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   Chapter 14 No.14

Peck's Bad Boy with the Cowboys By George W. Peck Characters: 8424

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:03

The Bad Boy and his Dad Return from Texas-The Boy Tells the Groceryman About the Excitement at San Antonio.

The old groceryman sat on an up-turned half bushel measure in front of the store drying his old-fashioned boots. As he fried the soles in front of the red hot stove, there was an odor of burnt leather, but he did not notice it, as the other odors natural to the dirty old grocery seemed to be in the majority. The door opened quietly and the old man got up to wait on a possible customer, when the bald boy rushed in and dropped on the floor the queerest animal the old man and the cat had ever seen. The cat got up on the counter on a pile of brown wrapping paper, curved its back and purmeyowed, and the strange animal jumped into a half barrel of dried apples and began to dig with all four feet, as though to make a bed to lie in.

"Take that animalcule, or whatever it is, out of them apples," said the old groceryman, picking up a fire-poker. "What is it, and where did it come from, and when did you get back, and how is your pa, and why didn't you stay away, and what do you want here anyway?" and the old man eyed the animal and the bad boy, expecting to be bitten by one and bilked by the other.

"That's a prairie dog from Texas, if you are not posted in ornicothology," said the boy, as he took the prairie dog up and put him on the counter near the cat. "Dad is all right, only we were driven out of Texas by the board of health."

"I told that pirate chum of yours when he read me your letter, that you would last in Texas just about a week, and that you would be shipped home in a box. They are not as tolerant with public nuisances down south as we are here. But what did you do there to get the board of health after you?" and the old man pushed the cat's back down level, and held her tail so she couldn't eat the prairie dog.

"Well, sir, it was the condemnedest outrage that ever was," said the boy, as he gave the prairie dog some crackers and cheese. "You see, dad told me I could pick up some pet animals while I was in Texas, and I got quite a collection while dad was in the hospital. Here is one in my pocket," and the boy took a horned toad out of his pocket, about as big as a soft-shelled crab, and put it in the old groceryman's hand.

{Illustration: "That's a Prairie Dog from Texas." }

"Condemn you, don't you put a poisonous reptile in my hand," said the odd man, as he dropped the ugly-looking toad on the floor, and got behind the show case, while the boy laughed fit to kill. "Now tell your story and vamoose, by ginger, or I will ring for the patrol wagon. You would murder a man in his own house, and laugh at his spasms."

"O, get out, that toad and this prairie dog are as harmless as your old cat there," said the boy, as he watched the old man tremble as though he had jim-jams. "I have got a tarantula and a diamond-back rattlesnake that will pizen you, though. I'll tell you about our getting fired out of Texas, if you will stand still a minute. You see, I had my collection of pets in my room at the hotel, and I had the bell boys bribed, and the chambermaid would only come in our room while I was there to watch the pets. The night dad got back from the hospital, where he went to grow some new bones and things on his insides, after he rode the bucking broncho, a man got me the prettiest little animal you ever saw, sort of white and black, about the size of a cat, and I took it to the room and put it under the bed in a box the man gave me. Dad had gone to bed, and was snoring so you could cut it with a knife."

"Say, you knew that animal was a skunk all the time, now tell me, didn't you," said the old groceryman. "You was a fool to take it, when you knew what a skunk will do."

"Yes, I thought it was a skunk, all right," said the boy, "but the man told me the animal had been vaccinated, and wouldn't ever make any trouble for any one, and he would warrant it. I thought a warranted skunk was all right, and so I went to bed in a cot next to dad's bed. I guess it was about daylight when skunks want to suck eggs, that he began to scratch the box, and squeak, and I was afraid it would wake dad up, so I reached down and to

ok off the cover of the box. From that very identical moment the trouble began. Dad heard something in the room and he rose up in bed and the animal sat on the foot of the bed and looked at dad. Dad said 'scat,' and threw a pillow at my pet, and then all was chaos. I never exactly smelled chaos, but I know it when I smell it. O, O, but you'd a dide to see dad. He turned blue and green, and said, 'Hennery, someone has opened a jack pot, call for the police!' I rushed for the indicator where you ring for bell boys, and cocktails, and things, and touched all the buttons, and then got in bed and pulled a quilt over my head, and dad went into a closet where my snakes and things were, and the vaccinated skunk kept on doing the same as he did to dad, and I though I should die. Dad heard my snake rattle his self in the box, and he stepped on my prairie dog and yelled murder, and he got into my box of horned toads, and my young badger scratched dad's bare feet, and a young eagle I had began to screech, and dad began to have a fit. He said the air seemed fixed, and he opened the window, and sat on the window sill in his night shirt, and a fireman came up a ladder from the outside and turned the hose on dad, then the police came and broke in the door, and the landlord was along, and the porter, and all the chambermaids, and everybody. I had turned in all the alarms there were, and everybody came quick. The skunk met the policemen halfway, and saluted them as polite as could be, and they fell back for reinforcements; dad got into his pants and yelled that he was stabbed, and I don't know what didn't happen. Finally the policemen got my skunk under a blanket and walked on him, and he was squashed, but, by gosh, they can never use that blanket again, and I told 'em so."

{Illustration: "Dad Heard Something at Night and Rose Up in Bed."}

"It's a wonder they didn't put a blanket over you and kill you too," said the old groceryman, as he moved away from the horned toad, which the boy had placed on the counter. "What did they do to you then? What way did your dad explain it? How long did you remain at the hotel after that?"

"We didn't stay hardly any after that," said the boy, as he pushed the prairie dog along the counter toward the groceryman's cat, hoping to get them to fighting. "The landlord said we dam yankees were too strenuous for his climate, and if we didn't get out of the house in fifteen minutes he would get a gun and see about it, and he left two policemen to see that we got away. Dad tried to argue the question with the landlord, after all the windows had been opened in the house. He said he had come to Texas for a quiet life, to get away from the climate of the north, but he had no idea any landlord would turn animals into a gentleman's room, and he would sue for damages; but the bluff did not work, and we left San Antonio on a freight train, under escort of the police, and the board of health. Say, that freight train smelled like it had a hot box, but nobody suspected us. When we got most to New Orleans dad said, 'Hennery, I hope this will be a lesson to you,' and I told him two more such lessons would kill his little boy dead."

{Illustration: "We Left Under Escort of the Police."}

"What did you do with your clothes?" said the groceryman, as he snuffed around, as though he thought he could smell something.

"O, we bought new clothes in New Orleans, and let our old ones out of the window of a hotel with a rope. A man picked them up, and they sent him to the quarantine for smallpox patients. O, we came out all right, but it was a close call. Say, I bet this prairie dog can lick your cat in a holy minute," and the boy pushed the dog against the cat, said "sik em," and the cat scratched the dog, the dog yelled and bit the cat, the cat run up the shelves, over the canned goods, and tipped over some bottles of pickles, and the old groceryman got crazy, while the boy took his prairie dog under his arm, and his horned toad in his hand and started to go out.

"I'll drop in some day and have some fun with you," says the boy.

"If you do I will stab you with a cheese knife," said the groceryman as he picked up the broken glass.

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