CHAPTER III. THE SEVEN YEARS' PEACE 1748-1755
Wolfe was made welcome in England wherever he went. In spite of his youth his name was well known to the chief men in the Army, and he was already a hero among the friends of his family. By nature he was fond of the society of ladies, and of course he fell in love. He had had a few flirtations before, like most other soldiers; but this time the case was serious. The difference was the same as between a sham fight and a battle. His choice fell on Elizabeth Lawson, a maid of honour to the Princess of Wales. The oftener he saw her the more he fell in love with her. But the course of true love did not, as we shall presently see, run any more smoothly for him than it has for many another famous man.
In 1749, when Wolfe was only twenty-two, he was promoted major of the 20th Regiment of Foot. He joined it in Scotland, where he was to serve for the next few years. At first he was not very happy in Glasgow. He did not like the people, as they were very different from the friends with whom he had grown up. Yet his loneliness only added to his zeal for study. He had left school when still very young, and he now found himself ignorant of much that he wished to know. As a man of the world he had found plenty of gaps in his general knowledge. Writing to his friend Captain Rickson, he says: 'When a man leaves his studies at fifteen, he will never be justly called a man of letters. I am endeavouring to repair the damages of my education, and have a person to teach me Latin and mathematics.' From his experience in his own profession, also, he had learned a good deal. In a letter to his father he points out what excellent chances soldiers have to see the vivid side of many things: 'That variety incident to a military life gives our profession some advantages over those of a more even nature. We have all our passions and affections aroused and exercised, many of which must have wanted their proper employment had not suitable occasions obliged us to exert them. Few men know their own courage till danger proves them, or how far the love of honour or dread of shame are superior to the love of life. This is a knowledge to be best acquired in an army; our actions are there in presence of the world, to be fully censured or approved.'
Great commanders are always keen to learn everything really worth while. It is only the little men who find it a bore. Of course, there are plenty of little men in a regiment, as there are everywhere else in the world; and some of the officers were afraid Wolfe would insist on their doing as he did. But he never preached. He only set the example, and those who had the sense could follow it. One of his captains wrote home: 'Our acting colonel here is a paragon. He neither drinks, curses, nor gambles. So we make him our pattern.' After a year with him the officers found him a 'jolly good fellow' as well as a pattern; and when he became their lieutenant-colonel at twenty-three they gave him a dinner that showed he was a prime favourite among them. He was certainly quite as popular with the men. Indeed, he soon became known by a name which speaks for itself - 'the soldier's' friend.'
By and by Wolfe's regiment marched into the Highlands, where he had fought against Prince Charlie in the '45. But he kept in touch with what was going on in the world outside. He wrote to Rickson at Halifax, to find out for him all he could about the French and British colonies in America. In the same letter, written in 1751, he said he should like to see some Highland soldiers raised for the king's army and sent out there to fight. Eight years later he was to have a Highland regiment among his own army at Quebec. Other themes filled the letters to his mother. Perhaps he was thinking of Miss Lawson when he wrote: 'I have a certain turn of mind that favours matrimony prodigiously. I love children. Two or three manly sons are a present to the world, and the father that offers them sees with satisfaction that he is to live in his successors.' He was thinking more gravely of a still higher thing when he wrote on his twenty-fifth birthday, January 2, 1752, to reassure his mother about the strength of his religion.
Later on in the year, having secured leave of absence, he wrote to his mother in the best of spirits. He asked her to look after all the little things he wished to have done. 'Mr Pattison sends a pointer to Blackheath; if you will order him to be tied up in your stable, it will oblige me much. If you hear of a servant who can dress a wig it will be a favour done me to engage him. I have another favour to beg of you and you'll think it an odd one: 'tis to order some currant jelly to be made in a crock for my use. It is the custom in Scotland to eat it in the morning with bread.' Then he proposed to have a shooting-lodge in the Highlands, long before any other Englishman seems to have thought of what is now so common. 'You know what a whimsical sort of person I am. Nothing pleases me now but hunting, shooting, and fishing. I have distant notions of taking a very little house, remote upon the edge of the forest, merely for sport.'