Imágenes de páginas

proceeding, coming to Washington's ears, drew down upon his agent a rebuke stern and uncompromising, with the command rather to let the place be burned and ravaged than tamper with the enemy. The alternative was not again presented, and two years later saw Mount Vernon once more in gala dress, made ready for a three-days visit, at Christmas, of Washington, accompanied by his staff, the Comte de Rochambeau, and General Chastellux. No one who is unfamiliar with the old-style methods of Southern hospitality can realize the amount of cheery labor preluding an event like this. In all Virginia country houses, the preparation of ornamental confectionery devolved upon the ladies of the family. For days before the arrival of guests the entire pantry

house must have its sprig of cedar or of holly. The bedrooms, plain but exquisitely neat, were aired and garnished. The beds were made up with linen like that of the inn in Walton's "Angler"-"sheets that-look white and smell of lavender"-and decorated, moreover, with white dimity curtains and counterpanes of home-made knotted-work. Every fire-place was piled high with logs, and was haunted by a small dark personage brandishing a turkey wing, ready, as might be needed, to fan a flame or to sweep away the ashes. Tradition tells how noble Martha Washington, although saddened by the loss of her son two years before, and bearing fresh in memory the bitter privations of the American soldiers, nerved herself to do the honors as a good

[graphic][merged small][merged small][merged small]
[merged small][merged small][graphic][merged small]

the Revolutionary war, when the old plantation life was as far as possible resumed, were varied by incessant tributes of admiration coming to him from the civilized world at large, and by the continual presence at his home of visitors both great and small. The writer is the owner of a memento of this period, of general interest as indicating the modesty with which Washington shrank from praise of himself. It is a framed mezzotint, under glass, of a full-length portrait by Peel of General Nathaniel Greene of Rhode Island, with an engraved legend naming the artists, and showing it to be "from the original picture in the possession of Mr. Brown, published by him April 22d, 1785, and sold at No. 10, George Yard, Lombard Street, London." It was presented by Washington to Mr. Carlyle; given by him in turn to his daughter, Mrs. Herbert; and by her left to her two maiden daughters. One of these ladies, both of whom died at a good old age in Alexandria, in 1863, remembered a visit to Mount Vernon as a

their grandniece; but the war then preventing her from acquiring immediate possession, the picture was by a relative carried back to Mount Vernon, and there remained for eight years before it finally came to hand in New York, by express, and with the glass broken in transit. An inspection made of the print when the broken glass was removed brought to light the fact that a section cut from the lower margin had been replaced by an inserted piece of Bristol-board on which a text had been engrossed with pen and ink. A strip of paper, yellow with age, covered the inserted card-board, and not only rendered the writing illegible, but so concealed it that only the closest scrutiny could detect the lines at all. When this covering had been carefully cleaned off, the text below was revealed in these words:

"To his Excellency, General Washington, more exalted in Virtue than in Rank, In Gratitude for his laudable Labours which have been most honorably and Mankind, This Print is with the utmost respect presuccessfully exerted in the great cause of Liberty and sented by Joseph Brown."

dividing his interest with the affairs of the new army, gave him pleasure during the brief remainder of his life. It was to a ride around his farm, exposed to the sleet and snow of a raw December day, that the nation owed its mournful loss. A cold taken then, followed by a brief struggle for life, resulted two days later in his death.

That last sad scene in "the chamber" at Mount Vernon!- who can picture it without a sense of personal interest? The simple homely room, looking southward to the Potomac. A wood fire, casting fitful shadows on the wall. Beside the bed, those faithful, silent watchers,


It is evident that Washington, before hanging the picture upon the walls at Mount Vernon, himself pasted the strip of paper over a eulogy the existence of which, discovered thus by accident, had not been suspected by the friend to whom the print had afterwards been given, or by two generations of his descendants.

In 1789 we see Washington again bidding "adieu to Mount Vernon, to private life, and to domestic felicity." The choice of the American people had made him President; and obediently he went forth to receive the highest honors of the

nation. During his terms of office, the care of Mount Vernon, although relegated to a trusted manager, was rarely absent from his thoughts. He returned to it finally in 1797, to take up again the scheme of agriculture so often interrupted. This beloved pursuit


Craik the physician, and Lear the secretary. At the foot of the bed, the brave wife, who looked beyond the present grief to the hour when she might follow him. On the pillow, that still heroic face. Of all the great men this weary world can chronicle, how many

[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][graphic]



IME moves so gently in the quiet old town of Alexandria, that twenty-five years, more or less, does not seem to matter much. While the great cities of the East have been doubling themselves and the cities of the West have grown from mere villages into vast centers of trade and population, the quiet old town has scarcely changed. The colonial flavor still clings to her stately houses and lovely gardens, though it may have been banished from the busier streets, where the necessary buying and sell ing goes on. The colonial names which testified to the loyalty of the Alexandrians of ante-revolutionary days are still retained by the streets which lie along the river or have their origin there. The shifting of base which came with the revolt of the colonies is well typified in these same streets, where Columbia and Washington cut sharply across King and Queen and the rest of the royal family.

A quiet retrospective air marks the better quarters of the old town, gradually shading down, through shabby gentility and decent

poverty, into the squalor and sordid wretchedness which one finds along the river-brink,dilapidated houses now occupied by the Alexandria darky, dark and filthy junk-shops reeking with vile smells, rotting quays lapped by the quiet waters of the Potomac.

The old Fairfax house on Cameron street, built of brick brought from England by one of the family, stands apparently unchanged since the days of '59, when I knew and loved it well. It shows sign neither of decrepitude. nor of restoration, but the Fairfax familydispersed by the civil war - know it no more.

The Carlyle house is by far the most interesting relic in the town,- with the possible exception of Christ Church, which, however, has a spick-and-span look that makes one hesitate to call it a relic. The Braddock headquarters, as the Carlyle house came to be called, is now incorporated into the hotel once familiarly known as the Mansion House, but rechristened of late years the Braddock House. It stands, doors wide open, upon the grassy court

[graphic][merged small]

yard of the hotel, a deserted, dismantled, dilapidated house, the plaster loosened from the ceilings, and the rats its only inhabitants. Some of the rooms are locked, but the most interesting, from its associations, stands open. This is the paneled room where the British council met, with their brave and headstrong martinet of a commander. To this council Braddock summoned young Major Washington, to get from him advice as to his tactics in dealing with the French and Indian allies at Fort Duquesne,-advice fatally neglected, as the world well knows.

The room is quite small; not more than 21 by 16 feet, a casual judgment would give as its proportions. The walls are paneled wood painted a bright blue, with heavy carved frieze, chair board, and moldings over the doors in white. The windows do not come down to the floor, the sill being almost twenty inches above it. In the embrasures of the windows, some ten inches below the sills, are seats, deep and wide enough to accommodate two of the slim figures in fashion among our ancestors of that day. The paneling over the mantel-shelf indicates the presence of a picture or a mirror at some time, and a primitive cupboard stands open opposite the door. The small dimensions of the rooms is a very noticeable feature, both

here and at Mount Vernon. We are accustomed to think of these rooms, the scenes of colonial dances and banquets, as being spacious and rather grand, but when one comes to see them, they shrink into insignificance when compared with the rooms in our side cottages" of to-day.



Old Christ Church, around which so many memories cluster, is a solid, humdrum-looking building. It looks old, but not ancient in any degree. It has been in constant use from the days when Washington worshiped there till the present time, and has, therefore, been prevented from falling into dilapidation. Originally the pews were very high, the purpose evidently being to permit the occupants a view of the pulpit only, and so prevent, as far as lay in a wooden barricade, wandering thoughts. Many of the pews were square, with seats around three sides. In 1816 a number of these pews were divided into pews of the ordinary size. Washington's pew is now the only square one left in the church.

The old "wine-glass" pulpit from which Washington was wont to be "instructed" in his duties to God and man, a few years ago was taken away and replaced by a more modern form. What became of it remains an open secret: it is living a divided existence as "me

« AnteriorContinuar »