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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesPeck's Uncle Ike And The Red Headed Boy - Chapter 15
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Peck's Uncle Ike And The Red Headed Boy - Chapter 15 Post by :Javier Category :Long Stories Author :George W. Peck Date :May 2012 Read :2996

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Peck's Uncle Ike And The Red Headed Boy - Chapter 15

CHAPTER XV

"Say, where you been all day?" asked Uncle Ike of the red-headed boy, as he showed up late in the afternoon, chewing a gob of gum so big that it made his ear ache. "Here, I've been waiting all day for you, with so many things on my mind to tell you about that I have had to make memorandums," and the old man took out his knife and shaved some tobacco off a plug, rolled it in his hands and scraped it into the pipe, and lit up for a long talk.

"I been working," said the boy, as he took some pieces of chocolate out of his pocket and offered them to his uncle. "I am working for a syndicate, and have got a soft snap, with all the money I can spend," and the boy shook the pennies in his pocket so they sounded like emptying a collection plate.

"Working for a syndicate, a-hem!" said the old man. "A syndicate is a great thing, if you are the syndicate, but if you work for it you get left, that's all. Now tell me about it. What you doing for a syndicate, and who furnishes you the money to spend? Tell me, so I can see whether it is honest. Somehow I can't feel that a syndicate means any good to a boy."

"It is this way, Uncle Ike," said the boy, as he threw away his gum and took another stick out of his pocket, and chewed it until he fairly drooled, "you know these slot machines in the depots and hotels, where people put in a penny and pull out a knob and get a stick of gum or a chocolate, or some peppermint drops. Well, the syndicate wants a boy to go around and put in pennies, and get the prizes, when people are looking on, so as to get them interested, so they will put in pennies, see?"

"Sure! You are a sort of capper for a gum bunko game, eh? Rope in the people and get them next to a good thing," said Uncle Ike, looking at the boy over his glasses. "What particular talent does this new business bring to the front? Do you make speeches to the people, encouraging them to invest their hard-earned pennies in your great scheme for the amelioration of the condition of the down-trodden, or what do you do? Tell me how the thing works."

"Why, my work is all pantomime. The man who hired me said I had a face that was worth a fortune. I go up to a slot machine, and act as though I never saw such a thing before. Then I monkey around, and seem to be puzzled, and my face looks serious, and the people in the depot waiting for trains gather around and watch me, and when the jays are all ripe, ready to pick, I put a penny in the slot, draw out a stick of gum, put it in my mouth, and then I smile one of those broad smiles, like this, and the people begin to put in pennies, and they surround the machine, and money just flows in, until their train goes, when another crowd comes in and I work them on the chocolate slot, and just blow in pennies belonging to the syndicate that owns the machines. Oh, it's a great snap, Uncle Ike. You ought to go into it," and the boy threw away his gum and went to eating chocolate.

"Is that so? My face would be my fortune, too, would it?" said Uncle Ike, who was beginning to show that he was mad. "And what salary does the syndicate pay you for your valuable services as a piece of human fly paper?"

"O, they don't pay me any salary," said the boy, as he took out a handful of syndicate pennies and poured them from one hand into another, to show the old man that he had wealth. "I don't ask anything for my services. I just get pay in fun, and have all the gum, and chocolate, and lemon drops that I can eat. The man told me it would be an experience that would be valuable to me in after life, being in the eye of the public, leading the people. He said this would be the making of me, and open up a career that would astonish my friends. Don't you think so, Uncle? Can't you see a change in me since I went to work for the syndicate?"

"Well, I don't know but I do," said Uncle Ike, as he pondered over the remarks of the boy. "You begin to look more bilious, probably on account of the chocolate you have eaten, to deceive the people at the depot into the idea that it is good stuff. And perhaps this experience will be the opening of a career. If you can, by your actions, cause strangers to run up against a slot machine, I don't see why you couldn't, in time, be a pretty good capper for a three-card monte game, where you could pick out the right card, and the jay loses his money. If this is the kind of business you have selected for a career, it will not be long before you will be in demand as a bunko-steerer. You would be invaluable, with that innocent face of yours, in roping in strangers to a robbers' roost, where they would be fleeced and thrown down stairs on their necks. With about two days more experience on a slot machine, some gold-brick swindler will come along and raise the syndicate out on your salary, and put you on the road selling gold bricks. Starting in business as a fakir, you will rise to become a barker for a sideshow, graduate into bunko and gold bricks, and if you are not sent to the penitentiary, there is a great opening for you as a promoter of a trust in the air we breathe. We shall have to part company. My reputation is dear to me. I have never turned a jack from the bottom when I had one to go in seven-up, and to associate with a boy who will rope people to buy mouldy gum, and be an advance agent of prosperity as recorded on a slot machine, is too much, and I bid you good-bye. I have loved you, but it was because you were innocent and tried to do the fair thing, but--good-bye," and the old man laid down his pipe, picked up his hat and started for the door.

"Hold on, Uncle Ike," said the boy, taking the handful of pennies out of his pocket and laying them on the table, "I didn't know it was so bad. I won't do it any more. Come back, please."

"Well, I got to go downtown," said the old man, "and I will be back in an hour. In the meantime you write out a letter of resignation to the syndicate. Say that you find a diet of decayed chocolate and glucose candy is sapping the foundation of your manhood, and that your Uncle Ike has offered you a position on the staff of a gold-brick syndicate," and the old man went out, leaving the boy to write his resignation.

"Well, how is my decoy duck, and has he sent in his resignation?" said the old man, as he came in a little later and found writing material and pennies on the table, and the boy lying on the lounge looking pale and sick. "What is this? Sick the first time you have to resign an office? That won't do. You never will make a politician if you can't write out a resignation without having it go to your head," and the old man sat down by the boy and found that he was as sick as a horse, his face white, and cold perspiration on his upper lip among the red hairs, and on his brow among the freckles. The boy's bosom was heaving, and his stomach was clearly the seat of the disease, and suddenly the boy rushed out of the room, into, the bathroom, and there was a noise such as is frequently heard on steamboat excursions. The old man thought it was the chocolate and gum that had made the boy sick, until he looked at his pipe on the table, which was smoking, although he had been away an hour or more.

(Illustration: Been trying to smoke the old man's pipe, eh 129)

"Been trying to smoke the old man's pipe, eh?" said he, as the boy staggered out of the bathroom so weak he could hardly stand, "Well, that plug tobacco in the pipe is a little strong for a bunko-steerer, but I suppose you thought if you were going to be a business man, and leave me, you ought to take with you some of my bad habits. Let me fill the pipe with some of this mild switchman's delight, and you try that," and he brought the pipe near to the boy.

"Take it away, take it away," said a weak voice, coming from under a pillow on the lounge. "Oh, Uncle Ike, I will never touch a pipe again. You look so happy when you are smoking that I thought I would like to learn, so I lit the pipe, and drew on it, and the smoke wouldn't come, and I drew in my breath whole length, as I do when I dive off a spring board, and the whole inside of the pipe came into my mouth, and I swallowed the whole business, and pretty soon it felt as though a pin-wheel had been touched off inside of me, and the sparks flew out of my nose, and the smoke came out of my ears, and they turned on the water in my eyes, and my mouth puckered up and acted salivated, like I had eaten choke-cherries, and pretty soon the pin-wheel in my stomach began to run down, and I thought I was going to stop celebrating, when the pin-wheel seemed to touch off a nigger-chaser, and it went to fizzing all around inside of me, up into my lungs, and down around my liver, and it called at all my vital parts and registered its name, and when the nigger-chaser seemed to be dying it touched off an internal skyrocket, and s-i-z-boom--that was when I went in the bathroom, 'cause I was afraid of the stick. Say, Uncle Ike, does anyone ever die from smoking plug tobacco?"

"Oh, yes, about half of them die, when they smoke it the first time. When their eyes roll up, like yours, and they cease to be hungry, and feel as though they had rather lie clown than stand up, they don't last very long," and the old man looked serious, and reached for his pipe and a match, and said: "Any last message you want to send to anybody; any touching good-bye? If you do, whisper it to me, and I will write your dying statement."

"Don't light that dum pipe!" said the boy, rolling over and looking like a seasick ghost, as Uncle Ike was about to scratch a match on his trousers. "Here is the address of my girl. Write to her that I am dead. That I died thinking of her, and smelling of plug tobacco. Put it in that I died of appendicitis, or something fashionable, and say that eight doctors performed eight operations on me, but peritonitis had set in, and there was no use, but that they cut a swath in me big enough to drive an automobile through. I had rather she would think of me as dying a heroic death, than dying smoking plug tobacco. And, say, Uncle Ike, after you have written her, don't make a mistake and send my resignation to the syndicate to her. O, God! but it is hard to die so young," and the boy went to sleep on the lounge, and Uncle Ike went to taking the kinks out of a fish line, knowing that when the boy woke up he wouldn't be dead worth a cent. About half an hour later the boy rolled over, opened his big eyes, sat up, and stared around, and Uncle Ike said:

"Now, you go in the bath-room and wash your face in cold water, and you will be all right," and the boy did so, and came back with almost a smile on his face, and he looked at the papers on the table, and said:

"Uncle Ike, you didn't send that appendicitis story to my girl, did you? Gosh, but I am all right now, and I am not going to die."

"No, I didn't send it; but next time I will, by ginger," and the old man laughed. "Here, have a smoke on me," but the boy went out in the open air and kicked himself.

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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
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