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PRODIGY (chapter5)

2006-09-07 20:28

    CHAPTER V

    And yet the Boy Chief was not entirely happy. Indeed, at times he seriously thought of accepting the invitation extended by the Great Chief at Washington, immediately after the massacre of the soldiers, and once more revisiting the haunts of civilization. His soul sickened in feverish inactivity; schoolmasters palled on his taste; he had introduced base ball, blind hooky, marbles, and peg- top among his Indian subjects, but only with indifferent success. The squaws insisted in boring holes through the china alleys and wearing them as necklaces; his warriors stuck spikes in their base ball bats and made war clubs of them. He could not but feel, too, that the gentle Mushymush, although devoted to her pale-faced brother, was deficient in culinary education. Her mince pies were abominable; her jam far inferior to that made by his Aunt Sally of Doemville. Only an unexpected incident kept him equally from the extreme of listless Sybaritic indulgence, or of morbid cynicism. Indeed, at the age of twelve, he already had become disgusted with existence.

    He had returned to his wigwam after an exhausting buffalo hunt in which he had slain two hundred and seventy-five buffalos with his own hand, not counting the individual buffalo on which he had leaped so as to join the herd, and which he afterward led into the camp a captive and a present to the lovely Mushymush. He had scalped two express riders and a correspondent of the "New York Herald"; had despoiled the Overland Mail Stage of a quantity of vouchers which enabled him to draw double rations from the government, and was reclining on a bear skin, smoking and thinking of the vanity of human endeavor, when a scout entered, saying that a pale-face youth had demanded access to his person.

    "Is he a commissioner? If so, say that the red man is rapidly passing to the happy hunting-grounds of his fathers, and now desires only peace, blankets, and ammunition; obtain the latter and then scalp the

    commissioner."

    "But it is only a youth who asks an interview."

    "Does he look like an insurance agent? If so, say that I have already policies in three Hartford companies. Meanwhile prepare the stake, and see that the squaws are ready with their implements of torture."

    The youth was admitted; he was evidently only half the age of the Boy Chief. As he entered the wigwam and stood revealed to his host they both started. In another moment they were locked in each other's arms.

    "Jenky, old boy!"

    "Bromley, old fel!"

    B. F. Jenkins, for such was the name of the Boy Chief, was the first to recover his calmness. Turning to his warriors he said, proudly-"Let my children retire while I speak to the agent of our Great Father in Washington. Hereafter no latch keys will be provided for the wigwams of the warriors. The practice of late hours must be discouraged."

    "How!" said the warriors, and instantly retired.

    "Whisper," said Jenkins, drawing his friend aside; "I am known here only as the Boy Chief of the 'Pigeon toes.'"

    "And I," said Bromley Chitterlings, proudly, "am known everywhere as the Pirate Prodigy——the Boy Avenger of the Patagonian Coast."

    "But how came you here?"

    "Listen! My pirate brig, the 'Lively Mermaid,' now lies at Meiggs's Wharf in San Francisco, disguised as a Mendocino lumber vessel. My pirate crew accompanied me here in a palace car from San Francisco."

    "It must have been expensive," said the prudent Jenkins.

    "It was, but they defrayed it by a collection from the other passengers-you understand, an enforced collection. The papers will be full of it tomorrow. Do you take the 'New York Sun'?"

    "No; I dislike their Indian policy. But why are you here?"

    "Hear me, Jenk! 'Tis a long and a sad story. The lovely Eliza J.

    Sniffen, who fled with me from Doemville, was seized by her parents and torn from my arms at New Rochelle. Reduced to poverty by the breaking of the savings bank of which he was president,——a failure to which I largely contributed, and the profits of which I enjoyed,——I have since ascertained that Eliza Jane Sniffen was forced to become a schoolmistress, departed to take charge of a seminary in Colorado, and since then has never been heard from."

    Why did the Boy Chief turn pale, and clutch at the tent-pole for support? Why, indeed!

    "Eliza J. Sniffen," gasped Jenkins, "aged fourteen, red-haired, with a slight tendency to strabismus?"

    "The same."

    "Heaven help me! She died by my mandate!"

    "Traitor!" shrieked Chitterlings, rushing at Jenkins with a drawn poniard.

    But a figure interposed. The slight girlish form of Mushymush with outstretched hands stood between the exasperated Pirate Prodigy and the Boy Chief.

    "Forbear," she said sternly to Chitterlings; "you know not what you do."

    The two youths paused.

    "Hear me," she said rapidly. "When captured in a confectioner's shop at New Rochelle, E. J. Sniffen was taken back to poverty. She resolved to become a schoolmistress. Hearing of an opening in the West, she proceeded to Colorado to take exclusive charge of the pensionnat of Mad. Choflie, late of Paris. On the way thither she was captured by the emissaries of the Boy Chief——"

    "In consummation of a fatal vow I made never to spare educational instructors," interrupted Jenkins.

    "But in her captivity," continued Mushymush, "she managed to stain her face with poke-berry juice, and mingling with the Indian maidens was enabled to pass for one of the tribe. Once undetected, she boldly ingratiated herself with the Boy Chief,——how honestly and devotedly he best can tell,——for I, Mushymush, the little sister of the Boy Chief, am Eliza Jane Sniffen."

    The Pirate Prodigy clasped her in his arms. The Boy Chief, raising his hand, ejaculated:-

    "Bless you, my children!"

    "There is but one thing wanting to complete this reunion," said Chitterlings, after a pause, but the hurried entrance of a scout stopped his utterance.

    "A commissioner from the Great Father in Washington."

    "Scalp him!" shrieked the Boy Chief; "this is no time for diplomatic trifling."

    "We have, but he still insists upon seeing you, and has sent in his card."

    The Boy Chief took it, and read aloud, in agonized accents:-

    "Charles F. Hall Golightly, late Page in United States Senate, and Acting Commissioner of United States."

    In another moment, Golightly, pale, bleeding, and, as it were, prematurely bald, but still cold and intellectual, entered the wigwam. They fell upon his neck and begged his forgiveness.

    "Don't mention it," he said, quietly; "these things must and will happen under our present system of government. My story is brief. Obtaining political influence through caucuses, I became at last Page in the Senate. Through the exertions of political friends I was appointed clerk to the commissioner whose functions I now represent. Knowing through political spies in your own camp who you were, I acted upon the physical fears of the commissioner, who was an ex-clergyman, and easily induced him to deputize me to consult with you. In doing so, I have lost my scalp, but as the hirsute signs of juvenility have worked against my political progress I do not regret it. As a partially bald young man I shall have more power. The terms that I have to offer are simply this: you can do everything you want, go anywhere you choose, if you will only leave this place. I have a hundred thousand-dollar draft on the United States Treasury in my pocket at your immediate disposal."

    "But what's to become of me?" asked Chitterlings.

    "Your case has already been under advisement. The Secretary of State, who is an intelligent man, is determined to recognize you as de jure and de facto the only loyal representative of the Patagonian government. You may safely proceed to Washington as its envoy extraordinary. I dine

    with the secretary next week."

    "And yourself, old fellow?"

    "I only wish that twenty years from now you will recognize by your influence and votes the rights of C. F. H. Golightly to the presidency."

    And here ends our story. Trusting that my dear young friends may take whatever example or moral their respective parents and guardians may deem fittest from these pages, I hope in future years to portray further the career of those three young heroes I have already introduced in the spring-time of life to their charitable consideration.

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