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dubloon he snitched from Paw's seachest.
It didn't surprise me none to hear him asking for a ticket to State Center. I let him think I
hadn't caught up. He argued something turrible with the man behind the window but
finally he dug down in his britches and fetched up a silver dollar, and the man calmed
down.
The train was already puffing up smoke behind the station when Uncle Lem darted around
the corner. Didn't leave me much time but I made it too-just. I had to fly a little over the
last half-dozen yards but I don't think anybody noticed.
Once when I was just a little shaver there was a Great Plague in London, where we were
living at the time, and all us Hogbens had to clear out. I remember the hullabaloo in the
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city but looking back now it don't seem a patch on the hullabaloo in State Center station
when the train pulled in. Times have changed, I guess.
Whistles blowing, horns honking, radios yelling bloody murder- seems like every
invention in the last two hundred yeafs had been noisier than the one before it. Made my
head ache until I fixed up something Paw once called a raised decibel threshold, which was
pure showing-off.
Uncle Lem didn't know I was anywhere around. I took care to think real quiet but he was
so wrapped up in his worries he wasn't paying no mind to nothing. I followed him through
the crowds in the station and out onto a wide street full of traffic. It was a relief to get away
from the trains.
I always hate to think what's going on inside the boiler, with all the little bitty critters so
small you can't hardly see 'em, pore things, flying around all hot and excited and bashing
their heads together. It seems plumb pitiable.
Of course, it just don't do to think what's happening inside the automobiles that go by.
Uncle Lem knowed right where he was headed. He took off down the Street so fast I had to
keep reminding myself not to fly, trying to keep up. I kept thinking I ought to get in touch
with the folks at home, in case this turned into something I couldn't handle, but I was
plumb
stopped everywhere I turned. Maw was at the church social that afternoon and she
whopped me the last time I spoke to her outa thin air right in front of the Reverend Jones.
He ain't used to us Hogbens yet.
Paw was daid drunk. No good trying to wake him up. And I was scared to death I would
wake the baby if I tried to call on Grandpaw.
Uncle Lem scuttled right along, his checkered legs a-twinkling. He was worrying at the top
of his mind, too. He'd caught sight of a crowd in a side-street gathered around a big truck,
looking up at a man standing on it and waving bottles in both hands.
He seemed to be making a speech about headaches. I could hear him all the way to the
corner. There was big banners tacked along the sides of the truck that said, PUGH
HEADACHE CURE.
"Oh, worry, worry!" Uncle Lem thunk. "Oh, bless my toes, what am I going to do? I never
dreamed anybody'd marry Lily Lou Mutz. Oh, worry!"
Well, I reckon we'd all been surprised when Lily Lou Mutz up and got herself a husband
awhile back-around ten years ago, I figgered. But what it had to do with Uncle Lem I
couldn't think. Lily Lou was just about the ugliest female that ever walked. Ugly ain't no
word for her, pore gal.
Grandpaw said once she put him in mind of a family name of Gorgon he used to know. Not
that she wasn't a goodhearted critter. Being so ugly, she put up with a lot in the way of
rough acting-up from the folks in the village-the riff-raff lot, I mean.
She lived by herself in a little shack up the mountain and she musta been close onto forty
when some feller from the other side of the river come along one day and rocked the whole
valley back on its heels by asking her to marry up with him. Never saw the feller myself but
I heard tell he wasn't no beauty-prize winner neither.
Come to think of it, I told myself right then, looking at the truck- come to think of it,
feller's name was Pugh.
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Chapter 2. A Fine Old Feller
Next thing I knowed, Uncle Lem had spotted somebody under a lamp-post on the
sidewalk, at the edge of the crowd. He trotted over. It seemed to be a big gorilla and a little
gorilla, standing there watching the feller on the truck selling bottles with both hands.
"Come and get it," he was yelling. "Come and get your bottle of Pugh's Old Reliable
Headache Cure while they last!"
"Well, Pugh, here I am," Uncle Lem said, looking up at the big gorilla. "Hello, Junior," he
said right afterward, glancing down at the little gorilla. I seen him shudder a little.
You shore couldn't blame him for that. Two nastier specimens of the human race I never
did see in all my born days. If they hadn't been quite so pasty-faced or just the least mite
slimmer, maybe they wouldn't have put me so much in mind of two well-fed slugs, one
growed-up and one baby-sized. The paw was all dressed up in a Sunday-meeting suit with
a big gold watch-chain across his front and the way he strutted you'd a thought he'd never
had a good look in a mirror.
"Howdy, Lem," he said, casual-like. "Right on time, I see. Junior, say howdy to Mister Lem
Hogben. You owe Mister Hogben a lot, sonny." And he laughed a mighty nasty laugh.
Junior paid him no mind. He had his beady little eyes fixed on the crowd across the street.
He looked about seven years old and mean as they come.
"Shall I do it now, paw?" he asked in a squeaky voice. "Can I let 'em have it now, paw?
Huh, paw?" From the tone he used, I looked to see if he'd got a machine-gun handy. I
didn't see none but if looks was ever mean enough to kill Junior Pugh could of mowed the
crowd right down.
"Manly little feller, ain't he, Lem?" Paw Pugh said, real smug. "I tell you, I'm mighty proud
of this youngster. Wish his de~r grandpaw coulda lived to see him. A fine old family line,
the Pughs is. Nothing like it anywhere. Only trouble is, Junior's the last of his race. You see
why I got in touch with you, Lem."
Uncle Lem shuddered again. "Yep," he said. "I see, all right. But you're wasting your
breath, Pugh. I ain't a-gonna do it."
Young Pugh spun around in his tracks. [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]