American Book of Golden Deeds - James Baldwin

A Rare Act of Courage

Lucy Ernst, of Philadelphia, was spending her summer vacation in the mountains. One warm afternoon she went out with her cousin, Harry Schoenut, for a ramble in the woods. The two strolled slowly up and down the mountain side and came at length to a narrow ridge on one side of which was a deep, rocky ravine. Here it was hard walking, and they picked their way slowly and with difficulty from one ledge to another.

They came presently to a rift in the rocks, and Harry, in jumping across, slipped and fell upon a pile of loose stones. The fall itself did not hurt him, but he heard a whirr and a rattle beneath him, and before he could rise, a large rattlesnake struck its fangs into his arm.

"Oh, I am killed, Lucy!" cried the frightened boy, as the reptile darted swiftly away.

"Have courage, Harry," said Lucy, as she pulled him up out of the rift.

"Yes, I am killed, Lucy. Leave me and save yourself," said the boy.

His arm was already beginning to swell and turn black. But Lucy did not hesitate a moment. She tore the sleeve from his arm; she put her lips to the wound and began to suck out the poison. She did this with great danger to herself; for there was a small cut on her upper lip, and if the poison entered it she would be in as bad a plight as Harry.

"Now, Harry, cheer up," she said; and with her penknife she cut a gash in his arm to make the blood flow faster, and thus carry off the poison. The boy fainted at sight of the blood; and then Lucy had to revive him by beating him in the face.

"Come, Harry," she said, "let us hurry home."

"It's no use, Lucy. I'm as good as dead, and I can't walk. Go and leave me," he murmured.

But the brave girl would not leave him. She lifted him to his feet and then, half carrying him, started down the mountain side. An hour later she reached a clubhouse, a mile away from the scene of the accident. She carried the boy up the clubhouse steps, her dress red with blood from the wound in his arm. Then she fainted, and fell beside him.

Help was at hand. A surgeon was quickly called. The boy's life was saved.

A silver medal was given to Miss Ernst as a memorial of her heroism.