Overtaken near a rocky coast by a sudden storm of great violence, the captain of a French brig gave orders to put out to sea; but in spite of all the efforts of the crew they could not steer clear of the rocks, and alter struggling for a whole day they felt a violent shock, accompanied by a horrible crash. The boats were lowered, but only to be swept away by the waves. As a last resort the captain proposed that some sailors should swim ashore with a rope, but not a man would volunteer.
“Captain,” said the little twelve-year-old cabin boy, Jacques, timidly, “You don’t wish to expose the lives of good sailors like these; it does not matter what becomes of a little cabin boy. Give me a ball of strong string, which will unroll as I go on; fasten one end around my body, and I promise you that within an hour the rope shall be well fastened to the shore or I will perish in the attempt.”
Before anyone could stop him he leaped overboard. His head was soon seen like a black point rising above the waves and then it disappeared in the distance and mist, and but for the occasional pull upon the ball of cord all would have thought him dead. At length it fell as if slackened and the sailors looked at one another in silence, when a quick, violent pull, followed by a second and a third, told that Jacques had reached the shore. A strong rope was fastened to the cord and pulled to the shore, and by its aid many of the sailors were rescued.
In 1833 Miss Prudence Crandall, a Quaker schoolmistress of Canterbury, Conn., opened her school to negro children as well as to whites. The whole place was thrown into uproar; town meetings were called to denounce her; the most vindictive and inhuman measures were taken to isolate the school from the support of the townspeople; stores and churches were closed against teacher and pupils; public conveyances were denied them; physicians would not attend them; Miss Crandall’s own friends dared not visit her; the house was assailed with rotten eggs and stones and finally set on fire. Yet the cause was righteous and the opposition proved vain and fruitless. Public opinion is often radically wrong.
Staunch old Admiral Farragut–he of the true heart and the iron will–said to another officer of the navy, “Dupont, do you know why you didn’t get into Charleston with your ironclads?” “Oh, it was because the channel was so crooked.” “No, Dupont, it was not that.” “Well, the rebel fire was perfectly horrible.” “Yes, but it wasn’t that.” “What was it, then?” “_It was because you didn’t believe you could go in._”
“I have tried Lord Howe on most important occasions. He never asked me _how_ he was to execute any service entrusted to his charge, but always went straight forward and _did it_.” So answered Sir Edward Hawke, when his appointment of Howe for some peculiarly responsible duty was criticized on the ground that Howe was the junior admiral in the fleet.
There is a tradition among the Indians that Manitou was traveling in the invisible world and came upon a hedge of thorns, then saw wild beasts glare upon him from the thicket, and after awhile stood before an impassable river. As he determined to proceed, the thorns turned out phantoms, the wild beasts powerless ghosts, and the river only a shadow. When we march on obstacles disappear. Many distinguished foreign and American statesmen were present at a fashionable dinner party where wine was freely poured, but Schuyler Colfax, then Vice-President of the United States, declined to drink from a proffered cup. “Colfax does not drink,” sneered a Senator who had already taken too much. “You are right,” said the Vice-President, “I dare not.”
A Western party recently invited the surviving Union and Confederate officers to give an account of the bravest act observed by each during the Civil War. Colonel Thomas W. Higginson said that at a dinner at Beaufort, S. C., where wine flowed freely and ribald jests were bandied, Dr. Miner, a slight, boyish fellow who did not drink, was told that he could not go until he had drunk a toast, told a story, or sung a song. He replied: “I cannot sing, but I will give a toast, although I must drink it in water. It is ‘Our Mothers.'” The men were so affected and ashamed that some took him by the hand and thanked him for displaying courage greater than that required to walk up to the mouth of a cannon.
When Grant was in Houston several years ago, he was given a rousing reception. Naturally hospitable, and naturally inclined to like a man of Grant’s make-up, the Houstonites determined to go beyond any other Southern city in the way of a banquet and other manifestations of their good-will and hospitality. They made great preparations for the dinner, the committee taking great pains to have the finest wines that could be procured for the table at night. When the time came to serve the wine, the head-waiter went first to Grant. Without a word the general quietly turned down all the glasses at his plate. This movement was a great surprise to the Texans, but they were equal to the occasion. Without a single word being spoken, every man along the line of the long tables turned his glasses down, and there was not a drop of wine taken that night.
Don’t be like Uriah Heep, begging everybody’s pardon for taking the liberty of being in the world. There is nothing attractive in timidity, nothing lovable in fear. Both are deformities and are repulsive. Manly courage is dignified and graceful. The worst manners in the world are those of persons conscious “of being beneath their position, and trying to conceal it or make up for it by style.” It takes courage for a young man to stand firmly erect while others are bowing and fawning for praise and power. It takes courage to wear threadbare clothes while your comrades dress in broadcloth. It takes courage to remain in honest poverty when others grow rich by fraud. It takes courage to say “No” squarely when those around you say “Yes.” It takes courage to do your duty in silence and obscurity while others prosper and grow famous although neglecting sacred obligations. It takes courage to unmask your true self, to show your blemishes to a condemning world, and to pass for what you really are.