Page images


"THUS," says our hero, in his own narrative, "when France and the Netherlands had taught him to ride a horse, and to use his armes, with such rudiments of warre as his tender yeeres in those martial schooles could attaine unto, he was desirous to see more of the world, and to try his fortune against the Turkes, both lamenting and repenting to have seene so many Christians slaughter one another." The passage would seem to imply that he had a second time seen service in the Low Countries. Yet of this period and service we have no particulars. It was his period of apprenticeship only, in which fortune afforded him no opportunities of distinction, or his "tender years" made it impossible that he should avail himself of them. He was at this time but nineteen years old, hopeful, sanguine and warmly confiding, as is usually the case with persons of this temperament. He was to incur its usual penalties, and to pay dearly for that caution which experience alone can teach, and which is so important for him who seeks to be a leader among men. We next find him in company with four French gallants, famous rogues it would seem, who flatter his vanity and take advantage of his youth. Nobody is more easily betrayed than the youth having large enthusiasm of character, and a warm faith in what is allotted for his performance. One of these cunning Frenchmen passes himself off upon our hero as a nobleman. The rest are his attendants. It is not difficult to deceive a character such as that of Smith. Vigilant by nature against the enemy, the same nature places no sentinel against the approach of friendship. In

this guise, our cunning Frenchmen play their parts to admiration. Our hero yields them his full heart. They persuade him to go with them into France, where they should not only obtain the necessary means for going against the Turks, but letters from certain distinguished persons to the general of the Hungarian army. The pretences were all plausible, the end to be attained of considerable importance. The parties embarked in a small vessel, the captain of which, if not a party to the designs of the Frenchmen, at least was disposed to wink at their proceedings. Smith had money and fine clothes. In these respects they were less liberally provided. He was a youth, very confiding, and might be plucked with safety. It does not seem to have required much skill in the operation. It was on a dark and gloomy night in winter, when they reached the port of St. Valery, in Picardy. Under cover of the night the conspirators, with all their own baggage and that of Smith, were taken ashore by the captain without the knowledge of the other passengers. It was not until the rogues were fully beyond reach that the treacherous shipmaster returned to his vessel. When the robbery was detected it was without present remedy. It is very probable that the captain was a sharer of the spoils. He no doubt commanded one of those coasting luggers of mixed character, to be found at that period in all the maritime countries of Europe, which played according to circumstances the character of the smuggler or of the honest trader. The extreme youth of Smith, and the manner in which he had been stripped of everything, awakened the compassion of the passengers, while the evident treachery of the captain enkindled all their rage. Some of them supplied the present wants of the former. He had been left wholly without clothes, those only which he wore excepted; and with but a single penny in his pocket, was compelled to

part with his cloak for the payment of his passage. The indignation against the master of the vessel had nearly led to disastrous consequences. The passengers were kept with difficulty from putting him to death in their fury, and nothing but their ignorance of the ship's management prevented them from running away with her. Fortunately these intemperate counsels did not prevail, and the vessel was relieved of her angry inmates without suffering, except in the fright of the captain, which, we may be allowed to hope, afforded him a proper lesson of prudence, if not of honesty.

In these events our luckless adventurer was not wholly without consolation. He found friends among his new companions. One of these, in particular, who was himself an outlawed man, and might therefore be naturally expected to sympathize with one so young and so friendless, helped him to money, and brought him from place to place to a knowledge of his own friends, by whom he was everywhere hospitably entertained. His story interests the people, who are won by his youth, the frankness of his temper, and the graces of his person; those externals of character and figure which prompted Hume to think of him as a courtier for King James. He meets with kindness and protection finally from lords and ladies, whose names he gives, but whom it is scarcely possible for us to identify, disguised as they are by the antique English spelling of our author. With these persons he might, as he writes, "have recreated himself so longe as he woulde ;" but, as he adds, "such pleasant pleasures suited little with his poore estate and his restlesse spirit, that could never finnde content to receive such noble favours as he could neither deserve nor requite." Accordingly, breaking away from his new friends as he had done from the old, he resumed his wanderings, seemingly without an object beyond the

gratification of that restlessness of mood and independence of resolve, which were the prime characteristics of his genius for ever after. In these wanderings he is made to endure much misery and privation. His means are soon exhausted, his stout heart begins to fail him, probably because of the want of food; and, one day, finding himself in a forest, he flings himself, nearly dead with grief and cold, "beside a faire fountaine under a tree," as if resolved to yield to despair and to go no farther. Here he is found by a neighboring farmer, who takes pity on his condition, relieves his wants, and gives him means to resume his journey. And thus he fared, travelling from province to province, and from port to port, following the bent of a wayward inclination, still dissatisfied and vexed with those vague yearnings which naturally troubled the mind of him who has not yet learned to address himself to his legitimate objects. While thus wandering, the fortune which refuses to find him better opportunities, helps to gratify his revenge. Alone, and vagabondizing in Brittany, he accidentally meets in a wood with one of the treacherous Frenchmen who had robbed him of his clothes and money. This fellow was named Cursell. The parties recognized each other at a glance, and under an equal impulse their weapons were bared in the same instant. With an avowed object or enemy before him Smith was decisive always. They had no words. "The piercing injuries" of our hero, in his own language, " had small patience." His superior skill, together with (as we may surely assume) the goodness of his cause, gave him rather an easy victory. He tells of it without any boasting. The fight took place in the presence of several persons, the inhabitants of an old tower standing in the vicinity. In the hearing of these he extorted an ample confession of his guilt from the robber he had overthrown and wounded. But he obtained

« PreviousContinue »