"We worked till a boy throwed some tomato cans over the ally fence and hit me, and I piled over the fence after him and left Pa. It was my chum, and when I had caught him we put up a job to get Pa to chase us. We throwed some more cans, and Pa come out and my chum started and I after him, and Pa after both of us. He chased us two blocks and then we got behind a policeman, and my chum told the policeman it was a crazy old colored man that wanted to kidnap us, and the policeman took Pa by the neck and was going to club him, but Pa said he would go home and behave. He was offul mad, and he went home and we looked through the alley fence and saw Pa trying to wash off the blacking. You see that blacking won't wash off. You have to wear it off. Pa would wash his face with soap suds, and then look in the glass, and he was blacker everytime he washed, and when Ma laffed at him he said the offulest words, something like 'sweet spirit hear my prayer,' then he washed himself again. I am going to leave my burnt cork on, cause if I washed it off Pa would know there had been some smouging somewhere. I asked the shoe store man how long it would take the blacking to wear off, and he said it ought to wear off in a week. I guess Pa won't go out doors much, unless it is in the night. I am going to get him to let me go off in the country fishing, till mine wears off, and when I get out of town I will wash up. Say, you don't think a little blacking hurts a man's complexion do you, and you don't think a man ought to get mad because it won't wash off, do you?"
"O, probably it don't hurt the complexion," said the grocery man, as he sprinkled some fresh water on the wilted lettuce, so it would look fresh while the hired girl was buying some, "and yet it is mighty unpleasant, where a man has got an engagement to go to a card party, as I know your Pa has to-night. As to getting mad about it, if I was your Pa I would take a barrel stave and shatter your castle scandalous. What kind of a fate do you think awaits you when you die, anyway?"
"Well, I am mixed on the fate that awaits me when I die. If I should go off sudden, with all my sins on my head, and this burnt cork on my face, I should probably be a neighbor to you, way down below, and they would give me a job as fireman, and I should feel bad for you every time I chucked in a nuther chunk of brimstone, and thought of you trying to swim dog fashion in the lake of fire, and straining your eyes to find an iceberg that you could crawl up on to cool your parched hind legs. If I don't die slow so I will have time to repent, and be saved, I shall be toasted brown. That's what the minister says, and they wouldn't pay him two thousand dollars a year and give him a vacation to tell anything that was not so. I tell you it is painful to think of that place that so many pretty fair average people here are going to when they die. Just think of it, a man that swears just once, if he don't hedge, and take it back will go to the bad place. If a person steals a pin, just a small, no account pin, he is as bad as if he stole all there was in a bank, and he stands the best chance of going to the bad place. You see, if a fellow steals a little thing like a pin, he forgets to repent, cause it don't seem to be worth while to make so much fuss about. But if a fellow robs a bank, or steals a whole lot of money from orphans, he knows it is a mighty serious matter, and he gets in his work repenting, too quick, and he is liable to get to the good place, while you, who have only stole a few potatoes out of a bushel that you sold to the orphan asylum, will forget to repent, and you will sizzle. I tell you, the more I read about being good, and going to Heaven, the more I think a feller can't be too careful, and from this out you won't find a better boy than I am. When I come in here after this and take a few dried peaches or crackers and cheese, you charge it right up to Pa, and then I won't have it on my mind and have to answer for it at the great judgment day. I am going to shake my chum, cause he chews tobacco, which is wicked, though I don't see how that can be, when the minister smokes, but I want to be on the safe side. I am going to be good or bust a suspender, and hereafter you can point to me as a boy who has seen the folly of an ill-spent life, and if there is such a thing as a fifteen year old boy, who has been a terror, getting to heaven, I am the hairpin. I tell you, when I listen to the minister tell about the angels flying around there, and I see pictures of them purtier than any girl in this town, with chubby arms with dimples in the elbows and shoulders, and long golden hair, and think of myself here cleaning off horses in a livery stable and smelling like an old harness, it makes me tired, and I wouldn't miss going there for ten dollars. Say, you would make a healthy angel, for a back street of the new Jerusalem, but you would give the whole crowd away unless you washed up, and sent that shirt to the Chinese laundry. Yes, sir, hereafter you will find me as good as I know how to be. Now I am going to wash up and go and help the minister move."
As the boy went out the grocery man sat for several minutes thinking of the change that had come over the bad boy, and wondered what had brought it about, and then he went to the door to watch him as he wended his way across the street with his head down, as though in deep thought, and the grocery man said to himself, "that boy is not as bad as some people think he is," and then he looked around and saw a sign hanging up in front of the store, written on a piece of box cover, with blue pencil:—
CANNED HAM AND TONGUE,
FOR CHURCH PICNICS.
and he looked after the boy who was slipping down an alley and said, "The condemn little whelp. Wait till I catch him."
THE OLD MAN SHOOTS THE MINISTER—THE BAD BOY TRIES TO LEAD A DIFFERENT LIFE—MURDER IN THE AIR—THE OLD MAN AND HIS FRIENDS GIVE THEMSELVES AWAY-DREADFUL STORIES OF THEIR WICKED YOUTH—THE CHICKEN COOP INVADED—THE OLD MAN TO THE RESCUE—THE MINISTER AND THE DEACONS SALTED.
"Say, I thought you was going to try to lead a different life," said the grocery man to the bad boy, as the youth came in with his pockets full of angle worms, and wanted to borrow a baking powder can to put them into, while he went fishing, and he held a long angle worm up by the tail and let it wiggle so he frightened a girl that had come in after two cents worth of yeast, so she dropped her pitcher and went out of the grocery as though she was chased by an anaconda.
"I am going to lead a different life; but a boy can't change his whole course of life in a minute, can he? Grown persons have to go on probation for six months before they can lead a different life, and half the time they lose their cud before the six months expire, and have to commence again. When it is so alfired hard for a man that is endowed with sense to break off being bad, you shouldn't expect too much from a boy But I am doing as well as could be expected—I ain't half as bad as I was. Gosh, why don't you burn a rag? That yeast that the girl spilled on the floor smells like it was sick. I should think that bread that was raised with that yeast would smell like this cooking, butter you sell to hired girls.
"Well, never you mind the cooking butter. I know my business. If people want to use poor butter when they have company, and then blow up the grocer before folks, I can stand it if they can. But what is this I hear about your Pa fighting a duel with the minister in your back yard, and wounding him in the leg, and then trying to drown himself in the cistern? One of your new neighbors was in here this morning, and told me there was murder in the air at your house last night, and they were going to have the police pull your place as a disorderly house. I think you were at the bottom of the whole business!"
"O, its all a darn lie, and those neighbors will find they better keep still about us, or we will lie about them a little. You see, since Pa got that blacking on his face he don't go out any, and to make it pleasant for him Ma invited in a few friends to spend the evening. Ma has got up around, and the baby is a daisy, only it smells like a goat, on account of drinking the goat's milk. Ma invited the minister, among the rest, and after supper the men went up into Pa's library to talk. O, you think I am bad don't you, but of the nine men at our house last night I am an angel compared with what they were when they were boys. I got into the bath room to untangle my fish line, and it is next to Pa's room, and I could hear everything they said, but I went away 'cause I thought the conversation would hurt my morals. They would all steal, when they were boys, but darned if I ever stole. Pa has stolen over a hundred wagon loads of water-melons, one deacon used to rob orchards, another one shot tame ducks belonging to a farmer, and another tipped over grindstones in front of the village store, at night, and broke them, and run, another used to steal eggs, and go out in the woods and boil them, and the minister was the worst of the lot, 'cause he took a seine, with some other boys, and went to a stream where a neighbor was raising brook trout, and cleaned the stream out, and to ward off suspicion, he went to the man the next day and paid him a dollar to let him fish in the stream, and then kicked because there were no trout, and the owner found the trout were stolen and laid it to some Dutch boys. I wondered, when those men were telling their experience, if they ever thought of it now when they were preaching and praying, and taking up collections. I should think they wouldn't say a boy was going to hell right off 'cause he was a little wild now days, when he has such an example. Well, lately, somebody has been burgling our chicken coop, and Pa loaded an old musket with rock salt, and said he would fill the fellow full of salt if he caught him, and while they were talking up stairs Ma heard a rooster squawk, and she went to the stairway and told Pa there was somebody in the hen house. Pa jumped up and told the visitors to follow him, and they would see a man running down the alley full of salt, and he rushed out with the gun, and the crowd followed him. Pa is shorter than the rest, and he passed under the first wire clothes line in the yard all right, and was going for the hen house on a jump, when his neck caught the second wire clothesline just as the minister and two of the deacons caught their necks under the other wire. You know how a wire, hitting a man on the throat, will set him back, head over appetite. Well, sir, I was looking out of the back window, and I wouldn't be positive, but I think they all turned double back summersaults, and struck on their ears. Anyway, Pa did, and the gun must have been cocked, or it struck the hammer on a stone, for it went off, and it was pointed towards the house, and three of the visitors got salted. The minister was hit the worse, one piece of salt taking him in the hind leg, and the other in the back, and he yelled as though it was dynamite."
"I suppose when you shoot a man with salt, it smarts, like when you get corned beef brine on your chaped hands. They all yelled, and Pa seemed to have been knocked silly, some way, for he pranced around and seemed to think he he had killed them. He swore at the wire clothes line, and then I missed Pa and heard a splash like when you throw a cat in the river, and then I thought of the cistern, and I went down and we took Pa by the collar and pulled him out. O, he was awful damp. No sir, it was no duel at all, but a naxident, and I didn't have anything to do with it. The gun wasn't loaded to kill, and the salt only went through the skin, but those men did yell. May be it was my chum that stirred up the chickens, but I don't know. He has not commenced to lead a different life yet, and he might think it would make our folks sick if nothing occurred to make them pay at-tion. I think where a family has been having a good deal of exercise, the way ours has, it hurts them to break off too suddenly. But the visitors went home, real quick, after we got Pa out of the cistern, and the minister told Ma he always felt when he was in our house, as though he was on the verge of a yawning crater, ready to be engulfed any minute, and he guessed he wouldn't come any more. Pa changed his clothes and told Ma to have them wire clothes lines changed for rope ones. I think it is hard to suit Pa, don't you?
"O, your Pa is all right. What he needs is rest. But why are you not working at the livery stable? You haven't been discharged, have you?" And the grocery man laid a little lump of concentrated lye, that looked like maple sugar, on a cake of sugar that had been broken, knowing the boy would nibble it.
"No, sir, I was not discharged, but when a livery man lends me a kicking horse to take my girl out riding, that settles it. I asked the boss if I couldn't have a quiet horse that would drive himself if I wound the lines around the whip, and he let me have one he said would go all day without driving. You know how it is, when a fellow takes a girl out riding he don't want his mind occupied holding lines. Well, I got my girl in, and we went out on the Whitefish Bay, road, and it was just before dark, and we rode along under the trees, and I wound the lines around the whip, and put one arm around my girl, and patted her under the chin with my other hand, and her mouth looked so good, and and her blue eyes looked up at me and twinkled as much as to dare me to kiss her, and I was all of a tremble, and then my hand wandered around by her ear and I drew her head up to me and gave her a smack. Say, that was no kind of a horse to give to a young fellow to take a girl out riding. Just as I smacked her I felt as though the buggy had been struck with a pile driver, and when I looked at the horse he was running away and kicking the buggy, and the lines were dragging on the ground. I was scared, I tell you. I wanted to jump out but my girl threw her arms around my neck and screamed, and said we would die together, and just as we were going to die the buggy struck a fence and the horse broke loose and went off, leaving us in the buggy, tumbled down by the dash board, but we were not hurt. The old horse stopped and went to chewing grass, and looked up at me as though he wanted to say 'philopene.' I tried to catch him, but he wouldn't catch, and then we waited till dark and walked home, and I told the livery man what I thought of such treatment, and he said if I had attended to my driving, and not kissed the girl, I would have been all right. He said I ought to have told him I wanted a horse that wouldn't shy at kissing, but how did I know I was going to get up courage to kiss her. A livery man ought to take it for granted that when a young fellow goes out with a girl he is going to kiss her, and give him a horse according. But I quit him at once. I won't work for a man that hasn't got sense. Gosh! What kind of maple sugar is that? Jerusalem, whew, give me some water. O, my, it is taking the skin off my mouth."
The grocery man got him some water and seemed sorry that the boy had taken the lump of concentrated lye by mistake, and when the boy went out the grocery man pounded his hands on his knees and laughed, and presently he went out in front of the store and found a sign
BEEN PICKED MORE'N A WEEK,
THE BAD BOY A THOROUGHBRED—THE BAD BOY WITH A BLACK EYE—A POOR FRIENDLESS GIRL EXCITES HIS PITY—PROVES HIMSELF A GALLANT KNIGHT—THE OLD MAN IS CHARMED AT HIS SON'S COURAGE— THE GROCERY MAN MORALIZES—FIFTEEN CHRISTS IN MILWAUKEE— THE TABLES TURNED—THE OLD MAN WEARS THE BOY'S OLD CLOTHES.
"Ah, ha, you have got your deserts at last," said the grocery man to the bad boy, as he came in with one eye black, and his nose pealed on on one side, and sat down on a board across the the coal scuttle, and began whistling as unconcerned as possible. "What's the matter with your eye?"
"Boy tried to gouge it out without my consent," and the bad boy took a dried herring out of the box and began peeling it. "He is in bed now, and his ma is poulticing him, and she says he will be out about the last of next week.
"O, you are going to be a prize fighter, ain't you," said the grocery man, disgusted. "When a boy leaves a job where he is working, and goes to loafing around, he becomes a fighter the first thing. What your Pa ought to do is bind you out with a farmer, where you would have to work all the time. I wish you would go away from here, because you look like one of these fellows that comes up before the police judge Monday morning, and gets thirty days in the house of correction. Why don't you go out and loaf around a slaughter house, where you would look appropriate?" and the grocery man took a hair-brush and brushed some sugar and tea, that was on the counter, into the sugar barrel.
"Well, if you have got through with your sermon, I will toot a little on my horn," and the boy threw the remains of the herring over behind a barrel of potatoes, and wiped his hands on a coffee sack. "If you had this black eye, and got it the way I did, it would be a more priceless gem in the crown of glory you hope to wear, than any gem you can get by putting quarters in the collection plate, with the holes filled with lead, as you did last Sunday, when I was watching you. O, didn't you look pious when you picked that filled quarter out, and held your thumb over the place where the lead was. The way of the black eye was this. I got a job tending a soda water fountain, and last night, just before we closed, there was two or three young loafers in the place, and a girl came in for a glass of soda Five years ago she was one of the brightest scholars in the ward school, when I was in the intermediate department. She was just as handsome as a peach, and everybody liked her. At recess she used to take my part when the boys knocked me around and she lived near us. She had a heart as big as that cheese box, and I guess that's what's the matter. Anyway, she left school, and then it was said she was going to get married to a fellow who is now in the dude business, but he went back on her and after awhile her ma turned her out doors, and for a year or two she was jerking beer in a concert saloon, until the mayor stopped concerts. She tried hard to get sewing to do, but they wouldn't have her, I guess 'cause she cried so much when she was sewing, and the tears wet the cloth she was sewing on. Once I asked Pa why Ma didn't give her some sewing to do, and he said for me to dry up and never speak to her if I met her on the street. It seemed tuff to pass her on the street, when she had tears in her eyes as big as marbles, and not speak to her when I know her so well, and she had been so kind to me at school just 'cause the dude wouldn't marry her, but I wanted to obey Pa, so I used to walk around a block when I see her coming, 'cause I didn't want to hurt her feelings. Well, last night she came in the store, looking pretty shabby, and wanted a glass of soda, and I gave it to her, and O, how her hand trembled when she raised the glass to her lips, and how wet her eyes were, and how pale her face was. I choked up so I couldn't speak when she handed me the nickel and when she looked up at me and smiled just like she used to, and said I was getting to be almost a man since we went to school at the old school house, and put her handkerchief to her eyes, by gosh, my eyes got so full I couldn't tell whether is was a nickel or a lozenger she gave me. Just then one of those loafers began to laugh at her, and call her names, and say the police ought to take her up for stray, and he made fun of her until she cried some more, and I got hot and went around to where he was and told him if he said another unkind word to that girl I would maul him. He laughed and asked if she was my sister, and I told him that a poor friendless girl, who was sick and in distress, and who was insulted, ought to be every boy's sister, for a minute, and any boy who had a spark of manhood should protect her, and then he laughed and said I ought to be one of the Little Sisters of the Poor, and he took hold of her faded shawl and pulled the weak girl against the showcase, and said something mean to her, and she looked as though she wanted to die, and I mashed that boy one right on the nose. Well, the air seemed to be full of me for a minute, 'cause he was bigger than me, and he got me down and got his thumb in my eye. I guess he was going to take my eye out, but I turned him over and got on top and I mauled him until he begged, but I wouldn't let him up till he asked the girl's pardon, and swore he would whip any boy that insulted her, and then I let him up, and the girl thanked me; but I told her I couldn't speak to her 'cause she was tuff, and Pa didn't wan't me to speak to anybody who was tuff; but if anybody ever insulted her so she had to cry, that I would whip him if I had to take a club. I told Pa about it, and I thought he would be mad at me for taking the part of a girl that was tuff, but, by gosh, Pa hugged me, and the tears came in his eyes, and he said I had got good blood in me, and I did just right; and if I would show him the father of the boy that I whipped, Pa said said he could whip the old man, and Ma said for me to find the poor girl and send her up to the house, and she would give her a job making pillow cases and night shirts. Don't it seem darn queer to you that everybody goes back on a poor girl 'cause she makes a mistake, and the blasted whelp that is to blame gets a chromo. It makes me tired to think of it;" and the boy got up and shook himself, and looked in the cracked mirror hanging upon a post, to see how his eye was getting along.
"Say, young fellow, you are a thoroughbred," said the grocery man, as he sprinkled some water on the asparagus and lettuce, "and you can come in here and get all the herring you want, and never mind the black eye. I wish I had it myself. Yes, it does seem tough to see people never allow a girl to reform. Now, in Bible times, the Savior forgave Mary or somebody, I forget now what her name was, and she was a better girl than ever. What we need is more of the spirit of Christ, and the world would be better."
"What we want is about ten thousand Christs. We ought to have ten or fifteen right here in Milwaukee, and they would find plenty of business, too. But this climate seems to be too rough. Say, did I tell you about Pa and Ma having trouble?"
"No, what's the row?"
"Well, you see Ma wants to economize all she can, and Pa has been getting thinner since he quit drinking and reformed, and I have kept on growing until I am bigger than he is. Funny, ain't it, that a boy should be bigger than his Pa? Pa wanted a new suit of clothes, and Ma said she would fix him, and so she took one of my old suits and made it over for Pa; and he wore them a week before he knew it was on old suit made over, but one day he found a handful of dried up angle worms in the pistol pocket that I had forgot when I was fishing, and Pa laid the angle worms to Ma, and Ma had to explain that she made over one of my old suits for Pa. He was mad and took them off and threw them out the back window, and swore he would never humiliate himself by wearing his son's old clothes. Ma tried to reason with him, but he was awfully worked up, and said he was no old charity hospital, and he stormed around to find his old suit of clothes, but Ma had sold them to a plaster of Paris image peddlar, and Pa hadn't anything to wear, and he wanted Ma to go out in the alley and pick up the suit he threw out the window; but a rag man had picked them up and was going away, and Pa, he grabbed a linen duster and put it on and went out after the rag picker, and he run, and Pa after him; and the rag man told a policeman there was an escaped lunatic from the asylum, and he was chasing people all over the city, and the policeman took Pa by the linen ulster, and pulled it off, and he was a sight when they took him to the police station. Ma and me had to go down and bail him out, and the police lent us a tarpaulin to put over Pa, and we got him home, and he is wearing his summer pants while the tailor makes him a new suit of clothes. I think Pa is too excitable, and too particular. I never kicked on wearing Pa's old clothes, and I think he ought to wear mine now. Well, I must go down to the sweetened wind factory, and jerk soda," and the boy went out and hung up a sign in front of the store:
SPINAGE FOB GREENS,
THAT THE CAT HAS MADE
A NEST IN OVER SUNDAY.
ENTERTAINING Y. M. C. A. DELEGATES—THE BAD BOY MINISTERS AT THE Y. M. C. A. WATER FOUNTAIN—THE DELEGATES FLOOD THEMSELVES WITH SODA—TWO DELEGATES DEALT TO HIS MA—THE NIGHT KEY—THE PALL OF THE FLOWER-STAND—DELEGATES IN THE CELLAR ALL NIGHT—THE BAD BOY'S GIRL IS WORKING HIS REFORMATION.
"Well, how's your eye?" said the grocery man to the bad boy, as he blew in with the wind on the day of the cyclone, and left the door open. "Say, shut that door. You want to blow everything out of the store? Had any more fights, protecting girls from dudes?"
"No, everything is quiet so far. I guess since I have got a record as a fighter, the boys will be careful who they insult when I am around. But I have had the hardest week I ever experienced, jerking soda for the Young Men's Christian Association," said the boy, as he peeled a banana.
"What you mean, boy? Don't cast any reflections on such a noble Association. They don't drink, do they?''
"Drink! O, no! They don't drink anything intoxicating, but when it comes to soda they flood themselves. You know there has been a National Convention of delegates from all the Young Men's Christian Associations of the whole country, about three hundred, here, and our store is right on the street where they passed four times a day, and I never saw such appetites for soda. There has been, one continual fizz in our store since Wednesday. The boss wanted me to play it on some of them by putting some brandy in with the perfumery a few times, but I wouldn't do it. I guess a few weeks ago, before I had led a different life, I wouldn't had to be asked twice to play the game on anybody. But a man can buy soda of me and be perfectly safe. Of course, if a man winks, when I ask him what flavor he wants, and says 'never mind,' I know enough to put in brandy. That is different. But I wouldn't smuggle it into a man for nothing. This Christian Association Convention has caused a coldness between Pa and Ma though.
"How's that? Your Pa isn't jealous, is he?" and the grocery man came around from behind the counter to get the latest gossip to retail to the hired girls who traded with him.
"Jealous nothin'," said the boy> as he took a few raisins out of a box. "You see, the delegates were shuffled out to all the church members to take care of, and they dealt two to Ma, and she never told Pa anything about it. They came to supper the first night, and Pa didn't get home, so when they went to the Convention in the evening Ma gave them a night key, and Pa came home from the boxing match about eleven o'clock, and Ma was asleep. Just as Pa got most of his clothes off he heard somebody fumbling at the front door, and he thought it was burglars. Pa has got nerve enough, when he is on the inside of the house and the burglars are on the outside. He opened a window and looked out and saw two suspicious looking characters trying to pick the lock with a skeleton key, and he picked up a new slop-jar that Ma had bought when we moved, cover and all, and dropped it down right between the two del-gates. Gosh, if it had hit one of them there would have been the solemnest funeral you ever saw. Just as it struck they got the door opened and came in the hall, and the wind was blowing pretty hard and they thought a cyclone had taken the cupola off the house. They were talking about being miraculously saved, and trying to strike a match on their wet pants, when Pa went to the head of the stairs and pushed over a wire stand filled with potted plants, which struck pretty near the delegates, and one of them said the house was coming down sure, and they better go into the cellar, and they went down and got behind the furnace. Pa called me up and wanted me to go down cellar and tell the burglars we were onto them, and for them to get out, but I wasn't very well, so Pa locked his door and went to bed. I guess it must have been half an hour before Pa's cold feet woke Ma up, and then Pa told her not to move for her life, cause there were two of the savagest looking burglars that ever was, rumaging over the house. Ma smelled Pa's breath to see if he had got to drinking again, and then she got up and hid her oraide watch in her shoes, and her Onalaska diamond ear-rings in the Bible, where she said no burglar would ever find them, and Pa and Ma laid awake till daylight, and then Pa said he wasn't afraid, and he and Ma went down cellar. Pa stood on the bottom stair and looked around, and one of the delegates said, 'Mister, is the storm over, and is your family safe?' and Ma recognized the voice and said, 'Why, its one of the delegates. What are you doing down there?' and Pa said 'What's a delegate?' and then Ma explained it, and Pa apologized, and the delegate said it was no matter, as they had enjoyed themselves real well in the cellar. Ma was mortified most to death, but the delegate told her it was all right. She was mad at Pa, first, but when she saw the broken slop bowl on the front steps, and the potted plants in the hall, she wanted to kill Pa, and I guess she would only for the society of the delegates. She couldn't help telling Pa he was a bald headed old fool but Pa didn't retaliate—he is too much of a gentleman to talk back in company. All he said was that a woman who is old enough to have delegates sawed off on to her ought to have sense enough to tell her husband, and then they all drifted off into conversation about the convention and the boxing match, and everything was all right on the surface; but after breakfast, when the delegates went to the convention, I noticed Pa went right down town and bought a new slop-jar and some more plants. Pa and Ma didn't speak all the forenoon, and I guess they wouldn't up to this time only Ma's bonnet came home from the milliner's and she had to have some money to pay for it. Then she called Pa 'pet,' and that settled it. When Ma calls Pa 'pet,' that is twenty-five dollars. 'Dear, old darling,' means fifty dollars. But, say, those christian young men do a heap of good, don't they. Their presence seems to make people better. Some boys down by the store were going to tie a can on a dog's tail, yesterday, and somebody said 'here comes the Christian Association,' and those bad boys let the dog go. They tried to find the dog after the crowd had got by, but the dog knew his business. Well, I must go down and charge the soda fountain for a picnic that is expected from the country."
"Hold on a minute," said the grocery man as he wound a piece of brown paper around a cob and stuck it in a syrup jug he had just filled for a customer, and then licked his fingers. "I want to ask you a question. What has caused you to change so from being bad. You were about as bad as they make 'em, up to a few weeks ago, and now you seem to have a soul, and get in your work doing good about as well as any boy in town. What is it that ails you?"
"O, sugar, I don't want to tell," said the boy, as he blushed and wiggled around on one foot, and looked silly; "but if you won't laugh, I will tell you. It is my girl that has made me good. It may be only temporary. If she goes back on me I may be tuff again; but if she continues to hold out faithful I shall be a daisy all the time. Say, did you ever love a girl? It would do you good, if you loved anybody regular old fashioned the way I do, people could send little children here to trade, and you wouldn't palm off any wilted vegetables on to them, or give them short weight—if you was in love, and felt that the one you loved saw every act of yours, and you could see her eyes every minute, you would throw away anything that was spoiled, and not try to sell it, for fear you would offend her. I don't think any man is fit to do business honestly unless he is in love, or has been in love once. Now I couldn't do anything wrong if I tried, because I should hear the still small voice of my girl saying to me 'Hennery, let up on that.' I slipped up on a banana peel, yesterday, and hurt myself, and I was just going to say something offul, and I could see my girl's bangs raise right up, and there was a pained look in her face, and a tear in her eye, and, by gosh, I just smiled and looked tickled till her hair went down and the smile came back again to her lips, though it hurt me like blazes where I struck the sidewalk. Iwas telling Pa about it, and asked him if he ever felt as though his soul was going right out towards somebody, and he said he did once on a steamboat excursion; but he eat a lemon and got over it. Pa thinks it is my liver, and wants me to take pills, but I tell you, boss, it has struck in me too deep for pills, unless it is one that weighs about a hundred and forty pounds, and wears a hat with a feather on. Say, if my girl should walk right into a burning lake of red-hot lava, and beckon me to follow, I would take a hop, skip and jump, and—"
"O give us a rest," said the grocery man, a he took a basin of water and sprinkled the floor preparatory to sweeping out. "You have got the worst case I ever saw, and you better go out and walk around a block," and the boy went out, and forgot to hang out any sign.
HE TURNS SUPE. THE BAD BOY QUITS JERKING SODA—ENTERS THE DRAMATIC PROFESSION—"WHAT'S A SUPER"—THE PRIVILEGES OP A SUPE'S FATHER—BEHIND THE SCENES—THE BAD BOY HAS PLAYED WITH MC'CULLOUGH—"I WAS THE POPULACE"—PLAYS IT ON HIS SUNDAY SCHOOL TEACHER—"I PRITHEE, AU RESERVOIR, I GO HENS!"
"You look pretty sleepy," said the grocery man to the bad boy, as he came in the store yawning, and stretched himself out on the counter with his head on a piece of brown wrapping paper, in reach of a box of raisins, "what's the matter? Been sitting up with your girl all night?"
"Naw! I wish I had. Wakefullness with my girl is sweeter and more restful than sleep. No, this is the result of being a dutiful son, and I am tired. You see Pa and Ma have separated. That is, not for keeps, but Pa has got frightened about burglars, and he gets up into the attic to sleep. He says it is to get fresh air, but he knows better. Ma has got so accustomed to Pa's snoring that she can't go to sleep without it, and the first night Pa left she didn't sleep a wink, and yesterday I was playing on an old accordeon that I traded a dog collar for after our dog was poisoned, and when I touched the low notes I noticed Ma dozed oft to sleep, it sounded so much like Pa's snore, and last night Ma made me set up and play for her to sleep. She rested splendid, but I am all broke up, and I sold the accordeon this morning to the watchman who watches our block, It is queer what a different effect music will have on different people. While Ma was sleeping the sleep of innocence under the influence of my counterfeit of Pa's snore, the night watchman was broke of his rest by it, and he bought it of me to give it to the son of an enemy of his. Well, I have quit jerking soda.
"No you don't tell me," said the grocery man as he moved the box of raisins out of reach. "You never will amount to anything unless you stick to one trade or profession. A rolling hen never catches the early angleworm."
"O, but I am all right now. In the soda water business, there is no chance for genius to rise unless the soda fountain explodes. It is all wind, and one gets tired of the constant fizz. He feels that he is a fraud, and when he puts a little syrup in a tumbler, and fires a little sweetened wind and water in it until the soap suds fills the tumbler, and charges ten cents for that which only costs a cent, a sensitive soda jerker, who has reformed, feels that it is worse than three card monte. I couldn't stand the wear on my conscience, so I have got a permanent job as a super, and shall open the 1st of September.
"Say, what's a super? It isn't one of these free lunch places, that the mayor closes at midnight, is it?" and the grocery man looked sorry.
"O, thunder, you want salt on you. A super is an adjunct to the stage. A supe is a fellow that assists the stars and things, carrying chairs and taking up carpets, and sweeping the sand off the stage after a dancer has danced a jig, and he brings beer for the actors, and helps lace up corsets, and anything he can do to add to the effect of the play. Privately, now, I have been acting as a supe for a long time, on the sly, and my folks didn't know anything about it, but since I reformed and decided to be good, I felt it my duty to tell Ma and Pa about it. The news broke Ma all up, at first, but Pa said some of the best actors in this country were supes once, and some of them were now, and he thought suping would be the making of me. Ma thought going on the stage would be my ruination. She said the theater was the hotbed of sin, and brought more ruin than the church could head off. But when I told her that they always gave a supe two or three extra tickets for his family, she said the theatre had some redeeming features, and when I said my entrance upon the stage would give me a splendid opportunity to get the recipe for face powder from the actresses, for Ma, and I could find out how the actresses managed to get number four feet into number one shoes, Ma said she wished I would commence suping right off. Ma says there are some things about the theater that are not so alfired bad, and she wants me to get seats for the first comic opera that comes along. Pa wants it understood with the manager that a supe's father has a right to go behind the scenes to see that no harm befalls him, but I know what Pa wants. He may seem pious, and all that, but he likes to look at ballet girls better than any meek and lowly follower I ever see, and some day you will hear music in the air. Pa thinks theaters are very bad, when he has to pay a dollar for a reserved seat, but when he can get in for nothing as a relative of one of the 'perfesh', the theater has many redeeming qualities. Pa and Ma think I am going into the business fresh and green, but I know all about it. When I played with McCullough here once—
"Oh, what are you giving us," said the grocery man in disgust, "when you played with McCullough! What did you do!"
"What did I do? Why, you old seed cucumber, the whole play centered around me. Do you remember the scene in the Roman forum, where McCullough addressed the populace of Rome? I was the populace. Don't you remember a small feller standing in front of the Roman orator taking it in; with a night shirt on, with bare legs and arms? That was me, and everything depended on me. Suppose I had gone off the stage at the critical moment, or laughed when I should have looked fierce at the inspired words of the Roman senator, it would have been a dead give away on McCollough. As the populace of Rome I consider myself a glittering success, and Mc took me by the hand when they carried Caesar's dead body out, and he said, 'us three did ourselves proud.' Such praise from McCollough is seldom accorded to a supe. But I don't consider the populace of the imperial city of Rome my master piece. Where I excel is in coming out before the curtain between the acts, and unhooking the carpet. Some supes go out and turn their backs to the audience, showing patches on their pants, and rip up the carpet with no style about them, and the dust flies, and the boys yell 'supe,' and the supe gets nervous and forgets his cue, and goes off tumbling over the carpet, and the orchestra leader is afraid the supe will fall on him. But I go out with a quiet dignity that is only gained by experience, and I take hold of the carpet the way Hamlet takes up the skull of Yorick, and the audience is paralized. I kneel down on the carpet, to unhook it, in a devotional sort of a way that makes the audience bow their heads as though they were in church, and before they realize that I am only a supe I have the carpet unhooked and march out the way a 'Piscopal minister does when he goes out between the acts at church to change his shirt. They never 'guy' me, cause I act well my part. But I kick on holding dogs for actresses. Some supes think they are made if they can hold a dog, but I have an ambition that a pug dog will not fill. I held Mary Anderson's cud of gum once, while she went on the stage, and when she came off and took her gum her fingers touched mine and I had to run my fingers in my hair to warm them, like a fellow does when he has been snow-balling. Gosh, but she would freeze ice cream without salt. I shall be glad when the theatrical season opens, 'cause we actors get tired laying off.
"Well, I'd like to go behind the scenes with you some night," said the grocery man, offering the bad boy an orange to get solid with him, in view of future complimentary tickets. "No danger, is there?"
"No danger if you keep off the grass. But you'd a dide to see my Sunday School teacher one Saturday night last summer. He keeps books in a store, and is pretty soon week days, but he can tell you more about Daniel in the lion's den on Sunday than anybody. He knew I was solid at the theater, and wanted me to get him behind the scenes one night, and another supe wanted to go to the sparring match, and I thought it wouldn't be any harm to work my teacher in, so I got him a job that night to hold the dogs for the Uncle Tom's show. He was in one of the wings holding the chains, and the dogs were just anxious to go on, and it was all my teacher could do to hold them. I told him to wind the chains around his wrists, and he did so, and just then Eliza began to skip across the ice, and we sicked the blood hounds on before my teacher could unwind the chains from his wrists, and the dogs pulled him right out on the stage, on his stomach, and drawed him across, and he jerked one dog and kicked him in the stomach, and the dog turned on my teacher and took a mouthful of his coat tail and shook it, and I guess the dog got some meat, anyway the teacher climbed up a step ladder, and the dogs treed him, and the step ladder fell down, and we grabbed the dogs and put some court plaster on the teacher's nose, where the fire extinguisher peeled it, and he said he would go home, cause the theater was demoralizing in its tendencies."
"I spose it was not right, but when the teacher stood up to hear our Sunday School lesson the next day, cause he was tired where the dog bit him, I said 'sick-em,' in a whisper, when his back was turned, and he jumped clear over to the Bible class, and put his hands around to his coat tail as though he thought the Uncle Tom's Cabin party were giving a matinee in the church. The Sunday school lesson was about the dog's licking the sores of Lazarus, and the teacher said we must not confound the good dogs of Bible time with the savage beasts of the present day, that would shake the daylights out of Lazarus and make him climb the cedars of Lebanon quicker than you could say Jack Robinson, and go off chewing the cud of bitter reflection on Lazarus' coat tail. I don't think a Sunday school teacher ought to bring up personal reminiscences before a class of children, do you? Well, some time next fall you put on a clean shirt and a pair of sheet iron pants, with stove legs on the inside, and I will take you behind the scenes to see some good moral show. In the meantime, if you have occasion to talk with Pa, tell him that Booth, and Barrett, and Keene commenced on the stage as supes, and Salvini roasted peanuts in the lobby of some theater. I want our folks to feel that I am taking the right course to become a star. I prythee au reservoir. I go hens! but to return. Avaunt!" And the bad boy walked out on his toes a la Booth.
UNCLE EZRA PAYS A VISIT—UNCLE EZRA CAUSES THE BAD BOY TO BACKSLIDE—UNCLE EZRA AND THE OLD MAN WERE BAD PILLS—THEIR RECORD IS AWFUL—KEEPING UNCLE EZRA ON THE RAGGED EDGE—THE BED SLATS FIXED—THE OLD MAN TANGLED UP—THIS WORLD IS NOT RUN RIGHT—UNCLE EZRA MAKES HIM TIRED.
"I hear your Uncle Ezra is here on a visit," said the grocery man to the bad boy. "I suppose you have been having a high old time. There is nothing that does a boy more good than to have a nice visit with a good uncle, and hear him tell about old times when he and the boy's father were boys together."
"Well, I don't know about it," said the boy, as he took a stick of maccaroni, and began to blow paper wads through it at a wood sawyer, who was filing a saw outside the door. "When a boy who has been tough has got his pins all set to reform, I don't think it does him any good to have a real nice Uncle come to the house visiting. Anyway, that's my experience. I have backslid the worst way, and it is going to take me a month after Uncle Ezra goes away to climb up to the grace that I have fallen from. It is darn discouraging," said the boy as he looked up to the ceiling in an innocent sort of a way, and hid the macarroni under his coat when the wood sawyer, who had been hit in the neck, dropped his saw and got up mad.
"What's the trouble? Your uncle has the reputation where he lives, of being one of the pillars of society. But you can't tell about these fellows when they get away from home. Does he drink?"
"'No, he don't drink; but as near as I can figure it, he and Pa were about the worst pills in the box, when they were young. I don't wan't you to repeat it, but when Pa and Ma were married they eloped. Yes, sir—actually ran away, and defied their parents—and they had to hide about a week, for fear Ma's father would fill Pa so full of cold lead that he would sink if he fell in the water. Pa has been kicked over the fence, and chased down alleys dozens of times by Ma's grandfather, when he was sparking Ma; and Ma was a terror too, 'cause her mother couldn't do anything with her, though she is awful precise now, and wants everybody to be too good. Why, Ma's mother used to warm her ears, and shake the daylights out of her, but it didn't do any good. She was mashed on Pa, and there was no cure for her except to have Pa prescribed for her as a husband, and they ran away. Uncle Ezra told me all about it. Ma hain't got any patience with girls now days that have minds of their own about fellows, and she thinks their parents ought to have all the say. Well, maybe she thinks she knows all about it. But when people get in love it is the same now as when Pa and Ma were trying to keep out of the reach of my grandfather's shot gun. But Pa and Uncle Ezra and Ma are good friends, and they talk over old times and have a big laugh. I guess Uncle Ezra was too much for Pa in joking when they were boys, 'cause Pa told me that all rules against joking were suspended while Uncle Ezra was here, and for me to play any thing on him I could. I told Pa I was trying to lead a different life, but he said what I wanted to do was to make Uncle Ezra think of old times, and the only way was to keep him on the ragged edge. I thought if there was anything I could do to make it pleasant for my Uncle, it was my duty to do it, so I fixed the bed slats on the spare bed so they would fall down at 2 A. M. the first night, and then I retired. At two o'clock I heard the awfulest noise in the spare room, and a howling and screaming, and I went down to meet Uncle Ezra in the hall, and he asked me what was the matter in there, and I asked him if he didn't sleep in the spare room, and he said no, that Pa and Ma was in there, and he slept in their room. Then we went in the spare room and you'd a dide to see Pa."
"Ma had jumped out when the slats first fell, and was putting her hair up in curl papers when we got in, but Pa was all tangled up in the springs and things. His head had gone down first, and the mattrass and quilts rolled over him, and he was almost smothered, and we had to take the bedsted down to get him out, the way you have to unharness a horse when he runs away and falls down, before you can get him up. Pa was mad, but Uncle Ezra laughed at him, and told him he was only foundered, and all he wanted was a bran mash and some horse liniment and he would come out all right. Uncle Ezra went out in to the hall to get a pail of water to throw on Pa, 'cause he said Pa was afire, when Pa asks me why in blazes I didn't fix the other bed slats, and I told him I didn't know as they were going to change beds, and then Pa said don't let it occur again. Pa lays everything to me. He is the most changeable man I ever saw. He told me to do everything Uncle Ezra wanted me to do, and then, when I helped Uncle Ezra to play a joke on Pa, he was mad. Say, I don't think this world is run right, do you? I haven't got much time to talk to you to-day, cause Uncle Ezra and me are going fishing but don't it strike you that it is queer that parents trounce boys for doing just what they did themselves. Now, I have got a friend whose father is a lawyer. That lawyer would warm his boy if he should tell a lie, or associate with anybody that was bad, and yet the lawyer will defend a man he knows is guilty of stealing, and get him clear and take the money he got from the thief, who stole it, to buy the same boy a new coat to wear to church, and he will defend a man who committed murder, and make an argument to the jury that will bring tears to their eyes, and they will clear the murderer. Queer, ain't it? And say, how is it that we send missionaries to Burmah, to convert them from heathenism, and the same vessel that takes the missionaries there carries from Boston a cargo of tin gods to sell to the heathen? Why wouldn't it be better to send the missionaries to Boston? I think the more a boy learns the more he gets mixed." "Well, how's your theater? Have any of the great actors supported you lately?" said the grocery man, to change the subject.
"No, we are all off on vacations. Booth and Barrett, and lots of the stars, are gone to Europe, and the rest work down to less high-toned places. Some of the theater girls are waiters at summer resorts, and lots are visiting relatives on farms. I tell you, it makes a difference whether the relatives are visiting you or you are visiting them. Actors and actresses feels awfully when an old granger comes to the town where they are playing, and wants to see them. They are ashamed of his homespun clothes, and cowhide boots, and they want to meet him in an alley somewhere, or in the basement of the theater, so the other actors will not laugh at their rough relatives, but when the season is over, an actor who can remember a relative out on a farm, is tickled to death, and the granger is all right enough there, and the actor does not think of the rough, nutmeg grater hands, and the blistered nose, as long as the granger relative will put up fried pork and things, and 'support' the actor. My Uncle Ezra is pretty rough and it makes me tired sometimes when I am down town with him to have him go into a store where there are girl clerks and ask what things are for, that I know he don't want, and make the girls blush, but he is a good hearted old man, and he and me are going to make a mint of money during vacation. He lives near a summer resort hotel, and has a stream that is full of minnows, and we are going to catch minnows and sell them to the dudes for fish bait. He says some of the fools will pay ten cents apiece for minnows, so if we sell a million minnows, we make a fortune. I am coming back in September and will buy out your grocery. Say, let me have a pound of raisins, and I'll pay you when I sell my uncle's minnows."
HE DISCUSSES THEOLOGY. MEDITATIONS ON NOAH'S ARK—THE GARDEN OF EDEN—THE ANCIENT DUDE—ADAM WITH A PLUG HAT ON—"I'M A THINKER PROM THINKERSVILLE"—THE APOSTLES IN A PATROL WAGON— ELIJAH AND ELISHA—THE PRODIGAL SON—A VEAL POT PIE FOR DINNER.
"What you sitting there for half an hour for, staring at vacancy?" said the grocery man to the bad boy, as he sat on a stool by the stove one of these foggy mornings, when everybody feels like quarreling, with his fingers clasped around his knee, looking as though he did not know enough to last him to bed. "What you thinking about anyway?"
"I was wondering where you would have been today if Noah had run his ark into such a fog as this, and there had been no fog-horn on Mount Ararat, and he had passed by with his excursion and not made a landing, and had floated around on the freshet until all the animals starved, and the ark had struck a snag and burst a hole in their bottom. I tell you, we can all congratulate ourselves that Noah happened to blunder on that high ground. If that ark had been lost, either by being foundered, or being blowed up by Fenians because Noah was an Englishman, it would have been cold work trying to populate this world. In that case another Adam and Eve would have to be made out of dirt and water, and they might have gone wrong again and failed to raise a family, and where would we have been? I tell you, when I think of the narrow escapes we have had, it is a wonder to me that we have got along as well as we have."
"Well, when did you get out of the asylum?" said the grocery man, who had been standing back with his mouth open looking at the boy as though he was crazy. "What you want is to have your head soaked. You are getting so you reach out too far with that small mind of yours. In about another year you will want to run this world yourself. I don't think you are reforming very much. It is wicked for a boy your size to argue about such things. Your folks better send you to college."
"What do I want to go to college for, and be a heartless hazer, and a poor base ball player. I can be bad enough at home. The more I read, the more I think. I don't believe I can ever be good enough to go to heaven, anyway, and I guess I will go into the newspaper business, where they don't have to be good, and where they have passes everywhere. Do you know, I think when I was built they left out a cog wheel or something in my head. I can't think like some boys. I get to thinking about Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, and of the Dude with the cloven hoof that flirted with Eve, and treated her and Adam to the dried apples, and I can't think of them as some boys do, with a fig leaf polonaise, and fig leaf vests. I imagine them dressed up in the latest style. I know it is wrong, but that it what a poor boy has to suffer who has an imagination, and where did I get the imagination? This confounded imagination of mine shows me Adam with a plug hat on, just like our minister wears, and a stand up collar, and tight pants, and peaked-toed shoes, and Eve is pictured to me with a crushed-angleworm colored dress, and brown striped stockings, and newspapers in her dress to make it stick out, and a hat with dandelions on, and a red parasol, and a lace handkerchief, which she puts to her lips and winks with her left eye to the masher who is standing by the corner of the house, in an attitude, while the tail with the dart on the end is wound around the rain water barrel, so Eve won't see it and get scared. Say, don't you think it is better for a boy to think of our first parents with clothes on, than to think of them almost naked, exposed to the inclemency of the weather, with nothing but fig leaves pinned on? I want to do right, as near as I can, but I had rather think of them dressed like our folks are to-day, than to think of them in a cyclone with leaves for wearing apparel. Say, it is wrong to fight, but don't you think if Adam had put on a pair of boxing gloves, when he found the devil was getting too fresh about the place, and knocked him out in a couple of rounds, and pasted him in the nose, and fired him out of the summer garden, that it would have been a big thing for this world. Now, honest?"
"Lookahere," said the grocery man, who had been looking at the boy in dismay, "You better go right home, and let your Ma fix up some warm drink for you, and put you to bed. You are all wrong in the head, and if you are not attended to you will have brain fever. I tell you, boy, you are in danger. Come I will go home with you."
"O, danger, nothin'. I am just telling how things look to a boy who has not got the facilities for being too good in his youth. Some boys can take things as they read them, and not think any for themselves, but I am a Thinker from Thinkerville, and my imagination plays the dickens with me. There is nothing I read about old times but what I compare it with the same line of business at the present day. Now, when I think of the fishermen of Galilee, drawing their seines, I wonder what they would have done if there had been a law against hauling seines, as there is in Wisconsin to-day, and I can see a constable with a warrant for the arrest of the Galilee fishermen, snatching the old apostles and taking them to the police station in a patrol wagon. I know it is wrong to think like that, but how can I help it? Say, suppose those fishermen had been out hauling their seines, and our minister should come along with his good clothes on, his jointed rod, his nickle-plated reel, and his silk fish line, and his patent fish hook, and put a frog on the hook and cast his line near the Galilee fish-man and go to trolling for bass? What do you suppose the lone fisherman of the Bible times would have thought about the gall of the jointed rod fisherman? Do you suppose they would have thrown stones in the water where he was trolling, or would they have told him there was good trolling around a point about half a mile up the shore, where they knew he wouldn't get a bite in a week, the way a fellow of Muskego lake lied to our minister a spell ago? I tell you, boss, it is a sad thing for a boy to have an imagination," and the boy put his other knee in the sling made by the clenched fingers of both hands, and waited for the grocery man to argue with him.
"I wish you would go away from here. I am afraid of you," said the grocery man. "I would give anything if you Pa or the minister would come in and have a talk with you. Your mind is wandering," and the grocery man went to the door and looked up and down street to see if somebody wouldn't come in and watch the crazy boy, while he went to breakfast.
"O, Pa and the minister can't make a first payment on me. Pa gets mad when I ask questions, and the minister thinks I am past redemption. Pa said yesterday that baldness was caused, in every case, by men's wearing plug hats, and when I asked him where the good Elisha, (whom the boys called 'go up old bald head,' and the bears had a free lunch on them,) got his plug hat, Pa said school was dismissed and I could go. When the minister was telling me about the good Elijah going up through the clouds in a chariot of fire, and I asked the minister what he thought Elijah would have thought if he had met our Sunday school superintendent coming down through the clouds on a bicycle, he put his hand on my head and said my liver was all wrong. Now, I will leave it to you if there was anything wrong about that. Say, do you know what I think is the most beautiful thing in the Bible?"
"No I don't," said the grocery man, "and if you wan't to tell it I will listen just five minutes, and then I am going to shut up the store and go to breakfast. You make me tired."
"Well, I think the finest thing is that story about the prodigal son, where the boy took all the money he could scrape up and went out West to paint the towns red. He spent his money in riotous living, and saw everything that was going on, and got full of benzine, and struck all the gangs of toughs, both male and female, and his stomach went back on him, and he had malaria, and finally he got to be a cow-boy, herding hogs, and had to eat husks that the hogs didn't want, and got pretty low down. Then he thought it was a pretty good scheme to be getting around home, where they had three meals a day, and spring mattresses; and he started home, beating his way on the trains, and he didn't know whether the old man would receive him with open arms or pointed boots; but the old man came down to the depot to meet him, and right there before the passengers, and the conductor and brakemen, he wasn't ashamed of his boy, though he was ragged, and looked as though he had been on the war path; and the old man fell on his neck and wept, and took him home in a hack, and had veal pot pie for dinner. That's what I call sense. A good many men now days would have put the police on the tramp and had him ordered out of town. What, you going to close up the store? Well, I will see you later. I want to talk with you about something that is weighing on my mind," and the boy got out just in time to save his coat tail from being caught in the door, and when the grocery man came back from breakfast he found a sign in front:—
THIS STORE IS CLOSED TILL FURTHER NOTICE.
THE DEPARTED ROOSTER—THE GROCERY MAN DISCOURSES ON DEATH— THE DEAD ROOSTER—A BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH—THE TENDERNESS BETWEEN THE ROOSTER AND HIS FAITHFUL HEN—THE HEN RETIRES TO SET—THE CHICKENS!—THE PROUD ROOSTER DIES—THE FICKLE HEN FLIRTING IN INDECENT HASTE.
"Why don't you take an ice pick and clean the dirt out from under your finger nails?" said the grocery man to the bad boy, as he came in the store and stroked the cat the wrong way as she lay in the sun on the counter, on a quire of manilla paper.
"Can't remove the dirt for thirty days—it is an emblem of mourning. Had a funeral at our house, yesterday;" and the boy took a pickle out of a tub and put it in the cat's mouth, and shut her teeth together on it, and then went to the show case, while the grocery man whose back had been turned during the pickle exercise, thought by the way the cat jumped into the dried apple barrel, and began to paw and scratch with all four of her feet, and yowl, that she was going to have a fit.
"I hadn't heard about it," said the grocery man, as he took the cat by the neck and tossed her out in the back shed into an old oyster box full of sawdust, with a parting injunction that if she was going to have fits she better go out where there was plenty of fresh air. "Death is always a sad thing to contemplate. One day we are full of health, and joy, and cold victuals, and the next we are screwed down in a box, a few words are said over our remains, a few tears are shed, and there is a race to see who shall get back from the cemetery first; and though we may think we are an important factor in the world's progress, and sometimes feel as though it would be unable to put up margins and have to stop the deal, the world goes right along, and it must annoy people who die to realize that they don't count for game. The greatest man in the world is only a nine spot when he is dead, because somebody else takes the tricks the dead man ought to have taken. But, say, who is dead at your house?"
"Our rooster! Take care, don't you hit me with that canvassed ham!" said the boy as the grocery man looked mad to learn that there was nobody dead but a rooster, when he had preached such a sermon on the subject. "Yes, how soon we are forgotten when we are gone. Now, you would have thought that rooster's hen would have remained faithful to him for a week at least. I have watched them all the spring, and I never saw a more perfect picture of devotion than that between the bantam rooster and his hen. They were constantly together, and there was nothing too good for her. He would dig up angle worms and call her, and when she came up on a gallop and saw the great big worm on the ground, she would look so proud of her rooster, and he would straighten up and look as though he was saying to her, 'I'm a daisy,' and then she would look at him as if she would like to bite him, and just as she was going to pick up the worm he would snatch it and swallow it himself, and chuckle and walk around and be full of business, as though wondering why she didn't take the worm after he had dug it for her, and then the hen would look disappointed at first and then she would look resigned, as much as to say, 'Worms are too rich for my blood anyway, and the poor dear rooster needs them more than I do, because he has to do all the crowing,' and she would go off and find a grasshopper and eat it on the sly for fear he would see her and complain because she didn't divide. O, I have never seen anything that seemed to me so human as the relations between that rooster and hen. He seemed to try to do everything for her. He would make her stop cackling when she laid an egg, and he would try to cackle, and crow over it as though he had laid it, and she would get off in a corner and cluck in a modest, retiring manner, as though she wished to convey the idea to the servant girls in the kitchen that the rooster had to do all the hard work, and she was only a useless appendage, fit only for society and company for him. But I was disgusted with him when the poor hen was setting. The first week that she sat on the eggs he seemed to get along first rate, because he had a couple of flower beds to dig up, which a press of business had caused him to neglect before, and a couple of neighbors' gardens to destroy, so he seemed to be glad to have his hen retire to her boudoir and set, but after he had been shooed out of the gardens and flower beds he seemed to be nervous, and evidently wanted to be petted, and he would go near the hen and she would seem to tell him to go and take a walk around the block, because she hadn't time to leave her business, and if she didn't attend to it they would have a lot of spoiled eggs on their hand, and no family to bring up. He would scold, and seem to tell her that it was all foolishness, that for his part he didn't want to hear a lot of chickens squawking around. He would seem to argue with her that a brood of chickens would be a dead give-away on them both, and they would be at once classed as old folks, while if they were alone in the world they would be spring chickens, and could go in young society, but the hen would scold back, and tell him he ought to be ashamed of himself to talk that way, and he would go off mad, and sulk around a spell, and then go to a neighbor's hen-house and sometimes he wouldn't come back till the next day. The hen would be sorry she had spoken so cross, and would seem pained at his going away and would look anxiously for his return, and when he came back after being out in the rain all night, she would be solicitious after his health, and tell him he ought to wrap something around him, but he acted as though he didn't care for his health, and he would go out again and get chilled through. Finally the hen come off the nest with ten chickens, and the rooster seemed very proud, and when anybody came out to have a look at them he would crow, and seemed to say they were all his chickens, though the hen was a long time hatching them, and if it had been him that was setting on them he could have hatched them out in a week, or died a trying. But the exposure told on him, and he went into a decline, and one morning we found him dead. Do you know, I never see a hen that seemed to realize a calamity as she did. She looked pale, and her eyes looked red, and she seemed to be utterly crushed. If the chickens, which were so young they could not realize that they were little orphans, became noisy, and got to pulling and hauling over a worm, and conducted themselves in an unseemly manner, she would talk to them in hen language, with tears in her eyes, and it was a picture of woe. But the next day a neighboring rooster got to looking through the fence from the alley, and trying to flirt with her. At first she was indignant, and seemed to tell him he ought to go about his business, and leave her alone, but the dude kept clucking, and pretty soon the widowed hen edged up towards the fence, and asked him to come in, but the hole in the fence was too small for him, and then the chickens went out in the alley, and the hen followed them out. I shall always think she told the chickens to go out, so she would have an excuse to go after them, and flirt with the rooster, and I think it is a perfect shame. She is out in the alley half the time, and I could cuff her. It seems to me wrong to so soon forget a deceased rooster, but I suppose a hen can't be any more than human. Say, you don't want to buy a good dead rooster do you? You could pick it and sell it to somebody that owes you, for a spring chicken."
"No, I don't want any deceased poultry, that died of grief, and you better go home and watch your hen, or you will be bereaved some more," and the grocery man went out in the shed to see if the cat was over its fit, and when he came back the boy was gone, and after a while the grocery man saw a crowd in front of the store and he went out and found the dead rooster lying on the vegetable stand, with a paper pinned on its breast on which was a sign:—
THIS RUSTER DIDE OF COLIX.
FOR SALE CHEAP TO BOARDING HOUSE ONLY.
He took the dead rooster and threw it out in the street, and looked up and down the street for the bad boy, and went in and hid a raw hide where he could reach it handy.
ONE MORE JOKE ON THE OLD MAN. UNCLE EZRA RETURNS—THE BASKET ON THE STEPS—THE ANONYMOUS LETTER—"O BROTHER THAT I SHOULD LIVE TO SEE THIS DAY!"—AN UGLY DUTCH BABY—THE OLD MAN WHEELS THE BABY NOW—A FROG IN THE OLD MAN'S BED.
"I see your Pa wheeling the baby around a good deal lately," said the grocery man to the bad boy, as he came in the store one evening to buy a stick of striped pepperment candy for the baby, while his Pa stopped the baby wagon out on the sidewalk and waited for the boy, with an expression of resignation on his face.
"What's got into your Pa to be nurse girl this hot weather?"
"O, we have had a circus at our house," said the boy, as he came in after putting the candy in the baby's hand. "You see, Uncle Ezra came back from Chicago, where he had been to sell some cheese, and he stopped over a couple of days with us, and he said we must play one more joke on Pa before he went home. We played it, and it is a wonder I am alive, because I never saw Pa so mad in all my life. Now this is the last time I go into any joke on shares. If I play any more jokes I don't want any old Uncle to give me away."
"What is it?" said the grocery man, as he took a stool and sat out by the front door beside the boy who was trying to eat a box of red raspberries on the sly.
"Well Uncle Ezra and me bribed the nurse girl to dress the baby up one evening in some old, dirty baby clothes, belonging to our wash woman's baby, and we put it in a basket and placed the basket on the front door step, and put a note in the basket and addressed it to Pa. We had the nurse girl stay out in front, by the basement stairs, so the baby couldn't get away and she rung the bell and got behind something. Ma and Pa, and Uncle Ezra and me were in the back parlor when the bell rung, and Ma told me to go to the door, and I brought in the basket, and set it down, and told Pa there was a note in it for him. Ma, she came up and looked at the note as Pa tore it open, and Uncle Ezra looked in the basket and sighed. Pa read part of the note and stopped and turned pale, and sat down then Ma read some of it, and she didn't feel very well, and she leaned against the piano and grated her teeth. The note was in a girl's hand writing, and was like this:
"Old Bald Headed Pet:—
"You will have to take care of your child, because I cannot. Bring it up tenderly, and don't, for heaven's sake, send it to the Foundling Asylum. I shall go drown myself.
"What did your Ma say?" said the grocery man, becoming interested.
"O, Ma played her part well. Uncle Ezra had told her the joke, and she said 'retch,' to Pa, just as the actresses do on the stage, and put her handkerchief to her eyes. Pa said it was 'false,' and Uncle Ezra said, 'O, brother, that I should live to see this day,' and I said, as I looked in the basket, 'Pa, it looks just like you, and I'll leave it to Ma.' That was too much, and Pa got mad in a minute. He always gets mad at me. But he went up and looked in the basket, and he said it was some Dutch baby, and was evidently from the lower strata of society, and the unnatural mother wanted to get rid of it, and he said he didn't know any 'Almira' at all. When he called it a dutch baby, and called attention to its irregular features, that made Ma mad, and she took it up out of the basket and told Pa it was a perfect picture of him, and tried to put it in Pa's arms, but he wouldn't have it, and said he would call the police and have it taken to the poor house. Uncle Ezra took Pa in a corner and told him the best thing he could do would be to see 'Almira' and compromise with her, and that made Pa mad, and he was going to hit uncle Ezra with a chair. Pa was perfectly wild, and if he had a gun I guess he would have shot all of us. Ma took the baby up stairs and had the girl put it to bed, and after Pa got mad enough Uncle Ezra told him it was all a joke, and it was his own baby, that we had put in the basket, and then he was madder than ever, and he told Uncle Ezra never to darken his door again. I don't how know he made up with Ma for calling it a dutch baby from the Polack settlement, but anyway, he wheels it around every day, and Ma and Pa have got so they speak again."
"That was a mighty mean trick, and you ought to be ashamed of yourself. Where do you expect to fetch up when you die?" said the grocery man.
"I told Uncle Ezra it was a mean trick," said the boy, "but he said that wasn't a priming to some of the tricks Pa had played on him years ago. He says Pa used to play tricks on everybody. I may be mean, but I never played wicked jokes on blind people as Pa did when he was a boy. Uncle Ezra says once there was a party of four blind vocalists, all girls, gave an entertainment at the town where Pa lived, and they stayed at the hotel where Pa tended bar. Another thing I never sold rum, either, as Pa did. Well, before the blind vocalists went to bed Pa caught a lot of frogs and put them in the beds where the girls were to sleep, and when the poor blind girls got into bed the frogs hopped over them, and the way they got out was a caution. It is bad enough to have frogs hopping all over girls that can see, but for girls that are deprived of their sight, and don't know what anything is, except by the feeling of it, it looks to me like a pretty tough joke. I guess Pa is sorry now for what he did, 'cause when Uncle Ezra told the frog story, I brought home a frog and put it in Pa's bad. Pa has been afraid of paralysis for years, and when his leg, or anything gets asleep, he thinks that is the end of him. Before bedtime I turned the conversation onto paralysis, and told about a man about Pa's age having it on the West side, and Pa was nervous, and soon after he retired I guess the frog wanted to get acquainted with Pa, 'cause he yelled six kinds of murder, and we went into his room. You know how cold a frog is? Well, you'd a dide to see Pa. He laid still, and said his end had come, and Uncle Ezra asked him if it was the end with the head on, or the feet, and Pa told him paralysis had marked him for a victim, and he could feel that his left leg was becoming dead. He said he could feel the cold, clammy hand of death walking up him, and he wanted Ma to put a bottle of hot water to his feet. Ma got the bottle of hot water and put it to Pa's feet, and the cork came out and Pa said he was dead, sure enough, now, because he was hot in the extremities, and that a cold wave was going up his leg. Ma asked him where the cold wave was, and he told her, and she thought she would rub it, but she began to yell the same kind of murder Pa did, and she said a snake had gone up her sleeve. Then I thought it was time to stop the circus, and I reached up Ma's lace sleeve and caught the frog by the leg and pulled it out, and told Pa I guessed he had taken my frog to bed with him, and I showed it to him, and then he said I did it, and he would maul me so I could not get up alone, and he said that a boy that would do such a thing would go to hell as sure as preachin' and I asked him if he thought a man who put frogs in the beds with blind girls, when he was a boy, would get to heaven, and then he told me to lite out, and I lit. I guess Pa will feel better when Uncle Ezra goes away, cause he thinks Uncle Ezra talks too much about old times. Well, here comes our baby wagon, and I guess Pa has done penance long enough, and I will go and wheel the kid awhile. Say, you call Pa in, after I take the baby wagon, and tell him you don't know how he would get along without such a nice boy as me, and you can charge it in our next months' bill."
FOURTH OF JULY MISADVENTURES—TROUBLE IN THE PISTOL POCKET— THE GROCERY MAN'S CAT—THE BAD BOY A MINISTERING ANGEL— ASLEEP ON THE FOURTH OF JULY—GOES WITH HIS GIRL TO THE SOLDIER'S HOME—TERRIBLE FOURTH. OF JULY MISADVENTURES—THE GIRL WHO WENT OUT COMES BACK A BURNT OFFERING.
"Here, condemn you, you will pay for that cat," said the grocery man to the bad boy, as he came in the store all broke up, the morning after the 4th of July.
"What cat?" said the boy as he leaned against the zinc ice box to cool his back, which had been having trouble with a bunch of fire crackers in his pistol pocket. "We haven't ordered any cat from here. Who ordered any cat sent to our house? We get our sausage at the market," and the boy rubbed some cold cream on his nose and eyebrows where the skin was off.
"Yes, that is all right enough," said the grocery man, "but somebody who knew where that cat slept, in the box of sawdust, back of the store, filled it full of firecrackers, Wednesday forenoon, when I was out to see the procession, and never notified the cat, and touched them off, and the cat went through the roof of the shed, and she hasn't got hair enough left on her to put in tea. Now, you didn't show up all the forenoon, and I went and asked your Ma where you was, and she said you had been sitting up four nights straight along with a sick boy in the Third Ward, and you was sleeping all the forenoon the 4th of July. If that is so, that lets you out on the cat, but it don't stand to reason. Own up, now, was you asleep all the forenoon, the 4th, while other boys were celebrating, or did you scorch my cat?" and the grocery man looked at the boy as though he would believe every word he said, if he was bad.
"Well, said the bad boy as he yawned as though he had been up all night, "I am innocent of sitting up with your cat, but I plead guilty to sitting up with Duffy. You see, I am bad, and it don't make any difference where I am, and Duffy thumped me once when we were playing marbles, and I said I would get even with him some time. His Ma washes for us, and when she told me that her boy was sick with fever, and had nobody to stay with him while she was away, I thought it would be a good way to get even with Duffy, when he was weak, and I went down there to his shanty and gave him his medicine, and read to him all day, and he cried 'cause he knew I ought to have mauled him, and that night I sat up with him while his Ma did the ironing, and Duffy was so glad that I went down every day and stayed there every night, and fired medicine down him, and let his Ma sleep, and Duffy has got mashed on me, and he says I will be an angel when I die. Last night makes five nights I have sat up with him, and he has got so he can eat beef tea and crackers. My girl went back on me 'cause she said I was sitting up with some other girl. She said that Duffy story was too thin, but Duffy's Ma was washing at my girl's house and she proved what I said, and I was all right again. I slept all the forenoon the 4th, and then stayed with Duffy till 4 o'clock, and got a furlough and took my girl to the Soldiers' Home. I had rather set up with Duffy, though."
"O, get out. You can't make me believe you had rather stay in a sick room and set up with a boy, than to take a girl to the 4th of July," said the grocery man, as he took a brush and wiped the saw dust off some bottles of peppersauce that he was taking out of a box. "You didn't have any trouble with the girl, did you?" "No,—not with her," said the boy, as he looked into the little round zinc mirror to see if his eyebrows were beginning to grow. "But her Pa is so unreasonable. I think a man ought to know better than to kick a boy right where he has had a pack of firecrackers explode in his pocket. You see, when I brought the girl back home, she was a wreck. Don't you ever take a girl to the 4th of July. Take the advice of a boy who has had experience. We hadn't more than got to the Soldier's Home grounds before some boys who were playing tag grabbed hold of my girl's crushed-strawberry polonaise and ripped it off. That made her mad, and she wanted me to take offense at it, and I tried to reason with the boys and they both jumped on me, and I see the only way to get out of it honorably, was to get out real spry, and I got out. Then we sat down under a tree, to eat lunch, and my girl swallowed a pickle the wrong way, and I pounded her on the back, the way Ma does when I choke, and she yelled, and a policeman grabbed me and shook me, and asked me what I was hurting that poor girl for, and told me if I did it again he would arrest me. Everything went wrong."
"After dark somebody fired a Roman candle into my girl's hat, and set it on fire, and I grabbed the hat and stamped on it, and spoiled the hair her Ma bought her. By gosh, I thought her hair was curly, but when the wig was off, her hair was as straight as could be. But she was purty, all the same. We got under another tree, to get away from the smell of burned hair, and a boy set off a niger chaser, and it ran right at my girl's feet, and burned her stockings, and a woman put the fire out for her, while I looked for the boy that fired the niger chaser, but I did'nt want to find him. She was pretty near a wreck by that time, though she had all her dress left except the polonaise, and we went and sat under a tree in a quiet place, and I put my arm around her and told her never to mind the accidents, cause it would be dark when we got home, and just then a spark dropped down through the trees and fell in my pistol pocket, right next to her, where my bunch of fire crackers was, and they began to go off. Well, I never saw such a sight as she was. Her dress was one of these mosquito bar, cheese cloth dresses, and it burned just like punk. I had presence of mind enough to roll her on the grass and put out the fire, but in doing that I neglected my own conflagration, and when I got her put out, my coat tail and trousers were a total loss. My, but she looked like a goose that had been picked, and I looked like a fireman that fell through a hatchway. My girl wanted to go home, and I took her home, and her pa was setting on the front steps, and he wouldn't accept her, looking that way. He said he placed in my possession a whole girl, clothed in her right mind, and I had brought back a burnt offering. He teaches in our Sunday-school, and knows how to talk pious, but his boots are offul thick. I tried to explain that I was not responsible for the fireworks, and that he could bring in a bill against the government and I showed him how I was bereaved of a coat tail and some pants, but he wouldn't reason at all, and when his foot hit me I thought it was the resurrection, sure, and when I got over the fence, and had picked myself up I never stopped till I got to Duffy's and I set up with him, cause I thought her pa was after me, and I thought he wouldn't enter a sick room and maul a watcher at the bedside of an invalid. But that settles it with me about celebrating. I don't care if we did whip the British, after declaring independence, I don't want my pants burnt off. What is the declaration of independence good for to a girl who looses her polonaise, and has her hair burnt off, and a nigger chaser burning her stockings? No, sir, they may talk about the glorious 4th of July, but will it bring back that blonde wig, or re-tail my coat? Hereafter I am a rebel, and I will go out in the woods the way Pa does, and come home with a black eye, got in a rational way.
"What, did your Pa get a black eye, too? I hadn't heard about that," said the grocery man, giving the boy a handful of unbaked peanuts to draw him out. "Didn't get to fighting, did he?"
"No, Pa don't fight. It is wrong, he says, to fight, unless you are sure you can whip the fellow, and Pa always gets whipped, so he quit fighting. You see, one of the deacons in our church lives out on a farm, and his folks were going away to spend the 4th, and he had to do all the chores, so he invited Pa and Ma to come out to the farm and have a nice quiet time, and they went. There is nothing Pa likes better than to go out on a farm, and pretend he knows everything. When the farmer got Pa and Ma out there he set them to work, and Ma shelled peas while Pa went to dig potatoes for dinner. I think it was mean for the deacon to send Pa out in the corn field to dig potatoes, and set the dog on Pa, and tree him in an apple tree near the bee hives, and then go and visit with Ma and leave Pa in the tree with the dog barking at him. Pa said he never knew how mean a deacon could be, until he had sat on a limb of that apple tree all the afternoon. About time to do chores the farmer came and found Pa, and called the dog off, and Pa came down, and then the farmer played the meanest trick of all. He said city people didn't know how to milk cows, and Pa said he wished he had as many dollars as he knew how to milk cows. He said his spechulty was milking kicking cows, and the farmer gave Pa a tin pail and a milking stool and let down the bars, and pointed out to Pa 'the worst cow on the place.' Pa knew his reputation was at stake, and he went up to the cow and punched it in the flank and said, "hist, confound you." Well, the cow wasn't a histing cow, but a histing bull, and Pa knew it was a bull as quick as he see it put down its head and beller, and Pa dropped the pail and stool and started for the bars, and the bull after Pa. I don't think it was right in Ma to bet two shillings with the farmer that Pa would get to the bars before the bull did, though she won the bet. Pa said he knew it was a bull just as soon as the horns got tangled up in his coat tail, and when he struck on the other side of the bars, and his nose hit the ash barrel where they make lye for soap, Pa said he saw more fireworks than we did at the Soldier's Home, Pa wouldn't celebrate any more, and he came home, after thanking the farmer for his courtesies, but he wants me to borrow a gun and go out with him hunting. We are going to shoot a bull and a dog, and some bees, may be we will shoot the farmer, if Pa keeps on as mad as he is now. Well, we won't have another 4th of July for a year, and may be by that time my girl's polonaise and hair will grow out, and that bull may become gentle, so Pa can milk it. Ta-ta."
WORKING OK SUNDAY—TURNING A GRINDSTONE IS HEALTHY—"NOT ANY GRINDSTONE FOR HENNERY!"—THIS HYPOCRISY IS PLAYED OUT— ANOTHER JOB ON THE OLD MAN—HOW THE DAYS OF THE WEEK GOT MIXED—THE NUMEROUS FUNERALS—THE MINISTER APPEARS—THE BAD BOY GOES OVER THE BACK FENCE.
"Hello," said the grocery man to the bad boy, as he came in looking sick at heart, and all broke up, "How is your muscle this morning?"
"All right enough," said the boy, with a look of inquiry, as though wondering what was coming next. "Why?"
"O, nothing, only I was going to grind the hatchet, and some knives and things, this morning, and I thought maybe you would like to go out in the shed and turn the grindstone for me, to develop your muscles. Turning a grindstone is the healthiest thing a boy can do."
"That is all right enough," said the bad boy, as he took up a sweet cracker, "but please take a good look at me. Do I look like a grindstone boy? Do I resemble a good little boy that can't say 'no,' and goes off and turns a grindstone half a day for some old duffer, who pays him by giving him a handful of green currants, or telling him he will be a man some day, and the boy goes off one way, with a lame back, while the good man goes the other way, with a sharp scythe, and a chuckle at the softness of the boy? You are mistaken in me. I have passed the grindstone period, and you will have to pick up another sardine who has never done circular work. Not any grindstone for Hennery, if you please."
"You are getting too smart," said the grocery man, as he charged a pound of sweet crackers to the boy's father. "You don't have to turn the grindstone if you don't want to."
"That's what I thought," says the boy as he takes a handful of blueberries. "You grindstone sharps, who are always laying for a fool boy to give taffy to, and get him to break his back, don't play it fine enough. You bear on too hard on the grindstone. I have seen the time when a man could get me to turn a grindstone for him till the cows come home, by making me believe it was fun, and by telling me he never saw a boy that seemed to throw so much soul into turning a grindstone as I did, but I have found that such men are hypocrites. They inveigle a boy into their nest, like the spider does the fly, and at first they don't bear on hard, but just let the blade of the axe or the scythe touch the grindstone, and they make a boy believe he is a bigger man than old Grant. They bet him he will get tired, and he bets that he can turn a grindstone as long as anybody, and when the boy has got his reputation at stake, then they begin to bear on hard, and the boy gets tired, but he holds out, and when the tools are ground he says he is as fresh as a daisy, when he is tired enough to die. Such men do more to teach boys the hollowness of the world, and its tricky features, than anything, and they teach boys to know who are friends and who are foes. No, sir, the best way is to hire a grown person to turn year grind one. I remember I turned a grindstone four hours for a farmer once, and when I got through he said I could go to the spring and drink all the water I wanted for nothing. He was the tightest man I ever saw. Why, tight! That man was tight enough to hold kerosene."
"That's all right. Who wanted you to turn grindstone anyway? But what is it about your Pa and Ma being turned out of church? hear that they scandalized themselves horribly last Sunday."
"Well, you see, me and my chum put up a job on Pa to make him think Sunday was only Saturday and Ma she fell into it, and I guess we are all going to get fired from the church for working on Sunday. You see they didn't go to meetin' last Sunday because Ma's new bonnet hadn't come, and Monday and Tuesday it rained and the rest of the week was so muddy no one called, or they could not get anywhere, so Monday I slid out early and got the daily paper, and on Tuesday my chum he got the paper off the steps and put Monday's paper in its place. I watched when they were reading it, but they did not notice the date. Then Wednesday we put Tuesday's paper on the steps and Pa said it seemed more than Tuesday, but Ma she got the paper of the day before and looked at the date and said it seemed so to her but she guessed they had lost a day somehow. Thursday we got Wednesday's paper on the steps, and Friday we rung in Thursday's paper, and Saturday my chum he got Friday's paper on the steps, and Ma said she guessed she would wash to-morrow, and Pa said he believed he would hoe in the garden and get the weeds out so it would look better to folks when they went by Sunday to church. Well, Sunday morning came, and with it Saturday's daily paper, and Pa barely glanced it over as he got on his overalls and went out in his shirt sleeves a hoeing in the front garden. And I and my chum helped Ma carry water to wash. She said it seemed like the longest week she ever saw, but when we brought the water, and took a plate of pickles to the hired girl that was down with the mumps, we got in the lilac bushes and waited for the curtain to rise. It wasn't long before folks began going to church and you'd a dide laughing to see them all stop in front of where Ma was washing and look at her, and then go on to where Pa was hoeing weeds and stop and look at him, and then drive on. After about a dozen teams had passed I heard Ma ask Pa if he knew who was dead, as there must be a funeral somewhere. Pa had just hoed into a bumblebee's nest and said he did not know of any that was dead, but knew some that ought to be, and Ma she did not ask any foolish questions any more. After about twenty teams had stopped, Ma she got nervous and asked Deacon Smith if he saw anything green; he said something about desecration, and drove away Deacon Brown asked Pa if he did not think he was setting, a bad example before his boy; but Pa, he said he thought it would be a good one if the boy could only be hired to do it. Finally Ma got mad and took the tub behind the house where they could not see her. About four o'clock that afternoon we saw a dozen of our congregation headed by the minister, file into our yard, and my chum and I knew it was time to fly, so we got on the back steps where we could hear. Pa met them at the door, expecting some bad news; and when they were seated, Ma she came in and remarked it was a very unhealthy year, and it stood people in hand to meet their latter end. None of them said a word until the elder put on his specs, and said it was a solemn occasion, and Ma she turned pale, and wondered who it could be, and Pa says 'don't keep us in suspense, who is dead?' and the elder said no one was dead; but they called as a duty they owed the cause to take action on them for working on Sunday. Ma, she fainted away, and they threw a pitcher of water down her back, and Pa said he guessed they were a pack of lunatics, but they all swore it was Sunday, and they saw Ma washing and Pa out hoeing, as they went to church, and they had called to take action on them. Then there was a few minutes low conversation I could not catch, and then we heard Pa kick his chair over and say it was more tricks of that darned boy. Then we knew it was time to adjourn, and I was just getting through the back fence as Pa reached me with a barrel stave, and that's what makes me limp some!"
"That was real mean in you boys," said the grocery man. "It will be hard for your Pa and Ma to explain that matter. Just think how bad they must feel."
"O, I don't know. I remember hearing Pa and Uncle Ezra tell how they fooled their father once, and got him to go to mill with a grist, on Sunday, and Pa said he would defy anybody to fool him on the day of the week. I don't think a man ought to tempt his little boy by defying him to fool his father. Well, I'll take a glass of your fifty cent cider and go," and soon the grocery man looked out the window and found somebody had added a cypher to the 'Sweet cider, only five cents a glass,' making it an expensive drink, considering it was made of sour apples.
THE OLD MAN AWFULLY BLOATED—THE OLD MAN BEGINS DRINKING AGAIN—THINKS BETTING IS HARMLESS—HAD TO WALK HOME FROM CHICAGO—THE SPECTACLES CHANGED—A SMALL SUIT OF CLOTHES— THE OLD MAN AWFULLY BLOATED—"HENNERY YOUR PA IS A MIGHTY SICK MAN"—THE SWELLING SUDDENLY GOES DOWN.
"Come in," said the grocery man to the bad boy, as the youth stood on the steps in an uncertain sort of away, as though he did not know whether he would be welcome or not. "I tell you, boy, I pity you. I understand your Pa has got to drinking again. It is too bad. I can't think of anything that humiliates a boy, and makes him so ashamed, as to have a father that is in the habit of hoisting in too much benzine. A boy feels as though everybody was down on him, and I don't wonder that such boys often turn out bad. What started your Pa to drinking again?"
"O, Ma thinks it was losing money on the Chicago races. You see, Pa is great on pointers. He don't usually bet unless he has got a sure thing, but when he gets what they call a pointer, that is, somebody tells him a certain horse is sure to win, because the other horses are to be pulled back, he thinks a job has been put up, and if he thinks he is on the inside of the ring he will bet. He says it does not do any hurt to bet, if you win, and he argues that a man who wins lots of money can do a great deal of good with it. But he had to walk home from the Chicago races all the same, and he has been steaming ever since. Pa can't stand adversity. But I guess we have got him all right now. He is the scartest man you ever saw," and the boy took a can opener and began to cut the zinc under the stove, just to see if it would work as well on zinc as on tin.