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forms, and the strong bent of his mind, led him first of all to seek for a mechanical explanation. And yet he was ready to admit that there was a something in the principle of life—so mysterious and inexplicable—which baffled mechanics, and seemed to dominate over and control them. He did not care much, either, for abstruse mechanics, but only for the experimental and practical, as is usually the case with those whose knowledge has been self-acquired. Even at this advanced age, his spirit of frolic had not left him. When proceeding from Chesterfield station to Tapton House with his friends, he would almost invariably challenge them to a race up the steep path, partly formed of stone steps, along the hill side. And he would struggle, as of old, to keep the front place, though by this time his “wind” had greatly failed. He would even invite an old friend to take a quiet wrestle with him on the lawn, in memory of former times. In the evening, he would sometimes indulge his visitors by reciting the old pastoral of “Damon and Phyllis,” or singing his favourite song of “John Anderson my Joe.” But his greatest glory amongst those with whom he was most intimate, was “a crowdie l’ “Let's have a crowdie night,” he would say; and forthwith a kettle of boiling water was ordered in, with a basin of oatmeal. Taking a large bowl, containing a sufficiency of hot water, and placing it between his knees, he then poured in oatmeal with one hand, and stirred the mixture vigorously with the other. When enough meal had been added, and the stirring was completed, the crowdie was made. It was then supped with new milk, and Mr. Stephenson generally pronounced it “capital l’” It was the diet to which he had been accustomed when a working man, and all the dainties with which he had been familiar in recent years had not spoiled his simple tastes. To enjoy crowdie at his years, besides, indicated that he still possessed

chap. xxxiv.] HIS ADVICE SOUGHT BY YOUNG MEN. 475

that quality on which no doubt much of his practical success in life had depended,—a strong and healthy digestion. He would also frequently invite to his house the humbler companions of his early life, and take pleasure in talking over old times with them. He never assumed any of the bearings of a great man on these occasions, but treated such visitors with the same friendliness and respect as if they had been his equals, sending them away pleased with themselves and delighted with him. At other times, needy men who had known him in youth would knock at his door, and they were never refused access. But if he had heard of any misconduct on their part, he would rate them soundly. One who knew him intimately in private life has seen him exhorting such backsliders, and denouncing their misconduct and imprudence, with the tears streaming down his cheeks. And he would generally conclude by opening his purse, and giving them the help which they needed “to make a fresh start in the world.” Young men would call upon him for advice or assistance in commencing a professional career. When he noted their industry, prudence, and good sense, he was always ready. But, hating foppery and frippery above all things, he would reprove any tendency to this weakness which he observed in the applicants. One day, a youth desirous of becoming an engineer called upon him, flourishing a gold-headed cane : Mr. Stephenson said, “Put by that stick, my man, and then I will speak to you.” To another extensively-decorated young man, he one day said, “You will, I hope, Mr. , excuse me; I am a plain-spoken person, and am sorry to see a nicelooking and rather clever young man like you disfigured with that fine-patterned waistcoat, and all these chains and fang-dangs. If I, sir, had bothered my head with such things when at your age, I would not have been where I am

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now Mr. Stephenson's life at Tapton during his later years was

occasionally diversified with a visit to London. His engi-
neering business having become limited, he generally went
there for the purpose of visiting friends, or “to see what
there was new going on.” He found a new race of engineers
springing up on all hands—men who knew him not; and
his London journeys gradually ceased to yield him real plea-
sure. A friend used to take him to the opera, but by the
end of the first act, he was generally observed in a profound
slumber. Yet on one occasion he enjoyed a visit to the
Haymarket, with a party of friends on his birthday, to see
T. P. Cooke, in “Black-eyed Susan; ”—if that can be called
enjoyment which kept him in a state of tears during half the
performance. At other times he visited Newcastle, which
always gave him great pleasure. He would, on such occa-
sions, go out to Killingworth and seek up old friends, and if
the people whom he knew were too retiring and shrunk into
their cottages, he went and sought them there. Striking the
floor with his stick, and holding his noble person upright, he
would say, in his own kind way, “Well, and how’s all here
to-day?” To the last, Mr. Stephenson had always a warm
heart for Newcastle and its neighbourhood.
Sir Robert Peel, on more than one occasion, invited Mr.
Stephenson to his mansion at Drayton, where he was accus-
tomed to assemble round him men of the greatest distinction
in art, science, and legislation, during the intervals of his
parliamentary life. The first invitation Mr. Stephenson
declined. Sir Robert invited him a second time, and a
second time he declined: “I have no great ambition,” he
said, “to mix in fine company, and perhaps should feel out
of my proper place among such high folks.” But Sir Robert
a third time pressed him to come down to Tamworth early in
January, 1845, when he would meet Buckland, Follett, and
others well known to both. “Well, Sir Robert,” said he,

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chap. xxxiv.] VISIT TO SIR ROBERT PEEL. 477

“I feel your kindness very much, and can no longer refuse: I will come down and join your party.” Mr. Stephenson's strong powers of observation, together with his native humour and shrewdness, imparted to his conversation at all times much vigour and originality, and made him, to young and old, a delightful companion. Though mainly an engineer, he was also a profound thinker on many scientific questions: and there was scarcely a subject of speculation, or a department of recondite science, on which he had not employed his faculties in such a way as to have formed large and original views. At Drayton, the conversation often turned upon such topics, and Mr. Stephenson freely joined in it. On one occasion, an animated discussion took place between himself and Dr. Buckland on one of his favourite theories as to the formation of coal. But the result was, that Dr. Buckland, a much greater master of tongue-fence than Stephenson, completely silenced him. Next morning, before breakfast, when he was walking in the grounds deeply pondering, Sir William Follett came up and asked what he was thinking about? “Why, Sir William, I am thinking over that argument I had with Buckland last night. I know I am right, and that if I had only the command of words which he has, I'd have beaten him.” “Let me know all about it,” said Sir William, “and I’ll see what I can do for you.” The two sat down in an arbour, where the astute lawyer made himself thoroughly acquainted with the points of the case; entering into it with all the zeal of an advocate about to plead the dearest interests of his client. After he had mastered the subject, Sir William rose up, rubbing his hands with glee, and said, “Now I am ready for him.” Sir Robert Peel was made acquainted with the plot, and adroitly introduced the subject of the controversy after dinner. The result was, that in the argument which followed, the man of science was overcome by the man of law; and Sir William Follett had at all points the mastery over Dr. Buckland. “What do you say, Mr. Stephenson?” asked Sir Robert, laughing. “Why,” said he, “I will only say this, that of all the powers above and under the earth, there seems to me to be no power so great as the gift of the gab.”

One day, at dinner, during the same visit, a scientific lady asked him the question: “Mr. Stephenson, what do you consider the most powerful force in nature?” “Oh " said he, in a gallant spirit, “I will soon answer that question: it is the eye of a woman for the man who loves her; for if a woman look with affection on a young man, and he should go to the uttermost ends of the earth, the recollection of that look will bring him back: there is no other force in nature which could do that.”

One Sunday, when the party had just returned from church, they were standing together on the terrace near the Hall, and observed in the distance a railway train flashing along, throwing behind it a long line of white steam. “Now, Buckland,” said Mr. Stephenson, “I have a poser for you. Can you tell me what is the power that is driving that train?” “Well,” said the other, “I suppose it is one of your big engines.” “But what drives the engine?” “Oh, very likely a canny Newcastle driver.” “What do you say to the light of the sun?” “How can that be?” asked the doctor. “It is nothing else,” said the engineer: “it is light bottled up in the earth for tens of thousands of years, light, absorbed by plants and vegetables, being necessary for the condensation of carbon during the process of their growth, if it be not carbon in another form, -and now, after being buried in the earth for long ages in fields of coal, that latent light is again brought forth and liberated, made to work, as in that locomotive, for great human purposes.” The idea was certainly a most striking and original one: like a

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