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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesPeck's Uncle Ike And The Red Headed Boy - Chapter 14
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Peck's Uncle Ike And The Red Headed Boy - Chapter 14 Post by :Javier Category :Long Stories Author :George W. Peck Date :May 2012 Read :1399

Click below to download : Peck's Uncle Ike And The Red Headed Boy - Chapter 14 (Format : PDF)

Peck's Uncle Ike And The Red Headed Boy - Chapter 14

CHAPTER XIV

"Well, you are a sight!" said Uncle Ike, as the red-headed boy came in the room, all out of breath, his shirt unbuttoned and his hair wet and dripping, and his face so clean that it was noticeable. "Why don't you make your toilet before you come into a gentleman's room? Where you been, anyway?"

"Been in swimming at the old swimming hole," said the boy, as he finished buttoning his shirt, and sat down to put on his shoes and stockings, which he had carried in his hat. "Had more fun than a barrel of monkeys. Stole the clothes of a boy, and left him a paper flour sack to go home in. Wait a minute and you will see him go by," and the boy rushed to the window and yelled to Uncle Ike to come and see the fun.

(Illustration: Nothing on but a flour sack 119)

Presently a boy came down the street from toward the river with nothing on but a flour sack. He had cut holes in the bottom to put his feet through, and pulled it up to his body, and the upper part covered his chest to the arms, which were bare and sunburned, and the boy was marching along the street as unconcerned as possible, while all who saw him were laughing.

"What did you do that for?" said Uncle Ike, as he called to the boy to come in.

"Just for a joke," said the red-headed boy, laughing, and jollying the boy dressed in the flour sack, as he came in at Uncle Ike's invitation.

"Well, that is a good enough joke for two," said Uncle Ike. "Now take off your clothes and change with this boy, and put on the flour sack yourself," and he superintended the change, until the other boy had on a full suit of clothes, and the red-headed boy had on the flour sack. "Now I want you to go to the grocery and get me a paper of tobacco."

"O, gosh, I don't want to go out in the street with this flour sack on. Some dog will chase me, and the people will make fun of me," said the boy, with an entirely new view of a practical joke.

"But you go all the same," said Uncle Ike, taking down a leather strap that he sharpened his razor on, and driving the boy outdoors. "Bring back this boy's clothes, also," and he sat down and waited for the boy to return. He came back after awhile with the tobacco and the clothes, followed by a lot of other boys, and after the two had changed clothes, and all had enjoyed a good laugh, Uncle Ike said: "Boys, playing practical jokes is a good deal like jumping on a man when he is down. You will notice that the weaker boy always has the joke played on him. Boys always combine against the weak boy. The boy that can whip any of you never has to wear a flour sack home from the swimming hole, does he? Any joke that you can take turns at having played on you is fair, but when you combine against the weak, you become a monopoly, or a trust. When I was a boy we used to tie the clothes of the biggest and meanest boy in knots, and if he couldn't take a joke we all turned in and mauled him. After this, if there is to be any jokes, let the biggest boy take his turn first, and then I don't care how soon the others take their dose, but this trust business has got to be broke up," and Uncle Ike patted the boys, on the head and said they could go and have all the fun they wanted to.

"Speaking of trusts, Uncle Ike, I thought you said, a spell ago, that the trusts would be brought up with a round turn," said the red-headed boy, reading, as he glanced at a heading in a morning paper, "but here is an article says that a thousand million billion dollars have been invested in trusts in New Jersey, and the manager of one of the biggest trusts says nobody can do anything to stop them. He says: 'What are you going to do about it?'"

"Well," said Uncle Ike, as he filled the air with strong tobacco smoke, and his eyes snapped like they did when he was mad, "you wait. I am older than you are. I remember when old Bill Tweed, the great robber of New York, who had stolen millions of dollars from the city, and was in his greatest power, became arrogant, and asked the people what they were going to do about it. When people think they are invincible they always ask what anybody is going to do about it. When a bully steps on the foot of a quiet and inoffensive man, purposely to get into a row, he looks at his victim in an impudent manner and says, 'What are you going to do about it?' and the victim gets up deliberately and thrashes the ground with the bully. The people got mad at Tweed when he said that, and they chased him over the world, and landed him in the penitentiary, where he died. That will be the fate of some of these trust magnates. The foundation of the trust is corruption. Its trade mark was uttered years ago by a great railroad man who said, 'The public be d----d.' That expression is in the mind of every man connected with a trust. He turns the thumbscrews on the public, raises prices, and if they complain, he says, 'What are you going to do about it?' and if anybody says the public cannot stand it, they say 'the public be blessed,' or the other thing. Now, wait. The public will be making laws, and the first law that is made will be one that sends a man to the penitentiary who robs through a trust. If three men combine to rob it is a conspiracy. If a hundred or a thousand combine to rob seventy million people, it is treason. You wait, boys, and you will hear a noise one of these days when the people speak, and you will hear trust magnates who fail to get across the ocean before the tornado of public indignation strikes, begging for mercy. Now, gosh blast you, run away. You have got me to talking again," and Uncle Ike lighted his pipe and shut up like a clam, while the boys went out looking for trouble.

Uncle Ike had been dozing and smoking, and fixing his fishing tackle, and oiling his gun, and whistling, and trying to sing, all alone, for an hour, after the boys had gone out to have fun, and when he saw them coming in the gate, two of them carrying a big striped watermelon, and the others watching that it did not fall on the ground, he was rather glad the boys had come back, and he opened the door and went out on the porch and met them.

"S-h-h!" said the red-headed boy, as Uncle Ike thumped the melon with his hard old middle finger, to see if it was ripe. "Don't say a word. Let's get it inside the house, quick, and you carve it, Uncle," and they brought it in and laid it on the table, and the boys looked down the street as though they were expecting some one.

"We never used to ask any questions when I was a boy, when a melon suddenly showed up, and nobody knew from whence it came," said Uncle Ike, as he put both hands on the melon and pressed down upon it, and listened to it crack. "Do you know, if a person takes potatoes, or baled hay, that does not belong to him, it is stealing, but if a melon elopes with a boy, or several boys, the melon is always considered guilty of contributory negligence," and the old man laughed and winked at the boys. "But a house is no place to eat a melon in, and a knife is not good enough to cut a melon. Now, you fetch that melon out in the garden, by the cucumber vines, and I will show you the conditions that should surround a melon barbecue," and the old man led the way to the garden, followed by the boys, and he got them seated around in the dirt, with the growing corn on one side, a patch of sunflowers on another, a crabapple tree on one side, giving a little shade where they sat, and the alley fence on the other. The boys were anxious to begin, and each produced a toad-stabber, but Uncle Ike told them to put away the knives, and said:

"The only way to eat a melon is to break it by putting your knee on it, and taking the chunks and running your face right down into it. A nigger is the only natural melon eater. There," said he, as he crushed the brittle melon rind into a dozen pieces, and spread it open, red, and juicy, and glorious. "Now 'fall in,' as we used to say in the army," and the boys each grabbed a piece and began to eat and drink out of the rind, the juice smearing their faces and running down on their shirt bosoms, and Uncle Ike taking a piece of the core in his hands and trying to eat as fast as the boys did, the red and sticky juice trickling through his fingers, and the pulp painting pictures around his dear old mouth, and up his cheeks to his ears, while he tried to tell them of a day during the war when he was on the skirmish line going through a melon patch, and how the order came to lie down, and every last soldier dropped beside a melon, broke it with his bayonet, and filled himself, while the bullets whistled, and how they were all sick afterwards, and had to go to the rear because the people who owned the melons had put croton oil in them.

"Gosh, but this is great!" said the red-headed boy, as he stopped eating long enough to loosen his belt.

"You bet!" said one of the other boys; "Uncle Ike is a James dandy," and he looked up and bowed to a boy with an apron on, who came into the garden with a piece of paper in his hand, which he handed to Uncle Ike.

"What is this, a telegram?" says Uncle Ike, as he takes it with his sticky fingers and feels for his glasses.

"No, it is the bill for the melon----50 cents," said the grocer's boy.

"Bunkoed, by gosh!" says Uncle Ike, as he looks around at the laughing boys who have played it on him.

"Don't ever ask where a melon comes from," said the red-headed boy.

"Sawed a gold brick on me, you young bunko-steerers," says Uncle Ike, as he wipes his hands on some mustard and feels in his pocket for the change; "but it was worth it, by ginger," and he pays for the melon, they all go in the house and wash the melon off their hands and faces, the old man lights his pipe and says: "Boys, come around here to-morrow and play this trick on Aunt Almira, and I'll set up the root beer."

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