The Story of George Washington

by James Baldwin

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Chapter VII: A Change of Circumstances

Although George Washington spent so much of his time at Greenway Court, he still called Mount Vernon his home. Going down home in the autumn, just before he was twenty years old, he found matters in a sad state, and greatly changed. His brother Lawrence was very ill—indeed, he had been ill a long time. He had tried a trip to England; he had spent a summer at the warm springs; but all to no purpose. He was losing strength every day. The sick man dreaded the coming of cold weather. If he could only go to the warm West Indies before winter set in, perhaps that would prolong his life. Would George go with him? No loving brother could refuse a request like that. The captain of a ship in the West India trade agreed to take them; and so, while it was still pleasant September, the two Washingtons embarked for Barbadoes, which, then as now, belonged to the English. It was the first time that George had ever been outside of his native land, and it proved to be also the last. He took careful notice of everything that he saw; and, in the little note-book which he seems to have always had with him, he wrote a brief account of the trip. He had not been three weeks at Barbadoes before he was taken down with the smallpox; and for a month he was very sick. And so his winter in the West Indies could not have been very pleasant. In February the two brothers returned home to Mount Vernon. Lawrence's health had not been bettered by the journey. He was now very feeble; but he lingered on until July, when he died. By his will Lawrence Washington left his fine estate of Mount Vernon, and all the rest of his wealth, to his little daughter. But George was to be the daughter's guardian; and in case of her death, all her vast property was to be his own. And so, before he was quite twenty-one years old, George Washington was settled at Mount Vernon as the manager of one of the richest estates in Virginia. The death of his little niece not long afterward made him the owner of this estate, and, of course, a very wealthy man. But within a brief time, events occurred which called him away from his peaceful employments.


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