FIFTY FAMOUS PEOPLE
A BOOK OF SHORT STORIES
BY JAMES BALDWIN
One of the best things to be said of the stories in this volume is that, although they are not biographical, they are about real persons who actually lived and performed their parts in the great drama of the world's history. Some of these persons were more famous than others, yet all have left enduring "footprints on the sands of time" and their names will not cease to be remembered. In each of the stories there is a basis of truth and an ethical lesson which cannot fail to have a wholesome influence; and each possesses elements of interest which, it is believed, will go far towards proving the fallibility of the doctrine that children find delight only in tales of the imaginative and unreal. The fact that there are a few more than fifty famous people mentioned in the volume may be credited to the author's wish to give good measure.
SAVING THE BIRDS
ANOTHER BIRD STORY
SPEAKING A PIECE
WRITING A COMPOSITION
THE ETTRICK SHEPHERD
THE CALIPH AND THE POET
"BECOS! BECOS! BECOS!"
A LESSON IN HUMILITY
THE MIDNIGHT RIDE
THE BOY AND THE WOLF
ANOTHER WOLF STORY
THE HORSESHOE NAILS
THE LANDLORD'S MISTAKE
A LESSON IN MANNERS
GOING TO SEA
THE SHEPHERD-BOY PAINTER
TWO GREAT PAINTERS
THE KING AND THE BEES
OUR FIRST GREAT PAINTER
THE YOUNG SCOUT
THE LAD WHO RODE SIDESADDLE
HOW A PRINCE LEARNED TO READ
"READ AND YOU WILL KNOW"
THE YOUNG CUPBEARER
THE SONS OF THE CALIPH
THE BOY AND THE ROBBERS
A LESSON IN JUSTICE
THE GENERAL AND THE FOX
A STORY OF OLD ROME
SAVED BY A DOLPHIN
"LITTLE BROTHERS OF THE AIR"
A CLEVER SLAVE
THE DARK DAY
THE SURLY GUEST
THE STORY OF A GREAT STORY
THE KING AND THE PAGE
THE HUNTED KING
"TRY, TRY AGAIN!"
WHY HE CARRIED THE TURKEY
THE PADDLE-WHEEL BOAT
THE CALIPH AND THE GARDENER
THE COWHERD WHO BECAME A POET
THE LOVER OF MEN
THE CHARCOAL MAN AND THE KING
WHICH WAS THE KING?
THE GOLDEN TRIPOD
SAVING THE BIRDS
One day in spring four men were riding on horseback along a country road. These men were lawyers, and they were going to the next town to attend court.
There had been a rain, and the ground was very soft. Water was dripping from the trees, and the grass was wet.
The four lawyers rode along, one behind another; for the pathway was narrow, and the mud on each side of it was deep. They rode slowly, and talked and laughed and were very jolly.
As they were passing through a grove of small trees, they heard a great fluttering over their heads and a feeble chirping in the grass by the roadside.
"Stith! stith! stith!" came from the leafy branches above them.
"Cheep! cheep! cheep!" came from the wet grass.
"What is the matter here?" asked the first lawyer, whose name was Speed. "Oh, it's only some old robins!" said the second lawyer, whose name was Hardin. "The storm has blown two of the little ones out of the nest. They are too young to fly, and the mother bird is making a great fuss about it."
"What a pity! They'll die down there in the grass," said the third lawyer, whose name I forget.
"Oh, well! They're nothing but birds," said Mr. Hardin. "Why should we bother?"
"Yes, why should we?" said Mr. Speed.
The three men, as they passed, looked down and saw the little birds fluttering in the cold, wet grass. They saw the mother robin flying about, and crying to her mate.
Then they rode on, talking and laughing as before. In a few minutes they had forgotten about the birds.
But the fourth lawyer, whose name was Abraham Lincoln, stopped. He got down from his horse and very gently took the little ones up in his big warm hands.
They did not seem frightened, but chirped softly, as if they knew they were safe.
"Never mind, my little fellows," said Mr. Lincoln "I will put you in your own cozy little bed."
Then he looked up to find the nest from which they had fallen. It was high, much higher than he could reach.
But Mr. Lincoln could climb. He had climbed many a tree when he was a boy. He put the birds softly, one by one, into their warm little home. Two other baby birds were there, that had not fallen out. All cuddled down together and were very happy.
Soon the three lawyers who had ridden ahead stopped at a spring to give their horses water.
"Where is Lincoln?" asked one.
All were surprised to find that he was not with them.
"Do you remember those birds?" said Mr. Speed. "Very likely he has stopped to take care of them."
In a few minutes Mr. Lincoln joined them. His shoes were covered with mud; he had torn his coat on the thorny tree.
"Hello, Abraham!" said Mr. Hardin. "Where have you been?"
"I stopped a minute to give those birds to their mother," he answered.
"Well, we always thought you were a hero," said Mr. Speed. "Now we know it."
Then all three of them laughed heartily. They thought it so foolish that a strong man should take so much trouble just for some worthless young birds.
"Gentlemen," said Mr. Lincoln, "I could not have slept to-night, if I had left those helpless little robins to perish in the wet grass."
Abraham Lincoln afterwards became very famous as a lawyer and statesman. He was elected president. Next to Washington he was the greatest American.
ANOTHER BIRD STORY
A great battle had begun. Cannon were booming, some far away, some near at hand. Soldiers were marching through the fields. Men on horseback were riding in haste toward the front.
"Whiz!" A cannon ball struck the ground quite near to a company of soldiers. But they marched straight onward. The drums were beating, the fifes were playing.
"Whiz!" Another cannon ball flew through the air and struck a tree near by. A brave general was riding across the field. One ball after another came whizzing near him.
"General, you are in danger here," said an officer who was riding with him. "You had better fall back to a place of safety."
But the general rode on.
Suddenly he stopped at the foot of a tree. "Halt!" he cried to the men who were with him. He leaped from his horse. He stooped and picked up a bird's nest that had fallen upon the ground. In the nest were some tiny, half-fledged birds. Their mouths were open for the food they were expecting their mother to give them.
"I cannot think of leaving these little things here to be trampled upon," said the general.
He lifted the nest gently and put it in a safe place in the forks of the tree.
"Whiz!" Another cannon ball.
He leaped into the saddle, and away he dashed with his officers close behind him.
"Whiz! whiz! whiz!"
He had done one good deed. He would do many more before the war was over. "Boom! boom! boom!"
The cannon were roaring, the balls were flying, the battle was raging. But amid all the turmoil and danger, the little birds chirped happily in the safe shelter where the great general, Robert E. Lee, had placed them. "He prayeth best, who loveth best All things both great and small; For the dear God who loveth us, He made and loveth all."
SPEAKING A PIECE
Two children, brother and sister, were on their way to school. Both were very small. The boy was only four years old, and the girl was not yet six. "Come, Edward, we must hurry," said the sister. "We must not be late." With one hand the little boy clung to his sister's arm, and with the other he held his primer.
This primer was his only book, and he loved it. It had a bright blue cover, which he was careful not to soil. And in it were some odd little pictures, which he never grew tired of looking at.
Edward could spell nearly all the words in his primer, and he could read quite well.
The school was more than a mile from their home, and the children trotted along as fast as their short legs could carry them.
At a place where two roads crossed, they saw a tall gentleman coming to meet them. He was dressed in black, and had a very pleasant face.
"Oh, Edward, there is Mr. Harris!" whispered the little girl. "Don't forget your manners."
They were glad to see Mr. Harris, for he was the minister. They stopped by the side of the road and made their manners. Edward bowed very gracefully, and his sister curtsied.
"Good morning, children!" said the minister; and he kindly shook hands with both.
"I have something here for little Edward," he said. Then he took from his pocket a sheet of paper on which some verses were written.
"See! It is a little speech that I have written for him. The teacher will soon ask him to speak a piece at school, and I am sure that he can learn this easily and speak it well"
Edward took the paper and thanked the kind minister.
"Mother will help him learn it," said his sister.
"Yes, I will try to learn it," said Edward.
"Do so, my child," said the Minister; "and I hope that when you grow up you will become a wise man and a great orator."
Then the two children hurried on to school.
The speech was not hard to learn, and Edward soon knew every word of it. When the time came for him to speak, his mother and the minister were both there to hear him.
He spoke so well that everybody was pleased. He pronounced every word plainly, as though he were talking to his schoolmates.
Would you like to read his speech? Here it is:—
Pray, how shall I, a little lad, In speaking make a figure? You're only joking, I'm afraid— Just wait till I am bigger.
But since you wish to hear my part, And urge me to begin it, I'll strive for praise with all my heart, Though small the hope to win it.
I'll tell a tale how Farmer John A little roan colt bred, sir, Which every night and every morn He watered and he fed, sir.
Said Neighbor Joe to Farmer John, "You surely are a dolt, sir, To spend such time and care upon A little useless colt, sir."
Said Farmer John to Neighbor Joe, "I bring my little roan up Not for the good he now can do, But will do when he's grown up."
The moral you can plainly see, To keep the tale from spoiling, The little colt you think is me— I know it by your smiling.
And now, my friends, please to excuse My lisping and my stammers; I, for this once, have done my best, And so—I'll make my manners.
The little boy's name was Edward Everett. He grew up to become a famous man and one of our greatest orators.
WRITING A COMPOSITION
"Children, to-morrow I shall expect all of you to write compositions," said the teacher of Love Lane School. "Then, on Friday those who have done the best may stand up and read their compositions to the school."
Some of the children were pleased, and some were not.
"What shall we write about?" they asked.
"You may choose any subject that you like best," said the teacher.
Some of them thought that "Home" was a good subject. Others liked "School." One little boy chose "The Horse." A little girl said she would write about "Summer."
The next day, every pupil except one had written a composition.
"Henry Longfellow," said the teacher, "why have you not written?"
"Because I don't know how," answered Henry. He was only a child.
"Well," said the teacher, "you can write words, can you not?"
"Yes, sir," said the boy.
"After you have written three or four words, you can put them together, can you not?"
"Yes, sir; I think so."
"Well, then," said the teacher, "you may take your slate and go out behind the schoolhouse for half an hour. Think of something to write about, and write the word on your slate. Then try to tell what it is, what it is like, what it is good for, and what is done with it. That is the way to write a composition."
Henry took his slate and went out. Just behind the schoolhouse was Mr. Finney's barn. Quite close to the barn was a garden. And in the garden, Henry saw a turnip.
"Well, I know what that is," he said to himself; and he wrote the word turnip on his slate. Then he tried to tell what it was like, what it was good for, and what was done with it.
Before the half hour was ended he had written a very neat composition on his slate. He then went into the house, and waited while the teacher read it.
The teacher was surprised and pleased. He said, "Henry Longfellow, you have done very well. Today you may stand up before the school and read what you have written about the turnip."
Many years after that, some funny little verses about Mr. Finney's turnip were printed in a newspaper. Some people said that they were what Henry Longfellow wrote on his slate that day at school.
But this was not true. Henry's composition was not in verse. As soon as it was read to the school, he rubbed it off the slate, and it was forgotten. Perhaps you would like to read those funny verses. Here they are; but you must never, never, NEVER think that Henry Longfellow wrote them.
Mr. Finney had a turnip, And it grew, and it grew; It grew behind the barn, And the turnip did no harm.
And it grew, and it grew, Till it could grow no taller; Then Mr. Finney took it up, And put it in the cellar.
There it lay, there it lay, Till it began to rot; Then Susie Finney washed it And put it in a pot.
She boiled it, and boiled it, As long as she was able; Then Mrs. Finney took it, And put it on the table.
Mr. Finney and his wife Both sat down to sup; And they ate, and they ate, They ate the turnip up.
All the school children in our country have heard of Henry W. Longfellow. He was the best loved of all our poets. He wrote "The Village Blacksmith," "The Children's Hour," and many other beautiful pieces which you will like to read and remember.
Two hundred years ago there lived in Boston a little boy whose name was Benjamin Franklin.
On the day that he was seven years old, his mother gave him a few pennies.
He looked at the bright, yellow pieces and said, "What shall I do with these coppers, mother?"
It was the first money that he had ever had.
"You may buy something, if you wish," said his mother.
"And then will you give me more?" he asked.
His mother shook her head and said: "No, Benjamin. I cannot give you any more. So you must be careful not to spend these foolishly."
The little fellow ran into the street. He heard the pennies jingle in his pocket. How rich he was!
Boston is now a great city, but at that time it was only a little town. There were not many stores.
As Benjamin ran down the street, he wondered what he should buy. Should he buy candy? He hardly knew how it tasted. Should he buy a pretty toy? If he had been the only child in the family, things might have been different. But there were fourteen boys and girls older than he, and two little sisters who were younger.
What a big family it was! And the father was a poor man. No wonder the lad had never owned a toy.
He had not gone far when he met a larger boy, who was blowing a whistle.
"I wish I had that whistle," he said.
The big boy looked at him and blew it again. Oh, what a pretty sound it made!
"I have some pennies," said Benjamin. He held them in his hand, and showed them to the boy. "You may have them, if you will give me the whistle." "All of them?"
"Yes, all of them."
"Well, it's a bargain," said the boy; and he gave the whistle to Benjamin, and took the pennies.
Little Benjamin Franklin was very happy; for he was only seven years old. He ran home as fast as he could, blowing the whistle as he ran.
"See, mother," he said, "I have bought a whistle."
"How much did you pay for it?"
"All the pennies you gave me."
One of his brothers asked to see the whistle.
"Well, well!" he said. "You've paid a dear price for this thing. It's only a penny whistle, and a poor one at that."
"You might have bought half a dozen such whistles with the money I gave you," said his mother.
The little boy saw what a mistake he had made. The whistle did not please him any more. He threw it upon the floor and began to cry.
"Never mind, my child," said his mother, very kindly. "You are only a very little boy, and you will learn a great deal as you grow bigger. The lesson you have learned to-day is never to pay too dear for a whistle." Benjamin Franklin lived to be a very old man, but he never forgot that lesson.
Every boy and girl should remember the name of Benjamin Franklin. He was a great thinker and a great doer, and with Washington he helped to make our country free. His life was such that no man could ever say, "Ben Franklin has wronged me."
THE ETTRICK SHEPHERD
In Scotland there once lived a poor shepherd whose name was James Hogg. His father and grandfather and great-grandfather had all been shepherds.
It was his business to take care of the sheep which belonged to a rich landholder by the Ettrick Water. Sometimes he had several hundreds of lambs to look after. He drove these to the pastures on the hills and watched them day after day while they fed on the short green grass.
He had a dog which he called Sirrah. This dog helped him watch the sheep. He would drive them from place to place as his master wished. Sometimes he would take care of the whole flock while the shepherd was resting or eating his dinner.
One dark night James Hogg was on the hilltop with a flock of seven hundred lambs. Sirrah was with him. Suddenly a storm came up. There was thunder and lightning; the wind blew hard; the rain poured.
The poor lambs were frightened. The shepherd and his dog could not keep them together. Some of them ran towards the east, some towards the west, and some towards the south.
The shepherd soon lost sight of them in the darkness. With his lighted lantern in his hand, he went up and down the rough hills calling for his lambs.
Two or three other shepherds joined him in the search. All night long they sought for the lambs.
Morning came and still they sought. They looked, as they thought, in every place where the lambs might have taken shelter.
At last James Hogg said, "It's of no use; all we can do is to go home and tell the master that we have lost his whole flock."
They had walked a mile or two towards home, when they came to the edge of a narrow and deep ravine. They looked down, and at the bottom they saw some lambs huddled together among the rocks. And there was Sirrah standing guard over them and looking all around for help "These must be the lambs that rushed off towards the south," said James Hogg.
The men hurried down and soon saw that the flock was a large one.
"I really believe they are all here," said one.
They counted them and were surprised to find that not one lamb of the great flock of seven hundred was missing.
How had Sirrah managed to get the three scattered divisions together? How had he managed to drive all the frightened little animals into this place of safety?
Nobody could answer these questions. But there was no shepherd in Scotland that could have done better than Sirrah did that night.
Long afterward James Hogg said, "I never felt so grateful to any creature below the sun as I did to Sirrah that morning."
When James Hogg was a boy, his parents were too poor to send him to school. By some means, however, he learned to read; and after that he loved nothing so much as a good book.
There were no libraries near him, and it was hard for him to get books. But he was anxious to learn. Whenever he could buy or borrow a volume of prose or verse he carried it with him until he had read it through. While watching his flocks, he spent much of his time in reading. He loved poetry and soon began to write poems of his own. These poems were read and admired by many people.
The name of James Hogg became known all over Scotland. He was often called the Ettrick Shepherd, because he was the keeper of sheep near the Ettrick Water.
Many of his poems are still read and loved by children as well as by grown up men and women. Here is one:—
A BOY'S SONG
Where the pools are bright and deep, Where the gray trout lies asleep, Up the river and o'er the lea, That's the way for Billy and me.
Where the blackbird sings the latest, Where the hawthorn blooms the sweetest, Where the nestlings chirp and flee, That's the way for Billy and me.
Where the mowers mow the cleanest, Where the hay lies thick and greenest, There to trace the homeward bee, That's the way for Billy and me.
Where the hazel bank is steepest, Where the shadow falls the deepest, Where the clustering nuts fall free, That's the way for Billy and me.
Why the boys should drive away, Little maidens from their play, Or love to banter and fight so well, That's the thing I never could tell.
But this I know, I love to play In the meadow, among the hay— Up the water, and o'er the lea, That's the way for Billy and me.
THE CALIPH AND THE POET
Once upon a time there was a famous Arab [Footnote: Ar'ab.] whose name was Al Mansur. He was the ruler of all the Arabs, and was therefore called the caliph. [Footnote: Caliph (pronounced ka'lif).]
Al Mansur loved poetry and was fond of hearing poets repeat their own verses. Sometimes, if a poem was very pleasing, he gave the poet a prize. One day a poet whose name was Thalibi [Footnote: Thal i'bi.] came to the caliph and recited a long poem. When he had finished, he bowed, and waited, hoping that he would be rewarded.
"Which would you rather have" asked the caliph, "three hundred pieces of gold, or three wise sayings from my lips?"
The poet wished very much to please the caliph. So he said, "Oh, my master, everybody should choose wisdom rather than wealth."
The caliph smiled, and said, "Very well, then, listen to my first wise saying: When your coat is worn out, don't sew on a new patch; it will look ugly."
"Oh, dear!" moaned the poet. "There go a hundred gold pieces all at once." The caliph smiled again. Then he said, "Listen now to my second word of wisdom. It is this: When you oil your beard, don't oil it too much, lest it soil your clothing."
"Worse and worse!" groaned the poor poet. "There go the second hundred. What shall I do?"
"Wait, and I will tell you," said the caliph; and he smiled again. "My third wise saying is—"
"O caliph, have mercy!" cried the poet. "Keep the third piece of wisdom for your own use, and let me have the gold."
The caliph laughed outright, and so did every one that heard him. Then he ordered his treasurer to pay the poet five hundred pieces of gold; for, indeed, the poem which he had recited was wonderfully fine.
The caliph, Al Mansur, lived nearly twelve hundred years ago. He was the builder of a famous and beautiful city called Bagdad.
"BECOS! BECOS! BECOS!"
Thousands of years ago the greatest country, in the world was Egypt.
It was a beautiful land lying on both sides of the wonderful river Nile. In it were many great cities; and from one end of it to the other there were broad fields of grain and fine pastures for sheep and cattle.
The people of Egypt were very proud; for they believed that they were the first and oldest of all nations.
"It was in our country that the first men and women lived," they said. "All the people of the world were once Egyptians."
A king of Egypt, whose name was Psammeticus, [Footnote: Psammeticus (pro. sam met'i kus).] wished to make sure whether this was true or not. How could he find out?
He tried first one plan and then another; but none of them proved anything at all. Then he called his wisest men together and asked them, "Is it really true that the first people in the world were Egyptians?"
They answered, "We cannot tell you, O King; for none of our histories go back so far."
Then Psammeticus tried still another plan.
He sent out among the poor people of the city and found two little babies who had never heard a word spoken. He gave these to a shepherd and ordered him to bring them up among his sheep, far from the homes of men. "You must never speak a word to them," said the king; "and you must not permit any person to speak in their hearing."
The shepherd did as he was bidden. He took the children far away to a green valley where his flocks were feeding. There he cared for them with love and kindness; but no word did he speak in their hearing.
They grew up healthy and strong. They played with the lambs in the field and saw no human being but the shepherd.
Thus two or three years went by. Then, one evening when the shepherd came home from a visit to the city, he was delighted to see the children running out to meet him. They held up their hands, as though asking for something, and cried out, "Becos! becos! becos!"
The shepherd led them gently back to the hut and gave them their usual supper of bread and milk. He said nothing to them, but wondered where they had heard the strange word "becos," and what was its meaning.
After that, whenever the children were hungry, they cried out, "Becos! becos! becos!" till the shepherd gave them something to eat.
Some time later, the shepherd went to the city and told the king that the children had learned to speak one word, but how or from whom, he did not know.
"What is that word?" asked the king.
Then the king called one of the wisest scholars in Egypt and asked him what the word meant.
"Becos," said the wise man, "is a Phrygian [Footnote: Phrygian (pro. frij'i an).] word, and it means bread."
"Then what shall we understand by these children being able to speak a Phrygian word which they have never heard from other lips?" asked the king.
"We are to understand that the Phrygian language was the first of all languages," was the answer. "These children are learning it just as the first people who lived on the earth learned it in the beginning."
"Therefore," said the king, "must we conclude that the Phrygians were the first and oldest of all the nations?"
"Certainly," answered the wise man.
And from that time the Egyptians always spoke of the Phrygians as being of an older race than themselves.
This was an odd way of proving something, for, as every one can readily see, it proved nothing.
A LESSON IN HUMILITY
One day the caliph, Haroun-al-Raschid, [Footnote: Haroun-al-Raschid (pro. ha roon' al rash'id).] made a great feast. The feast was held in the grandest room of the palace. The walls and ceiling glittered with gold and precious gems. The table was decorated with rare and beautiful plants and flowers.
All the noblest men of Persia [Footnote: Per'sia.] and Arabia [Footnote: A ra'bi a.] were there. Many wise men and poets and musicians had also been invited.
In the midst of the feast the caliph called upon the poet, Abul Atayah, [Footnote: A'bul Ata'yah.] and said, "O prince of verse makers, show us thy skill. Describe in verse this glad and glorious feast."
The poet rose and began: "Live, O caliph and enjoy thyself in the shelter of thy lofty palace."
"That is a good beginning," said Raschid. "Let us hear the rest." The poet went on: "May each morning bring thee some new joy. May each evening see that all thy wishes have been performed."
"Good! good!" said the caliph, "Go on."
The poet bowed his head and obeyed: "But when the hour of death comes, O my caliph, then alas! thou wilt learn that all thy delights were but a shadow."
The caliph's eyes were filled with tears. Emotion choked him. He covered his face and wept.
Then one of the officers, who was sitting near the poet, cried out: "Stop! The caliph wished you to amuse him with pleasant thoughts, and you have filled his mind with melancholy."
"Let the poet alone," said Raschid. "He has seen me in my blindness, and is trying to open my eyes."
Haroun-al-Raschid (Aaron the Just) was the greatest of all the caliphs of Bagdad. In a wonderful book, called "The Arabian Nights," there are many interesting stories about him.
THE MIDNIGHT RIDE
Listen, my children, and you shall hear Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere. Longfellow.
The midnight ride of Paul Revere happened a long time ago when this country was ruled by the king of England.
There were thousands of English soldiers in Boston. The king had sent them there to make the people obey his unjust laws. These soldiers guarded the streets of the town; they would not let any one go out or come in without their leave.
The people did not like this. They said, "We have a right to be free men, but the king treats us as slaves. He makes us pay taxes and gives us nothing in return. He sends soldiers among us to take away our liberty."
The whole country was stirred up. Brave men left their homes and hurried toward Boston.
They said, "We do not wish to fight against the king, but we are free men, and he must not send soldiers to oppress us. If the people of Boston must fight for their liberty, we will help them." These men were not afraid of the king's soldiers. Some of them camped in Charlestown, [Footnote: Charles'town.] a village near Boston. From the hills of Charlestown they could watch and see what the king's soldiers were doing.
They wished to be ready to defend themselves, if the soldiers should try to do them harm. For this reason they had bought some powder and stored it at Concord,[Footnote: Concord (pro. kong'krd).] nearly twenty miles away.
When the king's soldiers heard about this powder, they made up their minds to go out and get it for themselves.
Among the watchers at Charlestown was a brave young man named Paul Revere. He was ready to serve his country in any way that he could.
One day a friend of his who lived in Boston came to see him. He came very quietly and secretly, to escape the soldiers.
"I have something to tell you," he said. "Some of the king's soldiers are going to Concord to get the powder that is there. They are getting ready to start this very night."
"Indeed!" said Paul Revere. "They shall get no powder, if I can help it. I will stir up all the farmers between here and Concord, and those fellows will have a hot time of it. But you must help me."
"I will do all that I can," said his friend.
"Well, then," said Paul Revere, "you must go back to Boston and watch. Watch, and as soon as the soldiers are ready to start, hang a lantern in the tower of the old North Church. If they are to cross the river, hang two. I will be here, ready. As soon as I see the light, I will mount my horse and ride out to give the alarm."
And so it was done.
When night came, Paul Revere was at the riverside with his horse. He looked over toward Boston. He knew where the old North Church stood, but he could not see much in the darkness.
Hour after hour he stood and watched. The town seemed very still; but now and then he could hear the beating of a drum or the shouting of some soldier.
The moon rose, and by its light he could see the dim form of the church tower, far away. He heard the clock strike ten. He waited and watched.
The clock struck eleven. He was beginning to feel tired. Perhaps the soldiers had given up their plan.
He walked up and down the river bank, leading his horse behind him; but he kept his eyes turned always toward the dim, dark spot which he knew was the old North Church.
All at once a light flashed out from the tower. "Ah! there it is!" he cried. The soldiers had started.
He spoke to his horse. He put his foot in the stirrup. He was ready to mount.
Then another light flashed clear and bright by the side of the first one. The soldiers would cross the river.
Paul Revere sprang into the saddle. Like a bird let loose, his horse leaped forward. Away they went.
Away they went through the village street and out upon the country road. "Up! up!" shouted Paul Revere. "The soldiers are coming! Up! up! and defend yourselves!"
The cry awoke the farmers; they sprang from their beds and looked out. They could not see the speeding horse, but they heard the clatter of its hoofs far down the road, and they understood the cry, "Up! up! and defend yourselves!"
"It is the alarm! The redcoats are coming," they said to each other. Then they took their guns, their axes, anything they could find, and hurried out.
So, through the night, Paul Revere rode toward Concord. At every farmhouse and every village he repeated his call.
The alarm quickly spread. Guns were fired. Bells were rung. The people for miles around were roused as though a fire were raging.
The king's soldiers were surprised to find everybody awake along the road. They were angry because their plans had been discovered.
When they reached Concord, they burned the courthouse there.
At Lexington, not far from Concord, there was a sharp fight in which several men were killed. This, in history, is called the Battle of Lexington. It was the beginning of the war called the Revolutionary War. But the king's soldiers did not find the gunpowder. They were glad enough to march back without it. All along the road the farmers were waiting for them. It seemed as if every man in the country was after them. And they did not feel themselves safe until they were once more in Boston.
THE BOY AND THE WOLF
In France there once lived a famous man who was known as the Marquis de Lafayette. [Footnote: Mar'quis de La fa yette'.] When he was a little boy his mother called him Gilbert.
Gilbert de Lafayette's father and grandfather and great-grandfather had all been brave and noble men. He was very proud to think of this, and he wished that he might grow up to be like them.
His home was in the country not far from a great forest. Often, when he was a little lad, he took long walks among the trees with his mother.
"Mother," he would say, "do not be afraid. I am with you, and I will not let anything hurt you."
One day word came that a savage wolf had been seen in the forest. Men said that it was a very large wolf and that it had killed some of the farmers' sheep.
"How I should like to meet that wolf," said little Gilbert.
He was only seven years old, but now all his thoughts were about the savage beast that was in the forest.
"Shall we take a walk this morning?" asked his mother.
"Oh, yes!" said Gilbert. "Perhaps we may see that wolf among the trees. But don't be afraid."
His mother smiled, for she felt quite sure that there was no danger.
They did not go far into the woods. The mother sat down in the shade of a tree and began to read in a new book which she had bought the day before. The boy played on the grass near by.
The sun was warm. The bees were buzzing among the flowers. The small birds were singing softly. Gilbert looked up from his play and saw that his mother was very deeply interested in her book.
"Now for the wolf!" he said to himself.
He walked quickly, but very quietly, down the pathway into the darker woods. He looked eagerly around, but saw only a squirrel frisking among the trees and a rabbit hopping across the road.
Soon he came to a wilder place. There the bushes were very close together and the pathway came to an end. He pushed the bushes aside and went a little farther. How still everything was!
He could see a green open space just beyond; and then the woods seemed to be thicker and darker. "This is just the place for that wolf," he thought.
Then, all at once, he heard footsteps. Something was pushing its way through the bushes. It was coming toward him.
"It's the wolf, I'm sure! It will not see me till it comes very near. Then I will jump out and throw my arms around its neck and choke it to death."
The animal was coming nearer. He could hear its footsteps. He could hear its heavy breathing. He stood very still and waited.
"It will try to bite me," he thought. "Perhaps it will scratch me with its sharp claws. But I will be brave. I will not cry out. I will choke it with my strong arms. Then I will drag it out of the bushes and call mamma to come and see it."
The beast was very close to him now. He could see its shadow as he peeped out through the clusters of leaves. His breath came fast. He planted his feet firmly and made ready to spring.
"How proud mamma will be of her brave boy!"
Ah! there was the wolf! He saw its shaggy head and big round eyes. He leaped from his hiding place and clasped it round its neck.
It did not try to bite or scratch. It did not even growl. But it jumped quickly forward and threw Gilbert upon the ground. Then it ran out into the open space and stopped to gaze at him.
Gilbert was soon on his feet again. He was not hurt at all. He looked at the beast, and—what do you think it was?
It was not a wolf. It was only a pet calf that had come there to browse among the bushes.
The boy felt very much ashamed. He hurried back to the pathway, and then ran to his mother. Tears were in his eyes; but he tried to look brave. "O Gilbert, where have you been?" said his mother.
Then he told her all that had happened. His lips quivered and he began to cry.
"Never mind, my dear," said his mother. "You were very brave, and it is lucky that the wolf was not there. You faced what you thought was a great danger, and you were not afraid. You are my hero."
When the American people were fighting to free themselves from the rule of the king of England, the Marquis de Lafayette helped them with men and money. He was the friend of Washington. His name is remembered in our country as that of a brave and noble man.
ANOTHER WOLF STORY
"WOLF! Wolf! Wolf!"
Three farmers were walking across a field and looking eagerly for tracks in the soft ground. One carried a gun, one had a pitchfork, and the third had an ax.
"Wolf! Wolf! Wolf!" they cried, as they met another farmer coming over the hill.
"Where? where?" he asked.
"We don't know," was the answer, "but we saw her tracks down there by the brook. It's the same old wolf that has been skulking around here all winter."
"She killed three of my lambs last night," said the one whose name was David Brown.
"She's killed as many as twenty since the winter began," said Thomas Tanner.
"How do you know that it is only one beast that does all this mischief?" asked the fourth farmer, whose name was Israel Putnam.
"Because the tracks are always the same," answered David Brown. "They show that three toes have been lost from the left forefoot."
"She's been caught in a trap some time, I guess," said Putnam.
"Samuel Stark saw her the other morning," said Tanner. "He says she was a monster; and she was running straight toward the hills with a little lamb in her mouth. They say she has a family of young wolves up there; and that is why she kills so many lambs."
"Here are the tracks again," said Putnam.
They could be seen very plainly, for here the ground was quite muddy. The four men followed them for some distance, and then lost them on the hillside.
"Let us call the neighbors together and have a grand wolf hunt to- morrow," said Putnam. "We must put an end to this killing of lambs."
All the other men agreed to this, and they parted.
The next day twenty men and boys came together for the grand wolf hunt. They tracked the beast to the mouth of a cave, far up on the hills.
They shouted and threw stones into the cave. But the wolf was too wise to show herself. She lay hidden among some rocks, and nothing could make her stir.
"I will fetch her out," said Israel Putnam.
The opening to the cave was only a narrow hole between two rocks. Putnam stooped down and looked in. It was very dark there, and he could not see anything.
Then he tied a rope around his waist and said to his friends, "Take hold of the other end, boys. When I jerk it, then pull me out as quickly as you can." He got down on his hands and knees and crawled into the cave. He crawled very slowly and carefully.
At last he saw something in the darkness that looked like two balls of fire. He knew that these were the eyes of the wolf. The wolf gave a low growl and made ready to meet him.
Putnam gave the rope a quick jerk and his friends pulled him out in great haste. They feared that the wolf was upon him; but he wished only to get his gun.
Soon, with the gun in one hand, he crept back into the cave. The wolf saw him. She growled so loudly that the men and boys outside were frightened. But Putnam was not afraid. He raised his gun and fired at the great beast. When his friends heard the gun they pulled the rope quickly and drew him out. It was no fun to be pulled over the sharp stones in that way; but it was better than to be bitten by the wolf. Putnam loaded his gun again. Then he listened. There was not a sound inside of the cave. Perhaps the wolf was waiting to spring upon him. He crept into the cave for the third time. There were no balls of fire to be seen now. No angry growl was heard. The wolf was dead.
Putnam stayed in the cave so long that his friends began to be alarmed. After a while, however, he gave the rope a quick jerk. Men and boys pulled with all their might; and Putnam and the wolf were drawn out together.
This happened when Israel Putnam was a young man. When the Revolutionary War began he was one of the first to hurry to Boston to help the people defend themselves against the British soldiers. He became famous as one of the bravest and best of the generals who fought to make our country free.
THE HORSESHOE NAILS
A blacksmith was shoeing a horse.
"Shoe him quickly, for the king wishes to ride him to battle," said the groom who had brought him.
"Do you think there will be a battle?" asked the blacksmith.
"Most certainly, and very soon, too," answered the man. "The king's enemies are even now advancing, and all are ready for the fight. To- day will decide whether Richard or Henry shall be king of England."
The smith went on with his work. From a bar of iron he made four horseshoes. These he hammered and shaped and fitted to the horse's feet. Then he began to nail them on.
But after he had nailed on two shoes, he found that he had not nails enough for the other two. "I have only six nails," he said, "and it will take a little time to hammer out ten more."
"Oh, well," said the groom, "won't six nails do? Put three in each shoe. I hear the trumpets now. King Richard will be impatient."
"Three nails in each shoe will hold them on," said the smith. "Yes, I think we may risk it."
So he quickly finished the shoeing, and the groom hurried to lead the horse to the king.
The battle had been raging for some time. King Richard rode hither and thither, cheering his men and fighting his foes. His enemy, Henry, who wished to be king, was pressing him hard.
Far away, at the other side of the field, King Richard saw his men falling back. Without his help they would soon be beaten. So he spurred his horse to ride to their aid.
He was hardly halfway across the stony field when one of the horse's shoes flew off. The horse was lamed on a rock. Then another shoe came off. The horse stumbled, and his rider was thrown heavily to the ground.
Before the king could rise, his frightened horse, although lame, had galloped away. The king looked, and saw that his soldiers were beaten, and that the battle was everywhere going against him.
He waved his sword in the air. He shouted, "A horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse." But there was no horse for him. His soldiers were intent on saving themselves. They could not give him any help.
The battle was lost. King Richard was lost. Henry became king of England.
"For the want of a nail the shoe was lost; For the want of a shoe the horse was lost; For the want of a horse the battle was lost; For the failure of battle the kingdom was lost;— And all for the want of a horseshoe nail."
Richard the Third was one of England's worst kings. Henry, the Duke of Richmond, made war upon him and defeated him in a great battle.
THE LANDLORD'S MISTAKE
When John Adams was president and Thomas Jefferson was vice president of the United States, there was not a railroad in all the world.
People did not travel very much. There were no broad, smooth highways as there are now. The roads were crooked and muddy and rough.
If a man was obliged to go from one city to another, he often rode on horseback. Instead of a trunk for his clothing, he carried a pair of saddlebags. Instead of sitting at his ease in a parlor car, he went jolting along through mud and mire, exposed to wind and weather.
One day some men were sitting by the door of a hotel in Baltimore. As they looked down the street they saw a horseman coming. He was riding very slowly, and both he and his horse were bespattered with mud.
"There comes old Farmer Mossback," said one of the men, laughing. "He's just in from the backwoods."
"He seems to have had a hard time of it," said another; "I wonder where he'll put up for the night."
"Oh, any kind of a place will suit him," answered the landlord. "He's one of those country fellows who can sleep in the haymow and eat with the horses."
The traveler was soon at the door. He was dressed plainly, and, with his reddish-brown hair and mud-bespattered face, looked like a hard- working countryman just in from the backwoods.
"Have you a room here for me?" he asked the landlord.
Now the landlord prided himself upon keeping a first-class hotel, and he feared that his guests would not like the rough-looking traveler. So he answered: "No, sir. Every room is full. The only place I could put you would be in the barn."
"Well, then," answered the stranger, "I will see what they can do for me at the Planters' Tavern, round the corner;" and he rode away.
About an hour later, a well-dressed gentleman came into the hotel and said, "I wish to see Mr. Jefferson."
"Mr. Jefferson!" said the landlord.
"Yes, sir. Thomas Jefferson, the vice president of the United States."
"He isn't here."
"Oh, but he must be. I met him as he rode into town, and he said that he intended to stop at this hotel. He has been here about an hour."
"No, he hasn't. The only man that has been here for lodging to-day was an old clodhopper who was so spattered with mud that you couldn't see the color of his coat. I sent him round to the Planters'."
"Did he have reddish-brown hair, and did he ride a gray horse?"
"Yes, and he was quite tall."
"That was Mr. Jefferson," said the gentleman.
"Mr. Jefferson!" cried the landlord. "Was that the vice president? Here, Dick! build a fire in the best room. Put everything in tiptop order, Sally. What a dunce I was to turn Mr. Jefferson away! He shall have all the rooms in the house, and the ladies' parlor, too, I'll go right round to the Planters' and fetch him back."
So he went to the other hotel, where he found the vice president sitting with some friends in the parlor.
"Mr. Jefferson," he said, "I have come to ask your pardon. You were so bespattered with mud that I thought you were some old farmer. If you'll come back to my house, you shall have the best room in it—yes, all the rooms if you wish. Won't you come?"
"No," answered Mr. Jefferson. "A farmer is as good as any other man; and where there's no room for a farmer, there can be no room for me."
A LESSON IN MANNERS
One morning there was a loud knock at Dean Swift's door. The servant opened it. A man who was outside handed her a fine duck that had lately been killed, and said,—"Here's a present for the Dean. It's from Mr. Boyle."
Then, without another word, he turned and walked away.
A few days afterward the man came again. This time he brought a partridge. "Here's another bird from Mr. Boyle."
Now, Mr. Boyle was a sporting neighbor who spent a good deal of time in shooting. He was a great admirer of Dean Swift, and took pleasure in sending him presents of game.
The third time, the man brought a quail. "Here's something else for the Dean," he said roughly, and tossed it into the servant's arms.
The servant complained to her master. "That fellow has no manners," she said.
"The next time he comes," said the Dean, "let me know, and I will go to the door."
It was not long until the man came with another present. The Dean went to the door.
"Here's a rabbit from Mr. Boyle," said the man.
"See here," said the Dean in a stern voice, "that is not the way to deliver a message here. Just step inside and make believe that you are Dean Swift. I will go out and make believe that I am bringing him a present. I will show you how a messenger ought to behave."
"I'll agree to that," said the man; and he stepped inside. The Dean took the rabbit and went out of the house. He walked up the street to the next block. Then he came back and knocked gently at the door.
The door was opened by the man from Mr. Boyle's. The Dean bowed gracefully and said, "If you please, sir, Mr. Boyle's compliments, and he wishes you to accept of this fine rabbit."
"Oh, thank you," said the man very politely. Then, taking out his purse, he offered the Dean a shilling. "And here is something for your trouble."
The lesson in manners was not forgotten; for, always after that, the man was very polite when he brought his presents. And the Dean also took the hint; for he always remembered to give the man a "tip" for his trouble. Jonathan Swift, often called Dean Swift, was famous as a writer on many subjects. Among other books he wrote "Gulliver's Travels," which you, perhaps, will read some time.
GOING TO SEA
"I should like to be a sailor," said George Washington. "Then I could go to many strange lands and see many wonderful things. And, by and by, I might become the captain of a ship."
He was only fourteen years old.
His older brothers were quite willing that he should go to sea. They said that a bright boy like George would not long be a common sailor. He would soon become a captain and then perhaps a great admiral.
And so the matter was at last settled. George's brothers knew the master of a trading ship who was getting ready to sail to England. He agreed to take the boy with him and teach him how to be a good sailor.
George's mother was very sad. His uncle had written her a letter saying:
"Do not let him go to sea. If he begins as a common sailor, he will never be anything else."
But George had made up his mind to go. He was headstrong and determined. He would not listen to any one who tried to persuade him to stay at home. At last the day came for the ship to sail. It was waiting in the river. A boat was at the landing, ready to take him on board. The little chest that held his clothing had been carried down to the bank. George was in high glee at the thought of going.
"Good-by, mother," he said.
He stood on the doorstep and looked back into the house. He saw the kind faces of those whom he loved. He began to feel very sad.
"Good-by, my dear boy!"
George saw the tears in his mother's eyes. He saw them rolling down her cheeks. He knew that she did not wish him to go. He could not bear to see her grief.
He stood still for a moment, thinking. Then he turned quickly and said, "Mother, I have changed my mind. I will stay at home and do as you wish." Then he called to the black boy, who was waiting at the door, and said, "Tom, run down to the shore and tell them not to put the chest in the boat. Send word to the captain not to wait for me, for I have changed my mind. I am not going to sea."
Who has not heard of George Washington? It has been said of him that he was the "first in war, the first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen." He was our most famous president. He has been called the Father of his Country.
THE SHEPHERD-BOY PAINTER
One day a traveler was walking through a part of Italy where a great many sheep were pasturing. Near the top of a hill he saw a little shepherd boy who was lying on the ground while a flock of sheep and lambs were grazing around him.
As he came nearer he saw that the boy held a charred stick in his hand, with which he was drawing something on a flat rock. The lad was so much interested in his work that he did not see the stranger.
The stranger bent over him and looked at the picture he had made on the rock. It was the picture of a sheep, and it was drawn so well that the stranger was filled with astonishment.
"What is your name, my boy?" he said.
The lad was startled. He jumped to his feet and looked up at the kind gentleman.
"My name is Giotto," [Footnote: Giotto (pro. jot'to).] he answered.
"What is your father's name?"
"Bondone." [Footnote: BON do'na.]
"And whose sheep are these?"
"They belong to the rich man who lives in the big white house there among the trees. My father works in the field, and I take care of the sheep." "How would you like to live with me, Giotto? I would teach you how to draw pictures of sheep and horses, and even of men," said the stranger. The boy's face beamed with delight. "I should like to learn to do that—oh, ever so much!" he answered. "But I must do as father says." "Let us go and ask him," said the stranger.
The stranger's name was Cimabue.[Footnote: Cimabue (pro. she ma boo'a).] He was the most famous painter of the time. His pictures were known and admired in every city of Italy.
Bondone was surprised when Cimabue offered to take his little boy to Florence and teach him to be a great painter.
"I know that the lad can draw pictures wonderfully well," he said. "He does not like to do anything else. Perhaps he will do well with you. Yes, you may take him."
In the city of Florence [Footnote: Flor'ence.] little Giotto saw some of the finest pictures in the world. He learned so fast that he could soon paint as well as Cimabue himself.
One day Cimabue was painting the picture of a man's face. Night came on before he had finished it. "I will leave it till morning," he said; "then the light will be better."
In the morning, when he looked at the picture, he saw a fly on the man's nose. He tried to brush it off, but it remained there. It was only a painted fly.
"Who has done this?" he cried. He was angry, and yet he was pleased.
Little Giotto came out from a corner, trembling and ashamed. "I did it, master," he said. "It was a good place for a fly, and I never thought of spoiling your picture."
He expected to be punished. But Cimabue only praised him for his great skill. "There are few men who can draw so good a picture of a fly," he said.
This happened six hundred years ago, in the city of Florence in Italy. The shepherd boy became a very famous painter and the friend of many famous men.
TWO GREAT PAINTERS
There was once a painter whose name was Zeuxis. [Footnote: Zeuxis (pro. zuke'sis).] He could paint pictures so life-like that they were mistaken for the real things which they represented.
At one time he painted the picture of some fruit which was so real that the birds flew down and pecked at it. This made him very proud of his skill.
"I am the only man in the world who can paint a picture so true to life," he said.
There was another famous artist whose name was Parrhasius. [Footnote: Parrhasius (pro. pa ra'shl us).] When he heard of the boast which Zeuxis had made, he said to himself, "I will see what I can do."
So he painted a beautiful picture which seemed to be covered with a curtain. Then he invited Zeuxis to come and see it.
Zeuxis looked at it closely. "Draw the curtain aside and show us the picture," he said.
Parrhasius laughed and answered, "The curtain is the picture."
"Well," said Zeuxis, "you have beaten me this time, and I shall boast no more. I deceived only the birds, but you have deceived me, a painter."
Some time after this, Zeuxis painted another wonderful picture. It was that of a boy carrying a basket of ripe red cherries. When he hung this painting outside of his door, some birds flew down and tried to carry the cherries away.
"Ah! this picture is a failure," he said. "For if the boy had been as well painted as the cherries, the birds would have been afraid to come near him."
THE KING AND THE BEES
One day King Solomon was sitting on his throne, and his great men were standing around him.
Suddenly the door was thrown open and the Queen of Sheba came in.
"O King," she said, "in my own country, far, far away, I have heard much about your power and glory, but much more about your wisdom. Men have told me that there is no riddle so cunning that you can not solve it. Is this true?"
"It is as you say, O Queen," answered Solomon.
"Well, I have here a puzzle which I think will test your wisdom. Shall I show it to you?"
"Most certainly, O Queen."
Then she held up in each hand a beautiful wreath of flowers. The wreaths were so nearly alike that none of those who were with the king could point out any difference.
"One of these wreaths." said the queen, "is made of flowers plucked from your garden. The other is made of artificial flowers, shaped and colored by a skillful artist. Now, tell me, O King, which is the true, and which is the false?"
The king, for once, was puzzled. He stroked his chin. He looked at the wreaths from every side. He frowned. He bit his lips.
"Which is the true?" the queen again asked.
Still the king did not answer.
"I have heard that you are the wisest man in the world," she said, "and surely this simple thing ought not to puzzle you."
The king moved uneasily on his golden throne. His officers and great men shook their heads. Some would have smiled, if they had dared.
"Look at the flowers carefully," said the queen, "and let us have your answer."
Then the king remembered something. He remembered that close by his window there was a climbing vine filled with beautiful sweet flowers. He remembered that he had seen many bees flying among these flowers and gathering honey from them.
So he said, "Open the window!"
It was opened. The queen was standing quite near to it with the two wreaths still in her hands. All eyes were turned to see why the king had said, "Open the window."
The next moment two bees flew eagerly in. Then came another and another. All flew to the flowers in the queen's right hand. Not one of the bees so much as looked at those in her left hand.
"O Queen of Sheba, the bees have given you my answer," then said Solomon.
And the queen said, "You are wise, King Solomon. You gather knowledge from the little things which common men pass by unnoticed."
King Solomon lived three thousand years ago. He built a great temple in Jerusalem, and was famous for his wisdom.
OUR FIRST GREAT PAINTER
A long time ago there lived, in Pennsylvania, a little boy whose name was Benjamin West.
This boy loved pictures. Indeed, there were few things that he loved more. But he had never seen any pictures except a few small ones in a book. His father and mother were Quakers, and they did not think it was right to spend money for such things. They thought that pictures might take one's mind away from things that were better or more useful.
One day Benjamin's mother had to go to a neighbor's on some errand. So she told Benjamin to stay in the house and take care of his baby sister till she came back.
He was glad to do this; for he loved the baby.
"Yes, mother," he said, "I will watch her every minute. I won't let anything hurt her."
The baby was asleep in her cradle, and he must not make a noise and waken her. For some time he sat very still. He heard the clock ticking. He heard the birds singing. He began to feel a little lonesome.
A fly lighted on the baby's cheek, and he brushed it away. Then he thought what a pretty picture might be made of his sister's sweet face and little hands.
He had no paper, but he knew where there was a smooth board. He had no pencil, but there was a piece of black charcoal on the hearth. How pretty the baby was! He began to draw. The baby smiled but did not wake up.
As often as he touched the charcoal to the smooth board, the picture grew. Here was her round head, covered with pretty curls. Here was her mouth. Here were her eyes, and here her dainty ears. Here was her fat little neck. Here were her wonderful hands.
So busy was he with the drawing that he did not think of anything else. He heard neither the clock nor the birds. He did not even hear his mother's footsteps as she came into the room. He did not hear her soft breathing as she stood over him and watched him finish the wonderful drawing. "O Benjamin! what has thee been doing?" she cried.
The lad sprang up alarmed.
"It's only a picture of the baby, mother," he said.
"A picture of the baby! Oh, wonderful! It looks just like her!"
The good woman was so overjoyed that she caught him in her arms and kissed him. Then suddenly she began to wonder whether this was right.
"Benjamin, how did thee learn to draw such a picture?" she asked.
"I didn't learn," he answered. "I just did it. I couldn't help but do it."
When Benjamin's father came home, his mother showed him the picture. "It looks just like her, doesn't it?" she said. "But I am afraid. I don't know what to think. Does thee suppose that it is very wrong for Benjamin to do such a thing?"
The father did not answer. He turned the picture this way and that, and looked at it from every side. He compared it with the baby's pretty face. Then he handed it back to his wife and said:—
"Put it away. It may be that the hand of the Lord is in this."
Several weeks afterward, there came a visitor to the home of the Wests. It was a good old Friend, whom everybody loved—a-white-haired, pleasant-faced minister, whose words were always wise.
Benjamin's parents showed him the picture. They told him how the lad was always trying to draw something. And they asked what they should do about it.
The good minister looked at the picture for a long time. Then he called little Benjamin to him. He put his hands on the lad's head and said:—
"This child has a wonderful gift. We cannot understand it nor the reason of it. Let us trust that great good may come from it, and that Benjamin West may grow up to be an honor to our country and the world."
And the words of the old minister came true. The pictures of Benjamin West made him famous. He was the first great American painter.
THE YOUNG SCOUT
When Andrew Jackson was a little boy he lived with his mother in South Carolina. He was eight years old when he heard about the ride of Paul Revere and the famous fight at Lexington.
It was then that the long war, called the Revolutionary War, began. The king's soldiers were sent into every part of the country. The people called them the British. Some called them "red-coats."
There was much fighting; and several great battles took place between the British and the Americans.
At last Charleston, in South Carolina, was taken by the British. Andrew Jackson was then a tall white-haired boy, thirteen years old.
"I am going to help drive those red-coated British out of the country," he said to his mother.
Then, without another word, he mounted his brother's little farm horse and rode away. He was not old enough to be a soldier, but he could be a scout—and a good scout he was.
He was very tall—as tall as a man. He was not afraid of anything. He was strong and ready for every duty.
One day as he was riding through the woods, some British soldiers saw him. They quickly surrounded him and made him their prisoner.
"Come with us," they said, "and we will teach you that the king's soldiers are not to be trifled with."
They took him to the British camp.
"What is your name, young rebel?" said the British captain.
"Well, Andy Jackson, get down here and clean the mud from my boots."
Andrew's gray eyes blazed as he stood up straight and proud before the haughty captain.
"Sir," he said, "I am a prisoner of war, and demand to be treated as such."
"You rebel!" shouted the captain. "Down with you, and clean those boots at once."
The slim, tall boy seemed to grow taller, as he answered, "I'll not be the servant of any Englishman that ever lived."
The captain was very angry. He drew his sword to hit the boy with its flat side. Andrew threw out his hand and received an ugly gash across the knuckles.
Some other officers, who had seen the whole affair, cried out to the captain, "Shame! He is a brave boy. He deserves to be treated as a gentleman."
Andrew was not held long as a prisoner. The British soldiers soon returned to Charleston, and he was allowed to go home.
In time, Andrew Jackson became a very great man. He was elected to Congress, he was chosen judge of the supreme court of Tennessee, he was appointed general in the army, and lastly he was for eight years the president of the United States.
THE LAD WHO RODE SIDESADDLE
When Daniel Webster was a child he lived in the country, far from any city. He was not strong enough to work on the farm like his brothers; but he loved books and study.
He was very young when he was first sent to school. The schoolhouse was two or three miles from home, but he did not mind the long walk through the woods and over the hills.
He soon learned all that his teacher could teach; for he was bright and quick, and had a good memory.
His father hoped that Daniel would grow up to be a wise and famous man. "But," said he, "no man can rightly succeed without an education."
So it was decided that the boy should go to some school where he might be prepared for college.
One evening his father said to him, "Daniel, you must be up early in the morning. You are going to Exeter with me."
"To Exeter, father!" said Daniel.
"Yes, to Exeter. I am going to put you in the academy there."
The academy at Exeter was a famous school for preparing boys for college. It is still a famous school. But Daniel's father did not say anything about college.
There were no railroads at that time, and Exeter was nearly fifty miles away. Daniel and his father would ride there on horseback.
Early in the morning two horses were brought to the door. One was Mr. Webster's horse; the other was an old gray nag with a lady's sidesaddle on its back.
"Who is going to ride that nag?" asked Daniel.
"Young Dan Webster," answered his father.
"But I don't want a sidesaddle. I'm not a lady."
"I understand," said Mr. Webster. "But our neighbor, Johnson, is sending the nag to Exeter for the use of a lady who is to ride back with me. He does me a favor by allowing you to ride on the animal, and I do him a favor by taking care of it."
"But won't it look rather funny for me to ride to Exeter on a sidesaddle?"
"Well, if a lady can ride on it, perhaps Dan Webster can do as much."
And so they set out on their journey to Exeter. Mr. Webster rode in front, and Daniel, on the old gray nag, followed behind. The roads were muddy, and they went slowly. It took them two days to reach Exeter.
The people whom they met gazed at them and wondered who they could be. They scarcely noticed the sidesaddle; they noticed only the boy's dark eyes and his strong, noble face.
His clothes were of homemade stuff; his shoes were coarse and heavy; he had no gloves on his hands; he was awkward and bashful.
Yet there was something in his manner and voice that caused everybody to admire him.
Daniel Webster lived to become a famous orator and a great statesman. He was honored at home and abroad.
"Boys, what did I tell you?"
The schoolmaster spoke angrily. He was in trouble because his scholars would not study. Whenever his back was turned, they were sure to begin whispering to one another.
"Girls, stop your whispering, I say."
But still they would whisper, and he could not prevent it. The afternoon was half gone, and the trouble was growing. Then the master thought of a plan.
"Children," he said, "we are going to play a new game. The next one that whispers must come out and stand in the middle of the floor. He must stand there until he sees some one else whisper. Then he will tell me, and the one whom he names must come and take his place. He, in turn, will watch and report the first one that he sees whisper. And so we will keep the game going till it is time for school to be dismissed. The boy or girl who is standing at that time will be punished for all of you."
"What will the punishment be, Mr. Johnson?" asked a bold, bad boy. "A good thrashing," answered the master. He was tired, he was vexed, he hardly knew what he said.
The children thought the new game was very funny. First, Tommy Jones whispered to Billy Brown and was at once called out to stand on the floor. Within less than two minutes, Billy saw Mary Green whispering, and she had to take his place. Mary looked around and saw Samuel Miller asking his neighbor for a pencil, and Samuel was called. And so the fun went on until the clock showed that it lacked only ten minutes till school would be dismissed.
Then all became very good and very careful, for no one wished to be standing at the time of dismissal. They knew that the master would be as good as his word. The clock ticked loudly, and Tommy Jones, who was standing up for the fourth time, began to feel very uneasy. He stood on one leg and then on the other, and watched very closely; but nobody whispered. Could it be possible that he would receive that thrashing? Suddenly, to his great joy he saw little Lucy Martin lean over her desk and whisper to the girl in front of her. Now Lucy was the pet of the school. Everybody loved her, and this was the first time she had whispered that day. But Tommy didn't care for that. He wished to escape the punishment, and so he called out, "Lucy Martin!" and went proudly to his seat.
Little Lucy had not meant to whisper. There was something which she wished very much to know before going home, and so, without thinking, she had leaned over and whispered just three little words. With tears in her eyes she went out and stood in the whisperer's place.
She was very much ashamed and hurt, for it was the first time that she had ever been in disgrace at school. The other girls felt sorry that she should suffer for so small a fault. The boys looked at her and wondered if the master would really be as good as his word.
The clock kept on ticking. It lacked only one minute till the bell would strike the time for dismissal. What a shame that dear, gentle Lucy should be punished for all those unruly boys and girls!
Then, suddenly, an awkward half-grown boy who sat right in front of the master's desk turned squarely around and whispered to Tommy Jones, three desks away.
Everybody saw him. Little Lucy Martin saw him through her tears, but said nothing. Everybody was astonished, for that boy was the best scholar in the school, and he had never been known to break a rule.
It lacked only half a minute now. The awkward boy turned again and whispered so loudly that even the master could not help hearing: "Tommy, you deserve a thrashing!"
"Elihu Burritt, take your place on the floor," said the master sternly. The awkward boy stepped out quickly, and little Lucy Martin returned to her seat sobbing. At the same moment the bell struck and school was dismissed.
After all the others had gone home, the master took down his long birch rod and said: "Elihu, I suppose I must be as good as my word. But tell me why you so deliberately broke the rule against whispering."
"I did it to save little Lucy," said the awkward boy, standing up very straight and brave. "I could not bear to see her punished."
"Elihu, you may go home," said the master.
All this happened many years ago in New Britain, Connecticut. Elihu Burritt was a poor boy who was determined to learn. He worked many years as a blacksmith and studied books whenever he had a spare moment. He learned many languages and became known all over the world as "The Learned Blacksmith."
HOW A PRINCE LEARNED TO READ
A thousand years ago boys and girls did not learn to read. Books were very scarce and very precious, and only a few men could read them.
Each book was written with a pen or a brush. The pictures were painted by hand, and some of them were very beautiful. A good book would sometimes cost as much as a good house.
In those times there were even some kings who could not read. They thought more of hunting and fighting than of learning.
There was one such king who had four sons, Ethelbald, Ethelbert, Ethelred, and Alfred.[Footnote: Eth'el bald, Eth'el bert, Eth'el red, Al'fred.] The three older boys were sturdy, half-grown lads; the youngest, Alfred, was a slender, fair-haired child.
One day when they were with their mother, she showed them a wonderful book that some rich friend had given her. She turned the leaves and showed them the strange letters. She showed them the beautiful pictures, and told them how they had been drawn and painted.
They admired the book very much, for they had never seen anything like it. "But the best part of it is the story which it tells," said their mother. "If you could only read, you might learn that story and enjoy it. Now I have a mind to give this book to one of you"
"Will you give it to me, mother?" asked little Alfred.
"I will give it to the one who first learns to read in it" she answered.
"I am sure I would rather have a good bow with arrows" said Ethelred.
"And I would rather have a young hawk that has been trained to hunt" said Ethelbert.
"If I were a priest or a monk" said Ethelbald, "I would learn to read. But I am a prince, and it is foolish for princes to waste their time with such things."
"But I should like to know the story which this book tells," said Alfred.
A few weeks passed by. Then, one morning, Alfred went into his mother's room with a smiling, joyous face.
"Mother," he said, "will you let me see that beautiful book again?"
His mother unlocked her cabinet and took the precious volume from its place of safe keeping.
Alfred opened it with careful fingers. Then he began with the first word on the first page and read the first story aloud without making one mistake.
"O my child, how did you learn to do that?" cried his mother.
"I asked the monk, Brother Felix, to teach me," said Alfred. "And every day since you showed me the book, he has given me a lesson. It was no easy thing to learn these letters and how they are put together to make words. Now, Brother Felix says I can read almost as well as he."
"How wonderful!" said his mother.
"How foolish!" said Ethelbald.
"You will be a good monk when you grow up," said Ethelred, with a sneer.
But his mother kissed him and gave him the beautiful book. "The prize is yours, Alfred," she said. "I am sure that whether you grow up to be a monk or a king, you will be a wise and noble man."
And Alfred did grow up to become the wisest and noblest king that England ever had. In history he is called Alfred the Great.
"READ, AND YOU WILL KNOW"
"Mother, what are the clouds made of? Why does the rain fall? Where does all the rain water go? What good does it do?"
Little William Jones was always asking questions.
"I want to know," he said; "I want to know everything."
At first his mother tried to answer all his questions. But after he had learned to read, she taught him to look in books for that which he wished to know.
"Mother, what makes the wind blow?"
"Read, and you will know, my child."
"Who lives on the other side of the world?"
"Read, and you will know."
"Why is the sky so blue?"
"Read, and you will know."
"Oh, mother, I would like to know everything."
"You can never know everything, my child. But you can learn many things from books."
"Yes, mother, I will read and then I will know."
He was a very little boy, but before he was three years old he could read quite well. When eight years of age he was the best scholar at the famous school at Harrow. He was always reading, learning, inquiring.
"I want to know; I want to know," he kept saying.
"Read, and you will know," said his mother. "Read books that are true. Read about things that are beautiful and good. Read in order to become wise.
"Do not waste your time in reading foolish books. Do not read bad books, they will make you bad. No book is worth reading that does not make you better or wiser."
And so William Jones went on reading and learning. He became one of the most famous scholars in the world. The king of England made him a knight and called him Sir William Jones. Sir William Jones lived nearly two hundred years ago. He was noted for his great knowledge, the most of which he had obtained from books. It is said that he could speak and write forty languages.
THE YOUNG CUPBEARER
Long, long ago, there lived in Persia a little prince whose name was Cyrus. [Footnote: Cyrus (pro. si'rus).]
He was not petted and spoiled like many other princes. Although his father was a king, Cyrus was brought up like the son of a common man.
He knew how to work with his hands. He ate only the plainest food. He slept on a hard bed. He learned to endure hunger and cold.
When Cyrus was twelve years old he went with his mother to Media to visit his grandfather. His grandfather, whose name was Astyages, [Footnote: Astyages (pro. as ti'a jeez).] was king of Media, and very rich and powerful.
Cyrus was so tall and strong and handsome that his grandfather was very proud of him. He wished the lad to stay with him in Media. He therefore gave him many beautiful gifts and everything that could please a prince. One day King Astyages planned to make a great feast for the lad. The tables were to be laden with all kinds of food. There was to be music and dancing; and Cyrus was to invite as many guests as he chose. The hour for the feast came. Everything was ready. The servants were there, dressed in fine uniforms. The musicians and dancers were in their places. But no guests came.
"How is this, my dear boy?" asked the king. "The feast is ready, but no one has come to partake of it."
"That is because I have not invited any one," said Cyrus." In Persia we do not have such feasts. If any one is hungry, he eats some bread and meat, with perhaps a few cresses, and that is the end of it. We never go to all this trouble and expense of making a fine dinner in order that our friends may eat what is not good for them."
King Astyages did not know whether to be pleased or displeased.
"Well," said he, "all these rich foods that were prepared for the feast are yours. What will you do with them?"
"I think I will give them to our friends," said Cyrus.
So he gave one portion to the king's officer who had taught him to ride. Another portion he gave to an old servant who waited upon his grandfather. And the rest he divided among the young women who took care of his mother.
The king's cupbearer, Sarcas, was very much offended because he was not given a share of the feast. The king also wondered why this man, who was his favorite, should be so slighted.
"Why didn't you give something to Sarcas?" he asked.
"Well, truly," said Cyrus, "I do not like him. He is proud and overbearing. He thinks that he makes a fine figure when he waits on you." "And so he does," said the king. "He is very skillful as a cupbearer." "That may be so," answered Cyrus, "but if you will let me be your cupbearer tomorrow, I think I can serve you quite as well."
King Astyages smiled. He saw that Cyrus had a will of his own, and this pleased him very much.
"I shall be glad to see what you can do," he said. "Tomorrow, you shall be the king's cupbearer."
You would hardly have known the young prince when the time came for him to appear before his grandfather. He was dressed in the rich uniform of the cupbearer, and he came forward with much dignity and grace.
He carried a white napkin upon his arm, and held the cup of wine very daintily with three of his fingers.
His manners were perfect. Sarcas himself could not have served the king half so well.
"Bravo! bravo!" cried his mother, her eyes sparkling with pride.
"You have done well" said his grandfather. "But you neglected one important thing. It is the rule and custom of the cupbearer to pour out a little of the wine and taste it before handing the cup to me. This you forgot to do."
"Indeed, grandfather, I did not forget it," answered Cyrus.
"Then why didn't you do it?" asked his mother.
"Because I believed there was poison in the wine."
"Poison, my boy!" cried King Astyages, much alarmed. "Poison! poison!"
"Yes, grandfather, poison. For the other day, when you sat at dinner with your officers, I noticed that the wine made you act queerly. After the guests had drunk quite a little of it, they began to talk foolishly and sing loudly; and some of them went to sleep. And you, grandfather, were as bad as the rest. You forgot that you were king. You forgot all your good manners. You tried to dance and fell upon the floor. I am afraid to drink anything that makes men act in that way."
"Didn't you ever see your father behave so?" asked the king.
"No, never," said Cyrus. "He does not drink merely to be drinking. He drinks to quench his thirst, and that is all."
When Cyrus became a man, he succeeded his father as king of Persia; he also succeeded his grandfather Astyages as king of Media. He was a very wise and powerful ruler, and he made his country the greatest of any that was then known. In history he is commonly called Cyrus the Great.
THE SONS OF THE CALIPH
There was a caliph of Persia whose name was Al Mamoun. [Footnote: Al Mam'oun] He had two sons whom he wished to become honest and noble men. So he employed a wise man whose name was Al Farra to be their teacher. One day, after lesson hours, Al Farra rose to go out of the house. The two boys saw him and ran to fetch his shoes. For in that country, people never wear shoes in the house, but take them off at the door. The two boys ran for the teacher's shoes, and each claimed the honor of carrying them to him. But they dared not quarrel and at last agreed that each should carry one shoe. Thus the honor would be divided. When the caliph heard of this he sent for Al Farra and asked him, "Who is the most honored of men?"
The teacher answered, "I know of no man who is more honored than yourself."
"No, no," said the caliph. "It is the man who rose to go out, and two young princes contended for the honor of giving him his shoes but at last agreed that each should offer him one."
Al Farra answered, "Sir, I should have forbidden them to do this, but I feared to discourage them. I hope that I shall never do anything to make them careless of their duties."
"Well," said the caliph, "if you had forbidden them thus to honor you, I should have declared you in the wrong. They did nothing that was beneath the dignity of princes. Indeed, they honored themselves by honoring you." Al Farra bowed low, but said nothing; and the caliph went on. "No young man nor boy," said he, "can be so high in rank as to neglect three great duties: he must respect his ruler, he must love and obey his father, and he must honor his teacher."
Then he called the two young princes to him, and as a reward for their noble conduct, filled their pockets with gold.
THE BOY AND THE ROBBERS
In Persia, when Cyrus the Great was king, boys were taught to tell the truth. This was one of their first lessons at home and at school.
"None but a coward will tell a falsehood," said the father of young Otanes. [Footnote: Otanes (pro. o ta'n ez).]
"Truth is beautiful. Always love it," said his mother.
When Otanes was twelve years old, his parents wished to send him to a distant city to study in a famous school that was there. It would be a long journey and a dangerous one. So it was arranged that the boy should travel with a small company of merchants who were going to the same place. "Good-by, Otanes! Be always brave and truthful," said his father. "Farewell, my child! Love that which is beautiful. Despise that which is base," said his mother.
The little company began its long journey. Some of the men rode on camels, some on horses. They went but slowly, for the sun was hot and the way was rough.
Suddenly, towards evening, a band of robbers swooped down upon them. The merchants were not fighting men. They could do nothing but give up all their goods and money.
"Well, boy, what have you got?" asked one of the robbers, as he pulled Otanes from his horse.
"Forty pieces of gold" answered the lad.
The robber laughed. He had never heard of a boy with so much money as that.
"That is a good story" he said. "Where do you carry your gold?"
"It is in my hat, underneath the lining," answered Otanes.
"Oh, well! You can't make me believe that," said the robber; and he hurried away to rob one of the rich merchants.
Soon another came up and said, "My boy, do you happen to have any gold about you?"
"Yes! Forty pieces, in my hat, said Otanes.
"You are a brave lad to be joking with robbers" said the man; and he also hurried on to a more promising field.
At length the chief of the band called to Otanes and said, "Young fellow, have you anything worth taking?"
Otanes answered, "I have already told two of your men that I have forty pieces of gold in my hat. But they wouldn't believe me."
"Take off your hat," said the chief.
The boy obeyed. The chief tore out the lining and found the gold hidden beneath it.
"Why did you tell us where to find it?" he asked. "No one would have thought that a child like you had gold about him."
"If I had answered your questions differently, I should have told a lie," said Otanes; "and none but cowards tell lies"
The robber chief was struck by this answer. He thought of the number of times that he himself had been a coward. Then he said, "You are a brave boy, and you may keep your gold. Here it is. Mount your horse, and my own men will ride with you and see that you reach the end of your journey in safety."
Otanes, in time, became one of the famous men of his country. He was the advisor and friend of two of the kings who succeeded Cyrus.
A LESSON IN JUSTICE
Alexander [Footnote: Al ex an'der.] the king of Macedon, [Footnote: Macedon (pro. mas'e don).] wished to become the master of the whole world. He led his armies through many countries. He plundered cities, he burned towns, he destroyed thousands of lives.
At last, far in the East, he came to a land of which he had never heard. The people there knew nothing about war and conquest. Although they were rich, they lived simply and were at peace with all the world.
The shah, or ruler of these people, went out to meet Alexander and welcome him to their country. He led the great king to his palace and begged that he would dine with him.
When they were seated at the table the servants of the shah stood by to serve the meal. They brought in what seemed to be fruits, nuts, cakes, and other delicacies; but when Alexander would eat he found that everything was made of gold.
"What!" said he, "do you eat gold in this country?"
"We ourselves eat only common food," answered the shah. "But we have heard that it was the desire for gold which caused you to leave your own country; and so, we wish to satisfy your appetite."
"It was not for gold that I came here," said Alexander. "I came to learn the customs of your people."
"Very well, then," said the shah, "stay with me a little while and observe what you can."
While the shah and the king were talking, two countrymen came in. "My lord," said one, "we have had a disagreement, and wish you to settle the matter."