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interview with Mrs. Custis, as well as her character during the remainder of her life, is thus truly and beautifully described by Mrs. Sigourney :

It was in the spring of 1758, that two gentlemen, attended by a servant, were seen riding through the luxuriant scenery with which the county of New Kent, in Virginia, abounds. The most striking figure of the group was tall, graceful, and commanding, in a rich military undress, and apparently twenty-five or twentysix years of age. He would have been held a model for the statuary when Rome was in her best days. His companion was an elderly man, in a plain garb, who, by the familiarity with which he pointed out surrounding objects, would seem to be taking his daily round upon his own estate. As they approached the avenue to an antique mansion, he placed his hand upon the rein of his companion:

"Nay, Colonel Washington, let it never be said that you passed the house of your father's friend without dismounting. I must insist on the honour of detaining you as my guest."

"Thanks to you, my dear sir, but I ride in haste, the bearer of despatches to our governor in Williamsburg, which may not brook delay."

"Is this the noble steed which was given you by the dying Braddock, on the fatal field of the Monongahela? and this the servant which he bequeathed you at the same time?”

Washington answered in the affirmative.

“Then, my dear colonel, thus mounted and attended, you may well dine with me, and by borrowing somewhat of this fine moonlight, reach Williamsburg ere his excellency shall have shaken off his morning slumbers."

"Do I understand that I may be excused immediately after dinner ?"

“Immediately, with all the promptness of military discipline." "Then, sir, I accept your hospitality;" and gracefully throwing himself from his spirited charger, he resigned the reins to his English servant, giving, at the same time, strict orders as to the hour when he must be ready with the horses to pursue their journey.

"I am rejoiced, Colonel Washington," said the hospitable old gentleman, thus fortunately to have met you on my morning ride; and the more so, as I have some guests who will make the repast pass pleasantly, and will not fail to appreciate our young and valiant soldier."

Washington bowed his thanks, and was introduced to the company. Virginia's far-famed hospitality was well set forth in that spacious baronial hall. Precise in his household regulations, the social feast was closed at the time the host had predicted. The servant also was punctual. He knew the habits of his master. At the appointed moment, he stood with the horses caparisoned at the gate. Long did the proud steed champ his bit, and curve his arching neck, and paw the broken turf. And much did the menial marvel, as, listening to every footstep that paced down the avenue, he saw the sun sink in the west, and yet no master appear. When was he ever before known to fail in an appointment? The evening air breathed cool and damp, and soothed the impatience of the chafing courser. At length, orders came that the horses should be put up for the night. Wonder upon wonder! when his business with the governor was so urgent! The sun rode high in the heavens the next day, ere Washington mounted for his journey. No explanation was given. But it was rumoured, that among the guests was a beautiful and youthful widow, to whose charms his heart had responded. This was further confirmed, by his tarrying but a brief space at Williamsburg, and retracing his route with unusual celerity, and becoming a frequent visiter at the house of the late Colonel Custis, in that vicinity, where, the following year, (January 6, 1759,) his nuptials were celebrated. "And rare and high," says G. W. P. Custis, Esq., the descendant and biographer of the lady, "rare and high was the revelry, at that palmy period of Virginia's festal age; for many were gathered to that marriage, of the good, the great, the gifted, and the gay; while Virginia, with joyful acclamation, hailed in the prosperous and happy bridegroom her favourite hero."

Henceforth, the life of the lady of Mount Vernon is a part of the history of her country. In that hallowed retreat, she was found entering into the plans of Washington, sharing his confidence, and making his household happy. There, her only daughter, Martha Custis, died in the bloom of youth; and a few years after, when the troubles of the country drew her husband to the post of commander-in-chief of her armies, she accompanied him to Boston, and witnessed its siege and evacuation. For eight years he returned no more to enjoy his beloved residence on the banks of the Potomac. During his absence she made the most strenuous efforts to discharge the added weight of care, and to endure, with changeless trust in Heaven, continual anxiety for the safety of one

so inexpressibly dear. At the close of each campaign, she repaired, in compliance with his wishes, to head-quarters, where the ladies of the general officers joined her in forming such a society, as diffused a cheering influence over even the gloom of the winter at Valley-Forge and Morristown. The opening of every campaign was the signal of the return of Lady Washington (as she was called in the army) to her domestic cares at Mount Vernon. "I heard," said she, "the first and the last cannon of the revolutionary war." The rejoicings which attended the surrender of Cornwallis, in the autumn of 1781, marked for her a season of the deepest private sorrow. Her only remaining child, Colonel John Custis, the aide-de-camp of Washington, became, during his arduous duties at the siege of Yorktown, the victim of an epidemic fever, and died at the age of twenty-seven. He was but a boy of five years, at the time of her second marriage, and had drawn forth strongly the affection and regard of her illustrious husband, who shared her affliction for his loss, and by the tenderest sympathy strove to alleviate it.

After the close of the war, a few years were devoted to the enjoyment and embellishments of their favourite Mount Vernon. The peace and returning prosperity of their country gave pure and bright ingredients to their cup of happiness. Their mansion was thronged with guests of distinction, all of whom remarked, with admiration, the energy of Mrs. Washington, in the complicated duties of a Virginia housewife, and the elegance and grace with which she presided at her noble board.

The voice of a free nation, conferring on General Washington the highest honour in its power to bestow, was not obeyed without a sacrifice of feeling. It was in the spring of 1789, that, with his lady, he bade adieu to his tranquil abode, to assume the responsibilities of the first presidency. In forming his domestic establishment, he mingled the simplicity of a republic with that degree of dignity, which he felt was necessary to secure the respect of older governments. The furniture of his house, the livery of his servants, the entertainment of his guests, displayed elegance, while they rejected ostentation. In all these arrangements, Mrs. Washington was as a second self. Her Friday evening levees, at which he was always present, exhibited that perfect etiquette which marks the intercourse of the dignified and high-bred. Commencing at seven, and closing at ten, they lent no more sanction to late hours than to levity. The first lady of the nation still preserved the habits of early life. Indulging in no indolence, she

left her pillow at dawn, and, after breakfast, retired to her chamber an hour, for the study of the Scriptures and devotion. This practice, it is said, during the long period of half a century, she never omitted. The duties of the Sabbath were dear to her. The President and herself attended public worship with regularity, and in the evening he read to her, in her chamber, the Scriptures, and a sermon."

Receiving with his wife an addition to his fortune of more than a hundred thousand dollars, it became necessary for Washington to devote a considerable portion of his time to the care and management of his estate. Accordingly, in April, 1759, he retired with Mrs. Washington to Mount Vernon; having spent the three months intervening from the time of his marriage, in arranging the affairs of his wife's estate, and in attending the session of the House of Burgesses, which was convened in February. For, during the last campaign, while advancing upon Fort Duquesne, he was chosen by the people of Frederic County to represent them in the Assembly.

When he first took his seat in the house, an incident occurred, of sufficient interest to require a notice in this place. The House of Burgesses resolved to return their thanks to him in a public manner for the services he had rendered his country, and this duty devolved on his friend, Mr. Robinson, the speaker of the House. As soon as Colonel Washington had taken his seat, the speaker discharged the duty imposed upon him with all the warmth of panegyric which personal regard and a full appreciation of his merits could dictate. This unwonted and unexpected honour completely robbed the young warrior of his self-possession. He rose to express his acknowledgment, but such was his trepidation and confusion that he could not give distinct utterance to a syllable. For a moment he blushed, stammered, and trembled, when the speaker relieved him with a stroke of address that would have done honour to Louis the Fourteenth in his proudest and happiest moments "Sit down, Mr. Washington," said he with a conciliating smile, "your modesty is equal to your valour, and that surpasses the power of any language that I possess.

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From this period until he was called upon to take part in the revolution, a period of fifteen years, Washington was constantly a member of the Virginia House of Burgesses, being returned at every election, with large majorities over every opponent. During the first half of this period he represented the county of Frederic

* Wirt's Life of Patrick Henry.

in conjunction with another gentleman, and during the remainder of the time, the county of Fairfax in which he resided.

In the House of Burgesses, Washington was by no means distinguished for his eloquence. He had none of those brilliant and extraordinary qualities which strike at once upon the human imagination. He was not one of those ardent spirits, eager to explode, driven onwards by the energy of their thoughts or of their passions, and scattering about them the exuberance of their own natures, before either opportunity or necessity has called forth the exercise of their powers. Unacquainted with aught of inward agitation, untormented by the promptings of splendid ambition, Washington anticipated none of the occurrences of his life, and aspired not to win the admiration of mankind. His firm intellect and his high heart were profoundly modest and calm. Capable of rising to the level of the highest greatness, he could, without a pang, have remained ignorant of his own powers, and he would have found in the cultivation of his estate enough to satisfy those vast faculties which were equal to the command of armies and the foundation of a government. But when the opportunity occurred, when the need was, without an effort on his part, and without surprise on that of others, or rather, as has just been shown, in conformity with their expectations, the wise planter shone forth a great man. He had, to a very high degree, the two qualities which, in active life, fit men for great achievements; he trusted firmly in his own thoughts, and dared resolutely to act upon them, without fear of responsibility."

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The interest with which his remarks were always listened to, arose out of the importance of the subjects which elicited them, the manifest soundness of his views, and the unbiassed directness of his political course. Even at this early period of life, the sobriety of his judgment anticipated the claims of advanced age; and though he rarely generated enthusiasm in his hearers, yet he almost invariably convinced their minds and obtained their concurrence. He evidently acted in his own person, upon the advice which he subsequently gave to his nephew on his first appearance in the Assembly. "If you have a mind to secure the attention of the House," he said, "speak seldom but on important subjects, except such as particularly relate to your constituents; and in the former case, make yourself completely master of the subject. Never exceed a decent warmth, and submit your sentiments with

* Guizot.

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