Chapter IV. Going to Sea
Once every summer a ship came up the river
to the plantation, and was
moored near the shore.
It had come across the sea from far-away England, and it brought
things for those who were rich enough to pay for them.
It brought bonnets and pretty dresses for
George's mother and sisters -
it brought perhaps a hat and a tailor-made suit for himself
- it brought
tools and furniture, and once a yellow coach that had been
London, for his brother.
When all these things had been taken ashore, the ship would
sails and go on, farther up the river, to leave goods at other
In a few weeks it would come back and be moored again at the
Then there was a busy time on shore. The tobacco that had
during the last year must be carried on shipboard to be taken
great tobacco markets in England.
The slaves on the plantation were running back and forth,
barrels and carrying bales of tobacco down to the landing.
Letters were written to friends in England, and orders were
made out for
the goods that were to be brought back next year.
But in a day or two, all this stir was over. The sails were
spread, and the ship glided away on its long voyage across
George had seen this ship coming and going every year since
remember. He must have thought how pleasant it would be to
sail away to
foreign lands and see the many wonderful things that are there.
And then, like many another active boy, he began to grow tired
quiet life on the farm, and wish that he might be a sailor.
He was now about fourteen years old. Since the death of his
mother had found it hard work, with her five children, to manage
farm on the Rappahannock and make everything come out even
at the end of
each year. Was it not time that George should be earning something
himself? But what should he do?
He wanted to go to sea. His brother Lawrence, and even his
thought that this might be the best thing.
A bright boy like George would not long be a common sailor.
soon make his way to a high place in the king's navy. So, at
And so the matter was at last settled. A sea-captain who was
the family, agreed to take George with him. He was to sail
in a short
The day came. His mother, his brothers, his sisters, were
all there to
bid him good-bye. But in the meanwhile a letter had come to
from his uncle who lived in England.
"If you care for the boy's future," said the letter, "do
not let him go
to sea. Places in the king's navy are not easy to obtain. If
as a sailor, he will never be aught else."
The letter convinced George's mother--it half convinced his
brothers--that this going to sea would be a sad mistake. But
like other boys of his age, was headstrong. He would not listen
reason. A sailor he would be.
The ship was in the river waiting for him. A boat had come
landing to take him on board.
The little chest which held his clothing had been carried
down to the
bank. George was in high glee at the thought of going.
"Good-bye, mother," he
He stood on the doorstep and looked back into the house. He
saw the kind
faces of those whom he loved. He began to feel very sad at
of leaving them.
He saw the tears welling up in his mother's eyes. He saw them
down her cheeks. He knew now that she did not want him to go.
not bear to see her grief.
"Mother, I have changed my mind," he said. "I
will not be a sailor. I
will not leave you."
Then he turned to the black boy who was waiting by the door,
"Run down to the landing and tell them not to put the chest
Tell them that I have thought differently of the matter and
that I am
going to stay at home."
If George had not changed his mind, but had really gone to
sea, how very
different the history of this country would have been!
He now went to his studies with a better
will than before - and although
he read but few books he learned much that was useful to him
in life. He
studied surveying with especial care, and made himself as thorough
that branch of knowledge as it was possible to do with so few