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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 la bourer, 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, how. ever, 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 the peace, I spied a hare crossing the path just before me; and I believe the devil put it into 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 call. ed 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 my breed, seed, and generation; 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 my bellyful 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 was 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 my. self, 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 shammed Abraham, merely to be idle; but, God knows, 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 sentries' 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. I hate the French because they are all slaves, and wear wooden shoes.
Though we had no arms, one Englishman is able to beat five French at any time; so 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 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 good 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 Frenchmau, 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 use of my hand on board a king's ship, and not aboard a privateer, I should have been entitled to clothing and mainten ance 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! Fenjoy 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 au habitual acquaint ance with misery serves better than philosophy to teach us to despise it.
ON THE FRAILTY OF MAN:
SUPPOSED TO BE WRITTEN BY THE ORDINARY OF NEWGATE.
MAN is a most frail being, incapable of directing
his steps, unacquainted with what is to happen in this life; and perhaps no man is a more manifest instance of the truth of this maxim, than Mr. The. Cibber, just now gone out of the world. Such a variety of turns of fortune, yet such a persevering uniformity of conduct, appears in all that happened in his short span, that the whole may be looked up♦n as one regular confusion: every action of his life