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This small volume and others of a similar character, from the same hand,
have not been composed without a deep sense of responsibility. The
author regards children as sacred, and would not, for the world, cast
anything into the fountain of a young heart that might imbitter and
pollute its waters. And, even in point of the reputation to be aimed
at, juvenile literature is as well worth cultivating as any other. The
writer, if he succeed in pleasing his little readers, may hope to be
remembered by them till their own old age,--a far longer period of
literary existence than is generally attained by those who seek
immortality from the judgments of full-grown men.
When Edward Temple was about eight or nine years old he was afflicted
with a disorder of the eyes. It was so severe, and his sight was
naturally so delicate, that the surgeon felt some apprehensions lest the
boy should become totally blind. He therefore gave strict directions to
keep him in a darkened chamber, with a bandage over his eyes. Not a ray
of the blessed light of heaven could be suffered to visit the poor lad.
This was a sad thing for Edward. It was just the same as if there were
to be no more sunshine, nor moonlight, nor glow of the cheerful fire,
nor light of lamps. A night had begun which was to continue perhaps for
months,--a longer and drearier night than that which voyagers are
compelled to endure when their ship is icebound, throughout the winter,
in the Arctic Ocean. His dear father and mother, his brother George,
and the sweet face of little Emily Robinson must all vanish and leave
him in utter darkness and solitude. Their voices and footsteps, it is
true, would be heard around him; he would feel his mother's embrace and
the kind pressure of all their hands; but still it would seem as if they
were a thousand miles away.
And then his studies,--they were to be entirely given up. This was
another grievous trial; for Edward's memory hardly went back to the
period when he had not known how to read. Many and many a holiday had
he spent at his hook, poring over its pages until the deepening twilight
confused the print and made all the letters run into long words. Then,
would he press his hands across his eyes and wonder why they pained him
so; and when the candles were lighted, what was the reason that they
burned so dimly, like the moon in a foggy night? Poor little fellow!
So far as his eyes were concerned he was already an old man, and needed
a pair of spectacles almost as much as his own grandfather did.
And now, alas! the time was come when even grandfather's spectacles
could not have assisted Edward to read. After a few bitter tears, which
only pained his eyes the more, the poor boy submitted to the surgeon's
orders. His eyes were bandaged, and, with his mother on one side and
his little friend Emily on the other, he was led into a darkened
"Mother, I shall be very miserable!" said Edward, sobbing.
"O no, my dear child!" replied his mother, elicerfully. "Your eyesight
was a precious gift of Heaven, it is true; but you would do wrong to be
miserable for its loss, even if there were no hope of regaining it.
There are other enjoyments besides what come to us through our eyes."
"None that are worth having," said Edward.
"Ah, but you will not think so long," rejoined Mrs. Temple, with
tenderness. "All of us--your father, and myself, and George, and our
sweet Emily--will try to find occupation and amusement for you. We will
use all our eyes to make you happy. Will they not be better than a
"I will sit, by you all day long," said Emily, in her low, sweet voice,
putting her hand into that of Edward.
"And so will I, Ned," said George, his elder brother, "school time and
all, if my father will permit me."
Edward's brother George was three or four years older than himself,--a
fine, hardy lad, of a bold and ardent temper. He was the leader of his
comrades in all their enterprises and amusements. As to his proficiency
at study there was not much to be said. He had sense and ability enough
to have made himself a scholar, but found so many pleasanter things to
do that he seldom took hold of a book with his whole heart. So fond was
George of boisterous sports and exercises that it was really a great
token of affection and sympathy when he offered to sit all day long in a
dark chamber with his poor brother Edward.
As for little Emily Robinson, she was the daughter of one of Mr.
Temple's dearest friends. Ever since her mother went to heaven (which
was soon after Emily's birth) the little girl had dwelt in the household
where we now find her. Mr. and Mrs. Temple seemed to love her as well
as their own children; for they had no daughter except Emily; nor would
the boys have known the blessing of a sister had not this gentle
stranger come to teach them what it was. If I could show you Emily's
face, with her dark hair smoothed away from her forehead, you would be
pleased with her look of simplicity and loving kindness, but might think
that she was somewhat too grave for a child of seven years old. But you
would not love her the less for that.
So brother George and this loving little girl were to be Edward's
companions and playmates while he should be kept prisoner in the dark
chamber. When the first bitterness of his grief was over he began to
feel that, there might be some comforts and enjoyments in life even for
a boy whose eyes were covered with a bandage.
"I thank you, dear mother," said he, with only a few sobs; "and you,
Emily; and you too, George. You will all be very kind to me, I know.
And my father,--will not he come and see me every day?"
"Yes, my dear boy," said Mr. Temple; for, though invisible to Edward, he
was standing close beside him. "I will spend some hours of every day
with you. And as I have often amused you by relating stories and
adventures while you had the use of your eves, I can do the same now
that you are unable to read. Will this please you, Edward?"
"O, very much," replied Edward.
"Well, then," said his father, "this evening we will begin the series of
Biographical Stories which I promised you some time ago."
When evening came, Mr. Temple found Edward considerably revived in
spirits and disposed to be resigned to his misfortune. Indeed, the
figure of the boy, as it was dimly seen by the firelight, reclining in a
well-stuffed easy-chair, looked so very comfortable that many people
might have envied hun. When a man's eyes have grown old with gazing at
the ways of the world, it does not seem such a terrible misfortune to
have them bandaged.
Little Emily Robinson sat by Edward's side with the air of an
accomplished nurse. As well as the duskiness of the chamber would
permit she watched all his motions and each varying expression of his
face, and tried to anticipate her patient's wishes before his tongue
could utter them. Yet it was noticeable that the child manifested an
indescribable awe and disquietude whenever she fixed her eyes on the
bandage; for, to her simple and affectionate heart, it seemed as if her
dear friend Edward was separated from her because she could not see his
eyes. A friend's eyes tell us many things which could never be spoken
by the tongue.
George, likewise, looked awkward and confused, as stout and healthy boys
are accustomed to do in the society of the sick or afflicted. Never
having felt pain or sorrow, they are abashed, from not knowing how to
sympathize with the sufferings of others.
"Well, my dear Edward," inquired Mrs. Temple, "is Your chair quite
comfortable? and has your little nurse provided for all your wants? If
so, your father is ready to begin his stories."
"O, I am very well now," answered Edward, with a faint smile. "And my
ears have not forsaken me, though my eyes are good for nothing. So
pray, dear father, begin."
It was Mr. Temple's design to tell the children a series of true
stories, the incidents of which should be taken from the childhood and
early life of eminent people. Thus he hoped to bring George, and
Edward, and Emily into closer acquaintance with the famous persons who
have lived in other times by showing that they also had been children
once. Although Mr. Temple was scrupulous to relate nothing but what was
founded on fact, yet he felt himself at liberty to clothe the incidents
of his narrative in a new coloring, so that his auditors might
understand them the better.
"My first story," said he, "shall be about a painter of pictures."
"Dear me!" cried Edward, with a sigh. "I am afraid I shall never look
at pictures any more."
"We will hope for the best," answered his father. "In the mean time,
you must try to see things within your own mind."
Mr. Temple then began the following story:--
[BORN 1738. DIED 1820]
In the year 1735 there came into the world, in the town of Springfield,
Pennsylvania, a Quaker infant, from whom his parents and neighbors
looked for wonderful things. A famous preacher of the Society of
Friends had prophesied about little Ben, and foretold that he would be
one of the most remarkable characters that, had appeared on the earth
since the days of William Penn. On this account the eyes of many people
were fixed upon the boy. Some of his ancestors had won great renown in
the old wars of England and France; but it was probably expected that
Ben would become a preacher, and would convert multitudes to the
peaceful doctrines of the Quakers. Friend West and his wife were
thought to be very fortunate in having such a son.
Little Ben lived to the ripe age of six years without doing anything
that was worthy to be told in history. But one summer afternoon, in his
seventh year, his mother put a fan into his hand and bade him keep the
flies away from the face of a little babe who lay fast asleep in the
cradle. She then left the room.
The boy waved the fan to and fro and drove away the buzzing flies
whenever they had the impertinence to come near the baby's face. When
they had all flown out of the window or into distant parts of the room,
he bent over the cradle and delighted himself with gazing at the
sleeping infant. It was, indeed, a very pretty sight. The little
personage in the cradle slumbered peacefully, with its waxen hands under
its chin, looking as full of blissful quiet as if angels were singing
lullabies in its ear. Indeed, it must have been dreaming about heaven;
for, while Ben stooped over the cradle, the little baby smiled.
"How beautiful she looks!" said Ben to himself. "What a pity it is that
such a pretty smile should not last forever!"
Now Ben, at this period of his life, had never heard of that wonderful
art by which a look, that appears and vanishes in a moment, may be made
to last for hundreds of years. But, though nobody had told him of such
an art, he may be said to have invented it for himself. On a table near
at hand there were pens and paper, and ink of two colors, black and red.
The boy seized a pen and sheet of paper, and, kneeling down beside the
cradle, began to draw a likeness of the infant. While he was busied in
this manner he heard his mother's step approaching, and hastily tried to
conceal the paper.
"Benjamin, my son, what hast thou been doing?" inquired his mother,
observing marks of confusion in his face.
At first Ben was unwilling to tell; for he felt as if there might be
something wrong in stealing the baby's face and putting it upon a sheet
of paper. However, as his mother insisted, he finally put the sketch
into her hand, and then hung his head, expecting to be well scolded.
But when the good lady saw what was orn the paper, in lines of red and
black ink, she uttered a scream of surprise and joy.
"Bless me!" cried she. "It is a picture of little Sally!"
And then she threw her arms round our friend Benjamin, and kissed him so
tenderly that he never afterwards was afraid to show his performances to
As Ben grew older, he was observed to take vast delight in looking at
the lines and forms of nature. For instance, he was greatly pleased
with the blue violets of spring, the wild roses of sumnmer, and the
scarlet cardinal-flowers of early autumn. In the decline of the year,
when the woods were variegated with all the colors of the rainbow, Ben
seemed to desire nothing better than to gaze at them from morn till
night. The purple and golden clouds of sunset were a joy to him. And
he was continually endeavoring to draw the figures of trees, men,
mountains, houses, cattle, geese, ducks, and turkeys, with a piece of
chalk, on barn doors or on the floor.
In these old times the Mohawk Indians were still numerous in
Pennsylvania. Every year a party of them used to pay a visit to
Springfield, because the wigwams of their ancestors had formerly stood
there. These wild men grew fond of little Ben, and made him very happy
by giving him some of the red and yellow paint with which they were
accustomed to adorn their faces. His mother, too, presented him with a
piece of indigo. Thus he now had three colors,--red, blue, and yellow,
--and could manufacture green by mixing the yellow with the blue. Our
friend Ben was overjoyed, and doubtless showed his gratitude to the
Indians by taking their likenesses in the strange dresses which they
wore, with feathers, tomahawks, and bows and arrows.
But all this time the young artist had no paint-brushes; nor were there
any to be bought, unless he had sent to Philadelphia on purpose.
However, he was a very ingenious boy, aid resolved to manufacture paint-
brushes for himself. With this design he laid hold upon--what do you
think? Why, upon a respectable old black cat, who was sleeping quietly
by the fireside.
"Puss," said little Ben to the cat, "pray give me some of the fur from
the tip of thy tail?"
Though he addressed the black cat so civilly, yet Ben was determined to
have the fur whether she were willing or not. Puss, who had no great
zeal for the fine arts, would have resisted if she could; but the boy
was armed with his mother's scissors, and very dexterously clipped off
fur enough to make a paint-brush. This was of so much use to him that
be applied to Madame Puss again and again, until her warm coat of fur
had become so thin and ragged that she could hardly keep comfortable
through the winter. Poor thing! she was forced to creep close into the
chimney-corner, and eyed Ben with a very rueful physiognomy. But Ben
considered it more necessary that he should have paint-brushes than that
puss should be warm.
About this period friend West received a visit from Mr. Pennington, a
merchant of Philadelphia, who was likewise a member of the Society of
Friends. The visitor, on entering the parlor, was surprised to see it
ornamented with drawings of Indian chiefs, and of birds with beautiful
plumage, and of the wild flowers of the forest. Nothing of the kind was
ever seen before in the habitation of a Quaker farmer.
"Why, Friend West," exclaimed the Philadelphia merchant, "what has
possessed thee to cover thy walls with all these pictures? Where on
earth didst then get them?"
Then Friend West explained that all these pictures were painted by
little Ben, with no better materials than red and yellow ochre and a
piece of indigo, and with brushes made of the black cat's fur.
"Verily," said Mr. Pennington, "the boy hath a wonderful faculty. Some
of our friends might look upon these matters as vanity; but little
Benjamin appears to have been born a painter; and Providence is wiser
than we are."
The good merchant patted Benjamin on the head, and evidently considered
him a wonderful boy. When his parents saw how much their son's
performances were admired, they, no doubt, remembered the prophecy of
the old Quaker preacher respecting Ben's future eminence. Yet they
could not understand how he was ever to bccome a very great and useful
man merely by making pictures.
One evening, shortly after Mr. Pennington's return to Philadelphia, a
package arrived at Springfield, directed to our little friend Ben.
"What can it possibly be?" thought Ben, when it was put into his hands.
"Who can have sent me such a great square package as this?"
On taking off the thick brown paper which enveloped it, behold! there
was a paint-box, with a great many cakes of paint, and brushes of
various sizes. It was the gift of good Mr. Pennington. There were
likewise several squares of canvas such as artists use for painting
pictures upon, and, in addition to all these treasures, some beautiful
engravings of landscapes. These were the first pictures that Ben had
ever seen, except those of his own drawing.
What a joyful evening was this for the little artist! At bedtime he put
the paint-box under his pillow, and got hardly a wink of sleep; for, all
night long, his fancy was painting pictures in the darkness. In the
morning he hurried to the garret, and was seen no more till the dinner-
hour; nor did he give himself time to eat more than a mouthful or two of
food before he hurried back to the garret again. The next day, and the
next, he was just as busy as ever; until at last his mother thought it
time to ascertain what he was about. She accordingly followed him to
On opening the door, the first object that presented itself to her eyes
was our friend Benjamin, giving the last touches to a beautiful picture.
He had copied portions of two of the engravings, and made one picture
out of both, with such admirable skill that it was far more beautiful
than the originals. The grass, the trees, the water, the sky, and the
houses were all painted in their proper colors. There, too, where the
sunshine and the shadow, looking as natural as life.
"My dear child, thou hast done wonders!" cried his mother.
The good lady was in an ecstasy of delight. And well might she be proud
of her boy; for there were touches in this picture which old artists,
who had spent a lifetime in the business, need not have been ashamed of.
Many a year afterwards, this wonderful production was exhibited at the
Royal Academy in London.
When Benjamin was quite a large lad he was sent to school at
Philadelphia. Not long after his arrival he had a slight attack of
fever, which confined him to his bed. The light, which would otherwise
have disturbed him, was excluded from his chamber by means of closed
wooden shutters. At first it appeared so totally dark that Ben could
not distinguish any object in the room. By degrees, however, his eyes
became accustomed to the scanty light.
He was lying on his back, looking up towards the ceiling, when suddenly
he beheld the dim apparition of a white cow moving slowly over his head!
Ben started, and rubbed his eyes in the greatest amazement.
"What can this mean?" thought he.
The white cow disappeared; and next came several pigs, which trotted
along the ceiling and vanished into the darkness of the chamber. So
lifelike did these grunters look that Ben almost seemed to hear them
"Well, this is very strange!" said Ben to himself.
When the people of the house came to see him, Benjamin told them of the
marvellous circumstance which had occurred. But they would not believe
"Benjamin, thou art surely out of thy senses!" cried they. "How is it
possible that a white cow and a litter of pigs should be visible on the
ceiling of a dark chamber?"
Ben, however, had great confidence in his own eyesight, and was
determined to search the mystery to the bottom. For this purpose, when
he was again left alone, he got out of bed and examined the window-
shutters. He soon perceived a small chink in one of them, through which
a ray of light found its passage and rested upon the ceiling. Now, the
science of optics will inform us that the pictures of the white cow and
the pigs, and of other objects out of doors, came into the dark chamber
through this narrow chink, and were painted over Benjamin's head. It is
greatly to his credit that he discovered the scientific principle of
this phenomenon, and by means of it constructed a camera-obscura, or
magic-lantern, out of a hollow box. This was of great advantage to him
in drawing landscapes.
Well, time went on, and Benjamin continued to draw and paint pictures
until he had now reached the age when it was proper that he should
choose a business for life. His father and mother were in considerable
perplexity about him. According to the ideas of the Quakers, it is not
right for people to spend their lives in occupations that are of no real
and sensible advantage to the world. Now, what advantage could the
world expect from Benjamin's pictures? This was a difficult question;
and, in order to set their minds at rest, his parents determined to
consult the preachers and wise men of their society. Accordingly, they
all assembled in the meeting-house, and discussed the matter from
beginning to end.
Finally they came to a very wise decision. It seemed so evident that
Providence had created Benjamin to be a painter, and had given him
abilities which would be thrown away in any other business, that the
Quakers resolved not to oppose his inclination. They even acknowledged
that the sight of a beautiful picture might convey instruction to the
mind and might benefit the heart as much as a good book or a wise
discourse. They therefore committed the youth to the direction of God,
being well assured that he best knew what was his proper sphere of
usefulness. The old men laid their hands upon Benjamin's head and gave
him their blessing, and the women kissed him affectionately. All
consented that he should go forth into the world and learn to be a
painter by studying the best pictures of ancient and modern times.
So our friend Benjamin left the dwelling of his parents, and his native
woods and streams, and the good Quakers of Springfield, and the Indians
who had given him his first colors; he left all the places and persons
whom he had hitherto known, and returned to them no more. He went first
to Philadelphia, and afterwards to Europe. Here he was noticed by many
great people, but retained all the sobriety and simplicity which he had
learned among the Quakers. It is related of him, that, when he was
presented at the court of the Prince of Parma, he kept his hat upon his
head even while kissing the Prince's hand.
When he was twenty-five years old he went to London and established
himself there as all artist. In due course of time he acquired great
fame by his pictures, and was made chief painter to King George III.
and president of the Royal Academy of Arts. When the Quakers of
Pennsylvania heard of his success, they felt that the prophecy of the
old preacher as to little Ben's future eminence was now accomplished.
It is true, they shook their heads at his pictures of battle and
bloodshed, such as the Death of Wolfe, thinking that these terrible
scene, should not be held up to the admiration of the world.
But they approved of the great paintings in which he represented the
miracles and sufferings of the Redeemer of mankind. King George
employed him to adorn a large and beautiful chapel at Windsor Castle
with pictures of these sacred subjects. He likewise painted a
magnificent picture of Christ Healing the Sick, which he gave to the
hospital at Philadelphia. It was exhibited to the public, and produced
so much profit that the hospital was enlarged so as to accommodate
thirty more patients. If Benjamin West had done no other good deed than
this, yet it would have been enough to entitle him to an honorable
remembrance forever. At this very day there are thirty poor people in
the hospital who owe all their comforts to that same picture..
We shall mention only a single incident more. The picture of Christ
Healing the Sick was exhibited at the Royal Academy in London, where it
covered a vast space and displayed a multitude of figures as large as
life. On the wall, close beside this admirable picture, hung a small
and faded landscape. It was the same that little Ben had painted in his
father's garret, after receiving the paint-box and engravings from good
He lived many years in peace and honor, and died in 1820, at the age of
eighty-two. The story of his life is almost as wonderful as a fairy
tale; for there are few stranger transformations than that of a little
unknown Quaker boy, in the wilds of America, into the most distinguished
English painter of his day. Let us each make the best use of our
natural abilities as Benjamin West did; and, with the blessing of
Providence, we shall arrive at some good end. As for fame, it is but
little matter whether we acquire it or not.
"Thank you for the story, my dear father," said Edward, when it was
finished. "Do you know that it seems as if I could see things without
the help of my eyes? While you were speaking I have seen little Bert,
and the baby in its cradle, and the Indians, and the white cow, and the
pigs, and kind Mr. Pennington, and all the good old Quakers, almost as
plainly as if they were in this very room."
"It is because your attention was not disturbed by outward objects,"
replied Mr. Temple. "People, when deprived of sight, often have more
vivid ideas than those who possess the perfect use of their eyes. I
will venture to say that George has not attended to the story quite so
"No, indeed," said George; "but it was a very pretty story for all that.
How I should have laughed to see Ben making a paint-brush out of the
black cat's tail! I intend to try the experiment with Emily's kitten."
"O no, no, George!" cried Emily, earnestly. "My kitten cannot spare her
Edward being an invalid, it was now time for him to retire to bed. When
the family bade him good night he turned his face towards them, looking
very loath to part.
"I shall not know when morning comes," said he, sorrowfully. "And
besides, I want to hear your voices all the time; for, when nobody is
speaking, it seems as if I were alone in a dark world."
"You must have faith, my dear child," replied his mother. "Faith is the
soul's eyesight; and when we possess it the world is never dark nor
The next day Edward began to get accustomed to his new condition of
life. Once, indeed, when his parents were out of the way and only
Emily was left to take care of him, he could not resist the temptation
to thrust aside the bandage and peep at the anxious face of his little
nurse. But, in spite of the dimness of the chamber, the experiment
caused him so much pain that he felt no inclination to take another
look. So, with a deep sigh, here signed himself to his fate.
"Emily, pray talk to me!" said he, somewhat impatiently.
Now, Emily was a remarkably silent little girl, and did not possess that
liveliness of disposition which renders some children such excellent
companions. She seldom laughed, and had not the faculty of making many
words about small matters. But the love and earnestness of her heart
taught her how to amuse poor Edward in his darkness. She put her
knitting-work into his hands.
"You must learn how to knit," said she.
"What! without using my eyes?" cried Edward.
"I can knit with my eyes shut," replied Emily.
Then with her own little hands she guided Edward's fingers while he set
about this new occupation. So awkward were his first attempts that any
other little girl would have laughed heartily. But Emily preserved her
gravity, and showed the utmost patience in taking up the innumerable
stitches which he let down. In the course of an hour or two his
progress was quite encouraging.
When evening came, Edward acknowledged that the day had been far less
wearisome than he anticipated. But he was glad, nevertheless, when his
father and mother, and George and Emily, all took their seats around his
chair. He put out his hand to grasp each of their hands, and smiled
with a very bright expression upon his lips.
"Now I can see you all with my mind's eye," said he. "And now, father,
pray tell us another story."
So Mr. Temple began.
SIR ISAAC NEWTON.
[BORN 1642, DIED 1727]
On Christmas day, in the year 1642, Isaac Newton was born at the small
village of Woolsthorpe, in England. Little did his mother think, when
she beheld her newborn babe, that he was destined to explain many
matters which had been a mystery ever since the creation of the world.
Isaac's father being dead, Mrs. Newton was married again to a clergyman,
and went to reside at North Witham. Her son was left to the care of his
good old grandmother, who was very kind to him and sent him to school.
In his early years Isaac did not appear to be a very bright scholar, but
was chiefly remarkable for his ingenuity in all mechanical occupations.
He had a set of little tools and saws of various sizes manufactured by
himself. With the aid of these Isaac contrived to make many curious
articles, at which he worked with so much skill that he seemed to have
been born with a saw or chisel in hand.
The neighbors looked with vast admiration at the things which Isaac
manufactured. And his old grandmother, I suppose, was never weary of
talking about him.
"He'll make a capital workman one of these days," she would probably
say. "No fear but what Isaac will do well in the world and be a rich
man before he dies."
It is amusing to conjecture what were the anticipations of his
grandmother and the neighbors about Isaac's future life. Some of them,
perhaps, fancied that he would make beautiful furniture of mahogany,
rosewood, or polished oak, inlaid with ivory and ebony, and
magnificently gilded. And then, doubtless, all the rich people would
purchase these fine things to adorn their drawing-rooms. Others
probably thought that little Isaac was destined to be an architect, and
would build splendid mansions for the nobility and gentry, and churches
too, with the tallest steeples that had ever been seen in England.
Some of his friends, no doubt, advised Isaac's grandmother to apprentice
him to a clock-maker; for, besides his mechanical skill, the boy seemed
to have a taste for mathematics, which would be very useful to him in
that profession. And then, in due time, Isaac would set up for himself,
and would manufacture curious clocks, like those that contain sets of
dancing figures, which issue from the dial-plate when the hour is
struck; or like those where a ship sails across the face of the clock,
and is seen tossing up and down on the waves as often as the pendulum
Indeed, there was some ground for supposing that Isaac would devote
himself to the manufacture of clocks; since he had already made one, of
a kind which nobody had ever heard of before. It was set a-going, not
by wheels and weights like other clocks, but by the dropping of water.
This was an object of great wonderment to all the people round about;
and it must be confessed that there are few boys, or men either, who
could contrive to tell what o'clock it is by means of a bowl of water.
Besides the water-clock, Isaac made a sundial. Thus his grandmother was
never at a loss to know the hour; for the water-clock would tell it in
the shade, and the dial in the sunshine. The sundial is said to be
still in existence at Woolsthorpe, on the corner of the house where
Isaac dwelt. If so, it must have marked the passage of every sunny hour
that has elapsed since Isaac Newton was a boy. It marked all the famous
moments of his life; it marked the hour of his death; and still the
sunshine creeps slowly over it, as regularly as when Isaac first set it
Yet we must not say that the sundial has lasted longer than its maker;
for Isaac Newton will exist long after the dial--yes, and long after the
sun itself--shall have crumbled to decay.
Isaac possessed a wonderful faculty of acquiring knowledge by the
simplest means. For instance, what method do you suppose he took to
find out the strength of the wind? You will never guess how the boy
could compel that unseen, inconstant, and ungovernable wonder, the wind,
to tell him the measure of its strength. Yet nothing can be more
simple. He jumped against the wind; and by the length of his jump he
could calculate the force of a gentle breeze, a brisk gale, or a
tempest. Thus, even in his boyish sports, he was continually searching
out the secrets of philosophy.
Not far from his grandmother's residence there was a windmill which
operated on a new plan. Isaac was in the habit of going thither
frequently, and would spend whole hours in examining its various parts.
While the mill was at rest he pried into its internal machinery. When
its broad sails were set in motion by the wind, he watched the process
by which the mill-stones were made to revolve and crush the grain that
was put into the hopper. After gaining a thorough knowledge of its
construction he was observed to be unusually busy with his tools.
It was not long before his grandmother and all the neighborhood knew
what Isaac had been about. He had constructed a model of the windmill.
Though not so large, I suppose, as one of the box traps which boys set
to catch squirrels, yet every part of the mill and is machinery was
complete. Its little sails were neatly made of linen, and whirled round
very swiftly when the mill was placed in a draught of air. Even a puff
of wind from Isaac's mouth or from a pair of bellows was sufficient to
set the sails in motion. And, what was most curious, if a handful of
grains of wheat were put into the little hopper, they would soon be
converted into snow-white flour.
Isaac's playmates were enchanted with his new windmill. They thought
that nothing so pretty and so wonderful had ever been seen in the whole
"But, Isaac," said one of them, "you have forgotten one thing that
belongs to a mill."
"What is that?" asked Isaac; for he supposed that, from the roof of the
mill to its foundation, be had forgotten nothing.
"Why, where is the miller?" said his friend.
"That is true,--I must look out for one," said Isaac; and he set himself
to consider how the deficiency should be supplied.
He might easily have made the miniature figure of a man; but then it
would not have been able to move about and perform the duties of a
miller. As Captain Lemuel Gulliver had not yet discovered the island of
Lilliput, Isaac did not know that there were little men in the world
whose size was just suited to his windmill. It so happened, however,
that a mouse had just been caught in the trap; and, as no other miller
could be found, Mr. Mouse was appointed to that important office. The
new miller made a very respectable appearance in his dark gray coat. To
be sure, he had not a very good character for honesty, and was suspected
of sometimes stealing a portion of the grain which was given him to
grind. But perhaps some two-legged millers are quite as dishonest as
this small quadruped.
As Isaac grew older, it was found that he had far more important matters
in his mind than the manufacture of toys like the little windmill. All
day long, if left to himself, he was either absorbed in thought or
engaged in some book of mathematics or natural philosophy. At night, I
think it probable, he looked up with reverential curiosity to the stars,
and wondered whether they were worlds like our own, and how great was
their distance from the earth, and what was the power that kept them in
their courses. Perhaps, even so early in life, Isaac Newton felt a
presentiment that he should be able, hereafter, to answer all these
When Isaac was fourteen years old, his mother's second husband being now
dead, she wished her son to leave school and assist her in managing the
farm at Woolsthorpe. For a year or two, therefore, he tried to turn his
attention to farming. But his mind was so bent on becoming a scholar
that his mother sent him back to school, and afterwards to the
University of Cambridge.
I have now finished my anecdotes of Isaac Newton's boyhood. My story
would be far too long were I to mention all the splendid discoveries
which he made after he came to be a man. He was the first that found
out the nature of light; for, before his day, nobody could tell what the
sunshine was composed of. You remember, I suppose, the story of an
apple's falling on his head, and thus leading him to discover the force
of gravitation, which keeps the heavenly bodies in their courses. When
he had once got hold of this idea, he never permitted his mind to rest
until he had searched out all the laws by which the planets are guided
through the sky. This he did as thoroughly as if he had gone up among
the stars and tracked them in their orbits. The boy had found out the
mechanism of a windmill; the man explained to his fellow-men the
mechanism of the universe.
While making these researches he was accustomed to spend night after
night in a lofty tower, gazing at the heavenly bodies through a
telescope. His mind was lifted far above the things of this world.
He may be said, indeed, to have spent the greater part of his life in
worlds that lie thousands and millions of miles away; for where the
thoughts and the heart are, there is our true existence.
Did you never hear the story of Newton and his little dog Diamond?
One day, when he was fifty years old, and had been hard at work more
than twenty years studying the theory of light, he went out of his
chamber, leaving his little dog asleep before the fire. On the table
lay a heap of manuscript papers, containing all the discoveries which
Newton had made during those twenty years. When his master was gone, up
rose little Diamond, jumped upon the table, and overthrew the lighted
candle. The papers immediately caught fire.
Just as the destruction was completed Newton opened the chamber door,
and perceived that the labors of twenty years were reduced to a heap of
ashes. There stood little Diamond, the author of all the mischief.
Almost any other man would have sentenced the dog to immediate death.
But Newton patted him on the head with his usual kindness, although
grief was at his heart.
"O Diamond, Diamond," exclaimed he, "thou little knowest the mischief
then hast done!"
This incident affected his health and spirits for some time afterwards;
but, from his conduct towards the little dog, you may judge what was the
sweetness of his temper.
Newton lived to be a very old man, and acquired great renown, and was
made a member of Parliament, and received the honor of knighthood from
the king. But he cared little for earthly fame and honors, and felt no
pride in the vastness of his knowledge. All that he had learned only
made him feel how little he knew in comparison to what remained to be
"I seem to myself like a child," observed he, "playing on the sea-shore,
and picking up here and there a curious shell or a pretty pebble, while
the boundless ocean of Truth lies undiscovered before me."
At last, in 1727, when he was fourscore and five years old, Sir Isaac
Newton died,--or rather, he ceased to live on earth. We may be
permitted to believe that he is still searching out the infinite wisdom
and goodness of the Creator as earnestly, and with even more success,
than while his spirit animated a mortal body. He has left a fame behind
him which will be as endurable as if his name were written in letters of
light formed by the stars upon the midnight sky.
"I love to hear about mechanical contrivances, such as the water-clock
and the little windmill," remarked George. "I suppose, if Sir Isaac
Newton had only thought of it, he might have found out the steam-engine,
and railroads, and all the other famous inventions that have come into
use since his day."
"Very possibly he might," replied Mr. Temple; "and no doubt a great many
people would think it more useful to manufacture steam-engines than to
search out the system of the universe. Other great astronomers besides
Newton have been endowed with mechanical genius. There was David
Rittenhouse, an American,--lie made a perfect little water-mill when he
was only seven or eight years old. But this sort of ingenuity is but a
mere trifle in comparison with the other talents of such men."
"It must have deen beautiful," said Edward, "to spend whole nights in a
high tower as Newton did, gazing at the stars, and the comets, and the
meteors. But what would Newton have done had he been blind? or if his
eyes had been no better than mine?"
"Why, even then, my dear child," observed Mrs. Temple, "he would have
found out some way of enlightening his mind and of elevating his soul.
But come; little Emily is waiting to bid you good night. You must go to
sleep and dream of seeing all our faces."
"But how sad it will be when I awake!" murmured Edward.
In the course of the next day the harmony of our little family was
disturbed by something like a quarrel between George and Edward.
The former, though he loved his brother dearly, had found it quite too
great a sacrifice of his own enjoyments to spend all his play-time in a
darkened chamber. Edward, on the other hand, was inclined to be
despotic. He felt as if his bandaged eyes entitled him to demand that
everybody who enjoyed the blessing of sight should contribute to his
comfort and amusement. He therefore insisted that George, instead of
going out to play at football, should join with himself and Emily in a
game of questions and answers.
George resolutely refused, and ran out of the house. He did not revisit
Edward's chamber till the evening, when he stole in, looking confused,
yet somewhat sullen, and sat down beside his father's chair. It was
evident, by a motion of Edward's head and a slight trembling of his
lips, that he was aware of George's entrance, though his footsteps had
been almost inaudible. Emily, with her serious and earnest little face,
looked from one to the other, as if she longed to be a messenger of
peace between them.
Mr. Temple, without seeming to notice any of these circumstances, began
[BORN 1709 DIED 1784.]
"Sam," said Mr. Michael Johnson, of Lichfield, one morning, "I am very
feeble and ailing to-day. You must go to Uttoxeter in my stead, and
tend the bookstall in the market-place there."
This was spoken above a hundred years ago, by an elderly man, who had
once been a thriving bookseller at Lichfield, in England. Being now in
reduced circumstances, he was forced to go every market-day and sell
books at a stall, in the neighboring village of Uttoxeter.
His son, to whom Mr. Johnson spoke, was a great boy, of very singular
aspect. He had an intelligent face; but it was seamed and distorted by
a scrofulous humor, which affected his eyes so badly that sometimes he
was almost blind. Owing to the same cause his head would often shake
with a tremulous motion as if he were afflicted with the palsy. When
Sam was an infant, the famous Queen Anne had tried to cure him of this
disease by laying her royal hands upon his head. But though the touch
of a king or queen was supposed to be a certain remedy for scrofula, it
produced no good effect upon Sam Johnson.
At the time which we speak of the poor lad was not very well dressed,
and wore shoes from which his toes peeped out; for his old father had
barely the means of supporting his wife and children. But, poor as the
family were, young Sam Johnson had as much pride as any nobleman's son
in England. The fact was, he felt conscious of uncommon sense and
ability, which, in his own opinion, entitled him to great respect from
the world. Perhaps he would have been glad if grown people had treated
him as reverentially as his schoolfellows did. Three of them were
accustomed to come for him every morning; and while he sat upon the back
of one, the two others supported him on each side; and thus he rode to
school in triumph.
Being a personage of so much importance, Sam could not bear the idea of
standing all day in Uttoxeter market offering books to the rude and
ignorant country people. Doubtless he felt the more reluctant on
account of his shabby clothes, and the disorder of his eyes, and the
tremulous motion of his head.
When Mr. Michael Johnson spoke, Sam pouted and made an indistinct
grumbling in his throat; then he looked his old father in the face and
answered him loudly and deliberately.
"Sir," said he, "I will not go to Uttoxeter market!"
Mr. Johnson had seen a great deal of the lad's obstinacy ever since his
birth; and while Sam was younger, the old gentleman had probably used
the rod whenever occasion seemed to require. But he was now too feeble
and too much out of spirits to contend with this stubborn and violent-
tempered boy. He therefore gave up the point at once, and prepared to
go to Uttoxeter himself.
"Well, Sam," said Mr. Johnson, as he took his hat and staff, "if for the
sake of your foolish pride you can suffer your poor sick father to stand
all day in the noise and confusion of the market when he ought to be in
his bed, I have no more to say. But you will think of this, Sam, when I
am dead and gone."
So the poor old man (perhaps with a tear in his eye, but certainly with
sorrow in his heart) set forth towards Uttoxeter. The gray-haired,
feeble, melancholy Michael Johnson! How sad a thing it was that he
should be forced to go, in his sickness, and toil for the support of an
ungrateful son who was too proud to do anything for his father, or his
mother, or himself! Sam looked after Mr. Johnson with a sullen
countenance till he was out of sight.
But when the old man's figure, as he went stooping along the street, was
no more to be seen, the boy's heart began to smite him. He had a vivid
imagination, and it tormented him with the image of his father standing
in the market-place of Uttoxeter and offering his books to the noisy
crowd around him. Sam seemed to behold him arranging his literary
merchandise upon the stall in such a way as was best calculated to
attract notice. Here was Addison's Spectator, a long row of little
volumes; here was Pope's translation of the Iliad and Odyssey; here were
Dryden's poems, or those of Prior. Here, likewise, were Gulliver's
Travels, and a variely of little gilt-covered children's books, such as
Tom Thumb, Jack the Giant Queller, Mother Goose's Melodies, and others
which our great-grandparents used to read in their childhood. And here
were sermons for the pious, and pamphlets for the politicians, and
ballads, some merry and some dismal ones, for the country people to
Sam, in imagination, saw his father offer these books, pamphlets, and
ballads, now to the rude yeomen who perhaps could not read a word; now
to the country squires, who cared for nothing but to hunt hares and
foxes; now to the children, who chose to spend their coppers for sugar-
plums or gingerbread rather than for picture-books. And if Mr. Johnson
should sell a book to man, woman, or child, it would cost him an hour's
talk to get a profit of only sixpence.
"My poor father!" thought Sam to himself. "How his head will ache! and
how heavy his heart will be! I am almost sorry that I did not do as he
Then the boy went to his mother, who was busy about the house. She did
not know of what had passed between Mr. Johnson and Sam.
"Mother," said he, "did you think father seemed very ill to-day?"
"Yes, Sam," answered his mother, turning with a flushed face from the
fire, where she was cooking their scanty dinner. "Your father did look
very ill; and it is a pity he did not send you to Uttoxeter in his
stead. You are a great boy now, and would rejoice, I am sure, to do
something for your poor father, who has done so much for you."
The lad made no reply. But again his imagination set to work and
conjured up another picture of poor Michael Johnson. He was standing in
the hot sunshine of the market-place, and looking so weary, sick, and
disconsolate, that the eyes of all the crowd were drawn to him. "Had
this old man no son," the people would say among themselves, "who might
have taken his place at the bookstall while the father kept his bed?"
And perhaps, but this was a terrible thought for Sam!--perhaps his
father would faint away and fall down in the marketplace, with his gray
hair in the dust and his venerable face as deathlike as that of a
corpse. And there would be the bystanders gazing earnestly at Mr.
Johnson and whispering, "Is he dead? Is he dead?"
And Sam shuddered as he repeated to himself, "Is he dead?"
"O, I have been a cruel son!" thought he, within his own heart. "God
forgive me! God forgive me!"
But God could not yet forgive him; for he was not truly penitent. Had
he been so, he would have hastened away that very moment to Uttoxeter,
and have fallen at his father's feet, even in the midst of the crowded
market-place. There he would have confessed his fault, and besought Mr.
Johnson to go home and leave the rest of the day's work to him. But
such was Sam's pride and natural stubbornness that he could not bring
himself to this humiliation. Yet he ought to have done so, for his own
sake, for his father's sake, and for God's sake.
After sunset old Michael Johnson came slowly home and sat down in his
customary chair. He said nothing to Sam; nor do I know that a single
word ever passed between them on the subject of the son's disobedience.
In a few years his father died, and left Sam to fight his way through
the world by himself. It would make our story much too long were I to
tell you even a few of the remarkable events of Sam's life. Moreover,
there is the less need of this, because many books have been written
about that poor boy, and the fame that he acquired, and all that he did
or talked of doing after he came to be a man.
But one thing I must not neglect to say. From his boyhood upward until
the latest day of his life he never forgot the story of Uttoxeter
market. Often when he was a scholar of the University of Oxford, or
master of an academy at Edial, or a writer for the London booksellers,--
in all his poverty and toil and in all his success,--while he was
walking the streets without a shilling to buy food, or when the greatest
men of England were proud to feast him at their table,--still that heavy
and remorseful thought came back to him, "I was cruel to my poor father
in his illness!" Many and many a time, awake or in his dreams, he
seemed to see old Michael Johnson standing in the dust and confusion of
the market-place and pressing his withered hand to his forehead as if it
Alas! my dear children, it is a sad thing to have such a thought as this
to bear us company through life.
Though the story was but half finished, yet, as it was longer than
usual, Mr. Temple here made a short pause. He perceived that Emily was
in tears, and Edward turned his half-veiled face towards the speaker
with an air of great earnestness and interest. As for George, he had
withdrawn into the dusky shadow behind his father's chair.
In a few moments Mr. Temple resumed the story, as follows:--
Well, my children, fifty years had passed away since young Sam Johnson
had shown himself so hard-hearted towards his father. It was now
market-day in the village of Uttoxeter.
In the street of the village you might see cattle-dealers with cows and
oxen for sale, and pig-drovers with herds of squeaking swine, and
farmers with cartloads of cabbages, turnips, onions, and all other
produce of the soil. Now and then a farmer's red-faced wife trotted
along on horseback, with butter and cheese in two large panniers. The
people of the village, with country squires, and other visitors from the
neighborhood, walked hither and thither, trading, jesting, quarrelling,
and making just such a bustle as their fathers and grandfathers had made
half a century before.
In one part of the street there was a puppet-show with a ridiculous
merry-andrew, who kept both grown people and children in a roar of
laughter. On the opposite side was the old stone church of Uttoxeter,
with ivy climbing up its walls and partly obscuring its Gothic windows.
There was a clock in the gray tower of the ancient church, and the hands
on the dial-plate had now almost reached the hour of noon. At this
busiest hour of the market a strange old gentleman was seen making his
way among the crowd, he was very tall and bulky, and wore a brown coat
and small-clothes, with black worsted stockings and buckled shoes. On
his head was a three cornered hat, beneath which a bushy gray wig thrust
itself out, all in disorder. The old gentleman elbowed the people
aside, and forced his way through the midst of them with a singular kind
of gait, rolling his body hither and thither, so that he needed twice as
much room as any other person there.
"Make way, sir!" he would cry out, in a loud, harsh voice, when somebody
happened to interrupt his progress. "Sir, you intrude your person into
the public thoroughfare!"
"What a queer old fellow this is!" muttered the people among themselves,
hardly knowing whether to laugh or to be angry.
But when they looked into the venerable stranger's face, not the most
thoughtless among them dared to offer him the least impertinence.
Though his features were scarred and distorted with the scrofula, and
though his eyes were dim and bleared, yet there was something of
authority and wisdom in his look, which impressed them all with awe. So
they stood aside to let him pass; and the old gentleman made his way
across the market-place, and paused near the corner of the ivy-mantled
church. Just as he reached it the clock struck twelve.
On the very spot of ground where the stranger now stood some aged people
remembered that old Michael Johnson had formerly kept his book-stall.
The little children who had once bought picture-books of him were
"Yes; here is the very spot!" muttered the old gentleman to himself.
There this unknown personage took his stand and removed the three-
cornered hat from his head. It was the busiest hour of the day. What
with the hum of human voices, the lowing of cattle, the squeaking of
pigs, and the laughter caused by the merry-andrew, the marketplace was
in very great confusion. But the stranger seemed not to notice it any
more than if the silence of a desert were around him. He was rapt in
his own thoughts. Sometimes he raised his furrowed brow to heaven, as
if in prayer; sometimes he bent his head, as if an insupportable weight
of sorrow were upon him. It increased the awfulness of his aspect that
there was a motion of his head and an almost continual tremor throughout
his frame, with singular twitches and contortions of his features.
The hot sun blazed upon his unprotected head; but he seemed not to feel
its fervor. A dark cloud swept across the sky and rain-drops pattered
into the market-place; but the stranger heeded not the shower. The
people began to gaze at the mysterious old gentleman with superstitious
fear and wonder. Who could he be? Whence did he come? Wherefore was
he standing bareheaded in the market-place? Even the school-boys left
the merry-andrew and came to gaze, with wide-open eyes, at this tall,
strange-looking old man.
There was a cattle-drover in the village who had recently made a journey
to the Smithfield market, in London. No sooner had this man thrust his
way through the throng and taken a look at the unknown personage, than
he whispered to one of his acquaintances,--
"I say, Neighbor Hutchins, would ye like to know who this old gentleman
"Ay, that I would," replied Neighbor Hutchins, "for a queerer chap I
never saw in my life. Somehow it makes me feel small to look at him.
He's more than a common man."
"You may well say so," answered the cattle-drover. "Why, that's the
famous Doctor Samuel Johnson, who they say is the greatest and
learnedest man in England. I saw him in London streets, walking with
one Mr. Boswell."
Yes; the poor boy, the friendless Sam, with whom we began our story, had
become the famous Doctor Samuel Johnson. He was universally
acknowledged as the wisest man and greatest writer in all England. He
had given shape and permanence to his native language by his Dictionary.
Thousands upon thousands of people had read his Idler, his Rambler, and
his Rasselas. Noble and wealthy men and beautiful ladies deemed it
their highest privilege to be his companions. Even the King of Great
Britain had sought his acquaintance, and told him what an honor he
considered it that such a man had been born in his dominions. He was
now at the summit of literary renown.
But all his fame could not extinguish the bitter remembrance which had
tormented him through life. Never never had he forgotten his father's
sorrowful and upbraiding look. Never, though the old man's troubles had
been over so many years, had he forgiven himself for inflicting such a
pang upon his heart. And now, in his old age, he had come hither to do
penance, by standing at noonday, in the market-place of Uttoxeter, on
the very spot where Michael Johnson had once kept his book-stall. The
aged and illustrious man had done what the poor boy refused to do. By
thus expressing his deep repentance and humiliation of heart, he hoped
to gain peace of conscience and the forgiveness of God.
My dear children, if you have grieved (I will not say your parents, but
if you have grieved) the heart of any human being who has a claim upon
your love, then think of Samuel Johnson's penance. Will it not be
better to redeem the error now than to endure the agony of remorse for
fifty years? Would you not rather say to a brother, "I have erred;
forgive me!" than perhaps to go hereafter and shed bitter tears upon his
Hardly was the story concluded when George hastily arose, and Edward
likewise, stretching forth his hands into the darkness that surrounded
him to find his brother. Both accused themselves of unkindness: each
besought the other's forgiveness; and having done so, the trouble of
their hearts vanished away like a dream.
"I am glad! I am so glad!" said Emily, in a low, earnest voice. "Now I
shall sleep quietly to-night."
"My sweet child," thought Mrs. Temple as she kissed her, "mayest thou
never know how much strife there is on earth! It would cost thee many a
About this period Mr. Temple found it necessary to take a journey, which
interrupted the series of Biographical Stories for several evenings. In
the interval, Edward practised various methods of employing and amusing
Sometimes he meditated upon beautiful objects which he had formerly
seen, until the intensity of his recollection seemed to restore him the
gift of sight and place everything anew before his eyes. Sometimes he
repeated verses of poetry which he did not know to be in his memory
until he found them there just at the time of need. Sometimes he
attempted to solve arithmetical questions which had perplexed him while
Then, with his mother's assistance, he learned the letters of the string
alphabet, which is used in some of the institutions for the blind in
Europe. When one of his friends gave him a leaf of St. Mark's Gospel,
printed in embossed characters, he endeavored to read it by passing his
fingers over the letters as blind children do.
His brother George was now very kind, and spent so much time in the
darkened chamber that Edward often insisted upon his going out to play.
George told him all about the affairs at school, and related many
amusing incidents that happened among his comrades, and informed him
what sports were now in fashion, and whose kite soared the highest, and
whose little ship sailed fleetest on the Frog Pond. As for Emily, she
repeated stories which she had learned from a new book called THE FLOWER
PEOPLE, in which the snowdrops, the violets, the columbines, the roses,
and all that lovely tribe are represented as telling their secrets to a
little girl. The flowers talked sweetly, as flowers should; and Edward
almost fancied that he could behold their bloom and smell their fragrant
Thus, in one way or another, the dark days of Edward's confinement
passed not unhappily. In due time his father returned; and the next
evening, when the family were assembled, he began a story.
"I must first observe, children," said he, "that some writers deny the
truth of the incident which I am about to relate to you. There
certainly is but little evidence in favor of it. Other respectable
writers, however, tell it for a fact; and, at all events, it is an
interesting story, and has an excellent moral."
So Mr. Temple proceeded to talk about the early days of
[BORN 1599 DIED 1658.]
Not long after King James I. took the place of Queen Elizabeth on the
throne of England, there lived an English knight at a place called
Hinchinbrooke. His name was Sir Oliver Cromwell. He spent his life, I
suppose, pretty much like other English knights and squires in those
days, bunting hares and foxes and drinking large quantities of ale and
wine. The old house in which he dwelt had been occupied by his
ancestors before him for a good many years. In it there was a great
hall, hang round with coats of arms and helmets, cuirasses and swords,
which his forefathers had used in battle, and with horns of deer and
tails of foxes which they or Sir Oliver himself had killed in the chase.
This Sir Oliver Cromwell had a nephew, who had been called Oliver, after
himself, but who was generally known in the family by the name of little
Noll. His father was a younger brother of Sir Oliver. The child was
often sent to visit his uncle, who probably found him a troublesome
little fellow to take care of. He was forever in mischief, and always
running into some danger or other, from which he seemed to escape only
Even while he was an infant in the cradle a strange accident had
befallen hum. A huge ape, which was kept in the family, snatched up
little Noll in his fore paws and clambered with him to the roof of the
house. There this ugly beast sat grinning at the affrighted spectators,
as if it had done the most praiseworthy thing imaginable. Fortunately,
however, he brought the child safe down again; and the event was
afterwards considered an omen that Noll would reach a very elevated
station in the world.
One morning, when Noll was five or six years old a royal messenger
arrived at Hinchinbrooke with tidings that King James was coming to dine
with Sir Oliver Cromwell. This was a high honor, to be sure, but a very
great trouble; for all the lords and ladies, knights, squires, guards
and yeomen, who waited on the king, were to be feasted as well as
himself; and more provisions would be eaten and more wine drunk in that
one day than generally in a month. However, Sir Oliver expressed much
thankfulness for the king's intended visit, and ordered his butler and
cook to make the best preparations in their power. So a great fire was
kindled in the kitchen; and the neighbors knew by the smoke which poured
out of the chimney that boiling, baking, stewing, roasting, and frying
were going on merrily.
By and by the sound of trumpets was heard approaching nearer and nearer;
a heavy, old-fashioned coach, surrounded by guards on horseback, drove
up to the house. Sir Oliver, with his hat in his hand, stood at the
gate to receive the king. His Majesty was dressed in a suit of green
not very new; he had a feather in his hat and a triple ruff round his
neck, and over his shoulder was slung a hunting-horn instead of a sword.
Altogether he had not the most dignified aspect in the world; but the
spectators gazed at him as if there was something superhuman and divine
in his person. They even shaded their eyes with their hands, as if they
were dazzled by the glory of his countenance.
"How are ye, man?" cried King James, speaking in a Scotch accent; for
Scotland was his native country. "By my crown, Sir Oliver, but I am
glad to see ye!"
The good knight thanked the king; at the same time kneeling down while
his Majesty alighted. When King James stood on the ground, he directed
Sir Oliver's attention to a little boy who had come with him in the
coach. He was six or seven years old, and wore a hat and feather, and
was more richly dressed than the king himself. Though by no means an
ill-looking child, he seemed shy, or even sulky; and his cheeks were
rather pale, as if he had been kept moping within doors, instead of
being sent out to play in the sun and wind.
"I have brought my son Charlie to see ye," said the king. "I hope, Sir
Oliver, ye have a son of your own to be his playmate."
Sir Oliver Cromwell made a reverential bow to the little prince, whom
one of the attendants had now taken out of the coach. It was wonderful
to see how all the spectators, even the aged men with their gray beards,
humbled themselves before this child. They bent their bodies till their
beards almost swept the dust: They looked as if they were ready to kneel
down and worship him.
The poor little prince! From his earliest infancy not a soul had dared
to contradict him; everybody around him had acted as if he were a
superior being; so that, of course, he had imbibed the same opinion of
himself. He naturally supposed that the whole kingdom of Great Britain
and all its inhabitants had been created solely for his benefit and
amusement. This was a sad mistake; and it cost him dear enough after he
had ascended his father's throne.
"What a noble little prince he is!" exclaimed Sir Oliver, lifting his
hands in admiration. "No, please your Majesty, I have no son to be the
playmate of his royal highness; but there is a nephew of mine somewhere
about the house. He is near the prince's age, and will be but too happy
to wait upon his royal highness."
"Send for him, man! send for him!" said the king.
But, as it happened, there was no need of sending for Master Noll.
While King James was speaking, a rugged, bold-faced, sturdy little
urchin thrust himself through the throng of courtiers and attendants and
greeted the prince with a broad stare. His doublet and hose (which had
been put on new and clean in honor of the king's visit) were already
soiled and torn with the rough play in which he had spent the morning.
He looked no more abashed than if King James were his uncle and the
prince one of his customary playfellows.
This was little Noll himself.
"Here, please your Majesty, is my nephew," said Sir Oliver, somewhat
ashamed of Noll's appearance and demeanor. "Oliver, make your obeisance
to the king's majesty."
The boy made a pretty respectful obeisance to the king; for in those
days children were taught to pay reverence to their elders. King James,
who prided himself greatly on his scholarship, asked Noll a few
questions in the Latin grammar, and then introduced him to his son. The
little prince, in a very grave and dignified manner, extended his hand,
not for Noll to shake, but that he might kneel down and kiss it.
"Nephew," said Sir Oliver, "pay your duty to the prince."
"I owe him no duty," cried Noll, thrusting aside the prince's hand with
a rude laugh. "Why should I kiss that boy's hand?"
All the courtiers were amazed and confounded, and Sir Oliver the most of
all. But the king laughed heartily, saying, that little Noll had a
stubborn English spirit, and that it was well for his son to learn
betimes what sort of a people he was to rule over.
So King James and his train entered the house; and the prince, with Noll
and some other children, was sent to play in a separate room while his
Majesty was at dinner. The young people soon became acquainted; for
boys, whether the sons of monarchs or of peasants, all like play, and
are pleased with one another's society. What games they diverted
themselves with I cannot tell. Perhaps they played at ball, perhaps at
blind-man's-buff, perhaps at leap-frog, perhaps at prison-bars. Such
games have been in use for hundreds of years; and princes as well as
poor children have spent some of their happiest hours in playing at
Meanwhile King James and his nobles were feasting with Sir Oliver in the
great hall. The king sat in a gilded chair, under a canopy, at the head
of a long table. Whenever any of the company addressed him, it was with
the deepest reverence. If the attendants offered him wine or the
various delicacies of the festival, it was upon their bended knees. You
would have thought, by these tokens of worship, that the monarch was a
supernatural being; only he seemed to have quite as much need of those
vulgar matters, food and drink, as any other person at the table. But
fate had ordained that good King James should not finish his dinner in
All of a sudden there arose a terrible uproar in the room where the
children were at play. Angry shouts and shrill cries of alarm were
mixed up together; while the voices of elder persons were likewise
heard, trying to restore order among the children. The king and
everybody else at table looked aghast; for perhaps the tumult made them
think that a general rebellion had broken out.
"Mercy on us!" muttered Sir Oliver; "that graceless nephew of mine is in
some mischief or other. The naughty little whelp!"
Getting up from table, he ran to see what was the matter, followed by
many of the guests, and the king among them. They all crowded to the
door of the playroom.
On looking in, they beheld the little Prince Charles, with his rich
dress all torn and covered with the dust of the floor. His royal blood
was streaming from his nose in great abundance. He gazed at Noll with a
mixture of rage and affright, and at the same time a puzzled expression,
as if he could not understand how any mortal boy should dare to give him
a beating. As for Noll, there stood his sturdy little figure, bold as a
lion, looking as if he were ready to fight, not only the prince, but the
king and kingdom too.
"You little villain!" cried his uncle. "What have you been about? Down
on your knees, this instant, and ask the prince's pardon. How dare you
lay your hands on the king's majesty's royal son?"
"He struck me first," grumbled the valiant little Noll; "and I've only
given him his due."
Sir Oliver and the guests lifted up their hands in astonishment and
horror. No punishment seemed severe enough for this wicked little
varlet, who had dared to resent a blow from the king's own son. Some of
the courtiers were of opinion that Noll should be sent prisoner to the
Tower of London and brought to trial for high treason. Others, in their
great zeal for the king's service, were about to lay hands on the boy
and chastise him in the royal presence.
But King James, who sometimes showed a good deal of sagacity, ordered
them to desist.
"Thou art a bold boy," said he, looking fixedly at little Noll; "and,
if thou live to be a man, my son Charlie would do wisely to be friends
"I never will!" cried the little prince, stamping his foot.
"Peace, Charlie, peace!" said the king; then addressing Sir Oliver and
the attendants, "Harm not the urchin; for he has taught my son a good
lesson, if Heaven do but give him grace to profit by it. Hereafter,
should he be tempted to tyrannize over the stubborn race of Englishmen,
let him remember little Noll Cromwell and his own bloody nose."
So the king finished his dinner and departed; and for many a long year
the childish quarrel between Prince Charles and Noll Cromwell was
forgotten. The prince, indeed, might have lived a happier life, and
have met a more peaceful death, had he remembered that quarrel and the
moral which his father drew from it. But when old King James was dead,
and Charles sat upon his throne, he seemed to forget that he was but a
man, and that his meanest subjects were men as well as he. He wished to
have the property and lives of the people of England entirely at his own
disposal. But the Puritans, and all who loved liberty, rose against him
and beat him in many battles, and pulled him down from his throne.
Throughout this war between the king and nobles on one side and the
people of England on the other there was a famous leader, who did more
towards the ruin of royal authority than all the rest. The contest
seemed like a wrestling-match between King Charles and this strong man.
And the king was overthrown.
When the discrowned monarch was brought to trial, that warlike leader
sat in the judgment hall. Many judges were present besides himself; but
he alone had the power to save King Charles or to doom him to the
scaffold. After sentence was pronounced, this victorious general was
entreated by his own children, on their knees, to rescue his Majesty
"No!" said he, sternly. "Better that one man should perish than that
the whole country should be ruined for his sake. It is resolved that he
When Charles, no longer a king, was led to the scaffold, his great enemy
stood at a window of the royal palace of Whitehall. He beheld the poor
victim of pride, and an evil education, and misused power, as he laid
his head upon the block. He looked on with a steadfast gaze while a
black-veiled executioner lifted the fatal axe and smote off that
anointed head at a single blow.
"It is a righteous deed," perhaps he said to himself.
"Now Englishmen may enjoy their rights."
At night, when the body of Charles was laid in the coffin, in a gloomy
chamber, the general entered, lighting himself with a torch. Its gleams
showed that he was now growing old; his visage was scarred with the many
battles in which he had led the van; his brow was wrinkled with care and
with the continual exercise of stern authority. Probably there was not
a single trait, either of aspect or manner, that belonged to the little
Noll who had battled so stoutly with Prince Charles. Yet this was he!
He lifted the coffin-lid, and caused the light of his torch to fall upon
the dead monarch's face. Then, probably, his mind went back over all
the marvellous events that had brought the hereditary King of England to
this dishonored coffin, and had raised himself, a humble individual, to
the possession of kingly power. He was a king, though without the empty
title or the glittering crown.
"Why was it," said Cromwell to himself, or might have said, as he gazed
at the pale features in the coffin,--"why was it that this great king
fell, and that poor Noll Cromwell has gained all the power of the
And, indeed, why was it?
King Charles had fallen, because, in his manhood the same as when a
child, he disdained to feel that every human creature was his brother.
He deemed himself a superior being, and fancied that his subjects were
created only for a king to rule over. And Cromwell rose, because, in
spite of his many faults, he mainly fought for the rights and freedom of
his fellow-men; and therefore the poor and the oppressed all lent their
strength to him.
"Dear father, how I should hate to be a king!" exclaimed Edward.
"And would you like to be a Cromwell?" inquired his father.
"I should like it well," replied George; "only I would not have put the
poor old king to death. I would have sent him out of the kingdom, or
perhaps have allowed him to live in a small house near the gate of the
royal palace. It was too severe to cut off his head."
"Kings are in such an unfortunate position," said Mr. Temple, "that they
must either be almost deified by their subjects, or else be dethroned
and beheaded. In either case it is a pitiable lot."
"O, I had rather be blind than be a king!" said Edward.
"Well, my dear Edward," observed his mother, with a smile, "I am glad
you are convinced that your own lot is not the hardest in the world."
It was a pleasant sight, for those who had eyes, to see how patiently
the blinded little boy now submitted to what he had at first deemed an
intolerable calamity. The beneficent Creator has not allowed our
comfort to depend on the enjoyment of any single sense. Though he has
made the world so very beautiful, yet it is possible to be happy without
ever be holding the blue sky, or the green and flowery earth, or the
kind faces of those whom we love. Thus it appears that all the external
beauty of the universe is a free gift from God over and above what is
necessary to our comfort. How grateful, then, should we be to that
divine Benevolence, which showers even superfluous bounties upon us!
One truth, therefore, which Edward's blindness had taught him was, that
his mind and soul could dispense with the assistance of his eyes.
Doubtless, however, he would have found this lesson far more difficult
to learn had it not been for the affection of those around him. His
parents, and George and Emily, aided him to bear his misfortune; if
possible, they would have lent him their own eyes. And this, too, was a
good lesson for him. It taught him how dependent on one another God has
ordained us to be, insomuch that all the necessities of mankind should
incite them to mutual love.
So Edward loved his friends, and perhaps all the world, better than he
ever did before. And be felt grateful towards his father for spending
the evenings in telling him stories,--more grateful, probably, than any
of my little readers will feel towards me for so carefully writing these
same stories down.
"Come, dear father," said he, the next evening, "now tell us about some
other little boy who was destined to be a famous man."
"How would you like a story of a Boston boy?" asked his father.
"O, pray let us have it!" cried George, eagerly. "It will be all the
better if he has been to our schools, and has coasted on the Common, and
sailed boats in the Frog Pond. I shall feel acquainted with him.
"Well, then," said Mr. Temple, "I will introduce you to a Boston boy
whom all the world became acquainted with after he grew to be a man."
The story was as follows:--
[BORN 1706, DIED 1790]
In the year 1716, or about that period, a boy used to be seen in the
streets of Boston who was known among his schoolfellows and playmates by
the name of Ben Franklin. Ben was born in 1706; so that he was now
about ten years old. His father, who had come over from England, was a
soap-boiler and tallow-chandler, and resided in Milk Street, not far
from the Old South Church.
Ben was a bright boy at his book, and even a brighter one when at play
with his comrades. He had some remarkable qualities which always seemed
to give him the lead, whether at sport or in more serious matters. I
might tell you a number of amusing anecdotes about him. You are
acquainted, I suppose, with his famous story of the WHISTLE, and how he
bought it, with a whole pocketful of coppers and afterwards repented of
his bargain. But Ben had grown a great boy since those days, and had
gained wisdom by experience; for it was one of his peculiarities, that
no incident ever happened to him without teaching him some valuable
lesson. Thus he generally profited more by his misfortunes than many
people do by the most favorable events that could befall them.
Ben's face was already pretty well known to the inhabitants of Boston.
The selectmen and other people of note often used to visit his father,
for the sake of talking about the affairs of the town or province. Mr.
Franklin was considered a person of great wisdom and integrity, and was
respected by all who knew him, although he supported his family by the
humble trade of boiling soap and making tallow candles.
While his father and the visitors were holding deep consultations about
public affairs, little Ben would sit on his stool in a corner, listening
with the greatest interest, as if he understood every word. Indeed, his
features were so full of intelligence that there could be but little
doubt, not only that he understood what was said, but that he could have
expressed some very sagacious opinions out of his own mind. But in
those days boys were expected to be silent in the presence of their
elders. However, Ben Franklin was looked upon as a very promising lad,
who would talk and act wisely by and by.
"Neighbor Franklin," his father's friends would sometanes say, "you
ought to send this boy to college and make a minister of him."
"I have often thought of it," his father would reply; "and my brother
Benjamin promises to give him a great many volumes of manuscript
sermons, in case he should he educated for the church. But I have a
large family to support, and cannot afford the expense."
In fact, Mr. Franklin found it so difficult to provide bread for his
family, that, when the boy was ten years old, it became necessary to
take him from school. Ben was then employed in cutting candle-wicks
into equal lengths and filling the moulds with tallow; and many families
in Boston spent their evenings by the light of the candles which he had
helped to make. Thus, you see, in his early days, as well as in his
manhood, his labors contributed to throw light upon dark matters.
Busy as his life now was, Ben still found time to keep company with his
former schoolfellows. He and the other boys were very fond of fishing,
and spent many of their leisure hours on the margin of the mill-pond,
catching flounders, perch, eels, and tomcod, which came up thither with
the tide. The place where they fished is now, probably, covered with
stone pavements and brick buildings, and thronged with people and with
vehicles of all kinds. But at that period it was a marshy spot on the
outskirts of the town, where gulls flitted and screamed overhead and
salt-meadow grass grew under foot.
On the edge of the water there was a deep bed of clay, in which the boys
were forced to stand while they caught their fish. Here they dabbled in
mud and mire like a flock of ducks.
"This is very uncomfortable," said Ben Franklin one day to his comrades,
while they were standing mid-leg deep in the quagmire.
"So it is," said the other boys. "What a pity we have no better place
If it mad not been for Ben, nothing more would have been done or said
about, the matter. Butt it was not in his nature to be sensible of an
inconvenience without using his best efforts to find a remedy. So, as
he and his comrades were returning from the water-side, Ben suddenly
threw down his string of fish with a very determined air.
"Boys," cried he, "I have thought of a scheme which will be greatly for
our benefit and for the public benefit."
It was queer enough, to be sure, to hear this little chap--this rosy-
checked, ten-year-old boy--talking about schemes for the public benefit!
Nevertheless, his companions were ready to listen, being assured that
Ben's scheme, whatever it was, would be well worth their attention.
They remembered how sagaciously he had conducted all their enterprises
ever since he had been old enough to wear small-clothes.
They remembered, too, his wonderful contrivance of sailing across the
mill-pond by lying flat on his back in the water and allowing himself to
be drawn along by a paper kite. If Ben could do that, he might
certainly do anything.
"What is your scheme, Ben?--what is it?" cried they all.
It so happened that they had now come to a spot of ground where a new
house was to be built. Scattered round about lay a great many large
stones which were to be used for the cellar and foundation. Ben mounted
upon the highest of these stones, so that he might speak with the more
"You know, lads," said he, what a plague it is to be forced to stand in
the quagmire yonder,--over shoes and stockings (if we wear any) in mud
and water. See! I am bedaubed to the knees of my small-clothes; and you
are all in the same pickle. Unless we can find some remedy for this
evil, our fishing business must be entirely given up. And, surely, this
would be a terrible misfortune!"
"That it would! that it would!" said his comrades, sorrowfully.
"Now, I propose," continued Master Benjamin, "that we build a wharf, for
the purpose of carrying on our fisheries. You see these stones. The
workmen mean to use them for the underpinning of a house; but that would
be for only one man's advantage. My plan is to take these same stones
and carry them to the edge of the water and build a wharf with them.
This will not only enable us to carry on the fishing business with
comfort and to better advantage, but it will likewise be a great
convenience to boats passing up and down the stream. Thus, instead of
one man, fifty, or a hundred, or a thousand, besides ourselves, may be
benefited by these stones. What say you, lads? shall we build the
Bell's proposal was received with one of those uproarious shouts
wherewith boys usually express their delight at whatever completely
suits their views. Nobody thought of questioning the right and justice
of building a wharf with stones that belonged to another person.
"Hurrah! hurrah!" shouted they. "Let's set about it."
It was agreed that they should all be on the spot that evening and
commence their grand public enterprise by moonlight. Accordingly, at
the appointed time, the whole gang of youthful laborers assembled, and
eagerly began to remove the stones. They had not calculated how much
toil would be requisite in this important part of their undertaking.
The very first stone which they laid hold of proved so heavy that it
almost seemed to be fastened to the ground. Nothing but Ben Franklin's
cheerful and resolute spirit could have induced them to persevere.
Ben, as might be expected, was the soul of the enterprise. By his
mechanical genius, he contrived methods to lighten the labor of
transporting the stones, so that one boy, under his directions, would
perform as much as half a dozen if left to themselves. Whenever their
spirits flagged he had some joke ready, which seemed to renew their
strength, by setting them all into a roar of laughter. And when, after
an hour or two of hard work, the stones were transported to the water-
side, Bell Franklin was the engineer to superintend the construction of
The boys, like a colony of ants, performed a great deal of labor by
their multitude, though the individual strength of each could have
accomplished but little. Finally, just as the moon sank below the
horizon, the great work was finished.
"Now, boys," cried Ben, "let's give three cheers and go home to bed.
To-morrow we may catch fish at our ease."
"Hurrah! hurrah! hurrah!" shouted his comrades.
Then they all went home in such an ecstasy of delight that they could
hardly get a wink of sleep.
The story was not yet finished; but George's impatience caused him to
"How I wish that I could have helped to build that wharf!" exclaimed he.
"It must have been glorious fun. Ben Franklin forever, say I."
"It was a very pretty piece of work," said Mr. Temple. "But wait till
you hear the end of the story."
"Father," inquired Edward, "whereabouts in Boston was the mill-pond on
which Ben built his wharf?"
"I do not exactly know," answered Mr. Temple; "but I suppose it to have
been on the northern verge of the town, in the vicinity of what are now
called Merrimack and Charlestown Streets. That thronged portion of the
city was once a marsh. Some of it, in fact, was covered with water."
As the children had no more questions to ask, Mr. Temple proceeded to
relate what consequences ensued from the building of Bell Franklin's
In the morning, when the early sunbeams were gleaming on the steeples
and roofs of the town and gilding the water that surrounded it, the
masons came, rubbing their eyes, to begin their work at the foundation
of the new house. But, on reaching the spot, they rubbed their eyes so
much the harder. What had become of their heap of stones?
"Why, Sam," said one to another, in great perplexity, "here's been some
witchcraft at work while we were asleep. The stones must have flown
away through the air!"
"More likely they have been stolen!" answered Sam.
"But who on earth would think of stealing a heap of stones?" cried a
third. "Could a man carry them away in his pocket?"
The master mason, who was a gruff kind of man, stood scratching his
head, and said nothing at first. But, looking carefully on the ground,
he discerned innumerable tracks of little feet, some with shoes and some
barefoot. Following these tracks with his eye, he saw that they formed
a beaten path towards the water-side.
"Ah, I see what the mischief is," said he, nodding his head. "Those
little rascals, the boys,--they have stolen our stones to build a wharf
The masons immediately went to examine the new structure. And to say
the truth, it was well worth looking at, so neatly and with such
admirable skill had it been planned and finished. The stones were put
together so securely that there was no danger of their being loosened by
the tide, however swiftly it might sweep along. There was a broad and
safe platform to stand upon, whence the little fishermen might cast
their lines into deep water and draw up fish in abundance. Indeed, it
almost seemed as if Ben and his comrades might be forgiven for taking
the stones, because they had done their job in such a workmanlike
"The chaps that built this wharf understood their business pretty well,"
said one of the masons. "I should not be ashamed of such a piece of
But the master mason did not seem to enjoy the joke. He was one of
those unreasonable people who care a great deal more for their own
rights and privileges than for the convenience of all the rest of the
"Sam," said he, more gruffly than usual, "go call a constable."
So Sam called a constable, and inquiries were set on foot to discover
the perpetrators of the theft. In the course of the day warrants were
issued, with the signature of a justice of the peace, to take the bodies
of Benamin Franklin and other evil-disposed persons who had stolen a
heap of stones. If the owner of the stolen property had not been more
merciful than the master mason, it might have gone hard with our friend
Benjamin and his fellow-laborers. But, luckily for them, the gentleman
had a respect for Ben's father, and, moreover, was amused with the
spirit of the whole affair. He therefore let the culprits off pretty
But, when the constables were dismissed, the poor boys had to go through
another trial, and receive sentence, and suffer execution, too, from
their own fathers. Many a rod, I grieve to say, was worn to the stump
on that unlucky night.
As for Ben, he was less afraid of a whipping than of his father's
disapprobation. Mr. Franklin, as I have mentioned before, was a
sagacious man, and also an inflexibly upright one. He had read much for
a person in his rank of life, and had pondered upon the ways of the
world, until he had gained more wisdom than a whole library of books
could have taught him. Ben had a greater reverence for his father than
for any other person in the world, as well on account of his spotless
integrity as of his practical sense and deep views of things.
Consequently, after being released from the clutches of the law, Ben
came into his father's presence with no small perturbation of mind.
"Benjamin, come hither," began Mr. Franklin, in his customary solemn and
The boy approached and stood before his father's chair, waiting
reverently to hear what judgment this good man would pass upon his late
offence. He felt that now the right and wrong of the whole matter would
be made to appear.
"Benjamin!" said his father, "what could induce you to take property
which did not belong to you?"
"Why, father," replied Ben, hanging his head at first, but then lifting
eyes to Mr. Franklin's face, "if it had been merely for my own benefit,
I never should have dreamed of it. But I knew that the wharf would be a
public convenience. If the owner of the stones should build a house
with them, nobody will enjoy any advantage except himself. Now, I made
use of them in a way that was for the advantage of many persons. I
thought it right to aim at doing good to the greatest number."
"My son," said Mr. Franklin, solemnly, "so far as it was in your power,
you have done a greater harm to the public than to the owner of the
"How can that he, father?" asked Ben.
"Because," answered his father, "in building your wharf with stolen
materials, you have committed a moral wrong. There is no more terrible
mistake than to violate what is eternally right for the sake of a
seeming expediency. Those who act upon such a principle do the utmost
in their power to destroy all that is good in the world."
"Heaven forbid!" said Benjamin.
"No act," continued Mr. Franklin, "can possibly be for the benefit of
the public generally which involves injustice to any individual. It
would be easy to prove this by examples. But, indeed, can we suppose
that our allwise and just Creator would have so ordered the affairs of
the world that a wrong act should be the true method of attaining a
right end? It is impious to think so. And I do verily believe,
Benjamin, that almost all the public and private misery of mankind
arises from a neglect of this great truth,--that evil can produce only
evil,--that good ends must be wrought out by good means."
"I will never forget it again," said Benjamin, bowing his head.
"Remember," concluded his father, "that, whenever we vary from the
highest rule of right, just so far we do an injury to the world. It may
seem otherwise for the moment; but, both in time and in eternity, it
will he found so."
To the close of his life Ben Franklin never forgot this conversation
with his father; and we have reason to suppose that, in most of his
public and private career, he endeavored to act upon the principles
which that good and wise man had then taught him.
After the great event of building the wharf, Ben continued to cut wick-
yarn and fill candle-moulds for about two years. But, as he had no love
for that occupation, his father often took him to see various artisans
at their work, in order to discover what trade he would prefer. Thus
Ben learned the use of a great many tools, the knowledge of which
afterwards proved very useful to him. But he seemed much inclined to go
to sea. In order to keep him at home, and likewise to gratify his taste
for letters, the lad was bound apprentice to his elder brother, who had
lately set up a printing-office in Boston.
Here he had many opportunities of reading new books and of hearing
instructive conversation. He exercised himself so successfully in
writing compositions, that, when no more than thirteen or fourteen years
old, he became a contributor to his brother's newspaper. Ben was also a
versifier, if not a poet. He made two doleful ballads,--one about the
shipwreck of Captain Worthilake; and the other about the pirate Black
Beard, who, not long before, infested the American seas.
When Ben's verses were printed, his brother sent him to sell them to the
townspeople wet from the press. "Buy my ballads!" shouted Benjamin, as
he trudged through the streets with a basketful on his arm. "Who'll buy
a ballad about Black Beard? A penny apiece! a penny apiece! Who'll buy
If one of those roughly composed and rudely printed ballads could be
discovered now, it would be worth more than its weight in gold.
In this way our friend Benjamin spent his boyhood and youth, until, on
account of some disagreement with his brother, he left his native town
and went to Philadelphia. He landed in the latter city, a homeless and
hungry young man, and bought three-pence worth of bread to satisfy his
appetite. Not knowing where else to go, he entered a Quaker meeting-
house, sat down, and fell fast asleep. He has not told us whether his
slumbers were visited by any dreams. But it would have been a strange
dream, indeed, and an incredible one, that should have foretold how
great a man he was destined to become, and how much he would be honored
in that very city where he was now friendless and unknown.
So here we finish our story of the childhood of Benjamin Franklin. One
of these days, if you would know what he was in his manhood, you must
read his own works and the history of American independence.
"Do let us hear a little more of him!" said Edward; not that I admire
him so much as many other characters; but he interests me, because he
was a Yankee boy."
"My dear son," replied Mr. Temple, "it would require a whole volume of
talk to tell you all that is worth knowing about Benjamin Franklin.
There is a very pretty anecdote of his flying a kite in the midst of a
thunder-storm, and thus drawing down the lightning from the clouds and
proving that it was the same thing as electricity. His whole life would
be an interesting story, if we had time to tell it."
"But, pray, dear father, tell us what made him so famous," said George.
"I have seen his portrait a great many tines. There is a wooden bust of
him in one of our streets; and marble ones, I suppose, in some other
places. And towns, and ships of war, and steamboats, and banks, and
academies, and children are often named after Franklin. Why should he
have grown so very famous?"
"Your question is a reasonable one, George," answered his father. "I
doubt whether Franklin's philosophical discoveries, important as they
were, or even his vast political services, would have given him all the
fame which he acquired. It appears to me that Poor Richard's Almanac
did more than anything else towards making him familiarly known to the
public. As the writer of those proverbs which Poor Richard was supposed
to utter, Franklin became the counsellor and household friend of almost
every family in America. Thus it was the humblest of all his labors
that has done the most for his fame."
"I have read some of those proverbs," remarked Edward; "but I do not
like them. They are all about getting money or saving it."
"Well," said his father, "they were suited to the condition of the
country; and their effect, upon the whole, has doubtless been good,
although they teach men but a very small portion of their duties."
Hitherto Mr. Temple's narratives had all been about boys and men. But,
the next evening, he bethought himself that the quiet little Emily would
perhaps be glad to hear the story of a child of her own sex. He
therefore resolved to narrate the youthful adventures of Christina, of
Sweden, who began to be a queen at the age of no more than six years.
If we have any little girls among our readers, they must not suppose
that Christina is set before them as a pattern of what they ought to be.
On the contrary, the tale of her life is chiefly profitable as showing
the evil effects of a wrong education, which caused this daughter of a
king to be both useless and unhappy. Here follows the story.
[BORN 1626 DIED 1689]
In the royal palace at Stockholm, the capital city of Sweden, there was
horn, in 1626, a little princess. The king, her father; gave her the
name of Christina, in memory of a Swedish girl with whom he had been in
love. His own name was Gustavus Adolphus; and he was also called the
Lion of the North, because he had gained greater fame in war than any
other prince or general then alive.
With this valiant king for their commander, the Swedes had made
themselves terrible to the Emperor of Germany and to the king of France,
and were looked upon as the chief defence of the Protestant religion.
The little Christina was by no means a beautiful child. To confess the
truth, she was remarkably plain. The queen, her mother, did not love
her so much as she ought; partly, perhaps, on account of Christina's
want of beauty, and also because both the king and queen had wished for
a son, who might have gained as great renown in battle as his father
The king, however, soon became exceedingly fond of the infant princess.
When Christina was very young she was taken violently sick. Gustavus
Adolphus, who was several hundred miles from Stockholm, travelled night
and day, and never rested until he held the poor child in his arms. On
her recovery he made a solemn festival, in order to show his joy to the
people of Sweden and express his gratitude to Heaven. After this event
he took his daughter with him in all the journeys which he made
throughout his kingdom.
Christina soon proved herself a bold and sturdy little girl. When she
was two years old, the king and herself, in the course of a journey,
came to the strong fortress of Colmar. On the battlements were soldiers
clad in steel armor, which glittered in the sunshine. There were
likewise great cannons, pointing their black months at Gustavus and
little Christina, and ready to belch out their smoke and thunder; for,
whenever a king enters a fortress, it is customary to receive him with a
royal salute of artillery.
But the captain of the fortress met Gustavus and his daughter as they
were about to enter the gateway.
"May it please your Majesty," said he, taking off his steel cap and
bowing profoundly, "I fear that, if we receive you with a salute of
cannon, the little princess will be frightened almost to death."
Gustavus looked earnestly at his daughter, and was indeed apprehensive
that the thunder of so many cannon might perhaps throw her into
convulsions. He had almost a mind to tell the captain to let them enter
the fortress quietly, as common people might have done, without all this
head-splitting racket. But no; this would not do.
"Let them fire," said he, waving his hand. "Christina is a soldier's
daughter, and must learn to bear the noise of cannon."
So the captain uttered the word of command, and immediately there was a
terrible peal of thunder from the cannon, and such a gush of smoke that
it enveloped the whole fortress in its volumes. But, amid all the din
and confusion, Christina was seen clapping her little hands and laughing
in an ecstasy of delight. Probably nothing ever pleased her father so
much as to see that his daughter promised to be fearless as himself. He
determined to educate her exactly as if she had been a boy, and to teach
her all the knowledge needful to the ruler of a kingdom and the
commander of an army.
But Gustavus should have remembered that Providence had created her to
be a woman, and that it was not for him to make a man of her.
However, the king derived great happiness from his beloved Christina.
It must have been a pleasant sight to see the powerful monarch of Sweden
playing in some magnificent hall of the palace with his merry little
girl. Then he forgot that the weight of a kingdom rested upon his
shoulders. He forgot that the wise Chancellor Oxenstiern was waiting to
consult with him how to render Sweden the greatest nation of Europe. He
forgot that the Emperor of Germany and the King of France were plotting
together how they might pull him down from his throne.
Yes; Gustavus forgot all the perils, and cares, and pompous irksomeness
of a royal life; and was as happy, while playing with his child, as the
humblest peasant in the realm of Sweden. How gayly did they dance along
the marble floor of the palace, this valiant king, with his upright,
martial figure, his war-worn visage, and commanding aspect, and the
small, round form of Christina, with her rosy face of childish
merriment! Her little fingers were clasped in her father's hand, which
had held the leading staff in many famous victories. His crown and
sceptre were her playthings. She could disarm Gustavus of his sword,
which was so terrible to the princes of Europe.
But, alas! the king was not long permitted to enjoy Christina's society.
When she was four years old Gustavus was summoned to take command of the
allied armies of Germany, which were fighting against the emperor. His
greatest affliction was the necessity of parting with his child; but
people in such high stations have but little opportunity for domestic
happiness. He called an assembly of the senators of Sweden and confided
Christina to their care, saying, that each one of them must be a father
to her if he himself should fall in battle.
At the moment of his departure Christina ran towards him and began to
address him with a speech which somebody had taught her for the
occasion. Gustavus was busied with thoughts about the affairs of the
kingdom, so that be did not immediately attend to the childish voice of
his little girl. Christina, who did not love to be unnoticed,
immediately stopped short and pulled him by the coat.
"Father," said she, "why do not you listen to my speech?"
In a moment the king forgot everything except that, he was parting with
what he loved best in all the world. He caught the child in his arms,
pressed her to his bosom, and burst into tears. Yes; though he was a
brave man, and though he wore a steel corselet on his breast, and though
armies were waiting for him to lead them to battle, still his heart
melted within him, and he wept. Christina, too, was so afflicted that
her attendants began to fear that she would actually die of grief. But
probably she was soon comforted; for children seldom remember their
parents quite so faithfully as their parents remember them.
For two years more Christina remained in the palace at Stockholm. The
queen, her mother, had accompanied Gustavus to the wars. The child,
therefore, was left to the guardianship of five of the wisest men in the
kingdom. But these wise men knew better how to manage the affairs of
state than how to govern and educate a little girl so as to render her a
good and happy woman.
When two years had passed away, tidings were brought to Stockholm which
filled everybody with triumph and sorrow at the same time. The Swedes
had won a glorious victory at Lutzen. But, alas! the warlike King of
Sweden, the Lion of the North, the father of our little Christina, had
been slain at the foot of a great stone, which still marks the spot of
that hero's death.
Soon after this sad event, a general assembly, or congress, consisting
of deputations from the nobles, the cleigy, the burghers, and the
peasants of Sweden, was summoned to meet at Stockholm. It was for the
purpose of declaring little Christina to be Queen of Sweden and giving
her the crown and sceptre of her deceased father. Silence being
proclaimed, the Chancellor Oxenstiern arose.
"We desire to know," said he, "whether the people of Sweden will take
the daughter of our dead king, Gustavus Adolphus, to be their queen."
When the chancellor had spoken, an old man, with white hair and in
coarse apparel, stood up in the midst of the assembly. He was a
peasant, Lars Larrson by name, and had spent most of his life in
laboring on a farm.
"Who is this daughter of Gustavus?" asked the old man. "We do not know
her. Let her be shown to us."
Then Christina was brought into the hall and placed before the old
peasant. It was strange, no doubt, to see a child--a little girl of six
years old--offered to the Swedes as their ruler instead of the brave
king, her father, who had led then to victory so many times. Could her
baby fingers wield a sword in war? Could her childish mind govern the
nation wisely in peace?
But the Swedes do not appear to have asked themselves these questions.
Old Lars Larrson took Christina up in his arms and gazed earnestly into
He had known the great Gustavus well; and his heart was touched when he
saw the likeness which the little girl bore to that heroic monarch.
"Yes," cried he, with the tears gushing down his furrowed cheeks; "this
is truly the daughter of our Gustavus! Here is her father's brow!--here
is his piercing eye! She is his very picture! This child shall be our
Then all the proud nobles of Sweden, and the reverend clergy, and the
burghers, and the peasants, knelt down at the child's feet and kissed
"Long live Christina, Queen of Sweden!" shouted they.
Even after she was a woman grown Christina remembered the pleasure which
she felt in seeing all of hose men at her feet and hearing them
acknowledge her as their supreme ruler. Poor child! she was yet to
learn that power does not insure happiness. As yet, however, she had
not any real power. All the public business, it is true, was transacted
in her name; but the kingdom was governed by a number of the most
experienced statesmen, who were called a regency.
But it was considered necessary that the little queen, should be present
at the public ceremonies, and should behave just as if she were in
reality the ruler of the nation. When she was seven years of age, some
ambassadors from the Czar of Muscovy came to the Swedish court. They
wore long beards, and were clad in a strange fashion, with furs and
other outlandish ornaments; and as they were inhabitants of a half-
civilized country, they did not behave like other people. The
Chancellor Oxenstiern was afraid that the young queen would burst out a
laughing at the first sight of these queer ambassadors, or else that she
would be frightened by their unusual aspect.
"Why should I be frightened?" said the little queen. "And do you
suppose that I have no better manners than to laugh? Only tell me how
I must behave, and I will do it."
Accordingly, the Muscovite ambassadors were introduced; and Christina
received them and answered their speeches with as much dignity and
propriety as if sho had been a grown woman.
All this time, though Christina was now a queen, you must not suppose
that she was left to act as she pleased. She had a preceptor, named
John Mathias, who was a very learned man and capable of instructing her
in all the branches of science. But there was nobody to teach her the
delicate graces and gentle virtues of a woman. She was surrounded
almost entirely by men, and had learned to despise the society of her
own sex. At the age of nine years she was separated from her mother,
whom the Swedes did not consider a proper person to be intrusted with
the charge of her. No little girl who sits by a New England fireside
has cause to envy Christina in the royal palace at Stockholm.
Yet she made great progress in her studies. She learned to read the
classical authors of Greece and Rome, and became a great admirer of the
heroes and poets of old times. Then, as for active exercises, she could
ride on horseback as well as any man in her kingdom. She was fond of
hunting, and could shoot at a mark with wonderful skill. But dancing
was the only feminine accomplishment with which she had any
She was so restless in her disposition that none of her attendants were
sure of a moment's quiet neither day nor night. She grew up, I am sorry
to say, a very unamiable person, ill-tempered, proud, stubborn, and, in
short, unfit to make those around her happy or to be happy herself. Let
every little girl, who has been taught self-control and a due regard for
the rights of others, thank Heaven that she has had better instruction
than this poor little Queen of Sweden.
At the age of eighteen Christina was declared free to govern the kingdom
by herself without the aid of a regency. At this period of her life she
was a young woman of striking aspect, a good figure, and intelligent
face, but very strangely dressed. She wore a short habit of gray cloth,
with a man's vest over it, and a black scarf around her neck; but no
jewels nor ornaments of any kind.
Yet, though Christina was so negligent of her appearance, there was
something in her air and manner that proclaimed her as the ruler of a
kingdom. Her eyes, it is said, had a very fierce and haughty look. Old
General Wrangel, who had often caused the enemies of Sweden to tremble
in battle, actually trembled himself when he encountered the eyes of the
queen. But it would have been better for Christina if she could have
made people love her, by means of soft and gentle looks, instead of
affrighting them by such terrible glances.
And now I have told you almost all that is amusing or instructive in the
childhood of Christina. Only a few more words need be said about her;
for it is neither pleasant nor profitable to think of many things that
she did after she grew to be a woman.
When she had worn the crown a few years, she began to consider it
beneath her dignity to be called a queen, because the name implied that
she belonged to the weaker sex. She therefore caused herself to be
proclaimed KING; thus declaring to the world that she despised her own
sex and was desirous of being ranked among men. But in the twenty-
eighth year of her age Christina grew tired of royalty, and resolved to
be neither a king nor a queen any longer. She took the crown from her
head with her own hands, and ceased to be the ruler of Sweden. The
people did not greatly regret her abdication; for she had governed them
ill, and had taken much of their property to supply her extravagance.
Having thus given up her hereditary crown, Christina left Sweden and
travelled over many of the countries of Europe. Everywhere she was
received with great ceremony, because she was the daughter of the
renowned Gustavus, and had herself been a powerful queen. Perhaps you
would like to know something about her personal appearance in the latter
part of time life. She is described as wearing a man's vest, a short
gray petticoat, embroidered with gold and silver, and a black wig, which
was thrust awry upon her head. She wore no gloves, and so seldom washed
her hands that nobody could fell what had been their original color. In
this strange dress, and, I suppose, without washing her hands or face,
she visited the magnificent court of Louis XIV.
She died in 1689. None loved her while she lived, nor regretted her
death, nor planted a single flower upon her grave. Happy are the little
girls of America, who are brought up quietly and tenderly at the
domestic hearth, and thus become gentle and delicate women! May none of
them ever lose the loveliness of their sex by receiving such an
education as that of Queen Christina!
Emily, timid, quiet, and sensitive, was the very reverse of little
Christina. She seemed shocked at the idea of such a bold and masculine
character as has been described in the foregoing story.
"I never could have loved her," whispered she to Mrs. Temple; and then
she added, with that love of personal neatness which generally
accompanies purity of heart, "It troubles me to think of her unclean
"Christina was a sad specimen of womankind indeed," said Mrs. Temple.
"But it is very possible for a woman to have a strong mind, and to be
fitted for the active business of life, without losing any of her
natural delicacy. Perhaps some time or other Mr. Temple will tell you a
story of such a woman."
It was now time for Edward to be left to repose. His brother George
shook him heartily by the hand, and hoped, as he had hoped twenty times
before, that tomorrow or the next day Ned's eyes would be strong enough
to look the sun right in the face.
"Thank you, George," replied Edward, smiling; "but I am not half so
impatient as at first. If my bodily eyesight were as good as yours,
perhaps I could not see things so distinctly with my mind's eye. But
now there is a light within which shows me the little Quaker artist, Ben
West, and Isaac Newton with his windmill, and stubborn Sam Johnson, and
stout Noll Cromwell, and shrewd Ben Franklin, and little Queen
Christina, with the Swedes kneeling at her feet. It seems as if I
really saw these personages face to face. So I can bear the darkness
outside of me pretty well."
When Edward ceased speaking, Emily put up her mouth and kissed him as
her farewell for the night.
"Ah, I forgot!" said Edward, with a sigh. "I cannot see any of your
faces. What would it signify to see all the famous people in the world,
if I must be blind to the faces that I love?"
"You must try to see us with your heart, my dear child," said his
Edward went to bed somewhat dispirited; but, quickly falling asleep, was
visited with such a pleasant dream of the sunshine and of his dearest
friends that he felt the happier for it all the next day. And we hope
to find him still happy when we meet again.
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