"I thought the teacher bore rather hard upon us," said Charlie, who had been listening to the conversation.
"Perhaps you will thank him for it when you get to be Dr. Franklin, Jr.," answered Nat, in a jesting manner.
"It can't be denied," interrupted John, "that the teacher is a great grammarian. Didn't he put Sam into the objective case yesterday, when he tumbled him head over heels out of his seat? If his action didn't pass over to an object then, I won't guess again."
"Sam looked as if he was convinced that the teacher was an active verb," said Nat. "He found out that he was neither neuter nor passive."
The subject of grammar became a frequent theme of remark during the remainder of the term among the boys. None of them liked it very well, so that poor grammar was slandered, and many a joke was cracked over it.
It was during this term that Sam Drake allowed his mischief-making propensity to exhibit itself in a cruel act, for which he was condemned by nearly all beholders. The boys were returning from school one night, when a well-known dog, belonging to a neighbor, came out to salute his young master, one of the scholars. He was somewhat larger than Trip, and a playful fellow, ready to frolic with the boys.
"Come here, Spot," said Sam to the dog, "good fellow, can you run after a stick to-night?" and he patted him upon his head, till the dog (who was usually shy of Sam) seemed to think that he was a good friend. "There, go and bring that to me," at the same time throwing a little stick one or two rods.
Spot obeyed at once, and brought back the stick, apparently conscious of having performed his duty well.
"What do you suppose he would do if I should tie my dinner pail to his tail?" inquired Sam.
"You shan't do it," cried two or three boys, none more loudly, however, than Nat.
"I shall do it, if I am a mind to," replied Sam; and he proceeded to take a string out of his pocket for this purpose.
"You are too bad to do that," said John, trying to dissuade him from doing it.
"It seems to me that you all have a heap of pity just now," said Sam.
"I wish you had," responded Nat.
"You would get precious little of it, Mr. Squash-peddler, if I had," answered Sam. "The dog is none of your relations, and you needn't trouble yourself about him."
Ben Drake, ere this, had turned to aid Sam in executing his purpose, and the pail was actually tied to Spot's tail before this conversation closed.
"Take off the cover," said Ben, and no quicker said than done; whereupon Spot ran yelping down the street, the tin pail rattling behind him so as to frighten him beyond measure. The faster he ran, the more the pail rattled, and the more terrified the dog was. Men stopped in the street to see the cruel sport, and express their disapproval.
"It is one of Sam Drake's tricks," said Charlie to an inquiry put by a gentleman.
Sam and Ben laughed till they could scarcely stand upon their feet to see the dog run. It was just such sport as they loved.
"Hurrah for Spot!" shouted Sam, swinging his hat. "He'll spill his dinner if he don't carry the pail more carefully."
"If it was my dog," said Frank, "you would find my father after you."
"You ought to be ashamed of yourself," added Nat. "It would not have been more cruel in you to kill him outright. You are always up to something of the kind."
Not one of the boys approved of Sam's and Ben's cruelty. All expressed decided sympathy for Spot, and were glad to see the pail drop from his tail by the time he had run thirty or forty rods.
"What kind of a noun is Sam?" inquired John, with one of his roguish glances of the eye.
"A proper noun, of course," replied Charlie.
"Not by any means," said Nat; "it takes a decent fellow to be a proper noun. Sam is an im-proper noun. I don't believe he has behaved proper one whole day in five years."
This remark got a hearty laugh upon Sam, and he felt it. He mumbled over something, and shook his fist a little, but Nat could hear no part of his remark but the oath that closed it. Sam was very profane, and his brother was too. It was not unusual for both of them to utter the most wicked oaths. They seemed to delight in using the worst words of the English language.
This barbarous act of Sam was frequently spoken of thereafter, and he stood lower than ever in the estimation of Nat. The latter possessed tender feelings towards all sorts of animals, and he was much disposed to pet them. It might be almost said of him as Parry did of Sir John Franklin, "he never turned his back upon a danger, yet he was so tender that he would not brush away a mosquito."
The winter session of the school closed, and vacation brought its work and pleasures. We should be glad to follow Nat through these few weeks of vacation, but we must hasten to a scene that was enacted when the following summer was far spent.
"Nat," said Frank, as they were going home from school one Friday night of the following summer, "let us go up on Prospect Hill to-morrow afternoon; it will be a capital time for a view, if it is a clear day."
"Agreed," responded Nat. "I told Harry the other day that I could count a hundred churches from that hill, and he laughed at me, and I mean to see if I was far from the truth."
"Well, I guess you set it a little too high," said Frank, "but it is a grand sight that we have there."
"Yes! I heard Mr. Sawtelle (Nat's pastor) say, that he never enjoyed such a fine prospect anywhere else, because so many different objects can be seen. I wish I could look through a spy-glass from that hill, wouldn't it be fine?"
Just then the two boys reached a corner where they must separate to go to their respective homes, and the engagement was renewed by Nat's saying, "Now remember, Frank, and be along in good season."
A word about Prospect Hill. We are not sure that this was the veritable name given to this lofty eminence at that time; but we call it thus now because we have heard Nat designate it thus since he became a man. It is certainly a very appropriate appellation with which to christen a hill that towers up so abruptly toward heaven.
This hill was situated just back of Nat's native village, perhaps a half mile or more from the common on which he was wont to play. The top of it was crowned with a mammoth rock, which an enthusiastic geologist might call its crown jewel. Indeed, we are inclined to believe that nearly the whole hill is composed of granite, from base to top, and were the rocky eminence near some "Giants' Causeway," we should regard it the work of these fabled characters, perhaps begun as the first rough stepping stone to the stars.
The boys were right when they spoke so earnestly of the grand view presented from the brow of this hill. There was nothing like it in all the "region round about;" and it is grander still at the present day, because the cunning hand of art has beautified almost every foot of land in view, and reared structures of varied form and costliness on every hand. In the magnificent panorama appear a score of little villages nestling among the distant trees, while as many larger ones stand forth in more imposing grandeur, and several cities spread out their wealth of stores and palaces, and lift their church spires and domes of public edifices high to the blazing sun. Dame Nature lends enchantment to the view by the freshness and beauty of her inimitable landscape. Green and mossy meadow, rich, cultivated upland, luxurious gardens, sweet shady grottos and cozy dells, orchards, forests, farms, with almost every variety of natural scenery, enliven the prospect beyond description; and last, though not least of all, a beautiful river pursues its serpentine course through dusky everglades and grass-grown valleys, as if an unearthed mine, fused by subterranean fires, were pouring forth its vast treasures in a stream of molten silver. The scene is so truly grand that neither tongue nor pen can do justice to the reality.
Saturday afternoon came as usual, with its freedom from school-hour quiet and study. Frank was on time, accompanied by his knowing little dog, "Trip," and Nat was as much on time as he.
"Halloo! Frank," exclaimed Nat; "going to take Trip along with us?"
"Yes! he'll enjoy it as well as we," replied Frank.
"And I shall enjoy it a good deal better to have him with us," continued Nat. "Come here Trip, you nice little fellow, and see the best friend you have." And Trip bounded upon him, giving him as hearty a "good afternoon" as a dog can, while Nat returned the compliment by patting him upon his neck, and telling him, as he glanced a curious eye at Frank, "that he knew almost as much as his master."
"I wish that dog was mine," said Nat.
"I don't," responded Frank; "but I wish you had one just like him."
"I suppose you don't know where I can buy his brother or sister, do you?"
Frank smiled, and before he had time to reply, they were hailed by Sam and Ben Drake.
"Where now, boys?" inquired Sam.
"Bound for Prospect Hill: it is a good clear day for a fine view, and I am going to count the churches," answered Nat.
"Count your grandmothers!" sneeringly exclaimed Sam. "I would give more to roll a big stone down the steep side than I would for the best view you can get from the top."
"But don't you think the prospect from the hill is fine, Sam?"
"Fine enough, I s'pose, though I don't know much about it, as I never thought it was best to injure my eyes looking."
"Well, I must say that you——"
"There, take that, you little whelp," just then shouted Sam to Trip, as he gave the little dog a kick that sent him half across the road.
It seems that Trip happened to come in Sam's way, so that he stumbled against him, and this aroused his ire at once, and then followed the cruel assault. The dog certainly did not mean to come in his way, for he was not a boy that even the dogs liked. They usually kept a respectable distance from both Sam and Ben, and saved their good-will for such kind boys as Nat and Frank. Dogs learn very readily who their friends are, and they wag their tails and skip around those only who are.
Frank looked at Nat when he saw his favorite dog thus abused, and the glance which they exchanged told what each of them thought of the barbarous treatment. Nothing was said, however, and they passed on. It was evident, by this time, that Sam and his brother intended to accompany them, without an invitation, to Prospect Hill. While they are on the way, we will improve the time to say a word about Nat's love of nature.
Sam could see no beauty in a landscape. Why any person should want to stand upon a hill-top for a whole half hour to view green lawns, gardens, meadows, and villages and cities, with their church spires and domes, he could not understand, especially after they had seen them once. If he could have been put into Eden, it would have been no sport for him, unless he could have had the privilege of clubbing the cats and stoning the dogs.
It was different with Nat. He never tired of the view from Prospect Hill, and this love of nature and art contributed to elevate his character. This is always the case. Scarcely any person has become renowned for learning, in whom this love was not early developed. Sir Francis Chantrey was one of the most distinguished artists of his day, possessing a nice discrimination and a most delicate taste, to aid him in his remarkable imitations of nature. He was reared upon a farm, where he enjoyed the innocent pleasure of ranging the forests, climbing hills, bathing in ponds and streams, and rambling through vale and meadow for fowl and fish, all of which he did with a "relish keen." Perhaps he owed more to the inspiration of the wild scenes of Derby Hills, than to all the books that occupied his attention in his boyhood's days. The same was true of the gifted poet Burns, whose sweet and lofty verse has made the name of Scotland, his native land, immortal. He took his first lessons from the green fields, and gushing bird-songs, on his father's farm. Silently, and unconsciously to himself, dame Nature waked his poetic genius into life, when he followed the plough, angled in his favorite stream, or played "echo" with the neighboring woods. The late Hugh Miller, also, the world-renowned geologist, might have been unknown to fame but for the unconscious tuition that he derived from the rocky sides of Cromarty Hill, and his boyish exploration of Doocot Caves. He loved nature more than he loved art. There was nothing that suited him better than to be scaling the rugged sides of hills, exploring deep, dark caverns, and hunting shells and stones on the sea-shore. He was naturally rough, headstrong, and heedless—qualities that tend to drag a youth down to ruin. But his love of nature opened a path of innocent thought and amusement before him, and saved him from a wretched life.
Thus the facts of history show that there is more hope of a boy who loves the beautiful in nature and art, than of him who, like Sam Drake, cared for neither. Perhaps we shall learn that it would have been better for Sam if he had thought more favorably of nature, and less of rude and cruel sports.
The boys reached the top of the hill before two o'clock. Sam Drake was the first to set his foot upon its solid apex, and he signalized the event by swinging his hat, and shouting,
"Three cheers for the meeting-houses!"
This was done, of course, as a sort of reflection upon Nat, who made no reply. Sam was about three years older than Nat, and yet Nat was the most of a man.
"A fire in Boston," exclaimed Frank, as soon as he reached the summit, and cast his eyes towards the city. All looked, and, to their surprise, there was a dense volume of smoke issuing from the north part of the city, indicating that a terrific fire was raging. Had it been in the night-time, the whole heavens would have been lighted up with the blaze, and the scene would have been grand beyond description. But in the sunlight, nothing but smoke could be seen.
"What do you suppose it is burning?" inquired Frank. "It must be some large building, I should think by the smoke it makes. Perhaps it is a whole block on fire."
"I guess it is one of Nat's churches," said Sam, casting a glance at the person hit by the remark. "He had better count it before it is gone."
"Well," replied Nat, who was tempted by the last fling to answer, "I know of one fellow——"
And there he stopped short, for his caution prevailed, and he concluded that "the least said the better." He had a pretty cutting remark on the tip of his tongue, when he remembered that Sam was older than himself, and was base enough to return a blow for a word. Besides, he had a special dislike for Sam, since his cruel treatment of Spot, which would naturally lead him to say as little to him as possible.
"What is that you know about a fellow?" said Sam, growing angry. "It is a lucky thing for you that you didn't say it. Give me any of your sarce, and I'll let you know who is the oldest. Boys that count churches better look two ways for Sunday."
Frank saw how things were going, so he sought to quell the storm in Sam's breast by calling the attention of all to the peculiar symmetry and beauty of an elm tree that stood in the distance. But Sam, not caring to view such objects, turned away to hurl stones, with which he had taken care to fill his pockets, at some object near the base of the hill. Frank's device, however, accomplished the object intended.
"How many miles do you think we can see from the top of this hill?" inquired Nat, addressing himself to Frank.
"Well, I hardly know," answered Frank. "We can see Boston very plainly, and that is ten miles distant. We can see further still in the other direction, perhaps twice as far."
"How fine this is!" continued Nat. "But I must begin to count the churches, or I shall not get through this afternoon. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten—yes, here are ten right here within a few miles. And now let us count them——"
He was stopped here in the middle of a sentence, by the yelp of the dog Trip, and both turned to see what was the matter with him, when Sam shouted:
"Look here, Frank, dogs are falling. Trip has taken the shortest cut down hill this time."
"Good!" added Ben. "I wish all the dogs were kicked after him." And both Sam and Ben seemed to glory in the calamity that had befallen Trip.
Frank and Nat stood appalled when they saw what the trouble was. Sam had kicked Trip down the precipitous side of the hill, where there was a fearful plunge of thirty or forty feet; and there he lay motionless upon his side. Although they stood so far above the dog, it was very evident that he was dead. Frank burst into tears as the unwelcome truth flashed upon his mind that Trip was no more. It was a full, overflowing gush of grief from the bottom of his heart. Nat felt badly to see the dog killed, and also at seeing the grief into which Frank was plunged, and he began to weep also; and there the two boys cried as sincerely over the lifeless dog, as ever friend shed tears over the corpse of friend.
"Well done, now, if I ain't beat!" exclaimed Sam. "Crying over a dead dog! Better save your tears for his funeral, Frank. I'll preach his funeral sermon if you'll name a text. And you come in second mourner, do you, Nat?"
"Second mourner or not," answered Nat, wiping his eyes, and roused by the scene into a magnanimous self-defence, "if I was in Frank's place, your father should know of this."
"Well, 'spose he does know it, what do you think I care?" responded Sam. "I'd like to see the old man calling me to an account for killing a dog."
"So should I like to see him do it," quickly added Nat, "if he would give you what you deserve."
Ben evidently relented by this time for his harsh saying about the matter, and addressing his brother, he said,
"After all, Sam, I think it was rather too bad to kill Trip, for he was the cleverest dog in town. I don't think you'll gain many friends by the act."
"I didn't mean to kill him," said Sam.
"But you might have known that it would kill him to kick him down such a place as that," said Nat.
"That is not so clear, my boy," replied Sam; "it takes a boy bright enough to count meeting-houses to do that. You see I am green—it is the bright feller, who can speak pieces, and look at the fields and trees from Prospect Hill, to foresee such events."
"Come, Sam, you are a little too bad," said Ben. "I don't think you'd like it very well if Frank should kill your gray squirrel the first chance he has."
Sam found it difficult to argue the case with his brother Ben against him, who had really been converted over to the other side by the tears of Frank and Nat. Ben was always a better boy than Sam, but he often yielded to his wicked counsels because Sam was the eldest. Ben was made worse by his brother's influence. This was the general impression in the neighborhood. Sam also, owed a spite to good boys in general, who ranked higher than himself in school, and were thought more highly of in the community. He knew that Nat was a favorite, in school and out, with all who knew him, and so he was envious and vindictive. He twitted him about thinking more of himself than he ought, although he did not really think so. The fact was, Nat was far in advance of Sam in reading, writing, arithmetic, and every branch of study, although the latter was three years older. This circumstance probably excited the ill-will of Sam, as he had an evil disposition, made more evil every day by his vicious course. What he said and did on that day was the result of his jealousy and envy, in connection with his bad temper and reckless spirit. Probably he did not think of killing Trip, when he gave him a kick, for he was utterly reckless, and scarcely ever stopped to consider consequences. But this was no excuse. It is evidence rather of a more dangerous temper of mind.
Sam gave Ben a wink, and both hurried away together, leaving Nat and Frank alone, as they were glad to be.
"How cruel Sam is!" said Frank, breaking the silence that prevailed after they were left alone.
"Worse than that," added Nat. "I begin to think that what Mr. Bond said the other day about him will prove true."
"What did he say?"
"He said that Sam would become a very bad man, unless he turned his course soon, and that he should not be surprised if he came to the gallows. I thought at once of a story which I read the other day about a boy."
"Do you mean a boy like Sam?"
"Yes; very much like him. He lived in England, and he was neighbor to a minister there. The minister had two or three sons whom he warned not to associate with this bad boy. He told them that he would come to some bad end because he did not obey his parents, and was so wicked in other respects. And it proved true; for, in a few years he was shut up in prison for his crimes."
"Sam ought to be put there for what he has done already," said Frank. "But come, let us go round and get poor Trip's body. He shall have a decent burial at any rate."
Both started up, and hastened down the hill to a spot from which they might turn and pass round to where Trip lay. They were soon at his side. Frank took up his lifeless body, and the tears started afresh as he said, "stone dead."
"Oh, how sorry I am that we let Trip come with us!" said Nat.
"So am I, but it can't be helped now; his neck is broke, and neither of us can mend it."
"Let us carry him home as a witness against Sam. Your folks will want to see him once more, too, and I know that my father and mother would be glad to." Thus Nat expressed himself as they turned their steps homeward. Silently they walked on, Frank carrying the dog-corpse in his arms, as solemn as ever pall-bearer bore the remains of human being to the grave. We will leave them to get home in their own time, while we look in upon Nat's father and mother.
THE END OF SCHOOL-DAYS.
In the course of the afternoon Nat's father met the agent of the factory, and the following conversation ensued:—
"What do you say about letting your boy come into the factory to work?" said the agent. "We are greatly in need of a boy to carry bobbins, and we will give him two dollars a week."
"I'll see what his mother says about it. I suppose he will have to do something for a living soon. I shall not be able to do much more for him."
"But Nat has worked some already in a factory, has he not?"
"Well, not exactly to make it a business. He was at his uncle's, in Lowell, about six months, and he was a 'picker boy' a short time."
"That is enough to initiate him. It is only a step from 'picker boy' to 'bobbin boy.'"
The facts about his going to Lowell were these: He had an uncle there who was a clergyman, and Nat was one of his favorites, as he was generally with all those who knew him intimately. This uncle proposed that Nat should come and stay with him a few months in the new "city of spindles" (for the city was then only about four years old), a sort of baby-city. The lad was only eleven years old, at that time, though he was more forward and manly than most boys are at fifteen. He was somewhat pleased with the idea of going to his uncle's, and engaged in preparing for the event with a light heart. As the time drew near for his departure, he found he loved home more than he thought he did, and he almost wished that he had not decided to go. But being a boy of much decision, as we have seen, he was rather ashamed to relinquish what he had undertaken to do. He said little or nothing therefore about his feelings, but went at the appointed time. Soon after he became a member of his uncle's family, where he was a very welcome visitor, a "picker boy" was wanted in the factory, and arrangements were made for Nat to fill the place. He entered upon the work, well pleased to be able to earn something for his parents, and he fully satisfied his employers, by his close attention to his work, his respectful manners, and his amiable, intelligent, and gentlemanly bearing. But Nat loved home too well to be contented to remain long away. He had seasons of being homesick, when he thought he would give more to see his father and mother again than for any thing beside. His uncle saw that the boy was really growing thin under the intense longing of his heart for home, so he wrote to his parents, and arrangements were made immediately for his return. It was a happy day for Nat when he reached home, and took his parents once more by the hand. Home never seemed more precious than it did then. If he had been a singer, I have no doubt that he would have made the old homestead resound with the familiar song of Payne,
"'Mid pleasures and palaces though we may roam, Be it ever so humble, there's no place like home."
It is a good sign for boys to love home. Good boys always do love home. It is the place where their parents dwell, whom they love and respect. No ties are so dear as those which bind them to this sacred spot. No love is purer than that which unites them to parents, brothers, and sisters. It may be a home of poverty, where few of the comforts, and none of the luxuries of life are found, but this does not destroy its charm. Sickness and misfortune may be there, and still it is home, loved and sought. Others may have more splendid homes, where affluence gathers much to please the eye and fascinate the heart, but they would not be received in exchange for this.
Such boys as Sam and Ben Drake seldom love home. Disobedient and headstrong children do not love their parents much, and, for this reason, home has few charms except as a place to eat and sleep. The history of nearly all base men will show that in early life they broke away from the restraints of home, and ceased to love the place where parents would guide them in the path of virtue. Some years ago a distinguished philanthropist visited a young man about twenty-eight years of age, who was confined in prison for passing counterfeit money. His sentence was imprisonment for life. He had become very sad and penitent in consequence of his imprisonment, and the fact that consumption was rapidly carrying him to the grave. The philanthropist inquired into his history. When he spoke to the prisoner of his mother, he observed that his chin quivered, and that tears came unbidden to his eyes.
"Was not your mother a Christian?" inquired the visitor.
"Oh yes, sir!" he answered; "many and many a time has she warned me of this."
"Then you had good Christian parents and wholesome instruction at home, did you not?"
"Certainly; but it all avails me nothing now."
"Then why are you here?"
Raising himself up in bed to reply to this last inquiry, the young man said,
"I can answer you that question in a word. I did not obey my parents nor care for home." And he uttered these last words with a look and tone of despair that sent a chill through the interrogator's heart.
This is but one illustration of the truth, that boys who do not love home usually make shipwreck of their characters. Probably Sam Drake would have laughed at Nat, or any other boy, for being homesick, and said,
"I should like to see myself tied to mother's apron strings. It will do for babies to cry to see their mothers, but it will not do for men. Suppose it is home, there are other places in creation besides home. I'd have folks know that there's one feller who can go away from home, and stay too."
A great many men who are now in prison, or dishonored graves, talked exactly so when they were young. They thought it was manly to have their own way, and show that they cared little for home.
Nat's love of home, then, was a good omen. It was not a discredit to him to long to get back again to his father and mother. It was the evidence of an obedient, affectionate, amiable son.
After the conversation between the agent and Nat's father, the latter went home to consult his wife upon the subject. He related to her the substance of his conversation with the agent, and waited her reply.
"I hardly know what to say," said she. "Nat is only twelve years old, and needs all the schooling he can get. His teachers have said so much to me about his talents, and their wish that he might be educated, that I have hoped, and almost expected, some unforeseen way might be opened for his love of study to be gratified."
"That is entirely out of the question, I think," replied her husband. "The time has come, too, when he must earn something for his support. I see not how we can get along and keep him at school. He loves his books I know, and I should be very glad to see him enjoy them, but poor folks must do as they can and not as they want to."
"Very true; but it is so hard to think that his schooling must end here, when he is only a little boy. I don't know but it would break his heart to be told that he could go to school no more."
"He need not be told that," added her husband. "He may not know but that he will go to school again at some future day."
"It will be difficult to satisfy him on that point, if we keep honesty on our side. You are not with him so much as I am, so that you do not know how inquisitive he is, nor how much he talks about his books, and getting learning. The first thing he will think of will be, whether he will go to school any more. He knows that factory boys are deprived of this privilege, and as he is to become a factory boy, his inference will be that there is no more schooling for him."
"Well, it must come to that, and he may as well know it first as last. But I do not apprehend that he will lay it seriously to heart, for he is always ready to do what his parents think is best. I think he is remarkable for that."
"I think so too; and I shall rely more upon his disposition in this respect to be reconciled to the privation of school, than upon any thing else. I think if the subject is brought before him at the right time, and in the right way, I can convince him it is for the best, and I am sure he will be ready to do what will be best for all of us."
The conclusion of the matter was that Nat should enter the factory on Monday, and that his mother should open the subject to him as soon as he came home.
OPENING THE SUBJECT.
The door suddenly opened, and in rushed Nat, under great excitement, with his eyes "as large as saucers," to use a hyperbole, which means only that his eyes looked very large indeed.
"Sam Drake has killed little Trip," said he to his mother.
"Killed Trip!" reiterated his mother, with great surprise.
"Yes; he kicked him down the steep side of Prospect Hill, and he is stone dead."
"What did he do that for? Had he any trouble with Frank?"
"No, mother; he did it because he is an ugly boy, and for nothing else. He is always doing some wrong thing. The teacher told him the other day that he had more difficulty with the scholars than all the other boys put together. Frank and I didn't want he should go with us; but he and Ben came along and went without being asked to go."
"They are very bad boys," added his mother, "and I am afraid they will make bad men. It is well known that they are disobedient at home, and cause their parents a great deal of trouble, Sam especially."
"And such swearers I never heard in my life," continued Nat. "Every third word Sam speaks is profane. And he is vulgar too. I wish you knew how bad he is."
"I hope you will avoid his company as much as possible. Treat him properly, but have as little to say to him as you can. I have been told that he spends much of his time at the stable and tavern, where he hears much profane and vulgar talk. Boys ought not to visit such places. By and by he will be smoking and drinking as bad as any of them."
"He smokes now," said Nat; "and he told Charlie one day that a boy could never be a man till he could smoke a 'long nine'."
"I hope you will never be a man, then," said his mother. "When a boy gets to going to the tavern to smoke and swear, he is almost sure to drink, and become a ruined man."
"I never do smoke, mother. I never go to the stable nor tavern, I don't associate with Sam and Ben Drake, nor with James Cole, nor with Oliver Fowle, more than I can help. For I know they are bad boys. I see that the worst scholars at school are those who are said to disobey their parents, and every one of them are poor scholars, and they use profane language."
"That is very true, Nat," said his mother. "I am glad you take notice of these things. Bad boys make bad men; always remember that. Be very careful about the company you keep, for the Bible says, 'evil communications corrupt good manners.' You know how to behave well, and if you do as well as you can, you will be respected by all who know you."
"But, mother," asked Nat, "may I go over to Frank's house, and help him bury Trip? I won't be gone long."
"Yes, you may go, but it will be tea-time in an hour, and you must be back then."
Out ran Nat in a hurry, for he had stayed longer to converse with his mother than he meant to have done, and he was afraid Frank would get tired of waiting. He left Frank at the corner of the street, to wait until he ran home to ask his mother's permission to go with him to bury the dog. Now, many boys would have gone without taking this trouble. They would have taken the permission to go to Prospect Hill, to cover going to Frank's house also. But Nat would not do this. It would be taking advantage of his mother's kindness. He was never in the habit of going away even to the nearest neighbor's without permission. Such boys as Sam Drake are all over the neighborhood, and sometimes go even further, without consulting their parents. Very often their parents do not know where they are. If one of their associates should run home for permission to do a given thing, as Nat did, such a fellow as Sam Drake would be likely to say,
"I should like to see myself asking the old woman (his mother) to go there. If I wanted to go, I should go. What does a woman know about boys? I wouldn't be a baby all my days. If a fellow can't have his own way, I wouldn't give a snap to live. Permission or no permission, I would have the old folks know that I shall be my own man sometimes."
This is not manly independence, but youthful disobedience and recklessness, that lead to ruin. All good people look with manifest displeasure upon such an ungovernable spirit, and expect such boys will find an early home in a prison.
When Nat reached the corner of the street, he found that Frank had gone, so he hastened on, and was soon at Mr. Martin's (Frank's father).
"I waited a few minutes," said Frank, as he met Nat at the door, "and then I thought I would run on and get all things ready."
"I was afraid that I had kept you waiting so long that you got out of patience," added Nat. "But I stopped to tell mother about it, and she had considerable to say."
Frank had related the circumstances of Trip's death to his mother before Nat's arrival, and received her consent to bury the dog at the foot of the garden.
"Come, now, let us run into the wood-shed for a box," said Frank; "I have one there full of blocks that is just about right to put Trip into."
"Then you mean he shall have a coffin? I thought you would tumble him into his grave as they do dead soldiers on battle-fields."
"Not I. I have more respect for a good dead dog than that. Look here, is not that a capital box for it?" So saying he took up a small box full of blocks, that had once served him for play-things, and having taken the blocks out, he proceeded to lay Trip therein. His body just filled the box, as if it were made on purpose; and having nailed on the lid, they proceeded with it to the foot of the garden. They were not long in digging a grave, and soon the remains of Trip were decently interred. As the last shovel-full of dirt was thrown on, Nat gave utterance to a part of a declamation which he had spoken in school two weeks before. The portion he repeated was as follows:
"Not a drum was heard, nor a funeral note, As his corse to the ramparts we hurried; Not a soldier discharged his farewell shot, O'er the grave where our hero we buried.
"Slowly and sadly we laid him down, From the field of his fame fresh and gory, We carved not a line, we raised not a stone, But left him alone with his glory."
Frank smiled for the first time since Trip was kicked down the precipice, and said,
"Nat, you are always getting off your oratory; and I really think the occasion deserves a burst of eloquence. Poor Trip will never play hy-spy again; our good times with him are over."
"There, now I must hurry home to supper," said Nat, "mother will be waiting; so good-night till Monday."
Away he bounded homeward, and was just in season for his supper. After a thorough washing of face and hands, he sat down to the table with as keen an appetite as he ever had, his afternoon excursion having given him a good relish for food. The conversation naturally turned upon the fate of Trip, and the whole account of the tragedy was gone over again, with such comments thereon as each one was disposed to make.
"I have a very difficult lesson in arithmetic to dig out to-night for Monday," said Nat, as he rose from the table.
"Perhaps you will not be called upon to recite the lesson," replied his mother.
"Any scholar who gets rid of reciting a lesson which this teacher gives him must be one of the favorites," said Nat, not being the least suspicious that his mother was going to communicate any thing unpleasant. "For one, I want to recite it, after I have mastered it, and I know that I can master it. At any rate, I shall not give up beat until I have tried."
"Then you mean to belong to the 'try company' a while longer?" interrupted his mother.
"Yes, mother; the teacher read us some capital verses the other day on 'I'll try,' and she told a number of stories to illustrate what had been accomplished by trying."
"Your purpose is very good indeed, Nat, and I am sorry that we are not able to give you better advantages. But did you know that your services are in great demand? The agent of the factory has been after you this afternoon."
"For what?" asked Nat, with great surprise.
"To work in the factory to be sure. He wants a 'bobbin boy' very much, and thinks that you will make a good one; what do you say to it?"
"You didn't tell him that I would go, did you?"
"Well, your father and I have talked the matter over, and concluded that it will be necessary for you to do something for a living. We are poor, and your father does not see how he can support the family and keep you in school. The agent will give you two dollars a week, and this will be a great help to us."
"You can't mean, mother, that I am not to go to school any more?" inquired Nat.
"We do not know what may yet transpire in your favor, but for the present, at least, your schooling must cease."
Nat was almost overcome at this announcement, and his lips fairly quivered. His mother felt as badly as he did, though she exerted herself to conceal her emotion. At length she went on to say,
"I do not expect you will accede to this plan without a struggle with your love of study, but if it is best for us all that you should leave school and work in a factory, you can do it cheerfully, can you not?"
"I can do it," answered Nat, "but not cheerfully."
"I did not mean exactly that, when I spoke; for I expect you will do it only because our necessities make that change best."
"When does the agent want I should begin?" inquired Nat.
"On Monday. It is very short notice, but you may as well begin then as any time. There is one thing to be thought of for your advantage. You love to read, and the manufacturing company have a good library for the operatives. You can take out books, and read evenings."
"There will be scarcely any time for me to read after coming out of the factory at seven o'clock; and besides, after working from five o'clock in the morning until seven at night, I think I shall like the bed better than books."
"You will find as much time to acquire knowledge as ever Dr. Franklin did, and many other men who have been distinguished; and that is some encouragement."
"Last winter our teacher told Frank and I about Patrick Henry and Dr. Franklin, and he said that boys now have far better advantages. Do you suppose that the life of Dr. Franklin or the life of Patrick Henry will be in the library at the factory?"
"I have no doubt that both of them are there, and you can take the first opportunity to draw one of them out."
This last suggestion was a very important one to Nat. The prospect of having access to a good library made Nat almost willing to go into the factory. At any rate, after thinking the matter over, and becoming convinced that it was best for the family, as his mother said, that he should become a bobbin boy, and weighing the advantage of having a library to visit, he was quite reconciled to the arrangement. He was the eldest of the children, a large family, and it seemed reasonable that he should be required to do something for a livelihood, if necessity demanded. He knew very well that his parents would not have made such an arrangement, unless their low circumstances had forced them to it. Both of them highly valued a good school, and were interested in the education of their children, but their desires could not be gratified.
Saturday evening wore away, and the family dispersed for nightly repose. The last thoughts of Nat, ere he resigned himself to the arms of Morpheus, were of school and bobbins.
THE NEW CALL.
Monday morning came to Nat, seemingly, before Sunday had time to get by. Thirty-six hours scarcely ever passed away so rapidly to him before. But it found him ready. He was one of the few boys who are always on hand, whether it was for school, or any thing else. Teachers never complained of him for being tardy, for they never had occasion to do it; and he was as prompt to recite his lessons as he was to be in school at nine o'clock. He was punctual to a second. If his mother told him to be at home at a given time from an afternoon visit or ramble, he was sure to be on the mark. He performed errands on the same principle, and never had to be called twice in the morning. The fact is, there was not a lazy bone in his whole body; each finger, toe, joint, and muscle, seemed to understand that it was made for action, and that it must hold itself in readiness to obey orders. His will, too, was king of his faculties, and not one of them would have presumed to disobey its ruler. The first little finger that would have dared to say "no" to his mandates, would have fared severely for its presumption.
Now, such a boy would not find it so difficult to rise early in the morning, at a precise time, to work in a factory, as a lazy one would. A lazy boy, who had been accustomed to get up when he pleased, and consequently was seldom ready to breakfast with the rest of the family, would have a hard time in breaking into such a factory life. The bodies of these indolent fellows seldom wake up all at once. After their eyes are fairly awake by much rubbing, opening, and shutting, their limbs have to be coaxed and persuaded to start. Now they think they will start up in just one minute, but the lazy body refuses, and one minute passes, and then another, until, sometimes, a whole hour is lost in the futile attempts of a weak will to make the limbs mind and get up. But Nat's will was law to his members.
He had been accustomed to hear the factory bell of his native village call others, but it never called him before. For this reason, he had never thought much about its tones, nor hardly stopped to consider that its call was very early. But now its very sound was different. It seemed to understand that Nat was to be called, and it did not require a very flighty imagination in him to perceive that it said Nat, as plainly as any bell could. He was on his feet in a moment. He did not wait for the bell to call twice, any more than he did for his parents to call twice. Every part of him waked up at once, from his head to his feet. His feet were as wide awake as his eyes, as any person would have inferred who had seen them start from the bed. If the bell had no harder case to arouse, it might have done its work with half the noise, and thus saved a great quantity of sound for special occasions, such as the fourth of July.
He was about the first to reach the factory on Monday morning.
"Hurrah! the bobbin boy is on hand," said the overseer as he entered.
"Yes, sir!" was Nat's short and modest reply.
"You'd rather go to school, I suppose," continued the overseer, "than to carry bobbins?"
"I had," answered Nat, "though I can do what is for the best."
"That's right. If everybody would do that, we should have a different world to live in."
The overseer said what he did to Nat, because he knew, as everybody else did in the village, that the boy loved his books. His brightness, and inclination to study, were themes of frequent remark among the people. In the school-room, his manner of acquitting himself attracted the attention of visitors. The teachers regarded him as a very promising boy, and often spoke of his talents. In this way, he was known generally in the community for his "intellectual turn." This explains the remark of the overseer about his loving school better than the factory.
One great surprise awaited Nat on that day. He found that Charlie Stone also became a factory operative on that morning. He did not know that Charlie expected to engage in this new business, nor did Charlie know that Nat did. Indeed, it was unexpected to both of them, since the agent made the arrangement with their fathers late on Saturday afternoon. The meeting of the two boys, therefore, in their new sphere of toil, was the occasion of mutual astonishment.
Charlie Stone was just the age of Nat—twelve years old—and was as good a boy as the neighborhood afforded. His father was poor, very poor indeed, and could not support his family by his own labor, so that Charlie was compelled to lend a helping hand, which he was willing to do. He was a very amiable boy, retiring and modest, a good scholar and associate. He was on intimate terms with Nat, so that their mothers used to say they were "great cronies." We have seen that they were in the same classes in school, and Charlie was really as good a scholar as Nat, though he had not the faculty of using his knowledge to so good advantage. He was a great reader, and he probably read much more than Nat in the course of a year. There is a great difference in boys, as well as men, about the ability to use the information acquired. One boy may thoroughly master his lessons, and fully understand the books he reads, and improve every moment of his time, and yet not be able to make his acquisitions tell so much as another of smaller attainments. His memory may not be retentive, and he may be kept back by a distrust of his own ability to do,—too bashful and timid to press forward. This was the case with Charlie. Nat, on the other hand, possessed a remarkable memory; together with a peculiar faculty to use his attainments to the best advantage. When he made an acquisition he knew how to use it. Every attainment seemed to run into wisdom and character, as the juices of the tree run into buds and fruit. Very small advantages appeared thereby to produce great results in his favor. Every one who knew him would agree, that what Richter said of himself was equally true of Nat, "I have made as much out of myself as could be made of the stuff, and no man should require more."
It was fortunate, on the whole, that these two boys entered the factory together, for both of them became more reconciled to their condition than they otherwise would have been. They were company for each other, and, if possible, became more strongly attached to each other in consequence. They had no opportunity, during the forenoon, to converse with each other concerning the manner of their having entered the factory. But as soon as the rattling machinery silenced its clatter for the dinner hour, the subject was talked over until both fairly understood it.
"Come," said Nat, as they passed out of the factory, "let us step into the office and see when we can take out books."
"Perhaps Dr. Holt (the agent) has gone to his dinner?"
"We'll see," added Nat. So saying they both walked into the office.
"What is wanted, boys?" inquired the doctor, who was there, and he smiled upon them so benignantly that they could not but feel at home.
"We stepped in, sir, to inquire when we could take books out of the library," answered Nat.
"To-night, my lads, as soon as the factory stops. So it seems you are going to improve your spare moments reading?"
"Yes, sir," replied both of them together.
"That is right. It is not the worst berth in the world to be a factory boy, especially if there is a good library to use. Two hours a day in reading will do a great deal for a boy. Most of the young people waste time enough to acquire an education, if it were only well improved. You will have more time for self-improvement than William Cobbett had in his youth—that distinguished member of the British Parliament, of whom so much has been said in the papers of late."
The doctor was an intelligent, well-read man, affable and kind, and deeply interested in the welfare of those over whom he had an oversight. The boys particularly shared his tender sympathies, especially such bright ones as the two who stood before him. His words were uttered in such a way as to go straight to the heart of an enterprising lad. They were words of cheer and hope, such as give spirit and pluck to a poor fellow whose experience is shadowy, to say the least. More than one boy has had occasion to remember the doctor with gratitude. His allusion to William Cobbett, really contained more information than he imparted, as the following account which Cobbett published of himself will show:—
"I learned grammar," said he, "when I was a private soldier on the pay of sixpence a day. The edge of my berth, or that of my guard-bed, was my seat to study in; my knapsack was my book-case; a bit of board lying on my lap was my writing table; and the task did not demand any thing like a year of my life. I had no money to purchase candle or oil; in winter time it was rarely that I could get any evening light but that of the fire, and only my turn of even that. And if I, under such circumstances, and without parent or friend to advise or encourage me, accomplished this undertaking, what excuse can there be for any youth, however poor, however pressed with business, or however circumstanced as to room or other conveniences? To buy a pen or a sheet of paper I was compelled to forego some portion of food, though in a state of half starvation; I had no moment of time that I could call my own; and I had to read and write amidst the talking, laughing, singing, whistling, and brawling of at least half a score of the most thoughtless of men, and that, too, in the hours of their freedom from all control. Think not lightly of the farthing that I had to give, now and then, for ink, pen, or paper! That farthing was, alas! a great sum to me! I was as tall as I am now; I had great health and great exercise. The whole of the money, not expended for us at market, was two-pence a week for each man. I remember, and well I may, that on one occasion I, after all necessary expenses, had, on Friday, made shifts to have a halfpenny in reserve, which I had destined for the purchase of a red herring in the morning; but when I pulled off my clothes at night, so hungry then as to be hardly able to endure life, I found that I had lost my halfpenny! I buried my head under the miserable sheet and rug, and cried like a child! And again I say, if I, under circumstances like these, could encounter and overcome this task, is there, can there be, in the whole world, a youth to find an excuse for the non-performance?"
Nat had no time to converse with his parents at noon concerning his new business—his time was occupied, after dinner, until the factory bell rung, in giving a history of his surprise at meeting Charlie there. His parents were surprised too, as they had not heard that he intended to work in the mill.
"I am glad for you," said his mother, "that Charlie is to work with you, though I am sorry that his parents are so poor as to make it necessary. Charlie is a noble boy, and I know you have a good companion when you have him."
"We can take books from the library to-night," said Nat.
"And what one are you going to take out?" inquired his mother.
"The Life of Patrick Henry," was his quick reply.
"What is there about Patrick Henry that interests you in his life?"
"He was a great orator and statesman, and made himself so by improving his time, so the teacher told us last winter."
Nat was obliged to hasten back to the factory at the call of the bell, so that a period was put to the conversation very suddenly. His work in the factory was to carry bobbins around to the operatives as fast as they wanted them, and hence he was called "The Bobbin Boy." It was rather light work though he was often obliged to step around quite lively, which he could do without much trouble, since he was none of your half-way boys. His movements were quick, and what he did he did with all his heart, with only occasional exceptions. A smart, wide-awake, active boy could carry bobbins to better advantage than a clumsy man in meridian life. Nat carried them as if he were made on purpose for the business. It was difficult to tell which he did best, carry bobbins or speak pieces. He did both, as a looker-on said, "in apple-pie order," which means, I suppose, about as well as they could be done by one of his age.
At the close of the day, when the boys came to take out books, Nat found that the life of Patrick Henry was out, so he took the life of Dr. Franklin, without feeling much disappointed. He was so anxious to read both of these volumes that he cared but little which he read first.
"That you, Nat?" exclaimed David Sears, with whom Nat met on his way home from the factory. "What's got you to-day? We missed you and Charlie at school."
"Done going to school," answered Nat. "We are going to finish our education in the factory."
"You have graduated in a hurry, it seems to me. But you don't mean that you are not going to school any more, do you?"
"Why, yes; I think that will really be the case, though I hope for the best," replied Nat. "Perhaps I may go again after a while."
"It is really too bad," continued David. "I wish the factory was a thousand miles off. It is a pretty hard case to be tied up to a factory bell every day, and work from five o'clock in the morning till seven at night."
"I don't care much about the bell," replied Nat. "I can get up as early as the man who rings it, I know. And then it is capital to make one punctual. There is no chance for delays when the bell calls—a fellow must be on the mark."
Nat struck upon a very important thought here. Punctuality is a cardinal virtue, and the earlier a person learns to be punctual the better it is for him. Being obliged to obey the summons of a bell at just such a minute aids in establishing the habit of punctuality. Hence, the modern rules of the school-room, requiring pupils to be there at a precise hour, and to recite their lessons at such a minute, are very valuable to the young. Pupils who form the habit of getting to school any time in the morning, though usually late, are generally behind time all the way through life. They make the men and women who are late at meeting, late to meet their business engagements, late everywhere—a tardy, dilatory, inefficient class of persons, wherever they are found. It is good to be obliged to plan and do by car-time. The man who is obliged to keep his watch by railroad time, and then make all things bend to the same, is more likely to form the habit of being punctual, than he who has not a fixed moment for going and coming. And so it is with the factory. The boy who must be up at the first bell-call, and get to his place of toil at five o'clock in the morning, is more likely to be prompt in every place and work. Nat was right. It is another instance of his ability to perceive the real tendencies of things.
David smiled at Nat's view of the matter, and asked, "What book have you there?"
"The life of Dr. Franklin. You know they have a library for the operatives in the factory, and I mean to make the most of it."
"But you won't get much time to read, if you work in the factory all day, from Monday morning till Saturday night."
"I can get two or three hours in a day, if I sit up till ten o'clock, and that is early enough for anybody to go to bed. I shall read this volume through by Saturday night."
"Well, you'll make the most of it if anybody can," said David, laughing, and hurrying on homewards.
Nat commenced reading Dr. Franklin's life that evening. It was his first step in a somewhat systematic course of reading, for which he was indebted to the manufacturing company. But for his factory life he might not have been introduced to those authors that gratified his desire for knowledge, and nurtured in his soul that energy and perseverance which he was already known to possess.
His parents did not converse much with him about his new business, as they thought it might not be wise; but they interested themselves in his reading. His mother found he was deeply absorbed in Franklin's life, though he said but little of the book, except in reply to her inquiries. But he seemed hardly willing to lay it aside at bed-time, and eagerly took it up to read during the few spare moments he had when he came to his meals. The book was read through before the next Sabbath.
THE LOFTY STUDY.
Some time after Nat donned the bobbin boy's suit, he proposed to Charlie to come over and spend his evenings with him for mutual improvement.
"I have a nice place to read and study all by myself," said he, "and I want to talk over some subjects we read about with you. Besides, what do you say to studying mathematics together a portion of the time? I think we can get along about as well in this branch as we could to have a teacher."
"I should like it first rate," answered Charlie. "Mathematics is your hobby, and I think I can make good improvement under your tuition."
"I don't propose to teach, sir," added Nat, "but to learn. I will get what I can out of you, and you may get what you can out of me. That is fair, I am sure. You will get what you can out of me just as cheap as I get what I can out of you. It will not be a very expensive school as you see."
"Agreed," said Charlie. "I will be at your house this evening by the time you are ready for me."
Charlie was true to his engagement, and by the time Nat was ready to ascend to his study, a rap announced his arrival. With lamp in hand, Nat led the way up two flights of stairs, and introduced Charlie into the attic, saying,
"This is my study. I have permission to use this for a sanctum as long as I please."
"It is a lofty one, surely," responded Charlie. "You can't get up much higher in the world if you try."
"When we get into astronomy, all we shall have to do will be to bore a hole through the roof to make our observations. Could any thing be more convenient?"
The reader need not smile at Nat's study. It was better than the first one that the renowned Dr. John Kitto had. Like Nat's, Kitto's first study was in his father's attic, which was only seven feet long and four feet wide. Here a two-legged table, made by his grandfather forty years before, an old chest in which he kept his clothes and stationery, and a chair that was a very good match for the table, together with what would be called a bed by a person who had nothing better, constituted the furniture. Also, the time-honored St. Pierre was worse off even when he wrote his celebrated "Studies of Nature." His study was a garret, less capacious than that which Nat occupied, and there he spent four years of his life in the most laborious study.
Night after night Nat and Charlie met in the aforesaid attic, to read, study mathematics, and discuss the subjects of the volumes which they read. They made very commendable progress in mathematics, and probably kept in advance of their companions who were in school. Among the characters who were discussed by them, none received more attention than Dr. Franklin and Patrick Henry.
"Which of these characters do you like best?" inquired Charlie one evening.
"I suppose that Dr. Franklin would be considered the best model; but such eloquence as that of Patrick Henry must have been grand. Dr. Franklin was not much of a speaker, though what he said was sound and good."
"And Patrick Henry was a lazy fellow when he was young," added Charlie. "You remember that his father set him up in business two or three times, and he failed because he was too shiftless to attend to it."
"Very true; and he suffered all through life on account of not having formed habits of industry, economy and application. It shows what a splendid man he might have made, if he had reduced Franklin's rules to practice."
"Let us read over those rules of Franklin again," said Charlie. "You copied them, I believe."
Nat took up a paper, on which the rules were penned in a handsome hand, and proceeded to the following:
1. "TEMPERANCE.—Eat not to dulness; drink not to elevation.
2. SILENCE.—Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.
3. ORDER.—Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time.
4. RESOLUTION.—- Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.
5. FRUGALITY.—Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; that is, waste nothing.
6. INDUSTRY.—Lose no time; be always employed in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.
7. SINCERITY.—Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly; and, if you speak, speak accordingly.
8. JUSTICE.—Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty.
9. MODERATION.—Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries as much as you think they deserve.
10. CLEANLINESS.—Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, clothes, or habitation.
11. TRANQUILLITY.—Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.
12. HUMILITY.—Imitate Jesus and Socrates."
"There is scarcely one of those rules that Patrick Henry observed in his youth," said Charlie. "After he got to be a man grown, and his friends were all out of patience with him, and he was absolutely compelled to do something, or starve, then he began to apply himself."
"Yes; and what a commotion he made!" responded Nat. "That first plea of his against the clergy of Virginia on the tobacco Act, when he won the case against fearful odds, and the spectators were so excited by his oratory that they carried him out of the court room on their shoulders, is the best thing that I ever read of any orator. It was not his learning nor his argument, but his eloquence that gave this power over his hearers."
"And it was just the reverse with Dr. Franklin," said Charlie. "It was his wisdom, solid common sense, and worth of character, that enabled him to carry his points, and that I think is far more valuable."
"I learned one thing," said Nat, "from the life of Patrick Henry, which I never knew before, that he owed his final success more to his close observation of men and things than to the study of books. He learned something from every thing he saw and heard. Eye-gate and ear-gate were always open. He observed his companions closely when he was young, and told stories to witness the different feelings they would awaken in the hearts of different associates. In fact, he did not learn near so much from books as he did from men. And afterwards, when he had law students to instruct, one of his lessons was, 'study men and not books.'"
"Well, Nat, you are something like him," said Charlie, smiling. "You are always seeing some thing to learn, where I should never think of looking."
"Precious little like him," responded Nat, "but I intend to profit in future by what I learned from Patrick Henry's life."
"I mean just as I say, Nat, truly, you are like him now, a little. Last summer you was determined to know why the water was warmer in windy weather than it was in a calm; and I believe you found out before we went in a swimming the next time. And as for studying men, you are always up to that. I don't believe there is an operative in the factory whose qualities you have not settled in your own mind. You learned more of that fellow they turned away, by looking at him, than others found out by talking with him."
It was true that Nat was thus accustomed to observe and inquire into the whys and wherefores of things. For this reason he was never satisfied with a lesson until he understood it, unless we except the study of grammar. He formed his opinions of all his associates, and knew one to be selfish, another to be ill-tempered, another generous, and so on. He was probably attracted by Patrick Henry's study of men, on account of this disposition in himself, although he was not altogether conscious of it. But this quality enabled him to learn much that otherwise he would not have known. For when he was not reading a book, men, women, and children were around him, and many events were transpiring, all of which he could study. Thus he found teachers everywhere, and books everywhere, not indeed such books as are used in schools or fill the shelves of libraries, but such as are furnished in the shape of incidents, and such as are bound up in flesh and bones. He could read the latter while he was carrying bobbins in the factory, and walking the streets, or going to meeting. In this way he would be learning, learning, learning, when other boys were making no progress at all.
Shakspeare, the world's great dramatist, must have been indebted to this faculty of observation, far more than to books and human teachers, for his inimitable power of delineating human nature. He was the son of a poor man, who could not read nor write, according to reports, and he went to London to live, where he held horses for gentlemen who visited the theatre, receiving small remuneration for his labor. From holding horses outside, he came to be a waiter upon the actors within, where he must have been a very close observer of what was said and done; for his brilliant career began from that hour, and he went on from step to step until he produced the most masterly dramatic works, such as the world will not let die. There is no doubt that he was a born poet, but it was his faculty to read men and things that at last waked the dormant powers of the poet into life. He saw, investigated, understood, mastered, and finally applied every particle of information acquired to the work that won him immortal fame.
"Nat, you are the best penman in the mill," said Dr. Holt to him one day, as his attention was called to a specimen of his handwriting. "Where did you learn to write so well?"
"At school, sir," was his laconic reply.
"But how is it that you learn to write so much better at school than the other boys?"
"I don't know, sir!" and he never said a more truthful thing than he did in this reply. For really he did not know how it was. He did not try very hard to be a good penman. He did many other things well, which did not cost him very much effort. It was easy for him to get the "knack" of holding his pen and cutting letters. He would do it with an ease and grace that we can only describe by saying it was Nat-like. It is another instance, also, of the advantage of that principle or habit, which he early cultivated, of doing things well. As one of his companions said,
"He can turn his hand to any thing."
One evening in October, when the harvest moon was emphatically "the empress of the night," and lads and lasses thought it was just the season for mirth and frolic, the boys received an invitation to a party on the following evening.
"Shall you go?" inquired Charlie, when they were in the attic study.
"I should like to go, but I hardly think I shall. I want to finish this book, and I can read half of it in the time I should spend at the party."
"As little time as we get to study," added Charlie, "is worth all we can make of it; and Dr. Franklin says in those rules, 'lose no time.' I shall not go."
"I don't think that all time spent in such a social way can be called 'lost,' for it is good for a person to go to such places sometimes. But I think I shall decide with you not to go. I suppose that some of the fellows will turn up their noses, and call us 'literary gentlemen,' as Oliver did the other day."
"Yes; and Sam said to me yesterday as I met him when I was going home to dinner, 'fore I'd work in the factory, Charlie, and never know any thing. You look as if you come out of a cotton-bale. I'll bet if your father should plant you, you'd come up cotton,' and a whole mess of lingo besides."
"And what did you say to him?" asked Nat.
"Not much of any thing. I just said, 'if I don't look quite as well as you do, I think I know how to behave as well,' and passed on."
That Nat met with a good many discouraging circumstances, must not be denied. It was trying to him occasionally to see other boys situated much more favorably, having enough and to spare; and now and then a fling, such as the foregoing, harrowed up his feelings somewhat. He was obliged to forego the pleasure of many social gatherings, also, in order to get time to study. Sometimes he went, and usually enjoyed himself well, but often, as in the case just cited, he denied himself an evening's pleasure for the sake of reading.
About this time, when he felt tried by his circumstances, he said to his mother,
"I don't know much, and I never shall."
"You haven't had an opportunity to know much yet," answered his mother. "If you continue to improve your time as you have done, I think you will be on a par with most of the boys."
"But poor boys have not so good a chance to stand well, even if they have the same advantages, as the sons of the rich."
"I am not so sure of that," replied his mother. "I know that money is thought too much of in these days, and that it sometimes gives a person high position when he does not deserve it. But, as a general thing, I think that character will be respected; and the poorest boy can have a good character. Was not that true of all the good men you have been reading about?"
Nat was obliged to confess that it was, and the conversation with his mother encouraged him, so that he went to his reading that evening, with as much pluck as ever. The more he learned, the more he wanted to know; and the faster he advanced, the higher he resolved to ascend.
Soon after Nat entered the factory, a hall was erected in the village, and dedicated to literary purposes. Nat was all the more interested in the event because it was built under the auspices of the manufacturing company for whom he worked, and their library was to be somehow connected with the institute that would meet there.
"No reading to-morrow night," said he to Charlie, as they closed their studies on the evening before the dedication. "We must go to the dedication of the hall without fail. I want to know what is to be done there."
"They say the library is going up there," answered Charlie. "Have you heard so?"
"Yes; but we shall have just the same privileges that we do now, and I expect the library will be increased more rapidly, because they are going to make provisions for others to take out books by paying, and the money goes to enlarge the library."
"But the more persons there are to take out books, the more difficult it will be to get such books as we want," said Charlie. "Do you not see it?
"Yes; but then 'beggars must not be choosers,' I suppose," Nat answered with a quizzical look. "Your chance will be poorer than mine in that respect, for you read more books than I do, and of course you will want more."
Nat was in season at the dedication, and secured a seat near the platform, where he could see and hear the speaker to the best advantage. He was not there, as doubtless some boys were, just to see what was going on; but he was there to hear. An address was to be delivered by a gentleman whose reputation would naturally create the expectation of an intellectual treat, and that address was what Nat wanted to hear. It was singular that the lecture should be upon the life and character of a self-made man, of the stamp of Dr. Franklin and others, whose biographies our young hearer had read with the deepest interest. But so it was. The subject of the address was Count Rumford; and you might know that Nat swallowed every word, from the leading points of it, which were in substance as follows:—
The real name of Count Rumford was Benjamin Thompson. He was born in Woburn, Mass., in the year 1752. His father was a farmer in humble circumstances, and he died when Benjamin was an infant. His mother was only able, when he attained a suitable age, to send him to the common school. He was a bright boy, though he was not so much inclined to study books. He preferred mechanical tools, with which he exhibited considerable ingenuity in constructing various articles, particularly rough drafts of machinery. Among other things he sought to produce a model of perpetual motion. He was sure he could do it, and he set to work with a resolution worthy of a nobler enterprise. When one attempt failed, he tried again, and yet again, until his friends and neighbors called him a "simpleton," and openly rebuked him for his folly. His mother began to think he never would learn any craft by which he could gain a livelihood, and she was really discouraged. He was not vicious nor indolent. He had energy and perseverance, intelligence and tact; and still he was not inclined to choose any of "the thrifty occupations of human industry." At thirteen years of age he was apprenticed Mr. Appleton, a merchant of Salem, where he distinguished himself only by neatly cutting his name, "Benjamin Thompson," on the frame of a shop slate. He cared less for his new business than he did for the tools of the workshop and musical instruments, for which he had a decided taste. He soon returned to Woburn.
When he was about seventeen years of age, he began to think more seriously of studying, though most youth in poverty would have said, it is useless to try. But he had great self-reliance, and now he began to think that he could do what had been done by others. It would cost him nothing to attend the lectures on Natural Philosophy at Cambridge college, so he resolved to walk over there, a distance of nine miles, a step which laid the foundation of his future fame. In all weathers he persevered in attending the lectures, and was always punctual to a minute.
Soon after, he commenced teaching school in Bradford, Mass., and subsequently in Concord, N. H. In the latter place he became acquainted with the rich widow of Col. Rolfe, and, though only nineteen years of age, married her. But this calamity he survived, and acted a conspicuous part in the American Revolution. Soon after the battle of Bunker Hill, having lost his wife, he embarked for England, bearing despatches to the English government. There he soon became distinguished as a learned man and philosopher, and was elected a member of the Royal Society. He was knighted in 1784.
The King of Bavaria became acquainted with him, and, attracted by his marked abilities, appointed him to a high office of trust and responsibility in his court. There he reformed the army and established a system of common schools. He was strictly economical, and saved thousands of dollars to the Bavarian government, by "appropriating the paper used to teach writing in the military schools, to the manufacturing of cartridges by the soldiery."
He was a man of great kindness and benevolence, by which he was prompted to establish a reformatory institution for the mendicants of Bavaria, and so great was its success that it became renowned all over Europe. The sovereign conferred one honor after another upon him, and finally "created him a count by the name of Rumford, in honor of Concord, New Hampshire, whose original name was Rumford."
His writings upon philosophical subjects were valued highly, and widely circulated. He was a leader in founding the Royal Society of Great Britain. He gave five thousand dollars to the Academy of Arts and Sciences of Massachusetts to establish a premium to encourage improvement and discoveries, and a like sum to the Royal Society of Great Britain. He died in 1814, at the age of sixty-two, and by his will "bequeathed $1,000 annually and the reversion of his estate, to found the Rumford Professorship of Cambridge College, Mass.," to which University he felt much indebted for his early instruction in Natural Philosophy.
His life illustrates not only what a poor boy may become, but also what simple things a great man can do to promote the welfare of his fellow men. The military classes of Bavaria, and indeed all the poor of Europe, suffered for the want of food, and Count Rumford brought to their notice two articles of food to which they were strangers, healthful, nutritious, and cheap. The first was the use of the potato, which was raised only to a limited extent; but, through his exertions it came to be generally cultivated, much to the improvement of the condition of the poor. He received the gratitude of thousands for his efforts. The other blessing was the use of Indian corn in making hasty-pudding, which is a live Yankee invention. His instructions on this point shall be given in his own words, as they appeared in his essay written for European readers.
"In regard to the most advantageous mode of using Indian corn, as food, I would strongly recommend a dish made of it, that is in the highest estimation throughout America, and which is really very good and nourishing. This is called hasty-pudding, and is made in the following manner: A quantity of water, proportioned to the quantity of pudding to be made, is put over the fire, in an open iron pot or kettle, and a proper quantity of salt, for seasoning; the salt being previously dissolved in the water, Indian meal is stirred into it, little by little, with a wooden spoon with a long handle, while the water goes on to be heated and made to boil, great care being taken to put in the meal in very small quantities, and by sifting it slowly through the fingers of the left hand, and stirring the water about briskly at the same time with the spoon in the right hand, to mix the meal with the water in such a manner as to prevent lumps being formed. The meal should be added so slowly that when the water is brought to boil, the mass should not be thicker than water-gruel, and half an hour more at least, should be employed to add the additional quantity of meal necessary for bringing the pudding to be of the proper consistency, during which time it should be stirred about continually, and kept constantly boiling. The method of determining when the pudding has acquired a proper consistency, is this: the wooden spoon used for stirring it being placed upright in the kettle, if it falls down, more meal must be added; but if the pudding is sufficiently thick and adhesive to support the spoon in a vertical position, it is declared to be proof, and no more meal is added."
Then he goes on to teach them how to eat it. "The manner in which hasty-pudding is eaten, with butter and sugar or molasses, in America, is as follows: the hasty-pudding being spread out equally on a plate, while hot, an excavation is made in the middle with a spoon, into which excavation a piece of butter as large as a nutmeg is put, and upon it a spoonful of brown sugar, or, more commonly, molasses. The butter being soon melted by the heat of the pudding, mixes with the sugar or molasses, and forms a sauce, which being confined in the excavation made for it, occupies the middle of the plate. The pudding is then eaten with a spoon; each spoonful of it being dipped into the sauce before it is conveyed to the mouth; care being taken in eating it to begin on the outside, or near the brim of the plate, and to approach the centre by regular advances, in order not to demolish too soon the excavation which forms the reservoir for the sauce."
A great man must be very benevolent and humble to condescend to instruct the poor classes in raising potatoes and making hasty-pudding. The fact magnifies the worth of the man.
"Well, Nat, how did you like the address?" inquired his mother, after they reached home.
"Very much indeed," answered Nat. "I had no idea that the address was to be about Count Rumford. He makes me think of Dr. Franklin."
"You see that it is not necessary for a boy to have a rich father to buy him an education," continued his mother. "Where there is a will there is a way."
"I couldn't help laughing," said Nat, "to think of that great man teaching the people how to make hasty-pudding. I declare, I mean to draw a picture of him stirring a kettle of pudding."
His mother was quite amused at this remark and responded,
"I think the lecturer was right, when he said that such a condescending act by one so high in honor as Count Rumford, was a proof of his greatness. You remember that he said, 'a truly great man will do any thing necessary to promote the interests of his fellow-men.'"
Much more was said about the address, which we have not time to rehearse, and on the following morning, as Nat met Charlie at the factory, the latter remarked,
"What a fine lecture that was last night!"
"Yes," Nat replied; "it was just what I wanted to hear. My case is not quite hopeless after all. I think I could make a good professor of hasty-pudding."
Charlie laughed outright, and added, "I think I could learn to navigate that ocean of butter and molasses that he got up on the plate. A man ought to understand geometry and navigation to make and eat hasty-pudding according to his rule."
"I suppose," said Nat, after he had shaken his sides sufficiently over Charlie's last remark, "that he was applying Dr. Franklin's rule on 'FRUGALITY'—'make no expense but to do good to others or yourself.' That is it, I believe."
The mill started, and the conversation broke like a pipe-stem; but the lecture upon Count Rumford made a life-long impression upon Nat. It was exactly to his taste, and greatly encouraged him in his early efforts to acquire knowledge. It was much in his thoughts, and perhaps it had somewhat to do with his plans, some years after, when he himself walked to Cambridge to consult books in the library of the College, and to Boston to visit the Athenaeum for the same object.
A SCHOOL SCENE.
"They had quite a time at school yesterday," said Nat to Charlie, one morning during the winter following their entrance into the factory.
"What was it? I have heard nothing."
"The teacher had a real tussle with Sam Drake, and for a little while it was doubtful who would be master. They both fell flat on the floor, tipped over the chair, and frightened the girls badly."
"What did the teacher attempt to punish him for?"
"He wrote a letter to one of the boys about the teacher, and said some hard things, and the teacher got hold of the letter and read it. Then he called him up and made him spell before the school some of the words he had spelled wrong in the letter, at which they all laughed till Sam refused to spell any more. Then he doubled up his fist at the teacher, and defied him to whip him."
"He ought to have been flogged," said Charlie; "I hope he got his deserts."
"If reports are true, he did. Though it was a hard battle, the teacher made him beg at last, and they say the committee will turn him out of school to-day."
As the facts in the case were not quite as reports would have them, we shall give a correct history of the affair. Nat had heard an exaggerated report, and communicated it just as he received it. But the teacher did not have a hard time at all in conquering the rebellious boy, and neither of them fell on the floor. Neither did Sam shake his fist at him, and defy him to strike. The case was this:
The teacher observed a little commotion among the scholars, and inferred that some sort of game was being secretly played. On this account he tried to be Argus-eyed, and soon discovered a paper, as he thought, passed along from one scholar to another, that created considerable sensation. When it reached John Clyde, the teacher inquired:
"John! what have you there?"
After some hesitation, John answered "a paper," at the same time making an effort to conceal it.
"Be careful, sir," said the teacher; "I will take that document," and so saying, he stepped quickly to John's seat, and took the paper from his hand.
It proved to be a letter from Samuel Drake to Alpheus Coombs, and read as follows:
ALFEUS KOOMS,—if you will trade nives with me as we talked yisterday it will be a bargin for you, mine is jist as i telled you, or the world is flat as a pancake. Rite back and mind nothin about old speticles i don't care a red cent for his regilations about riting letters in school i shall do it when i please, and if he don't like it, he may lump it, he is a reglar old betty anyhow, and i kinder thinks his mother don't know he is out if he should happen along your way with his cugel, you may give him my complerments and tell him that I live out here in the corner and hopes he'll keep a respecterble distance, now rite back at once and show old speticles that the mail will go in this school-house anyhow. Your old Frend
We have given the letter just as it was written, with its lack of punctuation, bad spelling and all. Samuel was accustomed to call the teacher "old speticles," because he wore glasses. The letter is a key to the character and attainments of a class of bad boys in every community, when they are about fifteen years of age.
The teacher took the letter to his desk, and carefully read it over, and then called out to its author, in a loud voice,
"Samuel! come into the floor."
Samuel knew that his letter was discovered then, and he hesitated.
"Samuel! come into the floor I say," exclaimed the teacher again, in a tone that was truly emphatic.
Samuel started, and took his place in the floor.
"Now turn round," said the teacher, "and face the school."
Samuel did as he was commanded, not knowing what was coming.
"Now spell Alpheus," said the teacher.
Some of the scholars who had read the letter began to laugh, as they now saw the design of the teacher. Samuel had his eyes open by this time, and saw what was coming. He hesitated and hung down his head.