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In Camp With A Tin Soldier

John Kendrick Bangs

  Produced by Suzanne Shell and the Online DistributedProofreading Team at (This file wasproduced from images generously made available by TheInternet Archive/American Libraries.)











  "Br-r-r-rub-a-dub-dub! Br-r-r-rub-a-dub-a-dub-dub!Br-r-r-rub-adub-dub-a-dub-dub-a-dub-dub!"

  "What's that?" cried Jimmieboy, rising from his pillow on the nurserycouch, and looking about him, his eyes wide open with astonishment.

  "What's what?" asked mamma, who was sitting near at hand, knitting apair of socks for a small boy she knew who would shortly want them tokeep his feet warm when he went off coasting with his papa.

  "I thought I heard soldiers going by," returned Jimmieboy, climbing upon the window-sill and gazing anxiously up and down the street. "Therewere drums playing."

  "I didn't hear them," said mamma. "I guess you imagined it. Better liedown again, Jimmieboy, and rest. You will be very tired when papa getshome, and you know if you are tired you'll have to go to bed instead oftaking supper with him, and that would be too bad on his birthday."

  "Is papa really going to have a birthday to-day?" queried the littlefellow. "And a cake with candles in it?"

  "Yes," answered mamma. "Two cakes with candles on them, I think," sheadded.

  "What's he to have two cakes for? I had only one," said Jimmieboy.

  "One cake wouldn't be big enough to hold all the candles," mammaanswered. "You see, papa is a few years older than you are--almost sixtimes as old to-day, and if he has a candle for every year, he'll haveto have two cakes to hold them all."

  "Is papa six years old to-day?" asked Jimmieboy, resuming his recumbentposition on the pillow.

  "Oh, indeed, yes, he's thirty," said mamma.

  "How many is thirty?" asked Jimmieboy.

  "Never mind, dearest," returned mamma, giving Jimmieboy a kiss. "Don'tyou bother about that. Just close those little peepers and go tosleep."

  So Jimmieboy closed his eyes and lay very still for a few minutes. Hewas not sorry to do it, either, because he really was quite sleepy. Heought to have had his nap before luncheon, but his mamma had been sobusy all the morning, making ready for his papa's birthday dinner, thatshe had forgotten to call him in from the playground, where he was soabsorbed in the glorious sport of seesawing with his little friend fromacross the way that he never even thought of his nap. As many as fiveminutes must have slipped by before Jimmieboy opened his eyes again, andI doubt if he would have done so even then had he not heard repeated theunmistakable sounds of drums.

  "I did hear 'em that time, mamma," he cried, starting up again andwinking very hard, for the sand-man had left nearly a pint of sand inJimmieboy's eyes. "I heard 'em plain as could be."

  To this second statement of Jimmieboy's that he heard soldiers going bysomewhere, there was no answer, for there was no one in the room to givehim one. His mamma, supposing that he had finally fallen asleep, hadtiptoed out of the room and was now down stairs, so that the littlefellow found himself alone. As a rule he did not like to be alone,although he knew of no greater delight than that of conversing withhimself, and he was on the point of running to the door to call to hismother to return, when his attention was arrested by some very curiousgoings-on in a favorite picture of his that hung directly over thefire-place.

  This picture was not, under ordinary circumstances, what any one wouldcall a lively picture--in fact, it was usually a very quiet one,representing a country lane shaded on either side by great oak-treesthat towered up into the sky, their branches overhanging the road so asto form a leafy arch, through which only an occasional ray of the sunever found its way. From one end to the other of this beautiful avenuethere were no signs of life, save those which were presented by thegreen leaves of the trees themselves, and the purling brook, bordered bygrasses and mosses, that was visible a short distance in; no houses orcows or men or children were there in sight. Indeed, had it not been fora faint glimmering of sunlight at the far end of the road, some personsmight have thought it a rather gloomy scene, and I am not sure but thateven Jimmieboy, had he not wondered what there could be beyond theforest, and around the turn which the road took at that other end,would have found the picture a little depressing. It was his interest inwhat might possibly lie beyond the point at which the picture seemed tostop that had made it so great a favorite with him, and he hadfrequently expressed a desire to take a stroll along that road, to fishin the little stream, and to explore the hidden country around the turn.

  So great was his interest in it at one time, that Jimmieboy's papa, whowas a great person for finding out things, promised to write to the manwho had painted the picture and ask him all about the unseen land, sothat his little son's curiosity might be satisfied, a promise which hemust have kept, for some days later, on his return from business, hetook a piece of paper from his pocket and gave it to Jimmieboy, sayingthat there was the artist's answer. Jimmieboy couldn't read it, ofcourse, because at that time he had not even learned his letters, so hegot his papa to do it for him, and they made the pleasing discovery thatthe artist was a poet as well as a painter, for the answer was all inrhyme. If I remember rightly, this is the way it read:


  Around the turn are kings and queens; Around the turn are dogs and cats; Around the turn are pease and beans, And handsome light blue derby hats.

  Around the turn are grizzly bears; Around the turn are hills and dales; Around the turn are mice and hares, And cream and milk in wooden pails.

  Indeed, you'll find there horses, pigs, Great seas and cities you'll discern; All things, in fact, including figs, For all the world lies round the turn.

  This explanation was quite satisfactory to Jimmieboy, although he was alittle fearful as to what might happen if the grizzly bears should takeit into their heads to come down into the nursery and hug him, which wascertainly not an unlikely thing for them to do, for the mice hadcome--he had seen them himself--and his mamma had often said that he wasa most huggable little fellow.

  Now there was undoubtedly some sign of life down the road, for Jimmieboycould see it with his own eyes. There was something moving there, andthat something was dressed in gay colors, and in front of it wassomething else that shone brightly as an occasional ray of the sunshimmered through the trees and glistened upon it. In an instant allthought of his mamma had flown from his mind, so absorbed was he by thestartling discovery he had made up there in the picture. To turn backfrom the door and walk over to the fire-place was the work of a moment,and to climb up on the fender and gaze into the picture occupied hardlymore than another moment, and then Jimmieboy saw what it was that wasmoving down the road, and with delighted ears heard also what that otherthing was that preceded the moving thing.

  The first thing was a company of tin soldiers marching in perfect time,their colors flying and the captain on horseback; and the other thing infront was a full brass band, discoursing a most inspiring military marchin a fashion that set Jimmieboy strutting about the nursery like ageneral.

  As the little fellow strode around the room his step was suddenlyarrested by a voice immediately at his feet.

  "Hi, there, Jimmieboy!" it said. "Please be careful where you arewalking. You nearly stepped on me that time."

  Jimmieboy stopped short and looked down upon the floor.

  "Hello!" he said. "What are you doing there, colonel?"--for it was noneother than the colonel of the tin soldiers himself who had thusrequested him to look out where he stepped.

  "There's trouble on hand," said the colonel, climbing up on to afootstool so as to be nearer Jimmieboy's ear, for he did not wish toalarm everybody by shouting out the dreadful news he had to impart.Jimmieboy's mamma, for instance, was a timid little woman, and she wouldhave been very much frightened if she had known what had happened."There's a great deal of trouble on hand," the colonel repeated. "TheNoah in your ark fell asleep last night before the animals had gone tobed, and while he was napping, the Parallelopipedon got loose, ate upthe gingerbread monkey and four peppermint elephants, and escaped out ofthe back window to the woods. Noah didn't find it out until an hour ago,when he went to feed the elephants, and immediately he made thediscovery word came from the Pannikins, who live around the turn therein the woods, that the Parallelopipedon had eaten the roof off theirhouse, and was at the time the letter was written engaged in whittlingdown the fences with a jackknife, and rolling all the pumpkins down themountainside into Tiddledywinkland, and ruining the whole country. Wehave got to capture that animal before breakfast. If we don't, there'sno telling what may happen. He might even go so far as to come back, andthat would be horrible."

  "I don't think I remember the Parawelopipedon," said Jimmieboy,pronouncing the animal's name with some difficulty. "What kind of ananimal was that?"

  "Oh, he's an awful animal," returned the colonel. "I don't blame you fornot remembering him, though, because he is a hard animal to remember. Heis the only animal they had like him in the ark. They couldn't find twoof his sort, and I rather guess they are glad they couldn't, because hisappetite is simply dreadful, and the things he eats are mostembarrassing. He's the one your papa was telling you about last nightbefore you went to bed. Don't you remember the rhyme he toldyou--beginning this way:

  'The Parallelopipedon I do not like, because He has so many, many sides, And ninety-seven claws'?"

  "Oh, yes," replied Jimmieboy. "He is the same animal that----

  'Hasn't got a bit of sense, Or feather to his name; No eye, no ear with which to hear, But gets there just the same.'"

  "That's it! that's it!" cried the colonel. "And don't you remember,

  'There's not a thing he will not eat, From pie to sealing-wax, Although he shows a preference for Red bricks and carpet tacks'?"

  "Yes, I remember that very well now," said Jimmieboy. "Wasn't there averse about his color, too? Didn't it say:

  'His color is a fearful one-- A combination hue Of yellow, green, and purple, mixed With solferino blue'?"

  "No; that was the Parallelogram," replied the colonel. "AParallelopipedon is six times as bad as a Parallelogram. His color has averse about it, though, that says:

  'His hue is the most terrible That ever man has seen; 'Tis pink and saffron, blue and red, Mixed up with apple green'."

  "Dear me!" cried Jimmieboy. "And do you mean to say he's really gotaway?"

  "I do, indeed," returned the colonel. "Got away, and Noah is glad of it,because he doesn't have to feed him any more. But it'll never do to lethim stay loose; he will do too much damage. Why, Jimmieboy, suppose heshould overeat himself and die? He's the only one in the world, and wecan't afford to lose an animal like that; besides, after he has ruinedall the country around the turn, it's just as like as not he'll begin onthe rest of the picture, and eat it all up, frame and all."

  "My!" cried the little boy. "That would be terrible, wouldn't it! Youare right--he must be captured. I have half a mind to go along with youand help."

  "Half a mind isn't enough," retorted the colonel, shaking his head. "Youcan't go into the soldier business unless you have a whole mind--sogood-by, Jimmieboy. I must be running along; and should I not return, asthe poet says,

  'Pray do not weep for me, my boy, But, as the years slip by, Drop all your pennies in a bank-- Brave soldiers never die; And some day I'll turn up again, Exalted, high in rank, And possibly I'll find some use For that small sum in bank.'"

  "I'm not going to stay here while you are fighting," said Jimmieboy,with a determined shake of his head. "I've got a whole mind to go withyou, and a uniform to wear as well. But tell me, can I get up there onthe road?"

  "Certainly," said the colonel. "I'll show you how, only put on youruniform first. They won't let you go unless you are suitably dressed.Little boys, with striped trousers like yours, would be out of place,but with a uniform such as yours is, with real gold on the cap and brassbuttons on the coat--well, I'm not sure but what they'll elect youwater-carrier, or general, or something equally important."

  So Jimmieboy hurried to his clothes-closet and quickly donned hismilitary suit, and grasping his sword firmly by the hilt, cried out:


  "All right," said the colonel. "They are waiting for us. Close youreyes."

  Jimmieboy did as he was told.

  "One--two--three--eyes open!" cried the colonel.

  Again Jimmieboy did as he was ordered, although he couldn't see why heshould obey the colonel, who up to this afternoon had been entirelysubject to his orders. He opened his eyes at the command, and, much tohis surprise, found himself standing in the middle of that wooded roadin the picture, beneath the arching trees, the leaves of which rustledsoftly as a sweet perfumed breeze blew through the branches. About himon every side were groups of tin soldiers talking excitedly about theescape of the devastating Parallelopipedon, every man of them armed tothe teeth and eager for the colonel's command to start off on the searchexpedition. The band was playing merrily under the trees up the roadnear the little brook, and back in the direction from which he had come,through the heavy gilt frame, Jimmieboy could see the nursery just as hehad left it, while before him lay the turn at the end of the wood andthe unknown country now soon to be explored.