Hundreds of additional titles available for
online reading when you join Gateway to the Classics
THE IRON STOVE
ID you see him to-day?" asked a little girl in gray, all
excitement, as she opened the door to admit her
The boy, shaking with the cold—for it was winter
and his jacket was none too thick—set down his
basket on the rough deal table, and leaned over the
tiny fire that burned on the hearth. His eyes shone,
though, as he turned to answer his sister.
"Yes, Beth, I saw him down at the wharf and he gave me
this." As he spoke, William drew from underneath his
coat, a crude little brush made of rushes bound
together with narrow strips of willow.
"What is it?" Beth took the brush in her hands and held
it up to the light, looking at it curiously. She made a
quaint picture in the shifting light of the fire, a
little Quaker girl of old Philadelphia, her yellow
curls tucked inside a close-fitting gray cap, and her
straight gray frock reaching almost to the heels of her
"It is something new for cleaning," William explained.
He took the brush and began sweeping up the ashes on
the hearth, as Beth watched him
 curiously. "Mr. Franklin brought a whole bunch of them
down to the wharf to show to people, and he gave me
"How did he make it?" Beth asked curiously.
"It took him a whole year, for it had to grow first,"
William explained. "He saw some brush baskets last year
that the sea captains had brought fruit in, lying in
the wet on the wharf. They had sprouted and sent out
shoots, so what did Mr. Franklin do but plant the
shoots in his garden. They grew and this year he had a
fine crop of broom corn, as he called it. He dried it,
and bound it into these brushes. He has some with long
handles, and he calls them brooms."
The children's mother had come in now from the next
room and she grasped the hearth brush with eagerness.
"It is just what Philadelphia, the city of cleanliness,
needs," she said, as she went to work brushing the
corners of the window sills and the [should be mantel
instead of mantle] piece. "If we were to take more
thought of our houses and less of these street brawls
as to who is for, and who is against the king, it would
"That is what Mr. Franklin does," William said. "Do you
remember how the streets were full of quarreling folk
last summer, and a hard thunder storm came up that
every one thought was sent directly from the skies as a
punishment for our
 wickedness? The women and children were crying and the
men praying when Mr. Franklin came in their midst. I
can see him now, looking like a prophet with his long
hair flowing over his shoulders and his long cloak
streaming out behind him. As the skies flashed with
lightning and the thunder crashed he told them not to
be afraid. He said that he would give them lightning
rods to put on their houses that would keep them from
"Yes," their mother said. "He helps us all very much.
Mr. Franklin is truly our good neighbor in
As her mother finished speaking, Beth emptied the
basket that William had brought in. There was not a
great deal in it—a little flour, some tea, a very
tiny package of sugar, and some potatoes. She arranged
them on the shelves in the kitchen, shivering a little
as she moved about the cold room.
Chill comfort it would seem to a child to-day.
Philadelphia was a new city, and these settlers from
across the sea had brought little with them to make
their lives cheerful. Outside, huge piles of snow
drifted the narrow streets and were banked on the low
stone doorsteps of the small red brick houses. A chill
wind blew up from the wharves and such of the Friends
as were out hurried along with bent heads, against
which the cold beat, and
 they wrapped their long cloaks closely around them.
It was almost as cold in the Arnold's house as it was
outside. The children's father had not been able to
stand the hardships of the new country, and there were
only Beth, and William, and their mother left to face
this winter. Mrs. Arnold did fine sewing and William
ran errands for the sailors and merchantmen down at the
wharves, having his basket filled with provisions in
return for his work. It was a hard winter for them,
though; no one could deny that.
Mrs. Arnold drew her chair up to the fireplace now and
opened her bag of sewing. Beth leaned over her shoulder
as she watched the thin, white fingers trying to fly in
and out of the white cloth.
"Your fingers are stiff with the cold," Beth exclaimed
as she blew the coals with the bellows and then rubbed
her mother's hands.
"Not very," she tried to smile.
"Yes, very," William said as he swung his arms and blew
on his finger tips. "We're all of us cold. It would be
easier to work if we could only keep warm."
Just then they heard a rap at the brass knocker of
their door. Beth ran to open it, and both children
shouted with delight as a strange, slightly stooping
figure entered. His long white hair made him look like
some old patriarch. His forehead was high,
 and his eyes deep set in his long, thin face. His long
cloak folded him like a [should be mantel instead of
mantle]. He reached out two toil-hardened hands to
greet the family.
"Mr. Franklin!" their mother exclaimed. "We are most
glad to see you. You are our very welcome guest always,
but it is poor hospitality we are able to offer you.
Our fire is very small and the house cold."
"A small fire is better than none," their guest said,
"and the welcome in Friend Arnold's house is always so
warm that it makes a fire unnecessary. Still," he
looked at the children's blue lips and pinched cheeks,
"I wish that your hearth were wider."
He crossed to the fireplace, feeling of the bricks and
measuring with his eye the breadth and depth of the
opening in the chimney. He seemed lost in thought for a
moment, and then his face suddenly shone with a smile
like the one it had worn when he had seen the first
green shoots of the broom corn pushing their way up
through the ground of his garden.
"What is it, Mr. Franklin?" Beth asked. "What do you
see up our chimney?"
"A surprise," the good neighbor of Philadelphia
replied. "If I make no mistake in my plans, you will
see that surprise before long. In the meantime, be of
 He was gone as quickly as he had come, but he had left
a glow of cheer and neighborliness behind him. All
Philadelphia was warmed in this way by Benjamin
Franklin. Whenever he crossed a threshold, he brought
the spirit of comfort and helpfulness to the house.
"What do you suppose he meant?" Beth asked as the door
closed behind the quaint figure of the man.
"I wonder," William said. Then he took out his speller
and copy book and the words of their visitor were soon
But all Philadelphia began to wonder soon at the doings
at the big white house where Benjamin Franklin lived.
The neighbors were used to hearing busy sounds of
hammering and tinkering coming from the back where Mr.
Franklin had built himself a workshop. Now, however, he
sent away for a small forge and its flying sparks could
be seen and the sound of its bellows heard in the
stillness of the long, cold winter nights. Great slabs
of iron were unloaded for him at the wharf, and for
days no one saw him. He was shut up in his workshop and
from morning until night passers-by heard ringing blows
on iron coming from it as if it were the shop of some
"Benjamin Franklin wastes his time," said some of the
Philadelphians. "He should be in the town
 hall, helping us to settle some of our land disputes."
But others spoke more kindly of the man of helpful
"Mr. Franklin is making Philadelphia truly a City of
Friends by being the best Friend of all," they said.
None could explain Benjamin Franklin's present
In the middle of winter Beth and William and their
mother went to a friend's house to stay for a week.
Mrs. Arnold was not well and the house was very cold.
The week for which they were invited lengthened into
two, then three.
"We must go home," Mrs. Arnold said at last. "Mr.
Franklin said that he would stop this afternoon and
help William carry the carpet bag. It is time that we
began our work again."
As they took their homeward way through the snow, they
noticed, again, the happy smile on Mr. Franklin's kind
face. He held the handle of the bag with one hand and
Beth's chilly little fingers with the other. He was the
spryest of them all as they hurried on. They understood
why, as they opened the door of their home.
They started, at first, wondering if, by any chance
they had come to the wrong house. No, there were the
familiar things just as they had left them; the row of
shining copper pans on the wall, the polished
 candlesticks on the mantel piece, the warming pan in
the corner and the braided rag rugs on the floor. But
the house was as warm as summer. They had never felt
such a comforting heat in the winter time before. The
fireplace, that had been all too tiny, was gone. In its
place, against the chimney, was a crude iron stove,
partly like a fireplace in shape, but with a top and
sides that held and spread the heat of the glowing fire
inside until the whole room glowed with it.
"That is my surprise," Mr. Franklin explained, rubbing
his hands with pleasure as he saw the wonder and
delight in the faces of the others, "an iron geni to
drive out the cold and frighten away the frosts. You
can cook on it, or hang the kettle over the coals. It
will keep the coals alive all night and not eat up as
much fuel as your draughty fireplace did. This is my
winter gift to my dear Friend Arnolds."
"Oh, how wonderful! How can we thank you for it? We,
who were so poor, are the richest family in all
Philadelphia now. How I shall be able to work!" the
children's mother said.
Beth and William put out their hands to catch the
 friendly warmth of the fire, in this, the first stove,
in the City of Friends. It warmed them through and
through. Then William examined its rough mechanism so
that he would be able to tend it, and Beth bustled
about the room, filling the shining brass teakettle and
putting a spoonful of tea in the pot to draw a cup for
their mother and Mr. Franklin. At last she turned to
him, her blue eyes looking deep in his.
"You are so good to us," Beth said. "Why did you work
so hard to invent and make this iron stove for us?"
The kindest Friend that old Philadelphia ever had
stopped a second to think. He never knew the reason for
his good deeds. They were as natural as the flowering
of the broom corn in his garden. At last he spoke:
"Because of your warm hearts, little Friend," he said.
"Not that they needed any more heat, but that you may
see their glow reflected in the fires you kindle in my
And so may we feel the kindly warmth of Benjamin
Franklin's heart in our stoves, which are so much
better, but modelled after the one he made for his
neighbors in the Quaker City of long ago.