A Silent Reproof by Unknown

Many years ago a number of persons were travelling by coach northwards towards Paisley. Some of them were Scottish farmers; others, tradesmen or persons of good position in Paisley; and one was a Scotsman of superior appearance, who, judging by his conversation, had travelled a good deal and seen much of his fellow-men. He recounted many interesting experiences as they journeyed along, and they all chatted freely and pleasantly with each other.

The road was a hilly and rough one, and at a lonely spot where it was especially bad, the coach was so severely jolted that one of the axles broke. Fortunately, no one was injured, and when all had alighted from the coach, they began to inspect the damaged axle. The passenger whose conversation had proved so interesting came to their assistance, and examined the axle critically. Presently, he asked the coachman if there were any blacksmith near at hand. There was not a house in sight, and the coachman told him that the forge of the nearest blacksmith was a mile or two away.

'Help me to carry the broken parts to the smith,' said the other, 'and I will see that they are properly mended.'

So they carried the broken axle across the moors to the blacksmith's shop, but they found that the blacksmith was not at home. Nothing daunted, the passenger who had undertaken to see the axle repaired lighted the blacksmith's fire, set the bellows to work, and, with the help of one of his fellow-passengers, mended the axle himself. They carried it back to the coach, fixed it in its place, put on the wheels, and the coach started off again upon its journey.

But now the passengers, instead of being grateful for the fortunate help which had been given them, began to hold aloof from the man who had mended the axle, and they had little to say to him. From his conversation they had taken him to be a gentleman, but he had shown them now that he was nothing but a common blacksmith. So for the rest of the journey they neglected him, and he sat lost in his own thoughts.

"They began to examine the damaged axle." "They began to examine the damaged axle."

When the travellers reached the end of the stage they separated, and each went his own way. On the following morning one of them had business with the Earl of Eglinton at Eglinton Castle. He reached the castle in good time, and after being announced, was shown into a room where the Earl was seated at breakfast. But judge of his surprise when he found that his fellow-traveller of the previous day, the very man who had mended the broken axle of the coach, was sitting at breakfast with the Earl. He was not, then, a blacksmith, after all! No; he was John Rennie, the constructor of the Waterloo, Southward, and London Bridges, the Plymouth Breakwater, and the London Docks; in fact, the greatest engineer of his time, and a man honoured by all who knew him. He had learnt his trade thoroughly, from the very bottom, and was not above making use of it in the humblest way—even as a blacksmith.