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Wilson's Border Tales
The Dominie's Class
Chapter 5


Peter Murray was the cause o’ mair grief to me than ony scholar that ever was at my school. He could not tell a story the same way in which he heard it, or give ye a direct answer to a positive question, had it been to save his life. I sometimes was at a loss whether to attribute his grievous propensity to a defect o’ memory, a preponderance o’ imagination over baith memory and judgment, or to the natural depravity o’ his heart, and the force o’ abominable habits early acquired. Certain it is, that all the thrashing that I could thrash, I couldna get the laddie to speak the truth, His parents were perpetually coming to me to lick him soundly for this lie and the other lie; and I did lick him, until I saw that bodily punishment was of no effect. Moral means were to be tried, and I did try them. I tried to shame him out o’ it. I reasoned wi’ him. I showed him the folly and the enormity o’ his offence, and also pointed out its consequences—but I might as weel hae spoken to the stane in the wa’. He was Leein’ Peter still. After he left me, he was a while wi’ a grocer, and a while wi’a haberdasher, and then he went to a painter, and after that, he was admitted into a writer’s office; but, one after another, they had to turn him away, and a’ on account o’ his unconquerable habit o’ uttering falsehoods. His character became so well known, that nobody about the place would take him to be anything. He was a sad heart-break to his parents, and they were as decent people as ye could meet wi’. But, as they had respectable connections, they got him into some situation about Edinburgh, where his character and his failings were unknown. But it was altogether useless. He was turned out of one situation after another, and a’ on account of his incurable and dangerous habit, until his friends could do no more for him. Noo, doctor, I daresay ye may have observed, that a confirmed drunkard, rather than want drink, will steal to procure it—and, as sure as that is the case, tak my word for it, that, in nine cases out of ten, he who begins by being a habitual liar, will end in being a thief. Such was the case wi’ Leein’ Peter. After being disgraced and turned from one situation after anither, he at last was caught in the act o’ purloining his master’s property, and cast into prison. He broke his mother’s heart, and covered his father’s grey hairs wi’ shame; and he sunk from one state o’ degradation to another, till now, I believe, he is ane o’ those prowlers and pests o’ society, who are to be found in every large town, and who live naebody can tell how, but every one can tell that it cannot be honestly. Such, sir, has been the fate o’ Leein’ Peter.

There is only another o’ your book-mates that I have to make mention o’, and that is John Mathewson, or Jock the Dunce.

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