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THE HISTORY OF LITTLE JACK
HERE was once a poor lame old man that lived in the midst of a wide uncultivated moor, in the north of England. He had formerly been a soldier, and had almost lost the use of one leg by a wound he had received in battle, when he was fighting against the enemies of his country. This poor man, when he found himself thus disabled, built a little hut of clay, which he covered with turf dug from the common. He had a little bit of ground which he made shift to cultivate with his own hands, and which supplied him with potatoes and other vegetables. Besides this, he sometimes gained a few halfpence by opening a gate for travellers, which stood near his house. In his walks over the common, he one day found a little kid that had lost its mother, and was almost famished with hunger: he took it home to his cottage, fed it with the produce of his garden, and nursed it till it grew strong and vigorous. Little Nan (for that was the name he gave it) returned his cares with gratitude, and became as much attached to him as a dog. She would nestle her little head in his bosom, and eat out of his hand part of his scanty allowance of bread, which he never failed to divide with his favourite. The old man often beheld her with silent joy; and in the innocent effusion of his heart, would lift his hands to heaven, and thank the Deity, who even in the midst of poverty and distress, had raised him up one faithful friend.
One night, in the beginning of winter, the old man thought he heard the feeble cries and lamentations of a child. As he was naturally charitable, he arose and struck a light, and going out of his cottage, examined on every side. It was not long before he discerned an infant, which had probably been dropped by some strolling beggar or gipsy. The old man stood amazed at the sight, and knew not what to do. ‘Shall I,’ said he, ‘who find it so difficult to live at present, encumber myself with the care of an helpless infant, that will not for many years be capable of contributing to its own subsistence? And yet,’ added he, softening with pity, ‘can I deny assistance to a human being still more miserable than myself? Will not that Providence which feeds the birds of the wood and beasts of the field, and which has promised to bless all that are kind and charitable, assist my feeble endeavours? At least, let me give it food and lodging for this night; for, without I receive it into my cottage, the poor abandoned wretch must perish with cold before the morning.’ Saying this, he took it up in his arms, and perceived it was a fine healthy boy, though covered with rags: the little foundling, too, seemed to be sensible of his kindness, and, smiling in his face, stretched out his chubby arms, as if to embrace his benefactor. When he had brought it into his hut, he began to be extremely embarrassed how to procure it food; but, looking at Nan, he recollected that she had just lost her kid, and saw her udder distended with milk; he therefore called her to him, and presenting the child to the teat, was overjoyed to find that it sucked as naturally as if it had really found a mother. The goat too seemed to receive pleasure from the efforts of the child, and submitted without opposition to discharge the duties of a nurse. And now the old man began to feel an interest in the child, which made him defer some time longer the taking measures to be delivered from its care. ‘Who knows,’ said he, ‘but Providence, which has preserved this child in so wonderful a manner, may have destined it to something equally wonderful in its future life, and may bless me as the humble agent of its decrees? At least, as he grows bigger, he will be a pleasure and comfort to me in this lonely cabin, and will assist in cutting turf for fuel, and cultivating the garden.’ From this time he became more and more attached to the little foundling, who in a short time learned to consider the old man as a parent, and delighted him with its innocent caresses.
It was wonderful to see how this child, thus left to nature, increased in strength and vigour. Unfettered by bandages or restraints, his limbs acquired their due proportions and form; his countenance was full and florid, and gave indications of perfect health; and at an age when other children are scarcely able to support themselves with the assistance of a nurse, this little foundling could run alone. In a short time, Little Jack was completely master of his legs; and as the summer came on, he attended his mamma, the goat, upon the common, and used to play with her for hours together; sometimes rolling under her belly, now climbing upon her back, and frisking about as if he had been really a kid. As to his clothing, Jack was not much encumbered with it: he had neither shoes nor stockings; but the weather was warm, and Jack felt himself so much lighter for every kind of exercise. As he grew bigger, Jack became of considerable use to his father; he could trust him to look after the gate, and open it during his absence; and as to the cookery of the family, it was not long before Jack was a complete proficient, and could make broth almost as well as his daddy himself. During the winter nights, the old man used to entertain him with stories of what he had seen during his youth; the battles and sieges he had been witness to, and the hardships he had undergone; all this he related with so much vivacity that Jack was never tired of listening. But what delighted him beyond measure was to see daddy shoulder his crutch, instead of a musket, and give the word of command: — To the right — to the left — present — fire — march — halt. All this was familiar to Jack’s ear as soon as he could speak; and before he was six years old, he poised and presented a broom-stick, which his daddy gave him for that purpose, with as good a grace as any soldier of his age in Europe. The old man, too, instructed him in such plain and simple morals and religion as he was able to explain. ‘Never tell an untruth, Jack,’ said he, ‘even though you were to be flayed alive; a soldier never should tell lies.’ Jack held up his head, marched across the floor, and promised that he would always tell the truth, like a good soldier. But the old man, as he was something of a scholar, had a great ambition that his darling should learn to read and write: and this was a work of some difficulty, for he had neither printed book, nor pens, nor paper, in his cabin. Industry, however, enables us to overcome difficulties: in the summer-time, as the old man sat before his cottage, he would draw letters in the sand, and teach Jack to name them singly, until he was acquainted with the whole alphabet. He then proceeded to syllables, and after that to words; all which his little pupil learned to pronounce with great facility: and as he had a strong propensity to imitate what he saw, he not only acquired the power of reading words, but of tracing all the letters which composed them on the sand.
About this time, the poor goat which had nursed Jack so faithfully, grew sick and died. The poor goat was buried in the old man’s garden, and thither Little Jack would often come, and call upon his poor mammy Nan, and ask her why she had left him. One day, as he was thus employed, a lady happened to come by in a carriage, and overheard him before he was aware. Jack ran in an instant to open the gate, but the lady stopped, and asked him who he was bemoaning so pitifully, and calling upon? Jack answered that it was his poor mammy that was buried in the garden. The lady thought it very odd to hear of such a burial-place, and therefore proceeded to question him. ‘How did your mamma get her living?’ said she. ‘She used to graze here upon the common all day long,’ said Jack. The lady was still more astonished; but the old man came out of his hut, and explained the whole affair to her, which surprised her very much. She therefore looked on Jack with amazement, admired his brown but animated face, and praised his shape and activity. ‘Will you go with me, little boy?’ said she, ‘and I will take care of you, if you behave well.’ ‘No,’ said Jack, ‘I must stay with daddy; he has taken care of me for many years, and now I must take care of him; otherwise I should like very well to go with such a sweet good-natured lady.’ The lady was not displeased with Jack’s answer, and putting her hand in her pocket, gave him half a crown to buy him shoes and stockings, and pursued her journey. Jack was not unacquainted with the use of money, as he had been often sent to the next village to purchase bread and necessaries; but he was totally unacquainted with the use of shoes and stockings, which he had never worn in his life, or felt the want of. The next day, however, the old man bade him run to town, and lay his money out as the lady had desired; for he had too much honour to think of disobeying her commands, or suffer it to be expended for any other purpose. It was not long before Jack returned; but the old man was much surprised to see him come back as bare as he went out. ‘Heigh, Jack!’ said he, ‘where are the shoes and stockings which you were to purchase?’ — ‘Daddy,’ answered Jack, ‘I went to the shop, and tried a pair for sport, but found them so cumbersome, that I could not walk, and I would not wear such things, even if the lady would give me another half a crown for doing it; so I laid my money out in a warm jacket for you, because the winter is coming on, and you seem to be more afraid of the cold than formerly.’ Many such instances of good conduct did Jack display; by which it is easy to perceive that he had an excellent soul and generous temper. One failing, indeed, Jack was liable to; though a very good-natured boy, he was a little too jealous of his honour. His daddy had taught him the use of his hands and legs; and Jack had such dispositions for the art of boxing, that he could beat every boy in the neighbourhood. of his age and size. Even if they were a head taller, it made no difference to Jack, provided they said any thing to wound his honour; for otherwise he was the most mild, pacific creature in the world.
In this manner lived Little Jack until he was twelve years old: at this time, his poor old daddy fell sick, and became incapable of moving about. Jack did everything he could think of for the poor man; he made him broths, he fed him with his own hands, he watched whole nights by his bedside, supporting his head, and helping him when he wanted to move. But it was all in vain; his poor daddy grew daily worse, and perceived it to be impossible that he should recover. He one day, therefore, called Little Jack to his bedside and pressing his hand affectionately, told him that he was just going to die. Little Jack burst into a flood of tears at this information; but his daddy desired him to compose himself, and attend to the last advice he should be able to give him. ‘I have lived,’ said the old man, ‘a great many years in poverty, but I do not know that I have been worse off than if I had been rich. I have avoided, perhaps, many faults and many uneasinesses, which I should have incurred had I been in another situation; and though I have often wanted a meal, and always fared hard, I have enjoyed as much health and life as usually falls to the lot of my betters. I am now going to die; I feel it in every part; the breath will soon be out of my body; then I shall be put in the ground, and the worms will eat your poor old daddy.’ At this Jack renewed his tears and sobbings, for he was unable to restrain them. But the old man said: ‘Have patience, my child; though I should leave this world, as I have always been strictly honest, and endeavoured to do my duty, I do not doubt but God will pity me, and convey me to a better place, where I shall be happier than I have ever been here. This is what I have always taught you, and this belief gives me the greatest comfort in my last moments. The only regret I feel is for you, my dearest child, whom I leave unprovided for. But you are strong and vigorous, and almost able to get your living. As soon as I am dead, you must go to the next village, and inform the people, that they may come and bury me. You must then endeavour to get into service, and work for your living; and if you are strictly honest and sober, I do not doubt that you will find a livelihood, and that God, who is the common father of all, will protect and bless you. Adieu, my child; I grow fainter and fainter. Never forget your poor old daddy, nor the examples he has set you; but in every situation of life discharge your duty, and live like a good soldier and a Christian.’ When the old man had with difficulty uttered these last instructions, his voice entirely failed him, his limbs grew cold and stiff, and in a few minutes he expired without a groan. Little Jack, who hung crying over his daddy, called upon him in vain — in vain endeavoured to revive him. The poor little boy was thus left entirely destitute, and knew not what to do; but one of the farmers, who had been acquainted with him before, offered to take him into his house, and give him his victuals for a few months, till he could find a service. Jack thankfully accepted the offer, and served him faithfully for several months; during which time he learned to milk, to drive the plough, and never refused any kind of work he was able to perform. But, unfortunately, the good-natured farmer contracted a fever, by overheating himself in the harvest, and died in the beginning of winter. His wife was therefore obliged to discharge her servants, and Jack was again turned loose upon the world, with only his clothes, and a shilling in his pocket, which his kind mistress had made him a present of. He was very sorry for the loss of his master; but he was now grown bigger and stronger, and thought he should easily find employment. He therefore set out upon his travels, walking all day, and inquiring at every farm-house for work. But in this attempt he was unfortunate, for nobody chose to employ a stranger; and though he lived with the greatest economy, he soon found himself in a worse situation than ever, without a farthing in his pocket, or a morsel of bread to eat. Jack, however, was not of a temper to be easily cast down; he walked resolutely on all the day, but towards evening was overtaken by a violent storm of rain, which wetted him to the skin, before he could find a bush for shelter. Now poor Jack began to think of his old daddy, and the comforts he had formerly enjoyed upon the common, where he had always a roof to shelter him, and a slice of bread for supper. But tears and lamentations were vain; and therefore, as soon as the storm was over, he pursued his journey, in hopes of finding some barn or outhouse to creep into for the rest of the night. While he was thus wandering about, he saw at some distance a great light, which seemed to come from some prodigious fire. Jack did not know what this could be; but in his present situation he thought a fire no disagreeable object, and therefore determined to approach it. When he came nearer, he saw a large building which seemed to spout fire and smoke at several openings, and heard an incessant noise of blows and the rattling of chains. Jack was at first a little frightened, but summoning all his courage, he crept cautiously on to the building, and looking through a chink, discovered several men and boys employed in blowing fires and hammering burning masses of iron. This was a very comfortable sight to him in his present forlorn condition; so, finding a door half open, he ventured in, and placed himself as near as he dared to one of the flaming furnaces. It was not long before he was discovered by one of the workmen, who asked him roughly what business he had there. Jack answered, with great humility, that he was a poor boy looking out for work; that he had not tasted food all day, and was wet to the skin with the rain, which was evident enough from the appearance of his clothes. By great good luck, the man he spoke to was good-natured, and therefore not only permitted him to stay by the fire, but gave him some broken victuals for his supper. After this, he laid himself down in a corner, and slept without disturbance till morning. He was scarcely awake the next day, when the master of the forge came in, to overlook his men, who, finding Jack, and hearing his story, began to reproach him as a lazy vagabond, and asked him why he did not work for his living? Jack assured him there was nothing he so earnestly desired; and that if he would please to employ him, there was nothing he would not do to earn a subsistence. ‘Well, my boy,’ said the master, ‘if this be true, you shall soon be tried; nobody need be idle here.’ So, calling his foreman, he ordered him to set the lad to work, and pay him according to his deserts. Jack now thought himself completely happy, and worked with so much assiduity, that he soon gained a comfortable livelihood, and acquired the esteem of his master. But, unfortunately, he was a little too unreserved in his conversation, and communicated the story of his former life and education. This was great matter of diversion to all the other boys of the forge, who. whenever they were inclined to be merry, would call him Little Jack the beggar-boy, and imitate the baaing of a goat. This was too much for his irascible temper, and he never failed to resent it.
It happened one day that a large company of gentlemen and ladies were introduced to see the works. The master attended them, and explained with great politeness every part of his manufacture. Whilst they were busy in examining the different processes, they were alarmed by a sudden noise of discord, which broke out on the other side of the building; and the master inquiring into the cause, was told that it was only Little Jack, who was fighting with Tom the Collier. At this the master cried out in a passion, ‘there is no peace to be expected in the furnace, while that little rascal is employed; send him to me, and I will instantly discharge him.’ At this moment Jack appeared, all covered with blood and dirt, and stood before his angry judge in a modest but resolute posture. ‘Is this the reward,’ said his master, ‘you little audacious vagabond, for all my kindness? Can you never refrain a single instant from broils and fighting? but I am determined to bear it no longer: and therefore you shall never from this hour, do a single stroke of work for me.’ — ‘Sir,’ replied Jack with great humility, but yet with firmness, ‘I am extremely sorry to have disobliged you, nor have I ever done it willingly since I have been here; and if the other boys would only mind their work as well as I do, and not molest me, you would not have been offended now; for I defy them all to say, that since I have been in the house I have ever given any one the least provocation, or ever refused, to the utmost of my strength, to do whatever I have been ordered.’ — ‘That’s true, indeed, (said the foreman;) I must do Little Jack the justice to say, that there is not a more honest, sober, and industrious lad about the place. Set him to do what you will, he never skulks, never grumbles, never slights his work; and, if it were not for a little passion and fighting, I don’t believe there would be his fellow in England.’ — ‘Well,’ said the master, a little mollified, ‘but what is the cause of all this sudden disturbance?’ — ‘Sir,’ answered Jack, ‘it is Tom that has been abusing me, telling me that my father was a beggar-man and my mother a nanny-goat; and when I desired him to be quiet, he went baaing all about the house: and this I could not bear, for as to my poor father he was an honest soldier, and if I did suck a goat, she was the best creature in the world; and I won’t hear her abused while I have strength in my body.’
At this harangue the whole audience were scarcely able to refrain from laughing, and the master, with more composure, told Jack to mind his business, and threatened the other boys with punishment if they disturbed him. But a lady who was in company seemed particularly interested about little Jack, and when she had heard his story, said, ‘this must certainly be the little boy who opened a gate several years past for me upon Morcot Moor; I remember being struck with his appearance, and hearing him lament the loss of the goat that nursed him. I was very much affected with his history; and since he deserves so good a character, if you will part with him, I will instantly take him into my service.’ The master replied, that he should part with him with great satisfaction to such an excellent mistress; that indeed the boy deserved all the commendations which had been given, but since the other lads had such a habit of plaguing, and Jack was of so impatient a temper, he despaired of ever composing their animosities. Jack was then called, and informed of the lady’s offer, which he instantly accepted with the greatest readiness, and received immediate directions to her house. Jack was now in a new sphere of life. His face was washed, his hair combed, he was clothed afresh, and appeared a very smart active lad. His business was, to help in the stable, to water the horses, to clean shoes, to perform errands, and to do all the jobs of the family; and in the discharge of these services, he soon gave general satisfaction. He was indefatigable in doing what he was ordered, never grumbled, or appeared out of temper, and seemed so quiet and inoffensive in his manner, that everybody wondered how he had acquired the character of being quarrelsome. In a short time he became both the favourite and the drudge of the whole family; for speak but kindly to him, and call him a little soldier, and Jack was at every one’s disposal. This was Jack’s particular foible and vanity; at his leisure hours he would divert himself, by the hour together, in poising a dungfork, charging with a broomstick, and standing sentry at the stable-door. Another propensity of Jack’s which now discovered itself, was an immoderate love of horses. Jack was never tired with rubbing down and currying them; the coachman had scarcely any business but to sit upon his box: all the operations of the stable were intrusted to Little Jack, nor was it ever known that he neglected a single particular. But what gave him more pleasure than all the rest, was sometimes to accompany his mistress upon a little horse, which he managed with infinite dexterity.
Jack, too, discovered a great disposition for all the useful and mechanic arts. He had served an apprenticeship already to the manufactory of iron, and of this he was almost as vain as being a soldier. As he began to extend his knowledge of the world, he saw that nothing could be done without iron. ‘How would you plough the ground,’ said Jack; ‘how would you dig your garden; how would you even light a fire, dress a dinner, shoe a horse, or do the least thing in the world, if we workmen at the forge did not take the trouble of preparing it for you?’ These ideas naturally gave Jack a great esteem for the profession of a blacksmith, and in his occasional visits to the forge with the horses, he learned to make and fix a shoe as neat as any artist in the country. Nor were Jack’s talents confined to the manufacture of iron; his love of horses was so great, and his interest in every thing that related to them, that it was not long before he acquired a competent knowledge in the art of saddlery. There was in the family where he now lived, a young gentleman, nephew of his mistress, who had lost his parents, and was therefore brought up by his aunt. As Master Willets was something younger than Jack, and a very good-natured boy, he soon began to take notice of him, and be much diverted with his company. Jack, indeed, was not undeserving this attention; for although he could not boast any great advantage of education, his conduct was entirely free from all the vices to which some of the lower class of people are subject; Jack was never heard to swear, or express himself with any indecency. He was civil and respectful in his manners to all his superiors, and uniformly good-natured to his equals. Master Willets had a little horse which Jack looked after: and, not contented with looking after him in the best manner, he used to ride him at his leisure hours with so much care and address, that in a short time he made him the most gentle and docile little animal in the country. Jack had acquired this knowledge, partly from his own experience, and partly from paying particular attention to an itinerant riding-master that had lately exhibited various feats in that neighbourhood. Jack attended him so closely, and made so good a use of his time, that he learned to imitate almost every thing he saw, and used to divert the servants and his young master with acting the tailor’s riding to Brentford.
The young gentleman had a master who used to come three times a week to teach him arithmetic, writing, and geography. Jack used to be sometimes in the room while the lessons were given, and listened according to custom, with so much attention to all that passed, that he received very considerable advantage for his own improvement. He had now a little money, and he laid some of it out to purchase pens and paper and a slate, with which at night he used to imitate every thing he had heard and seen in the day; and his little master, who began to love him very sincerely, when he saw him so desirous of improvement, contrived under one pretence or other to have him generally in the room while he was receiving instruction himself. In this manner he went on for some years, leading a life very agreeable to himself, and discharging his duty very much to the satisfaction of his mistress. An unlucky accident at length happened to interrupt his tranquillity. A young gentleman came down to visit Master Willets, who having been educated in France, and among genteel people in London, had a very great taste for finery, and a supreme contempt for all the vulgar. His dress too was a little particular, as well as his manners; for he spent half his time in adjusting his head; wore a large black bag tied to his hair behind, and would sometimes strut about for half an hour together with his hat under his arm, and a little sword by his side. This young man had a supreme contempt for all the vulgar, which he did not attempt to conceal, and when he had heard the story of Jack’s birth and education, he could scarcely bear to be in the same room with him. Jack soon perceived the aversion which the stranger entertained for him, and at first endeavoured to remove it by every civility in his power; but when he found that he gained nothing by all his humility, his temper, naturally haughty, took fire, and, as far as he dared, he plainly showed all the resentment he felt.
It happened one day, after Jack had received some very mortifying usage from this young gentleman, that as he was walking along the road, he met with a showman, who was returning from a neighbouring fair, with some wild beasts in a cart. Among the rest was a middle-sized monkey, who was not under cover like the rest, and played so many antic tricks, and made so many laughable grimaces, as engaged all Jack’s attention, and delighted him very much; for he had always a propensity for every species of drollery. After a variety of questions and conversation, the show-man, who probably wanted to be rid of his monkey, proposed to Jack to sell him for half a crown. Jack could not resist the temptation of being master of such a droll diverting animal, and therefore agreed to the bargain. But when he was left alone with his purchase, he soon began to repent his haste, and knew not how to dispose of him. As there was, however, no other remedy, Jack brought him carefully home, and confined him safe in an outhouse, which was not applied to any use. In this situation he kept him several days, without accident, and frequently visited him at his leisure hours, with apples, nuts, and such other presents as he could procure. Among other tricks which the monkey had been taught to perform, he would rise upon his hind legs at the word of command, and bow with the greatest politeness to the company. Jack who had found out these accomplishments in his friend, could not resist the impulse of making them subservient to his resentment. He therefore one day procured some flour, with which he powdered his monkey’s head, fixed a large paper bag to his neck, put an old hat under his arm, and tied a large iron skewer to his side, instead of a sword; and thus accoutred led him about with infinite satisfaction, calling him Monsieur, and jabbering such broken French as he had picked up from the conversation of the visitor. It happened very unluckily that the young gentleman himself passed by, and instantly saw at one glance the intended copy of himself, and all the malice of Little Jack, who was leading him along and calling to him to hold up his head and look like a person of fashion. Rage instantly took possession of his mind, and drawing his sword, which he happened to have on, he without consideration ran the poor monkey through with a sudden thrust, and laid him dead upon the ground. What more he might have done is uncertain, for Jack who was not of a temper to see calmly such an outrage committed upon an animal whom he considered as his friend, flew upon him like a fury, and wrestling the sword out of his hand, broke it into twenty pieces. The young gentleman himself received a fall in the scuffle, which, though it did him no material damage, daubed all his clothes, and totally spoiled the whole arrangement of his dress. At this instant, the lady herself, who had heard the noise, came down, and the violence of poor Jack was too apparent to be excused. Jack, indeed, was submissive to his mistress, whom he was sorry to have offended, but when he was ordered to make concessions to the young gentleman, as the only conditions upon which he could be kept in the family, he absolutely refused. He owned, indeed, that he was much to blame for resenting the provocations he had received, and endeavouring to make his mistress’s company ridiculous; but as to what he had done in defence of his friend the monkey, there were no possible arguments which could convince him he was the least to blame, nor would he have made submission to the king himself. This unfortunate obstinacy of Jack’s was the occasion of his being discharged, very much to the regret of the lady herself, and still more to that of Master Willetts. Jack therefore packed up his clothes in a little bundle, shook all his fellow-servants by the hand, took an affectionate leave of his kind master, and once more sallied out upon his travels.
He had not walked far before he came to a town, where a party of soldiers were beating up for volunteers. Jack mingled with the crowd that surrounded the recruiting serjeant, and listened with pleasure to the pleasing and heart-enlivening sound of the fifes and drums; nor could he help mechanically holding up his head, and stepping forward with an air that showed the trade was not entirely new to him. The serjeant soon took notice of these gestures, and seeing him a strong, likely lad, came up to him, clapped him upon the back, and asked him if he would enlist. ‘You are a brave boy,’ said he, ‘I can see it in your looks: come along with us, and I don’t doubt in a few weeks you’ll be as complete a soldier as those who have been in the army for years.’ Jack made no answer to this, but by instantly poising his stick, cocking his hat fiercely, and going through the whole manual exercise. ‘Prodigious, indeed!’ cried the serjeant; ‘I see you have been in the army already, and can eat fire as well as any of us. But come with us, my brave lad; you shall live well, have little to do, but now and then fight for your king and country, as every gentleman ought; and in a short time I don’t doubt but I shall see you a captain, or some great man, rolling in wealth which you have got out of the spoils of your enemies.’ — ‘No,’ said Jack: ‘captain! that will never do; — no tricks upon travellers; — I know better what I have to expect, if I enlist, — I must lie hard, live hard, expose my life and limbs every hour of the day, and be soundly cudgelled every now and then into the bargain.’ — ‘O, ho!’ cried the serjeant, ‘where did the young dog pick up all this? He is enough to make a whole company desert.’ — ‘No,’ said Jack, ‘they shall never desert through me, for, though I know this, as I am at present out of employment, and have a great respect for the amiable character of a gentleman soldier, I will enlist directly in your regiment.’ — ‘A brave fellow, indeed,’ said the serjeant: ‘here, my lad, — here is your money and your cockade;’ both of which he directly presented, for fear his recruit should change his mind, and thus in a moment little Jack became a soldier.
He had scarcely time to feel himself easy in his new accoutrements, before he was embarked for India in the character of a marine. This kind of life was entirely new to Jack; however, his usual activity and spirit of observation did not desert him here; and he had not been embarked many weeks, before he was perfectly acquainted with all the duties of a sailor, and in that respect equal to most on board. It happened that the ship in which he sailed touched at the Cormo islands, in order to take in wood and water; these are some little islands near the coast of Africa, inhabited by blacks. Jack often went on shore with the officers, attending them on shooting parties, to carry their powder and shot, and the game they killed. All this country consists of very lofty hills, covered with trees and shrubs of various kinds, which never lose their leaves, from the perpetual warmth of the climate. Through these it is frequently difficult to force a way, and the hills themselves abound in precipices. It happened that one of the officers whom Jack was attending upon a shooting party, took aim at some great bird, and brought it down; but as it fell into a deep valley, over some rocks which it was impossible to descend, they despaired of gaining their prey. Jack immediately, with officious haste, set off and ran down the more level side of the hill, thinking to make a circuit, and reach the valley into which the bird had fallen. He set off, therefore, but as he was totally ignorant of the country, he in a short time buried himself so deep in the wood, which grew continually thicker, that he knew not which way to proceed. He then thought it most prudent to return; but this he found as difficult to effect as the other. He therefore wandered about the woods with inconceivable difficulty all day, but could never find his company, nor even reach the shore, or obtain a prospect of the sea. At length night approached, and Jack, who conceived it to be impossible to do that in the dark, which he had not been able to effect in the light, lay down under a rock, and composed himself to rest, as well as he was able. The next day he arose with the light, and once more attempted to regain the shore; but unfortunately he had totally lost all idea of the direction he ought to pursue, and saw nothing around him but the dismal prospect of woods, hills, and precipices, without a guide or path. Jack now began to be very hungry; but as he had a fowling-piece with him, and powder and shot, he soon procured himself a dinner; and kindling a fire with some dry leaves and sticks, he roasted his game upon the embers, and dined as comfortably as he could be expected to do in so forlorn a situation. Finding himself refreshed, he pursued his journey, but with as little success as ever. On the third day he indeed came in sight of the sea, but found that he was quite on a different side of the island from that where he had left the ship, and that neither ship nor boat was to be seen. Jack now lost all hopes of rejoining his comrades, for he knew that the ship was to sail at farthest on the third day, and would not wait for him. He therefore set himself to finding a lodging for the night. He had not examined far before he found a dry cavern in a rock, which he thought would prove a very comfortable residence. The next day Jack arose, a little melancholy, indeed, but with a resolution to struggle manfully with the difficulties of his situation. He walked into the woods, and saw several kinds of fruit and berries, some of which he ventured to eat, as the birds had pecked them, and found the taste agreeable. In this manner did Jack lead a kind of savage, but tolerably contented life, for several months, during which time he enjoyed perfect health, and was never discovered by any of the natives. He used several times a day to visit the shore, in hopes that some ship might pass that way, and deliver him from his solitary imprisonment. This at length happened, by the boat of an English ship, that was sailing to India, happening to touch upon the coast: Jack instantly hailed the crew, and the officer, upon hearing his story, agreed to receive him; the captain, too, when he found that Jack was by no means a contemptible sailor, very willingly gave him his passage, and promised him a gratuity besides, if he behaved well.
Jack arrived in India without any accident, and relating his story, was permitted to serve in another regiment, as his own was no longer there. He soon distinguished himself by his courage, and good behaviour on several occasions, and before long, was advanced to the rank of a serjeant. In this capacity, he was ordered out upon an expedition into the remote parts of the country. The little army in which he served now marched on for several weeks, through a burning climate, and in want of all the necessaries of life. At length, they entered upon some extensive plains which bordered upon the celebrated country of the Tartars. Jack was perfectly well acquainted with the history of this people, and their method of fighting. He knew them to be some of the best horsemen in the world: indefatigable in their attacks, though often repulsed, returning to the charge, and not to be invaded with impunity; he therefore took the liberty of observing to some of the officers, that nothing could be more dangerous than their rashly engaging themselves in those extensive plains, where they were every moment exposed to the attacks of cavalry without any successful method of defence, or place of retreat, in case of any misfortune. These remonstrances were not much attended to, and after a few hours’ farther march, they were alarmed by the approach of a considerable body of Tartar horsemen. They, however, drew up with all the order they were able, and firing several successive vollies, endeavoured to keep the enemy at a distance. But the Tartars had no design of doing that with a considerable loss, which they were sure of doing with ease and safety. Instead therefore of charging the Europeans, they contented themselves with giving continual alarms, and menacing them on every side, without exposing themselves to any considerable danger. The army now attempted to retreat, hoping that they should be able to arrive at the neighbouring mountains, where they would be safe from the incursions of the horse. But in this attempt they were equally disappointed: for another considerable body of the enemy appeared on that side, and blocked their passage. The Europeans now found they were surrounded on all sides, and that resistance was vain. The commanding officer, therefore, judged it expedient to try what could be effected by negotiation, and sent one of his officers, who understood something of the Tartar language, to treat with the general of the enemy. The Tartar chief received the Europeans with great civility, and after having gently reproached them with their ambition, in coming so far to invade a people who had never injured them, he consented upon very moderate conditions to their enlargement; but he insisted upon having their arms delivered up, excepting a very few which he permitted them to keep for defence in their return, and upon retaining a certain number of Europeans as hostages for the performance of the stipulated articles. Among those who were thus left with the Tartars, Jack happened to be included, and while all the rest seemed inconsolable at being thus made prisoners by a barbarous nation, he alone, accustomed to all the vicissitudes of life, retained his cheerfulness, and prepared to meet every reverse of fortune with his usual firmness.
It happened that a favourite horse of the chief’s was taken with a violent fever, and seemed to be in immediate danger of death. j he Khan, for so he is called among the Tartars, seeing his horse grow hourly worse, at length applied to the Europeans, to know if they could suggest any thing for his recovery. All the officers were profoundly ignorant of farriery: but when the application was made to Jack, he desired to see the horse, and with great gravity began to feel his pulse, by passing his hand within the animal’s foreleg; which gave the Tartars a very high idea of his ingenuity. Finding the animal was in a high fever, he proposed to let him blood, which he had learned to do very dexterously in England; and having by great good luck a lancet with him, he immediately let him blood in the neck. After this operation he covered him up, and gave him a warm potion made out of such ingredients as he could procure upon the spot, and left him quiet. In a few hours the horse began to mend, and, to the great joy of the Khan, perfectly recovered in a few days. This cure, so opportunely performed, raised the reputation of Jack so high, that every body came to consult him about their horses, and in a short time he was the universal farrier of the tribe. The Khan himself conceived so great an affection for him, that he gave him an excellent horse to ride upon and attend him in his hunting parties; and Jack, who excelled in the art of horsemanship, managed him so well as to gain the esteem of the whole nation.
The Tartars, though they are excellent horsemen, have no idea of managing their horses, unless by violence: but Jack, in a short time, by continual care and attention, made his horse so docile and obedient to every motion of his hand and leg, that the Tartars themselves would gaze upon him with admiration, and allow themselves to be outdone. Not contented with this, he procured some iron, and made his horse shoes in the European taste: this also was a matter of astonishment to all the Tartars, who are accustomed to ride their horses unshod. He next observed that the Tartar saddles are all prodigiously large and cumbersome, raising the horseman to a great distance from the back of the horse. Jack set himself to work, and was not long before he had completed something like an English hunting saddle, on which he paraded before the Khan. All mankind have a great passion for novelty, and the Khan was so delighted with this effort of Jack’s ingenuity, that, after paying him the highest compliments, he intimated a desire of having such a saddle for himself. Jack was the most obliging creature in the world, and spared no labour to serve his friends: he went to work again, and in a short time completed a saddle still more elegant for the Khan. These exertions gained him the favour and esteem both of the Khan and all the tribe; so that Jack was an universal favourite, and loaded with presents, while the rest of the officers, who had never learned to make a saddle or an horse-shoe, were treated with contempt and indifference.
And now an ambassador arrived from the English settlements, with an account that all the conditions of the treaty had been performed, and demanding the restitution of the prisoners. The Tartar chief was too much of a man of honour to think of delaying an instant, and they were all restored; but before they set out Jack laboured with indefatigable zeal to finish a couple of saddles, and a dozen of horse-shoes, which he presented to the Khan, with many expressions of gratitude. The Khan was charmed with this proof of his affection, and in return made him a present of a couple of fine horses, and several valuable skins of beasts. Jack arrived without any accident at the English settlements, and selling his skins and horses, found himself in possession of a moderate sum of money.
He now began to have a desire to return to England, and one of the officers who had often been obliged to him during his captivity, procured him a discharge. He embarked, therefore, with all his property, on board a ship, and in a few months was safely landed at Plymouth. But Jack was too active and too prudent to give himself up to idleness. After considering various schemes of business, he determined to take up his old trade of forging; and for that purpose made a journey into the north, and found his old master alive, and as active as ever. His master, who had always entertained an esteem for Jack, welcomed him with great affection, and being in want of a foreman, he engaged him. Jack was now indefatigable in his new office: inflexibly honest, where the interest of his master was concerned, and at the same time humane and obliging to the men who were under him. In a few years his master was so thoroughly convinced of his merit, that, growing old himself, he took Jack into partnership, and committed the management of the whole business to his care. He continued to exert the same qualities now which he had done before, by which means he improved the business so much, as to gain a considerable fortune, and became one of the most respectable manufacturers in the country. But, with all this prosperity, he never discovered the least pride or haughtiness; on the contrary, he employed part of his fortune to purchase the moor where he had formerly lived, and built himself a small but convenient house upon the very spot where his daddy’s hut had formerly stood. To all his poor neighbours he was kind and liberal, relieving them in their distress, and often entertaining them at his house. where he used to dine with them. with the greatest affability; and frequently relate his own story, in order to prove that it is of very little consequence how a man comes into the world, provided he behaves well and discharges his duty when he is in it.