Slike strani

"We will see about that," replied Benjamin, with coolness, but determination.

[ocr errors]

'Yes we will see," chimed in a resolute voice.

"And after all your seeing and blustering I shall not do it," added Benjamin, in a tone that indicated he meant what he said.

"Ben is right," interrupted Mr. Watts, who had listened to the colloquy; "he has met that condition once in the press-room, and he will not be required to repeat it. I forbid his doing it."

"It is a very foolish custom any way," said Benjamin, "and the sooner it is abandoned in England or anywhere else the better."

After all he did not carry his point. His own words about the affair were as follows::-

"I stood out two or three weeks, was accordingly considered as an excommunicate, and had so many little pieces of private malice practised on me, by mixing my sorts, transposing and breaking my matter, etc., etc., if ever I stepped out of the room, and all ascribed to the chapel ghost, which they said ever haunted those not regularly admitted, that, notwithstanding the master's protection, I found myself obliged to comply and pay the money; convinced of the folly of being on ill terms with those one is to live with continually."

Benjamin kept up the fight against beer-drinking until he fairly conquered. One after another yielded to his example and arguments, and abandoned the old habit of swilling down beer, until a thorough reformation was wrought in the printing office. The strength, health, tact, and enterprise, of the "water-drinker" convinced them that he was right. The title, "Our water-drinker," bandied about the printing house came to be really an appellation of esteem.

The printing press, on which Benjamin worked at Watts' printing house, is now in the Patent Office at Washington, where many visitors go to see it. Forty years after he worked

on it, Franklin was in London, where his fame was greater than that of any other man, and he called at the old printing house, and going up to the familiar press, he said to the employés :

"It is just forty years since I worked at this press, as you are working now."

The announcement rather startled them. That a public man of so much fame should ever have even served in a printing office as they were serving, was almost too much for them to believe.



E have seen that James Ralph and Benjamin

WE parted company. Ralph had more brains than

heart. His intellectual powers were greater than his principles. The reader may ask what became of him. After continuing poor and unsuccessful, engaging in several literary ventures that did little more than aggravate his poverty, and changing from one kind of work to another, good fortune seemed to become his portion. Mr. Parton says:

"As a political writer, pamphleteer, and compiler of booksellers' history, he flourished long. Four ministers thought his pen worth purchasing: Sir Robert Walpole, Mr. Pelham, Lord Bute, and the Duke of Bedford. The nobleman last named evidently held him in high esteem, and furnished the money for one of Ralph's political periodicals. Lord Bute, it is said, settled upon him an annuity of six hundred pounds. Fox praises the fairness, and Hallam the diligence, displayed in his two huge folios of the History of William III.' His works may be examined by the curious in the library of Harvard University and in the Philadelphia city library. In estimating the career of this erring man, we should not forget that many of the noblemen and statesmen with whom he associated, and for whose advancement he toiled, had less principle than he, and had not his excuse.' ""*

* "Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin," vol. i., p. 136.

"Swimming is one of the fine arts, I think," said Benjamin to Wygate, a printer with whom he was on the most intimate terms. "I feel about as much at home in the water, as I do on the land."

"Well, I should go to the bottom pretty quick if I should venture where the water is over my head, for I can't swim any more than this printing press can," answered Wygate. "Why don't you learn? It might be of great use to you


"I should like to know how, but I never tried to learn." "And that is a good reason for not knowing how to swim. You can't expect to know anything without learning. I can teach you without any trouble."

"I accept your offer, and will try my best to learn; and Hall will try with me, I think. You can teach two as well as one, can't you?"

"Yes, a dozen, so far as that goes; the more the merrier."

[merged small][ocr errors]

"Just when you please. You and Hall fix the time, and I will be on hand."

The result was that Benjamin was in the water with his two pupils within a few days, and he taught both of them to swim well in two lessons. At the same time, he gave them an exhibition of what an expert swimmer can do in the water, performing different feats on and under the water, that filled his two companions with surprise.

"You are a water-American in more senses than one," remarked Wygate, in admiration of Benjamin's pranks in the water. "You could live in the water about as well as on the land.”

"That is not strange," responded Hall; "he believes in water, inside and outside; he only practises what he preaches, and that is what he ought to do."

"Some people can't practise what they preach if they try ever so hard, in business or in morals," rejoined Wygate.

Wygate was the son of a wealthy man, who educated him quite thoroughly. He could read Latin and French about as well as he could English, and he could write very entertaining articles. He was fond of reading, too, and loved to discuss important questions. Such a young man was not often found in a printing office, and he just suited Benjamin in his literary tastes, so that they became boon companions. Their mutual attachment was strengthened by this experience in the art of swimming.

Not long after Wygate learned to swim, and while the feats that Benjamin performed in the water were still a subject of remark, some gentlemen proposed an excursion by water to Chelsea.

(6 Wouldn't you like to go, Ben?"

"Of course I would, if you are going."

"I will go if you go. I will call round with some of the party and introduce you to them."

This was done in due time, and Benjamin learned from them that they were going to Chelsea "to see the college and Don Saltero's curiosities," which object of the excursion more than doubled his interest.

On the trip Wygate talked much with some of the party about Benjamin's feats in the water as almost too wonderful to be believed. On returning, one of the gentlemen said :

"Franklin, why can you not give us an exhibition of your antics in the water?"

"Yes, Ben, do; let them see that what I have told them is literally true," entreated Wygate.

"Come, Ben, do it," added Hall; "it will put Saltero's curiosities into the shade. These gentlemen will be so interested in your performances that they will forget all other curiosities."

"Well, I am always ready to accommodate," replied Benjamin, "and it will not cross my disposition to have a little frolic in the water, so I will consent."

« PrejšnjaNaprej »