John was at work in the garden. At least, so it would have appeared to an ordinary observer; in reality he was carrying on a sanguinary combat, and dealing death on every side. His name was George Washington, and he was at Bunker Hill (where he certainly had no business to be), and the British were intrenched behind the cabbages. “They’ve just got down into the ground, they are so frightened!” he said to himself, pausing to straighten his aching back, and toss the red curls out of his eyes. “See ’em, all scrooched down, with their feet in the earth, trying to make believe they grow there! But I’ll have ’em out! Whack! there goes the general. Come out, I say!” He wrestled fiercely with an enormous Britisher, disguised as a stalk of pig-weed, and, after a breathless tussle, dragged him bodily out of the ground, and flung his headless corpse on the neighbouring pile of weeds.
“Ha! that was fine!” cried the boy. “I shouldn’t be a bit surprised if that was George the Third himself; it was ugly enough for him. Come up here! hi! down with you! Now Jack the Giant-Killer is coming to help me, and the British have got Cormoran (this was before Jack killed him), and there’s going to be a terrible row.” But General Washington waves his gallant sword, and calls to his men, and says,—
“Good morning, sir! you make a busy day, I see.”
It was not General Washington who spoke. It was the Skipper, and he was leaning on the gate and looking at the boy John and smiling. “You make a busy day,” he repeated. “I think there are soon no more weeds in Sir Scraper’s garden.”
“Oh, yes!” cried John, straightening himself again, and leaning on his trusty hoe. “There’ll be just as many—I beg your pardon! Good morning! I hope you are well; it is a very fine day. There’ll be just as many of them to-morrow, or next day, certainly. I make believe they are the British, you see, and I’ve been fighting all the morning, and I do think they are pretty well licked by this time; but they don’t stay licked, the British don’t. I like them for that, don’t you? Even though it is a bother to go on fighting all the days of one’s life.”
“I also have noticed that of the British!” the Skipper said, nodding gravely. “But now you can rest a little, Juan Colorado? Sir Scraper is at home, that you call him for me, say I desire to make him the visit?”
“No, he isn’t at home,” said John. “He’s gone down to the store for his mail. But please come in and wait, and he’ll be back soon. Do come in! It—it’s cool to rest, after walking in the sun.”
It was the only inducement the child could think of, but he offered it with right good-will. The Skipper assented with a smile and a nod, and the two passed into the house together.