One Way to be Brave

by Mrs. Alice Wellington Rollins

(A True Story.)

"Papa," exclaimed six-year-old Marland, leaning against his father's knee after listening to a true story, "I wish I could be as brave as that!"

"Perhaps you will be when you grow up."

"But maybe I sha'n't ever be on a railroad train when there is going to be an accident!"

"Ah! but there are sure to be plenty of other ways for a brave man to show himself."

Several days after this, when Marland had quite forgotten about trying to be brave, thinking, indeed, that he would have to wait anyway until he was a man, he and his little playmate, Ada, a year younger, were playing in the dog-kennel. It was a very large kennel, so that the two children often crept into it to "play house." After awhile, Marland, who, of course, was playing the papa of the house, was to go "down town" to his business; he put his little head out of the door of the kennel, and was just about to creep out, when right in front of him in the path he saw a snake. He knew in a moment just what sort of a snake it was, and how dangerous it was; he knew it was a rattlesnake, and that if it bit Ada or him, they would probably die. For Marland had spent two summers on his papa's big ranch in Kansas, and he had been told over and over again, if he ever saw a snake to run away from it as fast as he could, and this snake just in front of him was making the queer little noise with the rattles at the end of his tail which Marland had heard enough about to be able to recognize.

Now you must know that a rattlesnake is not at all like a lion or a bear, although just as dangerous in its own way. It will not chase you; it can only spring a distance equal to its own length, and it has to wait and coil itself up in a ring, sounding its warning all the time, before it can strike at all. So if you are ever so little distance from it when you see it first, you can easily escape from it. The only danger is from stepping on it without seeing it. But Marland's snake was already coiled, and it was hardly more than a foot from the entrance to the kennel. You must know that the kennel was not out in an open field, either, but under a piazza, and a lattice work very near it left a very narrow passage for the children, even when there wasn't any snake. If they had been standing upright, they could have run, narrow as the way was; but they would have to crawl out of the kennel and find room for their entire little bodies on the ground before they could straighten themselves up and run. Fortunately, the snake's head was turned the other way.

"Ada," said Marland very quietly, so quietly that his grandpapa, raking the gravel on the walk near by, did not hear, him, "there's a snake out here, and it is a rattlesnake. Keep very still and crawl right after me."

"Yes, Ada," he whispered, as he succeeded in squirming himself out and wriggling past the snake till he could stand upright. "There's room, but you mustn't make any noise!"

Five minutes later the two children sauntered slowly down the avenue, hand in hand.

"Grandpapa," said Marland, "there's a rattlesnake in there where Ada and I were; perhaps you'd better kill him!"

And when the snake had been killed, and papa for the hundredth time had folded his little boy in his arms and murmured, "My brave boy! my dear, brave little boy!" Marland looked up in surprise.

"Why, it wasn't I that killed the snake, papa! it was grandpapa! I didn't do anything; I only kept very still and ran away!"

But you see, in that case, keeping very still and running away was just the bravest thing the little fellow could have done; and I think his mamma—for I am his mamma, and so I know just how she did feel—felt when she took him in her arms that night that in her little boy's soul there was something of the stuff of which heroes are made.