Billeder på siden

there every lament was made, and there the complainant was certain, especially if the night was cold, to have a large and attentive auditory; my father ever looked at the gloomy side of the picture, and if it so happened, which in truth was rare, that he had nothing lugubrious to commence with, he looked sorrowful, and sat in moody silence. It was, however, but seldom that he was reduced to this dilemma; if the crops were indifferent, he predicted famine for the populace; if they promised to be abundant, he denounced bankruptcy to the farmer; one while the country would be starved, and at another the grain would be for the lifting. In politics, he was equally unhappy; and whenever a newspaper made its way from the castle-kitchen to the kiln-fire, it had surely something of fearful import in its greasy columns. When a privateer was seen in the Channel, my father prognosticated an invasion ; and

a burglary occurring at the other side of the kingdom, gave him a glorious opportunity of calculating what chances were in favour of having his throat cut.

In this agreeable and instructive society my evenings were consumed, and if any interruption took place in the melancholy details of the night, imagination filled

Each dreary pause between with what had more effect on me than the most pathetic of the miseries of my worthy parent. The morning, and the Village Schoolmaster, flashed across my mind, and there was, indeed, nothing exhilarating in the idea. Peter Martin carried terror in his name, and Heaven knows with good reason : in his youth he was reckoned stern, but now, that age and domestic calamities had overtaken him, he was absolutely savage; he regularly opened the campaign by flogging me and my companions every

morning on our entré to the academy ; and his ingenuity was amazing in what a Lawyer would call “shewing cause why:"-a duck lamed, or a hen dying a natural death, was reckoned good and sufficient grounds for a general visitation; and as practice makes perfect, the rapidity with which the point of honour was settled between all parties was prodigious. The baker's son, a tall overgrown booby, was an experienced assistant; and at this moment I fancy myself dangling on his long back, with my head turned half round, trembling as I watched the impending blow.

Peter Martin was a humorist of a peculiar cast; he had a by-name for every scholar, and he gave a pleasant variety to his favourite discipline by the facetious use of the individual's appellative. This liberality of birch was not, however, attended with a corresponding proficiency in erudition-the harder , Peter' flogged, the less progress


pupils made. The coercive system had a very opposite effect to what the pedagogue supposed it would produce. The wilder boys became devils—the quieter became wild. Peter, like a liberal

paymaster, endeavoured to be always in advance with them; and they, not to be outdone, laboured hard in all mischief, to keep the account tolerably even on all sides.

Six years had I dragged on, when an incident occurred which dissolved the connexion between Peter Martin and myself. The Dissenting Minister of our parish, the Rev. Samuel Gowdy, dined occasionally at the Mill; and, at his

particular recommendation, my father decided on breeding me up to the Ministry. “ The lad's springing up fast,” said the Rev. Gentleman to my father, “and in a few years ye must send him over the water to the College. What has he

learned from Martin, good man?” That was a question my father honestly acknowledged he could not answer, and Gowdy was entreated to ascertain the extent of my acquirements. I was accordingly summoned into the presence, and the result was most unfavourable. “ Before God, friend David," said the Minister to my father, “ Bob knows nothing." Peter Martin, when informed of the fatal discovery, ascribed my deficiencies to excessive indulgence and a blamable tenderness on his part, and quoted the old adage, “ spare rod and spoil child;" he declared, however, he would turn over a new leaf with me, and I had soon certain proof that he made no empty professions-formerly, I had escaped with being disciplined once a day, but now, to make up for past lenity, the average was increased threefold. My mother observed, that of late any posture was preferred by me to a sitting one ;

« ForrigeFortsæt »