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The Judkins Papers
by [?]


Mr. Judkins’ boy came home yesterday with a bottle of bugs in his pocket, and as the quiet little fellow sat on the back porch in his favorite position, his legs elbowed and flattened out beneath him like a letter “W,” his genial and eccentric father came suddenly upon him.

“And what’s the blame’ boy up to now?” said Mr. Judkins, in an assumed tone of querulous displeasure, as he bent over the boy from behind and gently tweaked his ear.

“Oh, here, mister!” said the boy, without looking up; “you thist let up on that, will you!”

“What you got there, I tell you!” continued the smiling Mr. Judkins, in a still gruffer tone, relinquishing the boy’s ear, and gazing down upon the fluffy towhead with more than ordinary admiration. “What you got there?”

“Bugs,” said the boy–“you know!”

“Dead, are they?” said Mr. Judkins.

“Some of ’em’s dead,” said the boy, carefully running a needle through the back of a large bumblebee. “All these uns is, you kin bet! You don’t think a feller ‘ud try to string a live bumblebee, I reckon?”

“Well, no, ‘Squire,” said Mr. Judkins, airily, addressing the boy by one of the dozen nicknames he had given him; “not a live bumblebee–a real stem-winder, of course not. But what in the name o’ limpin’ Lazarus air you stringin’ ’em fer?”

“Got a live snake-feeder,” said the boy, ignoring the parental inquiry. “See him down there in the bottom, ‘ith all th’ other uns on top of him. Thist watch him now, an’ you kin see him pant. I kin. Yes, an’ I got a beetle ‘at’s purt’ nigh alive, too–on’y he can’t pull in his other wings. See ’em?” continued the boy, with growing enthusiasm, twirling the big-mouthed bottle like a kaleidoscope. “Hate beetles! ’cause they allus act so big, an’ make s’much fuss about theirselves, an’ don’t know nothin’ neither! Bet ef I had as many wings as a beetle I wouldn’t let no boy my size knock the stuffin’ out o’ me with no bunch o’ weeds, like I done him!”

“Howd’ye know you wouldn’t?” said Mr. Judkins, austerely, biting his nails and winking archly to himself.

“W’y, I know I wouldn’t,” said the boy, “’cause I’d keep up in the air where I could fly, an’ wouldn’t come low down ut all–bumpin’ around ‘mongst them bushes, an’ buzzin’ against things, an’ buttin’ my brains out a-tryin’ to git thue fence cracks.”

“‘Spect you’d ruther be a snake-feeder, wouldn’t you, Bud?” said Mr. Judkins suggestively. “Snake-feeders has got about enough wings to suit you, ef you want more’n one pair, and ever’ day’s a picnic with a snake-feeder, you know. Nothin’ to do but jes’ loaf up and down the crick, and roost on reeds and cat-tails, er fool around a feller’s fish-line and light on the cork and bob up and down with it till she goes clean under, don’t you know?”

“Don’t want to be no snake-feeder, neither,” said the boy, “’cause they gits gobbled up, first thing they know, by these ‘ere big green bullfrogs ut they can’t ever tell from the skum till they’ve lit right in their mouth–and then they’re goners! No, sir;” continued the boy, drawing an extra quinine-bottle from another pocket, and holding it up admiringly before his father’s eyes: “There’s the feller in there ut I’d ruther be than have a pony!”

“W’y, it’s a nasty p’izen spider!” exclaimed Mr. Judkins, pushing back the bottle with affected abhorrence, “and he’s alive, too!”

“You bet he’s alive!” said the boy, “an’ you kin bet he’ll never come to no harm while I own him!” and as the little fellow spoke his face glowed with positive affection, and the twinkle of his eyes, as he continued, seemed wonderfully like his father’s own. “Tell you, I like spiders! Spiders is awful fat–all but their head–and that’s level, you kin bet! Flies hain’t got no business with a spider. Ef a spider ever reaches fer a fly, he’s his meat! The spider, he likes to loaf an’ lay around in the shade an’ wait fer flies an’ bugs an’ things to come a-foolin’ round his place. He lays back in the hole in the corner of his web, an’ waits till somepin’ lights on it an’ nen when he hears ’em buzzin’, he thist crawls out an’ fixes ’em so’s they can’t buzz, an’ he’s got the truck to do it with! I bet ef you’d unwind all the web-stuff out of thist one little spider not bigger’n a pill, it ‘ud be long enough fer a kite-string! Onc’t they wuz one in our wood-house, an’ a taterbug got stuck in his web, an’ the spider worked purt’ nigh two days ‘fore he got him so’s he couldn’t move. Nen he couldn’t eat him neither–’cause they’s shells on ’em, you know, an’ the spider didn’t know how to hull him. Ever’ time I’d go there the spider, he’d be a-wrappin’ more stuff around th’ ole bug, an’ stoopin’ down like he wuz a-whisperin’ to him. An’ one day I went in ag’in, an’ he was a-hangin’, alas an’ cold in death! An’ I poked him with a splinter an’ his web broke off–‘spect he’d used it all up on the wicked bug–an’ it killed him; an’ I buried him in a’ ink-bottle an’ mashed the old bug ‘ith a chip!”