James Baldwin.

Fifty famous people, a book of short stories online

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ONE of the best things to be said of the stories in
this volume is that, although they are not biographi
cal, 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 prov
ing 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 . . . . . . . . 7

ANOTHER BIRD STORY . . . . . . .11



THE WHISTLE . . . ... . . . .21



"BECOS! BECOS! BECOS!" .... . 31


THE MIDNIGHT RIDE . . . . . . . .37


ANOTHER WOLF STORY . . . . . . .47

THE HORSESHOE NAILS . . . . . f . 51

THE LANDLORD S MISTAKE . . . . . . .54

A LESSON IN MANNERS . . . .... 57

GOING TO SEA . . . . . , .60


Two GREAT PAINTERS . . . . f . .66

THE KING AND THE BEES . . . . . - . .67







6 Contents


" READ AND You WILL KNOW "... .89




A LESSON IN JUSTICE . " . . . .- . .101

THE GENERAL AND THE Fox ... . . . 104

THE BOMB . ... 107

A STORY OF OLD ROME . . . . . .... . 108

SAVED BY A DOLPHIN . . ... . . 113


A CLEVER SLAVE ........ . 121

THE DARK DAY ..... ... 124


THE STORY OF A GREAT STORY . . . . . . 130


THE HUNTED KING . . . ..... .138

" TRY, TRY AGAIN ! " . . . . . .142





THE LOVER OF MEN ....... . 162


WHICH WAS THE KING ? . . . . . . 17,5




ONE day in spring four men were riding on horse
back 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

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.


8 Abraham Lincoln

"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

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

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,"

Saving the Birds

Then he looked up to find the nest from which they
had fallen. It was high, much higher than he could

10 Abraham Lincoln

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.

Another Bird Story 11

"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.


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."


Robert E. Lee

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

Another Bird Story 13

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."

14 Edward Everett


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 min-

Speaking a Piece


ister. 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

16 Edward Everett

him. The teacher will soon ask him to speak a piec<
at school, and I am sure that he can learn this easib
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 hopi
that when you grow up you will become a wise man an<
a great orator."

Then the two children hurried on to school.

The speech was not hard to learn, and Edward sooi
knew every word of it. When the time came for hin
to speak, his mother and the minister were both then
to hear him.

He spoke so well that everybody was pleased. Hi
pronounced every word plainly, as though he were talk
ing 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,

Speaking a Piece 17

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.


18 Henry W. Longfellow


"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

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

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.

Writing a Composition 19

"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

"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. To
morrow you may stand up before the school and read
what you have written about the turnip."

20 Henry W. Longfellow

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 Long
fellow 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 ;

The Whistle 21

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
Henr^ 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

"And then will you give me more?" he asked.

22 Benjamin Franklin

His mother shook her head and said: "No, Benja
min. 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."

The Whistle 23

"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."

"Oh, Benjamin!"

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."

24 James Hogg

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/


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

The Ettrick Shepherd 25

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


James Hogg

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.

The Ettrick Shepherd 27

"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

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. When
ever 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

28 James Hogg

He loved poetry and soon began to write poems of his
own. These poems were read and admired by many

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

Many of his poems are still read and loved by children
as well as by grown up men and women. Here is one :


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,

The Caliph and the Poet 29

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.


ONCE upon a time there was a famous Arab 1 whose
name was Al Mansur. He was the ruler of all the
Arabs, and was therefore called the caliph. 2

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 3 came to the
caliph and recited a long poem. When he had finished,
he bowed, and waited, hoping that he would be re

"Which would you rather have," asked the caliph,

Ar ab. * Caliph (pronounced ka lif ). Thai iT>t

30 Al Mansur

"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 wis
dom 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 hun
dred 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

"Worse and worse!" groaned the poor poet.
"There go the second hundred. What shall I

"Wait, and I will tell you," said the caliph ; and he
smiled again. "My third wise saying is -

"0 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

Becos ! Becos ! Becos ! 31

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 beau
tiful city called Bagdad.


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 be
lieved that they were the first and oldest of all nations.

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Online LibraryJames BaldwinFifty famous people, a book of short stories → online text (page 1 of 8)