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dealer on fair days, an idler on Sundays, a sharp man on all days, and a poacber at night, Nat was a man who knew something of life. A friend of gipsies, and an intimate acquaintance with many bad characters of the county, whom he had met during a toilsome residence in the county jail on one or two occasions, Nat was an antagonist by no despicable, for he was well known to be a man who would stick at nothing to accomplish his purposes. He rode a donkey of his own, about the honest acquirement of which the village gossips had had their grave doubts, but which was still his own to beat and to work as he pleased, and it was with all faith in him and confidence in the result that Nat too had walked upon the ground.
The competitors were all arrived, and busied in their preparations. The village was enlivened by the ingress of lads and lasses from the neighbouring farms and hamlets, induced by the fineness of the day to come to Alstonfield and have a jig upon the green. The steeple of the church had hoisted its holiday flag, and the belfry had pealed forth a happy bob-major in commemoration of the event. The village inn had raised an enormous flag-pole, and decked the string of it with banners of all nations. Two or three booths for dancing and drinking had been erected on the green, barrels of beer were being tapped preparatorily to being emptied, the shows were bustling to commence operations, and the wandering minstrel, who never knew any other tune
upon his broken-winded clarionette than “ The Devil among the Tailors," was taking a last bit and a sup before taking a blow, which once begun, would last till late in the day.
The pause of expectation before the commencement of the revels was interrupted by the sounds of music,—music of artful and inspiring kind-the fife and drum! The music of glory and of blood ! Sounds hollow as the instruments that make them! These sounds approached, announcing to the simple and happy revellers the advent of soldiers out recruiting men. Soldiers in the gaudy livery of blood, marshalled by music, searching for men whom they could lure or entrap, by flattering prospects or knavish artifices, to serve their country and murder her enemies !
This new arrival brought unbounded delight to all the little boys and girls, who saw only the show of the outside, and heard only pretty music. It brought joy to the maidens who were there, for they rather liked the looks, and the stories, and the spirited Airtations of a soldier, and they promised themselves an extra dance and a terrible devotion to the red-coat, for no other purpose than to vex their more sinple swains, whom they could manage as they pleased. So the music played, and the men marched, and their triumphal course round the green was ended at the inn, the head-quarters of the day, and then commenced the merry-makings and their work.
The contests of the morning seemed to go off with
an immense spirit. Sergeant Spurdon and Corporal Tintly, were every where exciting fire and animation in all bosoms; they encouraged the conquerors cheered the vanquished, and made friends of all the fine young men about. They backed everybody, and when the contest was over, they always knew that the winner would win. There was a charm and fascination about their society, which greatly attracted the simple countrymen, who knew but little of guile and hypocrisy, and less of glory and the destiny of a soldier. Sergeant Spurdon was at once a popular man in the village, the father of glory and the brother of honour, and when he complimented Joe upon the animal he was going to ride, there was a universal buzz of satisfaction amongst the crowd, and from that moment they set down the race as won.
But the excitement was no whit the less, when twelve o'clock struck from the village spire and warned them of the time to start. The saddling and mounting accomplished, away went all the donkeys that would
go, and stubborn were the donkeys that would not. One man was thrown over the head, another over the tail of a donkey. But the kicks of the riders and the ridden—the attempts to winthe constant misunderstanding between the asses of riders and the riders' asses- —the thumps that the donkey suffered, or the disappointment that the loser suffered, need not be told. They are better left to the imagination of the reader. It is enough that Joe Caplin was declared the winner of the stakes, and
that Sergeant Spurdon, and then the Corporal, were the first to congratulate Joe, and to shake him warmly by the hand. After running the gauntlet of his friends' applause, Joe was invited with three or four others by these military heroes, to have something to drink with them, and Joe, honoured by the invitation, and thirsty from excitement and hard work, did drink. They sat down upon some benches at the entrance to one of the tents, and listened to the tales of war and glory which the sergeant told and the corporal confirmed, whilst Joe and his friends innocently drunk the beer which the sergeant in the handsomest manner kept calling for and paying for.
The excitement of the day and the drink, could not fail to have their effect, and the sergeant was well practised in his business. He was the servant of the government, whose livery he wore, and whose money he was authorized to spend in making soldiers. His simple instructions were to get men for the army,
the means of accomplishment were left to himself. He knew the difficulty of his undertaking, but his necessity was success, and to gain that he had learnt to make his government connive at means to get recruits which reflected sadly on honesty, if not on honour. These means are drinking and deception !
“ Ha !” said he, at the conclusion of one of his most telling anecdotes, “that's glory for you — that's a soldier's life. Eating and drinking when there's no fighting, and when there is, lots of plunder and booty. Why there was a man in our regiment, that I knew
very well when we were in France, who made so much money that, after Waterloo, he retired from the army and kept his carriage. The corporal knew him very well, didn't you, Tintly ?”
“Oh! yes,” replied the corporal, “most intimately; he used often to ask me to dinner after he was well off.”
“ Well now," said the sergeant, “ look here just one minute. Here's a fine lot of young fellows like you live and die in your nasty dirty village, and know nothing of the world, and never get rich only because you're afraid to take a bold step. There isn't a man among you but what would enjoy our life immensely, if you only dare try it. You do as you like, and think as you like, get rich and get promoted, and become in fact tip-top gentlemen.” Such words he knew would work upon his simple listeners, and cautiously they began to think upon the glorious prospects he had shown to them as so easy of attainment. The dance went on upon the green below them ; merry and light-hearted figures tripped on nimble feet to the hoarse wood notes of the minstrel. The more sober of the people were walking round to see the fun, and Nat Willet was sulkily taking his way to the ale-house with a pipe in his mouth, to console himself for the disappointment of the day, and to make up if possible in some other way
for his ill luck in the race. A neighbour of Joe's was walking over the green with his wife, and they had picked up on their road Joe's son, who