pa, when he gets to going don't ever stop until he gets so sick that he can't keep his stummick inside of hisself. It is getting so they look to me to brace Pa up every time he gets on a tear, and I guess I fixed him this time so he will never touch liquor again. I scared him so his bald head turned gray in a singe night.
"What under the heavens have you done to him now?" says the grocery man, in astonishment. "I hope you haven't done anything you will regret in after years."
"Regret nothing," said the boy, as he turned the lid of the cheese box back and took the knife and sliced off a piece of cheese, and took a few crackers out of a barrel, and sat down on a soap box by the stove, "You see Ma was annoyed to death with Pa. He would come home full, when she had company, and lay down on the sofa and snore, and he would smell like a distillery. It hurt me to see Ma cry, and I told her I would break Pa of drinking if she would let me, and she said if I would promise not to hurt Pa to go ahead, and I promised not to. Then I got my chum and another boy, quite a big boy, to help, and Pa is all right. We went down to the place where they sell arms and legs, to folks who have served in the army, or a saw mill, or a thrashing machine, and lost their limbs, and we borrowed some arms and legs, and fixed up a dissecting room. We fixed a long table in the basement, big enough to lay Pa out on you know, and then we got false whiskers and moustaches, and when Pa came in the house drunk and laid down on the sofa, and got to sleep we took him and laid him out on the table, and took some trunk straps, and a sircingle and strapped him down to the table. He slept right along all through it, and we had another table with the false arms and legs on, and we rolled up our sleeves, and smoked pipes, Just like I read that medical students do when they cut up a man. Well, you'd a dide to see Pa look at us when he woke up. I saw him open his eyes, and then we began to talk about cutting up dead men. We put hickory nuts in our mouths so our voices would sound different, so he wouldn't know us, and I was telling the other boys about what a time we had cutting up the last man we bought. I said he was awful tough, and when we had got his legs off and had taken out his brain, his friends come to the dissecting room and claimed the body, and we had to give it up, but I saved the legs. I looked at Pa on the table and he began to turn pale, and he squirmed around to get up, but found he was fast. I had pulled his shirt up under his arms, while he was asleep, and as he began to move I took an icicle, and in the dim light of the candles, that were sitting on the table in beer bottles, I drew the icicle across Pa's stummick and I said to my chum, 'Doc, I guess we had better cut open this old duffer and see if he died from inflamation of the stummick, from hard drinking, as the coroner said he did.' Pa shuddered all over when he felt the icicle going over his bare stummick, and he said, 'For God's sake, gentlemen, what does this mean? I am not dead.'"
"The other boys looked at Pa with astonishment, and I said 'Well, we bought you for dead, and the coroner's jury said you were dead, and by the eternal we ain't going to be fooled out of a corpse when we buy one, are we Doc?' My chum said not if he knowed his self, and the other students said, 'Of course he is dead. He thinks he is alive, but he died day before yesterday, fell dead on the street, and his folks said he had been a nuisance and they wouldn't claim the corpse, and we bought it at the morgue. Then I drew the icicle across him again, and I said, 'I don't know about this, doctor. I find that blood follows the scalpel as I cut through the cuticle. Hand me the blood sponge please.' Pa began to wiggle around, and we looked at him, and my chum raised his eye-lid, and looked solemn, and Pa said, 'Hold on, gentlemen. Don't cut into me any more, and I can explain this matter. This is all a mistake. I was only drunk.' We went in a corner and whispered, and Pa kept talking all the time. He said if we would postpone the hog killing he could send and get witnesses to prove that he was not dead, but that he was a respectable citizen, and had a family. After we held a consultation I went to Pa and told him that what he said about being alive might possibly be true, though we had our doubts. We had found such cases before in our practice east, where men seemed to be alive, but it was only temporary. Before we had got them cut up they were dead enough for all practical purposes. Then I laid the icicle across Pa's abdomen, and went on to tell him that even if he was alive it would be better for him to play that he was dead, because he was such a nuisance to his family that they did not want him, and I was telling him that I had heard that in his lifetime he was very cruel to his boy, a bright little fellow who was at the head of his class in Sunday school and a pet wherever he was known, when Pa interrupted me and said, 'Doctor, please take that carving knife off my stomach, for it makes me nervous. As for that boy of mine, he is the condemndest little whelp in town, and he isn't no pet anywhere. Now, you let up on this dissectin' business, and I will make it all right with you.' We held another consultation and then I told Pa that we did not feel that it was doing justice to society to give up the body of a notorious drunkard, after we had paid twenty dollars for the corpse. If there was any hopes that he would reform and try and lead a different life, it would be different, and I said to the boys, 'gentlemen, we must do our duty. Doc, you dismember that leg, and I will attend to the stomach and the upper part of the body. He will be dead before we are done with him. We must remember that society has some claims on us, and not let our better natures be worked upon by the post mortem promises of a dead drunkard.' Then I took my icicle and began fumbling around the abdomen portion of Pa's remains, and my chum took a rough piece of ice and began to saw his leg off, while the other boy took hold of the leg and said he would catch it when it dropped off. Well, Pa kicked like a steer. He said he wanted to make one more appeal to us, and we acted sort of impatient but we let up to hear what he had to say. He said if we would turn him loose he would give us ten dollars more than we paid, for his body, and that he would, never drink, another drop as long as he lived. Then we whispered some more and then told him we thought favorably of his last proposition, but he must swear, with his hand on the leg of a corpse we were then dissecting that he would never drink again, and then he must be blindfolded and be conducted several blocks away from the dissecting room, before we could turn him loose. He said that was all right, and so we blindfolded him, and made him take a bloody oath, with his hand on a piece of ice that we told him was a piece of another corpse, and then we took him out of the house and walked him around the block four times, and left him on a corner, after he had promised to send the money to an address that I gave him. We told him to stand still five minutes after we left him, then remove the blindfold, and go home. We watched him, from behind a board fence, and he took off the handkerchief, looked at the name on a street lamp, and found he was not far from home. He started off saying 'That's a pretty narrow escape old man. No more whiskey for you.' I did not see him again until this morning, and when I asked him where he was last night he shuddered and said 'none of your darn business. But I never drink any more, you remember that.' Ma was tickled and she told me I was worth my weight in gold. Well, good day. That cheese is musty." And the boy went and caught on a passing sleigh.
HIS PA JOINS A TEMPERANCE SOCIETY. THE GROCERY MAN SYMPATHISES WITH THE OLD MAN—WARNS THE BAD BOY THAT HE MAY HAVE A STEP-FATHER!—THE BAD BOY SCORNS THE IDEA—INTRODUCES HIS PA TO THE GRAND "WORTHY DUKE!"—THE SOLEMN OATH—THE BRAND PLUCKED FROM THE BURNING.
"Don't you think my Pa is showing his age good deal more than usual?" asked the bad boy of the grocery man, as he took a smoked herring out of a box and peeled off the skin with a broken bladed jack-knife, and split it open and ripped off the bone, threw the head at a cat, and took some crackers and began to eat..
"Well, I don't know but he does look as though he was getting old," said the grocery man, as he took a piece of yellow wrapping paper, and charged the boy's poor old father with a dozen herrings and a pound of crackers; "But there is no wonder he is getting old. I wouldn't go through what your father has, the last year, for a million dollars. I tell you, boy, when your father is dead, and you get a step-father, and he makes you walk the chalk mark you will realize what a bonanza you have fooled yourself out of by killing off your father. The way I figure it, your father will last about six months, and you ought to treat him right, the little time he has to live."
"Well, I am going to," said the boy, as he picked the herring bones out of his teeth with a piece of a match that he sharpened with his knife. "But I don't believe in borrowing trouble about a stepfather so long before hand. I don't think Ma could get a man to step into Pa's shoes, as long as I lived, not if she was inlaid with diamonds, and owned a brewery. There are brave men, I know, that are on the marry, but none of them would want to be brevet father to a cherubin like me, except he got pretty good wages. And then, since Pa was dissected he is going to lead a different life, and I guess I will make a man of him, if he holds out. We got him to join the Good Templars last night."
"No, you don't tell me," said the grocery man, as he thought that his trade in cider for mince pies would be cut off. "So you got him into the Good Templars, eh?"
"Well, he thinks he has joined the Good Templars, so it is all the same. You see my chum and me have been going to a private gymnasium, on the west side kept by a Dutchman, and in a back room he has all the tools for getting up muscle. There, look at my arm," said the boy, as he rolled up his sleeve and showed a muscle about as big is an oyster. "That is the result of training at the gymnasium. Before I took lessons I hadn't any more muscle than you have got. Well, the dutchman was going to a dance on the south side the other night, and he asked my chum to tend the gymnasium, and I told Pa if he would join the Good Templars that night there wouldn't be many at the lodge, and he wouldn't be so embarrassed, and as I was one of the officers of the lodge I would put it to him light, and he said he would go, so my chum got five other boys to help us put him through. So we steered him down to the gymnasium, and made him rap on the storm door outside, and I said who comes there, and he said it was a pilgrim who wanted to jine our sublime order. I asked him if he had made up his mind to turn from the ways of a hyena, and adopt the customs of the truly good, and he said if he knew his own heart he had, and then I told him to come in out of the snow and take off his pants. He kicked a little at taking off his pants, because it was cold out there in the storm door dog house, but I told him they all had to do it. The princes, potentates and paupers all had to come to it. He asked me how it was when we initiated women, and I told him women never took that degree. He pulled of his pants, and wanted a check for them, but I told him the Grand Mogul would hold his clothes, and then I blind-folded him, and with a base ball club I pounded on the floor as I walked around the gymnasium, while the lodge, headed by my chum, sung, 'We wont go home till morning.' I stopped in front of the ice-water tank and said 'Grand Worthy Duke, I bring before you a pilgrim who has drank of the dregs until his stomach won't hold water, and who desires to swear off.' The Grand Mogul asked me if he was worthy and well qualified, and I told him that he had been drunk more or less since the reunion last summer, which ought to qualify him. Then the Grand Mogul made Pa repeat the most blood-curdling oath, in which Pa agreed, if he ever drank another drop, to allow anybody to pull his toe-nails out with tweezers, to have his liver dug out and fed to dogs, his head chopped off, and his eyes removed. Then the Mogul said he would brand the candidate on the bare back with the initial letters of our order, 'G. T.,' that all might read how a brand had been snatched from the burning. You'd a dide to see Pa flinch when I pulled up his shirt, and got ready to brand him.
"My chum got a piece of ice out of the water cooler, and just as he clapped it on Pa's back I burned a piece of horses hoof in the candle and held it to Pa's nose, and I guess Pa actually thought it was his burning skin that he smelled. He jumped about six feet and said, 'Great heavens, what you dewin',' and then he began to roll over a barrel which I had arranged for him. Pa thought he was going down cellar, and he hung to the barrel, but he was on top half the time. When Pa and the barrel got through fighting I was beside him, and I said, 'Calm yourself, and be prepared for the ordeal that is to follow.' Pa asked how much of this dum fooling there was, and said he was sorry he joined. He said he could let licker alone without having the skin all burned off his back. I told Pa to be brave and not weaken, and all would be well. He wiped the perspiration off his face on the end of his shirt, and we put a belt around his body and hitched it to a tackle, and pulled him up so his feet were just off the floor, and then we talked as though we were away off, and I told my chum to look out that Pa did not hit the gas fixtures, and Pa actually thought he was being hauled clear up to the roof. I could see he was scared by the complexion of his hands and feet, as they clawed the air. He actually sweat so the drops fell on the floor. Bime-by we let him down, and he was awfully relieved, though his feet were not more than two inches from the floor any of the time. We were just going to slip Pa down a board with slivers in to give him a realizing sense of the rough road a reformed man has to travel, and got him straddle of the board, when the dutchman came home from the dance, fullern a goose, and he drove us boys out, and we left Pa, and the dutchman said, 'Vot you vas doing here mit dose boys, you old duffer, and vere vas your pants?' and Pa pulled off the handkerchief from his eyes, and the dutchman said if he didn't get out in a holy minute he would kick the stuffing out of him, and Pa got out. He took his pants and put them on in the alley, and then we come up to Pa and told him that was the third time the drunken dutchman had broke up our Lodge, but we should keep on doing good until we had reformed every drunkard in Milwaukee, and Pa said that was right, and he would see us through if it cost every dollar he had. Then we took him home, and when Ma asked if she couldn't join the Lodge too, Pa said, 'Now you take my advice, and don't you ever join no Good Templars. Your system could not stand the racket. Say, I want you to put some cold cream on my back.' I think Pa will be a different man now, don't you?"
The grocery man said if he was that boy's pa for fifteen minutes he would be a different boy, or there would be a funeral, and the boy took a handful of soft-shelled almonds and a few layer raisins and skipped out.
HIS PA'S MARVELOUS ESCAPE—THE GROCERY MAN HAS NO VASELINE— THE OLD MAN PROVIDES THREE FIRE ESCAPES—ONE OF THE ESCAPES TESTED—HIS PA SCANDALIZES THE CHURCH—"SHE'S A DARLING!"— WORLDLY MUSIC IN THE COURTS OF ZION.
"Got any vaseline," said the bad boy to the grocery man, as he went into the store one cold morning, leaving the door open, and picked up a cigar stub that had been thrown down near the stove, and began to smoke it.
"Shut the door, dum you. Was you brought up in a saw mill? You'll freeze every potato in the house. No, I haven't got vaseline. What do you want of vaseline?" said the grocery man, as he set the syrup keg on a chair by the stove where it would thaw out.
"Want to rub it on Pa's legs," said the boy, as he tried to draw smoke through the cigar stub.
"What is the matter with your Pa's legs? Rheumatiz?"
"Wuss nor rheumatiz," said the boy, as he threw away the cigar stub and drew some cider in a broken tea cup. "Pa has got the worst looking hind legs you ever saw. You see, since there has been so many fires Pa has got offul scared, and he has bought three fire escapes, made out of rope with knots in them, and he has been telling us every day how he could rescue the whole family in case of fire. He told us to keep cool, whatever happened, and to rely on him. If the house got on fire we were all to rush to Pa, and he would save us. Well, last night Ma had to go to one of the neighbors, where they was going to have twins, and we didn't sleep much, cause Ma had to come home twice in the night to get saffron, and an old flannel petticoat that I broke in when I was a kid, cause the people where Ma went did not know as twins was on the bill of fare, and they only had flannel petticoats for one. Pa was cross at being kept awake, and told Ma he hoped when all the children in Milwaukee were born, and got grown up, she would take in her sign and not go around nights and act as usher to baby matinees. Pa says there ought to be a law that babies should arrive on the regular day trains, and not wait for the midnight express. Well, Pa he got asleep, and he slept till about eight o'clock in the morning, and the blinds were closed, and it was dark in his room, and I had to wait for my breakfast till I was hungry as a wolf, and the girl told me to wake Pa up, so I went up stairs, and I don't know what made me think of it, but I had some of this powder they make red fire with in the theatre, that me and my chum had the 4th of July, and I put it in a washdish in the bath-room, and I touched it off and hollered fire. I was going to wake Pa up and tell him it was all right, and laugh at him. I guess there was too much fire, or I yelled too loud, cause Pa jumped out of bed and grabbed a rope and rushed through the hall towards the back window, that goes out on a shed. I tried to say something, but Pa ran over me and told me to save myself, and I got to the back window to tell him there was no fire just as he let himself out the window He had one end of the rope tied to the leg of the washstand, and he was climbing down the back side of the shed by the kitchen, with nothing on but his nightshirt, and he was the horriblest looking object ever was, with his legs flying and trying to stick his toenails into the rope and the side of the house."
"I dont think a man looks well in society with nothing on but his nightshirt. I didn't blame the hired girls for being scared when they saw Pa and his legs coming down outside the window, and when they yelled I went down to the kitchen, and they said a crazy man with no clothes but a pillow slip around his neck was trying to kick the window in, and they run into the parlor, and I opened the door and let Pa in the kitchen. He asked me if anybody else was saved and then I told him there was no fire, and he must have dreamed he was in hell, or somewhere. Well Pa was astonished, and said he must be wrong in the head, and I left him thawing himself by the stove while I went after his pants, and his legs were badly chilled, but I guess nothin' was froze. He lays it all to Ma, and says if she would stay at home and let people run their own baby shows, there would be more comfort in the house. Ma came in with a shawl over her head, and a bowl full of something that smelled frowy, and after she had told us what the result of her visit was, she sent me after vaseline to rub Pa's legs. Pa says that he has demonstrated that if a man is cool and collected, in case of fire, and goes deliberately at work to save himself, he will come out all right."
"Well, you are the meanest boy I ever heard of," said the grocery man. "But what about your Pa's dancing a clog dance in church Sunday? The minister's hired girl was in here after some codfish yesterday morning, and she said the minister said your Pa had scandalized the church the worst way."
"O, he didn't dance in church. He was a little excited, that's all. You see, Pa chews tobacco, and it is pretty hard on him to sit all through a sermon without taking a chew, and he gets nervous. He always reaches around in his pistol pocket, when they stand up to sing the last time, and feels in his tobacco box and gets out a chew, and puts it in his mouth when the minister pronounces the benediction, and then when they get out doors he is all ready to spit. He always does that. Well, my chum had a present, on Christmas, of a music box, just about as big as Pa's tobacco box, and all you have to do is to touch a spring and it plays, 'She's a Daisy, She's a Dumpling.' I borrowed it and put it in Pa's pistol pocket, where he keeps his tobacco box, and when the choir got most through singing Pa reached his hand in his pocket and began to fumble around for a chew. He touched the spring, and just as everybody bowed their heads to receive the benediction, and it was so still you could hear a gum drop, the music box began to play, and in the stillness it sounded as loud as a church organ. Well, I thought Ma would sink. The minister heard it, and everybody looked at Pa, too, and Pa turned red, and the music box kept up, 'She's a Daisy,' and the minister looked mad and said 'Amen,' and the people began to put on their coats, and the minister told the deacon to hunt up the source of that worldly music, and they took Pa into the room back of the pulpit and searched him, and Ma says Pa will have to be churched. They kept the music box, and I have got to carry in coal to get money enough to buy my chum a new music box. Well, I shall have to go and get that vaseline or Pa's legs will suffer. Good day."
HIS PA JOKES HIM. THE BAD BOY CAUGHT AT LAST—HOW TO GROW A MOUSTACHE—TAR AND CAYENNE PEPPER—THE GROCERYMAN'S PATE IS SEALED—FATHER AND SON JOIN IN A PRACTICAL JOKE—SOFT SOAP ON THE STEPS—DOWN FALL OF MINISTERS AND DEACONS—MA TO THE RESCUE!—THE BAD BOY GETS EVEN WITH HIS PA.
"What on earth is that you have got on your upper lip?" said the grocery man to the bad boy, as he came in and began to peel a rutabaga, and his upper lip hung down over his teeth, and was covered with something that looked like shoemaker's wax, "You look as though you had been digging potatoes with your nose."
"O, that is some of Pa's darn smartness. I asked him if he knew anything that would make a boy's moustache grow, and he told me the best thing he ever tried was tar, and for me to rub it on thick when I went to bed, and wash it off in the morning. I put it on last night, and by gosh I can't wash it off. Pa told me all I had to do was to use a scouring brick, and it would come off, and I used the brick, and it took the skin off, and the tar is there yet, and say, does my lip look very bad?"
The grocery man told him it was the worst looking lip he ever saw, but he could cure it by rubbing a little cayenne pepper in the tar. He said the tar would neutralize the pepper, and the pepper would loosen the tar, and act as a cooling lotion to the lacerated lip. The boy went to a can of pepper behind the counter, and stuck his finger in and rubbed a lot of it on his lip, and then his hair began to raise, and he began to cry, and rushed to the water-pail and ran his face into the water to wash off the pepper. The grocery man laughed, and when the boy had got the pepper washed off, and had resumed his rutabaga, he said:
"That seals your fate. No man ever trifles with the feelings of the bold buccanneer of the Spanish main, without living to rue it. I will lay for you, old man, and don't you forget it. Pa thought he was smart when he got me to put tar on my lip, to bring my moustache out, and to-day he lays on a bed of pain, and to-morrow your turn will come. You will regret that you did not get down on your knees and beg my pardon. You will be sorry that you did not prescribe cold cream for my bruised lip, instead of cayenne pepper. Beware, you base twelve ounces to the pound huckster, you gimlet-eyed seller of dog sausage, you sanded sugar idiot, you small potato three card monte sleight of hand rotton egg fiend, you villian that sells smoked sturgeon and dogfish for smoked halibut. The avenger is on your track."
"Look here, young man, don't you threaten me, or I will take you by the ear and walk you through green fields, and beside still waters, to the front door, and kick your pistol pocket clear around so you can wear it for a watch pocket in your vest. No boy can frighten me by crimus. But tell me, how did you get even with your Pa?"
"Well, give me a glass of cider and we will be friends and I will tell you. Thanks! Gosh, but that cider is made out of mouldy dried apples and sewer water," and he took a handful of layer raisins off the top of a box to take the taste out of his mouth, and while the grocer charged a peck of rutabagas, a gallon of cider and two pounds of raisins to the boy's Pa, the boy proceeded: "You see, Pa likes a joke the best of anybody you ever saw, if it is on somebody else, but he kicks like a steer when it is on him. I asked him this morning if it wouldn't be a good joke to put some soft soap on the front step, so the letter carrier would slip up and spill his-self, and Pa said it would be elegant. Pa is a Democrat, and he thinks that anything that will make it unpleasant for Republican office holders, is legitimate, and he encouraged me to paralyze the letter-carrier. The letter-carrier is as old a man as Pa, and I didn't want to humiliate him, but I just wanted Pa to give his consent, so he couldn't kick if he got caught in his own trap. You see?
"Well, this morning the minister and two of the deacons called on Pa, to have a talk with him about his actions in church, on two or three occasions, when he pulled out the pack of cards with his handkerchief, and played the music box, and they had a pretty hot time in the back parlor, and finally they settled it, and were going to sing a hymn, when Pa handed them a little hymn book, and the minister opened it and turned pale and said, 'what's this?' and they looked at it, and it was a book of Hoyle's games instead of a hymn book. Gosh, wasn't the minister mad! He had started to read a hymn and he quit after he read two lines where it said, 'In a game of four-handed euchre, never trump your partner's ace, but rely on the ace to take the trick on suit.' Pa was trying to explain how the book came to be there, when the minister and the deacons started out, and then I poured the two quart tin pail full of soft soap on the front step. It was this white soap, just the color of the step, and when I got it spread I went down in the basement. The visitors came out and Pa was trying to explain to them, about Hoyle, when one of the deacons stepped in the soap, and his feet flew up and he struck on his pants and slid down the steps. The minister said 'great heavens, deacon, are you hurt? let me assist you,' and he took two quick steps, and you have seen these fellows in a nigger show that kick each other head over heels and fall on their ears, and stand on their heads and turn around like a top. The minister's feet slipped and the next I saw he was standing on his head in his hat, and his legs were sort of wilted and fell limp by his side, and he fell over on his stomach. You talk about spreading the gospel in heathen lands. It is nothing to the way you can spread it with two quarts of soft soap. The minister didn't look pious a bit, when he was trying to catch the railing he looked as though he wanted to murder every man on earth, but it may be he was tired.
"Well, Pa was paralyzed, and he and the other deacon rushed out to pick up the minister and the first old man, and when they struck the step they went kiting. Pa's feet somehow slipped backwards, and he turned a summersault and struck full length on his back, and one heel was across the minister's neck, and he slid down the steps, and the other deacon fell all over the other three, and Pa swore at them, and it was the worst looking lot of pious people I ever saw. I think if the minister had been in the woods somewhere, where nobody could have heard him, he would have used language. They all seemed mad at each other. The hired girl told Ma there was three tramps out on the sidewalk fighting Pa, and Ma she took the broom and started to help Pa, and I tried to stop Ma, 'cause her constitution is not very strong and I didn't want her to do any flying trapeze bizness, but I couldn't stop her, and she went out with the broom and a towel tied around her head. Well, I don't know where Ma did strike, but when she came in she said she had palpitation of the heart, but that was not the place where she put the arnica. O, but she did go through the air like a bullet through cheese, and when she went down the steps a bumpity-bump, I felt sorry for Ma. The minister had got so he could set up on the sidewalk, with his back against the lower step, when Ma came sliding down, and one of the heels of her gaiters hit the minister in the hair, and the other foot went right through between his arm and his side, and the broom like to pushed his teeth down his throat. But he was not mad at Ma. As soon as he see it was Ma he said, 'Why, sister, the wicked stand in slippery places, don't they?' and Ma she was mad and said for him to let go her stocking, and then Pa was mad and he said, 'look-a-here you sky-pilot, this thing has gone far enough,' and then a policeman came along and first he thought they were all drunk, but he found they were respectable, and he got a chip and scraped the soap off of them, and they went home, and Pa and Ma they got in the house some way, and just then the letter-carrier came along, but he didn't have any letters for us, and he didn't come onto the steps, and then I went up stairs and I said, 'Pa, don't you think it is real mean, after you and I fixed the soap on the steps for the letter-carrier, he didn't come on the step at all,' and Pa was scraping the soap off his pants with a piece of shingle, and the hired girl was putting liniment on Ma, and heating it in for palpitation of the heart, and Pa said, 'You dam idjut, no more of this, or I'll maul the liver out of you,' and I asked him if he didn't think soft soap would help a moustache to grow, and he picked up Ma's work-basket and threw it at my head, as I went down stairs, and I came over him. Don't you think my Pa is unreasonable to get mad at a little joke that he planned himself?"
The grocery man said he didn't know, and the boy went out with a pair of skates over his shoulder, and the grocery man is wondering what joke the boy will play on him to-get even for the cayenne pepper.
HIS PA GETS MAD—A BOOM IN COURT-PLASTER—THE BAD BOY DECLINES BEING MAULED!—THE OLD MAN GETS A HOT BOX—THE BAD BOY BORROWS A CAT!—THE BATTLE!—"HELEN BLAZES"—THE CAT VICTORIOUS!—THE BAD BOY DRAWS THE LINE AT KINDLING WOOD!
"I was down to the drug store this morning, and saw your Ma buying a lot of court-plaster, enough to make a shirt, I should think. What's she doing with so much court-plaster?" asked the grocery man of the bad boy, as he came in and pulled off his boots by the stove and emptied out a lot of snow, that had collected as he walked through a drift, which melted and made a bad smell.
"O, I guess she is going to patch Pa up so he will hold water. Pa's temper got him into the worst muss you ever see, last night. If that museum was here now they would hire Pa and exhibit him as the tattooed man. I tell you, I have got too old to be mauled as though I was a kid, and any man who attacks me from this out, wants to have his peace made with the insurance companies, and know that his calling and election is sure, because I am a bad man, and don't you forget it." And the boy pulled on his boots and looked so cross and desperate that the grocery man asked him if he wouldn't try a little new cider.
"Good heavens!" said the grocery man, as the boy swallowed the cider, and his face resumed its natural look, and the piratical frown disappeared with the cider. "You have not stabbed your father, have you? I have feared that one thing would bring on another, with you, and that you would yet be hung."
"Naw, I haven't stabbed him. It was another cat that stabbed him. You see, Pa wants me to do all the work around the house. The other day he bought a load of kindling wood, and told me to carry it into the basement. I have not been educated up to kindling wood, and I didn't do it. When supper time came, and Pa found that I had not carried in the kindling wood, he had a hot box, and he told me if that wood was not in when he came back from the lodge, that he would warm my jacket. Well, I tried to hire some one to carry it in, and got a man to promise to come in the morning and carry it in and take his pay in groceries, and I was going to buy the groceries here and have them charged to Pa. But that wouldn't help me out that night. I knew when Pa came home he would search for me. So I slept in the back hall on a cot. But I didn't want Pa to have all his trouble for nothing, so I borrowed an old torn cat that my chum's old maid aunt owns, and put the cat in my bed. I thought if Pa came in my room after me, and found that by his unkindness I had changed to a torn cat, he would be sorry. That is the biggest cat you ever see, and the worst fighter in our ward. It isn't afraid of anything, and can whip a New Foundland dog quicker than you could put sand in a barrel of sugar. Well, about eleven o'clock I heard Pa tumble over the kindling wood, and I knew by the remark he made, as the wood slid around under him, that there was going to be a cat fight real quick. He come up to Ma's room, and sounded Ma as to whether Hennery had retired to his virtuous couch. Pa is awful sarcastic when he tries to be. I could hear him take off his clothes, and hear him say, as he picked up a trunk strap, 'I guess I will go up to his room and watch the smile on his face, as he dreams of angels. I yearn to press him to my aching bosom. I thought to myself, mebbe you won't yearn so much directly. He come up stairs, and I could hear him breathing hard. I looked around the corner and could see he just had on his shirt and pants, and his suspenders were hanging down, and his bald head shone like a calcium light just before it explodes. Pa went in my room, and up to the bed, and I could hear him say, 'Come out here and bring in that kindling wood, or I will start a fire on your base-burner with this strap.' And then there was a yowling such as I never heard before, and Pa said, 'Helen Blazes,' and the furniture in my room began to fall around and break. O, my! I think Pa took the torn cat right by the neck, the way he does me, and that left all the cat's feet free to get in their work. By the way the cat squawled as though it was being choked, I know Pa had him by the neck. I suppose the cat thought Pa was a whole flock of New Found-land dogs, and the cat had a record on dogs, and it kicked awful. Pa's shirt was no protection at all in a cat fight, and the cat just walked all around Pa's stomach, and Pa yelled 'police,' and 'fire,' and 'turn on the hose,' and he called Ma, and the cat yowled. If Pa had had the presence of mind enough to have dropped the cat, or rolled it up in the mat-trass, it would have been all right, but a man always gets rattled in time of danger, and he held onto the cat and started down stairs yelling murder, and he met Ma coming up.
"I guess Ma's night-cap, or something, frightened the cat some more, cause he stabbed Ma on the night-shirt with one hind foot, and Ma said 'mercy on us,' and she went back, and Pa stumbled on a hand-sled that was on the stairs, and they all fell down, and the cat got away and went down in the coal bin and yowled all night. Pa and Ma went into their room, and I guess they anointed themselves with vasaline, and Pond's extract, and I went and got into my bed, cause it was cold out in the hall, and the cat had warmed my bed as well as it had warmed Pa. It was all I could do to go to sleep, with Pa and Ma talking all night, and this morning I came down the back stairs, and havn't been to breakfast, cause I don't want to see Pa when he is vexed. You let the man that carries in the kindling wood have six shillings worth of groceries, and charge them to Pa. I have passed the kindling wood period in a boy's life, and have arrived at the coal period. I will carry in coal, but I draw the line at kindling wood.
"Well, you are a cruel, bad boy," said the grocery man, as he went to the book and charged the six shillings.
"O, I don't know. I think Pa is cruel. A man who will take a poor kitty by the neck, that hasn't done any harm, and tries to chastise the poor thing with a trunk strap, ought to be looked after by the humane society. And if it is cruel to take a cat by the neck, how much more cruel is it to take a boy by the neck, that had diphtheria only a few years ago, and whose throat is tender. Say, I guess I will accept your invitation to take breakfast with you," and the boy cut off a piece of bologna and helped himself to the crackers, and while the grocery man was cut shoveling off the snow from the sidewalk, the boy filled his pockets with raisins and loaf sugar, and then went out to watch the man carry in his kindling wood.
HIS PA AN INVENTOR THE BAD BOY A MARTYR—THE DOG-COLLAR IN THE SAUSAGE—A PATENT STOVE—THE PATENT TESTED!—HIS PA A BURNT OFFERING—EARLY BREAKFAST!
"Ha! Ha! Now I have got you," said the grocery man to the bad boy, the other morning, as he came in and jumped upon the counter and tied the end of a ball of twine to the tail of a dog, and "sicked" the dog on another dog that was following a passing sleigh, causing the twine to pay out until the whole ball was scattered along the block. "Condemn you, I've a notion to choke the liver out of you. Who tied that twine to the dog's tail?"
The boy choked up with emotion, and the tears came into his eyes, and he said he didn't know anything about the twine or the dog. He said he noticed the dog come in, and wag his tail around the twine, but he supposed the dog was a friend of the family, and did not disturb him. "Everybody lays everything that is done to me," said the boy, as he put his handkerchief to his nose, "and they will be sorry for it when I die. I have a good notion to poison myself by eating some of your glucose sugar.
"Yes, and you do about everything that is mean. The other day a lady came in and told me to send up to her house some of my country sausage, done up in muslin bags, and while she was examining it she noticed something hard inside the bags, and asked me what it was, and I opened it, and I hope to die if there wasn't a little brass pad-lock and a piece of a red morocco dog collar imbedded in the sausage. Now how do you suppose that got in there?" and the grocery man looked savage.
The boy looked interested, and put on an expression as though in deep thought, and finally said, "I suppose the farmer that put up the sausage did not strain the dog meat. Sausage meat ought to be strained."
The grocery man pulled in about half a block of twine, after the dog had run against a fence and broke it, and told the boy he knew perfectly well how the brass pad-lock came to be in the sausage, but thinking it was safer to have the good will of the boy than the ill will, he offered him a handfull of prunes.
"No," says the boy, "I have swore off on mouldy prunes. I am no kinder-garten any more. For years I have eaten rotten peaches around this store, and everything you couldn't sell, but I have turned over a new leaf now, and after this nothing is too good for me, Since Pa has got to be an inventor, we are going to live high."
"What's your Pa invented? I saw a hearse and three hacks go up on your street the other day, and I thought may be you had killed your Pa."
"Not much. There will be more than three hacks when I kill Pa, and don't you forget it. Well, sir, Pa has struck a fortune, if he can make the thing work. He has got an idea about coal stoves that will bring him several million dollars, if he gets a royalty of five dollars on every cook stove in the world. His idea is to have a coal stove on castors with the pipe made to telescope out and in, and rubber hose for one joint, so you can pull the stove all around the room and warm any particular place. Well, sir, to hear Pa tell about it, you would think it would revolutionize the country, and maybe it will when he gets it perfected, but he came near burning the house up, and scared us half to death this morn-ing, and burned his shirt off, and he is all covered with cotton with sweet oil on, and he smells like salad dressing.
"You see Pa had a pipe made and some castors put on our coal stove, and he tied a rope to the hearth of the stove, and had me put in some kindling wood and coal last night, so he could draw the stove up to the bed and light the fire without getting up. Ma told him he would put his foot in it, and he told her to dry up, and let him run the stove business. He said it took a man with brain to run a patent right, and Ma she pulled the clothes over her head and let Pa do the fire act. She has been building the fires for twenty years, and thought she would let Pa see how good it was. Well, Pa pulled the stove to the bed, and touched off the kindling wood. I guess maybe I got a bundle of kindling wood that the hired girl had put kerosene on, cause it blazed up awful and smoked, and the blaze bursted out the doors and windows of the stove, and Pa yelled fire, and I jumped out of bed and rushed in and he was the scartest man you ever see, and you'd a dide to see how he kicked when I threw a pail of water on his legs and put his shirt out. Ma did not get burned, but she was pretty wet, and she told Pa she would pay the five dollars royalty on that stove and take the castors off and let it remain stationary. Pa says he will make it work if he burns the house down. I think it was real mean in Pa to get mad at me because I threw cold water on him instead of warm water, to put his shirt out. If I had waited till I could heat water to the right temperature I would have been an orphan and Pa would have been a burnt offering. But some men always kick at everything. Pa has given up business entirely and says he shall devote the remainder of his life curing himself of the different troubles that I get him into. He has retained a doctor by the year, and he buys liniment by the gallon."
"What was it about your folks getting up in the middle of the night to eat? The hired girl was over here after some soap the other morning, and she said she was going to leave your house."
"Well, that was a picnic. Pa said he wanted breakfast earlier than we was in the habit of having it, and he said I might see to it that the house was awake early enough. The other night I awoke with the awfulest pain you ever heard of. It was that night that you give me and my chum the bottle of pickled oysters that had begun to work. Well, I couldn't sleep, and I thought I would call the hired girls, and they got up and got breakfast to going, and then I rapped on Pa and Ma's door and told them the breakfast was getting cold, and they got up and came down. We eat breakfast by gas light, and Pa yawned and said it made a man feel good to get up and get ready for work before daylight, the way he used to on the farm, and Ma she yawned and agreed with Pa, 'cause she has to, or have a row. After breakfast we sat around for an hour, and Pa said it was a long time getting daylight, and bimeby Pa looked at his watch. When he began to pull out his watch I lit out and hid in the storeroom, and pretty soon I heard Pa and Ma come up stairs and go to bed, and then the hired girls, they went to bed, and when it was all still, and the pain had stopped inside of my clothes, I went to bed, and I looked to see what time it was and it was two o'clock in the morning. We got dinner at eight o'clock in the morning, and Pa said he guessed he would call up the house after this, so I have lost another job, and it was all on account of that bottle of pickled oysters you gave me. My chum says he had colic too, but he didn't call up his folks. It was all he could do to get up hisself. Why don't you sometimes give away something that is not spiled?"
The grocery man said he guessed he knew what to give away, and the boy went out and hung up a sign in front of the grocery, that he had made on wrapping paper with red chalk, which read, "Rotten eggs, good enough for custard pies, for 18 cents a dozen."
HIS PA GETS BOXED—A PARROT FOR SALE—THE OLD MAN IS DOWN ON THE GROCER—"A CONTRITE HEART BEATS A BOB-TAIL FLUSH!"— POLLLY'S RESPONSES—CAN A PARROT GO TO HELL?—THE OLD MAN GETS ANOTHER BLACK EYE—DUFFY HITS FOR KEEPS—NOTHING LIKE AN OYSTER FOR A BLACK EYE.
"You don't want to buy a good parrot, do you," said the bad boy to the grocery man, as he put his wet mittens on the top of the stove to dry, and kept his back to the stove so he could watch the grocery man, and be prepared for a kick, if the man should remember the rotten egg sign that the boy put up in front of the grocery, last week.
"Naw, I don't want no parrot. I had rather have a fool boy around than a parrot. But what's the matter with your Ma's parrot? I thought she wouldn't part with him for anything."
"Well, she wouldn't until Wednesday night; but now she says she will not have him around, and I may have half I can get for him. She told me to go to some saloon, or some disreputable place and sell him, and I thought maybe he would about suit you," and the boy broke into a bunch of celery, and took out a few tender stalks and rubbed them on a codfish, to salt them, and began to bite the stalks, while he held the sole of one wet boot up against the stove to dry it, making a smell of burned leather that came near turning the stomach of the cigar sign.
"Look-a-here, boy, don't you call this a disreputable place. Some of the best people in this town come here," said the grocery man, as he held up the cheese-knife and grated his teeth as though he would like to jab it into, the youth.
"O, that's all right, they come here 'cause you trust; but you make up what you lose by charging it to other people. Pa will make it hot for you the last of the week. He has been looking over your bill, and comparing it with the hired girl, and she says we haven't ever had a prune, or a dried apple, or a raisin, or any cinnamon, or crackers and cheese out of your store, and he says you are worse than the James Brothers, and that you used to be a three card monte man; and he will have you arrested for highway robbery, but you can settle that with Pa. I like you, because you are no ordinary sneak thief. You are a high-toned, gentlemanly sort of a bilk, and wouldn't take anything you couldn't lift. O, keep your seat, and don't get excited. It does a man good to hear the truth from one who has got the nerve to tell it.
"But about the parrot. Ma has been away from home for a week, having a high old time in Chicago, going to theatres and things, and while she was gone, I guess the hired girl or somebody learned the parrot some new things to say. A parrot that can only say 'Polly wants a cracker,' dont amount to anything—what we need is new style parrots that can converse on the topics of the day, and say things original. Well, when Ma got back, I guess her conscience hurt her for the way she had been carrying on in Chicago, and so when she heard the basement of the church was being frescoed, she invited the committee to hold the Wednesday evening prayer meeting at our house. First, there were four people came, and Ma asked Pa to stay to make up a quorum, and Pa said seeing he had two pair, he guessed he would stay in, and if Ma would deal him a queen he would have a full hand. I don't know what Pa meant; but he plays draw poker sometimes. Anyway, there was eleven people came, including the minister, and after they had talked about the neighbors a spell, and Ma had showed the women a new tidy she had worked for the heathen, with a motto on it which Pa had taught her: 'A contrite heart beats a bob-tailed flush,'—and Pa had talked to the men about a religious silver mine he was selling stock in, which he advised them as a friend to buy for the glory of the church, they all went in the back parlor, and the minister led in prayer. He got down on his knees right under the parrot's cage, and you'd a dide to see Polly hang on to the wires of the cage with one foot, and drop an apple core on the minister's head. Ma shook her handkerchief at Polly, and looked sassy, and Polly got up on the perch, and as the minister got warmed up, and began to raise the roof, Polly said, 'O, dry up.' The minister had his eyes shut, but he opened one of them a little and looked at Pa> Pa was tickled at the parrot, but when the minister looked at Pa as though it was him that was making irreverent remarks, Pa was mad.
"The minister got to the 'Amen,' and Polly shook hisself and said 'What you giving us?' and the minister got up and brushed the bird seed off his knees, and he looked mad. I thought Ma would sink with mortification, and I was sitting on a piano stool, looking as pious as a Sunday school superintendent the Sunday before he skips out with the bank's funds; and Ma looked at me as though she thought it was me that had been tampering with the parrot. Gosh, I never said a word to that parrot, and I can prove it by my chum.
"Well, the minister asked one of the sisters if she wouldn't pray, and she wasn't engaged, so she said with pleasure, and she kneeled down, but she corked herself, 'cause she got one knee on a cast iron dumb bell that I had been practising with. She said 'O my,' in a disgusted sort of a way, and then she began to pray for the reformation of the youth of the land, and asked for the spirit to descend on the household, and particularly on the boy that was such a care and anxiety to his parents, and just then Polly said, 'O, pull down your vest.' Well, you'd a dide to see that woman look at me. The parrot cage was partly behind the window curtain, and they couldn't see it, and she thought it was me. She looked at Ma as though she was wondering why she didn't hit me with a poker, but she went on, and Polly said, 'wipe off your chin,' and then the lady got through and got up, and told Ma it must be a great trial to have an idiotic child, and then Ma she was mad and said it wasn't half so bad as it was to be a kleptomaniac, and then the woman got up and said she wouldn't stay no longer, and Pa said to me to take that parrot out doors, and that seemed to make them all good natured again. Ma said to take the parrot and give it to the poor. I took the cage and pointed my finger at the parrot and it looked at the woman and said 'old catamaran,' and the woman tried to look pious and resigned, but she couldn't. As I was going out the door the parrot ruffed up his feathers and said 'Dammit, set em up,' and I hurried out with the cage for fear he would say something bad, and the folks all held up their hands and said it was scandalous. Say, I wonder if a parrot can go to hell with the rest of the community. Well, I put the parrot in the woodshed, and after they all had their innings, except Pa, who acted as umpire, the meeting broke up, and Ma says its the last time she will have that gang at her house.
"That must have been where your Pa got his black eye," said the grocery man, as he charged the bunch of celery to the boy's Pa. "Did the minister hit him, or was it one of the sisters?"
"O, he didn't get his black eye at prayer meeting!" said the boy, as he took his mittens off the stove and rubbed them to take the stiffening out. "It was from boxing. Pa told my chum and me that it was no harm to learn to box, cause we could defend ourselves, and he said he used to be a holy terror with the boxing gloves when he was a boy, and he has been giving us lessons. Well, he is no slouch, now I tell you, and handles himself pretty well for a church member. I read in the paper how Zack Chandler played it on Conkling by getting Jem Mace, the prize fighter, to knock him silly, and I asked Pa if he wouldn't let me bring a poor boy who had no father to teach him boxing, to our house to learn to box, and Pa said certainly, fetch him along. He said he would be glad to do anything for a poor orphan. So I went down in the Third ward and got an Irish boy by the name of Duffy, who can knock the socks off of any boy in the ward. He fit a prize fight once. It would have made you laugh to see Pa telling him how to hold his hands and how to guard his face. He told Duffy not to be afraid, but strike right out and hit for keeps. Duffy said he was afraid Pa would get mad if he hit him, and Pa said, 'nonsense, boy, knock me down if you can, and I will laugh ha! ha!' Well, Duffy he hauled back and gave Pa one in the nose and another in both eyes, and cuffed him on the ear and punched him in the stomach, and lammed him in the mouth and made his teeth bleed, and then he gave him a side-winder in both eyes, and Pa pulled off the boxing gloves and grabbed a chair, and we adjourned and went down stairs as though there was a panic. I haven't seen Pa since. Was his eye very black?"
"Black, I should say so," said the grocery man. "And his nose seemed to be trying to look into his left ear. He was at the market buying beefsteak to put on it."
"O, beef steak is no account. I must go and see him and tell him that an oyster is the best thing for a black eye. Well, I must go. A boy has a pretty hard time running a house the way it should be run," and the boy went out and hung up a sign in front of the grocery: "Frowy Butter a Speshulty."