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   Chapter 17 No.17

Peck's Bad Boy with the Cowboys By George W. Peck Characters: 11864

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:02

The Bad Boy and the Groceryman Illustrate the Russia-Japanese War-The Bad Boy Tells About Dad's Efforts to Raise Hair by the "Sunshine" Method.

The old groceryman had a war map spread out on the counter, and for an hour he had stood up in front of it, reading a morning paper, with his thumb on Port Arthur, his fingers covering the positions occupied by the Japanese and Russian forces in Manchuria, and his face working worse than the face of the Czar eating a caviar sandwich and ordering troops to the far east, at the same time shying at dynamite bombs of nihilists. There was a crash in front of the grocery and the old man jumped behind a barrel, thinking Port Arthur had been blown up, and the Russian fleet torpedoed.

"Hello, Matsuma, you young monkey," said the old man, as the bad boy burst the door open and rushed in with a shovel at shoulder arms, and came to "present arms" in front of the old man, who came from behind the barrel and acknowledged the salute. "Say, now honest did you put that chunk of ice in the stove the day you skipped out last?"

"Sure Mike!" said the boy, as he ran the shovel under the cat that was sleeping by the stove, and tossed her into a barrel of dried apples. "I wanted to demonstrate to you, old Michaelovitski, the condition of things at Vladivostok, where you candle-eating Russians are bottled up in the ice, and where we Japanese are going to make you put on your skates and get away to Siberia. What are you doing with the map of the seat of war?"

{Illustration: Came to Present Arms.}

"Oh, I was only trying to figure out the plan of campaign, and find out where the Japanese would go to when they are licked," said the old man. "This thing is worrying me. I want to see Russia win, and I think our government ought to send to them all the embalmed beef we had left from the war with Spain, but if we did you monkey Japanese would capture it, and have a military funeral over it, and go on eating fish and rice. When this country was in trouble, in 1864, the Russians sent a fleet of warships to New York and notified all Europe to stand back and look pleasant, and by the great horn spoons, I am going to stand by Russia or bust. I would like to be over there at Port Arthur and witness an explosion of a torpedo under something. Egad, but I glory in the smell of gunpowder. Now, say, here is Port Arthur, by this barrel of dried apples, and there is Mushapata, by the ax handle barrel, see?"

"Well, you and I are just alike," said the boy. "Let's have a sham battle, right here in the grocery. Get down that can of powder."

"'Taint against the law, is it?" said the old man as he handed down a tin cannister of powder. "I want excitement, and valuable information, but I don't want to unduly excite the neighbors."

"Oh, don't worry about the neighbors," said the boy, as he poured a little powder under the barrel of dried apples. "Now, as you say, this is Port Arthur. This chest of Oolong tea represents a Japanese cruiser outside the harbor. This box of codfish represents a Russian fort, see? and the stove represents a Russian cruiser. This barrel of ax handles is the Russian army, entrenched behind the bag of coffee. Now, we put a little powder under all of thems and lay a train from one to the other, and now you get out a few of those giant firecrackers you had left over from last Fourth of July, and a Roman candle, and we can illustrate the whole business so Alexovitch and Ito would take to the woods."

"No danger, is there?" said the old groceryman, as he brought out the fireworks, looking as happy and interested as the bad boy did. "I want to post myself on war in the far east, but I don't want to do anything that would occasion remark."

"Oh, remark nothing," said the boy, as he fixed a firecracker under a barrel of rice, another under a tin can of soda crackers, and got the Roman candle ready to touch off at the stove. "It will not make any more fuss than faking a flash-light photograph. Just a piff-s-s-sis-boom-and there you are, full of information."

"Well, let-er-go-Galiagher," said the old man, sort of reckless like, as he got behind the cheese box. "Gol darn the expense, when you want to illustrate your ideas of war."

The boy lit the Roman candle, got behind a barrel of potatoes and turned the spluttering Roman candle on the giant firecracker under the stove, and when he saw the fuse of the firecracker was lighted, he turned the torch on the powder under the barrel of dried apples, and in a second everything went kiting; the barrel of dried apples with the cat in it went up to the ceiling, the stove was blown over the counter, the cheese box and the old groceryman went with a crash to the back end of the store, the front windows blew out on the sidewalk, the store was full of smoke, the old man rushed out the back door with his whiskers singed and yelled "Fire!" while the bad boy fell out the front door his eye winkers gone, and his hair singed, the cat got out with no hair to brag on, and before they could breathe twice the fire department came clattering up to a hydrant and soon turned the hose inside the grocery. There was not very much fire, and after tipping over every barrel and box that had not been blown skyhigh the firemen gave one last look at the inside of the grocery, one last squirt at the burned and singed cat, that had crawled into a bag of cinnamon on the top shelf, and they went away, leaving the doors and windows open; the crowd dispersed, and the bad boy went in the front door; peered around under the counter, pulled the cork out of a bottle of olive oil and began to anoint himself where he had been scorched. Hearing a shuffling of arctic overshoes filled with water, in the back shed, and a still small voice, saying, "Well, I'll be condemned," he looked up and saw the red face of the old groceryman peeking in the back door.

{Illustration: When the Fi

reworks Went Off in the Grocery.}

"Come in, Alexandroviski, and rub some of this sweet oil on your countenance, and put some kerosene on your head, where the hair was. Gee! but you are a sight! Don't you go out anywhere and let a horse see you, or he will run away."

"Have all the forts and warships come down yet?" said the old man, looking up toward the ceiling, holding up his elbow to ward off any possible descending barrel or stove lid. "I now realize the truth of General Sherman's remark that war is hell. Gosh! how it smarts where the skin is burnt off.

"Give me some of that salad oil," and the old man sopped the oil on his face and head, and the boy rubbed his lips and ears, and they looked at each other and tried to smile, two cracked, and wrinkled and scorched smiles, across the counter at each other. "Now, you little Japanese monkey, I hope you are satisfied, after you have wrecked my store, and fitted me for the hospital, and I want you to get out of here, and never come back. By ginger, I know when I have got enough war. They can settle that affair at Mukden, or Holoyahoo, or any old place. I wash my hands of the whole business. Git, you Spitz. What did you pour so much powder around the floor for? All I wanted was a little innocent illustration of the horrors of war, not an explosion."

"Th-at's what I wanted, too," said the boy, as he looked up on the top shelf at the cat, that was licking herself where the hair used to be. "How did I know that powder would burn so quick? Say, you are unreasonable. Do you think I will go off and leave you to die here under the counter of bloodpoisoning, like a dog that has eaten a loaded sausage? Never! I am going to nurse you through this thing, and bring you out as good as new. I know how you feel towards me. Dad felt the same way towards me, down in Florida, the time he got skun. You old people don't seem to appreciate a boy that tries to teach you useful nollig."

"What about your dad getting skun in Florida? I never heard about it," said the old groceryman, as he took a hand mirror and looked at his burned face.

"Why, that was when we first got down there," said the boy, looking at the old man and laughing. "Gee! but you would make a boy laugh if his lips were chapped. You look like a greased pig at a barbecue. Well, when we struck Florida, and dad got so he could assimilate high balls, and eat oranges off the trees, like a giraf, he said he wanted to go fishing, and get tanned up, so we hired a boat and I rowed while dad fished, I ask him why he didn't try that new prescription to raise hair on his bald head that I read of in a magazine, to go bareheaded in the sun. He ask me if anybody ever raised any hair on a bald head that way, and I told him about Mr. Rockefeller, who had only one hair on his head, and he played golf bareheaded and in two weeks had to have his hair cut with a lawn mower, 'cause it made his brain ache. Dad said if Rockefeller could raise hair by the sunshine method he could, and he threw his straw hat overboard, and began to fish in the sun for fish and hair. Well, you'd a dide to see dad's head after the blisters began to raise. First, he thought the blisters was hair, but when we got back to the hotel and he looked in a glass, he see it wasn't hair worth a cent. His head and face looked like one of these hippopotamuses, and dad was mad. If I could have got dad in a side show I could have made a barrel of money, but he won't never make a show of his self, not even to make money, he is so proud. There is more proud flesh on dad than there is on any man I ever nursed. Well, dad ask me what was good for blisters, and I told him lime juice was the best thing, so he sent me to get some limes. They are a little sour thing, like a lemon, and I told him to cut one in two and soak the juice on his head and face, and I went to supper, 'cause dad looked so disreputable he wouldn't go to the dining room. When I bought the limes the man gave me a green persimmon, and of course dad got the persimmon instead of the lime, and when I came back to our room after supper dad was in bed, yelling for a doctor. Say, you know how a persimmon puckers your mouth up when you eat it? Well, dad had just sopped himself with persimmon juice, and his head was puckered up like the hide of an elephant, and his face and cheeks were drawn around sideways, and wrinkled so I was scart. I gave him a mirror to look at his self, and when he got one look he said: 'Hennery, it is all over with your dad, you might just as well call in a lawyer to take my measure for a will, and an undertaker to fill me with stuff so I will keep till they get me home by express, with handles on. What was that you called that fruit I sopped my head with?' and he groaned like he was at a revival. Well, I told him he had used the persimmon instead of the lime juice I told him to, and that I would cure him, so I got a cake of dog soap and laundered dad, and put on stuff to take the swelling out, and the next day he began to notice things, it would have been all right only a chambermaid told somebody the mean old man with the pretty boy in 471 had the smallpox, and that settled it. You know in a hotel they are offal sensitive about smallpox, 'cause all the boarders will leave if a man has a pimple on his self, so they made dad and I go into quarantine in a hen house for a week, and dad said it was all my fault trying to get him to raise hair like Rockefeller. Well, I must go home and explain to ma how I lost my hair and eye-winkers. If I was in your place I would take a little tar and put it on where your hair was before the explosion," and the bad boy went out, leaving the old groceryman drawing some tar out of the barrel, on to a piece of brown paper, and dabbling it on his head with his finger.

{Illustration: "Dad Said If Rockefeller Could Raise Hair by the Sunshine Method, He Could."}


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