No fool can be silent at a feast. — Solon of Athens

Story of the English - Helene Guerber

Nelson's Last Signal

After Napoleon left Egypt, the British gained possession of it, and brought back to the British Museum the large collection of antiquities which had been gathered by the French men of science.

Soon after, in 1802, a short peace was made between France and Great Britain at Amiens. On this occasion, when Napoleon and the English statesman Fox met, some one pointed to a globe, and remarked that England occupied a very small space upon it. "Yes," retorted Fox, promptly; "our island is indeed a small country that island in which the Englishman is born, and in which he would fain that his bones should repose when he is dead. But," added he, advancing to the globe and spreading his arms round it, over both oceans and both Indies, "while the Englishmen live, they overspread the whole world and clasp it in a circle of power."

A peace between England and France, two nations then so jealous of each other, could not last long. It was barely a year, indeed, before Napoleon reopened hostilities. In 1804, being now Emperor of the French, he planned to invade England. He had an army of over one hundred thousand men encamped at Boulogne, ready to cross the Channel. But how were they to be taken across, in the face of the vigilant Nelson and his fleet? Napoleon knew that all depended on that, and said "Let us be masters of the Channel for six hours, and we are masters of the world." Fortunately for England, he never gained this mastery of the Channel, for the French and Spanish fleets, with which he had hoped to control it, were defeated by Sir Robert Calder, and soon afterwards were almost destroyed by Nelson in the battle of Trafalgar (1805 ), one of the most famous of sea fights.

It seems that Admiral Nelson had cornered the French and Spanish fleets at Cadiz. Although the enemy had seven vessels more than the British, Nelson took his measures so carefully that he hoped to succeed. He finally bade his officers signal to the fleet these famous words: "England expects every man to do his duty."

Death of Nelson

Then the men set up a deafening shout, and began the fight bravely. Nelson soon fell, mortally wounded; but he covered up his face, lest his men, seeing he was dying, should lose courage. He was carried below, where he lived long enough to hear that the victory had been won, and died saying, "Thank God, I have done my duty."

This great English hero had already been in many battles, and had won many victories. On one occasion he lost an eye; on another he was shot in the arm. As none of the medicines now used to deaden pain were then known, he suffered greatly while the doctors were cutting off his arm. Having found that the pain was made keener because the instruments were cold, Nelson ever after had them put in hot water before they were used on his men; for he was as thoughtful of their comfort as he was brave.

[Illustration] from The Story of the English by Helene Guerber

The glorious victory of Trafalgar is commemorated in London by Trafalgar Square, in the centre of which there is a tall column surmounted by a statue of Lord Nelson. The hero himself is buried in Westminster Abbey, where England's greatest warriors, statesmen, men of letters, and men of science have beautiful monuments, as well as most of the English kings.


Front Matter

Early Times
The Druids
The Britons
Caesar in Britain
Queen Boadicea
The Great Walls
The Great Irish Saint
The Anglo-Saxons
Brave King Arthur
The Laws of the Saxons
The Story of St Augustine
Three Great Men
The Danish Pirates
King Alfred and the Cakes
Alfred conquers the Danes
A King's Narrow Escape
The King and the Outlaw
The Monasteries
An Unlucky Couple
St Dunstan
King Canute and the Waves
A Saxon Nobleman
Lady Godiva's Ride
The Battle of Hastings
The Conquest
Lords and Vassals
Death of William
The Brothers' Quarrels
Arms and Armour
The "White Ship"
Matilda's Narrow Escapes
Story of Fair Rosamond
Thomas a Becket
Murder of Thomas a Becket
Richard's Adventures
Richard and the Saracens
The Faithful Minstrel
Death of Richard
The Murder of Arthur
The Great Charter
The Rule of Henry III
A Race
Persecution of the Jews
The Conquest of Wales
A Quarrel with France
The Coronation Stone
The Insolent Favourite
Bruce and the Spider
Death of Edward II
The Murderers punished
The Battle of Crecy
The Siege of Calais
The Age of Chivalry
The Battle of Poitiers
The Peasants' Revolt
Richard's Presence of Mind
A Tiny Queen
Henry's Troubles
Madcap Harry
A Glorious Reign
The Maid of Orleans
The War of the Roses
The Queen and the Brigand
The Triumph of the Yorks
The Princes in the Tower
Richard's Punishment
Two Pretenders
A Grasping King
Field of the Cloth of Gold
The New Opinions
Death of Wolsey
Henry's Wives
The King and the Painter
A Boy King
Lady Jane Grey
The Death of Cranmer
A Clever Queen
Elizabeth's Lovers
Mary, Queen of Scots
Captivity of Mary Stuart
Wreck of the Spanish Armada
The Elizabethan Age
Death of Elizabeth
A Scotch King
The Gunpowder Plot
Sir Walter Raleigh
King and Parliament
Cavaliers and Roundheads
The Royal Oak
The Commonwealth
The Restoration
Plague and Fire
The Merry Monarch
James driven out of England
A Terrible Massacre
William's Wars
The Duke of Marlborough
The Taking of Gibraltar
The South Sea Bubble
Bonny Prince Charlie
Black Hole of Calcutta
Loss of the Colonies
The Battle of the Nile
Nelson's Last Signal
The Battle of Waterloo
First Gentleman of Europe
Childhood of Queen Victoria
The Queen's Marriage
Wars in Victoria's Reign
The Jubilee