The Boy Tramps. Or, Across Canada - J. Macdonald Oxley - ebook

The Boy Tramps. Or, Across Canada ebook

J. Macdonald Oxley

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Published in 1896 by a Canadian author of juvenile fiction James MacDonald Oxley (1855-1907), „The Boy Tramps Or, Across Canada” features adventures across Canada. Born in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Oxley J. MacDonald attended Dalhousie University and Harvard. He studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1878. He ended up working for the Sun Life Assurance Company and spent the remainder of his life working for them in Toronto. He started writing in 1889 and wrote 31 books for boys – adventure tales centered around the theme of a boy whose courage is tested in the wilderness. Many of his books have remote settings but some of them featured his native Nova Scotia such as „The Wreckers of Sable Island” and „In Paths of Peril”.

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Liczba stron: 417

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Contents

CHAPTER I

CHAPTER II

CHAPTER III

CHAPTER IV

CHAPTER V

CHAPTER VI

CHAPTER VII

CHAPTER VIII

CHAPTER IX

CHAPTER X

CHAPTER XI

CHAPTER XII

CHAPTER XIII

CHAPTER XIV

CHAPTER XV

CHAPTER XVI

CHAPTER XVII

CHAPTER XVIII

CHAPTER I

AT SCHOOL AND AT SEA.

It seemed in flat opposition to the familiar adage “like likes like” that Bruce Barclay and Arthur Rowe should be the most devoted chums at Merchiston Castle School, for certainly, to all outward appearance, the only point of similarity between them was that they both had fathers in the far East enduring the pains of exile and braving the perils of fever and cholera in the arduous pursuit of fortune.

As they came upon the cricket-ground together they presented a notable contrast, one to the other. Bruce was one year the elder, and stood full two inches above his companion. In many respects he was a typical Scotch laddie, and needed only tartan and sporran fitly to represent the son of a Highland chieftain.

He was tall for his years, but his well-knit frame was free from all suspicion of lankiness; and though his cheeks bore no tinge of red, they had that healthy pallor which betokens a sound, strong constitution. His features were regular, and when his clear gray eyes lit up with merriment or tenderness, the most captious critic could not deny that he looked “na sae ill;” but in repose his countenance wore a somewhat heavy expression, due in large part to his tendency to “brown studies,” that was not attractive. He had light-brown hair that was always well brushed, and a set of white, regular teeth that owed nothing to the dentist, and was altogether a thoroughly wholesome, stalwart youth whose seventeenth birthday would soon come round.

If Arthur fell short of his friend in height, he so surpassed him in sturdiness of build that they both tipped the scale at the same weight, to wit, one hundred and forty-five pounds. He was a worthy son of John Bull, and promised, if spared to middle age, to attain quite aldermanic proportions. In the meantime, he stood five feet six inches in his stockings, had an athletic figure, with every muscle well developed, a frank and decidedly pleasing face, deep blue eyes brimming with mischief, an ever-ready smile, and a shock of crisp yellow curls that seemed to bid defiance to the discipline of the brush.

In their mental characteristics also the boys differed as widely as they did in their physical. Acute as Bruce’s intellect was, he never made haste to put his thoughts into action. Reason, not impulse, was his master, and he often showed a degree of discretion, an amount of canniness, in fact, hardly to be expected from one of his years. He had abundance of spirit, but he kept it so well in hand that one who knew him slightly might imagine him dull, little conceiving what a geyser could burst forth if he were touched to the quick.

Arthur, on the other hand, wore his heart always on his sleeve, or, to use another simile, had the latch-string of his mind ever hanging out. Of the faculty called “reserve” he had practically none. He did his thinking at electric speed, and had an opinion ready as soon as the issue was presented. His temper was as quick as his heart was warm, and having once expressed an opinion or taken a position, he would maintain his ground resolutely, no matter what the odds might be against him. In a word, he was a hearty, healthy boy, loyal to his friends, fearless before his foes, and fated to make a good mark in the world, provided his impetuosity did not entail some untimely disaster.

The one point of similarity between Arthur and Bruce that has been noted needs further explanation. Mr. Rowe and Mr. Barclay were merchants in Shanghai, the former being engaged in the silk, and the latter in the tea, trade. There the boys had been playmates in the handsome English settlement, and thence at an early age they had been sent away from the enervating climate to the bracing air of Scotland, in which they had flourished famously.

For the past nine years they had been at Merchiston, making their way up from class to class, and winning renown at cricket and football. Bruce was decidedly the best scholar, and helped Arthur over many a hard place by patient coaching, although the latter needed only to give his mind to his studies in order to take rank with the leaders in the classes.

They had both reached the sixth class, Bruce being at the top and Arthur not far from the bottom, and were beginning to look forward questioningly to the future, for it was not decided whether they should continue on to the University. They hoped their fathers would allow them to do so, but had no definite assurance in the matter.

In the meantime they were making the most of their last year at dearly loved Merchiston, and a memorable year it proved to be for both them and the school, as it witnessed the signal defeat of Loretto at cricket, and Fettes at football, in the achieving of which glorious double event they each bore a brilliant part.

The football match took place in February, and it was only due to the intercession of Bruce that Arthur, in spite of his speed, and skill, and strength, had a place on the fifteen, the trouble with him being that he was impatient of discipline, and apt to take his own way of dealing with the ball instead of implicitly obeying his captain.

For this reason, Bruce, who played forward, while Arthur was one of the half-backs, felt especially anxious that he should cover himself with glory, and before they went on the field he besought him not only to play his best, but to do exactly as he was bidden even though he thought he knew a better way.

“It’s your last chance, you know, Arthur, to beat Fettes,” he urged; “and they gave us a bad licking last year, and if they do it again this year we’ll be sorry for it all our lives, won’t we?”

“But they’re not going to do it,” answered Arthur, bringing his teeth together with a snap and clenching his fists. “I’m going to get a touch-down right behind their goal if I die for it.” Then after a moment’s silence he added, “All right, Bruce, I’ll obey orders. You needn’t worry about me.”

He proved as good as his word. Without abating a jot of his energy or enterprise he played his position in a way that rejoiced the captain’s heart, passing with great judgment and accuracy, never failing in a tackle nor muffing a kick, and obeying every order and signal like a well-drilled soldier.

The struggle was a fierce one, and maintained with splendid resolution on both sides. Neither team gained any advantage in the first half, and the second was well advanced before Arthur saw the opportunity to redeem his pledge to Bruce.

He secured a mark on a sudden kick-out from a maul, but instead of taking his kick determined to attempt a run-in. He gave a quick glance of inquiry at his captain, who divined its meaning, and nodded assent.

That instant Arthur was off like a startled deer, clearing the opposing forwards before they had time to recover from the maul, and thus having only two of the half-backs and the back left to reckon with.

The first half-back, having to come at him on a slant from the rear, was easily disposed of. The second gave more difficulty. It was Sangster, undoubtedly the best player on the Fettes team, and, realizing the danger there was of Arthur’s dashing charge succeeding, he braced himself to meet him with the low tackle for which he was renowned.

The chorus of cheers rose into a continuous roar like that of a cataract as Arthur’s feet flew over the turf. He was apparently making no attempt to evade Sangster, and Barclay, watching him with throbbing anxiety, wondered what his strategy might be.

Another moment made it plain, for, just as Sangster’s sinewy hands were about to encircle his waist, he suddenly sprang high in the air, and well to the left of his opponent, who, losing his balance in the effort to turn quick enough, fell over on his knees, while Arthur sped exultantly past him.

The outburst of applause that greeted this clever feat reached even Arthur’s ears, and stimulated him for the task yet before him. He was now within fifteen yards of the goal, and five yards in front of it stood the full-back with every nerve and sinew attent, like a panther ready for his spring.

Arthur knew he could not repeat the trick that did for Sangster. But his resources were not yet exhausted. His quick mind evolved another no less brilliant.

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