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If he tamed the unbroken colt, killing it rather than let it master him, he did not excuse himself nor lie about it to his mother when the trial of will was past. And, if he mastered the thoroughbred, (as he once did in a wager of his head against the horse) he would not take an unfair advantage, nor accept the horse as his because he had neither kept
his seat nor fully kept his claim of ability.
He would get dreadfully “mad” with other boys sometimes, and he was so strong that if he had been at all bad, he might have been what is called a bully. But, even when he was a small boy, he had learned to control his temper; and this he always did throughout his useful life, losing it so seldom and only when there was every excuse for his getting “mad,” that we can set this splendid habit of self
control as one of the things that made him great and noble.
But as he got into his teens and began to think for himself, he felt that he must soon decide upon what he was to do for himself so as to take some of the burden from his mother's shoulders. Mary Washington had a great
MARY THE MOTHER OF GEORGE
plantation to look after and not enough money to do the things she wished. She saw this big, spirited, ambitious, determined son of hers growing up in her home, and she wondered what she could do for him and with him, to make him a capable and successful man, who, by helping himself, should help her.
The boy thought of the same thing, too. He really could
not tell what he wanted to do, for not many boys of fourteen are ready to know what they are best fitted for. From being much along the river, however, when the busy tobacco ships sailed into the harbors and along from wharf to
wharf, or slipped down with the current to the broad bay and the wide ocean beyond, George Washington soon grew to have that desire for travel and adventure that comes to many a brave boy, and so he concluded that he should like to be a sailor, even if he had to go “ before the mast,” on one of the tobacco ships. He talked with his older brothers and with his big-boy friends about it. He even tried on a “ sailor suit ” and posed before his friends. They all thought it might be a good thing for him, and said that some day he might rise to be a mate or perhaps a captain. There is lots of risk about going to sea, they said. Vessels get wrecked and pirates sometimes capture them, and there is a chance that the bold sailor boy may be drowned or have to walk the plank. But then, too, there is plenty of promise in a sailor's life for so plucky a young fellow as George Washington, and even if he does start in as a sailor on a tobacco ship, he may some day get a berth in a man-of-war and wear the king's uniform in the king's navy.
All this only made George Washington the more anxious to go to sea. He talked it over with his mother and, although she greatly disliked the idea of her son being a sailor, still she was so impressed with the boy's desire to do something, and to be somebody, and to go somewhere “on his own hook,” that she was just on the point of saying yes to his pleadings when something happened to make her say no.
This was the receipt of a letter from her brother in