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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesPeck's Uncle Ike And The Red Headed Boy - Chapter 1
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Peck's Uncle Ike And The Red Headed Boy - Chapter 1 Post by :Javier Category :Long Stories Author :George W. Peck Date :May 2012 Read :3114

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Peck's Uncle Ike And The Red Headed Boy - Chapter 1


"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."

(Illustration: A dog biscuit would have been mince pie 011)

"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.

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Peck's Uncle Ike And The Red Headed Boy - Chapter 2 Peck's Uncle Ike And The Red Headed Boy - Chapter 2

Peck's Uncle Ike And The Red Headed Boy - Chapter 2
CHAPTER IIUncle 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

Peck's Uncle Ike And The Red Headed Boy - Preface Peck's Uncle Ike And The Red Headed Boy - Preface

Peck's Uncle Ike And The Red Headed Boy - Preface
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