meet the eye of one who is acquainted with my poor brother or his fate, any information concerning him will be gratefully received by me,*-to say how gratefully it were difficult to attempt.

To return to my own memoirs : now that my brother had left me, I was desolate indeed! His departure afflicted me most sincerely, and I felt myself alone in the wide world, a friendless, isolated being. But the spirits of childhood, buoyant and elastic, though they may be depressed for a time, readily accommodate themselves to all exigencies, and rise superior to the greatest calamities. Grief, however poignant at first, will not dwell long with youth ; and the ingenuity and curiosity of a boy, ever on the alert to discover some new expedient with which to amuse his mind and to gratify his fickle fancy, effectually prevent him from indulging in unavailing despondency. I was naturally a wild dog, of an active, unconquerable spirit; and, although the miseries peculiar to my friendless situation could not but at first severely affect me, yet, after a short time, I found that, in spite of them all, I had so contrived it as to have established in the village a character for mischief infinitely superior to that possessed by any other boy of my own age. This character, however reverenced by boys of the same genius, was not, it must be acknowledged, very likely to increase the number of my real friends ; and I therefore cannot speak in very rapturous terms of the comforts I enjoyed at this period of my youth. I have a recollection of sundry tricks and misdemeanours in which I was very actively concerned, and for which I was frequently as deservedly punished ; and, as far as my memory serves me, my time, just at this juncture, was passed in a pretty even routine of planning and executing mischief: and receiving its reward.

This, however, was not long to last ; for fickle fortune threw an incident in the way which diverted my attention from all my former tricks and frolics, and turned my thoughts into a new channel. One autumn's morning, in the year 1797, while I was playing marbles in a lane called Love Lane, and was in the very act of having a shot at the: whole ring with my blood-alley, the shrill notes of a fife, and the hollow sound of a distant drum, struck upon my active ear. I stopped my shot, bagged my marbles, and scampered off to see the soldiers. On arriving at the market-place, I found them to be a recruiting-party of the Royal Artillery, who had already enlisted several likelylooking fellows. The pretty little well-dressed fifer was the principal object of my notice. His finery and sbrill music were of themselves sufficient attractions to my youthful fancy : but what occupied my thoughts more than either of these, was the size of this musical warrior, whose height very little exceeded that of the drum by which he stood. "Surely," thought I to myself, sidling up to him, “I must be myself as tall, if not taller, than this little blade; and should make as good a soldier!”. Reflections of this nature were crowding thick into my mind, when the portly sergeant, addressing his words to the gaping rustics by whom he was surrounded, but directing his eyes to the bed-room windows in the vicinity of bis station, commenced a right royal speech.

* My brother's Christian name was Robert. He was pressed in the year 1796, but on board what ship I could never learn. His age would now be about forty-eight or forty-nine; and he promised to be a tal! handsome man, of rather fair complexion, but with dark eyes.

I swallowed every word spoken by the royal sergeant with as much avidity as the drum-major's wife would her morning libation. It was all about “gentlemen soldiers”-“merry life”" muskets rattling” cannons roaring”. - drums beata ing”-colours flying"-"regiments charging”-and shouts of " victory! victory!” On hearing these last words, the rustic tumpkins who had enlisted exposed their flowing locks, and with their tattered hats gave three cheers to “ the King--God bless him.” In tbis I most heartily joined, to the no small amusement of the assembled multitude. · Victory” seemed still to ring in my ears, and the sound inspired my little heart with such enthu. siasm, that it was not until some minutes after the rest had left off cheering, that I becan:e conscious, from the merriment around me, that I still held my tiny hat elevated in the air, waiting for a repetition of that spirit-stirring word. Finding myself observed, 1 adjusted my hat with a knowing air, elevated my beardless chin with as much consequence as I could assume, and, raising myself on tiptoe

[ocr errors]

to appear as tall-as possible, ( strutted up to the sergeant, and asked him, in plain words, if he would “ take for a sodger?

The sergeant siniled, and patted my head in so condescending a manner, that I thought I might venture to take the same liberty with the hea 1 of the drum ; but in this I was mistaken, for I had no sooner touched it than I received from the drummer a pretty sharp rap on the knuckles for my presu nption : his druin-head was as sacred to him as the apple of his eye. I again mounted on tiptoe and urged my question, “ Will you like I for a sodger ?”' intiinating, at the same time, that I was “bigger than that there chap," pointing to the little fifer. Incensed at this indignity, the boy of notes was so nettled, that he commenced forth with to impress on my face and head striking marks of his irritation in being thus degradingly referred to. This ( felt that I could have returned with compound interest; but, as my antagonist had the honour of wearing his Majesty's livery, I deemed it wiser to pocket the affront with my marbles, and make the best of my way off. I accordingly made a retrograde movement towards home, full of the scene I had just witnessed, and vocife. rating as I went along, “ left, right, -“ right, left," - heads up, soldiers,"--" eyes right,". eyes

left," &c. In short, I had thus suddenly not only been touched by the military, but got the military touch; and from that day forth I could neither say nor do anything, but in what I thought a soldier-like style : my play consisted chiefly of evolutions and maneuvres, and my conversation of military phrases.

Shortly after this adventure, I was sent to live with a farmer in the town, whose heart was as cold as the hoarfrost which often blighted his fairest prospects. Fortunately for me, however, his wife was of a different disposition. This good dame proved almost a second mother to me, and frequently screened me from the effects of my master's rage ; but so restless and untoward (to say the truth,) were my inclinations and propensities, and so imperious in his commands, and unrelenting in his anger, was my master, that, in spite of my kind mistress's intercession in my favour, I seldom passed a day without being subjected to his cruel lash. This treatment was but little

Even my

calculated either to conciliate my affections, or to effect a reformation in my conduct. My feelings became hardened under the lash of oppression ; and my desire to leave a place so little congenial with my disposition increased daily. Meantime, all the cats and dogs in my master's house were made to go through military evolutions; the hoes and rakes were transformed into muskets, and the geese and turkeys into soldiers. master's whip, which was always in requisition at the conclusion of these performances, could not eradicate my propensity for “ soldiering.” Every time his back was turned, my military exercises were resumed; and, when I could not by possibility find time to be thus actively engaged, I solaced myself with whistling, God save the King - The British Grenadiers, and See the Conquering Hero Comes. The first of these tunes I once commenced in the church-yard during a funeral service, for which I got the sexton's cane over my back; 66 that being no place,” as the said sexton judiciously remarked, “ to show my loyalty in.” Even the old women in the parish could not pass me without a military salute, such as

-Heads up; missis ! Eyes right, missis! Keep the step, missis ! fc. These pranks often brought me into disgrace and trouble, and usually ended with an application of the end of my * master's whip.

In the dreary month of December, when the white snow danced along the glen, and the icicle sparkled on the hoary oak, I had transported my frozen limbs into a turnip-field, close by the Great Yarmouth Road, where I. stood shrivelled up like a dried mushroom, plotting and planning how to escape from the truly wretched situation in which I felt myself to be then placed. I had just put my cold fingers into my mouth for the purpose of warming thern, and had given them the first puff, when I heard the distant sound of martial music. Down went my hands, and up went my heels. I made an eschellon movement towards the place ; jumped over the gate ; brought up my right shoulder a little ; then gave the word forward, and marched in double-quick time. The music soon got nearer, or, at all events, I soon got so near to the music that I was glad to halt. Just at this moment the whole. Sand struck up, Over the Hills and Far Away, which kindled a flame in my bosom which nothing but death can extinguish, though I have now long since had my full share of the reality of the Scotch melody. On coming up to the party of soldiers, 1 gave the colonel a military salute, by first slapping my leathers, then bringing up my right hand (which, by-tile-by, was the wrong hand,) to my

forehead, and extending the thumb as far as I could from my fingers. I continued in this position, keeping my elbow parallel with the top of my head, until the colonel came close up to me, and, remarking how studiously I retained the same position, condescendingly said, with a smile, “ that's a fine fellow.” On this head, I perfectly agreed with the gallant commandant, as may be readily supposed; and the compliment so elated me, that I felt by no means certain whether I stood on my head or my heels, but ran about, first in the front, then in the rear, until at last I ran bump up against—" master,” who presented himself to my astonished eyes, mounted on Corporal Dash, (a horse of his I had so named,) with a long hunting whip (a very old friend of mine,) in his hand. The moment I recognised these old acquaintances, I' saw that I had not a minute to lose ; so making up my mind that a good retreat was far better than a bad fight, I ran off at full charge, as fast as my legs would carry ine, my master riding after me, and roaring out most lustily, Stop, stop! If, instead of stop, he had said halt, it is more than probable that my legs would instinctively have obeyed ; for, from the constant drills to which they had been subjected, they began to move quite mechanically. As it was, however, on I went, until a stile brought my master up, when, as I was quite out of breath, I thought I might as well halt too. Here I had the satisfaction of hearing my master swear roundly, that he would kill me when he caught me. “Thank God," thought I to myself, “ you have not got ine yet.' The moment my persecutor rode on, I cut across a field, and again gained the head of the corps of Royal Horse Artillery, who were at this time just entering the suburbs of the village. Here I dared not venture to follow them any farther, until my master's hurricane had blown over ; so I mounted a gate,

VOL. I.-2

« VorigeDoorgaan »