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A Noble Act
by [?]

“What have you there, boys?” asked Captain Bland.

“A ship,” replied one of the lads who were passing the captain’s neat cottage.

“A ship! Let me see;” and the captain took the little vessel, and examined it with as much fondness as a child does a pretty toy. “Very fair, indeed; who made it?”

“I did,” replied one of the boys.

“You, indeed! Do you mean to be a sailor, Harry?”

“I don’t know. I want father to get me into the navy.”

“As a midshipman?”

“Yes, sir.”

Captain Bland shook his head.

“Better be a farmer, a physician, or a merchant.”

“Why so, captain?” asked Harry;

“All these are engaged in the doing of things directly useful to society.”

“But I am sure, captain, that those who defend us against our enemies, and protect all who are engaged in commerce from wicked pirates, are doing what is useful to society.”

“Their use, my lad,” replied Captain Bland, “is certainly a most important one; but we may call it rather negative than positive. The civilian is engaged in building up and sustaining society in doing good, through his active employment, to his fellow-man. But military and naval officers do not produce any thing; they only protect and defend.”

“But if they did not protect and defend, captain, evil men would destroy society. It would be of no use for the civilian to endeavor to build up, if there were none to fight against the enemies of the state.”

“Very true, my lad. The brave defender of his country cannot be dispensed with, and we give him all honor. Still, the use of defence and protection is not so high as the use of building up and sustaining. The thorn that wounds the hand stretched forth to pluck the flower, is not so much esteemed, nor of so much worth, as the blossom it was meant to guard. Still, the thorn performs a great use. Precisely a similar use does the soldier or naval officer perform to society; and it will be for you, my lad, to decide as to which position you would rather fill.”

“I never thought of that, captain,” said one of the lads. “But I can see clearly how it is. And yet I think those men who risk their lives for us in war, deserve great honor. They leave their homes, and remain away, sometimes for years, deprived of all the comforts and blessings that civilians enjoy, suffering frequently great hardships, and risking their lives to defend their country from her enemies.”

“It is all as you say,” replied Captain Bland; “and they do, indeed, deserve great honor. Their calling is one that exposes them to imminent peril, and requires them to make many sacrifices; and they encounter not this peril and sacrifice for their own good, but for the good of others. Their lives do not pass so evenly as do the lives of men who spend their days in the peaceful pursuits of business, art, or literature; and we could hardly wonder if they lost some of the gentler attributes of the human heart. In some cases, this is so; but in very many cases the reverse is true. We find the man who goes fearlessly into battle, and there, in defence of his country, deals death and destruction unsparingly upon her enemies, acting, when occasion offers, from the most humane sentiments, and jeopardizing his life to save the life of a single individual. Let me relate to you a true story in illustration of what I say.

“When the unhappy war that has been waged by our troops in Mexico broke out, a lieutenant in the navy, who had a quiet berth at Washington, felt it to be his duty to go to the scene of strife, and therefore asked to be ordered to the Gulf of Mexico. His request was complied with, and he received orders to go on board the steamer Mississippi, Commodore Perry, then about to sail from Norfolk to Vera Cruz.