Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

By Benjamin Franklin

Page 57

employment for a confessor?"
"Oh," said she, "it is impossible to avoid _vain thoughts_." I was
permitted once to visit her. She was cheerful and polite, and
convers'd pleasantly. The room was clean, but had no other furniture
than a matras, a table with a crucifix and book, a stool which she
gave me to sit on, and a picture over the chimney of Saint Veronica
displaying her handkerchief, with the miraculous figure of Christ's
bleeding face on it,[46] which she explained to me with great
seriousness. She look'd pale, but was never sick; and I give it as
another instance on how small an income, life and health may be
supported.

At Watts's printing-house I contracted an acquaintance with an
ingenious young man, one Wygate, who, having wealthy relations, had
been better educated than most printers; was a tolerable Latinist,
spoke French, and lov'd reading. I taught him and a friend of his to
swim at twice going into the river, and they soon became good
swimmers. They introduc'd me to some gentlemen from the country, who
went to Chelsea by water to see the College and Don Saltero's
curiosities.[47] In our return, at the request of the company, whose
curiosity Wygate had excited, I stripped and leaped into the river,
and swam from near Chelsea to Blackfriar's,[48] performing on the way
many feats of activity, both upon and under water, that surpris'd and
pleas'd those to whom they were novelties.

[46] The story is that she met Christ on His way to
crucifixion and offered Him her handkerchief to wipe the
blood from His face, after which the handkerchief always
bore the image of Christ's bleeding face.

[47] James Salter, a former servant of Hans Sloane, lived
in Cheyne Walk, Chelsea. "His house, a barber-shop, was
known as 'Don Saltero's Coffee-House.' The curiosities
were in glass cases and constituted an amazing and
motley collection--a petrified crab from China, a
'lignified hog,' Job's tears, Madagascar lances, William
the Conqueror's flaming sword, and Henry the Eighth's
coat of mail."--Smyth.

[48] About three miles.

I had from a child been ever delighted with this exercise, had studied
and practis'd all Thevenot's motions and positions, added some of my
own, aiming at the graceful and easy as well as the useful. All these
I took this occasion of exhibiting

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=77.