Such was the place to which,when the war was over,my father retired:it was here that the old tired soldier set himself down with his little family.He had passed the greater part of his life in meritorious exertion,in the service of his country,and his chief wish now was to spend the remainder of his days in quiet and respectability;his means,it is true,were not very ample;fortunate it was that his desires corresponded with them;with a small fortune of his own,and with his half-pay as a royal soldier,he had no fears for himself or for his faithful partner and helpmate;but then his children!how was he to provide for them?
how launch them upon the wide ocean of the world?This was,perhaps,the only thought which gave him uneasiness,and I believe that many an old retired officer at that time,and under similar circumstances,experienced similar anxiety;had the war continued,their children would have been,of course,provided for in the army,but peace now reigned,and the military career was closed to all save the scions of the aristocracy,or those who were in some degree connected with that privileged order,an advantage which few of these old officers could boast of;they had slight influence with the great,who gave themselves very little trouble either about them or their families.
'I have been writing to the Duke,'said my father one day to my excellent mother,after we had been at home somewhat better than a year.'I have been writing to the Duke of York about a commission for that eldest boy of ours.He,however,affords me no hopes;he says that his list is crammed with names,and that the greater number of the candidates have better claims than my son.'
'I do not see how that can be,'said my mother.
'Nor do I,'replied my father.'I see the sons of bankers and merchants gazetted every month,and I do not see what claims they have to urge,unless they be golden ones.However,I have not served my king fifty years to turn grumbler at this time of life.
I suppose that the people at the head of affairs know what is most proper and convenient;perhaps when the lad sees how difficult,nay,how impossible it is that he should enter the army,he will turn his mind to some other profession;I wish he may!'
'I think he has already,'said my mother;'you see how fond he is of the arts,of drawing and painting,and,as far as I can judge,what he has already done is very respectable;his mind seems quite turned that way,and I heard him say the other day that he would sooner be a Michael Angelo than a general officer.But you are always talking of him;what do you think of doing with the other child?'
'What,indeed!'said my father;'that is a consideration which gives me no little uneasiness.I am afraid it will be much more difficult to settle him in life than his brother.What is he fitted for,even were it in my power to provide for him?God help the child!I bear him no ill will,on the contrary,all love and affection;but I cannot shut my eyes;there is something so strange about him!How he behaved in Ireland!I sent him to school to learn Greek,and he picked up Irish!'
'And Greek as well,'said my mother.'I heard him say the other day that he could read St.John in the original tongue.'
'You will find excuses for him,I know,'said my father.'You tell me I am always talking of my first-born;I might retort by saying you are always thinking of the other:but it is the way of women always to side with the second-born.There's what's her name in the Bible,by whose wiles the old blind man was induced to give to his second son the blessing which was the birthright of the other.
I wish I had been in his place!I should not have been so easily deceived!no disguise would ever have caused me to mistake an impostor for my first-born.Though I must say for this boy that he is nothing like Jacob;he is neither smooth nor sleek,and,though my second-born,is already taller and larger than his brother.'
'Just so,'said my mother;'his brother would make a far better Jacob than he.'
George Henry Borrow