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THE GROCER AND THE BAG OF BLACK SEED.
THE WOUNDED REAPER.
A man, once reaping in a field, cut his arm dreadfully with his sickle, and divided an artery. [An artery is one of the canals or pipes through which the blood from the heart runs, like water in a pipe brought from a reservoir. When one of these is cut, it bleeds very violently, and the only way to stop it is to make a pressure between the wounded place and the heart, in order to intercept the course of the blood towards it.] The poor man bled profusely; and the people about him, both men and women, were so much stupified with fright, that some ran one way, some another, and some stood stock-still. In short, he would have soon bled to death, had not a stout brisk-hearted girl, who came up, slipped off her garter, and bound it tight above the wound, by which means the bleeding was stopped till proper help could be procured.
THE GROCER AND THE BAG OF BLACK SEED.
In Edinburgh, about a hundred years ago, there was a grocer named George Dewar, who, besides teas, sugar, and other articles, now usually sold by grocers, dealt extensively in garden-seeds. Underneath his shop he had a cellar, in which he kept a great quantity of his merchandise. One day he desired his servant-maid to go down to the cellar with a candle, and fetch him a supply of a particular kind of soap kept there. The girl went to do her master's bidding, but she imprudently did not provide herself with a candlestick, and therefore found it necessary, while filling her basket with pieces of soap, to stick the candle into what she thought a bag of black seed which stood open by her side. In returning, both her hands were required to carry the basket, so that she had to leave the candle where it was. When Mr Dewar saw her coming up the trap-stair without the candle, he asked her where she had left it. She carelessly said that she had stuck it into some black seed near the place where the soap lay. He instantly recollected that this black seed was gunpowder, and knew that a single spark falling from the candle would blow up the house, and bury himself and many other persons in the ruins. He also knew that the candle, if left where it was, would in a little time burn down to the gunpowder, and produce this catastrophe. To fly, then, was to make the destruction of his house and property certain, while to go down and attempt to take away the candle, was to run the risk of being destroyed himself, for he could not tell that a spark was not to fall next instant into the powder. He nevertheless made up his mind in a moment, and descended into the cellar. There he saw the candle burning brightly in the midst of the bag of gunpowder. He approached softly, lest by putting the air in motion, he might cause the candle to sparkle. Then, stooping with the greatest deliberation over the sack, he formed his
a hollow, like the basin of a bedroom candlestick, and clasped the candle between his fingers. He might thus have had the chance of catching any spark which fell. No spark fell, and he bore away the candle in safety
It is not surprising to learn that Mr Dewar made a large fortune in business, and purchased an estate in the neighbourhood of the city, which is still the property of his descendants.
ATTENTIVE OBSERVATION AND RESOURCE.
To be always attentively observing what is passing around them, is one of the means by which men improve their circumstances. No man can learn all that he requires to know at school, or in books. In order to attain a knowledge of the characters of our neighbours, of the ways of the world in general, and of a great multitude of things peculiar to every place, all of which kinds of knowledge are necessary to us, we must attentively obscrve and ponder on those things, as they daily present themselves to our notice.
Some men, by attentively observing how men feel and act in various circumstances, attain a power of calculating beforehand what will be the effect of any thing they say or do on the minds of those around them, or on the mind of any individual with whom they are in any way associated. This sense of what others are to feel on any occasion, is
GASSENDI, THE LITTLE ASTRONOMER.
commonly called tact. It is a quality necessary in the simplest intercourse with our fellow-creatures: we cannot be consistently polite without it. It also serves a good part in affairs of the greatest importance.
When we happen to be in circumstances of a difficult or dangerous nature, the habit of attentive observation generally proves of great use. It is easy to conceive, for instance, that, among the fishers and ferrymen of the Orkney Islands, he who has most carefully marked in his mind the forms of various rocks and the appearances which the sea presents in various circumstances, will be most likely to escape from the dangers of a storm. So also, in any perplexing affair which we encounter in life, if we have attentively studied the numberless little circumstances that bear upon the case, we shall be more likely to proceed unbarmed, than if we had paid no attention to the subject. Some persons, in critical circumstances, show not only more coolness or presence of mind than others, but have a ready way of devising expedients proper to be adopted. They at once think of and do that which is best in the circumstances. One means of escape or relief failing, they instantly hit upon what is next best. They have, in short, RESOURCE. It is a quality which some may naturally have more than others, but which in all can be cultivated by the proper means.
GASSENDI, THE LITTLE ASTRONOMER. Peter Gassendi, a native of France, was a very wise and learned man. When he was a little boy, about four years of
age, he stood up on a chair, and preached little sermons to his brothers and sisters. As he grew bigger, he was very fond of looking at the mountains and fields, and at the sun, moon, and stars. When he was only seven years of age, he was so fond of looking at the sky by night, that he often rose out of his bed to see the moon and stars moving in the heavens. One evening he was walking with two or three boys and girls about the same age as himself. The full moon was shining in the sky, and a great many thin clouds were flying about before the wind. The children began to dispute among themselves whether it was the moon or the clouds which seemed to move. The other boys and girls said “they were sure that the clouds were still, and that it was the moon which moved.” Peter insisted that the moon had no sensible motion such as they thought, and that it was the clouds which passed so swiftly. But his reasons produced no effect upon the minds of his companions, till he tried the following plan. He took them under a large tree, and bade them look at the moon through the branches. They now saw that the moon seemed to stand still between the same leaves and branches, while the clouds sailed far away out of sight. They were then obliged to admit that Peter was right in what he said, and that they were wrong.
THE INDIAN AND THE STOLEN VENISON.
A North American Indian, upon returning home to his cabin, discovered that his venison, which had been hung up to dry, was stolen. After taking his observations on the spot, he set off in pursuit of the thief, whom tracked through the woods. Meeting with some persons on his route, he inquired if they had seen a little old white man, with a short gun, and accompanied by a small dog with a bob-tail
. They answered in the affirmative: and upon the Indian assuring them that the man thus described had stolen his venison, they desired to be informed how he was able to give so minute a description of a person, whom it appeared he had never seen. The Indian replied: “ The thief, I know, is a little man, by his having made a pile of stones to stand upon, in order to reach the venison from the height at which I hung it, while standing on the ground; that he is an old man, I know by his short steps, which I have traced over the dead leaves in the woods: and that he is a white man, I know by his turning out his toes when he walks—which an Indian never does. His
I know to be short, from the mark which the muzzle made, by rubbing the bark of the tree against which it had leaned; that his dog is small, I know by his track; and that he has a bob-tail, I discovered by the mark it made in the dust, where he was sitting, while his master was busied
THE SHIPWRECKED SAILORS.
THE RATS AND THE EGG.
While the preceding story shows that even a savage Indian can teach us the value of habits of attentive obseroation, the following anecdote of a rat is not less valuable as a lesson in resource, though it refers to what, in a human being, would not be a moral act:
Rats are fond of eggs, and prove very destructive in hen-roosts. When eggs are carried off, it could scarcely be imagined that rats were the depredators, as the animal has no visible means of lifting and removing so large an object. But though, for this reason, they have often escaped suspicion, there can be no doubt that they really do carry off eggs. A farmer in Fifeshire, observing several of them one day about a hen’s nest, stood quite still at a little distance to watch their proceedings. In a short time he saw one of them lay himself down beside an egg, and fold his body round it lengthwise. He took his tail between his teeth, so as to enclose the egg, and hold it firmly. The others then approached, and, seizing him by the neck, dragged him and the egg together out of the hen-house.
TIIE SHIPWRECKED SAILORS. The plant samphire grows on the sea-shore, but always on places which the sea does not cover. The knowledge which an individual had of this fact was once of great use in very dangerous circumstances.
In the month of November 1821, a French merchant vessel was wrecked in a storm, near Beachyhead, on the coast of Sussex. All the men were washed overboard, and only four escaped from the sea by climbing to the top of a heap of rocks which had fallen from the cliff above. It was a very dark night, and they expected every moment to be swallowed up by the waves, when one of them found a plant growing among the rocks, which he knew to be samphire. He also knew that this plant grows beyond the reach of the sea: he and his companions thus ascertained that they were safe. They remained patiently where they were till morning, when they were seen by the people on the cliffs, who immediately came to their assistance.