: Glengarry Schooldays
The two years of Archibald Munro's regime were the golden age of the
school, and for a whole generation "The Section" regarded that period as
the standard for comparison in the following years. Munro had a genius
for making his pupils work. They threw themselves with enthusiasm into
all they undertook--studies, debate nights, games, and in everything the
master was the source of inspiration.
And now his l
st examination day had come, and the whole Section
was stirred with enthusiasm for their master, and with grief at his
The day before examination was spent in "cleaning the school." This
semi-annual event, which always preceded the examination, was almost as
enjoyable as the examination day itself, if indeed it was not more
so. The school met in the morning for a final polish for the morrow's
recitations. Then after a speech by the master the little ones were
dismissed and allowed to go home though they never by any chance took
advantage of this permission. Then the master and the bigger boys and
girls set to work to prepare the school for the great day. The boys were
told off in sections, some to get dry cedar boughs from the swamp for
the big fire outside, over which the iron sugar-kettle was swung to heat
the scrubbing water; others off into the woods for balsam-trees for the
evergreen decorations; others to draw water and wait upon the scrubbers.
It was a day of delightful excitement, but this year there was below the
excitement a deep, warm feeling of love and sadness, as both teacher
and pupils thought of to-morrow. There was an additional thrill to the
excitement, that the master was to be presented with a gold watch and
chain, and that this had been kept a dead secret from him.
What a day it was! With wild whoops the boys went off for the dry cedar
and the evergreens, while the girls, looking very housewifely with
skirts tucked back and sleeves rolled up, began to sweep and otherwise
prepare the room for scrubbing.
The gathering of the evergreens was a delightful labor. High up in the
balsam-trees the more daring boys would climb, and then, holding by
the swaying top, would swing themselves far out from the trunk and come
crashing through the limbs into the deep, soft snow, bringing half the
tree with them. What larks they had! What chasing of rabbits along their
beaten runways! What fierce and happy snow fights! And then, the triumph
of their return, laden with their evergreen trophies, to find the big
fire blazing under the great iron kettle and the water boiling, and the
girls well on with the scrubbing.
Then, while the girls scrubbed first the benches and desks, and last of
all, the floors, the boys washed the windows and put up the evergreen
decorations. Every corner had its pillar of green, every window had its
frame of green, the old blackboard, the occasion of many a heartache to
the unmathematical, was wreathed into loveliness; the maps, with their
bewildering boundaries, rivers and mountains, capes, bays and islands,
became for once worlds of beauty under the magic touch of the greenery.
On the wall just over his desk, the master wrought out in evergreen an
arching "WELCOME," but later on, the big girls, with some shy blushing,
boldly tacked up underneath an answering "FAREWELL." By the time the
short afternoon had faded into the early evening, the school stood,
to the eyes of all familiar with the common sordidness of its everyday
dress, a picture of artistic loveliness. And after the master's little
speech of thanks for their good work that afternoon, and for all their
goodness to him, the boys and girls went their ways with that strangely
unnameable heart-emptiness that brings an ache to the throat, but
somehow makes happier for the ache.
The examination day was the great school event of the year. It was the
social function of the Section as well. Toward this event all the school
life moved, and its approach was attended by a deepening excitement,
shared by children and parents alike, which made a kind of holiday
feeling in the air.
The school opened an hour later than ordinarily, and the children came
all in their Sunday clothes, the boys feeling stiff and uncomfortable,
and regarding each other with looks half shy and half contemptuous,
realizing that they were unnatural in each other's sight; the girls
with hair in marvelous frizzes and shiny ringlets, with new ribbons, and
white aprons over their home-made winsey dresses, carried their unwonted
grandeur with an ease and delight that made the boys secretly envy but
apparently despise them. The one unpardonable crime with all the boys
in that country was that of being "proud." The boy convicted of "shoween
off," was utterly contemned by his fellows. Hence, any delight in new
clothes or in a finer appearance than usual was carefully avoided.
Ranald always hated new clothes. He felt them an intolerable burden. He
did not mind his new homespun, home-made flannel check shirt of mixed
red and white, but the heavy fulled-cloth suit made by his Aunt Kirsty
felt like a suit of mail. He moved heavily in it and felt queer, and
knew that he looked as he felt. The result was that he was in no genial
mood, and was on the alert for any indication of levity at his expense.
Hughie, on the contrary, like the girls, delighted in new clothes.
His new black suit, made down from one of his father's, with infinite
planning and pains by his mother, and finished only at twelve o'clock
the night before, gave him unmixed pleasure. And handsome he looked in
it. All the little girls proclaimed that in their shy, admiring glances,
while the big girls teased and petted and threatened to kiss him. Of
course the boys all scorned him and his finery, and tried to "take him
down," but Hughie was so unfeignedly pleased with himself, and moved so
easily and naturally in his grand attire, and was so cheery and frank
and happy, that no one thought of calling him "proud."
Soon after ten the sleighloads began to arrive. It was a mild winter
day, when the snow packed well, and there fluttered down through the
still air a few lazy flakes, large, soft, and feathery, like bits of the
clouds floating white against the blue sky. The sleighs were driven up
to the door with a great flourish and jingle of bells, and while the
master welcomed the ladies, the fathers and big brothers drove the
horses to the shelter of the thick-standing pines, and unhitching them,
tied them to the sleigh-boxes, where, blanketed and fed, they remained
for the day.
Within an hour the little school-house was packed, the children crowded
tight into the long desks, and the visitors on the benches along the
walls and in the seats of the big boys and girls. On the platform were
such of the trustees as could muster up the necessary courage--old Peter
MacRae, who had been a dominie in the Old Country, the young minister
and his wife, and the schoolteacher from the "Sixteenth."
First came the wee tots, who, in wide-eyed, serious innocence, went
through their letters and their "ox" and "cat" combinations and
permutations with great gusto and distinction. Then they were dismissed
to their seats by a series of mental arithmetic questions, sums
of varying difficulty being propounded, until little white-haired,
blue-eyed Johnnie Aird, with the single big curl on the top of his head,
was left alone.
"One and one, Johnnie?" said the master, smiling down at the rosy face.
"Three," promptly replied Johnnie, and retired to his seat amid the
delighted applause of visitors and pupils, and followed by the proud,
fond, albeit almost tearful, gaze of his mother. He was her baby, born
long after her other babies had grown up into sturdy youth, and all the
dearer for that.
Then up through the Readers, till the Fifth was reached, the examination
progressed, each class being handed over to the charge of a visitor, who
forthwith went upon examination as truly as did the class.
"Fifth class!" In due order the class marched up to the chalk line on
the floor in front of the master's desk, and stood waiting.
The reading lesson was Fitz-Greene Halleck's "Marco Bozzaris," a
selection of considerable dramatic power, and calling for a somewhat
spirited rendering. The master would not have chosen this lesson, but he
had laid down the rule that there was to be no special drilling of the
pupils for an exhibition, but that the school should be seen doing its
every-day work; and in the reading, the lessons for the previous day
were to be those of the examination day. By an evil fortune, the reading
for the day was the dramatic "Marco Bozzaris." The master shivered
inwardly as he thought of the possibility of Thomas Finch, with his
stolidly monotonous voice, being called upon to read the thrilling lines
recording the panic-stricken death-cry of the Turk: "To arms! They come!
The Greek! The Greek!" But Thomas, by careful plodding, had climbed to
fourth place, and the danger lay in the third verse.
"Will you take this class, Mr. MacRae?" said the master, handing him the
book. He knew that the dominie was not interested in the art of reading
beyond the point of correct pronunciation, and hence he hoped the class
might get off easily. The dominie took the book reluctantly. What he
desired was the "arith-MET-ic" class, and did not care to be "put off"
with mere reading.
"Well, Ranald, let us hear you," he rather growled. Ranald went at his
work with quiet confidence; he knew all the words.
"Page 187, Marco Bozzaris.
"At midnight in his guarded tent, The Turk lay dreaming of the hour
When Greece, her knee in suppliance bent,
Should tremble at his power."
And so on steadily to the end of his verse.
The next was "Betsy Dan," the daughter of Dan Campbell, of "The Island."
Now, Betsy Dan was very red in hair and face, very shy and very nervous,
and always on the point of giggles. It was a trial to her to read on
ordinary days, but to-day it was almost more than she could bear. To
make matters worse, sitting immediately behind her, and sheltered from
the eye of the master, sat Jimmie Cameron, Don's youngest brother.
Jimmie was always on the alert for mischief, and ever ready to go off
into fits of laughter, which he managed to check only by grabbing tight
hold of his nose. Just now he was busy pulling at the strings of Betsy
Dan's apron with one hand, while with the other he was hanging onto his
nose, and swaying in paroxysms of laughter.
Very red in the face, Betsy Dan began her verse.
"At midnight in the forest shades, Bozzaris--"
Pause, while Betsy Dan clutched behind her.
("Tchik! tchik!") a snicker from Jimmie in the rear.
"--his Suliote band, True as the steel of--"
("im-im,") Betsy Dan struggles with her giggles.
"Elizabeth!" The master's voice is stern and sharp.
Betsy Dan bridles up, while Jimmie is momentarily sobered by the
"True as the steel of their tried blades, Heroes in heart and hand.
There had the Persians thousands stood--"
("Tchik! tchik! tchik,") a long snicker from Jimmie, whose nose cannot
be kept quite in control. It is becoming too much for poor Betsy Dan,
whose lips begin to twitch.
("im-im, thit-tit-tit,") Betsy Dan is making mighty efforts to hold in
"--had the glad earth (tchik!) drunk their blood, On old Pl-a-a-t-t-e-a-'s day."
"Elizabeth Campbell!" The master's tone was quite terrible.
"I don't care! He won't leave me alone. He's just--just (sob)
pu--pulling at me (sob) all the time."
By this time Betsy's apron was up to her eyes, and her sobs were quite
"James, stand up!" Jimmie slowly rose, red with laughter, and covered
"I-I-I di-dn't touch her!" he protested.
"O--h!" said little Aleck Sinclair, who had been enjoying Jimmie's prank
hugely; "he was--"
"That'll do, Aleck, I didn't ask you. James is quite able to tell me
himself. Now, James!"
"I-I-I was only just doing that," said Jimmie, sober enough now, and
terrified at the results of his mischief.
"Doing what?" said the master, repressing a smile at Jimmie's woebegone
"Just-just that!" and Jimmie touched gingerly with the point of his
finger the bows of Betsy Dan's apron-strings.
"Oh, I see. You were annoying Elizabeth while she was reading. No wonder
she found it difficult. Now, do you think that was very nice?"
Jimmie twisted himself into a semicircle.
"Come here, James!" Jimmie looked frightened, came round the class, and
up to the master.
"Now, then," continued the master, facing Jimmie round in front of Betsy
Dan, who was still using her apron upon her eyes, "tell Elizabeth you
Jimmie stood in an agony of silent awkwardness, curving himself in
"Are you sorry?"
"Well, tell her so."
Jimmie drew a long breath and braced himself for the ordeal. He stood a
moment or two, working his eyes up shyly from Betsy Dan's shoes to
her face, caught her glancing at him from behind her apron, and began,
"I-I-I'm (tchik! tchik) sor-ry," (tchik). Betsy Dan's look was too much
for the little chap's gravity.
A roar swept over the school-house. Even the grim dominie's face
"Go to your seat and behave yourself," said the master, giving Jimmie a
slight cuff. "Now, Margaret, let us go on."
Margaret's was the difficult verse. But to Margaret's quiet voice and
gentle heart, anything like shriek or battle-cry was foreign enough, so
with even tone, and unmodulated by any shade of passion, she read the
cry, "To arms! They come! The Greek! The Greek!" Nor was her voice to
be moved from its gentle, monotonous flow even by the battle-cry of
Bozzaris, "Strike! till the last armed foe expires!"
"Next," said the dominie, glad to get on with his task.
The master breathed freely, when, alas for his hopes, the minister spoke
"But, Margaret, do you think Bozzaris cheered his men in so gentle a
voice as that?"
Margaret smiled sweetly, but remained silent, glad to get over the
"Wouldn't you like to try it again?" suggested the minister.
Margaret flushed up at once.
"Oh, no," said his wife, who had noticed Margaret's flushing face.
"Girls are not supposed to be soldiers, are they, Margaret?"
Margaret flashed a grateful look at her.
"That's a boy's verse."
"Ay! that it is," said the old dominie; "and I would wish very much that
Mrs. Murray would conduct this class."
But the minister's wife would not hear of it, protesting that the
dominie could do it much better. The old man, however, insisted, saying
that he had no great liking for this part of the examination, and
would wish to reserve himself, with the master's permission, for the
Mrs. Murray, seeing that it would please the dominie, took the book,
with a spot of color coming in her delicate, high-bred face.
"You must all do your best now, to help me," she said, with a smile that
brought an answering smile flashing along the line. Even Thomas Finch
allowed his stolid face a gleam of intelligent sympathy, which, however,
he immediately suppressed, for he remembered that the next turn was
his, and that he must be getting himself into the appearance of dogged
desperation which he considered suitable to a reading exercise.
"Now, Thomas," said the minister's wife, sweetly, and Thomas plunged
"They fought like brave men, long--"
"Oh, Thomas, I think we will try that man's verse again, with the cries
of battle in it, you know. I am sure you can do that well."
It was all the same to Thomas. There were no words he could not spell,
and he saw no reason why he should not do that verse as well as
any other. So, with an extra knitting of his eyebrows, he set forth
Thomas's voice fell with the unvarying regularity of the beat of a
"But, Thomas, wait a minute. You see you must speak these words, 'To
arms! They come!' differently from the others. These words were shrieked
by the sentries, and you must show that in your reading."
"Speak them out, man," said the minister, sharply, and a little
nervously, fearing that his wife had undertaken too great a task, and
hating to see her defeated.
"Now, Thomas," said Mrs. Murray, "try again. And remember the sentries
shrieked these words, 'To arms!' and so on."
Thomas squared his shoulders, spread his feet apart, added a wrinkle
to his frown, and a deeper note of desperation to his tone, and began
The master shuddered.
"Now, Thomas, excuse me. That's better, but we can improve that yet."
Mrs. Murray was not to be beaten. The attention of the whole school,
even to Jimmie Cameron, as well as that of the visitors, was now
concentrated upon the event.
"See," she went on, "each phrase by itself. 'An hour passed on: the Turk
awoke.' Now, try that far."
Again Thomas tried, this time with complete success. The visitors
"Ah, that's it, Thomas. I was sure you could do it."
Thomas relaxed a little, but not unduly. He was not sure what was yet
"Now we will get that 'sentries shriek.' See, Thomas, like this a
little," and she read the words with fine expression.
"You must put more pith, more force, into those words, Thomas. Speak
out, man!" interjected the minister, who was wishing it was all over.
"Now, Thomas, I think this will be the last time. You have done very
well, but I feel sure you can do better."
The minister's wife looked at Thomas as she said this, with so
fascinating a smile that the frown on Thomas' face deepened into a
hideous scowl, and he planted himself with a do-or-die expression in
every angle of his solid frame. Realizing the extreme necessity of the
moment, he pitched his voice several tones higher than ever before in
his life inside a house and before people, and made his final attempt.
"An-hour-passed-on: the-Turk-awoke: That-bright-dream-WAS-his-last."
And now, feeling that the crisis was upon him, and confusing speed
with intensity, and sound with passion, he rushed his words, with
ever-increasing speed, into a wild yell.
There was a moment of startled stillness, then, "tchik! tchik!" It was
Jimmie again, holding his nose and swaying in a vain effort to control a
paroxysm of snickers at Thomas' unusual outburst.
It was like a match to powder. Again the whole school burst into a
roar of uncontrollable laughter. Even the minister, the master, and the
dominie, could not resist. The only faces unmoved were those of Thomas
Finch and the minister's wife. He had tried his best, and it was to
please her, and she knew it.
A swift, shamed glance round, and his eyes rested on her face. That
face was sweet and grave as she leaned toward him, and said, "Thank you,
Thomas. That was well done." And Thomas, still looking at her, flushed
to his hair roots and down the back of his neck, while the scowl on his
forehead faded into a frown, and then into smoothness.
"And if you always try your best like that, Thomas, you will be a great
and good man some day."
Her voice was low and soft, as if intended for him alone, but in the
sudden silence that followed the laughter it thrilled to every heart in
the room, and Thomas was surprised to find himself trying to swallow a
lump in his throat, and to keep his eyes from blinking; and in his face,
stolid and heavy, a new expression was struggling for utterance. "Here,
take me," it said; "all that I have is thine," and later days brought
the opportunity to prove it.
The rest of the reading lesson passed without incident. Indeed, there
pervaded the whole school that feeling of reaction which always succeeds
an emotional climax. The master decided to omit the geography and
grammar classes, which should have immediately followed, and have dinner
at once, and so allow both children and visitors time to recover tone
for the spelling and arithmetic of the afternoon.
The dinner was an elaborate and appalling variety of pies and cakes,
served by the big girls and their sisters, who had recently left
school, and who consequently bore themselves with all proper dignity and
importance. Two of the boys passed round a pail of water and a tin cup,
that all the thirsty might drink. From hand to hand, and from lip to
lip the cup passed, with a fine contempt of microbes. The only point
of etiquette insisted upon was that no "leavings" should be allowed to
remain in the cup or thrown back into the pail, but should be carefully
flung upon the floor.
There had been examination feasts in pre-historic days in the Twentieth
school, when the boys indulged in free fights at long range, using as
missiles remnants of pie crust and cake, whose consistency rendered them
deadly enough to "bloody" a nose or black an eye. But these barbaric
encounters ceased with Archie Munro's advent, and now the boys vied with
each other in "minding their manners." Not only was there no snatching
of food or exhibition of greediness, but there was a severe repression
of any apparent eagerness for the tempting dainties, lest it should be
suspected that such were unusual at home. Even the little boys felt that
it would be bad manners to take a second piece of cake or pie unless
specially pressed; but their eager, bulging eyes revealed only too
plainly their heart's desire, and the kindly waiters knew their duty
sufficiently to urge a second, third, and fourth supply of the toothsome
currant or berry pie, the solid fruit cake, or the oily doughnut, till
the point was reached where desire failed.
"Have some more, Jimmie. Have a doughnut," said the master, who had been
admiring Jimmie's gastronomic achievements.
"He's had ten a'ready," shouted little Aleck Sinclair, Jimmie's special
Jimmie smiled in conscious pride, but remained silent.
"What! eaten ten doughnuts?" asked the master, feigning alarm.
"He's got four in his pocket, too," said Aleck, in triumph.
"He's got a pie in his own pocket," retorted Jimmie, driven to
"A pie!" exclaimed the master. "Better take it out. A pocket's not the
best place for a pie. Why don't you eat it, Aleck?"
"I can't," lamented Aleck. "I'm full up."
"He said he's nearly busted," said Jimmie, anxiously. "He's got a
pain here," pointing to his left eye. The bigger boys and some of the
visitors who had gathered round shouted with laughter.
"Oh, pshaw, Aleck!" said the master, encouragingly, "that's all right.
As long as the pain is as high up as your eye you'll recover. I tell you
what, put your pie down on the desk here, Jimmie will take care of it,
and run down to the gate and tell Don I want him."
Aleck, with great care and considerable difficulty, extracted from his
pocket a segment of black currant pie, hopelessly battered, but still
intact. He regarded it fondly for a moment or two, and then, with a very
dubious look at Jimmie, ran away on his errand for the master.
It took him some little time to find Don, and meanwhile the master's
attention was drawn away by his duty to the visitors. The pie left to
Jimmie's care had an unfortunately tempting fringe of loose pieces about
it that marred its symmetry. Jimmie proceeded to trim it into shape. So
absorbed did he become in this trimming process, that before he realized
what he was about, he woke suddenly to the startling fact that the pie
had shrunk into a comparatively insignificant size. It would be worse
than useless to save the mutilated remains for Aleck; there was nothing
for it now but to get the reproachful remnant out of the way. He was
so busily occupied with this praiseworthy proceeding that he failed to
notice Aleck enter the room, flushed with his race, eager and once more
Arriving at his seat, he came upon Jimmie engaged in devouring the pie
left in his charge. With a cry of dismay and rage he flung himself upon
the little gourmand, and after a short struggle, secured the precious
pie; but alas, bereft of its most delicious part--it was picked clean
of its currants. For a moment he gazed, grief-stricken, at the leathery,
viscous remnant in his hand. Then, with a wrathful exclamation, "Here,
then, you can just take it then, you big pig, you!" He seized Jimmie by
the neck, and jammed the sticky pie crust on his face, where it stuck
like an adhesive plaster. Jimmie, taken by surprise, and rendered
nerveless by the pangs of an accusing conscience, made no resistance,
but set up a howl that attracted the attention of the master and the
"Why, Jimmie!" exclaimed the master, removing the doughy mixture from
the little lad's face, "what on earth are you trying to do? What is
"He ate my pie," said Aleck, defiantly.
"Ate it? Well, apparently not. But never mind, Aleck, we shall get you
"There isn't any more," said Aleck, mournfully; "that was the last
"Oh, well, we shall find something else just as good," said the master,
going off after one of the big girls; and returning with a doughnut
and a peculiarly deadly looking piece of fruit cake, he succeeded in
comforting the disappointed and still indignant Aleck.
The afternoon was given to the more serious part of the school
work--writing, arithmetic, and spelling, while, for those whose
ambitions extended beyond the limits of the public school, the master
had begun a Euclid class, which was at once his despair and his
pride. In the Twentieth school of that date there was no waste of the
children's time in foolish and fantastic branches of study, in showy
exercises and accomplishments, whose display was at once ruinous to
the nerves of the visitors, and to the self-respect and modesty of
the children. The ideal of the school was to fit the children for the
struggle into which their lives would thrust them, so that the boy who
could spell and read and cipher was supposed to be ready for his life
work. Those whose ambition led them into the subtleties of Euclid's
problems and theorems were supposed to be in preparation for somewhat
higher spheres of life.
Through the various classes of arithmetic the examination proceeded, the
little ones struggling with great seriousness through their addition
and subtraction sums, and being wrought up to the highest pitch of
excitement by their contest for the first place. By the time the fifth
class was reached, the air was heavy with the feeling of battle. Indeed,
it was amazing to note how the master had succeeded in arousing in the
whole school an intense spirit of emulation. From little Johnnie Aird up
to Thomas Finch, the pupils carried the hearts of soldiers.
Through fractions, the "Rule of Three," percentages, and stocks, the
senior class swept with a trail of glory. In vain old Peter MacRae
strewed their path with his favorite posers. The brilliant achievements
of the class seemed to sink him deeper and deeper into the gloom of
discontent, while the master, the minister and his wife, as well as
the visitors, could not conceal their delight. As a last resort the old
dominie sought to stem their victorious career with his famous problem
in Practice, and to his huge enjoyment, one after another of the class
had to acknowledge defeat. The truth was, the master had passed lightly
over this rule in the arithmetic, considering the solution of problems
by the method of Practice as a little antiquated, and hardly worthy of
much study. The failure of the class, however, brought the dominie his
hour of triumph, and so complete had been the success of the examination
that the master was abundantly willing that he should enjoy it.
Then followed the judging of the copy-books. The best and cleanest book
in each class was given the proud distinction of a testimonial written
upon the first blank page, with the date of the examination and the
signatures of the examiners attached. It was afterwards borne home in
triumph by the happy owner, to be stored among the family archives,
and perhaps among the sacred things that mothers keep in their holy of
After the copy-books had been duly appraised, there followed an hour
in which the excitement of the day reached its highest mark. The whole
school, with such of the visitors as could be persuaded to join, were
ranged in opposing ranks in the deadly conflict of a spelling-match. The
master, the teacher from the Sixteenth, and even the minister's wife,
yielded to the tremendous pressure of public demand that they should
enter the fray. The contest had a most dramatic finish, and it was felt
that the extreme possibility of enthusiasm and excitement was reached
when the minister's wife spelled down the teacher from the Sixteenth,
who every one knew, was the champion speller of all the country that lay
toward the Front, and had a special private armory of deadly missiles
laid up against just such a conflict as this. The tumultuous triumph
of the children was not to be controlled. Again and again they followed
Hughie in wild yells, not only because his mother was a great favorite
with them all, but because she had wrested a victory from the champion
of the Front, for the Front, in all matters pertaining to culture and
fashion, thought itself quite superior to the more backwoods country of
It was with no small difficulty that the master brought the school to
such a degree of order that the closing speeches could be received with
becoming respect and attention. The trustees, according to custom, were
invited to express their opinion upon the examination, and upon school
matters generally. The chairman, John Cameron, "Long John," as he was
called, broke the ice after much persuasion, and slowly rising from
the desk into which he had compressed his long, lank form, he made his
speech. Long John was a great admirer of the master, but for all that,
and perhaps because of that, he allowed himself no warmer words of
commendation than that he was well pleased with the way in which
the children had conducted themselves. "They have done credit to
themselves," he said, "and to their teacher. And indeed I am sorry he is
leaving us, for, so far, I have heard no complaints in the Section."
The other trustees followed in the path thus blazed out for them by Long
John. They were all well pleased with the examination, and they were
all sorry to lose the master, and they had heard no complaints. It
was perfectly understood that no words of praise could add to the high
testimony that they "had heard no complaints."
The dominie's speech was a little more elaborate. Somewhat reluctantly
he acknowledged that the school had acquitted itself with "very
considerable credit," especially the "arith-MET-ic" class, and indeed,
considering all the circumstances, Mr. Munro was to be congratulated
upon the results of his work in the Section. But the minister's warm
expression of delight at the day's proceedings, and of regret at the
departure of the master, more than atoned for the trustees' cautious
testimony, and the dominie's somewhat grudging praise.
Then came the moment of the day. A great stillness fell upon the school
as the master rose to make his farewell speech. But before he could
say a word, up from their seats walked Betsy Dan and Thomas Finch,
and ranged themselves before him. The whole assemblage tingled with
suppressed excitement. The great secret with which they had been
burdening themselves for the past few weeks was now to be out. Slowly
Thomas extracted the manuscript from his trousers pocket, and smoothed
out its many folds, while Betsy Dan waited nervously in the rear.
"Oh, why did they set Thomas to this?" whispered the minister's wife,
who had a profound sense of humor. The truth was, the choice of the
school had fallen upon Ranald and Margaret Aird. Margaret was quite
willing to act, but Ranald refused point-blank, and privately persuaded
Thomas to accept the honor in his stead. To this Thomas agreed, all the
more readily that Margaret, whom he adored from a respectful distance,
was to be his partner. But Margaret, who would gladly have been
associated with Ranald, on the suggestion that Thomas should take his
place, put up her lower lip in that symbol of scorn so effective with
girls, but which no boy has ever yet accomplished, and declared that
indeed, and she would see that Tom Finch far enough, which plainly
meant "no." Consequently they had to fall back upon Betsy Dan, who, in
addition to being excessively nervous, was extremely good-natured.
And Thomas, though he would greatly have preferred Margaret as his
assistant, was quite ready to accept Betsy Dan.
The interval of waiting while Thomas deliberately smoothed out the
creases of the paper was exceedingly hard upon Betsy Dan, whose face
grew redder each moment. Jimmie Cameron, too, who realized that the
occasion was one of unusual solemnity, was gazing at Thomas with
intense interest growing into amusement, and was holding his fingers
in readiness to seize his nose, and so check any explosion of snickers.
Just as Thomas had got the last fold of his paper straightened out, and
was turning it right end up, it somehow slipped through his fingers to
the floor. This was too much for Jimmie, who only saved himself from
utter disgrace by promptly seizing his nose and holding on for dear
life. Thomas gave Jimmie a passing glare and straightened himself up
for his work. With a furious frown he cleared his throat and began in
a solemn, deep-toned roar, "Dear teacher, learning with regret that you
are about to sever your connection," etc., etc. All went well until
he came to the words, "We beg you to accept this gift, not for its
intrinsic value," etc., which was the cue for Betsy Dan. But Betsy Dan
was engaged in terrorizing Jimmie, and failed to come in, till, after an
awful pause, Thomas gave her a sharp nudge, and whispered audibly, "Give
it to him, you gowk." Poor Betsy Dan, in sudden confusion, whipped her
hand out from under her apron, and thrusting a box at the master, said
hurriedly, "Here it is, sir." As Thomas solemnly concluded his address,
a smile ran round the room, while Jimmie doubled himself up in his
efforts to suppress a tempest of snickers.
The master, however, seemed to see nothing humorous in the situation,
but bowing gravely to Thomas and Betsy Dan, he said, kindly, "Thank you,
Thomas! Thank you, Elizabeth!" Something in his tone brought the school
to attention, and even Jimmie forgot to have regard to his nose. For
a few moments the master stood looking upon the faces of his pupils,
dwelling upon them one by one, till his eyes rested upon the wee tots in
the front seat, looking at him with eyes of innocent and serious wonder.
Then he thanked the children for their gift in a few simple words,
assuring them that he should always wear the watch with pride and
grateful remembrance of the Twentieth school, and of his happy days
But when he came to say his words of farewell, and to thank them for
their goodness to him, and their loyal backing of him while he was their
teacher, his voice grew husky, and for a moment wavered. Then, after
a pause, he spoke of what had been his ideal among them. "It is a good
thing to have your minds trained and stored with useful knowledge, but
there are better things than that. To learn honor, truth, and right; to
be manly and womanly; to be self-controlled and brave and gentle--these
are better than all possible stores of learning; and if I have taught
you these at all, then I have done what I most wished to do. I have
often failed, and I have often been discouraged, and might have given up
were it not for the help I received at my worst times from our minister
and from Mrs. Murray, who often saved me from despair."
A sudden flush tinged the grave, beautiful face of the minister's young
wife. A light filled her eyes as the master said these words, for she
remembered days when the young man's pain was almost greater than he
could bear, and when he was near to giving up.
When the master ceased, the minister spoke a few words in appreciation
of the work he had done in the school, and in the whole Section, during
his three years' stay among them, and expressed his conviction that many
a young lad would grow into a better man because he had known Archibald
Munro, and some of them would never forget what he had done for them.
By this time all the big girls and many of the visitors were openly
weeping. The boys were looking straight in front of them, their faces
set in an appearance of savage gloom, for they knew well how near they
were to "acting like the girls."
After a short prayer by the minister, the children filed out past the
master, who stood at the door and shook hands with them one by one. When
the big boys, and the young men who had gone to school in the winter
months, came to say good by, they shook hands silently, and then stood
close about him as if hating to let him go. He had caught for them in
many a close base-ball match; he had saved their goal in many a fierce
shinny fight with the Front; and while he had ruled them with an iron
rule, he had always treated them fairly. He had never failed them; he
had never weakened; he had always been a man among them. No wonder they
stood close about him and hated to lose him. Suddenly big Bob Fraser
called out in a husky voice, "Three cheers for the captain!" and every
one was glad of the chance to let himself out in a roar. And that was
the last of the farewells.