The Toast to Forty Five
by William Dudley Pelley
In this little Vermont town of Paris, on the top floor
of the red-brick post-office block, over half a century
have been located the quarters of Farrington Post, Paris
Chapter, G. A. R.
In the rooms of Farrington Post—under a glass case
filled with countless other relics belonging to Captain
Jonathan Farrington’s company, that marched away one
hundred and seven strong that forenoon in ’61—has
been kept a bottle of rare old wine.
That wine was old when those stalwart young Vermonters
who followed Captain John Farrington were
children. Through half a century it has occupied its
place in that glass case; during that long time it has been
viewed by many visitors to our town; over and over again
has the story of “The Toast to Forty-five” been told
until that double-quart of priceless vintage has become
one of our chief sights of interest to the stranger within
the gates. It was not through accident or chance that
this bottle of wine was saved. Up to last August there
was a pretty sentiment connected with that bottle of wine
and why it should have been preserved thus throughout
Up to last August, indeed! Because that bottle is no
longer under the glass case in the Grand Army rooms
in the post-office block. It has been taken from among
those relics of yesterday; the seal has been broken; the
contents have been poured out. Glistening red as the
blood which those lads of ’61 shed for the principles in
which they believed, that liquor was consumed in the
pledging of a toast.
When the homefolks suggested that the county give
a dinner to the returned heroes on the sixteenth day of
August, 1866—Bennington Battle Day and a holiday in
Vermont always—Dashing Captain Jack Fuller was not
the one to quash the suggestion. “Dashing Jack” had
been the man to take John Farrington’s place when John
lost his life at Gettysburg. He was a great dude, was
Captain Jack; a lover of the dramatic and the spectacular;
with the pomp of soldiering verily in his blood and the
vanity of many generations of Fullers in his fiber.
On the night of August 16, 1866, “The Toast to
Forty-five Banquet” was held on the top floor of the old
Vermont House. It took place in the big room with the
spring dance-floor. That old Paris hostelry was burned
in ’73. In the course of that affair, Dashing Jack arose
and made a speech—likewise a proposal.
The flower of Vermont of the Sixties was gathered
about those tables. There were young men to whom fame
and fortune afterward would come. There were sturdy
beautiful girls in quaint dresses that in succeeding years
would mother sons and daughters who are the pride and
glory of Vermont of the present. The lights shone on
gloriously happy faces. Two hundred voices turned the
room into vocal pandemonium. It was several minutes
before Dashing Captain Jack could gain their attention
and make himself heard.
When finally all eyes were turned upon him, they saw
that he was holding high in his right hand a bottle of
“Ye gallant sons and daughters of Vermont! Tonight
is a great night!” cried Jack in ringing, self-confident,
magnetic tones. “We are attending a dinner tonight
that will be remembered in the history of our town
and State long after the last comrade now within sound
of my voice has gone to make his bivouac with the illustrious
Company Forty-five—the name which we have
given the forty-five brave lads who marched away with
us but who were not destined by a higher providence to
march back. On this night, therefore, beholding this
wine before me, it has occurred to me to propose the inauguration
of a rite—almost a sacred rite—the like of
which no Post has ever heard.”
The room was now very quiet. And Captain Jack
reveled in the drama of the scene.
“In this room,” he cried, “—in sound of my voice at
this moment, are two boys who will be the very last to
join Company Forty-five. Sooner or later we shall all
be called to answer to our names in the Great Muster;
but some will be called sooner than others. There will
certainly come a day in the years which lie ahead when
there will be only two remaining of this company of sixty-two
here to-night. Think of it, boys! Just two! Look
into one another’s faces and ask yourselves—who are
those two—which of you will they be?”
The room was strangely silent. The smiles died on the
faces of many women. Dashing Captain Jack indicated
the wine he held in his hand.
“Here is the thing which I propose; to make the annual
dinners of Farrington Post different from any other reunions
which shall ever be held:
“I hold in my hand the last unsealed bottle of the
vintage which we have tasted to-night in our first toast
in peace to the missing lads that have made that peace
possible. Let this last bottle be saved. Year after year
we will have our annual dinners. Year after year, as
we gather round the board, familiar faces will be missing.
Many will fall by the way. At last—will be only two
comrades—of this roomful here to-night. And when
at last those two shall face one another and think back to
this first banquet in the dim and sacred past—when they
alone remain—when sixty have gone to join old Forty-five
and they realize that perhaps before another year is
passed, they will have joined that illustrious company
also—let them break the seal on this bottle. Let them
fill their glasses. Let them clink those crystal rims together
and drink the last toast to those who have gone.
And when the seal on this bottle thus is broken, let our
reunions be held no more.”
They drank, and the next morning the banquet was a
thing of history.
Year after year those veterans have gathered about
the board and gazed on that rare old vintage, wondering
whether he was to be one of the two to drink that final
toast to Forty-five—and under what circumstances.
Each has realized that before another August sixteenth
came around, certain familiar faces were to be missing.
Dashing Captain Jack started something far more dramatic
than he realized.
Poor Captain Jack! He married one of the Kingsley
girls that year and a little son was born to them. A
month and a day after the birth of that son he was killed
in an accident on the old New York Railroad. He was
the first to join Forty-five!
Sixty-two men sat down to that first banquet. In 1900
the number was thirty—less than half. In 1910 there
were eleven veterans. Since 1910 the old soldiers have
been going rapidly.
At the Post dinner of August 16, 1912, the ranks of
Captain Jack’s company had dwindled to four old men.
There was Uncle Joe Fodder, the commander; Martin
Chisholm, who made his money in the grist-mill; Henry
Weston, who for seven years had been an inmate of
the State Soldier’s Home; and—old Wilbur Nieson,
who spent his days hanging around the street corners
The reunion ended as forty-six other reunions had
ended, excepting that they did not talk their battles over
again so vehemently as on former occasions. Indeed,
they had talked themselves out. They were “waiting”
now, and the old bottle of wine set in the center of their
table was a symbol of fatalism, mute testimony to the
inexorable law of human life. Next day we reported it
as usual in our local paper.
At about ten-thirty o’clock of the following evening—to
be exact, the seventeenth day of August, 1912—Mrs.
Samuel Hod, wife of the Telegraph’s editor, while
working in her kitchen, heard a frightful scream come
from somewhere in the neighborhood.
Mrs. Hod rushed to the door. Outside was a clear,
warm summer night. Across the picket fence that
separated the Hod yard from the rear yards of the
houses facing on Pleasant Street, she could see a light in
the kitchen of the Fuller boy’s house—young Jack
Fuller, grandson of Dashing Captain Jack of years gone
by. The neighborhood was very quiet during those two
minutes she stood there listening in her fright.
Then suddenly that scream was repeated—sharp,
clear, terrible! It came from the home across the picket
fence. It was Betty Fuller screaming. From the agony
in the cries something ghastly had happened. Mrs. Hod
ran through her house and called to her husband. Sam
helped his wife over the back fence and they made their
way under the Fuller clothes-line, through the back shed,
and into the little sitting-room.
Betty Fuller was down on the floor. She was face
downward, her head protected by her arm. Two feet
from her, between the reading-table and the door into
the dining-room, was her nine-months-old baby. Holding
himself unsteadily between the casings of the hall
door was young Jack, his face the color of cold ashes,
his lips parched, drops of sweat, heavy as glycerin,
standing on his forehead.
“What’s happened?” demanded Sam.
But he saw what had happened; and his wife saw;
and so did the neighbors. The baby’s crib was mute
witness to what had occurred. It was overturned—between
Jack and his little family.
“Betty! Betty!” cried Mrs. Hod, kneeling down to
the young mother’s assistance.
“My baby! My only, only, little baby!” moaned the
“Tell me,” roared Sam to the father, “how did this
“I came in—sick—I guess—I guess—I didn’t see
the kid’s crib. I fell over against it! I knocked it
The neighbor woman had picked up the little body.
“It’s—dead!” she whispered hoarsely.
Sam whirled on Jack.
“Sick!” he roared. “Sick! The h—— you was sick!
You was drunk! You’re drunk now! See what you’ve
done? You’ve killed your own kid—!”
At his words the girl shrieked again, that long agonizing
terrible shriek that brought more neighbors.
“It was an accident,” whispered the Fuller boy thickly.
“It wouldn’t have been an accident if you’d behaved
yourself and cut out this coming home drunk.”
The woman picked up the girl and got her to the sofa.
Over and over she kept moaning: “My baby! My only,
only, little baby!”
The place filled with neighbors. After a while came
Doctor Johnson—who was our coroner—and Mike
Hogan, our chief of police.
Mike was at a loss whether to arrest the father or not.
Sam dispelled his doubts.
“When the boy comes to himself and gets the stuff out
of his brain, he’ll feel bad enough, Mike,” the fatherly
old editor said. “The memory of it will be enough
punishment. After all, he didn’t do it intentionally.”
“He’s no good, sorr,” stormed Mike, indicating the
young father while he grew husky-throated at the pathos
of the little mother’s grief.
“Yes, he is, Mike. This is really Dick Fuller’s—his
father’s—fault. He shouldn’t ever have left the lad
ten thousand dollars and no balance-wheel. Let these
two children alone. It’s for them to settle between themselves.
Jack’s got the Fuller blood in him from away
back; and I think this will bring out his manhood. It’s
a fearful price for a young father to have to pay, Mike.
But maybe, after all, it’s for the best.”
The neighbors left the boy and girl to their tragedy.
The marriage of old Wilbur Nieson’s daughter Elisabeth
to young Jack Fuller had been talked of in our
town for a month and a day. Richard Fuller, son of
Dashing Captain Jack, had grown to manhood, made
considerable money and died, leaving it to his boy, whereupon
the lad started straight for the devil.
Before he had come into his inheritance, he had been
“keeping company” with little Betty Nieson, who
worked in the box-factory and lived with her derelict
father in the scrubby old Nieson place out Cedar Street
on the edge of town. The boy drank considerably and
the rumor found its way into our newspaper office that,
despite his money, Betty would not marry him until he
had conquered the habit.
A town’s mind is a child’s mind and it readily sympathized
with the struggle that the Nieson girl was making
in her poor blind handicapped way to climb out of
the environment which she had always known, and make
something of herself. Then suddenly one day Jack
Fuller sold his racy automobile. He and Betty were
married and they furnished a modest home on Pleasant
Street. One-half of the town said it was because Jack
had gone through his inheritance. The other half said
that it was his wife’s influence over him. Certainly to
all appearances the girl was making a desperate and
commendable struggle not only to raise herself up but
to compel Jack to be a man. Then the half of the home-folks
which had claimed the way Jack squandered his
money had been at the bottom of his marriage, were
apparently in the right. For shortly after the pitiful
little marriage the boy was seen frequenting the Whitney
House bar as much as ever.
Now came this additional sorrow into the girl’s life.
She had married the lad trying to get away from the
hereditary taint of the Nieson blood. It had come to her
now that there appeared to be a taint also in the Fuller
blood. She had lost her baby. The Hods said that there
was a light burning in the Fuller tenement all that night.
The baby was buried the next day. It was a pathetic
little funeral, just a prayer or two by Doctor Dodd of the
Methodist Church, and then Blake Whipple, the undertaker,
took care of the interment.
The evening of the day that the poor little shaver was
laid underground, Mrs. Hod entered the tenement to
console the bereaved girl. She entered without knocking.
She paused at the threshold, made rigid by the sight
For Jack Fuller was down on his knees before the girl
he had married. His finely-shaped head was buried in
her lap. He was sobbing freakishly, for men do not
know how to weep. And the girl seated there on the
sofa was staring into unseeing space with a holy look
upon her beautifully plain face; her slender shapely
fingers toying with the boy’s wavy hair.
“Never, never, never—will I touch a drop of the stuff
as long as I live, Betty,” he choked between his tears. “I
don’t care—what the provocation is—I won’t ever do it.
I’ve been a cad, Betty. I haven’t been a Fuller at all—but
I’ll show you I can be. I’ll make up for this.
We’ve lost the baby, Betty—but it’s brought me to my
senses. I’m—done! I swear it before God, Betty.
The girl never knew a neighbor was looking on, unable
to withdraw without disclosing her presence.
“If that’s the price, Jack,” she replied softly, divinely,
“—if that’s the price—and you’ll keep your word—I’ll
pay it! Jackie dear—I love you. I’ve loved you
all along. But this has always been the way with me.
There was Dad. Rum got him—rum stole him away
from me. When he was himself he was all right. But
he drank and then beat me—he made me want to kill
myself just because I was a Nieson—because his blood
half saturated with rum—was in my veins. I married
you, Jackie—because I hoped to pull myself up from
being a Nieson. I hoped to show folks what I wanted
to be—what I tried so hard to be. Every one knows
the Niesons are worthless trash, the scum of the town.
And I thought—being your wife—the wife of a Fuller—things
would be different. The liquor seemed robbing
me of you too, Jack. But if this—has given you
back to me—yes—I’ll pay the price. It’s all right,
Jack. I’ll take your word that you’ll never, never take a
drop of the stuff again.”
Mrs. Hod succeeded in getting out without being discovered.
She went home and told her husband. Sam
shook his head sadly.
“I hope so,” commented the worldly wise old newspaper
man, who frequently understood two-legged human folks
better than they understood themselves. “I hope so,
indeed. I’d do anything under God’s heaven to help
him. But I’m afraid for him—afraid for him and the
girl. It sure will be hell for her if the lad breaks his
But to his everlasting credit, let it be set down that the
Fuller blood came uppermost in Jack. He did not break
his promise. But what the poor boy went through in
that succeeding six months only a reticent God in His
Jack had sold his automobile for two hundred dollars.
Now he transferred what was left of his legacy from a
checking account in the corner bank to the savings department.
He went to work for Will Pease mending
automobiles in the Paris Garage.
He grew thin and haggard with the struggle he was
making. Some brainless young roustabouts in our town
tried to get him to drink again just for the sake of winning
him back to his old habits. They actually did get
him into a bar one night with a glass of liquor before
him. Then I guess it came to him what he was doing.
The Fuller blood in him made a great convulsion for the
upper hand—and won! He smashed the glass into the
tempter’s eyes and stumbled out into the raw cold night—and
The boy came home to his childless wife one night and
“Betty—it’s hell!” he said. “I’m all burned out
“Jack,” she cried piteously, “you’re not going to give
way after—after the price—we paid.”
“Not if I can help it, Betty,” he replied. “But I need
help, girl. I need some sort of discipline that’ll straighten
me out and help me physically. Betty—I’ve got a
chance—to get into the quartermaster’s department of
the Vermont National Guard—”
“You mean—be a soldier?” she cried.
“And why not, Betty?” he said. “My grandfather
was a soldier. You know what he did in the Civil War;
what he means to the Grand Army men. It’s in my
blood, I guess, Betty—”
“Jack!” she cried. “Don’t leave me now! Don’t
leave me alone! Don’t! Don’t! There’s too many
memories, Jack. I ain’t—brave enough, Jack!”
He sank down on the sofa and hid his burning face in
“God help me!” he groaned. “I want to win out, but
I’m all wrong inside. Oh, Betty!”
She tried in her poor pitiful way to help him. She
did help him—a little bit. But Jack was nearer right
than he knew. He joined the Y. M. C. A. that winter
and went in for athletics. But two nights a week “on
the floor” wasn’t rigorous enough for him.
Pinkie Price, our star reporter, came into the newspaper
office one forenoon and exclaimed,
“Hey, you know that Fuller chap that killed his kid
when he come home stewed? Well, what do you suppose
he’s up to? You know the preparedness scare and
the trouble with Mexico and everything? Well, he’s
startin’ to raise a company right here in Paris—a company
o’ real soldiers—so’s to have ’em ready in case
we get into the Europe scrap. They’re goin’ to drill four
nights a week and Sundays in Academy Hall.”
“It isn’t surprising,” commented Sam Hod. “He
comes from a family of soldiers. Well, I hope he does.
If he’s captain of a company of men like his grandaddy
was in ’63 he’ll have his position to maintain and that
won’t mean flirting with whisky. Good for the boy!
I said he had the right stuff in him. Go see him and
write his scheme up, Pinkie. The Telegraph’ll give it
all the preferred position it deserves.”
“Hey,” said Pinkie, shifting suddenly to another subject
through the association of ideas, “—d’yer know
that old Martin Chisholm kicked off last night? Yep;
Sam looked around the office at our faces.
“So ‘The Toast to Forty-five’ has narrowed down to
Henry Weston, Uncle Joe Fodder, and Wilbur Nieson!
Too bad, too bad!”
Jack Fuller, out of regard for the little wife’s feelings,
did not take the quartermaster’s job. But he did organize
the Paris Home Guard. Soldier blood ran in his veins.
The “Fuller Fire-eaters” as our town named them, was
a crack company. The place Jack held as head of that
company was as a tonic to the lad; it gave him something
to think about, to interest himself in when the
hankering for the fellowship of our three saloons became
too powerful. When the trouble with Mexico became
acute there were weeks when the local boys, catching his
enthusiasm, drilled six nights in succession in their rooms
up-stairs in the Cedar Street Engine-house. They had
regular army uniforms and were connected somehow
with the State National Guard—we never could just
understand the connection.
As for “The Toast to Forty-five,” the climax didn’t
come in August, 1916. When Bennington Battle Day
rolled around that year all three men were still living
who had been alive the reunion before.
In February the United States severed relations with
Germany. In April the United States declared war. In
June ten million young Americans enrolled themselves
for the draft. And in July, when all the confusion of
the draft had cleared away, it was found that half of
“Fuller’s Fire-eaters” had been called upon to fill the
Paris quota of Vermont’s two thousand.
But Jack Fuller’s name was not drawn.
On a certain July night in the little tenement which
they still kept on Pleasant Street, the Fuller boy stood
beside the table in the same room where his small son
had been killed in the overturning of the cradle a while
before, with his face as white as chalk and Betty before
him on her knees where she had sunk down in her
misery, clutching him convulsively.
“Don’t go and leave me, Jack,” she moaned. “Oh,
Jack, don’t do it. You’re all I’ve got, Jack—and there
are so many unmarried men to go—!”
“My grandfather led the Paris boys in ’63, Betty,”
he said hoarsely. “My great-great-grandfather led a
company in the battle of Bennington. The country’s
calling again, Betty. It’s up to a Fuller to take his place
at the head of the Paris lads once more. I’ve got the
company, Betty. They’re wild to enlist as a body and I
can get the regular appointment as their captain—”
“Wait till your turn comes in the draft, Jack. Don’t
leave me, now, Jack. There are so many unmarried men
to go. If the country wants you so bad that they call
all the married men, I’ll try to be brave and give you up,
Jack. But wait for that—tell me you will!”
“I can’t stand it to see the boys I’ve drilled march
away with another chap at their head, Betty.”
“Jack!” she cried hysterically, “it was you that took
little Edward away from me! And now—you’re taking
yourself. You don’t have to go—yet. You’re taking
yourself—yourself—because—you don’t love me—”
It was the first time in two or three years that she
had taunted him with what he had done to their child.
It reacted upon him as though she had struck him a
“Betty!” he cried hoarsely. “Don’t say that, Betty.
You’re mad over this thing—you’re asking me to hide
behind the skirts of women—”
“Jack—I’ve had so much sorrow—first with
Mother, then with Father, then losing the baby so—now
with you going away and leaving me—that I can’t stand
much more, Jack. I’ll go mad—really mad, Jack! I
can’t go back and live again with Father, and see his
stumbling footsteps when he comes home drunk, and
hear his talk, and see him gibber—I’ll have nobody, nobody,
to live for! Oh, Jack!”
“You can be as brave as millions of other childless
wives all over America, able for a while to care for themselves.
You told me once that you hated the Nieson
blood in you even if your father was a soldier. You said
after we were married that you were trying to pull yourself
up and be somebody. You said you were happy
because our kids would have Fuller blood in them. And
now instead of coming up to the scratch in a real crisis,
Betty, you’re showing yellow and groveling round like a
Nieson. If I’m willing to run the chance of getting
But he did not go on. Her screams of hysteria began.
And the little wife who had stood so much broke down
Doctor Johnson was called. He attended the girl for
eight days. During that time, only regard for Jack made
the boys hold off in enlisting as a unit altogether for
France. Doctor Johnson said that if Jack volunteered
with them, and Betty heard he was going, the shock
would kill her. So the boy went around town, torn
between love and duty.
And during those days something happened in our
community. Wilbur Nieson and Henry Weston died—within
a few days of one another. Henry Weston succumbed
to kidney trouble which had afflicted him for
years. And old Wilbur Nieson—Wilbur Nieson had
the “tremors” as we say up here in New England—delirium
tremens—one night in the rear of the Whitney
House. The boys in the livery found him. The Sons of
Veterans buried him. So much for the carefully cherished
plans of humankind. For a half-century the members of
Farrington Post had saved that rare old Vintage for
“The Toast to Forty-five.” And there were not even
two old soldiers left of that original company to observe
the sentiment. “The Toast to Forty-five” could never
be pledged, after all!
A couple of weeks slipped away. August sixteenth
approached. The boy came into the office of our little
local paper one morning and said:
“I’ve made up my mind; I’m going to France. Instead
of having our ranks broken by the draft, all the
‘Fire-eaters’ are enlisting as a body in the National
Guard. And I—am going—with them.”
“But your wife?”
“It won’t be any harder for her to stay behind than it
is for me to leave. But I’ve got to get into this thing.
Something inside of me is firing me to do it. She’ll
“When are you boys going?” asked Sam.
“We’ll be leaving somewhere around the twentieth.”
“The twentieth!” exclaimed Sam. In that moment
something occurred to him. “The twentieth!” he exclaimed
over again. “And on the sixteenth—the old
army men were going to hold their last reunion if only
those two hadn’t died. Jack—!”
“Why not—why not—why not have Paris give you
boys a royal send-off on that night—the night of the
sixteenth—a dinner for you fellows the sixteenth; a
dinner for you fellows in place of the old Grand Army
“I guess the boys would be willing,” replied Jack with
a sad smile.
We printed a long piece in our little local paper about it,
that night. Again the Vermont boys were going to war.
Again a Fuller was to lead them. Tickets for the farewell
dinner were on sale at the Metropolitan Drug-store,
five dollars apiece, the proceeds to go to the Red Cross.
Bennington Battle Day came. All preparations for
the greatest banquet Paris ever saw were completed.
The time-worn custom of having the dinner in the rooms
of Farrington Post was abandoned. The Post rooms
would never hold the crowd. The dinner was to be held
in the assembly hall of the new high school. That was
the largest floor-space procurable in Paris.
Sam Hod had three sons in Captain Jack’s company—more
than any other father in Paris. He was designated
as toastmaster for that epochal dinner. At a long table
at the head of the hall he was to sit with Uncle Joe Fodder
on his right and young Captain Jack Fuller on his
left. Beyond, on either side there were grouped officers
of the company. Then the rest of the places were filled
up with the privates of Fuller’s Fire-eaters and the public.
The dinner was set for eight o’clock and by ten
minutes of eight there were hundreds of Parisians in the
hallways and on the sidewalk unable to get standing
room in the dining-room, to say nothing of obtaining a
seat and a plate.
Promptly on the dot of eight, Otis Hawthorne, leader
of the Paris Band, tapped his baton on his music-stand.
With a great crash the apartment was filled to the
furthermost crevices with the thunderous tumult of
“The Star Spangled Banner.”
Every man and woman in that hall rose to his feet.
They sang that song. They sang it as they had never
sung it before. Because in that moment the real meaning
of the words came home to them.
“—Oh, say, does the Star Spangled Banner yet wave,
O’er the land of the Free, and the Home of the Brave?”
Sam Hod looked at his three lean boys in khaki, that in
another week would be only a memory. And his face
shone with an emotion he had never known the meaning
of before. Women wept like—women. As the chorus
died away, cheer on cheer arose and floated out the
lowered windows into the soft summer night.
They resumed their chairs. Jack Fuller turned to the
“Who’s this empty chair for on my left?” he
“Your wife, my son,” the editor replied simply, and
Mrs. Hod brought the girl in.
She was white and weak. How the editor’s wife had
broken the news to her—persuaded her to come to the
hall and sit in the place of honor beside her husband—has
been something that we bewhiskered males in the
office of our little local paper have never been able
to explain. Perhaps Mrs. Hod’s sacrifice of those three
tall Yankee lads in Fuller’s Fire-eaters had something
to do with it. Anyhow, Betty Fuller was persuaded to
She put out her hands blindly before her as she reached
the head table and heard them cheering her husband’s
name—and her own. She felt her way into her place.
She glanced down into her husband’s surprised face and
gave a terrified semblance of a smile. Then the whole
room seemed to fuse before her. She has never been able
to recollect connectedly the events of that evening.
The dinner began, progressed, and, after the manner of
all dinners, at last ended. Sam Hod arose. He clinked
on a water-glass with his knife. The hallful saw him and
gradually grew quiet.
It was a beautiful speech that the editor made. He
began with the part Vermont has played in every war in
which America has ever engaged. He told the story of
the boys who marched away in ’61 behind John Farrington.
He recounted the story of Captain Farrington’s
death; the succession of “Jack Fuller the First” to the
place of honor in the Company, the brilliant war-record
of the regiment. He told of the home-coming; of the
banquet fifty-two years before. He told smoothly of the
events leading up to America’s entry into the war. His
quotation of the President’s famous indictments against
Germany brought ovation after ovation from the home-folks,
who were worked up to hysterical pitch. And
when it was over the editor said:
“To-night, before sitting down to this farewell banquet
to our sons, many of whom are going away from
us never to return—to-night I was the recipient of a
strange request. It came from the last survivor of that
famous Company of Sixty-two who fifty-two years ago
saw Dashing Captain Jack Fuller of glorious memory,
raise aloft this receptacle of rare vintage and propose a
“This was the request: By some strange fate the
evening when the last toast was to be given to the illustrious
dead comes at the terrifically tragic moment when
the sons of many of these men are going forward to
offer their lives in a new democracy. It has been suggested
that nothing could have more approval from
Dashing Captain Jack himself—or from all of those
one hundred and six brave men who have crossed from
the battlefields of earthly life into a blessed reward for
their altruism—than that this toast should be given
after all—if not by the two survivors, then by the
leader of the local heroes who have volunteered to go
“Over There” and by their sacrifice make the earth a
finer, fairer, better place in which to dwell. “The Toast
to Forty-five,” famous for fifty-two years, will be given
at last amid this assembly of another quota of the Union’s
soldiers about to go forth to preserve the same great
principle for which their fathers laid their all upon the
There was silence for a time. Then came another
attempt at another ovation. But it died in the excitement
of the thing transpiring at that speaker’s table.
Sam Hod was opening the famous vintage.
The seal was broken. Out of that glass retainer came
costly sparkling liquor, fifty-two years the prize relic of
Farrington Post. Sam reached over. The two glasses of
Uncle Joe Fodder and Captain Jack he filled to the brim.
He stepped back—back from between Uncle Joe and
Captain Jack—that they might click the rims of their
slender goblets together.
“Gentlemen,” cried Uncle Joe in that breathless moment—“The
Every military man in that room arose to his feet.
Uncle Joe’s withered old lips moved in the sunken face.
The skinny hand holding the wine-glass trembled so that
the beverage spilled over the edge and splashed on the
white table-cloth like a clot of blood.
“Here’s to the gallant Forty-five,” he cried in a high-pitched,
crackly voice. “Here’s to Captain John Farrington.
And here’s to the men of Company Sixty-two
and their posterity. Here’s to—here’s to Captain Jack
Fuller and his posterity—”
It was an unfortunate sentence at an unfortunate time.
Jack Fuller’s posterity!
Through the lad’s brain must have flashed a picture
of a scene in his sitting-room months before when he
had paid a fearful price for—something! He had promised— He
had promised— He looked around the
room. Hundreds of eyes were upon him as he stood
there, splendid and erect in olive drab. He glanced
around his own table, too. And in that instant he saw—the
pale, wan features of his wife!
His arm still holding awkwardly aloft the glass, Jack
looked into the faces of that crowd flanking the tables
and walls of that great hall.
Something came to him—the scenes, the associations—reincarnation,
perhaps—the blood of his forefathers—heredity—in
that great instant he was prompted to do a
great and dramatic thing for the joy of the spectacular,
the call of the dramatic.
Out of Joe Fodder’s toothless mouth came voiceless
“I’ve—gone and forgot my speech! You say something,
Jack. You say it!”
Sam Hod racked his brain for words to save the situation.
All Paris waited. And then—in the silence—came
a rich, strong, boyish voice:
“I’ll give a toast—to Forty-five!”
It was Captain Jack. Two hundred pairs of eyes were
fixed upon him. He knew perfectly that two hundred
pairs of eyes were fixed upon him.
This is the thing that he did:
Deliberately into his dirty coffee-cup he poured the
blood-red liquid. As his grandfather would have done,
with the same exaggerated flourish the boy took from
his pocket a snow-white handkerchief. With that napkin
he wiped flawlessly the delicate receptacle which had
held the liquor. Then he leaned over. From a glass
pitcher he poured into that cleansed wine-glass its fill
of pure cold sparkling water. In an instant he held it
“Fellows!” he cried. “A toast! a toast not with
wine—for wine with its blood-color belongs to the times
which are going—which we hope are passing forever—I’m
drinking a toast with crystal water—emblematic of
the clean white civilization which is coming—for which
we’re going ‘Over There’ to fight and die.
“Here’s to every man who ever did a noble thing;
volunteering his strength to help protect the weak!
Here’s to every lad who ever fought out the terrible
question in his heart and put the Greater Good above his
life-hopes and ambitions. Here’s to every soul that
ever laid in the dark, thinking of those at home, knowing
that in the charge of dawn he might become to them
but a bitter-sweet memory of days when every hour was
a golden moment and time but a thing to pass away.
Here’s to the dead—the illustrious dead—those who
fell in battle, those of Forty-five, the men of Sixty-two,
the men of every age and every land who fought the
good fight nobly, to the best that was in them—for the
things they believed to be right—and have gone to take
finer and better orders under a Greater General, the
Commander of Commanders, the Prince of—Peace!”
He paused. He drew a long breath. He looked down
the table. And he continued: “But along with our toast
for the soldiers of the dead, boys—while the opportunity
is ours—why not give also a toast—another kind of
toast—to the soldiers of the living? Not ourselves, boys—but
the ones—we’re leaving behind. It is little
enough we can do for them!”
His gaze wandered up to his glass. In a strange, inspired
voice, he cried softly:
“A toast!—a toast, also, to the truest and best soldiers
of all—the mothers, the wives, and the girls we are
“Here’s to the toil-hardened hands who cared for us
when as helpless little kids, we were unable to care for
ourselves. Here’s to the tears they have shed over our
little torn clothes; the pillows that have been wet in the
midnight with anxiety, longing, and heartache that we
might be spared to do our duty as men. Here’s to the
anguish they have suffered, the prayers they have prayed,
the sacrifices they have made, the toil they have borne—all
to be laid on the altar of war, all to be wiped out in a
moment, perhaps, by a splinter of shrapnel or the thrust
of a bayonet. Here’s to the nobility of their anguish
when they come to learn we are no more; and the beauty
of their faces when the divinity in their hearts tells the
story upon their care-lined foreheads that they would
climb the same weary Golgotha again—go through the
same Gethsemane—bear the same cross—though they
knew all along the end which it meant.
“Here’s to the wives we loved in the days before
War came upon us. Here’s to the promises they made
us—to be ours until death came between us. Here’s to
the suffering they have borne for our thoughtlessness;
the hours when they have looked into the future and
wondered if the love that we promised was worth the
price they were paying. Here’s to the hopes and the
fears, the joys and the sorrows that have come to them—that
are coming to them now—that are coming to
them in the years on ahead with ever greater portion.
Here’s to their courage and noble endeavor, given so
pathetically to us chaps who sometimes—forget. May
we die as faithfully in the cause to which we have
pledged ourselves as they will live in the memory of
what-might-have-been in the lean years when there are
forms sitting in fantasy beside them in the firelight and
our voices are heard in the homes we made with them—no
“And here’s to the girls we are leaving behind!
Here’s to the kisses they have given us under the stars
of many summers—the memory of their hands and
their lips and their eyes! Here’s to the weight in their
souls and the pain that will hallow the memories that
will haunt them through the years. Here’s to the sighs
and the shadows, the heart-hopes and the longing! God
grant in His goodness their fidelity is rewarded!
“These are the things to which we drink—the men
of yesterday—and the memory of their heroism which
has been—and the women of to-day and whose heroism
is to be. With the great incentive of these two in our
hearts, boys—let us drink and go away to fight like
men—to honor the first—to sanctify the second.”
He clinked his glass against that of speechless Uncle
Joe Fodder’s—and they drank—Uncle Joe drinking
his wine with a hand which trembled so that the liquid
stained his withered claw like a scarlet wound.
The hall was strangely silent.
Sam turned to his wife. “That boy never composed
that beautiful speech alone, Mary,” he said—“not impromptu
Down the hall an old lady whispered to her daughter:
“Alice! Alice!—His grandaddy made just such a
speech—almost word for word—the night John Farrington’s
company bade us women-folks good-by.”
As the hall was being cleared for the big farewell
dance, Sam came to the boy.
“Laddie,” he demanded, “where did you learn that
“What speech?” asked the boy.
“You know what speech—the toast!”
“I don’t know, Mr. Hod. I just looked at the faces—and
the wine—and—and—Betty!—and it just came
“Is that the truth?”
“Sure, it’s the truth. What was it I said that was so
“Don’t you remember what you said?”
The boy laughed ashamedly. “—I couldn’t repeat it
if it cost me my life,” he replied. “It—just—came—out!”
Late that night the old editor lay in his bed thinking
of many things.
“The things in life are far stranger than the things in
story books,” he said. Then in the velvet dark he whispered:
Dashing Captain Jack Fuller, true to his blood and his
birthright, went away on the following day at the head
of his sturdy volunteers. They entrained at ten o’clock
for Fort Ethan Allen.
Truly the boy did not remember the words of that
toast which he gave that memorable evening. But one
thing he does remember. He remembers the words of
the girl he had married as he took her in his arms in
those last few sweet moments following the final breakfast
in the little home:
“It was the Nieson in me that didn’t want you to go,
Jack,” she choked brokenly. “Up to last night I didn’t
want you to go. But when you wouldn’t drink the wine—when
you had the courage to do what you did in front
of all those people—I was ashamed of my selfishness.
Jackie dear—I’m the proudest, happiest, miserablest
woman in all this town!”
He pressed her to him. He kissed her—an embrace
that left her weak and limp.
“And you can count on me, Jack,” she said, “I’ll—do—my—duty—too!
Even—if you should never
come back; remember I said—I was sorry for the way
I’ve acted; I’ll—do—my—duty—too!”
“Good-by, Betty!” he choked.
“Good-by—my soldier!” she lisped—bravely—piteously.
But she sent him away—with a smile!
She’s working now at her old place in Amos Wheeler’s
box-shop. She closed down the little home on Pleasant
Street partly because she could not keep up the expense,
partly because she could not endure—the memories.
She’s living out in her father’s old place at the far end
of Cedar Street.
Poor little, dear little, brave little woman!
We know from his letters to our local paper, that Jack
Fuller has reached France. The girl is alone, earning
five dollars a week in the box-factory to support herself.
The lad is “Over There” in the Whirlpool and the
Nightmare—and where the fighting is thickest, there
we believe Jack Fuller will be found.
But somehow, we feel that Jack Fuller will not fall.
We feel there is coming a great and a glorious day for
our little town of Paris up here in these mountains. In
fancy we can see a morning when a great crowd is going
to mill around and through the platforms and the railroad
yards of our station. The hour is coming when a
train whistle will sound far down the Greene River valley.
The minutes will pass. The whistle will sound
nearer. Finally in the lower end of the yards we will see
a great furl of seething smoke from an oncoming locomotive.
Another and a third whistle will shriek as a
great high-breasted mogul comes bearing down upon us,
seeming to cry out to us from the decreasing distance:
“I’ve got them! I’ve got them! I’m bringing them
back! Every mother’s son of them! They’re in these
coaches I’m pulling behind me now!” And the train
will come to a grinding stop, and amid cheer after cheer
and the gyrations of the Paris band seeking to blow itself
inside out, down from that train will come the soldiers
of Uncle Sam—the boys who never have been and
never can be whipped—great bronzed men with lean
jaws, faces the hue of copper and muscles as hard as
billets of steel. Car after car will disgorge them—men
who met the Great Problem, offered themselves, ran the
risk, fought the fight, gave their last full measure of
devotion, and have come back home to women who cannot
trust themselves to speak—only hold out their arms
And we feel certain that in that great day, after the
Nightmare is over and the world is a fairer, better world,
that one of those great bronzed heroes will gather up
in his war-hardened arms a slender little girl in the
plainest of white shirt-waists and black skirts, with the
paste dried on the poor little workaday clothes and the
worn shoes turning her step over cruelly. He will
gather her up while the tears fall clumsily, for men do
not know how to weep. And there will be no more
weariness in her homeward walk in that twilight. After
all, not all the boys are going to die. Many are coming
back, hundreds of thousands of them. There will be
other toasts to Forty-five pledged by the living. It must
be so, for God still rules in His heaven and will make all
right with the world.
Yet just now—for Betty Fuller—the way is lonesome
and her pillow is wet with her tears in the midnight.
She sent her man away with a smile.
Poor little, dear little, brave little woman!
All over America her name is legion!