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1. Did you ever ride in an old-fashioned stage. coach? cramped in your back, cramped in your legs, with a 'crick' in your neck, while you were packed in and strapped in so closely, that it was next to impossible to move a toe or a finger! Was the day hot and dusty, and had the tired horses hill after hill to crawl and climb up? Was some fellowpassenger's knee boring a hole in your back, and did you bump, and thump, and bob about, hour after hour, unable to sleep, and too weary almost to live, till, when you drew up at last to some little country tavern, you didn't care whether you ever got out or not; whether you ever ate, or drank, or laughed again ; whether your trunk was safe, or lost on the road miles back ?
2. Well, if you have not experienced all this, perhaps your father, or mother, or uncle, or aunt has; and they will tell you that it is one of the slow methods in which people used to travel before railroads and cars were invented.
3. 'Ah!' you say, 'but stages were safer than railroad cars!'
Were they? They never tipped over, I suppose, or rolled over into a ditch on a dark night, or had defective wheels, or drunken drivers, or shying horses, or anything of that sort ? And if anybody was very ill, or dying at a distance, they might not have been buried weeks, I suppose, before their friends could reach them?
4. Well, people after a while thought they might travel faster than this, and quite as safely too. George Stephenson, the great Railway engineer, was one of the first who thought this, and he worked hard and long to make it possible. I want to tell you about him, because it seems to me quite beautiful that a poor uneducated boy, as he was, should have brought so great a thing to pass. I rejoice in it, because I love to think that, in our country, our most useful and best men have, many of them, been very poor and humble when young;
and because I want every boy who reads this to feel encouraged to try what he too can do, instead of folding his hands and saying, 'Oh, what's the use ? I was born poor, and I shall die poor; I'm ignorant, and I shall die ignorant. Who cares what becomes of me?' I tell you I care, for one ; and if nobody cared, you ought to care yourself. It is very certain, if you do not care yourself, that nobody can do much for you.
5. Well, George Stephenson was the son of a poor collier in England. He was the second son of six children, for whom their father and mother worked hard to find bread and butter. Little George lived like other working people's children: played about the doors, went birds'-nesting now and then, or on errands into the village. When he grew bigger, he carried his father's dinner to him when at work, or helped to nurse his brothers and sisters at home; for in a poor man's house, you know, every little hand and foot must do something in the way of helping. As to school, none of his friends thought of such a thing ; it was as much as they could do to keep a roof over their heads, and get something to eat and drink.
6. Dewley Burn was the name of the place where the one-roomed cottage stood in which George was born, and nearwhich his father was employed to tend the engine fire near the coal-pit. Robert Stephenson, George's father, was a kind-hearted, pleasant man, You may know that, because all the young people on an evening used to go and sit round his engine fire while he told stories to them ; sometimes about Sinbad the Sailor, sometimes about Robinson Crusoe, and often something which he himself 'made up' to please them. Of course 'Bob's engine fire' was a great place. You can almost see the picture: the bright fire blazing, the rows of bright eyes glistening in the light, some black, some blue, some grey; curly locks and straight locks, slender lads and fat lads ; some with chins on their palms, and elbows on their knees, some flat upon their backs or sides upon the ground; and all believing every word of Bob's stories.'
7. Now you are not to think, because George's father worked as a collier, that he had no love for beautiful things. On the contrary, whenever he got a chance he used to take nice long breezy walks with his little son.
And when George had grown up to be a man, and long after his father's white head was under the sod, George used to speak often of his lifting him up to look into a blackbird's nest, and of the delight and wonder with which he gazed at the little peeping creatures for the first time. I dare say your father and mother can tell you some such little thing which they remember about their childhood's home, which stands out in their memory now, from the rust of years, like a lovely picture, sunny and glowing and untouched by time.
8. Near Dewley Burn lived a widow named Grace Ainslie, who kept a number of cows that used to nibble the grass along the woods. A boy
was needed to watch them, and keep them from being run over by the coal waggons, or straying into the neighbouring fields. To this boy's duty was added that of barring the gates at night, after the coal waggons had passed through.
9. George applied for this place, and, to his great joy, he got it, at twopence a day. It was easy work to loll about on the fresh green grass, and watch the lazy cows as they nibbled or stretched themselves under the trees, chewing and winking hour after hour. George had plenty of time to look for birds' nests, and make whistles out of sticks and straws, and build little mills in the water streams. But if you watched the boy, you would have seen that, when he and his friend Tom got