THE OLD SCHOOLHOUSE.
I lately visited the time-worn building, where for a lengthened period, during my early years, I studied the rudiments of education; and what a host of almost forgotten memories of the past came thronging back upon my mind as I stood alone—in that well remembered room. I seemed again to hear the hum of youthful voices as they conned or recited their daily tasks, and, as memory recalled the years that had passed since we used there to assemble, I could not avoid saying mentally: “My schoolmates, where are they?” Even that thought called to mind an amusing story related by a much loved companion who for a time formed one of our number.
He was older than most of the other boys, and was a general favourite with all. He was famous for relating funny stories, of which he had a never-failing supply; and when the day was too stormy to allow of out-of-door sports, during the noon hour, we used to gather around the large stove which stood in the centre of the room and coax H. M. to tell us stories. The story which recurred to my mind was of a poor Irishman, who, in describing a visit which he paid to the home of his childhood after a long absence, said: “At the sober hour of twilight, I entered the lonely and desarted home uv me forefathers, an’ as I gazed about the silent walls, I said, ‘me fathers, where are they?’ an’ did not echo answer, ‘Is that you Pathrick O’Flannigan, sure?’”
I was in no mood for laughter, and yet I could not repress a smile, as memory recalled the comical voice and inimitable gestures with which young H. M. related the story. He was beloved by us all, and when he left school we parted from him with real sorrow. As I walked around, and looked upon the worn and defaced desks, I observed the initials of many once familiar names which many years before had been formed with a knife, which were not so much obliterated but I could easily decipher the well known letters. That desk in the corner was occupied by two brothers who when they grew up removed to one of the Eastern States, where they enlisted as soldiers in the war between the North and South. One of the brothers received his death-wound on the battlefield. In a foreign hospital he lingered in much suffering for a brief period, when he died and was buried, far from his home and kindred. The younger brother was naturally of a tender constitution and was unable to endure the hardships and privations of a soldier’s life. His health failed him, and he returned to his friends, who had left their Canadian home, and removed to the State of Massachusetts; but all that the most skilful physicians could do, aided by the most watchful care of his tender mother, failed to check the ravages of disease. Consumption had marked him for its prey, and he died a few months after leaving the army; and, as his friends wept over his grave, they could see with their mind’s eye another nameless grave in a far-away Southern State,