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CHAPTER LX X X.
SELECTED FROM SEVERAL WRITERS.
FINDING myself with a day of leisure on my hands, I concluded to visit the tomb of the “father of his country,” at Mount Vernon, in company with a friend from Maine. This visit I had long contemplated, with anticipations of no ordinary character. To ramble over the green lawns which had been planned and beautified by this venerated man - to stroll among the trees that had been planted by his hands to view the same scenery which had delighted his eyes — to look upon
the mansion which is consecrated in the hearts of all the children of America, in consequence of its having been his home — and, last of all, to behold the tomb where now repose the ashes of that man who was emphatically “first in the hearts of his countrymen," has for years been anticipated as an event which would afford me more true pleasure (chastened with melancholy, it is true) than any event in my life. With these feelings, which were shared also by my companion, we set out for Mount Vernon, which is situated some fifteen miles below this city, on the west side of the Potomac River.
From Alexandria, our road, or rather trail, – for it would be a misnomer to denominate this rough, unwrought track, a
road, in any place out of the Old Dominion, -wound among • hills, through forests, and up the channel of streams, in a
way truly " devious” and “winding.” After pursuing this wretched pathway some seven or eight miles, we came to the “ lodge ” at the gate-way, which leads to the mansion and tomb of WASHINGTON. Here we left our carriage in the charge of the servants that reside at the “lodge,” and made our way through a forest for nearly a mile, when all at once we found before us the house and out-buildings of Mount Vernon. But how disappointed were we with the prospect before us.
There stood, it is true, a stately mansion, bearing evidence, from its general appearance, of the time of its construction, and located on an eminence which commands a splendid view of the river, both above and below, and also of an extensive and beautiful country on the Maryland shore. On all sides, the out-buildings, servants' quarters, brick walls, and fences, are fast falling to decay, or present scenes of absolute ruin, while the principal mansion presents a sombre and dismal aspect, from the want of painting and other repairs. The plantation in general gives indubitable evidence of rude cultivation and want of skill and taste in agriculture, while the yards and lawns about the house are stored with rubbish and filth in such profusion as to afford “proof strong as holy writ” that the present occupant, whose name is Washington, and who is a distant collateral relative of Gen. Washington, is an unmitigated sloven.
We left the place delighted with the natural beauty of its location, but deeply disappointed, mortified, and chagrined at the condition in which we found it. As memory brought up before me the deeds of the great and good man who now sleeps in this neglected spot, a feeling of melancholy and sadness crept over me, which was not at all relieved by a return, in the rain, over one of the most execrable roads it was ever my lot to travel upon, but which is dignified by the name of “ turnpike,” and which we had selected in the expectation (a mistaken one it proved) of finding it better than the trail by which we reached the tomb of Washington. My companion even regretted that he had made this visit, as it had destroyed the beautiful illusions with which his imagination had surrounded Mount Vernon.-- Augusta Age.
AFTER a toilsome ride of two hours through a country that had nothing to interest us beyond the fact that Washington had so often traversed it, we reached the gate of Mount Vernon about noon. An old female servant tottered from the lodge, on a staff, to the gate to open it, and, in answer to our inquiries, told us that she was in the family when George Washington died. It was grateful to find one link, though such an one,
between the illustrious dead and the living. Entering the gate, we were at once on consecrated ground. The carriage way, sufficiently rough to intimate that no facilities are afforded to visitors, winds through an ancient woodland; and the great trees, solemn and silent, seemed to speak of the man who had preferred their shadows to the sunshine of courts. These were the shades of Mount Vernon; and soon we reached the mansion, on the banks of the Potomac, with a green lawn sloping to the river in front, and gardens in the
It was, indeed, a fitting place for one no more a hero than a sage! A simple two-story house, with columns in front, and lodges for servants running back from each end of it, it would appear to be the private residence of some country gentleman of moderate means; and it was difficult to believe that this had been the resort of the most distinguished men of our own country, and of the friends of liberty from other lands, who have here sought the shrine at which Washington worshipped.
Here were the solitary walks and paths of private life, which the footsteps of the great man pressed; here he rested when wearied with labor in the field ; these trees he planted with his own hands, and the flowers from which these
sprung were his own training in the morning and the evening of his wonderful life.
During the eight years that he was devoted to the service of his country in the tented field, Washington never visited Mount Vernon but once, and then accidentally, as he was on his way to Yorktown with Count de Rochambeau ; and we must see the spot and know the tastes and private habits of the man, before we are able to appreciate the sacrifice he made in leaving this retreat for the turmoils of the camp and the toils of state.--New York Observer.
A SERVANT, accordingly, at our request, merely accompanied us through the rooms made interesting by the hallowed associations that came fast upon us as we traversed them. In the hall, or entry, hangs, in a glass case, the key of the Bastile, which everybody has heard of. It was presented to Washington by Lafayette. Under it is a picture of that renowned fortress. This key is by no means formidable for its size, being about as large as a bank key, and of a shape by no means mysterious enough for a dissertation. The only curious portion of it is that grasped by the hand in turning. It is solid, and of an oval shape, and appeared to me, for I always love to be curious in these matters, to have been broken, on a time, and then soldered, or brazen, again. It probably had some hard wrenches in its day. On the whole, it appeared to be a very amiable key, and by no means equal to all the turns it must have seen in the Revolution.
We were first shown into a small room, which was set apart as the study of Washington. Here he was wont to transact all his business of state, in his retirement. It was hung with pictures and engravings of revolutionary events; and
among the miniatures was one of himself, said to be the best likeness ever taken. Another room was shown us, which had nothing remarkable about it, and we then passed into a larger one, finished with great taste, and containing a portrait of Judge Washington. A beautiful organ stood in the corner, and the fire-place was adorned by a mantel of most splendid workmanship, in bass-relief. It is of Italian marble, and was presented to Washington by Lafayette. This part of our visit was soon over. There was little to see in the
house, and the portions referred to were all to which we were admitted. I could not help admiring, however, the neatness and air of antiquity together, which distinguished the several rooms through which we passed. There was something fanciful also, in their arrangement, that was quite pleasing to my eye, far more so than the mathematical exactness of modern and more splendid mansions. Passing from the house, down a rude and neglected pathway, and then over a little, broken, but already verdant ground, we came to an open space, and found ourselves standing before the humble tomb of George Washington. It was a happy moment to visit the spot. There was something in the time fortunate for the feelings. The very elements seemed in accordance with the season. The day was beautiful — the sunlight was streaming full upon the trees round about, and glowing with a mellow beam upon the grave; the place was quiet and imbosomed, and the only sound that we heard, save that of our own hearts, was the voice of the wind through the pines, or of the waters as they broke upon the shore below us. Who can analyze his feelings as he stands before that sepulchre ? who can tell the story of his associations, or do any justice by his tongue or his pen to the emotions which the memories of the past awaken there? The history of a whole country is overpowering him at once. Its struggles -- its darkness—its despair-its victory, rush upon him. Its gratitude --its glory- and its loss, pass before him; and in a few minutes he lives through an age of interest and wonder. Strange power of human mind! What an intimation does this rapid communion with the past, and with the spirits of the past, give, at once, of their immortality and our own! But it is vain to follow out these feelings here.
They will fill volumes.-Anonymous.