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ECLECTIC SCHOOL READINGS: STORIES FROM LIFE

A BOOK FOR YOUNG PEOPLE



BY

ORISON SWETT MARDEN



AUTHOR OF "ARCHITECTS OF FATE," "RUSHING TO THE FRONT," "WINNING OUT,"
ETC, AND EDITOR OF "SUCCESS"





PREFACE


To make a life, as well as to make a living, is one of the supreme
objects for which we must all struggle. The sooner we realize what this
means, the greater and more worthy will be the life which we shall make.

In putting together the brief life stories and incidents from great
lives which make up the pages of this little volume, the writer's
object has been to show young people that, no matter how humble their
birth or circumstances, they may make lives that will be held up as
examples to future generations, even as these stories show how boys,
handicapped by poverty and the most discouraging surroundings, yet
succeeded so that they are held up as models to the boys of to-day.

No boy or girl can learn too early in life the value of time and the
opportunities within reach of the humblest children of the twentieth
century to enable them to make of themselves noble men and women.

The stories here presented do not claim to be more than mere outlines
of the subjects chosen, enough to show what brave souls in the past,
souls animated by loyalty to God and to their best selves, were able to
accomplish in spite of obstacles of which the more fortunately born
youths of to-day can have no conception.

It should never be forgotten, however, in the strivings of ambition,
that, while every one should endeavor to raise himself to his highest
power and to attain to as exalted and honorable a position as his
abilities entitle him to, his first object should be to make a noble
life.

The author wishes to acknowledge the assistance of Miss Margaret
Connolly in the preparation of this volume.

O.S.M.





CONTENTS


TO-DAY
"THE MILL BOY OF THE SLASHES"
THE GREEK SLAVE WHO WON THE OLIVE CROWN
TURNING POINTS IN THE LIFE OF A HERO:
I. THE FIRST TURNING POINT
II. A BORN LEADER
III. "FARRAGUT IS THE MAN"
HE AIMED HIGH AND HIT THE MARK
THE EVOLUTION OF A VIOLINIST
THE LESSON OF THE TEAKETTLE
HOW THE ART OF PRINTING WAS DISCOVERED
SEA FEVER AND WHAT IT LED TO
GLADSTONE FOUND TIME TO BE KIND
A TRIBUNE OF THE PEOPLE
THE MIGHT OF PATIENCE
THE INSPIRATION OF GAMBETTA
ANDREW JACKSON: THE BOY WHO "NEVER WOULD GIVE UP"
SIR HUMPHRY DAVY'S GREATEST DISCOVERY, MICHAEL FARADAY
THE TRIUMPH OF CANOVA
FRANKLIN'S LESSON ON TIME VALUE
FROM STORE BOY TO MILLIONAIRE
"I WILL PAINT OR DIE!"
THE CALL THAT SPEAKS IN THE BLOOD
WASHINGTON'S YOUTHFUL HEROISM
A COW HIS CAPITAL
THE BOY WHO SAID "I MUST"
THE HIDDEN TREASURE
LOVE TAMED THE LION
"THERE IS ROOM ENOUGH AT THE TOP"
THE UPLIFT OF A SLAVE BOY'S IDEAL
"TO THE FIRST ROBIN"
THE "WIZARD" AS AN EDITOR
HOW GOOD FORTUNE CAME TO PIERRE
"IF I REST, I RUST"
A BOY WHO KNEW NOT FEAR
HOW STANLEY FOUND LIVINGSTONE
THE NESTOR OF AMERICAN JOURNALISTS
THE MAN WITH AN IDEA
"BERNARD OF THE TUILERIES"
HOW THE "LEARNED BLACKSMITH" FOUND TIME
THE LEGEND OF WILLIAM TELL
"WESTWARD HO!"
THREE GREAT AMERICAN SONGS AND THEIR AUTHORS
I. THE STAR-SPANGLED BANNER
II. AMERICA
III. THE BATTLE HYMN OF THE REPUBLIC
TRAINING FOR GREATNESS
THE MARBLE WAITETH





STORIES FROM LIFE




TO-DAY

For the structure that we raise,
Time is with materials filled;
Our to-days and yesterdays
Are the blocks with which we build.

Longfellow.


To-day! To-day! It is ours, with all its magic possibilities of being
and doing. Yesterday, with its mistakes, misdeeds, lost opportunities,
and failures, is gone forever. With the morrow we are not immediately
concerned. It is but a promise yet to be fulfilled. Hidden behind the
veil of the future, it may dimly beckon us, but it is yet a shadowy,
unsubstantial vision, one that we, perhaps, never may realize. But
to-day, the Here, the Now, that dawned upon us with the first hour of
the morn, is a reality, a precious possession upon the right use of
which may depend all our future of happiness and success, or of misery
and failure; for

"This day we fashion Destiny, our web of Fate we spin."

Lest he should forget that Time's wings are swift and noiseless, and so
rapidly bear our to-days to the Land of Yesterday, John Ruskin,
philosopher, philanthropist, and tireless worker though he was, kept
constantly before his eyes on his study table a large, handsome block
of chalcedony, on which was graven the single word "To-day." Every
moment of this noble life was enriched by the right use of each passing
moment.

A successful merchant, whose name is well-known throughout our country,
very tersely sums up the means by which true success may be attained.
"It is just this," he says: "Do your best every day, whatever you have
in hand."

This simple rule, if followed in sunshine and in storm, in days of
sadness as well as days of gladness, will rear for the builder a Palace
Beautiful more precious than pearls of great price, more enduring than
time.




"THE MILL BOY OF THE SLASHES"


A picturesque, as well as pathetic figure, was Henry Clay, the little
"Mill Boy of the Slashes," as he rode along on the old family horse to
Mrs. Darricott's mill. Blue-eyed, rosy-cheeked, and bare-footed,
clothed in coarse shirt and trousers, and a time-worn straw hat, he sat
erect on the bare back of the horse, holding, with firm hand, the rope
which did duty as a bridle. In front of him lay the precious sack,
containing the grist which was to be ground into meal or flour, to feed
the hungry mouths of the seven little boys and girls who, with the
widowed mother, made up the Clay family.

It required a good deal of grist to feed so large a family, especially
when hoecake was the staple food, and it was because of his frequent
trips to the mill, across the swampy region called the "Slashes," that
Henry was dubbed by the neighbors "The Mill Boy of the Slashes."

The lad was ambitious, however, and, very early in life, made up his
mind that he would win for himself a more imposing title. He never
dreamed of winning world-wide renown as an orator, or of exchanging his
boyish sobriquet for "The Orator of Ashland." But he who forms high
ideals in youth usually far outstrips his first ambition, and Henry had
"hitched his wagon to a star."

This awkward country boy, who was so bashful, and so lacking in
self-confidence that he hardly dared recite before his class in the log
schoolhouse, DETERMINED TO BECOME AN ORATOR.

Henry Clay, the brilliant lawyer and statesman, the American
Demosthenes who could sway multitudes by his matchless oratory, once
said, "In order to succeed a man must have a purpose fixed, then let
his motto be VICTORY OR DEATH." When Henry Clay, the poor country boy,
son of an unknown Baptist minister, made up his mind to become an
orator, he acted on this principle. No discouragement or obstacle was
allowed to swerve him from his purpose. Since the death of his father,
when the boy was but five years old, he had carried grist to the mill,
chopped wood, followed the plow barefooted, clerked in a country
store, - did everything that a loving son and brother could do to help
win a subsistence for the family.

In the midst of poverty, hard work, and the most pitilessly unfavorable
conditions, the youth clung to his resolve. He learned what he could at
the country schoolhouse, during the time the duties of the farm
permitted him to attend school. He committed speeches to memory, and
recited them aloud, sometimes in the forest, sometimes while working in
the cornfield, and frequently in a barn with a horse and an ox for his
audience.

In his fifteenth year he left the grocery store where he had been
clerking to take a position in the office of the clerk of the High
Court of Chancery. There he became interested in law, and by reading
and study began at once to supplement the scanty education of his
childhood. To such good purpose did he use his opportunities that in
1797, when only twenty years old, he was licensed by the judges of the
court of appeals to practice law.

When he moved from Richmond to Lexington, Kentucky, the same year to
begin practice for himself, he had no influential friends, no patrons,
and not even the means to pay his board. Referring to this time years
afterward, he said, "I remember how comfortable I thought I should be
if I could make one hundred pounds Virginia money (less than five
hundred dollars) per year; and with what delight I received the first
fifteen-shilling fee."

Contrary to his expectations, the young lawyer had "immediately rushed
into a lucrative practice." At the age of twenty-seven he was elected
to the Kentucky legislature. Two years later he was sent to the United
States Senate to fill out the remainder of the term of a senator who
had withdrawn. In 1811 he was elected to Congress, and made Speaker of
the national House of Representatives. He was afterward elected to the
United States Senate in the regular way.

Both in Congress and in the Senate Clay always worked for what he
believed to be the best interests of his country. Ambition, which so
often causes men to turn aside from the paths of truth and honor, had
no power to tempt him to do wrong. He was ambitious to be president,
but would not sacrifice any of his convictions for the sake of being
elected. Although he was nominated by his party three times, he never
became president. It was when warned by a friend that if he persisted
in a certain course of political conduct he would injure his prospects
of being elected, that he made his famous statement, "I would rather be
right than be president."

Clay has been described by one of his biographers as "a brilliant
orator, an honest man, a charming gentleman, an ardent patriot, and a
leader whose popularity was equaled only by that of Andrew Jackson."

Although born in a state in which wealth and ancient ancestry were
highly rated, he was never ashamed of his birth or poverty. Once when
taunted by the aristocratic John Randolph with his lowly origin, he
proudly exclaimed, "I was born to no proud paternal estate. I inherited
only infancy, ignorance, and indigence."

He was born in Hanover County, Virginia, on April 12, 1777, and died in
Washington, June 29, 1852. With only the humble inheritance which he
claimed - "infancy, ignorance, and indigence" - Henry Clay made himself a
name that wealth and a long line of ancestry could never bestow.




THE GREEK SLAVE WHO WON THE OLIVE CROWN


The teeming life of the streets has vanished; the voices of the
children have died away into silence; the artisan has dropped his
tools, the artist has laid aside his brush, the sculptor his chisel.
Night has spread her wings over the scene. The queen city of Greece is
wrapped in slumber.

But, in the midst of that hushed life, there is one who sleeps not, a
worshiper at the shrine of art, who feels neither fatigue nor hardship,
and fears not death itself in the pursuit of his object. With the fire
of genius burning in his dark eyes, a youth works with feverish haste
on a group of wondrous beauty.

But why is this master artist at work, in secret, in a cellar where the
sun never shone, the daylight never entered? I will tell you. Creon,
the inspired worker, the son of genius, is a slave, and the penalty of
pursuing his art is death.

When the Athenian law debarring all but freemen from the exercise of
art was enacted, Creon was at work trying to realize in marble the
vision his soul had created. The beautiful group was growing into life
under his magic touch when the cruel edict struck the chisel from his
fingers.

"O ye gods!" groans the stricken youth, "why have ye deserted me, now,
when my task is almost completed? I have thrown my soul, my very life,
into this block of marble, and now - "

Cleone, the beautiful dark-haired sister of the sculptor, felt the blow
as keenly as her brother, to whom she was utterly devoted. "O immortal
Athene! my goddess, my patron, at whose shrine I have daily laid my
offerings, be now my friend, the friend of my brother!" she prayed.

Then, with the light of a new-born resolve shining in her eyes, she
turned to her brother, saying: -

"The thought of your brain shall live. Let us go to the cellar beneath
our house. It is dark, but I will bring you light and food, and no one
will discover our secret. You can there continue your work; the gods
will be our allies."

It is the golden age of Pericles, the most brilliant epoch of Grecian
art and dramatic literature.

The scene is one of the most memorable that has ever been enacted
within the proud city of Athens.

In the Agora, the public assembly or market place, are gathered
together the wisdom and wit, the genius and beauty, the glory and
power, of all Greece.

Enthroned in regal state sits Pericles, president of the assembly,
soldier, statesman, orator, ruler, and "sole master of Athens." By his
side sits his beautiful partner, the learned and queenly Aspasia.
Phidias, one of the greatest sculptors, if not the greatest the world
has known, who "formed a new style characterized by sublimity and ideal
beauty," is there. Near him is Sophocles, the greatest of the tragic
poets. Yonder we catch a glimpse of a face and form that offers the
most striking contrast to the manly beauty of the poet, but whose
wisdom and virtue have brought Athens to his feet. It is the "father of
philosophy," Socrates. With his arm linked in that of the philosopher,
we see - but why prolong the list? All Greece has been bidden to Athens
to view the works of art.

The works of the great masters are there. On every side paintings and
statues, marvelous in detail, exquisite in finish, challenge the
admiration of the crowd and the criticism of the rival artists and
connoisseurs who throng the place. But even in the midst of
masterpieces, one group of statuary so far surpasses all the others
that it rivets the attention of the vast assembly.

"Who is the sculptor of this group?" demands Pericles. Envious artists
look from one to the other with questioning eyes, but the question
remains unanswered. No triumphant sculptor comes forward to claim the
wondrous creation as the work of his brain and hand. Heralds, in
thunder tones, repeat, "Who is the sculptor of this group?" No one can
tell. It is a mystery. Is it the work of the gods? or - and, with bated
breath, the question passes from lip to lip, "Can it have been
fashioned by the hand of a slave?"

Suddenly a disturbance arises at the edge of the crowd. Loud voices are
heard, and anon the trembling tones of a woman. Pushing their way
through the concourse, two officers drag a shrinking girl, with dark,
frightened eyes, to the feet of Pericles. "This woman," they cry,
"knows the sculptor; we are sure of this; but she will not tell his
name."

Neither threats nor pleading can unlock the lips of the brave girl. Not
even when informed that the penalty of her conduct was death would she
divulge her secret. "The law," says Pericles, "is imperative. Take the
maid to the dungeon."

Creon, who, with his sister, had been among the first to find his way
to the Agora that morning, rushed forward, and, flinging himself at the
ruler's feet, cried "O Pericles! forgive and save the maid. She is my
sister. I am the culprit. The group is the work of my hands, the hands
of a slave."

An intense silence fell upon the multitude, and then went up a mighty
shout, - "To the dungeon, to the dungeon with the slave."

"As I live, no!" said Pericles, rising. "Not to the dungeon, but to my
side bring the youth. The highest purpose of the law should be the
development of the beautiful. The gods decide by that group that there
is something higher in Greece than an unjust law. To the sculptor who
fashioned it give the victor's crown."

And then, amid the applause of all the people, Aspasia placed the crown
of olives on the youth's brow, and tenderly kissed the devoted sister
who had been the right hand of genius.




TURNING POINTS IN THE LIFE OF A HERO

I. THE FIRST TURNING POINT


David Farragut was acting as cabin boy to his father, who was on his
way to New Orleans with the infant navy of the United States. The boy
thought he had the qualities that make a man. "I could swear like an
old salt," he says, "could drink as stiff a glass of grog as if I had
doubled Cape Horn, and could smoke like a locomotive. I was great at
cards, and was fond of gambling in every shape. At the close of dinner
one day," he continues, "my father turned everybody out of the cabin,
locked the door, and said to me, 'David, what do you mean to be?'

"'I mean to follow the sea,' I said.

"'Follow the sea!' exclaimed father, 'yes, be a poor, miserable,
drunken sailor before the mast, kicked and cuffed about the world, and
die in some fever hospital in a foreign clime!'

"'No, father,' I replied, 'I will tread the quarterdeck, and command as
you do.'

"'No, David; no boy ever trod the quarterdeck with such principles as
you have and such habits as you exhibit. You will have to change your
whole course of life if you ever become a man.'

"My father left me and went on deck. I was stunned by the rebuke, and
overwhelmed with mortification. 'A poor, miserable, drunken sailor
before the mast, kicked and cuffed about the world, and die in some
fever hospital!' 'That's my fate, is it? I'll change my life, and _I_
WILL CHANGE IT AT ONCE. I will never utter another oath, never drink
another drop of intoxicating liquor, never gamble,' and, as God is my
witness," said the admiral, solemnly, "I have kept these three vows to
this hour."




II. A BORN LEADER


The event which proved David Glasgow Farragut's qualities as a leader
happened before he was thirteen.

He was with his adopted father, Captain Porter, on board the Essex,
when war was declared with England in 1812. A number of prizes were
captured by the Essex, and David was ordered by Captain Porter to take
one of the captured vessels, with her commander as navigator, to
Valparaiso. Although inwardly quailing before the violent-tempered old
captain of the prize ship, of whom, as he afterward confessed, he was
really "a little afraid," the boy assumed the command with a fearless
air.

On giving his first order, that the "main topsail be filled away," the
trouble began. The old captain, furious at hearing a command given
aboard his vessel by a boy not yet in his teens, replied to the order,
with an oath, that he would shoot any one who dared touch a rope
without his orders. Having delivered this mandate, he rushed below for
his pistols.

The situation was critical. If the young commander hesitated for a
moment, or showed the least sign of submitting to be bullied, his
authority would instantly have fallen from him. Boy as he was, David
realized this, and, calling one of the crew to him, explained what had
taken place, and repeated his order. With a hearty "Aye, aye, sir!" the
sailor flew to the ropes, while the plucky midshipman called down to
the captain that "if he came on deck with his pistols, he would be
thrown overboard."

David's victory was complete. During the remainder of the voyage none
dared dispute his authority. Indeed his coolness and promptitude had
won for him the lasting admiration of the crew.




III. "FARRAGUT IS THE MAN"


The great turning point which placed Farragut at the head of the
American navy was reached in 1861, when Virginia seceded from the
Union, and he had to choose between the cause of the North and that of
the South. He dearly loved his native South, and said, "God forbid that
I should have to raise my hand against her," but he determined, come
what would, to "stick to the flag."

So it came about that when, in order to secure the control of the
Mississippi, the national government resolved upon the capture of New
Orleans, Farragut was chosen to lead the undertaking. Several officers,
noted for their loyalty, good judgment, and daring, were suggested, but
the Secretary of the Navy said, "Farragut is the man."

The opportunity for which all his previous noble life and brilliant
services had been a preparation came to him when he was sixty-one years
old. The command laid upon him was "the certain capture of the city of
New Orleans." "The department and the country," so ran his
instructions, "require of you success. ... If successful, you open the
way to the sea for the great West, never again to be closed. The
rebellion will be riven in the center, and the flag, to which you have
been so faithful, will recover its supremacy in every state."

On January 9, 1862, Farragut was appointed to the command of the
western gulf blockading squadron. "On February 2," says the National
Cyclopedia of American Biograph, "he sailed on the steam sloop Hartford
from Hampton Roads, arriving at the appointed rendezvous, Ship Island,
in sixteen days. His fleet, consisting of six war steamers, sixteen
gunboats, twenty-one mortar vessels, under the command of Commodore
David D. Porter, and five supply ships, was the largest that had ever
sailed under the American flag. Yet the task assigned him, the passing
of the forts below New Orleans, the capture of the city, and the
opening of the Mississippi River through its entire length was one of
difficulty unprecedented in the history of naval warfare."

Danger or death had no terror for the brave sailor. Before setting out
on his hazardous enterprise, he said: "If I die in the attempt, it will
only be what every officer has to expect. He who dies in doing his duty
to his country, and at peace with his God, has played the drama of life
to the best advantage."

The hero did not die. He fought and won the great battle, and thus
executed the command laid upon him, - "the certain capture of the city
of New Orleans." The victory was accomplished with the loss of but one
ship, and 184 men killed and wounded, - "a feat in naval warfare," says
his son and biographer, "which has no precedent, and which is still
without a parallel, except the one furnished by Farragut himself, two
years later, at Mobile."




HE AIMED HIGH AND HIT THE MARK

"Without vision the people perish"


Without a high ideal an individual never climbs. Keep your eyes on the
mountain top, and, though you may stumble and fall many times in the
ascent, though great bowlders, dense forests, and roaring torrents may
often bar the way, look right on, never losing sight of the light which
shines away up in the clear atmosphere of the mountain peak, and you
will ultimately reach your goal.

When the late Horace Maynard, LL.D., entered Amherst College, he
exposed himself to the ridicule and jibing questions of his
fellow-students by placing over the door of his room a large square of
white cardboard on which was inscribed in bold outlines the single
letter "V." Disregarding comment and question, the young man applied
himself to his work, ever keeping in mind the height to which he wished
to climb, the first step toward which was signified by the mysterious
"V."

Four years later, after receiving the compliments of professors and
students on the way he had acquitted himself as valedictorian of his
class, young Maynard called the attention of his fellow-graduates to
the letter over his door. Then a light broke in upon them, and they
cried out, "Is it possible that you had the valedictory in mind when
you put that 'V' over your door?"

"Assuredly I had," was the emphatic reply.

On he climbed, from height to height, becoming successively professor
of mathematics in the University of Tennessee, lawyer, member of
Congress, attorney-general of Tennessee, United States minister to
Constantinople, and, finally, postmaster-general.

Honorable ambition is the leaven that raises the whole mass of mankind.
Ideals, visions, are the stepping-stones by which we rise to higher
things.

"Still, through our paltry stir and strife,
Glows down the wished ideal,
And longing molds in clay what life
Carves in the marble real;

"To let the new life in, we know,
Desire must ope the portal, -
Perhaps the longing to be so
Helps make the soul immortal."




THE EVOLUTION OF A VIOLINIST


He was a famous artist whom kings and queens and emperors delighted to


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Online LibraryOrison Swett MardenEclectic School Readings: Stories from Life → online text (page 1 of 12)