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   Chapter 3 A COMMUNITY PROUD OF ITS FAMILY HONOR

The Wonderful Story of Washington By Charles M. Stevens Characters: 4116

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:04


Lawrence Washington showed in many ways that he dearly loved his reliable, busy little half-brother. George spent much of his time at Mount Vernon. Lawrence had become quite an important man in the public estimation. He had what might well be called a princely estate, which he upheld in princely style, without offence to any one, and with the admiration of all the people.

Next to him, on the picturesque Potomac ridge, lived his father-in-law on the beautiful estate named Belvoir. This very honorable and high-minded gentleman was of an old aristocratic English family, and he was the manager of the extensive estates in Virginia of his cousin, Lord Fairfax.

George Washington grew up in these severely aristocratic associations, in which the gentility had no snobbery and the class distinction nothing offensive beyond the requirements of merit, culture and the manners of genuine gentlemen. Doubtless in admiration for the neatness, cleanliness, harmony and scrupulous morality of these beautiful homes, he was inspired to draw up his famous code known as "Rules for Behavior in Company and Conversation." We can easily imagine that the visitors he met at Mount Vernon and Belvoir were the very well-bred ladies and chivalrous gentleman of a courtly English period, among whom were mingled numerous heroic captains from the West Indies, whose chief topics of conversation were thrilling descriptions and stories of Pirates and Spaniards. Perhaps he was then receiving a vision of international affairs, from a world view, that was important to his mission in civilization, even as Lincoln learned his country's welfare in his struggle upward among the backwoods commoners of his times.

That George was greatly influenced by the warship heroes he met is shown by his eagerness to join the navy. Everybody seemed to think this was the thing for him except his mother. Even her firm decisions were at last overcome, a midshipman's place was obtained for him and his personal effects were sent aboard the man-of-war, but the mother could not say g

ood-bye to her eldest son. She couldn't give him up and she didn't. It is hardly likely that the world, a hundred years later, could have known that there ever was such a person as George Washington, if his mother had not changed her mind and kept him from the boisterous turmoil of the uncertain sea. However that may be, he was sent to school instead of making a cruise in the West Indies. His study was mathematics and military tactics, the very thing most needed in the sublime undertaking that was to make his name immortal.

Strange to say, he was known as a very bashful boy. In fact, all through his life he was embarrassed in the presence of ladies. A girl of his own age, who saw much of him when he was a boy, wrote in later life, that "he was a very bashful young man." She says, "I used often to wish that he would talk more."

That his emotional feelings were very early developed is quite certain from his own diary written at that time. He wrote, with the usual foolishness of a boy, about some unnamed girl with whom he was madly in love. He was for a long time exceedingly unhappy. Even his well-disciplined mind and his severe regulation of conduct were no proof against the turmoil of unreturned affection. We have never known anything about this beautiful lodestone that had drawn the heart out of him. He never described her or told who she was. It was probably merely a fancy ideal with which he clothed some one utterly impossible as a real friend or mate to him. Such queer freaks of interest have often happened to the emotions of a growing mind, and later, the victim wondered what was possible in the object to cause such feelings. In all likelihood, there was nothing in the object that should have caused anything more than a just admiration or respect. But instead, the feelings caught on fire and had to burn out. So it was with Washington. As he was loyal to his ideals, even when they were merely fancy, foolishly wrapped about some inappropriate object, he remained devoted to his grief until years wore out the memory.

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