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Patty, looking back sadly. "Mamma, what became of Washington's slaves ?”
"I cannot tell you,” said Mrs. Gray; "he left them their freedom after Mrs. Washington's death. Christopher, the body-servant, who was with him at the time of his death, was pensioned by Congress. He lived to be one hundred and fourteen years old, and died on the 9th of June, 1843, when I was at Mount Vernon.”
" Mamma,” said Patty, in a low voice, " do you think they were set free?"
"Not all of them, I am afraid," said Mrs. Gray; "certainly not the children, for as late as 1843, there were several on the place who had been born there before Washington died.”
" Mamma,” said Patty, as they drove on, over a very rough road, and between two long rows of trees that looked very much neglected,
mamma, did George Washington care for poor people? Did he ever give anything away?”
"Not to beggars," said Mrs. Gray; " but he was very
kind to the poor. There was a room in his house set apart for them, and he thought so much of the value of a poor man's time, that
he never kept one waiting. He never deceived the poor with delays. If he could not do what they wished, he would say so at once. The words 'Come again’ were never heard at Mount Vernon. Most of the poor people in this region live on bacon. The river is full of little fish, - a kind of herring, that are excellent food, — but the poor have no boats nor nets, and so they cannot catch them.
As long as Washington lived, he kept a boat, and a very costly net, called a seine, on purpose for the poor people; and he gave them the use of one of his best fisheries. If the boat drifted away, or the net broke, Washington considered it his place to replace both. The people along shore called the herring 'small-boned bacon,' and thought it a great luxury.”
" I like that,” said Patty ; " they had to work hard to get their dinners, after all; but I don't believe I should ever like fresh herring.”
They are very much like smelts,” said Mrs. Gray; " but the poor people could pickle them in a great many ways, with brine, or vinegar and spice. It sometimes happened that the net was so full of fish that the poor people could not haul it in alone. When that happened, Washington's own overseer was told to help them. You know Washington had a good many farms, or plantations. Each of his overseers had orders to fill one corn-house for the poor women and children in the neighborhood. Lund Washington, one of the General's relations, was manager at Mount Vernon, and he did the same. One
year corn was very scarce; it was a dollar a bushel. Many people came near starving. After Lund had given away all the corn in the corn-house, the General told him to take all that could be spared from his own store; and when that was gone, he bought several hundred bushels to give away."
"Ah, mamma!” said Patty, her eyes glistening, "I shall like George Washington now ; I begin to see why people liked him. Somehow, mamma, I can't think of George Washington helping the poor, or playing with little children.”
"I do not think he ever gave much with his own hand, Patty,” said her mother, "and so he lost a great pleasure; but he was naturally shy. When I was a young girl, his granddaughter,
Mrs. Peter, had white hair; but I have often heard her say that it was a great trouble to him that children were afraid of him. When the little things were playing in his drawingroom, he would sit and watch them, and then, afraid that they were not happy, he would go quite away.”
" Mamma," said Patty," do you know any more nice stories?”
"I haven't told you about the cherry tree,” said Mrs. Gray, mischievously.
"Oh, mamma,” said Patty, "how can you spoil everything? There used to be a story about a sorrel colt,” she added in a sort of asking way, "but I don't suppose that could be true? Why, that was very bad, indeed, as bad as any boy; and, mamma, you said he spoke hot words to Mr. Payne. I didn't know he could do such things."
"I reckon he killed that sorrel colt,” said Tony, speaking up; " we've often heard of it, down here, and, begging your pardon, Miss Patty, it was just like he. Do you see that bit of a field yonder, between that fence and the edge of the woods ? ”
Patty peeped through the avenue, and saw what Tony pointed out.
"Well," said Tony, " the General could get in a passion, they say, as well as another. He killed his mother's favorite colt when he was not more than twelve years' old, just because he wouldn't be beat. If he hadn't made anything of hisself afterwards, you'd have jes called him a bad boy; but in that field yonder he did something quite as silly after he was a grown man.
He had a great notion of improving things. One spring he invented a new plough, and the very minute the last nail was druv in it, what must he do but try it on to a field? Well, the mules and the cattle were off down the river, a half dozen miles. They would have been home in an hour; but the General wouldn't wait; so the finest pair of carriage horses in the county must be harnessed into the new plough, and set to tearing through that field.” " Did it hurt 'em?” said Patty.
Mrs. Washington thought so," said Tony, grimly; " she said they never got their paces after.”