“No, Son, there is a little more to come. I meant to tell you that the hatter had reared a large family of boys. His sons all married and, in turn, raised large families. These numerous relatives or kin took the name of Hatterskin. In course of time that became shortened to Hatkins, and so remained until the British habit of dropping their H’s reduced it to Atkins.
“At last the proud King died and was buried with great ceremony in the Abbey. Year followed year, and century succeeded century. England, although blessed with a Royal pair both humane and good, was ruled by an even wiser monarch—the Sovereign People.
“Then came an August day when the black thunder-cloud of war darkened her smiling horizon. Four bloody, terrible years the conflict lasted. And when at last an armistice was signed, the stricken people went wild with joy.”
The Big Chap’s gaze returned to the canvas with its scene of mediaeval splendour. A mystic light smouldered in his eyes as, unconscious of his surroundings and his youthful auditor, he continued: “On the second anniversary of that happy day an unprecedented thing happened. Before the ancient Abbey a gun carriage, bearing the flag-draped casket of an unidentified warrior, came to rest on the very spot where the gilded coach of the proud King once had stopped. Again the square was crowded, as on that day in the long ago when the poor hatter foolishly tried to honour his sovereign. The traditions of centuries toppled when the body of the unknown soldier passed through those storied portals followed by the King of England as chief mourner. In the dim, historic chapel the king stood, in advance of princes, prime ministers, and the famous leaders of both army and navy. Like the humble hatter of old his royal head was reverently bared as the nameless hero was laid among the silent company of England’s illustrious dead. ‘The Boast of Heraldry and the Pomp of Power’ bowed in silent homage before the remains of a once common soldier. Thus Loyalty and Service eventually stormed the Stronghold of Honour and Splendour!”
For a moment there was an impressive, brooding silence, broken presently by the Little Chap. “And what was the soldier’s name, Daddy?”
Recalled from his revery, the father answered:
“He was known, Son, as Tommy Atkins.”
The Little Chap’s brow was puckered in thought. At last he laughed delightedly and clapped his hands. “Was the soldier, Daddy, one of the hatter’s family—the poor old hatter who was thrown out of the Abbey?”
The Big Chap lifted the child from his lap and placed him on his feet. Then he picked up a brush and turned to his painting.
“I like to think so, Son. But only God knows.”
By O.F. LEWIS
From Red Book
Old Man Anderson, the lifer, and Detroit Jim, the best second-story man east of the Mississippi, lay panting side by side in the pitch-dark dugout, six feet beneath the surface of the prison yard. They knew their exact position to be twenty feet south of the north wall, and, therefore, thirty feet south of the slate sidewalk outside the north wall.