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In a short time, however, war broke out ; his regiment was one of the first which was called out to actual and hard service. As William was the most raw of all the recruits, he was the first to murmur at the difficulties and hardships, the cold and hunger, the fatigue and danger, of being a soldier. Oh what watchings, and perils, and trials, and hardships, and difficulties, he now thought attended a military life! “Surely,” said he, “I could never have suspected all this misery, when I used to see the men on the parade in our town.”
He now found, when it was too late, that all the field-days he used to attend, all the evolutions and exercises which he had observed the soldiers to go through in the calm times of peace and safety, were only meant to fit, train, and qualify them for the actual service which they were now sent out to perform by the command of the king.
The truth is, William often complained when there was no real hardship to complain of; for the common troubles of life fell out pretty much alike to the great family which William had left, and to the soldiers in the king's army. But the spirit of obedience, discipline, and self-denial of the latter seemed hardships to one of William's loose turn of mind. When he began to murmur, some good old soldier clapped him on the back, saying, “ Cheer up, lad, it is a kingdom you are to strive for : if we faint not, henceforth there is laid up for us a great reward; we have the king's word for it, man.” William observed, that to those who truly believed this, their labours were as nothing, but he himself did not at the bottom believe it ; and it was observed of all the soldiers who failed, the true cause was, that they did not really believe the king's promise. He was surprised to see that those soldiers, who used to bluster, and boast, and deride the assaults of the enemy, now began to fall away; while such as had faithfully obeyed the king's orders, and believed in his word, were sustained in the hour of trial. Those who had trusted in their own strength, all fainted on the slightest attack; while those who had put on the armour of the king's providing, the sword, and the shield, and the helmet, and the breast-plate, and whose feet were shod according to order, now endured hardship as good soldiers, and were enabled to fight the good fight.
An engagement was expected immediately. The men were ordered to prepare for battle. While the rest of the corps were so preparing, William's whole thoughts were bent on contriving how he might desert. But, alas! he was watched on all sides; he could not possibly devise any means to escape. The danger increased every moment--the battle came on. William, who had been so sure and confident before he entered, flinched in the moment of trial; while his more quiet and less boastful comrades prepared boldly to do their duty. William looked about on all sides, and saw that there was no eye upon him, for he did not know that the king's eye was everywhere at once. He at last thought he spied a chance of escaping, not from the enemy, but from his own army. While he was endeavouring to escape, a ball from the opposite camp took off his leg. As he fell, the first words which broke from him were, " While I was in my duty, I was preserved ; in the very act of deserting, I am wounded." He lay expecting every moment to be.trampled to death, but as soon as the confusion was a little over, he was taken off the field by some of his own party, laid in a place of safety, and left to himself, after his wound was dressed.
The skirmish, for it proved nothing more, was soon over.
The greater part of the regiment escaped in safety. William in the mean time suffered cruelly both in mind and body. To the pains of a wounded soldier, he added the disgrace of a coward, and the infamy of a deserter. “Oh,” cried he, “why was I such a fool as to leave the great family I lived in, where there was meat and drink enough and to spare, only on account of a little quarrel ? I might have made up that with them, as we had done our former quarrels. Why did I leave a life of ease and pleasure, where I had only a little rub now and then, for a life of daily discipline and constant danger ? why did I turn soldier? Oh, what a miserable animal is a soldier!"
As he was sitting in this weak and disabled condition, uttering the above complaints, he observed a venerable old officer, with thin grey locks on his head, and on his face deep wrinkles engraved by time, and many an honest scar inflicted by war. William had heard this old officer highly commended for his extraordinary courage and conduct in battle, and in peace he used to see him cool and collected, devoutly employed in reading and praying in the interval of more active duties. He could not help comparing this officer with himself.“I," said he, "flinched and drew back, and would even have deserted in the moment of peril ; and now, in return, I have no consolation in the hour of repose and safety. I would not fight then, I cannot pray now. Oh, why would I ever think of being a soldier ?” He then began afresh to weep and lament, and he groaned so loud that he drew the notice of the officer, who came up to him, kindly sat down by him, took him by the hand, and inquired, with as much affection as if he had been his brother, what was the matter with him, and what particular distress, more than the common fortune of war, it was, which drew from him such bitter groans ? “I know something of surgery,” added he ; “let me examine your wound, and assist you with such little comforts as I can."
William at once saw the difference between the soldiers in the king's army, and the people in the great family; the latter commonly withdrew their kindness in sickness and trouble, when most wanted, which was just the very time when the others came forward to assist. He told the officer his little history, the manner of his living in the great family, the trifling cause of his quarrelling with it, the slight ground of his entering into the king's service. “Sir," said he, “I quarrelled with the family, and I thought I was at once fit for the army ; I did not know the qualifications it required. I had not reckoned on discipline, and hardships, and selfdenial. I liked well enough to sing a loyal song, or drink the king's health ; but I find I do not relish working and fighting for him, though I rashly promised even to lay down my life for his service if called upon, when I took the bounty money and the oath of allegiance. In short, sir, I find that I long for the ease and sloth, the merriment and the feasting,
old service; I find I cannot be a soldier, and, to speak truth, I was in the very act of deserting when I was stopped short by the cannonball. So that I feel the guilt of desertion, and the misery of having lost my leg into the bargain.”
The officer thus replied: "Your state is that of every worldly, irreligious man. The great family you served is a just picture of the world. The wages the world promises to those who are willing to do its work are high, but the payment is attended with much disappointment;
nay, the world, like your great family, is in itself insolvent, and in its very nature incapable of making good the promises, and of paying the high rewards, which it holds out to tempt its credulous followers. The ungodly world, like your family, cares little for church, and still less for prayer; and considers the Bible rather as an instrument to make an oath binding, in order to keep the vulgar in obedience, than as containing in itself a perfect rule of faith and practice, and as a title-deed to heaven. The generality of men love the world, as you did your service, while it smiles upon them, and gives them easy work, and plenty of meat and drink ; but as soon as it begins to cross and contradict them, they get out of humour with it, just as you did with your service. They then think its drudgery hard, its rewards low. They find out that it is high in its expectations from them, and slack in its payments to them. And they begin to fancy (because they do not hear religious people murmur as they do) that there must be some bappiness in religion. The world, which takes no account of their deeper sins, at length brings them into discredit for some act of imprudence ; just as your family overlooked your lying and swearing, but threatened to drub you for breaking a china dish. Such is the judgment of the world! It particularly bears with those who only break the laws of God, but severely punishes the smallest negligence by which they themselves are injured. The world sooner pardons the breaking ten commandments of God than even a china dish of its own.
After some cross or opposition, worldly men, as I said before, begin to think how much content and cheerfulness they remember to have seen in religious people. They therefore begin to fancy that religion must be an easy and delightful, as well as a good thing. They have heard that “her ways are ways of pleasantness and all her paths are peace;" and they persuade themselves, that by this is meant worldly pleasantness, and sensual peace. They resolve at length to try it, to turn their back upon the world, to engage in the service of God, and turn Christians; just as you resolved to leave your old service, to enter into the service of the king, and turn soldier. But as you quitted your place in a passion, so they leave the world in a huff. They do not count the cost. They do not calculate upon the darling sins, the habitual pleasures, the ease and vanities which they undertake by their new engagements to renounce, any more than you counted what indulgences you were going to give up when you quitted the luxuries and idleness of your place, to enlist in the soldier's warfare. They have, as I said, seen Christians cheerful, and they mistook the ground of their cheerfulness; they fancied it arose, not because through grace they had conquered difficulties, but because they had no difficulties
They fancied that religion found the road smooth, whereas it only helps to bear with a rough road without complaint. They do not know that these Christians are of good cheer, not because the world is free from tribulation, but because Christ their captain has 'overcome the world.' But the irreligious man, who has only seen the outside of a Christian in his worldly intercourse, knows little of his secret conflicts, his trials, his self-denials, his warfare with the world without, and with his own corrupt desires within.
“The irreligious man quarrels with the world on some such occasion as you did with your place. He now puts on the outward forms and cere
in their passage.
monies of religion, and assumes the badge of Christianity, just as you were struck with the shows of a field-day; just as you were pleased with the music and the marching, and put on the cockade and the red coat. All seems smooth for a little while. He goes through the outward exercises of a Christian, a degree of credit attends his new profession, but he never suspects there is either difficulty or discipline attending it; he fancies religion is a thing for talking about, and not a thing of the heart and the life. He never suspects that all the psalm-singing he joins in, and the sermons he hears, and the other means he is using, are only as the exercises and the evolutions of the soldiers, to fit and prepare him for actual service; and that these means are no more religion itself, than the exercises and evolutions of your parade were real warfare.
“At length some trial arises. This nominal Christian is called to differ from the world in some great point; something happens which may strike at his comfort, or his credit, or security. This cools his zeal for religion, just as the view of an engagement cooled your courage as a soldier. He finds he was only angry with the world, he was not tired of it. He was out of humour with the world, not because he had seen through its vanity and emptiness, but because the world was out of humour with him. He finds that it is an easy thing to be a fair-weather Christian, bold where there is nothing to be done, and confident where there is nothing to be feared. Difficulties unmask him to others; temptations unmask him to himself; he discovers, that though he is a high professor, he is no Christian; just as you found out that your red coat and your cockade, your shoulder-knot, and your musket, did not prevent you from being a coward.
“ Your misery in a military life, like that of the nominal Christian, arose from your love of ease, your cowardice, and your self-ignorance. You rushed into a new way of life, without trying after one qualification for it. A total change of heart and temper were necessary for your new calling. With new views and new principles, the soldier's life would have been not only easy but delightful to you. But while with a new profession you retained
old nature, it is no wonder if all discipline seemed intolerable
“The true Christian, like the brave soldier, is supported under dangers by a strong faith that the fruits of that victory for which he fights will be safety and peace. But, alas! the pleasures of this world are present and visible; the rewards for which he strives are remote. He therefore fails, because nothing short of a lively faith can ever outweigh a strong present temptation, and lead a man to prefer the joys of conquest to the pleasures of indulgence."
BETTY BROWN, THE ST. GILES'S ORANGE GIRL:
WITH SOME ACCOUNT OF
MRS. SPONGE, THE MONEY-LENDER.
Betty Brown, the Orange Girl, was born nobody knows where, and bred nobody knows how. No girl in all the streets of London could drive a barrow more nimbly, avoid pushing against passengers more dextrously, or cry her “ Fine China Oranges” in a shriller voice. But then she could neither sew, nor spin, nor knit, nor wash, nor iron, nor read, nor spell. Betty had not been always in so good a situation as that in which we now describe her. She came into the world before so many good gentlemen and ladies began to concern themselves so kindly that the poor might have a little learning. There was no charitable society then, as there is now, to pick up poor friendless children in the streets,* and put them into
good house, and give them meat, and drink, and lodging, and learning, and teach them to get their bread in an honest way, into the bargain. Whereas, this now is often the case in London: blessed be God who “has ordered the bounds of our habitation, and cast our lot in such a country!
The longest thing that Betty can remember is, that she used to crawl up out of a night cellar, stroll about the streets, and pick cinders from the scavengers' carts. Among the ashes she sometimes found some ragged gauze and dirty ribbons; with these she used to dizen herself out, and join the merry bands on the first of May. This was not, however, quite fair, as she did not lawfully belong either to the female dancers, who foot it gaily round the garland; or to the sooty tribe, who, on this happy holiday, forget their whole year's toil in Portman Square, cheered by the tender bounty of her whose wit has long enlivened the most learned, and whose taste and talents long adorned the most polished societies. Betty, however, often got a few scraps, by appearing to belong to both parties. But as she grew bigger, and was not an idle girl, she always put herself in the
way of doing something. She would run of errands for the footmen, or sweep the door for the maid of any house where she was known: she would run and fetch some porter, and never was once known either to sip a drop by the way, or steal the pot. Her quickness and fidelity in doing little jobs, got her into favour with lazy cook-maid, who was too apt to give away her master's cold meat and beer, not to those who were most in want, but to those who waited upon her, and did the little things for her which she ought to have done herself.
The cook, who found Betty a dextrous girl, soon employed her to sell ends of candles, pieces of meat and cheese, and lumps of butter, or anything else she could crib from the house. These were all carried to her friend Mrs. Sponge, who kept a little shop, and a kind of eating-house for poor working people, not far from the Seven Dials. She also bought, as well as sold, many kinds of second-hand things, and was not scrupulous to know whether what she bought was honestly come by, provided slie
* The Philanthropic Institution in St. George's Fields, established in 1788, under the patronage of the late Duke of York.