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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 tranquillity and indifference,-is truly great: whether peasant or courtier, he deserves admiration, and should be held up for our imitation and respect.
While the slightest inconveniences of the great are magnified into calamities, while tragedy mouths out its sufferings in all the strains of eloquence, the miseries of the poor are entirely disregarded; and yet some of the lower ranks of people undergo more real hardships in one day, than those of a more exalted station suffer in their whole lives. It is inconceivable what difficulties the meanest of our common sailors or soldiers endure without murmuring or regret, without passionately declaiming against Providence, or calling their fellows to be gazers on their intrepidity. Every day is to them a day of misery; and yet they entertain their hard fate without repining.
With what indignation do I hear an Ovid, a Cicero, or a Robutin, complain of their misfortunes and hardships, whose greatest calamity was that of being unable to visit a certain spot of earth, to which they had foolishly attached an idea of happiness! Their distresses were pleasures, compared to what many of the adventuring poor every day endure without murmuring. They ate, drank, and slept, they had slaves to attend them, and were sure of subsistence for life; while many of their fellow-creatures are obliged to wander, without a friend to comfort or assist them, and even without a shelter from the severity of the season.
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 crutch, put himself 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 beg, 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 a 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 my 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 ate and drank 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 field belonging to a justice of peace, I spied a hare crossing the path just before me; and I believe the evil one put it in my head to fling my stick at it :—well, what will you have on't?-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, 1 found Newgate as agreeable a place as ever I was in, in all my life. I had my belly-full 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 a ship, and sent off, with two hundred more, to the plantations. We had but an indifferent passage; for, being all confined in the hold, more than a hundred of our people died for want of sweet air; and those that remained were sickly enough, God knows. 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.
"When my 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 pressgang. 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.
"When the peace came on, I was discharged; and, as I could not work, because my wound was sometimes troublesome, I listed for a landman 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 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-busi
ness; 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.' Then 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. thence, nine of us ran together to the quay, and, seizing the first boat we met, got out of the harbour, and put to sea. We had not been here three 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 as much luck as we expected. In three days we fell in with the Pompadour' privateer, of forty guns, while we had but twenty-three; 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, huzza!"
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 despise it.-Goldsmith.
XIV.-A FATHER'S ADVICE TO HIS SON.
THE time draws nigh, dear John, that I must go the way from which none returns. I cannot take thee with me; I must leave thee in a world where good counsel is not superabundant. No one is born wise. Time and experience teach us to separate the grain from the chaff. I have seen more of the world than thou. Therefore I give thee this advice, the result of my experience.
Attach not thy heart to any transitory thing. The truth comes not to us, dear son; we must seek for it. That which you see, scrutinise carefully; and with regard to things unseen and eternal, rely on the Word of God. Search no one so closely as thyself. Within us dwells the judge who never deceives, and whose voice is more to us than the applause of the world, and more than all the wisdom of the Egyptians and Greeks.
Uphold truth when thou canst, and be willing for her sake to be hated; but know that thy individual cause is not the cause of truth, and beware that they are not confounded. Do good for thy own satisfaction, and care not what follows. Cause no grey hairs to any one: nevertheless, for the right, even gray hairs are to be disregarded.
A man who has the fear of God in his heart, is like the sun that shines and warms, though it does not speak. that which is worthy of recompense, and ask none. daily upon death, and seek the life which is beyond with a cheerful courage; and, further, go not out of the world without having testified by some good deed thy love and respect for the Author of Christianity. Goethe.