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THE PAINTER'S SERVANT. Sir James Thornhill
, a distinguished painter, was employed in decorating the interior of the dome of St Paul's Cathedral
. One day, to observe the effect of a certain part of his work, he moved backwards from it along the scaffolding, until he had reached the very edge; another step would have dashed him to pieces on the pavement below. His servant at this moment observed his danger, and in an instant threw a pot of paint at the picture. Sir James immediately rushed forward to chastise the man for his apparently unjustifiable act, but when the reason was explained, could not give him sufficient thanks, or sufficiently admire his ready ingenuity. Had the servant called out to apprise him of his danger, he would have probably lost his footing and been killed. The only means of saving him was to create a motive for his voluntarily returning from the edge of the scaffold. For this purpose an injury to the painting was a good means. All these calculations, and the act itself, were the work of an instant, for this servant possessed the inestimable qualities of presence of mind and resource.
THE SAILOR BOY OF CARRON.
In the month of October 1811, the sloop Fame of Carron, in Stirlingshire, was captured by a French privateer, off the coast of Northumberland. The crew were transferred to the French vessel to be carried off as prisoners to France, with the exception of an old man and a boy, who were left on board, with six Frenchmen, to steer the vessel to a French port. Soon after the sloop had parted with the privateer, she was overtaken by a severe storm, which drove her to the mouth of the Firth of Forth, with the navigation of which the Frenchmen, as well as the old man, were unacquainted. The night being dark, and oil and candles being expended or thrown overboard, the compass was useless. The men, in despair, allowed the vessel to go before the wind. The boy, who was only thirteen years of age, had made one or two voyages before, and had observed something of the neighbouring coasts and islands. He
recognised the peculiar beacon-light on the island of Inchkeith, which lies in the middle of the Firth. He took the helm, and steered accordingly, till he got the vessel to St Margaret's Hope, where he knew there was a British manof-war. On approaching that vessel, he called to its crew to send a party on board, as he had six prisoners to deliver. The Frenchmen, intimidated, and glad to be saved from the storm, made no effort to escape. When the party came from the war-vessel, they actually found the six Frenchmen already made prisoners by the boy, who had gathered all their arms beside him. The ship and cargo were saved for the owners.
There is need of a sprightly and vigilant mind to discern and lay hold on favourable junctures ; a man must look before him, descry opportunities at a distance, keep his eye constantly upon them, observe all the motions they make towards him, make himself ready for their approach, and when he sees his time, lay fast hold, and not let go again, till he has done that which he aimed at doing.–CHARRON.
WHEN any one praises himself, or speaks much of himself, or lets it in any way be seen that he stands high in his own esteem, he is sure to be laughed at. We ought both to feel, and to appear to feel, humbly about ourselves, and even when others praise us, we should receive their approbation with humility. All good qualities are justly held to be set off and improved by modesty, while even the best qualities will be despised if they be shown in a boastful spirit. We shall be still more ridiculous, if we pretend to knowledge, worth, or rank, which we do not possess. Such pretensions are easily detected, and then every one despises the pretender more than if he had been supposed to want those qualities altogether.
We ought also to check the disposition to think too highly of our own opinions, and too humbly of those of
other persons. Our neighbours may think rightly, though their opinions should appear to us absurd; and our own opinions may be wrong, though to us they appear right. Each man is but one out of millions, all of whom have their own peculiar opinions, and all of whom are as much entitled to think themselves right as he. It is a great point for any one to attain—to know, and act as if he knew, that he may possibly be wrong.
THE JACKDAW IN BORROWED FEATHERS: A FABLE.
A jackdaw was vain enough to imagine that he wanted nothing but the dress to render him as elegant a bird as the peacock. Puffed up with this wise conceit, he plumed himself with a sufficient quantity of their most beautiful feathers, and in this borrowed garb, forsaking his old companions, endeavoured to pass for a peacock. But he no sooner attempted to associate with those genteel creatures, than an affected strut betrayed the vain pretender. The offended peacocks, plucking from him their degraded feathers, soon stripped him of his gentility, reduced him to a mere jackdaw, and drove him back to his brethren, by whom he was now equally despised, and justly punished with general derision and disdain.
SIR ISAAC NEWTON. Men of great learning and talent, whom all people admire and praise, are often found to be more modest than persons of inferior qualities. Sir Isaac Newton, the eminent philosopher, was one of those great, and, at the same time, modest
When a little boy at school, he surprised every body by the curious little machines which he made with his hands. He had a number of saws, hatchets, hammers, and other tools, which he used very cleverly. A windmill being put up near the place where he lived, he frequently went to look at it, and pried into every part of it, till he became thoroughly acquainted with it, and the way in which it moved. He then began with his knife, and saws, and hammer, and made a small windmill, exactly like the large one: it was
a very neat and curious piece of workmanship. He sometimes set it upon the house-top, that the wind might turn it round. He also contrived to cause a mouse to turn his mill. This little animal being put into it, he pulled its tail slightly with a string, which caused it to go forward, and thus the wheels were set to work. There was also some corn placed above the wheel, and when the mouse tried to get at the corn, it made the mill go round.
Having got an old box from a friend, he made it into a water-clock—that is, a clock driven by a small fall of water. It was very like our common clocks, but much less, being only about four feet high. There was a dial-plate at top, with figures of the hours. The hour-hand was turned by a piece of wood, which either fell or rose by water dropping upon it. This stood in the room where he lay, and he took care, every morning, to supply it with plenty of water. It pointed out the hours so well
, that the people in the house would go to see what was the hour by it. It was kept in the house as a curiosity long after Isaac went to the college. The room in which Isaac lodged was full of drawings of birds, beasts, men, ships, and figures of geometry, which he made upon the wall with charcoal, and all neatly drawn.
When Isaac grew a little older, and went to college, he had a great desire to know something about the air, the water, the tides, and the sun, moon, and stars. One day, when he was sitting alone in his garden, an apple happened to fall from a tree to the ground. He then began to ask himself, what is the cause of the apple falling down? Is it from some power or force in the apple itself
, or is the power in the earth which draws the apple down? When he had long thought about this subject, he found out that it was the earth that attracted, or drew the apple down, and that this power of attraction is one of the laws of nature. By it, loose objects are retained upon the surface of the earth, instead of flying abroad through space.
It is attraction which gives weight to objects; and hence it is sometimes called gravitation, which means nearly the same thing as weight. Isaac Newton also discovered that all objects whatever have an attraction for each other, and always in proportion to their size and the distance at which they are
placed. Thus the moon, though a large globe, is under the attraction of the earth, and the planets are under the attraction of the sun. And it is by attraction they are all made to keep their proper distances from each other. These discoveries were justly considered as among the most important ever made; and reflecting men will ever venerate the name of Newton for his having made them.
Isaac Newton was also the first who showed that every ray of white light from the sun consists of seven different colours, and he made known many other curious and wonderful things which were never known before. He was of a mild and equal temper, and was seldom or never seen in a passion. He had a little dog, which he called Diamond. He was one day called out of his study, where all his papers and writings were lying on a table. His dog Diamond happened to jump upon the table, and overturned a lighted candle, which set fire to all his papers, and consumed them in a few moments. In this way he lost the labours of many years. But when he came into his study, and saw what had happened, he did not strike the little dog, but only said, “ Ah, Diamond, Diamond! thou little knowest the mischief thou hast done!" Though Isaac Newton was a very wise and learned man, he was not proud of his learning, but was very meek and humble. He was kind to all, even to the poorest and meanest men. Though he was wiser than most other men, yet he said, a little before he died, that all his knowledge was as nothing when compared with what he had yet to learn. He was sometimes so much engaged in thinking, that his dinner has been often three hours ready for him, before he could be brought to table. He died in the year 1727, at the age of eighty-five.
THE BOASTFUL SCHOLAR.
Professor Porson, who was a very
of somewhat odd character and appearance, was once travelling in a stage-coach, along with several persons who did not know who he was. A
young student, from Oxford, amused the ladies with a variety of talk, and amongst other things, with a quotation, as he said, from Sophocles. A Greek quota