Author: Oxley, J. Macdonald (James Macdonald), 1855-1907
Christian life — Juvenile fiction
Friendship — Juvenile fiction
Boys — Juvenile fiction
Halifax (N.S.) — Juvenile fiction
Bert Lloyd’s Boyhood: A Story from Nova Scotia
BERT LLOYD’S BOYHOOD.
A Story from Nova Scotia
J. MACDONALD OXLEY, LL.D.
WITH EIGHT ILLUSTRATIONS BY J. FINNEMORE
HODDER AND STOUGHTON
27, PATERNOSTER ROW
PRINTED BY LORIMER AND GILLIES.
31 ST. ANDREW SQUARE.
There is something so pleasing to the author of this volume—the first of several which have been kindly received by his American cousins—in the thought of being accorded the privilege of appearing before a new audience in the “old home,” that the impulse to indulge in a foreword or two cannot be withstood.
And yet, after all, there would seem to be but two things necessary to be said:—Firstly, that in attempting a picture of boy life in Nova Scotia a fifth of a century ago, the writer had simply to fall back upon the recollections of his own school-days, and that in so doing he has striven to depart as slightly as possible from what came within the range of personal experience; and, Secondly, while it is no doubt to be regretted that Canada has not yet attained that stage of development which would enable her to support a literature of her own, it certainly is no small consolation for her children, however ardent their patriotism, who would fain enter the literary arena, that not only across the Border, but beyond the ocean in the Motherland, there are doors of opportunity standing open through which they may find their way before the greatest and kindliest audience in the world.
J. MACDONALD OXLEY.
29th August, 1892.
|I.||BERT IS INTRODUCED,||5|
|II.||FIREMAN OR SOLDIER,||11|
|III.||NO. FIVE FORT STREET,||17|
|IV.||OFF TO THE COUNTRY,||21|
|V.||THE RIDE IN THE COACH,||29|
|VIII.||TEMPTATION AND TRIUMPH,||57|
|IX.||LOST AND FOUND,||67|
|X.||BERT GOES TO SCHOOL,||81|
|XI.||SCHOOL LIFE AT MR. GARRISON’S,||93|
|XII.||A QUESTION OF INFLUENCE,||107|
|XIII.||BERT AT HOME,||117|
|XIV.||AN HONOURABLE SCAR,||127|
|XV.||A CHANGE OF SCHOOL,||139|
|XVI.||THE FIRST DAYS AT DR. JOHNSTON’S,||151|
|XIX.||VICTORY AND DEFEAT,||187|
|XX.||A NARROW ESCAPE,||203|
|XXI.||LEARNING TO SWIM,||217|
|XXII.||HOW HOISTING WAS ABOLISHED,||227|
|XXIII.||PRIZE WINNING AND LOSING,||239|
|XXIV.||A CHAPTER ON PONIES,||253|
|XXV.||ABOUT TWO KINDS OF PONIES,||263|
|XXVI.||VICTORY WON FROM DEFEAT,||273|
|XXVII.||ABOUT LITERATURE AND LAW,||287|
|XXVIII.||WELL DONE, BOYS!||301|
|XXIX.||THE VALLEY OF THE SHADOW,||315|
|XXX.||HOME MISSIONARY WORK,||325|
|XXXI.||NOT DEAD, BUT TRANSLATED,||335|
|XXXII.||A BOY NO LONGER,||349|
BERT IS INTRODUCED.
If Cuthbert Lloyd had been born in the time of our great grandfathers, instead of a little later than the first half of the present century, the gossips would assuredly have declared that the good fairies had had it all their own way at his birth.
To begin with, he was a particularly fine handsome baby; for did not all the friends of the family say so? In the second place, he was an only son, which meant that he had no big brothers to bully him. Next, his birthplace was the stirring seaport of Halifax, where a sturdy, energetic boy, such as Cuthbert certainly gave good promise of being, need never lack for fun or adventure. Finally, he had plenty of relations in the country to whom he might go in the summer time to learn the secrets and delights of country life.
Now, when to all these advantages are added two fond but sensible parents in comfortable circumstances, an elder sister who loved little Cuthbert with the whole strength of her warm unselfish heart, and a pleasant home in the best part of the city, they surely make us as fine a list of blessings as the most benevolent fairy godmother could reasonably have been expected to bestow.
And yet there was nothing about Master Cuthbert’s early conduct to indicate that he properly appreciated his good fortune. He was not half as well-behaved a baby, for instance, as red-headed little Patsey Shea, who, a few days after his first appearance, brought another hungry mouth to the already over-populated cottage of the milkwoman down in Hardhand’s lane. As he grew older, it needed more whippings than the sum total of his own chubby fingers and toes to instil into him a proper understanding of parental authority. Sometimes his mother, who was a slight small woman, stronger of mind than of body, would feel downright discouraged about her vigorous, wilful boy, and wonder, half-despairingly, if she were really equal to the task of bringing him up in the way he should go.
Cuthbert was in many respects an odd mixture. His mother often said that he seemed more like two boys of opposite natures rolled into one, than just one ordinary boy. When quite a little chap, he would at one time be as full of noise, action, and enterprise as the captain of an ocean steamer in a gale, and at another time be as sedate, thoughtful, and absentminded as the ancient philosopher who made himself famous by walking into a well in broad daylight.
Cuthbert, in fact, at the age of three, attracted attention to himself in a somewhat similar way. His mother had taken him with her in making some calls, and at Mrs. Allen’s, in one of his thoughtful moods, with his hands clasped behind him, he went wandering off unobserved. Presently he startled the whole household by tumbling from the top to the bottom of the kitchen stairs, having calmly walked over the edge in an absorbed study of his surroundings.
The other side of his nature was brilliantly illustrated a year later. Being invited to spend the day with a playmate of his own age, he built a big fire with newspapers in the bath room, turned on all the taps, pretending that they were the hydrants, and then ran through the hall, banging a dustpan and shouting “fire” at the top of his voice.
“He is such a perfect ‘pickle,’ I hardly know what to do with him, Robert,” said Mrs. Lloyd to her husband, with a big sigh, one evening at dinner.
“Don’t worry, my dear, don’t worry. He has more than the usual amount of animal spirits, that is all. Keep a firm hand on him and he’ll come out all right,” answered Mr. Lloyd, cheeringly.
“It’s easy enough to say, ‘Keep a firm hand on him,’ Robert, but my hand gets pretty tired sometimes, I can assure you. I just wish you’d stay at home for a week and look after Bert, while I go to the office in your place. You’d get a better idea of what your son is like than you can by seeing him for a little while in the morning and evening.”
“Thank you, Kate, I’ve no doubt you might manage to do my work at the office, and that my clients would think your advice very good; but I’m no less sure that I would be a dismal failure in doing your work at home,” responded Mr. Lloyd, with a smile, adding, more seriously: “Anyway, I have too much faith in your ability to make the best of Bert to think of spoiling your good work by clumsy interference.”
“It’s a great comfort to have you put so much faith in me,” said Mrs. Lloyd, with a grateful look, “for it’s more than Bert does sometimes. Why, he told me only this morning that he thought I wasn’t half as good to him as Frankie Clayton’s mother is to him, just because I wouldn’t let him have the garden hose to play fireman with.”
“Just wait until he’s fifteen, my dear,” returned Mr. Lloyd, “and if he doesn’t think then that he has one of the best mothers in the world, why—I’ll never again venture to prophesy, that’s all. And here comes my little man to answer for himself,” as the door opened suddenly and Bert burst in, making straight for his father. “Ha! ha! my boy, so your mother says you’re a perfect pickle. Well, if you’re only pickled in a way that will save you from spoiling, I shall be satisfied, and I think your mother may be, too.”
Mrs. Lloyd laughed heartily at the unexpected turn thus given to her complaint; and Bert, seeing both his parents in such good humour, added a beaming face on his own account, although, of course, without having the slightest idea as to the cause of their merriment.
Climbing up on his father’s knee, Bert pressed a plump cheek lovingly against the lawyer’s brown whiskers and looked, what indeed he was, the picture of happy content.
“What sort of a man are you going to make, Bert?” asked Mr. Lloyd, quizzingly, the previous conversation being still in his mind.
“I’m going to be a fireman,” replied Bert, promptly; “and Frankie’s going to be one too.”
“And why do you want to be a fireman, Bert?”
“Oh, because they wear such grand clothes and can make such a noise without anybody telling them to shut up,” answered Bert, whose knowledge of firemen was based upon a torchlight procession of them he had seen one night, and their management of a fire that had not long before taken place in the near neighbourhood, and of which he was a breathless spectator.
Mr. Lloyd could not resist laughing at his son’s naive reply, but there was no ridicule in his laugh, as Bert saw clearly enough, and he was encouraged to add:
“Oh, father, please let me be a fireman, won’t you?”
“We’ll see about it, Bert. If we can’t find anything better for you to do than being a fireman, why we’ll try to make a good fireman of you, that’s all. But never mind about that now; tell me what was the best fun you had to-day.” Thus invited, Bert proceeded to tell after his own fashion the doings of the day, with his father and mother an attentive audience.
It was their policy to always manifest a deep interest in everything Bert had to tell, and in this way they made him understand better perhaps than they could otherwise have done how thoroughly they sympathised with him in both the joys and sorrows of his little life. They were determined that the most complete confidence should be established between them and their only boy at the start, and Bert never appeared to such advantage as when, with eyes flashing and graphic gestures, he would tell about something wonderful in his eyes that had happened to him that afternoon.
By the time Bert had exhausted his budget and been rewarded with a lump of white sugar, the nurse appeared with the summons to bed, and after some slight demur he went off in good humour, his father saying, as the door closed upon him:
“There’s not a better youngster of his age in Halifax, Kate, even if he hasn’t at present any higher ambition than to be a fireman.”
FIREMAN OR SOLDIER.
Halifax has already been mentioned as a particularly pleasant place for a boy to be born in; and so indeed it is. Every schoolboy knows, or ought to know, that it is the capital of Acadia, one of the Maritime Provinces of the Dominion of Canada. It has a great many advantages, some of which are not shared by any other city on the continent. Situated right on the sea coast, it boasts a magnificent harbour, in which all the war vessels of the world, from the mightiest iron-clad to the tiniest torpedo boat, might lie at anchor. Beyond the harbour, separated from it by only a short strait, well-named the “Narrows,” is an immense basin that seems just designed for yachting and excursions; while branching out from the harbour in different directions are two lovely fiords, one called the Eastern Passage, leading out to the ocean again, and the other running away up into the land, so that there is no lack of salt water from which cool breezes may blow on the torrid days.
The city itself is built upon the peninsula that divides the harbour from the north-west arm, and beginning about half-a-mile from the point of the peninsula, runs northward almost to the Narrows, and spreads out westward until its farthest edge touches the shore of the arm. The “Point” has been wisely set aside for a public park, and except where a fort or two, built to command the entrance to the harbour, intrudes upon it, the forest of spruce and fir with its labyrinth of roads and paths and frequent glades of soft waving grass, extends from shore to shore, making a wilderness that a boy’s imagination may easily people with Indians brandishing tomahawk and scalping knife, or bears and wolves seeking whom they may devour.
Halifax being the chief military and naval station for the British Colonies in America, its forts and barracks are filled with red-coated infantry or blue-coated artillery the whole year round. All summer long great iron-clads bring their imposing bulks to anchor off the Dockyard, and Jack Tars in foolish, merry, and alas! too often vicious companies, swagger through the streets in noisy enjoyment of their day on shore.
On either side of the harbour, on the little island which rests like an emerald brooch upon its bosom, and high above the city on the crown of the hill up which it wearily climbs, street beyond street, stand frowning fortresses with mighty guns thrusting their black muzzles through the granite embrasures. In fact, the whole place is pervaded by the influences of military life; and Cuthbert, whose home overlooked a disused fort, now serving the rather ignoble purpose of a dwelling-place for married soldiers, was at first fully persuaded in his mind that the desire of his life was to be a soldier; and it was not until he went to a military review, and realised that the soldiers had to stand up awfully stiff and straight, and dare not open their mouths for the world, that he dismissed the idea of being a soldier, and adopted that of being a fireman.
Yet there were times when he rather regretted his decision, and inclined to waver in his allegiance. His going to the Sunday school with his sister had something to do with this. A favourite hymn with the superintendent—who, by the way, was a retired officer—was—
“Onward, Christian soldiers.”
The bright stirring tune, and the tremendous vigour with which the scholars sang it, quite took Cuthbert’s heart. He listened eagerly, but the only words he caught were the first, which they repeated so often:
“Onward, Christian soldiers.”
Walking home with his sister, they met a small detachment of soldiers, looking very fine in their Sunday uniforms:
“Are those Christian soldiers, Mary?” he asked, looking eagerly up into her face.
“Perhaps so, Bert, I don’t know,” Mary replied. “What makes you ask?”
“Because we were singing about Christian soldiers, weren’t we?” answered Bert.
“Oh! is that what you mean, Bert? They may be, for all I know. Would you like to be a Christian soldier?”
“Yes,” doubtfully; then, brightening up—”but couldn’t I be a Christian fireman, too?”
“Of course you could, Bert, but I’d much rather see you a Christian soldier. Mr. Hamilton is a Christian soldier, you know.”
This reply of his sister’s set Bert’s little brain at work. Mr. Hamilton, the superintendent of the Sunday school, was a tall, erect handsome man, with fine grey hair and whiskers, altogether an impressive gentleman; yet he had a most winning manner, and Bert was won to him at once when he was welcomed by him warmly to the school. Bert could not imagine anything grander than to be a Christian soldier, if it meant being like Mr. Hamilton. Still the fireman notion had too many attractions to be lightly thrown aside, and consequently for some time to come he could hardly be said to know his own mind as to his future.
The presence of the military in Halifax was far from being an unmixed good. Of course, it helped business, gave employment to many hands, imparted peculiar life and colour to society, and added many excellent citizens to the population. At the same time it had very marked drawbacks. There was always a great deal of drunkenness and other dissipation among the soldiers and sailors. The officers were not the most improving of companions and models for the young men of the place, and in other ways the city was the worse for their presence.
Mrs. Lloyd presently found the soldiers a source of danger to her boy. Just around the corner at the entrance to the old fort, already mentioned, was a guardhouse, and here some half-dozen soldiers were stationed day and night. They were usually jolly fellows, who were glad to get hold of little boys to play with, and thereby help to while away the time in their monotonous life. Cuthbert soon discovered the attractions of this guardhouse, and, in spite of commands to the contrary, which he seemed unable to remember, wandered off thither very often. All the other little boys in the neighbourhood went there whenever they liked, and he could not understand why he should not do so too. He did not really mean to defy his parents. He was too young for that, being only six years old. But the force of the example of his playmates seemed stronger than the known wishes of his parents, and so he disobeyed them again and again.
Mrs. Lloyd might, of course, have carried her point by shutting Bert up in the yard, and not allowing him out at all except in charge of somebody. But that was precisely what she did not wish to do. She knew well enough that her son could not have a locked-up world to live in. He must learn to live in this world, full of temptations as it is, and so