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Teddy's Button Part 18

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Mrs. Graham came forward and gave him a kindly greeting.

'This is our would-be soldier,' said Colonel Graham--'the "b.u.t.ton-boy,"

as I hear he is called. Some of you remember his story told in our schoolroom to the regiment pa.s.sing through in the summer, and we weren't surprised to hear of his narrow escape from death from trying to regain his b.u.t.ton. But perhaps you've forgotten all about it, youngster? A b.u.t.ton isn't worth much sorrow after the first pang of its loss is over.'

Teddy's face was a picture: the blood rushed up to his forehead, his eyes flashed, and with clenched hands he said boldly, 'Do you think I could ever forget my father's b.u.t.ton, sir? I'd rather have it back than anything else in the world! And I'm going to get it back, too!'

'But it's at the bottom of the river, isn't it?'

'I don't know where it is, but G.o.d does, and I ask Him every day to send it back to me. I'm quite sure He will, and I think it will be this Christmas.'

The ladies exchanged glances.

'"Fact is stranger than fiction," certainly,' said the colonel. 'Now, my boy, come here.'

He was standing on the hearthrug with his back to the fire, and putting his hand into his pocket he drew out a small box and placed it in the child's hand.

'Open it, and tell me if you recognise the contents.'

Teddy lifted the lid, and then a gasp, and a cry of ecstasy broke from him.

'Oh, my b.u.t.ton, my own b.u.t.ton! Oh, sir!'

And here the tears welled up in the blue eyes, and, utterly regardless of the place he was in, he flung himself down on the hearthrug and buried his head, face foremost, in his arms. He lay there so still for a moment that Mrs. Graham bent forward to touch him, fearing that the excitement might be too much for him, but he was only trying to hide his emotion from those looking on. In another minute he rose to his feet, and with a face perfectly radiant he turned to, the colonel, 'It's lovely, sir, it's lovely!'

The colonel had had it set in a little gold framework with blue ribbon attached, making it look as much like a medal as possible, and Mrs.

Graham now came forward and pinned it to his coat.

'Now, my boy, I don't think you will ever guess how it came into our possession. The other day I brought home a few fish, and in preparing one of these for table our cook discovered your b.u.t.ton inside it--I wonder the fish had not come to an untimely end before from such an indigestible meal! She told us of it, not recognising what a valuable treasure she had brought to light, and directly we saw it, we knew it was the redoubtable b.u.t.ton that has been the means of causing such interest in our neighbourhood.'

Teddy listened eagerly. 'No wonder no one couldn't find it!' he said, fingering his adornment proudly. 'It's like the fish that brought Peter some money once.'

Then the colonel turned to one of his friends.

'Now, major, what do you think of this youngster? Would you like to take him as a drummer boy into your regiment?'

The major scanned the boy from head to foot, then answered emphatically, 'I wouldn't take a boy with a face like that for a good deal!'

'Why not?' asked Mrs. Graham.

'Because it's the ruination of them. I shall never forget a pretty boy we had once; he was called the "cherub," and had been a chorister--sang divinely. He was only four years in the regiment, and his case was brought to me before he was discharged. He came to us an angel, and departed a finished young blackguard. He drank, stole, and lied to any extent, and was as well versed in vicious sins as any old toper in the regiment. When I see a fresh drummer brought in, I wonder how long he will keep his innocence, and sometimes wish his friends could see the life he is subjected to. I give them a month generally, and then away flies their bloom and all their home training.'

'But, Major Tracy, you are giving us a shocking idea of the morals in the Service,' said one lady.

He shrugged his shoulders. 'I grant you, on the whole, they are better than they were, but the Service is no place for highly strung boys like this one. The rougher, harder natures get on best. When they get older, and have sense and strength enough to stick to their principles, then let them enlist.'

'But I have always heard,' said Mrs. Graham, 'that the drummer boys are well looked after now. They have a room to themselves, and the chaplains have cla.s.ses for them.'

'That may be. I would only ask you to watch a boy, as I have, from the start, and see what kind of a man he grows into after having spent most of his early youth in the Service. There are exceptions, I know, but precious few, as far as my experience goes.'

Teddy did not understand this conversation, but he gathered from the major's tone that he did not approve of him.

'Do you think I'm too small to be a soldier?' he asked.

The major laughed. 'Don't bother your head about your size,' he said; 'you'll grow, and there's plenty of time before you.'

'I don't want to be a drummer,' said Teddy earnestly; 'I'd rather wait and be a proper soldier--a soldier that fights.'

'A capital decision--stick to it, little chap, and you have my hearty approval.'

'You have your father's blood in your veins,' said the colonel, laughing; 'meanwhile, I suppose you try your hand on the village boys, to content your fighting propensities.'

'No,' said Teddy, a grave look coming into his sunny blue eyes. 'I don't fight with anybody but Ipse now; he keeps me always busy.'

'Who is Ipse?' asked Mrs. Graham.

'He's my own enemy; Mr. Upton told me about him. You see, I belong to G.o.d's army. He takes very little soldiers. I've been enlisted for months and months, and Ipse is just another part of me--the bad part!'

There was silence on the little company for a minute, then Major Tracy said with a laugh, 'What an original little oddity it is!--quite a character!'

And then Teddy was dismissed. He flew down the avenue home as fast as he could go. Snow was falling, but he heeded it not, and burst into the kitchen a little later in a breathless state of excitement.

His mother knew already, so was prepared for his news, but she was not prepared for the handsome adornment now on her boy's coat, and his grandmother and uncle were equally pleased and gratified at the colonel's kindness.

Teddy's prayer of thanksgiving that night touched his mother greatly.

'O G.o.d, I do thank You. I knew You would answer me, for You knew how dreadful it was to live without my b.u.t.ton, and You knew how unhappy my heart was about it, though I tried to be brave, and not talk about it. Please, do help me to take great care of it, and never let me lose it again!'

The next morning before breakfast, Teddy ran off to tell Nancy, and to show her the long-lost treasure. She was quite as delighted as he was, but said, a few minutes after, 'b.u.t.ton-boy, do you remember telling me you couldn't live without your-b.u.t.ton? You said you'd pine away and die.'

'Yes, I thought I should; but as soon as I began to pray about it I knew it was coming back, and so I got better.'

'Well,' said Nancy with a sigh, 'I won't ever try to get your b.u.t.ton again; but if you were to die before me, I wonder if you would let me have it then? I would take great care of it.'

'I meant it to be buried with me,' said Teddy, considering, 'but I don't mind altering my mind about it, and if you promise not to give it to any one else, I will let you have it.'

'I promise truly,' vowed Nancy, 'and I told you I wouldn't love you till you gave it to me, but I will now, because I'm trying to be good!'

'And we'll always remember that soldiers and sailors are just as good as each other--they're quite even!'

'Yes,' nodded Nancy; 'sailors and soldiers are quite even, and my father is just as good as your father was!'

Teddy looked a little bit doubtful at this, but wisely refrained from making any objection to the a.s.sertion; and then they parted, Nancy calling out after him,--

'And when you die, and I get the b.u.t.ton, I shall wear it as a brooch!'

'Mother,' said Teddy, a few days after this, as she was paying him her usual 'good-night' visit, 'it's a very funny thing; but do you know, I used to wish for an enemy so much, to fight and carry on with, and now I've got one, and have Ipse to fight with, I'm getting rather tired of him. Is that wicked? I asked Mr. Upton to-day if I couldn't ever get rid of Ipse--I mean when I am grown up, but he said I never should altogether, but that I could keep him well under, so that he wouldn't trouble me so. He does trouble me a lot now'

'Soldiers must never get tired of fighting, sonny, and you have your Captain to help you.'

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About Teddy's Button Part 18 novel

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