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| Home | Reading Room The New McGuffey Fourth Reader

The New McGuffey Fourth Reader
by William H. McGuffey, Compiler

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"P-o po, p-o po, Popo, c-a-t cat, Popocat--Oh dear, what a hard

word! Let me see, Po-po-cat-e-petl. I can never pronounce it, I

am sure. I wish they would not have such hard names in

geography," said George Gould, quite out of patience. "Will you

please tell me how to pronounce the name of this mountain, father?"

"Why, do you call that a hard word to pronounce, George? I know

much harder words than that."

"Well, father this is the hardest word I ever saw," replied

George. "I wish they had put the name into the volcano, and

burned it up."

"I know how to pronounce it," said Jane. "It is Po-po' ca-ta'petl."

"Po-po' ca-ta'petl," said George, stopping at each syllable.

"Well, it is not so very hard, after all; but I wish they would

not have any long words, and then one could pronounce them easily


"I do not think so," said his father. "Some of the hardest words

I have ever seen are the shortest. I know one little word, with

only two letters in it, that very few children, or men either,

can always speak."

"Oh, I suppose it is borne French or German word; isn't it, father?"

"No: it is English; and you may think it strange, but it is just

as hard to pronounce in one language as another."

"Only two letters! What can it be?" cried both the children.

"The hardest word," replied their father, "I have ever met with

in any language--and I have learned several--is a little word of

two letters--N-o, no."

"Now you are making fun of us!" cried the children: "that is one

of the easiest words in the world." And, to prove that their

father was mistaken, they both repeated, "N-o, no; n-o, no," a

great many times.

"I am not joking in the least. I really think it is the hardest

of all words. It may seem easy enough to you to-night, but

perhaps you cannot pronounce it to-morrow."

"I can always say it, I know I can;" said George with much

confidence--"NO! Why, it is as easy to say it as to breathe."

"Well, George, I hope you will always find it as easy to

pronounce as you think it is now, and that you will be able to

speak it when you ought to."

In the morning George went bravely to school, a little proud that

he could pronounce so hard a word as "Popocatepetl." Not far

frown the schoolhouse was a large pond of very deep water, where

the boys used to skate and slide when it was frozen over.

Now, the night before, Jack Frost had been busy changing the

surface of the pond into beautiful crystals of ice; and when the

boys went to school in the morning they found the pond as smooth

and clear as glass. The day was cold, and they thought that by

noon the ice would be strong enough to skate upon.

As soon as school was dismissed the boys all ran to the

pond,--some to try the ice, and others merely to see it.

"Come, George," said William Green; "now we shall have a glorious

time sliding."

George hesitated, and said he did not believe it was strong

enough, for it had been frozen over only one night.

"Oh, come on!" said another boy: "I know it is strong enough. I

have known it to freeze over in one night, many a time, so it

would bear: haven't you, John?"

"Yes," answered John Brown: "it did so one night last winter; and

it wasn't so cold as it was last night, either."

But George still hesitated, for his father had forbidden him to

go on the ice without special permission.

"I know why George won't go," said John; "he's afraid he might

fall down and hurt himself."

"Or the ice might crack," said another; "and the noise would

frighten him. Perhaps his mother might not like it."

"He's a coward, that's the reason he won't come."

George could stand this no longer, for he was rather proud of his

courage. "I am not afraid," said he; and he ran to the pond, and

was the first one on the ice. The boys enjoyed the sport very

much, running and sliding, and trying to catch one another on its

smooth surface.

More boys kept coming on as they saw the sport, and soon all

thought of danger was forgotten. Then suddenly there was a loud

cry, "The ice has broken! the ice has broken!" And sure enough,

three of the boys had broken through, and were struggling in the

water; and one of them was George.

The teacher had heard the noise, and was coming to call the boys

from the ice just as they broke through. He tore some boards from

a fence close by, and shoved them out on the ice until they came

within reach of the boys in the water. After a while he succeeded

in getting the three boys out of the water, but not until they

were almost frozen.

George's father and mother were very much troubled when he was

brought home, and they learned how narrowly he had escaped

drowning. But they were so glad to know that. he was safe that

they did not ask him any questions until he was warm and

comfortable again. But in the evening, when they were all

gathered together about the cheerful fire, his father asked him

how he came to disobey his positive command.

George answered that he did not want to go on the ice, but the

boys made him.

"How did they make you? Did they take hold of you, and drag you

on?" asked his father.

"No," said George, "but they all wanted me to go."

"When they asked you, why didn't you say 'No'?"

"I was going to do so: but they called me a coward, and said I

was afraid to go; and I couldn't stand that."

"And so," said his father, "you found it easier to disobey me,

and run the risk of losing your life, than to say that little

word you thought so easy last night. You could not say 'No.'"

George now began to see why this little word "No" was so hard to

pronounce. It was not because it was so long, or composed of such

difficult sounds; but because it often requires so much real

courage to say it,--to say "No" when one is tempted to do wrong.

After that, whenever George was tempted to do wrong, he

remembered his narrow escape from drowning, and the importance of

the little word "No." The oftener he said it, the easier it

became; and in time he could say it, when necessary, without much effort.


Popocatepetl, a volcano in Mexico (sometimes inaccurately pronounced po po cat' a petl).

Prounounce, say distinctly.

Syllable, one of the distinct parts of a word.

Attracted, drawn.

Hesitated, paused.

Importance, value.

Special, particular.


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