« PreviousContinue »
presence was reported. We may imagine his annoyance at the delay, after he had exerted himself so much to be in time. He had no fear as to passing ; he but “ wanted in." Here," said the clerk to the professor,
is a young man from Scotland who pretends to know everything." No doubt Mr Barlow learned somewhat of the circumstances, and would be interested in a youth who showed so much self-confidence and determination.
Though Drummond arrived unaccompanied by a friend, he was not without the means in his possession to enable him soon to make friends for himself. Among his introductions was one to Colonel Mudge, who, after a distinguished career as a geodesist, as superintendent of the Ordnance Survey (which office he still, in 1813, continued to fill), was appointed, in 1809, Lieutenant-Governor of the Royal Military Academy. The colonel from the first showed Drummond attention,—at least he had him to dinner on an early day. This functionary seems to have been far from popular with the cadets, and the first impressions which Drummond received of him were unfavourable. But these quickly wore away. “ As to my letter to Colonel Mudge,” he writes, * “ it is impossible for me as yet to say how that letter will turn out, but I received his promise to assist me." The reason for doubting the value of the promise lay in the character of the governor as painted by some cadets. “He is a man, says Drummond, drawing in a few words a picture, “ of diminutive stature, broken constitution, and low spirits, grim looking, and not very easy of access. However, it is most material to get in with him, as he has the sole management here." Drummond had too
* Letter to Mrs Drummond, 23d March 1813.
much sense and practicality not to appreciate the value of an introduction to a man of such standing, though, as we shall see, he was disposed, in his inexperience, to overestimate it. In an earlier letter, dated March 3, after mentioning that he had been dining with the governor, he says: “So I think I will write to Professors Playfair and Leslie, and thank them for their letters the first opportunity. It is much in my favour to have letters from such men." I infer, as both the professors were friends of the colonel's, that they had introduced their old pupil to him.
He brought with him an introduction to Dr Smith, the head of the medical department, whose relations lived near Musselburgh. The Smiths were exceedingly kind, and he was soon at home in their house, which was situated about a mile from the Academy. He found a friend in Mr Jackson, the cadet who occupied the same room. It happened, also, that the servant in attendance on the room was a Drummond from the neighbourhood of Comrie, who knew both his father and uncle.
The letter, of date 23d March 1813, is a long one. It gives an idea of life at the Academy, besides answering categorically a number of questions contained in two letters received from home. There are symptoms as if of fatigue in the writer, most probably indications of the distress of mind which, we shall see, he was suffering. His financial accounts, he says, are carefully kept, and will be transmitted if required. He appreciates the kindness of the Smiths, and deplores that they are to leave so soon. “Their leaving in May will be an irreparable loss to me.” “You desire me particularly to say whether or not I get enough of food. I have always got as much as I desire.” It would have distressed his mother had he stated the whole truth, as he was afterwards forced to do. A portion of it, however, appears from the following account of the round of the day :-“There is a parade at half-past seven, after which we get breakfast--a bowl of milk and a round of bread. At eight o'clock, we go to the Academy, and stay till twelve o'clock, after which we are drilled. Dine at one o'clock, and at two o'clock return to the Academy till half-past five. There is then a parade again, after which no cadet is allowed to go out without leave. At eight o'clock we have supper-bread and cheese ; and at nine o'clock we must be in bed, for then a lieutenant of the artillery, the servant and the corporal, come round, put out the candles and fire, and lock the door. At five o'clock in the morning the servant comes and takes away the shoes; comes back at six o'clock and puts on the fire; and at seven we get up. This is the life we lead.”
The picture, it must be confessed, is far from attractive. Here is a boy, fresh from home joys and comforts, suddenly caught in the round of a desolate system, and worried in it from five o'clock in the morning till nine o'clock at night; his diet, so far as it is stated, little better than work-house fare, beginning with milk and a round of bread, and ending with dry bread and cheese. Parades and drills incessant; the sense of freedom pinched out. Morning parade early enough, one would think, without a servant systematically to disturb one's rest an hour and a half before one was wanted. A shudder comes over me recollecting another system not quite so bad, yet bad enough,-academical, but ecclesiastical, not military,—with morning and evening chapels in the place of parades. How did the youth like that of which he had experience? He would have died of the hypocrisy of the chapel system. A parade is at least such a reality as it pretends to be.
The indefinite object of his inclinations having become definite, desire changed to aversion. The system, from the first intolerable, soon became hateful. Moreover, he was now in a position to understand the nature of the career he had chosen ; and neither its duties nor its rewards were such as, when ascertained, reconciled him to the service. He wanted to get out of it, and out of it at once. How great was the distress he suffered at this time may be gathered from the following letter to his aunt, Mrs Macfarlane :
“ROYAL ARSENAL, March 26, 1813. “MY DEAR AUNT,—You will be greatly surprised, and will, I daresay, sympathise with me when you read this. I have been here now upwards of a month, and from one of my mother's letters I gather you all think I like the place very well. God knows, I never told you this in any of my letters. Now you must promise to keep my mother ignorant of what I am about to tell you. From the moment I entered this place, till the present time, I have been miserable, and what I shall do I know not. I expected to have seen Mr Aitchison, and to have told him all this, but from some cause I have not seen him ; but perhaps he has not left London, and I may yet see him. I trust I may. I have hesitated long with myself whether or not to tell you this, but my situation becoming every day more irksome, at last compels me to write to you; and you are the best person to give me advice, as I should not like my mother to know, she being so unwell. I would give worlds, if I had them, to get my discharge. But when I think of the enormous expense she has been at in sending me here, and how ill she can afford it, added to my last winter's expense, and when I consider her illness, I know not what to do. Upon no account show her this letter ; you know what effect these things have upon her. But if I got my discharge, I might follow some profession in which I might make it up to her, and in which
person to tell
I might be happy. You see how I am situated; as my mother is so unwell I am afraid to tell her. If I delay till July, it will be too late, and I will never get out. You will think this most unaccountable conduct, but the unhappy situation I am in must plead my excuse. After being ready for a commission, there are many chances against getting into the Engineers; promotion is so slow in the Artillery, that all try to get into the Engineers. In the Artillery, one may be a lieutenant for twenty years, living on 5s. 6d. per day. Had I known all this before I came, had I only had a trial of this place! Write to me as soon as you can, and tell me what to do. Should I write to Mr Aitchison, entreating him to apply to General Hope to get me my discharge? O that I was only in Edinburgh in
you all! Colonel Mudge, to whom I was recommended, tries always to prevent those that are good at mathematics from getting their discharge. Whether should I keep it a secret from him, or try and engage him to help me? He could get my discharge if he asked it. You may think it most foolish in me talking thus, and that I may like it better after I have been longer here. But I have seen the life I have to lead, and though I was offered a commission in the Engineers just now, I would be most thankful to give it up. There are a great many wanting to be discharged. I am afraid to delay. I will get it far easier now than after I have been longer here. Write to me immediately if you can, and tell me what to do. O that I had had a trial of this place! Do not show this letter to my mother. General Hope may apply for my discharge, and surely they would not refuse him.
I will look every day for your answer. Remember me to Mr Macfarlane. Farewell.— I remain, my dear aunt, your affectionate nephew,
“ THOMAS DRUMMOND.” He wrote again on this subject to his aunt on April 23, 1813. She had told him it would be easy to obtain his discharge in July, and he agreed to wait. “ The vacation,” he writes, “ commences about the 10th July, when we will debate what is to be done." Meantime he entreats her to keep his misery a pro