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
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.