Abbildungen der Seite

father's slaves, taught him to ride; and he owned a “whiptop,” something rare in those days. And this he considered so fine a possession that he wrote about it to his friend Dickey Lee (afterwards a famous American), and generously told him, “ You may see it and whip it.” But, best of all, he liked the free life out of doors, the rough-and-ready boy play that gives health and strength and vigor and muscle to boys, and fits them to become robust and active men.

When he was eleven years old, in April, 1743, his father died suddenly, and Mary Washington had the management of the great plantation and the houseful of children. How well she succeeded we all know; for, to-day, George Washington's mother is almost as famous as her son. One of the older boys — George's half-brother Lawrence — had been sent to England to school; but, when his father died, there was scarcely money enough to do this for the other boys; so George got what small schooling he obtained in the simple country schools about his home, where he learned little more than what was called “ the three R’s”— reading, 'riting and 'rithmetic.

So he grew up at home a brave, generous, quiet, manly boy. He loved to roam the fields and row and swim in the rivers, and talk with the other boys as to what he should like to do or be when he grew up. For the Virginia boy of one hundred and fifty years ago, there were great attractions dangers are always attractive — the sea and the forest. George Washington, going down to the tobacco sheds on the wharf which was a part of every plantation, would talk with the men who had sailed across the sea from England, and listen to their hair-breadth escapes from wreck and pirates (for there were fierce pirates sailing the seas in those days) and he would think he would like to be a sailor; then

[graphic][merged small]

at other times he would talk with the hunters who came in with the “peltry,” about the great forests that stretched away, no one knew how far to the westward, and that were believed by the boys to be full of all kinds of dangers and all sorts of ferocious monsters, and then he would think he would like to be a hunter.

But after all I imagine he was ready, just then, to agree that it was not a bad thing to be a boy on a big Virginia plantation with plenty of servants and horses and dogs and boy comrades, and with a watchful mother whom, if he had to obey strictly, he loved dearly.

He was strong, he was active, he was healthy, he was

[graphic][subsumed][ocr errors][subsumed][ocr errors][subsumed][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]

happy — big for his years, strong, for a boy, the best wrestler (“ rassler,” they all called it then), the best runner, the best rider among all the boys of his section. He grew to be what are called in these days an athlete. Not a boy could “stump him " successfully or unsuccessfully, or “ dare him ” to any feat of boyish strength or skill. He studied faithfully — he always did everything thoroughly — but he did

not really enjoy his schools. What he did enjoy when he went to the little log school-house (called a “field school ") near his home, was his corn-stalk brigade. For William Bustle and some of the schoolboys played they were French while George Washington and other of the schoolboys played they were Americans, and with cornstalks for guns and gourds for drums, the rival soldiers played at charge and skirmish and furious battle, and the Americans, led by Captain Washington, were always victorious.

With such a father and mother George A. Washington could not have been other than a good boy. And he was. He was big and strong, and sometimes mischievous and careless — fearing nothing and daring much, as such big, good-natured, quiet and determined boys are apt to; but he hated a lie; he was PREPARING FOR A never mean, nor low; he never did an underhand action; and he knew that the first lesson a boy needs to learn is obedience to parents, respect toward older people, and kindness to all.

Some folks will tell you that Washington had no boy hood; that is to say, he was not one of those fun-loving, funmaking boys we all like to know. But I wish you to believe otherwise. I wish you to feel that George Washington, as a boy, though quiet and thoughtful, was just as fond of


[ocr errors]

fun and of sport, just as careless, reckless, and boisterous, just as high-strung and as boyish a boy as are any of you who read his story, and who, in the schools and homes of America to-day are, because of this Virginia boy of long ago, learning, hoping and meaning to be loyal, true and helpful American men and women when you grow up.




DVERYBODY likes a boy who is strong and manly,

and that was what George Washington was. The

boy who, while in his early teens, could tame an unbroken colt, firmly keeping his seat until he had mastered the wild and plunging thoroughbred, the boy who could “ down ”the best wrestlers in the county, who could throw a stone clear across the Rappahannock, toss bars and pitch quoits better than any man or boy about him, and sight and fire a rifle held with one hand only; the boy who could always be trusted to keep his promises, tell the truth, and do as he was bid without asking why, was a boy who could be at once bold and brave, good and gentle, sturdy and strong, wise and cautious.

« ZurückWeiter »