In his manhood, to enable him to classify the minute and copious knowledge of birds, beasts, and insects which he had been gathering since childhood, with great labor and patience he learned how to read and write. Later, realizing how his lack of education hampered him, he endeavored to secure the means to enable him to study to better advantage, and sold for twenty pounds sterling a very large number of valuable specimens. He tried to get employment as a naturalist, and, but for his poor reading and writing, would have succeeded.
Poor little Scotch laddie! Had his parents or teachers understood him, he might have been as great a naturalist as Agassiz, and his life instead of being dwarfed and crippled, would have been a joy to himself and an incalculable benefit to the world.
WASHINGTON’S YOUTHFUL HEROISM
“No great deed
By falterers who ask for certainty.”
“God will give you a reward,” solemnly spoke the grateful mother, as she received from the arms of the brave youth the child he had risked his life to save. As if her lips were touched with the spirit of prophecy, she continued, “He will do great things for you in return for this day’s work, and the blessings of thousands besides mine will attend you.”
The ear of George Washington was ever open to the cry of distress; his sympathy and aid were ever at the service of those who needed them. One calm, sunny day, in the spring of 1750, he was dining with other surveyors in a forest in Virginia. Suddenly the stillness of the forest was startled by the piercing shriek of a woman. Washington instantly sprang to his feet and hurried to the woman’s assistance.
“My boy, my boy,—oh, my poor boy is drowning, and they will not let me go,” screamed the frantic mother, as she tried to escape from the detaining hands which withheld her from jumping into the rapids. “Oh, sir!” she implored, as she caught sight of the manly youth of eighteen, whose presence even then inspired confidence; “Oh, sir, you will surely do something for me!”
For an instant Washington measured the rocks and the whirling currents with a comprehensive look, and then, throwing off his coat, plunged into the roaring rapids where he had caught a glimpse of the drowning boy. With stout heart and steady hand he struggled against the seething mass of waters which threatened every moment to engulf or dash him to pieces against the sharp-pointed rocks which lay concealed beneath.
Three times he had almost succeeded in grasping the child’s dress, when the force of the current drove him back. Then he gathered himself together for one last effort. Just as the child was about to escape him forever and be shot over the falls into the whirlpool below, he clutched him. The spectators on the bank cried out in horror. They gave both up for lost. But Washington seemed to lead a charmed life, and the cry of horror was changed to one of joy when, still holding the child, he emerged lower down from the vortex of waters.