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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesPeck's Uncle Ike And The Red Headed Boy - Chapter 18
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Peck's Uncle Ike And The Red Headed Boy - Chapter 18 Post by :Javier Category :Long Stories Author :George W. Peck Date :May 2012 Read :2959

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Peck's Uncle Ike And The Red Headed Boy - Chapter 18

CHAPTER XVIII

It was the first cool and bracing morning since the extreme heat of the summer, and Uncle Ike had begun to feel like going duck shooting. He could almost smell duck feathers in the air, and he had put on an old dead-grass colored sweater, with a high collar that rubbed against his unshaven neck, and he had got out his gun to wipe it for the hundredth time since he laid it away at the close of the last season. He looked it over and petted it, and finally sat down in a rocking chair, with the gun between his knees and a few cartridges in his hand that he had found in the pocket of his sweater; and he got to thinking of the days that he had passed, in the last half century, shooting ducks, and hoping that the clock of time could be turned back, in his case, and that he might be permitted to enjoy many years more of the sport that had given' him so much enjoyment, and contributed so greatly to his health and hardness of muscle. He was cocking the old gun and letting down the hammers in a contemplative mood, and occasionally aiming at a fly on the opposite wall, as though it was a cluck, when, the door opened and the red-headed boy, accompanied by eight other boys, armed to the teeth with such weapons as they could find, marched in and formed a line on the opposite side of the room, and at the command, "Present arms!" given by the red-headed captain, they saluted Uncle Ike. He arose from the rocking chair, placed his shotgun at a "carry," and acknowledged the salute, and said:

"If that horse pistol that No. 2 soldier has got pointed at my stomach is loaded, I want to declare that this war is over, and you can go to the cook and get your discharges, and fill out your blanks for pensions. But now, what does this all mean? Why this martial array? Why do you break in on a peaceful man this way, a man who does not believe in shedding human gore, so early in the morning?"

(Illustration: We came to offer you the position of colonel 157)

"Uncle Ike," said the red-headed boy, stepping one pace to the front, and saluting with a piece of lath, "we came to offer you the position of colonel of our regiment. We have thought over all the men who have been suggested as leaders, and have concluded that you are the jim dandy, and we want you to accept."

"Well, this takes me entirely by surprise;" said Uncle Ike, as he laid the shotgun on the table; "I certainly have not sought this office. But I cannot accept the trust until I know what is the object of the organization. Who do you propose to fight?"

"We are organized to fight the French, both with weapons and by the boycott," said the leader, swelling out his chest, and each red hair sticking up straight. "We have watched the trial of Dreyfus, and the outrage of his conviction without a particle of testimony against him, has just made us sick, and we are forming a regiment to fight Frenchmen wherever we find them. We had the first battle at daylight this morning, when a French milkman drove along, and we threw eggs at him, and his horse run away and spilled four cans of milk. We are for blood, or milk, or any old thing that Frenchmen deal in. We will not drink any French champagne, and have decided not to visit the Paris Exposition."

"Well, I swow! you have got it up your noses pretty bad, haven't you?" said the old man as he ordered the platoon to sit down on the floor and go into camp. "It is pretty tough, the way the French treated Dreyfus, but how are you going to make your boycott work?"

"We are going to petition the President to cut off supplies for the Paris Exposition, withdraw from participation in it, and we are going to ask all the people that were intending to go to Paris to stay away."

"I see, I see," said Uncle Ike, feeling in the pocket of his old sweater, and finding a handful of leaves, twigs and plug tobacco that had accumulated there for years. "How many Jew boys have you got enlisted in your army? You know this Dreyfus trouble is a fight on the Jews, not only in France, but of the whole world. You ought to have a whole regiment of Jew boys. How many have you got?"

"Well, we haven't got any yet, but a whole lot of them are going to think about it, and ask their parents if they can join," said the captain.

"Yes, they will think about it, but they won't join," said the old man, reaching for his pipe, and lighting up for a talk. "The Jews are the most patient, peaceful people in the world. They come the nearest to acting on the theory of the Golden Rule, of any class of people, and they are about the only people that will turn the other cheek, when hit on the jaw. They have been assailed for thousands of years, until they look upon being ostracised and trodden upon as one of the things they must expect, and they don't kick half as much as they ought to. If they had the enthusiasm and the fighting qualities of the Irish, they would take blackthorn clubs and mow a swath through France wide enough for an army to march over. Why don't you fellows wait until the Jews map out a plan of campaign, and then follow them? It is no dead sure thing that if the people of other countries boycotted France, that they would not ruin more Jews than Frenchmen, as the Jews are in business that the Exposition will make or break, while the French just sit around and drink absinthe and shout 'viva la armee!' Don't you see you may ruin the very people you want to help? Then, stop and think of another thing. It is not many months ago that a Jew cadet at West Point was hazed and abused and ostracised by the other cadets, and had his life made such a burden that he had to resign and go home, heart-broken to a heart-broken mother. That was almost as bad as the Dreyfus case as far as it went. How can the President boycott France for abusing Jews when our own army officers, that are to be, have shown a meanness that will size up pretty fairly with the French army devils. I'll tell you, boys, what you do. Let your sympathy go out to Dreyfus, and all his people, but don't go off half-cocked. Wait until the representative Jews of this country decide what it is their duty to do in this case, and then join them, and help them, whether it is to fight or to pray. If they conclude to sit down, and look sorry, and turn the other cheek, and be swatted some more, you be sorry also. If they decide to get on their ears, and fight, with money, or guns, or boycott, you do as you like about helping them out. But if you read, in a day or two, that France has borrowed a few more millions of Rothschild, to pay off these officers who have persecuted Dreyfus, you can make up your minds that it is a good deal like our politics here at home, mighty badly mixed. Now you go and get me a wash basin of hot soft water, and some rags, and I will clean this gun, and you disband your army, and appoint a good Jew for colonel, and when he says the affair is ripe for a fight you can spiel," and the old man took the gun apart and prepared to clean it.

"Atten-shun!" shouted the red-headed boy to his army, and each soldier jumped up off the carpet and stood erect as possible. "I will now disband you, and deliver my farewell address." Then he whispered to Uncle Ike, and the old man handed him a half dollar, when the captain gave the money to a boy who seemed to be second in command, and added, "Go and buy you some ice-cream soda, and be prepared to respond to the call to arms at a minute's notice. If France does not pardon Dreyfus, and I can get a lot of Jew boys to join us, we won't do a thing to France. Break ranks! Git!" and the boys went outdoors and made a rush for a soda fountain.

"Now, Uncle Ike," said the boy, as he watched his army going clown the street, "I have got a favor to ask of you. I want you to give me music lessons."

"Well, I'll be bunkoed," said Uncle Ike, as he began to pull the sweater off over his head. "I can't sing anything but 'Marching Through Georgia.' What you want music lessons for?"

"Well, sir, I'll tell you, if you won't laugh at me," said the boy, blushing. "You see, my girl has got back from the seashore, where she has been taking salt-water baths. She was too fresh, but she is salty enough now, and her face and arms are tanned just like these Russia leather moccasins. You couldn't tell her from an Indian, only she doesn't smell like buckskin. She has been taking lessons all summer at a conservatory of music, and she can sing away up so high that when she strikes a high note and gargles on it, it makes your hair raise right up, and bristle, it is so full of electricity. She has got a tenor voice that----"

"Hold on, hold on, you have got all mixed up," said the old man. "She does not gargle. That is called warbling, or trilling, or trolling, or something. And no girl has a tenor voice. She must be a soprano."

"Well, that's what I want to take music lessons for, so I can talk with her intelligently about her music. Why, last night we were at a party, and I turned the music while she played and sang, and I got the wrong page, and got her all tangled up, and when she got through, and the people were telling her how beautiful she sang, I told her she had the most beautiful bass voice I ever saw, and she was so mad she wouldn't speak to me, so I want you to teach me which is tenor, and which is baritone, and which is that other thing, you know, Uncle Ike."

"Yes, I think I do," said the old man as he turned his head away to keep from laughing. "You want to learn to be a he Patti, in four easy lessons. Why, you couldn't learn enough about music to be in her class in fourteen years. What you want to do is to look wise, and applaud when anybody gets through singing, and say bravo, and beautiful, and all that, but not give yourself away by commenting on the technique, see?"

"Stopper! Backerup! What is technique on a girl, Uncle Ike?" asked the red-headed boy, as his eyes stuck out like peeled onions. "I have been around girls ever since I was big enough to go home alone after seeing them home, without being afraid of spooks, but I hope to die if I ever saw a technique."

"The technique," said Uncle Ike, looking wise, "is what we musicians call the--the--get there, Eli. You know when a girl is singing, and gets away up on a high note, and keeps getting it down finer all the time, until it is not much bigger than a cambric needle, and she draws in a whole lot of air, and just fools with that wee bit of a note, and draws it out fine like a silk thread, and keeps letting go of it a little at a time until it seems as though it was a mile long, and the audience stops talking and eating candy, and just holds its breath, and listens for her to bite it off, and she wiggles with it, and catches another breath when it is keeping right on, and it seems so sweet and smooth that you can almost see angels hovering around up in the roof, and she stands there with her beautiful eyes shining like stars, and her face wreathed in smiles, and that little note keeps paying out like a silk fish line with a four-pound bass running away with the bait, and the audience gets red in the face for not breathing, and when everybody thinks she is going to keep on all night, or bust and fill the house with little notes that smell of violets, she wakes up, raises her voice two or three degrees higher, and finds a note that is more beautiful still, but which is as rare as the bloom of a century plant, so rare and radiant that she can't keep it long without spoiling, and just as you feel like dying in your tracks and going, to heaven where they sing that way all the time, she shakes that note into little showers of crystal musical snowflakes, and then raises her voice one note higher just for a second, and backs away with a low bow and a sweet smile, and the audience is dumb for a minute, and when it comes to, and she has almost gone behind the scenes, everybody cheers, and waves handkerchiefs, and stands up and yells until she comes back and does it over again, that is technique."

"Well, sir, my girl has got a technique just like that. She can sing the socks right off of----"

"Oh, hold on; don't work any of your slang into this musical discussion. When you want to know anything about music, or falling in love, or farming, come to your Uncle Ike. Office hours from 9 a. m. to 4 p. m. No cure no pay. If you are not satisfied your money will be cheerfully refunded," and the old man got an oil can and begun to oil the old shotgun, while the boy started to sing "Killarney" in a bass voice, and Uncle Ike drew the gun on him and said: "If you are looking for trouble, sing in that buzz-saw voice in my presence. I could murder a person that sang like that."

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