Be Polite to All by Anonymous


Illustrated Farthing Books.


11, Ludgate Hill.


“You cannot judge of a man by the coat he wears.”

train in landscape
“Hallo, Limpy, the train will start in a minute; hurry up, or we shall leave you behind.”

The train was waiting at the station. The engine was puffing and blowing. The[Pg 3] baggage-master was busy with baggage and checks. The men were hurrying to and fro with chests and packages and trunks. Men, women, and children were rushing for the carriages, and hastily securing their seats, while the locomotive snorted, and puffed.

A man carelessly dressed was standing on the platform. He was looking around him, and seemingly paid little attention to what was passing. It was easy to see that he was lame. At a hasty glance one might easily have supposed that he was a man of neither wealth nor influence. The conductor of the train gave him a contemptuous look, and slapping him familiarly on the shoulder, he called out—

“Hallo, Limpy; better get a seat, or the train will leave you behind.”

“Time enough, I think,” replied the individual so roughly addressed, and he retained his seemingly listless position.

The last trunk was tumbled into the luggage van. “All right!” cried the conductor. “Get on, Limpy,” said he, as[Pg 4] he passed the lame, carelessly dressed man.

The lame man made no reply.

Just as the train was slowly moving away, the lame man stepped on the platform of the last carriage, and walking in quickly, took a seat.

railway bridge
The train had moved on a few miles, when the conductor appeared at the door of the carriage where our friend was sitting. Passing along, he soon discovered[Pg 5] the stranger whom he had seen at the station.

“Hand out your money here!”

“I don’t pay,” replied the lame man, very quietly.

“Don’t pay?”

“No, sir.”

“We’ll see about that. I shall put you out at the next station!” and he seized the carpet-bag which was in the carriage.

“Better not be so rough, young man,” returned the stranger.

The conductor released the carpet-bag for a moment; and seeing he could do no more then, he passed on to collect the fare from other passengers. As he stopped at a seat a few paces off, a gentleman who had heard the conversation just mentioned, looked up at the conductor, and asked him—

“Do you know to whom you were speaking just now?”

“No, sir.”

“That was the Chairman of the Railway Company.”

“Are you sure of that, sir?” replied[Pg 6] the conductor, trying to conceal his agitation.

“I know him.”

The colour rose a little in the young man’s face, but with a strong effort he controlled himself, and went on collecting his fare as usual.

Meanwhile, the lame gentleman sat quietly in his seat—none of those who were near him could unravel the expression of his face, nor tell what would be the next movement in the scene. And he—of what thought he? He had been rudely treated; he had been unkindly taunted with the infirmity which had come perhaps through no fault of his. He could revenge himself if he chose. He could tell the Directors the simple truth, and the young man would be deprived of his place at once. Should he do it?

And yet, why should he care? He knew what he was worth. He knew how he had risen by his own exertions to the position he now held. When, a little orange peddler, he stood by the street crossings, he had many a rebuff. He had [Pg 7]outlived those days of hardship; he was respected now. Should he care for a stranger’s roughness or taunt? Those who sat near him waited curiously to see the end.

Presently the conductor came back. With a steady energy he walked up to the lame gentleman’s side.

“I will resign my place, sir,” he said.

“Sit down, sir,” said the lame gentleman, “I would like to talk with you.”

As the young man sat down, the Chairman turned to him with a face in which was no angry feeling, and spoke to him in an undertone.

“My young friend, I have no revengeful feeling to gratify in this matter; but you have been very imprudent. Your manner, had it been thus to a stranger, would have been very injurious to the interests of the Company. I might tell them of this, but I will not. By doing so I should throw you out of your situation, and you might find it difficult to find another. But in future, remember to be polite to all whom you meet. You cannot[Pg 8] judge of a man by the coat he wears; and even the poorest should be treated with civility. Take up your books, sir. I shall tell no one of what has passed. If you change your course, nothing which has happened to day shall injure you. Your situation is still continued. Good morning, sir.”

The train of carriages swept on, as many a train had done before; but within it a lesson had been given and learned, and the purport of the lesson ran somewhat thus: Judge not from appearances.