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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesPeck's Uncle Ike And The Red Headed Boy - Chapter 24
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Peck's Uncle Ike And The Red Headed Boy - Chapter 24 Post by :Javier Category :Long Stories Author :George W. Peck Date :May 2012 Read :948

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Peck's Uncle Ike And The Red Headed Boy - Chapter 24

CHAPTER XXIV

Uncle Ike had met with a misfortune that troubled him, and he was smoking and trying to think of some way to explain the affair. All his life he had been an all-around sport, and cluck shooting had been his hobby. He had prided himself that he could ride any boat that an Indian could, and bragged that he had never got his feet wet in his forty years as a duck shooter; but this morning he had gone out in a boat, before anybody was up about the house, and when he was not looking, a wave tipped the boat up on one side, filled it with water, and had gone down with him before he could say Jack Robinson, and he had floundered around in mud and water up to his armpits, singing "A life on the ocean wave," and yelling for somebody to come and tie him loose.

(Illustration: A life on the ocean wave 211)

A neighbor had come with a boat, and dragged him ashore, and he had taken off his wet clothes, hung them on the fence to dry, put on some dry clothes, and he was smoking his pipe and wringing the water out of his wet pants, when the red-headed boy came out to inquire into the marine disaster.

"Getting your washing out pretty early in the morning, Uncle Ike," said the boy, as he lifted a wet sweater off the fence, and took some wet cartridges out of the pockets. "Is it healthy to go in swimming with so many clothes on? How did this thing happen, anyway?"

"Now, don't get gay," said Uncle Ike, "and I will tell you. It was blowing a hurricane, and the wind took the boat up in the air about ten feet, and it dove down head first, and what could I do but get out? A cramp took me in the leg, and I stood on t'other leg, but I wasn't afraid. I didn't yell, but just said to a man who was about half a mile away, says I, 'Kindly assist me to land,' and he took me by the shirt collar and escorted me to the shore."

"I see," said the boy; "you whispered to him, when he was half a mile away, but did not yell for help. Oh, you're a mark, trying to make believe you are young enough to enjoy sport. Say, you ought to have a shawl strap on you, so your rescuer can have something to take hold of; and if I were in your place, I would get the dimensions of Noah's ark, and have one made to fit me. You better buy your ducks, and stay on land. But now that the Prodigal Uncle has got back, I am going out to kill a fatted calf, and we will have a calf banquet. Say, Uncle Ike, did you ever read about the Prodigal Son? We had it in our Sunday-school lesson last Sunday. They didn't do a thing to him, did they?"

"Yes, I have read about the Prodigal Son, and I give it to you straight--he was the greatest chump mentioned in the Bible, and sometimes I think you are a dead ringer for him!" and the old man laughed at the boy.

"Oh, I don't know," said the boy, as he poured some water out of Uncle Ike's rubber boots, that hung on the fence; "you and Noah size up about right. If you had been running that ark, you would have spilled the whole outfit, and nobody ever would have got ashore. But that Prodigal Son makes me tired. He was a regular jay. He run away from home, and got in with a terrible crowd, and they pulled his leg for all the money he had. They steered him up against barrel houses, and filled him with liquor that would burn a hole in a copper kettle, got him mixed up with queer women, and he painted the towns red; and when his money was all gone, they kicked him out with a case of indigestion and a head on him that hurt so he could not wink without thinking there was an earthquake. Say, Uncle Ike, do you know that fellow had some sense after all? When he found that all his new-found friends wanted was his money, and to help him spend it, and that they shook him when it was gone, he had a right to be disgusted with the world; and if he had been like some of our present day prodigals, he would have turned tramp, or held up a train, or stolen a horse and been lynched; but he just tumbled to himself and took the first job that came along, herding hogs, but he didn't live high. He worked for his board and furnished his own husks. Do you know, I can't help thinking the man that hired Prod. to drive hogs was in a trust, and made all the money there was in the deal. But he was repaid for all his suffering. When he thought of the old folks at home, and drew his wages and started back, without clothes enough on him to wad a gun, thinking maybe they would stick up their noses and say he smelled bad, and quarantine him, and make him take a bath, but, instead of doing so, they just fell on his neck and wept, and set up a calf lunch for him, he must have thought the world was worth living in. Uncle Ike, were you ever a prodigal son?" and the boy turned over the wet clothes so the sun would dry the other side.

"Yes, sir, I have been a prodigal son, and every boy who goes away from home to make his own living is a prodigal son, in a way," and he and the boy sat down under a tree, the one to talk and the other to listen. "When a boy decides to leave the old roof tree at home to go out into the world, it is most always against the wishes of his parents; but he argues with them, and finally prevails on them to let him go. It is what he amounts to after he gets away that makes him either a prodigal or a thoroughbred. If a boy goes into bad company, and thinks the world is made to spend unearned money in, instead of to earn money in and save it, it is only a matter of time when he comes back home a prodigal son, either alive and needing a doctor and a mother's care, or he comes in a box to be buried, his father to pay the express charges. On the other hand, if he gets a job, doing something, anything, masters the business, and becomes a valuable citizen, maybe in time at the head of his profession or business, some day he comes home to the old folks, and there are smiles instead of tears, a brass band instead of the singing by the funeral choir, and he pays the mortgage on the old homestead, instead of having his father pay express charges on the remains. That is the difference. All boys can be prodigals if they have the prodigal bacillus in their systems when they go out into the world; but if they have the get-there-Eli microbe concealed in their pajamas when they go away, they can laugh at the traps and nets that are thrown out to catch them, stand off the alleged friends who try to induce them to go into the red paint business, use the red liquor to rub on bruises and strained muscles on the outside, instead of taking it internally to build fires that never quench. Which kind of a prodigal nephew you want to be--one who comes home with a suit of clothes and a bank account, the glow of health on your cheek, and a love of life and all that goes with it; or a prodigal with a blanket, a haversack full of husks that the hogs won't eat, all the diseases that are going in the set you have moved in, and a desire to die on the doorstep of the old home before they can cook the calf? Which you want to be, boy?"

"I'll tell you, Uncle Ike," said the boy, laying his head in the old man's lap, as they sat under the tree; "I am going to be the kind of a prodigal who comes home with the good health, and the money, and the appetite for calf; and when you are old, Uncle Ike, you sha'n't get wet any more, for I will buy you a duck boat that can't be tipped over with jackscrews, that you can't break with an ax, and that has air chambers in both ends, so it couldn't be sunk if loaded with railroad iron; and I will buy you a pump gun that will shoot ducks without your aiming it, and you shall have a picnic as long as you live. That is the kind of prodigal nephew I am going to be"; and the old man stroked the red hair on the head that lay in his lap, and the tears stole down his cheeks as he thought what a difference there was in prodigals. He thought of his own prodigal days, when he went out from the home roof tree to make his way in the world; how he worked on a farm from long before daylight in the morning, till all the rest had gone to bed, and his back ached so he could not sleep; how he jumped the farm when he found his wages decreased as the work became harder and the weather colder, and he went into the city and worked at many different trades, and finally became a printer, and grew up to be an editor, made money and went back home a grown man, with a moustache that actually had to be combed; and how the girls that would not speak to him when he was a dirty, freckled boy, wanted to give parties in his honor, and how he shook them; and now he regretted, old bachelor that he was, that he had not allowed them to entertain him, so he might have picked out the best one of them for his wife; and he sighed, and got up and wrung some more water out of his wet clothes hanging on the fence, and wondered how in the world he could have allowed himself to be tipped over in a boat, and if he actually did make a fool of himself when he was there in the water, wishing he hadn't gone hunting at all.


(THE END)
George W. Peck's Book: Peck's Uncle Ike and The Red Headed Boy

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