Records of a Family of Engineers eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 200 pages of information about Records of a Family of Engineers.
stages of a rather touching experiment; no less than an attempt to secure Charles Peebles heir to George’s favour.  He is despatched, under the character of ‘a fine young man’; recommended to gentlemen for ’advice, as he’s a stranger in your place, and indeed to this kind of charge, this being his first outset as Foreman’; and for a long while after, the letter-book, in the midst of that thrilling first year of the Bell Rock, is encumbered with pages of instruction and encouragement.  The nature of a bill, and the precautions that are to be observed about discounting it, are expounded at length and with clearness.  ’You are not, I hope, neglecting, Charles, to work the harbour at spring-tides; and see that you pay the greatest attention to get the well so as to supply the keeper with water, for he is a very helpless fellow, and so unfond of hard work that I fear he could do ill to keep himself in water by going to the other side for it.’—­’With regard to spirits, Charles, I see very little occasion for it.’  These abrupt apostrophes sound to me like the voice of an awakened conscience; but they would seem to have reverberated in vain in the ears of Charles.  There was trouble in Pladda, his scene of operations; his men ran away from him, there was at least a talk of calling in the Sheriff.  ‘I fear,’ writes my grandfather, ’you have been too indulgent, and I am sorry to add that men do not answer to be too well treated, a circumstance which I have experienced, and which you will learn as you go on in business.’  I wonder, was not Charles Peebles himself a case in point?  Either death, at least, or disappointment and discharge, must have ended his service in the Northern Lights; and in later correspondence I look in vain for any mention of his name—­Charles, I mean, not Peebles:  for as late as 1839 my grandfather is patiently writing to another of the family:  ’I am sorry you took the trouble of applying to me about your son, as it lies quite out of my way to forward his views in the line of his profession as a Draper.’

III

A professional life of Robert Stevenson has been already given to the world by his son David, and to that I would refer those interested in such matters.  But my own design, which is to represent the man, would be very ill carried out if I suffered myself or my reader to forget that he was, first of all and last of all, an engineer.  His chief claim to the style of a mechanical inventor is on account of the Jib or Balance Crane of the Bell Rock, which are beautiful contrivances.  But the great merit of this engineer was not in the field of engines.  He was above all things a projector of works in the face of nature, and a modifier of nature itself.  A road to be made, a tower to be built, a harbour to be constructed, a river to be trained and guided in its channel—­these were the problems with which his mind was continually occupied; and for these and similar ends he travelled the world for more than half a century, like an artist, note-book in hand.

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Records of a Family of Engineers from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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