Heroes Every Child Should Know
Hamilton Wright Mabie

Part 5 out of 6

vengeance of all Comyn's relations, the resentment of the King of
England, and the displeasure of the Church, on account of having
slain his enemy within consecrated ground. He determined, therefore,
to bid them all defiance at once, and to assert his pretensions to
the throne of Scotland. He drew his own followers together, summoned
to meet him such barons as still entertained hopes of the freedom of
the country, and was crowned King at the Abbey of Scone, the usual
place where the Kings of Scotland assumed their authority.

Everything relating to the ceremony was hastily performed. A small
circlet of gold was hurriedly made, to represent the ancient crown
of Scotland, which Edward had carried off to England. The Earl of
Fife, descendant of the brave Macduff, whose duty it was to have
placed the crown on the King's head, would not give his attendance,
but the ceremonial was performed by his sister, Isabella, Countess
of Buchan.

Edward was dreadfully incensed when he heard that, after all the
pains which he had taken, and all the blood which had been spilled,
the Scots were making this new attempt to shake off his authority.
Though now old, feeble, and sickly, he made a solemn vow, in
presence of all his court, that he would take the most ample
vengeance upon Robert the Bruce and his adherents; after which he
would never again draw his sword upon a Christian, but would only
fight against the unbelieving Saracens for the recovery of the Holy
Land. He marched against Bruce accordingly, at the head of a
powerful army.

The commencement of Bruce's undertaking was most disastrous. He was
crowned on the twenty-ninth of March, 1306. On the eighteenth of May
he was ex-communicated by the Pope, on account of the murder of
Comyn within consecrated ground, a sentence which excluded him from
all benefits of religion, and authorized any one to kill him.
Finally, on the nineteenth of June, the new King was completely
defeated near Methven by the English Earl of Pembroke. Robert's
horse was killed under him in the action, and he was for a moment a
prisoner. But he had fallen into the power of a Scottish knight,
who, though he served in the English army, did not choose to be the
instrument of putting Bruce into their hands, and allowed him to

Bruce, with a few brave adherents, among whom was the young lord of
Douglas, who was afterward called the Good Lord James, retired into
the Highland mountains. The Bruce's wife, now Queen of Scotland,
with several other ladies, accompanied her husband and his few
followers during their wanderings. There was no way of providing for
them save by hunting and fishing. Driven from one place in the
Highlands to another, starved out of some districts, and forced from
others by the opposition of the inhabitants, Bruce attempted to
force his way into Lorn; but he found enemies everywhere. The
MacDougals, a powerful family, then called Lords of Lorn, were
friendly to the English, and attacked Bruce and his wandering
companions as soon as they attempted to enter their territory. The
chief, called John of Lorn, hated Bruce on account of his having
slain the Red Comyn, to whom this MacDougal was nearly related.
Bruce was again defeated by this chief. He directed his men to
retreat through a narrow pass, and, placing himself last of the
party, he fought with and slew such of the enemy as attempted to
press hard on them. Three followers of MacDougal, a father and two
sons, called MacAndrosser, all very strong men, when they saw Bruce
thus protecting the retreat of his followers, rushed on the King at
once. Bruce was on horseback, in the strait pass betwixt a
precipitous rock and a deep lake. He struck the first man a blow
with his sword, as cut off his hand and freed the bridle. The man
bled to death. The other brother had meantime grasped Bruce by the
leg, and was attempting to throw him from horseback. The King,
setting spurs to his horse, made the animal suddenly spring forward,
so that the Highlander fell under the horse's feet, and, as he was
endeavouring to rise again, Bruce cleft his head in two with his
sword. The father, seeing his two sons thus slain, flew desperately
at the King, and grasped him by the mantle so close to his body,
that he could not have room to wield his long sword. But with the
heavy pummel of that weapon the King struck this third assailant so
dreadful a blow, that he dashed out his brains. Still, however, the
Highlander kept his dying grasp on the King's mantle; so that, to be
free of the dead body, Bruce was obliged to undo the brooch, or
clasp, by which it was fastened, and leave that, and the mantle
itself, behind him. The brooch, which fell thus into the possession
of MacDougal of Lorn, is still preserved in that ancient family as a

The King met with many such encounters amidst his dangerous and
dismal wanderings; yet, though almost always defeated by the
superior numbers of the English, and of such Scots as sided with
them, he still kept up his own spirits and those of his followers.
He was a better scholar than was usual in those days, when, except
clergymen, few people learned to read and write. But King Robert
could do both very well; and we are told that he sometimes read
aloud to his companions, to amuse them, when they were crossing the
great Highland lakes, in such wretched leaky boats as they could
find for that purpose. Loch Lomond, in particular, is said to have
been the scene of such a lecture. You may see by this, how useful it
is to possess knowledge.

At last dangers increased so much around the brave King Robert, that
he was obliged to separate himself from his Queen and her ladies. So
Bruce left his Queen, with the Countess of Buchan and others, in the
only castle which remained to him, which was called Kildrummie, and
is situated near the head of the river Don in Aberdeenshire. The
King also left his brother, Nigel Bruce, to defend the castle
against the English; and he himself, with his second brother Edward,
who was a very brave man, went over to an island called Rachrin, on
the coast of Ireland, where Bruce and the few men who followed his
fortunes passed the winter of 1306. In the meantime the castle of
Kildrummie was taken by the English, and Nigel Bruce, a beautiful
and brave youth, was cruelly put to death by the victors. The ladies
who had attended on Robert's Queen, as well as the Queen herself,
and the Countess of Buchan, were thrown into strict confinement.

The Countess of Buchan had given Edward great offence by being
the person who placed the crown on the head of Robert Bruce. She was
imprisoned within the Castle of Berwick, in a cage. The cage was a
strong wooden and iron piece of frame-work, placed within an
apartment, and resembling one of those places in which wild-beasts
are confined. There were such cages in most old prisons to which
captives were consigned, who were to be confined with peculiar

The news of the taking of Kildrummie, the captivity of his wife, and
the execution of his brother, reached Bruce while he was residing in
a miserable dwelling at Rachrin, and reduced him to the point of
despair. After receiving the intelligence from Scotland, Bruce was
lying one morning on his wretched bed, and deliberating with himself
whether he had not better resign all thoughts of again attempting to
make good his right to the Scottish crown, and, dismissing his
followers, transport himself and his brothers to the Holy Land, and
spend the rest of his life in fighting against the Saracens. But
then, on the other hand, he thought it would be both criminal and
cowardly to give up his attempts to restore freedom to Scotland
while there yet remained the least chance of his being successful in
an undertaking, which, rightly considered, was much more his duty
than to drive the infidels out of Palestine.

While he was divided betwixt these reflections, and doubtful of what
he should do, Bruce was looking upward to the roof of the cabin in
which he lay; and his eye was attracted by a spider, which, hanging
at the end of a long thread of its own spinning, was endeavouring to
swing itself from one beam in the roof to another, for the purpose
of fixing the line on which it meant to stretch its web. The insect
made the attempt again and again without success; at length Bruce
counted that it had tried to carry its point six times, and been as
often unable to do so. It came into his head that he had himself
fought just six battles against the English and their allies, and
that the poor persevering spider was exactly in the same situation
with himself, having made as many trials and been as often
disappointed in what it aimed at. "Now," thought Bruce, "as I have
no means of knowing what is best to be done, I will be guided by the
luck which shall attend this spider. If the insect shall make
another effort to fix its thread, and shall be successful, I will
venture a seventh time to try my fortune in Scotland; but if the
spider shall fail, I will go to the wars in Palestine, and never
return to my native country more."

While Bruce was forming this resolution the spider made another
exertion with all the force it could muster, and fairly succeeded in
fastening its thread to the beam which it had so often in vain
attempted to reach. Bruce seeing the success of the spider, resolved
to try his own fortune; and as he had never before gained a victory,
so he never afterward sustained any considerable or decisive check
or defeat. I have often met with people of the name of Bruce, so
completely persuaded of the truth of this story, that they would not
on any account kill a spider, because it was that insect which had
shown the example of perseverance, and given a signal of good luck
to their great namesake. Having determined to renew his efforts to
obtain possession of Scotland, the Bruce removed himself and his
followers from Rachrin to the island of Arran, which lies in the
mouth of the Clyde. The King landed, and inquired of the first woman
he met what armed men were in the island. She returned for answer
that there had arrived there very lately a body of armed strangers,
who had defeated an English governor of the castle, and were now
amusing themselves with hunting about the island. The King, having
caused himself to be guided to the woods which these strangers most
frequented, there blew his horn repeatedly. Now, the chief of the
strangers who had taken the castle was James Douglas, one of the
best of Bruce's friends, and he was accompanied by some of the
bravest of that patriotic band. When he heard Robert Bruce's horn,
he knew the sound well, and cried out, that yonder was the King, he
knew by his manner of blowing. So he and his companions hastened to
meet King Robert. They could not help weeping when they considered
their own forlorn condition, but they were stout-hearted men, and
yet looked forward to freeing their country.

The Bruce was now where the people were most likely to be attached
to him. He continued to keep himself concealed in his own earldom of
Carrick, and in the neighboring country of Galloway, until he should
have matters ready for a general attack upon the English. He was
obliged, in the meantime, to keep very few men with him, both for
the sake of secrecy, and from the difficulty of finding provisions.

Now, many of the people of Galloway were unfriendly to Bruce. They
lived under the government of one MacDougal, related to the Lord of
Lorn, who had defeated Bruce. These Galloway men had heard that
Bruce was in their country, having no more than sixty men with him;
so they resolved to attack him by surprise, and for this purpose
they got together and brought with them two or three bloodhounds. At
that time bloodhounds, or sleuthhounds, were used for the purpose of
pursuing great criminals. The men of Galloway thought that if they
missed taking Bruce, or killing him at the first onset, and if he
should escape into the woods, they would find him out by means of
these bloodhounds.

The good King Robert Bruce, who was always watchful and vigilant,
received some information of the intention of the party to come upon
him suddenly and by night. Accordingly, he quartered his little
troop of sixty men on the side of a deep and swift-running river,
that had very steep and rocky banks. There was but one ford by which
this river could be crossed in that neighbourhood, and that ford was
deep and narrow, so that two men could scarcely get through abreast;
the ground on which they were to land, on the side where the King
was, was steep, and the path which led upward from the water's edge
to the top of the bank, extremely narrow and difficult.

Bruce caused his men to lie down to take some sleep, at a place
about half a mile distant from the river, while he himself, with two
attendants, went down to watch the ford. He stood looking at the
ford, and thinking how easily the enemy might be kept from passing
there, provided it was bravely defended, when he heard, always
coming nearer and nearer, the baying of a hound. This was the
bloodhound which was tracing the King's steps to the ford where he
had crossed, and two hundred Galloway men were along with the
animal, and guided by it. Bruce at first thought of going back to
awaken his men; but then he reflected that it might be only some
shepherd's dog. "My men," said he, "are sorely tired; I will not
disturb their sleep for the yelping of a cur, till I know something
more of the matter." So he stood and listened; and by and by, as the
cry of the hound came nearer, he began to hear a trampling of
horses, and the voices of men, and the ringing and clattering of
armour, and then he was sure the enemy were coming to the river
side. Then the King thought, "If I go back to give my men the alarm,
these Galloway men will get through the ford without opposition; and
that would be a pity, since it is a place so advantageous to make
defence against them." So he looked again at the steep path, and the
deep river, and he thought that they gave him so much advantage,
that he himself could defend the passage with his own hand, until
his men came to assist him. He therefore sent his followers to waken
his men, and remained alone by the river.

The noise and trampling of the horses increased, and the moon being
bright, Bruce beheld the glancing arms of two hundred men, on the
opposite bank. The men of Galloway, on their part, saw but one
solitary figure guarding the ford, and the foremost of them plunged
into the river without minding him. But as they could only pass the
ford one by one, the Bruce, who stood high above them on the bank
where they were to land, killed the foremost man with a thrust of
his long spear, and with a second thrust stabbed the horse, which
fell down, kicking and plunging in his agonies, on the narrow path,
and so prevented the others who were following from getting out of
the river. Bruce had thus an opportunity of dealing his blows among
them, while they could not strike at him. In the confusion, five or
six of the enemy were slain, or, having been borne down with the
current, were drowned. The rest were terrified, and drew back.

But when the Galloway men looked again, and saw they were opposed by
only one man, they themselves being so many, they cried out, that
their honour would be lost forever if they did not force their way;
and encouraged each other, with loud cries, to plunge through and
assault him. But by this time the King's soldiers came up to his
assistance, and the Galloway men gave up their enterprise.

About the time when the Bruce was yet at the head of but few men,
Sir Aymer de Valence, who was Earl of Pembroke, together with Sir
John of Lorn, came into Galloway, each of them being at the head of
a large body of men. John of Lorn had a bloodhound with him, which
it was said had formerly belonged to Robert Bruce himself; and
having been fed by the King with his own hands, it became attached
to him, and would follow his footsteps anywhere, as dogs are well
known to trace their master's steps, whether they be bloodhounds or
not. By means of this hound, John of Lorn thought he should
certainly find out Bruce, and take revenge on him for the death of
his relation Comyn.

The King saw that he was followed by a large body, and being
determined to escape from them, he made all the people who were with
him disperse themselves different ways, thinking thus that the enemy
must needs lose trace of him. He kept only one man along with him,
and that was his own foster-brother, or the son of his nurse. When
John of Lorn came to the place where Bruce's companions had
dispersed themselves, the bloodhound, after it had sniffed up and
down for a little, quitted the footsteps of all the other fugitives,
and ran barking upon the track of two men out of the whole number.
Then John of Lorn knew that one of these two must needs be King
Robert. Accordingly, he commanded five of his men that were speedy
of foot to chase after him, and either make him prisoner or slay
him. The Highlanders started off accordingly, and ran so fast, that
they gained sight of Robert and his foster-brother. The King asked
his companion what help he could give him, and his foster-brother
answered he was ready to do his best. So these two turned on the
five men of John of Lorn, and killed them all.

But by this time Bruce very much fatigued, and yet they dared not
sit down to take any rest; for whenever they stopped for an instant,
they heard the cry of the bloodhound behind them, and knew by that,
that their enemies were coming up fast after them. At length, they
came to a wood, through which ran a small river. Then Bruce said to
his foster-brother, "Let us wade down this stream for a great way,
instead of going straight across, and so this unhappy hound will
lose the scent; for if we were once clear of him, I should not be
afraid of getting away from the pursuers." Accordingly, the King and
his attendant walked a great way down the stream, taking care to
keep their feet in the water, which could not retain any scent where
they had stepped. Then they came ashore on the further side from the
enemy, and went deep into the wood before they stopped to rest
themselves. In the meanwhile, the hound led John of Lorn straight to
the place where the King went into the water, but there the dog
began to be puzzled, not knowing where to go next. So, John of Lorn,
seeing the dog had lost track, gave up the chase, and returned to
join with Aymer de Valence.

But King Robert's adventures were not yet ended. It was now near
night, and he went boldy into a farmhouse, where he found the
mistress, an old, true-hearted Scotswoman, sitting alone. Upon
seeing a stranger enter she asked him who and what he was. The King
answered that he was a traveller, who was journeying through the

"All travellers," answered the good woman, "are welcome here, for
the sake of one."

"And who is that one," said the King, "for whose sake you make all

"It is our rightful King, Robert the Bruce," answered the mistress,
"and although he is now pursued and hunted after with hounds and
horns, I hope to live to see him King over all Scotland."

"Since you love him so well, madame," said the King, "know that you
see him before you. I am Robert the Bruce."

"You!" said the good woman, in great surprise; "and wherefore are
you thus alone? where are all your men?"

"I have none with me at this moment," answered Bruce, "and therefore
I must travel alone."

"But that shall not be," said the brave old dame, "for I have two
stout sons, gallant and trusty men, who shall be your servants for
life and death."

So she brought her two sons, and though she well knew the dangers to
which she exposed them, she made them swear fidelity to the King.

Now, the loyal woman was getting everything ready for the King's
supper, when suddenly there was a great trampling of horses heard
round the house. They thought it must be some of the English, or
John of Lorn's men, and the good wife called upon her sons to fight
to the last for King Robert. But shortly after, they heard the voice
of the good Lord James of Douglas, and of Edward Bruce, the King's
brother, who had come with a hundred and fifty horsemen, according
to the instructions that the King had left with them at parting.

Robert the Bruce was right joyful to meet his brother, and his
faithful friend Lord James; and had no sooner found himself once
more at the head of such a considerable body of followers, than he
forgot hunger and weariness. There was nothing but mount and ride;
and as the Scots rushed suddenly into the village where the English
were quartered, they easily dispersed and cut them to pieces.

The consequence of these successes of King Robert was that soldiers
came to join him on all sides, and that he obtained several
victories over English commanders; until at length the English were
afraid to venture into the open country, as formerly, unless when
they could assemble themselves in considerable bodies. They thought
it safer to lie still in the towns and castles which they had

Edward I would have entered Scotland at the head of a large army,
before he had left Bruce time to conquer back the country. But very
fortunately for the Scots, that wise and skilful, though ambitious
King, died when he was on the point of marching into Scotland. His
son Edward II neglected the Scottish war, and thus lost the
opportunity of defeating Bruce, when his force was small. But when
Sir Philip Mowbray, the governor of Stirling, came to London, to
tell the King, that Stirling, the last Scottish town of importance
which remained in possession of the English, was to be surrendered
if it were not relieved by force of arms before midsummer, then all
the English nobles called out, it would be a sin and shame to permit
the fair conquest which Edward I had made, to be forfeited to the
Scots for want of fighting.

King Edward II, therefore, assembled one of the greatest armies
which a King of England ever commanded. There were troops brought
from all his dominions, many brave soldiers from the French
provinces, many Irish, many Welsh, and all the great English nobles
and barons, with their followers. The number was not less than one
hundred thousand men.

King Robert the Brace summoned all his nobles and barons to join
him, when he heard of the great preparations which the King of
England was making. They were not so numerous as the English by many
thousand men. In fact, his whole army did not very much exceed
thirty thousand, and they were much worse armed than the wealthy
Englishmen; but then, Robert was one of the most expert generals of
the time; and the officers he had under him, were his brother
Edward, his faithful follower the Douglas, and other brave and
experienced leaders. His men had been accustomed to fight and gain
victories under every disadvantage of situation and numbers.

The King, on his part, studied how he might supply, by address and
stratagem, what he wanted in numbers and strength. He knew the
superiority of the English in their heavy-armed cavalry, and in
their archers. Both these advantages he resolved to provide against.
With this purpose, he led his army down into a plain near Stirling.
The English army must needs pass through a boggy country, broken
with water-courses, while the Scots occupied hard dry ground. He
then caused all the ground upon the front of his line of battle, to
be dug full of holes, about as deep as a man's knee. They were
filled with light brushwood, and the turf was laid on the top, so
that it appeared a plain field, while in reality it was as full of
these pits as a honeycomb is of holes. He also, it is said, caused
steel spikes, called calthrops, to be scattered up and down in the
plain, where the English cavalry were most likely to advance,
trusting in that manner to lame and destroy their horses.

When the Scottish army was drawn up, the line stretched north and
south. On the south, it was terminated by the banks of the brook
called Bannockburn, which are so rocky, that no troops could attack
them there. On the left, the Scottish line extended near to the town
of Stirling. Bruce reviewed his troops very carefully. He then spoke
to the soldiers, and expressed his determination to gain the
victory, or to lose his life on the field of battle. He desired that
all those who did not propose to fight to the last, should leave the
field before the battle began, and that none should remain except
those who were determined to take the issue of victory or death, as
God should send it. When the main body of his army was thus placed
in order, the King dispatched James of Douglas, and Sir Robert
Keith, the Mareschal of the Scottish army, in order that they might
survey the English force. They returned with information, that the
approach of that vast host was one of the most beautiful and
terrible sights which could be seen--that the whole country seemed
covered with men-at-arms on horse and foot.

It was upon the twenty-third of June, 1314, the King of Scotland
heard the news, that the English army was approaching Stirling. The
van now came in sight, and a number of their bravest knights drew
near to see what the Scots were doing. They saw King Robert dressed
in his armour, and distinguished by a gold crown, which he wore over
his helmet. He was not mounted on his great war-horse, because he
did not expect to fight that evening. But he rode on a little pony
up and down the ranks of his army, putting his men in order, and
carried in his hand a sort of battle-axe made of steel. When the
King saw the English horsemen draw near, he advanced a little before
his own men, that he might look at them more nearly.

There was a knight among the English, called Sir Henry de Bohun, who
thought this would be a good opportunity to gain great fame to
himself, and put an end to the war, by killing King Robert. The King
being poorly mounted, and having no lance, Bohun galloped on him
suddenly and furiously, thinking, with his long spear, and his tall,
powerful horse, easily to bear him down to the ground. King Robert
saw him, and permitted him to come very near, then suddenly turned
his pony a little to one side, so that Sir Henry missed him with the
lance-point, and was in the act of being carried past him by the
career of his horse. But as he passed, King Robert rose up in his
stirrups, and struck Sir Henry on the head with his battle-axe so
terrible a blow, that it broke to pieces his iron helmet as if it
had been a nut-shell, and hurled him from his saddle. He was dead
before he reached the ground. This gallant action was blamed by the
Scottish leaders, who thought Bruce ought not to have exposed
himself to so much danger, when the safety of the whole army
depended on him. The King only kept looking at his weapon, which was
injured by the force of the blow, and said, "I have broken my good

The next morning the English King ordered his men to begin the
battle. The archers then bent their bows, and began to shoot so
closely together, that the arrows fell like flakes of snow on a
Christmas day. They killed many of the Scots, and might have decided
the victory; but Bruce was prepared for them. A body of men-at-arms,
well mounted, rode at full gallop among them, and as the archers had
no weapons save their bows and arrows, which they could not use when
they were attacked hand to hand, they were cut down in great numbers
by the Scottish horsemen, and thrown into total confusion. The fine
English cavalry then advanced to support their archers. But coming
over the ground which was dug full of pits the horses fell into
these holes and the riders lay tumbling about, without any means of
defence, and unable to rise, from the weight of their armour.

While the battle was obstinately maintained on both sides, an event
happened which decided the victory. The servants and attendants on
the Scottish camp had been sent behind the army to a place afterward
called the Gillies' hill. But when they saw that their masters were
likely to gain the day, they rushed from their place of concealment
with such weapons as they could get, that they might have their
share in the victory and in the spoil. The English, seeing them come
suddenly over the hill, mistook this disorderly rabble for a new
army coming up to sustain the Scots, and, losing all heart, began to
shift every man for himself. Edward himself left the field as fast
as he could ride.

The English, after this great defeat, were no longer in a condition
to support their pretensions to be masters of Scotland, or to
continue to send armies into that country to overcome it. On the
contrary, they became for a time scarce able to defend their own
frontiers against King Robert and his soldiers.

Thus did Robert Bruce arise from the condition of an exile, hunted
with bloodhounds like a stag or beast of prey, to the rank of an
independent sovereign, universally acknowledged to be one of the
wisest and bravest Kings who then lived. The nation of Scotland was
also raised once more from the situation of a distressed and
conquered province to that of a free and independent state, governed
by its own laws.

Robert Bruce continued to reign gloriously for several years, and
the Scots seemed, during his government, to have acquired a complete
superiority over their neighbours. But then we must remember, that
Edward II who then reigned in England, was a foolish prince, and
listened to bad counsels; so that it is no wonder that he was beaten
by so wise and experienced a general as Robert Bruce, who had fought
his way to the crown through so many disasters, and acquired in
consequence so much renown.

In the last year of Robert the Bruce's reign, he became extremely
sickly and infirm, chiefly owing to a disorder called the leprosy,
which he had caught during the hardships and misfortunes of his
youth, when he was so frequently obliged to hide himself in woods
and morasses, without a roof to shelter him. He lived at a castle
called Cardross, on the beautiful banks of the river Clyde, near to
where it joins the sea; and his chief amusement was to go upon the
river, and down to the sea in a ship, which he kept for his
pleasure. He was no longer able to sit upon his war-horse, or to
lead his army to the field.

While Bruce was in this feeble state, Edward II, King of England,
died, and was succeeded by his son Edward III. He turned out
afterward to be one of the wisest and bravest Kings whom England
ever had; but when he first mounted the throne he was very young.
The war between the English and the Scots still lasted at the time.

But finally a peace was concluded with Robert Bruce, on terms highly
honourable to Scotland; for the English King renounced all
pretensions to the sovereignty of the country.

Good King Robert did not long survive this joyful event. He was not
aged more than four-and-fifty years, but his bad health was caused
by the hardships which he sustained during his youth, and at length
he became very ill. Finding that he could not recover, he assembled
around his bedside the nobles and counsellors in whom he most
trusted. He told them, that now, being on his death-bed, he sorely
repented all his misdeeds, and particularly, that he had, in his
passion, killed Comyn with his own hand, in the church and before
the altar. He said that if he had lived, he had intended to go to
Jerusalem to make war upon the Saracens who held the Holy Land, as
some expiation for the evil deeds he had done. But since he was
about to die, he requested of his dearest friend and bravest
warrior, and that was the good Lord James Douglas, that he should
carry his heart to the Holy Land. Douglas wept bitterly as he
accepted this office--the last mark of the Brace's confidence and

The King soon afterward expired; and his heart was taken out from
his body and embalmed, that is, prepared with spices and perfumes,
that it might remain a long time fresh and uncorrupted. Then the
Douglas caused a case of silver to be made, into which he put the
Bruce's heart, and wore it around his neck, by a string of silk and
gold. And he set forward for the Holy Land, with a gallant train of
the bravest men in Scotland, who, to show their value of and sorrow
for their brave King Robert Bruce, resolved to attend his heart to
the city of Jerusalem. In going to Palestine Douglas landed in
Spain, where the Saracen King, or Sultan of Granada, called Osmyn,
was invading the realms of Alphonso, the Spanish King of Castile.
King Alphonso received Douglas with great honour and distinction,
and easily persuaded the Scottish Earl that he would do good service
to the Christian cause, by assisting him to drive back the Saracens
of Granada before proceeding on his voyage to Jerusalem. Lord
Douglas and his followers went accordingly to a great battle against
Osmyn, and had little difficulty in defeating the Saracens. But
being ignorant of the mode of fighting among the cavalry of the
East, the Scots pursued the chase too far, and the Moors, when they
saw them scattered and separated from each other, turned suddenly
back, with a loud cry of ALLAH ILLAH ALLAH, which is their shout of
battle, and surrounded such of the Scottish knights and squires as
were dispersed from each other.

In this new skirmish, Douglas saw Sir William St. Clair of Roslyn
fighting desperately, surrounded by many Moors, who were having at
him with their sabres. "Yonder worthy knight will be slain," Douglas
said, "unless he have instant help." With that he galloped to his
rescue, but presently was himself also surrounded by many Moors.
When he found the enemy press so thick round him, as to leave him no
chance of escaping, the Earl took from his neck the Bruce's heart,
and speaking to it, as he would have done to the King, had he been
alive--"Pass first in fight," he said, "as thou wert wont to do, and
Douglas will follow thee, or die."

He then threw the King's heart among the enemy, and rushing forward
to the place where it fell, was there slain. His body was found
lying above the silver case, as if it had been his last object to
defend the Bruce's heart.

Such of the Scottish knights as remained alive returned to their own
country. They brought back the heart of the Bruce, and the bones of
the good Lord James. The Bruce's heart was buried below the high
altar in Melrose Abbey. As for his body, it was laid in the
sepulchre in the midst of the church of Dunfermline, under a marble
stone. The church afterward becoming ruinous, and the roof falling
down with age, the monument was broken to pieces, and nobody could
tell where it stood. But when they were repairing the church at
Dunfermline, and removing the rubbish, lo! they found fragments of
the marble tomb of Robert Bruce. Then they began to dig farther,
thinking to discover the body of this celebrated monarch; and at
length they came to the skeleton of a tall man, and they knew it
must be that of King Robert, both as he was known to have been
buried in a winding sheet of cloth of gold, of which many fragments
were found about this skeleton, and also because the breastbone
appeared to have been sawed through, in order to take the heart. A
new tomb was prepared into which the bones were laid with profound



On the 4th of March, 1797, Washington went to the inauguration of
his successor as President of the United States. The Federal
Government was sitting in Philadelphia at that time and Congress
held sessions in the courthouse on the corner of Sixth and Chestnut

At the appointed hour Washington entered the hall followed by John
Adams, who was to take the oath of office. When they were seated
Washington arose and introduced Mr. Adams to the audience, and then
proceeded to read in a firm clear voice his brief valedictory--not
his great "Farewell Address," for that had already been published. A
lady who sat on "the front bench," "immediately in front" of
Washington describes the scene in these words:

"There was a narrow passage from the door of entrance to the room.
General Washington stopped at the end to let Mr. Adams pass to the
chair. The latter always wore a full suit of bright drab, with loose
cuffs to his coat. General Washington's dress was a full suit of
black. His military hat had the black cockade. There stood the
'Father of his Country' acknowledged by nations the first in war,
first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen. No
marshals with gold-coloured scarfs attended him; there was no
cheering, no noise; the most profound silence greeted him as if the
great assembly desired to hear him breathe. Mr. Adams covered his
face with both his hands; the sleeves of his coat and his hands were
covered with tears. Every now and then there was a suppressed sob. I
cannot describe Washington's appearance as I felt it--perfectly
composed and self-possessed till the close of his address. Then when
strong, nervous sobs broke loose, when tears covered the faces, then
the great man was shaken. I never took my eyes from his face. Large
drops came from his eyes. He looked as if his heart was with them,
and would be to the end."

On Washington's retirement from the Presidency one of his first
employments was to arrange his papers and letters. Then on returning
to his home the venerable master found many things to repair. His
landed estate comprised eight thousand acres, and was divided into
farms, with enclosures and farm-buildings. And now with body and
mind alike sound and vigorous, he bent his energies to directing the
improvements that marked his last days at Mount Vernon.

In his earlier as well as in later life, his tour of the farms would
average from eight to twelve or fourteen miles a day. He rode upon
his farms entirely unattended, opening his gates, pulling down and
putting up his fences as he passed, visiting his labourers at their
work, inspecting all the operations of his extensive establishment
with a careful eye, directing useful improvements and superintending
them in their progress.

He usually rode at a moderate pace in passing through his fields.
But when behind time this most punctual of men would display the
horsemanship of his earlier days, and a hard gallop would bring him
up to time so that the sound of his horse's hoofs and the first
dinner bell would be heard together at a quarter before three.

A story is told that one day an elderly stranger meeting a
Revolutionary worthy out hunting, a long-tried and valued friend of
the chief, accosted him, and asked whether Washington was to be
found at the mansion house, or whether he was off riding over his
estate. The friend answered that he was visiting his farms, and
directed the stranger the road to take, adding, "You will meet, sir,
with an old gentleman riding alone in plain drab clothes, a broad-
brimmed white hat, a hickory switch in his hand, and carrying an
umbrella with a long staff, which is attached to his saddle-bow--
that person, sir, is General Washington."

Precisely at a quarter before three the industrious farmer returned,
dressed, and dined at three o'clock. At this meal he ate heartily,
but was not particular in his diet with the exception of fish, of
which he was excessively fond. Touching his liking for fish, and
illustrative of his practical economy and abhorrence of waste and
extravagance, an anecdote is told of the time he was President and
living in Philadelphia. It happened that a single shad had been
caught in the Delaware, and brought to the city market. His steward,
Sam Fraunces, pounced upon the fish with the speed of an osprey,
delighted that he had secured a delicacy agreeable to the palate of
his chief, and careless of the expense, for which the President had
often rebuked him.

When the fish was served Washington suspected the steward had
forgotten his order about expenditure for the table and said to
Fraunces, who stood at his post at the sideboard, "What fish is
this?" "A shad, sir, a very fine shad," the steward answered. "I
know your excellency is particularly fond of this kind of fish, and
was so fortunate as to procure this one--the only one in market,
sir, the first of the season." "The price, sir, the price?" asked
Washington sternly. "Three--three dollars," stammered the
conscience-stricken steward. "Take it away," thundered the chief,
"take it away, sir! It shall never be said that my table set such an
example of luxury and extravagance." Poor Fraunces tremblingly did
as he was told, and the first shad of the season was carried away
untouched to be speedily discussed in the servants' dining room.

Although the Farmer of Mount Vernon was much retired from the
business world, he was by no means inattentive to the progress of
public affairs. When the post bag arrived, he would select his
letters and lay them aside for reading in the seclusion of his
library. The newspapers he would peruse while taking his single cup
of tea (his only supper) and read aloud passages of peculiar
interest, remarking the matter as he went along. He read with
distinctness and precision. These evenings with his family always
ended at precisely nine o'clock, when he bade everyone good night
and retired to rest, to rise again at four and renew the same
routine of labour and enjoyment.

Washington's last days, like those that preceded them in the course
of a long and well-spent life, were devoted to constant and careful
employment. His correspondence both at home and abroad was immense.
Yet no letter was unanswered. One of the best-bred men of his time,
Washington deemed it a grave offence against the rules of good
manners and propriety to leave letters unanswered. He wrote with
great facility, and it would be a difficult matter to find another
who had written so much, who had written so well. General Harry Lee
once observed to him, "We are amazed, sir, at the vast amount of
work you get through." Washington answered, "Sir, I rise at four
o'clock, and a great deal of my work is done while others sleep."

He was the most punctual of men, as we said. To this admirable
quality of rising at four and retiring to rest at nine at all
seasons, this great man owed his ability to accomplish mighty
labours during his long and illustrious life. He was punctual in
everything and made everyone about him punctual. So careful a man
delighted in always having about him a good timekeeper. In
Philadelphia, the first President regularly walked up to his
watchmaker's to compare his watch with the regulator. At Mount
Vernon the active yet punctual farmer invariably consulted the dial
when returning from his morning ride, and before entering his house.

The affairs of the household took order from the master's accurate
and methodical arrangement of time. Even the fisherman on the river
watched for the cook's signal when to pull in shore and deliver his
catch in time for dinner.

Among the picturesque objects on the Potomac, to be seen from the
eastern portion of the mansion house, was the light canoe of the
house's fisher. Father Jack was an African, an hundred years of age,
and although enfeebled in body by weight of years, his mind
possessed uncommon vigour. And he would tell of days long past when,
under African suns, he was made captive, and of the terrible battle
in which his royal sire was slain, the village burned, and himself
sent to the slave ship.

Father Jack had in a considerable degree a leading quality of his
race--somnolency. Many an hour could the family of Washington see
the canoe fastened to a stake, with the old fisherman bent nearly
double enjoying a nap, which was only disturbed by the jerking of
the white perch caught on his hook. But, as we just said, the
domestic duties of Mount Vernon were governed by clock time, and the
slumbers of fisher Jack might occasion inconvenience, for the cook
required the fish at a certain hour, so that they might be served
smoking hot precisely at three. At times he would go to the river
bank and make the accustomed signals, and meet with no response. The
old fisherman would be quietly reposing in his canoe, rocked by the
gentle undulations of the stream, and dreaming, no doubt, of events
"long time ago." The importunate master of the kitchen, grown
ferocious by delay, would now rush up and down the water's edge,
and, by dint of loud shouting, cause the canoe to turn its prow to
the shore. Father Jack, indignant at its being supposed he was
asleep at his post, would rate those present on his landing, "What
you all meek such a debil of a noise for, hey? I wa'nt sleep, only

The establishment of Mount Vernon employed a perfect army of
domestics; yet to each one was assigned special duties, and from
each one strict performance was required. There was no confusion
where there was order, and the affairs of this estate, embracing
thousands of acres and hundreds of dependents, were conducted with
as much ease, method and regularity as the affairs of a homestead of
average size.

Mrs. Washington was an accomplished house-wife of the olden time,
and she gave constant attention to all matters of her household, and
by her skill and management greatly contributed to the comfort and
entertainment of the guests who enjoyed the hospitality of her home.

The best charities of life were gathered round Washington in the
last days at Mount Vernon. The love and veneration of a whole people
for his illustrious services, his generous and untiring labours in
the cause of public utility; his kindly demeanour to his family
circle, his friends, and numerous dependents; his courteous and
cordial hospitality to his guests, many of them strangers from far
distant lands; these charities, all of which sprang from the heart,
were the ornament of his declining years and granted the most
sublime scene in nature, when human greatness reposes upon human

On the morning of the 17th of December, 1799, the General was
engaged in making some improvements in the front of Mount Vernon. As
was usual with him, he carried his own compass, noted his
observations, and marked out the ground. The day became rainy, with
sleet, and the improver remained so long exposed to the inclemency
of the weather as to be considerably wetted before his return to the
house. About one o'clock he was seized with chilliness and nausea,
but having changed his clothes he sat down to his indoor work. At
night, on joining his family circle, he complained of a slight
indisposition. Upon the night of the following day, having borne
acute suffering with composure and fortitude, he died.

In person Washington was unique. He looked like no one else. To a
stature lofty and commanding he united a form of the manliest
proportions, and a dignifed, graceful, and imposing carriage. In the
prime of life he stood six feet, two inches. From the period of the
Revolution there was an evident bending in his frame so passing
straight before, but the stoop came from the cares and toils of that
arduous contest rather than from years. For his step was firm, his
appearance noble and impressive long after the time when the
physical properties of men are supposed to wane.

A majestic height was met by corresponding breadth and firmness. His
whole person was so cast in nature's finest mould as to resemble an
ancient statue, all of whose parts unite to the perfection of the
whole. But with all its development of muscular power, Washington's
form had no look of bulkiness, and so harmonious were its
proportions that he did not appear so tall as his portraits have
represented. He was rather spare than full during his whole life.

The strength of Washington's arm was shown on several occasions. He
threw a stone from the bed of the stream to the top of the Natural
Bridge, Virginia, and another stone across the Rappahannock at
Fredericksburg. The stone was said to be a piece of slate about the
size of a dollar with which he spanned the bold river, and it took
the ground at least thirty yards on the other side. Many have since
tried this feat, but none have cleared the water.

In 1772 some young men were contending at Mount Vernon in the
exercise of pitching the bar. The Colonel looked on for a time, then
grasping the missile in his master hand he whirled the iron through
the air and it fell far beyond any of its former limits. "You see,
young gentlemen," said the chief with a smile, "that my arm yet
retains some portion of my early vigour." He was then in his
fortieth year and probably in the fullness of his physical powers.
Those powers became rather mellowed than decayed by time, for "his
age was like lusty winter, frosty yet kindly," and up to his sixty-
eighth year he mounted a horse with surprising agility and rode with
ease and grace. Rickets, the celebrated equestrian, used to say, "I
delight to see the General ride and make it a point to fall in with
him when I hear he is out on horseback--his seat is so firm, his
management so easy and graceful that I who am an instructor in
horsemanship would go to him and learn to ride."

In his later days, the General, desirous of riding pleasantly,
procured from the North two horses of a breed for bearing the
saddle. They were well to look at, and pleasantly gaited under the
saddle, but also scary and therefore unfitted for the service of one
who liked to ride quietly on his farm, occasionally dismounting and
walking in his fields to inspect improvements. From one of these
horses the General sustained a fall--probably the only fall he ever
had from a horse in his life. It was upon a November evening, and he
was returning from Alexandria to Mount Vernon with three friends and
a groom. Having halted a few moments he dismounted, and upon rising
in his stirrup again, the horse, alarmed at the glare from a fire
near the road-side, sprang from under his rider who came heavily to
the ground. His friends rushed to give him assistance, thinking him
hurt. But the vigorous old man was upon his feet again, brushing the
dust from his clothes, and after thanking those who came to his aid
said that he had had a very complete tumble, and that it was owing
to a cause no horseman could well avoid or control--that he was only
poised in his stirrup, and had not yet gained his saddle when the
scary animal sprang from under him.

Bred in the vigorous school of frontier warfare, "the earth for his
bed, his canopy the heavens," Washington excelled the hunter and
woodsman in their athletic habits and in those trials of manhood
which filled the hardy days of his early life. He was amazingly
swift of foot, and could climb steep mountains seemingly without
effort. Indeed in all the tests of his great physical powers he
appeared to make little effort. When he overthrew the strong man of
Virginia in wrestling, upon a day when many of the finest athletes
were engaged in the contest, he had retired to the shade of a tree
intent upon the reading of a book. It was only after the champion of
the games strode through the ring calling for nobler antagonists,
and taunting the reader with the fear that he would be thrown, that
Washington closed his book. Without taking off his coat he calmly
observed that fear did not enter his make-up; then grappling with
the champion he hurled him to the ground. "In Washington's lion-like
grasp," said the vanquished wrestler, "I became powerless, and went
down with a force that seemed to jar the very marrow in my bones."
The victor, regardless of shouts at his success, leisurely retired
to his shade, and again took up his book.

Washington's powers were chiefly in his limbs. His frame was of
equal breadth from the shoulders to the hips. His chest was not
prominent but rather hollowed in the centre. He never entirely
recovered from a pulmonary affection from which he suffered in early
life. His frame showed an extraordinary development of bone and
muscle; his joints were large, as were his feet; and could a cast of
his hand have been preserved, it would be ascribed to a being of a
fabulous age. Lafayette said, "I never saw any human being with so
large a hand as the General's."

Of the awe and reverence which the presence of Washington inspired
we have many records. "I stood," says one writer, "before the door
of the Hall of Congress in Philadelphia when the carriage of the
President drew up. It was a white coach, or rather of a light cream
colour, painted on the panels with beautiful groups representing the
four seasons. As Washington alighted and, ascending the steps,
paused on the platform, he was preceded by two gentleman bearing
large white wands, who kept back the eager crowd that pressed on
every side. At that moment I stood so near I might have touched his
clothes; but I should as soon have thought of touching an electric
battery. I was penetrated with deepest awe. Nor was this the feeling
of the school-boy I then was. It pervaded, I believe, every human
being that approached Washington; and I have been told that even in
his social hours, this feeling in those who shared them never
suffered intermission. I saw him a hundred times afterward but never
with any other than the same feeling. The Almighty, who raised up
for our hour of need a man so peculiarly prepared for its whole
dread responsibility, seems to have put a stamp of sacredness upon
his instrument. The first sight of the man struck the eye with
involuntary homage and prepared everything around him to obey.

"At the time I speak of he stood in profound silence and had the
statue-like air which mental greatness alone can bestow. As he
turned to enter the building, and was ascending the staircase to the
Congressional hall, I glided along unseen, almost under the cover of
the skirts of his dress, and entered into the lobby of the House
which was in session to receive him.

"At Washington's entrance there was a most profound silence. House,
lobbies, gallery, all were wrapped in deepest attention. And the
souls of the entire assemblage seemed peering from their eyes as the
noble figure deliberately and unaffectedly advanced up the broad
aisle of the hall between ranks of standing senators and members,
and slowly ascended the steps leading to the speaker's chair.

"The President having seated himself remained in silence, and the
members took their seats, waiting for the speech. No house of
worship was ever more profoundly still than that large and crowded

"Washington was dressed precisely as Stuart has painted him in full-
length portrait--in a full suit of the richest black velvet, with
diamond knee-buckles and square silver buckles set upon shoes
japanned with most scrupulous neatness; black silk stockings, his
shirt ruffled at the breast and waist, a light dress sword, his hair
profusely powdered, fully dressed, so as to project at the sides,
and gathered behind in a silk bag ornamented with a large rose of
black ribbon. He held his cocked hat, which had a large black
cockade on one side of it, in his hand, as he advanced toward the
chair, and when seated, laid it on the table.

"At length thrusting his hand within the side of his coat, he drew
forth a roll of manuscript which he opened, and rising read in a
rich, deep, full, sonorous voice his opening address to Congress.
His enunciation was deliberate, justly emphasised, very distinct,
and accompanied with an air of deep solemnity as being the utterance
of a mind conscious of the whole responsibility of its position, but
not oppressed by it. There was ever about the man something which
impressed one with the conviction that he was exactly and fully
equal to what he had to do. He was never hurried; never negligent;
but seemed ever prepared for the occasion, be it what it might. In
his study, in his parlour, at a levee, before Congress, at the head
of the army, he seemed ever to be just what the situation required.
He possessed, in a degree never equalled by any human being I ever
saw, the strongest, most ever-present sense of propriety."

In the early part of Washington's administration, great complaints
were made by political opponents of the aristocratic and royal
demeanour of the President. Particularly, these complaints were
about the manner of his receiving visitors. In a letter Washington
gave account of the origin of his levees: "Before the custom was
established," he wrote, "which now accommodates foreign characters,
strangers and others, who, from motives of curiosity, respect for
the chief magistrate, or other cause, are induced to call upon me, I
was unable to attend to any business whatever; for gentlemen,
consulting their own convenience rather than mine, were calling
after the time I rose from breakfast, and often before, until I sat
down to dinner. This, as I resolved not to neglect my public duties,
reduced me to the choice of one of these alternatives: either to
refuse visits altogether, or to appropriate a time for the reception
of them. ... To please everybody was impossible. I therefore,
adopted that line of conduct which combined public advantage with
private convenience. ... These visits are optional, they are made
without invitation; between the hours of three and four every
Tuesday I am prepared to receive them. Gentlemen, often in great
numbers, come and go, chat with each other, and act as they please.
A porter shows them into the room, and they retire from it when they
choose, without ceremony. At their first entrance they salute me,
and I them, and as many as I can I talk to."

An English gentleman after visiting President Washington wrote,
"There was a commanding air in his appearance which excited respect
and forbade too great a freedom toward him, independently of that
species of awe which is always felt in the moral influence of a
great character. In every movement, too, there was a polite
gracefulness equal to any met with in the most polished individuals
of Europe, and his smile was extraordinarily attractive. ... It
struck me no man could be better formed for command. A stature of
six feet, a robust but well--proportioned frame calculated to stand
fatigue, without that heaviness which generally attends great
muscular strength and abates active exertion, displayed bodily power
of no mean standard. A light eye and full-the very eye of genius and
reflection. His nose appeared thick, and though it befitted his
other features was too coarsely and strongly formed to be the
handsomest of its class. His mouth was like no other I ever saw: the
lips firm, and the under-jaw seeming to grasp the upper with force,
as if its muscles were in full action when he sat still."

Such Washington appeared to those who saw and knew him. Such he
remains to our vision. His memory is held by us in undying honour.
Not only his memory alone but also the memory of his associates in
the struggle for American Independence. Homage we should have in our
hearts for those patriots and heroes and sages who with humble means
raised their native land-now our native land--from the depths of
dependence, and made it a free nation. And especially for
Washington, who presided over the nation's course at the beginning
of the great experiment in self-government and, after an unexampled
career in the service of freedom and our humankind, with no dimming
of august fame, died calmly at Mount Vernon--the Father of his




The first vivid recollection I have of my father is his arrival in
Arlington, after his return from the Mexican War. I can remember
some events of which he seemed a part, when we lived at Fort
Hamilton, New York, about 1846, but they are more like dreams, very
indistinct and disconnected--naturally so, for I was at that time
about three years old. But the day of his return to Arlington, after
an absence of more than two years, I have always remembered. I had a
frock or blouse of some light wash material, probably cotton, a blue
ground dotted over with white diamond figures. Of this I was very
proud, and wanted to wear it on this important occasion. Eliza, my
"mammy," objecting, we had a contest and I won. Clothed in this, my
very best, and with my hair freshly curled in long golden ringlets,
I went down into the large hall where the whole household was
assembled, eagerly greeting my father, who had just arrived on
horseback from Washington, having missed in some way the carriage
which had been sent for him.

There was visiting us at this time Mrs. Lippitt, a friend of my
mother's, with her little boy, Armistead, about my age and size,
also with long curls. Whether he wore as handsome a suit as mine I
cannot remember, but he and I were left together in the background,
feeling rather frightened and awed. After a moment's greeting to
those surrounding him, my father pushed through the crowd,

"Where is my little boy?"

He then took up in his arms and kissed--not me his own child, in his
best frock with clean face and well-arranged curls--but my little
playmate, Armistead. I remember nothing more of any circumstances
connected with that time, save that I was shocked and humiliated. I
have no doubt that he was at once informed of his mistake and made
ample amends to me.

A letter from my father to his brother, Captain S. S. Lee, United
States Navy, dated "Arlington, June 30, 1848," tells of his coming

"Here I am once again, my dear Smith, perfectly surrounded by Mary
and her precious children, who seem to devote themselves to staring
at the furrows in my face and the white hairs in my head. It is not
surprising that I am hardly recognisable to some of the young eyes
around me and perfectly unknown to the youngest. But some of the
older ones gaze with astonishment and wonder at me, and seem at a
loss to reconcile what they see and what was pictured in their
imaginations. I find them, too, much grown, and all well, and I have
much cause for thankfulness, and gratitude to that good God who has
once more united us."

My next recollection of my father is in Baltimore, while we were on
a visit to his sister, Mrs. Marshall, the wife of Judge Marshall. I
remember being down on the wharves, where my father had taken me to
see the landing of a mustang pony which he had gotten for me in
Mexico, and which had been shipped from Vera Cruz to Baltimore in a
sailing vessel. I was all eyes for the pony, and a very miserable,
sad-looking object he was. From his long voyage, cramped quarters,
and unavoidable lack of grooming, he was rather a disappointment to
me, but I soon got over all that. As I grew older, and was able to
ride and appreciate him, he became the joy and pride of my life. I
was taught to ride on him by Jim Connally, the faithful Irish
servant of my father, who had been with him in Mexico. Jim used
often to tell me, in his quizzical way, that he and "Santa Anna"
(the pony's name) were the first men on the walls of Chepultepec.
This pony was pure white, five years old, and about fourteen hands
high. For his inches, he was as good a horse as I ever have seen.
While we lived in Baltimore, he and "Grace Darling," my father's
favorite mare, were members of our family.

Grace Darling was a chestnut of fine size and of great power, which
he had bought in Texas on his way out to Mexico, her owner having
died on the march out. She was with him during the entire campaign,
and was shot seven times; at least, as a little fellow I used to
brag about that number of bullets being in her, and since I could
point out the scars of each one, I presume it was so. My father was
very much attached to and proud of her, always petting her and
talking to her in a loving way, when he rode her or went to see her
in her stall. Of her he wrote on his return home:

"I only arrived yesterday, after a long journey up the Mississippi,
which route I was induced to take, for the better accommodation of
my horse, as I wished to spare her as much annoyance and fatigue as
possible, she already having undergone so much suffering in my
service. I landed her at Wheeling and left her to come over with

Santa Anna was found lying cold and dead in the park of Arlington
one morning in the winter of '60-'61. Grace Darling was taken in the
spring of '62 from the White House [Footnote: My brother's place on
the Pamtmkey River, where the mare had been sent for safe keeping.]
by some Federal quartermaster, when McClellan occupied that place as
his base of supplies during his attack on Richmond. When we lived in
Baltimore, I was greatly struck one day by hearing two ladies who
were visiting us saying:

"Everybody and everything--his family, his friends, his horse, and
his dog--loves Colonel Lee."

The dog referred to was a black-and-tan terrier named "Spec," very
bright and intelligent and really a member of the family, respected
and beloved by ourselves and well known to all who knew us. My
father picked up its mother in the "Narrows" while crossing from
Fort Hamilton to the fortifications opposite on Staten Island. She
had doubtless fallen overboard from some passing vessel and had
drifted out of sight before her absence had been discovered. He
rescued her and took her home, where she was welcomed by his
children and made much of. She was a handsome little thing, with
cropped ears and a short tail. My father named her "Dart." She was a
fine ratter, and with the assistance of a Maltese cat, also a member
of the family, the many rats which infested the house and stables
were driven away or destroyed. She and the cat were fed out of the
same plate, but Dart was not allowed to begin the meal until the cat
had finished.

Spec was born at Fort Hamilton, and was the joy of us children, our
pet and companion. My father would not allow his tail and ears to be
cropped. When he grew up, he accompanied us everywhere and was in
the habit of going into church with the family. As some of the
little ones allowed their devotions to be disturbed by Spec's
presence, my father determined to leave him at home on those
occasions. So the next Sunday morning he was sent up to the front
room of the second story. After the family had left for church he
contented himself for a while looking out of the window, which was
open, it being summer time. Presently impatience overcame his
judgment and he jumped to the ground, landed safely notwithstanding
the distance, joined the family just as they reached the church, and
went in with them as usual, much to the joy of the children. After
that he was allowed to go to church whenever he wished. My father
was very fond of him, and loved to talk to him and about him as if
he were really one of us. In a letter to my mother, dated Fort
Hamilton, January 18, 1846, when she and her children were on a
visit to Arlington, he thus speaks of him:

"... I am very solitary, and my only company is my dog and cats. But
Spec has become so jealous now that he will hardly let me look at
the cats. He seems to be afraid that I am going off from him, and
never lets me stir without him. Lies down in the office from eight
to four without moving, and turns himself before the fire as the
side from it becomes cold. I catch him sometimes sitting up looking
at me so intently that I am for a moment startled...."

In a letter from Mexico written a year later--December 25, 1846, to
my mother, he says:

"... Can't you cure poor Spec? Cheer him up--take him to walk with
you and tell the children to cheer him up. ..."

In another letter from Mexico to his eldest boy, just after the
capture of Vera Cruz, he sends this message to Spec:

"... Tell him I wish he was here with me. He would have been of
great service in telling me when I was coming upon the Mexicans.
When I was reconnoitering around Vera Cruz, their dogs frequently
told me by barking when I was approaching them too nearly. ..."

When he returned to Arlington from Mexico, Spec was the first to
recognise him, and the extravagance of his demonstrations of delight
left no doubt that he knew at once his kind master and loving
friend, though he had been absent three years. Sometime during our
residence in Baltimore, Spec disappeared, and we never knew his

From that early time I began to be impressed with my father's
character, as compared with other men. Every member of the household
respected, revered, and loved him as a matter of course, but it
began to dawn on me that every one else with whom I was thrown held
him high in their regard. At forty-five years of age he was active,
strong, and as handsome as he had ever been. I never remember his
being ill. I presume he was indisposed at times; but no impressions
of that kind remain. He was always bright and gay with us little
folk--romping, playing, and joking with us. With the older children,
he was just as companionable, and I have seen him join my elder
brothers and their friends when they would try their powers at a
high jump put up in our yard. The two younger children he petted a
great deal, and our greatest treat was to get into his bed in the
morning and lie close to him, listening while he talked to us in his
bright, entertaining way. This custom we kept up until I was ten
years old and over. Although he was so joyous and familiar with us,
he was very firm on all proper occasions, never indulged us in
anything that was not good for us, and exacted the most implicit
obedience. I always knew that it was impossible to disobey my
father. I felt it in me, I never thought why, but was perfectly sure
when he gave an order that it had to be obeyed. My mother I could
sometimes circumvent, and at times took liberties with her orders,
construing them to suit myself; but exact obedience to every mandate
of my father was a part of my life and being at that time.

In January, 1849, Captain Lee was one of a board of army officers
appointed to examine the coasts of Florida and its defences, and to
recommend locations for new fortifications. In April he was assigned
to the duty of the construction of Fort Carroll, in the Patapsco
River, below Baltimore. He was there, I think, for three years, and
lived in a house on Madison Street, three doors above Biddle. I used
to go down with him to the Fort quite often. We went to the wharf in
a "bus," and there we were met by a boat with two oarsmen, who rowed
us down to Sellers Point, where I was generally left under the care
of the people who lived there, while my father went over to the
Fort, a short distance out in the river. These days were very happy
ones for me. The wharves, the shipping, the river, the boat and
oarsmen, and the country dinner we had at the house at Sellers
Point, all made a strong impression on me, but above all I remember
my father; his gentle, loving care for me, his bright talk, his
stories, his maxims and teachings. I was very proud of him and of
the evident respect for and trust in him every one showed. These
impressions, obtained at that time, have never left me. He was a
great favourite in Baltimore, as he was everywhere, especially with
ladies and little children. When he and my mother went out in the
evening to some entertainment, we were often allowed to sit up and
see them off; my father, as I remember, always in full uniform,
always ready and waiting for my mother, who was generally late. He
would then chide her gently, in a playful way and with a bright
smile. He would then bid us good-bye, and I would go to sleep with
this beautiful picture on my mind, the golden epaulets and all--
chiefly the epaulets.

In Baltimore, I went to my first school, that of a Mr. Rollins on
Mulberry Street, and I remember how interested my father was in my
studies, my failures, and my little triumphs. Indeed, he was so
always, as long as I was at school and college, and I only wish that
all of the kind, sensible, useful letters he wrote me had been

My memory as to the move from Baltimore, which occurred in 1852, is
very dim. I think the family went to Arlington to remain until my
father had arranged for our removal to the new home at West Point.

My recollection of my father as Superintendent of the West Point
Military Academy is much more distinct. He lived in the house which
is still occupied by the Superintendent. It was built of stone,
large and roomy, with gardens, stables, and pasture lots. We, the
two youngest children, enjoyed it all. Grace Darling and Santa Anna
were with us, and many a fine ride did I have with my father in the
afternoons, when, released from his office, he would mount his old
mare and, with Santa Anna carrying me by his side, take a five or
ten-mile trot. Though the pony cantered delightfully, he would make
me keep him in a trot, saying playfully that the hammering I
sustained was good for me. We rode the dragoonseat, no posting, and
until I became accustomed to it I used to be very tired by the time
I got back.

My father was the most punctual man I ever knew. He was always ready
for family prayers, for meals, and met every engagement, social or
business, at the moment. He expected all of us to be the same, and
taught us the use and necessity of forming such habits for the
convenience of all concerned. I never knew him late for Sunday
service at the Post Chapel. He used to appear some minutes before
the rest of us, in uniform, jokingly rallying my mother for being
late, and for forgetting something at the last moment. When he could
wait no longer for her, he would say that he was off, and would
march along to church by himself or with any of the children who
were ready. There he sat very straight--well up the middle aisle--
and, as I remember, always became very sleepy, and sometimes even
took a little nap during the sermon. At that time, this drowsiness
of my father's was something awful to me, inexplicable. I know it
was very hard for me to keep awake, and frequently I did not; but
why he, who to my mind could do everything that was right without
any effort, should sometimes be overcome, I could not understand,
and did not try to do so.

It was against the rules that the cadets should go beyond certain
limits without permission. Of course they did go sometimes, and when
caught were given quite a number of "demerits." My father was riding
one afternoon with me, and, while rounding a turn in the mountain
road with a deep woody ravine on one side, we came suddenly upon
three cadets far beyond the limits. They immediately leaped over a
low wall on the side of the road, and disappeared from our view. We
rode on for a minute in silence; then my father said: "Did you know
those young men? But no; if you did, don't say so. I wish boys would
do what is right, it would be so much easier for all parties!"

He knew he would have to report them, but, not being sure of who
they were, I presume he wished to give them the benefit of the
doubt. At any rate, I never heard any more about it. One of the
three asked me next day if my father had recognised them, and I told
him what had occurred.

By this time I had become old enough to have a room to myself, and,
to encourage me in being useful and practical, my father made me
attend to it, just as the cadets had to do with their quarters in
barracks and in camp. He at first even went through the form of
inspecting it, to see if I had performed my duty properly, and I
think I enjoyed this until the novelty wore off. However, I was kept
at it, becoming in time very proficient, and the knowledge so
accquired has been of great use to me all through life.

My father always encouraged me in every healthy outdoor exercise and
sport. He taught me to ride, constantly giving me minute
instructions, with the reasons for them. He gave me my first sled,
and sometimes used to come out where we boys were coasting to look
on. He gave me my first pair of skates, and placed me in the care of
a trustworthy person, inquiring regularly how I progressed. It was
the same with swimming, which he was very anxious I should learn in
a proper manner. Professor Bailey had a son about my age, now
himself a professor of Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island,
who became my great chum. I took my first lesson in the water with
him, under the direction and supervision of his father. My father
inquired constantly how I was getting along, and made me describe
exactly my method and stroke, explaining to me what he considered
the best way to swim, and the reasons therefor. I went to a day
school at West Point, and had always a sympathetic helper in my
father. Often he would come into my room where I studied at night,
and, sitting down by me, would show me how to overcome a hard
sentence in my Latin reader or a difficult sum in arithmetic, not by
giving me the translation of the troublesome sentence or the answer
to the sum, but by showing me, step by step, the way to the right
solutions. He was very patient, very loving, very good to me, and I
remember trying my best to please him in my studies. When I was able
to bring home a good report from my teacher, he was greatly pleased,
and showed it in his eye and voice, but he always insisted that I
should get the "maximum," that he would never be perfectly satisfied
with less. That I did sometimes win it, deservedly, I know was due
to his judicious and wise method of exciting my ambition and
perseverance. I have endeavoured to show how fond my father was of
his children, and as the best picture I can offer of his loving,
tender devotion to us all, I give here a letter from him written
about this time to one of his daughters who was staying with our
grandmother, Mrs. Custis, at Arlington:

"WestPoint, February 25, 1853.

"My precious Annie: I take advantage of your gracious permission to
write to you, and there is no telling how far my feelings might
carry me were I not limited by the conveyance furnished by the Mim's
[Footnote: His pet name for my mother.] letter, which lies before
me, and which must, the Mim says so, go in this morning's mail. But
my limited time does not diminish my affection for you, Annie, nor
prevent my thinking of you and wishing for you. I long to see you
through the dilatory nights. At dawn when I rise, and all day, my
thoughts revert to you in expressions that you cannot hear or I
repeat. I hope you will always appear to me as you are now painted
on my heart, and that you will endeavour to improve and so conduct
yourself as to make you happy and me joyful all our lives. Diligent
and earnest attention to all your duties can only accomplish this. I
am told you are growing very tall, and I hope very straight. I do
not know what the cadets will say if the Superintendent's children
do not practice what he demands of them. They will naturally say he
had better attend to his own before he corrects other people's
children, and as he permits his to stoop it is hard he will not
allow them. You and Agnes [Footnote: His third daughter.] must not,
therefore, bring me into discredit with my young friends, or give
them reason to think that I require more of them than of my own. I
presume your mother has told all about us, our neighbours and our
affairs. And indeed she may have done that and not said much either,
so far as I know. But we are all well and have much to be grateful
for. To-morrow we anticipate the pleasure of your brother's
[Footnote: His son, Curtis.] company, which is always a source of
pleasure to us. It is the only time we see him, except when the
Corps come under my view at some of their exercises, when my eye is
sure to distinguish him among his comrades and follow him over the
plain. Give much love to your dear grandmother, grandfather, Agnes,
Miss Sue, Lucretia, and all friends, including the servants. Write
sometimes, and think always of your

"Affectionate father,

"R. E. LEE."

In a letter to my mother, written many years previous to this, he

"I pray God to watch over and direct our efforts in guarding our
dear little son. ... Oh, what pleasure I lose in being separated
from my children! Nothing can compensate me for that. ..."

In another letter of about the same time:

"You do not know how much I have missed you and the children, my
dear Mary. To be alone in a crowd is very solitary. In the woods, I
feel sympathy with the trees and birds, in whose company I take
delight, but experience no pleasure in a strange crowd. I hope you
are all well and will continue so, and, therefore, must again urge
you to be very prudent and careful of those dear children. If I
could only get a squeeze at that little fellow, turning up his sweet
mouth to 'keese baba!' You must not let him run wild in my absence,
and will have to exercise firm authority over all of them. This will
not require severity or even strictness, but constant attention and
an unwavering course. Mildness and forebearance will strengthen
their affection for you, while it will maintain your control over

In a letter to one of his sons he writes as follows:

"I cannot go to bed, my dear son, without writing you a few lines to
thank you for your letter, which gave me great pleasure ... You and
Custis must take great care of your kind mother and dear sisters
when your father is dead. To do that you must learn to be good. Be
true, kind and generous, and pray earnestly to God to enable you to
keep His Commandments 'and walk in the same all the days of your
life.' I hope to come on soon to see that little baby you have got
to show me. You must give her a kiss for me, and one to all the
children, to your mother, and grandmother."

The expression of such sentiments as these was common to my father
all through his life, and to show that it was all children and not
his own little folk alone that charmed and fascinated him, I quote
from a letter to my mother:

" ... I saw a number of little girls all dressed up in their white
frocks and pantalets, their hair plaited and tied up with ribbons,
running and chasing each other in all directions. I counted twenty-
three nearly the same size. As I drew up my horse to admire the
spectacle, a man appeared at the door with the twenty-fourth in his

"'My friend,' said I, 'are all these your children?'

"'Yes,' he said, 'and there are nine more in the house, and this is
the youngest.'

"Upon further inquiry, however, I found that they were only
temporarily his, and that they were invited to a party at his house.
He said, however, he had been admiring them before I came up, and
just wished that he had a million of dollars, and that they were all
his in reality. I do not think the eldest exceeded seven or eight
years old. It was the prettiest sight I have seen in the west, and,
perhaps, in my life. ..."

As Superintendent of the Military Academy at West Point my father
had to entertain a good deal, and I remember well how handsome and
grand he looked in uniform, how genial and bright, how considerate
of everybody's comfort of mind and body. He was always a great
favourite with the ladies, especially the young ones. His fine
presence, his gentle, courteous manners and kindly smile put them at
once at ease with him.

Among the cadets at this time were my eldest brother, Custis, who
graduated first in his class in 1854, and my father's nephew, Fitz
Lee, a third classman, besides other relatives and friends. Saturday
being a half--holiday for the cadets, it was the custom for all
social events in which they were to take part to be placed on that
afternoon or evening. Nearly every Saturday a number of these young
men were invited to our house to tea, or supper, for it was a good,
substantial meal. The misery of some of these lads, owing to
embarrassment, possibly from awe of the Superintendent, was pitiable
and evident even to me, a boy of ten or twelve years old. But as
soon as my father got command, as it were, of the situation, one
could see how quickly most of them were put at their ease. He would
address himself to the task of making them feel comfortable and at
home, and his genial manner and pleasant ways at once succeeded.

In the spring of 1853 my grandmother, Mrs. Custis, died. This was
the first death in our immediate family. She was very dear to us,
and was admired, esteemed, and loved by all who had ever known her.
Bishop Meade, of Virginia, writes of her:

"Mrs. Mary Custis, of Arlington, the wife of Mr. Washington Custis,
grandson of Mrs. General Washington, was the daughter of Mr. William
Fitzhugh, of Chatham. Scarcely is there a Christian lady in our land
more honoured than she was, and none more loved and esteemed. For
good sense, prudence, sincerity, benevolence, unaffected piety,
disinterested zeal in every good work, deep humanity and retiring
modesty--for all the virtues which adorn the wife, the mother, and
the friend--I never knew her superior."

In a letter written to my mother soon after this sad event my father

"May God give you strength to enable you to bear and say, 'His will
be done.' She has gone from all trouble, care and sorrow to a holy
immortality, there to rejoice and praise forever the God and Saviour
she so long and truly served. Let that be our comfort and that our
consolation. May our death be like hers, and may we meet in
happiness in Heaven."

In another letter about the same time he writes:

"She was to me all that a mother could be, and I yield to none in
admiration for her character, love for her virtues, and veneration
for her memory."

At this time, my father's family and friends persuaded him to allow
R. S. Weir, Professor of Painting and Drawing at the Academy, to
paint his portrait. As far as I remember, there was only one
sitting, and the artist had to finish it from memory or from the
glimpses he obtained of his subject in the regular course of their
daily lives at "The Point." This picture shows my father in the
undress uniform of a Colonel of Engineers, [Footnote: His
appointment of Superintendent of the Military Academy earned with it
the temporary rank of Colonel of Engineers] and many think it a very
good likeness. To me, the expression of strength peculiar to his
face is wanting, and the mouth fails to portray that sweetness of
disposition so characteristic of his countenance. Still, it was like
him at that time. My father never could bear to have his picture
taken, and there are no likenesses of him that really give his sweet
expression. Sitting for a picture was such a serious business with
him that he never could "look pleasant."

In 1855 my father was appointed to the lieutenant-colonelcy of the
Second Cavalry, one of the two regiments just raised. He left West
Point to enter upon his new duties, and his family went to Arlington
to live. During the fall and winter of 1855 and '56, the Second
Cavalry was recruited and organised at Jefferson Barracks, Missouri,
under the direction of Colonel Lee, and in the following spring was
marched to western Texas, where it was assigned the duty of
protecting the settlers in that wild country.

I did not see my father again until he came to my mother at
Arlington after the death of her father, G. W. P. Custis, in
October, 1857. He took charge of my mother's estate after her
father's death, and commenced at once to put it in order--not an
easy task, as it consisted of several plantations and many negroes.
I was at a boarding-school, after the family returned to Arlington,
and saw my father only during the holidays, if he happened to be at
home. He was always fond of farming, and took great interest in the
improvements he immediately began at Arlington relating to the
cultivation of the farm, to the buildings, roads, fences, fields,
and stock, so that in a very short time the appearance of everything
on the estate was improved. He often said that he longed for the
time when he could have a farm of his own, where he could end his
days in quiet and peace, interested in the care and improvement of
his own land. This idea was always with him. In a letter to his son,
written in July, 1865, referring to some proposed indictments of
prominent Confederates, he says:

"... As soon as I can ascertain their intention toward me, if not
prevented, I shall endeavour to procure some humble, but quiet abode
for your mother and sisters, where I hope they can be happy. As I
before said, I want to get in some grass country where the natural
product of the land will do much for my subsistence, ..."

Again in a letter to his son, dated October, 1865, after he had
accepted the presidency of Washington College, Lexington, Virginia:

"I should have selected a more quiet life and a more retired abode
than Lexington. I should have preferred a small farm, where I could
have earned my daily bread."

About this time I was given a gun of my own, and was allowed to go
shooting by myself. My father, to give me an incentive, offered a
reward for every crow-scalp I could bring him, and, in order that I
might get to work at once, advanced a small sum with which to buy
powder and shot, this sum to be returned to him out of the first
scalps obtained. My industry and zeal were great, my hopes high, and
by good luck I did succeed in bagging two crows about the second
time I went out. I showed them with great pride to my father,
intimating that I should shortly be able to return him his loan, and
that he must be prepared to hand over to me very soon further
rewards for my skill. His eyes twinkled, and his smile showed that
he had strong doubts of my making an income by killing crows, and he
was right, for I never killed another, though I tried hard and long.

I saw but little of my father after we left West Point. He went to
Texas, as I have stated, in '55 and remained until the fall of '57,
the time of my grandfather's death. He was then at Arlington about a
year. Returning to his regiment, he remained in Texas until the
autumn of '59, when he came again to Arlington, having applied for
leave in order to finish the settling of my grandfather's estate.
During this visit he was selected by the Secretary of War to
suppress the famous "John Brown Raid," and was sent to Harper's
Ferry in command of the United States troops.

From his memorandum book the following entries are taken:

"October 17, 1859. Received orders from the Secretary of War, in
person, to repair in evening train to Harper's Ferry.

"Reached Harper's Ferry at 11 P. M. ... Posted marines in the United
States Armory. Waited until daylight, as a number of citizens were
held as hostages, whose lives were threatened. Tuesday about
sunrise, with twelve marines, under Lieutenant Green, broke in the
door of the engine-house, secured the insurgents and relieved the
prisoners unhurt. All the insurgents killed or mortally wounded, but
four, John Brown, Stevens, Coppie, and Shields."

Brown was tried and convicted, and sentenced to be hanged on
December 2, 1859. Colonel Lee writes as follows to his wife:

"Harper's Ferry, December 1, 1859.

"I arrived here, dearest Mary, yesterday about noon, with four
companies from Fort Monroe, and was busy all the evening and night
getting accommodation for the men, etc., and posting sentinels and
pickets to insure timely notice of the approach of the enemy. The
night has passed off quietly. The feelings of the community seemed
to be calmed down, and I have been received with every kindness. Mr.
Fry is among the officers from Old Point. There are several young
men, former acquaintance of ours, as cadets, Mr. Bingham of Custis's
class, Sam Cooper, etc., but the senior officers I never met before,
except Captain Howe, the friend of our Cousin Harriet R----.

"I presume we are fixed here till after the 16th. To-morrow will
probably be the last of Captain Brown. There will be less interest
for the others, but still I think the troops will not be withdrawn
till they are similarly disposed of.

"Custis will have informed you that I had to go to Baltimore the
evening that I left you, to make arrangements for the transportation
for the troops. ... This morning I was introduced to Mrs. Brown,
who, with a Mrs. Tyndall and a Mr. and Mrs. McKim, all from
Philadelphia, had come on to have a last interview with her husband.
As it is a matter over which I have no control I referred them to
General Taliaferro. [Footnote: General William B. Taliaferro,
commanding Virginia troops at Harper's Ferry.]

"You must write to me at this place. I hope you are all well. Give
love to everybody. Tell Smith [Footnote: Sidney Smith Lee, of the
United States Navy, his brother.] that no charming women have
insisted on taking care of me as they are always doing of him--I am
left to my own resources. I will write you again soon, and will
always be truly and affectionately yours, "R. E. LEE.

"MRS. M. C. LEE."

In February, 1860, he was ordered to take command of the Department
of Texas. There he remained a year. The first months after his
arrival were spent in the vain pursuit of the famous brigand,
Cortinez, who was continually stealing across the Rio Grande,
burning the homes, driving off the stock of the ranchmen, and then
retreating into Mexico. The summer months he spent in San Antonio,
and while there interested himself with the good people of that town
in building an Episcopal church, to which he contributed largely.



He was long; he was strong; he was wiry. He was never sick, was
always good-natured, never a bully, always a friend of the weak, the
small and the unprotected. He must have been a funny-looking boy.
His skin was sallow, and his hair was black, He wore a linsey-
woolsey shirt, buckskin breeches, a coon-skin cap, and heavy
"clumps" of shoes. He grew so fast that his breeches never came down
to the tops of his shoes, and, instead of stockings, you could
always see "twelve inches of shinbones," sharp, blue, and narrow. He
laughed much, was always ready to give and take jokes and hard
knocks, had a squeaky, changing voice, a small head, big ears--and
was always what Thackeray called "a gentle-man." Such was Abraham
Lincoln at fifteen.

He was never cruel, mean, or unkind. His first composition was on
cruelty to animals, written because he had tried to make the other
boys stop "teasin' tarrypins"--that is, catching turtles and putting
hot coals on their backs just to make them move along lively. He had
to work hard at home; for his father would not, and things needed to
be attended to if "the place" was to be kept from dropping to

He became a great reader. He read every book and newspaper he could
get hold of, and if he came across anything in his reading that he
wished to remember he would copy it on a shingle, because writing
paper was scarce, and either learn it by heart or hide the shingle
away until he could get some paper to copy it on. His father thought
he read too much. "It will spile him for work," he said. "He don't
do half enough about the place, as it is, now, and books and papers
ain't no good." But Abraham, with all his reading, did more work
than his father any day; his stepmother, too, took his side and at
last got her husband to let the boy read and study at home. "Abe was
a good son to me," she said, many many years after, "and we took
particular care when he was reading not to disturb him. We would
just let him read on and on till he quit of his own accord."

The boy kept a sort of shingle scrap-book; he kept a paper scrap-
book, too. Into these he would put whatever he cared to keep--
poetry, history, funny sayings, fine passages. He had a scrap-book
for his arithmetic "sums," too, and one of these is still in
existence with this boyish rhyme in a boyish scrawl, underneath one
of his tables of weights and measures:

Abraham Lincoln
his hand and pen
he will be good but
god knows when.

God did know when; and that boy, all unconsciously, was working
toward the day when his hand and pen were to do more for humanity
than any other hand or pen of modern times.

Lamps and candle were almost unknown in his home, and Abraham, flat
on his stomach, would often do his reading, writing, and ciphering
in the firelight, as it flashed and flickered on the big hearth of
his log-cabin home. An older cousin, John Hanks, who lived for a
while with the Lincolns, says that when "Abe," as he always called
the great President, would come home, as a boy, from his work, he
would go to the cupboard, take a piece of corn bread for his supper,
sit down on a chair, stretch out his long legs until they were
higher than his head--and read, and read, and read. "Abe and I,"
said John Hanks, "worked barefoot; grubbed it, ploughed it, mowed
and cradled it; ploughed corn, gathered corn, and shucked corn, and
Abe read constantly whenever he could get a chance."

One day Abraham found that a man for whom he sometimes worked owned
a copy of Weems's "Life of Washington." This was a famous book in
its day. Abraham borrowed it at once. When he was not reading it, he
put it away on a shelf--a clapboard resting on wooden pins. There
was a big crack between the logs, behind the shelf, and one rainy
day the "Life of Washington" fell into the crack and was soaked
almost into pulp. Old Mr. Crawford, from whom Abraham borrowed the
book, was a cross, cranky, and sour old fellow, and when the boy
told him of the accident he said Abraham must "work the book out."

The boy agreed, and the old farmer kept him so strictly to his
promise that he made him "pull fodder" for the cattle three days, as
payment for the book! And that is the way that Abraham Lincoln
bought his first book. For he dried the copy of Weems's "Life of
Washington" and put it in his "library." But what boy or girl of
today would like to buy books at such a price?

This was the boy-life of Abraham Lincoln. It was a life of poverty,
privation, hard work, little play, and less money. The boy did not
love work. But he worked. His father was rough and often harsh and
hard to him, and what Abraham learned was by making the most of his
spare time. He was inquisitive, active, and hardy, and, in his
comfortless boyhood, he was learning lessons of self-denial,
independence, pluck, shrewdness, kindness, and persistence.

In the spring of 1830, there was another "moving time" for the
Lincolns. The corn and the cattle, the farm and its hogs were all
sold at public "vandoo," or auction, at low figures; and with all
their household goods on a big "ironed" wagon drawn by four oxen,
the three related families of Hanks, Hall and Lincoln, thirteen in
all, pushed on through the mud and across rivers, high from the
spring freshets, out of Indiana, into Illinois.

Abraham held the "gad" and guided the oxen. He carried with him,
also, a little stock of pins, needles, thread, and buttons. These he
peddled along the way; and, at last, after fifteen days of slow
travel, the emigrants came to the spot picked out for a home. This
time it was on a small bluff on the north fork of the Sangamon
River, ten miles west of the town of Decatur. The usual log house
was built; the boys, with the oxen, "broke up," or cleared, fifteen
acres of land, and split enough rails to fence it in. Abraham could
swing his broad-axe better than any man or boy in the West; at one
stroke he could bury the axe-blade to the haft, in a log, and he was
already famous as an expert rail-splitter.

By this time his people were settled in their new home, Abraham
Lincoln was twenty-one. He was "of age"--he was a man! By the law of
the land he was freed from his father's control; he could shift for
himself, and he determined to do so. This did not mean that he
disliked his father. It simply meant that he had no intention of
following his father's example. Thomas Lincoln had demanded all the
work and all the wages his son could earn or do, and Abraham felt
that he could not have a fair chance to accomplish anything or get
ahead in the world if he continued living with this shiftless,
never-satisfied, do-nothing man.

So he struck out for himself. In the summer of 1830, Abraham left
home and hired out on his own account, wherever he could get a job
in the new country into which he had come. In that region of big
farms and no fences, these latter were needed, and Abraham Lincoln's
stalwart arm and well-swung axe came well into play, cutting up logs
for fences. He was what was called in that western country a "rail-
splitter." Indeed, one of the first things he did when he struck out
for himself was to split four hundred rails for every yard of "blue
jeans" necessary to make him a pair of trousers. From which it will
be seen that work was easier to get than clothes.

He soon became as much of a favourite in Illinois as he had been in
Indiana. Other work came to him, and, in 1831, he "hired out" with a
man named Offutt to help sail a flat-boat down the Mississippi to
New Orleans. Mr. Offutt had heard that "Abe Lincoln" was a good
river-hand, strong, steady, honest, reliable, accustomed to boating,
and that he had already made one trip down the river. So he engaged
young Lincoln at what seemed to the young rail-splitter princely
wages--fifty cents a day, and a third share in the sixty dollars
which was to be divided among the three boatmen at the end of the

They built the flat-boat at a saw mill near a place called Sangamon
town, "Abe" serving as cook of the camp while the boat was being
built. Then, loading the craft with barrel-pork, hogs, and corn,
they started on their voyage south. At a place called New Salem the
flat-boat ran aground; but Lincoln's ingenuity got it off. He rigged
up a queer contrivance of his own invention and lifted the boat off
and over the obstruction, while all New Salem stood on the bank,
first to criticise and then to applaud.

Just what this invention was I cannot explain. But if you ever go
into the patent office at Washington, ask to see Abraham Lincoln's
patent for transporting river boats over snags and shoals. The
wooden model is there; for, so pleased was Lincoln with the success
that he thought seriously of becoming an inventor, and his first
design was the patent granted to him in 1849, the idea for which
grew out of this successful floating of Offutt's flat-boat over the
river snags at New Salem nineteen years before.

Once again he visited New Orleans, returning home, as before, by
steamboat. That voyage is remarkable, because it first opened young
Lincoln's eyes to the enormity of African slavery. Of course, he had
seen slaves before; but the sight of a slave sale in the old market
place of New Orleans seems to have aroused his anger and given him
an intense hatred of slave-holding. He, himself, declared, years
after, that it was that visit to New Orleans, that had set him so
strongly against slavery.

There is a story told by one of his companions that Lincoln looked
for a while upon the dreadful scenes of the slave market and then,
turning away, said excitedly, "Come away, boys! If I ever get a
chance, some day, to hit that thing"--and he flung his long arm
toward the dreadful auction block--"I'll hit it hard."

Soon after he returned from his flat-boat trip to New Orleans he had
an opportunity to show that he could not and would not stand what is
termed "foul play." The same Mr. Offutt who had hired Lincoln to be
one of his flat-boat "boys," gave him another opportunity for work.
Offutt was what is called in the West a "hustler"; he had lots of
"great ideas" and plans for making money; and, among his numerous
enterprises, was one to open a country store and mill at New Salem--
the very same village on the Sangamon where, by his "patent
invention," Lincoln had lifted the flat-boat off the snags.

Mr. Offutt had taken a great fancy to Lincoln, and offered him a
place as clerk in the New Salem store. The young fellow jumped at
the chance. It seemed to him quite an improvement on being a farm-
hand, a flat-boatman, or a rail-splitter. It was, indeed, a step
upward; for it gave him better opportunities for self-instruction
and more chances for getting ahead.

Offutt's store was a favourite "loafing place" for the New Salem
boys and young men. Among these, were some of the roughest fellows
in the settlement. They were known as the "Clary Grove Boys," and
they were always ready for a fight, in which they would, sometimes,
prove themselves to be bullies and tormentors. When, therefore,
Offutt began to brag about his new clerk the Clary Grove Boys made
fun at him; whereupon the storekeeper cried: "What's that? You can
throw him? Well, I reckon not; Abe Lincoln can out-run, out-walk,
out-rassle, knock out, and throw down any man in Sangamon County."
This was too much for the Clary Grove Boys. They took up Offutt's
challenge, and, against "Abe," set up, as their champion and "best
man," one Jack Armstrong.

All this was done without Lincoln's knowledge. He had no desire to
get into a row with anyone--least of all with the bullies who made
up the Clary Grove Boys.

"I won't do it," he said, when Offutt told him of the proposed
wrestling match. "I never tussle and scuffle, and I will not. I
don't like this wooling and pulling."

"Don't let them call you a coward, Abe," said Offutt.

Of course, you know what the end would be to such an affair. Nobody
likes to be called a coward--especially when he knows he is not one.
So, at last, Lincoln consented to "rassle" with Jack Armstrong. They
met, with all the boys as spectators. They wrestled, and tugged, and
clenched, but without result. Both young fellows were equally
matched in strength. "It's no use, Jack," Lincoln at last declared.
"Let's quit. You can't throw me, and I can't throw you. That's

With that, all Jack's backers began to cry "coward!" and urged on
the champion to another tussle. Jack Armstrong was now determined to
win, by fair means or foul. He tried the latter, and, contrary to
all rules of wrestling began to kick and trip, while his supporters
stood ready to help, if need be, by breaking in with a regular free
fight. This "foul play" roused the lion in Lincoln. He hated
unfairness, and at once resented it. He suddenly put forth his
Samson-like strength, grabbed the champion of the Clary Grove Boys
by the throat, and, lifting him from the ground, held him at arm's
length and shook him as a dog shakes a rat. Then he flung him to the
ground, and, facing the amazed and yelling crowd, he cried: "You
cowards! You know I don't want to fight; but if you try any such
games, I'll tackle the whole lot of you. I've won the fight."

He had. From that day, no man in all that region dared to "tackle"
young Lincoln, or to taunt him with cowardice. And Jack Armstrong
was his devoted friend and admirer.

I have told you more, perhaps, of the famous fight than I ought--not
because it was a fight, but because it gives you a glimpse of
Abraham Lincoln's character. He disliked rows; he was too kind-
hearted and good-natured to wish to quarrel with any one; but he
hated unfairness, and was enraged at anything like persecution or
bullying. If you will look up Shakespeare's play of "Hamlet" you
will see that Lincoln was ready to act upon the advice that old
Polonius gave to his son Laertes:

Of entrance to a quarrel; but, being in,
Bear it that the opposer may beware of thee."

He became quite a man in that little community. As a clerk he was
obliging and strictly honest. He was the judge and the settler of
all disputes, and none thought of combating his decisions. He was
the village peacemaker. He hated profanity, drunkenness, and
unkindness to women. He was feared and respected by all, and even
the Clary Grove Boys declared, at last, that he was "the cleverest
feller that ever broke into the settlement."

All the time, too, he was trying to improve himself. He liked to sit
around and talk and tell stories, just the same as ever; but he saw
this was not the way to get on in the world. He worked, whenever he
had the chance, outside of his store duties; and once, when trade
was dull and hands were short in the clearing, he "turned to" and
split enough logs into rails to make a pen for a thousand hogs.

When he was not at work he devoted himself to his books. He could
"read, write, and cipher"--this was more education than most men
about him possessed; but he hoped, some day, to go before the
public; to do this, he knew he must speak and write correctly. He
talked to the village schoolmaster, who advised him to study English

"Well, if I had a grammar," said Lincoln, "I'd begin now. Have you
got one?"

The schoolmaster had no grammar; but he told "Abe" of a man, six
miles off, who owned one. Thereupon, Lincoln started upon the run to
borrow that grammar. He brought it back so quickly that the
schoolmaster was astonished. Then he set to work to learn the "rules
and exceptions." He studied that grammar, stretched full length on
the store-counter, or under a tree outside the store, or at night
before a blazing fire of shavings in the cooper's shop. And soon, he
had mastered it. He borrowed every book in New Salem; he made the
schoolmaster give him lessons in the store; he button-holed every
stranger that came into the place "who looked as though he knew
anything"; until, at last, every one in New Salem was ready to echo
Offutt's boast that "Abe Lincoln" knew more than any man "in these
United States." One day, in the bottom of an old barrel of trash, he
made a splendid "find." It was two old law books. He read and re-
read them, got all the sense and argument out of their dry pages,
blossomed into a debater, began to dream of being a lawyer, and
became so skilled in seeing through and settling knotty questions
that, once again, New Salem wondered at this clerk of Offutt's, who
was as long of head as of arms and legs, and declared that "Abe
Lincoln could out-argue any ten men in the settlement."

In all the history of America there has been no man who started
lower and climbed higher than Abraham Lincoln, the backwoods boy. He
never "slipped back." He always kept going ahead. He broadened his
mind, enlarged his outlook, and led his companions rather than let
them lead him. He was jolly company, good-natured, kind-hearted,
fond of jokes and stories and a good time generally; but he was the
champion of the weak, the friend of the friendless, as true a knight
and as full of chivalry as any one of the heroes in armour of whom
you read in "Ivanhoe" or "The Talisman." He never cheated, never
lied, never took an unfair advantage of anyone; but he was
ambitious, strong-willed, a bold fighter and a tough adversary--a
fellow who would never "say die"; and who, therefore, succeeded.



As we approached Molokai I found that the slow work of centuries had
nearly covered its lava with verdure. At dawn we were opposite
Kalaupapa. Two little spired churches, looking precisely alike,
caught my eye first, and around them were dotted the white cottages
of the lepers. But the sea was too rough for us to land. The waves
dashed against the rocks, and the spray rose fifty feet into the

We went on to Kalawao, but were again disappointed; it was too
dangerous to disembark. Finally it was decided to put off a boat for
a rocky point about a mile and a half distant from the town.
Climbing down this point we saw about twenty lepers, and "There is
Father Damien!" said our purser; and, slowly moving along the
hillside, I saw a dark figure with a large straw hat. He came rather
painfully down, and sat near the water-side, and we exchanged
friendly signals across the waves while my baggage was being got out
of the hold--a long business, owing to the violence of the sea. At
last all was ready, and we went swinging across the waves, and
finally chose a fit moment for leaping on shore. Father Damien
caught me by the hand, and a hearty welcome shone from his kindly
face as he helped me up the rock. He immediately called me by my


Back to Full Books