Page:A Voice from the Nile, and Other Poems. (Thomson, Dobell).djvu/20

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ix
Memoir.

five years after the birth of James a second son was born, and in little more than a year afterwards the mother died. The father had by this time fallen somewhat in the social scale, owing, it is said, to habits of intemperance. I cannot give any other particulars respecting him, save a somewhat vague report that he became imbecile and died a few years afterwards. On the mother's death, the infant child was taken charge of by relatives living at Port Glasgow. Some friends of the father exerted themselves in favour of James, and through their interest he was admitted into that excellent institution, the Caledonian Orphan Asylum. Here he proved himself a quick and intelligent scholar, and his rapid progress in acquiring knowledge gave the greatest satisfaction to his tutors.

When the time came for him to quit the Asylum, the question arose of what was to be his future profession. What he himself desired was to obtain a clerkship in a bank or a city merchant's office. But no such place was to be obtained except on condition of his serving for a time without pay, and this he could not do, for he was entirely without resources. He had, it is true, well-to-do relatives in London, but they gave him no assistance. No choice was left to him but to take the advice of some of the masters at the Asylum, who advised him to qualify for the post of a schoolmaster in the army. He did so, although he much disliked the idea, and he was allowed to join the service as assistant-schoolmaster. In this capacity he was sent to Ireland, the garrison which he joined being stationed at Ballincollig, near Cork. It may be remarked here, that his position in the army, however distasteful it may have been to him, was not an