The Geauga Seminary was a Free-will Baptist institution, in quite a flourishing condition, having a hundred students, of both sexes, drawn thither from the towns in that region. The town in which it was located, Chester, was small, but pleasant, the academy furnishing the only attraction of the place.
School opened, and James devoted himself to grammar, natural philosophy, arithmetic, and algebra. He had never seen but one algebra before he purchased the one he used. The principal advised him to take this course of study.
It was a new scene for James, a school of one hundred pupils, male and female, most of them better clad than himself. He was awkward and bashful, especially in the presence of young ladies, whom he regarded as far superior to young men of the same age and attainment. Still he broke into the routine of the school readily, and soon was under full headway, like a new vessel with every sail set.
Singularly enough, he encountered an unexpected difficulty in the grammar-class within a very few days.
James said, But is a conjunction.
Not so; but is a verb, and means be out, replied the teacher.
A verb! but a verb? exclaimed James, in reply, without scarcely thinking that he was calling the teachers opinion in question. He had Kirkmans grammar at his command, even to its preface, which he could glibly repeat, word by word; and he knew that but was a conjunction, according to Kirkman and all the teachers whose pupil he had been. Could his teacher be joking, or did he make a blunder?
Yes; but is a verb, no matter what the books say, young man; whose grammar have you studied? the teacher answered.
Kirkmans, replied James.
Kirkman! and he is just like all the rest of them, wrong from beginning to end, said Mr. Branch. Thats not the grammar you will learn in this school, I can tell you, by any means. I teach a grammar of my own, the grammar of common sense.
James thought it was the grammar of nonsense, though he did not say so. At that time he did not know that Mr. Branch was at war with all the grammarians, and had introduced a system of instruction in that study peculiarly his own.
Besides Kirkman, all the teachers I ever have had called but a conjunction, added James, directly implying that he did not accept Branchs grammar.
You dont believe it, I clearly see, young man; but you will long before you have spent twelve weeks in this school, remarked Mr. Branch. You will have sense enough to see that I am right, and the old grammarians wrong.
If but is a verb, I dont see why and is not a verb also, remarked James, being quite inclined to array Kirkman against Branch.
It is a verb, James! and is a verb, I want you to understand, in the imperative mood, and means add; that is all there is to it, was the emphatic answer of Mr. Branch.
James looked at the boys, and smiled in his knowing way. The teacher saw the unbelief which pervaded that look, and he continued:
See here, young man, and does something more than connect two things; it adds. I want to speak of you and Henry, two of you together, and I say James and Henry; that is, add Henry to James: dont you see it now? It is clear as daylight.
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