The next adventure that befel me in my visit to the Short-Timers, was the sudden apparition of a military band���. I saw with astonishment that several musical instruments, brazen and of great size, appeared to have suddenly developed two legs each, and to be trotting about a yard. And my astonishment was heightened when I observed a large drum, that had previously been leaning helpless against a wall, taking up a stout position on four legs. Approaching this drum and looking over it, I found two boys behind it (it was too much for one), and then I found that each of the brazen instruments had brought out a boy, and was going to discourse sweet sounds. The boys ��� not omitting the fifer, now playing a new instrument - were dressed in neat uniform, and stood up in a circle at their music-stands, like any other Military Band. They played a march or two, and then we had Cheer boys, Cheer, and then we had Yankee Doodle, and we finished, as in loyal duty bound, with God Save the Queen. The band���s proficiency was perfectly wonderful, and it was not at all wonderful that the whole body corporate of Short-Timers listened with faces of the liveliest interest and pleasure���. [I]n a great class-room I found myself now, with the whole choral force of Short- Timers singing the praises of a summer���s day to the harmonium, and my small but highly-respected friend the fifer blazing away vocally, as if he had been saving up his wind for the last twelvemonth; also the whole crew of the good ship Nameless swarming up and down the scale as if they had never swarmed up and down the rigging. This done, we threw our whole power into God bless the Prince of Wales, and blessed his Royal Highness to such an extent that, for my own uncommercial part, I gasped again when it was over.
Dickens is describing a visit to the Stepney Union Schools, where, according to the half- or short-time system, children attended school for three hours a day, and where 'naval drill' was part of the boys' curriculum. Dickens goes on to comment on the high demand from regimental bands for these boys.