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The ordeal of colonel jo.., p.2
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       The Ordeal of Colonel Johns, p.2

           George H. Smith
 
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are," Decker said, "within a very few minutes, Colonel Johnsshould be standing before us as he was on a day approximately a weekbefore his heroic action in the battle at Temple Farm."

  Mrs. Johns-Hayes, although still gripping her notes, was beginning toget a little flustered. "Oh my, that would be before he marriedgreat-great-great-great-grandmother Sayles. They were married only twodays before the battle, you know. It was so romantic ... a wartimeromance and all."

  "Just imagine," Mrs. Tolman remarked, "at that time your whole familywas just a gleam in the Colonel's eye!"

  Professor MacCulloch made one or two last passes at the machine andthen stood back to watch, a look of pure scientific ecstasy on hisface. A mistiness began to gather on the platform where the Colonel'ssword lay and through it from time to time shot sparks of electricity.Suddenly a gasp went up from the assembled Daughters as a man's headand shoulders appeared and expanded downward, a long way downward, toa large pair of feet. There was one last hum from the machine and thena tall young man in faded blue regimentals and very much in need of ashave was standing blinking in the blazing lights of the auditorium.

  "Oh, Mr. Decker, surely there's some mistake!" was Mrs. Johns-Hayes'first comment as she surveyed the very tall, very tattered, and verydirty young man. "Great-great-great-great-grandfather's picturesalways show him as a dignified old gentleman."

  The Colonel took one quick look around and made a grab for his sword, butthe Professor managed to calm him and to explain the situation before anyviolence could take place. After a few minutes of hurried talk, MacCullochsteered the Colonel in the direction of the speaker's platform for themeeting with his great-great-great-great-granddaughter.

  Peter Johns' bewilderment faded into astonishment, but he stillgripped his sword as the Professor guided him through the throngs ofexcited ladies onto the stage. He paused momentarily to look at thebrilliant lights and at the huge number of American flags which hungoverhead. A picture of George Washington, hung among the flags, seemedto reassure him and he allowed the Professor to lead him to Mrs.Johns-Hayes.

  That lady had drawn herself together at the approach of her ancestor andhad obviously decided to carry it off as best she could. She advanced tomeet him crying, "Dear, dear great-great-great-great-grandfather! This issuch a pleasure! You can't know how proud all of us in the family havealways been of you."

  The young Continental officer stared open mouthed at the red-faced,big-bosomed woman who was twice his age, but who addressed him asgreat-great-great-great-grandfather. Then he turned to MacCulloch whostood beside him. "Are you sure you have the right man?" he asked.

  "Oh yes! Perfectly, perfectly! You're Colonel Peter Johns of Pamworth,Pennsylvania, and this is your great-great-great-great-granddaughter,Rebecca Johns-Hayes."

  "Rebecca? You mean she's named after Becky Sayles?" The Colonel rubbeda hand across his several days' growth of beard.

  "That's right, dear great-great-great-great-grandfather. I'm namedafter great-great-great-great-grandmother," Mrs. Johns-Hayesannounced.

  "Then I married Becky Sayles?" the Colonel asked.

  "Why, of course! Aren't you planning on getting married in a fewdays?" Clark Decker asked.

  The Colonel was embarrassed but he grinned, "Well, I don't rightlyknow. Miss Sayles and I have been courtin' for some months but there'slittle Jennie Taylor down in Trenton.... To tell the truth, I haven'tquite made up my mind."

  "Well! Of all things! What would the family think! What would greatAunt Mary Hayes say?" Mrs. Johns-Hayes puffed out even farther thanusual.

  "Well, we can ease your mind on that subject, Colonel. The historybooks say that you married Miss Sayles--and here is Mrs. Johns-Hayesto prove it."

  The Colonel scratched his chin again as he looked at Mrs. Johns-Hayes."Is that so? Is that so? What's all this about history books? You meanI got in history because I married Becky Sayles?"

  The Professor laughed. "Well, not exactly. It was because of yourheroism in the defeat of Burgoyne's army. If you hadn't blockedCaptain Fenwick's flanking move at Temple Farm, the American armyunder General Gates might have been defeated and the Colonies mighteven have lost the war."

  "Well, I'll be.... Me? I did all that? I didn't even know there wasgoing to be a battle. Did I end up a live hero or a dead one?" TheColonel was beginning to feel a bit more easy in his surroundings,and, to the horror of Mrs. Johns-Hayes, took a plug of tobacco out ofhis pocket and bit off a piece and began to chew it.

  "You came through the battle with only a slight wound and lived to aripe old age surrounded by grandchildren," the Professor told him.

  "Then I reckon I won't go back to Pennsylvania with the other boys.They figure that since their enlistments are up, it's time to get backto the farm and let them New Yorkers do some of their own fighting."

  "Oh no! You weren't thinking of going back--of leaving the fighting?"Mrs. Johns-Hayes demanded.

  The Colonel shifted his wad of tobacco and looked at the womancarefully as though he couldn't quite believe the evidence of hiseyes. "No, ma'am, I don't reckon I am. I don't exactly look on it thesame as the other boys do. I kind of feel like if we're ever going tohave a country, it's worth fighting for."

  Mrs. Johns-Hayes beamed, as did all the other officers of theDaughters. "Well, your faith and heroism have been rewarded,great-great-great-great-grandfather. I know you'll be proud to knowthat these ladies whom you see before you are the present guardians ofthe ideals that you fought for."

  "Well, now, is that so, ma'am? Is that so?" Peter Johns looked aroundthe convention hall in amazement.

  "And that I, your descendant, have just been elected their President!"

  "Well, what do you know about that! Maybe all the hard times and thedanger we been going through is worth it if you folks still rememberthe way we felt about things."

  "It's too bad," Decker whispered to MacCulloch, "that we can't let himsee what the country is really like. I'm not sure these ladies arerepresentative."

  There was a worried look on the Professor's face. "That's impossible.The reintegration is good for only an hour or so. I hope nothing goeswrong here."

  Mrs. Appleby-Simpkin took charge of the Colonel and ushered him to aseat of honor near the podium while the new President prepared todeliver her speech. Decker and the professor managed to obtain seatson either side of Johns just as Rebecca started. He managed to whisperto them, "I'm sure amazed! I'm sure amazed! All these nice old ladiesfeeling the same way about things as we do."

  * * * * *

  Decker had a premonition of trouble as Mrs. Hayes' words poured forth.He had hoped for a cut and dried acceptance speech with nothing butthe usual patriotic platitudes, but, as she went on his worst fearswere realized. Inspired by the presence of her ancestor, the woman wasgoing into superlatives about the purposes and aims of the PatriotDaughters. She covered everything from the glories of her ancestry tothe morals of the younger generation and women in politics.

  Decker watched the Colonel's face, saw it changed from puzzlement topainful boredom as word after word floated from the battery ofspeakers overhead.

  MacCulloch was whispering in Johns' ear in an attempt to draw hisattention from the woman's booming voice but the man disregarded him."Am I really responsible for that?" The Colonel jerked his head in thedirection of Mrs. Johns-Hayes.

  "I'm afraid, Colonel, that you're getting a distorted idea of whatAmerica is like in our time," Decker said. The Colonel didn't eventurn to look at him. He was scowling at his Amazonian descendant asher screeching reached new heights.

  "... and we hold that this is true! Our simple motto, as you all know,is: One race, one creed, one way of thinking!"

  Colonel Johns began to squirm violently in his seat. The professorfound it necessary to grasp him firmly by one arm while Decker heldhim by the other.

  The president of the Patriot Daughters had finished her speech amidstthunderous applause and started to present suggestions for theformation of new committees, for th
e passing of new by-laws and forresolutions.

  "A committee should be formed to see that the public parks areproperly policed to prevent so-called 'spooners' from pursuing theirimmoral behaviour.

  "A new by-law is needed," and here Mrs. Hayes glanced aside at Mrs.Tolman, "to prevent members being accepted unless their forebears werelieutenants or of higher rank in the glorious Continental army."

  The Colonel was a strong man and both Decker and MacCulloch were olderthan he. With something between a snort and a roar he shook them looseand started for the
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