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the peril it had been in, and for the nearness unto God into which the danger had brought them. And the holiday next day—was it not a thanksgiving day?


1. A YOUNG man named Coleridge, who afterwards became a celebrated poet, was once upon a time walking in the English lake district, when he saw a postman stop at a cottage door and deliver a letter to a woman, who took it eagerly, examined it all over carefully, and handed it back to the postman with a sigh. Alas! she had not money enough to pay the heavy charge of postage which in those days had to be borne by the receivers of letters.

2. Coleridge stepped forward and questioned the woman.

She told him that the letter was from her brother, who had gone into another part of England to seek his fortune, but as she could not spare a shilling, the letter must go back unopened. Touched by the story, Coleridge paid the shilling, but when the postman had gone, the woman ex... plained to him that there was no occasion for his liberality, as she could tell the contents of the letter without opening it. The brother and sister had contrived a plan by which they could communicate without expense, using the Post Office all

the same.

The letter contained a blank sheet of paper, and this she could see by examining the thin envelope carefully. As long as he had good news, the brother continued to send the blank sheet once a quarter, and as the postage was collected on delivery there was no need for the sister to do more than examine the letter and return it, pleading poverty. Thus the Post Office was unconsciously bearing intelligence from brother to sister free of charge.

3. This story reached the ears of a gentleman named Hill. Most people would have been content to admire or condemn the trick practised on the Post Office. It was a deception, and therefore, although clever, it was wrong. But Mr. Hill was of opinion that in a country like England it ought to have been possible for a brother to write to a sister at a less charge than a shilling. The story remained in his mind; he turned the subject over, and the more he thought of it the more convinced was he that the Post Office needed reform. People who do not think have a vague notion that the great discoveries of science and the improvements which add to our comfort and happiness are as much due to happy thoughts as to anything else. But this is by no means the case, for all the men who have done great work in the world, and who have made their names famous, began to think for themselves early in life.

4. Rowland Hill was born on December 3, 1795, at Kidderminster, where his forefathers had lived

for many generations. The family was poor; for his father, who had inherited a good business, had been ruined by the war with France.

As he was a clever man, he opened a school, and at the age of

, twelve, young Rowland began to help his father by teaching. When he was old enough, he took the entire charge of the school, and governed it with great success. After some years he moved his school to the neighbourhood of London, where he remained till the year 1833, when his health broke down from hard work. He had to give up teaching, and after an interval of rest he was appointed secretary to an Australian company.

5. It was at this time that his thoughts were directed, by the story I have told you, to the question of the charges made for conveying letters. We can hardly understand now how such absurd charges could be made, or how people could have endured them so long. A letter from London to Brighton cost eightpence; to Edinburgh, one shilling and three halfpence. Two separate pieces of paper enclosed in an envelope, however thin they might be, were charged double these rates, although you might write as long a letter as you pleased, provided you used only one sheet of paper. Members of Parliament had the privilege of franking (or sending free of charge) a certain number of their own and their friends' letters; which was done by the member writing his name on the outside. The poor could not pay, and could seldom get their ļetters franked, so they often had to wait for news

of distant friends until it slowly came to them through travellers, or by some other means than the post. Besides all this, there was a department in the Post Office where letters were opened and examined.

6. This system had continued for many years. At length Rowland Hill brought the powers of his mind to bear on the subject, and the old-fashioned Post Office suddenly became young, vigorous, and useful.

After long and patient study he discovered the astonishing fact that the average cost of conveying a letter from London to Edinburgh was less than a penny, in fact, only the thirty-sixth part of a penny. This was the grand discovery which changed everything ; this was the argument which overcame all objection, and, as far as letters are concerned, gave the poor man the same rights and privileges as the peer. The present penny postage was introduced on the oth of January, 1840, and proved a boon to the entire civilised world.

7. It was only natural that at first people inside the Post Office should look on Rowland Hill and his fancies with suspicion. And yet he lived to prove the truth of all his statements, and the worth of his ideas. In the year 1879 one thousand five hundred millions of letters passed through the Post Office, or nearly twenty times as many as were posted in 1839, the last year of the dear postage.

8. We need not follow Mr. Hill's career very closely after this. He was appointed by the Government to superintend the carrying out of his plans, but he was not well treated by those who willingly used his ability, but were slow to regard it at its proper worth. Indeed, after two years he was dismissed from his post, but he was so much honoured by the people, that he obtained it again four years afterwards.

9. He continued his work for many years longer, and then, having given the best part of his life and the best efforts of his mind to his country, he retired in 1864 full of honours, to enjoy a wellearned repose. The Queen had made him Knight Commander of the Bath four years before, by which he became Sir Rowland Hill. A very few weeks before his death he was presented with the freedom of the City of London in a golden casket, which bore devices of his great triumph. The old man shed tears of genuine pleasure at so touching and beautiful a proof of public gratitude. His strength was for some time failing ; he suffered much, but was patient and resigned through it all. He breathed his last on August 27, 1879, and was buried in Westminster Abbey.

Adapted from the Boy's Own Paper, by

permission of the Religious Tract Society.

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