Page:Pieces People Ask For.djvu/187

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69
THE READING-CLUB.

corral, and we were all seated beneath the 'Bammygilead'-tree that shaded our cottage, my grandsire, an old man, was telling of Marathon and Leuctra, and Dr. Mary Walker, and other great men ; and how a little band of Spartans at Milwaukee had stood off the police, and how they fled away into the mountains, and there successfully held an annual pass over the C. M. & St. P. Railway. Held it for a year! I did not know then what war was; but my cheeks burned, I knew not why, and I thought what a glorious thing it would be to leave the reservation, and go upon the war-path. But my mother kissed my throbbing temples, and bade me go and soak my head, and think no more of those old tales and savage wars. That very night the Romans landed on our coasts. They pillaged the whole country, burned the agency buildings, demolished the ranche, rode off the stock, tore down the smoke-house, and ran their war horses over the cucumber-vines.

"To-day I killed a man in the arena; and when I broke his helmet clasps, and looked upon him, behold! he was my friend. The same sweet smile was on his face that I had known when in adventurous boyhood we bathed in the glassy lake by our Spartan home, and he had tied my shirt into 1,752 dangerous and difficult knots. He knew me, smiled faintly, told me always to tell the truth, and to travel by the Milwaukee & St. Paul road, and then ascended the golden stair. I begged of the Praetor that I might be allowed to bear away the body, and have it packed in ice, and shipped to his relatives in Sparta, Wisconsin; but he couldn't see it. As upon my bended knees, amid the dust and blood of the arena. I begged this poor boon, and the Praetor answered, 'Let the carrion rot. There are no noblemen but Romans and Ohio men. Let the show go on. Bring forth the bobtail lion from Abbyssinia.' And the assembled maids and matrons and the rabble shouted in derision, and told me to 'brace up;' and they threw peanut-shells at me, and told me to 'cheese it,' with other Roman flings which I do not now recall.

"And so must you, fellow gladiators, and so must I, die like dogs. To-morrow we are billed to appear at the Coliseum at Rome; and reserved seats are even now being sold for our moral and instructive performance, while I am speaking to you.

"Ye stand here like giants as ye are; but to-morrow some