Example from Sixth Grade Reader
Friday, September 29, 2006
Two examples from the 6th Grade Reader formerly used in California,
Copyright 1916. They are two consecutive stories chosen as much for length
and ease of formatting as for anything else.
The Professor of Signs
[James VI of Scotland was the son of Mary, Queen of Scots. His mother was driven from the throne of Scotland, and James became James VI of Scotland at the age of 13 months. His mother fled to England, and was imprisoned, and later executed, by Queen Elizabeth I of England. Upon the death of Elizabeth, James became James I of England as well as James VI of Scotland. England was by far the larger and more important of the two kingdoms, and James moved to Westminster to become King of England, but he remained King of Scotland as well. Aberdeen is on the east coast of Scotland “where the dawn meets the deep,” and is known more as a fishing town than a seat of learning.]
When James VI removed to London he was waited on by the Spanish ambassador who had a notion in his head that there should be a Professor of Signs in every kingdom. He lamented to the King one day that no country in Europe had such a professor, and that even for himself he was thus deprived of the pleasure of communicating his ideas in that manner.
The King replied, “Why, I have a Professor of Signs in the northernmost College of my dominion, at Aberdeen, but it is a great way off, perhaps six hundred miles.”
“Were it ten thousand leagues off, I shall see him, and am determined to set out in two or three days.”
The King saw that he had committed himself, and wrote to the University of Aberdeen, stating the case, and asking the professors to put him off in some way, or make the best of him.
The Ambassador arrived—was received with great solemnity, and soon inquired which of them had the honor to be Professor of Signs. He was told that the professor was absent in the Highlands, and would return nobody could tell when.
“I will await his return though it be a year.”
Seeing that this would not do, as they had to entertain him at great expense, they contrived a stratagem.
There was one Sandy, a butcher, blind in one eye, a droll fellow, with some wit and roguery about him. They told him the story, instructing him to be a Professor of Signs; but not to speak a word under pain of losing the promised five pounds for his success.
To the great joy of the Ambassador, he was informed that the professor would be home the next day.
Sandy was dressed in a wig and gown, and placed in a chair of state in one of the college halls. The Ambassador was conducted to Sandy’s door and shown in, while all the professors waited in another room in suspense and with anxiety for the success of their scheme.
The Ambassador approached Sandy and held up one finger; Sandy held up two. The Ambassador held up three; Sandy clenched his fist and looked stern. The Ambassador then took an orange from his pocket and held it up; Sandy took a barley-cake from his pocket and held that. The Ambassador then bowed and returned to the other professors, who anxiously inquired the result.
“He is a wonderful man, a perfect miracle of knowledge; he is worth all the wealth of the Indies.”
“Well,” inquired the professors, “tell us the particulars.”
“Why,” the Ambassador replied, “I held up one finger, denoting there is one God; he held up two, signifying there are Father and Son. I held up three to indicate the Holy Trinity; he clenched his fist to show that these three are one. I then showed him an orange, to illustrate the goodness of God in giving to his creatures the luxuries as well as the necessaries of life; and this most wonderful philosopher presented a piece of bread to show that the staff of life is preferable to every luxury.”
The professors were, of course, highly delighted, and the Ambassador departed for London to thank the King for the honor of knowing a Professor of Signs.
The professors then called upon Sandy to give his version of the interview.
“The rascal!” said Sandy. “What do you think he did first? He held up one finger, as much as to say, you have only one eye. Then I held up two, to show that I could see as much with one as he could with two. And then the fellow held up three fingers, to say that we had but three eyes between us. That made me angry, and I doubled up my fist to give him a whack for his impudence, and I would have done it but for my promise to you not to offend him. Yet that was not the end of his provocations; but he showed me an orange, as much as to say, your poor, rocky, beggarly, cold country can not produce that. I showed him an oatmeal bannock that I had in my pocket, to let him know that I did not care a farthing for all his trash, and signs neither, so long as I have this. And, by all that’s good, I am angry yet that I did not thrash the hide off the scoundrel!”
So much for two ways of understanding a thing.
John Maynard was well known in the lake district as a God-fearing, honest, and intelligent pilot. He was pilot on a steamboat from Detroit to Buffalo. One summer afternoon—at that time those steamers seldom carried boats—smoke was seen ascending from below, and the captain called out:
“Simpson, go below and see what the matter is down there.”
Simpson came up with his face pale as ashes, and said, “Captain, the ship is on fire!”
Then “fire! fire! fire!” on shipboard.
All hands were called up. Buckets of water were dashed on the fire, but in vain. There were large quantities of rosin and tar on board, and it was found useless to attempt to save the ship. The passengers rushed forward and inquired of the pilot:
“How far are we from Buffalo?”
“How long before we can reach there?”
“Three-quarters of an hour at our present rate of steaming.”
“Is there any danger?”
“Danger, here—see the smoke bursting out—go forward if you would save your lives.”
Passengers and crew—men, women, and children—crowded the forward part of the ship. John Maynard stood at the helm. The flames burst forth in a sheet of fire; clouds of smoke arose. The captain cried out through his trumpet:
“Aye, aye, sir!”
“Are you at the helm?”
“Aye, aye, sir!”
“How does she head?”
“South-east by east, sir.”
“Head her south-east and run her on shore,” said the captain.
Nearer, nearer, yet nearer she approached the shore. Again the captain cried out:
The response came feebly this time, “Aye, aye, sir!”
“Can you hold on five minutes longer, John?” he said.
“By God’s help, I will.”
The old man’s hair was scorched from the scalp, one hand disabled, his knee upon the stanchion, and his teeth set; with his other hand upon the wheel, he stood firm as a rock. He beached the ship; every man, woman, and child was saved, as John Maynard dropped, and his spirit took its flight to its God.
—John B. Gough