Two children, brother and sister, were on their way to school. Both were very small. The boy was only four years old, and the girl was not yet six. “Come, Edward, we must hurry,” said the sister. “We must not be late.” With one hand the little boy clung to his sister’s arm, and with the other he held his primer.
This primer was his only book, and he loved it. It had a bright blue cover, which he was careful not to soil. And in it were some odd little pictures, which he never grew tired of looking at.
Edward could spell nearly all the words in his primer, and he could read quite well.
The school was more than a mile from their home, and the children trotted along as fast as their short legs could carry them.
At a place where two roads crossed, they saw a tall gentleman coming to meet them. He was dressed in black, and had a very pleasant face.
“Oh, Edward, there is Mr. Harris!” whispered the little girl. “Don’t forget your manners.”
They were glad to see Mr. Harris, for he was the minister. They stopped by the side of the road and made their manners. Edward bowed very gracefully, and his sister curtsied.
“Good morning, children!” said the minister; and he kindly shook hands with both.
“I have something here for little Edward,” he said. Then he took from his pocket a sheet of paper on which some verses were written.
“See! It is a little speech that I have written for him. The teacher will soon ask him to speak a piece at school, and I am sure that he can learn this easily and speak it well”
Edward took the paper and thanked the kind minister.
“Mother will help him learn it,” said his sister.
“Yes, I will try to learn it,” said Edward.
“Do so, my child,” said the Minister; “and I hope that when you grow up you will become a wise man and a great orator.”
Then the two children hurried on to school.
The speech was not hard to learn, and Edward soon knew every word of it. When the time came for him to speak, his mother and the minister were both there to hear him.
He spoke so well that everybody was pleased. He pronounced every word plainly, as though he were talking to his schoolmates.
Would you like to read his speech? Here it is:—
Pray, how shall I, a little lad,
In speaking make a figure?
You’re only joking, I’m afraid—
Just wait till I am bigger.
But since you wish to hear my part,
And urge me to begin it,
I’ll strive for praise with all my heart,
Though small the hope to win it.
I’ll tell a tale how Farmer John
A little roan colt bred, sir,
Which every night and every morn
He watered and he fed, sir.
Said Neighbor Joe to Farmer John,
“You surely are a dolt, sir,
To spend such time and care upon
A little useless colt, sir.”
Said Farmer John to Neighbor Joe,
“I bring my little roan up
Not for the good he now can do,
But will do when he’s grown up.”
The moral you can plainly see,
To keep the tale from spoiling,
The little colt you think is me—
I know it by your smiling.
And now, my friends, please to excuse
My lisping and my stammers;
I, for this once, have done my best,
And so—I’ll make my manners.
The little boy’s name was Edward Everett. He grew up to become a famous man and one of our greatest orators.