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   Chapter 15 A STRANGE THING HAPPENS TO ME.

A Jolly Fellowship By Frank R. Stockton Characters: 16458

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:02


For several days after our hot chase after Priscilla, we saw nothing of this ex-emissary. Indeed, we began to be afraid that something had happened to her. She was such a regular attendant at the hotel-door-market, that people were talking about missing her black face and her chattering tongue. But she turned up one morning as gay and skippy as ever, and we saw her leaning against the side of one of the door-ways of the court in her favorite easy attitude, with her head on one side and one foot crossed over the other, which made her look like a bronze figure such as they put under kerosene lamps. In one hand she had her big straw hat, and in the other a bunch of rose-buds. The moment she saw Corny she stepped up to her.

"Wont you buy some rose-buds, missy?" she said. "De puttiest rose-buds I ever brought you yit."

Corny looked at her with a withering glare, but Priscilla didn't wither a bit. She was a poor hand at withering.

"Please buy 'em, missy. I kep' 'em fur you. I been a-keepin' 'em all de mornin'."

"I don't see how you dare ask me to buy your flowers!" exclaimed Corny. "Go away! I never want to see you again. After all you did--"

"Please, missy, buy jist this one bunch. These is the puttiest red-rose buds in dis whole town. De red roses nearly all gone."

"Nearly all gone," said I. "What do you mean by telling such a fib?"-I was going to say "lie," which was nearer the truth (if that isn't a bull); but there were several ladies about, and Priscilla herself was a girl. "You know that there are red roses here all the year."

"Please, boss," said Priscilla, rolling her eyes at me like an innocent calf, "wont you buy dese roses fur missy? They's the puttiest roses I ever brought her yit."

"I guess you've got a calcareous conscience, haven't you?" said Rectus.

Priscilla looked at him, for a moment, as if she thought that he might want to buy something of that kind, but as she hadn't it to sell, she tried her flowers on him.

"Please, boss, wont you buy dese roses fur--"

"No," said Rectus, "I wont."

And we all turned and walked away. It was no use to blow her up. She wouldn't have minded it. But she lost three customers.

I said before that I was the only one in our party who liked fishing, and for that reason I didn't go often, for I don't care about taking trips of that kind by myself. But one day Mr. Burgan and the other yellow-legs told me that they were going to fish in Lake Killarney, a lovely little lake in the interior of the island, about five miles from the town, and that if I liked I might go along. I did like, and I went.

I should have been better pleased if they had gone there in a carriage; but this wouldn't have suited these two fellows, who had rigged themselves up in their buck-skin boots, and had all the tramping and fishing rigs that they used in the Adirondacks and other sporting places where they told me they had been. It was a long and a warm walk, and trying to find a good place for fishing, after we got to the lake, made the work harder yet. We didn't find any good place, and the few fish we caught didn't pay for the trouble of going there; but we walked all over a big pineapple plantation and had a splendid view from the highest hill on the whole island.

It was pretty late in the afternoon when we reached home, and I made up my mind that the next time I went so far to fish, in a semi-tropical country, I'd go with a party who wore suits that would do for riding.

Rectus and Corny and Mrs. Chipperton were up in the silk-cotton tree when I got home, and I went there and sat down. Mrs. Chipperton lent me her fan.

Corny and Rectus were looking over the "permission paper" which the English governor had given us.

"I guess this isn't any more use, now," said Corny, "as we've done all we can for kings and queens, but Rectus says that if you agree I can have it for my autograph book. I never had a governor's signature."

"Certainly, you can have it," I said. "And he's a different governor from the common run. None of your State governors, but a real British governor, like those old fellows they set over us in our colony-days."

"Indeed!" said Mrs. Chipperton, smiling. "You must be able to remember a long way back."

"Well, you needn't make fun of this governor," said Corny, "for he's a real nice man. We met him to-day, riding in the funniest carriage you ever saw in your life. It's like a big baby-carriage for twins, only it's pulled by a horse, and has a man in livery to drive it. The top's straw, and you get in in the middle, and sit both ways."

"Either way, my dear," said Mrs. Chipperton.

"Yes, either way," continued Corny. "Did you ever see a carriage like that?"

"I surely never did," said I.

"Well, he was in it, and some ladies, and they stopped and asked Rectus and I how we got along with our queen, and when I told them all about it, you ought to have heard them laugh, and the governor, he said, that Poqua-dilla shouldn't suffer after we went away, even if he had to get all his pepper-pods from her. Now, wasn't that good?"

I admitted that it was, but I thought to myself that a good supper and a bed would be better, for I was awfully tired and hungry. But I didn't say this.

I slept as sound as a rock that night, and it was pretty broad daylight when I woke up. I don't believe that I would have wakened then, but I wanted to turn over and couldn't, and that is enough to make any fellow wake up.

When I opened my eyes, I found myself in the worst fix I had ever been in in my life. I couldn't move my arms or my legs, for my arms were tied fast to my body, at the elbows and wrists, and my feet and my knees were tied together. I was lying flat on my back, but I could turn my head over to where Rectus' bed stood-it was a small one like mine-and he wasn't there. I sung out:

"Rectus!" and gave a big heave, which made the bed rattle. I was scared.

In a second, Rectus was standing by me. He had been sitting by the window. He was all dressed.

"Don't shout that way again," he said, in a low voice, "or I'll have to tie this handkerchief over your mouth," and he showed me a clean linen handkerchief all folded up, ready. "I wont put it so that it will stop your breathing," he said, as coolly as if this sort of thing was nothing unusual. "I'll leave your nose free."

"Let me up, you little rascal!" I cried. "Did you do this?"

At that he deliberately laid the handkerchief over my mouth and fastened it around my head. He was careful to leave my nose all right, but I was so mad that I could scarcely breathe. I knew by the way he acted that he had tied me, and I had never had such a trick played on me before. But it was no use to be mad. I couldn't do anything, though I tugged and twisted my very best. He had had a good chance to tie me up well, for I had slept so soundly. I was regularly bandaged.

He stood by me for a few minutes, watching to see if I needed any more fixing, but when he made up his mind that I was done up securely, he brought a chair and sat down by the side of the bed and began to talk to me. I never saw anything like the audacity of the boy.

"You needn't think it was mean to tie you, when you were so tired and sleepy, for I intended to do it this morning, any way, for you always sleep sound enough in the mornings to let a fellow tie you up as much as he pleases. And I suppose you'll say it was mean to tie you, any way, but you know well enough that it's no use for me to argue with you, for you wouldn't listen. But now you've got to listen, and I wont let you up till you promise never to call me Rectus again."

"The little rascal!" I thought to myself. I might have made some noise in spite of the handkerchief, but I thought it better not, for I didn't know what else he might pile on my mouth.

"It isn't my name, and I'm tired of it," he continued. "I didn't mind it at school, and I didn't mind it when we first started out together, but I've had enough of it now, and I've made up my mind that I'll make you promise never to call me by that name again."

I vowed to myself that I would call him Rectus until his hair was gray. I'd write letters to him wherever

he lived, and direct them: "Rectus Colbert."

"I WOULDN'T LIKE IT MYSELF."

"There wasn't any other way to do it, and so I did it this way," he said. "I'm sorry, really, to have to tie you up so, because I wouldn't like it myself, and I wouldn't have put that handkerchief over your mouth if you had agreed to keep quiet, but I don't want anybody coming in here until you've promised."

"Promise!" I thought; "I'll never promise you that while the world rolls round."

"I know you can't say anything with that handkerchief over your mouth; but you don't have to speak. Your toes are loose. When you're ready to promise never to call me Rectus again, just wag your big toe, either one."

I stiffened my toes, as if my feet were cast in brass. Rectus moved his chair a little around, so that he could keep an eye on my toes. Then he looked at his watch, and said:

"It's seven o'clock now, and that's an hour from breakfast time. I don't want to keep you there any longer than I can help. You'd better wag your toe now, and be done with it. It's no use to wait."

"Wag?" I thought to myself. "Never!"

"I know what you're thinking," he went on. "You think that if you lie there long enough, you'll be all right, for when the chambermaid comes to do up the room, I must let her in, or else I'll have to say you're sick, and then the Chippertons will come up."

That was exactly what I was thinking.

"But that wont do you any good," said he, "I've thought of all that."

He was a curious boy. How such a thing as this should have come into his mind, I couldn't imagine. He must have read of something of the kind. But to think of his trying it on me! I ground my teeth.

He sat and watched me for some time longer. Once or twice he fixed the handkerchief over my mouth, for he seemed anxious that I should be as comfortable as possible. He was awfully kind, to be sure!

"It isn't right that anybody should have such a name sticking to them always," he said. "And if I'd thought you'd have stopped it, I wouldn't have done this. But I knew you. You would just have laughed and kept on."

The young scoundrel! Why didn't he try me?

"Yesterday, when the governor met us, Corny called me Rectus, and even he said that was a curious name, and he didn't remember that I gave it to him, when he wrote that paper for us."

Oh, ho! That was it, was it? Getting proud and meeting governors! Young prig!

Now Rectus was quiet a little longer, and then he got up.

"I didn't think you'd be so stubborn," he said, "but perhaps you know your own business best. I'm not going to keep you there until breakfast is ready, and people want to come in."

Then he went over to the window, and came back directly with a little black paint-pot, with a brush in it.

"Now," said he, "if you don't promise, in five minutes, to never call me Rectus again, I'm going to paint one-half of your face black. I got this paint yesterday from the cane-man, on purpose."

Oil-paint! I could smell it.

"Now, you may be sure I'm going to do it," he said.

Oh, I was sure! When he said he'd do a thing, I knew he'd do it. I had no doubts about that. He was great on sticking to his word.

He had put his watch on the table near by, and was stirring up the paint.

"You've only three minutes more," he said. "This stuff wont wash off in a hurry, and you'll have to stay up here by yourself, and wont need any tying. It's got stuff mixed with it to make it dry soon, so that you needn't lie there very long after I've painted you. You mustn't mind if I put my finger on your mouth when I take off the handkerchief; I'll be careful not to get any in your eyes or on your lips if you hold your head still. One minute more. Will you promise?"

What a dreadful minute! He turned and looked at my feet. I gave one big twist in my bandages. All held. I wagged my toe.

"Good!" said he. "I didn't want to paint you. But I would have done it, sure as shot, if you hadn't promised. Now I'll untie you. I can trust you to stick to your word,-I mean your wag," he said, with a grin.

It took him a long time to undo me. The young wretch had actually pinned long strips of muslin around me, and he had certainly made a good job of it, for they didn't hurt me at all, although they held me tight enough. He said, as he was working at me, that he had torn up two old shirts to make these bandages, and had sewed some of the strips together the afternoon before. He said he had heard of something like this being done at a school. A pretty school that must have been!

He unfastened my arms first,-that is, as soon as he had taken the handkerchief off my mouth,-and the moment he had taken the bandage from around my ankles, he put for the door. But I was ready. I sprang out of bed, made one jump over his bed, around which he had to go, and caught him just at the door.

He forgot that he should have left my ankles for me to untie for myself.

I guess the people in the next rooms must have thought there was something of a rumpus in our room when I caught him.

There was considerable coolness between Colbert and me after that. In fact, we didn't speak. I was not at all anxious to keep this thing up, for I was satisfied, and was perfectly willing to call it square; but for the first time since I had known him, Colbert was angry. I suppose every fellow, no matter how good-natured he may be, must have some sort of a limit to what he will stand, and Colbert seemed to have drawn his line at a good thrashing.

It wasn't hard for me to keep my promise to him, for I didn't call him anything; but I should have kept it all the same if we had been on the old terms.

Of course, Corny soon found out that there was something the matter between us two, and she set herself to find out what it was.

"What's the matter with you and Rectus?" she asked me the next day. I was standing in the carriage-way before the hotel, and she ran out to me.

"You mustn't call him Rectus," said I. "He doesn't like it."

"Well, then, I wont," said she. "But what is it all about? Did you quarrel about calling him that? I hate to see you both going about, and not speaking to each other."

I had no reason to conceal anything, and so I told her the whole affair, from the very beginning to the end.

"I don't wonder he's mad," said she, "if you thrashed him."

"Well, and oughtn't I to be mad after the way he treated me?" I asked.

"Yes," she said. "It makes me sick just to think of being tied up in that way,-and the black paint, too! But then you are so much bigger than he is, that it don't seem right for you to thrash him."

"That's one reason I did it," said I. "I didn't want to fight him as I should have fought a fellow of my own size. I wanted to punish him. Do you think that when a father wants to whip his son he ought to wait until he grows up as big as he is?"

"No," said Corny, very gravely. "Of course not. But Rectus isn't your son. What shall I call him? Samuel, or Sam? I don't like either of them, and I wont say Mr. Colbert. I think 'Rectus' is a great deal nicer."

"So do I," I said; "but that's his affair. To be sure, he isn't my son, but he's under my care, and if he wasn't, it would make no difference. I'd thrash any boy alive who played such a trick on me."

"Unless he was bigger than you are," said Corny.

"Well, then I'd get you to help me. You'd do it; wouldn't you, Corny?"

She laughed.

"I guess I couldn't help much, and I suppose you're both right to be angry at each other; but I'm awful sorry if things are going on this way. It didn't seem like the same place yesterday. Nobody did anything at all."

"I tell you what it is, Corny," said I. "You're not angry with either of us; are you?"

"No, indeed," said she, and her face warmed up and her eyes shone.

"That's one comfort," said I, and I gave her a good hand-shake.

It must have looked funny to see a boy and a girl shaking hands there in front of the hotel, and a young darkey took advantage of our good-humor, and, stealing out from a shady corner of the court, sold us seven little red and black liquorice-seed for fourpence,-the worst swindle that had been worked on us yet.

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