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Wilson's Border Tales
The Dominie's Class
Chapter 1


"Their ends as various as the roads they take
In journeying through life."

There is no class of men to whom the memory turns with more complacency, or more frequently, than to those who "taught the young idea how to shoot" There may be a few tyrants of the birch, who never inspired a feeling save fear or hatred; yet there number is but few, and I would say that the schoolmaster is abroad in more senses than that in which it is popularly applied. He is abroad in the memory and in the affections of his pupils; and his remembrance is cherished wheresoever they may be. For my own part, I never met with a teacher whom I did not love when a boy, and reverence when a man; from him before whom I used to stand and endeavour to read my task in his eyes, as he held the book before his face, and the page was reflected in his spectacles—and from his spectacles I spelled my qu—to him, who, as an elder friend, bestowed on me my last lesson. When a man has been absent from the place of his nativity for years, and when he returns and grasps the hands of his surviving kindred, one of his first questions to them (after family questions are settled) is—"Is Mr.—, my old schoolmaster, yet alive?" And, if the answer be in the affirmative, one of the first on whom he calls is the dominie of his boyhood; and he enters the well-remembered school—and his first glance is to the seat he last occupied—as an urchin opens the door and admits him, as he gently taps at it, and cries to the master (who is engaged with a class), when a the stranger enters—

"Sir, here’s one wants you."

Then steps forward the man of letters, looking anxiously— gazing as though he had a right to gaze in the strangers face; and, throwing out his head, and particularly his chin, while he utters the hesitating interrogative—"Sir?" And the stranger replies—"You don’t know me, I suppose? I am such-an-one, who was at your school at such a time." The instiller of knowledge starts—

"What!" cries he, shifting his spectacles, "you Johnnie (Thomas, or Peter, as the case may be) So-and-so? it’s not possible! O man, I’m glad to see ye! Ye’ll mak me an auld man, whether I will or no. And how hae ye been, an’ where hae ye been?" as he speaks, he flings his taws over to the corner where his desk stands. The young stranger still cordially shakes his hand, and a few kindly words pass between them, and the teacher, turning to his scholars, says—"You may put by your books and slates, and go for the day;" when an instantaneous movement takes place through the school; there is a closing of books, a clanking of slates, a pocketing of pencils, a clutching for hats, caps, and bonnets—a springing over seats, and a falling of seats—a rushing to the door, and a shouting when at the door—a "hurra for play!"—and the stranger seems to have made a hundred happy, while the teacher and he retire, to

"Drink a cup o’ kindness
For auld langsyne."

But to proceed with our story of stories. There was a Dr. Montgomery, a native of Annan, who, after he had been for more than twenty years a physician in India, where he had become rich, visited his early home, which was also the grave of his fathers. There were but few of his relations in life when he returned—(for death makes sad havoc in families in twenty years)—but, after he had seen them, he inquired if his old teacher, Mr. Grierson, yet lived?—and being answered in the affirmative, the doctor proceeded to the residence of his first instructor. He found him occupying the same apartments in which he resided thirty years before, and which were situated on the south side of the main street, near the bridge.

When the first congratulations--the shaking of hands and the expressions of surprise—had been got over, the doctor invited the dominie to dinner; and, after the cloth was withdrawn, and the better part of a bottle of Port had vanished between them, the man of medicine thus addressed his ancient preceptor:--

"Can you inform me, sir, what has become of my old class-fellows?—who of them are yet in the land of the living?who have caught the face of fortune as she smiled, or been rendered the ‘sport o’ her slippery ba’?’ Of the fate of one of them I know something, and to me their history would be more interesting than a romance."

"Do ye remember the names that ye used to gie ane anither?" inquired the man of letters, with a look of importance, which showed that the history of the whole class was forthcoming.

"I remember them well," replied the doctor; "there were seven of us: Solitary Sandy—Glaikit Willie—Venturesome Jamie—Cautious Watty—Leein’ Peter—Jock the Dunce— and myself."

"And hae ye forgot the lounderings that I used to gie ye, for ca’in’ ane anither such names?" inquired Mr. Grierson, with a smile.

"I remember you were displeased at it," replied the other.

"Weel, doctor," continued the teacher, "I believe I can gratify your curiosity, an’ I am not sure but you’ll find that the history of your class-fellows is not without interest. The career of some of them has been to me as a recompense for all the pains I bestowed on them, an’ that o’ others has been a source o’ grief. Wi’ some I hae been disappointed, wi’ ithers surprised; but you’ll allow that I did my utmost to fleece and to thrash your besetting sins out o’ ye a’. I will first inform ye what I know respecting the history of Alexander Rutherford, whom all o’ ye used to ca’ Solitary Sandy, because he wasna a hempy like yoursels.’ Now, sir, hearken to the history of Solitary Sandy----


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