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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesPeck's Uncle Ike And The Red Headed Boy - Chapter 19
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Peck's Uncle Ike And The Red Headed Boy - Chapter 19 Post by :Javier Category :Long Stories Author :George W. Peck Date :May 2012 Read :2082

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Peck's Uncle Ike And The Red Headed Boy - Chapter 19

CHAPTER XIX

Uncle Ike was leaning over the gate late in the afternoon, waiting for the red-headed boy and some of his chums to come back from the State fair. He had gone to the fair with them, and gone around to look at the stock with them, and had staked them for admission to all the side shows, and when they had come out of the last side show, and were hungry, he had bought a mess of hot wiener sausages for them, and while they were eating them somebody yelled that the balloon was going to go up, and the boys grabbed their wieners and run across the fair grounds, losing Uncle Ike; and being tired, and not caring to see a young girl go up a mile in the air, and come down with a parachute, with a good prospect of flattening herself on the hard ground, he had concluded to go home before the crowd rushed for the cars, and here he was at the gate waiting for the boys, saddened because a pickpocket had taken his watch and a big seal fob that had been in the family almost a hundred years. As he waited for the boys to come back he smoked hard, and wondered what a pickpocket wanted to fool an old man for, a man who would divide his money with any one out of luck, and he wondered what they could get on that poor old silver watch, that never kept time that could be relied on, and a tear came to his eye as he thought of some jeweler melting up that old fob that his father and grandfather used to wear before him, and he wondered if the boys would guy him for having his pocket picked, he, who had mixed up with the world for half a century and never been touched. It was almost dark when the red-headed boy and his partners in crime, came down the sidewalk, so tired their shoes interfered, and they stubbed their toes on the holes in the walk, even.

"Well, I s'pose you ducks spent every cent you had and had to walk five miles from the fair ground," said Uncle Ike, as he opened the gate and let them fall inside and drop on the grass, their shoes covered with dust, and their clothes the same. He invited them in to supper, but the peanuts, the popcorn, the waffles, the lemonade, the cider and the wieners had been plenty for them, and it did not seem as though they ever wanted to eat a mouthful again.

"Where is your fob and watch?" said the redheaded boy, as he noticed that the big stomach of the old man carried no ornament.

"Well, I decided this afternoon that it did not become a man of my age to be wearing gaudy jewelry," said Uncle Ike, "and hereafter you have got to take your uncle just as he is, without any ornaments. The watch never did keep time much, and I have had enough of guessing whether it was 1 o'clock or 3."

"Never going to wear it any more?" asked the red-headed boy, with a twinkle in his eye.

"No, I guess not," said Uncle Ike, as he heaved a sigh.

"Then I guess we can draw cuts for the old rattle-box," said the boy, as he pulled the watch and fob out of his pants pocket.

(Illustration: Where did you get that watch 167)

"Here! where did you get that watch?" said Uncle Ike, in excitement. "I thought a pickpocket on the trolley car got it, and I was hot. Say, that is one of the best watches in this town. Where did you find it? Did the police get the man?"

"Oh, police nothin'," said the boy. "Say, Uncle Ike, you were the easiest mark on the fair ground. There you stood, looking up at the kites, with your hands behind your back, like a jay from way back, and I knew somebody would get your watch; so I just reached up and took it, and left you standing there. I wanted to teach you a lesson. Don't ever wear your jewelry at a fair. Here's your old ticker. Sounds as though it had palpitation of the heart," and the boy handed it to the old man.

"Well, by gum! To think I should live all these years, and go through what I have, and then have an amateur pickpocket take me for a Reuben, and go through me! But how did you like the great agricultural display?"

"Oh, I don't know," said the boy, taking off his shoes and emptying the sand out. "It seems to me the farmers ought to be encouraged. I wonder how many hundred dollars it cost to hire that girl to go up in a balloon; and what good could that exhibition do the farmers? If that girl's parachute hadn't parachuted at the proper time, and she had come down and been killed, wouldn't the people have been so horrified they would never go to another fair, and couldn't the state have been sued for damages for hiring her to kill herself?"

"Oh, maybe," said the old man, winding up his watch a lot ahead, and holding it to his ears to see if it had heart disease, as the boy had intimated. "But, you see, people have got to be amused. It has got so there is not the inspiration in looking at vegetables that there used to be, and the patchwork quilt does not draw like a house afire. The farmers are not going to blow in money to exhibit things for a blue ribbon, and the wealthy people who have fancy stock take the premiums and advertise their business. Money is paid for exhibits that more properly belong to the circus and the vaudeville, that ought to be paid in premiums to farmers who raise things. We hire a balloonist, believing that she will fall and kill herself before the season is over. We take the chance that she will kill herself at our fair, but if she does not, and is killed at some cheap fair, somewhere else, we feel that we are abused, and have been trifled with. What interested you the most at the fair?" asked the old man.

"The wieners," said the boys, all at once. And the red-headed boy added: "When a feller is so hungry his eyes look straight ahead, and he can't turn them in the sockets, there is nothing like a hot wiener to start things moving, and the man who invented wieners ought to have a chromo. By gosh, I am going to bed," and the boys all started for their resting places, while Uncle Ike felt of his stomach where the fob rested, and looked as happy as though he had never been robbed.

"Come on, Mr. Train-robber," said Uncle Ike the next morning, as the boy showed up in the breakfast room, and the old man held up his hands as he supposed passengers did when train-robbers attacked a train. "Go through me, condemn you, and take every last dollar I have got. I have brought you up to be an honest boy, and you turn out to be a pickpocket, and rob me of my watch. Oh, I tell you, no old bachelor ever had so much trouble bringing up a boy as I have. Now, I expect you will graduate in burglary, bunko, and politics, won't you?" and the old man looked at the laughing boy with such pride that the boy knew he was only fooling.

"No, if I went into burglary and kindred industries, I could never find such easy marks to practice on as dear old Uncle Ike," and the boy put his arms around the old man and asked him what time it was, and the Uncle grabbed his fob as though he was not sure whether it was there or not. "Now, let's eat breakfast," and they sat down together, and Aunt Almira poured the coffee, while Uncle Ike looked over the morning paper.

"You can disband your army, and let them go back to the paths of peace, for Dreyfus has been pardoned," said the old man. "I knew that they would pardon that man."

"Now, wouldn't that kill you," said the boy, as he sampled two or three pieces of canteloupe to find one to his taste. "That breaks up my scheme to fight the French. Uncle Ike, I have about made up my mind to lead a different life and become a minister, and preach, and go to sociables, and just have a dandy time. Say, it's a snap to be a minister, and only have to preach an hour Sunday, and have all the week to go fishing and hunting. What denomination would you advise me to become a minister of?"

"Well," said Uncle Ike, as he dropped a few lumps of sugar into his coffee, and looked at the boy across the table, "from the color of your hair, and your constant talk about falling in love every time you see a pretty girl, and the manner in which you take up a collection every time you see me anywhere, I should say you would make a pretty fair Mormon. Yes, if I was in your place I would preach Mormonism, as your experience in taking things out of people's pockets, in the way of watches, would come handy, and you are so confounded freckled you would have to have wives sealed to you or they would not stay. A minister has got to be pretty condemned good-looking, nowadays, to hold a job in a fashionable church."

"But the minister business is easy, ain't it? They don't have to work, anyway," and the boy looked at Uncle Ike as though life expected an opinion that was sound.

"If you took a job preaching," said the old man, whirling around from the table, and sitting down in his old armchair, and lighting his pipe, "you wouldn't have any, soft snap. Do you know anything about what a minister has to do? Let's take one week out of the life of a regular minister. He starts in on Monday morning by having a woman call at the parsonage, a woman dressed poorly, and whose pained face makes his heart ache, and she tells him a tale of woe, and he goes to his wife and gets a basket of stuff out of the kitchen to give her, a kitchen not stocked any too well, and sends her home with immediate relief, and then goes out to hunt up the relief committee of his church to give the woman permanent relief. He comes back after a while and finds other callers, some to have him make a diagnosis of their souls, over which they are worrying, another to have him help get a son out of the police station, who used to belong to the Sunday-school, and one man wants him to preach a funeral sermon in the afternoon. He gets out of the police station in time for the funeral, and they make him go clear to the cemetery, and stop at the house with the mourners on the way back, and he gets a cold dinner that night, and has to call on several sick friends that evening, and one of them is so nearly gone that he remains with him to the last, and gets home at midnight. The other days of the week are the same, only more so, and in addition he has to run a prayer meeting, several society meetings, a sociable, settle a quarrel in the choir, and bring two members of the church together who have not spoken to each other for months, attend a ministers' meeting and map out a plan of campaign against the old boy, run out into the country to preach a little for a neighboring preacher who is sick, or off on a vacation, attend a missionary meeting, marry a few couples, and prepare two sermons for Sunday forenoon and evening, sermons that are new, and on texts that have not been preached on before. One night in the week he can get on his slippers and sit in the library, and the other nights he is running from one place to another to make a lot of other people happier, and he has more sickness at home than any man in his congregation, and he works harder than the man who digs in the sewer, and half the time the people kick on his salary and wonder why he doesn't do more, and say he looks so dressed up it can't be possible he has much to do, and when he gets worn down to the bone, and his cheeks are sunken, and his voice fails, and his step is not so active, they saw him off on to some country church that never did pay a minister enough to live on, and he never kicks, but just keeps on praying for them until he kicks the bucket, when he ought to give them a piece of his mind. How do you like it?"

"Say, Uncle Ike, I surrender. I don't want to preach. Where can a man enlist as a pirate? The pirate business appeals to me," and the boy got up and took his golf club to go out.

"Yes, you have many qualifications that would come in handy as a pirate, and I will use my influence to get you into politics, you young heathen," and the old man gave the red-headed boy a poke in the ribs with his big hard thumb, and they separated for the day, the old man to smoke and dream, and the boy to have fun and get tired and hungry.

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