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How Jim Went To The War
by [?]

Jocko and Jim sat on the scuttle-stairs and mourned; times were out of joint with them. Since an ill wind had blown one of the recruiting sergeants for the Spanish War into the next block, the old joys of the tenement had palled on Jim. Nothing would do but he must go to the war.

The infection was general in the neighborhood. Even base-ball had lost its savor. The Ivy nine had disbanded at the first drum-beat, and had taken the fever in a body. Jim, being fourteen, and growing “muscle” with daily pride, “had it bad.” Naturally Jocko, being Jim’s constant companion, developed the symptoms too, and, to external appearances, thirsted for gore as eagerly as a naturally peace-loving, long-tailed monkey could.

Jocko had belonged to an Italian organ-grinder in the days of “the persecution,” when the aldermen issued an edict, against monkeys. Now he was “hung up” for rent, unpaid. And, literally, he remained hung up most of the time, usually by his tail from the banisters, in which position he was able both to abet the mischief of the children, and to elude the stealthy grabs of their exasperated elders by skipping nimbly to the other side.

The tenement was one of the old-fashioned kind, built for a better use, with wide, oval stairwell and superior opportunities for observation and escape. Jocko inhabited the well by day, and from it conducted his raids upon the tenants’ kitchens with an impartiality which, if it did not disarm, at least had stayed the hand of vengeance so far.

That he gave great provocation not even his stanchest boy friend could deny. His pursuit of information was persistent. The sight of Jocko cracking stolen eggs on the stairs to see the yolk run out and then investigating the empty shell with grave concern was cheering to the children, but usually provoked a shower of execrations and scrubbing-brushes from the despoiled households.

When the postman’s call was heard in the hall, Jocko was on hand to receive the mail. Once he did receive it, the impartial zeal with which he distributed the letters to friend and foe brought forth more scrubbing-brushes, and Jocko retired to his attic aerie, there to ponder with Jim, his usual companion when in disgrace, the relation of eggs and letters and scrubbing-brushes in a world that seemed all awry to their simple minds.

The sense was heavy upon them this day as they sat silently brooding on the stairs, Jim glum and hopeless, with his arms buried to the elbow in his trousers pockets, Jocko, a world of care in his wrinkled face, humped upon the step at his shoulder with limp tail. The rain beat upon the roof in fitful showers, and the April storm rattled the crazy shutters, adding to the depression of the two.

Jim broke the silence when a blast fiercer than the rest shook the old house. “‘Tain’t right,” he said dolefully, “I know it ain’t, Jock! There’s Tom and Foley gone off an’ ‘listed, and them only four years older nor me. What’s four years?” This with a sniff of contempt.

Jocko gazed straight ahead. Four years of scrubbing-brushes and stealthy grabs at his tail on the stairs! To Jocko they were a long, long time.

“An’ dad!” wailed Jim, unheeding. “I hear him tell Mr. Murphy himself that he was a drummer-boy in the war, and he won’t let me at them dagoes!”

A slightly upward curl of Jocko’s tail testified to his sympathy.

“I seen ’em march to de camp with their guns and drums.” There was a catch in Jim’s voice now. “And Susie’s feller was there in soger-clo’es, Jock–soger-clo’es!”

Jim broke down in desolation and despair at the recollection. Jocko hitched as close to him as the step would let him, and brought his shaggy side against the boy’s jacket in mute compassion. So they sat in silence until suddenly Jim got up and strode across the floor twice.