Rub-a-dub dub, dub dub, dub dub!
Betty and Ben knew what that sound meant. It meant that it was seven o'clock, and that they must get out of bed at once. It was Billy beating the drum, which was a signal every morning for Betty and Ben to get up.
"Jump!" shouted Betty to Ben through the door that led into his room. And each of them gave a leap out of bed, and began to dress.
Twenty minutes later the same tapping of the drum was heard:—
Rub-a-dub dub, dub dub, dub dub!
Betty and Ben knew what that meant, too. It meant that they lead to line up before Billy for inspection before going down to breakfast.
It was Billy's duty to see that their faces, hands, nails, and teeth were clean. He had to see, also, that them had combed their hair and brushed their clothes. So when they heard the drum the second time, Betty and Ben hurried into the hall, and lined up in front of Billy. It was great fun to watch them. Betty and Ben stood erect, with their arms close to their bodies, and looked straight into Billy's eyes. Then Billy shouted: "Hands up!" and up went the hands of Betty and Ben, while Billy inspected them.
Their teachers had told them about an enemy whose name was General Microbe. He loved dirt, and would march into the dust under their finger nails. And he wasn't satisfied to camp there alone. Perhaps he was afraid. At any rate, he usually brought a whole army of microbes with him.
But their teachers had told them, also, that this dirty little general, with his dirty little soldiers, was not content to camp there all the time. Sometimes he would march with a part of his army straight into the mouths of children. He did this when children handled their food with dirty fingers. So they were told to be on the lookout for him, for he was always eager to attack them.
Sometimes, too, he would march from their fingers to cuts or scratches on their bodies, and cause great pain there. So Billy, Betty, and Ben knew that the soldiers of this army of General Microbe were not friends but enemies, and would do them much harm if they got a chance.
Knowing this, Billy, Betty, and Ben decided to join the Children's Army, and fight the little mischief-makers. They always won the battle when they succeeded in destroying the camps of their enemies under the finger nails. When these were captured, the microbes missed one of their best chances to get into the children's mouths, or into cuts and scratches on their bodies.
When Billy was through inspecting the hands of his soldier sister and soldier brother, he stepped back and gave another command:—
This meant that their teeth had to be inspected also.
You see, here they had to fight another enemy. For there was another little microbe general, with a large army, who always led his soldiers where he could feed them. If he saw food between the teeth of children, he would take it for a camp at once, and, unless driven out by the soldiers of the Children's Army, he would lead his microbe soldiers down into the nerves of the teeth. He would dig deep until he made them ache, or even destroyed them.
So Billy, Betty, and Ben had to make war against this microbe army.
Next, Billy gave another command:—
"Mark time!" and Betty and Ben began to move their feet up and down, while Billy walked all around them to see whether their clothes were brushed, and whether they looked neat and clean. For, you know, soldiers have to be particular about their uniforms. Another army of microbes is always waiting to attack soldiers whose uniforms are not neat and clean.
Then Billy shouted, "March!" and off they marched into the hall, and downstairs, Billy beating the drum as they went.
Father, who was general, and mother, who was colonel, heard the tramp, tramp, tramp, as they marched into the dining room. Soon the soldiers lined up before their general and colonel to salute.
Then Colonel Mother stepped forward to inspect her army. She gave the command, "Hands up!" and up went three pairs of hands, clean and white. "Lips apart!" commanded Colonel Mother again, and three pairs of lips were at once opened, and showed three sets of teeth that glistened like pearls. Last of all, Colonel Mother inspected their uniforms. They were neat and clean. After this she saluted General Father, who saluted in response, smiled, and nodded his approval. This meant that the soldiers had passed muster, and that she might give the command to break rank.
One morning before sitting down to breakfast, General Father said that such a fine company of soldiers ought to have a flag. He asked Billy what he thought about it.
Billy thought so, too, and said that the colors should be red and white. Red would stand for "Death to the microbes," and white for that which kills them!
Both General Father and Colonel Mother thought that Billy's idea was a good one. So they ordered a red-and-white flag to be made, and Betty was made color bearer. A color bearer is one who carries the flag.
Billy, Betty, and Ben were brave soldiers. They had to fight a battle every day. They soon learned that General Microbe had a lot of soldiers to take the place of those who were killed in battle; and, even though he could be driven out, and his soldiers killed, he would soon return with another army.
So Billy, Betty, and Ben made up their minds to enlist in the Children's Army for life. Wherever tliey carried the red-and-white flag, they won a victory. And victory meant good health, and good health made them very happy.