was far more difficult thus in cold blood to face a dreadful death, with no excitement or sympathy from without, than to fight a whole array of cannon in a Balaklava charge.
A young engineer-officer, some years back, was stationed in New Zealand, in a very out-of-the-way district, far from the settled country. He was a gallant fellow, full of high aims and objects; besides which he rode well, shot well, could manage a boat, and swim admirably, and had attained a twofold influence over the natives by his fearless courage and his noble nature.
One stormy winter's afternoon, the sea running excessively high, and a tremendous surf over the bar, a ship was seen laboring into the roadstead of the small village near which he lived; she was hoisting signals of distress, and was believed to be an expected immigrant-vessel, and therefore with women and children on board.
The weather was so bad that there seemed no chance of her outliving the gale, and not a sailor on the shore would lend a hand to help, when Captain Symonds proposed to man a boat. Perhaps it may be said that they knew the perils to be encountered better than a landsman, however expert. Captain Symonds then called upon the Maories to join him, and they immediately followed him into a risk of life which the Englishmen refused to encounter, and for the sake of sufferers not of their own race or country.
The boat pushed off; the wind was on the shore, the surf running in violently, and a cross-sea made it more dangerous; the bay, too, was known to be full of sharks. Still, however, the little boat held on till within a few cables' lengths of the distressed vessel, which was watching them anxiously, when the tremendous heave of a wave struck her side and she was capsized. Captain Symonds was seen swimming undauntedly toward the shore, holding on by an oar, but he was swallowed up by the sharks before he had made any way. Two of the gallant black fellows escaped. The vessel perished in the gale.
It required a far higher kind of courage to face such a death, on that dark stormy winter's evening, in the attempt to rescue unknown passengers on board an unknown ship, than to storm the worst breach ever surmounted in war, surrounded by one's comrades in the heat of a battle raging in one's sight. The simple doing of God's work at the moment when it was required, with no interior bargaining as to the "worth while" of the sacrifice, in this obscure corner of the earth (as it then was), by this young fellow, with his aspirations, his love of life, his healthy longing after distinction, and the distinguished career open to him, made his death as gallant an act as can be found even in the long record of such deeds to be told of our English soldiers and sailors, the largest portion of which are scarcely heard of at the time, and are forgotten quickly afterward.
The sharks are certainly not heroic themselves, but they are the cause of a great deal of heroism in others.—Good Things.