Chapter VIII. A Perilous Journey
Early the very next year news was brought
to Virginia that the French
were building forts along the Ohio, and making friends with
there. This of course meant that they intended to keep the
of that country.
The governor of Virginia thought that the time had come to
about this matter. He would send a messenger with a letter
Frenchmen, telling them that all the land belonged to the English,
that no trespassing would be allowed.
The first messenger that he sent became alarmed before he
was within a
hundred miles of a Frenchman, and went back to say that everything
as good as lost.
It was very plain that a man with some courage must be chosen
"I will send Major George Washington," said the
governor. "He is very
young, but he is the bravest man in the colony."
Now, promptness was one of those traits of character which
Washington the great man which he afterward became. And so,
on the very
day that he received his appointment he set out for the Ohio
He took with him three white hunters, two Indians, and a famous
woodsman, whose name was Christopher Gist. A small tent or
two, and such
few things as they would need on the journey, were strapped
on the backs
They pushed through the woods in a northwestwardly direction,
last reached a place called Venango, not very far from where
now stands. This was the first outpost of the French - and here
Washington met some of the French officers, and heard them
what they proposed to do.
Then, after a long ride to the north, they came to another
French commandant was here, and he welcomed Washington with
a great show
Washington gave him the letter which he had brought from the
The commandant read it, and two days afterward gave him an
He said that he would forward the letter to the French governor -
for the Ohio Country, he had been ordered to hold it, and he
meant to do
Of course Washington could do nothing further. But it was
plain to him
that the news ought to be carried back to Virginia without
It was now mid-winter. As no horse could travel through the
woods at this time of year, he must make his way on foot.
So, with only the woodsman, Gist, he shouldered his rifle
and bravely started home.
It was a terrible journey. The ground was covered with snow -
were frozen - there was not even a path through the forest.
If Gist had
not been so fine a woodsman they would hardly have seen Virginia
Once an Indian shot at Washington from behind a tree. Once
young man fell into a river, among floating ice, and would
drowned but for Gist.
At last they reached the house of a trader on the Monongahela
There they were kindly welcomed, and urged to stay until the
should grow milder.
But Washington would not delay.
Sixteen days after that, he was back in Virginia, telling
all about his adventures, and giving his opinion about the
best way to
deal with the French.