Page:Life of John Boyle O'Reilly.djvu/39

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5
HIS LIFE, POEMS AND SPEECHES.

was one of the delicious incidents, and is now one of the delicious memories of my life. That little brown, fat dog, that could not walk through the meadow, but had to jump over every tangled spot, and miss five times out of six, and fall and roll over when at last he succeeded, and have to be taken up then and carried—that little brown, fat dog, with his flapping ears and hard belly, and straight, short tail,—who wore the hair off his back with lying on it to play with the big dogs, or with me; who never could trot, he was so fat and round; who always galloped or walked like an Australian horse; who was always so hungry that he never could take his milk quietly, but must gallop up to it, and charge into it, and make himself cough,—the possession of that little brown spaniel puppy made me one of the happiest and proudest boys in Ireland."

With such parents, and such surroundings, the lad assimilated knowledge, and imbibed the profounder learning that is not found in books, that indefinable something which makes all the difference between a scholar and a poet. His education could not be said to have been completed when he left school. They, only, have nothing more to learn who have nothing at all to teach in after life.

But he had good education in having learned how to handle the tools of knowledge, when, at about the age of eleven, he left home to enter the printing office of the Drogheda Argus, in the humble capacity of apprentice, and on the still more humble salary of two shillings and sixpence a week, which did not include board or lodging. The circumstances under which he was induced to begin the struggle of life at such a tender age were these: His brother, William, two and a half years his senior, had been bound as an apprentice in the Argus establishment. He was a delicate youth, and after six months' service was obliged by ill-health to give up his place. John, then a fine, manly little fellow, hearing his mother lament the loss of the premium, which amounted to fifty pounds, offered to take his brother's place, and the offer was ultimately accepted. His salary was increased at the rate of