Water Supply At Ladysmith
( Originally Published 1902 )
ANSON PLENUS, who obtained employment in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, had been awarded a medal by the British Government for special acts of bravery during the siege of Ladysmith. On being notified that the honor had been conferred upon him, he said to a reporter who visited him : " I didn't do so much at Ladysmith. One of the first things the Boers did after surrounding the town was to destroy the waterworks system. Now, fifteen thousand men and women couldn't be bothered going a half-mile or more down to the creek every time they wanted a drink, so some means had to be found of getting the water into the town.
" There was an old relic in the shape of a fire department at Ladysmith, and the oldest thing about it was a fire engine. It would not have put out a fire in seven years, but that did not matter. In South Africa they prefer to let a building burn down and then rebuild it. We moved the old thing down to the river, and laid a line of leaky woven hose up into the town. We hid the engine where the Boer guns could not reach it with their shells, and started pumping. There was only one kind of coal—very soft, and much given to smoking. This black smoke made an elegant target, and the Boers were not in the habit of overlooking a good thing. They shot at it continually, and several times ploughed up the gravel about the engine. I was not injured in any way, however, and kept the old engine pumping through the entire siege. It broke down many times, and it was not the easiest thing in the world to make repairs with nothing with which to make them."
It seems that this man, who speaks so modestly of himself, had performed a deed of heroism which was worthy of the recognition of the British Government ; that by his skill, bravery, energy, and constancy, he did much toward preserving the health and life of the besieged by furnishing them with an ample supply of fresh water, and in the midst of flying shot and shell, risked his own life in his efforts to do so. Water forms such a large percentage of plants and animals, that they quickly die without it. The water supply in a campaign is as important as that of ammunition or arms.
Christ is the water of Life, which refreshes thirsty souls and saves from death, and he who furnishes to famishing mortals this water shall have the notice and favor of the Divine Ruler, and shall be rewarded, not by a medal, which will be tarnished by the touch of time, but with a crown of life. To risk the life in supplying this living water to fellow men is to reach the highest point of human heroism.