THERE comes a time in
the life of nearly every boy who attends Sunday school when, no matter
how faithful to it he may have been, he finds gradually stealing in upon
him the feeling that he is growing too old for it, and he becomes
restive under its restraints. He sees other boys of the same age going
off for a pleasant walk, or otherwise spending the afternoon as they
please, and he envies them their freedom. He thinks himself already
sufficiently familiar with Bible truth for all practical purposes, and
the lessons lose their interest for him. He has perhaps no ambition for
becoming a teacher, nor even of being promoted to a chair in the Bible
How best to meet the case of this boy, and save him to the Sunday school
is one of the most difficult questions that present themselves to those
engaged in that work. You must not scold him or you will infallibly
drive him away at once and for ever. Neither is it wise to seek to bring
into play influences that will compel him to attend nolens volens, for
that will but deepen his dislike, and make him long the more eagerly for
the time when he will be his own master in the matter.
There seem to be but two possible solutions of the problem. You must
either appeal to the boy’s natural sense of independence, and desire for
importance by making some special provision for him that will mark a
distinction between him and the younger folk, or you must, by going far
deeper, reach the spiritual side of his nature, and through it secure
his fidelity to the school.
To Bert this temptation had not presented itself. He no more thought of
tiring of the Sunday school than he did of his own home. He had attended
regularly ever since his sister Mary would take him with her, and put
him in the infant class, and it might be said to have become second
nature with him.
With Frank, however, it was different. He had never gone to Sunday
school until Bert invited him, and although for some years he was very
fond of it, that fondness in time had fallen into an indifference, and
of late he had a decided disinclination to go at all. This was not due
so much to any resistance to the claims of religion itself, but rather
to a foolish idea that he was now too old and too big for Sunday school.
Bert took his friend’s change of feeling very much to heart, and he
pleaded with him so earnestly, that for some time Frank continued in his
place just to please him. But this of course could not last, and he was
in danger of drifting away altogether, when an event occurred which
turned the current of his life and set it flowing once more in the right
direction, this time with a volume it had never known before.
It was a pleasant custom at Calvary Church to give the Sunday school a
picnic every summer, and these picnics were most enjoyable affairs. A
better place than Halifax Harbour for the holding of a picnic could
hardly be conceived. You go, of course, by steamer, and then have the
choice of some half-dozen different routes, each having its own
attractions. You might go right up to the head of the big basin that
stretched away eight miles or more beyond the north end of the city, and
there land, amid the meadows that are bordered by the unbroken forest,
or you might stop half-way, and invade the old estate that had once been
proud to claim a prince as its possessor.
Steering in the opposite direction, you might go around the Point, and
piercing the recesses of the ever-beautiful arm of the sea, find a
perfect picnic ground at its farthest bend; or, crossing the harbour,
there were lovely spots to be secured on the big, tree-clad island that
well-nigh filled the harbour mouth.
This year it had been decided to hold the picnic at the head of the arm.
The time was August, just when the cool sea-breeze and the balmy breath
of the pines are most grateful to the dwellers in cities. To the number
of four hundred or more, a happy crowd of Sunday-school scholars and
teachers, and their friends gathered upon the broad deck of the clumsy
old Mic-mac, an excursion steamer that had done duty on this line for a
generation, at least. Each class had its own banner, as a sort of
rallying point, and these, with the pretty dresses and bright ribbons of
the girls, imparted plenty of colour to the scene, while the boys gave
life to it by being incessantly on the move, and never in one spot for
more than one minute at a time.
Bert and Frank were in the midst of the merry crowd, and in the highest
spirits. They were neither of them by any means indifferent to the
fascination of feminine beauty and grace, and it was easy to secure the
most delightful companionship on board the boat, which they did not fail
to do. Then they had the games and sports to look forward to, after the
picnic ground should be reached, and altogether their cup of happiness
seemed well-nigh brimming over. They little dreamed how ere the day
closed they would both be brought face to face with the deadliest peril
of their lives.
Joyous with music and laughter, the big boat pushed her way onward over
the white-capped waves, past the fort and the gas works, and the long
stretch of the Point road; and then giving the point itself a wide berth
— for the shallows extend far out — around it, and up the winding arm,
with its line of stately homes on one side, and scattered clusters of
white-washed cottages on the other, until almost at its very end, the
landing-place was reached, and the gay passengers gladly deserted the
steamer to seek the cool shelter of the woods.
There was a wonderful amount of happiness crowded into that day. All who
wanted to be useful found plenty of scope for their talents in the
transporting of the provisions, the arranging of the tables, the hanging
of the swings, and the other work that had to be done, while those who
preferred play to work, could go boating, or swimming, or play ball, and
The two friends went in for both work and play. They gave very efficient
help to the ladies in preparing for the dinner, but they did not miss a
grand swim in the cool, clear water of a sequestered cove, nor an
exciting game of baseball in the open field.
After dinner came the sports, consisting of competitions in running,
jumping, and ball throwing, for which prizes in the shape of knives,
balls, and bats were offered. Bert and Frank took part in several of
them with satisfactory results, Frank winning a fine knife in the long
distance race, and Bert a good ball for the best throw, so that there
was nothing to mar their pleasure in this regard.
By sunset all were making for the boat again, and in the soft summer
gloaming the old Mic-Mac steamed steadily down the arm on her homeward
trip. Many of the children were weary now, and inclined to be cross and
sleepy. Others were still full of life and spirits, and could not be
restrained from chasing one another up and down the deck and among the
benches. But their merriment was ere long suddenly ended by an event
which came near casting a dark cloud over the whole day, that had
hitherto been no less bright with happiness than with sunshine.
Bert and Frank had joined a group of charming girls gathered at the
stern of the steamer, and while pleasantly employed in making themselves
agreeable were more than once disturbed by the noisy youngsters, who
would persist in playing “chase.”
“Some of you will be falling overboard if you don’t take care,” said
Bert, warningly, to them. “Why don’t you keep in the middle of the
There was good ground for Bert’s warning, as, across the stern of the
old steamer, which had been a ferry boat in her early days, there was
only a broad wooden bar placed so high that a child might almost walk
under it without stooping.
But the careless children continued their play as the Mic-Mac ploughed
her way back to the city. Presently a troop of them came racing down to
the stern in chase of a golden-haired sprite, that laughingly ran before
them. She was closely pursued by a boy about her own age, and in her
eagerness to escape him she dodged underneath the bar that marked the
line of safety. As she did so, the steamer gave a sudden lurch; and,
poised perilously near the edge as the girl already was, it proved too
much for her balance. She uttered a terrified shriek, grasped vainly at
the bar now quite out of her reach, and, to the horror of those looking
helplessly on, toppled over into the frothing, foaming water of the
Instantly there was wild confusion on board the steamer. Scream after
scream went up from the women, and all who could crowded madly toward
the stern. If the girl was to be saved, immediate action was necessary.
Bert did not stop to think. He could swim strongly and well. He would
attempt her rescue.
“Frank, I’m after her,” he cried, as he flung off his coat and hat.
“I’m with you,” answered Frank, imitating his action; and before anyone
else had thought of moving, the two boys, almost side by side, sprang
into the heaving water with faces set toward the spot where a cloud of
white showed them the little girl still floated. Putting forth all their
speed, they reached her ere the buoyancy had left her clothing, and each
seizing an arm of the poor child, who had just fainted through excess of
fright, they prepared to battle for her life and their own.
They realised at once that it was to be no easy struggle. The steamer
had been going at full speed, and although the engines were reversed at
the first alarm, the impetus of her awkward bulk had carried her far
away from the spot where the girl fell; and now the boys could just
barely discern her through the deepening dusk. The harbour had been
rough all day, and the waters still rolled uneasily. Fortunately, it was
not very cold, or the swimmers’ case had been well-nigh hopeless. As it
was, the only chance of their deliverance hung upon their endurance. If
their strength held out, they and the little one they had put themselves
in peril to rescue would be saved.
She continued to be unconscious, her pretty face, that was so bright and
rosy a few minutes before, now looking strangely white and rigid, and
her golden curls clinging darkly about her neck, her broad straw hat,
all water-soaked and limp, hanging over on one side.
“Surely she can’t be dead already?” exclaimed Bert, anxiously, to Frank,
as the two boys kept her and themselves afloat by treading water, one at
“No,” replied Frank, “only fainted. But if the steamer doesn’t come
soon, she will be; and so will we too.”
“Never fear, Frank, the steamer will be back for us soon. I think I can
hear her paddles now,” said Bert, in cheering tones; and they listened
intently for a moment, but heard nothing save the soft lapping of the
waves all around them. Then Frank spoke:
“Bert,” he asked, “are you afraid to die?”
Bert started at the question. He had not thought of dying, and life was
so precious to him.
“We’re not going to die, Frank. God will take care of us,” he answered,
“Yes, but if the steamer shouldn’t get back to us in time, Bert,”
persisted Frank, who seemed to be already losing hope, “aren’t you
afraid to die?”
“I don’t want to, but I’m not afraid to,” Bert replied, after a pause;
for it was not easy to talk when every exertion had to be put forth to
keep above the water.
“But, Bert, I am afraid,” said Frank, with a groan. “I’ve been so
“No, you haven’t, Frank; and even if you have, God will forgive you now.
Ask Him right away.”
“Oh, I can’t—it’s too late; I cannot pray now,” cried poor Frank, in a
voice that sounded like a wail of despair.
“It’s not too late. Come, Frank, dear, we’ll both pray to God to have
mercy upon us,” urged Bert; and inspired by his earnestness, Frank
obeyed. And there, in the midst of the waves, with their senseless
burden between them, the two boys lifted up their souls in supplication
to their Omnipotent Father— Bert with the confidence that came of past
experience, Frank with the agonised entreaty of one praying in sore
need, and, for the first time, with the whole heart. A strange place for
a prayer meeting, indeed; but they were as near the great heart of God
as though they had been in His grandest cathedral, and the answer to
their earnest pleading was already on its way.
When the two young heroes leaped into the water, there had at first been
great confusion on board the Mic-Mac, but a minute or two later the
captains gruff voice was heard roaring out orders. The paddles that had
been thrashing the waves so vigorously suddenly stopped, were silent for
a moment, and then recommenced; but now they were bearing the steamer
backward instead of forward.
“Get ready the boat for launching,” thundered the captain. And
half-a-dozen men sprang to obey.
“Light a couple of lanterns,” he shouted again. And in an instant it was
“Reeve a long line round one of them life preservers, and stand ready
for a throw,” he cried to the mate. And almost before he had finished
speaking the mate stood ready.
“Now, then, clear away there all of you,” he growled at the excited
crowd that pressed toward the stern, and they fell back, allowing him
clear space, while he swung the lantern out before him, and peered into
the dusk that obscured his view.
“Let her go easy now,” he shouted, and the steamer moved slowly on, a
profound silence falling upon the crowd of passengers as they watched
with throbbing eagerness for the first sign of the imperiled ones being
Gazing hard into the gloom, the keen-eyed captain caught sight of a
gleam of white upon the water.
“Stop her!” he roared, with a voice like that of the north wind. “Hand
me that life preserver!”—turning to the mate who stood near him. The
mate obeyed, and coiling the long rope ready for a throw the captain
waited, while the steamer drew nearer to the speck of white.
“Look out there!” he cried to the boys in the water. “Lay hold of this.”
And swinging the big life preserver around his head as though it had
been a mere toy, he hurled it far out before him, where the beams of
light from the lantern showed not one but three white objects scarce
above the surface of the water.
“Look sharp now! lay hold there!” he cried again, and then: “All right.
Keep your grip, and we’ll have you in a minute.” Then turning to those
behind him: “Lower that boat—quick!”
The davits creaked and groaned as the ropes spun through the blocks;
there was a big splash when the boat struck the water, a few fierce
strokes of the oars, and then a glad shout of, “All right; we’ve got
them,” in response to which cheer upon cheer rang out from the throng
above, now relieved from their intense anxiety.
A few minutes later, three dripping forms were carefully handed up the
side, and taken into the warm engine room, the little girl still
unconscious, and the boys so exhausted as to be not far from the same
Their rescue had been effected just in time. A little more, and utterly
unable to keep themselves afloat any longer, they would have sunk
beneath the pitiless waves.
“It seemed awful to have to die that way,” said Bert, when telling his
parents about it. “I was getting weaker and weaker all the time, and so,
too, was Frank, and I thought we’d have to let the poor little girl go,
and strike out for ourselves. But we kept praying hard to God to help
us; and then all of a sudden I saw a light, and I said to Frank,
‘There’s the steamer—hold on a little longer;’ and then I could hear the
sound of the paddles, and the next thing the captain shouted to us and
flung us a life preserver, and we got a good grip of that, and held on
until the boat took us all in.”
The heroic action of the two boys made them famous in Halifax. The
newspapers printed columns in their praise, a handsome subscription was
taken up in a day to present them each with a splendid gold medal
commemorating the event; important personages, who had never noticed
them before, stopped them on the street to shake hands with them, and
what really pleased them most of all, Dr. Johnston gave the school a
holiday in their honour, having just delivered an address, in which,
with flashing eyes and quivering lips, he told the other scholars how
proud he felt of Frank and Bert, and how he hoped their schoolmates
would show the same noble courage if they ever had a like opportunity.
The parents of the little one they rescued were plain people of limited
means, but they could not deny themselves the luxury of manifesting
their gratitude in some tangible form. Accordingly, they had two
pictures of their daughter prepared, and placed in pretty frames,
bearing the expressive inscription, “Rescued,” with the date beneath;
and the mother herself took them to the boys, the tears that bathed her
cheeks as she presented them telling far better than any words could do,
how fervent was her gratitude.
Deeply as Frank had been moved at being brought through his own generous
impulse into such close quarters with death, the excitement and bustle
of the days immediately following the event so filled his mind that the
impression bade fair to pass away again, leaving him no better than he
had been before. But it was not God’s purpose that this should be the
result. Before the good effects of that brief prayer meeting in the
water were entirely dissipated, another influence came to their support.
Although he knew it not, he was approaching the great crisis of his
life, and by a way most unexpected; he was shortly to be led into that
higher plane of existence, toward which he had been slowly tending
through the years of his friendship with Bert.