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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesPeck's Bad Boy Abroad - Chapter 19. The Bad Boy And His Dad Visit The Pope...
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Peck's Bad Boy Abroad - Chapter 19. The Bad Boy And His Dad Visit The Pope... Post by :peter2004 Category :Long Stories Author :George W. Peck Date :May 2012 Read :1626

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Peck's Bad Boy Abroad - Chapter 19. The Bad Boy And His Dad Visit The Pope...

CHAPTER XIX. The Bad Boy and His Dad Visit the Pope--They Bow to the King of Italy and His Nine Spots--Dad Finds That "The Catacombs" Is Not a Comic Opera.

Rome, Italy.--Dear Old Friend: You remember, don't you when you were a boy, playing "tag, you're it," and "button, button, who's got the button?" that one of the trying situations was to be judged to "go to Rome," which meant that you were to kiss every girl in the room.

I never got enough "going to Rome" when I attended church sociables and parties, but always got blindfolded, and had to kiss anybody they brought to me, which was usually a boy or a colored cook, so I teased dad to take me to Rome, and when he got over his being rattled and robbed and burned by lava at Vesuvius, he said he didn't care where he went, and, besides, I told him about the Roman Coliseum, where they turned hungry tigers and lions and hyenas loose among the gladiators, and the people could see the beasts eat them alive, and dad said that was something like it, as the way he had been robbed and misued in Italy, he would enjoy seeing a good share of the population chewed by lions, if the lions could stand it. I didn't tell dad that the wild animal show had not been running for a couple of thousand years, 'cause I thought he would find it out when we got here.

Say, old man, I guess I can help you to locate Rome. You remember the time I spoke a piece at the school exhibition, when I put my hand inside my flannel shirt, like an orator, and said: "And this is Rome, that sat on her seven hills, and from her throne of beauty ruled the whole world." Well, this is it, where I am now, but the seven hills have been graded down, and Rome don't rule the whole world a little bit; but she has got religion awful.

The pope lives here, and he is the boss of more religious people than anybody, and though you may belong to any other kind of church, and when you are home you don't care a continental for any religion except your own, or your wife's religion, and you act like an infidel, and scoff at good people, when you get to Rome and see the churches thicker than saloons in Milwaukee, and everybody attending church and looking pious, you catch the fever, and try to forget bad things you have done, and if you get a chance to see the pope, you may go to his palace just 'cause you want to see everything that is going on, and you think you don't care whether school keeps or not, and you feel independent, as though this religion was something for weak people to indulge in, and finally you come face to face with the pope, and see his beautiful face, and his grand eyes, and his every movement is full of pious meaning, you "penuk" right there, and want to kneel down and let him bless you, by gosh.

Say, I never saw dad weaken like he did when the pope came in. We got tickets to go to his reception, but dad said he had rather go to the catacombs, or the lion show at the Coliseum. He said he didn't want to encourage popes, because he didn't believe they amounted to any more than presiding elders at home. He said he had always been a Baptist, and they didn't have any popes in his church, and he didn't believe in 'em, but some other Americans were going to see the pope, and dad consented to go, under protest, it being understood that he didn't care two whoops, anyway.

Well, sir, we went, and it was the grandest thing you ever saw. There were guards by the thousand, beautiful gardens that would make Central Park look like a hay marsh, hundreds of people in church vestments, and an air of sanctity that we never dreamed; jewels that are never seen outside the pope's residence, and we lined up to see the holy father pass.

Gee, but dad trembled like a dog tied out in the snow, and the perspiration stood out on his face, and he looked sorry for himself. Then came the procession, all nobles and great people, and then there was a party of pious men carrying the most beautiful man we ever saw on a platform above us, and it was the pope, and he smiled at me, and the tears came to my eyes, and I couldn't swallow something which I s'pose was my sins, and then he looked at dad, and held up one hand, and dad was pale, and there was no funny business about dad any more, and then they set the platform down and the pope sat in a chair, and those who wanted to went up to him, and he blessed them.

Say, for awhile dad dassent go up, 'cause he thought the pope could see right through him, and would know he was a Baptist, but the rest of the Americans were going up, and dad didn't want to be eccentric, so he and I went up. The pope put out his hand to dad, and instead of shaking it, as he would the hand of any other man on earth, and asking how his folks were, dad bent over and kissed the pope's hand, and the pope blessed him. Dad looked like a new man, a good man, and when the pope put his hand on my head, and blessed me, my heart came up in my throat, 'cause I thought he must know of all the mean things I had ever done, but I can feel his soft, beautiful hand on my head now, and from this out I would fight any boy twice my size that ever said a word against the pope and his religion. When we got outside dad says to me: "Hennery, don't you ever let me hear of your doing a thing that would make the good man sorry if he was to hear about it." And we went to our hotel and stayed all the afternoon, and all night, and just thought of that pope's angelic face, and when one of the Americans came to our room and wanted dad to play cinch, he was indignant, and said: "I would as soon think of robbing a child's bank," and we went to bed, and if dad wasn't a converted man I never saw one.

Well, sir, trouble, and sorrow, and religion, don't last very long on dad. The next morning we talked things over, and I quoted all the Roman stuff I could think of to dad, such as "In that elder day, to be a Roman was greater than a king," but before I could think twice there was a commotion in the streets and a porter came and made us take off our hats, because the king was riding by, and we looked at the king, and dad was hot. He said that fellow was nothing but a railroad hand, disguised in a uniform, and, by ginger, if we had seen that king out west working on a railroad, with canvas clothes on, he would not have looked like a king, on a bet. There was nothing but his good clothes that stood between the king and a dago digging sewers in Chicago.

After the king and his ninespots had passed, dad said: "When you are in Rome, you must do as the Romans do," and he said he wanted to get that heavy feeling off his shoulders, which he got at the religious procession, and wanted me to suggest something devilish that we could do, and I told him we better go and see the "Catacombs." He wanted to know if it was anything like "a trip to Chinatown," or the "Black Crook," and I told him it was worse. Then he asked me if there was much low neck and long stockings in the "Catacombs," and I told him there was a plenty, and he said he was just ripe to see that kind of a show, and so we took a carriage for the "Catacombs," and dad could hardly keep still till we got there.

I suppose I ought to be killed for fooling dad, but he craved for excitement, and he got it. The "Catacombs" are where Roman citizens have been buried for thousands of years, in graves hewn out of solid rock, and they are petrified, and after they have laid in the graves for a few hundred years, the mummified bodies are taken out and stood up in corners, if the bodies will hang together, and if not the bones are piled up around for scenery.

We had to take torches to go in, and we wandered through corridors, gazing at the remains, until dad asked one of the men with us what it all meant, and the man said it was the greatest show on earth. Dad began to think he was nutty, and when I laughed, and said: "That is great," and clapped my hands, and said: "Encore," dad stopped and said: "Hennery, this is no leg show, this is a morgue," but to cheer him up I told him his head must be wrong, and I pointed to about a hundred dried corpses, a thousand years old, in a corner, with grinning skulls all around, and told him that was the ballet, and told him to look at the leading dancer, and asked him if she wasn't a beaut, from Butte, Mont., and that killed dad. He leaned against me, and said his eyes must have gone back on him, because everything looked dead to him. I told him he would get over it after awhile, and to stay where he was while I went and spoke to one of the ballet that was beckoning to me, and I left him there, dazed, and went around a corner and hid.

People were coming along with torches all the time, looking at the catacombs and reading the inscriptions cut in the rock, and after awhile I went back to where I left dad, and he was gone, but after awhile I found him standing up with the stiffs. He was glad to see me, and wanted to know if I thought he was' dead. I told him I was sure he was alive, though he had a deathly look on his face.

"Well, sir," says dad, "I thought it was all over with me, after you left, for a man came along and moved me around, and took hold under my arms and jumped me along here by these stiffs, and told me if I didn't stay where I belonged he would break me up into bones, and throw me into a pile, and I thought I would have to do as the Romans do and stay here, and before the man left me he reached into my pocket and took my money, and said I couldn't spend any money in there where I was going to stay for a million years, and, by gosh, I was so petrified I couldn't stop him from robbing me. Say, Hennery, they will rob you anywhere, even in the grave, and if this Catacomb show is over, and the curtain has gone down, I want to get out of here, and go to the Coliseum or the Roman amphitheater, where the wild beasts eat people alive." And so we left the Catacombs and went back to town, and dad began to show life again. Say, you tell the folks at home that dad is gaining every day, and his vacation is doing him good. He has promised to kill me for taking him to the Catacomb show, but dad never harbors revenge for long, and I guess your little nephew will pull through. I wish I had my skates, cause dad wants to go to Russia.



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