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   Chapter 28 SORROW FOR THE DEPARTED SCENES AROUND MOUNT VERNON

The Wonderful Story of Washington By Charles M. Stevens Characters: 3382

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:04


At the close of his term of office, March 4, 1797, Washington retired to his home at Mount Vernon loved by all the understanding world.

In a letter to Mrs. S. Fairfax, then in England, he wrote, "It is a matter of sore regret when I cast my eyes toward Belvoir, which I often do, to reflect that the former inhabitants of it, with whom we lived in such harmony and friendship, no longer reside there, and the ruins only can be viewed as the mementoes of former pleasures."

The home interest of Washington can be seen in a letter he wrote to Miss Nelly Custis, a granddaughter of his wife. Her father had died when she was a child, and Washington, having no children, had adopted Nelly and brought her up in his family. She was of a beautiful nature and was much beloved by Washington.

She appears to have had some very decided social notions, and one of these was, as she expressed it, "a perfect apathy toward the youth of the present day," and a determination never to give herself "a moment's uneasiness on account of any of them."

That was perhaps the rather high-sounding notion that romantic young folks sometimes acquire of independence from usual life and of superiority to their associates. Evidently Washington did not regard her resolution with any grave alarm. He perhaps knew the ancient privilege allowing women to change their minds. Nevertheless, it was worthy of his experienced consideration, at least against letting too many know her "irrevocable determination" because, when she did change, as was doubtless inevitable, it should not bear any likelihood of being embarrassing.

"Men and women," he wrote her, "feel the same inclination toward each other no

w that they always have done, and which they will continue to do until there is a new order of things; and you, as others have done, may find that the passions of your sex are easier raised than allayed. Do not, therefore, boast too soon nor too strong of your insensibility.

"Love is said to be an involuntary passion, and it is therefore contended that it cannot be resisted. This is true in part only, for, like all things else, when nourished and supplied plentifully with aliment, it is rapid in its progress; but let these be withdrawn, and it may be stifled in its birth or much stinted in its growth.

"Although we cannot avoid first impressions, we may assuredly place them under guard.

"When the fire is beginning to kindle, and your heart growing warm, propound these questions to it: Who is this invader? Have I a competent knowledge of him? Is he a man of good character? A man of sense? For, be assured, a sensible woman can never be happy with a fool. What has been his walk in life? Is he one to whom my friends can have no reasonable objection?

"If all these interrogations can be satisfactorily answered, there will remain but one more to be asked. That, however, is an important one. Have I sufficient ground to conclude that his affections are engaged by me? Without this the heart of sensibility will struggle against a passion that is not reciprocated."

Sure enough, it was but a short time until romance came to Mount Vernon, and Miss Nelly changed her mind very promptly. Lawrence Lewis arrived, the clouds of doubt vanished, and the love-bells were set to ringing until the wedding-bells took up the melody that passed on into the music of the spheres.

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