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- Peck's Bad Boy With the Cowboys - 10/18 -
liberties with her, and she kicked pa's feet out from under him, and pulled him down across her lap and with her big fat hand she gave him a few spanks that made Pa see stars, and then cuffed pa's ears, and let him up. He went over to the bearded woman for sympathy, asked her how she had got along without him so long; and she got mad too and swatted Pa with her fist, and yelled for help. The giant came and was going to break Pa in two, and Pa asked the giant what it was to him, and he said the bearded woman was his wife, and that they were married the week before at Toledo. The giant lifted Pa one with his hind foot, and Pa got down off the platform, and he told them that was their last season with the show, when they had no respect for the general manager.
Then they all found out who Pa was, and apologized and tried to square themselves, but Pa was hot enough to boil over, and we went off to see the animals.
Say, there wasn't a single animal that would have Pa around. The zebras kicked at pa, the lions roared and sassed him, the hyenas snarled and howled, the wolves looked ugly, and the tigers acted as though they wanted to get him in the cage and tear out his tenderloin; the elephants wanted to catch Pa and walk on his frame. The only friends Pa seemed to have was the sacred bull and cow, who let him come near them, and when they began to lick pa's hand he remembered his experience with the buffaloes, and he drew away to the monkey cages. The ourang outang seemed to look on pa as an equal, and the monkeys treated me like a long lost brother.
It was the saddest home coming I ever participated in, and when the performance began Pa and I went and sat on the lowest seat near the ring, and the performers guyed Pa for a Hoosier, and the lemonade butchers tried to sell Pa lemonade and peanuts, which was the last hair, until a fakir tried to get Pa to bet on a shell game, and that was the limit.
Pa got up with a heavy heart, and started to go into the dressing room, and was arrested by one of the detectives, and put out under the canvas, and we went down town almost heartbroken, I told Pa to go to a barber shop and have his hair and whiskers colored black again, and put on his old checkered vest, and big plug hat, and two-pound watch chain, and they would all know him. So Pa had his hair and whiskers colored natural, and dressed up in the old way, and at evening we went back and stood around the tent, and everybody took off their hats to him, and when we went into the show at night everybody was polite, the freaks wanted Pa to sit on the platform with them, and the animals came off their perch, and treated Pa like they used to, and he was himself again.
He went around the big tent and watched the last performance of the season, and complimented the performers, went into the dressing room and jollied the members of the staff, and when the performance was over, and the audience had gone, all the managers and everybody connected with the show gathered in the ring to bid each other good bye, and make presents to each other. Everybody made speeches congratulating the management and all who had helped to make the show a success, and they all joined hands around the ring and sang "Auld Lang Sine," the animals in the next tent joining in the chorus.
The lights were lowered, and the canvas-men took down the tents and loaded them on the cars for home. We went down to the hotel and the managers listened to the reading of a statement from the treasurer showing how much money we had made, Pa drew his share of the profits, and we took a train for home.
At breakfast the next morning in the dining car, going into Chicago, Pa said to me, "Hennery, we have had the most exciting five months of my life. The circus business is just like any other business. If you make good and we are ahead of the game, it is respectable, but if you run behind and have to deal with the sheriff, you are suspected of being crooked. Make the people laugh and forget their troubles, and you are a benefactor, but if your show is so bad that it makes them kick and find fault, and wish they had stayed at home, you might as well put crape on the grand entrance, and go out of the business. The animals in a show are just like the people we meet in society. If you put on a good front, and act as though you were the whole thing, they respect you, and allow you to stay on the earth, but if you are changeable, and look different from your customary appearance, and come up to the cage in a frightened manner, they pipe you off and give you the ha, ha! See? Now we will go home and get acquainted."
"Well, pa," said I, looking him straight in the eye, "where are we going next?"
The Bad Boy Calls on the Old Groceryman and Gets Acquainted with His New Dog--Off Again to See America.
The old groceryman was sitting in the old grocery one fine spring morning looking over his accounts, as they were written on a quire of brown wrapping paper with a blunt lead pencil, and wondering where he could go to collect money to pay a note that was due at the bank at noon on that day. He was looking ten years older than he did the year before when the Bad Boy had played his last trick on the old man, and gone abroad to chaperone his sick father, in a search for health and adventure. The old man had missed the boy around the grocery, and with no one to keep his blood circulating, and his temperature occasionally soaring above the normal, he had failed in health, and had read with mixed feelings of joy, fear and resentment that the Bad Boy and his dad had arrived home, and he knew it could not be long before the boy would blow in, and he was trying to decide whether to meet the boy cheerfully and with a spirit of resignation, or to meet him with a club, whether to give him the glad hand, or form himself into a column of fours to drive him out when he came.
He had accumulated a terrier dog since the boy went away, to be company for the old singed cat, to hunt rats in the cellar, and to watch the store nights. The dog was barking down cellar, and the old man went down the rickety stairs to see what the trouble was, and while he was down there helping the dog to tree a rat under a sack of potatoes, the Bad Boy slipped into the store, and finding the old man absent, he crawled under the counter, curled up on a cracker box, and began to snore as the old man came up the stairs, followed by the dog, with a rat in his mouth. The old man heard the snore, and wondered if he had been entertaining a tramp unawares, when the dog dropped the rat and rushing behind the counter began to growl, and grabbed the Bad boy by the seat of his trousers and gave him a good shaking, while the boy set up a yell that caused the plaster to fall, and the old man to almost faint with excitement, and he went to the door to call a policeman, when the boy kicked the dog off, and raised up from behind the counter, causing the old cat to raise her back and spit cotton, and as the old man saw the Bad Boy he leaned against the show case and a large smile came over his face, and he said: "Gee whiz, where did you get on?"
"The porter was not in, so I turned in in the first lower berth I came to," said the Bad Boy, as he jumped over the counter and grabbed the old man by the arm and shook his hand until it ached. "Introduce me to your friend, the dog, who seems to have acquired an appetite for pants," and the Bad Boy got behind the old man and kicked at the dog, who was barking as though he had a cat on the fence.
[Illustration: "Dog Does Kinder Act as Though he Had Something on His Mind."]
"Get out, Tiger," said the old man, as he pushed the dog away. "You have got to get used to this young heathen," and he hugged the bright-looking, well-dressed boy as though he was proud of him.
"What are good fat rats selling for now?" asked the boy, as his eye fell on the rat the terrier had brought out of the cellar. "I did not know you had added a meat market to your grocery. Now, in Paris the rat business is a very important industry, but I didn't know the people ate them here. What do you retail them at?"
"O, get out, I don't sell rats," said the old man, indignantly. "I got this dog for company, in your place, and he has proved himself more useful than any boy I ever saw. Say, come and sit down by the stove, and tell me all about your trip, as your letters to me were not very full of information. How is your father's health?"
"Dad is the healthiest man in America," said the boy, as he handed the old man a Turkish cigarette, with a piece of cheese under the tobacco about half an inch from where the old man lighted it with a match. "Dad is all right, except his back. He slept four nights with a cork life preserver strapped to, his back, coming over, and he has got curvature of the spine, but the doctor has strapped a board to dad's back, and says when his back warps back to fit the board he will be sound again."
"Say, this is a genuine Turkish cigarette, isn't it," said the old man, as he puffed away at it, and blew the smoke through his nose.
"I have always wanted to smoke a genuine, imported cigarette. Got a flavor something like a Welsh rabbit, ain't it?" and the old man looked at the cigarette where the frying cheese was soaking through the paper.
"Gee, but I can't go that," and he threw it away and looked sea sick.
"Turks always take cheese in their cigarettes," said the Bad Boy. "They get a smoke and food at the same time. But if you feel sick you can go out in the back yard and I will wait for you."
"No, I will be all right," said the old man, as he got up to wait on a customer. "Here, try a glass of my cider," and he handed the boy a dirty glass half filled with cider which the boy drank, and then looked queer at the old man.
"Tastes like it smells going through the oil belt in Indiana," said the boy. "What's in it?"
"Kerosene," said the old man. "The Turks like kerosene in their cider. They get drink and light, if they touch a match to their breath. Say, that makes us even. Now, tell me, what country did you dad get robbed the most in while you were abroad?"
"Well, it was about a stand off," said the boy, as he made a slip noose on the end of a piece of twine, and was trying to make a
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