It's my belief, sir, that the Glory's arms wouldn't do a very strong business.'
These remarks were not at all comforting. Joe walked out, stopped at the door of the next room, and listened. The serjeant was describing a military life. It was all drinking, he said, except that there were frequent intervals of eating and love-making. A battle was the finest thing in the world--when your side won it-- and Englishmen always did that. 'Supposing you should be killed, sir?' said a timid voice in one corner. 'Well, sir, supposing you should be,' said the serjeant, 'what then? Your country loves you, sir; his Majesty King George the Third loves you; your memory is honoured, revered, respected; everybody's fond of you, and grateful to you; your name's wrote down at full length in a book in the War Office. Damme, gentlemen, we must all die some time, or another, eh?'
The voice coughed, and said no more.
Joe walked into the room. A group of half-a-dozen fellows had gathered together in the taproom, and were listening with greedy ears. One of them, a carter in a smockfrock, seemed wavering and disposed to enlist. The rest, who were by no means disposed, strongly urged him to do so (according to the custom of mankind), backed the serjeant's arguments, and grinned among themselves. 'I say nothing, boys,' said the serjeant, who sat a little apart, drinking his liquor. 'For lads of spirit'--here he cast an eye on Joe--'this is the time. I don't want to inveigle you. The king's not come to that, I hope. Brisk young blood is what we want; not milk and water. We won't take five men out of six. We want top- sawyers, we do. I'm not a-going to tell tales out of school, but, damme, if every gentleman's son that carries arms in our corps, through being under a cloud and having little differences with his relations, was counted up'--here his eye fell on Joe again, and so good-naturedly, that Joe beckoned him out. He came directly.
'You're a gentleman, by G--!' was his first remark, as he slapped him on the back. 'You're a gentleman in disguise. So am I. Let's swear a friendship.'
Joe didn't exactly do that, but he shook hands with him, and thanked him for his good opinion.
'You want to serve,' said his new friend. 'You shall. You were made for it. You're one of us by nature. What'll you take to drink?'
'Nothing just now,' replied Joe, smiling faintly. 'I haven't quite made up my mind.'
'A mettlesome fellow like you, and not made up his mind!' cried the serjeant. 'Here--let me give the bell a pull, and you'll make up your mind in half a minute, I know.'
'You're right so far'--answered Joe, 'for if you pull the bell here, where I'm known, there'll be an end of my soldiering inclinations in no time. Look in my face. You see me, do you?'
'I do,' replied the serjeant with an oath, 'and a finer young fellow or one better qualified to serve his king and country, I never set my--' he used an adjective in this place--'eyes on.
'Thank you,' said Joe, 'I didn't ask you for want of a compliment, but thank you all the same. Do I look like a sneaking fellow or a liar?'
The serjeant rejoined with many choice asseverations that he didn't; and that if his (the serjeant's) own father were to say he did, he would run the old gentleman through the body cheerfully, and consider it a meritorious action.
Joe expressed his obligations, and continued, 'You can trust me then, and credit what I say. I believe I shall enlist in your regiment to-night. The reason I don't do so now is, because I don't want until to-night, to do what I can't recall. Where shall I find you, this evening?'
His friend replied with some unwillingness, and after much ineffectual entreaty having for its object the immediate settlement of the business, that his quarters would be at the Crooked Billet in Tower Street; where he would be found waking until midnight, and sleeping until breakfast time to-morrow.
'And if I do come--which it's a million to one, I shall--when will you take me out of London?' demanded Joe.