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Lavengro by George Henry Borrow

He has had a dispute with Bagg


my brother here?' said I, rather timidly, dreading to hear that he was out, perhaps for the day.

'The ensign is in his room, sir,' said Bagg, 'I am now preparing his meal, which will presently be ready; you will find the ensign above stairs,' and he pointed to a broken ladder which led to some place above.

And there I found him--the boy soldier--in a kind of upper loft, so low that I could touch with my hands the sooty rafters; the door was of rough boards, through the joints of which you could see the gleam of the soldiers' fire, and occasionally discern their figures as they moved about; in one corner was a camp bedstead, by the side of which hung the child's sword, gorget, and sash; a deal table stood in the proximity of the rusty grate, where smoked and smouldered a pile of black turf from the bog,--a deal table without a piece of baize to cover it, yet fraught with things not devoid of interest: a Bible, given by a mother; the _Odyssey_, the Greek _Odyssey_; a flute, with broad silver keys; crayons, moreover, and water-colours; and a sketch of a wild prospect near, which, though but half finished, afforded ample proof of the excellence and skill of the boyish hand now occupied upon it.

Ah! he was a sweet being, that boy soldier, a plant of early promise, bidding fair to become in after time all that is great, good, and admirable. I have read of a remarkable Welshman,

of whom it was said, when the grave closed over him, that he could frame a harp, and play it; build a ship, and sail it; compose an ode, and set it to music. A brave fellow that son of Wales--but I had once a brother who could do more and better than this, but the grave has closed over him, as over the gallant Welshman of yore; there are now but two that remember him--the one who bore him, and the being who was nurtured at the same breast. He was taken, and I was left!--Truly, the ways of Providence are inscrutable.

'You seem to be very comfortable, John,' said I, looking around the room and at the various objects which I have described above: 'you have a good roof over your head, and have all your things about you.'

'Yes, I am very comfortable, George, in many respects; I am, moreover, independent, and feel myself a man for the first time in my life--independent, did I say?--that's not the word, I am something much higher than that; here am I, not sixteen yet, a person in authority, like the centurion in the book there, with twenty Englishmen under me, worth a whole legion of his men, and that fine fellow Bagg to wait upon me, and take my orders. Oh! these last six weeks have passed like hours of heaven.'

'But your time must frequently hang heavy on your hands; this is a strange wild place, and you must be very solitary?'

'I am never solitary; I have, as you see, all my things about me, and there is plenty of company below stairs. Not that I mix with the soldiers; if I did, good-bye to my authority; but when I am alone I can hear all their discourse through the planks, and I often laugh to myself at the funny things they say.'

'And have you any acquaintance here?'

'The very best; much better than the Colonel and the rest, at their grand Templemore; I had never so many in my whole life before. One has just left me, a gentleman who lives at a distance across the bog; he comes to talk with me about Greek, and the _Odyssey_, for he is a very learned man, and understands the old Irish, and various other strange languages. He has had a dispute with Bagg. On hearing his name, he called him to him, and, after looking at him for some time with great curiosity, said that he was sure he was a Dane. Bagg, however, took the compliment in dudgeon, and said that he was no more a Dane than himself, but a true-born Englishman, and a sergeant of six years' standing.'

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