Page:Household Words - Volume 12.djvu/491

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"Familiar in their Mouths as HOUSEHOLD WORDS"- Shakespeare.


HOUSEHOLD WORDS.

 

A WEEKLY JOURNAL.

CONDUCTED BY CHARLES DICKENS.

 


No. 300.] SATURDAY, DECEMBER 22, 1855. Price 2d.
Stamped 3d.


 

DISPUTED IDENTITY. WHEN I was a boy, I lived with my father and mother, in a little cottage, in a village in Warwickshire. He was a farm labourer, my mother had enough to do with her family : but at harvest and hay-time .she worked in the fields, and what she earned was a great help. She had a good many children ; but one way or other, they all died except me and my brother. I think I should have gone like the rest; if it had not beai for a neighbour's son, named tried to pick up all he could about battles, and he used to draw plans of battles upon an old slate. At last a change came over him a sort of fever and he grew desponding and unhappy. He used to talk to me a great deal, but I could only feel very sorry for him, I could say no- thing to eomfort him. His mother, poor body, saw that all was not right, and feared he would take after his father, she used to preach to him out of the catechism, and tell him, it was his duty to be content in the state of life to which he was born ; it was all very George, who was most uncommon kind to good, but not suitable to his case. He hated me, he helped my mother nurse me when his occupation. and yet, oddly enough, it was I was ill of a fever, and he was good to me { only in his work he seemed to find any relief. ever after. He was some years older than me, and what made him take to me, I am sure I cannot tell ; but that I should love him in return is no wonder at all. I wor- shipped him, and that is the only word to He did as much as three men, and then asked for more. Well, the truth must come out at last George turned poacher. Poaching is a breach of the law of the land. I say no more use for it. He used to tell me no end of ! about that ; but I believe myself, that gentle- stories about robbers and wild beasts ; but above all about battles. He used to make me windmills, and boats, and kites, and gave me endless balls of string and knives ; men who have a regular licence to shoot, and who preserve their own game, have not half the enjoyment in a whole season's shooting, that there is in one night's good poaching. How- but what I cared for most of all, was, that he j ever,yousee poaching has this drawback; the let me follow him about wherever he went, I fellows who take to poaching, leave off honest and take his dinner to him out in the fields, hard work ; they slink out of daylight, and and sent me on all his errands. I felt very proud to go ; for I would have laid myself down under his feet if he had wanted me. Though I was quite a little chap, he used to talk to me as if I were his equal. He told me how he hated a dull country life, and how he haunt public-houses, and take to low idle habits of every kind. The love of adventure kills the habit of steady-going industry. They would do capitally out in the Aus- tralian bush, or at the diggings ; but they plague the life out of churchwardens, over- longed to go away, and to seek his fortune in ! seers, constables, and squires. So they make distant parts. He would have enlisted for a j a mess of it, and get into trouble : which soldier, if it had not been for his mother, is a pity, for you would not believe what who would have broken her heart. She was a meek good womao, who had been tyrannised over by a brutal husband, who had been groom to a gentleman. He broke his neck, try in being to break in a vicious horse. Although, drunk at the time, it was his own fault, the gentleman pensioned the widow ; so that George had all the money he earned for himself. He did not take alter his father ; but held himself aloof from the other fellows in the village, and never set 'bot in an ale-house not from pride, but because he took pleasure in other things. He was always studying at one thing or other every leisure moment, especially he fine, likely young fellows many of them are to begin with. George, for his part, was too proud, and re- spected himself too much, to fall into disrepu- table ways. He neverwould take me with him : though, when I saw him preparing his tackle, and cleaning his gun, I used to beg very hard that he would let me go ; but he was always quite stern and resolved. However, he used to let me help him take care of his things, and 1 was very proud to do that. We made a hiding- place under some furze bushes, where no- keepers would think of looking, and where everything could be kept quite dry. I had the charge of his dog, too a knowing sen-