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Title: The Grocery Man And Peck's Bad Boy - Peck's Bad Boy and His Pa, No. 2 - 1883
Author: Peck, George W. (George Wilbur)
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Grocery Man And Peck's Bad Boy - Peck's Bad Boy and His Pa, No. 2 - 1883" ***

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Peck’s Bad Boy and His Pa, No. 2

By George W. Peck


[Illustration: Cover]

[Illustration: frontispiece]

[Illustration: titlepage]


























































“How do you and your Pa get along now,” asked the grocery-man of the bad
boy, as he leaned against the counter instead of sitting down on a stool
while he bought a bottle of liniment.

“O, I don’t know. He don’t seem to appreciate me. What he ought to have
is a deaf and dumb boy, with only one leg, and both arms broke--then he
could enjoy a quiet life. But I am too gay for Pa, and you needn’t be
surprised if you never see me again. I talk of going off with a circus.
Since I played the variegated dogs on Pa, there seems to have been a
coldness in the family, and I sleep on the roof.

“Variegated dogs,” said the store keeper, “what kind of a game is that?
You have not played another Daisy trick on your Pa, have you?”

“Oh, no, it was nothing of that kind. You know Pa thinks he is smart. He
thinks because he is forty-eight years old he knows it all; but it
don’t seem to me as though a man of his age, that had sense, would let
a tailor palm off on him a pair of pants so tight that he would have to
use a button-hook to button them; but they can catch him on everything,
just as though he was a kid smoking cigarettes. Well, you know Pa drinks
some. That night the new club opened he came home pretty fruitful, and
next morning his head ached so he said he would buy me a dog if I would
go down town and get a bottle of pollynurious water for him. You know
that dye house on Grand avenue, where they have got the four white spitz
dogs. When I went after the penurious water, I noticed they had been
coloring their dogs with the dye stuff, and I put up a job with the dye
man’s little boy to help me play it on Pa. They had one dog dyed pink,
another blue, another red, and another green, and I told the boy I would
treat him to ice cream if he would let one out at a time, when I came
down with Pa, and call him in and let another out, and when we started
to go away, to let them all out. What I wanted to do was to paralyze Pa,
and make him think he had got ‘em, got dogs the worst way. So, about ten
o’clock when his head got cleared off, and his stomach got settled, he
changed ends with his cuffs, and we came down town, and I told him I
knew where he could get a splendid white spitz dog for me, for five
dollars; and if he would get it, I would never do anything disrespectful
again, and would just sit up nights to please him, and help him up
stairs and get seltzer for him. So we went by the dye house, and just as
I told him I didn’t want anything but a white dog, the door opened, and
the pink dog came out and barked at us, and I said ‘that’s him’ and the
boy called him back. Pa looked as though he had the colic, and his eyes
stuck out, and he said ‘Hennery, that is a pink dog?’ and I said ‘no, it
is a white dog, Pa,’ and just then the green dog came out, and I asked
Pa if it wasn’t a pretty white dog, and and he turned pale and said
‘hell, boy, that is a green dog--what’s got into the dogs?’ I told him
he must be color blind, and was feeling in my pocket for a strap to tie
the dog, and telling him he must be careful of his health or he would
see something worse than green dogs, when the green dog went in, and the
blue dog came rushing out and barked at Pa. Well, Pa leaned against a
tree box, and his eyes stuck out like stops on an organ, and the sweat
was all over his face in drops as big as kernels of hominy.

“I think a boy ought to do everything he can to make it pleasant for his
Pa, don’t _you_. And yet some parents don’t realize what a comfort a boy
is. The blue dog was called in, and just as Pa wiped the perspiration
off his forehead, and rubbed his eyes and put on his specks, the red
maroon dog came out. Pa acted as if he was tired, and sat down on a
horse block. Dogs _do_ make some people tired, don’t they? He took hold
of my hand, and his hand trembled just as though he was putting a gun
wad in the collection plate at church, and he said, ‘My son, tell me
truly, is that a red dog?’”

[Illustration: Well I’m dem’d 014]

“A fellow has got to lie a little if he is going to have any fun with
his Pa, and I told him it was a white dog, and I could get it for five
dol-dars. He straightened up just as the dog went into the house, and
said ‘Well, I’m dem’d;’ and just then the boy let all the dogs out and
sicked them on a cat, which ran up a shade tree right near Pa, and they
rushed all around us--the blue dog going between his legs, and the green
dog trying to climb the tree, and the pink dog barking, and the red dog
standing on his hind feet.

“Pa was weak as a cat, and told me to go right home with him, and he
would buy me a bicycle. He asked me how many dogs there were, and what
was the color of them. I s’pose I did awful wrong, but I told him there
was only one dog, and a cat, and the dog was white.

“Well, sir, Pa acted just as he did the night Hancock was beat, and he
had to have the doctor to give him something to quiet him (the time he
wanted me to go right down town and buy a hundred rat traps, but the
doctor said never mind, I needn’t go). I took him home and Ma soaked
his feet, and give him some ginger tea, and while I was gone after the
doctor he asked Ma if she ever saw a green dog.

“That was what made all the trouble. If Ma had kept her mouth shut I
would have been all right, but she up and told him that they had a green
dog, and a blue dog, and all colors of spitz dogs down at the dyers.
They dyed them just for an advertisement, and for him to be quiet and he
would feel better when he got over it. Pa was all right when I got back
and told him the doctor had gone to Wauwatosa, and I had left an order
on his slate. Pa said he would leave an order on my slate. He took a
harness tug and used it for breeching on me. I don’t think a boy’s Pa
ought to wear a harness on his son, do you? He said he would learn me to
play rainbow dogs on him. He said I was a liar, and he expected to see
me wind up in Congress. Say, is Congress anything like Waupun or Sing
Sing? No, I can’t stay, thank you, I must go down to the office and tell
Pa I have reformed, and freeze him out of a circus ticket. He is a a
good enough man, only he don’t appreciate a a boy that has got all
the modern improvements. Pa and Ma are going to enter me in the Sunday
school. I guess I’ll take first money, don’t you?”

And the bad boy went out with a visible limp, and a look of genius
cramped for want of opportunity.



“Say, do you think a little practical joke does any hurt,” asked the
bad boy of the grocery man, as he came in with his Sunday suit on, and
a bouquet in his button-hole, and pried off a couple of figs from a new
box that had been just opened.

“No sir,” said the groceryman, as he licked off the syrup that dripped
from a quart measure, from which he had been filling a jug. “I hold
that a man who gets mad at a practical joke, that is, one that does not
injure him, is a fool, and he ought to be shunned by all decent people.
That’s a nice bouquet you have in your coat. What is it, pansies? Let me
smell of it,” and the grocery man bent over in front of the boy to take
a whiff at the bouquet. As he did so a stream of water shot out of the
innocent looking bouquet and struck him full in the face, and run down
over his shirt, and the grocery man yelled murder, and fell over a
barrel of axe helves and scythe snaths, and then groped around for a
towel to wipe his face.

“You condemn skunk,” said the grocery man to the boy, as he took up an
axe-helve and started for him, “what kind of a golblasted squirt gun
have you got there. I will maul you, by thunder,” and he rolled up his
shirt sleeves.

“There, keep your temper. I took a test vote of you on the subject of
practical jokes, before the machine began to play upon the conflagration
that was raging on your whiskey nose, and you said a man that would get
mad at a joke was a fool, and now I know it. Here, let me show it to
you. There is a rubber hose runs from the bouquet, inside my coat to
my pants pocket, and there is a bulb of rubber, that holds about half a
pint, and when a feller smells of the posey, I squeeze the bulb, and
you see the result. It’s fun, where you don’t squirt it on a person that
gets mad.”

The grocery man said he would give the boy half a pound of figs if
he would lend the bouquet to him for half an hour, to play it on a
customer, and the boy fixed it on the grocery man, and turned the nozzle
so it would squirt right back into the grocery man’s face. He tried it
on the first customer that come in, and got it right in his own face,
and then the bulb in his pants pocket got to leaking, and the rest of
the water ran down the grocery man’s trouser’s leg, and he gave it up in
disgust, and handed it back to the boy.

“How was it your Pa had to be carried home from the sociable in a hack
the other night?” asked the grocery man, as he stood close to the stove
so his pants leg would dry. “He has not got to drinking again, has he?”

“O, no,” said the boy, as he filled the bulb with vinegar, to practice
on his chum, “It was this bouquet that got Pa into the trouble. You see
I got Pa to smell of it, and I just filled him chuck full of water.
He got mad and called me all kinds of names, and said I was no good on
earth, and I would fetch up in state’s prison, and then he wanted to
borrow it to wear to the sociable. He said he would have more fun than
you could shake a stick at, and I asked him if he didn’t think he would
fetch up in state’s prison, and he said it was different with a man. He
said when a man played a joke there was a certain dignity about it
that was lacking in a boy. So I lent it to him, and we all went to the
sociable in the basement of the church. I never see Pa more kitteny than
he was that night. He filled the bulb with ice water, and the first one
he got to smell of his button-hole bouquet was an old maid who thinks
Pa is a heathen, but she likes to be made something of by anybody that
wears pants, and when Pa sidled up to her and began talking about what a
great work the christian wimmen of the land were doing in educating
the heathen, she felt real good, and then she noticed Pa’s posey in his
button-hole and she touched it, and then she reached over her beak to
smell of it. Pa he squeezed the bulb, and about half a teacupful of
water struck her right in the nose, and some went into her strangle
place, and _O, my_, didn’t she yell.”

[Illustration: One for the old maid 022]

“The sisters gathered around her, and they said her face was all covered
with perspiration, and the paint was coming off, and they took her in
the kitchen, and she told them Pa had slapped her with a dish of ice
cream, and the wimmin told the minister and the deacons, and they went
to Pa for a nexplanation, and Pa told them it was not so, and the
minister got interested and got near Pa, and Pa let the water go at him,
and hit him on the eye, and then a deacon got a dose, and Pa laughed;
and then the minister who used to go to college, and be a hazer, and
box, he got mad and squared off and hit Pa three times right by the eye,
and one of the deacons kicked Pa, and Pa got mad and said he could clean
out the whole shebang, and began to pull off his coat, when they
bundled him out doors, and Ma got mad to see Pa abused, and she left the
sociable, and I had to stay and eat ice cream and things for the whole
family. Pa says that settles it with him. He says they haven’t got any
more christian charity in that church than they have in a tannery. His
eyes are just getting over being black from the sparring lessons, and
now he has got to go through oysters and beef-steak cure again. He says
it is all owing to me.”

“Well, what has all this got to do with your putting up signs in front
of my store, ‘Rotten Eggs,’ and ‘Frowy Butter a specialty,’ said the
grocery man as he took the boy by the ear and pulled him around. You
have got an idea you are smart, and I want you to keep away from here.
The next time I catch you in here I shall call the police and have you
pulled. Now git!”

The boy pulled his ear back on the side of his head where it belonged,
took out a cigarette and lit it, and after puffing smoke in the face of
the grocery cat that was sleeping on the cover to the sugar barrel he

“If I was a provision pirate that never sold anything but what was
spoiled so it couldn’t be sold in a first class store, who cheated in
weights and measures, who bought only wormy figs and decayed cod-fish,
who got his butter from a fat rendering establishment, his cider from
a vinegar factory, and his sugar from a glucose factory, I would not
insult the son of one of the finest families. Why, sir, I could go out
on the corner, and when I saw customers coming here, I could tell a
story that would turn their stomachs, and send them to the grocery on
the next corner. Suppose I should tell them that the cat sleeps in the
dried apple barrel, that the mice made nests in the prune box, and rats
run riot through the raisins, and that you never wash your hands except
on Decoration day and Christmas, that you wipe your nose on your shirt
sleeves, and that you have the itch, do you think your business would be
improved? Suppose I should tell the customers that you buy sour kraut of
a wood-en-shoed Polacker, who makes it of pieces of cabbage that he gets
by gathering swill, and sell that stuff to respectable people, could
you pay your rent? If I should tell them that you put lozengers in the
collection plate at church, and charge the minister forty cents a pound
for oleomargarine, you would have to close up. Old man, I am onto you,
and now you apologize for pulling my ear.”

The grocery man turned pale during the recital, and finally said the bad
boy was one of the best little fellows in this town, and the boy went
out and hung up a sign in front:--

                            GIRL WANTED

                             TO COOK



“I hear you had burglars over to your house last night,” said the
grocery man to the bad boy, as he came in and sat on the counter right
over a little gimlet hole, where the grocery man had fixed a darning
needle so that by pulling a string the needle would fly up through the
hole and run into the boy about an inch. The grocery man had been laying
for the boy about two days, and now that he had got him right over the
hole the first time, it made him laugh to think how he would make him
jump and yell, and as he edged off and got hold of the string the boy
looked unconscious of impending danger. The grocery man pulled, and the
boy sat still. He pulled again, and again, and finally the boy said:

“Yes, it is reported that we had burglars over there. O, you needn’t
pull that string any more. I heard you was setting a trap for me, and
I put a piece of board inside my pants, and thought I would let you
exercise yourself. Go ahead if it amuses you. It don’t hurt me.”

The grocery man looked sad, and then smiled a sickly sort of a smile,
at the failure of his plan to puncture the boy, and then he said,
“Well, how was it? The policeman didn’t seem to know much about the
particulars. He said there was so much deviltry going on at your house
that nobody could tell when anything was serious, and he was inclined to
think it was a put up job.”

“Now let’s have an understanding,” says the boy. “Whatever I say, you
are not to give me away. It’s a go, is it? I have always been afraid of
you, because you have a sort of decayed egg look about you. You are like
a peck of potatoes with the big ones on top, a sort of a strawberry
box, with the bottom raised up, so I have thought you would go back on a
fellow. But if you won’t give this away, here goes. You see, I heard Ma
tell Pa to bring up another bottle of liniment last night. When Ma corks
herself, or has a pain anywhere, she just uses liniment for all that
is out, and a pint bottle don’t last more than a week. Well, I told my
chum, and we laid for Pa. This liniment Ma uses is offul hot, and almost
blisters. Pa went to the Langtry show, and did not get home till eleven
o’clock, and me and my chum decided to teach Pa a lesson. I don’t think
it is right for a man to go to the theaters and not take his wife or his
little boy.

“So we concluded to burgle Pa. We agreed to lay on the stairs, and when
he came up my chum was to hit him on the head with a dried bladder,
and I was to stab him on his breast pocket with a stick, and break the
liniment bottle, and make him think he was killed.

“It couldn’t have worked better if we had rehearsed it. We had talked
about burglars at supper time, and got Pa nervous, so when he came up
stairs and was hit on the head with the bladder, the first thing he said
was ‘Burglars, by mighty,’ and he started to go back, and I hit him on
the breast pocket, where the bottle was, and then we rushed by him, down
stairs, and I said in a stage whisper, ‘I guess he’s a dead man,’ and we
went down cellar and up the back stairs to my room and undressed.”

[Illustration: The old man stabbed 030]

“Pa hollered to Ma that he was murdered, and Ma called me, and I came
down in my night-shirt, and the hired girl she came down, and Pa was on
the lounge, and he said his life-blood was fast ebbing away. He held his
hand on the wound, and said he could feel the warm blood trickling clear
down to his boots. I told Pa to stuff some tar into the wound, such as
he told me to put on my lip to make my mustache grow, and Pa said, ‘My
boy, this is no time for trifling. Your Pa is on his last legs. When I
came up stairs I met six burglars, and I attacked them, and forced four
of them down, and was going to hold them and send for the police, when
two more, that I did not know about, jumped on me, and I was getting the
best of them when one of them struck me over the head with a crowbar,
and the other stabbed me to the heart with a butcher knife. I have
received my death wound, my boy, and my hot southern blood, that I
offered up so freely for my country in her time of need, is passing from
my body, and soon your Pa will be only a piece of poor clay. Get some
ice and put on my stomach, and all the way down, for I am burning up.’
I went to the-water pitcher and got a chunk of ice and put inside Pa’s
shirt, and while Ma was tearing up an old skirt to stop the flow of
blood, I asked Pa if he felt better, and if he could describe the
villains who had murdered him. Pa gasped and moved his legs to get them
cool from the clotted blood, he said, and he went on, ‘One of them was
about six foot high, and had a sandy mustache. I got him down and hit
him on the nose, and if the police find him, his nose will be broke. The
second one was thick set, and weighed about two hundred. I had him down,
and my boot was on his neck, and I was knocking two more down when I was
hit. The thick set one will have the mark of boot heels on his throat.
Tell the police when I’m gone, about the boot heel marks.’

“By this time Ma had got the skirt tore up, and she stuffed it under
Pa’s shirt, right where he said he was hit, and Pa was telling us what
to do to settle his estate, when Ma began to smell the liniment, and
she found the broken bottle in his pocket, and searched Pa for the place
where he was stabbed, and then she began to laugh, and Pa got mad and
said he didn’t see as a death-bed scene was such an almighty funny
affair; and then she told him he was not hurt, but that he had fallen on
the stairs and broke his bottle, and that there was no blood on him,
and he said, ‘do you mean to tell me my body and legs are not bathed in
human gore?’ and then Pa got up and found it was only the liniment. He
got mad and asked Ma why she didn’t fly around and get something to take
that liniment off his legs, as it was eating them right through to the
bone; and then he saw my chum put his head in the door, with one gallus
hanging down, and Pa looked at me, and then he said, ‘Lookahere, if I
find out it was you boys that put up this job on me, I’ll make it so hot
for you that you will think liniment is ice cream in comparison.’ I told
Pa it didn’t look reasonable that me and my chum could be six burglars,
six feet high, with our noses broke, and boot-heel marks on our neck,
and Pa, he said for us to go to bed alfired quick, and give him a chance
to rinse of that liniment, and we retired. Say, how does my Pa strike
you as a good, single-handed liar?” and the boy went up to the counter,
while the grocery man went after a scuttle of coal.

In the meantime, one of the grocery man’s best customers--a deacon in
the church--had come in and sat down on the counter, over the darning
needle, and as the grocery man came in with the coal, the boy pulled the
string, and went out door and tipped over a basket of rutabagas, while
the deacon got down off the counter with his hand clasped, and anger
in every feature, and told the grocery man he could whip him in two
minutes. The grocery man asked what was the matter, and the deacon
hunted up the source from whence the darning needle came through the
counter, and as the boy went across the street, the deacon and the
grocery man were rolling on the floor, the grocery man trying to hold
the deacon’s fists while he explained about the darning needle, and that
it was intended for the boy. How it came out the boy did not wait to



“Say, can’t I sell you some stock in a silver mine,” asked the bad boy
of the grocery man, as he came in the store and pulled from his breast
pocket a document printed on parchment paper, and representing several
thousand dollars stock in a silver mine.

“Lookahere,” says the grocery man, as he turned pale, and thought of
telephoning to the police station for a detective, “you haven’t been
stealing your father’s mining stock, have you? Great heavens, it has
come at last! I have known, all the time that you would turn out to be
a burglar, or a defaulter or robber of some kind. Your father has the
reputation of having a bonanza in a silver mine, but if you go lugging
his silver stock around he will soon be ruined. Now you go right back
home and put that stock in your Pa’s safe, like a good boy.”

“Put it in the safe! O, no, we keep it in a box stall now, in the
barn. I will trade you this thousand dollars in stock for two heads of
lettuce, and get Pa to sign it over to you, if you say so. Pa told me I
could have the whole trunk full if I wanted it, and the hired girls are
using the silver stock to clean the windows, and to kindle fires, and
Pa has quit the church, and says he won’t belong to any concern that
harbors bilks. What’s a bilk?” said the boy, as he opened a candy jar
and took out four sticks of hoarhound candy.

“A bilk,” said the grocery man, as he watched the boy, “is a fellow
that plays a man for candy, or money, or anything, and don’t intend to
return an equivalent. You are a small sized bilk. But what’s the matter
with your Pa and the church, and what has the silver mine stock got to
do with it?”

“Well, you remember that exhorter that was here last fall, that used
to board around with the church people all the week, and talk about Zion
and laying up treasures where the moths wouldn’t gnaw them, and they
wouldn’t get rusty, and where thieves wouldn’t pry off the hinges. He
was the one that used to go home with Ma from prayer meetings, when Pa
was down town, and who wanted to pay off the church debt in solid silver
bricks. He’s the bilk. I guess if Pa should get him by the neck he would
jerk nine kinds of revealed religion out of him. O, Pa is hotter than he
was when the hornets took the lunch off of him. When you strike a pious
man on the pocket-book it hurts him. That fellow prayed and sang like an
angel, and boarded around like a tramp. He stopped at our house over a
week, and he had specimens of rock that were chuck full of silver and
gold, and he and Pa used to sit up nights and look at it. You could pick
pieces of silver out of the rock as big as buck shot, and he had some
silver bricks that were beautiful. He had been out in Colorado and found
a hill full of the silver rock, and he wanted to form a stock company
and dig out millions of dollars. He didn’t want anybody but pious men
that belonged to the church, in the company, and I think that was one
thing that caused Pa to unite with the church so suddenly. I know he was
as wicked as could be a few days before he joined the church; but this
revivalist, with his words about the beautiful beyond where all shall
dwell together in peace, and sing praises; and his description of that
Colorado mountain where the silver stuck out so you could hang your hat
on it, converted Pa. That man’s scheme was to let all the church
people who were in good standing, and who had plenty of money, into the
company, and when the mine begun to return dividends by the car load,
they could give largely to the church and pay the debts of all the
churches, and put down carpets and fresco the ceiling. The man said he
felt that he had been steered on to that silver mine by a higher power,
and his idea was to work it for the glory of the cause. He said he liked
Pa, and would make him vice president of the company. Pa, he bit like
a bass, and I guess he invested five thousand dollars in stock, and Ma,
she wanted to come in, and she put in a thousand dollars that she had
laid up to buy some diamond ear-rings, and the man gave Pa a lot of
stock to sell to other members of the church. They all went into it,
even the minister. He drew his salary ahead, and all of the deacons they
come in, and the man went back to Colorado with about thirty thousand
dollars of good, pious money. Yesterday Pa got a paper from Colorado,
giving the whole snap away, and the pious man has been spending the
money in Denver, and whooping it up. Pa suspected something was wrong
two weeks ago, when he heard that the pious man had been on a toot in
Chicago, and he wrote to a man in Denver, who used to get full with Pa
years ago when they were both on the turf; and Pa’s friend said the man
that sold the stock was a fraud, and that he didn’t own no mine, and
that he borrowed the samples of ore and silver bricks from a pawnbroker
in Denver. I guess it will break Pa up for a while, though he is well
enough fixed with mortgages and things; but it hurts him to be took in.
He lays it all to Ma--he says if she hadn’t let that exhorter for the
silver mine go home with her this would not have occurred, and Ma says
she believes Pa was in partnership with the man to beat her out of her
thousand dollars that she was going to buy a pair of diamond ear-rings
with. O, it is a terror over to the house now. Both the hired girls put
in all the money they had, and took stock, and they threaten to sue Pa
for arson, and they are going to leave to-night, and Ma will have to do
the work. Don’t you never try to get rich quick,” said the boy as he
peeled a herring, and took a couple of crackers.

“Never you mind me,” said the grocery man, “they don’t catch me on any
of their silver mines; but I hope this will have some influence on you,
and teach you to respect your Pa’s feelings, and not play jokes on him
while he is feeling so bad over his being swindled.”

“O, I don’t know about that, I think when a man is in trouble, if he has
a good little boy to take his mind from his troubles and get him mad
at something else, it rests him. Last night we had hot maple syrup and
biscuit for supper, and Pa had a saucer full in front of him, just a
steaming. I could see he was thinking too much about his mining stock,
and I thought if there was anything I could do to take his mind off
of it and place it on something else, I would be doing a kindness that
would be appreciated. I sat on the right of Pa, and when he wasn’t
looking I pulled the table cloth so the saucer of red hot maple syrup
dropped off in his lap.”

[Illustration: Maple syrup for one 042]

“Well, you’d a dide to see how quick his thoughts turned from his
financial troubles to his physical misfortunes. There was about a pint
of hot syrup, and it went all over his lap, and you know how hot melted
maple sugar is, and how it sort of clings to anything. Pa jumped up and
grabbed hold of his pants legs to pull them away from hisself, and he
danced around and told Ma to turn the hose on him, and then he took
a pitcher of ice water and poured it down his pants, and he said the
condemned old table was getting so ricketty that a saucer wouldn’t stay
on it, and I told Pa if he would put some tar on his legs, the same kind
that he told me to put on my lip to make my moustache grow, the syrup
wouldn’t burn so; and then he cuffed me, and I think he felt better It
is a great thing to get a man’s mind off of his troubles, but where a
man hasn’t got any mind like you, for instance--”

At this point the grocery man picked up a fire poker, and the boy went
out in a hurry and hung up a sign in front of the grocery:

                                   CASH PAID

                                 FOR FAT DOGS.



“I guess your Pa’s losses in the silver mine have made him crazy,
haven’t they?” said the grocery man to the bad boy, as he came in the
store with his eye winkers singed off, and powder marks on his face, and
began to play on the harmonica, as he sat down on the end of a stick of
stove wood, and balanced himself.

“O, I guess not. He has hedged. He got in with a deacon of another
church, and sold some of his stock to him, and Pa says if I will keep my
condemn mouth shut he will unload the whole of it, if the churches hold
out. He goes to a new church every night there is prayer meeting or
anything, and makes Ma go with him, to give him tone; and after meeting
she talks with the sisters about how to piece a silk bed quilt, while
Pa gets in his work selling silver stock. I don’t know but he will order
some more stock from the factory, if he sells all he has got,” and the
boy went on playing “There’s a land that is fairer than Day.”

“But what was he skipping up street for the other night with his hat
off, grabbing at his coat tails as though they were on fire? I thought I
never saw a pussy man run any faster. And what was the celebration down
on your street about that time? I thought the world was coming to an
end,” and the grocery man kept away from the boy, for fear he would

“O, that was only a Fenian scare. Nothin’ serious. You see Pa is a sort
of half Englishman. He claims to be an American citizen, when he wants
office, but when they talk about a draft he claims to be a subject of
Great Brit-tain, and he says they can’t touch him. Pa is a darn smart
man, and don’t you forget it. There don’t any of them get ahead of Pa
much. Well, Pa has said a good deal about the wicked Fenians, and that
they ought to be pulled, and all that, and when I read the story in the
papers about the explosion in the British Parliament Pa was hot. He said
the damnirish was ruining the whole world. He didn’t dare say it at the
table or our hired girl would have knocked him silly with a spoonful
of mashed potatoes, ‘cause she is a nirish girl, and she can lick any
Englishman in this town. Pa said there ought to have been somebody
thereto have taken that bomb up and throwed it in the sewer before it
exploded. He said that if he ever should see a bomb he would grab it
right up and throw it away where it wouldn’t hurt anybody. Pa has me
read the papers to him nights, cause his eyes have got splinters in ‘em,
and after I had read all there was in the paper I made up a lot more and
pretended to read it, about how it was rumored that the Fenians here
in Milwaukee were going to place dynamite bombs at every house where an
Englishman lived, and at a given signal blow them all up. Pa looked pale
around the gills, but he said he wasn’t scared.

“Pa and Ma were going to call on a she deacon that night, that has lots
of money in the bank, to see if she didn’t want to invest in a dead sure
paying silver mine, and me and my chum concluded to give them a
send off. We got my big black injy rubber foot-ball, and painted
‘_Dinymight_’ in big white letters on it, and tied a piece of tarred
rope to it for a fuse, and got a big fire cracker, one of those old
fourth of July horse scarers, and a basket full of broken glass. We
put the foot-ball in front of the step and lit the tarred rope, and got
under the step with the firecrackers and basket, where they go down into
the basement. Pa and Ma came out the front door, and down the steps,
and Pa saw the football, and the burning fuse, and he said ‘Great God,
Hanner, we are blowed up!’ and he started to run, and Ma she stopped to
look at it. Just as Pa started to run I touched off the fire cracker,
and my chum arranged it to pour out the broken glass on the brick
pavement just as the fire cracker went off.”

[Illustration: Great God, Hanner, we are blowed up 048]

“Well, everything went just as we expected, except Ma. She had examined
the foot-ball, and concluded it was not dangerous, and was just giving
it a kick as the firecracker went off, and the glass fell, and the
firecracker was so near her that it scared her, and when Pa looked
around Ma was flying across the sidewalk, and Pa heard the noise and
he thought the house was blown to atoms. O, you’d a died to see him go
around the corner. You could play crokay on his coat-tail, and his face
was as pale as Ma’s when she goes to a party. But Ma didn’t scare much.
As quick as she stopped against the hitching post she knew it was us
boys, and she came down there, and maybe she didn’t maul me. I cried
and tried to gain her sympathy by telling her the firecracker went off
before it was due, and burned my eyebrows off, but she didn’t let up
until I promised to go and find Pa.

“I tell you, my Ma ought to be engaged by the British government to hunt
out the dynamite fiends. She would corral them in two minutes. If Pa had
as much sand as Ma has got, it would be warm weather for me. Well, me
and my chum went and headed Pa off or I guess he would be running yet.
We got him up by the lake shore, and he wanted to know if the house fell
down. He said he would leave it to me if he ever said anything against
the Fenians, and I told him he had always claimed that the Fenians were
the nicest men in the world, and it seemed to relieve him very much.
When he got home and found the house there he was tickled, and when Ma
called him an old bald-headed coward, and said it was only a joke of the
boys with a foot ball, he laughed right out, and said he knew it all the
time, and he ran to see if Ma would be scared. And then he wanted to
hug me, but it wasn’t my night to hug and I went down to the theater. Pa
don’t amount to much when there is trouble. The time Ma had them cramps,
you remember, when you got your cucumbers first last season, Pa came
near fainting away, and Ma said ever since they had been married when
anything ailed her, Pa has had pains just the same as she has, only he
grunted more, and thought he was going to die. Gosh, if I was a man I
wouldn’t be sick every time one of the neighbors had a back ache, would

“Well you can’t tell. When you have been married twenty or thirty years
you will know a good deal more than you do now. You think you know it
all, now, and you are pretty intelligent for a boy that has been brought
up carelessly, but there are things that you will learn after a while
that will astonish you. But what ails your Pa’s teeth? The hired girl
was over here to get some corn meal for gruel, and she said your Pa was
gumming it, since he lost his teeth.”

“O, about the teeth. That was too bad. You see my chum has got a dog
that is old, and his teeth have all come out in front, and this morning
I borried Pa’s teeth before he got up, to see if we couldn’t fix them in
the dog’s mouth, so he could eat better. Pa says it is an evidence of a
kind heart for a boy to be good to dumb animals, but it is a darn mean
dog that will go back on a friend. We tied the teeth in the dog’s mouth
with a string that went around his upper jaw, and another around his
under jaw, and you’d a dide to see how funny he looked when he laffed.

“He looked just like Pa when he tried to smile so as to get me to come
up to him so he can lick me. The dog pawed his mouth a spell to get the
teeth out, and then we gave him a bone with some meat on, and he began
to gnaw the bone, and the teeth come off the plate, and he thought it
was pieces of the bone, and he swallowed the teeth. My chum noticed it
first, and he said we had got to get in our work pretty quick to save
the plates, and I think we were in luck to save them. I held the dog,
and my chum, who was better acquainted with him, untied the strings and
got the gold plates out, but there were only two teeth left, and the dog
was happy. He woggled his tail for more teeth, but we hadn’t any more.
I am going to give him Ma’s teeth some day. My chum says when a dog gets
an appetite for anything you have got to keep giving it to him or he
goes back on you. But I think my chum played dirt on me. We sold the
gold plates to a jewelry man, and my chum kept the money. I think,
as long as I furnished the goods, he ought to have given me something
besides the experience, don’t you? After this I don’t have no more
partners, you bet.” All this time the boy was marking on a piece of
paper, and soon after he went out the grocery man noticed a crowd
outside, and on he found a sign hanging up which read:

                               WORMY FIGS

                              FOR PARTIES.



“Say, will you do me a favor,” asked the bad boy of the grocery man, as
he sat down on the soap box and put his wet boots on the stove.

“Well, y-e-s,” said the grocery man hesitatingly, with a feeling that
he was liable to be sold. “If you will help me to catch the villain who
hangs up those disreputable signs in front of my store, I will. What is

“I want you to lick this stamp and put it on this letter. It is to my
girl, and I want to fool her,” and the boy handed over the letter and
stamp, and while the grocery man was licking it and putting it on, the
boy filled his pockets with dried peaches out of a box.

“There, that’s a small job,” said the grocery man, as he pressed the
stamp on the letter with his thumb and handed it back. “But how are you
going to fool her?”

“That’s just business,” said the boy, as he held the letter to his nose
and smelled of the stamp. “That will make her tired. You see, every time
she gets a letter from me she kisses the stamp, because she thinks
I licked it. When she kisses this stamp and gets the fumes of plug
tobacco, and stale beer, and limburg cheese, and mouldy potatoes, it
will knock her down, and then she will ask me what ailed the stamp, and
I will tell her I got you to lick it, and then it will make her sick,
and her parents will stop trading here. O, it will paralize her. Do you
know, you smell like a glue factory. Gosh I can smell you all over the
store, Don’t you smell anything that smells spoiled?” The grocery man
thought he did smell something that was rancid, and he looked around the
stove and finally kicked the boy’s boot off the stove and said, “It’s
your boots burning. Gracious, open the door. It smells like a hot box
on a caboose. Whew! And there comes a couple of my best lady customers.”
 The ladies came in and held their handkerchiefs to their noses,
and while they were trading the boy said, as though continuing the

“Yes, Pa says that last oleomargarine I got here is nothing but axle
grease. Why don’t you put your axle grease in a different kind of a
package? The only way you can tell axle grease from oleomargarine is
in spreading it on pancakes. Pa says axle grease will spread, but your
alleged butter just rolls right up and acts like lip salve, or ointment,
and is only fit to use on a sore--”

At this point the ladies went out of the store in disgust, without
buying anything, and the grocery man took a dried codfish by the tail
and went up to the boy and took him by the neck. “Golblast you, I have
a notion to kill you. You have driven away more custom from this store
than your neck is worth. Now you git,” and he struck the boy across the
back with the codfish.

“That’s just the way with you all,” says the boy, as he put his sleeve
up to his eyes and pretended to cry, “when a fellow is up in the world,
there is nothing too good for him, but when he gets down, you maul him
with a codfish. Since Pa drove me out of the house, and told me to go
shirk for my living, I haven’t had a kind word from anybody. My chum’s
dog won’t even follow me, and when a fellow gets so low down that a dog
goes back on him there is nothing left for him to do but to loaf around
a grocery, or sit on a jury, and I am too young to sit on a jury, though
I know more than some of the beats that lay around the court to get on a
jury. I am going to drown myself, and my death will be laid to you. They
will find evidences of codfish on my clothing, and you will be arrested
for driving me to a suicide’s grave. Good-bye. I forgive you,” and the
boy started for the door.

“Hold on here,” says the grocery man, feeling that he had been too
harsh, “Come back here and have some maple sugar. What did your Pa drive
you away from home for?”

“O, it was on account of St. Patrick’s Day,” said the bad boy as he bit
off half a pound of maple sugar, and dried his tears. “You see, Pa never
sees Ma buy a new silk handkerchief, but he wants it. Tother day Ma got
one of these orange-colored handkerchiefs, and Pa immediately had a
sore throat and wanted to wear it, and Ma let him put it on. I thought
I would break him of taking everything nice that Ma got, so when he went
down town with the orange handkerchief on his neck, I told some of the
St. Patrick boys in the Third ward, who had green ribbons on, that the
old duffer that was putting on style was an orange-man, and he said he
could whip any St. Patrick’s Day man in town. The fellers laid for Pa,
and when he came along one of them threw a barrel at Pa, and another
pulled the yellow handkerchief off his neck, and they all yelled ‘hang
him,’ and one grabbed a rope that was on the sidewalk where they were
moving a building, and Pa got up and dusted. You’d a dide to see Pa run.
He met a policeman and said more’n a hundred men had tried to murder
him, and they had mauled him and stolen his yellow handkerchief. The
policeman told Pa his life was not safe, and he better go home and lock
himself in, and he did, and I was telling Ma about how I got the boys to
scare Pa, and he heard it, and he told me that settled it. He said I had
caused him to run more foot races than any champion pedestrian, and had
made his life unbearable, and now I must go it alone. Now I want you
to send a couple of pounds of crackers over to the house, and have your
boy tell the hired girl that I have gone down to the river to drown
myself, and she will tell Ma, and Ma will tell Pa, and pretty soon you
will see a bald headed pussy man whooping it up towards the river with
a rope. They may think at times that I am a little tough, but when it
comes to parting forever, they weaken.

“Well, the teacher at school says you are a hardened infidel,” said the
grocery man, as he charged the crackers to the boy’s Pa. “He says he
had to turn you out to keep you from ruining the morals of the other
scholars. How was that?”

“It was about speaking a piece. When I asked him what I should speak,
he told me to learn some speech of some great man, some lawyer or
statesman, so I learned one of Bob Ingersoll’s speeches. Well, you’d a
dide to see the teacher and the school committee, when I started in on
Bob Ingersoll’s lecture, the one that was in the papers when Bob was
here. You see I thought if a newspaper that all the pious folks takes
in their families, could publish Ingersoll’s speech, it wouldn’t do any
hurt for a poor little boy, who ain’t knee high to a giraffe, to speak
it in school, but they made me dry up. The teacher is a republican,
and when Ingersoll was speaking around here on politix, the time of the
election, the teacher said Bob was the smartest man this country ever
produced. I heard him say that in a corcus, when he went bumming around
the ward settin’ ‘em up nights specting to be superintendent of schools.
He said Bob Ingersoll just took the cake, and I think it was darn mean
in him to go back on Bob and me too, just cause there was no ‘lection.
The school committee made the teacher stop me, and they asked me if
I didn’t know any other piece to speak, and I told them I knew one of
Beecher’s, and they let me go ahead, but it was one of Beecher’s new
ones where he said he didn’t believe in any hell, and afore I got warmed
up they said that was enough of that, and I had to wind up on “Mary had
a Little Lam.” None of them didn’t kick on Mary’s Lam and I went through
it, and they let me go home. That’s about the safest thing a boy can
speak in school, now days, either “Mary had a Little Lam,” or “Twinkle,
Twinkle Little Star.” That’s about up to the average intelleck of the
committee. But if a boy tries to branch out as a statesman, they choke
him off. Well, I am going down to the river, and I will leave my coat
and hat by the wood yard, and get behind the wood, and you steer Pa down
there and you will see some tall weeping over them clothes, and maybe Pa
will jump in after me, and then I will come out from behind the wood
and throw in a board for him to swim ashore on. Good bye. Give my pocket
comb to my chum,” and the boy went out and hung up a sign in front of
the grocery, as follows:

                               POP CORN THAT THE CAT

                              HAS SLEPT IN, CHEAP FOR

                             POP CORN BALLS FOR SOCIABLES.


     ME TIRED.

“Give me ten cents worth of saffron, quick,” said the bad boy to the
grocery man, as he came in the grocery on a gallop, early one morning,
with no collar on and no vest. He looked as though he had been routed
out of bed in a hurry and had jumped into his pants and boots, and put
on his coat and hat on the run.

“I don’t keep saffron,” said the grocery man as he picked up a barrel of
ax-handles the boy had tipped over in his hurry. “You want to go over to
the drug store on the corner, if you want saffron. But what on earth is
the mat--”

At this point the boy shot out of the door, tipping over a basket of
white beans, and disappeared in the drug store. The grocery man got down
on his knees on the sidewalk, and scooped up the beans, occasionally
looking over to the drug store, and just as he got them picked up, the
boy came out of the drug store and walked deliberately towards his home
as though there was no particular hurry. The grocery man looked after
him, took up an ax-handle, spit on his hands, and shouted to the boy to
come over pretty soon, as he wanted to talk with him. The boy did not
come to the grocery till towards night; but the grocery man had seen him
running down town a dozen times during the day and once he rode up to
the house with the doctor, and the grocer surmised what was the trouble.
Along towards night the boy came in in a dejected sort of a tired way,
sat down on a barrel of sugar, and never spoke.

“What is it, a boy or girl,” said the grocery man, winking at an old
lady with a shawl over her head, who was trying to hold a paper over a
pitcher of yeast with her thumb.

“How in blazes did you know anything about it?” said the boy, as he
looked around in astonishment, and with some indignation. “Well, it’s
a girl, if you must know, and that’s enough,” and he looked down at the
cat playing on the floor with a potato, his face a picture of dejection.

“O, don’t feel bad about it,” said the grocery man, as he opened the
door for the old lady. “Such things are bound to occur; but you take my
word for it, that young one is going to have a hard life unless you mend
your ways. You will be using it for a cork to a jug, or to wad a gun
with, the first thing your Ma knows.”

“I wouldn’t touch the darn thing with the tongs,” said the boy, as
he rallied enough to eat some crackers and cheese. “Gosh, this cheese
tastes good. I hain’t had noth-to eat since morning. I have been all
over this town trolling for nurses. They think a boy hasn’t got any
feelings. But I wouldn’t care a goldarn, if Ma hadn’t been sending me
for neuralgia medicine, and hay fever stuff all winter, when she wanted
to get rid of me. I have come into the room lots of times when Ma and
the sewing girl were at work on some flannel things, and Ma would hide
them in a basket and send me off after medicine. I was deceived up to
about four o clock this morning, when Pa come to my room and pulled me
out of bed to go over on the West Side after some old woman that knew
Ma, and they have kept me whooping ever since. What does a boy want of
a sister, unless it is a big sister. I don’t want no sister that I have
got to hold, and rock, and hold a bottle for. This affair breaks me all
up,” and the boy picked the cheese out of his teeth with a sliver he cut
from the counter.

“Well, how does your Pa take it?” asked the grocery man, as he charged
the boy’s Pa with cheese, and saffron, and a number of such things.

“O, Pa will pull through. He wanted to boss the whole concern until Ma’s
chum, an old woman that takes snuff, fired him out into the hall. Pa sat
there on my hand-sled, a perfect picture of dispair, and I thought it
would be a kindness to play in on him. I found the cat asleep in the
bath-room, and I rolled the cat up in a shawl and brought it out to Pa
and told him the nurse wanted him to hold the baby. It seemed to do Pa
good to feel that he was indispensible around the house, and he took
the cat on his lap as tenderly as you ever saw a mother hold her infant.
Well, I got in the back hall, where he couldn’t see me, and pretty soon
the cat began to wake up and stretch himself, and Pa said ‘s-h-h-tootsy,
go to sleep now, and let its Pa hold it,’ and Pa he rocked back and
forth on the hand sled and began to sing ‘by, low, baby.’ That settled
it with the cat.”

[Illustration: By low baby 066]

“Well, some cats can’t stand music, anyway, and the more the cat
wanted to get out of the shawl, the louder Pa sung, and bimeby I heard
something-rip, and Pa yelled, ‘scat you brute,’ and when I looked
around the corner of the hall the cat was bracing hisself against Pa’s
vest with his toe nails, and yowling, and Pa fell over the sled and
began to talk about the hereafter like the minister does when he gets
excited in church, and then Pa picked up the sled and seemed to be
looking for me or the cat, but both of us was offul scarce. Don’t you
think there are times when boys and cats are kind of few around their
accustomed haunts? Pa don’t look as though he was very smart, but he can
hold a cat about as well as the next man. But I am sorry for Ma. She was
just getting ready to go to Florida for her neuralgia, and this will put
a stop to it, cause she has to stay and take care of that young one. Pa
says I will have a nice time this summer pushing the baby wagon. By
the great horn spoons, there has got to be a dividing line somewhere,
between business and pleasure, and I strike the line at wheeling a
baby. I had rather catch a string of perch than to wheel all the babies
ever was. They needn’t procure no baby on my account, if it is to amuse
me. I don’t see why babies can’t be sawed off onto people that need them
in their business. Our folks don’t need a baby any more than you need a
safe, and there are people just suffering for babies. Say, how would it
be to take the baby some night and leave it on some old batchelor’s door
step. If it had been a bicycle, or a breech loading shot-gun, I wouldn’t
have cared, but a baby! Bah! It makes me tired. I’d druther have a prize
package. Well, I am sorry Pa allowed me to come home, after he drove
me away last week. I guess all he wanted me to come back for was to
humiliate me, and send me on errands. Well, I must go and see if he and
the cat have made up.”

And the boy went out and put a paper sign in front of the store:

                                 LEAVE YOUR MEASURE

                                  FOR SAFFRON TEA.



“Well, how is the baby?” asked the grocery man of the bad boy, as he
came into the grocery smelling very “horsey,” and sat down on the chair
with the back gone, and looked very tired.

“O, darn the baby. Everybody asks me about the baby as though it was
mine. I don’t pay no attention to the darn thing, except to notice the
foolishness going on around the house. Say, I guess that baby will grow
up to be a fire engine. The nurse coupled the baby onto a section of
rubber hose that runs down into a bottle of milk, and it began to get up
steam and pretty soon the milk began to disappear, just like the water
does when a fire engine couples on to a hydrant. Pa calls the baby “Old
Number Two.” I am “Number One,” and if Pa had a hook and ladder truck
and a hose cart, and a fire gong he would imagine he was chief engineer
of the fire department. But the baby kicks on this milk wagon milk, and
howls like a dog that’s got lost. The doctor told Pa the best thing he
could do was to get a goat, but Pa said since we ‘nishiated him into the
Masons with the goat he wouldn’t have a goat around no how. The doc told
Pa the other kind of a goat, I think it was a Samantha goat he
said, wouldn’t kick with its head, and Pa sent me up into the Polack
settlement to see if I couldn’t borrow a milk goat for a few weeks. I
got a woman to lend us her goat till the baby got big enough to chew
beef, for a dollar a week, and paid a dollar in advance, and Pa went up
in the evening to help me get the goat. Well it was the darndest mistake
you ever see. There was two goats so near alike you could not tell which
was the goat we leased, and the other goat was the chum of our goat,
but it belonged to a Nirish woman. We got a bed cord hitched around the
Irish goat, and that goat didn’t recognize the lease, and when we tried
to jerk it along it rared right up, and made things real quick for Pa.
I don’t know what there is about a goat that makes it get so spunky, but
that goat seemed to have a grudge against Pa from the first. If there
were any places on Pa’s manly form that the goat did not explore, with
his head, Pa don’t know where the places are. O, it lammed him, and
when I laffed Pa got mad. I told him every man ought to furnish his own
goats, when he had a baby, and I let go the rope and started off, and Pa
said he knew how it was, I wanted him to get killed. It wasn’t that, but
I saw the Irish woman that owned the goat coming around the corner of
the house with a cistern pole. Just as Pa was getting the goat out of
the gate the goat got cross ways of the gate, and Pa yanked, and doubled
the goat right up, and I thought he had broke the goats neck, and the
woman thought so too, for she jabbed Pa with the cistern pole just
below the belt, and she tried to get a hold on Pa’s hair, but he had her
there. No woman can get the advantage of Pa that way ‘cause Ma has tried
it. Well, Pa explained it to the woman, and she let Pa off if he would
pay her two dollars for damages to her goat, and he paid it, and then we
took the nanny goat, and it went right along with us. But I have got
my opinion of a baby that will drink goat’s milk. Gosh, it is like this
stuff that comes in a spoiled cocoanut. The baby hasn’t done anything
but blat since the nurse coupled it onto the goat hydrant. I had to take
all my playthings out of the basement to keep the goat from eating them.
I guess the milk will taste of powder and singed hair now. The goat got
to eating some Roman candles me and my chum had laid away in the coal
bin, and chewed them around the furnace, and the powder leaked out and
a coal fell out of the furnace on the hearth, and you’d a dide to see
Pa and the hired girl and the goat. You see Pa can’t milk nothing but
a milk wagon, and he got the hired girl to milk the goat, and they were
just hunting around the basement for the goat, with a tin cup, when the
fireworks went off.”

[Illustration: The old man, the hired girl and the goat 074]

“Well, there was balls of green, and red and blue fire, and spilled
powder blazed up, and the goat just looked astonished, and looked on as
though it was sorry so much good fodder was spoiled, but when its hair
began to burn, the goat gave one snort and went between Pa and the hired
girl like it was shot out of a cannon, and it knocked Pa over a wash
boiler into the coal bin, and the hired girl in amongst the kindling
wood, and she crossed herself and repeated the catekism, and the goat
jumped up on the brick furnace, and they couldn’t get it down. I heard
the celebration and went down and took Pa by the pants and pulled him
out of the coal bin, and he said he would surrender, and plead guilty of
being the biggest fool in Milwaukee. I pulled the kindling wood off the
hired girl, and then she got mad, and said she would milk the goat or
die. O, that girl has got sand. She used to work in the glass factory.
Well, sir, it was a sight worth two shillings admission, to see that
hired girl get upon a step ladder to milk that goat on top of the
furnace, with Pa sitting on a barrel of potatoes, bossing the job. They
are going to fix a gang plank to get the goat down off the furnace. The
baby kicked on the milk last night. I guess besides tasting of powder
and burnt hair, the milk was too warm on account of the furnace. Pa has
got to grow a new lot of hair on that goat, or the woman won’t take it
back. She don’t want no bald goat. Well, they can run the baby and goat
to suit themselves, ‘cause I have resigned. I have gone into business.
Don’t you smell anything that would lead you to surmise that I had gone
into business? No drugstore this time,” and the boy got up and put his
thumbs in the armholes of his vest, and looked proud.

“O, I don’t know as I smell anything except the faint odor of a horse
blanket. What you gone into anyway?” and the grocery man put the
wrapping paper under the counter, and put the red chalk in his pocket,
so the boy couldn’t write any sign to hang up outside.

“You hit it the first time I have accepted a situation of teller in a
livery stable,” said the boy, as he searched around for the barrel of
cut sugar, which had been removed.

“Teller in a livery stable! Well that is a new one on me. What is a
teller in a livery stable?” and the grocery man looked pleased, and
pointed the boy to a barrel of seven cent sugar.

“Don’t you know what a teller is in a livery stable? It is the same as
a teller in a bank. I have to grease the harness, oil the buggies, and
curry off the horses, and when a man comes in to hire a horse I have to
go down to the saloon and tell the livery man. That’s what a teller is.
I like the teller part of it; but greasing harness is a little too
rich for my blood, but the livery man says if I stick to it I will be
governor some day, ‘cause most all the great men have begun life taking
care of horses. It all depends on my girl whether I stick or not. If she
likes the smell of horses I shall be a statesman, but if she objects
to it and sticks up her nose, I shall not yearn to be governor, at the
expense of my girl. It beats all, don’t it, that wimmen settle every
great question. Everybody does everything to please wimmen, and if they
kick on anything that settles it. But I must go and umpire that game
between Pa, and the hired girl, and the goat. Say, can’t you come over
and see the baby? ‘Taint bigger than a small satchel,” and the boy
waited till the grocery man went to draw some vinegar, when he slipped
out and put up a sign written on a shingle with white chalk:

                          YELLOW SAND WANTED

                          FOR MAPLE SUGAR.



“Well, great Julius Cæsar’s bald-headed ghost, what’s the matter with
you?” said the grocery man to the bad boy, as he came into the grocery
on crutches, with one arm in a sling, one eye blackened, and a strip of
court plaster across his face “Where was the explosion, or have you
been in a fight, or has your Pa been giving you what you deserve, with a
club? Here, let me help you; there, sit down on that keg of apple-jack.
Well, by the great guns, you look as though you had called somebody
a liar. What’s the matter?” and the grocery man took the crutches and
stood them up against the show case.

“O, there’s not much the matter with me,” said the boy, in a voice that
sounded all broke up, as he took a big apple off a basket, and began
peeling it with his upper front teeth. “If you think I am a wreck, you
ought to see the minister. They had to carry him home in installments,
the way they buy sewing machines. I am all right; but they have got to
stop him up with oakum and tar, before he will hold water again!”

“Good gracious, you have not had a fight with the minister, have you?
Well, I have said all the time, and I stick to it, that you would commit
a crime yet, and go to state prison. What was the fuss about?” and the
grocery man laid the hatchet out of the boy’s reach for fear he would
get excited and kill him.

“O, I want no fuss, it was in the way of business. You see the livery
man that I was working for promoted me. He let me drive a horse to haul
sawdust for bedding, first, and when he found I was real careful he let
me drive an express wagon to haul trunks. Day before yesterday, I think
it was--yes, I was in bed all day yesterday--day before yesterday
there was a funeral, and our stable furnished the outfit. It was only a
common, eleven dollar funeral, so they let me go to drive the horse for
the minister--you know, the buggy that goes ahead of the hearse. They
gave me an old horse that is thirty years old, that has not been off of
a walk since nine years ago, and they told me to give him a loose rein,
and he would go along all right. It’s the same old horse that used to
pace so fast on the avenue, years ago, but I didn’t know it. Well,
I wan’t to blame. I just let him walk along as though he was hauling
sawdust, and gave him a loose rein. When we got off of the pavement, the
fellow that drives the hearse, he was in a hurry, ‘cause his folks was
going to have ducks for dinner, and he wanted to get back, so he kept
driving along side of my buggy, and telling me to hurry up. I wouldn’t
do it, ‘cause the livery man told me to walk the horse. Then the
minister, he got nervous, and said he didn’t know as there was any use
of going so slow, because he wanted to get back in time to get his lunch
and go to a minister’s meeting in the afternoon, but I told him we would
all get to the cemetery soon enough if we took it cool, and as for me
I wasn’t in no sweat. Then one of the drivers that was driving the
mourners, he came up and said he had to get back in time to run a
wedding down to the one o’clock train, and for me to pull out a little.
I have seen enough of disobeying orders, and I told him a funeral in the
hand was worth two weddings in the bush, and as far as I was concerned,
this funeral was going to be conducted in a decorous manner, if we
didn’t get back till the next day. Well, the minister said, in his
regular Sunday school way, ‘My little man, let me take hold of the
lines,’ and like a darn fool I gave them to him. He slapped the old
horse on the crupper with the lines, and then jerked up, and the old
horse stuck up his off ear, and then the hearse driver told the minister
to pull hard and saw on the bit a little, and the old horse would wake
up. The hearse driver used to drive the old pacer on the track, and he
knew what he wanted. The minister took off his black kid gloves and put
his umbrella down between us, and pulled his hat down tight on his head,
and began to pull and saw on the bit. The old cripple began to move
along sort of sideways, like a hog going to war, and the minister pulled
some more, and the hearse driver, who was right behind, he said, so
you could hear him clear to Waukesha, ‘Ye-e-up,’ and the old horse kept
going faster, then the minister thought the procession was getting too
quick, and he pulled harder, and yelled ‘who-a’ and that made the old
horse worse, and I looked through the little window in the buggy top.
behind, and the hearse was about two blocks behind, and the driver was
laughing, and the minister he got pale and said, ‘My little man I guess
you better drive,’ and I said ‘Not much Mary Ann, you wouldn’t let me
run this funeral the way I wanted to, and now you can boss it, if you
will let me get out,’ but there was a street car ahead and all of a
sudden there was an earthquake, and when I come to there were about six
hundred people pouring water down my neck, and the hearse was hitched to
the fence, and the hearse driver was asking if my leg was broke, and a
policeman was fanning the minister with a plug hat that looked as though
it had been struck by a pile driver, and some people were hauling our
buggy into the gutter, and some men were trying to take old pacer out of
the windows of the street-car, and then I guess I fainted away agin. O,
it was worse than telescoping a train loaded with cattle.”

[Illustration: After the earthquake was over 084]

“Well, I swan,” said the grocery man, as he put some eggs in a funnel
shaped brown paper for a servant girl. “What did the minister say when
he come to?”

“Say! What could he say? He just yelled ‘whoa,’ and kept sawing with his
hands, as though he was driving. I heard that the policeman was going to
pull him for fast driving, till he found it was an accident. They told
me, when they carried me home in a hack, that it was a wonder everybody
was not killed, and when I got home Pa was going to sass me, until the
hearse driver told him it was the minister that was to blame. I want to
find out if they got the minister’s umbrella back. The last I see of it
the umbrella was running up his trouser’s leg, and the point come out
by the small of his back. But I am all right, only my shoulder sprained,
and my legs bruised, and my eye black. I will be all right, and shall go
to work to-morrow, ‘cause the livery man says I was the only one in the
crowd that had any sense. I understand the minister is going to take a
vacation on account of his liver and nervous prostration. I would if I
was him. I never saw a man that had nervous prostration any more than he
did when they fished him out of the barbed wire fence, after we struck
the street car. But that settles the minister business with me. I don’t
drive for no more preachers. What I want is a quiet party that wants
to go on a walk,” and the boy got up and hopped on one foot towards his
crutcher, filling his pistol pocket with fig he hobbled along.

“Well, sir,” said the grocery man, as he took a chew of tobacco out of
a pail, and offered some to the boy, knowing that was the only thing
in the store the boy would not take, “Do you know I think some of these
ministers have about as little sense on worldly matters, as anybody?
Now, the idea of that man jerking on an old pacer. It don’t make any
difference if the pacer was hundred years old, he _would_ pace if he was
jerked on.”

“You bet,” said the boy, as he put his crutches under his arms, and
started for the door. “A minister may be sound on the Atonement, but
he don’t want to saw on an old pacer. He may have the subject of infant
baptism down finer than a cambric needle, but if he has ever been to
college, he ought to have learned enough not to say ‘_ye up_’ to an old
pacer that has been the boss of the road in his time. A minister may be
endowed with sublime power to draw sinners to repentance, and make them
feel like getting up and dusting for the beautiful beyond, and cause
them, by his eloquence, to see angles bright and fair in their dreams,
and chariots of fire flying through the pearly gates and down the golden
streets of New Jerusalem, but he wants to turn out for a street car
all the same, when he is driving a 2:20 pacer. The next time I drive a
minister to a funeral, he will walk,” and the boy hobbled out and hung
out a sign in front of the grocery:

                       SMOKED DOG FISH AT HALIBUT PRICES,

                                GOOD ENOUGH

                                FOR COMPANY.



“There, you drop that,” said the groceryman to the bad boy, as he
came limping into the store, and began to fumble around a box of
strawberries. “I have never kicked at your eating my codfish, and
crackers and cheese, and herring, and apples, but there has got to be a
dividing line somewhere, and I make it at strawberries at six shillings
a box, and only two layers in a box. I only bought one box, hoping some
plumber, or gas man would come along and buy it, and by gum, everybody
that has been in the store has sampled a strawberry out of that box.
shivered as though it was sour, and gone off without asking the price,”
 and the grocery man looked mad, took a hatchet and knocked in the head
of a barrel of apples, and said, “There, help yourself to dried apples.”

“O, I don’t want your strawberries or dried apples,” said the boy, as he
leaned against a show case and looked at a bar of red, transparent soap.
“I was only trying to fool you. Say, that bar of soap is old enough to
vote. I remember seeing it in your show case when I was about a year
old, and Pa came in here with me and held me up to the show case to
look at that tin tobacco box, and that round zinc looking-glass, and
the yellow wooden pocket comb, and the soap looks just the same, only
a little faded. If you would wash yourself once in a while your soap
wouldn’t dry up on your hands,” and the boy sat down on the chair
without any back, feeling that he was even with the grocery man.

“You never mind the soap. It is paid for, and that is more than your
father can say about the soap that has been used in his house the past
month,” said the grocery man, as he split up a box to kindle the fire.
“But we won’t quarrel. What was it I heard about a band serenading your
father, and his inviting them in to lunch?”

“Don’t let that get out or Pa will kill me dead. It was a joke. One of
those Bohemian bands that goes about town playing tunes for pennies, was
over on the next street, and I told Pa I guessed some of his friends who
had heard we had a baby at the house, had hired a band and was coming in
a few minutes to serenade him, and he better prepare to make a speech.
Pa is proud of being a father at his age, and he thought it no more than
right for the neighbors to serenade him, and he went to loading himself
for a speech, in the library, and me and my chum went out and told the
leader of the band there was a family up there that wanted to have some
music, and they didn’t care for expense, so they quit blowing where they
was and came right along. None of them could understand English except
the leader, and he only understood enough to go and take a drink when
he is invited. My chum steered the band up to our house and got them to
play ‘Babies on our Block,’ and ‘Baby Mine,’ and I stopped all the men
who were going home and told them to wait a minute and they would
see some fun, so when the band got through the second tune, and the
Prussians were emptying the beer out of the horns, and Pa stepped out
on the porch, there was more nor a hundred people in front of the house.
You’d a dide to see Pa when he put his hand in the breast of his coat,
and struck an attitude. He looked like a congressman, or a tramp. The
band was scared, cause they thought he was mad, and some of them were
going to run, thinking he was going to throw pieces of brick house
at them, but my chum and the leader kept them. Then Pa sailed in. He
commenced, ‘Fellow Citizens,’ and then went way back to Adam and Eve,
and worked up to the present day, giving a history of the notable people
who had acquired children, and kept the crowd interested. I felt sorry
for Pa, cause I knew how he would feel when he came to find out how
he had been sold. The Bohemians in the band that couldn’t understand
English, they looked at each other, and wondered what it was all about,
and finally Pa wound up by stating that it was every citizen’s duty to
own children of his own, and then he invited the band and the crowd in
to take some refreshments. Well, you ought to have seen that band come
in the house. They fell over each other getting in, and the crowd went
home, leaving Pa and my chum and me and the band. Eat? Well, I should
smile. They just reached f’or things, and talked Bohemian. Drink? O,
no. I guess they didn’t pour it down. Pa opened a dozen bottles of
champagne, and they fairly bathed in it, as though they had a fire
inside. Pa tried to talk with them about the baby, but they couldn’t
understand, and finally they got full and started out, and the leader
asked Pa for three dollars, and that broke him. Pa told the leader he
supposed the gentlemen who had got up the serenade had paid for the
music, and the leader pointed to me and said I was the gentleman that
got it up. Pa paid him, but he had a wicked look in his eye, and me and
my chum lit out, and the Bohemians came down the street bilin’ full,
with their horns on their arms, and they were talking Bohemian for all
that was out. They stopped in front of a vacant house, and began to
play; but you couldn’t tell what tune it was, they were so full, and a
policeman came along and drove them home. I guess I will sleep at the
livery stable to-night, cause Pa is so offul unreasonable when anything
costs him three dollars, besides the champagne.”

“Well, you have made a pretty mess of it,” said the grocery man. “It’s
a wonder your Pa does not kill you. But what is it I hear about the
trouble at the church? They lay that foolishness to you.”

“It’s all a lie. They lay everything to me. It was some of them ducks
that sing in the choir. I was just as much surprised as anybody when it
occurred. You see our minister is laid up from the effect of the ride to
the funeral, when he tried to run over a street car; and an old deacon
who had symptoms of being a minister in his youth, was invited to take
the minister’s place, and talk a little. He is an absent minded old
party, who don’t keep up with the events of the day, and whoever played
it on him knew that he was too pious to even read the daily papers.
There was a notice of a choir meeting to be read, and I think the tenor
smuggled in the other notice between that and the one about the weekly
prayer meeting. Anyway, it wasn’t me, but it like to broke up the
meeting After the deacon read the choir notice he took up the other one
and read, ‘I am requested to announce that the Y. M. C. Association will
give a friendly entertainment with soft gloves, on Tuesday evening,
to which all are invited. Brother John Sullivan, the eminent Boston
revivalist will lead the exercises, assisted by Brother Slade, the Maori
missionary from Australia. There will be no slugging, but a collection
will be taken up at the door to defray expenses.’ Well, I though the
people in church would sink through the floor. There was not a person
in the church except the poor old deacon, but who understood that some
wicked wretch had deceived him, and I know by the way the tenor tickled
the soprano that he did it. I may be mean, but everything I do is
innocent, and I wouldn’t be as mean as a choir singer for two dollars. I
felt real sorry for the old deacon, but he never knew what he had
done, and I think it would be real mean to tell him. He won’t be at the
slugging match. That remark about taking up a collection settled the
deacon. I must go down to the stable now, and help grease a hack, so
you will have to excuse me. If Pa comes here looking for me, tell him you
heard I was going to drive a picnic party out to Waukesha, and may not
be back in a week. By that time Pa will have got over that Bohemian
serenade,” and the boy filled his pistol pocket with dried apples, and
went out and hung a sign in front of the grocery:

                         STRAWBERRIES, TWO SHILLINGS A SMELL;

                               AND ONE SMELL IS ENOUGH.



“See here, you coon, you get out of here,” said the grocery man to the
bad boy, as he came in the store with his face black and shining, “I
don’t want any colored boys around here. White boys break me up bad

“O, philopene,” said the bad boy, as he put his hands on his knees and
laughed so the candy jars rattled on the shelves. “You didn’t know me. I
am the same boy that comes in here and talks your arm off,” and the boy
opened the cheese box and cut off a piece of cheese so natural that the
grocery man had no difficulty in recognizing him.

“What in the name of the seven sleeping sisters have you got on your
hands and face,” said the grocery man, as he took the boy by the ear and
turned him around, “You would pass in a colored prayer meeting, and
no one would think you were galvanized. What you got up in such an
outlandish rig for?”

“Well, I’ll tell you, if you will keep watch at the door. If you see
a bald-headed colored man coming along the street with a club, you
whistle, and I will fall down cellar. The bald-headed colored man will
be Pa. You see, we moved yesterday. Pa told me to get a vacation from
the livery stable, and we would have fun moving. But I don’t want any
more fun. I know when I have got enough fun. Pa carried all the light
things, and when it came to lifting, he had a crick in the back. Gosh, I
never was so tired as I was last night, and I hope we have got settled,
only some of the goods haven’t turned up yet. A drayman took one load
over on the west side, and delivered them to a house that seemed to be
expecting a load of household furniture. He thought it was all right, if
everybody that was moving got a load of goods. Well, after we got moved
Pa said we must make a garden, and we said we would go out and spade
up the ground and sow peas, and radishes, and beets. There was some
neighbors lived in the next house to our new one, that was all wimmen,
and Pa don’t like to have them think he had to work, so he said it would
be a good joke to disguise ourselves as tramps, and the neighbors would
think we had hired some tramps to dig in the garden. I told Pa of a boss
scheme to fool them. I suggested that we take some of his shoe blacking
that is put on with a sponge, and black our faces, and the neighbors
would think we had hired an old colored man and his boy to work in the
garden. Pa said it was immense, and he told me to go and black up, and
if it worked he would black hisself. So I went and put this burnt cork
on my face, ‘cause it would wash off, and Pa looked at me and said it
was wack, and for me to fix him up too. So I got the bottle of shoe
blacking and painted Pa so he looked like a colored coal heaver.
Actually, when Ma saw him she ordered him off the premises, and when he
laffed at her and acted sassy, she was going to throw biling water on
Pa. But I told her the scheme and she let up on Pa. O, you’d a dide to
see us out in the garden. Pa looked like uncle Tom, and I looked like
Topsy, only I ain’t that kind of a colored person.”

[Illustration: Uncle Tom and Topsy 098]

“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,

                                    GOOD ENOUGH

                                 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.”



“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

[Illustration: The minister and deacons salted 110]

“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

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

                                 FRESH LETIS,

                            BEEN PICKED MORE’N A WEEK,

                                TUEFER’N TRIPE.



“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

“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.



“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.



“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

“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

“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 Cæsar’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.”

[Illustration: The Sunday School Teachers first appearance on stage 140]

“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.



“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.”

[Illustration: Pa was all tied up 146]

“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.”



“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.




“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.


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.



“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.

     “Your loving,


“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’



“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_

“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.”

[Illustration: Fourth of July misadventures 178]

“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.”



“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

“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.



“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

“What, you haven’t been dissecting him again, have you?” said the
grocery man, as he pulled a stool up beside the boy to hear the news.
How did you bring him to his senses?”

“Well, Ma tried having the minister talk to Pa, but Pa talked
Bible, about taking a little wine for the stomach’s sake, and gave
illustrations about Noah getting full, so the minister couldn’t brace
him up, and then Ma had some of the sisters come and talk to him, but
he broke them all up by talking about what an appetite they had for
champagne punch when they were out in camp last summer, and they
couldn’t have any affect on him, and so Ma said she guessed I would have
to exercise my ingenuity on Pa again. Ma has an idea that I have got
some sense yet, so I told her that if she would do just as I said, me
and my chum would scare Pa so he would swear off. She said she would,
and we went to work. First I took Pa’s spectacles down to an optician,
Saturday night, and had the glasses taken out and a pair put in their
place that would magnify, and I took them home and put them in Pa’s
spectacle case. Then I got a suit of clothes from my chum’s uncle’s
trunk, about half the size of Pa’s clothes. My chum’s uncle is a very
small man, and Pa is corpulent. I got a plug hat three sizes smaller
than Pa’s hat, and the name out of Pa’s hat and put it in the small hat.
I got a shirt about half big enough for Pa, and put his initials on
the thing under the bosom, and got a number fourteen collar. Pa wears
seventeen. Pa had promised to brace up and go to church Sunday morning,
and Ma put these small clothes where Pa could put them on. I told Ma,
when Pa woke up, to tell him he looked awfully bloated, and excite his
curiosity, and then send for me.”

“You didn’t play such a trick as that on a poor old man, did you?” said
the grocery man, as a smile came over his face.

“You bet. Desperate diseases require desperate remedies. Well, Ma told
Pa he looked awfully bloated, and that his dissipation was killing him,
as well as all the rest of the family. Pa said he guessed he wasn’t
bloated very much, but he got up and put on his spectacles and looked at
himself in the glass. You’d a dide to see him look at himself. His face
looked as big as two faces, through the glass, and his nose was a sight.
Pa looked scared, and then he held up his hand and looked at that. His
hand looked like a ham. Just then I came in, and I turned pale, with
some chalk on my face, and I begun to cry, and I said, ‘O, Pa, what ails
you? You are so swelled up I hardly knew you.’ Pa looked sick to his
stomach, and then he tried to get on his pants. O, my, it was all I
could do to keep from laughing to see him pull them pants on. He could
just get his legs in, and when I got a shoe horn and gave it to him, he
was mad. He said it was a mean boy that would give his Pa a shoe horn
to put on his pants with. The pants wouldn’t come around Pa into ten
inches, and Pa said he must have eat something that disagreed with him,
and he laid it to watermelon. Ma stuffed her handkerchief in her mouth
to keep from laffing, when she see Pa look at his-self. The legs of the
pants were so tight Pa could hardly breathe, and he turned pale, and
said, ‘Hennery, your Pa is a mighty sick man,’ and then Ma and me both
laughed, and he said we wanted him to die so we could spend his life
insurance in riotous living.”

[Illustration: Hennery, your Pa is a mighty sick man 197]

“But when Pa put on that condensed shirt, Ma she laid down on the lounge
and fairly yelled, and I laughed till my side ached. Pa got it over his
head, and got his hands in the sleeves, and couldn’t get it either way,
and he couldn’t see us laugh, but he could hear us, and he said, ‘It’s
darned funny, ain’t it, to have a parent swelled up this way. If I bust
you will both be sorry.’ Well, Ma took hold of one side of the shirt,
and I took hold of the other, and we pulled it on, and when Pa’s head
came up through the collar, his face was blue. Ma told him she was
afraid he would have a stroke of apoplexy before he got his clothes on,
and I guess Pa thought so too. He tried to get the collar on, but it
wouldn’t go half way around his neck, and he looked in the glass and
cried, he looked so. He sat down in a chair and panted, he was so out
of breath, and the shirt and pants ripped, and Pa said there was no use
living if he was going to be a rival to a fat woman in the side show.
Just then I put the plug hat on Pa’s head, and it was so small it was
going to roll off, when Pa tried to fit it on his head, and then he took
it off and looked inside of it, to see if it was his hat, and when he
found his name in it, he said ‘Take it away. My head is all wrong too.’
Then he told me to go for the doctor, mighty quick. I got the doctor and
told him what we were trying to do with Pa, and he said he would finish
the job. So the Doc. came in, and Pa was on the lounge, and when the
Doc. saw him, he said it was lucky he was called just as he was, or we
would have required an undertaker. He put some pounded ice on Pa’s head
the first thing, ordered the shirt cut open, and we got the pants off.
Then he gave Pa an emetic, and had his feet soaked, and Pa said, ‘Doc.,
if you will bring me out of this I will never drink another drop.’
The Doc. told Pa that his life was not worth a button if he ever drank
again, and left about half a pint of sugar pills to be fired into Pa
every five minutes. Ma and me sat up with Pa all day Sunday, and Monday
morning I changed the spectacles, and took the clothes home, and along
about noon Pa said he felt as though he could get up. Well, you never
see a tickleder man than he was when he found the swelling had gone down
so he could get his pants and shirt on, and he says that doctor is
the best in this town. Ma says I am a smart boy, and Pa has taken the
pledge, and we are all right. Say, you don’t think there is anything
wrong in a boy playing it on his Pa once in a while, do you?”

“Not much, You have very likely saved your Pa’s life. No, sir, joking is
all right when by so doing you can break a person of a bad habit,” and
the grocery man cut a chew of tobacco off a piece of plug that was on
the counter, which the boy had soaked in kerosene, and before he had
fairly got it rolled in his cheek he spit it out and began to gag,
and as the boy started leisurely out the door the grocery man said,
“Lookahere, condemn you, don’t you ever tamper with my tobacco again, or
by thunder I’ll maul you,” and he followed the boy to the door,
spitting cotton all the way; and, as the boy went around the corner, the
groceryman thought how different a joke seemed when it was on somebody
else. And then he turned to go in and rinse the kerosene out of his
mouth, and found a sign on a box of new, green apples, as follows:--

                          COLIC OR CHOLERA INFANTUM

                             YOU PAYS YOUR MONEY

                            AND TAKES YOUR CHOICE.



“I am thy father’s ghost,” said a sheeted form in the doorway of the
grocery, one evening, and the grocery man got behind the cheese box,
while the ghost continued in a sepulchral voice, “doomed for a certain
time to walk the night,” and, waving a chair round, the ghost strode up
to the grocery man, and with the other ghostly hand reached into a box
of figs.

“No you ain’t no ghost,” said the grocery man, recognizing the bad boy.
“Ghosts do not go prowling around groceries stealing wormy figs. What
do you mean by this sinful masquerade business? My father never had no

“O, we have struck it now,” said the bad boy as he pulled off his mask
and rolled up the sheet he had worn around him. “We are going to have
amateur theatricals, to raise money to have the church carpeted, and I
am going to boss the job.”

“You don’t say,” answered the grocery man, as he thought how much he
could sell to the church people for a strawberry and ice cream festival,
and how little he could sell for amateur theatricals. “Who is going into
it and what are you going to play?”

“Pa and Ma, and me, and the minister, and three choir singers, and my
chum, and the minister’s wife, and two deacons, and an old maid are
rehersing, but we have not decided what to play yet. They all want to
play a different play, and I am fixing it so they can all be satisfied.
The minister wants to play Hamlet, Pa wants to play Rip Van Winkle,
Ma wants to play Mary Anderson, the old maid wants to play a boarding
school play, and the choir singers want an opera, and the minister’s
wife wants to play Lady Macbeth, and my chum and me want to play a
double song and dance, and I am going to give them all a show. We had a
rehersal last night, and I am the only one able to be around to-day. You
see they have all been studying different plays, and they all wanted to
talk at once. We let the minister sail in first. He had on a pair of his
wife’s black stockings, and a mantle made of a linen buggy lap blanket
and he wore a mason’s cheese knife such as these fellows with poke
bonnets and white feathers wear when they get an invitation to a funeral
or an excursion. Well, you never saw Hamlet murdered the way he did
it. His interpretation of the character was that Hamlet was a Dude that
talked through his nose, and while he was repeating Hamlet’s soliloquy,
Pa, who had come in with an old hunting suit on, as Rip Van Winkle,
went to sleep, and he didn’t wake up till Lady Macbeth came in, in the
sleep-walking scene. She couldn’t find a knife, so I took a slice of
watermelon and sharpened it for her, and she made a mistake in the one
she was to stab, and she stabbed Hamlet in the neck with a slice of
watermelon, and the core of the melon fell on Pa’s face, as he lay
asleep as Rip, and when Lady Macbeth said, ‘Out damned spot,’ Pa woke
up and felt the gob of watermelon on his face and he thought he had been
murdered, and Ma came in on a hop, skip and jump as ‘Parthenia,’ and
threw her arms around a deacon who was going to play the grave digger,
and began to call him pet names, and Pa was mad, and the choir singers
they began to sing, ‘In the North Sea lived a whale,’ and then they quit
acting. You’d a dide to see Hamlet. The piece of watermelon went down
his neck, and Lady Macbeth went off and left it in the wound under his
collar, and Ma had to pull it out, and Hamlet said the seeds and the
juice was running down inside his shirt, and he said he wouldn’t play if
he was going to be stabbed with a slice of melon, so while his wife was
getting the melon seeds out of his neck, and drying the juice on his
shirt, I sharpened a cucumber for Lady Macbeth to use as a dagger, but
Hamlet kicked on cucumbers, too, and I had more trouble than any stage
manager ever had. Then Pa wanted to rehearse the drunken scene in Rip
Van Winkle, where he hugs Grechten and drinks out of a flask behind
her back, and he got one of the choir singers to act as Grechten, and I
guess he would have been hugging till this time, and have swallowed
the flask if Ma had not taken him by the ear, and said a little of that
would go a good ways in an entertainment for the church. Pa said he
didn’t know as it was any worse than her prancing up to a grave digger
and hugging him till the filling came out of his teeth, and then the
minister decided that we wouldn’t have any hugging at all in the play,
and the choir girls said they wouldn’t play, and the old maids struck,
and the play come to a stand still.”

“Well, that beats anything I ever heard tell of. It’s a shame for
people outside the profession to do play acting, and I won’t go to
the entertainment unless I get a pass,” said the grocery man. “Did you
rehearse any more?”

“Yes, the minister wanted to try the ghost scene,” said the boy, “and
he wanted me to be the ghost. Well, they have two ‘Markses’ and two
‘Topsies’ in Uncle Tom’s cabin, and I thought two ghosts in Hamlet would
about fill the bill for amateurs, so I got my chum to act as one ghost.
We broke them all up. I wanted to have something new in ghosts, so my
chum and me got two pair of Ma’s long stockings, one pair red and one
pair blue, and I put on a red one and a blue one, and my chum did the
same. Then we got some ruffled clothes belonging to Ma, with flounces
and things on, and put them on so they came most down to our knees,
and we put sheets over us, clear to our feet, and when Hamlet got to
yearning for his father’s ghost, I came in out of the bath room with the
sheet over me, and said I was the huckleberry he was looking for, and my
chum followed me out and said he was a twin ghost, also, and then Hamlet
got on his ear and said he wouldn’t play with two ghosts, and he went
off pouting, and then my chum and me pulled off the sheets and danced a
clog dance. Well, when the rest of the troop saw our make up, it nearly
killed them. Most of them had seen ballet dancers, but they never saw
them with different colored socks. The minister said the benefit was
rapidly becoming a farce, and before we had danced half a minute Ma she
recognized her socks, and she came for me with a hot box, and made me
take them off, and Pa was mad and said the dancing was the only thing
that was worth the price of admission, and he scolded Ma, and the choir
girls sided with Pa, and just then my chum caught his toe in the carpet
and fell down, and that loosened the plaster overhead and about a
bushel fell on the crowd. Pa thought lightning had struck the house, the
minister thought it was a judgment on them all for play acting, and he
began to shed his Hamlet costume with one hand and pick the plaster
out of his hair with the other. The women screamed and tried to get
the plaster out of their necks, and while Pa was brushing off the choir
singers Ma said the rehearsal was adjourned, and they all went home,
but we are going to rehearse again on Friday night. The play cannot be
considered a success, but we will bring it out all right by the time the
entertainment is to come off.”

“By gum,” said the grocery man, “I would like to have seen that minister
as Hamlet. Didn’t he look funny?”

“Funny! Well, I should remark. He seemed to predominate. That is, he
was too fresh, too numerous, as it were. But at the next rehearsal I am
going to work in an act from Richard the Third, and my chum is going
to play the Chinaman of the Danites, and I guess we will take the cake.
Say, I want to work in an idiot somewhere. How would you like to play
the idiot. You wouldn’t have to rehearse or anything--”

At this point the bad boy was seen to go out of the grocery store real
spry, followed by a box of wooden clothes-pins that the grocery man had
thrown after him.



“Hello!” said the grocery man to the bad boy, as he came in with a black
eye, leading a hungry looking dog that was walking on three legs, and
had one leg tied up with a red silk handkerchief. “What is this--a part
of your amateur theater? Now you get out of here with that dog, mighty
quick. A boy that hurts dogs so they have to have their legs tied up, is
no friend of mine,” and the grocery man took up a broom to drive the dog
out doors.

“There, you calm, yourself,” says the boy to the grocery man, as the dog
got behind the boy and looked up at the grocery man as though he was
not afraid as long as the bad boy was around. “Set up the crackers and
cheese, sausage, and pickles, and everything this dog wants to eat--he
is a friend of mine--that dog is my guest, and those are my splints on
his broken leg, and that is my handkerchief that my girl gave me, wound
around it, and you touch that dog except in the way of kindness, and
down comes your house.” And the boy doubled up his fists as though he
meant business.

“Poor doggie,” said the grocery man, as he cut off a piece of sausage
and offered it to the dog, which was declined with thanks, expressed by
the wagging tail. “Where did you steal him?”

“I didn’t steal him, and he is no cannibal. He won’t eat your sausage!”
 and the boy put up his elbow as though to ward off on imaginary blow.
“You see, this dog was following off a pet dog that belonged to a woman,
and she tried to shoo him away, but he wouldn’t shoo. This dog did not
know that he was a low born, miserable dog, and had no right to move in
the society of an aristocratic pet dog, and he followed right along. He
thought this was a free country, and one dog was as good as another, and
he followed that woman and her pet dog right into her door yard. The pet
dog encouraged this dog, and he went in the yard, and when the woman got
up on the steps she threw a velocipede at this dog and broke his leg,
and then she took up her pet and went in the house so she wouldn’t hear
this dog howl. She is a nice woman, and I see her go to meeting every
Sunday with a lot of morocco books in her hands, and once I pumped the
organ in the church where she goes, and she was so pious I thought she
was an angel--but angels don’t break dogs’ legs. I’ll bet when she goes
up to the gate and sees St. Peter open the book and look for the charges
against her, she will tremble as though she had fits. And when St. Peter
runs his finger down the ledger, and stops at the dog column, and turns
and looks at her over his spectacles, and says, “Madam, how about your
stabbing a poor dog with a velocipede, and breaking its leg?” she
will claim it was an accident; but she can’t fool Pete. He is on to
everybody’s racket, and if they get in there, they have got to have a
clean record.”

“Say, look-a-here,” said the grocery man, as he looked at the boy in
astonishment as he unwound the handkerchief to dress the dog’s broken
leg, while the dog looked up in the boy’s face with an expression of
thankfulness and confidence that he was an able practitioner in dog
bone-setting, “what kind of talk is that? You talk of heaven as though
its books were kept like the books of a grocery and you speak too
familiarly of St. Peter.”

“Well, I didn’t mean any disrespect,” said the boy, as he fixed the
splint on the dog’s leg, and tied it with a string, while the dog licked
his hand, “but I learned in Sunday school that up there they watch even
the sparrow’s fail, and they wouldn’t be apt to get left on a dog bigger
than a whole flock of sparrows, ‘specially when the dog’s fall was
accompanied with such noise as a velocipede makes when it falls down
stairs. No sir, a woman who throws a velocipede at a poor, homeless dog,
and breaks its leg, may carry a car load of prayer books, and she may
attend to all the sociables, but according to what I have been told, if
she goes sailing up to the gate of New Jerusalem, as though she owned
the whole place, and expects to be ushered into a private box, she will
get left. The man in the box office will tell her she is not on the
list, and that there is a variety show below, where the devil is a star,
and fallen angels are dancing the cancan with sheet-iron tights, on
brimstone lakes, and she can probably crawl under the canvas, but
she can’t get in among the angelic hosts until she can satisfactorily
explain that dog story that is told on her. Possibly I have got a raw
way of expressing myself, but I had rather take my chances, if I should
apply for admission up there, with this lame dog under my arm than to
take hers with a pug that hain’t got any legs broke. A lame dog and a
clear conscience beats a pet dog, when your conscience feels nervous.
Now I am going to lay this dog in the barrel of dried apples, where your
cat sleeps, and give him a little rest, and I will give you four minutes
to tell me all you know, and you will have three minutes on your hands
with nothing to say. Unbutton your lip and give your teeth a vacation.”

“Well, you _have_ got gall. However, I don’t know but you are right that
woman that hurt the dog. Still, it may have been her way of petting a
strange dog. We should try to look upon the charitable side of peoples’
eccentricities. But say, I want to ask you if you have seen anything of
my man that delivers groceries. Saturday night I sent him over to your
house to deliver some things, about ten o’clock, and he has not showed
up since. What do you think has become of him?”

“Well, by gum, that accounts for it. Saturday night, about ten o’clock
we heard somebody in the back yard, around the kitchen door, just as we
were going to bed, and Pa was afraid it was a burglar after the church
money he had collected last Sunday. He had got to turn it over the next
day, to pay the minister’s expenses on his vacation, and it made him
nervous to have it around. I peeked out of the window and saw the man,
and I told Pa, and Pa got a revolver and began shooting through the
wire screen to the kitchen window, and I saw the man drop the basket and
begin to climb over the fence real sudden, and I went out and began to
groan, as though somebody was dying in the alley, and I brought in
the basket with the mackerel and green corn, and told Pa that from the
groaning out there I guess he had killed the grocery delivery man, and
I wanted Pa to go out and help me hunt for the body, but he said he was
going to take the midnight train to go out west on some business, and Pa
lit out. I guess your man was scared and went one way and Pa was scared
and went the other. Won’t they be astonished when they meet each other
on the other side of the world? Pa will shoot him again when they meet,
if he gives Pa any sass. Pa says when he gets mad he had just as soon
eat as to kill a man.”

“Well, I guess my man has gone off to a Sunday pic-nic or something, and
will come back when he gets sober, but how are your theatricals getting
along?” asked the grocery man.

“O, that scheme is all busted,” said the boy. “At least until the
minister gets back from his vacation. The congregation has noticed a red
spot on his hand for some time, and the ladies said what he needed was
rest. They said if that spot was allowed to go on it might develope into
a pimple, and the minister might die of blood poison, superinduced by
overwork, and they took up a collection, and he has gone. The night they
bid him good bye, the spot on his hand was the subject of much comment.
The wimmen sighed, and said it was lucky they noticed the spot on his
hand before it had sapped his young life away. Pa said Job had more than
four hundred boils worse than that, and he never took a vacation,
and then Ma dried Pa up. She told Pa he had never suffered from blood
poison, and Pa said he could raise cat boils for the market, and never
squeal. Ma see the only way to shut Pa up was to let him go home with
the choir singer. So she bounced him off with her, and he didn’t get
home till most ‘leven o’clock, but Ma she set up for him. Maybe what she
said to Pa made him go west after peppering your burglar. Well, I must
go home now, ‘cause I run the family, since Pa lit out. Say, send some
of your most expensive canned fruit and things over to the house. Darn
the expense.” And the bad boy took the lame dog under his arm and walked



“What you sitting there like a bump on a log for?” asked the grocery man
of the bad boy, as the youth had sat on a box for half an hour, with
his hands in his pockets, looking at a hole in the floor, until his eyes
were set like a dying horse. “What you thinking of, anyway? It seems to
me boys set around and think more than they used to when I was a boy,”
 and the groceryman brushed the wilted lettuce and shook it, and tried
to make it stand up stiff and crisp, before he put it out doors; but the
contrary lettuce which had been picked the day before, looked so tired
that the boy noticed it.

“That lettuce reminds me of a girl. Yesterday I was in here when it was
new, like the girl going to the picnic, and it was as fresh and proud,
and starched up, and kitteny, and full of life, and as sassy as a girl
starting out for a picnic. To-day it has got back from the picnic,
and, like the girl, the starch is all taken out, and it is limber, and
languid, and tired, and can’t stand up alone, and it looks as though it
wanted to be laid at rest beside the rotten apples in the alley, rather
than be set out in front of a store to be sold to honest people, and
give them the gangrene of the liver,” and the boy put on a health
commissioner air that frightened the grocery man, and he threw the
lettuce out the back door.

“You never mind about my lettuce,” said the grocery man, “I can attend
to my affairs. But now tell me what you were thinking about here all the

“I was thinking what a fool King Solomon was,” said the boy, with the
air of one who has made a statement that has got to be argued pretty
strong to make it hold water.

“Now, lookahere,” said the grocery man in anger, “I have stood it
to have you play tricks on me, and have listened to your condemned
foolishness without a murmur as long as you have confined yourself to
people now living, but when you attack Solomon--the wisest man, the
great king--and call him a fool, friendship ceases, and you must get
out of this store. Solomon in all his glory, is a friend of mine, and no
fool boy is going to abuse him in my presence. Now, you dry up!”

“Sit down on the ice box,” said the boy to the grocery man, “what you
need is rest. You are overworked. Your alleged brain is equal to wilted
lettuce, and it can devise ways and means to hide rotten peaches under
good ones, so as to sell them to blind orphans; but when it comes to
grasping great questions, your small brain cannot comprehend them. Your
brain may go up sideways to a great question and rub against it, but it
cannot surround it, and grasp it. That’s where you are deformed. Now,
it is different with me. I can raise brain to sell to you grocery men.
Listen. This Solomon is credited with being the wisest man, and yet
history says he had a thousand wives. Just think of it. You have got one
wife, and Pa has got one, and all the neighbors have one, if they have
had any kind of luck. Does not one wife make you pay attention? Wouldn’t
two wives break you up? Wouldn’t three cause you to see stars? How would
ten strike you? Why, man alive, you do not grasp the magnitude of the
statement that Solomon had a thousand wives. A thousand wives, standing
side by side, would reach about four blocks. Marching by fours it would
take them twenty minutes to pass a given point. The largest summer
resort hotel only holds about five hundred people, so Sol would have had
to hire two hotels if he took his wives out for a day in the country. If
you would stop and think once in a while you would know more.”

The grocery man’s eyes had begun to stick out as the bad boy continued,
as though the statistics had never been brought to his attention before,
but he was bound to stand by his old friend Solomon, and he said, “Well,
Solomon’s wives must have been different from our wives of the present

“Not much,” said the boy, as he see he was paralizing the grocery man.
“Women have been about the same ever since Eve. She got mashed on the
old original dude, and it stands to reason that Solomon’s wives were no
better than the mother of the human race. Statistics show that one woman
out of every ten is red headed. That would give Solomon an even hundred
red headed wives. Just that hundred red headed wives would be enough
to make an ordinary man think that there was a land that is fairer than
this. Then there would be, out of the other nine hundred, about three
hundred blondes, and the other six hundred would be brunettes, and mabe
he had a few albinos, and bearded women, and fat women, and dwarfs. Now,
those thousand women had appetites, desires for dress and style, the
same as all women. Imagine Solomon saying to them. ‘Girls, lets all go
down to the ice cream, saloon and have a dish of ice cream.’ Can you,
with your brain muddled with codfish and new potatoes, realize the scene
that would follow? Suppose after Solomon’s broom brigade bad got seated
in the ice creamery, one of the red headed wives should catch Solomon
winking at a strange girl at another table. You may think Solomon did
not know enough to wink, or that he was not that kind of a flirt, but he
_must_ have been or he could never had succeeded in marrying a thousand
wives, in a sparcely settled country. No, Sir, it looks to me as though
Solomon in all his glory, was an old masher, and from what I have seen
of men being bossed around with one wife, I don’t envy Solomon his
thousand. Why, just imagine that gang of wives going and ordering fall
bonnets. Solomon would have to be a king, or a Vanderbilt to stand it.
Ma wears five dollar silk stockings, and Pa kicks awfully when the bill
comes in. Imagine Soloman putting up for a few thousand pair of silk
stockings. I am glad you will sit down and reason with me in a rational
way about some of these Bible stories that take my breath away. The
minister stands me off when I try to talk with him about such things,
and tells me to study the parable of the Prodigal Son, and the deacons
tell me to go and soak my head. There is darn little encouragement for a
boy to try and figure out things. How would you like to have a thousand
red headed wives come into the store this minute and tell you they
wanted you to send carriages around to the house at 3 o’clock so they
could go for a drive? Or how would you like to have a hired girl come
rushing in and tell you to send up six hundred doctors, because six
hundred of your wives had been taken with cholera morbus? Or--”

“O, don’t mention it,” said the grocery man, with a shudder. “I wouldn’t
take Solomon’s place, and be the natural protector of a thousand wives
if anybody would give me the earth. Think of getting up in a cold winter
morning and building a thousand fires. Think of two thousand pair of
hands in a fellow’s hair! Boy, you have shown me that Solomon needed a
guardian over him. He didn’t have sense.”

“Yes,” says the boy, “and think of two thousand feet, each one as cold
as a brick of chocolate ice cream. A man would want a back as big as the
fence of a fair ground. But I don’t want to harrow up your feelings. I
must go and put some arnica on Pa. He has got home, and says he has been
to a summer resort on a vacation, and he is all covered with blotches.
He says it is mosquito bites, but Ma thinks he has been shot full of
bird shot by some water melon farmer. Ma hasn’t got any sympathy for Pa
because he didn’t take her along, but if she had been there she would
have been filled with bird shot, too. But you musn’t detain me. Between
Pa and the baby I have got all I can attend to. The baby is teething,
and Ma makes me put my fingers in the baby’s mouth to help it cut teeth.
That is a humiliating position for a boy as big as I am. Say, how many
babies do you figure that Solomon had to buy rubber toothing rings for
in all his glory?”

And the boy went out leaving the grocery man reflecting on what a family
Solomon must have had, and how he needed to be the wisest man to get
along without a circus afternoon and evening.



“Want to buy any cabbages?” said the bad boy to the grocery man, as
he stopped at the door of the grocery, dressed in a blue wamus, his
breeches tucked in his boots, and an old hat on his head, with a hole
that let out his hair through the top. He had got out of a democrat
wagon, and was holding the lines hitched to a horse about forty years
old, that leaned against the hitching post to rest, “Only a shilling

“O, go ‘way,” said the grocery man. “I only pay three cents apiece.” And
then he looked at the boy and said “Hello, Hennery, is that you? I have
missed you all the week, and now you come on to me sudden, disguised as
a granger. What does this all mean?”

“It means that I have been the victim of as vile a conspiracy as ever
was known since Cæesar was stabbed, and Marc Antony orated over his
prostrate corpse in the Roman forum, to an audience of supes and scene
shifters,” and the boy dropped the lines on the sidewalk, said, “whoa,
gol darn you,” to the horse that was asleep, wiped his boots on the
grass in front of the store and came in, and seated himself on the old
half bushel. “There, this seems like home again.”

“What’s the row?--who has been playing it on you?” And the grocery man
smelled a sharp trade in cabbages, as well as other smells peculiar to
the farm.

“Well, I’ll tell you. Lately our folks have been constantly talking of
the independent life of the farmer, and how easy it is, and how they
would like it if I would learn to be a farmer. They said there was
nothing like it, and several of the neighbors join’d in and said I had
the natural ability to be one of the most successful farmers in the
state. They all drew pictures of the fun it was to work on a farm where
you could get your work done and take your fish-pole and go off and
catch fish, or a gun, and go out and kill game, and how you could ride;
horses, and pitch hay, and smell the sweet perfume, and go to husking
bees, and dances, and everything, and they got me all worked up so I
wanted to go to work on a farm. Then an old deacon that belongs to our
church, who runs a farm about eight miles out of town, he came on the
scene, and said he wanted a boy, and if I would go out and work for him
he would be easy on me because he knew my folks, and we belonged to the
same church. I can see it now. It was all a put up job on me, just like
they play three card monte on a fresh stranger. I was took in. By gosh,
I have been out there a week, and here’s what there is left of me. The
only way I got a chance to come to town was to tell the farmer I could
sell cabbages to you for a shilling a piece. I knew you sold them for
fifteen cents and I thought that you would give a shilling. So the
farmer said he would pay me my wages in cabbages at a shilling apiece
and only charge me a dollar for the horse and wagon to bring them in. So
you only pay three cents. Here are thirty cabbages, which will come to
ninety cents. I pay a dollar for the horse, and when I get back to the
farm I owe the farmer ten cents, besides working a week for nothing. O,
it is all right. I don’t kick, but this ends farming for Hennery. I know
when I have got enough of an easy life on a farm. I prefer a hard life,
breaking stones on the streets, to an easy, dreamy life on a farm.”

“They _did_ play it on you, didn’t they,” said the grocery man. “But
wasn’t the old deacon a good man to work for?”

“Good man nothing’,” said the boy, as he took up a piece of horse radish
and began to grate it on the inside of his rough hand. “I tell you
there’s a heap of difference in a deacon in Sunday school, telling about
sowing wheat and tares, and a deacon out on a farm in a hurry season,
when there is hay to get in and wheat to harvest all at the same time.
I went out to the farm Sunday evening with the deacon and his wife, and
they couldn’t talk too much about the nice time we would have, and the
fun; but the deacon changed more than forty degrees in five minutes
after we got to the farm. He jump’d out of the wagon and pulled off his
coat, and let his wife climb out over the wheel, and yelled to the hired
girl to bring out the milk pail, and told me to fly around and unharness
the horse, and throw down a lot of hay for the work animals, and then
told me to run down to the pasture and drive up a lot of cows. The
pasture was half a mile away, and the cows were scattered around in the
woods, and the mosquitos were thick, and I got all covered with mud and
burrs, and stung with thistles, and when I got the cattle near to the
house, the old deacon yelled to me that I was slower than molasses in
the winter, and then I took a club and tried to hurry the cows, and he
yelled at me to stop hurrying, ‘cause I would retard the flow of milk.
By gosh I _was_ mad. I asked for a mosquito bar to put over me next time
I went after the cows, and the people all laughed at me, and when I
sat down on the fence to scrape the mud off my Sunday pants, the
deacon yelled like he does in the revival, only he said, ‘come, come,
procrastination is the thief of time. You get up and hump yourself
and go and feed the pigs.’ He was so darn mean that I could not help
throwing a burdock burr against the side of the cow he was milking, and
it struck her right in the flank on the other side from where the deacon
was. Well, you’d a dide to see the cow jump up and blat. All four of
her feet were off the ground at a time, and I guess most of them hit the
deacon on his Sunday vest, and the rest hit the milk pail, and the cow
backed against the fence and bellered, and the deacon was all covered
with milk and cow hair, and he got up and throwed the three-legged stool
at the cow and hit her on the horn and it glanced off and hit me on the
pants just as I went over the fence to feed the pigs. I didn’t know a
deacon could talk so sassy at a cow, and come so near swearing without
actually saying cuss words. Well, I lugged swill until I was homesick to
my stomach, and then I had to clean off horses, and go to the neighbors
about a mile away to borrow a lot of rakes to use the next day. I was so
tired I almost cried, and then I had to draw two barrels of water with
a well bucket, to cleanse for washing the next day, and by that time
I wanted to die. It was most nine o’clock, and I began to think about
supper, when the deacon said all they had was bread and milk for supper
Sunday night, and I rasseled with a tin basin of skim milk, and some
old back number bread, and wanted to go to bed, but the deacon wanted
to know if I was heathen enough to want to go to bed without evening
prayers. There was no one thing I was less mashed on than evening
prayers about that minute, but I had to take a prayer half an hour long
on the top of that skim milk, and I guess it curdled the milk, for I
hadn’t been in bed more than half an hour before I had the worst colic a
boy ever had, and I thought I should die all alone up in that garret,
on the floor, with nothing to make my last hours pleasant but some rats
playing with ears of seed corn on the floor, and mice running through
some dry pea pods. But how different the deacon talked in the evening
devotions from what he did when the cow was galloping on him in the
barnyard. Well, I got through the colic and was just getting to sleep
when the deacon yelled for me to get up and hustle down stairs. I
thought may be the house was on fire, ‘cause I smelled smoke, and I got
into my trousers and came down stairs on a jump yelling ‘fire,’ when the
deacon grabbed me and told me to get down on my knees, and before I knew
it he was into the morning devotions, and when he said ‘amen’ and jumped
and said for us to fire breakfast into us quick and get to work doing
chores. I looked at the clock and it was just three o’clock in the
morning, just the time Pa comes home and goes to bed in town, when he is
running a political campaign. Well, sir, I had to jump from one thing to
another from three o’clock in the morning till nine at night, pitching
hay, driving reaper, raking and binding, shocking wheat, hoeing corn,
and everything, and I never got a kind word. I spoiled my clothes, and
I think another week would make a pirate of me. But during it all I had
the advantage of a pious example. I tell you, you think more of such a
man as the deacon if you don’t work for him, but only see him when he
comes to town, and you hear him sing ‘Heaven is my Home,’ through his
nose. He even is farther from home than any place I ever heard of. He
would be a good mate on a Mississippi river steamboat if he could swear,
and I guess he could soon learn. Now you take these cabbages and give
me ninety cents, and I will go home and borrow ten cents to make up
the dollar, and send my chum back with the horse and wagon and my
resignation. I was not cut out for a farmer. Talk about fishing, the
only fish I saw was a salt white fish we had for breakfast one morning,
which was salted by Noah, in the ark,” and while the grocery man was
unloading the cabbages the boy went off to look for his chum, and later
the two boys were seen driving off to the farm with two fishing poles
sticking out of the hind end of the wagon.


     THE “AGER.”

“Well, I swow, here comes a walking hospital,” said the grocery man as
the bad boy’s shadow came in the store, followed by the boy, who looked
sick and yellow, and tired, and he had lost half his flesh. “What’s
the matter with you? Haven’t got the yellow fever, have you?” and the
grocery man placed a chair where the invalid could fall into it.

“No, got the ager,” said the boy as he wiped the perspiration off his
upper lip, and looked around the store to see if there was anything in
sight that would take the taste of quinine out of his mouth. “Had too
much dreamy life of ease on the farm, and been shaking ever since. Darn
a farm anyway.”

“What, you haven’t been to work for the deacon any more, have you? I
thought you sent in your resignation;” and the grocery man offered the
boy some limberger cheese to strengthen him.

“O, take that cheese away,” said the boy, as he turned pale and gagged.
“You don’t know what a sick person needs any more than a professional
nurse. What I want is to be petted. You see I went out to the farm with
my chum, and I took the fish-poles and remained in the woods while he
drove the horse to the deacon’s; and he gave the deacon my resignation,
and the deacon wouldn’t accept it. He said he would hold my resignation
until after harvest, and then act on it. He said he could put me in jail
for breach of promise, if I quit work and left him without giving proper
notice; and my chum came and told me, and so I concluded to go to work
rather than have any trouble, and the deacon said my chum could work a
few days for his board if he wanted to. It was pretty darn poor board
for a boy to work for, but my chum wanted to be with me, so he stayed.
Pa and Ma came out to the farm to stay a day or two to help. Pa was
going to help harvest, and Ma was going to help the deacon’s wife, but
Pa wanted to carry the jug to the field, and lay under a tree while the
rest of us worked, and Ma just talked the arm off the deacon’s wife. The
deacon and Pa laid in the shade and see my chum and me work, and Ma and
the deacon’s wife gossipped so they forgot to get dinner, and my chum
and me organized a strike, but we were beaten by monopoly. Pa took me by
the neck and thrashed out a shock of wheat with my heels, and the deacon
took my chum and sat down on him, and we begged and they gave us our old
situations back. But we got even with them that night. I tell you, when
a boy tries to be good, and quit playing jokes on people, and then has
everybody down on him, and has his Pa hire him out on a farm to work for
a deacon that hasn’t got any soul except when he is in church, and a boy
has to get up in the night to get breakfast and go to work, and has to
work until late at night, and they kick because he wants to put butter
on his pancakes, and feed him skim milk and rusty fat pork, it makes him
tough, and he would play a joke on his aged grandmother. After my chum
and me had got all the chores done that night, we sat out on a fence
back of the house in the orchard, eating green apples in the moonlight,
and trying to think of a plan of revenge. Just then I saw a skunk back
of the house, right by the outside cellar door, and I told my chum that
it would serve them right to drive the skunk down cellar and shut the
door, but my chum said that would be too mean. I asked him if it would
be any meaner than for the deacon to snatch us baldheaded because we
couldn’t mow hay away fast enough for two men to pitch it, and he said
it wouldn’t, and so we got on each side of the skunk and sort of scared
it down cellar, and then we crept up softly and closed the cellar doors.
Then we went in the house and I whispered to Ma and asked her if she
didn’t think the deacon had some cider, and Ma she began to hint that
she hadn’t had a good drink of cider since last winter, and the deacon’s
wife said us boys could take a pitcher and go down cellar and draw some.
That was too much. I didn’t want any cider, anyway, so I told them that
I belonged to a temperance society, and I should break my pledge if I
drawed cider, and she said I was a good boy, for me never to touch a drop
of cider. Then she told my chum where the cider barrel was, down cellar;
but he ain’t no slouch. He said he was afraid to go down cellar in the
dark, and so Pa said he and the deacon would go down and draw the cider,
and the deacon’s wife asked Ma to go down too, and look at the fruit
and berries she had canned for winter, and they all went down cellar. Pa
carried an old tin lantern with holes in it, to light the deacon to the
cider barrel; and the deacon’s wife had a taller candle to show Ma the
canned fruit. I tried to get Ma not to go, cause Ma is a friend of mine,
and I didn’t want her to have anything to do with the circus; but she
said she guessed she knew her business. When anybody says they guess
they know their own business, that settles it with me, and I don’t try
to argue with them. Well, my chum and me sat there in the kitchen, and
I stuffed a piece of red table cloth in my mouth to keep from laughing,
and my chum held his nose with his finger and thumb, so he wouldn’t
snort right out. We could hear the cider run in the pitcher, and then it
stopped, and the deacon drank out of the pitcher, and then Pa did, and
then they drawed some more cider, and Ma and the deacon’s wife were
talking about how much sugar it took to can fruit, and the deacon told
Pa to help himself out of a crock of fried cakes, and I heard the cover
on the crock rattle, and just then I heard the old tin lantern rattle on
the brick floor of the cellar, the deacon said ‘Merciful goodness;’
Pa said ‘Helen damnation, I am stabbed;’ and Ma yelled ‘goodness sakes
alive;’ and then there was a lot of dishpans on the stairs begun to
fall, and they all tried to get up cellar at once, and they fell over
each other; and O, my, what a frowy smell came up to the kitchen from
the cellar. It was enough to kill anybody. Pa was the first to get to
the head of the stairs, and he stuck his head in the kitchen, and drew a
long breath, and said ‘_whoosh!_ Hennery, your Pa is a mighty sick man.’
The deacon came up next, and he had run his head into a hanging shelf
and broken a glass jar of huckleberries, and they were all over him,
and he said ‘give me air. Earth’s but a desert drear.’ Then Ma and the
deacon’s wife came up on a gallop, and they looked tired. Pa began to
peel off his coat and vest and said he was going out to bury them, and
Ma said he could bury her, too, and I asked the deacon if he didn’t
notice a faint odor of sewer gas coming from the cellar, and my chum
said it smelled more to him as though something had crawled in the
cellar and died. Well, you never saw a sicker crowd, and I felt sorry
for Ma and the deacon, ‘cause their false teeth fell out, and I knew Ma
couldn’t gossip and the deacon couldn’t talk sassy without teeth. But
you’d a dide to see Pa. He was mad, and thought the deacon had put up
the job on him, and he was going to knock the deacon out in two rounds,
when Ma said there was no use of getting mad about a dispensation of
providence, and Pa said one more such dispensation of providence would
just kill him on the spot. They finally got the house aired, and my chum
and me slept on the hay in the barn, after we had opened the outside
cellar door so the animal could get out, and the next morning I had the
fever and ague, and Pa and Ma brought me home, and I have been firing
quinine down my neck ever since. Pa says it is malaria, but it is
getting up before daylight in the morning and prowling around a farm
doing chores before it is time to do chores, and I don’t want any more
farm. I thought at Sunday school last Sunday, when the superintendent
talked about the odor of sanctity that pervaded the house on that
beautiful morning, and looked at the deacon, that the deacon thought
the superintendent was referring to him and Pa, but may be it was an
accident. Well, I must go home and shoot another charge of quinine into
me,” and the boy went out as if he was on his last legs, though he acted
as if he was going to have a little fun while he did last.

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Grocery Man And Peck's Bad Boy - Peck's Bad Boy and His Pa, No. 2 - 1883" ***

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