General Frankie: A Story For Little People/I
FRANKIE MERRIAN had found out a new play. Now this was a very pleasant thing to happen to a small boy like Frankie. He had played horse with his mother's rocking-chair until he was tired; he had set up all the animals in his menagerie in wonderful positions, putting the hyena on the elephant's back and perching the monkey on the lion's mane; he had spun his top until it went to sleep; and now he lay on the floor with the soles of his button-gaiters high in the air and his chin on his hands, while he kept asking,
"Mamma, what shall I play? What shall I play, mamma?"
Mamma stopped a moment to take up another havelock from the pile beside her, and she answered, "Play? Oh, I don't know what you can play. Put your dissected map together."
Another flourish of the button-gaiters. "Oh, I don't like to do that; they don't fit. Virginia is nicked round the edges, and Alabama won't stay in its place, and South Carolina is lost altogether. No, I don't want to play that."
"Well, let us see. Oh, I know. Suppose you make believe you are a soldier?"
"And have a knapsack, mamma, and havelock?"
Frankie jumped up to his feet at this idea, clapping his hands.
"Oh, mamma, how nice! And I'll be a Seventh Regiment, won't I, just like Uncle Charlie? And folks will cry when I go away, just as Cousin Rosa did—didn't you, cousin? What makes your face so red, eh? Oh! and people will read the papers every day, to see if General Frankie has been wounded. No—I won't be the Seventh, either. I'll be for three months. I'll be Sixty-Ninth, like our Biddy's beau. Sha'n't I, mamma?"
Mamma and her friend Rosa looked at each other and smiled pleasantly, while the little soldier was arraying himself. He hunted up his old crownless hat and set it jauntily on his curls; then he brought the old gray shawl that always hung over a chair in the nursery, and his mother helped him to roll it up like a blanket; a big box that once held a head-dress was brought down from a high shelf in the closet to serve as a knapsack; two bits of red flannel on either shoulder gave him an officer's rank; and his old toy sword was brought out from the playroom.
"There, now Frankie is armed and equipped," said mamma, strapping the knapsack and blanket on his little back.
"Oh no; I must have rations, you know, and a cup and plate."
"Oh, Frankie, what a boy! Go and ask Bridget for some bread; I must finish these havelocks to-day."
Frankie started off down stairs, putting one foot on a step at a time, never dreaming that he was not the great soldier he fancied himself to be. Bridget held up her hands in wonder at his military appearance.
"Oh, Frankie! is it to the wars ye're goin'? Thim ribils 'll have to look out now. What company are ye in, sure?" she added, putting her arms akimbo and looking down on the small face as she kept saying, softly, "Well, the size of him!"
The young soldier shifted his equipments, and answered, with baby gravity, "I am a General, Biddy—my name is General Frankie, and I've come for my rations."
"Yer relations! and sure ain't they all up stairs?"—
He looked at her with an expression of profound pity for her ignorance. "My rations, Biddy—that means bread—and my mug, and some old tin plate."
"Hooray for General Frankie!" laughed Biddy, as she fastened the jingling things on his back, and cutting a large piece of bread stowed it away in its proper place, telling him to shoot Jeff Davis, but to be very careful that Patrick Malone, of the Sixty-Ninth, should not get hurt.
The young hero returned to the nursery, rattling his trappings as he went, and making mamma smile when he gravely proceeded to unstrap his blanket and spread it on the floor in one corner, which he called the camp. Then he commenced solemnly eating the piece of bread, although it was rather dry without butter, but he intended to be a soldier in earnest. This task accomplished, he rolled himself in his blanket, and lay still so long that mamma got up to look, and found him fast asleep, with his ration unfinished, his knapsack awry, and his golden curls damp with the dew of sleep. Tenderly, as little boys' mothers always do, she lifted the baby head on a pillow, untied the strings and straps, and kissed him, saying, softly, "Dear little soldier! God grant that he may not have many sore battles to fight!" And then she was very still. There was a tear shining on his curls—there was another petition recorded up above.