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Terry's Trials and Triumphs

J. Macdonald Oxley

  Produced by Al Haines

  Cover art]

  [Frontispiece: "_Down sank the gallant ship, driving her crew to thespar-deck._" Page 96.]






  Author of "In the Wilds of the West Coast," "Diamond Rock," "Up Among the Ice-Floes," "My Strange Rescue," &c., &c.


  London, Edinburgh, and New York





  "Down sank the gallant ship, driving her crew to the spar-deck."

  "On being lifted carefully in, Miss Drummond fainted for the moment."

  "Terry, attired as never before, set out for Long Wharf."

  "The whole ship had the appearance of being in readiness for anexpected foe."

  "He succeeded in ingratiating himself with the driver of the train."




  "Give it to him, Terry--that's the style!" "Punch his head!" "Hit himin the face, Mike!" "Good for you, Terry--that was a daisy!" "Stick tohim, me hearty; ye'll lick him yet!"

  The shouts came from a ring of ragged, dirty youngsters, who werewatching with intense excitement a hand-to-hand and foot-to-foot fightbetween two of their own kind--a rough-and-tumble affair of the mostdisorderly sort.

  They were not well-matched combatants, the one called Terry being muchinferior in size and weight to the other; but he evidently had thesympathy of the majority of the spectators, and he displayed an amountof vigour and agility that went far to make up for his deficiencies inother respects.

  In point of fact, he was not fighting his own battle, but that oflittle Patsy Connors, whose paltry, yet to him precious, plaything hadbeen brutally snatched away from him by Mike Hoolihan, and who hadappealed to Terry to obtain its return.

  The contest had waged but a few minutes, and the issue was stilluncertain, when a shrill cry of, "The peelers! the peelers! they'recomin' up the street!" caused a dispersion of the crowd, so speedy andso complete that the boys composing it seemed to vanish like spirits;and when the big blue-coated, silver-buttoned policemen reached thespot, there was nothing to arrest but a woebegone puppy, who regardedthem with an expression that meant as plainly as possible,--

  "Please, sirs, it wasn't me; and I don't know where they've gone to."

  So the guardians of the peace were fain, after giving an indignantglance around, to retire in good order, but with empty hands.

  * * * * *

  A life divided between Blind Alley and the Long Wharf could hardly havehad a hopeful outlook. Blind Alley was the most miserable collectionof tumble-down tenements in Halifax. It led off from the narrowestportion of Water Street, in between two forbidding rows of filthy,four-storied houses, nearly every window of which represented a family,and brought up suddenly against the grim and grimy walls of a brewery,whence issued from time to time the thick, oppressive vapours ofsteaming malt.

  The open space between the rows of houses was little better than agutter, through which you had to pick your way with careful steps ifyou did not wish to carry off upon your boots and clothing unsavouryreminders of the place.

  Little wonder, then, that so soon as the children of Blind Alley werebig enough to walk they hastened to desert their repulsive playground,in spite of the shrill summons back from their unkempt mothers, who,though they made no attempt to keep them clean, loved them too much tothink with composure of their being exposed to the many dangers ofbusy, bustling Water Street.

  It is safe to say that you could not peer into Blind Alley during anyof the hours of daylight without hearing stout Mrs. M'Carthy, orred-haired Mrs. Hoolihan, or some other frowsy matron with no lesspowerful lungs, calling out from her window,--

  "Patsy! Norah! where are ye now, ye little villains? Ye're the plagueof my life wid yer always gettin' out of me sight. Come back wid yenow, or I'll beat the very life out o' ye."

  And if the poor little urchins had not managed to get around the cornerso as to be out of sight, they would slink dejectedly back to wait fora more favourable opportunity.

  Terry Ahearn's home, if so sweet a name could rightly be given to suchwretched quarters, was in the last house on the left-hand side, the twosqualid rooms which served all the purposes of kitchen, parlour, andbedrooms being on the second floor, and right against the brewery wall.Here he had been born, and had grown up pretty much as the weedsgrow--according to his own devices. Although the only survivor ofseveral children, his father, who bore the unprepossessing nickname of"Black Mike," hardly ever noticed him, unless it was to swear at him orcuff him. When sober, Black Mike was sulky, and when drunk,quarrelsome, so that Terry had many excuses for not loving him. Asmost of Mike's earnings went over the bar at the Crown and Anchor, hiswife was obliged to go out scrubbing in order to provide the bread andmolasses which, with a few potatoes and an occasional bit of meat,formed the staple of Terry's diet.

  With anything like a fair chance, poor Peggy Ahearn would have made atolerably good mother. But her married life had been one longmartyrdom, which had broken her spirit and soured her temper. Sheloved Terry with all her heart, and he loved her in return; yet anobserver of their mutual relations might well have thought otherwise.He was very apt to be saucy to her if his father was not near, and sherarely addressed him in terms of affection or gentleness.

  From such surroundings Terry, naturally enough, was only too glad toescape. Even the public school was more endurable, especially duringthe long cold winter. In the bright long days of summer there was theLong Wharf, on which his father worked, and where Terry's companionsgathered every day, rain or shine, from the beginning of May to the endof October.

  In Terry's general appearance there was nothing at first sight todistinguish him from any of the other "wharf rats" who were hisconstant companions. They all wore battered hats, ragged clothes, anddirty faces. They all had a fine capacity for shirking work, and formaking a great deal of noise when they were enjoying themselves.

  If you had occasion to talk with Terry, however, you would be a dullobserver if you did not notice certain qualities of character indicatedin his face and form which suggested the thought that there was goodstuff in the lad, and that if he had a chance he might turn out to beof some use despite his unpropitious surroundings.

  He had a bright, pleasant countenance of the genuine Irish type,thickly dotted with deep-tinted freckles; a pair of frank, brown eyes;a mop of hair with a decided tendency towards curls and redness; and awell-knit, full-sized frame, whose every muscle was developed to itsutmost capacity, and within which there beat a big warm heart, althoughthat might seem to be doubtful sometimes when its owner was in aparticularly mischievous mood.

  "Sure, an' I don't know what's ever to be the end of ye," said Mrs.Ahearn one day, in a more thoughtful tone than was usual with her,after scolding her son for one of his pranks which she had just foundout. "Ye've got wits enough to be a gentleman, if ye only had a mindto it; but never a bit do ye seem to care, so long as there's a bitefor ye to eat."

  Terry's response was so surprising that it fairly took his mother'sbreath away; for, drawing himself up to his full height, and putting ona look of the utmost determination, he exclaimed,--

  "And it's a gentleman I mean to be some day
, and then it's yourselfthat will ride in a carriage with glass sides, as fine as MissDrummond's."

  Mrs. Ahearn's eyes and mouth opened wide with astonishment. What hadcome over her boy that made him talk in that style? Ride in a carriageindeed! Faith, the highest expectation she ever permitted herself toentertain was of deliverance from the drudgery of the wash-tub. Ifthat could only be accomplished in some other way than by dying, shewould be well content.

  "Listen to him!" she cried. "It's crazy the boy is. Me ride in acarriage! Sure the only ride I'll ever get in a carriage with glasssides will be when I'm going to the cimitry."

  Then Terry did a still more remarkable thing. Whether it was hismother's reference to the hearse, or something in his own mind thatstirred him, can only be conjectured, but running up to Mrs. Ahearn hecaught her round the waist and gave her a hearty hug, saying,--

  "Ye'll have many a ride in a carriage, and with glass sides too,mother, before that."

  Then he darted off down the stairs, whistling "St. Patrick's Day in theMorning" with all his might, while his mother fell into a chair insheer bewilderment at her boy's utterly novel behaviour.

  Certainly there had been nothing in Terry's past record to give groundfor hope of his ever attaining the status of a gentleman owning acarriage. To do as little work and to have as much play as possibleseemed to be his ideal of life. More than once a situation aserrand-boy had been obtained for him; but he soon forfeited them byneglect of duty, and returned rejoicing to his friends on Long Wharf.Unless a decided change of disposition took place, he bid fair to turnout nothing better than one more recruit for the wretched regiment of"street loafers" that is characteristic of every maritime city.

  Long Wharf, Terry's "happy hunting ground," so to speak, it must beadmitted, possessed a multitude of attractions for boys of his kind.It held an unquestioned pre-eminence among the wharves of Halifax forsize and superiority of position, thrusting itself out prominently fromtheir midst into the heart of the harbour, while the rest curved awayon either hand in undistinguishable monotony. From the foot of LongWharf you could comfortably command the whole water-line as from noother vantage-ground. Hence, in addition to being one of the busiestplaces in the city during the day, it was in the summer evenings thefavourite resort of the whole neighbourhood--men, women, and childrengathering there to enjoy the cool breezes, and to watch thepleasure-boats gliding past with their merry occupants.

  The wharf was the centre of bustling activity all summer long. From itsailed lines of steamers to the bleak rugged coasts of Newfoundland andto the fascinating fairy-land of the West Indies, while others voyagedacross the ocean to the metropolis of the world. When they returnedladen with costly cargoes, the schooners and other sailing-vesselsgathered round with gaping holds that had to be filled, and what theydid not carry off went into the huge warehouses which stood in opposingrows clear up to the street.

  By virtue of his relationship to Black Mike, Terry had the freedom ofthe wharf. It was about the only benefit his father conferred uponhim, and he made the most of it, scraping acquaintance with thesailors, especially the cooks of the steamers, running occasionalerrands for the storekeeper, who might order him off the premises atany time he saw fit, fishing for perch and tomcods, bathing in thenorth dock at the risk of arrest by the first policeman who shouldhappen along, and having grand games of "I spy" among the maze ofstores and sheds.

  Of course, this kind of life could not go on for ever, and there weretimes when Terry paused in his eager quest for amusement long enough toask himself what he would like to be and to do for a living. Theanswers to the question were as various as Terry's moods. He fainwould be a sailor, soldier, fireman, policeman, or coachman, accordingas he had been most lately impressed with the advantages andattractions of that particular occupation. He even sometimes let histhoughts aspire as high as the position of clerk in the offices ofDrummond and Brown, the owners of Long Wharf. But that was only inmoments of exceptional exaltation, and they soon fell back again totheir wonted level.

  This last idea, remote as the possibility of its fulfilment might seem,had especial vigour imparted into it one morning by a few words thatMiss Kate Drummond, the only daughter of the senior partner, happenedto let fall. She had driven down with her own pony to take her fatherhome to lunch, and the wharf being such a noisy place, had asked Terry,who chanced to be lounging near by, wondering if he would ever be theowner of so fine an equipage, if he would be good enough to hold thepony's head while she sat in the carriage awaiting her father's coming.

  Struck by Terry's prepossessing albeit somewhat dirty countenance, shethought she might while away the time by asking him some questionsabout himself. Terry answered so promptly and politely that she becamequite interested in him, and finally began to sound him as to his plansfor the future.

  "Do you know, Terry," said she, with a winning smile that sent a thrillof pleasure clear down to the tips of the boy's bare toes, "I believesomething good might be made out of you. Your face tells me thatyou've got it in you to make your way in the world. Many a rich andfamous man had no better start than you. Wouldn't you like to try asthey did?"

  Terry turned away his head to hide the blushes that glowed through thetan and freckles on his cheeks, and shifted uneasily from one foot tothe other.

  "I don't know, mum," said he at last. "I'd like to be a gentleman, andkeep a carriage some day."

  Miss Drummond gave a pleasant laugh; the answer was so franklycharacteristic. To be a gentleman and to ride in a carriage seemed tobe the working people's highest ideal of earthly bliss.

  "Well, Terry," she responded, taking care that there should besympathy, not ridicule, in her tone; "if that is your ambition, the wayis open to you to try to accomplish it. My grandfather began as alittle office-boy, and he had more than one carriage of his own beforehe died."

  The look that Terry gave Miss Drummond on hearing these words made herblush a little in her turn; it was such a curious blending ofbewilderment and joy. That this radiant creature, who seemed almost asfar removed from him as an angel of heaven, should have had agrandfather who was a mere office-boy, was a surprising revelation tohim. At the same time, what a vista of hope it opened up! If old Mr.Drummond, whom he remembered seeing years before, had worked his way upso well, could not others do it also?

  Not knowing just what to say, Terry kept silence, and the situation waspresently relieved by the appearance of Mr. Drummond. As Miss Drummondgathered up the reins, she gave the boy another of her lovely smiles.

  "Thank you very much, Terry," she said; "and you'll think over whatI've been saying to you, won't you?"

  Terry pulled off his ragged cap in token of promise to do so, and thelight carriage whirled away, leaving him with thoughts such as hadnever stirred his brain before. Of course he knew that men had madetheir way up from humble beginnings to high positions, but the fact hadhitherto never been so closely brought home to him; and it was whileunder the excitement of this idea that he so astonished his mother asrelated above.