PECK'S UNCLE IKE AND THE RED HEADED BOY
By George W. Peck
Alexander Belford & Co. - 1899
To the Typical American Boy,
The boy who is not so awfully good, along at first, but just good enough; the boy who does not cry when he gets hurt, and goes into all the dangerous games there are going, and goes in to win; the boy who loves his girl with the same earnestness that he plays football, and who takes the hard knocks of work and play until he becomes hardened to anything that may come to him in after life; the boy who will investigate everything in the way of machinery, even if he gets his fingers pinched, and learns how to make the machine that pinched him; the boy who, by study, experience, and mixing up with the world, knows a little about everything that he will have to deal with when he grows up—the all-around boy, that makes the all-around man, ready for anything, from praying for his country's prosperity to fighting for its honor; the boy who grows up qualified to lead anything, from the german at a dance to an army in battle; the boy who can take up a collection in church, or take up an artery on a man injured in a railroad accident, without losing his nerve; the boy who can ask a blessing if called upon to do so, or ask a girl's ugly father for the hand of his daughter in marriage, without choking up; the boy who grows up to be a man whom all men respect, all women love, and whom everybody wants to see President of the United States, this book is respectfully dedicated by
"Here, Uncle Ike, let me give you a nice piece of paper, twisted up beautifully, to light your pipe," said the red-headed boy, as Uncle Ike, with his long clay pipe, filled with ill-smelling tobacco, was feeling in his vest pocket for a match. "I should think nice white paper would be sweeter to light a pipe with than a greasy old match scratched on your pants," and the boy lighted a taper and handed it to the old man.
"No, don't try any new tricks on me," said Uncle Ike, as he brought out a match, from his vest pocket, picked off the shoddy that had collected on it in the bottom of his pocket, and hitched his leg around so he could scratch it on his trousers leg. "I have tried lighting my pipe with paper, and the odor of the paper kills the flavor of this 10-cent tobacco. Now, the brimstone on a match, added to the friction of the trousers leg, helps the flavor of the tobacco," and he drew the match across his trousers, and lighted his pipe, and as the smoke began to fill the room his good old face lighted up as though he had partaken of a rich wine. "I like to get a little accustomed to brimstone here on this earth, so, if I get on the wrong road when I die, and go where brimstone is the only fuel, I won't appear to the neighbors down there as though I was a tenderfoot. Wherever I go, I always want to appear as though it wasn't my first trip away from home. Ah, children," said the old man, as he blew smoke enough out of his mouth to call out a fire department, and laughed till the windows rattled, "there is lots of fun in this old world, if your pipe don't go out. Don't miss any fun, because when you die you don't know whether there is any fun going on or not."
"I believe, Uncle Ike, that you would have fun anywhere," said the boy, as he thought of the funny stories the old man had told him for many years, and listened to the laugh that acted as punctuation marks to all of Uncle Ike's remarks. "I would hate to trust you at a funeral. Did you ever laugh at a funeral, Uncle?"
"I came mighty near it once," said the old man, as he put his little finger in the pipe and pressed down the ashes, and let the smoke out again like the chimney of a factory.
"O, my! why don't they make you use a smoke consumer on that pipe, or cause you to use smokeless tobacco?" said the boy, as he coughed till the tears came to his eyes. "It looks in this room like burning a tar barrel when Dewey sunk the Spanish fleet. But tell us about your funny funeral."
"O, it wasn't so funny," said the old man, as he stroked the stubble on his chin, and a twinkle came all around his eyes. "It was only my thoughts that come near breaking up the funeral. There was an old friend of mine years ago, a newspaper man, who was the most genial and loving soul I ever knew, but he stuttered so you couldn't help laughing to hear him. He could write the most beautiful things without stuttering, but when he began to talk, and the talk would not come, and he stammered, and puckered up his dear face, and finally got the words out, chewed up into little pieces, with hyphens between the syllables, you had to laugh or die. We were great friends, and used to smoke and tell stories together, and pass evenings that I can now recall as the sweetest of my life. There were many things in which we were alike. We smoked the same kind of tobacco, in clay pipes, and lived on the same street, and, after an evening of pleasure, whichever of us was the least wearied with the day's work and night of enjoyment walked home with the other. We used to talk about the hereafter, and promised each other to see that the one that died first should not have a funeral sermon that would give us taffy. It was my friend's idea that, if the minister spread it on too thick, he would raise up in the coffin and protest. He was not what you would call a good Christian, as the world goes, but I would trust him to argue with St. Peter about getting inside the gate, because, if his stutter ever got St. Peter to laughing, my friend would surely get in. Well, he died, and I was one of the bearers at the funeral, with seven others of his old friends; and when the minister was picturing the virtues of the deceased which he never possessed, one of the bouquets on the coffin rolled off on the floor, and I thought of what my friend had said about calling the minister down, and in my imagination I could see the old fellow raising up in the coffin and stuttering, and puckering up his face there on that solemn occasion, and for about ten seconds it seemed as though I would split with laughter; but I held it in, and we got the good old genius buried all right, but it was a terrible strain on my vest buttons," and the old smoker lighted another match on his trousers and started the pipe, which had grown cold as he talked of the stuttering remains.
"O, say, Uncle Ike," said the boy, as he shuddered a little at the idea of a stuttering corpse talking back at a minister, "speaking of heaven, do you think the men that furnished embalmed beef to the soldiers and made them sick in Cuba will get to heaven when they die?"
"That depends a good deal on whether a political pull is any good over there," said Uncle Ike, as he reached for the yellow paper of tobacco and filled up the clay pipe again. "I think a soldier is the noblest work of God. A young man who has got everything just as he wants it at home, parents who love him, and perhaps a girl who believes he is the dearest man that ever wore a choker collar; who hears that his country needs help, and gives up his spring mattress, his happy home, his evenings with the dearest girl in the world, gives up baking powder biscuits and strawberry shortcake, and enlists to go to Cuba, and sleeps on the ground in the mud, gets malaria, and fights on his knees when he is too weak to stand up, deserves something better than decayed meat, and I believe the people who furnished that stuff for the boys are going right straight to hell when they die," and a look of revenge and horror and indignation came over the old man's face that the boy had not seen before in all the years he had known his uncle. "No, sir," said he; "the smell of that canned beef will stick to the garments of those who prepared it and those who furnished it to those boys; and if one of them got into heaven by crawling under the canvas, every angel there would hold her nose and make up a face, and they would send for the devil with his pitchfork to' throw him out. The verdict of no board of investigation is going to be received as a passport to heaven."
"Why, a dog biscuit would have been mince pie to the soldiers in comparison to the stuff the rich beef packers furnished to those young noblemen with the kyack uniforms on. To make a little more money, men who have millions of dollars to burn, bilked a weak and overworked set of officials with incipient paresis and locomotor ataxia in their walk and conversation, and sawed on to them stuff that self-respecting pigs could not have digested without taking pepsin tablets; and with that embalmed and canned outrage on humanity in their stomachs those brave men charged in the face of an enemy, and were hungry heroes, loaded with decayed beef from a country that produces the finest food in the world. Tramps, begging at the back gates of American homes, were living on the fat of the land; dogs could gnaw fresh and sweet meat off of bones thrown away, and laugh at our soldiers carrying Old Glory to victory up hills shelled and bulleted and barbed-wire fenced. A bullet from a Spanish gun, entering the stomach of an American soldier, turned black when it came in contact with the embalmed beef there, and poisoned the brave soldier, and made him die, with thoughts of home, and mother, and sweetheart, and his lips closed for the last time, silent as to his wrongs, uncomplaining as to the murder committed by the millionaires at home. The business of packing meat ought to be combined with the undertaking business, so you could order your meat and your coffin from the same man. By cracky! Boy, I am so mad when I think of it, that I don't want to go to heaven if those people go there. Go out, dears, for a minute, for I want to use language that you can't find in the school books!" and Uncle Ike got up out of his chair, pale with anger, and smashed his pipe on the stone hearth, and a tear rolled down his cheek. "Why, Uncle Ike, I didn't mean to make you cry," said the red-headed boy, as he backed out of the room, frightened at the old man.
"Well, never mind, boy; don't worry about your Uncle Ike, because at my age, when a man gets mad clear through, he has to have vent, or bust," and the old fellow laughed as hearty as though he had never been mad in his life. "But I have a tender spot for soldiers who go to fight for their country, and when they are abused I feel that somebody is guilty of treason. I was a soldier in the war between the North and South, and have seen soldiers hungry, so hungry that they would take raw corn out of the nosebags of mules that were eating it, until a mule would begin to kick seven ways for Sunday when he saw a soldier coming; but it couldn't be helped, because the government couldn't keep up with the soldiers with rations, when they were on the jump night and day. But, do you know we had fun all the time we were hungry? There were Irish soldiers in my regiment who would keep you good natured when you were ready to die. The Irish soldier is so funny and so cheerful that he should have good pay. If I was going to raise a regiment, I would have one Irish soldier, at least, to every seven other soldiers, and my Irish boy would keep them all laughing by his wit, so they would stand any hardship. I have seen an Irish boy parch his corn that he had stolen from a mule, spread it out on a saddle blanket in four piles, go and ask three officers to dine with him, and, when they sat down on the ground to eat the parched corn, he wouldn't let them begin the meal until he made a welcoming speech, and had the chaplain ask a blessing over the corn; and then he would go without his share, and tell funny stories until the guests would laugh until they almost choked. The Irish soldier is worth his weight in gold in any army, boy, and he is in all armies, on one side or the other, and generally on both sides. The only objection I have to an Irishman is that he smokes one of these short pipes," and the old man lit up his long clay pipe, and let the boy go out to think over the lesson of the morning.
Uncle Ike sat and smoked his pipe in silence for a few minutes, blew the smoke out in clouds, and looked at it as though searching for something, and there was a serious look on his face, as though he was trying to fathom some mystery, while the redheaded boy was looking at himself in a hand mirror to see if the freckles on his nose were any smaller since he had been using some of his mother's toilet powder to remove them. Finally Uncle Ike put the bowl of the pipe to his nose and smelled of the burning tobacco, turned up his nose and snuffed, and said:
"There is something the matter with this 'ere terbacker. I suppose the terbacker makers have got into a trust, and they don't care how the stuff smells. Condemned if I ain't half a mind to quit smoking and break up the trust."
"Oh, I forgot to tell you," said the red-headed boy, "that I fixed your tobacco for you so it would not smell so bad. I put some cinnamon bark and wiener skins in it."
"Well, of all things!" said Uncle Ike, as he emptied the tobacco out of the pipe by rapping it on the heel of his boot, and looked sick. "What in the name of heaven is wiener skins?"
"Why, it is the envelope that goes around a wiener sausage. Us boys were smoking cigarettes one day made of paper and dried dandelion leaves, and the boy at the butcher shop said if we would dry some wiener skin and cut it up and put it in the cigarette and smoke it, it would make the finest flavor, and make us strong. I tried it, and the cigarette smelled just like camping out and cooking over a camp-fire, and the next day I was so strong ma noticed it. I thought you were getting old, and I would make you strong and young again. Don't you notice how different the smoke smells since I fixed the tobacco? I was going to put in some red pepper pods, but——"
"Here, hold on!" said Uncle Ike. "The butcher has got you mixed up. He was giving you a recipe for a Mexican pudding. But don't you ever try any experiments on your Uncle Ike any more. I don't want to be made strong any more on sausage skins. A gymnasium is good enough for me, and it don't smell like burning a negro at the stake. I know anything would help the flavor of this terbacker, but I have got used to it, after about sixty years burning it under my nose, and, if the trust will not water the stock with baled hay or cut cabbage, I will try and pull through as it is. So you experiment on yourself, condemn you! I knew it was you that had disturbed my terbacker. I can tell by the freckles on your face when you have done anything wrong. A boy that is freckled has got to be square, or I am right on to him. When you are guilty, the freckles on your nose are changeable; one will be yellow, like saffron, and another freckle seems pale, and little drops of perspiration appear between the freckles; and then several small freckles will combine into one, like a trust, and you are given completely away. So remember, as long as you wear freckles, if you do anything crooked, there is a sign right on your face that tells the tale."
"Say, Uncle Ike, what is a trust?" asked the redheaded boy, anxious to turn the subject away from wiener skins and freckles. "What good does a trust do?"
"Well, a trust is one of these things," said Uncle Ike, as he opened a new paper of tobacco, and threw the old paper, that had been treated with foreign substances, into the fire, "one of these things that are for the benefit of the dear people. You have heard of selling a gold brick, haven't you? The man who sells a gold brick has a brass brick made with a hole in it, in which he puts some gold, and he lets the jay who wants to invest in raw gold test it by putting acid on the place where the gold is filled in, and the jay finds that the brick is solid gold, and he buys it, after mortgaging his farm to raise the money. The man sells the gold brick cheap, because the jay is his friend, and when he has got out of the country the jay tries to sell his gold brick for eight hundred dollars, and he gets two dollars and eighty cents for it. That is one kind of a trust. The trust you mean is a combination of several factories, for instance. The promoter gets all the factories in one line of business to combine. They pay each factory proprietor more than his business is worth, and he is tickled, but they only pay him part money, and give him stock in the combine for the balance, and let him run his old business, now owned by others, at a good salary, and he gets the big head and buys a rubber-tired carriage, and sends his family to Europe. Then the trust closes down his factory and throws his men out of employment, lowers the price of goods to run out others who have not entered the trust, and the people who get goods cheap say a trust is the noblest work of God. After the outsiders have been ruined, and the man who entered the trust in good faith has spent the money they gave him, and tries to sell the stock he received, it has gone down to seven cents on a dollar, and the trust buys it in, and he cables his family to come home in the steerage of a cattle ship. His old employees have gone to the poorhouse or to selling bananas with a cart, and the former manufacturer who was happy and prosperous has become poor and shabby, and he looks at his closed factory, with its broken windows, and he tries to get a position pushing a scraper on the asphalt pavement, and if he fails he either jumps off the pier into the lake, or takes a gun and goes gunning for the trust promoter who ruined him. And after the factory man is drowned, or sent to the penitentiary for murder, the stock in the trust takes a bound and is away above par, and he hasn't got any of it, and the poor competitors of the trust having been ruined and closed up, prices of the goods go up kiting, and the dear people who said a trust was the noblest work of God say it is the dumbdest work of man, and they pass resolutions to down the trust, while the owners of the good stock in the trust stick out their fat stomachs, full of champagne and canvasback and terrapin, and laugh at the people till they nearly die of apoplexy, and drive bob-tailed horses that live better than the people, and carry blanketed dogs on velvet-cushioned carriages, that would turn up their noses at good wiener skins worse than I did when you loaded my tobacco, you little red-headed rascal," and Uncle Ike drew a long breath, and brought his fist down on the table in anger, as he got worked up over the wrongs of the people at the hands of the gold brick trusts.
"Gosh," said the red-headed boy, as his eyes kept opening wider and wider when he took in all Uncle Ike had said, "I should think the people would have the trusts arrested for breach of promise."
"What do you know about breach of promise?" said Uncle Ike, coloring up and looking foolish. "Who has been telling you about my being arrested once for breach of promise? If your mother has told you about that old trouble I had, I'll leave this house and go board at a tavern."
"I never heard anything about it, Uncle Ike, so help me. I never heard that you was ever in love."
"I never was in love," said the old man, as he loaded up the pipe again, "except with my pipe. That affair was a clear case of a dog getting stuck on a man, and the owner of the dog thinking she was being loved. You see I went to a summer resort years ago, and got acquainted with a widow. She was a sweet creature, but I never said a word to her about marriage. She had a pug dog, and I petted the dog, and called it to me, and, do you know, that dog got so he would follow me, and set on my lap, and come to my room, and whine, until I got scared. I talked with the widow some, and once I took her and the dog out boat riding, but I never gave her any cause to think that I was in love with her. But you ought to have seen that dog. He just doted on me. I encouraged it till all the guests at the hotel began to notice that I was very dear to the dog, and the widow looked on smilingly and encouraged the intimacy. Then I tried to drive the dog away from me, but he would curl up at my feet and look up at me in such a loving manner that I weakened. Then the widow began to hint at her desire to have someone that the dog could look up to and love, and it was getting too warm, and I left the summer resort, and was sued for breach of promise. Of course I didn't know what the woman or the dog would swear to, so I settled for a thousand dollars. The next year I called at the summer resort, and found the dog stuck on another man, and I know just as well as can be that the widow paid her expenses each summer by that dog getting in love with men, and I have never looked at a woman twice since."
"Served them right," said the boy, who had an idea that Uncle Ike was right about everything. "I don't take much stock in girls myself. I am mighty glad I haven't got any sister. The boys that have got sisters are in hot water all the time, and have to go home with them from parties, and carry their rubbers to school when it rains, and fight for them if the other boys call them tomboys. Sisters are no good," and the red-headed boy looked smart, as though he had said something Uncle Ike would applaud.
"There, that will do," said Uncle Ike, as he put his hand in the boy's hair to warm it. "Don't let me ever hear you say a word against sisters again. You don't know anything about sisters. They are great. Let me tell you a story. I know a man who is away up in public affairs, at the head of his profession in his county, and one the world will hear more about some of these days. He was just such a little shrimp as you are, when he was a boy. He got out of the high school, and was going to clerk in a feed store, when his sister took him one side, one Sunday, and told him she wanted him to go to college. He almost fainted away at the idea. There wasn't much money in the family to burn on a boy's education, and he knew it, and he asked where the money was to come from. This little sister of the poor boy said she would furnish the money. She knew that he would be one of the great men of the country, if he had a college education, and it was arranged for him to go to college, this little sister being his backer financially. She had a musical education, and began to look for chances to make money. She took scholars in music, and was so anxious to make money for this brother to blow in on an education that she fairly forced music into all her pupils, working night and day, often with her head ready to split open with pain, but every week she rounded up money enough to send to that brother at college, and for four years there never was a Monday morning that he did not get a postoffice order from that sweet girl, and every day a letter of encouragement, and advice, and when he graduated a pale girl stood below the platform with bright eyes and a feverish cheek, and when he came down off the platform with his diploma he grasped her in his arms and said, 'Sister, darling,' and kissed her in the presence of five thousand people, and she fainted. She had worked as no man works, for four years, and the result was a brother, a lawyer, a grand man, who loves that sister as though she was an angel from heaven. So, confound you, if I ever hear you say a word against sisters again, I will take you across my knee and you will think the millennium has come and struck you right on the pants," and Uncle Ike patted the boy on the cheek, and said they had better go out and catch a mess of fish.
"Uncle Ike, did you ever take many degrees in secret societies?" asked the red-headed boy, as he saw the old gentleman reading an account of a man who was killed during initiation into a lodge, by being spanked with a clapboard on which cartridges had been placed.
"About a hundred degrees, I should think, without counting up," said Uncle Ike, as he thought over the different lodges he had belonged to in the past fifty years. "What set you to thinking about secret societies?"
"Oh, I thought I would join a few, and have some fun. I read every little while about some one being killed while being initiated, and it seems to me the death rate is about as great as it is in Cuba or the Philippines. Is there much fun in killing a man, Uncle Ike?"
"Well, not much for the man who is killed," said the old man, as he gave the grand hailing sign of distress for the boy to bring him his pipe and tobacco. "Accidents will happen, you know. It isn't one man in ten thousand that gets killed being initiated."
"What do people join lodges for, anyway, when they are liable to croak?" said the boy, as he passed the ingredients for a fumigation to the uncle. "Don't you think there ought to be laws against initiating, the same as clipping horses and cutting their tails off, or cutting off clogs' tails and ears? What do the lodges have those funny ceremonies for?"
"Well, a fool boy can ask more questions than the oldest man can answer," said Uncle Ike, as he hitched around in his chair, and looked mysterious, as he thought of the grips and passwords he once knew. "No, there is no occasion for laws against men going up against any game. Most men join lodges because they think it is a good thing, and after they have taken a few degrees they want all there are, and after awhile the degrees keep getting harder, and they think of more to come, and by and by they get enough. In most lodges all men are on an equal footing, the prince and the pauper are all alike. Occasionally there is a man who thinks because he is rich or prominent in some way, that he is smarter than the ordinary man in a lodge. Then is the time that the rest try to teach him humility, and show him that he is only a poor mortal. It does some men good to have their diamonds removed, their good clothes replaced by the tattered garments of the tramp, and then let them look at themselves and see how little they amount to. In some lodges a man is taught a useful lesson by stripping him to the buff and taking a clapboard and letting a common laborer maul him until he finds out that he is not the whole business. If that were done occasionally by society you wouldn't find so many men looking over the common people. It would take the starch out of some people to feel that if they put on too many airs they would be liable to have a boot hit them any time. Lodges sometimes make good men out of the worst material. In some lodges the Prince of Wales would have to walk turkey right beside a well-digger, and it would do the prince good and not hurt the well-digger. But if I was in your place I would not join a lodge yet. Try the Salvation Army first," and Uncle Ike got up and went to the window, and listened to the bugle and bass drum and tambourine of the army as it passed on its nightly round.
"That Salvation army makes me tired," said the red-headed boy, as he reached for his putty blower. "Going around the streets palming that noise off on the public for music, and scaring horses, and taking up a collection, and singing out of tune. Say, I'll bet I can blow a chunk of putty into that girl's bonnet and make her jump like a box car in a collision," and the boy opened the window and was taking aim at the tambourine girl's bonnet when Uncle Ike reached out and took the putty blower away from him and said:
"Don't ever worry those poor people, or let any other boy bother them when you are around. They are entitled to the respect of all good people. It does not take opera music to get people to heaven. Even that wretched music they give so freely, may turn some poor wretch from the wrong to the right way, and a poor devil who becomes a follower of Christ from practicing following the Salvation army is just as welcome in heaven as though he went to church with a four-in-hand and listened to a heavenly choir that is paid a hundred dollars per. It does not seem possible to some rich people that St. Peter is going to extend the glad hand to a dockwolloper, and let the rich man stand out in the cold until he tells how he used his money on earth, whether to oppress the poor or to make them glad. Lots of men are going to be fooled thinking they are going to get inside the pearly gates on the strength of their money, but some of them may have to be vouched for by a Salvation army lassie. So, boy, if you love your old uncle, always respect the religion of every soul on earth, and don't fire putty at any girl's bonnet. You hear me?" and the old man patted the boy on the back, and his old face looked angelic, through the tobacco smoke cloud.
"Well, Uncle Ike, you are the queerest man I ever saw," said the red-headed boy, as he wiped a tear out of his eye with his shirt sleeve. "There is nothing I can do to agree with you, until you have talked to me a little. When I feel funny, and want to laugh, you make me cry; and when I get serious about something, and get you to talking, you get me to laughing. I never agree with you until you have had your say. But I agree with you on one thing; you said the other day, when we were talking about breach of promise, that you were never in love. That's where you and I are alike. It makes me weary to see some boys in love with girls, and run around after them, and make themselves laughing stock of everybody. If a girl should get in love with me, I would tell her to go to thunder, and I would laugh at her, and tell all the boys she was silly. There is no good in love. I thought I liked a girl once, and gave her a German silver ring that I got off an old china pipe stem; and she loved me just a week, and then she shook me because the German silver ring corroded on her finger and gave her blood poison. It wasn't true love, or she would have stuck to me if she had been obliged to have her finger amputated. Bah! I was so discouraged that I will never have anything to say to a girl again, and I will grow up to be an old bach like you, who never did love anybody but a dog. Isn't that so, Uncle Ike?" "Did I say I never loved any woman?" said Uncle Ike, as he looked away off, apparently his eyes penetrating the dim past, and a wet spot on his cheek that kept getting wetter, and spreading around his face, until he wiped it off with one end of his necktie. "Why, boy, don't you ever tell your ma, but I have been in love enough to send a man to the insane asylum. You think you will never love any girl again, on account of that blood poisoning. Why, blood poison is nowhere beside love. Some day you will have a girl pass to windward of you, and when cool air of heaven blows a breath of her presence toward you, the love microbe will enter your system with the odor of violets that comes from her, and there is no medicine on earth that will cure you. The first thing you know you will follow that girl like a poodle, and if she wants you to walk on your hands and knees, and carry her parasol in your mouth, you will do it. When she looks at you the perspiration will start out all over you, and you will think there is only one pair of eyes in the world, that all beautiful eyes have been consolidated into one pair of blue ones, and that they are as big as moons. If you touch her hand you will feel a thrill go up your arm and down your spine, as you do when a four-pound bass strikes your frog when you are fishing. She will see that your necktie is on sideways, and she will take hold of it to fix it, and you will not breathe for fear she will go away, and when she gets you fixed so you will pass in a crowd, you will be paralyzed all over, and unable to move, until she beckons you to come along, and when you start to walk you will feel all over like your foot is asleep. Walking a block or two beside this girl will be to you better than a trip to Europe, and a look at her face will seem to you a glimpse of heaven, and angels, and you will leave her after the too short interview, and you will be glad you are alive, and then you may see her riding in a street car with another, and you will want to commit murder. When these things occur, boy, you are in love, and you have got it bad. You think you don't love anybody, but you will. I have been there, boy, and there is no escape without taking to the woods, and love will make a trail through the forest, and over glaciers, and catch you if you don't watch out. So when love gets into your system, that way, just hold up your hands as though a hold-up man had the drop on you with a revolver, and let the girl go through you. The only way I escaped was that the girl married. Now go away and let me alone, boy, or I shall have to take you across my knee," and the red-headed boy backed out of the room and left Uncle Ike, his trembling fingers rattling the yellow paper of tobacco, trying to fill his pipe, and as the boy got outdoors and blew a charge of putty from his blower at the washwoman bending over the wash-tub, he said:
"Well, Uncle Ike hasn't had a picnic all his life."
"What is the matter with your Aunt Almira this morning?" asked Uncle Ike of the red-headed boy, as he came out into the garden with a sling-shot, and began to shoot birdshot at the little cucumbers that were beginning to grow away from the pickle vine, as the boy called the cucumber tree.
"She's turned nigger," said the boy, turning his sling-shot at an Italian yelling strawberries. "Wait till I hit that dago on the side of the nose, and you will hear a noise that will remind you of Garibaldi crossing the Rubicon."
"Garibaldi never crossed the Rubicon, and you couldn't hit that Italian count on the nose in a week, and if you did he would chase you with a knife, and tree you in the cellar under the kindling wood, and if I interfered he would gash me in the stomach and claim protection from his government, and a war would only be averted between this country and Italy by an apology from the President, saluting the Italian flag by our navy, and an indemnity paid to your dago friend, enough to support him in luxury the balance of his life. So be careful with your birdshot. But, about your Aunt Almira; she was yelling for help this morning, and didn't come down to breakfast."
"Well, sir," said the boy, respectfully, as he sheathed his trusty sling-shot in his pistol pocket, after the dago had felt a shot strike his hat, and he looked around at the boy with the whites of his eyes glassy and his earrings shaking with wrath, "It was all on account of the innocentest mistake that aunty is ill this morning. You see, every night she puts cold cream all over her face, and on her hands clear up above her wrists, to make herself soft. Last night she forgot it until she had got in bed and the light was put out, and then she yelled to me to bring the little tin box out of the bathroom, and I was busy studying my algebra and I made a mistake and got the shoe dressing, that paste that they put on patent leather shoes. Well, Aunt Almira put it on generous, and rubbed it in nice. I didn't know I had made a mistake until this morning, but I couldn't sleep a wink all night thinking how funny aunty would look in the morning."
"Hold on," said Uncle Ike, "don't prevaricate. You did it on purpose, and knew it all right, and let that poor lady sleep the sleep of innocence, blacker than the ace of spades. Say, if you was mine I would have a continuous performance right here now," and Uncle Ike run his tongue a couple of times around a dry cigar a friend had given him, and licked the wrapper so it would hold in the shoddy filling. "Don't interrupt the speaker," said the boy, as he handed Uncle Ike a match to touch off the Roman candle. "If you had seen Aunt Almira, just after she had yelled murder the third time this morning, you would not scold me. She woke up, and the first thing that attracted her attention was her hands, and she thought she had gone to bed with her long black kid party gloves on, and she tried to pull them off. When she couldn't get them off, she raised up in bed and looked at herself in a mirror, and that was the time she yelled, and I went in the room to help her. Well, sir, she hadn't missed a 'place on her face, neck and arms, and the paste shone just like patent leather. I said, aunty, you can go into the nigger show business, and she said, what is it, and I said, I give it up for I am no end man."
"Then she yelled again. Oh, dear, I was never so sorry for a high-born lady in my life, but to encourage her I told her I read of a white woman in Alabama that turned black in a single night, and the niggers would never have anything to say to her, because she was a hoodoo, and wasn't in their class, and then she yelled again and wanted me to send for a doctor, and I told her there wasn't any negro doctor in town, and what she wanted was to send for a scrubwoman, and then I showed her the box of shoe paste and told her she had got in the wrong box, and she laid it to me and shooed me out of the room like I was a hen, and she has been all the forenoon trying to wash that shoe paste off, but it will have to wear off, 'cause it is fast colors, and aunty has got to go to a heathen meeting at the church to-night, and she will have to send regrets. Don't you think women are awful careless about their toilets?" and the boy rubbed his red hair with a piece of sand-paper, because some one had told him sand-paper would take the red out of his hair.
"Do you know," said Uncle Ike, as the cigar swelled up in the center and began to curl on the end, and he threw it to the hens, and watched a rooster pick at it and make up a face, "if I was your aunt I would skin you alive? If you were a little older, we would ship you on a naval vessel, where you couldn't get ashore once a year, and you could get punished every day."
"I wouldn't go in the navy, unless I could be Dewey. Dewey has a snap. Every day I read how he has ordered some man thrown overboard. The other day a Filipino shoemaker brought him a pair of shoes and charged him two dollars more for them than he agreed to, and Dewey turned to a coxswain, or a belaying pin, or something, and told them to throw the man overboard. Uncle Ike, do you think Dewey throws everybody overboard that the papers say he does?"
"Well, I wouldn't like to contradict a newspaper," said Uncle Ike, as he thought the matter over. "It has seemed to me for some time that Dewey had a habit of throwing people overboard that would be liable to get him into trouble when he gets home, if the habit sticks to him. For that reason I would suggest that the house that is to be presented to him at Washington be a one-story house, so he could throw people that did not please him out of a window and not kill them too dead. When he gets home and settled down, it is likely he will be called upon by Mark Hanna, General Alger and others, and they will be very apt to give Dewey advice as to how he ought to conduct himself, and what he ought to say; and if he had an office in the top of a ten-story building, the janitor or the policeman in the street would be finding the remains of some of those visitors flattened out on the sidewalk so they would have to be scraped up with a caseknife. Throwing people overboard in Manila bay, and in a ten-story flagship in Washington, is going to be different."
"Well, boy," said Uncle Ike, as the two wandered around the garden, looking at the things grow, "there is a sign that tomato cans are ripe, and you go and get one and I will hold this big, fat angleworm," and he put his cane in front of a four-inch worm, which shortened up and swelled out as big as a lead pencil. "I want just a quart of those worms in cold storage, and tomorrow we will go fishing. Don't you like to go out in the woods, by a stream, and hook an angleworm on to a hook, in scallops, so he will look just as though he was defying the fish, and throw it in, and wait till you get a nibble, and feel the electric current run up your arm, and then the fish yanks a little, and you can't refrain, hardly, from jerking, but you know he hasn't got hold enough yet, and you make a supreme effort to control your nerves, and by and by he takes it way down his neck, and you know he is your meat, and you pull, and the electricity just gives you a shock, and——"
"Yes, sir," said the boy, interrupting the old man, "it feels just like going home with a girl from a party, and she accidentally touches you, and it goes all up and down you, and he swallows the bait, and you pull him out and have to take a jackknife and cut the hook out of his gills, and the angleworm is all chewed up, and when she looks at you as you bid her goodnight and says it was kind of you to see her home, and puts out her hand to shake you, you feel as though there was only one girl in the whole world, and when you start to go home you have to blow your fingers to keep them warm, and pry your fingers apart, but I don't like to scale 'em and clean 'em, but when they are fried in butter with bread crumbs, and you have baked potatoes, gosh, say, but you can't sleep all night from thinking maybe the next party you go to some other boy will ask her if he can't see her home, but I like bullheads better than sunfish, don't you, Uncle Ike?" and the boy went on filling his tomato can with worms.
"I have just one favor to ask," said Uncle Ike, as he puckered up his mouth in a smile, then laughed so loud that it sounded like raking a stick along a picket fence, "and that is that you don't mix your fish up that way. When the subject is girls, stick to girls, and when it is fish, stay by the fish. I know there is a great deal of similarity in the way they bite, but when you get them well hooked the result is all the same, and they have to come into the basket, whether it is a fish or a girl. The way a girl acts reminds me a good deal of a black bass. You throw your hook, nicely baited with a fat angleworm, into the water near the bass, and you think he will make a hop, skip, and jump for it, but he looks the other way, swims around the worm, and pays no attention to it, but if he sees another bass pointing toward the worm he sticks up the top fin on his back, and turns sideways, and looks mad, and seems to say, 'I'll tend to this worm myself, and you go away,' and the bass finally goes up and snuffs at the worm, and turns up his nose, and goes away, as though it was no particular interest to him, but he turns around and keeps his eye on it, though, and after awhile you think you will pull the worm out, because the bass isn't very hungry, anyway, and just as you go to pull it up there is a disturbance in the water, and the bass that had seemed to close its eyes for a nice quiet nap, makes a six-foot jump, swallows the hook, worm, and eight inches of the line, kicks up his heels, and starts for the bottom of the river, and you think you have caught onto a yearling calf, and the reel sings and burns your fingers, and the bass jumps out of the water and tries to shake the hook out of his mouth, and you work hard, and act carefully, for fear you will lose him, and you try to figure how much he weighs, and whether you will have him fried or baked, and whether you will invite a neighbor to dinner, who is always joking you about never catching any fish, and then you get him up near you, and he is tired out, and you think you never saw such a nice bass, and that it weighs at least six pounds, and just as you are reaching out with the landing net, to take him in, he gives one kick, chews off the line, you fall over backwards, and the bass disappears with a parting flop of the tail, and a man who is fishing a little ways off asks you what you had on your hook, and you say that it was nothing but a confounded dogfish, anyway, and you wind up your reel and go home, and you are so mad and hot that the leaves on the trees curl up and turn yellow like late in the fall. Many a girl has acted just that way, and finally chewed off the line, and let the man fall with a dull thud, and after he has got over it he says to those who have watched the angling that she was not much account, anyway, but all the time he knows by the feeling of goneness inside of him that he lies like a Spaniard," and Uncle Ike tied a handkerchief over the tomato can to keep the worms in, and said to the boy, "Now, if you can get up at four o'clock in the morning we will go and get a fine mess."
"Mess of bass or girls?".said the boy, as he looked up at the old man with a twinkle in his eye. "Bass, by gosh!" said Uncle Ike.
"Here, what you up to, you young heathen?" said Uncle Ike, as a pair of small boxing gloves, about as big as goslings, struck him in the solar plexus and all the way down his stomach, and he noticed a red streak rushing about the room, side-stepping and clucking. "You are a nice looking Sunday-school scholar, you are, dancing around as though you were in the prize ring. Who taught you that foolishness, and what are you trying to do?" and the old man cornered the red-headed boy between the bookcase and the center-table, and took him across his knee, and fanned his trousers with a hand as big as a canvas ham, until he said he threw up the sponge.
"Well, I'll tell you," said the red-headed boy, as the old man let him up and he felt of his trousers to see if they were warm, "I am going into the prize-fighting business, and Aunt Almira, who is studying for the stage, is teaching me to box. Gee, but she can give you a blow with her left across the ear that will make you think Jeffries has put on a shirt-waist, and a turquoise ring, and she and I are going to form a combination and make a barrel of money. Say, Aunt Almira has got so she can kick clear up to the gas jet, and she wants to play Juliet. I am going to play Jeffries to her Juliet."
"Oh, you and your aunt have got things all mixed up. She does not have to kick to play Juliet. And you can't box well enough to get into the kindergarten class of prize fighters. What you want to fight for anyway? Better go and study your Sunday-school lesson."
"I don't know," said the boy, as he tied on a boxing glove by taking the string in his teeth, "there is more money in prize fighting than anything, and Jeffries was a nice Sunday-school boy, and his father is a preacher, and he said the Lord was on the side of Jim in the fight that knocked out Fitzsimmons. Do you believe, Uncle Ike, that the Lord was in the ring there at Coney Island, seconding Jeffries, and that the prayers of Jeffries' preacher father had anything to do with Fitzsimmons getting it right and left in the slats and on the jaw?"
"No! No! No!" said Uncle Ike, as he shuddered with disgust at the thought that the good Lord should be mixed up in such things just to make newspaper sensations. "There is not much going on that the Lord is not an eye-witness of, but when it comes to being on one side or the other of a prize fight He has got other business of more importance. He watches even a sparrow's fall, but it is mighty doubtful in my mind whether he paid any attention as to which of the two prize-fighting brutes failed to get up in ten seconds. Boxing is all right, and I believe in it, and want all boys to learn how to do it, in order that they may protect themselves, or protect a weak person from assault, but it ought to stop there. Men who fight each other for money ought to be classed with bulldogs, wear muzzles and a dog license, and be shunned by all decent people," and the old man lit his pipe with deliberation and smoked a long time in silence.
"But they make money, don't they?" said the boy, who thought that making money was the chief end of man. "Think of making thirty thousand dollars in one night!"
"Yes, and think of the train robbers who make a hundred thousand dollars a night," said the old man; "and what good did any money made by train robbing or prize fighting ever do anybody? The men who make money that way, blow it in for something that does them no good, and when they come to die you have to take up a collection to bury them. Don't be a prize fighter or a train robber if you can help it, boy, and don't ever get the idea that the Lord is sitting up nights holding pool tickets on a prize fight."
"Uncle Ike, why didn't you go to the circus the other night? We had more fun, and lemonade, and peanuts, and the clown was so funny," said the boy; "and they had a fight, and a circus man threw a man out of the tent; and a woman rode on a horse with those great, wide skirts, and rosin on her feet and everywhere, so she would stick on, and——"
"Oh, don't tell me," said Uncle Ike, as he ran a broom straw into his pipe stem to open up the pores; "I was brought up among circuses, and used to sit up all night and go out on the road to meet the old wagon show coming to town. Did you ever go away out five or six miles, in the night, to meet a circus, and get tired, and lay down by the road and go to sleep, and have the dew on the grass wet your bare feet and trousers clear up to your waistband, and suddenly have the other boys wake you up, and there was a fog so you couldn't see far, and suddenly about daylight you hear a noise like a hog that gets frightened and says 'Woof!' and there coming out of the fog right on to you is the elephant, looking larger than a house, and you keep still for fear of scaring him, and he passes on and then the camels come, and the cages, and the sleepy drivers letting the six horses go as they please, and the wagons with the tents, and the performers sleeping on the bundles, and the band wagon with all the musicians asleep, and the lions and tigers don't say anything; and you never do anything except keep your eyes bulging out till they get by, and then you realize you are six miles from home, and you follow the procession into town, and when you get home your parents take you across a chair and pet you with a press board for being out all night, until you are so blistered that you cannot sit down on a seat at the circus in the afternoon. Oh, I have been there, boy, barefooted and bareheaded, with a hickory shirt on open clear down, and torn trousers opened clear up. Lemonade never tastes like it does at a circus, sawdust never smells the same anywhere else, and nothing in the whole world smells like a circus," and the old man's face lighted up as though the recollection had made him young again.
"Did you ever see a fight at a circus, Uncle Ike?" asked the red-headed boy, who seemed to have been more impressed with the fight he had seen than with the performance.
"See a circus fight?" said Uncle Ike. "Gosh, I was right in the midst of a circus fight, where several people were killed, and the whole town was a hospital for a month. See that scar on top of my head," and the old man pointed with pride to a place on his head that looked as though a mule had kicked him. "I was a deputy constable the day Levi J. North's old circus, menagerie and troupe of Indians showed in the old town where I lived."
[Ilustration: I grabbed a circus man by the arm 047]
"Some country boys got in a muss with a side-show barker and they got to fighting, and some Irish railroad graders heard the row, and they rushed in with spades and picks' and clubs, and some gentleman said, 'Hey, Rheube,' and the circus men came rushing out, and I came up with a tin star, and said, 'In the name of the state I command the peace,' and I grabbed a circus man by the arm, and an Irishman named Gibbons said, 'to hell wid 'em,' and then a box car or something struck me on the head, and I laid down, and three hundred circus men and about the same number of countrymen and railroad hands walked on me, and they fought for an hour, and when the people got me home and I woke up the circus had been gone a week, and they had buried those who died, and a whole lot were in jail, and my head didn't get down so I could get my hat on before late in the fall."
"I grabbed a circus man by the arm."
"Did you resign as constable?" asked the redheaded boy, and he looked at Uncle Ike with awe, as he would at a hero of a hundred battles.
"Did I? That's the first thing I did when I came to, and I have never looked at a tin star on a deputy since without a shudder, and I have never let an admiring public force any office on to me to this day. One day in a public office was enough for your Uncle Ike, but I would like to go to a circus once more and listen to those old jokes of the clown, which were so old that we boys knew them by heart sixty years ago," and Uncle Ike lighted his pipe again, and tried to laugh at one of the old jokes.
"Uncle Ike, I've got a scheme to get rich, and I will take you into partnership with me," said the redheaded boy, as Uncle Ike began to cool off from his circus story. "You go in with me and furnish the money, and I will buy a lot of hens, and fix up the back yard with lath, and just let the hens lay eggs and raise chickens, and we will sell them. I have figured it all up, and by starting with ten hens and two roosters, and let them go ahead and attend to business, in twenty years we would have seventeen million nine hundred and sixty-one fowls, which at 10 cents a pound about Thanksgiving time would amount to——"
"There, there, come off," said Uncle Ike, as he lit up the old pipe again, and got his thinker a'thinking. "I know what you want. You want to get me in on the ground floor, I have been in more things on the ground floor than anybody, but there was always another fellow in the cellar. You are figuring hens the way you do compound interest, but you are away off. Life is too short to wait for compound interest on a dollar to make a fellow rich, and cutting coupons off a hen is just the same. I started a hen ranch fifty years ago, on the same theory, and went broke. There is no way to make money on hens except to turn them loose on a farm, and have a woman with an apron over her head hunt eggs, and sell them as quick as they are laid, before a hen has a chance to get the fever to set. You open a hen ranch in the back yard, and your hens will lay like thunder, when eggs are four cents a dozen, but when eggs are two shillings a dozen you might take a hen by the neck and shake her and you couldn't get an egg. When eggs are high, hens just wander around as though they did not care whether school kept or not, and they kick up a dust and lallygag, and get some disease, and eat all the stuff you can buy for them, and they will make such a noise the neighbors will set dogs on them, and the roosters will get on strike and send walking delegates around to keep hens from laying, and then when eggs get so cheap they are not good enough to throw at jay actors, the whole poultry yard will begin to work overtime, and you have eggs to spare. If the hens increased as you predict in your prospectus to me, it would take all the money in town to buy food for them, and if you attempted to realize on your hens to keep from bankruptcy, everybody would quit eating chicken and go to eating mutton, and there you are. I decline to invest in a hen ranch right here now, and if you try to inveigle me into it I shall have you arrested as a gold-brick swindler," and Uncle Ike patted the red-headed boy on the shoulder and ran a great hard thumb into his ribs.
"Say, Uncle Ike, did you see this in the paper about fifty ambulances being lost, on the way to Tampa, Florida, last year?" said the red-headed boy, as Uncle Ike sat in an armchair, with his feet on the center-table, his head down on his bosom, his pipe gone out, yet hanging sideways out of the corner of his mouth, and the ashes spilled all over his shirt bosom. "Seventeen carloads of ambulances that started all right for Tampa, never showed up, and the government is writing everywhere to have them looked up. Wouldn't that skin you?" and the boy stood up beside Uncle Ike, took his pipe out of his mouth, filled it again, brushed the ashes off his shirt, and handed him a lighted wax match that he had found somewhere. Uncle Ike put the match to his pipe, took a few whiffs, stuck up his nose, threw the match into the fireplace, and said:
"Where did you get that tallow match? Gosh, I had just as soon light my pipe with kerosene oil. Always give me a plain, old-fashioned brimstone match, if you love me, and keep out of my sight these cigarette matches, that smell like a candle that has been blown out when it needed snuffing." And the old man began to wake up, as the tobacco smoke went searching through his hair and up to the ceiling. "And so the government lost fifty ambulances in transit, eh? Well, they will be searching the returned soldiers next, to see if the boys got away with them, and never think of looking up the contractors, who probably never shipped them at all. It must be that the boys got tired of embalmed beef, and ate the ambulances. When a man is hungry you take a slice of nice, fresh ambulance, and broil it over the coals, with plenty of seasoning, and a soldier could sustain life on it. The government must be crippled for ambulances, and I think we better get up a subscription to buy some more. An ambulance famine is a terrible thing, and I have my opinion of a soldier who will steal an ambulance. When I was in the army, I remember that at the battle of Stone River we——"
"Oh, Uncle Ike, please don't tell me any of your terrible army experiences," said the boy, as he remembered that he had heard his uncle tell of being in at least a hundred battles, when the history of the family showed that the old man was only south during the war for about six months, and he brought home a blacksnake whip as a souvenir, and it was believed that he had worked in the quartermaster's department, driving mules. "Let us talk about something enjoyable this beautiful day. How would you like to be out on a lake, or river, today, in a boat, drifting around, and forgetting everything, and having fun?"
"I don't want any drifting around in mine," said Uncle Ike, as he got up from his chair, limped a little on his rheumatic leg, and went to the window and looked out, and wished he were young again. "Don't you ever drift when you are out in a boat. You just take the oars and pull, somewhere, it don't make any difference where, as long as you pull. Row against the current, and against the wind, and bend your back, and make the boat jump, but don't drift. If you get in the habit of drifting when you are a boy, you will drift when you are a man, and not pull against the stream. The drifting boy becomes a drifting business man, who sits still and lets those who row get away from him. The drifting lawyer sits and drifts, and waits, and sighs because people do not find out that he is great. He wears out pants instead of shoe leather. When you see a man the seat of whose pants are shiny and almost worn through, while his shoes are not worn, except on the heels, where he puts them on the table, and waits and dreams, you can make up your mind that he drifted instead of rowed, when he was a boy, out in a boat. The merchant who goes to his store late in the morning, and sits around awhile, and leaves early in the afternoon, and only shows enterprise in being cross to the clerk who lets a customer escape with car fare to get home, is a drifter, who stands still in his mercantile boat while his neighbors who row, and push, and paddle, are running away from him. The boy who drifts never catches the right girl. He drifts in to call on her, and drifts through the evening, and nothing has been done, and when she begins to yawn, he drifts away. She stands this drifting sort of love-making as long as she can, and by and by there comes along a boy who rows, and he keeps her awake, and they go off on a spin on their wheels, and they can't drift on wheels if they try, because they have got to keep pushing, and before he knows it the drifting boy finds that the boy who rows is miles ahead with the girl, and all the drifting boy can do is to yawn and say, 'Just my dumbed luck.' Dogs that just drift and lay in the shade, and loll, never amount to anything. The dog that digs out the woodchuck does not drift; he digs and barks, and saws wood, and by and by he has the woodchuck by the pants, and shakes the daylights out of him. He might lay by the woodchuck hole and drift all day, and the woodchuck would just stay in the hole and laugh at the dog. The pointer dog that stays under the wagon never comes to a point on chickens, and the duck dog that stays on the shore and waits for the dead duck to drift in, is not worth the dog biscuit he eats.
"No, boy, whatever you do in this world, don't drift around, but row as though you were going after the doctor," and the old man turned from the window and put his arm around the red-headed boy, and hugged him until he heard something rattle in the boy's side pocket, and the boy pulled out a box with the cover off, and a white powder scattered over his clothes. "What is that powder?" asked the old uncle.
"That is some of this foot-ease that I saw advertised in the paper. Aunt Almira likes pigs' feet, and she says they lay hard on her stomach; so I got some foot-ease and sprinkled a little on her pigs' feet for lunch, and she ate it all right. Say, don't you think it is nice to be trying to do kind acts for your auntie?"
"Yes; but if she ever finds out about that pigs' foot ease, she will make you think your trousers are warmer than your hair. You strike me as being a boy that resembles a tornado. No one knows when you are going to become dangerous, or where you are going to strike. You and a tornado are a good deal like a cross-eyed man; you don't strike where you look as though you were aiming, and suddenly you strike where you are not looking, and where nobody is looking for you to strike. Nature must have been in a curious mood when she produced cross-eyed men, red-headed boys and tornadoes. What do you think ought to be done to Nature for giving me a redheaded boy to bring up, eh, you rascal?" and the old man chucked the boy under the chin, as though he wasn't half as mad at Nature as he pretended to be.
"Uncle Ike, do you think a tornado could be broken up, when it got all ready to tear a town to pieces, by shooting into it with a cannon, as the scientific people say?" said the boy, climbing up into the old man's lap, and slyly putting a handful of peanut shucks down under the waistband of his uncle's trousers.
"Well, I don't know," said Uncle Ike, as he wiggled around a little when the first peanut shuck got down near the small of his back. "These scientific people make me weary, talking about preventing tornadoes by firing cannon into the funnel-shaped clouds. Why don't they do it? If a tornado came up, you would find these cannon sharps in a cellar somewhere. They are a passel of condemned theorists, and they want someone else to take sight over a cannon at an approaching tornado, while the sharps look through a peep-hole and see how it is going to work. You might have a million cannon loaded ready for tornadoes, and when one came up it would come so quick nobody would think of the cannon, and everybody would dig out for a place of safety. Not one artilleryman in a million could hit a tornado in a vital part. Do these people think tornadoes are going around with a target tied on them, for experts to shoot cannon balls at? A tornado is like one of these Fourth of July nigger-chasers, that you touch off and it starts somewhere and changes its mind and turns around and goes sideways, and when it finds a girl looking the other way it everlastingly makes for her and runs into her pantalets when she would swear it was pointed the other way. No, I am something of a sportsman myself, and can shoot a gun some, but if I had a cannon in each hand loaded for elephants, and I should see a tornado going the other way, I would drop both guns and crawl into a hole, and the tornado would probably turn around and pick up the guns and fire them into the hole I was in. That's the kind of an insect a tornado is, and don't you ever fool with one. A tornado is worse than a battle. I remember when we were at the battle of Gettysburg——"
"Oh, for Heaven's sake, Uncle Ike, what have I done that you should fight that war all over again every time I try to have a quiet talk with you?" and the boy stuffed his fingers in his ears, and got up off the old man's lap, and the uncle got up and walked around, and when the peanut shells began to work down his legs, and scratch his skin, and he found his foot asleep from holding the big boy in his lap, the old man thought he was stricken with paralysis, and he sat down again, and called the boy to him and said, in a trembling voice:
[Ilustration: My boy, you are going to lose your Uncle Ike 057]
"My boy, you are going to lose your Uncle Ike. I feel that the end is coming, and before I go to the beautiful beyond I want to say a few serious words to you. It is coming as I had hoped. The disease begins at my feet, and will work up gradually, paralyzing my limbs, then my body, and lastly my brain will be seized by the destroyer, and then it will all be over with your Uncle Ike. Remove my shoes, my boy, and I will tell you a story. When we scaled the perpendicular wall at Lookout Mountain, in the face of the Confederate guns, and——"
"Can this be death?" said the boy, as he took off one of the old man's shoes and emptied out a handful of peanut shucks, and laughed loud and long.
"Well, by gum!" said Uncle Ike, "peanuts instead of paralysis," and he jumped up and kicked high with the lately paralyzed legs; "now, I haven't eaten peanuts in a week, and I suppose those shucks have been in my clothes all this time. I am not going to die. Go dig some worms and I will show you the liveliest corpse that ever caught a mess of bullheads," and the boy dropped the shoe and went out winking and laughing as though he was having plenty of fun, and Uncle Ike went to a mirror and looked at himself to see if he was really alive.
"You are a nice-looking duck," said Uncle Ike, as the red-headed boy came into the sitting-room with a black' eye and a scratch across his nose, and one thumb tied up in a rag, but looking as well, otherwise, as could be expected. "What you been doing? Run over by a trolley car or anything?"
"Nope," said the boy, as he looked in the mirror to see how his eye was coloring, with all the pride of a man who is coloring a meerschaum; "I just had a fight. Licked a boy, that's all," and he put his hand to his head, where a lock of his red hair had been pulled out.
"You look as though you had licked a boy," said the old man taking a good look at the blue spot around the boy's eye. "I suppose he is telling his folks how he licked you, too. My experience has been that in these boys' fights you can't tell which licks until you hear both stories. What was it about, anyway?"
"He lied about you, Uncle Ike, and I choked him until he said 'peunk,' and then I let him up, but he wouldn't apologize, and said he would leave it to you, if what he said was true or not, and here he comes now," and the red-headed boy opened the door and ushered in a boy about his own size, with two black eyes and a piece peeled off his cheek, and one arm in a sling.
"Which is Jeffries?" asked Uncle Ike, as he filled his pipe, and looked over the two companions who had been scrapping.
"He is Jeffries," said the visitor, "and I am Fitzsimmons, but I want to have another go at him, unless we leave it to arbitration," and the boy looked at the red-headed boy with blood in his eye, and at Uncle Ike with a look of no particular admiration.
"Well, what was the cause of the row?" said Uncle Ike, as he took a chair between the two boys, lit his pipe, and smiled as he saw the marks of combat on their persons.
"He said you used to be a drunkard, Uncle Ike, and had been to the Keeley cure, and I called him a liar, and then we mixed up."
"That's about the size of it," said the other boy; "now, which was right?"
Uncle Ike smoked up and filled the room so it looked like camping out and cooking over a fire made of wet wood, and thought a long time, and looked very serious, and the red-headed boy could see they were in for a talk. Finally the old man said:
"Boys, you are both right and both wrong, and I'll tell you all about it. I never was a drunkard, and never drank much, but I have been to the cure all the same. It was this way: I had a friend who was one of the best men that ever lived, only he got a habit of drinking too much, and no one seemed able to reason with him. He wouldn't take advice from his own mother, his wife, or me, or anybody. He was just going to the devil on a gallop, and it was only a question of a year or two when he would die. I loved that man like a brother, but he would get mad the minute I spoke of his drinking, and I quit talking to him, though I wanted to save him. I have smoked dog-leg tobacco many a night till after midnight, trying to study a way to save the only man in the world that I ever actually loved, and I finally got it down fine. I began to act as though I was half drunk whenever I saw my friend, spilled whisky on my coat sleeves, and acted disreputable, and got a few good fellows to talk with him about what a confounded wreck I was getting to be; and he actually got to pitying me, and finally got disgusted with me; and one day he said to me that I was a disgrace, and was making more different kinds of a fool of myself than any drunkard he ever met. I got mad at him, and told him to attend to his own business and left him. Then the boys got to telling him that the only way to save me was to get me to go to a cure; and, do you know, that good fellow that I would have given the world to save, came to me and urged me to, take the cure; and at first I was indignant that he should interfere in my affairs, and finally he said he would go if I would. Then we struck a bargain, and went to Dwight, and took the medicine. The boys had told the doctors the story, and they only gave me one shot in the arm; but that came near killing me, because it almost broke me of using tobacco. Well, I remained there ten days, and, while they were pretending to cure me, they were curing my friend sure enough, putting the gold cure into his system with injections and drinks, while I didn't get anything but ginger ale; and when we were discharged cured, I was the happiest man in the world, except my friend, who was happier. He was not only cured himself, and an honor to his family, but he thought he had saved me from a drunkard's grave. That's the story, boys, and now you get up and shake hands, and don't fight any more over your Uncle Ike," and the old man patted them both on the head, and they shook hands and laughed at each other's black eyes. As the red-headed boy showed his late antagonist to the door, he turned to his uncle and said:
"Uncle Ike, if you have ever held up a railroad train, or robbed a bank, or stolen horses, or done anything that would cause you to be arrested, I beg of you to tell me of it now, so if anybody abuses you in my presence I won't get into a fight every time," and the boy put his arm around his Uncle Ike and hugged him, and added, "You were a thoroughbred when you bilked that friend of yours to take the cure."
"Oh, I don't know," said Uncle Ike, "that reminds me of the battle of Chickamauga. When Bragg's forces were——"
"Fire! Fire!" yelled the red-headed boy, and he rushed out of doors and left the old man talking to his pipe.
"Has that battle of Chickamauga been fought out to a finish yet?" said the red-headed boy, as he stuck his head in the door after the imaginary fire alarm that he had created to escape Uncle Ike's war history, "for if it is ended I want to come in, but I can't stand gore, and your war stories are so full of blood that you must have had to swim in it."
"Oh, you don't know a hero when you see one," said the old man, as he straightened up and saluted the boy in a military manner, only that he used his left hand instead of his right hand.
"Well, I'll tell you," said the boy as he got inside the room and stood with his hand on the door knob, ready to escape if Uncle Ike got excited. "You old veterans make me sick. I have heard nothing for fifteen years except war talk, old war talk, back number war talk, about how you old fellows put down the rebellion, and suffered, and fought, and all that rot. Why, I heard a bugler who enlisted for the Spanish war, and who only got as far as Jacksonville, say that you fellows that put down the rebellion in 1864 were just a mob, and that you didn't have any fighting, and that the Southern people were only fooling you, and that you didn't suffer like the Spanish war heroes did, and that you just had a picnic from start to finish. The bugler said he wouldn't ask any better fun than to fight the way you fellows did, when you had all you wanted to eat, good beds to sleep on, and servants to carry your guns, and cook for you. The bugler said you fellows all get pensions just for making an excursion through the Southern resorts, while the heroes of the Spanish war, who fought a foreign country to a standstill, and went without food, and got malaria, are without pensions, and just existing on the record they made fighting for their country——" and the boy stopped nagging the old man when he noticed that Uncle Ike was turning blue in the face, and choking to keep down his wrath.
"Where is this heroic bugler of the Spanish war?" said Uncle Ike, trying to be calm, but actually frothing at the mouth. "Bring him here, and let me hear him say these things, condemn him, and I will take him across my knee and I will knock the wind out of him, so that he can never gather enough in his carcass to blow another bugle. Why, confound him, he is a liar. The war of the rebellion was a war, not a country schuetzenfest, with a chance to go home every night and sleep in a feather bed, and get a Turkish bath. The whole Spanish war, except what the navy did, was not equal to an outpost skirmish in '63. Of course, the rough riders and the weary walkers did a nice job going up San Juan hill, but we had a thousand such fights in the rebellion. After that skirmish there was nothing done by the army at Santiago, but to sit down in the mud and wait for the Spaniards to eat their last cracker, and kill their last dog and eat it, and then surrender. Ask that bugler to tell you where he found, in his glorious career as a wind instrument in the Spanish war, any Grants, Shermans, Sheridans, Logans, Pap Thomases, McClellans, Kilpatricks, Custers, McPhersons, Braggs, and hundreds of such heroes. What has the bugler got to show for his war? Shafter! And Alger! And all of them quarreling over the little bone of victory that was not big enough for a meal for our old generals of the war of the rebellion. And he talks about our pensions, the young kid. He probably wears corsets. Why, we didn't get pensions until we got so old we couldn't get up alone. His gang of Jacksonville heroes will probably get pensions when they are old enough. Bring that bugler in here some day, and don't let him know what he is going to run up against, and I will give you a dollar, and I will let you see me dust the carpet with him," and the old man sat down and fanned himself, while the boy looked scared for fear Uncle Ike was going to have a fit. "Why, at the battle of Pea Ridge, when a minie ball struck me, when I was on the firing line——"
"Keno," said the red-headed boy, as he went through the window head first, and over the picket fence on his stomach, and disappeared down the street.
"Say, Uncle Ike, don't you think the Fourth of July is sort of played out?" asked the red-headed boy, as he came to Uncle Ike's room on the morning of the 5th, by appointment, to demonstrate to the old man that he had not been quite killed by the celebration of the great day. "It seems to me we don't have half as many accidents and fires as we used to," and the boy counted off to the uncle the dozen injuries he had received by burns, and dug into his eye with a soiled handkerchief in search of some gravel from a torpedo.
"Oh, I don't know," said Uncle Ike, as he lighted the old pipe and began to look over the boy's injuries. "The Fourth is carrying on business at the old stand, apparently. Your injuries are in the right places, on the left hand, principally, and the gravel is in the left eye. That is right. Always keep the right hand and the right eye in good shape, so you can sight a gun and pull a trigger, either in shooting ducks or Filipinos. You see, our country is growing, and we are celebrating the Fourth from Alaska to Porto Rico, and from London to Luzon, so we can't celebrate so very much in any one place. I expect by another Fourth Queen Victoria will be yelling for the glorious Fourth, Emperor William will be touching off dynamite firecrackers, Russia will be eating Roman candies, and Aguinaldo will be touching off nigger-chasers and drinking red lemonade. This is a great country, boy, and don't you forget it."
"Well, you may be right," said the boy, as he poured some witch-hazel on a rag around his thumb, "but it looks to me as though the troops in the Philippines will be climbing aboard transports protected by the fleet, with Aguinaldo slaughtering the boys in the hospitals and looting Manila, if the President does not get a move onto himself and send another army out there to be victorious some more. The way it is now, we shall not have troops enough there to bury the dead. The boys have been debating at school the Philippine question, and it was decided unanimously that the President is up against a tough proposition, and if he does not stop looking at the political side of that war and send troops enough to eat up those shirtless soldiers, who can live on six grains of rice and two grains of quinine a day, we are going to be whipped out of our boots. That's what us boys think."
"Well, you boys don't want to think too much, or you are liable to have brain fever," said the old man, as he realized that there was mutiny brewing among the school children. "What you fellows want the President to do? Haven't we whipped the negroes everywhere, and taken village after village, and burned them, and—and—chased them—and——"
"Sure!" said the boy, as he saw that his uncle was at a loss to defend the policy of his government. "We have had regular foot races with them, and burned the huts of the helpless, and taken villages, and then didn't have troops to hold them, and when we went out of a village on one street, the niggers came in on another, and shot into our pants. We swim rivers and take towns with as brave work as ever was done, and become so exhausted we have to lay down in the mud and have a fit, and the niggers climb trees like monkeys, eat cocoanuts and chatter at us. Say, Uncle Ike, do you know us boys are getting tired of this business, and we are getting up a petition to the President to get a trained nurse to put Alger to sleep and run the war department herself."
"We are going to have the petition signed by seven million American boys. Why, if those niggers could go off in the woods and shoot at a mark for a week, and get so they could hit anything, our boys would all be dead in a month. The trouble is the niggers just pull up a gun and touch it off like a girl does a firecracker. She lights the tip end of the tail of a firecracker, and throws it, and you forget all about it, and when her firecracker has ceased to interest you, and you don't know where it is, it goes off in your coat collar, or down the waistband of your pants. A Filipino shoots the way a trained monkey touches off a syphon of seltzer water. He knows it will squirt if he touches the thumbpiece, but it is as liable to hit him in the face, or wet his feet as anything. Some day those niggers will learn how to shoot, and when Funston attempts to swim a river he will get a bullet through the head, and Lawton and MacArthur, who stand up in plain sight and let them practice will wish they hadn't. We boys have decided to support the President until he conquers those people, if that is what he is trying to do, but, by gosh, if he does not wake up and quit looking pleasant, and seeming to hope that Filipino shower is going to blow over, we feel that he will wake up some morning and find that a nigger tornado has struck his brave boys at Manila, and they will be in the cyclone cellars waiting for somebody to come and dig them out. Don't you think so, Uncle Ike?"
"I say, boy," said Uncle Ike, as he lighted up the pipe, after letting it go out while listening to the war talk of the excited boy, "do you think you could arrange your affairs so as to leave here by tomorrow evening and take the limited for Washington? Would you accept the vacancy in the office of secretary of war? I know this offer comes sudden to you, and that you will have no time to consult your debating society as to whether you ought to accept the position, but when you reflect that the country is in a critical situation, and needs a man of blood and iron to steer the craft through among the rocks, I feel that you cannot refuse. The ideas you express are so near like those that General Jackson would express if he were alive, that I feel the country would be blessed if you were in a position to brace up the President. Now go wash your face, and I will wire the President that you will be there day after tomorrow morning. But if you go there thinking, as many people seem to think, that the President's backbone is made of banana pulp, and that he is not alive to the situation, you will make a mistake. There are chumps like you all over this country that wonder why they have not been selected to run this country, who think the commander-in-chief is running ward politics instead of the affairs of the country. Of course, a President gets under obligations to different elements in a campaign, and finds it necessary to surround himself with a cabinet, a few members of which are not worth powder to blow them up, but if they were all weak and vicious on the make, and political ciphers, and the President himself is all right, the country will not go very far wrong. What you boys want to do is to debate less on questions you do not understand, and saw more wood. Let the grown people run things a while longer, and you boys prepare to take the burden a quarter of a century hence," and the old man got up and put his arm around the boy and felt of his head to see if he could find any soft spot.
"Well, I was only joshin' any way, Uncle Ike," said the boy, as he put both arms around the old man, and felt in his uncle's pistol pocket to discover something that was eatable. "But, Uncle Ike, I am serious now. I have got in love with a girl, and she is mashed on another boy, and I am having more trouble than McKinley. You know that quarter you gave me yesterday? I saved 20 cents of it to treat her to ice-cream soda; and when I went to find her, she was coming out of the drug store with the other boy, and I found out they had been sitting on stools at the soda fountain all the forenoon, drinking all the different kinds of soda, until he had to hold her down for fear she would go up like a balloon, from the soda bubbles that she had concealed about her person. I have not decided whether to kill my rival, or go and enlist and go to the Philippines and break her heart. What did you do under such circumstances, Uncle, when you used to get in love?"
"I used to take castor oil," said Uncle Ike, as he looked at the forlorn-looking boy, "but you don't need to. Just you take off those tan shoes and put on black shoes, and change your luck. I never knew it to fail, when a boy first put on tan shoes and a high collar. He is bound to get in love before night. Take off those shoes, and you can go out in the world and look everybody in the face and never get in love. It is the same as being vaccinated," and the old man looked sober and serious, and the boy went to work to change his shoes, with a bright hope for the future lighting up his face.
"Go away from me! Don't you come any nearer or I will smite you!" said Uncle Ike, as the redheaded boy came into the room with his red hair cut short with the clippers, a green neglige shirt, with a red necktie, a white collar, a tan belt with a nickel buckle, and short trousers with golf socks of a plaid pattern that were so loud they would turn out a fire department. "I am afraid of you. Who in the world got you to have your red hair shingled so it looks like red sand-paper? And who is your tailor? Have I got to go down to my grave with the thought that a nephew of mine would appear in daylight looking like that? Get me a piece of smoked glass, or I shall have cataracts on both eyes," and the old man knocked the ashes and deceased tobacco out of his pipe on his boot heel, and dug the stuff out of the bottom of the pipe with a jack-knife.
"Well, I had to have my hair cut, because the boys at the picnic filled my hair with burdock burrs, and it couldn't be combed out," said the boy, as he took a match and scratched it on top of his head, and lit it, while the uncle sniffed at the burned hair. "Aunt Almira cut my hair first with a pair of dull shears, to get the burrs out, and then a barber cut off all there was left, with these horse-clippers, and I feel like a dog that has had his hindquarters clipped to make a lion of him. Aunt Almira says I have got a great head. Say, Uncle Ike, did you ever examine the bumps on my head? I was at a phrenology lecture once, and the feeler could tell all that was going on in a man's head just by the bumps. Feel of mine, Uncle, and tell my fortune," and the red-headed boy came up to the old man for examination.
"I am no phrenologist," said Uncle Ike, as he smoked up and got the boy to coughing, "but there are some bumps I know the names of," and he felt all around the boy's head, and looked wise. "This place where there is a dent in your head is where the bump of veneration will grow, later, if you get in the habit of letting old people have a show, and get up and offer them your chair, and run errands for them without expecting them to pay you. This place on the back of your head, where there is a bump as big as a hickory nut, is what we call the hat rack bump, because you can hang your hat on it. The barber ought to have cut a couple of slices off that bump with his lawn mower. Here is a bump that shows that you are color blind. Be careful, or you will marry a negro girl by mistake. As a precaution, when you begin to get in love serious, bring the girl to me that I may see if she is white. Here is a soft bump that indicates that you will steal———-"
"Oh, come off," said the boy, laughing, and removing his head from the investigation. "That is where I was struck by a golf ball. You are no phrenologist. I know what you are, Uncle Ike; you are a fakir. But, say, I was sick last night, after we had that green watermelon for dinner, and Aunt Almira said I was troubled with sewer gas, and she gave me the peppermint test. Do you think peppermint will detect sewer gas, Uncle Ike?"
"I know what you want, boy, you want to get me mad," said Uncle Ike, as he threw his pipe into the grate because it wouldn't draw, and took a new one and filled it. "There is no greater fraud on the earth than this peppermint test for sewer gas. I had a house to rent, years ago, and was ruined by peppermint. When a tenant had anything the matter, from grip to corns, the doctor would look wise, snuff around, and say he detected sewer gas, and they would call in a health officer and he would put a little peppermint oil in somewhere, and go into another room, and when he smelled the peppermint he would say it was sewer gas, and send for a plumber, and they would begin to plumb, and I had to pay. I had nine tenants in two years, and every disease they had was laid to sewer gas, and I had to ease up on the rent or stand a lawsuit. When one family had triplets, and tried to stand me off on the rent on account of sewer gas, I became a walking delegate, and struck, and turned the house into a livery stable, and now, do you know, every time I go to collect rent I am afraid a horse has got sick, and the livery man will lay it to sewer gas. Why, boy, peppermint oil will go through an asphalt pavement. You might put peppermint oil on top of the Egyptian pyramids and you could smell it in fifteen minutes in Cairo. If anybody ever talks to you about sewer gas and peppermint test, call them a liar and charge it to me," and the old man was so mad the boy's hair began to curl.
"Here, Uncle Ike, what you staring out of the window so for, with your eyes sot, like a dying horse, and your body as rigid as a statue?" and the boy rushed up to the window and looked out to see what had come over the old man.
"Hush, keep still, and don't scare her away," said Uncle Ike, as he held up his hand and motioned the boy to keep still.
"By gosh, if it isn't a woman, Uncle Ike, that has paralyzed you, and you always said you didn't care for them any more," said the red-headed boy, as he looked out the window and saw a blonde-haired young woman standing on the corner waiting for a street car, and glancing up at Uncle Ike through the frowsy hair that was loosely flying about her forehead. "And she is a blonde, too, and blondes have gone out of style. Didn't you read in the papers that the shows won't hire blondes any more, and that nothing but brunettes are in it? It must be pretty tough on a blonde to get her hair all fixed fluffy, after years of patient coloring, and then find she has gone out of style, and no op'ry will hire her to shed blonde hair on the coats of the chorus fellows. Oh, Uncle Ike, come away from the window or you will be stolen," and the boy dragged the old man away from the window, handed him his pipe, and said, "Smoke up and try to forget it."
"Forget nothing," said the old man, as he lit the torch and a smile came over his good-natured face. "Don't you worry about blonde girls going out of style. These bleached ones, who never were the real thing, may go back to their natural, beautiful brunetticism, and when they realize how foolish they have been, trying to bunko nature, they will be happier than ever, but the natural blonde will never go out of style. She is a joy forever. Do you know, when a man gets in love with a girl he couldn't tell what the color of her hair was, to save him? He knows all about her eyes, and her hands, and her face, but unless he finds a hair on his coat he can't tell what is the color of the hair of his beloved. Love is like smoking. You may smoke in the dark, and if your pipe goes out you smoke right along and don't know the difference. You sit up with a girl in the dark and you can't see her, and she may go to sleep, but love keeps smoking right along and never seems to go out. When I was wounded at the battle of Pea Ridge, and was taken to a young ladies' seminary to be doctored and nursed back to life——"
"Oh, do quit, Uncle Ike! If you had been taken wounded to a young ladies' seminary, say in 1863, thirty-six years ago, you would have been there yet, and your wound would still be paining you, and the girls who saved your life would be grown up to be gray-haired old women," and the boy jollied the old man until he blushed. "You must have known a man named Ananias in the army. Say, Uncle Ike, you know you wanted me to learn a trade, and I have decided that I would like to learn the trade of a bishop. I read of the death of a bishop the other day who was worth half a million dollars, and now you must tell me how to become a bishop, like Newman," and the boy laughed as though he had got the old man in a tight place.
"Well," said Uncle Ike, after stopping to think a moment, "you might do worse. Do you know, boy, that Bishop Newman, who died recently, did learn a trade? Well, he did. When he was a boy, he seemed to be a no-account sort of a duck, some like you. His parents were poor, and lived in the slums of New York. His hair was some the color of yours, and he loafed around, and made fun of his old uncle, no doubt, the same as you do. He had to do something to help earn the bread and beer for the family, and so he went to work stripping tobacco in a factory near his home. Somehow he got vaccinated with a desire to learn something, and after he had stripped tobacco, and snuffed it, and got some sense in his head, he began to learn to read. A girl stripper taught him first to read the labels on packages of tobacco, and taught him to spell. Then he got a taste for education, and became the smarty of the factory, and the boys who could not read called him 'snuff,' because his hair and freckles were the color of Scotch snuff. Some white man connected with the factory saw that the little rat had stuff in him, and he helped him to get an education, and he stripped tobacco daytimes and studied nights, and became a preacher, and finally a bishop. So, you smarty, if you want to learn the trade of a bishop, strip the wrapper off that package of tobacco and fill my pipe. Who knows but Bishop Newman stripped the very tobacco I am smoking now?" and the old man puffed and laughed at the boy.
"Gosh! it smells old enough to have been stripped when the bishop was a boy," said the red-headed boy, and then he dodged behind a table, while Uncle Ike tried to catch him and teach him how to be a bishop.
Uncle Ike stood with his pipe in his left hand, his thumb pressing the tobacco down tight, and with a match in his right hand, just ready to scratch it on his leg, when he froze stiff in that position, and never moved for five minutes, as he watched the red-headed boy, who had walked into the room listlessly, his eyes staring at a picture he held in his hand, his face so pale that the freckles looked large and dark, his lips white as chalk, his cheeks sunken, his fingers gripping the picture, a faded and forlorn pansy in his buttonhole, and his short clipped hair standing up straight in rows like red beet tops in a vegetable garden.
"Anybody very dead?" said Uncle Ike, as he drew the match across the cloth, put it to his pipe, and began to swell out his cheeks and puff, keeping his eye on the boy, through the smoke, who had taken his eyes from the picture, drawn a deep sigh, and sat down on the lounge, as though he never expected to get up again.