The Gentleman Cadet: His Career and Adventures at the Royal Military Academy Woolwich

Lt. Col. A.W. Drayson

"The Gentleman Cadet"

"His Career and Adventures at the Royal Military Academy Woolwich"


The following pages contain a history of the life of a Woolwich Cadet as it was about thirty years ago. The hero of the tale is taken through the then usual routine of a cram-school at Woolwich, and from thence passed into the Royal Military Academy. The reformation that has taken place—both in the preparatory schools and also at the Academy—may be judged of by those who read this book and are acquainted with existing conditions. The habits and life of a Cadet of the present day are well known, but the singular laws and regulations—written and unwritten—in former times may not be so generally understood; and, as memory of the past fades away, the following pages have been penned, to give a history of the singular life and manners of the old Cadet. The work has no other pretensions than to give this history, and to afford amusement to the young aspirant for military glory.

Southsea, September, 1874.

Chapter One.

My Home Life.

On the borders of the New Forest, in Hampshire, stands an old-fashioned thatch-roofed family-house, surrounded by cedars and firs, with a clean-shaved, prim-looking lawn opposite the drawing-room windows, from which a magnificent view was visible of the forest itself and the Southampton waters beyond. In that house I was born; and there I passed the first fourteen years of my existence in a manner that must be briefly recorded, in order to make the reader acquainted with my state of education previous to a somewhat eventful career in a more busy scene.

My father had been intended for the Church, but having at Cambridge taken a dislike to holy orders, and finding himself left, by the death of my grandfather, sole possessor of a sum of about thirty thousand pounds invested in Consols, he decided to live an easy life, and enjoy himself, instead of taking up any profession—an error that caused him to be what may be called “a mistake” all his life, and which was the cause of much suffering to me.

Having devoted some eight or ten years to travelling and seeing the world, my father married, and selected for his wife the youngest of seven daughters of a very worthy but very poor clergyman in Wiltshire, who bore him two daughters and myself; after which she sickened and died at the early age of twenty-six.

In order to have some one to whom he could entrust the care of his three children, my father took into his house his eldest sister, who was some fifteen years his senior, and to whom was given the sole charge of myself and my two sisters. Aunt Emma, as we used to term her, was my abhorrence; she had a singular facility of making herself disagreeable, especially with us young people. That she used to teach us our letters and our reading and writing was certainly kind on her part—at least, so she assured me—but she had a way of teaching that was not one at all suitable to gaining the esteem or affection of a child. Her principal object in teaching seemed to be to impress on us children that we were the most stupid, dull, and lazy children in the world, whom it was little short of martyrdom to try to teach; whilst we were informed that she, as a child and as a schoolgirl, had always been famous for quickness in learning, attention to her studies, and love to her schoolmistress.

We were also being daily impressed with the idea that we were awfully wicked and selfish, and quite unworthy of any kindness from her or our father, whilst we were also accused of having a bad motive for everything we did.

Aunt Emma was a great expert in slapping. Often have I lain in bed and cried for hours at the remembrance of the unmerited and severe slaps that my poor little delicate sister had received during the day from Aunt Emma. There was, I feel glad to say, no real anger in those feelings, but a sense of utter misery and regret that Aunt Emma should feel so little for the unhappiness she caused, and for the injustice of which she was guilty. I was a child then, and I had yet to learn that there are people in the world who take a delight in making others unhappy, who attribute to all, except themselves, bad, selfish, or spiteful motives for every word and act, and to whom the world is an enemy on which they are justified in renting their spleen.

It may seem to the reader out of place to speak thus of Aunt Emma, but as she had much to do with my early life, and as her specialities must then be brought forward, there is really no object in concealing either her weaknesses or defects.

At the date to which I am referring, some forty years ago, there was a great taste in many private families for immoderate physicking. Aunt Emma possessed this taste in no small degree; that she believed in its efficacy there can be no doubt, because she used to physic herself with the same generous freedom that she bestowed on us children. Each spring we regularly, for some five weeks, were put through a course of brimstone and treacle; each morning we were given a spoonful of treacle in which the gritty brimstone had been stirred with a free hand. If we looked pale or tired, or were more than ordinarily stupid at our lessons, Aunt Emma decided that a three-grain blue pill at night, followed by a cup of senna tea in the morning, was urgently needed. These doses came with dangerous frequency, and I can conscientiously say, not once for a fortnight, from the time I was five years old till nearly eleven, was I free of physic.

Whether it was from this or from any other cause, I cannot say for certain, but up to twelve years of age I was a pale, weak, sickly boy, given to sick headaches, sleepless nights, vomitings, and general debility, with a strong tendency to get alone somewhere, and either dream away the hours, or read and re-read any book that I was fortunate enough to procure.

Up to the age of twelve my life was a kind of tideless sea; time passed, but there were no events to mark it. Companions I had none, except my two sisters, and sometimes a forest lad, the son of a gamekeeper, who used to take me out squirrel-hunting or birds’-nesting. These expeditions, however, were all but forbidden by my aunt, who visited with her severe displeasure either absence from a meal or a late arrival for one.

Having given priority in description to my aunt, I must now endeavour to describe my father. If I were to write pages I could not more fully delineate my father’s character better than to state that he had but one fault, viz, he was too kind. This kindness actually degenerated into weakness, or, as some people might term it, feebleness or indifference. This peculiar attribute manifested itself in a neglect of my early education, and of that of my sisters. If it were suggested to him that I was old enough to go to a school, he invariably found some excuse, such as that I was just then too much out of health, or he could not spare me, or I was doing very well at home, or he could not select a school where he could be sure I should receive proper attention. The true reason for these excuses was, I believe, that he could not make up his mind to part with me. I was almost his only companion, for our nearest neighbour was three miles off, and he was a man devoted to hunting only, and had none of those refined tastes or love for literature and art that my father was famous for. The result of these conditions was that at the age of thirteen I was very old in manner and thought; I was prematurely old before I was young; but I lacked the knowledge, education, and experience which usually come with age, and I was, as regards other boys, the most veritable ignoramus as to the world—knowing nothing of boys, or of the great school-world, a complete dunce as regards those points of education on which all other lads of my own age were well-informed—having a somewhat exaggerated idea of my own talents, genius, and acquirements, and disposed to look down on those boys, sons of the neighbouring gentry, who about twice a year came to our house to partake of our hospitality, and enjoy a picnic in the forest.

My father was a perfect gentleman, in the full meaning of the word. He was most sensitive himself, and, believing all those with whom he associated to be equally gifted, he was most careful and considerate in all he said or did. With him it was little short of a crime to say or do anything that could by any chance hurt the feelings of even an acquaintance. I remember once hearing an anecdote related about my father, which may show how great was the belief at least of his sympathies with others. A guest at his dinner-table, on one occasion, upset by accident a glass of sherry on the table-cloth. The visitor apologised for his awkwardness, in most humble terms, blushed deeply, and again commenced a second apology. My father tried to place the guest at his ease, but, noticing how uncomfortable he appeared, my father (it was said, purposely) upset his own glass of wine, at which he laughed immoderately, and was joined by all at table, the result being that no further apologies were offered or awkwardness exhibited by the clumsy guest.

My father’s pet hobby was Natural History. He had a splendid collection of all the moths and butterflies to be found in England. It was a great treat for me to walk with him under the wide-spreading arms of the giant beech-trees or grand old oaks that grew around us, and watch him select the grub or cocoon of some insect that would have escaped the attention of common eyes, and hear him describe the changes through which this creature passed in its material career.

Many are the happy hours that I have passed with him watching the gambols of the squirrel, or, with a pair of powerful opera glasses, scrutinising the detail labours of various birds as they built their nests. The peculiar habits of various birds and insects were well known to me long before some of them were made known to the reading world by those gentlemen whose books on natural history were written from their experience gained in the library of the British Museum.

Long before naturalists had begun to speculate on the cause of that peculiar drumming noise made by the snipe when on the wing, my father and I had convinced ourselves that it was due to the bird spreading open the pinion feathers as it stooped in its flight. The New Forest was especially suited for the residence of a naturalist, as in it were many rare birds and insects, and the opportunities for watching the habits of these were frequent.

About my future course in life my father never spoke; he seemed disposed to let matters drift on; and I believe his wish was that I never should leave home for the purpose of taking up a profession, but that at his death I should still continue the quiet, peaceful life that we had hitherto led in the forest.

It is possible that I might have continued contented as a mere forest boy with country tastes, somewhat feeble powers, and what may be termed a wasted life, had I not by chance met an individual who in one short day turned the whole current of my thoughts into a new channel, and raised in my mind longings and wishes to which I had hitherto been a stranger. As my whole future life turned at this point I must devote a new chapter to a description of my meeting with this person.

Chapter Two.

My First Adventure.

I was in the habit of taking long walks, accompanied by my dog, through the forest and over those wastes of moorland which are to be found in various parts of Hampshire. Whilst thus wandering one day, I saw on a prominent knoll, from which an extensive view could be obtained of the surrounding country, two men, one of whom had on a red uniform. My life had been passed so entirely in the wilds of the forest that I had never before seen a soldier, and my curiosity was at once excited by this red-coat, and I consequently made my way towards him, intending to examine him as I would a new specimen of natural history.

On coming near the two persons I saw at once that the one in civilian dress was a gentleman. To me he looked old, but I afterwards found out he was only twenty-four; but a man of twenty-four is old to a boy of fourteen. This gentleman was busily occupied with a strange-looking instrument, which seemed made partly of brass and partly of wood. It stood on three legs, which were separated so as to form a pyramid, and on the apex of this was the brass apparatus referred to. I had approached to within about twenty yards of this instrument when the gentleman ceased looking at it, and, turning towards me, said, “Now, young fellow, mind you don’t get shot.”

“I beg pardon,” I said, “I didn’t know you were going to fire.” And as I said so I saw that what appeared rather like a tube was pointing towards me.

“If you get shot it will be your own fault,” said the gentleman; “so don’t expect me to be responsible. Don’t you see the muzzle is pointing at you?”

I slipped round very quickly, so as to place myself, as I supposed, behind the gun, but, in a moment, round went the instrument with a touch of the gentleman’s finger, and again the tube pointed at me.

“There you are again, right in the way,” said the stranger. “If you are not shot it’s a marvel to me.”

Seeing a smile on the face of the soldier, I began to suspect that I was being made fun of, so I said, “I don’t believe that is a gun.”

“Not a gun? Why, what a disbelieving young Jew you are?”

“I’m not a Jew,” I replied indignantly. “I’m a gentleman.”

“That’s good,” exclaimed the stranger, with a laugh. “Then you mean to assert that a Jew can’t be a gentleman? You’d better mind what you’re saying, sir, for I’m a Jew.”

I looked at him with surprise, for I had my own idea of what a Jew was on account of a Jew pedlar coming to our lodge twice a year with a pack of all sorts of odds and ends to sell; and certainly, as I looked at the tall, handsome-looking stranger, I saw no similarity between him and the pedlar. I had lived hitherto in a most matter-of-fact world, where such a thing as a joke was rare, and what is termed “chaff” was unknown, so I did not understand the meaning of these remarks, and certainly felt no inclination to smile.

“Do you live in these parts?” asked the stranger.

“Yes,” I replied. “Do you know the forest well?”

“Every part of it.”

“Now come here,” said the stranger. “Do you see those tall pines—those on that hill?”


“Well, what is the name of that place?”

“That’s Castle Malwood.”

“Castle Malwood; and it’s well known about here by that name?”

“Yes, of course it is.”

“If I were to ask one of these chawbacon foresters to show me where Castle Malwood was, he would point out that place, eh?”

“Yes; every forester knows that.”

“How about the name of that house down there with the yew-trees round it?”

“That’s Blackthorn Lodge, where I live.”

“Oh, that’s your house, is it? And what’s your governor?”

“A gentleman.”

“I suppose you are home for the midsummer holidays?”

“No; I don’t go to school.”

“Tutor at home, I suppose?”


“Who teaches you, then?”

“Aunt did, and now my father does.”

“And what are you going to be?”

“I don’t know.”

“You ought to be a cadet, and join the Engineers.”

I made no reply to this; for I had never thought of any career in the future, and had never had any ideas beyond our quiet forest home, so I was not prepared with any remark.

“How do you amuse yourself here?” said the stranger. “Rather a dull place, I fancy.”

“I watch the birds and insects, and study natural history,” I replied.

“You are fond of that, are you? You should have been with me in Africa, then, where you could have watched a herd of wild elephants, or seen a lion stalk a buck, or a gigantic snake kill a bustard: that’s the place for a naturalist.”

“Have you ever seen a wild elephant or lion?” I inquired, looking with a sudden feeling of respect at the gentleman.

“Seen them and shot them, too, and have been in a country where you had to burn fires all round you to prevent being trodden down by the herds of wild animals that come about you of a night.”

“Are you a soldier?” I inquired.

“I flatter myself I am. I am an officer of Engineers, and am here now surveying, and want all the information I can get about the forest; so, if you like, I’ll meet you to-morrow near your house, as I shall be taking angles on the heath near you.”

“Then that thing isn’t a gun?”

“No; it’s a theodolite, used for surveying. I often chaff the chawbacons here, by telling them I am going to fire, and then they don’t come bothering. What’s your name?”


“By George! that’s odd; why, my governor was at Cambridge with yours, and told me to call on you when I came down here. Is your governor at home?”


“Then pack up the instrument, Roberts. I’ll come home with you, and see your governor, for I have a letter for him which I ought to have delivered before.”

The officer watched the instrument being packed up, and then started with me towards our house. On the way he described to me the country from which he had lately returned, and gave a vivid description of the vast plains covered with wild animals, of the forest teeming with strange creatures, and the air frequented by monstrous birds. Then he described a leopard-hunt in which he had taken part, and told me how one of the party had been seized and torn by the animal; and how, at last, it had been shot dead by a lucky shot. On his watch-chain were two of the claws of the leopard, which he showed me, and which gave me an idea of the size and strength of the creature. So vivid was his description, that the whole scene was before me, and I looked at him with mingled feelings of awe and admiration. I had read brief descriptions of lion and tiger hunts, but I had somehow mixed these up with tales from the “Arabian Nights,” and such like stories; but to meet a person who had himself been an actor in a lion-hunt, and who had himself killed some of the most powerful savage animals, was to me like a dream. My new acquaintance was to me a hero; and I was at once ready to follow his merest suggestion, if he would only tell me more of his adventures with wild beasts.

As we approached my father’s house, it occurred to me I had not asked the stranger’s name, and I should have to tell my father who he was; so after a little hesitation I inquired what his name was.

“Howard,” replied the officer. “I’m Jack Howard, Lieutenant Royal Engineers; my governor is the Vicar of Longstone, in Kent; so now you know all about me.”

As we approached the house we met my father, who, on learning who my companion was, welcomed him in the most cordial manner, and gave him a most pressing invitation to take up his residence at our lodge during the time he was surveying near us. That evening he stopped with us, and as we sat near the dining-room window, looking out on the endless glades of the grandest forest in England, Howard entertained us with descriptions of the scenes and adventures through which he had passed in Africa. He was a good talker, and had devoted much of his time to sport and to natural history, and was thus able to give my father descriptions of the rare animals he had met, and which were then but little known in England. As for me, I was simply entranced, and even my father seemed to listen with delight to descriptions of savage life, of which he had previously only read. I felt utterly miserable when Howard left, although he had promised to come on the following evening and stay with us a few days.

When I went to bed that night it was not to sleep; I tossed from side to side without any desire to close my eyes. The scenes of which I had heard were before me as vividly as though I had been an actor in them, and already had I made up my mind that I must be an engineer, and most myself enjoy similar experiences to those of Howard. Of the ways and means by which this result was to be accomplished I knew nothing, but I determined to ask Howard, on the first opportunity, how I could become an engineer officer, and then to try and induce my father to take such steps as would forward my views.

Howard came at the hour appointed, and took up his residence with us. I had counted the hours as they passed slowly and drearily till his arrival, and felt inclined to follow him like a dog as soon as he was in the house. I was anxious for an opportunity to tell him of my wish to be an engineer, and to ask him what I was to do to become one, for now it seemed that every hour’s delay was so much waste time, whilst the uncertainty as to whether I could or could not be one was a great source of anxiety to me.

It was not till the second day after his arrival that I found an opportunity of speaking to him about my wishes. It was towards the afternoon, when he returned early from his surveying, that I met him near the lodge, and summoning courage I said, “I have something I want to ask you.”

“What is it?” said Howard.

“I want to be an engineer officer like you. Can I?”

“There is no reason why you should not if you only work hard, but you have no time to lose. What age are you?”

“I’m nearly fifteen.”

“Then it will be sharp work for you, unless you are tolerably well up in Swat.”

“What is Swat?” I inquired.

“We call algebra and Euclid, and all those things, Swat at Woolwich. Are you good at Euclid?”

This question was an awkward one. I had been so entirely in the hands of my aunt as regards my education, that there were many subjects that I had never heard of, and which other boys of my own age knew well. Up to the time at which Howard asked me if I was well up in Euclid, I had, to the best of my memory, never even heard of Euclid; whilst algebra was also an unknown science. I had done sums of multiplication, and was supposed to have learnt rule-of-three, but I had yet to learn how little I knew, and to discover the difference between real knowledge and a mere superficial smattering. In reply to Howard’s question I had to own I knew nothing of Euclid.

“What have you done in algebra?” he next asked.

“Nothing. I know nothing about it.”

“By Jove! you are behindhand then; and unless you are at once sent to a crammer’s, you won’t get into the Academy even.”

“But I will work very hard,” I said, “for I am so anxious to be an engineer.”

“Of course, but you can no more learn a heap in a given time than you can eat an ox for dinner. You must have a certain time to prepare, and at sixteen and a half you will be too old for entry. Then, have you interest to get a nomination for Woolwich?”

“I must ask my father about that,” I replied; “but I wish you would speak to him, and say what a good thing it would be for me.”

Howard was silent for some minutes, and then said, “I will speak to your governor, for I think it is a great pity for a young fellow like you to waste his time in the country till he is too old to do anything; and as our governors were cronies, I may, perhaps, take the liberty of talking to him.”

It must have been on that evening, after I had gone to bed, that Howard broached the subject to my father; for on the following morning my father took me into the library, and, shutting the door carefully, as though what he was going to say was a great secret, said, “Howard tells me you are very anxious to be an engineer officer, and have talked to him about it. Now I have no wish to part with you, but if you think you would like such a profession, I will do what I can for you. It is a most gentlemanly profession, admits you to good society, enables you to see the world, and you may make your name known as a clever man. Young Howard is a good example for you. He carried off several prizes at Woolwich, and has always been considered a most promising young man, and he thinks you could not do better than go into the Engineers. You will have to work hard for a year or two, but with what you know already you will soon pick up all that is required, and your knowledge of natural history will no doubt help you on and bring you into notice. So if you think it will suit you I will apply for an appointment to the Academy.”

On the day following this conversation, Howard left us for a farm-house some eight miles distant, and on the day after his departure my father sent a letter to the Master-General of the Ordnance, asking for an appointment for me to the Academy, and stating that I was clever, and a good naturalist.

By return of post a letter was received, the opening of which I awaited with intense anxiety. It was a long rectangular document, with “O.H.M. Service” on the outside; the contents were brief but most decisive. In answer to the application, the Master-General regretted that there was no prospect of a vacancy at the Royal Military Academy before I had passed the age for admission.

A shade of disappointment only passed across my father’s face as he read this letter, but to me it was a shock that seemed to render my future a blank. I had so set my heart on being an engineer officer, like Howard, that I had thought of nothing else for the past four or five days and nights. My usual amusements had become distasteful, and been neglected; the fire of ambition had entered my mind, and repose was no longer attainable. Castles in the air had been built, and seemed to me substantial edifices; and now to find all my hopes thus cruelly crushed was a blow I could not support. I tried my best to bear up, but I felt broken-hearted. I instantly thought of Howard; might he not help me? He was so clever, and so acquainted with everything, that perhaps he might tell my father what to do. I must find Howard and let him know what had happened; so, soon after breakfast, I started for a long walk to that part of the forest where I hoped to find him. I was in luck that day, for I came on Howard as he was going to his work, told him of the disappointment I had just experienced, and asked him if there was no remedy. He smiled at my eagerness, and said, “Never despair, I will see what can be done. I have a relative in the Cabinet, and he may manage the affair for you; but, really now, it takes as much interest to get a nomination for Woolwich as it does to make a curate a bishop; but I will write about it, and if I get you a nomination you must do me credit, and pass all your examinations well.”

A week passed after this interview, and I saw nothing of Howard; each day as the post came in I looked anxiously for a letter, but none came, and I at length lost all hope. I had told my father what Howard had said, but he smiled at my sanguine hopes, and told me it was unfortunate, and could not be helped; but there really was no chance of success, as he had ascertained that nearly every nomination for Woolwich was given either through parliamentary interest, or to the sons of distinguished military officers.

On the eighth day, however, an official letter was left by the postman at our lodge. My father opened it with eagerness, and scanned its contents before reading it to us. He then said, “Bob, I congratulate you; listen to this:—

“‘I have the honour to inform you that the Master-General of the Ordnance has granted a nomination to the Royal Military Academy to your son, Robert Shepard, and I am directed to state that he may present himself at the Academy at the next examination in February. I enclose papers, etc.’”

I jumped from my chair, gave my father a hug, exchanged kisses with my two sisters and aunt, and performed various extraordinary capers about the room. In imagination I was already an officer, a traveller, a lion-slayer, and very much what Howard appeared to me. Of the thorny path between me and the position I aspired to I knew nothing. I saw the prize only, and little knew what I had to pass through ere I reached it. If I could have seen the life I should lead during the next three years I doubt whether my ambition would not instantly have been extinguished; and I should have remained a dreamy forest boy, and grown up to the position of a country gentleman of moderate means and somewhat limited abilities.

On that morning there was joy in our house; my father was pleased at the success of what he supposed was his application, and because he saw I was pleased. My sisters were pleased at the prospect of having a brother a soldier; and my aunt was, I think, gratified because of late she had lost much of the control over me, which she had wielded when I was a mere child, and did not now care to have me in the house.

When the first excitement of the intelligence was over, my father took me into the library to talk over the papers he had read, relative to the examination.

“There is Euclid,” he said; “three books you will have to take up. That you’ll soon learn, because your mind is fresh and has not been crammed like other boys at your age. Then there is arithmetic,—that of course you know; and algebra up to quadratic equations; this you will soon pick up. I remember at Cambridge I soon learnt all these things. History and geography you were always fond of, and, of course, there is nothing to learn there. French and German, too, you can pick up a smattering of—enough to pass an examination—and I fancy your knowledge of natural history will help to make you stand well at an examination. To February is five months, so there is no hurry, and if you go steadily on you ought to pass well. Perhaps, if I get a tutor to come over from Southampton twice a week, we might manage it well.”

I knew nothing about examinations, or the difficulty of the subjects I was expected to learn, and so could offer no remarks, and could only acquiesce in my father’s suggestion, and should probably have dreamed on a few months longer had not Howard that afternoon called at our lodge, to congratulate us on the receipt of the nomination which, he said, he had heard of that morning. He took but little credit to himself for what he had done; but I felt certain then, and I ascertained afterwards, that it was entirely due to his interest that I obtained my nomination.

Upon hearing what was proposed to be done in preparing me for the examination, he assured us that it would be impossible for me to qualify by February, even if I went to the best cram-school at Woolwich; but to have a tutor twice a week would be useless. He impressed on my father the necessity for getting my examination postponed till February twelvemonth—the last date that my age would admit of—and recommended that I should at once be sent to Mr Hostler, the best cram-school at Woolwich, who would prepare me if any one could.

The high opinion which my father entertained of Howard caused him not only to listen to, but to act on, this advice; and it was decided that on the Monday week following my father was to start with me for Woolwich, and leave me in charge of Mr Hostler, to be prepared for the Royal Engineers, and for the examination on the February twelvemonth from that date.

Chapter Three.

A Cram-School at Woolwich Forty Years Ago.

In the days to which this tale refers, railways did not exist; it was therefore by the Salisbury coach that I travelled with my father to London. I will pass over my wonder and surprise at the size and crowds of London, and of the scenes that presented themselves to me as I for the first time drove through the metropolis. Steam-vessels were then novelties, and it was by a steam-vessel that we journeyed from London Bridge to Woolwich, and were deposited in the lower part of that dirty town, from whence a cab conveyed us to the school-house of Mr Hostler at the early hour of eleven a.m. As, from what I was able to gather at the time, Mr Hostler’s was a fair specimen of the Woolwich cram-schools forty years ago, this establishment and the life I led there will be somewhat fully described. After long years of roughing it in various parts of the world, the early impressions of that school are fresh in my memory. Coming as I did to that school, fresh from a quiet country home, where I had led the quietest of lives—where a slap from my aunt was the greatest evil that ever happened to me—where politeness and consideration for others was instilled into me by my father as the essential attribute of a gentleman—I was ill-prepared for Mr Hostler’s school, where a somewhat different tone prevailed.

On arriving at Mr Hostler’s, we were shown into a comfortably-furnished but small room, and were informed that Mr Hostler would come very soon. After about five minutes the door opened, and a short, broad, dark man entered. His eyes were dark and piercing, and his aquiline nose gave him, to my mind, the appearance of a hawk. Without a moment’s hesitation he said, “How do you do, Mr Shepard? Lucky to get a nomination for your boy, and lucky I’ve got room for him. Another day and you’d have been too late.” Mr Hostler turned his hawk-like eyes on me and said, “You don’t look well: are you ill?”

“No, thank you; I’m a little tired—that’s all.”

“He’s for the Academy?” said Mr Hostler to my father.

“Yes, for the Royal Engineers.”

“Ah! you must work hard, and we’ll make something of you here, you may depend. I think, Mr Shepard, I’d better take him at once, and show him in the school. ‘Go to harness at once’ is my motto.”

Before I had quite realised my position, I had bid my father good-bye, had cast a longing look after him, and felt a choking feeling in my throat, and a sensation of utter loneliness came over me as I knew I was alone, without a friend near.

Mr Hostler took a long look at me, and then, in quite a different tone to that in which he had spoken to my father, said,—

“Come along, youngster. You are like a young bear, I see; all your trouble’s to come. You’ve a lot before you, I can tell you.”

I followed Mr Hostler out of the room, down about half-a-dozen steps, and into a courtyard, where I heard a noise of voices making so great a din that it was impossible to distinguish the words. These sounds came from a long building on the left, to which Mr Hostler led me. He opened a door and pushed me in before him, when I saw one of the most extraordinary sights that I had ever witnessed.

In the room were a number of tables, at which were sitting about fifty boys in about five rows. The majority of these boys were swinging backwards and forwards, like pendulums the wrong end uppermost; others had their hands pressed over their ears, and their heads bent down over a book; the whole of them were repeating words or sentences, portions of which only were audible amidst the deafening din.

In after years, when I have stood at night near a tropical swamp, and have listened to the deafening noise of a thousand bull-frogs, I have always had recalled to me my first visit to the schoolroom of Mr Hostler’s cram-school at Woolwich.

Upon our entering the schoolroom several boys looked up from their books, and the noise for an instant decreased; then, from the far end of the room, a shrill voice exclaimed, “Because the triangle ABC is similar to the triangle DEF, therefore the side AB is to the side DE.” Then a chorus of voices drowned the first voice, and again the uproar proceeded.

“Stop a minute, boys!” said Mr Hostler in a loud voice. “Here’s a new boy—Shepard’s his name. He’s going into the Royal Engineers. I say, Beck, you look out, or he’ll beat you!”

As this speech was made to the whole school, I made a bow—such a one as my father had taught me to make to a lady. A titter ran round the various tables as I did so, and I distinctly saw one boy make a grimace at me.

“Here, Monk,” said Mr Hostler; “you take Shepard; set him his Euclid, and see what he knows in Swat.”

The person addressed was a hard-featured man, with a surly look about him, who, handing me a book, said,—

“What do you know?”

“No Euclid,” I replied.

“Don’t know any Euclid? Why, how old are you?”

“Nearly fifteen,” I replied.

“Oh I nearly fifteen and don’t know any Euclid! and you’re going to be an engineer?”

“Yes,” I replied; “I’m going to be an engineer.”

“Don’t you wish you may get it?” said Mr Monk. “Now learn these definitions,” he continued, “and let’s see what you can do.”

The book now placed before me was the mysterious Euclid, my first acquaintance with which I was now to make. I looked at the first sentence under the definitions, and thought I had never seen a more extraordinary statement than that there made,—

“A point is that which has no parts and no magnitude.”

I read this over two or three times, but each time I read it and thought over it the statement seemed more and more curious. On looking further down the page, I saw that “a line was length without breadth,” which seemed to me quite a mistake; for, however thin a line might appear to the naked eye, yet I knew, from my experience with the microscope in connexion with natural history, that the thinnest spider’s web always showed some breadth when it was looked at through a microscope. It occurred to me that, amidst the noise and confusion that went on in this school, it was possible that the fact of looking at a line through a microscope had never been thought of by any one; and as I felt quite certain that it was impossible that a line could exist without breadth, I determined to point this out to Mr Monk.

Watching for an opportunity to catch his eye, I half rose from my seat as I saw him looking at me. He immediately came to where I was sitting, and said,—

“What’s the matter? You’ve only your definitions to learn; can’t you understand them?”

“Not quite,” I said; “but I think this about a line having no breadth is wrong; for, however thin a line may appear, it looks thick if you bring a microscope to see it through.”

As soon as I commenced speaking to Mr Monk, the boys at the table ceased their sing-song noise and listened to what I was saying. There was a look of astonishment in their faces as I spoke, which quickly changed to a broad grin when they heard what I said; and when Mr Monk said in a sarcastic tone, “Oh, you’ve found that Euclid’s wrong, eh? and that we are all a pack of fools? Now, you just learn three more definitions for your cheek, you young puppy?” the boys actually roared with laughter.

“You want a lot taken out of you, I can see,” continued Monk, “and I’ll pretty soon do it; so mind what you’re at.”

I don’t know whether surprise or anger predominated in my mind at the result of my first attempt to show I thought on what I learnt, as well as attempted to learn it by rote. Such downright rudeness I had never before experienced, and I could scarcely believe that the boys around me were the sons of gentlemen, although I had been told by Howard that Hostler’s was a first-class school, where none but gentlemen’s sons were admitted.

I blushed scarlet at the remark made to me, and felt inclined to explain my meaning, but somehow the words would not come, and I therefore gazed steadily at the pages of my book, wondering how it was I seemed so different from other boys. Whilst thus meditating, I raised my eyes to the boy opposite me; he was a cross-looking, sturdy boy, about my own age, and was occupied, as were the rest, in swinging backwards and forwards, whilst he repeated, in a loud tone, “A is to B as B is to C,” etc.

When this boy saw me looking at him, he made a face at me, and said, “Don’t look at me!” As, however, I continued looking at him, he suddenly lowered himself, so that his head only appeared above the table, and, before I suspected what he was doing, I received a tremendous kick on the shins. The noise the boy made caused Mr Monk to look up just in time to see me throw my book at the boy’s head. So quick had been my assailant in recovering himself and resuming his proper position, that, when Mr Monk looked round, the only thing he saw was my Euclid flying across the table at the boy’s head.

“Hullo!” exclaimed Mr Monk, “you’re a nice young fellow; what are you at?”

“He kicked me on the shins,” I exclaimed.

“Didn’t do anything of the kind,” said the boy, whose name was Fraser.

“Didn’t you kick Shepard?”

“No; I stooped under the table to pick up my handkerchief, and he then shied his book at me,” said Fraser, with a bare-faced effrontery that startled me.

“You come out here, Shepard,” said Monk, who seemed not to have got over my remark about the line; “we’ll soon stop your larks.”

I got up from my seat, feeling that I had been most unjustly treated, and that a lie had been told against me; but, not knowing how I could get myself righted, I was puzzling my brain how I should make Mr Monk know what had really occurred, when I received a couple of blows from him on the head that almost stunned me.

“That’s what you want,” said Monk, “to set you to rights! Now go and stand on that stool till you’ve learnt your Euclid, and if you fail you’ll get three cuts as sure as your name’s Shepard. We don’t stand any tricks here, you see; you’ve to learn what discipline is.”

I find it difficult to make the reader fully comprehend my feelings at that time. Up to the age of ten years Aunt Emma had been very free in boxing my ears, and keeping me in what she called “order,” but during the past five years I had been treated more like a young man than as a boy. The companionship with my father had given me an old feeling, and I thought more as a man thinks than as a boy does. With such ideas as to my age, it was a great blow to my pride to find myself treated like a child, to be kicked by a boy smaller than myself, and then to have my ears boxed because I retaliated. I tried hard to command myself, but after a brief struggle I fairly cried like a child.

I was now the object of attention to every boy in the school. Each boy took his quiet look and grin at me whenever he could take his eyes from his Euclid without being seen by Mr Monk, and this continued till the clock struck the hour, when Mr Monk shouted, “Close books! Come up, Jones and Hunt!”

Two boys left their seats and went to the master, who took their books from them and inquired, “What proposition?”

“Eighth of the second,” said Jones.

“Go on, then,” said the master; and away went Jones, repeating like a parrot a number of lines about A to B, etc. I listened to this because it was not only all new to me, but because I fancied that very shortly I should follow probably the course of this boy. Jones went on without a stop till he had finished his proposition, when, with a look of delight, he left the room. The boy called Hunt now commenced his proposition, but before he had gone over a dozen lines he began to hesitate, then to stop altogether, and finally burst out crying. My first idea was that his heart was very much in his work, and that his pride was hurt at having failed in his lesson; but I was soon to be undeceived in this respect. Hunt was sent into a corner of the room, where he sat looking the picture of misery, and another boy was called upon by the master to say his Euclid. About fifteen boys were allotted to Mr Monk, and out of these three remained in school, having “failed,” as it was termed. As the last boy was sent into the corner Mr Hostler came into the room, looking particularly smiling and active. He carried in his hand a short black stick, which I afterwards learned was whalebone. Seeing me standing on a stool he said, “Hullo! in trouble already? Ah! I thought you were not as quiet as you looked. What’s he been doing, Mr Monk?”

I listened with astonishment at the statement of my offences. First I had tried to show off before the boys by trying to chaff the master by saying if he looked with a microscope at a line it would show Euclid was wrong; then I suddenly took a dislike to a boy and threw a book at his head.

Mr Hostler listened to this account very quietly, and then turning to me said, “Now look here; I’ve done a great favour to your friends by letting you come here. There’s lots would have given a fifty-pound note to get their sons into my establishment. Now, I’m a good mind to pack you off to-day, but I’ll give you another trial, so you just look out.”

I was trying to say something in my defence, but the words hung fire and would not come out, and it was, perhaps, as well I did not say anything, for it would not have been attended to, as Mr Hostler was now inquiring about the boys who had failed.

“So you have failed again, Hunt,” said Mr Hostler. “Here, you come up, then, and take your three.”

Hunt left his seat and commenced crying, whilst he blew on and then rubbed his hand in what appeared to me a most singular manner. The reason for this latter proceeding I was soon to learn, for as he came near Mr Hostler he held out his hand as though to show he had nothing in it—the fingers quite straight and the palm horizontal. Mr Hostler took his whalebone stick in his right hand, made one or two feints, and then delivered a smart blow on the boy’s hand. The sound of this blow indicated its severity, but the contortions of the boy also showed that there was no mistake as to the punishment intended.

“Out with it again?” said Mr Hostler, who now seemed in his element, and who jumped about and flourished his whalebone as if he were riding a race. “Two more. Ah! no shirking. There, that doesn’t count.” These remarks were uttered as he made an up-cut on the knuckles of the boy, who dropped his hand to avoid the full force of the expected blow.

“There, you got that!” exclaimed Hostler, as he delivered a smart cut full on the fingers of Hunt’s hands, and elicited a cry of pain as the boy trembled with nervousness and agony.

“Now for the last!” said Hostler. “Quick about it! There you are! Now don’t you fail again!”

Hunt passed me on his way out of the room, and I saw on his hand two blue-looking streaks, that were swollen as though a hot iron had been passed over them. He was crying, but seemed to think less of his pain than I fancied he would. The other boys that had failed were had up by Hostler in the same manner, and each treated to three cuts on the hand with the whalebone.

“Now, Shepard,” said Hostler, “let’s hear you your definitions. Come along sharp, sir; don’t lounge like that?” Hostler here caught me by the shoulder, and shouting “Come up—hi! hi!” shook me almost out of my clothes.

“I’ll wake you up, I will. You’ve been asleep all your life,” he continued. “Now then, go on:—A point—”

“A point,” I said, “is—a point is part of magnitude.”

“I’ll parts of magnitude you!” said Hostler. “You’ve been an hour doing nothing. You ought to have three cuts, but I’ll let you off as it’s the first time; but you stop in till you know this.”

I now found myself the only boy in the school, where all was as quiet as before it had been noisy. I sat for some minutes as though in a dream. Was all this real? I asked myself, and had I to go through such scenes for a year before I became an engineer officer, or even a cadet? The feeling of loneliness was mixed with utter surprise and astonishment that there should be such a place as this school in England, and that the course here adopted should be found necessary, in order that boys should become learned enough for officers.

My thoughts wandered from the schoolroom. I was in the shady paths of the grand old forest, where I had passed my early life, and I compared my present condition with that which it would have been had I remained at home. I thought of Howard, and wondered whether he as a boy had passed through such an ordeal as this school offered; and as I believed it possible he had done so, I began to learn a lesson which only those learn who have themselves had to win their way to excellence by hard work and by surmounting difficulties. This essential lesson is one that too many never learn. When we are witnesses of skill in anything, too many forget that this skill is the result of long thought, labour and perseverance. We too often fail to recollect the hours of wearying labour that have been devoted to the acquirement of those qualifications which, when seen in the results, are much admired. The mathematician or geometrician who attains to eminence must have devoted many years’ labour to these subjects, whilst the artist, musician or writer must also have laboured many weary years before he attained even to mediocrity. Even those who excel in games of skill, such as chess, draughts, whist, billiards, cricket, or rackets, must be men who think deeply, and reason on what they see others do, as well as on what they do themselves. When, then, we see excellence in anything, those who have themselves arrived at excellence appreciate skill in others, because ever before them is the idea of the hard work and hard thought that most have been gone through before proficiency could be reached. Those, however, who never have worked to any purpose, who have idled all their lives and failed to attain even mediocrity in anything, usually fail to appreciate in others excellence or skill, and when, after long perseverance and thought, any successful results have been won, idlers not unfrequently term such a result “good luck.” When I had seen Howard, and had been impressed by his apparent knowledge and skill on all subjects, I was ambitious at once of being like him. In my ignorance I fancied that just as I grew taller by no thought or trouble, so I might become an officer like him by merely allowing time to work out its course. That I should have to labour, to work my brain in a manner I had never before even dreamed of, had never occurred to me. Now, however, I began to realise the fact that I was a dunce, and that my brain was feeble merely from want of use, and that I was not capable of competing with other boys of my own age, because their brains had been active and used when mine had been merely idle. I was like a horse suddenly taken up from grass, and worked with one that had been thoroughly trained for many months. My brain was flabby and feeble, without that vigour which is requisite for any mental labour. I could feel a presentiment that there was even a greater exposure of my ignorance coming than had yet taken place. Under the most favourable circumstances of quiet which I enjoyed at home, a long-division sum always took me some time, and, though I was supposed to know as far as fractions in arithmetic, yet I was very shaky in a rule-of-three sum, and I knew that, hustled as I was at Hostler’s, I should breakdown at what perhaps I might accomplish if left quietly to myself. I found that it was downright exhaustive work to remember the definitions before me. I knew them for a minute, then they left me, and as I realised my state I buried my head in my hands, and felt overcome with despair.

Suddenly the door opened, and Hostler appeared and said, “Now, Shepard, do you know your definitions?”

“No, sir,” I replied; “it is very hard for me to learn them.”

I expected him to take me out for my three cuts, but instead of this he sat down beside me and said, “Now, look here; you’ve got to learn how to learn. I see you’re been a spoiled child—your mother’s pet, I suppose—and have never worked at all, only just fudged on. Now you begin really, and of course it’s all new to you. Now just listen to me.”

“Please, sir,” I said, “my mother died when I was a baby, and I never was what you call spoiled by her.”

“Ah, well, I’m very sorry I said that, but of course I didn’t know it; never mind, now try and follow me. A point is that which has no parts and no magnitude—that means, that it’s only an imaginary spot, without any size about it. Do you understand that?”

“Yes, I think I do.”

“Then a line is length without breadth—that is, if I draw an imaginary line from here to the moon, that line has length, but it has no breadth. Now think over these, and learn them again to-morrow, and you may go out and join the other boys in the playground.”

It was quite a relief to me to have this conversation with Mr Hostler, for I felt that I could learn after a time, though at first I experienced all the difficulties of novelty in everything I attempted.

Chapter Four.

Experiences at School—My First Fight.

On entering the playground I saw about forty boys amusing themselves in various ways. Some were jumping with a pole, others were leaping over a tape, whilst several were talking in groups. As I approached the ground, I heard several boys call out, “Here he is!”

“Now where’s Fraser?” whilst eight or ten boys came round me, and seemed looking at me as a curiosity.

“You’re going to be an engineer, aren’t you?” said one boy.

“Yes,” I replied.

A shout of laughter was the result of this remark of mine, the reason for which I could not comprehend.

“You’re very clever, I suppose,” said the same boy; “an awful hand at Swat.”

“I can do rule-of-three,” I replied.

“Lor! what a clever fellow!” replied the boy. “I say,” he shouted, “Ansell, James, come here! We have a Sir Isaac Newton here!”

As he called, four or five boys came up and joined the others near me.

“He’s going to be an engineer,” said the same boy; “and he knows rule-of-three! Isn’t he likely to get them?”

“Where have you come from?” asked another boy.

“From the New Forest, Hampshire,” I replied.

“Then you’d better go back to the New Forest, Hampshire, and feed the pigs there.”

“You are very rude,” I said, “to speak like that.”

A shout of laughter greeted this speech, whilst the same boy intimated that I was “a confounded young prig!”

“Oh, here you are!” said Fraser, who suddenly appeared on the scene. “I’ve been looking for you. What do you mean by shying a book at me?”

“Why, you kicked me for no reason at all,” I replied. “It is I who have cause to complain of you.”

“Oh, you have, have you? then take that?”

Before I knew what was going to be done, Fraser suddenly struck me full in the face. The blow was so severe that for a second or two I scarcely knew what had happened. Then, however, I realised the fact, and, rushing at Fraser, I struck wildly at him. Without seeming to disturb himself much, Fraser either guarded off my blows or quickly dodged so as to avoid them; and when he saw an opportunity, as he soon did, he punished me severely.

Fraser was smaller than I was, but was certainly stouter, and he possessed what I did not, viz, skill in the use of his fists. This was the first fight I had ever been in, whilst he was an old hand at pugilistic encounters. The result, consequently, was what might be expected, viz, in ten minutes I was entirely beaten, all my strength seemed gone, and I was unable to raise a hand in my defence.

“Don’t you shy a book at me again,” said Fraser as he left me leaning against the wall, trying to recover myself.

“Bravo, Fraser! well done!” said one or two boys who had formed a ring round us as we fought. Not a boy seemed to pity me, or to be disposed to help me, and I felt as utterly miserable as a boy could feel.

As I leant against the wall, with my handkerchief to my nose, a boy named Strong came up and said,—

“You’d better wash the blood off your face, Shepard, or there’ll be a row.”

“I don’t care,” I replied, “whether there’s a row or not.”

“Come along,” said Strong; “don’t be downhearted. Fraser is an awful mill and a great bully, and always bullies a new boy just to show off his fighting. Come and wash your face.”

I went with Strong, and removed as much as possible the evidence of my late combat—Strong all the time trying his best to cheer me up.

“You’ve never been at a boarding-school before?” said Strong inquiringly.

“No; and I don’t think I shall stop here long,” I replied.

“Oh, there will be another new boy soon, and then you’ll lead an easy life.”

“But is every new boy treated as I am?”

“Well, very nearly the same. Then they are down upon you because you boasted you were going to get the Engineers’.”

“Boasted? I didn’t mean to boast. I came here to prepare for the Engineers.”

“But don’t you know that it’s only about one in twenty who go to the Academy who are clever enough for the Engineers? and when you say you are going to be an engineer it looks like boasting. You may be very clever, and a first-rate hand at Euclid and Swat; but it doesn’t do to boast.”

This speech opened my eyes at once. In my ignorance I knew no difference between being an engineer or anything else; but I now saw why it was that all the boys seemed to make such game of me when I said I was intended for the Engineers, as it was like asserting that I was very clever, and claiming to have it in my power to beat nineteen out of twenty boys who might compete with me. I now began to realise it as a fact that I was utterly ignorant on nearly every subject that was likely to be of use to me at Mr Hostler’s. I knew nothing either of schoolboys or school-life. To me it seemed most ungenerous that I should be laughed at because I made a mistake, not knowing that schoolboys as a rule are disposed to make butts of those who are not as well acquainted as themselves with the few facts on which they pride themselves.

In the afternoon of this my first day at Mr Hostler’s, my pride again received a severe blow. The subject studied in the afternoon was arithmetic and algebra; and on coming into the schoolroom Mr Monk asked me where I had left off in arithmetic.

In order not to make any mistake, I replied that rule-of-three was what I had last done.

I remember well that Aunt Emma, who used to teach me arithmetic, had a book out of which she used to copy a sum of a very simple nature, but which she as well as I thought at the time rather difficult. She then used to show me an example to point out how it was done; and, when I had finished it, used to compare my answer with that given in the book. She was rather hazy about the problem as a rule, and never ventured to give me any explanation as to where I was wrong in case my answer did not correspond with that in the book; but still I was supposed to have learnt rule-of-three, though I soon found out my mistake. The style of questions that I used to solve at home were such as the following:—

“If a bushel of coals costs two shillings and sixpence, what would be the price of fifty bushels?”

These I could fairly accomplish without much probability of making a mistake; and so I hoped I might succeed in passing Mr Monk’s examination of my rule-of-three.

“Just write down this question,” said Mr Monk; “we shall soon see if you know anything about rule-of-three.”

The following question was then dictated to me:—

“If 10 men and 6 boys dig a trench 100 feet long, 8 feet wide, and 5 feet deep, in 12 days, how many boys ought to be employed to dig a trench 200 feet long, 3 feet deep, and 6 feet wide, in 8 days, if only 5 men were employed, 2 boys being supposed equal to 1 man?”

As I read over this question I felt my heart sink within me. I knew I could not do it properly, and that I should again expose myself to ridicule in having said I could accomplish rule-of-three, when, if this were rule-of-three, I knew nothing of it. I sat for several minutes looking at the question, and trying to discover some means for its solution. Boys were mixed in my mind with ditches, men with days, and deep holes with width. At least a quarter of an hour passed without my making the slightest advance in the way of solution; at the end of this time Mr Monk looked at my slate and said,—

“So you don’t seem to know much about rule-of-three?”

“I never saw a sum like this before,” I replied.

“Then why did you tell me that you could do rule-of-three? Do you know your multiplication table?”

“Yes,” I replied.

“What’s 12 times 11?” he inquired.

Now, of all the multiplication table, 11 times anything was to me the easiest, because I remembered that two similar figures, such as 66, was 6 times 11, 77 was seven times 11, and so on; but 12 times 11 was a number I was always rather shaky about. I hesitated a moment and then made a wild rush at it, and said, “One hundred and twenty-one?”

Mr Monk looked at me with a mingled expression of pity and contempt, and said, “You’re nearly fifteen, and you don’t know your multiplication table, and yet you think you’re going to be an engineer! Why there’s not a boy at the charity-school who at twelve does not know more than you!”

I listened attentively to this remark, for I felt that Mr Monk was a prophet. It was quite true that I was a dunce. I had learnt it, and realised it in half a day. It had been forcibly impressed on me as I tried to learn Euclid, as I was ignominiously defeated by Fraser in a pugilistic encounter in something like ten minutes, and now when it was proved to me! did not know my multiplication table.

“You’d better commence at simple addition,” said Monk, “and work your way up. You can’t join any class; there’s no one so backward as you are. Your nursemaid ought to have taught you these things. At Mr Hostler’s we don’t expect to have to teach even arithmetic. It will take you three years to get up to quadratics!”

“Well, Mr Monk,” said Hostler, bustling into the room, “I hope Shepard is well up in his algebra?”

“He doesn’t even know his multiplication table?” said Monk.

Hostler stared at me much as he would at a dog with only two legs or a bird with one wing. Having given me a long searching look, under which I blushed and felt inclined to shrink under the form, he said,—

“Poor fellow! your friends have got a lot to answer for! What a pity it is, Mr Monk, that in civilised England people who are gentlefolks are not compelled by law to educate their children! Look at this boy, now. I dare say, at home and in the country, he was thought to be fit to run alone; and yet there he is, a regular dunce! Now, Shepard,” he said, “you must begin to learn; you must work hard; and if there’s no chance of your getting into the Academy, why, what you learn here will always be of use to you; so don’t be idle.”

Having made this remark, Mr Hostler went about the school, looking at the slates of the various boys, talking to several, and explaining their problems to them. As for me, I was soon busily engaged in adding up a long row of pounds, shillings, and pence, which I did not accomplish without three times failing to obtain the right total. At length, however, I was successful, just as it was time to turn out for our afternoon walk.

On going to bed that night I seemed to have passed through more, and to have gained more experience in that one day that I had in years before. I had learnt that I knew nothing—that my supposed knowledge was not real—that I was, in fact, a dunce, far behind all other boys of my own age—that I was weak in physical strength—and though my sisters used to think me awfully strong, yet this, too, was a mistake. Mixed with the depressing effect of this knowledge there was, however, a slight feeling of satisfaction in knowing that now at least I was among realities, whilst before I was among dreams. I had, too, a kind of presentiment that I had within me a capacity for doing work, if I could only get in the way of it. When I used to help my father in his microscope work, and sketched some of the wonderful details of the wings, legs, or bodies of the insects I saw, he always prophesied that I should do great things some day. Now, however, I realised the fact that I was a dunce—that I was so far behind other boys that it was improbable I could ever catch them up, and so to expect to excel was out of the question; if I could only attain to mediocrity I should be satisfied.

Such thoughts passed through my mind as I dozed off to sleep, and dreamed I was untangling a skein of wire, that as fast as I undid one part another portion gathered itself in a knot.

Suddenly I felt a choking sensation, and started up in bed with a strange bewildered feeling over me. The room was quite dark, and I could not see one of the ten beds occupied by the other boys in the room. I, however, heard a slight noise as of some one getting into bed, and then a smothered laugh. As I fully awoke I found I was drenched with water and my bed and pillow were wet—a fact I was much puzzled at.

As I sat up, wondering what had happened, a boy called out, “Shepard! what are you about?”

“I am wet through, somehow,” I said.

“Ah! some one has given you a ‘cold pig,’ I suppose, because you snored so. Don’t you make such a row again.”

When I was at home it was instilled into me that it was almost certain death to sleep in a damp bed, and numerous instances were quoted to me of persons who had either died of consumption, or been cripples for life in consequence of sleeping in wet sheets. In the present instance, however, there was no help for it. I must either sit up all night, or sleep in the bed, wet as it was. I was so completely tired, so utterly worn out, bodily and mentally, that I did not care who it was had thrown the water on me. My head ached, from over-thought as much as from the blows I had received in my fight, and I again laid down in the wet bed, and slept as well as though in my own room at home.

I had not half completed what would have been a fair night’s rest under ordinary conditions when I was awoke by the shrill voice of a boy shouting “Quarter!” I at first imagined this cry might mean something connected with a battle, and that the enemy were calling out for quarter; but on fully awaking I found each boy jumping up, and rushing to a basin of water and washing in the greatest haste. I followed the example set me by the other boys, from whom I learnt that we all had to be in the schoolroom by six o’clock, and any boy who was not in the room when the clock struck got no breakfast. We all rushed from our room about a minute before the clock struck, and entered the school where I had been on the previous day; and I then found that between six and seven a proposition in Euclid had to be learnt on nearly every morning. So I was at once started at my definitions.

In the hour allotted I managed to learn my definitions, and said them to the satisfaction of Mr Monk, and was able, therefore, to go out with the other boys for the half-hour preceding breakfast.

During the next two days our routine was very similar to that of the first day. I soon fully realised the fact that I was more backward, if not more stupid, than any boy in the school; and I also learnt that no one believed it possible I could ever be prepared to pass the examination for entrance to the Academy. There were boys at the school of only twelve years of age, who were far beyond me, who were not to be sent up for examination until they were fifteen years of age. In those days a boy was allowed only one trial for entrance, and if he then failed he never had another given him; and he consequently lost all chance of becoming a cadet. So it was, at least, a prudent precaution to keep a boy at school until he was well qualified to pass his examination. There was also then, as now, considerable rivalry amongst the schoolmasters who prepared for Woolwich Academy, and it was considered a feather in the cap of the individual who had prepared the first boy on the list. To send up any boy, therefore, badly prepared was imprudent, and also not likely to reflect any credit on the establishment from which he had been sent.

I used my best endeavours to get on, but found that my brain would not work as would that of other boys: it seemed like a limb that has not been used for many weeks and is suddenly called upon for some hard work; it becomes stiff and unable to work in a very short time. I also noticed that none of the masters seemed to take much trouble about me. It appeared as though they had agreed that I was not in the race for the Academy, and therefore it was unnecessary for them to trouble themselves much about me.

In three days an entire change had come over me. I had lost all pride in myself, and felt that I must merely drag on an existence at this school for a time. I had not the courage to write to my father and tell him it was impossible I could pass my examination, as I was such a dunce; for I knew such an announcement would not be believed by him, or, if believed, it would be most unpleasant news. I hoped, too, that it was possible I might by practice get accustomed to the noise at the school, and might, like other boys, be able to learn like a parrot the problems in Euclid. My life was certainly a most miserable one. I was still the last new boy, and as such had various tricks played upon me; but it seemed that my nature was somehow changed, and that I did not feel as sensitively as I did on first joining Mr Hostler’s.

One day per week at Mr Hostler’s was devoted to drawing of various kinds, and languages; and this day was a great relaxation after the perpetual Euclid, arithmetic, or algebra. I rather looked forward, also, to seeing Mr Walkwell, the drawing-master, who, I was told, was very amusing and quite a character, and who was very fond of boys. On going into school after breakfast, I saw Mr Walkwell. He was a short, spare man, with a flexible face, which he had the power of altering in a marvellous manner. His arms and legs also he could swing about in a wild kind of way that seemed quite dangerous. As we all entered the school, Mr Walkwell called out in a deep, loud voice that one would scarcely believe possible could emanate from so small a man,—

“Every boy to his seat instantly?”

Each boy jumped into a place except myself, and, not knowing where to go, I stood looking at Mr Walkwell.

“New boy,” said Mr Walkwell, pointing his finger at me threateningly. “New boy! See. Ought to be an artist. Large perceptives, comparison well developed, ideality large, temperament nervous. New boy, you can draw?”

“No, sir,” I said, “I can’t draw.”

“What’s your name, new boy?”

“Shepard, sir.”

“Gentle Shepard—not of Salisbury Plains—come and sit here. That’s always to be your place. Now, boys, listen to the three great rules of drawing.”

Mr Walkwell here took a piece of chalk and sketched on a black board in about half a dozen lines a small landscape. As he drew these lines, he said,—

“Listen, boys! There are three rules in drawing to be attended to. There is the distant, or delicate—see here the distant hills; the middle ground, or spirited; and the foreground, or bold.”

As he completed his remarks, he lowered his voice from the high falsetto at which he had commenced to the deepest base, whilst at the same time he ran his chalk about in a most skilful manner over the lines he had drawn, and filled in a very effective landscape.

“Now, Shepard,” he said, “you, as new boy, always remember these golden rules, and you must draw. Take a pencil now and copy this gate.”

I was here given a copy, a piece of drawing-paper, and a spare piece of paper to try my pencil on. I very soon copied the gate, and then amused myself in sketching a yacht, such as I had seen in the Solent, and making the Isle of Wight the distant, or delicate, and some posts the foreground, or bold. It was a scene I could call to mind, and I seemed to be again in Hampshire, enjoying my liberty. So engrossed was I with this fancy sketch, that at first I did not notice all the boys’ eyes turned on me with curiosity. I soon saw, however, that I was the object of general attention; and on looking round I saw Mr Walkwell leaning over me, watching what I was doing.

“New boy, give me that,” said Mr Walkwell; “you are idling.”

I gave up the paper, feeling certain that either three cuts on the hand or some other punishment would be given to me. Mr Walkwell looked at the drawing, and then at me, and then said,—

“Shepard, I must report you to Mr Hostler.”

“Please, sir, don’t!” I said; “I’ll never idle again.”

At that instant Mr Hostler came into the room and said,—

“Well, Mr Walkwell, how are you? Are the boys doing well?”

“Very fairly, sir, very fairly; but I have to report the new boy to you.”

“What, Shepard? Ah, I’m afraid he is a failure. Come here, Shepard!”

I got up from my seat and walked up to where Hostler and Walkwell were standing, feeling ready to faint from nervousness.

“New boy Shepard, Mr Hostler, has told me a story. I asked him if he could draw, and he said ‘No,’ and I have now seen him out of his own head draw this sketch, sir. Look at the curve of that yacht’s sails; see the way he has fore-shortened her; look how she rests on the water. Why, for a man that’s a work of art. That boy is an artist, sir, and he told me he couldn’t draw.”

It is very difficult to describe my feelings during this conversation. I had twice been surprised at discovering my ignorance during the past few days, and now I had a surprise in discovering that I was possessed of a skill in drawing which was above the average. I used to amuse myself when at home in drawing on a slate vessels and boats that I had seen when I had gone down to Lymington or Beaulieu, but that there was any great difficulty in drawing such things I had never imagined, or had I the slightest idea that other boys could not do so well—if not better than I did.

I was certainly pleased to find that there was something in which I was not a dunce; and although I was a laughing-stock of the school on account of my ignorance of mathematics and Euclid, I was held up as something unusually clever in drawing.

“Shepard,” said Mr Hostler, “I am glad to find you can do something well, but it’s a pity you have wasted your time in learning only drawing, to the neglect of mathematics. Drawing never passed a boy into the Academy, and it doesn’t count much afterwards. Very well, Mr Walkwell, make a good artist of him, and he’ll then have a profession always ready for him in case he wants it; but I wish, for his sake, he’d some knowledge of Euclid, and less of drawing.”

From that day Mr Walkwell paid great attention to my instruction, and I improved rapidly under his tuition, and after some dozen lessons I was considered the best in the drawing-class.

Chapter Five.

Mr Hostler’s Cram-School.

It was the practice for our school to be taken out for a walk on Sunday mornings, and to go on to the barrack-field at Woolwich, to see the march past previous to the troops going to church. At this march past the splendid band of the Royal Artillery used to play at the head of the regiment, whilst immediately following the band, and heading the regiment, were two companies of gentlemen cadets.

At the church-parade on Sundays the cadets turned out in full-dress, which consisted of white trowsers, a blue tailed coat with red facings, a shako and plume. Such a dress now would look old-fashioned, but to my boyish eyes it seemed in those days the pattern of neatness, and of a soldierlike appearance.

To me everything military possessed the charm of novelty, but I must own that nothing I had ever imagined previously came up, in my ideas, to the magnificent sight that I for the first time now witnessed. I had never before heard a military band, and I gazed with wonder at the immense display of musicians, headed by a splendid-looking man, arrayed in gold lace, and swinging a huge gold-headed stick, as tall as himself, which he dexterously manipulated in time with the music. There is always something spirit-stirring in the sound of martial music, and I stood entranced as the band marched past me, turned sharp to the left as though worked by machinery, and, wheeling about, faced me, as they continued the slow march they were playing.

“Here come the gentlemen cadets!” said some of the civilians, who by hundreds had assembled to see the Sunday march past. “Look how splendidly they march?”

“What a fine set of young fellows!”

I pushed myself into a front position as I heard these remarks, and saw advancing at a slow march a line of soldiers, moving as though they were part and parcel of each other. With heads erect, and shoulders well thrown back, this line advanced; the marching was perfect. As the leading company approached a flag, beside which were several officers, who I noticed were covered with medals, a tall cadet shouted, “Bear rank take open order!” and, coming out to the front, led the company onward. So new was the sight to me, so splendid did it all appear, and so imposing, that I felt a half-choking sensation as I looked at and admired every movement. As the leading cadet passed the flag I saw him go through some movement, which concluded with his raising his hand to his cap in what I knew must be a salute. I heard murmurs of applause among the bystanders, and the deep, decided voice of an old officer at the flagstaff exclaim, “Well marched, gentlemen; very well marched.”

There was a something, I don’t know what to call it, but it seemed like a flash of intelligence passed across the faces of the cadets as they heard these words. They marched on as rigidly as ever, not a cadet an inch before or behind his neighbour, but there was a sparkle in the eye of each cadet that showed the words spoken by the officer had been heard and appreciated by front and rear rank of the cadets.

“Who is that officer?” I heard a civilian ask.

“That is Lord Bloomfield, the commandant,” was the reply.

I looked at the commandant, and saw a handsome, soldierlike-looking man in a splendid uniform, but he was too far removed from me in years and rank to produce any special sympathy on my part; the hero of the day in my mind was the cadet who had given the order to open the ranks, whilst every one of the forty cadets forming the first company that had marched past was to me an object of admiration. At that moment I would have given much to have been one among that company, and to have marched past as they had marched.

As the cadets marched before us, I could hear some of my schoolfellows calling attention to several cadets who were known to them.

“There’s Duckworth, who passed third last Christmas,” said one of them. “He’s second of his batch now, and is sure of the Engineers, they say.”

“There’s Hobson in the rear rank, with the brass collar; he got second-class mathematical prize; and see how well Jackson marches; he’s an awful swell now since he got sixty runs and carried out his bat in the last match with the officers. Look at that brute Tims,” exclaimed another; “I hope he’ll be spun at his probationary, or he’ll be an awful bully as an old cadet when I am a neux.”

These and other similar remarks I heard near me, just as a feeling of utter misery came over me as I realised the fact that it was impossible I could ever be a cadet. What I had seen on that parade had instilled into me military ambition, and if I had then and there been offered the option of a peerage or of being a gentleman cadet, I am perfectly certain I should have jumped at the chance of being a cadet. I now fully realised the absurdity of my having said at Mr Hostler’s that I was going to be an engineer, for I had already discovered that I was, compared to other boys, a dunce, and that it required a boy to be not only very clever, but to have been thoroughly well prepared, to stand any chance of being among the first flight in the intellectual race at the Academy. Consequently my remarks about being an engineer, though uttered in all simplicity and ignorance by me, appeared to others as conceited and vain-glorious, as though it were announced that a screw of a horse was going to Epsom to win the Derby. I was now not surprised that I had been, and still remained, a laughing-stock to my schoolfellows on account of my ignorance.

A third of a century has passed since that Sunday morning on which I was first a witness of a military display. During the interval, many strange and wonderful scenes have passed before us, and we have seen a large portion of our globe; but we cannot recall any pageant that has produced upon us half the effect that was produced by a simple marching-past parade, in which the gentlemen cadets, as the first company of the Royal Artillery, marched at the head of the regiment.

Since those days years have produced their effect upon our mind and body, but we are convinced a far greater effect has been produced on society than on us individually. Formerly any man or boy, who by labour, gallant deeds, intellectual power, or skill, had distinguished himself, and had thereby, even temporarily, gained a position of eminence, received the deference considered then due to him.

To the Woolwich schoolboy the gentleman cadet was a being so far above him that he was to be approached only with bated breath and whispering humbleness. To the cadet the officer was an emblem of authority and rank far above criticism, and to be treated only with respect, and obeyed without murmur. To the last-joined cadet the old cadet was an object of mingled fear and admiration—fear because, in the days of which we write, fagging was at its height, and too often was abused, and degenerated into bullying; and admiration because the old cadet had surmounted difficulties which it had yet to be proved the young cadet could surmount. What may be described as “veneration” for rank and seniority was then at its height, and impressed its influence even on the members of a cram-school such as Mr Hostler’s.

He himself, as master of the school, used his best endeavours to keep this sentiment alive. The career of those boys who had done well at the Academy was often referred to by Hostler, and comparisons made between what had been accomplished by other and former pupils, and what was likely to be done by those now at the school. Amongst those whose reputation stood highest at Hostler’s I found the name of my friend Howard was well known. He had done well at the Academy, had gained several prizes, and had left behind him a reputation that was not likely to die out soon.

In those days a boy at school used to look with a mingled feeling of respect and fear at a cadet; to be seen speaking familiarly with a cadet was enough to give a boy a position in a school, whilst an officer was regarded as belonging entirely to another order of being, whose sayings and doings were merely to be quoted as examples for future guidance.

A change, however, has taken place in these things. Now it is no unusual thing for the visitor to Woolwich to see four or five young men at school lounging down the common arm in arm, each with his pipe in his mouth, jostling off the pavement an officer covered with medals, or puffing their tobacco-smoke in the faces of ladies, whom they almost force into the road, and eye in a half sneering, half patronising manner. To them a cadet is nothing superior in any way to themselves; an officer they imagine to be a man behind his time, and one to whom they could give lots of useful hints. Let people only wait till they become officers, and (so they believe) then they will show how things should be done.

Others, again, in the present day, stand on what they imagine their rights, and will not admit that any deference is due to either age, rank, or experience—a sentiment largely demonstrated during the reign of the Paris Commune, a sort of “down with everything that’s up” style, that is more dangerous to a country than are the armies of her enemies.

Thirty years ago such sentiments had little hold in England, and none whatever among those who were candidates for Woolwich, or who wore the coveted uniform of a gentleman cadet; and we cannot but think that much of that military devotion which so characterised every branch of the army during the earlier part of the present century was due to the esprit de corps felt by all officers at that time, when soldiering was not so much a business as an honourable profession. That men of the Anglo-Saxon race should ever fail in courage, or in a sense of duty, is not likely, but there is a marked difference between work done from a sense of duty and that done con amore; and where discontent is not unknown, we too often find mere duty is most irksome.

During four months that I remained at Mr Hostler’s, previous to a brief vacation, I made very slow progress; it seemed to me that there was a disinclination on the part of the masters to push me forward. I was kept over and over again at the same things, whilst other boys were pushed on to more advanced subjects. I had obtained a reputation for being stupid and having no capacity for mathematics, and this case seemed an example of giving a dog a bad name, and you may as well hang him. The neglect with which I was treated produced its effect on me, for I failed to use all my powers to advance, as it seemed a useless effort on my part; so I only did as much as would save me from the whalebone cane, and this I often failed to escape.

I hailed with delight the day that I left Mr Hostler’s for a three weeks’ holiday, for I hoped I should never return, as I intended to explain to my father how matters were, and to get him either to send me to another school, or to withdraw me entirely from the proposed competition for Woolwich. I had a keen sense of the discredit that would attach to me if I went up for my examination and failed, for I knew slightly a boy near Salisbury, who had been prepared for Woolwich, had gone up to the Academy, and been, as it was termed, “spun.” Many persons who knew nothing of the difficulty of the examination, or were unacquainted with the fact that out of forty who went up for examination it was rare for more than twenty or twenty-five to be taken, yet pitied the friends of this boy on account of his “discreditable failure,” as they termed it. Believing that it was no question of probability, but a certainty, that I could not qualify for my examination, I considered it would be more prudent to withdraw under some excuse, rather than go up and fail. I was also assured by several boys that Mr Hostler would not allow me to go up unless he was tolerably certain I should pass, as it would bring discredit on his school if I failed.

It was late in the evening when I reached my father’s lodge, and was welcomed by all my relatives. The change that had taken place in me was marked, and was noticed by all. I was thinner, and the care and thought of the past four months had given me an aged appearance, that made me look a year older than I was. I could scarcely conceal my feelings as my sisters hoped I was getting on splendidly, and would soon be an engineer, like Howard. To enter into all the details of my difficulties with them would, I knew, be useless, and so I avoided answering them, and made up my mind to wait till I could have a quiet talk with my father, and explain matters to him.

After dinner that evening I found my opportunity of speaking to my father when we were alone. I was most eager to open my heart to him, and let him know how things really stood. Without any preface I suddenly said, “I want to tell you, there’s no possible chance of my passing for a cadet.”

“No chance! What do you mean? Why, it’s nearly ten months to your examination! Don’t you mean to try?”

“I may try all I can, and yet it’s impossible; it would take me two years to get into the class that goes up for examination.”

“Mr Hostler thinks differently, Bob, for he says that he hopes you will pass, if you will work; but that up to the present time you have been very idle.”

I listened with astonishment to my father’s remarks, and could hardly believe it possible that Mr Hostler had written such words. My doubts, however, were soon removed, by the production of Mr Hostler’s letter, in which were the very words quoted. I knew that what I had stated was correct, and that Mr Hostler knew, even better than I did, that there was no chance of my success; but at the time I had no idea of the reason for his sending such a letter to my father. It was, I found, the intention to send me back to Hostler’s at the termination of my three weeks’ vacation, and I began to count the days and hours of liberty previous to that, to me, unpleasant period.

On the following morning I received an invitation from Howard, asking me to go over and pass a few days with him, and, having obtained my father’s consent, I started for his lodgings, which were at a farm-house near Lyndhurst.

Howard was now to me even a greater hero than he had formerly appeared. I looked on him as one who had passed a distinguished career at Woolwich, and had also been abroad, and I felt somewhat afraid of him now that I knew how much he had done. He was, however, so kind and friendly that I was soon at my ease, and as we sat at our tête-à-tête dinner I found myself telling him all my disappointments, hopes, and fears at Mr Hostler’s, and my difficulties as regarded the future.

Howard seemed much amused at all I told him, and said that the first thing he must teach me was to be a good “mill,”—that meant, how to use my fists. He did not mean to bother me with work, as he believed I wanted rest more than anything; but he promised to write to Hostler, and ask him to push me on, and he thought that, although it was difficult, yet it was by no means impossible I might pass.

On the following morning, soon after breakfast, Howard produced a pair of boxing-gloves, and, taking a seat on a chair, gave me instruction in what he called “the noble art of self-defence.” He first showed me how to stand, how to raise and hold my fists, how to strike out and make the foot and hand work together. He pointed out the danger of an open guard by giving me light taps in the face, and then explained how to guard them.

“We’ll have an hour a day at this fun,” he said, “while you are here, and I’ll back you to lick Fraser when you go back to Woolwich. There’s nothing that can’t be done by thought and work.”

During the week I passed with Howard I changed from a condition of despondency to one of Hope. I learnt from him the power to be derived from thought and work. He explained to me his own difficulties, and how he had overcome them, and encouraged me by saying that, although I was backward, he believed I had brains enough to come to the front after all. By constant practice I had become, as he said, quite a “dab” with my fists, and ought to hold my own with heavier weights than myself. “Don’t you ever seek a fight,” he advised, “if you are even sure to win, because that’s bad style; but, if a boy tries to bully you, never avoid a fight, and you’ll soon find you’ll lead an easier life, even though you get licked.”

I returned home from my visit to Howard with a lighter heart than I had gone there, for hope now took the place of despair. If I could only manage to pass into the Academy, I thought, what a triumph it would be! but then the knowledge of the work before me cropped up, and it seemed as impossible I could accomplish what I had to do as that I could accomplish flying, or any other impossibility. Any way, I would try hard on my return to Hostler’s, and perhaps he would now push me on faster than he had done before.

My three weeks soon passed, and I once more joined Hostler’s school at Woolwich. There were two new boys, who had, however, been to other schools, and were fairly forward both in Euclid and algebra, and got on very well after the first few days. I soon became better friends than I had been with Strong and two or three other boys; but Fraser, who was the bully of the school, was still very uncivil to me, and more than once had threatened to thrash me if I interfered with him.

Remembering the advice that Howard had given me, I told Strong one day that if Fraser gave me any reason for doing so, I intended to challenge him to fight. Strong warned me against doing anything so rash, for he assured me he knew a case where Fraser had completely cut a boy’s cheek open in a fight, and that I should not be able to stand up against him for five minutes.

Chapter Six.

My First Victory.

It was about a month after I had returned from my vacation that Mr Hostler gave us a holiday, and arrangements were made for our playing a match of cricket on Lessness Heath, a piece of open ground near Belvedere. Each boy took out his lunch, and the whole school turned out for the day, Mr Monk being in charge of us. We walked to Belvedere, and soon arranged sides and commenced our match—Mr Monk leaving us to take care of ourselves whilst he went down to Erith to see some friends.

After my side had been in and scored forty runs, the other eleven, of which Fraser was one, went in, and had scored thirty-six runs, when Fraser, who had retained his bat during the whole match, was “stumped,” and given out by the boy who was umpire. Fraser disputed the decision, and refused to go out, although even his own side owned that there was no doubt about it. At this Fraser became very angry, and declared he would not give in as he had never gone out of his ground. I stood “point,” and saw he was more than a foot out of his ground when stumped by the wicket-keeper, and, on being appealed to, said there was no doubt about it. No sooner had I said so than Fraser dropped his bat and rushed at me, striking me on the side of the head. In an instant I returned the blow, and a fight commenced.

Several of the older boys, seeing there was to be a fight, suggested we should go into a gravel-pit near the heath, as we should not be seen there, and if Mr Monk came back we should be able to see him from a distance, before he saw us. We both went to the gravel-pit, and a ring was formed—Strong acting as my second, whilst the majority of the boys, feeling that Fraser was in the wrong, were on my side. The reputation, however, which Fraser had obtained as a “mill” caused several of the smaller boys to stand by him for fear of future punishment if they excited his displeasure.

We were soon opposite to one another, with our coats off, and our shirt sleeves rolled up, ready to commence, most of the boys looking upon my defeat as certain, and half afraid lest I should be severely punished by my opponent. Fraser was confident of success, and exclaimed, “I’ll soon stop your cheek for you; now look out!”

He made a rush at me, hitting out vigorously, but I remembered Howard’s advice, and determined to keep my head, and try to put in practice what he had taught me. I guarded myself against Fraser’s blows, and succeeded in twice giving him straight hits in the face without receiving a touch from him in return.

The first round seemed to astonish every one, but none more than Fraser himself. When he had thrashed me before, I knew no more about the use of my fists than a girl, and simply stood up to be knocked about. Now, however, I made use of my legs as well as my fists, and jumped away from Fraser’s rushes and blows as expertly as a cat; whilst I instantly recovered myself, and, making my hand and foot keep time, dealt two or three such staggering blows that Fraser was quite bewildered.

There is nothing that so soon puts off a bully, or a man accustomed to easy victory, as being “collared.” The effect is not unusually to make the too confident man lose his head, forget his skill, and fall an easy victim to his opponent. This was the case with Fraser. In the second round he hit wildly and unskilfully at me, and exposed himself to my blows several times, opportunities which I did not neglect, and, finally, I gave him a fair knock-down blow. There were now cries of “Bravo, Shepard!” whilst several small boys who had been quietly watching the fight, and who had been bullied by Fraser on former occasions, jumped about outside the ring with a delight that they did not attempt to conceal.

Three more rounds were fought, during each of which I became more and more confident, as my fear of my adversary’s skill and strength was gradually dispelled, and at the sixth round I commenced the attack and completely knocked Fraser out of time.

Cheers greeted my victory, whilst I was patted on the back by nearly all the boys, and looked at with admiration by the smallest. Even the older boys looked at me with surprise, for, excepting one blow on the cheek, I was unmarked, and seemed untouched.

Strong helped me on with my jacket, and seemed quite delighted at my victory.

“This is a great day for you,” he said. “There’s no one in the school can lick you now; but I’m astonished to find what a mill you are, for six months ago you knew nothing about it.”

“Ah,” I replied, “I did know nothing then but I determined to learn something, and so I got a friend to teach me. Who do you think gave me lessons?”

“I can’t guess.”

“Why Howard, who was at the Academy some years ago.”

“Howard!” exclaimed Strong. “Why, he was the best boxer that was ever at the Academy, and it was he who licked the prizefighter at Charlton Fair. No wonder you thrashed Fraser so easily.”

Fraser took his defeat with a very bad grace. He was a good deal punished, and I was surprised myself at the effect of my blows. It was my first experience of the result of skill in opposition to brute force, and of the advantage of practice before attempting any performance. It was a small thing, it was true, to merely thrash the bully of a school, but the means by which I had achieved this performance gave me a lesson that has never been forgotten. Labour and thought were the means by which I had gained this victory, as they are the means by which nearly every successful result in life is achieved.

From that day I took quite a different position in the school, and led a life free from quizzing or bullying. Fraser hated me, but he feared me too, and to make up for his dislike I found the generality of the boys now sought my society, and always tried to walk with me when we went out for our daily constitutionals. It is a small thing at a school or in afterlife that makes the difference between popularity and unpopularity.

Four months passed after my return from my vacation, and my life at Mr Hostler’s had grown into a sort of routine. I went through the various daily works there much as did the other boys; but I was not advanced as were the other pupils, and as the time went on and drew nearer to the limit of age at which I could go up for examination I felt more and more certain that my chances of being prepared grew less and less. There were now only six months to the date of my examination, and I had not commenced algebra, yet I had to take up cubic equations and three books of Euclid. In this difficulty and anxiety I wrote to Howard, and told him all my fears and anxieties. As I penned my letter to him I felt ill, and out of health and unfit to do anything; but I sent off the letter, and then hoped I should be more at my ease.

On the following morning, when the “quarter” was shouted as usual, I tried to get up, but was unable to stand, and I knew I was very ill. I asked one of the boys to tell Mr Hostler I was too ill to get up, and in an hour a doctor came and immediately ordered me to be removed to a separate room, where I was physicked and attended by an old servant, who acted as nurse to the establishment. I became worse during the day, and at night was delirious, and it was then known that I had a bad attack of measles.

During three weeks I was confined to bed, and of course made no progress towards qualifying for my examination, and at the end of that time was only able to walk about my room.

It happened that the room in which I had been ill was separated by only a thin partition from a room in which Mr Hostler usually saw visitors, and what was said in the next room could be easily heard in mine. I was sitting one evening looking out of my window and wondering what my future would be, when I heard Mr Hostler’s voice in the next room, and my own name mentioned. I listened eagerly to what was said, for I fancied it might be Howard come to see me; but I was soon undeceived, for the second person I ascertained was Monk.

“You see,” said Hostler, “next examination we must send up Hort and Fox, and perhaps two more. They will pass well, but Fraser we will keep another half. It won’t do to send up more than four; besides, I can easily keep him back, on account of his French being bad. Shepard, of course, I never intended to send up. He won’t do us any credit, and he can’t pass. I’ll keep him another month, and then will write to his father, and tell him that this attack of measles destroyed what little chance he had of passing. I think a boy ought to be here at least two years before he goes up, so as to be well grounded; and if Shepard did go up, and did pass by cramming, it would make the parents of other boys discontented if I kept their sons two years.”

I listened to these words as I should to the revelation of an enemy’s plot against me. I now saw why I had been kept back, and why no hurry had been adopted to qualify me for my examination. My blood boiled with rage, as I felt that I had been, sacrificed to the personal interest of Hostler; and I at once wrote a letter to my father, telling him what I knew of Mr Hostler’s intentions. Several days passed without my receiving any answer from home, but at length I received a letter from my aunt, saying my father was too busy to write, and had requested her to reply to me. She said my father was much displeased with me for my suspicions of Mr Hostler—that I was like most idle schoolboys who disliked their tutors—that Mr Hostler had written home before I was ill, saying that I was idle, and that all the special attention he was giving me did not seem to have the desired effect, and that he feared I should not qualify. These faults she said she could quite understand, as when under her tuition she had always found me more fond of play than of work.

At the receipt of this letter I was at a loss what to do. It seemed as if there was a plot against me, and I was helpless to make the truth known. As a last resource I wrote to Howard, and begged of him to come and see me.

Three days after posting this letter, my old nurse came into my room and said a gentleman had come to see me, and I was to go into the dining-room. Upon entering the dining-room I saw, to my delight, Howard, who shook hands with me like an old friend. We drew our chairs together, and I told him how I had been kept back, and how I had heard Mr Hostler’s remarks about me, and, lastly, how my father had been prejudiced about me.

When he had heard all I had to say, he thought for a minute and then said, “I don’t believe Hostler is a bad fellow at heart, and he, no doubt, fully believed that you could not pass. He has his regular routine of cramming, and won’t go out of it; and, if you stop here, there is no doubt you won’t pass. Now I’m thinking of a plan that may succeed: it is just possible, though not probable. You’ve four months in which to do twelve months’ work; but if it is to be done, I know the only way. There’s a man in London who takes only four or five pupils; he is the cleverest fellow I know, for I worked with him half a vacation once, and he got me on wonderfully. His name is Rouse. Now I’ll try to persuade your governor to send you there, and that’s the only chance I see. I shall be back in Hampshire to-morrow, and will see your governor about it.”

On the fourth day after Howard’s visit I received a letter from my father, telling me to have my trunk packed, as he proposed removing me from Mr Hostler’s that day, and transferring me to Mr Rouse’s. I bade my schoolfellows good-bye, most of whom were sorry I was going, and I received their condolence in being withdrawn from Hostler’s, as having no chance of passing my examination.

At about mid-day my father came, and, after a short interview with Mr Hostler, sent for me.

“I’m sorry you’re obliged to be taken away,” said Hostler; “but it wouldn’t be fair to your friends to keep you any longer on the chance of your passing. You’ve only four months now, and it would take the cleverest boy I know a year to pass. If you’d been very quick, I might have done it at first, but now it’s too late! But what you’ve learnt at this school will be of use to you all your life.”

A steamer was in those days the quickest mode of conveyance from Woolwich to London, and by this means we reached London Bridge, and from thence drove to Trinity Square, Tower Hill, where Mr Rouse lived.

On entering Mr Rouse’s drawing-room we were soon joined by a clergyman, who was Mr Rouse himself.

My father stated the case to Mr Rouse, and informed him of the short time before me, and of Hostler having stated the impossibility of my being able to qualify in a year. “The question now is,” said my father, “do you think you can qualify him for the next examination?”

Mr Rouse smiled, and said, “You set me rather a difficult task, asking me to accomplish in four months what the celebrated Mr Hostler says can’t be done under a year. I can only say it is not probable I can do it, but it is not impossible. It depends entirely on your son’s genius and on how well he knows what he has already learnt. I shall be able to tell in a week what he is made of, and what chance there is for me.”

I had watched Mr Rouse carefully from the time I had entered the room. He was rather tall and stout, with a clear dark eye and a half-bald head. There was a sparkle in his eye that at once indicated quickness and thought, whilst his calm, decided manner spoke of a confidence in himself that was not easily shaken. In ten minutes after entering my father left me, and I was installed as a pupil of Mr Rouse’s.

“Come upstairs,” said Rouse; “I will introduce you to your companions.”

I followed my new tutor upstairs, speculating on who the boys might be that I should meet, and was shown into a room that looked more like a drawing-room or study than a schoolroom. In it were three young men, whose ages might be about twenty. One was reading the Times, another was lounging against the fireplace, and the third helping himself to a sandwich from a plate on a tray at the sideboard.

“Let me introduce a new pupil to you,” said Mr Rouse, “Mr Shepard, who is going up for Woolwich. Mr Robinson, Mr Welton, and Mr Wynn, Addiscombe cadets. Will you have some lunch, Shepard?” continued Mr Rouse. “There’s a sandwich and a glass of ale. We dine at six.”

I helped myself to a sandwich and a glass of ale, for I had now a tremendous appetite, as I was recovering from my late illness, and I then looked round at my companions. I felt I had come to a very different place to that I had left; my fellow-students were men, and I saw gentlemen, whilst Mr Rouse’s manner put me at my ease at once; there was none of the bullying, blustering style there used to be in Hostler, and I felt that I had made a good exchange as far as comfort was concerned, though I feared the manner of the cadets did not seem much like hard work.

After about ten minutes’ conversation on politics, the performances at the various theatres, and the last good thing in Punch, Mr Rouse looked at his watch and said, “Well, shall we commence work again?”

The three cadets took chairs beside the table, and commenced reading books. Mr Rouse gave me a slate and said, “I must find out to-day what you know, so that we may go on safe ground. How far have you gone in mathematics?”

“I have just commenced addition in algebra,” I replied.

“Very well, I will give you a couple of questions in rule-of-three, in decimals, in fractions, and in square and cube root, and be careful about your answers.”

I was soon busily employed at these questions, and found little difficulty in solving them, for they seemed particularly easy questions. After a time I told Mr Rouse I had finished, and at once gave him the answers of each. To my surprise I found not a single answer was correct. Something must be wrong I knew, but where it was I did not know. Mr Rouse smiled, and said, “Now, have a careful look at each question, and don’t be in too much of a hurry about them, for sometimes there are difficulties you may not see.”

I once more carefully examined the problems, and then found I had made a mistake at the very first, and had misread the questions in almost every case. I then reworked these, and eventually brought out the right answers.

By the time I had completed my work the hour had arrived for leaving off study.

“This evening,” said Mr Rouse, “you can work out these questions in this paper and have the answers ready by to-morrow morning.”

We all dined together that evening like gentlemen. The scramble and noise that used to prevail at Hostler’s prevented me from ever enjoying a meal there, so that it was a luxury to sit down to a quiet dinner and to listen to the anecdotes and conversation of Mr Rouse. At no time, either during study hours or at meals, was there anything of the schoolmaster about Mr Rouse; he acted the part of a companion to perfection, and I believe it was as much by his pleasant manner, giving confidence to his pupils, and inducing them to ask his help in every difficulty, as by his knowledge, that he gained the successes he had gained at examinations.

After dinner the three cadets went out. I found that my three companions were Addiscombe cadets, who were going into the Indian army, and who were working during the vacation to get either the Artillery or Engineers. They were so much older than I was, that they seemed like men to me, but they had none of the bullying manner about them that the elder boys had at Hostler’s.

When I found myself alone in the study, at Rouse’s, after dinner, I felt I could work and think; everything was so quiet that I was able to get on without interruption, and the time passed rapidly and pleasantly. Question after question I worked out, and by the manner in which the solutions seemed to agree with the questions, I believed I was nearly, if not quite, correct in my work. I continued thus occupied till about ten o’clock, when, having a room to myself, I went to bed, with no fear of being disturbed by a “cold pig,” or the miserable cry of “Quarter?” that used to awake me at Hostler’s.

Before going to sleep, however, I thought over the problems I had worked out, and fancied I had made a mistake in one, which I at once determined to re-examine, and soon found my second thoughts were correct, and that I had made an error.

This was the first time I had ever worked out a problem in my head, when in bed, and the room was dark, but after this I regularly used to think over the various things I had done during the day, and try to recall each portion, and endeavour to repeat to myself what I had done. By this means I soon acquired a habit of thought quite new to me; instead of what I learnt seeming to rest only on the surface of my mind, as it had at Hostler’s, it seemed to impress itself on the brain, and to leave a mark so distinctly as never to be forgotten. I soon realised the fact that I was passing through a phase of mental development, produced, as I believed, by the quiet, calm, and reasonable manner in which I was now treated.

Night after night I used to work out the questions given me, and in the morning handed the solutions to Mr Rouse. In the majority of cases I was correct, but if I were wrong Mr Rouse would go over the work with me, giving me hints as regards the way of arranging my figures or doing portions of the work. I often smiled to myself as I compared this system of teaching with the cramming practised by Hostler, and the reasonable manner in which Mr Rouse pointed out mistakes or want of care, with the three-cuts-on-the-hand system of Hostler. I found, after a week at Rouse’s, I had really learnt more than I should have done at Hostler’s in many months; and it was not only what I had learnt, but the additional power which seemed to have come to my mind, and the consequent ease with which I grappled with problems, that a month before, in the confusion at Hostler’s, would have been to me unintelligible.

I discovered, too, at this time, how problems that perhaps for half an hour would appear impossible of solution, if put by for a day and re-tried, would often be found practicable. This, to me, important discovery led me to never give up anything that at first I could not accomplish, but I waited day after day, till I usually found I grew up as it were, so as to surmount the difficulty.

Remembering what Mr Rouse had said relative to forming an opinion in a week, I was very anxious, as the week elapsed, to hear the result of his experience. He did not, however, mention a word to me, and I had not the courage to ask him whether he believed I had a chance of success. I worked steadily on, hoping to defer the evil day, when perhaps it would be pronounced that I had no chance.

It was after I had been a fortnight at Rouse’s that one morning, as I read out the answers to my night’s work, Mr Rouse said, “Number six question is one you must look at carefully, for when you are at the Academy you will have many such questions in your half-yearly examinations there.”

“Do you think I have a chance of passing, then?” I exclaimed.

“Certainly; every chance, if you continue going on as well as you have done.”

These words were long remembered; they gave me hope, and they excited my ambition. If I could only pass, what a blow it would be for Hostler! and what a surprise for many of the boys there, who had put me down as not only a dunce, but as too stupid to learn! I could not, however, believe there was more than a chance of success, though I had hopes now, especially when I found how easily I could solve many of the most difficult questions that Mr Rouse set me.

Week after week passed, and I was pushed on with a rapidity that surprised me. I passed through the earlier rules of algebra, came to simple equations, understood them; passed on to quadratics, and at length came to cubics. Mr Rouse’s method of teaching was perfect. To him there was no such thing as a difficulty; if he found that I was puzzled at anything, he at once came to the rescue, and asserted that “it was a very simple thing.” In a few words he would give an explanation which made the problem thoroughly clear, and often caused me to wonder how I could have been so stupid as not to see clearly before he explained the difficulty to me.

On several occasions Mr Rouse had willingly consented to my going to the theatre, his object seeming to be to give all the liberty he could, and to impress on his pupils the importance of self-dependence.

Three months after joining Mr Rouse I was working at subjects that only the first and most advanced class attempted at Hostler’s. I could scarcely believe that all this was real. It had been so impressed on me at Hostler’s that I was intensely stupid, and that even a clever boy could not reach the first class from where I had been in less than a year, that I began to fear I must be cramming and had not a thorough sound knowledge of the subjects I was supposed to have learnt.

One day I suggested this difficulty to Mr Rouse, telling him how slowly boys went on at Hostler’s, compared to the rate at which I had advanced.

Mr Rouse replied that, instead of cramming, he hoped I had thought carefully over and thoroughly understood what I had done, and he believed I was less crammed than Mr Hostler’s boys, whom he knew learnt most things by rote like parrots.

As regards their Euclid I knew this opinion was correct, for I understood now far more of geometry than I felt certain any of Hostler’s boys did. I could turn problems upside down, and prove principles as well as mere cases, this proficiency being due to the clear and quiet way in which Mr Rouse would explain the various propositions.

Nothing could be more satisfactory than my progress up to within a month of the examination. I felt considerable hope myself, although I could not get over the feeling that the head boys at Hostler’s must know much more than I knew. One morning, however, on waking, I had a very bad fit of coughing; during the day it became worse. I scarcely slept the following night, and on the next day I learnt that I had a bad attack of hooping-cough.

Mr Rouse looked very grave at the intelligence given him by the doctor, for he knew that I had to pass a medical as well as a mental examination, and that the doctor would not allow me to pass if I had the hooping-cough.

I had now to keep my bed, and was soon leached and blistered, but the cough clung to me most obstinately, and so shook me that I felt too ill to work. I was in this state to within a week of the examination, but I had made up my mind I would take my chance at Woolwich, and well or ill I would go up.

It has often since those days occurred to me that there is in the human mind and human will some power which, if exercised, has the effect of driving off or overcoming sickness; men, it is said, often sink and die from despondency, whilst others, by pure energy as it were, get well. To give in, as it were, to sickness often seems to increase the disease, whilst to fight against it staves it off.

Whether the will to get well was the cause or the effect of the improvement I cannot state, but I suddenly improved wonderfully, and three days before the examination I scarcely coughed at all, though I was weak and felt barely able to walk.

The evening before the examination I started with Mr Rouse for Woolwich, and we took up our quarters at the King’s Arms Hotel. There were several other candidates staying in the house, who, I understood, were going up for the examination on the morrow.

Previous to going to bed Mr Rouse sat chatting with me in our sitting-room, giving me hints about the examination. “You must remember,” he said, “that your success or failure does not depend on what you have done or what you have learnt either with me or at Hostler’s, but it depends solely on what you write on your paper to-morrow. I have known boys fail at examinations merely on account of carelessness at the examination. They knew a problem well, but they wrote so carelessly, and described so loosely, that the examiner concluded they knew nothing about the matter. After you have finished a paper, read over slowly and patiently what you have written, and you will almost always find you have made some absurdly simple mistake. I have known men go to an examination as it is said a Dutchman did at a ditch. He ran a mile to get up his speed, and was then so done that, instead of jumping over, he jumped into the ditch. Concentrate all your power on the work in hand; take the easiest questions first, and when you find a difficulty you can’t get over, go on to another question; then you will sometimes find, on going back, that you can at once get over what before defeated you. Above all things, keep quite calm and thoughtful, and do not lose your head or get into a funk.”

These and other similar precepts Mr Rouse gave me, as modern youths would style them, as “straight tips,” and I thought over them before I went to sleep, and impressed them on my memory.

I woke early on the following morning, and though I tried hard to avoid feeling anxious, yet I could not forget that the whole of my future career hinged on what I did on that and the following days of examination. If I failed, a slur would be on me for life, though perhaps undeserved. If I succeeded, I believed I should accomplish what many considered, if not impossible, at least improbable.

After an early breakfast I walked with Mr Rouse towards the Academy, where the examination was to be held, and on the common was joined by five of my old schoolfellows from Hostler’s.

“What, Shepard!” said one of them, “you don’t mean to say you are going to try the examination? Why, I heard you’d given it up!”

“Oh, I’m going to try, just for the fun of the thing,” I replied.

“If I’d been you I’d have cut the affair, for it’s far better to withdraw than to have the discredit of being spun.”

“How Hostler will laugh when he hears of your coming up!” said another of my old schoolfellows.

“Fraser!” shouted another boy to some one I saw about a hundred yards ahead, “come here! here’s your old antagonist, Shepard?”

Fraser waited for us to join him, and then said, “How are you, Shepard? You’re looking deuced seedy. What’s the matter, and what are you doing here?”

“I’ve had a bad cough,” I replied, “and am coming up just for the fun of the examination.”

“Why, you don’t expect you’ve a chance, do you?” he continued. “Hostler told us you had given it up as the wisest plan.”

“Oh, I don’t suppose I’ve any chance,” I said; “at least, not with you fellows, but I thought I would come up to see what the examination was like.”

“And have it always said of you that you’d been spun at Woolwich. I think you’re a muff for your pains.”

On entering the Academy grounds we were shown to one of the cadets’ rooms, where we had to pass a medical examination. The marks of leeches and blisters on my chest at once attracted the doctor’s attention, and he declined to pass me, and sent me at once before a Board.

To meet this Board I had to walk down to the hospital near the barracks, which I did with a sergeant of Artillery to show me the way; and I soon found myself being tapped on the chest and examined by the doctors as if I were a piece of goods they were about to buy. As good luck would have it I did not cough, or I might never have had a chance for my examination. But after a slight consultation I was passed, and was sent back to the Academy to commence my examination.

I was shown into a fair-sized room, where I found about forty boys at work. They had already an hour’s start of me, and a short, smart-looking officer, who gave me a printed paper of questions, advised me to lose no time, as I was already behindhand.

“Now for the actual trial,” I said to myself, as I looked over the paper, which contained twelve questions in arithmetic and the earlier part of algebra. A feeling of delight came over me as I read this paper, for out of the twelve questions there were eight almost exactly similar to questions I had worked out with Mr Rouse.

I commenced my work without delay, but deliberately and carefully. The answers came out without difficulty, and I was tolerably certain that every question but one I had done correctly. When the time was up I gave my paper to the officer, left the Academy, and met Mr Rouse on the common, to whom I related the style of questions, and described how I had treated them.

“You ought to have done well if you have been careful,” said Rouse, “and I am glad to find that I was correct in my surmise as to the style of questions you would have. The style varies from time to time, but there seems a kind of order in which they return, and on this I trained you. This afternoon you will very likely have a catch equation among the quadratics, such as x = 6. You remember that, don’t you?”

“Oh, yes,” I replied; “I can work that out in my head.”

“You must be careful about your Euclid, too,” he continued; “they lay great stress on that, and cramming won’t do for Euclid, because they give you a variation from the book, in order to test if you know principles.”

In the afternoon a second paper was given me; and there, sure enough, I found the identical equation that Mr Rouse had told me of. This I solved at once, and, looking carefully round, saw that several boys were in difficulties, and seemed to be unable to advance.

During the afternoon I felt certain I had done well, and now my only fear was for my Euclid, which would come off on the morrow.

That evening Mr Rouse said, “I believe you will have one of five problems I can name in the first, second, and third books of Euclid, so if you are not too tired we will just go over them to-night.”

An hour was devoted to the explanation of certain propositions, and I, as before, went to bed early, but was at least two hours before going to sleep, occupied in thinking over the various subjects we had worked at.

On reaching the Academy on the following morning I found all the candidates assembled in the room in which we had worked on the previous day. From this room the candidates were sent for one by one, in order to be examined in Euclid.

When it came to my turn I was shown into a small room, in which I found three officers and a civilian seated at a table, whilst opposite to them was a large black board.

“Mr Shepard,” said the civilian, “will you tell us what the 20th proposition of the first book of Euclid treats of?”

As this question was slowly and deliberately put I felt a strange feeling of nervousness come over me. It suddenly occurred to me, “Suppose I broke down here?” I knew if I did I should be spun to a certainty, and the idea for a moment quite unnerved me. There was a dead silence for about a minute, then, in half-broken sentences, I replied, “To prove two sides greater than the third.”

“Very well,” continued the same gentleman; “will you now draw a figure on that board, and prove the problem, and be kind enough not to prove the same two sides to be greater than the third side that are proved in Euclid?”

I took a piece of chalk, and, though my hand trembled, I drew the first line, and then thought which two sides I should prove to be those greater than the third. As I thought over this, my nervousness seemed to leave me, and I saw nothing but the board and the problem. It would have been no matter to me whether four people or four hundred had been present, for I forgot my audience. I experienced no difficulty in demonstrating the problem, thanks to Mr Rouse’s training; and having then demonstrated two other problems—one in the third, one in the second book—I was told that that would do.

“May I ask who taught you your Euclid?” inquired the examiner.

“Mr Rouse, sir.”

I could not distinctly hear what was said by the examiner to the officers, but the words “that accounts” and “utterly opposed to cramming” were audible.

A brief examination in drawing, in Latin, French, and German, and a paper in history and geography, completed the examination; and I returned with Mr Rouse to London, and on the following day started by coach for home.

Chapter Seven.


It was usually four or five days before the result of the examination became known, and another day for a letter to reach us in Hampshire, so that I fairly calculated a week would pass before I should know my fate.

The excitement of the examination, which had kept me up during the past few days, now left me, and a feeling of despondency, caused probably by reaction, came over me. My cough returned, and a low fever came on, which kept me to my bed. Say what I would, I could not help being most anxious about the result of my examination. My nights were sleepless, and each morning, as the time arrived for the postman to come, I could scarcely keep in bed, as I listened to every sound in the hope of hearing that my suspense was ended.

It was on the eighth day after my return home that, on the arrival of the postman, I heard anxious voices downstairs; a minute’s silence, and then a rush of feet. My two sisters hurried into my room, carrying a large letter, and exclaimed,—

“Bob, you’ve passed; and have done well, too! Listen to this:—

“‘Sir,—I have the honour to inform you that at the late examination at Woolwich, your son, Robert Shepard, was found fully qualified for admission to the Royal Military Academy. I am directed to request that he will join that institution on the 1st proximo, and report himself to the Captain of the Cadet Company.

“‘I have the honour to be, (signature)’

“Some one whose name I can’t read,” said my sister.

“Bravo, Bob! isn’t this capital? I knew you’d pass?”

Six months previously, if any prophet had informed me that I should pass my examination and become a gentleman cadet, I should have fancied that such a result would have caused me to shout with joy, and to be quite overcome with delight; now, however, that I had passed, and the intelligence had arrived, so as to place the result beyond a doubt, I was myself surprised at the little effect that was produced on me. Although I did not like to give way to any sanguine hopes, still, when the examination was over, I felt tolerably certain I had done well. The examination had been what may be called a lucky one for me. The questions were such as I had been practising for days previous to the examination, and were consequently easy to me. My success, therefore, was not entirely a surprise to me, and I saw clearly the means by which I had gained success. At Hostler’s, as soon as a boy came out of school, he tried to forget all about work, and his problems, therefore, made but a small impression on him. At Rouse’s, however, the hours of study were so brief by comparison, and reason so completely took the place of cramming, that the mind was not worn out when the evening came, and I often found myself deliberating about a problem as I took a constitutional round the Square gardens. I now knew that the hours of quiet thought I had given to various subjects had enabled me to pass the examination, which to a crammed boy was so very difficult.

When I thought of Mr Hostler, his boys, and his prophecies about the impossibility of my passing, I felt a feeling of intense satisfaction, for I believed, in my innocence, that Hostler would own he had made a mistake. I little imagined then that a man of his type of character never owns to a mistake, but invariably claims some merit to himself, even out of his blunders. I afterwards ascertained that Mr Hostler claimed the entire merit of my passing, in consequence, as he said, of the thoroughly sound groundwork he had given me at his school, thus enabling Mr Rouse to give a little superficial polish on it.

I continued so weak, and my cough was so bad, that it was considered advisable to apply for sick-leave for me, which was granted, and I remained at home for seven weeks. Howard had been removed to Ireland, so I saw nothing of him, a fact I much regretted, as I hoped to gain from him some hints relative to my course at the Academy, a subject on which I was very anxious; for I had heard various rumours, when at Rouse’s, of the “fagging” and “bullying,” as it was termed, carried on by the older cadets on their juniors.

At length the day arrived when I reached Woolwich with my father, and presented myself at the office of the Captain of the Cadet Company, where I signed a paper to the effect that I was amenable to certain laws, was appointed to a room, and then left to commence my experiences as a gentleman cadet at the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich.

Chapter Eight.

Woolwich Academy Forty Years Ago—Experience of a Last-Joined.

Of all the reformations which have taken place during the past thirty-five years in various establishments, none have been greater than that which has occurred at the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich. In the days of which we write fagging was an almost recognised institution, and this so-called fagging in the majority of instances degenerated into bullying. It may seem hard to say it, but we feel compelled to assert our belief that, in the majority of cases, when boys of from fifteen to eighteen have unlimited power entrusted to them they usually become tyrants. What may be termed “the exercise of power” grows more and more severe until it becomes a vice. Boys as a rule are unreflecting, and they are not aware, and scarcely care if they are aware, of the misery or pain they inflict. When, too, a boy in his younger days has been bullied and ill-used, he considers it a point of duty to do unto others as was done unto him, and often this retaliation was passed on with interest. In those days it was considered, too, that fagging to a certain extent aided discipline, and also tended to do away with brute force; for the smallest cadet, if an old cadet, might fag or kick at pleasure a last-joined giant. According to the nature of an old cadet, so did his fag, or “neux,” as he was termed, lead a miserable or a tolerably comfortable life; and often the trial through which a last-joined cadet had to pass was so severe that, rather than pass through it, he left the institution. To such an extent did the bullying extend in some institutions at the date to which we refer that it is stated, and on good authority, that a boy was once roasted by his seniors to such an extent that he died from his exposure to the fire, whilst there are men now living who bear on their bodies the scars received by them when fags. That such a system has been done away with is a necessity of the age. That there were and are advantages in teaching lads that brute force is not the only power, and that discipline is an essential of society, is not to be denied; but the disadvantages of entrusting to boys of from fifteen to seventeen such power over their juniors as was given by the fagging system formerly, either recognised or winked at by the authorities at Woolwich, is a mistake, and it is a subject of congratulation that at the present time even fagging is discountenanced with a strong hand.

Having reached the Academy at an early hour, I ascertained that the cadets were then in study, or, as it was termed, “in academy.” I was shown to the room to which I was posted, and was shown a bed, which was to be mine. There were four beds in the room, these beds being turned up so as to occupy little or no space. There was one window, which had laced iron bars across it, like a prison window, whilst four cupboards were opposite the fireplace. I was told that in half an hour the cadets would come out of study, when I should see Holms, who was head of the room, and a corporal.

I waited with considerable anxiety for this half-hour to pass, and amused myself in the meantime in noting how scanty the furniture of the room was, which consisted of a table, on which was a red cloth, and four stools. The floor was sanded, and of course had no carpet, and no other article of furniture except a small rectangular looking-glass was visible.

I turned over in my mind how I should introduce myself to Holms when he came in, and at length decided I would say, “Mr Holms, I believe! I am Shepard, appointed to your room.”

Having waited a period that seemed quite an hour, I heard a bell ring, and saw about one hundred and fifty cadets run quickly out from the centre building and form into four divisions. These four divisions remained stationary until an officer went on parade, who, having read out something from a paper, gave some word of command, and the four divisions marched off, two in one direction, two in another.

One division passed the window where I was standing, but the other was dismissed at the door by which I had entered, and instantly there was the rush of feet as the whole party came into the building I was occupying. The door of my room opened, and a dark, good-looking cadet came in, and, seeing me, said,—

“Hullo! who are you?”

“Mr Holms, I believe?” I said in as polite a tone as I could. “I am Shepard, appointed to your room.”

The cadet I addressed looked at me very hard, and then burst out laughing.

“You are rather green, I fancy,” he said, “and you look deuced seedy. What’s the matter?”

“I have only just recovered from the hooping-cough,” I replied; “that’s why I didn’t join before.”

“Well, you must take care of yourself,” said Holms, “for you’re not well now.”

Another cadet now rushed into the room, to whose appearance I at once took a dislike. He had a conceited look about him, and a pale, drawn face, very different from that of Holms.

“Hurrah!” he said, “the neux has come at last! Here, Timpson, come and look at the last-joined neux! He doesn’t look much of a fellow, does he?”

A third cadet here joined us, who was a hard-looking youth, who frowned and looked crossly at me.

“He wants teaching manners,” said the cadet called Timpson. “What do you mean, sir, by looking at me like that? Take that!”

To my surprise and discomfiture, I received a heavy box on the ear which nearly knocked me down. I turned round, and for an instant I thought of returning the blow; but I recalled to mind that I had heard of a neux being all but killed who had struck on old cadet, and, instantly recollecting myself, I said,—

“I did nothing to deserve such a blow as that.”

“You’re cheeky, are you?” said Timpson. “Take that for your cheek!” and another blow was given me as severe as the first.

“Come, Timpson,” said Holms, “you are not going to bully my neux already. He’s seedy, and so let him alone. Brush your hair and wash your face, for you must go on parade in ten minutes.”

I was half-crying now, as I was considerably hurt by the blows Timpson had given me, and stood hesitating what to do.

“Here, brush me!” said the cadet whose name I found was Snipson.

I took up a brush and brushed Snipson, but did this by no means to his satisfaction.

“You’ve a deal to learn, sir,” he said; “why, you don’t even know how to brush one! Give me the brush!”

I gave Snipson the brush, upon which he said, “Turn round!” I turned round, thinking he was going to brush my back, and perhaps give me a hint as to using the brush. Suddenly, however, he rubbed the brush over my mouth and nose, whilst he seized me by the back of the neck, so as to hold me firmly and prevent my escape. The pain of this proceeding was so great that I called “Oh, don’t!” which brought forth a shout of laughter from Snipson. Holms, however, who was brushing his hair, here interfered and said, “Snipson, I’ll lick you if you don’t let my neux alone!”

“He’s mine as much as yours!” replied Snipson.

“I’m head of the room, and I won’t have this bullying,” replied Holms; “so look out!”

A bugle now sounded, which caused both Holms and Snipson to hurry on their belts and prepare for parade, for this bugle was “the warning” that was sounded five minutes before parade. On the second bugle sounding the cadets rushed out of the “division,” as it was termed, in which we were quartered, and fell in in two ranks, in front of the building, whilst I was told to “fall in” in rear, as I was in plain clothes.

When the names of the cadets had been called by Holms, who was corporal on duty, we were marched to the middle of the parade, where soon after three other divisions were marched, and we there waited till an officer came on parade. Whilst we were waiting I could not avoid noticing that I was an object of general attention. I was the only cadet in plain clothes, for the boys who had passed with me were already in uniform, and were also well on with their drill. That I had not joined with the others I soon learnt was a most unfortunate circumstance; amidst the crowd I should then have shared with others the unpleasant notice that a neux usually attracted, but now I was one only, and distinctly marked in consequence of not being in uniform.

After being inspected by an officer, parties of cadets were sent to various drills under soldiers who were corporals or sergeants. I had the special attention of a bombardier devoted to me, who commenced by instructing me in the mysteries of “Stand at ease!” and “Attention!” These commands the man shouted at me as though I were deaf, or were half a mile from him; and the commands were pronounced as “Stand at—hease!”—“’Shon!”

An hour of this drill convinced me that it was not such an easy thing to stand at ease as people imagined, and that a man taken from the plough had a very difficult task before him to learn his drill.

Upon being dismissed from my drill, I was going to walk about the parade a little, but I soon heard my name shouted by Snipson from the room I was appointed to. Upon entering the room Snipson said, “You’re a cool kind of a fellow, swaggering about on parade! You just come here instantly after you’re dismissed your drill, every day! Now get my basin filled with water?”

“Where is your basin?” I inquired.

“Where is my basin? Why, go and find it, and look sharp, or I will give you a licking?”

I glanced all round the room, but saw no sign of a basin, so concluded it must be outside. I opened the door, and saw opposite to me four large tin basins. Rejoicing in my luck in finding the basins, I stooped down and selected one, which I was about to take into my room, when I heard a shout close beside me, and saw Timpson in a great rage glaring at me. “You’re the coolest young ruffian I ever saw!” said Timpson. “What do you mean by taking my basin?” No sooner had he uttered these words than he lifted his leg and gave me a kick, in much the same manner as though I had been a football.

“Drop that basin?” shouted Timpson; “and if I ever catch you touching it again I’ll half kill you!”

“What! in trouble again?” said Snipson, who had now come to the door. “Serve you right! what a donkey you are! Don’t you see our basins are round here?”

I now saw that there were three basins on the left-hand side of the door of our room, which I had overlooked when I first went out. I lifted one of these, and, taking it into the room, placed it on the table—the only place that it seemed possible to wash on.

“Fat the basin in the proper place!” said Snipson. “You’re the greatest idiot I ever saw.”

I looked round, and, seeing only a stool, was about to put the basin there, but was warned I was wrong by the whiz of a clothes-brush close beside my head.

“You don’t mean to tell me you can’t see where the basin is to go?” said Snipson. “Don’t try to make yourself out a fool, for that won’t do.”

I now saw under the window a hanging-shelf, which I raised and propped up with two iron legs. On this I placed the basin, and then went outside for a can of water I had seen beside our door.

“That’s not my basin!” said Snipson, on my entering. “You don’t think I’m such a dirty brute as to wash in another man’s basin? That’s Holms’—bring mine!”

“How am I to know your basin?” I inquired.

“Why, find out, to be sure!”

I was at a loss to find out, but, thinking it better to bring both in, I did so, and placed them on the shelf.

“That’s mine!” said Snipson, pointing to one of the basins; “now mind you never make a mistake again!”

I looked carefully at the basin, but could see no difference between this and either of the others, and I concluded that Snipson was joking, as they all appeared similar.

Holms now came in, and, thinking I would at once make myself useful, I placed a basin for him near Snipson’s.

“That’s not my basin?” said Holms. “Give me the other!”

I was now certain there must be some distinguishing mark, but I could see none, and was much puzzled how I should again distinguish one from the other. A bugle again sounded, and I ascertained this was the warning-bugle for dinner-parade. Our division fell in in front of the building as before, the names of the cadets were called, and we were then marched into the inner square, where an officer came, and, having heard the cadets were all present, gave the word, “Right face! quick march!”

I was in the rear of the division, and dressed in plain clothes; my hat was what modern slang would term “a top hat,” and what in those days we called “a beaver.” This beaver I was rather proud of; it was only the second one I had possessed, a cap having previously done duty for the covering of my head. As I approached the dining-hall, a cadet who was a neux in my division whispered to me, “Look out for your hat!” Thinking that this meant that my hat might be spoilt if I let it rest on the floor instead of hanging it up, I said, “All right!” and marched on in the crowd of cadets, who now broke their ranks as they entered the portico leading to the hall.

Suddenly, and without any warning, a heavy blow was given on the top of my hat, which sent it down over my ears and eyes, and at once prevented me from seeing anything. As I raised my hands to force the hat up, half-a-dozen more blows were showered on my head with no light hand. I succeeded in pushing off my hat, the crown of which was knocked in, but could not see who had struck me—all the cadets looking much amused, but no one appearing to have been the guilty party.

Every cadet at once sat down at a table, there being about twenty tables in the hall; but, being uncertain where I ought to go, I stood in the middle of the hall, a mark for compressed balls of bread, a shower of which quickly rained around and on me.

The officer on duty, who had been detained outside to speak to a cadet, now came into the hall, and each cadet stood as rigid as a statue till the officer, calling to the senior cadet, said, “Say grace?”

The senior cadet in a loud voice shouted, “For what we’re going to receive may we all be thankful!” and the cadets then sat down.

I had remained standing all this time, and the officer, now remembering me, came up and said, “You take a seat at this squad.”

I sat down at the squad where there were four cadets on each side, and one old cadet at the head of the table; they were all strangers to me, and I looked all round the hall to find Fraser or the others of Mr Hostler’s who had come up for examination, but I could see none of them.

“Now then, sir,” said the head of the dinner-squad, “how much longer are you going to stare about before you peel the potatoes?”

I was surprised at this request, but the cadet opposite me pushed a plate of potatoes towards me that had been boiled with their jackets on, and signed to me that I was to peel these for the head of the squad. I commenced the operation, but was very clumsy at it, never having attempted such a performance before. I finished, however, after a fashion, and passed the plate up the table, and received in exchange a plate of meat which the cadet at the head of the table had cut for me.

“Snooker! beer!” said the cadet.

I saw a large jug of beer and a small mug near it, so I tilted up the jug and poured out a mugful of beer and passed this up the table.

When the cadet saw this he said, “What do you mean, sir, by pouring out my beer like that! Put it back and froth it! By Jove! if ever you pour out beer like that again I’ll have you over to my room and give you an angle of forty-five!”

I poured back the beer into the jug, and again filled the mug, this time taking care to froth it.

The meat that we had for our dinner was hard and tasteless, and was of a most inferior description. Our meal consisted only of meat, potatoes, bread, and the thinnest of beer, termed “swipes.” In those days the food of the cadets was scarcely fit to eat, the tea and coffee were most inferior, and the ration of bread and butter allowed us scarcely sufficient for half the number. That an alteration in this particular was much needed was not long after discovered, but, at the time of which we write, the cadets could scarcely have lived had it not been for the additional food they obtained from pastrycooks in the neighbourhood, or that was smuggled into barracks at various times.

After our dinner a quarter of an hour elapsed before we “fell in” for academy. Luckily I found Jenkins, a boy from Hostler’s, who had gone to the Academy a half-year before, who told me that I joined the last squad or division which was now termed “a class,” otherwise I should have made a mistake.

The class I joined was called the fourth class, and on a cadet, who was a corporal, reporting “all present,” we were marched into the class-room where we were to study.

On looking round at my companions I now found that I recognised several cadets as the candidates who came up for examination with me, and one or two nodded to me, but as we were ordered by the corporal who was in charge of the room to take our seats, I had no opportunity of talking to them. I looked round the room to find some of my companions at Hostler’s; I thought it would be great fun to see their surprise at my having passed. I expected to see Fraser high up in the class, and also Fuller and Hunt, and one or two others who at Hostler’s were in the first class, and were always held up to me as examples of learning. Low down in the class I saw a cadet who had been at Hostler’s; he was called Smart, and was considered rather a dull boy; but, seeing none of the others, I concluded they must be in some other room.

As I was re-examining my companions, the cadet in charge called out, “Shepard, look to your front! If I see you locking round again I’ll put you in arrest?”

I now sat looking straight before me, until called by the mathematical master to the octagon, where I was given some work to do, and again took my place at my desk.

On coming out of academy I met Smart, who hook hands with me and congratulated me on passing. “It’s quite wonderful,” he said; “and Hostler, I hear, is tearing his hair with rage at it, for he laughed at the idea of your having a chance.”

“Where is Fraser,” I inquired, “and Fuller, and all those fellows that came up?”

“They are all spun, and I’m the only one from Hostler’s who has passed this time. Fraser now is too old, even if he could get another trial, which he can’t. I often thought I could beat Fraser and Hunt at exams, for they used to cram fearfully—but how you must have worked!”

“Well, I didn’t seem to work so much,” I replied, “though I got on very fast. It was Mr Rouse’s style of teaching that was so good.”

“Hostler says you are certain to be spun at your probationary, as you must have been crammed just for this examination.”

“What is a probationary?”

“It’s the exam, you have to pass at the end of a year. If you don’t pass that satisfactorily, you are sent away from here.”

I then inquired of Smart whether, on his joining, he had met with the same rough treatment that I had, and he informed me he had experienced much the same. The head of his room was a very good fellow, and not at all a bully; but that two cadets who had been smashed from corporals were in his division, and were “awful bullies.” He also informed me that Timpson and Snipson had the reputation of being the greatest bullies in the Academy.

Smart had to leave me, as he had to go down town for the head of his room, and, on leaving, recommended me to get my uniform as soon as I could, for as long as I was in plain clothes I was a mark to be bullied.

Nothing remarkable happened during the remainder of the day. At half-past nine an officer came round the rooms, and received from the senior cadet a report to the effect that all were present, that no lights were concealed in the room, and that he had no intention of procuring a light.

The fire was then raked out and the candles carried off by a servant who accompanied the officer, and we were left to get into bed in the dark.

I now missed the luxury I had enjoyed at Rouse’s, viz, of a room to myself, for my two companions were talking so that I could not go to sleep; and tired as I was, and bruised with the blows I had received, I longed to get to sleep.

As I lay thinking over all the strange events of the day, and what a world of itself the Academy was, Snipson shouted out, “Shepard! call me at five to-morrow morning—not a minute later, mind, or I’ll break your head for you!”

I was wondering how I was possibly to wake at five, when I heard a knock at the door, and on Holms calling, “Come in!” a cadet said, “The fourth of the room is to go to No. 16.”

I did not at first realise that this had anything to do with me, till Snipson shouted, “Shepard, you’d better look sharp, or Foxey will half kill you?”

“What am I to do?” I inquired. “Do, you donkey? why, dress—and sharp too—and go to No. 16! Foxey will soon show you what to do!”

I got up and groped for my clothes, and dressed as well as I could in the dark. I then inquired of Snipson which was No. 16.

“Why, you’ve been here all day, and do you mean to say you don’t know which 16 is yet? You must go and find out; and I’d advise you to be sharp, for Foxey isn’t to be trifled with!”

I went out of the room, and tried to remember whether I had noticed 16 on any particular door. I could not recall that I had done so, and, hearing some talking at the end of the passage, I went to a door and knocked. I was told to “Come in!” and, on entering, was asked who I was.

I replied, “Shepard; and I was told to come to Foxey in No. 16.” There was a shout of laughter from two cadets in the room as I said this, whilst the cadet I first spoke to said,—

“Come here, sir! Who told you to come to Foxey?”

“Snipson, the second in my room.”

“Take that for your impertinence, now; and, when you go back, tell Snipson I will kick him to-morrow!”

The article which I was to take was a boot that was hurled at me by this cadet, whose nickname I afterwards ascertained was Foxey—a title that gave him great offence.

After having served as a target for a pair of boots, which I had after each shot to bring back to the cadet, I was asked if I could sing. Now it happened that one of our men-servants had been a sailor, and had learnt some of the popular sea-songs of the times. These I had heard him sing when I was quite a boy, and soon learnt the words, and also to sing them. Among these were “The Bay of Biscay,” “Tom Bowline,” “The Admiral,” “The Arethusa,” “’Twas in Trafalgar’s Bay,” etc. In answer to the inquiry whether I could sing, I replied that I thought I knew a song.

“Then we’ll have it presently,” said the cadet. “Now, snooker of No. 10!” he continued, “have you made out that ode to the moon yet? I’ll give you another licking if you tell me again you can’t!”

I now found there were several other cadets in the room, all last-joined, like myself; and, from the remarks made, I found that they had some task set them. The cadet addressed replied in a half-blubbering manner, “I’ll try to say something now.”

“Get onto the table, then,” said the cadet, “so that I may have a fair shot at you if you break down! And now go on, sir! You can’t sing, so you must make an ode to the moon! Now then, sir, commence!”

The cadet, who had now mounted on the table, had evidently had a rough time of it. He was a little fellow, whom I had seen belonged to our division, and who was very fat, and looked very stupid. As he stood on the table he was crying, either from fear or from the punishment he had received, or from both combined.

“Now, sir, will you commence?” said the cadet who was the head of the room.

In a tremulous voice that made the words uttered sound more ridiculous than they otherwise would, the cadet on the table said, “O moon, how splendid you are! How beautiful you look! And you light up the night! You are full sometimes, and then you shine bright!”

“Any fool knows that,” interrupted the head of the room, whom I had called Foxey. “Don’t tell us what we know; tell us something original!”

“O moon?” continued the cadet in the same tremulous voice; “with a face in you, you are not made of green cheese! And you shine by night, and are not seen by day!”

“That’s a lie!” said Foxey. “The moon can be seen by day, and you are trying to deceive us poor mortals! I’m not going to remain quiet, and hear the moon slandered in that way! You must have a boot at your head for that!”

A boot was here hurled at the cadet by Foxey, which seemed by the sound to have struck the mark, and also, from certain sniffling sounds, to have added to the grief of the orator. “Go on!” said Foxey. “O moon!—”

“If you commence ‘O moon!’ again, I’ll hurl another boot at you!” said Foxey.

“Lovely moon!” continued the cadet. “Lovely moon!—I don’t know what more to say, please.”

“You’re an idiot!” said Foxey; “and if you don’t write out an ode for to-morrow night, I’ll give you another licking! Now where’s the last-joined neux, Shepard? Now then, up on the table and sing a song!” I climbed onto the table, and hesitated a moment as to which song I should sing.

“Look sharp, sir,” said Foxey, “or you’ll have a boot at you! I’m going to teach you manners.”

At this warning I at once commenced the “Bay of Biscay,” and sang it through without a mistake.

“Very well sung,” said Foxey; “now give us another!”

I now sang the “Arethusa,” when Foxey exclaimed, “That’s a stunning song! You must write me out the words of that by to-morrow night. Now, as you’ve sung so well, you may go, but mind, I must have some more songs from you.”

I thanked Foxey for letting me go, and crept into my room, and went to bed as quietly as I could.

Before going to sleep I thought over the events of the day; it seemed to me an age since the morning, and not a few hours only. I had passed through so many different scenes, and had experienced so much anxiety, that each event seemed to have occurred a very long time after its predecessor. The thought uppermost in my mind was, how little the general world knew what a neux had to go through on joining the Academy, and how trying an ordeal it was for a sensitive and delicate boy.

I remembered my father saying to me on one occasion, that on joining the Academy I should be fag to an old cadet, and should have to run messages for him, and fag at cricket, but that I was not to mind this, as it was almost a recognised system at all the large public schools, and was supposed to teach a boy the respect due to his seniors.

I little imagined at the time, and my father would not have believed, the extent to which fagging had degenerated into bullying, in consequence of its being left in the hands of those totally unfitted to exercise it.

That some boys are benefited by being brought under a rigid discipline, and “kept down,” as we may term it, by a system of fagging, and thus brought to respect their seniors in a school, there is no doubt; for an “unlicked cub” is undoubtedly a most obnoxious youth, and grows into a disagreeable man. But where fagging is now only winked at by the authorities, it ought to be recognised, and to a great extent be under their surveillance. If such power is left entirely to boys or youths from fifteen to eighteen, it not unusually becomes a system of tyranny, that damages alike the exerciser of the power and the victim of it.

At the time of which we write, bullying was at its height at the Woolwich Academy. It was winked at by the authorities, for it was known to exist, and no endeavour was made to put it down. If, however, a case of bullying came so prominently before the officers that they could not avoid taking notice of it, then a rigid inquiry was made, and the cadet found guilty of the offence was severely punished.

These examples, however, had little or no effect in checking those who delighted in exercising the power they possessed, and so for several years the same system prevailed, until an entire reorganisation of the establishment occurred.

On awaking, on the following morning, there was a feeling of anxiety came over me that something was wrong. I did not at first realise where I was, but soon the events of the preceding day were recalled, and I anticipated with dread what might happen to me on this day. Any feeling of pride or satisfaction at having passed my examination so well had been entirely knocked out of me, and occasionally I believe I regretted that I had passed, for I knew that there were many months of fagging before me, and if each day was like the last, I doubted whether I could endure it.

The rule established by the old cadets at that time was that a cadet remained a neux or fag for three half years, and on the fourth became an old cadet, when he could exercise the power of fagging others. It was considered that a third-half cadet should not be fagged except under exceptional circumstances, such as being very unpopular or there being no first or second-half cadet available. Those who had the hardest time of it were of coarse the last-joined, but second-half cadets were often as much bullied as the last-joined. To give an idea of the bad spirit that sometimes was shown by certain individuals at that time, the following fact may be related:—A cadet, whose father was a distinguished officer, but who was considered a Tartar in discipline, was fagged to the end of his third half, because the elder brothers of some of the old cadets had suffered at the hands of the disciplinarian. Another similar case was where a young cadet had had a brother at the Academy, who, as an old cadet, had fagged an individual who now happened to be an old cadet, and who used to boast that he had paid back on the younger brother the thrashings he had received from the elder, with one hundred per cent, interest.

My meditations were interrupted by the sound of a bugle which sounded in front of the Academy, and at the same time Snipson called out, “Hullo! what’s that? Why, that’s reveille! Shepard?” he shouted, “I’ll lick you to within an inch of your life! Didn’t I order you to call me at five o’clock? and now it’s half-past six! Now come here!”

I got up and was going to put on some clothes, but Snipson made me come to him as I was, when, taking down a racket that was on the wall, he belaboured me with this till I howled. Holms here interfered, and threatened Snipson with a thrashing if he did not desist—a threat that seemed to produce its effect on Snipson, who, warning me never to forget to call him again, told me to get up and dress so as to be ready to hand him the various things he required whilst performing his toilet.

I now began my regular duties as fag, and as these, with but slight variations, continued during nearly a year, I can here describe them.

About twice a week I had to call Snipson at five o’clock in the morning and light a candle for him, in order that he might work, for he was very much behind in his mathematics and feared he would not qualify for a commission, so he was now working hard to make up leeway. Very often I had to stand beside Snipson’s bed for an hour to hold the ink and a candle, because he could see better than if the candle rested on the bed, and could get at his ink more easily. Snipson, I found, had been longer at the Academy than Holms, and had been reduced from the rank of corporal on account of keeping up lights in his room after hours. This, it was said, had made him very savage, and caused him to be one of the greatest bullies at the “shop,” as the Academy was termed.

Half an hour before Snipson got up I had to be washed and dressed, in order to hand Snipson his sponge, towel, soap, tooth-brush, etc, and to have his coat brushed and held ready to be put on. I then had to inspect him to see if there was a speck of dust on him, and to brush this off if there was.

Holms exacted very little fagging from me; he merely required to be brushed and his things kept tidy in his cupboard, so I was mainly occupied with Snipson.

One of my most difficult duties was at breakfast parade. For our breakfast we were allowed only bread and butter to eat, and Snipson had a great fancy for jam, hot rolls, and marmalade. It was strictly against orders to take any such things into the dining-hall, and as we were all assembled on parade and inspected by an officer previous to going into breakfast, it required considerable dexterity to convey a pot of jam or a roll into the hall without being discovered. The method in which this was managed was the following—

I, being a small boy, was in the rear rank whilst Snipson was in the front rank. I carried the pot of jam in my tail-pocket until the officer on duty had inspected the front rank and the faces of the rear rank. Just as he reached the end of the line and before he inspected the rear of the rear rank, Snipson used to turn round whilst I, extracting the pot of jam from my tail-pocket, tossed it over to him; he caught it and put it in his tail-pocket.

We became quite dexterous at this performance, and accomplished it like a sleight-of-hand trick, till one morning Snipson missed catching it, and the pot fell on parade, broke, and the jam was discovered by the officer on duty.

“Fall out, the gentleman who brought that jam on parade!” said the officer.

I hesitated a minute, and then fell out and said I had done so.

“Then you will be in arrest, sir, till further orders!” said the officer.

I was rather alarmed at this, for I fancied I might receive some severe punishment for this breach of regulation.

Snipson was very angry with me, and accused me of carelessness in pitching the jam to him, so on returning to my room he told me he would give me an angle of forty-five as a punishment. As this angle of forty-five was a very popular punishment in those days, we venture to describe it with some detail.

The cadet to be thus treated stood to attention against the cupboards, his arms rigid to his side, and he rigid from head to foot. He then rested the back of his head against the cupboard and gradually moved his feet out till he rested at an angle of nearly forty-five degrees with the cupboards. The old cadet with a kick then kicked the neux’s feet outwards, and the victim came down heavily on his back.

Cadets upon whom this was practised were not uncommonly so much hurt that they had to go to hospital for several days.

At every parade—and there were about six per day—Snipson and Holms had to be brushed, and I was responsible if they were in the least dirty. If the servant (for there was one servant to sixteen cadets) did not put the washing-basins down soon enough, I had at once to do his work for him. At the dinner I had occasionally to secure two large potatoes, and carry these out without being seen by the officer on duty or the head of the squad. These potatoes I had to conceal in my room, and then, when evening came, to bake them under the grate for Snipson. If I forgot salt I was sent down to the far end of Woolwich to buy a small quantity, and the time allowed me for the journey was so limited that I soon became a good runner.

Of an evening there were two candles in our room, and when Snipson worked he would not allow me to be in the room, as he said seeing me interrupted him, so I had either to wander about outside on parade or go to the library, where I was almost certain to be called upon by some old cadet to run messages for him, or to go to his room and do something, as it was concluded I was idle, or would not be in the library.

About four nights a week I used to be sent for to some of the eight rooms in the division to sing songs. Other neuxes were usually there also, and were also called on to sing, make speeches or odes, or tell stories, and if they did not acquit themselves to the satisfaction of the old cadets, they became the targets for boots, brushes, and other missiles.

This may be called the regular routine through which a fag had to pass on first joining and for a year after his being at the Academy. To work out of academy hours at any study was impossible; and, in fact, it was considered “cool” for a neux to work in his room, so that there was an advantage in taking into the Academy a more extended stock of knowledge than was sufficient for passing only.

One of the great days of dread to the neux was Saturday afternoon. It was usual then to grant leave, from Saturday at three to Sunday night, to all cadets who could produce invitations; and as all who could do so went away during that time, those who remained were in great request. There were two reasons why a neux could not always get away: one was, that he might not have a written invitation; the other was, that he had been turned out to drill twice during the week, either by a cadet having the rank of corporal, or by the officer on duty, for unsteadiness on parade, or want of attention to drill.

The fagging required on Saturday afternoons was somewhat varied. Those old cadets who were not on leave usually made up a party in one of the rooms, and required something to eat and drink. To accomplish this it was necessary to use great caution, for such feasts were against orders, and to bring wine or spirits into the enclosure entailed, if discovered, the gravest punishment.

The most successful manner in which the matter was accomplished was the following:—

Two or three fags were sent out of an afternoon with cloaks on; one of these returned with the others and carried two bottles concealed under his cloak. Sometimes as many as six or seven cadets would be sent out, and if any of these were met by an officer and examined, the chances were against the one who had the wine being caught among so many.

Snipson sent me on these smuggling expeditions very frequently, and threatened me with the most dire punishment if I ever divulged that he had sent me. He assured me that it would only be by stupidity or carelessness that I should be discovered, and so I must take the blame myself.

I had been very successful in avoiding detection until the fifth time; then, however, as I was coming round by the lodge with a bottle of sherry in each hand, and my cloak on, I ran almost against the officer on duty. I tried to slip one bottle under my arm and salute with the other hand, but I did this so awkwardly that he told me to take off my cloak. I did so, and of course was placed in arrest and the bottles taken from me. An inquiry into the matter led to my receiving seven days’ arrest and a month’s stoppage of leave, with a threat that if I were again found guilty of a similar offence I should be rusticated.

From Snipson I received nothing but blame; he declared that it was my own fault that I had been found out, and might consider myself lucky in not getting a thrashing from him for having lost the wine for which he had paid.

Some days after this event Snipson received what was called an “inattentive return” in some of his studies; the result was, that he had also seven days’ arrest, with its attendant drill. This seemed to utterly sour his temper, for he became a greater bully than ever, and invented an amusement from which I was a sufferer. Being unable, in consequence of his arrest, to leave his room, except for meals, drill, and study in the regular academy hours, Snipson used to send for three last-joined cadets, making, with myself, four. He would then ask Timpson in from the opposite room and commence his amusement, which was carried on as follows:—

Taking a seat about five feet from the angles of the table, he used to provide himself with a towel, which he twisted up and tied at the end; this end he wetted, so as to make it an excellent weapon for flipping. The four last-joined cadets were then started to run round the table—two in one direction, two in the opposite. When the cadets had to pass one another there was a struggle between them as to which should be the insider. The outsider of course got all the flips with the towel, so there was a reason for the straggle for inside place.

Snipson described this amusement as such capital fun that several cadets used to come in to see it; but Holms, who was never present, came in one day and stopped it, saying it was bullying for no reason, and he would not allow it; and I was consequently saved from this in Holms’ room; but when Snipson’s arrest was over he used to take me to other rooms and there practise the same amusement.

When one looks back through the long vista of years to those distant days when one was a cadet, and remembers one’s career there as a whole, the reminiscences that come most prominently forward are the agreeable. It seems that by some arrangement of nature the pleasant and agreeable events of the past remain longer in our memory than do those that are disagreeable. We can recall the many agreeable hours we passed with this or that cadet, many of whom have long since fallen, fighting gallantly before the enemy, or have sunk from disease in foreign climates, where their duty called them to serve. Some few still remain, most of whom have made their mark in the world, and whose names are now known, not in the corps alone in which they serve, but to the world at large, who note and remember the names of those who have distinguished themselves in various ways.

We can recall, too, how there was a majority at the Academy who had a high sense of honour and of military discipline, and who would willingly have put down bullying had they not somewhat weakly felt that by doing so they were putting themselves forward as “reformers,”—a prominence to which they objected. Though there was an evil crying out for remedy, yet there were good points even then at the Academy, that rendered it a useful school for the soldier. He there learnt to rough it, and to bear hardship, and too often injustice, without complaint. He learnt too the importance of keeping his word and acting up to a promise—matters not unusually neglected in the wide world. We believe that there is not a case on record of a cadet having broken his word of honour, or of having broken his arrest, which he was bound to keep on honour; and at the time we write of, although if a cadet were tipsy (a rare occurrence) all other cadets would try to screen him, yet, if a cadet had been known to break his arrest or his word, every other cadet would have instantly reported him, and used his utmost endeavours to obtain the most severe punishment for the offence.

There seems in this condition a vast amount of inconsistency, but inconsistency is the general characteristic of humanity, and is one of its weakest points. We usually find the best men occasionally do the worst things, the wisest men commit the most foolish acts, and the most pious act like the most wicked; misers squander their money on worthless objects, and the cautious become reckless.

There was great knowledge of character in the relater of the anecdote of the Roman Catholic who was in prison for murdering his father, but who was indignant at the idea of his being considered such a sinner as to eat meat on “a fast day.” Every day we see examples of the grocer who, having ascertained from his assistant that he had mixed the sand with the sugar, and the saw-dust with the coffee, directed him to come in to prayers, and to mind he was attentive.

In former times it was not considered at all a dishonourable act to take a knife belonging to another cadet and to appropriate this to oneself; such an act was termed “smoutching,” and was looked upon as rather a smart thing. If, however, one cadet took from another cadet a sixpence, or oven a penny, just as he had taken the knife, he would have instantly been reported to the authorities as a thief.

To kick, thrash, or fag in any way a neux was considered by old cadets only fair and according to rule; but the instant any neux was on leave, from that instant he was free from fagging, and any old cadet who was known to have fagged a neux who was on leave, even to the extent of requesting to be brushed, would have been tried by his peers.

It was ten days after joining the Academy that I first obtained my uniform, and I can recall even now the secret pride with which I first put it on. I felt now that I really had commenced the career of a soldier, and that I had gained an enviable position by passing my examination. There seemed to come upon me a feeling of responsibility as the coat came on me, and I made up my mind not to disgrace my cloth. A boy at sixteen may well be pardoned for feeling that enthusiasm which hardship and neglect sometimes cause to be extinguished in the breast of a veteran.

Having, as I may term it, shaken down in my uniform, I asked Smart one day if he would come down with me to Hostler’s. The reason proposed for this trip was to see one or two of our schoolfellows; but in my heart the reason was to show myself off in uniform before those boys who had looked down upon me when I was at Hostler’s cram-school; and I also suspect that the same reasons induced Smart to accompany me.

“We shall just find the boys going out,” said Smart, “and it will be great fun to see what they will say to you. What a sell it will be for Tomkins and Hurst—your passing—for I hear, now so many have failed, Hostler won’t let them come up for a year, so you will be an old cadet when they are second-half fellows, and will be able to fag them. Walkwell declares it was your drawing that got you into the Academy, and takes great credit to himself for having taught you.”

We arrived at Mr Hostler’s and entered the well-remembered playground, where we found the boys assembling previous to an afternoon walk. We were both welcomed with enthusiasm, whilst we were stared at as objects of wonder and admiration. In those days the difference between a cadet and a schoolboy was very great, and the cadet was looked up to as so far above the schoolboy, that the latter scarcely liked to speak to the former, for fear of meeting a rebuff. Cadets, too, very often cut their old schoolfellows, as they could not speak to anything so low. Our condescension in coming down to Hostler’s was therefore fully appreciated, whilst the reception I met from many of my old companions, caused me to believe I had been most prejudiced as regards them. There was Smith, who used to make faces at me, and who used to call me a “Hampshire hog” and “Tomfool” when I was at Hostler’s, now came with a deprecating smile on his face and shook hands with me, whilst he intimated he was awfully jolly that I had passed.

There was Bones, as we used to call him, Fraser’s great chum, who hated me after my victory over Fraser, and who used to spread false reports in the school to my detriment, now came up with “Hullo, Shepard, old fellow! You are a swell now! I’m so glad you’re a cadet?”

As I stood surrounded by an admiring group of boys I heard the well-known voice of Hostler, and somehow the old influence came over me, and for an instant I had the fear of three cuts on the hand. Hostler had seen us in the school-yard, and came down to speak to us, but I must confess the style of his address entirely took me aback. Hostler was too clever for me.

“Ah, Shepard,” he said, shaking hands, “glad to see you! Well, so my good groundwork of mathematics and Euclid passed you. I thought it would. And I told Mr Rouse you only wanted a final polish, which I hadn’t time to give you here with so many boys on hand, to give you a fair chance. Then, you see, the fact of your having been here was known at the Academy, and no doubt that helped you on. I feel much flattered at your having passed, for it shows my system is a sound one.”

I was utterly taken aback at this speech of Hostler’s after what had happened; I almost expected he would have apologised to me for his behaviour. I forgot he did not know I had overheard his conversation with reference to my not being sent up, and I could almost swear that no communication whatever had taken place between him and Mr Rouse.

Thinking I would make an awkward remark for him I said, “I’m sorry Fraser and the others didn’t pass.”

“I never thought they would, Shepard,” replied Hostler, who never moved a muscle of his face as he uttered this lie. “Fraser was idle and careless, and his friends would have him pushed on too rapidly, and so he wasn’t sound. I protested against this, but it was no use, so I foolishly gave way.”

Now it happened that Fraser had been four years at Mr Hostler’s, and had been over and over again the coarse that he had to be examined in; and when I was at Hostler’s he was held up to me as one of the most promising boys, who was to bring honour to the establishment at which he had been prepared, and who was considered very likely to pass at the head of his batch.

“You must mind and work hard for your probationary,” said Hostler. “You’ll find you’ve plenty to do; and it’s no child’s play, I can tell you.”

I thanked, him for his advice, and remarked that, having passed my first examination, I hoped I should not break down at the next.

I only once again entered Mr Hostler’s establishment from that day, but the remembrance of the misery I endured there, of the false system of teaching (or rather cramming, for he did not teach) he adopted in his school, of the whalebone and cane arguments he used to convince boys of the advantages of learning their Euclid, is still fresh in my memory; and even now the worst nightmare I can suffer from, is that I am again a boy at Hostler’s, and have failed in my Euclid.

One of the greatest defects at the Academy in former times was the impossibility of ever being alone. We were usually four in each barrack-room; we were marched about by squads, divisions, or classes; we dined, breakfasted, and had tea at squads; we were in classes from thirty to forty for study. At night we could never be alone; the snoring or turning of another cadet in the room disturbed one. Now there are some natures so affected by external influences that they are never thoroughly themselves unless they are entirely alone. Such individuals are never known in their real characters, for before others they are unconsciously actors. Men who appear idlers before the world, mere loungers on society, are not unusually when alone the deepest thinkers or the hardest workers; and to such, solitude is an essential. To many, therefore, especially to those who wished to work hard, it was a great drawback being penned up night and day with companions whose tastes not unfrequently were anything but congenial.

In spite of the hard life I led at the Academy, and the amount of fagging and bullying I had to go through, the time passed quickly; there was a novelty in everything, which was very attractive. As I advanced in my drill, and joined the squad of other “last-joined,” there was a secret pleasure in feeling I was a soldier, that a splendid career was open before me if I could only manage to pass my examinations, and that when I became an officer my career might be most favourable. I made but little progress, however, in my studies; the hard work I had gone through in order to pass, and the varied scenes and events I was daily passing through, gave me a kind of mental indigestion, and I found it very hard work to learn. Although I had passed into the Academy, I could not get over the idea that it was to a certain extent a bit of good luck that I had done so, and I believed I was somehow less gifted with a capacity for learning mathematics than were other boys, and I began to have doubts and fears whether I should pass my probationary examination, especially considering the impossibility there was in working out of academy hours.

I had, after the first two months, got accustomed, to a great extent, to the fagging and bullying. Snipson still continued my greatest tormentor, and had it not have been for him I should not have led so hard a life as I did, for Holms was often very kind, and gave me hints as to what I ought to do under various circumstances. He used also to stop Snipson from bullying me whenever he found him doing so. I consequently looked on Holms as a great friend, and should probably have passed my half-year tolerably had not a circumstance happened which considerably affected my comfort and deprived me of the society and protection of Holms.

It happened that Snipson had great difficulty in getting out of the second academy, as he was very bad in mathematics. In order, therefore, that he might work of a night, he asked Holms if he would allow him to keep up lights. I was not aware at the time I heard this request made by Snipson, and agreed to by Holms, of the risk the latter ran of severe punishment in case of detection; but as it was agreed to, that lights were to be kept up, I was called upon to assist at the preparatory arrangements.

Between the outside window and the room in which I lived there were iron bars arranged in diamond-shape; between these and the window there was a space of a few inches; between these bars a regimental cloak was carefully drawn and so spread out that from the inside of the room no ray of light could be seen coming through any little chink left by the cloak not being properly arranged. To fill up this space in a satisfactory manner four cloaks were required, which, having been placed between the window and the bars, a careful inspection was made, and matters being considered satisfactory, candles were lighted, the door locked, and Snipson commenced his studies.

Holms had gone to bed soon after the cloaks were arranged, but Snipson made me sit up, as he said he should require me to help take down the cloaks when he was tired of working; so I sat up and tried to read, but my eyes gradually closed, and more than once I fell asleep. Snipson, however, took care to wake me by tapping me on the head with a book, and thus we passed the time till about twelve o’clock.

It happened that, on the particular night in question, the officer on duty had been dining at mess, and, on returning to his quarters in the Academy, saw a slight speck of light coming from the window of our room, where a flaw had occurred by one of the cloaks slightly slipping. On coming close to the window he found that lights were being kept up, and that he had discovered the delinquents. From the officers’ quarters to those of the cadets there was a passage which might be passed through of a night. By this passage the officer entered the division, and came to our door, which he tried, and found fastened.

The instant we heard a step approaching our room, Snipson put out the lights, and commenced dragging down the cloaks. The officer, rapping loudly at the door, and requesting to be admitted, Snipson was wonderfully quick in getting down the cloaks, and then, dressed as he was, jumped into bed, telling me to open the door.

Holms had slept soundly during the greater part of this disturbance, and only woke as the knocking became more furious. Upon my opening the door, the officer on duty entered with a dark lantern in his hand, and, looking round the room, said, “Mr Holms, you have been keeping up lights!”

“I am only just awake, sir,” said Holms.

“Don’t prevaricate, sir!” said the officer. “Look here; here’s some tallow on the cloth still warm! You’ll be in arrest till further orders, Mr Holms!”

As the officer was leaving, I felt inclined to say it was not Holms but Snipson who had kept up the lights, but luckily I said nothing, for no matter who had kept them up, Holms, as head of the room, was responsible, and must bear the blame.

As soon as the officer left the room, Snipson said, “I’m awfully sorry, Holms, but it’s all the fault of that confounded young donkey, Shepard, who could not have put the cloaks up properly.

“You’ll get a licking for this to-morrow, Shepard, depend on it,” said Snipson.

“I’m safe to be smashed,” said Holms, “for I was suspected last half of keeping up lights, though they couldn’t prove it; and it’s a nuisance, as this is my last half-year.”

After a few minutes’ conversation, both Holms and Snipson agreed it couldn’t be helped, and we all went to sleep.

At the mid-day parade on the following day an order was read out to the effect that Mr Holms, having been found keeping up lights contrary to orders, was reduced from the rank of corporal, and was removed to another room, whilst gentleman cadet Brag was promoted to corporal and was placed in charge of my room.

Brag was quite a different character from Holms. He was a very small cadet, not so big as I was, though nearly two years my senior; he was not clever, at least at examinations, and was very low down in his batch, below even Snipson. He had a white, leathery face, with a most disagreeable expression, nearly white hair, a bad figure, and awkward legs and feet. Brag was generally unpopular, and was dreaded by the last-joined cadets, as he delighted in bullying for bullying sake; and as when he was a last-joined he had led a very hard life as a fag, he seemed to think he had a long account to pay back upon those who were now his juniors.

Brag came the same afternoon to take charge of my room, and I soon saw that he and Snipson, being birds of a feather, got on well together; they had one point on which they mutually agreed, viz, that I was the slackest neux they had ever seen, and wanted keeping up to the mark.

In order that this, condition of keeping me up to the mark might be obtained, Brag ordered me to start at seven o’clock the following morning, and run down to Charlton’s and see what o’clock it was by his clock.

Now Charlton’s happened to be at Green’s-end, about one mile from the Academy. As I had to go this mile and return, then to rewash and get brushed and be on parade at a quarter to eight, it did not give me much time for the performance. I started about seven on a drizzling morning, and got as far as the barracks, when I saw a clock there which showed ten minutes after seven. It suddenly occurred to me that I need not go down to Charlton’s to find out what o’clock it was, as I could find out by the barrack clock, so, turning back, I came slowly to my room, allowing about as much time as would have elapsed if I had gone all the way to Charlton’s.

“What! back again?” said Brag. “Well, what’s the time?”

“Nearly a quarter past seven,” I said.

“Was that the time by Charlton’s clock?”

“About that,” I replied.

“You’re telling me a lie,” said Brag. “You didn’t go to Charlton’s.”

“I didn’t go quite down,” I answered, as I now felt what a mistake I had made in not obeying the order literally.

“You’ve disobeyed orders, and you’ve told a lie,” said Brag. “Now you come here?”

I was now placed by Brag against the cupboards, and put into the position of an “angle of forty-five,” when he kicked my feet from under me, and I fell heavily on my back, striking my head against the cupboards as I came down.

“Up again!” shouted Brag, who seemed to warm to his work. “I’ll teach you what you get for telling me a cram, and disobeying orders.”

Six times I was brought heavily to the ground, and on the last was half-stunned by the blow my head received in the fall.

During this performance Snipson stood opposite, shouting with laughter, and exclaiming, “Bravo, Brag! That’s the way to serve him! Give it him again!”

At length Brag seemed tired, and having informed me that I was to go down every morning for a week to see what the time was, left me to recover myself as best I could.

I was so shaken and hurt by my falls, that for some time I could not stand, and sat on my bed trying to recover myself. As I sat there an idea came into my head that such treatment as this, if carried out on all the cadets who were last-joined, would drive them to desperation, and that it might be possible to organise a mutiny against the authority of the old cadets, used as it was in this brutal way.

Thinking over this idea of a strike, I began to count the numbers and size of the first and second-half cadets, and to estimate the probabilities of success. I soon saw, however, that there would be no chance for the juniors; the power entrusted to the corporals of placing any cadet in arrest on the plea of making a disturbance in academy, or for being dirty on parade, was so great, and might be used so freely, that such power alone would make the seniors all-powerful. After due deliberation I decided it was better to endure the bullying, and endeavour to stand it as quietly as possible.

Brag was an individual of an inventive turn of mind, and was much pleased with anything original. He was highly amused with the suggestion of Snipson about four neuxes running round the table, whilst he and another cadet flipped them; but he was fond of a little gambling, and so invented another amusement, of which I was one victim.

In former times the gymnasium and racket-court were on the east side of the building, and were of small dimensions compared to the magnificent building which now serves as a gymnasium at the Academy. The posts, ropes, etc, for gymnastic exercises were out of doors, and between two high posts was a stout rope, along which it was considered hard work to pass hand over hand. Brag had thought of making this rope of use as a means of producing excitement. His plan was as follows:—

A cadet (last-joined) was made to hold onto this rope with his hands, and his back turned to Brag and another old cadet. Brag, armed with a racket and some old balls, used then to strike a ball at the cadet, and if he hit him he counted one. Alternate shots were taken, and sixpence a shot was paid for each hit.

Brag was a capital shot, and I used to be “corked,” as he termed it, by him nearly every shot. The distance from the ground to the rope was about twelve feet, so that when we dropped, as we were compelled to at last, we came down rather heavily. As soon as one neux could hold on no longer, another was substituted in his place, who had to pass through the same ordeal. So contagious is bullying of this description, that in two or three days at least twenty old cadets took part in it, and it is difficult to say to what extent it might have been carried had not the officer on duty, suspecting probably that something irregular was going on, paid a visit to the gymnasium, and, seeing what was done, reported the circumstance, on which a court of inquiry was ordered to assemble, composed of officers connected with the Academy, whose duty it was to find out whether any bullying had occurred.

The assembly of this court caused quite a sensation in the Academy, as all the last-joined cadets were to be examined. The old cadets who had taken part in this affair now entirely altered their behaviour to their fags. Brag became quite civil to me, and hoped I wouldn’t split on him. He told me that he, when a neux, had to go through far worse things, and that by-and-by I should be an old cadet and should have the privilege of fagging; that of course he didn’t mean to hurt me, and hoped he hadn’t done so, and finished by asking me not to say anything that would get him into a scrape.

Snipson was even more anxious to persuade me that it was all a joke, and that it was absurd to make such a fuss about a mere trifle. In his day a neux had, he said, to go through far more, and it did them all good; he himself was a deal better for having the conceit taken out of him. He advised me to be very careful what I said before the court, for if, through anything I said, an old cadet got rusticated or into a scrape, I should lead such a life, he assured me, that I should wish myself a galley-slave instead of a cadet.

I had instantly made up my mind that I would say nothing to criminate any one. I hoped that by such a line of conduct I should show both Brag and Snipson that I could be generous. I hated them both, for I soon discovered they were very bad specimens of the old cadet, and that I was unlucky in having two such in my room. Some of the last-joined cadets told me they were not bullied at all, and the head of their room would not allow any other cadet to fag them, and, to prevent them from being fagged, gave them permission to say they were wanted by the head of their room, for “the instant another cadet tries to fag you, then you come to my room.”

On Saturdays and Sundays I usually went on leave, my father having written to several London friends telling them of my being a cadet at Woolwich. This leave was a great boon; it broke the monotony of the week, freed me from Brag and Snipson for about thirty hours, and gave me new ideas. At the Academy I was but a neux, and led a hard life of it; but when I visited my friends I found that a gentleman cadet was thought a great deal of, and I was considered to be remarkably clever in having passed into the Academy—my friends knowing many lads who were supposed clever, but who had failed at their examinations for Woolwich. These visits did me much good. I looked forward to them from week to week, and they tended to keep my mental balance straight; for as we when young judge often of ourselves by the estimate others form of us, so I had almost decided that I was most stupid, thoughtless, and careless, in consequence of Snipson always impressing upon me that I was so.

It not unfrequently happened, however, that I was turned out to extra drill twice during the week for some offences or other, usually for not being properly brushed on parade. It was my business to brush Brag and Snipson, and then Snipson ought to have brushed me. Often he avoided this, and said he “hadn’t time.” My only chance then was to take off my coat and brash it myself. If the time was limited I then could not get my coat on and get on parade quick enough to avoid being considered “slack in turning out;” for if a neux was not on parade by the time the bugle finished sounding, then he was usually turned out to drill to make him smarter.

Two drills stopped one’s leave, and I then had the discomfort of remaining at the Academy on Saturday and Sunday. The season of the year then did not admit of the Sunday march past on the barrack-field. The scene I had witnessed when at Hostler’s, however, was still fresh in my memory, and I looked forward to the time when I should march past as I had seen others do.

If Brag and Snipson were not on leave, I passed a Saturday and Sunday of utter misery. They used to bully me during the whole time. If they were on leave and I was seen about the Academy grounds, I was sure to be seized upon by some old cadet, whose neux was on leave, and who would fag me during the two days. If I remained in my room I was pretty sure to be found, and ordered off to another division, to supply the place of a neux on leave.

At length I adopted a plan by which I managed to escape the afternoon fagging on Saturday, and then usually managed to get a walk on Sunday afternoons.

As soon as Snipson and Brag had gone on leave I used to take off my coat, get a book, and creep behind my bed, which was doubled up so as to give sufficient space for me to sit there. Having arranged the curtains so as to show no indication of disturbance, I could enjoy a quiet read without the momentary fear that every footstep I heard would be that of an old cadet running to order me off to his room, or on some message.

The very first afternoon I tried this plan I found its value. I was snugly concealed when I heard some old cadet ask one of the corporals of my division if there were any neuxes there not on leave.

“Shepard is not,” said the cadet.

“All right?” replied the other. “I want to send him to the ‘Red Lion’ for some lush. Shepard!” he shouted outside my window.

I remained perfectly quiet, hoping that my concealment was secure. The cadet then came round to my room, and, opening the door, evidently looked round the room. I was quiet as a mouse, but was in great fear that I might be discovered, and if I had I should have received heavy punishment.

“He’s not here,” said the cadet; “perhaps he’s in the back yard.”

My name was again shouted, but I did not answer; so the old cadet left, and I heard him say on leaving, “I suppose he’s fagging over at the ‘Towers.’”

By this artifice I managed to escape much of the fagging on Saturday afternoons, and had several hours’ quiet, during which I could read or think as I liked. Unfortunately, however, I in a weak moment confided to another last-joined cadet the plan I practised in order to avoid being fagged on Saturdays. I told him of my plan, because he was rarely on leave, and used to lead a very hard life of it on those days. By some means or other he was found out. I believe his boots were seen protruding from the bed, as he was a very long neux, and he received a severe thrashing for not answering when called. This discovery led the old cadets who wanted a fag on Saturdays to look behind the beds for concealed last-joined, and I became a victim. It happened thus:—

An old cadet, named Lakeman, in my division wanted a fag, and having noted that I was not read out as on leave, came to my room about five o’clock on one Saturday, and called me. I remained quite quiet, hoping not to be discovered, for I had not then heard of the discovery that had been made of the last-joined behind his bed. Suddenly the curtains of my bed were pulled aside, and the foot of the bed let down, when I rolled over on the bed fully exposed to view.

“Now come to my room,” said Lakeman, “and get a licking! This is the way you shirk, is it?”

I knew it was of no use making any excuses, I was found out; and so I went quietly to Lakeman’s room, received a thrashing with a racket, and was kept fagging till Sunday evening, when Brag and Snipson returned. Lakeman informed them both of his having found me shirking, and I discovered that I had at once established a bad reputation, and was a mark for all old cadets to fire off their anger upon.

The time was now coming for the half-yearly examinations, and the first class of cadets were working very hard—a condition which rendered the life of a fag somewhat easier, for the old cadets, instead of amusing themselves by bullying, used out of study to work in their rooms at mathematics and fortification. It was now a matter of frequent occurrence for lights to be kept up in various rooms in order that the cadets who were either trying for Engineers, or had doubts about getting into the “batch,” might work after hours. There was great risk in this keeping up lights; and Brag, who did not want to work, would not let Snipson keep up lights in his room. This made Snipson very angry, but Brag was decided about it, not on principle, but because the situation of his room was such as to make detection easy. At this crisis I obtained for myself considerable reputation for inventing a means by which Snipson could work of a night, and yet stand no chance of being found out keeping up lights. The plan was this:—

Some small squat wax lights, used by nurses to “watch baby,” were procured. These were not more than an inch high, and by themselves gave very little light. One of these being lighted was placed at the far end of the large water-can which was used in our room. The inside of this can, being very shiny, reflected the light and increased its power. The can was laid horizontally and in the bed, and was covered over by wet towels, so that it did not get too hot. By turning the can occasionally also, the wax burner shifted its position, and heated another part of the can. By placing a book at the mouth of the can, any one in bed could read easily.

Having explained this method to Snipson, he got Brag to consent to his adopting it, and he could then read for an hour or two every night.

The safety of the plan was once fully shown, for the officer on duty once took it into his head to come round the rooms about eleven at night, and came very quickly to our room. Snipson had not time to put out the light, so he covered the bedclothes over the mouth of the can, stuck up his knees so as to conceal the shape of it, and lay quite still. The officer turned his dark lantern onto him, gave a good look, and walked out, not the slightest indication of a light being visible.

By this means Snipson was enabled to read at night without much risk, and he complimented me by telling me, after all, I was not such a fool as I looked!

In my own case I could not study by night, as I was not allowed to keep up lights. Such a proceeding would have been considered “cool,” and would have entailed a thrashing. I did not, however, feel disposed to work. I had so much anxiety to avoid my daily thrashing, or extra drill, or kicks, for various things, that actual progress in my studies seemed by comparison a very trifling matter. I hoped I should pull throughout did not think much about it.

Chapter Nine.

I Come out as a Runner.

I may now devote a few lines to the description of the cadets of my own batch who joined with me, and with whom I was to compete during my career at the Academy.

There were among the class some amusing characters, and others who had marked individualities. Boys (for we were boys at that time, being between fifteen and seventeen) have a singular peculiarity of being turned out in similar patterns—that is, two boys belonging to different families, who have never met and never been in similar conditions, yet very often have exactly similar peculiarities. There was Kirk, who never would rub up Indian ink or Prussian blue for himself, but would always take dips from the saucers of other cadets. Then Sykes usually began to work fearfully hard just when it was time to turn out; and Pagner, another cadet, prided himself on being above Swat, and never seemed to work at all—the fact being that he drove off all his half-year’s work till the last fortnight, and then tried to make up the leeway by cramming night and day. He, however, could not manage this, and, as the event proved, was spun at his probationary.

One of my greatest friends was D’Arcy. He was next above me in the batch, and had been prepared for Woolwich by a private tutor. We found that we had in common a taste for natural history, and whenever we had a chance we used to go out in the Shooter’s Hill woods and look for the various grubs or insects that we were interested in. The way we used to race up the hill and back again revealed to me a fact about myself that I was before unacquainted with, viz, that I was a very fast runner for about one hundred and fifty yards.

A boy who had been brought up as much alone as I had could not judge of himself by a fair comparison, and though at Hostler’s I was considered a good runner, running was not much practised or thought of there. D’Arcy, however, told me that he had been thought a very fast runner by a boy who was a crack runner at Eton, and he was surprised to find how easily I beat him.

In those days, at the Academy, there were no annual athletic sports as there are now, for which the cadets regularly trained, and which made a pleasant break during the half-year; and the only use of being a good runner was in securing the first bat at cricket; for this was considered to be the prize of the cadet who first touched the lodge when the parade was broken off. This first bat I had frequently secured, and, though I had not put out all my speed, I found I could beat some of the cadets whose running I had heard spoken of as very good.

The subject of running having been discussed one day at our squad at dinner, the head of the squad said he thought Horsford, a cadet in his third term, the fastest hundred-yards’ runner he had ever seen. Now, on two occasions that I had run for the first bat I had tried against Horsford, and on each occasion his position in the line had given him at least three yards’ start of me; still I had gained on him so that only a yard separated us at last. From these trials I believed I could beat Horsford, and, remembering the advice Howard had given me about being prepared for any contest, I determined to keep up my running, and so I generally ran one or two hundred yards at speed each day.

No one besides D’Arcy had noticed that I was very fast in running, so I was what may be called “a dark horse,” and I had a certain amount of ambition in wishing to try my speed against Horsford.

One evening, when Brag was in a good temper, I said, “Who do you think the fastest runner in the Academy?”

“For a hundred and twenty yards Horsford is. He has won nearly every race he has run at that distance,” replied Brag.

“I don’t think he could give me ten yards in one hundred and twenty,” I replied.

Brag looked at me with curiosity when I said this, and asked if I could run well.

I told him I believed I could, as I had tried several times, and generally secured first bat (which, however, I was never allowed to retain if an old cadet was near).

“I can run fairly,” said Brag, “so I can soon find out what you can do. Come out and have a trial. It’s nearly dark, so we can keep the secret.”

Brag and I went out on the parade and paced off a hundred and twenty yards, and laid down a white handkerchief to mark the distance. We started ourselves, and commenced our race. Before we had gone thirty yards I found I could go away from Brag very, easily. I kept beside him for about seventy yards and then shot away, and beat him by nearly ten yards.

When we pulled up, Brag said, “By George, you can run! Let me get my wind, and then see if you can give me ten yards in one hundred and twenty.”

After a few minutes, Brag announced himself ready, and, having measured ten good paces, we started at “One, two, three, and away!” and commenced our second trial. Not being able to see the handkerchiefs till near them, I did not know how to arrange my speed. I, however, caught and passed Brag, and won by about two yards.

“I don’t think there is anything the matter with me,” said Brag, “and I believe I’ve run all right; and if so, you’ve a tremendous turn of speed. Now, you keep quiet about this, and I’ll have some fun.”

We went again to our rooms, and Brag recommenced his work and said nothing to Snipson about our trial race.

On the following morning we had examinations, and those who had finished their papers came out of academy. There was no drill, so the cadets were scattered about the parade kicking the football and trying to kick it against the face of the clock. I was looking on at this, and watching for a chance of a kick, when I heard one old cadet call out to another,—

“There’s going to be a race soon?”

“Is there?” replied the cadet spoken to. “Yes, Brag says he’s got a neux he will back for one hundred and twenty yards against Horsford, if he will give the neux five yards’ start.”

“Who is the neux?” inquired the cadet. “I believe it’s Brag’s own neux—young Shepard.”

“Oh, he’s too short to run! Horsford will lick his head off! Here comes Brag?”

I now saw Brag and about twenty old cadets coming from the library, and my name was soon called. I went up to Brag, who said,—

“Shepard, you’ve to run a race for me, and if you don’t win I’ll scrag you! It’s one hundred and twenty yards, and you get five yards’ start.”

I asked leave to go to my room to get a pair of light shoes to run in, and, on coming out, found Horsford with flannel trousers on, and all ready for the race. By this time all the cadets had come out of academy, and as any excitement was welcome, they all assembled on parade and made two lines, between which we were to run. The distance was carefully measured off, and I was placed five yards in front of Horsford.

“Now mind your laurels, Horsford!” said one of his backers; “don’t shave it too close!”

“I can manage this lot, I think,” he replied.

“Shepard, you’ll get a licking if you’re beaten!” said a cadet near.

“Who is backing Shepard?” inquired some old cadets.

“Only Brag,” was the reply. “He’s got an idea that Shepard can run, from some trial he had with him, but no one ever heard of Shepard as a runner. Brag has two or three pounds on the race, and I wouldn’t be Shepard for something, for Brag will vent his disappointment on him.”

During this conversation, which I overheard, several cadets had cleared the course and made a line of handkerchiefs at the winning-post, whilst I toed a line five yards before Horsford. I kept taking long breaths so as to oxygenise my blood well, for I hoped to run the whole distance without taking breath. I felt great confidence in myself, because in the races for the bat I fancied I was more speedy than Horsford; for I did not imagine that he was concealing his speed for any purpose, so I saw no reason to doubt the result.

Everything being ready, the word “Off!” was given, and away I went. I was very quick at starting, and got well on my legs at once. I could have run the whole distance at speed, but for the first sixty yards I did not do all I knew. I dared not look round, for I had read in sporting works that many races had been lost by doing so, so I could not tell whether Horsford was near me. At about thirty yards from home, however, I could feel that my opponent was close to me. There were shouts of “Go it, Horsford!” “Run, little ’un!”

“Now for it, Horsford?” which showed me he was close to me; so, bracing myself up, as it were, I dashed on with all my speed and carried away the line of handkerchiefs on my chest.

Brag rushed up to me, and patted me on the back and said,—

“Bravo, youngster! you won cleverly.”

As I walked back to the winning-post I was the centre of curiosity. All the old cadets were staring at me, and I could not help feeling a certain amount of pride in having won this race. I had been so bullied and snubbed as a last-joined neux that all the conceit was taken out of me, and I felt regularly cowed, so that a triumph like the present was quite refreshing to me. The remarks of the old cadets, too, were amusing; for it was the general opinion that I looked less like a runner than any boy they had ever seen, as I looked delicate and was short.

That evening, in our room, Brag was very civil, and even Snipson seemed to think more of me than he did before. When Snipson left the room, which he did to go to the library, Brag asked me if I thought I had won my race easily.

I replied that I had, and added, “You won’t think me conceited, I hope, if I say I am tolerably sure I can beat Horsford even.”

“How can that be,” said Brag, “when you won by only a yard?”

“Because I ran slowly the first part of the race, wanting to try my speed in the last part, and I am certain at about sixty-five yards Horsford was not a foot behind me.”

“Ah! you can’t beat Horsford even,” replied Brag; “he’s got so much longer a stride than you.”

“Well, I believe I can.”

“Horsford says to-day he was out of form, or else he could have won, so perhaps you may have another turn with him. I’ll back you at five yards, but not at evens.”

I met Horsford in the library next day, and he said,—

“You were in great form yesterday, and I was out of sorts, but I didn’t know you were such a runner. We must have another spin after the examinations are over, and I’ll see if I can’t turn the tables on you.”

I told Brag of this remark, and he replied that he would back me again, but recommended me not to eat too much pastry and “soft tack,” or I should get out of form.

The examination now went on every day, and I felt I was not doing well. Any way, if I passed out of the junior class I should be satisfied. I found that those boys who had been long at preparatory schools had an advantage over me in knowing languages better than I did. French and German were the only two languages we then learnt at the Academy, and the curious system then was for the professors at the Academy to teach also at the Woolwich cram-schools. A boy who had, therefore, been for a couple of years at a Woolwich school, and in the first class, knew well and was known by the professors of French and German, whereas one who had been trained as I had did not derive the benefit of the former instruction of the professors. It was supposed in those days that if we did not know languages when we joined the Academy we did not pick them up there. This might be explained from the fact that so much individual and personal instruction is required in order to teach languages, and there was only one professor to about thirty-five cadets.

Day after day the examination continued, and I worked on, and at length, all being finished, there were about five days during which the results of the examination were being made up, and we had nothing to do but drill. This gave us plenty of spare time, and we had games of football, and various matches at rackets and other games. Several cadets, however, who had lost their half-crowns in the race between Horsford and myself, were anxious to recover these, and there were many opinions about our relative merits in running. I heard from some of my own batch that it was the general opinion that if Horsford gave me three yards out of one hundred, it was a certainty for him.

D’Arcy, however, had told the head of his room that he thought I could win at these odds, and I also told Brag I would go halves with him in anything he bet at those odds. A match of this kind caused much interest, and several cadets were interested in the proposed race. I heard that Horsford had been quietly training, in order to get himself into form, and that he had said it was a certainty, as he was seedy when he ran with me, and was called upon all of a sudden to run.

Brag said he did not like the match much, but still, having won, he would give the losers a chance.

It was decided that we should run on the centre parade in the afternoon, and the whole Academy turned out to witness the match. I had carefully practised of an evening, both starting and running, and I could feel I was going very well. As I ran, I found I could pick up my feet quickly, and could, as far as it was possible to judge, run better than I ever ran. It occurred to me that if I could beat Horsford at these odds I would run him even, and a feeling of ambition came over me that it would be something for a neux to be the best runner at the Academy.

The afternoon at length came of the day on which the match was to come off, and all the cadets who could come out came on the centre parade. I had taken the precaution of putting on a pair of loose, plain trousers, and rather tight shoes that I fancied I could run in well. Just as we were assembling, the Captain of the Cadet Company entered the inclosure and inquired what all the assembly was about. He was informed it was for a race, so, being a great advocate for athletic competitions, he stopped to see the match.

Horsford, I could see, was in earnest now, and had taken the same precautions that I had. He was dressed in complete running costume—a suit in which he had won several races at Rugby, from which school he had come to Woolwich.

All the preliminaries having been arranged, we were placed at our respective scratches—I having three yards’ start.

I had ascertained that there were five inches difference in our height—at that time Horsford being five feet six, and I only five feet one—but I believed I had as long a stride as he had, and was as quick on my legs.

On the words, “Are you ready?” being asked, I got all my weight on my rear leg, and, bracing myself up, was prepared for “Off!”

At the first trial we were off, and I ran as nearly as possible at full speed. I knew I could go a little, though not much, quicker than I was going, so I kept on till about twenty yards from goal. I then glanced round, and found Horsford quite two yards behind me, so I maintained the same pace, and came in a winner by about a yard and a half.

The cadets who had lost on this race at once went to Brag and said, “Shepard is too good, you know. Horsford can’t give him these three yards’ start. Let them run a race even, and we’ll back Horsford at two to one.”

Brag looked at me inquiringly, so I gave him a nod, and he at once said, “All right. I dare say I shall lose, and I only bet just to give you a chance.”

The idea now came across me that if I won this race I should be the acknowledged best runner at the Academy for a short distance. There was something pleasing to me in this idea, for I then discovered that I had ambition—and what is a boy or a man without?

The individual who cares not whether he win or lose in any competition is a poor creature. He who is not to a certain extent downcast by defeat, or elated by a success, is not a man who will ever rise to eminence, for he will never use the exertion necessary to obtain success. In almost every case victory is obtained only by thought and care, expended by those who possess some special gifts of nature; and, although there is no reason why we should be unduly elated by any success, still one’s self-love is gratified if we find we succeed above others.

I was of course the hero of the day now that I had beaten Horsford, for I heard he had run races with several old cadets and had won all these, so I longed to try conclusions with him at evens. D’Arcy came to me and said, “If you run the whole distance at that speed, I know you’ll win, so go in at it in earnest.”

This race was considered a hollow affair, as it was supposed that my opponent could not pull up a losing race, but could run well at evens. It was supposed that Brag bet on this just to give the losers back some of the shillings they had lost; it was not supposed I had a chance.

We had two false starts, but at the third trial we got off together, and for about fifty yards we were shoulder to shoulder. Then Horsford got slightly ahead, not more than the breadth of his own body, but I gradually regained this, and at about ninety yards was even with him and passing him. As soon as I had passed him he seemed to shut up, for he dropped behind all of a sudden, and I ran in a winner by about one yard.

Several cadets came up to me and said, “Bravo, youngster! you’ve run well; you must get me the racket-court when I want it;” whilst my own batch wanted to carry me round the parade. However, I went to my room and changed my clothes, and endeavoured not to show any sign of being gratified at my victory. It was, however, to myself as much a gratification as a surprise. Until I joined the Academy I had no idea I had the qualifications of a good runner; I had never competed with other boys, and had consequently no opportunity of discovering my powers; but suddenly to find that out of nearly one hundred and fifty cadets I was the fastest runner was a great surprise, and I began to ask myself whether I had any other powers of which I knew nothing, and which had never before been called upon.

Both Brag and Snipson were now less disposed to bully me than they were before, and so buoyant is youth that all the hard knocks I had received on first joining were almost forgotten, and I began to look forward to the time when I should be an old cadet and have fags of my own.

The result of the examinations was now out, and I found I had done very badly; from eleventh of the batch I had dropped to twenty-eighth, and the return was unsatisfactory in several things. I, however, just got into the third academy, though I was last but one, and I hoped that next term, when I should not be so much worried by fagging and bullying, I should be able to think more about my work, so I was not so much cast down as I otherwise should have been if I had not a reasonable excuse for having done badly.

What was termed the “Public” in those days was very dissimilar to the “Duke’s” day at present. Formerly the “Public” was an examination, though it was a sort of sham affair. As, however, it was a great day, I will give a full description of the proceedings.

The “Public” was the day on which the Master-General of the Ordnance, his staff, and all the principal heads of departments came to the Academy to see the cadets. The order of proceeding was as follows:—

The cadets were drawn up on parade and received the Master-General with a salute. They were then put through certain manoeuvres by the senior cadets, and afterwards marched into the dining-hall.

In the centre of the dining-hall a table was placed, large enough to enable the batch about to obtain their commissions to be seated at. Near this was a long table, at which the Master-General and officers were seated. An elevated platform, with stair-like seats, was erected at each end and side of the hall. On this the cadets were seated who were not yet qualified for commissions; a portion was also set aside for visitors belonging to the cadets.

On all being assembled in the hall, the professors at the Academy, beginning with the head cadet of the batch, asked questions, which each cadet answered in turn. Sometimes these questions required demonstrations on the board, and the cadet used his chalk to draw figures and give demonstrations.

After the professors had put questions, any of the officers present might do so, and there was often much amusement at the questions and answers—for very often the inquiries made had no reference whatever to any subject a cadet had learnt at the Academy.

One story that used to be told about these questions was, that a cadet was once asked what was sometimes used to wash out the bore of a gun. The cadet did not know what to say, so another cadet beside him whispered, “Tan ash and water.”

The cadet, standing up, got nervous when he did not know what to say, and only heard imperfectly what his prompter said.

“Tan ash and water,” again whispered the cadet.

“A ten-inch mortar!” blurted out the puzzled cadet.

The batch who heard this answer were ready to burst out laughing, especially when the officer who had asked the question, and who was rather deaf, said, “Tan ash and water—very good!”

An old officer, who was fond of a joke, was reported to have once asked the head cadet of the batch, “What would be the result, supposing an irresistible body came in contact with an immovable post on a plane?”

The cadet answered that the body would come to rest.

“No,” replied the officer; “you forget the body is irresistible, and therefore cannot come to rest.”

“It would carry away the post,” said the cadet. “No,” again said the officer; “the post is immovable.”

After a little hesitation the cadet said he didn’t know what would happen.

“Quite right, sir,” said the officer, “neither do I, nor any one else, for the conditions are impossible. I only wanted you to say, ‘I don’t know.’ Some men would have attempted long explanations.”

When the cadets had been publicly examined, the various prizes were given, and, after one or two speeches by the senior officers, the Academy broke up.

I started for London that afternoon by coach, which was one of about forty four-horse coaches that used then to pass over Shooter’s Hill every day en route from London to Dover, slept at a friend’s, and on the following day was carried by coach to the New Forest, and once more found myself in the quiet of home.

The change that had taken place in me during my first half-year at the Academy was very great. Instead of being a raw country boy I was now a somewhat experienced young man. The knocking about I had received at the Academy had forced me to use my perceptive powers in every way to save myself from being thrashed for neglect; and I had thus cultivated my observational faculties, so that I noticed far more than probably I ever should had I remained at home.

Now that I was at home I found I was somewhat of a hero. All the countrymen round—the foresters—who knew me as quite a little boy, now touched their hats to me, for they called me a “sodger-officer!” and had heard I had done something wonderfully clever at an examination. I also found that among our friends I took quite a different position to what I had done four months before. In reality, I learnt now the advantage of being a soldier, for I was looked on as one; and I felt the benefit of this when I heard young ladies tell their brothers what a pity it was they had not been drilled, and taught to stand up, and walk like Mr Shepard!

I had been at home about a week when my father told me one morning that he had a letter from Howard, who would be in the neighbourhood shortly.

“I will write and ask him to stay here a night or two. You would like to compare notes with him about the Academy, I dare say.”

“Yes, that I should,” I replied, for I still looked, on Howard as a hero, and found my veneration for him by no means decreased when I remembered that he must have gone through all I had, and all I must go through before I obtained my commission; also that he was an old cadet when the present old cadets were only schoolboys. I wanted also to hear from Howard what used to go on when he was a cadet, and compare the bullying, fagging, etc, in his day with what I had myself experienced; for it was a doubtful point in my own mind whether or not I had been more bullied than other neuxes, and whether, if I had been, it was due to any peculiarity in myself, or was owing to the old cadets in my room being what was termed regular bullies.

When I met Howard he expressed his surprise at my improved appearance. “You’ve grown and filled out,” he said, “and before long you’ll be a formidable antagonist with your fists. And how do you like the shop?” he inquired.

I had a brief conversation with Howard then; but it was not till after dinner, when the ladies had left, and Howard, my father, and I were alone, that I became inquiring and confidential; and it was only then that my father became aware of the extent to which bullying was carried at the Academy thirty add years ago. His astonishment was great, for the tales I told were capped by Howard, and there was no margin left on which to place any doubts as regards the truth of our incidents.

After I had described the angle of forty-five, and the running round the table whilst the old cadets flipped me, Howard said, “Yes, all that’s pretty bad, but were you ever kept up half the night looking out for squalls, or has that gone out of fashion?”

“I’ve never heard of that. What is it?” I inquired.

“To look out for squalls a cadet was divested of nearly all his clothes, and was made to climb up the iron bars of the window and there hold on. If he came down without orders he received a tremendous thrashing, and it was supposed to be a trial of a cadet’s obedience to orders. I remember, when I was a neux,” said Howard, “I was sent up once to the top of the window, and told to remain there till further orders. After some time I heard both the old cadets snoring, so I thought I might as well come down and go to bed. I had scarcely gone down many inches when one of the old cadets called out, ‘By George, sir, you shall have a thrashing for that! You thought I was asleep, eh? I just pretended to snore, to see if you could be trusted to obey orders. Why, you ought to remain there till you dropped rather than leave your post!’ I went up again, and remained for above an hour, when I was so cramped I could with difficulty move. Both cadets were snoring, but I suspected another trap, so hesitated about coming down. At length, however, I could hold on no longer, and fell heavily to the ground, from which I was picked up insensible. But I soon got all right, and wasn’t much hurt after all.”

“But,” said my father, “these things are perfectly brutal. Don’t the authorities interfere?”

“Yes,” replied Howard, “they would if what was done was brought before them in any way; but it rarely happens that they hear of these things.”

“But don’t the boys—the fags—complain to the authorities about such ill-usage?”

“If they did, the life they would lead would be unendurable. Every cadet, old and young, would cut them, and they would be bullied to such an extent that I don’t believe any boy would stay at the Academy. He would be considered a sneak; and if a cadet once gained such a name it would be all over with him.

“A case once happened when I was a neux,” continued Howard, “where a cadet told his mother of some of the things he had to do as a neux. His mother foolishly wrote to the Captain of the Cadet Company about it, and said she hoped he would see her son was not put to perform menial offices. The captain of course had to treat the matter officially; there was an inquiry, and it resulted in the head of this cadet’s room being rusticated for a half-year. Well, the result was that the neux became a marked man; he was fagged, and thrashed, and sent to drill so often, that he could not stand it, and at last ran away from the Academy. It’s of no use for a cadet to attempt to go against the stream; he must grin and bear it.”

“I should think it would entirely break a boy’s spirit,” said my father, “and ruin him for life.”

“Not a bit of it,” replied Howard. “It is not that I advocate bullying; but I have never seen very much harm done by it. That it ought to be stopped I think there is no doubt, for I believe that of all the despotic tyrants in the world a boy is the greatest. To him there is a delight in tyrannising; and bully he will. Usually it is size and strength that makes the bully; and this is its worst form, and is known to exist everywhere. Now at the Academy it is not size or strength that gives the right to fag, but seniority only. The smallest old cadet may kick or fag a last-joined giant.”

“It is a bad, brutal system, and ought to be put an end to,” said my father. “If I had known the extent to which this system was carried at Woolwich I never would have let Bob go there.”

“I’m very glad you didn’t know then,” I replied, “for the worst is over now, and I’ve really only another half-year of it, and then I shall be tolerably free.”

“What I believe ought to be done,” said Howard, “is to separate fagging from gratuitous bullying. Nothing is more offensive in society than an unlicked cub, and you find many of these in places where men don’t belong to either service, or have never been to public schools. I believe, from what I have read in Marryat’s novels, that in the navy there is far more bullying with the youngsters than there ever has been at Woolwich; and I fancy also at our principal public schools there is plenty of it. The generality of boys are not so sensitive as we older people are, and we give them credit for feeling much as we should; whereas I know now that I look back with rather a sense of satisfaction to the bullying I went through, and the manner in which I stood it. You see, Mr Shepard,” continued Howard, “we men in the army have to lead a roughish life of it; we don’t always live in drawing-rooms, or mix with ladies; so a soft, delicate, sensitive sort of fellow, who can’t stand a little bullying without crying out for help, is not the sort of man we want for an officer. Now I can see that Bob there is twice the man he was when I first knew him, and he is more fit to battle with the world, than he would have been, if he had merely stopped at home translating Herodotus and catching butterflies.

“I’ll tell you another advantage there is in having fagging at Woolwich. When an officer gets his commission in either the Artillery or Engineers, his seniors never play tricks on him, or attempt skylarking—all that was done with when the officers were neuxes at the Academy. In the Line, how ever, unless an ensign joined from Sandhurst, and had passed through a phase of bullying, he was the victim of various practical jokes; and then there was no regular time at which these practical jokes ceased. Now it is not the right thing for a commissioned officer to be made the butt for the jokes of his seniors; still the ensigns are sometimes so raw, so self-sufficient, and require to be put in their proper places so much, that their seniors have no hesitation in bullying them for a time. It is far better, to my mind, that a cadet about fifteen should be subjected to a system of bullying—if you like to call it so—than that an ensign in her Majesty’s service should be. Fancy, too, what a set of fellows we might get in the service if they were not knocked into shape by their companions! Why, look at your neighbour’s son, Hynton, who may some day be a baronet! He’s nearly twenty, and is little better than a lout, because he has never been to school, but has always had a tutor at home. He is conceited, stupid, and thinks, because he is tall, stout, and strong, that he may do anything. He would have been made into a capital fellow by a little course of fagging when he was a youngster?”

“Ah!” replied my father; “you are a thorough advocate for the system, I can see; but I am dead against it. I think it brutalises boys, and makes bullies of them in afterlife.”

“I don’t think that,” replied Howard. “I believe men who are bullies will be so under any circumstances, and are not inclined to be so by being first fags and then having the power to fag. In my day, also, at the Academy downright bullying was discountenanced by all the old cadets, or at least nearly all of them, and any cadet known to be a regular bully was stopped from being allowed to fag.”

“That’s not the case now,” I remarked. “A cadet may bully as much as he likes.” I thought of Snipson and Brag as I said this, and the amount of suffering I had gone through on first joining came fresh to my memory.

“Then the Academy is degenerating,” said Howard; “and if what I may call wholesome fagging goes out, it will be because a bad style of men get to be old cadets, and carry things so far that the authorities will stop it altogether.”

On the following morning I took a walk with Howard, and took the opportunity of telling him of my having been obliged to hang by my arms whilst I was pegged at by racket-balls; and I asked if any such thing was done in his day.

“The fellow who did that must be a snob,” said Howard, “and deserves to be kicked by the old cadets! Unless you or the other neuxes had struck, or been cool in some way, that kind of thing ought not to have been done.”

Four days Howard stayed with us, and I had learnt much from him during that time. He advised me to work hard all next half, particularly in academy, so as to pass my probationary well, and to make friends with D’Arcy, who, he said, was a very good fellow, and had a brother who was a cadet with him. He also gave me some useful hints about examinations, and recommended a system of artificial memory for remembering formulae and various dates. He also told me I should find the advantage all my life of becoming skilled as a boxer and single-stick player, and that one of the Academy sergeants was a first-rate instructor at both.

“You’re not a fellow,” said Howard, “who would get into a row for the sake of showing off—a gentleman never does that sort of thing—so the knowledge of how to use your fists would not be likely to make you quarrelsome; but it is a pleasure to know that when you see some hulking lout who is a bully, and who is doing what he ought not to do, you can give him a thrashing if you like. I’ve always felt a sort of pleasure,” said Howard, “when walking through the streets of Paris, to think that I could thrash at least ninety-nine out of the hundred of the men one meets, for Frenchmen cannot use their fists. You should go in strong also for rackets and cricket; there is nothing more indicative of a muff than a fellow who is not good at some game or other. I remember hearing once of some general who said he would always select his staff from the men who were best across country, and you may depend on it that there’s great truth in the suggestion. I’ve generally found the best officers were men who were good at games. You can play chess well, I know, as your father told me you were within a pawn of him. So take my advice, and follow the maxim, that ‘what is worth doing at all is worth doing well!’”

My time passed pleasantly enough during the vacation, for I fully appreciated the quiet of the forest and its splendid trees, after having been crowded by my fellows and surrounded by houses during the past year. I did not look forward with much pleasure to my return to the Academy. I knew that some second-half cadets were fagged as much as if they were last-joined, and it was quite possible that such might be my fate; the novelty, too, of being a cadet and wearing uniform was departing, and I looked more to realities than I had at first. The prospect of being turned out at six o’clock a.m. to go and brush clothes in another room was not pleasant, nor did I relish the idea of being once more placed on a table as the target for boots and brushes. In fact, I was getting older rapidly; and as I grew very fast and became much stronger, a rebellious feeling came over me that was not favourable to my future obedience as a neux.

On comparing Brag and Snipson with Howard, or oven with several of the other old cadets I knew, I could not but feel that these two were very bad specimens of the cadet of that day. They were both bullies; they excelled in nothing, were low down in their class, and in spite of this were both very conceited. Their style of conversation, too, was inferior to what I had heard from other old cadets. Their ideas were cramped, and they seemed to take a mean or malicious view of everything, and to attribute to all other persons bad motives for what they did or said. I remarked, also, that neither Brag nor Snipson had a good word for any one. If any cadet’s name was mentioned, one or the other of these would commence with “Oh, yes! he’s all very well in his way, but then he’s not such a swell as he thinks himself, for I have good reason to believe that he,” etc, etc, etc; and here would follow some disparagement of the individual whose name was mentioned.

Brag and Snipson somehow got on well together. They were unpopular at the Academy, and perhaps that gave them some sympathetic feeling for each other; but the principal reason, I believe, was that they used to flatter one another very much. Whatever Brag did, Snipson said was “deuced well done;” and when Snipson did anything, Brag declared it was very clever. There was no use in concealing the fact, between myself and the two old cadets in my room there was a very great antipathy, and I can use no milder term to indicate with truth my feelings towards them than to say I detested them both.

To be at the mercy of a bully for whom you have a contempt, is a very trying position, and such had been my fate during the whole of the first term I was a cadet at Woolwich. As the time arrived for my return to Woolwich, I was anxious principally about the room in which I should live. It was quite a chance whether I had a nice or a disagreeable head of the room, but my comfort or misery for five months was dependent on the peculiar character of this cadet.

Chapter Ten.

A “Second-Half” Cadet at Woolwich.

Having made the journey from Hampshire to Woolwich in one day, I reported myself at the Academy at about six in the evening, and then found that I was appointed to No. 16 room, the head of which was a cadet named Forester. On going to this room I found I was the first arrival, and I also ascertained that the second of my room was Fenton. I was the third, and there was a vacancy for the fourth, who most likely would be a last-joined, and consequently the regular fag of the room. About eight o’clock Forester came, and was very civil to me; asked me if I had been winning any more races during the vacation, and told me I must always secure a racket-court for him. The securing the racket-court was by some cadet, either on coming out from the hall or being broken off at parade, racing to the court and being first in. He could then, if he liked, resign his claim to any one else; so it was not unusual for a neux who could run well to be employed for this purpose.

“You’ll find Fenton a very good fellow,” said Forester; “and I should think you are heartily glad to get out of Brag’s room.”

“Brag and Snipson both used to bully me a great deal,” I said; “but I suppose it’s the usual thing.” I did not yet know Forester well enough to speak freely about the treatment I had received, so I was cautions in my remarks.

About nine o’clock Fenton came in, and I at once took a fancy to him. He was short, stoutly built, and very dark. He and Forester were great friends, and were antagonists at rackets, and I also found they both played chess.

During the first few days of my second half I was very comfortable. I had little to do for either Forester or Fenton. I brushed them, and they did the same to me; and I brought books, etc, from the library for Forester, but there was no bullying from either of them. In a week after my return a last-joined cadet was appointed to our room, and to him was allotted the work which had hitherto fallen to my share. The last-joined was called Hampden, and was a wild Irishman. He was soon called upon to sing his songs of a night, and make his odes to the moon, but I was never sent for now, as the heads of rooms and old cadets in my division were contented in fagging the last-joined. Hampden could neither sing nor make speeches, and his strong Irish accent was very amusing, so that he was well laughed at, and pelted with boots and brushes, when he failed to make any speeches. He was, however, very good-tempered, and the more he was chaffed the more he seemed pleased.

It was about ten days after my return, that Snipson told me one day that he wanted to see me over at his room, which was in the “Towers.” On going there he informed me that he had now a single room, and therefore had not a fag, and as there was a last-joined in my room I couldn’t have much to do, so he should require me at his room every morning at seven to brush clothes, and look out for things he wanted.

This order was a great annoyance to me; I had been so quiet and comfortable in my room that I fancied the worst part of the fagging was over; but now having to turn out and dress by seven, and go over to the “Towers” where Snipson ordered me about, was, as I termed it, “disgusting.” I told Forester of the order, and he said I had better go, for it was the custom for one or two cadets of the second term to be fagged at the “Towers,” where no last-joined were quartered.

I soon found that Snipson seemed to dislike me as much as I did him; there was a natural antipathy between us, and we seemed to have nothing in common. He found fault with all I did, and complained that I mislaid everything and did not brush his clothes properly. I ground my teeth at his complaints and kicks, but I had to bear them nevertheless, for there was in those days the most rigid discipline used against a neux who “struck,” as it was termed, against an old cadet. I knew that of the two evils it was the lesser to bear the bullying of Snipson rather than to commit any act as bad for a cadet as mutiny for an officer or soldier. I found there were no other second-half cadets besides myself who were really fagged regularly, except where there was no fourth to a room, so I thought my case a hard one. However, there was no use in complaining, so I did my work and stood my bullying in as dogged a manner as possible.

When the idea had first seized me of becoming a soldier, I had taken as my model-man Howard. I was won and almost enchanted by the knowledge and apparent power he possessed. He seemed above what may be termed the little trivialities of life, and to have a wide and general view of everything. To him there seemed to be given a capacity for looking at all subjects with the power of an impartial judge, and at the same time he exhibited an enthusiasm for the service which, though toned down by experience, was yet shown in various ways.

When I had been some weeks in the room with Brag and Snipson, and had listened to their conversation, was conversant with their ideas and opinions, I could not but feel disappointed when I knew that two men with such mean sentiments, cramped ideas, and such disparaging views of others, should be so near to becoming officers in one or other of the scientific corps.

One of the charms of Howard was the readiness with which he bestowed praise on anything or anybody that deserved it. The beauty of the New Forest, for example, was a subject on which he used to dilate. I was once with him on a lovely autumnal afternoon, when the sun was lighting up the richly-tinted foliage of the forest, amidst which the dark green of the fir-tree was seen; the distant water of the Solent glittering like silver beyond endless waves of forest glades; the far and cloudy-looking hills in the island marking the distance, and presenting a lovely variety of scenery rarely obtainable in England.

Howard stopped and looked at the view, and, with a heartiness that showed how he appreciated it, exclaimed, “By Jove! that’s a lovely bit of scenery!”

“But,” I said, “abroad you must have seen far more beautiful views than this?”

“Of course I have; I’ve seen grand mountains rising twelve thousand feet direct from a plain, and I’ve seen tropical forests with their branches hung with wild vine, whilst gorgeous metallic-looking broad-leaved exotics were scattered about in profusion. But because I’ve seen that, it does not prevent this from being a perfect bit of English landscape.”

I compared these remarks of Howard’s with those of a gentleman who came to see us some time after Howard had left, and who, on seeing the same view, exclaimed, “Oh, I dare say you think it very fine, but it’s nothing to what I have seen in other places.”

I was young then, and did not know the world or the men comprising it; so, although an uncomfortable feeling came over when I heard this remark, I did not know how to account for the difference between the opinions expressed by Howard and by this visitor. Yet how often in the world do we meet with persons of both the types I have here referred to! We meet men with generous minds, ready to acknowledge merit and to admit its genuineness, who do not condemn that which is good merely because they have seen or heard that which they consider better. These men are usually those who have worked and won themselves, and who know that even mediocrity is not gained without great trouble. They are men whose praise or good opinion is worth having, for they judge of a matter on its merits, not by mere comparison.

Others, again, condemn everything which is not what they consider equal to the very best they have seen or heard. With them it is not the merit of a subject which is examined or considered, but the comparison between that and some other. These men are usually ungenerous and conceited, without the slightest cause for being so. They are men who would make the unaspiring believe that to work for success was a mere waste of time—that even if success were gained it would not be worth having. Such men, and women too, are met everywhere; they are the cold sheets of society, who do harm to the weak and infirm of purpose, and in almost every case have no merit of their own, and not one single point of excellence in their nature.

That which struck me most forcibly during my first half-year, and my acquaintance with Snipson and Brag, was this “nil admirari” style. Neither of them had a good word for anybody. The cadet who was head of his batch before I joined was once discussed by these two, and the following was the conversation:—

“Some fellows say that London is so awfully clever,” said Snipson, “and got a higher decimal than any fellow has since, about four years ago. Now, I don’t think him a bit clever—in fact, I think him rather stupid, for he was a most awful ‘mug.’ I don’t suppose any fellow swatted harder than he did his last two terms in order to be head of the batch.”

“Oh, any fellow who mugged as he did could be head of a batch!” replied Brag. “Besides, I don’t think passing examinations well is any great proof of being very clever. I dare say if I set to work I might pass well, but it’s not worth the trouble.”

“Hopkins of that batch thinks a deal of himself too,” said Snipson, “because he’s third of the batch. Why, I remember the time when I could beat him at everything; but then I didn’t choose to slave away as he did. There’s Dawkins, too, who is fifth; he got to be that I believe merely by sponging; he was always sneaking about the octagon, pretending he was hard at work. I hate a fellow doing like that.”

Young as I was, I could perceive that neither Brag nor Snipson would have made such remarks unless they had imagined themselves superior to all those whom they had mentioned; and the latent belief thus revealed is, we believe, one of the reasons why the slanderer or even scandal-monger of society is agreeable to some natures, and produces abhorrence in others. To the honest, straightforward, hard-working man, who judges of things by their merits, and who loves the truth and detests the sham, this system of disparaging is offensive and painful. To such a nature it is more pleasant to hear the excellence and the good qualities of people referred to than it is to hear only their defects, supposed or real, or their evil deeds, or those attributed to them, referred to.

The thoroughly noble woman who is herself true, and who possesses the gift of charity, finds no pleasure in the society of a person whose conversation consists mainly in slandering her neighbours.

The woman who is herself false, and who endeavours to pervert the truth, finds her vanity gratified when she can hear anything related which drags her neighbour’s name into the mud. As a corollary, therefore, it may be stated that, given the woman who paints her eyebrows, blackens her eyelids, powders and tints her face, and there you find to a certainty the character whose delight is intense when she can glean any intelligence about her dear friends of such a nature as to damage their characters, and to retail such intelligence with additions is to her a luxury.

Having experienced four months of the society of Brag and Snipson, I could not avoid feeling that they were inferior men, who would never by fair means make a mark in the world, and who were not desirable either as friends or enemies.

I had been but a very brief time in Forester’s room before I became deeply interested in him. He used to read a great deal, and had at that time the rare accomplishment of being able to talk about other matters beside “shop.” He was devoted to soldiering, and had studied carefully “Napier’s Peninsula” and other similar books, and used to talk of a night, when lights were out, with Fenton about various actions and their results.

As I look back on those days, I can recall many of the remarks that Forester made, and have been struck with the value of these, and of their practical application even now. One, in particular, I remember was, “that all the extensive theory that we learnt at the Academy would probably never be of use to one in twenty of the cadets in afterlife, whilst we should know nothing about certain practical matters when we became officers, which every non-commissioned officer would be acquainted with.”

“An officer’s head,” said Forester, “ought to be like a soldier’s knapsack—have a few useful things in it always handy and ready for use—just the things required for every day.”

Once, after a long game of chess with Fenton, Forester remarked that people said chess and war were very much alike.

“They would be,” he said, “more alike if, when playing chess, you were bound to move within one minute after your adversary, and also if you had a drum beating in your ears and a fellow shying racket-balls at you. I believe,” he said, “that the men who make the best leaders of troops are usually hard, strong men, without too much brains, whilst the great generals and planners of campaigns are quite different men. These should be careful thinkers, and men with great nervous power, and it is such men who are most upset by disturbing causes. I have often thought,” continued Forester, “that we ought to have a thinking general and a working one—the first to think out the moves, the other to execute them.”

Before I had been long in this room, Forester expressed his opinion about keeping up lights. He said,—

“I think taking away our lights at half-past nine, and leaving us to undress and go to bed in the dark, is absurd; but when I have said to the officer on duty that ‘I have no lights concealed, and no intention of procuring a light,’ I feel bound in honour to act up to what I say.”

“But no one really looks upon the usual report about lights as given on honour,” said Fenton.

“I’ve nothing to do with what other fellows think,” said Forester. “I only know what I state to an officer, and if I keep up lights after having stated I will not do so, I consider I have ‘smashed.’” (Note 1.)

I here learnt for the first time the great effect produced on us by the society in which we mix, and the influence that such society has on our opinions. When Snipson wished to keep up lights, Brag did not object from a moral point of view, but because it was not safe. I also turned my attention to a plan of keeping a light burning without reflecting on its being dishonourable. Now, however, when Forester expressed his views about it, I felt I agreed with him, and was ashamed of having aided Snipson to commit an act which I now looked on as dishonourable.

There were very curious ideas among the cadets in those days. One of these was, that it was rather a smart thing to get very nearly tipsy—that is to say, “screwed.” If a cadet could prove that he had arrived at this state through drinking champagne or “old port,” he thought himself a man of judgment and taste. This peculiar opinion was confined to only a few cadets, a sort of clique, and was much condemned by Forester.

“There is no doubt,” said Forester, “that of all men in the world who should never be the worse for what they have drunk, a soldier is the one. He and a driver of an engine, if drunk, may cause the death of hundreds of men. Besides, a fellow who gets drunk I look on as a fool, for he must know so little about himself that he cannot tell how much of anything will make him tipsy. I don’t know a more disgusting sight than to see a man drunk and incapable, and why some fellows here think it fast I cannot imagine.”

In our division was an old cadet named Marsden, who was always boasting of the wine he had drank when on leave, or when he had been home. It happened that Marsden’s father was an officer retired on full pay; but, like most officers, he was poor, and, though occasionally he asked cadets to dinner, he never produced any wines besides sherry, and, as cadets declared, his sparkling wine was gooseberry. Saumer in those days was unknown.

More than once Marsden had returned from leave and made a great shouting in the division, asserting that “the Moët’s champagne was so strong.”

Forester had more than once made remarks about this proceeding, and at length, with three or four other cadets who thought the same as he did, organised a plot against Marsden, which turned out a most amusing affair, but one somewhat unpleasant to Marsden.

It wanted about half an hour to roll-call one Sunday evening, when Marsden came into the division shouting.

“There’s Marsden again?” said Forester. “Now for a lesson for him!”

Forester got up and went into the passage, where he was joined by three other cadets, who seemed to have turned out by signal.

“What’s the matter, Marsden?” said Forester.

“Beastly screwed on guv’nor’s champagne!” said Marsden as he leant against the wall.

“It’s close on roll-call,” said Forester, “and the officer will see you!”

“Blow officer!” muttered Marsden.

“We mustn’t let him be discovered,” said Forester in a compassionate tone. “Let’s help him out of it.”

At a signal, Forester and the other cadets seized Marsden, lifted him off his legs, and carried him to the back yard—he shouting and struggling in a half-drunken way. Suddenly, however, he seemed to foresee what was in store for him, for he called out in quite a sober tone, “I’m not drunk, Forester; I was only humbugging. I’m not drunk; I’m not!”

Forester and his companions, whom I had followed, were silent, but very determined. They paid no attention to these shouts, but took off Marsden’s coattee, and reduced his dress to a pair of trousers and a shirt. Three cadets then held him, whilst Forester, seizing the handle of the pump, sent a powerful stream of water over Marsden’s head and down his back.

“Nothing like a cold bath to set a fellow right when he’s screwed?” said Forester, as he worked vigorously at the pump-handle and deluged Marsden with a cold stream.

“I’m not drunk?” shouted Marsden. “Let me go! I’m not drunk!”

Not the slightest attention was paid to Marsden till he had been fully a minute under the pump, when he was released with the inquiry as to his feeling better and more sober.

“I’m not drunk, you confounded donkeys!” shouted Marsden again, in a great rage.

At this instant the officer on duty, having from his quarters heard the shouting, came through the division, and, seeing Marsden with his hair and clothes all wet, and hearing his shouts of “I’m not drunk?” at once said,—

“Mr Marsden, you’re tipsy! You’ll be in arrest, sir, till further orders?”

“I’m not drunk, sir?” said Marsden. “Go to your room, sir, in arrest!” said the officer, as he walked off from the division.

When Forester came into his room he was in fits of laughter. “If that won’t cure Marsden of shamming I don’t know what will!” he said. “It serves him quite right for humbugging as he does?”

On the following morning Marsden asked Forester to give evidence as to his not being drank the night before, “for,” said Marsden, “you know I wasn’t.”

“What?” said Forester; “when you told me you were beastly screwed on guv’nor’s gooseberry—champagne, I mean? You don’t mean to say you told a lie? I was bound to believe you, and did what I thought was best for you to save you from being seen in the state you were by the officer?”

“But I wasn’t screwed!” said Marsden.

“Not when the officer came,” replied Forester; “that’s very likely. A powerful shower-bath is a wonderful soberer; and next time you come in screwed and shouting from the effects of champagne, you’ll find it just as good a cure! No, I can’t say you were not screwed; you looked like being so, and you said you were?”

There was an audible titter on parade that day when the officer on duty read out, among other orders by the Captain of the Cadet Company, that Mr Marsden, having been under the influence of drink when returning from leave on Sunday evening, was to be in arrest for seven days!

Forester’s cure was effective. Marsden was never the worse for his governor’s wine after that evening.

Note 1. “Smashed,” in those days, was the familiar term for having broken one’s word of honour.

Chapter Eleven.

Outbreak to Charlton Fair.

Towards the middle of my second half-year two very stirring events occurred at the Academy, in each of which I played a subordinate part. The singular experiences I had in these two affairs are worthy of being recorded.

In the neighbourhood of Woolwich is a small village, called Charlton, which at that time was a thoroughly rural place. An old blacksmith’s forge stood in the middle of the village, and two old-fashioned-looking inns. At the entrance of this village was a field, termed “The Fair-Field,” where a large fair was annually held. This fair was termed “Horn Fair,” and was one of the sights of the time.

Fairs have now degenerated, and have lost their glory; but thirty years ago Horn Fair day was a kind of Derby day, at which all the élite of the neighbourhood were to be seen from about two till five on one particular day out of the three that the fair lasted.

From the entrance to the fair to the branch roads, where the cemetery is now situated, the carriages used to stand two deep during the time their occupiers strolled about the fair. Since those days, however, the railway has given such facility for the East-end of London to send down its unwashed hundreds, that first the fair was deserted by the ladies of the neighbourhood, next by the gentlemen, and finally was done away with as being detrimental to the neighbourhood.

During the three days that the fair lasted the cadet company were confined to the enclosure, and were not allowed to visit the village of Charlton. Such a restriction was ordered on account of a row which some years previously had occurred between the cadets and some of the fair people; but it was very obnoxious to the old cadets, and particularly to one who had been reduced from the rank of corporal to that of cadet. This individual had a great deal of influence among the seniors, and on the morning of the second day of the fair he paid a visit to the majority of the rooms, in order to ventilate his ideas and organise a plan he had in his mind for the evening.

The cadet, who was named Prosser, came to our room to see Forester, and said, “Don’t you think it’s an awful shame to confine us to barracks like a set of schoolboys, instead of trusting us to go to the fair? I want your opinion about it, Forester.”

“Well,” replied Forester, “I think it’s bad taste, and a mistake, for it seems to say, ‘If you go to the fair you will get into a row,’ but I don’t see what’s the use of complaining.”

“I’ll tell you what the use is,” said Prosser. “I’ve got a lot of fellows who are game to fall in after tea, and go straight away to the fair—that is, if every one will go. You see, if everybody goes, they can’t break a few fellows only, and they can’t pitch into everybody, and I believe they will see it won’t do to shut us up like sheep, but that we shall get more liberty.”

“I won’t join,” said Forester, “if I can help it, and I think it’s not the right way to go to work to remedy a grievance.”

During that afternoon a paper was passed round the Academy, saying that the whole of the first and second class would fall in on the centre parade at half-past eight, and double off to the fair, and the third and fourth class were to fall in at the same hour and place. This came as a kind of order from the old cadets, and we all signed our names as willing to agree to go.

Everything was kept very quiet during the afternoon, for fear the authorities might hear of the plot, and at half-past eight every cadet fell in quietly on the grass inside the Academy, and, the words of command being whispered from file to file, we broke into a double, and ran across the common towards Charlton.

There were present on that occasion every cadet except the eight corporals on duty, who thought they were bound in honour not to leave their posts. This was a sort of compromise with duty, for these eight corporals were perfectly aware that the breakout of barracks was going to be attempted, and had they done their duty they would have reported this, and put a stop at once to the affair; but the moral courage to do so was wanting. Still, none of these cadets liked to leave their posts—an indication of the right feeling that prevailed at that time in many things at the Academy, and at the same time a proof of the inconsistency in the ideas of the cadets.

Forester declined to join the “mutiny,” as it might be termed, on principle, but he left Fenton and myself to do as we liked, and we both went.

The “Cadet Company,” as I might term it, having got well clear of the Academy and across the common, came to a quick march, and the word was then passed down the ranks as to our proceedings at the fair. On nearing the fair we were to form four deep and double through the fair. We were then to enter one of the large dancing-booths, and clear it of its occupants, and finally to “pitch into” any persons who opposed us.

Under the influence of the excitement and companionship of the senior cadets, I thought the proceeding a brilliant one. The effect of charging through the fair would be grand, something like a real battle, and the people of the fair would see what a fine set of daring fellows the cadets were. With such ideas I approached the fair-field, little dreaming that three days would not elapse before I had come to the conclusion that a more foolish, stupid, and ridiculous proceeding could not have been proposed or carried out than this one, and that even the most enthusiastic of the party would admit that it was a contemptible and childish display.

Most rows or street fights, when looked upon calmly, may be classed under the same head. They arise usually from the combatitive stupidity of some individual or individuals who want excitement, or who imagine that they will exhibit their powers before an admiring audience during some fight in which they may be engaged. Two of the original promoters of the raid to the fair were the two biggest and most powerful cadets at the Academy, and were tolerably sure to hold their own in any row that might take place. For us smaller bodies the prospect was not so promising.

On nearing the entrance-gate we formed closely in fours, and at a double charged down between the booths. Men, women, and children were knocked over right and left, and sent sprawling on the ground, whilst we were saluted with stones, sticks, and other weapons seized impromptu by the indignant public.

Having made our way down the fair we entered the largest dancing-booth, which was immediately deserted by the occupants. Seizing the chairs, a few of these were smashed, and shots were then taken at the many-coloured oil-lamps, the majority of which were knocked down, but not broken. There was then a shout to extinguish all the lamps in the fair, whilst one or two of the most reckless cadets shouted, “Turn out the menagerie!”

By this time, however, there was an organised ’stance to us. The sticks used for knock-’em-downs were seized by a number of men, who commenced using these very freely, and we were soon compelled to retreat, which we did in tolerably good order; not, however, without those in rear receiving some very heavy blows.

At the Academy matters had not been idle. The cadets having left the Academy, there was a silence that, to the experienced ears of the officer on duty, at once indicated that something was up. Coming out of his quarters he found the divisions deserted, and, on entering the library, found the corporal on duty, who informed him the cadets had left the enclosure. The assembly was immediately sounded, and was obeyed only by the corporals on duty and two cadets who were ill, having just left hospital. Taking with him the corporals on duty the officer at once started for the fair, giving orders that each cadet seen was at once to be placed in arrest. Now, as a cadet was bound in honour to obey an arrest, this plan would have been effective for sending home the company. When, however, the officer was within a hundred yards of the fair-field he met the cadets returning, and at once ordered the whole of them in arrest to their rooms.

For many hundred yards from the fair we were followed by a rabble, which delighted in pelting us with various missiles and abusing us, as they now could do with impunity.

On reaching the enclosure we all went to our rooms, relating our individual experiences, escapes, and performances.

One cadet had exchanged blows with a supposed prizefighter, and had held his own; another had knocked down a burly rough who was just going to smash the head of a cadet with a life-preserver. This cadet had tripped up a Peeler who was trying to collar a cadet; that cadet had rescued a snooker who was actually in the grasp of two roughs. The feats performed were really marvellous—at least in their accounts—and for that night we were well pleased with ourselves.

Forester listened to Fenton’s account of the affair, and put a few questions, and then pronounced his verdict, that we had all made a set of fools of ourselves, and that probably the company would be decimated, every tenth cadet being discharged.

During the next two or three days there were endless speculations as to what would be the punishment given us for our conduct, and as the excitement of the affair wore off, the corporals and seniors began to get anxious for their prospects, for it was feared a severe example would be made of at least the corporals and under-officers who had gone to the fair. The whole company was confined to barracks, and could not therefore go beyond the “Ha-ha” so that groups of twenty or thirty cadets used to assemble every day and walk about arm-in-arm discussing the proceedings at the fair, and the probable results.

About ten days after the breaking out the whole company was assembled on parade, and the decision of the Master-General made known. It was to the effect that every under-officer and corporal present at the fair was to be reduced to the rank of a cadet, all leave stopped till the end of the half, and the question left open whether or not the commission of these should be delayed six months. By many this punishment was considered slight, for they had expected to be rusticated, and to lose, consequently, a term; so that, as soon as the order had been read out, there was a subdued murmur of satisfaction among those who had been the ringleaders of the affair, and whose position as the seniors rendered them responsible.

This history of the life of a Woolwich cadet is intended to be a relation of the events that occurred some thirty odd years ago, and to be described as those events presented themselves to the mind of a cadet at that time. To mix up with these relations of incidents anything formal or serious would be to a certain extent out of place. This work is not intended as instructive, or as even suggestive; still, if in it some mention were not made of a most important problem connected with military educational establishments, it certainly would lack one feature, without which it would be destitute of what may be termed “backbone.” The problem to which we refer is the discipline necessary in any military educational establishment.

When we consider that a large military establishment devoted to educational purposes, such as that of Woolwich, turns out probably eighty officers per year; that these officers become our future captains, colonels, and generals; that to them are entrusted commands over hundreds and thousands of men according as they rise in rank; that on service the very lives even of men are entrusted to their keeping; that at all times the prospects and happiness, comfort and welfare of the men under their commands are in their hands, it is at once evident how great is their responsibility, and how serious become the every-day duties and acts of an officer.

In civil life a citizen, unless occupying a public position, has the responsibility only of his own family. He has to do his duty by probably half-a-dozen children, to educate and teach these, and to see them started in life. The officer has on his shoulders the responsibility of a soldier and an officer added to that of his duties as a citizen. He has to instruct, guide, and punish the soldier. He is a despot in a way; his word is law, and the prospects of a man may be ruined or made by an officer. Such being the condition of a soldier’s life, it is of importance that the early career of an officer—the period of his life when he receives impressions which he never forgets—should be under the most careful and thoughtful discipline. The impressions received in our youth are never entirely forgotten; and though individuality of character may force itself prominently forward through a covering of education, still such instances are invariably tinged by education and training. Thus, the discipline and teaching of cadets becomes a matter of the gravest importance when we value the effects thereof on an army. The character and conduct of an officer make themselves felt in a regiment, and even beyond the mere limits of a regiment, for the effects of influence are untold. Man is to a great extent an imitative animal, and when young he is much disposed to be a mere follower of others. He has his tastes, his likes and dislikes; but these are in the generality of cases due more to example than to any natural tendency in the individual to a particular line of pursuits. The importance, then, of instilling into the cadet those principles which are necessary to make the army a safe one cannot be overlooked; and we will therefore refer to the conditions prevailing at the time we write of, and compare them with those now in force at the same institution.

In former times a cadet could be punished by a corporal to the extent of a day’s arrest to his room, which entailed turning out to morning drill. If the corporal chose, he might order a cadet out to drill merely, without placing him in arrest. This punishment was given usually on account of unsteadiness in the ranks or in the class-rooms, for not being brushed clean on parade, or for any minor offence, according to the fancy of the corporal. This gave enormous powers to the corporals, and was one of the great strongholds of the fagging and bullying systems. A cadet’s life might be made a burthen to him by his being placed in arrest day after day offences which were “trumped-up” by a corporal. Two drills daring a week stopped a cadet’s leave, and if this occurred he of course had to remain at the Academy during Saturday and Sunday. Instances have taken place where a young cadet committed some offence against the then well-established but unwritten laws of fagging, and thus drew down on himself the odium of the old cadets, who agreed on every possible occasion to place this cadet in arrest. There was no difficulty about carrying out this persecution. A corporal on duty in the class-rooms was absolute; he could place any cadet in arrest for talking, for leaving his desk, for looking round, for making a noise, etc, etc, and one or other of these offences could without difficulty be fixed on any particular individual. It was not till near the end of the half-year that it was discovered that one particular cadet had been placed in arrest by corporals on duty on an average four times a week from the commencement of the half-year. For graver offences than those usually punished by the cadets holding the rank of corporal, the sentence might be arrest from three to seven days, confinement to the enclosure for any length of time, stoppage of leave, twenty-four or forty-eight hours in the “black hole,” as it was termed—a dark room, similar to a modern prison cell—rustication for a term, discharge from the Academy, or dismissal. The latter sentence was given only in very bad cases, as the cadet’s name was then registered, and he could never enter the army.

There was one cadet selected by the Governor as a senior under-officer. To him was entrusted the command of the cadets when no officer was present, and he was a sort of “go-between,” a kind of bat among men, a link between the officers and the cadets, to whom considerable responsibility attached. This senior under-officer was not necessarily the senior in the class. He was taken by selection, and sometimes great mistakes were made in taking an indifferent man when a better was available. This is, of course, the risk in all cases of selection, even when authorities are most anxious to be just, and to select the best man. If, however, so disastrous an element as favouritism should ever in the future creep into the army, and should thrive and prevail under the cloak of selecting men by merit, it will be more disastrous to discipline, more ruinous to the tenacity, as we may term it, of the army, than all the bribery or corruption that the most subtle enemy could bring to bear on the weak or vacillating. To be superseded in any way is, of course, annoying to every man. When it was money that enabled one man to go over the head of another, the supersession was accounted for. It was unpleasant, but the one man possessing money where the other did not was to a certain extent acceptable. If, however, a man, whom we feel to be our inferior, and whom our comrades know to be inferior, is selected, and placed over our head, and we are told that he is so elevated because he is a more clever man and a better soldier than we are, the selection by merit becomes one of the most dangerous and offensive elements in an army.

An amusing case of selection by supposed merit once came under my notice when a cadet. There was one prize which was given according to the judgment of the Instructor, and not by the result of any examination. It was a supposed selection by merit. There was a cadet whom we will term A, who was well acquainted with the subject for which the prize was given previous to his joining the Academy. Another cadet, B, knew nothing about this subject, and found great difficulty in working it. A and B were friends, so they worked together—that is, A did the work, and B copied from him. At the end of the term the Instructor, who was supposed to have daily seen each cadet’s work, examined the whole, and allotted the prize to B, and omitted all notice of A. Strange to say, some years afterwards, B was appointed to a lucrative post in consequence of having been distinguished as a cadet for his knowledge of the subject for which the prize was given, whilst A remained unknown and unrecognised, but soured and disgusted by an injustice which it was impossible to remedy without exposing his friend, and certainly damaging him.

The senior under-officer, however, in those days was selected, and was given considerable influence in consequence of his position. It was therefore considered a matter of great importance to be selected as the senior, and to have such a position of responsibility entrusted to one.

Corporals were selected from amongst the cadets almost entirely in consequence of their position in the Academy—in fact, by seniority. If the conduct of a cadet had been bad, he was passed over; but such passing over was considered very severe, and was seldom done.

The principal punisher of the cadets was the Captain of the Cadet Company, who investigated and tried cases that occurred during any part of the time that cadets were not in study. If any cadet committed a very grave offence he was then brought before the Governor, and received the heaviest punishment. For offences committed in academy, or during hours of study, cadets were amenable to two other authorities, viz, the Inspector and Assistant-Inspector, who used to visit the class-rooms each day, and see that all was going on as it should go.

There was in this system the great defect that the cadets were under several authorities, and not under one head, while the system of entrusting to corporals the power to inflict punishment on their juniors, without inquiry or without comment, opened the door to a system of tyranny that was too often practised with the worst effects.

Another drawback at that time was the great age of the majority of the professors and senior officers. To deal with young, energetic men, such as the greater number of the senior cadets were, required active and energetic men with judgment and discernment, and thus appointments to posts such as those referred to should not have been allotted merely as quiet sinecures, but should have been given to men capable of real work.

In such a Military College as Woolwich a strict discipline is absolutely necessary. The first lesson to teach a soldier is the importance of subordination and obedience. These essentials, it is true, were taught formerly, but there was too often favouritism shown, which made the cadets feel that the scales of justice were often unfairly weighted. To once allow any sign of a want of proper respect for authority to pass over with a light punishment is to sow the seeds of a most dangerous condition. Another necessary item in the training of the cadet is to instil into him a high sense of honour; to teach him that there are certain things which his position as a soldier renders it impossible for him to do without disgrace. At the Academy there seems to have ever been this conscientious feeling, even at times when the discipline and general tone of the establishment was not what it is now. A cadet who was placed in arrest was bound on honour not to break this arrest, and it was often amusing to see two or three cadets in different rooms with their doors open talking to one another and leaning out of the doorways just so far that their centre of gravity was within the room. If one cadet added “honour” to any statement he might make to another, it was always considered certain that this was true.

Considering that the course of education at the Academy rarely occupied more than three years, and that many cadets had their characters entirely formed whilst they were at the “shop,” it is evident that too much importance cannot be given to the training bestowed during this period. A military training college which is not maintained with the strictest discipline becomes a mere pandemonium, where young men soon endeavour to rival one another in acts of folly, and from which men are turned out unfit for command or for the service.

The defects formerly existing at Woolwich have been remedied; the almost irresponsible authority of the older cadets over the juniors does not now exist. The professors, instead of being octogenarians, are men in the prime of life, and are given the authority over the cadets which their position entitles them to; and the result is that with an active, intelligent, and distinguished soldier at the head, the Royal Military Academy at the present time may be fairly claimed as a model establishment.

Chapter Twelve.

My Failure at Examination.

My second half-year passed slowly, though it did not drag its slow length along as had my first half. I fagged for Snipson every morning, and was thus treated much as was a last-joined. In my own room and division I was scarcely fagged at all, and as Forester and Fenton used to talk to me, I enjoyed their society, especially after roll-call, when I knew Snipson could not send for me on some pretence or other.

More than once Forester had asked me how I was getting on in academy, and seemed interested as to my prospect of passing my probationary examination. This also was a question about which I was anxious, for, unless I passed a satisfactory examination, I might be sent away from the Academy just in the same manner as if I had failed at my first examination.

During my first half I had decidedly gone back; the pressure that had been used to prepare for entrance seemed to have tired me mentally, and the perpetual anxiety of being fagged and bullied seemed to paralyse my mind, so that I could learn little or nothing. It was much the same during my second half, although my nights were quieter; but I felt a sort of disinclination to commence work—a feeling I have since learnt is the great drawback to progress in anything.

Men mean to begin doing something at some future period; some day they will set to work and do this or learn that; they will give up this or that bad habit, or begin to learn this or that important subject; but the to-morrow on which they are going to begin never comes, for they drive off from day to day until it is too late, and they go to their graves with very good intentions, and meaning to have done something, but they never did it.

I drove off regularly working until within a few days of the examinations, and when I tried to learn various formulas I found that my mind seemed out of condition and unable to retain a recollection of what my eyes had seen.

It was some time after this that I discovered what seemed to me a new faculty of my mind—that was a capacity of shutting off, as it were, all external matters, and bringing my thoughts to bear on some problem which, with closed eyes or daring the darkness of night, I tried to work out. My first experience of this faculty was in connexion with a game of chess. Forester had been trying to solve a problem of “checkmate in three moves,” and I had been looking on. He had failed to solve the problem when the lights were taken away. As I lay in bed thinking over this problem, I pictured to myself the chess-board and men, and I then imagined a move of the knight, which had not been tried before. The new position of the men I seemed to see plainly. Now and then the picture appeared to fade from my imagination, and it was an effort to reproduce it. I, however, managed to do so, and in a short time moved another piece. I went over three moves again and again, and at length was certain I had found out the solution. Forester was asleep, so I said nothing; but as soon as I awoke in the morning I took the chess-board, arranged the men, and found that I had solved the problem, and could checkmate in the required number of moves.

On informing Forester of this he was much amused, and seemed to think it a very remarkable performance on my part. Having thus employed my mind on a problem, I tried to make various moves for the openings at chess, and found that by practice I could develop this faculty, and could make seven or eight moves on each side and remember the position of the men. It is impossible to describe the pleasure this sort of mental exercise gave me, for as long as I lay awake I could work out chess-moves; and as the efforts seemed to tire me, I often fell asleep in the midst of some complicated series of moves. The results of this proceeding did not then dawn upon me, for I was but a boy after all, and had really to learn how to think and how to use my brain.

The examinations came with their usual regularity, and the questions were unlucky for me. That there should be any luck in examinations may strike some readers as impossible; but those who have had any experience know how much luck there is, and that it is not always a sure test of the relative knowledge of individuals to judge by the results of their examination. When I say that the questions were unlucky, I mean that it appeared as if those particular questions had been selected which referred to problems I had not studied.

As an example:—On one occasion I saw the mathematical master looking at a book and copying something from it. I saw the page was 210. On returning to my seat, I told the cadet next me that I had seen this, and that we should probably be required to work out the formula on page 210.

“Perhaps it may be the formula on page 211,” said my neighbour. “We will toss up, and see which it is—heads 210, tails 211.” It came heads, so we in joke said we knew it would be this formula.

I must own I had so little faith in what I had asserted that I learnt only superficially problem page 210, and doubt whether I could have worked it out. When, however, the examination questions were given out, I saw a very large number of marks were allotted to the problem on page 211, and this problem I had not worked up. After the examination, however, the cadet next me told me he had learnt both problems well, and expected full marks for this question. Now, perhaps I ought to have done the same, and learnt both problems, but I had devoted my time to some twenty others, all of which I knew well, and not one of which were asked.

It has often occurred to me that a different system of examination might be adopted to that now practised, in order to avoid this luck, and also to find out the extent of the knowledge of an individual on any subject.

At present a series of questions are asked, these being some ten or twelve in number, and they are supposed to take in every branch of the subject. The individual examined answers these, and these answers are limited to the questions or inquiries made. The amount of knowledge which any one may possess beyond the questions put is not ascertained, and thus the full extent of one person’s knowledge may have been reached by the questions, and only half the knowledge of another person who may have done at the examination exactly the same. To draw out the knowledge of a person at an examination, the safest way is to give far more questions in a paper than it is possible the best man can in the time answer; then by the amount of work done a fairer estimate can be formed of the relative knowledge of individuals than if only six or seven questions are given, and where, consequently, luck has a great deal to do with the results.

I was certain I had done badly in mathematics at the examination, and this was the subject that counted most; but I was not aware how badly I had done till the result of the examination was made known, when I found I was last but one, and had gained only four in the subject.

Now that I believed it was too late I was ready to stamp with rage at my folly in not having worked harder. I felt I had in me certain powers which had not been yet fully called out. It seemed that I was again sinking back into the condition I occupied at Hostler’s, and I was looked on by my own batch as very stupid. The examination I had failed to pass was, I understood, my probationary, and that therefore I should now be sent away from the Academy. It turned out, however, that because I had not joined with the remainder of my batch, and had thus been absent several weeks, I was allowed another chance and given another half-year’s trial at the Academy.

I was sent for to the Inspector’s office and briefly informed of this fact in a dry, official manner, an intimation being added that unless I worked very hard I was not likely to remain beyond the next term as a cadet at the Royal Military Academy.

I was determined that next term I would work hard and try to recover my position, and it being my third half-year I expected I should not have any fagging, and consequently should have plenty of time for working out of study hours.

Forester had passed his examination well and was fourth of his batch, and would next half be down in the Arsenal with what was termed the “practical class.” This practical class learnt all the practical work connected with field works, military bridges, military surveying, etc, and were distinguished from the other cadets by wearing epaulettes with bullion about an inch long. The practical class rarely came to the upper Academy, their barracks being down in the Arsenal. Once a month for muster, however, they were marched up to the Academy and were the envy and admiration of the younger cadets.

Snipson had failed to qualify for the practical class, and would therefore remain one more half-year at the Academy, when he would have to leave if he did not then pass into the practical class.

On my return home I had to break the intelligence to my father that I had been unsuccessful at my examination, but should have another chance for my probationary. He took the news very quietly, and told me he thought that, with the amount of fagging and bullying that was going on, it was wonderful how any cadets managed to pass their examinations at all.

During my vacation I used to regularly work every morning before breakfast at mathematics, and at night I tried to work out various problems in geometry just in the same manner as I had solved chess puzzles, and I found I could manage this performance very well. I thus established a sort of test for myself; for if I could in my mind work through a problem, I was certain I knew it, and if I could not, I soon found out where I broke down.

I used to practise also raising x + y to various powers without opening my eyes thus: (x + y) to the power of six and (x+y) to the power of eight, and so on. I found that the practice of doing this gave me a sort of extra power, and I could soon multiply any two figures by two figures in my head and obtain correct results.

From commencing such experiments as the best means for qualifying myself for future examinations, I gradually grew to like the work, and in a short time preferred working out some equation or geometrical problem to reading a dull book.

After-experience taught me that a man never does anything so well as that for which he has a liking, and as a rule we dislike those things which we know little or nothing of, or which we do badly. We grow to like any subject very often by learning it, and gradually gaining efficiency in it, and we thus are often impelled to proceed until we are surprised, on comparing with others, to find how much we have learnt in a certain time.

My vacation passed very quickly, for I was happy at home, and having always some work on hand, I was never thoroughly idle, nor did I ever experience that most disagreeable of states, etc, “How ever was I to pass the time?”

On rejoining the Academy for my third half-year, I felt very much more at my ease than I had done on the former occasions. I expected that I should have no fagging, and should do very much as I liked. There were two old cadets in my room, the head being a corporal named Woodville, and the second a cadet named Jamieson, who was only one half my senior. They were both very nice fellows, and Woodville was celebrated as a runner for long distances, he having run a mile in four minutes and fifty seconds. I had grown very much during the past year, and had improved altogether in health and strength, and found also that I could run better than when I had won my hundred and twenty yards’ race. I was still supposed to be the best short distance runner at the shop, though there were one or two who were almost equal to me.

Upon the last-joined cadets coming to the Academy, which they did the day after the rest of us had joined, they had all to pass through nearly the same ordeal that I had. Hats were smashed on entering the hall, and several new plots were started to make the cadets sharp.

One of the favourite tricks to play on a last-joined was to fill one of the tin basins with water, to open the door about afoot, and place the basin on the top of the door, then to call a neux from outside, and tell him to come to the room. The neux, of course, pushed open the door and let the basin fall on his head or back, he getting a good ducking.

This invention was very popular for some time, but all the last-joined soon heard of it, and became cautious, and either entered the doorway without opening the door any wider than it was at the time it supported the basin, or they pushed the door open from a distance.

Another amusement, which also was soon worn out, was to heat the poker, and then rest it against the handle of the door till the handle got quite hot, then to shut the door and watch from the window for cadets to pass. As soon as a last-joined could be seen, he was told to come round to the room, and naturally he took hold of the handle to open the door. The cadets on the inside of the door held fast, so that the door could not be opened. The result was that the victim burnt his hand, for at first he could not tell the handle was hot, and, never suspecting such a thing, probably fancied that the handle was very cold instead of being as it was, very hot. Any way, nearly every cadet burnt his hand who came to the door, and this was considered an excellent joke by the cadets in the room.

At that time bullying was at its height at the Academy, and I heard of various things being done which amounted to the grossest cruelty. One of these was nearly causing the death of a cadet, and exposed to the authorities to what an extent cruelty was carried.

An old cadet used to amuse himself by placing a stool upside down on the top of another stool. He then made a cadet climb onto the top of the second stool, and stand balanced on two legs of the stool. When the cadet was thus standing balancing himself, the old cadet kicked away the under stool, and brought the neux down heavily on the top of the stools.

This proceeding was much admired by Snipson, who was again in the Towers, and occupying his old room, and I heard that a cadet had been much hurt by falling on the upturned leg of one of the stools, on which he had been made to stand by Snipson. The cadet had to be taken to hospital, and was considered for some time in danger.

During the time this cadet was in hospital, Snipson ceased his practices of bullying, and was so very civil to the neux that was hurt that he succeeded in obtaining from him a promise that the authorities should not know by what means he had become hurt.

This matter was generally known among the cadets, but so bad a feeling was then prevalent at the Academy that Snipson was not condemned by the other cadets, nor did the practice referred to at all decrease.

It happened that at the dinner-squad to which I belonged there was a corporal who was a very quiet, steady fellow, and who disliked bullying. The subject of Snipson’s neux having been injured was mentioned at the squad, and I was asked if I had not once been Snipson’s fag. I replied that I had, and that he was one of the greatest bullies in the Academy.

It happened that this remark of mine came by some means to be retailed to Snipson, and led to an affair which must be described in detail.

Two or three days after the conversation at the dinner-squad, Snipson called me as we came out from morning study, and told me to go to his room after parade.

To be told to go to an old cadet’s room was usually understood to mean that a thrashing was to be administered for some cause or other. I could not recall anything I had done, for I had entirely forgotten the remark I had made at the dinner-table, and I fancied that Snipson might want to fag me for something in order to show he could fag a third-half cadet.

When I was broken off drill I went to Snipson’s room in the Towers, where I found Snipson standing by his window.

On my entering the room he said,—“Shut the door and turn the key!” I did so, and then saw that Snipson looked pale with rage, and that something unpleasant was in store for me.

The room in which we were was not more than about ten feet square; the window, like all others at the Academy, was guarded by iron cross-bars, and the furniture of the room consisted of two stools, a small table, a fender and poker, and a bed. Snipson was at that time nearly two years and a half my senior, and was much taller and stouter than I was. He had, however, an awkward way about him, and was not given to any muscle-developing games, such as cricket, football, or rackets.

As soon as I had locked the door Snipson said,—

“Look here, Shepard; you are a young blackguard, and I’m going to lick you! What do you mean by telling lies about me?”

“I have told no lies about you,” I said. “You told the fellows at your squad that I was one of the greatest bullies at the shop, so it’s no use your telling another lie to save yourself a licking?” I was taken aback at this remark, for I now remembered what I had said at the dinner-table about his being a bully. I could not, however, see how this remark could be turned into a lie, for there was no doubt about the fact of Snipson being one of the greatest bullies at the Academy; but I did not know how to argue so as to own to having called him a bully, and yet to show I was not guilty of falsehood.

“You see you’re caught?” said Snipson; “so now just put one of those stools on the other!” I hesitated a moment, and said,—“I remember saying you were a bully, but I didn’t think you would mind that, and I don’t call that a lie.”

“Ah, now you acknowledge saying what you before denied! That’s three lies you’ve told since you have been here! Now, get onto the top of that uppermost stool?”

So great had been the influence of the authority of old-cadetism on me that I obeyed Snipson’s orders, and with some difficulty climbed to the top of the stool. In an instant Snipson kicked over the lower stool, and I fell heavily on my side from a height of about five feet, the leg of the stool striking me on the shin.

Before I could recover myself, and when the pain from the blow I had received was gradually spreading, as it were, over my whole body, Snipson, who was grinning maliciously, said,—

“Put the stools in order and up again! Look sharp!” he shouted, as I hesitated to obey.

“I won’t get up again?” I said. “I may be injured seriously.”

“Then take that!” said Snipson, as he struck me with his clenched fist on the side of the head.

In an instant all fear of old cadets, of fagging, of corporals, and of trials by the seniors left me; and I remembered only Snipson’s repeated acts of cruelty to me when I first joined, his general sneering and self-sufficient manner, and his sneaking conduct relative to the neux he had so seriously injured by the very same proceeding that he was now practising on me. These thoughts flashed, as it were, over my mind like an electric message along a wire, and before Snipson could repeat his blow I caught him a fair shoulder-hit at a well-judged distance, and knocked him completely off his legs against his bed. If I had been given time to reflect after striking this blow, I should probably have taken any licking Snipson might have given me quietly; but I was not given time, for he jumped up and exclaimed,—

“I’ll half kill you for that!” and rushed at me, trying to close with me.

I believed that from his greater size and weight I should soon have got the worst of a close encounter, so I did not give him a chance of doing so, but met him with a right and left, which were delivered with all the force I had gained in hitting under Howard’s instruction, and driven by the additional energy derived from my long endurance of bullying. Snipson went down again like a nine-pin, and I now knew I could thrash him in fair fight; but I did not then know how great a coward he was, and how malicious he could be; but I soon found out my danger. Instead of getting up at once and again rushing at me, Snipson lay for a few seconds where he had fallen, and looked round the room. Suddenly he sprang up and made a dash at the fireplace, and seized the poker. He turned towards me, and I saw from his look that my life was in danger.

“Now it’s my turn?” he hissed, as he came round the table towards me, the poker held ready to strike.

In such positions as mine then was there sometimes comes to us a bright idea, which answers the purpose at the time, but which, when thought of in cooler moments, seems most unlikely to have been of any use, as it could be so easily seen through. The conditions, however, of excitement often induce a state quite unfit for calm reasoning, and most unexpected results are then produced which appear afterwards to be absurd.

As Snipson was coming towards me, with his poker ready to strike me, his back was towards the door, which, as I said before, was locked, and by which consequently no one could enter. I, however, looked over Snipson’s shoulder, and said, “Hullo, Woodville! you are just in time.”

Snipson instantly turned his head to see whether any one was there, and at the same moment I sprang on him, seized the wrist that held the poker, and, throwing my right arm round his neck, tripped him up, when we both fell on the floor, I being uppermost. In the struggle the poker had fallen out of Snipson’s hand, and I instantly gained possession of it, and, jumping on my feet, stood over Snipson, who now did not attempt to rise, but in a half-conciliatory, half-threatening tone, said, “Now you’d better mind what you are about, for the old cadets will give you an awful licking for this!”

“If you tell the old cadets that I hit you,” I said, “I’ll go straight to the Governor, and tell him it was you who injured your neux, and nearly killed him, and I’ll report that you tried to hit me with a poker.”

Saying this, I unlocked the door and rushed out of the room, and went to my own, which I luckily found empty. I closed the door and sat down to consider what I had better do.

I had heard that, shortly before I joined the Academy, a neux had struck an old cadet, and had in consequence been tried by a sort of court-martial by the old cadets, and had been severely thrashed. Not content with this, the body corporate of the old cadets had ordered that no neux should speak to the culprit, and, in addition, he was daily placed in arrest and turned out to drill.

The neux could not stand this ordeal, and ran away from the Academy to his friends. An inquiry into the matter afterwards took place, but a case of cruelty could not be brought home to any particular individual, and the cadet’s friends not having any interest, the affair was dropped. I anticipated that some such treatment would be meted out to me, for, in spite of Snipson’s proceedings, I knew that the offence of striking an old cadet was looked on as so heinous, that no extenuating circumstances would be allowed to outweigh the crime. My threat to report Snipson I did not intend to carry out, but made it with the hope that it would prevent him from telling the old cadets that I had knocked him down. After some minutes’ consideration I went off to D’Arcy’s room to tell him all about the fight, and consult as to what should be done.

When I described to D’Arcy how I had knocked Snipson down, and had escaped his attack on me with the poker, he was delighted. He told me also that the old cadets detested Snipson, and he did not believe they would back him up if he told them what I had done. “I’ll bet any money,” said D’Arcy, “that unless Snipson goes at once now he is in a rage, and tells some of the seniors, he won’t say a word about it.”

“Why not?” I inquired.

“Well, because he knows for your own sake that you won’t say anything, and he would probably be ashamed to own that a fellow so much smaller than he is gave him a licking. I’d advise you to keep quiet, and don’t tell anybody else.”

When we went into dinner I saw Snipson, who showed no signs of the recent set-to; he took no notice of me, and I could tell that as yet he had made no mention to the old cadets of my performance. The day also passed, and the next, without anything occurring, and I began to think Snipson meant to keep quiet; but on the following morning, after breakfast, Fenton, on returning to our room, said, “So Snipson gave you a thrashing the other day?”

I was so taken aback by this remark that I said, “Who told you so?”

“Snipson did,” replied Fenton. “He said you had been cheeky about him, and he had you over and licked you. He said you seemed disposed to show fight, but he soon took that out of you.”

I listened with amazement at this speech of Fenton’s; it was my first experience of the gross misrepresentation of facts which was possible when only two people were present, and I was astonished and amused at the absurdity of the report. It was my first experience of the wilful perversion of truth possible when two persons were together without witnesses. I wish it had been my last. There will probably be many among the readers of this book who have themselves had similar experiences, for, if they have not, their career must have been singularly limited and lucky. There are men—ay, and women too—who from an inability to represent facts correctly, or from interested motives, or from vanity, will misrepresent occurrencies and make out that black was white, and yes, no. There are men and women whom it is dangerous to speak to or be with without witnesses, and we believe that when all secrets are revealed it will be found that more perjury has been committed in connexion with tête-à-tête interviews than with any other event in life, from the days of Joseph to the present time.

During the day D’Arcy came to me, and laughed immensely as he told me that Snipson had told the old cadets what a licking he had given me. “He said you tried to escape from the room, but he locked the door and just polished you off. You are quite certain,” said D’Arcy, “that everything occurred as you told me?”

“Quite,” I replied, “and Snipson is a liar!”

“I believe you,” replied D’Arcy; “but you had better keep quiet, and you will now escape being thrashed by the old cadets, which is no joke, I can tell you.”

I followed d’Arcy’s advice, and did not even deny that I had been thrashed by Snipson, although I could not help adding, on one or two occasions, that “I should not mind such a licking being repeated.”

This was my last adventure with Snipson, who had been a thorn in my side since my first joining the Academy. As, however, it was not the last that I knew of his career, I may here mention what I knew of his future, and then expunge his name from these pages.

Before the end of the half-year Snipson was found drunk by the officer on duty. As he had been nearly four years at the Academy, and had but little chance of qualifying, it was intimated to his friends that they had better withdraw him from the Academy. Following this hint, Snipson suddenly disappeared, and his name was soon forgotten where it had once been a terror to all last-joined.

Twenty years after the events related in this book I was walking down Oxford Street when I saw coming towards me a man with a seedy, threadbare frock-coat, the arms of which were much too short for the wearer, and the collar of which came too high. The coat had evidently previously graced the form of another wearer, and when its youthful beauties had faded had become the property of its present owner. A portion of shirt was visible, and plainly indicated that it had been far too long absent from the washerwoman. A hat bent and without gloss surmounted a red face, with eyes somewhat like those of a crying child, and a beard of about four days’ growth. Brown trowsers, creased and frayed, stained and patched, hung over a pair of split, misshapen shoes, and completed the attire of a man whose type is now and then seen in London.

Something about the man at once attracted me, and I thus noted his appearance. The face, though altered, and indicating the effect of drink, I yet recognised; and as the man walked past me and turned his head so as to avoid showing me his face, I knew this wretched failure of a man was my once bully, Snipson. He had failed as a cadet and he had failed as a man; and from his appearance it was evident he had not done what some men do, who in their young days have failed, etc, begin again at the bottom of the ladder, and by steady work endeavour to recover, themselves; but he was always scheming to recover himself by one grand coup, and was always being disappointed.

I turned round quickly after I had passed Snipson, and saw him peeping at me from a shop-door. When he caught my eye he turned and walked on with an air and style that showed he had not yet suffered enough to make him sensible of his own defects, nor was he yet in a state deserving of sympathy.

One of the singular and yet universal peculiarities in the character of such men as Snipson is, that they assert, and evidently believe, that their unfortunate state is in no manner due to any fault or failing of their own. They can always assure you that if this man had not done so-and-so, or that man had not failed them in the most unexpected way, they would have been all right. They are themselves never wrong; they don’t ever admit a mistake; they are convinced of their own cleverness, and satisfied with their own knowledge. Former companions who have “got on” in life they speak of as “lucky beggars,” and have usually something to say in disparagement of such men, as a sort of attempt to drag down the successful to their own low level. They rarely, if ever, admit any merit or skill in others, and attribute all that others may win, by hard work and thought, to “luck,” and all their own failures to “bad luck.” This was Snipson’s state twenty years after he was a bully—idle and untruthful as a gentleman cadet.

Chapter Thirteen.

Our Row at the Races.

During this my third half-year there were some races by the officers on Woolwich Common, to which the cadets were given leave to go, and a tent was provided for us, in which we had some light refreshment, such as beer and bread and cheese. Now between what is usually termed the “louts” and the schoolboys in any good school in any part of England there seems a natural antagonism, and fights not unusually take place, brought on as much by the insult of the lout as by the natural pugnaciousness of the English well-bred boy. In former times at Woolwich this feeling of antagonism was by no means extinct, for as the cadets marched down the Common to the Arsenal, or out in the country, it was generally found that a number of louts would assemble and hoot them, mewing like cats and calling out “puss”—the term cadet being probably assumed by the unwashed to be an extension of “cat.”

To English boys such proceedings were most offensive and irritating, and more than once the louts had experienced somewhat rough treatment at the hands of cadets whom they had hooted and mocked in the manner described, and once or twice there had been kind of rough-and-tumble fights on the Common between the louts and the cadets.

On the evening after the races, several cadets were in their tent and were laughing and talking, when some louts assembled outside, and commenced imitating the laughter and then calling, “Puss! puss!” Such a challenge was not long in being accepted by the cadets, who suddenly dashed out of the tent and charged about twenty louts, who were assembled within a dozen yards of us. On the party of cadets rushing out (of which I was one) the louts took to their heels, but their clumsy efforts to run were useless, and we soon closed with them, when they turned and showed fight. I soon found myself engaged with a heavy-fisted big youth, who had as much idea of fighting as an ox, but who was heavy and strong. I had plenty to do to guard his blows, and shortly sent him sprawling, when two other louts came on me at once. I dodged and struck for some time, but should soon have got the worst of the fight if D’Arcy had not come to my aid, when the two bolted, as had most of the others.

Seeing the enemy in full retreat we gave up the pursuit and returned to our tent, and had just commenced to pack up the things we had used, when some stones were hurled at the tent, and some came in by the door. On looking out we saw that, instead of twenty louts who had at first appeared, there were now above a hundred, some of them being full-grown men. They were shouting at us, and mewing, and calling on us to come out. As there were not two dozen cadets in our tent, it was decided that I, being a fast runner, should run to the cadets’ barracks and call for reinforcements. This was a service of some danger, for we were almost surrounded by the enemy; but it was agreed upon to threaten a charge in the front of the tent, and when the enemy assembled there to resist us, I was to creep under the canvas and make a dash to the lodge.

The plan succeeded very well. All the louts gathered in front of our tent, and I had crept out and was on my legs and well away before I was seen; then, however, there was a yell, and shouts of “Catch him?”

“Stop him!” whilst about a dozen men and boys gave chase to me.

The distance from the tent to the lodge was about 300 yards, and as I had about thirty yards’ start of my pursuers, I knew that I could easily win my race and reach the lodge, provided it had been a matter of fair running; but the shouts of my pursuers attracted the attention of some other louts who were between me and the lodge, and who I saw were trying to intercept me. I made straight at them, however, and, when close, charged at the biggest. As I expected, he gave way and tried to trip me up. By giving a jump I avoided his leg, continued my course, and entered the Academy grounds in safety.

The news that there was a row had spread over the Academy, and fifty or sixty cadets were already provided with sticks or belts, and had assembled at the back of the Academy, ready to go to the rescue. I joined these, and we all immediately started to the rescue, and arrived only just in time, for the louts, finding they were about ten to one, had got very plucky, and were going to pull the tent down.

We charged down on the enemy, who, seeing our numbers were nearly equal to their own, turned and ran. We gave chase, and, overtaking some of them, administered a good thrashing.

By this time a body of police had come on the scene, and seeming to think it their duty to protect the louts, at once seized two or three of the smallest cadets, and were going to carry them off, when “To the rescue!” was shouted, and we charged on the police. The Peelers drew their truncheons and used them freely, but we were too many for them, and succeeded in recovering the prisoners. Not wishing to have a row with the police, who, we considered, ought to have protected us, we retreated rapidly to the enclosure of the Academy, and dispersed to our various rooms.

In about ten minutes after our entrance a check-roll was called by the officer on duty, and we were all confined to barracks in consequence of the row.

It happened that the senior under-officer had been in the tent from the first commencement of the row, and on entering the Academy he had at once reported to the officer on duty what had happened, and had told him the provocation had been given by the louts. He also said that we could scarcely avoid doing what we had done. Shortly after we had entered the grounds an inspector of police, who had received from his men their account of the row, came to the officer on duty and said several of his men had been seriously hurt, and that they wished for an opportunity of recognising the ringleaders of the party. To give this opportunity, a parade of the whole cadet company was ordered for the following morning at half-past eleven.

We were none of us aware of the importance of the row till we saw in the papers of the following morning a paragraph headed: “Disgraceful Riot at Woolwich by the Gentlemen Cadets!” We then read how the cadets had been drinking in a tent, and had suddenly commenced an unprovoked attack on some boys and women, had pelted them with stones, and had then assaulted and seriously injured the police who had endeavoured to protect the people. “It was hoped,” the article continued, “that the cadets would receive such punishment as their disgraceful conduct deserved.”

We were all very angry at this paragraph in the papers, because we knew how much the outside public is led by such statements, and as they had no means of judging of the truth of the report, they would probably believe what was asserted.

On the following morning, at half-past eleven, the whole of the cadets fell in on parade, and with them, and scattered here and there, were twenty-five cadets of the practical class, all of whom had been in study at the Arsenal during the row. The police assembled on the right of the line, and slowly examined each cadet, with a view to swearing to his identity. The first cadet selected was one of the practical class, who had a slightly black eye, which he had received from a blow by a racket-ball. He was fallen out, and took his station on the right of the line. Two other cadets, who had been well in the thick of the fight, were next picked out, then another cadet of the practical class. Altogether, twenty-five cadets were picked out as ringleaders, and sworn to individually by the police as those who had struck them and had taken part in the row.

We all now saw the plot that our captain had laid for the police. He suspected they were trying to make out a case against us, and so sprinkled the practical class among the others. The police, having declared that they recognised each of the cadets selected as those who had struck them, had committed themselves, for if they had made such a mistake in identity in five cases, which could be proved, it cast doubt upon the evidence in other cases, which were of a doubtful nature.

We were all confined to barracks for a week after this row, and were daily expecting some cadets would be discharged, but finally it ended in the police withdrawing their charge, in consequence, as we heard, of their mistakes relative to the practical class having become known to them.

Chapter Fourteen.

I Pass my Examination Well.

During this my third half-year I had been steadily working in academy, and every night when in bed, and when the room was quiet and dark, I used to think over and try to work out various problems that I had done daring the day. I found that by concentrating my thoughts on these subjects I impressed them on my mind, and on the following morning could work them out very easily on paper. I found that by this means I could do many problems that had formerly seemed so complicated, that I had failed over and over again, and I hoped that I should find the benefit of this process by-and-by.

Woodville more than once had told me that I ought to work hard, as this was my last chance for my probationary; but he was not aware that when he was asleep I was training my brain to think, which, after all, is the great object of all learning or teaching.

In our public schools and colleges we give too much attention to what is called “learning” different subjects, this “learning” being, in the majority of cases, merely cramming our minds with the facts discovered and the conclusions arrived at by those who have preceded us, and who have written what they knew. We rarely endeavour even to so cultivate the mind as to make it competent to judge of the merits of a novelty, for this calls for a mental exertion that few persons ever attempt. It is far easier to accept what is submitted to us without question than it is to investigate and think out a case which no one has previously thought out, and on which consequently we have no guide which we can follow.

The system of cramming for examinations which was prevalent in former times, and has become even more common in the present day, is, we believe, far more detrimental to the mind than it is beneficial. Also we believe that calm reasoning is not certain to be brought out by such examinations as are usually given to students, so that, after all, the power of intellect is, we believe, not likely to be accurately tested by a mere examination.

I stood last but one in my batch—a fact due to my having done so very badly in mathematics and geometry at the last two examinations. In drawing I was very good, but this subject counted very little compared to the two in which I was very bad, so that what I needed was more knowledge of mathematics.

Time passed on very rapidly and very pleasantly. Now that Snipson had left the Academy I had no one ever to fag for or to fear; and it seemed that his departure had been the signal for the commencement of a better tone among the cadets. There was, I heard from the last-joined, less bullying than there had been whilst Snipson was present, and altogether his departure was hailed with pleasure. The examinations commenced, and I screwed myself up to the mark to see whether I was to pass my probationary and remain at the Academy, or be sent away to seek some other career in life.

We had three days for our examination in mathematics and geometry, and I was most careful over my work, reading over my questions deliberately and slowly, and thinking them out before putting pen to paper. As I sat for some time with my eyes shut, trying to recall a somewhat lengthy formula in trigonometry, the examiner saw me, and, supposing I was asleep, called out, “Mr Shepard, you had better wake up and attend to your paper; you cannot afford to sleep!”

I was not much pleased at this remark, for there is always in the mind of all those who are examined an impression that examiners may be prejudiced, and may not allot marks fairly. Such an idea is a very pleasant one to those who fail at an examination, and who thus satisfy their vanity by trying to believe that they deserved well, but were marked badly because the examiner was unfair. I fancied that, because I was supposed to be asleep, especial sharpness would be used in marking me—an idea I have since had reason to know was utterly erroneous, for the Academy was, of all places, the most rigid as regards the fairness with which marks were allotted, and the greatest impartiality was shown by those in whose hands the marking was left.

After each examination-attendance, I looked over the paper out of academy, and compared my answers and working with the book, and I came to the conclusion that I had done remarkably well, and therefore hoped I should be safe to get a satisfactory return for my probationary.

I waited with the greatest anxiety for the result of the examination to be made known, and could scarcely sleep at night for thinking what I should say at home in case I were span. It would, I knew, annoy my father very much, and I should be considered very stupid by probably far more stupid people than I was.

At length the morning came when the result of our mathematical examination was to be made known, and I went into academy with a feeling of dogged determination not to show any sign, no matter what the result might be. I fancied that the result would be satisfactory, as far as I was concerned, because, had it been unfavourable, I should have been sent for to the Inspector’s office, and told to pack up and be off.

We all took our seats and were ready with pencil and paper to copy off the marks as they were read out. The names of the cadets were read out in the order in which they had passed, so that as each name came the excitement as to who would be the next was very great. I was thirty-eighth in the class, out of thirty-nine, but I hoped I should take some places and probably reach to about twenty-fifth of the class, and next half (if I remained at the Academy) I hoped to get on better. As the examiner read out the first name there was no surprise; the cadet who was first was a very good mathematician, who at sixteen had joined the Academy, knowing trigonometry, mechanics, projectiles, and the calculus; he had been pushed on in consequence of his knowledge, and we knew he was almost certain to be first. The second, third, fourth, and fifth cadets were also very good mathematicians, and were known to be tolerably certain of standing high. When the examiner said “Sixth,” he waited for some seconds, whilst we listened attentively, and he then repeated “Sixth, Mr Shepard—235 marks, decimal 87.”

At this announcement all the cadets looked round at me with surprise; it was almost assumed that, judging from my former examinations, I should have great difficulty in passing at all, that is in getting half-marks; when, then, I suddenly shot out from last but one to sixth, and gained so high a decimal as 87, it was like an outsider almost winning the Derby.

There were one or two surprises and several disappointments as the result of the examination was read out, and some cadets did not hesitate to proclaim that it was “a chowse.”

I was quite satisfied, and was glad to find that I had not overrated what I had done at the examination. I little suspected then that my success was likely to place me in a very unpleasant position, which was, perhaps, due in a measure to another cause which I must here relate.

It happened that, during the half-year, I was one morning in study when a cadet in the first row, who used to be generally up to some trick, called my name during the time the corporal on duty was absent. I looked up from my drawing and immediately a ball of bread, made out of the crumb of a roll, was thrown at me. I caught the ball and instantly threw it back, but just as the ball was leaving my hand the door opened and the Inspector appeared. The cadet at whom I had thrown the ball failed to catch it, and the ball struck the door within a foot of the Inspector’s head.

I was immediately placed in arrest, and the next day was taken before the Governor charged with throwing a ball at the Inspector. Luckily the cadet who had thrown the ball to me was available as evidence, and our defence was that we had used the bread to clean our drawings, and had thrown it to one another instead of carrying it from one part of the class-room to another. This defence cleared me in the Governor’s mind from the charge of throwing at the Inspector, but I got seven days’ arrest for creating a disturbance in academy.

The fact of my having suddenly come out as a good mathematician, when hitherto I had shown only as a muff, was a surprise to every one, even to the master himself; but I was completely taken aback when I was sent for to the Inspector’s office, and told that there was a strong suspicion against me of having fudged at my examination.

I indignantly denied the charge, and said that in consequence of its being my probationary examination I had worked very hard to pass, and had quite expected to get a good decimal.

“We have already ascertained,” said the Inspector, “that you have not worked in your room, you rarely studied out of academy, and the examiner found you asleep during examination, so that it seems impossible you could by fair means obtain .8, which you have done.”

“It is very hard on me,” I replied, “to be accused of fudging, when I give you my word of honour I have not fudged, merely because I have done well.”

“We will give you the benefit of the doubt, Mr Shepard,” said the Inspector, with anything but a pleasant manner, and I left his office feeling that in his own mind he was confirmed I had fudged—the how or the means by which I had done so alone preventing him from proceeding with his charge.

Among the cadets of my class I was considered a martyr, for they accounted for my success by attributing it to “luck in the questions.” To me, however, the result was most important. First, it rendered my position at the Academy secure; and, secondly, it showed me that the system I had adopted for gaining a knowledge of mathematics and geometry was a sound one, and that I had a sort of key for the cultivation of the intellect. I now looked forward to my Academy career with hope and pleasure, and a feeling of ambition came upon me which is, perhaps, one of the greatest incentives to work that can be given to a young man.

When I joined the Academy I was a boy and felt like a boy, but the rough handling that I had gone through, and the experience I had gained during the eighteen months I had been at the Academy, had aged me beyond my years. I had also grown considerably, and looked older than I was, several persons putting me down as eighteen or nineteen years old, whereas I was not much past seventeen.

I returned home from the Academy for my vacation with much pleasure. I looked forward to the quiet rambles in the forest, the collecting specimens of natural history, and the general peaceful nature of the life there, as a pleasant change after Woolwich. I also felt some pride in going home after so successful an examination, for it was successful even for the Academy. I thought of the satisfaction I should have in meeting Howard and in telling him of the past half-year’s events. I plotted many amusements for the vacation, but determined to devote a certain amount of time to mathematics and gaining some knowledge of the subjects I should have to study next half.

I was beginning conic sections in the third half-year, and this subject I found was one that I could manage very well by thinking quietly over. I could, in imagination, make my section of the cone and get my co-ordinates very easily without pencil or paper; and more than once I hit off laws that I imagined at first were real discoveries, but I soon found out other men had long since discovered them. This fact, however, showed me that I was on the right road, and that the training of my mind must be going on satisfactorily.

Of all the schemes that I had proposed to carry out during the half-year not one had led in the least to prepare me for an event which for a considerable time produced much effect upon me.

I was much given to long rambles in the forest, and would often take a seat in some retired glen and dream the idle hours away. As I was sitting thus one day I heard some voices near me—one that of a female. I jumped up, surprised at so unusual a sound, for I was out of the regular beat of picnics, and then heard an altercation going on, evidently between a female and an unruly boy. Moving through the furze outside the glade I came suddenly on a young lady, who was trying to pull back a boy of about ten years old. The young lady was fair, and of middle height, and to me seemed quite lovely. She was dressed in a light summer dress, a straw hat, with a wreath of natural ivy round it, and a light-blue scarf. As I came near she said, “Walter, you stupid boy, I know it’s a viper, and it will sting you to death!”

“You donkey!” replied the youth, as he struggled to get free, “it’s only a common snake, and I want it to take to school next half.”

These remarks fully explained to me the cause of the dispute between the youth and the lady; and as the question was one of importance I at once jumped forward, and there saw a full-grown vicious-looking viper on the ground close to the boy. In an instant I struck it with my stick, and broke its back, and said, “I tell you what, youngster, before you call people donkeys you ought to know something about what you are talking of. That thing is a viper, and if you had touched it you would have been poisoned by its bite, and probably would have died.”

“Oh, but I thought it was only a snake!” said the youth, with that air of unmistakable self-satisfaction which at once indicates the unlicked cub.

“I told you it was a viper, Walter,” said the young lady in a conciliatory tone.

“Oh, but you know nothing about it,” replied the youth.

“The young lady knew better than you,” I said, “and you ought to be much obliged to her for having probably saved your life, instead of being as cheeky as you are. If you were my young brother, I’d soon teach you manners!”

The boy looked at me with an air of surprise, but seemed indisposed to make any reply, whilst the young lady thanked me for having killed the viper.

“You don’t remember me, Mr Shepard?” she then said; “I was quite a little girl when we last met, about five years ago, and I have only just returned from Brussels, where I was at school. I was staying with my uncle, General Holloway, near Ringwood, when you came over to fish.”

I then remembered that, during a short visit to General Holloway’s, there was a pretty little girl staying at the house, who used to play and sing very well. I was very bashful at the time, and for the first day or two did not get on with her; but after that we became great friends.

“Surely you are not Helen Stanley,” I said, “who used to sing to me at General Holloway’s?”

“Yes, I am,” she replied, “but I have grown very much since then, and so have you. I’ve heard so much of you, and of your success at Woolwich. What a splendid thing it must be to pass examinations, and to be a soldier too!”

“Rather hard work, though,” I replied. “No one knows till they have tried it what there is to go through.”

“Oh, but see how much it does for a young man! Why, see the young men about here how awkward they are, how clumsily they walk and stand; they are quite different from a soldier. I’m so glad to have met you; and it’s lucky for Walter’s sake I did so, or the viper would have stung him.”

Helen Stanley was at this time about eighteen; but she was older in manner and style than she was in years. It is useless to attempt to describe to the reader a person who attracts us, or who wields an influence over us—the mere detail description of complexion, colour of hair, and of eyes, shape of mouth and nose, giving to a third person no more idea of the individual than if we said nothing. I can only speak, then, of Miss Stanley as a young lady who to me seemed very pretty—whose hand it was a pleasure to touch on meeting—whose society was a pleasure, and who seemed to call up in me all the better parts of my nature. I had not been five minutes talking to her before I knew that she was one who would produce an influence on me in the future.

“How does it happen that you are here?” I inquired.

“Our carriage is in the road beyond, and aunt is there. I got out to walk with Walter, and to try and get some fern-roots. Come and see aunt; she wants to see you, and you have never come over to call.”

I strolled on with Miss Stanley and her young brother, whom I now saw looking at me with staring eyes and evident admiration. A gentleman cadet was in his eyes “somebody,” and he already seemed to regret his rudeness at our first meeting. A forest path led us out into the road, and we soon reached the carriage in which Mrs Holloway, or, as the country people styled her, “Mrs General Holloway,” was reclining, enjoying the view before her.

“Aunt,” said Miss Stanley, “whom do you think I’ve found in the forest?”

Mrs Holloway looked with an air of surprise, and I fancied of displeasure, at seeing me walking with her niece.

“I cannot imagine,” she replied. “Perhaps you had better introduce this gentleman to me.”

“Oh! aunt, can’t you guess? I thought you would know him at once! I did.”

Mrs Holloway looked at me for a few seconds, and shook her head, indicating her want of recognition.

“Why, don’t you remember Mr Shepard?” said Miss Stanley.

Mrs Holloway looked at me with a surprised air, then, holding out her hand, said, “What! is it possible that little Bob Shepard has in two years grown up to be you? What a splendid thing drill and going out in the world is for a boy! I should not have known you, Bob, or Mr Shepard—I ought to say Gentleman Cadet Shepard, perhaps. I’ve heard all about you, though—how you passed examinations that every one said you couldn’t pass, and how you have just succeeded at your last examination. Your friends must be very proud of you. But why have you not been over to see us?”

“I have only been home a few days,” I replied, “and have not been anywhere yet.”

“You must come over and stay with us a few days,” said Mrs Holloway. “Helen has no one to accompany her in her rides besides the groom, and she will be glad, I know, of your society; so we will let you know when to come. Can we drive you anywhere?”

“No, thank you,” I replied. “I am going home through the forest.”

“Good-bye, then, and don’t forget we shall expect you soon.”


The carriage drove off. I waved my hand, and then stood looking after the carriage—a new sphere in my life being thus opened to me.

I walked on through winding paths that led towards my home, thinking of the curious meeting with Miss Stanley, and of how charming she looked, and how pleasing her manner was. I had never before been much in young ladies’ society, for previous to my going to Hostler’s school I avoided girls, as I considered them a nuisance, and they made a practice of laughing at me because I was shy and very small. Three years, however, make a great difference in one’s views, especially when those three years come when we are fifteen years of age. At eighteen I was not the same person I was at fifteen. And now, as I walked home, I speculated on how long it would be before I was asked to the General’s, and should have an opportunity of again seeing Helen Stanley.

On my arrival home I was surprised to find that my aunt and sisters did not seem to appreciate Miss Stanley. She was “stuck up,” they said, and gave herself airs, because she had been to school abroad; but it was generally agreed that I should accept the invitation, as the General was a man of considerable influence.

“You must mind you don’t fall in love with Helen!” said one of my sisters. “She is an awful flirt.”

“That’s not likely,” I replied, with an assurance that I by no means felt, for I found my mind running on little else than the remarks made by Miss Stanley, and her image seemed always before me as I saw her when she reminded me of our former meeting.

Each day I now looked anxiously for a letter from the Heronry, as General Holloway’s house was called, and on the third after my interview with Miss Stanley a formal invitation came, asking me to stay a week at the Heronry, and asking if I could come on the following afternoon. The invitation was, of course, accepted, and on the following afternoon I arrived at the General’s, where I was received very kindly by my host and hostess, and by the fair Helen.

There are few things more flattering to a youth at the doubtful age at which I was, than to be treated as a man by a handsome girl. Helen Stanley never once in any way indicated that she thought me “young,” or anything but a man. I was “Mr Shepard” to her, and whether she meant to flatter me, or whether it was merely the natural agreeableness of her manner, I cannot say, but she had the knack of causing me to think better of myself than I had formerly done. She reminded me how quickly and successfully I had prepared for the Academy, and she compared my success with the failures of some other candidates for Woolwich whom she had known. More than once she had said how she envied me for being a man with such a splendid career before me in the army, either in the Artillery or Engineers, and that she was certain I should distinguish myself in the future.

It is not in the nature of man, especially of a very young one, or of woman either, to reason or criticise very closely the truth or foundation of flattery. We stretch many points to make us ready to believe there are grounds for what is said. I had been so unjustly abused by Snipson when his neux, that the conceit had been too much taken out of me, and I had lost too much of that self-possession which we all ought to possess in order to make way in the world. The flattery of Miss Stanley, therefore, came on me with all the charm of novelty, and as I thought over what she had said, I felt bound to acknowledge that praise was due to me for the manner in which I had passed through my hard trials at Hostler’s, had succeeded at my examinations, and stood the bullying of my first half-year at the Academy. Any way, it was most agreeable to be in the society of a young lady who seemed to think I deserved to be praised and commended for what I had done.

The first few days of my visit at the Heronry passed like a dream. I was as happy as a bird, but was fast drifting into love with Helen. She, however, seemed a very wise young lady, who could talk with me, sing with me, flirt with me, but apparently not be in love with me. I had myself made all sorts of desperate resolves. I should get my commission, distinguish myself in some way, and then propose for Helen. The details of our future life I had not worked out, nor did I consider that I had not calculated the future beyond the period at which I should be twenty-one. Although the time passed rapidly and agreeably, yet I knew I had learnt much in the first three days I was at the Heronry. I had begun a new study, etc, the investigation of the peculiarities and inconsistencies of the feminine mind.

At breakfast, on the fourth morning of my visit, Helen Stanley announced to the General that Charles would arrive that afternoon. I looked up surprised at this remark, for I had never heard of a “Charles,” and did not know whom he was. Seeing my look of curiosity, Miss Stanley said, “Charles is my cousin. He is at Oxford, and is coming here for a few days. He is very clever, I hear; so you two will get on well together, I hope.”

I instantly felt certain that cousin Charles and I should not get on well together, and I was most anxious to discover, if possible, whether there was any other relationship between Helen and cousin Charles besides that of cousinship. Miss Stanley, however, gave me no clue, and seemed to avoid being alone with me during the morning, so that I had no opportunity of learning anything except that cousin Charles was at Oxford and very clever.

At the expected time cousin Charles, whose surname I ascertained was also Stanley, arrived at the Heronry. I saw him get out of the vehicle he had driven in, and approach the house. From the experience I had gained of men during the past two years I could judge tolerably well of what a young man was by his appearance, and the instant I saw Charles Stanley I concluded that he was “a conceited prig.” I entered the drawing-room soon after his arrival, and was introduced to him as Gentleman Cadet Shepard. Stanley nearly closed his eyes as he looked at me for half a minute, and then held out two fingers to me to shake. I just touched his hand and then turned towards the window and looked out on the view, whilst I was estimating in my own mind the value and worthlessness of Mr Charles Stanley.

It was soon evident to me that Stanley was on very intimate terms with his cousin Helen, also that he admired her very much. I also became conscious that he was not favourably impressed with me, and I made up my mind that we should certainly not get on well during our visit.

At dinner that evening Stanley fired his first shot at me, and it certainly hit its mark, for I was made to look very small whilst he aired his knowledge before Helen Stanley.

I happened to mention that I had seen a hawk hovering over the poultry-yard in the afternoon, and I thought it possible that some young chicken might be carried off.

“By hawk,” said Stanley, “do you mean the ‘Tinnunculus alaudarius’ or the ‘Accipiter Nisus’?”

“I mean what we call here the kestrel,” I replied.

Stanley put his glass in his eye and looked at me, and said, “Dear me! I was told you were a very clever naturalist.”

“I don’t think natural history consists in giving long names to animals,” I said, “but in knowing their habits.”

“Indeed?” said Stanley. “But I am afraid you don’t learn much classics at Woolwich.”

“None after we enter,” I replied. “We then learn only useful things, and don’t cram our heads with pedantic knowledge.”

“I’m very sorry to see the youngsters of the present day so radical in their ideas,” said Stanley, addressing the General. “There is no training for a gentleman equal to a thorough classical education.”

“I don’t agree with you,” said the General. “Of course you Oxford men think there’s nothing like leather, but I would sooner have my son know French and German well, than Greek and Latin, and the latter would be more practically useful to him than the former; and as to a mathematical education, it is essential in the present day. I fancy that your great classics are usually men who live more in the past than for the present or future, and that won’t do now.”

“A man who is not a good classic is always making himself ridiculous because he is sure to make a false quantity, and his ignorance is seen by others.”

“Ah, that’s a sort of pedantry,” replied the General, “which is what I set my face against. Your classic belongs to a large school, and prides himself immensely on his knowledge. He only values men according to what he finds they know of classics. Now, this is a mistake. You will find that horse-jockeys and stablemen do the same. If you make a remark to a horsey man, showing you are not up in horse slang, he at once sets you down as a muff, for he has only one standard of excellence, viz, knowledge of horses, just as you have of classics. Just now you took it out of Shepard there about the Latin names of hawks, and then you seemed to think that knowing these names made a naturalist. This I don’t agree to. Now, I’d back Shepard to tell quicker than you a summer from a winter cage when he saw one.”

“I think I could tell that,” replied Stanley.

“How?” inquired the General.

“Well, the winter cage ought to be warmer and hung on the sunny side of the house, and perhaps covered with something to keep the cold wind out.”

A shout of laughter from the General, in which both I and Miss Stanley joined, interrupted Stanley in his remarks. He looked annoyed and surprised, and seemed waiting for an explanation.

“There!” said the General, “you have done worse than make a false quantity; you have shown you know nothing of what I meant. You must know that ‘a cage’ means in the forest a squirrel’s nest, and that the squirrel makes a summer and a winter cage—one of sticks, the other of moss.”

We had several other little “passages of arms” during dinner, much, I fancied, to the amusement of Helen Stanley, who seemed to enjoy seeing her cousin taken down a little.

On the following morning a ride was proposed to see one of the largest beech-trees in the forest, which was in Eyeworth Wood. The party consisted of my youngest sister, Miss Stanley, Stanley, and myself. We had scarcely mounted our horses before I saw that Stanley was a very indifferent rider. He tried his best to conceal the fact, but it was of no use. The pony he was riding was a well-bred forest pony, strong, and high spirited. The animal seemed (as horses soon do) to have discovered that his rider was an indifferent horseman, and began to play various tricks, much to the discomfiture of Stanley, who kept his seat with difficulty. I could see that Stanley was fast losing his temper, and when his cousin told him to keep his hands lower, and not to jerk the pony’s mouth, he seemed to be ready to quarrel with any one.

“I see what you mean,” Stanley replied, looking at me. “These forest brutes require riding more in the butcher-boy style.”

“Yes,” I said, “that’s the way—more like a butcher-boy and less like a tailor!”

I thought Stanley would have hit me with his whip. He raised it, and probably would have done so; but his pony, seeing the whip raised, bounded off, and deposited Stanley on his back on the turf.

We saw he was not hurt, so out attention was turned to catching his pony, which we soon succeeded in doing, when he mounted again and safely accomplished the remainder of his ride.

Miss Stanley was nearly the whole time by my side, and I found myself more and more charmed with her. I was flattered by her manner, and felt that there would be great satisfaction in gaining her approval in my future career at Woolwich.

“I shall always look out for your name in the papers,” she said, “to see when you get any prizes. I saw your name in the Times as having passed when I was at Brussels, and I was so glad.”

“I am not likely to get any prizes,” I replied, “except my commission; that will be a good prize.”

“Oh, you are certain to get some if you try for them! Why, see how well you have done already. I am certain if young men had some one to back them up, and give them encouragement, there would not be so many failures as there are. I think there is nothing so charming as an intellectual, clever man!”

I did not know what to reply to this remark, for I was not only very young but very inexperienced at that time, and was not aware of a fact which I believe experience has since taught me, viz, that young ladies usually like a man who is not intellectual, but who can talk any amount of what is termed nonsense, whilst it is usually middle-aged ladies who seek after intellect and prefer the society of those who possess it.

A week passed at General Holloway’s like a dream, and it came to an end as suddenly, as the General was taken seriously ill, and we all had to leave. Before I left I had confessed to Helen Stanley that I was desperately in love with her, and that I should never be happy without her; but to my utter discomfiture she informed me that she was engaged to her cousin, and had been so from a child, though she did not care for him one bit. I believed fully when I heard this that I should never be happy again, and that I should wander about one of those “blighted beings” that one hears and reads of, and occasionally sees, who have been disappointed in love, and who never recover from it; but I am happy to say that, though for many days I felt terribly desolate, and seemed to live without a purpose, yet before I had been a week at the Academy I had begun to laugh at my own folly in having fallen in love in less than a week with Miss Helen Stanley.

Chapter Fifteen.

Life as an Old Cadet.

There is scarcely a more marked difference between the condition of a master and a slave than there was thirty years ago between the state of an old cadet and a neux. On joining the Academy at my fourth half I became an old cadet, and possessed all the rights and privileges of my exalted position. I had now full liberty to wear my chin-strap up, to go out without straps to my trousers, to fag any last-joined or second-half cadet, and, in fact, to do very much as I liked. I was second in my room, the head of the room being a corporal one batch senior to me; the third of the room was a second-half cadet, and the fourth a last-joined.

It was now my turn to send for various last-joined cadets, and call upon them to sing songs, make odes to the moon, and speeches in favour of fagging; and I must own that there was very great delight in exercising this authority. Among the last-joined in my division were two of Hostler’s boys, who were considerably more advanced than I was when I was at school with them. Now, however, there was a great gulf between us, and I found it necessary to let them know it, for their education had been very much neglected, as they actually gave me a familiar nod and said, “How do, Shepard?” when they first met me at the Academy, they being in plain clothes and last-joined, I in uniform and an old cadet.

Although I followed the usual routine of fagging the neuxes on every possible occasion, I strictly avoided what I had considered cruelty when I was myself a neux; so that such amusements as angles of 45 degrees, flipping round tables, climbing stools, etc, I set my face against, and endeavoured to discourage in others.

I made up my mind to work this half-year very hard, and to try and prove to all my friends that I had some brains and could pass examinations well. There was a prize given for mathematics in the class in which I was; but this was almost certain to fall to the cadet who was first in my class the last half-year. I, however, hoped to hold my position of sixth in mathematics, if not to take some places, and thus to show that it was neither by fudging nor by a fluke that I had passed so well at the last examination. I had now every opportunity for working; I was not worried by fears of being fagged or disturbed in any way, and could be as quiet as I liked in my room. When a neux got rather forward and seemed likely to pass an old cadet, there was immediately a pressure brought to bear on the junior to prevent him from working. I had not been forward enough in my first or second half to be a dangerous competitor, so I never was warned to leave off “swatting,” but others had been. In the same class with me there were no cadets more than one half junior to me, so there was no reason to bring the “old cadet” influence to bear, even had I thought such a proceeding right, which I did not, so we all worked on our merits.

Perhaps, as far as exciting incidents happened, my fourth half-year was the most barren of all. The routine through which I had passed had caused me to thoroughly enjoy what would otherwise probably never have been looked upon as an enjoyment. To go to bed and know that I could go to sleep with no risk of being disturbed for the purpose of going to some room to sing, or make speeches, was in itself a luxury, and I believe in afterlife there are few people who so thoroughly enjoy themselves as those who in their younger days have had to rough it on service or in savage or uncivilised countries.

Sitting, as we are at present, in a snug room, the windows rattling and the house actually shaking with the south-east gale blowing, we feel the greatest satisfaction in comparing our present condition with that of some years ago, when we were tossing about in the Bay of Biscay in a leaky vessel, short of water and provisions. As we hear the rain dash against our windows at night, and remember that our roof is waterproof, we feel a singular pleasure in thinking what a comfort it is not being in our old bell-tent in the far South, through which the rain would come like a sieve, and which sometimes required us to go out in the rain and slacken the peg-lines, in order to prevent their contraction by wet from pulling up the pegs and dropping the wet tent on us. By comparisons we to a great extent learn to appreciate and enjoy, and the comparison between my position during my first, and fourth half-year, as a cadet was such as to make me thoroughly enjoy my life.

There was much in those days that cadets had to complain of, but which defects have since been remedied. Formerly any cadet seen smoking was liable to discharge. If a cadet were seen to enter a billiard-room he would stand a fair chance of being rusticated. Trifling offences were also not unfrequently treated as most grievous crimes, and favouritism, that fatal enemy to all discipline, to all true energy, and to all satisfaction with the service, was not unknown at the Academy.

As an example of the severe punishment sometimes inflicted formerly for apparently light offences, a cadet, head of a room, had not reported the second of his room for marking his cupboard by means of a needle arrow blown from a tube. The cupboard of course was marked and slightly damaged, and the head of the room was given seven days’ arrest for neglect in not reporting the case.

There was in those days a sort of struggle going on between the cadets and the authorities, relative to cadets being put on their honour to own to certain offences committed by them, and which there was no evidence on which to convict them other than their own confession. The cadets were advocates for the system of honour, which may be explained by the following case:—

On the Common there was a house which had on its gates some grotesque figures in stone. These figures attracted the attention of the cadets, who periodically used to remove them, and place them on another gate. When the parade was formed the officer on duty used to call, “Fall out the gentlemen who removed the figures from the house on the Common!” and instantly the culprits would fall out, and would receive a much lighter punishment than if they had been discovered without their own confession.

This system worked very well until it became whispered among the cadets that one of the non-commissioned officers attached to the Academy used to practise a system of espionage, and used to watch cadets into a certain public-house on Shooter’s Hill, where they used to assemble to smoke and talk of an afternoon. This fact became known, and instantly the cadets, by universal opinion, agreed that this was a breach of faith on the part of the authorities, and consequently they refused any longer to be “on honour.” For a time there was a sort of strike between the cadets and the authorities, during which some amusing adventures occurred.

In our division there was an old cadet who had been a corporal, but had been reduced for having what was called a “grog party” in his room. This cadet decided to have another party after roll-call, and to bar out the officer on duty, in case he tried to enter the division. To accomplish this, the cadet procured several powerful screws, and actually screwed up the door between the officers’ quarters and the division. We all agreed “on honour” not to reveal who the cadet was who performed the deed, and waited in expectation of the event.

At about half-past ten we had all assembled in the room of the cadet named, and were very jolly singing, when the neux who had been put on watch over the door reported that the officer was trying to enter. Immediately we all took off our boots, and went to our rooms and got into bed with wonderful rapidity, for we anticipated what would follow. The officer, failing to enter by the side door, soon came round to the front, which we had not attempted to secure, and entering the room of the cadet who had entertained us, asked him what he meant by making such a disturbance, and who it was who had fastened up the door. The cadet looked much surprised, and said he had heard the noise, but could not tell where it was; and that he could not tell anything about the door being fastened.

Each of our rooms was visited, but we were all in bed and shammed being asleep, and pretended we knew nothing of the noise that had taken place.

On the following morning there was no response to the request of the officer on duty, that the gentleman would fall out who had nailed up the door communicating with the officers’ quarters. The consequence was that the whole division were confined to the enclosure, with the threat that they would be so confined until the cadet who had screwed up the door came forward.

A consultation was now held among the seniors, and it was agreed to appeal, as there was no proof that the act was committed by any cadet actually belonging to the division, the time at which the screwing was performed was not known, and if it was done before roll-call it might easily be done by any cadet of another division. These probabilities having been brought forward and represented, the authorities released the cadets of our division, and we flattered ourselves we had gained a victory.

Some time after this event, the same cadet put in practice a very bold scheme, which was not discovered during the term. His room was on the ground-floor, and the window, like all others, was guarded by cross-bars, arranged diamond-shape. The cadet was very small and thin, and he had found that he could, by removing one entire cross of iron, open four of the diamond patterns. Having procured a file made out of a watch-spring, he sawed the iron bars in two; secured them temporarily with putty, so that they did not show unless closely examined; then removing these after roll-call, he squeezed himself through, and was at liberty. According to his own account, he had wonderful adventures of a night, as he on one occasion pretended to be a highwayman, on another a ghost; but the wonderful part of the affair was, that he was never found out, and it was not till six months afterwards that it was discovered the iron bars had been sawn and were held together only by putty.

It was, I believe, a fact that, just at this time, there was less real bullying than there used to be when I first joined; any way, I saw less of it. A healthier tone also seemed to prevail at the Academy—a condition I attributed to a certain extent to the departure of Snipson, and one or two other similar characters—for it is surprising the influence produced in a large establishment by one or two bad style of men. We had started a pack of beagles, and used to run a drag, and now and then turn out a hare, or rabbit, for a hunt. This brought running and athletic exercises into popular favour, and I soon took a most prominent position at the Academy as a runner and boxer.

It is often amusing to look back upon the cause of disputes or quarrels, and to see how absurd they are after all, and how out of the merest trifles gigantic events are produced, the original cause of which is not unfrequently forgotten. There was a cadet named Baldock, who was older and bigger than I was, and who was very proud of his skill as a boxer. He was supposed to be the best pugilist at the Academy, and thirty years ago using one’s fists well was looked upon in a very different light from what it now is. More than once Baldock and I had put on the gloves and had a friendly spar, and I was tolerably certain I was the better boxer of the two—thanks to Howard’s training. No one, however, seemed to be aware of this, not even Baldock, because I had always touched him very lightly when I could have hit him hard, and he had consequently no evidence of my capacity as a hitter.

One Friday evening we were boxing, when one of the cadets commenced chaffing him, and telling him he was getting two hits for one; this caused him to lose his temper, and, getting a chance, he struck me a tremendous blow fair on the forehead. I was nearly knocked over by this, but recovered myself, and, after a dodge or two, got equally as fair a hit at Baldock. For three or four minutes we—struck away at each other in earnest; Baldock then said, “It’s lucky for you we’ve gloves on.”

“I don’t think so,” I replied; “I’d sooner have them off.”

In less than a minute our gloves were off and a ring was formed, seconds appointed, and we set to work deliberately to fight, for no other reason than to try who was the best man.

I had almost instantly decided what course to adopt in the encounter. Baldock was bigger and I believed stronger than I was, and was a good boxer; but I, from always running, especially with the beagles, was in the best condition. I was also quicker and more active on my legs than he was, and had great confidence in my hitting power. I at once found I had a great advantage in Baldock underrating me, for in the first round he tried to finish me off at once, and I consequently caught him three or four sharp hits without his once breaking through my guard or getting a blow home. This evidently annoyed him, and he did not use his head as well as he might have done. His advantages, therefore, were to some extent lost, and I certainly got the best of the first two rounds.

After this Baldock got more steady, and we fought on like two prizefighters for nearly three quarters of an hour, when the cadets round interfered and stopped us, victory having failed to declare on either side. We shook hands at the termination of the affair, and, as is not unusually the case, became the best of friends—so much so that in less than a fortnight afterwards Baldock was my assistant in a row, in which we were enabled to acquit ourselves creditably.

Baldock and I were walking one afternoon from Eltham, through the fields by Shooter’s Hill Wood, when we came to a stile on which two “louts,” as we termed them, were sitting. On our coming near them they did not attempt to move, but sat grinning at us.

“Why don’t you get off that stile,” said Baldock, “when you see people coming?”

“You can get through the ’edge as you’re a cat,” said one of them, “we ain’t a going to move for you!”

In an instant Baldock seized one of the louts by the legs and tumbled him backwards over the stile; he then jumped over, and I followed him; but as I did so I received a blow on the back of the head from a stone thrown by the lout on the stile. I was nearly stunned by the blow, but, recovering myself, called to Baldock to come back and thrash them. We both turned and walked towards the two men, who shouted, “Come on! we ain’t afraid of you!”

They certainly looked as if they were not afraid, and as if they ought not to be, for they were half as big again as we were, and in their rough clothes and great hob-nailed boots looked even bigger. The affair was a splendid example of skill and training versus brute force. The two louts had probably never before encountered opponents who were skilled in the use of their fists, and they merely swung their fists round without meaning. The consequence was, that in about seven minutes the louts were half blind, their noses were bleeding, and they were telling us they had had enough.

“Take care how you insult gentlemen cadets again,” said Baldock, “for there are fifty cadets who can thrash us with one hand!”

This was his farewell remark as we doubled off without a scratch or touch, except on our knuckles, from the blows we had given. “I think,” said Baldock, “that cram of mine about the cadets will make the louts careful; and I tell you what, Shepard, I’d a deuced deal rather have you alongside of me in a fight than against me. How splendidly you dodged that fellow’s round blows, and gave it him straight between the eyes! You’ll be as good a boxer as Howard, who used to be so famed at the shop.”

“Howard taught me how to box,” I said.

“The deuce he did! Ah, then, I don’t mind having fought you for an hour without making much impression on you. I never knew that before. Howard has a tremendous reputation, and I believe deserves it.”

The half-year was now drawing to a close, and we were all thinking about the examinations. I adopted the same plan that I had formerly, and used to work very hard in academy, and of a night used to think over various problems and test what I actually knew. The head of my room never saw me working out of study hours, and fancied I was not going in to do much; and with him one of the six cadets ahead of me used to work of an evening, whilst I used to read books of sporting or travels. When all was quiet, however, I used to think over various questions, and felt tolerably certain I knew these better than if I had superficially gone over them with another cadet. I was much amused at the general idea that I should go back again near the bottom of the class, as it was not likely I should fluke again, as it was supposed I had last examination. I, however, waited my time, and determined to be very careful at the examination, and not be too sure I had done a question correctly until I had read it over a second time.

The mathematical examination at length commenced in my class, and I was surprised to find the cadet absent whom every one thought would be first. I soon heard that he was taken ill the evening before, and had gone to hospital, every one believing he had worked too hard, as he was known to have kept up lights for several nights previous to the examination.

I read over the examination paper, and believed I could do each question. I commenced them in order, and arranged my Work very carefully and neatly, and before half the attendance was over I had finished them all. I then carefully read over each of my answers, and corrected some errors that I discovered in the working, and in fact re-did the questions that were wrong. I never took my attention once off my paper after commencing, and at length, when satisfied I had done all I knew, I found I had still an hour to spare. I then took a look round the room, and saw the Inspector in the octagon talking to the mathematical master, and looking at me. I felt certain I was the subject of conversation, and I instantly remembered the suspicion there had been of my having fudged last half. I also saw that the desks had been arranged so that near me were the worst mathematicians in the class, so that, even had it been possible for me to see their work, I could not have gained advantage from it. I saw also that some of the cadets who had beaten me last examination were in difficulties. There is no mistaking this at an examination; there was the usual red-flushed face, the unsettled positions, the biting of nails, the perpetual dipping of the pen in the ink, and yet writing nothing, indicating that there was a fix somewhere. Seeing the Inspector still in the octagon, I took up my paper, and gave it the master, who asked me if I had done all the questions.

“I think I have,” I replied.

“Very well, then, you may leave the room,” said the Inspector.

I went out and had a game of rackets to take away the heady feeling I had about me; then went and read the papers, and did not look at a book before going in for my afternoon examination.

Again I set to work in the same deliberate way, and found that I could, as I believe, do all the questions. The examination in mathematics lasted two days, and I believed I had done far better than at my last trial; but there is always great uncertainty as regards what one has really accomplished, mistakes being made which we never dream of, and usually fail to discover if we read over our own answers, even half a dozen times.

The examination in other subjects, such as fortifications, geometrical drawing, French, German, etc, I did well in, but as mathematics counted most, I hoped for much out of that.

It was usual formerly to continue studies after the examinations, and we therefore sometimes managed to obtain information from the masters as to how we had done. Believing I might gain some information, I made an excuse for asking the master how I had done, or if he knew yet how any one had done. I saw a pleasant expression in the mathematician’s face, who said, “In the first two papers you are several marks ahead of anybody. Have you done as well in the others?”

“I think I have,” I replied.

“I’m very glad of it, as I told the Inspector I believed you would come out well.”

This information I kept to myself, and waited patiently for the whole examination to be made known, though I could not help being amused at hearing many of the cadets below me speaking of it as a certainty that they were sure to take my place, as I had not worked at all.

The morning at length arrived when the marks were to be read out, and we all rushed into academy and waited with great anxiety to hear the result of the examination. The master took the paper in his hand very deliberately, put on his spectacles, and said, “Silence, gentlemen, if you please, and I will read out the marks for the mathematical examination.”

We were all as quiet as mice, and waited, pencil in hand, for the news. The master then said, “First”—and after waiting half a minute, as though to increase our curiosity, repeated—“First, Mr Shepard; decimal 78. Second, Mr Hackland; decimal 75. Third, Mr Bowden; decimal 8”—and so on.

When my name was read out as first I could scarcely forbear a smile. I knew it was a total surprise to the whole class, and to me it was unexpected, for I never hoped to get higher than third or fourth; and on finding myself first, I would not at the time have changed places with a lord. Helen Stanley came to my mind, and I thought what she would say when she heard I was first, and saw my name in the paper as having gained the second mathematical prize. I lost interest in the reading out of the marks after the first half dozen names had been given. The cadet who stood third had what we called “a shorter coarse” than I had, and was lower than I was, because he gained less marks, though he had done slightly better than I had in his shorter subjects, gaining decimal 8 in what he had done. He was a cadet who had joined three months after me, and who had come to the Academy knowing enough mathematics to pass him through without any further trouble, his father having been a Cambridge Wrangler, who had taught him algebra about the same time he taught him his letters.

After the reading out of the marks I was congratulated by several cadets, whilst surprise was expressed as to how I had done so well, when, as was supposed, I had never worked out of academy. In reality, I believe I had worked my brain more than any other cadet in the class, and to this was mainly due my success, for I had developed a power of independent and intense thought, which made thinking easy, and enabled me to solve problems which a superficial or unthinking system of working never would have enabled me to solve.

For several days after the examination I felt very happy, little dreaming that a disappointment was in store for me, for the fact of being first in an examination had on all previous occasions secured the mathematical prize. I believed I should not have been first had not the best man been compelled to go to hospital; but this I looked on as the fortune of war, like a horse breaking down in its training. Just before the public examination, however, I learnt that I was not to receive the prize, but that it was to be given to Bowden, who was third, the reason assigned being that he was junior to me in joining the Academy, and had gained a higher decimal than I had. This was my first disappointment and my first experience of what I at least believed to be injustice. During the half-year I had passed Bowden, and during the previous half-year I had come from nearly last of the class to within two places of him. These facts made me feel half angry, half disappointed, and produced on me a sort of irritation that nearly induced me to become insubordinate, for I could not help fancying that favouritism had something to do with the selection. I, however, made no appeal, and took the matter as patiently as I could.

It seemed now tolerably certain that the next half-year I should qualify for my commission, and might hope to be in the first four or five of my batch—a position that I never hoped to attain after I had been three months at the Academy, and which seemed impossible when I was straggling to cram at Mr Hostler’s academy.

The next half-year I should become a corporal, and should be one of the seniors, and should, consequently, have far more authority than I possessed as an old cadet only. It would be my last also at the Academy, for on joining the practical class we were removed to the Arsenal, and there occupied so exalted a rank that we did not mix much with cadets at the Upper Academy, as it was termed, in consequence of its standing on higher ground than the cadet barracks at the Arsenal.

I must confess that when I saw Bowden called from his seat at the public examination, and given the second prize for mathematics, which was delivered to him by a handsome old officer, I felt that if our merits had been fairly weighed I ought to have received the prize; but probably, had I received it, his feelings might have been similar. It is hard to be treated with injustice, but we are all inclined to fancy more or less that our merits are never fully acknowledged, and when certain men are selected for honours, while we are left out in the cold, that our claims were greater than theirs, and that we are victims to favouritism or want of perception in those who ought to have seen our value.

Although I did well in other branches of study, I stood no chance of gaining a prize in anything except mathematics. In drawing I was good, but there were several cadets much better, whom I was not likely to pass or excel.

Just before the vacation I received an invitation from Howard to pass a week with him in London, where he was staying on leave. Such a chance was not to be refused, so on leaving the Academy I went to town and found Howard in lodgings not far from his club. He was very glad to see me, and congratulated me on my success at the Academy, and gave it as his opinion that I had been “chowsed” out of the prize for mathematics.

During the week I passed with Howard in London, I, for the first time, had a taste of what London life was like. Out of the six evenings I was twice at the opera, once at the Haymarket theatre, once at a ball, to which Howard took me, once at a bachelors’ gathering at Evans’s, and the remaining night at Howard’s club. For a week this kind of life, from its novelty, was pleasant, but I made up my mind that it was a mistake, and that the quiet of the forest was healthier and better both for mind and body.

We visited the Row in the morning and the park in the afternoon, and saw certainly some of the most beautiful women in the world, for, no matter where we may travel or what nations we may visit, we come back and see in old England that her daughters are unrivalled.

As I sauntered on with Howard through the crowd I wondered how Helen Stanley would compare with some of the beauties I saw, and, as often happens to us when we think of a person, whom should I suddenly meet but the lady about whom I was thinking. The instant I saw her I knew there was something about her—I could not say what—which made her look different from those near her. She was natural and rather plainly dressed, and not what is, we believe, technically called “made up.” There was no paint or powder, false hair, or strengthened eyebrows, and she therefore seemed like a looker-on on the boards of a theatre where all the others were dressed up to act parts. She was only in town for a short time, and hoped to be down at the Heronry before my vacation was over.

“How is your cousin?” I inquired.

“I believe quite well,” replied Miss Stanley; “but I have seen little of him in the last three months, and shall see less now.”

I looked at Miss Stanley inquiringly, and site read my look correctly, for she volunteered in a low tone the information that it was all off between them.

“That is a thorough genuine, nice girl,” said Howard, as we parted from her. “Who is she?”

I explained to him all I knew about her, and he again declared she was charming. That he thought so, there was no doubt.

Chapter Sixteen.

My Last Half.

My vacation passed very quietly till within ten days of its termination, at which time Miss Stanley came to stay at the Heronry. I soon went over to call, and found everything much as it was formerly, except that the pedantic cousin was not mentioned. I soon after learnt that he had behaved very discreditably at Oxford and had been obliged to leave, and that his match had been broken off by Miss Stanley.

It is a curious fact, but it is one that experience has taught us, that in almost every case where a man assumes a superiority over all others, and is always endeavouring to expose weak points or want of knowledge in others whilst he thrusts his only slender information forward, that man is an impostor, and, if found out, will generally “go to the bad.” This was the case with Snipson, with Stanley, and with many others we have known; and, if others will recall their own experiences, we believe they also will find they are led to the same conclusion. There is no necessity for a really clever man to be always blowing his own trumpet; his actual works will show what he has in him; whereas a shallow-pated impostor is always trying by tricks to arrive at a notoriety to which he never could attain by fair work and genuine competition, and so loses no opportunity of taking a prominent position for want of assumption.

I found that Miss Stanley had seen Howard several times in London, and pronounced him “charming.” It was supposed that Howard would have to go to Southampton on some duty, and if so he was expected to pass a few days at the Heronry. Now, had it been any one else, I believe I should have been jealous, for, although I had ceased to be spoony on Miss Stanley, yet I liked her society, and should not have felt happy in knowing she was much with any one else. He, however, was an exception. Each time I met Howard I found that my latest experience had given me the capacity to appreciate in him some quality which had before escaped my observation, whereas when I met other men whom I had known when I was a boy, and of whom I had thought most highly, I found them to be rough, uncultivated, and unintellectual—the change really being in myself, not in them.

I looked forward to Howard’s visit to the Heronry, for I hoped then to see more of him and to get more at his mind than I had been able to do in the bustle and gaiety of London. I also wanted to compare his knowledge of mathematics, etc, with mine, in order to see whether the course at the Academy that I had gone through was as sound as it used to be a few years previously.

It wanted only five days to the date at which I had to leave for Woolwich, when Howard came down to the Heronry, and I was asked over to dine and stop the next day. Before I had been half an hour in the house I discovered that Howard and Helen Stanley seemed to be equally pleased with each other, and I felt that my presence was not always looked upon as agreeable. I was not, therefore, surprised when on the next day Howard told me in the strictest confidence that he and Miss Stanley were engaged, and that they were going to be married when he was a captain, which he hoped to be in about a year.

It being the object of this tale to describe the life of a Woolwich cadet thirty years ago, we must leave our friend Howard and the charming Helen at the Heronry, and return once more to the busy scene of my early labours and competition at Woolwich.

On returning to the Academy for my fifth half-year I found I was promoted to corporal, and was third senior. This promotion gave me a pair of epaulettes, which I put on, and wore with great pride. It was the first promotion I had received, and I can fairly say that no step in rank or position that fortune has since favoured me with ever produced one-tenth of the pleasure that I experienced at eighteen years of age in being made a corporal.

My life at Woolwich was now very agreeable. I had made the acquaintance of friends in the neighbourhood, and also in London. I usually went on leave from Saturday afternoon to Sunday evening, staying during the time with friends. At the Academy, being a corporal gave me certain privileges and authority, whilst every neux was to all intents and purposes my slave. I had every prospect of taking a high position in my batch, and after four months at the Arsenal, in the practical class, I should obtain my commission, and start as an officer in either the Artillery or Engineers.

The friends at whose houses I visited congratulated me on my excellent prospects, and seemed to think I was excessively lucky in having such a chance before me.

One of my friends was a retired colonel, who had been through the whole of the Peninsular war, was at Waterloo, and had left the service many years. He was a soldier of the old school, considered the service everything, and that there was only one profession for a gentleman, viz, the army.

After dinner, and when he and I were tête-à-tête, he used to indulge in various hints and opinions as regards the conduct and character of an officer and a gentleman.

“An officer,” he used to say, “must be the most honourable and gentlemanly of men. He must resent instantly the slightest insult. If a man even looks insultingly at you, have him out at once. If the day ever does come (as I fear the radical tendency of the age seems to indicate) that duelling is done away with, a snob and a bully will be able to ride roughshod over a gentleman, and there will be no redress. An officer, too, must learn his profession. It is a mistake to think that an officer should be above his work. He ought to know everything and do everything better than his men. More than once in my service, when I commanded a troop of Dragoons, I have taken off my coat and shown a private how to clean a horse.

“An officer, too, ought to be able to take his wine, and yet show no signs of it. I can’t recommend you any royal road to this,” said the colonel, “except practice. I should like to tell you, also,” he continued, “that many young officers make or mar their reputation daring their first night at mess. I remember once in my old regiment there was a young cornet joined us, who looked all right, and talked all right, but at mess he had to carve some beef for the colonel. He helped the colonel, and sent him a plate laden with two thick slices of beef, and a lump of fat big enough to choke a dog. ‘Good heavens!’ said the colonel, ‘what does that young fellow mean by sending me this mass of food? Does he not know I can come again if I want more? Take my plate away; the fellow has spoiled my dinner!’

“We were now all rather doubtful about our new cornet, who, however, had plenty of money, and had come from one of our first public schools; and sure enough our suspicions proved to be correct—the cloven hoof had peeped out in the overladen plate of beef. The cornet proved to be the only son of a retired contract butcher, who had made a large fortune during the war, and had retired to the country and had tried to make his son a gentleman, but he couldn’t do it, sir; the plate of beef exposed him.”

These and other similar precepts were instilled into me by my old friend daring the time that I took my first practice under his tuition of testing the strength of my head versus the strength of his port wine, and I am happy to say that I gained the colonel’s approval one Saturday evening in an unexpected manner as follows:—

A party of four had been at dinner, all military men. We had sat over our wine a fair time, and, charmed with the conversation, I had done full justice to the port. The colonel then proposed a rubber of whist, at which game he was an adept, and required me to take a hand. I played a fair game of whist for a youngster, and so made up the fourth. Luckily I was on that night a good card-holder, and was the colonel’s partner, and we won. He was delighted, for his whole heart was in the game. When we broke up he gave me a pat on the back and said, “Shepard, I always thought well of you, but I never formed so high an opinion of your talents and power as to-night. You may talk about your examinations in Euclid and mathematics, for which a fellow is crammed like a parrot for months, as a test of a man’s brains and his fitness for a soldier; I think it’s nearly all bosh, and gives no fair test; but if I see a young man do what you’ve done to-night, that is, put a bottle of port under his waistcoat and afterwards play a quiet, steady rubber, and remember whether the twelfth or thirteenth card is the best, I know that fellow has a good head. I believe there is not one youngster in twenty can do this now-a-day. They are all weeds—haven’t the stamina and backbone they used to have—and the Englishman is degenerating to a great extent, I believe, in consequence of the inordinate use of tobacco.”

Daring the present half-year I had taken up cricket, and was very successful as a “fielder,” though my batting was not first-rate. I was good enough, however, to play in the Eleven against the Officers of the Artillery—a match we played each year—and made double figures in my score, and caught out two of the officers.

Although I was nearly always on leave from Saturday to Sunday for the “whole shay,” as it was termed, yet I on one occasion did not go. The result was that I had command of the first company at church-parade, and marched past on the barrack-field before going to church. Several times I had been in the ranks when we had marched past on Sundays, but this was the first time I had ever commanded the company. There was a great crowd to see us march past and to hear the band, and the company was praised for its steadiness. I remembered well my feelings as a schoolboy when I saw a cadet in a similar position to that I now occupied, and I regretted that I had not now the same delight in being where I was that I fancied formerly I should have. It was not a want of enthusiasm, for I had still plenty of that left; but I felt as if I were performing a mere act of business, and was more occupied in seeing that the ranks kept line and proper distance than I was in the thought of commanding the company.

Somehow I had grown to understand that hard work and thought were the means to all success, and that now, when I happened to be senior corporal, it was merely in consequence of others being absent, and that I had attained this position by hard work. I must confess I felt disappointed with myself, for I did not experience one-hundredth part of the pleasure I should have felt had it been possible to transfer me instantly from a schoolboy at Hostler’s to the position I now occupied.

One little incident, however, as we were marching off, did gave me temporary gratification. As I gave to the company the words “Right turn!” “Left wheel!” and we marched across the gravel to the chapel, I passed close to three of Mr Hostler’s masters, who were there with his boys. There was not a face among the boys I recognised. All had changed; but the masters I knew, and I saw they had pointed me out to the youngsters. For a moment the misery of my life at Hostler’s came across me, and a vivid remembrance of the sneering self-sufficiency of one of these tutors, as he tried to impress upon me that I was too stupid to ever learn mathematics. I muttered to myself “Pig-headed idiot!” as I recalled this man’s proceeding, and now noticed a sort of self-complacency in his manner as he was probably explaining to Hostler’s boys that he had trained me for Woolwich.

This my fifth half-year seemed to pass more quickly than a week did when I was a neux, and we again began to talk about examinations and our vacation. To me the final trial was now coming, for although we worked at various subjects in the practical class, yet the work did not count. There was no examination, and our relative positions in the batch were unaltered when once we joined the practical class.

I had succeeded in all the drawings I had done during the half-year, and had adopted a general polishing up in the various branches of study, for our position in the class for commissions was decided by the amount of marks we obtained as a total for all subjects.

Day passed after day, and it was within a fortnight of the examination when I received a letter from Mr Rouse, asking if I would come and pass Saturday and Sunday with him.

On receipt of this letter I felt ashamed of never having once been to see the man to whom alone I was indebted for passing into the Academy. I accepted the invitation, and on Saturday afternoon found myself sitting in Mr Rouse’s drawing-room, chatting with him a sort of shoppy conversation about examinations, marks, cramming, etc.

Mr Rouse was a man who never disappointed me. Whenever I met him, as I did often in afterlife, he invariably showed himself a genius. He was one of those sound thinkers and careful reasoners who are the real discoverers of truths, and who in almost every case remain unknown and unhonoured by the world; whilst superficial men, merely veneered with science by their contact with him, would chatter in learned societies, and be reported in newspapers, and bowed down to as authorities by the ignorant, who could not tell the electro-plated from the real metal.

Even when I was a student at Rouse’s he used to amuse us by reading out from the papers descriptions of various matters supposed to be scientifically written; he would then criticise these and show us that the writer was evidently unacquainted with his subject, and had written it at so much per line.

I was glad to find what an interest he had taken in my career at the Academy; he had noted exactly how I had done at all my examinations, and he said he was very nearly writing to me daring my third half-year to come and work with him occasionally, as he feared I might not pass the probationary examination.

During the evening he put me up to what he called useful dodges in connexion with working various branches of higher mathematics, and I found my evening not only interesting, but profitable, as I made several notes which I could think over and which would be useful to me at my final examination. He gave me also great encouragement about the future, and said that he believed the time would come when the officers of both the Engineers and Artillery would take a higher position in the scientific and literary world than they then did. “You have a capital preparatory course at Woolwich,” he remarked, “and when you get your commission you could build on this. It has often struck me that it is odd how few officers of either Artillery or Engineers have ever made a mark in the world out of their profession, or have come out as leaders in science, and this in the future is sure to be remedied.”

Mr Rouse was right at the time, but since those days a change has occurred, the two corps having produced several men distinguished in subjects not strictly professional.

I returned to the Academy with a feeling of “wound-upness,” and occupied myself in thinking about my coming examination. From being very sickly as a boy (due I believe entirely to the physicking of my aunt), I had become strong and particularly healthy, and found I could stand both mental and bodily work without feeling either much. I took care, however, to follow Mr Rouse’s advice, viz, to work my body by exercise after I had worked my brain, and to get as much fresh air as possible after a long bout of “swatting.” I never attempted to learn anything when I felt tired, and never forced myself to work; by these means I felt certain I got more knowledge into my head than I should have done had I followed the same plan that several cadets followed of working nearly all night with wet cloths round their heads and a dozen books before them.

It was impossible to avoid being anxious about the examination, but I endeavoured to follow my old plan of not driving off everything to the last, and then trying to catch up time by working night and day. I had a sort of idea that the mind was like one’s digestion in some respects, and the way to treat it was to treat it reasonably, and not to expect it to digest in a week as much mental food as it ought to have in three months. Some cadets did adopt this plan, and they generally failed, and not unusually knocked themselves up.

The first day of the examination commenced, and I found the first paper contained what we should term some very dodgy questions both in mechanics and trigonometry. I saw through the catches, and brought out neat answers, which made me tolerably confident they were correct.

Our examinations took nine days altogether, and then day after day the results came out, and we added our marks together, speculating how the next list of marks would alter our relative positions. Until the drawing and mathematical marks came out, I stood twelfth of the batch, but having obtained within one mark of the full amount in drawing, and being second in mathematics, I made up a total that made me third of the batch, which consisted of twenty-five qualified for commissions, or at least for the practical class, which was to all intents the same thing as qualifying for commission.

Such a result was to me very satisfactory, and was far beyond what I dreamed of even in my most sanguine moments during my trials at Mr Hostler’s. If any prophetic genius had hinted to the young gentlemen at Mr Hostler’s that Bob Shepard, who was leaving because he was so stupid that he could not be taught mathematics, would beat all the boys in the school, and would succeed in being second in mathematics at the Academy, this prophet would have found few who put faith in him, for it would have been considered impossible except by magic. A certain kind of magic was, however, practised, and this was by means of the system which Mr Rouse adopted, viz, of calmly reasoning out problems and deliberating on them, and taking a wide and general view of a subject instead of trying to follow blindly rules and systems, uninfluenced by reason or common sense.

There was one small piece of “swagger,” as it might be fairly termed, which I could not resist, and this was to pay a visit to Mr Hostler’s now I had passed all my examinations successfully, and hear what he had to say for himself. I would not call on Hostler himself, but called to see a boy whose brother had been a cadet, and who had asked me to have a look at the youngster at Hostler’s.

I was shown into the small drawing-room that I remembered so well. There was the same table-cover, the same things on the mantelpiece, the same books, the same pictures as when I went into that room to meet Hostler, and to be told I must give up all chance of Woolwich, as I had no head for mathematics or Euclid. It flashed across me that probably scores of other boys had had their prospects rained in consequence of being put under the change of selfish and bigoted men, who had only one system of teaching, and whose method was unsuited to the mind of the boy on whom they acted. In that room a straw would have turned the scale, and I might have left that place with a stamp of stupidity on me which I should never have had the chance of removing all my life, unless, as really happened, I had gone to Mr Rouse’s, and had passed my examinations well.

As I was thus meditating, the door opened and Mr Hostler came in.

“Ah, Shepard!” he exclaimed, “I am very glad to see you. How are you?”

“Quite well, Mr Hostler. I’ve called to see young Barnes. Is he in?”

“Oh yes, he’s in. I hope you’ll come into the schoolroom and see him; it does the boys good to see a cadet there who has been prepared for the Academy by me, and who has distinguished himself as you have done. I feel very proud of it I can tell you!”

“You forget, Mr Hostler; you didn’t prepare me for the Academy, but gave me up as too stupid to learn mathematics.”

“Oh, nothing of the kind, Shepard, you’re quite mistaken. I gave you all the groundwork, and you only wanted just a little polishing up, which could be better done by a private tutor like Rouse than in a large school like mine, where we work in classes. No, don’t think I’m going to be robbed of the merit of preparing you; besides, you were not three months with Rouse, and here you were over a year. Facts speak for themselves. Depend on it, you passed and got on so well just because you were well grounded here, and saw my system of preparing, which is good.”

I was not then old enough to answer these misrepresentations of Hostler’s, but I knew how false they were, and yet how firmly they would convince the majority of outsiders that to Hostler was due the merit of having trained me for Woolwich. I found afterwards that he had told his boys that I was his special pupil, and that he had also claimed me, in his sort of advertisement list, as one who had been trained by him. Such men succeed in the world as a rule, for the general public judge from superficial evidence, and rarely have the time, if they had the inclination, to look closely into matters that do not specially affect their interests.

The case would appear thus:—

“Shepard, a cadet who stood second in mathematics at the Academy, was prepared by Mr Hostler for twelve months, and then sent to finish details at Mr Rouse’s for three months, during part of which time he was ill with hooping-cough. He passed in well, and came out well. Honour, then, is due to Mr Hostler for his excellent training, and great credit is reflected on his school.”

I saw my young acquaintance, who was sent for at my request, as I declined to be made a parade of in the schoolroom, and bidding Mr Hostler farewell, I left his establishment, which I never entered again, and never saw Mr Hostler again, though the scenes through which I passed at his school even now sometimes haunt me in the form of nightmares, when I dream I am again a boy at that place, who has failed in his Euclid, and cannot make the three sides of a triangle join, and who is waiting for his three cuts on the hand.

Chapter Seventeen.


My career at what may be termed the Academy (proper) terminated with the examinations named in the last chapter. I returned home to rest as it were on my laurels, for I had to pass no farther examinations in order to obtain my commission, and had merely to go through a practical course connected with the various branches in the Arsenal, and also a course of surveying, after which there was the public examination, which was a mere farce, and we were then commissioned in the order in which we stood.

Before finally leaving the Academy I once more paid a visit to Mr Rouse and dined with him, where I met a Cambridge man who had just left Cambridge and had taken a Master of Arts degree. When I left Woolwich my coarse in mathematics consisted of plane and spherical trigonometry, conic sections, statics and dynamics, properties of roofs and arches, hydrostatics, projectiles, and the deferential and integral calculus. In this course I had obtained a very good decimal, and therefore might be said to have a fair knowledge of the subjects. I was, therefore, anxious to compare my mathematical knowledge with that of a Master of Arts of Cambridge, and discover, if possible, how much longer it would take me to work up to the extent requisite to become M.A. To my surprise I found that the gentleman from Cambridge knew only as much mathematics as I did when I was in the second class, and, in fact, if I had been at Cambridge instead of at Woolwich, I should have been distinguished all my life as M.A., and should, of course, have been looked on as an authority on such matters as mathematics by people who had no other means of testing one’s qualifications than by the literary annex after one’s name.

I suggested to Mr Rouse that this system of conferring distinguishing honours on men from one or two Universities, which honours carried weight with the public, seemed unfair to those men who were trained at other well-known places, such as Woolwich, where no honours were given, but where they had gone beyond the course required to gain the honours at the Universities.

I had a long discussion with Mr Rouse relative to the course of training at Woolwich in my time, and from what I told him we both agreed that the course was not practical enough for a soldier, and that too much time was occupied in theoretical matters which were never likely to be of use to us in afterlife.

“It is,” said Mr Rouse, “one of the most certain of all things, that men who teach any subject for any length of time gradually grow to refine, as I may term it, on that subject, and go on from theory to theory, and lose sight of the fact that to all practical men, such as soldiers must be to be useful, theory may be even a dangerous study. Mathematicians,” he continued, “are especially liable to drift into these habits, and often forget that the object of mathematics is to supply a means of obtaining results, so that they are means to an end, not the end itself. Too, as a practical man, require to know some theory, such as the general rules of mechanics, the way in which trigonometrical formulas are obtained, and so on; but I don’t think it is necessary, especially in the short time you have for each subject at Woolwich, that you should devote too long a time to mere theoretical problems.”

The defects that I experienced after leaving Woolwich were that I found considerable difficulty in writing a clear account of any event in a concise and grammatical manner, so that had I been called on to write a despatch, and describe officially some action or battle, my production would have been discreditable. I could solve an abstruse question in dynamics, but I could not write three sentences in English correctly. Again, as regards the method of conducting discipline with soldiers, what their pay was, how they were paid, how men were treated for various offences, etc, I was as ignorant as a civilian, and there was then no preparatory training for an officer after joining the Artillery by means of which he could learn these matters. The Engineers had then, as now, a course of study at Chatham, after obtaining their commissions, by which such subjects were learnt.

Defects such as the above-named have since been almost entirely removed, whilst various other matters have been improved at the Academy, especially as regards the feeding of the cadets, which thirty years ago was simply disgraceful.

Bullying and even fagging have ceased to exist; and although there may be, as there always will be, in large establishments, some young men who are disposed to be bullies, and some others whose manners or appearance cause them to be unpopular, yet no recognised system of senior and junior, or of fagging, exists at Woolwich.

Thirty years ago the defect at the Academy was the hard life that cadets lived; their food was bad, and their punishment for small offences severe. If there is a defect at the present time at Woolwich, it is that the cadet’s comfort is too much cared for, and when he has, as he surely must have, in even peace time, to rough it, he will not, as we did, say, “Well, it’s better than being a cadet,” but he will probably compare the damp walls of a room in some Fort with his snug room at the Academy, and the absence of many luxuries will be felt the more, because as a mere cadet they were considered essential for him. Taking it all in all, however, we may fairly claim that at the present time the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich is perfect of its kind, and the training given there will compare favourably with that of any military college on the Continent; that it was not always as well regulated this tale will probably induce many to think.

Any curious or interested person may learn all about the Academy as it is, but the strange life led by a cadet thirty years ago—the singular inconsistency of highly honourable conduct in some matters, and proceedings which can only be termed “brutal” in others—exhibits peculiarities in the character of English youths which we do not believe is entirely worn out in large educational establishments at the present day.

In this tale it has not been our object to moralise, or even to suggest, but merely to give a history of the life of a Woolwich Cadet thirty years ago, and as the cadet’s career may fairly be said to terminate when he joined the practical class, we draw the curtain over the future life of Gentleman Cadet Bob Shepard.

The End.