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ence was a bar to the frolic, and after a few pleasant words he left the room, whereupon the young folks' dignity turned into fun again. But Washington had felt badly to think that he could not be in a good time; so, when the frolic was again at its height, he slipped quietly up to the open door
way and, unseen by the boys and girls, watched the sport and enjoyed it immensely. All of which shows that greatness has its drawbacks, and that fame is sometimes a fun-spoiler.
But the same love of sport that made Washington the boy a leader among his comrades, lived with him all through
life; and, when he was among his girls and boys, even his dignity would relax and he would join with them in their good times. We read of his having had “a pretty little
frisk” with a houseful of young people. Indeed, “ Nellie” Custis said of him that, though “a silent, thoughtful man, the general would unbend when there were children in the company;” and, she added, “I have sometimes made him
laugh most heartily from sympathy with my joyous and extravagant sports.”
So you see that our hero had about him much of the real man after all, and was not the “marble statue " that so many would have us think him. He loved children, and the boys and girls loved him. There are many stories told of his interest in boys and girls and his tender ways toward them ; such, for instance, as the story that Miss Seward tells of Simon Crosby, “the little cockade maker,” who rode his shaggy pony to Washington's camp with a load of cockades and epaulets — all he could contribute toward the cause — and implored “the general” to accept them. Lafayette and Hamilton, scarcely more than “big boys,” were his closest friends in the army, and the British, in derision, called the brave young French noble “the Boy.” Jacky Custis and Lawrence Lewis, both boys, were very near and dear to him; and, so strong was his belief that upon the boys and girls of his day depended the future success or failure of the nation he had helped to found, that, in his will, he left money for four different educational enterprises ; while, in his famous Farewell Address, he wrote for the benefit of young Americans, quite as much as for their fathers and mothers, the words of advice and direction that his countrymen have ever remembered and, sometimes, tried to live up to.
THE STORY WITHOUT AN END.
NOW that I have told
you the story of George Washington's life, does it seem to you a very remarkable one? If you are looking for something exciting, or for something full of adventure and surprises, you may, of course,
be disappointed; for George Washington was simply a Virginia gentleman who did his duty and helped his fellowmen.
He was not perfect; he had his faults, as do all of us. He could get very angry when things went wrong, and could say and do things that made men afraid to face him. He was not the precious little prig that certain unfounded stories of his boyhood make him appear, who could cut down his father's pet cherry-tree, and then strike an attitude and say, as if he were speaking a piece : “ Father, I cannot tell a lie, I did it with my little hatchet.” But he never told a lie, and through all his long life he hated nothing worse than falsehood. In the heat of passion, as when Lee traitorously ordered a retreat at Monmouth; when he detected men making money out of the woes and worries of the Revolution ; or when St. Clair, in the face of his repeated charge to beware of a surprise in fighting the Ohio Indians, fell into the trap, and was desperately defeated, this quiet, calm and cool man could swear and rage; but he detested an oath, and one of the first things he did upon taking command of the army at Cambridge was to issue an order requesting his soldiers not to swear. He has been known to cuff and strike his soldiers when they were cowardly, quarrelsome and stupid; but no commander of armies ever looked more carefully after the men under his lead, was more beloved by them or was followed more willingly.