« AnteriorContinuar »
wisest man in the 201st, where- “Get to the top of the tree, my
boy,” wrote old Spunner; "that's “Oh, I'm one of those usual what has to be done nowadays. exceptions which are always forth. If you can't shin up an oak or a coming to prove a rule.”
pine, get up a poplar; the timber Spunner's weak point was be- is good for nothing, but it grows lieved to be parsimony. Though high, and you must be with the he was one of the richest fellows climbers. A giddy fellow, who in the regiment, he was what is has no head for dangerous ascents, called -6 close,” and knew how to
may laugh at the toll you have to take care of his money—not frit- pay in the way of rents in your tering it away on betting and nether garments, but get up; and frivolities; but nevertheless spend when you reach the top, you'll be ing it, on the whole, liberally above the eyesight of those who enough—as when there was a ball look out for small blemishes; and or extra big demand on the mess, your comrades, up there along with or band subscriptions, or a treat you, will have enough to do to hold to the men at circus or theatre. on, and will not, I promise you, He was popular, though he hailed take note of such trifles. He that from Manchester. Like Fitz, he sticks his brush out at the chimwas never known to lose his tem- ney-top for the crowd to stare at, per, and could stand any amount and shouts to make people look, of chaff.
may not be the best sweep; but The two might be taken as fair he gets the most thought of and types of their distinctive classes. talked about, and the biggest reOne of the oldest private soldiers ward in the way of success." in the regiment had known Spun- The advice given to Fitz by his ner's father when both were street father when he sent him to SandArabs, and before the latter be- hurst was equally sound from his
an office-boy in the huge standpoint, though necessarily of a establishment which he now owned very different character. as senior surviving partner. This are at all inclined to be proud of fact got to the ears of a corporal, your descent, my boy—as I befrom him to the sergeants' mess, lieve you are—from worthy ancesand so travelled to the sergeant- tors, remember always that the major, and onward and upward worth which was theirs, you intill, by some means or other, it herit by no merit of your own. got to be known among Spunner's You were born to it, just as we brother officers, very soon after he are born into particular creeds; joined; but to do them justice, but, all the same, you hold it in the fact was never insultingly trust, and you should never allow thrown in his teeth—as it would yourself to forget that you
will have been if he had been the least probably be an ancestor to others bit of a snob. He was not—he of your race. See, therefore, that
a character” in his way, and you leave after you a repute which was valued accordingly. The ad- your descendants may be proud to vice which he got from his father inherit.” was sound if commonplace, and And surely this is the only he was ever on the watch to pro- true and admirable pride of fit by it and follow it. He re- family. He who, in the comjoiced now in the prospect of active mon acceptation, is self-made, the service as a means to his end. first of his race, is not in honour
6. If you
called upon by the exigencies of apparently quite heedless of the society to dig up the names and old saw which gives to every bullet reputations (such as they are) of its billet. those who have left no record of The voice of Fitz rang out at anything worth delving for; and midnight as musically as
ever ; he may comfort himself with the while, responsive to the general certainty that, if he is without a call, he sang, “by special refamily muniment-room, he is also quest, and possibly for the last without the skeletons which too time," as Tiptop with grim faoften abide in it.
cetiousness observed, a song
which “Rather have a care,” the pa- seemed to be an old favourite, beternal Bateman's letter went on, ginning “my dear Fitzmaurice, that while another makes a good beginning * I'm a thoroughbred Paddy, to his, you don't make a bad end- And proud of it too! ing to your own pedigree. The
What I can't avoid doing world is well stocked with snobs.
I'm willing to do ;
With a heart and a halfpenny always The most repulsive snob of any is he who boasts of his relation
And a family motto of " · Divil
may ship to live lords. I have known several of these lords, whom the The owld Irish reading for—Never adventitious aid of an ancestral despair !'" handle to their names has not raised above mediocrity and con- Play on, big boys, until the time tempt. He who could boast of for more serious work arrives, and such kinship, deserves to find no hearts beat high—or cease to beat better. But there are lords to upon the battle-field. Amid the whose repute a mere title can add ups and downs, the hopes and nothing Do not speak of your fears, the joys and sorrows of that relationship to any of these till strange admixture which goes to you have acquitted yourself so make up the sum of this mortal that they will hear of the kin- life, it is indeed a wise and allship, if not with satisfaction, at merciful dispensation of Provileast with unconcern.”
dence which shuts out the future a sensible letter, it from our ken, else would the hopes must be admitted, and one, more- and aspirations of existence be too over, which the healthy young heavily handicapped for human animal to whom it was addressed endurance. fully appreciated and understood. It is given to the novelist only He knew that his father was a to look into the future, but what thorough gentleman and a brave the sight discloses he is not at soldier, and had also found out liberty to declare before the apthat, if he had the least inclina- pointed time; at all events, the tion to be a snob, the army was noise becomes so great in this parabout the last profession in which ticular barrack-room, that at last to pose as such.
we are forced to fly. must not linger too The country was now in the long in the company of these throes of war, and, as usual, we pleasant fellows. On the eve of had entered upon it by underrattheir departure for “the front,” ing the strength and resources of they were as merry as schoolboys the enemy. Disaster had come going home for the vacation, and upon us unawares, and the nation
was in a state of ferment, having ness, he has his innings at momenbeen defrauded of its legitimate tous times like these ; and I for victim; and a victim, ever since one don't grudge them. He will the days of poor Admiral Byng, have them again by-and-by, if he John Bull yearns for, and de- has only the good luck to get mands as a right, after
home. serious reverse
— as a necessary honour to him! I myself have peace - offering to his wounded had, and always shall have, the pride and self - esteem. It is, scarlet fever. If I hadn't been however, only fair to John to of the wrong sex to begin with, admit that he is lavish of honours, I should have sought reversionary where success gives him a fair glory (without the risk) by marryexcuse for bestowing them. In ing into the army.
The simple both cases he likes to get hold of reader may ask, “Why, being the right man, either to reward then confessedly a male, are you or punish, as the case may be. not a soldier ?" To which I reply, He makes mistakes sometimes, that possibly I am of a delicate but his heart is in the right place constitution; or a too fond mother nevertheless.
may have objected; or I may not Troops were now being collect- have had brains for Sandhursted from all quarters to repair still less for Woolwich; or again, our disaster, and were being soldiering being a profession not gathered together for speedy em- self - supporting, there may have barkation. The garrison - port of been pecuniary drawbacks. Be Westerly-on-Sea was in a state good enough, my dear sir, to of wild excitement and abnormal make any excuse for me which bustle, in consequence of the ar- does not necessitate my showing rival of horse and foot by every the white feather! But all these train as well as by the Queen's high- inquisitorial points are personal way. Hired transports relieved matters with which the reader each other at the quays, each has nothing whatever to do; and taking off its full complement. even if it should be on the cards Soldiers were billeted in almost that I lack the actual amount of
Female hearts, as courage, I could hardly be exheretofore and since, were beating pected to make the damaging loud, I have no doubt; but the admission. It is not on the beating of drums and the braying cards. of trumpets and the clanging of I say again that I fervently arms made the ears of the most hope the scarlet fever may long sensitive civilian deaf to these remain an ailment among the fair more subtle sounds; and Tommy sex—nay, more, one which may Atkins, perforce, did his farewells never abate.
Where is there a for the most part in dumb show, nobler fellow than a well-condi
tioned soldier ? Familiar with All honour to this same Tommy hardship, contumely, and danger; Atkins, old or young! I say par- shut out from competency and enthetically. Despised and con- comfort ; ready at
a moment's temned too often in the piping notice to face death, with times of peace, when selfish men other reward, if he should escape think only of the counter and the it, than a two-and-sixpenny medal till, and of the profits resulting on his breast. Put him into the from a slavish attention to busi- balance and weigh him against the
poor fellow !
sleek and well - dressed counter- to a grand ball—a farewell one jumper, who looks upon himselfgiven by the officers of that as a superior being; throw in the gallant corps to the nobility and knapsack and the straps and belts gentry of the neighbourhood and that have been so patiently donned town. The non - commissioned by Tommy Atkins in your service, officers followed the example of and worn through many a weary their superiors, and gave a ball march; throw in the rifle and the too; while the privates were alsteel which have helped to make lowed to accept hospitality or to England what she is, and tell us entertain their friends. honestly the result. Well, the Old Colonel Bob Lister of the counter-jumper rises in the scale, “Do-or-Dies” had full confidence and Tommy and his accoutrements in his men; and while relaxing jingle down into the mud. Only the reins of discipline under such for the scarlet fever, he would exceptional circumstances, he was never be helped up, as a general quite satisfied that the concession rule. I confess it makes my blood would not be seriously or culboil to see, as I have often seen, pably abused, and that the final contempt heaped upon Tommy by muster would be—as it always a disreputable waiter or a low bar- had been—fully up to the mark maid. “ Third-class refreshment and creditable to his regiment. room lower down,” or “Sodgers He made a speech in the barain't admitted here,” and all that rack square before " breaking off," sort of thing
which wasn't long, but was very But it was not so at Westerly- much to the point all the same. on-Sea. It was not in accord at The men were to enjoy themselves any time, and still less was it in but not to get drunk, and every solaccord just then, with the public dier was to put in an appearance, sentiment of the place. At the and to 6 fall in responsive to the period of which we write, Tom- bugle - call at the muster. “No my was being feasted, honoured, skulking or deserting, or anything praised, petted, and made much of that sort, boys," he said. "I of by everybody, small and great, expect the gallant D.D.'s to mainhigh and low, without distinction tain its character to the last moof persons, or classes, or creeds- ment here in England; and I exfor there were no Quakers there. pect it to return to England with The 201st had been for a long its ranks perhaps reduced, but time quartered in the town : ac- with its reputation increased—as quaintances had been made, court- heretofore. But, look here! If ships carried on, and, as a natural
I find a
drunk to-morrow consequence, some marriages cele- morning on parade, by the Lord !” brated—to say nothing of bap- -and he shook his head and both tisms. And now that links were fists portentously, as he shouted to be severed and ties broken, “ Break off!” there was nothing for it but to They all knew what his “
“ By kill care and sorrow by jollity the Lord !” meant. He went by and enjoyment.
the familiar name of Old Blister The time was short and the in the barrack-rooms, because of notice sudden, though not unex- his severity, which fitted in so pected, and Westerly made the aptly with his initial and surmost of it. But one night more name; yet he was respected by remained; and this was devoted the wildest spirits in the ranks
who had come to feel the weight not ashamed to feel or to display; of his punishments, for he was and it must honestly be confessed always just, though he was “dead that no better “chief” ever connuts,' as they all knew, upon trolled a gallant corps, than Old drunkards. He never inflicted a Blisterpenalty on an offender without
"An yron man,
made of ye yron expressing a regret which he was mould.”
Balls generally, public or pri- hard at the decorations; and their vate, are a success, for the simple taste and skill did them, it must reason that the majority of those be frankly owned, infinite credit. who go to them are young, and Fitz, whose inherent modesty did therefore go prepared to take en- not lead by any means, as joyment out of them.
know, to self-depreciation, conThat the farewell ball of the gratulated himself hugely on the gallant
“ Do-or-Dies” was no ex- result as he looked proudly round ception, goes without saying. What him, and took in, with a sweepingwith the decorations formed of ly comprehensive grasp of vision, rifles, swords, bayonets, and flags the "gay and festive scene” around
the regimental band — the gay him. uniforms — brave men and hand- “I wouldn't have to go through
women — it was simply a it all again, though,” he remarked brilliant affair; and was declared with a suppressed yawn to Tiptop, by the Westerly Daily News,' in “ for a good deal. In fact, I'd leader type, to have been the most almost as soon go through a camenjoyable gathering of the sort paign." which had taken place within the “Well, I like that,” responded memory of the reporter for that Tiptop, languidly letting his eyelong-lived print, who had--if the glass drop from his eye as he opentruth must be told succumbed ed it wider with a mild wonder; early in the evening (having a fellow that's never been at a prudently prepared his report be- good-sized review talking about a forehand) to the combined effects campaign! I like that Fitz.” of brandy and heat; and had re
do! Even that adtired early to a back bench in the mission is worth something from a musicians' gallery, where, having worthy whose motto is, or should been, after much coaxing, induced be, nil admirari ; but, now I to go to bed thereon without un- come to think of it, deuce a much dressing himself, he compromised experience of fire-eating you have matters by merely taking off one had to brag about either!” boot, to indicate that he was not, “But I don't brag about itas one of the band observed, “in there's the difference, my boy; I full marching order.”
don't talk of what I know nothing Fitz and Tiptop had worked very about.”