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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 now."
occasionally diversified with a visit to London. His engineering 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 pleasure. 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 occasions, 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 accustomed 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,
“ 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 fol
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: Ful" - esa that be? * asked the doctor. - I: ja sig eise, sai tbe egineer: “it is light bottled up in the earth for tens of thousands of years,— light, abariad by plants and regetables, being necessary for the endensation 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
flash of light, it illuminated in an instant an entire field of science.
During the same visit, Mr. Stephenson one evening repeated his experiment with blood drawn from the finger, submitting it to the microscope, in order to show the curious circulation of the globules. He set the example by pricking his own thumb; and the other guests, by turns, in like manner gave up a small portion of their blood for the purpose of ascertaining the comparative liveliness of their circulation. When Sir Robert Peel's turn came, Mr. Stephenson said he was curious to know “how the blood globules of a great politician would conduct themselves.” Sir Robert held forth his finger for the purpose of being pricked; but once, and again, he sensitively shrunk back, and at length the experiment, so far as he was concerned, was abandoned. Sir Robert Peel's sensitiveness to pain was extreme, and yet he was destined, a few years after, to die a death of the most distressing agony.
From these visits to distinguished persons, Mr. Stephenson went back to Tapton with an increased love for home and its pleasures. He must see after his garden, his birds, and his favourite animals. There were also his thousand workpeople to be looked after, at Tapton and Clay Cross; and Mechanics’ Institutes to be visited, and many other things to be attended to. One of the subjects that gave him most pleasure during the later years of his life was the encouragement of educational institutes for the working classes, in which he took the deepest interest. He had many discussions on the subject with his intimate friend Mr. Binns, the manager of the extensive works at Clay Cross. A large population had now settled down at that place, and the original hamlet, consisting of about twelve cottages, had assumed the dimensions of a town. · Iron smelting furnaces