By Gregory Clark, October 11, 1924.

A boy of three is spared the Great War, even though the house which is his kingdom be filled with martial photographs, volumes in sets relating to every last detail of the mighty conflict, and mantel shelves littered with shell cases, grenades and fragments of Teutonic pomp.

Like the telephone, radio set, electric light and other marvels of this age of which we elders are proud, the little boy accepts the relics of war as accomplished facts, with equanimity. They are of less real and dramatic importance than a small chair turned upside down, or the furnace chains leading down into remote and reverberating regions below, or the chesterfield which under certain intellectual conditions is a ship at sea.

One evening, however, we were left for a time alone in the house. Whenever this occurs, we stick close together, for with the strong protective females absent from the den, they who feed us and bed us down and stand guard over us day and night, a small boy is justified in feeling that the cave is practically defenseless, and his daddy in need of support and counsel.

On the wall stands a vain photograph, taken one fine day by monsieur le photographe in the narrow town of Houdain, of daddy in his trench helmet, trench coat, gas mask at the alert, sheathed pistol to the fore, and gloved hand grasping a great stick.

“Is that Daddy?” asked the boy.

“Aye, aye, sir,” said I.

“Did I sit on your hat agin?”

“No. That’s the sort of hat Daddy wore in those days. Daddy was a soldier.”

“Where is your horn?”

“Oh, Daddy wasn’t that sort of a soldier.”

“Then where is your drum?”

“I had no drum either.”

He knelt on my lap and studied me with pity.

“Only a few soldiers,” I said anxiously, “are privileged to play horns and drums. Most soldiers have to carry guns and big bags and walk forever and forever.”

He examined the photograph on the wall.

“Where is your gun?”

“Well, that little thing there in front, on my belt, is a gun, a little gun. Daddy didn’t have a big gun, like most soldiers.”

Again the boy examined me narrowly. What sort of tale was this? No drum, no horn and only a little gun!

“Are you a soldier?”

“I was; but not now. The army is all broken up.”

“What is the army?”

“The army was all the soldiers and horses and guns and wagons, walking along forever and ever, and standing in the rain and shooting and thunder and snow and walking and walking and standing still.”

“And broken up?”

“Yes. The army was all broken up.”

“The soldiers broken up?” he asked with horror.

“Oh, yes. That too.”

“Was Daddy broken up?”

“Well, no. Daddy got away safely.”

“Did Grandma put Daddy on the shelf?”

“I beg your pardon!” I demanded in astonishment.

“Did Grandma put Daddy up on the shelf so he wouldn’t get broken? With the white soldier and the rooster?”

Ah, I understood. His grandma had rescued, amongst other things, a lead soldier from a great massacre one day and had hidden it upon the plate rail of the dining room.

“No, siree, Grandma was nowhere near. Daddy had to look out for himself. There are no ladies at a war.”

“What is a war?”

“Well-er-war is what soldiers do – fighting and walking and standing still and shooting and thunder and snow and rain….”

“Did Daddy shoot?”

“Well, yes, sometimes.”

“Did you shoot the bell?” (Once, I showed off at Sunnyside for him.)

“No. We shot Germans.”

“What is a German?”

“Well, let me see; It’s a sort of – sort of a thing!”

“Has it horns on?”


“Does it say booooo?”

“Not exactly.”

“Then, why did you shoot it?”

“Well, it was trying to shoot Daddy.”

“Mamma would get after it!”

“But Mother wasn’t there.”

“Did you call for Mama? Wouldn’t she come?”


“And poor Daddy had only a little gun?”

“Yes, but …”

“And no horn”

“I had a …”

“And no dwum?”

“Daddy was a …”

He climbed hurriedly down to the floor.

“Come on!” he exclaimed with concern, “let we sit at the winnow and watch for Mama!”

Which we did. And the subject of the great war was dropped by mutual consent.