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Upon reaching the middle of the floor, he stopped and saluted the officers with raised hand. Still keeping his out-turned palm at the height of his forehead, he said, before his amazed father could stop him, 'I am your drummer-boy. I am come to be punished along with Private Wilkinson, if you punish him.'
12. The speaker's quick eyes had found out the prisoner then being tried : Wilkinson, with drooping head, was standing at the foot of the table. Walter, with the drum in front of him, but keeping its sticks quite still, went and took up his position by his side.
'I didn't mean to tell them, Wilkinson,' he said, his swimming brown eyes asking forgiveness.
'It is all right, Master Walter,' answered the soldier. “But poor Mark I used to tell you of is dead.'
Dead!' echoed Walter, his eyes now overflowing with tears, as he reached one hand lovingly up to the soldier.
13. The officers were so upset by the entrance of Walter and what had followed it, that the court broke up. Private Wilkinson was taken back to the guard-room, his trial being put off till the next day. Indeed, it was delayed longer than that, for it was never finished. Colonel Gerard made some inquiries, from which he learned that Wilkinson got a letter from his sister, saying Mark was so ill he could not get better, and was always calling out for him. Wilkinson went to the officers' quarters to beg leave to go and see the boy, but a sergeant with whom he had a quarrel sneeringly told him that he would take care he did not get the leave. This man had great influence with the officers, and Wilkinson, half wild with thoughts of his dying little nephew calling out for him, at once left the barracks.
14. Colonel Gerard, with the full consent of his brother officers, managed that the prisoner was discharged without being tried again. But he had to lose his good-conduct stripes for a time, and to forfeit some money, for deserting from the army is a very serious thing.
Wilkinson and Walter, after this, were better friends than ever,
A PSALM OF LIFE.
1. TELL me not, in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream!
And things are not what they seem.
And the grave is not its goal ;
Was not spoken of the soul.
Is our destined end or way;
Finds us farther than to-day.
4. Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though stout and brave, Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.
In the bivouac of Life,
Be a hero in the strife!
Let the dead Past bury its dead !
Heart within, and God o'erhead. 7. Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
Footprints on the sands of time; 8. Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o'er life's solemn main,
Seeing, shall take heart again. 9. Let us, then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate;
Learn to labour and to wait.
TRAVELLING IN ENGLAND IN THE
TIME OF KING ALFRED.
1. TRAVELLING in the time of King Alfred was very different from what it is at the present day; coaches and carriages were not invented, and the only vehicles which went upon wheels were carts and
waggons; and these were so heavy and clumsy that there is not a farmer in the country in these days who would use the like of them. When people wished to go any distance, they were forced to ride all the way on horseback, so those who were sick and infirm could hardly ever leave their houses.
2. You could not even change your horse at different stages; when the animal was tired, you were obliged to stop till he had rested ; and if he fell lame or died, then you were forced to buy another—that is, if you could—for sometimes the inhabitants would refuse to deal with you, and then you could not get on at all.
3. Perhaps you would think, Well, but, at all events, a strong, healthy man, with a good horse, could travel very pleasantly, and go a long way without much difficulty. And so he might, pro
' vided he could always be sure of finding a good road, but that was by no means certain. In those times there were very few roads upon which one could travel with safety. The wise Romans
made excellent roads, extending through all parts of the empire ; and some of these can still be traced in England, running along as straight as an arrow : one of these is Watling Street, so often mentioned in history,
4. But after the fall of the Roman empire, their roads were neglected, and fell into decay, and the traveller could hardly proceed without great danger, or at least, without great fatigue, in AngloSaxon times. All at once your horse plunged into a marsh, or you came to a river, and the bridge was broken down; and when you tried to ford the stream, your horse might get out of his depth, and then he and his rider would certainly be drowned.
5. Sometimes the traveller had to pass through a dark forest, full of bears and wolves; and when he came to the end of his day's journey, instead of putting up at a comfortable inn, he was often compelled to stretch his cloak on the damp earth in some wretched hut, or on the broken pavement of a haunted, ruined temple, open to the starless sky. And what was worse, the kings and princes were almost always at war with each other, and a stranger was constantly liable to be plundered and seized or put to death by the contending parties.
6. Such were the dangers of the land. Those of the sea were equally appalling, though of another kind. The ancient vessels were not fine large ships floating like castles on the sea; but were small, frail barques, with one deck, and incapable of containing any great stores.