Page images
PDF
EPUB

4. A boy?" “Yes, massa. Capen Washington sent um.” “Excuse ine, Miss Saturfield; this may be important,” said Noah, rising. He hurried to the sitting-room, where a lad of fourteen or fifteen years of age, with a blue cloak swung back over his left shoulder, stood before the fire. He wore a three-cornered hat with blue coat and leggings somewhat worn. His face was tanned by exposure to the wind and weather. He had a riding whip in his right hand, while he spread his left out over the glowing fire. “George—George Washington " cried Noah, on seeing the lad. “Have you a message for me?” “Yes sir; brother Lawrence wants you.” “Where?” “He is assembling the militia on the upper Potomac.” “Why?" “The Indians have committed some depredations on the frontier, and are advancing on the settlements along the Rappahannock.” “This is alarming. I will excuse myself and go at once.” “I am to go too,” said the lad, his cheeks glowing with pride. “I can ride a horse as well as a man and fire a rifle, too.” George Washington, who had early imbibed a

desire for military life, was overjoyed at the
thought that he was going to be one of the cam-
paigning party.
Noah went to the ball-room to excuse himself to
Miss Saturfield. He did
not tell her the cause of his
sudden departure, as he
feared he would alarm her.
Half a dozen young swains o -
were waiting the \\
departure of
Noah, to lay claim
to the new beauty
for the next quad-
rille. {
“I hope it is
nothing serious,” "
she said, when in-
formed that he
must go at once.
“Not serious,
but urgent. I
cannot express
my pleasure at
this brief ac-
quaintance, and I
hope it may be
renewed.”

A Lad of FIFTEEN stooD
BeroRE THE FIRE.

[graphic]
[graphic]
[graphic]

She blushed, and her eyes again dropped to the floor in an unaccountable manner. “Why does she act so strangely?” thought Noah. “One would think she had seen me before; but no, I never knew a Miss Saturfield.” He went away and joined the forces under Captain Washington, and, in dead winter, they set out to meet the depredating band of Indians which had been doing so much mischief. Through the snows of dead winter the company marched, until they came upon the Indians' camp one morning and, after a skirmish, put the savages to flight. The campaign and skirmish were so insignificant that the average historian and biographer has failed to mention them. On this campaign the boy George Washington was taking his first lessons in warfare. George Washington was not over two or three years of age, when his father removed to an estate in Stafford County, opposite Fredericksburg. The house stood on a rising ground overlooking a meadow which bordered the Rappahannock. This was the boyhood home of the man who was to become the father of his country. From this spot the traditional story of the hatchet and the cherry tree originated. Whether true or false, the story is illustrative of the sterling truthfulness of the boy, who became the greatest of all Americans.

At the time of George Washington's boyhood, the means of instruction in Virginia were limited, and it was the custom among the wealthy planters to send their sons to England to complete their education, as was done in case of Noah Stevens and Lawrence Washington, George's oldest brother. The dawning intellect of young George Washington received the rudiments of education in the best establishment for the purpose that the neighbor. hood afforded. It was what in popular parlance was called an “old field school-house,” humble enough in its pretensions, and kept by one of his father's tenants named Hobby. The instruction received in this primitive school-house was of the simplest kind, reading, writing and arithmetic; but a great mind does not require a college, or learned professors to acquire an education. Washington was no graduate of any college save God's great academy of nature, and from that fountain of original truth he drank deep draughts of wisdom. He had the benefit of mental and moral worth from an excellent father. When he had reached the age of seven or eight years, his brother Law. rence returned from England, a well-educated and accomplished youth. The brothers were always strongly attached to each other. Lawrence being the elder by fourteen years, looked down with a protecting eye upon the boy whose dawning intelligence and perfect rectitude won his regard; while George regarded his manly and cultured brother as a model in mind and manners. Lawrence Washington, as well as his younger brother, inherited something of the old military spirit of the family, and when Spanish depredations on British commerce called forth resentment, even from the colonies, he was among the first to raise a company of Virginians to sail under Admiral Vernon. Noah Stevens was a lieutenant under Lawrence Washington. When George Washington, then a lad, saw the sudden outburst of military ardor, he caught the infection. This was the secret of that military spirit so often cited of his boyhood days. He had seen his brother fitted out for the wars, and listened with kindling eye and ardent enthusiasm to the letters he wrote home, and his thoughts and dreams were of war. All his amusements took a military turn. His schoolmates became his soldiers, whom he marched in parade, or marshalled in mimic frays. Strange that one so kind and gentle, so tender-hearted and noble, should be a warrior from his childhood; yet we must ever bear in mind that bravery, greatness, gentleness and kind-heartedness go hand in hand. In the autumn of 1742, Lawrence Washington returned home from the war with Spain, while Noah Stevens lingered a few months longer in the

« PreviousContinue »