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prepared, and then there would be no garden stuff, and no corn to be had. Mary seemed rather inclined to think that a needle was as useful as any, for what should we do without clothes, and how could clothes be made without needles? Edward, however, would have it, that they were all wrong, for that a steam engine was the most useful of all instruments, or machines, in the world.
The debate was carried on in a very lively way, and Edward was evidently getting the upper hand of his brothers and sister; but, when Mr. Franklin came among them, it was directly agreed to leave the matter to his decision.
"If I am to decide," said Mr. Franklin, "I shall be against you all, for the human hand is an instrument, or machine, much more useful than the knife, the spade, the plough, the needle, or the steam engine. It is by the well-directed efforts of the human hand, that all the other things you have mentioned, are made. In performing acts of usefulness, the hand is of unspeakable value."
The young people looked at each other with no little wonder, never having regarded their hands as instruments, or machines, before. Every word, however, that fell from the lips of their father was relied on, and listened to with much attention.
"A writer has observed," said Mr. Franklin, in speaking on this subject; 'I do not
know that there is a greater curiosity in the whole world than the human hand, yet who thinks much about it? Small as this member of the frame is, it is a part of the utmost consequence. Without it, the farmer could not sow his grain, or plant his corn, or weed it, or hoe it while growing, or collect it when ripe; nor, if it were grown, could the miller grind it, nor the baker make it into bread. Neither could we raise any thing to eat in its stead. We might get on for a few years with what is already raised; but what then? The roots and fruits which grow without cultivation-I mean, without our labourwould not last very long for ourselves, and the thousands of beasts and birds which feed upon them. Do you say that if we could get nothing else to eat, we might then kill and eat animals? But we could not catch them. How could we?
"Besides all this, the tailor could not make us clothes; nor the hatter and milliner hats and bonnets; nor the shoemaker boots and shoes. We should be obliged to go naked, summer and winter, in all climates; for we could not get even the skins of animals.
"Then again, we could not write to others for help, even if there were any body to help us. Neither could the mariner seek a cargo of food in other countries; for he could not spread his sails, or guide the helm of his vessel. In short, we could do nothing long
to any purpose; but after gazing awhile upor each other's starving and emaciated frames, we should all lie together in one common tomb-and that tomb would be the surface of the earth, arched over with the blue canopy of the heavens; for nobody could be buried.
Edward. Then you must be right, father; and the hand is more useful than the steam engine.
Mr. Franklin. The hand has this great advantage over all the other instruments you have mentioned, that you always have it with you, and that you have no trouble in carrying it. You may forget your knife, you may not have a needle at hand; and if you have a spade and a plough, it would be very inconvenient to carry them a mile or two.
Thomas. Ay, and what would Edward do with his steam engine? The hand is the
best, say what you will.
E. Well, Thomas, I will confess that the hand is the handiest after all.
Mary. Papa is sure to put us right.
Mr. F. The more we reflect on the uses of the human hand, the more grateful shall we be to our heavenly Father, for his goodness in furnishing us with so excellent an instrument for helping ourselves, and doing useful acts to others. I told you, in our last meeting, how you might perform many useful acts; and that you should never, on any account, refrain from doing an useful act, merely be
cause it is a small one; and now I will tell you how Mr. Fielding, a friend of mine, a man of good information and great kindness, acts in the neighbourhood in which he lives.
M. Yes, please to tell us how he acts, and we shall, perhaps, learn something from him.
Mr. F. As he walks down the village, when he meets with children, he kindly notices them,
and gives them a word of advice; or, perhaps, he talks with a labourer who is carrying home a new pair of shoes, and tells him that the longer he keeps his shoes without wearing them, the drier they will be, the longer they will last, and the cheaper they will prove in the end. The labourer thanks him, and says that he has some thoughts of rubbing them well over with oil, to keep the wet from getting to his feet. When Mr. Fielding recommends him to get a little mutton fat, bees' wax, and sweet
oil, and melt them together in a pipkin, over the fire. "Rub this mixture," says he, "when it has cooled a little, well over your shoes, especially over the welt and the seams, and you may walk through a field of wet mowing grass for an hour, without a drop of wet getting to your feet, unless it runs in at the top, for it will never find its way in at the bottom.”
E. That is very useful advice on the part of Mr. Fielding, and may keep the man from many a wetting.
Mr. F. Let us suppose, that he next sees a young cottager, who has cut his finger. "Never mind!" says he; "never mind! It may teach you to be more careful in future. The bleeding will not hurt you; tie up the cut finger so as to keep out the air, and it will soon be well again, I warrant you."
T. Such a man as Mr. Fielding would be useful everywhere.
Mr. F. In going by Betty Turner's, he sees her washing a water cask, that seems to be very foul. "I tell you what, Betty," says he, "it will be of little use your washing that cask out with water alone, for you will never make it sweet, scour it well with sand and water, and then make use of charcoal dust, and your cask will be clean and sweet as a
M. We ought to remember every thing that Mr. Fielding says and does, for he must be one of the most useful men that I ever