Yet no doubt Mrs. Washington’s severity proceeded from a sense of duty and the fitness of things rather than from any harshness of heart. The little old lady who wrote: “Kiss Marie. I send her two handkerchiefs to wipe her nose,” could not have been so very terrible!
She was beloved by her servants and when she left Mount Vernon for New York in 1789 young Robert Lewis reported that “numbers of these poor wretches seemed most affected, my aunt equally so.” At Alexandria she stopped at Doctor Stuart’s, the home of two of her grandchildren, and next morning there was another affecting scene, such as Lewis never again wished to witness—“the family in tears—the children a-bawling—& everything in the most lamentable situation.”
Although she was not the paragon that some writers have pictured, she was a splendid home-loving American woman, brave in heart and helpful to her husband, neither a drone nor a drudge—in the true Scriptural sense a worthy woman who sought wool and flax and worked willingly with her hands. As such her price was far beyond rubies.
As has been remarked before, no brilliant sayings from her lips have been transmitted to posterity. But I suspect that the shivering soldiers on the bleak hillsides at Valley Forge found more comfort in the warm socks she knitted than they could have in the bon mots of a Madame de Stael or in the grace of a Josephine and that her homely interest in their welfare tied their hearts closer to their Leader and their Country.
It is not merely because she was the wife of the Hero of the Revolution and the first President of the Republic that she is the most revered of all American women.
A FARMER’S AMUSEMENTS
No one would ever think of characterizing George Washington as frivolous minded, but from youth to old age he was a believer in the adage that all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy—a saying that many an overworked farmer of our own day would do well to take to heart.
Like most Virginians he was decidedly a social being and loved to be in the company of his kind. This trait was noticeable in his youth and during his early military career, nor did it disappear after he married and settled down at Mount Vernon. Until the end he and Mrs. Washington kept open house, and what a galaxy of company they had! Scarcely a day passed without some guest crossing their hospitable threshold, nor did such visitors come merely to leave their cards or to pay fashionable five-minute calls. They invariably stayed to dinner and most generally for the night; very often for days or weeks at a time. After the Revolution the number of guests increased to such an extent that Mount Vernon became “little better than a well-resorted inn.”