Sidor som bilder
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so. at the age of fifteen, I went and listed for a sol. dier. As I had ever hated beating a drum, so I soon found that I disliked carrying a musquet also; neither the one trade por the other were to my taste, for I was by nature fond of being a gentleman : besides, I was obliged to obey my captain ; he has his will, I have mine, and you have yours: now I very reasonably concluded, that it was much more comfortable for a man to obey his own will than another's.

The life of a soldier soon therefore gave me the spleen: I asked leave to quit the sei vice; but, as I was tall and strong, my captain thanked ma for my kind intention, and said, because he had a regard for me, we sliould not part. I wrote to my father a very dismal, penitent letter, and desired that he would raise money to pay for my discharge ; but the good man was as fond of drinking as I was (sir, my service to you), and those who are fond of drinking never pay for other people's discharges : in short, he never answered my letter. What could be done? If I have not money, said I to myself, to pay for my discharge, I must find an equivalent some other way; and that must be by running away. I deserted, and that answered my purpose every bit as well as if I had bought my discharge.

"Well, I was now fairly rid of my military employment; I sold my soldier's clothes, bought worse, and, in order not to be overtaken, took the most unfrequented roads possible. One evening, as I was entering a village, I perceived a man, whom I afterwards found to be the curate of the parish, thrown from his horse in a miry road, and almost smothered in the mud. He desired my assistance: I gave it, and drew him out with some difficulty. He thanked me for my trouble, and was going off ; but I followed him home, for I loved ai ways to have a man thank me at his own door. The curate asked a hundred questions ; as, whose son I was; from whence I came; and whether I would be faithful. I answered him greatly to his satisfaction, and gave myself one of the best characters in the world for sobriety (sir, I have the honour of drinking your health), discretion, and fidelity. To make a long story short, he wanted a servant, and hired me. With him I lised but two months; we did not much like each other; I was fond of eating, and he gave me but little to eat; I loved a pretty girl, and the old woman, my fellow. servant, was ill-natured and ugly. As they endeavoured to starve me between them, I made a pious resolution to prevent their committing murder: 1 stole the eggs as soon as they were laid; I emptied every unfinished bottle that I could lay my hands on; whatever eatable came in my way was sure to disappear: in short, they found I would not do ; so I was discharged one morning, and paid three shil. lings and sixpence for two months' wages.

• While my money was getting ready, I employed myself in making preparations for my departure ; two hens were hatching in an out-house, I went and took the eggs from habit, and, not to separate the parents from the children, I lodged hens and all in my kuapsack. After this piece of frugality, I returned to receive my money, and, with my knapsack on my back and a staff in my hand, I bid adieu, with tears in my eyes, to my old benefactor. I had not gone far from the house when I heard behind me the cry of · Stop thief!' but this only increased my dispatch; it would have been foolish for me to stop, as I knew the voice could not be levelled at me. But hold, I think I passed those two months at the curate's without drinking; come, the times are dry, and may this be my poison if ever I spent two more pious, stupid months in all my life.

Well, after travelling some days, whom should I light upon but a company of strolling players? The moment I saw them at a distance, my heart warmed to them; I had a sort of natural love for every

thing of the vagabond order : they were employed in settling their baggage, wbich had been overturned in a varrow way; I offered my assistance, which they accepted; and we soon became so well acquainted, that they took me as a servant. This was a paradise to me; they sung, danced, drank, eat, and travelled, all at the same time. By the blood of the Mirabels, I thought I had never lived till then; I grew as merry as a grig, and laughed at every word that was spoken. They liked me as much as I liked them; I was a very good figure, as you see; and, though I was poor, I was not modest.

• I lore a straggling life above all things in the world; sometimes good, sometimes bad; to be warm to-day and cold to-morrow; to eat when one can get it, and drink when the tankard is out) it stands be. fore me. We arrived that evening at Tenterden, and took a large room at the Greyhound, where we resolved to exbibit Romeo and Juliet, with the funeral procession, the grave and the garden scene. Romeo was to be performed by a gentieman from the theatre-royal in Drury-lane; Juliet, by a lady who had never appeared on any stage before ; and I was to snuff the candles: all excellent in our way. We had figures enough, but the difficulty was, to dress then. The same coat that served Romeo, turned with the blue lining outwards, served for his friend Mercutio ; a large piece of crape sufficed at once for Juliet's petticoat and pall; a pestle and mortar, from a neighbouring apothecary's, answered all the purposes of a bell: and our landlord's own family, wrapped in white sheets, served to fill up the procession. In short, there were but three figures among us that might be said to be dressed with any propriety; I mean the purse, the starved apothecary, and myself. Our performance gave universal satisfaction: the whole audience were enchanted with our powers.

• There is one rule by which a strolling player may

be ever secure of success; that is, in onr theatrical way of expressing it, to make a great deal of the character. To speak and act as in common life, is not playing, nor is it what people come to see: natural speaking, like sweet wine, runs glibly over the palate, and scarce leaves any taste behind it; but being high in a part resembles vinegar, which grates upon the taste, and one feels it while he is drinking. To please in town or country, the way is, to cry, wring, cringe into attitudes, mark the emphasis, slap the pockets, and labour like one in the falling. sickness: that is the way to work for applause; that is the way to gain it.

"As we received inuch reputation for our skill on this first exhibition, it was but natural for me to ascribe part of the success to myself; I snuffed the candles, and, let me tell you, that, without a candle. snuffer, the piece would lose haif its embellish. ments. In this manner we continued a fortnight, and drew tolcrable good houses; but the evening before our intended departure, we gave out our very best piece, in which all our strength was to be exerted. We had great expectations from this, and eveu doubled our prices, when, behold! one of the principal actors fell ill of a violent fever. This was a stroke nke thunder to our little company : they were resolved to go, in a body, to scold the man for falling sick at so inconvenient a time, and that too of a disorder that threatered to be expensive. I seized the moment, and offered to act the part myself in his stead. The case was desperate; they accepted my offer; and I accordingly sat down, with the part in my hand and a tankard before me (sir, your health), and studied the character, which was to be rehearsed the next day, and played soon after.

• I found my memory excessively helped by drinking: I learned my part with astonishing rapidity, and bid adieu to snuffing candles ever after. I found that Nature had desigued me for more noble

employments, and I was resolved to take her when in the humour. We got together in order to rehearse, and I informed my companions, masters now no longer, of the surprising change I felt within me. Let the sick man, said I, be under no uneasiness to get well again: I'll fill his place to universal satisfaction ; he may even die, if he thinks proper; I'll engage that he shall never be missed. I rehearsed before them, strutted, ranted, and received applause. They soon gave out that a new actor of eminence was to appear, and immediately all the genteel places were bespoke. Before I ascended the stage, however, I concluded within myself, that, as I brought money to the house, I ought to have my share in the profits. Gentlemen (said I, ad. dressing our company), I don't pretend to direct you; far be it from me to treat you with so much ingratitude: you have published my name in the bills with the utmost good-nature; and, as affairs stand, cannot act without me; so, gentlemen, to show you my gratitude, I expect to be paid for my acting as much as any of you, otherwise i declare off: I'll brandish my souffers and clip candles as usual. This was a very disagreeable proposal, but they found that it was impossible to refuse it; it was irresistible, it was adamant: they consented, and I went on in King Bajazet: my frowning brows hound with a stocking stuffed into a turban, while on my captived arms I brandished a jack-chain, Natu. We seemed to have titted me for the part; I was tau, and had a loud voice: my very entrance excited an 'versal applause; I looked round on the audience wit a smile, and made a most low and graceful bow, for that is the rule among us. As it was a very passionate part, I invigorated my spirits with three full glasses (the tankard is almost out) of brandy. By Alla! it is most inconceivable how I went through it: Tamerlan'e was but a fool to me: though he was loud enough too, yet I was still louder than he: but then, beside., I had attitudes in

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