Yet it is actually true that there was born at Burnham Thorpe, Norfolk, England, on September 29, 1758, a boy who never knew what fear was. This boy’s name was Horatio Nelson,—a name which his fearlessness, ambition, and patriotism made immortal.
Courage even to daring distinguished young Nelson from his boy companions. Many stories illustrating this quality are told of him.
On one occasion, when the future hero of England was but a mere child, while staying at his grandmother’s, he wandered away from the house in search of birds’ nests. When dinner time came and went and the boy did not return, his family became alarmed. They feared that he had been kidnapped by gypsies, or that some other mishap had befallen him. A thorough search was made for him in every direction. Just as the searchers were about to give up their quest, the truant was discovered sitting quietly by the side of a brook which he was unable to cross.
“I wonder, child,” said his grandmother, “that hunger and fear did not drive you home.”
“Fear! grand-mamma,” exclaimed the boy; “I never saw fear. What is it?”
Horatio was a born leader, who never even in childhood shrank from a hazardous undertaking. This story of his school days shows how the spirit of leadership marked him before he had entered his teens.
In the garden attached to the boarding school at North Walsham, which he and his elder brother, William, attended, there grew a remarkably fine pear tree. The sight of this tree, loaded with fruit was, naturally, a very tempting one to the boys. The boldest among the older ones, however, dared not risk the consequences of helping themselves to the pears, which they knew were highly prized by the master of the school.
Horatio, who thought neither of the sin of stealing the schoolmaster’s property, nor of the risk involved in the attempt, volunteered to secure the coveted pears.
He was let down in sheets from the bedroom window by his schoolmates, and, after gathering as much of the fruit as he could carry, returned with considerable difficulty. He then turned the pears over to the boys, not keeping one for himself.
“I only took them,” he explained, “because the rest of you were afraid to venture.”
The sense of honor of the future “Hero of the Nile” and of Trafalgar was as keen in boyhood as in later life.
One year, at the close of the Christmas holidays, he and his brother William set out on horseback to return to school. There had been a heavy fall of snow which made traveling very disagreeable, and William persuaded Horatio to go back home with him, saying that it was not safe to go on.
“If that be the case,” said Rev. Mr. Nelson, the father of the boys, when the matter was explained to him, “you certainly shall not go; but make another attempt, and I will leave it to your honor. If the road is dangerous, you may return; but remember, boys, I leave it to your honor.”