Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB
[blocks in formation]

Mr. B -, my old schoolfellow, is now a highly respected and influential merchant of Paisley.

My mother's industry stopped not with the sheathing of the scissors. Before many months had passed away, she had mastered another handicraft, pirn-winding, which I also learnt; and often, as I sat, with book before me, “I am,” “ thou art," " he is,” might have been heard in song, mingling with the burring of the wheel.

Two years and a half elapsed; I stealing now and then from my lessons and labours half a day for amusement with Archy. The Braes of Gleniffer we climbed and foraged ; at one time, with bow and arrow; at another, with basket to gather blackberries; then occasionally, with a fishing-rod, wending our way to the river Cart, from which we returned with fresh vigour to our studies. Two years and a half, I said, passed cheerfully away, and then I saw the necessity of looking out for some employment. My father said, “You shall never be a weaver ;' my mother smiled; she knew my feelings on the matter. I was sent to an uncle's to learn a handicraft; but, whether it was from the jealousy of the men on the introduction of a relative, or my stupidity, I could not learn what the commonest booby could accomplish. One day, when thwarted by the overseer, in anger I seized the work, threw it at him, and left the place.

In a few days afterwards a schoolfellow, who made his morning rounds with his father's milk, told me that Mr. had inquired of him if he knew any boy who could read, write, and spell well, that wanted a place. Not a moment was lost on my part; I hurried at once to the house, but Mr. was out. On telling his wife, who assisted in the business, my errand, she shook her head, saying that I was not big enough.

“Do give me a trial, ma'am-do; you will find me very strong."

"Well, my little lad, there can be no harm in that. Be here to-morrow morning at seven.”

[blocks in formation]

Mr.

When seven was striking I was knocking at the door.

opened it, and, smiling, said, “Well, you are a little one; but Mrs. has promised a trial, and you shall have it."

Before the expiration of a month I was a bound and an accepted diable, regularly baptised, according to the custom of the region, by having my right arm swung up, and cold water poured down the sleeve of my jacket.

Here was a new life for me. Mixing with men, rude in speech and vulgar in habits; for in those days compositors and pressmen were less enlightened than at the present time. Pressmen then were worse than our present stokers, and the compositors were vain, half-educated, and arrogant, and scoundrels to the poor DEVILS over whom they had control.

In that petit enfer, I bore up passably well. Patience, which my dear mother used to tell me to learn in youth, as it would be exacted from me in after life, I practised with a good grace. Temptations there were many ; but I adhered to the philosopher's leading truth : “When, by human weakness and the arts of the tempter, we are all but led into temptation, prayer is the thread that draws us from the labyrinth."

From my industry and aptness, I gained the good graces of my employer; but that, unfortunately, created an evil-it excited the jealousy of the overseer, a bigoted hypocrite, who insulted me whenever an opportunity occurred by which he could vent his spleen.

Often insulted, I bore his petty taunts till, off my guard, hostilities assumed a decisive form.

Skating was a favourite amusement of mine ; and, returning one morning from breakfast, I said, addressing myself to one of the apprentices, “ No more use for skates, Johnny; the slates are rinnin'."

The overseer turned sharply round, and said, “ The slates rinnin'; I wonder they didn't fall on your thick skull.”

[blocks in formation]

I retorted in anger, casting a reflection on his knock-knees.

A titter ensued, and he fixed his little keen eye upon me with the deadliest hatred.

I returned his look with scorn; then, without another word, we resumed our work.

In time, a drop of water will wear the granite; in like manner, daily taunts are sure to lead to an outbreak, even with the mildest of tempers.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

“ Here, do you call this work!” he exclaimed, as he dashed down and destroyed that which I had just completed. I stood erect, and, with clenched hands and eyes

fixed

upon hîm, said, “ You are a black-hearted villain.”

B. moved towards me; I put myself in a defensive attitude, saying, “ You had better go to your work, sir."

He did so, muttering, “Impudent scoundrel, I will report you.”

“ I'll save you the trouble,” I replied, coldly; then, putting on my cap, I walked down stairs.

I had scarcely gained the bottom, when the sound of footsteps struck my ear. I turned round; it was one of my fellow-apprentices whom I had often befriended, because he was simple in his habits, inoffensive, and an orphan.

“ If you're going to leave, I won't stay." - Go to Johnny-go back to your

l'll soon find something to do.”

“And so shall I," he replied. “All I know is this, that wherever you go, I shall follow."

“Nonsense, Johnny. But come to our employer; he will persuade you to go back.”

I saw my kind employer ; explained the matter; told him I could not account for the cause of Mr. - 's strange conduct; that I was fully aware that, however reluctant he might be, I must leave, as it was more to his interest to retain him. I

work ;

[ocr errors]
[blocks in formation]

hoped he would persuade Johnny to return to his work; he had followed me out contrary to my wishes, and that I knew it was better for him to be under his protection, and that of those with whom he lived, than to go to a strange place, and to a strange employer. No persuasion had any

effect upon Johnny : and next morning, by break of day, we might have been seen marching gaily along, on our way to Glasgow, our hearts light, and our eyes lit up with bright hopes of the future.

When we reached Glasgow, Johnny fixed his eyes on one side in search of a printing office, and I on the other.

At length we saw one, and upstairs we went.

“Are you in want of a turnover?” said I, addressing an old gentleman.

“Don't know. Where have you been working ? and how did you

leave

your place?" " Left on account of the overseer, whose conduct neither our employer nor any one in the office could account for. We can have the best of characters."

“Let me see; yes, I will take you. I think I can find work for one."

“ Please, then, take my companion; for I must see him in a situation before I take one; he left on my account.”

The old man raised his spectacles ; looked at Johnny, then at me. “Well, well; come to-morrow; there will be no harm in trying you both.”

We parted, to meet at seven in the morning; but Johnny came not. I went to his house : the fatigue of the previous day had unstrung his resolution, and his semi-guardian had not found it difficult to persuade him to return to his employment.

On ascertaining this, I set off alone; and on stating to the old gentleman what had occurred, he gave me a warm welcome, and, complimenting me on my discreet behaviour, installed me in his office.

[ocr errors]

CHAPTER IV.
MY SEVENTEENTH YEAR; AN AGE OF INQUIETUDE AND

DANGER—THE SPOILED SonTHE OLD Man's AD-
VICE !-BAD HABITS ENGENDERED BY PRIDE AND
ARROGANCE-THE SUCCESSFUL TEMPTER !—THE PRE-
MIER PAS AND COSTLY STEP IN YOUNG LIFE.

ATTAINED my seventeenth year—an age
of inquietude and danger, when watching and
self-denial are all-important—an age when the
boy-man is full of presumption, strong in his

own conceit, powerful in his own strength,

Sodo an age when too often the good that is in us is choked up by pride, passion, and indiscretion-an age when habits are formed that lead to ruin and to the grave.

At that age be careful—be watchful-be vigilant over your actions. Self-restraint is indispensable. How many young men have I seen who acquired habits at that age that ruined them for life! Be careful! be vigilant !

*

Schmidt, whose father was a newspaper proprietor in Berbice, sent his son to our employer, who was the King's printer, to be thoroughly initiated in the art of printing. Schmidt, a genteel young man, dressed neatly, with smart appearance, excited our admiration. I, being of a lively turn of mind, perhaps better educated than my fellow-apprentices, clean, and neatly dressed, was selected by Schmidt for his companion, and I -oh pride! oh indiscretion !-was delighted at the honour conferred upon me.

Schmidt had plenty of money ; doubloons by the dozen, cigars by the box, and he boasted too of his bottles of choice Madeira and hock. In a word, he was the spoiled son of a wealthy parent.

« ZurückWeiter »