Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub

THE STORY OF A DISABLED SOLDIER.

OLIVER GOLDSMITH. ig-no-rant [L. ignoro, from in, not ; nosco, to know], without knowledge, unacquainted with. at-ten-tion [L. ad, to; teneo, to hold). mag. nan-i-mous (L. magnus, great; animus, the mind), high-souled, brave, courageous. Ob-scur-it-y (L. obscurus, dark], humblo condition, privacy, a state of being unnoticed. re-duced [L, re, back; duco, to lead), brought down, No observation is more common, and at the same time more true, than " that one half of the world are ignorant how the other half live.” The misfortunes of the great are held up to engage our attention, are enlarged upon in tones of declamation, and the world is called upon to gaze at the noble sufferers. The great, under the pressure of calamity, are conscious of several others sympathising with their distress; and have, at once, the comfort of admiration and pity.

There is nothing magnanimous in bearing, misfortunes with fortitude when the whole world is looking on: men in such circumstances will act bravely even from motives of vanity. But he who, in the vale of obscurity, can brave adversity,—who, without friends to encourage, acquaintances to pity, or even without hope to alleviate his misfortunes, can behave with tranquility and indifference, is truly great: whether peasant or courtier, he deserves admiration, and should be held up for our imi. tation and respect.

I have been led into these reflections from accidentally meeting, some days ago, a poor fellow whom I knew when a boy, dressed in a sailor's jacket, and begging at one of the outlets of the town, with a wooden leg. I knew him to be honest and industrious when in the country, and was curious to learn what had reduced him to his present situation. Wherefore, after giving him what I thought proper, I desired to know the history of his life and misfortunes, and the manner in which he was reduced to his present distress. The disabled soldier,for such he was, though dressed in a sailor's habit,scratching his head, and leaning on his cratch, put him

[ocr errors]

self into an attitude to comply with my request, and gave me his history as follows:-

As for my misfortunes, master, I can't pretend to have gone through any more than other folks; for, except the loss of my limb, and my being obliged to beğ, I don't know any reason, thank Heaven, that I have to complain. There is Bill Tibbs, of our regiment, he has lost both his legs, and an eye to boot; but, thank Heaven! it is not so bad with me yet.

I was born in Shropshire. My father was a labourer, and died when I was five years old; so I was put upon the parish. As he had been a wandering sort of man, the parishioners were not able to tell to what parish I belonged or where I was born; so they sent me to another parish, and that parish sent me to a third. I thought, in my heart, they kept sending me about so long, that they would not let me be born in any parish at all; but at last, however, they fixed me. I had some disposition to be a scholar, and was resolved, at least, to know my letters; but the master of the workhouse put me to business as soon as I was able to handle a mallet: and here I lived an easy kind of a life for five years. I only wrought ten hours in the day, and had my meat and drink provided for

ту labour. It is true I was not suffered to stir out of the house, for fear, as they said, I should run away. But what of that? I had the liberty of the whole house, and the yard before the door, and that was enough for me. I was then bound out to a farmer, where I was up both early and late; but I eat and drunk well

, and liked my business well enough, till he died, when I was obliged to provide for myself; so I was resolved to go and seek my fortune.

“In this manner I went from town to town, worked when I could get employment, and starved when I could get none; when, happening one day to go through a ħield, belonging to a justice of peace, I spied a hare crossing the path just before me, and I believe the Evil One put it into my head to fling my stick at it :-well, what will you have on't P-I killed the hare, and was bringing it away in triumph, when the justice himself met me. He

called me a poacher and a villain; and collaring me, desired I would give an account of myself. I fell upon my knees, begged his worship's pardon, and began to give a full account of all that I knew of myself. But, though I gave a very good account, the justice would not believe a syllable I had to say, so I was indicted at sessions, found guilty of being poor, and sent up to London, to Newgate, in order to be transported as a vagabond.

People may say this and that of being in jail; but, for my part, I found Newgate as agreeable a place as ever I was in in all my life. I had enough to eat and drink, and did no work at all. This kind of life was too good to last for ever; so I was taken out of prison after five months, put on board ship, and sent off, with two hundred more, to the plantations. We had but an in. different passage ; for, being all confined to the hold, more than a hundred of our people died for want of sweet air; and those that remained were sickly enough, you may be sure. When we came ashore, we were sold to the planters; and I was bound for seven years more. As I was no scholar (for I did not know my letters), I was obliged to work among the negroes; and I served out my time, as in duty bound to do.

time had expired, I worked my passage home; and glad I was to see Old England again, because I loved my country. I was afraid, however, that I should be indicted for a vagabond once more, so did not much care to go down into the country, but kept about the town, and did little jobs when I could get them.

“I was very happy in this manner for some time, till one evening coming home from work, two men knocked me down, and then desired me to stand. They belonged to a press-gang. I was carried before the justice; and, as I could give no account of myself, I had my choice left; whether to go on board a man-of-war, or 'list for a soldier. I chose the latter; and, in this post of a gentleman, I served two_campaigns in Flanders, was at the battles of Val and Fontenoy, and received but one wound, through the breast here; but the doctor of our regiment soon made me well again.

66 When my

“When the peace came on, I was discharged; and, as I could not work, because my wound was sometimes troublesome, I 'listed for a land man in the East India Company's service. I here fought the French in six pitched battles; and I verily believe that, if I could read or write, our captain would have made me a corporal. But it was not my good fortune to have any promotion; for I soon fell sick, and so got leave to return home again, with forty pounds in my pocket. This was at the beginning of the present war; and I hoped to be set on shore, and to have the pleasure of spending my money, But the Government wanted men, and so I was pressed for a sailor before ever I could set a foot on shore.

“The boatswain found me, as he said, an obstinate fellow. He swore he knew that I understood my business well, but that I wanted to be idle. But I knew nothing of sea business; and he beat me without considering what he was about. I had still

, however, my forty pounds, and that was some comfort to me under every beating; and the money I might have had to this day, but that our ship was taken by the French, and so I lost all.

Our crew was carried into Brest, and many of them died, because they were not used to live in a jail; but, for my part, it was nothing to me, for I was seasoned. One night, as I was sleeping on the bed of boards, with a warm blanket about me (for I always loved to lie well), I was awakened by the boatswain, who had a dark lantern in his hand. Jack,'

says he to me, ' will you knock out the French sentry's brains ?' 'I don't care,' says I, striving to keep myself awake, “if I lend a hand.' Ïhen follow me,' says he, and I hope we shall do business. So up I got, and tied my blanket (which was all the clothes I had) about my middle, and went with him to fight the Frenchmen.

Though we had no arms, we went down to the door, where both the sentries were posted, and rushing upon them, seized their arms in a moment, and knocked them down. From thence nine of us ran together to the quay, and, seizing the first boat we met, got out of the

[ocr errors]

harbour, and put to sea. We had not been here thrce days, before we were taken up by the Dorset privateer, who were glad of so many good hands; and we consented to run our chance. However, we had not so much luck as we expected. In three days we fell in with the Pompadour privateer, of forty guns, while we had but twentythree; so to it we went, yard-arm and yard-arm. The fight lasted for three_hours, and I verily believe we should have taken the Frenchman, had we but had some more men left behind; but, unfortunately, we lost all our men just as we were going to get the victory.

“I was once more in the power of the French, and I believe it would have gone hard with me had I been brought back to Brest: but, by good fortune, we were retaken by the Viper. I had almost forgot to tell you that, in that engagement, I was wounded in two'places: I lost four fingers of the left hand, and my leg was shot off. If I had had the good fortune to have lost my leg and the use of my hand on board a king's ship, and not aboard a privateer, I should have been entitled to clothing and maintenance during the rest of my life. But that was not my chance; one man is born with a silver spoon in his mouth, and another with a wooden ladle. However, blessed be God! I enjoy good health, and will for ever love liberty and Old England. Liberty, property, and Old England for ever! Huzzah !"

Thus saying, he limped off, leaving me in admiration at his intrepidity and content. Nor could I avoid acknowledging that an habitual acquaintance with misery serves better than philosophy to teach us to depise it.

EXERCISE.-15. COMPOSITION. 1. Make a list of persons and places mentioned in the lesson.

2. Write out, in proper order, the different situations in which the old soldier had served.

3. Condense the last two paragraphs.

4. What is a proverb? Explain that one in the lesson, about the silver spoon and the wooden ladle.

5. What is the difference between a king's ship and a privateer ? Make a list of the vessels mentioned in this lesson, and describe, as far as you can, the character of each ship.

6. Enumerate the injuries that the old soldier received in the course of his career, and show how it was that he was not entitled to a pension.

« НазадПродовжити »