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

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If I were a boy again, and knew what I know now, I would not be

quite so positive in my opinions as I used to be. Boys generally

think that they are very certain about many things. A boy of

fifteen is generally a great deal more sure of what he thinks

he knows than a man of fifty.

You ask the boy a question and he will probably answer you right

off, with great assurance; he knows all about it. Ask a man of

large experience and ripe wisdom the same question, and he will

say, "Well, there is much to be said about it. I am inclined on

the whole to think so and so, but other intelligent men think otherwise."

When I was a small boy, I traveled from central Massachusetts to

western New York, crossing the river at Albany, and going the

rest of the way by canal. On the canal boat a kindly gentleman

was talking to me one day, and I mentioned the fact that I had

crossed the Connecticut River at Albany. How I got it in my head

that it was the Connecticut River, I do not know, for I knew my

geography very well then; but in some unaccountable way I had it

fixed in my mind that the river at Albany was the Connecticut,

and I called it so.

"Why," said the gentleman, "that is the Hudson River."

"Oh, no, sir!" I replied, politely but firmly. "You're mistaken.

That is the Connecticut River."

The gentleman smiled and said no more. I was not much in the

habit, I think, of contradicting my elders; but in this matter I

was perfectly sure that I was right, and so I thought it my duty

to correct the gentleman's geography. I felt rather sorry for him

that he should be so ignorant. One day, after I reached home, I

was looking over my route on the map, and lo! there was Albany

standing on the Hudson River, a hundred miles from the Connecticut.

Then I did not feel half so sorry for the gentleman's ignorance

as I did for my own. I never told anybody that story until I

wrote it down on these pages the other day; but I have thought of

it a thousand times, and always with a blush for my boldness.

Nor was it the only time that I was perfectly sure of things that

really were not so. It is hard for a boy to learn that he may be

mistaken; but, unless he is a fool, he learns it after a while.

The sooner he finds it out, the better for him.

If I were a boy, I would not think that I and the boys of my time

were an exception to the general rule--a new kind of boys, unlike

all who have lived before, having different feelings and

different ways. To be honest, I must own that I used to think so

myself. I was quite inclined to reject the counsel of my elders

by saying to myself, "That may have been well enough for boys

thirty or fifty years ago, but it isn't the thing for me and my

set of boys." But that was nonsense. The boys of one generation

are not different from the boys of another generation.

If we say that boyhood lasts fifteen or sixteen years, I have

known three generations of boys, some of them city boys and some

of them country boys, and they are all very much alike--so nearly

alike that the old rules of industry and patience and

perseverance and self-control are as applicable to one generation

as to another. The fact is, that what your fathers and teachers

have found by experience to be good for boys, will be good for

you; and what their experience has taught them will be bad for

boys, will be bad for you. You are just boys, nothing more nor less.


Assurance, certainty.

Route, road.

Generation, people living at the same time.

Applicable, can be applied.


Find on the map, Albany, the Hudson River, and the Connecticut River.



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